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Obama-Saudi Meeting: War and Sectarianism

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Saudi

President Obama is scheduled to meet Saudi King Salman on Friday. See accuracy.org/calendar for upcoming events.

The Guardian reports today: “The International Committee of the Red Cross has suspended all movements in Yemen after two of its staff were killed in what the organisation says appears to have been a deliberate attack. Reuters reports: “An airstrike by warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition, which said it targeted a bomb-making factory, killed 36 civilians working at a bottling plant in the northern Yemeni province of Hajjah on Sunday, residents said.”

MATTHIEU AIKINS, [in NYC] matt.aikins at gmail.com, @mattaikins
Just back from the Mideast, Aikins won the Overseas Press Club Award for best magazine reporting earlier this year. He has written several pieces on Yemen for Rolling Stone including “Yemen’s Hidden War: A journey into one of the most remote and dangerous countries in the world” and “Watch a Dispatch from Saudi Arabia’s Alleged War Crimes: A road trip to the border where the Saudi-led coalition is bombing civilian areas.”

JIM NAURECKAS, jnaureckas at fair.org, @JNaureckas
Naureckas is editor of FAIR’s magazine Extra! and just wrote the piece “Missing From Reports of Yemeni Carnage: Washington’s Responsibility.”

ROBERT NAIMAN, naiman at justforeignpolicy.org, @naiman
Policy director at Just Foreign Policy, Naiman wrote a chapter in the new book The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to U.S. Empire. He wrote: “By 2014, the sectarian Sunni-Shia character of the civil war in Syria was bemoaned in the United States as an unfortunate development. But in December 2006, the man heading the U.S. embassy in Syria advocated in a cable to the Secretary of State and the White House that the U.S. government collaborate with Saudi Arabia and Egypt to promote sectarian conflict in Syria between Sunni and Shia as a means of destabilizing the Syrian government. … No one working for the U.S. government on foreign policy at the time could have been unaware of the implications of promoting Sunni-Shia sectarianism.”

FAREA AL-MUSLIMI, falmuslimi at carnegie-mec.org, @almuslimi
Currently in Beirut, Al-Muslimi is a Yemeni writer and a visiting scholar with Carnegie Middle East. He is co-founder of Sana’a Center For Strategic Studies. He was recently profiled in Foreign Policy: “Departing Washington. Next Stop: Reality.”

He said today: “The humanitarian situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate. The two Red Cross workers just killed shows how serious the situation is. The Red Cross was one of the few organizations continuing to operate in Yemen, even after the government shut down. This is an outgrowth of allowing the situation to continue to fester with war crimes committed by all sides. The number directly killed in the conflict — several thousand — is tragic, but it’s less than the number killed because of the conditions created by this awful war, like shutting down the ports. The U.S. needs to seriously push the Saudis to resolve the conflict as quickly as possible or things will continue to fall apart, causing further death and fanaticism.”

* Ousting Guatemalan President * Icebreaker Gap? * Denali and Native Names

Guatemala

ALLAN NAIRN, [in Guatemala City] allan.nairn at yahoo.com

CNN is reporting: “Guatemala’s Congress voted Tuesday to strip President Otto Pérez Molina of his immunity. It’s a key step that paves the way for Pérez Molina’s possible prosecution as part of a corruption investigation that has shaken his government and sparked protests calling for his resignation.”

Currently in Guatemala, Nairn he is a noted investigative reporter who has worked on Guatemala for decades. He is tweeting at @AllanNairn14.

He appeared on Democracy Now Wednesday morning and stated that by possibly prosecuting a sitting president, Guatemala was being an “example for the world.” Nairn argued that while corruption has opened the door, now that he’s been stripped of immunity, Molina could face other charges, including for killings he oversaw in the 1980s. In his recent interview  “Guatemala President Faces Arrest as Business Interests and U.S. Scramble to Contain Uprising,” Nairn said: “If the movement develops further, if it spreads more fully to the Mayan heartland of the country, then the issue could move from corruption to justice, because the reason the Guatemalan elite, like General Pérez Molina and Vice President Baldetti [who was forced to resign and is now being held on fraud charges], have been able to loot the treasury to the tune of more than $100 million, been able to steal for themselves cash which was used for Jaguar cars, plantations, villas, yachts, airplanes, helicopters, was because they took and have maintained themselves in power through mass murder. Pérez Molina was a commander in the northwest highlands during the ’80s. He personally helped implement the Ríos Montt program of mass murder — effectively, genocide — against the Mayan population. And that’s what the Guatemalan system has been built on.” Nairn has interviewed both Molina and the former dictator Montt.

