Prosecution of CIA Whistleblower Sterling

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Jeffrey Sterling

The trial of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling is set to begin on Monday, Jan. 12.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com, @xposefacts
Solomon is with ExposeFacts.org, which will be providing daily in-depth coverage of the trail of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, with a team of journalists in the courtroom throughout the trial in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. On Monday, New York Times reporter James Risen testified at a pre-trial hearing.

Solomon just wrote the piece “Why Jeffrey Sterling Deserves Support as a CIA Whistleblower,” which states: “The trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, set to begin in mid-January, is shaping up as a major battle in the U.S. government’s siege against whistleblowing. With its use of the Espionage Act to intimidate and prosecute people for leaks in ‘national security’ realms, the Obama administration is determined to keep hiding important facts that the public has a vital right to know.

“After fleeting coverage of Sterling’s indictment four years ago, news media have done little to illuminate his case — while occasionally reporting on the refusal of New York Times reporter James Risen to testify about whether Sterling was a source for his 2006 book State of War.

“Risen’s unwavering stand for the confidentiality of sources is admirable. At the same time, Sterling — who faces 10 felony counts that include seven under the Espionage Act — is no less deserving of support.

“The relentless prosecution of Sterling targets potential whistleblowers with a key implicit message: Do not reveal any ‘national security’ secrets that make the U.S. government look seriously incompetent, vicious, mendacious or dangerous. Don’t even think about it. …

“With so much at stake, the new petition ‘Blowing the Whistle on Government Recklessness Is a Public Service, Not a Crime‘ has gained more than 30,000 signers in recent weeks, urging the government to drop all charges against Sterling. The initial sponsors include ExposeFacts, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Government Accountability Project, The Nation, The Progressive / Center for Media and Democracy, Reporters Without Borders and RootsAction.org.” Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction. See the petition here.

ExposeFacts is a project of IPA.

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com, @emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at emptywheel.net. She just wrote the piece “The Jeffrey Sterling Trial: A Preview,” which states: “The allegations consist of three charges (1-3) for which the government will have to prove this material was ‘defense information.’ They consist of four charges (4-7) for which the government will have to prove the information Sterling allegedly leaked had been protected by the CIA and that Sterling knew and intended the leak of it to hurt the U.S. They consist of two picayune charges (8 and 9) dealing with the distribution of Risen’s book. And they consist of one charge (10) premised on Sterling destroying an email that referenced past discussions about Iran, but which itself contained no classified information.

“The government has a great deal of what thus far appears to be circumstantial evidence — notably, lots of email and phone calls between the two — showing that Sterling spoke to Risen, and spoke to Risen about Iran’s nuclear abilities. The focus of the case will be on whether those communications offer enough evidence that Sterling is the person who provided Risen the most sensitive information that appeared in the chapter of his book. Given the course of Monday’s dry run of Risen’s testimony, Sterling’s lawyers will surely emphasize that Risen has discussed ‘sources,’ plural, and the government had previously represented to Judge Leonie Brinkema that they themselves believed they could not prove Sterling’s guilt unless Risen named his sources. That is, Sterling’s team will now try to use the government’s decision not to press Risen for testimony to attack their case. But the government only has to prove that Sterling leaked this stuff, not that he was the primary or only person to have leaked this stuff.

“In addition, the government will call a series of witnesses — including his former colleagues at the CIA, congressional staffers, and possibly even Sterling’s former civil attorney Mark Zaid — to lay out how Sterling responded negatively to his Equal Opportunity challenges between 2002 and 2003. They’ll do so to establish what they claim to be Sterling’s motive: to retaliate because CIA had successfully denied Sterling any compensation for what he claims was unequal treatment because he is African American. …

“The government may also call Condoleezza Rice, who — as National Security Adviser — successfully convinced the Times not to publish a Risen story on Operation Merlin in 2003 because it was too sensitive; the government maintains this would prove that the information was closely held national security information. The government had wanted to introduce the talking points she used to make that case, but Judge Brinkema ruled the government could only do so if they called Rice as a witness.”

For background, see article by Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler in The Nation, “The Government War Against Reporter James Risen” — which quotes Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg: “Sterling’s ordeal comes from a strategy to frighten potential whistleblowers, whether he was the source of this leak or not. The aim is to punish troublemakers with harassment, threats, indictments, years in court and likely prison — even if they’ve only gone through official channels to register accusations about their superiors and agency. That is, by the way, a practical warning to would-be whistleblowers who would prefer to ‘follow the rules.’ But in any case, whoever were the actual sources to the press of information about criminal violations of the Fourth Amendment, in the NSA case, or of reckless incompetence, in the CIA case, they did a great public service.”

Attack on Charlie Hebdo

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‘The sexual slaves of Boko Haram are angry: where are our benefits checks?’

SHAHID MAHMOOD, shahid at drawnconclusions.com
Mahmood was an editorial cartoonist for Dawn, a leading national newspaper in Pakistan. He is now internationally syndicated with the New York Times Syndicate. He said today: “I knew Stephane Charbonnier [Charlie Hebdo‘s editor]. I first met him in Paris at a exhibition of my work. Three other cartoonists were killed in this cowardly act at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo. While right-wing groups stir up Islamophobia in Europe, the Muslim populations are stumbling in denial over the escalating role of their own extremists. Muslims need to be more at ease and informed about their faith. Nowhere in the Koran does it say to kill sacrilegious cartoonists. A real tragedy.” Time magazine reports “Mosques Attacked in France Following Charlie Hebdo Attack.”

RANIA KHALEK, raniakhalek at gmail.com, @RaniaKhalek
An independent journalist and author of Dispatches from the Underclass, Khalek’s Twitter feed has scrutinized many prevailing assumptions about the attack on Charlie Hebdo: “There is something truly alarming about the celebration of #CharieHebdo as a beacon of satire and western culture. … Pointing out the virulent racism & bigotry in #CharlieHebdo doesn’t justify yesterday’s massacre. Ignoring it is dishonest. … Here’s the racist trash ppl are praising: ‘The sexual slaves of Boko Haram are angry: where are our benefits checks?‘ … Remember when [Sen.] Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) celebrated expunging killed Gaza journos from Newseum’s fallen list? Today he values freedom.”

Khalek also noted that AP is reporting about one of the suspects: “Cherif Kouachi was convicted in 2008 of terrorism charges for helping funnel fighters to Iraq’s insurgency, and sentenced to 18 months in prison. During his 2008 trial, he told the court he was motivated by his outrage at television images of torture of Iraqi inmates at the U.S. prison at Abu Ghraib.”

For background, see from the Paris-based journalist Diana Johnstone on CounterPunch: “What to Say When You Have Nothing to Say?” — which notes double standards in who Charlie Hebdo satirizes or attacks; noting that in 2002, its then-editor Philippe Val fired the cartoonist Siné “on grounds of ‘anti-Semitism.'” See also from the website Qantara from 2012: “Provocation as a Marketing Strategy.”

Editor of the media watch group FAIR’s magazine Extra!, Jim Naureckas writes in “Remembering Victims of Terror — and Forgetting Some Others:” “Here’s ‘former CIA deputy director and CBS News senior security consultant’ Mike Morell (CBS Morning News, 1/7/15) giving his expert commentary on the Charlie Hebdo massacre: ‘This is the worst terrorist attack in Europe since the attacks in London in July of 2005. We haven’t lost this many people since that attack.’

“So apparently Morell doesn’t remember the bloodbath in Norway in July 2011, when Anders Breivik killed eight people by bombing government buildings in Oslo and then murdered 59 others, mostly teenagers, at a youth camp associated with the Labour Party. This was actually a deadlier attack then the London bombings, which killed 56.”

California State University professor As’ad AbuKhalil writes at his Angry Arab blog: “Western policies in Syria have produced, and will continue to produce, terrorist organizations the likes of which we have not seen since the creation of Al-Qa’idah. The enthusiastic policies of arming and sponsoring ‘rebel groups in Syria’ are responsible for the proliferation of fanatical terrorist groups which will terrorize those countries that had sponsored them.

“The source of all those terrorist groups is known: Gulf regimes and their Western sponsors. They have been indulging those regimes from the days of the Cold War. I was on the side of the left and progressive forces during the Cold War, while you — in the West — were on the side of those speaking the language of Jihad and…oil.”

Forget the McDonnells: We’re Ignoring Bigger Corruption

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JANINE WEDEL, jwedel at gmu.edu
Today’s Washington Post features Wedel’s piece “Forget the McDonnells: We’re ignoring bigger, more pernicious corruption right under our noses.” She’s an anthropologist and professor at George Mason University’s School of Policy, Government and International Affairs, is the author of the just-released Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom and Security.

The piece states: “Last week, former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell was sentenced to two years in federal prison for accepting lavish vacations, sweetheart loans, and an engraved Rolex from an executive of a dietary supplement maker. His wife will be sentenced next month.

“The pair seems like the poster children of corruption. But their bad behavior pales in comparison with the activities of those who practice what I call the ‘new corruption.’ These players — some of them big names, some of them virtual unknowns — violate our health, pocketbooks, our trust. Their actions compromise our health, pocketbooks, or security and can lead to deep and lasting inequalities.

“And their behavior is typically legal, making it next to impossible to hold them to account.

“This new corruption is practiced by elite power brokers who assume a tangle of roles in government, business, nonprofits, and media organizations. These developments have offered up many new opportunities for private players to assume public roles, with elite power brokers taking full advantage.

“They are enmeshed in the systemic unaccountability that has come to flourish over the past several decades amid privatization, deregulation, the end of the Cold War, and the digital age. These developments have offered up many new opportunities for private players to assume public roles, with elite power brokers taking full advantage. Of course, while not everyone with a jumble of roles is ethically challenged or corrupt, in today’s environment, we, the public, have an information problem. How can we know whom to trust when ‘experts’ pronounce on crucial policy issues and present themselves as impartial, while concealing that they have a dog in the fight?

“Compare the McDonnells’ shenanigans with the activities of so-called Key Opinion Leaders. These and other prominent physicians or medical researchers are paid or given perks by pharmaceutical and medical device companies to promote their products to fellow professionals (at the high end one reportedly took in upward of $7 million over five months).

“ProPublica investigators dug into the Open Payments Web site, launched in September 2014, as mandated by the 2010 Physician Payment Sunshine Act. They found that between August and December 2013, pharmaceutical and medical device companies spent $3.5 billion on 546,000 physicians and 1,360 teaching hospitals. Of that $3.5 billion, $202.6 million was spent on promotional speaking engagements, $158.2 million for consulting fees, and $25.5 million for honoraria. …

“Or consider the activities of 19 top academic economists tracked by a University of Massachusetts Amherst study. These economists promoted specific financial reform proposals in the media and advised governmental bodies such as congressional committees in the run-up to and just after the 2008 financial crisis — without disclosing their links to private financial institutions. …

“Also concerning are the players I call ‘shadow lobbyists.’ Shadow lobbyists are often former top government officials who advocate for wealthy clients. Some join top legal-lobby shops. But to skirt lobbyist registration rules, they spread their client list far and wide, so that they can say they don’t spend most of their time on just one client. Or they give their contacts and know-how to underlings who are registered. Other shadow lobbyists set up their own consulting groups.”

CIA Whistleblower Trial: Petition and ExposeFacts Coverage

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Jeffrey Sterling

As the trial of Jeffrey Sterling got underway today, a coalition of press freedom and whistleblower support organizations released a petition with more than 50,000 signers, urging the government to drop all charges against him.

Posted online at DropTheCharges.org, the petition tells Attorney General Eric Holder and President Obama:

“As a whistleblower, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling went through channels to inform staffers of the Senate Intelligence Committee about the ill-conceived and dangerous CIA action known as Operation Merlin. The current effort to prosecute Mr. Sterling, for allegedly providing information about Operation Merlin to journalist James Risen, comes 15 years after that CIA operation took place. This prosecution serves no valid purpose.

“Moreover, this is a case that smacks of selective prosecution. Top officials, including General James Cartwright and the former CIA Director and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, reportedly leaked classified information on far more recent and sensitive matters.

“We urge you to drop all charges against Mr. Sterling.”

Sponsors of the petition include RootsAction.org, the Government Accountability Project, Reporters Without Borders, The Nation, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, the Center for Media and Democracy, The Progressive and ExposeFacts.

Meanwhile, ExposeFacts has launched intensive daily coverage of the Sterling trial, which is expected to last at least two weeks. The special coverage – on The Latest – will provide in-depth news and analysis throughout the trial. The coverage can be tracked at:
http://exposefacts.org/blog/the-latest/

ExposeFacts is a project of IPA.

Hypocrisy in Paris on Freedom of Expression

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The piece “These ‘staunch defenders’ of the free press are attending today’s solidarity rally in Paris” by Daniel Wickham features a string of tweets noting the hypocrisy of many of the officials who took part in the Paris march on Sunday, including figures from Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan and Bahrain. The following are able to speak about the record regarding freedom of expression and human rights of some of these officials.

MARYAM ALKHAWAJA, maryam.alkhawaja at gmail.com, @maryamalkhawaja
Among the marchers were the Saudi ambassador to France and foreign minister of Bahrain. Maryam al-Khawaja is co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights. Their recent statements include: “Saudi Arabia: Human rights defender Raif Badawi lashed in public,” “Saudi Arabia: Prominent human rights lawyer Waleed Abu Al-Khair’s sentence increased to 15 years in prison,” “Saudi Arabia: Maysaa Al-Amodi and Lujain Al-Hathlol to appear before the Terrorism Court for driving a car” and “Bahrain: Human rights defender Mohammed Al-Maskati sentenced to 6 months in prison.” Maryam al-Khawaja’s father is Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, is in jail in Bahrain for his pro-democracy work — designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International. Last month her sister, Zainab al-Khawaja, was sentenced to three years in prison for tearing up a picture of the king.

REEM KHALIFA, reemkhalifa17 at gmail.com, @Reem_Khalifa
A journalist in Bahrain, Khalifa said today: “We have 12 freelance photojournalists in jail. Only three of them were convicted — one is serving 10 years. Many were tortured. The camera is a tool that the government of Bahrain fears. In 2011 publisher Karim Fakhrawi was tortured until death. In 2012, Ahmed Ismail was killed by a gun while he was filming. … Human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, who was in jail for posting a tweet criticized the prime minister and minister of interior. Now after spending two years in jail, Rajab was released and he is facing another trial and verdict to come on Jan. 20.” Also see: “Hussain Jawad Case Presents Bahrain With Key Test on Speech” by Brian Dooley of Human Rights First.

ALI ABUNIMAH, aliabunimah at mac.com, @AliAbunimah
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, were prominently featured forming a line along with French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. See: “Netanyahu crashes Paris unity march, French gov’t fumes.”

Available for a limited number of interviews, Abunimah is co-founder of the Electronic Intifada website and author of the book One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. He recently wrote “Israel world’s second most lethal country for journalists in 2014, watchdog says,” which states: “The Committee to Protect Journalists puts the number of Palestinian reporters and media workers killed during the Israeli assault on Gaza [last year] at at least 15.”

Abunimah also just wrote the piece “Israel moves quickly to exploit Paris attacks,” which states: “While Netanyahu was certainly playing to a domestic audience, his presence in Paris is also part of Israel’s swift move to capitalize on the horror in France on a number of fronts: to attack the Palestinians, to sharpen the dangerous discourse of a ‘war of civilizations’ and to speed up the population transfer of Jews from Europe.”

PETE MOORE, pwm10 at case.edu
Also prominently in the “first row” of the march was King Abdullah of Jordan with his wife Queen Rania. Professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University, Moore is author of Doing Business in the Middle East: Politics and Economic Crisis in Jordan and Kuwait.

Daniel Wickham notes that Jordan “last year sentenced a Palestinian journalist to 15 years in prison with hard labor.” Also see: “Jordan puts Brotherhood politician on trial over UAE comments.”

See piece by Jordanian analyst Hisham Bustani: “Before 2012, it was the virtue of the ultra-brave to publicly criticize the king and the royal family: they usually spoke with evident hints and innuendo, but without going the full route to directly uttering the name of the king. Criticizing the king and the royal family was simply not tolerated under Jordanian law, and it is still punishable by one to three years in prison. The law incriminating this sort of criticism has perhaps the world’s most absurd name for any legislation: literally, the ‘Law on elongating one’s tongue about the monarch’!”

Sterling Trial Underway: Crime and CIA Embarrassments

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The trial of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling is underway. Coverage of the trial can be tracked at:
http://exposefacts.org/blog/the-latest

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com
McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years, and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

He just wrote the piece “Crime and CIA Embarrassments,” which states: “I confess to being naïve. From what I had read about ‘Operation Merlin,’ a harebrained scheme to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program, I was convinced that the CIA would be determined to avoid calling more attention to it. Or, by extension, to author James Risen’s continuing revelations — in his new book Pay Any Price — of unconscionable incompetence by our intrepid spies. ‘Merlin’ was exposed in an earlier Risen book, State of War.

“How wrong I was! The decision by the CIA and hired hands at the Justice Department to prosecute former CIA official Jeffrey Sterling reflects, rather, a clear determination to give priority to deterring potential whistleblowers privy to information extremely embarrassing to the government. I repeat, embarrassing to the government, not detrimental to the national security.

“As for risk of extreme embarrassment once U.S. citizens got additional insight into the dumb schemes of amateur intelligence operators, the government presumably thinks it can depend on mainstream media to treat bungling by our sophomore spies ‘with discretion.’

“In short, the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling seems to have little to do with exposing secrets, but everything to do with hiding the kind of gross misfeasance that — truth be told — does constitute a real and present danger to our national security.

“Similarly, one might think the government would be embarrassed when it became more widely known that Jeffrey Sterling did go to Senate Intelligence Committee staffers to tell them of this unconscionably stupid covert action (which involved delivering flawed nuclear weapons blueprints to Iran in 2000 with the goal of sabotaging any bomb-building plans, but the flaws were apparently detected and the real data inadvertently exposed genuine nuclear-weapons secrets).

“Sterling’s efforts to go through channels had zero results. One need not be a cynic to conclude that the government apparently sees an overweening, countervailing positive in demonstrating to potential whistleblowers (if further evidence were needed) that going to congressional ‘overseers’ is a feckless exercise and only serves to get you in a peck of trouble. When Risen included a section about Operation Merlin in State of War, Sterling became the chief suspect and now faces 10 felony counts, including seven under the Espionage Act.

“In this light, is there not supreme irony in former Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein’s plea that former CIA Director David Petraeus not be prosecuted for sharing classified information with his biographer/mistress because he has ‘suffered enough?’ …

“A cruelly different standard applies to Jeffrey Sterling, who is alleged to have let the American people in on the secret of a reckless covert action.”

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com, @xposefacts
MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com, @emptywheel
Available for a limited number of interviews, Solomon and Wheeler are covering the Sterling trial from the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. for ExposeFacts.org. Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.

Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at emptywheel.net. She just wrote the piece “Jeffrey Sterling: The Government’s Circumstantial Case.”

ExposeFacts is a project of IPA.

Condoleezza Rice Testifying at Sterling CIA Whistleblower Trial on WMD Claims

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Courtroom Sketch by Debra Van Poolen

Today, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to testify at the trial of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling. Coverage of the trial can be tracked at: exposefacts.org/blog/the-latest

On Wednesday, CIA officials testified against Sterling while behind a wall.

Rice appears on the cover of New York Times reporter James Risen’s book, State of War, which the government alleges Sterling was a source for.

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com, @emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at emptywheel.net. She has been covering the Sterling trial at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va. for ExposeFacts.org.

She tweeted Wednesday: “Remember, Condi Rice asked not JUST that NYT not publish @JamesRisen‘s Merlin story, but that NYT stop him from reporting on it.” See her piece: “Condi Rice Asked Jill Abramson to Stop Jim Risen from Reporting on Merlin.”

Wheeler’s most recent pieces include: “The Sterling Trial: Merlin Meets Curveball,” “Jeffrey Sterling: The Government’s Circumstantial Case,” “Operation Merlin: The Russian’s Case Officers” and “Government Declares a Monopoly on the Right to Call James Risen as a Witness.”

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
In the courtroom this afternoon, Porter is an investigative journalist and author of the just-released book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He recently wrote the piece “Four Ways the West Got the Iran Nuclear Issue Wrong.”

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com
In the courtroom this afternoon, McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.

He said today: “A huge screen between us and judge, jury, prosecution and defense loomed before us as a 12-foot-tall metaphor for the smoke and mirrors we could hear but not see Wednesday at the first “public” day of Sterling’s trial on ten felony charges. Thus, it seems altogether fitting and proper, I suppose, that ‘mushroom-cloud’ Condoleezza Rice is expected to blow into court today to testify for the prosecution team.”

McGovern recently wrote the piece “Crime and CIA Embarrassments” and spoke along with Norman Solomon and David Swanson at a news conference Wednesday outside the courthouse. [YouTube video]

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com, @xposefacts, @normansolomon
In the courtroom this afternoon, Solomon, who is available for a limited number of interviews, has been covering the Sterling trial for ExposeFacts.org. His recent pieces on the trial include: “The Revenge of the CIA: Scapegoating Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling” and “Sterling Trial Opens in Security-State Matrix.” Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction, which has a petition regarding the Sterling prosecution at DropTheCharges.org. The petition now has more than 54,000 signatures.

ExposeFacts is a project of IPA.

“Reclaim King’s Legacy”

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10299540_1078395345520577_3655077423957234100_nCAT BROOKS, onyxcat333 at gmail.com
Brooks is an organizer with the ONYX Organizing Committee. With other groups, they are launching “96 hours of action as part of national call to ‘Reclaim King’s Legacy.'” They are based in Oakland and San Francisco. Similar protests are planned in other cities. See from The Real News: “Baltimore Activists Participate in National Day of Action Against Police Brutality.”

The group states: “We will join thousands around the country responding to a call from Ferguson Action to reclaim Dr. King’s legacy of militant direct action in opposition to economic violence as well as police violence and discrimination. This weekend’s events culminate in a Jobs and Economy March for the People on Monday, Jan. 19, beginning at 11 a.m. at Oscar Grant Plaza.

“Monday, we will connect the dots between police violence and economic violence with a march at 11 a.m. from Fruitvale Station, where Oscar Grant III was murdered by BART police, in solidarity with Ferguson, New York, Cleveland, Sanford, Salt Lake City, and countless others who too have lost young black men to police terror. …

“The upcoming 96 hours of direct action across the Bay Area will highlight the unjust economic and political structures that King fought fiercely to defeat. Thousands will unify, regardless of skin color, religion, or creed, as we reclaim King’s legacy and act, in tandem, against police and economic violence; two primary tools of white supremacy. Actions will take place throughout the city, at BART stations, community meetings and street corners and come in the form of shut downs, guerrilla theater, teach-ins and concerts. Monday, we march through the neighborhoods where systematic and state sanctioned murder of black, brown, and poor people occur most.”

The group notes quotes from Martin Luther King Jr: “Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with.” (1963)

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” (1967)

See IPA news release “MLK vs. Obama.”

See from The Real News: “The Radicalization of Martin Luther King.”

CIA Whistleblower Trial: Historic and Underreported

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Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice testified at the trial of trial of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling. Courtroom Sketch by Debra Van Poolen.

The historic trial of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling enters its second week today. Few journalists are in the courtroom.

ExposeFacts is continuing its extensive daily coverage of the trial, which is expected to end early next week when the case goes to the jury. The special coverage — The Latest — provides in-depth news and analysis at: http://exposefacts.org/blog/the-latest/

As the New York Times reported last week, “a coalition of government accountability groups, liberal advocates and journalism organizations released a petition calling on Mr. Holder to stop the prosecution of Mr. Sterling.” The petition, with more than 50,000 signers, is posted here.

Journalists Marcy Wheeler and Norman Solomon, who wrote about the intertwined stories of Sterling and New York Times reporter James Risen in an in-depth article for The Nation, have returned to the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va.

Assessing the first week of the trial, Wheeler writes: “While the jury will likely neither note nor learn of them, there were details from last week’s testimony in the Jeffrey Sterling trial that resonated with two other notable cases involving the CIA: the New York Police Department’s spying on Muslims and the leak of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity.” She observes that “the jurors are not weighing in on the selective prosecutions and discrimination involving the CIA; they will only weigh whether the government has enough evidence to find Sterling guilty of leaking details of Operation Merlin. Yet that larger context remains important for understanding the pursuit of leaks.”

In his latest article, Solomon writes that “the CIA is airing soiled threads of its dirty laundry as never before in open court. The agency seems virtually obsessed with trying to refute the negative portrayal of Operation Merlin — the CIA’s effort 15 years ago to provide a flawed nuclear weapon design to Iran — in James Risen’s 2006 book State of War.” Solomon adds that prosecution witnesses “hammered at the vital need for scrupulous rectitude from CIA officers to obey the law and regulations in handling classified materials. As you might imagine, none had anything to say about disapproval of violating laws against torture or destroying evidence of torture.”

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com, @emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at emptywheel.net.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

ExposeFacts is a project of IPA.

SOTU: * Perpetuating War * Progressive Posturing

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KATHY KELLY, kathy at vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
CNN.com published a piece today by Noam Chomsky: “Paris attacks show hypocrisy of West’s outrage,” which refers to “Barack Obama’s global assassination campaign targeting people suspected of perhaps intending to harm us some day, and any unfortunates who happen to be nearby” as “the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times.”

Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Kelly was recently sentenced to three months in prison for protesting against such drone killings. She has been told to “self-report” by the court on Jan. 23.

Recently in Afghanistan, Kelly is currently in Chicago. Her most recent piece is “Inside the Uniform, Under the Hood, Longing for Change,” in which she writes: “The cartoonized versions of foreign policy handed to U.S. people, designating heroes and villains, create a dangerously under-educated public unable to engage in democratic decision-making.” She also recently wrote the piece “Drones and Discrimination: Kick the Habit.”

DAVID LINDORFF, dlindorff at mindspring.com

The Washington Post reports: “Obama rediscovers a progressive agenda for the State of the Union.”

Lindorff is founding editor of the online alternative newspaper ThisCantBeHappening!

He just wrote in “Taking a Meaningless Progressive Stand in Congress“: “The Democrats are showing their true colors now that they have lost control of both houses of Congress.

“Suddenly, with the assurance that they don’t have to worry about being taken seriously, the ‘party of the people’ has come forward with a proposal to levy a 0.1 percent tax on short-term stock trades, particularly on high speed trading.

“Don’t get me wrong. A stock-trade tax is a great, and long-overdue idea. In fact, such a tax, which could raise some $800 billion in revenue over a decade, should probably be bigger than just 0.1 percent, and targeted more directly at high speed trading. …

“The point is that this trading tax is something that progressives have been calling for now for years, if not longer, but while they were in a position to actually make it happen, Democrats in Congress were silent about it.”

End of “Yemen Model” — and Yemen?

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AP reports: “The U.N. Security Council called for a lasting cease-fire in conflict-torn Yemen on Tuesday and condemned the recent surge in violence aimed at undermining the country’s legitimate government institutions. … Violence has gripped Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, since Monday and has been described as a coup. Yemeni authorities say Shiite Houthi rebels shelled Hadi’s residence and raided the presidential palace on Tuesday.”

FAREA AL-MUSLIMI, falmuslimi at gmail.com, @almuslimi
Al-Muslimi is a Yemeni youth activist, writer, and consultant who has testified at a Senate hearing and was featured on an IPA news release titled “Iraq: Is Yemen the Model?” last year. Some of his tweets today include: “Three years of Yemen straight walking toward #Hell via GCC [Gulf Cooperation Coucil] deal.” “Like it or not, admit it or fake it by new fake UN agreement, we are simply witnessing the END of The Republic of Yemen. #Yemen #Houthis.”

BARAA SHIBAN, baraashiban at gmail.com, @BShtwtr
Shiban is a member of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference and is the British-based group Reprieve’s project coordinator in Yemen. He said today: “The recent actions by Houthi rebels who gained support of the deposed President Saleh, is an announcement of a full coup. The elected president is under house arrest, military personnel have left the streets and the Houthi Militia are in control now. This will fuel the tensions in the other provinces and I see that we will be living a year of chaos in Yemen.” Shiban’s pieces include “Drone Strikes in Yemen are an Obstacle to Democracy.”

MATTHEW HOH, mphoh1 at yahoo.com
Hoh, a State Department whistleblower, said today: “You don’t have to be an expert on Yemen, the Middle East, Islam or foreign policy in general to realize that what is occurring in Yemen is similar to what is occurring throughout the Greater Middle East. Decades of American interventionist policy, that can be at best be described as inept meddling, with roots going back to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953 and the establishment of the Shah’s authoritarian police state, have created, fostered and sustained sectarian, ethnic and religious conflicts that have birthed repressive regimes, extremist terror groups and genocidal civil wars throughout the Middle East. Yemen is one more glaring example of failed American policy in the Middle East, perhaps all the more tragic and absurd as Yemen was cited as an example of success by President Obama when he authorized his seventh bombing of a Muslim nation, Syria, last year.”

Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, previously directed the Afghanistan Study Group, a collection of foreign and public policy experts and professionals advocating for a change in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Prior to that, Hoh served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. Embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

In July, President Obama stated in his remarks about sending troops to Iraq: “You look at a country like Yemen — a very impoverished country and one that has its own sectarian or ethnic divisions — we do have a committed partner in President Hadi and his government. And we have been able to help to develop their capacities without putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground, at the same time as we’ve got enough CT, or counterterrorism, capabilities that we’re able to go after folks that might try to hit our embassy or might be trying to export terrorism into Europe or the United States.

“And looking at how we can create more of those models is going to be part of the solution in dealing with both Syria and Iraq. …” See IPA news release: “Iraq: Is Yemen the Model?

SOTU: How Trade Deal Undermines Obama’s Stated Agenda

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LORI WALLACH, via Symone Sanders, ssanders at citizen.org, @PCGTW
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, which just put out the memo “Obama vs. Obama: The State of the Union’s Self-Defeating Trade Pitch,” which contrasts Obama’s stated goals of job creation, reduced income inequality, more affordable healthcare and better regulation of Wall Street with his call for “Fast Tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — a controversial ‘trade’ deal that would undermine all of the above.” It is largely backed by establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans, while many progressives and populists in each party are opposed.

Obama on Income Inequality: “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” Global Trade Watch states: “An ‘economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well’ is actually the projected outcome of the TPP. A recent study finds that the TPP would spell a pay cut for all but the richest 10 percent of U.S. workers by exacerbating U.S. income inequality, just as past trade deals have done.”

Obama on the Legacy of Past Trade Deals: “Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense.” Says Global Trade Watch: “Past trade deals have resulted in massive trade deficits and job loss not because the pacts’ rules have been broken, but because of the rules themselves. The TPP would double down on NAFTA’s rules — the opposite of Obama’s promise to renegotiate the unpopular pact — by expanding NAFTA’s offshoring incentives, limits on food safety standards, restrictions on financial regulation and other threats to American workers and consumers.

Obama on Internet Freedom: “I intend to protect a free and open Internet…” Global Trade Watch states: “The TPP includes rules that implicate net neutrality and that would require Internet service providers to police our Internet activity — rules similar to those in the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that was rejected as a threat to Internet freedom.”

Obama on National interests: “But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen?” Global Trade Watch states: “With the TPP, multinational corporations want to write the rules that would put our workers at a disadvantage and undermine our national interests. TPP rules, written behind closed doors under the advisement of hundreds of official corporate advisers, would provide benefits for firms that offshore American jobs, help pharmaceutical corporations expand monopoly patent protections that drive up medicine prices, give banks new tools to roll back Wall Street regulations, and empower foreign firms to ‘sue’ the U.S. government over health and environmental policies. Why would we let that happen?”

Wallach also wrote “SOTU Schizophrenia: Middle-Class Jobs vs. Fast Track and TPP.”

MANUEL PÉREZ-ROCHA, manuel@ips-dc.org
Associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, Pérez-Rocha wrote the articles “NAFTA Pushes Many Mexicans to Migrate” and “NAFTA’s 20 Years of Unfulfilled Promises: The trade deal has become an engine of poverty in Mexico.”

DAVID BACON, dbacon at igc.org
Bacon‘s books include The Right to Stay Home: How U.S. Policy Drives Mexican Migration. He recently wrote the piece “The Workers’ Scorecard on NAFTA,” which states: “The head of the mineros, Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, was forced to flee to Canada when the government threatened to arrest him after he’d condemned an explosion in a mine belonging to one of Mexico’s wealthiest families as ‘industrial homicide.’ Meanwhile, a new mining law led to the sale of mining concessions, primarily to huge Canadian companies, covering more than one-third of Mexico’s entire territory.”

Bacon said today: “It’s more than ironic that the President acknowledges the injustice of U.S. immigration policy, and has taken measures to spare at least some people from deportation. Yet he continues to push exactly the same trade policies, in this case the Trans Pacific Partnership, that have displaced millions of people in Mexico and Central America, forcing them into migration as their only alternative for survival. We need instead an immigration policy that permanently protects people’s rights, and that ends economic policies that deepen poverty while large corporations make even greater profits.”

Saudi Monarch’s Death: A Chance for Democracy?

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Presidents Bush and Obama with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

Presidents Bush and Obama with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

ALA’A SHEHABI, alaa at bahrainwatch.org, @alaashehabi
Shehabi is with Bahrain Watch. She said today: “We hope things will change — Saudi Arabia has been an obstacle for Arab democracy in Syria, Bahrain, Egypt and throughout the region.”

ALI AL-AHMED, director at gulfinstitute.org, @AliAlAhmed_en
Director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, al-Ahmed tweeted about the death of King Abdullah several hours before it was confirmed by Saudi officials yesterday. Reuters reported late yesterday afternoon (just before 5:00 p.m. ET): “A member of the royal family wrote: ‘I give you good news. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is fine and there is no truth to the rumors going around.'”

Al-Ahmed features regular dissent and criticism of the Saudi regime on his Twitter feed. He was featured on the IPA news release last year: “13 Years After 9/11: Has ISIS Been ‘A Saudi Project’?

JAMAL GHOSN, jamgho at gmail.com, @jamalghosn
Managing editor of Al-Akhbar, Ghosn said today: “Internally, the reign of Abdullah saw the violent oppression of the already marginalized Shia minority in the oil rich eastern region of Saudi Arabia. This is in addition to thousands of political prisoners that are held throughout the Kingdom. Then there’s the ludicrous terrorism charges against women drivers, the fact that up to a quarter of the Saudi population are living under the poverty line, and the underdeveloped infrastructure that has seen people die because of rain in places like Jeddah.

“Regionally, Al-Qaeda in Iraq — and what it has evolved into — has to be Abdullah’s biggest legacy. That and the Saudi money spent on global Wahhabi daawa [proselytizing] have left the world with a mutant religion that will wreak havoc for years to come.

“But what I think is most overlooked so far is that even this relatively minor amount of criticism won’t appear on Arabic language media. Saudi money practically has a monopoly over Arabic language mass media. Even those who disagree with KSA at times — i.e. Qatari and Iranian media — tend to be hesitant in taking on the Saudi royal family. Access to a publication like Al-Akhbar, which has no qualms about publishing criticism of Saudi Arabia and its royal family, is blocked in the Kingdom.”

Anti-Austerity Left Wins in Greece: Saves Capitalism?

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COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS, cpanayotakis at gmail.com
Panayotakis is professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York and author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy. He said today: “The result of the Greek election is a resounding rejection of the austerity policies that have had devastating economic and social consequences. Having received over 35 percent of the vote, Syriza, Greece’s leading party of the anti-austerity left, is poised to form a government in coalition with a smaller party of the anti-austerity right and to challenge the austerity policies imposed throughout the eurozone. In so doing, the Greek election could prove an important turning point, further fueling the rise of anti-austerity forces of the left in Spain, Ireland and beyond.”

MARK WEISBROT, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @Dan_Beeton
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. See their new statement “Syriza Victory in Greece Could Be a ‘Historic Turning Point’ for Eurozone Economic Policy, CEPR Co-Director Says.” Weisbrot recently co-wrote the report “The Greek Economy: Which Way Forward?

JAMES HENRY, jhenry at sagharbor.com, @submergingmkt
Available for a limited number of interviews, Henry is senior economic advisor for the Tax Justice Network and senior fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Sustainable Investment. He is also managing partner at the Northern Environmental Law Center and former chief economist at the international consultancy firm McKinsey & Co.

He said today: The ironic story of the Greek election is the fact that it is the European ‘radical’ left that is standing up for reality-based capitalism — one that doesn’t try to live off unsustainable debt — one that doesn’t simply benefit BMW and Volkswagen and Deutsche Bank and BNP [France’s largest bank] — one that doesn’t tolerate corruption and tax evasion and Swiss private banking.

“In contrast, the ECB [European Central Bank] and the EU are insisting (a) that ordinary Greeks sustain more pain to service a foreign debt that stands at 175 percent of GDP; (b) that [Mario] Draghi and the ECB have nothing to offer other than printing more money; (c) that Greece must continue to service its unsustainable debts even though three years of extreme suffering have not restarted growth.

“This was politically unsustainable. It is equally unsustainable in Spain, where the left has surged; in Portugal; in Italy; in Eastern Europe. The left’s victory in Greece was essential — because the only alternative was the rise of Golden Dawn, the neofascist party.

“Elsewhere, all over Europe, the extreme right is on the march. Anti-immigrant feelings are at a high, from Hungary to Germany to the UK to the Netherlands, fueled by the EU’s incompetent austerity programs of the last seven years. The financial press is completely upside down about the left’s victory in Greece — it is to be celebrated, not bemoaned.”

ERIC LeCOMPTE, via Sophia Har, sophia at jubileeusa.org, @jubileeusa
LeCompte is executive director of Jubilee USA Network — “an alliance of more than 75 U.S. organizations and 400 faith communities working with 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee’s mission is to build an economy that serves, protects and promotes the participation of the most vulnerable.” See their statement on the Greek election.

CIA Leak Trial in Jury’s Hands

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The jury in the historic trial of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling is scheduled for its second full day of deliberations today.

Special coverage continues from ExposeFacts — The Latest — providing in-depth news and analysis at: http://exposefacts.org/blog/the-latest/

Marcy Wheeler reports: “The government engaged in a great deal of security theater during the Jeffrey Sterling trial, most notably by having some CIA witnesses — including ones whose identities weren’t, technically, secret — testify behind a big office divider so the general public couldn’t see the witness. But along the way, the government revealed a great number of secrets, including a number of secrets about how its counterproliferation programs work.”

Norman Solomon writes: “Many of the two-dozen witnesses from the Central Intelligence Agency conveyed smoldering resentment that a whistleblower or journalist might depict the institution as a bungling outfit unworthy of its middle name. Some witnesses seemed to put Sterling and journalist James Risen roughly in the same nefarious category — Sterling for allegedly leaking classified information that put the CIA in a bad light, and Risen for reporting it. . . . If Sterling goes to prison, a major reason will be that the CIA leadership is angry about being portrayed as an intelligence gang that can’t shoot straight.”

Wheeler and Solomon — who wrote about the intertwined stories of Sterling and New York Times reporter James Risen in an in-depth article for The Nation — are available for a limited number of interviews.

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com, @emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” investigative journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at emptywheel.net.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

ExposeFacts is a project of IPA.

U.S.-India Nuclear Deal * Subsidizes Industry * Leaves Victims Vulnerable * Violates NPT

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Al Jazeera reports: “Critics have expressed concern after U.S. President Barack Obama announced a breakthrough agreement with India on civilian nuclear cooperation, saying little is known about the deal and it’s unclear whether compensation would be paid to victims of any nuclear disaster.”
Reuters reports Daniel Roderick, president and CEO of Toshiba-backed Westinghouse, called the deal a “breakthrough.”

ROBERT ALVAREZ, kitbob at erols.com
Available for a limited number of interviews, Alvarez is a specialist in nuclear policy, a former senior policy adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Energy and now a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.He said today: “This agreement to shield U.S. corporations from liabilities due to negligence provides nuclear accident victims with little to no chance for compensation. In doing so, it leaves potential victims of a nuclear accident in the same fix as the real victims of the Bhopal chemical catastrophe. The liability limit is capped at $122 million — 80 times less the limit set in the U.S. for nuclear accidents.

“Last year, a study by the the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission estimated that a major accident involving a spent nuclear fuel pool fire in the U.S. would impact 9,400 square miles with a long term displacement of 4,000,000 persons. Even though the probability of such accidents is considered to be extremely low, private insurance refuses to cover nuclear power plants. In a developing nation, such as India, fear of liability from nuclear accidents is much greater than in the U.S. due to the lack of a robust nuclear safety infrastructure.”

ALICE SLATER, aslater at rcn.com
Slater is with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee. She said today: “Selling nuclear technology to India violates the Non-Proliferation Treaty’s prohibition on providing ‘peaceful’ nuclear technology to non-NPT parties.

“India, together with Pakistan and Israel, never signed the Non-Proliferation treaty so the U.S. is violating its treaty obligations by promoting nuclear power sales in India. And the U.S. has also received a commitment from India to pass limited liability laws for nuclear reactor manufacturers, as the manufacturers of this toxic technology are unwilling to bear the full financial burden of any potential Fukushima or Chernobyl-type catastrophe. Obama has thus enabled the reactor manufacturers to peddle their toxic technology to India with the possibility of inflicting new nuclear nightmares upon Asia without any crippling financial liability for the manufacturers should a future nuclear meltdown occur.

“Finally, by encouraging India to go nuclear the U.S. is actually exacerbating climate change, since by not investing in this costly and unforgiving nuclear technology, the world could avoid much more toxic carbon pollution by investing those costly sums in solar, wind, hydro, geothermal energy technology and efficiency measures, which begin earning those carbon savings much more swiftly.”

Also, see IPA news release: “Gandhi Derides Policies of Materialism and Militarism” featuring Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

BREAKING — CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Convicted on All Nine Counts

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This afternoon CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling was convicted of all nine of the remaining counts he was facing.

Special coverage continues from ExposeFacts — The Latest — providing in-depth news and analysis at: http://exposefacts.org/blog/the-latest

Marcy Wheeler reports: “The government engaged in a great deal of security theater during the Jeffrey Sterling trial, most notably by having some CIA witnesses — including ones whose identities weren’t, technically, secret — testify behind a big office divider so the general public couldn’t see the witness. But along the way, the government revealed a great number of secrets, including a number of secrets about how its counterproliferation programs work.”

Norman Solomon writes: “Many of the two-dozen witnesses from the Central Intelligence Agency conveyed smoldering resentment that a whistleblower or journalist might depict the institution as a bungling outfit unworthy of its middle name. Some witnesses seemed to put Sterling and journalist James Risen roughly in the same nefarious category — Sterling for allegedly leaking classified information that put the CIA in a bad light, and Risen for reporting it. . . . If Sterling goes to prison, a major reason will be that the CIA leadership is angry about being portrayed as an intelligence gang that can’t shoot straight.”

Wheeler and Solomon — who wrote about the intertwined stories of Sterling and New York Times reporter James Risen in an in-depth article for The Nation — are available for a limited number of interviews.

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com, @emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” investigative journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at emptywheel.net.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

ExposeFacts is a project of IPA.

Trade Deal Hits Protests at Congressional Hearing

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The program “Democracy Now!” reports: “The top U.S. trade official has told lawmakers the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal could be wrapped up within months and urged Congress to give the White House fast-track authority to approve the deal. Protesters with the group Flush the Trans-Pacific Partnership repeatedly interrupted U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman’s testimony before Congress. The protesters — Dr. Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese and retired steelworker Richard Ochs — were all arrested after being removed from the hearing.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @MFlowers8
KEVIN ZEESE, kbzeese at gmail.com, @KBZeese
Flowers and Zeese are with the group PopularResistance.org. For more details and video of their action, see the piece “Activists Disrupt Senate Finance Committee Hearing over U.S. Trade Rep’s push to “Fast Track” the TPP,” which states: “The legislation, which Obama requested from both parties during last week’s State of the Union address, would limit congressional oversight of the Administration’s free trade agreements and is widely opposed by hundreds of environmental, labor, public health, food safety, and faith groups nationwide.

“Protesters wore shirts reading ‘No Fast Track’ and held signs stating ‘Froman lies,’ a response to the ambassador’s recent claims that Fast Track is the ‘best tool to ensure that Congress and the public have ample time to give our trade agreements the public scrutiny and debate they deserve.’ Past versions of Fast Track legislation, including one introduced with little support last January, limits the amount of time Congress has to consider agreements and suspends their ability to make amendments to the texts.”

Flowers and Zeese also recently wrote: “Fast Track Not A Done Deal, The People Will Stop It,” which states: “Across the political spectrum there is mass opposition to fast tracking the secretly negotiated TPP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP, aka TAFTA) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). People remember the impact of NAFTA on job loss, destruction of Mexican agriculture, expansion of inequality, environmental degradation and increased immigration. The most recent South Korean trade pact, which Obama touts as a success, is leading to similar results of lost jobs and an expanding U.S. trade deficits.”

“The Super Bowl Windfall Myth”

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SuperBowl600MNEIL deMAUSE, neil at demause.net, @neildemause
Neil deMause runs the stadium news website Field of Schemes, and co-authored the book of the same name. He wrote the piece “It’s the Local Economy, Stupid!” for Sports on Earth.

His most recent piece is “The Super Bowl Windfall Myth” for FAIR, which states: “With Super Bowl Sunday approaching, expect plenty of media reports on the projected economic windfall for host city Glendale, Arizona. Last year, when the NFL announced that its big game would provide a $600 million boost to the New York/New Jersey economy, that figure promptly became a fixture in news coverage of the event (CNN, 1/24/14; Newsday, 1/22/14; FoxNews.com, 5/21/14). …

“Never mind that numerous economists have looked in vain for any evidence that Super Bowl host cities strike it rich. In one study, Holy Cross economist Victor Matheson (12/09) calculated that through 2001, the average increase in economic activity during each Super Bowl was about $30 million. Lake Forest College economist Robert Baade has found similar numbers, telling the Associated Press (1/27/14) that you could ‘move the decimal point one place to the left’ on the NFL’s claims and still have ‘a generous appraisal of what the Super Bowl generates.’

