News Releases

House Votes to Block U.S. Participation in Saudi War in Yemen

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Robert Naiman writes at Truthout: “U.S. House Votes to Block US Participation in Saudi War in Yemen.”

KATE GOULD, kate at fcnl.org, @FCNL
Gould is legislative representative for Middle East Policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

The group states that on Friday “the House voted to end U.S. backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen that has plunged millions to the brink of starvation, and sparked a cholera outbreak that kills yet another Yemeni every 35 minutes.”

Gould adds: “These wholly unprecedented votes build on a wave of congressional momentum against U.S.-backing for the Saudi-led war that has resulted in the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. This tide of opposition was on display on the Senate floor last month, when a bipartisan group of 47 senators voted against sending more weapons of mass starvation to Yemen.

“Today, the House built on that momentum by voting to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in two different amendments. The rigorous reporting requirements of the President and the Pentagon on U.S. policy in Yemen and the Saudi-led war also send the message that Congress will not stand for President Trump’s blank check to the Saudi-led campaign to bomb and starve Yemenis for leverage at the negotiating table.”

The Friends Committee on National Legislation, the oldest registered religious lobby in Washington, is a nonpartisan Quaker lobby in the public interest. FCNL works with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of people of many different faiths from every state in the U.S. to advocate for social and economic justice, peace, and good government.

* France * Behind Lula’s Prison Sentence

DIANA JOHNSTONE, diana.johnstone at wanadoo.fr
Johnson is a U.S. political writer based in Paris, France. She focuses primarily on European politics and Western foreign policy. Her writings regularly appear at Counterpunch. Recent pieces include “Macron’s Mission: Save the European Union From Itself,” “The Single Party French State … as the Majority of Voters Abstain” and “Nuclear Weapons Ban? What Needs to be Banned Is U.S. Arrogance.”

Her father was Paul H. Johnstone, who for two decades was a senior analyst in the Strategic Weapons Evaluation Group in the Pentagon. His memoirs, with her commentary, was just published in the book From Mad to Madness: Inside Pentagon Nuclear War Planning. Edward S. Herman states: “In excellent background and updating accounts Diana Johnstone shows that no lessons have been learned from earlier mishaps and near misses; that with its new aggressiveness and upgrading of nuclear weapons the U.S. political class has opened a new round of nuclear madness.”

MARIA LUISA MENDONÇA, marialuisam222 at gmail.org
Mendonça is coordinator of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil and director of the Feminist Alliance for Rights at the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University. She said today: “Most news stories about the sentence do not explain the actual case against former president Lula da Silva. Even when they quote his lawyers, they fail to include the most important point, which is the fact that there is no concrete evidence that Lula is the owner of an apartment that is portrayed as a key part of an alleged bribe to Lula by a construction company that is accused of involvement in a corruption scheme. A basic question for anyone who defends justice and democracy, independently of their political affiliation, should be: why is someone sentenced to nine and a half years in prison if the prosecutors were not able to produce concrete evidence of a crime? The fact that Lula is still the most popular politician in the country and is ahead in the polls for the 2018 presidential elections raises serious questions around the motivation behind his sentence.

“Similarly, president Dilma Rousseff — also of the Workers’ Party — was impeached last year even though there was no case of corruption against her. Her political opponents used a common budgetary practice observed under previous administrations to justify her impeachment. Even observers who disagree with the Workers Party’s positions need to look further into the specific cases targeting Workers’ Party leaders and ask whether their main purpose is to justify political maneuvers and undermine electoral democracy in Brazil.”

ALEXANDER MAIN, via Dan Beeton: beeton at cepr.net
Main is senior associate for International Policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He said today: “The sentencing of former president Lula da Silva to over nine years in jail, takes place against a backdrop of unpopular neoliberal reforms forced on the population by a corrupt, unelected government. The sentence against Lula has understandably dominated the news cycle and eclipsed another major piece of news: the Brazilian Congress’ decision to approve government sponsored labor reforms that will lead to the dismantling of workers’ rights in every sector of the economy. It will vastly reduce basic worker protections and job security by opening up all professions to temporary contracts, eliminating limits to the amount of hours that employees can be required to work, as well as other draconian modifications to existing labor laws.