GILBERT DOCTOROW, [in Brussels]  gdoctorow at yahoo.com
Politico just headlined a story “Russia has 40 powerful ships to clear lanes through crucial Arctic waters. America is down to 2.” Doctorow is a noted “Russia watcher,” a Brussels-based journalists and founder of the European office of the Committee on East-West Accord. For 25 years he worked for U.S. and European multinationals in marketing and general management with regional responsibility. Now Doctorow regularly publishes analytical articles about international affairs on the portal of the Belgian daily La Libre Belgique and has recently been a contributor of op-ed articles on U.S.-Russian relations to the English-language Moscow Times. He is a research fellow at the American University in Moscow.

See: “U.S. Leads World in Credulous Reports of ‘Lagging Behind’ Russia” by Adam Johnson for the media watch group FAIR, which states: “On the issue of the U.S.’s legitimacy of having a military presence in the Arctic, one critical point is obscured: Russia has roughly 14 times the Arctic coastline the United states does, 1,760 km vs. 24,140 km. A fact cartoonishly ignored in the New York Times‘ misleading graphic.”

JIM LOEWEN, jloewen at uvm.edu
Life Sciences writes: “North America’s tallest mountain peak just got a new name. Or, more accurately, the mountain formerly known as Mount McKinley just got its old name back. On Sunday (Aug. 30), during a trip to Alaska, President Obama said the name of the state’s 20,237-foot (6,168 meters) mountain would officially be changed to Denali, which is what many Alaskans have called the peak all along.”

Loewen is the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your High School History Textbook Got Wrong and Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong.

He just wrote the piece “The Tallest Mountain — The Silliest Naming” — or actually just revised that piece about Denali, which originally appeared in Lies Across America. He states that just as Confederate names are being reconsidered, so too should names that stripped away Native names.

Loewen writes: “Replacing Native American names with those of European Americans is a form of cultural imperialism. The practice declares that the new rulers of the landscape can afford to ignore what Native names mean and connote in favor of new names that typically have no resonance with what is named. …

“Native groups do want to change other names all across the American landscape. American Indians are winning some of these battles. Memphis renamed DeSoto Bluff ‘Chickasaw Heritage State Park.’ ‘Custer’s Last Stand’ is now ‘The Little Bighorn Battlefield.’ The U.S. Board on Geographic Names adopted a policy in 1990 to favor names derived from American Indian, Inuit, and Polynesian languages.”

China: From Demonization to Dialogue

Bloomberg reports: “Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker wants President Barack Obama to cancel Chinese president Xi Jinping’s upcoming state visit. Stealing some of his thunder, Florida Senator Marco Rubio swooped in and countered that it should be downgraded to a regular working visit.” CNN headlined a story last week: “Donald Trump: No state dinner — only Big Mac — for China’s president.”

HENRY ROSEMONT Jr, hrosemont at smcm.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Rosemont is distinguished professor emeritus at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and visiting scholar of religious studies at Brown University. His books include A Chinese Mirror: Moral Reflections on Political Economy. His latest book is the recently released Against Individualism: A Confucian Rethinking of the Foundations of Morality, Politics, Family and Religion.

Rosemont said today: “As the state visit of President Xi Jinping draws nigh, his demonization at the hands of the media, many members of Congress and most of the presidential candidates will make it difficult for the Obama administration to suggest a much more cooperative than confrontational approach to U.S.-China relations.

