Korea and Olympics: Opening for Dialogue?

The Washington Post reports on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Day speech: “North Korean leader says he has ‘nuclear button’ but won’t use it unless threatened.

The Post states: “Kim promised to focus this year on producing nuclear warheads and missiles for operational deployment. But he also struck a conciliatory note, opening the door to dialogue with South Korea and saying he would consider sending a delegation to the Winter Olympics to be held in his southern neighbor in February.”

CATHERINE KILLOUGH, ckillough at ploughshares.org, @CatKillough
Killough is the Roger L. Hale Fellow at the Ploughshares Fund, a global security foundation.

She recently wrote the piece, “UN calls for an Olympic Truce for 2018 Games. Could this be an opening for dialogue?

She also wrote “Let The Record Show: Negotiations With North Korea Work,” which states: “If Bush had kept the Agreed Framework, if hardliners had not sabotaged the Six Party Talks, and if Obama had clarified the terms of the Leap Day deal, North Korea might not be the nuclear nightmare that grips the United States and its allies today.”

A fact sheet from the group on military exercises notes that, “history shows that suspending US-ROK [South Korean] military exercises can be an important factor in a successful diplomatic approach to the North.”

Pakistan

The Dawn (one of the largest newspapers in Pakistan) is reporting: “A day after Washington confirmed suspending $255 million of military aid to Pakistan, U.S. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that the actions being taken against Islamabad are a follow-up to Donald Trump’s South Asia policy announced last year.”

JUNAID AHMAD, [currently in the U.S.] junaidsahmad at gmail.com
Ahmad is assistant professor at the University of Lahore in Pakistan, and Secretary-General of the International Movement for a Just World. See Ahmed’s recent interview on The Real News.

He said today: “President Donald Trump’s first tweet of the year concerned none of the other ‘usual suspects’ of international ‘rogue’ nations routinely targeted for the president’s wrath: North Korea, Iran, or a China, or a Venezuela. No, this tweet concerned one of the older scapegoats for America’s travails in the ‘Af-Pak’ theatre in the ‘war on terrorism’, that ‘most dangerous country on earth,’: Pakistan. Trump’s sudden outburst repeated more colorfully the hackneyed refrains that Islamabad is all too familiar with by now: more diplomatic-sounding jargon now replaced by language such as ‘lies’ and ‘deceit’ in claiming that Pakistan has taken billions from Washington yet still is supporting terrorists and militants.

“But the timing of this sudden eruption from Trump, though of course a phenomena with which we’ve become all too familiar, seems to be deeply rooted in the shifting global geopolitical balance of power. For all of the Washington policy talk of wishing to ‘stabilize’ Afghanistan, there has been nothing to show for — with a popularly reviled occupation, overseeing a weak central government engaged in endemic corruption and incompetence in meeting basic needs of ordinary Afghans. And most importantly, there is the rising strength and reach of the ‘Taliban’ – increasingly, a meaningless ‘bogey man’ term deployed to refer to what should otherwise be generally known as the ethnicashtun resistance to foreign occupation. Indeed, in a somewhat more serious way to try to stabilize the Afghan polity and society, China has stepped up to the plate over the past few weeks and enabled what is a breakthrough: bringing Kabul and Islamabad to the table, along with Beijing, to discuss a diplomatic and political resolution to Afghanistan’s travails. The talks were showing some promise, alongside commitments for heavy Chinese investment into Afghanistan.

“But this seemed to have been intolerable for two parties which continue to view the Kabul government as their client regime: New Delhi and Washington. For the Indian establishment, Chinese involvement in Afghanistan represents competitive economic influence, and Pakistan’s a deeply despised and intolerable political involvement. But for the American political establishment, the anxiety stems from a deeper malaise of growing imperial geopolitical impotence and irrelevance. What Washington fears most, and hence will try to undermine as best it can, is a Syria redux, where ultimately the Russians, Iranians and the Turks simply sorted out the modalities of a stable, post-war Syria amongst themselves. There was no invitation to or input from the U.S. Having this mirror reflecting the face of an increasingly ignored and weakened empire, repeatedly confronting Uncle Sam at every corner, is what will continue to generate these panic-stricken imperial tweets for the foreseeable future.”

“Russiagate” as Religion

JACKSON LEARS, tjlears at history.rutgers.edu
Lears is the Board of Governors Professor of History at Rutgers University. He recently wrote the piece “What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Russian Hacking” for the London Review of Books.

He writes: “With stunning speed, a new centrist-liberal orthodoxy [has come] into being, enveloping the major media and the bipartisan Washington establishment. This secular religion has attracted hordes of converts in the first year of the Trump presidency. …

“The centerpiece of the faith, based on the hacking charge, is the belief that Vladimir Putin orchestrated an attack on American democracy by ordering his minions to interfere in the election on behalf of Trump. The story became gospel with breathtaking suddenness and completeness. Doubters are perceived as heretics and as apologists for Trump and Putin, the evil twins and co-conspirators behind this attack on American democracy. Responsibility for the absence of debate lies in large part with the major media outlets. Their uncritical embrace and endless repetition of the Russian hack story have made it seem a fait accompli in the public mind. …

“Like any orthodoxy worth its salt, the religion of the Russian hack depends not on evidence but on ex cathedra pronouncements on the part of authoritative institutions and their overlords. Its scriptural foundation is a confused and largely fact-free ‘assessment’ produced last January by a small number of ‘hand-picked’ analysts — as James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, described them — from the CIA, the FBI and the NSA. The claims of the last were made with only ‘moderate’ confidence. The label Intelligence Community Assessment creates a misleading impression of unanimity, given that only three of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies contributed to the report. And indeed the assessment itself contained this crucial admission: ‘Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation and precedents.’ Yet the assessment has passed into the media imagination as if it were unassailable fact, allowing journalists to assume what has yet to be proved. …

“It is not the first time the intelligence agencies have played this role. When I hear the Intelligence Community Assessment cited as a reliable source, I always recall the part played by the New York Times in legitimating CIA reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s putative weapons of mass destruction. …

“Flagrantly false stories, like the Washington Post report that the Russians had hacked into the Vermont electrical grid, are published, then retracted 24 hours later. Sometimes — like the stories about Russian interference in the French and German elections — they are not retracted even after they have been discredited. These stories have been thoroughly debunked by French and German intelligence services but continue to hover, poisoning the atmosphere, confusing debate. The claim that the Russians hacked local and state voting systems in the U.S. was refuted by California and Wisconsin election officials, but their comments generated a mere whisper compared with the uproar created by the original story. The rush to publish without sufficient attention to accuracy has become the new normal in journalism. Retraction or correction is almost beside the point: the false accusation has done its work.

“The most immediate consequence is that, by finding foreign demons who can be blamed for Trump’s ascendancy, the Democratic leadership have shifted the blame for their defeat away from their own policies without questioning any of their core assumptions. Amid the general recoil from Trump, they can even style themselves dissenters — ‘#the resistance’ was the label Clintonites appropriated within a few days of the election. …

“For the DNC, the great value of the Russian hack story is that it focuses attention away from what was actually in their emails. The documents revealed a deeply corrupt organization, whose pose of impartiality was a sham. Even the reliably pro-Clinton Washington Post has admitted that ‘many of the most damaging emails suggest the committee was actively trying to undermine Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.’”

Lears is the editor of the journal Raritan: A Quarterly Review. Lears’ research interests include U.S. cultural and intellectual history, comparative religious history, literature and the visual arts, folklore and folk beliefs. Lears has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and both the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Foundations. His books include: Something for Nothing: Luck in America and Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America.

Schools without Heat: Symptom of “Destructive Inequalities”

CNN reports: “As temperatures plunged along the East Coast, photos emerged this week of Baltimore students wearing coats, hats and gloves inside frigid classrooms — igniting criticism from parents and others who wondered why those classes weren’t canceled.”

JESSICA SHILLER, jessica.shiller at gmail.com, @jessicashiller
Shiller is an associate professor of education at Towson University, just outside of Baltimore. She said today: “School funding is probably the biggest issue before us in terms of what we should be addressing. Lack of heat is a symptom of much larger problems of funding, of destructive economic inequality and of racial inequity. Baltimore schools serve a largely African-American population, and are disproportionately impacted by funding inequity.”

In November, Shiller wrote the piece “While we’re fretting over Baltimore’s juveniles, how about fairly funding its students?” for Baltimore Brew: “Families who can afford it, generally move to affluent communities. Those who remain in low-income communities have less taxable income to fund schools and, therefore, their children have to attend schools that lack the basics.

“Their school may not have enough heat in the winter or clean drinking water or access to technology or experienced teachers.” Also see interview with The Real News: “Will Kirwan Consider Race When Recommending Fixes to Maryland Schools?

HELEN ATKINSON, helen at tdpbaltimore.org, @hatkinson333, @tdpbaltimore

Atkinson is with the Teachers’ Democracy Project in Baltimore. She noted the value of working teachers’ voices, citing the blog of Baltimore teacher Mark Miazga — see his most recent piece “No Heat in Classrooms:

She also cites the work of Baltimore Movement of Rank-and-File Educators, which just put out a statement: “Baltimore City children attending decrepit school facilities without functioning heat and drinkable water is a tragedy that the state of Maryland created over decades of underfunding. They have repeatedly neglected their own definition of adequacy by $3 billion over the past two decades alone, much of which would’ve prevented these circumstances before they happened. It’s the state’s constitutional obligation to correct this outrageous failure, starting this coming legislative session.”

The Baltimore Sun reported in 2016: “Despite the nation’s highest median household income and among its lowest poverty rates last year, economists warned that new data from the Census Bureau continues to show a worrying economic divide in Maryland.”

“Fire and Fury” — New Reports Thicken Trump-Israel Plot

Wall Street Journal reported on Friday: “Inside the Trump Team’s Push on Israel Vote That Mike Flynn Lied About,” which stated: “Transition team’s bid to scuttle U.N. vote criticizing Israel was intense. Jared Kushner, Mike Flynn and Nikki Haley all made calls.”

The New York Times reported Sunday: “Kushner’s Financial Ties to Israel Deepen Even With Mideast Diplomatic Role,” which states: “The deal, which was not made public, pumped significant new equity into 10 Maryland apartment complexes controlled by Mr. Kushner’s firm.”

ALI ABUNIMAH, director at electronicintifada.net, @AliAbunimah
Abunimah is co-founder of the Electronic Intifada website and just wrote the piece “What Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury says about Trump’s collusion with Israel,” which states: “Since Donald Trump excommunicated Steve Bannon over comments he made in Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, American media have spoken of little else.

“The president declared that his former strategist and the boss of far-right Breitbart News had ‘lost his mind’ for saying that a meeting Donald Trump Jr. and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner held with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 election campaign was ‘treasonous.’

“The row has given new life to the dubious, unproven and often spectacularly false media-driven claims of ‘hacking’ and ‘collusion’ between Russia and Trump to steal the election from Hillary Clinton.

“Yet hollow as it has turned out to be, ‘Russiagate’ remains the central narrative of the self-styled Democratic and liberal ‘resistance.’

“However, the special counsel probe by Robert Mueller has indeed uncovered some collusion between the Trump team and a foreign power: Israel.

“In a plea agreement last month for making false statements to the FBI, Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn admitted that he had contacted foreign governments during the final weeks of the Obama administration to try to derail a U.N. vote condemning Israeli settlements.

“This possibly illegal effort to undermine the policy of the sitting administration was done at the direction of Kushner and at the request of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Yet mainstream pundits have shown little concern, just as they have shown little interest in any further revelations about what we might well call Israelgate coming out of the Wolff book.

“It turns out that Fire and Fury contains evidence that Trump’s policy is not so much America First as it is Israel First.

“Wolff recounts an early January 2017 dinner in New York where Bannon and disgraced former Fox News boss Roger Ailes discussed cabinet picks.

“Bannon observed that they did not have a ‘deep bench,’ but both men agreed the extremely pro-Israel neocon John Bolton would be a good pick for national security adviser. ‘He’s a bomb thrower,’ Ailes said of Bolton, ‘and a strange little fucker. But you need him. Who else is good on Israel?’

“’Day one we’re moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s all in,’ Bannon said, adding that anti-Palestinian casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson was on board too.

“’Let Jordan take the West Bank, let Egypt take Gaza. Let them deal with it. Or sink trying,’ Bannon proposed. ‘The Saudis are on the brink, Egyptians are on brink, all scared to death of Persia.’

“Asked by Ailes, ‘Does Donald know’ the plan, Bannon reportedly just smiled.

“Bannon’s idea reflected ‘the new Trump thinking’ about the Middle East: ‘There are basically four players,’ writes Wolff, ‘Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The first three can be united against the fourth.’ Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be ‘given what they want’ in respect to Iran, and in return would ‘pressure the Palestinians to make a deal.’” Abunimah’s books include The Battle for Justice in Palestine.

200,000 Salvadorans

JOSEPH NEVINS, jonevins at vassar.edu, @jonevins1
Nevins is professor of geography at Vassar College. His books include Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid (City Lights Books).

He said today: “The Trump Administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status for approximately 200,000 Salvadorans residing in the United States is abhorrent. In addition to being part and parcel of its war on immigrants (particularly low-income ones), it is a denial of U.S. responsibility for much of what drives Salvadorans to flee their homeland and makes life there unviable. The roots of El Salvador’s high murder rate, for example — it is one of the most dangerous countries in the world — lie in U.S. support for its right-wing government and the grossly unjust political-economic order it defended during the 1980s. During that decade, Washington helped fuel the country’s civil war by providing hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, and various forms of assistance to its brutal military.

“In the 1990s, the United States, allying itself with the country’s conservative elites, helped to impose a neoliberal ‘free trade’ agreement on El Salvador, an accord that has helped to fuel out-migration due to its dislocating impacts. Finally, there is the matter of climate change, with the United States as the world’s biggest historical contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Along with Honduras and Guatemala, El Salvador is one of the detrimentally impacted countries in the world by a warming and increasingly unstable climate. From growing incidents of ‘natural’ disasters to an outbreak of coffee rust, which has devastated the region’s coffee sector, climate change-related environmental degradation has also helped to push Salvadorans to migrate. For such reason and more, the U.S. government has an ethical obligation to allow Salvadorans to migrate and reside in the United States.”

U.S.-Backed Saudi Attack on Yemen: * Media Blackout * Public Opposition

BEN NORTON, email at bennorton.com, @BenjaminNorton
A reporter for AlterNet and a contributor at the media watch group FAIR, Norton just wrote the piece “MSNBC Ignores Catastrophic U.S.-Backed War in Yemen.” Norton writes that for “MSNBC, the largest humanitarian catastrophe in the world is apparently not worth much attention — even as the U.S. government has played a key role in creating and maintaining that unparalleled crisis.

“An analysis by FAIR has found that the leading liberal cable network did not run a single segment devoted specifically to Yemen in the second half of 2017.

“And in these latter roughly six months of the year, MSNBC ran nearly 5,000 percent more segments that mentioned Russia than segments that mentioned Yemen.

“Moreover, in all of 2017, MSNBC only aired one broadcast on the U.S.-backed Saudi airstrikes that have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. And it never mentioned the impoverished nation’s colossal cholera epidemic, which infected more than 1 million Yemenis in the largest outbreak in recorded history.

“All of this is despite the fact that the U.S. government has played a leading role in the 33-month war that has devastated Yemen, selling many billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia, refueling Saudi warplanes as they relentlessly bomb civilian areas and providing intelligence and military assistance to the Saudi air force.

“With little corporate media coverage from MSNBC or elsewhere, the U.S. — under both presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump — has staunchly supported Saudi Arabia as it imposes a suffocating blockade on Yemen, diplomatically shielding the draconian Gulf dictatorship from any form of punishment as it has plunged millions of Yemeni civilians into mass hunger and pushed the poorest country in the Middle East onto the brink of famine.”

JUSTIN WALLIN, jwallin at jwallin.com, @justinwallin1
Wallin is CEO of J. Wallin Opinion Research, which recently conducted a survey about about U.S. public opinion about military intervention. James Carden just reported on the major findings in an article in The Nation: “A New Poll Shows the Public Is Overwhelmingly Opposed to Endless U.S. Military Interventions.”

Carden writes about Wallin’s results: “The headline findings show, among other things, that 86.4 percent of those surveyed feel the American military should be used only as a last resort, while 57 percent feel that U.S. military aid to foreign countries is counterproductive. The latter sentiment ‘increases significantly’ when involving countries like Saudi Arabia, with 63.9 percent saying military aid — including money and weapons — should not be provided to such countries. …

“And while Trump has largely betrayed his campaign promise to put ‘America first’ — particularly with regard to the Middle East policy being pursued by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — he does so at the risk of alienating his base.

“Nevertheless, the new survey indicates that the desire for a sensible American policy abroad goes well beyond Trump’s base, and that there is a wide bipartisan majority that seeks an American foreign policy of realism and restraint.

“The researchers at J. Wallin note that, even in spite of what they call a ‘climate of distinct political polarization,’ the results show these sentiments vary ‘only in degrees of intensity across political party, ideology, age groups, gender, and geographic regions.’

“The survey found that 78 percent of Democrats, 64.5 percent of Republicans, and 68.8 percent of independents supported restraining military action overseas. ‘Rarely,’ noted the report, ‘does opinion research reveal issues that enjoy shared sentiments on a bi-partisan level.’

“The poll brings home just how divorced the Beltway — and its think tanks, media outlets, and political class — is from the expressed desire of a large majority of Americans for a responsible and reasonable foreign policy.”

Left-Right Uniting Against More Government Surveillance

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Mich.) tweeted Wednesday: “As soon as tomorrow [Thursday], Congress will vote to expand a warrantless surveillance program. Without serious reform, this bill — S. 139 — will further erode our constitutional rights of privacy, especially for communities of color.”

Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation tweeted: “[Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)] was *just* on the Sunday shows claiming Trump was misusing the Justice Dept. to go over his enemies. But plans on voting to extend FBI/NSA surveillance powers.” Timm notes that Rep Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been silent on the matter.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) tweeted: “#Section702 enables massive, warrantless spying on Americans. I’m joining [Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.)] and [Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)] and a bipartisan group of House and Senate colleagues to speak out in support of FISA reform.”

NEEMA SINGH GULIANI,  nguliani at aclu.org
Neema Singh Guliani is legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office, focusing on surveillance, privacy, and national security issues. The group’s letter on the legislation states: “S.139 is not reform. It risks codifying illegal practices that have been used to collect purely domestic communications and fails to meaningfully restrict the use of Section 702 to spy on Americans without a warrant.”

JEFF LANDALE, jefflandale at thexlab.org, @JeffLandale
Landale is with X-Lab. He said today: “One overlooked aspect of the debate is that people who began using Tor or VPNs in large numbers after Congress voted to allow Internet Service Providers to sell their browsing history to advertisers are likely being targeted under Section 702 — and that’s just one of the loopholes NSA uses to turn this authority inward to spy on Americans.

“Additionally, the reauthorization bill being voted on … (S. 139) actually makes it easier for the FBI to access Americans’ communications collected under Section 702 when they have no suspicion of wrongdoing than if they have probable cause, flipping the Fourth Amendment upside down.”

He notes that Demand Progress and FreedomWorks “put together a rebuttal of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s one-pager on the USA RIGHTS Act, which is being offered as an amendment to the 702 expansion bill” — see it here.

The Post

The Steven Spielberg movie “The Post” opens today.

MARK HERTSGAARD, mark at markhertsgaard.com, @markhertsgaard
Hertsgaard’s books include On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency.

COLMAN McCARTHY, cmccarthy at starpower.net
A former Washington Post columnist, McCarthy is founder and director of the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C., and the author of several books including I’d Rather Teach Peace.

He said today: “As with all corporations, and as with all individuals, The Washington Post, whether headed by Katharine [Graham] or Jeff Bezos, is a mix of flaws and virtues. Its most grating negative was the early and avid editorial support it gave to the U.S. military invasions of Vietnam in the mid-1960s and the invasions of Iraq in 1991 and 2002. Its virtues included giving space to conscientious and anti-guff reporters like Morton Mintz and William Greider. As a pacifist, I was privileged to be given space on the Post’s op-ed page and other parts of the paper from 1969 to 1997. I don’t ever recall an editor spiking a column because it was too far to the left.”

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, recently wrote the piece “The Other Side of the Post’s Katharine Graham” for Consortium News, which states: “Katharine Graham’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers was indeed laudable, helping to expose lies that had greased the wheels of the war machinery with such horrific consequences in Vietnam. But the Washington Post was instrumental in avidly promoting the lies that made the Vietnam War possible in the first place. No amount of rave reviews or Oscar nominations for ‘The Post’ will change that awful truth.”

Ben Bagdikian, the Washington Post editor who actually obtained a copy of the Pentagon Papers from whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, left the paper shortly afterward, criticizing the paper; see his 1976 piece for the Washington Monthly: “Maximizing Profits at the Washington Post.” Bagdikian appeared on many Institute for Public Accuracy news releases before his death in 2016. See his memoir, Double Vision: Reflections on My Heritage, Life, and Profession. Also see Sanford Ungar’s “The Papers Papers.”

Putting Trump’s “Shithole” Comments in Context

JAFRIKAYITI, (Jean Elissaint Saint-Vil), jafrikayiti at hotmail.com
Jafrikayiti was born and raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and currently lives in Canada where he works in science and engineering research administration. He hosts weekly radio programs in Ottawa and has been featured as a political analyst on Canadian and international radio and television. He produced “LAFIMEN: Listwa Pèp Ayisyen Depi Nan Ginen,” audio recordings on the history of the Haitian people.

He was recently interviewed by The Real News: “From Haiti to Africa, U.S. Owes More Than a Trump Apology.”

He said: “We have to put what Trump is talking about in this context. All of the leaders of Europe and white North America are preoccupied with building walls so that they can keep the wretched of the earth away from all of the resources that they have stolen from those same countries. The Congo today is one of those countries that probably Donald Trump considers to be a threat because people are coming from the Congo to the United States. But the Congo is one of the richest places on the planet. All of the computers that we are using are using minerals that are coming from the Congo. Why don’t we address the core issue, that is to make sure that the Africans, the Haitians, get access to their natural resources? To me, that’s the most important question, [rather than] the fact that Americans have elected a bigot at their head. …

“Haiti is an international crime scene. … [In 2003] a whole bunch of white people, you know, we have to emphasize that it was white people who met, and they had titles as diplomats. And they decided that the President of Haiti needs to be overthrown, Haiti needs to be put under UN tutelage and then they would reinstate the brutal army in Haiti. A year later, they conducted the coup. White soldiers, which we don’t have in Haiti, entered the residence of the President, kidnapped him and his wife, and he spent several years in South Africa. In fact, when the earthquake happened, President Aristide was in South Africa with his family. …

“And the Clinton Foundation was collecting a whole lot of money. Hillary Clinton got directly involved in imposing a Trump-like character in Haiti called Michel Martelly, who was very similar [to] Trump in his behavior. It wasn’t the Haitian people who chose Martelly, it was Hillary Clinton. In return, Hillary Clinton’s brother, Tony Rodham, got access to Haitian goldmines. What we need today is to ask the question where did the money go? It obviously did not go to Haitians or to build Haitian infrastructure, as we can see if, eight years after the fact, after the earthquake, Donald Trump can refer to the country as a shithole.”

From Martin Luther King’s “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” speech on April 4, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York City: “A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, ‘This is not just.’ It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, ‘This is not just.’ The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.”

Trump and Right “Hijacking” Religious Freedom

FREDERICK CLARKSON, F.Clarkson at politicalresearch.org, @FredClarkson
Clarkson is senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, a think tank in Somerville, Mass. He is the author of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle between Theocracy and Democracy, and editor of Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America.

Clarkson said today in response to Trump’s just-released presidential proclamation commemorating Religious Freedom Day: “President Trump has joined the Christian Right in invoking religious freedom to justify its attack on the civil, human, and religious rights of others.

“Trump commemorated Religious Freedom Day, January 16, by issuing a presidential proclamation that reinforces the Christian Right’s claim that religious freedom affords people the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people, as well as consent for federal agencies, departments, contractors, and grantees to discriminate in their employment practices. (As set forth in a recent guidance from the Department of Justice.) Trump also blurs the federal non-profit tax code that proscribes electioneering by tax-exempt groups, including churches. He suggests that this violates the religious freedom of those who bend and break the law.”When we hear politicians and religious or interest-group leaders go on about how religious freedom is a ‘cherished; or ‘treasured’ value, let’s ask them to get real. Religious freedom is not a lovely antique, a family heirloom, or a relic of a bygone era. It is a dynamic, progressive value that underlies every other constitutional freedom we have — and it is under siege.

“A close look at the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and its role in shaping our constitutional approach to religion and government, exposes the lie of Christian nationalism in a way that allows us to clear away the fog of the long, slow religious war they are waging in America. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison took a stand for religious equality for all — asserting that one’s religious identity would neither advantage nor disadvantage someone in their rights as a citizen.

“In fact, religious freedom is a powerful, inspiring, and authentically revolutionary idea. It is imperative that we not allow the Christian Right and Donald Trump to hijack it to revive the theocratic governance their ancestors lost when the Virginia Statute, the Constitution, and the First Amendment set the stage for a more democratic future.”

His work in this area was recently featured in a major article on Salon. He also recently published an interview with historian John Ragosta about the Virginia Statute at Religion Dispatches.

Sixty Senators Vote to Cut Off Debate on Giving Trump More Surveillance Powers

The New York Times reports: “The Senate cleared the path on Tuesday for Congress to extend the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance program for six years with minimal changes, rejecting bipartisan calls to first vote on amendments that would have imposed significant new privacy protections when the program sweeps up Americans’ emails.

“The vote, 60 to 38, narrowly overcame a procedural obstacle to an up-or-down vote on the surveillance extension bill, showing that there is probably sufficient support in the Senate to give it final approval and send it to President Trump’s desk this week.

“The bill passed last week in the House, which first rejected an amendment that would have required government officials to get warrants in most instances to search for Americans’ messages in the program’s repository. The vote centered on a law known as Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. It permits the government to, without a warrant, collect from American companies, like AT&T and Google, the emails, phone calls, text messages and other communications of foreigners abroad who have been targeted for intelligence surveillance — even when they communicate with Americans.”

THOMAS DRAKE, tadrake at earthlink.net, @Thomas_Drake1
An NSA whistleblower, Drake is available for a very limited number of interviews. He said in a statement to the Institute for Public Accuracy that the legislation “actually gives criminal suspects more Fourth Amendment protections than innocent people. …

“I blew the whistle right after 9/11 on the original mass domestic warrantless electronic surveillance program known as STELLARWIND, and its secret subversion of privacy rights protected by the Constitution and paid a very high price for doing so. This reauthorization bill just further codifies and expands the mass surveillance regime under the guise of protecting people by stripping their privacy protections.” See Drake’s interviews at The Real News.

NEEMA SINGH GULIANI, nguliani at aclu.org
Neema Singh Guliani is legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office, focusing on surveillance, privacy, and national security issues. She said today: “Instead of instituting much needed reforms and safeguards, Senators supported legislation that would give spying powers to an administration that has time and time again demonstrated its disregard for civil rights and civil liberties. They did so without even devoting one minute to considering improvement to protect privacy rights.” See ACLU report from 2002 on how the U.S. government spied on Martin Luther King, Jr.

SEAN VITKA, seanvitka at gmail.com, @demandprogress
Vitka is policy counsel for Demand Progress. He said today: “We especially criticize those [19] Democrats who voted for cloture [Tuesday], and in doing so broke with a bipartisan and principled set of senators who support real reform. With [this] vote, these Democrats have ceded tremendous power to the executive branch to engage in mass and warrantless surveillance — a power that history has shown time and again is ripe for abuse. This expanded surveillance power is particularly troubling in the hands of the Trump administration, which has made regular practice of cynical, politically-expedient and dangerous attacks on our country’s most targeted communities.” Here is a list of the 19 Democratic senators who voted to cut off debate on Tuesday — they were dubbed #TheAssistance on social media.