“And that’s economic activity, the total amount of money changing hands within city limits — not the amount that comes back to city coffers. When University of Maryland economist Dennis Coates (International Journal of Sport Finance, 2006) studied the 2004 Super Bowl, he found that added sales tax revenues in host Houston totaled about $5 million — well under the $30 million to $70 million that cities spend on increased police presence and other services for the game (USA Today, 1/25/15).

“Economists have provided similarly dismal results for other sporting events, with major sporting events failing to make a dent in everything from local sales tax receipts to per capita income. (One study of sports strikes and lockouts failed to find any measurable impact on local economies even when local teams shut down entirely.) The most likely explanation: Increased spending on sports is largely balanced by reduced spending on other entertainment options, and even new spending quickly leaks out of the local economy into the pockets of out-of-town sports leagues.”

See deMause’s full piece for a list of examples.

Outrage at USDA’s “Abandonment of Regulatory Authority” on GE Trees

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ANNE PETERMANN, globalecology at gmavt.net, also via Jay Burney, jay at stopgetrees.org, @STOPGETREES
Petermann is coordinator of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Burney is media coordinator for the group. On Thursday the group released the statement: “Breaking: Outrage Over U.S. Secret Approval of Genetically Engineered,” which says: “Groups from around the world today joined together to denounce the U.S. government for allowing the first genetically engineered tree, a loblolly pine, to be legalized with no government or public oversight, with no assessment of their risks to the public or the environment, and without regard to overwhelming public opposition to GE trees. …

“In 2013, when the USDA called for public comments on another ArborGen request to commercialize a GE Eucalyptus tree (a decision still pending), they received comments at the rate of 10,000-to-1 opposing the industry request. By simply refusing to regulate this new GE pine, the USDA has cut the public out of the process completely.

Background: The relevant government documents were brought to light by the Center for Food Safety earlier this week. See “New Genetically Engineered Tree To Avoid Federal Oversight Completely,” which notes: “A genetically engineered (GE) tree may already be planted in field tests, and eventually be commercialized, in the U.S. without having gone through any regulatory oversight or environmental risk assessment. On January 13th, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) quietly posted its August reply to a letter from ArborGen, a biotechnology company that is developing GE forest trees for plantations, confirming that USDA will require no regulation of ArborGen’s GE loblolly pine.

“This failure to regulate a GE tree is unprecedented. Other known GE forest trees in the U.S. are being grown in USDA-regulated field trials, and none has been approved for commercial planting. USDA regulation is important because it ensures that risk assessments are carried out to determine whether or not the GE tree will harm the environment before a decision on its commercialization. …

“’We are outraged at USDA’s complete abandonment of regulatory authority,’ said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. ‘This GE tree has the potential to contaminate natural forests and impact whole ecosystems.  We are exploring legal options to stop the dissemination of ArborGen’s unregulated GE loblolly pine, and to see that it and future GE trees are subject to the serious regulation and transparent risk assessment the public deserves.'”

Doug Gurian-Sherman, the director of sustainable agriculture and senior scientist at the Center for Food Safety, also just wrote “The Next Phase of Genetic Engineering: A Flood of New Crops Evading Environmental Regulation,” in which he states the USDA “is deliberately thumbing its nose at the public by refusing to enact the regulations it has been authorized to use.”

Problems with “One-Time” Tax on Overseas Corporate Profits

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AP reports on the budget the Obama administration sends to Congress today: “Obama’s six-year $478 billion public works program would provide upgrades for the nation’s highways, bridges and transit systems, in an effort to tap into bipartisan support for spending on badly needed repairs.

“Half of that money would come from a one-time mandatory tax on profits that U.S. companies have amassed overseas, according to White House officials who spoke on condition of anonymity before the budget was released.”

JAMES HENRY, jhenry at sagharbor.com, @submergingmkt
Henry is former chief economist at the international consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. He is now senior fellow at the Columbia University Center for Sustainable International Investment and senior adviser with the Tax Justice Network, which last year in their report “The Price of Offshore Revisited” estimated that total wealth in tax havens was between $21 trillion and $32 trillion.

Now an investigative journalist, Henry is featured in the film “We’re Not Broke,” which tells the story of U.S. corporations dodging billions of dollars in income tax and is available on Netflix.

He said today: “The proposal is not as bad as what Bush did in 2004, but if you keep doing this, you in effect repeal the corporate income tax.

“Contrary to claims back then, in 2004, it didn’t create any jobs. Citibank brought back money and used it to buy back shares, so it benefited management.

“And corporations don’t actually just keep money overseas, they end up borrowing against it. What we’ve had is an erosion of the tax rate for corporations since the late 70s. What’s needed is a meaningful progressive income tax. Instead, we have a system of ‘tax competition’ — one country after another lowering tax rates. This year, with Burger King and Chrysler, has been a big year for inversions and the administration did very little to stop that.

“What we should be doing is working with other countries to strengthen corporate tax collection. Instead, we keep lowering ours — and it hurts us, but it really hurts poorer countries.

“And all this is being driven by the fact that both establishment parties have been on the take and that’s why you have so little leadership on this issue.”

Pope Declares Oscar Romero a “Martyr”

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AP is reporting: “Pope Francis decreed Tuesday that slain Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed in 1980 out of hatred for his Catholic faith, approving a martyrdom declaration that sets the stage for his beatification. …

“Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was gunned down by right-wing death squads March 24, 1980 while celebrating Mass. A human rights campaigner, Romero had spoken out against repression by the Salvadoran army at the beginning of the country’s 1980-1992 civil war between the right-wing government and leftist rebels.

“His assassination presaged a conflict that killed nearly 75,000.

“Romero’s sainthood cause had been held up by the Vatican for years out of concern over his perceived association with liberation theology…”

BLASE BONPANE, ooa at igc.org
Director of the Office of the Americas, Bonpane served as a Maryknoll priest in Guatemala and has written five books including Guerrillas of Peace: Liberation Theology and the Central American Revolution. His most recent book is his autobiography, Imagine No Religion.

Bonpane said today: “First of all, Romero is already a saint by what’s called ‘Sensus Fidelium’ or the ‘Sense of the Faithful’ — the people of Latin America have been calling him a saint for years.

“But this action by the Pope is really a slam on John Paul II, who forced Romero to wait for weeks in Rome and wouldn’t talk to him when Romero was desperately trying to explain the situation to him.

“This is a great moment. What Romero did was to address what’s called ‘the trinity’ in Latin America: the oligarchy, church and military. He had the church turn against the other two and all hell broke loose. He’d say ‘the poor converted me.’ He started as a conservative, but ultimately identified with the poor of the earth and he was killed for that.

“John Paul II, coming from Poland, was blinded by his anti-communism. The inquisitor came in the person of Ratzinger [later Pope Benedict XVI] — attacking and shutting up people up. That’s the reason I left the clergy — I was told to shut up and forget everything I learned about Latin America and go to Hawaii. Ratzinger was the enforcer against liberation theology, which Romero had embraced.

“Liberation theology came out of the Vatican II Council in the 1960s. It was an attack on imperial theology, which came out of the the Council of Nicea called by an emperor, Constantine, which was the cause of sectarianism, inquisitions, crusades and conquistadors. It’s with us today — this ‘muscular Christianity.’ We see it with something like an American Sniper’ — about a man invoking Jesus to invade and kill. This makes the state the religion — with nothing to do with the actual teachings of the carpenter from Galilee.”

* Military Budget * Ukraine Disaster

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RAED JARRAR, rjarrar at afsc.org, @raedjarrar
President Obama has warned of “draconian” military cuts. Jarrar is policy impact coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, Jarrar just wrote the piece: “B is for Billion: What Military Cuts?

LEV GOLINKIN, golinkin at gmail.com
Golinkin is the author of the recently-released A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, a memoir of Soviet Ukraine, which he left as a child refugee. See New York Times review: “Fleeing Ukraine With Little More Than Wit.”

Golinkin just wrote the piece “The Humanitarian Crisis in Eastern Ukraine Demands Attention,” which states: “According to the latest, and admittedly conservative, UN estimates, the conflict in the southeastern Ukrainian provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk (Donbass) has resulted in over 5,000 deaths and 1.5 million refugees. For the forgotten 5.2 million who remain in Donbass, life since April 2014 has been a deadly kaleidoscope of warlords and armies, foreign fighters, shifting allegiances, morphing front lines, and indiscriminate carnage. … Kiev continues to add layers to its blockade, making it nearly impossible for food and medicine to reach the 3 million civilians in rebel-controlled areas of Donbass…”

NICOLAI PETRO, nnpetro at gmail.com
Petro is professor of politics at the University of Rhode Island and spent much of the last year on a Fulbright research scholarship in Ukraine. His pieces include “The Real War in Ukraine: The Battle over Ukrainian Identity.”

He said today: “This conflict is about whether Ukraine should be a monocultural or pluricultural nation. Peace is unlikely until Ukrainian politics are brought into conformity with the country’s bi-cultural reality.

“The gridlock of the past two decades that prevented reforms, were Ukraine’s way of dealing with its internal split. When advocates of Western Ukraine ousted the popularly elected president in February 2014, they broke the fragile balance and conflict became inevitable.

“The new political majority in Kiev believes it can create a culturally homogeneous Ukraine in which the East is assigned a permanent subordinate status. Military victory over the rebels might give them the power to do this, but Kiev’s unwillingness to compromise means more or less permanent turmoil in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country.
“Western proposals that ignore the domestic roots of this conflict cannot succeed in achieving a viable Ukraine.”

See his timeline of the collapse of the Minsk accords.

Background: Former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev recently stated: “Plainly speaking, the U.S. has already dragged us into a new Cold War, trying to openly implement its triumphalism.” See: “As Ukraine Spirals Again into Violence, U.S. Contemplates Pouring Fuel on Fire.”

* Stopping ISIS * Saudi Backing Al-Qaeda * Carter and Accelerating U.S. Nuke Spending

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JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN, amadea311 at earthlink.net
Faculty associate in Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Loewenstein just wrote the piece “Burnt Offering” about the latest ISIS killing video. She writes: “Too few people, I fear, will understand that the monstrous activities of ISIS will continue, if not increase, as long as the former colonial and imperial powers of the West, Japan, and their Arab allies — all of them run by tyrants and dictators beholden to or in league with US state power and seeking ‘security’ — persist in their attempts to shape and control the destiny of the Middle East.”

MICHAEL SPRINGMANN, attorney at springmannslaw.net
The New York Times published a piece today titled: “Moussaoui Calls Saudi Princes Patrons of Al Qaeda.” Springmann is the former head of the U.S. visa section in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and is author of the soon-to-be-released book Visas for Al Qaeda: CIA Handouts that Rocked the World. He said today: “During the 1980s, the CIA recruited and trained Muslim operatives to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later, the CIA would move those operatives from Afghanistan to the Balkans, and then to Iraq, Libya, and Syria, traveling on illegal US visas. These US-backed and trained fighters would morph into an organization that is synonymous with jihadist terrorism: al-Qaeda.”

ALICE SLATER, aslater at rcn.com
Slater is with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee. Hearings for Ashton Carter to head the Pentagon are slated for today.

Center for Public Integrity notes regarding the administration’s new budget proposal: “Obama proposes to boost spending for nuclear armaments.”

Slater said today: “The news that President Obama, a recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize , notably for his 2009 Prague speech envisioning a nuclear weapons free world, is planning to expand the US nuclear weapons complex, budgeting for new warheads and their delivery systems — missiles, planes and submarines — as well as two new bomb factories, estimated to cost $348 billion over the next 10 years with a projected price tag of one trillion dollars over thirty years, is simply astonishing!

“How has the US lost its way so badly? After the wall fell in Eastern Europe and Gorbachev miraculously let go of all of Eastern Europe without a shot, Reagan and Gorbachev actually came close to eliminating their nuclear weapons at a conference in Reykjavik, but Reagan wouldn’t give up Star Wars and the deal fell through. Now the US with NATO, is expanding its military right up to Russia’s border as Russia in reaction, begins to rebuild its nuclear arsenal, feeling threatened by US expansion and its growing arsenals of space and nuclear weapons. The expansion began during the Clinton Administration, and the proposed incoming Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, played a major role in the opening encroachment of NATO in Eastern Europe, particularly in the expanded US missile program that led to missile bases planted in Eastern Europe and the US walking out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002, which it had signed with the Soviet Union in 1972.

Background: See Slater’s comments on Carter just before he was nominated.

See AP story from September: “Russia developing new nuclear weapons to counter US, NATO.”

Trade Numbers Reinforce Opposition to “Another Job-Destroying Deal”

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AP reports today: “The deficit jumped 17.1 percent to $46.6 billion in December, resulting in the biggest imbalance since November 2012, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. … The deficit for 2014 overall increased to $505 billion, up 6 percent from the 2013 deficit of $476.4 billion.”

ALAN TONELSON, ATonelson at aol.com, @alantonelson
Tonelson is author of The Race to the Bottom: Why a Global Worker Surplus and Uncontrolled Free Trade are Sinking American Living Standards. He just wrote the piece “(What’s Left of) Our Economy: New Trade Data Wreck Case for TPP & Fast Track” for his RealityChek website. He is former research fellow at the U.S. Business and Industry Council, a trade association of domestic manufacturers.

He writes today: “As President Obama’s trade agenda heads to Congress, new government figures show numerous U.S. trade deficits in trade policy-sensitive areas hit new annual or monthly records in 2014, including China, manufacturing, Korea and non-oil goods in both inflation- and non-inflation-adjusted terms. Since all deficit deterioration reduces U.S. growth and hiring, Congress should reject the President’s proposed new deals, as well as his request for new fast track negotiating authority, and focus on devising a new trade strategy that will strengthen, not weaken, the recovery and job creation.” He just tweeted: “U.S. annual #export growth in 2014 (2.86%) was worst in a non-#recession year since 2002.”

LORI WALLACH, via Symone Sanders, ssanders at citizen.org, @PCGTW
Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, Wallach said today: “This abysmal new data shows how the past agreements that serve as the template for the trade deals Obama is now pushing destroy more middle class jobs and further suppress wages, which spotlights why there is so much congressional and public opposition to Fast Tracking the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact. President Obama’s goal of doubling exports has failed dramatically in part due to slow and even declining U.S. exports under recent ‘trade’ deals. Today’s data reveal that U.S. exports to Korea are actually lower than in 2011 before implementation of the Korea pact that was used as the U.S. template for the TPP. Since the Korea FTA, our trade deficit with Korea has surged more than 80 percent, which equates to the loss of more than 70,000 U.S. jobs — the same number of jobs that the administration promised would be gained under the FTA. Given the TPP is based on the Korea deal, the new data just reinforce why members of Congress and the American public will not support another job-destroying deal.”

HSBC Scandal: Why Did DOJ Ignore Whistleblower?

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“60 Minutes” reports in “The Swiss Leaks“: “The largest and most damaging Swiss bank heist in history doesn’t involve stolen money but stolen computer files with more than 100,000 names tied to Swiss bank accounts at HSBC, the second largest commercial bank in the world. A 37-year-old computer security specialist named Hervé Falciani stole the huge cache of data in 2007 and gave it to the French government. It’s now being used to go after tax cheats all over the world. ’60 Minutes’, working with a group called the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, obtained the leaked files. They show the bank did business with a collection of international outlaws: tax dodgers, arms dealers and drug smugglers — offering a rare glimpse into the highly secretive world of Swiss banking.”

JAMES HENRY, jhenry at sagharbor.com, @submergingmkt
Henry is former chief economist at the international consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. He is now senior fellow at the Columbia University Center for Sustainable International Investment and senior adviser with the Tax Justice Network, which last year in their report “The Price of Offshore Revisited,” estimated that total wealth in tax havens was between $21 trillion and $32 trillion.

Now an investigative journalist, Henry is featured in the film “We’re Not Broke,” which tells the story of U.S. corporations dodging billions of dollars in income tax and is available on Netflix.

He said today: “HSBC got off with a $1.9 billion fine for sanctions busting and money laundering in 2012, but only a $12 million fine from the SEC related to this tax dodging. And no bankers have gone to jail anywhere — except some of the whistleblowers themselves.

“The U.S. Department of Justice might have brought Hervé Falciani — the whistleblower behind these revelations — to the U.S. as a whistleblower and prosecuted the bank, but it failed to. And the new Attorney General-Designate, Loretta E. Lynch actually handled the HSBC case. Switzerland actually tried to extradite Falciani when he went to Spain.” See the Guardian piece “U.S. government faces pressure after biggest leak in banking history.”

James added: “These bankers are too big to fail and too big to jail, so they just keep engaging in illegal activity. There’s a widespread pattern of using fines to penalize the top 20 global big banks — $247 billion since 1998, for 655 separate major infractions of all kinds. But they just pass along the costs and continue with business as usual, with client secrecy preserved. It’s like a criminal syndicate.

“In contrast, during the Savings and Loan crisis, 880 bankers went to jail. This was under President George H. W. Bush. In contrast, Obama has been feckless.

“In part, these bankers have gotten off the hook because of how well connected they are to political figures: The former chairman of HSBC, the Right Reverend Stephen Keith Green (he really is a reverend) was named trade minister by British Prime Minister David Cameron. Robert Wolf, former head of UBS Americas, has been a huge friend and fundraiser of Obama’s founder of ’32 Advisors,’ and his consulting firm hired Austan Goolsbee, who was chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Credit Suisse paid John Podesta’s (counsel to the president) lobbying firm $1.3 million and hired Covington & Burling, the former law firm of Attorney General Holder. Obama’s IRS chief counsel — who’s in charge of whistleblowers! — William Wilkins, was a regulatory representative for the Swiss Bankers Association.”

Ukraine: Who Wins from War?

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KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, kat at thenation.com, @KatrinaNation
Available for a limited number of interviews, Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor and publisher of The Nation and just wrote the piece “An Arms Race Won’t Help Ukraine” in the Washington Post, which states: “Nearly 70 years ago, a group of Manhattan Project scientists, having seen the power of nuclear destruction, created what they called the ‘Doomsday Clock.’ It was a mechanism designed to warn the world of how imminent the threat of global catastrophe was becoming — the closer the clock moved to midnight, the closer we were to doomsday. Last month, the group of Nobel laureates charged with maintaining the clock changed its time to 11:57 p.m., denoting the closest we’ve been to doomsday in more than 30 years. Their reasoning is based not just on the world’s inaction on issues like climate change, but its provocative march toward a new Cold War.

“Indeed, as catastrophe engulfs eastern Ukraine, the United States continues to stoke tensions with Russia, most recently by considering providing lethal weapons assistance to the government in Kiev. The potential move is supported by a bipartisan chorus of hawkish voices, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and including, it appears, President Obama’s soon-to-be secretary of defense. At his confirmation hearing last week, nominee Ashton Carter testified that he is ‘very much inclined’ to support arms transfers, saying, ‘We need to support the Ukrainians in defending themselves.’ …”According to Jack F. Matlock, the former ambassador to the Soviet Union under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, the situation already ‘has begun to resemble a renewal of the Cold War with exchanges of harsh accusations, the application of economic sanctions, and — most dangerous — military muscle-flexing.’ Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader with whom Reagan and Bush worked to build trust and ultimately end the Cold War, is similarly troubled. ‘I can no longer say that this “cold war” will not lead to a “hot war,”‘ he said. ‘I fear [the U.S.] could risk it.’

“At nearly every critical juncture over the last year, military escalation has been to the detriment of the Ukrainian people and the government’s own survival. As a result of military action and escalation by both Russia and the West, Ukraine is now on the verge of financial and military collapse — with the currency falling by more than a third this past week and with foreign-exchange reserves down to a few weeks. Kiev knows it can only win by drawing NATO to fight by its side in a long, bloody civil war, bringing us closer to a real East-West crisis.”

GILBERT DOCTOROW, gdoctorow at yahoo.com
Doctorow recently wrote the piece “Federalism Will Not Solve the Ukraine Crisis” for Russia-Insider.com, which states: “Apart from the question of depth of decentralization represented by confederalism, any solution to the Ukrainian crisis will not be of long duration if it does not also deal with the language question, not just in Donbass but in all of Ukraine. Given the vehemence of the Ukrainian nationalists in control of Kiev, it is probably unrealistic to speak of two official state languages for Ukraine. But a country that aspires to European values must then implement the norms of Europe-wide and United Nations conventions on the rights of language minorities. This means in practice the right of minorities to run schools, to communicate with the government and to conduct their commerce in their own language wherever they constitute a significant percent of the population, not to mention where they hold a majority position.

“It is good that the New York Times editorial recognized the issue of neutrality, non-NATO status for Ukraine. But by and large such talk on the American side has always been time-limited, with the expectation that at some point in the future, when the present hot conflict cools off, NATO membership might once again be floated. Yet, for the Russians, face-saving compromises on this matter are not possible; the issue of NATO expansion has been the driving force in the whole East-West conflict. Any settlement of the Ukrainian crisis is imaginable only with a constitutionally mandated neutrality in Ukraine and a formal convention between the NATO states and Russia guaranteeing this neutrality.”

Doctorow is a noted “Russia watcher,” a Brussels-based journalists and founder of the European office of the Committee on East-West Accord. For 25 years he worked for U.S. and European multinationals in marketing and general management with regional responsibility. Now Doctorow regularly publishes analytical articles about international affairs on the portal of the Belgian daily La Libre Belgique and has recently been a contributor of op-ed articles on U.S.-Russian relations to the English-language Moscow Times. He is a research fellow of the American University in Moscow.

AUMF: “Another Blank Check for Endless War”

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KELLEY VLAHOS, kv at kelleyvlahos.com, @KelleyBVlahos
Vlahos
is a contributing editor at the The American Conservative magazine, which just published the piece “The War Against ISIS and the Absurd AUMF Debate.”

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal at gmail.com
Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. She said today: “Although the proposed AUMF contains some purported limitations, President Obama is essentially asking Congress to bless endless war against anyone he wants, wherever he wants. The statute would contain no geographical limit and allow military force against the Islamic State and ‘associated forces,’ which is broad and vague. And although it would prohibit ‘enduring offensive operations,’ there is a loophole that allows the limited use of ground troops. By labeling operations ‘defensive,’ Obama or the next president could use increasing numbers of ground troops. Moreover, the 2001 AUMF has been stretched well beyond what Congress intended, and there is no reason to believe the 2015 AUMF will not as well.”

RAED JARRAR, rjarrar at afsc.org, @raedjarrar
Policy impact coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, Jarrar said today: “The new AUMF is a blank check for another endless war. The U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Syria is a part of the problem. Dropping more bombs in Iraq, and arming militias and proxy groups, will not defeat extremism. Iraq and Syria will not be bombed into moderation and stability. Ending extremism and violence in Iraq and Syria is possible, but the new U.S. AUMF will make it even more difficult to achieve.”

SARAH LAZARE, sarah.lazare at gmail.com, @sarahlazare
Lazare just wrote the piece for Commondreams.org: “Obama Seeks Broad Powers to Wage Geographically Limitless War On ISIS.” She also recently wrote the piece “How to Get Serious About Ending the ISIS War,” for Foreign Policy in Focus, which states: “The expanding U.S.-led war on the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, has largely fallen off the radar of U.S. social movements. … We in the U.S. left must take a critical — if painful — look at the harm U.S. policies have done to the Middle East, press for a long-term shift in course, and seek to understand and build links with progressive forces in Iraq and Syria.” The piece interviews people involved in peace movements in the U.S., Iraq and Syria.

Key Author of War Powers: ISIL AUMF Could be Worse than Vietnam Authorization

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PAUL FINDLEY, findley1 at frontier.com
Available for a limited number of interviews, Findley was a member of Congress from Illinois for 22 years and was a principal author of the War Powers Resolution of 1973. He resides in Jacksonville, Ill. The federal building in Springfield, Ill. is named for him. He said today: “If I were still in Congress I would oppose any resolution that authorizes further involvement there. Our forces have been killing Muslims by the tens of thousands for the past decade in the misleading label of anti-terrorism. Bombing kills innocent people whose friends are furious over these killings.

“It has greater potential for trouble than the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in 1964 that I voted for, only after getting Republican Leader Gerald Ford’s assurance that  it was not the equivalent of a declaration of war [on Vietnam].

“Congress should have used its responsibility to call a halt long ago to war measures. Instead of such measures, I believe in enforcing world law through international institutions. The current war over religion in the Middle East could make the Vietnam War look like a SundaySchool picnic.” Findley was recently profiled in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier. His books include They Dare to Speak Out.

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle, who has worked with Findley for years, is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Tackling America’s Toughest Questions. He said today: “Of course Obama is wrong to state that existing statutes give him any authority he needs to wage war against ISIL.

“In the cover letter, Obama would use special forces, which is how the Vietnam War started. Once you have ground troops over there in combat, there is really no way to prevent escalation or to call it off and he knows it. What happens when one of our soldiers is captured and killed by ISIL? What kind of jingoism will that unleash and what escalations will that facilitate?

“He only talks about ‘tailoring’ the 2001 AUMF. It should be repealed, not ‘tailored.’

“This Resolution sets a dangerous precedent. Up until the 2001 AUMF, all War Powers Resolutions had been adopted with respect to a State, not alleged terrorist organizations that can operate anywhere in the world as defined by the President. This Resolution continues in that dangerous path, basically substituting ISIS for al-Qaeda and continuing to wage a global war on terrorism. So if Obama cannot plausibly invoke the 2001 Resolution because there is no connection to 9/11 as required therein, he will simply invoke this Resolution. Between the two resolutions you can have the U.S. government waging war all over the world.

“The Resolution states: ‘The authority granted in subsection (a) does not authorize the use of the USAF in enduring offensive ground combat operations.’ In other words, it does indeed authorize the use of USAF in offensive ground combat operations. ‘Enduring’ is in the eye of the beholder. Three years from now could have another 100,000 troops back in Iraq and maybe Syria too.

“Congress cannot lawfully give him authorization to use military force against Syria. That requires the permission of the Syrian government, which they do not have, or else the authorization of the Security Council, which they do not have. As for Iraq, [Iraqi Prime Minister Haider] al-Abadi is a puppet government that Obama installed and therefore has no authority under international law to consent to U.S. military operations in Iraq. It is like in Vietnam when we had our puppets there asking us to conduct military operations there.”

“Why Muslim Lives Don’t Matter”

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NBC News is reporting: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation is launching a ‘preliminary inquiry’ into the killings of three people near the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tuesday — slayings that authorities say were carried out by a neighbor upset over parking.

“But the families of Deah Barakat, 23, a dentistry student at the university; his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and her 19-year-old sister, Razan Abu-Salha, believe they may have been killed because they are Muslim … [by] Craig Stephen Hicks, a self-described ‘gun-toting’ atheist. …

“The funeral service was held [Thursday] on a field at North Carolina State University to accommodate the overflow crowd who came to mourn…”

KHALED BEYDOUN, NADIA EL-ZEIN TONOVA, kbeydoun at gmail.com, @KhaledBeydoun
Beydoun is an assistant professor of law at the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law. Nadia El-Zein Tonova is director of the National Network of Arab American Communities.

They wrote the piece “Why Muslim lives don’t matter,” which states: “Irrespective of what rallying cries, signs or adapted hashtags proclaim, Muslim lives in America don’t matter. The aftermath of the murder of the three American students in Chapel Hill, and the broader context that spurred it, reconfirms this brutal truth. …

“State-run programming targeting Muslims marks members of that demographic as presumptively suspicious. NSA surveillance and counter-extremism programming, PATRIOT and Suspicious Activity Reporting strategies, are shaped within government walls. But these policies also shape stereotypes and spur violence far beyond them.

“This comprehensive programming, which is both synchronised and expanding, is built upon age-old perceptions of Muslims as ‘enemy combatants,’ ‘national security risks,’ and ‘unassimilable.’

“Past laws that restricted the naturalisation of Muslims were built upon racist and Orientalist tropes. However, state policies that profile and persecute today are still based on these very baselines.

“In addition to enabling discriminatory state tactics, anti-Muslim laws and programming sanction widely held stereotypes of Muslims as violent and unruly, threatening and anti-American. By endorsing these stereotypes, this network of anti-Muslim laws and programming embolden private citizens, like Hicks, to take justice into their own hands.

“It would be a misnomer to single out anti-Muslim laws and policies as spurring Islamophobic and anti-Arab culture. Rather, it pronounces this already existing psychosis, which is magnified by slanted news coverage and cinematic misrepresentations, illustrated vividly in films such as American Sniper.”

Surveillance “Reforms” Allow for Plenty of Suspicionless Spying on Americans

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MARGO SCHLANGER, mschlan at umich.edu, @mjschlanger
Schlanger is the Henry M. Butzel Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, where she also heads the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse. She served as the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security in 2010 and 2011.

She recently wrote the piece “U.S. Intelligence Reforms Still Allow Plenty of Suspicionless Spying on Americans,” which states: “[Recently], the Obama administration released a report and documents cataloging progress toward signals intelligence (SIGINT) reform goals set a year ago by the president in a document known as PPD-28. PPD-28 promises foreigners some of the same privacy protections given to U.S. citizens and residents. But it turns out that those protections, even for citizens, are fairly meager, in ways that have not yet fully entered the public conversation about surveillance. U.S. citizens and residents have been — and remain — exposed to suspicionless electronic surveillance. Implementation of PPD-28 will do little to change that.

“To my mind, the surveillance I’m about to describe, which proceeds under Executive Order 12333, rather than FISA, is far more worrisome than the programs under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act that have received so much recent attention. …

“Thus, if its other constraints (wire or radio, domestic or overseas collection, etc.) are followed, FISA doesn’t address strategies that select what to collect based not on the identities of communication participants, but using other techniques — say, the words used in the communication, or whether the messages are enciphered. …

“The point is, so far as U.S. surveillance law is concerned, the NSA can, if it chooses, ‘collect [nearly] everything’ —  including your domestic phone calls and emails — so long as it does not select which communications to collect using the identity of a ‘particular, known’ communicant.”

West Virginia Oil Train Derailment Highlights Need for Significant Safety Reforms

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Reuters is reporting today: “A CSX Corp oil train that derailed and erupted in flames in West Virginia on Monday was hauling newer model tank cars, not the older versions widely criticized for being prone to puncture, the firm said.”

MOLLIE MATTESON, mmatteson at biologicaldiversity.org, @centerforbiodiv
Matteson is a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity where she works for the preservation of wild places and the protection of endangered species. The group said in a statement: “An oil train transporting highly volatile crude oil derailed and caught fire today in Fayette County, W.V., spewing burning oil into the Kanawha River and setting a house ablaze, forcing the evacuation of two nearby communities and threatening municipal drinking water supplies.

“The accident, which follows a similar derailment and explosion in Timmins, Ontario on Saturday, is the latest in a string of fiery accidents involving oil trains in Canada and the United States in recent years following a 40-fold increase in crude oil transport by rail since 2008 that has been marked by no upgrade in federal safety requirements.”

Matteson added: “Back-to-back fiery derailments involving crude oil trains should be an unmistakable wake-up call to our political leaders: Stop these dangerous oil trains and stop them now. People’s lives are at stake, clean drinking water is at stake, and the well-being of towns and wildlife along thousands of miles of rail line are directly in harm’s way of this unchecked, reckless increase in oil transport by rail.”

The group notes: “Oil transport, especially by rail, has dramatically increased in recent years, growing from virtually nothing in 2008 to more than 400,000 rail cars of oil in 2013. Billions of gallons of oil pass through towns and cities ill-equipped to respond to the kinds of explosions and spills that have been occurring. A series of fiery oil-train derailments in the United States and Canada has resulted in life-threatening explosions and millions of gallons of crude oil being spilled into waterways.

“The worst was a derailment in Quebec in July 2013 that killed 47 people, forced the evacuation of 2,000 people, and incinerated portions of a popular tourist town. Last year, an explosive derailment occurred in April in downtown Lynchburg, Va., resulted in crude oil leaking out of punctured tank cars, setting the James River on fire.

“Ethanol shipments by rail have also raised safety concerns. On Feb. 4, a train transporting ethanol derailed along the Mississippi River in Iowa, catching fire and sending an unknown amount of ethanol into the river.

“Last week the U.S. Department of Transportation sent new rules governing oil train safety to the White House for review, prior to public release. It will be another three months before the rules are published, and at least another two and a half years before the most dangerous tank cars are phased out of use for the most hazardous cargos. The oil and railroad industries have lobbied for weaker rules on tank car safety and brake requirements. The industries also want more time to comply with the new rules.

“Without regulations that will effectively prevent derailments and rupture of tank cars, oil trains will continue to threaten people, drinking water supplies and wildlife, including endangered species.”

Netanyahu: * Corrie’s Death * Nuclear Armed

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CNN is reporting: “A large majority of Americans believe that Republican congressional leaders should not have invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without consulting the White House, according to a new CNN/ORC survey.” However, the partisanship around his invitation has in many ways clouded underlying critical issues, addressed by the following:

CINDY CORRIE, cindy at rachelcorriefoundation.org, @rcfoundation
CRAIG CORRIE, craig at rachelcorriefoundation.org
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a statement: “Israel: Dangerous Ruling in Rachel Corrie Case” about “Israel’s Supreme Court on February 12, 2015, exempt[ing] the Israeli defense ministry from liability for actions by its forces…”

Cindy and Craig are the parents of Rachel Corrie, who was killed in 2003 by Israeli troops in Gaza with a bulldozer while she was attempting to protect a Palestinian home from being demolished. Together, Cindy and Craig founded Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice. They issued a statement after the court ruling: “The Supreme Court decision ignores international law arguments regarding the protection of civilians and human rights defenders in armed conflict and grossly violates the internationally recognized right to effective remedy. … Rachel’s case provides yet another example of how the Israeli justice system is failing to provide accountability.”

GRANT F. SMITH, gsmith at irmep.org, @IRmep
Courthouse News reports: “In the midst of controversy over the Israeli prime minister’s plans to address Congress next month, a researcher has won the release of a decades-old Defense Department report detailing the U.S. government’s extensive help to Israel in that nation’s development of a nuclear bomb.

“‘I am struck by the degree of cooperation on specialized war making devices between Israel and the U.S.,’ said Roger Mattson, a former member of the Atomic Energy Commission technical staff.

“The 1987 report, ‘Critical Technology Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations,’ compares the key Israeli facilities developing nuclear weapons to Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, the principal U.S. laboratories that developed the bomb for the United States.

“The tightly held report notes that the Israelis are ‘developing the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs. That is, codes which detail fission and fusion processes on a microscopic and macroscopic level.’

“The release comes after Grant Smith, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy filed a FOIA request last year and followed with a lawsuit in September seeking to compel release of the report.

“The government fought to delay release of the 386-page report in hearings before Judge Tanya Chutkan in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who expressed skepticism with the government’s reasons for refusing to provide a single unclassified document.

“The report’s release this week has substantial political ramifications.”

Smith wrote the piece “U.S. Confirmed Existence of Israeli H-Bomb Program in 1987,” which states: “The 1987 report’s confirmation of Israel’s advanced nuclear weapons program should have immediately triggered a cutoff in all U.S. aid to Israel under the Symington and Glenn Amendments to the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act. …

“Informal and Freedom of Information Act release of such information is rare. Under two known gag orders — punishable by imprisonment — U.S. security-cleared government agency employees and contractors may not disclose that Israel has a nuclear weapons program. GEN-16 is a ‘no-comment’ regulation on ‘classified information in the public domain.’ ‘DOE Classification Bulletin WPN-136 on Foreign Nuclear Capabilities’ forbids stating what 63.9 percent of Americans already know — that Israel has a nuclear arsenal.”

Also see Smith’s piece “Lawsuit Challenges U.S. “Ambiguity” Toward Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal,” which states: “Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear analyst James Doyle wrote candidly about Israel’s nuclear weapons for a magazine in 2013. After a congressional staffer read the article, which had passed a classification review, it was referred to classification officials for a second review. Doyle’s pay was then cut, his home computer searched, and he was fired.”

Smith also wrote the piece “Poll: Netanyahu Should be Investigated for Nuclear Weapons Tech Smuggling Before U.S. Visit,” which states: “In 2012 the FBI declassified and released files (PDF archive) of its investigation into how 800 nuclear weapons triggers were illegally smuggled from the U.S. to Israel. According to the FBI, the Israeli Ministry of Defense ordered nuclear triggers (krytrons), encrypted radios, ballistic missile propellants and other export-prohibited items through a network of front companies. Smuggling ring operations leader Richard Kelly Smyth alleged that Netanyahu worked at one of the fronts — Heli Trading owned by confessed spy and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan — and met with him frequently to execute smuggling operations.

Background: See by Sam Husseini: “The Absurd U.S. Stance on Israel’s Nukes: A Video Sampling of Denial,” which features major U.S. government officials declining to forthrightly acknowledge that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal. For example, in 2010, then-Senator Russ Feingold said, “I’m not free to comment on that.”

See by Jim Lobe about Netanyahu’s claims about Iraq WMD’s in 2003: “Remember Bibi’s Wisdom on Iraq.”

See from Nima Shirazi “Benjamin & His Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Lies: Netanyahu Cries ‘Wolf’…Again” about his allegations regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

Elite Corruption: A “Violation of Public Trust”

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unaccountable_bookJANINE R. WEDEL, jwedel at gmu.edu, @janinewedel
Wedel is an anthropologist and professor at George Mason University’s School of Policy, Government and International Affairs. She is the author of several books, including the recently released Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom and Security.

In her most recent piece “Beyond Bribery,” she states: “Last month Greeks delivered a sharp blow to the European Union by voting in the left-wing Syriza Party, which has vowed to end years of painful austerity policies. But Syriza owes much of its popularity for its opposition to something else: elite corruption. As one news report put it, ‘Many in Greece feel slashed public spending has hit the most vulnerable hardest, while leaving… corruption of the apparent elites untouched.’

“This sense that something on high smells bad has galvanized protesters in recent years in countries as different as Brazil, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States. They seem to share an intuitive sense that the system is gamed against them, that it compromises their livelihoods and futures, and that it makes it harder to have their voices heard, let alone discover who is responsible.

“Petty corruption, such as having to pay a bribe to a bureaucrat or customs official, also leads to discontent around the world. Some scholars call this ‘need corruption,’ because it is driven by everyday people trying to navigate an impossible system to receive basic goods and services. And since corruption became a ‘hot’ issue in the 1990s, global efforts to combat it have concentrated largely on this need corruption, with major players like the World Bank and Transparency International at the forefront.

“But it’s often the corruption of elite insiders, not petty bribery, that most foments distrust of leaders and public institutions. As I describe in my new book, this ‘new corruption’ may be less visible, but it is practiced on a wide scale by a set of global power brokers who have rigged the system to their advantage in innovative ways. The worldwide protests triggered by this form of corruption are proof that a growing number of people have turned into disaffected outsiders, all too aware that they stand squarely apart from this system of power and influence. This is the most damaging and far-reaching form of corruption that exists today. And this ‘new corruption’ — difficult to detect, but insidious — deserves our attention.

“The essence of this new (legal) corruption –- the violation of public trust – harks back to ancient notions of corruption. Yet its practitioners follow a thoroughly 21st-century playbook, written over the past few decades as privatization, deregulation, the end of the Cold War, and the advent of the digital age have transformed the world. These developments have broken down barriers and created new openings for elites to exercise their power and influence in a system that is more complex and opaque than ever, enabling them to use the levers of power to their own advantage while, at the same time, denying responsibility. (Many bankers, for example, trade in derivatives so complex that even they can plausibly deny understanding them.)

“Practitioners of the new corruption assume a tangle of roles that fuses state and private sectors. They abrogate public trust by working on behalf of their own, instead of those on whose behalf they purport to act. Just think of Goldman Sachs, often derided as ‘Government Sachs’ for its seamless enmeshing of Wall Street and Washington. In the years leading up to the financial crash of 2008, Goldman routinely pushed the envelope — such as the notorious ABACUS case, in which the bank sold investments it knew were bad to one client at the behest of another. Yet the company apparently broke few or no laws along the way. Goldman also famously helped Greece (and possibly other struggling European countries) hide debt in the early 2000s. When the day of reckoning came for Greece, it wasn’t Goldman Sachs, elite insiders, or national leaders who paid the price of slashing austerity measures.

“That the system is rigged in new ways resounds worldwide, even in the West. There’s a documented loss of confidence in formal institutions: governments, parliaments, courts, banks, corporations, the media. A 2014 research project attempted to quantify how gamed the system is in the United States. Two political scientists looked at 1,779 policy issues hashed out from 1981 to 2002 and found that policies widely supported by economically elite Americans were adopted about 45 percent of the time. If these same privileged Americans didn’t support particular policies, then their rate of acceptance dropped to 18 percent. The scholars write: ‘The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites… have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.’

“In the United States and many European countries, then, the new corruption appears to have surpassed the old. How can it be that bribes and blatant illegality have come to matter more than insider elites who betray our trust but go mostly unscrutinized, let alone unsanctioned?”

NSA Whistleblowers on Breaking Story: Spying on Billions of Cell Phones

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The Intercept is reporting: “American and British spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“The hack was perpetrated by a joint unit consisting of operatives from the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. The breach, detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document, gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data.

“The company targeted by the intelligence agencies, Gemalto, is a multinational firm incorporated in the Netherlands that makes the chips used in mobile phones and next-generation credit cards. Among its clients are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers around the world. The company operates in 85 countries and has more than 40 manufacturing facilities. One of its three global headquarters is in Austin, Texas and it has a large factory in Pennsylvania.

“In all, Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year. Its motto is ‘Security to be Free.’

“With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments. Possessing the keys also sidesteps the need to get a warrant or a wiretap, while leaving no trace on the wireless provider’s network that the communications were intercepted. Bulk key theft additionally enables the intelligence agencies to unlock any previously encrypted communications they had already intercepted, but did not yet have the ability to decrypt.

“As part of the covert operations against Gemalto, spies from GCHQ — with support from the NSA — mined the private communications of unwitting engineers and other company employees in multiple countries. …

“Leading privacy advocates and security experts say that the theft of encryption keys from major wireless network providers is tantamount to a thief obtaining the master ring of a building superintendent who holds the keys to every apartment.”

The following NSA whistleblowers are available for interviews.

WILLIAM BINNEY, williambinney0802 at comcast.net
Binney is a former high-level National Security Agency intelligence official who, after his 2001 retirement after 30 years, blew the whistle on NSA surveillance programs. His outspoken criticism of the NSA during the George W. Bush administration made him the subject of FBI investigations that included a raid on his home in 2007. Even before Edward Snowden’s NSA whistleblowing, Binney publicly revealed that NSA had access to telecommunications companies’ domestic and international billing records, and that since 9/11 the agency has intercepted some 15 to 20 trillion communications. Snowden has said: “I have tremendous respect for Binney, who did everything he could according to the rules.”

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years. Wiebe’s colleague William Binney developed the ThinThread information processing system that, arguably, could have detected and prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks. NSA officials, though, ignored the program in favor of Trailblazer, a program that ended in total failure with costs of billions of dollars. Wiebe and Binney blew the whistle internally on Trailblazer, but to no avail.

THOMAS DRAKE, tadrake at earthlink.net, @Thomas_Drake1
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Drake is a former senior executive at the National Security Agency where he blew the whistle on massive multi-billion dollar fraud, waste and the widespread violations of the rights of citizens through secret mass surveillance programs after 9/11. As retaliation and reprisal, the Obama Administration indicted Drake in 2010 as the first whistleblower since Daniel Ellsberg charged with espionage, and Drake faced 35 years in prison, turning him into an Enemy of the State for his oath to defend the Constitution. In 2011, the government’s case against him collapsed and he went free in a plea deal. He is the recipient of the 2011 Ridenhour Truth Telling Prize.

Binney, Wiebe and Drake are on the advisory board of Exposefacts.org, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Roots of Military “Culture of Lying”

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Stars and Stripes reports: “A new study by Army War College professors found that not only is lying common in the military, the armed forces themselves may be inadvertently encouraging it.”

MATTHEW HOH, mphoh1 at yahoo.com
Hoh, a State Department whistleblower, said today: “The culture of lying that is endemic and systemic in the Army, as found by researchers with the Army War College, finds its expression in America’s pointless wars, a one trillion dollar-a-year, pork-filled and inauditable national security budget, chronic veteran suicides, an expanded and more globally robust international terrorist movement, and untold suffering of millions of people and political chaos throughout the Greater Middle East perpetuated by our war policies.

“However, listening to our military leaders, and the politicians who adore and deify them rather than oversee them, America’s wars and its military have been a great patriotic success. This report is not a surprise for those of us who have worn the uniform, nor should it be surprising to those who have watched and paid attention with a modicum of critical and independent thought to our wars these past thirteen plus years. The wars are failures, but careers must prosper, budgets must increase and popular narratives and myths of American military success must endure, so the culture of lying becomes a necessity for our Army at a great physical, mental and moral cost to our Nation.”

Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, previously directed the Afghanistan Study Group, a collection of foreign and public policy experts and professionals advocating for a change in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Prior to that, Hoh served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. Embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Malcolm X’s Legacy: Double Anniversary This Year

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February is Black History Month. Malcolm X was assassinated 50 years ago on Feb. 21, 1965. He was born on May 19, 1925 — he would be 90 years old this year had he lived.

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY,  kevinagray57 at gmail.com, @kevinagray
Co-editor of the new book Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence, Gray said today: “Whenever anyone uses the phrase ‘by any means necessary’ we automatically think of Malcolm X, otherwise known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. The phrase means that freedom and the fight for human rights are something worth dying for. He also knew that those opposed to the idea of freedom for all would kill to protect their power over those they deemed as powerless.

