News Releases

Will Schools be Used to Build Democracy and Civil Rights — or Profit?

betsydevosThe hearing for Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary nominee, is Jan. 17next Tuesday. See accuracy.org/calendar for upcoming events.

In a Declaration of Principles released today, 175 deans state: “Our children suffer when we deny that educational inequities exist and when we refuse to invest sufficient time, resources, and effort toward holistic and systemic solutions. The U.S. educational system is plagued with oversimplified policies and reform initiatives that were developed and imposed without support of a compelling body of rigorous research, or even with a track record of failure.” They stress the importance of:

* “Upholding the role of public schools as a central institution in the strengthening of our democracy;
* “Protecting the human and civil rights of all children and youth, especially those from historically marginalized communities ..”.

Among the signers:

KATHY SCHULTZ, katherine.schultz@colorado.edu
Schultz is dean of the School of Education at the University of Colorado.

KEVIN KUMASHIRO kkumashiro[at]usfca.edu, @kevinkumashiro
Kumashiro is dean of the University of San Francisco School of Education and author of Bad Teacher! How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture. See a recent interview with Kumashiro: “What DeVos Might Do to Public Schools.”

See also from the Detroit Free Press: “Betsy DeVos: Fighter for kids or destroyer of public schools?

Cory Booker Joins Republican Sen. Majority to Kill Cheaper Meds

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate and Property Casualty Insurers Association of American Vice President Donald Griffin testify before the Senate Housing, Transportation and Community Development Subcommittee at the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill July 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. The committee members questioned the witnesses about possible improvements to the flood insurance claims process in communities affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The Intercept reports: “Cory Booker Joins Senate Republicans to Kill Measure to Import Cheaper Medicine From Canada,” which states: “Bernie Sanders introduced a very simple symbolic amendment Wednesday night, urging the federal government to allow Americans to purchase pharmaceutical drugs from Canada, where they are considerably cheaper. Such unrestricted drug importation is currently prohibited by law.

“The policy has widespread support among Americans: one Kaiser poll taken in 2015 found that 72 percent of Americans are in favor of allowing for importation. President-elect Donald Trump also campaigned on a promise to allow for importation.

“The Senate voted down the amendment 52-46, with two senators not voting. Unusually, the vote was not purely along party lines: 13 Republicans joined Sanders and a majority of Democrats in supporting the amendment, while 13 Democrats and a majority of Republicans opposed it.

“One of those Democrats was New Jersey’s Cory Booker, who is considered a rising star in the party and a possible 2020 presidential contender.

“In a statement to the media after the vote, Booker’s office said he supports the importation of prescription drugs but that ‘any plan to allow the importation of prescription medications should also include consumer protections that ensure foreign drugs meet American safety standards. I opposed an amendment put forward last night that didn’t meet this test.'”This argument is the same one offered by the pharmaceutical industry. …

“Booker and some of his Democratic colleagues who opposed the Sanders amendment are longtime friends of the drug industry. As MapLight data shows, Booker has received more pharmaceutical manufacturing cash over the past six years than any other Democratic senator: $267,338. In addition, significant numbers of pharmaceutical and biotech firms reside in Booker’s home state of New Jersey. Other Democrats receiving six-figure donations from the industry, like [Bob] Casey, Patty Murray, and Michael Bennet, opposed the amendment.”

HILLARY McQUIE, JESSICA BASSETT, jessica[at]healthgap.org, @HealthGAP
    McQuie, director of U.S. Policy and Grassroots Mobilization at Health GAP. Bassett is director of communications for the group.

    McQuie said today: “As long as politicians continue to put pharma profits ahead of people’s lives, there will be persistent and deadly gaps in access to affordable lifesaving medicines — in the U.S. and abroad. This vote is a stark display of what happens when elected officials answer to pharmaceutical corporations instead of their constituents. Activists will hold them accountable.”