JEFF LANDALE, jefflandale at thexlab.org, @JeffLandale
Landale is with X-Lab. He said today: “Despite the assertions of Democrat and Republican supporters of S. 139 on the Senate floor [Tuesday], an uncountable number of Americans will have their communications swept up under this expansion of the FISA Amendments Act. Whether it is because you use a VPN or Tor, communicate about a target of surveillance, or have your communications collected ‘incidentally’ in some other manner, once this law is passed, the FBI will be able to search communications without a warrant before they have even begun an investigation. Under this law, if Attorney General Jeff Sessions unilaterally decides that Black Lives Matter is a national security threat, the activists affected will not have any Fourth Amendment protections for the information collected under this authority.”

How to Reduce Threat of Nuclear War with North Korea

CHRISTINE AHN, christineahn at mac.com, @christineahn
Founder of Women Cross DMZ, Ahn was part of the Vancouver Women’s Forum on Peace and Security on the Korean Peninsula as the Vancouver Summit on Korea was meeting. Ahn, who is based in Hawaii, recently wrote the piece “In North Korea talks, Tillerson needs women at the negotiating table” for The Hill.

Her group put out a statement on the Vancouver Summit on Korea: “Instead of supporting the reduction of tensions in the Korean peninsula that began with the inter-Korean dialogue and the Olympics truce, the foreign ministers chose to further isolate and threaten North Korea.

“We urged foreign ministers to prepare the table for dialogue with North Korea. Instead, they chose to obstruct the path for peace being laid by North and South Korea.

“The U.S.-led ‘maximum pressure’ approach has utterly failed to halt North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. Seventy years of sanctions and isolation of North Korea have only furthered the DPRK’s resolve to develop its nuclear arsenal.

“A maximum pressure campaign is not diplomacy that will lead to peace. Increased sanctions hurt ordinary people.

“Secretary Tillerson’s depiction [Tuesday] of commercial airline flights as potential targets of North Korea’s missile tests is reminiscent of Colin Powell’s UN presentation about Iraq’s ‘so-called’ weapons of mass destruction. This provocative effort to demonize North Korea sets up justification for even more extreme measures against DPRK, such as a naval blockade, which will be viewed by North Koreans as a war-like action.”

The Nuclear Posture Review was recently leaked. The New York Times reports: “Pentagon Suggests Countering Devastating Cyberattacks With Nuclear Arms.”

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. In July, she wrote the piece “Democracy Breaks Out at the UN as 122 Nations Vote to Ban the Bomb” for The Nation.

She said today: “People should know that North Korea was the only nuclear weapons state to vote FOR negotiations to go forward on the recent nuclear ban treaty at the UN last fall.” The U.S. government lead the effort, that also consisted of other nuclear weapons states and NATO members, to try to stop the ban.

Slater cites a series of U.S. government actions to maintain its nuclear threat: “Regan rejected Gorbachev’s offer to totally eliminate the U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals in return for an end to the space race. William Clinton also rejected Vladimir Putin’s offer to cut our arsenals of 16,000 nuclear weapons to 1,000 and call the other seven nuclear weapons states to negotiate a treaty to eliminate this scourge, provided we didn’t place anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe, a condition Clinton rejected. In 2008 and 2015, the U.S. blocked negotiations on a treaty proposed by Russia and China in the consensus-bound UN Committee for Disarmament to ban weapons in space, an agreement which would give Russia the ‘strategic stability’ it demands in order to proceed with nuclear abolition.”

Shutdown and Military Budget; Tillerson Calls for Perennial War on Syria

Fox News headlines a story: “Immigration, military spending are key issues in bid to avert government shutdown.”

BuzzFeed reports: “Tillerson Calls For Indefinite U.S. Military Presence In Syria To Remove Assad.”

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.

His pieces include “Trump should be fighting ISIS, not Syria,” written last year for CNN, in which he warned of continued involvement in Syria.

Eland also recently wrote the piece “Busting Upward the Military Budget,” for Consortium News, which states: “Of the $700 billion, about $640 billion is the Pentagon’s base budget and another $60 billion dollars is allocated to fight simultaneous wars in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. This whopping amount exceeds last year’s $619 billion, thus flouting the ‘sequestration’ spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act. …

“Apparently, when conservatives tout slimming down government, they don’t seem to think the Defense Department is part of the federal bureaucracy.

“The idea is preposterous that a country which alone accounts for about half the world’s defense budget needs more money to keep the readiness of its forces high and to rebuild a military that has been depleted by long, senseless wars in the Middle East and South Asia. The Defense Department is already slathered with over $600 billion a year and just needs to reallocate some of its funds to improve readiness and conduct rebuilding.”

Women’s March and Mexican Indigenous Activists in U.S.

LUCILA BETTINA CRUZ and FRANCISCO GRADO VILLA
Lucila Bettina Cruz Velazquez and Francisco Grado Villa are delegates with the National Indigenous Congress of Mexico and are currently in New York City to “express solidarity with the January 20 women’s march, and to ask people of conscience to hear their message of US TOO — denouncing the abuse of their ancestral land, their culture, their language, their history, and their dignity.” They will be in D.C. Sunday and Monday.

Contact via Tadii Angeles, LaZextaNJNY2018@gmail.com and Karlos Valseka, jerseykarlos@gmail.

They can also address how trade, drug and other policies drive desperate migration and how those impact “community dignity, autonomy, and justice” — the themes of their speaking tour. Indigenous groups are routinely marginalized in Mexico, which is scheduled to have general elections on July 1.

They are having a news conference in New York City on Friday afternoon from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. They are also speaking in there on Saturday and D.C. on Sunday.

Lucila Bettina Cruz Velazquez is an Indigenous Binnizá woman, originally from Juchitán, Oaxaca. She has a master’s degree in regional rural development from the Autonomous University of Chapingo. See her profile at the Nobel Women’s Initiative.

She said today: “Since 2007 I started with other compañer@s an organizational process for the defense of the communal lands of the region. … In 2011 I suffered an assassination attempt when members of the municipal police of La Venta, Juchitán and workers of the Acciona wind company evicted us from a demonstration that we were carrying out on the Pan-American highway. …

“In April 2012, I was imprisoned and released on bail after a four-year trial. … At this moment with other organizations in the region … [we are working] to defend ourselves from the systematic dispossession of our territory and our lives that are coming in the form of mining projects, a Special Economic Zone and the second phase of the wind project that intends to end the life of the peoples of the Isthmus.”

Francisco Grado Villa said today: “I’m from the central desert of Baja California. I am a Counselor for Baja California within the Indigenous Governing Council. … I engage in both the preservation and promotion of Cochimí culture in a moment when we have been declared extinct.

“I have been working for a year within the Indigenous Governing Council. The purpose of this tour in the U.S is to create consciousness of the actual situation in which the indigenous peoples of Mexico live.”

Is Amazon Ripping Off Taxpayers?

GREG LeROY, goodjobs at goodjobsfirst.org, @goodjobsfirst
LeRoy is executive director for Good Jobs First. In response to Amazon.com’s announcement of a 20-site “short list” for its second headquarters, or “HQ2,” location, he said today in a statement: “Amazon continues to behave as we predicted it would, staging a public relations stunt apparently to extract the largest possible subsidies from its chosen site. …

“More than 130 organizations have signed an open letter to Jeff Bezos demanding that Amazon abandon any plans to avoid paying its taxes and instead engage with community groups on specific benefit agreements to ensure that the HQ2 project does not impose higher taxes and displacing gentrification onto current residents. Good Jobs First signed this demand: no special tax breaks or subsidies for Amazon; instead the company should engage and agree to community benefits.

“To the 20 localities named as remaining contenders, we say: fully disclose your bids right now and invite real public participation to revise them. Your residents need to know if your proposed deal is structured to help them benefit in any way and to shield them from gentrification. …

“Amazon is merely the latest company to exploit America’s 80-year old site location system that has evolved to give companies all the power and ensure that public officials are helpless to protect taxpayer interests. The problem is especially acute for ‘megadeals,’ where we estimate the average cost per job at $658,000, a level at which taxpayers will never break even. As we have twice written, there is a real risk that Amazon could obtain a negative income tax rate while also avoiding sales and property taxes.”

Also see a recent piece by David Dayen in The New Republic: “Amazon Is Thriving Thanks to Taxpayer Dollars.”

Ryan Got $500,000 In Koch Money Days After House Passed Tax Law

MARY PAPENFUSS, mary.papenfuss at huffpost.com, @blatherat
Papenfuss is a longtime journalist who now reports for Huffington Post. She just wrote the piece “Paul Ryan Collected $500,000 In Koch Contributions Days After House Passed Tax Law,” which states: “Just days after the House passed its version of the federal tax law slashing corporate tax rates, House Speaker Paul Ryan collected nearly $500,000 in campaign contributions from billionaire energy mogul Charles Koch and his wife, according to a recent campaign donor report. …

“Koch Industries, one of the largest private corporations in the nation, operates refineries and manufactures a variety of products. The new tax law — which slices corporate tax rates from 35 percent to 21 percent, slashes estate taxes and includes a special deduction for oil and gas investors — is expected to save the Koch brothers and their businesses billions of dollars in taxes.

“Just 13 days after the tax law was passed, Charles Koch and his wife, Elizabeth, donated nearly $500,000 to Ryan’s joint fundraising committee, according to a campaign finance report filed Thursday.

“Five other donors, including billionaire businessmen Jeffery Hildebrand and William Parfet, each contributed $100,000 in the last quarter of 2017, according to the records.

“’It looks like House Speaker Ryan is quickly being rewarded for passing this legislation that overwhelmingly benefits the Kochs and billionaires like them,’ Adam Smith, spokesman for campaign finance reform nonprofit Every Voice, told the International Business Times, which first reported the Koch contributions.”

Is Brazil’s Popular Former President Being Railroaded?

Mark Weisbrot writes in the New York Times today: “Brazil’s Democracy Pushed Into the Abyss.”

On Wednesday, a Brazilian appellate court will decide whether to confirm or suspend a corruption conviction against former president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva. The conviction — which is accompanied by a nine-and-a-half year jail sentence — is based almost entirely on the testimony of a convicted criminal who, in exchange for a deposition incriminating Lula, has seen his sentence reduced by 80 percent. Judge Sergio Moro, who convicted Lula in July of last year, has had a record of biased and even illegal actions targeting Lula, including leaking intercepted phone conversations to the media and arbitrarily arresting the former president to make a deposition, despite the fact that he had never shown unwillingness to testify.

Lula, who remains one of the most popular politicians in Brazil, is planning on launching his campaign for reelection to the presidency on January 25, the day after the appeals hearing. But if the appellate court, which has already shown signs of bias against Lula, upholds Moro’s conviction, it may prevent the former president from running.

Last week, 13 members of the U.S. Congress, including the two Progressive Caucus co-chairs Mark Pocan and Raúl Grijalva, DNC deputy chair Keith Ellison and senior Democrats such as Marcy Kaptur, Maxine Waters and Jan Schakowsky, signed a letter calling on Brazilian authorities to protect Lula’s due process rights going forward. The letter discusses the judicial persecution of Lula and states that “the clearly politicized nature of the judicial proceedings against Lula thus far has placed vital democratic institutions and citizens’ faith in them at risk. The upcoming presidential election and subsequent administration will be tainted if the judicial system is viewed as having failed to act with impartiality and respect for fundamental rights.”

Kozol: Inequality, “Virtually Total Segregation” in Schools Breeding Rage

AP recently reported: “Connecticut’s Supreme Court has rejected a claim by a coalition of municipalities, parents and students that the state’s educational funding formula is unconstitutional.

“A divided court overturned a lower-court judge who had ordered state officials to develop plans for an overhaul of the state’s public education system, citing a huge gap in test scores between students in rich and poor towns.”

JONATHAN KOZOL, jonathankozol at gmail.com, @jonathan_kozol
Available for a limited number of interviews, Kozol has worked with children in inner-city schools for nearly 50 years and has authored several books that have won numerous awards, including: Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools, The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America and Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation.

He said today: “Amazing! A high court in Connecticut sees no obligation to equalize school funding between poor and wealthy districts in that historically unequal state. Instead of giving poor black and Latino kids in impoverished cities such as Bridgeport an equal shot at education and a decent and rewarding life, the state simply piles on more testing and insists that kids be held ‘accountable’ if they cannot do as well as their peers in super-wealthy Darien and Greenwich.

“This is a disturbing pattern everywhere in the United States today. Don’t give poor kids the most experienced and best compensated teachers. Don’t give them small classes or the three full years of preschool that the children of the privileged enjoy. Don’t even dream of ending the virtually total segregation to which the state and nation have returned. Then hold them all accountable, not for their sins, but for ours.

“If weary semi-liberals in Connecticut, one of the nation’s richest states, lack the will to treat poor kids with fairness, they’re going to plant seeds of rage that will come back to haunt them.”

Davos: Richest 1% Got 82% of Wealth Last Year

Oxfam just released a report on global inequality, saying: “Eighty two percent of the wealth generated last year went to the richest one percent of the global population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half of the world saw no increase in their wealth, according to a new Oxfam report released today. The report is being released as political and business elites, including President Trump, are heading to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum.

“Oxfam’s report, ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth,’ reveals how the global economy enables the wealthy elite to capture vast wealth while hundreds of millions of people struggle to survive on poverty pay. This includes the stunning new finding that the economy created a new billionaire every other day over a period of one year.

“‘There’s a billionaire boom but most people are treading water in a stagnant global economy,’ said Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s vice president for policy and campaigns. ‘A perfect storm is driving up the bargaining power of those at the top while driving down the bargaining power of those at the bottom. If such inequality remains unaddressed, it will trap people in poverty and further fracture our society.’

“Oxfam’s report outlines the key factors driving up rewards for inherited wealth, shareholders and corporate executives at the expense of workers’ pay and conditions. These include the erosion of workers’ rights, the excessive influence of big business and wealthy interests over government policy-making, and the relentless corporate drive to minimize costs in order to maximize returns to shareholders.

“While President Trump was elected on the promise to fix the rigged political and economic system, the tax bill he championed and signed into law just weeks ago will only further rig the rules in favor of the rich and powerful and deepen the inequality crisis. Corporations will get massive tax cuts and wealthy heirs will get more untaxed inheritance. In Davos, President Trump will do a victory lap with the primary beneficiaries of his policy agenda, which has largely focused on boosting the incomes of the extremely wealthy while doing grave damage to the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world.”

LAURA RUSU, laura.rusu at oxfam.org, @Oxfam
Rusu is policy and campaigns media manager for the international humanitarian organization Oxfam America.

Toxic Oilfield Wastewater Used to Grow California Food, Including Organics

Food and Water Watch recently released a statement: “Are families around the country — and around the globe — eating California produce grown with toxic water from oil drilling? If they consume Halos Mandarins, POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, Wonderful pistachios, Sunview Raisins, Bee Sweet citrus or Sutter Home wine, they may well be. Those companies grow some of their products in four water districts in California’s Central Valley that buy wastewater from Chevron and other oil companies’ drill sites. Now, Food & Water Watch is announcing a campaign to ban the practice, which threatens our food, farm workers and the environment, with a new documentary by noted filmmaker Jon Bowermaster and a campaign videocapturing shocked reactions from people who previewed the video last week in front of Whole Foods’ headquarters in Austin, Texas.

“‘It’s time to shine a light on the risky yet under-the-radar use of toxic oil wastewater to grow our crops,’ said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. ‘People are shocked when they hear that the food — even organic food — that they give to their kids is grown in districts where this is happening.’ Nearly 40 percent of all organic produce grown in the U.S. comes from California.

“‘This practice is more deceptive than even pink slime,’ said Food & Water Watch California’s director, Adam Scow, referring to the controversial industry practice of mixing heavily processed, disinfected beef scraps into hamburger. ‘So-called healthy brands grown in these districts are using toxic waste to grow crops and then labeling them as pure goodness.’

“According to the state, four water districts in California (Cawelo Water District, North Kern Water District, Jasmin Mutual Water District, and Kern-Tulare Water District) receive up to 16 billion gallons of wastewater each year — enough to fill 25,000 Olympic-sized pools — from oil companies that can be used in the systems that provide water for irrigating crops. The oilfield wastewater is minimally processed and mixed with fresh water and sold to farmers for crop irrigation.

“The crops are not routinely tested for toxic chemicals. A recent study found that nearly 40 percent of the chemicals used by the companies providing oil wastewater to the districts are classified as ‘trade secrets’ or could not otherwise be identified, and known chemicals include several that cause cancer or reproductive harm, such as ethylbenzene and toluene.”

For interviews, contact:

JULIE LIGHT, jlight at fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
DARCEY RAKESTRAW, drakestraw at fwwatch.org

Dark Money, Not Russia, Best Explains Trump’s Win

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. His books include Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems.

Vice just ran an interview with Ferguson: “Dark Money, Not Russia, May Be the Best Way to Explain Trump’s Win.” The interview is largely based on a new in-depth working paper and analysis of the role money played in 2016 Ferguson co-authored with Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen, “Industrial Structure and Party Competition in an Age of Hunger Games: Donald Trump and the 2016 Presidential Election.” [PDF]

A central finding of the paper: “In the final weeks of the campaign, a giant wave of dark money flowed into the campaign. Because it was dark the identity of the donors is shrouded. But our scrutiny of past cases where court litigation brought to light the true contributors suggests that most of this money probably came from the same types of firms that show up in the published listings. In our data, the sudden influx of money from private equity and hedge funds clearly began with the Convention but turned into a torrent only after [Steve] Bannon and [Kellyanne] Conway took over. We are interested to see that after the election some famous private equity managers who do not appear in the visible roster of campaign donors showed up prominently around the President. …

“In the end, total spending on behalf of Trump from all sources totaled slightly more than $861 million — within reasonable hailing distance of the Clinton campaign’s $1.4 billion (including Super PACs, etc.), especially considering how late serious fundraising efforts started.”

The paper also notes: “Bolstering suspicions that a wave of last minute money might actually be the most basic explanation for the Clinton collapse is a fact that virtually no analysts have reflected upon: Her late October fall in the polls was not unique. Democratic chances of taking the Senate unraveled virtually in lock step. … The notion that [James] Comey or even the Russians could be responsible for both collapses is outlandish. Something else must in large part have driven both outcomes. Parallel waves of money is the obvious explanation and our data show that both occurred precisely in the relevant time period. … For the first time in the entire history of the United States, the partisan outcome of Senate races coincided perfectly with the results of every state’s presidential balloting.”

Regarding the alleged role of Russia, the paper notes: “Breitbart and other organizations were in fact going global, opening offices abroad and establishing contacts with like-minded groups elsewhere. Whatever the Russians were up to, they could hardly hope to add much value to the vast Made in America bombardment already underway. … The Senate Intelligence Committee hearings produced truly microscopic numbers for putative Russian efforts directed at the key battleground states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan: For Wisconsin, $1,979, with all but $54 dollars of this spent during the primary. …

“With no publicity, the tech giants — Google, Facebook, Twitter — were all trying to muscle in on the richly rewarding arena of campaign consulting. Their aim was not to ‘weaponize’ internet ads, in the ominous sounding term that analysts of Russian internet now throw around – their interest lay in monetizing them, just as they have restlessly tried to do in everything they engage in.”

Meanwhile, the Clinton “campaign sought to capitalize on the angst within business by vigorously courting the doubtful and undecideds there, not in the electorate. The result is evident in our Table 7, in which — with the possible exception of 1964 — the Clinton campaign looks like no other Democratic campaign since the New Deal. The Clinton campaign reached far into sectors and firms that have rarely supported any Democrat. …

“With respect to the Sanders campaign, these tables show something we are confident is without precedent in American politics not just since the New Deal, but across virtually the whole of American history, waiving the dubious case of the legendary 1896 election: a major presidential candidate waging a strong, highly competitive campaign whose support from big business is essentially zero.”

[Note: The independent journalist Robert Parry, who did ground-breaking work on Iran-Contra and other major stories and founded Consortiumnews, died on Saturday. See piece by his son and co-author, Nat Parry.]

Robert Parry, ConsortiumNews Founder Who Challenged the Establishment, Dies

The media watch group FAIR writes: “Journalism lost one of its most valuable investigators when Robert Parry died from pancreatic cancer on January 27, at the age of 68. He was the first reporter to reveal Oliver North’s operation in the White House basement (AP, 6/10/1985), and the co-author of the first report on Contra drug-smuggling (AP, 12/21/1985). He did some of the most important work investigating the 1980 Reagan campaign’s efforts to delay the return of U.S. hostages held in Iran, a scandal known as the October Surprise.

“After breaking his first big stories with the Associated Press, Bob moved on to Newsweek and then later PBS‘s Frontline. Frustrated with the limits and compromises of corporate media — he was once told that a story on Contra financial skullduggery had to be watered down because Newsweek owner Katharine Graham was having Henry Kissinger as a weekend guest (Media Beat, 4/23/98) — Bob launched his own online outlet, ConsortiumNews.”

See also New York Times obituary.

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, Solomon writes in The Nation: “No one knew better than Bob Parry how intelligence agencies and major media outlets can create a cascading frenzy. Beginning in late 2016, Bob was prolific as he debunked the torrent of hyperbolic claims about Russia that became an ever-present flood across the U.S. media landscape. Some progressive sites went from often posting his articles in 2016 to rarely or never posting them in 2017.”

Some of Parry’s pieces over the last year at ConsortiumNews include “The Lost Journalistic Standards of Russia-gate,” “Trump Falls in Line with Interventionism” and “Why Not a Probe of ‘Israel-gate’?” After suffering a stroke on Christmas Eve, Bob Parry wrote a piece titled “An Apology and Explanation.”

NAT PARRY, ndtparry at gmail.com, Skype: natparry76, @ConsortiumNews
Nat Parry co-authored Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush with Bob Parry and is one of his sons. He will be leaving the U.S. on Tuesday for Denmark, where he is based. He recently wrote a widely circulated overview piece on his father’s work, including how journalist Gary Webb (who committed suicide) built on Bob Parry’s work on Contra cocaine and was harshly attacked by establishment media; the Obama era and “Political Realignment and the New McCarthyism.” Nat appeared on the radio program “Flashpoints” Monday night with journalists Dennis Bernstein and John Pilger (who presented Bob with the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism last year). The program was devoted to Bob’s work.

DIANE DUSTON, dduston429 at aol.com
Duston was married to Bob for over 30 years. They met working at the AP in the 1980s. She is Nat’s stepmother. She said today of Bob’s work as an investigative reporter: “He had this incredible capacity to dig through documents and find the threads of truth there. I was more of a breaking news reporter, I enjoyed managing people and helping young reporters. … It all ended too soon.”

In 2015, Parry was awarded the I.F. Stone Medal for Journalistic Independence by the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. See his remarks which include a description of how he found top secret documents about the October Surprise in an abandoned ladies room in a U.S. Capitol building. These documents were what initially compelled him to start ConsortiumNews on the Internet. In his address, he stresses the importance of not having preferred outcomes for stories: “I don’t care what the truth is, I just care what the truth is.”

This in-depth interview with Mark Ames from 2017 includes a description of how Parry dug up parts of the Iran-Contra scandal, including by playing different factions of the Contras against each other. Parry also talks about the necessity of funding truly independent media outlets.

Parry’s books include Fooling America: How Washington Insiders Twist the Truth and Manufacture the Conventional Wisdom, Trick or Treason: The 1980 October Surprise Mystery and America’s Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes to Obama.

Trump Echos Apple’s PR: American Dream or Corporate Serfdom?

Trump claimed in the State of the Union last night: “The stock market has smashed one record after another. … Apple has just announced it plans to invest a total of $350 billion in America, and hire another 20,000 workers. … This, in fact, is our new American moment. There has never been a better time to start living the American Dream.”

JAMES HENRY, jamesshelburnehenry at mac.com, @submergingmkt
Henry recently wrote the piece “The Apple Tax Giveaway” for The American Interest.

Henry said today: “Trump lied. The $350 billion is not new U.S. investment; it is (promised) supplier purchases. Thirty billion dollars is the investment number and it was all in the pipeline (as were 20,000 U.S. jobs); and it now all qualifies for 100 percent depreciation the year it is made, if made by 2023. … The stock market would skyrocket if you gave the national parks to corporations too.”

Henry writes in the recent piece that Apple’s effective tax rate will be incredibly low: “A careful reading of the new tax bill reveals that Apple and its MNC [multinational corporations] brethren are not actually required to pay this ‘repatriation tax’ bill on their accumulated offshore stash now, but will have up to eight years to do so — interest free! — despite the glaringly obvious fact that Apple has plenty of ways to make money off the deferred cash in the meantime. …

“Most of the ‘new jobs’ and spending have nothing to do with the tax cuts; they are linear extensions of Apple’s pre-tax cut behavior …

“Furthermore, [Apple’s] press release intentionally skates past the question of precisely how Apple will be affected by the new tax law. It is especially careful to avoid mentioning that — as already reflected in its recent stock price surge — Apple is almost certain to be the tax heist’s largest single corporate beneficiary by far.

“As such, this latest Apple PR campaign easily outdistances ordinary run-of-the-mill efforts at corporate self-promotion. It represents a willful effort to bury all the gory details about how this massive transfer of public wealth will actually work. Indeed, the very tone of the release implies that Apple’s fellow American taxpayers should basically feel grateful that it is willing to pay any corporate taxes whatsoever — as if Apple were not just a giant capitalist corporation, spending every waking moment figuring out how to maximize profits and minimize taxes; as if it were some medieval lord, sitting in his brand-new circular castle, saddling the peasants with all of the tax burdens and common soldiering that keep the commonwealth safe in exchange for the sheer unadulterated privilege of being lied and sold to.”

Henry’s books include include The Pirate Bankers.

Stressing Free Speech, Court Strikes Down Israel Boycott Punishment

Nora Barrows-Friedman reports in the Electronic Intifada: “An Israeli lawfare group tied to the Mossad — Israel’s deadly spy agency — is suing two New Zealand activists for ‘influencing’ pop singer Lorde to cancel her Tel Aviv gig in late December.” See the response from the two activists, Nadia Abu-Shanab and Justine Sachs, “Israel’s Bullying and Intimidation Tactics Will Not Silence Us.”

Glenn Greenwald writes in The Intercept: “A federal judge on Tuesday ruled that a Kansas law designed to punish people who boycott Israel is an unconstitutional denial of free speech.” The plaintiff, Esther Koontz recently wrote: “I’m a member of the Mennonite Church. I’ve also been a math teacher for almost a decade. Because of my political views, the state of Kansas has decided that I can’t help it train other math teachers.” See her full statement on the website of the ACLU, which represents her.

Greenwald adds: “Beyond the court’s emphatic rationale, the decision is significant because repressive measures like this have spread, and continue to spread, far beyond Kansas. Indeed, as we have repeatedly reported and documented, the single greatest threat to free speech in the West — and in the U.S. — is the coordinated, growing campaign to outlaw and punish those who advocate for or participate in activism to end the Israeli occupation. …

“Last year, a measure sponsored by Benjamin Cardin, a Democratic senator from Maryland and an AIPAC loyalist, joined by 43 other senators, went even further, purporting to impose prison sentences and large fines for anyone working with international organizations to boycott Israel.”

DIMA KHALIDI, dkhalidi at palestinelegal.org, @pal_legal
Khalidi is director of Palestine Legal and is cooperating counsel with the Center for Constitutional Rights. She said today: “This preliminary injunction affirmed what we have been saying for years: that boycotts for Palestinian rights are political protests protected by the First Amendment. Twenty-four states have enacted similar laws in the past three years, and Congress is currently considering the draconian Israel Anti-Boycott Act. This injunction should be a wake-up call to those state and federal lawmakers: stop trampling on our constitutional rights to shield Israel from criticism. Now more than ever we need lawmakers willing to protect and defend the constitution.”

Producers may want to use Lorde’s [actually Sia‘s] “Push” as intro music for any segment on this.

Amazon: Profits at What Price?