“This is but one of a series of reforms that have taken place since president Dilma Rousseff was removed from office through an illegitimate impeachment process that allowed rightwing political forces to seize executive power and embark on an economic program rejected by a vast majority of Brazilians. Shortly after the impeachment, the government of Rousseff’s illegitimate successor Michel Temer pushed through a constitutional reform that will lead to major cuts in health, education and other public sector programs. Massive protests were met with violent state repression.

“Now, Brazil’s conservative sectors are intent on staying in power and reversing the progressive advances made in recent years. At this stage, only one politician poses a serious threat to their agenda: former president Lula da Silva who is currently the frontrunner in polls despite facing a relentless judicial campaign headed by Judge Sergio Moro. And so, while Lula faces a nearly ten-year sentence based on flimsy charges and no evidence, president Temer remains in power, even as concrete proof of his involvement in major bribery schemes has emerged in the press. Lula has appealed the sentence. The upcoming determination of the appeals court will provide an indication as to whether Brazilians can still trust the judicial system and whether there is still some prospect of a democratic future for the country.”

Trump and Macron Meet, Clinging to Nuclear Weapons

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ALICE SLATER, alicejslater at gmail.com
Slater is the New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and serves on the Coordinating Committee of World Beyond War. She just wrote the piece “Democracy Breaks Out at the UN as 122 Nations Vote to Ban the Bomb” for The Nation.

She writes: “On July 7, 2017, at a UN Conference mandated by the UN General Assembly to negotiate a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, the only weapons of mass destruction yet to be banned, 122 nations completed the job after three weeks, accompanied by a celebratory outburst of cheers, tears, and applause among hundreds of activists, government delegates, and experts, as well as survivors of the lethal nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and witnesses to the devastating, toxic nuclear-test explosions in the Pacific. …

“Upon the adoption of the ban treaty, the United States, United Kingdom and France issued a statement that ‘We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it’ as it ‘does not address the security concerns that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary’ and will create ‘even more divisions at a time … of growing threats, including those from the DPRK’s ongoing proliferation efforts.’ Ironically, North Korea was the only nuclear power to vote for the ban treaty, last October, when the UN’s First Committee for Disarmament forwarded a resolution for ban-treaty negotiations to the General Assembly. …

“The Ban Treaty affirms the states’ determination to realize the purpose of the Charter of the United Nations and reminds us that the very first resolution of the UN in 1946 called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. With no state holding veto power, and no hidebound rules of consensus that have stalled all progress on nuclear abolition and additional initiatives for world peace in other UN and treaty bodies, this negotiation was a gift from the UN General Assembly, which democratically requires states to be represented in negotiations with an equal vote and doesn’t require consensus to come to a decision.

“Despite the recalcitrance of the nuclear-deterrence-mongers, we know that previous treaties banning weapons have changed international norms and stigmatized the weapons leading to policy revisions even in states that never signed those treaties. The Ban Treaty requires 50 states to sign and ratify it before it enters into force, and will be open for signature September 20 when heads of state meet in New York for the UN General Assembly’s opening session.”

“Trump’s Empty Promise on War Savings”

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Military Budget proposals of at least $600 billion per year are working their way through Congress this week.

IVAN ELAND, ieland at independent.org, @Ivan_Eland
Eland is senior fellow and director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute. His books include Putting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy.

He recently wrote the piece “Trump’s Empty Promise on War Savings,” which states: “President Donald Trump has always had contradictions in his ‘tough guy’ national security policy. For starters, he has proposed a nearly 10 percent increase in defense spending, but also claims that his demands for U.S. allies to spend more on defense are producing results.

