News Releases

Sinclair to Buy Tribune Media: “Reward from Trump Administration”?

TrumpDrumpfMICHAEL CORCORAN, corcoran1 [at] gmail.com, @mcorcoran3
Michael Corcoran is a media critic and journalist who writes about media policy. His article “Trump Uses Power of FCC to Pay Back Friends at Sinclair Broadcasting” was published yesterday by FAIR.org.

He said today: “Sinclair’s plan to buy Tribune Media is unsettling for several reasons. It is a major consolidation of the local media market, giving Sinclair access to a staggering 69 percent of the U.S. population.This exceeds the 39 percent ownership cap and was enabled by Trump-appointed FCC chairman Ajit Pai and his decision to reinstate a needless loophole that benefits nobody except Big Media.

“All of this is made more troubling by the fact that the Trump campaign and Sinclair previously made ‘a deal,’ as Trump’s son-in-law described it, to provide more coverage of Trump in exchange for access. Sinclair, which has long pushed a conservative agenda, has since hired a former Trump staffer. Now the president appears to be using his control of the FCC as a way to reward media companies he likes. This provides incentive for other media conglomerates to be more timid and less adversarial in their coverage of the president.

“This is one of the many problems that occurs when the vast majority of the media is controlled by massive corporations who prioritize profit above all else, even the public good.”

See also by Corcoran: “The First Amendment May Not Protect Us: Trump’s FCC Intensifies War on Press.

 

Drone Killings: “Making Children Afraid of Sunny Days”

BirdIsTHeWordThe award winning documentary “National Bird” — which is now airing on PBS stations — is available for a limited time online through PBS.

The film “follows the dramatic journey of three whistleblowers determined to break the silence around one of the most controversial issues of our time: the secret U.S. drone war.”

The following can be reached for interviews via Cara White, cara.white [at] mac.com.

SONIA KENNEBECK, @NationalBirdDoc
Kennebeck, director and producer of “National Bird,” said today: “While the drone war is considered by many a legacy of the Obama administration, President Trump’s apparent embrace of the drone program is making ‘National Bird’ incredibly timely. …

“As ‘National Bird’ shows, this weapon greatly impacts the people and the societies in the target countries, and also the pilots and analysts operating the drones. The drone war is not as clean and surgical as politicians want us to believe, and it is not even remotely clear if it is … reducing terrorism.”

LISA LING, @aretvet
Ling is one of the drone whistleblowers profiled in “National Bird.” She said today: “I believe the public should be made aware of what is being done in our name. We should be informed of strikes and that which governs them. From the ground, people living under drones have no idea if ordnance will be dropped, where it will be dropped, or when it will be dropped. A constant threat overhead that could kill you, your family, friends, neighbors. …

“No one is immune from a strike. This is nothing short of terror, the kind of terror that makes children afraid of sunny days. We are not fighting a finite army. A person becomes a ‘terrorist’ when they say they are. If, as General McChrystal has suggested, five new terrorists are created when there is a strike, when will these ‘wars’ end?  All of this warrants a public debate, this film starts the necessary conversation.”

Ling is a former technical sergeant on drone surveillance systems, grew up in California and initially joined the military as an army medic and nurse. When it became apparent that she was adept with computers, she transferred to a combat communications squadron, which later became an intelligence squadron. Her final deployment as a technical sergeant was to Beale Air Force Base, California, where she worked on the Distributed Ground System (DGS), a weapons system that makes use of drones to collect vast amounts of data to find and kill targets. Like other whistleblowers featured in the film, Ling had a top-secret clearance.

NBC News reported recently: “Trump Admin Ups Drone Strikes, Tolerates More Civilian Deaths: U.S. Officials.”

The Washington Post reported in November: “Obama administration expands elite military unit’s powers to hunt foreign fighters globally.”

As Saudis Threaten Port, Yemen Famine Leaves Refugee Chief “Shocked to the Bones”

3205The Guardian reports in “Yemen hunger crisis leaves refugee chief ‘shocked to the bones’” that “One of Europe’s most experienced diplomats has said he was ‘shocked to the bones’ by the hunger he saw in Yemen.

“Jan Egeland, the current head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, condemned ‘this gigantic failure of international diplomacy’ and said that only 3 million people out of the 7 million people who were starving had been fed last month.

“‘Men with guns and power inside Yemen as well as in regional and international capitals are undermining every effort to avert an entirely preventable famine,’ he said, ‘as well as the collapse of health and education services for millions of children.’ …

“Egeland appealed to the parties of the conflict to agree to a ceasefire and to keep the main humanitarian supply route, the port of Hodeida, open. There have been warnings of an attack on the port by the Saudi-led coalition. He said: ‘Nowhere on Earth are as many lives at risk. We are not even sure that the main humanitarian lifeline through the port of Hodeida will be kept open.'”