Reuters reports: “Amazon.com Inc. on Thursday reported a profit near $2 billion, the largest in its history, as the online retailer drew millions of new customers to its Prime fast-shipping club for the holiday season and as changes to U.S. tax law added to its bottom line.”

The Guardian reports in: “Amazon patents wristband that tracks warehouse workers’ movements” that the “Bracelet, which can vibrate to point an employee’s hand in the right direction, would further increase surveillance of work environment.”

COLIN ROBINSON, colin.robinson at orbooks.com, @orbooks
Co-publisher of OR Books, Robinson wrote the piece “The Trouble With Amazon” for The Nation. He said today: “Amazon’s new wristbands are just the latest development in the company’s use of technology that de-humanizes work. Perhaps they could also give them to writers to help them put words on the page. Writers certainly need some help — their advances from publishers have been driven down sharply as a result of Amazon demanding ever steeper discounts.”

See also past Institute for Public Accuracy news releases on Amazon including “Trump Administration ‘Rubber Stamps’ Amazon-Whole Foods Merger,” “Is Amazon Ripping Off Taxpayers?” and “Amazon-CIA $600 Million Deal Facing Scrutiny: ‘What’s the CIA Doing on Amazon’s Cloud?'”

“Massive Victory”: Britain Stops Extradition to U.S. of Activist Lauri Love

Tom Cheshire and Alexander J. Martin report for Sky News: “Hacking suspect Lauri Love wins appeal against extradition.”

NAOMI COLVIN, NATHAN FULLER, nathan.fuller at couragefound.org@couragefound
Colvin and Fuller are with the Courage Foundation, which supports whistleblowers and which has helped lead the campaign against Love’s extradition. Fuller is formerly with the Manning Support Network.

Courage Foundation just released a statement: “In a major victory for Lauri Love, the High Court has approved his appeal and quashed his extradition. As Courage Case Director Naomi Colvin said, ‘This ruling is a massive victory for free expression online, for the fair treatment of neurodiverse people and for those of us who have drawn attention to the dire treatment of hackers and information activists in the United States.’

“The High Court judges disagreed with the District Court on whether the forum bar should apply in Lauri’s case and on the prospect of proper medical care to treat the likely risk of suicide should Lauri have been sent to a U.S. prison. …

“The judges felt that the District Judge leaned too heavily on testimony to the effect that no prisoner commits suicide while on suicide watch, the U.S. prison’s term for 24/7 monitoring of at-risk inmates. The High Court argued, ‘Suicide watch is not a form of treatment; there is no evidence that treatment would or could be made available on suicide watch for the very conditions which suicide watch itself exacerbates.’

“This ruling marks the first successful use of the forum bar, created in the wake of Gary McKinnon’s case, to protect a UK citizen from being unduly extradited to the United States. It also throws much-needed light on the U.S. prison conditions, so lacking in adequate medical care as to put suicidal inmates at further risk.

“Finally, the judges noted that it is now on the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] to endeavor to try Lauri Love in the United Kingdom. The CPS has 14 days to find new arguments with which to appeal this ruling. Courage will continue to support Lauri Love and his family until his situation is resolved.”

U.S. Nuclear Stance Toward Russia Increasing Existential Threats

GREG MELLO, gmello at lasg.org, @TrishABQ
Mello is executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group. The group put out a statement on the U.S. government’s major nuclear policy statement, the Nuclear Posture Review. A new NPR was release on Fridayafternoon — which was last updated in 2010.

The Los Alamos Study Group’s statement is available at: “Nuclear Posture Review Calls for Continuing Weapons Modernization — Minus ‘Interoperable’ Warhead, Plus New Nuclear Attack Options.”

Mello said today: “What is most ‘missing in action’ in this document is civilian leadership. Trump is not supplying that. In part the fault for this comes from Democrats — who, allied with the intelligence community and other military-industrial interests, insist that the U.S. must have an adversarial relationship with Russia. There is no organized senior-level opposition to the new Cold War, which is intensifying week by week. This document reflects, and is just one of many policies embodying, the new and very dangerous Cold War.

“Unfortunately the ‘hard power’ approach that we see in this NPR eliminates better options as it proceeds and creates the enemies it needs to justify high military expenditures. Fear is used to create more fear — and more appropriations. In that sense, our nuclear missiles are aimed at Congress. They are also aimed at the American people, whose nuclear fears were consciously cultivated and used as a social control mechanism by government in the first Cold War.

“The low-yield Trident warheads are a gratuitous self-inflicted wound on the supposed rationale of the nuclear mission. … [A]ny use of nuclear weapons — anywhere, against any adversary, with any yield, under any circumstance — will immediately lead to existential dangers for the United States and the world. …

“Starting in Obama’s second term, neoconservatives began to be ascendant. Their goal was then and is now to conquer — to ‘break’ — Russia, in the summation of Henry Kissinger, and to contain China, and thus to rule the world. That is the context of this document, and that is why it is consequential and frightening. To say, ‘Look at the terrifying things Trump is saying!’ is to miss the deeper point that successful conflict with Russia has been the entire thrust of U.S. policy for several years now. This is just another expression of it, in the nuclear weapons arena.”

Honduras: After Stolen Election, Escalating Regime Violence, Backed by U.S.

JESSE FREESTON, [Currently in Tegucigalpa, Honduras], me at jessefreeston.com
Freeston has been publishing from Honduras, as a video-journalist and documentary filmmaker, for the last eight years, ever since the 2009 coup d’état. His work includes the acclaimed feature documentary “Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley.” In the past two weeks he has produced video reports for The Real News and “Democracy Now en Español.”

Jesse said today: “Just in the past few weeks this regime has: stolen an election; ignored calls from the Organization of American States to hold a new election; passed a law prohibiting the prosecution of all former and current members of Congress in the midst of a series of massive corruption scandals; appointed a new national police chief who has clear evidence against him of drug trafficking; tried two civilian activists inside a military base on dubious charges; been caught paying poor residents $25 each to attend the presidential inauguration; and sent military and police to attack protests arising from the above abuses. On multiple occasions they have fired live bullets into crowds; leaving at least 20 people dead and receiving a denunciation from the UN. In this context; not a single foreign government sent a foreign minister or head of state to Juan Orlando Hernández’s inauguration. But while foreign governments may prefer to avoid photographs with Hernández they continue sending the money and arms which uphold his regime.” He also highlights an analysis by The Economistmagazine on the evidence of electoral fraud.

KEN JONES, jonesk at maine.edu
Jones just returned from a delegation of fifty people, mostly clergy, to Honduras and wrote the piece “Accompaniment in Honduras,” which states: “In particular, the life of Jesuit priest and native Honduran Father Ismael Moreno, known as Padre Melo, is in danger. Possibly as well known as the assassinated Berta Caceres, Melo is the director of Radio Progreso, an independent station that reports on human rights violations, police and military abuses, and the work of dissidents and protectors of the land and waters. A humble and soft-spoken man, he is a spiritual and political leader who has not minced words as he has pointed to the illegal and brutal behaviors of the Honduran government and elites. He has also denounced the United States for its support of the regime, and for its hypocrisy in certifying Honduras as having an acceptable human rights record. Now his picture is featured on a flyer being circulated purporting to depict terrorists in El Progreso, in what could well be a prelude to his assassination.”

See in America magazine: “Jesuits issue open letter denouncing ‘grave threats’ against Honduran priest.”

See Twitter list: accuracy/lists/honduras.

Another Great Crash?

 

JAMES K. GALBRAITH, galbraith at mail.utexas.edu
Galbraith holds the Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin where he founded the University of Texas Inequality Project.

His most recent books include Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford, 2016), Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe (Yale, 2016) and The End of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth (Free Press, 2014).

He said today: “Once again we hear that the ‘fundamentals are strong.’ This is irrelevant. What matters for the economy going forward is not past performance but the balance of confidence and fear.

“The stock boom was driven by low interest rates, share buy-backs and a falling dollar. Now, with the tax cuts in place and the latest wage report, it became clear that there were no obstacles to further increases in interest rates, flattening the yield curve. In this situation, equity investors fear losses and a flight to safety follows. This is now happening worldwide.

“If the Federal Reserve continues to raise interest rates, and even more so if it picks up the pace, the dollar will stop falling, and perhaps again start to rise. A funding crisis in the rest of the world (hinted at by some analysts) would produce yet another flight to safety and increase these effects. A financial crisis, exposing the weak position of some of the world’s largest banks, would likely end growth altogether, and not merely in the U.S. And yet, on the other hand, a reversal-of-course at this stage would reveal the fecklessness of the decision to start raising rates in the first place. In this situation, based on the record, expect the Fed to stay on course until disaster really strikes — and then to claim that ‘no one could have foreseen it.’

“As for the fundamentals, they aren’t sound. The expansion has gone on for a long time, the stock market remains overvalued, and household debts were piling up. Many provisions in the recent tax law will reduce middle class purchasing power and home values and economic security, and the ability of state and local governments to maintain tax effort and public services. These will tend to discourage the growth of business investment, despite greater corporate cash flow and despite the near-term boost to incomes from the tax cuts.

“The stated economic policy objective of the Trump administration has been to raise the rate of economic growth on a sustained basis, from the 2 percent or so characteristic of the post-crisis expansion to at least 3 percent and if possible beyond. The stock break does not by itself derail this goal for 2018, at least, not yet. But it makes clear that financial and economic risks, instabilities and crises have not gone away — and that a growth strategy rooted in the stock market is necessarily doomed to collapse at some point.”

Thousands Decry MSNBC Ignoring U.S.-Backed Carnage in Yemen While Obsessing Over Russia

Sponsors of a petition with 22,784 signers and 4,474 individual comments — asking MSNBC to remedy an extreme imbalance of news coverage — announced Wednesday that the network and its primetime stars Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes have refused to respond despite repeated requests for a reply.

The petition was submitted more than 10 days ago to Maddow and Hayes via their producers as well as to MSNBC senior vice president Errol Cockfield. The petition also went to Kristen Osborne, the network’s senior manager in charge of media relations for “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “All In with Chris Hayes.”

Signers responded to outreach from three organizations — Just Foreign Policy, RootsAction.org and World Beyond War — calling for concerned individuals to “urge Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, and MSNBC to correct their failure to report on the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and the direct U.S. military role in causing the catastrophe by signing our petition.”

The petition is still gathering signers.

The petition — which tells MSNBC to “stop censoring the U.S.-assisted carnage in Yemen” — came after a January 8 report by the media watch group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) that documented the near-total absence of Yemen coverage by the network.Meanwhile, the study — titled “MSNBC Ignores Catastrophic U.S.-Backed War in Yemen” — documented that “in these latter roughly six months of the year [2017], MSNBC ran nearly 5,000 percent more segments that mentioned Russia than segments that mentioned Yemen.”

Sponsors of the petition noted that MSNBC “did not run a single segment devoted specifically to the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen in the second half of 2017, even though — or perhaps because — the U.S. government has played a key role in creating the catastrophe.”

Citing the FAIR data, the organizations pointed out: “In all of 2017, MSNBC only aired one broadcast on the U.S.-assisted Saudi airstrikes that have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. And it never mentioned Yemen’s cholera epidemic, which infected more than 1 million Yemenis in the largest outbreak in recorded history, a direct result of the U.S.-assisted Saudi/UAE war and blockade.”

Interviews Available:

BEN NORTON, email at bennorton.com, @BenjaminNorton
A reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project, Norton wrote the study “MSNBC Ignores Catastrophic U.S.-Backed War in Yemen” for FAIR.

ROBERT NAIMAN, naiman at justforeignpolicy.org, @naiman
Naiman is policy director at Just Foreign Policy, one of the groups organizing the petition. His pieces on Yemen include “Rand Paul: Unconstitutional Saudi War in Yemen Is Not in Our Interest and Congress Should Vote.”

Military Parade — and Escalating Budget

LINDSAY KOSHGARIAN, lkoshgarian at nationalpriorities.org, @natpriorities
Koshgarian is program director of the National Priorities Project, which just tweeted “Want to show ‘appreciation’ for troops? 1) Keep them out of pointless wars. 2) Invest in full pay & benefits. 3) Take better care of those who do return from war. And really, #1 is too often forgotten.”

Party leaders in the Senate say they have reached a budget agreement to increase military and domestic spending levels for two years.

Koshgarian said today: “Once again, Congress is selling the false story that we can finally be safe if only we hand over more money to the Pentagon. And once again, our health and future here at home comes in second, with an $80 billion discretionary increase for the Pentagon and nuclear weapons and a so-called ‘match’ of just $63 billion for everything else, ranging from the State Department to the National Institutes of Health, from public schools to Head Start. Adding insult to injury, the deal also includes an additional $71 billion for the Pentagon and nuclear weapons in a separate ‘war’ fund for which there is no equivalent in domestic spending. It’s time to stop short-changing our communities.”

She recently wrote the piece “Cut off the Pentagon Funds and Stop the March to War,” which states: “We spend more than the next eight countries combined. We spend nearly three times as much as China, nearly nine times as much as Russia, and North Korea and ISIS don’t even rate on this scale. U.S. military spending is higher than the entire GDP of Sweden. Our Pentagon is a country unto itself.”

During the campaign, candidate Trump stated: “We’ve spent $4 trillion trying to topple various people that frankly, if they were there and if we could’ve spent that $4 trillion in the United States to fix our roads, our bridges, and all of the other problems — our airports and all of the other problems we’ve had — we would’ve been a lot better off. I can tell you that right now.” See video.

 

Does Trump Decide on War?

NBC News reports today: “Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine is demanding the release of a secret memo outlining President Trump’s interpretation of his legal authority to wage war.

“Kaine, a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, sent a letter Thursday night to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seeking a 7-page memo the administration has kept under wraps for months. …

“There is a new urgency to obtain the memo given increasing U.S. involvement in Syria and recent Trump administration rhetoric on North Korea. Shortly after the 2017 bombing raid [on Syria], several members of Congress called on Trump to justify it under U.S. and international law. Article I of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. …

“‘The fact that there is a lengthy memo with a more detailed legal justification that has not been shared with Congress, or the American public, is unacceptable,’ Kaine said in the letter to Tillerson, obtained by NBC News.”

The Washington Post reports in “U.S. troops may be at risk of ‘mission creep’ after a deadly battle in the Syrian desert“: “The Syrian government accused the United States of ‘aggression’ in launching the strikes, which it said killed ‘scores’ of people. Russia denounced the U.S. presence in Syria as ‘illegal’ and accused the United States of seeking to seize Syria’s oil.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “There’s no ‘mission creep,’ it’s clear the U.S. government has been using ISIS as a pretext to illegally intervene in Syria. None of the stated rationales for U.S. military involvement — including the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force or alleged ‘self-defense’ or buttressing the 2002 authorization regarding Iraq — are remotely legally valid. Syria has a sovereign government, the U.S. government should get out. The AUMFs should be rescinded.

“This memo that Kaine refers to was likely written by these Federalist Society lawyers that Trump has surrounded himself with, just like George W. Bush did.”

In September 2001, Boyle warned on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release that the 2001 AUMF would be like the “Tonkin Gulf Resolution, which the Johnson administration used to provide dubious legal cover for massive escalation of the Vietnam War.”

Last year, after Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. claimed that the authority to attack Syria stemmed from the 2001 AUMF, Boyle stated: “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.” See “Need to ‘Repeal the Perpetual Illegal Wars.’”

Boyle’s books include Foundations of World Order: The Legalist Approach to International Relations (Duke University Press).

Olympics: How NBC, Pence Get Korea Wrong


CBS Marketwatch reports today: “NBC was forced to fire one of its Olympic analysts after he inexplicably said Koreans are grateful for Japan’s role in their economic development — while ignoring the one-time imperial power’s brutalization of the peninsula. The Peacock Network was left red-faced by weird comments of corporate bigwig Joshua Cooper Ramo, whom 30 Rock worked as a commentator for coverage of opening ceremonies of the Olympics in Pyeongchang on Friday.” See Twitter feed of D.C.-based Korea specialist @TimothyS, who has been critiquing NBC’s coverage, including the comments by Ramo, a Henry Kissinger protege.

CHRISTINE AHN, christineahn at mac.com, @christineahn
Founder of Women Cross DMZ, Ahn recently appeared on The Real News segment “Trump, Pence Rain on Koreas’ Olympic Unity Parade.” Last month, her group backed “inter-Korean dialogue and the Olympics truce.” Ahn just tweeted: “The U.S. can’t be ‘open to talks’ with North Korea while maintaining its hostile ‘Maximum Pressure’ policies of decapitation strikes, isolation and hurting innocent lives. Thank goodness for [President of South Korea] Moon’s charm offensive; it’s not the U.S., but South Korea, working Maximum Engagement.” Regarding the U.S. and Japan, she stated: “How ironic the two countries with large and heavy military footprints on Korean soil in the last century can’t even celebrate Korean unity.”

CHRISTINE HONG, cjhong at ucsc.edu, @kpolicyo
Hong is an associate professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute. She wrote the piece “The Long, Dirty History of U.S. Warmongering against North Korea” for The Progressive. She said today: “The Olympics have introduced welcome respite from the Trump administration’s reckless hurtling down the pathway of war against North Korea. Yet, through both words and deeds, including the deployment of nuclear-capable B-2 and B-52 bombers to Guam, this administration has signaled its desire to conduct a so-called limited strike against North Korea — an action that positions millions of South Koreans, supposedly a historical U.S. ally, as permissible collateral damage. Even as Trump in his recent State of the Union address has sought to take a page out of the George W. Bush interventionist human rights playbook by pointing to the suffering of ordinary citizens under ‘the cruel dictatorship in North Korea,’ the human rights issue that should concern us all right now is the prospect of aggressive war by the United States.”

Israel’s Attempts to Destabilize Syria

Reuters reports this morning: “Israel will face ‘more surprises’ should it again attack Syrian territory, Damascus said on Tuesday, after Syria’s air defenses shot down an advanced Israeli warplane during the fiercest flare-up between the old foes in 36 years.”

JAFAR JAFARI, jijafari at yahoo.com
Jafari is with Al-Mayadeen, a Beirut-based pan-Arab news channel. He said today: “Israel has of course been trying to destabilize Syria for some time. Israel’s protests that its sovereignty is under attack are completely backwards. Israel regularly attacks Syria (and violates Lebanese airspace as well).

“As the blog Moon of Alabama recently noted: ‘This escalation comes after a series of recent provocations against the Russian forces in Syria, [Friday’s] U.S. attack on Syrian forces, last week’s Israeli threats against Lebanon and dozens of Israeli air attacks on alleged Hizbullah or Iranian installations in Syria.’

“Hizbullah seems to be succeeding in creating a united front against Israel in both Lebanon and Syria.

“This does seem to come at a bad time for Israel, with U.S. envoys in the region, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. One thing on his agenda: Getting Lebanon to accede to Israeli demands regarding oil drilling disputes off their coasts.

“One goal that Israel seems to be pursuing is to have al Nusra — the Syrian branch of al Qaeda — as a buffer proxy force inside Syria. This is similar to what Israel did in southern Lebanon with the South Lebanon Army.”

Al-Mayadeen was 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 after the Arab uprisings began.

See Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “The Israeli-ISIS Accommodation and Other Inconvenient Realities.”

Feb. 15 at 15: Iraq Invasion Opposition and the “Second Super Power”

Feb. 15, 2003, 15 years ago Thursday, saw massive protests around the world opposing the impending U.S. invasion of Iraq, which began on March 20.

MIKE ZMOLEK, mike.zmolek at gmail.com
Zmolek served as national coordinator for the National Network to End the War Against Iraq (NNEWAI) between 2001 and 2004. He now teaches history and international studies at the University of Iowa. He said today: “On February 15, 2003, an estimated 15 million people world-wide took to the streets to protest the impending U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, shattering any prior records for turnout at popular protests. There were massive protests in London, Madrid, New York, Barcelona, Rome, Johannesburg, Tokyo, Hong Kong and hundreds of other cities, leading the New York Times to call the anti-war movement the ‘second super power.’ [See news video clips and excerpt from documentary “February 15th, 2003: The Day the World Said No to War.”]

“The date had been set by the Stop the War Coalition in Britain, then chaired by Jeremy Corbyn — now leader of the Labor Party. I organized a reception for Corbyn in Washington, D.C. in January 2003 and played an instrumental role in persuading the then recently-formed United for Peace (and Justice) Coalition to organize U.S. participation in the Feb. 15 protests.

“It was not a done deal that the U.S. coalition would join in that day. Much of the leadership of the coalition actually opposed it, but ultimately, they saw the wisdom in following the UK’s lead.

“At the time, most of us knew the protests were coming too late to stop the invasion. Had we been able to galvanize such large protests say, six months earlier, we might well have halted the invasion, which destabilized Iraq and brought massive suffering and destruction to its people.

“Our grassroots coalition, NNEWAI, commemorated the date one year later by organizing vigils in 120 cities internationally, most in the U.S. The idea of building on the show of strength shown on Feb. 15, 2003 never caught on with major national peace groups, however, as they chose instead to organize mid-March events, on the anniversary of the invasion — meaning we were commemorating our inability to stop the invasion.

“Other protests held shortly before the elections in D.C while Bush was in office became largely an ‘anti-Bush’ thing. When Obama came into office, turnout for protests inside the U.S. decreased dramatically and the Obama administration was effectively able continue to prosecute these wars largely unopposed.

“In the age of Trump, we are back to a policy outlook which echos Mahmood Mamdani’s book title Good Muslims, Bad Muslims, where it is acceptable to support ‘our Muslims,’ whilst ‘bad Muslims’ are to be targeted. This reification of the Arab other-as-terrorist serves as a damper on critiques of the U.S.-led or sponsored wars in the Middle East. Showing solidarity with that region’s oppressed is generally framed by the media as showing sympathy for terrorism, so the left is largely mute when it comes to these wars, which have been a boon for military contractors but a disaster for the peoples Southwest Asia, while the right applauds them.

“With the rise of the menacing ISIS, which grew out of the destabilization of the region following the U.S. invasion, it was as if all past sins were forgiven. Even as Trump now seeks, once again, to put the U.S. on a path to ‘victory’ by escalating the violence, President Bush is seeking to rehabilitate himself by jumping on the anti-Trump / anti-Russia bandwagon led by the Democratic Party establishment.”

After the break-up of NNEWAI in late 2004, Zmolek assisted in the drafting of several congressional resolutions calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney for Representatives Cynthia McKinney (D-Ga.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio).

Are Mass Shootings in U.S. Blowback from its Perpetual Wars?

Coleen Rowley — a former FBI special agent who exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures and was named one of TIME magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002 — writes on Facebook: “It looks like this latest Florida school shooter besides having a number of psychological problems was in JROTC. Most reporters are not mentioning the connection between mass shooters and military training/service. Research shows a significant correlation. I’ve been saying for years now that the steep increase in mass shootings in the U.S. can be traced to blowback from the extreme ‘war is the answer’ militarism (all over social media, Hollywood, violent video games, etc.) used to sustain and promote U.S.-NATO-Israel’s perpetual war.”

Rowley criticized media coverage that “lauded the ‘great show of force’ (showing dozens of police running into the school when the shooter had already escaped). And again TV anchors asked the ridiculous question about ‘motive’ as if it’s a detective mystery when that term really has zero relevance to vulnerable people turning into senseless violent copycats just shooting up public places because they have come to think that’s the American way of solving problems and becoming heroes.”

See Rowley’s piece “Recipe Concocted for Perpetual War Is a Bitter One,” which states: “Given our somnolent acceptance of the notion that this unprecedented state of perpetual war is somehow protecting our safety, it’s ironic that military service is emerging as significantly correlated with, if not a cause of, America’s dramatic increase in mass shootings and other domestic terror-type killings.(PTSD-related murders overall also remain uncounted.) Researchers studying recent lists of mass shooters find veterans are over twice as likely to be mass shooters. Post-combat related ‘copycat’ homicidal violence might be a direct externality of training and then assigning young people to commit murder overseas.”PAT ELDER, [currently in Florida, five miles from Parkland, Florida], pelder at studentprivacy.org, @studentprivacy

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. He notes that the alleged shooter was “in the JROTC program as early as 9th grade. They practice shooting in the cafeteria. He was apprehended wearing his JROTC shirt.”

DAVID SWANSON, david at davidswanson.org, @davidcnswanson
Swanson just wrote the piece “Florida Shooter’s JROTC Took NRA Money, Excelled at Marksmanship.” He writes that “35 percent of U.S. mass shooters are military veterans, as compared with 14.76 percent in the general population for the same gender and age.”

Swanson is director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie and When the World Outlawed War. He is a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee.

A Disarming History of the Second Amendment

ROXANNE DUNBAR-ORTIZ, rdunbaro at pacbell.net, @rdunbaro

Dunbar-Ortiz is author of the recently released Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment. Last month, a talk about the book was carried by C-SPAN. Her previous books include An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

She recently wrote the piece “Inside the minds of American mass shooters” for the British Guardian, which states: “Gun-love can be akin to non-chemical addictions like gambling or hoarding, either of which can have devastating effects, mainly economic, but murder, suicide, accidental death, and mass shootings result only from guns. …

“There were 127 mass shootings with 874 victims in the United States between 1966 and 2016, an average of seven deaths in each. Nearly all of them were carried out by white men.”Only three of the 130 shooters were women. If domestic shootings are included — meaning a man shooting his partner, often including their children and other relatives — the number of mass shootings rises dramatically.”

She also recently wrote the pieces “United States Policing and ‘Gun Rights’ Began With Slave Patrols” for TruthOut and “Settler Colonialism and the Second Amendment,” for Monthly Review, which states: “The violent appropriation of Native land by white settlers was seen as an individual right in the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, second only to freedom of speech. Male colonial settlers had long formed militias for the purpose of raiding and razing Indigenous communities and seizing their lands and resources, and the Native communities fought back. Virginia, the first colony, forbade any man to travel unless he was ‘well armed.’ A few years later, another law required men to take arms with them to work and to attend church or be fined.”

“13 Russian” Indictment

PETER VAN BUREN, info at wemeantwell.com, @WeMeantWell
Available for a limited number of interviews, Peter Van Buren is a former State Department foreign service officer who spent time in Iraq. Now in Washington, he writes at his blog, We Meant Well. His first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.

He said today: “Just did a quick read of the ’13 Russian’ indictment. Missing are a) any connections between the 13 and the Russian government and/or Trump campaign; b) any discussion of the impact (if any) their social media efforts had. It describes them buying Facebook ads, but nothing about if it affected votes; c) no connection shown between any of this and DNC, Wikileaks, hacking of emails; d) no discussion of motive; e) assumption that anything anti-Clinton was defacto pro-Bernie and/or pro-Trump. And all indicted persons are Russians, and outside the U.S., so highly unlikely this is going anywhere further legally.

“Going forward with ’13 Russian’ story, keep your eye out for how quickly MSM morphs ’13 people who were Russian citizens did this’ into ‘The Russians did this.’ Also keep a look out for any information that suggests their efforts had any impact on outcome, or were just more spam.

“Two years ago, the New York Times did a feature story on the same ‘Internet Research Agency’ Mueller indicted today. The Times described the group as web trolls for hire. Unspecified in the indictment is who hired them, THE critical question if this is to matter.”

Peter Van Buren’s second book, Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, was published in 2014. His newest book, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, has just been published.

Background, from the Washington Post: “There’s still little evidence that Russia’s 2016 social media efforts did much of anything.”

From IPA executive director Norman Solomon: “Social Media Madness: The Russia Canard.”

IPA news release: “Dark Money, Not Russia, Best Explains Trump’s Win.”

Shooter Cruz, JROTC and the NRA

PAT ELDER, pelder at studentprivacy.org, @studentprivacy
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.

He just wrote the piece “JROTC, Military Indoctrination and the Training of Mass Killers,” which states: “Nikolas Cruz, the south Florida shooter, was enrolled in the Army’s Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program as a 9th grader at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The Army taught Cruz to shoot lethal weapons at a very young and impressionable age.

