Saudi Executions, Weapons and Influence

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Reuters reports: “Saudi Arabia’s Sunni allies rallied behind the kingdom on Monday and several joined Riyadh in severing or downgrading diplomatic relations with Tehran, deepening a sectarian split across the Middle East. … Saudi Arabia executed [Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr] and three other Shias on terrorism charges on Saturday, alongside dozens of Sunni jihadists.”

ALI AL-AHMED, alialahmedx at gmail.com, @AliAlAhmed_en
Ahmed is director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs. He was on “Democracy Now!” this morning and stated that he has known Nimr for decades. Ahmed stated that while other clerics had been sentenced to death, this was the first time a Shia religious leader has been executed. He said: “This will have repercussion for some time and it will not end well for the Saudi monarchy.”

He criticized U.S. political figures across the political spectrum for not meaningfully challenging Saudi Arabia and argued that money from Saudi Arabia and wealthy individuals from there had purchased influence in U.S. institutions including the Clinton Foundation. In contrast, the new leader of Labor in the UK has seriously challenged that country’s support for the Saudi regime, see: “Corbyn’s honourable record on Saudi Arabia puts Cameron to shame.” Also, see from the British IndependentExclusive: UK Government urged to reveal its role in getting Saudi Arabia onto UN Human Rights Council.”

WILLIAM HARTUNG, williamhartung55 at gmail.com, @williamhartung
Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and a senior adviser to theSecurity Assistance Monitor.

He just wrote the piece, “U.S. Arms Sales Are Fueling Mideast Wars.” He said today that Saudi Arabia is perpetuating war crimes in its bombing of Yemen since March — and is being aided by the U.S. government with weapons in the effort.

OMER AZIZ, omer.aziz at yale.edu, @omeraziz12
A fellow at the Yale Information Society Project and student at Yale Law School, Aziz recently wrote the piece, “Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia, and Their Gift to Yale.”

In an accuracy.org news release in October, he warned against the still-impending execution of Ali al-Nimr, the executed cleric nephew, calling it “classic Saudi sectarianism at work.”

The Guardian noted in a piece last year: “Nimr had long been regarded as the most vocal Shia leader in Qatif, willing to publicly criticize the ruling al-Saud family and calling for elections. He was, however, careful to avoid calling for violence, analysts say.”

Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah in a speech on the execution of Nimr stated: “The execution sends a clear message that the Saudi regime does not care for Islamic and international public opinion and for hundreds of millions of Sheikh Nimr’s lovers who would be hurt by his execution. … Al Saud [the Saudi royal family] are also explicitly telling people that they can either live under the dictatorship of the royal family or suffer all sorts of misery, including death. … Shia Muslims must be aware so that they do not fall in the trap of sedition as only Al-Saud, not the Sunnis killed Sheikh Nimr.” See: “Nasrallah on Saudi” and “S. Nasrallah: Al Saud Dynasty Imposed Itself on Arabian Peninsula via Massacres.”

Calls to Remove Head of DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz

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The activist group RootsAction.org says that during the first four days of the new year, more than 23,000 people signed the group’s petition — many adding passionate comments — asking the Democratic National Committee to remove Debbie Wasserman Schultz as its chair. See the petition and comments here.

RootsAction’s petition states: “In addition to her recent attempt to deny the Bernie Sanders campaign access to its own voter files, Wasserman Schultz has tried in other ways to minimize competition for her candidate, Hillary Clinton. She has done this by scheduling very few primary debates, and scheduling them at times of low TV viewing.

“In Congress, she has served as a pro-militarist and corporatist tool of the high bidders. Among recent disgraceful acts was her vote to enable racial discrimination in car buying. Enough is enough.”

HOWIE KLEIN, howieklein at aol.com, @downwithtyranny
Klein is a retired music executive, his career included a dozen years as president of Reprise Records. He now blogs at downwithtyranny.blogspot.com and has closely followed the career of Wasserman Schultz.

He said today: “RootsAction came up with a great way to launch 2016 — removing Debbie Wasserman Schultz as chair of the DNC. A better idea, though not as feasible, would have been to travel back in time and warn Obama what would happen if he followed Rahm Emanuel’s terrible advice and appointed her to the job. They reached almost 20,000 signatories in two days!

“Wasserman Schultz first came to my attention when, as a Florida state senator, she drew her own future congressional district — making it as ‘Jewish’ as she could — in return for giving Republicans in the state legislature unfair and unwarranted redistricting advantages. The next time she popped up on my radar was in 2008 when she was suddenly declared ‘a rising star,’ which, in Congress invariably means someone with the stench of corruption coming from every pore of their body who coaxes money out of businessmen and special interests looking for special treatment and then shares some of the loot with colleagues less talented at that kind of graft and wheeling-and-dealing. She was made chair of the DCCC’s ‘Red to Blue’ program, a program she so tarnished and disgraced that they were forced to change the name after they fired her.

“The task of Red to Blue was simple — replacing a Republican congressmember with a Democratic congressmember — turning a seat ‘blue.’ Maybe no one explained it to her properly but her first announced goal was to undercut the three viable Democratic candidates in her own backyard, Annette Taddeo, Joe Garcia and Raul Martinez, by endorsing her three Republican cronies in those seats, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the two Diaz-Balart brothers. At first she dug in her heals and doubled down but as pressure mounted she eventually backed down and was quietly given a job where she wouldn’t be able to cause as much harm and embarrassment.

“Eventually she tried jockeying for the DCCC chairmanship but Pelosi thought even … Steve Israel would do a better job and she gave him the job instead. Rahm Emanuel made sure Debbie got the DNC chair as a consolation prize, an utter disaster for the Democratic Party right from the start. And now, as Roots Action put it, ‘the head of one of the two big political parties in the United States is trying to choose its nominee by reducing input from voters.’ That would be Debbie, a member of the Wall Street-owned New Dems, and a bagman for right-wing Cuban interests, for the sugar industry and for the private prison industry.

“In addition to her recent attempt to deny the Bernie Sanders campaign access to its own voter files, Wasserman Schultz has tried in other ways to minimize competition for her candidate, Hillary Clinton. She has done this by scheduling very few primary debates, and scheduling them at times of low TV viewing.

“The results, thus far, have been bad from the perspective of Wasserman Schultz’s own party, including domination of the media’s extensive election coverage by the other big party. Another result has been reduced exposure for the Democratic candidate polling strongest against Republican rivals, Bernie Sanders.

“Wasserman Schultz has also agreed to debates that have been run by corporate and/or incompetent moderators who have failed to even raise many of the most important topics of concern to voters — for example, climate change and the TPP.”

See many of Klein’s pieces on Wasserman Schultz here.

Is Saudi Gunning to Scuttle Mideast Peace?

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Yahoo News reports: “The brother of a prominent Shiite cleric whose execution has roiled the Mideast and set off worldwide protests is blaming President Obama for failing to use his influence with the Saudi government to prevent his death.”

See from The Intercept: “After Executing Regime Critic, Saudi Arabia Fires Up American PR Machine.”

JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN, amadea311 at earthlink.net
Loewenstein is a human rights activist and faculty associate in Middle East Studies at Penn State University. She said today: “The initial U.S. reaction to the execution of Nimr was to call for restraint — a typical, obsequious reaction to its allies’ behavior — but it also warned that the execution of Nimr could fuel regional tensions and deepen the sectarian divisions that have plagued the region since, above all, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Unsurprisingly, while no mention was made of its role in sparking these tensions, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby called upon Saudi Arabia to respect human rights, permit the peaceful expressions of social and political criticism, and assure ‘fair and transparent judicial proceedings.’

“These hypocritical, mostly toothless and belated calls for its ally to honor at home the most fundamental human rights, while irksome — considering our decades of utter indifference to Saudi brutality — have nevertheless to be taken seriously by U.S. foreign policy makers. The international stage, especially the Middle Eastern region, cannot afford an intensification of hostilities between Iran and Saudi Arabia as the fires of war, terror, and hatred blaze from Damascus to Baghdad and Sana’a.” Loewenstein’s writings can be found at CounterPunch.org, including: “Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars.”

HASAN HAFIDH, mlhh at leeds.ac.uk, @hashafidh
Hafidh is working on his Ph.D. at the University of Leeds in comparative politics of the Middle East focusing on civil society networks and sectarianism in Gulf States. He said today: “At a time when Muslims collectively around the world would be going into the new year with renewed optimism and hope following the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad, Saudi Arabia took it upon themselves to throw a spanner in the works and execute one of the most prominent clerics in Shia Islam, one of the most outspoken activists in the Kingdom, Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr was executed along with 46 other people, suspected of being Al-Qaeda members.

“Rather than a miscalculation on the Saudi’s part as some analysts would like to believe, the timing of the execution itself alongside Al-Qaeda suspects were telling signs that this was a premeditated move and to send out a clear message to both regional and international actors alike.

“That message being that dissent (of any kind) shall not be tolerated within the Kingdom. However, their decision to execute Sheikh Nimr in such a timely fashion would be in order to present the image that Nimr was an extremist himself — to muddy the waters if you will. Despite the fact that Nimr on several occasions would advocate passive resistance, as noted from one of his iconic lines, ‘the weapon of the word is stronger than bullets, because authorities will profit from a battle of weapons.’ Nimr had already realized that were he and other activists to exercise violence this would be used to undermine the protest movement and tarnish his image, which is precisely what Saudi authorities have tried to do in their flawed attempts to try justify such a heinous act.

“The second point to emerge from the execution, and contrary to the conventional wisdom of Western policymakers, is that it is Saudi Arabia that is looking to provoke and seek confrontation with Iran rather than vice-versa. The Saudi monarchy will have been well aware that the execution of such a prominent figure would have sent shock waves around the region and would almost certainly entail some form of reprisal. They found their ideal pretext to cut off diplomatic relations as Iranian protesters vandalized the Saudi embassy in Tehran.”

The Clintons’ Paid-Speech Bonanza

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ConsortiumNews.com reports: “With primary voting set to start next month, one of Hillary Clinton’s remaining hurdles is convincing Democratic voters that she is not beholden to Wall Street and other wealthy interests that have fattened her family’s bank account with tens of millions of dollars for paid speeches.” The news site features an exclusive investigation based on disclosure records.

ROBERT McCHESNEY, rwmcchesney at gmail.com
McChesney is professor in the department of communication at the University of Illinois. His most recent books are Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America (with John Nichols) and Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism is Turning the Internet Against Democracy.

CHELSEA GILMOUR, cgilmour03 at gmail.com@Consortiumnews
Gilmour is assistant editor at ConsortiumNews.com and just wrote the piece “The Clintons’ Paid-Speech Bonanza,” which states: “Clinton has left herself open to that charge by profiting off her government experience, racking up $11.8 million in 51 speaking fees in the 14-month period from January 2014 to May 2015 before she became an official candidate for President, according to disclosure records.

“For speeches usually lasting between 30 minutes and one hour, Clinton was paid from $100,000 to $335,000, an average around $230,000. Many of her paid speeches were delivered to Wall Street, Big Pharma, Tech and other industries with interests in influencing government policies.

“Payments crossing the $300,000 mark came from Qualcomm Inc. ($335,000), the Biotechnology Industry Organization ($335,000), the National Automobile Dealers Association ($325,500), Cisco ($325,000), eBay ($315,000) and Nexenta Systems, Inc. ($300,000). Those amounts are each roughly equivalent to six times the typical American middle-class earnings in an entire year. …

“That nearly 38 percent of Hillary Clinton’s current personal wealth of approximately $31.3 million was accumulated during the brief period between her departure from the State Department and her run for the presidency underscores the extent to which she is a beneficiary of big-business’ financial largesse.”

 

Folly of Giving Federal Land “Back”

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AP is reporting: “Armed Group in Oregon Fears Raid; Critics Decry Goals.”

ANDY KERR, [currently in D.C.] andykerr at andykerr.net, @AndyKerrOregon
Kerr is a conservationist, and author of Oregon Desert Guide: 70 Hikes and Oregon Wild: Endangered Forest Wilderness. He consults for several public lands and wildlife conservation organizations throughout the American West.

He just wrote the piece, “The Folly of Giving Federal Land ‘Back’ to Harney County,” for The Oregonian in which he states: “Federal public lands cannot be given ‘back’ because Harney County never owned them. Harney County has no inherent sovereignty as it is merely an administrative subdivision created by, and for the convenience of, the state of Oregon. Neither has the state of Oregon ever owned the federal public lands within its borders. If Oregon were going to insist on taking over the federal public lands within its borders, it would be dishonoring the compact between the state of Oregon and the federal government. …

“The federal public lands in Harney County are conservatively worth $3 billion. If the federal government wanted to sell the lands at fair market value and if Harney County wanted to buy them, the 7,000-plus residents of Harney County would be on the hook for at least $421,000 each.

“While Harney County has a very large amount of federal public lands, it is a county about the same size as the entire state of Massachusetts. While about 75 percent of the land in Harney County is administered by the federal government as national forest, national wildlife refuge, national wilderness, national wild and scenic river or other national public land, for every Harney County citizen there are 230 acres of private land in the county, while for every citizen of the United States there are just four acres.

“Those who call for federal public land being given over to the states (or counties) are aiding those who want to privatize our federal land heritage to benefit corporate greed. Consider the history of western public lands. Most states sold any lands they received upon statehood as fast as they could to private interests, often fraudulently. In Oregon, a U.S. senator, John H. Mitchell, was sentenced to jail for such crimes.

“It isn’t necessarily tyranny if the federal government doesn’t behave as you would like. Those who don’t like the federal government shouldn’t take out their anger on federal public lands, which provide priceless ecosystem and watershed goods and services and belong to all Americans of this and future generations.”

North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons

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Head of the Pentagon, Ash Carter, near the North Korean border in November.

HYUN LEE, [in NYC] hyunlee70 at gmail.com
Hyun Lee is a member of the Working Group on Peace and Demilitarization in Asia and the Pacific as well as a fellow at the Korea Policy Institute. She said today: “People who stand for peace have been saying we need to resolve the fundamental issue: There’s still a state of war between North Korea and the U.S. and there needs to be dialogue and a peace treaty. We’ve been warning that North Korea will continue to build its nuclear arsenal until that happens. … North Korea had frozen its nuclear program during the Sunshine Policy period [beginning in the late 90s] and that all crumbled with the Bush administration’s threats.”

ALICE SLATER, aslater at rcn.com
Slater is with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee. She said today: “This latest terrifying and dreadful underground nuclear test by North Korea should be a warning to the United States and the other nuclear weapons states, that the longer we continue to modernize and cling to our nuclear arsenals and promote a nuclear deterrence policy which promises catastrophic threats of nuclear retaliation if attacked, the more additional countries will be seeking to get their own ‘deterrent,’ just as North Korea has done creating ever greater threats of accidental or deliberate nuclear catastrophe. …

“It cannot have escaped the notice of North Korea that after Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program was ended in the 1990s and after Muammar Ghadafi voluntarily gave up his nuclear weapons program, they both ended up dead. …

“The only way to control the further spread of nuclear weapons and unforeseeable nuclear disaster, is for the U.S. and the other nuclear nations, Russia, UK, France, China, Israel, India, and Pakistan, to give up their nuclear weapons and negotiate a treaty for the total abolition of nuclear weapons under strict and effective international monitoring and control. Unfortunately, this won’t happen until the two nuclear behemoths at the table, the U.S. and Russia, who now have 15,000 of the 16,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, agree to do this.

“Russia has been quite clear that unless the U.S. stops its aggressive expansion of NATO up to its borders – despite promises made to Gorbachev when the wall came down that NATO would not expand beyond East Germany – and forgoes its intention to dominate and control the military use of space, but rather join with Russia and China to negotiate on their proposed space weapons ban treaty, which the U.S. has been blocking since the treaty was first tabled in Geneva in 2008, there will be no cooperation from Russia. …

“People are not aware that we still have 38,000 U.S. troops stationed on the North Korean border and there have been many bad faith sabotages of proposed negotiations to bring North Korea back into the family of nations. With Obama announcing a proposed one trillion dollars over the next thirty years for new bomb factories, delivery systems and upgraded nuclear weapons, what can we realistically expect from North Korea at this time?”

See statement and updates from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

See “New estimates put cost of U.S. nuclear weapons upgrade at $963 billion.”

Also, see from 2013: “South Korea, U.S. sign new pact to deter North Korea nuclear threat” and “South Korea Unveils ‘Active’ Nuclear Deterrence Plan.”

The Myth of Entrenched Sunni-Shi’i Conflict

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NAJAM HAIDER, nhaider74 at gmail.com
Assistant professor of religion at Barnard College of Columbia University, Haider is currently a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies. He is author of Shi’i Islam: An Introduction and The Origins of the Shī’a (both from Cambridge University Press). Today he said: “Media outlets ubiquitously frame the current tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran in sectarian terms. The myth of an entrenched and timeless conflict between the two sects dating back to the 7th century serves as an explanation for the current instability in the region. In reality, the historical relationship between these communities is significantly more complicated.

“First, there is considerable diversity within each of these groups. Sunnism includes four independent schools of law while there are myriad Shi‘i groups that differ on fundamental theological issues. This is aside from the Wahhabi form of Islam that predominates in Saudi Arabia and consciously differentiates itself from both Sunni and Shi‘i Islam. Second, the typical mode of interaction between Sunni and Shi‘i groups has historically involved pragmatic co-existence.

“This state of relative tolerance has been highlighted in a number of recent studies. In fact, the fallacy of the myth of perpetual sectarian divisions was most clearly exposed in recent history by the participation of many Shi‘i soldiers on the Iraqi side during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. In this and other cases, sectarian identity was trumped by other factors such as nationalism and tribal affiliation. The apparent growth of Sunni-Shi‘i tensions in the current Middle East stems from the general instability of the region coupled with a power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In other words, the sectarian conflict is a product of political calculations as opposed to entrenched theological differences. The same factors produced the same results in a number of historical cases from Baghdad in the 10th century to the Ottoman-Safavid divide of the 16th-17th centuries.”

Dynamics of China’s Sell Off

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The New York Times is reporting: “Stocks in the U.S. and Europe sank after trading was halted in China for the second time this week. Markets had plummeted in Asia over concerns about China’s currency.”

JAMES HENRY, jamesshelburnehenry at mac.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: “There are several critical aspects to this:

“Stock turbulence is a great example of why we need a Financial Transaction Tax — Bernie Sanders has been recommending this. A tiny tax on financial translations carried out by institutions would raise hundreds of billions of dollars and it would lessen the volatility.

“Such a tax could be especially useful in China since there’s partially a lack of transparency in their financial system. That should be remedied. Part of what’s happening with China is that you’re seeing capital flight. Part of this is economic — Chinese who have made enormous amounts of money in the last decade wanting to diversify. But part of it is fear that the Chinese government is going to go after them, either for corruption in how they made their fortunes or for political payback.

“At a certain level, the stock markets have too central a role in the global economy — partly because there are now scores of them.

“But there are real problems in China — you have many, sizable worker protests happening because workers are simply not getting paid.

“More broadly, the entire world economy is genuinely vulnerable and there are few tools left to fix things. It is remarkable that you’re seeing these problems despite low oil prices. Monetary policy has been tapped out unless you’re wanting to look at negative interest rates. The ‘first world’ is going to have to start pulling its weight here since the developing powers — basically the BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa] that helped pull the global economy out of the 2008 crisis are in trouble themselves now. But you have a U.S. Congress that’s not going to allow much traditional Keynesian spending.”

Flint Water Crisis a “Violation of the Human Right to Water”

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NBC reports: “Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder refused Thursday to say when he knew the Flint water crisis — children being poisoned by lead from their drinking taps — was being mishandled. …

“Earlier this week, the Republican declared a state of emergency over the elevated lead levels — which began when Flint switched water sources in April 2014 to cut costs.

“But an internal email obtained by Virginia Tech researchers shows that the governor’s office knew months ago that Flint’s families had reason to be worried about the problem and the response.”

WENONAH HAUTER via KATE FRIED, kfried at fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Hauter is the founder and executive director of Food & Water Watch. She said today: “Recent revelations that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s administration knew about severe water quality problems in Flint, Michigan and assured residents there that the water was safe are an unconscionable violation of the human right to water.

“In 2014, Flint’s emergency manager disconnected the city from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department and started providing residents with water from the Flint River. Unfortunately, the proper corrosion controls were not put in place, which resulted in lead leaching into Flint’s drinking water, poisoning residents for over a year.

“To make matters worse the Snyder administration and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality ignored the people of Flint for months as they reported issues with their tap water. Worst of all, despite knowing that there was a problem with lead, the state kept telling residents that the water was safe to drink.

“The city now must replace thousands of lead water pipes, and its residents face a lifetime of healthcare costs. This is the very definition of a man-made, intentional, public health crisis.

“Michigan’s water problems are not limited to Flint. Highland Park and Detroit have also had problems ensuring residents access to safe, affordable water. Emergency management, an underhanded process created by the state legislature against the wishes of voters to allow the Governor to virtually take over a city, has exacerbated many of their water woes.

“Emergency management and the Snyder administration have failed these communities, first stripping them of their democracy, then their access to a basic human right. It is completely unacceptable. The Obama administration should declare a public health emergency in Flint to marshal federal resources and to help make Flint’s water safe again.” Fried is policy communications director for the group.

Implications of Guatemala Showdown on U.S.-backed War Crimes Prosecutions

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gmprThe New York Times reported: “The Guatemalan authorities on Wednesday arrested 18 former military officers on charges related to massacres and disappearances during the 1980s, the bloodiest period of the country’s 36-year civil war.

“The arrests pose a direct challenge to the president-elect, Jimmy Morales, a political neophyte who ran as the candidate of a party dominated by former officers. …

“In 2013, a former military dictator, Gen. Efrain Ríos Montt, was convicted of genocide, but the verdict was overturned. A retrial is scheduled to begin next week… Mr. Morales, a former television comedian and producer who will be inaugurated next Thursday, was elected in November as a political outsider.”

ALLAN NAIRN, 1cabang at gmail.com, @allannairn14
Nairn is a noted investigative reporter who has done extensive work on Central American death squads. He said in an interview with “Democracy Now!” on Friday: “The uprising, where hundreds of thousands of people came into the streets, brought down General Pérez Molina, and it created a climate where the prosecutors dared to try to go forward with these charges.

“These officers arrested the other day include a former army chief of staff, a group of intelligence chiefs, a former member of the Ríos Montt junta, a former minister of the interior. These are people at the heart of the power structure in Guatemala. They’re the partners of the oligarchy. They were the partners of the U.S. military. If you go back and read the cables that have so far been declassified from within the Defense Intelligence Agency and other U.S. agencies, you see them praising these officers, the very ones who have now been arrested for these atrocities. And these men arrested also form part of the core of the group that’s the incoming government of Jimmy Morales, just elected. His right-hand man was Ovalle Maldonado, who is one of those charged with crimes at the Cobán base … the pits are just stacked with skeletons. So, this has big implications.

“And it could have even bigger implications for the U.S. I spoke to, during the years when this was happening, three of the four CIA station chiefs who served there. I named their names in an article which appeared in The Nation in 1995. The prosecutors can go look at that article, see who they are. The U.S. personnel who were there, and who are still alive, can be subpoenaed. The U.S. should be subpoenaed to release all NSA, State Department and Pentagon documents regarding payments they made to these officers, training and advice they gave to them. The Guatemalan authorities, in theory, would have the right to extradite surviving U.S. officials.”

Discussing the role of former U.S. official Elliot Abrams — who Nairn accused of war crimes while the two were on “Charlie Rose” in 1995 — Nairn stated: “Abrams was perhaps the key figure in U.S. Central American policy during the time of the slaughter. He later became a top adviser to the Bush Jr. White House dealing with the Middle East, where the U.S. has mounted similar operations in support of killer forces. For example, in Iraq, in the capacity as a private contractor, the U.S. brought over one of the U.S. military men, Colonel [James] Steele, who had worked alongside the Salvadoran death squads. And in Iraq, he helped to set up the Shiite militia operations that went out and targeted Sunnis in Iraq. This was under the time of General Petraeus, when Petraeus was also carving up Baghdad with walls on a sectarian basis. They called it the ‘Salvador Option.'” See Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “How the Iraq Invasion Spawned Sectarian War.”

Nairn added: “This is a policy that’s been applied uniformly around the world. But since the U.S. is not yet as civilized as Guatemala, people like Abrams have not been put in the dock. But the Elliott Abrams equivalent — equivalents in Guatemala are this morning being brought before a judge in Guatemala as prisoners, and they’re going to face their fate.”

Is U.S. Facilitating Rigged Elections Process in Haiti?

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HaitiThe Miami Herald reports: “Now as Haiti prepares to mark another quake anniversary, it is also preparing to welcome back a functioning Senate and lower house after 14 new Senators and 92 Deputies were elected in the much-criticized Aug. 9 and Oct. 25 elections.

“While in theory Martelly’s one-man rule should be curbed, observers and critics say much will depend on the configuration of each of the chambers where no one political party enjoys a majority. …

“‘The constitution doesn’t give the president the power to take decrees. Every decree President Martelly has taken is illegal,’ said [Haitian Senator Jocelerme Privert].

“As promised, Martelly did issue an executive order on elections. But he also issued seven other law-binding orders including a controversial boundary change that triggered weeks of violent protests and street blockades north of the capital, where his beach house and other ritzy private beachfront homes are located.

“In addition to the decrees, he also made more than 60 administrative orders…”

ETANT DUPAIN, in Haiti,gaetantguevara at gmail.com, @gaetantguevara,
Dupain is founder and director of Kombit Productions. He is a freelance journalist and producer who has also worked as a fixer for many media outlets.

BRIAN CONCANNON, Brian at IJDH.org, @HaitiJustice
Executive Director, Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, Concannon said today: “Completing Haiti’s election process is important, but respecting minimum standards for fair elections is essential. The Obama administration’s insistence on imposing leaders elected through fraud and violence will condemn Haiti to years of unrest.” Concannon wrote the piece ‘Instill Integrity in Haiti’s Election” in October for the Miami Herald.

JAKE JOHNSTON, johnston at cepr.net or via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @JakobJohnston
Johnston is a research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, and lead blogger for its “Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch” blog as well as a contributor to the Haiti Elections Blog. Johnson said today: “As Haiti enters it’s sixth year since the earthquake, it faces yet another crisis – a political one that tears at its democratic institutions. The Haitian people could use the support and solidarity of the international community to ensure free and fair elections are able to take place. Instead, the U.S. and other countries and organizations are pushing for Haiti to move ahead with run-off elections resulting from a fraudulent first round.”

Obama’s SOTU Push for TPP — a “Death Sentence”

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BN-KO404_DRUGTR_P_20150930170332The Hill reports in “Obama, Democrats at odds before State of the Union address” that “a group of House Democrats on Monday held a press conference introducing the State of the Union … by condemning the TPP, a mammoth trade deal among 12 Pacific Rim countries that would encompass as much as 40 percent of the world’s economy.”

ZAHARA HECKSCHER, BookZahara at gmail.com,@ZaharaHeckscher
Heckscher is a breast cancer patient, writer and educator who lives in Washington, D.C. She spoke out at the Monday TPP news conference on Capitol Hill: “In 2008, I received a devastating diagnosis: invasive breast cancer. My son had just turned three. But today, even though my cancer is considered advanced, and my current treatment includes chemotherapy, I am thriving. My son is now 10 and I am happy to be a soccer mom as well as a writer and educator.

“I am alive and thriving today because I have had access to the latest medicines for breast cancer, including monoclonal antibodies, known as biological medicines.

“Sadly, I know all too well what cancer can mean without access to new treatments. My mother died of breast cancer in 1976, less than one year after her diagnosis, just days before my 12th birthday.

“That is why I was arrested at the TPP negotiations in Atlanta, and why I am here today to urge Congress to reject the TPP.

“According to Doctors Without Borders, the TPP will ‘go down in history as the worst-ever trade agreement for access to medicines…It’s bad for people needing access to medicines worldwide, including in the U.S.’

“How does the TPP prevent access to medicines? Organizations including like Doctors without Borders, Public Citizen, and Oxfam have done the detailed technical analysis, but the bottom line is this:

* “First of all, in the U.S. , if passed, the TPP will lock in policies that will keep prices obscenely high.

* “The TPP could tie policymakers’ hands by locking in the inability of our government to negotiate reasonable prescription prices in any future Medicare Part D reform.

* “The TPP would prevent the reduction of extra-long monopolies for biologic medicines — some of which cost over $100,000 per year — and delay the timely development of affordable, life-saving biosimilars.

* “The TPP would lock in perverse incentives that encourage pharmaceutical companies to ‘evergreen’ profits, extending monopolies for making minor modifications to existing medicines rather than developing new medicines.

* “In addition, efforts to reform our system and reduce medical costs in the future could be challenged outside our court system in unaccountable trade tribunals.”

See Heckscher’s full statement. She has a BA in Biology from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and an MA in International Development from American University.

Obama SOTU Foreign Policy Myths

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The following analysts are available for interviews:

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson at gmail.com, @davidcnswanson
Author of War is a Lie, Swanson is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator of RootsAction.org. He just wrote the piece “The Real State of the Union,” which examines various statements by President Obama in his State of the Union address, including “Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad” and “We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined.”

NAJAM HAIDER, nhaider74 at gmail.com
Assistant professor of religion at Barnard College of Columbia University, Haider is currently a member of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton. He is author of Shi’i Islam: An Introduction and The Origins of the Shī’a (both from Cambridge University Press). Today he said: “The myth of an entrenched and timeless conflict between the two sects dating back to the 7th century serves as an explanation for the current instability in the region. This idea is so entrenched in public discourse that the president channeled it in his State of the Union address. Speaking of the conflicts that rage across the region, Obama said, ‘The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation, rooted in conflicts that date back millennia.’ In reality, the historical relationship between these communities is significantly more complicated.

“The typical mode of interaction between Sunni and Shi‘i groups has historically involved pragmatic co-existence. This state of relative tolerance has been highlighted in a number of recent studies. In fact, the fallacy of the myth of perpetual sectarian divisions was most clearly exposed in recent history by the participation of many Shi‘i soldiers on the Iraqi side during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. In this and other cases, sectarian identity was trumped by other factors such as nationalism and tribal affiliation. The apparent growth of Sunni-Shi‘i tensions in the current Middle East stems from the general instability of the region coupled with a power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In other words, the sectarian conflict is a product of political calculations as opposed to entrenched theological differences. The same factors produced the same results in a number of historical cases from Baghdad in the 10th century to the Ottoman-Safavid divide of the 16th-17th centuries.”

IYAD EL-BAGHDADI, iyad.elbaghdadi at gmail.com, @iyad_elbaghdadi
El-Baghdadi is an entrepreneur, author, and activist most noted for his role in facilitating Arab uprisings. Now based in Norway, where he has received asylum, El-Baghdadi is currently in Malaysia. His Twitter account was briefly recently suspended, see BBC: “Twitter ‘confuses’ Iyad El-Baghdadi with Islamic State leader.” He sent out a series of tweets taking issue with Obama’s about current conflicts “rooted in conflicts that date back millennia”: “The current dynamic isn’t a conflict of sectarianism but a willful and cynical sectarianization of a regional power struggle.” See “Obama schooled on Twitter about Middle East history” from Al-Jazeera. Last month, El-Baghdadi wrote the piece “Saudi Arabia Is the Problem and Solution to Extremism” for the New York Times.

 

SOTU: “Don’t Blame the Robots”

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President Obama said in his State of the Union address last night: “Now, what is true — and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious — is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit; changes that have not let up.

“Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated. Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and they face tougher competition. As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise. Companies have less loyalty to their communities. And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top. All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing. It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to. ”

JOHN SCHMITT, via Casey Schoeneberger, jschmitt at equitablegrowth.org, @jschmittwdc
Schmitt is research director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth and co-author of the piece, “Don’t Blame the Robots: Assessing the Job Polarization Explanation of Growing Wage Inequality.”

He said today: “Technological change is not the force behind rising inequality.” “Don’t Blame the Robots” was co-authored with Heidi Shierholz — who is now the chief economist at the Labor Department — and Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute.

Schmitt added: “Technological change has been a constant feature of the economy throughout the entire 20th century, with no obvious associated increase in wage or income inequality for much of that period. As many researchers have also noted, the timing of the microcomputer revolution doesn’t match well with the jump in inequality. The largest increase in wage inequality took place in the few years between 1979 and 1982, well before personal computers, let alone the Internet, had transformed workplaces. And, the pace of growth in wage inequality slowed somewhat even as computerization spread steadily in the late 1980s and 1990s. Technology is also not well suited to explain important dimensions of wage inequality by gender, race, and age.”

 

Obama’s “Reinvention of Energy Sector”

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aerial_frackingIn his State of the Union speech, President Obama talked of having “reinvented our energy sector.” He also said the “auto industry just had its best year ever” and “gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either.”

RACHEL SMOLKER, rsmolker at riseup.net, @rsmolker
Smolker is an evolutionary biologist and co-director of Biofuelwatch. She said today: “Obama claims we have reinvented our energy sector, but what exactly has been achieved under his administration? His ‘all of the above’ approach has led us into a fracking nightmare, with methane leaking out all over the place, and contaminated drinking water in communities across the country.

“What he has achieved is a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars poured down the drain to subsidize production of biofuels that turn food into fuel, and companies that claim they will turn biomass into fuel only to go bankrupt after gobbling up subsidies.

“What Obama has ‘reinvented’ is to lift the 40-year ban on crude oil export. What he has ‘reinvented’ is drilling in the Arctic. Even his claims about auto efficiency ring hollow since the industry has just shifted to churning out more ‘light duty’ vehicles that are exempt from the efficiency standards. He’s reinvented the energy sector all right, but only with the interests of the industry, not our kids future.”

Clinton Doubling Down on False Healthcare Statements about Sanders

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hillaryhealthWebsiteDemocratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday night on MSNBC claimed regarding Sen. Bernie Sanders’ healthcare proposals: “The bulk of what he is advocating for is a single payer health care system, which would probably cost about $15 trillion. … it would basically end all the kinds of health care we know, Medicare, Medicaid, the CHIP program, children’s health insurance, TRICARE for the National Guard, military, Affordable Care Act exchange policies, employer-based policies. … It would take all that and hand it over to the states.”

Clinton is apparently echoing a Wall Street Journal piece from last year: “Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’ Proposals: $18 Trillion,” which relies on the analysis of Professor Gerald Friedman, quoted below.

In under 24 hours, a RootsAction.org petition, “Tell Hillary Clinton to Stop Lying About Single-Payer,” has gained nearly 10,000 signers. “A single-payer health plan covers everyone and lowers costs. It does not deprive anyone of health coverage or empower any governor to do so. Unless you’re in the top 5 percent for income, you save more by tearing up your health insurance bills than you pay in higher taxes under single-payer.”

See Politifact debunking of similar claims from the Clinton camp: “Chelsea Clinton mischaracterizes Bernie Sanders’ health care plan.”

GERALD FRIEDMAN, gfriedma at econs.umass.edu, @gfriedma
Professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Friedman’s work was cited by the Wall Street Journal about Bernie Sanders’ proposals for government spending. Last year he was featured in an accuracy.org news release: “How WSJ is off by $18 Trillion on Sanders’ Proposals.”

Today, he told accuracy.org: “The statement that Sanders ‘would take all that and hand it over to the states’ is wrong. What Clinton is doing is shameful. Sanders’ plan would end or transform those programs, but more importantly end employer based healthcare — and that’s good. The gold standard of single payer plans is HR 676, Medicare for All, which actually enhances Medicare and covers everybody. What Sanders has done is take that proposal and — in an apparent attempt to make it palatable to some Republicans — let the states administer the new, comprehensive program.” Friedman recently wrote the piece “Chelsea Clinton Is Confused about Single Payer” for Dollars & Sense magazine.

“Obamacare allowed coverage for 15 to 20 million people, and that was a good step. But it’s by no means what is really needed. We have 30 million people who are still uninsured and tens of millions who are under insured. The insurance companies still dominate how healthcare is done and that adds tons of overhead costs. Even Medicare now leaves people having to cover 20 percent of hospitalization. Sanders’ proposal solves all those problems — and it also adds pharmaceutical coverage.

“It does let the states administer it under strict guidelines. That’s not control — it has provisions in place that if they don’t administer it properly, the federal government can move in. It would in effect move administrative functions from private federal contractors to states.

“The $15 trillion figure is my old number from 2013 for the 10-year cost of a single payer program (HR 676) over and above current federal spending. (The exact number was $14.6 trillion.) That was based on projections from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid statistics from 2009. Later projections have lowered spending and my current estimate of the ten-year cost of a single-payer program would be $13 trillion. I have proposed several alternative ways to finance such a program — all have payroll taxes well under what people pay now for health care, on the order of 3 to 7 percent.”

Trump and Corporate “Inversions”

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2dba7e8c-7408-4818-affe-17f8313af09eERIC LeCOMPTE, via Greg Williams, greg at jubileeusa.org, @jubileeusa
LeCompte is executive director of Jubilee USA Network and Williams is communications director for the group. Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 U.S. organizations, 400 faith communities and 50 Jubilee global partners.

In a statement Friday morning, the group states: “Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump criticized the practice of corporations moving their headquarters overseas in name only to avoid U.S. taxes during the presidential debate [Thursday night] in South Carolina. Trump called these corporate ‘inversions’ ‘one of the biggest problems’ facing the United States. Democratic presidential candidates have also criticized the practice. According to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, inversions could cost the U.S. government nearly $20 billion over the next ten years.”

LeCompte said today: “It’s clear the issue of inversions crosses party lines. This is an issue where Congress can work together and solve a problem that affects all of us.”

Clinton’s Healthcare Mythology

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m50-sand-photoThe following analysts can debunk various myths regarding the current healthcare debate:

GERALD FRIEDMAN, gfriedma at econs.umass.edu
Professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Friedman’s work was the basis for attacks on Sanders in the Wall Street Journal, which the Clinton campaign seems to be drawing from. See in-depth accuracy.org news release on his analysis from last week: “Clinton Doubling Down on False Healthcare Statements about Sanders.”

JEAN ROSS, Contact:  Charles Idelson, cidelson at nationalnursesunited.org
While Clinton claimed at the Democratic debate: “We finally have a path to universal health care,” referring to Obamacare, which penalizes people who don’t purchase private insurance, Ross, co-president of National Nurses United notes: “Today, 29 million people remain uninsured. Tens of millions more remain under insured, facing bankruptcy or the choice of getting the care they need or paying for food or housing for their families.”

NNU, the largest nurses union in U.S. history, has endorsed Sanders for president. In “Nurses Applaud New Sanders Plan for Healthcare for All,” they say “It is Bernie Sanders, who in contrast to the Clinton campaign, clearly understands that our profit-focused healthcare system continues to abandon millions of Americans to crushing medical debt, discrimination based on race, gender or ability to pay, and an inability to buy expensive insurance due to the still high cost.”

STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, M.D., DAVID HIMMELSTEIN, M.D., himmelhandler at comcast.net
While Clinton claimed at the Democratic debate: “I don’t want to see us start over again with a contentious debate,” Woolhander and Himmilstein met with Clinton while she led healthcare overhaul efforts in the 1990s. They urged a single-payer plan, and note that she understood it would be better for the country, but was uninterested in persuing it for political reasons. See The Intercept: “In 1993 Meeting, Hillary Clinton Acknowledged ‘Convincing Case’ for Single-Payer.” See The Washington Monthly in 1993: “Dead on arrival: why Washington’s power elites won’t consider single payer health reform“: How, Clinton asked Himmelstein, “do you defeat the multi-billion dollar insurance industry? ‘With presidential leadership and polls showing that 70 percent of Americans favor [the features of] a single-payer system,’ Himmelstein recalls telling Mrs. Clinton. The First Lady replied: ‘Tell me something interesting, David.'”

JEFF COHEN, jcohen at ithaca.edu
Clinton claimed that when she headed the healthcare overhaul efforts in the 1990s, “the revolution never came. (LAUGHTER) And I waited and I’ve got the scars to show for it.”

Director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of media watch group FAIR and cofounder of the online activism organization RootsAction.org, Cohen co-wrote the piece “Clintons vs. Insurance Industry: A Media Myth” in 1993 that notes: “We can expect mainstream news outlets to paint a picture of Bill and Hillary Clinton in mortal battle against the big bad insurance industry. It’s a vivid picture, but it distorts reality. …

“A full-blown media myth was born, with most reports omitting basic facts:

“** The Health Insurance Association of America, which opposes the Clinton plan, … represents small to medium-size insurance companies. They would lose out to bigger firms under the administration’s ‘managed competition’ plan.

“** The ‘Big Five’ of health insurers-Aetna, Cigna, Metropolitan Life, Prudential and Travelers-have formed the Alliance for Managed Competition, which is sympathetic to the Clinton plan. That’s because those firms, heavily invested in Health Maintenance Organizations, would be enriched by it.

“** Operating through the Jackson Hole study group, the insurance giants helped draw up the managed competition blueprint, later adopted by the Clinton administration.”

Sanders Challenging “Primary Driver of Educational Disparities”

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Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 12.15.10 PMDuring last week’s Black and Brown Democratic Presidential Forum in Iowa, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the nation’s dependency on local property taxes to fund public schools, offering instead that we need “to make sure the federal government plays an active role to make sure that those schools who need it the most get the funds that they deserve.” See from Vox: “Bernie Sanders has a Bold, Simple Idea for Improving Public Education” and “Bernie Sanders is Right: We Should Federalize Public School Funding.”

