News Releases

T-Mobile/Sprint Merger: Higher Prices, Fewer Jobs, More Privacy Invasions

MATT WOOD, via Timothy Karr, tkarr at freepress.net, @freepress
Free Press Policy Director Matt Wood made the following statement over the weekend: “T-Mobile/Sprint Merger Would Mean Higher Prices, Fewer Jobs, and More Privacy Invasions,” saying: “Unlike good wine or a good movie, this long-rumored deal only gets worse with age and repeat viewings. No one but T-Mobile and Sprint executives and Wall Street brokers wants to see this merger go through. Greed and a desire to reach deeper into people’s wallets by taking away their choices are the only things motivating this deal.

“What we know about the wireless market is that customers actually win when mergers are blocked. That market has been relatively competitive in recent years, but only because the FCC and DoJ signaled they would block AT&T’s attempted takeover of T-Mobile in 2011, along with T-Mobile and Sprint’s several previous attempts to combine.

“T-Mobile and Sprint separately have each exerted important competitive pressures on the wireless market, pushing each other and AT&T and Verizon to do things they otherwise wouldn’t — like offering uncapped data plans and dropping burdensome contract requirements. These moves have given people more choices and fairer prices.

“Maintaining competition from and between T-Mobile and Sprint is particularly important for lower-income families and people of color, many of whom rely on mobile as their only home-internet connection. If T-Mobile and Sprint merge, prices will spike and the digital divide will widen.

“The notion that this deal would produce better wireless services is a flat-out fiction. We’ve seen the results from the tax cuts and other destructive deregulation in the Trump era. The combined entity here would just use this deal to line its own pockets, pay down the massive debt these companies carry, and reward shareholders with more stock buybacks. It would fund further acquisitions of content companies, too, as wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T rush to join the race for targeted advertising revenues built on privacy abuses like those already built into Facebook’s and Google’s ad models. …

“So unless Ajit Pai wants wants to add yet another blemish to his already disastrous tenure at the helm of the FCC, the chairman should speak out and show us he’s willing to do more than rubber-stamp any harmful deal that crosses his desk.”

Released Audio: Hoyer, DCCC Pressuring Progressive to Leave Race

LEE FANG, lee.fang at theintercept.com, @theintercept@lhfang
Investigative journalist at The Intercept, Fang just wrote 
the piece “Secretly Taped Audio Reveals Democratic Leadership Pressuring Progressive to Leave Race,” [see piece and video] which states: “Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives, has for years been a prolific campaigner on behalf of current and potential members of Congress. …

“In a frank and wide-ranging conversation, Hoyer laid down the law for [congressional candidate Levi] Tillemann [a former official with the Obama administration’s Energy Department]. The decision, Tillemann was told, had been made long ago. It wasn’t personal, Hoyer insisted, and there was nothing uniquely unfair being done to Tillemann, he explained: This is how the party does it everywhere. …

“The secretly taped audio recording, released here for the first time, reveals how senior Democratic officials have worked to crush competitive primaries and steer political resources, money, and other support to hand-picked candidates in key races across the country, long before the party publicly announces a preference. The invisible assistance boosts the preferred candidate in fundraising and endorsements, and then that fundraising success and those endorsements are used to justify national party support. Meanwhile, opponents of the party’s unspoken pick are driven into paranoia, wondering if they are merely imagining that unseen hands are working against them.”

Behind the Trump-Macron Alignment

French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to address Congress on Wednesday.

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 retired 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: “The alignment of Macron on Trump is very interesting in many respects. At the time of the election, Macron was seen as the anti-Trump; after all the only politician supporting Trump then in France was Marine Le Pen. He was internationalist, pro-européen, sophisticated, while Trump was seen as vulgar and a narrow nationalist.

“However, during the summer of 2017, there were statements by Macron against the neoconservative foreign policy of regime change abroad. That position was immediately attacked in the media by the usual coalition of humanitarian imperialists and neoconservatives. In any case, that part of Macron’s policy could be seen as in line with Trump’s statement about ‘America first.’

“Besides, both Macron and Trump seemed to want better relations with Russia.

