News Releases

“McCarthyism Inc: Hyping Russian Threats”

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MAX BLUMENTHAL, maxjblumenthal at gmail.com, @MaxBlumenthal
Blumenthal is senior editor of AlterNet’s Grayzone Project and co-host of the Moderate Rebels podcast. He just wrote a pair of articles: “Meet Clint Watts, a Dubious Russia Meddling ‘Expert’ Lobbying the U.S. Government to ‘Quell Information Rebellions’” and “McCarthyism Inc: Introducing the Counter-Terror ‘Experts’ Hyping Russian Threats and Undermining Our Civil Liberties.”

Blumenthal summarizes some of his findings:

“The New York Times, Washington Post, and U.S. Congress have promoted a bipartisan outfit called the Alliance for Securing Democracy, which has alleged sinister Russian influence over everything from Black Lives Matter to NFL protests. The group maintains a dashboard that claims to track Russian influence on social media,” but Blumenthal has revealed the “initiative as a de facto blacklist aimed at suppressing dissident media.”

“The Alliance for Securing Democracy is advised by a coalition of neoconservatives and liberal interventionists, from Bill Kristol to former CIA director and Clinton surrogate Michael Morrell. The group’s research is handled by even sketchier characters, like Andrew Weisburd, a right-wing homophobic, anti-Muslim activist with a long record of online harassment.

“After publishing murderous and homophobic fantasies about Glenn Greenwald on Twitter, Weisburd boasted about listing Greenwald’s outlet, The Intercept, as a vehicle for Kremlin influence. The Alliance for Securing Democracy is currently sponsored by the German Marshall Fund of the United States.

“Another Securing Democracy fellow, Clint Watts, has urged American intelligence agencies to encourage jihadists to carry out terrorist attacks against Russia and Iran.

“During testimony this month to Congress, Watts called on the U.S. government to ‘quell information rebellions’ and lobbied for ‘nutritional labels’ on online media.” Blumenthal’s report suggests that “the campaign against Russian meddling aims at nothing less than censorship of dissident media.”

[Note: Longtime friend of the Institute for Public Accuracy, Edward S. Herman has died. His books included Manufacturing Consent (with Noam Chomsky), The Real Terror Network and The Global Media (with IPA board member Robert McChesney). His latest piece was “Fake News on Russia and Other Official Enemies” for Monthly Review. See a series of interviews with The Real News.]

Alex Azar at HHS: “Big Pharma’s Coup”

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Today President Donald Trump nominated Alex Azar to be the next U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Azar served for five years as president of Lilly USA, LLC, the largest affiliate of global biopharmaceutical leader Eli Lilly and Company.

ROBERT WEISSMAN, via Don Owens, dowens at citizen.org;
Angela Bradbery, abradbery at citizen.org, @Public_Citizen
President of Public Citizen, Weissman said today: “Just weeks after denouncing ‘out-of-control’ prescription prices, President Donald Trump shows he doesn’t mean it by nominating a former pharmaceutical company executive to run the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If Alex Azar’s nomination is confirmed, then Big Pharma’s coup d’etat in the health care sphere will be virtually complete.

“In his public statements, Alex Azar has made clear that he is opposed to measures to restrain prescription companies’ profiteering and limit improper marketing, while favoring weaker safety approval standards.

“Americans understand, passionately, that price gouging leads to rationing of care. It is unethical and must end. Even President Trump says so. But it is highly unlikely that a pharmaceutical company executive who has made passionate arguments against price restraints is going to advance real reform. Much more likely is that he serves as the instrument by which Big Pharma aims to defend its monopolies and unaffordable prices.

“The swamp only gets worse. Tom Price supported Big Pharma in the U.S. Congress. Now apparently Trump has decided to cut out the middleman and let a pharmaceutical executive literally run the federal department that protects the health of all Americans.”

Not Kremlin Propaganda: Neo-Nazis in Ukraine

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Newsweek reports: “Poland Nationalist Rally With Neo-Nazi Slogans, Calls For ‘Islamic Holocaust’ Draws Biggest Crowd Ever.”

LEV GOLINKIN, golinkin at gmail.com
Golinkin is the author of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, a memoir of Soviet Ukraine, which he left as a child refugee. Since the book’s release, he’s had pieces in the New York Times, the Washington Post and numerous other outlets.

He said today that the U.S. “has been ignoring Europe’s far right for way too long. We’re paying attention to Richard Spencer, when there are people across the Atlantic who make him look like a downright amateur. When I saw the Charlottesville images, all I could think of was ‘This is an echo of Europe.’