* Obama * Sessions * Tillerson

GLEN FORD, glen.ford [at] blackagendareport.com, @glenfordbar
Executive editor of Black Agenda Report, Ford just wrote the piece “Obama’s Last Presidential Lies,” which critiques Obama’s Farewell Address. Ford writes: “Obama got downright cocky in defense of Obamacare, the rightwing Republican health program that Obama adopted as his own. The president said: ‘If anybody can put together a plan that is demonstrably better, I will support it.’ But don’t bet any money on the letter and spirit of Obama’s promises on health care. Back in 2003, when Bruce Dixon and I asked him if he favored a single payer health care system, Obama answered that he favored ‘universal health care for all Americans’ and ‘intended to introduce or sponsor legislation toward that end.’ He kept saying that for the next five years, until he was elected president, and then proceeded to isolate and crush supporters of single payer, to the delight of the insurance and drug industries, which no longer had to fear single payer. Obama is sneaky, that way.”

DENNIS BERNSTEIN, dennisjbernstein [at] gmail.com, @flashpointsnews
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 wrote the piece “Sessions’s Old-Time Contempt for Civil Rights” last November about Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, who begins his second day of testimony Wednesday: Writes Bernstein: “In 1996, I traveled through Alabama and Mississippi with fellow journalist Ron Nixon as we investigated a wave of arson against black churches. …

“However, Alabama’s Attorney General at the time was Sessions, who was in a close race for the U.S. Senate. Sessions’s approach to the burning of some 40 black churches over 18 months from late 1994 into 1996 was to turn the investigation into a joint probe linking the church burnings to an investigation of black voter fraud through alleged misuse of absentee ballots. The connection supposedly was that black voting-rights activists tried to cover up the fraud by burning down their own churches.”

ANTONIA JUHASZ, antoniajuhasz [at] gmail.com, @AntoniaJuhasz
Juhasz is an energy analyst, author and investigative reporter. She recently wrote a profile of Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State for In These Times magazine, who is scheduled to begin his nomination hearing Wednesday. Writes Juhasz: “On January 1, Rex Tillerson retired from oil giant Exxon Mobil after 41 years, the last 10 as CEO and chairman of the board. When he appears in January before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee to be considered for U.S. Secretary of State, Exxon Mobil will be preparing to appear before a jury at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, just blocks away. There, the company will face allegations that security forces under its employ engaged in serious human rights abuses, including murder, torture, sexual violence, kidnapping, battery, assault, burning, arbitrary arrest, detention and false imprisonment. The complaint specifically names Rex Tillerson.”

Jeff Sessions’ Record

la-pathornton-1482879557-snap-photoSUE UDRY, sue.udry [at] defendingdissent.org, @defenddissent

Udry is executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation.

Udry said today: “Jeff Sessions has spent his career undermining the rights of people of color, women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, religious minorities, and people with disabilities. And he’s no friend of civil liberties either. Senator Sessions has been a leading proponent of expanding mass surveillance of innocent Americans, supports torture, opposes sensible criminal justice reform, and has proven himself no friend of the most basic building block of democracy: protecting the right to vote.”

Udry referenced an online compendium of material on Sessions.

Also see an open letter to the U.S. Senate from civil and human rights organizations on Sessions.

Democrats Playing with Fire on Russia

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NORMAN SOLOMON, [in D.C.] solomonprogressive [at] gmail.com
Solomon is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org, which has 750,000 members.[RootsAction.org is among the organizers of a news conference Tuesday morning at 10 a.m.Coalition to Present Demands for Release of Torture Report” — which includes CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou. The group states: “Advocates will present the case for making the Senate Torture Report public now, rather than in 2029 or later, including the need for accurate understanding of past torture given the pro-torture comments of Donald Trump.” They will present a petition addressed to President Barack Obama and Senator Dianne Feinstein. Contact one of the speakers, David Swanson, director of World Beyond War and campaign coordinator of RootsAction who recently wrote “Allegations Against Russia Less Credible Every Day” at david[at]davidswanson.org]

Solomon just wrote the piece “Democrats are Playing with Fire on Russia” for The Hill, which states: “Two months after the defeat of Hillary Clinton, the most cohesive message from congressional Democrats is: blame Russia. The party leaders have doubled down on an approach that got nowhere during the presidential campaign — trying to tie the Kremlin around Donald Trump’s neck.
“Still more interested in playing to the press gallery than speaking directly to the economic distress of voters in the Rust Belt and elsewhere who handed the presidency to Trump, top Democrats would much rather scapegoat Vladimir Putin than scrutinize how they’ve lost touch with working-class voters. …”The reality is grim, and potentially catastrophic beyond comprehension. By pushing to further polarize with the Kremlin, congressional Democrats are increasing the chances of a military confrontation with Russia. By teaming up with the likes of Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham to exert bipartisan pressure for escalation, Democrats could help stampede the Trump administration in reckless directions.

