The Escalating War on Independent Information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthcare: Obama Vs. Pence?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CIA and NSA Veterans on Russia, Trump and Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ravitch: Trump Ed. Nominee DeVos not Qualified

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betsydevosDIANE RAVITCH, gardendr [at] gmail.com, @DianeRavitch
Ravitch is author of many books, including Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools and The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She is a research professor of education at New York University and served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She now blogs at dianeravitch.net.

She said today: “Betsy DeVos should not be approved by the Senate committee or confirmed by the Senate as U.S. Secretary of Education. She has no experience or qualifications for the job. She is a lobbyist for alternatives to public schools. Eighty-five percent of the students in the U.S. attend  public schools. Her only plan is to weaken and destroy them by diverting public money to charter schools and vouchers for religious schools.

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

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

Democrats Playing with Fire on Russia

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

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

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

Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.
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Jeff Sessions’ Record

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

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

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

Udry referenced an online compendium of material on Sessions.

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

* Obama * Sessions * Tillerson

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

DENNIS BERNSTEIN, dennisjbernstein [at] gmail.com, @flashpointsnews
Bernstein, an award-winning investigative reporter, is the host and executive producer of “Flashpoints,” a daily news magazine syndicated on Pacifica Radio out of KPFA. He wrote the piece “Sessions’s Old-Time Contempt for Civil Rights” last November about Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, who begins his second day of testimony Wednesday: Writes Bernstein: “In 1996, I traveled through Alabama and Mississippi with fellow journalist Ron Nixon as we investigated a wave of arson against black churches. …

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

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

Cory Booker Joins Republican Sen. Majority to Kill Cheaper Meds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among the signers:

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

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

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

Tillerson’s Exxon Often Sought State Department Assistance, Docs Show

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STEVE HORN,  steve at desmogblog.com@SteveAHorn
Horn is an investigative journalist and writer for DeSmogBlog.com. He just wrote the piece “Rex Tillerson’s Exxon Often Sought State Department Assistance New Documents Show” for The Intercept.

He said today: “This investigation centers around documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) showing that ExxonMobil — then run by its CEO and current U.S. Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson — frequently pressed the Obama Administration State Department to intervene on its behalf in Germany to push through fracking when it had come under opposition by grassroots movements in the country.

“We also dug through other State Department diplomatic cables, leaked by Chelsea Manning and published by WikiLeaks, showing similar behavior by Exxon in both Indonesia in the South China Sea and Russia. The South China Sea example is notable, the piece points out, because Tillerson came across as a hardliner vs.China and the South China Sea during his confirmation hearing last week in from of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Exxon has skin in the game, as the article shows, in this territory.”

Betsy DeVos Hearing “A Disaster”

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DIANE RAVITCH, gardendr [at] gmail.com, @DianeRavitch
Ravitch is author of many books, including Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools and The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She is a research professor of education at New York University and served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She now blogs at dianeravitch.net.

She said today: “At her Senate hearing, Michigan billionaire Betsy DeVos demonstrated her unfitness for the job of U.S. Secretary of Education. She seemed to know little about education policy or federal law. She is a lobbyist for public funding of private schools, privately managed charter schools, virtual schools, home schooling, in short, any alternative to the nation’s historic public schools.

“As a private citizen, she has poured millions of dollars into her personal crusade to privatize public schools. When a senator asked her if she would commit not to privatize public schools, she could not do so.

“Under questioning from Senator Bernie Sanders, she admitted that she had given $200 million to Republicans (including 10 of the 12 on the committee that interviewed her).

“When Senator Tim Kaine asked her whether all schools receiving federal funds should be subject to the same federal regulations, she was evasive.

“When other senators pressed her to commit to requiring charter schools and voucher schools to abide by federal laws protecting children with disabilities, she said that was a decision for the states. She seemed surprised to learn that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is federal law.

“Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut asked if she would support a gun-free schools law, and she waffled. She said it should be up to the states because some states might want a gun in school to protect against grizzly bears. Senator Murphy represents Newtown, where the Sandy Hook massacre occurred. There have been no grizzly bear attacks in schools.

“The most embarrassing exchange occurred when Senator Al Franken asked her views about accountability, and DeVos did not understand the difference between proficiency and growth scores.

“Not much was said about the dismal results of charters in Michigan, where 80% operate for profit, free of any accountability and do not get better results than public schools. DeVos said she supports accountability but there is no accountability in her own state for charters.

“Nor does DeVos care about separation of church and state. She is eager to send taxpayer dollars to religious schools, even though voters have always rejected vouchers whenever they were put to a vote. If religious schools do accept federal money, as DeVos hopes, they will be required to accept federal laws.

“The hearing was a disaster for DeVos, but she had the assurance of a billionaire who knows she will be confirmed because she is entitled by her great wealth.”

“A Field Guide to Trump’s Swamp”

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JANINE WEDEL, jwedel@gmu.edu@janinewedel
Wedel, an anthropologist, is a University Professor in the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs at George Mason University. She just wrote the piece “A Field Guide to Trump’s Swamp.” Her books include Unaccountable: How The Establishment Corrupted our Finances, Freedom, and Politics and Created an Outsider Clasand Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market.

Wedel writes: “[Trump’s cabinet, a] collection of primarily white men includes the wealthiest Cabinet members in U.S. history, chosen by the man who will be the wealthiest president ever. Many of them are slated to take charge of missions and bureaucracies they have vowed to thwart or even eliminate. And the vast majority of this homogenous group exhibit some form of conflict of interest, just like their chieftan, who, indications are, may take conflicts of interest to an unprecedented level for a U.S. president. Trump busts presidential norms not only in his own personal conduct but also in the number of conflicted players surrounding him—and in the magnitude of their conflicts. …

“But perhaps an even bigger concern are some of Trump’s other picks, advisers, and associates who qualify as ‘shadow lobbyists.’” To name a few:

  • “Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who is Trump’s choice for national security adviser, runs his own consulting firm (as do many other retired military peers), called Flynn Intel Group Inc. As is often the case these days, Flynn’s firm is registered as a lobbyist, but the top player – Flynn himself – is not. One of his clients has been linked to the Turkish government in the press, casting suspicion on Flynn’s motivations for writing an op-ed this past fall supporting Turkey’s autocratic leader. None of this kept Flynn out of classified briefings during the presidential transition from Obama to Trump.
  • “A consulting company owned by Newt Gingrich, a regular from the Trump campaign trail and an apparent adviser to the transition team, earned more than $1.6 million from Freddie Mac, a government-backed home mortgage and loan company, in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. Gingrich denied direct lobbying (at one point arguing he was merely a ‘historian’ for Freddie Mac), but his firm ‘reported directly to Freddie Mac’s public policy and lobbying office,’ according to one account. This one-step-removed arrangement is now commonplace and enables shadow lobbyists plausible deniability. Gingrich also denied lobbying for ethanol interests, so it raised eyebrows when industry IRS filings revealed he took in more than $300,000 from that industry in 2009. He also founded a so-called think tank, the Center for Health Transformation, to promote the policy desires of its health industry sponsors. Gingrich is now making money from his association with Trump, reportedly increasing his speaking fee by $15,000 because of his close ties to the president-elect.
  • “Myron Ebell, serving as the leader of the Environmental Protection Agency transition team, is a longtime climate change denier with the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a self-described libertarian think tank funded by the energy industry, among other donors. CEI is viewed as an advocacy arm for an array of polluting industries and the billionaires who help to support it. Trump has installed similarly compromised “think tank” influencers as transition leaders at both the Energy Department and the Interior Department.
  • “Rudy Giuliani, a still-vocal Trump advocate who Trump shortlisted as a candidate to run the State Department, owns the consulting firm Giuliani Partners, which has any number of potential conflicts. Clients have included the governments of Qatar and Venezuela, controversial painkiller giant Purdue Pharma, and a Canadian energy firm behind the Keystone XL pipeline, among many others. While it has been extremely unusual for secretaries of state to have significant and diverse connections to big business, none of Giuliani’s disqualified him from the shortlist. Merely being shortlisted for such a post is useful to his firm in generating new business. Nor did his connections exclude him from being named a cybersecurity adviser to the president-elect, an arena in which Giuliani has any number of conflicts. His firm has reportedly advised identity protection company LifeLock Inc. and insurer Aon on cybersecurity, and he is on leave as chair of the cybersecurity practice at the global law firm Greenberg Traurig.”

 

Campaign to Impeach Trump Underway

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Support for impeaching President Trump gained momentum over the weekend, with more than 100,000 Americans signing a petition since the inauguration calling for the House of Representatives to begin an impeachment process.

The petition campaign, led by RootsAction.org and Free Speech for People, says that “Trump’s refusal to divest from his business interests has placed him in direct violation of the United States Constitution.”

In an article headlined “The Campaign to Impeach President Trump Has Begun,” the Washington Post reported: “At the moment the new commander in chief was sworn in, a campaign to build public support for his impeachment went live at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org, spearheaded by two liberal advocacy groups aiming to lay the groundwork for his eventual ejection from the White House.”

The nonpartisan Impeach Donald Trump Now campaign is calling on the U.S. Congress to initiate an impeachment investigation into President Trump’s violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause and Domestic Emoluments Clause, as well as violations of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act).

Available for interviews:

JOHN BONIFAZ, Press [at] FreeSpeechForPeople.org, @JohnBonifaz
Bonifaz is co-founder and president of Free Speech For People. He said today: “Given President Donald Trump’s refusal to divest fully from his business interests, he is now in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution.

“In the face of this new and unprecedented level of corruption by the President, we must rise to address this extraordinary moment in our history. The President must be held accountable for these impeachable offenses and we, as a people, must confront this new corruption threat to our Constitution and our democracy.”

DAVID SWANSON, david [at] davidswanson.org, @davidcnswanson
Swanson is campaign coordinator of RootsAction.org. He said today: “As documented on our new website at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org we now have a president who is violating two clauses in the Constitution, one forbidding any gifts or benefits from foreign governments, the other forbidding the same from the U.S. government or any U.S. state. This is the result of Trump refusing to separate himself from major business interests as past presidents have done. Those interests will also inevitably involve Trump in violating the STOCK Act which forbids the use of non-public government information to make a private profit. …

“Do we want Mike Pence to be President? We want whoever is the 46th president — and 47th and 48th — to be in the position of knowing that they can be held accountable to the Constitution. We believe that change will be more significant than the identity of the person stepping into the office.”

Swanson is the director of World Beyond War and the author of War is a Lie.

For FAQ about the campaign to impeach Trump that RootsAction has posted, click here.

To see an eight-page “Impeachment campaign FAQs” document that the Impeach Donald Trump Now campaign has posted, click here.

Trump Withdrawing From TPP: What’s Next?

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CNN reports: “President Donald Trump on Monday will start to unravel the behemoth trade deal he inherited from his predecessor, as he signed an executive action to withdraw from the negotiating process of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“That executive action sends signals to Democrats and leaders in foreign capitals around the world that Trump’s rhetoric on trade during the campaign is turning into action. Trump vowed during the campaign to withdraw the US from the Pacific trade deal, commonly known as TPP, which he argued was harmful to American workers and manufacturing.”

LORI WALLACH, via Matt Groch, mgroch [at] citizen.org
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

She said today: “Formally withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will bury the moldering corpse of a deal that couldn’t gain majority support in Congress, but the question is going forward will President Trump’s new trade policies create American jobs and reduce our damaging trade deficit while raising wages and protecting the environment and public health not just here but also in trade partner nations?

“If President Trump intends to replace our failed trade policy, a first step must be to end negotiations now underway for more deals based on the damaging NAFTA/TPP model so its notable that today’s announcement did not end talks to establish the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Trade in Services Agreement and the U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty – all of which would replicate and expand the TPP/NAFTA model Trump says he is ending.

 “President Trump also repeatedly has said he would launch NAFTA renegotiations immediately and withdraw from NAFTA if he cannot make it ‘a lot better’ for working people. NAFTA renegotiation could be an opportunity to create a new trade model that benefits more people, but if done wrong, it could increase job offshoring, push down wages and expand the protections that NAFTA provides to the corporate interests that shaped the original deal. Even with the Fast Track authority Trump inherits, to pass a NAFTA replacement he must ensure its terms enjoy support from most congressional Democrats and a subset of Republicans. Most congressional Republicans and many people Trump has named to senior positions passionately support the very agreements Trump opposes. Most congressional Democrats have opposed deals like TPP and NAFTA and for decades promoted alternatives that expand trade without undermining American jobs and wages, access to affordable medicine, food safety or environmental protections.

“NAFTA is packed with incentives for job offshoring and protections for the corporate interests that helped to shape it, so to make NAFTA better for people and the planet will require it to be replaced, not tweaked. To remedy —  not worsen — NAFTA’s damage, both the old negotiating process and the contents must be replaced. To put the needs of working people, their communities, the environment and public health over the demands of the special interests that have dominated U.S. trade policymaking, the 500 official U.S. trade advisers representing corporate interests who called the shots on past agreements must be benched.

“If corporate elites are allowed to dictate how NAFTA is renegotiated, the deal could become even more damaging to working people and the environment in the three countries. Absent high labor and environmental standards, requirements for more North American content in products could increase U.S. job offshoring. The corporate interests that have rigged past trade deals say NAFTA renegotiation is how they will revive the special protections they achieved in the TPP, for instance limits on competition from generic drugs so pharmaceutical firms can keep medicine prices high.”  (See Citizens Trade Campaign’s Jan. 13 letter to Trump and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s Jan. 3 letter to Trump on what must be in a NAFTA replacement for it to provide broad benefits.)

Pence Assembling “Dream Team of Christian Right”

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FREDERICK CLARKSON, frederick.clarkson[at]gmail.com
Clarkson is Senior Fellow for Religious Liberty at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank in Somerville, MA. He is the author of the report, When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right, and most recentlythe article, A Dystrumpian Vision for LGBTQ People, which will appear in the Winter issue of The Public Eye magazine.

He said today, “While Donald Trump has been making news with his gaffes and tweets, Mike Pence has been quietly assembling a dream team of Christian Right figures for senior administration posts. He is doing exactly what he was expected to do as head of the presidential transition team.

“The Christian Right is now not only one of the most powerful political movements in the country, but a leading force in the federal government as well.

“Pence has placed his religious identity front and center of his politics and in his approach to government. He has often declared that he is ‘a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.’ In the 1990s he served as a board member of the Indiana Family Institute, a political affiliate of Focus on the Family, founded by Christian Right leader James Dobson.The way that this has translated into public policy, both when he served as governor and in his new role with the Trump campaign and administration in formation, can be seen in his highlighting the three main contemporary themes of the Christian Right, ‘life, marriage, and religious freedom.’

“Donald Trump, via his son Donald Jr., reportedly called an aide to his first choice for veep, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, and told him that a president Trump would put Kasich in charge of both foreign and domestic policy, while the president himself would be in charge of ‘making America great again.’ Pence hasn’t said whether he got the same deal, but his role as chair of the transition team suggests that he is already among the most powerful vice presidents in American history.”

Trump Blocking Refuge for People from Countries U.S. is Bombing

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angry trump

Analyst Mikey Kay notes on Twitter:

25 Jan: Trump to block Visas to anyone from:
1. Iraq
2. Libya
3. Somalia
4. Syria
5. Yemen
6. Iran
7. Sudan
U.S. currently bombing top 5 states.

ARUN KUNDNANI, arun[at]kundnani.org, @ArunKundnani
Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror and a lecturer at New York University.

He said today: “The United States has exported violence to the Middle East for decades and yet refuses to offer sanctuary to those forced to flee the consequences of that violence. A greater hypocrisy is hard to imagine.”

Kundnani recently wrote “Recharging the Batteries of Whiteness: Trump’s New Racial Identity Politics.”

IMAM ABDUL MALIK MUJAHID, via Gregg Cockrell, greggcockrell[at]yahoo.com
Imam Mujahid is the President of Sound Vision Foundation. He is speaking with Imams all over the country today. He said this morning: “President Donald Trump’s order banning most refugees unfairly singles out Muslims.”

Regarding the reported exception for minorities who are in danger of religious persecution, he said: “We are pleased that persecuted minorities are welcomed. However, discriminating against Muslims who are victims of the war-terror cycle is un-American.

“I wonder how many Anne Franks will be denied entry into the U.S. because of the exclusion of Muslims. It reminds me of 1939, when the United States turned away hundreds of Jews who came here seeking shelter on the ship the MM St. Louis. That refusal led to the deaths of 254 people by the Nazis, (with) nearly a third of the passengers sent back to Europe.

“Everyone entering the U.S. must be equally scrutinized by law enforcement.”

Trump Targets Sanctuary Cities — Public Banks a Solution?

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Sanctuary CitiesThe Los Angeles Times reports: “President Trump is preparing to take executive action that would target funding for so-called sanctuary cities, part of a series of moves he is considering announcing this week on immigration and national security. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a close ally of the new administration, telegraphed the sanctuary cities announcement during a speech Wednesday to the conservative Heritage Foundation. He called it a ‘common sense’ action that would ‘drive the left crazy.'”

MATT STANNARD, matt [at] commonomicsusa.org
Policy Director for Commonomics USA and lead researcher for the organization’s Public Banking Works project, Stannard is co-author, with Marc Armstrong, of “Public Banks Can Help Cities Honor Their Commitment to Give Sanctuary to Immigrants.”

Stannard and Armstrong said today: “Cities, counties, and states can build a firewall against the incoming administration’s threats, and create long-term fiscal stability in the chaotic years ahead, by opening public banks. By lending at low interest and paying that interest directly back to treasuries, public banks provide governments with both a source of financing and a regular source of revenue. A city-owned public bank could turn a profit for the city in its first year by using the bank to fund its infrastructure with public credit. Not only would the city avoid the costs of the municipal bond market and the risks of Wall Street losing its savings in a bad debt swap or other chicanery, but investment could target the services, economic sectors, or infrastructure upgrades the city needs most.

Even if public banks didn’t offset losses of federal funding dollar-for-dollar, they would help sanctuary cities build additional value-generating and budget-saving projects resulting in long-term immunity from federal fiscal blackmail.”

Sessions Questions Yates on Executing Unlawful Actions

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Jeff SessionsCNN reports: “Video of Sally Yates‘ Deputy Attorney General confirmation hearing in 2015 shows Sen. Jeff Sessions — Trump’s pick for the country’s top legal position — grilling her about her responsibility to the then-President, Barack Obama, should he require her to execute ‘unlawful’ views.

‘You have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things and you need to say no. You think the Attorney General has the responsibility to say no to the President if he asks for something that’s improper?’ the Alabama senator asks her… ‘If the views the President wants to execute are unlawful, should the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General say no?'”

SUE UDRY, [in D.C]  sue.udry [at] defendingdissent.org, @defenddissent
Udry is executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation.

Udry said today: “When Trump issued an executive order that is clearly designed to stoke fear and hatred toward Muslims under the guise of “national security,” tens of thousands of people expressed their outrage at airports and in the streets. Unsurprisingly, when a voice of protest came from inside the Department of Justice, Trump immediately moved to purge that voice. Sally Yates was confirmed to her post as Deputy Attorney General in 2015 only after she had affirmed to the Senate Judiciary Committee that she would act independently from the President and vowed to uphold the Constitution. That same committee will vote today on Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, whose fingerprints are all over this executive order. They should remember that they too swore to uphold the Constitution when they took office and vote no.”

Yemen Starvation — From Air War Worse Than Aleppo

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@GarethPorter notes on Twitter: US is complicit in horrifying starvation from an air war much worse than Aleppo. But still no media outrage.

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 [at] gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Porter is an investigative journalist and author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

He said today: “The U.S. media covered the Russian-Syrian airstrikes in Aleppo as worse than any air campaign in an urban area in modern post-World War II history, highlighting the suffering of civilians and especially of children  Now it has been revealed that millions of Yemenis are suffering starvation, because of the almost complete disruption of Yemeni society from Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. Children are suffering the most horrible starvation.

“The United States is complicit in this crime, because it has refused to end its refueling of Saudi-coalition planes and continued supply of bombs. Yet the U.S. media have not yet gone beyond a carefully-worded description of the food crisis and starvation conditions in Yemen and reference to the war. This represents the ultimate moral failure and hypocrisy of the corporate news media.”

Half a Million Join Impeachment Petition

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Eleven days after the inauguration of President Trump, more than half a million people have joined the campaign and petition at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org, calling on the U.S. Congress to initiate an impeachment investigation into President Trump’s violations of the U.S. Constitution — citing the Foreign Emoluments Clause and Domestic Emoluments Clause, as well as violations of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act).

RON FEIN, Press [at] FreeSpeechForPeople.org, @Ronfein
Fein is legal director of Free Speech for People. He said today: “On inauguration day, we issued the call for Congress to investigate whether President Trump should be impeached for violating the Constitution by holding onto his business interests. In just eleven days, over half a million people joined the campaign, and the movement grows with every new revelation. Donald Trump is profiting from the presidency at public expense, and people are suffering as a result.”

JOHN BONIFAZ, Press [at] FreeSpeechForPeople.org, @JohnBonifaz
Bonifaz is co-founder and president of Free Speech For People. He said: “The American people are rising. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country are now standing up to demand that Congress initiate an impeachment investigation against President Trump. Every day, the President is defying the rule of law and the Constitution. In the defense of our democracy, we must start the impeachment process now.

“President Trump’s personal and business holdings in the United States and abroad present unprecedented conflicts of interest and place him in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause provides: ‘[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.’ The purpose of this provision is to prevent foreign influence or corruption. “Emoluments” from foreign governments include ‘any conferral of a benefit or advantage, whether through money, objects, titles, offices, or economically valuable waivers or relaxations of otherwise applicable requirements,’ even including ‘ordinary, fair market value transactions that result in any economic profit or benefit to the federal officeholder.’

“Furthermore, the Constitution’s Domestic Emoluments Clause provides: ‘The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.’ This provision, which is not waivable by Congress, is also designed to prevent corruption.

“There is sufficient basis to investigate other potentially impeachable violations as well. For example, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act) is one of the few federal ethics statutes that specifically includes the President. Among other provisions, it prohibits the President from (1) using nonpublic information for private profit, and from (2) intentionally influencing an employment decision or practice of a private entity solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation.”

9/11 Survivor on the Muslim Ban

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kerrikellyYesterday 9/11 survivor Kerri Kelly spoke out from the 9/11 Ground Zero Memorial about how the Trump administration is exploiting tragedies like her family’s – the loss of her stepfather Lt. Joe Leavey, a firefighter who died in Tower 2. Kelly explained why she rejects efforts to have Trump’s Muslim-ban policies promoted in her stepfather’s name. 

KERRI KELLY, kerrikelly875 [at] gmail.com, @kkellyyoga

Kelly said today: “The policies of this administration are immoral and unsafe and have nothing to do with 9/11 and everything to do with their own gain.They are an affront to who we were on that day and to who we are as Americans.

“Joe and his men believed in sacrificing themselves for the greater good.They did not discriminate between who gets to be saved and who doesn’t.They ran into that building for all of us.”

See: Facebook live video from the Ground Zero memorial. See also: Kelly’s TED Talk.

Trump Calls for Major Escalation in Syria

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The New York Times reported: “The White House is drafting a presidential directive that calls on Defense Secretary James M. Mattis to devise plans to more aggressively strike the Islamic State, which could include American artillery on the ground in Syria and Army attack helicopters to support an assault on the group’s capital, Raqqa, officials said.”

REESE ERLICH, ReeseErlich2 [at] hotmail.com

Erlich is a Peabody award-winning foreign correspondent. He is the author of “Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect,” distributed by Random House. His book tour next week will take him to New York City, Raleigh and Atlanta.

He said today: “The Trump administration is planning a major escalation in Syria, contradicting his supporters’ hopes for less overseas fighting. During the campaign Trump tried to convince voters that he opposed the Iraq War and would never let such a disaster take place on his watch. Yet the new administration has now asked the Defense Department to consider sending artillery and attack helicopters to fight in Syria. Supposedly aimed at fighting ISIS, in fact, such moves would seriously escalate the number of U.S. combat troops and increase the likelihood of conflict with Russia and Iran. While Trump proclaims a friendship with Vladimir Putin, escalating the number of U.S. troops in Syria will put him in direct conflict with Russia and Iran.

“More American soldiers and Syrian civilians’ lives are in danger. Under Obama, the U.S. spent $12 million per day just on the Syria War. How many billions more will be wasted by Trump?”

“Populist” Trump Rolling Back Minimal Wall Street Reform

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Wall Street RegulationsThe New York Times reports: “President Trump on Friday moved to chisel away at the Obama administration’s legacy on financial regulation, announcing steps to revisit the rules enacted after the 2008 financial crisis and to back away from a measure intended to protect consumers from bad investment advice. After a White House meeting with executives from Wall Street, Mr. Trump signed a directive aimed at the Dodd-Frank Act, crafted by the Obama administration and passed by Congress in response to the 2008 meltdown.”

WILLIAM K. BLACK, blackw [at] umkc.edu, @williamkblack
Black is an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A former bank regulator who led investigations of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, he is the author of the book The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One.

In his recent interview with The Real News, “Trump Set to Rollback Financial Regulation Passed After the 2008 Crisis,” Black states: “This supposed populist who ran against big banks, against Goldman Sachs, has of course, appointed all these top people in finance. That’s who he’s listening to, not small business people. And so he said that Dodd-Frank has been disastrous, which is hilarious — you know, bank profits are high, their capital levels are much higher, it’s just ridiculous — and said, we’re really going to do a number on that. And Mnuchin has said that he’s going to go after the Volcker Rule.

“But, of course, this is an area where the new Democrats have neutered themselves because, if you recall, Hillary Clinton, supported by Paul Krugman [of the New York Times], said: No, no, no. Don’t bring back Glass-Steagall.

“Well, think how much shorter Dodd-Frank could have been if it had done intelligent things like the following: ‘The act repealing Glass-Steagall is hereby repealed. The interpretive rules as of 1965 are hereby reinstated 180 days after the effective date of this statute.’ That removes about 350 pages of statutes and about 2,000 pages of Volcker regulations and interpretations. And, ‘The Commodities Future Modernization Act is repealed’ — that would have saved, again, 120 pages of statute perhaps and 600 pages of regulation.

“So, because Obama and the new Democrats lacked the courage to actually unwind the Clinton Era and Bush Era deregulation; and because they never created an understanding in the populace of what caused the crisis, which was these three epidemics of elite fraud, you could almost never hear the word fraud even uttered by the President or Hillary Clinton, right? — there was nothing to push back against.”

Also see other recent interviews with Black: “Republicans Plan to “De-Supervise” the Consumer Financial Protection Board” and “Private Sector Will Make a Killing Off of Infrastructure Bank.”

Trump said during the presidential campaign: “The hedge fund guys are getting away with murder. They’re making a tremendous amount of money. They have to pay taxes. I want to lower the rates for the middle class. The middle class is the one, they’re getting absolutely destroyed. This country doesn’t have — won’t have a middle class very soon.” See Forture magazine.

DeVos’ Education Agenda: “Privatize, Monetize, Weaponize”

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CNN reports: “Senators are expected to vote Tuesday on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for education secretary. She is expected to be confirmed, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. All 48 members of the Democratic caucus and two Republicans — Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins — oppose DeVos, but Pence would give Republicans the one extra vote they need.”

MITCHELL ROBINSON, mrob [at] msu.edu
Robinson is chair of music education at the Michigan State University College of Music and has written extensively about Betsy DeVos and her history in Michigan.

In “Privatize, Monetize, Weaponize: How the DeVos family devoured Michigan’s schools,” Robinson writes that while some were surprised by Trump’s nomination of Devos, “public school teachers and supporters in Michigan weren’t surprised at all. They saw Ms. DeVos’ ascendancy to this lofty position as the final piece in an elaborately constructed jig saw puzzle that the DeVos family has been patiently working on, at their opulent vacation homes and on their luxury yacht, for the last couple of decades. And now that the final piece has been added, we will all soon see the ‘big picture’ of the DeVos’ vision for the future of American education: Privatize, Monetize, Weaponize.

“As Michiganders know, Betsy and Dick DeVos are religious and school privatization/choice/voucher zealots. They were humiliated by the twin failures of voucher legislation in 2000 and Dick’s loss in the Michigan governor’s race to Jennifer Granholm in 2006, and these dual humiliations resulted in the development of the DeVos’ ‘long-game’ strategy to achieve their goals of privatizing public education:

1. Destroy the Democrats biggest single source of financial support by gutting teacher unions via Right to Work legislation.
2. Capitalize on the elimination of the charter school ‘cap’ to explode the number of non-regulated and for-profit charter schools in the state.
3. Use charter schools as the mechanism to ‘blur the lines’ between public and private/religious schools.
4. Use this ‘blurring’ of boundaries between church and state to build public support for the redistribution of public funds to religious and private schools.”

In “Trump names Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education: It’s Game, Set, Match for public education,” Robinson writes that DeVos’ goal is a “a two-tiered educational system:

“One, a system of elite private and religious schools for well-to-do, mostly white parents with the means to afford expensive tuition payments, staffed by qualified, certified teachers, with a rich curriculum based on face-to-face instruction in clean, safe, well-maintained schools…

“The other, a parallel system of ‘fly-by-night’ virtual and online ‘schools’ that open and close seemingly at random, and for-profit charters operated by scam artists like Northern Michigan’s Dr. Steve Ingersoll, with little to no state or federal regulation or oversight, and a bare bones, ‘back to the basics’ curriculum delivered by unqualified and uncertified ‘teachers.'”