“Few in America have connected the dots between military indoctrination and firearms instruction on the one hand, and the propensity for training mass killers, whether their crimes are committed as enlisted soldiers in atrocities overseas or in American high schools. …

“When Cruz was apprehended he was wearing his JROTC polo shirt, sending a message to the world of his affiliation with the military program. …

“JROTC programs in Florida and elsewhere were once plagued by low enrollment numbers which threatened to shut down the program. The military responded with a robust lobbying effort directed at states, aiming to allow students to satisfy normal, for-credit course requirements by taking the JROTC elective. Florida is most friendly to the military in this regard. The state allows students enrolled in JROTC to satisfy the curricular requirements of physical education, biology, physical science, art, and life management. JROTC is regarded as an Advanced Placement course. Students earn 6 Quality Points toward their weighted GPA.

“Many of these courses are taught by retired enlisted soldiers with no teaching credentials and little or no college education. Meanwhile, Broward schools require teachers to hold teacher certification and most must have a Master’s degree after a certain period of time.

“JROTC programs in U.S. schools are run by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. The school shooting programs are regulated by the Civilian Marksmanship Program, (CMP). The program was set up by Congress after the Spanish-American War to ensure that large numbers of Americans knew how shoot guns in the event of a war. The CMP is now a private entity with $160 million in assets. It sells discarded military rifles, pistols, and ammunition to the American public at the behest of Congress. The CMP downplays the health and safety concerns of the robust shooting program. …

    “Children participate in shooting programs at tournaments hosted by the CMP and supported by the NRA.”

The Associated Press reported over the weekend: “Florida shooting suspect was on school rifle team that got NRA grant.”

Is “Russiagate” the New Benghazi?

SOPHIA McCLENNEN, sophia.mcclennen at gmail.com, @mcclennen65
McClennen just wrote the piece “The Russia election investigation is important — but it’s not everything” for Salon, which states: “Remember when the right couldn’t stop obsessing over Benghazi? The attack on the U.S. embassy on September 11, 2012, led to a right-wing witch hunt aimed at blaming President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for misrepresenting the attacks to the U.S. public and for missing signs that could have prevented it. The critical thing to remember is that shortly after the attacks, right-wing media covered Benghazi in a constant loop. As Stephen Colbert parodied it for ‘The Colbert Report’ in late November 2013, it was ‘Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi.’ Well guess what? The right’s Benghazi is now the left’s Russia. …

“Let’s start by agreeing that we should figure out the scope and extent of Russian involvement and the degree to which the Trump team was involved. The problem, though, is that the obsession with Russia is keeping us from paying attention to the various sources of information-meddling that have nothing to do with Russia. …

“The obsession with Russian propaganda isn’t just an entertaining way for the U.S. public to revive Cold War logics; in the end, it is a disaster for our democracy. One of the biggest flaws to propaganda hype is that it gives the left a pass from taking seriously the policy flaws in the Hillary Clinton campaign. ..

“Even worse, the Russia propaganda story allows the DNC to avoid dealing with the reality that the 2016 elections revealed the truth that the party is an oligarchy populated by insiders, corporate capitalists, cronies and superdelegates.”

McClennen is professor of international affairs and comparative literature at the Pennsylvania State University. She is co-author of Is Satire Saving Our Nation? Mockery and American Politics and co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Literature and Human Rights.

Real Black Panthers — Not the Disney Movie — Were Actually Targeted by the CIA

Disney recently released the movie “Black Panther” to a great deal of media coverage. It’s the name of an influential radical organization founded in 1966, the Black Panther Party. In the Hollywood production, the CIA is depicted as an ally.

JARED BALL, imixwhatilike at gmail.com, @IMIXWHATILIKE
Ball is professor of communication studies, Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University and author of I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto and A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X. Malcolm X was assassinated on this date, February 21, in 1965 — see Institute for Public Accuracy news release featuring audio of some of his key statements.

Ball posted on his Facebook page about the term Black Panther: “We have among the most revolutionary international symbols of anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist, anti-capitalist politics re-presented to us in stunning beauty and style but packaged in the exact neoliberal politics, backed by the same Western-style support and assassination that destroyed the Black Panther Party, assassinated its members, imprisons to this day its survivors or hunts down with international bounties those who had the audacity — not to hope goddammit — but to organize and act accordingly. It isn’t that the film does this or that as much as that what it does is being read by many as having real meaning in this world and that makes critiquing it so important.

“Two quick examples: 1) Please compare the 1960 UN speech delivered by Patrice Lumumba to that of T’challa’s [in the film]. The former condemns the West, its colonialism, theft and abuse of Africa and Africans and declares all that at an end. His European audience was furious and moved to have him assassinated within a year whereas [in the film] the West’s representative — the CIA no less — smiles in full agreement and support having himself participated in the assassination of a true pan-African revolutionary (dismissed and demeaned as an angry lunatic blinded by his own imperial grandeur …)

“2) Please note how the film ends with the antidote developed precisely to crush a Black Panther revolution: a wealthy benefactor imposing ‘help’ in the form of neoliberal non-profit ‘reform.’ This is in lock-step with the state’s response to the BPP [Black Panther Party] and its programs and political education.”

See “CIA Reportedly Recruited Blacks For Surveillance of Panther Party” by Seymour Hersh in the New York Times in 1978, which states: “CIA officials have said repeatedly that the goal of the agency’s domestic spying program was to determine whether antiwar activists and black extremists were being financed and directed by Communist governments. Agency officials have declined to discuss the programs further.

“One longtime CIA operative with direct knowledge of the spying said, however, that there was an additional goal in the case of the Black Panthers living abroad: to ‘neutralize’ them; ‘to try and get them in trouble with local authorities wherever they could.’ Just how successful the CIA was in those alleged activities could not be determined.”

See piece in The Nation by Jeff Cohen and Jeff Gottlieb: “Was Fred Hampton Executed?” about the Illinois chairperson of the Black Panther Party, which states: “That the FBI supervised a nationwide effort to destroy the Black Panther Party is no longer seen as the paranoid rantings of leftists, but as a fact documented by the Staff Report of the Church committee. The report stated that the FBI’s COINTELPRO (Counter-Intelligence program) used ‘dangerous, degrading or blatantly unconstitutional techniques’ to disrupt Left and black organizations. It went on to liken the FBI’s harassment of Martin Luther King to the treatment usually afforded a Soviet agent.”

Billy Graham: “Prince of War”

CECIL BOTHWELL, cecil at braveulysses.com
Bothwell wrote the biography The Prince of War: Billy Graham’s Crusade for a Wholly Christian Empire. He just wrote the piece “Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear,” published by CounterPunch, which states: “When Graham succumbed to various ailments this week at the age of 99 he left behind an organization that is said to have touched more people than any other Christian ministry in history, with property, assets and a name-brand worth hundreds of millions. The address lists of contributors alone comprise a mother lode for the Billy Graham Evangelical Association, now headed by his son and namesake, William Franklin Graham, III. …

“Graham first gained national attention in 1949 when the publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, searching for a spiritual icon to spread his anti-communist sentiments, discovered the young preacher holding forth at a Los Angeles tent meeting. Hearst wired his editors across the nation, ‘puff Graham,’ and he was an instant sensation.

“Hearst next contacted his friend and fellow [Time/Life] publisher Henry Luce. Their Wall Street ally, Bernard Baruch, arranged a meeting between Luce and Graham while the preacher was staying with the segregationist Governor Strom Thurmond in the official mansion in Columbia, S.C. Luce concurred with Hearst about Graham’s marketability and Time and Life were enlisted in the job of selling the soap of salvation to the world. Time, alone, has run more than 600 stories about Graham.

“The man who would become known as ‘the minister to presidents’ offered his first military advice in 1950. On June 25, North Korean troops invaded South Korea and Graham sent Truman a telegram. ‘MILLIONS OF CHRISTIANS PRAYING GOD GIVE YOU WISDOM IN THIS CRISIS. STRONGLY URGE SHOWDOWN WITH COMMUNISM NOW. MORE CHRISTIANS IN SOUTHERN KOREA PER CAPITA THAN ANY PART OF WORLD. WE CANNOT LET THEM DOWN.’ …

“Subsequently, Graham gave his blessing to every conflict under every president from Truman to the second Bush, and most of the presidents, pleased to enjoy public assurance of God’s approval, made him welcome in the White House. Graham excoriated Truman for firing General Douglas MacArthur and supported the general’s plan to invade China. He went so far as to urge Nixon to bomb dikes in Vietnam — knowing that it would kill upward of a million civilians — and he claimed to have sat on the sofa next to G.H.W. Bush as the bombs began falling in the first Gulf War.”

U.S. Biowarfare in North Korea Charges: Long-Suppressed Report Finally Accessible

[Politico reports this morning: “Trump administration announces ‘largest’ North Korea sanctions.” The 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremony from South Korea will start Sunday, Feb. 25 at 6 a.m. E.T. and is scheduled to be available livestream without network commentary via nbcolympics.com in the U.S.]

JEFFREY KAYE, jeffkaye at sbcglobal.net, @jeff_kaye
Kaye just wrote the article “REVEALED: The long-suppressed official report on U.S. biowarfare in North Korea” for Insurge Intelligence, “people-powered watchdog journalism for the global commons.”

Insurge Intelligence writes about the report by the International Scientific Commission: “Written largely by the most prestigious British scientist of his day [Joseph Needham], this official report, containing hundreds of pages of evidence about the use of U.S. biological weapons during the Korean War, was effectively suppressed upon its original release in 1952. …

“The report provides compelling evidence of systematic violation of the laws of war against North Korea through the deployment of biological weapons — a critical context that is essential for anyone to understand the dynamics of current regional tensions, and what might be done about them.”

Kaye said today: “Among the hundreds of pages of documentation appended to the ISC report are four handwritten statements written by U.S. Air Force airmen captured by Communist forces, whose admissions of germ warfare were widely attributed to supposed brainwashing.

“The report also offers a first public accounting of the Japanese biological warfare campaign against China in the 1940s. At the time of the report (1952), these germ warfare attacks, which killed a few hundred thousand people, was said to be propaganda by Communist forces. But in fact the U.S. had made a secret agreement of cooperation with these Japanese biowarfare personnel (Unit 731).”

Kaye also describes “how the U.S. government responded to the ISC report, rejecting its conclusions and calling for an ‘independent’ UN or Red Cross investigation into the biowarfare charges. But in recently declassified documents, top government officials working for the Psychological Strategy Board (essentially a CIA-State Department collaboration) admitted internally that an ‘actual investigation’ was the last thing they wanted, as it could reveal information that would cause the U.S. government ‘psychological as well as military damage.’ They used as an example of what could be revealed ‘8th Army preparations or operations (e.g. chemical warfare).'”

SC Janus Case: Culmination of Prolonged “Attempt to Kill Public-Sector Unions”

Ed Pilkington in the Guardian writes: “A 20-year campaign by right-wing billionaire donors to undermine trade unions and strike a blow at the progressive movement in America comes to a climax on Monday, in a hearing at the U.S. Supreme Court.”

CHARLES LENCHNER, MARTHA WALLNER, via cidelson@calnurses.org@NationalNurses
Lenchner and Wallner are with National Nurses United, which held rallies last Thursday about the case — Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke at the Chicago rally. The group states: “The case, solicited and bankrolled by billionaires and corporate executives, is intended to weaken public sector unions by encouraging employees in unionized public sector workplaces to refuse to pay dues — while they enjoy the rights and benefits of a union contract and representation.

“A not-so-hidden goal, which matches anti-union ‘right to work’ laws for private sector workplaces pushed by the same groups across the U.S., is to decimate unions financially, crippling their ability to effectively challenge employer abuses against workers and the public, and bankrupting their ability to advocate for public policies that benefit all working people. Without a union, employers have free reign to exploit their unprotected workers.”

MARY BOTTARI, mary@PRwatch.org, @MARYBOTTARI
Bottari is deputy director of the Center for Media and Democracy and just wrote the piece “Behind Janus: Documents Reveal Decade-Long Plot to Kill Public-Sector Unions” for In These Times magazine.She writes: “The Roman god Janus was known for having two faces. It is a fitting name for the U.S. Supreme Court case scheduled for oral arguments February 26, Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, that could deal a devastating blow to public-sector unions and workers nationwide.”In the past decade, a small group of people working for deep-pocketed corporate interests, conservative think tanks and right-wing foundations have bankrolled a series of lawsuits to end what they call ‘forced unionization.’ They say they fight in the name of ‘free speech,’ ‘worker rights’ and ‘workplace freedom.’ In briefs before the court, they present their public face: carefully selected and appealing plaintiffs like Illinois child-support worker Mark Janus and California schoolteacher Rebecca Friedrichs. The language they use is relentlessly pro-worker.”Behind closed doors, a different face is revealed. Those same people cheer ‘defunding’ and ‘bankrupting unions to deal a ‘mortal blow’ to progressive politics in America.”A key director of this charade is the State Policy Network, whose game plan is revealed in a union-busting toolkit uncovered by the Center for Media and Democracy. The first rule of the national network of right-wing think tanks that are pushing to dismantle unions? ‘Rule #1: Be pro-worker, not anti-union. … Don’t rant against unions. … Using phrases like “union fat cats” and “corrupt union bosses” and other negative language reduces support for reform.'””And yet, SPN groups have systematically spearheaded attacks on unions and workers in statehouses and courtrooms nationwide. The Janus case, and its precursor, Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association, represent SPN’s most audacious move yet, an effort to kneecap the unions of public-sector workers — including teachers, nurses, sanitation workers, park rangers, prison guards, police and firefighters — in a single blow.”

Bottari helped launch CMD’s award-winning ALEC Exposed investigation in 2011 and is a recipient of the Hillman Prize for investigative journalism.

NRA’s “Boondoggle” — CMP: Government-Backed Program Teaches Kids to Shoot Guns at School; Sells Weapons

PAT ELDER, pelder at studentprivacy.org, @studentprivacy
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. He was recently on FAIR’s program “CounterSpin” and “Democracy Now.”

He just wrote the piece “Cruz, Instagram, and the Civilian Marksmanship Program,” which states: “A young Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland shooter, posted the image shown on his Instagram account. The date is unknown. The orange tip on the end of the gun signifies he is holding an ‘airsoft’ gun that fires BB-like, spherical projectiles that are typically made of plastic. American youth are introduced to these guns at an early age. The lethal weapon Cruz is holding shoots a projectile at 500 feet per second. The term ‘airsoft’ is concocted by the wizards of Madison Avenue who represent the arms industry. …

“Cruz’s ‘airsoft’ pistol is available on Amazon for $50. Similar, but much more powerful CO2-propelled handguns are available for sale for use by children through the congressionally established Civilian Marksmanship Program, CMP.” Added Elder: “The NRA hosts air pistol matches for the younger set.”

Elder notes that the late Sen. Paul Simon tried to stop the CMP in 1996, calling it “An incomprehensible, irresponsible, baffling boondoggle for the NRA.”

Elder writes in his recent piece: “The image at the top right is an M1911 U.S. Army pistol, a cherished collector’s item. It served as the standard-issue sidearm for the United States Armed Forces for 75 years, from 1911 to 1986. The weapons are revered by millions. They’re reliable. They’ll kill the enemy, and they’re American-made. Today, many American youth are enamored by these semi-automatic handguns. …

“All that love for the M1911 pistol led the Trump administration to OK the release of the weaponry from the Army’s ammunition depot in Anniston, Alabama to the CMP, also based in Anniston. The semiautomatic handguns are to be sold to the American public. The U.S. stands alone as the only nation that offers its warehoused military weapons for sale to the public. Prudent nations destroy antiquated guns. The CMP has been recirculating used rifles to the public since 1903, but this is the first time the agency will be selling handguns. Soon, youth like Cruz will be allowed to purchase these extraordinarily lethal, semi-automatic weapons through the quasi-governmental CMP.

“Although President Obama authorized the sale of the M1911 when he approved his last National Defense Authorization Act two years ago, his administration held up the Army’s actual shipment of the handguns to the CMP.”

Left and Right Unite Against Continued U.S. Backing of Saudi Attack on Yemen

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) “introduced Wednesday a bipartisan joint resolution to remove U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis in Yemen pursuant to the War Powers Resolution. The bill will force the first-ever vote in the Senate to withdraw U.S. Armed Forces from an unauthorized war.”

The text directs “the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.” It makes an exception for forces “engaged in operations directed at al Qaeda or associated forces.”

KELLEY BEAUCAR VLAHOS, kv at kelleyvlahos.com, @KelleyBVlahos
Executive editor of The American Conservative magazine, Kelley Beaucar Vlahos said today: “The relentless airstrikes and blockade by the Saudis has left Yemen in a catastrophic state of crisis — and as co-belligerents, the United States is partly to blame.” She noted that the U.S. public has been removed from a meaningful “decision-making process” on warmaking. “This bill forcing a vote on this war in Yemen is a good first step.”

KATE GOULD, kate at fcnl.org, @FCNL
Gould is legislative representative for Middle East Policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. She said today: “By invoking the War Powers Resolution to end the illegal U.S. war in Yemen, this bipartisan trio of senators has made history, taking a step toward restoring congressional authority over decisions about war as required by the Constitution. The bill will force the first-ever vote in the Senate to withdraw U.S. armed forces from an unauthorized war.

“This March, with senators set to vote on whether to end the illegal U.S. war in Yemen, millions of lives hang in the balance. Nowhere in the world does Washington have more leverage to stop millions of people from starvation than in Yemen, where more than 8 million people are on the verge of starving to death.

“March also marks the third anniversary of this devastating war, enabled by Washington at every major juncture. U.S. pilots are refueling U.S.-made bombers as they drop U.S.-made bombs on Yemeni men, women, and children, and the hospitals, water sanitation facilities and other civilian infrastructure that they depend on. As the coalition continues to bomb Yemeni hospitals, schools, and neighborhoods, it is also blocking food, fuel, and other essential imports from getting into Yemen. Under this legislation, no longer would U.S. pilots serve as gas station attendants in the sky to refuel Saudi and UAE bombers that rein down terror on Yemeni men, women, and children.”

Postol: U.S. Policies Driving Putin Nuclear Statements

NBC News reports in “Putin unveils new nuclear missile, says ‘listen to us now’” that: “Russia has a new array of nuclear-capable weapons including an intercontinental ballistic missile that renders defense systems ‘useless,’ President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday.”

THEODORE A. POSTOL, postol at mit.edu
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Postol is professor of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT. He said today: “The American foreign policy establishment should not be surprised by Mr. Putin’s recent statements about Russian efforts to improve the capabilities of their nuclear forces against U.S. offensive nuclear forces and missile defenses.

“The United States has created the appearance that it believes it can fight and win a nuclear war against Russia. The U.S. is in the process of increasing the killing power of its nuclear ballistic missile forces against Russian ICBMs by a factor of three or more, and it is building missile defenses that suggest the U.S. believes it can strike Russia and and then defend against retaliation. It has issued a Nuclear Policy Review (NPR) that makes it clear that the U.S. could choose to use nuclear weapons first and at any time.

“Mr. Putin has made many statements in the past warning about these U.S. efforts and his current statements are simply consistent with those he has made in the past.”

In 2014, Postol wrote the piece “How the Obama Administration Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” for The Nation.

Last year, Postol co-wrote a paper for The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: “How U.S. nuclear force modernization is undermining strategic stability: The burst-height compensating super-fuze.”

The paper warned: “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 paper continued: “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.”

See Institute for Public Accuracy news release with Postol from last year: “U.S. Breakthrough on Nuclear First Strike Threatens Stability.”

See Institute for Public Accuracy news release from earlier this month: “U.S. Nuclear Stance Toward Russia Increasing Existential Threats.”

Illegal West Virginia Wildcat Strike Continues

MIKE ELK, mike.elk at gmail.com, @MikeElk
Elk has lived in West Virginia and is a member of the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild; he is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report. He previously served as senior labor reporter at POLITICO and has written for the New York Times.

He wrote the piece “West Virginia teachers stage walkout over wages and benefits” for The Guardian.

He tweeted Thursday night: “Strike will continue as Senate refuses to pass teachers pay raise measure.”

On Wednesday he wrote the piece “Rejecting W.V. Deal, Over 50 Counties Will Continue Wildcat Strike Tomorrow,” which stated: “It appears that the West Virginia teachers’ strike will last indefinitely as rank and file teachers in a majority of counties around the state have promised to continue their strike until the state legislature addresses their concerns. …

“It is also unclear if the state’s attorney general will seek an injunction against the union — or even if he would be able to, since the union leaders have actually ordered their workers back to work but the workers have not agreed to return to work.”

On Tuesday, he wrote the piece: “Settling W.V. Teachers Strike Could Hinge on Taxing Frackers“: “As the illegal wildcat statewide strike of teachers in 55 counties in West Virginia stretches into its fourth day, West Virginia Governor and billionaire coal baron Jim Justice has found himself on the defensive.

“In order to resolve the dispute, Justice will likely have to take on members of his own party, who are resisting calls to increase taxes on the natural gas industry.

“However, in Wheeling Monday night, Justice found himself on the defensive and facing boos from the crowd as he urged the union to end the strike. …

“On Tuesday, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts, a backwoods Baptist preacher, gave a roaring speech, calling on West Virginians to remember their history of struggle. He called on the striking teachers to engage in civil disobedience as their ancestors had during the 1921 struggle of striking mine workers at the Battle of Blair Mountain and the 1969 strike of 40,000 coal miners, who occupied the West Virginia State Capitol.

“‘When those miners came here [in 1969], they were breaking the law [and] when those miners marched on Blair Mountain, they were breaking the law,’ Roberts told the assembled crowd during a half-hour labor sermon.

“‘This is not really a strike,’ said Cecil Roberts. ‘This is when the good people of West Virginia take back their state.’

“Despite breaking the law, the teachers have rallied near unanimous support. The West Virginia PTA voiced their support for the strikers as well.”

What’s in Al Jazeera’s Film on Israel Lobby?

The annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee — AIPAC — runs through Tuesday. Among the speakers tonight are Vice President Mike Pence and Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

ASA WINSTANLEY, [in London] asa at electronicintifada.net, @AsaWinstanley
Winstanley is an investigative journalist and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada. He just wrote the piece “What’s in Al Jazeera’s undercover film on the U.S. Israel lobby?” The piece states: “The leading neoconservative think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies is functioning as an agent of the Israeli government, Al Jazeera’s forthcoming investigation on the U.S. Israel lobby will reveal.

“According to a source who has seen the undercover documentary, it contains footage of a powerful Israeli official claiming that ‘We have FDD. We have others working on this.’

“Sima Vaknin-Gil, a former Israeli military intelligence officer, is said to state that the foundation is ‘working on’ projects for Israel including ‘data gathering, information analysis, working on activist organizations, money trail. This is something that only a country, with its resources, can do the best.’

“Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, commonly known as FARA, U.S. organizations and individuals who work on behalf of foreign governments are required to register with the counterintelligence section of the Department of Justice.

“A search on the FARA website shows that the Foundation for Defense of Democracies is not registered.

“Al Jazeera’s film reportedly identifies a number of lobby groups as working with Israel to spy on American citizens using sophisticated data gathering techniques. The documentary is also said to cast light on covert efforts to smear and intimidate Americans seen as too critical of Israel.

“Israel lobby groups have placed intense pressure on Qatar, which funds Al Jazeera, to shelve the film, fueling speculation it may never be aired. …

“In October last year, Clayton Swisher, Al Jazeera’s head of investigations, first announced that the Qatari satellite channel had in 2016 run an undercover journalist in the U.S. Israel lobby.

“Swisher made the announcement soon after the UK’s broadcast regulator dismissed all complaints against Al Jazeera’s film ‘The Lobby.’

“That documentary, broadcast in January 2017, exposed Israel’s covert influence campaign in the UK’s ruling Conservative and opposition Labour parties. The film revealed an Israeli embassy agent plotting with a British civil servant to ‘take down’ a government minister seen as too critical of Israel.

“Although Swisher promised the U.S. film would come out ‘very soon,’ nearly five months later it has yet to be broadcast.

“Over that same period, a wave of Israel lobbyists has visited Qatar at the invitation of its ruler, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

“Among them have been some of the most rightwing and extreme figures among Israel’s defenders in the U.S., including Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz and Morton Klein, the head of the Zionist Organization of America. …

“Ironically, pro-Israel members of Congress are now pressuring the Department of Justice to force Al Jazeera to register as an arm of Qatar, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, just as the Russian-funded network RT was recently forced to do.

“Whether this pressure will succeed in burying the documentary for good is perhaps the ultimate test of the Israel lobby influence Al Jazeera journalists sought to expose.”

Missing in Trade Debate


MANUEL PÉREZ-ROCHA, manuel at ips-dc.org, @ManuelPerezIPS Pérez-Rocha is associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He was just quoted extensively in “Here’s What You Need to Know about Trump’s Trade War” in Fortune magazine.

He recently wrote the piece “Five Reasons Mexican Workers Would Cheer the Demise of NAFTA” for In These Times magazine, which states: “Mexicans have plenty not to like about Donald Trump: his racism, his wall, his tirades against immigrants. But if there’s a disruption provoked by Trump we should actually embrace, it’s the renegotiation of NAFTA — or even the trade pact’s possible end.

“Along with Mexico’s upcoming presidential elections on July 1 — in which center-left candidate Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador (AMLO, as he is popularly known) is the clear front runner — the possible unraveling of NAFTA has the country’s business elite and political establishment freaking out. … During its 24 years, NAFTA has helped to widen inequalities in Mexico, Canada and the United States alike — and to play workers in the three countries against each other.”

Pérez-Rocha’s five reasons: “1. NAFTA has been a net job destroyer in Mexico. … 2. Multinational companies have used NAFTA to devastate Mexico’s environment. … 3. NAFTA has destroyed the livelihoods of millions in the Mexican countryside. … 4. Corporations are using NAFTA to roll back legitimate government measures aimed at protecting health and the environment. … 5. NAFTA made Mexico the most obese country in Latin America.”

Senate Bank Bill Further “Enriches Wall Street” and Weakens Reforms

This week, the U.S. Senate is debating S. 2155, the first major attack on Wall Street reforms Congress passed under 2010’s Dodd Frank bank accountability legislation. A vote is expected by the end of this week. See “How Democrats Are Helping Trump Dismantle Dodd-Frank” by Talmon Joseph Smith in The New Republic.

BART NAYLOR, via Don Owens, dowens at citizen.org; Nadia Prupis, nprupis at citizen.org, @Public_Citizen@BartNaylor
Naylor is financial policy advocate in Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division and the former chief of investigations for the U.S Senate Banking Committee. He is scrutinizing Republicans, Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and Democratic senators in Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and Virginia who “are likely to support a bill that enriches Wall Street bankers far more than it ever will help communities and consumers.”

Naylor said today: “Ten years after a financial crash that cost millions of Americans their homes, jobs and savings, the U.S. Senate is moving forward with a measure to roll back safeguards against Wall Street recklessness,” Naylor said. “Disguised as a community banking bill, this misguided legislation eliminates safeguards for 25 of the 38 largest banks, a sector that received some $50 billion in bailout funds. The bill also slashes consumer protections meant to fight racially discriminatory lending practices and protect purchasers of manufactured housing.”

Saudi Arabia Using Law Firm Tied to Trump to Lobby U.S. for Nuclear Deal

KEN KLIPPENSTEIN, kenneth.klippenstein at gmail.com@kenklippenstein
Klippenstein just wrote the piece “Saudi Arabia Using Law Firm Tied to Trump to Lobby U.S. for Nuclear Deal” for The Young Turks. He writes: “A law firm that reportedly has advised President Trump’s real estate empire registered last month to lobby the Trump administration as part of Saudi Arabia’s bid for U.S. approval for a civilian nuclear power program, federal documents show.

“King & Spalding, an international law firm headquartered in Atlanta that reportedly has worked for Trump’s real estate concerns, disclosed that Saudi Arabia was paying the firm up to $450,000 for a 30-day period. The disclosures were made in a filing with the Justice Department, as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

“The contract was registered with the DOJ on February 21. Five days later, Energy Secretary Rick Perry canceled a trip to India so he could fly to London to discuss a nuclear cooperation agreement with senior Saudi officials. Such an agreement could open the door for lucrative U.S. contracts to build the kingdom’s new power plants.