“Europe has some paramilitary groups with access to weapons and training. Azov Battalion in Ukraine is just one example. Hungary has been using ‘volunteers’ to monitor for refugees. (A few years ago they had an actual force, which was later disbanded.) Poland has been building ‘volunteer’ units as well. These are groups operating in nations which have far weaker democratic institutions compared to the U.S. That’s what is scary.”

He just wrote the piece “The Reality of Neo-Nazis in Ukraine is Far from Kremlin Propaganda” for The Hill.

Golinkin writes: “The accusations of being duped by Russia have even extended to Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.), who cosponsored an amendment barring the U.S. from providing training and support to Azov in 2015. Some bloggers have gone on to insinuate Conyers was ‘snookered’ or, worse, doing Vladimir Putin’s bidding.”

In fact, Golinkin writes: “As the Trump administration mulls sending weapons to Ukraine, the question of far-right forces employed by the Kiev government has returned to the forefront. Some Western observers claim that there are no neo-Nazi elements in Ukraine, chalking the assertion up to propaganda from Moscow. Unfortunately, they are sadly mistaken.

“There are indeed neo-Nazi formations in Ukraine. This has been overwhelmingly confirmed by nearly every major Western outlet. The fact that analysts are able to dismiss it as propaganda disseminated by Moscow is profoundly disturbing. It is especially disturbing given the current surge of neo-Nazis and white supremacists across the globe.

“The most infamous neo-Nazi group in Ukraine is the 3,000-strong Azov Battalion, founded in 2014. Prior to creating Azov, its commander, Andriy Biletsky, headed the neo-Nazi group Patriot of Ukraine, members of which went on to form the core of Azov. Biletsky had stated that the mission of Ukraine is to ‘lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival … against the Semite-led Untermenschen.’…

“It’s difficult, if not impossible, to imagine mainstream media describing reports on Charlottesville as propaganda and questioning the motives of lawmakers who try to counter today’s alarming surge of white supremacy. Why shouldn’t we view Ukraine — a nation to which we send billions in foreign aid — in light of the same standards?”

Are Saudi Arabia, Israel and the U.S. Trying to Destabilize Lebanon?

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CBS News reports: “Saudi Arabia on Thursday ordered its citizens out of Lebanon in its first concrete action against the Mediterranean country, while officials in Beirut demanded the immediate return of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who abruptly announced his resignation last week in a television appearance from the kingdom, where he has been holed up since.”

RANIA MASRI, [in Lebanon] rania.z.masri at gmail.com
An Arab-American academic based in Lebanon, Masri is available to discuss the workings of Lebanese politics. See her Twitter feed for regular updates, including translations of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s speech today,  @rania_masri.

PAUL PILLAR, prp8 at georgetown.edu
Pillar was an analyst at the CIA for 28 years. He is now a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University and nonresident senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. He is a contributing editor to The National Interest, where he writes a blog.

His latest piece is “Saudi Arabia, Wellspring of Regional Instability,” which states: “The Trump administration is worse than oblivious to all this; it is stoking it. While the President tweets about which stock exchange should be used for an initial public offering of shares in Aramco, at least as important a figure is another princeling. That would be the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who reportedly has hit it off well with his fellow thirty-something MbS [Mohammad bin Salman] and visited the Saudi crown prince just days before the purge.”

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052 at comcast.net, @richards1052,
Silverstein writes on security and other issues for a number of outlets and blogs at Tikun Olam. His most recent piece is “Saudi Arabia and Israel: Looming Threat of Regional War,” which states: “The Saudi Crown Prince appears eager to ratchet up the conflict with Iran. Like Bibi Netanyahu, his … ally, he’s willing to exploit and manipulate hostility to a foreign enemy in order to bolster his own domestic stature. Given that he’s hellbent on establishing his own dominance in Saudi internal politics, such an enemy is very helpful in holding rivals at bay. [Mohammad] bin Salman also noted that Israel, with Saudi financial backing, orchestrated attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities and assassinated five Iranian nuclear scientists. This is the sort of decisive, brutal action the future Saudi monarch likes.

“Israel has responded in kind. Today, the foreign ministry sent an urgent cable to all diplomats demanding that they mouth a pro-Saudi line regarding the Hariri resignation. Israel Channel 10’s diplomatic correspondent, Barak Ravid, tweeted the translated contents of the cable.”