“Now, both Trump and Macron seem to have changed, for the worst. Trump seems to have given up his ‘America first’ policy and aligned itself completely with Israel, also on the necessity of destroying Syria. In doing so, he has worsened his relations with Russia. But Macron has followed a similar change. So, on the crucial issue of ‘regime change,’ they both seem to be allies but on positions to which they were both opposed in the past.

“I say ‘seem’ because it is not clear what is really going on and the recent strikes against Syria were not very impressive from a military viewpoint.

“It is interesting to see the evolution of Germany, where several voices opposed the recent bombing and seem to want better relations with Russia. Their parliament has said the strikes were illegal (of course all those wars are illegal, including those with German participation like the Kosovo war), which is also interesting.

“The paradox is that this new Franco-American policy occurs when the justifications for it appear to be collapsing. The Skripal affair has never been clarified and looks more and more murky (if the poison was so lethal, how come the victims are still alive?). And the origin and nature of the ‘gas attack’ in Syria appear also increasingly doubtful and challenged by testimonies collected by Western journalists that are there.

“In any case, in both situations, Western authorities have reached conclusions and enacted sanctions based on no proof, without a proper investigation, and that are very unlikely a priori: why [would the Russian government] get rid of old spy of no value just before the presidential election and the World Cup (so that both can be discredited)? And why [would the Syrian government] use chemical weapons just before the fall of the last rebel stronghold in the Ghouta?”

The U.S., Macron and Syria

Trump is currently hosting French President Emmanuel Macron on a state visit. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is scheduled to visit the U.S. on Friday.

KAMAL DIB, kamaldib at videotron.ca
Dib is a professor at the University of Ottawa. He is fluent in Arabic, French and German as well as English. His specializations include Canadian social policy and multiculturalism and the social and economic histories of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Germany. His books include Warlords and Merchants: The Lebanese Business and Political Establishment (in English) and in Arabic, Syria in History and The Damnation of Cain: The Natural Gas Wars From Russia, Iran, and Qatar, to Lebanon and Syria.

He said today: “It’s certainly notable that France is so pro-intervention in Syria while it is the former colonial power there during the mandate period — between World Wars I and II. But France is mostly being used by the U.S. government as dubious international cover right now. While Germany has focused on building its domestic economy, France — instead of reforming their own economic system — is seeking foreign adventures in the belief that that will somehow aid its economy — targeting natural resources of countries like Mali while selling weapons.

“The main dynamic we’re seeing is that the U.S. government continues to interfere in countries all over the world with the message: Do what you’re told. This means imposing the economics of neoliberalism, the so-called the Washington Consensus — or suffer the consequences. In the Mideast, the U.S. government has supported the so-called traditionalists (such as the monarchies) and attacked the secular modernists, most recently Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Libya under Muammar Gaddafi and now Syria under Bashar Assad.

“An objective view would assess the good and bad of all these groups in that region. Both the Arab traditionalists and modernists are clearly authoritarian. But we virtually only hear about the bad of these secularists — and in a manner that is often propagandistic. The U.S. government has been attempting to interfere in Syria since at least the 1950s. Since that time, Syria has managed to have remarkably positive outcomes in education, health care, clean water and electricity. That’s clear if you contrast it with Egypt, which was supposed to have such massive benefits from its treaty with Israel, but which has developed very poorly with Western aid and investment.”

From WikiLeaks to Whistleblowers: “Assault on Truth Telling”

Glenn Greenwald and Trevor Timm write in The Intercept: “The DNC’S Lawsuit Against WikiLeaks Poses a Serious Threat to Press Freedom.” Timm writes in Columbia Journalism Review: “Forget Comey and McCabe. Support FBI whistleblower Terry Albury.” Also see “The Isolation of Julian Assange Must Stop,” signed by Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, John Pilger and others.

CHIP GIBBONS, [in D.C.] chip at rightsanddissent.org, @rightsdissent
Policy and Legislative Counsel at Defending Rights & Dissent, Gibbons said today: “Our society is faced with an assault on truth telling. From the DNC’s reckless lawsuit against WikiLeaks, which could have a far reaching impact on journalists who publish newsworthy information, to the continued criminal prosecutions of whistleblowers, those in power have made it clear they will punish the messenger to keep the people in the dark.”