“Feb. 21 marks the 50th anniversary of Malcolm Shabazz’s death at the Audubon Ballroom in New York. Malcolm knew he was about to die before he went on stage. He knew being a threat to the status quo had a cost. He knew that the enemy were those opposed to freedom for all and telling the truth about American racism and white supremacy. Malcolm spoke the truth about the demand and need for racial equality, due process and equal justice for all. He spoke the truth about men and their shortcomings, the truth about our nation and its shortcomings.

“Malcolm gave his all. He gave his life. But before he died, he spoke of civil rights being human rights and taking the black freedom struggle beyond the boundaries of the United States. Because of Malcolm we understand the connectedness we have with the struggles of oppressed people around the world. Malcolm is a shining example of courage and an unfearing challenger of the status quo. We are better because he lived.

“The protests that have arisen across the nation in the aftermath of the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner and the countless others that have died at the hands of law enforcement and those acting under the color of law calls for connecting the struggles of oppressed people around the world to hold accountable those with unchecked power. Malcolm’s legacy calls for connecting the struggle of Ferguson, New York, Oakland, Detroit, Atlanta and many others towns, cities and states with those who struggle in Palestine. Malcolm’s legacy is to take action, even if it means giving the last measure. Or as Dr. Martin Luther King said: If someone ‘hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.'” Gray’s previous books include The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama.

Excerpts from Malcolm Shabazz’s speeches (he broke with the Nation of Islam in early 1964):

“We need to expand the civil-rights struggle to a higher level — to the level of human rights. Whenever you are in a civil-rights struggle, whether you know it or not, you are confining yourself to the jurisdiction of Uncle Sam. … [T]he Negro problem is never brought before the UN. This is part of the conspiracy. This old, tricky blue-eyed liberal who is supposed to be your and my friend, supposed to be in our corner, supposed to be subsidizing our struggle, and supposed to be acting in the capacity of an adviser, never tells you anything about human rights.”
— “The Ballot or the Bullet,” April 3, 1964

“You have to read the history of slavery to understand this. There were two kinds of Negroes. There was that old house Negro and the field Negro. And the house Negro always looked out for his master. When the field Negroes got too much out of line, he held them back in check. He put ‘em back on the plantation.”

— “To Mississippi Youth,” December 31, 1964. This and many other speeches are available via YouTube.

“They have a new gimmick every year. They’re going to take one of their boys, black boys, and put him in the cabinet so he can walk around Washington with a cigar. Fire on one end and fool on the other end. And because his immediate personal problem will have been solved he will be the one to tell our people: ‘Look how much progress we’re making. I’m in Washington, D.C., I can have tea in the White House. I’m your spokesman, I’m your leader.’ While our people are still living in Harlem in the slums. Still receiving the worst form of education. …

“But how many sitting here right now feel that they could [laughs] truly identify with a struggle that was designed to eliminate the basic causes that create the conditions that exist? Not very many. They can jive, but when it comes to identifying yourself with a struggle that is not endorsed by the power structure, that is not acceptable, that the ground rules are not laid down by the society in which you live, in which you are struggling against, you can’t identify with that, you step back. …

“It’s easy to become a satellite today without even realizing it. This country can seduce God. Yes, it has that seductive power of economic dollarism. You can cut out colonialism, imperialism and all other kind of ism, but it’s hard for you to cut that dollarism. When they drop those dollars on you, you’ll fold though.”

— “The Prospects for Freedom in 1965,” at the Militant Labor Forum, New York City, Jan. 7, 1965. 
Audio from this and other speeches here.

“While I was traveling, I had a chance to speak in Cairo, or rather Alexandria, with President [Gamal Abdel] Nasser for about an hour and a half. He’s a very brilliant man. And I can see why they’re so afraid of him, and they are afraid of him — they know he can cut off their oil. And actually the only thing power respects is power. …

“This is a society whose government doesn’t hesitate to inflict the most brutal form of punishment and oppression upon dark-skinned people all over the world. To wit, right now what’s going on in and around Saigon and Hanoi and in the Congo and elsewhere. They are violent when their interests are at stake. But all of that violence that they display at the international level, when you and I want just a little bit of freedom, we’re supposed to be nonviolent. They’re violent. They’re violent in Korea, they’re violent in Germany, they’re violent in the South Pacific, they’re violent in Cuba, they’re violent wherever they go. But when it comes time for you and me to protect ourselves against lynchings, they tell us to be nonviolent. …

[On the Congo:] “And they’re able to take these hired killers, put them in American planes, with American bombs, and drop them on African villages, blowing to bits black men, black women, black children, black babies, and you black people sitting over here cool like it doesn’t even involve you. You’re a fool. …

“And with the press they feed these statistics to the public, primarily the white public. Because there are some well-meaning persons in the white public as well as bad-meaning persons in the white public. And whatever the government is going to do, it always wants the public on its side. … So they use the press to create images.”
— “The Last Message,” address to the Afro-American Broadcasting Company, Detroit, Michigan, Feb. 14, 1965, the night his home was firebombed and a week before his assassination; text and audio.

Real American Exceptionalism: Torture and Drone Assassination?

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Bloomberg is reporting: “A proposed sale of unarmed surveillance drones by General Atomics to the United Arab Emirates — the first to a non-NATO ally — is clearing its final U.S. hurdle.”

ALFRED McCOY, awmccoy at wisc.edu
McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation and Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State. He just wrote the piece “The Real American Exceptionalism” for TomDispatch.com, which states: “‘The sovereign is he who decides on the exception,’ said conservative thinker Carl Schmitt in 1922, meaning that a nation’s leader can defy the law to serve the greater good. Though Schmitt’s service as Nazi Germany’s chief jurist and his unwavering support for Hitler from the night of the long knives to Kristallnacht and beyond damaged his reputation for decades, today his ideas have achieved unimagined influence. …

“Washington, more than any other power, created the modern international community of laws and treaties, yet it now reserves the right to defy those same laws with impunity. A sovereign ruler should, said Schmitt, discard laws in times of national emergency. So the United States, as the planet’s last superpower or, in Schmitt’s terms, its global sovereign, has in these years repeatedly ignored international law, following instead its own unwritten rules of the road for the exercise of world power. …

“Under Obama, drones have grown from a tactical Band-Aid in Afghanistan into a strategic weapon for the exercise of global power. From 2009 to 2015, the CIA and the U.S. Air Force deployed a drone armada of over 200 Predators and Reapers, launching 413 strikes in Pakistan alone, killing as many as 3,800 people. EveryTuesday inside the White House Situation Room, as the New York Times reported in 2012, President Obama reviews a CIA drone ‘kill list’ and stares at the faces of those who are targeted for possible assassination from the air.  He then decides, without any legal procedure, who will live and who will die, even in the case of American citizens. Unlike other world leaders, this sovereign applies the ultimate exception across the Greater Middle East, parts of Africa, and elsewhere if he chooses. …

“By the end of Obama’s first term, the NSA could sweep up billions of messages worldwide through its agile surveillance architecture. This included hundreds of access points for penetration of the Worldwide Web’s fiber optic cables; ancillary intercepts through special protocols and ‘backdoor’ software flaws; supercomputers to crack the encryption of this digital torrent; and a massive data farm in Bluffdale, Utah, built at a cost of $2 billion to store yottabytes of purloined data. …

“As a senior CIA official posted to the Near East in the early 1950s put it, the Agency then saw every Muslim leader who was not pro-American as ‘a target legally authorized by statute for CIA political action.’ Applied on a global scale and not just to Muslims, this policy helped produce a distinct ‘reverse wave’ in the global trend towards democracy from 1958 to 1975, as coups — most of them U.S.-sanctioned — allowed military men to seize power in more than three-dozen nations, representing a quarter of the world’s sovereign states. …

“Can there be any question that, in the decades to come, Washington will continue to violate national sovereignty through old-style covert as well as open interventions, even as it insists on rejecting any international conventions that restrain its use of aerospace or cyberspace for unchecked force projection, anywhere, anytime? Extant laws or conventions that in any way check this power will be violated when the sovereign so decides. These are now the unwritten rules of the road for our planet. They represent the real American exceptionalism.”

Veto of Keystone Pipeline: * Fracking * Real Climate Plan?

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AP is reporting: “President Barack Obama will veto a Republican-backed bill on Tuesday that would have approved construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the White House said, putting a freeze on a top GOP priority — at least for now.”

WENONAH HAUTER, via Ryanne Waters, rwaters at fwwatch.org, @foodandwater@wenonahhauter
Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch and wrote the piece “To Save the Climate, We Need a Ban on Fracking.” She said today: “We commend President Obama for vetoing this dangerous project in the interest of millions of Americans who depend on safe drinking water. But as the debate over the future of our energy policies evolves, we also need the president to take strong action on fracking, which is threatening Americans from coast to coast with water contamination, earthquakes and alarming health effects. A fracking ban on our precious public lands would be a smart start toward a truly clean, healthy, renewable energy future.” Food & Water Watch was the first national organization to call for a complete ban on fracking in 2011 and released “The Urgent Case for a Ban on Fracking” this past September.

MICHAEL DORSEY, via Hayden Higgins, hayden at usclimateplan.org; mkdorsey at professordorsey.com
EVAN WEBER, evan at usclimateplan.org, @usclimateplan
Dorsey is vice president for strategy and co-founder of U.S. Climate Plan. He’s quoted in a statement the group just put out: “The battle over the Keystone XL pipeline has demonstrated what is possible when a diverse movement draws a line in the sand and rallies around a single cause. The problems we’re facing are much bigger than a pipeline. More massive fossil fuel infrastructure projects continue to be proposed, and the president has shown little resolve for the transformational change the nation needs. So we must show the public and our leaders the scope of this challenge and force them to choose a side.”

Weber is executive director and co-founder of U.S. Climate Plan. He said today: “Because of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, every state in the country is now having a conversation about climate policy. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to demand solutions that match the scale of the challenge and demonstrate that people who care about climate change — especially young people — can be a political force to be reckoned with. The ‘solutions’ the government has been putting forward aren’t bold enough, so we’re launching our own plan, the Future Power Plan, to build the people power necessary to create the political will to shift the way we power our society and protect our future.”

Netanyahu’s Nuclear “Chutzpah” — As U.S. Government Releases Documents on Israel’s Nukes

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Netanyahu (second from left) worked for a time for Heli Trading, which was owned by Hollywood producer (Pretty Woman, 12 Years a Slave, JFK, Fight Club, and Mr. and Mrs. Smith) and confessed Israeli spy Arnon Milchan (far right). Netanyahu allegedly met with Milchan to execute smuggling operations. The picture is of a meeting at Milchan’s estate with Netanyahu and Hollywood glitterati.

This morning on the program “Democracy Now,” Noam Chomsky said in reply to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claims regarding Iran’s nuclear program: “The striking aspect of this is the chutzpah involved. Israel has had nuclear weapons for probably 50 years, 40 years — estimates are 100, 200 weapons. They are an aggressive state — Israel’s invaded Lebanon five times, it’s carrying out an illegal occupation, carries out brutal attacks, like on Gaza last summer.” Chomsky added that a crucial fact is that “even if Iran” were developing a nuclear weapon, “it would be part of deterrent,” given Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal. [See video beginning 31:30]

While the U.S. government has continued a policy with Israel of neither confirming nor denying the existence of Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal since the Nixon administration, a researcher has just obtained release of U.S. government documents “detailing the U.S. government’s extensive help to Israel in that nation’s development of a nuclear bomb,” reports Courthouse News.

Courthouse News continues: “The government fought to delay release of the 386-page report in hearings before Judge Tanya Chutkan in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who expressed skepticism with the government’s reasons for refusing to provide a single unclassified document.

“The report’s release … has substantial political ramifications.”

GRANT F. SMITH, gsmith at irmep.org, @IRmep
Smith is director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy and has recently won release of the report. He wrote the piece “U.S. Confirmed Existence of Israeli H-Bomb Program in 1987,” which states: “The 1987 report’s confirmation of Israel’s advanced nuclear weapons program should have immediately triggered a cutoff in all U.S. aid to Israel under the Symington and Glenn Amendments to the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act. …

“Informal and Freedom of Information Act release of such information is rare. Under two known gag orders — punishable by imprisonment — U.S. security-cleared government agency employees and contractors may not disclose that Israel has a nuclear weapons program. GEN-16 is a ‘no-comment’ regulation on ‘classified information in the public domain.’ ‘DOE Classification Bulletin WPN-136 on Foreign Nuclear Capabilities’ forbids stating what 63.9 percent of Americans already know — that Israel has a nuclear arsenal.”

Also see Smith’s piece “Lawsuit Challenges U.S. ‘Ambiguity’ Toward Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal,” which states: “Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear analyst James Doyle wrote candidly about Israel’s nuclear weapons for a magazine in 2013. After a congressional staffer read the article, which had passed a classification review, it was referred to classification officials for a second review. Doyle’s pay was then cut, his home computer searched, and he was fired.”

Smith also wrote the piece “Poll: Netanyahu Should be Investigated for Nuclear Weapons Tech Smuggling Before U.S. Visit,” which states: “In 2012 the FBI declassified and released files … of its investigation into how 800 nuclear weapons triggers were illegally smuggled from the U.S. to Israel. According to the FBI, the Israeli Ministry of Defense ordered nuclear triggers (krytrons), encrypted radios, ballistic missile propellants and other export-prohibited items through a network of front companies. Smuggling ring operations leader Richard Kelly Smyth alleged that Netanyahu worked at one of the fronts — Heli Trading owned by confessed spy and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan — and met with him frequently to execute smuggling operations.” See from the Guardian: “Arnon Milchan reveals past as Israeli spy.”

Background: See by Sam Husseini: “The Absurd U.S. Stance on Israel’s Nukes: A Video Sampling of Denial,” which features major U.S. government officials declining to forthrightly acknowledge that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal. For example, in 2010, then-Senator Russ Feingold seemingly alluded to the gag order, that was not publicly known to exist at the time: “I’m not free to comment on that.” In contrast, when asked “Do you know that Israel has a nuclear weapons program?” in 2011, now Secretary of State and then-senator John Kerry replied to the question “Sure. Everybody — it’s common knowledge and commonly understood.” When asked “Why won’t the administration acknowledge that?” Kerry responded: “I don’t know what the administration policy is on that.” He was chair of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee at the time.

See “Israel’s Worst-Kept Secret” in the Atlantic by Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity’s National Security team.

Regarding Netanyahu’s claims on Iran having a nuclear weapons program, see from Nima Shirazi “Benjamin & His Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Lies: Netanyahu Cries ‘Wolf’…Again.” Also, see by Jim Lobe: “Remember Bibi’s Wisdom on Iraq.”

Netanyahu Speech: Nuclear Threat

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MARK GAFFNEY, markhgaffney at earthlink.net
Gaffney is the author of Dimona: the Third Temple, a pioneering study of Israel’s nuclear weapons program. He recently wrote: “After many years of official hypocrisy, a U.S. president appears to be playing hardball with Israel. The other day, the U.S. government declassified a 1987 report documenting Israel’s secret nuclear weapons program.” See IPA news release: “Netanyahu’s Nuclear ‘Chutzpah’ — As U.S. Government Releases Documents on Israel’s Nukes.”

JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN, amadea311 at earthlink.net
Faculty associate in Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Loewenstein just wrote the piece “Netanyahu in Congress,” which states: “Either Netanyahu doesn’t read the news, [or] he is hoping that nobody else notices Israel’s de facto alliance with ISIS, or he is more concerned with poking Obama in the eye publicly than in the future of his country, a fact that would not surprise me. Focusing on the dangerous forces lurking in his ‘neighborhood,’ Netanyahu singles out Iran, Lebanon (by which he presumably means Hizbullah), Syria, and Hamas. Unlike most Americans, Netanyahu views the potential of a nuclear capable Iran as a greater threat to regional stability than the spread of ISIS and extremist groups, such as al-Qaida.”

Petraeus Gets Hand-Slap for Leaking

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MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com, @emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” investigative journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at emptywheel.net.

She just wrote the piece: “David Petraeus Gets Hand-Slap for Leaking, Two Point Enhancement for Obstruction of Justice,” which states: “As a supine Congress sitting inside a scaffolded dome applauded Benjamin Netanyahu calling to reject a peace deal with Iran, DOJ [the Department of Justice] quietly announced it had reached a plea deal with former CIA Director David Petraeus for leaking Top Secret/Secure Compartmented Information materials to his mistress, Paula Broadwell.

“Among the materials in the eight ‘Black Books’ Petraeus shared with Broadwell were:

“‘…classified information regarding the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings, and defendant DAVID HOWELL PETRAEUS’s discussions with the President of the United States of America.

“‘The Black Books contained national defense information, including Top Secret/SCI and code word information.’…

“For lying to the FBI — a crime that others go to prison for for months and years — Petraeus will just get a two point enhancement on his sentencing guidelines. The Department of Justice basically completely wiped away the crime of covering up his crime of leaking some of the country’s most sensitive secrets to his mistress.

“When John Kiriakou pled guilty on October 23, 2012 to crimes having to do with sharing a single covert officer’s identity just days before Petraeus would lie to the FBI about sharing, among other things, numerous covert officers’ identities with his mistress, Petraeus sent out a memo to the CIA stating:

“‘Oaths do matter, and there are indeed consequences for those who believe they are above the laws that protect our fellow officers and enable American intelligence agencies to operate with the requisite degree of secrecy.'”

Health Law’s Complexity Invites Legal Attack, Even as it Fails to Cure Ailment

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ROBERT ZARR, via Mark Almberg, mark at pnhp.org, @PNPH
President of Physicians for a National Health Program, Zarr is a D.C.-based pediatrician who will be in front of the Supreme Court buildingon Wednesday at 10 a.m. Zarr said today: “The King v. Burwell case is yet another reason to swiftly move beyond the failing ACA to a simpler, publicly financed, improved-Medicare-for-All system. Such a system would cover everyone, make care affordable, and control costs. Based on our experience with the Medicare program and the experience of other nations, we know it will work. It’s the only moral and fiscally responsible thing to do.” Zarr just wrote the piece “The Obamacare Challenge We Need? Improved, Expanded Medicare for All.”

Almberg is PNHP communications director. The group just released a statement “Health law’s complexity invites attack, even as it fails to cure ailment: doctors group,” which states: “This week’s arguments before the Supreme Court in the case of King v. Burwell demonstrate once again how the Affordable Care Act’s administrative complexity and flaws — largely reflecting its accommodation to the private health insurance industry and other corporate, profit-oriented interests in U.S. health care — make it vulnerable to legal attacks by its opponents.

“The ACA clearly lacks the simplicity and legal robustness that a single-payer plan would have. Single-payer would be simple: everyone in the U.S. would be covered for all medically necessary care in a single program financed by equitable taxes.

“If the court upholds King and his fellow plaintiffs’ challenge to premium subsidies in over 30 states, the health and financial harms to our patients will be considerable. By some estimates, more than 8 million people will quickly lose insurance coverage, increasing the intolerable suffering we already see today.

“One consequence of this loss of coverage would be an additional 8,000 ‘excess deaths’ each year — deaths linked to lack of insurance. That figure is over and above the estimated 30,000 annual preventable deaths that are currently occurring under the ACA due to its having left 30 million people uninsured. This is completely unacceptable.

“Regardless of how the court rules, the unfortunate reality is that the ACA won’t be able achieve universal coverage. It won’t make care affordable or protect people from medical bankruptcy. Nor will it be able to control costs.

“The ACA is fundamentally flawed in these respects because, by design, it perpetuates the central role of the private insurance industry and other corporate and for-profit interests (e.g. Big Pharma) in U.S. health care.

“In contrast, a single-payer system — an improved Medicare-for-All — would achieve truly universal care, affordability, and effective cost control. It would be simple to administer, saving approximately $400 billion annually by slashing the administrative bloat in our private-insurance-based system. That money would be redirected to clinical care. Copays and deductibles would be eliminated.

“A growing section of the insured population is already facing very high copays, deductibles and coinsurance, deterring them from seeking needed care. This trend is toxic and unsustainable.”

Race in Politics: Voting Rights Act at 50

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POC UnderrepThis year marks the 50th anniversary of the historic “Bloody Sunday” on March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, and the enactment of the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965.

SPENCER OVERTON, via Lavina Ramchandani, lramchandani at jointcenter.org, press at jointcenter.org, @JointCenter
Overton is president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which just released the report: “50 Years of the Voting Rights Act: The State of Race in Politics.” Among the study’s key findings:

“Since 1965, the black/white racial gap in voter turnout has decreased dramatically in presidential elections. Turnout among black Southerners exceeded that of their white counterparts in four of the twelve presidential elections since 1965, and nationwide black turnout clearly exceeded white turnout in presidential elections in 2012 and perhaps in 2008.

“Local election turnout is lower and possibly less diverse. Presidential general election turnout is generally 60 percent of the voting-age population, but local election turnout averages 27 percent and in some cases is less than 10 percent. As overall turnout declines in local elections, the electorate may become less representative of the racial diversity of the community as a whole. …

“Party politics is increasingly polarized by race. Since 1960, the party identification and partisan voting patterns of blacks and whites have become sharply divided.

“Race is the most significant factor in urban local elections. In urban local elections, race is a more decisive factor than income, education, political ideology, religion, sexual orientation, age, gender, and political ideology. The 38 point racial gap exceeds even the 33 point gap between Democratic and Republican voters.

“Since 1965, the number of elected officials of color has grown enormously. Over this period, African Americans went from holding fewer than 1,000 elected offices nationwide to over 10,000, Latinos from a small number of offices to over 6,000, and Asian Americans from under a hundred documented cases to almost 1,000.

“People of color remain underrepresented in elected office. Based on the most recent data, African Americans are 12.5 percent of the citizen voting age population, but they make up a smaller share of the U.S. House (10 percent), state legislatures (8.5 percent), city councils (5.7 percent), and the U.S. Senate (2 percent). Latinos make up 11 percent of the citizen voting age population, but they are a smaller share of the U.S. House (7 percent), state legislatures (5 percent), the U.S. Senate (4 percent), and city councils (3.3 percent). Asian Americans are 3.8 percent of the citizen voting age population but a smaller share of the U.S. House (2 percent), state legislatures (2 percent), the U.S. Senate (1 percent), and city councils (0.4 percent).”

How Brennan’s CIA Plan Facilitates Future Wars Based on Lies

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On Friday afternoon — when stories are frequently put out to avoid scrutiny — a plan by CIA head John Brennan to restructure the agency was made public. Much of the major media portrayed it as a reform to make Americans safer: The New York Times headline read: “CIA to Be Overhauled to Fight Modern Threats.” However, many CIA veterans argue that it is a step toward further politicization of intelligence:

MELVIN GOODMAN, goody789 at verizon.net
Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and the forthcoming The Path to Dissent: A Whistleblower at CIA. Goodman is the national security columnist for CounterPunch.org.

He said today of Brennan’s plan: “Simply, it takes the CIA further from Truman’s concept and closer to the ability to politicize intelligence. Operations are part of the policy world and not the intelligence world. The Centers have made it too easy to provide the intelligence that the ‘masters’ desire, whether they are the masters on CIA’s 7th floor or the policy masters. Brennan’s world was the Center for Counterintelligence and Counterterrorism, and many of the intelligence errors and operational errors of the past 15 years have emanated from those centers. Organizationally, it makes no sense — what are the directorates of operations and analysis — they sound as if they are HR experts.”

Late last year, Goodman wrote the piece “The Latest Flawed Reorganization Scheme: The Decline of the CIA,” which anticipated and criticized many of Brennan’s proposals. Goodman just wrote the piece “David Petraeus and the Hypocrisies of National Security: The CIA’s Double Standard.”

The following are members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, which just released a memo on Brennan’s plan:

RAY McGOVERN, rmcgovern at gmail.com, @raymcgovern
McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years, whose duties included preparing the President’s Daily Brief and chairing National Intelligence Estimates. He now works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington.

ELIZABETH MURRAY, emurray404 at aol.com, @elizabethmurra
Murray is available for a limited number of interviews. She served as deputy national intelligence officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government, where she specialized in Middle Eastern political and media analysis.

McGovern and Murray are among the signers to a just released, posted at ConsortiumNews.com: “U.S. Intel Vets Oppose Brennan’s Plan to Restructure CIA,” which takes the form of a memo to the President: “Mr. President, The CIA reorganization plan announced by Director John Brennan on Friday is a potentially deadly blow to the objective, fact-based intelligence needed to support fully informed decisions on foreign policy. We suggest turning this danger into an opportunity to create an independent entity for CIA intelligence analysis immune from the operational demands of the ‘war on terror.’

“On Feb. 5, 2003, immediately after Colin Powell’s address to the UN, members of VIPS sent our first VIPS memorandum, urging President George W. Bush to widen the policy debate ‘beyond the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.’

“The ‘former senior officers’ whom Brennan asked for input on the restructuring plan are a similar closed, blinkered circle, as is the ‘outstanding group of officers from across the Agency’ picked by Brennan to look at the Agency’s mission and future. He did not include any of the intelligence community dissidents and alumni who fought against the disastrous politicization of intelligence before the attack on Iraq. Nor does Brennan’s plan reflect the lessons learned from that debacle. …

“President Harry Truman wanted an agency structure able to meet a president’s need for ‘the most accurate … information on what’s going on everywhere in the world, and particularly of the trends and developments in all the danger spots.’ In an op-ed appearing in the Washington Post exactly one month after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Truman added, ‘I have been disturbed by … the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment … and has become an operational and at times policy-making arm of the Government.’ …

“You are fully aware, we trust, that our analysts’ vaunted ethos of speaking unvarnished truth to power was corrupted by Director George Tenet and Deputy Director John McLaughlin, who outdid themselves in carrying out the instructions of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The new ethos boiled down to this: If the President wants to paint Iraq as a strategic threat, it is our job to come up with the ‘evidence’ — even if it needs to be manufactured out of whole cloth (or forged, as in ‘yellowcake uranium from Africa’ caper). …

“There is hope to be drawn from those occasions where senior intelligence officials with integrity can step in, show courageous example, and — despite multiple indignities and pitfalls in the system — can force the truth to the surface. We hope that you have been made aware that, after the no-WMD-anywhere debacle on Iraq, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence Thomas Fingar did precisely that during 2007, supervising a watershed National Intelligence Estimate on Iran that concluded unanimously, ‘with high confidence,’ that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in 2003.

“President Bush concedes in his memoir that this put the kibosh on his and Dick Cheney’s earlier plan to attack Iran during their last year in office. So, character (as in Fingar) counts, and people of integrity can make a difference — and even help thwart plans for war — even in the most politicized of circumstances.”

U.S and Venezuela: Who’s the Security Threat?

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Reuters reports: “The United States on Monday declared Venezuela a national security threat and ordered sanctions against seven officials from the oil-rich country in the worst bilateral diplomatic dispute since socialist President Nicolas Maduro took office in 2013.”

MIGUEL TINKER SALAS, mrt04747 at pomona.edu
Tinker Salas is author of Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know, which will be released next month. He is professor of history and Latin American studies at Pomona College; his previous books include The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela.

He recently wrote the piece “Mexico and Venezuela: A Study in U.S. Bias,” which states: “The government of President Nicolás Maduro is depicted as losing popular support and purportedly relying on repression to stay in power. Meanwhile, in Mexico — where, according to a recent study, thirteen Mexicans disappear every day, and President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration has violently repressed public protests — Washington and the U.S. media have remained largely silent.”

MARK WEISBROT, via DAN BEETON, beeton at cepr.net
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research; Beeton is the group’s international communications director. Weisbrot just wrote the article “Obama Absurdly Declares Venezuela a Security Threat,” which states: “Yesterday the White House took a new step toward the theater of the absurd by ‘declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela,’ as President Barack Obama put it in a letter to House Speaker John Boehner.

“It remains to be seen whether anyone in the White House press corps will have the courage to ask what in the world the nation’s chief executive could mean by that. Is Venezuela financing a coming terrorist attack on U.S. territory? Planning an invasion? Building a nuclear weapon?

“Who do they think they are kidding? Some may say that the language is just there because it is necessary under U.S. law in order to impose the latest round of sanctions on Venezuela. That is not much of a defense, telling the whole world the rule of law in the United States is something to be skirted around whenever the president decides it’s inconvenient.

“That was the approach of President Ronald Reagan in 1985 when he made a similar declaration in order to impose sanctions — including an economic embargo — on Nicaragua. Like the White House today, he was trying to topple an elected government that Washington didn’t like. He was able to use paramilitary and terrorist violence as well as an embargo in a successful effort to destroy the Nicaraguan economy and ultimately overturn its government. …

“The world has moved forward, even though Washington has not. Venezuela today has very strong backing from its neighbors against what almost every government in the region sees as an attempt to destabilize the country.

“’The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) reiterates its strong repudiation of the application of unilateral coercive measures that are contrary to international law,’ read a statement from every country in the hemisphere except for the U.S. and Canada on Feb. 11. They were responding to the U.S. sanctions against Venezuela that Obama signed into law in December.

“Didn’t read any of this in the English-language media? Well, you probably also didn’t see the immediate reaction to yesterday’s White House blunder from the head of the Union of South American Nations, which read, ‘UNASUR rejects any external or internal attempt at interference that seeks to disrupt the democratic process in Venezuela.’

“Washington was involved in the short-lived 2002 military coup in Venezuela; it ‘provided training, institution building and other support to individuals and organizations understood to be actively involved in the brief ouster’ of President Hugo Chávez and his government, according to the U.S. State Department. The U.S. has not changed its policy toward Venezuela since then and has continued funding opposition groups in the country. …

“The Venezuelan government has produced some credible evidence of a coup in the making: the recording of a former deputy minister of the interior reading what is obviously a communique to be issued after the military deposes the elected government, the confessions of some accused military officers and a recorded phone conversation between opposition leaders acknowledging that a coup is in the works.”

Lead Senator on Iran Letter Got Major Funding from Pro-Israeli Hardliners

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JIM LOBE, jlobe at starpower.net, @lobelog
Available for a limited number of interviews, Lobe is coordinator of LobeLog.com and has written extensively on the “neo-cons.”

He recently wrote “OMG! Cotton is Kristol’s Protege” and “GOP’s Man of the Moment Promoted by RJC’s Singer and Adelson,” which states: “If Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) wasn’t the face of GOP Iran hawks, he is now. His letter making common cause with Iran’s hardliners to scuttle a nuclear deal puts Cotton, along with his 46 Republican co-signatories, in uncharted territory. …

“Cotton’s rise to prominence didn’t come cheap and required friends with very deep pockets. His Senate campaign cost $13.9 million, and some of his biggest campaign contributions came from far outside his home state of Arkansas. That doesn’t include the nearly $1 million contribution in supportive political advertising made by Bill Kristol’s Emergency Committee for Israel in the closing days of Cotton’s Senate campaign, as has already been reported here. …

Paul Singer’s New York-based Elliot Management hedge fund … went on to become the second biggest source of direct contributions to Cotton’s Senate campaign after the pro-business Club for Growth.

“Singer, Sheldon Adelson, and Dan Senor are recurring characters in efforts to blow up diplomacy with Iran.

“Both Singer and Adelson, who famously recommended a first-strike nuclear attack on Iran to send the message that the U.S. is serious about dismantling the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, are huge donors to a series of hawkish think tanks.

“Between 2008 and 2011, the two billionaires made combined contributions of $5.1 million to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies—a hard-line neoconservative think tank some of whose associates have advocated bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities in addition to waging ‘economic warfare‘ against the regime.”

For further background, see Lobe’s piece “Republicans Overreach: Part Deux.”

Vanuatu Cyclone and Climate Change

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The Guardian is reporting: “The president of Vanuatu says climate change is contributing to more extreme weather conditions and cyclone seasons, after cyclone Pam ripped through the island nation.

“The damage from the category five storm to the island nation has been extensive, and is still being assessed as aid workers scrambled to get to affected areas on Monday morning.

“The official death toll remains at six, with many more injured, and is expected to rise as communication begins to be restored.

“Vanuatu’s president, Baldwin Lonsdale, spoke at a United Nations world conference in Sendai, Japan, on Monday, and said the storm was a major setback for the people, virtually wiping out Vanuatu’s development.” See from “Democracy Now!” this morning: “Vanuatu Blames Global Warming as Cyclone Causes Nation’s Worst Climate Disaster in Recent Memory.” The program reports that half the country’s population has been made homeless.

MICHAEL DORSEY, mkdorsey at professordorsey.com, @GreenHejira
Dorsey is interim director of energy and environment at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and a co-founding board member of Islands First, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping small island nations protect the Earth’s climate and oceans. He said today: “The destruction in Vanuatu, in the aftermath of Cyclone Pam reveals the catastrophic nature the unfolding climate crisis has on human lives, economies and the environment.

“Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 storm, simply devastated Vanuatu. The storm lashed the tiny country with winds of up to 160 mph; destroyed thousands of homes; knocked out power and telecommunications, and left an estimated 60,000 children in need of humanitarian assistance.

“In theory, a warmer world should indeed produce more potent cyclones. Yet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the frequency of cyclones may stay the same or decrease while their average intensity goes up. The increased intensity of cyclonic activity might cost over $9 trillion dollars by century’s end: enough to buy all the real estate in Manhattan 12 times over.

“A cyclone is somewhat akin to a traumatic brain injury, albeit to a country. Countries that apparently ‘recover’ after the storm may seem fine, but underneath they continue to struggle. New Orleans 10 years post-Katrina is a telling example: just ask the many people who have never returned to the city — and may never.

“Immediately the U.S. needs to join the humanitarian effort led by New Zealand and Australia.

“Ultimately, we need to consider at least censure, if not expulsion or removal of sitting officials in the U.S. House, Senate and beyond, who ignorantly and openly mock the real wrath the climate crisis plays out on livelihoods.”

For background, see: “Climate change brings disasters on steroids” and from late last year: “Pacific Climate Warriors in Australia to protest coal industry” about activists from Vanuatu canoeing to Australia to protest that country’s emissions.

Israel’s Election: Anti-Palestinian While Avoiding Occupation

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From left to right: Isaac Herzog, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ayman Odeh and Moshe Kahlon

AP is reporting: “With his political future in question, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday made a list-ditch appeal to hard-liners as the country went to the polls in a tight parliamentary election, saying that high Arab voter turnout was endangering his right wing party’s dominance. … Netanyahu’s comments toward Israeli Arab voters were remarkable because they targeted Israeli citizens, and they quickly attracted accusations of racism. Israel’s Arabs, who make up 20 percent of the population, have long complained of discrimination. A new joint list of Arab parties, unifying four factions, has energized Arab voters and is poised to make big gains in the race.”

Journalist Jonathan Cook reports from Nazareth on the Israeli election: “In one sense, everything is up for grabs: this election could result either in another right-wing government led by Benjamin Netanyahu or in victory for a coalition of centrist parties distinguished chiefly by their hostility towards Mr. Netanyahu.

“Whatever the outcome, one thing is certain: the next government will be no more willing or able to make peace with the Palestinians than its recent predecessors. …

“The anti-Arab tenor of the campaign, however, has not been confined to the occupied territories. In the center of the right’s sights have been the 1.5 million Palestinians who live in Israel and have citizenship. …

“[Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman plumbed new depths last week by calling for disloyal members of the Palestinian minority to be beheaded. With his usual immunity to paradox, he called at the same time for a Palestinian leader in Israel to be stripped of citizenship for comparing Israel’s behavior to that of ISIL.”

TOM MEHAGER, tom at adalah.org
Mehager is Hebrew media coordinator for Adalah — The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel. Among the groups recent news releases: “Elections Committee refuses to provide public transportation on Election Day to Bedouin voters in unrecognized villages.” For background on this issue, see the article “How many cars does it take for a Bedouin village to vote?

See also the group’s news release: “Adalah demands criminal investigation of Avigdor Lieberman for racist speech.”

See also their statement: “Zoabi’s Case: An Injustice the Court Did Not Fix,” about attempts to exclude Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament from elections. The piece states: “In an 8-1 ruling, the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Central Elections Committee (CEC) to disqualify Arab MK [member of the Knesset] Haneen Zoabi from the upcoming general elections. But although this ruling is important, it is not enough to reverse the damage already done to the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

“The disqualification of Arab parties and candidates has become a predictable feature of every Israeli election for the past decade, and is part of the state’s wider attempts to repress political activism by Palestinian citizens. The CEC’s decision against MK Zoabi thus came as no surprise, nor did the committee members’ constant heckling and incitement during her speech in defense of her right to represent the Palestinian minority in the Knesset.”

Background: See “MK Bishara’s Political Speeches Case: Parliamentary Immunity is a Per Se Matter of Law” about the case of Azmi Bishara who was stripped of his parliamentary immunity and left Israel.

Does Netanyahu’s Victory Open Door for One State? Bigger BDS?

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FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, served as legal adviser to the PLO. His books include thePalestinian Right of Return under International Law. He just wrote the piece “Netanyahu Victory Opens Door for One-State Solution.” He said today: “Many have argued that the two-state solution has failed and therefore the Palestinian leadership should go back to pursuing a one-state solution, akin to how the South African conflict was resolved, giving one-person-one-vote to everyone regardless of their religious, ethnic or language group. Indeed, the Palestinian leadership has indicated it would embrace it if the two-state solution proved a dead end. For example, almost exactly three years ago, Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, was asked: ‘Do you think that after one, two, or three years the PLO would say that it is time to pursue a one-state option?’ She responded: ‘It probably might be even sooner than one, two, or three years, because at the pace that is being pursued by this Israeli government, they really are making sure that the two-state solution is dead.'”

NAOMI DANN, naomi at jewishvoiceforpeace.org, @jvplive
Dann is media coordinator at Jewish Voice for Peace, which released the statement “Likud’s win bolstered by Netanyahu’s racism and opposition towards peace with the Palestinians,” which states: “While Israel calls itself ‘the only democracy in the Middle East,’ 4.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza (over 36 percent of the people living under Israeli rule) do not have the right to vote for the government that ultimately decides their fate.

“Given the racist war-mongering and rejection of the two-state solution, American Jews who express support for peace will need to rethink their relationship to an Israeli government that is explicitly anti-peace. As Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf wrote yesterday, ‘For years we have been hearing that Israel will either end the occupation or cease to be a democracy. Could it be that the Jewish public has made its choice?’ …

“While election results offer little hope for immediate change to Israeli policies, a government led again by Netanyahu will likely increase Israel’s growing global isolation, and prompt increasing pressure from outside forces including the United States and the grassroots, global movement for justice and equality to hold Israel accountable for its continued occupation, violations of international law, and human rights abuses.”

The group “endorses the call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as part of our work for freedom, justice and equality for all people. We believe that the time-honored, non-violent tools proposed by the BDS call provide powerful opportunities to make that vision real.”

Netanyahu’s Warning on Arab Voters “Encapsulates Israel’s Contradiction”

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CNN is reporting that in Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s interview with Andrea Mitchell to be aired tonight on “NBC Nightly News” that Netanyahu “walked back another controversial campaign remark, when he urged his supporters to go out to counteract the effect of Arab voters who he said were rushing to the polls ‘in droves.’

“‘I wasn’t trying to suppress the vote,’ Netanyahu said. ‘I’m very proud to be the prime minister’ of all Israel’s citizens.’ Netanyahu went on to point out that he drew support from ‘quite a few Arab voters.'”

Dr. HATIM KANAANEH, hatimkanaaneh at yahoo.com
Currently in D.C. and in New York City next week, Kanaaneh is a public health physician, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, and the author of the recently released short story collection, Chief Complaint: A Country Doctor’s Tales of Life in Galilee.

He said today: “Of course the vast majority of Palestinian citizens of Israel voted for the non-Zionist Palestinian parties, but these parties are constantly threatened and excluded by politicians like Netanyahu.

“The appeal that Netanyahu issued — warning that Arabs were voting en mass — really encapsulates for the world Israel’s contradiction: it claims to be both Jewish and democratic. The notion that a leader of a country would be complaining that part of the population is voting is extraordinary. It’s not just an election issue, that’s the pain of our existence in Israel that affects every aspect of our lives. … The Palestinian population in Israel has been widely ignored, but can and should play a role in meaningful peace efforts.”

Kanaaneh recently wrote the piece “Israel’s Arab voters threatened” in The Hill, which states: “Since the Oslo Agreement, settler politicians have brought their hateful rhetoric and open violence against Palestinians back across the green line [between Israel and the territories it occupies] with calls for exiling the remaining Palestinian minority in Israel. Rightist Zionist parties have incorporated exile planks into their election platforms. This past weekend, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman reiterated his support for ethnic cleansing by calling for removing Palestinian citizens to areas nominally controlled by the Palestinian Authority. And he doubled down on those statements, which we’ve heard from him previously, with a call for beheading Palestinian citizens of Israel who don’t display his brand of loyalty to the state: ‘Anyone who’s with us should be given everything — up to half the kingdom. Anyone who’s against us, there’s nothing to do — we should raise an axe and cut off his head; otherwise we won’t survive here.’ …

“Since the establishment of Israel, no lead party has ever entered into negotiations with the Arab Knesset members to include them in a coalition to form a government. Conveniently, Arab politicians have refrained from clamoring to be included in coalitions sure to oppress Palestinians in the occupied territories. Palestinian citizens of Israel remain all too much like the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964 that was cruelly disenfranchised at the Chicago Convention. As John Lewis (D), now a U.S. congressman from Georgia, said then, ‘We had played by the rules, done everything we were supposed to do, had played the game exactly as required, had arrived at the doorstep and found the door slammed in our face.’

“Arab parties have yet to break the exclusionary Zionist mold of the executive. Still intact are long-standing practices solidifying such undeclared principles as the Jewishness of the state, the unitary and supreme nature of Hebrew as Israel’s only de facto official language, and the sanctity of the Law of Return. Worse, and too frequently unmentioned, is the fact that four million more Palestinians in the occupied territories, whose lives are effectively controlled by Israel, have no vote whatsoever for the government which most dictates the nature of their lives and circumscribed liberties.”

Kanaaneh is on a speaking tour and will be giving a talk at the Palestine Center in D.C. on Friday at 1 p.m.

Antiwar.com: Google Ads Skewing Internet Content

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antiwar image

The bodies of people killed by Ukraine government forces around the airport are piled up at a city morgue in Donetsk, Tuesday, May 27, 2014. Photo: Vadim Ghirda, AP

ERIC GARRIS, egarris2 at antiwar.com, @Antiwarcom
Founder and director of Antiwar.com, Garris just wrote the piece “Google Doubles Down: Demands Review of All Antiwar.com Content,” which states: “On Wednesday morning (3/18/15), Google AdSense suspended ad delivery to Antiwar.com demanding that we remove our 11-year-old pages that showed the abuse by U.S. soldiers of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. We publicized this and got a bit of coverage. [See in Gawker: ‘Google Suspends Site from Ad Network for Abu Ghraib Photo.”]

“Yesterday [Thursday] Google contacted us and told us that they had given in and would be restoring ad service to Antiwar.com shortly.

“However, this morning [Friday] they contacted us demanding that we remove this article.

“Antiwar.com has no intention of allowing Google to dictate our content. We are looking into alternate sources of advertising and will not likely be working with Google AdSense in the future.”

JILLIAN YORK, jillian at eff.org, @jilliancyork@onlinecensors
York leads the new project onlinecensorship.org at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She said: “While Google is well within its legal rights to regulate content — and has good reasons to ensure certain violent content doesn’t make it to AdSense, in this case it came down on the wrong side of what was clearly content in the public interest: images that demonstrate torture by the U.S. military.”

In her article “Can Apple Refuse to Sell a Laptop to an Iranian Citizen? Maybe,” York noted: “Google reportedly blocks Persian-language advertisements because of the prohibition on financial transactions targeting Iranians. Given that there are only small pockets of Persian speakers outside of Iran, it would be difficult for Google to argue they’re not targeting Iranians with ads in Persian; therefore, blocking the advertisements entirely ensures that they’re in compliance with the regulations.”

Afghanistan: “Fiction” of Sovereign Government, U.S. Funding “War of Attrition”

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The New York Times reports: “President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan is expected to urge President Obama in a White House meeting on Tuesday not to pull American military forces out of his country as quickly as planned, requesting an extension of assistance in combating a tenacious Taliban insurgency.”

ANAND GOPAL, anandgopal80 at gmail.com, @Anand_Gopal_
Available for a limited number of interviews, Gopal has spent extensive time in Afghanistan and is author of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes, which just won the 2015 Ridenhour Book Prize.

He said today: “The agreement funding the army implies that there’s a foreseeable time when Afghanistan has a functioning government and that’s just not the case. The U.S. is funding a war of attrition.

“A main result of this war is that Afghan civilians are dying in greater numbers. Last year saw more civilian deaths than any year since 2001. Most of the violence is coming from U.S. proxies and the Taliban insurgents.

“The U.S. is allied with power brokers, warlords who are fighting the ‘war on terror’ on the U.S.’s behalf. When people talk about ‘counterterrorism operations,’ what they mean is night raids, targeted killings and allying with these warlords. When I say warlords, I mean private contractors because the U.S. is paying for them essentially, they are mercenaries, they’re paramilitary forces, there’s hundreds of thousands of them around the country.

“It’s a fiction that Ashraf Ghani has a sovereign government. On the one hand, he’s beholden to foreign aid and on the other he is constrained by warlords and strongmen in the countryside that exert a tremendous amount of power.”

SONALI KOLHATKAR, sonali at sonaliandjim.net, @sonalikolhatkar
Kolhatkar is co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords, and the Propaganda of Silence and is co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission.

Left and Right Teaming up for Surveillance State Repeal Act

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The Daily Caller reports in “House Revives Bill To Completely Repeal The Patriot Act, Dismantle NSA Spying,” that: “Some of the strongest reforms to the U.S. national security apparatus ever introduced in Congress were revived Tuesday by a pair of congressmen in the House of Representatives.