Silverstein’s other recent pieces include “Black Cube Hired Israeli Actress to Find Dirt on Weinstein Accusers” and “Black Cube and Oligarchs in the Shadows.”

See by Nicola Perugini and Neve Gordon, a piece on published at Al Jazeera about a bill targeting Hezbollah in the U.S. Congress.

Also see Sharmine Narwani’s recent piece in The American Conservative, “Hezbollah is Not a Threat to America,” which states: “The U.S. listed Hezbollah as a ‘terrorist organization’ 20 years ago this month. Most other states, as well as the United Nations Security Council, have not. Two weeks ago, at a State Department briefing on the Hezbollah ‘threat,’ National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas J. Rasmussen tried to paint a picture of an organization that was directing “terrorism acts worldwide” and posing a threat ‘to U.S. interests’ including ‘here in the homeland.'”

U.S. Backing Saudi Escalation of Starvation in Yemen

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Lee Fang in the Intercept’s “Watch Members of Congress Attempt to Explain Why They Won’t Vote on War in Yemen” writes: “The brutal war in Yemen has intensified in recent days, with the Saudi-led coalition backed by the United States increasing its bombing campaign and blockade of ports. Meanwhile, the architect of the war, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has launched a widespread purge of the government, while using a missile launched from Yemen as a pretext to threaten war with Iran.”

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, sha980 at mail.harvard.edu, @shireen818
Al-Adeimi, originally from Yemen, is a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She said today: “While the Saudi-led coalition has continuously violated international humanitarian laws in Yemen, their total blockade of Yemen’s remaining point of entry for food and medicine, Hodeidah, means millions of Yemenis will now face famine and certain death. This latest move proves that, with the support of the United States, Saudi Arabia has placed a target on every man, woman, and child in Yemen.”

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Independent investigative journalist Porter has written many pieces on Yemen including “The U.S. Provided Cover for the Saudi Starvation Strategy in Yemen” and IPA news releases including “Breaking the Yemen Central Bank: Is Saudi Arabia Using Starvation as a Weapon?

The International Committee of the Red Cross reports: “In Yemen, 900,000 people have cholera.”

See joint statement on Yemen from a number of groups: “We are deeply disappointed that House leadership has again prevented a debate and vote on ending U.S. participation in the Saudi-led war effort in Yemen, which is largely responsible for the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”

Paul R. Pillar just wrote the piece “How Saudi Arabia Sows Instability” for Consortium News: “The Trump administration is worse than oblivious to all this; it is stoking it. While the President tweets about which stock exchange should be used for an initial public offering of shares in Aramco, at least as important a figure is another princeling. That would be the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who reportedly has hit it off well with his fellow thirty-something MBS and visited the Saudi crown prince just days before the purge.”

Election Results: Healthcare and Polling

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The Washington Post reports: “Maine just resoundingly became the first state to expand Medicaid by ballot initiative.”
Early Exit Polls: Health Care Most Important Issue for Virginia Voters.”

NBC News reports: “Early Exit Polls: Health Care Most Important Issue for Virginia Voters.”

Numerous recent polls from Harvard-HarrisEconomist/YouGov, Pew and other polling organizations now show majority support for an expanded Medicare-for-all plan, often called “single payer.”

ANTHONY DiMAGGIO, ard416 at lehigh.edu
DiMaggio is an assistant professor of political science at Lehigh University and has written extensively on polling. His books include Selling War, Selling Hope and The Rise of the Tea Party.

He said today: “Medicaid/Medicare are/were important. With the limited choices of two neoliberal parties, people vacillate between one and the other. As one party gets into office (Republicans) people become more disenchanted with them, as in this case, because despite Trump’s rhetoric about improving healthcare in America, his agenda is the opposite. So people end up voting for people who have interests contrary to their own, because of the limited choices out there and the failures of both parties to represent the public. Then they go against them as the elected officials betray them. There’s a long history of this. … Health care has been THE ISSUE this year for Republicans, very high profile and lots of public mobilization against them.”

Background: Time reported in June: “President Trump Promised He Wouldn’t Touch Medicaid. The Senate Bill Includes Billions in Cuts.”

DNC Chair Perez’s “Disingenuous” Responses to Brazile

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NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com, @Roots_Action
Solomon appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journalon Sunday to talk about the new report that he co-authored, “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis.” He is co-founder of RootsAction.org and former national coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network.

Solomon said today: “In his responses to Donna Brazile’s book excerpt that appeared in Politico, Perez has pledged to make the DNC evenhanded — yet he has doubled down on defending the indefensible deal that the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign cut with highly unethical joint fundraising arrangements.”