“But brinksmanship with China is even more irrational than with Iran, for (at least) four reasons. First, it almost surely will not be effective. China cannot be bullied, and the U.S. has a far greater capacity to influence the country positively than negatively. Second, cooperation rather than confrontation — or even competition — would be in the best economic, military, social and environmental interests of both nations. Third, increased tensions and mutual distrust between the U.S. and China instead of close cooperation will eliminate what may well be the best option for providing a measure of global stability that neither the U. N., E.U., World Bank, I.M.F. or other international institutions seem capable of maintaining any longer on their own. And the 4th reason is the unthinkable: World War III, nuclear weapons and all.

“Here are a few steps the Obama administration might easily take without compromising our security or economic conditions: de-emphasize democracy issues in favor of deepening last Fall’s climate change agreement; sponsor China’s becoming a major player in the IMF and promise to support the inclusion of the renminbi for drawing rights instead of obstructing it at the next round; acknowledge that China has the same security concerns in the South China Sea as the U.S. claims for the Caribbean; refuse to sell arms to Taiwan any longer in exchange for China’s disavowal of the use of force against the island; explore the joint creation of an international naval patrol force on the model of the ‘1000 ship navy’ first proposed by the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen.

“The rewards for these and similar initiatives are potentially great, but cannot be achieved either by appeasement or threat. Only negotiations can achieve them, and that requires trust, not demonization. As cooperation deepens, the conversations might deepen as well, to become a genuine dialogue between civilizations: individual rights and social rights; democracy and meritocracy; security and liberty; the right and the good; divinity and a human-centered religiousness; and more. Both sides might well learn much from the other.”

The Huffington Post recently published excerpts of Rosemont’s  most recent book. See: “We All Think We’re Individuals. Here’s Why That’s Not True, And Why The Lie Is Told,” which states: “It is possible to challenge the libertarian on moral and political grounds, but not, I believe, if one accepts a foundational individualism as grounding ethics.”

See video of his talk at the China Studies center at Saint Vincent College.

In 2008, he co-wrote the piece “Is China a Threat?

Obama in Alaska: PR to “Greenwash his Climate Legacy”?

President Obama is scheduled to talk about climate in Alaska on Monday. See accuracy.org/calendar for upcoming events.

The New York Times writes: “Before Obama’s Alaska Trip, Climate Group Charges Hypocrisy” while Mark Hertsgaard (author of Hot) just wrote the piece: “Three Weeks After Obama Announced His Clean-Power Plan, He Greenlit New Oil Drilling in the Arctic” for the Nation.

STEVE HORN, steve at desmogblog.com, @Desmogblog
Horn is research fellow for Desmogblog, which seeks to “clear the PR pollution that clouds climate science.” He said today: “President Obama will go to the Arctic in Alaska and feign being a deep green ecologist. Meanwhile, his policies across the board — free trade agreements agreed to, domestic fracking and its promotion worldwide, offshore drilling and offshore fracking, coal mining and exports, approval of several major tar sands pipelines, among other things — show that the real purpose of the trip is to greenwash his ‘climate legacy.’ Any scientist, as opposed to PR practitioner, will tell you that legacy will be written with the impacts of climate change his administration helped propel forward.”

ZACH ROBERTS, zdroberts at gmail.com
Roberts is a writer for the Alaska-based TheMudflats.net. He said today: “Alaskans are environmentalists. Weird to think that citizens of a state that gave us Sarah Palin, and funds itself with oil money could possibly be considered it — but they are. They fought like hell against the trillion dollar mineral find in Bristol Bay called Pebble Mine — polling 62% against it. One of the spots that President Obama will be going to would be directly effected by Pebble — I hope that’s one of the reasons he’s stopping there — to announce an end to discussion on a project that would with certainty end in disaster.

“And right now they’re going up against some of the worlds largest coal companies with the Chuitna Mine. Alaskans have decided that salmon — a renewable resource is more important to them and their economy. They’ve learned from past corporate debacles like the Valdez Spill and looking at other parts of the country like West Virginia that have lost their water supplies and mountain ranges to dirty fuel sources.

“In fact, when President Obama flies into Anchorage he might be able to see a 17.6 megawatt wind turbine project on Fire Island that powers thousands of homes in the area. Many villages have long had no choice but to look to renewables as they are cut off for weeks at a time for outside fuel sources. Kodiak Island in fact has gone 100% renewable.