See CNN video: “World letting Yemen ‘be engulfed in famine.'”

ROBERT NAIMAN, cell: naiman [at] justforeignpolicy.org, @naiman

Policy director at Just Foreign Policy, Naiman recently wrote the piece “Pocan, Amash Invoke War Powers as Trump Mulls Pushing Yemen Into Famine.” Also see from the group: “Join 9 Senators to Tell Saudi Arabia: ‘Hodeida Must Be Spared’!

TARIQ AL-AMRI, YAHYA AHMED, [in Yemen] tayalamry2003 [at] yahoo.com

Al-Amri and Ahmed are with the Chapter for Compassion Foundation in Yemen. Ahmed said today: “The situation in Yemen is critical. People are out of food, medical supplies and are increasingly homeless.”

KATHY KELLY, cell: kathy [at] vcnv.org, @voiceinwild

Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She just wrote the piece “In Yemen, Shocked to His Bones,” which states: “Egeland and the NRC call on all parties to the conflict, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, the U.S. and the U.K. to negotiate a cease fire.

“This weekend, the situation stands poised to become dramatically worse with the apparently imminent bombing, by Saudi Arabia, one of the U.S.’ closest allies, of the aid lifeline which is the port of Hodeida.

“Egeland stresses the vital importance of keeping humanitarian aid flowing through Hodeida, a port which stands mere days or hours from destruction. ‘The Saudi-led, Western-backed military coalition has threatened to attack the port,’ said Egeland, ‘which would likely destroy it and cut supplies to millions of hungry civilians.’ U.S. Congresspeople demanding a stay on destruction of the port have as yet won no concessions from the Saudi or U.S governments.

“The U.S. Government has as yet sounded no note of particular urgency about ending or suspending the conflict, nor has its close ally in the Saudi dictatorship. Saudi Arabia’s Defense Minister, Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently gave ‘a positive view of the war in Yemen.'”

See Twitter list of people following Yemen in and out of the country: twitter.com/accuracy/lists/yemen.

Horizon on Healthcare: Single Payer?

CAROL PARIS, M.D., via Clare Fauke, clare [at] pnhp.org, @pnhp
Dr. Paris is president of Physicians for a National Health Program, which just released the statement “Doctors’ group: House leaders are out of touch with majority of Americans demanding Medicare for all,” which states: “This vote shows that House leaders are not only out of ideas on health care, but out of touch with their own constituents. … In polls and at town hall meetings, Americans consistently demand Medicare for all, the only plan that is universal, sustainable, and proven to work in every other industrialized nation.”

A single payer proposal is progressing at the state level, perhaps most notably in California. The San Francisco Examiner reports: “Universal health care becomes a real possibility in the Golden State.”

TOM GALLAGHER, tgtgtgtgtg [at] aol.com
Gallagher is chair of the San Francisco chapter of Progressive Democrats of America and is a delegate to the upcoming California Democratic state convention. He once represented Boston in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. He is the author of The Primary Route: How the 99% Take On the Military Industrial Complex.

He recently wrote the piece “A California Fix From Out of Old Massachusetts?” which states: “Having twice passed single payer legislation, the Democratic-controlled California legislature four years ago disappeared the bill. There is no record of the legislative leadership telling members they couldn’t file the bill, it’s just that none, in either branch, did — even though a bill had been filed in each of the seven previous two-year sessions. The salient fact here is the legislature had actually put the bill on the governor’s desk when the governor was Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now it’s Democrat Jerry Brown and as one observer bluntly put it, ‘A Democratic legislature will pass single payer when there’s a Republican Governor but not when there’s a Democratic Governor — unless he wants it.’ The legislative leadership’s previous support for single payer had been for show only.”

The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right

Politico reports: “White House aims for Thursday signing of religious liberty executive order.” The House Subcommittee on Government Operations is scheduled to have a hearing on the Johnson Amendment on Thursday, “Examining a Church’s Right to Free Speech.”

FREDERICK CLARKSON, frederick.clarkson at gmail.com, @FredClarkson
Clarkson is senior fellow at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank in Somerville, Massachusetts. He is the author of the 2016 report, “When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right.”

Clarkson said today: “When most Christian Right leaders went all in for Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, he promised to deliver on religious liberty. Today, he is making a big show of doing just that. Religious liberty has been a code word for right-wing Christians seeking to roll back civil rights gains for women, LGBTQ people and people of other faiths by seeking religious exemptions from the law.