KEVIN KUMASHIRO, kkumashiro at usfca.edu, @kevinkumashiro
Kumashiro is dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco, and author of numerous books, including Bad Teacher!: How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture.

He said today: “In contrast to Congress’ recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that moves much decision-making authority from the feds to the states, Sanders offers a refreshing call for the feds to play a much more impactful, and very different role, than in the past.

“The research is clear that inequitable funding is a primary driver of educational disparities, but also that initiatives to increase funding for struggling schools have had significant impact on student learning and on students’ future economic prosperity. But inequitable funding will continue to plague our nation’s schools if we continue to rely on local property taxes as the primary source of funding. Currently, school funding consists primarily of state and local funding, and on average, we see that in poorer communities, individuals are paying a greater percentage of their income in state/local taxes, but seeing a much lower amount of per-pupil spending, when compared with wealthier communities, and ballot initiatives have failed to change these formulas.

“Sanders is correct: The federal government can and should play ‘a more active role,’ in at least two ways. First, we need to recognize that budgets reflect priorities, and therefore, that investing in the education of our children and youth should be a top priority of the federal government. We have the political will to spend enormous amounts of federal tax dollars on war and prisons, but not on schools? Second, we need bolder and smarter national policies on how to spend these funds. We know that current policies are exacerbating inequities, including local funding formulas that benefit the rich, competitive grants that fuel privatization, funding contingencies that are tied to ‘reforms’ that do not work (like high-stakes testing) — all of these are making our schools less effective and less democratic, and the federal government can and should put forth a vision of public schooling that puts us on a better course.”

25 Years of Bombing Iraq

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baghdad-bombingAP is reporting: “Satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press confirm what church leaders and Middle East preservationists had feared: The oldest Christian monastery in Iraq has been reduced to a field of rubble, yet another victim of the Islamic State group’s relentless destruction of heritage sites it considers heretical.”

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 is currently writing a book on Iraq and her pieces include: “Battling ISIS: Iran-Iraq War Redux.”

She said today: “The hawkish Center for Strategic & International Studies boasts that ‘January 17 … marks an unrecognized milestone. The United States has been bombing that country almost continuously for a quarter of a century.’ In fact, the U.S. bombings over the years were often based on false or dubious rationales, most obviously the 2003 invasion under the pretext of ridding Iraq of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The initial 1991 attack obliterated the infrastructure of Iraq, there were bombings of Iraq throughout the 1990s, including Operation Desert Fox. The illegal U.S. invasion and occupation installed de facto puppet Iraqi regimes and orchestrated the bloody sectarian strife that plagues Iraq today. And the bombing raids continue, killing countless innocent Iraqis in their own country.”

CNN reports: “Nearly 19,000 civilians were killed in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015 — a toll the United Nations calls ‘staggering’ in a new report [PDF].” Wasfi said today, “The figure of 19,000 is the number of dead from armed conflict. Previous studies like the landmark Lancet studies estimate ‘excess deaths’ due to violence as well as lack of water, food, shelter, medicine, etc. This study notes, ‘In addition, the number of civilians who have died from the secondary effects of armed conflict and violence — such as lack of access to basic food, water or medical care — is unknown.’ So the number of dead is higher than 19,000 for this period; we don’t know how much higher.” A 2006 Lancet study estimated over 650,000 excess deaths from the 2003 invasion.

Iraq was under economic sanctions from 1990 until after the 2003 invasion. In 1998, Denis Halliday, who had just resigned as the head of the UN “oil-for-food” program, gave a speech on Capitol Hill, citing a “conservative estimate” of “child mortality for children under five years of age is from five to six thousand per month.” See: accuracy.org/iraq. Later in 1998, Halliday warned that the long-term U.S. policies and social strains of bombings and sanctions threatened the rise of a “Taliban-type” movement — in effect foreseeing the rise of ISIS. See video and transcript.

RAED JARRAR, rjarrar at afsc.org, @raedjarrar
Jarrar is the government relations manager with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization. His colleagues recently stated in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed: “Saturday marked 25 years since the 1991 launch of Operation Desert Storm with bombing attacks against Baghdad and other cities in Iraq. U.S. ground troops entered the country by late February and a cease-fire agreement was signed in March. A quarter century later, Iraq is still spiraling down, the United States is still bombing, and a devastating war rages in Syria, further destabilizing the region.”

The group also recently released a statement about the start of the 1991 bombing: “In just over a month, thousands of civilians, including families hiding in bomb shelters, had been killed as well as tens of thousands of Iraqi troops, including those withdrawing from Kuwait. It was a massive bombing campaign. Tremendous damage had been inflicted on homes, businesses, and infrastructure. All while Iraq was dealing with harsh, painful economic sanctions. A UN report concluded that the impact of the war had reduced Iraq to a ‘pre-industrial age.’

“The Gulf War sunk the hopes of many of us who thought that the end of the Cold War, signaled by the fall of the Berlin Wall, would lead to a new era where real peace could be possible. But once the Iraq war started, those who opposed the war were also committed to offering assistance to the victims, bringing a swift end to the fighting, and looking over the horizon to address root causes that could lead to future conflict.”

Clinton Laughs Off Calls for Wall St. Transparency; Santa Fe, Philly Consider Public Bank Solution

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GettyImages-456024380-promoThe Wall Street Journal recently reported: “Both of the leading Democratic presidential candidates made the case [during the last debate] that the financial services industry wants to keep them out of the White House, fearing the tough regulatory measures they would impose if elected.” Vox reports: “According to [Bernie] Sanders, a bank that is too big to fail is too big to exist … Sanders has gone beyond offering dream legislation to suggest that if he is elected president he will achieve a bank breakup within one year, whether Congress likes it or not.” And Lee Fang of The Intercept reports January 23: “After Hillary Clinton spoke at a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Friday, I asked her if she would release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. She laughed and turned away.” See video and RootsAction DIY alert urging release of Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs.

Meanwhile, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican‘s Bruce Krasnow on January 13: “A feasibility study released Wednesday concluded that the city of Santa Fe could save money by establishing a public bank.” The feasibility study states: “The projected fiscal and economic impact to the City exceeds $24 million in the first seven years, based upon assumptions of how much of the City’s deposits are deployed in self-funding and reduced collateral programs.”

ELLEN BROWN, ellenhbrown at gmail.com
Founder of the Public Banking Institute, Brown is the author of Web of Debt and The Public Bank Solution. She recently appeared on The Real News: “Can Clinton Be Trusted to Regulate the Industry That Made Her Wealthy?

She said today: “The hazards posed to the economy and our savings by risky Wall Street banks have become a major campaign issue in the presidential debates. Some say the problem can be solved with more regulation. But we already tried that with Dodd-Frank, currently the most complicated bill ever passed by Congress — and it hasn’t solved the problem. Dodd-Frank replaces bailouts with ‘bail-ins’ — depositors will be at least partly liable for keeping too-big-to-fail banks afloat. And the massive tangle of new regulations has hamstrung smaller community banks that loan to small businesses, creating jobs. What will replace the banks if we break them up? Publicly-owned depository banks modeled after the Bank of North Dakota can serve that purpose, and partner with community banks to direct credit where it’s needed locally, reduce the costs of government, and eliminate outlandish Wall Street fees and the need for derivatives to mitigate risk.” The Public Banking Institute notes that in addition to recent moves in New Mexico, the Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution last week authorizing hearings on public banking.

Sanders and Socialism

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Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 11.43.16 AMAdam Johnson in “45 Million Americans Live in Poverty, but You Wouldn’t Know It From Watching 2016 Coverage” notes that: “Of the five Republican debates and of the three Democratic debates, not one moderator has asked a question involving the words ‘poverty’ or ‘poor.'” See: “Sanders Consoles Crying Woman Struggling To Live Off Minimum Wage.”

RICHARD WOLFF, rdwolff at att.net, @profwolff
Wolff is visiting professor at the New School University, New York and professor of economics emeritus, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

He said today: “Bernie offers hope and change. Hope for something better than the capitalism we have and its worsening inequality, instability and endless warfare, environmental outrages, and basic injustice. Bernie’s “democratic socialism” is a change from all that to another New Deal. No real surprise that after Obama’s promise of hope and change proved an illusion, something further left would take up the cry, respond to the need. And here’s a thought: if Bernie is denied or blocked from delivering on his promises, movements further left will similarly emerge to respond to the need.

“The World Economic Forum in Davos obsessed, and rightly, over a global capitalism deeply mired in the iceberg of debt used to cope with the 2008 crash. The great fear is that the debt will cut off growth, produce deflation, and thereby increase the burden debt places on the system. Capitalism — the system — is in trouble. Of course, socialisms then arise; they always were among the alternatives to consider when people find it urgent to ‘do better than capitalism.'”

See Wolff’s “Socialism For Dummies” talk.

 

On the Ground at Oregon Shootout

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Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 7.58.33 AMARUN GUPTA, arun.indypendent at gmail.com, @arunindy
Gupta is an investigative journalist who has written for dozens of publications including the Washington Post, the Guardian,The Nation, and Salon.

See his pieces covering the situation in Oregon for The Raw Story, which reports: “Arun Gupta was on his way to cover the community meeting when he was told the road was closed due to a crash — and law enforcement officers told him alternate routes might take hours to reach the meeting in Grant County. Gupta soon learned rumors of what happened — here’s his account from Harney County:”

Gupta said today: “We were minutes behind where the shooting took place at approximately 5 p.m., on Highway 395. But we didn’t know it. We were climbing the mountain and saw police lights ahead. There were at least two police cars, a car across the road, and a few cars ahead of us stopped. We thought it was an accident as an ambulance came into view. A cop told us to turn around, said it would be hours. …”

In his most recently posted piece, “The Oregon militant leaders are captured or dead — but anger toward the government lives on,” Gupta writes: “I saw LaVoy Finnicum [Tuesday] at the Malheur Refuge. He waved both times he saw me, the last as he drove in his pickup truck. I wanted to talk to him but I was rushing from one interview to the next and figured I could catch him later. He said weeks ago he would die before he was arrested. A few hours later he was shot dead.

“Ryan Payne also drove by in his pickup truck. He stopped, rolled down his window and chatted. Like the Bundys and others, Payne is adroit at talking to the media. He didn’t want to be pinned down, and threw out platitudes loved by the right, such as, ‘The government is best that governs the least.’

“Payne said he was going to the Grant County, Oregon, meeting Tuesday night to start up a new chapter of the ‘Committee of Safety.’ The first began in neighboring Harney County, Oregon, last month. The Bundys and Payne established it as the first institution in their armed revolt against the local, state and U.S. governments.

“Payne claimed all he wanted was a constitutional system of government, but when pushed he could name very few federal agencies that would remain in his vision of the United States. Most would be abolished, even the Departments of Defense and Commerce would be radically changed.”

Understanding Scandinavian Socialism

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Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 11.02.11 AMANN JONES, annjonesonline at gmail.com
Jones went to Norway in 2011 as a Fulbright Fellow and recently returned to the U.S. Her books include, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars — the Untold Story.

She just wrote the piece “American Democracy Down for the Count: Or What Is It the Scandinavians Have That We Don’t?” for TomDispatch and The Nation. The piece states: “One night I tuned in to the Democrats’ presidential debate to see if they had any plans to restore the America I used to know. To my amazement, I heard the name of my peaceful mountain hideaway: Norway. Bernie Sanders was denouncing America’s crooked version of ‘casino capitalism’ that floats the already rich ever higher and flushes the working class. He said that we ought to ‘look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.’ He believes, he added, in ‘a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires.’ That certainly sounds like Norway. …

“In the U.S., full-time salaried workers supposedly laboring 40 hours a week actually average 49, with almost 20 percent clocking more than 60. These people, on the other hand, worked only about 37 hours a week, when they weren’t away on long paid vacations. At the end of the work day, about four in the afternoon (perhaps three in the summer), they had time to enjoy a hike in the forest or a swim with the kids or a beer with friends — which helps explain why, unlike so many Americans, they are pleased with their jobs. …

“In the U.S., oligarchs maximize their wealth and keep it, using the ‘democratically elected’ government to shape policies and laws favorable to the interests of their foxy class. They bamboozle the people by insisting, as Hillary Clinton did at that debate, that all of us have the ‘freedom’ to create a business in the ‘free’ marketplace, which implies that being hard up is our own fault.

“In the Nordic countries, on the other hand, democratically elected governments give their populations freedom from the market by using capitalism as a tool to benefit everyone. That liberates their people from the tyranny of the mighty profit motive that warps so many American lives, leaving them freer to follow their own dreams — to become poets or philosophers, bartenders or business owners, as they please. …

“In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, obliterating six decades of federal social welfare policy ‘as we know it,’ ending federal cash payments to the nation’s poor, and consigning millions of female heads of household and their children to poverty, where many still dwell 20 years later. Today, nearly half a century after Nixon trashed national child care, even privileged women, torn between their underpaid work and their kids, are overwhelmed. Things happened very differently in Norway. …”

Gates Foundation: Pushing “Values of Corporate America”

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bill-gates-report-imagePOLLY JONES, via Kevin Smith, kevin.smith at globaljustice.org.uk, @GlobalJusticeUK
Jones is the head of campaigns and policy at Global Justice Now, which just released a 54-page report titled, “Gated Development – is the Gates Foundations always a force for good?” [PDF]

She said: “The Gates Foundation has rapidly become the most influential actor in the world of global health and agricultural policies, but there’s no oversight or accountability in how that influence is managed. This concentration of power and influence is even more problematic when you consider that the philanthropic vision of the Gates Foundation seems to be largely based on the values of corporate America. The foundation is relentlessly promoting big business-based initiatives such as industrial agriculture, private health care and education. But these are all potentially exacerbating the problems of poverty and lack of access to basic resources that the foundation is supposed to be alleviating.”

The group states that the foundation is “dangerously and unaccountably distorting the direction of international development,” leveling the following specific criticisms:

* “The relationship between the money that the foundation has to give away and Microsoft’s tax practices. A 2012 report from the U.S. Senate found that Microsoft’s use of offshore subsidiaries enabled it to avoid taxes of $4.5 billion — a sum greater than the BMGF’s annual grant making ($3.6 billion in 2014).

* “The close relationship that BMGF has with many corporations whose role and policies contribute to ongoing poverty. Not only is BMGF profiting from numerous investments in a series of controversial companies which contribute to economic and social injustice, it is also actively supporting a series of those companies, including Monsanto, Dupont and Bayer through a variety of pro-corporate initiatives around the world.

* “The foundation’s promotion of industrial agriculture across Africa, pushing for the adoption of GM [genetically modified], patented seed systems and chemical fertilizers, all of which undermine existing sustainable, small-scale farming that is providing the vast majority of food security across the continent.

* “The foundation’s promotion of projects around the world pushing private healthcare and education. Numerous agencies have raised concerns that such projects exacerbate inequality and undermine the universal provision of such basic human necessities.

* “BMGF’s funding of a series of vaccine programs that have reportedly lead to illnesses or even deaths with little official or media scrutiny.”

The Billionaire’s Election, The Sanders Exception

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61LyMHRA+pL._UX250_The Hill reported this weekend: “Billionaire George Soros contributed $6 million to a super-PAC supporting Hillary Clinton last month, according to the committee’s latest financial statement.”The Washington Post — now owned by Amazon founder billionaire Jeff Bezos — has attacked Bernie Sanders in repeated editorials in recent days. See pieces by economist Dean Baker for the media watch group FAIR and journalist Adam Johnson for AlterNet.

CRAIG HOLMAN, cholman at citizen.org, @CBHolman
Campaign finance and governmental ethics specialist for Public Citizen, Holman has written extensively on money in politics, including his recent piece “A Matter of Trust: Slowing Wall Street’s Revolving Door.”

NOMI PRINS, via Jaime Leifer, jaime.leifer at publicaffairsbooks.com, @nomiprins
Prins, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of six books, including All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power.

She just wrote the piece “Democracy of the Billionaires: The Most Expensive Election Ever Is A Billionaire’s Playground (Except for Bernie Sanders),” that gives a synopsis of each candidate, including:

Hillary Clinton: A Dynasty of Billionaires

“Hillary and Bill Clinton earned a phenomenal $139 million for themselves between 2007 and 2014, chiefly from writing books and speaking to various high-paying Wall Street and international corporations. Between 2013 and 2015, Hillary Clinton gave 12 speeches to Wall Street banks, private equity firms, and other financial corporations, pocketing a whopping $2,935,000. And she’s used that obvious money-raising skill to turn her campaign into a fundraising machine.

“Hillary has recently tried to distance herself from a well-deserved reputation for being close to Wall Street, despite the mega-speaking fees she’s garnered from Goldman Sachs among others, not to speak of the fact that five of the Big Six banks gave money to the Clinton Foundation. She now claims that her ‘Wall Street plan’ is stricter than Bernie Sanders’s. (It isn’t. He’s advocating to break up the big banks via a twenty-first-century version of the Glass-Steagall Act that Bill Clinton buried in his presidency.) To top it off, she scheduled an elite fundraiser at the $17 billion ‘alternative investment’ firm Franklin Square Capital Partners four days before the Iowa Caucus. So much for leopards changing spots. …

Bernie Sanders: No Billionaires Allowed

“Bernie Sanders has stuck to his word, running a campaign sans billionaires. As of October 2015, he had raised an impressive $41.5 million and spent about $14.5 million of it.

“None of his top corporate donors are Wall Street banks. What’s more, a record 77 percent of his contributions came from small individual donors, a number that seems only destined to grow as his legions of enthusiasts vote with their personal checkbooks. …

Ted Cruz: Most “God-Fearing” Billionaires

“Yes, it’s true the Texas senator ‘goofed’ in neglecting to disclose to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) a tiny six-figure loan from Goldman Sachs for his successful 2012 Senate campaign. (After all, what’s half-a-million dollars between friends, especially when the investment bank that offered it also employed your wife as well as your finance chairman?) As The Donald recently told a crowd in Iowa, when it comes to Ted Cruz, ‘Goldman Sachs owns him. Remember that, folks. They own him.’ …

Marco Rubio: Most Diverse Billionaires

“The bulk of his money comes from super PACs and large contributors. Small individual contributors donated only $3.3 million to his coffers; larger individual contributions provided $11.3 million. Goldman Sachs leads his pack of corporate donors with $79,600. …

“He has also amassed a healthy roster of billionaires including the hedge-fund ‘vulture of Argentina’ Paul Singer who was the third-ranked conservative donor for the 2014 election cycle. Last October, in a mass email to supporters about a pre-Iowa caucus event, Singer promised, ‘Anyone who raises $10,800 in new, primary money will receive five VIP tickets to a rally and five tickets to a private reception with Marco.’ …

“Rounding out his top three billionaires is Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who ranks third on Forbes’s billionaire list. Last summer, he threw a $2,700 per person fundraiser in his Woodside, California, compound for the candidate, complete with a special dinner for couples that raised $27,000. If Rubio somehow pulls it out, you can bet he will be the Republican poster boy for Silicon Valley. …

Jeb Bush: Most Disappointed Billionaires

“Although the one-time Republican front-runner’s star now looks more like a black hole, the coffers of ‘Jeb!’ are still the ones to beat. He had raised a total of $128 million by late November and spent just $19.9 million of it. Essentially none of Jeb’s money came from the little people (that is, us). Barely 4 percent of his contributions were from donations of $200 or less. …

Donald Trump: I Am A Billionaire

“Last July, a Make America Great Again super PAC emerged, but it shut down in October to honor Trump’s no super PAC claim. For Trump, dealing with super PAC agendas would be a hassle unworthy of his time and ego. (He is, after all, the best billionaire: trust him.) Besides, with endorsements from luminaries like former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and a command of TV ratings that’s beyond compare, who needs a super PAC or even his own money, of which he’s so far spent remarkably little? …”

Democratic Party “Insurrection”

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635898267543708718-AP-DEM-2016-SandersNORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com, @normansolomon
Co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, Solomon’s books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

He just wrote the piece “The Bernie Campaign: The Democratic Party’s Biggest Insurrection in Decades,” which states: “Many of the same media outlets and overall corporate forces that denounced Eugene McCarthy in 1968, George McGovern in 1972 and Jesse Jackson in 1988 are gunning for Bernie Sanders in 2016. We shouldn’t be surprised. But we should be ready, willing and able to do our own messaging — widely and intensely — in communities across the country.

“At the same time, we should not confuse electoral campaigns with long-term political organizing. Campaigns for office are quite different matters than the more transformative task of building progressive infrastructure — and vibrant coalitions — that can endure and grow, year after year.

“Genuinely progressive candidates can inspire and galvanize — and sometimes they can even win. But election campaigns, especially national ones, are almost always boom/bust. Sometimes they can help to fuel movement momentum, but they aren’t the engine.

“Election campaigns are distinct from movements even if they converge for a while, no matter what pundits and campaign spinners say. Candidates often want to harness social movements for their campaigns. But our best approach is to view electoral campaigns as — at best — subsets of movements, not the other way around.

“The Bernie campaign could be a watershed for progressive organizing through the rest of this decade and beyond. That will largely depend on what activists do — in the next weeks, months and years.”

Will the Next President Go After Corporate Criminals?

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RiggedJustice2016_cover-232x300Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a recent New York Times op-ed notes: “While presidential candidates from both parties feverishly pitch their legislative agendas, voters should also consider what presidents can do without Congress. Agency rules, executive actions and decisions about how vigorously to enforce certain laws will have an impact on every American, without a single new bill introduced in Congress. …

“I just released a report examining 20 of the worst federal enforcement failures in 2015. Its conclusion: ‘Corporate criminals routinely escape meaningful prosecution for their misconduct.'”

RUSSELL MOKHIBER, russellmokhiber at gmail.com, @corpcrimereport
Editor of Corporate Crime Reporter, a weekly print newsletter based in Washington, D.C., Mokhiber also produces a daily podcast — the Corporate Crime Reporter Morning Minute.

He just wrote a piece about Warren’s report titled “Rigged Justice: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders Off Easy.” [PDF]

Mokhiber said today: “Major corporate crime is rampant in America and yet our prisons are filled with minor offenders. Why?

“Senator Warren answers with ‘Rigged Justice,’ a report that details a two-tiered system of justice — one for you and me and one for major corporations and their executives.

“As Warren reports, street criminals are locked up for long stretches for crimes that involve thousands — or even hundreds — of dollars while corporate criminals game the system, cheat families, rip off taxpayers, and even take actions that result in the death of innocent victims — all with no serious consequences. Unlike her former colleague and corporate crime enabler Hillary Clinton, Warren wants to expose the corporate criminals and throw their executives in jail.”

Obama in a Mosque After 7 Years in Office

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9781781685587_Muslims_Are_Coming_NIP-max_221-0d7c65bcca3a726c6f0e6f6d719fa2faAP reports: “President Barack Obama will make his first visit to a U.S. mosque on Wednesday, and it comes at a time when Muslim-Americans say they’re confronting unprecedented levels of bias. Obama will travel to the Islamic Society of Baltimore, which houses a mosque and school that runs from kindergarten through 12th grade.”

AlterNet just launched their “Grayzone Project” to confront bigotry against Muslims — see one of the first pieces by Deepa Kumar: “It’s Not Just Hate Crimes: Islamophobia Is the Outgrowth of a Deeply Racist System.”

LAILA EL-HADDAD, [in Baltimore] laila.elhaddad at gmail.com, @gazamom
Muslim American and resident of Baltimore, El-Haddad is author of the book Gaza Mom. She also co-wrote Gaza Kitchen and has been profiled on Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” program. Her children attended the school and mosque Obama is visiting.

ARUN KUNDNANI, arun at kundnani.org, @ArunKundnani
Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming!: Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror and a lecturer at New York University. He was featured on the accuracy.org news release “Trump’s Islamophobia is Tip of Iceberg.” His articles include “The belief system of the Islamophobes.”

Beyond statements from the right, Kundnani also notes that Obama has spent years distancing himself from Muslims and Kundnani criticizes a brand of Islamophobia when political figures — like Obama and Hillary Clinton — call for Muslims to accept their special responsibility to denounce terrorism. He also points to many specific actions regarding foreign policy such as drone strikes, support for Israel’s military occupation and Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. See his appearance on CNN.

TPP Deal Signing Today

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photoThe Hill reports: “Trade ministers from the 12 nations will sign the TPP on Wednesday evening — 5:30 p.m. EST — in Auckland, New Zealand.” Local media report an expected 10,000 people will be protesting.

See from Politifact: “Hillary Clinton flip-flops on Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

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. See the group’s piece: “10 Shocking Realities of the TPP; Join the Revolt.”

The group notes: “As the U.S. trade representative goes to New Zealand to sign the TPP on February 4th (which is the 3rd in the U.S.) protests will be held across the country and around the world. See map of protests flushthetpp.org/actions.

“Several hours before the signing TPP opponents in Washington D.C. will hold a protest at the White House ‘TPP is Betrayal’ that visually highlights the negative impact of the TPP on the U.S. economy, environment and workers, among other issues.”

Today, they said: “Now that the TPP has been made public we can see that it is even worse than we had seen in the leaks made public while it was negotiated. The agreement has no enforceable environmental or labor protections. It will threaten jobs by both outsourcing to countries with dramatically lower wages as well as insourcing when foreign corporations bring their business to the United States along with their employees — even if an American can do the job.

“The TPP threatens the future of Internet freedom and privacy, food safety by giving corporations the power to stop inspections if they take too long, and healthcare by pushing toward privatization and giving pharmaceutical corporations greater power in negotiating privacy as well as long patents blocking generic drugs.

“The TPP also threatens U.S. sovereignty and democracy by adding 9,000 corporations who can sue the United States if laws are passed in the public interest that undermine their profits. We recently saw the denial of permits for the KXL pipeline resulting in a $15 billion lawsuit under NAFTA. We also recently saw that U.S. laws had to be changed because of corporate lawsuits against them. This included the Country of Origination Labeling Act (COOL) which required labeling of where meats sold in the U.S. came from; and dolphin-safe tuna labeling which let consumers know that tuna they were purchasing had not harmed dolphins. We will see more of these lawsuits which are heard before trade tribunals, usually three corporate lawyers serving as temporary judges on leave from their corporate job, where corporations can seek damages including their expected loss of profits. U.S. courts cannot review the decisions of these corporate tribunals. In addition, a host of laws will have to be changed to be consistent with the TPP, for example, laws that allow for buying American-made projects will no longer be allowed. Our courts, legislatures and executive branch are all made weaker by the TPP.”

Clinton: Still Falsifying on Iraq War Vote

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Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 8.01.09 AMSTEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes
Zunes is a professor of politics & coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco. He recently wrote the piece “The Five Lamest Excuses for Hillary Clinton’s Vote to Invade Iraq.” Zunes is currently in Philadelphia and will be in New York City on Friday.

Zunes said today: “Hillary Clinton did not vote to authorize the Iraq war in order to bring UN inspectors back in, as she claimed in last night’s [CNN] “Town Hall” meeting. She voted against the Levin Amendment, which would have authorized the use of force if Iraq refused to fully cooperate with UN inspectors. Instead, she voted for the Republican-sponsored resolution which gave President Bush the authority to invade and occupy Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing. Hans Blix did not support the latter resolution, as she also claimed. Nor did Sen. Clinton object when Bush launched the invasion anyway five months later despite Iraq having been fully cooperating with the returning inspectors during that period.”

Clinton stated in her address on her Iraq war authorization vote on the Senate floor on Oct. 10, 2002: “In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al-Qaeda members. … It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capability to wage biological and chemical warfare and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons. Should he succeed in that endeavor, he could alter the political and security landscape of the Middle East, which as we know all too well, affects American security.” See video.

Just last week, Hans Blix had an interview with Al Jazeera’s “UpFront” program in which he talked about the U.S. invasion altering the security landscape of the Mideast, see: “The former UN weapons inspector says ‘it is doubtful’ ISIL would exist if it were not for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.”

Party Bosses Rigging Debate Process

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The next Democratic Party debate is Thursday night. The next Republican Party debate is Saturday night. See accuracy.org/calendar for upcoming events.

GEORGE FARAH, gfarah@opendebates.org
Farah is executive director of Open Debates and author of the book No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.

He said today: “During this election, the Republican and Democratic parties have asserted unprecedented control over the primary debates, and the results have been disastrous. Historically, the major parties exercised limited influence over primary debates. Dozens of media entities and civic groups organically emerged every four years to host primary debates featuring a range of innovative formats. In 2008, for example, there were 25 Democratic primary debates and 21 Republican primary debates. …

“Yet, rather than celebrate the profusion of primary debates, the major parties have denounced them. In February 2015, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party, said, ‘I don’t think having our candidates running around in a traveling circus and doing 23 debates, slicing and dicing each other is in the best interests of our party.’

“Indeed, the major parties are uninterested in maximizing voter education. Instead, they want to crown a ‘viable’ nominee as swiftly as possible and shield that candidate from bruising attacks by intra-party rivals. …

“To accomplish their goals, the major parties took exceptional steps to assert control over the primary debates for the 2016 election. Both parties adopted the same radical, anti-democratic policy: if a candidate participates in a debate that is not sanctioned by the party, that candidate will be summarily excluded from the debates approved by the party. This was the first time in the history of televised presidential debates that a major party has threatened to punish a candidate for participating in a debate. …

“The Republican Party only scheduled a paltry twelve primary debates for a record-breaking 17 candidates. The party could not simultaneously include all 17 candidates in a debate. The party should have rotated them through an initial round of debates. This would have provided each candidate with an opportunity to introduce themselves to voters, before polls were used to winnow the field in later debates. Instead, beginning with the very first debate, the party established a two-tiered debating system, whereby front-runners were featured in primetime debates and those polling at the bottom were prematurely relegated to undercard debates.  As result, several candidates were permanently consigned to undercard debates, which effectively extinguished their candidacies before they started …

“The Democratic Party has behaved even worse. Initially, the party only authorized six primary debates for the 2016 election and scheduled three of those debates on weekends, when viewership declines. The head of the Democratic Party, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, previously served as co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008. This election cycle, she has sought to coronate Clinton with minimal opposition to her candidacy by limiting debate viewership. …

“Now that Clinton is unexpectedly facing a vibrant challenge from Bernie Sanders, she needs more primary debates to make her case to voters. On cue, the Democratic Party — which so strenuously rejected pleas for more debates from Sanders and Martin O’Malley last year — has scheduled four more debates.

“Such blatant favoritism is shameful. …

“It is particularly important that primary debates are abundant and inclusive considering that the major parties have rendered the general election debates so limiting and exclusionary.  General election debates are sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a private corporation that was jointly created by the Republican and Democratic parties in 1987. Every four years, the Commission excludes third-party and independent candidates and allows the major party nominees to excessively shape the debate formats.”

The group RootsAction has set up a petition: “Remove Debbie Wasserman Schultz as DNC Chair“: “Wasserman Schultz has tried in other ways to minimize competition for her candidate, Hillary Clinton. She has done this by scheduling very few primary debates, and scheduling them at times of low TV viewing. In Congress, she has served as a pro-militarist and corporatist tool of the high bidders.”

Will Clinton Cut Social Security?

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Social Security Works

NANCY ALTMAN via Lacy Crawford Jr. lcrawford at socialsecurityworks.org, Linda Benesch, lbenesch at socialsecurityworks.org@SSWorks
Altman is the president of Social Security Works and is the co-author of Social Security Works! Why Social Security Isn’t Going Broke and How Expanding It Will Help Us All.

She said today that the Iowa caucus results provided “a clear rejection of Wall Street ideas, including cutting Social Security. Regardless of who they were supporting, 84 percent of Iowa Democrats said that they want to support someone who will never cut even a single penny of Social Security benefits. Given the nation’s looming retirement income crisis and growing income and wealth inequality, that is the right policy. 

“This situation presents Hillary Clinton with an excellent opportunity to showcase her independence from Wall Street, and build momentum going into New Hampshire. Senator Sanders has already pledged that he will never cut Social Security’s earned benefits under any circumstances. If Secretary Clinton does the same, it will demonstrate to Democratic voters that she stands with them against all attacks on Social Security. We call on her to meet this challenge.

“Some politicians who want to cut Social Security but do not want to lose the support of current seniors propose cuts in the future — pledging, for example, not to cut the benefits of anyone currently aged 55 or older — but these will cut the benefits of those who will need them most, when the retirement income crisis is in full swing. Others, who want to dismantle Social Security by converting it from insurance into welfare, propose to improve benefits for the most vulnerable, but cut them for those they call ‘higher income’ but are decidedly middle class. Various so-called centrist groups, like Third Way, which is primarily funded by Wall Street, have proposed these kinds of plans.

“Secretary Clinton has not been clear about where she stands. She has talked about expanding benefits for those who are most vulnerable, but has been silent about whether she would support cuts. She has actually hinted in some statements that she might be open to them.

“Now, as the campaigns head into New Hampshire, is the time for her to stand clearly and strongly with Main Street, not Wall Street, and pledge no cuts for today’s beneficiaries and no cuts for those who follow.”

UN Panel: Assange Detention Should End

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160205033303-julian-assange-ruling-elbagir-lok-00014718-large-169The Guardian reports today: “UN panel calls on UK and Sweden to end Julian Assange’s ‘deprivation of liberty.'” The UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention states that “the detention” of the WikiLeaks founder “should be brought to an end and that Mr. Assange should be afforded the right to compensation.” Here is the legal opinion. See video of news conference.

CAREY SHENKMAN, careyshenkman at riseup.net, @CareyShenkman
Shenkman is an attorney for Julian Assange in the U.S. and works for Michael Ratner, president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Shenkman said today: “Assange was granted asylum by Ecuador due to a risk of persecution and inhumane treatment in the United States for publishing activities. Free speech organizations worldwide have condemned the U.S. attempts to prosecute Julian Assange; this includes a statement just yesterday by the ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romero calling a U.S. case against Mr. Assange ‘unprecedented and unconstitutional.’ Nevertheless that U.S. case was confirmed in December 2015. The asylum has nothing to do with Sweden. The UN’s highest authority on detention has now held that both states have failed to provide adequate consideration for the risks faced by Mr. Assange.”

Clinton: A “Progressive” Who Gets What Done?

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progressiveJEFF COHEN, jcohen at ithaca.edu, @Roots_Action
Cohen is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of media watch group FAIR and co-founder of the online activism organization RootsAction.org, which just released the statement “Thousands Ask Clinton to ‘Stop Lying’ About Iraq Vote.”

At last night’s debate in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton again described herself as a “progressive who gets things done.” Cohen just wrote the piece “Hillary Clinton Turns Stand-Up Comic: ‘I’m a Progressive Who Gets Things Done.'”

Cohen writes: “A quick review of Hillary Clinton’s record shows that much of what she gets done is anti-progressive (not unlike President Clinton in the 1990s). For example:

Promoting Fracking Worldwide is Not Progressive: On behalf of Chevron and other US oil companies, Secretary Clinton and the State Department pushed fracking globally, as Mother Jones has documented: “How Hillary Clinton’s State Department Sold Fracking to the World.”

Boosting Corporate-Friendly Trade Deals is Not Progressive: Secretary Clinton repeatedly praised the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – as it was being negotiated by the U.S. Trade Representative and her State Department – and she recruited countries into the deal. In October, with Bernie Sanders climbing in the polls, Clinton said she no longer supported the pact, and prevaricated about her earlier boosterism.

Enabling Military Coups is Not Progressive: When she headed the State Department, it enabled a military coup in Honduras that overthrew democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya, a progressive. Clinton was briefed on the dishonesty that allowed aid to illegally reach the coup government.

Pocketing Millions from Corporate Lectures Fees is Not Progressive: When Wall Street, Big Pharma and other corporate interests paid a soon-to-be presidential candidate an average of $230,000 for a speech, did Hillary Clinton think it was for her brilliant stand-up comedy? Or was it more akin to political bribery? Clinton now says these firms just wanted to hear the views of a former Secretary of State on our ‘complicated world’ — or about the Bin Laden raid. But Politico reported in 2013 soon after one of her three speeches to Goldman Sachs: ‘Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish.’ (Releasing the speech transcripts would help settle the matter.)

Escalating the Afghan War is Not Progressive: As insider books on the Obama administration have revealed, Secretary Clinton was among the most hawkish of Obama’s advisors in country after country – for example, vociferously urging the failed and pointless 2009 troop surge in Afghanistan.

Chaotic Military Intervention in the Middle East and Libya is Not Progressive: If not for Hillary Clinton’s 2002 Senate vote in support of Bush’s Iraq invasion, Obama would not have defeated her in 2008. As if having learned nothing from the post-invasion chaos in Iraq, Secretary Clinton was one of the strongest voices in 2011 urging Obama to militarily depose Qaddafi in Libya, a country now in total, deadly chaos.”

Clinton, “Endless War” Candidate

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Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 8.57.48 AMMARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal at gmail.com, @marjoriecohn
Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and editor most recently of the book Drones and Targeted Killing. She just wrote the piece: “Want Endless War? Love the U.S. Empire? Well, Hillary Clinton’s Your Choice,” which states: “Hillary Clinton likes to extol her foreign policy credentials, particularly her experience as secretary of state. She attaches herself to Barack Obama’s coattails, pledging to continue his policies. But she is even more hawkish than the president. …

“Obama, who continues to prosecute the war in Afghanistan 15 years after it began, is poised to send ground troops back to Iraq and begin bombing Libya. … The president has bombed some seven countries with drones. …

“Although Clinton supports the [Iran] nuclear deal, she talks tough about Iran. In September 2015, she provocatively declared, ‘I don’t believe Iran is our partner in this agreement. Iran is the subject of the agreement,’ and added, ‘I will confront them across the board.’ … In an August 2014 Atlantic interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, Clinton maintained, ‘There is no such thing as a right to enrich.’ Apparently, she has not read the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which gives countries like Iran the right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. …

“One country that does possess nuclear weapons is Israel — which refuses to ratify the NPT. Clinton has consistently and uncritically supported the policies of the Israeli government. …

“Clinton’s vote in favor of President George W. Bush’s illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq cost her the 2008 election. It also cost more than 4,500 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis their lives.

“Yet Clinton cynically told corporate executives at a 2011 State Department roundtable on investment opportunities in Iraq, ‘It’s time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity.’

“The same year, Clinton led the campaign for forcible regime change in Libya, despite opposition by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Responding to the gruesome sodomizing of President Moammar Gadhafi with a bayonet, Clinton laughed and said, ‘We came, we saw, he died.’

“Both the Iraq War and regime change in Libya paved the way for the rise of Islamic State and dangerous conflict in the Middle East. …”

TPP, Pharma Bro

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Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 9.29.11 AMThe Trans-Pacific Partnership was signed last week but has yet to be ratified. See in The Hill: “Trump: I ‘very much agree’ with Sanders on trade.” See Politifact: “Hillary Clinton flip-flops on Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

ZAHARA HECKSCHER, BookZahara at gmail.com, @ZaharaHeckscher
Heckscher
is a breast cancer patient, writer and educator who lives in Washington, D.C. She released the following statement upon release from jail following arrest at a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) protest on World Cancer Day.

“I am a mom with advanced breast cancer. I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was 11. That’s why I was arrested at a protest on World Cancer Day at the headquarters of PhRMA, which has been lobbying to increase monopolies for medicines in the TPP, or Trans-Pacific Partnership. …

“If ratified, the TPP would lock in monopolies for certain new medicines, biological medicines that help people like me stay alive. Monopolies allow drug companies to increase prices dramatically, and high prices decrease access. This means that some people with cancer will die because they can’t get the medicine they need. …

“The day of our protest, World Cancer Day, coincided with the testimony in Congress by ‘pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli. He is called ‘the most hated man in America’ because he raised the price of a medicine for toxoplasmosis from under $20 to $750 per tablet.

“Congress rightly took Shkreli to task for his unconscionable actions. But if Congress votes for the TPP, they will be locking in policies, most likely for decades to come, that create incentives for pharmaceutical companies to act like Shkreli did. For cancer patients, that would be truly unconscionable.”

See from Public Citizen, which includes video of Heckscher’s arrest: “On World Cancer Day, Cancer Patients Arrested at PhRMA Headquarters to Warn of ‘Death Sentence’ Imposed by Trans-Pacific Partnership Expansion of Medicine Monopolies.”

Economist: With Sanders, Income and Jobs Would Soar

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Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 9.43.58 AMCNN reports in “Under Sanders, Income and Jobs Would Soar, Economist Says” that: “Median income would soar by more than $22,000. Nearly 26 million jobs would be created. The unemployment rate would fall to 3.8 percent.

“Those are just a few of the things that would happen if Bernie Sanders became president and his ambitious economic program were put into effect, according to an analysis given exclusively to CNNMoney. The first comprehensive look at the impact of all of Sanders’ spending and tax proposals on the economy was done by Gerald Friedman, a University of Massachusetts Amherst economics professor.”

GERALD FRIEDMAN,  gfriedma at econs.umass.edu, @gfriedma
Professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Friedman’s work was the basis for attacks on Sanders in the Wall Street Journal, which the Clinton campaign seems to have be drawn from and which Friedman has previously debunked.

In the Feb. 4 Democratic debate with Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton cited a study by Kenneth Thorpe at Emory University to attack Sanders’ health insurance reform proposal — Medicare-for-All. In “Friedman Responds to Thorpe on Single-Payer,” written for Dollars & Sense magazine, Friedman writes: “Unfortunately, Kenneth Thorpe does not provide enough documentation to make an explicit comparison between his estimates and those provided in detail by the Sanders campaign. He lists his projected Federal spending per year, he fails to explain how he calculated these numbers. While this failure makes it impossible to consider his claims on a point by point basis, it is possible to extract enough from his statement to conclude that his analysis is so deeply flawed that it implies some clearly unrealistic assumptions.”