Defending Rights & Dissent recently published the statement “End Espionage Act Prosecutions of Whistleblowers” signed by a number of journalists, whistleblowers and activists: “We the undersigned organizations and individuals call for an end to the use of the constitutionally dubious Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers who give information to the media on matters of public concern.

“It is entirely inappropriate to use a law supposedly aimed at actual spies and saboteurs, against individuals who act in good faith to bring government misconduct to the attention of the public. Yet, we have seen this statute used with greater frequency against whistleblowers.

“Last month, the Department of Justice charged former FBI agent Terry J. Albury under the Espionage Act for alleged disclosures to the media. According to charging documents, the government alleged Albury gave two documents to the media — most likely The Intercept. Allegations by the government are just that — allegations. However, the documents in question are of immense public interest. One deals with how the FBI assesses confidential informants. The FBI’s use of confidential informants has continuously raised concerns about profiling, surveillance of First Amendment protected activity, and entrapment. This is to say nothing about the general concerns about the FBI’s confidential informant program. For example, according to documents obtained by The Intercept, the FBI, in its pursuit of informants, investigates individuals without probable cause of criminal wrongdoing and hunts for information that can be used to pressure them into becoming informants.”

AUMF “Reform”: Codifying Perpetual War?


Elizabeth Goitein recently wrote the piece “The Corker-Kaine Bill Would Codify, not End, the Forever War” which states: “Senators Corker and Kaine want Congress to get back into the game. Unfortunately, however, their bill would do little more than codify Congress’s abdication. It would authorize the use of military force against the groups the United States is currently fighting, in the countries where we are fighting now. But it would not limit the conflict to those groups or countries.”

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal at gmail.com, @marjoriecohn
Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.

She said today: “In 2001 and 2002, Congress enacted Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively. Although the authorizations were limited, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump, have used them as an excuse to attack whatever country they wished. Efforts to repeal and replace these AUMFs have been unsuccessful.

“Now, under the guise of fulfilling its constitutional power to authorize military force, Congress is poised to consider legislation that would give the president a blank check to make war. A bipartisan group of Senators has introduced a new AUMF that would authorize the president to use military force, with no limits, in at least six countries and against several groups. The president could add countries and groups as he or she pleased, with little congressional oversight. And the bill would have no expiration date. Moreover, it would run afoul of the United Nations Charter.”

Cohn has written “Mattis, Tillerson Want Blank Check to Wage Illegal War” and “Congress Must Reclaim War-Making Authority.”

Syria Attack: Seeing Through the Propaganda

Award-winning reporter Robert Fisk of the British Independent just reported from Douma, Syria: “The search for truth in the rubble of Douma — and one doctor’s doubts over the chemical attack.”

Former Iraq weapons inspector Scott Ritter (who, before the invasion of Iraq, was stating that Iraq had been stripped of any weapons of mass destruction) was just interviewed on the Syria war, and the role of the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, by David Swanson, audio here.

The OPCW announced on Thursday, April 12 that they would begin their work in Douma on April 14. This announcement received minimal media attention in the U.S. at the time. Trump announced the U.S. attack on Syria from the White House on Friday, April 13.

The Washington Post and other major media have recently amplified charges such as “Russia accused of tampering with the site of alleged Syrian chemical attack” and “chemical weapons inspectors in Syria said Monday that they are being denied access to the site of an alleged chemical attack.” The sources for these charges are respectively, the U.S. ambassador to the OPCW, Kenneth Ward, and the Twitter feed of the British delegation of OPCW.

JAMES CARDEN, jamescarden09 at gmail.com
Carden wrote the new piece “Trump Just Launched Another Illegal Attack Against Syria,” which states: “Is it possible that Assad is behind the chemical-weapons attack? Of course. But there are several things to bear in mind, beginning with the fact that, as recently as February, Secretary Mattis, responded to questions about recent accusations of chemical weapons use by Assad, by replying that ‘We do not have evidence of it.’ [Also see “Anatomy of a Chemical Attack” at Consortium News by Barry Kissin for more recent such statements by Mattis.]