“Trump is issuing his executive order on religious liberty on the federally designated National Day of Prayer, which has been largely operated by fundamentalist Christians.”Both Trump’s executive order and the National Day of Prayer are abuses of religious freedom — what we have long called The First Freedom, because it precedes freedom of speech and the press in the First Amendment. Religious freedom is a progressive value that is so central to our society that it must not be devalued by partisan and sectarian operatives.

“Trump has, far more than his predecessors, appointed Christian Right pols and leaders to cabinet and significant sub-cabinet posts. These include Betsy DeVos at Education, Ben Carson at HUD, Rick Perry at Energy, Mike Pompeo at CIA and Tom Price at HHS. This past week, Trump also appointed antiabortion leader Charmaine Yoest (the former president of Americans United for Life) as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs of HHS; and anti-contraception activist Teresa Manning as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs.”

Budget Funds Wall

Pedestrian barrier photo available for free use by media with appropriate credit Please credit Russ McSpadden / Center for Biological Diversity Photo location: Near Sierra Vista / Ft. Huachuca Arizona

Credit: Russ McSpadden, Center for Biological Diversity

BRETT HARTL, bhartl [at] biologicaldiversity.org, @CenterForBioDiv
Hartl is government affairs director with the Center for Biological Diversity, which released a statement: “Must-pass Spending Bill Includes Funding for Trump’s Border Wall: Replaces Vehicle Barriers With ‘Pedestrian Barriers.’

The group states: “Congressional leaders in both parties agreed Sunday to include $146 million in the federal budget for the construction of new walls along the U.S.-Mexico border. The replacement of vehicle barriers with pedestrian barriers will step up border militarization, continue to harm local communities, and have devastating effects on wildlife, blocking the movement of jaguars, ocelots and other animals. The budget agreement also includes $77 million for new border roads that will provide the needed infrastructure to build future segments of the wall.

“Despite claims by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats, a pedestrian barrier is a wall, as it is the only type of border-control structure that deters pedestrian entry.”

U.S. Breakthrough on Nuclear First Strike Threatens Stability

warhead-photo_2The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists recently published a paper by three leading scientists: “How U.S. nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze.”

The paper states: “The U.S. nuclear forces modernization program has been portrayed to the public as an effort to ensure the reliability and safety of warheads in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, rather than to enhance their military capabilities. In reality, however, that program has implemented revolutionary new technologies that will vastly increase the targeting capability of the U.S. ballistic missile arsenal. This increase in capability is astonishing — boosting the overall killing power of existing U.S. ballistic missile forces by a factor of roughly three — and it creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.”

The authors of the paper are available for interviews:

HANS KRISTENSEN, hkristensen [at] fas.org
MATTHEW McKINZIE, mmcKinzie [at] nrdc.org
THEODORE A. POSTOL, postol [at] mit.edu
Kristensen is the director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists. McKinzie is the director of the Nuclear Program of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Postol is professor of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT.

The paper continues: “The capability upgrade has happened outside the attention of most government officials, who have been preoccupied with reducing nuclear warhead numbers. The result is a nuclear arsenal that is being transformed into a force that has the unambiguous characteristics of being optimized for surprise attacks against Russia and for fighting and winning nuclear wars. While the lethality and firepower of the U.S. force has been greatly increased, the numbers of weapons in both U.S. and Russian forces have decreased, resulting in a dramatic increase in the vulnerability of Russian nuclear forces to a U.S. first strike. We estimate that the results of arms reductions with the increase in U.S. nuclear capacity means that the U.S. military can now destroy all of Russia’s ICBM silos using only about 20 percent of the warheads deployed on U.S. land- and sea-based ballistic missiles.”

Ellsberg: Trump Threats to WikiLeaks “Nuclear Option” Against the First Amendment

DahBoy
Statement by Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower:

“Obama having opened the legal campaign against the press by going after the roots of investigative reporting on national security — the sources — Trump is going to go after the gatherers/gardeners themselves (and their bosses, publishers). To switch the metaphor, an indictment of Assange is a ‘first use’ of ‘the nuclear option’ against the First Amendment protection of a free press. (By the way, the charges they’re reportedly considering against him — conspiracy, theft, and violation of the Espionage Act — are exactly the charges I faced in 1971.)

“If journalists and publishers fail to call this out, denounce and resist it — on the spurious grounds that Julian is ‘not a real journalist’ like themselves — they’re offering themselves up to Trump and Sessions for indictments and prosecutions, which will eventually silence all but the heroes and heroines among them.”