“Wisconsin Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan and Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie announced in a press release their intention to reintroduce the Surveillance State Repeal Act — a bill first introduced following the Snowden leaks in 2013 that would completely repeal the Patriot Act and the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, as well as introduce reforms to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

“The bill would legally dismantle the National Security Agency’s most aggressive surveillance programs, including the bulk collection and retention of virtually all Americans’ landline phone records justified under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The repeal of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act would also prevent the agency from tapping the physical infrastructure of the Internet, such as undersea fiber cables, to intercept ‘upstream’ data in bulk, which critics including the ACLU claim the NSA uses to collect data on Americans.”

SHAHID BUTTAR, media at bordc.org, @bordc@sheeyahshee
Executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Buttar spoke at a briefing yesterday at the Capitol on this subject. He said today: “The Surveillance State Repeal Act, HR 1466, represents a profound challenge by members of Congress from across the political spectrum fed up with the national security establishment and its continuing assault on our Constitution.

“Most policymakers forget the 9/11 commission’s most crucial finding: the intelligence community’s failures that enabled the 9/11 attacks were not failures of limited data collection, but rather failures of data sharing and analysis. Over the last 15 years, Congress has allowed the agencies to expand their collection capacities, solving an imaginary problem while creating a host of real threats to U.S. national security far worse than any act of rogue violence: the specter of state omniscience, immune from oversight and accountability, and thus vulnerable to politicization.

“This was among the fears of which President Eisenhower warned us in his farewell address.”

PATRICK EDDINGTON, Peddington at cato.org, @pgeddington
Eddington is a policy analyst at the CATO Institute and also spoke at the briefing organized by Reps. Pocan and Massie. Eddington just wrote the piece “Legislators move against mass surveillance” for The Hill, which states: “In renewing the fight to reform America’s surveillance practices, Massie and Pocan have the clock on their side. Three existing provisions of the PATRIOT Act are due to expire on June 1st, and executive branch officials are once again fear mongering about the prospect, especially since Congress will adjourn on May 22 for a long Memorial Day recess that will run beyond the provisions’ expiration date. Civil liberties advocates argue that all three provisions should be allowed to expire, especially Sec. 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which was the source of the metadata mass surveillance program exposed by Snowden.

“The pressure of that looming expiration date provides an opening for Massie, Pocan and other surveillance reformers to force real changes in surveillance law through Congress. In making the attempt, they will not only have to deal with reluctant colleagues in both chambers, but a U.S. intelligence community and federal law enforcement leadership that is even now still seeking to weaken basic internet security standards in the name of ‘national security.’ One of the most important public battles over the issue of security versus surveillance is about to begin.”

WikiLeaks Exposes TPP Secrecy and Big Business Agenda

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The New York Times reports: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership — a cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s remaining economic agenda — would grant broad powers to multinational companies operating in North America, South America and Asia. Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings — federal, state or local — before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations. …

“The chapter in the draft of the trade deal, dated Jan. 20, 2015, and obtained by The New York Times in collaboration with the group WikiLeaks, is certain to kindle opposition from both the political left and the right.”

WikiLeaks notes in the group’s analysis of the TPP investment chapter: “The document is classified and supposed to be kept secret for four years after the entry into force of the TPP agreement or, if no agreement is reached, for four years from the close of the negotiations.”

PATRICK WOODALL, pwoodall at fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Research director and senior policy advocate for Food & Water Watch, Woodall said today: “The leaked Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) investment provisions provide a new and powerful avenue for foreign corporations to attack commonsense public health, environmental and consumer safeguards. They are designed to provide special rights for corporations at the expense of the public interest, letting foreign companies demand financial compensation in response to federal, state and local laws and regulations they feel harm their investments.

“The TPP would empower companies from New Zealand, Australia and Japan with new rights to attack our federal and local laws. For example, one natural gas company has already challenged a fracking moratorium in the Canadian province of Quebec under NAFTA’s investment provisions. These corporate lawsuits have a chilling effect on communities that want to protect their citizenry but lack the resources to defend against a colossal corporate lawsuit, including the more than 250 localities (including New York state) that have banned or imposed moratoriums on fracking.

“The leaked investment text highlights the lack of TPP transparency. It includes a provision that keeps the investment chapter confidential until four years after the TPP goes into effect. If these special rights for corporate interests are so beneficial, why must it be classified?”

SEAN FLYNN, sflynn at wcl.american.edu
Flynn is associate director of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at the Washington College of Law at American University. He just wrote the piece “Leaked TPP ISDS Chapter Threatens Intellectual Property Limitations and Exceptions,” which states: “Today’s leak of the Investor State Dispute Settlement chapter proposed for the Trans Pacific Partnership [PDF] agreement would give new rights to private companies to challenge limitations and exceptions to copyrights, patents, and other intellectual property rights inunaccountable international arbitration forums. The text contains the same provisions that are being used by Eli Lilly to challenge Canada’s invalidation of patent extensions for new uses of two medicines originally developed in the 1970s. The same language is also being used by Philip Morris to challenge Uruguay’s regulation of advertising on cigarette packages as an ‘expropriation’ of their trademarks. But the TPP language goes farther. It includes a new footnote, not previously released as part of any other investment chapter and not included in the U.S. model investment text — clarifying that private expropriation actions can be brought to challenge ‘the cancellation or nullification of such [intellectual property] rights,’ as well as ‘exceptions to such rights.’

“Instead of combating the ability to bring cases such as Eli Lilly’s, it invites them. Any time a national court — including in the U.S. — invalidates a wrongfully granted patent or other intellectual property right, the affected company could appeal that revocation to foreign arbitrators.”

ILANA SOLOMON, via Dan Byrnes, daniel.byrnes at sierraclub.org
Solomon is director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program. She said today: “It is outrageous that we have to continue to rely on leaked texts to expose the details of this trade pact — and that every leak confirms the threats of the Trans-Pacific Partnership to clean air and water.

“If the Trans-Pacific Partnership locks in this flawed text, the trade deal would expand a system of investor privileges provided in NAFTA that threatens new safeguards on our air, water, and climate — from fracking moratoriums to carbon-pollution reductions to anything in between.

“Trade negotiators must release the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership so that the public and our policy makers can have a real conversation about its impacts on communities, our environment, and the climate. Members of Congress must be able to take a fine-toothed comb to trade deals and reject fast track, which would eliminate their ability to ensure that the rules of this and other trade deals actually put people before polluter profits.”

What Bergdahl Case Offers

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MATTHEW HOH, mphoh1 at yahoo.com
Hoh, a State Department whistleblower, wrote the piece “Stop Persecuting Bowe Bergdahl” for Politico. He said today: “With more than 4 out of 5 Americans against the war in Afghanistan, and a majority of Americans saying the war was a mistake, Sergeant Bergdahl’s concerns about the war resonate with many Americans.

“As you will see from Sergeant Bergdahl’s lawyers’ statement, the report conducted by the Army found Sergeant Bergdahl not to have the intention to desert permanently; not to have the intention of joining the Taliban or assisting the enemy; that he did not cooperate with his captors, but rather attempted to escape 12 times; that no American soldiers died looking for Sergeant Bergdahl; and that Sergeant Bergdahl left his post to report ‘disturbing circumstances to the attention of the nearest general officer.’

“Sergeant Bergdahl’s disaffection with the war can be seen and understood, not only through the failure of the American war effort in Afghanistan, but through the ongoing civil wars in the Greater Middle East and in the rise of the Islamic State.”

“While I am saddened for Sergeant Bergdahl’s family, with whom I am friends, and hopeful that no charges will be brought against him at his Article 32 hearing, I do believe Sergeant Bergdahl’s case offers a valuable opportunity for our nation to discuss our wars, evaluate our wars’ executions and results, and question whether or not the sacrifices of our young service members and their families, as well as the suffering of millions of people throughout the Muslim World, has been worthwhile.”

Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, previously directed the Afghanistan Study Group, a collection of foreign and public policy experts and professionals advocating for a change in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Prior to that, Hoh served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. Embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq. See Washington Post profile of Hoh: “U.S. official resigns over Afghan war.”

As Saudi Arabia Escalates Bombing of Yemen, Dozens Killed at Camp

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The Los Angeles Times is reporting: “As a Saudi Arabia-led coalition pounded rebel positions across Yemen with airstrikes Monday, an apparent aerial bombardment hit a camp for displaced persons near the border of the two countries, killing dozens of people, aid workers said.” See Twitter feed on the crisis below.

In related news regarding the Saudi regime, see from the Washington Post: “How Saudi Arabia turned Sweden’s human rights criticisms into an attack on Islam.”

AJAMU BARAKA, ajamubaraka2 at gmail.com
Baraka is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who is based in Colombia. He recently wrote the piece “Saudi Arabia Invasion of Yemen Perpetuates Chaos and Lawlessness in Middle-East,” which states: “The intervention by the Saudis … continues the international lawlessness that the U.S. precipitated with its War on Terror over the last decade and a half. … U.S. and Saudi geo-strategic interest in containing the influence of Iran has trumped international law and any concerns about the lives of the people of Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain.”

ALI AL-AHMED, alialahmedx at gmail.com, @AliAlAhmed_en
Director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, al-Ahmed is a noted critic of the Saudi regime.

WILLIAM PICARD, picard at yemenpeaceproject.org, @yemenpeacenews
Picard is executive director of the Yemen Peace Project.

WILLIAM HARTUNG, whartung at ciponline.org, @WilliamHartung
Hartung is director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

He said today: “The Saudi intervention in Yemen is just the latest example of the potentially disastrous consequences of runaway U.S. arms exports to the Persian Gulf. The Obama administration has set new records for the value of U.S. weapons deals with the Saudi regime, approving over $40 billion in new agreements in the past few years alone. The Saudis have used U.S.-supplied weaponry to help put down the democracy movement in Bahrain, and now to expand the conflict in Yemen to the point that it may spark a region-wide war. In addition, over $500 million in U.S weaponry destined for Yemeni security forces has gone missing, and may have found its way to Houthi forces or even to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The faction of the Yemeni army that has joined hands with the Houthi rebellion has ample U.S.-supplied armaments as well. It’s hard to imagine a clearer example of the negative consequences of aggressive arms dealing than the current situation in Yemen.”

Background: See Washington Post: “Pentagon loses track of $500 million in weapons, equipment given to Yemen.”

See this piece from The Real News on Saudi repression of Bahrain.

Profile of U.S. military and police aid to Yemen by the Security Assistance Monitor.


Schumer’s Record: Pro-War, Backed by Wall Street

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Politico reports in “Iran deal a big test for Schumer” that: “The Democratic leader-in-waiting could decide whether Congress has the votes to scuttle a nuclear agreement.” Robert Naiman notes: “On Thursday, Schumer officially became a co-sponsor of the main Republican bill in the Senate designed to blow up the Iran talks: the Corker-Menendez bill.” Also see Washington Post: “Will Senate Democrats really help kill an Obama nuclear deal with Iran?

Schumer voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. In his speech, he repeatedly invoked 9/11 and voiced some of the same fabrications that the Bush administration became famous for: “While this behavior is reprehensible, it is Hussein’s vigorous pursuit of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and his present and potential future support for terrorist acts and organizations, that make him a terrible danger to the people to the United States.” See video at C-Span (which includes transcript) and here. In 2005, Schumer said he didn’t regret his war vote.

According to OpenSecrets.org, his biggest funders are from the following sectors:

Securities & Investment: $3,877,905
Lawyers/Law Firms: $2,632,447
Real Estate: $1,583,089
Lobbyists: $717,513
Misc Finance: $682,200

ZAID JILANI, Areo64 at gmail.com, @ZaidJilani
Jilani recently wrote the piece for Alternet: “Chuck Schumer — Friend Of Wall Street and War — Ready to Be Anointed Head of the Senate Democrats.”

The piece states: “It’s not surprising that Schumer would be able to collect so much support in such a short period of time. Recall that he was head of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, and helped recruit as many as one-third of the current Senate Democratic caucus — and that he was the one who set about raising the funds necessary to bring them to power in the first place. …

“‘Wall Street Welcomes Expected Chuck Schumer Promotion,’ read a CNN headline on Friday. ‘It’ll be a big plus to have somebody like that if he ends up being Democratic leader,’ said former Republican Senator Judd Gregg, who until recently was head of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. …

“When Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) introduced an amendment to break up the largest banks, they were able to recruit the support of a handful of GOP senators, but Schumer worked alongside the Obama administration to kill it. He insists that capital gains tax rates stay lower than those of other income, a direct gift to fund managers. And he has kept alive the idea of granting corporations that store cash overseas to bring funds back to the United States if they are granted a large tax cut.”

White House Climate Proposal “Woefully Inadequate”

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JANET REDMAN, janet at ips-dc.org, @Janet_IPS
Redman is climate policy program director at the Washington D.C.-based think tank the Institute for Policy Studies.

The group notes: “Today the White House released a proposal for U.S. action on climate change that it will bring to the table at the UN climate negotiations for a global agreement this December in Paris. The Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, as the formal submission is known, includes a cut in U.S. emissions of 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, but little else.”

Redman said today: “As the biggest historical emitter of climate pollution, we welcome the U.S. putting hard targets for reducing carbon emissions on paper. Unfortunately, the science is clear that this target is woefully inadequate to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts in our communities. To do our fair share, the U.S. should cut carbon pollution by twice as much, and put a number on the table for 2020 when the climate agreement kicks in.

“In addition, if the Obama administration intends to rely on policies like the Clean Power Plan as the pathway to emissions cuts, it must abandon the push for dirty and dangerous technologies like natural gas, waste incineration, and nuclear energy. The U.S. can and must support the transition to clean renewable energy, zero waste, sustainable food systems, efficient public transportation and housing, and other local and state action to dramatically lower emissions while protecting public health and local economies at home.

“Globally, our contribution can not end at emissions cuts. Conspicuously absent from the U.S. climate submission is any commitment of financing to support developing countries adapt to climate disruption and shift toward clean energy economies. Delivering finance to those countries least responsible for creating the climate crisis is not only morally right, it is our legal responsibility under the UN climate convention.”

Mumia’s Case and Prison Health

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AP reports: “Former death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal was rushed to a hospital to be treated for complications from diabetes, according to family members and supporters who asserted Tuesday that the state prison system has been providing him with substandard medical care.

“Abu-Jamal’s blood sugar was dangerously high when he arrived at Schuylkill Medical Center on Monday, and he could have slipped into a diabetic coma, relatives and supporters said at a news conference outside the hospital, where he remained under heavy guard.

“‘He’s still very weak,’ said his wife, Wadiya Jamal. …

“Amnesty International has maintained that Abu-Jamal’s trial was ‘manifestly unfair’ and failed to meet international fair trial standards. His writings and radio broadcasts from death row put him at the center of an international debate over capital punishment and made him the subject of books and movies.”

NOELLE HANRAHAN, globalaudiopi at gmail.com
A private investigator and journalist based in Philadelphia, Hanrahan is director of Prison Radio. She edited Mumia Abu-Jamal’s book All Things Censored and for years has produced his recordings from death row and now from prison. He has always maintained his innocence and many human rights groups have charged irregularities in his trial. She helped produce the documentary “Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal.”

[Breaking: She states that today — Wednesday — the family is being denied visitation.]

BRET GROTE, bretgrote at abolitionistlawcenter.org
Grote is legal director of the Abolitionist Law Center, which has been representing Abu-Jamal. Grote said today: “Mumia does not have a history of diabetes, but had been experiencing a series of symptoms that should have alerted medical staff at the prison to the onset of the disease. Instead, he was not given comprehensive diagnostic treatment and a medical crisis emerged that could have resulted in his slipping into a diabetic coma or worse.

“Prison officials only relented and permitted visitation under immense public pressure from all over the world. Keep it up. If the prison had its way, nobody would know Mumia was hospitalized, nor would they have permitted visits or the release of any medical information to family.” See more from Grote and other supporters here.

Grote can also address attempts by the state of Pennsylvania to effectively silence Abu-Jamal. See: “Prisoners and Advocacy Groups Win Right to a Trial on Constitutionality of the Silencing Act.”

Dr. COREY WEINSTEIN, corey2w at att.net
Weinstein is a California-based doctor with decades of extensive experience with health care in prisons who has followed Abu-Jamal’s case. He has retired from work in the American Public Health Association and the World Health Organization Health in Prison Project.

He said today: “Mumia was in the prison infirmary for two weeks prior to his diabetic crisis and he entered the Critical Care Unit at Schuylkill Medical Center with a blood sugar of 779 and diabetic shock. I’m concerned that he became so sick while under 24 hour a day medical care in the prison infirmary. He remains weak and quite sick, but was allowed to speak briefly to two family members.

“Generally, once a prisoner gets to an outside hospital, they are treated without prejudice to the best ability of the staff of that hospital. The problem for many prisoners is that once a crisis has passed and they’re sent back to prison with orders for care.

“Being diabetic for example requires medication, proper diet and exercise, which prisons frequently don’t provide. You need to monitor blood sugar four times a day. But prisons often don’t allow monitoring devices or needles in the general population. So getting minimally adequate care is fraught with real problems in a prison setting, especially outside of the infirmary. In Mumia’s case, with his special status, it’s even more difficult.

“There are tremendous barriers to prison health for a variety of common conditions like low grade chronic liver failure, psychiatric conditions (which are frequently aggravated in a crowded prison setting), or chronic pain, which lots of prisoners suffer from because of history of trauma, beatings or gun shot wounds. Needed narcotic prescriptions for maintenance are frequently prohibited because of potential for abuse.

“Lawsuits are sometimes won over these issues eventually, so many states are under federal watch on these issues, including California.”

* Atlanta Testing Scandal “Tip of Iceberg” * AFT Teams with Coke

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The Guardian in “Why the Atlanta cheating scandal failed to bring about national reform” states: “‘Atlanta is the tip of the iceberg,’ says Bob Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest, a nonprofit opposed to current testing standards. ‘Cheating is a predictable outcome of what happens when public policy puts too much pressure on test scores.'”

BOB SCHAEFFER, bobschaeffer at earthlink.net, @fairtestoffice
See FairTest’s fact sheet: “Tests, Cheating and Educational Corruption” [PDF]: “Erasing errors and filling in correct test answers is just one of many ways to ‘cheat’ on standardized tests. The scandals in Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, New Jersey and many other jurisdictions are the tip of an iceberg. Across the nation, strategies that boost scores without improving learning, including narrow teaching to the test and pushing out low-scoring students, are spreading rapidly. Widespread corruption that undermines educational quality is an inevitable consequence of the overuse and misuse of high-stakes testing, just as [social scientist] Donald Campbell predicted.

FairTest notes that in 1976, Campbell’s Law was formulated: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor. . . when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways.”

See also FairTest’s list of 40 states with confirmed test cheating; “50+ Ways Schools ‘Cheat’ on Testing: Manipulating High-Stakes Exam Scores for Political Gain” [PDF]; and “How Testing Feeds the School-to-Prison Pipeline.”

Russell Mokhiber of Corporate Crime Reporter writes in “Why Did the AFT End Its Coca-Cola Boycott?” “In October, 2014, the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution to boycott all Coca-Cola products.

“The resolution — ‘Stop Coca-Cola’s Abuse of Children and Violation of Human Rights’ — called for a boycott of Coca-Cola products based upon a litany of violations of workers’ rights and child labor laws on the part of the company.

“Now, just four months after that resolution was passed, the AFT executive committee, has reversed course and passed a resolution ending the boycott.”

Instead, on March 23rd, AFT President Randi Weingarten and Ed Potter, Coke’s director of global workplace rights, signed a partnership agreement. Mokhiber notes: “Also on hand was former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, who is a member of the Coca-Cola board of directors.”

GARY RUSKIN, gary.ruskin at gmail.com, @garyruskin
Ruskin is executive director of U.S. Right to Know, a new nonprofit organization that investigates and reports “on what food companies don’t want us to know about our food.”

Ruskin said: “The Coca-Cola Company preys on American children. It is responsible in part for the epidemic of obesity and type 2 diabetes that afflicts our nation’s children.

“It is not the proper role of the American Federation of Teachers to partner with child predators, such as Coca-Cola. By partnering with a child predator, the AFT’s agreement will undermine the moral authority of teachers nationwide. That is a regrettable outcome for teachers, schools, and especially our children, who deserve so much better from their teachers.”

California Drought: Sign of “New Geologic Age”

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MARK HERTSGAARD, mark at markhertsgaard.com, @markhertsgaard
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Hertsgaard — author of the book Hot — stated on “Democracy Now!” today: “The new executive order by Gov. Brown issued yesterday really focused mainly on the urban sector. … What was striking about the order is that it did not require those same kind of cuts from the agriculture sector, which, in California, is the big player in water. Agriculture uses about 80 percent of all of the developed water here in the state. … The absolute historic low in the snowpack that we’re seeing here, quite frankly, it’s quite scary, but it’s quite directly related to climate change.

“There are communities out in Central Valley, the poor communities where a lot of farm workers live, that literally don’t have water coming out of their household taps anymore. That is not the case for Mr. Stewart Reznick and a lot of bigger farmers. In fact, my story in the Daily Beast [“How Growers Gamed California’s Drought“] started with a conference that Mr. Reznick and his pistachio company, Paramount Farms, held just last month, where they bragged, literally bragged and celebrated about the record profits that they are making on pistachios, on almonds, and not only the profits, but the record production levels, and the record acreage levels, which means that as the state has been going into drought, nevertheless agricultural interests are planting more and more acreage.”

MAUDE BARLOW, sdey at canadians.org, @councilofcdns
Barlow is author of Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever and is a former UN adviser on water. She recently wrote: “Our collective abuse of water has caused the planet to enter ‘a new geologic age’ — a ‘planetary transformation’ akin to the retreat of the glaciers more than 11,000 years ago. This is according to 500 renowned scientists brought together in Bonn at the invitation of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on May 2013. A majority of the world’s population lives within 30 miles of water sources that are badly impaired or running out, the scientists said. …

“So how are world leaders and global institutions dealing with this threat? Very badly and with no plan. This is because the water crisis has been misdiagnosed.

“While recognized as real, the water crisis is usually seen as a symptom of climate change, itself caused by excessive greenhouse gas emissions. Droughts are almost always reported as the result of climate change. While no doubt greenhouse gas emission-driven climate change does have an important and negative impact on watersheds, warming temperatures and speeding up evaporation, there is another story that needs to be told.

“Massive water diversion for flood irrigation and the over-exploitation of groundwater has left large areas of the world without water. The destruction of the Aral Sea and Lake Chad — once the fourth and sixth largest lakes in the world respectively — was not caused by climate change. It was a result of relentless extraction for commodity exports.

“The drought crisis in California is not climate change per se, but the massive engineering of the state’s water supplies to provide for a handful of powerful farmers. A huge amount of the state’s water is exported as ‘virtual water’ embedded in export commodities. The Ogallala Aquifer is not being depleted by climate change, but from unremitting extraction, mostly for corn ethanol.

“Removing water from water-retentive landscapes leaves behind parched lands and desertification, another cause of the water crisis. Removing vegetation from water-retentive landscapes changes the water patterns forever. The current crisis in Brazil — once a water rich country — is largely due to the destruction of the rainforest. Take down the forests and the hydrologic cycle is negatively affected.”

Barlow is national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

Iran Deal Myths: Sanctions

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Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (@JZarif) — in a clear rebuff to U.S. government officials’ claims about when sanctions would be lifted on Iran — has tweeted the following since the nuclear agreement was announced on Thursday:

* “The solutions are good for all, as they stand. There is no need to spin using ‘fact sheets’ so early on.”

* “Iran/5+1 Statement: ‘US will cease the application of ALL nuclear-related secondary economic and financial sanctions.’ Is this gradual?”

* “Iran/P5+1 Statement: ‘The EU will TERMINATE the implementation of ALL nuclear-related economic and financial sanctions’. How about this?”

Seyed Hossein Mousavian, a former Iranian negotiator who is now at Princeton University, said on “Democracy Now!” this morning disputed the often-repeated notion that the sanctions compelled the Iranian side to accept the agreement. In fact, he states, the Iranian side had put forward such a framework in 2003, but it was rejected. He also dismissed much-covered Israeli objections, since Israel has a massive nuclear weapons arsenal, refuses to allow any inspections and sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

REESE ERLICH, rerlich at pacbell.net, @reeseerlich
Foreign correspondent Erlich’s books include The Iran Agenda: The Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis. He recently wrote the piece “Lifting U.S. sanctions to Iran’s satisfaction won’t be easy” for Global Post. In 2013, he wrote the piece “Iranians say U.S. sanctions hit wrong target.”

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Porter is an investigative journalist and author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He recently wrote the piece “Iran demands lifting of sanctions for ‘irreversible’ moves, says insider” for Middle East Eye.

Porter said today: “The final hours of the negotiations on the historic deal reached Thursday were marked by ‘brinksmanship’ by both sides, according to U.S. diplomat, seeking to convince the other side that there would be no deal unless the other side gave way on two remaining key issues: R&D on advanced centrifuges and the modalities of lifting sanctions.

“In the end the negotiators resorted to compromise language that either left the issue to be resolved in later negotiations or achieved a compromise that leans toward the Iranian demand.”

Somali and Kenya: Roots of al-Shabab

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The New York Times reports: “Kenyan fighter jets bombed two training camps of the Shabab militant group in Somalia, defense officials said on Monday, the first military response to the attack on a university last week that killed nearly 150 students.

“Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, had vowed to respond ‘in the severest way possible’ to the massacre at the university.

“Military officials said it was difficult to assess the damage because of heavy cloud cover. Kenya has carried out bombing raids in Somalia after terrorist assaults in the past, and the Shabab militants, knowing what was coming, have often abandoned their camps after major attacks.”

ABDI ISMAIL SAMATAR, samat001 at umn.edu
Samatar is professor and chair of the Department of Geography, Environment & Society at the University of Minnesota. He said today: “The brutality of al-Shabab is simply staggering. Its latest atrocity is the outright killing of over 100 students at Garissa University [in Kenya]. But what people also need to understand is the insidiousness of the Kenyan government and its actions in Somalia, which al-Shabab uses as a pretext to rally people in Somalia.

“If Kenya and the international community are serious about defeating al-Shabaab it can only be done by well resourced professional Somali security forces. The international community has failed to help Somalis build such a force. In addition Kenya and Ethiopia must withdraw their troops from Somalia as well as their efforts to gerrymander politics in that country by supporting certain factions in Somalia. The regime in Mogadishu is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent and can not galvanize the Somali people.

“The international community, including Africans, have been not only oblivious to the plight of the Somali people, but have turned them into a disposable political football since the collapse of their state in 1991. For years the world watched warlord terrorists rape, loot and kill Somalis with impunity.

“The U.S. actually backed the warlords against the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC), which was trying to bring some stability to the country. In 2005, the UIC defeated the warlords and created peace in Mogadishu for the first time in years and without any help from the international community. Rather than engaging with the UIC, the U.S. and its African clients considered them as terrorists and Ethiopia was given the green light to invade and dismantle it. Ethiopian forces took over Mogadishu on December 25, 2006, and the prospect of a peaceful resurrection of Somalia perished.

“The brutality of the Ethiopian occupation has been documented by human rights groups. Resisting the Ethiopian occupation became the rallying cry for all Somalis. Some of the toughest challengers of the Ethiopian war machine were segments of the UIC militia known as al-Shabab. Their valour endeared them to many Somalis and this marked the birth of al-Shabab as we know it today. Had the international community and particularly the West productively engaged the UIC, I am confident that al-Shabab would have remained an insignificant element of a bigger nationalist movement.

“Kenya’s original rationale for invading Somalia was to protect its citizens and tourist-based economy from al-Shabab’s predations. For many this argument seemed reasonable as al-Shabab was accused of kidnapping several expatriates from Kenya. According to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity, there were credible reports that the Kenyan government had planned on gaining a strong sphere of influence in the lower region of Somalia long before the al-Shabab-affiliated incidents.”

See Samatar’s piece “The Nairobi massacre and the genealogy of the tragedy.”

“Saudi (and U.S.) Aggression in Yemen”

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CNN reports this morning: “Yemeni officials said Saudi airstrikes targeting a military base on Tuesday hit a nearby school, injuring at least a half dozen students.” The New York Times reports: “Pakistan’s defense minister told Parliament on Monday that Saudi Arabia had asked Pakistan for aircraft, warships and soldiers to join its offensive against the Houthis in Yemen, possibly signaling Saudi plans to expand its war there.” 

SUSANNE DAHLGREN, susanne.dahlgren at gmail.com
Dahlgren is currently visiting research associate professor at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore. An anthropologist from Finland who has lived in and written extensively on Yemen, she is author of Contesting Realities: The Public Sphere and Morality in Southern Yemen. Her most recent piece is “Four Weddings and a Funeral in Yemen.”

SHEILA CARAPICO, scarapic at richmond.edu
Carapico is a professor of political science and international studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia. She recently wrote the piece “A Call to Resist Saudi (and U.S.) Aggression in Yemen,” which states: “Saudi Arabia is an oppressive, reactionary regime historically resistant to progressive movements in Yemen and elsewhere. It is also a linchpin in the U.S.-NATO military industrial complex and the endless war on terror.

“This war risks regional escalation and conflagration. Already, autocratic leaders of Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco and Pakistan (whose citizens are skeptical) seem to have agreed to join the fight, with Egypt reportedly preparing to send 40,000 ground troops. Arab League leaders meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last weekend ordered the Houthis to surrender and pledged to create a joint Arab military force.

“The pretext of the ‘legitimacy’ of the Gulf Cooperation Council-anointed administration is a figment of hegemonic imagination. Public opinion inside Yemen is kaleidoscopic and mercurial, but few accept this excuse for intervention.

“The Sunni versus Shi’a sectarian narrative misrepresents Yemenis’ multiple proclivities for partisan, regional and class-based leadership. If anything, the escalating war pits the billionaire royal elites of the Gulf against the downtrodden of the Peninsula. Bombardments are both terrifying and deadly. Attacks on al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced persons in Hajjah governorate, a dairy factory near Hodeida and other locations have left dozens of non-combatants dead, according to human rights groups. The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, says ‘the country seems to be on the verge of total collapse.'”

The Criminalization of Poverty

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poorgetprisonKAREN DOLAN, karen at ips-dc.org, @karendolan
JODI L. CARR, jodicarr at verizon.net
Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and directs the Criminalization of Poverty Project. Carr is a research associate with the group and a doctoral student in education policy at George Mason University. They co-wrote a recently-released report: “The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty,” which includes an introduction by Barbara Ehrenreich.

The report finds: “Poor people, especially people of color, face a far greater risk of being fined, arrested, and even incarcerated for minor offenses than other Americans. A broken taillight, an unpaid parking ticket, a minor drug offense, sitting on a sidewalk, or sleeping in a park can all result in jail time. In this report, we seek to understand the multi-faceted, growing phenomenon of the ‘criminalization of poverty.’

“In many ways, this phenomenon is not new: The introduction of public assistance programs gave rise to prejudices against beneficiaries and to systemic efforts to obstruct access to the assistance.

“This form of criminalizing poverty — racial profiling or the targeting of poor black and Latina single mothers trying to access public assistance — is a relatively familiar reality. Less well-known known are the new and growing trends which increase this criminalization of being poor that affect or will affect hundreds of millions of Americans. These troubling trends are eliminating their chances to get out of poverty and access resources that make a safe and decent life possible.”

The report highlights:

– “the targeting of poor people with fines and fees for misdemeanors, and the resurgence of debtors’ prisons — the imprisonment of people unable to pay debts resulting from the increase in fines and fees;

– “mass incarceration of poor ethnic minorities for non-violent offenses, and the barriers to employment and re-entry into society once they have served their sentences;

– “excessive punishment of poor children that creates a ‘school-to-prison pipeline’;

– “increase in arrests of homeless people and people feeding the homeless, and criminalizing life-sustaining activities such as sleeping in public when no shelter is available; and

– “confiscating what little resources and property poor people might have through ‘civil asset forfeiture.’ …

“Private companies are profiting off the expanded number of people in the criminal justice system by charging fees for supervision and other costs related to probation. If the people under probation cannot pay, they often face jail time.”

See: PDF of the full report.

Video of Killing of Walter Scott: Tip of an Iceberg?

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The New York Times reports: “A white police officer in North Charleston, S.C., was charged with murder on Tuesday after a video surfaced showing him shooting in the back and killing an apparently unarmed black man while the man ran away.

“The officer, Michael T. Slager, 33, said he had feared for his life because the man had taken his stun gun in a scuffle after a traffic stop on Saturday. A video, however, shows the officer firing eight times as the man, Walter L. Scott, 50, fled. The North Charleston mayor announced the state charges at a news conference Tuesday evening.”

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY, kevinagray57 at gmail.com, @kevinagray
Co-editor of the new book Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.  He said today: “Clearly, if that video hadn’t come out, this murder would have been covered up. The video clearly shows that the police lied. And it’s not uncommon for the police to lie. We have to ask about the shooting police officer’s partner. …” Gray appeared on “Democracy Now!” this morning.

CARLOS MILLER, carlosmiller at pinac.org
Miller founded the website PhotographyIsNotACrime.com and is author of The Citizen Journalist Photography Handbook. His recent pieces include: “Texas Deputies Caught on Camera Punching Pregnant Woman During CPS Visit,” “San Francisco Cops Caught on Video Beating Man With Nightstick as he Yells for Help,” “Minnesota Cop Claims to be ‘Officer Friendly’ as he Threatens to Break Legs of Young Man in Custody” and “New Jersey Cops Tried Confiscating Cameras After Mauling Man to Death With Police Dog.”

Miller just wrote the piece “South Carolina Cop Arrested for Murder After Video Shows Him Shooting Man in Back,” which states: “Prior to the video materializing, North Charleston police officer Michael Slager claimed he had chased Walter Scott on foot Saturday after trying to pull him over for a broken tail light.

“Slager claimed he tried to subdue Scott with a taser, only for Scott to take the taser from him before trying to overpower him, making the cop fear for his life, leaving him no choice but to open fire and kill the 50-year-old man.

“And he would likely have gotten away with it had it not been for a pesky bystander with a video camera.

“The video, posted below, shows Slager firing eight times from at least 20 feet away as Scott runs away, who ends up falling on the grass.

“Slager then calmly walks up to him as he speaks into his radio, informing dispatchers of ‘shots fired.’

“He then orders Scott to ‘put your hands behind your back’ as he appears to drop his taser next to his body, most likely an attempt to plant evidence against him.

“The video, recorded by an anonymous witness, lasted for more than three minutes, showing another cop arriving on the scene after Scott was already handcuffed. At no point in the video did the cops notice they were being recorded.

“The witness did a good job of keeping the camera trained on them without voicing any displeasure as we’ve seen so many people do in the past. …”

Background: The person who took the video showing the killing remains anonymous. Miller has said in the past: “I’ve been arrested three times while filming police — the last time was when the police dispersed Occupy Miami. I tell people: you have to be so clean because they’ll find a way to come after you — it’s like a ‘Blue Mafia.’ They all stick together and will find any pretext to come after someone.”

Late last year the choking death of Eric Garner set off headlines, but the video of the police choking him was taken by Ramsey Orta — who was indicted on weapons charges shortly after making that video public and remains at Rikers Island prison. There have been reports he fears for his life.

Reuters reported “At some point during his arrest, Orta told officers, ‘You’re just mad because I filmed your boy,’ an NYPD spokeswoman said.” CBSNewYork reported: “Orta’s mother, Emily Mercado, said police have been following her son ever since he recorded Garner’s arrest.” The report quotes his wife, Chrissie Ortiz, stating: “The day after they declare it a homicide, you find someone next to him with a gun, and you saw him pass it off? Out in public when he knows he’s in the public spotlight? It makes no sense.”

Police Killing and the Criminalization of Poverty

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Video of Walter Scott’s killing has shed a light on the actions of the police officer involved and somewhat, on police conduct generally — but a recently released report highlights how minor infractions ruin lives. The report begins: “Poor people, especially people of color, face a far greater risk of being fined, arrested, and even incarcerated for minor offenses than other Americans. A broken taillight, an unpaid parking ticket, a minor drug offense, sitting on a sidewalk, or sleeping in a park can all result in jail time. In this report, we seek to understand the multi-faceted, growing phenomenon of the ‘criminalization of poverty.'” See PDF of the report.

Huffington Post reports: “The confrontation started when [North Charleston Police Officer Michael] Slager had reportedly pulled over Scott because of a broken taillight. It escalated into a foot chase as Scott allegedly fled because there were family court-issued warrants for his arrest.”

The Los Angeles Times reports: “The victim was engaged to be married and worked for a trucking supply company, L. Chris Stewart [who is representing the Scott family] said. The attorney said Scott was driving a used Mercedes he had recently purchased from a neighbor and was on his way to buy parts for the car when Slager encountered him.”

KAREN DOLAN, karen at ips-dc.org, @karendolan
JODI L. CARR, jodicarr at verizon.net
Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and directs the Criminalization of Poverty Project. Carr is a research associate with the group and a doctoral student in education policy at George Mason University. They co-wrote a recently-released report: “The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty,” which includes an introduction by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Dolan said today: “The situation that led to the alleged murder of Walter Scott by a white police officer in North Charleston, S.C. is, sadly, indicative of the crisis created by the growing criminalization of poverty in America.

“Poor people are targeted and aggressively policed for minor infractions such as the broken taillight on Mr. Scott’s car. Once pulled over, other debts or warrants for similar misdemeanors may show up, resulting in arrest and jail time and increased spiraling of debt. Lives are ruined.

“When you put that overwrought situation in the middle of the factors that cause racial profiling and aggressive police action against black men, you get the killing of Walter Scott.”

See Dolan’s piece “The Poor Get Prison: The Alarming Spread of the Criminalization of Poverty.”

*Obama in Latin America* Assessing AIPAC

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President Obama is making his first trip south of the U.S. border since February of 2014. On April 9, he will be in Kingston, Jamaica for meetings with Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller and the leaders of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), an organization made up of 15 Caribbean governments. Then on April 10 and 11, he will be in Panama City, Panama where he’ll participate in the seventh Summit of the Americas alongside the leaders of every independent government in the hemisphere including — for the first time — the Republic of Cuba.

MARK WEISBROT, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @Dan_Beeton
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which has just released a primer on Obama’s trip. Weisbrot also just wrote the pieces “Obama Should Put an End to Extreme Austerity in Jamaica” and “Obama Could Face Another Disastrous Summit Due to Sanctions Against Venezuela.”

There has been a great deal of discussion of the U.S.-Israeli relationship recently. On Friday, an all-day conference at the National Press Club examines “The Israel Lobby: Is It Good for the U.S.? Is It Good for Israel?

For more information on the conference or to arrange an interview with the organizers or participants, contact: Delinda C. Hanley, news_editor at wrmea.org or Grant F. Smith.

Participants include:

Miko Peled is an Israeli writer and activist living in the U.S.; he is author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. Former congressman Paul Findley is the author of They Dare To Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s LobbyNick Rahall is a former member of congress from West Virginia. Paul Pillar is a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University. M.J. Rosenberg is a writer, primarily on matters relating to Israel; he is former editor of AIPAC’s Near East Report and as senior adviser to then-Executive Director Thomas Dine. Seth Morrison has held leadership posts in various local, regional and national Jewish organizations, starting in college as a youth leader in Young Judea. He is currently active in Jewish Voice for Peace.

Amani Alkhatahtbeh is the founding editor-in-chief of MuslimGirl.net. Gideon Levy is a columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz and a member of its editorial board.

Grant F. Smith is the director of the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy and is the author of two unofficial histories about the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: America’s Defense Line: The Justice Department’s Battle to Register the Israel Lobby as Agents of a Foreign Government and Foreign Agents: AIPAC from the 1963 Fulbright Hearings to the 2005 Espionage Scandal.

See the full list of speakers and other information on the conference.

Should the U.S. be on Cuba’s State Terrorism List?

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USA Today states in “Obama’s next Cuba step: The state terrorism list” that “President Obama held an historic meeting Saturday with Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, but held off on a major announcement: Whether to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.”

KEITH BOLENDER, bolodive at gmail.com
Bolender is a freelance journalist and author of Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba (Pluto Press 2010). He said today, “President Obama is soon to announce the removal of Cuba from the State Department list of states that sponsor terrorism, a designation that has long been opposed by the Castro government for its hypocrisy based on the long history of terrorism the United States has supported against Cuba. The Cuban side has claimed more than 3,000 of its citizens have been victimized by acts of terrorism dating back to the 1960s, conducted in the majority by violent anti-revolutionary Cuban-American organizations based in Florida, often with the backing of the American government. Acts include the destruction of Cubana Airlines flight 455 in 1976, resulting in the deaths of all 72 on board, as well as the bombing campaign against Cuban tourist facilities in 1997. Cuban-American Luis Posada Carriles, the acknowledged mastermind of the Cubana Airlines and tourist bombings, continues to reside in Miami, despite requests for his extradition to Havana. Other acts of terrorism against Cuban civilian targets include the torture and killing of Cuban students for teaching adults to read and write during the Literacy Campaign in 1961; the introduction of biological germs such as Dengue 2 that resulted in the death of more than 100 children; attacks on small villages and the psychological terror program known as Operation Peter Pan that convinced thousands of Cuban parents to send their children out of country.”

U.S. – Cuba Relations Improve But Issues Remain for Others in Region 

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BBC recently reported: “The Summit of the Americas brings together the leaders of North, Central and South America. This, the seventh, is the first which Cuba attended… As U.S. ties with Cuba improve, those between Venezuela and Washington remain fractious. The U.S. imposed sanctions last month on a group of Venezuelan officials it accuses of human rights abuses. Mr Obama also issued an executive order declaring Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security.”

AVIVA CHOMSKY, achomsky at salemstate.edu
Aviva Chomsky is a historian, activist and author of eight books, including The Cuba Reader and A History of the Cuban Revolution. She teaches at Salem State University in Massachusetts, where she is also the coordinator of the Latin American studies program.

She said today: “President Obama has received a lot of credit for partially reversing half a century of hostility and taking steps to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. He himself attributed the change to his recognition that ‘isolation has not worked.’ More likely, the threat of numerous Latin American leaders to boycott the Panama Summit if Cuba was prohibited from attending played a major role in both the recognition and the timing. Obama’s historic meeting with Raúl Castro led many to conclude that the end of the Cold War had finally arrived to the Americas.

“The end of the Cold War, maybe. But not the end to a much more deeply-rooted historical commitment on the part of the United States to impose its will on Latin American countries. Obama has not rescinded the U.S. intention to ‘change’ the Cuban government, or more generally, the U.S. assumption that it has the right to dictate to Latin American countries what kinds of government are acceptable. In the double-speak of U.S. foreign policy pronouncements, Obama claims that the United States will continue, by means other than diplomatic isolation, to attempt to bring about ‘democracy’; ‘freedom’; and ‘human rights’ in Cuba. From a Latin American perspective, the implication is clear: the United States reserves the right to determine what these grand terms mean, and impose its will. Meanwhile, the United States imposed sanctions on Venezuela, labeling the country an ‘unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.’ Obama then claimed that Venezuela should not take the designation seriously, though he also refused to rescind it. While Latin America’s leaders have welcomed Obama’s apparent willingness to open dialogue, they are—and should be—wary that the same arrogant and aggressive policies are merely being offered with some new window dressing.”

Repealing the Estate Tax: “Today’s Merely Wealthy Become Tomorrow’s Obscenely Rich” 

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Bloomberg reported: “The House of Representatives will vote this week on the latest effort to repeal the tax, which is now paid by only 0.2 percent of U.S. estates. Republicans are drawing attention to what they see as an unjust levy by bringing up the legislation at the annual tax-filing deadline.

“They’re also shrugging aside criticism from President Barack Obama, who calls the plan a budget-busting handout to the nation’s wealthiest families at a time when lawmakers should focus on the middle class. Instead, they’re moving in the opposite direction, making repeal more attractive for business owners and creating an even wider gap between the parties on how to tax inherited wealth.”

SCOTT KLINGER, sklinger at foreffectivegov.org
Klinger is Director of Revenue and Spending Policies at the Center for Effective Government. He recently wrote the piece “From Class to Caste: How Congress Is Set to Accelerate Inequality by Repealing the Estate Tax,” which states: “This week the Republican-controlled House of Representatives plans to pass legislation that would accelerate inequality ensuring today’s merely wealthy become tomorrow’s obscenely rich.

“Those who want to repeal the estate tax have labeled it ‘the death tax,’ but they couldn’t be further from the truth. More than 99.8 percent of Americans who inherit money or property from a loved one get a big tax break. Only one in five members of the top 1 percent pays any estate tax. And those fortunate few who have enough wealth to be subject to the tax pay less than two dimes in tax on every dollar in the estate. …

“Congress is on the path to creating a permanent class of Americans who never have to work or pay taxes.

“If Congress eliminates the estate tax, America will move closer to becoming an aristocracy of inherited wealth where your lot in life will be determined more by the family you were born into, instead of your hard work and creativity.”

Anthrax: Lawsuit Alleges F.B.I. Hiding Evidence 

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Bruce E. Ivins

The New York Times recently reported: “When Bruce E. Ivins, an Army microbiologist, took a fatal overdose of Tylenol in 2008, the government declared that he had been responsible for the anthrax letter attacks of 2001, which killed five people and set off a nationwide panic, and closed the case.

“Now, a former senior F.B.I. agent who ran the anthrax investigation for four years says that the bureau gathered ‘a staggering amount of exculpatory evidence’ regarding Dr. Ivins that remains secret. The former agent, Richard L. Lambert, who spent 24 years at the F.B.I., says he believes it is possible that Dr. Ivins was the anthrax mailer, but he does not think prosecutors could have convicted him had he lived to face criminal charges.”

See Courthouse News piece: “Former Agent Says FBI Memo Cost Him New Job,” which states: “Lambert says part of the reason he was unfairly targeted was due to a whistleblower report he filed in 2006 about the mismanagement of an investigation into 2001 anthrax letters.”

MERYL NASS, M.D., merylnass at gmail.com, @NassMeryl
Nass writes at the Anthrax Vaccine blog.