“This approach is already underway. It is worse than irresponsible. It is madness that could lead to a nuclear holocaust.”

Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.
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Ravitch: Trump Ed. Nominee DeVos not Qualified

betsydevosDIANE RAVITCH, gardendr [at] gmail.com, @DianeRavitch
Ravitch is author of many books, including Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools and 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: “Betsy DeVos should not be approved by the Senate committee or confirmed by the Senate as U.S. Secretary of Education. She has no experience or qualifications for the job. She is a lobbyist for alternatives to public schools. Eighty-five percent of the students in the U.S. attend  public schools. Her only plan is to weaken and destroy them by diverting public money to charter schools and vouchers for religious schools.

“DeVos is a billionaire who has never worked in a public school, never attended a public school, never sent her own children to public school. She has lived in a billionaire bubble of privilege. She has no understanding of the needs of our nation’s public schools, and she is in fact actively hostile to them. This is unacceptable. She is unacceptable.

“Our public schools are one of the cornerstones of our democracy. We have never had a Secretary of Education who was opposed to public schools. We should never have one.”

CIA and NSA Veterans on Russia, Trump and Obama

ABC reports: “Showdown at Trump Tower as President-Elect Set to Receive Intel Briefing.” Politico reports: “Pompeo’s confirmation hearing for CIA director set for Jan. 11.”

WILLIAM BINNEY, williambinney0802 [at] comcast.net
RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern [at] gmail.com, @raymcgovern
McClatchy reports: “Not all cybersecurity experts believe U.S. allegations of Russian hacking.”

Binney worked for NSA for 36 years, retiring in 2001 as the technical director of world military and geopolitical analysis and reporting; he created many of the collection systems still used by NSA. McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years; he briefed the president’s daily brief one-on-one to President Reagan’s most senior national security officials from 1981-85.

They just co-wrote the piece “Emails were leaked, not hacked,” published by the Baltimore Sun.

MELVIN GOODMAN, goody789 [at] verizon.net
Goodman is author of the forthcoming Whistleblower at the CIA. He is director of the National Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He was an analyst at the CIA for 24 years, including as chief and senior analyst at the Office of Soviet Affairs for a decade. His books include Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism.

Goodman just wrote the piece “The Dark Side of Obama’s Legacy” for CounterPunch, which states: “The militarization of intelligence presumably will worsen in the Trump administration, which will be dominated by retired general officers and West Point graduates at almost all of the key departments and agencies in the foreign policy community. …

“President Obama campaigned on the basis of transparency and openness, but ignored accountability for the CIA’s transgressions and fundamentally weakened the role of oversight throughout the national security community.”

He has been featured on Institute for Public Accuracy news releases, including “Pompeo at CIA: Iran Belligerence, Pro-Torture, Pro-Surveillance.”

Former CIA head James Woolsey, who Trump was reportedly excluding from decision making, stated yesterday that he no longer wants to be designated as a senior advisor to Trump. See RightWeb profile of Woolsey.

GOP Congress, Trump “Already Pushing Koch” “Deregulatory Revolution”

kochtopus-ifg-modifiedSTEVE HORN, steve [at] desmogblog.com, @SteveAHorn
Horn is an investigative journalist and writer for DeSmogBlog.com. He just wrote the piece “GOP Congress, Trump Already Pushing Koch Industries’ Bill to Hobble Regulatory Agencies.”

He said today: “The REINS [Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny] Act passage in the House as one of the first legislative priorities for the 115th Congress, and Trump’s support of the bill, makes it clear the new dawn of a deregulatory revolution is upon us and it will be fueled by the Koch Brothers, the major backer of this legislation for over half a decade now. And that means to hell with environmental and climate protections, worker safety protections, consumer protections, etc., as embodied in REINS.