In “Betsy DeVos is not just unqualified, she’s dangerous,” Robinson writes: “The news that Betsy DeVos will not divest her financial interest in Neurocore, a Michigan ‘biofeedback’ company, should alarm anyone who cares about the health and safety of our children. Because this is not simply a financial issue; it’s part of a disturbing trend in Ms. DeVos’ involvement and activism in education, and her potential confirmation as Secretary of Education.”

Also see from Jezebel: “Someone Is Paying Strangers Online to Beg For Betsy DeVos’s Confirmation.”

Billionaire DeVos “Ignorant of the Most Basic Federal Programs”

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Devos ProtestCNN reports: “President Donald Trump’s selection for education secretary, billionaire mega-donor Betsy DeVos, appears to be his most embattled Cabinet pick, but Senate Republicans have largely held tight in their support. Senate GOP leaders are confident they can squeak DeVos through the Senate with the support of 50 Republican senators Tuesday afternoon, plus a historic tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.”

Pete Tucker on Huffington Post reports in “Growing Resistance Says No to Betsy DeVos” that: “’When it comes to American education, teachers’ voices aren’t heard,’ Shayna Tivona, a pre-K D.C. public school teacher, said as she walked the Senate hallways. ‘Essentially everyone thinks they know more than teachers.'”

KEVIN KUMASHIRO, kkumashiro [at] yahoo.com@kevinkumashiro
Kumashiro stepped down as the dean of the University of San Francisco School of Education last month after serving in the position since 2013. He is the founder of Education Deans for Justice and Equity and is the author of Bad Teacher! How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture. He just wrote the piece “How to Pick a Better Ed. Secretary Than Betsy DeVos.”

DIANE RAVITCH, gardendr [at] gmail.com, @DianeRavitch
Ravitch is author of many books, including Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools and The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She is a research professor of education at New York University and served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She now blogs at dianeravitch.net.

She said today: “There are many reasons for the Senate to reject Betsy DeVos.

“First, she showed during her Senate hearing that she is ignorant of the most basic federal programs and laws.

“Second, DeVos is a fervent advocate for privatization of public education through privately managed charters and vouchers.

“Third, she opposes the fundamental principle of separation of church and state.

“Fourth, she refuses to divest herself of financial conflicts of interests, most notably her multimillion dollar investment in Neurocore, a dubious enterprise that sells expensive biofeedback methods to parents of young children.

“Fifth, she gave the Senate a misleading and inaccurate account of the for-profit online charter industry, which researchers have determined obtains terrible results.

“Sixth, under the influence of DeVos millions, Michigan has taken her advice and its national test scores on NAEP have plummeted.

“Seventh, the Detroit Free Press has written that DeVos has no regard for facts or evidence and it opposes her nomination. [See “What you need to know about Betsy DeVos.”]

“Last, for all the reasons above,  she would do irreparable harm to the public schools of the U.S.”

Sessions Nomination: McConnell Stops Warren from Reading King’s Letter

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2017.14.1_Cohn_origNBC News reports: “Senate Republicans voted to silence the Democrats’ Elizabeth Warren after she read from a letter by the widow of Martin Luther King that criticized the civil rights record of Trump’s nominee for attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

“The debate on the confirmation of Sen. Sessions came to a screeching but temporary halt Tuesday night when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, objected to a speech that the Massachusetts Democrat was giving.

“Warren quoted from a letter that Coretta Scott King wrote in opposition to Sessions, a Alabama Republican, during his attempted confirmation for a federal judgeship 30 years ago.

“The letter said that Sessions, who was then U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama, had used the ‘the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens in the district he now seeks to serve as a federal judge.’

“McConnell and other Republicans said Warren violated Senate rules. The rule, No. 19, says senators cannot ‘directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator.'”

The New York Times reports: “Capping a strikingly contentious confirmation process, the Senate is expected to vote as soon as Wednesday evening on the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama to be attorney general.”  See accuracy.org/calendar for upcoming events.

Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler [at] verizon.net, @graylanhagler
Hagler is senior pastor at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. and chairperson of Faith Strategies. He has been an leading opponent of many of Trump’s policies, including his nomination of Sessions for attorney general.

King’s letter states: “Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters. For this reprehensible conduct, he should not be rewarded with a federal judgeship.”

Background on Sessions: See by Marjorie Cohn “Smooth-Talking Jeff Sessions Can’t Hide Disturbing Record,” which states: “Sessions is notorious for calling a Black attorney ‘boy’ and prosecuting three civil rights organizers, including a former aide to Martin Luther King Jr., for voter fraud in 1985. The bogus prosecution of the ‘Marion Three’ was designed to discourage voting rights for poor and elderly people in several ‘black belt’ Alabama counties. The three were acquitted by a jury after just three hours of deliberation. Their charges could have garnered them 100 years in prison.”

Also, see from Dennis Bernstein: “Sessions’s Old-Time Contempt for Civil Rights,” which states: “In 1996, I traveled through Alabama and Mississippi with fellow journalist Ron Nixon as we investigated a wave of arson against black churches. …

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

Trump’s Terrorism

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strategic terrorTrump recently claimed that terrorist attacks have “gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported.” PolitiFact and other outlets have taken issue with this: “Donald Trump wrong that media is not reporting on terrorism any more.”

Meanwhile, Trump and Sen. John McCain are making headlines since “Donald Trump took to Twitter on Thursday morning to attack John McCain following the Arizona senator’s criticism of the White House’s characterizing of a recent raid in Yemen as as a ‘huge success,’ despite the death of a Navy SEAL.” (USA Today)

However, a leading expert on terrorism takes issue with the entire political and media discussion on the subject.

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 said today: “Trump is only focused on media under-reporting of terrorism of the ‘other.’ He doesn’t consider U.S. a terrorist state. For his statement about media under-reporting of terrorism to be correct would take a re-interruption of his ‘we kill people’ admission to mean the U.S. commits acts of terrorism too. There is a plethora of evidence it does so.

“Media have been silent on U.S.-backed Saudi terror bombing in Yemen, on U.S.-backed Iraqi Shiite militia terror in its anti-ISIS campaign. Moreover, when the U.S. government does ‘kill,’ such as hitting hospitals, wedding parties (Afghanistan, Yemen) etc., the corporate media does report it reluctantly and in doing so gives immediate credence to the various Pentagon explanations as to why it doesn’t qualify as terrorism (not intentional, accident, technological failure, ally did it, fog of war, chain of command confusion). Media also accept totally the Pentagon claim of ‘precision bombing’ equals smart, if not ‘brilliant,’ weapons. Trump is correct that, for example, media don’t report U.S. ‘double tap’ policy (sending in a second missile to kill enemy ‘first responders’), nor the policy that ‘human shields’ are considered military targets.”

See from Ben Norton: “How U.S.-backed Saudi war has decimated Yemen.”

From the Bureau of Investigative Journalism: “Nine young children killed: The full details of botched U.S. raid in Yemen.”

From Noam Chomsky: “Obama’s Drone Assassination Program Is ‘The Most Extensive Global Terrorism Campaign The World Has Yet Seen.'”

From Glenn Greenwald: “Obama Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen. Trump Just Killed His 8-Year-Old Sister.”

Robert Parry writes that “Trump says much that is untrue, but he draws some of Official Washington’s greatest opprobrium when he speaks the truth, such as noting that senior U.S. officials have done a lot of killing, see: “Castigating Trump for Truth-Telling.”

 

Price at HHS: Is Trump Undermining Medicare and Medicaid?

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GettyImages-461442712CAROL PARIS, M.D., via Mark Almberg, communications director, Physicians for a National Health Program, mark [at] pnhp.org, @pnhp 
Dr. Paris of Nashville, Tenn., is president of Physicians for a National Health Program. This morning, in response to last night’s Senate vote to confirm Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., as secretary of health and human services, she said the following:

“The Senate’s confirmation of Tom Price as health secretary is a body blow to the health and welfare of all Americans. According to this week’s Monmouth University poll, Americans’ biggest concern today is with their mounting health care costs, more so than their job security, taxes or other household bills. With Price at the helm of HHS, this concern is only going to escalate.

Price’s vision for reforming U.S. health care would result in millions of Americans losing existing health insurance coverage, and millions more having to make do with bare-bones policies that offer little to no meaningful protection. He can also be expected to push high-deductible health plans, which already result in millions of people forgoing needed care, and to undermine Medicare, the Medicaid program and safety-net hospitals.

“If Price’s policies come to pass, the free-market ideologues who supported them will no longer be able to hide behind false promises like ‘universal access.’ The results will be laid bare for everyone to see, and elected officials will have to answer to the poor, working-class, elderly, and chronically ill Americans who will suffer needlessly as a result. Studies show that about 43,000 people will die each year if such policies are implemented.

“Congress urgently needs to reverse course and embrace the obvious solution: an improved Medicare for all.”

For more background, see: pnhp.org/stoprice.

Also see, from David Leonhardt in the New York Times: “Tom Price, Dr. Personal Enrichment.”

Amnesty International “Stokes Syrian War”

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RICK STERLING, rsterling1 [at] gmail.comno fly zone
Sterling is an independent investigative journalist who just wrote the piece “Amnesty International Stokes Syrian War” for ConsortiumNews.com — which states: “On Feb. 7, Amnesty International released a new report titled ‘Human Slaughterhouse: Mass Hangings and Extermination at Saydnaya Prison,’ which accuses the Syrian government of executing thousands of political prisoners, a set of accusations that has received uncritical treatment in the mainstream news media.

“Like the Iraq/Kuwait incubator story and the Libyan ‘mercenary’ story, the ‘Human Slaughterhouse’ report is coming at a critical time. It accuses and convicts the Syrian government of horrible atrocities against civilians — and AI explicitly calls for the international community to take ‘action.’ But the AI report is deeply biased and amounts to a kangaroo-court conviction of the Syrian government. …

“The Amnesty International report violates the organization’s own research standards. As documented by Professor Tim Hayward here, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, claims that Amnesty does its research ‘in a very systematic, primary, way where we collect evidence with our own staff on the ground. And every aspect of our data collection is based on corroboration and cross-checking from all parties, even if there are, you know, many parties in any situation because of all of the issues we deal with are quite contested. So it’s very important to get different points of view and constantly cross check and verify the facts.’

“But the Amnesty report fails on all counts: it relies on third parties, it did not gather its information from different points of view, and it did not cross-check with all parties. The report’s conclusions are not based on primary sources, material evidence or AI’s own staff; the findings are solely based on the claims of anonymous individuals, mostly in southern Turkey from where the war on Syria is coordinated. …

“While the Amnesty report makes many accusations against the Syrian government, AI ignores the violation of Syrian sovereignty being committed by Western and Gulf countries. It is a curious fact that big NGOs such as Amnesty International focus on violations of ‘human rights law’ and ‘humanitarian law’ but ignore the crime of aggression, also called the crime against peace. …

“The co-author of this Amnesty International report is Nicolette Waldman (Boehland), who was uncritically interviewed on ‘Democracy Now’ on Feb. 9. The background and previous work of Waldman shows the inter-connections between influential Washington ‘think tanks’ and the billionaires’ foundations that fund ‘non-governmental organizations’ — NGOs — that claim to be independent but are clearly not.

“Waldman previously worked for the ‘Center for Civilians in Conflict,’ which is directed by leaders from George Soros’s Open Society, the Soros-funded Human Rights Watch, Blackrock Solutions and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

“CNAS may be the most significant indication of political orientation since it is led by Michele Flournoy, who was expected to become Secretary of Defense if Hillary Clinton had won the election. CNAS has been a leading force behind neoconservative and liberal-interventionist plans to escalate the war in Syria.”

See response to Amnesty International from Syrian dissident Nizar Nayouf — posted on As’ad AbuKhalil’s “Angry Arab” blog.

See on-the-ground journalist’s Patrick Cockburn’s recent piece on misreporting on Syria and Iraq in the London Review of Books: “Who supplies the news?

See: Ian Sinclair’s new piece “Why Is the Media Ignoring Leaked U.S. Government Documents About Syria?” from AlterNet: “In summary, the leaked information wholly contradicts the popular picture of Western benevolent intentions let down by President Obama’s ineffective leadership and inaction. Instead the evidence shows the U.S. has been sending an ‘extraordinary amount’ of weapons to the armed insurgents in Syria … They did this understanding that sending in weapons would escalate the fighting and not ‘end well for Syrians.’ Furthermore, the U.S. has long known that its regional ally Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have been supporting extremists in Syria. And, most shocking of all if true, both Kerry and the DIA report seem to show the U.S. allowed forerunners to ISIL and/or ISIL itself to expand and threaten the Syrian Government as this corresponded with the US’s geo-strategic objectives.”

See James Peck — author of Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-Opted Human Rights — on 2011 Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Libya and Syria: Humanitarian War is a ‘Monstrous Illusion.’

Did “Intelligence Community” Take out Flynn?

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Michael FlynnGARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 [at] gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Porter is an investigative journalist and author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. His most recent piece is “Ignore the tough talk – Trump’s Iran policy will be much like Obama’s.”

He said today: “Flynn is a figure with a dark side, but hype regarding an ‘illegal’ meeting with Russian ambassador never made sense. I’m glad he’s gone, but the leaks hinting Logan Act treason should be recognized as ‘intelligence community’ political manipulation. The Logan Act is a dead letter and even if it were not, the facts of this case don’t support its application. If it would apply to anything recent, the Logan Act would apply to the letter organized by Tom Cotton regarding Iran in 2015, but hawk Cotton never paid any price.”

Glenn Greenwald tweets this morning: “In January, Chuck Schumer warned Trump not to criticize the intelligence community because of all the ways they have to destroy people.” See video in The Hill: “Schumer: Trump ‘really dumb’ for attacking intelligence agencies,” said Schumer: “Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org

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impeach trump nowCATHERINE J. ROSS, @catherinejross_, cross [at] law.gwu.edu
Ross is a law professor at George Washington University and author of Lessons in Censorship: How Schools and Courts Subvert Students’ First Amendment Rights. She will be participating in a news conference on Thursday with groups organizing ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org that features a petition of 850,000 signers urging Congress to initiate an impeachment investigation into President Trump’s corrupt business dealings.

She said today: “President Trump has likely been violating the Constitution since the moment he was inaugurated because he refused to divest himself of ownership of the Trump Organization and all of its businesses and properties. Profits from those business interests, we learned a week ago, are expressly being held for him. This arrangement appears to violate Article II, Section 1 (7) of the Constitution, known as the domestic emoluments clause, which is squarely aimed at preventing presidential corruption, and which has not received sufficient attention in the last few weeks.

“President Trump has challenged the rule of law by saying laws about ethics and corruption don’t apply to him — but he can’t say that about the domestic emoluments clause because its language is clear. It applies only to the President. It says that the President ‘shall not receive’ any ‘Emolument’ from the federal government or the government of any state during his term in office, thus limiting the material benefit of his office to his salary.

“Emoluments were defined broadly by the dictionaries at the time the Constitution was written. Emoluments are not just payments, profits or bribes, though all of those are emoluments that have been known to flow to office-holders. Emoluments also include advantages, opportunities, and what today we would call sweetheart deals.

“The Trump hotel lease in D.C., and the federal government’s planned lease of space in Trump Tower in New York both implicate the domestic emoluments clause, as does the Trump Organization aggressive plan for expansion within the U.S. that will entangle the company with every level of government as they seek zoning, construction and environmental permits, approvals or waivers, as well as tax breaks that often accompany development plans.

“The bar against domestic emoluments is mandatory — Congress cannot waive it. Who is to enforce the constitutional mandate? It is not clear who could sue for enforcement. Impeachment is not to be undertaken lightly, but it is the remedy the Constitution provides.”

Less than a month since President Donald Trump took office, Free Speech For People and RootsAction.org are “delivering a petition with more than 850,000 signers to Congress calling on the House of Representatives to initiate an impeachment investigation into President Trump’s corrupt business dealings, including violations of the U.S. Constitution’s foreign emoluments and domestic emoluments clauses and other federal law.” For more information on the petition, visit: ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org.

The press conference at the National Press Club at 9:45 a.m. on Thursday will be followed by presentation of the petition at the U.S. Capitol at 12:15 p.m.(details to follow). Speakers will include Ben Clements and Ron Fein of Free Speech For People and Norman Solomon of RootsAction.

See from Norman Solomon (who is also executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy): From The Hill: “The House should start impeachment against Trump now“; and “The Long Road To Impeach Trump Just Got Shorter.”

AP recently reported that “New documents confirm that President Donald Trump retains a direct tie to his business interests through a revocable trust now being overseen by one of his adult sons and a longtime executive of the Trump Organization.”Trump is the sole beneficiary of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, which is tied to his Social Security number as the taxpayer identification number, according to documents published online by the investigative nonprofit ProPublica. And Trump can revoke the trust, which was amended three days before his inauguration, at any time.”

 

Netanyahu’s “Blatant” Violations of International Law Now Becoming “Unhinged”

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See from AlterNet’s Grayzone project: “Benjamin Netanyahu Is in Bed with the Trump Administration — Almost Literally” and “Trump’s Nominee for Ambassador to Israel Is More Right-Wing Than Netanyahu.”

RAMZY BAROUD, ramzybaroud [at] gmail.com, @RamzyBaroud
Baroud is founder of PalestineChronicle.com, which features a steady stream of articles on the realities of Israeli politics, like the recent “Palestinian Teens Detail Their Torture at the Hands of Israeli Authorities.” Baroud is a veteran journalist and former producer for Al Jazeera. He is also author of several books including Searching Jenin, The Second Palestinian Intifada and, his latest, My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story.

He said today: “Within days of U.S. President Donald Trump being sworn in, the Israeli government announced the approval of around 2,500 new housing units.

“Within the first two weeks of Trump’s presidency, the number of new housing units, all to be built illegally on Palestinian land, was raised to 5,500, including the first brand new government-sanctioned colony in years.

“In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted: ‘We are building — and we will continue to build’ — a statement which clearly expresses Israel’s blatant disregard for and violation of international law. What is clear is Israel’s determination to continue its ravenous expansion of illegal colonies, which is unprecedented in the least eight years.

“It is true that the colony-building activities accelerated after the signing of the so-called Oslo Peace Accord, but in recent years Israel realized that every decision to approve constructing more units in illegal colonies came at the price of international criticism and condemnation.

“Now that Trump is in power, Israel, controlled by right-wing, ultra-nationalist and religious zealots is rapidly moving to further ratify a new, irreversible political reality.

“The total number of Jewish colonists now stands at 750,000, nearly three times the number of colonists in 1992 (shortly before the Oslo Accord was signed).

“These numbers have all accompanied the continuous ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land and homes, and the revocation of residency permits for Palestinians in the occupied Jerusalem area.

“According to the UN report, 250,000 Palestinians have been exiled from the occupied territories since the war of 1967. (This number does not include those who were ethnically cleansed during the war itself)

“Thus, the recently announced massive expansion of Jewish colonies will have not only considerable political consequences, but humanitarian ones as well.

“Israel’s hankering after more land has been a persistent motive, but the advent of the Trump presidency has given the Israeli right the needed confidence to move forward with its plans, unhinged.”

After Trump-Netanyahu Meeting: What Kind of One-State Solution?

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Untitled pictureALI ABUNIMAH, aliabunimah [at] mac.com, @AliAbunimah
Abunimah is co-founder of the Electronic Intifada website. His books include One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

He just wrote the piece “Trump-Netanyahu meeting lays ground for one-state solution,” which states: “U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a joint press conference at the White House on Wednesday morning, before going into their much-anticipated bilateral meeting.

“Asked about whether the U.S. was still wedded to a two-state solution, Trump broke with longstanding orthodoxy.

“’I am looking at two states or one state, and I like the one that both parties like,’ the president said. On settlements, Trump reaffirmed to Netanyahu, ‘I’d like to see you hold back on settlements for a little bit.’ …
“Conventional opinion views any Trump abandonment of the two-state solution as capitulation to Israel’s far right wing that is pressuring Netanyahu from within his coalition to annex the West Bank outright.

“The annexationists may hope that the Palestinians could eventually be pushed out, or forced to live under some form of Jordanian jurisdiction — the so-called Jordanian option.

“That may even be the motivation of the anti-Palestinian extremists in the Trump administration, but the analysis fails to take into account the growing support amongst Palestinians for a democratic one-state solution.

“Trump has at least acknowledged that Palestinians must agree to the terms of any agreement. And Palestinians will not submit voluntarily to Netanyahu’s conditions.

“Israel could not just annex the West Bank on its own terms. Pressure would escalate — as it did on South Africa — to end openly declared apartheid. Indeed there could be no greater boost to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

“Even the Israeli president recognizes this. Speaking at a conference on Monday, Reuven Rivlin argued for annexation of the West Bank, but said it must mean full citizenship for Palestinians.

“‘Applying sovereignty to an area gives citizenship to all those living there,’ Rivlin said. ‘There is no [separate] law for Israelis and for non-Israelis.’

“‘It must be clear: If we extend sovereignty, the law must apply equally to all,’ Rivlin added.” See from The Times of Israel: “Rivlin backs annexation with full rights for Palestinians.”

Trump at African American Museum: House and Field Negroes

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trumpmalcolmToday, Donald Trump spoke at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. On this date, Feb. 21, in 1965, Malcolm X (Malcolm Shabazz) was assassinated.

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY, kevinagray57 [at] gmail.com, @kevinagray
Gray is a civil rights organizer in South Carolina. His books include Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence and The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama.

He just completed a cross-country trip, talking to many Trump supporters along the way. He will be writing about that in The Progressive.

He said today: “Donald Trump, Tim Scott, Ben Carson, Omarosa Manigault and Alveda King visiting the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on the anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X devolved into what any Trump event devolves into: Trump’s narcissism and self-absorption on display. The company Trump kept on this particular photo-op reminds us of perhaps Malcolm’s most famous speech ‘The House Negro and The Field Negro.’

“On one hand it’s good to see Trump make an attempt to reach out to blacks in his own clumsy way but on the other hand his bone deep stereotypical view of black people, even in his personal relations with those he considers friends or allies, left him once again with his foot in his mouth. Trump’s visit to the museum, like everything we’ve seen thus far in his presidency and life, is about him.

“Still, I hope Trump revisits the museum again and again and hopefully takes some time to really reflect on the history of our country — a country that is the land of descendants of native genocide, immigrants and kidnapped, enslaved Africans. And I hope he’ll follow through on his comments about directing resources to communities of color so that they can benefit from economic growth and development.”

From Malcolm X’s speech “The House Negro and the Field Negro”: “Back on the plantation there was two kinds of slaves. There was the house Negro and the field Negro. The house Negroes — they lived in the house with master, they dressed pretty good, they ate good ’cause they ate his food — what he left. They lived in the attic or the basement, but still they lived near the master; and they loved their master more than the master loved himself. They would give their life to save the master’s house quicker than the master would. The house Negro, if the master said, ‘We got a good house here,’ the house Negro would say, ‘Yeah, we got a good house here.’ Whenever the master said ‘we,’ he said ‘we.’ That’s how you can tell a house Negro.

“If the master’s house caught on fire, the house Negro would fight harder to put the blaze out than the master would. If the master got sick, the house Negro would say, ‘What’s the matter, boss, we sick?’ We sick! He identified himself with his master more than his master identified with himself. And if you came to the house Negro and said, ‘Let’s run away, let’s escape, let’s separate,’ the house Negro would look at you and say, ‘Man, you crazy. What you mean, separate? Where is there a better house than this? Where can I wear better clothes than this? Where can I eat better food than this?’ That was that house Negro…” Audio on YouTube. See other speeches at BrotherMalcolm.net.

Bacevich on New Trump Advisor McMaster: Where’s the Vision?

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H.R._McMasterANDREW BACEVICH, bacevich [at] bu.edu

Bacevich is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he received his PhD in American diplomatic history from Princeton University. Before joining the faculty of Boston University, he taught at West Point and Johns Hopkins. His latest book is America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History.

He said today: “Just as H.R. McMaster wrote a book about Dereliction of Duty among senior officers of the Vietnam era, there is an opening for some young officer today to tell the story of post-9/11 ‘Dereliction of Duty’ among senior officers belonging to the generation of which McMaster is a part.”

Bacevich just wrote the piece “The Duty of General McMaster” for The American Conservative, which states: “The national security adviser operates — or should operate — in the realm of ‘grand strategy.’ In this rarified atmosphere, preparing for and conducting war coexists with, and arguably should even take a backseat to, other considerations. To advance the fundamental interests of the state, the successful grand strategist orchestrates all the various elements of power. While not shrinking from the use of armed force, he or she sees war as a last resort, to be undertaken only after having exhausted all other alternatives.

“This distinction between military strategy and grand strategy is more than semantic. Maintaining it is crucial to successful statecraft.

“Consider the case of nineteenth-century Germany. Von Moltke the Elder was a gifted military strategist. Bismarck was a master of grand strategy. The collaboration between the two, with the Iron Chancellor in the role of senior partner, created the modern German state. Once Wilhelm II handed Bismarck his walking papers in 1890, however, the distinction between military strategy and grand strategy was gradually lost. The results became apparent after 1914. In the person of Erich Ludendorff, war absorbed statecraft, with the fall of the House of Hohenzollern the least among the many catastrophes that ensued.

“U.S. national security policy in the present century bears more than passing resemblance to that of Germany a century ago. …

“Like German militarists in 1917, American militarists in 2017 fight on because they lack the capacity to imagine an alternative. In policymaking circles, war has become a habit.

“The question is whether H.R. McMaster can play a role in breaking that habit, as President Trump in his weird, inconsistent way has suggested he intends to do. To put it another way: Can General McMaster restore the distinction between grand strategy and military strategy and re-subordinate the latter to the former?

“Little reason exists to suggest that he will do so — indeed, whether he is even inclined to make the effort. That he is an accomplished practitioner of his chosen craft is unquestionably the case. McMaster is a resourceful and demanding military leader. As a field commander, he has exhibited impressive tactical skill. As a staff officer he has filled high-profile assignments both at home and abroad, winning favorable attention of General David Petraeus, among others. Like Petraeus, McMaster has demonstrated a knack for courting journalists and members of Congress.

“For all that, he remains a professional soldier, not a global visionary. For the past two years, McMaster has devoted himself to contemplating about the future of the United States Army, not the future of the international order. On Russia, he appears to be a neo-Cold Warrior, favoring the recommitment of U.S. ground forces to Europe, a prospect welcomed by an army that today finds itself searching for a raison d’être.”

 

The “Assault on Keith Ellison”

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screen_shot_2017-02-22_at_1.33.23_pmU.S. News & World Report writes today: “Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, one of the leading candidates to chair the Democratic National Committee, left open the possibility of pushing for the impeachment of President Donald Trump, in a break with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi just days ahead of the DNC election.”

BOB DREYFUSS, robertcdreyfuss [at] gmail.com

Dreyfuss is co-editor, of the recently-launched ThePopulist.Buzz and recently wrote the piece “Keith Ellison and the Stakes for the Democrats,” which states: “Keith Ellison … won’t fix everything that’s wrong with the Democratic Party. But as the party girds itself for a years-long battle with the Trump administration while simultaneously rebuilding its grassroots base, electing Ellison is an important first step.

“Unfortunately, we don’t get a vote and neither do you, unless you’re one of the 447 members of the DNC who will cast their ballots in Atlanta this weekend.

“Ellison endorsed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016 and he is strongly backed by Sanders now, as well as by Our Revolution, the AFL-CIO, and a long list of liberal-left and progressive members of Congress. He was far and away the frontrunner when he announced his DNC bid last November. His main challenger, ex-Labor Secretary Tom Perez, joined the race in December with the tacit backing of President Obama and overt support from a range of Democratic establishment figures. According to DNC insiders, former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett is contacting DNC members, one by one, and urging them to vote for Perez. …

“Saban, a billionaire Clinton supporter, called Ellison ‘an anti-Semite and an anti-Israel individual.’ Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s executive director, said Ellison’s views ‘raise the specter of age-old stereotypes about Jewish control of our government.’ …

“It’s hard to see the assault on Ellison as anything other than a coordinated effort by the party’s establishment to torpedo his chances. It’s true that Ellison, for years, has been a critic of Israel’s policies and of America’s unrestrained support for Israel regardless of what it does. ‘The United States foreign policy in the Middle East is governed by what is good or bad through a country of 7 million people,’ said Ellison, in a 2010 speech. ‘Does that make sense?’ Ellison’s views on Israel reflect the fact that fully 60 percent of Democrats favor imposing sanctions on Israel over Tel Aviv’s expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank. And Ellison was endorsed early by New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer, a strong ally of Israel.”

Dreyfuss is an independent journalist who has written extensively on politics and national security for a wide range of publications including Rolling Stone, The Nation and The American Prospect.

“Neo-McCarthyite Furor” on Russia and Threat of More War

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FuforThe New York Times claimed recently in “Democrats Elect Thomas Perez, Establishment Favorite, as Party Chairman” that: “This year’s contest was shadowed … by the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s computer system last year by Russian intelligence services. That resulted in the disclosure that the party, under Mr. Obama’s handpicked chairwoman, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, had sought to undermine Mr. Sanders’s candidacy.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel recently wrote the piece “Neo-McCarthyite furor around Russia is counterproductive” in the Washington Post, which states: “To date, the evidence released publicly for this explosive charge — in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s Jan. 6 report — is so threadbare that the Times conceded [in January] that it ‘contained no information about how the agencies had collected their data or had come to their conclusions.’