“They’re doing this not just because they want clean water and air but because it’s the only way to survive in a place that can be difficult for even the toughest Americans to live in.”

RICHARD STEINER, richard.g.steiner at gmail.com
A marine biologist and former University of Alaska fisheries extension agent, Steiner said today: “On climate change, President Obama has been good, but not good enough. The U.S. commitment to reduce carbon emissions by about 30 percent in the next 15 years is about half of what is urgently needed. It is like we are on a sinking boat, taking on two gallons of water a minute, and we are bailing one gallon a minute. We are still sinking. We urgently need a U.S. and global commitment at the Paris climate summit of at least 60 percent carbon reduction by 2030. Otherwise, we’re sunk.

“Obama has claimed a lot of credit for extending three pre-existing OCS [Outer Continental Shelf] leasing withdrawals in Alaska — Bristol Bay, an area in the Chukchi Sea, and a thin strip in the Beaufort Sea. Even the national environmental community has raved about these.

“However, none of these withdrawals are permanent, and all were pre-existing, except one small area in the Chukchi. The new area in the Chukchi he withdrew — Hanna Shoal — is the primary walrus feeding habitat, and it’s good to not have offshore drilling there. But not far from there, he allowed Shell to drill its wells, which it is doing as we speak.

“The president’s executive withdrawal of these OCS areas can be undone by a future president, just as Pres. Bush eliminated the former Clinton withdrawal of Bristol Bay. So, Obama has accomplished nothing as yet for permanent marine protections in Alaska. We are pushing him to use his executive authority to designate marine national monuments in the Aleutians, Bering Strait, and the Arctic Ocean, but we’ll see if he is so bold.”

A petition Steiner initiated has nearly 100,000 signers: “Tell President Obama to designate Marine National Monuments in Alaska.”

Cooking the Books: The Danger of Bad Intel on “Islamic State”

The New York Times reports: “Inquiry Weighs Whether ISIS Analysis was Distorted.”

PETER VAN BUREN, petermarkvanburen at yahoo.com
Van Buren is a 24-year veteran of the State Department and author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. He said today: “Are American analysts skewing intelligence reporting and assessments to provide a rosier outlook of U.S. progress against Islamic State?

“At least one civilian Defense Intelligence Agency analyst says so, and has convinced the Pentagon’s Inspector General to look into it. The analyst says he had evidence officials at United States Central Command, overseeing the American campaign against Islamic State, were improperly rewriting conclusions of intelligence assessments prepared for policy makers, including President Obama.

“While legitimate differences of opinion are common in intel reporting, to be of value those differences must be presented to policy makers, and played off one another in an intellectually vigorous check-and-balance fashion. There is a wide gap between that, and what it appears the Inspector General is now looking at.

“Cooking the intel to match policy makers’ expectations has a sordid history in the annals of American warfare. Analysis during the Vietnam War pushed forward a steady but false narrative of victory. In the run-up to Iraq War 2.0, State Department analysis claiming Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction was buried in favor of obvious falsehoods.

“Jokes about the oxymoron of ‘military intelligence’ aside, bad intel leads to bad decisions. Bad intel created purposefully suggests a war that is being lost, with the people in charge loathe to admit it.”

25,000 Petition Signers Urge Bernie Sanders: Challenge the “Madness of Militarism”

A petition with more than 25,000 signers from around the United States was transmitted to the campaign headquarters of Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday (Aug. 27), urging him to directly tackle foreign policy issues in his run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Organized by the online group RootsAction.org, the petition says:

“Senator Sanders, we are enthusiastic about your presidential campaign’s strong challenge to corporate power and oligarchy. We urge you to speak out about how they are intertwined with militarism and ongoing war. Martin Luther King Jr. denounced what he called ‘the madness of militarism,’ and you should do the same. As you said in your speech to the SCLC, ‘Now is not the time for thinking small.’ Unwillingness to challenge the madness of militarism is thinking small.”

The petition is headlined “Bernie Sanders, Speak Up: Militarism and Corporate Power Are Fueling Each Other.” In addition to signing the petition, about 5,000 of the 25,000 signers wrote individual comments that are posted online as part of the petition.