GRAEME MACQUEEN, gmacqueen at cogeco.ca
MacQueen is founder of the Centre for Peace Studies at McMaster University and author of the book The 2001 Anthrax Deception.

The day before the New York Times article appeared, Nass wrote about the case on her blog and highlighted these allegations from the legal action:

“While leading the investigation for the next four years, Plaintiff’s efforts to advance the case met with intransigence from the Washington Field Office’s (WFO) executive management, apathy and error from the FBI Laboratory, politically motivated communication embargoes from FBI Headquarters, and yet another preceding and equally erroneous legal opinion from Defendant Kelley – all of which greatly obstructed and impeded the investigation. …

“WFO’s insistence on staffing the AMERITHRAX investigation principally with new Agents recently graduated from the FBI Academy resulting in an average investigative tenure of 18 months with 12 of 20 Agents assigned to the case having no prior investigative experience at all…

“The FBI Laboratory’s deliberate concealment from the Task Force of its discovery of human DNA on the anthrax-laden envelope addressed to Senator Leahy and the Lab’s initial refusal to perform comparison testing…

“The FBI’s subsequent efforts to railroad the prosecution of Ivins in the face of daunting exculpatory evidence. Following the announcement of its circumstantial case against Ivins, Defendants DOJ and FBI crafted an elaborate perception management campaign to bolster their assertion of Ivins’ guilt. These efforts included press conferences and highly selective evidentiary presentations which were replete with material omissions. …

“Plaintiff continued to advocate that while Bruce Ivins may have been the anthrax mailer, there is a wealth of exculpatory evidence to the contrary which the FBI continues to conceal from Congress and the American people.”

Background: The anthrax attacks, coming right after the 9/11 attacks, were used by pundits to galvanize the public for war in 2001 — against Afghanistan and against Iraq. For example on October 17, 2001, Andrew Sullivan wrote “The Coming Conflict,” which states: “We have to extend it to Iraq. It is by far the most likely source of this weapon (anthrax); it is clearly willing to use such weapons in the future; and no war against terrorism of this kind can be won without dealing decisively with the Iraqi threat. We no longer have any choice in the matter. Slowly, incrementally, a Rubicon has been crossed. The terrorists have launched a biological weapon against the United States. They have therefore made biological warfare thinkable and thus repeatable. We once had a doctrine that such a Rubicon would be answered with a nuclear response. We backed down on that threat in the Gulf War but Saddam didn’t dare use biological weapons then. Someone has dared to use them now. Our response must be as grave as this new threat.”

Official Leaks: “These Senior People Do Whatever They Want”

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Leon Panetta [left] and Mark Boal [right]

The Project on Government Oversight recently released government documents showing “CIA staff worked closely with ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ filmmakers and used White House-approved talking points about the intelligence used to locate Osama bin Laden.” See: “New Documents in Zero Dark Thirty Affair Raise Questions of White House Sanctioned Intelligence Leak and Inspector General Coverup.”

Marcy Wheeler just wrote “Official Leaks: ‘These Senior People Do Whatever They Want’” at ExposeFacts.org: “The CIA Director decided to partner with big Hollywood to write a selective version of the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and the rest of CIA and DOD had to fall in line, going so far as exposing some of the SEAL team members’ identities.”

LARRY JOHNSON, lcjohnson1 at me.com, @larrycjohnson
Johnson worked as a CIA intelligence analyst and State Department counter-terrorism official. He now writes at noquarterusa.net.

He said today: “I have a friend who was at that awards ceremony and he said the SEALS were visibly angry when Leon Panetta walked in with [‘Zero Dark Thirty’ screenwriter] Mark Boal. This is one more example of national security info being sacrificed for political expedience. …

“The public needs to understand what’s happening here: The government is prosecuting people who are alerting us to actual wrongdoing — while allowing actually potentially damaging national security information to be out there when the higher ups want it even though it hasn’t been properly declassified.”

Cáceres, Threatened Honduran, Wins Biggest Enviro Award

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Berta Cáceres

The Guardian reports today in “Honduran indigenous rights campaigner wins Goldman prize” that “The odds of survival, let alone success, could hardly be more stacked against Berta Cáceres, the Honduran indigenous rights campaigner who has been declared the winner of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize. [Note: Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández is in Washington, D.C. and will be speaking — along with Secretary of State John Kerry, Chris Christie and others — at a conference Tuesday. He will actually be interviewed by former Director of National Intelligence and ambassador to Honduras John Negroponte.]

“Working in the most murderous country in the world for environmental activists, the mother of four is facing down one of Central America’s biggest hydropower projects, powerful landowners, a U.S.-funded police force, and a mercenary army of private security guards.

“She has received threats of rape and death, been followed, and several of her supporters have been killed, yet those suspected of such wrongdoings have walked free while Cáceres has been forced into hiding and courts have twice issued warrants for her arrest.

“The Goldman prize — the world’s leading environmental award — is a recognition for the courage she has shown in a long and — so far — effective battle to stop construction of the Agua Zarca cascade of four giant dams in the Gualcarque river basin.

“The project — which is being built by local firm Desa with the backing of international engineering and finance companies — would choke the main source of irrigation and drinking water for the community. …

“In 2013, China’s Sinohydro — the largest dam builder in the world — backed out of the Agua Zarca project, saying it was concerned about ‘serious conflicts’ and ‘controversial land acquisition and invasion’ by its local partner. International Rivers and Friends of the Earth are calling upon a German company, Voith Hydro, to end all involvement in the scheme, which has yet to begin construction.”

BEVERLY BELL, bev.otherworlds at gmail.com
Bell is coordinator of the group Other Worlds and associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. For 15 years, Bell has been a close collaborator with Cáceres’ and the group she coordinates, the National Council of Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (better known by its Spanish acronym COPINH).

She said today: “Berta likes to say that Honduras is known only for having been a Contra base and for Hurricane Mitch. But that country also hosts a powerful social movement which has taken on unaccountable government, multinational corporations and oligarchy run amok, and U.S. military domination — the U.S. has numerous bases there and even sent down Marines last week. Berta has led COPINH, which she founded in 1993, to become one of the most effective players in that social movement. COPINH — led by Lenca indigenous people, including Berta — has, furthermore, championed the indigenous struggle, winning collective land title and then throwing out many a dam and logging company from those lands.”

PORFIRO QUINTANO, porfirio31 at yahoo.com
Quintano has known Cáceres since high school in the 1980s. He now lives in the U.S., but has continued his involvement in Honduran movements. He said today: “Mining and other corporations go to Honduras and take the resources. The government is corrupt and they do what they want.”

Lynch’s “Sweetheart Deal” with HSBC

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The New York Times reports: “Senate, Clearing Hurdle, Sets a Thursday Vote on Loretta Lynch.”

Corporate Crime Reporter in “Vitter Pushes Whistleblower Claim of Cameron Ties to Deferred Prosecution of HSBC” is now reporting: “Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) is pushing U.S. Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch for more information regarding her involvement in a settlement agreement with HSBC. … Vitter is asking Lynch about whistleblower allegations that Prime Minister Cameron urged President Obama not to pursue a criminal prosecution against HSBC for fear that it would result in HSBC losing its U.S. banking charter and would no longer be able to conduct business in the United States.” [audio report]

WILLIAM BLACK, blackw at umkc.edu, @williamkblack
Black is an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A former bank regulator who led investigations of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, he is the author of the book The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One. He recently wrote the piece “HSBC Violates its Sweetheart Deal and Lynch Praises It.” Note: Black is currently traveling and is therefore available for only a limited number of interviews.

BARTLETT NAYLOR, bnaylor at citizen.org, @bartnaylor
Naylor is financial policy advocate with Public Citizen and formerly chief of investigations for the U.S. Senate Banking Committee. He wrote recently that Lynch “became the chief attorney for an ongoing probe into HSBC’s money laundering crimes in 2010, during her assignment as the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York. At roughly the same time, the U.S. government received a damning trove of evidence from French officials against HSBC regarding tax evasion.” See an interview with Naylor on “too big to fail” banks, which addresses Lynch’s HSBC agreement.

NOMI PRINS, nomi at nomiprins.com, @nomiprins
Prins’ books include All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power. She said today: “Despite Loretta Lynch’s path to nomination being … cleared by immigration-related compromises, her prior treatment of HSBC remains highly problematic. Her deferred prosecution agreement and related $1.9 billion fine for HSBC’s substantive, illegal violations of U.S. laws and sanctions, and its provision of money laundering avenues for drug traffickers sadly became a partisan fight, rather than a bi-partisan moment of critical reflection and repositioning on judicial policies that coddle mega corporate criminals.”

Also see Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “HSBC Scandal: Why Did DOJ Ignore Whistleblower?

Baltimore: Policing and “Pathology of Murder”

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freddie gray deathCNN is reporting this morning: “As protesters decrying Freddie Gray’s death plan more rallies in Baltimore on Thursday, anger is mounting over a police union’s comparison of the protest to a ‘lynch mob.’ … One video of Gray’s arrest shows officers dragging him to the paddy wagon, his legs dangling limply behind him.”

The Real News Network is based in Baltimore and has been doing a series of in-depth pieces on systemic issues in the city: “The Real Baltimore.”

JAISAL NOOR, jaisal at therealnews.com, @jaisalnoor
Noor is a host, producer, and reporter for The Real News Network and largely grew up in Baltimore. See his report on protests beginning just after the death of 25 year-old Baltimore resident Freddie Gray: “Baltimore Man Dies From Injuries Sustained While In Police Detention.” Earlier this year, he did a three part series: “Why Do We Kill? The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore,” where he interviews Stephen Janis and Kelvin Sewell.

STEPHEN JANIS, stephen at therealnews.com
Janis is an award-winning investigative reporter now with The Real News. He is author of two books exposing corruption and incompetence in the Baltimore police department, which examine the confluence of poverty, poor governance, and racial mistrust that fuels violence in the city: You Can’t Stop Murder: Truths About Policing in Baltimore and Beyond and Why Do We Kill?: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore. The second book is co-written with Kelvin Sewell, a veteran Baltimore police officer and now chief of police of Pocomoke on the Eastern shore of Maryland, who recounts in an interview with The Real News how he’d ask suspects to recite the alphabet — none of the people he asked the question to who were convicted of murder were able to do so.

Janis’ recent storys include “The True Toll of Policing in Baltimore – The Arrest of a 7-Year-Old” and “A Walk Through The Neighborhood Where Freddie Gray Lived and Died,” in which he reports: “Last week before Freddie Gray’s death we happened to be in the neighborhood taking a tour of the conditions of Gilmor Homes where Freddie lived before he was killed by police. Gilmor Homes has suffered neglect from the city. Specifically, a basketball court. It was here that we met Lawrence Bell, former city council president, and talked about problems with the city, and the conditions that precipitate police brutality in the community.

“[Bell] was a man who could have been mayor, but his life took a different path when he lost a controversial election to a then-councilman and now presidential candidate Martin O’Malley in 1999. In many ways it was a loss that has defined the city since.” See also: “Unconstitutional Policing and the Toxic Relationship Between Cops and Baltimore Communities

MARSHALL “EDDIE” CONWAY, eddie at therealnews.com
Conway was a leader of the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party and was released from prison on March 4, 2014 after having served 43 years and 11 months. He is currently a producer at the Real News Network. He has interviewed people who witnessed Gray’s detention by police and states that Gray was severely injured before the released video was shot.

In December, The Real News held a town hall: “Should the Community Control the Police?” Conway said then that the police department’s “primary mission is to protect wealth and property and to protect those people that are wealthy and that own that property. And the reaction in the community is to keep the community completely under control, those people that don’t have any wealth and don’t have any power. They have to maintain a certain level of control. And now what we’re seeing is there’s no jobs in the community for a large segment of people, so that means that there’s always going to be always some sort of sub-economy going on. There’s going to be illegal activity. And that activity has to be controlled, suppressed, and whatnot, so that it doesn’t go to the inner harbor or it doesn’t go to people of power. And so pretty much the mandate is to control.” Also see his interview: “What Can The People Do to Challenge Systemic Racism in Baltimore?” Other interviews with and by Conway are here.

Petraeus “Sweetheart Deal” Exposes Obama’s War on Whistleblowers

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petreaus and sterlingReuters is reporting: “Former U.S. military commander and CIA director David Petraeus will appear in federal court in North Carolina on Thursday to face sentencing for allegedly leaking secrets to a mistress who was writing his biography.” Many, especially whistleblower advocates, contrast the light sentence — a fine and probation — Petraeus is widely expected to receive today with the harsh sentences whistleblowers have faced from Obama administration prosecutions.
Seven whistleblowers will be speaking to this and related issues at a news conference organized by ExposeFacts: “The Obama Administration’s War on Whistleblowers” on Monday. Speakers will include: William Binney (NSA), Thomas Drake (NSA), Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), Raymond McGovern (CIA), Jesselyn Radack (Justice Department), Coleen Rowley (FBI) and Kirk Wiebe (NSA) — see media advisory.

The Star-Ledger in a recent editorial titled “Eric Holder’s brand of justice: Whistleblowers whacked, all-star generals walk” writes that: “What makes it galling is how Petraeus compares to men like Jeffrey Sterling.” Sterling is facing decades in prison for allegedly disclosing information to New York Times reporter James Risen about an apparently bungled CIA plot to give flawed nuclear plans to Iran. He was to be sentenced tomorrow (Friday) — immediately after Petraeus’ deal is finalized today — but his sentencing has been delayed and is now scheduled for May 11.

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com, @emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” investigative journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at emptywheel.net. She just wrote the piece “DOJ Claims Grossly Disparate Treatment Will “Promote Respect for the Law.” Past related articles include “David Petraeus Gets Hand-Slap for Leaking, Two Point Enhancement for Obstruction of Justice.”

See also Wheeler’s piece: “Desmond Tutu Calls for Justice for Jeffrey Sterling, Citing Petraeus Deal.”

JOHN KIRIAKOU, jkiriakou at me.com, @johnkiriakou
Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Real News recently conducted a series of interviews with him, available here, and reports he “was recently released from prison after serving 23 months of a 30 month sentence for exposing the CIA’s illegal torture program. … He’s under house arrest after spending 23 months in jail.”

Kiriakou said today: “I don’t think General Petraeus should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act, just as I don’t think I should have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Yet only one of us was. Both Petraeus and I disclosed undercover identities (or confirmed one in my case) that were never published. I spent two years in prison; he gets two years probation.”

JESSELYN RADACK, jradack at whistleblower.org, @jesselynradack
Radack is the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project (GAP), the nation’s leading whistleblower organization. She will be speaking at the ExposeFacts news conference on Monday and said today: “Petraeus’ sweetheart plea deal, likely a $40,000 fine and two years of probation, for leaking classified information shows how deep the government’s hypocrisy is when prosecuting whistleblowers. I’ve had national security whistleblower clients who have disclosed far less sensitive information in the public interest and have faced decades in jail under Espionage Act charges. Patraeus’ comparative slap on the wrist shows the government has plenty of options when dealing with whistleblowers — I wish my clients could get such lenient sentences.

“Petreaus’ light sentence makes clear that the consequences for whistleblowing are far more severe than the negligible consequences for Petreaus’ leaks. GAP’s whistleblower clients lost their careers and spent millions on legal fees while Petraeus was able to retain his security clearance, advise the White House, make lucrative speeches across the globe, and pull in a massive salary as a partner in one of the world’s biggest private-equity firms.

“The fact that Petraeus is the recipient of a such a comparatively light sentence is of particular significance considering that three most recent directors of the CIA — Leon E. Panetta, Petraeus and John O. Brennan — have all leaked classified information casually, regularly and with impunity.

“The leak prosecution double standard makes clear that the Obama administration’s record breaking number of Espionage Act prosecutions has nothing to do with protecting classified information and everything to do with punishing and silencing whistleblowers. If leaks were the real concern, Petraeus would receive punishment as harsh as the government demanded for other accused leakers.”

Myths on * Yemen * Armenian Genocide

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FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Tackling America’s Toughest Questions. He said today: “The U.S. blockade of Yemen is illegal. A naval blockade is an act of war and the administration has no authorization from the U.S. Congress or the Security Council for this.”

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Porter is an investigative journalist and author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He recently wrote the piece “Houthi arms bonanza came from Saleh, not Iran” for Middle East Eye.

“As the Saudi bombing campaign against Houthi targets in Yemen continues, notwithstanding a temporary pause, the corporate media narrative about the conflict in Yemen is organized decisively around the idea that it is a proxy war between Iran on one side and the Saudis and United States on the other.

USA Today responded like Pavlov’s dog this week to a leak by Pentagon officials that it was sending the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt to the waters off Yemen, supposedly to intercept Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthis.  It turned out that the warship was being sent primarily to symbolize U.S. support for the Saudis, and the Pentagon made no mention of Iranian arms when it announced the move.  But the story of the U.S. Navy intercepting Iranian arms was irresistible, because it fit so neatly into the larger theme of Iran arming and training the Houthis as its proxy military force in Yemen. …

“According to Pentagon documents acquired under the Freedom of Information Act by Joseph Trevithick, the Defense Department had delivered about $500 million in military hardware to the Yemeni military from 2006 on. … A significant part of that weaponry and equipment was scooped up by Houthi fighters on their way into Sanaa…”

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ, rdunbaro@pacbell.net, @rdunbaro
Dunbar-Ortiz is author or editor of seven books, including the recently-released An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. Commemorations for the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide begin Friday. While many are criticizing the Turkish government for not acknowledging the Armenian genocide, she said today: “The United States has not acknowledge Armenian genocide either, nor any other genocide in the past except the Holocaust. The U.S. finally signed the Genocide Convention 40 years after its writing, in 1988, but even then taking exception to most of the key elements that would apply to the United States’ genocidal policies and actions against the Indigenous Peoples it invaded and colonized who still exist under U.S. colonial institutions. The U.S. historical profession remains complicit in this denial, dismissing the work of Native American historians and other scholars.”

Former U.N. Envoy Says Yemen Political Deal was Close Before Saudi Airstrikes Began

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The New York Times reports: “Warplanes of the Saudi-led military coalition bombed targets in the Yemeni capital on Sunday for the first time since Saudi officials said they were shifting the focus of their campaign against a Yemeni rebel group toward political negotiations and humanitarian relief.”

JOE LAURIA, joelauria at gmail.com
Lauria is United Nations correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. He just co-wrote the piece “Former U.N. Envoy Says Yemen Political Deal was Close Before Saudi Airstrikes Began,” which states: “Yemen’s warring political factions were on the verge of a power-sharing deal when Saudi-led airstrikes began a month ago, derailing the negotiations, the United Nations envoy who mediated the talks said.

“Jamal Benomar, who spearheaded the negotiations until he resigned last week, told the Wall Street Journal the Saudi bombing campaign against Iran-linked Houthi rebels has hardened positions on a key point — the composition of an executive body to lead Yemen’s stalled transition. This will complicate new attempts to reach a solution, he said.

“’When this campaign started, one thing that was significant but went unnoticed is that the Yemenis were close to a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides, including the Houthis,’ said Mr. Benomar, a Moroccan diplomat.

“Mr. Benomar is scheduled to address the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors on Monday and report on the suspended political talks.”

Baltimore: Police as “Occupation”

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The New York Times reports: “Maryland’s governor activated the National Guard on Monday and the city of Baltimore announced a curfew for all residents as a turbulent day that began with the funeral of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, the nation’s latest symbol of police brutality, ended with rioting by rock-throwing youths, arson, looting and at least 15 police officers injured.”

STEPHEN JANIS, stephen at therealnews.com, @TheRealNews
Janis, an award-winning Baltimore-based investigative reporter now with The Real News, is author of You Can’t Stop Murder: Truths About Policing in Baltimore and Beyond and co-author of Why Do We Kill?: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore. See two of his most recent reports: “In Freddie Gray’s Neighborhood, Residents Say Police Harassment is Constant” and “At Freddie Gray’s Funeral, A Call for Real Change.”

MARSHALL “EDDIE” CONWAY, eddie at therealnews.com
Conway is currently a producer at the Real News Network, which is based in Baltimore. In a new segment, he stresses that what’s going on in Baltimore is not just about “the death of Freddie Gray, but it was a situation in which the community didn’t have any support in terms of resources. The community suffered from the lack of opportunities for young people, there were no jobs in the community. Institutional racism, the way the police policed the area, was considered by a lot of the residents in the area to be an occupation. So eventually all the speakers [at Gray’s funeral] called for an investigation and they ended that with ‘No Justice, No Peace.’ …

“Maryland has the highest number of people killed in the last three years by a police department, 111 to date. It’s higher than any other state, 41 percent of them were unarmed, a large majority of them were black. … No police officers have been charged. And I think the difference between what’s happening here in Baltimore now and what happened in South Carolina just a month ago is that those officers were fired. An investigation was launched immediately. Here in Baltimore there has been no feedback whatsoever. There’s been silence from the government, there’s been silence from the police department. And young people in the street are not only frustrated, but they fear for their lives.”

In December, The Real News held a town hall: “Should the Community Control the Police?” Conway said then that the police department’s “primary mission is to protect wealth and property and to protect those people that are wealthy and that own that property. And the reaction in the community is to keep the community completely under control, those people that don’t have any wealth and don’t have any power. They have to maintain a certain level of control.”

Conway was a leader of the Baltimore chapter of the Black Panther Party and was released from prison on March 4, 2014 after having served 43 years and 11 months.

See Institute for Public Accuracy news release from Thursday: “Baltimore: Policing and “Pathology of Murder.”

Whistleblowers Weighing in on Policy

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Federal Times reports today on a news conference organized by ExposeFacts.org. The piece, “Whistleblowers stand by decisions despite career fallout,” says: “Urging more people like Edward Snowden and Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning to come forward … federal whistleblowers said it’s important to hold government accountable in the post-9/11 world and make sure Americans are as informed as they should be.”

John Hanrahan, a member of the ExposeFacts.org editorial board, just wrote “Whistleblowers vs. ‘Fear-Mongering.'” The piece states: “Seven prominent national security whistleblowers Monday called for a number of wide-ranging reforms — including passage of the ‘Surveillance State Repeal Act,’ which would repeal the USA Patriot Act — in an effort to restore the Constitutionally guaranteed 4th Amendment right to be free from government spying.” [See video]

“Several of the whistleblowers also said that the recent lenient sentence of probation and a fine for General David Petraeus — for his providing of classified information to his mistress Paula Broadwell — underscores the double standard of justice at work in the area of classified information handling. …

“In a news conference sponsored by the ExposeFacts project of the Institute for Public Accuracy at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., speakers included William Binney, former high-level National Security Agency (NSA) official; Thomas Drake, former NSA senior executive; Daniel Ellsberg, former U.S. military analyst and the Pentagon Papers whistleblower; Ray McGovern, formerly CIA analyst who chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s; Jesselyn Radack, former Justice Department trial attorney and ethics adviser, and now director of National Security and Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project; Coleen Rowley, attorney and former FBI special agent; J. Kirk Wiebe, 32-year former employee at the NSA.”

The following participants are available for interviews:

THOMAS DRAKE, tadrake at earthlink.net, @Thomas_Drake1
Available for a limited number of interviews, Drake said he personally was “throwing my weight behind” passage of H.R. 1466, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which was introduced by the bipartisan duo of Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) and Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky). According to its sponsors, the measure would remove NSA’s claimed justification for its bulk phone metadata accumulation, but would also repeal the FISA Amendments Act through which the government claims the right to spy on Internet users. The issue is coming up now because three key provisions of the Patriot Act expire later this month.

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley centered her remarks around a statement Obama made last week in apologizing for the deaths of two hostages — an American and an Italian — in a drone strike in Pakistan. Obama, she said, opined that “one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.”

“I wish that were true,” Rowley said. “That would be nice if we learned from our mistakes,” but instead the government is going in the opposite direction in areas such as the drone program, as witness the accidental killing of the hostages. Gathering an accurate assessment of intelligence is inherently going to happen at the bottom levels of intelligence agencies, Rowley said, so employees in the lower positions have to resist someone at the top stating a desired outcome and asking people at the bottom to tailor the intelligence accordingly. She said that government officials and employees’ “highest loyalty is to the rule of law itself.” That is where whistleblowers come in.

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com, @raymcgovern
McGovern said CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling (who is to be sentenced on May 11) was convicted on “the vaguest of circumstantial evidence” in a “case that was not proven” against him. The government showed that Sterling had had telephone conversations and email communication with New York Times reporter James Risen, who had previously written about Sterling’s workplace discrimination lawsuit against the CIA — and prosecutors apparently convinced the jury that they were not discussing Sterling’s discrimination suit, but rather his knowledge of a CIA plan to provide flawed nuclear weapons blueprints to Iran.

What was the lesson any intelligence agency employee might draw from the flimsy evidence used in the Sterling case? Said McGovern: “Do not speak to journalists.” And, especially, “don’t speak to James Risen.”

Contrasting Sterling’s situation (facing a possible long prison sentence) with Petraeus (walking free, with a $100,000 fine, which McGovern noted was three-fourths of a one-hour speaking engagement fee for the general), McGovern said: “Equal justice? Forget about it.”

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe said that the public and political response to the NSA surveillance disclosures has not been encouraging, and painted a dire picture of civil liberties abuses, the militarization of local police forces and the “de facto destruction of the Constitution.”

“I am now entering the phase where I am becoming frightened,” Wiebe said. “People have asked me, are we going to be able to get out of this mess…to turn the Titanic around?…I don’t see the way to miss hitting the iceberg.”

“We as a nation are more aware of these issues than ever before,” Wiebe said, but “we’ve become a society willing to look the other way in the face of wrongdoing,” adding: “We are no longer afraid of the police state happening. It’s here in small measures, in increasing measures, week by week, day by day…”

Nepal: Debt Relief Needed

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Reuters is reporting today: “People stranded in remote villages and towns across Nepal were still waiting for aid and relief to arrive on Tuesday, four days after a devastating earthquake destroyed buildings and roads and killed more than 4,600 people.”

ERIC LeCOMPTE, via Sophia Har, sophia at jubileeusa.org
LeCompte is executive director of the religious development coalition, Jubilee USA Network. The group put out the statement: “Aftershocks Pummel Highly Indebted Nepal: Poor Country Spends 217 Million Annually on Debt Payments.”

MARY DesCHENE, mdeschen at wustl.edu
DesChene is an anthropologist and is the co-founder and former editor of the journal Studies in Nepali History and Society. A research associate at Washington University in St. Louis, she is fluent in Nepali and has been conducting research in Nepal for more than three decades. From 2007 to 2009 she worked in Nepal’s Ministry of Health as policy advisor for social inclusion in the national health system. She has lived and worked in hill areas similar to the epicenter region as well as in the Kathmandu Valley. She is in contact with people from the government and non-government sector who are actively engaged in the recovery operation.

DesChene said today: “The immediate situation is obviously dire and a great deal of emergency relief aid is needed. However, Nepal has a great deal of expertise in critical sectors such as health, power infrastructure, etc. But with no local elected government since 2002, and a weak central government at present, the great challenge is going to be coordination of both foreign and domestic efforts for effective recovery. Just as the quake hit, in the political arena the process of writing a new constitution was at an impasse, and on the health front, the national health system was struggling to cope with a swine flu outbreak. In normal times, the health system is insufficient for the regular needs of the population.

“The Kathmandu Valley, with a population of 4 million, already had severe water and power shortages. Government response to a recent massive landslide indicates that the most affected rural areas are going to have to rebuild largely on their own. Besides immediate relief, there are critical steps that need to be taken prior to the monsoon. A massive rainwater harvesting initiative is needed in the Kathmandu Valley for example, to avoid cholera and typhoid epidemics. Such initiatives represent opportunity amid tragedy.

“Some of the worst kinds of unsustainable ‘development’ that having been turning Kathmandu into one of the most unhealthy cities in the world, may be able to be reversed in the rebuilding. Thus even during the unfolding tragedy, it is not too soon to raise serious questions about appropriate aid for the longer term rebuilding. In normal times the country’s planning processes and policy-making are heavily interfered with by the aid agencies. Despite talk to the contrary, aid agencies operate in such a way as to make themselves permanent, and government permanently dependent.

“Among the first acts of all the major aid agencies ought to be debt cancellation, freeing up government funds for rebuilding. The IMF has a new program under which Nepal should qualify for cancellation of its $54 million debt due to the scale of the disaster. A strong call for all major lenders to follow suit is important right now.”

Baltimore: Who are the Thugs?

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baltimore protestMARSHALL “EDDIE” CONWAY, eddie at therealnews.com, @TheRealNews
STEPHEN JANIS, stephenjanis at therealnews.com
JAISAL NOOR, jaisal at therealnews.com
Conway, Noor and Janis are producers with The Real News — an independent news organization based in Baltimore that is regularly posting new reports, interviews and other segments. Recent reports include: “How One Baltimore Community Reduced Murders Without the Police” and “Baltimore Bloods, Crips: We Don’t Need Police, We Protect Our Own.”

Conway is a former Black Panther leader in Baltimore who recently completed a 44-year prison sentence. His latest report is: “Mainstream TV’s Attention to Property Destruction Overshadows Killing of Freddie Gray.”

Janis wrote the book You Can’t Stop Murder: Truths About Policing in Baltimore and Beyond. His most recent report is: “Police Commissioner Says No New Evidence of Force-Related Injuries to Freddie Gray.”

Noor grew up in Baltimore. His most recent report is “Community Has Minimal Confidence in Freddie Gray Investigation, Says Baltimore Pastor.”

JARED BALL, imixwhatilike at gmail.com
Ball is associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University and author of I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto and A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X. His most recent segment for The Real News is: “‘Thugs,’ ‘Hooligans,’ and ‘Riots,’ Challenging Narratives with Dominque Stevenson,” which gets an “eye-witness account on the events that precipitated Monday’s #BaltimoreUprising.” Says Stevenson: “The city government made a choice to escalate the situation, which is what they did. They escalated it. They were circulating rumors all day long, and those kids in the school were hearing different rumors than the rumors that the police were circulating outside, where they’re talking about the gangs threatening them. … The way that people are using ‘thug’ and the way that term is coming out of their mouths it sounds like a euphemism for ‘nigger’ to me.”

AJAMU BARAKA, ajamubaraka2 at gmail.com
Baraka is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who is based in Colombia. He is also an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. He just wrote the piece “Baltimore and the Human Right to Resistance: Rejecting the Framework of the Oppressor.”

Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler at verizon.net
Hagler is with the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. He has been on the ground in Baltimore and is currently at the state capital in Annapolis, working on issues related to what is happening in Baltimore. He said today: “I was born and raised in Baltimore. My grandmother’s house — where I was raised — is just four blocks from where much of the attention is now. This was a thriving neighborhood when I grew up there, it now looks like a bomb hit it. Meanwhile, money is pouring into the Inner Harbor and the casinos in Baltimore.”

He recently wrote on Facebook: “Media may call it rioting, but the confrontations are targeted against law enforcement. It is clear that law enforcement has created such animosity and anger among young Black males here in [Baltimore] that the killing of Freddie Gray was the proverbial straw to break the camels back. Also, [Baltimore] political leaders cannot speak with any moral authority because they have presided all these years over increasingly devastated neighborhoods, unemployment and despair.”

See: “Despite Campaign Promises, Casinos, Not Schools, Are Big Winners When Gambling Profits Are Tallied.”

Baltimore: Veterans Groups Call for Withdrawal of National Guard

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Two national veterans organizations, Veterans For Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War, are calling for the immediate withdrawal of the Maryland National Guard from the streets of Baltimore.

MICHAEL McPHERSON, michaelvfp at gmail.com, @vfpnational
MATT HOWARD, mattwhoward at ivaw.org, @ivaw

McPhearson is executive director of Veterans For Peace. He said today: “We are horrified to see military weapons, vehicles and equipment deployed in U.S. cities against U.S. citizens who are reacting to a long history of state-sanctioned violence and appalling economic and social conditions. … We are highly concerned, as we approach the 45th anniversary of Kent State this May 4th and Jackson State this May 15th, that we will see another example of nervous and fearful National Guard troops shooting and possibly killing people in the streets of this nation.” See the statement from that group.

Howard is national coordinator for Iraq Veterans Against the War. The group said in a statement “IVAW Calls on the MD National Guard to Stand Down in Baltimore“: “As veterans who have deployed to and served in support of occupations abroad, we see some of the same tactics and military equipment being used by police against the people of Baltimore, just as it was used against the people of Ferguson and Oakland. The increased militarization of our foreign policy and our domestic policing, coupled with racist violence perpetuated by our government, has to stop. The people of Baltimore who are demanding systemic change should be responded to with dialogue not an escalation of force.

“We encourage National Guard members across the country, many of whom we have served with, to begin a conversation on how they will respond when it becomes their turn to be mobilized against their own communities.

Baltimore: * Curfew a Dress Rehearsal? * Israel Protests

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Top: Toronto 2010; Bottom: Baltimore 2015

Top: Toronto 2010; Bottom: Baltimore 2015

The New York Times reports: “In a pair of gestures on Sunday that suggested that this riot-scarred city was staggering toward normalcy, the National Guard began to pull its troops from Baltimore, and the mayor lifted a curfew that, after several days of relative calm, had come under mounting criticism.”

PAUL JAY, paul at therealnews.com, @TheRealNews, @PaulJay_TRNN
Jay is senior editor for The Real News, which is based in Baltimore and Toronto. He said in the segment over the weekend “Was Baltimore’s Curfew a Dress Rehearsal for Martial Law?“: “Why are they still spending millions and millions of dollars doing this? They know what’s going on. There’s no serious threat. There’s no question that the police have infiltrated most of the activist groups.

Paul continued: “So why are they still doing it? I think the answer is this is a training exercise. They think — and I think rightly so — that someday it’s not just gonna be some kids out there.

“Someday unemployment’s going to hit 15, 20, 25, 30 percent nationally. Now we’re already in some of the Baltimore poor communities on unemployment at those numbers but imagine what it might be when you have another big economic meltdown. They know serious mass protests are coming. I don’t know if one year, five years. You can’t just throw cops and national guards into a situation like that — especially when the people on the streets might be 20, 30, 40-year-old workers. When they hit the streets, it’s not like kids. You can’t throw your forces into this without getting trained.

“Now, this isn’t entirely speculation on my part. In Toronto, we covered the Toronto G20 [meeting, in 2010] where there were a thousand arrests for absolutely nothing. A few windows got broken by people that they knew very well because we know from court records they infiltrated the Black Bloc. They knew exactly where and when the windows were going to get broken. More so, the police infiltrators were the ones advocating breaking windows. … The police actually left the car out in the middle of the street — they knew ahead of time, because they infiltrated, where the march was going to go — and of course the car gets lit on fire and that becomes the iconic image of the whole thing. A massive, massive police presence, like what happened here [Baltimore].”

“So I asked someone I know who is very senior in the [Toronto] police department. … Is this just a bloody training exercise in like you can’t justify what’s going on based on the threat? And he said yeah, this is that.” See: “Protestors Defy the Curfew” and from 2012: “No Accountability Yet for Toronto G20 Police Crimes.”

JARED BALL, imixwhatilike at gmail.com, @imixwhatilike
Ball is associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University and author of I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto andA Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X. His most recent segment for The Real News is: “‘Thugs,’ ‘Hooligans,’ and ‘Riots,’ Challenging Narratives with Dominque Stevenson.”

He said today: “There is a case to be made that the ‘riot’ Monday (April 25) was a state-instigated event used for a variety of reasons: 1) To create a spectacle to drown out focus on Gray’s funeral. 2) To create a usable incident that would characterize protests or would create a false/straw argument of ‘violent’ vs. ‘peaceful’ protests. 3) Would allow for established religious and political leadership as ‘legitimate’ in their ability to maintain peace (when only the state could threaten it) and 4) To provide a ‘live’ training drill for state-wide police mobilization. There was never a threat of a real mass uprising and every ‘organized’ protest since Monday’s outburst was arranged by young, unseasoned and often non-Baltimore resident ‘activists’ who safely created a media spectacle of marches and protests, etc. but nothing that was the threat potentially represented in that initial uprising.”

AJAMU BARAKA, ajamubaraka2 at gmail.com
Baraka is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies who is based in Colombia. He is also an editor and columnist for Black Agenda Report. He recently wrote the piece “Baltimore and the Human Right to Resistance: Rejecting the Framework of the Oppressor.”

He recently posted on Facebook: “Why is there still a curfew in Baltimore and why aren’t more people outraged and calling for its removal? Answer — they are experimenting with tactics to completely clamp down on an urban area, occupy the space militarily and monitor the public response. And because most of the folks being repressed are poor black — and no one really gives a damn about the life of poor black folks, including the black middle-class — there is silence.”

The Washington Post reported Sunday: “Violence erupts as thousands of Ethiopian Israelis protest racism.” Baraka addressed this situation as well: “In largely peaceful demonstrations against racial discrimination that took place in Jerusalem, Ethiopians evoked the spirit of Baltimore. However, it was in the liberal bastion of Tel Aviv that the protests turned into a battle zone between the police and Ethiopian Israelis on Sunday. Like the black middle-class liberals of Baltimore who were incensed that the black rabble would rise up to question their authority, liberal authorities in Tel Aviv decided to violently disperse the largely peaceful demonstrators in Rabin Square in central Tel Aviv. And like the black liberals charged with upholding elite white power in the Baltimore, liberals charged with upholding Ashkenazi elite power in Tel Aviv did not understand that the people had reached a point in which the awesome power of the state no longer generated fear.”

Kerry in Somalia: U.S. Should Face Up to its Role in Disaster

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ABDI ISMAIL SAMATAR, samat001 at umn.edu
Samatar is professor and chair of the Department of Geography, Environment & Society at the University of Minnesota. He said today: “Kerry’s visit to Somalia seems more symbolism than anything else. It certainly won’t help the situation in Somalia. Kerry’s meeting with the so-called president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who is incredibly corrupt, will likely not help bring about the transition that is needed in Somalia. The regime in Mogadishu is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent and can not galvanize the Somali people.

“Additionally, Kerry said Kenya has a role to play in bringing stability to Somalia. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is the case. Kenya has been a major source of instability in Somalia. Kenya — as well as Ethiopia — must withdraw their troops from Somalia as well as their efforts to gerrymander politics in that country by supporting certain factions in Somalia.

“The international community, including Africans, have been not only oblivious to the plight of the Somali people, but have turned them into a disposable political football since the collapse of their state in 1991. For years the world watched warlord terrorists rape, loot and kill Somalis with impunity.

“The U.S. should face up to its role in bringing Somalia to its current state. It actually backed the warlords against the Union of the Islamic Courts (UIC), which was trying to bring some stability to the country. In 2005, the UIC defeated the warlords and created peace in Mogadishu for the first time in years and without any help from the international community. Rather than engaging with the UIC, the U.S. and its African clients considered them as terrorists and Ethiopia was given the green light to invade and dismantle it. Ethiopian forces took over Mogadishu on December 25, 2006, and the prospect of a peaceful resurrection of Somalia perished.”

See Samatar’s piece “The Nairobi massacre and the genealogy of the tragedy.”

Is Post Office Ignoring Internal Report on Sen. Feinstein’s Husband’s Real Estate “Shakedowns” and “Kickbacks”?

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IMG_5285The Intercept reports: “Government Says Company Part-Owned by Feinstein’s Husband Abuses Post Office Contract,” that “CBRE, a giant real estate company partially owned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, is costing the U.S. Postal Service millions of dollars a year in lease overpayments, and its exclusive contract should be immediately canceled, the service’s inspector general has found.

“Eyebrows rose when the USPS made the contract with CBRE in June 2011 for all real estate transactions. Blum chaired CBRE at the time; he stepped down last year, but remains a director and a major shareholder. Feinstein, D-Calif., has always denied involvement in the deal, which proved lucrative as the cash-strapped Postal Service looked to its excess real estate to finance operations.

“The contract enables CBRE to market and sell properties, and conduct negotiations for leases of postal buildings. Prior to the contract, USPS negotiated leases directly with landlords. Now, CBRE often represents both the Postal Service and the landlord in negotiations, known as ‘dual agency transactions.’

“The inspector general’s report described something akin to a shakedown, with a kickback thrown in.”

PETER BYRNE, pbyrne at sonic.net
Byrne is author of Going Postal: The Husband of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein has Been Selling Post Offices to his Friends, Cheap. He just wrote the piece: “The Inspector General of the U.S. Postal Service calls for the firing of the politically connected real estate firm that has been selling post offices to its friends, cheap,” which states: “The auditors examined 21 of the 49 property sales negotiated by CBRE in 2012 – 2013. They found serious problems with 66 percent of the deals. For example, appraisals for seven of the CBRE-brokered sales were deemed ‘insufficient,’ ‘flawed,’ ‘mistaken,’ or ‘speculative.’ …

Going Postal reported that in 2011 CBRE brokered the sale of a downtown Boston parcel to one of its major corporate owners and business partners, Goldman Sachs Group. And in 2012, CBRE brokered the sale of a Las Vegas post office to its client, Boyd Gaming, which turned around and sold it a few months later for $5 million more than it had paid to the Postal Service. …

“Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan’s spokesperson told me she will not terminate the CBRE contract, which runs indefinitely into the future. Nor will the Postal Service stop CBRE from demanding commissions from landlords or from representing buyers.”

GRAY BRECHIN, gbrechin at berkeley.edu
Brechin is founder and project scholar of the Living New Deal Project at UC Berkeley. He said today: “The OIG [Office of Inspector General] has largely confirmed what Byrne found almost two years ago. I can only hope that this leads to a criminal investigation and possible prosecution of both entities.That one of the most powerful senators in Congress should be benefiting from the sale of public properties through her billionaire spouse should have raised suspicion from the get go if the press was still doing its job, but, with few exceptions, it has chosen to look the other way.

“What the OIG and this story do not address is the degree to which the USPS has largely ignored its obligations under the Environmental Protection Act and the National Historic Preservation Act to steward publicly-owned properties of great historic and artistic merit. No other nation in the world possesses not only such fine buildings but a continent-spanning collection of artworks unique to their locations. (This is no accident since, as an avid stamp collector, President Franklin Roosevelt was keenly interested not only in the postal service and the post offices built during his administration but in the artworks that embellished them: he contributed to the design of six post offices near his home in Hyde Park, NY.) The National Trust for Historic Preservation has named U.S. Post Offices as among the nation’s most endangered treasures, but Americans are unaware of what is being taken from them because of the dereliction of the press which has largely swallowed the USPS line that it must liquidate our property because of a fiscal crisis that was largely manufactured by Congress in 2006 in order to privatize the Constituionally-mandated U.S. Postal Service.

“Finally, over the last two years, Berkeley has become the epicenter of resistance to these sales; activists held rallies and marched down Montgomery Street in San Francisco between Richard Blum’s offices and those of his wife, Senator Feinstein, for example, and the City of Berkeley and the National Trust recently successfully sued the USPS to stop the sale of Berkeley’s century-old, National Register-listed downtown post office. Other cities in danger of losing their historic post offices and the art they contain should know that they can do the same. We will be having a celebration of that victory and a thank you for the attorneys at the Post Office this Saturday.”

See 2013 IPA news release: “Is Sen. Feinstein Profiting From the Fire Sale of the Public’s Property and Art?

Also, see by Sam Husseini: “Questioning Post Master General Donahoe on Sell off of Buildings and Financial Services.”

Left and Right Team Up to Opposing “Patriot Act” Extension

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National Journal reports this morning: “A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of U.S. phone records is illegal, dealing a startling blow to the program just as Congress is weighing reforms to surveillance authorities.”

A host of groups and government surveillance whistleblowers have signed a letter stating:

“In the two years since Edward Snowden began disclosing proof of mass, warrantless surveillance of Americans and the rest of the world, surveillance proponents have had ample opportunity to provide proof of its efficacy, legality, and its necessity. They have failed to do so on every front. Instead, they have systematically misled both the public and Congress.

“Under incredible public pressure, the White House and surveillance agencies have telegraphed acquiescence to minimal reforms in exchange for extension of Section 215 via legislation that would also eviscerate numerous court challenges to lawless surveillance and provide for legal immunization and compensation of companies that provide the government with customers’ private information, even where that company knows it is unlawful.

“The sacrifices made by the USA FREEDOM Act of 2015 are unacceptable. The modest changes within this bill, in turn, fail to reform mass surveillance, of Americans and others, conducted under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and Executive Order 12333. Given intelligence agencies’eagerness to subvert any attempts by Congress to rein in massive surveillance programs by changing the legal authorities under which they operate, the modest, proposed changes are no reform at all.

“Section 215 was designed to sunset, and it is well past time that it did so. A vote for USA FREEDOM Act does too little to reform surveillance, and it does so at too great an expense. A vote against it, and against any law that reauthorizes Section 215, is the best step toward ending mass surveillance of Americans. We urge you to pursue such a path in defense of American civil liberties.”

Among the signers:

DAVID SEGAL, david at demandprogress.org, also via Mark Stanley, mark at demandprogress.org, @demandprogress
Segal is with the group Demand Progress, a “grassroots organization with 2 million affiliated activists who fight for Internet freedom, civil liberties, and government transparency and reform.”

NORM SINGLETON, norm.singleton at campaignforliberty.com, @C4Liberty
Singelton is with Campaign for Liberty, which works to “reclaim the republic and restore the Constitution.” USA Today reportedWednesday:  “A debate over the USA Patriot Act is spotlighting a split between security hawks and privacy advocates within the Republican congressional majority, and analysts say the privacy faction appears to have the upper hand.

See Singleton’s piece “What did the USA FREEDOM Act Mark-Up have in common with WrestleMania?” and other related articles here.

The Clintons and Their Banker Friends

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NOMI PRINS, via Jaime Leifer, jaime.leifer at publicaffairsbooks.com, @nomiprins
Prins’ latest book is All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances that Drive American Power, just out in paperback. Her piece, “The Clintons and Their Banker Friends, The Wall Street Connection (1992-2016),” was just published by TomDispatch.com.