Friedman also recently wrote the piece “What Would Sanders Do?” for Dollars & Sense: “Taxes on the wealthy would pay for widely shared benefits. See Figure 3. Sanders would finance expanded infrastructure, universal free pre-K education, free public higher education, universal health insurance, and other programs with progressive taxation and through the elimination of tax deductions for rich individuals and large corporations. While the benefits of the increased spending would be widely shared, increases in income taxes and other targeted tax changes would be borne mostly by the richest Americans; almost half of the tax changes would be paid by the richest 5 percent and nearly 30 percent by the richest 1 percent. In addition, measures like a financial transactions tax and elimination of favored tax treatment for fossil fuels would promote greater economic efficiency by discouraging economically and environmentally harmful activities.”

Flint-Type Crises “Will Continue Until EPA is Accountable”

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Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 9.09.18 AMThe Hill reports: “Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) is turning down a request from House Democrats that he testify about his role in Flint, Mich.’s drinking water crisis.

“Snyder spokeswoman Anna Heaton said Monday that the governor won’t attend on Wednesday because he’s due to present his annual budget proposal that day in Michigan.”

MARSHA COLEMAN-ADEBAYO, nofearcoalition at aol.com, @nofearcoalition
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is an EPA whistleblower who worked at the agency for 18 years. She is the author of No Fear: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA‘ Her lawsuit led to the historic No Fear Act. She just co-wrote the piece “Water crises like Flint’s will continue until the EPA is held accountable” for The Guardian, which states: “The ultimate responsibility to safeguard public health rests with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), per the Clean Water Act. In fact, there are provisions of the Clean Water Act that provide for criminal prosecutions for violations that can result in fines and imprisonment.”

“The EPA has 200 fully authorized federal law enforcement agents who can carry firearms, 70 forensic scientists and technicians, and 45 attorneys who specialize in environmental crimes enforcement. Yet the EPA, mandated as the public’s last, best line of defense, failed the people — yet again — when it came to the Flint water crisis.

“The Flint atrocity could, with congressional and presidential resolve, be the last one — agency administrators and political appointees serve at the pleasure of the president, and Congress is responsible for doling out funding to them.

“But for that resolve to crystallize, the horrors of the poisoning of Flint need to be seen within the historical contexts that show the crimes committed against the people of Flint fit a toxic template with deep roots in the managerial culture of the EPA that has repeatedly created sacrifice zones in poor, predominantly black and brown communities of America, often backed by congressional and presidential inaction.

“Congress, acting on behalf of the people, must break this cycle and hold all public officials who were complicit in the tragedy in Flint to account.

“Ten years ago, municipal water quality expert Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech professor who is now part of the group investigating Flint, took on the EPA and the CDC about lead poisoning in Washington D.C. It took six years and tens of thousands of his own dollars to fight two federal agencies charged with protecting the public. After that period, by virtue of wresting FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] request information that both agencies had withheld from the public — and surviving both agency’s efforts to discredit him as an unreliable rogue — the agencies finally had to admit they had misled the public, and that a disproportionate number of Washington’s children of color suffered lead poisoning.”

Sanders Biographer: He’s a Pragmatic Populist

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People's Republic CoverGREG GUMA, mavmedia at aol.com@proverbialG
Guma is author of numerous books including, The People’s Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution (1989). He has written many essays on Sanders, including “Progressive Eclipse: Burlington, Bernie and the Movement That Changed Vermont.”

In 2013, Guma wrote the piece ‘One-Man Show: What Happens If Bernie Runs for the Presidency?” which tracked his rise from a third party candidate placing in single digits to a major force in state politics and projected a similar trajectory on the national stage. 

Guma said today: “Many people are now trolling around for dirt on Bernie, but it’s unlikely to stick. … It’s critical to understand that Bernie is not and never was a party builder, he was a candidate. He originally won because of low voter turnout but rose because of increasing voter turnout. 

“His campaigns in Vermont were based on the same thing as his current presidential campaign: If you repeat a strong core message enough, people will catch on. We ran on the same ticket in 1981 — both he and I were about to run for mayor of Burlington and we decided he’d run for mayor and I’d run for city council. He barely won that election — his first after many defeats — and that propelled his political career. 

“Power corrupts, but Bernie has become more human as he has risen. He had years with a hand-to-mouth existence — being elected mayor was I think his first real job. 

“He’s a natural born politician, but not out to build a cult of personality. He originally didn’t run as a socialist, but as an independent, which has a strong history in Vermont. And in office he focused on culture as much as anything else — creating an atmosphere of tolerance in Burlington, fostering the arts. 

“His campaign now is the largest overtly ideological national campaign in a long time and dovetails and contrasts with Trump in many ways. Sanders is an insurgent with the message to the Democratic Party of: ‘we are not of you, but we want to revive you,’ while with Trump, it’s more of a hostile takeover attempt. Trump is saying that Bernie can’t get things done, but Bernie has a certain conservative, cross cultural appeal. He’s gone along with the NRA at times and been targeted by them at times. He talks about democratic socialism, but in concrete terms is really re-asserting the New Deal. He know how to close a deal with the voters and make a deal with opponents. Even though his message is highly aspirational, as a populist, he’s a pragmatist. 

“Sanders was a co-founder of the Progressive Caucus, but he’s also been open to left-right coalitions.” Guma’s 2010 piece “What Makes Bernie Speak?” notes that: “One unusual aspect of Bernie’s approach in Congress has been to wage congressional battles with people whose stands on other issues he abhors. In fact, much of Bernie’s legislative success has come through forging deals with ideological opposites. An amendment to bar spending in support of defense contractor mergers, for example, was pushed through with the aid of Chris Smith, a prominent opponent of abortion. John Kasich … helped him phase out risk insurance for foreign investments. And it was a ‘left-right coalition’ he helped create that derailed ‘fast track’ legislation on international agreements pushed by Bill Clinton. The power of that strategy may have reached its apex in May 2010 when Bernie’s campaign to bring transparency to the Federal Reserve resulted in a 96-0 Senate vote on his amendment to audit the Fed and conduct a General Accounting Office audit of possible conflicts of interest in loans to unknown banks.” Guma’s recent pieces have included, “Is a Progressive/Libertarian Movement Possible?” 

“If it becomes a national security election, I doubt Bernie could adjust his campaign — his record is at best muddled on that. If the media were serious, they’d ask him about the military budget. Military contractors in Vermont have had a negative effect on the state and Bernie has been fine with that.” See Guma’s piece “Lockheed in Vermont: Sanders’ Corporate Conundrum.” 

Clinton and Sanders on Health Care: Do the Numbers Add up for Single-Payer?

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Taxpayer funding of U.S. health care vs. other nationsHillary Clinton claimed in Thursday night’s debate with Bernie Sanders: “So if you’re having Medicare for all, single-payer, you need to level with people about what they will have at the end of the process you are proposing. And based on every analysis that I can find by people who are sympathetic to the goal, the numbers don’t add up, and many people will actually be worse off than they are right now.”

STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, M.D., via Mark Almberg, mark at pnhp.org, @PNHP
Dr. Woolhandler co-founded Physicians for a National Health Program, which does research and advocacy for single-payer health care, but does not endorse candidates. She is a professor at City University of New York at Hunter College, who sees patients in the South Bronx and recently co-wrote the piece “On Kenneth Thorpe’s Analysis of Senator Sanders’ Single-Payer Reform Plan.” Almberg is communications director for PNHP.

Dr. Woolhandler said today: “The numbers on single-payer do, in fact, add up. It’s indisputable that single-payer systems in other countries cover everyone for virtually everything, and at much lower cost than our health care system.

“For instance, Canadians have a system that covers everyone, without co-payments or deductibles, and they live two years longer than Americans. Yet their system costs about half as much per person as ours.

“Much of the cost difference between our system and Canada’s is the extraordinary cost of paperwork in our system. As my colleagues and I found in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, our insurance companies’ overhead is seven times higher than Canada’s single-payer program. And insurers force doctors and hospitals to spend billions fighting to get paid. Overall, bureaucracy consumes 31 cents of every health care dollar in the U.S. vs. 16.7 cents in Canada.

“Our research shows that if the U.S. moved to a single-payer system as efficient as Canada’s, we’d save $430 billion on useless paperwork and insurance companies’ outrageous profits, more than enough to cover the 31 million Americans who remain uninsured, and to eliminate co-payments and deductibles for everyone.

“A single-payer system could save even more money by bargaining with drug companies for discounts on drugs. Other countries get discounts of about 50%, and as the biggest customer we could have the bargaining power to get similar savings.

“Finally, single-payer systems have been better at controlling costs over the long-haul. Our medical arms race — with hospitals competing to offer expensive high tech care, even when they don’t do enough to be good at it — has driven up costs and compromised the quality of care. In contrast, single-payer nations have used thoughtful health planning, to invest in expensive high tech care where it’s needed, not just where it’s redundant but profitable.

“Experience in countries with single-payer systems, such as Canada, Scotland, and Taiwan, proves that we can have more, better and cheaper care.”

Trump: Right on 9/11 and Iraq War

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medium_photoAt the Republican debate on Saturday, Donald Trump attacked the George W. Bush administration on its claims justifying the Iraq invasion. He said: “They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none. And they knew there were none. There were no weapons of mass destruction. (BOOING).”

Trump also attacked the notion — articulated by Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and others that George W. Bush “kept us safe.” Said Trump: “How did he keep us safe when the World Trade Center … The World Trade Center came down (BOOING) during [Bush’s] reign. He kept us safe? That’s not safe.”

COLEEN ROWLEY,  rowleyclan at earthlink.net@ColeenRowley
Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures — was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. Her pieces include “Ten Years After Iraq.” 

She said today: “On the specific issue of the Bush administration’s 9/11 and Iraq ‘blunders,’ Donald Trump is absolutely telling the truth even though he may not be politically correct vis a vis the other Republican candidates. If George Bush ‘kept us safe,’ as his brother claims, there’s also a bridge for sale in Brooklyn. Trump is right to point out how senior officials of the Bush administration enabled and let the worst terrorist attacks occur even though there was so much information flowing into intelligence agencies during the Spring and Summer of 2001 that the Director of Central Intelligence and other counterterrorism officials like Richard Clarke were said to have ‘their hair on fire’ they were so concerned and desperately, but unsuccessfully, trying to get the Bush administration to pay attention. Even the 9/11 Commission and other official investigations characterized the system as ‘blinking red’ and characterized the failure as one of ‘failing to connect the dots.’

“For Bush to have seized on the neoconservatives’ dream of a ‘new Pearl Harbor,’ and turned his administration’s massive failure into a deceitful argument to launch war on Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with 9/11 and even served as a secular bulwark against the Saudis’ Wahabi-style terrorism, is the epitome of a foreign policy blunder that only continues to magnify in disastrous blowback.”

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu@SZunes
Zunes is a professor of politics & coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco. He argues that Trump’s attack on the Iraq war was largely correct — and notes that the reaction of other Republican presidential candidates were filled with the same sorts of deceits that surrounded the invasion. Marco Rubio for example claimed that “Saddam Hussein was in violation of UN resolutions, in open violation, and the world wouldn’t do anything about it.” Zunes notes that Iraq was in fact complying with UN resolutions, including with the disarmament regime, when G. W. Bush decided to end the inspections and start the “shock and awe” bombing campaign and invasion. See his pieces: “Hillary the Hawk,” and “Iraq: Remembering Those Responsible.” 

Also see: “Face It: Trump is Right About Iraq — and that Should Sink Clinton,” by Sam Husseini: “What’s it going to look like if Trump is the Republican nominee? If Clinton is the Democratic nominee, Trump — with very good reason — will tie the stench of perpetual wars and the lies that accompany them around her neck. She will make the 2004 John ‘I-was-for-the-war-before-I-was-against-it’ Kerry look like a stirring exemplar of gracefully articulated principles.”

On Syria, U.S. and Russia in “Game of Chicken”?

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obama-biden-12-12-13-300x200[On Wednesday ExposeFacts, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy, is co-sponsoring a news conference on CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling with Reporters Without Borders and RootsAction.org. The event will take place at the National Press Club. Cornel West and former former CIA case officer John Kiriakou are among the speakers. See media advisory.]

JOE LAURIA,  joelauria at gmail.com,  @unjoe
Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the UN since 1990. He has written for the Boston GlobeWall Street JournalLondon Daily TelegraphJohannesburg StarMontreal Gazette and other newspapers.

He just wrote the piece “Obama’s Most Momentous Decision,” which states: “With the Russian-backed Syrian army encircling Aleppo, cutting off Turkish supplies to rebels and advancing on the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa, a panicked Saudi Arabia and Turkey have set up a joint headquarters to direct an invasion of Syria that could lead to a vast escalation of the war. And there’s only one man who could stop them: President Barack Obama.

“It is probably the most important decision Obama will make in his eight years in office since a Turkish-Saudi invasion risks a direct showdown between Russia and NATO, since Turkey is a member of the alliance.

“The U.S. traditionally has held tremendous power over client states like Turkey and Saudi Arabia. So, an order from Washington is usually enough to get such governments to back down. But Ankara and Riyadh are being led by reckless men whose continued existence in power might well depend on stopping a Syrian government victory — helped by Russia, Iran and the Kurds — and a humiliating defeat of the Turkish-Saudi-backed Syrian rebels, who include some radical jihadist groups. …

“On Saturday, Obama called Russian President Vladimir Putin. It’s not known what they discussed about a possible invasion of Syria. However, if Obama threatened to intervene if Russia doesn’t end its military support for the Syrian military offensive, we could be in the middle of the most serious game of chicken since the Cuban missile crisis.

“Nor do we know what Obama is telling the Turks and Saudis. On Monday, both countries toned down their bellicose rhetoric. Perhaps Obama delivered the only sane message possible: avoid a military confrontation with Russia at all costs. But it seems the lights will remain on at the Kremlin and the White House as the two nuclear powers look for some way to avoid a collision.”

See Lauria’s past pieces, including “Saudis Goad Obama to Invade Syria.”

Whistleblowers on Apple’s Privacy Stance

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Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 3.09.11 PMCommonDreams.org notes: “In an open letter posted online, Apple president Tim Cook states that the company opposes the court order, which essentially demands that Apple build a ‘backdoor to the iPhone.’ Such a move, Cook says, not only ‘threatens the security of our customers’ but would have ‘implications far beyond the legal case at hand.'”

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

MARK KLEIN, markk2000 at comcast.net
Klein was an AT&T technician who in 2006 blew the whistle on AT&T’s cooperation with the NSA. He wrote the book Wiring Up The Big Brother Machine…And Fighting It.

He said today: “Good for him [Cook]. It’s nice occasionally to have a company that has the balls to stand up to the government. The government — especially people like [CIA Director John] Brennan — is trying to brow beat everybody using the threat of terrorism. This allows the government to continually expand its powers.

“Of course, companies violate the privacy of their customers frequently — Google scans your email to advertise to you. But Apple and Google have tightened their encryption. There’s no perfect business, that’s for sure. But some are more strong about it than others. Apple seems to be on the better end of the spectrum on these issues, Microsoft looks like one of the worst. The government has leverage over companies, including government contracts — AT&T has lots of government contacts.

“Qwest Communications resisted the George W. Bush administration’s request to get into their phone system, months before 9/11. After some interesting coincidences, the CEO of Qwest, Joseph Nacchio, ended up in jail on some trumped up charges.”

Trump’s “America First” vs Clinton’s “War Machine”

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bombing_0JEFFREY SACHS, via Kyu Lee, klee at ei.columbia.edu, @JeffDSachs
Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. His recent pieces include: “Hillary Clinton and the Syrian Bloodbath,” which states that, contrary to her claims “Clinton’s role in Syria has been to help instigate and prolong the Syrian bloodbath, not to bring it to a close.”

He also recently wrote “Hillary Is the Candidate of the War Machine,” which states: “Hillary has been much attacked for the deaths of U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, but her tireless promotion of the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi by NATO bombing is the far graver disaster. Hillary strongly promoted NATO-led regime change in Libya, not only in violation of international law but counter to the most basic good judgment. After the NATO bombing, Libya descended into civil war while the paramilitaries and unsecured arms stashes in Libya quickly spread west across the African Sahel and east to Syria.”

ANDREW BACEVICH, bacevich at bu.edu
Bacevich is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. His forthcoming book is America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History. He just wrote the piece “Outsiders-in-chief and the world: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders need to sharpen their global vision,” which states: “In utterly different ways, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have struck fear into the hearts of a smug, ossified and intellectually lazy establishment. Yet whether either man can make the leap from protest candidate to having a shot at actually winning the White House remains to be seen. Making that leap will require, among other things, that each spell out a plausible foreign policy vision. …

“In effect, the Democratic and Republican establishments see no alternative to the perpetuation of failure. Having given up the attempt to identify any such alternative, they instead recite platitudes and offer testimonials to the troops. …

“When it comes to foreign policy, [Trump’s] instincts are those of a nationalist. He is an America Firster, inclined to see the outside world as filled with scheming foreigners intent on taking advantage of the United States and sticking Americans with the tab. … By privileging domestic issues related to economic fairness and social justice, [Sanders] too is an America Firster, albeit a closeted one.”

Wife of CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Asks Obama to Pardon Him

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Sterling-v2The Intercept reports: “Wife of CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling Asks Obama to Pardon Him.” Courthouse News reports: “The wife of jailed CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling called on President Barack Obama to pardon her husband Wednesday, delivering a petition for his freedom to the White House.

“Sterling, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, has served eight months of a 42-month sentence after being convicted of nine felony counts — including espionage — for leaking classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen.

“His wife of 10 years, Holly Sterling, declared her husband’s innocence during a Wednesday morning press conference before the petition’s release. ‘He’s in prison, and he doesn’t belong there,’ she said.”

Also at the news conference was Cornel West, prominent civil rights activist, scholar and professor at Union Theological Seminary. He said: “Never in the history of this nation has there been a black person who had the courage to fight racial discrimination against the CIA, never in the history of this nation has there been a black man in the White House that would allow him to go to jail unjustly. Two black men, one in power, one dealing with the arbitrary uses of power of that president. Shame on you, President Obama.”

The news conference was organized by ExposeFacts, Reporters Without Borders and RootsAction.org. ExposeFacts is a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy. See special coverage of the Sterling trial at ExposeFacts.org.

HOLLY STERLING, [in D.C. till Friday evening] via Sam Husseini,  sam at accuracy.org Holly Sterling is the wife of Jeffrey Sterling. She spoke at the news conference WednesdayVideo of news conference is here; see media advisory.

JESSELYN RADACK,  jess at exposefacts.org@jesselynradack
Radack is national security and human rights director of the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts. She said at the news conference: “The Obama administration has presided over the most draconian crackdown on national security and intelligence community whistleblowers in U.S. history. The Justice Department has used the antiquated Espionage Act as a bludgeon to threaten, silence and imprison whistleblowers for alleged mishandling of classified information. Meanwhile, powerful, politically-connected individuals accused of the same conduct receive a slap on the wrist, or no punishment at all. Some even run for President of the U.S.”

Radack continued: “Using the Espionage Act against whistleblowers is grossly unfair. Courts have held that the government does not have to prove any harm to national security and does not have to prove any bad intent on the whistleblower’s part. Classification rules mean large parts of the trials, including Sterling’s, are conducted in secret — shielded from media and public scrutiny.

“Sterling’s conviction is a gross miscarriage of justice.

“The Espionage Act case against Sterling was the first — and so far only case — handed over to a jury and the unjust result epitomizes the wrongheadedness of using the Espionage Act against whistleblowers. …

“Jeffrey Sterling is a whistleblower. Sterling is a whistleblower because in 2003, he met with staff from the Senate Intelligence Committee to raise concerns about a botched [CIA] nuclear operation called Merlin. Sterling’s case is reminiscent of that of my clients NSA whistleblowers Thomas Drake, Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis. My clients also used internal government channels, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, to report misconduct and became the targets of a federal criminal leak investigation for a news story by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and presidential pariah James Risen that they had nothing to do with.”

U.S. Bombing Libya: “Operation Deja Vu”?

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Screen Shot 2016-02-19 at 11.27.18 AMReuters reports: “U.S. strikes Islamic State in Libya, killing 40 people.”

VIJAY PRASHAD, Vijay.Prashad at trincoll.edu, @vijayprashad
Prashad is professor of international studies at Trinity College in Connecticut. His books include Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (2012). He said today: “The U.S. Air Force should have named this current bombing run in Libya ‘Operation Deja Vu.’ It is the third such strike at ISIS. What is not clear is the strategy being followed by the U.S. Occasional bombing runs have not stopped ISIS from fully taking Sirte and now expanding along the edge of the Gulf of Sidra.”

Prashad recently wrote the piece “Descent into Chaos: ISIS in Libya,” which states: “In Iraq and Syria, the I.S. has been hit hard by air strikes and — at least in Iraq — by the weight of the Iraqi army and its allied militias. But in Libya, the I.S. [the so-called Islamic State] feels relatively unthreatened. The various political factions are so divided, despite a United Nations push for unity, that they are most often at each other’s throats instead of being bothered about the I.S.

“Jets from the United States have bombed Libya periodically to attempt to kill Al Qaeda and I.S. leaders. These strikes are illegal — they have not come with permission from any standing government. They have also been ineffective. The Italians and the British are eager to send in troops to Libya to battle the I.S. For that they require the creation of a government. That has been the U.N.’s task. It is unfinished.

“Since 2011, good news out of Libya has been rare. Chaos has been the order of the day. Right after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) bombing ended, the various militias on the ground that fought against the government of Qaddafi began to battle each other. Tensions remained high. Sections of those rebels who had Islamist backgrounds — many with roots in Al Qaeda — seized parts of the east to their advantage. Assassinations of human rights activists, journalists and liberal politicians became common. Fear stalked the country as gunfire became a familiar sound across the landscape. Oil production dropped and refugees rushed off towards the Italian island of Lampedusa for shelter. …

“The black flags of the I.S. flutter on territory bombed not so long ago by NATO’s jets. Libya has not recovered from that ‘humanitarian intervention.’ The UN’s new envoy, Martin Kobler, and the presidential council of the new Government of National Accord called for unity against the I.S. This is in the realm of rhetoric. Forty-eight billion barrels of oil are at stake. So is the future of Libya.”

New Prominence: CIA Whistleblower Case

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The Washington Post reports in an in-depth piece today on the front page: “Locked away in federal prison, Jeffrey Sterling is struggling to keep his demons at bay. The former CIA officer whose case came to signify the Obama administration’s crackdown on leakers spends his days reading, tutoring fellow inmates and finishing a memoir, which he says he has to write by hand and mail home so his wife can type it. …

“Sterling discussed his case and his life with a Washington Post reporter in a months-long back-and-forth over the prison’s electronic messaging system. Prison officials also allowed him an hour-long telephone interview with the reporter but denied an in-person visit. …

“Holly, who met Sterling on Match.com in 2004 and married him three years later, has been her husband’s biggest booster. On Wednesday, she spoke at a news conference in the District sponsored by ExposeFacts, Reporters Without Borders and RootsAction.org, urging people to sign a petition that asks President Obama to pardon her husband.

“Later, a group of supporters — which included prominent professor and activist Cornel West and another former CIA officer convicted in a leak case, John Kiriakou — walked to the White House carrying reams of paper containing what they said was just short of 150,000 signatures.

“‘It is wrong, and you have the power, and you need to do what is right,’ Holly said, directing her remarks at Obama.”

HOLLY STERLING, via Sam Husseini, sam at accuracy.org
Holly Sterling is the wife of Jeffrey Sterling. She, Kiriakou and Solomon (below) were among the speakers at the news conference. See video.

JOHN KIRIAKOU, jkiriakou at mac.com
Kiriakou is a CIA whistleblower and former agency case officer; he spent 30 months in jail after revealing information about U.S. government torture practices. He said today: “The President has a unique opportunity to do the right thing and to respond positively to more than 150,000 people urging a pardon for Jeffrey Sterling. And by pardoning Jeffrey Sterling he can ensure that his legacy is not one of waging war on whistleblowers.” Kiriakou spoke at the news conference, particularly about how the government was able to convict Sterling by stacking up charges and shopping for venue.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is quoted in today’s Washington Post piece. In a recent Columbia Journalism Review article — “Should Journalists Care If Sources Go Off to Prison?” — Solomon wrote: “As one of the few journalists to attend all of the two-week Sterling trial, I watched with concern the successful prosecution that rested entirely on circumstantial evidence. Prosecutors made effective use of metadata, which showed that communication took place between Sterling and Risen — with the content almost entirely unknown. The prosecution also presented as damaging evidence the fact that the Times had published an article by Risen that quoted Sterling, who is African American, about a subject unrelated to the classified information — his lawsuit against the CIA for racial discrimination.

“That a prosecution case could be successfully built around such evidence — merely showing that the defendant had communicated with a reporter — should have been alarming to journalists across the country. But news organizations and the big press-freedom groups weren’t paying attention to the ominous implications. And they scarcely noted that whether or not Sterling was guilty as indicted, he was a whistleblower. In 2003 he earned the ire of top officials in Langley by going through proper channels to express concerns to the Senate Intelligence Committee staff about the CIA’s ‘Operation Merlin’ aimed at Iran.

“The conceit that it’s possible to defend press freedom while turning a cold shoulder to whistleblowers is short-sighted — and, in the long run, for independent journalism and true First Amendment advocates, self-defeating.”

Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. ExposeFacts is a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy. See special coverage of the Sterling trial at ExposeFacts.org.

Also see the Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Operation Merlin: Did CIA Seek to ‘Plant a Nuclear Gun’ on Iran and Iraq?

Rubio’s New Generation of Iraq War Lies

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AP_bush_rubio_2_kab_150616_4x3_992-1In his speech following the South Carolina primary, Marco Rubio said: “This country is now ready for a new generation of conservatives to guide us into the 21st century.”

At the last Republican debate, he attempted to justify George W. Bush invading Iraq: “No matter what you want to say about weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein was in violation of UN resolutions, in open violation, and the world wouldn’t do anything about it, and George W. Bush enforced what the international community refused to do.”

This claim has received virtually no scrutiny.

STEPHEN ZUNES,  zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes
Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

Zunes said today: “The new generation of Republican leaders appear to be as willing to rewrite history as the older generation. Sen. Marco Rubio’s claim that at the time of the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq that Saddam Hussein was ‘in open violation’ of U.N. resolutions and that the international community refused to act is completely false.

“The Iraqi government had in fact been in full compliance with UN Security Council resolutions regarding the elimination of their chemical and biological weapons, their chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs, their long-range missiles, and other proscribed weapons and weapons systems and were allowing United Nations inspectors unfettered access to confirm they had done so. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein’s regime did so not because of any unilateral U.S. initiative, but as a result of a series of unanimous United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding disarmament of such offensive military capabilities and full cooperation with inspectors.” Zunes has written extensively about the false claims surrounding the Iraq invasion from both Republicans and Democrats. His most recent piece is “Hillary the Hawk.”

Failed Gitmo Policy; Is Torture Over? Was it Tool for War?

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CbmALb4VIAEAhltJOSIE SETZLER, josiesetzler at gmail.com, @WitnessTorture
Setzler is with the group Witness Against Torture. She said today: “Obama’s plan for closing the prison at Guantanamo, which includes indefinite detention without charge or trial, is a monument to the pathetic failure of his policy. Any plan to further detain these men in the U.S. is unacceptable. Every detainee not yet cleared must be tried fairly in federal court or released.

“For years the administration barely even tried to close the prison. All the while, men detained there suffered physical and psychological abuse, including by forced-feeding. Right wing demagogues repeated the vicious lie that all the prisoners are ‘worst of the worst,’ and erected legislative barriers to closing Guantanamo. Now, pundits are declaring the president’s plan as ‘dead on arrival.’ The lives of men kidnapped and tortured by the United States continue to be sacrificed to cynical, domestic politics. Witness Against Torture will continue to work towards the day when this country finally reckons with the disaster of Guantanamo and faces the demands of true justice.”

JEFFREY KAYE, jeffkaye at sbcglobal.net, @jeff_kaye
Kaye is a clinical psychologist and an independent journalist investigating human rights issues. He said today: “While the politicians play political football with the lives of prisoners at Guantanamo, the abuses and crimes that took place there — indeed may still be taking place — go unremarked and unexamined. For instance, former prisoners claim they were forcefully drugged at the facility. We need an independent investigation of all that has really taken place at DoD detention sites in the ‘war on terror,’ from Guantanamo to Bagram, from Diego Garcia to the Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.”

Kaye’s pieces on torture include, “More Charges of Forced Drugging at Guantanamo” and “Contrary to Obama’s promises, the U.S. military still permits torture.”

Kaye has also written extensively about torture being used for “exploitation” — that is, as a method of deriving false but useful information that the government can use as pretext for policy, like torturing detainees into “confessing” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, or that Iraq was working with Al Qaeda. See his pieces: “CIA Psychologist’s Notes Reveal True Purpose Behind Bush’s Torture Program” and “‘Guidebook to False Confessions’: Key Document John Yoo Used to Draft Torture Memo Released.”

Syria War Fueled by Outside Forces and Propaganda

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Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 4.06.55 PMJENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN, amadea311 at earthlink.net
Loewenstein is a human rights activist and faculty associate in Middle East Studies at Penn State University. A piece of hers will be published in the print edition of Counterpunch.org that draws parallels between today and the situation at the end of World War I. Writes Loewenstein: “After the First World War, from January to June 1919, the victorious allies met over 100 times to determine the fates of their vanquished foes. … In virtually all cases what mattered least in terms of the governance and policies of a nation was public opinion.” Loewenstein’s past pieces include “Heading Toward a Collision: Syria, Saudi Arabia and Regional Proxy Wars.”

STEPHEN KINZER, kinzer.stephen at gmail.com, @stephenkinzer
Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. He recently wrote the piece “The media are misleading the public on Syria,” which states: “Washington-based reporters tell us that one potent force in Syria, al-Nusra, is made up of ‘rebels’ or ‘moderates,’ not that it is the local al-Qaeda franchise. Saudi Arabia is portrayed as aiding freedom fighters when in fact it is a prime sponsor of ISIS. Turkey has for years been running a ‘rat line’ for foreign fighters wanting to join terror groups in Syria, but because the United States wants to stay on Turkey’s good side, we hear little about it. Nor are we often reminded that although we want to support the secular and battle-hardened Kurds, Turkey wants to kill them. Everything Russia and Iran do in Syria is described as negative and destabilizing, simply because it is they who are doing it — and because that is the official line in Washington.

“Inevitably, this kind of disinformation has bled into the American presidential campaign. At the recent debate in Milwaukee, Hillary Clinton claimed that United Nations peace efforts in Syria were based on ‘an agreement I negotiated in June of 2012 in Geneva.’ The precise opposite is true. In 2012 Secretary of State Clinton joined Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel in a successful effort to kill Kofi Annan’s UN peace plan because it would have accommodated Iran and kept Assad in power, at least temporarily. No one on the Milwaukee stage knew enough to challenge her.”

Background: See new Patrick Cockburn interview on The Real News: “The thing to bear in mind about this ceasefire is that people aren’t actually going to cease firing, because on one hand, you have the Syrian government with the Syrian army, and on the other you have the Syrian opposition, which is very divided, and the largest part of it consists of the Islamic State, or ISIS, or ISIL, whatever you want to call them, or the al-Nusra Front, which is the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. And the ceasefire doesn’t cover them. …

“One of the problems is that some of these sort of smaller groups might sound neutral or they might pretend to be moderate because they want to get weapons and money, and so forth. But they only operate under license from al-Nusra and the al-Qaeda type organizations. So it’s a bit misleading to think if they really are a serious force on the ground.”

Trump’s Big Pershing Lie

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6452811Donald Trump recently claimed that in the Philippines over 100 years ago, Gen. John Pershing “took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood,” and shot 49 Muslim rebels. “The 50th person, he said, ‘You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem.” Politifact.com rates this statement “Pants on Fire.” There is another Republican debate this evening. See accuracy.org/calendar for upcoming events. 

JAMES BRADLEY, james at jamesbradley.com
Bradley is author of the New York Times bestsellers Flyboys and Flags of Our Fathers and a son of one of the men who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima.

In his book The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War, he recounts his visit to Pershing Plaza in the Philippines. See excerpt.

He said today: “Theodore Roosevelt declared ‘Mission Accomplished’ over and over again in the Philippines — just like George W. Bush did in Iraq and both wars kept going and going. A hundred years after Pershing fought the insurgency in the Philippines, I went to Zamboanga a Muslim enclave 516 miles south of Manila. I wanted to walk around the town, including Pershing Plaza there. The local officials wouldn’t let me venture out of my hotel without an armed police escort. The day after I left, two bombs went off.

“Whatever the veracity of the ‘pig’s blood story’ — and it seems like a recurring fable — the deeper point is that the lesson here is exactly the opposite of what Trump apparently intended. Over 100 years after the U.S. killed tens of thousands of people in the Philippines, if Trump tried to walk around there without armed guards, he’d get killed.

“Unfortunately, such policies continue under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Currently, President Obama — with CIA director John Brennan — is engaging in a drone assassination program. He’s stone dead killing people. But that glaring policy is ignored. Writers like David Brooks of the New York Times write about Obama’s ‘humanity’ — because he went to a mosque and gave a speech, ignoring the literal killing and maiming that he is engaging in. Such policies fuel the anger and violence our government claims it is attempting to stop, fueling killing for another century if we don’t finally chose another path.”

What’s Wrong With Black South Carolina Voters Not “Feeling the Bern?”

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Lightning-299x450The Washington Post reports in the article, “Clinton regrets 1996 remark on ‘super-predators’ after encounter with activist,” that : “Black voters are the linchpin of Hillary Clinton’s strategy for winning the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, and as a result, her campaign has put racial justice issues at the forefront of her agenda. But at an event on Wednesday night, Clinton was vocally confronted by an activist questioning her past support for policies that had a disproportionately negative effect on African Americans.”

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY, kevinagray57 at gmail.com, @kevinagray
Gray is a longtime South Carolina political organizer and analyst who has worked on many political campaigns. His books include Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics. He is co-editor of the book Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.

Gray said today: “Many are puzzling over blacks — who are typically the most progressive element in the Democratic party — backing Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

“There are a number of reasons for this and Sanders has to take responsibility for some of them. Certainly, much of the black political establishment is corrupt and has connections, including financial connections, to the Clintons. And the Clintons have backed a lot policies that have done real damage to the black community.

“In part it’s about sticking with the devil you know. Many blacks surrendered any kind of political voice they have during the Obama years and feel like it’s Hillary’s turn. And the Clintons have delivered some things: The last public housing in the south was built in the late 90s.

“Sanders has been in Congress for 30 years, but hasn’t developed meaningful relationships with many black elected officials. The way he’s approached South Carolina is largely to bring in outside black, northern intellectuals who are all men. And Killer Mike — a rapper. Women are 60 percent of the black electorate here. He has events at the colleges. This isn’t a serious bottom up strategy to get to where people in the community really are.

“He talks about his campaign being a ‘revolution.’ No. Cuba had a revolution. Haiti had a revolution. He’s not succeeding at building a lasting movement and he’s not even succeeding at retail politics or having the right optics — Clinton is.

“He certainly isn’t bringing people of diverse backgrounds together like Jesse Jackson did with the Rainbow Coalition. It’s a campaign run by some white guys in DC with some Black Lives Matter talking points as soundbites thrown in. That’s not going to cut it.

“Black folks might like some of what he says about Wall Street and tuition-free public colleges, but it’s clear he’s not really thinking about the HBCU [historically black colleges and universities] — black folks are at best an afterthought. Same with critical issues like gerrymandering and the voting rights act.

“Sanders cites Martin Luther King, but King said a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. How can we believe that Sanders is really a man of principle when he — nor anyone else — says a critical word about Israel when it’s thrusting an apartheid system on the Palestinians?

“I certainly won’t vote for Clinton, but Sanders isn’t really doing what he needs to do. We need real movements that are built not just in election cycles and not people looking to be great new leader, getting more TV time.”

See Gray’s writings at Counterpunch and at the Progressive.

Galbraith: Beyond the Spin on Sanders’ Economic Plan

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512922642JAMES K. GALBRAITH, galbraith at grandecom.net
Galbraith holds the Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations and a professorship of Government at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin. His latest book is the recently released Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know. He is available for a very limited number of interviews with some openings on Tuesday.

He just wrote the piece, “The Kerfuffle over Sanders’ Economic Plan,” which states: “The key takeaway from the fuss over the projected growth effect of Senator Bernie Sanders’ economic program is that it doesn’t matter. Sanders’ reforms for health, public education, investment, and for social fairness stand on their own. Whether they would produce economic growth at 3 percent or 5 percent, for five years or 10 years, is a secondary issue.

“The entire fuss is over an independent estimate of the growth effects, which certain prominent economists found implausible, mainly because such high growth rates have not been seen recently in this country. On that basis, four past chairs of the Council of Economic Advisers decided to brand the author of the paper, Professor Gerald Friedman of the University of Massachusetts, as a nut.

“Now two of the attackers, Christina Romer and her husband David, of the University of California, have decided to engage more seriously, with an 11-page critique. The epithets have been dropped. This is a good thing — if a bit late.

“The Romers now maintain (mainly) that Friedman made a math error, confusing levels of output with rates of change. But this complaint isn’t actually about math; it’s about economic theory.

“To see the issue, ask yourself: did the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 make any difference to the level of economic output that we experience today? Equally, did the New Deal help to end the Great Depression? How about the Second World War?

“The Romers say no. They admit a temporary effect only. According to them, the economy of the 1930s would have recovered in full, eventually, without the New Deal or World War II. And the American economy today would be exactly where it is, or even a bit further ahead, even if there had been no recovery act — and also, for that matter, had there been no automatic stabilizers such as unemployment insurance or food stamps. …

“And does President Obama believe that his great economic policy triumph in the face of the Crisis of 2009 had no lasting impact? Does he agree that had the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act never been proposed, the economy would have recovered anyway, just a few months later than it actually did? I rather doubt that the president thinks this. Is he even aware, that this is the deeply-held view of his own chief economic adviser at the time?

“Somehow I doubt that too.”

See also: “James Galbraith: The Friedman v. Romers Growth Debate on the Sanders Plan — A Summing Up,” at NakedCapitalism.com.

Galbraith’s prior books include Inequality and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great Crisis (Oxford University Press, 2012); The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too and Created Unequal: The Crisis in American Pay.

FBI and Apple: Director Comey’s Undeserved Reputation

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imagesUSA Today reports today: “Apple and the FBI will face off Tuesday for the first time since the federal government went to court to try to force the tech giant to unlock a terrorist’s encrypted iPhone.

“FBI Director James Comey and Apple’s senior vice president and general counsel, Bruce Sewell, will testify at a House Judiciary Committee hearing titled ‘The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy.'” The Guardian reports: “Apple case: judge rejects FBI request for access to drug dealer’s iPhone.” Comey was President George W. Bush’s Deputy Attorney General.

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to then  FBI Director Robert Mueller exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures — was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002.

She just wrote the piece, “Behind FBI’s Data-Access Fight with Apple,” which states: “Knowing even a little of James Comey’s post-9/11 background, it becomes rather hard to believe the FBI Director is sincerely leveling with the American public in his latest quest to compel Apple (and other encrypted communication companies) to create a mechanism for government access, that he is solely motivated by his desire to ‘look the (San Bernardino) survivors in the eye’ and tell them the FBI has followed up on all investigative leads. …

“Except for a few whistleblowers, the only internal debate that developed was how to do it [illegal warrantless monitoring]. In addition to the illegal ‘Presidential Program’ monitoring of Americans, Comey supported and signed off on the George W. Bush administration’s torture tactics as well as years-long indefinite detentions that denied some American citizens their right to counsel and other constitutional rights.

“But Comey’s reputation as a man of law, albeit mostly false, preceded him. Other than some grilling about the torture he had approved of, almost none of the hard questions I suggested in this New York Times opinion piece for Judiciary Committee senators were asked of Comey during his Senate confirmation hearings. Maybe Apple could still ask him some of them!

“If the FBI Director is truly concerned about the ‘proper balance’ in upholding the law as well as effectively investigating crimes, reducing terrorism and helping crime victims, how could he let himself fall so far off balance after 9/11? What integrity exists in going along with the Bush administration when it ‘went to the (lawless) dark side’ and when it ginned up war on Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and which has only served to increase worldwide terrorism that led to the terrible creation of ISIS, all of which served to inspire the San Bernardino shooters? …

“Maybe most disingenuous of all is Comey’s new assertion that he is not trying to set a precedent. Does he not know that the government’s ‘Plan B’ secret agenda to create ‘work-arounds’ to defeat encryption recently came to light? Does he expect us to believe that he was not part of the secret White House meeting last fall where senior national security officials ordered agencies to find ways to counter encryption software and gain access to the most heavily protected user data on the most secure consumer devices, including Apple Inc.’s? …

Clinton’s “Crocodile Tears” for Latin American Immigrants

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hillarycroctears_590ALEXANDER MAIN, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Main is senior associate on international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He wrote the piece “Hillary Clinton’s Emails and the Honduras Coup.” See also: “Do Feminists Support Coups? Honduran Women on Hillary Clinton,” from Telesur.