“Sadly, common sense is getting lost in the frenzy. Clinton supporters inflate the importance of the purported Russian hacks to excuse her painful defeat. Democrats see the scandal as a way to undermine Trump.

“In the targeting of Trump, too many liberals have joined in fanning a neo-McCarthyite furor, working to discredit those who seek to deescalate U.S.-Russian tensions, and dismissing anyone expressing doubts about the charges of hacking or collusion as a Putin apologist.”

STEPHEN F. COHEN, via Caitlin Graf, press [at] thenation.com

Available for a very limited number of interviews, Cohen is professor emeritus of Russian studies, history, and politics at New York University and Princeton University. His most recent book, from Columbia University Press, is Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War.

He recently wrote the piece “Why We Must Oppose the Kremlin-Baiting Against Trump” for The Nation. The piece states: “The bipartisan, nearly full-political-spectrum tsunami of factually unverified allegations that President Trump has been seditiously ‘compromised’ by the Kremlin, with scarcely any nonpartisan pushback from influential political or media sources, is deeply alarming.”

Cohen addresses a series of “allegations [that] pass as evidence” on the issue, including:
“The crux of the allegations against Trump was, and remains, that Putin ordered the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the dissemination of stolen e-mails through WikiLeaks in order to undermine the Clinton campaign and put Trump in the White House. A summary of these ‘facts’ was presented in a declassified report released by the ‘intelligence community’ and widely discussed in January. Though it quickly became axiomatic proof for Trump’s political and media enemies, almost nothing in the report is persuasive. About half are ‘assessments’ based on surmised motivations, not factual evidence of an actual Kremlin operation on Trump’s behalf. The other half is standard whining about the Kremlin-funded television network RT, which is at worst an above-average ‘propaganda’ outlet.”

JAMES CARDEN, editor [at] eastwestaccord.com

Carden is executive editor of the American Committee for East-West Accord. His articles and essays have also appeared in The American Conservative and The National Interest. His recent pieces for The Nation include: “The #Resistance and Russia” and “McCain Talks Tough as the War in Ukraine Continues Without End,” which states: “Kiev’s recent offensive came almost immediately following a trip to to the war’s front lines by none other than Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. In the presence of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, Graham told a brigade of Ukrainian soldiers: ‘Your fight is our fight… 2017 will be the year of offense.’ For his part, McCain told the troops, ‘I believe you will win. I am convinced you will win and we will do everything we can to provide you with what you need to win.’ One could be forgiven for wondering if there is any precedent for such an incitement to violence by two sitting U.S. senators?”

Resisters to Militarism on Trial Today

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The New York Times reports: “Trump to Seek $54 Billion Increase in Military Spending.”

On March 19, 2015, on the 12th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, seven members of the Upstate Drone Action Coalition were arrested at Hancock Air Base outside Syracuse, New York. The group states that the protesters “were nonviolently protesting Hancock’s lethal and illegal use of MQ9 Reaper drones over Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“The seven deployed huge (7×4 feet) replicas of four books across the main entrance of Hancock, the home of the 174th Attack Wing of the New York National Guard — a major hunter/killer Reaper drone hub. The books were: the UN Charter; Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars; NYU and Stanford Law School’s “Living Under Drones;” and Reprieve’s human rights report “You Never Die Twice.”

“Five of the seven [protesters] are charged with Obstructing Governmental Administration (a misdemeanor requiring a jury and carrying a maximum one-year sentence), trespass, and two counts of disorderly conduct. … Originally scheduled for trial in late November 2016, the trial was postponed until February 28 so a new jury pool could be called in order to assure [James Ricks, who is an African American Muslim] a ‘jury of his peers’.”

JAMES RICKS, chavoc32 [at] gmail.com

One of the defendants, Ricks said today: “I first started doing social activism work when my child witnessed someone getting shot by a police officer. I became active with the Shawn Greenwood Truth and Reconciliation group, named for the person who was shot. It was there that someone from the Catholic Worker told me about an anti drone killing meeting.

“I learned that our government is assassinating people in other countries and this violates the UN Charter — which, as a treaty, the Constitution says is the supreme law of the land. But the judges and police are ignoring that. We’re working to uphold such laws. Our country isn’t supposed to use violence or even the threat of violence without proper authorization, which it didn’t get when it invaded Iraq.

“Yesterday I saw George W. Bush on TV talking about how power is seductive and corrosive. Well, he illegally invaded Iraq and was never held to meaningful account.

“Everyone in our group takes an oath of nonviolence when we try to expose what they are doing at this military base.

“I also do this because I went to Pakistan to learn more about drone killing. People were so friendly — they so want to build a better relationship with people in the U.S. …

“And now it’s troubling that Trump is calling for more military spending. He’s appealing to people’s anger over many of the wrong things.

“Targeted assassinations with these drone wars are war crimes. Too many people have become distracted or overwhelmed and just ignore this — or actually celebrate war crimes as some kind of patriotic victory. It’s not and we need to work to stop it.”

ELLEN GRADY, demottgrady6 [at] gmail.com

Grady is part of the Ithaca New York Catholic Worker movement, which has been a key part of organizing against the U.S. government killer drone assassinations program outside Hancock Air Force Base in upstate New York.

ED KINANE, edkinane [at] verizon.net

Kinane is author of several pieces on drone assassinations for Truthout, including “Exposing The Killer Drones Of Hancock Airbases’s 174th Attack Wing,” “Drone Surveillance Is No Longer Just ‘Over There'” and “Weaponized Drones And The Phony ‘War On Terror’.”

DANIEL BURNS and Fr. BILL PICKARD, FrPickard [at] stjosephscenter.org

Burns stated: “Drone warfare kills many innocents, including children. As a father of three beautiful children, I’m morally obligated to try and stop drone warfare. People of conscience must do everything in our power to stop such violations of human rights and international law.”

Confronting Military Recruitment of Students

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military-recruiting-in-the-united-states-cover-1PAT ELDER, pelder [at] studentprivacy.org
Author of the recently released book Military Recruiting in the United States, Elder is director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, an organization that confronts militarism in the schools. His recent pieces for Truthout include: “High School Students’ Test Results Are Being Sent To Military Recruiters Without Consent,” “Military Exploits School Testing Opt Out Campaign” and “Water Isn’t The Only Source Of Lead Contamination In Flint.

He said today: “America is witnessing the ‘grave implications’ of the ‘economic, political and even spiritual’ influence of the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower warned us about. A single F-35 fighter jet costs more than the budget of a medium-sized city’s school system and the U.S. is building 2,500 of them while the schools crumble. …

“It’s a coerced, recruited Army as much as it is a volunteer Army. American military recruiting is a despicable, psychological pursuit that pits carefully selected and highly trained soldiers against vulnerable children. The American Public Health Association, (APHA) calls for the cessation of military recruiting in the nation’s schools, claiming recruiters engage in aggressive behaviors to gain a child’s confidence and trust. They say recruiters are exceptionally charming while failing to honor clear boundaries. It is despicable public policy, and it’s time to end it. …

“From electronic trolling of social websites, recruiters know intimate details about our children and they use them to prepare a psychological dossier before first contact.”

Elder also addresses the role of Hollywood, media and video games. He adds: “Producers who desire access to military bases, soldiers and weapons in the production of motion pictures and television shows are directed to contact the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs (OCPA) to submit their scripts and plans for editorial approval. Censors regularly edit the scripts of thousands of productions, [such as] ‘American Idol,’  ‘Cupcake Wars,’ and hundreds of movies. The Pentagon rejects productions they don’t like and rewrites scripts to enhance the military image to ‘safeguard recruiting and retention numbers.'”

Breaking the Yemen Central Bank: Is Saudi Arabia Using Starvation as a Weapon?

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screen_shot_2017-01-07_at_2.39.09_amSee from the UN: “In Yemen, UN aid chief rallies support for relief efforts to prevent famine.” The Washington Post recently reported: “Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children are nearing starvation.”

See @accuracy Twitter list on Yemen.

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 [at] gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Porter is an independent investigative journalist. His books include Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. Porter’s articles include, from 2016: “Justifying the Saudi Slaughter in Yemen.”

Porter said today: “Now what we’re seeing is another layer of actually using starvation as a weapon: The Saudi government — with U.S. government support — has effectively eliminated the Central Bank of Yemen. This has been the only institution standing between hundreds of thousands — millions, really — and the prospect of famine.

“Clearly the IMF could not have carried out the action it did — cutting off Yemen from the bank that held its foreign exchange reserve — without U.S. government approval.” See report from the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies: “Yemen Without a Functioning Central Bank: The loss of basic economic stabilization and accelerating famine.”

Porter added: “An on-going major under-reported story of the Saudi attack on Yemen is that it could not have happened without the active logistical support of the U.S. — i.e., refueling of planes in flight.

“But now, it’s not even enough to stop the bombing, The primary danger is not the immediate bombs. It’s the lack of food and medicine and fuel — and now taking away the capacity of people in Yemen to purchase those necessities.”

ABC News is reporting today: “More than 20 U.S. airstrikes conducted in Yemen overnight.” See from Ben Norton at AlterNet: “U.S.-Backed Saudi Coalition Bombs Another Funeral in Yemen, Killing 8 Women, Child.”

Drone Resisters Acquitted, Juror Tells Them: “Keep Doing It”

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16991757_1267415053294453_5898102062265302564_oThe Washington Post reports: “The United States conducted a series of airstrikes on Al-Qaeda targets in Yemen on Thursday, the Pentagon said, in another sign of the Trump administration’s expanding counterterrorism campaign there.”

See from Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations: “The (Not-So) Peaceful Transition of Power: Trump’s Drone Strikes Outpace Obama.”

JAMES RICKS, chavoc32 [at] gmail.com
ED KINANE, edkinane [at] verizon.net
BRIAN HYNES, brianhynes [at] verizon.net

The group UpstateDroneAction.org released a statement Friday morning: “Four drone resisters, James Ricks, Daniel Burns, Brian Hynes, and Ed Kinane, from the 2015 big books action were found innocent of all charges at 11 p.m. at the Dewitt Town Court. After deliberating for only about a half hour, the jury returned with a verdict of not guilty on all charges. Applause erupted in the courtroom upon the jurors’ announcement of the verdict. The four were charged with obstruction of government administration, disorderly conduct, and trespass and faced a year in jail. Following the rendering of the verdict, a juror approached Brian Hynes and said ‘I really support what you are doing. Keep doing it.’

“During the trial, Brian Hynes told the jury, “This is not a case about contested facts, this is a case about contested meanings.” Hynes went on to explain to the jury that they could, in the words of the 4th Circuit of Appeals, acquit for any reason which appeals to their logic or passion. In powerful testimony, James Ricks told the jury about meeting the families of drone victims and seeing the wreckage of hellfire missiles. Jurors were brought to tears several times. Daniel Joseph Burns  said, ‘Would any of us deem it acceptable for our precious loved ones to be sacrificed for another nation’s anticipatory self defense. Of course not!  Moreover, if drones were being aimed at my children by another country, I would hope with all my might that the citizens of that country might try and stop their country’s illegal and immoral actions.’ Ed Kinane told the jury in clear and powerful language about his time living in Iraq during the war and about the terror sown by drones. …

“The trail resulted from an action on March 19, 2015. On the 12th anniversary of the U.S.’ illegal invasion of Iraq, seven members of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars shut the main gate of the Hancock Drone Base (near Syracuse, NY) with a giant copy of the UN Charter and three other giant books – Dirty Wars (Jeremy Scahill), ‘Living Under Drones’ (NYU and Stanford Law Schools), and ‘You Never Die Twice’ (Reprieve).

“The nonviolent activists also held a banner quoting Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, stating that every treaty signed becomes the supreme law of the land. They brought the books to Hancock to remind everyone at the base of the signed treaties that prohibit the killing of civilians and assassinations of human beings. The group attempted yet again to deliver a citizens’ indictment for war crimes to the Hancock Air base chain of command.”

Trump Promises U.S. Steel in Pipelines; A Russian Oligarch Profits

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Pipeline1STEVE HORN, steve [at] desmogblog.com, @SteveAHorn
Horn is an investigative journalist and writer for DeSmogBlog.com. See his recent writing exposing many aspects of the fossil fuel industry. He recently broke the story: “Behind Trump’s Push for ‘American Steel’ in Pipelines, Another Russian Company with Putin Ties Stands to Benefit,” which states:

“In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) … President Donald Trump commemorated the one-month anniversary of his executive orders calling for the approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, as well as one calling for U.S. pipelines to get their line pipe steel from U.S. facilities.

“‘I said, who makes the pipes for the pipeline?’ Trump told the CPAC crowd. ‘If they want a pipeline in the United States, they’re going to use pipe that’s made in the United States, do we agree?’

“But while the pipe may be made in the U.S., as DeSmog has shown in previous investigations, ownership tells a different story. Enter: TMK IPSCO, a massive producer of steel for U.S. oil country tubular goods (OCTG) and line pipe, and a subsidiary of TMK Group. A DeSmog investigation has found ties between TMK Group’s Board of Directors and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“TMK Group was incorporated in 2001, and in 2008, TMK IPSCO opened its doors as a U.S. subsidiary with a heavy focus on making oilfield pipes on behalf of companies performing hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) techniques in the Marcellus Shale basin located in the northeast U.S. TMK IPSCO, which has said it wants to be a direct competitor of U.S. Steel Corporation in the Marcellus, also makes steel for companies doing fracking in the Bakken Shale basin, located primarily in North Dakota.

“TMK Group also has a subsidiary named TMK Completions, which manufactures ‘multi-stage completion systems and tools for both uncemented and cemented well completion designs’ for the fracking process. TMK did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story.”

Doctors on Republican House Health Plan

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ROBERT ZARR, M.D., rlzarr [at] yahoo.com, @doczarr
Zarr is a board-certified pediatrician at Unity Health Care in Washington, D.C., where he cares for a low-income and immigrant population. He is past president of Physicians for a National Health Program.

ADAM GAFFNEY, M.D., gaffney.adam [at] gmail.com, @awgaffney
Gaffney is a national board member of Physicians for a National Health Program and a practicing pulmonologist at Cambridge Health Alliance and an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

He said today: “The long-awaited House Republican Obamacare replacement law, released Monday, would be terrible for America. While the well-off would benefit from tax-cuts, the sick and the poor would suffer from cutbacks in Medicaid and insurance subsidies. GOP Care would therefore take us farther, not closer, to universal healthcare, a goal that is achievable only through single payer reform.”

U.S. Korea Deployment and Korean Elections

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The Korean newspaper Hankyoreh reports: “The question of whether or not Park Geun-hye will be removed from the presidency will be determined on Mar. 10 at 11 a.m., the Constitutional Court announced on Mar. 8.” [Thursday at 9 p.m. D.C. time]

The left-wing, citizen-owned newspaper editorializes: “Ramming through THAAD deployment both irresponsible and dangerous.”

HYUN LEE, [in NYC] zoominkorea [at] gmail.com
Managing editor of ZoominKorea, which features the new piece “U.S. Considers First-Strike Attack on North Korea,” Lee wrote the piece “North Korea: Trump’s First Foreign Policy Test in Asia.”

TIM SHORROCK, [in D.C.] timshorrock [at] gmail.com, @TimothyS
Shorrock is an independent journalist who has written extensively on Korea. He grew up in Korea and Japan. He said today: “The court’s decision … will almost certainly lead to a snap election in which the opposition party is favored to win (I may be there for it — I’ll be in South Korea all of April and May).” See Shorrock’s blog “Money Doesn’t Talk, it Swears,” which features his writing, including a recent piece: “Congress and North Korea: Diplomacy Not on the Table.” http://timshorrock.com/

Shorrock continued: “Park’s ousting and the coming election have tremendous implications for the U.S. The Trump administration and the conservative South Korean government have just dispatched the THAAD system to South Korea, which is opposed by a majority of Koreans and the opposition party. Many in the opposition also want a less confrontational stance towards both North Korea and China, which has basically launched a boycott of trade and tourism with the South to protest the THAAD deployment. For months, the Pentagon and its think tanks have been warning of the dangers of a Korean opposition victory in this year’s presidential election because they fear losing their militaristic partner in Seoul. Americans need to be aware of how the U.S. is trampling on the democratic rights of South Koreans who oppose THAAD by its unilateral deployment and of the dangers to the entire region of a war that would be sparked by the military strikes on the North that are being contemplated by U.S. and South Korean officials.”

Shorrock’s books include Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing.

Lies and Carnage in Yemen

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HA066__03HF0-1Iona Craig’s piece “Women and Children in Yemeni Village Recall Horror of Trump’s ‘Highly Successful’ SEAL Raid” was published by the Intercept today.

Geopolitics Alert recently published the piece “U.S. Can’t Eliminate Al-Qaeda While Supporting Its Sponsors.”

ANDREW COCKBURN, @andrewmcockburn

Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn is available for a limited number of interviews. His most recent book is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins.

He wrote the piece “Acceptable Losses Aiding and abetting the Saudi slaughter in Yemen,” which states: “Just a few short years ago, Yemen was judged to be among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 154th out of the 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index. One in every five Yemenis went hungry. Almost one in three was unemployed. Every year, 40,000 children died before their fifth birthday, and experts predicted the country would soon run out of water.

“Such was the dire condition of the country before Saudi Arabia unleashed a bombing campaign in March 2015, which has destroyed warehouses, factories, power plants, ports, hospitals, water tanks, gas stations, and bridges, along with miscellaneous targets ranging from donkey carts to wedding parties to archaeological monuments.”

“Meet the New Muslim Ban, Harsher Than the Old Muslim Ban”

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ARUN GUPTA, arun.indypendent [at] gmail.com, @arunindy
Independent reporter Gupta just wrote the piece “Meet the New Muslim Ban, Harsher Than the Old Muslim Ban,” which states: “The new order appears to be narrower in scope, at least initially. It claims to exclude ‘categories of aliens that have prompted judicial concerns.’ Green-card holders, dual citizens, and Syrian refugees are exempt from the blanket ban. Iraq is no longer on the list of affected countries, and the order allows for exceptions from the other targeted countries and for refugees on a ‘case-by-case’ basis.

“Nonetheless, on March 7, the state of Hawaii filed suit in federal court on behalf of the state and Ismail Elshikh, PhD, the Imam of the Muslim Association of Hawaii. The state claims Trump’s order harms Elshikh by preventing his Syrian mother-in-law from visiting her family in Hawaii. The state asserts the Trump Administration is acting ‘arbitrarily and capriciously’ in its choice of countries on the banned list. ….

“The revised order affords the Trump Administration wide latitude in broadening the scope of the order later on, with language that will allow the profiling of entire countries so as to exclude their citizens. It states that the U.S. government will conduct ‘a worldwide review’ to determine what ‘additional information will be needed from each foreign country’ to assess the application of any person from one of the specified countries seeking admission to the United States so as to ensure they are ‘not a security or public-safety threat.’

“The order adds that ‘At any point … the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, may submit to the President the names of any additional countries recommended for similar treatment.’ And, ‘The Secretary of Homeland Security may conclude that certain information is needed from particular countries even if it is not needed from every country.’

“Put together, this language could enable wildly differing criteria for nationals from one country to the next, as well as countries coming on and off the list at the whim of the White House.”

How Liberals Collaborated with McCarthyism: Then and Now

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McCarthyismELLEN SCHRECKER, ellen.schrecker [at] gmail.com
    A retired professor of American history at Yeshiva University, Schrecker is a leading authority on McCarthyism. Her books include Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America and No Ivory Tower: McCarthyism in the Universities.

She said today: “When President Trump accused his predecessor of McCarthyism for supposedly wiretapping his headquarters during the presidential election, he was wrong. Whatever happened — if anything did — it definitely wasn’t McCarthyism.

“Although surveillance of hundreds, if not thousands, of American citizens was a feature of that bad old phenomenon, McCarthyism was a much broader campaign to eliminate an unpopular political, and allegedly dangerous, movement from American life. It could return.

“But in a different form. ‘Islamic extremists’ and their supporters, not Communists and theirs, might be the target. Immigrants already are. Proposed blacklists — of anti-conservative professors, allegedly Russian-oriented websites, and who knows what else — are sprouting up. And, if we think about personalities, we should recall that McCarthy with his wildly fabricated charges of communist subversion was often out of control.

“But, what is critical and what is poorly understood is how much what we call McCarthyism depended on the willing collaboration of liberals and moderates who normalized its anti-communist hysteria. Hubert Humphrey not only backed the Internal Security Act of 1950, originally sponsored by Richard Nixon, but even added provisions for concentration camps for Communists.

“Universities are particularly endangered. Professors are becoming an endangered species as their alleged ‘political correctness’ is being used as a pretext to attack higher education. While right-wing activists create blacklists of undesirable academics, campuses are under considerable pressure to silence critics of the present government in Israel.

“The net effect of the acquiescence of liberals and moderates, not to mention the legitimation of white nationalism by the present government, could result, as it did in the Fifties, in the further silencing of the left, the elimination of substantive controversy, and a normalization of right-wing extremism.”

Arab Women Leaders Point to Arms Sales as Cause of Insecurity

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IMG_4633Bloomberg reports: “Trump Wins Saudi Praise for ‘Turning Point’ After Meeting Prince” about Trump’s meeting yesterday with Mohammed bin Salman, the “31-year-old son of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his country’s defense minister.”

The following activists from Somalia and Morocco are in the U.S. for a limited time. They came to the U.S. to speak at this year’s session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which just started at the UN. Best to contact in the U.S. via Preeti Mangala Shekar, communications coordinator for the Feminist Alliance for Rights (FAR), which organized their U.S. visit.

HIBAAQ OSMAN, @el_karama

From Somalia, Osman is the founder of Karama, a movement to end violence against women and ensure sustainable, inclusive peace and democracy in the Arab region.

FATIMA OUTALEB

From Morocco, Outaleb is the Middle East and North Africa representative for the Global Network of Women Shelters. She is a member of Karama.

In a statement, FAR notes that Outaleb and Osman “advocate for peace as a result of investments in education, health, transportation and food infrastructure, which are basic goods for a dignified life and form the basis for social and economic stability. ‘Peace is not in our hands,’ Outaleb said, ‘governments know how to make peace, but arms trade and oil is what equates to money.’

“They pointed out that the United Nations already has mechanisms to facilitate peace negotiations, such as Security Resolution (SR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, which has the potential to create and sustain peace, yet it is too often underutilized or not properly executed by member states.”

In “UN: World facing greatest humanitarian crisis since 1945,” the BBC recently reported: “UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien said that more than 20 million people faced the threat of starvation and famine in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.”

For Outaleb and Osman, the current refugee crises are a “direct result of arms trade, destruction and bombing of countries in the region. The massive displacement of people is a result of this violence, so they have no alternative but to flee in desperation from cities that have been destroyed. Despite the urgency of this humanitarian crisis, the United States and European countries, which have a direct role in arms sales and bombing of these countries, refuse to deal with the underlying causes of war and conflict. In the United States, the recent policy issued by the Trump administration is a clear example, which Outlaleb emphasized, ‘let’s be clear, it is not a travel ban, it is a Muslim ban.'”

Osman added: “The Saudis come before other Muslims as the custodians of Mecca and Medina, so you’d think that they would at least use their economic influence on an issue like Trump’s anti-Muslim bigotry. Instead, we see the Saudis buying a lot of weapons from the U.S. …

“A lot of people in Somalia will tell you some don’t want peace because it won’t benefit them. The people paying for wars are rarely the ones in the corridors of power. People are dying for lack of water, medicine and it’s too rarely in the headlines. Intervention is not about helping people to build a country — it’s to kill some enemy or pursue some agenda. Internal to a country like Somalia, you have people fighting to position themselves — it’s not about principles. These violent factions frequently become used by outside powers.

“In Somalia, we had a stable situation with the Islamic Courts Union. It was clearly lacking in democratic principles, but at least it created a secure situation for the public. Then, the U.S. gave the green light for Ethiopia to invade and we’ve been plagued by fighting, terrorism and drone strikes since then. But obviously, we have to take responsibility for our situation — we need to build organizations for a just and peaceful society.”

Background: From Antiwar.com: “Saudi Airstrike Kills 26, Mostly Civilians, in Yemen.”

The British Independent reports: “Donald Trump’s State Department approves Saudi Arabia weapons sales blocked by Barack Obama.”

Defense One recently reported in “Obama’s Final Arms-Export Tally More than Doubles Bush’s” that: “Saudi Arabia has been the largest recipient, reaping prospective deals worth more than $115 billion, according to notices announcing the deals that were sent to Congress for approval.”

President of Physicians’ Group Speaks Out at Trump Rally

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IMG_4776CAROL PARIS, M.D.  @CarolParis7
Dr. Paris is president of  Physicians for a National Health Program.

She was just profiled in The Tennessean: “Meet the protester who interrupted Trump’s Rally.” See video, which shows Paris repeatedly shouting: “Put your name on a plan that works — Medicare for All.”

She said today: “Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) identified the inherent flaws in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010 and has continued to criticize its shortcomings over the past seven years. Now we have the American Health Care Act (AHCA) legislation which the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has recently scored. It confirms what we expected: The AHCA takes from the poor and gives to the rich.

“‘Trumpcare’ is a rebranded ‘Obamacare,’ now only meaner and leaner. Last night, I took the opportunity to speak directly to President Trump at the rally he held in my home town of Nashville, Tenn. I had previously tried to contact Mr. Trump about my concerns, sending a letter requesting a meeting, followed by an open letter signed by several health policy experts and businessman Richard Master, whose documentary ‘Fix It’ details the business argument for a universal ‘Medicare for All’ plan.

“I meant no disrespect to the President or his supporters. I simply did what I felt I had to do as a physician and American. Tens of thousands of people are dying needlessly due to lack of health insurance, and millions are suffering with financial burdens due to unaffordable health insurance and unaffordable health care. I know that a simple solution has already been introduced into the House of Representatives called H.R. 676 — Expanded and Improved Medicare for All.

“I am still requesting that meeting, Mr. President.”

For more background, see, by Dr. Margaret Flowers, “Dr. Paris Successfully Interrupts Trump’s Rally with Single Payer Message.”

Brazil: As “Coup” Government Targets Retirement Benefits, General Strike Rocks Nation

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B92764DF-2D4D-44FB-B068-F58C7C9B35BF_cx0_cy6_cw0_w250_r1_sALEXANDER MAIN, [in D.C.] via Dan Beeton, @ceprdc
Senior associate for international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Main recently wrote the piece “
Congress must take attacks on Brazilian democracy seriously” for The Hill.

MARIA MENDONCA
Mendonca is project director for the Feminist Alliance for Rights at the Center for Global Women’s Leadership, Rutgers University.

She said today: “Yesterday, a large demonstration in Sao Paulo took 300,000 people to the streets with the slogan ‘Fora Temer’ [‘Out, Temer’]. He is targeting people’s retirement benefits.

“The general strike included bus and metro workers, bank workers, metallurgical and chemical workers, teachers and other public workers all over the country.

“[Temer’s proposal would establish] that workers can only retire when they are 65 yeas old, when the average life expectancy in Brazil is 72.

“Most workers would need to contribute for 49 years to be able to receive full retirement benefits. Many will die before that.

“Low income women, domestic workers, teachers, farmworkers and other vulnerable sectors that work under harmful conditions will suffer even more.

“This ‘reform’ particularly harms women, who earn up to 30 percent less than men.

“Many specialists explain that there is no deficit in the pension system, which is the argument for the proposed reform.

“This fiction was created by the Temer administration to undermine labor rights. And this policy will not help improve the economy. It will generate more economic and social instability.

“The constitutional amendment proposed by the Temer administration will undermine fundamental rights established by the Democratic Constitution of 1988.

“This illegitimate government [of Temer] that took power after a parliamentary coup against elected president Dilma Rousseff is implementing policies that violate basic rights, taking the country back to a situation similar to the years of military dictatorship.”

Trump’s Budget: Military Uber Alles

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militaryspendingWILLIAM HARTUNG, williamhartung55 [at] gmail.com, @williamhartung

Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He is the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

He recently wrote a piece for The Nation, “We Can Fight Trump’s Cuts to Essential Government Programs,” which states: “Mick Mulvaney, has assembled a ‘hit list’ of agencies and programs to eliminate. … The proposed cuts have everything to do with right-wing ideology and nothing to do with fiscal responsibility. All of the programs slated for closing provide essential public services. All of the programs slated for closure, plus the proposed Planned Parenthood cuts, cost the federal government a combined total of about $3 billion per year. That grand totally amounts to one-half of one percent of, the current Pentagon budget, now runs at about $600 billion per year. And that’s before Trump’s pledge to throw an additional $1 trillion at that bloated department over the next ten years.

“Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation, which has aggressively pushed its skewed budget priorities on the new administration, tried to justify Trump’s ill-considered proposals: ‘I think it’s an important endeavor to try to get rid of things that are unnecessary… The American public has a lot of contempt for how government is run in Washington, in no small part because there is so much waste.’

“Moore’s claim is absurd on the face of it. First of all, supporting well-run programs like women’s health care, the arts, and legal services for the poor is not ‘waste.’ Suggesting that these programs are wasteful to any significant degree, as Moore has done, is what is really deserving of contempt. This is especially so when one considers the tens of billions of dollars of waste in the Pentagon budget, money that has absolutely nothing to do with defending the country or supporting the troops…

“Perhaps the biggest waste of all is the Pentagon’s preexisting plan to spend an estimated $1 trillion over the next three decades on a new generation of bombers, submarines, missiles, cruise missiles, and factory upgrades. Even if one believes there is a ‘need’ for nuclear weapons to deter another nation from launching a nuclear attack, independent experts have indicated that that function could be accomplished with a few hundred warheads. The current U.S. arsenal of deployed and stockpiled nuclear warheads numbers 4,500. And once the New START treaty is fully implemented, 1,550 of those warheads will be deployed and ready to launch. This needless nuclear excess is good news for Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics and terrible news for American taxpayers, not to mention the possible basis for a new nuclear arms race that would threaten us all. And of course, the only way to be truly safe from nuclear weapons is to get rid of them altogether, as presidents from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama have acknowledged, even if they were unable to achieve that admittedly daunting goal.”