In a letter to Sanders that accompanied the petition, RootsAction.org offered to directly relay any response from him to all of the petition’s signers.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org. He is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He wrote the recent piece “Bernie Sanders Should Stop Ducking Foreign Policy.

“This petition to Bernie comes under the heading of critical support for his presidential campaign,” Solomon said today. “Bernie has been terrific in this campaign as he eloquently denounces corporate power, economic inequality and ‘oligarchy.’ But he’s not saying much about crucial issues of war, militarism and foreign policy — issues that have a great deal to do with a wide range of concerns that have been central to his grassroots campaign.

Solomon added: “As RootsAction noted in launching this petition campaign, ongoing war and huge military spending continue to be deeply enmeshed with basic economic ills from upside-down priorities. The National Priorities Project has documented that 54 percent of the U.S. government’s discretionary spending now goes to military purposes. We sidestep these realities at our peril.”

JEFF COHEN, jcohen at ithaca.edu
Co-founder of RootsAction.org and director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, Cohen said today: “Like most progressives, I’m thrilled that Bernie’s campaign has aroused so much enthusiasm among voters, especially young voters — despite mainstream media’s embarrassing obsession with candidate Trump. In strongly endorsing Bernie for president, human rights champion Cornel West grouped him with ‘prophetic politicians’ who deserve ‘our critical support’ despite ‘their faults and blind spots.’ That comment probably speaks for thousands of Bernie supporters and sympathizers who signed the RootsAction petition: It is a serious ‘blind spot’ to denounce corporate power and oligarchy without emphasizing militarism and perpetual war.”

Cohen added: “Bernie is connecting with voters by arguing that a country as wealthy as ours should provide free college and healthcare for all and infrastructure jobs. But some supporters are questioning how that’s fundable unless billions of war dollars are redirected homeward.”

SAM HUSSEINI, sam at accuracy.org, @samhusseini
Communications director for the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini just wrote the piece “Lousy Food, Small Servings — Sanders Foreign Policy: Backing Saudi Intervention.” He said today: “While Sanders’ pronouncements on foreign policy have been scant, a perhaps larger problem is that some of what we’ve heard has actually been regressive. The foreign policy issue that he seems most passionate about is particularly dangerous. Sanders has pushed for the repressive Saudi regime to engage in more intervention in the Mideast.

“Saudi military intervention in Yemen has helped bring what the UN calls a ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ to that country and more Saudi intervention in Syria, Iraq, Libya or elsewhere will almost certainly lead to more human suffering.

“Sanders has repeatedly argued for more Saudi intervention. He said on CNN: ‘Saudi Arabia is the third-largest military budget in the world, they’re going to have to get their hands dirty in this fight. We should be supporting, but at the end of the day this is [a] fight over what Islam is about, the soul of Islam, we should support those countries taking on ISIS.’

“Progressives in the U.S. are supposed to look toward the Saudi monarchy to save the soul of Islam? The Saudis have pushed the teachings of the Wahhabi sect and have thus been deforming Islam for decades. This actually helped give rise to ISIS and Al Qaeda. It’s a little like Bernie Sanders saying that the Koch Brothers need to get more involved in U.S. politics — they need to ‘get their hands dirty’.”

Stock Turbulence an Argument for Financial Transaction Tax

Heal America, Tax Wall Street

Nurses unions and other groups have protested for a Financial Transaction Tax.

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: “This stock turbulence is a great example of why we need a Financial Transaction Tax. As brilliantly portrayed in this video by the British actor Bill Nighy, a tiny tax on financial translations carried out by institutions would raise hundreds of billions of dollars.”