“And while last November’s OPCW-UN report pinned the blame for the April 2017 chemical-weapons attack on Assad, the late investigative journalist Robert Parry pointed out that the report also contained evidence that ‘more than 100 victims of sarin exposure were taken to several area hospitals before the alleged Syrian warplane could have struck the town of Khan Sheikhoun.’

“And then there is the issue of motive: On the verge of victory after a brutal and costly war, does it make sense that Assad would opt to commit the one sure thing that would unite the international community against him, draw airstrikes by the United States and its coalition partners — and perhaps more?

“This of course doesn’t rule out Assad, but it does raise some uncomfortable questions for those cheering yet another illegal U.S. military attack against a country that has been under attack for the past seven years by the same forces that attacked us on 9/11.”

Claims about Syria Attack “Unraveling”

AFP reports: “At destroyed Syria lab, workers deny producing toxic weapons.” Similarly, CBS News reports: “One of the targets of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Syria was still smoldering late Saturday afternoon, reports CBS News’ Seth Doane, the only American network correspondent inside Syria. The U.S. military says the Barzeh complex in Damascus was a ‘center for the research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological weapons.’ Scientist Sayed said his office was there. …

“He said it’s ‘totally incorrect’ that chemical weapons were being developed there. ‘The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) visited here and didn’t report anything wrong with this place.’ … A package on the side of the road is anti-venom, which Sayed says is what they were producing.”

Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Colin Powell, told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “OPCW will play it close to the political power realities. It always does. Expect studied ambiguity but aimed at Bashar al-Assad.” See recent piece by former weapons inspector Scott Ritter: “Trump’s Rush to Judgment on Syria Chemical Attack” in The American Conservative. Also see by the late editor of Consortium News, Robert Parry: “How U.S. Pressure Bends UN Agencies.” Parry notes that John Bolton — newly installed as National Security Advisor — had ousted the head of the OPCW in 2002, Brazilian diplomat Jose Bustani, in order facilitate the invasion of Iraq. Parry also critiques the current head of the agency, Turkish diplomat Ahmet Uzumcu.

REESE ERLICH, ReeseErlich2 at hotmail.com
Erlich is author of Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect. A freelance journalist who began reporting from Syria in 2002, he writes the syndicated column “Foreign Correspondent.”

He said today: “The official version of the U.S. missile attack on Syria is already unraveling. The supposed chemical weapons factory bombed by the U.S. didn’t leak chemicals. There have been no independent confirmations that the bombed sites had any connection to chemical weapons. In 1998 President Bill Clinton directed a missile strike against a ‘chemical weapons’ factory in Sudan, which turned out to be a pharmaceutical plant.

“Chemical weapons inspectors are currently in Damascus waiting to visit Douma where the alleged chemical attack took place. Why didn’t Trump wait for them to make an inspection?”

BEAU GROSSCUP, bgrosscup at csuchico.edu
Grosscup is author of several books, including: The Newest Explosions of Terrorism and most recently, Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment. He is professor emeritus at California State University-Chico.

He said today: “Last Friday’s U.S.-led air strikes on Syria are part of a battle royal being waged between two powerful constituencies within the U.S. government, both of whose goals are the extension and permanence of U.S. power abroad. …

“With the appointment of John Bolton as President Trump’s National Security Advisor, the neoconservatives, whose policy is encapsulated in the goal of ‘regime change’ via military intervention in ‘rogue’ nations opposed to U.S. power (Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran and North Korea) are intent on a last ditch effort to remove Assad’s Syrian regime via military force so they can get on with a regime change in Iran. The other constituency, now represented by Defense Secretary James Mattis and embedded in the National Security bureaucracy … are more intent on avoiding another ground war in the Middle East, preferring limited air strikes, diplomacy and aid to ‘Syrian rebels’ (ISIS and Al Qaeda) to do the fighting.