“And during his campaign, he alluded to the need to stay out of unneeded wars. If allies pay more and the United States stays out of pointless brushfire wars, the U.S. government could seemingly spend less, not more, on defense. …

“Trump has promised to overhaul a nuclear arsenal that he has called ‘obsolete.’ Barack Obama left him an expensive program — $1 trillion over 30 years — to revamp the nuclear triad of bombers, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the cost of that gargantuan program has already skyrocketed 20 percent to $1.2 trillion. …

“For decades, the Chinese wisely avoided getting swept up in the farcical nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. They developed only a minimum long-range nuclear deterrent — enough long-range missiles to inflict enough atomic damage on other countries to deter them from attacking China with nuclear weapons. (This policy might change because the Chinese believe expensive and destabilizing U.S. missile defenses could begin to nullify this minimum deterrent.) China used savings from avoiding a nuclear arms race for economic development at home, which helped it to become a global economic powerhouse.

“The United States needs to do the same to effect a much-needed economic renewal. U.S. ballistic missile submarines are still the quietest in the world and are invulnerable to attack. After scrapping the unneeded bomber and land-based missile legs of the triad, more resources could be funneled into buying a new generation of such submarines. Also, the destabilizing new U.S. cruise missile could be cancelled.”

Will U.S. Airstrikes End Syrian Ceasefire Again?

mideast-crisis-syriaAP reports this afternoon: “The U.N.’s special envoy for Syrian peace talks on Monday said a U.S. and Russia-brokered cease-fire in the country’s southwest was generally holding despite some ‘teething problems,’ adding he hoped it would contribute positively to talks between the government and opposition.

“A new round of indirect talks that began Monday is the seventh so far between Syrian government representatives and opposition leaders to try to wind down the battered country’s 6-year-old civil war.”

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com, @raymcgovern

As a CIA analyst for 27 years, McGovern led the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and, during President Ronald Reagan’s first term, conducted the early morning briefings with the President’s Daily Brief.

He recently wrote the piece “The Syrian Test of Trump-Putin Accord” for Consortium News, which states: “The immediate prospect for significant improvement in U.S.-Russia relations now depends on something tangible: Will the forces that sabotaged previous ceasefire agreements in Syria succeed in doing so again, all the better to keep alive the ‘regime change’ dreams of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists? …

“Last fall’s limited ceasefire in Syria, painstakingly worked out over 11 months by Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and approved personally by Presidents Obama and Putin, lasted only five days (from Sept. 12-17) before it was scuttled by ‘coalition’ air strikes on well-known, fixed Syrian army positions, which killed between 64 and 84 Syrian troops and wounded about 100 others.”

McGovern now works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

122 Nations Vote to Outlaw Nuclear Weapons, U.S., Russia Collude Against Effort

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The New York Times reported on Friday: “A Treaty Is Reached to Ban Nuclear Arms. Now Comes the Hard Part.”

IRA HELFAND, MD, ihelfand at igc.org, @IPPNW
Helfand is past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility and is currently co-president of that group’s global federation, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.

He said today: “Two things were most notable in the overwhelming vote for this treaty. One was the urgency felt by the representatives of 122 countries who voted for it. The other was the rather crude and revealing statement put out by the ‘P3’ — the U.S., Britain and France.

“When this process began several years ago, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council [P5] — U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China — put out a statement against the treaty, arguing that it wasn’t the most useful approach and distracted from their alleged efforts to get rid of their nuclear weapons.

“The P3 statement on Friday made clear the real basis of their opposition to the treaty: ‘We do not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party to it.’ It is not the timing or the specifics of the treaty that they object to. They intend to maintain their policy of mutually assured destruction forever, even though they are legally required to negotiate the elimination of their nuclear arsenals under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“The apparent instability of the U.S. president highlights the danger of maintaining arsenals of nuclear weapons that constitute an existential threat to human survival and underlines the need for this treaty as the next step to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons as quickly as possible.”