Prins writes: “When Hillary Clinton video-announced her bid for the Oval Office, she claimed she wanted to be a ‘champion’ for the American people. Since then, she has attempted to recast herself as a populist and distance herself from some of the policies of her husband. But Bill Clinton did not become president without sharing the friendships, associations, and ideologies of the elite banking sect, nor will Hillary Clinton. Such relationships run too deep and are too longstanding.

“To grasp the dangers that the Big Six banks (JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) presently pose to the financial stability of our nation and the world, you need to understand their history in Washington, starting with the Clinton years of the 1990s. Alliances established then (not exclusively with Democrats, since bankers are bipartisan by nature) enabled these firms to become as politically powerful as they are today and to exert that power over an unprecedented amount of capital. Rest assured of one thing: their past and present CEOs will prove as critical in backing a Hillary Clinton presidency as they were in enabling her husband’s years in office. …

“No matter what spin is used for campaigning purposes, the idea that a critical distance can be maintained between the White House and Wall Street is naïve given the multiple channels of money and favors that flow between the two. It is even more improbable, given the history of connections that Hillary Clinton has established through her associations with key bank leaders in the early 1990s, during her time as a senator from New York, and given their contributions to the Clinton foundation while she was secretary of state. At some level, the situation couldn’t be less complicated: her path aligns with that of the country’s most powerful bankers. If she becomes president, that will remain the case.”

CIA Whistleblower Sentencing Today

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Nearly four months after a jury returned a guilty verdict on government charges that Jeffrey Sterling gave classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen, the former CIA officer is scheduled to be sentenced at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va. today.

The sentencing, by Judge Leonie Brinkema, is set for 2 pm. Immediately afterward, former CIA official Ray McGovern and former Justice Department official Jesselyn Radack will be available for comment in front of the courthouse.

McGovern and Radack — as well as NSA whistleblower Kirk Wiebe — will also be available for interviews later in the day. Contact information and summaries of their backgrounds are below.

Detailed coverage of the trial, which happened in January, is posted at ExposeFacts.org, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy. See letter from Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the case.

JESSELYN RADACK, jradack at whistleblower.org, @jesselynradack
Radack is the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project (GAP), the nation’s leading whistleblower organization. Radack wrote the new Salon article “The Shocking Court Case That Proves The Government’s Shameful Petraeus Hypocrisy.”

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com, @raymcgovern
McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years.

Ray McGovern, a retired CIA analyst turned political activist and speaker, chaired the National Intelligence Estimates in the 1980s. He prepared the daily briefs for presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush. For his CIA service he received the Intelligence Commendation Medal, which he returned in 2006 in protest of the CIA’s involvement in torture. In 2003, he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, an organization committed to analyzing and criticizing the use of intelligence. McGovern was one of four American whistleblowers who met with Edward Snowden in Russia in 2013 to present Snowden with an award for integrity in intelligence for providing NSA documents to the press.

Jesselyn Radack is the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project (GAP), the nation’s leading whistleblower organization. Her program focuses specifically on secrecy, surveillance, torture, and discrimination. She has been at the forefront of defending against the government’s unprecedented “war on whistleblowers,” which has also implicated journalists. Among her clients, she represents seven national security and intelligence community employees who have been investigated, charged or prosecuted under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information, including Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, and John Kiriakou. She also represents clients bringing whistleblower retaliation complaints in federal court and various administrative bodies. Previously, she served on the DC Bar Legal Ethics Committee and worked at the Justice Department for seven years, first as a trial attorney and later as a legal ethics advisor. Radack is author of TRAITOR: The Whistleblower & the “American Taliban”. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times,Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Guardian, The Nation, Salon, and numerous academic law reviews. Radack received the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence Award in 2011. She was named one of Foreign Policy magazine’s “Leading Global Thinkers of 2013,” and is a 2014 Woodrow Wilson Fellow.

J. Kirk Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for over 32 years. During his tenure there, he received the Director CIA’s Meritorious Unit Award and the NSA’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award – that Agency’s second highest distinction – for work against foreign strategic weapons systems. Wiebe’s colleague William Binney developed the ThinThread information processing system that, arguably, could have detected and prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks. NSA officials, though, ignored the program in favor of Trailblazer, a program that ended in total failure in 2005 with costs of billions of dollars. Wiebe, together with colleagues William Binney, Diane Roark (former HPSCI senior staffer), and Ed Loomis (former NSA computer systems analyst) blew the whistle on NSA mismanagement and waste of billions of dollars on Trailblazer in a complaint to the Department of Defense Inspector General (DoD IG), but to no avail. Post 9/11, the NSA used ThinThread to illegally spy on U.S. citizens’ communications. Unable to stay at NSA any longer in good conscience, Wiebe, along with colleagues Binney and Loomis retired in October 2001. Since retiring, Wiebe has made several key public disclosures regarding NSA’s massive surveillance program subverting the U.S. Constitution.

First Time: Voice of CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling

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invisible manFor the first time since he was indicted on Espionage Act charges more than four years ago, the voice of former CIA case officer Jeffrey Sterling is being heard by the public today in a documentary produced by ExposeFacts.org and just released by The Huffington Post. The film’s immediate audience includes hundreds of thousands of viewers of “Democracy Now,” which aired it this morning.

On Monday, Sterling was sentenced to 42 months in prison.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon was a producer for the film on behalf of ExposeFacts, which is a project of IPA. ExposeFacts extensively covered Sterling’s trial. Solomon is IPA’s executive director.

JUDITH EHRLICH, mousethatroaredfilm at gmail.com
Ehrlich is the director of the just-released short documentary “The Invisible Man: CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling.” Her past films include the Oscar-nominated “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.” She just wrote the short piece “On Jeffrey Sterling: From the Filmmaker of ‘The Invisible Man’,” which notes: “Jeffrey Sterling was convicted in large part on the basis of metadata — not the content of his communication.”

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com, @raymcgovern
McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. McGovern was quoted Monday in U.S. News and World Report: “Jeffrey Sterling Sentenced to 42 Months for Talking to Reporter.” He just wrote the piece “Punishing Another Whistleblower,” about the Sterling case.

McGovern said today: “It seems clear that the White House told the Department of Justice to make an example of Jeffrey Sterling — an example of what one can expect if s/he decides to blow the whistle….

“But the wrist-slap administered to former Gen. David Petraeus for far more egregious behavior — including lying to the FBI — made it indecorous for her [the judge] to mete out the draconian sentence, after which the Justice Department and White House were positively lusting. Plans for a draconian sentence for which DOJ had been pressing fell through and the pizzazz fizzled out of the intended deterrent effect.

“At the same time, the trial surfaced real questions. Were the CIA faulty blueprints foisted on Iran aimed at sabotaging any nuclear nuclear weapons program of Iran … and perhaps Iraq? For me that does not pass the smell test.

“Or was it something trickier still — actually too tricky by half — aimed at ‘discovering’ documentary evidence ‘showing’ how close Iran AND Iraq were to a nuclear weapon — and, of course, how much they need to be stopped.”

JESSELYN RADACK, jradack at whistleblower.org, @jesselynradack
Radack is the director of National Security & Human Rights at the Government Accountability Project. She said today: “Like all other whistleblowers prosecuted under the Espionage Act, Sterling is only guilty of embarrassing the government.

“If you’re a former CIA director like Petraeus and Panetta, you can leak with impunity or receive a slap on the wrist at most. As demonstrated by the Petraeus case, there are numerous other more appropriate ways to punish leaks. If you’re loyal to the truth rather than the CIA, you’ll be bludgeoned. While Sterling was sentenced to less jail time than the government asked for, the two-tiered system of justice is still unacceptable.

“Sterling is collateral damage in the government’s war on the media.

“Sterling is the latest casualty in the Obama administration’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers.

“The biggest leaker in the country is the United States government. They’re not doing damage assessments on their political leaks for propaganda or self-promotion purposes rather than the public interest.

“‘National security’ is not the U.S.’s reputation. If the government wants to stop being embarrassed, it should stop doing embarrassing things.”

Operation Merlin: Did CIA Seek to “Plant a Nuclear Gun” on Iran and Iraq?

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New York Times editorial today titled “Overkill on a CIA Leak Case” is critical of aspects of the government’s prosecution of CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling who was sentenced to 42 months on Monday.

But the Times claims that what Sterling did was disclose “details about a covert operation involving a former Russian scientist and CIA informant who gave Iran intentionally faulty schematics in an attempt to forestall the country’s nuclear capabilities.”

However, some evidence exposed in the course of the Sterling trail indicates that the intention of the operation — known as Operation Merlin, after the former Russian scientist’s code name — was not to forestall Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities.

Rather, the analysis indicates that ultimately, the main purpose of the program may have been to give Iran — and Iraq — nuclear weapons information that could then be used as a pretext to attack those countries for having such information.

DAVID SWANSON, david at davidswanson.org, @davidcnswanson
Swanson’s books include War is a Lie. He just wrote the piece “In Convicting Jeff Sterling, CIA Revealed More Than It Accused Him of Revealing,” which analyzes a secret cable that was made public in the course of the Sterling trial. Swanson writes: “During the course of Sterling’s trial, the CIA itself made public a bigger story than the one it pinned on Sterling. The CIA revealed, unintentionally no doubt, that just after the nuclear weapons plans had been dropped off for the Iranians, the CIA had proposed to the same asset that he next approach the Iraqi government for the same purpose.”

Swanson wrote back in January: “CIA on Trial in Virginia for Planting Nuke Evidence in Iran,” which states: “The stated motivation for Operation Merlin is patent nonsense that cannot be explained by any level of incompetence or bureaucratic dysfunction or group think.

“Here’s another explanation of both Operation Merlin and of the defensiveness of the prosecution and its witnesses … at the prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling which is thus far failing to prosecute Jeffrey Sterling. This was an effort to plant nuke plans on Iran.”

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com@raymcgovern
McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. McGovern was quoted Monday in U.S. News and World Report: “Jeffrey Sterling Sentenced to 42 Months for Talking to Reporter.” He just wrote the piece “Punishing Another Whistleblower,” about the Sterling case, which states: “The CIA was, of course, eager to help the Justice Department imprison Sterling as a message to other potential whistleblowers, not to divulge any secrets that might make the agency look bad. Never have I seen the agency release so much operational cable traffic to nail someone for supposedly revealing some operational secret.

“Many of the cables were redacted, but not redacted carefully enough to disguise what, in my opinion, was the real objective of the operation, which involved preparing nuclear weapons development blueprints to be given to Iran — and later possibly to Iraq.

“Those affable ‘case officers’ explained that the objective was to include serious design errors that would serve to impede progress on a workable nuclear weapon. For me, that never passed the smell test. It seemed more likely that the flawed blueprints were actually a ploy toward making a case that Iran and Iraq were secretly working on nuclear bombs.

“The thinking may have been: Why not create blueprints ‘showing’ how far along the Iranians (and possibly the Iraqis) were toward a nuclear weapon and then mount a daring clandestine collection operation to steal the blueprints back as proof of what the CIA and the White House wanted everyone to believe.

“Remember the ‘yellow-cake-uranium-from-Niger’ caper of a dozen years ago. That worked for a while until the International Atomic Energy Agency showed that the ‘evidence’ was a crude forgery. Yet the quest for learning how the caper began — and who was ultimately responsible — got lost in the byzantine strategies of George W. Bush’s White House to destroy a key whistleblower in that case, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson.”

Marcy Wheeler, who covered much of the Sterling trial for ExposeFacts.org wrote the piece “The Sterling Trial: Merlin Meets Curveball” in January. She made a series of parallels between the disinformation on Iraqi WMDs being used as a pretext for invading that country and details of Operation Merlin gleaned from the Sterling trial, for example: “On June 25, 2003, on the evening before George Tenet had to testify to Congress about why the U.S. had found no WMD in Iraq, CIA hailed the claims of an Iraqi nuclear scientist, Mahdi Obeidi, who claimed to have stashed a blueprint and working parts from an Iraqi centrifuge in a hole in his backyard since 1991. The story was riddled with internal contradictions, which didn’t stop Obeidi from having the almost unparalleled luck among Iraqi WMD scientists of settling in the vicinity of CIA headquarters. One of the oddest parts of Obeidi’s story is that the blueprints, purportedly developed in Iraq by Iraqis from German plans — which CIA briefly posted on its website, then took down — were in English.

“On April 30, 2003, less than two months before CIA would roll out those nuclear blueprints in English (and at a time when U.S. government officials were already working with Obeidi), Condoleezza Rice called New York Times‘ editors to the White House and persuaded them not to publish Risen’s story about Operation Merlin, in which (we now know) a Russian parts list rather curiously written in English were dealt to Iran back in 2000. Rice actually went further; she asked Times editor Jill Abramson to make Risen stop all reporting on this topic.”

ExposeFacts.org is a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

It’s Not Diplomacy, It’s an Arms Fair

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WILLIAM HARTUNG, whartung at ciponline.org
Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and a senior advisor to the Security Assistance Monitor. He just wrote the piece “It’s Not Diplomacy, It’s an Arms Fair,” about the White House “summit” with leaders from Arabian Peninsula monarchies which states: “In its first five years in office, the Obama administration entered into formal agreements to transfer over $64 billion in arms and defense services to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, with about three-quarters of that total going to Saudi Arabia. And new offers worth nearly $15 billion have been made to Riyadh in 2014 and 2015. Items on offer to GCC states have included fighter aircraft, attack helicopters, radar planes, refueling aircraft, air-to-air missiles, armored vehicles, artillery, small arms and ammunition, cluster bombs, and missile defense systems.”

A representative of Doctors Without Boarders has a piece in the Washington Post on Thursday: “The Saudi-led blockade is devastating Yemen.”

Earlier this week, AP reported: “Iran’s navy said Tuesday it will protect an aid ship traveling to Yemen.” (On Thursday, CNN stated: “Five Iranian boats fired shots across the bow of a Singapore flagged cargo vessel in the Persian Gulf on Thursday in an attempt to potentially stop the ship, a U.S. official told CNN.”)

ROBERT NAIMAN, naiman at justforeignpolicy.org, @naiman
Policy director of Just Foreign Policy, Naiman recently traveled to Iran to participate in the aid boat. He recently wrote the piece: “Is Saudi Arabia Now the Israel of the Gulf?

CALEB MAUPIN, calebmaupin at gmail.com
Maupin is a journalist and activist who is on the boat.

Military Policing: “First Step” by Administration

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The New York Times reports: “President Obama on Monday will ban the federal provision of some types of military-style equipment to local police departments and sharply restrict the availability of others, administration officials said.”

A PDF of the White House recommendations is here. The announcement, scheduled for 3:05 ET will be streamed here.

A leading expert on police militarization, Peter Kraska, just wrote the short piece “Cultural Shift Needed on Police Militarization” for IPA.

MICHAEL SHANK, michael.john.shank at gmail.com, @michael_shank
Adjunct faculty member at the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University who has worked extensively on police militarization, Shank said today: “The White House is sending the right message to the Fergusons and Baltimores of America: our cops shouldn’t look like, feel like or act like soldiers. The Obama administration’s plan to scale back substantially on federally-funded military gear gifts to U.S. police forces is the right response to America’s increasingly militarized municipalities. Congress should set this in stone before the next administration reverses it. But while the White House prohibits tank-type ‘tracked’ weaponized vehicles, police can still get ‘wheeled’ armored or tactical vehicles. That means MRAPs can remain on American main streets, and the Ferguson military fights of the future may still be federally-funded.”

JUSTIN HANSFORD, jhansfor at slu.edu, @blackstarjus
Assistant professor at the University of St. Louis School of Law, Justin said today: “This seems like a step in the right direction. But remember, neither Mike Brown, Freddie Gray, nor Eric Garner were killed with grenade launchers or tanks. Racial targeting and anti-black police violence can survive demilitarization. At the base, the danger is that this is a way to ‘deracialize’ the debate, and make it about anything other than race.

“But even so, militarization plays a role in the eagerness police have to use force in black communities, and the use of militarized tactics in SWAT raids of the type that killed Ayanna Jones in Detroit. It limits police officers’ ability to relate to people as individuals, or to find ways to resolve conflicts without resorting to force. Currently, many American police see minority communities not as citizens but as enemies and targets. Militarization makes it worse.”

Here is Hansford’s testimony before the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.

SHAHID BUTTAR, media at bordc.org, @bordc, @sheeyahshee
Executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Buttar said today: “Today’s announcement is among the Obama administration’s first attempts to address police violence and misconduct after more than six years in office. While long overdue, it includes at least three welcome and important policies: (1) limits on the military force structure available to local police, (2) new requirements for approval by local elected officials, ensuring community accountability, and (3) transparency requirements governing over 20 police departments that will publicly report data about the demographic impacts of at least some police activities.

“These measures are among the recommendations that the Bill of Rights Defense Committee has long proposed. Others in the Justice Department’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing report — like the recommendation for nationwide transparency along the lines adopted by some cities — will require action beyond today’s announcement in order to become real.

“Two big questions remain. First, will communities whose outrage forced the administration’s hand remain vocal enough to drive the implementation of today’s welcome rhetoric into policy? Second, can a change in federal policy this late in an administration secure a meaningful change in local police culture before the White House changes hands in less than 22 months?”

As Anti Nuclear Weapons Activists Released, 91 Nations Pressing Abolition

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nuclear siteThe program “Democracy Now” reports today: “Three peace activists who infiltrated a nuclear weapons site have been freed from prison after their convictions were overturned. In 2012, the self-described Transform Now Plowshares broke into the Y-12 nuclear facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Known as the ‘Fort Knox of Uranium,’ the complex holds enough uranium to make 10,000 nuclear bombs.” See the program’s interview with two of the activists here.

Talks are now going on at the United Nations on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

GREG MELLO, gmello at lasg.org, @TrishABQ
Mello is executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group and is a leading expert on nuclear weapons. He said today: “This was an impactful, brave action that resonates across the political spectrum in different ways.” See Mello’s “Forget the Rest” blog.

ALICE SLATER,  aslater at rcn.com
Slater is with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee. She said today: “The bravery of Plowshares activists, risking their freedom to bring public attention to the need to finally get rid of the massive U.S. arsenal of nuclear weapons, is a cause to reflect on the current UN meeting of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This 45-year-old treaty, which since 1995 reviews the progress of the nuclear weapons states every five years to ‘pursue negotiation in good faith’ for nuclear disarmament will end its four week session this Friday and the nuclear powers are continuing to object to any meaningful progress to eliminate their nuclear weapons.”

“In the past two years however, there has been a series of conferences in Norway, Mexico, and Australia, supported by the vibrant new grassroots International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) to make known the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons. At last December’s Vienna meeting, the Austrian government pledged to work for nuclear disarmament and to ‘fill the legal gap’ that would specifically ban the use or possession of nuclear weapons. There’s no doubt that the ICAN campaign and the humanitarian initiative which started in Norway, and then went on to Mexico and Austria has shaken things up at the NPT. There’s a new impatience with the nuclear weapons states’ commitment to a ‘step by step’ approach to nuclear disarmament on a never ending treadmill stairway that leads nowhere. Indeed the U.S. announcement of its intention to spend one trillion over the next THIRTY years for new bomb factories in Kansas City and Oak Ridge, delivery systems and nuclear bombs is obscene and indicates a total lack of good faith to honor its NPT promise for nuclear disarmament. Other nuclear weapons states are also ‘modernizing’ their arsenals.

“That’s why the Austrian initiative to gather nations on a pledge ‘to fill the legal gap’ and let the non-nuclear weapons states take the lead in banning the bomb is so promising. As of today, thanks to campaigners all over the world and at the NPT in New York, 91 countries have signed the Austrian pledge with one more week to go until the NPT ends this Friday. Yesterday, the Austrian Ambassador announced that since so many countries are joining in, it will be now known as the Humanitarian Pledge as it has grown beyond a mere Austrian initiative; see: www.icanw.org/pledge. The next big gathering will be the 70th Anniversary of the catastrophic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki this in Japan.”

“See the extraordinary speech given by South Africa this week [], calling the nuclear weapons states to account for holding the world hostage for their ‘security’ that selfishly serves to put everyone else on the planet as well as all life on earth itself, at risk of nuclear catastrophe.”

Slater also noted a recent story from WikiLeaks: “Trident whistleblower: nuclear ‘disaster waiting to happen’.” See also in the Guardian: “Fallon urged to act on whistleblower’s claims about Trident nuclear subs.”

Background: The U.S. obligation to disarm under the NPT has been acknowledged by former Secretary of Defense McNamara (the U.S. signed the treaty during the Johnson administration, in which McNamara served). In 2005, he told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The NPT was signed by a president. It was submitted to the Senate; it was ratified by the Senate. It is today the law of the land. The U.S. government is not adhering to Article VI of the NPT and we show no signs of planning to adhere to its requirements to move forward with the elimination — not reduction, but elimination — of nuclear weapons. That was the agreement, these other countries would not develop nuclear weapons and the nuclear powers would move to elimination. We are violating that.” In 2009, McNamara wrote the piece “Apocalypse Soon.”

Ground Troops in Syria and Special Ops “Porn”

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CNN produced a CGI version of the US raid in Syria, turning official claims into visual reality.

ADAM JOHNSON, ahubbardjohnson at gmail.com, @adamjohnsonnyc
Johnson just wrote the piece “White House Reveals ‘Boots on Ground’ in Syria, but Media Too Giddy Over Special Ops Porn to Notice,” which states: “The White House announced on Saturday that a team of Delta Force soldiers had gone into sovereign Syrian territory to kill an alleged ISIS  ‘commander’ and a few dozen other faceless bad guys.

“Per usual, the media would retell the narrative based entirely on Pentagon and White House action movie prose. Just as with the bin Laden raid narrative — that later turned out to be mostly false — this tale involved some unbelievably compelling details: ‘rescuing a Yazidi slave,’ ‘hand-to-hand combat,’ ‘women and children as human shields,’ ‘precise fire’ (that, of course, avoided these women and children), and a body count, ’40 extremists,’ that would make Jack Bauer blush.

“To the New York Times‘ credit, it did issue one of the most passive-aggressive ‘we could not independently verify these claims’ disclaimers in journalistic history:

“A Defense Department official said Islamic State fighters who defended their building and Abu Sayyaf tried to use women and children as shields, but that the Delta Force commandos ‘used very precise fire’ and ‘separated the women and children.’ The official said the operation involved close ‘hand-to-hand fighting.’ (The accounts of the raid came from military and government officials and could not be immediately verified through independent sources.)

“No, of course they couldn’t!

“Obviously, this is one of the limits of reporting on secret events in far-off, opaque war zones. Nonetheless, given that the last such politically loaded raid, on the bin Laden ‘compound’ in Pakistan, turned out to be full of White House lies — to say nothing of Seymour Hersh’s recent, high-profile allegations that the entire thing was staged — you’d think a bit of skepticism would be in order. But, in a world of mass information asymmetry, the government’s word on these matters is treated as the authoritative one until proven otherwise.

“This routine problem, however, is not the real journalistic crime here. The real issue is that the White House just admitted it has American ground troops engaged in combat missions in Syria — and no one seemed to notice, much less care.”

Left and Right Against NSA Spying and “Patriot Act” 

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National Journal reports: “Paul took to the Senate floor shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday in opposition to the National Security Agency’s collection of bulk data and ended his speech just before midnight. Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is used to authorize that collection, will sunset June 1, sending the Senate into a tailspin as it tries to find a resolution before it leaves for a one-week recess. Fellow Kentuckian and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged the Senate to pass a clean reauthorization of the program, but Paul and others have vowed to stand in the way.

“Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who has threatened to filibuster any extension of the Patriot Act, was the first and not all-that-unexpected Democrat to come and speak in support of Paul’s position Wednesday. But he was far from the last. Seven Democrats spoke with Paul, compared with just three Republicans.”

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years. He said today: “Almost a month ago, intelligence expert and former senior policy advisor to Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ) Patrick Eddington of the Cato Institute wrote “The Minimalist Surveillance Reforms of USA Freedom.” Eddington’s piece about the so-called USA Freedom Action, a version of which passed the House recently, states:

Consider what this bill is not addressing:
• The “back door” searches conducted under Sec. 702 of the FISA Amendments Act.
• The expansive collection of U.S. Person data under Executive Order 12333.
• The targeting of anyone using internet anonymization technology such as Tor.
• NSA’s subversion of encryption standards, supply chain interdiction operations, and espionage and spy recruitment efforts against international standards bodies.

Said Wiebe: “In short, the USA Freedom Act does fundamentally very little in terms of significantly constraining the ability of the National Security Agency to perform bulk collection of data about anyone, U.S. citizen or otherwise.

“The tragedy of the matter lies in the fact that the government — including the legislative and executive branches of government, aided and abetted by an unchallenged FISA Court, is working in collusion to mislead the American public about the ability of the legislation to truly do what most Americans want — a Constitutional process that a) actually catches bad guys, and b) respects and enforces privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment. Both are ‘do-able’ and there is no balance — we can have both.

“The truth is, that as long as NSA enjoys collection authorities to do bulk collection under Executive Order 12333, together with no constraints on Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, the USA Freedom Act results in few net changes in the government’s ability to invade privacy as it deems necessary, bulk or otherwise.

“There is one more important aspect of the discussion — USA Freedom does absolutely nothing to enhance legislative or judicial oversight over the executive branch’s use of NSA’s vast intelligence production apparatus. Lots of ‘trust,’ but no ‘verify,’ which is what created the current Constitutional crisis beginning with the events of Sept. 11, 2001.”

NORM SINGLETON, norm.singleton at campaignforliberty.com, @C4Liberty
Singelton is with Campaign for Liberty, (founded by former Rep. Ron Paul) which works to “reclaim the republic and restore the Constitution.”

Singleton’s recent pieces include: “USA Freedom Act: Big Win for NSA?” and “Guess who supports USA Freedom?” which states: “Opponents of the Surveillance State should ask themselves if the USA Freedom Act reined in the surveillance state would it get such strong support from the military-surveillance-industrial complex’s favorite ‘representatives?'”

Also see Singleton’s piece “What did the USA Freedom Act Mark-Up have in Common with WrestleMania?” and other related articles here.

* Pentagon Predicted “Islamic State” * Israel’s Nukes Set Back NPT

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NAFEEZ AHMED, iprdoffice at gmail.com, @nafeezahmed
Ahmed is an investigative journalist whose books include A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It. He just wrote the piece “Pentagon report predicted West’s support for Islamist rebels would create ISIS,” which states: “A declassified secret U.S. government document obtained by the conservative public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, shows that Western governments deliberately allied with al-Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups to topple Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad.

“The document reveals that in coordination with the Gulf states and Turkey, the West intentionally sponsored violent Islamist groups to destabilize Assad, and that these ‘supporting powers’ desired the emergence of a ‘Salafist Principality’ in Syria to ‘isolate the Syrian regime.’

“According to the newly declassified U.S. document, the Pentagon foresaw the likely rise of the ‘Islamic State’ as a direct consequence of this strategy, and warned that it could destabilize Iraq. Despite anticipating that Western, Gulf state and Turkish support for the ‘Syrian opposition’ – which included al-Qaeda in Iraq — could lead to the emergence of an ‘Islamic State’ in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the document provides no indication of any decision to reverse the policy of support to the Syrian rebels. On the contrary, the emergence of an al-Qaeda affiliated ‘Salafist Principality’ as a result is described as a strategic opportunity to isolate Assad. …

“In a strikingly prescient prediction, the Pentagon document explicitly forecasts the probable declaration of ‘an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.'”

ALICE SLATER, aslater at rcn.com
Slater is with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee.

The Washington Post reports in “U.N. nuclear conference collapses over WMD-free zone in the Middle East” that: “An attempt to strengthen and expand the world’s premier arms-control treaty ended in failure here Friday as international delegations squabbled over a long-sought goal of establishing a ban on weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

“Following four weeks of negotiations, the United States and several of its allies rejected the conference’s final document, which was supposed to further the implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

“The United States and Britain refused to accept the establishment of an ‘arbitrary’ deadline to hold a conference on a zone that would be free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, and Canada objected to a process that didn’t include Israel, which has not signed the treaty. …

“’If for security reasons the [P5 (U.S., Russia, U.K., France, China)] feel that they must be armed with nuclear weapons, what about other countries in similar situations?’ asked South African delegate Abdul Samad Minty during a May 16 session. ‘Do we think that the global situation is such that no other country would ever aspire to nuclear weapons to provide security for themselves, when the five tell us that it is absolutely correct to possess nuclear weapons for their security?'”

Slater also highlights another piece on the NPT process, see PDF. In addition, see Slater’s comments on IPA news release last week: “As Anti Nuclear Weapons Activists Released, 91 Nations Pressing Abolition.”

Sanders’ Candidacy 

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bernie sandersOn Tuesday, Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) officially launched his campaign for the 2016 Democratic Party nomination.

GREG GUMA, mavmedia at aol.com
Guma is author of numerous books including Progressive Eclipse: Burlington, Bernie and the Movement That Changed Vermont and The People’s Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution. Guma has posted a series of his articles on Sanders recently online, including: “Lockheed in Vermont: Sanders’ Corporate Conundrum,” “Progressive Eclipse: Burlington & Bernie Sanders” and “Politics of the Possible: The Sanders Crusade.”

STEVE EARLY, lsupport at aol.com, @steveearle
Early is the author several books including Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress. He just wrote the piece “Labor for Bernie.”

BRUCE DIXON, bruce.dixon at blackagendareport.com, @brucedixon
Dixon is managing editor of BlackAgendaReport.com and recently wrote the piece “Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders: Sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats in 2016,” Dixon will be in New York City from Friday to Sunday, where he will be speaking at the Left Forum.

Fallacies of “PATRIOT Act” “Compromises”

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The Washington Times reported earlier this week: “Obama scolds Senate: Skip recess, get back to work on Patriot Act reform.”

Politico is reporting: “To meet the midnight Sunday deadline, McConnell will either have to cut a deal with Paul, who’s making demands that other lawmakers object to — or hope that senators, when confronted by a deadline that’s hours instead of days away, relent and agree to a temporary extension.”

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com, @emptywheel
Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” investigative journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at emptywheel.net.

She broke a story earlier this week about provisions of a so-called compromise proposal: “Feinstein Enters the Non-Compromise Compromise Fray.” She also wrote the piece “AP Calls a Bill that Would Criminalize Sources Used for the Same Story a ‘Compromise’.” See also her recent article “A Brief History of the PATRIOT Reauthorization Debate.”

Wheeler will be taking part in Stand Up for Truth events next week, a series of events to support whistleblowing. She will be speaking with NSA whistleblower Bill Binney in Chicago. NSA whistleblower Wiebe, quoted below, will participate in a webcast. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg will be with a group of whistleblowers speaking in London, Oslo, Stockholm and Berlin. IPA is a co-organizer of these events. For a full schedule, see: standupfortruth.org/events.

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years. He said today: “The tragedy surrounding the current discussion of the USA Freedom Act lies in the fact that the government — including the legislative and executive branches of government, aided and abetted by an unchallenged FISA Court, is working in collusion to mislead the American public about the ability of the legislation to truly do what most Americans want — a constitutional process that a) actually catches bad guys, and b) respects and enforces privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment. Both are ‘do-able’ from a technology perspective and there is no balance — we can have both.   

“The truth is that USA Freedom does not cover all NSA authorities to collect information. As long as NSA enjoys collection authorities to do bulk collection under Executive Order 12333, together with no constraints on Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, the USA Freedom Act results in few net changes in the government’s ability to invade privacy as it deems necessary, bulk or otherwise. In short, the USA Freedom Act alone does fundamentally very little in terms of significantly constraining the ability of the National Security Agency to perform bulk collection of data about anyone, U.S. citizen or otherwise. We need comprehensive surveillance reform.

“There is one more important aspect of the discussion — USA Freedom does absolutely nothing to enhance legislative or judicial oversight over the executive branch’s use of NSA’s vast intelligence production apparatus. Lots of ‘trust,’ but no ‘verify,’ which is what created the current constitutional crisis beginning with the events of Sept. 11, 2001.”

“Patriot Act,” “Freedom Act” — or a “Government Shell Game”

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NSA Whistleblowers Thomas Drake, J. Kirk Wiebe, and William Binney

AP reports: “Eight days after blocking it, Senate Republicans have agreed to begin debate on a House bill that would overhaul the National Security Agency’s handling of American calling records while preserving other domestic surveillance provisions.

“But that remarkable turnabout didn’t happen soon enough to prevent the laws governing the programs from expiring at midnight Sunday as Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a presidential contender, stood in the way of extending the program, angering his GOP colleagues and frustrating intelligence and law enforcement officials.

“Now, the question is whether the Senate will pass a bill the House can live with. If so, the surveillance programs will resume, with some significant changes in how the phone records are handled. If not, they will remain dormant.

“The Senate vote on the measure known as the USA Freedom Act can come no earlier than 1 a.m., Tuesday. Senate Republican aides said they expected some amendments, but no major revisions to the bill.” See CNN report.

See Obama’s radio address backing the so-called USA Freedom Act.

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years. Unable to stay at NSA any longer in good conscience, Wiebe retired in October 2001. Since retiring, Wiebe and his fellow NSA whistlblower Bill Binney made several key public disclosures regarding NSA’s massive surveillance program. Wiebe said today: “The larger picture is that the government is playing a shell game, essentially doing what it wants with or without USA Freedom, and that unless we achieve comprehensive review of intelligence policies, we are essentially not improving much in the way of privacy. That’s not to say a victory in defeating parts of the Patriot Act is not important, just that it leaves much to be done by a Congress that doesn’t like being held accountable.

“The whole matter would be moot if the government would adopt an intelligence production process from collection through analysis that was in line with the Constitution — that the technology exists to do just that, even addressing judicial review (not FISA, but regular Article III court) within seconds, thus mooting the Haydens out there who say the regular court review process takes too long. That fact — that the problem is solvable with today’s technology — portrays the existing proponents of keeping Patriot or just modifying it slightly as in Freedom as either incompetent, or possessing hidden agendas, or just not interested in defending the Constitution.”

Wiebe will be taking part in Stand Up for Truth events this week, a series of events to support whistleblowing; he and Bill Binney will be on the last of a series of webcasts that being Tuesday evening. Talks are being held in Chicago and a “Chalkupy” event is happening in Los Angeles. Other webcast participants include EPA whistlblower Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, and State Department whistleblower Matthew Hoh. Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg will be with a group of whistleblowers speaking in London, Oslo, Stockholm and Berlin. IPA is a co-organizer of these events. For a full schedule, see: standupfortruth.org/events.

SUE UDRY, sue.udry at defendingdissent.org
Executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation, Udry said today: “Hundreds of thousands of Americans have joined the debate over unwarranted mass surveillance in the last two weeks, and over the last two years since the first Snowden revelations. Civic participation has forced Congress to take a little more time before re-authorizing a law that flagrantly violates the Constitution.

“But ultimately, Congress ignored the American people, and ignored the fact that Section 215 has not been shown to be a necessary tool to fight terrorism.

“Although amendments to improve the USA Freedom Act may ultimately be approved, the FBI, NSA and other intelligence agencies will be allowed to continue to collect private information about Americans who are under no suspicion of crime.

“Worse, Congress continues to operate in willful ignorance, refusing to demand a full accounting of all surveillance programs our intelligence agencies are using to gather information about innocent Americans. It is long since time for a new Church Committee to investigate what intelligence agencies are doing.

“Beyond the mass surveillance authorities in the bill, we are concerned that transparency provisions are inadequate, and specifically exempt the FBI. This is particularly galling given a Department of Justice Inspector General report released two weeks ago that confirms the FBI has been using Section 215 to collect internet records in bulk, and violated the law regarding minimizing records for seven years.”

Jenner: “A Teachable Moment”

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The first photos of Caitlyn Jenner have been released in advance of the July issue of Vanity Fair magazine. The photos, shot by Annie Leibowitz, are designed to showcase the transition of Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner into a woman.

KAREN DOLAN, karen at ips-dc.org, @karendolan
Karen Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.  She said today: “Caitlyn Jenner isn’t transitioning from male to female. She was always female.” In a recent piece she penned for AlterNet, Dolan writes: “Science suggests that people like Jenner are not ‘males transitioning to females.’  Transgender people identify as a gender that conflicts with the gender assignment typically associated with their reproductive organs. They are who they say they are… from birth.”

Dolan adds, “There is much to celebrate and much to critique in this particular ‘transition’ — from the standpoint of race and class privilege, because most transgender people are not celebrated nor can afford costly surgeries to look as glamorous at Caitlyn. Jenner’s transition gives us a platform to examine all of these issues. Many transgender people, especially black transwomen, suffer violence and abuse. Transgender people are more likely to be impoverished, denied employment, suffer severe discrimination. Sometimes black trans women are criminalized simply for ‘being outdoors while trans.’ Caitlyn Jenner’s high profile transition does give us, as a nation, the chance to inquire and seek to understand what it means to be transgender. It is the next frontier of civil rights in America, and someone like Caitlyn Jenner has the recognition that can draw attention to critical issues. It is a very strong teachable moment.”

Whistleblowers: NSA Bulk Collection Not Ending

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photo (1)While Slate is claiming: “Senate Approves USA Freedom Act, Which Ends NSA Bulk Surveillance” and the New York Times headlines a story “U.S. Surveillance in Place Since 9/11 Is Sharply Limited,” NSA whistleblowers and analysts are noting that the government has used a series of provisions and “shell games” in order to conduct surveillance.

The following specialists are available for interviews. Many are also taking part in a series of Stand Up for Truth events this week in support of whistleblowing, including ongoing webcasts, see below for details.

WILLIAM BINNEY, williambinney0802 at comcast.net
Currently traveling and available for a limited number of interviews, Binney is an NSA whistleblower. He said today: “While this is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go nearly far enough in ending bulk acquisition of data. It doesn’t stop activity under [executive order] 12333, that does acquisition right off the fibers — it’s an automatic flow to the NSA. It’s both content and meta data.” Edward Snowden has said: “Without Bill Binney, there would be no Edward Snowden,” See: “The executive order that led to mass spying, as told by NSA alumni.”

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years, working with Binney. See IPA news release: “‘Patriot Act,’ ‘Freedom Act’ — or a ‘Government Shell Game’.” Both Binney and Wiebe are on the advisory board of ExposeFacts.org, a project of IPA. See their bios here.

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com, @emptywheel

Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She is the “Right to Know” investigative journalist for ExposeFacts and blogs at emptywheel.net. She said today: “With passage of USA Freedom Act and resumption of all Americans’ call records for a six-month transition period, both domestic and international calls will once again be collected in bulk.”

BILL BLUNDEN, blunden at sfsu.edu

Blunden is author of Behold a Pale Farce: Cyberwar, Threat Inflation, and the Malware-Industrial Complex and recently wrote the piece “The USA Freedom Act Doesn’t End Bulk Data Collection.”

Binney and Wiebe will be on a Stand Up for Truth webcast at 9 p.m. on Friday. Wednesday’s webcast will feature Trevor Timm of the Freedom of Press Foundation and and Tim Shorrock, who just wrote the piece “How Private Contractors Have Created a Shadow NSA.” NSA whistleblower Tom Drake is with Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg and other whistleblowers speaking in a series of European cities. For a full schedule, see: standupfortruth.org/events.

See pieces by Wheeler for additional background: “Missing from the EO 12333 Discussion: Its Classified Annex Michael Hayden Revised on March 11, 2004,” “Important: Changes to Section 215 Dragnet Will Not Change Treatment of EO 12333 Metadata,” “DOJ IG Issues Yet Another Classified Report that Should Be Public Before Congress Votes on PATRIOT Act” and “Mitch McConnell Just Made the Country Less Safe in Bid to Ensure FISC Continues to Be Rubber Stamp.” She was also recently interviewed by The Real News: “Vast Majority of Spying Will Continue Despite Expiration of Patriot Act Provisions.”

Also, from Charlie Savage in the New York Times: “Recommendation Not Taken Meant ‘Significant Changes’ for Executive Order 12333 Intercepts.”

FIFA and the “New Corruption”

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unaccountable_bookERIC LeCOMPTE, via Sophia Har, sophia at jubileeusa.org, @jubileeusa
LeCompte is executive director of the development coalition, Jubilee USA Network. The group just put out the statement: “FIFA Scandal Highlights Corruption in Global Financial System.”

JANINE WEDEL, jwedel at gmu.edu
Wedel, an anthropologist, is university professor at the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs, George Mason University. She is author of the recently-released book Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom and Security.

She said today: “What do you think of when you hear the word ‘corruption?’ If your answer is FIFA, you’re not alone. Google the words FIFA and corruption and you’ll find nearly 60 million hits. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone like Ben Affleck was right now adapting it for the screen. It has all the elements of a great thriller: a shadowy, international clique in control of the world’s most popular sport; allegations of widespread bribery in far-flung spots across the globe; an early morning bust at a legendary five-star Zurich hotel; the feckless defense by one of the accused, in which he plucks an approving quote about FIFA from the Onion, unaware that the Onion is a … satirical publication.

“If FIFA executives are indeed guilty, this is no doubt serious corruption, with many poor countries submitting to extravagant FIFA demands for souped-up stadiums, draining resources and creating risky working conditions in which vulnerable workers have died.

“But this is also a conventional corruption story, accusations of clearly illegal activity. The corruption I investigate is fully legal, underreported, and often vastly damaging to the public trust.”

Wedel cites the recent disclosures around the Clinton Foundation as a small window on this “new corruption.”

She wrote in her piece “Beyond Bribery” for Foreign Policy: “The essence of this new (legal) corruption — the violation of public trust — harks back to ancient notions of corruption. Yet its practitioners follow a thoroughly 21st-century playbook, written over the past few decades as privatization, deregulation, the end of the Cold War, and the advent of the digital age have transformed the world. These developments have broken down barriers and created new openings for elites to exercise their power and influence in a system that is more complex and opaque than ever, enabling them to use the levers of power to their own advantage while, at the same time, denying responsibility. (Many bankers, for example, trade in derivatives so complex that even they can plausibly deny understanding them.)

“Practitioners of the new corruption assume a tangle of roles that fuses state and private sectors. They abrogate public trust by working on behalf of their own, instead of those on whose behalf they purport to act. Just think of Goldman Sachs, often derided as “Government Sachs” for its seamless enmeshing of Wall Street and Washington. In the years leading up to the financial crash of 2008, Goldman routinely pushed the envelope — such as the notorious ABACUS case, in which the bank sold investments it knew were bad to one client at the behest of another. Yet the company apparently broke few or no laws along the way. Goldman also famously helpedGreece (and possibly other struggling European countries) hide debt in the early 2000s. When the day of reckoning came for Greece, it wasn’t Goldman Sachs, elite insiders, or national leaders who paid the price of slashing austerity measures.

“That the system is rigged in new ways resounds worldwide, even in the West. There’s a documented loss of confidence in formal institutions: governments, parliaments, courts, banks, corporations, the media. A 2014 research project attempted to quantify how gamed the system is in the United States. Two political scientists looked at 1,779 policy issues hashed out from 1981 to 2002 and found that policies widely supported by economically elite Americans were adopted about 45 percent of the time. If these same privileged Americans didn’t support particular policies, then their rate of acceptance dropped to 18 percent. The scholars write: “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites… have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

See also her pieces “Forget the McDonnells. We’re ignoring bigger, more pernicious corruption right under our noses” for the Washington Post and “The Petraeus wrist-slap” for USA Today.

Is the “War on ISIS” Actually Iran-Iraq War Redux?

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Tariq Aziz’s death was announced on Friday. The top diplomat under Saddam Hussein, Aziz had been sentenced to death. Journalist Jeremy Scahill reports that in 2003, Aziz — who was a Christian — had told him a U.S. invasion of Iraq would open a “Pandora’s Box.” Here, Aziz is meeting with Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush during the Iran-Iraq War.

ABC News is now reporting: “President Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the G7 Summit in Germany today to discuss the fight against ISIS.”

KATE GOULD, kate at fcnl.org, @k8gould
Gould is legislative associate for Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. She recently co-wrote the piece “Why the impending Iraqi offensive to retake Ramadi from the Islamic State group is doomed,” which states: “The Iraqi army’s impending offensive to retake Ramadi from Islamic State group control is bound to end in catastrophe. Unleashing sectarian militias and the Iraqi army on Ramadi will only continue this bloody whack-a-mole game against the Islamic State group. The only way to permanently halt the advance of the Islamic State group and other extremist groups is to deal with Iraqi grievances at the negotiating table instead of on the battlefield.”

DAHLIA WASFI, dahliaswasfi at yahoo.com, @liberatethis
Wasfi is an Iraqi-American justice activist who has written and spoken extensively on U.S. policy in the region. She recently wrote the piece “Battling ISIS: Iran-Iraq war redux” and said today: “President Obama continues to hear criticism for his failure to swiftly defeat ISIS. But while crushing ISIS may be the official stated goal, the actual agenda may be a long, drawn-out war to weaken regional powers. We have seen this policy before — with many of the same players — in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

“In February 1979, the Iranian Revolution overthrew Shah Reza Pahlavi, the ruler of Iran since 1953, when a CIA-orchestrated coup brought him to power. Once the Shah’s U.S.-friendly regime in Iran was deposed, American administrators sought a new ally in the region and began to warm relations with Iraq. As tensions escalated between Iraq’s secular government and the new theocracy in Iran, both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia assured Saddam Hussein that he had their backing in any armed conflict with Iran. In September 1980, with U.S. encouragement, Saddam Hussein launched the Iran-Iraq War.

“U.S. President Ronald Reagan officially allied with Iraq during the conflict. In secret, however, government officials sold arms to Iran. The eight-year war, sustained by the U.S. backing both sides, yielded over a million casualties. The extended conflict also left two of the strongest nations in the region bleeding and weakened, which benefited U.S. and Israeli hegemony.