PIA GALLEGOS, pia at gallegoslaw.com
Gallegos is a civil rights lawyer and progressive Democratic Party activist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She wrote the “Democracy and the Party” section of the Autopsy report.

She said today: “Current DNC chair Tom Perez is being disingenuous when he responds to current criticism by saying that the ‘joint fundraising agreements were the same for each campaign except for the treasurer.’ In fact, ‘except for the treasurer’ is a huge exception.”

The Autopsy report explains: “The joint funding agreement provided that the Hillary Victory Fund was to be administered by the Clinton Campaign’s own chief operating officer, Elizabeth Jones, who notably controlled how money was transferred to both the states and the DNC. Jones had the ‘sole discretion’ to decide when transfers of money to and from the state parties would occur through the vehicle of a shared account, thereby facilitating the pass-throughs to the Clinton Campaign.”

Gallegos added today: “The way it was structured enabled Clinton to lock in the superdelegate support months before any vote was cast in the caucuses or the primaries and helped funnel millions of dollars early to the Clinton campaign.”

Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

* Asia * Saudi * Lebanon

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JAMES BRADLEY, [in Vietnam] james at jamesbradley.com
As Trump begins his Asia trip, Bradley is available for comment. He is author of several bestsellers including Flyboys, Flags of Our Fathers and The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia.

CHRISTOPHER DAVIDSON, [In Britain] cmd@christopherdavidson.net, @dr_davidson
Davidson’s books include After the Sheikhs: The Coming Collapse of the Gulf Monarchies and Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East.

Davidson said today: “What seems to be a mixture of high profile arrests (and apparently also mysterious deaths, following the helicopter crash in Asir province), can be read as a multi-pronged effort to remove all possible opposition in advance of the King’s expected abdication and the crown prince’s expected succession.

“While some media outlets have been content to take at face value the Saudi authorities’ message that this is an ‘anti-corruption drive,’ and have focused mostly on the arrest of billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the reality is that in the last 24 hours several of the crown prince’s key potential rivals and critics have also been taken out of the running, including: a prominent son of former King Abdullah who has been in charge of the all-important national guard, a son of former Crown Prince Muqrin, the head of King Abdullah’s court, and a former finance minister who has already demonstrated that he is willing to speak publicly about the true condition of the Saudi economy.”

RANIA MASRI, [in Lebanon] rania.z.masri@gmail.com, @rania_masri
An Arab-American academic based in Lebanon, Masri is available to discuss the workings of Lebanese politics. She just translated Hezbollah leader’s Hassan Nasrallah’s speech following Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri’s submitting his resignation from Saudi Arabia.

Following Saudi actions, Rula Jebreal tweeted: “Following PM Hariri’s staged resignation, Saudi diplomats are vacating Saudi embassy in Beirut. Prospect of Israeli war is looming.” But Amal Saad asked, “who needs Israel” when you have the prospect of Saudi intervention in Lebanon?

“Why the Papadopoulos Plea Isn’t a Smoking Gun”

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AARON MATÉ, aaronmate at therealnews.com, @aaronjmate

Maté is a host/producer for The Real News. He has written a series of pieces on “Russiagate” including the just-published “Why the Papadopoulos Plea Isn’t a Smoking Gun” for The Nation. See his past reports including “Did the Russians ‘Meddle’ Just for Clicks?

He writes in his latest piece: “In liberal circles, there seems to be little doubt that the first indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller have resolved the issue at the heart of Russiagate. …

“The main impetus for this certitude comes not from the case against Trump’s campaign chair Paul Manafort and former business partner Rick Gates. The tax-fraud, money-laundering, and conspiracy charges against them have no direct connection to Russia or the 2016 campaign. Instead, it comes from the plea agreement of former Trump foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos, who has admitted to lying to investigators about his contacts with foreign nationals said to be tied to Russia.

“It is true that Papadopoulos’s plea document details the most tangible link known to date between Trump’s election team and the alleged Russian interference campaign. …

“What we do know is that Papadopoulos has a record of embellishing his credentials. And more importantly, we already know that he reported false claims to the campaign about his contacts as he tried to position himself as the middleman to Moscow. He transmitted one of the false claims knowingly: Papadopoulos e-mailed his superiors that he had met with the Russian ambassador in London, which prosecutors say never happened. He also told them he had been introduced to a ‘Female Russian National’ identified as ‘Putin’s niece,’ who turns out to have no relations to Putin. …

“It is possible that all of Papadopoulos’s claims will prove to be true. If they are, investigators will hopefully determine not just what the Trump campaign knew but what the Russian government had on offer. Both sides — the Clinton camp funding the Steele dossier and meeting with Ukrainian officials, the Trump camp taking a June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer promising incriminating information on Clinton — have shown their willingness to accept ‘oppo’ from abroad. But trafficking in stolen e-mails would raise the bar.