* Russia * Poland * Korea

ct-north-korea-missile-launch-trump-response-2-001ANDREI TSYGANKOV, andrei at sfsu.edu
Tsygankov is professor at the departments of political science and international relations at San Francisco State University. His books include Anti-Russian Lobby and American Foreign Policy and Russia and the West from Alexander to Putin.

He said today: “Donald Trump is wrong on many things but he is right on trying to establish an understanding and cooperation with Russia. The current effort to demonize Russia and its President Vladimir Putin has been a part of a concerted campaign to discredit Trump. So far, this campaign has produced accusations and conspiracies, yet no evidence of Trump’s collusion with Russia. It is important to stop the effort and encourage Trump in his attempt to build stronger relations with Russia. The United States and the whole world have an opportunity to benefit from such relations by gaining nuclear security, stability and predictability in international relations.” See his post: “The U.S. establishment, not the Kremlin, is undermining normalisation with Russia” at the London School of Economics and Political Science. See petition from RootsAction: “Tell Trump and Putin: Negotiate, Don’t Escalate.”

RONALD W. COX, roncox at bellsouth.net
Cox is professor in the department of politics and international relations at Florida International University. He is author or editor of numerous books including Corporate Power in American Foreign Policy. He said today that during his visit there starting on Wednesday, Trump will likely “both praise Poland’s nationalist government and the country’s relatively high levels of spending on NATO. The end result will be to promote the further spread of militarization and an arms race at home and abroad, as well as to encourage ultra-right political parties and movements as represented by the current Polish government.”

The New York Times claims in a headline of a piece written by David E. Sanger: “What Can Trump Do About North Korea? His Options Are Few and Risky.”

CHRISTINE HONG, cjhong at ucsc.edu
Hong is an associate professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute.

She debunks the widely repeated notion that the Obama administration had a policy of “strategic patience” toward North Korea, noting that it launched cyber attacks and had massive military exercises targeting North Korea.

Hong recently wrote the piece “The Long, Dirty History of U.S. Warmongering against North Korea” for The Progressive, which states: “Unsurprisingly, few media outlets have reported on North Korea’s overtures to the United States, even as these, if pursued, might result in meaningful de-escalation on both sides. To be clear: peaceful alternatives are at hand. Far from being an intractable foe, North Korea has repeatedly asked the United States to sign a peace treaty that would bring the unresolved Korean War to a long-overdue end.

“It has also proposed that the United States cease its annual war games with South Korea — games, we must recognize, that involve the simulated invasion and occupation of North Korea, the ‘decapitation’ of its leadership, and rehearsals of a … nuclear strike. In return, North Korea will cap its nuclear weapons testing. China has reiterated this proposal. The United States maintains that its joint war games with South Korea are simply business as usual and has not seen fit to respond.”

 

Trump’s Trip

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Fox News reports: “President Donald Trump is set to make his second foreign trip as president. … Trump will visit Poland [departing Poland on July 5] before attending the two-day G-20 Summit in Germany on July 7. The following week, he’ll visit France for Bastille Day.” Trump is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and other heads of state in Germany.

GILBERT DOCTOROW, gdoctorow at yahoo.com, Skype: gilbert.doctorow
Currently in St. Petersburg, Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. He recently wrote the piece “U.S. Risks Wider War by Downing Syrian Plane” for Consortium News. His latest book, Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015. His forthcoming book, Does the United States Have a Future? will be published in September 2017.

NICOLAI PETRO, nnpetro at gmail.com
Petro is Silvia-Chandley Professor of Peace and Nonviolence at the University of Rhode Island. He was a Fulbright Scholar in Ukraine from 2013-14, and is the editor of Ukraine in Crisis. He just wrote the piece “The Real Ukrainian Solution is Federalism,” for The Nation.

JEAN BRICMONT, [in France] jean.bricmont at uclouvain.be
Bricmont 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. He posts regularly on Facebook.