“Differences aside, both laid the use of chemical weapons on the Assad regime, (with no proof produced) even through strategically it is only the U.S./French-backed opposition who gain from the use of chemical weapons, i.e. provoking increased U.S./French military involvement. The problems for both are that Assad is winning on the ground (thus doesn’t need to use chemical weapons) and Russian military backing of the Assad regime, thus raising the chance of a superpower confrontation, something Mattis is trying to minimize but Bolton’s neoconservatives relish. For them, the ultimate ‘regime change’ is in Russia. All this is troubling for President Trump who seeks a ‘victory’ in Syria to distract from his domestic woes …

“Either way, the war in Syria will go on, much to the delight of the Israelis, who seek a weakened Syria on their border and a U.S. commitment to regime change in Iran. The neoconservative capture of President Trump’s ear suits them just fine.”

Syria Bombing “Illegal,” Likely to “Prolong” Syrian War

The U.S., France and Britain bombed Syria Friday. This took place just before inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons were to begin their work in Syria.

CHARLES GLASS, [currently in England], charlesglassbooks at gmail.com, @charlesmglass
Glass was ABC News Chief Middle East correspondent and has written extensively on Syria, including covering the civil war on the ground. He said today: “The Trump-May-Macron bombardment of Syria did not kill many people, and it has not caused World War III. What more could anyone hope? Far from ending the war in Syria, it is likely to prolong it.”

Glass’ books include Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring. A year ago, he wrote the piece “Think the War in Syria Is Winding Down? Think Again.” His most recent piece is “The Result of a Loyalist Victory in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta? More Violence.” See his website: CharlesGlass.net.

ALFRED DE ZAYAS, [in Geneva] alfreddezayas at gmail.com, @alfreddezayas
Alfred de Zayas is the UN Independent Expert (Special Rapporteur) on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order. He was just on The Real News: “Trump’s Attack on Syria Violates International Law.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He was recently on an IPA news release: “Attacking Syria ‘Impeachable.’” See his recent interview on WMNF. He also recently wrote the piece “America’s ‘Unlimited Imperialists’” for Consortium News. Boyle’s books include Foundations of World Order (1999) and Destroying World Order (2015).

* Inspectors in Syria * Resisting Illegal Orders

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons “confirms that the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team is on its way to Syria and will start its work as of Saturday 14 April 2018.” See from Agence France-Presse: “OPCW experts to begin arriving in Syria: Syria’s UN envoy.”

The Local, one of the largest English-language Swedish media outlets reports: “Sweden drafts proposal to rid Syria of chemical weapons ‘once and for all.’

Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter recently wrote about the OPCW inspectors in “Trump’s Rush to Judgment on Syria Chemical Attack” for The American Conservative.

GERRY CONDON, gerrycondon at veteransforpeace.org, @VFPNational
Condon is president of Veterans For Peace, which recently warned: “a U.S. attack on Syria could lead to a nuclear war. … Russia has said it will shoot down U.S. missiles, and attack the ‘platforms from which they are fired,’ i.e. U.S. ships.”

Said Condon: “Why the rush to war? … Why is the mass media cheerleading for war instead of asking hard questions? Why are Democratic and Republican politicians trying to out-do one another with calls for ever more massive attacks on Syria?

“There is no proof yet of a Syrian government gas attack, only a video made by a fundamentalist rebel group that wants more U.S. intervention. Even if the reports are true, a military response will only lead to more death and destruction, and dangerous escalations.

“We are talking about a direct confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers. Why would the U.S. risk nuclear war over dubious chemical weapons claims?

“Veterans have longer memories than the press and the politicians. We remember how we were lied into the Iraq War with false reports of ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ U.S. wars throughout the Middle East have caused millions of deaths and destroyed entire societies. Our soldiers and their families have also paid an extremely high price.”

“Veterans, GI’s and their families will not accept another war based on lies. We will be protesting in the streets, in the suites, at media outlets and at military bases.

“All military personnel, from low-ranking GI’s to the top generals and admirals, have an obligation to disobey illegal orders. Orders to carry out acts of war against a sovereign nation that is not threatening the U.S. are illegal orders.

“We swore an oath to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Right now those enemies are those who would rush our country recklessly into another devastating war.”

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