“Speaker Paul Ryan called the Republican-controlled federal government a ‘dream’ in his opening remarks to the House, but for anyone not heading up a corporation or working on Wall Street, that dream will be a nightmare.”

Horn writes: “According to lobbying disclosure forms, Koch Industries began lobbying on the REINS Act in the third quarter of 2010. Joining Koch were the likes of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Heritage Foundation’s Heritage Action for America. …

“Also in 2012, ALEC — which is funded by and which provides a corporate bill mill forum for all of these players — passed a model resolution in support of REINS.

“For more recent versions of the bill, the oil and gas industry at large have now come on board through the American Petroleum Institute and the Western Energy Alliance.”

Healthcare: Obama Vs. Pence?

c08c_qvweaa70y9Obama, Pence in ObamaCare showdown” reads a headline in The Hill this morning.

DON McCANNE, M.D., don[at]mccanne.org, @pnhp
Senior health policy fellow with the group Physicians for a National Health Program, McCanne writes a daily health policy update at “Quote of the Day.”

He said today: “It is ironic that the two meetings this morning on Obamacare — President Obama meeting with the Congressional Democrats and Vice President-elect Pence meeting with the Republicans — are being touted as strategy efforts on the two opposite sides of the health care reform debate. But are they really opposites?

“Both would keep in place our current, highly dysfunctional, fragmented financing system that only perpetuates the waste of the profound administrative excesses while creating more barriers to care, both through the expansion of financial barriers to care through the use of excessive cost sharing, especially high deductibles, and through the limitation in choice through the greater use of ever narrower provider networks.

“The current health financing system is in shambles and they are debating mere tweaks that will affect how many will not have affordable access to health care when the debate should be over whether we continue to tolerate our overpriced system that leaves so many out, when we can adopt a proven health care financing system that makes health care truly accessible and affordable for everyone. That, of course, would be a single payer national health program — an improved Medicare that covers everyone.

“Do we simply continue to debate tweaks to a system in shambles, or are we finally going to fix it with an equitable system that actually covers everyone while containing costs through the beneficial tools of public financing and public administration?”

The Escalating War on Independent Information

A heart-rending propaganda image designed to justify a major U.S. military operation inside Syria against the Syrian military.

A heart-rending propaganda image designed to justify a major U.S. military operation inside Syria against the Syrian military.

RICK STERLING, rsterling1[at]gmail.com
Sterling is an independent investigative journalist and just wrote the piece “The War Against Alternative Information” for ConsortiumNews.com — which states: “The U.S. establishment is not content simply to have domination over the media narratives on critical foreign policy issues, such as Syria, Ukraine and Russia. It wants total domination. Thus we now have the ‘Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act’ that President Obama signed into law on Dec. 23 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017, setting aside $160 million to combat any ‘propaganda’ that challenges Official Washington’s version of reality.

“The new law mandates the U.S. Secretary of State to collaborate with the Secretary of Defense, Director of National Intelligence and other federal agencies to create a Global Engagement Center ‘to lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.’ The law directs the Center to be formed in 180 days and to share expertise among agencies and to ‘coordinate with allied nations.’ …

“The new law is remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least because it merges a new McCarthyism about purported dissemination of Russian ‘propaganda’ on the Internet with a new Orwellianism by creating a kind of Ministry of Truth — or Global Engagement Center — to protect the American people from ‘foreign propaganda and disinformation.’

As part of the effort to detect and defeat these unwanted narratives, the law authorizes the Center to: ‘Facilitate the use of a wide range of technologies and techniques by sharing expertise among Federal departments and agencies, seeking expertise from external sources, and implementing best practices.’ (This section is an apparent reference to proposals that Google, Facebook and other technology companies find ways to block or brand certain Internet sites as purveyors of ‘Russian propaganda’ or ‘fake news.’)”Justifying this new bureaucracy, the bill’s sponsors argued that the existing agencies for ‘strategic communications’ and ‘public diplomacy’ were not enough, that the information threat required ‘a whole-of-government approach leveraging all elements of national power.’

“The law also is rife with irony since the U.S. government and related agencies are among the world’s biggest purveyors of propaganda and disinformation…”

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