COLLEEN KELLY, colleen [at] veteransforpeace.org, @vfpnational

Kelly is communications coordinator for Veterans for Peace. They just released a statement, which notes that following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001: “The U.S. went on to invade Iraq, overthrow the government in Libya and drop bombs in Syria,Yemen, Somalia and other nations. An October 16, 2016 New York Times article states, ‘This year alone, the United States has carried out airstrikes in seven countries and conducted Special Operations missions in many more.’

“The President plans to increase Pentagon spending by $54 billion, claiming that the U.S. military is broken and depleted. Mr. Trump recently spoke to service members aboard the new $13 billion USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier reiterating his call for more spending. Ironically the carrier is a real-life example of why more spending is not needed. U.S. military capabilities far outstrip all other nations. The carrier is an addition to a navy that was already unmatched by all others. With ten carriers, the U.S. has more than all other nations combined and the carriers are larger, providing more deck space per carrier than other nations. The U.S. Navy has thousands of aircraft, making it the second largest air force in the world behind the U.S. Air Force. The U.S. already spends almost three times what any other country spends on [the military] and more than the next nine countries combined.

“As citizens participating in self-government, it is our responsibility to ask, with this massive military capability and spending and endless global wars costing trillions, why are 15 years of war policy not working? Who is benefiting from more spending on killing and death?”

Intel Committee “Political Theater” as Trump Escalates Wars

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DrumpfJAMES CARDEN, editor [at] eastwestaccord.com

    Carden is executive editor of the American Committee for East-West Accord. He said today: “FBI Director James Comey appeared before the House Select Intelligence Committee this morning to tell the committee that he would be unable to discuss the details of the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation because it is an ongoing one. And in so doing, in the space of a single sentence, Comey unmasked the meaningless nature of the committee’s enterprise this morning, which is simply to provide House members a public platform to play to their respective bases. The Nunes-Schiff hearings are proving to be political theater of the worst kind.”

    Carden’s recent pieces for The Nation include “Round Up the Usual Suspects, It’s Time for a Show Hearing” and “Why Does the U.S. Continue to Arm Terrorists in Syria?”

    Carden’s recent pieces for ConsortiumNews.com include “A Dangerous Hysteria on Russia” and “Trump Slips into ‘Endless War’ Cycle,” which states: “Meanwhile, more troops are being deployed to Kuwait. On March 9, the Army Times reported that the U.S. is sending ‘an additional 2,500 ground combat troops to a staging base in Kuwait from which they could be called upon to back up coalition forces battling the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.’ This is in addition to the already roughly 6,000 American troops that are currently in Syria and Iraq assisting in the fight against the Islamic State. American units are now in the northern Syrian city of Manbij and on the outskirts on Raqqa.

    “The latter deployment of Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit marks, according to the Washington Post, ‘a new escalation in the U.S. war in Syria, and puts more conventional U.S. troops in the battle.’ The Post, like all other mainstream outlets, leaves out mention that this new deployment is illegal under international law, a point Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made in an interview with Chinese state media last weekend.

    “And then, perhaps worst of all, there is the ongoing American support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. As Council on Foreign Relations analyst Micah Zenko recently pointed out, Trump has already ‘approved at least 36 drone strikes or raids in 45 days — one every 1.25 days.’ These include, according to Zenko, ‘three drone strikes in Yemen on January 20, 21, and 22; the January 28 Navy SEAL raid in Yemen; one reported strike in Pakistan on March 1; more than thirty strikes in Yemen on March 2 and 3; and at least one more on March 6.’ The strikes, we are told, are a necessary part of the ‘global war on terror’ and are portrayed by military and administration spokesmen as such.”

See recent reports:

“U.S. says it carried out deadly strike that hit Aleppo mosque” from AirWars.org

“Syria fires missiles at Israeli warplanes on bombing run” from the Washington Post.

“Saudi-led coalition blamed after helicopter gunship massacres Somali refugees” from the British Independent

Left and Right Unite Against Escalating Syria War

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SyrianWarIn a statement, the office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee [D-Calif.] states that she, “members of the CPC [Congressional Progressive Caucus] Peace and Security Taskforce, and Congressman Walter Jones [R-NC] will hold a press conference on Tuesday, March 21st at 1 p.m. [at the House Triangle] opposing the escalating U.S. involvement in the Syrian Civil War. For more than 15 years, the U.S. has been engaged in an ever-expanding war in the Middle East. President Trump recently deployed 400 troops to Syria and reports indicate that the Pentagon is planning to send 1,000 additional troops in the coming weeks, marking the latest front in this endless war.”

The news conference is scheduled to be livestreamed from Congresswoman Lee’s Facebook page.

See recent CBS News report: “Members Of Congress Push Back Against New U.S. Troop Deployments In Syria.”

DANIEL McADAMS, dlmcadams [at] gmail.com, @DanielLMcAdams
      McAdams is executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. His recent pieces include “The Cancer of War: U.S. Used Depleted Uranium in Syria,” “‘Bomb the Sh*t Out Of Them!’ — Trump Drones Yemen More in One Week Than Obama in a Year,” “Say Goodbye to ‘Getting Along With Russia’ — Trump’s NSC Pick McMaster is a Major Hawk,” “Democrats Have Made Common Cause with Neocons by Baiting Russia” and “U.S. Ambassador to UN Nikki Haley: We Must Sanction Assad Over Chemical Weapons!”

Leading Expert: Congress Can Release Trump’s Tax Returns

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GEORGE K. YIN, gy8a [at] eservices.virginia.edu
     Available for a limited number of interviews, Yin is the Edwin S. Cohen Distinguished Professor of Law and Taxation at the University of Virginia. He is a former chief of staff of the U.S. Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation.

     He has just written the paper “Congressional Authority to Obtain And Release Tax Returns,” which states: “President Trump’s continuing refusal to release his tax returns despite the contrary common practice of presidents over the last 40 years has spurred interest in finding alternative ways to obtain the information. This article describes the authority of Congress, under section 6103(f)(1) and (4)(A), to obtain, inspect, and disclose the confidential tax information of any taxpayer, including the president, without the taxpayer’s consent. The authority may be exercised by any one of three tax committees: the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Joint Committee on Taxation.

     “Congress added the authority to the law in 1924. … Several matters, including two involving possible conflicts of interest, helped bring the separation-of-powers imbalance to Congress’s attention. During that period, Congress was investigating the Teapot Dome scandal — the alleged bribery of government officials in exchange for the leasing of public oil fields to private interests. As part of its investigation, Congress sought from President Coolidge the tax returns of the alleged principals involved in the scandal, but the president initially resisted the request. Although Coolidge ultimately acceded, the experience undoubtedly made Congress aware of its need to be able to obtain tax information even without the president’s permission.

     “Another matter concerned possible conflicts involving former Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who continued to own many business interests while serving in government. Some in Congress wanted to obtain Mellon’s tax information to learn how his interests would be affected by tax legislation that Treasury was proposing to Congress.”

London Attack

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LondonParNAFEEZ AHMED, [in London] iprdoffice [at] gmail.com, @NafeezAhmed
     An independent, London-based investigative reporter, Ahmed’s books include A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization. He is available for a limited number of interviews.

     He just wrote the piece “A love letter to extremists after the London attack,” which states: “We know that Islamist terrorists, from ISIS to al-Qaeda and beyond, target the so-called ‘gray zone’  —  the arena of co-existence where people of all faiths and none live and work together.

     “They want us to turn on each other. They want Muslims and non-Muslims to hate each other, fear each other, and fight each other. That’s the apocalyptic ‘clash of civilisations’ they yearn for. …

     “Whether they realise it or not, people like Tommy Robinson and Donald Trump Jr. are effectively accomplices to the terror they claim to oppose.

     “Because they have the same goals as those who attacked London: to draw a line in the ‘gray zone’, to drive a stake through the arena of co-existence, to stoke fear and hatred among us, to drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims, to destroy unity in diversity.

     “Extremists from the Western and Muslim worlds feed off each other like cannibalistic vultures, selling the same divisive rhetoric of unmitigated anger and xenophobic hatred.”

     Ahmed is the founder of INSURGE intelligence, a crowdfunded public interest investigative journalism project. His work has been published in numerous outlets including the Guardian and VICE.

Will Sanders Introduce Medicare for All, or Just for Some?

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sandersRUSSELL MOKHIBER, @corpcrimereport

Founder of Single Payer Action, Mokhiber just wrote the piece: “Single Payer Bernie Sanders Morphs Into Public Option Howard Dean,” which states: “During the 2016 Presidential campaign, Sanders took off like a rocket, fueled by the promise of a single payer, Medicare for All single payer system.

“His single payer plan paralleled HR 676, the single payer bill in the House of Representatives that now has 72 co-sponsors. HR 676 is the gold standard of single payer bills.

“It would deliver one public payer, no deductibles, no co-pays, lower costs, everyone in, nobody out, no more medical bankruptcies, no more deaths from lack of health insurance and free choice of doctors and hospitals.

“That was the promise of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 campaign. … And this weekend, Sanders has been telling people he will introduce health care reform legislation in the Senate within a couple of weeks.

“But it’s not going to be a companion bill to HR 676.

“Instead, Sanders is telling reporters he wants to ‘move toward Medicare for all.’

“‘Right now we need to improve the Affordable Care Act and that means a public option,’ Sanders tweeted [Saturday].

“The public option?

“That would be the plan put forth by the Democratic corporatist Howard Dean, currently a member of the public policy and regulation practice of Denton’s, the multinational corporate law firm. …

“PNHP [Physicians for a National Health Program], in a paper titled ‘The Public Plan Option: Myths and Facts,’ says that ‘the current Medicare experience combined with experience in many different states that have tried this type of reform shows that public plans are left with the sickest patients and fail due to rising costs while the private insurers continue to collect premiums from the healthiest patients and maintain their high profits.’

“Sanders also told reporters this weekend that he would consider legislation that would drop the Medicare age from 65 to 55.

“David Himmelstein, a PNHP founder, said that while the public option would be a ‘modest improvement’ and dropping the Medicare age to 55 would be a ‘good step,’ ‘neither could realize most of the vast savings on administration available under single payer, nor would they achieve universal coverage or address the problems of the tens of millions who are currently underinsured.’

“‘Introducing a public option will divide and confuse supporters of Medicare for all,’ said Margaret Flowers, MD a pediatrician who co-directs Health Over Profit for Everyone, www.HealthOverProfit.org. Flowers is also a member of PNHP. ‘Senators who should co-sponsor Medicare for all will be divided. Sanders seems to be urging a public option to please the Democratic Party, but Sanders cannot serve two masters — Wall Street’s Chuck Schumer and the people. Sanders must decide whom he is working for.'”

Amb. Haley: Moms for Nukes

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U.S. Violating Treaty Obligations in Attacking Nuclear Weapons Ban

The New York Times reports: “United States and Allies Protest U.N. Talks to Ban Nuclear Weapons.” U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley stated yesterday that she is rejecting talks toward eliminating nuclear weapons because: “First and foremost, I’m a mom. … Is there anyone who believes North Korea would agree to a ban on nuclear weapons?” In fact, North Korea voted for the effort; see below.

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, the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, recipient of the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. He said today: “The stunt that the U.S. delegation staged to draw attention to their boycotting the talks highlights that it and other nuclear states are not going to fulfill their obligations to eliminate their nuclear weapons arsenals under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty unless they are compelled to do so.

“The central contention of Amb. Haley’s remarks that nuclear weapons make us safe is a fundamentally flawed view. These weapons are the greatest threat to all people, including the citizens of the nuclear weapons states. Her statement betrayed a total disregard for the catastrophic humanitarian consequence of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons states maintain their stockpiles to project power, but you have to ask the question: what foreign policy objectives are worth the horrific risks?”

GREG MELLO, gmello [at] lasg.org, @trishabq
Mello is executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group and is a leading expert on nuclear policy. His group released a statement that the negotiations at the U.N. to “ban the possession, development, and use of nuclear weapons, [were] pursuant to a mandate passed by a wide margin in the General Assembly late last year. (Proceedings should be webcast at U.N. TV. Live updates are available here. The Twitter hashtag for ban proceedings is #nuclearban.)

“About two-thirds of the world’s countries are expected to participate in the four-week process, which will proceed from general statements this week, to a draft text sometime in the spring, to final negotiations over a three-week period in late June and early July.

“The United States and other nuclear weapon states are boycotting these negotiations as are all NATO states with the exception of the Netherlands. Australia, South Korea, and Japan will also be absent. …

“The U.S. boycott was announced last October by the Obama administration in a last-ditch attempt to prevent passage of a negotiating mandate, which was adopted despite this and other nuclear weapon-state opposition by the First Committee by a vote of 123 to 38, with 16 abstentions. Notably, North Korea voted to negotiate a nuclear weapons ban, and China abstained.

“The negotiations … are the culmination of a multi-year process principally led by a dozen or so states, the Red Cross, and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a network of over 400 non-governmental organizations in 90 countries.”

Added Mello: “It is a moment of high drama in disarmament affairs. For the U.N. to mandate negotiations to ban nuclear weapons — a process being led by non-nuclear states — is unprecedented. We believe it is the most significant development in nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War.

“Likewise unprecedented is the conspicuous boycott and protest by the U.S. and its allies of a major U.N. disarmament meeting. It is a flagrant violation of the U.S. obligation under Article VI of the NPT to negotiate nuclear disarmament and to do so ‘in good faith.’ It will damage the NPT and U.S. non-proliferation efforts.

“The resolution establishing these negotiations rejects nuclear deterrence entirely on both moral and legal grounds. It would immediately lower the political and military credibility of nuclear threats. It would lower the status and legitimacy of nuclear weapons, even within nuclear states. Its efficacy would develop further over time, by means which nuclear states cannot fully control.

“These negotiations are the product of the rising multipolar world. More than the legitimacy and status of nuclear weapons is in play. The nuclear ban process is also about initiative and leadership in world affairs — who can have them and who cannot. The ban process is in part about who can decide whether nuclear weapons are legitimate.

“Despite the shameful efforts of the Obama and now the Trump administration to impede the ban process, momentum toward a ban is strong. Will 2017 be the year nuclear weapons are banned? Quite possibly so.

“Diplomats from countries without nuclear weapons and alliances are reasserting civilizational values in a dark time. We look forward to a successful conclusion to these negotiations, and to the process of implementation.”

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty states: “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Dangers with Russia

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9780231110594ROBERT DAVID ENGLISH, renglish [at] usc.edu

English is on the faculty of the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California and served as the School’s director from 2013-2016. He recently wrote the piece “Russia, Trump, and a New Détente” for Foreign Affairs.

He said today: “The intensity of Washington’s fury over Russia’s misdeeds is matched only by its confusion over what those misdeeds are, and its exaggeration of Moscow’s supposed threats to divide Europe, to dominate the Middle East, and to undermine the United States. Threat inflation has reached levels not seen since the early Cold War, cutting off rational debate over Russian policy and fueling perilous levels of confrontation. This new Russophobia threatens to derail any chance of the détente that a new U.S. administration pragmatically outlined during the election campaign, and that both Washington and Moscow sorely need.”

English writes in his recent piece in Foreign Affairs: “These ordinary Russians are the forgotten people — the hard-working teachers, doctors, and mechanics whose savings, careers, even health were destroyed by the catastrophe of the 1990s. They are the fledgling voters who saw their new democracy bought and sold by Yeltsin and his cronies, and the onetime admirers of the United States who longed for a leader to restore their pride in Russia after a decade of humiliation. Under Clinton, the United States treated Russia like a defeated enemy and capitalized on its weakness to expand NATO. Claims that this was merely a defensive expansion were belied by NATO’s bombing of Serbia, a Russian ally, in 1999. Under President George W. Bush, the United States further intimidated Russia by abrogating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, imposing punitive tariffs, launching a reckless invasion of Iraq, continuing to expand NATO, and further encircling Russia by cozying up to Georgia and Ukraine.”

English’s books include Russia and the Idea of the West: Gorbachev, Intellectuals, and the End of the Cold War (Columbia University Press).

Gorsuch: Using “Originalism” for a Right-wing Agenda

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trumpMARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal [at] gmail.com, @marjoriecohn

Cohn is professor emerita at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Her books include The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse. She recently wrote the piece “Gorsuch Would Use ‘Originalism’ to Affirm Right-Wing Agenda,” which notes, among other things, that right-wing judges, like Neil Gorsuch and Antonin Scalia, avoid “originalism” when it goes against their agenda. She writes: “The Supremacy Clause, Article VI, section 2, says that ‘all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.’

“During Scalia’s visit to Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California, I cited the Supremacy Clause to him and asked him why the Court didn’t use more treaty principles in its decisions. He replied that treaties aren’t binding unless they’re implemented, or ‘executed’ by an act of Congress. I went back and read the words in Article VI, section 2, looking in vain for text that said treaties only become the supreme law of the land once they’ve been executed.”

Cohn also wrote “Neil Gorsuch and the Deconstruction of the Administrative State,” in which she writes: “When Donald Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus addressed the Conservative Political Action Committee in February, he identified two priorities of the administration: the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and deregulation.

“It turns out that elevating Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and achieving deregulation are inextricably linked.

“During Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing, Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee challenged him on his pro-business positions.

“Minnesota Sen. Al Franken pressed him on a case — that of the now-infamous ‘frozen trucker’ — in which the judge reached what Franken characterized as an ‘absurd’ result.”

Charlie Savage reports in the New York Times: “Where Does Gorsuch Stand on Torture? It’s Hard to Say.” On March 15, Savage wrote the piece “Neil Gorsuch Helped Defend Disputed Bush-Era Terror Policies,” which notes: “In November 2005, for example, Judge Gorsuch visited Guantánamo for a briefing and tour. Afterward, he wrote a note to the prison operation commander, offering a glowing review. ….”

Tillerson Praises Increasingly Authoritarian Turkey

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The New York Times reports that U.S. Secretary of State “Rex Tillerson’s Praise for Turkey Is Met With a List of Complaints.”

KANI XULAM, kani [at] kurdistan.org, @AKINinfo
Xulam is director of the American Kurdish Information Network. He appeared on the program “Democracy Now!” this morning. He said today: “Using the coup attempt of 2016 as an excuse, [Turkish President] Erdogan is asking Turks and Kurds for a dictatorship till 2034 through a referendum that is due on April 16

“That would mean he would be running the country for 32 years.

“That is more than twice the amount FDR was president before Republicans decided to introduce terms limits (of eight years) for the office of the presidency.

“Americans have been quiet about these ominous developments because of Incirlik Air Base. Europeans, because of the refugees. They have given money to Erdogan to keep them in Turkey.

“Selahattin Demirtas [head of the main opposition party in Turkey], is in jail instead of campaigning for a ‘no’ vote in the referendum and started a hunger strike today, Friday, March 31, 2017 to protest the limitations on the rights of prisoners.

“According to a recently released UN report, the Turkish military has turned 30 Kurdish town and city centers into ‘moonscapes and vast parking lots.’

See from Reporters without Borders: “Turkey – world leader in imprisoned journalists.”

50 Years After Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam”

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mlkFifty years ago this Tuesday, Martin Luther King delivered his “Beyond Vietnam” speech. USA Today recently noted: “On April 4, from the altar of Riverside Church in New York, King condemned the war. He did so against the wishes of his advisers, and even though he knew it could erode his already-fading public support, financially cripple his organization, and end his relationship with a president who’d done more for civil rights than any since Lincoln.”

King said in his speech: “There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in  that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. …”

King gave his speech before the group Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam. He said to them: “The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality — and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing ‘clergy and laymen concerned’ committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. …

“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores … A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind.” See here for text and audio.

After King was attacked for his remarks at Riverside, including by media such as the New York Times and Time magazine, he spoke out even more passionately. From the pulpit of his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta later that month, on April 30, 1967, he would deliver the sermon “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam,” in which he stated: “There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward [segregationist Selma, Ala. sheriff] Jim Clark!’ but will curse and damn you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children!’ There is something wrong with that press!” See here for video and text. This speech would later win a Grammy.

Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler [at] verizon.net, @graylanhagler
Hagler is senior pastor at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. and chairperson of Faith Strategies.

MICHAEL McPHEARSON, mcphearson [at] veteransforpeace.org, @vfpnational
McPhearson is the national executive director of Veterans For Peace. See: “50th Anniversary of Dr. King’s ‘Beyond Vietnam’ Speech.”

A View from St. Petersburg

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IMG_0198-e1491315501937-768x1028GILBERT DOCTOROW, gdoctorow [at] yahoo.com

Currently in St. Petersburg, Doctorow is a Brussels-based political analyst. He just wrote the piece “Russians Take Terror Attack in Stride” for Consortium News, which states: “Russia’s reaction to Monday’s terror attacks on St. Petersburg’s subway system stands in stark contrast to what we have seen in public behavior in Paris, Berlin and Brussels following similar attacks over the past 18 months.

“There is some commonality, to be sure: in every case, days of mourning for the victims were immediately declared and the head of state visited the scene of the horror to pay respects to the fallen. Vladimir Putin did just that Monday night when he lay flowers at the metro station where 10 citizens died and scores more were injured, requiring hospitalization.

“But Putin delivered no maudlin speech to the nation and Russian state television coverage was not dominated by images of tearful and shocked citizens lighting candles and reaffirming their faith in a free, open and pluralistic society — the dominant themes of the media in France, Germany and Belgium.

“In St. Petersburg, the official reactions were more down to earth and practical. To ease the plight of the millions of citizens and visitors to the city center — faced with the shutdown of the entire metro system pending security searches to uncover other possible bombs — the city authorities declared that all surface transport including taxis and suburban trains would be offered free of charge for the day.

“The precaution of closing the metro system turned out to be entirely justified. Within an hour of the explosion on a train traveling between two key stations of the Blue Line, Tekhnologichesky Institute and Sennaya Square, police discovered and defused a more powerful bomb at the Moskovsky metro station, which connects with the heavily visited Moscow railway terminal at the top of the city’s premier boulevard, Nevsky Prospekt.

“Being present in the city center at just this time, I was witness to the massive flow of people along the sidewalks as we were all involuntarily turned into pedestrians to get around town. The mood, nonetheless, was calm and good-natured. …”

Doctorow’s other recent pieces for Consortium News include “Trump’s Quiet Outreach to Russia” and “A Breach in the Anti-Putin Groupthink.”

As Saudi-Bombed Yemen Faces Famine, a Left-Right Alliance Challenges U.S. Policy

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yemen_saudi_airstrike_rubble_ap_imgSHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, sha980 [at] mail.harvard.edu, @shireen818

Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni-Canadian-American, is a doctoral candidate and instructor at Harvard University.

JAMES CARDEN, jamescarden09 [at] gmail.com
Carden just wrote the piece “America’s Support For Saudi Arabia’s War On Yemen Must End” for The Nation magazine. He writes: “According to a report issued by the United Nations on March 27, Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen has resulted in what is quickly becoming a humanitarian catastrophe with nearly 7 million people at risk of famine and more than 14 million people without access to medical care. According to the World Health Organization, 7,719 people have been killed and 42,922 have been injured since the start of the conflict in March 2015. And yet the savage war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and aided to a significant degree by American weapons and intelligence, shows no sign of letting up.

“Disturbingly, the U.S. has been acting as a de facto co-belligerent since at least October 2015 when President Obama gave the green light to Lockheed Martin to sell the Saudis four ‘multi-mission’ warships totaling about $11.25 billion. This came only a month after the Saudi-led military coalition earned world-wide censure for its bombing of a wedding party in southern Yemen, killing 135 people. At the time, the Obama administration issued a routine and hypocritical ‘expression of concern’ over the incident.

“Last week, the Washington Post reported what many had long suspected: that Trump intends to pick up where Obama left off and scale up America’s involvement in the ongoing catastrophe. …

“Yet some much needed push-back against the rush toward confrontation with Iran, particularly with regard to the administration’s plans in Yemen, is emerging. This week, a bipartisan coalition of House members, including Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan, California Democrat Ted Lieu, Michigan Republican Justin Amash, and North Carolina Republican Walter Jones are circulating a letter to the president that objects to the administration’s escalation in Yemen. The representatives write that they are ‘troubled by news reports indicating that Al Qaeda in Yemen has emerged as a de facto ally of the Saudi-led militaries with whom your administration aims to partner more closely.'”

Note: Activists from several groups including Voices for Creative Nonviolence and New York Catholic Worker community will begin a vigil and fast in front of the United Nations on Monday, April 10, 2017. See news release.

 

The Syria Solution

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Bassam-Khabieh_Reuters-640x358CHARLES GLASS, [in Beirut] charlesglass [at] gmx.com, @charlesmglass
Available for a limited number of interviews, Glass is the author of many books including Syria Burning: A Short History of a Catastrophe.

He said today: “The death and suffering caused by poison gas in Syria emphasizes the urgency — not to escalate the war with more bombardment — but to end it through negotiation between the United States and Russia. Only they can impose a solution on their clients.”

His articles include “The U.S. and Russia Ensure a Balance of Terror in Syria,” for the Intercept and “Russia and the U.S. now have the power to impose peace in Syria,” for the Guardian. See his website.

Glass was ABC News Chief Middle East correspondent. In February, the New York Review of Books published his piece “How Assad Is Winning,” which stated: “Wherever the warring sides want peace, there is peace. Where they contest territory, as they did until recently in the eastern quarters of Aleppo, there is war. Where they want profits, they collaborate. Hence, the ‘million-dollar checkpoint’ and lesser checkpoints throughout the country that sustain the business of war. Paltry exactions from beleaguered citizens add up to large fortunes, giving the fighters incentives to mute the conflict in certain areas and marshal their forces elsewhere.”

Trump Bombing “Illegal”

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FRANCIS BOYLE,  fboyle [at] illinois.edu
Reuters reports: “Russia calls for emergency U.N. meeting after U.S. strikes on Syria.” Trump claimed on Thursday: “There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.”

Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “The U.S. strikes are a clear violation of international law and the War Powers Clause of the U.S. Constitution. There is no evidence for any of Trump’s claims.”

SAID ARIKAT,  Arikat1 [at] aol.com, @SMArikat
Washington correspondent for Al Quds daily, Arikat said today: “Contrary to what many are claiming, U.S. policies have directly or indirectly backed Al Qaeda or its offspring in Syria by training tens of thousands of fighters who have found their way into these groups. Also, in a sense, this attack isn’t new because the U.S. has been bombing Syria, as well as Iraq, with thousands of strikes resulting in hundreds of deaths. Just last month, the U.S. bombed a mosque complex in Syria and Mosul in Iraq, killing hundreds of civilians.”

SAM HUSSEINI, samhusseini [at] gmail.com @samhusseini
Communications director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini said today: “While many are claiming that Trump is being inconsistent since he had been saying the U.S. should focus on defeating ISIS, a closer examination shows a deeper pattern of remarkable consistency in U.S. policy toward Syria: When Assad was losing the Syrian war, Obama refrained from strikes that would likely have taken him out in 2013. Now, when Assad seems close to winning the war, Trump with a revamped NSC does a 180 on his previous pronouncements and attacks Assad.

“So, if you push away the personalities and rhetoric and focus on actual U.S. policy, it suggests that there is an underlying consistency on Syria, which is something that cannot possibly be stated publically: To prolong the Syrian war as much as possible. This would not at all be unprecedented. Through the 1980s, the U.S. backed both sides in the Iran-Iraq War, which resulted in horrific carnage.” See Dahlia Wasfi’s piece “Battling ISIS: Iran-Iraq war redux,” which argued that “Obama’s unofficial strategy to fight ISIS may be that of Reagan’s for Iran and Iraq in the 1980s: a long, drawn-out war to strengthen U.S.-Israeli hegemony in the region.”

Husseini’s recent pieces for CounterPunch include “Behind the Liberal Embrace of Trump” and “The Left Needs to Assess the Implications of the Flynn Scandal.” Also see “Stated Goals vs Actual Goals.”

See recent pieces from Robert Parry of Consortium News: “NYT Retreats on 2013 Syria-Sarin Claims” and “Another Dangerous Rush to Judgment in Syria.”

Russia and Iran Warn of “Red Lines” on Syria

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SyriaP The British Independent reports: “Russia and Iran warn U.S. they will ‘respond with force’ if red lines crossed in Syria again.”

Norman Solomon writes in “Trump Plunges Toward World War III” for ConsortiumNews.com that: “Months of Democratic Russia-bashing and Trump-baiting achieved their predictable result as the thin-skinned and rash President is now proving his ‘toughness’ by firing off missiles and risking World War III.”

According to AirWars.org, the U.S. and U.K. launched 18 strikes in Syria and nine strikes in Iraq over the weekend, bringing their bombing over the last 975 days to nearly 20,000 strikes.

JAFAR JAFARI, [in D.C.] jijafari [at] yahoo.com
Jafari is with Al-Mayadeen, a Beirut-based pan-Arab news channel founded by Ghassan bin Jiddo who gained much acclaim for his coverage of the Israeli-Hezbollah war of 2006 and was host of “Open Dialogue” on Al-Jazeera. Jiddo resigned from Al-Jazeera in 2011, accusing it of betraying its journalistic mission as the Arab uprisings began.