MELEIZA FIGUEROA, [currently in Brazil] melfig at berkeley.edu
Figueroa is a Ph.D. candidate in geography at the University of California at Berkeley and a producer at KPFK in Los Angeles. She recently wrote the piece “Hillary Clinton Cries Crocodile Tears for Latin American Immigrants,” which states that Clinton’s “embrace of Henry Kissinger as a ‘friend’ and ‘mentor’ on foreign policy and her personal involvement in the 2009 coup in Honduras that forcibly removed President Manuel Zelaya, a left populist, from power — reveal her commitment to maintaining a legacy of political terror in Latin America that has caused millions of people to flee their homelands. …

“Bloody coups aside, perhaps the biggest single action that transformed immigration into the ‘problem’ we face today was President Bill Clinton’s implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. NAFTA opened the floodgates to transnational corporate profitmaking by removing the barriers that the U.S.-Mexico border posed to the free flow of investment. But instead of being a magic wand that, as Bill Clinton contended, would bring economic prosperity for all and ‘fix’ undocumented immigration to the United States, the impacts of the free-trade agreement on the Mexican economy actually increased the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States by 185 percent.

“How did NAFTA and CAFTA (the Central America Free Trade Agreement) propel undocumented immigration? In academia, we can spend years counting all the ways. But in large part, it was because of the absolute devastation ‘free trade’ brought to these countries’ family-based agricultural economies. Peasants who had supplied themselves and their communities with staple foods for centuries could not compete when thrust into a global market against a flood of cheap corn and wheat produced by the U.S. government-subsidized agricultural industry. This, and the opening of collectively held lands for sale on the private market, left millions of peasant families broke and landless, with no choice but to go north. …

“The vicious drug war that has raged throughout Mexico and spread to parts of Central America over the last decade — claiming a staggering 164,000 lives in Mexico alone — is a direct product of the economic devastation caused by NAFTA and is also a major cause of immigration to the U.S. without legal permission.”

Figueroa was head researcher on the 2005 film “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,” and has been a longtime social justice activist and organizer in Los Angeles and the Bay Area.

Party Divisions Today and the 1860 Presidential Race

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51N3YwMmNxL._SX302_BO1,204,203,200_DAVID S. REYNOLDS, reyn.sn at gmail.com, @reysn1
Reynolds is a distinguished professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center and is the author or editor of fifteen books, including, most recently, Lincoln’s Selected Writings.

He said today: “Polarization pulverizes parties and alters the political landscape. This is a lesson of the 2016 election season. A sharply divided Congress stuck for years in stalemate and inertia; the ever-deepening chasm between the top 1 percent and other Americans; warring Super PACs — these and other polarizing factors have shaken the party system to the core. In particular, Republican party leaders, appalled by the rise of the outlier Donald Trump, are frantically plotting strategies, including a third party or a brokered convention, to stop Trump.

“Could there be a silver lining to this murky scene? Yes, if we take the example of the 1860 election, where even greater polarization resulted in party divisions that in turn yielded America’s greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. That year, the country was so divided over the slavery issue that Lincoln’s opponents split into three parties with different presidential candidates: the Northern Democrats, under the moderate Stephen A. Douglas, the Southern Democrats, led by the secessionist John C. Breckenridge, and the Constitutional Union Party, with the reactionary John Bell as its nominee. Especially severe was the fragmentation of the Democrats, who split apart because they feared that Douglas, their presumptive candidate, was too liberal on slavery — comparable to the right’s suspicions about Trump today.

“As it turned out, this party division ensured the election of the antislavery Republican, Lincoln, who, though he lost the popular vote to his combined opponents by over a million votes, won the electoral college and thus the presidency. Lincoln’s victory saved the nation, for no other candidate had the skills to lead the nation during the bloodiest war in its history.

“Will polarization have positive results today? We can’t say. But we should recall that when Lincoln took office, there were many questions about this little-known, ungainly-looking frontiersman (called a ‘baboon’ or an ‘ape’ by his opponents) who seemed dangerously radical by Southerners and overly conservative by antislavery Northerners. While there’s no apparent Lincoln on the scene today, only time will tell if the party confusion will produce a figure of national healing and responsible governance.”

DNC Head Wasserman Backs “Loan Shark” Payday Lenders

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9780674286061-lg-1Huffington Post reports: “DNC Chair Joins GOP Attack On Elizabeth Warren’s Agency.” See in Esquire: “It’s Time for DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz to Ride Off into the Sunset,” and “Debbie Wasserman Schultz Shouldn’t Be Welcoming Loan Sharks Into the Democratic Party,” by Tim Canova, who is challenging Wasserman in the Democratic Party primary.

MEHRSA BARADARAN, mehrsa at gmail.com, @MehrsaBaradaran
Baradaran is author of the new book How the Other Half Banks from Harvard University Press. She is associate professor at the University of Georgia School of Law where she teaches contracts and banking law. Baradaran is currently in NYC and will be in D.C. on March 10 and 11.

She said today: “All of the headlines have portrayed this as some sort of political catfight between two top DNC leaders, but it is nothing of the sort. The CFPB [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] is not ‘Warren’s Agency,’ though it was her brainchild. The fight is much bigger than a Wasserman/Warren feud. This is the DNC siding with payday lenders over people. It is no wonder voters on the left and the right have lost faith in the establishment.

“Wasserman wants the CFPB to back away from their payday lending rules for two years. This would kill their momentum on the notice and comment rulemaking they have been engaged in for the last several years and would assure an even weaker bill once it was passed after the delay. In the agency context, delay means death for many bills.

“Wasserman wants state pre-emption of payday lending rules. What this means functionally is no payday lending rules. This is because payday lenders can work online and from Native American reservations or charter in states with weak consumer protection laws and operate in other states. This is the EXACT reason the CFPB was created. Federal oversight is the only thing that works when different state rules create a race to the bottom.

“The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) was engaged in federal pre-emption of state consumer laws for the decade before the financial crisis. This is why so many predatory and fraudulent mortgages did not get caught. The OCC allowed state rules to govern and many states did not have good rules and those that did, the OCC pre-empted. Thus, the lack of oversight created a predatory and fraudulent market. Making the CFPB impotent against payday lenders would create the same dynamic.

“I am glad Wasserman’s actions came to light and there is some pushback, but often these bills do not get sufficient media attention because there aren’t as many well-funded and well-organized consumer protection groups as there are interested payday lender lobbies. I hope this is a warning to all policymakers that the public is now paying attention.

“Payday lenders are modern day loan sharks. The industry has ballooned in the last two decades as banks have abandoned low income neighborhoods. They profit off of the desperation of poor borrowers by charging the maximum interest rates allowable by law (up to 2000 percent APR in some circumstances). Any policymaker that defends this industry is more interested in campaign contributions than alleviating the very real suffering of their constituents.”

Cáceres Murdered — Honduran Activist who Stood up to Clinton-Backed Coup Regime

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Berta_Caceres_otu_imgThe Guardian reports today: “Berta Cáceres, the Honduran indigenous and environmental rights campaigner, has been murdered, barely a week after she was threatened for opposing a hydroelectric project.”

GREG GRANDIN, grandin at nyu.edu, @greggrandin
Author of Kissinger’s Shadow, Grandin just wrote the piece “The Clinton-Backed Honduran Regime Is Picking Off Indigenous Leaders.” For background, see: “Hillary Clinton Admits Role in Honduran Coup Aftermath,” and “Hillary Clinton’s Emails and the Honduras Coup.”

BEVERLY BELL, bev.otherworlds at gmail.com, @beverly__bell
Bell appeared on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release last April: titled “Cáceres, Threatened Honduran, Wins Biggest Enviro Award.” As noted on that news release, “For 15 years, Bell has been a close collaborator with Cáceres’ and the group she coordinates, the National Council of Indigenous Organizations of Honduras.” Bell has repeatedly warned that Cáceres and other indigenous activists’ lives were in danger because of their work.

She said then: “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…”

Bell said today that, more than anything, this is “about continued U.S. and Honduran government support for land and river grabs and multinational investment.”

School of the Americas Watch released a statement titled: “Human Rights Organizations Demand an Investigation of the Circumstances Surrounding the Assassination of Berta Cáceres, the General Coordinator of COPINH.” It says: “At approximately midnight last night, the General Coordinator of COPINH, Berta Caceres was assassinated in her hometown of La Esperanza, Intibuca. At least two individuals broke down the door of the house where Berta was staying for the evening in the Residencial La Líbano, and shot and killed her. COPINH is urgently responding to this tragic situation.

“Berta Cáceres is one of the leading indigenous activists in Honduras. She spent her life fighting in defense of indigenous rights, particularly to land and natural resources. …”Since the 2009 military coup that was carried out by graduates of the U.S. Army School of the Americas, Honduras has witnessed an explosive growth in environmentally destructive megaprojects that would displace indigenous communities. Almost 30 percent of the country’s land was earmarked for mining concessions, creating a demand for cheap energy to power future mining operations. To meet this need, the government approved hundreds of dam projects around the country, privatizing rivers, land, and uprooting communities. Repression of social movements and targeted assassinations are rampant. Honduras has the world’s highest murder rate. Honduran human rights organizations report there have been over 10,000 human rights violations by state security forces and impunity is the norm — most murders go unpunished. The Associated Press has repeatedly exposed ties between the Honduran police and death squads, while U.S. military training and aid for the Honduran security forces continues.”

FBI’s New Plan to Spy on Students: General Repression, Muslims as Targets

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Screen Shot 2016-03-07 at 9.25.42 AMSarah Lazare reports for AlterNet in “The FBI Has a New Plan to Spy on High School Students Across the Country,” that: “Under new guidelines, the FBI is instructing high schools across the country to report students who criticize government policies and ‘western corruption’ as potential future terrorists, warning that ‘anarchist extremists’ are in the same category as ISIS and young people who are poor, immigrants or travel to ‘suspicious’ countries are more likely to commit horrific violence.

“Based on the widely unpopular British ‘anti-terror’ mass surveillance program, the FBI’s ‘Preventing Violent Extremism in Schools’ guidelines [PDF], released in January, are almost certainly designed to single out and target Muslim-American communities. However, in its caution to avoid the appearance of discrimination, the agency identifies risk factors that are so broad and vague that virtually any young person could be deemed dangerous and worthy of surveillance, especially if she is socio-economically marginalized or politically outspoken.

“This overwhelming threat is then used to justify a massive surveillance apparatus, wherein educators and pupils function as extensions of the FBI by watching and informing on each other.”

ARUN KUNDNANI, arun at kundnani.org, @ArunKundnani
Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror and a lecturer at New York University.

He said today: “The document aims to encourage schools to monitor their students more carefully for signs of radicalization but its definition of radicalization is vague. Drawing on the junk science of radicalization models, the document dangerously blurs the distinction between legitimate ideological expression and violent criminal actions.

“In practice, schools seeking to implement this document will end up monitoring Muslim students disproportionately. Muslims who access religious or political material will be seen as suspicious, even though there is no reason to think such material indicates a likelihood of terrorism.”

“The belief system of the Islamophobes,” and other of his writings are available at Kundnani’s website. He was featured last year on the Institute for Public Accuracy news release, “Trump’s Islamophobia is Tip of Iceberg.” See an interview of his on CNN.

Actually, Clinton Promoted Fracking Globally

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Commondreams.org reports [in the piece “As Clinton Equivocates on Fracking, Sanders Has One Answer: ‘No.’“] that: “Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both claim to oppose fracking, but only one of them has plans to ban it.

“During Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate in Flint, Michigan, where environmental issues are especially critical as residents grapple with a water contamination crisis, moderators asked the candidates where they stand on the controversial gas extraction method that involves injecting chemicals and water deep underground.”

MARIAH BLAKE, mariah at mariahblake.com, @MariahCBlake
Blake, now a fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University, wrote the piece “How Hillary Clinton’s State Department Sold Fracking to the World,” in 2014 for Mother Jones. She tweeted last night: “Clinton has promoted fracking overseas, even when none of the conditions she stated in the debate are met.”

Her in-depth piece stated: “Under her leadership, the State Department worked closely with energy companies to spread fracking around the globe … But environmental groups fear that exporting fracking, which has been linked to drinking-water contamination and earthquakes at home, could wreak havoc in countries with scant environmental regulation. And according to interviews, diplomatic cables, and other documents obtained by Mother Jones, American officials — some with deep ties to industry — also helped U.S. firms clinch potentially lucrative shale concessions overseas, raising troubling questions about whose interests the program actually serves. …

“During a 2010 gathering of foreign ministers in Washington, D.C., she spoke about America’s plans to help spread fracking abroad. ‘I know that in some places [it] is controversial,’ she said, ‘but natural gas is the cleanest fossil fuel available for power generation today.’ She later traveled to Poland for a series of meetings with officials, after which she announced that the country had joined the Global Shale Gas Initiative.”

Also see from Grist: “Hillary Clinton has a new tune on fracking.”

Is Government Targeting Other Honduran Activists?

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Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 12.05.32 PMThe Guardian reports: “Murdered Honduran activist Berta Cáceres buried as others vow to continue fight.”

BEVERLY BELL, bev.otherworlds at gmail.com, @beverly__bell
SIMONE ADLER, simone.otherworlds at gmail.com
Bell and Adler are with the group Other Worlds, which has collaborated closely with the group Berta Cáceres founded, the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras. Bell repeatedly warned of threats to Cáceres prior to her death. For background, see “Cáceres Murdered — Honduran Activist who Stood up to Clinton-Backed Coup Regime.”

Bell appeared on the program “Democracy Now!” this morning. She emphasized the situation with Gustavo Castro Soto, coordinator of Otros Mundos Chiapas / Friends of the Earth Mexico: “Gustavo is not only the sole witness [to the murder of Cáceres] — he also was a target for assassination. He was shot twice in the attack. And in the one letter that he has been able to get out to a few of us, he said, ‘They tried to assassinate me and they are still trying to assassinate me.’
“Gustavo feigned death after having been shot twice. The death squads who were sent, we are certain, by the Honduran government thought that he was dead. Berta died in Gustavo’s arms. He was then immediately picked up for questioning. He is now in his fifth day of questioning. It reads like the worst horror movie you could ever imagine. …

“We are calling for his safe passage out of Honduras and into Mexico. We are also calling for an independent investigation of the assassination of Berta Cáceres because so far it’s been grossly manipulated by the Honduran government, which is seeking to target and blame other members of Berta’s group who are being held without lawyers being present.”

Bell also stressed that this was “not just a horrible human rights crisis,” but ultimately a struggle between indigenous people and colluding government and corporate interests. Atop their website, Other Worlds, they note that Cáceres “was a leader of indigenous peoples defending their land, rivers, and rights. She was part of the ongoing struggle to stop the construction of a hydroelectric dam by the internationally-financed Honduran company, DESA, on the Gualcarque River.”

Drone Killings: Obama Administration “Wedded to Drive-by Shooting Strategy”

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9781250081636CommonDreams.org reports: “‘Unprecedented’ Death Toll as U.S. Drone and Air Strikes Kill 150 in Somalia,” and “White House to Reveal Drone Strike Death Toll, But Secrecy Still Reigns.”

ANDREW COCKBURN, [currently in NYC] amcockburn at gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn is also author of the book Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins (just out in paperback). His recent articles include “Flying Blind,” and “How Assassination Sold Drugs and Promoted Terrorism.”

He said today: “We have the U.S. government claim that the victims were uniformly die-hard terrorists helpfully lined up in formation, but we’ve heard these kinds of things before from JSOC [Joint Special Operations Command] or CENTCOM [United States Central Command]. They herald a great victory — and quite often we quietly find out weeks later that they in fact struck some children or a wedding party. We know very little about these strikes and the watch word should be skepticism. Whatever the details however it is clear that the Obama administration remains wedded to the same drive-by shooting strategy that has signally failed for the past fifteen years. This will do precisely nothing to bring peace and stability to Somalia.”

See Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Drone Whistleblowers: U.S. Assassination Program Ignites Terrorism.”

Understanding Michigan: * Trade * Auto Bailout * GM Stopped Using Flint Water

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6a00d83452507269e20192ac311fce970dFRANK HAMMER, fkhammer at ameritech.net
Hammer is a retired General Motors employee of 32 years. He was president of United Auto Workers Local 909 in Warren, Michigan. He’s currently a labor organizer at the School of the Americas Watch.

Hammer stressed the importance of Bernie Sanders’ long-time opposition to corporate trade deals like NAFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership in his victory in Michigan on Tuesday. Hammer was recently interviewed on The Real News segment “Clinton Misleads Voters on Sanders’ Support for the Auto Bailout Ahead of Michigan Primary,”: “I think that they have to take a very sober look when it goes down into their trade question, for example, because [Hillary Clinton] has — not a good record in regard to supporting some of these trade agreements. And you have Trump [who is] coming out and championing doing away with NAFTA, not supporting TPP.

“So I think that this is something that Democrats should really take a good, careful look at, because it’s not necessarily the case that Clinton is going to beat somebody like Trump.” See: “Flipping on TPP, Hillary Clinton Proves Chameleon-Like on Corporate Trade.”

Also see Hammer’s interview, “Trump Says Mexican Auto Industry to Blame for Detroit’s Economic Hardship,” with The Real News.

Hammer added: “Clinton told a real whopper during the debate. The fact of the matter is presidential candidate Sanders did in fact support the [auto] bailout. I think a lot of people who only saw the debate were fooled by that.”

Regarding the Flint water crisis, Hammer noted: “I think the elephant in the room that neither Clinton nor Bernie Sanders has talked about is the role of General Motors in Flint. … General Motors exempted itself from the Flint [River] water a few months after the water was switched to Flint [River] water, because it was rusting parts in their engines, and got an exemption. … And General Motors didn’t think to inquire about the impact of that water on people.” See local news article from 2014: “General Motors shutting off Flint River water at engine plant over corrosion worries.”

Voters Revolting Against NAFTA-style Deals?

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Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 12.29.54 PMLORI WALLACH, via Nick Florko, nflorko at citizen.org, @PCGTW
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and was just on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” program this morning — see video.

She said today: “Americans’ opposition to job-killing trade policies fueled the stunning Bernie Sanders upset victory in Michigan. But it also could be a deciding factor in the general election, especially with Donald Trump being the likely GOP nominee. The outcome of the Michigan primary shows the potency of trade issues and foreshadows the trouble Hillary Clinton could face winning key Midwestern states in a race against Trump.

“The elite political class have systematically misread the depth of voters’ ire about the damage done by 20 years of NAFTA-style trade deals supported by Democratic and GOP presidents alike. Or they have dismissed voters’ anger as ill-informed. Yet as this new data [PDF] released today by Public Citizen shows, the voters have it right: The aggregate U.S. goods trade deficit with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners is more than five times as high as before the deals went into effect, while the aggregate trade deficit with non-FTA countries has actually fallen.

“The key differences are soaring imports into the United States from FTA partners and lower growth in U.S. exports to those nations than to non-FTA nations. Growth of U.S. exports to FTA partners has been 29 percent lower than U.S. export growth to the rest of the world over the last decade.

“The aggregate U.S. trade deficit with FTA partners has increased by about $141 billion, or 418 percent, since the FTAs were implemented. In contrast, the aggregate trade deficit with all non-FTA countries has decreased by about $46 billion, or 6 percent, since 2005 (the year before the median entry date of existing FTAs).”

“Using the Obama administration’s net exports-to-jobs ratio, the FTA trade deficit surge implies the loss of over 736,000 U.S. jobs. This does not even take into account jobs from our soaring trade deficit with China.”

Also see: “Obama optimistic on TPP, pushes for votes.”

Muslim and Arab American Support for Sanders

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FAIRFAX, VA - OCTOBER 28:  Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) hugs Muslim student Remaz Abdelgader during a "National Student Town Hall" at George Mason University October 28, 2015 in Fairfax, Virginia. Sen. Sanders continued to campaign for the Democratic nomination.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

AlterNet reports: “Mainstream media pundits appeared flabbergasted when Bernie Sanders overwhelmingly won (64-36) Dearborn, Michigan — the city with the largest concentration of Arab-Americans and Muslims in the country — because the presidential hopeful is Jewish. …

“While the mainstream media invoked the mythical age-old enmity with Muslims and Arabs on one side and Jews on the other, people who are actually from Dearborn took offense at this stereotype.

“’The media narrative in America is one that conflates Arabs and Muslims as anti-Semitic and conflates Zionism with Jews,’ Mohamad Naim, who lives in Dearborn and is a math teacher in Detroit, told AlterNet. ‘But you must not do that.'”

“Dearborn went to Sanders, who runs advertisements in Arabic, because ‘Arabs and Muslims are disgusted with continuous war overseas, whether in Afghanistan or Iraq or Libya,’ said Naim. ‘Hillary Clinton endorsed the war in Libya, and Obama was heavily influenced by her. Since it’s our people dying abroad, we want someone who understands that enforced regime change does not bring a positive change. We want a president who is not overtaken by corporations and driven by wars overseas.'”

RANIA KHALEK, [in D.C. area] , raniakhalek at gmail.com, @RaniaKhalek
Associate editor with the ElectronicIntifada.netKhalek tweeted: “Hillary losing Dearborn is very satisfying considering disgraceful treatment of Arab-Americans throughout her career.” Khalek wrote the piece, “When Hillary Clinton threw Arab and Muslim Americans under the bus,” which states: “Back in 2000, during a heated U.S. Senate race in New York, Clinton came under attack for accepting political contributions from Muslim groups whose members were targets of a smear campaign generated by one of the Islamophobia industry’s most discredited operatives.

“Without hesitation, Clinton condemned her Muslim supporters, returned their donations and refused to meet with Arab and Muslim Americans for the remainder of her campaign, all in the spirit of ‘wooing Jewish voters,’ as The New York Times put it.”

Khalek has also noted that “Hillary Clinton received more money from weapons makers than all other candidates, including Republicans.” See her piece “Bernie Sanders and the question of Palestine.” Khalek also co-hosts the radio program “Unauthorized Disclosure.”

How NAFTA Pushed Mexican Migration

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mpr-nafta-BorderExplorerWednesday night, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton discussed immigration and other issues in a debate organized by Univision with the Washington Post and carried by CNN. There’s a Republican debate scheduled for Thursday night organized by CNN and the right-wing Salem Radio Network.

While there’s been extensive discussion in debates of immigration and some discussion of NAFTA-style deals, virtually ignored is how the latter helped to cause the former. The following analysts show the connections:

MELEIZA FIGUEROA, [currently in the Brazilian Amazon] melfig at berkeley.edu
Figueroa is a Ph.D. candidate in geography at the University of California at Berkeley and a producer at KPFK in Los Angeles. She recently wrote the piece “Hillary Clinton Cries Crocodile Tears for Latin American Immigrants.” In addition to trade and migration, Figueroa also stresses U.S. backing of coups in Latin America, the recent assassination of an indigenous environmental activist in Honduras (see “Cáceres Murdered — Honduran Activist who Stood up to Clinton-Backed Coup Regime“) and how governmental policies lead to environmental degradation.

MANUEL PÉREZ-ROCHA, [in D.C.] , manuel at ips-dc.org, @ManuelPerezIPS
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.” He recently wrote the piece, “The Moral Case Against the TPP.”

Pérez-Rocha states: “Trump’s idea of a wall is pure nonsense, inhuman and takes us back to the dark ages. Mexicans and Central Americans contribute more to the economy of the U.S. than all his unproductive enterprises together.”

He has written: “Of course, hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs have vanished since automotive and tech companies moved their production across the border in search of much lower wages.

“This was supposed to boost employment in Mexico. Instead, NAFTA has become an engine of poverty in the country, forcing millions of Mexicans to migrate to the United States in search of jobs.

“Why?

“Under NAFTA, cheap subsidized corn from the United States flooded Mexico, making it impossible for millions of Mexican farmers to compete. Government support previously given to small farmers was withdrawn and directed to big agricultural exporting corporations instead. ….

“Unfortunately, most factories that opened in Mexico are merely assembly plants, not production sites. … NAFTA not only decimated many Mexican small businesses, it also helped to destroy entire national industries. Before NAFTA, Mexico produced trains, tractors, and other industrial goods. They generally weren’t exported, but that production made the economy more self-sufficient. …

“Meanwhile, Mexican consumption of U.S. goods has skyrocketed, with Mexicans shopping in big box stores like Walmart and Costco. At these stores, even food items emblematic of Mexico like tortilla chips and salsa are brought in from the United States. The result? Millions of small-scale producers, mom and pop shops, and other traditional Mexican employers were scrapped.”

Trump Islamophobia as Cover for Empire

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9781781685587_Muslims_Are_Coming_NIP-max_221-0d7c65bcca3a726c6f0e6f6d719fa2faIn a recent interview on CNN, Donald Trump stated: “I think Islam hates us. There is something — there is something there that is a tremendous hatred there. There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it.” He reaffirmed those comments in Thursday night’s debate in Florida.

While many are reflexively condemning Trump’s statements, some analysts are arguing that — while Trump is clearly being Islamophobic — he is also raising a critical issue: there is hatred  — an anger at least — among Muslims. They state that it is critical to examine the reasons for that anger — rooted in longstanding U.S. government policy toward predominantly Muslim countries.

ARUN KUNDNANI, arun at kundnani.org, @ArunKundnani
Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror and a lecturer at New York University. He said today: “Yes, there is anger. But its roots are in U.S. foreign policy rather than religion; its basic context is Empire — not Sharia. We prefer to believe the problem is their culture, not our politics — but the opposite is closer to the truth.”

Kundnani was featured on the news release “Trump’s Islamophobia is Tip of Iceberg,” and appeared on CNN late last year alongside Trump supporters.

The current U.S. bombing campaign in Syria and Iraq — allegedly targeting the so-called Islamic State — recently passed 10,000 air strikes, see airwars.org. Also, see recent Institute for Public Accuracy news releases: “25 Years of Bombing Iraq,” and “Drone Killings: Obama Administration ‘Wedded to Drive-by Shooting Strategy.'”

See Kundnani’s writings at kundnani.org — including his articles “The Guantánamo in New York you’re not allowed to know about,” and “The belief system of the Islamophobes.”

He recently wrote the draft paper: “Islamophobia: Lay Ideology of U.S.-Led Empire,” in which he analyzes Islamophobia as an ideology that “offers an everyday ‘common sense’ explanatory framework for making sense” of crisis such as terrorists attacks. He argues that it does so “in ways that disavow those events’ political meanings (rooted in empire, racism, and resistance) and instead explain them as products” of a “Muslimness.”

Kundnani states that this Islamophobia within U.S. and Western culture in effect pretends that there is a fixed “other” that must be opposed.

He argues: “This maneuver is also an act of projection in the psychoanalytic sense: the racist and imperialist violence upon which U.S.-led capitalism depends cannot be acknowledged in liberal society so it is transferred onto the personality of the Muslim and seen as emanating from ‘outside’ the social order. Imperial violence is then only ever a proportionate response to the inherently aggressive and threatening nature of the fanatical Muslim enemy. In these ways, a Western self-image of innocence and beneficence can be maintained by screening out resistance to the U.S.-led system of global capitalism.”

The Threat Five Years After Fukushima

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CdNDwm9WEAEN9B8PAUL GUNTHER, paul at beyondnuclear.org, @beyondnuclear
CINDY FOLKERS, cindy at beyondnuclear.org
KEVIN KAMPS, kevin at beyondnuclear.org
Gunter, Folkers and Kamps are with Beyond Nuclear, a leading U.S. anti-nuclear watchdog group on reactor oversight, health impacts and radioactive waste. In a statement, the group “decried the absence of reasonable plans to prevent and protect against a nuclear disaster in the U.S., five years after the March 11, 2011 triple meltdowns began at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan.

“More than 32 million Japanese have been exposed to Fukushima’s radioactive fallout. Close to 160,000 people were forced to evacuate, many of whom are being urged to return — under threat of loss of compensation — into areas the government claims to have ‘cleaned up.’ Costs have ballooned to at least $100 billion and will soar higher once economic losses, compensation and decommissioning costs are factored in.

“In the U.S., 30 GE Mark I and Mark II boiling water reactors identical in design to those at Fukushima, are still in operation. While the GE model is considered the most vulnerable to catastrophic failure, every operating U.S. reactor poses a risk. Beyond Nuclear launched its Freeze our Fukushimas campaign shortly after the Japan disaster to get the GE reactors shut down.”

See Beyond Nuclear’s full statement: “American Public Still at Risk from U.S. Fukushima-style Nuclear Disaster Five Years after Japan’s Triple Meltdowns” [PDF].

Turkey Wages Ethnic War; Increases Repression

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CcV8Od8WEAAj_q8CNN reports: “Turkish authorities arrested at least 29 people in anti-terror raids and fighter jets struck Kurdish separatist targets in Iraq on Monday, a day after a car bomb exploded in the capital of Ankara, killing at least 37 and wounding scores more. … Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to bring those responsible for Sunday’s attack to justice, saying the country will bring ‘down terror to its heel.'”

Business Insider reports: “An Ankara court ordered a ban on access to Facebook, Twitter and other sites in Turkey on Sunday, after images from a car bombing in the Turkish capital were shared on social media, broadcasters CNN Turk and NTV reported.”

See from January in the Guardian: “Turkey rounds up academics who signed petition denouncing attacks on Kurds.”

KANI XULAM, kani at kurdistan.org, @AKINinfo
Xulam is director of the American Kurdish Information Network. He recently wrote the piece “A Kurdish Girl’s Lonely Death,” for CounterPunch and has set up a vigil in front of the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C. Xulam’s piece states: “Let me tell you about the lack of safety and security in my country.

“Turkish tanks are violently rumbling through Kurdish cities.

“They are heartlessly shelling Kurdish homes and businesses.

“They are pitilessly burning trapped civilians in basements.

“They are repeating the vile Islamic State barbarism: Roasting prisoners alive in cages.

“You may say: ‘I haven’t heard about this.’

“And you are right.

“The American media, for some mysterious reason, is covering up the story.

“It has yet to broadcast it as ‘BREAKING NEWS’ on CNN, for example.

“And yet, this horrifying war is so shocking that it may soon surpass the turbulent civil war in Syria, which you have heard about. …. [Turkish President Erdogan] has brazenly boasted: If Kurds set up a Kurdistan in the wilds of Argentina, he would fight them even there!” See report from RT, which features Xulam: “‘Burned to death, beheaded’: Cizre Kurds accuse Erdogan’s forces of civilian massacre.”

JESSE ROSENFELD,  jesse.rissin.rosenfeld at gmail.com, @jrosyfield
Rosenfeld is a Middle East-based journalist who regularly contributes to The Nation magazine and the Daily Beast. He just wrote the piece “Turkey Is Fighting a Dirty War Against Its Own Kurdish Population,” which states: “Lazar Simeonov and I are the first foreign journalists to pass through the ring of steel that surrounds Cizre since Turkish government forces started a military campaign last year to crush an uprising by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). … Hundreds of civilians were killed before the military assault ended on February 11. …

“According to PKK fighters and commanders that The Nation spoke to behind barricades in the embattled city of Nuysabin, on Turkey’s border with Syria, it was the government’s unwillingness to accept national minority rights during peace negotiations nine months ago that led to the collapse of talks. They say this new war — the latest phase in a three-decade conflict — will expand, and they vow that the PKK will move its guerrillas into eastern, Kurdish-majority cities in the coming months while also bringing the war to the country’s major metropolises, like Istanbul.”

Ravitch: K-12 Education, Election Non-Issue

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Unknown[John King was confirmed by the Senate on Monday as education secretary. The Institute for Public Accuracy issued this news release when he became acting secretary.]

DIANE RAVITCH, gardendr at gmail.com, @DianeRavitch
Ravitch is an award-winning leader in education and the author of ten books, including The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She is a research professor of education at New York University and served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She now blogs at dianeravitch.net.

She said today: “The 2016 presidential campaign is notable for the near total absence of discussion of K-12 education.

“For the past 15 years, the nation’s public schools have been the victims of the failed federal policies of the Bush and Obama administrations. Both promoted standardized testing as the measure and the purpose of schooling. Both encouraged privatization by promoting the public funding of privately managed charters. Consequently, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of public schools have closed during this era because of low test scores, and thousands of teachers and principals have been fired because of low test scores. Education has increasingly become a commodity in a marketplace, where parents are expected to choose their children’s school. Typically, school choice is an illusion. It is the schools that choose their students, and they don’t want the kids who might get low scores.

“As a result of these policies, the charter school industry is booming, nearly half the states have adopted voucher programs to allow public dollars to subsidize religious education, experienced teachers are leaving their jobs, and there is a growing national teacher shortage.

“With all this turmoil in the nation’s schools, caused by Washington policies, you would think that the candidates might have something to say about their plans to bolster the public schools. If you thought so, you would be wrong. The Republicans all endorse both vouchers and privately managed charter schools, which are heavily funded by the Koch brothers, the Walton Foundation, and others who see them as a way to get rid of teachers’ unions. The Democrats, with only minor digressions, have avoided talking about schooling, although they are quite eager to talk about preschool and higher education.

“Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton support early childhood education. Both want to make higher education either free (Sanders) or affordable (Clinton). But both are notably silent about the Bush-Obama policies that have put standardized testing at the center of schooling and about the federal government’s favoritism towards charters, despite the ongoing revelation of charter scandals, frauds, and lack of accountability. Clinton has been equivocal about charters. Sanders was asked about them at the Ohio Town Hall, and he responded that he supports ‘public charter schools.’ This was an incoherent response since all charters call themselves “public charter schools,” even when they operate for-profit and are run by national corporate charter chains.

“Unless journalists ask the right questions, the candidates will continue to promote privatization (as the Republicans do) or to be silent (as the Democrats are).”

“Risks in Putin’s Syria Withdrawal”

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vladimirputin-1JOE LAURIA, [in Iraq, 7 hours ahead of U.S. ET]  joelauria at gmail.com, @unjoe
Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the UN since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers.

He just wrote the piece, “Risks in Putin’s Syria Withdrawal” for ConsortiumNews.com which states: “Russian President Vladimir Putin’s surprise announcement to withdraw most Russian war planes and personnel from Syria has left the public in the dark about his motives, raising troubling questions about whether the move will provide an opening for the U.S., Turkey and their Gulf allies to resume their drive towards ‘regime change’ in Damascus.

“More than five months of Russian airstrikes and Russia’s reconstitution of the Syrian Army dramatically turned the war in President Bashar al-Assad’s favor and has left the jihadists in disarray. But the liberation of Aleppo was not yet complete. Also, the Islamic State has not been destroyed, although the Syrian army reportedly had entered Palmyra and reached near Raqqa, Islamic State’s capital. …

“Putin’s move has led to widespread speculation that perhaps he has made a deal with the U.S., a grand bargain of sorts. Maybe Washington has offered a major concession on Ukraine, something President Barack Obama may gladly concede given what a disaster the U.S. adventure in that country has become.

“Perhaps in a game of chicken with Obama, Putin blinked first. The U.S. has wanted Russia out of the Syrian theater since the moment it entered. Now, with Russia yielding the Syrian skies will the U.S. set up ‘a no-fly zone’ as Turkey and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have desperately wanted?”

How Rank Voting Would Flip Trump’s Victories

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Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 11.32.54 AMROB RICHIE, rr at fairvote.org, @fairvote
CYNTHIA TERRELL, ct at fairvote.org
Richie is executive director of FairVote and a leading advocate of electoral reform, including the adoption of ranked choice voting, the instant runoff system that allows voters to rank candidates 1-2-3 and will be on the November ballot in Maine. The group recently partnered with the College of William and Mary and YouGov, producing the report “What Republican Voters Really Think.”

He said today: “The Republican nomination process is dramatic evidence of the failure of its voting rules. Media fixation on who is winning states misses two key flaws. Unlike Democratic contests, delegates often don’t accurately reflect the popular vote, which is getting worse with the shift to winner-take-all primaries. And absent instant runoff voting, the divided field has allowed Donald Trump to sweep a series of states without ever securing a majority of the vote.”

Richie co-wrote the piece “Simulating Instant Runoff Flips Most Donald Trump Primary Victories,” which states: “By only allowing voters to select their first choice candidate, typical American elections do not accurately capture the complexity of voter opinion in a multi-candidate race. This shortcoming is particularly salient in this year’s Republican presidential contest, as support from the majority of GOP voters that oppose Trump is divided among several challengers led by Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and Governor John Kasich.

“If Super Tuesday contests had been conducted with ranked choice voting — a proven system that empowers voters to rank candidates by preference in order to elect the candidate with the strongest support and the one most likely to garner the support of a majority — the results would look very different. Our models suggest that Trump would have won Alabama and Massachusetts, competed in toss-up races in Tennessee and Vermont, and lost the remaining seven states.”

Richie added today, “Our survey of 1,000 Republicans and independents shows clear support for both ranked choice voting and more proportionality in primaries. Our ranked choice voting tally also showed Trump losing despite a big plurality vote lead. It’s clear that Trump’s tactics would not have worked with fairer rules to pick state winners. Even yesterday, he likely would have only won Florida with instant runoff voting.”

Cynthia Terrell, director of FairVote’s Representation2020 project, added: “We’re also getting a great lesson in how moribund our congressional elections are: We see such clear hunger for change in both major party presidential contests, and yet such little sign of that hunger in congressional primaries, where incumbents again are dominant. We must address the disconnect between voters and representatives in the ‘People’s House.'” The new faces we deserve should include far more women — the United States had fallen to 95th in the world in women’s representation. It’s time to review and reform the core rules and structures that limit our democracy.”

You can work with FairVote’s YouGov survey data to see the ranked choice voting outcome and see the impact of removing candidates. RCVApp.com features a tool for creating and running ranked choice voting polls.

See more analysis at fairvote.org/blog — including the pieces, “New Polls Show that GOP Split Vote Problem Continues,” “Electoral Systems in the World’s Most Robust Democracies: Only Six of 33 Use U.S.-Style Winner-Take-All Elections,” and “Dr. Jill Stein [presumptive Green Party candidate] Supports Ranked Choice Voting.”

[Editors note: Also see rangevoting.org — run by another group of reformers which advocates a different voting system: one that allows voters to score candidates, like judges in the Olympics.]

Flint Water Crisis: What Did the EPA Know?

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Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 9.09.18 AMMARSHA COLEMAN-ADEBAYO, nofearcoalition at aol.com, @nofearcoalition
Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is an EPA whistleblower who worked at the agency for 18 years. She is the author of No Fear: A Whistleblower’s Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA. Her lawsuit led to the No Fear Act. She recently co-wrote the piece “Water crises like Flint’s will continue until the EPA is held accountable,” for The Guardian.

She just wrote for BlackAgendaReport.com: “EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder are scheduled to appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Thursday, March 17, to provide testimony on the poisoning of Flint, Michigan’s water. Public outcry has finally empowered Congress to demand that McCarthy and Snyder provide an accounting of their role in the poisoning of thousands of citizens.” Marsha Coleman-Adebayo will be at the hearing and will be available for interviews immediately afterward.

She added: “The essential question for this hearing is the same as that of the Watergate Hearing: what did they know and when did they know it? EPA electronic traffic between the former Region 5 Administrator and McCarthy must be subpoenaed. McCarthy and Snyder had perhaps hoped that the public would be silenced with sending former EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman careening under the bus.

“The ultimate authority for water regulations rests with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under the Clean Water Act. In fact, the CWA provides for criminal penalties for violations of this Act. Flint, Michigan falls within the federal jurisdiction of Region 5 and, until her resignation in February in disgrace, was under EPA Regional Administrator Susan Hedman. …

“EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy was aware that there were problems with Hedman’s leadership prior to the Flint crisis. …

“This is a sickeningly familiar story at the EPA, an agency governed by fear, recrimination, retaliation and discrimination. It is likely that EPA Administrator McCarthy will argue that the Flint disaster was the result of ‘a few bad apples’ and that with Administrator Hedman’s resignation the problem has been addressed. Nothing could be further from the truth. The EPA is rife with managers who have been allowed to engage in criminal behavior without fear of accountability. Far from dealing with root causes, McCarthy stands on protocol over the well being of her own employees. She will always side with her in-house group of managers who are in bed with their corporate masters — this is one of the lessons of the Flint poisoning crisis.”

Obama’s Latin American Legacy: Support for Right-wing?

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441286_1280x720President Obama is scheduled to travel to Cuba on Sunday and then to Argentina — see accuracy.org/calendar for such upcoming events.

JAMES EARLY,  earlytempos at gmail.com
Early has been to Cuba more than 50 times. He is former director of cultural heritage policy at the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and is now on the board of numerous organizations including the Institute for Policy Studies, Fundacion Amistad (a group “seeking understanding between the peoples of the United States and Cuba”) and Regional Articulation of Afro Descendants Latin America and Caribbean. See his interview with The Real News: “Will Cuban Reforms Create More Inequality?

SUYAPA PORTILLO, suyapa_portillo at pitzer.edu, @SuyapaPV
AlterNet reports: “Another Indigenous Activist Is Assassinated, Urging Calls for Clinton to Come Clean on Role in Honduran Coup.” Portillo is assistant professor of Chicano/a-Latino/a Transnational Studies at Pitzer College. She is among the signers to the just-released letter: “730 Scholars Decry Impunity in Honduras and Urge the U.S. State Department to Demand Human Rights Accountability.”

ALEXANDER MAIN, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @Dan_Beeton
Main is senior associate on international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He said today: “Obama’s trip to Cuba is being spun as a great advance in U.S.-Latin American relations, but the reality is that the administration is doubling down on its support for the right in the region and its ongoing efforts to isolate left-wing governments like Venezuela’s, against whom the Obama administration just renewed sanctions.