“Today, comparably, the U.S. is arming both sides of the ‘war on ISIS,’ which was born out of the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq. After the fall of Baghdad, U.S. administrators imposed a repressive theocratic Shia regime on Iraq. The brutality of its rule inevitably spawned a counter movement: a sectarian Sunni opposition faction which in the last several years has morphed into ISIS. Western powers supported its creation (via funding and arms to extremist ‘rebel groups’ in Syria) to serve as a check on Shia power in the region — power that expanded as a result of U.S. policy in Iraq in the first place. …

“Just as with Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, the people in the battlefields of Syria and Iraq pay the highest price. And just as was the case in the 1980s, the devastation of these countries serves U.S. and Israeli hegemony.”

Additional background: Current Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter was assistant secretary of defense in the 1990s, when U.S. policy was “dual containment” of Iran and Iraq. See this 1996 testimony.

TPP: Not “Free Trade” — But “Designed to Make Medicine Expensive”

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President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner both back “Fast Track” and the TPP while many liberal Democrats and some conservative Republicans oppose them.

Politico reports: “Supporters of a controversial trade bill are increasingly confident they can secure the votes needed to pass so-called fast-track legislation when it hits the House floor, which could come as early as this week.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @MFlowers8
An activist with PopularResistance.org  and  FlushtheTPP.org, Flowers, who has written and spoken extensively about the Trans–Pacific Partnership and “Fast Track,” is with other activists outside the Capitol engaging members of Congress. She noted a recent New York Times poll that found that 30 percent of the public says they know “not much” about the TPP — and 48 percent say they know “nothing at all.” Flowers said: “What we see in this agreement is that it’s not really about trade; it’s about creating a backdoor for corporations to get some of the changes that they want. So deregulation of the financial industry, longer patent protections for the pharmaceutical industries, Internet privacy restrictions, these are the things that these corporations have wanted to get but they haven’t been able to so far, and this is a vehicle for doing that.”

JAMES LOVE, james.love at keionline.org, @jamie_love
Director of Knowledge Ecology International, Love just wrote the piece “TPP, designed to make medicine more expensive, reforms more difficult,” in which he writes:

“My wife is a stage 4 cancer patient. … She is alive today, and doing fairly well, because she had access to several years of treatment involving two expensive drugs. … Compared to the alternative, which is an early death, these drugs have worked pretty well. …

“But the economics of all of this is also important. The first drug [trastuzumab], approved in 1998, was costing about $1500 per week. The new drug, which is basically the old drug plus DM1, seems to be twice that, or more than $3,000 per week. Access to these expensive drugs is limited. Almost no one in the developing world has had access to trastuzumab, despite its highly regarded therapeutic benefits.

“The high prices are not an accident, the drugs are expensive by design. Governments grant monopolies to make and sell drugs, by issuing patents, but also by creating other deliberate barriers to competition, including in the United States, a 12-year monopoly on the right to rely upon evidence that a drug is safe and effective.

“In the absence of these government granted monopolies, drugs would be far less expensive. One manufacturer estimated they could manufacture trastuzumab for as little as $5 per week. …

“While patents normally create exclusive rights, governments can limit those rights, for example, to curb abuses or to achieve a public interest objective, safeguards that are as old as the patent system itself. In recent years, the White House allowed Apple to import iPhones and iPads that infringed Samsung patents…

“The TPP is the latest and most important new trade agreement that seeks to create new standards for intellectual property that are more friendly to pharmaceutical companies and publishers.”

WikiLeaks Publishes Secret TPP Docs; “Fast Track” Paving Way for “Global Corporate Governance”

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Bloomberg is reporting now: “Fast-Track Trade Vote in House Set for Friday, Lawmaker Says.”

WikiLeaks just published the Healthcare Annex to the secret draft “Transparency” Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, along with each country’s negotiating position. The Healthcare Annex seeks to regulate state schemes for medicines and medical devices. States WikiLeaks: “It forces healthcare authorities to give big pharmaceutical companies more information about national decisions on public access to medicine, and grants corporations greater powers to challenge decisions they perceive as harmful to their interests.”

KEVIN ZEESE, kbzeese at gmail.com, @kbzeese
Zeese is an activist with PopularResistance.org and FlushtheTPP.org who has written and spoken extensively about so-called “trade” agreements and “Fast Track.” He is helping to lead protests outside the Capitol. Zeese notes that Fast Track authority would extend presidential powers for six years — extending to the next president — and include not just the TPP, but also the Trade in Services Agreement, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Said Zeese: “All three of these really are pushing toward a whole type of new, global corporate governance, where nation-states are weakened, where democracy is weakened, where the people’s voice is even made more quiet, and corporations gain greater and greater power.” Today’s publication from WikiLeaks is the latest of several such leaks. Zeese assessed the agreements and what the documents from WikiLeaks tell us about them in this recent segment from The Real News: “What the TiSA Leaked Documents Reveal About Negotiations.”

PETER MAYBARDUK, pmaybarduk at citizen.org, via Angela Bradbery, abradbery at citizen.org, @maybarduk
Director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program, Maybarduk said today: “This leak reveals that the Obama administration, acting at the behest of pharmaceutical companies, has subjected Medicare to a series of procedural rules, negotiated in secret, that would limit Congress’ ability to enact policy reforms that would reduce prescription drug costs for Americans — and might even open to challenge aspects of our health care system today.” The group just released “MEMO: Three Burning Questions about the Leaked TPP Transparency Annex and Its Implications for U.S. Health Care” [PDF]. Maybarduk was quoted in the New York Times piece this morning: “U.S. Shifts Stance on Drug Pricing in Pacific Trade Pact Talks, Document Reveals.”

JAMES LOVE, james.love at keionline.org, @jamie_love
Director of Knowledge Ecology International, Love just wrote the piece “TPP, designed to make medicine more expensive, reforms more difficult.” He said today: “Not only does USTR [United States Trade Representative] want to expand and extend intellectual property rights on medicines, they also want to undermine the ability of governments to negotiate reasonable reimbursements, and give drug companies the ability to sue governments who don’t pay top dollar.”

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange said in a statement today: “It is a mistake to think of the TPP as a single treaty. In reality there are three conjoined mega-agreements, the TiSA, the TPP and the TTIP, all of which strategically assemble into a grand unified treaty, partitioning the world into the west versus the rest. This ‘Great Treaty’ is described by the Pentagon as the economic core to the U.S. military’s ‘Asia Pivot.’ The architects are aiming no lower than the arc of history. The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support.”

Hawaii Aims for 100 Percent Energy Renewables: “Can the Nation Follow?”

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This week Hawaii Governor David Ige signed a bill into law mandating that the state’s utilities turn to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045, making Hawaii the first state in the U.S. to pass such a law.

EVAN WEBER, evan at usclimateplan.org, @evanlweber
Weber is the executive director of U.S. Climate Plan. He was born and raised in Kailua, Hawaii. He is the co-author of the recent Newsweek op-ed, “Hawaii is Aiming for 100 Percent Energy Renewables. Can the Nation Follow?” “With rising seas already lapping at the foundations of the hotels along Waikiki Beach, Hawaii’s climate debate is over. The Aloha State is successfully proving that a clean and safe renewable-energy economy can save consumers money, create jobs and hedges against the worst impacts of climate change.”

The op-ed states that the rest of the country should look to surpass Hawaii’s climate goals: “If Hawaii can make renewables work on isolated island electrical grids, the rest of the nation — with the flexibility to transmit excess power between states in the event of strong winds in Iowa or excess solar generation in Arizona — can certainly accomplish even more.

“Fortunately, other states can also benefit as renewable energy is becoming cost-effective everywhere. For 93 percent of single family households in the nation’s 50 largest cities, North Carolina State University researchers found that investing in solar panels is cheaper than paying current electric bills.

“Moreover, burning fossil fuels significantly increases costs to taxpayers. According to a recent study the journal Climatic Change, U.S. fossil fuel power plants create between $330 and 970 billion worth of climate damages and negative health effects every year. That’s over $600,000 every minute.

“In Hawaii, taxpayers are already paying for those passed-on costs as state and county governments are forced to spend millions each year fighting impacts of climate change such as rising seas, diminishing rainfall, and increasingly frequent storms. Over five inches of sea level rise in recent decades has been a contributor to the erosion and total loss of Waikiki Beach, which few realize is now completely artificial. Without costly sand replenishment, losing that premier beach would result in an estimated $2 billion annual loss to our economy. …

“Urgency is critical, and Hawaii is not alone. California, in the fourth year of its record drought, is expected to lose $3 billion in crops in coming months and has imposed water restrictions on cities. NASA reports there is an 80 percent chance of a decades-long drought far more damaging than this one if we fail to take bold action to reduce fossil-fuel emissions.

“Climate inaction further threatens to cause more frequent and intense storms like Hurricane Sandy, which cost Northeastern states a whopping $65 billion as waters warm and sea levels continue to rise.”

Impending Fast Track Vote: Impacts on Recovery, Food Safety, Medicare…

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The Hill reports: “GOP, Obama on cusp of fast-track trade victory.” “House Republicans have set the stage for a high-stakes vote Friday to grant President Obama fast-track trade authority.”

PATRICK WOODALL,pwoodall at fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Research director and senior policy advocate for Food & Water Watch, Woodall said today: “With Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership now on its way to the House floor, it’s time for our Representatives to stand up to the so-called free trade attacks on common sense protections for public health, the environment and consumers. Fast Track will unleash havoc on American workers, offshore millions more jobs, and exacerbate the economic inequality that widens the gulf between economic ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’

“Fast Track would even make it harder for American consumers to know the ingredients and origins of their food because even a label can be considered a trade barrier. Free trade deals like the TPP have been used to attack straightforward food labeling like the country of origin labeling (COOL) laws for beef, pork and chicken. The Fast Track legislation specifically identifies labeling genetically modified foods (GMO labels) as illegitimate trade barriers.  All this and more is tucked into the secret fine print of the TPP. The Congress must reject a Fast Track for the secret TPP that will harm workers, the environment and consumers.”

ALAN TONELSON, ATonelson at aol.com, @alantonelson
Tonelson is author of The Race to the Bottom: Why A Global Worker Surplus and Uncontrolled Free Trade are Sinking American Living Standards. His recent pieces include “Trade deals have been both growth and recovery killers.” He regularly writes on trade and other issues on his RealityChek blog.

SEAN FLYNN, sflynn at wcl.american.edu, @sean_fiil_flynn
Flynn is associate director of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at the Washington College of Law at American University. He contributes to infojustice.org and just wrote the piece “TPP Leak Clarifies Application to Medicare Drug Prices,” which states: “Two previous agreements — with Korea and with Australia — contained restrictions on drug pricing programs, but were often thought not to apply to any U.S. program. The texts of those agreements left any U.S. application ambiguous. But new language in the TPP leak makes clear the application of disciplines to ‘The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), with respect to CMS’s role in making Medicare national coverage determinations.'”

MICHAEL BRUNE, via Dan Byrnes, daniel.byrnes at sierraclub.org, @sierraclub
Sierra Club executive director Brune said: “This fast-track bill is toxic for Congress and for our air, water, and climate. We’ve seen this all before. This bill replicates an old, failed model of trade authority that rushes deals through Congress and strips out the vital protections and oversight that ensure trade pacts benefit American communities, workers, and the environment. Americans who care about clean air and clean water won’t support a bill that takes away the ability of those we elected to protect our basic needs. Members of Congress need to carefully evaluate the costs and consequences of trade deals on our economy and environment — not to haphazardly push pacts over the finish line. That’s why we are calling on members of Congress to take back the reins on trade and toss aside the failed fast track model.”

Vote Buying for Corporate Trade Deals

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The New York Times writes this morning: “President Obama’s ambitious push to expand his trade negotiating powers faces a final congressional showdown on Friday, but lawmakers in his own party — pressed hard by organized labor, environmental groups and liberal activists — are threatening to bring down the entire package of trade bills.”

SARAH ANDERSON, sarah at ips-dc.org; also via Elaine de Leon, elaine at ips-dc.org
Anderson is the director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. She just wrote the piece “Supporting NAFTA Was the Kiss of Death for Democrats –Why Dems Should Think Twice About Voting for TPP,” which states: “It’s serious flashback time for those involved in the 1993 debate over the North America Free Trade Agreement. With the ‘fast track’ trade vote … a Democratic president is once again twisting arms and dangling rewards in a desperate effort to muster votes for a corporate-driven trade deal. … The word is only about a dozen members remain on the fence, most of them Democrats. The president is reportedly putting the tightest screws on members of the Congressional Black Caucus. After the NAFTA wheeling and dealing began in earnest back in 1993, it didn’t take long to push enough Dems off the fence. All these years later, NAFTA remains the basic blueprint for every U.S. trade deal.

“Let me skip over NAFTA’s failure to deliver on promises for workers, the environment, human rights, etc. These have all been extensively documented over the years by the Institute for Policy Studies, and many others across the continent. President Obama acknowledged its flaws himself when he made a campaign trail promise to renegotiate the deal. Instead, let’s take a look at what individual members got by helping to ram the pact through Congress. Did their support for the big business lobby’s dream deal ensure a glittering political career? …

“One of these unfulfilled promises targeted textile and apparel state members. In the days before the NAFTA vote, President Bill Clinton sent them letters aimed at calming concerns about a pending global trade rule to phase out import protections on these products within 10 years. The administration would secure an extension to 15 years, Clinton promised. A month after the NAFTA vote, U.S. negotiators accepted the 10-year timeline.

“Rep. Clete Donald Johnson, Jr. was one of the targets of that empty promise. After voting for NAFTA, the Georgia Democrat got demolished in 1994, losing by a margin of more than 30 percent. A few years later, Clinton offered Johnson a consolation prize: a post as chief U.S. trade negotiator for textiles, a sector in rapid decline due to low-wage foreign competition.”

See: “New Public Citizen Report Documents Systematic Bipartisan Betrayals on ‘Deals’ Made by Presidents, Congressional Leaders in Exchange for Trade Votes.”

See: “NAFTA: 20 Years of Costs to Communities and the Environment.”

Also see from Institute for Policy Studies Fellow Manuel Pérez-Rocha: “TTIP — Why the World Should Beware,” which states: “The trade and investment partnership TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), which is currently being negotiated between the EU and the U.S., will affect the whole world. But the other world regions, like the BRICS or the Global South are being excluded from the trade negotiations and hardly get attention in the debates around TTIP. This trend is shifting today: because TTIP as an ‘economic NATO’ is putting the rise of the BRICS, especially China and Russia, into relation with a looming ‘descent of Europe.’ According to the negotiating partners the economic rise of the BRICS has to be prevented. But at what price? TTIP is threat not only for the EU and the U.S., but for the whole world. Ultimately TTIP would serve as an instrument to the economic and political elites of the West to maintain their hegemonic power and dominance. The price is to be paid by the people in the Global North as well as in the Global South.”

800th Anniversary of Magna Carta: What it Means Now

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The 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta is on Monday, June 15. The Telegraph, gives a history in “What is the Magna Carta, and why is it important?” Its literal meaning is ”Great Charter” and it was agreed to by King John to appease his rebellious barons in 1215. The Magna Carta states: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned … except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell, to no-one deny or delay right or justice.” [Note: IPA has a new calendar that might be a useful tool for journalists: accuracy.org/calendar.]

MICHAEL RATNER, mratner at ccrjustice.org, @justleft
Available for a limited number of interviews, Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, author of the book The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld, and co-counsel in European cases to hold former president George W. Bush and other officials accountable. See “The Ratner Report” on The Real News.

He said today: “Those tortured and who remain imprisoned at Guantanamo, the over 2 million imprisoned by the U.S., those murdered by drones, by police, and killed in unlawful wars, and countless others oppressed by the U.S. ask, as Frederick Douglass did about the meaning of July 4 during slavery, ‘What to us is this Magna Carta?’ What have become cornerstone freedoms derived from the Charter: due process, habeas corpus, no imprisonment without a fair trial, the prohibition on torture and no delay in the right of justice are given at best lip service while justice is denied.

“In Rasul v. Bush, the first of the Guantanamo cases CCR took to the Supreme Court in 2004, the court used strong language against executive detention and upheld the right of habeas corpus to test a prisoner’s detention. Yet today, over 100 remain there and the courts do nothing. So yes, celebrate the Magna Carta, but fight to make its liberties have meaning.

“One aspect always forgot in the U.S. is that while the Magna Carta concerned primarily political and judicial rights, the Charter of the Forest, proclaimed at roughly the same time, guaranteed economic rights — the right of people to the commons — the right to the forest, honey etc: the right to economic survival. We are at the beginning of a struggle about those rights now. Let us not forget those rights as most celebrate judicial rights — that badly need reinvigoration.

“Finally, the American Bar Association  put up a plinth at Runnymede with the words, ‘freedom under law.’ That is not what the Magna Carta is about. It was about putting authority under law and as we have less and less democracy we need to go back to that principle.” See Noam Chomsky’s piece “Magna Carta Messed Up the World, Here’s How to Fix It,”

ROBIN KOERNER, robink at bluerepublican.org, @rkoerner
Koerner is a British American political commentator. He recently wrote the piece “800 years on, the Magna Carta for our time” and set up the website MagnaCarta.US as a celebration and a reassertion of the values of the Magna Carta.He said today: “The Magna Carta is widely regarded as the document that marked the beginning of the Anglo tradition of constitutional liberty that would eventually lead to the writing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

“The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment guarantees that ‘no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,’ a phrase that was derived from Magna Carta. The Constitution includes a similar writ in the Suspension Clause, Article 1, Section 9: ‘The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.’ Each of these proclaim that no person may be imprisoned or detained without evidence that he or she committed a crime. The Ninth Amendment states that ‘The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.'” Koerner is publisher of WatchingAmerica.com and started Blue Republican.

Boehner and Obama: Ramming Through “Rigged Trade”?

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Reuters reports: “A raging battle over President Barack Obama’s request for ‘fast-track’ authority central to improving U.S. ties with Asia resumes in the House of Representatives this week when lawmakers are expected to try to reverse Friday’s defeat of linchpin trade legislation. … The legislation is stuck in the House because of the defeat Obama and House Speaker John Boehner suffered on the first vote. … A House Republican aide told reporters Republican leaders hope to stage a vote again on Tuesday to pass the worker aid portion of the bill. That would allow the entire bill to be signed into law by Obama, but its chances were unclear.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @MFlowers8
KEVIN ZEESE, kbzeese at gmail.com, @kbzeese
Zeese and Flowers are with Popular Resistance, which is part of the Stop Fast Track coalition. They have organized the “Rebellion Against Rigged Trade”; between the Capitol Building and the House Office Buildings, activists are holding a “24 hour presence to protest trade agreements rigged for the biggest transnational corporations in the world.”

“Elected officials are receiving tens of thousands of calls from constituents opposing fast track trade authority and we want them to see that people opposed to this undemocratic approach to passing laws are so dedicated they will stay outside 24 hours a day. Elected officials need to know the anger of their constituents is deep and that if Members vote for fast track, there will be serious political repercussions. We remember the impact that NAFTA had on elections. The people will not let Congress destroy their rights to protect the health and safety of their communities,” said Flowers.

“The grassroots from across the political spectrum is mobilized against fast track for rigged trade. One reason the Republican leadership is rushing to a vote, even though they do not know if they have a majority, is because they fear elected officials being home another weekend hearing directly from constituents and they do not want another week of tens of thousands of phone calls coming in to D.C.,” said Zeese.

ALAN TONELSON, ATonelson at aol.com, @alantonelson
Tonelson is author of The Race to the Bottom: Why A Global Worker Surplus and Uncontrolled Free Trade are Sinking American Living Standards. His recent pieces include “Trade deals have been both growth and recovery killers.” He regularly writes on trade and other issues on his RealityChek blog. His most recent piece there is “Thoughts on the Fast Track Trade Vote — Including Where Hillary Now Stands.”

MICHAEL BRUNE, via Dan Byrnes, daniel.byrnes at sierraclub.org, @sierraclub
Brune is executive director of the Sierra Club. See the group’s webpage on Fast Track: sierraclub.org/trade/fast-track.

PATRICK WOODALL, pwoodall at fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Woodall is research director and senior policy advocate for Food & Water Watch. See their resources on Fast Track, including a video on how the Trans Pacific Partnership hurts American families: foodandwaterwatch.org/global/global-trade/fast-track-and-tpp.

Lack of “Congressional Will to Walk the Plank for Corporate Trade Agenda”?

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The New York Times reports: “Congressional Republican leaders and White House officials on Monday explored ways to resurrect trade legislation that stalled last week when House Democrats objected and dealt President Obama an embarrassing defeat at the hands of his own party. In meetings at the Capitol and in telephone conversations with Mr. Obama and administration officials, lawmakers ticked through a list of complicated procedural options that could circumvent House Democratic opposition to granting the president the power to expedite trade deals.”

PATRICK WOODALL, pwoodall at fwwatch.org @foodandwater
Woodall is research director and senior policy advocate for Food & Water Watch. See their resources on fast track, including a video on how the Trans Pacific Partnership hurts American families: foodandwaterwatch.org/global/global-trade/fast-track-and-tpp.

Woodall said today: “The corporate trade agenda is stalled in Congress. After a stinging defeat last week on one provision of the fast track trade package on worker retraining, the House considered re-voting on that measure as early as today. Both the worker retraining and fast track trade procedure had to pass identically to the Senate measure for the package to go to the president’s desk to become law. But last night the Republican leadership realized they could not win a re-vote on the worker protection provisions and decided to extend the time they could reconsider this measure until the end of July. By extending the re-vote period by six weeks, the GOP leadership and the White House gave themselves time to work their parliamentary witchcraft, arm-twisting and gift-giving to cajole Congress into caving into the corporate trade agenda. But the delay shows that there is not Congressional will to walk the plank for a corporate trade agenda that is reviled by the voters. Congress is listening to the public and recognizes the TPP and other trade deals pose genuine risks to consumers, workers and the environment.”

See: “New Public Citizen Report Documents Systematic Bipartisan Betrayals on ‘Deals’ Made by Presidents, Congressional Leaders in Exchange for Trade Votes.

Why is Russia Expanding Its Nuclear Arsenal?

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The Washington Post reports: “Russia announced Tuesday that it will expand its nuclear arsenal, sparking concerns about a renewed arms race as old Cold War rivals Moscow and Washington plan to increase their military capacity amid rising tensions over Ukraine.”

An activist and an analyst — both in New York City — are available to comment:

Sr. MEGAN RICE, mrice12 at gmail.com
Rice, a nun and one of the Transform Now Plowshares, a group of three activists who were convicted of allegedly intending to harm national security by entering into a Y-12 National Security Complex, a nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The activists spent two years in prison before their sentences were finally overturned last month. Their actions — which including pouring blood and painting “The Fruit of Justice is Peace” — sparked Congressional hearings on the vulnerability of major nuclear facilities.

She said today: “The Russians are rather responding to U.S. government activity, aren’t they? The U.S. government put its military at Russia’s door step. The facility we entered into at Oak Ridge is illegal — it’s producing weapons of mass destruction. The government calls it ‘modernizing’ — but they’re making some 80 bombs a year. It’s unconscionable that we know the effects of nuclear weapons and continue to build them, threatening all of life. And of course, some are profiteering on these weapons while poor people sleep on the street tonight. It’s everyone’s responsibility to expose and oppose crimes, even crimes of the government.”

See the Washington Post coverage of their trial, including a video interview of Sister Rice. Also: “The Prophets of Oak Ridge” and “3 Peace Activists Sentenced for Breaking into Nuclear Site.”

ALICE SLATER, aslater at rcn.com
Slater is with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee. She said today: “What’s going on here is we’ve pursued an aggressive posture, expanding NATO right up to Russia’s border, moving troops into eastern Europe, walking out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and planting missiles in Turkey, Poland and Romania. Now quite predictably, Russia is pushing back. Some people don’t see it because Russia has been demonized in much of the media.

“The Obama administration has announced that the U.S. government will be spending $1 trillion dollars over the next 30 years for two new bomb factories, planes, missiles and submarines to deliver new nuclear weapons. That’s totally inconsistent with its pledge under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty to move toward disarmament.

“The talks for the NPT — which take place every five years — concluded last month in failure because the nuclear powers have continued their stalling tactics. The South African representative very eloquently spoke of ‘nuclear apartheid’ — where the nuclear states, claiming the need to protect their security, hold the rest of the planet hostage to their lethal arsenals. The good news is that 107 non-nuclear weapons states at the NPT signed a Humanitarian Pledge to negotiate a treaty to ban the bomb, without the participation of the nuclear weapons states who continue to illegally flaunt their NPT promises to make ‘good faith’ efforts for nuclear disarmament.”

See IPA release: “As Anti Nuclear Weapons Activists Released, 91 Nations Pressing Abolition.”

Background: The U.S. obligation to disarm under the NPT has been acknowledged by former Secretary of Defense McNamara (the U.S. signed the treaty during the Johnson administration, in which McNamara served). In 2005, he told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The NPT was signed by a president. It was submitted to the Senate; it was ratified by the Senate. It is today the law of the land. The U.S. government is not adhering to Article VI of the NPT and we show no signs of planning to adhere to its requirements to move forward with the elimination — not reduction, but elimination — of nuclear weapons. That was the agreement, these other countries would not develop nuclear weapons and the nuclear powers would move to elimination. We are violating that.” In 2009, McNamara wrote the piece “Apocalypse Soon.”

Pope Connects Climate and Poverty, Latest of Political Encyclicals

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JANET REDMAN, via Elaine de Leon Ahn, elaine at ips-dc.org
Redman is the director of the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies. She just wrote the piece “5 Key Things Pope Francis Says about Climate Change.” She said today: “Pope Francis’ encyclical is particularly powerful because it’s addressed to everyone of any faith, as well as those who do not follow a faith tradition. He boldly challenges the entire human community to take an honest look at the foundations of our society that has created wealth for some at the expense of the planet. The Pope has drawn a significant connection between our individual responsibility to care for creation and for each other, and the way we build the global economy.

“Pope Francis is crystal clear — the current development model, based on the intensive use of coal, oil, and even natural gas, has to go. In its place, we need renewable sources of energy and new modes of production and consumption that rein in global warming. Taxing carbon, divesting from fossil fuels, and ending public corporate welfare for polluters can help end the stranglehold dirty energy companies have on our governments, economies and societies.

“The Pope unapologetically calls on the global community to address how the chasm between rich and poor people — and nations — is linked to climate change. The encyclical names inequality itself as an impediment to solving a looming planetary and human rights crisis. In order to help remedy these imbalances, developed countries need to pay their ‘climate debt’ by supporting adaptation, community resilience, and clean, renewable energy alternatives in the global South that will help us all.”

Jeb Bush stated: “I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinal or my pope.” The program “Marketplace” on public radio began their broadcast Thursday morning with: “The pope: Mixing a strange new brew of religion and economics”

BLASE BONPANE, ooa at igc.org
Director of the Office of the Americas, Bonpane served as a Maryknoll priest in Guatemala and has written five books including Guerrillas of Peace: Liberation Theology and the Central American Revolution. He said today: “Pope Francis’ Encyclical is very much in accord with previous Papal Documents. I was surprised to read in the Los Angeles Times (6/16/2015, William Yardley and Tom Kington) a statement claiming that Austin Ivereigh, author of The Great Reformer: Francis and the Making of a Radical Pope states that this would be the first encyclical, ‘issued with the intention of influencing a political process.’

“Nothing could be farther from the truth.

“In the 19th Century Pope Leo XIII issued ‘Rerum Novarum,’ (Of Revolutionary Change), standing on the shoulders of The Communist Manifesto and in agreement with numerous points made by Karl Marx.” It stated: “Some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class.”

Bonpane added: “Forty years later Pope Pius XI issued ‘Quadragesimo Anno’ (In the 40th Year) celebrating the words of Leo XIII and demanding a living wage.” That encyclical states: “The economic dictatorship which has recently displaced free competition can still less perform, since it is a headstrong power and a violent energy that, to benefit people, needs to be strongly curbed and wisely ruled. … On the one hand,economic nationalism or even economic imperialism; on the other, a no less deadly and accursed internationalism of finance or international imperialism whose country is where profit is.”

Said Bonpane: “The great Pope John XXIII who called for the Second Vatican Council in 1962 issued ‘Pacem in Terris’ (Peace on Earth) an encyclical demanding an end to the war system.

“As religious people began entering the Latin American Revolutions as rebels Pope Paul VI issued ‘Populorum Progressio’ (The Development of Peoples) making the point that violent revolutions should be avoided because of the endangerment of the innocent — except in the case of long standing tyranny where the fundamental rights of the people are violated.

“And today with this new encyclical on the environment [‘Laudato Si,’ (Praise Be … On Care for Our Common Home)] Pope Francis will reach more people than any previous Pope. Why? Because he has sanctified one of the elements of Liberation Theology, ‘the preferential option for the poor.’

“He is stressing the impact of climate change primarily on the poor of the earth. This is in no way to claim that the Pope approves everything in the rapidly developing Theology of Liberation. Surely he would differ with many of us who think the days of sectarianism, dogmatism and imperial style orthodoxy are defunct.

“However, his enormous international popularity among believers and non-believers is such that climate change deniers will be an even greater minority.

“Global capitalism has ravaged nature and created a foul and immoral distribution of wealth.

“Unsustainable consumption is a dominant moral and ethical issue.

“Those who complain should read the letters of both of Pope Francis’ predecessors, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI who wrote about industrial pollution destroying the environment.

“And all of this is said when the greatest danger to the environment is clearly and scientifically the military at peace. Beyond that it is undeniable that this small planet is absolutely unsustainable with the military at war.

“This is perhaps our last chance to choose life or death.

“This encyclical of Pope Francis has come at the proper time, it is an idea who time has come.”

South Carolina Church Killings and Roots of White Supremacy 

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JIM LOEWEN, jloewen at uvm.edu
Loewen taught race relations for twenty years at the University of Vermont. His books include Lies My Teacher Told MeThe Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader; Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism and Lies Across America: What Our Historic Markers and Monuments Get Wrong. 

Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler at verizon.net
Hagler is senior pastor with the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. He said today: “There are attacks against black people all around the world: from attack on a church in Charleston; police violence in Baltimore; deportation of ‘Haitian’ looking people in the Dominican Republic; violence against Africans in Israel and oppression of Palestinians there. We must stand and act against racism wherever it manifests itself — worldwide and without geographical or ethnic limits.”

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY, kevinagray57 at gmail.com, @kevinagray
Gray is an activist in South Carolina and was just interviewed by Chris Hayes on MSNBC — see video.

Gray’s books include co-editing Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence. He posted on his Facebook page: “Some tried to chide me on issuing a call of sorts to white people about the environment that creates a Dylann Roof. Well, the Confederate flag, a flag of white supremacy flies on the South Carolina Statehouse grounds along with a statute of white supremacist ‘Pitchfolk’ Ben Tillman. Countless streets and buildings are named after Confederate heroes. The president of the College of Charleston routinely dresses up as a Confederate general and fights mock battles. And this is the same man who blocked putting a statute of Denmark Vesey on the Statehouse grounds calling him a murderer of white people. This is where we live and what is ingrained everyday in our psyche without apology. I’m against white supremacy and I apologize to nobody for being against it.” See his piece from 2002: “South Carolina and Its Confederate Flag.”

The Racial Divide Remains in a “Squint Society”

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FERNANDO A. TORRES, fernandofenatorres at gmail.com
Torres is editor of LatinOPen. He recently wrote the piece “The Racial Divide Will Never Be Resolved If We Don’t Call It By Its Name,” where he asks, “Why is it so difficult for the mainstream media to mention the word racism?

“Reviewing the national headlines and news of the latest massacre – this time in Charleston, S.C., I find no mention of the word. I checked the AP stylebook just to be sure and saw no problem with the word ‘racism.’ So what is this reticence to mention it? With massacres of this type happening almost every five weeks, has it perhaps become a dirty word?

“If we want to start the much needed national debate, we have to first call these horrendous actions by their name, racist murders.

“Orwell at his best. If we continue rummaging the dictionary to sanitize as much as we can or if we continue swallowing the pill of the ‘lonely guy’ or the ‘bad apple’ we will continue, perhaps forever, asking ‘why?’

“Instead, what I found in the national news was ‘a hate crime.’ But that term really doesn’t go to the heart of the matter. Any killing is a hate crime but a racist lynching is not just any killing. Not even ‘terrorism’ is the most appropriate word because terror is what these massacres cause us to feel but it is not, deep inside, the perpetrator’s aim.

“And it is not the just the Confederate battle flag, or any other symbol, it is the state of mind, the education system, the media, the capitalist/market system, the craziness of gun ownership, coy politicians, TV’s biased images and references, Hollywood, the alive and kicking underground organized racist mobs (my list goes on and on), that have perpetuated racism since the first slaves touched ground in Jamestown.

“For the ‘Bay Area’ media the grieving will take more than a basketball celebration parade to sweep it under the rug. I realized this when on a street near Solano avenue in Albany, Ca. I saw a white woman crying out loud in her parked car… her radio was broadcasting details of the massacre. My most sincere condolences to this heart-broken women.

“We are not a color-blind society, we are a squint society unable to focus and the truth is that we still live in a racist commune where race matters, a lot.”

Despite Public Opposition, Obama and Republicans Ramming “Fast Track” Through

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The Los Angeles Times is reporting: “President Obama’s fast-track trade bill cleared a key procedural hurdle Tuesday in the Senate, all but ensuring it will win final passage this week and be sent to the White House for his signature.

“Despite deep reservations from many in the president’s party, enough Democratic senators appear ready to join most Republicans to finish the legislation, which has sputtered in Congress but is a top White House priority.”

A CBS/New York Times poll released in June found a majority oppose what the Congress and the President are pushing. [See question 29]

MANUEL PÉREZ-ROCHA, [in D.C.] manuel at ips-dc.org
Manuel Pérez-Rocha helps to coordinate the Networking for Justice on Global Investment project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

He said today: “The vote is a disappointment in the eyes of all those in the world concerned about U.S. corporate expansionism. … But these moves have also helped cement a global solidarity movement on how so-called trade deals push through corporate agendas. This global solidarity movement needs to stop these deals — which has happened before — and start developing structures of new global relationships that drive standards upward.”

Pérez-Rocha wrote the working paper “TTIP — Why the World Should Beware,” which states: “The trade and investment partnership TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), which is currently being negotiated between the EU and the U.S., will affect the whole world. But the other world regions, like the BRICS or the Global South are being excluded from the trade negotiations and hardly get attention in the debates around TTIP. This trend is shifting today: because TTIP as an ‘economic NATO’ is putting the rise of the BRICS, especially China and Russia, into relation with a looming ‘descent of Europe.’ According to the negotiating partners, the economic rise of the BRICS has to be prevented. But at what price?

“TTIP is a threat not only for the EU and the U.S., but for the whole world. Ultimately TTIP would serve as an instrument to the economic and political elites of the West to maintain their hegemonic power and dominance. The price is to be paid by the people in the Global North as well as in the Global South.”

Pérez-Rocha wrote the articles “NAFTA Pushes Many Mexicans to Migrate” and “NAFTA’s 20 Years of Unfulfilled Promises: The trade deal has become an engine of poverty in Mexico.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @MFlowers8
KEVIN ZEESE, kbzeese at gmail.com, @kbzeese
Zeese and Flowers are with Popular Resistance, which is part of the Stop Fast Track coalition. They are leading protests outside the Capitol.

Zeese, co-director of Popular Resistance, said today: “The Obama trade agenda that Congress is considering fast tracking through Congress will lower wages, export jobs, increase the wealth divide and increase the trade deficit. This is the consistent history of trade agreements written for trans-national corporations. They benefit big business interests at the expense of the people and planet. Senators who vote for Fast Track are driving the race to the bottom for the U.S. economy and voters need to know they are the reason our downward decline.”

Flowers, also co-director of Popular Resistance, stated: “The international treaties being negotiated by the president go beyond trade to impact every area of our lives. They will raise the costs of health care, undermine food safety, lead to more poisoning of the water, land and air and worsen the climate crisis. Additionally, the ISDS [Investor-State Dispute Settlement] provisions mean that we will not be able to enact laws that protect our health and safety even at the local level.”

UN at 70: “Foxes in Charge of Global Chicken Coup”?

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The United Nations Charter was signed on June 26, 1945 — 70 years ago this Friday — in San Francisco. [Note: IPA has a new online calendar — a tool for journalists and others: accuracy.org/calendar.]

The Charter states: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state…”

JAMES PAUL, james.paul.nyc at gmail.com
Paul was executive director of Global Policy Forum, a think tank that monitors the UN. He just wrote a two-part piece “The UN Disappoints on its Seventieth Anniversary,” the first part of which will be published today by Inter Press Service.

He said today: “From time to time, it has seemed that the UN might have a breakout moment, that it might take the lead in a transition to what used to be called ‘global governance’ — more participatory, more just, more peaceful. But it never happened — certainly not in the ‘post Cold War’ world dominated by the United States and its Western ‘allies.’ The UN effort to control transnational corporations collapsed by the mid-1990s, initiatives to make the Security Council more responsive to international law failed, the promising global conferences came mostly to naught. Washington forced Kofi Annan to purge his senior staff and toe the line, once the Iraq War was well under way. The White House crudely forced out UN ambassadors that did not conform to its wishes. And Congress threatened to pull the plug on funding. The foxes were in charge of the global chicken coop.

“Clearly, not much remains of the high hopes and aspirations attached to the UN since 1945. But what else do we have? Is this creaky institution reformable? Doesn’t it serve some important functions like convening climate change conferences, managing global disease, attending to refugees, and regulating global air transport? At 70, the UN is both a terrible disappointment and an indispensable institution still. It signifies that ‘another world is possible’ and indeed urgently necessary. But with the temperatures rising, inequality growing and states failing, it is difficult to see how the UN will be able to build a bridge to another future before it’s too late.”

See list of “U.S. Position on International Treaties.”

Obamacare Wins; 6 Million Keep Insurance — 35 Million Remain Uninsured

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SUPEME COURT ACAIDA HELLANDER, M.D., ida at pnhp.org, @pnhp
ROBERT ZARR, M.D., M.P.H., rlzarr at yahoo.com, Also via Mark Almberg, mark at pnhp.org
Hellander is director of health policy and programs at Physicians for a National Health Program, a 19,000-member organization of doctors headquartered in Chicago. She co-edits PNHP’s newsletter, is a frequent contributor to the International Journal of Health Services, and is co-author of the book Bleeding the Patient: The Consequences of Corporate Health Care.

Zarr is a pediatrician at Unity Health Care in Washington, D.C., where he cares for a low-income and immigrant population. He is president of Physicians for a National Health Program. Almberg is the group’s communications director.

The group just released a statement: “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court in King v. Burwell to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s premium subsidies in about three dozen states will spare more than 6 million Americans the health and financial harms associated with the sudden loss of health insurance coverage.

“For that reason alone the decision must be welcomed: Having health insurance is better than not having coverage, as several research studies have shown.

“That said, the suffering that many Americans are experiencing today under our current health care arrangements is intolerable, with approximately 35 million people remaining uninsured, a comparable number underinsured, and rapidly growing barriers to medical care in the form of rising premiums, copayments, coinsurance and deductibles, and narrowing networks.

“The unfortunate reality is that the ACA, despite its modest benefits, is not a remedy to our health care crisis: (1) it will not achieve universal coverage, as it will still leave at least 27 million uninsured in 2025, (2) it will not make health care affordable to Americans with insurance, because of high copays, deductibles and gaps in coverage that leave patients vulnerable to financial ruin in the event of serious illness, and (3) it will not control costs.

“Why is this so? Because the ACA perpetuates a dominant role for the private insurance industry. Each year, that industry siphons off hundreds of billions of health care dollars for overhead, profit and the paperwork it demands from doctors and hospitals; denies care in order to increase insurers’ bottom line; and obstructs any serious effort to control costs.

“In contrast, a single-payer system — an improved Medicare for All — would achieve truly universal care, affordability, and effective cost control. It would put the interests of our patients — and our nation’s health — first.”

ADAM GAFFNEY, M.D., gaffney.adam at gmail.com, @awgaffney
Gaffney is a research fellow in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. He is a frequent writer on health policy, blogging at theprogressivephysician.org and publishing in USA Today, Salon, Dissent, Jacobin, In These Times, Truthout, and elsewhere.

Last week Gaffney wrote an article in Jacobin that included the following comments: “It is important to understand that the Affordable Care Act isn’t — and is never going to be — adequate for delivering health care justice. At the same time, the sudden withdrawal of private health insurance from millions of Americans would be a human travesty that no sensible left should countenance, much less celebrate. Yet such an acknowledgement must not mean turning a blind eye to the deep structural inadequacies of our health care system, which will persevere, whatever the decision of the Supreme Court, until more fundamental change — a single-payer health system — is won.”

“The Secret History of Gay Marriage”

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AP writes: “The Supreme Court declared Friday that same-sex couples have a right to marry anywhere in the United States, a historic culmination of decades of litigation over gay marriage and gay rights generally.”

YASMIN NAIR, nairyasmin at gmail.com, @NairYasmin
Nair is co-founder of the group Against Equality. She just wrote the piece “The Secret History of Gay Marriage,” which states that just before the Supreme Court decision “All this simulated anxiety reminds me of the stereotypical Victorian woman, pretending to be surprised by the attentions of a suitor: ‘Why, I never! Gay Marriage in my lifetime? Heavens, I am quite taken aback!’

“Surely, given the tremendous shifts in both cultural and legal attitudes to gay marriage both here and abroad, we might finally drop this pretense of surprise.

“Still, gays and lesbians everywhere are pretending. And part of this cultural exercise involves a rewriting of history to make it seem like marriage is not only the natural but the only desired outcome of decades, really, centuries of queer existence. …

“The secret history of gay marriage is that it was never a topic of huge concern in the LGBTQ community until the rise of the mainstream gay organisations in the mid-1990s. Here’s what really happened: Following a depletion of political energy post-AIDS, we saw the growth of groups like Human Rights Campaign and the older National Lesbian and Gay Task Force (now The National LGBTQ Task Force), led by mostly white gay men and women or the occasional token people of color who fervently believed that normative politics was the only way to go.”

Nair’s work has appeared in various anthologies and journals, including Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, Singlism: What It Is, Why It Matters and How to Stop It, Windy City Queer: Dispatches from the Third Coast, Arab Studies Quarterly and Gay Press, Gay Power: The Growth of LGBT Community Newspapers in America.

Greece: Economic Elites vs Democracy?

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USA Today reports this morning: “Global stocks lurched lower Monday as Greece closed its banks and imposed restrictions on cash withdrawals to try to prevent a deepening financial crisis from worsening amid faltering bailout talks with its international creditors.”

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS, panayotakis at gmail.com
Panayotakis is associate professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York and author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy. He has been published in numerous journals including Monthly Review and Capitalism Nature Socialism.

He said today: “Since its election in January the Greek government has, in its attempt to reach an agreement, made many concessions to the eurozone’s austerity agenda. The fact that, in the course of the negotiation, Greece’s European partners always asked for more suggests that they may not have truly desired an agreement, instead preferring to squash the only European government with the audacity to openly criticize the neoliberal consensus. The European response to the Greek prime minister’s announcement of a referendum also displays the long-standing aversion of European economic and political elites to democratic processes that allow European people to have a say over the future of the European project.

“Although European elites have usually found a way to shrug off any referendum results they didn’t like, doing so doesn’t look good, since it undercuts the founding myth of European unification, namely the idea that the European project signifies the transition of European societies from a dark past of totalitarianism to a bright future of stable and robust democracy. Such a future is nowhere to be seen as Keynesian policies are, in effect, banned within the Eurozone and as the European institutions and the IMF are attempting to repeat the scenario that played out back in 2011, when the announced popular referendum by then-prime minister George Papandreou was aborted under pressure from German chancellor Merkel and then French president Sarkozy. The political and economic fallout, both in Greece and internationally, of Greek capital controls will determine whether the referendum does take place as planned. A resounding ‘No’ to the European proposal would face the Europeans with the dilemma of either risking the rupture of the Eurozone or negotiating in good faith with the Greek government.”

Obama Administration Disavowed Report on Rightwing Violence

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DARYL JOHNSON, daryl at dtanalytics.org
Johnson was the senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Intelligence & Analysis from August 2004 to April 2010. In 2009, his report “Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment” [PDF] was released and then disavowed by the administration. Johnson is now owner of the law-enforcement consulting firm DT Analytics.

Available for a limited number of interviews, Johnson recently wrote for the New York Times: “Today, there are still literally hundreds of analysts throughout the U.S. government looking for Islamic terrorist threats, including from Al Qaeda and its affiliates, yet, there are mere dozens of federal government analysts looking at domestic non-Islamic extremists. This disparity needs to be rectified.

“In February, the White House held a summit on ‘Countering Violent Extremism.’ Its aim was to build awareness, counter extremist narratives and emphasize community-led intervention. The summit’s agenda, however, primarily focused on Islamic terrorism. A successful strategy for countering violent extremism must include all forms of radicalism, including that of far right extremists.” Johnson also wrote the piece “I Tried to Warn Them: I wrote the infamous report that led Homeland Security to gut its right-wing terrorism unit.”

RANIA KHALEK, raniakhalek at gmail.com, @RaniaKhalek
Khalek recently wrote the piece “Expert: Obama ignored surge of rightwing extremism that inspired Charleston killer,” which states: “Johnson’s prophetic 2009 report predicted that the election of America’s first Black president coupled with an ailing economy would spark a resurgence in rightwing extremism, with ‘white supremacist lone wolves’ posing ‘the most significant domestic terrorist threat because of their low profile and autonomy — separate from any formalized group — which hampers warning efforts.’

“Johnson’s report also drew attention to the danger of extremists recruiting military veterans.

“Though intended exclusively for law enforcement, the report was leaked immediately after publication, generating a firestorm on the right.

“Whipped into a frenzy, conservative media outlets and Republican lawmakers mischaracterized the report as an Obama administration conspiracy to smear all conservatives as potentially violent extremists.

“In a stunning display of political cowardice, the Obama administration caved in to the pressure.