Jafari stated that the U.S. cruise missile attack was in part a way of gaining leverage for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ahead of his trip to Moscow, scheduled for Wednesday. This was similar to the analysis of Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Colin Powell. Wilkerson also told The Real News that the attack was similar to the Gulf of Tonkin incident or U.S. government fabrications regarding Iraqi WMDs — a pretext. Wilkerson also states that his sources — including members of the U.S team that monitors global chemical weapons — believe that the alleged gas attack was in fact possibly the result of the Syrian Air Force striking a storage depot — and that they had told the U.S. and Russia that they would strike it.

REESE ERLICH, via Cheryl Quimba,  cquimba [at] prometheusbooks.com or ReeseErlich2 [at] hotmail.com
Erlich is a Peabody award-winning foreign correspondent. The paperback edition of his 2014 book Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect has been updated with a new epilogue and includes a foreword by Noam Chomsky.

Erlich said today: “While seemingly dealing a decisive blow against Bashar al-Assad’s use of poison gas, in reality, the attack seriously escalates the war and could spark more military clashes in the region.

“Destroying one Syrian airbase will not stop attacks on civilians by Assad and Russia. The U.S. currently has over 1,000 troops stationed in Syria, and Trump will have to escalate those numbers and their combat roles in order to fight Assad. Russia has already announced that it will cease exchanging intelligence and air coordinates with the U.S. Trump’s actions increase the possibility of a military clash with Russia, endangering the lives of U.S. soldiers and countless civilians.

“In addition, the aggressive attack may embolden Israel to attack Hezbollah, the Lebanese political party and militia. Israel believes Hezbollah is weakened as a result of overextending itself in Syria, and that this may be a good time to launch an attack on Lebanon with U.S. blessings.

“Trump’s attack lacks any basis in international or U.S. law. The U.N. held no vote and the U.S. Congress has not even debated, let alone voted on, going to war in Syria or Iraq. …

“The use of chemical gas in the Idlib province was a horrific crime. Those responsible should be held to account under international law. Both rebels and Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons in the past, according to U.N. investigations. Therefore, international chemical weapons experts must investigate on the ground before who is responsible for the attack can be determined.”

Spicer: “Goal is to Destabilize Syria”

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SpicyGodRaw Story reports: “‘The goal is to destabilize Syria’: Sean Spicer baffles reporters with Trump’s Middle East policy.”

ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn [at] gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn said today: “Behind the mumbling, [White House spokesperson] Spicer is basically reiterating mainstream media/neocon policy (though neocons prioritize overthrowing Assad over destroying ISIS, if they care about latter at all.)” Cockburn’s latest book is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins.

DANIEL McADAMS, dlmcadams [at] gmail.com, @DanielLMcAdams
McAdams is executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. McAdams said today: “Spicer is saying the truth inadvertently. U.S. policy has been to destabilize Syria since at least 2011.” McAdams noted WikiLeaks documents which show the U.S. seeking to destabilize Syria in 2006. See: “WikiLeaks Reveals How the U.S. Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath” by Robert Naiman.

McAdams added: “There is a confluence of interests between the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel who want to either overthrow the Syrian government — or ensure an enfeebled country, possibly even partitioning it. Then there’s the whole pipeline issue.

“This has been led by the ‘neocons’ who seek to remake the Mideast while turning it into a graveyard. Sadly, you have many still gullibly accepting propaganda, as with this latest gas attack. The president launched 59 missiles against a sovereign country without providing evidence.

“It seems no matter who you vote for, the war party wins.”

See from Sam Husseini: “Is U.S. Policy to Prolong the Syrian War?

From Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton: “Is Trump Rescuing Al-Qaeda’s ‘Heartland’ in Syria?

See latest from Robert Parry at ConsortiumNews.com: “Neocons Have Trump on His Knees,” “Where Was CIA’s Pompeo on Syria?,” “Trump’s ‘Wag the Dog’ Moment” and “NYT Retreats on 2013 Syria-Sarin Claims.”

Former Officials Warn Trump on Syria Escalation

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Screen-Shot-2017-04-11-at-7.50.16-AMThe New York Times reports: “Tillerson Warns Russia on Syria, Saying Assad Era Is ‘Coming to an End’.”

A group of prominent former intelligence and other officials have released a statement warning President Trump: “We write to give you an unambiguous warning of the threat of armed hostilities with Russia — with the risk of escalation to nuclear war. …

“We believe it of transcendent importance to prevent relations with Russia from falling into a state of complete disrepair.”

The signers include: Ann Wright, Peter Van Buren, Scott Ritter, Coleen Rowley, David MacMichael, John Kiriakou, John Brady Kiesling, Matthew Hoh and William Binney.

Read the full statement, which includes a full list of signers (members of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity) and their past affiliations — from virtually every branch of the U.S. national security state: “Trump Should Rethink Syria Escalation.”

Among the signers available for interviews:

PHILIP GIRALDI, ebquillen [at] yahoo.com
CIA, Operations Officer (ret.)

ELIZABETH MURRAY, emurray404 [at] aol.com, @elizabethmurra
Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Near East, CIA and National Intelligence Council (ret.)

RAY McGOVERN, [currently in NYC] rrmcgovern [at] gmail.com, @raymcgovern
Former U.S. Army infantry/intelligence officer & CIA analyst (ret.)

Fast for Yemen: U.S. Bombing, Backing Saudi Destabilization, Famine

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YemyyyU.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Justin Amash (R-MI), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and 50 other Members of Congress just sent a bipartisan letter to President Trump calling on him to come to Congress before escalating military action in Yemen. They state: “The Trump administration is currently weighing options for direct military involvement in Yemen’s two-year-old civil war, where a coalition of military forces led by Saudi Arabia has fought against Yemen’s Houthi rebels. The Saudi coalition has conducted indiscriminate bombings and imposed a crippling blockade, provoking a dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen. This bipartisan effort also comes after President Trump showed his willingness to engage in Syrian missile strikes without Congressional authorization.”

See from Daniel McAdams: “Trump Drones Yemen More in One Week Than Obama in a Year” and Iona Craig’s piece in the Intercept: “Women and Children in Yemeni Village Recall Horror of Trump’s ‘Highly Successful’ SEAL Raid.”

MARTHA HENNESSY, marthahennessy [at] gmail.com
CARMEN TROTTA, trottacarmen [at] yahoo.com
KATHY KELLY, FastingForYemen [at] gmail.com
Hennessy, Trotta and Kelly are among 20 peace activists who are on day three of a week-long vigil and fast in front of the United Nations. They are “calling for peace and justice in Yemen, and standing in solidarity with its civilian population.” They will also be “demanding an end to U.S. complicity in a war that is taking a devastating toll on the Yemeni people.

“Ravaged by war, blockaded by sea, and regularly targeted with Saudi and U.S. airstrikes, Yemen is now on the brink of total famine.

“Yemen is currently being ravaged by a brutal conflict, with injustices and atrocities on all sides. More than 10,000 people have been killed, including 1,564 children, and millions have been displaced from their homes. UNICEF estimates that more than 460,000 children in Yemen face severe malnutrition, while 3.3 million children and pregnant or lactating women suffer acute malnutrition.The U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition is also enforcing a sea blockade on rebel-held areas. Yemen imports 90 percent of its food; because of the blockade, food and fuel prices are rising and scarcity is at crisis levels. While Yemeni children are starving, U.S. weapons makers, including General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, are profiting from weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. …

“Participants note their responsibility to ensure that the U.S.:

1. Stops all drone attacks and military ‘special operations’ within Yemen

2. Ends all U.S. weapon sales and military aid to Saudi Arabia

3. Provides compensation to those who suffered losses caused by U.S. attacks.”

See here for more information.
Background: Dennis Bernstein interview with Gareth Porter: “Aiding Saudi Arabia’s Slaughter in Yemen.”

Ben Norton: “Famine looms in Yemen, as U.S.-backed Saudi bombing intentionally targets food production.”

Trump’s “Trojan Horse Attack” On Social Security

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58ed068d16000026004d9f00Vox reports today: “Republicans are floating a tax reform plan that could threaten Social Security.” Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times just wrote about the proposal that Trump’s team “has floated as a way, ostensibly, to cut taxes on the middle class.” Hiltzik notes that: “According to the Associated Press, they’re toying with the idea of eliminating the payroll tax, which funds Social Security and part of Medicare, or cutting it drastically. This is an absolutely terrible idea, partially because it smells like a back-door way of cutting Social Security benefits. It needs to be nipped in the bud.”

NANCY ALTMAN, via Linda Benesch, lbenesch [at] socialsecurityworks.org, @ssworks
Altman is president of Social Security Works. She just wrote the piece “Trump’s Trojan Horse Attack On Social Security,” which states: “As part of his tax package, Donald Trump reportedly is planning to propose replacing employee contributions to Social Security with general revenue. The proposal is a Trojan horse: It appears to be a gift, in the form of middle class tax relief, but would, if enacted, lead to the destruction of working Americans’ fundamental economic security.

“If Trump proposes this Trojan horse, it would be the newest shot in the ongoing Republican war against Social Security. That war has failed so far. The American people overwhelmingly support Social Security because they appreciate that it provides working families with basic economic security when wages are lost as the result of death, disability, or old age. And it does so extremely efficiently, securely, fairly, and universally. …”In the 1980s, Republicans, who had long tried but failed to cut government programs directly, discovered a new tactic. They realized that they could undermine government and eventually force cuts to spending by cutting taxes and, in their words, starve the beast. Now, Trump is making plans to use that same tactic against Social Security.

“Not only would the Trump proposal starve Social Security of dedicated revenue, it would ultimately destroy it. Social Security is not a government handout. It is wage insurance that the American people earn, as part of their compensation, and, indeed, pay for with deductions from their pay.”

Does “Humanitarian Intervention” Do What Proponents Claim?

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[Theodore A. Postol, professor of science, technology, and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, just did a very critical assessment of White House claims about the nerve agent attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria. Postol writes: “No competent analyst would assume that the crater cited as the source of the sarin attack was unambiguously an indication that the munition came from an aircraft.” Here’s an updated version.]

International Business Times reports: “Trump Takes U-Turn on NATO.”

DAVID GIBBS, dgibbs [at] arizona.edu
Gibbs is professor of history at the University of Arizona, who specializes in international relations and military intervention. His most recent book is First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia from Vanderbilt University Press.

He said today: “U.S. policy is embarking on a reckless course, one that is unlikely to produce any positive results, either in terms of enhancing U.S. security or alleviating human suffering. Even if the policy is successful, regime change in Syria would only increase the ongoing chaos and humanitarian catastrophe, as the multiple rebel groups turn on each other. In general, the history of U.S. efforts at overthrowing dictators in such cases as Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya has led to instability and many years of civil war, as well as new terrorist threats against the West. There is no reason to believe the situation in Syria would be any different. In addition, military interventions in Syria are sure to worsen U.S. relations with Russia, and will thus increase the risk of nuclear war.”

U.S. News reports: “Donald Trump Approves NATO Expansion as Tillerson Travels to Moscow.”

Gibbs has long scrutinized NATO, see Institute for Public Accuracy news release from 2014: “NATO: Part of Solution — Or Problem.”

“Mother of All Bombs Is Greed”

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BBC reports: “A U.S. military strike with a weapon known as the ‘mother of all bombs’ (MOAB) killed 36 IS militants and destroyed their base, the Afghan defence ministry says.

“The most powerful non-nuclear bomb ever used by the U.S. in combat was dropped on IS tunnels in Nangarhar province.

“No civilians were affected by the explosion, the ministry said.

“Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the attack as ‘an inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country.'”

KATHY KELLY, [currently in NYC] FastingForYemen [at] gmail.com, @voiceinwild
Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She is recently back from Afghanistan, where she has spent a great deal of time the last several years. She has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

She is currently participating in a fast in front of the United Nations against the war in Yemen, see recent Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Fast for Yemen: U.S. Bombing, Backing Saudi Destabilization, Famine.”

This morning she appeared on the program “Democracy Now” along with peace activists from Afghanistan, some of whom she has worked with.

When asked about the dropping of the “MOAB,” Kelly responded: “The mother of all bombs is greed” and went on to broadly critique militaristic and economic policy of the U.S. and other governments.

Her recent pieces include: “Reality and the U.S.-Made Famine in Yemen” and “See How We Live” about her time in Afghanistan.

* Korea * Is Case Against Syria Falling Apart?

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2017_0413por_CHRISTINE HONG, cjhong [at] ucsc.edu
Hong is a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. See her recent interview “The Overlooked Past Behind U.S.-North Korea Tensions & How South Korea Could Forge Peace” with The Real News.

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 [at] gmail.com
Independent investigative journalist Porter just wrote the piece “New Revelations Belie Trump Claims on Syria Chemical Attack,” which states: “Two new revelations contradict the Trump administration’s line on the April 4 attack. A former U.S. official knowledgeable about the episode told Truthout that the Russians had actually informed their U.S. counterparts in Syria of the Syrian military’s plan to strike the warehouse in Khan Sheikhoun 24 hours before the strike. And a leading analyst on military technology, Dr. Theodore Postol of MIT, has concluded that the alleged device for a sarin attack could not have been delivered from the air but only from the ground, meaning that the chemical attack may not have been the result of the Syrian airstrike.

“The Trump administration is pushing the accusation that the Assad regime was the force that carried out the highly lethal chemical attack on April 4 very hard, perhaps not so much to justify the already politically popular U.S. strike against the Shayrat airbase on April 6, but rather to buttress a new hardline policy against the Syrian regime.”

Porter’s other recent articles include “The U.S. Provided Cover for the Saudi Starvation Strategy in Yemen.” He wrote the book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

CIA Head Threatens WikiLeaks — and a Free Press

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pompeo2-1492168817-540x360Glenn Greenwald writes: “Trump’s CIA Director Pompeo, Targeting WikiLeaks, Explicitly Threatens Speech and Press Freedoms.”

JESSELYN RADACK, jess [at] exposefacts.org, @jesselynradack, @xposefacts
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.

NATHAN FULLER, nathanlfuller [at] gmail.com, @nathanlfuller, @couragefound
Fuller is with the Courage Foundation, which just released a statement: “The CIA director’s recent comments attacking WikiLeaks are deeply wrong-headed, hypocritical, and alarming. That Mike Pompeo has centered his first public address on targeting journalists and publishers suggests disturbingly skewed priorities. Admitting that his own agency’s mandate is ostensibly to collect information and find the truth, Mike Pompeo is now angry that WikiLeaks has provided just that service to Americans and people around the world, publishing source documents without the government’s spin. However misguided they may be, the Director’s remarks are serious and troubling. Journalists should be standing up in WikiLeaks’ defense, as a threat to WikiLeaks’ work is a threat to the United States’ free press as a whole. Finally, Pompeo suggested that WikiLeaks should focus its attention on autocratic regimes — we agree, and in that spirit, we’re looking forward to the next Vault 7 release.” Fuller used to work with the Bradley Manning Support Network.

* Drone Killings * Korea * Turkey * French Election

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ELLEN GRADY, demottgrady6 [at] gmail.com

Grady is part of the Ithaca, New York Catholic Worker movement, which has been a key part of organizing against the U.S. government killer drone assassinations program outside Hancock Air Force Base. Nine activists were arrested following a “Good Friday” action, which included activists being “crucified” on drones. See statement and pictures at UpstateDroneAction.org.

TIM SHORROCK, [currently in South Korea] timshorrock [at] gmail.com, @timothys
Shorrock just 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. Shorrock is spending April and May working at Gwangju’s 5.18 Archives to integrate his collection of declassified U.S.-government documents on Korea into the archive’s collection of materials on the 1980 Gwangju Uprising. In 2015, he was named an honorary citizen of Gwangju for his reporting on the U.S. role in Korea during the uprising.

CHRISTINE HONG, cjhong [at] ucsc.edu
Hong is a professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz. She debunks the idea 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. See her interview, along with Korea scholar Bruce Cummings, on “Democracy Now.”

KANI XULAM, kani [at] kurdistan.org, @AKINinfo
Xulam is director of the American Kurdish Information Network. Many are decrying Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasing power following a referendum this weekend granting the presidency more power. Xulam has warned for years about the militarism and increasing authoritarianism from Erdogan. See news release from earlier this year: “Tillerson Praises Increasingly Authoritarian Turkey.”

JEAN BRICMONT, [in France] jean.bricmont [at] uclouvain.be, @JeanBricmont
The first round of the 2017 French presidential election is set to be held on April 23. 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.

Behind MSNBC’s Russia Obsession

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Screen-Shot-2017-04-11-at-12.13.49-PM-1491948385AARON MATÉ, aaronmate [at] therealnews.com, @aaronjmate

Maté recently wrote the piece “MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Sees a ‘Russia Connection’ Lurking Around Every Corner,” which states: “MSNBC, the country’s most prominent liberal media outlet, has played a key role in stoking the frenzy over Trump’s alleged involvement with Russian meddling in the U.S. presidential race — in lock step with the Democratic Party’s most avid partisans.

“Jennifer Palmieri, a senior member of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, captured the prevailing mentality when she recently urged party members to talk about the Russian ‘attack on our republic’ — and to do so ‘relentlessly and above all else.’

“And no leading media figure has done so more than Maddow. In the period since Election Day, ‘The Rachel Maddow Show’ has covered ‘The Russia Connection’ — and Russia, generally — more than it has any other issue.

“The Intercept conducted a quantitative study of all 28 TRMS episodes in the six-week period between February 20 and March 31. Russia-focused segments accounted for 53 percent of these broadcasts. …

“Maddow’s Russia coverage has dwarfed the time devoted to other top issues, including Trump’s escalating crackdown on undocumented immigrants (1.3 percent of coverage); Obamacare repeal (3.8 percent); the legal battle over Trump’s Muslim ban (5.6 percent), a surge of anti-GOP activism and town halls since Trump took office (5.8 percent), and Trump administration scandals and stumbles (11 percent).”

Maté is a producer and anchor for The Real News.

Disputes Behind Democratic Party’s “Unity” Push

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The Democratic National Committee has released the roster of its new “unity commission.” The Hill newspaper reports that the panel is “made up largely of supporters of former Democratic presidential primary rivals Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders now tasked with healing the party’s divisions.”

Basic issues remain unresolved for the Democratic Party. The following policy analysts and activists are available for interviews:

ROBERT BOROSAGE, borosage [at] ourfuture.org
Borosage writes a weekly column for The Nation magazine and is a senior advisor of People’s Action.

“For all the urgent pleas for unity in the face of Trump, the party establishment has always made it clear that they mean unity under their banner,” Borosage wrote in a recent article. “That’s why they mobilized to keep the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Representative Keith Ellison, from becoming head of the DNC. It’s why the knives are still out for Sanders and those who supported him.”

Borosage commented that “Democrats are in the midst of a major struggle to decide what they stand for and who they represent.” And he added: “Part of that is the debate over a bipartisan interventionist foreign policy that has so abjectly failed.”

KAREN BERNAL, nekochan99 [at] hotmail.com
Bernal is former Chair of the California Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus. She was Co-Chair of the Bernie Sanders delegation from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Bernal said today: “As we work to nurture a generalized solidarity among Democrats against a Trump agenda, the reckoning between Bernie-inspired forces and the more neo-liberal wing of the party appears on the horizon like a rising sun on a clear day. There will be no clouds to hide behind and no truths will be avoided, because the ‘Berners’ won’t allow it — nor should they.”

She added: “Those of us who supported Bernie have worked long and hard inside and outside the party to find ourselves at this tipping point. Now an important task lies ahead of us: to be the resistance within our own party. It’s not enough to be against Trump. As we undertake the Herculean effort that will be required to get our party in an ideological order we can work with — and with no guarantees that it will succeed — it goes without saying that we can hardly be a force to be reckoned with if we value a superficial ‘go along to get along’ approach over deeper and more meaningful truth-telling.”

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive [at] gmail.com
Solomon is coordinator of the activist group RootsAction.org, now with 1.5 million active supporters online. His books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

In a new article, “The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia,” Solomon wrote: “Top party officials seem bent on returning to a kind of pre-Bernie-campaign doldrums. The new chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, can’t bring himself to say that the power of Wall Street is antithetical to the interests of working people. That reality came to painful light this week during a live appearance on national television.

“During a 10-minute joint interview along with Bernie Sanders on Tuesday night, Perez was a font of exactly the kind of trite empty slogans and worn-out platitudes that oiled the engines of the dismal Clinton campaign. While Sanders was forthright, Perez was evasive. While Sanders talked about systemic injustice, Perez fixated on Trump. While Sanders pointed to a way forward for realistic and far-reaching progressive change, Perez hung onto a rhetorical formula that expressed support for victims of the economic order without acknowledging the existence of victimizers.”

Solomon is IPA’s executive director.

After the “Science Marches,” Highest “Security Priority” Is Nuclear Weapons

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StockpilesIRA 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: “Nuclear policy needs to be based on a scientific understanding of what nuclear weapons will actually do when they are used. Science shows that even a very limited use of these weapons — less than 0.5 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal — will cause a catastrophic global famine that will likely end modern civilization. The data indicate that nuclear weapons are, in fact, suicide bombs. Banning and eliminating these weapons must be our highest security priority.” Helfand was recently on the Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Amb. Haley: Moms for Nukes.” See from Future of Life Institute: “Hawking, Higgs and Over 3,000 Other Scientists Support UN Nuclear Ban Negotiations.”

ROBERT ALVAREZ, kitbob [at] erols.com
Alvarez is a former senior policy adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Energy and is now a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies. He also writes a column at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

He said today: “There is quite a bit that has been written about the role of scientists as political activists in the nuclear age. For instance, Leo Szilard, who was the first to conceptualize the nuclear chain reaction, wrote the letter that Albert Einstein sent to Roosevelt that launched the Manhattan Project. He also helped develop the first nuclear reactor, and then worked actively to prevent the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan. Szilard helped create the Federation of American Scientists and Council for a Livable World.  He also was instrumental in helping Marc Raskin and Dick Barnet create the Institute for Policy Studies.

“Scientists such as Linus Pauling and Jacques Cousteau were instrumental in organizing fellow scientists throughout the world to end open air nuclear weapons testing, which was poisoning the planet. They provided an important ‘backstop’ for the ‘Ban the Bomb’ movement, and were key in bringing about the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty. In looking back, the LTBT was the first global environmental treaty.

“Then there are scientists who paved the way for saving lives and the environment, through their pioneering research. Alice Stewart’s work, despite the adversity she put up with, ultimately spared many thousands of children from contracting cancer from x-rays. Wilhelm Heuper the first chief of the Environmental Cancer section of the National Cancer Institute, provided a blueprint in the late 1940s for what has become the Clean Air, Clean Water, Safe Drinking Water, and Superfund laws. Heuper helped mentor Rachel Carson. Because he refused to back away from his research into the harm caused by radiation to uranium miners, Heuper was banned from further epidemiological research and from official travel to the western states. His protege, Thomas F. Mancuso, developed the first methodology to identify cancer in workers.”

How Clinton and Obama Laid Groundwork for Trump’s Immigration Policies

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Book23123AVIVA CHOMSKY, achomsky [at] salemstate.edu
Professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts, Chomsky’s most recent book is Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal.

She just wrote the piece “Making Sense of the Deportation Debate, How Bill Clinton and Barack Obama Laid the Groundwork for Trump’s Immigration Policies” for TomDispatch, which states: “Anecdotally speaking, there have already been numerous cases of detention and deportation that appear to go far beyond what was occurring in the Obama years. But a closer look at those cases and at the numbers suggests surprisingly more continuity than change. Both the mainstream media and social media have highlighted what appear to be extreme cases of the arrest of DACA (‘deferred action for childhood arrivals’) youth, also known as ‘Dreamers,’ as well as of individuals appearing for routine check-ins with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, or other arbitrary detentions and deportations. Most of these cases, however, have been far more in line with Obama-era policies than readers of such news might imagine. Then, too, ‘low-priority immigrants’ were swept up surprisingly often in what the New York Times in 2014 called ‘the net of deportation.’ …

“The Trump administration’s multipronged approach to immigration relies on and promotes the criminalization of immigrants. Whether halting the entry of refugees or persons with visas from particular countries, hiring thousands of new ICE and Border Patrol agents, promising to build a ‘great, great wall,’ denying federal money to sanctuary cities, or publishing lists of crimes committed by immigrants, Trump’s immigration policies follow in the footsteps but also intensify those of his predecessors and continue to create fear, justify exploitation, and rationalize authoritarianism.”

Trump’s Korea Threat

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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.”

* News Conference on WikiLeaks * “Trumponomics” Exposed

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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.

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

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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.

U.S. Breakthrough on Nuclear First Strike Threatens Stability

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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.”

Budget Funds Wall

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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.”

The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right

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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.”

Horizon on Healthcare: Single Payer?

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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.”

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

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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.

Drone Killings: “Making Children Afraid of Sunny Days”

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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.”

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

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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.

 

Comey Firing

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CocomeyMARCY WHEELER, emptywheel [at] gmail.com, @emptywheel
Available for interviews beginning Thursday afternoon, Wheeler writes widely about the legal aspects of civil liberties, surveillance, government secrecy and the “war on terror.” She blogs at emptywheel.net. Recent pieces there include “The Tuesday Night Massacre,” “Why Accuracy about WikiLeaks Matters” and “James Clapper: Unmasking And/Or Jeff Sessions?”

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan [at] earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to the FBI Director exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002.

Following Comey’s firing, she said: “In July 2013, I suggested in this New York Times op-ed that James Comey should answer a lot of hard questions before the Senate confirmed his appointment by Obama as FBI Director, explaining why he had signed off on the Bush administration’s torture, unlawful detention and illegal warrantless surveillance programs. But in 2013, the Senate barely scratched the surface before rushing to confirm Comey, ironically lauding his integrity.

“But if anyone in government actually cared about integrity and upholding the rule of law, maybe Comey ought not to have been hired in the first place! Comey’s unorthodox press briefings are far less significant to adherence to the Constitution than his prior illegal actions. But I doubt that his press statements in the lead-up to the election are actually why Comey was fired. Hillary Clinton’s campaign apparently suspects that Trump and gang just seized on the Clinton email investigation as an opportunistic way of getting rid of Comey and they may be right.”

She just addressed the Comey firing on the radio program “Flashpoints.”

Mnuchin and Congress Plotting Tax Cuts for Wealthy Opposed by Majority

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CaptureCNN is reporting: “As President Trump struggles to move on his policy agenda, top administration officials are headed to Capitol Hill Wednesday to talk about tax [legislation] with a group of moderate House Republicans.

“White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plan to meet with the Tuesday Group ahead of the first major tax [legislation] hearing scheduled for Thursday, according to two sources familiar with the matter.”

DANIEL CHOMSKY, danielchomsky87 [at] gmail.com
Political science professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, Chomsky has written a working paper “The New York Times and American Tax Policy: Representing Citizens or Echoing Elites?

He said today: “Americans may hate taxes generally, but they also favor higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. This has been true for the past four decades, even at historical moments commonly associated with anti-tax sentiment. Two-thirds to three-quarters of Americans favored higher taxes on the rich when Ronald Reagan cut them in the early 1980s. Two thirds favored higher taxes on the rich when George W. Bush lowered them again in 1981. And it remains true today. As President Trump poses as the voice of ordinary people and proposes massive tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, 63 percent want higher taxes on the rich and 67 percent want higher taxes on corporations. Only 9 percent and 10 percent support tax cuts for business and the wealthy.

“While Americans have consistently and overwhelmingly supported higher taxes on business and the rich, tax policy has generally moved in the opposite direction, with sharp reductions in taxes on business and the wealthy, and increases in regressive taxes to make up some of the shortfall. The mass media contribute to this striking failure of democratic responsiveness by obscuring public preferences and excluding ordinary people from political and policy discussions. A study of New York Times coverage over 40 years shows that the Times always emphasizes public opposition to taxes and rarely mentions public support for higher taxes on business and the rich. During successful campaigns for major tax cuts, public voices for progressive taxes have been completely ignored. Conversely, the publication of even a few references to public support for progressive taxes may have encouraged tax increases in 1990 and 2012. The persistence of the usual pattern in 2016 and 2017 may help enable the Trump tax cuts this year. Attention to the public and its preference for higher taxes on business and the wealthy might limit them or prevent them entirely.”

Whistleblower Manning Appeals as Trump Escalates Threats to Journalism

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urlWhistleblower Chelsea Manning was released from prison today.

THOMAS DRAKE, NATHAN FULLER, nathan.fuller [at] couragefound.org
MARIE GUTBUB, marie [at] couragefound.org, @couragefound
Fuller and Gutbub are with the Courage Foundation, which has supported a number of whistleblowers. Fuller is formerly with the Manning Support Network. Drake is a former senior NSA executive.

See the just-released “Courage fundraiser for Chelsea Manning’s legal appeal,” which states: “President Barack Obama’s decision to commute Manning’s sentence rather than grant her a pardon leaves the precedent of her 2013 Espionage Act conviction for whistleblowing fully intact. The ramifications of Chelsea’s 35-year sentence take on new significance under a U.S. administration that has made unprecedented threats against media freedom.”

Fuller said today: “I have spent the last several years of my life working toward this day, and I’m so grateful that it has finally come. It’s so important that we follow through and not rest on this victory. There’s no chance of President Trump reforming the draconian Espionage Act that was used against Chelsea and other whistleblowers. But it’s a near certainty that we’ll see more leak prosecutions, and soon. Chelsea’s appeal is our only hope of challenging this bad law and improving the situation for the whistleblowers Trump will prosecute in the future. It’s also our best chance of enabling Edward Snowden to come home.”