“The real message Obama is sending is that the U.S. stands behind right-wing governments like Mauricio Macri’s in Argentina even as Macri unleashes a wave of harsh austerity measures and troubling infringements on human rights.

“Obama had originally been set to arrive in Argentina on the 40th anniversary of the 1976 military coup – which, we know from declassified documents – was supported by the U.S. government at the time. Such symbolism would perhaps have been appropriate considering that the Obama administration helped Honduras’ 2009 coup to succeed, and that coup led to the ongoing human rights disaster there, with indigenous environmentalists Berta Cáceres and Nelson Garcia being some of the most recent victims.

“It’s important to remember that it was the Obama administration’s efforts to block democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya’s return to office – efforts led by then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – that led to a rupture with Latin American and Caribbean countries so significant that those countries formed a new organization, CELAC, that includes all the countries in the hemisphere except for the U.S. and Canada.”

Trump vs. AIPAC — or Trump = AIPAC?

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apartheid_wall_IsraelCNN writes: “Several groups of rabbis and Jewish religious leaders are planning to protest Donald Trump’s speech to a major pro-Israel conference in Washington on Monday, accusing the presidential candidate of encouraging hatred.”

See also: “Bernie’s bold move: Sanders only candidate to skip AIPAC pro-Israel conference,” and “Here are 9 hatemongers — besides Trump — who will be honored guests at this year’s AIPAC summit.”

ABBA SOLOMON, abbasolomon at gmail.com, @Abba_A_Solomon
Solomon is author of The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech ‘The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews’. He said today: “Donald Trump speaking at AIPAC is a surreal event that really should be welcomed for its clarity. AIPAC fronting for a fictitious Israel of justice and peace-seeking matches rich boy Trump’s ‘tough guy’ persona of champion of the American Everyman.

“Both Trump and AIPAC retail cruelty and misdirection. It’s hard to imagine they will find synergy, but frightening if they do. Becoming enmeshed in U.S. politics is nothing new for AIPAC, but may have consequence for the U.S. Jewish community this time as they are willingly engaging with an unstable avatar of ‘white nationalism.'”

NAOMI DANN, naomi at jewishvoiceforpeace.org, @naomi_dann@jvplive
Rabbi BRANT ROSEN, ravboaz at comcast.net
Dann is media coordinator at Jewish Voice for Peace, Rabbi Rosen is the co-chair of the group’s Rabbinic Council. The group recently put out a statement, “Trump’s Islamophobic Rhetoric Goes Hand in Hand with AIPAC’s Agenda,” which states: “Many of the most alarming statements and policy proposals Donald Trump has made are already reality in Israel, and supported by AIPAC. Israel already refuses to open its doors to Syrian refugees (many of whom are of Palestinian origin), allows privileged immigration status for one religious group over others, is building highly militarized walls … and allows a demagogue leader to get away with using blatant racism to get votes.” See: “On Israeli election day, Netanyahu warns of Arabs voting ‘in droves.’

Brussels: West Must Re-examine Interventions

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PB1471-388x600JEAN BRICMONT, jean.bricmont at uclouvain.be, @JeanBricmont
Bricmont is based in Brussels and is now in Paris. He is author of Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War. He is also a mathematical and statistical physicist at the University of Louvain, and the co-author of Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science [PDF].

He said today: “The Western governments used these violent Islamist forces for their purposes, to destabilize the Syrian and Libyan governments, largely because they did not like those government who had not attacked us in any way. Now, the people of the West are directly facing some of the consequences of these actions which are negative to them. It’s the same pattern as what happened in Afghanistan when the West used the Mujaheddin against the Soviet Union, leading to the 9/11 attacks.

“Now, much of the establishment in the West are adamant in their denunciations of the Syrian government, Hezbollah and Iran, which form a block against these violent jihadists. But, again the U.S. and Western Europe will not work with them because they are opposed to what Israel is doing. If the U.S. and Western Europe actually want to change this situation, they must seriously re-examine their government’s constant bombings and interventions in the Mideast and backing of Israeli policies no matter how aggressive or oppressive.” He appeared today on RT International.

See Bricmont’s pieces and interviews on CounterPunch: “How Humanitarian Imperialism Led to Europe’s Refugee Crisis,” “The Wishful Thinking Left,” and with The Real News: “War Mongers Join Forces in Syria, But Can They Defeat ISIS?

Trump Right to Question NATO, A “Subsidy to Weapons Manufacturers”

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coverThe Washington Post reports: “Trump questions need for NATO, outlines noninterventionist foreign policy.”

DAVID GIBBS, dgibbs at email.arizona.edu
Author of 
First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of YugoslaviaGibbs is a professor of history at the University of Arizona. He has written extensively on NATO.

He said today: “While Trump’s foreign policy positions are bombastic and casually thought out, he does show insight on certain issues, such as the excessive cost of U.S. overseas bases and the unreasonable burdens these commitments place on U.S. taxpayers. Trump is right to question the value of the NATO alliance — which could be viewed as an expensive anachronism and a throwback to the Cold War. It is also a huge subsidy to weapons manufacturers. Hopefully, Trump’s statements will trigger a long overdue debate on why the U.S. is spending so much money to maintain its Cold War alliance system, which is ill-suited to the actual security requirements of the 21st century as well as a questionable use of taxpayer funds. I make these points as someone who thinks many of Trump’s policies would be disastrous.”

See Gibbs’ piece, “Kosovo, a Template for Disaster: The Idea that Kosovo is a Model for Humanitarian Intervention in Libya is Based on a Series of Myths,” from the Guardian, March 21, 2011.

HillaryIsANeocon.com

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cartoonThe grassroots group RootsAction has just launched the website HillaryIsANeocon.com, highlighting her extensive pro-war record.

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. Rowley wrote to the FBI Director again in February 2003 with some hard questions about the reliability of the evidence being adduced to “justify” the impending invasion of Iraq. She also warned, before the U.S. launched its war on Iraq, that it would prove counterproductive and likely spawn even more terrorist attacks, which FBI and counter-terrorism officials would be helpless to prevent — as many note we have now seen in Brussels and elsewhere. See Rowley’s piece “Ten years after Iraq.”

While Clinton said after the recent attack in Brussels: “We have to toughen our surveillance, our interception of communication,” Rowley cites a recent piece by Guardian and BBC journalist Simon Jenkins: “There is no way any community can make itself immune to terror attacks. … No amount of police work or surveillance, no deployment of armies or navies, let alone of missiles or nuclear weapons, can guard against them. Intelligence and surveillance can go so far, but the bombers and killers will get through any net. … ‘Fighting terrorism’ is as meaningless as ‘fighting guns.'”

Rowley also highlights WikiLeaks’ recent release of a searchable archive of Clinton’s emails. See RT report: “While Western leaders and their media stenographers feign horror and outrage over what’s been happening in Syria, WikiLeaks shows us that the possibility of the country being torn apart by sectarian conflict was actually welcomed by Syria’s enemies. … ‘The fall of the House of Assad could well ignite a sectarian war between the Shiites and the majority Sunnis of the region drawing in Iran, which, in the view of Israeli commanders would not be a bad thing for Israel and its Western allies,’ Sidney Blumental wrote in a 2012 email to Hillary Clinton.” See WikiLeaks searchable archives of Clinton’s emails: wikileaks.org/clinton-emails.

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson at gmail.com, @Hillary_Neocon
Author of War is a Lie, Swanson is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator of RootsAction.org, which has recently launched HillaryIsANeocon.com.

“She says President Obama was wrong not to launch missile strikes on Syria in 2013.

“She pushed hard for the overthrow of Qadaffi in 2011.

“She supported the coup government in Honduras in 2009.

“She has backed escalation and prolongation of war in Afghanistan.

“She voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“She skillfully promoted the White House justification for the war on Iraq.

“She does not hesitate to back the use of drones for targeted killing.

“She has consistently backed the military initiatives of Israel. …”

ISIS Attacks: Why?

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imagesThe British Independent — virtually alone in English language media — has reported on the substance of ISIS’s claim of responsibility for the Brussels attacks, see: “Brussels attacks: Isis threatens to bring more ‘dark days’ to Europe and countries fighting its militants.” After the November Paris attacks, the paper noted: “The statement [from ISIS] continued: ‘Let France and all nations following its path know that they will continue to be at the top of the target list for the Islamic State and that the scent of death will not leave their nostrils as long as they partake part in the crusader campaign … [with] their strikes against Muslims in the lands of the Caliphate with their jets.’ … ISIS also released an undated video today threatening to attack France if it continued intervention in Iraq and Syria. ‘As long as you keep bombing you will not live in peace. You will even fear traveling to the market,’ said one of the militants, identified as ‘Abu Maryam the Frenchman.’” [Note: This paragraph has been corrected; it had originally conflated Independent reports on the Paris and Brussels attacks.]

Airwars.org has tallied 11,111 strikes in Syria and Iraq by Western and Gulf states in less than 600 days. Also, see video and text of Noam Chomsky’s comments after the Paris attack: “If you want to end it, the first question you ask is — why did it take place?

LYDIA WILSON, lydia.wilson at hmc.ox.ac.uk, @lsmwilson
Wilson has just returned to the UK from Iraq where she was interviewing fighters on all sides, including ISIS fighters. Late last year, she wrote the highly cited piece, “What I Discovered From Interviewing Imprisoned ISIS Fighters,” for The Nation. She is working on a book about ISIS.

Wilson’s piece states: “‘The Americans came,’ he said. ‘They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.’ …

“These boys came of age under the disastrous American occupation after 2003, in the chaotic and violent Arab part of Iraq, ruled by the viciously sectarian Shi’a government of Nouri al-Maliki. Growing up Sunni Arab was no fun. …”They are children of the occupation, many with missing fathers at crucial periods (through jail, death from execution, or fighting in the insurgency), filled with rage against America and their own government. They are not fueled by the idea of an Islamic caliphate without borders; rather, ISIS is the first group since the crushed Al Qaeda to offer these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity, family, and tribe.”

JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN, amadea311 at earthlink.net
Loewenstein is a human rights activist and faculty associate in Middle East Studies at Penn State University. She stresses the importance of two recently released books in understanding what is happening: Patrick Cockburn’s newest book, Chaos and Caliphate: Jihadis and the West in the Struggle for the Middle East and Charles Glass’ Syria Burning.

She said today: “Turn on television news or read the media reports on the Brussels attacks and what you hear are people talking about the trauma caused by such attacks; the civilian casualties; the sadistic targeting of crowded public spaces; the fear that is feeding Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment. How can we stop these horrors? Will we have to sacrifice civil liberties in order to protect the citizens of a given nation; in order to guarantee ‘security’?

These debates have become commonplace. You hear talking heads from the highest political leaders and diplomats to elected politicians, university professors and local news reporters debating the most practical, ferocious, and effective ways to respond to what have become seemingly inevitable attacks by ‘Islamic’ extremists across the Western world. How can we prevent terrorists from infiltrating the flow of migrants from Syria? Should we ban all Muslims from entering the United States? Can we further tighten security checks at our borders or in our airports? Should we increase surveillance in Muslim neighborhoods around the country? Should we criminalize the teaching of Arabic in our schools? Should we ban the construction of new mosques and install surveillance cameras inside the ones that already exist?

“There is a never ending dialogue on every aspect of the horrifying attacks by ISIS or ISIS sympathizers except the one that really matters: why are these attacks happening? What motivates young men in the prime of their lives to become suicide bombers? — to die in the act of killing civilians regardless of age, race, gender, ethnicity, profession, or any other variable other than where they happened to be at the time of the explosion? What is the source of the fury that manifests itself in the calculated mass murder of civilians in cities across mainly Europe, and how soon will it be before American cities become the latest targets? It has already happened and it will happen again here at home, probably with even greater frequency, in the near future.

“Unsurprisingly, the answers are right before our eyes. Even a cursory examination of the recent history of Western powers, above all the United States, in the Middle East offers us a documentary account of the causes for the rise of radical Sunni Islamist terror organizations from Al Qaeda to ISIS. Many people predicted it, many people braced for it, and many people can explain it so why aren’t their voices being heard? The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 is but one major cause of the rise of ISIS. A visible trail exists leading up to the transformation of radical Sunni jihadists into the Islamic State with the generous support of key U.S. allies, notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Where is there serious and sustained discussion of this information?

“The 2008 ‘surge’ to halt sectarian violence in Iraq after the United States unleashed a brutal civil war against the Sunni Iraqi population and against anti-American Shi’a Iraqi militias goes unmentioned in even the most ‘in-depth’ television talk shows. When seasoned, credible journalists and eye-witnesses from within the countries most affected warned that the failure to stop the Syrian Civil War in 2011 would destabilize Iraq and breathe new energy into radical jihadi groups borne out of the 2003 Iraq War, the rise and fall of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the birth of ISIS, pundits preferred to reduce the mostly U.S.-created tinderbox in the Middle East to an inherently violent religion that produces rage-filled, freedom and democracy-hating Muslim killers lurking around every corner, endangering our hallowed ‘way of life.'”

“Bush Would Have Nominated Garland”

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Caplan-Merrick-Garland2-1200MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal at gmail.com, @marjoriecohn
Cohn is professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. She said today: “President Obama has an opportunity to nominate a progressive justice. Merrick Garland does not fit that bill. He is to the right of Scalia on criminal defense issues, and he voted to deny Guantanamo detainees habeas corpus to challenge their detention. Garland said his experience as a prosecutor is what best qualified him to be a judge, stressing guilt but not mentioning the protection of constitutional rights.

“The Constitution requires the President to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court, and the Senate must at least consider the nomination. By refusing to even take up Garland’s nomination, the Republicans may be shooting themselves in the foot. A future Democratic president may nominate someone more liberal than Garland, and if the Democrats take back the Senate, that nominee could be confirmed. Indeed, Richard Painter, chief ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush White House, wrote in theNew York Times that he would have counseled Bush to nominate Garland, ‘a consensus candidate,’ if a vacancy arose during Bush’s last two years in office.” See: “Bush Would Have Nominated Garland.”

Also see New York Times news story by Charlie Savage: “In Criminal Rulings, Garland Has Usually Sided With Law Enforcement.”

From Brussels: Blowback and Internal Divisions

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brussels-attack-suspects-300x168GILBERT DOCTOROW, [in Brussels] gdoctorow at yahoo.com
Doctorow is a U.S. citizen who has been based in Brussels for decades. He is a journalist and European coordinator of the American Committee for East West Accord. He regularly contributes to Russia Insider and ConsortiumNews.com. His latest book is Does Russia Have a Future?

He recently wrote, “Why Belgium? The Ugly Truth Behind the Brussels Bombings,” which states: “The alienation of the Molenbeek Muslim population has to be examined in depth. But one can safely assume that it has roots in two factors, one of which was named by the Brookings Institute experts: high youth unemployment. The other is blowback for Belgium’s participation in every NATO and Western military expedition in the Middle East and North Africa (Libya) since the start of the new millennium. …”

Doctorow also highlights the importance of understanding the linguistic and other divisions in Belgium and distinctions among how different Muslim populations are viewed. He writes: “In point of fact, the Sunni Muslim residents in France have been predominantly Algerian, whose feelings towards their French neighbors carry collective memory of colonization and of a long and bitter war of liberation that led to independence. Algerians are viewed in Belgium as aggressive, potentially violent and spongers on the French welfare state. Sunni Muslims living in Belgium have been Moroccans in the majority. …

“The mutual recriminations among Belgian politicians over the alleged laxness and incompetence at the federal ministerial level that allowed the murderous bombings of the 22nd to take place began with the acknowledgement by the two most exposed officials, Minister of Justice Koen Geens and Deputy Prime Minister holding the portfolio of Internal Affairs and Security Jan Jambon, that cues may have been missed. They offered to resign but this was refused by Prime Minister Charles Michel, who invoked the need for his team to stick together in the midst of the crisis. However, the rest of the political establishment was not so forgiving. Both ministers are politically on the Right and came to office as defenders of law and order. Thus, they were fair game for the Socialist opposition. Moreover, both are Flemish, and one, Jambon, is a leading figure in the Flemish separatist or independence party, the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA).”

Doctorow referred to Jambon as “a somewhat odious personality in the view of the Francophone parliamentarians due not only to his aspiration for tearing the country apart but also for his scandalous expressions of sympathy for war-time collaboration with Nazi Germany…”

Beyond DOJ vs Apple: Chipping Away at Civil Liberties in Secret

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National_Security_Agency_headquarters,_Fort_Meade,_Maryland-1MARCY 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 blogs at emptywheel.net. She said today: “After setting up a showdown that DOJ [Department of Justice] looked set to lose, DOJ all of a sudden discovered and implemented an alternative way to access Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone, even though for months they had claimed to need Apple’s help to access it. While it looks like DOJ backed off a fight they seemed sure to lose, even since Monday’s announcement, DOJ has renewed its determination to access other phones, most of which it can probably access via other means as well. Ultimately there needs to be affirmative protection for companies that build security into their products, or the government will continue to attempt to chip away in secret.”

Wheeler’s pieces include: “DOJ’s Pre-Ass-Handing Capitulation,” “Why This iPhone?” (for Slate) and “The government’s iPhone-cracking crusade is getting even creepier,” (for Salon).

Pakistan: How U.S. Adds “Fuel to Fire”

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PakistanJUNAID AHMAD [in Lahore], junaidsahmad at gmail.com
Ahmad is on the faculty of law and policy at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. He’s also with the faculty of advanced studies at the University of Management and Technology in Lahore. He is active with the group Peace for Life, a “global interfaith liberation theology group resisting Empire and fundamentalism.” The statement “strongly condemns the recent deadly terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan perpetrated by religious fundamentalist groups. We mourn for the innocent lives lost, including children, and sympathize with their families and friends. …

“Pakistan is a major non-NATO ally, supplying intelligence and logistical support to the United States. The United States, in turn, rewards Pakistan’s loyalty by pouring in billions of dollars in military and economic aid. The U.S. government has proposed U.S. $860 million in aid for Pakistan during the 2016-17 fiscal year, including $265 million for military hardware in addition to counterinsurgency funds. This is on top of the series of drone strikes and direct military intervention of the U.S. inside Pakistan.

“In 2015, Peace for Life initiated an Interfaith Peace and Solidarity Mission for Pakistan to bring to public attention the plight of communities affected by sectarian violence in the country. The recent terrorist attack in Lahore confirms our conclusion that to end violence and sectarianism in Pakistan, Pakistanis of all faiths and confessions need to come together to struggle against the Empire’s militarization and wars of aggression.” Read the full statement. [Ahmad was in Islamabad when the recent attacks took place. Communications there were suspended, see “Mobile phone services suspended in Islamabad amid pro-Qadri protest.”]

RAFIA ZAKARIA, rafia.zakaria at gmail.com, @rafiazakaria
Zakaria just wrote the piece “The Playgrounds of Pakistan” for the New York Times. She is author of the recently released The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan.

DARAKSHAN RAJA, [in D.C.]  darakshan at washingtonpeacecenter.org, @DarakshanRaja
Raja is program manager for the Washington Peace Center and founder of the Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum. She said today: “The U.S. government has condemned the terrorist attacks in Lahore and is promising to work with the Pakistani state to fight terrorism. This will most likely be followed by more military campaigns, more drone attacks, and a crackdown in Punjab. This is how the U.S. government adds fuel to the fire. The group responsible for the horrific violence in Lahore is a splinter group of the Taliban. The creation of the Taliban and its subsequent waves are rooted in the U.S. intervention in the region [going back to the 1970s], and its active support of the Pakistani military, which is driven by America’s own geopolitical interests in the subcontinent to maintain empire and global hegemony.”

Producers may want to use David Bowie’s “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” as lead in music for segments on this. See video.

“Nuclear Security Summit” — Hypocrisy, Profiteering, Spectacle

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Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 3.14.33 PMThe White House claims of the Nuclear Security Summit taking place in Washington, D.C. this week: “The Obama administration’s focus on nuclear security is part of a comprehensive nuclear policy presented by the President in Prague in 2009. In that speech, President Obama described a four-pronged agenda to pursue a world without nuclear weapons. He laid out new U.S. policies and initiatives towards nuclear disarmament, nuclear nonproliferation, nuclear security, and nuclear energy.” See accuracy.org/calendar for upcoming events.

Sr. MEGAN RICE, [in D.C.] 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 the 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 year. Their actions — which included pouring blood and painting “The Fruit of Justice is Peace” — sparked Congressional hearings on the vulnerability of major nuclear facilities. See 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.”

She said today: “The reality is that the rewards of the nuclear weapons industrial complex are so vast, unaccountable and surely at this stage, ‘a dark hole’ — how can anyone account for close to $10 trillion dollars in 70 years, let alone the next three decades for $1 trillion plus more? The ultimate in profiteering.” See: “The Trillion Dollar Question the Media Have Neglected to Ask Presidential Candidates” about the non-discussion on the $1 trillion allocated toward “modernizing” U.S. nuclear weapons.

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: “The Nuclear Security Summits are a spectacle designed to enhance the status and power of the United States, using the nuclear security issue as a foil. ‘Nuclear security,’ as a meme, has become much more, and also much less, than it seems. It is much more, because anti-terrorist, nonproliferation agenda has grown to encompass the entire agenda, displacing nuclear disarmament entirely, even as hypocrisy. It is much less than it seems because nuclear disarmament is off the table as a topic for the ‘serious’ people.”

While a letter “35 Nobel Laureates in the Sciences Call on World Leaders to Take Action on Nuclear Terrorism” [PDF] has been made public, Mello counters: “They are only explicitly concerned with SOME nuclear terrorism, that which is still potential, not actual. They are worried about nuclear explosives, and radiation dispersal devices, which do not now exist. They do not mention the thousands of nuclear weapons which DO exist, and which ARE being used in postures of threat.”

Background: Mello, in his detailed review of the latest U.S. Nuclear Posture Review in 2010, noted: “Both the text of the NPR and Secretary [Robert] Gate’s oral remarks were careful to leave open the possibility of nuclear use (either reprisal or preemptive first strike, as present doctrine allows) in the event of planned or actual biological attacks that exceed some unspecified threat or danger threshold.” That is, the U.S. government continues to reserve the right to be the first to use nuclear weapons.

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, shortly before his death, McNamara wrote the piece “Apocalypse Soon.”

Ignoring Turkey’s “Dirty War” Against the Kurds

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01_otuThe Los Angles Times — like other major media — is noting “How Turkey’s president went from Washington darling to ‘toxic asset’“: “Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once were the darlings of Washington, the cherished ally and a strategic barrier between Europe and the turmoil in the Middle East.

“But diplomats say Erdogan’s increasingly aggressive and undemocratic behavior in Turkey, plus what they describe as his mercurial role in the conflict in neighboring Syria, have diminished his standing in the Obama administration.

“Unlike several other global leaders arriving in Washington on Thursday for the two-day Nuclear Security Summit, Erdogan has not been invited for a private sit-down with President Obama, something many here view as a major diplomatic snub.

“However, Turkey’s escalating assaults on Kurdish villages — driving much of the undemocratic behavior — are widely ignored. See recent on-the-ground report in The Nation: “Turkey Is Fighting a Dirty War Against Its Own Kurdish Population.” See from January in the Guardian: “Turkey rounds up academics who signed petition denouncing attacks on Kurds.”

KANI XULAM, kani at kurdistan.org, @AKINinfo
Xulam is director of the 
American Kurdish Information Network. He recently wrote the piece “A Kurdish Girl’s Lonely Death,” for CounterPunch.

He has helped organize a protest in front of the Brookings Institution (where Erdogan is scheduled to be speaking) on Thursday beginning at 11:30 AM along with other groups — see: “Obama Must Urge an End to the Onslaught on Kurds During Turkish President’s Visit, Says Amnesty International USA.”

Xulam is continuing a vigil outside the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C. — now in its eleventh week — protesting Turkish attacks on Kurds.

“Clinton’s Claims on Fossil Fuel Funding: Greenpeace Responds”

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The Greenpeace A.E. Bates thermal airship flies over Seattle, Washington, with Mount Rainier in the background on March 25, 2016 urging Hillary Clinton to reject fossil fuel money in her campaign.  The Democratic caucuses are March 26, 2016. Photo by Marcus Donner/Greenpeace The Greenpeace A.E. Bates thermal airship flies over Seattle, Washington, with Mount Rainier in the background on March 25, 2016 urging Hillary Clinton to reject fossil fuel money in her campaign. The Democratic caucuses are March 26, 2016. Photo by Marcus Donner/Greenpeace[/caption]

On Thursday, Greenpeace activist Eva Resnick-Day asked Hillary Clinton: “Thank you for tackling climate change. Will you act on your words and reject future fossil fuel money in your campaign?”

Clinton responded, “I do not have — I have money from people who work for fossil fuel companies. I am so sick — I AM SO SICK — of the Sanders campaign lying about me. I’m sick of it.” See video.

EVA RESNICK-DAY, MOLLY DOROZENSKI, via Perry Wheeler , perry.wheeler at greenpeace.org, @greenpeaceusa
Resnick-Day is the activist with Greenpeace who questioned Clinton on Thursday. Dorozenski is the democracy campaign director at Greenpeace. Resnick-Day said after her exchange with Clinton: “To be clear, we are talking about more than just individual contributions from oil and gas employees. According to data compiled by Greenpeace’s research department, Secretary Clinton’s campaign and the Super PAC supporting her have received more than $4.5 million from the fossil fuel industry during the 2016 election cycle. Eleven registered oil and gas industry lobbyists have bundled over $1 million to her campaign.” See from Greenpeace: “Hillary Clinton’s Connection to the Oil and Gas Industry.”

The Huffington Post in “Hillary Clinton’s Biggest Campaign Bundlers Are Fossil Fuel Lobbyists” reported last year: “Nearly all of the lobbyists bundling contributions for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign have at one time or another worked for the fossil fuel industry.”

Resnick-Day also noted: “Greenpeace USA along with 20 organizations launched the pledge to #FixDemocracy, asking ALL presidential candidates to reject future fossil fuel contributions, champion campaign finance reform and defend the right to vote for all.

“When we launched the campaign, Sanders signed the pledge immediately. Hillary’s campaign responded, but did not sign. Unsurprisingly, the Republican presidential candidates who won’t even admit that climate change is real, while real communities on the frontlines are already impacted, did not respond to our request. …

“This is by no means the first time that we asked Hillary Clinton the question. In fact, last night, over 40 activists gathered outside of a Hillary Clinton Fundraiser at the Dakota, asking Senator Clinton to come out and talk to the people she is fighting for. She did not cross the street to talk to us. …

“On April 18th in Washington, D.C., thousands of activists from groups like Public Citizen, the NAACP and Communications Workers of America will take action in an event called the Democracy Awakening to call on our leaders to get the big money out of politics, restore voting rights, and prioritize building a strong and healthy democracy. I’ll be there and I hope you’ll be standing beside me so that candidates like Hillary Clinton can’t ignore us any longer.”

Dorozenski responded in a statement: “Secretary Clinton cannot ignore the voices of activists asking her to reject fossil fuel money, or explain away the more than one million dollars she takes from fossil fuel lobbyists. We would welcome a statement from Clinton saying that she plans to stop taking this money going forward to prove to young people like Eva that she’s listening to them, not her biggest donors. …

“Secretary Clinton is conflating Greenpeace with the Sanders campaign, but we are an independent organization, and our research team has assessed the contributions to all Presidential candidates. We have not and will not endorse candidates.”

#PanamaPapers: “Poor Are Biggest Victims”

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McClatchy reports in “Massive leak exposes how the wealthy and powerful hide their money“: “A massive leak of documents has blown open a window on the vast, murky world of shell companies, providing an extraordinary look at how the wealthy and powerful conceal their money. …

“The data breach occurred at a little-known but powerful Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca, which has an office in Las Vegas, a representative in Miami and a presence in more than 35 other places around the world.

“The firm is one of the world’s top five creators of shell companies, which can have legitimate business uses, but can also be used to dodge taxes and launder money.” McClatchy is the only U.S. newspaper company with access to the leaked database. It will reportedly continue to reveal information on this, including on noted individuals in the U.S., in the coming days.

ERIC LeCOMPTE, via Greg Williams, greg at jubileeusa.org, @JubileeUSA
LeCompte is executive director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. He said today: “The most vulnerable people in the world are harmed by financial secrecy. … Congress should pass legislation to make it more difficult to set up anonymous companies here in the U.S. These companies fuel corruption, poverty, human trafficking and armed conflict. Congress can pass the Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act and move meaningful legislation to stop corruption and tax evasion.” – See more at: http://www.jubileeusa.org/press/press-item/article/religious-development-coalition-releases-statement-on-panama-papers.html#sthash.i34OXTRu.dpuf  See full statement.

JAMES HENRY, jamesshelburnehenry at mac.com, @submergingmkt
Henry’s books include The Blood Bankers: Tales from the Global Underground Economy and the forthcoming The Pirate Bankers. He was featured in the just-released Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s documentary — see “Panama Papers and Mossack Fonseca explained,” and this video.

He said today: “I first seriously came across Mossack Fonseca while in Panama investigating the assassination of the health minister Hugo Spadafora by the Noriega government in the 1980s. It was known even back then as a place for shady business. The firm is actually a smaller player in this industry, but is known for its aggressiveness.

“As this story develops, it’s important to keep several key things in mind:

“First, it’s not a new story. The specifics this time are new, but there have been scores of exposes about such schemes for decades. These exposes are generally the result of whistleblowers and serious investigative journalistic work, both of which are either under attack or being scaled back. They are notably not the result of government action. The pattern to date is that people notice briefly, a few big names are noted — and the problem continues and no governmental action to stop it takes place.

“It’s also important to note that even though they’re sometimes called ‘tax havens’ — that’s often not the main function here. It’s like the bar in ‘Star Wars’ — every conceivable tool to facilitate kleptocrats is offered here. It’s about theft of public assets, concealing bribes, financial fraud, corruption, irresponsible finance.

“Also, there are staggering levels of hypocrisy at play. David Cameron has been talking about cleaning up offshore havens, but these documents show that his father was involved.” See from the British Independent: “David Cameron’s father ‘ran offshore fund that paid zero UK tax for 30 years.’

Added Henry: “Finally — and perhaps most importantly given the underlying issues — many people may hear ‘Panama Papers’ and think that all this money is in Panama or other developing countries as a result. Not true. Poorer countries are the biggest victims here. These havens took off in the 1970s and 80s because of drug money and big Western banks participating in dodgy Third World lending. The big banks lent to despots in poor countries knowing the money would end up going back to them — not helping the people in those countries. Panama is just a conduit here — part of a shell game — the money ends up in New York, Miami or London. This may explain why there has been no governmental action — the first point above.”

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 has estimated in their study, “The Price of Offshore Revisited,” that total wealth in tax havens was between $21 trillion and $32 trillion.

See also, USA Today: “Panama Papers: Who’s accused of what,” which breaks down allegations not just against Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad through their associates, as has been widely reported in the U.S. media, but also U.S. allies Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri — who President Obama just visited.

Further background: Ken Silverstein wrote an investigation about Mossack Fonseca: “The Law Firm That Works with Oligarchs, Money Launderers, and Dictators,” which was published by Vice in 2014.

Panama Papers Fallout: Overview, Iceland, Putin, Trade Deals

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CfPMG9rW4AIeOaWInformation from the “Panama Papers” continues to be made public, fostering global reaction. The Reykjavík Grapevine reports that the prime minister of Iceland just resigned following protests.

CHUCK COLLINS, chuckcollins7 at me.com
Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies with their Inequality.org project. His books include 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do about It. He just wrote the piece: “Panama Papers Expose the Hidden Wealth of the World’s Super-Rich.” See from McClatchy — the only U.S. newspaper company with access to the leaked database: “U.S. scolds others about offshores, but looks other way at home.”

USA Today reports: “Thousands call for Iceland PM to resign after Panama Papers leak.”

PAUL FONTAINE, paul at grapevine.is, @rvkgrapevine
Fontaine is news editor of the Reykjavík Grapevine — recent pieces include “Reykjavik City Council Members Also Implicated In Panama Papers.”

Fontaine said today: “While the Prime Minister’s particular role in the Panama Papers leak is huge, and I don’t want to downplay it, I also don’t want to downplay the involvement other Icelanders — and the countless others around the world — also had in this. This extends beyond the prime minister; it reaches parliament, it reaches Reykjavík City Hall, and it reportedly reaches hundreds of as yet unnamed Icelandic businesspeople. …

“The greater crime, which the Panama Papers illustrate comprehensively, is that we have a secret economy connected to and even supporting some of the worst aspects of the global capitalist system.

“Iceland’s PM is not an isolated incident. We need to not only look at individual players, but the system itself. If we mean to make any changes that would prevent something like this from happening again, a whole new economic structure needs to be created.”

Additional background: Robert Parry at ConsortiumNews.com writes in ‘”Corruption’ as a Propaganda Weapon,” that “Mainstream U.S. journalism and propaganda are getting hard to tell apart, as with the flurry of ‘corruption’ stories aimed at Russia’s Putin and other demonized foreign leaders.”

Sarah Lazare of AlterNet quotes Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch: “The top promise about the benefits of  the U.S.-Panama FTA was that it would end Panama’s financial crime secrecy protections and tax haven and money laundering activities, but this leak shows that, if anything, Panama’s outrageous financial crime facilitation has intensified while the FTA’s investor protections and official U.S. stamp of approval has increased inflows of dirty money to Panama.”

U.S. Uncut argues that this might significantly impact the U.S. elections, since in 2011, “Sen. Sanders took the Senate floor to denounce the Panama trade pact, shooting down the conventional arguments in favor of the deal.” Said Sanders: “No one can legitimately claim that approving this free trade agreement will significantly increase American jobs. … Panama is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy Americans and large corporations to evade U.S. taxes by stashing their cash in offshore tax havens. The Panama free trade agreement will make this bad situation much worse.” The following day, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement: “These initiatives are the leading edge of a job-creating trade agenda…”

Panama Papers: * Whistleblowers * How Trade Deals Facilitate Dirty Money

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CfXZrYcWwAAeia3STEPHANIE GIBAUD, stephanie.gibaud at me.com
Gibaud is former head of communications for UBS France — and a bank whistleblower. She wrote the book The Woman Who Knew Far Too Much. See her interview: “UBS whistleblower criticises banking’s ‘code of silence.’

She said today: “This leak confirms that whistleblowers are the ones who take risks, they can prove the origin and thus the quality of the information leaked. Without whistleblowers, tax evasion and money laundering would still be subjects laying in darkness and nobody would be aware of the happy few enjoying very special banking facilities. Protecting whistleblowers is a must.”

On Tuesday, President Obama claimed that activity like that exposed by the Panama Papers was the result of “poorly designed” laws. But some analysts state that relevant regulations were not exactly “poorly designed,” but skillfully designed to facilitate certain interests.

LORI WALLACH, via Nick Florko, nflorko at citizen.org, @PCGTW
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. She said today: “It’s worth noting that in 2011 the White House said that the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement and various tax haven/secrecy ‘reforms’ extracted from Panama would end Panama’s financial crime secrecy protections and tax haven and money laundering activities. The Panama Papers just show once again how entirely cynical and meaningless are American presidents’ and corporate boosters’ lavish promises of economic benefits and policy reforms from trade agreements. In fact the FTA’s investor protections and official U.S. stamp of approval made it safer to send dirty money to Panama. … Now the same cast of characters is making equally outlandish promises of the benefits of the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership].”

See from 2009 Public Citizen report: “Panama FTA Would Undermine U.S. Efforts to Stop Offshore Tax-Haven Abuse and Regulate Risky Financial Conduct.” [PDF]

Watch video of a Public Citizen intern setting up a tax haven in Panama here.

Background: President Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both sold the FTA as fixing the Panama tax haven/secrecy issue in 2011.

President Obama: “Thanks to the leadership of President Martinelli, there have been a range of significant reforms in banking and taxation in Panama. And we are confident now that a free trade agreement would be good for our country….”

Reuters reported: “Washington also hopes to enact two long-delayed free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama this year, she [Clinton] said.

“‘We are making great progress on both agreements,’ she said noting steps to guarantee labor rights in Colombia and ensure tax transparency in Panama that will help win U.S. lawmakers’ approval of the trade deals.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders said at the time: “Panama is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy Americans and large corporations to evade U.S. taxes by stashing their cash in offshore tax havens. The Panama Free Trade Agreement will make this bad situation much worse. Each and every year, the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations evade about $100 billion in taxes through abusive and illegal offshore tax havens in Panama and in other countries.” [video]

Panama Papers: Some U.S. Connections Emerging

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imageSome analysts have charged that the “Panama Papers” have primarily targeted official U.S. government adversaries like Russian leader Vladimir Putin — see for example, Robert Parry’s piece, “‘Corruption’ as a Propaganda Weapon.”

However, journalists working with McClatchy — the only U.S. newspaper company with access to the leaked database — are now revealing at least some notable U.S. connections.
These include Liesel Pritzker Simmons — tied to the Hyatt hotel fortune and relative of billionaire U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker — and movie and record mogul David Geffen. McClatchy also reports on how havens inside the U.S. offer “the same secrecy” as places like Panama in states like Wyoming — which has reportedly started an investigation of Mossack Fonseca, the firm tied to the Panama Papers.

KEVIN G. HALL, khall at mcclatchydc.com, @KevinGHall
MARISA TAYLOR, mtaylor at mcclatchydc.com, @marisaataylor
TIM JOHNSON, tjohnson at mcclatchydc.com, @TimJohnson4
Hall is chief economics correspondent, Taylor is investigative reporter and Johnson is a reporter for McClatchy.

McClatchy is now reporting that Liesel Pritzker Simmons “appears in the Panama Papers. She’s a former child Hollywood star and heiress to the Hyatt hotels fortune. She’s also related to U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Forbes magazine estimated her net worth at $600 million in late 2013, and her wealth is combined with that of husband Ian Simmons, himself an heir to a construction and retailing fortune.

“In the Panama Papers, the two appear as shareholders of a Panamanian shell company called Blue Valley Agroinvestment. The documents suggest investment in Colombia’s palm oil sector. One of the other shareholders is John Thompson Dorrance IV, a descendant of the family that created the Campbell Soup company. …

“Hollywood music and film mogul David Geffen also appears in the documents. He’s director of a Delaware company called Barham Maritime LLC, which in 2011 sold shares of his Cayman Islands company created to hold title to his yacht called Pelorus. Shipfinder.com shows the yacht Pelorus is anchored in Miami.”

They also report in “Wyoming investigates Panama Papers law firm” that: “The Wyoming arm of the law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers global scandal is under investigation by Wyoming state officials for failing to maintain required statutory information about companies registering there, Secretary of State Ed Murray said Wednesday. …

“As McClatchy reported Tuesday in a lengthy story set in Wyoming, the Cowboy State has roughly one registered company per every 4.5 residents. In response to criticism in 2006, the state began requiring that registered agents who incorporate companies keep contact information for companies. Several agents with whom McClatchy spoke said it is not their job to know who the true owners of companies are.”

See McClatchy’s initial article from Wyoming earlier this week: “U.S. scolds others about offshores, but looks other way at home.” “The U.S. government has publicly and privately pressured countries that act as offshore havens for hiding money, while this barren, sparsely populated state offers the same secrecy.”

Panama Papers: Pritzkers, American Oligarchs

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130429135800-penny-pritzker-story-topMcClatchy is now reporting that Liesel Pritzker Simmons “appears in the Panama Papers. She’s a former child Hollywood star and heiress to the Hyatt hotels fortune. She’s also related to U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Forbes magazine estimated her net worth at $600 million in late 2013, and her wealth is combined with that of husband Ian Simmons, himself an heir to a construction and retailing fortune.”

DENNIS BERNSTEIN, dennisjbernstein at gmail.com
Bernstein, an award-winning investigative reporter, is the host and executive producer of “Flashpoints,” a daily news magazine syndicated on Pacifica Radio out of KPFA. He has written extensively on the Pritzker family. He said today: “We like to think we don’t have oligarchical families in the U.S., but the Pritzker family shows a grim reality. Starting decades ago, the grandfather of the family [Abram Nicholas Pritzker] virtually pioneered offshore trusts as a way of avoiding paying taxes.

“Penny Pritzker played fast and loose with the American Dream of others. Her then-novel sub-prime operations, out of Superior Bank in Chicago, specifically targeted poor and working class people of color across the country. She ended up crashing Superior in 2001 for a billion dollar cost to tax payers, and creating a personal tragedy for the 1,400 people who lost their savings when the bank failed. Pritzker, whose family controls Hyatt Regency Hotels, is in the top one percent of the one percent. Her extreme wealth and privilege has not only made her virtually untouchable by law enforcement, but paved the way for her to become Commerce Secretary.” See Bernstein’s piece, “Obama’s Sub-Prime Conflict.”

Public Campaign notes in “Penny Pritzker, Not Just an Obama Donor” that “she ran fundraising operations for his campaign in 2008 and bundled over $500,000 in 2012.”

Bernstein points to a series of pieces in Forbes magazine on the Pritzkers. The magazine estimates Penny Pritzker’s current net worth at $2.3 billion and wrote in 2013: “The Pritzkers are like America’s Rothschilds,” noting “they managed to build and pass along … Brobdingnagian wealth from one generation to the next and the next.” The magazine suggested a series of questions for members of congress to ask at Pritzker’s nominations hearings, for example: “What led to your being paid $53.6 million in ‘consultant’ income by your family’s offshore trusts in 2012?”