The statement by Ellsberg was read by Army veteran and retired diplomat Ann Wright at a news conference Friday morning outside the Department of Justice organized by ExposeFacts, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Video of the news conference, which also featured remarks by retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern, is now available at Facebook Live. Higher quality video and audio will be available later today on Youtube and via @xposefacts.

* News Conference on WikiLeaks * “Trumponomics” Exposed

ANN WRIGHT, annw1946 [at] gmail.com
JESSELYN RADACK, jess [at] exposefacts.org

Wright and Radack will be among the speakers Friday at a 10:00 a.m. news conference: “News Conference at Department of Justice on Threats to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.” Former CIA briefer Ray McGovern will also speak. A statement by Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg will be released at the news conference.

Wright is a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel. As a U.S. diplomat, Wright served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Krygyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia and helped re-open the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan in 2001. In March of 2003, she resigned in protest over the invasion of Iraq.

Radack is national security and human rights director of the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts. Her recent pieces include “What Have We Done: Executive Power, Trump, and Drones?” and “Is the Vault 7 Source a Whistleblower?” ExposeFacts is a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

For updates on video of news conference, see: @xposefacts

STEPHANIE KELTON, stephanie.kelton [at] me.com

Kelton is professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She served as chief economist on the U.S. Senate Budget Committee in 2015 and then became an economic advisor to the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign. She recently wrote the paper “Can ‘Trumponomics’ extend the recovery?” See: “Bernie Sanders’ Economic Advisor Shreds Trumponomics” in CounterPunch.

CHUCK COLLINS, via Kelsea-Marie Pym, kpym [at] patrioticmillionaires.org

Collins is organizer of the Patriotic Millionaires effort to Defend the Estate Tax. He said today: “The Trump tax proposal will accelerate U.S. wealth inequality. Abolishing the estate tax — a tax that starts on families with over $11 million — would be a windfall for the wealthy. The first tax cut should NOT go to the first family. If Trump has the $10 billion he claims he has, repeal of the estate tax will give each of the Trump children a $1 billion windfall.” Collins is author, with Bill Gates Sr., of Wealth and Our Commonwealth: Why America Should Tax Inherited Fortunes.

Trump’s Korea Threat

A U.S. military vehicle which is a part of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system arrives in Seongju, South Korea, April 26, 2017. Kim Jun-beom/Yonhap via REUTERSThe New York Times is reporting: “Fearing Korean Nuclear War, Women of 40 Nations Urge Trump to Seek Peace.”

NAMHEE LEE, namheeleeucla [at] gmail.com
SUZY KIM, suzykim [at] rci.rutgers.edu
CHRISTINE AHN, christineahn [at] mac.com
Lee, Kim and Ahn are among the signers of the statement, released by the group WomanCrossDMZ, which was founded by Ahn. Lee is professor of Asian languages and cultures at UCLA and author of The Making of Minjung: Democracy and the Politics of Representation in South Korea. Kim is associate professor of Korean history at Rutgers University.

The letter calls on Trump to: “Negotiate a freeze of North Korea’s nuclear and long-range ballistic program in exchange for a U.S. security guarantee that would include suspending U.S.-South Korea military exercises.”

The letter states: “Since 1950, the Korean peninsula has been threatened with nuclear weapons, missile tests, and military exercises that have only served to make 75 million Korean people less secure. In the United States and on both sides of the Korean De-Militarized Zone, the absence of a binding peace accord fuels fear and economic deprivation caused by diverting public resources in preparation for war, including deploying the controversial THAAD missile defense system in South Korea. This endless militarization must stop.” See from Reuters: ”

TIM SHORROCK, [currently in South Korea] timshorrock [at] gmail.com, @timothys
Shorrock recently wrote the piece “In South Korea, War Hysteria Is Seen as an American Problem: The big issue here is the May 9 presidential election, which is expected to bring a progressive to power” for The Nation.

Fox News reports: “Full Senate heads to rare classified meeting at the White House on North Korea.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle [at] illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “This is a dangerous situation because what Trump could be doing here is to lay some bogus Constitutional predicate for war against DPRK [North Korea], claiming that he’s consulting Congress. In fact, Trump has no authorization for war against DPRK. There was never a Declaration of War by Congress against DPRK. He is currently in violation of the War Powers Resolution Section 2(c) since he is putting U.S. armed forces ‘into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.’ He would also be violating the United Nations Charter because the Security Council has not authorized the use of military force to deal with the current situation.”

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