“The filing does not specify the date range. It includes an email dated February 20, in which King & Spalding indicates the work for Saudi Arabia had yet to begin, and said the 30-day period was an ‘initial’ span that could be extended in the future. The Saudis said publicly in December that they hoped to begin talks within ‘weeks.’

“The Trump administration’s negotiations around Saudi nuclear power have been controversial. Unlike other countries seeking the use of U.S. nuclear technology, Saudi Arabia refuses to sign any agreement prohibiting uranium enrichment, which could be used to produce nuclear weapons.

“King & Spalding and its alumni have multiple connections to the Trump administration.

“FBI Director Christopher Wray made millions there, according to disclosure forms, as a litigation partner from 2005 through the summer of 2017. Last June, civil liberties organizations including the ACLU criticized Trump’s nomination of Wray for its potential conflicts of interest.”

U.S.-North Korea: Victory for President Moon?

ABC News reports: “President Donald Trump has agreed to a high-stakes meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by this May on his nuclear weapons program, South Korea’s national security adviser announced at the White House Thursday evening.”

Jonathan Cheng writes in “A U.S.-North Korea Meeting Reflects Victory for Moon Jae-in” in the Wall Street Journal that: “For South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the announcement of a meeting between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea marked the biggest coup of his 10-month presidency.

“It came after a year in which South Korea appeared to be left out of a cycle of escalating tension between the U.S. and North Korea — even as Mr. Moon, a left-leaning leader who for decades has pushed for more engagement with Pyongyang, talked about putting South Korea ‘in the driver’s seat’ on security matters on the Korean Peninsula.”

For updates on Korea, see @accuracy Twitter feed.

CHRISTINE AHN, christineahn at mac.com, @christineahn
Founder of Women Cross DMZ, Ahn said today: “It’s a mistake to believe that ‘maximum pressure’ forced North Korea to dialogue; it was Moon’s masterful diplomatic stroke. It’s a dangerous rewriting of what happened, and it is sure to be what causes Trump to fail in talks with Kim.

“Moon showed genuine desire for peaceful resolution, which is why Kim reciprocated this way; maximum pressure/strategic patience does not work because it doesn’t understand North Korea’s genuine fears.

“Moon engaged in diplomacy that treated NK with respect with an eye to a long-term solution, not short-term transaction. Trump should understand what Moon does: North Korea’s long-held desire for a peace treaty and normalized relations as key to achieving a nuclear-free Korea.”

Earlier this year, Ahn wrote the piece “Korea’s ‘Olympic truce’ is a good start for peace.”

DeVos’s Record in Michigan

CNN reports: “DeVos struggles to answer basic questions about schools in her home state.”

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. His pieces include “Privatize, Monetize, Weaponize: How the DeVos family devoured Michigan’s schools.” 

He said today: “Every one of Betsy DeVos’ answers on her ’60 Minutes’ interview last night had to do with the magic bullet of ‘school choice’ — but Michigan, her home state, has had ‘Schools of Choice’ legislation for 22 years now, a program that allows parents to send their children to schools outside of their ‘home district.’ While suburban districts have benefited from the influx of students from less affluent, nearby schools [and] city school systems like the Lansing School District, have suffered greatly by comparison.

“There are currently more than 3,000 students who live in Lansing but attend public schools elsewhere in the area, according to state data. To put it in perspective, Lansing lost an average of 460 students each year in the past decade, a decline driven in unequal parts by schools of choice, an influx of charter schools and the simple fact that there are fewer school-aged students in Michigan. While more than 16,000 students roamed the district’s halls in 2004, last year’s enrollment was 11,695. Projected figures from the administration put enrollment below 11,000 by 2020.

“Michigan also leads the nation in the number of for-profit charter schools, another dubious distinction. These schools use public tax dollars to produce profit for privately-controlled charter management companies, hastening the redistribution of funds from public coffers to private pockets.

“And yet, with all of this ‘choice,’ the state of public education in Michigan has not improved. While we should be wary of data derived solely from standardized test scores, the ‘big picture’ view is not encouraging:

“Despite investing heavily in early literacy since 2015, Michigan schools showed the largest decline in third-grade reading levels among 11 comparable states in the last three years, according to a new education report.

“Michigan was at the bottom of the group, behind Delaware, Vermont, Connecticut, Idaho and West Virginia. California, Hawaii and Washington state showed the most improvement on the test in the last three years. Those states use standardized tests similar to Michigan’s.”

Trump, Death Penalty and Drug Addiction: What’s at the Root of the Problem?

USA Today reports: “Death penalty for drug dealers? Count Trump in.”

GABOR MATÉ, MD, gabor at drgabormate.com
Available for a limited number of interviews, Maté, a long-time addiction physician in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, was the onsite doctor at North America’s first supervised injection site. His perspective is that addiction is rooted in childhood trauma and social stress and disconnection and requires not punishment but compassionate care.

His books include the bestselling In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. He was recently on Joe Polish’s program, talking about Polish’s history of drug addiction and addiction generally.

Maté asked the audience what they got from addictive behavior, then summarized their responses: “Escape from pain, sense of control, relief from loneliness, relief from anxiety. In other words, inner peace.

“So right away, when you understand that, you get that the addiction wasn’t your problem. Your addiction was your attempt to solve a problem. And the real question is: how did that problem develop? How come with seven billion humans in the world you felt lonely?

“How come you lacked the sense of agency, control, authority in your life? Why were you in so much emotional pain?

“And everything you’ve said — the loneliness, the lack of power, love, control, the anxiety — these are forms of emotional pain. So my mantra on addiction is not why the addiction but why the pain? …

“The current model of addiction is either the legal one which says it’s a choice that people make and therefore we have to punish them for it. Or it’s a medical one in which case it’s an inherited brain disease. But it isn’t either of those things. What it actually is is an attempt to solve a human life problem: that of emotional pain, loneliness, distress, anxiety — whatever it is.

“And the real question then is: what happened in my life or your life, Joe, or everybody else’s lives here, that we incurred pain. And then how do we deal with our pain? Because the addiction itself magnifies the pain, it multiplies it — it increases it exponentially.”

Maté has worked extensively with people addicted to drugs at a clinic in Vancouver, but he addresses many forms of addiction.

See Maté’s debate with Tucker Carlson on Fox News Channel: “‘Drugged’: Capitalism, opioids and the history of heroin.”

Maté’s other books include: When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden StressHold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, and Scattered Minds: A New Look at the Origins and Healing of Attention Disorder.

Now: “Another Big Bank Bailout”

The New York Daily News reports: “Trump, Senate roll back on W.H. promise for financial safeguards.” The Washington Post reports: “The banking bill cleared a Senate procedural vote last week and is expected to pass as early as this week.”

NICK JACOBS, njacobs at bettermarkets.com, @bettermarkets
Jacobs is communications director of Better Markets and recently wrote the piece “Another Big Bank Bailout: Why Deregulate Big Banks Worth $50-$250 Billion?” He writes: “Wall Street’s allies in Washington, D.C. are looking to once again hand out a massive bailout to some of the biggest banks in the country. They want to loosen regulations, which by definition, will impact our current financial stability. While it won’t be trillions of dollars of taxpayer money (though it will wind up costing taxpayers trillions when we have to bail out the banks when another crisis occurs), it will be through a coordinated effort to deregulate some of the largest financial institutions in the country. Loosening these rules only helps Wall Street executives get bigger bonuses while at the same time puts Main Street consumers in harm’s way.”In the 10 years since the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, two big things have occurred:

1. “Big banks have continued to break the law:

“Even after the financial sector got bailed out by Main Street, these financial institutions nevertheless continued to break the law. And they did so in some of the most egregious ways, like market manipulation, mortgage abuses and selling toxic securities abuses. In fact, in just 10 years these 26 banks racked up 193 violations. This doesn’t even account for the hundreds, if not thousands, of violations for the very largest banks on Wall Street.

“And while some believe big banks receive their ‘just’ punishment with ‘huge fines’ … not a single individual has been held accountable — meaning they are in a position to repeat their illegal behavior — and the fines these institutions pay are just fractions of what the bank makes that year in net income. In fact, for those 26 banks the fines totaled just 20 percent of their net income over the past year. This means it makes business sense to break the law, thus the continued harming of Main Street consumers and that is just wrong.

2. “Bank Profits and Revenue Continually Hit Record Highs:

“Big banks love to claim that Dodd-Frank has been hurting their bottom line, but after its implementation their incomes continue to reach record high after record high. Profits and revenue have soared and that has been fueled by an increase in lending (shifting away from their risky trading behavior tendency).

“Now, Wall Street’s allies in D.C. want to get rid of even more rules, which serve a vital role in protecting Main Street consumers and investors. Ask yourself, if banks are making record profits and aren’t being deterred from breaking the law, does it really make sense to loosen regulations further? It doesn’t.”

Trump’s Nominees: Pompeo at State, Haspel at CIA: * Targeting Iran * Torture

See: “Under Trump, Brags Mike Pompeo, CIA Will Be ‘Much More Vicious Agency.'” See from November 2017 by Eli Clifton: “Did Trump Greenlight Neoconservative Takeover of State Dept. and CIA?” which states: “Donald Trump is likely to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo … Pompeo, who was one of the House’s most consistent anti-Iran voices, was already ‘argu[ing] against the [Iran] deal’ when he took over at the CIA, according to a report in July. The fact that Pompeo was engaging in the administration’s internal debate raises serious questions about the potential politicization of intelligence-gathering and analysis under the Trump administration, echoing the process that led to the false intelligence assessments widely disseminated in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.”

See: “Mike Pompeo’s Disturbingly Consistent Friendships with Anti-Muslim Bigots.” Also, Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Pompeo at CIA: Iran Belligerence, Pro-Torture, Pro-Surveillance.”

See from the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights: “Germany: CIA deputy Gina Haspel must face arrest on traveling to Europe.”

See from the New York Times, February 2017: “Gina Haspel, C.I.A. Deputy Director, Had Leading Role in Torture,” “Mr. Zubaydah alone was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, had his head repeatedly slammed into walls and endured other harsh methods before interrogators decided he had no useful information to provide.”The sessions were videotaped and the recordings stored in a safe at the CIA station in Thailand until 2005, when they were ordered destroyed. By then, Ms. Haspel was serving at CIA headquarters, and it was her name that was on the cable carrying the destruction orders.”

Available for interviews:

MELVIN GOODMAN, goody789 at verizon.net
Goodman was an analyst at the CIA for 24 years. His books include Whistleblower at the CIA: An Insider’s Account of the Politics of Intelligence and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism.

JEFFREY KAYE, jeffkaye at sbcglobal.net, @jeff_kaye
Kaye is a clinical psychologist and an independent journalist who has written extensively on torture. He said today: “Haspel is not the first government official with involvement in torture, or other types of war crimes. This is a government with no accountability. But her hands are particularly dirty, having both run a secret CIA torture prison, and then covering up its felonies. Her nomination is a moral depravity. …

“In the outcry about the nomination of torturer Gina Haspel to head the CIA, there’s no mention that U.S. official interrogation policy has included torture techniques like isolation and sleep and sensory deprivation, even during the Obama administration. Haspel’s nomination is the logical consequence of such silence.” See Kaye’s pieces including “CIA Psychologist’s Notes Reveal True Purpose Behind Bush’s Torture Program.”

“Space Force”: Trump Accelerating Aerospace Goal Targeting China and Russia

CNBC reports: “Trump floats the idea of creating a ‘Space Force’ to fight wars in space.” Said Trump: “Space is a war-fighting domain, just like the land, air, and sea.”

BRUCE GAGNON, globalnet at mindspring.com
Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. He said today: “The aerospace industry sees an opportunity to expand their profit capability by the creation of a new ‘Space Force’ that would direct the expanding U.S. war-making program in space. The industry has been pushing Congress to authorize this new separate service while the leadership of the Air Force have opposed the plan claiming that it would increase inefficiency and bureaucracy. In the recent NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] it was mandated that the Air Force increase their focus on space and make it a higher priority.

Space News reported in January that Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson notified the congressional armed services committees of a new plan to create a three-star position that would directly support U.S. Space Command. The post would be ‘vice commander of Air Force Space Command,’ and would be based in Washington — not in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Air Force Space Command is headquartered. Some lawmakers remain doubtful that the Air Force is ‘culturally’ able to focus on space as much as it does on air operations. The growing power of the aerospace industry inside Washington indicates that their demand for a separate service to control the Pentagon’s space operations is bearing some fruit. This concession by the Air Force is one step closer to expanding military space activities — all of which will give massive profits to the aerospace industry.

“Last year a bill to create a separate ‘Space Force’ passed the House but failed to be approved by the Senate. Trump’s endorsement of the ‘Space Force’ concept indicates that the aerospace industry has found a strong ally in the White House and the pressure on the Senate to approve the plan will now increase dramatically.

“Whether a separate ‘Space Force’ is created or not, the U.S. is spending massive amounts of public funds to create a new arms race in space. Since Bill Clinton’s administration, Washington has continually refused to negotiate a treaty to ban weapons in space with China and Russia. Instead the U.S. pulled out of the ABM Treaty in 2002, and since then has been deploying so-called ‘missile defense’ systems on land and at sea, beginning an encirclement of China and Russia with these technologies that are key elements in Pentagon first-strike attack planning. As a result, China and Russia have maintained for years that they cannot afford to reduce their nuclear retaliatory capabilities, thus killing any hopes for further nuclear disarmament agreements.”

Gagnon has been on a 30-day hunger strike protesting a corporate welfare bill for General Dynamics in Maine where he lives.

Trump CIA Nominee Faces Possible Arrest Warrant in Germany

“Democracy Now” reports: “Trump’s New CIA Nominee, Gina Haspel, Faces Possible Arrest Warrant in Germany over Torture.”

ANDREAS SCHÜLLER, via Anabel Bermejo, bermejo@ECCHR.eu, @schueller_a

Schüller is director of the International Crimes and Accountability Program at the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, which filed a legal intervention with the German Federal Prosecutor for an arrest warrant for Trump’s new CIA director nominee, Gina Haspel.

Schüller said of Haspel: “She should be standing trial, not be promoted. …

“The Federal Prosecutor did add our criminal complaint against Gina Haspel to his preliminary examination of CIA-torture, which exists since the U.S.-Senate Committee published its executive summary about CIA-detainee treatment in December 2014.

“We ask for a joint criminal investigation of the CIA and U.S. Army torture program between 2002 and 2006 by several European states.

“The nomination is the result of the failure to put legal accountability as a priority by former U.S. administrations, but also by European allies.”

See: “Germany: CIA deputy Gina Haspel must face arrest on travelling to Europe.”

Vote on U.S. Backing for Saudi War on Yemen as Crown Prince Tours U.S.

The New York Times reports today: “The Trump administration is furiously trying to fend off a bipartisan effort in Congress to halt American military support to the deadly Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen as the kingdom’s influential young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, arrives in Washington this week for talks with President Trump.”

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, sha980 at mail.harvard.edu@shireen818
Al-Adeimi is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University. She wrote the piece “Only Americans Can Stop America’s War on Yemen.”

She said today: “This month marks the third anniversary of the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war on Yemen. Despite the dire humanitarian crisis, however, the United States continues to sell arms to the Saudis and provide them with military support including mid-air refueling and various forms of logistical support and training. Citing that U.S. involvement in Yemen is unconstitutional and unauthorized, Senators Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee, and Chris Murphy have recently invoked the War Powers Resolution and introduced a bill that aims to extricate the United States from this war. Bill S.J.Res.54 is currently cosponsored by 10 senators, and the vote will likely coincide with Mohamed bin Salman’s U.S. visit this week. The bill has already been met with opposition from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others in the Senate who introduced an opposing bill. For Yemenis, however, S.J.Res.54 represents hope for an end to this brutal war on their country.”

See the new piece from The American Conservative: “‘60 Minutes’’ Embarrassing Interview with Mohammed bin Salman.” See overview from the New York Times last year: “‘It’s a Slow Death’: The World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis.”

See World Without War’s list of protests in D.C. and other cities.

The text of the Sanders-Lee-Murphy legislation directs “the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.” It makes an exception for forces “engaged in operations directed at al Qaeda or associated forces.”
See IPA news release: “Left and Right Unite Against Continued U.S. Backing of Saudi Attack on Yemen.”

See @accuracy Twitter list on Yemen.

Instructor at Great Mills HS Leads Campaign to Demilitarize Schools

CNN reports this morning: “Three people were injured in a shooting at Great Mills High School in Maryland on Tuesday morning, according to Andrew Ponti, an official with the St. Mary’s County public information office.”

PAT ELDER, pelder at studentprivacy.org, @studentprivacy
Elder said today: “I was at Great Mills High School last night, teaching GED.”

He is author of the recently released book Military Recruiting in the United StatesElder is director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, an organization that confronts militarism in the schools and just launched a new campaign to shut down high school marksmanship programs. He was recently on FAIR’s program “CounterSpin” and “Democracy Now”: “Inside the U.S. Military Recruitment Program That Trained Nikolas Cruz to Be ‘A Very Good Shot.'”

Elder said today: “There are hundreds of trailer homes around the school. There’s tattoo shops and liquor stores. Nearby, there’s Lockheed and CACI and other military contractors, making millions.

“My son went to the school and when he was there, I raised concerns about the JROTC program. I was in a counselor’s office at Great Mills recently and they had a poster for the Navy: ‘Sometimes we rush in after the storm. Sometimes we are the storm.’

“There’s a huge military base nearby, Naval Air Station Patuxent River. It’s as big as the Pentagon.

“Regardless of the specifics of this attack, we have to face up to the reality that militarization of our society, especially our schools, fuels the violence that causes so much suffering — whether it takes place through U.S. foreign policy or school shootings.”

U.S. Saudi Lobby “in Overdrive” as U.S. Helps Starve Yemen

KELLEY BEAUCAR VLAHOS,  kv at kelleyvlahos.com, @KelleyBVlahos

Executive editor of The American Conservative magazine, Kelley Beaucar Vlahos recently wrote the piece “U.S. Saudi Lobby in Overdrive Ahead of Prince MbS ‘Roadshow’

She said today: “The media has been laying out the red carpet for Crown Prince bin Salman in Washington. What the establishment press won’t tell you is that no less than 25 American lobbying firms worked for the Saudi Arabian government in 2017 to the tune of $16 million, to burnish their image, manage the message, and get to massive military contracts for the weapons of war that are now being used to kill, maim and slowly starve millions of civilians in Yemen today. Just as important, the Saudis use Washington lobbyists to influence U.S. policies on issues as critical as our own foreign policy with allies like Qatar (whom the Saudis are currently blockading economically), bang the war drums against Iran, and help kill the 9/11 bill, which would allow survivors of the World Trade Center and Pentagon terror attacks go after states connected to the hijackers in court.”

The Real Threat: Facebook and Google’s Business Model

YASHA LEVINE, mail at yashalevine.com, @yashalevine
Levine is an investigative journalist and author of the new book Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet. He just wrote the piece “The Cambridge Analytica Con” for The Baffler, which states: “This week, Cambridge Analytica, the British election data outfit funded by billionaire Robert Mercer and linked to Steven Bannon and President Donald Trump, blew up the news cycle. …

“Our present-day freakout over Cambridge Analytica needs to be put in the broader historical context of our decades-long complacency over Silicon Valley’s business model. The fact is that companies like Facebook and Google are the real malicious actors here — they are vital public communications systems that run on profiling and manipulation for private profit without any regulation or democratic oversight from the society in which it operates. But, hey, let’s blame Cambridge Analytica. Or better yet, take a cue from the [New York] Times and blame the Russians along with Cambridge Analytica. …

“Commerce in user data permitted Facebook to earn $40 billion last year, while Google raked in $110 billion. …

“What do these companies know about us, their users? Well, just about everything. Silicon Valley of course keeps a tight lid on this information, but you can get a glimpse of the kinds of data our private digital dossiers contain by trawling through their patents. Take, for instance, a series of patents Google filed in the mid-2000s for its Gmail-targeted advertising technology. The language, stripped of opaque tech jargon, revealed that just about everything we enter into Google’s many products and platforms — from email correspondence to Web searches and internet browsing — is analyzed and used to profile users in an extremely invasive and personal way. …

“There’s another, bigger cultural issue with the way we’ve begun to examine and discuss Cambridge Analytica’s battery of internet-based influence ops. People are still dazzled by the idea that the internet, in its pure, untainted form, is some kind of magic machine distributing democracy and egalitarianism across the globe with the touch of a few keystrokes. …

“Cambridge Analytica is a subsidiary of the SCL Group, a military contractor set up by a spooky huckster named Nigel Oakes that sells itself as a high-powered conclave of experts specializing in data-driven counterinsurgency. It’s done work for the Pentagon, NATO and the UK Ministry of Defense in places like Afghanistan and Nepal, where it says it ran a ‘campaign to reduce and ultimately stop the large numbers of Maoist insurgents in Nepal from breaking into houses in remote areas to steal food, harass the homeowners and cause disruption.’

“In the grander scheme of high-tech counterinsurgency boondoggles, which features such storied psy-ops outfits as Peter Thiel’s Palantir and Cold War dinosaurs like Lockheed Martin, the SCL Group appears to be a comparatively minor player. Nevertheless, its ambitious claims to reconfigure the world order with some well-placed algorithms recalls one of the first major players in the field: Simulatics, a 1960s counterinsurgency military contractor that pioneered data-driven election campaigns and whose founder, Ithiel de Sola Pool, helped shape the development of the early internet as a surveillance and counterinsurgency technology.”

Bolton’s Falsifications for War

Juan Cole writes: “Let’s Call Bolton What He Is: A War Criminal with Terrorist Ties, Not Just ‘Hawkish.’

Trump tweeted in 2013: “All former Bush administration officials should have zero standing on Syria. Iraq was a waste of blood & treasure.”

In an Institute for Public Accuracy news release earlier this year — “‘Fire and Fury’ — New Reports Thicken Trump-Israel Plot,” Ali Abunimah noted that author Michael Wolff “recounts an early January 2017 dinner in New York where Bannon and disgraced former Fox News boss Roger Ailes discussed cabinet picks.

“Bannon observed that they did not have a ‘deep bench,’ but both men agreed the extremely pro-Israel neocon John Bolton would be a good pick for national security adviser. ‘He’s a bomb thrower,’ Ailes said of Bolton, ‘and a strange little fucker. But you need him. Who else is good on Israel?’

“‘Day one we’re moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Netanyahu’s all in,’ Bannon said, adding that anti-Palestinian casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson was on board too.

“‘Let Jordan take the West Bank, let Egypt take Gaza. Let them deal with it. Or sink trying,’ Bannon proposed. ‘The Saudis are on the brink, Egyptians are on brink, all scared to death of Persia.’

“Asked by Ailes, ‘Does Donald know’ the plan, Bannon reportedly just smiled.

“Bannon’s idea reflected ‘the new Trump thinking’ about the Middle East: ‘There are basically four players,’ writes Wolff, ‘Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The first three can be united against the fourth.’ Egypt and Saudi Arabia would be ‘given what they want’ in respect to Iran, and in return would ‘pressure the Palestinians to make a deal.'”

PHYLLIS BENNIS, pbennis at ips-dc.org
Bennis directs the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. She noted that Bolton’s explicit derision for international law goes back decades, saying [in a debate with Bennis] in 1994: “There is no United Nations. … When the United States leads, the United Nations will follow. When it suits our interest to do so, we will do so. When it does not suit our interests we will not.”

See “War criminals must fear punishment. That’s why I went for John Bolton.” by George Monbiot: “The Nuremberg principles, which arose from the prosecution of Nazi war criminals, define as an international crime the ‘planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances.’ Bolton appears to have ‘participated in a common plan’ to prepare for the war (also defined by the principles as a crime) by inserting the false claim that Iraq was seeking to procure uranium from Niger into a state department factsheet. He also organised the sacking of José Bustani, the head of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, accusing him of bad management. Bustani had tried to broker a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.”

Greg Thielmann, a 25-year veteran of the Foreign Service, serving two tours in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, writes in “Bolton: A Prime Mover Of The Iraq WMD Fiasco,” that: “I was a firsthand witness to the negative consequences of Bolton’s style and substantive approach while serving as director of the office in the State Department’s intelligence bureau (INR/SPM) responsible for monitoring Iraqi WMD issues. As my office delivered to him the heavy volume of sensitive information provided by the intelligence community, he demonstrated a penchant for quickly dismissing inconvenient facts and rejecting any analysis that did not serve his policy preferences.”

Investigative reporter Gareth Porter writes in The American Conservative, in the piece “The Untold Story of John Bolton’s Campaign for War With Iran,” that: “Bolton’s high-profile advocacy of war with Iran is well known. What is not at all well known is that, when he was under secretary of state for arms control and international security, he executed a complex and devious strategy aimed at creating the justification for a U.S. attack on Iran. Bolton sought to convict the Islamic Republic in the court of international public opinion of having a covert nuclear weapons program using a combination of diplomatic pressure, crude propaganda, and fabricated evidence.”

MITCHELL PLITNICK, plitnickm at gmail.com
Plitnick wrote the piece “John Bolton: The Essential Profile,” which states: “Bolton served as UN ambassador from August 2005 — when President Bush gave him a recess appointment after the Senate blocked his nomination — to January 2007. His resignation, announced in December 2006, came at the end of a controversial tenure marked by severe criticism from U.S. senators and international diplomats. His resignation also came less than three weeks after President Bush resubmitted Bolton’s nomination for Senate confirmation — the second time in six months.

“During his first confirmation hearings, Bolton’s record as undersecretary of state came under intense criticism, particularly regarding his contacts with Israel. According to The Forward and other news sources, Bolton had met with officials of Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, without first seeking ‘country clearance’ from the State Department. …

“Speaking before an audience at the Heritage Foundation in May 2002, Bolton argued that Cuba should also be included among the ‘axis of evil’ countries because of its alleged development of bio-warfare capacity. Cuba is world-renowned for its biomedical industry, but Bolton claimed that the industry was concealing a WMD project. Providing no evidence, he insisted that Cuba was involved in the sales of illicit bio-warfare technology to boost its cash-short economy. Other administration officials declined to support Bolton’s accusations. A congressional investigation of Cuba’s alleged WMD program found no evidence supporting Bolton’s assertions. …

“As an assistant attorney general under Edwin Meese, Bolton thwarted the Kerry Commission’s efforts to obtain documentation, including Bolton’s personal notes, about the Iran-Contra affair and alleged Contra drug smuggling. Working with congressional Republicans, Bolton also stonewalled congressional demands to interview Meese’s deputies regarding their role in the affair.” Mitchell Plitnick is former vice president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace.

“Trump’s Choice of Bolton Satisfies His Biggest Donor”

ELI CLIFTON, [in NYC] eliclifton at gmail.com@EliClifton
JIM LOBE, jlobe at starpower.net@LobeLog
Clifton and Lobe just wrote the piece “Trump’s Choice of Bolton Satisfies His Biggest Donor,” which states: “Last August, shortly after John Kelly replaced Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff and Steve Bannon was fired as the president’s chief strategist, John Bolton complained that he could no longer get a meeting with Donald Trump.”Just three months later, however, on the eve of Trump’s belligerent address to the United Nations, Bolton was once again in direct contact with the president. How did this turnabout take place? The reconnection was reportedly arranged by none other than Sheldon Adelson, the Trump campaign’s biggest donor.

Politico reported that the most threatening line in Trump’s UN speech — that he would cancel Washington’s participation in the Iran nuclear deal if Congress and U.S. allies did not bend to his efforts to effectively renegotiate it — came directly from Bolton and wasn’t in the original … prepared by Trump’s staff. ‘The line was added to Trump’s speech after Bolton, despite Kelly’s recent edict [restricting Bolton’s access to Trump], reached the president by phone on Thursday afternoon from Las Vegas, where Bolton was visiting with Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson. Bolton urged Trump to include a line in his remarks noting that he reserved the right to scrap the agreement entirely, according to two sources familiar with the conversation.’