Chelsea Manning’s attorney, Nancy Hollander, said: “Chelsea should never have been charged with violations of the Espionage Act, or held in solitary confinement for almost one year, under conditions tantamount to torture. Please continue to support her as we fight in her appeal to clear her name.”

The Courage Foundation also recently released an “Open Letter to President Trump” regarding the administration’s increased threats to WikiLeaks signed by a host of journalists, activists, parliamentarians, and whistleblowers, including Daniel Ellsberg and Thomas Drake: “The Obama administration prosecuted more whistleblowers than all presidents combined and opened a Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks that had no precedent. It now appears the U.S. is preparing to take the next step — prosecuting publishers who provide the ‘currency’ of free speech, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson.”

Yesterday, the New York Times reported in “Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation” that “Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.”

Background: Among the information apparently revealed by Manning through WikiLeaks was the “Collateral Murder” video, which showed the “indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff. … Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack.”

Also apparently exposed by Manning was the “Iraq War Logs,” internal military communications that “detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq” from the U.S. military’s point of view.

Diplomatic cables that Manning also apparently blew the whistle about document Machiavellian machinations by the U.S. government. See for example: “WikiLeaks Reveals How the U.S. Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath” by Robert Naiman.

* Russia * Saudi * Turkey * Bases

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ROBERT DAVID ENGLISH, renglish [at] usc.edu
English is on the faculty of the School of International Relations at the University of Southern California. He recently wrote the piece “Russia, Trump, and a New Détente” for Foreign Affairs. See his new interview with The Real News: “Why Did the FBI Leak the Comey Memo?

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson [at] gmail.com
Swanson is author of War is a Lie and other books. He just returned from Russia and wrote the piece “Why You Should Visit Russia.” See the petition “Messages of friendship from the people of the United States to the people of Russia.”

MEDEA BENJAMIN, medea.benjamin [at] gmail.com
Benjamin, author of Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection, said today: “It’s remarkable that President Trump’s first trip abroad is to a repressive regime engaged in a catastrophic war in neighboring Yemen and known for exporting the very extremism, intolerance and violence that Trump purports to eradicate.”

KANI XULAM,  kani [at] kurdistan.org
Xulam is director of the American Kurdish Information Network. The New York Times reports “‘Brutal Attack’ on Anti-Erdogan Demonstrators Injures 9, Police Say” [piece contains video trending on social media]. Xulam just helped one of the protesters get out of prison. He said today: “The Turkish bodyguards are supposed to protect the president of Turkey, and it’s shocking to see them beat people up in D.C. with impunity. But the Turkish government is doing a hundred times worse against Kurds in Turkey.” See Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Ignoring Turkey’s ‘Dirty War’ Against the Kurds.”

DAVID VINE, vine [at] american.edu
Vine is a professor at American University and author of the book Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World. His latest piece is “Forty-Five Blows Against Democracy, How U.S. Military Bases Back Dictators, Autocrats, and Military Regimes.”

The Israeli-ISIS Accommodation and Other Inconvenient Realities

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ImpeachDTANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn [at] gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn said today: “Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to be the only person connected to Trumpgate with a sense of humor — for example threatening to spoil the party by producing a record of what Trump actually said to Lavrov. He also said he’ll have to give Lavrov a dressing down for not reporting all the deep secrets that Trump is supposed to have told him.

“It’s obviously very much to Israel’s advantage to be portrayed as working to expose alleged plots by the so-called Islamic State just as Trump is going to Israel. In reality, it seems there’s some sort of accommodation between Israel and ISIS — and the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, that has been studiously ignored in the U.S. press. Wounded Al Qaeda fighters have regularly been treated in Israeli military hospitals. According to no less a source than Moshe Yaalon, former Israeli Minister of Defense, when ISIS accidentally shelled Israeli forces in the Golan Heights, the group ‘immediately apologized to Israel.’ (See from Newsweek: ‘ISIS Fighters Regret Attacking Israel And Have “Apologized”, Former Defense Minister Says.’)

“There certainly appears to be corrupt things the Trump administration has been up to, for example, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had taken money from the Turkish government and then reportedly tried to nix a plan to help Kurdish fighters.

“But the long-standing Israeli ambition of decimating the front line states — especially Syria and Iraq — seems to be playing out very smoothly. This is apparently also the goal of the U.S. establishment, as well as selling arms (always a prime objective). This is evident from Trump’s travel itinerary: Going to Israel and Saudi Arabia, which both benefit from the demise of secular Arab states (and buy lots of U.S. weapons). Despite distractions it is the central theme of U.S. policy in the region and of course breeds massive instability and untold carnage.”

Cockburn has written widely about U.S. foreign policy, especially in the Mideast. His books include Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins; Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy; and Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the U.S.-Israeli Covert Relationship.

9/11 Whistleblower Rowley on Mueller’s History of “Cover-up”

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PJppppCOLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan [at] earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley, a former FBI special agent and division counsel whose May 2002 memo to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She just appeared on The Real News report “Special Counsel Investigating Trump Campaign Has Deep Ties to the Deep State,” about Mueller being appointed to investigate the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia.

While Mueller has been widely described as being of impeccable character by much of official Washington, Rowley said today: “The truth is that Robert Mueller (and James Comey as deputy attorney general — see my New York Times op-ed on day of Comey’s confirmation hearing) presided over a cover-up …”

In her interview, Rowley noted: “The FBI and all the other officials claimed that there were no clues, that they had no warning [about 9/11] etc., and that was not the case. There had been all kinds of memos and intelligence coming in. I actually had a chance to meet Director Mueller personally the night before I testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee … [he was] trying to get us on his side, on the FBI side, so that we wouldn’t say anything terribly embarrassing. …

“When you had the lead-up to the Iraq War … Mueller and, of course, the CIA and all the other directors, saluted smartly and went along with what Bush wanted, which was to gin up the intelligence to make a pretext for the Iraq War. For instance, in the case of the FBI, they actually had a receipt, and other documentary proof, that one of the hijackers, Mohamed Atta, had not been in Prague, as Dick Cheney was alleging. And yet those directors more or less kept quiet. That included … CIA, FBI, Mueller, and it included also the deputy attorney general at the time, James Comey.”

Rowley also noted that Mueller presided over “the ‘post 9-11 round-up’ of innocent immigrants, the anthrax investigation fiasco, as well as going along with a form of martial law (made possible via secret OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] memos written by John Yoo etc. predicated upon Yoo’s theories of absolute ‘imperial presidency’ or ‘war presidency’ powers that the Bush administration was making [Attorney General John] Ashcroft sign off on).”

“While not the worst of the bunch, neither Comey nor Mueller deserve their Jimmy Stewart ‘G-man’ reputations for absolute integrity but have merely been, along the lines of George ‘Slam Dunk’ Tenet, capable and flexible politicized sycophants to power, that enmeshed them in numerous wrongful abuses of power along with presiding over plain official incompetence. It’s sad that political partisanship is so blinding and that so few people remember the actual sordid history.”

Trump’s Syria Bombing Impeachable

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An F/A-18F Super Hornet lands on the US navy's super carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69) ("Ike") in the Mediterranean Sea on July 6, 2016. The US aircraft carrier is deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the US 6th Fleet area of operations. Air Wings embarked aboard conducted strikes against the Islamic State group in Libya , Iraq and Syria. / AFP / ALBERTO PIZZOLI (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

CBS News reports: “U.S. aircraft conduct strike on Syrian army convoy.”

Earlier this year, The Hill reported “Top aide: Obama worried about impeachment for Syria actions.”

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) tweeted Thursday after initial reports of the strike: “If true, this is FRICKIN ILLEGAL. Trump does not have Congressional authorization to attack Syria, a country that has not attacked US.” He also tweeted: “Congress authorized President to use force in 2 cases: terrorists & Iraq. @realDonaldTrump has NO AUTHORIZATION to attack Syrian regime.”

FRANCIS BOYLE,  fboyle [at] illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “The U.S. strike clearly violates the War Powers Resolution, the War Powers Clause of the United States Constitution and the United Nations Charter. It’s impeachable.

“These so-called deconfliction zones are de facto partitions of Syria in violation of its territorial sovereignty and political independence.”

The Hill report states: “President Obama’s deputy national security adviser says in a new interview that the threat of impeachment ‘was a factor’ in Obama’s decision not to pursue a tougher intervention policy in Syria.

“‘We actually had Congress warning us against taking action without congressional authorization, which we interpreted as the president could face impeachment,’ Ben Rhodes told Politico Magazine.

“When asked to elaborate, the president’s adviser said that Republicans, including then-Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), made it clear that premature military action without congressional approval would be unconstitutional.”

Trump Pretends Horrific Saudi Attack on Yemen Helps Security

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DAY82QfWAAAvjqiTrump, in his speech in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, portrayed the Saudi attack on Yemen as helping security: “Many are already making significant contributions to regional security. … Saudi Arabia and a regional coalition have taken strong action against Houthi militants in Yemen.”

The International Committee for the Red Cross’s pinned tweet from this weekend is: “With almost 19 million reliant on aid, #Yemen is the world’s single largest humanitarian crisis. Now it’s in the grip of a cholera outbreak.” Alexandre Faite, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen stated: “Cholera in Yemen now 20,000 suspected cases [and] 223 dead. If rains again, situation will unravel.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted Sunday: “Just to be clear: the exact weapons we are selling the Saudis this weekend are being used to bomb Yemen to purposely create this crisis.” He also stated: “U.S. supplies bombs that terrorize Yemen, helps w targeting, refuels Saudi planes. With $110b sale, we are more complicit in this than ever.”

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, sha980[at]mail.harvard.edu, @shireen818
Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni-Canadian-American, is a doctoral candidate and instructor at Harvard University. Listen to her interview on Public Radio International’s “The World”: “Will U.S. stop arming Saudi attackers in Yemen?”

BEN NORTON, email[at]bennorton.com, @BenjaminNorton
Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. After Trump’s address in Saudi Arabia, he tweeted: “Making a Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology in Saudi Arabia is like making a Global Center for Combating Wall Street on Wall St.”

He just wrote the piece “U.S. and terrorism-supporting Wahhabi Saudi monarchy jointly designate Hezbollah leader a ‘terrorist.'”

His recent pieces for AlterNet include: “As Trump’s ‘Tolerance Tour’ Begins, Israel’s Siege of Gaza Slammed by the Red Cross” and “Is Trump Rescuing Al-Qaeda’s ‘Heartland’ in Syria?”

Norton’s prior pieces for Salon include: “Leaked Hillary Clinton emails show U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar supported ISIS” and “Famine looms in Yemen, as U.S.-backed Saudi bombing intentionally targets food production.”

See new leak from WikiLeaks: “Buying Silence: How the Saudi Foreign Ministry controls Arab media.

Roots of Terror: Is Trump Enabling ISIS?

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beau grosscup strategic terorr

The top trending tweet regarding the Manchester bombing is from Trita Parsi‏: “Make no mistake: By turning blind eye to Saudi role in aiding terror and instead blaming Iran, Trump is ENABLING ISIS.”

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: “Two days after urging Muslim leaders to ‘take a stand against Islamist extremist terrorism,’ before an audience of Wahabi Saudi leaders, Saudi-backed Sunni ISIS took credit for the horrific bombing in Manchester England. Once again another U.S. president and the U.S.-led ‘West’ in general are faced with the bankruptcy of the founding principle of U.S. post-911 ‘War on Terror’ policy encapsulated in George W. Bush’s ‘you are either with us or the terrorists’ and echoed by President Trump in Riyadh.

“In doing so, like Presidents Bush and Obama before him, Trump drew the world of terrorism in easy to understand, bi-polar, and as he said, ‘battle between good and evil,’ imagery. The problem is, as poignantly demonstrated in Manchester, this imagery, while politically useful, has no relationship to reality. Approaching the Muslim world as a monolithic entity to fight ‘extremism within their ranks’ ignores the fact that as Wahabi Sunnis, Trump’s hosts are the Muslim extremists that he urges unity against. In Iraq, Saudi support for anti-U.S. Sunni ISIS trying to overthrow the U.S.-Iranian backed Shiite government is a case in point. Further, Trump’s own ‘deep state’ that he is doing battle with at home, in it’s effort to oust Sunni ISIS from Iraq, depends heavily on Iraq Shiite militia, long labeled terrorists by the Bush/Obama administrations, to put their ‘boots-on-the-ground.’

“In Syria, Trump finds himself in bed with Saudi-backed ‘extremists’: Syrian ISIS and Al Qaeda stepchild Al Nusra. In fact, his CIA and Pentagon, in their search for ‘moderate rebels’ — but more important a U.S.-dominated post-Assad ‘winner’ — are competing to influence Saudi supported ‘extremist’ terrorists to the point where at times their ‘clients’ do battle against each other.

“In Yemen, it is the Saudis, who in their anti-Shiite terrorist bombing campaign (U.S.-supported) are ‘extremists’ personified, terror bombing Yemen’s civilians into starvation. In his visit to Israel, none of this was mentioned from the podium, nor was Israeli government support for ‘settler terrorism,’ daily Israeli army terrorism against occupied Palestinians (including ‘shock and awe bombing’). …

“As always, the message will be trumpeted, it’s ‘us versus them’ even though in multiple cases the ‘us’ is very much ‘them’.”

9/11 Advocates on Manchester Attacks and Saudi Weapons Deal

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Kristen Breitweiser, Monica Gabrielle, Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie Van Auken are with September 11th Advocates. They are widows and activists who pressured the U.S. government to conduct a formal investigation into the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, which killed each of their husbands.

They have just released a statement on the Manchester terror attacks and the Saudi weapons deal: “First and foremost, our condolences go out to the families of those who lost their lives in the latest terrorist attack in Manchester, England. We know all too well the horror they are experiencing today, and our hearts ache for them.

“Terrorism is designed to strike fear in the hearts of the families and friends of the victims and for all of those who watch helplessly in horror. …

“All of these innocent people [were] killed by terrorists, just like the men and women who simply went to work at both the World Trade Center and Pentagon or boarded planes on the morning of 9/11 and were killed by al Qaeda.

“The truth is that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is neither a stable, nor reliable nation — let alone a trusted ally. Too much evidence exists proving that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia financially and logistically supports groups like ISIS that commit lethal terrorist attacks around the globe. …

“We respectfully reiterate that far from contributing to Middle East peace, this $110 billion weapons deal [with Saudi Arabia] will only foment more hatred, increase further violence, and contribute immeasurably to loss of innocent life at the diabolical hands of terrorists. Why would America or any American want to play any role in that — let alone a financial one, by knowingly cutting a deal and signing up for it?”

They are reachable for interviews via september11advocates[at]gmail.com.

Breitweiser recently wrote the piece “Trump Lets Saudis Off on 9/11 Evidence” and is on Twitter: @kdbreitweiser.

Trump-DeVos: A Budget that Will “Decimate Public Education”

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devos news releaseTIME magazine reports: “Donald Trump’s 2018 Budget Slashes Education Department romunding by 13.5 Percent.” See Politico’s education policy page.

DIANE RAVITCH, gardendr at gmail.com, @DianeRavitch
Ravitch’s books include Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. She is a research professor of education at New York University and served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She now blogs at dianeravitch.com. She just wrote the piece “Don’t Like Betsy DeVos? Blame the Democrats” for The New Republic. She writes: “In 2001, Ted Kennedy, the Senate’s liberal lion, teamed with Bush to pass No Child Left Behind. For the first time, the government was mandating not only ‘accountability’ (code for punishing teachers and schools who fall short), but also ‘choice’ (code for handing low-performing public schools over to charter operators).”

CAROL BURRIS, burriscarol at gmail.com, @Network4pubEd
Executive director of the Network for Public Education Fund, Burris was a New York State High School Principal of the Year. She just wrote an initial analysis of Trump’s budget.

KEVIN KUMASHIRO, kevin at kevinkumashiro.com, @Kevinkumashiro
Kumashiro is the former dean of the University of San Francisco School of Education, and author of Bad Teacher: How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture.

He said: “Brace yourself for a budget that will decimate public education. The hardest hit will be children and families in highest need. Examples effecting K-12 students include after-school programs that serve mostly poor communities, class-size reductions, mental-health services, anti-bullying programs, programs for indigenous students and students with disabilities (like Special Olympics education programs), and vital curriculum areas like the arts, STEM, career and technical education, and Advanced Placement courses. Although Title I wouldn’t be cut, the increased flexibility in how those funds can be used could mean that less funds are following the neediest students. Higher education is also effected, including massive cuts to work-study programs, Perkins loans, loan forgiveness for public service, child care for students who are parents, and adult literacy programs. Overall, the Department is expected to cut 150 positions.

“The simultaneous disinvestment in public schools alongside increased investment in private and charter schools continue the trend of the Obama/Duncan administration to leverage federal funds to fuel the deregulation and privatization of schools. Although the overall $9.2 billion cut and the $1.4 billion increase for choice/vouchers/charters is far less than the $20 billion reallocation to expand choice that then-candidate Trump pledged, it’s, nonetheless, a frightening proposal that builds on failed policies. Look at the DeVos-led expansion of choice in Michigan, which has been criticized even by supporters of choice, or the federally funded voucher program in D.C., the only such program in the country, which the Education Department itself reveals to have failed to raise achievement for those students who participate. Ample research exists about how best to leverage federal funds to improve the education for our next generation — we should not continue with business as usual, and we certainly should not do worse, which is exactly what is here proposed and what the American people must stop.”

Trump Impeachment Momentum

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newsrelease 1In the new story “Trump Impeachment Articles Now Being Drafted, Says Democratic Congressman Al Green,” Newsweek reports: “Democratic Representative Al Green has said he is pushing ahead with the process of impeaching President Donald Trump and is currently drawing up articles of impeachment.”

Green also appeared on the program “Democracy Now” on Wednesday.

RON FEIN, via Edward Erikson, edward.erikson at gmail.com
Fein is legal director of Free Speech For People. He said today: “The evidence that the President is taking illegal foreign emoluments and obstructing a federal investigation is too overwhelming to ignore. Congress doesn’t need to wait for the special prosecutor — it can start an impeachment investigation now.”

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is the national coordinator of RootsAction.org, the online group that is co-sponsoring (with Free Speech For People) the Impeach Donald Trump Now petition campaign that currently has more than 1.1 million signers.

He said today: “Leadership on impeachment is coming from the grassroots. Now someone in Congress, Rep. Al Green, is responding with clarity about the solid grounds for impeaching Trump — the Constitution’s foreign and domestic emoluments clauses as well as obstruction of justice.”

Solomon added: “For months we’ve had more than enough of partisan sniping from House members unwilling to actually commit to introducing an impeachment resolution. We’re now seeing a shift toward focusing on President Trump’s clear violations of the supreme law of the land — and the constitutional remedy called impeachment.”

Solomon is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Palestinian Hunger Strikers Approach 40 Days

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newsrelease 2On Thursday, Newsweek published a piece “My Husband Is Starving In An Israeli Jail — We’ll Be Reunited When Palestine Is Free” by Fadwa Barghouti, which states: “Thirty-eight days ago, my husband, Marwan Barghouti, began a hunger strike from his cell in an Israeli prison — alongside over one thousand other Palestinian prisoners. The reason they are all putting their lives at risk is simple: they want to be treated humanely and with dignity. Considering that some of these prisoners are at risk of imminent death, we all wonder why the world has not intervened. …

“Since 1967, Israel has arrested an estimated 800,000 Palestinians, the equivalent of 40 percent of our male population in the occupied territory. In the eyes of the Israeli government, military and judiciary, the Palestinians are all guilty. They blame us for their continued military and colonial occupation. They want us to be guilty so they can play innocent.”

The Times of Israel reports Thursday: “Abbas asks Trump envoy to mediate over Palestinian hunger strike.”

ARAB BARGHOUTI
Bargouti, son of imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, is currently in San Francisco. See CNN report on his activism: “Palestinians highlight prisoners’ strike with ‘Salt Water Challenge.'” Marwan Barghouti wrote in the New York TimesWhy We Are on Hunger Strike in Israel’s Prisons” on April 16 as the hunger strike was beginning.

Contact: Noura Khouri, right2return at gmail.com; Monadel Herzallah, monadelh at gmail.com

ESTEE CHANDLER, DAVID MANDEL, dlmandel at gmail.com
Mandel and Chandler are with Jewish Voice for Peace, which recently released the statement “Three Ways to Support Palestinian Hunger Strikers.”

Mandel and Chandler were also recently delegates to the annual convention of the California Democratic Party, which just passed a resolution decrying U.S. administrations for not taking “actual steps to change the status quo and bring about a real peace process.” See from the Happy Arab News Service: “California Democratic Party decries U.S. support for Israeli occupation.”

Also, see the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network for more information, including details on ongoing protests around the world about Palestinian prisoners.

How NATO Creates New Threats

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DAVID GIBBS, dgibbs at arizona.edunewsrelease 3
Gibbs is professor of history at the University of Arizona, and author of the 2009 book First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, published by Vanderbilt University Press.

He said today: “Despite concerns about cost, President Trump has reaffirmed America’s longstanding commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with an increased focus on using NATO to fight terrorism. In reality, NATO is a Cold War relic of no relevance to 21st century security needs. A close look at recent NATO actions suggests that — far from increasing Western security — it has created new threats that did not exist before. NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe has antagonized post-communist Russia and risks triggering a new cold war, while its 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya has destabilized that country and created a new source of international terrorism. Indeed the recent terrorist attack in Manchester had Libyan connections, a likely product of NATO’s ill-advised intervention. America’s security interests would be better served by winding down NATO, given that it no longer serves any useful purpose.”

His articles have appeared in the London Guardian, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Le Monde Diplomatique.

Background:

From Middle East Eye: “‘Sorted’ by MI5: How UK government sent British-Libyans to fight Gaddafi

From AlterNet: “The Manchester Bombing is Blowback from the West’s Disastrous Interventions and Covert Proxy Wars

Pro-Democracy Protests in Brazil

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newsrelease4MARIA 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: “Brazil has been in the headlines again, since the May 17 release of recordings of president Michel Temer and former senator Aecio Neves negotiating bribes with the chairman of JBS, the world’s largest meat producer. The revelations bring a new round of political instability to Brazil, and the biggest wave of protests since the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff last year.

“Both Temer and Neves played a key role in the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff. Neves lost the presidential race against Rousseff in 2014 and his allies in the legislature introduced impeachment charges shortly after Rousseff’s term began. Temer, who had formerly been vice president, took over as president following a controversial impeachment process that removed Rousseff even after a special prosecutor cleared her of charges, leading many to call the impeachment a parliamentary coup. Today Temer only has a 5 percent approval rate as a result of pushing for Constitutional amendments to dismantle pension, retirement, labor and environmental laws. After a general strike last month, other large protests have erupted last week, calling for Temer’s resignation and for general elections.

“Democracy is under threat because Temer’s resignation opens the possibility for Congress to choose a new president, undermining the right to vote and creating further political instability. Pro-democracy demonstrations now are using the same slogan that became the symbol of large protests in the 1980’s, after a long period of military dictatorship (1964-1985): ‘Diretas já!’ (direct elections now!). The international community needs to support democracy in Brazil and denounce repression against social movements.”

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: “Brazil’s democracy is in tatters and the human rights situation is rapidly deteriorating. Protests against the illegitimate government of Michel Temer have grown following new corruption revelations, and the government has responded with increasingly brutal repression. In Brasilia, the army was deployed to confront protesters, and security forces have reportedly fired live ammunition at crowds. In recent days, dozens of protesters have been injured, some critically. Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, attacks against social movements have greatly intensified over the past year. Security forces are reportedly implicated in the May 24 massacre of 10 rural workers in the northern Brazilian state of Pará (bringing the total number of rural workers murdered in land conflicts to 36 in the first five months of this year, according to the Pastoral Land Commission). Unfortunately, this spiral of state-sponsored violence is unlikely to abate, with the country’s increasingly unpopular rightwing forces determined to hang on to power at all costs while at the same time pressing ahead with aggressive neoliberal reforms certain to generate more economic misery for the majority of Brazilians.”

Postol: NYT Claims on Syria Attack Unsupported

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Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 1.08.57 PMTHEODORE A. POSTOL, postol at mit.edu
Postol is professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT. He just wrote the paper “The New York Times Video Analysis of the Events in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017: NONE of the Cited Forensic Evidence Supports the Claims.” He is available for a limited number of interviews.

Postol said today: “On April 26, 2017 the New York Times released a video titled ‘How Syria and Russia Spun a Chemical Strike.’ This video provides extensive forensic evidence that the New York Times used to develop its conclusions about an alleged nerve agent attack in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017. In this report, I show that NONE of the forensic evidence in the New York Times video and a follow-up Times news article supports the conclusions reported by the New York Times.

“The forensic evidence and analytical claims in all of these reports can be traced back to a single source, an organization called Bellingcat. This organization represents itself as ‘specializing in analyzing information posted online.’ …

“This report shows that NONE of the bomb-damage areas identified by Bellingcat and shown in the New York Times video show any indication of bomb damage from 500 to 1000 pound bombs. That is, the data from a composite panoramic view that is the foundation of the Bellingcat and New York Times analyses is clearly and unambiguously inconsistent with the claims of bomb damage from before and after satellite photographs used in the same analyses. In fact NONE of the forensic data claimed by Bellingcat and the New York Times as evidence of general-purpose bomb damage on April 4 supports the conclusions that are said to have been derived from the forensic data. In all, when these false claims about information provided in the forensic data are brought together with the claims about a sarin release site, the conclusion is inescapable that all of the evidence referred to by Bellingcat in the New York Times contains no forensic proof to support their narrative.

“Thus, the narratives put forward by the New York Times, and the closely related Human Rights Watch report of May 1, are all based on forensic evidence and conclusions that are unambiguously false.

“These findings suggests that New York Times management did not check the accuracy of the facts supporting the narrative of events on April 4, 2017 that the Times has been publishing, and continues to publish.”

Tillerson Present as Exxon Signed Deal with Saudi Arabia During Trump Visit

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newsrelease6STEVE HORN, steve at desmogblog.com, @SteveAHorn
Horn is an investigative journalist and writer for DeSmogBlog.com. He just wrote the piece “Tillerson Present as Exxon Signed Major Deal with Saudi Arabia During Trump Visit,” which states: “While the $350 billion, 10-year arms deal garnered most headlines, a lesser-noticed agreement was also signed between ExxonMobil and the state-owned Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) to study a proposed co-owned natural gas refinery in the Gulf of Mexico. Under the deal, signed at the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum, the two companies would ‘conduct a detailed study of the proposed Gulf Coast Growth Ventures project in Texas and begin planning for front-end engineering and design work’ for the 1,300-acre, $10 billion plant set to be located near Corpus Christi, Texas, according to an ExxonMobil press release.

“In addition, ExxonMobil’s press release for the agreement mentions that Darren Woods, the company’s CEO, was in the room for the signing of the pact alongside ExxonMobil Saudi Arabia CEO Philippe Ducom and SABIC executives. Missing from that release: After the forum ended, Woods went to the Al-Yamamah Palace for an agreement-signing ceremony attended by both President Trump and recently retired ExxonMobil CEO and current U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.

“DeSmog discovered they were all present at the palace via the Saudi Press Agency’s English-language press Twitter account, which released a series of photos of Woods and Tillerson shaking hands with SABIC CEO Yousef Al-Benyan and Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammad bin Salman, respectively. …

“Tillerson served as CEO of ExxonMobil for 10 years, heading the ‘private empire’ until President Trump nominated him as U.S. Secretary of State in December 2016. At his January Senate confirmation hearing, Tillerson said he would recuse himself for one year from ExxonMobil-related business which comes before the State Department, and submitted a letter to the same effect on January 3 to the State Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.”

 

Manchester and the British Election’s “Unsayable”

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newsrelease7

JOHN PILGER, [in London] jpilger2003[at]yahoo.co.uk, @johnpilger

Pilger is an Australian-British journalist based in London. He just wrote the piece “Libya’s Link to Manchester’s Tragedy,” which states: “The unsayable in Britain’s general election campaign is this: The causes of the Manchester atrocity, in which 22 mostly young people were murdered by a jihadist, are being suppressed to protect the secrets of British foreign policy.”Critical questions — such as why the security service MI5 maintained terrorist ‘assets’ in Manchester and why the government did not warn the public of the threat in their midst — remain unanswered, deflected by the promise of an internal ‘review.'”The alleged suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, was part of an extremist group, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, that thrived in Manchester and was cultivated and used by MI5 for more than 20 years. The LIFG is proscribed by Britain as a terrorist organization, which seeks a ‘hardline Islamic state’ in Libya and ‘is part of the wider global Islamist extremist movement, as inspired by al-Qaida.’

“The ‘smoking gun’ is that when Prime Minister Theresa May was Home Secretary, LIFG jihadists were allowed to travel unhindered across Europe and encouraged to engage in ‘battle’: first to remove Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, then to join al-Qaida affiliated groups in Syria.

“Last year, the FBI reportedly placed Abedi on a ‘terrorist watch list’ and warned MI5 that his group was looking for a ‘political target’ in Britain. Why wasn’t he apprehended and the network around him prevented from planning and executing the atrocity on May 22?

“These questions arise because of an FBI leak that demolished the ‘lone wolf’ spin in the wake of the May 22 attack — thus, the panicky, uncharacteristic outrage directed at Washington from London and Donald Trump’s apology.