“Within days of the leak, newly appointed DHS secretary Janet Napolitano apologized for the report and Johnson’s DHS unit was slowly disbanded over the following year, leaving behind just one analyst to assess all non-Islamic extremist threats for DHS.

“Six years later, Johnson’s prescient warnings have been tragically vindicated again and again.

“In 2012, U.S. army veteran and neo-Nazi skinhead Wade Michael Page stormed into a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and fatally gunned down six worshippers.

“Last year, Frazier Glenn Miller, the former ‘grand dragon’ of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and a longtime anti-Semite, killed three people outside a Jewish community center in Overland Park, Kansas.

“Two months later, anti-government extremists Jerad and Amanda Miller killed three people in Las Vegas.”

Israeli Siege of Gaza Halts Freedom Flotilla

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AP is reporting: “Israel’s navy intercepted a Swedish vessel attempting to breach a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip early Monday and was redirecting it to an Israeli port, the military and the activists said.

“The military said that after exhausting all diplomatic efforts, the government ordered it to block the vessel. Israeli naval forces boarded the Marianne ship and searched it in international waters without needing to use any force, the military said.

“The ship was carrying about 20 activists, including Israeli Arab lawmaker Basel Ghattas and former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. Three other ships that were part of the original flotilla reversed course before encountering the Israeli navy. …

“While Israel insists there is no siege, there are severe restrictions on Palestinian movement and trade, with virtually no exports. The international community, including the United Nations, has repeatedly called for an end to the blockade.”

Those on the Freedom Flotilla also include former State Department official Ann Wright; and Robert Lovelace, former chief of Ardoch Algonquin First Nation in Canada.

DAVID HEAP, david.heap at gmail.com, @GazaFFlotilla
Heap is with Canadian Boat to Gaza, one of the organizing groups. The Freedom Flotilla Coalition released a statement: “We have no reason to believe that Marianne’s capture was ‘uneventful,’ because the last time the IDF said something like that, in 2012, the people on board the Estelle were badly tasered and beaten with clubs. Back in 2010, ten passengers of Mavi Marmara were murdered by the IDF during a similar operation in international waters. … Israel’s repeated acts of state piracy in international waters are worrying signs that the occupation and blockade policy extends to the entire eastern Mediterranean. We demand that the Israeli government cease and desist the illegal detainment of peaceful civilians travelling in international waters in support of humanitarian aid.”

Heap is available for interviews and can facilitate interviews with Freedom Flotilla participants as they become available.

ROBERT NAIMAN, press at justforeignpolicy.org, Also via ANN IGHE, igheann at gmail.com, skype: ann.ighe
Naiman is with U.S. Boat to Gaza and Ighe is spokesperson for Ship to Gaza Sweden. Naiman is senior analyst with Just Foreign Policy. He was recently interviewed about the Freedom Flotilla along with Lovelace by The Real News.

Naiman recently wrote the piece “#FreedomFlotilla III Exposes Anti-Democratic Extremism of the Israeli ‘Center’,” which states:

“Who are the people that the ‘centrist’ Lapid called ‘a gang of terrorism supporters’ that Israel needs to ‘deal with’ as if it were ‘trying to disperse a violent protest’?

“Participants in the #FreedomFlotilla III include the former President of Tunisia, Moncef Marzouki; Israeli Knesset Member Basel Ghattas; Spanish Member of the European Parliament Ana Miranda; Jordanian Member of Parliament Yahya Abo Soud; and Moroccan Member of Parliament Abouzaid El Mokrie El Idrissi. …

“Retired IDF Major General Shlomo Gazit, who was head of IDF military intelligence, has called on the Netanyahu government to leave the flotilla alone. He wrote in Haaretz:

“‘The ship that is currently making its way toward Gaza…isn’t carrying military cargo. It is seeking to focus world attention on the blockade that Israel is imposing on the 1.8 million residents of the Gaza Strip…The world is accusing us of still maintaining Gaza under military occupation. We, in turn, are seeking to prove that we have withdrawn, but we haven’t disengaged. We continue to control everything going in and out, and that is a continuation of an occupation government.'”

Failed State: Greece or European Union?

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JAMES HENRY, jamesshelburnehenry at me.com, @submergingmkt
Henry is former chief economist at the international consultancy firm McKinsey & Co. He is now senior fellow at the Columbia University Center for Sustainable International Investment.

He said today: “Several noted economists — including Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman — have said that what the EU is doing to Greece makes no sense from an economic point of view. And they’re right, it doesn’t from an economic point of view — but it may from a political point of view.

“This has been absurdly consumptive and could have been avoided with less than $20 billion, far less than the Detroit bailout. Germany has all but said it seeks the ouster of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who didn’t create this mess. He’s even now agreeing to a 23 percent VAT [sales] tax.

“Consider that while they are putting the screws on the left-wing government in Greece, much of the U.S. and European establishment is working to help the right-wing government in Ukraine as it seeks to restructure its $125 billion in debt and its economy is falling apart. No moralizing there.

“This is a punitive policy and it’s about making an example of Greece. Clearly, part of the dynamics is that the EU is worried about the rise of the left in Spain and other countries. Meanwhile, Le Pen’s party in France and other right-wing parties are celebrating all of this.

“To get out of the situation, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has said he’d like to more effectively tax the rich and he asked for help from the Swiss in finding an approximate $100 billion in taxes from foreign tax havens. But the Swiss have refused to release information on rich Greek tax cheats.” Henry is also senior adviser with the Tax Justice Network and was lead author of the report “The Price of Offshore Revisited,” [PDF] which estimated that total wealth in tax havens worldwide was between $21 trillion and $32 trillion.

He continued: “The suffering in Greece is palpable; the people are petrified. There’s 25 percent total unemployment and 60 percent youth unemployment. It’s been a bigger drop than in the U.S. during the Great Depression, now they can’t get money out of their ATMs. And the EU is effectively blocking Greece from stimulating its economy back to health.

“The Greek debt is an unserviceable debt. It didn’t get invested in useful assets. Much of the debt was actually accrued after Greece adopted the Euro — which itself was done under dubious circumstances — with German and French banks lending money to the Greek government for weapons. Then, when the financial crisis — which wasn’t Greece’s fault — hit, these private banks got paid off and institutions like the IMF assumed much of Greece’s debt. Those institutions are harder to deal with than private creditors.

“Now, the EU, rather than deal with this like a bankruptcy situation and taking a haircut on the debts, is preaching more and more austerity — which has failed miserably. The EU is the real failed state here. They’re effectively putting Greece in debtors prison. There needs to be a bankruptcy court to deal with sovereign debt.

“Part of the problem is the dynamics of the EU, especially with these Nordic countries with relatively affluent populations and a Calvinist attitude. [John Maynard] Keynes wrote in 1921 about why German war debts should be forgiven. Ironically, it’s been Germany that’s historically been one of the great beneficiaries of debt forgiveness — and now they’re screaming at Greece to pay up.”

Cuba: Will U.S. Stop Interventionist Policies? 

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ALFREDO PRIETO, [in Havana] prietogo at cubarte.cult.cu
Prieto is writer and editor at Ediciones Unión and a member of the Cuban Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC). He is former editor of Caminos journal at Havana’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center. He has been a researcher and a professor with various teaching institutions in Cuba and abroad, including Hampshire College, Johns Hopkins University, David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies, Harvard University, and Tulane University.

AVIVA CHOMSKY, achomsky at salemstate.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Chomsky is a historian, activist and author of eight books, including The Cuba Reader and A History of the Cuban Revolution. She teaches at Salem State University in Massachusetts, where she is also the coordinator of the Latin American studies program.

She said today: “The news that Cuba and the United States will move forward on opening embassies in each other’s countries is certainly a welcome, though not unexpected, step in the gradual restoration of relations. Unfortunately, President Obama continues to couch every announcement in terms of the longstanding U.S. policy of unwarranted intervention in Cuba’s internal affairs. Our unremitting hostility towards Cuba’s independence over the past 50 years wasn’t wrong, the president suggests, it just ‘isn’t working.’ With more open relations, the United States will be able to ‘increase our contacts with the Cuban people’ including ‘civil society and ordinary Cubans who are reaching for a better life.’ Through greater engagement we can ‘advance our interests and support for democracy and human rights.’

“This is precisely the approach that President Bill Clinton took in the 1990s when he announced his ‘Track Two’ policy of attempting to foster anti-government activity in Cuba. This means creating, funding, infiltrating, and guiding anti-government organizations on the island. Over the past year several of these USAID projects have been exposed, ranging from creating the ZunZuneo social media platform to sponsoring a covertly anti-government AIDS conference. If the United States really wanted to allow the right of the Cuban people to choose their own future, it would renounce its so-called ‘democracy promotion’ projects on the island and accompany today’s renewed diplomatic relations with a respect for Cuban sovereignty.”

Freedom or Fear? Are “Terror Warnings” Used to Prop Up War?

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ADAM JOHNSON, ahubbardjohnson at gmail.com, @adamjohnsonNYC
Johnson just wrote the piece “Zero for 40 at Predicting Attacks: Why Do Media Still Take FBI Terror Warnings Seriously?” for the media watch group FAIR about sensationalist mainstream media outlets repeating “the latest press release by the FBI that country was under a new ‘heightened terror alert’ from ‘ISIL-inspired attacks'” for July 4.

He writes: “CNN led with the breathless warning on several of its cable programs, complete with a special report by Jim Sciutto of ‘The Lead’ in primetime.

“The threat was given extra credence when former CIA director — and consultant at D.C. PR firm Beacon Global Strategies — Michael Morell went on CBS ‘This Morning’ (6/29/15) and scared the ever-living bejesus out of everyone by saying he ‘wouldn’t be surprised if we were sitting [in the studio] next week discussing an attack on the U.S.’ The first piece of evidence Morell used to justify his apocalyptic posture, the ’50 ISIS arrests,’ was accompanied by a scary map on the CBS jumbotron showing ‘ISIS arrests’ all throughout the U.S.

“But one key detail is missing from this graphic: None of these ‘ISIS arrests’ involved any actual members of ISIS, only members of the FBI — and their network of informants — posing as such … the viewer is left thinking the FBI arrested 50 actual ISIS sleeper cells….

“Nevertheless, the ominous FBI (or Department of Homeland Security) ‘terror warning’ has become such a staple of the on-going, seemingly endless ‘war on terror’ (d/b/a war on ISIS), we hardly even notice it anymore. Marked by a feedback loop of extremist propaganda, unverifiable claims about ‘online chatter’ and fuzzy pronouncements issued by a never ending string of faceless Muslim bad guys, and given PR cover by FBI-contrived ‘terror plots,’ the specter of the impending ‘attack’ is part of a broader white noise of fear that never went away after 9/11. Indeed, the verbiage employed by the FBI in this latest warning — ‘we’re asking people to remain vigilant’ — implies no actual change of the status quo, just an hysterical nudge to not let down our collective guard.

“There’s only one problem: These warnings never actually come to fruition. Not rarely, or almost never, but — by all accounts — never. No attacks, no arrests, no suspects at large.” Johnson lists forty previous FBI and DHS ‘terror warnings’ over the past 14 years, none of which actually predicted or foiled an attack.

One aspect of this, Johnson writes, is the “FBI, like all agencies of the government, does not operate in a political vacuum. Emphasizing the ‘ISIS threat’ at home necessarily helps prop up the broader war effort the FBI’s boss, the president of the United States, must sell to a war-weary public. The incentive is to therefore highlight the smallest threats. This was a feature that did not go unnoticed during the Bush years, but has since fallen out of fashion.”

Note: Michael Morell was George W. Bush’s briefer during the disinformation campaign leading up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He was questioned about his record by Institute for Public Accuracy Communications Director Sam Husseini recently at the National Press Club, see: “On Iraq/Torture, Still in Denial” for details and video.

“BP Got off Cheap”

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ANTONIA JUHASZ, antoniajuhasz at gmail.com, @AntoniaJuhasz
Juhasz just wrote the piece “BP ‘Got Off Cheaply’ With $18.7 Billion Settlement,” which notes that “BP has already estimated total costs for all economic damages resulting from the disaster at some $43 billion.”

Juhasz, an oil industry expert, author and investigative journalist said today: “BP got off cheap. The settlement is not enough to cover BP’s legal obligations, to restore the Gulf, or to stop any other oil company from engaging in this type of grossly negligent behavior. This is particularly dangerous as Shell edges ever closer to the Chukchi Sea to drill in the Arctic. The day after the settlement was announced, BP’s stock price rose and market commentators ‘cheered.’ Rumors of an ExxonMobil merger are also growing. On the other hand, it is also a truly sizable amount of money and a lot more than many of those impacted by this disaster thought they’d ever see. So, many local environmental groups and state and local governments are understandably thankful for the restoration money they will be receiving.”

Juhasz noted that there is no “reopener” — that is, “if new costs arise at a later date, the settlement cannot be reopened, yet there is only $232 million allocated for natural resource damages identified at a later date not accounted for in the current settlement.”

Greek Referendum: Triumph of Democracy over Bankers?

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Greeks overwhelmingly rejected conditions for bailout by the European “troika” (European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) in a referendum on Sunday. This is widely seen as strengthening the hand of the Greek government in negotiating a more favorable package.

In a move that surprised many, Yanis Varoufakis just resigned as Greek finance minister.

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS, cpanayotakis at gmail.com
Recently back from Greece, Panayotakis is professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York and author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy. He has been published in numerous journals including Monthly Review and Capitalism Nature Socialism. He appeared on the program “Democracy Now!” this morning.

Panayotakis said today: “The result of the Greek referendum has been a resounding rejection of the devastating austerity policies that European institutions and the IMF have been imposing on Greek people for the last five years. The fact that more than 60 percent of Greeks voted ‘no’ to the European proposals for further austerity is a small miracle given the intense psychological pressure that Europe’s strangulation of the Greek economy has placed on Greek citizens. This result is also a victory for democracy. The European institutions’ choice to take actions that precipitated capital controls and a bank holiday in Greece was an attempt to repeat the scenario of 2011, when aGreek referendum on a previous bailout agreement was aborted as a result of pressure from Chancellor Merkel and then French president Sarkozy. At the time, the democratically elected Prime Minister George Papandreou who called the referendum was toppled and replaced by an unelected banker who enjoyed the trust of European political and business elites.

“This time around not only did Greek citizens get the chance to have a say on their future, but they were also brave enough to resist the campaign of ideological terrorism unleashed on them by the media controlled by Greek oligarchs, as well as by business owners threatening them that they would lose their jobs if ‘no’ prevailed, and by European officials threatening that Greece would be ejected from the eurozone if ‘yes’ did not win. The referendum result may not end austerity in Greece, but it does create a better environment for Greek anti-austerity forces to keep fighting. As for European governments and institutions, they are faced with a choice of either reaching a compromise with the Greek government that takes into account the referendum result or continuing strangulating the Greek economy and increasing the risks of a eurozone rupture.”

JEAN ROSS, via Charles Idelson, cidelson at calnurses.org
Ross is a registered nurse and co-president of National Nurses United. She said today: “The historic referendum in Greece could be a watershed moment in history — an entire nation standing up to defy the bankers, the politicians who serve them, and a disastrous demand of more austerity that has already caused so much pain and suffering. Austerity, as nurses see first hand, compromises the health of people who endure loss of income, housing, and nutritional sustenance. The last thing they need is more of the same. Greece, you have inspired us all.” Idelson is communications director for the group.

Greece: Time for Ending “Austerity” 

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HARRY KONSTANTINIDIS, ckonstan at gmail.com, @xkonstantinidis
Konstantinidis is a recent University of Massachusetts Amherst PhD from Greece. He is now a faculty member in economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

He recently stated: “The landslide victory shows that the political establishment which governed Greece between 1974 and 2015, and campaigned viscerally for the Yes vote has lost its grip on the electorate, despite fear mongering by the media (domestic and international); and of course, outright political interventions by the creditors as well as the shutting off of liquidity in order to force the Yes vote. The Greek electorate essentially voted against austerity — even if the consequences of the No vote may be unclear. The vote also had clear class characteristics: working class areas voted overwhelmingly No (in some cases by close to 80 percent), while the Yes vote only won in a few wealthy Athens suburbs.

“So, where do we stand today? Varoufakis has already resigned from his post as finance minister, but his replacement, Euclid Tsakalotos, should be expected to continue along the same political line. After garnering support from opposition leaders today, Tsipras should be expected to go back to the negotiating table with the creditors offering a series of reforms in exchange for debt relief. However, I think we should expect to see the Greek government propose a program that re-establishes collective bargaining and shifts the burden of adjustment on the wealthier strata of the Greek population rather than on pensioners and low-income people. Of course, the likelihood of such a plan being accepted is slim.

“However, this is the time for Europeans objecting to austerity measures that have crippled the Greek economy to oppose what has become the dominant economic thinking in Europe, despite being responsible for economic stagnation in most Eurozone countries over the last six years.”

Yemen: Carnage from Saudi Bombing “Not the Worst Part”

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AP reports: “A massive airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition targeting rebels hit a local marketplace in Yemen, killing over 45 civilians on Monday, security officials and eyewitnesses said.”

Glenn Greenwald writes in the piece “Today’s Civilian Victims In Yemen Will Be Ignored Because U.S. And Its Allies Are Responsible“: “Because these deaths of innocents are at the hands of the U.S. government and its despotic allies, it is very predictable how they will be covered in the U.S. None of the victims will be profiled in American media; it’ll be very surprising if any of their names are even mentioned. … All of that stands in the starkest contrast to the intense victim focus whenever an American or Westerner is killed by an individual Muslim. Indeed, Americans just spent the last week inundated with melodramatic ‘warnings’ from the U.S. government — mindlessly amplified as always by their media — that they faced serious terror on their most sacred day from ISIS monsters: a ‘threat’ that, as usual, proved to be nonexistent.”

Recently, WikiLeaks released “The Saudi Cables” — over half a million cables and other documents from the Saudi Foreign Ministry. Also, see Arabian Peninsula twitter feed.

MATTHIEU AIKINS, [in NYC], matt.aikins at gmail.com, @mattaikins
Just back from Yemen, Aikins wrote a new piece in Rolling Stone: “Watch a Dispatch from the Scene of Saudi Arabia’s War Crimes in Yemen.” He recently won the Overseas Press Club Award for best magazine reporting.

FAREA AL-MUSLIMI, falmuslimi at gmail.com, @almuslimi
Currently in Beirut, Al-Muslimi is a Yemeni writer and a visiting scholar with Carnegie Middle East. He was recently profiled in Foreign Policy: “Departing Washington. Next Stop: Reality.”

He said today: “Best estimates are that about 3,000 people have been killed since the start of the Saudi bombing campaign. About one million displaced. You have more children now fighting than are in school.

“The bombings are horrible enough, but what’s worse now is that more people are probably dying because of the blockade and food shortages. And all sides of the conflict are responsible for this.

“The Saudi bombings have taken out bridges — why do that? About 100,000 Yemenis each year would go to Egypt for medical care. Now the Egyptian government (a Saudi ally) has for the first time since 1967 been enforcing visas on Yemenis — in effect blocking Yemenis from going for medicine. And critically, most airports in the country are damaged.

“It used to be that there was some food in the market but most people didn’t have cash, now even if you have cash, there’s no food to buy.

“There needs to be a real ceasefire now. Otherwise, there won’t be a Yemen. It’s a country with 25 million people and 68 million guns even before the Saudi bombing campaign.”

Rasha Mohamed, a researcher at Amnesty International, has been tweeting about the effects of cluster munitions in Yemen. See from CNN: “Report: Saudi Arabia used U.S.-supplied cluster bombs in Yemen.”

Background: Al-Muslimi appeared on past IPA news releases including “Iraq: Is Yemen the Model?” and has testified on Capitol Hill about U.S. drones bombing campaign in Yemen.

Beyond Greece: BRICS Enabling a New Economic Path? 

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From Left to Right: Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and South African President Jacob Zuma

SAMEER DOSSANI, Sameer.Dossani at actionaid.org, @sameerdossani
Dossani is advocacy coordinator at ActionAid International. He said today: “This week as Europe deals with the fallout from the recent Greek referendum, one thing has become clearer than ever: the old economic orthodoxy is dead. What’s less clear is whether a new and more sensible framework may be on its way and whether BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — may be able to play a role in ushering it in.

“The BRICS are having their annual summit in Ufa, Russia this week. Prime ministers of the BRICS bloc have been meeting annually since the 2007-08 financial crisis and issuing statements on global political and economic affairs.

“This year’s event will see the launch of the BRICS ‘New Development Bank’ (NDB). Heralded as an alternative to the World Bank (the BRICS has already set up an alternative IMF), the NDB is being touted as a way to bring much-needed financing to the infrastructure and energy sectors of developing countries. The African continent in particular has been singled out as having an infrastructure deficit which the NDB could help resolve. But whether the New Development Bank will really bring about a new development model remains to be seen.

“The NDB could offer a new model if it does not follow the exploitative ways of those who controlled the old development model. First, it should be about real development and not just exporting raw materials, a fate to which most developing countries remain tied. Next, it should abide by principles of transparency and democracy so that trade unions, NGOs and social movements are also part of the development process. Last, it should ensure that it doesn’t harm those its intended to benefit. This means strong safeguards and a strong accountability mechanism so that those who may have been wronged have a way to seek justice.”

ActionAid was one of many development, environmental and human rights groups that recently signed a letter “The BRICS NDB: Four principles to make the New Development Bank truly new.”

Massive Friday “March of the Torches” in Honduras Against “Coup-ism”

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Greg Grandin writes in The Nation: “In both Guatemala and Honduras, credible accusations of corruption are spurring mass mobilization… Washington is reacting in its usual manner to such threats: more militarization.”

Reuters wrote last Friday: “Tens of thousands Hondurans poured onto the streets of the capital Tegucigalpa on Friday to demand the resignation of President Juan Orlando Hernandez in the biggest demonstration yet against the country’s leader over allegations of corruption. An estimated 60,000 demonstrators, many of them holding torches, took part in the… protest that converged on the presidential palace, the sixth Friday evening march in a row.”

In addition, some of the recently released Hillary Clinton emails further implicate the U.S. government in the 2009 Honduras coup. See from Dan Beeton of CEPR: “Newly Released Clinton Emails Reveal State Department’s Celebration Over Honduras’ Flawed Elections Following Military Coup” and from The Intercept: “During Honduras Crisis, Clinton Suggested Back Channel with Lobbyist Lanny Davis.” The Intercept notes: “During that period, Davis was working as a consultant to a group of Honduran businessmen who had supported the coup. In an email chain discussing a meeting between Davis and State Department officials, Clinton [then Secretary of State] asked, ‘Can he help me talk with Micheletti [interim president installed after the coup]?’ Davis rose to prominence as an adviser to the Clintons during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and has since served as a high-powered ‘crisis communications’ adviser to a variety of people and organizations…”

JESSE FREESTON, me at jessefreeston.com
Freeston has covered Honduras extensively as a journalist and documentary filmmaker. He has temporarily released his new feature documentary for free online in recognition of the sixth anniversary of what he calls “the ongoing coup d’état.” “Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley” has been broadcast across Latin America on teleSUR and already received standing ovations at the International Political Cinema Festival in Buenos Aires and the Quebec Film Festival in Montreal. Shot over five years, it begins with the 2009 coup and then picks up the story of the farmers of the Aguan Valley who react to the coup by taking over the plantations of the most powerful man in the country.

“Resistencia” is available for a very limited time in English and Spanish at www.resistenciathefilm.com.

He said today: “The current protests are part of a growing response to an admission by the ruling National Party that more than $200 million was stolen from the coffers of the country’s social security fund under their watch. The National Party took power in the wake of the 2009 coup d’état that overthrew progressive president Manuel Zelaya and ended the process to re-write the constitution of the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. President Juan Orlando Hernández also admitted that some of the stolen money was funnelled into his 2013 election campaign. An election that at the time was denounced as fraudulent by many international observers and the major opposition party.”

Freeston says that today’s movement is directly related to the 2009 coup: “A new tactic of weekly torch marches to the congress has revived a national movement that has been rising and falling in waves for six years now. There’s a word you hear a lot in Honduras, golpismo. In English it would be coup-ism. The word itself is a recognition that a coup is a long-term project, not something that happens on one day. Despite global condemnation in June 2009 nobody was ever punished for overthrowing an elected president and killing hundreds of activists who opposed the putsch, so why would the same coup-plotters fear being punished for pillaging the social security fund?”

EDWIN ESPINAL, [in Tegucigalpa] espinaledwin24 at yahoo.com
Espinal, is an activist with the National People’s Resistance Front (FNRP), the nationwide umbrella organization formed in June 2009 to oppose the coup d’état. His girlfriend Wendy Avila died from excessive tear gas inhalation during anti-coup protests in September 2009. In 2010, Espinal was captured and tortured by police for his participation in the FNRP. In the run-up to the 2013 elections his house was raided by the Military Police, an elite unit that responds directly to President Hernández. This scene is captured in “Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley.” Today he is accompanying a group of students that are entering their third week on hunger strike in front of the Presidential Palace demanding the president resign. Espinal said today: “The movement is getting stronger every day. There are 16 people on hunger strike in front of the Presidential Palace and a group from the Aguan Valley came to join the strike yesterday. We will be in the streets until President Hernández resigns and an International Commission Against Impunity, like the one operating now in Guatemala, is installed.”

Greek Government “Willfully” Ignores Referendum Vote

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JOHN PILGER, [In London] jpilger2003 at yahoo.co.uk, www.johnpilger.com
Investigative journalist John Pilger’s books include Hidden Agendas and The New Rulers of the World. He wrote “The Problem of Greece is not Only a Tragedy: It is a Lie” in CounterPunch about the bailout deal Greece struck with its creditors, which included similar terms to the ones Greek voters overwhelmingly rejected in a referendum on July 5. In the article, he wrote: “An historic betrayal has consumed Greece. Having set aside the mandate of the Greek electorate, the Syriza government has willfully ignored last week’s landslide ‘No’ vote and secretly agreed to a raft of repressive, impoverishing measures in return for a ‘bailout’ that means sinister foreign control and a warning to the world.

“Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has pushed through parliament a proposal to cut at least 13 billion euros from the public purse – 4 billion euros more than the ‘austerity’ figure rejected overwhelmingly by the majority of the Greek population in a referendum on 5 July.

“For six months Tsipras and the recently discarded finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, shuttled between Athens and Brussels, Berlin and the other centres of European money power. Instead of social justice for Greece, they achieved a new indebtedness, a deeper impoverishment that would merely replace a systemic rottenness based on the theft of tax revenue by the Greek super-wealthy – in accordance with European ‘neo-liberal’ values — and cheap, highly profitable loans from those now seeking Greece’s scalp.”

Iran Deal: “Manufactured Crisis?”

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IRAN PICGARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Just back after two weeks in Vienna at the Iran talks, Porter is available for interviews beginning 3:00 Wednesday afternoon. He is an investigative journalist and author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. Porter regularly contributes to Middle East Eye. His recent tweets include: “The biggest news in the #IranDeal text is what isn’t there: the content of the new Security Council resolution & its arms embargo language.” Just after the deal was announced Tuesday: “And now comes the avalanche of #IranDealVienna propaganda spin from Israel’s media and think tank legions in the United States.” He also noted: “U.S. arms manufacturers have already exploited #IranDeal for $6 billion in new arms contracts with Gulf regimes.”

MUHAMMAD SAHIMI, moe at usc.edu
Sahimi, professor of chemical engineering and materials science at the University of Southern California, is co-founder and editor of the website, Iran News & Middle East Reports. Last month, he wrote the piece “Demonizing Iran To Prevent the Nuclear Agreement.”

Israel Silently Lapping Field in “Mideast Nuclear Arms Race”

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At a news conference this afternoon, President Obama defended the recent agreement with Iran, saying: “Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East, and other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region in the world.”

Most U.S. political and media commentary about the agreement has given substantial voice to Israeli reaction, for example quoting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu about Iran: “Today a terrorist nuclear superpower is born, and it will go down as one of the darkest days in world history.” All the while, Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal — estimated at between 60 to 400 nuclear weapons has been virtually ignored. Israel, unlike Iran and all Arab countries, is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

GRANT F. SMITH, gsmith at irmep.org, @IRmep
Smith is director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy. He said today: “This whole idea of talking about a nuclear arms race in the Middle East without admitting who’s racing is bizarre. You can’t talk about a race without admitting that some have not only left the starting line, but have lapped the field.”

Grant has used the Freedom of Information Act and initiated a lawsuit to obtain U.S. documents relating to Israel’s nuclear weapons program. See from Courthouse News: “DOD Report Details Israel’s Quest for Hydrogen Bomb.”

Grant wrote the piece “U.S. Confirmed Existence of Israeli H-Bomb Program in 1987,” which states: “The 1987 report’s confirmation of Israel’s advanced nuclear weapons program should have immediately triggered a cutoff in all U.S. aid to Israel under the Symington and Glenn Amendments to the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act. …

“Under two known gag orders — punishable by imprisonment — U.S. security-cleared government agency employees and contractors may not disclose that Israel has a nuclear weapons program. GEN-16 is a ‘no-comment’ regulation on ‘classified information in the public domain.’ ‘DOE Classification Bulletin WPN-136 on Foreign Nuclear Capabilities’ forbids stating what 63.9 percent of Americans already know — that Israel has a nuclear arsenal.”

Also see Smith’s piece “Lawsuit Challenges U.S. ‘Ambiguity’ Toward Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal,” which states: “Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear analyst James Doyle wrote candidly about Israel’s nuclear weapons for a magazine in 2013. After a congressional staffer read the article, which had passed a classification review, it was referred to classification officials for a second review. Doyle’s pay was then cut, his home computer searched, and he was fired.”

Smith also wrote the piece “Poll: Netanyahu Should be Investigated for Nuclear Weapons Tech Smuggling Before U.S. Visit,” which states: “In 2012 the FBI declassified and released files … of its investigation into how 800 nuclear weapons triggers were illegally smuggled from the U.S. to Israel. According to the FBI, the Israeli Ministry of Defense ordered nuclear triggers (krytrons), encrypted radios, ballistic missile propellants and other export-prohibited items through a network of front companies. Smuggling ring operations leader Richard Kelly Smyth alleged that Netanyahu worked at one of the fronts — Heli Trading owned by confessed spy and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan — and met with him frequently to execute smuggling operations.” See from the Guardian: “Arnon Milchan reveals past as Israeli spy.”

Background: At his first news conference at the White House in February 2009, Obama was asked if he knew of any country in the Middle East that has nuclear weapons. Obama replied that he didn’t want to “speculate.” See: “Netanyahu’s Nuclear ‘Chutzpah’ — As U.S. Government Releases Documents on Israel’s Nukes.”

Obama Visits Prison

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PRISONTHOMAS RUFFIN, Jr., ttruff56 at aol.com
Ruffin, a Washington, D.C. based lawyer, last month wrote the piece “President Obama is a Traitor to the Black Race: An Open Letter.” Ruffin said today: “As of July 14, 2015, while pretending to be concerned about the poor, Obama commuted the sentences of merely 89 federal prisoners; whereas, a racist president, Harry Truman, pardoned 1,913 prisoners and another racist president, Woodrow Wilson, commuted the sentences of 1,366 prisoners.”

Ruffin wrote in his recent piece: “President Obama holds himself out during the lame duck period of his presidency as though he worked assiduously over the last six and one-half years for the uplift of black people and the poor. That pretense on the part of President Obama is hypocritical …. To be sure, the president’s administration deliberately conducted itself over the last six and one-half years as though President Obama owed no obligation, moral or otherwise, to black people (or to other oppressed peoples) that would be any different from the obligations owed by one of Obama’s white predecessors …. [Indeed,] … while thousands of black people live today in prison, with many facing execution, for crimes they never committed or after being convicted in racially bigoted tribunals that President Obama never condemned, we make a horrible mistake by excusing Obama for failing at a job he volunteered to do: and that is, to enforce the constitutional precept of ‘equal protection of the law’ for all people, including black and poor people, not just for the benefit of a rich and privileged white constituency ….

“If truly concerned about us as black people, then why has President Obama ignored the political prisoners who should be freed for rebelling against American injustice? Cannot at least one of these federally convicted political prisoners, such as Veronza Bowers, Oscar Lopez Rivera … Leonard Peltier, or Dr. Mutulu Shakur, be pardoned? If concerned about our suffering…then when will Obama call for legislative reform that reverses the racially bigoted sentencing and penal policies of the ‘Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996′ …

“[Unfortunately,] I see none of that in Obama’s future as president. However, [even] if he offer[ed] these reforms to Congress, the effort will be late and grossly ineffective. To be sure … [President Obama] neglected the chance to enact these reforms during his first two years in office — when he benefited from a congressional majority.” Added Ruffin: “Instead, President Obama used that majority to give trillions of dollars to Wall Street billionaires whom the president seldom, if ever, prosecuted.” Ruffin was one of Troy Davis’ lawyers; Davis was executed in Georgia four years ago. See the Democracy Now interview with Ruffin just after the execution.

DAN BERGER, daberger at uw.edu
Berger is author of Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era. He said today: “It is nice to hear a president admit that the United States has a prison problem. If Obama wants to end mass incarceration, he should eliminate solitary confinement, stop immigrant detention, and pursue a much wider usage of commutations.

“The United Nations has said more than 15 days of isolation is tantamount to torture, yet thousands of Americans spend years on end in solitary confinement prisons such as ADX Florence or the Communications Management Units in Marion and Terre Haute. The people kept in long-term isolation are disproportionately Muslim, often the subject of questionable prosecutions, as well as social or environmental justice activists. Many have been placed in solitary without violating any prison rules.

“The immigration system continues to tear communities apart. Prosecutions for immigration violations have made Latinos the largest ethnic group in the federal prison system, and detention centers continue to cage 34,000 people everyday.

“The commutation of 46 nonviolent drug offenders was a small sign of how unjust our sentencing policy is. Further, experts agree that people age out of crime. There is little reason to keep incarcerating someone who has served more than 25 years and is over 50 years old — regardless of what sent them to prison.” Berger is assistant professor of comparative ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell.

U.S. Killer Drone Program Under Fire

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Al Jazeera is reporting today: “U.S. President Barack Obama’s former top military intelligence official has launched a scathing attack on the White House’s counter-terrorism strategy, including the administration’s handling of the ISIL threat in Iraq and Syria and the U.S. military’s drone war. In a forthcoming interview with Al Jazeera English’s Head to Head, retired U.S. Lt. General Michael Flynn, who quit as head of the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in August 2014, said ‘there should be a different approach, absolutely’ on drones.

“‘When you drop a bomb from a drone… you are going to cause more damage than you are going to cause good,’ Flynn said.”

PRATAP CHATTERJEE, pchatterjee at igc.org, @pchatterjee
Chatterjee is the executive director of CorpWatch, an investigative journalism group, and the co-author of the forthcoming graphic novel Verax. Chatterjee just wrote a piece in the New York Times titled “Our Drone War Burnout,” which states: “As public support for foreign wars has fallen, following years-long occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration has favored this form of remote-control warfare. In the president’s first five years in office, the C.I.A. made 330 drone strikes in Pakistan alone, compared with 51 strikes in four years of George W. Bush’s presidency.

“The issue of drones’ civilian body count is well documented. The C.I.A., in classified submissions to Congress, claims civilian death rates ‘typically in the single digits’ per year, according to Senator Dianne Feinstein in 2013, who then chaired the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“Independent sources differ sharply from the official account. In 646 probable drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen recorded by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as many as 1,128 civilians, including 225 children, were killed — 22 percent of deaths.”

Chatterjee continued: “The drone wars are also taking a toll at home. Air Force psychological studies have found widespread stress among pilots, analysts and operators. … Working up to 12 hours a day, sometimes six days a week, analysts watch their targets up close for months on end. They often witness their subjects’ final moments. In follow-up surveillance, they may even view their funerals.”

ELLEN BARFIELD, ellene4pj at yahoo.com
BEVERLY RICE, nycbev85 at aol.com
ELLEN GRADY, demottgrady6 at gmail.com, @DroneResister
Barfield and Rice are two of four activists who were tried last month for protests outside a drone base in New York state. They are awaiting sentencing. The protests are organized by the group Upstate Drone Action, where Grady is an organizer. The group released a statement: “Jury Finds Four Hancock Anti-Drone Activists Guilty of Trespass, but Acquits on All Other Charges,” which says: “They were among 31 arrested in the driveway to Hancock Air Base’s main gate on East Molloy Road on April 28, 2013 for ‘dieing-in’ with bloody shrouds or for attempting to read aloud to the military personnel behind Hancock’s barbed wire fence a list of children killed by U.S. drones. The activists said they sought to ‘prick the conscience’ of base personnel and the chain of command responsible for the war crime originating there.

“A lowpoint in the trial came when Judge Zavaglia did not permit Pardiss Kebraiaei, a national security and international law expert, to testify. Kebraiaei, who has testified before Congress, had come that morning from New York City where she’s an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

“Since 2010, Hancock has been the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the New York National Guard — an MQ9 Reaper drone hub piloting weaponized drones 24/7 over Afghanistan and likely elsewhere. Also since 2010, Hancock has been the scene of twice-monthly anti-drone demonstrations outside its main gate as well as occasional larger demonstrations and scrupulously nonviolent civil resistance organized by Upstate Drone Action, a grassroots coalition. These have led to over 160 arrests, and numerous trials in DeWitt as well as $375 fines, Orders of Protection, and numerous incarcerations. The Hancock witness is a part of a national and international campaign to stop U.S. drone assassinations where drones are piloted and coordinated from, such as U.S. A.F.B. Ramstein, Germany.”

Sandra Bland “Suicide” After Minor Traffic Stop

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ABC News is reporting: “Newly-emerged cell phone video shows the arrest of Sandra Bland, who died in custody Monday in Texas — as the woman’s family and authorities disagree about the manner of her death.

“Authorities said that Bland, 28, committed suicide, but her family isn’t buying it.

“A prosecutor said Thursday that he will present the findings of a Texas Rangers’ investigation to a grand jury. The FBI is also investigating the circumstances surrounding Bland’s death.”

CARLOS MILLER, carlosmiller at pinac.org
Miller is author of The Citizen Journalist Photography Handbook. He founded the website PhotographyIsNotACrime.com, which recently posted the piece “Texas Sheriff Tried Confiscating Camera During Violent Arrest of Sandra Bland, 48 Hours Later She Died.” The piece states: “At one point, Sandra Bland can be heard saying ‘I can’t feel my arm…You just slammed my head on the pavement. Don’t you not even care about that? I can’t even hear.’ Jail officials are claiming the 28-year-old college graduate, who was awaiting $500 bail and returning to her alma mater Prairie View A&M for a job committed suicide.” The piece cites this tweet about the death of James Harper Howell, IV — also at the Waller County Jail — under seemingly similar circumstances.

KERRY McLEAN, kerrymclean at gmail.com
McLean is a human rights lawyer and activist based in New York City. She said today: “The troubling, highly suspicious death of Sandra Bland is unfortunately all too familiar to African Americans. There have been instances of Blacks mysteriously dying while in police custody for generations. Sandra Bland’s death is a reminder for some that even if you are a woman, or upwardly mobile, ultimately all that matters to the police is your Blackness. Respectability will not save you. Even societal mores that men should be gentle with women are meaningless…’ain’t I a woman?’ Heartbreakingly, Black Twitter trended with the hashtag ‘#IfIDieInPoliceCustody,’ with people telling friends and loved ones that if they die after being seized by police, it was not suicide. That they never attacked the police. That their loved ones shouldn’t allow the media to malign the character of the deceased. That we should fight the powers that be in their memory. We need justice. For Sandra Bland, for Kindra Chapman, for Sheneque Proctor and so many more. We need an end to racist police violence.”

U.S. And Cuba: Restoring Diplomatic Relations

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AP reports today: “US, Cuba restore full diplomatic ties after 5 decades.” A ceremony in front of the Cuban embassy will raise the Cuban flag at 10:30 ET.

JOSE PERTIERRA, josepertierra at aol.com, @guaguap11
Pertierra is a D.C.-based attorney and Cuban American who formerly represented the father of Elian Gonzalez. He also represents Venezuela in the case to extradite rightwing Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles. See Miami Herald piece from last month: “Declassified document says Posada Carriles likely planner 1976 bombing of Cuba plane.” Pertierra appeared this morning on the program “Democracy Now.”

NETFA FREEMAN, netfa at ips-dc.org, @ips_dc
Freeman is organizer for the Campaign for a Just Policy Towards Cuba
for the Institute for Policy Studies. He recently wrote the piece “Has U.S. Policy Toward Cuba Really Changed?” — which states: “The United States could learn a lot from Cuba when it comes to disaster relief, education, and healthcare. More pointedly, Cuba projects a foreign policy of international solidarity around the world. As the U.S. supplies troops seen as military occupiers, Cuba sends — often to the same places the U.S militarizes — doctors and teachers who provide crucial assistance, free of charge, to the countries they’re in service of. Cuba does this with no strings attached, unlike the aid packages provided by U.S.-led international institutions like the IMF, World Bank, and even the United Nations. …

“Many of the moves the Obama administration has made in terms of its Cuba policy are in lockstep with Bill Clinton’s, as expressed in the recommendations of a 1999 task force report from the Council on Foreign Relations. The report asserted that ‘no change in policy should have the primary effect of consolidating, or appearing to legitimize, the political status quo on the island.’ While the Obama administration insists that it’s just changing a U.S. policy that was ‘not working,’ it remains an essentially disrespectful position against Cuba.”

Producers might want to use Jackson Browne “Going Down to Cuba” as musical intro.

How the Iran Deal “Snap Back” Could be Manipulated

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FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. His books on international law include Destroying Libya and World Order.

He said today: “President Obama and others have stated that if Iran violates the agreement, the sanctions on Iran will ‘snap back’ into place. That’s true, but what’s menacing about this is what they don’t highlight: the sanctions could quite conceivably ‘snap back’ based on some bogus pretext after Iran has dismantled the guts of its nuclear industry that is lawful under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Everyone knows that Iran does not have nuclear weapons to begin with.

“Under the agreement, this current or some future U.S. administration would only need the votes of the European powers to enact such a scenario since decisions will be made by the majority of a group that includes not only Iran, China, Russia, France and the UK, but also Germany and the EU. They have in effect set up a mechanism that gets around the possibility of a Russian and/or Chinese veto.

“The UN Security Council resolution passed today states that disputes arising from the agreement will be dealt with by this panel and that ‘If the Security Council does not adopt a resolution’ then the sanctions Iran has been under ‘shall apply in the same manner as they applied before the adoption of this resolution.’ So if the U.S. vetoes action by the Security Council, the sanctions come back.

“There has been misreporting on this issue, for example rightwing outlets like CNS falsely claiming: ‘Iran Deal Includes Loophole in Sanctions “Snapback’ Mechanism.’ Meanwhile, most mainstream or liberal reporting or commentary about this has been laudatory about the way the ‘snap back’ mechanism works: ‘How the Iran Deal’s ‘Snap Back’ Mechanism Will Keep Tehran Compliant.’

“This ignores the record of the U.S. government on these issues. In the recent case of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi eliminated his nuclear equipment and then was literally stabbed in the back — NATO bombed the country, he was murdered, and there’s a failed state there now, leading to untold human suffering. At a minimum, the United States government will use the ‘snap-back’ mechanism as a cudgel to beat the Islamic Republic of Iran into ‘regime change,’ which has been its objective all along.”

Is U.S. Already Violating Iran Deal?

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NuCThe UN Security Council resolution passed Monday on Iran’s nuclear program begins its second paragraph: “Reaffirming its commitment to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, the need for all States Party to that Treaty to comply fully with their obligations…”

But nuclear analysts and activists — including former U.S. government officials who negotiated the treaty like Robert McNamara (see below) — have stated that the U.S. is constantly violating the NPT. That treaty — which the U.S. signed in 1968 — was based on the grand bargain that the non-nuclear weapons states, like Iran, would not acquire nuclear weapons and in return, the nuclear weapons states would move toward “cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles, and the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery.”

On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will discuss the new Iran nuclear deal before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Also on Thursday, Adam Scheinman, U.S. Ambassador to the NPT Review Conference will speak about it at the National Defense University. See accuracy.org/calendar for critical upcoming events.

ALICE SLATER, aslater at rcn.com
Slater is with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee. She said today: “The hypocrisy of the U.S. and other nuclear weapons states who are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, with the U.S. having actually tested in Nevada a new dummy nuke bunker buster bomb this month, is breathtaking as we single out Iran for special and more stringent rules for compliance with the NPT than we require of other countries such as Japan and Brazil who have huge uranium enrichment programs, for example.” See reports from earlier this month: “Air force drops dummy nuclear bomb in Nevada in first controversial test to update cold war arsenal” and “Russia Considers U.S. Nuclear Bomb Test ‘Open Provocation.'”

Slater added: “The Obama administration has announced that the U.S. government will be spending $1 trillion dollars over the next 30 years for two new bomb factories, planes, missiles and submarines to deliver new nuclear weapons. That’s totally inconsistent with its pledge under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty to make ‘good faith efforts’ for nuclear disarmament, a pledge which the International Court of Justice ruled in 1996 requires the U.S. and other NPT nuclear weapons states to ‘bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.'” See IPA release: “As Anti Nuclear Weapons Activists Released, 91 Nations Pressing Abolition.”

Sr. MEGAN RICE, mrice12 at gmail.com
Rice, a nun, is one of the Transform Now Plowshares, a group of three activists who were convicted of allegedly intending to harm national security by entering into a Y-12 National Security Complex, a nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The activists spent two years in prison before their sentences were finally overturned in May. Their actions — which including pouring blood and painting “The Fruit of Justice is Peace” — sparked Congressional hearings on the vulnerability of major nuclear facilities.

She said today: “The facility we entered into at Oak Ridge is illegal — it’s producing weapons of mass destruction. The government calls it ‘modernizing’ — but they’re making some 80 b