In 2003, Forbes ran an in-depth piece titled “Pritzker vs. Pritzker” after Liesel Pritzker Simmons “launched a $6 billion lawsuit against her father, Robert, and 11 older cousins, accusing them of looting her trust funds and those of her brother, Matthew, 21. … The aftermath of the suits has parted the curtain on the shadowy financial underpinnings of this empire — a vast network of domestic and foreign trusts designed to minimize, if not eliminate, taxes. …

“Do the Pritzkers hate paying taxes more than they seem to despise one another? Can they bust up the family fortune without the IRS finally breaking down their doors? …

“A great deal about the workings of these interwoven financial entities still remains wrapped in mystery. … They are complex — constructed to discourage outside inquiry — and brilliantly exploitive of loopholes in the tax code.

“Don’t even contemplate trying to copy the Pritzker family in using offshore entities to gain tax advantages; the loopholes have been closed. But they remain available to families that had the foresight to set up offshore trusts four decades ago, as the Pritzkers did. At their inception the trusts were seeded with small assets, but since then they have benefited from large amounts of leverage, in part in the form of loans from a Pritzker-controlled partnership and from years of business deals that threw profits from the expanding Pritzker empire into the trusts. Now the offshore entities hold more than $3 billion of the family’s net worth, according to sources familiar with the trusts.”

See video form Forbes: “Liesel Pritzker Simmons: ‘Where You Put Your Money Is A Moral Decision’.”

U.S. Air Wars Denounced by Recently Released Catholic Worker Grandmother

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Mary-Anne-Grady-Flores300The New York Times reports today: “At Least 17 Civilians Killed in U.S. Airstrikes, Afghan Officials Say.”

CNN reports: “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived for an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Friday.” AirWars.org reports the current U.S.-led bombing campaign has launched 7,724 strikes in Iraq over the last 610 days — resulting in at least 1,057 civilian deaths (in both Iraq and Syria).

AP reports: “Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says he’s been invited to the Vatican for a meeting on social, environmental and economic issues.”

MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES, gradyflores08 at gmail.com
Mary Anne Grady Flores is a grandmother who was recently released from jail. She had been involved with civil resistance protests against killer drones outside Hancock Air Force Base in upstate New York. She is involved with UpstateDroneAction.org and with the Ithaca Catholic Worker community.

She said today: “The U.S. military killed an elder in Afghanistan on his way to mediate a land dispute. Then drone pilots carried out a triple tap — targeting first responders who came to help after the drones killed the first group of people, and then the next three who came to help. It’s obvious that the actions of our government are just creating more destruction and anger. We citizens must stop U.S. state sponsored terror through the use of killer drones. As the whistleblower drone operators stated in their open letter to President Obama, this practice only fuels recruitment to groups like ISIS.”

She was jailed for photographing eight Catholic drone protesters outside the Air Force base from the roadway. See her two letters from her 49 days in jail. In one of the letters, she noted: “On January 19, 2016 I was remanded after a county court decision upheld a lower court verdict that I was guilty of violating the terms of an order of protection…” Orders of protection were originally created for domestic violence victims or witnesses subject to intimidation. She said: “The Colonel of the base asked for an order of protection against me because I had previously peacefully protested in the street by the base. This curtails our First Amendment rights petitioning our government for redress of grievances.” See Huffington Post: “Anti-Drone Activist Sentenced To 6 Months In Jail For Peaceful Protest.”

She said today: “Killer drones are just one of the tools our government has used over the last 25 years in the Mideast. All wars have been planned in secret and what we’ve attempted in our protests at Hancock AFB is to unmask the secret killer drone program. We need to follow the money, to see who is profiting from this — and Lockheed Martin is at the top of the list. We need to remember our history of how all wars are spawned by lies — like the secrets and lies told about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Especially in this election frenzy, Hillary Clinton and others who supported the invasion of Iraq would like us to forget.”

Regarding Sanders’ planned visit to the Vatican, she said: “War is the missing issue. In the building of the movement to end the endless wars and the use of killer drones, there needs to be an understanding of the cross sectionalities — environment, racial, economic — all these issues are driven in large part by war. And if Sanders doesn’t prioritize it as the central issue, our nation and the world will continue to be in deep trouble.

“The National Catholic Reporter recently wrote, ‘Vatican to host first-ever conference to reevaluate just war theory, justifications for violence.’ This could not come at a more important moment. The just war theory justified colonial racist wars with blessing from the Church for 17 centuries, since the co-option of Christianity by the Roman Empire under Constantine. For the first time the nonviolent example of Jesus confronting empire may be looked at by the Vatican. It’s critical for the survival of our planet that our Church changes its course — denouncing war, understanding that violence only feeds violence. Jesus’ nonviolent example is clear, inviting us to follow.”

See the news conference after her release last month from jail and other material at: UpstateDroneAction.org.

Is Kerry’s Hiroshima Visit Cover for Nuclear Buildup?

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HIROSHIMA-JAPAN-_3395067bUSA Today reports that Secretary of State John Kerry “became the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat to visit the Hiroshima Peace Park, located at ground zero for the first of two atomic bombs dropped by the United States on Japanese cities near the end of World War II. An estimated 140,000 Japanese died in the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing.”

JOHN STEINBACH, johnsteinbach1 at verizon.net
Steinbach is one of the founding members of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area. For decades, Steinbach has organized trips of Hibakusha — Japanese atomic bomb survivors — to the U.S. to commemorate the U.S. using nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He also engages in other efforts to educate people in the U.S. and around the world about the attacks and nuclear policy, such as sending U.S. students to Japan.The Committee released a statement today: “While many are applauding Secretary Kerry’s visit, we have profound concerns that this visit may be used as cover. These stem from a knowledge of the U.S. government having embarked on a massive nuclear weapons build up.

“It is reported that Secretary Kerry called his visit ‘gut-wrenching’ and wrote: ‘It is a stark, harsh, compelling reminder not only of our obligation to end the threat of nuclear weapons, but to re-dedicate all our effort to avoid war itself’ in a guest book at the memorial.

“We certainly agree with the sentiments — and we wish current U.S. policy reflected those priorities. The actual context is that the U.S. is engaged in an unprecedented nuclear build up. It is spending $1 trillion dollars over the next 30 years to ‘modernize’ its nuclear weapons arsenal. This includes creating smaller, ‘more usable’ weapons. Such visits cannot be allowed to act as a fig leaf for such threatening policies. The Obama administration has clearly turned its back on its stated goal of abolishing nuclear weapons.

“While there have been reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons arsenals, there are still approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons, the vast majority held by the U.S. and Russia.

“Moreover, NATO is expanding, posing the threat of a direct confrontation with Russia. The U.S. has continued its wars in the Mideast. Climate change is resulting in instability and resource wars may well lead to more conflicts. The ‘Doomsday Clock’ of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is still set to 3 minutes.

“A high U.S. official visiting Hiroshima is long overdue, but hardly enough. We think of the 250,000 who died instantly in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the thousands more who perished in the agonizing aftermath and the many Hibakusha who have passed away in the 71 years since the U.S. used nuclear weapons there. We cannot allow choreographed, purely symbolic gestures to obscure continuing U.S. government policies which pose a grave threat to humanity.”

See: “The Trillion Dollar Question the Media Have Neglected to Ask Presidential Candidates,” which states: “Isn’t it rather odd that America’s largest single public expenditure scheduled for the coming decades has received no attention in the 2015-2016 presidential debates?

“The expenditure is for a thirty-year program to ‘modernize’ the U.S. nuclear arsenal and production facilities. Although President Obama began his administration with a dramatic public commitment to build a nuclear weapons-free world, that commitment has long ago dwindled and died.”

Note to producers: You may want to use the song “Enola Gay,” by OMD as a musical lead-in; this version by Elisa Salasin includes audio clips of President Harry Truman claiming that Hiroshima was “a military base,” and J. Robert Oppenheimer saying: “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” See on YouTube.

Clinton Claims on Honduran Coup “Full of Falsehoods”

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hillary-clinton-lobo

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with then-candidate Porfirio Lobo, who became Honduras’ president in a disputed election following a coup.

In her recent interview with the New York Daily News, Hillary Clinton was asked about policies she was “directly involved in, the coup in Honduras. As you know in 2009, the military overthrew President Zelaya. There was a period there where the OAS [Organization of American States] was trying to isolate that regime, but apparently some of the emails that have come out as a result of the State Department releases show that some of your top aides were urging you to declare it a military coup, cut off U.S. aid. You didn’t do that. You ended up negotiating with Oscar Arias a deal for new elections.

“But the situation in Honduras has continued to deteriorate. There’s been 300 people killed by government forces, and all these children fleeing and mothers from Honduras over the border into United States. And just a few weeks ago, one of the leading environmental activist, Berta Cáceres, was assassinated in her home. Do you have any concerns about the role that you played in that particular situation, even not necessarily being in agreement with your top aides in the State Department?” See full transcript.

MARK WEISBROT, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and has written extensively about Latin America. He said today “Hillary Clinton’s response to the question on Honduras was full of falsehoods and distortions. Her assertion that the generals and members of Congress who carried out the coup ‘had a very strong argument that they had followed the constitution’ is completely contradicted by the U.S. ambassador to Honduras at the time, who cabled to Washington: ‘The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch …’

“Second, Clinton says that the State Department chose not to call what had happened a coup in order to avoid having to cut off all aid to Honduras — including humanitarian aid. But this is not what the law would have required; some humanitarian aid ‎is still permitted.

“Clinton also admits in her bookHard Choices, that she worked successfully against almost all of the Latin American governments to prevent the democratically elected president, Mel Zelaya, from returning to his presidency.

“Honduran security forces shot protesters and opponents of the coup in the streets, while a wave of repression began against women, the LGBT community and other vulnerable minorities that continues to this day. Her statement about avoiding ‘bloodshed’ is a slap in the face to the family of Isis Obed Murillo, who was gunned down just days after the coup, and others who were killed for standing up for democracy. Her assertion that Honduras could have been on the brink of civil war is ridiculous hyperbole.

“Rather than work to avoid more bloodshed, Hillary Clinton proposes a Plan Colombia for Central America, even though under Plan Colombia paramilitaries and state security forces killed thousands of civilians (including some killed and dressed up as guerrillas in the ‘false positives’ scandal) and millions have become refugees — either internally displaced or fleeing to other countries.”

New York and Fracking: Clinton vs Sanders

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CROSSROADS-FINAL-1USA Today reports Bernie Sanders “may have his best chance of challenging [Hillary] Clinton upstate, where he’s pushing an offensive on fracking and trade deals that have hurt manufacturing jobs, an issue that helped him pull off a surprise victory over Clinton last month in Michigan. On Tuesday, the Vermont senator opened a Rochester rally blasting Clinton for promoting fracking in other countries while Secretary of State.” See from Huffington Post: “Bernie Sanders Calls For Total Ban On Fracking In New Ad.”

KATE BARTHOLOMEW, ecogreenwolf at gmail.com
A member of the Coalition to Protect New York, Bartholomew said today: “There’s only one candidate who has spoken clearly against shale gas extraction — and the other candidate favors and has promoted it. This is significant for anyone involved in fighting climate change or fighting for renewables.

“It’s also important when accessing environmental policy to note where the candidate stands on the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] since that deal threatens any environmental protections that are in place. Similarly, Sanders is the reliable candidate on that issue, others seem to shift with the political wind.”

Bartholomew noted that many environmentalists are participating in the “Democracy Spring” protests this week. See from Reuters: “Police arrest 400 at U.S. Capitol in protest of money in politics.” See continuing live coverage by TheRealNews.com.

She added: “In New York State, thanks to an unprecedented negative response to the DEC’s [Department of Environmental Conservation] process of preparing the Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on fracking, as well as a separate health impact study by the Department of Health, the Governor deferred to the conclusions of those two departments and all high-volume horizontal fracking activity in New York is banned, essentially, for the foreseeable future.

“Pennsylvania, on the other hand, is feeling the negative effects of fracking — both environmental and economic, since natural gas prices are plummeting and the promised windfall — both for individuals and localities — rarely materialized.

“Now, we’re focusing on addressing fossil fuel infrastructure — pipelines, importation of waste, withdrawal and export of water. We’ll be hosting many rallies and actions, such as the one on May 14 sponsored by 350.org in Albany. The focus will be on Bakken crude oil trains going through an Environmental Justice community in Albany. Such a train exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in 2013, killing 47.'”

MAURA STEPHENS,  mstephens at ithaca.edu
Stephens is an independent journalist and founding member of the Coalition to Protect New York and FrackBustersNY.org, among other groups. She said today: “Hillary Clinton has been strongly pushing for fracking throughout the world. Bernie Sanders on the other hand has strongly opposed fracking and other fossil fuel exploitation. For me — and for many other climate activists — this is the number one issue.”

“And when I say ‘fracking,’ I mean more than just the unconventional high-volume horizontal slamming of millions of gallons of toxic liquid into shale and other formations to extract fossil fuels. We mean the fracturing of our air, water, and food supply, of our health, our communities and our lives. Because these things are all interconnected. The rampant buildout of infrastructure for a short-term supply of ancient fuels is a big shell game, or as we call it here in the Marcellus, a shale game. Only one of the candidates seems to understand this.”

See Mariah Blake’s piece, “How Hillary Clinton’s State Department Sold Fracking to the World.”

Syria and Libya: Avaaz: Interventionist Tool in Progressive Guise?

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avaazIn a recent interview, President Obama stated that “failing to plan for the day after” the 2011 U.S.-backed toppling of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was the “worst mistake” of his presidency.

An investigation of the global advocacy group Avaaz, which claims 43 million active members online, shows the leadership of that group has not examined the consequences of its record of pushing for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria.

JOHN HANRAHAN, johnhanrahan5 at gmail.com, @xposefacts
Hanrahan wrote a pair of just-published in-depth pieces for ExposeFacts.org about the global advocacy group Avaaz pushing for no-fly zones in Syria and Libya.

In the first part, “As in Libya, Avaaz Campaigns for Syria No-Fly Zone That Even Top Generals Oppose,” Hanrahan writes: “With the staggering claimed number of 43.1-million members in 194 countries as of mid-March 2016 (anyone who has ever signed an Avaaz petition is considered by the organization to be a member), the New York City-based Avaaz is easily the largest and most influential Internet-based, international advocacy organization on the planet. …

“In its call for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria, Avaaz has turned the concept of progressive advocacy on its head and appears to be untrue to the direction it has followed in the overwhelming majority of its campaigns. Advocacy organizations should be about stopping wars, not asking their members to buy into a dubious military tactic for Syria that even leading U.S. generals say ‘entails killing a lot of people…[and is] a violent combat action that results in lots of casualties’ for those very Syrian civilians that Avaaz argues it is trying to protect. …

“Despite the lies and propaganda emitting from all of the many sides in the Syrian conflict, despite the uncertainties of just who is bombing whom in some situations, Avaaz sticks to its narrative that the Syrian regime — now along with its Russian bombing partners — are virtually alone in endangering civilians and that a no-fly zone is somehow going to make all that right without posing much of a problem, really. …

“Several hundred reporters were reportedly receiving Avaaz’s email briefings [at the beginning of the Syria civil war], putting the organization in a unique position of being the major source of anti-regime news and propaganda coming out of Syria.”

In his second piece, “Avaaz Ignores Libya Lessons in Advocating for Syria No-Fly Zone,” Hanrahan writes: “Hillary Clinton (but not other presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump) is a staunch advocate for a no-fly zone and regime change in Syria.

“Like Clinton and other interventionists, Avaaz — in advocating for a no-fly zone in Syria — has not been chastened by what its advocacy wrought in Libya. Some of the same arguments for a no-fly zone that Avaaz made for Libya, it has made again over the last few years for Syria. …

“As with the other questions we submitted to Avaaz personnel, the organization did not answer whether the Libya experience made the organization’s leaders think twice about taking up the Syria no-fly zone issue. It was possibly obscurely referencing the Libya no-fly zone when [campaign director Nell] Greenberg stated to us: ‘Much of what you’re asking for are reflections on past campaigns given the geopolitical landscape today. But based on the way we work, I cannot tell you how any Avaaz member would feel today about a past campaign without going back and asking them.’

“Our follow-up question made it clear that we were not asking how any individual Avaaz member might feel about the Libya campaign today, but rather how Avaaz’s leaders felt about proposing a no-fly zone for Syria when the Libya military action had turned out so disastrously. To date, Avaaz has not responded to any of our follow-up questions.”

Hanrahan also examines Avaaz personnel, finances and connections: “Since around 2010, the organization is on record as not accepting corporate or foundation donations — although it did receive grants totaling $1.1 million from George Soros-connected foundations in the three years before that.”

Avaaz co-founder Thomas Pravda “is currently serving as the (unpaid) treasurer and a director for Avaaz, while at the same time holding down a post as a diplomat with the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, commonly known as the Foreign Office. He is also co-founder and officer in Res Publica [which co-founded Avaaz with MoveOn.org Civic Action]. … Our research, though, found no example of anyone raising a specific issue about Pravda’s dual role as U.K. diplomat and Avaaz officer, but this relationship looks problematic on the face of it. …

“If I were going to name one chief suspect among Avaaz’s founders as the architect of its no-fly zone advocacy in Libya and Syria, it would be Tom Perriello. More than anyone else connected with Avaaz from its earliest days, Perriello, since leaving the organization — first for Congress and then for the think-tank world before going to the U.S. State Department — has shown himself to be a reliable advocate for war: For continuing the war in Afghanistan, for bombing Libya and ousting Gaddafi, and for taking military action to support Syrian rebels and remove Assad from power. …

“In addition to being a founder of Avaaz and currently serving as its chairman, the Brooklyn-based Eli Pariser … is also currently a member of the advisory board of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs.”

John Hanrahan, currently on the editorial board of ExposeFacts, is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington PostThe Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. He also has extensive experience as a legal investigator. Hanrahan is the author of Government by Contract and co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska. He wrote extensively for NiemanWatchdog.org, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

ExposeFacts.org is a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Vatican Conference Rejects “Just War” Theory

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The National Catholic Reporter in “Landmark Vatican conference rejects just war theory, asks for encyclical on nonviolence” reports today: “The participants of a first-of-its-kind Vatican conference have bluntly rejected the Catholic church’s long-held teachings on just war theory, saying they have too often been used to justify violent conflicts and the global church must reconsider Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence.

“Members of a three-day event co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the international Catholic peace organization Pax Christi have also strongly called on Pope Francis to consider writing an encyclical letter, or some other ‘major teaching document,’ reorienting the church’s teachings on violence.”

COLMAN McCARTHY, cmccarthy at starpower.net
A former Washington Post columnist, McCarthy is founder and director of the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C., and the author of several books including I’d Rather Teach Peace.

He said today: “It’s long overdue that the leaders of the Catholic Church renounced and denounced the ‘just war’ theory. Christianity began as a faith totally committed to nonviolence. But then Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas proposed that some wars can be justified, which is completely opposite from the teachings of Jesus Christ. So it’s progress of sort that the church leaders — including Pope Francis — are hopefully coming to their senses. But it will not be enough until Pope Francis forbids Catholics from being in the military — just the way the Quakers, Mennonites and Church of the Brethren do not allow their members to take up arms to kill people. If this current conference doesn’t have such results, it’s just another example of empty talk.”

Clinton, Sanders, Israel and The Occupation of the American Mind

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title_map_header_bluebg7SUT JHALLY, LORETTA ALPER, lorettaalper59 at gmail.com
Jhally is executive producer of the just-released film “The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in The United States,” narrated by Roger Waters. Alper is a producer and co-director on the film. Jhally said today: “During last night’s Democratic debate, Bernie Sanders became the first major presidential candidate in recent memory to talk openly about Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights, repeatedly criticizing Hillary Clinton for barely even mentioning the Palestinian people in her speech to AIPAC last month. In response, Clinton reasserted virtually every major Likkud Party talking point: Israel’s right to defend itself, the widely discredited claim that the 2014 Gaza slaughter was the result of Hamas using human shields and the myth that Israel ended its occupation of Gaza when it withdrew its settlers a few years ago.

“But while it was stunning to see a major presidential candidate like Sanders refusing to pander to political pressure and actually question Israeli policy, we shouldn’t forget that even Sanders’ criticism of Israel stayed on relatively safe political ground. While he spoke humanely about the Palestinian people, Sanders nevertheless ceded Clinton’s larger point that Israel had a right to ‘defend itself’ during the 2014 Gaza invasion, as if it’s merely responding and limiting his criticism to the ‘disproportionate’ nature of the civilian slaughter. What went unmentioned by either candidate — and by mainstream media commentators after — was Israel’s ongoing blockade and siege of Gaza, its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, and its continued settlement expansion in violation of international law.”

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @szunes
Professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at University of San Francisco, Zunes said today: “A number of Hillary Clinton’s statements during last night’s debate addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were quite troubling:

“She said she supported the Palestinians having ‘self-government’ and ‘autonomy,’ but she did NOT say they had the right to independence. It is hard to imagine any peaceful resolution to the conflict which does not allow Palestinians to have a viable independent state.

“Despite being prodded repeatedly, she refused to acknowledge that the killing of nearly 1500 Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces during the summer of 2014 (compared with five Israeli civilians killed by Hamas forces) was ‘disproportionate,’ and instead claimed the civilian deaths were because of ‘the way that Hamas places its weapons’ or that ‘it often has its fighters in civilian garb.’ However, Amnesty International and other reputable human rights investigators found that virtually none of the civilian deaths were related to either of these things.

“In addition, she repeated the myth that the U.S.-Israeli proposal put forward at Camp David in July 2000, which the Palestinians rejected, would have created a viable independent Palestinian state. They did not. Subsequent proposals put forward that December and January came much closer to doing so and Palestinian president Abbas has agreed to such terms, but it is Israel that has refused.” See “The Myth of the Generous Offer” from FAIR.

Coup in Brazil?

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1460948345340The New York Times reports: “Dilma Rousseff Is Impeached by Brazil’s Lower House of Congress,” which states: “After three days of impassioned debate, the lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies, voted to send the case against [President Dilma] Rousseff to the Senate. Its 81 members will vote by a simple majority on whether to hold a trial on charges that the president illegally used money from state-owned banks to conceal a yawning budget deficit in an effort to bolster her re-election prospects. That vote is expected to take place next month.”

MARK WEISBROT, weisbrot at cepr.net
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and has written extensively about Latin America. He recently wrote the piece “Brazilian Coup Threatens Democracy and National Sovereignty,” which states: “there is no evidence that [Rousseff] is linked to the ‘Lava Jato’ scandal, or any other corruption. Rather, she is accused of an accounting manipulation that somewhat misrepresented the fiscal position of the government — something that prior presidents have done. To borrow an analogy from the United States, when the Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling in the U.S. in 2013, the Obama administration used a number of accounting tricks to postpone the deadline at which the limit was reached. Nobody cared.

“The impeachment campaign — which the government has correctly labelled a coup — is an effort by Brazil’s traditional elite to obtain by other means what they have not been able to win at the ballot box for the past 12 years.”

CECILIA MacDOWELL SANTOS, santos at usfca.edu
Director of the Latin American Studies Program at the University of San Francisco, Santos is among the Latin America scholars to sign the petition “Brazilian Democracy is Seriously Threatened,” which states: “The combat against corruption is legitimate and necessary to improve the responsiveness of Brazilian democracy. But in the current political climate, we find a serious risk that the rhetoric of anti-corruption has been used to destabilize the current democratically-elected government, further aggravating the serious economic and political crisis that the country is facing.

“Instead of retaining political neutrality and respecting due process, sectors of the Judiciary, with the support of major media interests, have become protagonists in undermining the rule of law. … The violation of democratic procedure represents a serious threat to democracy. When the armed forces overthrew the government of President João Goulart in 1964, they used the combat against corruption as one of their justifications.”

MARIA LUISA MENDONÇA, marialuisam222 at gmail.com
Mendonça is director of Brazil’s Network for Social Justice and Human Rights. She is also professor in the international relations department at the University of Rio De Janeiro.

She highlights the role of social movements against the impeachment. For example, see the website of the MST, the Landless Workers Movement in Brazil, which features “Ten Facts that Brazil and the World Should Know,” which states: “This is precisely why the request for impeachment constitutes a coup d’etat, because a president can only be removed if he or she is found to have committed a crime — and as a crime did not occur, so far, Dilma’s name has not been presented in any corruption investigations: not even the slightest suspicion against her exists.

“Unlike President Dilma, the politicians calling for her dismissal are corrupt and are as dirty as they come. Eduardo Cunha (PMDB-RJ) who, as chairman of the House is responsible for the impeachment process, has received more than 52 million Brazilian Rs. (BR$) from corrupt schemes undertaken in Petrobras, plus he has millions deposited in secret accounts in Switzerland and other tax havens. Of the 65 members of the Parliamentary Commission that will investigate the request for impeachment 37 (more than half!) are under the watchful eye of the Justice Department and are being investigated for corruption. If they manage to depose the president, in exchange they expect to see the charges against them for the fraud they have committed dropped.”

Hamilton: “Captain of the One Percent”

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18640850The musical “Hamilton” won the Pulitzer Prize drama award on Monday. CBS News reports that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew may be announcing this week that the Treasury Department “may end up adding a female face to the $20 bill, not the $10 bill.” The $20 bill features President Andrew Jackson while the $10 bill features Alexander Hamilton — the first Treasury Secretary.

GERALD HORNE, GHorne at uh.edu
Horne is Moores Chair of History and African American Studies at the University of Houston. His books include The Counter-Revolution of 1776: Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America. He recently appeared on The Real News segment “Black Voters and the New York Primary,” and discusses the musical “Hamilton” near the 20 minute mark.

He said today: “The U.S., as an artificially constructed former settler state, has a problem of unity — not least of all with its African American population. Many nations have to construct a mythology to achieve unity.

“The U.S. myth of the Founding Fathers has revolved around Washington and Jefferson, but both have been scrutinized. Alexander Hamilton is now in effect being put forward, but he was the captain of the one percent — he represented the interests of big finance at the beginning of the United States. He personified the grievances that continue, and that the Sanders campaign and — to a degree the Trump campaign — have objected to.

“So, if you have a multiracial, hip hop cast in this musical, you pretend we’re achieving national unity. The actual historical record is so very different. Britain was moving toward abolition, so in 1776, the slave owners rebelled. That’s in large part the origin of the United States.

“In terms of Alexander Hamilton the man, he migrated to the mainland from the Caribbean as the enslaved Africans became more rebellious. The elite whites could no longer control the situation though the region had been considered the crown jewel of the British empire in this hemisphere. His coming to what became the U.S. was actually an example of what we’d call white flight.

“Much of our political climate is continuously obscured because we still haven’t come to terms with the racist and economic realities of the United States from its origin. That allows for many poor whites to align politically with white elites rather than with black folks.”

See “A Winning Democratic Strategy From People Who Hate Democrats,” about then-Senator Barack Obama speaking at the launching of the Hamilton Project in 2006 — a project of the Brookings Institution co-chaired by Robert E. Rubin, who Obama makes reference to in his remarks, video here. The piece notes that Hamilton, the founder of the Federalist Party, was the great rival of Thomas Jefferson, the founder of the Democratic Party.

See also: “‘Hamilton’ and History: Are They in Sync?” and “Why Fans of Hamilton Should Be Delighted It’s Finally Stirring Criticism.”

Obama: $50 Billion to Saudi in Weaponry

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20Hartung-INYT-articleLargeSHEILA CARAPICO, scarapic at richmond.edu, @SCarapico
Carapico is a professor of political science and international studies at the University of Richmond in Virginia who follows Saudi Arabia closely. Her pieces include “A Call to Resist Saudi (and U.S.) Aggression in Yemen,” for The Nation, and “Romancing the Throne,” for MERIP in 2014, about Obama’s prior trip to Saudi Arabia.

ALI AL-AHMED, alialahmedx at gmail.com, @AliAlAhmed_en
Ahmed is director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs and recently wrote the piece “Saudi Arabia Is a Burden, Not a Friend to the U.S.,” for the New York Times.

WILLIAM HARTUNG, williamhartung55 at gmail.com, @williamhartung
Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and a senior adviser to the Security Assistance Monitor.

The New York Times just published his piece “Obama Shouldn’t Trade Cluster Bombs for Saudi Arabia’s Friendship,” which states: “He should avoid doing what he did at Camp David last May, the last time he met with [the Gulf Cooperation Council]: promise more arms sales. Since Mr. Obama hosted that meeting, the United States has offered over $33 billion in weaponry to its Persian Gulf allies, with the bulk of it going to Saudi Arabia. The results have been deadly.

“The Saudi-American arms deals are a continuation of a booming business that has developed between Washington and Riyadh during the Obama years. In the first six years of the Obama administration, the United States entered into agreements to transfer nearly $50 billion in weaponry to Saudi Arabia, with tens of billions of dollars of additional offers in the pipeline. …

“Human Rights Watch has reported that two Saudi strikes on a market in the Yemeni village of Mastaba in mid-March killed at least 97 civilians, including 25 children. This was just one in a series of Saudi strikes on marketplaces, hospitals and other civilian targets, attacks that Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have said may constitute war crimes. …

“Senator Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, and Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, have introduced legislation that would stop transfers of air-to-ground munitions to Saudi Arabia until the kingdom focuses its efforts in Yemen on attacking terrorist organizations and takes ‘all feasible precautions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.’ This is a good start.”

BP’s Settlement, Six Years After

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1035x777-GettyImages-98736482(1)National Geographic reports today: “BP Oil Spill Trashed More Shoreline Than Scientists Thought.”

ANTONIA JUHASZ, antoniajuhasz at gmail.com, @AntoniaJuhasz
Juhasz is an energy analyst, author and investigative reporter. Rolling Stone just published her latest piece, “6 Years After Gulf Oil Spill, Residents Demand ‘No More Drilling.’

She said today: “As the legal cases against BP draw to a close on the six-year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill, both the risks of offshore oil drilling — and public opposition to it — grow.”

“April 20, 2016 marks the six-year anniversary of the largest offshore drilling oil spill in history. This month, Louisiana Federal District Judge Carl Barbier accepted a final settlement agreement between BP, the federal government, five states and hundreds of local governments, bringing to an end the feds’ six-year case against BP and most major outstanding legal cases against the company stemming from the disaster.

“But what lessons have been learned?

“President Obama is expanding offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, maintaining drilling in the Pacific and, as part of a newly proposed five-year plan (open to public comment until May 2), planning new drilling in the Arctic and even more in the Gulf. In response to overwhelming public opposition, however, the administration shelved a plan to drill in the Atlantic.

“The Department of the Interior has sought to improve offshore drilling safety over the last six years, including over 500 pages of new rules released just last week. Experts warn, however, that these efforts remain woefully insufficient, particularly as companies move to even riskier deeper depths, with 86 percent of new oil production in the Gulf taking place 1,000 to nearly 5,000 feet deeper than BP was drilling the Macondo well, including two projects at depths nearly twice as great.

“But public attitudes are changing, with 68 percent of Americans polled supporting offshore oil drilling before the BP disaster down to 52 percent today. Even more striking, nearly 75 percent of Americans polled now prefer alternative energy to gas and oil production as the solution to the nation’s energy problems, the highest percentage since at least 2011.

“BP has suffered a massive 91 percent decline in profits in the fourth quarter of this year and has laid off thousands of workers. BP’s recent losses have more to do with the collapse of oil prices than fallout from the Gulf oil spill, though both events have a similar origin: oil companies seeking — and governments allowing — drilling to occur virtually unabated everywhere.”

Tubman, Jackson and the Honor of Money

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ct-money-twenty-tubman-hamilton-jackson-201506-001AP is reporting today: “A Treasury official says Secretary Jacob Lew has decided to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, making her the first woman on U.S. paper currency in 100 years.

“The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of Lew’s official announcement, said that the 19th century abolitionist and a leader of the Underground Railroad, would replace the portrait of Andrew Jackson, the nation’s seventh president.”

MARGARET KIMBERLEY, margaretkimberley at gmail.com, @freedomrideblog
Kimberley is editor and senior columnist at Black Agenda Report. She said today: “I have serious mixed feelings about this supposed honor. Slavery existed precisely because of the almighty dollar. How are we honoring her by putting her face on money?

“Tubman is deserving of great respect, veneration even. What she accomplished is unbelievable. She was a soldier and a revolutionary, a liberator. I no longer feel the need for acceptance from the larger society. Our heroes are ours and we can claim them without expectation or need that the U.S. government will give approval.”

DAVID S. REYNOLDS, reyn.sn at gmail.com
Reynolds is a distinguished professor at the City University of New York Graduate Center and is the author or editor of fifteen books, including Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson as well as John Brown, Abolitionist — and most recently,Lincoln’s Selected Writings.

He said today: “Andrew Jackson hardly had a corner on racism. And he reshaped the presidency to a degree that few American presidents have. By squelching secession, facing down monied interests, and, above all, promoting populist democracy, he set the stage for an even greater log-cabin president, Abe Lincoln, who, through similar strategies, saved the nation during the time of its greatest crisis. …

“Jackson did not cower, whether facing South Carolina or a hostile Congress or Nicholas Biddle, the eminent president of the Bank of the United States.”

Editor’s note: Treasury Secretary Jack Lew signaled last year that he would remove the first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, from the $10 bill. But Ben S. Bernanke, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, the central bank of the United States, objected. Bernanke instead suggested on his Brookings Institution blog that President Andrew Jackson be removed from the $20 bill — precisely because Jackson opposed prior U.S. central banks. Bernanke wrote: “President Andrew Jackson led the opposition to the Second Bank, vetoing a bill passed by Congress to continue its operations.”

Obama in U.K.: Ensuring Security?

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Mairead-MaguireToday, President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron proclaimed their continued military ties, stating that they ensure security. [See video.]

AirWars.org reports that over the last 624 days, the U.S., U.K. and their partners have launched 11,773 strikes in Syria and Iraq with a minimum of 1,113 civilians likely killed and a total of 41,697 bombs and missiles dropped.

MAIREAD MAGUIRE, mairead at peacepeople.com
Nobel Peace Laureate Maguire is founder of Peace People and has done peace work based in Northern Ireland for decades. She recently attended a conference opposing “Just War” theory at the Vatican. In an article just after the conference, she wrote: “I believe the misguided age of ‘blessing wars, militarism and killing’ must end. The responsibility lies with Pope Francis and all religious/spiritual leaders to be true shepherds of peace…”

She has lead three peace delegations to Syria in recent years and wrote a piece earlier this year, “We Must Demand a Nonviolent Solution to War and Violence in Syria,” after the most recent delegation. She wrote: “Proxy wars are something they [Syrians] thought only happened in other countries. But now, Syria, too, has been turned into a war-ground in the geo-political landscape controlled by the western global elite and their allies in the Middle East. …

“If the U.K. government, the United States, and the European Union wish to truly help the Syrian people, they should immediately lift the sanctions which are causing great hardship to the Syrian people and try every nonviolent means to end the war. …

“If the situation is not stabilized in Syria and the Middle East, there will be few Christians left. The overall Middle East has witnessed the tragic and virtual disappearance of Judaism, and this tragedy is now happening at an alarming rate to Christians.”

Could Voters Opposed to Both Clinton and Trump Team up Using VotePact?

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imgresSAM HUSSEINI, samhusseini  at gmail.com, @votepact
Husseini is the founder of VotePact.org, which encourages disenchanted Democrats and disenchanted Republicans to pair up and each vote for the candidates they genuinely want. His most recent piece is “After Sanders — a Path to Electoral Revolution.”

He said today: “Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have incredibly high negatives. Most people don’t agree with, like or trust either. In a political system responsive to the public, an alternative with broad support would emerge if they become the nominees, as seems increasingly likely.

“Unfortunately, in our system — which enshrines the dominance of the two establishment parties — the negatives of each end up perversely being the basis of support for the other. Voters end up being trapped by the very unpopularity of the candidates. The main things holding the system together are fear and hate — even as the candidates claim to be bringing people together.

“That is, most people supporting Clinton are not doing so because they view her as upstanding, wise or just. They support her because they fear and despise Trump and his misogyny, racism and temperament.

“And the same largely goes for Trump. His supporters back him because they detest the establishment of the Republican Party as well as Clinton, who shares so much with that very Republican establishment even as she postures as a newly born progressive.

“So, voters could end up just cancelling each other out — one voting for Clinton and one voting for Trump, with neither being happy. But if voters who know and trust each other — relatives, coworkers, neighbors, debating partners — team up and vote for their preferred candidates (be they Green, Libertarian, Socialist, Independent, etc.), then they can begin to break out of the prison of the two party system. And if they do this in pairs (forming a VotePact), they can do it without the risk of helping the candidate they want the least.

“Politicians make such alliances all the time — witness the recent alliance between Ted Cruz and John Kasich against Trump. But voters need to do this with a level of integrity and honest dialogue that’s alien to the political class. It’s well past time that the public vote strategically instead of continuing to be the perpetual play thing of the duopoly.

“Certainly there are schisms in each establishment party. Bernie Sanders has made some of those evident on the Democratic Party side, especially in his forthright critique of the healthcare system, Wall Street domination and increasing economic inequality.

“And Trump has made some indications on foreign policy which break from perpetual war orthodoxy and embraces some populist rhetoric. How genuine that is however, is questionable. It’s possible that it’s no more sincere than Clinton’s new-found stated opposition to undemocratic corporate-backed deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

Husseini’s past pieces include “A Path out of the Reversible Straitjacket of the Political Duopoly,” “The Need for Real Strategic Voting” and “The Perennially ‘Unusual’ Yet Somehow Ubiquitous Left-Right Alliance: Towards Acknowledging an Anti-Establishment Center.” He is also communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Ukraine’s Rightists Return to Odessa — Monitors Now Arriving as Well

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Odessa_BurningNICOLAI PETRO, nnpetro at gmail.com
Petro is an academic specializing in Russian and Ukrainian affairs. He is currently a professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island. He spent 2013-2014 as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine. He just wrote the piece “Ukraine’s Rightists Return to Odessa,” which states:

“May 2 will mark the second anniversary of one of the most horrific, politically inspired tragedies in modern European history — the fire in the Odessa trade union building that killed 48 people and wounded another 200.

“Numerous pleas by the United Nations and the European Union for a thorough investigation into the causes of this tragedy have gone unanswered. … Last November, the International Consulting Group, set up by the Council of Europe, issued a scathing report about this lack of progress, and the government’s apparent disinterest in bringing those responsible to trial.

“Now, as we approach the second anniversary of these tragic deaths, and the commemoration of Soviet victory in the Second World War on May 9, some of the same groups involved in the first tragedy are quite openly preparing for a second round. To this end, the leading nationalist spokesman, Dmitro Yarosh, the former leader of the Right Sector, was invited to Odessa this month.

“There he explained his credo to his followers: ‘I am just not a democrat. My worldview is that of a Ukrainian nationalist. I believe that popular national government is very good, but only when democracy does not threaten the very existence of the state. We sometimes play at democracy with the likes of Kivalov [a member of parliament from Odessa], with [Odessa’s mayor] Trukhanov … but in war time this is never good’ he said, adding ‘the enemy needs to be dealt with as he is always dealt with in wartime — neutralized.’

“A significant Western media presence on the ground during the critical week from May 2 to 9, could conceivably lead the radical nationalists to reconsider their violent strategy. Turning a blind eye to the gathering storm, by contrast, will only embolden the most radical elements in society, and further erode respect for law and order in Ukraine.”

JOE LOMBARDO, UNACpeace at gmail.com, @UNAC1
Lombardo is co-coordinator of the United National Antiwar Coalition, which is sending a delegation of human rights activists to Odessa to monitor the memorial planned by the Mothers’ Committee for May 2 to honor their family members who died in the House of Trade Unions fire. The delegation will join other international monitors from France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Poland and Bulgaria.

The UNAC presence is part of a solidarity campaign backed by “more than 150 human rights organizations and activists from 20 countries in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.”

The most recent UNAC statement on Odessa notes: “At the U.S. State Department’s daily press briefing on April 26, Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner was asked the U.S. position on the memorial planned for May 2 in Odessa’s Kolikovo square to mark the second anniversary of the day scores of progressives died there at the hands of a reactionary mob.

“In response, Toner said the State Department had strongly condemned the massacre of May 2, 2014, supported holding an investigation to bring those responsible ‘to justice’ and condemned threats being leveled against those attending the memorial.

“‘The most important thing to stress here is that we would obviously support any commemoration of this event … and we would certainly condemn any threats in the run-up to these events,’ Toner said.” See video.

Socialism and May Day

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d5271bab803d32e32c288ce86ca76b8b-w204@1xPETER LINEBAUGH,  plineba at gmail.com
Linebaugh’s books include The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day, recently released in paperback. He is a professor at the University of Toledo.

He appeared on “Democracy Now!” this morning. Linebaugh highlights the importance of May Day, particularly now, with the Bernie Sanders campaign raising questions about the nature of political revolution and socialism. He notes May Day’s dual origins, one dealing with spring and nature (green) — and one dealing with global worker solidarity (red). He highlights that it originated in the U.S., but is celebrated virtually everywhere in the world except in the U.S. — the U.S. government has instead delegated May 1 “Law Day.” See his essay, with the same title as his book: “The Incomplete, True, Authentic and Wonderful History of May Day.”