“The Manchester atrocity lifts the rock of British foreign policy to reveal its Faustian alliance with extreme Islam, especially the sect known as Wahhabism or Salafism, whose principal custodian and banker is the oil kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Britain’s biggest weapons customer.

“This imperial marriage reaches back to the Second World War and the early days of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The aim of British policy was to stop pan-Arabism: Arab states developing a modern secularism, asserting their independence from the imperial West and controlling their resources. The creation of a rapacious Israel was meant to expedite this. Pan-Arabism has since been crushed; the goal now is division and conquest. …

“In the current election campaign, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has made a guarded reference to a ‘war on terror that has failed.’ As he knows, it was never a war on terror but a war of conquest and subjugation. Palestine. Afghanistan. Iraq. Libya. Syria. Iran is said to be next. Before there is another Manchester, who will have the courage to say that?”

Pilger’s website is: johnpilger.com. His new film, “The Coming War on China,” is available in the U.S. from Bull Frog Films.

“How I Lost By Hillary Clinton”

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newsrelease8On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton appeared at the 2017 Code Conference (full video and transcript; excerpts below).

JOE LAURIA, joelauria at gmail.com, @unjoe
Lauria is author of the just-released book How I Lost By Hillary Clinton. He said today: “Without a shred of evidence Clinton claimed on Wednesday night that there were 1,000 Russian agents working with Trump to defeat her. She blamed, ‘The kinds of things that were in WikiLeaks — you laugh, but people were obsessing over this stuff. Obsessing over it.’ The kind of things that were in WikiLeaks were her own words, which she ought to read in my new book to understand why she really lost.”

Vox reports: “Hillary Clinton blames everyone but herself for her 2016 loss.” From the book description: Clinton’s “own words, found in this book, tell the real story of how it happened. The title includes Clinton’s byline as she has unwittingly written the story of her own defeat in her speeches and her emails and those of her campaign staff.

“At a time of widespread dissatisfaction with business-as-usual politics, the Democrats chose to field a quintessential insider. Her campaign dwelt little on policies, focusing overwhelmingly on the personality of her opponent. That this strategy was a failure is an understatement. Losing an election to someone with as little competence or support from his own party as Donald Trump marked an extraordinary fiasco. The refusal of the Democratic leadership to identify the real reasons for their defeat is not just a problem of history. If Democrats persevere with a politics that prioritizes well-off professionals rather than ordinary Americans, they will leave the field open to right-wing populism for many years to come.

“Drawing on the WikiLeaks releases of Clinton’s talks at Goldman Sachs and the emails of her campaign chief John Podesta, as well as key passages from her public speeches, How I Lost By Hillary Clinton also includes extensive commentary by award-winning journalist Joe Lauria, and a foreword by Julian Assange, editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.”

Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist. He has written for the Boston Globe, the Sunday Times of London and the Wall Street Journal among other newspapers.

From Clinton’s comments on Wednesday:

Moderator Walt Mossberg: “I want to do one more of these misjudgment things and then we’re going to go on. Goldman Sachs. … You knew you were going to run for president, or you thought you might, or probably, you were thinking about it — you had to be thinking about it as a possibility — why did you do those?”

Clinton: “Why do you have Goldman Sachs here?” [laughter]

Moderator Kara Swisher: “Because they pay us.”

Clinton: “They paid me. …” [laughter and applause]. [Video]

Clinton: “If you look at Facebook, the vast majority of the news items posted were fake. They were connected to, as we now know, the 1,000 Russian agents who were involved in delivering those messages. …” [Video]

Swisher: “But who do you think directed it? … But you’re leaning Trump.”

Clinton: “Yes, yes. I’m leaning Trump. I think it’s pretty hard not to. I think that the marriage of the domestic fake news operations, the domestic RNC Republican-allied data, you know, combined with the very effective capabilities that the Russians brought. You know, basically the group running this was the GRU which is the military intelligence arm of the Russian military and they have a very sophisticated cyber operation, in bed with WikiLeaks, in bed with Goosefer, in bed with DCLeaks.” [Video]

 

Trump Withdraws from Paris Accord

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See Twitter feed: accuracy/lists/environment.

MA’IKWE LUDWIG, maikwe.ludwig[at]gmail.com
Author of the new book Together Resilient: Building Community in the Age of Climate Disruption, Ludwig just wrote the piece “Paris Agreement Discord Highlights Need For Community-based Climate Action.” Ludwig is executive director of Commonomics USA.

DAPHNE WYSHAM, daphne[at]sustainable-economy.org
In Portland, Oregon, Wysham is director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Center for Sustainable Economy. She said today: “Trump has made it abundantly clear that his primary focus is enriching his fellow billionaires, so it is no surprise that he is withdrawing from an agreement that is hitting the poorest first and worst globally with extreme weather events, crop failure, and diseases. Fortunately, local and state elected officials in the U.S., pressured by people of conscience, have taken up the climate leadership mantle abandoned by our federal government, showing the way toward a more just approach to a clean, stable climate future.”

NEIL TANGRI, neil.tangri[at]gmail.com
Tangri is a PhD candidate in climate science at Stanford University. He previously led the international wastepicker/GAIA climate change campaign, which succeeded in ending international climate subsidies for incinerators and landfills. He is an expert on international environmental policy and finance.

He said today: “Trump’s decision isn’t going to affect U.S. emissions, which is ultimately what is most important. As renewables replace fossil fuels and electric vehicles replace gasoline cars, those will continue to drop, albeit not as fast or as far as needed. The pull-out from Paris is going to change the international political dynamic. Already, China, India, the EU, and even Russia have re-affirmed their commitment to the Paris Agreement, which is good news for the world. It means that the U.S. is abandoning its influence in the international arena, and the world will increasingly look to China for leadership on climate and other issues.”

VARSHINI PRAKASH, varshini[at]sunrisemovement.org
Prakash is co-founder of the group Sunrise, which said today in a statement: “Donald Trump just removed the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, following the encouragement of Steve Bannon and 22 Republican senators. When justice prevails, history will remember them as greedy and cynical men who gambled with the lives of billions. It’s no coincidence that the 22 senators have taken more than $10 million from Big Oil in the last six years.”

50 Years After 1967 War: Environmental and Cultural Impact

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_POL0179The 1967 War, in which Israel conquered lands including the West Bank and Gaza Strip, began on June 5.

MAZIN QUMSIYEH, mazin at qumsiyeh.org, Skype: mbqumsiyeh
Director of the Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability and a professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities, Qumsiyeh will be on a speaking tour in the U.S. beginning in mid-June. He is Palestinian-American. His books include Sharing the Land of Canaan; Mammals of the Holy Land; and Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment.

Qumsiyeh said today: “Israel has moved in 750,000 illegal colonial settlers into the West Bank since 1967. Jewish colonial settlements don’t blend into the landscape. Palestinian villages going back several thousand years are built on the sides of hills or in valleys. Settlements are built on top, which gives a commanding view, but is environmentally unfriendly.

“Occupation and colonialism over the last 50 years and in fact since 1948 have had a devastating effect. The colonial settlements (residential and industrial) and the wall impact the Palestinian environment. The future in places like Gaza and the West Bank is basically unlivable should trends continue.

“When Israel was created and destroyed 500 Palestinian villages and towns, the Jewish National Fund replaced endogenous trees and village homes with a monoculture of pine trees — fast growing, fire-hazard, and destructive to local flora. The Israelis have destroyed the Hula wetlands, syphoned water from the Lake of Tiberias, dried up the Dead Sea, and now are building an environmentally catastrophic Dead Sea-Red Sea canal.”

“The Israelis have put some of their worst polluting factories in the West Bank, producing toxic waste that affected nearby Palestinian villages. Scientific studies on such pollution in an area like Salfit show its health impact.

“Climate change effects developing countries drastically, though it’s mostly caused by developed countries. Palestinians use very little fossil fuels yet have already seen rising temperatures and decreasing rainfall. Paris accords were not good agreements, too little, too late and non-mandatory on the signatory countries. Yet even these small steps are now being undermined by the world’s largest economy.

“Palestine is part of the fertile crescent, where humans first went from hunter-gatherers to agriculture (Natufian and Canaanitic cultures) and we thus have a rich natural and (connected) cultural heritage. Yet the prolonged conflict threatens both. From embroidery, folk music and dance, proverbs, to knowledge of traditional medicine; all these are threatened by the fact that two-thirds of the 12 million Palestinians are now refugees.”

See recent Jerusalem Post report: “UN official: Gaza could soon be unlivable.”

Manchester Bombing: “Blowback from British Collusion with Jihadists”

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1*q7vmWMEGFKQ20ZjWyVWB-ABusiness Insider UK reports: “Theresa May is ‘responsible’ for London terror attack and must resign says top David Cameron aide.”

[BCC reports: “Qatar row: Saudi and Egypt among countries to cut Doha links.” Mehdi Hasan tweets: “Saudi Arabia is accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism and sectarianism. In other news, the pot has called the kettle black.”]

NAFEEZ AHMED, [in London] iprdoffice at gmail.com, @NafeezAhmed

An independent, London-based investigative reporter, Ahmed’s books include A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization. He is “System Shift” columnist at VICE.

He just co-wrote the piece “The Manchester Bombing: Blowback from British state collusion with jihadists abroad” with author Mark Curtis.

The piece states: “The evidence suggests that the barbaric Manchester bombing, which killed 22 innocent people on May 22, is a case of blowback on British citizens arising at least partly from the overt and covert actions of British governments. The British state therefore has a serious case to answer. We focus primarily here on UK policies towards Libya but also touch on some of those related to Iraq and Syria. …

“The evidence points to the LIFG [Libyan Islamic Fighting Group] being seen by the UK as a proxy militia to promote its foreign policy objectives. Whitehall also saw Qatar as a proxy to provide boots on the ground in Libya in 2011, even as it empowered hardline Islamist groups.

“Both David Cameron, then Prime Minister, and Theresa May — who was Home Secretary in 2011 when Libyan radicals were encouraged to fight Qadafi  —  clearly have serious questions to answer. We believe an independent public enquiry is urgently needed. …

“[Manchester bomber] Salman Abedi and his father were members of a Libyan dissident group  —  the [LIFG]  — covertly supported by the UK to assassinate Qadafi in 1996. At this time, the LIFG was an affiliate of Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda and LIFG leaders had various connections to this terror network. ..

“The evidence suggests that British actions in three different theatres — Libya, Iraq and Syria — cannot be viewed in isolation.

“In Libya, U.S. and UK-led intervention destroyed the functioning state and created a vacuum allowing hardline Islamist fighters to consolidate their foothold in the country. This paved the way for the empowerment of ISIS. The direct line between Libyan and Syrian Islamist rebels fuelled jihadism in both countries. …

“A secret memo written for then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in August 2014 (which appeared on the WikiLeaks website in 2016) noted that the Saudi and Qatari governments ‘are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL [ISIS] and other radical Sunni groups in the region.'”

Corbyn’s “Truth About the ‘War on Terror'”

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The British Independent reports: “Terror funding report: Calls grow for release of ‘sensitive’ Home Office document ‘pointing finger at Saudi Arabia’.”

Reuters reports that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who is challenging Theresa May to be Britain’s prime minister in an election Thursday stated, “We do need to have some difficult conversations starting with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that have funded and fueled extremist ideology.”

BEN NORTON, MAX BLUMENTHAL, via Jenny Pierson Jenny at alternet.org, @BenjaminNorton@MaxBlumenthal

Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. His recent pieces include “Watch: State Dept. Spokesman Speechless When Asked to Justify Trump’s Support for Saudi Monarchy.”

Blumenthal is a senior editor of the Grayzone Project at AlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath and Republican Gomorrah. His most recent book is The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza. He also recently wrote the piece “The Manchester Bombing Is Blowback from the West’s Disastrous Interventions and Covert Proxy Wars.”

Available for a limited number of interviews, they just wrote the piece “Jeremy Corbyn Dares to Speak Truth About the ‘War on Terror’ — and British Voters Are Responding.”

They write: “The leftist Labour leader forcefully condemned the ‘horrific terror and the brutal slaughter of innocent people.’ But unlike his political peers, Corbyn did not depoliticize the bombing. He explained that in order to prevent future attacks, Britain’s foreign policy must change. Foreign wars may not be the only thing fueling this violence, he noted, but they are a key factor.

“‘We must be brave enough to admit the War on Terror is simply not working,’ Corbyn emphasized. ‘We need a smarter way to reduce the threat from countries that nurture terrorists and generate terrorism.’ …

“British intelligence services played a direct role in supporting Islamist militancy in Libya, working closely with the Al Qaeda-affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) in a cynical bid to topple Qaddafi. When NATO escalated 2011 protests in Libya into an explicit regime change operation, the U.S. and U.K. governments encouraged foreign fighters to travel to the North African nation to help fight. Among those who took the MI6 ratline from Manchester to Libya was Ramadan Abedi, the father of the bomber.

“During her tenure as Home Secretary, Theresa May was in charge of overseeing the operations of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency. It was during this time that Libya was flooded with fighters from the U.K., with passports being handed even to British-Libyan citizens under government control orders for their alleged ties to extremist groups. …

“In a groundbreaking speech on May 26, Jeremy Corbyn pledged to ‘change what we do abroad.’ He linked Western wars of aggression to the plague of violent jihadist attacks targeting soft targets in the West.

“’Many experts, including professionals in our intelligence and security services, have pointed to the connections between wars our government has supported or fought in other countries, such as Libya, and terrorism here at home,’ Corbyn noted.”

Also, see recent piece in The Nation by Sam Husseini: “After a Terrorist Attack, Spain Rejected Its Hawks. Will Britain?

“Israeli Lies and the Six Day War”

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Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt in 1967

Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt in 1967

ERNEST A. GALLO, ernie7900 at aol.com
Gallo is a survivor of the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, which took place on June 8, 1967 and killed 34 crew members. He is past president of the USS Liberty Veterans Association, which is having a commemoration at Arlington National Cemetery and associated events on Thursday. He is author of the book Liberty Injustices and just wrote the piece “50 Years Later: Will the Crew of the USS Liberty Ever Receive Justice?” See also, by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern: “Not Remembering the USS Liberty.”

MELVIN GOODMAN, goody789 at verizon.net
Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University. A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. His latest book is titled A Whistleblower at the CIA.

He just wrote the piece “The Six Day War and Israeli Lies: What I Saw at the CIA” for Counterpunch, which states: “As a junior analyst at the CIA, I helped to draft the report that described Israel’s attack against Egypt on the morning of June 5, 1967. There were sensitive communications intercepts that documented Israeli preparations for an attack, and no evidence of an Egyptian battle plan. The Israelis had been clamoring about indications of Egyptian preparations for an invasion, but we had no sign of Egyptian readiness in terms of its air or armored power. The assumption was that the Israelis were engaging in disinformation in order to gain U.S. support. …

“We were therefore shocked when President Johnson’s national security adviser, Walt Rostow, refused to accept our intelligence assessment on the Israeli attack. Rostow cited ‘assurances’ from the Israeli ambassador in Washington that under no circumstances would the Israelis attack first. …

“In addition to lying about the start of the war, the Israelis were even more deceitful three days later when they attributed their malicious attack on the USS Liberty to a random accident. If so, it was a well planned accident. The ship was a U.S. intelligence vessel in international waters, both slow-moving and lightly armed. It brandished a five-foot-by-eight-foot Stars and Stripes in the midday sun, and didn’t resemble a ship in any other navy, let alone a ship in the arsenal of one of Israel’s enemies. Yet the Israelis claimed that they believed they were attacking an Egyptian ship.

“The Israeli attack took place after six hours of intense, low-level reconnaissance. It was conducted over a two-hour period by unmarked Mirage jets using cannons and rockets. Israeli boats fired machine guns at close range at those helping the wounded, then machine-gunned the life rafts that survivors dropped in hope of abandoning the ship. The NSA investigation of the disaster remains classified to this day.”

Also see from Mehdi Hasan at The Intercept: “A 50-Year Occupation: Israel’s Six-Day War Started With a Lie.”

Suicide Bombings in Iran

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WILLIAM BEEMAN, wbeeman at umn.edu, @wbeeman
Author of The ‘Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs’: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other, Beeman is chair of the Department of Anthropology, University of Minnesota.

TRITA PARSI, tparsi at niacouncil.org, @tparsi     Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council. He said today: “Extremely unusual. Last time a suicide bomber struck Tehran was decades ago. The target, Khomeini’s Mausoleum, is of course very symbolic. As the founder of the Islamic Republic, striking Khomeini’s mausoleum combined with the parliament sends a clear signal.

“ISIS has had very little success striking inside Iran. Main reason is they can’t recruit Iranians easily, so no local knowledge.

“Only group with local knowledge that can slip into Iran easily is the Iranian terror group the MEK. (Non-Iranians get detected easier.)

“Israel used MEK to penetrate Iran and assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists. The MEK were also the first to use suicide bombings in Iran. Ayatollah Khamenei is still immobile in one of his arms as a result of a 1980s MEK suicide attack targeting him.

“For several years now, MEK’s been supported and funded by Saudi Arabia. Saudi likely funded the lavish campaign to get MEK off of the U.S. terror list. Mindful of the MEK’s status as the most detested group among Iranians, many questioned wisdom of Saudi backing the MEK.

“But if the goal was to penetrate and destabilize Iran, the MEK clearly was Saudi Arabia’s best bet.

“Still unclear who’s behind the current attack in Iran, but the MEK (and their Saudi backers) are a main suspect. Timing is of course curious. Just last month, A Saudi Crown Prince said Riyadh is working hard to take battle to inside of Iran.

“The last thing Iran needs now — after Iranians voted for openness — is an excuse for hardliners to securitize the internal atmosphere.”

Parsi’s latest book is the just-released Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy.

Qatar Crisis and Iran: A “Win-Win” for the U.S. Establishment?

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JUNAID AHMED, junaidsahmad at gmail.com Ahmed is in Virginia for a brief period. He is assistant professor, faculty of advanced studies at the University of Lahore in Pakistan. He is also director of the Center for Global Dialogue. He said today: “The GCC strategy to isolate and strangulate Qatar is a ‘war of attrition’ against the one GCC member state that had a modicum of autonomy from an otherwise unified Gulf autocratic strategy to isolate and target both Iran and all the regional ‘problematic’ mass oppositional elements, including Hamas, Hezbullah, the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. The paranoid, insecure, and schizophrenic Saudi ruling family has used this opportunity to get full Egyptian-Israeli backing for an effort they know is fully in sync with what President Trump recently conveyed to his friends in Riyadh: let’s all get together to target Iran.” Ahmed is also secretary-general of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

CHRISTOPHER DAVIDSON, cmd at christopherdavidson.net, @dr_davidson
Davidson teaches politics at Durham University in England. He has written several books on the Gulf monarchies. His latest is Shadow Wars: The Secret Struggle for the Middle East. [See video summarizing the book’s findings.]

He just wrote the piece “The Qatar crisis: A ‘win-win’ for the United States?” which states: “Notably, in the wake of the Arab spring, which witnessed the brief resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE had identified such forces as potential existential threats to their own regimes, not only because the Brotherhood enjoyed much support amongst their own conservative populations, but also because it offered the region an alternative Islamic governance model that dispensed with the need for hereditary monarchies.

“Long on the lookout for a counterweight to Saudi dominance over the Arab world, wealthy but vulnerable Qatar had been bankrolling the Brotherhood in Egypt and — through its massively influential Al-Jazeera network — providing its leaders with consistently favorable international coverage. Understandably, the palaces in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi were alarmed.

“The Saudi and UAE-organized coup d’état in Egypt in 2013 was supposed to have put the Brotherhood and Qatar back in their places. To some extent it did, but with Doha, even until now, continuing to harbor Brotherhood and other such exiles, this has certainly remained a bone of contention. …

“Pundits have put forward a number of reasons as to why the escalation has happened right now.

“Many, for example, have pointed to a strengthening relationship between Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, and their common goal of cutting off Qatari assistance to Hamas. Certainly, Qatar’s hosting of a Hamas conference last month did not go down well, and perhaps helps explain why — according to the leaked emails of the UAE’s ambassador to the U.S. — a recent high profile anti-Qatar symposium was staged by a major Washington-based, pro-Israel think tank.

“Much has also been made of Qatar’s apparent dealings with Iran, with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi undoubtedly being unnerved by reports of two recent phone calls between Emir Tamim Al-Thani and President Hassan Rouhani, both of whom were supposed to have called for ‘stronger ties than ever before.’ …

“While such objections may indeed have been contributing factors to the current crisis, the more likely catalyst has, however, been the role played by the new U.S. administration.

“Even if the Donald Trump team has clearly been trying to fleece Saudi Arabia out of its remaining assets by getting the kingdom to buy up weapons it can ill-afford, and even getting it to invest in U.S. physical infrastructure at a time when it really needs to be investing in its own infrastructure, there has nonetheless been a strong feeling in Riyadh that the new White House is a going to be a much firmer ally than the previous U.S. presidency.”

Also, see this overview interview with Davidson in Open Democracy earlier this year “What is the role of the West in the Middle East?“:

He said: “As it was in the rest of the world, the extraction of natural resources was an obvious priority, so all indigenous attempts to nationalize economic assets — regardless of any progressive, liberal, or even democratic agendas — needed to be intimidated or destroyed by the U.S. In 1955, according to secret correspondence between British officials, President Dwight Eisenhower had even called for a ‘high class Machiavellian plan to achieve a situation in the Middle East favorable to our interests which could split the Arabs and defeat the aims of our enemies.’ …

“By the latter part of the twentieth century, with the West’s demand for Middle Eastern resources intensifying and with the Soviet Union still undefeated, a much darker strategy started to form in which U.S. and British officials sought to cultivate an ultra-conservative, pan-Islamic movement capable of countering secular, progressive or potentially Soviet-aligned national liberation movements, or even simply nationalist governments. …

“In the 1990s such Islamic fighting forces remained a strategic, but volatile asset for the U.S. and British intelligence agencies, with Al-Qaeda veterans helping form a jihadist ‘foreign legion’ in the Balkans to assist the Bosnian and Kosovan forces against Serbia, and with the ‘Libyan Islamic Fighting Group’ – whose leaders were living in Britain — being protected and paid by MI6 as part of a plot to remove Muammar Gaddafi from power. …

“By March 2011 a parallel campaign had also been launched to help re-direct the ‘Arab Spring’ to states such as Libya and Syria that remained antagonistic to Western interests. Willfully fostering, funding, and weaponizing localized uprisings in an effort to create fresh nationwide revolutions, key U.S. and British allies such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE all played major roles in destabilizing these long targeted Arab states, under the banner of the Arab Spring.”

FBI Whistleblowers on Russia-gate’s Mythical “Heroes”

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20010705-2-m-1Former FBI Director James Comey is scheduled to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. For a calendar of upcoming events, see: accuracy.org/calendar.

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan[at]earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley, a retired FBI special agent and division legal counsel whose May 2002 memo to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002.

She just wrote the piece “Russia-gate’s Mythical ‘Heroes’” for Consortium News, which states: “Mainstream commentators display amnesia when they describe former FBI Directors Robert Mueller and James Comey as stellar and credible law enforcement figures. Perhaps if they included J. Edgar Hoover, such fulsome praise could be put into proper perspective.

“Although these Hoover successors, now occupying center stage in the investigation of President Trump, have been hailed for their impeccable character by much of Official Washington, the truth is, as top law enforcement officials of the George W. Bush administration (Mueller as FBI Director and James Comey as Deputy Attorney General), both presided over post-9/11 cover-ups and secret abuses of the Constitution, enabled Bush-Cheney fabrications used to launch wrongful wars, and exhibited plain vanilla incompetence.

TIME magazine would probably have not called my own disclosures a ‘bombshell memo’ to the Joint Intelligence Committee Inquiry in May 2002 if it had not been for Mueller’s having so misled everyone after 9/11. Although he bore no personal responsibility for intelligence failures before the attack, since he only became FBI Director a week before, Mueller denied or downplayed the significance of warnings that had poured in yet were all ignored or mishandled during the Spring and Summer of 2001. …

“Current media applause omits the fact that former FBI Director Mueller was the top official in charge of the Anthrax terror fiasco investigation into those 2001 murders, which targeted an innocent man (Steven Hatfill) whose lawsuit eventually forced the FBI to pay $5 million in compensation. Mueller’s FBI was also severely criticized by Department of Justice Inspector Generals finding the FBI overstepped the law improperly serving hundreds of thousands of ‘national security letters’ to obtain private (and irrelevant) metadata on citizens, and for infiltrating nonviolent anti-war groups under the guise of investigating ‘terrorism.’

“For his part, Deputy Attorney General James Comey, too, went along with the abuses of Bush and Cheney after 9/11 and signed off on a number of highly illegal programs including warrantless surveillance of Americans and torture of captives. Comey also defended the Bush administration’s three-year-long detention of an American citizen without charges or right to counsel.

“Up to the March 2004 night in Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital room, both Comey and Mueller were complicit with implementing a form of martial law, perpetrated via secret Office of Legal Counsel memos mainly written by John Yoo and predicated upon Yoo’s singular theories of absolute ‘imperial’ or ‘war presidency’ powers, and requiring Ashcroft every 90 days to renew certification of a ‘state of emergency.'”

“What’s not well understood is that Comey’s and Mueller’s joint intervention to stop Bush’s men from forcing the sick Attorney General to sign the certification that night was a short-lived moment. A few days later, they all simply went back to the drawing board to draft new legal loopholes to continue the same (unconstitutional) surveillance of Americans.

“The mythology of this episode, repeated endlessly throughout the press, is that Comey and Mueller did something significant and lasting in that hospital room. They didn’t. Only the legal rationale for their unconstitutional actions was tweaked.”

British Election * Corbyn * DUP

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THOMAS BARLOW, editor at realmedia.press newsrelease11
KAM SANDHU, kam at realmedia.press
Barlow and Sandhu are with Real Media. See their interview on The Real News: “Hung Parliament a Stunning Victory for Corbyn’s Labour Party in UK Elections.” See from Ben Norton at FAIR: “Corporate Media Hope Labour’s Corbyn Loses Election — and Badly.”

Various media are reporting Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will back Prime Minister Theresa May’s ruling Conservatives in forming a government.

CHRIS FLOYD, cfloyd72 at gmail.com, on Twitter: @empireburlesque
Floyd is a journalist from the U.S. now in Oxford. He just wrote a piece for Counterpunch: “False Dawn or New Hope: Right-Wing Pact Imperils UK Paradigm Shift,” which states: “This morning finds us in what might be an even worse situation, as a wounded — and woefully incompetent — Theresa May limps to the palace to form a government that will be utterly at the mercy of the right-wing sectarian cranks of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.” Floyd is author of Empire Burlesque and has written for numerous outlets.

See from Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times, from last month: “What connects Brexit, the DUP, dark money and a Saudi prince?

British Election: DUP and the “Orange Card”

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newsrelease12The Washington Post reports in: “This minor party holds the trump cards in the British Parliament. What is the DUP?” that: “After last night’s shocking results, Britain’s Conservative Party had to make a deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to return to government. … It is associated with anti-Catholic evangelical Protestantism.”

Fr. SEAN McMANUS, sean at irishnationalcaucus.org
Fr. McManus is founder and president of the Irish National Caucus. He said today: “The DUP was founded on an anti-Catholic foundation. Being in a position of supporting a government with Theresa May as prime minister gives them an incredible amount of clout. The DUP is headed by Arlene Foster, who is widely unpopular and mistrusted. This brings us back to a time of the British government playing what was called the ‘Orange Card’ — that to stay in power they would undermine the position of Catholics. It’s akin in the United States to when a politician plays the white supremacist card.”

Left-Right Alliance to Break Up the Banks

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bankersprinsForbes reports: “The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed the Financial CHOICE Act, a Republican-led financial reform effort aimed at rolling back the 2010 Dodd Frank Act, enacted under President Barack Obama.” The Washington Post reports: “Trump, who has complained about tight lending practices, has ordered three reviews of banking rules, the first of which Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is set to deliver as soon as [this] week.”

NOMI PRINS, via Jaime Leifer, jaime.leifer at hbgusa.com, @nomiprins
Prins is a former Wall Street executive. Her books include All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power. She just wrote the piece: “Dear President Trump: Breaking Up (Banks) Isn’t So Hard to Do — Glass-Steagall or Another Economic Meltdown?” for Tom Dispatch.

She writes: “In 1933, when the Glass-Steagall Act was passed, it helped break up the biggest banks of the day and for good reason: they had had a major hand in triggering the most disastrous economic depression our country ever experienced. … It ensured that the investment bank and the commercial bank would no longer cohabit. …

“Then legislators, lobbyists, bankers, and regulators started to chisel away at the wall separating those two kinds of banks. By November 1999, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act totally. The abusive marriages of gamblers and savers could once again be consummated. And who doesn’t remember the result: the financial crisis of 2007-2008 that led to taxpayer-funded bailouts, subsidies, loans, and sweetheart fraud-settlement deals. …

“Under President Obama, the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act was signed into law. The Act sought to limit the ability of big banks to trade the riskiest types of securities. Through inclusion of something called the ‘Volcker Rule,’ Dodd-Frank prohibited the trading of securities (even if with many loopholes). What it didn’t do was actually break up the big banks again. That meant another 1933 still awaited its moment.