“Some analysts have suggested that Bolton, an anti-Iran uber-hawk, has the visit to Washington of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to thank for his imminent elevation. But Adelson, a huge supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, likely played a critical role in Bolton’s ascendancy.”

Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington, D.C. bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement. Clifton reports on money in politics and U.S. foreign policy. He previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.

“Hawks and Liars” Flying High on Cable News

“Just as they did in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion” 15 years ago, media critic Jeff Cohen writes in an article widely published online this week, “MSNBC and CNN now serve up a steady parade of war-hawks, spies and liars, presenting them as credible and almost heroic as long as they criticize the despicable man in the White House.”

The article — “Why Are Progressives Cheering Cable News’ Parade of Hawks and Liars?” — challenges the credibility of news analysts and commentators who are nightly fixtures on cable news.

JEFF COHEN,  jcohen at ithaca.edu
Cohen is available for a limited number of interviews. He is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and the author of “Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.” Cohen co-founded the online activism group RootsAction.org in 2011 and founded the media watch group FAIR in 1986.

“When it comes to Trump critics,” the article says, “CNN and MSNBC regularly serve up a basket of elite deplorables from the military/intelligence establishment—for example, the appalling ex-CIA Director John Brennan and horrific former acting CIA Director John McLaughlin. The hollowness of their Trump critique on ‘liberal cable news’ was on display last week when both men endorsed Trump’s choice for CIA chief, torture-overseer Gina Haspel.”

Cohen adds: “I’m worried about anti-Trump activists, even some quite progressive, who’ve come to see corporate news channels like CNN and MSNBC as their saviors. It’s a dangerous illusion.”

The piece contends: “Trump is doing enormous damage to our country and the world—but you won’t see most of it on MSNBC or any mainstream outlet that covers the Trump White House as a TV soap opera.”

And Cohen writes: “When you hear nightly on CNN and MSNBC about Putin’s ‘attack on our democracy,’ let’s not forget that—whatever impact Russia had on the 2016 election (evidence so far suggests it was small)—’our democracy’ has been under attack for decades by internal enemies: big money control of both major parties, corporate media dominance, Democratic subservience to Wall Street, Republican suppression of voters of color and youth, an archaic election system protected by both parties, etc.”

Wave of Teachers’ Strikes: Kentucky and Oklahoma


MIKE ELK, mike.elk at gmail.com, @MikeElk
Currently in Oklahoma, Elk is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report and just wrote the piece “Wave of teachers’ wildcat strikes spreads to Oklahoma and Kentucky” for the Guardian.

He writes: “On Friday, teachers in Kentucky went out on illegal wildcat strikes in more than 25 counties against the wishes of union leaders to protest against draconian changes to the state’s … pension plans. …

“While Oklahoma has the country’s lowest tax on oil and natural gas production, teachers’ salaries remain stubbornly low, at 49th in the nation.

“The strikers have been buoyed by a successful strike by their peers in West Virginia, their first statewide work stoppage since 1990, which ended with them winning a 5 percent pay rise and other concessions.”

TAMMY BERLIN, tammy.berlin at jcta.org
Berlin is vice president of the the Jefferson County Teachers Association in Kentucky. She said today: “We thought we killed this ‘reform’ bill twice and then they attached some of it to a sewage bill, appropriately enough. They passed it in record time from committee to both houses. That was done illegally, they didn’t have the required actuarial analysis — so there will be legal changes. Today is the last day of the session and they’re trying to pass a budget. We want them to fund education by closing loopholes. There’s a strong push to give money to charter schools even though they don’t have the funding for that. … We don’t want a regressive tax. Teachers will be meeting in Louisville beginning Wednesday.”

MLK: Radical Revolutionary

Some are noting that Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated 50 years ago Wednesday in Memphis, was there supporting striking sanitation workers. But this was just one manifestation of King’s radical challenge to what he called “the triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism.”

In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech at Riverside Church in New York, given exactly a year before his death, King proclaimed: “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. …”

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

“A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. … True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

“A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, ‘This is not just.’ It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, ‘This is not just.’ The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.

“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.” 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 rebuked the major media outlets: “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.

In a 2010 special, “MLK: A Call to Conscience,” reporter Tavis Smiley noted that by the end of his life, as he was focusing on war and poverty as well as racism “King had almost three-quarters … of the American people turned against him, 55 percent of his own people [African Americans] turned against him.” Noted Smiley: “If you replace the words ‘Iraq’ for ‘Vietnam,’ ‘Afghanistan’ for ‘Vietnam,’ ‘Pakistan’ for ‘Vietnam,’ this speech is so relevant today.”

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.

JARED BALL, imixwhatilike at gmail.com, @IMIXWHATILIKE
Ball is professor of communication studies, Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University and author of I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto and A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X.

Bolton: Trump’s Most “Dangerous” Move

Simon Kuper writes in the Financial Times piece “Don’t get distracted. John Bolton is a huge threat“:  “A warmonger is about to start work a few steps from Trump in a White House devoid of procedure.”

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com, @raymcgovern
McGovern served as an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then as a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years. He helped prepare daily briefings for presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush. He just wrote the piece “Coming Attraction: Lunatic Loose in West Wing,” which states: “John Bolton’s March 22 appointment-by-tweet as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser has given ‘March Madness’ a new and ominous meaning. There is less than a week left to batten down the hatches before Bolton makes U.S. foreign policy worse than it already is.

“During a recent interview with The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill (minutes 35 to 51) I mentioned that Bolton fits seamlessly into a group of take-no-prisoners zealots once widely known in Washington circles as ‘the crazies,’ and now more commonly referred to as ‘neocons.’

“Beginning in the 1970s, ‘the crazies’ sobriquet was applied to Cold Warriors hell bent on bashing Russians, Chinese, Arabs — anyone who challenged U.S. ‘exceptionalism’ (read hegemony). More to the point, I told Scahill that President (and former CIA Director) George H. W. Bush was among those using the term freely, since it seemed so apt. …

“John Bolton was Cheney’s ‘crazy’ at the State Department. Secretary Colin Powell was pretty much window dressing. He could be counted on not to complain loudly — much less quit — even if he strongly suspected he was being had. Powell had gotten to where he was by saluting sharply and doing what superiors told him to do. As secretary of state, Powell was not crazy — just craven. He enjoyed more credibility than the rest of the gang and rather than risk being ostracized like the rest of us, he sacrificed that credibility on the altar of the ‘supreme international crime.’

“In those days Bolton did not hesitate to run circles around — and bully — the secretary of state and many others. This must be considered a harbinger of things to come, starting on Monday, when the bully comes to the china shop in the West Wing. While longevity in office is not the hallmark of the Trump administration, even if Bolton’s tenure turns out to be short-lived, the crucial months immediately ahead will provide Bolton with ample opportunity to wreak the kind of havoc that ‘the crazies’ continue to see as enhancing U.S. — and not incidentally — Israeli influence in the Middle East. Bear in mind, Bolton still says the attack on Iraq was a good idea.”

McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. In January 2003, he co-founded Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) and still serves on its Steering Group.

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal at gmail.com, @marjoriecohn
Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and just wrote the piece “Trump Finds Fellow Bully in Bolton,” which states: “Nothing Donald Trump has done since his inauguration 14 months ago is more dangerous — to the United States, and indeed, to the world — than his selection of John Bolton for National Security Adviser. It is not surprising the president would feel most comfortable receiving advice from a fellow bully. …

“Bolton was such a lightning rod that in 2005, even the GOP-controlled Senate refused to confirm him as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. To avoid the need for Senate confirmation, George W. Bush named Bolton to the post in a recess appointment.

“But Bolton doesn’t just bully individuals. He pushed for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, advocates military attacks on North Korea and Iran, favors Israel’s annexation of the Palestinian West Bank, and falsely claimed that Cuba had biological weapons.

“As undersecretary of state for Arms Control and International Security in the Bush administration, Bolton was instrumental in withdrawing the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which heightened the risk of nuclear war with Russia.

“Anthony J. Blinken, deputy secretary of state in the Obama administration, wrote in The New York Times, ‘Mr. Bolton had a habit of twisting intelligence to back his bellicosity and sought to remove anyone who objected.'”

Israel Shooting Palestinian Protesters and the Gaza “Conspiracy of Silence”

BBC reports today: “Two Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces during fresh protests on Gaza’s border with Israel, Palestinian health ministry officials say. … Protesters set ablaze tires, hoping smoke will obscure the vision of Israeli snipers.”

[See live video from Gaza and live coverage from the pan-Arab network Al-Mayadeen. Also see @accuracy Twitter list on Israel-Palestine.]

RAJI SOURANI, pchr at pchrgaza.org, @pchrgaza
Sourani is executive director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza. The group just released its annual report. Sourani was recently on the program “Democracy Now”: “Massacre in Gaza: Israeli Forces Open Fire on Palestinians, Killing 18, Wounding As Many As 1,700.” Sourani spoke of “Eleven years of criminal, illegal, inhuman siege, which suffocated Gaza socially and economically, and three wars, where Israel was targeting … Palestinian civilians and civilian targets. All this time, when Israel didn’t allow the rebuilding of Gaza, and denied us our basic rights, to the level that we are not able to treat our water or our sewage. … So, people [are protesting because they] wanted, after all this conspiracy of silence, after all this pain and suffering, to demonstrate for their dignity.”

NOOR HARAZEEN, updatefromgaza at gmail.com
Harazeen is a Palestinian journalist and a TV correspondent for CGTN and teleSUR.

SANDY TOLAN, sandytolan at gmail.com
Tolan is author of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East and Children of the Stones. His pieces include “Witness to a Catastrophe” — largely about Palestinians in Gaza — for the Los Angeles Review of Books.

DIANA BUTTU, [in Haifa, Israel] dbuttu at gmail.com, @dianabuttu
Buttu is a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and former Palestinian negotiator. See her interview with host Dennis Bernstein on Monday about the protests last Friday on the program “Flashpoints.” She said: “From video footage we can see that people were shot in the back. Others were shot for carrying tires or for simply walking into these areas. These were individuals who posed no threat whatsoever. Even if they were attempting to cross the border, you don’t use live fire to kill people who are crossing a border.

“And secondly, the point of this was to highlight the fact that Palestinians cannot return. Eighty percent of the Palestinian population of the Gaza Strip does not come from the Gaza Strip. They are actually refugees driven out by the Israelis. While Israel keeps claiming that there were attempts to ‘infiltrate,’ in any case, this is not a proper response.

“The fact that Israel was positioning snipers on the border indicates that they were ready, willing and able to shoot protesters in the back. The head of the Israeli defense establishment has said that every one of these snipers should be commended.”

The interview was just published by Consortium News. [There will be a memorial service for Consortium News founder Robert Parry in D.C. on April 14 and another in the Bay Area on May 19.]

Syria: “Propaganda Machine Goes into High Gear”

CHARLES GLASS, [currently in England], charlesglassbooks at gmail.com, @charlesmglass
Glass was ABC News Chief Middle East correspondent and has written extensively on Syria, including covering the civil war on the ground. His books include Syria Burning: ISIS and the Death of the Arab Spring. A year ago, he wrote the piece “Think the War in Syria Is Winding Down? Think Again.” His most recent piece is “The Result of a Loyalist Victory in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta? More Violence.” See his website: CharlesGlass.net.

JAMES PAUL, [in NYC] james.paul.nyc at gmail.com
Author of Syria Unmasked and the recently released Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy and Power in the UN Security Council, Paul was executive director of Global Policy Forum, a think tank that monitors the UN, for nearly 20 years. He was also a longtime editor of the Oxford Companion to Politics of the World and executive director of the Middle East Research and Information Project.

Paul said today: “As the media celebrate the U.S. visit by Saudi prince Salman, author of the catastrophic bombing and starvation of Yemen, they castigate Syria’s president Bashar for a chemical weapons attack and denounce him once again as the nastiest dictator on earth. Washington, Israel and their Western allies are turning up the heat on Moscow, Tehran and Damascus. The battle over oil and Middle East hegemony continues. The propaganda machine goes into high gear, with John Bolton, Trump’s new national security advisor, bringing his own special poison to the table. A Russian-brokered peace deal appeared to be near just days ago, so something had to be done! The hawks are offering Western publics a stark ‘choice’ between two repulsive options: Bashar and his cronies or a U.S.-backed regime, imposed by force of arms. Or perhaps even a devastated no-go zone like Libya today where civil war goes on and on after the Western regime-change intervention. Who would know that a large and lively democratic movement exists in Syria, opposed to both these options and critical of the self-serving ‘great powers’ who have not hesitated to destroy Syria to achieve their geo-strategic aims. The Islamist ‘opposition’ backed by the Saudis and Washington is certainly not the answer to a democratic and peaceful future. No to all interventions!”

Attacking Syria “Impeachable”

WASHINGTON, DC – APRIL 09: National Security Advisor John Bolton (R), listens to U.S. President Donald Trump as he speaks about the FBI raid at lawyer Michael Cohen’s office, while receiving a briefing from senior military leaders regarding Syria, in the Cabinet Room, on April 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. The FBI raided the office of Michael Cohen on Monday as part of the ongoing investigation into the president’s administration. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “Any U.S. attack targeting the Syrian government or its forces would clearly violate both U.S. and international law. When Obama was in a similar position in 2013, his advisor Ben Rhodes [see below] has since commented that they turned back largely because they were afraid of impeachment. That fear is well founded. While the prospect of impeaching Trump is thrown around frequently for partisan purposes, on this issue, the constitution is clear: Initiating a war or any such attack without authorization is clearly impeachable.

“Last year, at the National Press Club, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., claimed the authority to target the Syrian government stemmed from the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Gen. Dunford was 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.

“Excuses of ‘humanitarian intervention’ have no basis in international law and in these circumstances are transparently hollow. Israel apparently just attacked Syria (illegal) from Lebanese airspace (also illegal). Israel itself just openly admitted that it is killing Palestinian civilian protesters — part of a decades-long brazenly illegal policy. The U.S. representative to the UN, Nikki Haley, prevented even an inquiry by the UN into the matter. There’s no evidence of any humanitarian concern here, simply a search for pretexts to pursue geopolitical goals which may well include carving up Syria.”

Boyle’s books include Foundations of World Order (Duke University Press).

In 2017, 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.”

Syria: UN Independent Expert Warns About Propaganda for War, Rush to Judgement

ALFRED DE ZAYAS, [in Geneva] alfreddezayas at gmail.com, @alfreddezayas
Alfred de Zayas is the UN Independent Expert (Special Rapporteur) on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order.

He said today that he “urges all parties to the Syrian conflict to pause for a moment and give reason and law a chance. An international investigation into all allegations of the use of chemical weapons in Syria (and elsewhere) must be conducted. Only a thorough professional investigation can establish the facts and the responsibilities, which may necessitate referral of the situation to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

“A fundamental component of the rule of law is due process, which encompasses conventional and customary rules intended to prevent arbitrariness and consequent miscarriages of justice. No one is served by rushing to conclusions, least of all the war victims. What is important is to expedite humanitarian aid to civilians and to obtain a cease fire. Violating the fundamental rules of penal law, including the presumption of innocence, weakens the credibility and predictability of legal institutions and could constitute a grave threat to regional and international peace within the meaning of article 39 of the UN Charter, undermining a democratic and equitable international order.

“Sabre-rattling, war mongering and propaganda for war are incompatible with the UN Charter and with article 20, paragraph 1, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. ‘We the peoples’ of this planet want peace, and that requires good will and perseverance in reaffirming the rule of law and the culture of dialogue and negotiation.

“Violating the prohibition of the use of force stipulated in article 2(4) of the UN Charter could entail not only the crime of aggression under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Law, but would almost certainly lead to crimes against humanity and war crimes. There must be no impunity for those who use chemical weapons and no impunity for those who commit crimes of aggression.” See his personal website.

* Inspectors in Syria * Resisting Illegal Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claims about Syria Attack “Unraveling”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syria Attack: Seeing Through the Propaganda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUMF “Reform”: Codifying Perpetual War?


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

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

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

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

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

From WikiLeaks to Whistleblowers: “Assault on Truth Telling”

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

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

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

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

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

The U.S., Macron and Syria

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Trump-Macron Alignment

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

JEAN BRICMONT, [in France], jean.bricmont at uclouvain.be
Bricmont is author of Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War. He is also a retired mathematical and statistical physicist at the University of Louvain, and the co-author of Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. He posts regularly on Facebook.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Released Audio: Hoyer, DCCC Pressuring Progressive to Leave Race

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Netanyahu’s Prolonged Disinformation Campaign

Jim Sciutto, CNN’s chief national security reporter, tweeted Tuesday morning: “There is no evidence #Iran was trying to develop nuclear weapons after 2009 – #IAEA, the global nuclear watchdog, tells CNN in statement.” The Washington Post reported Monday afternoon: “Suspected Israeli strikes hit Iran-linked targets in Syria, escalating regional tensions.” CBS reports: “Mike Pompeo defends Israel over Palestinian Gaza border deaths.”

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Available for a limited number of interviews, Porter is a noted independent investigative journalist and author of the book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He said today: “Netanyahu hasn’t just repeated old history about an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program, as news media have suggested in their coverage of his theatrical presentation. He has revealed that the whole collection of documents (that were used by the Bush administration to indict Iran for having such an alleged covert nuclear weapons program) was fabricated by the Israelis themselves. Telling details in his presentation not only show these are the documents that surfaced in 2004 but that they were crude forgeries. I have discussed the evidence of forgery of the entire collection of documents in my book-length study Manufactured Crisis. But in an article on Netanyahu’s presentation, I will explain how he has confirmed everything that I wrote about Israel’s role in forging the documents, which up to now have represented a highly successful disinformation campaign.”

Porter’s past pieces on this issue include “Iran Nuclear ‘Alleged Studies’ Documents: The Evidence of Fraud.” Porter’s other recent pieces include “Did John Bolton Leak Intelligence to Sabotage a Trump-Kim Deal?” and “An Alternative Explanation to the Skripal Mystery.”

Also see video: “Netanyahu Wrong on Iraq, Wrong on Iran.” “If you take out Saddam’s Regime, I guarantee you, that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region. … There is no question whatsoever that Saddam is seeking and is working and is advancing towards the development of nuclear weapons — no question whatsoever,” Netanyahu said on September 12, 2002.

Also see piece by Nima Shirazi documenting Netanyahu’s long record of claiming that Iran is about to have a nuclear weapon.

Arms control specialist Joe Cirincione notes: “May I just point out that #Israel had a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it tried and failed to hide for years. They repeatedly and consistently lied to U.S. officials when confronted with the evidence.” U.S. officials themselves typically refuse to acknowledge Israel’s clandestine nuclear weapons program, see piece by Sam Husseini and questioning of then-congressional representative Mike Pence.

Trump, Confidentiality Agreements and “Endemic Lawlessness”

Donald Trump tweeted this morning about his nondisclosure agreement with Stormy Daniels: “These agreements are … very common among celebrities and people of wealth.”

ALAN GARFIELD, aegarfield at widener.edu
Garfield is a professor at Widener University Delaware Law School and the author of “Promises of Silence: Contract Law and Freedom of Speech” in the Cornell Law Review. His recent articles include “End the confidentiality agreements that help perpetuate abuse” for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

PETE DAVIS, pedavis at jd18.law.harvard.edu, @PeteDDavis
Davis is a civic reformer from Falls Church, Virginia and a member of the Harvard Law School Class of 2018. He recently wrote the report “Our Bicentennial Crisis: A Call to Action for Harvard Law School’s Public Interest Mission,” summarized at The Harvard Law Record.

He said today: “Billionaires like Donald Trump have access to armies of lawyers while average Americans frequently don’t even have access to one. People like Rudy Giuliani say they care about law and order, but if citizens don’t have access to legal power, you have endemic lawlessness.”

The first part of the report “documents how the vast public is excluded from legal power in the United States:

“…in the broken criminal justice system: how public defenders are grossly underfunded and understaffed — a contributing factor to prosecutorial abuses and our ballooning prison system.

“…in the inaccessible civil justice system: how 86 percent of the civil legal needs of the poor go unmet; how America ranks 50th of 66 wealthy countries in terms of ‘the ability of people to obtain legal counsel.’

‘…in the indentured political system: how public interest lobbyists are outnumbered 34-to-1 by corporate interest lobbyists in D.C.; how tort law and antitrust law are crippled by corporate interest lawyers; and how the John M. Olin Foundation paid Harvard Law School $18 million to teach what they have admitted is ‘conservative constitutional law.'”

See YouTube summary of the report and Davis’ piece “Jeff Flake’s shameful record on civil legal aid for the poor.”

The report also notes: “Researchers estimate that $20-50 billion in wages are stolen from American workers by their employers annually. Yet only a small fraction, a little less than $1 billion, of that stolen property is recovered each year in civil suits or by state and federal enforcement. If American workers had anywhere close to the legal power that their employers do, we would not be witnessing such a corporate crime wave.”

Background: See by Russell Mokhiber of Corporate Crime Reporter: “Matt Taibbi on Corporate Crime and American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap,” a discussion of Taibbi’s book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap.

Trump to Send Back Hondurans Fleeing U.S.-Backed Repression There

USA Today reports: “Trump keeps focus on caravan of Honduran asylum seekers headed to U.S.” The New York Times is reporting Friday afternoon: “The Trump administration is ending temporary protected status for tens of thousands of Hondurans who have been allowed to live and work in the United States since 1999, following a hurricane that ravaged their country.”

SUYAPA PORTILLO, [in Honduras] Suyapa_Portillo at pitzer.edu, @SuyapaPV
Portillo is an assistant professor at Pitzer College and observed last year’s election in Honduras. She said today: “This year’s Viacrusis (immigrant caravan) amplifies the dire conditions facing Hondurans in the election fraud debacle.” She states that the Honduran government “is resorting to persecution, human rights violations and downright murder to control the population to create the illusion of popular support. The UN High Commissioner’s report notes that there were 23 executions during demonstrations and 22 political prisoners whose only crime was to go out and protest electoral fraud. This government is not able to provide decent jobs, education and access to justice, and cannot protect women, children nor LGBTQI communities. The government cannot provide for Hondurans in the country, let alone those deported. They are not ready for reintegration of potential deported TPS [temporary protected status] holders from the U.S. and offer little to no assistance to returned migrants from Mexico. When deported back, Hondurans will be coming back to a country with a government that cannot control ‘violence’ because it itself is violent and murderous.”

Portillo was recently quoted extensively in the AZ Central piece “Migrant caravan: Parents seeking asylum in U.S. fear forcible separation from children.”

MARTIN PINEDA, [in Los Angeles], MPineda at carecen-la.org, @carecen_la
Pineda is digital organizer with CARECEN, the largest Central American immigrant rights organization in the country. He said today: “When individuals often feel they don’t have a choice but to flee their beautiful countries, it’s because they have lost all hope. It is no coincidence that 80 percent of the Central American Refugee Caravan consists of Hondurans, particularly mothers, children, and members of the LGBTQI communities who are seeking their legal right of asylum. Hondurans in this caravan are fleeing the U.S.-backed repressive Juan Orlando Hernadez regime, which constantly oppresses its population and has numerous counts of human rights violations.”See IPA news release from December: “Evidence of Honduran Election Being Stolen.” Also see under-reported Associated Press investigation from earlier this year: “Secret report: Honduras’ new top cop helped cartel move coke.” When Sam Husseini questioned the State Department spokesperson about this issue, the State Department referred the matter to the Honduran government.

Trump Team Hired Israeli Spy Firm Used by Harvey Weinstein to Attack Obama Officials on Iran Deal

Ronan Farrow reports in The New Yorker: “Israeli Operatives Who Aided Harvey Weinstein Collected Information on Former Obama Administration Officials.”

Mark Townsend and Julian Borger broke the story in the Observer this weekend: “Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal,” which states: “Aides to Donald Trump, the U.S. president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a ‘dirty ops’ campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal.

“People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to ‘get dirt’ on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.

“The extraordinary revelations come days before Trump’s 12 May deadline to either scrap or continue to abide by the international deal limiting Iran’s nuclear [program].”

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052 at comcast.net, @richards1052, Skype: richards1052
Silverstein writes on security and other issues for a number of outlets. He was among the very first to highlight the role of Israel in connection to scandals around the Trump administration and will continue updating at his blog Tikun Olam.

His past pieces include “Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying About Trump Sabotage of Security Council Resolution Against Israel Settlements,” which notes that: “Michael Flynn plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his efforts with Jared Kushner to torpedo a United Nations Security Council resolution criticizing Israeli settlements. These included lobbying the Russian ambassador to help in this campaign by delaying or cancelling a vote on the matter.” See also, “Trump, Kushner and Mueller: the Smoking Gun and the Bullet.”

See related Institute for Public Accuracy news releases including “Why is Israelgate Being Downplayed?

Gina Haspel and Torture: * Wrong * Ineffective * A Tool for War

JEREMY VARON, jvaron at aol.com, @witnesstorture
MAHA HILAL, innocentuntilprovenmuslim at gmail.com, @dr_maha_hilal
Human rights groups will rally outside the Hart Senate Office Building from 8:30-9:30 AM on Wednesday, May 9 in opposition to Gina Haspel’s nomination to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Some will be in the iconic detainee “uniform” of orange jumpsuits and black hoods. “The choice of Haspel to head the CIA is dead wrong,” says Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture. “It says that even in the United States you can literally get away with torture, which must warm the dark hearts of torturers everywhere in the world. Haspel must be stopped.” “Haspel was present at the start of the post-9/11 War on Terror that has targeted Muslims almost exclusively and which continues to this day,” says Dr. Maha Hilal of the Justice for Muslims Collective.

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com, @raymcgovern
McGovern served as an Army Infantry/Intelligence officer and then as a CIA analyst for a total of 30 years. He helped prepare daily briefings for presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush. He just wrote the piece “Will a Torturer Become CIA Director?” at Consortium News and signed two statements by former intelligence officers: “VIPS Call on Senate Intel Panel to Vote Against Haspel” and “Trump Should Withdraw Haspel Nomination, Intel Vets Say,” which states: “In 2002 Haspel supervised the first CIA ‘black site’ for interrogation, where cruel and bizarre forms of torture were applied to suspected terrorists. And when the existence of 92 videotapes of those torture sessions was revealed, Haspel signed a cable ordering their destruction, against the advice of legal counsel at CIA and the White House. …

“In addition to revealing clear violations of the UN Convention Against Torture, the Senate investigation shows that claims by senior CIA officials that torture is effective are far from true. The U.S. Army — in which many of us have served — has been aware of the ineffectiveness of torture for decades.

“General John Kimmons, head of Army Intelligence, drove home that point on September 6, 2006 — approximately an hour before President George W. Bush publicly extolled the virtues of torture methods that became known as ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’ Gen. Kimmons stated: ‘No good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years — hard years — tell us that.’ We believe that Defense Secretary James Mattis’ lack of enthusiasm for torture reflects lessons drawn from the historical experience of the Marine Corps, as well.”

SAM HUSSEINI, samhusseini at gmail.com, @samhusseini
Senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini just wrote the piece “Gina Haspel and Torture: Not Just Immoral, but a Tool for More War,” which states: “Especially given how little we know about Haspel’s record — it’s possible that there’s an even more insidious motive in the U.S. government practicing torture: To produce the rigged case for more war. Examining this possibility is made all the more urgent as Trump has put in place what clearly appears to be a war cabinet. My recent questioning at the State Department failed to produce a condemnation of waterboarding by spokesperson Heather Nauert.

“Gina Haspel’s hearing on Wednesday gives increased urgency to highlighting her record on torture and how torture has been ‘exploited.’ That is, how torture was used to create ‘intelligence’ for select policies, including the initiation of war.

“Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, has stated that neither he nor Powell were aware that the claims that Powell made before the UN just before the invasion of Iraq where partly based on torture. According to Wilkerson, Dick Cheney and the CIA prevailed on Powell to make false statements about a connection between Al-al-Qa’ida and Iraq without telling him the ‘evidence’ they were feeding him was based on tortured evidence. See my piece and questioning of Powell: ‘Colin Powell Showed that Torture DOES Work.’

“The 2014 Senate torture report noted (in an obscure footnote) the case Wilkerson speaks of: ‘Ibn Shaykh al-Libi’ stated while in Egyptian custody and clearly being tortured that ‘Iraq was supporting al-Qa’ida and providing assistance with chemical and biological weapons. Some of this information was cited by Secretary Powell in his speech at the United Nations, and was used as a justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Ibn Shaykh al-Libi recanted the claim after he was rendered to CIA custody on February [censored], 2003, claiming that he had been tortured by the [censored, likely “Egyptians”], and only told them what he assessed they wanted to hear.'”

Trump Nixing Iran Deal Based on Fabrications

Trump claimed in his remarks Tuesday announcing the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal that: “Last week Israel published intelligence documents, long concealed by Iran, conclusively showing the Iranians’ regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons.”

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Available for a limited number of interviews, Porter is a noted independent investigative journalist and author of the book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He recently wrote the piece “The Latest Act in Israel’s Iran Nuclear Disinformation Campaign” and just signed the statement “Trump Urged Not to Pull Out of Iran Nuclear Deal” which states: “The evidence presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on April 30 alleging a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program shows blatant signs of fabrication. … We believe that the renewed attention being given to claims that Iran is secretly working to develop nuclear weapons betokens a transparent attempt to stoke hostility toward Iran, with an eye toward helping ‘justify’ pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. …

“On April 30, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu displayed some of those documents in his slide show on what he called the Iranian ‘atomic archive.’ But those are precisely the same fraudulent documents that were acquired by the CIA in 2004.”The official accounts offered by the senior officials of the CIA about the provenance of these documents turned out be complete fabrication. Journalists were told variously that the documents (1) were taken from the laptop computer of an Iranian working in a secret research program; (2) were provided by a German spy; or (3) simply came from a ‘longtime contact in Iran.’

“However, Karsten Voigt, the former German Foreign Office official in charge of German-North American cooperation, revealed in an on-the-record interview [with Gareth Porter] in 2013 that senior officials of the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, told Voigt in November 2004 that the documents had been passed to the CIA by a BND source. That source, the senior BND official said, was not considered trustworthy, because he belonged to the Mujahideen-E-Khalq (MEK), the armed Iranian opposition group that was known to have served as a conduit for information that Israeli intelligence (Mossad) wanted to provide to the IAEA without having it attributed to Israel. (In 2012 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton removed MEK from the list of terrorist organizations.)

“Voigt recalled that the senior BND officials told him of their worry that the Bush administration was going to repeat the error of using fraudulent intelligence, as was the case with the notorious ‘Curveball,’ the Iraqi living in Germany, whom the BND had identified as unreliable.”

Also see from the American Conservative: “Giuliani’s MEK Pandering and Trump’s Iran Obsession.” From the New York Times: “MEK: The Group John Bolton Wants to Rule Iran.”

Fueling More Syria War: * Nixing Iran Deal and More Israeli Attacks * Pollack and Pundit Class

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced the “United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.” Shortly after, Reuters reported: “Syrian state media says Israel attacked just after U.S. quit Iran deal” and AP reported: “Israel Attacked Syria an Hour After the Iran Deal Was Ended, Says Report.” Attacks have continued between Israeli and Syrian forces since.

JANA NAKHAL, [in Beirut] jana.nakhal at gmail.com
A researcher and feminist, Nakhal said today: “In Syria, the Syrian government has been winning. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has just won big in the election. The Israeli and U.S. governments have been trying to attack Iran and their Syrian and Hezbollah allies. Like any colonial powers, it’s very hard for them to accept losing. So, their logic may well be, if we’re not in control, let’s burn it. Such a course of action may well spread more war well beyond Syria and Lebanon.” She has written for al-Akhbar Arabic and English as well as al-Adab and al-Nidaa magazine. Nakhal was recently in Afrin in northern Syria. See from ShadowProof: “Interview With Jana Nakhal, Lebanese Communist Party Member, On Occupation Of Afrin By Turkish Forces And Takfiri Fighters.”

CHARLES GLASS, [currently in England], charlesglassbooks at gmail.com, @charlesmglass
Glass was ABC News Chief Middle East correspondent and has written extensively on Syria, including covering the civil war on the ground. In 2016, his book Syria Burning was released.

In March, Glass wrote the piece: “Think the War in Syria Is Winding Down? Think Again” for The Nation, which stated: “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is raising the stakes, declaring, ‘We will act if necessary not just against Iran’s proxies but against Iran itself’; and some voices in the West demand not reform and reconstruction, but renewed war.

“Rather than encourage U.S.-Russian agreement to end the war, the deep thinkers in Washington and Mar-a-Lago are urging the United States to wade deeper into the swamp. Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst and Bill Clinton’s director for Persian Gulf affairs at the National Security Council, is one of the few commentators to admit that Syria is a means to an end. In a strongly argued series on the American Enterprise Institute’s website, Pollack advocates using Syria as the most effective arena to hurt Iran. …

“Pollack suggests ‘ramping up American covert assistance to the Syrian opposition to try to bleed the Assad regime and its Iranian backers over time, exactly the way that the United States backed the Afghan Mujahideen as they bled the Soviets in Afghanistan — or as the Russians and Chinese did to the United States in Vietnam.’ …

“The urge to hit Iran in Syria calls to mind an argument made, and heeded, 16 years ago, that ‘the option that makes the most sense is for the United States to launch a full-scale invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam, eradicate his weapons of mass destruction, and rebuild Iraq as a prosperous and stable society for the good of the United States, Iraq’s own people and the entire region.’ Americans know where that advice led the country. The author? Kenneth Pollack.”

Billionaires Fueling Trump on Iran Deal, Jerusalem Move

Politico reports Thursday: “Sheldon Adelson kicks in $30M to stop Democratic House takeover.”

ELI CLIFTON, eliclifton at gmail.com, @EliClifton
Clifton is a Nation Institute fellow and contributing editor to the foreign policy analysis website LobeLog. He just wrote the piece “Follow The Money: Three Billionaires Paved Way For Trump’s Iran Deal Withdrawal.”

Clifton writes: “President Donald Trump has just fulfilled a campaign pledge to tear up the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy achievement, a multilateral agreement constraining Iran’s nuclear enrichment (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA). In doing so, the president went against the advice of, among many others, his secretary of defense, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), Washington’s three most important European allies, and almost-two thirds of Americans who believe that the U.S. should not withdraw from the deal, according to a CNN poll released on Tuesday morning.”

The move “may have been exactly what two of Trump’s biggest donors, Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus, and what one of his biggest inaugural supporters, Paul Singer, paid for when they threw their financial weight behind Trump. Marcus and Adelson, who are also board members of the Likudist Republican Jewish Coalition, have already received substantial returns on their investment: total alignment by the U.S. behind Israel, next week’s move of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and the official dropping of ‘occupied territories’ to describe the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“Adelson, for his part, was Trump and the GOP’s biggest campaign supporter. He and his wife Miriam contributed $35 million in outside spending to elect Trump, $20 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund (a super PAC exclusively dedicated to securing a GOP majority in the House of Representatives), and $35 million to the Senate Leadership Fund (the Senate counterpart) in the 2016 election cycle.

“Trump, who had previously complained that Adelson was seeking to ‘mold [Marco Rubio] into the perfect little puppet,’ quickly snapped around and echoed Adelson’s hawkish positions on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem after Trump won the Republican nomination and secured Adelson’s backing.”

As U.S. Moves Embassy, Israel Massacres Palestinians

U.S. and Israeli officials today celebrated of the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem exactly 70 years after Israel declared its independence. Jared Kushner, senior advisor to his father-in-law, Donald Trump, is reportedly working on a “peace plan.” He said at the embassy opening: “those provoking violence are part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

Sharif Abdel Kouddous (@sharifkouddous) reports on “Democracy Now!” from Gaza that Israeli attacks on nonviolent protests there have resulted in at least 37 Palestinians killed today. He adds that medical personnel are now reporting that Israel is using fragmentation ammunition, which breaks up on impact, resulting in gun wounds as large as fists. Israeli soldiers are “picking people off with sniper fire.” Kouddous also reports on the Palestinian resistance using kites and balloons and how it is setting fire to tires in an attempt to block the view of the Israeli snipers who are targeting people.

See updates from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza. See coverage at ElectronicIntifada.net and the piece there “The future of the Nakba,” by Joseph Massad, a professor at Columbia University.

Protests may well accelerate tomorrow as Palestinians commemorate the Nakba or catastrophe of hundreds of thousands of them being driven from their homes by pro-Israeli forces.

NBC News reports: “At least 90 demonstrators have been killed and 11,500 wounded by Israel forces during protests since March 30, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health. … No Israelis have been killed or injured.”

See @accuracy Twitter list on Israel-Palestine. The writer Naomi Dann tweets: “Israel is carrying out a massacre against Palestinian protesters barricaded in Gaza while U.S. officials celebrate occupation in Jerusalem. Everyone should be outraged.”

NOOR HARAZEEN, [in Gaza] updatefromgaza at gmail.com
Harazeen is a Palestinian journalist and a TV correspondent for CGTN and teleSUR.

MAZIN QUMSIYEH, mazin at qumsiyeh.org, Skype: mbqumsiyeh
Qumsiyeh has been on the faculties of the University of Tennessee, Duke, and Yale Universities. He is now a professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities. His books include Popular Resistance in Palestine and Sharing the Land of Canaan. He is founding director of the Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability.

JOE CATRON, [in NYC] joecatron at gmail.com, @jncatron
Catron lived in Gaza for several years as a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement. He is now U.S. coordinator of Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.

Additional background:

See: “Trump Bows to Neocons, Netanyahu,” from Gareth Porter, and from “Flashpoints”: “The Israel-gate Side of Russia-gate.”

Israel, Religious Bigotry and Liberation

Newsweek reports: “Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Blessed by Rabbi Who Compared Black People with Monkeys” and “Who Is Robert Jeffress? ‘Bigot’ Pastor From Texas Due to Speak at U.S. Jerusalem Embassy Move.”

Rev. NAIM ATEEK, TAREK ABUATA, tarek at fosna.org, also via Ashleigh Zimmerman, ashleigh at fosna.org, @fosnalive
Currently touring North America, Ateek and Abuata will be in Washington, D.C. beginning Tuesday afternoon. Ateek is a Palestinian priest in the Anglican Communion and founder of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. He is author of A Theology of Palestinian Liberation. Abuata is executive director of Friends of Sabeel North America, a “Christian ecumenical organization seeking justice and peace in the Holy Land.”

They said today: “As we travel the country on our tour, we are taking a moment to honor the leadership of Palestinian youth, who are holding marches in cities around the globe, demanding to return home. On this day 70 years ago, Israel began its ethnic cleansing campaign against more than 400 Palestinian villages, displacing over 700,000 people. As the names of those murdered in Gaza yesterday by Israeli snipers continue to grow we, as Palestinian Christians, remember: ‘Thou shalt not kill’ (Exodus 20:13). Zionist forces engaged in at least two dozen massacres of Palestinian civilians during the Nakba. ‘Thou shalt not steal’ (Exodus 20:15). More than 400 Palestinian villages and towns were systematically destroyed, displacing more than 700,000 people.”

Among their projects is “HP-Free Church“: “Hewlett Packard Enterprise provides servers to the state of Israel for its population registry. IDs that are issued based on this registry determine what level of rights Israeli citizens have.” One of their events in D.C. will be at Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ with Rev. Graylan Hagler on liberation theology on Thursday at 6:00 p.m.

ABBA SOLOMON, abbasolomon at gmail.com, @Abba_A_Solomon
Solomon is author of The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech “The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.” His articles include “The Occupation of the American Mind, Documented.”

Noting Robert Jeffress appearing on Fox News Channel, Solomon said today: “Trump and Fox News are aligning the U.S. government with Evangelical Christian Zionism and Israeli state ethno-nationalist claims in a way unprecedented in our foreign policy, which may lead to unpredictable results both for Palestinians and for American Jews. In previous administrations, the State Department made at least token acknowledgement of the rights of non-Jewish residents of Palestine, to be determined in a future agreement.”

50 Years After Catonsville: “Resistance Needed to End Empire”

The Catonsville Nine were nine activists affiliated with the Catholic Worker movement who burned draft files to protest the Vietnam War. On May 17, 1968, they went to the draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, took hundreds of draft files, brought them to the parking lot, pour homemade napalm on them (an incendiary used extensively by the U.S. military in Vietnam), and set them on fire. Hundreds of similar actions followed across the country the following years. The draft ended in 1973. See website with ongoing commemorative events — Catonsville9.org — and recent pieces in the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun. See trailer of film about the Catonsville Nine: “Hit and Stay.”

The Catonsville Nine included Daniel Berrigan and Philip Berrigan, both deceased. The widow of Philip, Elizabeth McAlister, has been in prison since last month, one of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 — see KingsBayPlowshares7.org: “Seven Catholic plowshares activists entered Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia on April 4, 2018. They went to make real the prophet Isaiah’s command to ‘beat swords into plowshares.’

“The seven chose to act on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who devoted his life to addressing what he called the ‘triple evils of militarism, racism and materialism.’ Carrying hammers and baby bottles of their own blood, the seven attempted to convert weapons of mass destruction. They hoped to call attention to the ways in which nuclear weapons kill every day, by their mere existence and maintenance.

“Kings Bay Naval base opened in 1979 as the Navy’s Atlantic Ocean Trident port.  It is the largest nuclear submarine base in the world.”

ELLEN GRADY, demottgrady6 at gmail.com
Also via Jessica Stewart, Paul Magno: kingsbayplowshares at gmail.com
MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES, gradyflores08 at gmail.com
    Ellen and Mary Anne Grady are part of the Ithaca, New York Catholic Worker movement. Ellen spoke at the opening event commemorating the Catonsville Nine earlier this month in Maryland. Their sister, Clare Grady, is one of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7, currently imprisoned.

She said today: “Clare is a mother of two daughters. Her husband Paul works for the local community kitchen. She and the other activists are facing four charges, including most dangerously, conspiracy. They’ve been in jail for six weeks with no bail. And they’ve all been separated now. They have a hearing Thursday.” See recent piece on the action in the National Catholic Reporter.

“The best we can do is to encourage each other to muster the resistance needed to end empire. Nuclear weapons threaten us with omnicide, but that’s only part of it. Nuclear weapons kill every day by their mere existence — we see the billions of dollars it takes to build and maintain the Trident system as stolen resources.”

“And the U.S. government’s ongoing airwars, like lethal and illegal use of MQ9 Reaper drones over Afghanistan and elsewhere is another continual killing many are blind to.” They have all been arrested at protests against killer drones at the Hancock Air National Guard Base in New York, see: UpstateDroneAction.org. Also see the The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s page on drone warfare.

In Baltimore:

See website for Jonah House.

WILLA BICKHAM, BRENDAN WALSH, VivaCatholicWorker at gmail.com
Bickham and Walsh run the Viva House in Baltimore, which they founded shortly before the Catonsville Nine action and provided support for that action 50 years ago. See piece in America magazine.

MAX OBUSZEWSKI, mobuszewski2001 at comcast.net
Obuszewski is with the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, which has been involved in the Catonsville Nine commemorations and organizing recent protests at the headquarters of the National Security Agency nearby.

Israeli and Gulf Collusion with Trump Team

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported “Trump Jr. and Other Aides Met With Gulf Emissary Offering Help to Win Election” and The Wall Street Journal followed up with: “Mueller Probe Expands to Israeli Entrepreneur With U.A.E. Ties.”

In response, Trump tweeted: “The Witch Hunt finds no Collusion with Russia — so now they’re looking at the rest of the World. Oh’ great!”

In fact, Israeli government collusion has been a central — and seriously undercovered — aspect of Trump’s scandals since the beginning of his administration.

The journalist Richard Silverstein highlighted in “Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying About Trump Sabotage of Security Council Resolution Against Israel Settlements,” that: “Michael Flynn plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his efforts with Jared Kushner to torpedo a United Nations Security Council resolution criticizing Israeli settlements. These included lobbying the Russian ambassador to help in this campaign by delaying or cancelling a vote on the matter.”

Media coverage has focused on the pressure Flynn exerted on the Russian government — not the actual source of the pressure: the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052 at comcast.net, @richards1052, Skype: richards1052
    Silverstein writes on security and other issues for a number of outlets. He was among the very first to highlight the role of Israel in connection to scandals around the Trump administration and will continue updating at his blog Tikun Olam. His pieces there include “Trump, Kushner and Mueller: the Smoking Gun and the Bullet.”

    See related Institute for Public Accuracy news releases including “Why is Israelgate Being Downplayed?” and “Trump Team Hired Israeli Spy Firm Used by Harvey Weinstein to Attack Obama Officials on Iran Deal.”

Is U.S. Meddling in Venezuela?

Following the Venezuelan election on Sunday, the Financial Times reports: “Trump bans purchase of Venezuelan debt in new sanctions.”

See for background: “The United States’ Hand in Undermining Democracy in Venezuela” by Alexander Main for the North American Congress on Latin America.

Also see recent piece by Roger D. Harris for Consortium News: “The U.S. is Meddling in Venezuelan Election.”

TERI MATTSON, teri at intrepidnewsfund.org
Mattson is program manager with the Intrepid News Fund, which has a delegation observing the election. She said: “Our delegation observed four different polling stations [Sunday]. All were compliant with CNE [National Electoral Council] specifications. Not all parties were present at every center as opposition parties failed to recruit and send enough witnesses to polls we observed. The day was slow compared to prior years I have observed. CNE reported 46 percent turnout among eligible voters. It was clear throughout the day the opposition parties were not participating. Non-participation does not equate to ‘unfair’ or ‘unfree.’ Non-participation was an individual choice and political strategy at large.” [The Institute for Public Accuracy is the administrative fiscal sponsor for Intrepid News Fund.]

LUCAS KOERNER, lmkoerner11 at gmail.com, @venanalysis
Koerner is a Caracas-based political analyst and editor for the website Venezuelanalysis.com and was just interviewed by The Real News — see: “Maduro Wins the Presidency in Venezuela — What Will the U.S. Do Next?

* Korea Policy: Disarm, Then Attack? * Saudi Bombing Yemen

ELLEN BARFIELD, ellene4pj at yahoo.com
A long-time prominent activist with Veterans for Peace, Barfield was deployed with the U.S. military in Korea. She is helping organize a series of events at the Mall in D.C. displaying the human costs of war on Memorial Day. She noted the pattern of the U.S. government having a country — for example, Iraq and Libya — disarm, and then attacking them. See Wall Street Journal report: “North Korea Threatens to Call Off Summit, Calls Pence a ‘Political Dummy.’” See statement by Veterans for Peace: “End U.S. Military Exercises.” See from The Intercept from last year: “Trump Intel Chief: North Korea Learned From Libya War to ‘Never Give Up Nukes.’

KATHY KELLY, kathy at vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

The media watch group FAIR just published the piece “Promoters of Saudi Prince as Feminist Reformer Are Silent on His Crackdown on Women.”

Kelly said today: “The Saudi government doesn’t seem to care about human rights in their country and they certainly don’t in Yemen which they have been subjecting to starvation and devastation of infrastructure.”

She just wrote the piece “Scourging Yemen,” which states: “The Saudis have an undeniable right to call on the UN to work toward preventing the Houthis from acquiring ballistic weapons that could be fired into Saudi Arabia, but the air, sea and water blockade now imposed on Yemen brutally and lethally punishes children who have no capacity whatsoever to affect Houthi policies. What’s more, the U.S. military, through midair refueling of Saudi and Emirati warplanes, is directly involved in devastating barrages of airstrikes while the UN Security Council essentially pays no heed.

“As Yemeni civilians’ lives become increasingly desperate, they become increasingly isolated, their suffering made invisible by a near-total lack of Western media interest or attention. No commercial flights are allowed into the Sana’a airport, so media teams and human rights documentarians can’t enter the areas of Yemen most afflicted by airstrikes. The World Food Program (WFP) organizes a weekly flight into Sana’a, but the WFP must vet passengers with the Saudi government. Nevertheless, groups working in Yemen, including Amnesty International, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Save the Children, Oxfam, and various UN agencies do their best to report about consequences of the Saudi-Emirati led coalition’s blockade and airstrikes.”

See from The Intercept: “U.S. Moves Forward With Multibillion-Dollar “Smart Bomb” Sale To Saudi Arabia and UAE Despite Civilian Deaths In Yemen.”

Poor People’s Campaign and Military Spending


See from NPR “50 Years Later, Reviving King’s Poor People’s Campaign.” And from Common Dreams: “Hundreds of Poor People’s Campaign Activists Got Themselves Arrested for Racial Justice.”

PHYLLIS BENNIS, pbennis at ips-dc.org, @phyllisbennis@unitethepoor
Bennis is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of the report “The Souls of Poor Folk.” She just wrote a piece with Rev. William Barber Jr., who is president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign.

“The Souls of Poor Folk” is an assessment of “the conditions and trends of poverty today and of the past fifty years in the United States. In 1967, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., alongside a multiracial coalition of grassroots leaders, religious leaders, and other public figures, began organizing with poor and marginalized communities across racial and geographic divides. Together, The Poor People’s Campaign aimed to confront the underlying structures that perpetuated misery in their midst.”

They write: “The Pentagon says the war in Afghanistan will cost us $45 billion this year alone. If we didn’t spend that money on an unwinnable war thousands of miles away, what could we do with it instead?

“For starters, we could hire 556,779 well-paid elementary school teachers in struggling states like Oklahoma, Kentucky and West Virginia, where teachers have protested abysmal conditions. Or create 809,999 new well-paid jobs to rebuild infrastructure like the broken water system in Flint, Michigan.

“Or provide 4.36 million veterans with health care. Now that would be something.

“And that’s just for one year of one war. All told, our full $700 billion-plus military budget sucks up 53 cents out of every discretionary dollar in the federal budget — compared to just 15 cents for poverty alleviation. Our troops and Afghan civilians pay the price, but so do the 140 million Americans living in poverty or with very low incomes.

“When people talk about universal health care, education, infrastructure and debt-free college, the conversation usually ends with ‘too bad we can’t afford it, we don’t have the money.’

“But that’s not true. We have plenty of money — the United States is the wealthiest country in the history of the world. What we don’t have is a moral compass that recognizes that spending more than half of the available funds on a giant military mired in wars that don’t keep us safe is wrong.”

Israel Stops Palestinian Freedom Flotilla

Newsweek reports Tuesday: “Boat Carrying Wounded Palestinians Breaks Gaza Blockade, Gets Towed to Israel.” AP reported late last week: “Israel’s supreme court rejects human rights group’s request to declare it unlawful for soldiers to shoot at unarmed civilians.”

LEEN ABUSAID, ASMAA TAYEH, leen.abusaid at gmail.com, asmaatayeh9 at gmail.com, [in Gaza] also via PAM BAILEY, pam.palestine at gmail.com, @WeAreNotNumbers
Abusaid, Tayeh and Bailey are with the group We Are Not Numbers. The group tweeted: “Update on the Al-Hurriyeh (Liberty) boat: Of the 17 passengers, 4 are crew, 2 unemployed students, 2 injured protesters, 2 deaf (seeking treatment), & the rest are ill with cancer/similar serious diseases. The boat was shelled & they are in Ashdod. Call for their safe release!”

Tayeh is an English literature student at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University. She was born in Gaza and lives in a refugee camp called Jabalia in northern Gaza. Leen is a freelance journalist and has B.A. in English and French Literature.

See piece from the group: “Boat from Gaza attempts to break Israeli blockade” that profiles a wounded protester seeking treatment outside of Gaza.

See also statements from Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which “condemns Israel’s brutal act of state piracy in attacking the aptly named Hurriya (Liberty) vessel which attempted to leave the port of Gaza today filled with people needing urgent medical assistance as well as students and crew, as they attempted to peacefully make safe passage to Cyprus.”

Corporations Are Profiting From Immigrant Detainees’ Labor

VICTORIA LAW, victorialawnyc at gmail.com, @LVikkiml
Law is a freelance journalist and author of Women Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women. She just wrote the article “Corporations Are Profiting From Immigrant Detainee’s Labor. Some Say It’s Slavery” for the magazine In These Times.

She writes: “There’s reason to believe thousands of the roughly 35,000 people in immigrant detention are currently being coerced into labor. …

“Within the past year, four lawsuits have been filed by seven people who say they were victims of trafficking at the hands of the nation’s two largest private detention center operators: CoreCivic and GEO Group. The suits charge that at five CoreCivic facilities and one GEO Group facility, the corporations violated the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act by threatening solitary confinement or withholding basic necessities, such as food, toilet paper and soap, if detainees refused to work. According to the lawsuits, the companies did so to reduce labor costs and maximize profits.

“The four new suits join one already wending its way through the court system. …

“Each of these five lawsuits concerns the Voluntary Work Program, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) program that puts detainees to work for $1 a day.

“‘The name “Voluntary Work Program” is misleading since, in most cases, it actually means forced labor,’ says Liz Martinez, director of advocacy and strategic communications at Freedom for Immigrants, a nonprofit working to abolish immigrant detention. Noting that detained people are wholly dependent upon detention staff for basics such as food, toilet paper and even time outside, ‘the detention facilities create an inhospitable atmosphere that incentivizes people to join these Voluntary Work Programs,’ she explains. …

“‘When I arrived at Stewart [Detention Center in Georgia] I was faced with the impossible choice — either work for a few cents an hour or live without basic things like soap, shampoo, deodorant and food,’ said Guatemalan asylum-seeker Wilhen Hill Barrientos in a recent press release announcing his lawsuit against CoreCivic. …

“The Voluntary Work Program dates back to 1950. Its $1 a day rate has yet to be adjusted for inflation (and would be equivalent to $10.40 a day now). In 2013, the 55 detention centers where the program operated held 76 percent of the country’s detained immigrants. …

“In 2012, Congress approved an act mandating that ICE maintain a daily minimum of 34,000 detention beds. In May 2017, Congress provided ICE with an additional $2.6 billion to increase the beds by another 5,300. In 2017, an average of 39,322 people were in immigrant detention each day, a huge jump from 5,532 in 1994. Private corporations control over 60 percent of immigrant detention beds. …

“In 2017, one-quarter of (CoreCivic’s) $444.1 million revenue came from ICE detention.”

U.S.-China Trade Relations: Cooperation or Confrontation?

DAVID KOTZ, dmkotz at comcast.net
With escalating activity and rhetoric on trade between the U.S. and China, Kotz just returned from two weeks in Beijing and Shanghai. He is professor emeritus of economics and Sheridan Scholar at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. His most recent book is The Rise and Fall of Neoliberal Capitalism from Harvard University Press.

Kotz said today: “Many analysts and interest groups have criticized President Donald Trump’s trade war threats against China. Much of the criticism has been aimed at the administration’s tactics, not the goal of forcing a radical change in China’s trade and technology upgrade policies. That goal appears to be widely shared by elite policy analysts and business interests.

“The widespread criticism of China’s economic policy focuses on its industrial policy, through which the state encourages technological upgrade by investment in science and technology and by directing financing to key industries of the future. It is claimed that this leads to unfair state promotion of its industries as well as the theft of American technology. Overall, the policy is cast as an effort to ‘dominate’ all of the key industries of the coming years, an aim that is supposed to be openly proclaimed in the official policy document ‘Made in China 2025.’

“A reading of the ‘Made in China 2025’ document finds no mention of a goal of domination of key industries. Instead, it is a plan to reach the world technological and product quality frontier while addressing the problems of environmental degradation and global climate change. The U.S. claim of theft of technologies seems to be based on China’s practice of granting Western corporations access to its lucrative market on the condition of partnering with a Chinese company that leads to sharing of the technology and business practices with the Chinese partner, a deal that Western companies accept if reluctantly.