Publishers Weekly wrote earlier this month of his book: “In these collected ruminations spanning three decades, historian Linebaugh (Stop, Thief! The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance) celebrates the labor movement and bemoans the corporatization and alienation of modern life that combine to weaken workers’ bonds with their fellow workers and with the rejuvenating spirit of nature. Written to mark May Day, the international workers’ holiday, Linebaugh’s 11 playful and elegiac treatises motivate, enrage, and inform. Many of the pieces circle back to the same themes and events, particularly watershed moments such as Chicago’s Haymarket massacre. In one essay, Linebaugh frames the genesis of America’s early identity in the ideological battle between Thomas Morton’s tolerant, ecumenical colony at Merry Mount and its more famous and famously ascetic Puritan neighbors.”

Berrigan’s Death — And Work He Inspired

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ITHACA, NY - CIRCA 1970: Daniel Berrigan at Cornell University circa 1970 in Ithaca, New York. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)

ITHACA, NY – CIRCA 1970: Daniel Berrigan at Cornell University circa 1970 in Ithaca, New York. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)

The New York Times reports: “The Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and poet whose defiant protests helped shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War and landed him in prison, died on Saturday in the Bronx. He was 94. …

“The catalyzing episode occurred on May 17, 1968, six weeks after the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the outbreak of new riots in dozens of cities. Nine Catholic activists, led by Daniel and Philip Berrigan, entered a Knights of Columbus building in Catonsville and went up to the second floor, where the local draft board had offices. In front of astonished clerks, they seized hundreds of draft records, carried them down to the parking lot and set them on fire with homemade napalm. …

“In the years to come, well into his 80s, Daniel Berrigan was arrested time and again, for greater or lesser offenses: in 1980, for taking part in the Plowshares raid on a General Electric missile plant in King of Prussia, Pa., where the Berrigan brothers and others rained hammer blows on missile warheads; in 2006, for blocking the entrance to the Intrepid naval museum in Manhattan. …” Memorial services for Berrigan are scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

Fr. JOHN DEAR,  johndearsj at msn.com
Dear just wrote the piece “The Life and Death of Daniel Berrigan.” He was Berrigan’s literary executor, close friend, and editor of five books of his writings.

Sr. MEGAN RICE, [in D.C.] , 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 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. in 2012. The activists — who poured blood and painted “The Fruit of Justice is Peace” — spent two years in prison before their sentences were finally overturned last year. Rice was featured on the recent IPA news release “‘Nuclear Security Summit’ — Hypocrisy, Profiteering, Spectacle.” She noted several commemorations of Berrigan, some highlighted here along with videos of Berrigan.

ELLEN GRADY, demottgrady6 at gmail.com
Grady is part of the Ithaca New York Catholic Worker movement, which has been a key part of organizing against the U.S. government killer drone assassinations program outside Hancock Air Force Base in upstate New York.She said today: “My parents were very close to Dan and Phil [his brother who died in 2002] from when I was growing up. I last saw Dan a year ago and was hoping to see him this weekend when — on my way to New York City — I heard the news. Much of what we are doing is completely inspired by the work Dan did and the clarity he helped bring to our faith — what it means to be a Catholic and a Christian: To stand with victims, with the oppressed.

“His brother Jerry was involved in our protests against the U.S. government’s program of drone killings. Before he died last year he said his main regret was not having resisted more and gotten arrested more. So, we had a protest this year with 30 ‘Jerrys’ — life sized cutouts of him — outside the base.” See news release: “Jerry Berrigan Memorial Blockade.”

Grady is the sister of Mary Anne Grady Flores, see IPA release “U.S. Air Wars Denounced by Recently Released Catholic Worker Grandmother.”

Comedian Larry Wilmore made reference this weekend to the administration’s drone assassination program at the White House Correspondents Dinner, comparing President Barack Obama to Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry because they both “like raining down bombs on people from long distances.”

“Detroit Teachers Strike: Local Education Experts”

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dpsCNN reports: “All but three of Detroit’s 97 schools stayed closed again Tuesday, the second day of teacher protests over pay concerns in the city’s financially ailing school district.”

ALYSSA HADLEY DUNN, ahdunn at msu.edu, @alyssadunn618
Assistant professor of teacher education at Michigan State University, Alyssa Hadley Dunn is author of Urban Teaching in America and Teachers Without Borders?: The Hidden Consequences of International Teachers in U.S. Schools. She is available for a limited number of interviews.

She said today: “Ironically, in the midst of ‘Teacher Appreciation Week,’ teachers in Detroit are fighting for basic rights for themselves and their students. While the media often highlight individual teachers who ‘make a difference,’ they simultaneously neglect to address and raise awareness about the systemic issues that urban teachers deal with every day, including, like in Detroit, failing infrastructure, a deskilling of the profession in the face of high-stakes testing and scripted curriculum, and budget and salary cuts. It’s much easier to ‘appreciate’ our teachers with mugs and chocolates and ‘feel good’ stories than to address these underlying and long-term challenges, but short-term recognition does little to make the types of changes that are honestly needed in urban schools today.”

TOM PEDRONI, pedroni at wayne.edu
Pedroni is associate professor of curriculum studies and policy sociology at Wayne State University and director of the Detroit Data and Democracy Project. He is author of Market Movements: African American Involvement in School Voucher Reform and said today: “One of the most remarkable things I see in our teachers in Detroit this week is their steadfastness in defense of black lives, black neighborhoods, and black schools.

“Detroit schools have been devastated financially and programmatically after nearly two decades of state control. The same unchecked emergency management through which Gov. Rick Snyder poisoned the drinking water of Flint’s children has run like a wrecking ball through Detroit’s educational landscape, closing down 200 schools, chasing over 100,000 students from the district, and unconscionably widening the gap between the educational experiences of Detroit’s children and those in most other parts of Michigan. Market ideology and white supremacist belief in the inability of people of color to govern their own schools and communities has finally, as of Monday, pushed our underappreciated and underpaid DPS [Detroit Public Schools] teachers into the street, ending the school day and demanding the full restoration of the city’s elected school board, reparations for the financial damage caused by the state, and a complete audit of fiscal malfeasance and corruption during the years of state control. Today I am thankful for the teachers who are always on stage in defense of attacked urban communities, their democratic rights, and the sanctity and power of the teaching profession.”

Mother’s Day: Voices of Mothers of Incarcerated Youth

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mothers-at-gate-cover-final-308x400The Institute for Policy Studies’ new report, “Mothers at the Gate: How a Family Movement Is Transforming the Juvenile Justice System,” notes that “54,000 children are incarcerated in this country — the most of any in the world. … Incarceration is one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time. It’s not just millions of adults, but also staggering numbers of children, who are roped into the criminal justice system.

“This report reflects an effort to map a movement of family members — particularly mothers — that aims to challenge both the conditions in which their loved ones are held and the fact of mass incarceration itself, and to distill the shared wisdom of its leaders.

“Civil rights battles in the United States have historically been led by those most affected. Now the mothers of incarcerated children are making history.”

KAREN DOLAN, karen@ips-dc.org, @karendolan
Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and directs the Criminalization of Poverty Project. She co-authored the report with Nell Bernstein and Ebony Slaughter-Johnson.

She said today, “Many mothers will be sharing a lovely breakfast in bed this Sunday. But in a nation that incarcerated more children than any other country, over 50,000 mothers will be feeling the pain of their child being locked away, behind bars. Most for minor offenses. Some of these mothers are part of an emerging movement of families who are fighting back against an unjust system. Through direct experience they have become not only tellers of their own heartbreaking stories, but policy experts, lobbyists, activists and educators. They are preparing testimony, providing support and training to other families, promoting alternatives to juvenile incarceration, and developing positive models of restorative justice and community reinvestment. They will be spending this Sunday crying for their absent children, but also fighting like hell to bring them home and end the barbaric practice of imprisoning children.

GRACE BAUER LUBOW, familiescantwait at yahoo.com, @justice4fams
Grace Bauer-Lubow is the co-founder of Justice for Families, a national alliance of local organizations committed to ending the youth incarceration epidemic.

She said, “When we gather, I will see the smiling faces of my healthy daughters and granddaughter and I will feel gratitude and joy. But soon the sadness and ache that comes from my son’s incarceration and separation from our family will overwhelm all other emotions. Mother’s Day will tear me in two.”

TRACY McLARD, forjmo at gmail.com
McClard became an advocate against youth transfer into adult prisons after her son killed himself the night before he was going to be transferred to adult prison, days after his 17th birthday. She is the founder of Families and Friends Organizing for Reform of Juvenile Justice Missouri.

She said today: “Celebrating Mother’s Day without Jonathan is bittersweet. I always remember one Mother’s Day when he was 11. … I was in the bathroom getting ready for church and I heard the bathroom door open, a quick ‘Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, I love you!’ and then the bathroom door slammed and I heard giggling as he walked down the hall. When I looked to see what he’d done, there was a clump of my irises with roots and dirt attached plopped on the floor. He was so mischievous and so fun! Now, my Jonathan is in heaven. I am so glad he resides there instead of prison. I can’t see him, but I know he’s safe, loved, and judged perfectly by his Father who loves him.”

More Panama Papers and $12 Trillion Offshore

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48743721.cachedThe International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has announced that on May 9, it will release “a searchable database with information on more than 200,000 offshore entities that are part of the Panama Papers investigation.”

In her new piece “Gimme Shelter (From the Tax Man) Disappearing Money and Opportunistic Candidates,” banking expert Nomi Prins notes that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump share “companies registered at the same address (also ‘shared’ by 285,000 other companies) in Wilmington, Delaware. In other words, they make use of the ‘Delaware loophole,’ which allows for the legal shifting of earnings from elsewhere in the country to the ultimate tax haven state in the U.S.”

KEVIN G. HALL, khall at mcclatchydc.com, @KevinGHall
MARISA TAYLOR, mtaylor at mcclatchydc.com, @marisaataylor
Hall is chief economics correspondent and Taylor is an investigative reporter for McClatchy, which has been the leading U.S. newspaper involved in the year-long effort. McClatchy’s recent articles include “What Panama Papers say — and don’t say — about Trump.”

Hall said today: “The amount of information in the Panama Papers is enormous. We expect important stories to be coming out not just in the coming weeks, but months. … The information revealed especially exposes companies involved in Ponzi schemes and the like. However, the truly sophisticated rich likely have their money in places like the English-speaking Cayman Islands or through sophisticated financial instruments that are realistically only an option for the very wealthy.”

Leading economics writer David Cay Johnston profiles the work of James Henry in his new piece at The Daily Beast: “How the Kleptocrats’ $12 Trillion Heist Helps Keep Most of the World Impoverished.”

JAMES HENRY, jamesshelburnehenry at mac.com, @submergingmkt
Henry’s books include The Blood Bankers: Tales from the Global Underground Economy and the forthcoming The Pirate Bankers.

Johnston’s piece states: “For the first time we have a reliable estimate of how much money thieving dictators and others have looted from 150 mostly poor nations and hidden offshore: $12.1 trillion.

“That huge figure equals a nickel on each dollar of global wealth and yet it excludes the wealthiest regions of the planet: America, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

“That so much money is missing from these poorer nations explains why vast numbers of people live in abject poverty even in countries where economic activity per capita is above the world average. In Equatorial Guinea, for example, the national economy’s output per person comes to 60 cents for each dollar Americans enjoy, measured using what economists call purchasing power equivalents, yet living standards remain abysmal. …

“One determined person combed 45 years of official statistics from around the world to calculate the flight wealth for nearly 200 countries that publish comparable economic data.

“That’s Jim Henry, who was a rising corporate star until he gave it all up to document illicit flows of money and the damage they do to billions of people.

“Henry has been the chief economist at McKinsey & Co., arguably the world’s most influential business consultancy, and worked directly under Jack Welch at General Electric. A Harvard-educated economist and lawyer, Henry calls himself an investigative economist. His approach is simple: ‘Just look at the effing data and solve the puzzle’ of mismatches between the various official sources. From his home in Sag Harbor, near the tip of Long Island, Henry has painstakingly built massive spreadsheets to reveal the mismatches that indicate capital flight. He then fleshes out what the data show by interviewing bankers and bank regulators, government economists, law enforcement officials, and even some of the retainers who help kleptocrats loot the countries they rule.

“Henry, a consultant on the Panama Papers journalism project, has released some of his findings at a global Tax Justice Network meeting in London. He shared a fuller set of his data with me.”

Comedian Larry Wilmore quipped at the White House Correspondents Dinner this weekend: “I am impressed with the people in this room. There are so many rich, powerful people in this room. You know, it’s nice to finally match the names to the faces in the Panama Papers.”

“Hillary Clinton Killed Berta!”

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BC_posterABC News reports in “Hillary Clinton’s Cinco de Mayo LA Rally Anything but Festive Due to Protesters,” that: “Clinton was confronted on the rope line by a protester who was quickly surrounded by police and taken out. And during her remarks, one woman, who appeared to be protesting Clinton’s role in the 2009 coup in Honduras, shouted loudly, ‘She killed Berta! She killed Berta!’ — referring to Berta Cáceres, a Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader, who called out Clinton for her role in the coup, before being assassinated in March. As this was happening, Clinton supporters countered with chants of ‘Hillary! Hillary!'”

See by Greg Grandin: “Before Her Murder, Berta Cáceres Singled Out Hillary Clinton for Criticism,” which states: “Before her murder on March 3, Berta Cáceres, a Honduran indigenous rights and environmental activist, named Hillary Clinton, holding her responsible for legitimating the 2009 coup. ‘We warned that this would be very dangerous,’ she said, referring to Clinton’s effort to impose elections that would consolidate the power of murderers.

“In a video interview given in Buenos Aires in 2014, Cáceres says it was Clinton who helped legitimate and institutionalize the coup.” Grandin is a Pulitzer Prize finalist and professor of history at New York University.

Grandin’s most recent piece for The Nation is “Berta Cáceres’s Killers Are Getting Good at the PR Game,” which states: “Four men have been arrested in Honduras for the killing of Berta Cáceres — two of them associated with the company building the dam she was fighting to stop.”

SILVIO CARRILLO, silvio.carrillo at gmail.com
Carrillo is the nephew of Berta Cáceres. He runs the website bertacaceres.org, which features a recent statement from the family. Clinton is speaking in Oakland today where Carrillo lives.

He said today: “It’s good that the Honduran government at least hasn’t arrested COPINH [the environmental group Cáceres worked with] members. That’s where they were going at first. A colleague of Berta’s — who was shot twice in the attack that killed her — was held for 36 hours.

“There is a 96 percent impunity rate in Honduras. There’s no way we can trust this process, it’s totally corrupt. We need an independent international investigation, like the one for the 43 slain Mexican students. That’s what we and 59 members of the U.S. Congress have called for. [PDF]

“We’re learning things about this current ‘investigation’ through leaks to a newspaper that backed the coup, owned by one of the oligarchs. This is being done by a government pretending to be legitimate, but the government may well have had a hand in the assassination and are ultimately not going to finger their own.

“It’s certainly right that Hillary Clinton is a flashpoint for this, but this is a much larger problem. The State Department has been doing this for decades. But she could have changed the paradigm when she came in as Secretary of State.

“Manuel Zelaya — the Honduran president who was ousted in 2009 — was working with my aunt. Since then, 110 environmental activists — just environmental, not counting labor activists, journalists and others — have been killed. The rich in Honduras who control the country just care about enriching themselves — and Clinton seemed to be happy to work with them.”

Ballot Choices Beyond Clinton and Trump

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maxresdefaultRICHARD WINGER, richardwinger at yahoo.com
Publisher and editor of Ballot Access News, Winger said today: “Some establishment Republicans seem to be trying to line up an independent presidential run to stop Donald Trump. Contrary to what many in the media are claiming, it’s not too late for a major independent candidate to get on the ballot. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Anderson v. Celebrezze in 1983 that early ballot deadlines were unconstitutional. June deadlines have been struck down in five states in recent years: Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, South Dakota and Kansas.

“Our ballot access laws are chaotic and onerous. The ballots are printed weeks before the election — which is six months away. In Britain, you can get on the ballot three weeks before the election.

“The mainstream media seem especially oblivious to the fact that there are 17 states with right-leaning one-state parties. For example, there’s the Independence Party in New York — an offshoot of the Reform Party Ross Perot founded in the 90s. These could be strung together to form an independent run.

“But, the Republican establishment unhappy with Trump can’t do anything — including having a lawsuit to strike down these state restrictions — without a candidate.

“Whether or not that effort materializes, minor parties may play a much larger role this year than in recent memory. The Libertarian Party will probably be on all 50 states this year. The Green Party, by November, I’d estimate to be on 40 to 45.

“While such minor parties have generally been ignored by the media, this year, the New York Times has written twice about Gary Johnson, one of the Libertarian candidates. When Johnson was the Libertarian nominee in 2012, he didn’t get anywhere near that level of attention.

“The Greens have reached out to the Sanders campaign, to see how they might work together, but he has apparently not responded. But the Greens are increasing in capacity — they did qualify for primary season matching funds this year. They haven’t seen the same increase in media coverage as the Libertarians yet, perhaps partly because Sanders is still campaigning.”

Winger also noted the restrictive nature of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is facing lawsuits.

See: “RT America gives Green, Libertarian candidates a voice with 3rd-party debates“: “Green Party candidates Jill Stein, Kent Mesplay and Sedinam Kinamo Christin Moyowasifza Curry will face off on Monday, while Libertarian Party candidates Darryl W. Perry, Austin Petersen and Marc Allan Feldman will debate next Thursday. Both debates will cover foreign policy, domestic issues, and electoral reform. … The debates will air on RT America from 4 pm to 6 pm Eastern time. You can also watch them on the RT America YouTube page.”

Panama Papers, How Global Rich Siphon Wealth and Obama’s “Window Dressing”

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no-shelter-from-the-panama-papers-displayThe International Consortium of Investigative Journalists today published a searchable database of the Panama Papers.

JAMES HENRY, jamesshelburnehenry at mac.com, @submergingmkt
Henry’s books include The Blood Bankers: Tales from the Global Underground Economy and the forthcoming The Pirate Bankers.

He recently completed a study on tax havens which the Guardian just reported on: “More than $12tn (£8tn) has been siphoned out of Russia, China and other emerging economies into the secretive world of offshore finance, new research has revealed, as David Cameron prepares to host world leaders for an anti-corruption summit.” This event is to take place Thursday. For a calendar of events, see: accuracy.org/calendar.

Henry — who was also just interviewed by The Real News about the release of the Panama Papers — said today: “A large part of what people are overlooking is that countries in the West are themselves tax havens. The documents are called the ‘Panama Papers’ because that’s where the law firm — Mossack Fonseca — where the documents came from is headquartered, but that’s not where the money stayed. It goes to Western banks. The latest example of this is New Zealand.” See this new report from Radio New Zealand: “NZ at heart of Panama money-go-round.”

Henry continued: “But this is an old game, it’s just getting bigger and bigger and more complex. It puts the idea of global development on its head: Investments are supposed to come from rich countries to poor countries so they can build up and those investors get a higher rate of return. But what we’re seeing in reality is the opposite: Wealthy people in poorer countries take their money out of those countries and get a low rate of return in rich countries. And of course, the wealthy in rich countries use havens to avoid taxes and for other reasons that don’t do anything beneficial.

“Switzerland has traditionally played this role. But the U.S. is now a huge player and it’s telling that the ‘reforms’ President Obama is now proposing don’t have requirements for a registry of who owns what in U.S. states that act as havens, especially Delaware, Wyoming, Nevada, North Dakota and Alaska. All these states have financial secrecy on a massive level.

“Until the U.S. and other Western governments address that, any changes are window dressing.

“We have mass surveillance of the general public, but the global rich can hide trillions of dollars in assets without any serious transparency.”

Urban Institute Attack on Sanders’ Medicare-for-All Plan is “Ridiculous”

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US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on May 9, 2016. / AFP / Jewel SAMAD        (Photo credit should read JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, M.D., via Mark Almberg,  mark at pnhp.org, @PNHP
Dr. Woolhandler co-founded Physicians for a National Health Program, which does research and advocacy for single-payer health care, but does not endorse candidates. She is a professor at City University of New York at Hunter College who sees patients in the South Bronx. Almberg is communications director for PNHP.

She just co-wrote the piece “The Urban Institute’s Attack On Single Payer: Ridiculous Assumptions Yield Ridiculous Estimates,” which states: “The Urban Institute and the Tax Policy Center [Monday] released analyses of the costs of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ domestic policy proposals, including single-payer national health insurance. They claim that Sanders’ proposals would raise the federal deficit by $18 trillion over the next decade.” This report has been covered by NPR, CBS News, PBS, Bloomberg, the Washington Post and other major media.

Woolhandler writes: “To put it bluntly, the estimates (which were prepared by John Holahan and colleagues) are ridiculous. They project outlandish increases in the utilization of medical care, ignore vast savings under single-payer reform, and ignore the extensive and well-documented experience with single-payer systems in other nations — which all spend far less per person on health care than we do.

“The authors’ anti-single-payer bias is also evident from their incredible claims that physicians’ incomes would be squeezed (which contradicts their own estimates positing a sharp rise in spending on physician services), and that patients would suffer huge disruptions, despite the fact that the implementation of single-payer systems elsewhere, as well as the start-up of Medicare, were disruption-free.

“We outline below some of the most glaring errors in the Holahan analysis (which served as the basis for Tax Policy Center’s estimates) regarding health care spending under the Sanders plan.

1. Administrative savings, Part 1: Holahan assumes that insurance overhead would be reduced to 6 percent of total health spending from the current level of 9.5 percent. They base this 6 percent estimate on figures for Medicare’s current overhead, which include the extraordinarily high overhead costs of private Medicare HMOs run by UnitedHealthcare and other insurance firms. However, Sen. Sanders’ proposal would exclude these for-profit insurers, and instead build on the traditional Medicare program, whose overhead is less than 3 percent. Moreover, even this 3 percent figure is probably too high, since Sanders’ plan would simplify hospital payment by funding them through global budgets (similar to the way fire departments are paid), rather than the current patient-by-patient payments. Hence a more realistic estimate would assume that insurance overhead would drop to Canada’s level of about 1.8 percent. Cutting insurance overhead to 2 percent (rather than the 6 percent that Holahan projects) would save an additional $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years. …”

Brazil Impeachment Agenda: Stop Corruption Investigations

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aroeira.lemondediplomatiquebrasil-702x336The New York Times reports today: “In a stunning twist in the effort to impeach President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, the new speaker of the lower house of Congress has changed his mind — less than 24 hours after announcing that he would try to annul his chamber’s decision to impeach her.”

MARIA LUISA MENDONÇA,  marialuisam222 at gmail.com
Currently in the U.S., Mendonça is director of Brazil’s Network for Social Justice and Human Rights. She is also a professor in the international relations department at the University of Rio De Janeiro.

She said today: “The procedures to impeach president Dilma Rousseff in Brazil are looking more like tragic theater every day. Yesterday, the speaker of the lower House, Waldir Maranhao, canceled the decision taken by the plenary on April 17, which approved the impeachment, pointing to several illegal measures in that vote. Late last night, Maranhao canceled his own decision. Earlier yesterday, the speaker in the Senate, Renan Calheiros, ignored Maranhao’s decision to cancel the April 17 vote, and declared that he would move ahead with the Senate vote, which could make the whole impeachment process illegal. Last week, the Supreme Court accepted charges of corruption against former House speaker, Eduardo Cunha, who orchestrated and conducted the impeachment vote on April 17, in which the accusations against the president were rarely mentioned during the vote. Most Congress members declared that they were supporting the impeachment in the name of God, their families, and one of them even praised a former military commander who tortured several political activists during the military dictatorship in Brazil.

“President Dilma Rousseff is accused of using a common financial mechanism to cover social program expenses in the federal budget by borrowing funds from public banks, which previous administrations also used, as well as local administrations. On the other hand, most Congress members in favor of the impeachment face serious investigations of corruption.

“Media outlets in Brazil play a key role in this process, calling demonstrations against the government. A key player is Globo TV, which is known for supporting the military dictatorship that lasted more than 20 years in Brazil. Globo executives were recently mentioned in connection with the Panama Papers, and in the investigations against FIFA for illegal procedures in negotiating broadcast rights of soccer games.

“At the same time, large demonstrations against the impeachment and in defense of the democratic process that elected president Rousseff have been ignored by mainstream media. If the electoral process is undermined in Brazil, major political institutions will lose credibility, including the National Congress and the Judiciary, given the contradictions and irregularities that can put democracy at risk. The vice-president, Michael Temer, who hopes to assume the presidency, will not have legitimacy as his popularity is extremely low and he is currently facing corruption charges.

“The main agenda for impeaching President Rousseff is to stop investigations of corruption against Congress members and media executives, and to implement severe austerity measures and cuts in social programs, which will increase social inequality and economic instability.”

“Orwellian” Visit to Hiroshima as Obama Modernizes U.S. Nuclear Weapons

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hiroshima_1The Japan Times reports: “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday said that U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima during the Group of Seven summit later this month. The visit, which will be the first to the A-bombed city by a sitting U.S. president, is scheduled to take place on May 27, the final day of the two-day summit, Abe said, adding that he will accompany the leader.” For a calendar of upcoming events, see: accuracy.org/calendar.

JOSEPH GERSON, JGerson at afsc.org
Director of programs for the American Friends Service Committee in New England, Gerson’s books include With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination and Empire and the Bomb: How the U.S. Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World.

He recently wrote the piece “Orwell (and the President) Come to Hiroshima.” Gerson said today: “The symbolism of Obama’s visit has the potential to focus world attention on the increasingly urgent need to abolish the world’s nuclear arsenals, which could end all life as we know it. In fact the United States is obligated by Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to engage in good faith negotiations for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons. However, the best way to divert attention from the world’s 7,000 nuclear weapons and $1 trillion in spending for a new generation of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems would be a distracting, symbolic and Orwellian presidential visit to Hiroshima.”

“It is important to change the current ‘first use’ doctrine of most nuclear armed states. For years, the Soviet Union said it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons while the U.S. government refused to make such a commitment. Unfortunately, Russia has since adopted the U.S. stance. Now, China is the only nuclear armed state with a no first use stance. That policy should be adopted by the others, or else it’s only a matter of time before China adopts the more belligerent stance.

“There have been more than 30 times since the Nagasaki A-bombing that the U.S. government has prepared and/or threatened to initiate nuclear war during wars and international crises, most recently with the simulated nuclear attacks against North Korea and the nuclear-capable bomber flights in response to China’s building new military bases in contested waters of the South China Sea.

“It is also important to address the forces that are fueling the 21st century arms race: the U.S. weapons labs and profiteering military-industrial complex companies; NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders and massive U.S. military superiority in so-called conventional and high-tech weapons and the militarization of space; and the U.S. military pivot to Asia designed to manage China’s rise.”

Gerson is a co-convener of Peace & Planet, an international network that he notes “has urged people to contact the White House urging that President Obama go to Hiroshima, but not to go empty-handed. Peace and Planet has urged President Obama to meet with representatives of Nihon Hidankyo, the Japan Confederation of A- & H- Bomb Sufferers Organizations, and to use his visit to Hiroshima to call for the beginning of negotiations to eliminate the world’s nuclear arsenals and to end the $1 trillion program to create a new generation of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.”

Note to producers: You may want to use the song “Enola Gay,” by OMD as a musical lead-in; this version by Elisa Salasin includes audio clips of President Harry Truman claiming that Hiroshima was “a military base,” and J. Robert Oppenheimer saying: “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” See on YouTube.

Paul Ryan “Wildly out of Step”

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WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 05:   U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) (C), chairman of the House Budget Committee, holds up a copy of the 2012 Republican budget proposal during a news conference April 5, 2011 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. House Republicans have unveiled their version of the budget proposal for FY 2012 which would cut government spending $6.2 tillion more in 10 years than the version by the Obama Administration.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

House Speaker Paul Ryan is set to meet with Donald Trump on Thursday.

LINDA BENESCH, lbenesch at socialsecurityworks.org, via Lacy Crawford, lcrawford at socialsecurityworks.org, @SSWorks
Benesch is a digital and communications strategist at Social Security Works, a national organization working to protect and expand our Social Security system. Social Security Works is also the convening organization of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign, a coalition comprised of more than 350 national and state organizations representing more than 50 million Americans from many of the nation’s leading aging, labor, disability, women’s, children, consumer, civil rights and equality organizations.

She said today: “One unfortunate consequence of the rise of Donald Trump is that many media outlets are portraying other Republicans, chiefly House Speaker Paul Ryan, as less extreme in comparison. In fact, Ryan’s plans to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are wildly out of step with the American people. While Trump is no friend to Social Security, he has been running against cuts this year, and Republican primary voters have taken notice. The real story here is that Ryan’s plans for cuts have now been resoundingly rejected by primary voters in his own party.”

See fact sheet on Ryan’s budget proposals from Social Security Works, which it states are “based completely on misinformation that enemies of Social Security have been pushing for years.” [PDF]

What’s a Conservative Today?

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1-CoverPresumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is scheduled to meet House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday. NBC writes: “Sources tell NBC News that Ryan wants Trump to more clearly commit to conservative principles and work to unify the party.”

KELLEY VLAHOS, kv at kelleyvlahos.com, @KelleyBVlahos
Vlahos is a Washington, D.C-based writer and contributing editor at The American Conservative magazine.

She said today: “Many are lecturing about what being a ‘conservative’ means. Certainly there are tensions between people who identify as intellectual conservatives and a Donald Trump, who is appealing to public anger and populist tendencies.

“But people who profess to be ‘intellectual conservatives’ — who may cite Edmund Burke when it’s convenient to do so — frequently don’t abide by rather clear conservative principles when that gets in the way of prevailing agendas. There’s nothing conservative about warmongering. There’s nothing conservative in the classical sense about the government eavesdropping into your private communications while exercising secrecy for itself. That’s not conservative. That’s not small government, that’s tyranny.

“Classical conservatism fully embraces the free market. But government actions — including those backed by Democrats as well as Republicans — like subsidies to various industries, distort the free market. Certainly, bailing out Wall Street firms — which Paul Ryan and other leaders of the Republican establishment backed — is not abiding by the free market. Such individuals are in no position to be offering lectures.

“Certainly, political terms largely mean what people say they mean. There are clearly schisms between the Republican blue bloods and people who have identified with the Tea Party.

“But lots of people who identify as conservative adopt positions not typically thought of in those terms. There are writers we publish at The American Conservative who embrace living off the land. They are adamant environmentalists. They want to conserve the environment. They want to be left alone. This runs contrary to a Sarah Palin who seems to take pride in running roughshod over the environment.”

Brazil: Why It’s a Coup

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Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 1.45.45 PMThe Guardian reports: “Less than halfway through her elected mandate, Dilma Rousseff was stripped of her presidential duties for up to six months on Thursday after the Senate voted to begin an impeachment trial.

“After a marathon 20-hour debate that one politician described as the ‘saddest day for Brazil’s young democracy,’ senators voted 55 to 22 to suspend the Workers’ party leader, putting economic problems, political paralysis and alleged fiscal irregularities ahead of the 54 million votes that put her in office.

“Rousseff, Brazil’s first female president, will have to step aside while she is tried in the upper house for allegedly manipulating government accounts ahead of the previous election. Her judges will be senators, many of whom are accused of more serious wrongdoing.”

The Guardian notes that a new election, favored by many Brazilians as a way of stabilizing the situation “has been ruled out by Vice President Michel Temer, who has now maneuvered to replace his running mate. He has spent the past few weeks canvassing candidates for the center-right administration he is now expected to form. Advance lists of ministerial posts in the domestic media suggest his first cabinet will be entirely male and overwhelmingly white.”

ALEXANDER MAIN, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @ceprdc
Main is senior associate on international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, specializing in Latin America. He said today: “Rousseff’s opponents have been searching for a way to oust her since the beginning of her term.” See pieces by his colleague, Mark Weisbrot: “Washington’s Dog-Whistle Diplomacy Supports Attempted Coup in Brazil” and “Has the Left Run its Course in Latin America?

MARIA LUISA MENDONÇA, marialuisam222 at gmail.com
Currently in the U.S., Mendonça is director of Brazil’s Network for Social Justice and Human Rights. She is also a professor in the international relations department at the University of Rio De Janeiro.

She said today: “The vote in the Senate was predicable since most of the senators had already expressed their opinions. But this has been a political trial. It’s not about the alleged reason for the impeachment. If the same criteria used against her were used against state governors, 16 of them would be impeached. They all used the same mechanism to cover a budget shortfall. You can’t impeach a president because you don’t like him or her. That’s why we call this a coup.

“Temer is incredibly unpopular — he has two percent support. He’s already naming a new cabinet, which is highly legally questionable. He’s moving a rightwing agenda to cut education and healthcare and abolish the culture ministry.

“He and over half of Congress members in the Lower House and in the Senate are under investigation for corruption and now have much more power over federal police and the legislature to try to prevent those investigations from moving forward.”

Glenn Greenwald notes in “Brazil’s Democracy to Suffer Grievous Blow as Unelectable, Corrupt Neoliberal is Installed,” that: “Her successor will be Vice President Michel Temer of the PMDB party. So unlike impeachment in most other countries with a presidential system, impeachment here will empower a person from a different party than that of the elected President. In this particular case, the person to be installed is awash in corruption: accused by informants of involvement in an illegal ethanol-purchasing scheme, he was just found guilty of, and fined for, election spending violations and faces an eight-year-ban on running for any office.”

Afghanistan as “Longest War” Highlights Invisibility of Indigenous and Iraq Wars

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indigenous_peoples_historyThe New York Times claimed in a lengthy piece this weekend that President “Obama has now been at war longer than any other American president.”

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ, rdunbar at pacbell.net, @rdunbaro
Dunbar-Ortiz is author or editor of seven books, including An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States. She will be in New York City beginning Wednesday.

She said today: “President James Monroe ties with Obama, the First Seminole War, 1816-1823, the Army commanded by General Andrew Jackson, who as president oversaw the Second Seminole War, which Martin Van Buren continued, 1835-42; The Third Seminole War, 1855-58, was overseen by two different presidents, Pierce and Buchanan. A pattern very similar to the Iraq wars, 1991 and ongoing. The Seminole Wars were formative for future invasive wars that have been endless, few days in U.S. history without the U.S. military making war somewhere.”

In the conclusion of her book, Dunbar-Ortiz writes: “The conventional narrative of U.S. history routinely segregates the ‘Indian Wars’ as a sub-specialization within the dubious category ‘the West.’ But, the architecture of U.S. world dominance was designed and tested by the period of continental U.S. militarism, 1790-1890, the Indian Wars. The opening of the twenty-first century saw a new, even more brazen form of U.S. militarism and imperialism explode on the world followed by two major military invasions and hundreds of small wars employing U.S. Special Forces around the globe, establishing a template that continued after their political power waned.

“One highly regarded military analyst stepped forward to make the connections between the ‘Indian Wars’ and what he considered the country’s bright imperialist past and future. Robert D. Kaplan, in his 2005 book Imperial Grunts, presented several case studies that he considered highly successful operations: Yemen, Colombia, Mongolia, and the Philippines, in addition to ongoing complex projects in the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan, and Iraq. While U.S. citizens and many of their elected representatives called for ending the U.S. military interventions they knew about — including Iraq and Afghanistan — Kaplan hailed protracted counterinsurgencies in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Pacific. He presented a guide for the U.S. controlling those areas of the world based on its having achieved continental dominance in North America by means of counterinsurgency and employing total and unlimited war….

“Kaplan sums up his thesis in the prologue to Imperial Grunts, which he subtitles ‘Injun Country’:

“Kaplan writes: ‘By the turn of the twenty-first century the United States military had already appropriated the entire earth, and was ready to flood the most obscure areas of it with troops at a moment’s notice. The Pentagon divided the planet into five area commands — similar to the way that the Indian Country of the American West had been divided in the mid-nineteenth century by the U.S. Army. . . . [A]ccording to the soldiers and marines I met on the ground in far-flung corners of the earth, the comparison with the nineteenth century was . . . apt. “Welcome to Injun Country” was the refrain I heard from troops from Colombia to the Philippines, including Afghanistan and Iraq… The War on Terrorism was really about taming the frontier.'”

Sykes-Picot and What Would Have King-Crane Brought?

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_89702551_mpk_1_426_8_may_1916Monday marks 100 years since the Sykes-Picot agreement between Britain and France. With the then-secret agreement, they planned to divide up much of the Mideast between them at the end of World War I, which was still going on at the time.

JAMES PAUL  james.paul.nyc at gmail.com
Author of Syria Unmasked, Paul was executive director of Global Policy Forum, a think tank that monitors the UN, for nearly 20 years. He was also a longtime editor of the Oxford Companion to Politics of the World and executive director of the Middle East Research and Information Project.

He said today: “This is an opportunity to take the long view and see how Western powers have shamelessly drawn and redrawn Mideast borders as it suited their purposes. The story includes not only Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot but also T. E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell, Winston Churchill and many more. The redrawing borders continued after Sykes-Picot when the British seized Mosul Province from the French in 1918 by continuing fighting north and westward after the Armistice had been announced. Today in Washington there continues to be discussions of ethnically-based redrawing of borders in Iraq and Syria and the Kurds are part of this discourse, while oil remains the main driver.” See video about Sykes-Picot featuring Rashid Khalidi and other scholars.

RICHARD DRAKE, richard.drake at mso.umt.edu, @rrdrakesr
Professor of history at the University of Montana, Drake’s books include The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion about how the noted U.S. progressive awoke to the realities of U.S. foreign policy.

In his piece “This Is When Muslims in the Middle East Turned to Extremism,” Drake writes: “T. E. Lawrence, another eyewitness to the Paris Peace Conference [1919], recorded his impressions of the treachery that annihilated the legitimate hopes of the Arabs for independence. Seven Pillars of Wisdom, the account of his exploits as ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ is a book chiefly about betrayal, his own and that of Britain in dealing with the Arabs. He presents himself as a double agent, ostensibly fighting for Arab freedom while really working for the British Empire. …

“He described the negotiations as the culmination of deep-laid plans of imperialist exploitation. British and French colonial policy, enshrined in the secret Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, completely eclipsed the rights of the Arabs, as he had feared all along would be the case. The Balfour Declaration [1917] granting a homeland to the Jews in Palestine set a second seal on the fate of the Arabs. Oil, empire, and Zionism formed an invincible combination against them. Violence erupted in Palestine in 1920. It has not finished yet.

“That same year, in August, the Treaty of Sèvres made its long-deferred appearance, sixteen months after the Middle East first came up for discussion at the Paris Peace Conference. Sèvres took the form of a diktat even more draconian than the one inflicted on Germany. The Ottoman Empire ceased to exist, its territories stripped away by Great Britain, France, and Italy in blatant repudiation of the Fourteen Points.”

Drake writes in “The Hope and Ultimate Tragedy of the 1919 King-Crane Report” of an altogether different effort: “The King-Crane Report, a little-known and even less understood historical document, prophetically warned of the conflicts raging in the Middle East today. Created during the post-World War I Paris Peace Conference by President Woodrow Wilson, the King-Crane Commission set out in May 1919, to determine ‘the real wishes and true interests’ of the people in the Middle East. President Wilson, chief among the victors at the conference, which opened in January of that year, had become concerned by reports of Arab restiveness.

“The Arabs had hoped for fair and generous treatment under the auspices of Wilson’s Fourteen Points, reputed to be the moral foundation of the Peace Conference. In his famous address of January 1918, the president had proclaimed a new agenda in international relations, including open covenants openly arrived at and — most welcome from the Arab viewpoint — ‘an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development’ for nationalities under Turkish rule.

“Yet in Paris, the open covenants principle soon gave way to closed-door decision-making, and months went by without any word about the fate of the Arab lands long held by the defeated Ottoman Empire. …

“To lead the commission, Wilson chose … [Henry] King, the president of Oberlin College, [who] subscribed to Wilson’s vision of the war as a righteous struggle for democracy against German militarism. … Millionaire businessman Crane had been a major donor to the president’s political campaigns and a close adviser. Since the 1870s, he had traveled extensively in the Middle East and knew the region well. He, too, viewed the Fourteen Points as a sacred pledge for a moral renewal of mankind. …

“King and Crane feared that Zionism and imperialist policies of the Allies would introduce unprecedented mayhem into the Middle East and give an excuse for a pan-Islamist movement. They counseled that it would be wiser to respect the Arabs and work for the economic and moral uplift of the entire region than to appear before them as the worst kind of conquerors: exploiters mouthing fine phrases having nothing at all to do with the fundamental realities of their colonial rule.

“The final sentence of an appendix to the King-Crane Report echoed the many assertions scattered throughout the document about the crucial need for the West to adopt an intelligent and judicious policy toward the Arabs: ‘Dangers may readily arise from unwise and unfaithful dealings with this people, but there is great hope of peace and progress if they be handled frankly and loyally.'”

How the NSA Pushed Iraq Invasion

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Katharine Gun

Katharine Gun

Charlie Savage in the New York Times writes Tuesday: “On Monday, the news website The Intercept said it would publish the entire archive of the [National Security Agency’s Top Secret internal] newsletter and began by posting more than 150 articles from 2003…. For example, one article described the American and British ambassadors to the United Nations expressing thanks to the agency for providing what the latter called ‘insights into the nuances of internal divisions among the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council’ during the diplomatic negotiations ahead of the Iraq War.”