“Then along came the bizarre 2016 presidential election campaign during which, strangely enough, Democrats and Republicans found one issue on which they had some common ground: the banking system. Key figures in both parties agreed that it was time to stop the investment bank and the commercial bank from commingling. Bernie Sanders ran on a campaign to break up the banks — and so did Donald Trump. At an October campaign rally in Charlotte, North Carolina, Trump even stated, ‘It’s time for a twenty-first-century Glass-Steagall.’ …

“The Democratic National Committee platform offered a similar message. ‘Banks,’ it said, ‘should not be able to gamble with taxpayers’ deposits or pose an undue risk to Main Street.’ … The Republican National Committee wasted even fewer words making the point in their platform: ‘We support reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which prohibits commercial banks from engaging in high-risk investment.’

Prins notes that when recently questioned on Capitol Hill, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin replied, ‘We never said we were in favor of Glass-Steagall. We said we were in favor of a twenty-first-century Glass-Steagall. It couldn’t be clearer.’ Which, of course, couldn’t have been murkier. …

“Fortunately, current legislation is circulating in Congress that would promote the long-term stability of the financial system by restoring Glass-Steagall for real. H.R. 790 (‘Return to the Prudent Banking Act of 2017’) is one of two reinstatement bills in the House of Representatives. It has 50 co-sponsors from both parties and its passage is being spearheaded by Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.). The second bill, H.R. 2585, sponsored by Mike Capuano (D-Mass.), bears a close relationship to Senate bill S.881 (the ‘Twenty-First-Century Glass-Steagall Act of 2017’), sponsored by Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and nine cosponsors including John McCain (R-Ariz.), Maria Cantwell, and Angus King (I-Maine). Either of the bills, if enacted, would do the same thing: break up the banks.”

“Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World”

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5b308b2d015542708acb3be1b601d310-5b308b2d015542708acb3be1b601d310-0Huffington Post reports: “41 Human Rights Groups Urge Senate To Block Trump’s Saudi Arms Deal.” A Senate vote on the arms sale is currently expected Tuesday.

See from Ben Norton at AlterNet: “Emails Expose How Saudi Arabia and UAE Work the U.S. Media to Push for War.”

“Democracy Now” reports this morning: “Cholera Death Toll Tops 859 in War-Torn Yemen as U.S.-Backed Saudi Assault Continues.”

STEPHEN KINZER, kinzer.stephen at gmail.com, @stephenkinzer
Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University and a columnist at the Boston Globe. He just wrote the piece “Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World,” which states: “Saudi Arabia has been working for decades to pull Indonesia away from moderate Islam and toward the austere Wahhabi form that is state religion in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis’ campaign has been patient, multi-faceted, and lavishly financed. It mirrors others they have waged in Muslim countries across Asia and Africa.

“Successive American presidents have assured us that Saudi Arabia is our friend and wishes us well. Yet we know that Osama bin Laden and most of his 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, and that, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in a diplomatic cable eight years ago, ‘Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.’

“Recent events in Indonesia shine a light on a Saudi project that is even more pernicious than financing terrorists. Saudi Arabia has used its wealth, much of which comes from the United States, to turn entire nations into hotbeds of radical Islam. By refusing to protest or even officially acknowledge this far-reaching project, we finance our own assassins — and global terror.”

Kinzer spent more than 20 years working for the New York Times, most of it as a foreign correspondent. His books include Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq and most recently The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire.

DUP Deal Highlights British Anti-Catholicism, Threatens Peace in Ireland

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newsrelease13The British Independent reports: “Ireland’s Prime Minister Warns Theresa May Over Deal with DUP.” President of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass — who was United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland — tweeted: “With DUP going into govt (which all but precludes govt role in talks) & Brexit, pol future of Northern Ireland suddenly highly uncertain.” Jonathan Powell, chief British negotiator in Northern Ireland from 1997 to 2007 recently wrote: “May’s Deal with the DUP Threatens 20 Years Hard Work in Ireland.”

While Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was derided for alleged ties to “IRA terrorists” during the campaign, OpenDemocracy.net reports: “Theresa May’s new partners in government have strong historical links with Loyalist paramilitary groups.” The Washington Post reports in: “This minor party holds the trump cards in the British Parliament. What is the DUP?” that: “It is associated with anti-Catholic evangelical Protestantism.” Also see: “Orange Order asks DUP to put Drumcree March on Wishlist in May Talks.”

Fr. SEAN Mc MANUS, seanmcmanus6 at mac.com
Fr. Mc Manus is founder and president of the Irish National Caucus. He said today: “Theresa May making a deal with the DUP to buttress her minority government highlights the anti-Catholic basis of law in Britain that is continuously overlooked.

“If a person is not acutely aware the British government has used (since the Reformation) anti-Catholicism as one of its main weapons of oppression in Ireland, then that person is woefully ignorant of both Irish history and British history. And if one does not realize that anti-Catholicism is still deeply rooted in a significant section of the Unionist/Loyalist/Orange/Protestant community today, then that person does not understand the problem in Northern Ireland. Since the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, Unionist/Loyalist/Orange/Protestant leaders have made it perfectly clear that their allegiance is not just to the British Crown, but to ‘Protestant succession to the British throne’ — constitutionally mandated by the anti-Catholic section of the act of Settlement, 1701, that bars a Catholic from being monarch. And if one wishes to ignore or cover-up this state-sponsored sectarianism, then he/she loses all credibility — like ignoring if there were a provision in the United States constitution barring a black person from being president.

“But, it was not the Orange Order or the Unionist Party that enacted the Act of Settlement, which provides the ideological underpinnings of sectarianism and anti-Catholicism in the north — it was the British Parliament. Thus it is the British government that is ultimately responsible for the continuation of sectarianism and anti-Catholicism in Northern Ireland — because both sectarianism and anti-Catholicism are enshrined, justified and mandated by the de facto British Constitution.”

Mc Manus is author of My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland … And The Holy Land. His articles include “The Orange Order Personification of Anti-Catholic Bigotry.”

Background: While British law mandates the monarch not be a Catholic, there’s no explicit prohibition regarding the prime minister. Still, Tony Blair converted to Catholicism only after leaving office. The Guardian reported in 2007: “Tony Blair has converted to Roman Catholicism, sources close to the former prime minister said today. … The move comes after years of speculation that Mr. Blair, whose wife Cherie and four children are Catholic, would convert from Anglicanism after he resigned as prime minister in June.”Also see: “After 30 years as a Closet Catholic, Blair Finally Puts Faith Before politics.”

In 2000, the Guardian newspaper tried and failed to change the Act of Settlement, 1701. See: “A Challenge to the Crown: Now is the Time for Change,” which stated: “The act, passed at a time of widespread fear of Catholics, lays down that only Protestant heirs of Princess Sophia, granddaughter of James I, may take the British throne. Neither Catholics, nor those who marry a Catholic, nor those born out of wedlock, may remain in the line of succession. The act remains the crucial cornerstone of the British constitution, exercising an extraordinary hold over the monarchy…”

The act was changed in 2013 to allow the monarch to marry a Catholic, see from Channel 4: “Can the Heir to the Throne Marry a Muslim? Or Another Man?”

Congress Fails to Stop Arms to Saudi as it Bombs Yemen

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newsrelease 14The Washington Times reports: “Senate preserves Trump arms deal with Saudi Arabia.” The vote was 53-47.

Rand Paul was a leading sponsor of the legislation against the arms sales. See video clips of his comments on Twitter and the full debate on C-SPAN.

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, sha980 at mail.harvard.edu, @shireen818 Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni-Canadian-American, is a doctoral candidate and instructor at Harvard University. See her interview on Public Radio International’s “The World”: “Will U.S. stop arming Saudi attackers in Yemen?”

KATE GOULD, kate at fcnl.org, @K8Gould Legislative representative for Middle East Policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, Gould said today: “Despite the Saudi government and the world’s largest weapons manufacturers paying K Street lobbyists to descend on Capitol Hill, opposition to the Saudi-led war in Yemen is on the rise. Slick advertising and Saudi-funded lobbying campaigns did not get a slam dunk on the Senate floor. This is proof positive that grassroots citizen advocacy — whether in calls, emails, letters to the editor or visits with congressional offices –matters.

“This vote should mark the beginning, not the end, of congressional action to stop the bombardment and starvation of millions of Yemenis. Our nationwide network will be urging members of Congress to continue to press the Trump administration, the Saudi government and the world to end to the war and famine, and to pursue a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the crisis in Yemen. As a faith community, we categorically reject the Saudi strategy of starving civilians to gain leverage at the negotiating table.”

FCLN notes: “S.J.Res. 42, originally introduced by Senators Paul, Murphy and Franken, is a resolution of disapproval for the $550 million sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia that replenishes stockpiles of weapons the kingdom is using in its war in Yemen.”

Islamophobia

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SUE UDRY, sue at rightsanddissent.org, @defenddissent
Udry is executive director of Defending Rights and Dissent, a national civil liberties organization. The group just put out a release this morning: “Witnesses at Senate Raise Serious Concerns for Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Groups,” which states: “On Wednesday, June, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing entitled ‘Ideology and Terror: Understanding the Tools, Tactics, and Techniques of Violent Extremism.’ …

“The HSGAC hearing is a thinly veiled attempt to bring the anti-Muslim protests staged in various cities over the past weekend into the Senate. HSGAC Chair, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), has invited Ayann Hirsi Ali, Asra Nomani, and John Lenczowski to spew their oft-debunked theories of ‘creeping Sharia’ and a ‘clash of civilizations’ narrative that are the staple of the Islamophobia industry. Their written testimony submitted for the record does not address crime, violence, or terrorism, instead, all three assert that the real threat is law-abiding Muslims in our society.

“In giving a platform to these three, HSGAC is helping to fuel fear and suspicion of Muslims at a time when hate crimes against Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim are increasing.”

Va. Attack: Media Slamming Sanders, Ignoring Russia Obsessing

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newsrelease15ADAM JOHNSON, ahubbardjohnson at gmail.com, @adamjohnsonnyc
Johnson just wrote the piece “With Sleazy Innuendo, NYT Lays Virginia Attack at Bernie Sanders’ Feet” for the media watch group FAIR.

Johnson writes: “New York Times reporter Yamiche Alcindor (6/14/17) started with a false premise and patched together a dodgy piece of innuendo and guilt-by-association in order to place the blame for a shooting in Virginia on ‘the most ardent supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders.’ …

“Left unmentioned in the piece were two entirely relevant pieces of context that would mitigate the burden of responsibility for Sen. Sanders and provide alternative theories of the crime. The first is Hodgkinson’s history of domestic violence — a common factor in most mass shootings (CounterSpin, 6/17/16). …

“The second — and perhaps most salient, given the tone of the piece — was Hodgkinson’s obsession with President Trump as a pro-Russian ‘traitor.’ His Facebook was filled with content calling Trump a ‘traitor,’ including a petition insisting ‘Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy’ and ‘It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.’

“Since Hodgkinson’s political leanings are being probed as somehow responsible for the shootings, it’s curious why the New York Times decided to highlight his pro-Sanders stance and not his obsession with Trump as treasonous pro-Russian agent — an accusation that Sanders has not aggressively pressed and, indeed, has sometimes been on the receiving end of. Why ‘Attack Tests Movement Sanders Founded’ and not ‘Attack Test Democrats’ Trump-as-Russian-Agent Inquiry’? Why note Hodgkinson’s support for Sanders but not his love for Rachel Maddow, more than half of whose show, one study found, is dedicated to the Russia/Trump story?

“The answer is that the former is easy — and convenient — to smear, whereas the latter implicates a whole host of powerful institutions: the Democratic leadership, most major media and, above all, the New York Times itself, which has published, and thus legitimized, the most extreme and irresponsible fringe of the Russia/Trump dot-connectors in the form of Louise Mensch (FAIR.org, 3/31/17).”

Nader on Amazon Buying Whole Foods

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The Verge reports: “Amazon is buying American supermarket chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, the online retail giant announced today. The acquisition is technically happening as part of a merger agreement that will see Amazon pick up the supermarket’s net debt and purchase its stock at $42 per share. The brick-and-mortar stores will continue to operate under the Whole Foods brand once the deal is complete, which is expected to happen later this year, but is subject to approval by regulators and the supermarket’s shareholders.”

RALPH NADER, @RalphNader
Nader is a consumer rights advocate, attorney, and former presidential candidate. His recent works include Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think, and the 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed. Nader is not currently available for interviews.

Today his office released the following statement: “With every move of this Goliath, Amazon is inviting a thorough anti-trust investigation by the Department of Justice or the Federal Trade Commission. This company is breaking records for destroying Main Street and hollowing out communities through such mechanisms as predatory pricing, and for many years in the past, avoiding state sales taxes.”

For more information, contact at the Center for Study of Responsive Law: Evan West, west at csrl.org

For background on Amazon, see: “Amazon’s Antitrust Paradox

 

Anti-Muslim Terrorism

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newsrelease16The Washington Post reports, “A van plowed into a group of Muslim worshipers as they were leaving prayers at a pair of north London mosques early Monday, leaving one person dead and injuring 10 others in what is being called a ‘terrorist attack.’ Witnesses said the driver of the vehicle was heard shouting that he wanted to kill Muslims.”

AP reported from Virginia about an attack that took place just hours before: “Muslim Teen Killed After Leaving Mosque.”

ARUN GUPTA, arun.indypendent at gmail.com, @arunindy
Gupta is an investigative reporter whose work has been published by the Washington Post, The Nation, and the Guardian. Recently, he wrote two articles on right-wing and anti-Islamic extremism for the Intercept, “Playing Cops: Militia Members Aids Police in Arresting Protester at Portland Alt-Right Rally” and Raw Story, “Anti-Sharia rallies brought out pro-Trump thugs — internet radicalized and spoiling for violence.”

He said today: “The killings in London and Virginia highlight the growing threat of far-right violence in the West. While the media obsessed last week over Bernie Sanders’ responsibility in the shooting of a Congressman, there have been no fewer than five murders linked to white supremacist and alt-right supporters since Donald Trump was elected. We see a pattern with these attacks. Government officials and news outlets are swift to label an attack carried out by a Muslim as terrorism, but they are slow to label attacks perpetrated by far-right extremists as terrorism, as shown by the London attack. In other instances, the attack is never called terrorism. That is the case of Jeremy Christian, the Portland-area man who allegedly knifed two men to death after they came to the aid of two women of color, one wearing a hijab, as Christian threatened and assaulted them. He was a known white supremacist and had been filmed at an alt-right rally weeks earlier throwing Nazi salutes and yelling, ‘Die Muslims,’ but that is apparently not enough evidence for the two murders to be investigated as or deemed a possible terror attack.

“While the victims of terrorism are spread across the population … it is Muslim communities that bear the brunt of terrorism, particularly in countries destabilized, bombed, or invaded by Western forces.

“There is evidence of a dramatic jump in hate crimes and incidents coming initially after Donald Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015 and then again after he was elected in November 2016. While some individuals in the West carry out deadly attacks in the name of Islam, there are others who kill in the name of Christianity, white supremacy, racism, and Islamophobia. But usually only the former is labeled or even investigated as terrorism.”

Bombing Syria: * Impeachable * Carve-Up Agenda

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The New York Times reports: “Russia Warns U.S. After Downing of Syrian Warplane.”

This afternoon at the National Press Club, Joint Chiefs Chairman and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford was asked a question submitted by the Institute for Public Accuracy: “What’s the legal justification for targeting Syrian government forces?” He claimed: “We are there and have legal justification under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, we are prosecuting a campaign against ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria.” See video.

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “Gen. Dunford is totally incorrect. The AUMF passed after 9/11 has indeed been used to justify the bombing campaign purporting to target ISIS, but it cannot possibly be used to justify targeting the Syrian government. Those attacks are in fact clearly illegal and impeachable.

“Many have put forward dubious arguments for impeaching Trump — or arguments that they would never apply to a Democratic president. Similarly, some threatened Obama with impeachment and are not doing so now that Trump is engaging in exactly the activity they threatened Obama about. Hypocrisies and hypocrites abound.

“If we care about the rule of law, the most striking thing about Trump is his flagrant violation of the War Powers Clause of the Constitution in this targeting of the Syrian government. Now, the U.S. has been violating international law in terms of its drone assassination program and various bombing campaigns, like the one purporting to target ISIS in Syria. Many of these activities are justified by attempts to invoke the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed after the 9/11 attacks. A decade and a half after those attacks, that rationale is international legal nonsense, but it exists.

“In contrast, the targeting of forces of or allied with the Syrian government has no justification whatsoever. It is obviously impeachable — Obama’s people say they were afraid of impeachment for exactly this [see below]. But pro-war Democrats don’t raise it because it would put a constraint on the war-making capacities of the U.S. president — while they pretend to care about the rule of law.

“Many of the U.S. attacks on Syria have been around the so-called ‘de-confliction zones.’ These zones are de facto partitions of Syria in violation of its territorial sovereignty and political independence. This goes back at least to the Pentagon just after 9/11 telling retired General Wesley Clark that they wanted to target Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.

“Israeli strategic interests are obviously served by a breakup of Syria; as is the case for much of the U.S. establishment. The Saudis are clearly on board. The Russians, rhetoric aside, are likely simply looking for some scraps. The big losers are the Syrians and most of the other people of the region.”

See recent report in the Financial Times: “Syria de-escalation deal stirs fears of carve-up by foreign powers.” Also, see new report from the Wall Street Journal: “Israel Gives Secret Aid to Syrian Rebels.”

Earlier this year, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor and foreign policy speechwriter, told Politico that President Obama feared impeachment if he targeted the Syrian government:

Rhodes: “The only country in the world that was prepared to join us [in attacking the Assad government] was France. And we had no domestic legal basis. We actually had Congress warning us against taking action without congressional authorization, which we interpreted as the president could face impeachment.”

Politico: “Really? Was the prospect of impeachment actually a factor in your conversations?”

Rhodes: “That was a factor. Go back and read the letters from Boehner, letters from the Republican members of Congress. They laid down markers that this would not be constitutional.”

House Speaker John Boehner wrote to Obama in 2013: “It is essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution.”

Boyle was featured on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release in 2013 along with former Rep. Paul Findley: “* Key Author of War Powers Act: ‘Obama has no Authority to Attack Syria’ * Impeachment.”

Foreign Influence in U.S. Politics

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JONATHAN MARSHALLnewrelease17
He is an award-winning journalist and author of five books on international affairs and national security. Marshall has recently published a series of articles on the influence of foreign money in American politics, featured on ConsortiumNews. He states: “The combination of lax enforcement and tremendously high stakes — including billions of dollars in foreign aid, arms sales, and economic sanctions — has led to intense foreign lobbying in the United States, some of it financed with recycled U.S. aid.”

On Russia’s influence in American politics, Marshall writes: “Russia-gate has focused attention on requirements for U.S. citizens acting as ‘foreign agents’ to register with the Justice Department, but these rules have been sporadically or selectively enforced for decades.”

In “Saudis Win Hearts by Lining Pockets,” Marshall cites evidence that “the Saudi government now employs 14 lobbying firms, at an estimated cost of well over $1.3 million a month, more than it spent in all of 2000. Their hired guns include Podesta Group, co-founded by Tony Podesta, one of the Democratic Party’s top fundraisers, and his brother John Podesta, who was Hillary Clinton’s national campaign chairman in 2016; BGR Group, whose name partners include the former head of the Republican Party; and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Mississippi. …

“In its quest for influence,” Marshall adds, “Saudi Arabia takes no chances and spares no expense. Since the 1940s, when their country became an oil superpower, the Saudis have handed out vast sums of cash on a bipartisan basis to powerful and soon-to-be powerful Americans.”

On Israel’s influence in American politics Marshall states: “Unlike most other foreign lobbies, the pro-Israel lobby draws much of its strength from grass-roots support. With little organized opposition, it can influence Congress more readily than better-funded business lobbies that face stiff competition. However, the single biggest source of its power is not voters — only a tiny percentage make Israel their top political priority — but campaign funds.

“Hillary Clinton’s pandering to the pro-Israel lobby during the 2016 election — promising AIPAC that she would take relations with Israel ‘to the next level’ and that she would meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during her first month in office — reflected her financial dependence on pro-Israel funders. Chief among them was billionaire donor Haim Saban, a hawkish Israeli-American who famously said, ‘I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.’”

However, Marshall also notes that: “As Israel pursues ever more extreme policies grounded in ethnic and religious nationalism, the pro-Israel lobby has become increasingly aligned with the Republican Party.”

Marshall’s articles also examine political lobbying by Turkey, Ukraine, and Taiwan.

Need to “Repeal the Perpetual Illegal Wars”

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Charlie Savage of the New York Times reports in “Senators Wrestle With Updating Law Authorizing War on Terrorist Groups” that: “Asked at a luncheon on Monday at the National Press Club in Washington what legal basis the United States had to attack Syrian government forces, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., claimed the authority stemmed from the 2001 law because the American military presence in Syria was predicated on fighting Al Qaeda and the Islamic State there.

“But on Tuesday, the ranking Democrat on the Senate committee, Senator Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, said, ‘The most recent use of this, in regards to activities in Syria, certainly had nothing to do with the attack on our country on September the 11th.'”

The question at the National Press Club to Dunford was submitted by Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy and was featured on an IPA news release on Monday: “Bombing Syria: * Impeachable * Carve-Up Agenda.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle[at]illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “What the U.S. government is getting away with here is incredible. Gen. Dunford is citing the 2001 AUMF to go after Al Qaeda as justification to go after a secular government — Syria — that is actually fighting Al Qaeda, as well as ISIS.

“Congress should not be in the business of ‘updating’ any authorization of continuing these wars, which are clearly illegal under international law. Congress should be in the business of repealing these bogus domestic authorizations. No one in 1970 was working to ‘update’ the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. At least no one who was not a laughing stock. Congress was working to repeal the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, to defund the war — not to perpetuate illegal war for another generation. Congress now needs to repeal the perpetual illegal wars. The War Powers clause of the Constitution, as well as the War Powers Resolution are being flagrantly violated.”

Boyle was featured on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release in 2013 along with former Rep. Paul Findley: “* Key Author of War Powers Act: ‘Obama has no Authority to Attack Syria’ * Impeachment.”

Boyle’s books include Foundations of World Order: The Legalist Approach to International Relations (Duke University Press).

Portugal Wildfires: Result of Timber Industry?

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newsrelease18The New York Times reports: “The head of Portugal’s firefighters’ association said on Wednesday that he believed arsonists had most likely started the fire that killed 64 people last weekend, contradicting a police assessment that attributed the cause to lightning.”

The Los Angeles Times reports: “Reeling from its deadliest forest fire, Portugal finds a villain: eucalyptus trees.”

ANNE PETERMANN, anne at globaljusticeecology.org, skype: annepetermann, also via tess at globaljusticeecology.org, @STOPGETREES
Petermann is executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project; and international coordinator, of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees. She said today: “The main force driving these deadly fires is the widespread proliferation of highly flammable eucalyptus plantations. At the same time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is reviewing a proposal by industry to develop extensive plantations of eucalyptus trees across the U.S. South. They are accepting comments on this proposal until July 5th.”

OLIVER MUNNION, oli at biofuelwatch.org.uk, Skype: olivermunnion [English, Portuguese]

Co-director of Biofuelwatch, Munnion lives in Portugal’s wildfire zone. He said: “We spent last night in a local school after some 30 villages were evacuated in our area. News reports say that a quarter of the municipality has burned. We’ve been lucky so far and still have our home, but many others have lost so much.

“It’s time to face up to the reality that Portugal’s vast eucalyptus and pine plantations, and the corruption and profiteering that comes with them, are the main reason that the country burns, every year. Coupled with the impacts of climate change, bringing hotter temperatures and drought, our area stands little chance. And the summer has only just begun.

“Just like wildfires that devastated parts of Chile in January — the worst in their history — the fires in Portugal were the result of a reckless and poorly regulated timber industry that emphasizes eucalyptus plantations over human well-being. And now the same thing is being considered in the U.S. I hope they learn the lesson from the tragedies in Portugal and Chile.”

Trumpcare Targets Medicare as well as Medicaid

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NANCY ALTMAN, LINDA BENESCH, lbenesch at socialsecurityworks.org, @ssworks
Altman is president of Social Security Works, Benesch is communications director for the group. They just wrote the piece “The Overlooked Trumpcare Threat: A Medicare Time Bomb,” which states: “Just over two years ago, Donald Trump gave a speech announcing his run for the presidency. In that speech, he promised that he would not cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. That promise became a centerpiece of his campaign. It was a key way for Trump to differentiate himself, as a matter of policy, from his Republican primary opponents — a distinction he happily and frequently pointed out. In the general election, the promise helped him appeal to voters who don’t traditionally support the GOP.

“But six months into his presidency, Trump has already betrayed those voters by breaking his promise. Indeed, rather than protecting those programs, he has already, in his short tenure, gone after all three!

“The destruction of Medicaid and the cutback to Social Security have gotten media attention. The broken promise on Medicare is in danger of slipping by beneath the radar, though.

“Only days after the election, Speaker Paul Ryan announced that he saw an opportunity to realize his decades-long dream of destroying Medicare. He said that he planned to enact legislation as soon as possible that would end Medicare’s guaranteed benefit and replace it with voucher coupons.

“Ryan justified this horrible plan — destined to leave the nation’s seniors without medical care after a lifetime of work — by claiming ‘because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. The Affordable Care Act improved Medicare’s long-term finances, by requiring the wealthiest Americans to pay somewhat more. Trumpcare repeals that increased funding.

“Ryan, Trump and their fellow Republicans are like the proverbial murderer who kills his parents and pleads for leniency because he is an orphan. In this case, they are raiding Medicare of necessary revenue, only down the road to argue that they must cut Medicare because it has insufficient funding! Indeed, Trumpcare accomplishes two goals: It gives a giant tax break to the wealthy at the expense of Medicare and it sets up the destruction of Medicare by raiding it. It is completely predictable that, if Trumpcare becomes law, Republicans will, as a next step, go after Medicare, claiming its funding shortfall as the supposed reason.”

How the U.S. Armed al Qaeda in Syria

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AleppoGARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Independent investigative journalist Porter just wrote the piece “How America Armed Terrorists in Syria” for the American Conservative.

Porter writes: “Three-term Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any U.S. assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them. Equally important, it would prohibit U.S. military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators.

“Gabbard’s ‘Stop Arming Terrorists Act’ challenges for the first time in Congress a U.S. policy toward the conflict in the Syrian civil war that should have set off alarm bells long ago: in 2012-13 the Obama administration helped its Sunni allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar provide arms to Syrian and non-Syrian armed groups to force President Bashar al-Assad out of power. And in 2013 the administration began to provide arms to what the CIA judged to be ‘relatively moderate’ anti-Assad groups — meaning they incorporated various degrees of Islamic extremism.

“This flood of weapons into Syria, along with the entry of 20,000 foreign fighters into the country — primarily through Turkey — largely defined the nature of the conflict. These armaments helped make al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al Nusra Front … and its close allies by far the most powerful anti-Assad forces in Syria — and gave rise to the Islamic State. …

“By helping its Sunni allies provide weapons to al Nusra Front and its allies and by funneling into the war zone sophisticated weapons that were bound to fall into al Nusra hands or strengthen their overall military position, U.S. policy has been largely responsible for having extended al Qaeda’s power across a significant part of Syrian territory. The CIA and the Pentagon appear to be ready to tolerate such a betrayal of America’s stated counter-terrorism mission. Unless either Congress or the White House confronts that betrayal explicitly, as Tulsi Gabbard’s legislation would force them to do, U.S. policy will continue to be complicit in the consolidation of power by al Qaeda in Syria, even if the Islamic State is defeated there.”

Are Claims About Syrian Sarin Attacks Propaganda Leading to More War?

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BuzzFeed reports: “Syria appears to be preparing a new chemical weapons attack against its citizens, the White House said Monday, warning that if the weapons are again used, the U.S. will make the Syrian government ‘pay a heavy price.’ … Five U.S. defense officials reached by BuzzFeed News said they did not know where the potential chemical attack would come from, including one U.S. Central Command official who had ‘no idea’ about its origin.”

From RT: “U.S. threats to Syria’s legitimate government unacceptable — Kremlin.”

See new interview with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh: “Trump Ignored Intel Before Bombing Syria” with The Real News. On Sunday, Hersh’s piece “Trump‘s Red Line” was published in the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. Hersh wrote: “On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon. …

“‘The Salafists and jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve gas ploy,’ the senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told me, referring to the flare up of tensions between Syria, Russia and America. ‘The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.'”

THEODORE A. POSTOL, postol at mit.edu
Postol is professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT. Last month, he appeared on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “NYT Claims on Syria Attack Unsupported.” He said today: “The White House took unjustified actions — and is now creating another set of reasons for more such actions. Chances of an unpredictable escalation are significant. Trump is pushing the Russians to extreme positions and he’s undermining the effort to destroy the Islamic State.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. See his recent interview with Dennis Bernstein at Consortium News: “A Baseless Justification for War in Syria.” He said today: “The current posture of U.S., French and perhaps British policy in Syria is basically an invitation for some jihadist group to stage a chemical weapons attack in Syria. That would get blamed on Assad and the U.S. would bomb him. This is an intolerable, incredibly dangerous situation brought on by constant illegal U.S. meddling.”

CNN recently reported: “Macron vows retaliation if chemical weapons used in Syria.”

Disinformation on Russia and Threat to Democratic Party

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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.”

“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.”

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.”

* Russia * Poland * Korea

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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.”

 

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.”

Will U.S. Airstrikes End Syrian Ceasefire Again?

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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).

“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.”

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.”

* France * Behind Lula’s Prison Sentence

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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.”

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.