See Henry’s just-released remarks from The Real News: “The Sky Is Not Falling? China’s Stock Market Impact.” Says Henry: “This was an example, I think, of the way stock markets have been structured. About 84 percent of the trades that went on on Monday in the first couple hours, when the Dow plunged … were run by so-called automatic trading programs. No humans involved, they’re just looking at computers, basically looking at momentum and stop order limits that they’ve put in place. And this was just a completely arbitrary kind of decline, way out of proportion to any real economic factors. …

“Take a look at the Shanghai stock market that set all this off, and it’s like a casino. Fifteen, twenty million people. Many small investors trading on margin, which means they borrow to buy the stocks. There’s no active insider trading regulation. Shanghai’s entire daily trading volume is less than the value of the decline it set off  in Apple’s stock– let alone all other US securities. …

“We have a real breakdown in terms of macroeconomic consensus in terms of the kind of stimulus programs that countries should be engaged in. I think that’s a first priority here, to maintain growth. We can’t just do it on the basis of the Federal Reserve’s low interest rates forever. Fed’s been talking about raising interest rates like 0.375 percent in September. That won’t have any real impact on our economy to speak of. It’s certainly not responsible for this meltdown on Monday. …

“But the other thing is when we look at countries like China, they have tremendous problems of domestic kleptocracy and corruption, and basically the kind of legal systems that we take for granted are just really a work in progress in China. So if you’re an investor there, you’re worried about taking your money out of the country. There’s been massive capital flight from China. A lot of the arguments about what’s going on in China today have been talking about their debt. But the debt problem in China is really a domestic debt problem, and from a global balance sheet perspective, they have a lot of capital flight offshore.”

Henry is senior adviser with the Tax Justice Network, which last year in their report “The Price of Offshore Revisited,” estimated that total wealth in tax havens was between $21 trillion and $32 trillion.

New Orleans: Recovery or Removal?

SANDY ROSENTHAL, hoppinhill at gmail.com@leveesorg
Rosenthal is president of Levees.org. AP reports: “The catastrophic flooding of New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward now has a commemorative marker at the site where a floodwall protecting the neighborhood collapsed, unleashing a wall of water 10 years ago during Hurricane Katrina. The plaque was erected Monday and unveiled during an emotional ceremony. … On Aug. 29, 2005, the floodwall along the Industrial Canal catastrophically failed. The resulting flood wiped out the African-American neighborhood and killed scores of people. …

“Getting the plaque erected was the work of Levees.org, a citizens group that formed after Katrina to push for reforms in levee building and oversight. The group led efforts to erect two similar historical markers at the breach sites along the 17th Street Canal and London Avenue Canal. The three breaches where plaques are now standing caused the majority of the flooding during Katrina. Sandy Rosenthal, president of Levees.org, said her group wants to make sure Katrina is properly remembered. The group has long pushed to, as members have put it, ‘bust the myths of the flooding during Katrina.'”

MONIQUE HARDEN, mharden at ehumanrights.org
Harden is the co-director and attorney of the New Orleans based Advocates for Environmental Human Rights. She said today: “In the name of recovery, billions of tax dollars have been spent on abusing the human rights of African American residents who’ve been displaced after Hurricane Katrina. We hear and read Mayor Landrieu repeating the words ‘resilience’ and ‘recovery,’ but his actions have built a rec center for kids on a former waste dump, obstructed necessary reforms of a corrupt police department and prison, selectively targeted the homes sought by developers for huge code enforcement penalties, and ridiculed African American residents of flood-damaged neighborhoods in need of help. He gives lip service to climate change, but refuses to hold oil and gas industries accountable.”

JORDAN FLAHERTY, jordan at grittv.org
Flaherty is a New Orleans-based journalist and author of Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six. His most recent coverage of post-Katrina New Orleans can be seen in an article about social justice organizing in The Nation magazine, and in a new documentary “New Orleans: Recovery or Removal?” airing around the U.S. on The Laura Flanders Show, on LinkTV, and Free Speech TV, and internationally on the teleSUR News Network.

He said today: “Around 100,000 black residents are still displaced; housing prices continue to rise rapidly, pushing out those trying to get by on jobs in the city’s low-paying tourism economy. But despite the violence represented by these changes, or perhaps because of them, New Orleans has also seen a rise in coordinated resistance. More people have been organizing, taking to the streets, and risking arrest than at any other time in recent history.”