He said today: “Trump is unpredictable partly because of his personality … partly because he clearly cannot do what he wants. The media and most of the establishment, including part of his party, try to force him to take an anti-Russian (and thus anti-Syrian) attitude that at least goes against what he promised during his campaign. On the other hand, he has always been anti-Iranian and anti-Palestinian (and anti-Cuban, anti-Bolivarian, anti-North Korean, etc.) and those lines fit with the establishment agenda so he is ‘allowed’ to pursue them.

“Macron is unpredictable because he was never very clear in his campaign about what he wants to do. He wants to break the labor code and the unions and ‘give’ the workers on a silver platter to their bosses, that was always clear. But the foreign policy was never clear. Since he was overwhelmingly supported by the same ‘liberal’ media that supported Clinton in the U.S. and now oppose Trump, one would expect Macron to be a sort of a French Clinton, fiercely opposed to Russia and interventionist in the Middle East.

“But now he has been elected and (contrary to Trump) has an absolute power in the National Assembly, full of deputies entirely devoted to him, so he can do what he wants. And his interview in the Figaro (and other papers) contained some surprising statements: he condemned the intervention in Libya, praised the non-intervention of France in Iraq in 2003, said that he would put an end to ‘imported’ neo-conservatism and that he does not want Syria to become a failed state like Libya. All of this goes quite against the ‘party line’ of the French media.”

“My Medicaid, My Life”

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Reuters reports in “Stripping Americans of health insurance could be deadly: study” that: “Based on findings from a variety of large studies, Americans without health insurance faced 40 percent higher odds of dying during the study periods than the privately insured, the report published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found.”

See reports on disability rights protests on Capitol Hill about Medicaid cuts last week and this week.

ALICE WONG, disabilityvisibilityproject at gmail.com, @SFdirewolf
Wong is a the founder of the Disability Visibility Project and a co-partner in Disabled Writers, a resource created by reporter s.e. smith to help editors connect with disabled writers and journalists.

She recently wrote the piece “My Medicaid, My Life” for the New York Times. Wong wrote: “‘Program flexibility’ is code for the decimation of Medicaid that will put lives like mine at risk. Some people with disabilities may have to live in nursing homes if community-based services wither away under this flexibility and reform. We cannot disappear again after a history of segregation and institutionalization. When Republicans talk about freedom and choice, they don’t realize that Medicaid gives those very things to people with disabilities.

“This past March marked my 25th year of being a recipient of Medicaid. When I was young, I felt shame and embarrassment at being one of ‘those people’ on benefits. Today I am unapologetically disabled and a fully engaged member of society. None of that would be possible without Medicaid.”

Disinformation on Russia and Threat to Democratic Party

news release20Glenn Greenwald writes in “CNN Journalists Resign: Latest Example of Media Recklessness on the Russia Threat” that: “Three prominent CNN journalists resigned Monday night after the network was forced to retract and apologize for a story linking Trump ally Anthony Scaramucci to a Russian investment fund under congressional investigation. That article — like so much Russia reporting from the U.S. media — was based on a single anonymous source, and now, the network cannot vouch for the accuracy of its central claims. …

“And then there is the fact that the vast majority of reporting about Russia, as well as Trump’s alleged ties to the Kremlin, has been based exclusively on evidence-free assertions of anonymous officials, many, if not most, of whom have concealed agendas. That means that they are free to issue completely false claims without the slightest concern of repercussions.”

USA Today reports: “CNN shrugs off Veritas video as Trump lashes out at network.”

JAMES CARDEN, jamescarden09 at gmail.com
Carden’s articles and essays, many focusing on Russia, have appeared in The American Conservative, The National Interest and The Nation. He recently wrote “The Fallacies of the ‘Russia-Truthers’” for Consortium News.

He said today: “The Clinton-sponsored neo-McCarthyite campaign seems to be losing momentum in the wake of the latest CNN revelations. Maybe it’s starting to dawn on liberals that regurgitating Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid talking points will lead not to victories in 2018 and 2020, but instead to electoral irrelevance.”

See by Norman Solomon (executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy): “Democrats Face Failing Russia-gate Scheme.”

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