The Intercept on Monday in one of their postings stated the NSA’s intelligence “during the wind-up to the Iraq War ‘played a critical role’ in the adoption of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The work with that customer was a resounding success.” The relevant document quotes John Negroponte, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations: “I can’t imagine better intelligence support for a diplomatic mission.”

SAM HUSSEINI, sam at accuracy.org, @samhusseini
Communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini wrote the piece “Katharine Gun’s Risky Truth-telling” about a British official who crucially leaked evidence of NSA spying against UN officials during the buildup to the Iraq invasion.

Husseini said today: “The U.S. government, through the NSA, was spying — in violation of international law — on other UN Security Council members in order to better coerce them to back the invasion of Iraq. We know this because Katharine Gun leaked a short 300-word NSA memo on this shortly before the invasion. She worked at the time at GCHQ, the British equivalent of the NSA.

“This memo was reported by The Observer in Britain and then around the world — but there was hardly a peep in the U.S. media, including the Times. Dan Ellsberg has called it the most important leak of all time. This story debunked key lies about the Iraq invasion in real time. It highlighted how the U.S. government was not — as President George W. Bush was claiming at the time — trying to find a way to avoid war. Rather, it documented that the U.S. government was going to incredible lengths to coerce other states to give it diplomatic cover for the desired invasion.

“And this has critical importance for today. This shows the NSA is not working tirelessly, as officialdom would have us believe, to protect the U.S. public. It is facilitating policies that enable horrific wars, destabilize countries and dramatically increase insecurity.

“While the Times treats what happened in 2003 rather gingerly, The Intercept is incorrect in claiming that there were Security Council ‘resolutions’ during the buildup to the invasion of Iraq. There was only one — in good measure because Katharine Gun’s whistleblowing made it difficult for other members of the Security Council to go along with another resolution. This made a liar out of Negroponte, who had stated when the first resolution [1441] was adopted: ‘There’s no “automaticity” and this is a two-stage process’ — that is, the U.S. would come back to the Security Council for a second resolution before invading Iraq.”

Husseini’s piece states: “When the British reporters writing the story called the author of the memo, Frank Koza, a top official at the NSA, they were put through to his office. When they shared the nature of their phone call, they were told by an assistant they had ‘the wrong number.’ The reporters noted: ‘On protesting that the assistant had just said this was Koza’s extension, the assistant repeated that it was an erroneous extension, and hung up.’

“The story was ignored by the U.S. media, though we at the Institute for Public Accuracy put out a string of news releases about it. Gun has commented that Martin Bright, one of the reporters who broke the story for the British Observer, had been booked on several U.S. TV networks just after the story was published but they had all quickly cancelled. [See video of an interview with Gun and Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Colin Powell, on German TV.]

“However, the story did cause headlines around the world — especially in the countries on the Security Council that the memo listed as targets of the surveillance. Through whatever combination of authentic anger or embarrassment at their subservience to the U.S. government being exposed, most of these governments apparently peeled away from the U.S., and no second UN resolution was sought by the war planners.

“Rather, George W. Bush started the Iraq war with unilateral demands that Saddam Hussein and his family leave Iraq (and then indicated that the invasion would commence in any case.)”

Obama, Clinton, Malcolm X, and the Novocaine Effect

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imgres-1Thursday, May 19 is the birthday of Malcolm X (Malcolm Shabazz). For upcoming events,
see accuracy.org/calendar.

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY, kevinagray57 at gmail.com, @kevinagray
Gray is a civil rights organizer in South Carolina. His books include The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama (2008). He has also contributed to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (2012) and Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence (2014). CounterPunch recently republished his 2002 essay “Soul Brother? Bill Clinton and Black Americans.”

In his 2009 essay “Obama and Black America,” Gray invoked a Malcolm X quote to explain the effect of Obama: “It’s like when you go to the dentist, and the man’s going to take your tooth. You’re going to fight him when he starts pulling. So he squirts some stuff in your jaw called novocaine, to make you think they’re not doing anything to you. So you sit there and ’cause you’ve got all of that novocaine in your jaw, you suffer peacefully. Blood running all down your jaw, and you don’t know what’s happening. ’Cause someone has taught you to suffer — peacefully.”

Gray said today: “This has been the role played by Obama. Many people — but especially black people — have silently suffered his policies because he has had the effect of novocaine. This is partly because, certainly, some rightwing attacks on Obama have been racial. But most of his core policies have been corporate and neoliberal. From a pro-corporate health insurance plan, to drone warfare, to not closing the wealth gap, to continuous wars, to trade deals and on and on. There’s been progress on gay rights, he deserves some credit for that. But he — like Hillary Clinton now — pretends to be progressive while implementing policies that are actually regressive.

“And because people are on novocaine, they don’t agitate, and so, you get nothing. … It’s fine that some people are out there with Black Lives Matter, but that’s a brand, not a movement. It’s a top down model, which is what we don’t want. Some ‘leaders’ from BLM are now embracing corporate policies — corporatization of schools and charter schools. That’s what happens when you don’t have historical and ideological grounding to your politics. That’s what we don’t want and that’s what Malcolm X warned against.”

Excerpts from Malcolm Shabazz’s speeches in the final years of his life:

“Back during slavery, when black people like me talked to the salves, they didn’t kill them. They’d send some house Negro behind him to undo what he said. 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. … 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 [Egyptian 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 here.

Realities of “Terrorism”

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Strategic TerrorThe New York Times lead headline today reads: “EgyptAir Jet Crashed After Erratic Turns, Officials Say” — with the subhead: “France’s president said ‘no hypothesis was being ruled out,’ including terrorism.”

BEAU GROSSCUP, bgrosscup at csuchico.edu
Grosscup is author of several books including The Newest Explosions of Terrorism and, most recently, Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment.

He argues that, regardless of the causes of the EgyptAir crash, there are a series of problems and hypocrisies that lead to a totally skewed discussion of terrorism.

He said today: “The regular assumption that Iran is the major sponsor of state terrorism shows that the U.S. and its Western allies ‘own’ (i.e. have the power to give meaning to and enforce that meaning) the word terrorism. This has been expressed and unchallenged at at least one of the Democratic Party debates (and throughout the Republican debates).” Grosscup noted this is particularly ironic, since Iran has been totally opposed to the so-called Islamic State.

“For decades they have constructed a politically correct discourse where U.S. leaders in particular determine who the terrorists and freedom fighters are and enforce that distinction in public debate and public policy. Despite GOP complaints of ‘political correctness run amuck,’ the most politically incorrect thing one can do is assert the U.S. is or has ever been a terrorist state. The current epitome of political correctness is that the major perpetrators of wholesale Middle East violence (U.S. and its principal Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia) are never to be linked to the terrorism scourge.

“The strength of this enforced consensus is clear in Hillary Clinton’s assertion (again unchallenged by Senator Sanders or any GOP candidates) that it is Iran that is de-stabilizing the Middle East. This politically enforced claim disregards the horrendous material/ecological devastation and civilian suffering the U.S.-led war machine’s ‘regime change’ policy has caused on its way to destabilizing Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, the Palestinian Occupied Territories and Syria (with threats that Iran is next). It ignores the intentional use of wholesale weapons of terror, principally strategic bombing, drones, chemicals, cluster bombs, etc. That they do so with impunity is further evidence of a U.S. monopolized terrorism discourse to serve its own political ends.

“The U.S. can ‘Shock and Awe’ (bomb major cities), ‘double tap’ (intentionally hit rescue teams with a second missile after its first attack killed and wounded civilians), or abandon its policy to not bomb combat areas if there’s a near certainty of harming civilians, yet the word terrorism is never invoked. Israel can apply it’s Dahya Doctrine that justifies the wholesale destruction of civilian infrastructure (as in Lebanon and the Occupied Territories), employing disproportionate force, use white phosphorus on Palestinian civilians or assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists inside Iran, yet it is Palestinians and Iranians who are called terrorists.

“Saudi Arabia can ‘Shock and Awe’ Yemen, killing civilians by the score, give material and financial support to U.S.-designated Sunni terrorists (Saudi freedom fighters) including ISIS and Al Qaeda, yet never be labeled a terrorist state. The U.S., which supplies and re-supplies Saudi Arabia’s and Israel’s ‘Shock and Awe’ arsenals is never designated a state sponsor of terrorism in either political or media discourse. To the millions on the ground — whom the U.S.- designated (enforced) ‘freedom fighters’ are bombing back to the stone age — the absurdity of it all is painfully clear. It is they who understand that when President George W. Bush said, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,’ know what he really meant was, ‘Either you are with our terrorists or theirs.’ It is a reality that is enforced as ‘politically incorrect’ for the rest of us.”

“Putting the Lie” to Clinton and Obama’s Deceit on Snowden

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Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 1.23.15 PMMARK HERTSGAARD, [currently in NYC] mark at markhertsgaard.com, @markhertsgaard
The Guardian just published Hertsgaard’s piece “How the Pentagon Punished NSA Whistleblowers.” His latest book is the just-released Bravehearts: Whistle Blowing in the Age of Snowden.

Hertsgaard’s new piece for the first time tells the story of John Crane, a top Pentagon official who was fighting to protect NSA whistleblowers — who himself became a whistleblower.

On the program “Democracy Now!” today, Hertsgaard said Crane’s story “puts the lie to what Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are saying and have been saying about Edward Snowden from the beginning.”

At a presidential debate last year, Clinton claimed Snowden “broke the laws of the United States. He could have been a whistleblower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that.”

Said Hertsgaard: “Well, I would just like to invite Sec. Clinton, tell that to Thomas Drake, tell that to John Crane, that you would have gotten a good reception by following the whistleblower law inside of the Pentagon.”

Hertsgaard’s piece lays out the case of several NSA whistleblowers, including “Thomas Drake, who blew the whistle on the very same NSA activities 10 years before Snowden did. Drake was a much higher-ranking NSA official than Snowden, and he obeyed U.S. whistleblower laws, raising his concerns through official channels. And he got crushed. …

“During dozens of hours of interviews, Crane told me how senior Defense Department officials repeatedly broke the law to persecute Drake. First, he alleged, they revealed Drake’s identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge.” Hertsgaard’s piece documents how Crane tried to confront this, but notes that Crane himself was forced “to resign his post in January 2013.”

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said of Snowden: “I think he’s a total traitor. And I would deal with him harshly. And if I were president, Putin would give him over.”

State Dept. Emails: How Clinton Pushed Fracking

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hillary-clinton002-article-header-1Fracking promises to be an issue in the upcoming Democratic Party presidential primaries, including California and New Mexico. See accuracy.org/calendar for upcoming events.

STEVE HORN, steve at desmogblog.com, @SteveAHorn
Horn just co-wrote the piece, “Hillary Clinton’s Energy Initiative Pressed Countries to Embrace Fracking, New Emails Reveal,” for The Intercept. He is an independent investigative journalist and research fellow with DeSmogBlog.

The piece states: “Back in April, just before the New York primary, Hillary Clinton’s campaign aired a commercial on upstate television stations touting her work as secretary of state forcing ‘China, India, some of the world’s worst polluters’ to make ‘real change.’ She promised to ‘stand firm with New Yorkers opposing fracking, giving communities the right to say “no.”‘

“The television spot, which was not announced and does not appear on the official campaign YouTube page with most of Clinton’s other ads, implied a history of opposition to fracking, here and abroad. But emails obtained by The Intercept from the Department of State reveal new details of behind-the-scenes efforts by Clinton and her close aides to export American-style hydraulic fracturing — the horizontal drilling technique best known as fracking — to countries all over the world. …

“The Global Shale Gas Initiative, Clinton’s program for promoting fracking, was announced on April 7, 2010, by David Goldwyn, the State Department’s special envoy for energy affairs, at the United States Energy Association (USEA), whose members include Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, and Shell. …

“Goldwyn emphasized that the shale gas initiative was not designed to help the private sector and instead should be seen as ‘a really very modest government-to-government.’
“But the emails show an aggressive effort to engage private energy companies and use Poland as part of a larger campaign to sell fracking throughout the region.

“An email dated December 3, 2010, shows that the State Department had Poland firmly in its bull’s-eye and that companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Marathon Oil, Canadian firm BNK Petroleum and Italian energy company Eni expressed interest in tapping into Polish shale.”

New Brazil Minister Out After Revelations of Coup Plotting

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Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 8.32.04 AMBBC is reporting: “Planning Minister Romero Jucá was caught on tape allegedly conspiring to obstruct the country’s biggest-ever corruption investigation.

“In the tapes, leaked by a newspaper, he appears to talk of stopping the probe at oil giant Petrobras by impeaching suspended President Dilma Rousseff.”

See also from the Guardian: “Brazil minister ousted after secret tape reveals plot to topple President Rousseff,” which states: “The credibility of Brazil’s interim government was rocked on Monday when a senior minister was forced to step aside amid further revelations about the Machiavellian plot to impeach president Dilma Rousseff.

“Just 10 days after taking office, the planning minister, Romero Jucá, announced that he would ‘go on leave’ following the release of a secretly taped telephone conversation in which he said Rousseff needed to be removed to quash a vast corruption investigation that implicated him and other members of the country’s political elite. … Romero Jucá, the recently appointed planning minister, was recorded saying: ‘We have to stop this shit. We have to change the government to be able to stop this bleeding.’”

MARIA LUISA MENDONÇA, marialuisam222 at gmail.com
Currently in the U.S., Mendonça is director of Brazil’s Network for Social Justice and Human Rights. She is also a professor in the international relations department at the University of Rio De Janeiro.

She was on “Democracy Now!” this morning and stated: “This new information confirms what we’ve been saying: This is a coup.”

She recently wrote the piece “Brazil’s Parliamentary Vote Is a Coup” for The Progressive. The piece states: “Mainstream media in Brazil has created the illusion that Rousseff’s removal from office was needed to solve corruption and an economic crisis. For more than a year, the main television networks called for demonstrations against the government and dedicated day after day of live coverage to them. At the same time, these media ignored large demonstrations in defense of the democratic process that re-elected Rousseff in 2014 with 51 percent of the vote. A key player is Globo TV, which is known for supporting the military dictatorship that lasted more than 20 years in Brazil. …

“More than half of the members of Brazil’s Congress face serious investigations of corruption. Former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha, who orchestrated and conducted the impeachment vote on April 17, has since been forced to step down by the Supreme Court on charges of corruption and maintaining illegal Swiss bank accounts. The interim president, Michel Temer, along with seven ministers all appointed by him, are also under investigation for corruption charges.

“Worse, only five hours after taking power, Temer eliminated the Controladoria Geral da Uniāo, a federal agency responsible for monitoring governmental contracts with private businesses, which was key to investigating corruption. That same day, he also eliminated the Ministers of Culture, of Communications, of Human Rights and Racial Equality, of Women, of Agriculture Development, and the Secretary of Control of Ports and Airports.”

Will Obama Renounce His $1 Trillion Nuclear Buildup?

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obama at nuclear summit
President Obama is scheduled to visit Hiroshima on Friday. See upcoming events at accuracy.org/calendar.

HIROSHI TAKA, taka at antiatom.org, @gensuikyo
RIEKO ASATO, rieko at antiatom.org, [13 hours ahead of U.S. ET] Hiroshi Taka and Rieko Asato are with the the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuikyo), which recently released a statement: “It is significant that President Obama will visit the A-bombed city of Hiroshima as the first U.S. President, which many Hibakusha, the A-bomb survivors, have long called for.

“Now that he is set to visit Hiroshima, he should look with his own eyes at the inhuman consequences of the use of the A-bomb by visiting the Peace Memorial Museum, listen to the voices of the Hibakusha, and meet their wishes without delay.

“Changing his past position to turn his back on the total prohibition of nuclear weapons on the ground of the ‘need for nuclear deterrence,’ he should take concrete steps for the start of negotiations on a treaty banning nuclear weapons.”

JOSEPH GERSON, JGerson at afsc.org
Director of programs for the American Friends Service Committee in New England, Gerson’s books include With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination and Empire and the Bomb: How the U.S. Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World.

He is an initiator of “Over 70 Prominent Activists and Scholars Urge Action by Obama in Hiroshima,” which urges Obama to meet “with all Hibakusha who are able to attend,” and announce “the end of U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion for the new generation of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.” Gerson was recently featured on the Institute for Public Accuracy news release “‘Orwellian’ Visit to Hiroshima as Obama Modernizes U.S. Nuclear Weapons.”

Hiroshima Trip Myths: A-bomb Ended War; Obama’s Against Nuclear Weapons

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Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 9.33.24 AMThe White House claims that President Obama’s trip to Hiroshima “highlights his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

The New York Times refers to the bombing as a “decision that many historians even today believe, on balance, saved lives.” See Gar Alperovitz’s “Obama’s Hiroshima Visit Is a Reminder that Atomic Bombs Weren’t What Won the War.”

JAMES BRADLEY, james at jamesbradley.com
Bradley is author of the bestsellers Flyboys and Flags of Our Fathers and a son of one of the men who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima.

He said today: “There are two great myths we’re seeing play out: One is that use of atomic bombs ended World War II. It’s not true — we killed far more people dropping napalm on Tokyo and other Japanese cities than we killed with the nuclear attacks. I’ve lived in Japan for years, my favorite teacher’s husband died of Hiroshima disease. Even Japanese people are not aware of how many people were killed in Tokyo since we were defacto dictators of Japan for eight years after the war and controlled the media there.

“The other great myth we’re seeing play out is that of Obama as some kind of peaceful guy who’s trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. He’s the biggest nuclear warrior there is. He’s committed us to a ruinous course of spending a trillion dollars on more nuclear weapons. Somehow, people live in this fantasy that because he gives vague news conferences and speeches and feel-good photo-ops that somehow that’s attached to actual policy. It isn’t.”

KAI BIRD,  kaibird at mac.com
Bird won the Pulitzer Prize for American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, which he co-authored. He said today: “I think the important theme here is that historians now realize that there is no simple narrative to explain or justify [President Harry] Truman’s decision to use the atomic bomb — but that everyone agrees that nuclear weapons should never be used again — and that many of us have concluded that this means they must be outlawed, banned and entirely dismantled. And finally, perhaps it is sobering to remember that Oppenheimer said just three months after Hiroshima that this weapon had been used on an ‘essentially already defeated enemy.'” See his piece “The Myths of Hiroshima.”

Sr. MEGAN RICE, [in D.C.]  mrice12 at gmail.com
Rice, an 86-year-old 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 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. in 2012. The activists — who poured blood and painted “The Fruit of Justice is Peace” — spent two years in prison before their sentences were finally overturned last year. Rice was featured on the recent IPA news release “‘Nuclear Security Summit’ — Hypocrisy, Profiteering, Spectacle,” in which she said: “The reality is that the rewards of the nuclear weapons industrial complex are so vast, unaccountable and surely at this stage, ‘a dark hole’ — how can anyone account for close to $10 trillion dollars in 70 years, let alone the next three decades for $1 trillion plus more? The ultimate in profiteering.”

Her uncle — Walter G. Hooke — was a Marine who drove around Nagasaki for five months after the bomb was dropped there. He became a pacifist atomic vet.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz out as Head of DNC?

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wasserman shultzCNN reports: “Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz is on increasingly thin ice as she risks losing key support to stay in her job.”

HOWIE KLEIN, howieklein at aol.com, @downwithtyranny
Klein is a retired music executive. His career included a dozen years as president of Reprise Records. He now blogs at downwithtyranny.blogspot.com and has closely followed the career of Wasserman Schultz. He highlights:

“1 – Her role as DCCC’s [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] Red-to-Blue chairman and why she got fired

“2 – Her role, as a state senator, in drawing Florida electoral maps that favored the GOP in return for a sweetly gerrymandered district for herself

“3 – Her role in making the Democratic Party more a servant of wealthy elites, lobbyists and special interests and her contempt for the working class and how that has reshaped the party itself

“4 – ‘New Dem’ policy positions that run counter to Democratic values, from support for Pay Day lenders and private prisons, to unfair trade policies, continued criminalization of marijuana (including medical marijuana), the Cuba embargo, etc.

“5 – That although Congress gets to redefine ‘bribery’ to exclude their own criminal activities, Debbie is a bribe-taker by any reasonable definition of the word outside the Beltway.

The group RootsAction.org has launched a petition, now with 36,000 signers: “Remove Debbie Wasserman Schultz as DNC Chair.” The petition states: “In addition to her attempt to deny the Bernie Sanders campaign access to its own voter files, Wasserman Schultz has tried in other ways to minimize competition for her candidate, Hillary Clinton. She has done this by scheduling very few primary debates, and scheduling them at times of low TV viewing.

“In Congress, she has served as a pro-militarist and corporatist tool of the high bidders. Among recent disgraceful acts was her vote to enable racial discrimination in car buying.”

Turkey’s Hidden War Against the Kurds

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29turkey1-superJumbo-v2On Wednesday, the noted Turkish author and poet Zülfü Livaneli resigned as Turkey’s only UNESCO goodwill ambassador.

Livaneli posted a statement on Twitter, noting “UNESCO’s silence on human rights violations and lack of fundamental freedoms.” The statement noted that he had refused to take part in what was billed as a World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul earlier this week.

Wrote Livaneli: “When [Kurdish region] Sur’s historical heritage is being destroyed, I can’t with a straight face urge people to protect the historical heritage of Istanbul.” [In English]

ROBERT WORTH, rfworth atgmail.com
A contributor to the New York Times Magazine, Worth just wrote a piece from his most recent visit to the Kurdish regions of Turkey — “Behind the Barricades of Turkey’s Hidden War” — for the magazine.

The piece states: “The battle against the Islamic State had made the downtrodden Kurds into heroes. … [F]ighters aligned with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K. — long branded a terrorist group by Turkey and the United States — became the central protagonists in the defense of Kobani. The P.K.K.’s Syrian affiliate worked closely with the American military, identifying ISIS targets for airstrikes. …

“Turkish tanks are now blasting the ancient cities of the Kurdish southeast, where young P.K.K.-supported rebels have built barricades and declared ‘liberated zones.’ More than a thousand people have been killed and as many as 350,000 displaced, according to figures from the International Crisis Group. The fighting, which intensified last fall, has spread to Ankara, the Turkish capital, where two suicide bombings by Kurdish militants in February and March killed 66 people. Another sharp escalation came in mid-May, when P.K.K. supporters released a video online seeming to show one of the group’s fighters bringing down a Turkish attack helicopter with a shoulder-fired missile, a weapon to which the Kurds have rarely had access. Yet much of the violence has been hidden from public view by state censorship and military ‘curfews’ — a government word that scarcely conveys the reality of tanks encircling a Kurdish town and drilling it with shellfire for weeks or months on end.”

Worth is author of A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS, which came out last month.

Bill Kristol’s Foreign Policy Record

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KristolWeekly Standard editor William Kristol claimed on Twitter over the weekend: “There will be an independent candidate — an impressive one, with a strong team and a real chance.” This set off a back and forth between him and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. Kristol has — like Trump — been widely mocked for a series of inaccuracies. Other “neo-conservatives,” like Robert Kagan, have backed Hillary Clinton.

JIM LOBE, jlobe at starpower.net, @lobelog
Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.

His most recent piece is “The Neocon-Liberal Hawk Convergence is Worse Than I Thought.”

He recently gave a talk: “Neoconservativism in a Nutshell,” in which he states: “neoconservatives believe that spineless liberals, military weakness, diplomatic appeasement, and American isolationism are ever-present threats that must be fought against at all costs. This is an integral part of their worldview, and you can often hear it in their polemics. For them, the importance of maintaining overwhelming military power — or what they call ‘peace through strength’ — as well as constant — as well as constant American engagement, or unilateral intervention, if necessary, outside its borders, cannot be overstated.

“The latter point is particularly critical because neocons believe that, in the absence of a tangible threat to our national security, Americans naturally retreat into isolationism. As a result, they have engaged in a consistent pattern of threat-inflation — or fear-mongering — over the past 40 years, from Team B’s exaggeration of alleged Soviet preparations for nuclear war in the mid-1970s to the hyping of the various threats allegedly posed by Iraq, radical Islamists, and Iran after 9/11. … For neocons, a new Hitler is always just around the corner, and we must be in a permanent state of mobilization against him.”

Lobe notes that in 1992, “alienated by George H.W. Bush’s pressure on Israel to halt settlement activity and enter into serious peace talks after the Gulf War, many neocons opted for [Bill] Clinton. …

“It’s often said that neocons are Wilsonians devoted to the spread of democracy and liberal values. I think this is way overplayed. I agree with Zbigniew Brzezinski who has sometimes observed that when neoconservatives talk about democratization, they usually mean destabilization.” See video of Lobe’s talk.

See Rightweb’s profile of Kristol. Lobe’s colleague Eli Clifton has written extensively about neoconservative funding, for example: “Emergency Committee for Israel Spends Big on Rep. Cotton.”

Clinton Caters to the Military-Industrial Complex

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ClintionThe Washington Post reports today: “Clinton launching national security case against Trump in California speech.” Hillary Clinton will be giving a major foreign policy speech, the Post reports, on Thursday in San Diego — which houses a major base that is the principal homeport of the Pacific Fleet.

For upcoming events, see accuracy.org/calendar.

DIANA JOHNSTONE, [in France]  diana.johnstone [at] wanadoo.fr
Johnstone is author of Queen of Chaos: the Misadventures of Hillary Clinton. See her writings on foreign policy at CounterPunch. Clinton is preparing to boldly run as the candidate of the military industrial complex, Johnstone said today.

According to the Washington Post, Clinton’s campaign “hopes there are many more national-security-minded Republicans and independents who would vote for her, even grudgingly, rather than see Trump win the White House.”

Johnstone said today: “She is counting on such voters to be scared of Trump. Watch out! He might get us into war through what she calls his ‘reckless risky talk.’ Such talk is bad. But reckless risky actions are worse — especially when they lead to war, as [Clinton’s] have already done. The disastrous Libyan regime change war is the centerpiece of the ‘experience’ which she boasts should qualify her to be in a position to start more wars.

“But what are those targeted California voters really scared of? The Washington Post explains that the state of California’s ‘defense industry and military bases lend a backdrop for her speech.’ Indeed! Hillary Clinton is quite simply catering to the military-industrial complex, as she has been doing throughout her career. She is catering to the arms industry, which needs to keep the American people scared of various ‘threats’ in order to continue draining the nation’s wealth into their profitable enterprises. She needs those in the military who believe in those threats invented by intellectuals in think tanks, to keep the machine going.

“This is what is meant by the ‘national-security-minded’ electorate that Hillary is targeting. It is those who are making a living off maintaining the nation in a state of dangerous paranoia. They undermine the real security of a nation, which depends on the well-being of its citizens.

“The opposite is the case. Such ‘national-security-minded’ leaders as Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton have led the United States into wars that create chaos and endanger everybody’s national security. Despite the geographically safe position of the United States, the ‘reckless risky’ actions of the bipartisan War Party in pursuing chaos in the Middle East and provoking nuclear-armed Russia constitute the real and immediate threat to United States national security.

“Coming from Hillary Clinton, the term ‘unqualified’ applied to Trump sounds like a compliment. He lacks her experience in sabotaging peaceful negotiations and encouraging military intervention and regime change. It is nevertheless true that Trump is unqualified. But at least, one can hope that if elected president he would look for foreign policy advisers outside the circle of neocons and liberal interventionists that rule the beltway today. With Trump or with Bernie Sanders, there is at least a chance that the United States might turn away from its perpetual wars. With Hillary Clinton, it’s full speed ahead.

“As reported by the Washington Post, ‘She will make the affirmative case for the exceptional role American has played and must continue to play in order to keep our country safe and our economy growing.'”

 

California Frackin’

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Review of Offshore Fracking-Penn Energy

JOSH FOX, via Steve Kent, skent[at]kentcom.com, @joshfoxfilm
Fox is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker whose film “GASLAND” helped spark the anti-fracking movement. The final film in his GASLAND trilogy, “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change,” opens in theaters in the Los Angeles area June 3-6, and airs nationally on HBO June 27.

Fox is criticizing the Obama administration’s new move to quietly approve offshore fracking in the Pacific Ocean by releasing an obscure federal study claiming that fracking off California’s coast is safe. A Sanders supporter, he’ll speak about this at a June 4 mega-rally for Bernie Sanders in the Los Angeles Coliseum. This week, Sanders called the federal decision to greenlight offshore fracking “disastrous.” Fox stresses that Sanders wants to ban fracking onshore and offshore and start scaling up renewables now.

Fox contrasts Sanders’ position with Hillary Clinton’s support of fracking as a “bridge fuel,” her close ties to the fossil fuel industry, and her work promoting fracking abroad as Secretary of State through the Global Shale Gas Initiative. Fox has been on record about that recently in the Washington Post and other outlets.

He said today: “The Obama administration has opened up the Pacific Ocean to offshore fracking. I wish that were an Onion headline, but it’s not. Climate change is already killing our oceans. Scientists are saying half the Northern Great Barrier Reef has died because of bleaching. And now the administration has OK’d fracking the Pacific off California’s coast, using a process known to cause water contamination, in order to extract more fossil fuels — fossil fuels that we know we can’t burn.

ALEXANDRA NAGY, anagy[at]fwwatch.org, @realfoodnagy
Nagy is the Southern California organizer at the Los Angeles branch of Food & Water Watch. She works within the Los Angeles and greater Southern California region to advocate for consumer health issues, including food safety, the human right to water, and a statewide ban on fracking.

She said today: “Last Friday, the Obama administration released two reports that would allow renewed offshore fracking in California after the Center for Biological Diversity filed suit for lack of environmental review. The two reports claimed that offshore fracking poses no significant environmental impact, despite new peer-reviewed science that demonstrates that fracking chemicals, and the oil and gas they release, pose significant risks to public health and the environment. The reports come one year after the Santa Barbara oil spill in which more than 100,000 gallons of crude bled into the ocean. The spill was but one shocking example of how offshore fracking increases the risk of exposure to chemicals and toxins that come with fossil fuel extraction.

“Reinstating offshore fracking would allow companies to dump to 9 billion gallons of oil wastewater mixed with fracking chemicals each year into the Santa Barbara Channel, creating unsafe conditions for marine life and people. This may also pave the way for more offshore fracking in Long Beach, Huntington Beach and Seal Beach.

“The people in California want policy that puts people’s lives and wellbeing before Big Oil profits. We know we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground and move to 100 percent renewable energy to protect our communities and the planet. Sadly, the Obama administration leaves an environmental legacy that sacrifices the health of the many for the greed of the few.

“We need leaders who champion real protections for our communities and the environment from toxic pollution, who take a stand against the fossil fuel industry and ban offshore fracking.”

Are New Payday Reforms Meaningful? Is Postal Banking a Solution?

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1024px-Mineola_post_officeThe radio program “Marketplace” reports that on “Thursday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is set to release new rules to crack down on payday lenders.” The segment cites a trade association representative, as well as an analyst from the Cato Institute arguing that people in need of short term loans “will likely be out of luck under the new rules.”

MATT STANNARD, matt@commonomicsusa.org, @commonomicsusa
Policy director at Commonomics USA and a member of the Public Banking Institute‘s board of directors, Stannard said today: “The new rules won’t help ordinary Americans. They ‘permit’ rather than mandate more flexible options for borrowers, which the lenders will be under no obligation to make widely available.

“The CFPB’s approach seems to be more concerned with getting tough on borrowers rather than lenders. Poor people don’t need more discipline. They need access to credit and inexpensive financial services. The rules will make it harder for people to access the short-term cash they need to get through tough spots at a time when wages are low, partial employment has replaced full employment, and being poor is expensive. Over 60 percent of Americans currently lack the financial security to survive a $500 emergency. And, of course, if the CFPB really did get tough on lenders, they could simply stop making short-term loans available altogether. That tells me that a regulated private sector isn’t the appropriate way to solve this problem.

“In fact, there is a better alternative: financial services made available through the United States Post Office. Postal banks could offer short-term cash advances at extremely low interest. They could offer other low-cost financial services currently unavailable to tens of millions of Americans who live in ‘banking deserts.’ And we already know that these banks work. The USPS had a successful bank system from 1911-1967. Many other countries have either public postal banking systems or public-private hybrids, all dedicated to provided low-cost financial services to working people.

“Non-profit community lending organizations are another good alternative, but those will require capitalization from local governments or philanthropic organizations.”

Stannard’s recent pieces include: “How Payday Lenders Are Beating Back Reform in Alabama,” “In Oakland, Replacing Predatory Lenders with Community Finance,” “Postal Banks Are People’s Banks: 6 Things You Need to know about Postal Banking.”

 

Clinton Foundation Opaque “Fundraising Arm of Campaign”

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ClintonIn an interview on CNN this weekend, Sen. Bernie Sanders said: “You asked me about the Clinton Foundation. Do I have a problem when a sitting secretary of state and a foundation run by her husband collects many millions of dollars from foreign governments, governments which are dictatorships? You don’t have a lot of civil liberties, democratic rights in Saudi Arabia. You don’t have a lot of respect there for divergent, opposition points of view, for gay rights, for women’s rights. Yeah — do I have a problem with that? Yeah, I do.”

KEN SILVERSTEIN, ken.silverstein[at]gmail.com, @kensilverstein1
Silverstein is a Washington, D.C.-based investigative reporter and a columnist for the New York Observer and a contributing editor to VICE. He has written several pieces on the Clinton Foundation including “Shaky Foundations: The Clintons’ so-called charitable enterprise has served as a vehicle to launder money and to enrich family friends” for Harper’s Magazine.

Silverstein said today: “The Clinton Foundation is a de facto fundraising arm for the Clinton family, its cronies and of Hillary Clinton’s political campaign. It’s a way for people — especially foreign leaders and wealthy individuals — to curry favor with unlimited money that is incredibly opaque. It is only able to operate because of the meaningless ‘memorandum of understanding’ the Foundation signed with the Obama administration.”

Silverstein writes: “It is beyond dispute that former President Clinton has been directly involved in helping foundation donors and his personal cronies get rich. Even worse, it is beyond dispute that these very same donors and the Clintons’ political allies have won the focused attention of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton when she served as Secretary of State. Democrats and Clinton apologists will write these accusations off as conspiracy mongering and right-wing propaganda, but it’s an open secret to anyone remotely familiar with accounting and regulatory requirements for charities that the financial records are deliberately misleading. …

“[A] Canadian charity called the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership — which is run by one of Bill Clinton’s close friends, Frank Giustra — has been moving significant sums of money into the Clinton Foundation’s flagship in New York. There’s no way for the public to know precisely how much total money the CGEP has taken in over the years — or how much it has forwarded on to the Clinton Foundation — because, unlike in the United States, under Canadian non-profit law charities don’t need to report donors to tax authorities. Earlier this year, after being severely criticized by the Canadian press, the CGEP released the names of 24 of its donors, but more than 1,000 are still unknown. (CGEP wrote in an email that “going forward [it] will publicly disclose all future donors.”) …

“One money-laundering expert and former intelligence officer based in the Middle East — who had access to the foundation’s confidential banking information — told me that members of the royal family in Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, have donated money to the CGEP that has then been sluiced through to the Clinton Foundation. He told me that the CGEP has received money from corrupt officials in South Africa during the former regime of Jacob Zuma and from senior officials in Equatorial Guinea, one of the most brutal and crooked dictatorships in the world. ‘Equatorial Guinea doesn’t give to the Clinton Foundation in New York because it’s too embarrassing,’ he said. ‘They give the money anonymously in Canada and that buys them political protection in the United States. The Clinton Foundation is a professionally structured money-laundering operation.'”

Silverstein’s books include the recently-released The Secret World of Oil as well as The Radioactive Boy Scout.

Latino Vote in California: Trump’s Divisiveness and Clinton’s Policies

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GABRIEL SAN ROMAN, donpalabraz[at]gmail.com,@gsanroman2

Gabriel San Roman is a journalist with OC Weekly and a former producer with KPFK radio in Los Angeles. He’s also the author of Venceremos: Victor Jara and the New Chilean Song Movement.

He was recently interviewed by The Real News in the segment “Could The Anti-Trump Latino Vote Tip the Scales in the California Primary?

He said: “In Latino politics, I think that there is definitely a reactive tone and that has to be accounted for, because when there is a demagogue like Donald Trump that gets people mobilized, that gets people motivated with his rhetoric being very divisive. His sloganeering is targeted towards our community and I saw that first hand reporting in Anaheim, Calif., from a Trump rally where a parking lot about three levels high was filled with Trump supporters chanting ‘build the wall,’ to a handful of protesters below. We know what that’s about.

San Roman notes that there have been protests by Latinos at Clinton events as well (see video in the above segment): “The protest at a Clinton event in East Los Angeles on May 5 represented an elevated political consciousness where we’re not reacting to divisive rhetoric but seeing policy for what it is, and if Hillary Clinton wants to continue in the ‘Deporter-in-Chief’s’ [President Obama’s] footsteps, that’s something that’s caused a definite form of activism from certain segments of Latino communities where we did see youth, undocumented youth, protesting in the offices of not Republicans, but Democrats, and pushing the agenda forward until there were these concessions for DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] and DAPA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] from the president.

“But definitely, I think there are segments of the Latino community that are politically active and engaged, that can see through the rhetoric or the differentiation that Clinton tries to present on issues of immigration. When we can look to Obama and what his record has been since he was elected in office — and in her [Clinton’s] own case in terms of being Secretary of State, Honduras and the coup – I think that the protest in East L.A. showed that in Los Angeles, there is a segment of the activist community and a segment of the Latino community that can articulate things like Latin American foreign policy with the coup in Honduras and also the legacy of immigrant detention and deportations.

“A lot of the fencing that is up along the Southwest is a result of initiatives brought by Democrats — whether it was Hillary Clinton’s husband, Bill Clinton and Operation Gatekeeper which seemed too coincidentally timed with NAFTA, anticipating that there would be an uptake in immigration — that definitely had an impact along the California border and parts of Arizona. And then we look at El Paso, where my family is from, and we look at a former Border Patrol chief and Democratic congressman at that time, Silvestre Reyes, whose legacy includes support for militarization and virtual fencing along the border along El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. So when we do see fencing that’s already up, it is a product of Democrats, and of course, Republicans are more than happy to support.

“The Latino establishment in the Democratic Party, the elected officials especially here in California — in 2008 they all favored Hillary Clinton before the turn and the nomination went to Barack Obama. They were firmly in her camp, and that same dynamic is playing out now. But we do have some high profile Latinos and Latinas who are championing Bernie Sanders, like actress Rosario Dawson — and I mean even that’s a little bit of a generational divide versus someone from the 60s organizing farmworkers, like Dolores Huerta, to being firmly entrenched in the Clinton political machine. Whatever the fate of Sanders, I think we will see higher turnout of voters now that Trump is firmly going to be the Republican nominee.”

NSA, Trump and Clinton vs Snowden Facts

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MARCY WHEELER, eScreen Shot 2016-06-07 at 1.17.40 PMmptywheel[at]gmail.com, @emptywheel

Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of the “war on terror” and its effects on civil liberties. She blogs at emptywheel.net.

She just co-wrote the piece “Exclusive: Snowden Tried to Tell NSA About Surveillance Concerns, Documents Reveal.”

Wheeler said today: “Emails released to VICE News reveal that multiple Edward Snowden colleagues reported discussions about privacy or the Constitution — but NSA deemed those conversations not to rise to raising concerns. The emails also reveal NSA’s previous story, that Snowden had submitted and received a response to a simple question from NSA’s General Counsel, was actually not quite that simple. In fact, a senior NSA official apologized to NSA’s Director Admiral Mike Rogers because he did not provide necessary context. But when we tried to answer questions about that context, such as why NSA was just writing up its version of an additional Snowden context after Snowden raised it, we got no response. It’s unclear precisely what concerns Snowden raised with the agency, but it’s clear there’s more there than the agency previously admitted.”

Background:

Hugh Hewitt: “Edward Snowden, hero or traitor?”
Donald Trump: “Oh, I say total traitor. I think he’s disgusting and I think he’s a traitor and I think it is amazing that Russia is keeping him and it just shows that the stand that the Russia has for Obama. I say total traitor.” (Aug. 3, 2015)

Hillary Clinton : “He broke the laws of the United States. He could have been a whistleblower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistleblower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that.” (Oct. 13, 2015) See also: “‘Putting the Lie’ to Clinton and Obama’s Deceit on Snowden

AP Calling Nomination a “Disservice to Democracy”

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JIM NAURECKAS, CNNClintonClinchesjnaureckas[at]fair.org, @JNaureckas

Naureckas is editor of FAIR.org. The media watch group just put out an action alert: “AP’s Premature Call for Clinton Does Disservice to Democracy,” which states: “The Associated Press (6/6/16) has unilaterally declared Hillary Clinton to be ‘the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president,’ based on the news agency’s own polling of unelected superdelegates.

“Superdelegates — who have a role in the Democratic nominating process based on their institutional positions rather than being chosen by voters — do not vote until the Democratic National Convention, to be held on July 25. They can declare their intention to vote for one candidate or another, just as voters can tell pollsters who they intend to vote for before Election Day, but like voters they can (and do) change their mind at any time before the actual voting. Media do not generally call elections weeks before the actual voting based on voters’ intentions.

“The timing of AP’s announcement — on the eve of primaries in California, New Jersey, New Mexico, Montana and South Dakota, and caucuses in North Dakota — raises concerns of voter suppression, intentional or not. The six states choose a total of 806 delegates on June 7, making it the second-biggest day in the Democratic primary calendar (after ‘SuperTuesday,’ March 1, when 865 delegates were at stake).”

See more of FAIR’s analysis of major media in the 2016 election.