“It is also possible Papadopoulos is lying, or was misled. If the latter, he would be far from alone. As I wrote for The Nation in October, the Russiagate controversy is short on concrete evidence and suffused with innuendo, supposition, and unverified — or even demonstrably false — claims. Mueller may end up reversing that trend, but at this point in his probe, it appears that not much has changed.”

How to Unrig the Democratic Party

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Karen Bernal — the chair of one of the largest caucuses of the California Democratic Party, the Progressive Caucus — sent a letter Thursday night to Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez, a few hours after Bernal and colleagues met with Perez’s Senior Adviser Will Hailer at DNC headquarters in Washington for 90 minutes Thursday afternoon.

The “Democracy and the Party” section of the just-released Autopsy and the full report provide context for the current uproar over Donna Brazile’s new account of the Clinton campaign “rigging” the primary, “internal corruption” and “unethical” finances at the DNC.

PBS reports: “Sen. Elizabeth Warren says 2016 Democratic primary was rigged.”

KAREN BERNAL,  nekochan99 at hotmail.com, @karenbernal5
Bernal chairs the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. She wrote the section on social movements in the Autopsy report and co-wrote the section on the future of the Democratic Party.

NORMAN SOLOMON,  solomonprogressive at gmail.com, @Roots_Action
    Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and former national coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network. He participated in the meeting at the DNC Thursday. Solomon wrote the war section of the Autopsy report and co-wrote the “The Future” section with Bernal. Solomon is also the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. Research for the Autopsy report was funded by Action for a Progressive Future, the organization that sponsors RootsAction, which currently has 1.3 million active supporters online nationwide.

Following is the letter to the DNC, PDF here:

Tom Perez
Chair, Democratic National Committee
430 South Capitol Street SE
Washington, DC 20003

Dear Chairman Perez:

My colleagues and I were pleased to meet with Will Hailer and others on the DNC staff today. Given the urgency of strengthening our party’s efforts for the midterm elections, I am submitting the following questions and respectfully request that you send along responses to the questions by Thanksgiving.

1) What are the DNC’s plans to further accelerate its gear-up of staffing to fight against the multi-front assaults on voting rights that include voter ID laws, purges of voter rolls and intimidation tactics?

2) How can we assure fellow Democrats that the DNC has committed itself to scrupulously adhering to its Charter’s requirement to be evenhanded in the presidential nominating process?

3) What is the status of decision-making as to the voting power of superdelegates at the 2020 Democratic National Convention?

4) In an article published on Nov. 1, 2017 by The Progressive, journalist Christopher D. Cook wrote: “My repeated calls to the Democratic National Committee for comment on the [Autopsy] report went unanswered. When messages left on the main line went unanswered, I called the donations and member services line, where I was sure to get a live person. Stunningly, that office claimed it had no phone number it could give me for press or communications.” Why would a journalist encounter such problems in reaching the DNC?

5) In a recent article published by The Nation (“The Obsession With White Voters Could Cost Democrats the Virginia Governor’s Race,” Oct. 23), Democracy in Color founder Steve Phillips described a disturbing continuation of spending priorities that lavish enormous amounts of funds on ostensibly persuadable voters who normally vote Republican — while relatively neglecting people of color even though they comprise an essential portion of our party’s base. How do you explain such priorities and do you intend to help change them?

6) On May 28, 2017 (NBC News, “Open Letter to DNC Chair: ‘There’s Too Much at Stake to Ignore Black Women’”), thirty-one eminent African-American women, including seven members of Congress, wrote to you about serious concerns: “The Democratic Party has a real problem. The data reveals that Black women voters are the very foundation to a winning coalition, yet most Black voters feel like the Democrats take them for granted. The Party’s foundation has a growing crack and if it is not addressed quickly, the Party will fall even further behind and ultimately fail in its quest to strengthen its political prospects.” In the five months since then, what has the DNC done to address the concerns expressed in that letter, and what are your plans for the near future in that regard?

Thank you very much. I look forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes,
Karen Bernal
Chair, Progressive Caucus
California Democratic Party

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