IMANI JACQUELINE BROWN, imanijacqueline at gmail.com
Based in New Orleans, Brown is a founding member of Blights Out (“collaborative and creative initiative to unite residents of New Orleans in the design of a new model for development that shares the tools for locals to build the destinies of their own neighborhoods”) and an organizer with Gulf South Rising. She said today: “Our future cannot be one of ‘resilience;’ the punches of climate change, the growing police state, and escalating wealth divide will come faster and harder and the effort of continually rebuilding and rebounding is wasted energy that could be better spent on resisting, refusing, and designing a way out of this failed system.”

What Do Iranian Jews Say About the Nuclear Accord?

Outside Youssef Abad synagogue in Tehran. (BEHROUZ MEHRI, AFP/Getty Images)

REESE ERLICH, ReeseErlich2 at hotmail.com
Freelance foreign correspondent Erlich is recently back from Iran on assignment for GlobalPost. He has reported from Iran six times and has covered the Middle East since 1986. His piece “Iran’s Jewish community gets behind nuclear deal with U.S.” was recently published by GlobalPost and USA Today:

“Israeli leaders and conservative politicians in the U.S. have denounced the accords as too weak, saying they’ll allow Iran to eventually develop atomic weapons.

“Most Iranian Jews strongly disagree with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s denunciations of the accord. …

“Iranians argue that they never built a nuclear bomb and have no intention of doing so. They broadly support the accord in hopes that the U.S. will lift economic sanctions and the economy will improve.”

Two prominent right-wing websites attacked Erlich’s reporting, and today he answered in a GlobalPost commentary: “Why are some right-wing bloggers so upset with GlobalPost coverage of Iranian Jews?

GlobalPost Special Correspondent Reese Erlich received a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for his reporting from Iran. His latest book is Inside Syria: The Back Story of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect.

His other recent pieces on Iran include, for Vice: “Here’s What Iranians Hope and Fear About the Future of Western Sanctions.;” and for GlobalPost and USA Today, “In Iran, Death to America doesn’t mean what you think.

Greek Elections: Why Now?

BBC reports: “Greece crisis: PM Tsipras ‘to hold September election’.”

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS, cpanayotakis at gmail.com
Panayotakis is professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York and author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy. He said today: “Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras’ decision to call early elections in September is an attempt to complete the transformation of his party, Syriza, from the main anti-austerity political force in Greece to the dominant political force in the austerity camp. Going against the mandate that he received, in the July 5th referendum, to resist the Europeans’ demands for further austerity, Tsipras was forced to make an about turn and accept the continuation of the kind of austerity policies that Greeks elected him to reverse. Responding to the refusal of more than 30 deputies of his party to vote for this new wave of austerity, Tsipras is calculating that early elections will allow him to reaffirm his position as prime minister before the full effect of these measures begins in coming months to be fully felt by ordinary Greeks.”

DIMITRI LASCARIS, dimitri.lascaris at siskinds.com, @dimitrilascaris
Lascaris has done extensive reporting on Greece for The Real News, most recently “Greek Bailout Approved in Parliament Causing a Rebellion in Syriza.” See “Greece: The Battle Against Austerity” for more background and video from Greece.

He said today: “European media report that Greek PM Alexis Tsipras will call a snap election for September 20. The media also speculate that Tsipras has elected to hold that election rapidly so that the vote will be held before voters have experienced the full effects of the latest and harshest round of austerity. That may well be true, but there is another potential advantage to Tsipras in moving quickly. The third ‘bailout’ of Greece has a gaping hole in it, and that hole is debt relief. Thus far, the noises emanating from European capitals point decidedly to cosmetic debt relief for Greece. A review of Greece’s compliance with the bailout is scheduled for October, and the Eurogroup has declared that debt relief cannot be negotiated unless and until that review determines that Greece is in compliance. By scheduling an election in September, Tsipras would deprive Greek voters, whether by design or otherwise, of critical information that they require to determine whether the bailout has any chance of success. Without massive debt relief for Greece, a bailout that requires the imposition of a raft of recessionary measures is doomed to fail, a point that former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has made repeatedly.”

Lascaris is a partner with the Canadian law firm of Siskinds, where he heads the firm’s securities class actions practice.

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