“The current establishment goal of changing China’s economic strategy appears to be a demand that China stop aiming for the global technological frontier but instead permanently accept a lesser position in the global economy. No rising country government could accept such a demand. This approach to U.S.-China relations will only lead to a dangerous and unresolvable conflict.

“While China’s rise has cost good jobs in the U.S., the way to protect American workers is not the imposition of punitive tariffs as a bargaining chip to get China to give up its ambitious plans for upgrading its economy. A government jobs program guaranteeing a living wage job for any worker who needs one, as part of a green economy development strategy, would insulate American workers from the negative effects of the rise of China’s and other developing economies. Instead of demanding that China give up industrial policy, the U.S. should adopt one of its own.”

See Kotz’s interview with The Real News shortly after Chinese President Xi Jinping commemorated Karl Marx’s 200th Birthday earlier this month.

Pardoning D’Souza is Trump’s “Blazing Signal”

LISA GILBERT, CRAIG HOLMAN, via Nadia Prupis, nprupis at citizen.org;
Angela Bradbery, abradbery at citizen.org, @Public_Citizen
Gilbert is vice president of legislative affairs and Holman is government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.

The group just released a statement: “Pardoning D’Souza Is Trump’s Blazing Signal to Associates to Stay Loyal Amid Mueller Investigation”: “President Donald Trump today announced that he would pardon Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative political pundit and filmmaker, who in 2014 confessed to campaign money laundering and was sentenced to five years’ probation and a $30,000 fine. D’Souza devised a scheme to launder $20,000 in illegal contributions to the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign of Republican candidate Wendy Long. D’Souza solicited two ‘straw donors’ each to make another $10,000 contribution to the candidate, which he reimbursed the following day.”

Gilbert said today: “Pardoning someone who breaks anti-corruptions laws is not a subtle message. The president is sending a blazing signal to his surrogates and associates that they will be rewarded if they stay loyal. The precedent is particularly frightening as the important Mueller investigation into obstruction of justice and collusion continues and seems likely to have ongoing indictments and charges of those in the president’s orbit.”

Holman said today: “If there was any lingering doubt left that Trump’s pledge to ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington was nothing more than campaign rhetoric, today’s pardon of a confessed campaign money launderer should bring those doubts to a close.

“D’Souza confessed in court that he deliberately violated our campaign finance laws and with full knowledge that it was illegal. Allegations that the prosecution of D’Souza was political were dismissed by the judge as, legally speaking, ‘all hat, no cattle.’

“By pardoning D’Souza, Trump is sending another clear signal that he’s AOK with flagrant corruption.”

DNC Suing WikiLeaks: Part of the “Greatest Threat to Press Freedom”

AVI ASHER-SCHAPIRO, via press at cpj.org, @AASchapiro
Avi Asher-Schapiro is the Committee to Protect Journalists’ U.S. correspondent. His work has appeared in outlets including The Atlantic, The Intercept, and The New York Times. He just wrote a piece titled “By suing WikiLeaks, DNC could endanger principles of press freedom.”

He writes: “In April, the Democratic National Committee, the governing body of the Democratic Party, announced that it was suing WikiLeaks and Julian Assange — along with a number of other defendants, including the Trump campaign and Russian operatives — for their alleged involvement in the theft and dissemination of DNC computer files during the 2016 election. On its surface, the DNC’s argument seems to fly in the face of the Supreme Court’s precedent in Bartnicki v. Vopper that publishers are not responsible for the illegal acts of their sources. It also goes against press freedom precedents going back to the Pentagon Papers and contains arguments that could make it more difficult for reporters to do their jobs or that foreign governments could use against U.S. journalists working abroad, First Amendment experts told CPJ. …

“The notion that journalistic activity such as cultivating sources and receiving illegally obtained documents could be construed as part of a criminal conspiracy is, according to [The New York Times‘ Pentagon Papers lawyer James] Goodale, the ‘greatest threat to press freedom today.’ …

“The case raises a number of important press freedom questions: Where should courts draw the line between source-building and ‘conspiring’? What activities could implicate a journalist in a source’s illegal behavior? Would putting a SecureDrop link soliciting leaks count as illegal conspiracy? And if a reporter asked for documents on an individual while indicating that they think the person deserves to be exposed, would that count as shared motive, or is the only truly protected activity passively receiving leaks, like radio host Vopper? …”Many of the legal experts said they assume the counts that mention Assange and WikiLeaks will be dismissed when the judge assesses if the conspiracy claims in the DNC lawsuit are ‘plausible.’ If the judge moves forward, University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck said, it will be because he finds a way to substantially differentiate what WikiLeaks does from routine reporting practices.

“However, Charles Glasser, a professor at NYU’s journalism school who spent over a dozen years as global media counsel for Bloomberg, said that if the charges against Assange and WikiLeaks survived, it could pave the way for companies or others to label everyone — from those who illegally obtain documents to the press — as co-conspirators.”

“End This Russophobic Insanity”

Jack F. Matlock Jr., ambassador to the Soviet Union from 1987 to 1991, just wrote the piece “Amid ‘Russiagate’ Hysteria, What Are the Facts? We must end this Russophobic insanity” for The Nation.

He writes regarding Russiagate: “Unless there is a mass shooting in progress, it can be hard to find a discussion of anything else on CNN. Increasingly, both in Congress and in our media, it has been accepted as a fact that ‘Russia’ interfered in the 2016 election.

“So what are the facts?

“It is a fact that some Russians paid people to act as online trolls and bought advertisements on Facebook during and after the 2016 presidential campaign. Most of these were taken from elsewhere, and they comprised a tiny fraction of all the advertisements purchased on Facebook during this period. This continued after the election and included organizing a demonstration against President-elect Trump.

“It is a fact that emails in the memory of the Democratic National Committee’s computer were furnished to WikiLeaks. The U.S. intelligence agencies that issued the January 2017 report were confident that Russians hacked the emails and supplied them to WikiLeaks, but offered no evidence to substantiate their claim. Even if one accepts that Russians were the perpetrators, however, the emails were genuine, as the U.S. intelligence report certified. I have always thought that the truth was supposed to make us free, not degrade our democracy. …

“The most important fact, obscured in Russiagate hysteria, is that Americans elected Trump under the terms set forth in the Constitution. Americans created the Electoral College, which allows a candidate with a minority of popular votes to become president. Americans were those who gerrymandered electoral districts to rig them in favor of a given political party. The Supreme Court issued the infamous Citizens United decision that allows corporate financing of candidates for political office. …

“I did not personally vote for Trump, but I consider the charges that Russian actions interfered in the election, or — for that matter — damaged the quality of our democracy ludicrous, pathetic, and shameful. ….

“’Shameful’ because it is an evasion of responsibility. It prevents the Democrats, and those Republicans who want responsible, fact-based government in Washington, from concentrating on practical ways to reduce the threat the Trump presidency poses to our political values and even to our future existence. After all, Trump would not be president if the Republican Party had not nominated him. …

“I should add ‘dangerous’ to those three adjectives. ‘Dangerous’ because making an enemy of Russia, the other nuclear superpower — yes, there are still two — comes as close to political insanity as anything I can think of.”

Currently available for interviews on these issues:

JACKSON LEARS, tjlears at history.rutgers.edu
Lears is the Board of Governors Professor of History at Rutgers University. He recently wrote the piece “What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Russian Hacking” for the London Review of Books.

Protests Against Austerity Force Jordanian PM Out

The New York Times reports: “Jordan’s Prime Minister Quits, as Protesters Demand an End to Austerity.”

PETE MOORE, pwm10 at case.edu
Professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University, Moore is author of Doing Business in the Middle East: Politics and Economic Crisis in Jordan and Kuwait (Cambridge University Press) and wrote the in-depth paper “The Bread Revolutions of 2011 and the Political Economies of Transition” for the Woodrow Wilson Center and the U.S. Institute of Peace.

LAMIS ANDONI, lamisk15 at gmail.com, @LamisAndoni
Andoni is a noted analyst independent journalist based in Amman, Jordan. She was just interviewed by the BBC and Al-Jazeera about the situation in Jordan. She writes to the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Changing prime ministers is no longer sufficient to appease widening discontent as the country is facing a deep economic and political crisis. The new designated prime minister Omar Razzaz is one of the more respected public personalities in the country but he could rapidly lose his credibility if there are no fundamental policy changes.

“Jordan is already bound by an agreement with the IMF [International Monetary Fund] to continue fuel price increases, pass a flawed income tax law and maintain high sales taxes.

“In fact, the middle class is only starting to feel the effects of the austerity measures and price hikes. There is a feeling that the consecutive governments had not sought solutions but bowed to the IMF without making cuts in unnecessary expenditures or presenting alternative plans. It’s important to note that many Jordanians lay the blame at the king’s door as governments have come to be seen as no more than rubber stamps for the palace.

“No doubt there are tremendous pressures on Jordan exercised by the Saudi and the UAE [governments] who attach well-known conditions on aid and investment to and in Jordan. Both countries want the king to totally and fully accept whatever package that Trump includes in the so-called deal of the century [with Israel].

“But this is not enough to get people to rally around the king as there has been a mounting feeling of total disregard to Jordanians as citizens by both the palace and the [successive] governments. Omar Razzaz’s background as a World Bank official is already viewed by suspicion by many activists, so even if he truly tries to make changes he will be under a lot of scrutiny.”

Tenant Rights Ballot Measure Wins in San Francisco

The San Francisco Chronicle reports: “A ballot measure to give tenants facing eviction lawsuits the right to taxpayer-funded legal representation won Tuesday.

“With 99 percent of precincts counted, Proposition F, ‘Defend SF Against Evictions,’ won with nearly 56 percent in favor, and 44 percent opposed.

“Takeaway: Tenants’ rights groups that back the measure have been fighting to keep renters in their homes during the tech boom, which since 2010 has resulted in a steady increase in evictions.”

See also from the SF Weekly: “Yippee! Prop. F Passes.”

SUSANNA BLANKLEY, susanna at righttocounselnyc.org, @RTCNYC

Last year, a similar measure was passed into law in New York City. Blankley is coalition coordinator for the Right to Counsel NYC Coalition, which just released a statement: “We couldn’t be more excited that the tenants of San Francisco voted to make their city the second city in the country to recognize tenants’ right to a lawyer when defending their homes. The vote was an overwhelming referendum — where landlords use the court as a weapon of displacement, tenants are fighting back. We especially commend the amazing work of the San Francisco Tenants Union for making this happen and for getting this referendum passed with no income restrictions! We know more cities will follow suit because this new civil right should not be exclusive to the tenants of NYC and SF.”

Truth Commission to Investigate 43 Missing Mexican Students

The New York Times reports: “A federal court in Mexico ordered the government on Monday to investigate the 2014 disappearances of 43 college students again, but this time under the supervision of a truth commission to be led by the nation’s top human rights body and parents of the victims.”

JOHN GIBLER, john.gibler at gmail.com
Gibler is the author of  I Couldn’t Even Imagine That They Would Kill Us: An Oral History of the Attacks Against the Students of Ayotzinapa and Torn from the World: A Guerrilla’s Escape from a Secret Prison in Mexico. He has been published in California Sunday Magazine and featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

He said today: “Last Monday, June 4, a Mexican federal court invalidated the government’s investigation of the attacks against the students of Ayotzinapa, citing evidence that the detained made false confessions under torture. The ruling also noted the government’s failure to investigate the participation of the federal police and the Army in the attacks. The court ordered the government to form an independent truth commission and to restart the investigation within a period of ten days.

“This recent court ruling supports what the families of the disappeared students as well as independent journalists and human rights investigators have been arguing and documenting for years: That the federal government has been orchestrating a massive ‘cover-up’ operation based on torture, lies, the destruction of evidence and the planting of false evidence. …

“In addition to truly investigating the intellectual and material authors of the attacks against the students in Iguala, Guerrero on September 26-27, 2014, it remains essential to fully investigate the command structure and participants in the federal ‘cover-up’ that has been ongoing since the first moments after the violence in the streets. In cases of forced disappearance involving state actors, a ‘cover up’ is never a secondary, external operation, but instead an essential, constitutive part of the atrocity itself.”

Gibler’s past books include Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt and To Die in Mexico: Dispatches From Inside the Drug War.

Is Google Really Ending its Military Contracts?

YASHA LEVINE, [in NYC] mail at yashalevine.com, @yashalevine
Levine is an investigative journalist and author of the new book Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet. He recently wrote the piece “Know your history: Google has been a military-intel contractor from the very beginning,” which includes excerpts from the book that document specific contracts Google has with the CIA; and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, in partnership with Lockheed Martin.

He has been commenting on the scandal surrounding Google’s military contracting work on Project Maven, a Pentagon initiative to develop AI visual recognition capability for drones and was quoted in the recent Wired piece on the story.

He said today: “The public should not fall for Google’s announcement that it will not be renewing its contract for Project Maven, which came as a result of public criticism and the resignation of dozens of Google employees. The company is still a military contractor. …

“Sure, Google might not renew this specific AI drone contract. But what about the rest of the company’s military contracting work? What about its work with predictive policing outfits?

“Head of Google’s AI (who also runs Stanford’s AI lab) doesn’t mind building weapons for the military. What she worries about is the optics.

“Co-founder Sergey Brin wants Google to be a military contractor. Says it will be better for peace if Google does this military work rather than traditional military contractors.

“It’s great that Google employees are protesting their company’s Pentagon AI drone research, but that’s hardly the only work Google does for militaries and law enforcement. Google has been building more efficient systems of surveillance and death for generals, spies and cops for 15 years and counting.”

Conflating Anti-Semitism and Criticism of Israel

Today, the Senate is scheduled to vote for President Trump’s nominee for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education, Kenneth Marcus.

The week, the ACLU released a fresh warning: “The Latest Attack on Free Speech in the Israel-Palestine Debate,” which states: “Members of Congress last month introduced the ‘Anti-Semitism Awareness Act.’ The bill purports to address a real problem: According to the FBI, incidents of hate crimes motivated by anti-Jewish bias have significantly increased in recent years.

“But anti-Semitic harassment is already illegal under federal law. The new bill does not change that fact, but its overbreadth makes it likely that it will instead silence criticism of Israel that is protected by the First Amendment.”

The ACLU report caused Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept to comment: “You wouldn’t know it from self-described free speech crusaders, but by far the #1 threat to free speech — on U.S. campuses and in the West generally — are aimed at Israel critics.”

See also from the media watch group FAIR: “With Literal Nazis Running for Office, NYT Suggests Candidate’s Israel Criticism Is Antisemitic” about the candidacy of Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn.

ABBA SOLOMON, abbasolomon at gmail.com, @Abba_A_Solomon
Solomon is author of The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech “The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.” His recent pieces include “Portman and Perlman, and the liberal Zionist awakening,” “Identity as pathology,” “ZOA Madness: Bannon Gala” and “The Occupation of the American Mind, Documented.”

He said today: “There is a shocking effort in the United States to label concern for the basic human rights of Palestinians as anti-Semitism. Various state and proposed federal legislation is based on that flawed proposition.”

“In the current administration, Trump’s bankruptcy lawyer and current U.S. ambassador to Israel just said in Jerusalem that the press should ‘keep your mouths shut’ because they are reporting Israeli violence against Palestinian protesters in Gaza.”

DIMA KHALIDI, dkhalidi at palestinelegal.org, @pal_legal
Khalidi is director of Palestine Legal, which recently released the statement “Lawmakers Reintroduce Federal Bill Aimed at Censoring Palestine Advocacy on Campuses.”

The group also just released “Kenneth Marcus’ Anti-Free Speech, Anti-Civil Rights Record,” which states his appointment “would be a disaster for freedom of speech and civil rights.

“Marcus has a long record of targeting First Amendment-protected speech and scholarship of people with whom he disagrees.

“Marcus’ history also reflects a hostility towards civil rights, including making racially-charged accusations and opposing affirmative action.

“Reasons to oppose the appointment of Kenneth Marcus:

* “He has a history of attempting to dismantle policies aimed at remedying racial discrimination, including affirmative action.

* “As Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, he opposed investigating violations of the rights of LGBT persons.

* “He filed baseless Title VI complaints in order to censor and chill speech supporting Palestinian rights on college campuses.

* “He lobbied Congress to defund Middle East Studies programs not sufficiently supportive of Israeli policies.

* “He lobbied for state and federal legislation that would redefine antisemitism to include criticism of Israeli policies, a move that would encourage universities to violate the First Amendment.”

Activist Just Back from Afghanistan as Ceasefire is Announced

CNN is reporting: “Afghanistan announces temporary ceasefire with the Taliban.”

KATHY KELLY, kathy at vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
Kelly arrived back to the U.S. from Afghanistan Wednesday night. She is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. While in Kabul, she is a guest of the Afghan Peace Volunteers.

She said today: “It’s being reported that this ceasefire is only with the Taliban, but there are other fighting networks in Afghanistan. In 2017, Human Rights Watch reported that 42 percent of the insurgent attacks against civilians were by the Taliban, which was 65 percent of civilian deaths; 12 percent were Islamic State. But for any kind of lasting peace, you need to address the desperation people have in terms of finding work to get food to their families. This desperation is causing many to resort to joining these fighting networks.

“Part of the desperation is also because of the drought. [See piece below.]

“These efforts at lasting peace I think should be done through reparations by the U.S. for all the damage its government has caused Afghanistan. It would probably be cheaper to do that than continue to spend billions on war.

“It should be noted that this ceasefire takes place as the Taliban have been surrounding different cities and even enacting military take-overs for short periods.”

Kelly just wrote the piece “Digging Deeper” for The Progressive: “Rural families in drought-stricken areas watch their crops fail and their livestock die of dehydration. In desperation, they flee to urban areas, including Kabul, where they often must live in squalid, sprawling refugee camps. In the city, an already inadequate sewage and sanitation system, battered by years of war, cannot support the soaring population rise.

“Droughts in other countries have led to violent clashes and civil wars. It’s difficult to imagine that Afghanistan, already burdened by forty years of war, will escape eventual water wars.

“The most sophisticated and heavily armed warring party in Afghanistan is the U.S. military. Despite spending hundreds of billions of dollars on non-military aid to Afghanistan, the United States has done little to improve Afghanistan’s infrastructure or alleviate its alarming water crisis. President Donald Trump’s interest in what’s happening under the ground in Afghanistan is focused exclusively on the U.S. capacity to extract Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, estimated to be worth trillions of dollars.”

Korean Americans Weigh in on Summit

The U.S.-North Korea summit is scheduled to be held in Singapore on June 12. For other upcoming events, see accuracy.org/calendar.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof writes in “Democrats Childishly Resist Trump’s North Korea Efforts” about a letter from Sens. Chuck Schumer, Sherrod Brown, Richard Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, Robert Menendez and Mark Warner. Kristof writes they “are on the same side as National Security Adviser John Bolton, quietly subverting attempts to pursue peace.”

For timely updates, see @accuracy Twitter list on Korea.

HYUN LEE, hyunlee70 at gmail.com
CHRISTINE HONG, cjhong at ucsc.edu
Scores of Korean American and allied organizations just released a “Statement of Unity on the Upcoming U.S.-North Korea Summit.” Lee is managing editor of Zoom in Korea; Hong is an associate professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute.

(more…)

North Korea: * Peace? * Hypocrisy of U.S. Nuclear Policy

JAMES BRADLEY, james at jamesbradley.com
Bradley, educated in Japan, has written about Korea in two of his books, published English and translated into Korean, among other languages. His books include Flyboys, The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia and The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War. He currently is working on a book about the Vietnam War and is available from Vietnam for Skype or telephone interviews.

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 addressed the position of Sen. Chuck Schumer and other members of the current Democratic Party senate establishment, saying they have “disgracefully argued the [National Security Advisor John] Bolton position in a letter to Trump egging him on to be tough on North Korea.” See from action alert from RootsAction.

She also said it was “hypocritical and blind to be calling for the complete denuclearization of North Korea” while the U.S. is continuing its nuclear policies. …

“This summer 122 countries negotiated a UN treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons — their manufacture, possession, use, threat of use, just as we have banned chemical and biological weapons. The grassroots campaign that worked with governments to get that result, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, received the Nobel Peace Prize for that achievement this past December. None of the nuclear weapons states or U.S. allies under the U.S. nuclear umbrella of deterrence signed the treaty.” See material from ICAN, including “Trump Kim Summit: ICAN launches roadmap to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula.”

“Interestingly, when the UN General Assembly’s First Committee for Nuclear Disarmament voted last fall for the negotiations to go forward, while the five western nuclear states, the U.S., Russia, U.K., France, and Israel voted NO, three Asian states, China, India, and Pakistan, ABSTAINED, and North Korea was the ONLY nuclear weapons state to vote YES! …

“Not only should we be calling for a peace treaty with the U.S., North and South Korea, and get our 28,000 U.S. troops out of South Korea, a peace treaty which we refused to negotiate since 1953, but we should call for the states to sign and ratify the new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. There are 50 ratifications required for the treaty to ‘enter into force’ and have the force of law. So far, 58 have signed and 11 countries have ratified.”

Slater wrote the piece “Democracy Breaks Out at the UN as 122 Nations Vote to Ban the Bomb” for The Nation last year.

See from the Guardian: “U.S. to loosen nuclear weapons constraints and develop more ‘usable’ warheads.”

See IPA news releases: “U.S. Nuclear Stance Toward Russia Increasing Existential Threats” and “U.S. Breakthrough on Nuclear First Strike Threatens Stability.”

* Korean Americans * Nuclear Protesters

HYUN LEE, hyunlee70 at gmail.com
CHRISTINE HONG, cjhong at ucsc.edu
Scores of Korean American and allied organizations released a “Statement of Unity on the Upcoming U.S.-North Korea Summit.” Lee is managing editor of Zoom in Korea; Hong is an associate professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an executive board member of the Korea Policy Institute.

See pieces at Zoom in Korea, including the unity statement and “Congressman Ro Khanna Emphasizes Continued Diplomacy with North Korea,” which contrasts Khanna’s stance with the current hawkish Democratic Party leadership of Chuck Schumer. See action alert by Roots Action on that issue.

Their unity statement read: “The United States and North Korea should take immediate mutual steps to prevent military conflict and alleviate tensions. They should establish and maintain a military hotline and communications channel and halt all military exercises and other provocative actions. The United States should withdraw the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea. And in step with North and South Korea, which have agreed to ‘carry out disarmament in a phased manner’ in the Panmunjom Declaration, U.S. Forces in Korea should take corresponding measures to reduce its troops.”

JESSICA STEWART, PAUL MAGNO, kingsbayplowshares at gmail.com
Stewart and Magno are with the Kings Bay Plowshares, seven of whom are imprisoned and being prosecuted for protesting against the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

The group notes: “Seven Catholic plowshares activists entered Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Mary’s, Georgia on April 4th, 2018. They went to make real the prophet Isaiah’s command to ‘beat swords into plowshares’.

“The seven chose to act on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who devoted his life to addressing what he called the ‘triple evils of militarism, racism and materialism.’ Carrying hammers and baby bottles of their own blood, the seven attempted to convert weapons of mass destruction. They hoped to call attention to the ways in which nuclear weapons kill every day, by their mere existence and maintenance.”

See from America Magazine about their action: “Protesting our country’s nuclear weapons is (still) worth going to jail for.”

Yemen: “America’s Dirty War”

AP is reporting: “The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemen’s exiled government began an assault Wednesday on the port city of Hodeida, the main entry point for food in a country already teetering on the brink of famine.

“The assault on the Red Sea port aims to drive out Iranian-aligned Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who have held Hodeida since 2015, and break the civil war’s long stalemate. But it could set off a prolonged street-by-street battle that inflicts heavy casualties.

“The fear is that a protracted fight could force a shutdown of Hodeida’s port at a time when a halt in aid risks tipping millions into starvation. Some 70 percent of Yemen’s food enters via the port, as well as the bulk of humanitarian aid and fuel supplies. Around two-thirds of the country’s population of 27 million relies on aid and 8.4 million are already at risk of starving.” See @accuracy Twitter feed on Yemen.

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, sha980 at mail.harvard.edu, @shireen818
Originally from Yemen, Al-Adeimi just completed her doctoral studies at Harvard University and starts as an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University in August. See a profile of her in Harvard Ed. Magazine.

Al-Adeimi has written a series of pieces for In These Times magazine, including “Trump Doesn’t Care About Civilian Deaths. Just Look at Yemen,” which states: “Yemen has been under attack by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and a coalition of various countries since March 26, 2015. The coalition is supported by the United Kingdom and the United States, with both countries providing hundreds of billions in weapons sales, targeting and logistical support, and in the case of the United States, mid-air refueling of jets. Yemeni civilians, on the other hand, are defenseless against this barrage of foreign attackers.

“The war has claimed the lives of at least 10,000 Yemeni civilians due to violent attacks, and has led to the deaths of at least 113,000 children who have died from hunger and preventable diseases such as cholera since 2016. …”

Most recently, she wrote “What the Deployment of Green Berets to the Saudi-Yemen Border Tells Us About America’s Dirty War,” which states: “The U.S. government has long sought to distance itself from the morally inexcusable war on Yemen — but this public relations effort is even more difficult after The New York Times reported on May 3 that, in December of last year, U.S. Special Forces (commonly known as the Green Berets) deployed to Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen. Though Saudi Arabia and the UAE are occupying parts of Yemen, the countries rely on Yemeni, Latin American, Sudanese, Blackwater and even al-Qaeda mercenaries to fight on the ground. Mercenaries also include former U.S. Military officer Stephen Toumajan, who commands the UAE’s military helicopter branch. The Saudi-Yemeni border, on the other hand, represents the only front where Yemeni and Saudi soldiers are engaged in direct on-the-ground combat. By placing American special forces at the Saudi-Yemeni border, the United States is engaged in direct combat with Yemen’s Houthis.

“Not only does this reality contradict the Pentagon’s previous statements about its involvement in Yemen, it also brings into question the U.S. government’s intended goals. Is the U.S. military so committed to achieving Saudi Arabia’s mission to regain control of Yemen that it is willing to risk American lives? Alternatively, if the U.S. is advising and training soldiers, repairing and refueling aircraft, patrolling Yemeni waters alongside Saudi Arabia and now fighting Yemenis on the ground, is it really just Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen?

“Following the latest revelations of the increased U.S. role in Yemen, Sen. Bernie Sanders announced he would seek ‘further clarification on these activities,’ while Rep. Mark Pocan urged Congress to ‘stop this secret, unconstitutional war.’ Yet members of Congress ought to consider that this has always been America’s war — from the very beginning.”

Trump Doesn’t Care About Civilian Deaths. Just Look at Yemen.

What the Deployment of Green Berets to the Saudi-Yemen Border Tells Us About America’s Dirty War

Poor People’s Campaign: Nationwide Civil Disobedience

AP reports: “Thousands of anti-poverty activists have launched a campaign in recent weeks modeled after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign of 1968.” The Louisville Courier Journal reports Monday: “Anti-poverty activists plan another protest at Kentucky Capitol today.”

See from CommonDreams: “Hundreds Arrested Nationwide as Poor People’s Campaign Demands ‘End to the War Economy.'”

Other issues the Poor People’s Campaign is focusing on include voter suppression, immigrant injustice, lack of universal single payer healthcare and attacks on the social safety-nets and union rights.

Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler at verizon.net, @graylanhagler, @unitethepoor
Rev. WILLIAM H. LAMAR IV, william.lamar at metropolitanamec.org
Rev. Hagler is senior pastor at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C. and chairperson of Faith Strategies. Rev. Lamar is pastor of Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C.

They were arrested at the Supreme Court last week protesting the court’s decision on Ohio voter suppression. See from “Democracy Now”: “Religious Leaders Shackled, Held in Jail Overnight, After Praying in Protest Outside Supreme Court” and “In the Streets with the New Poor People’s Campaign Against Racism and Poverty.”

JOHN CAVANAGH, via Domenica Ghanem, and domenica@ips-dc.org, @ips_dc
Cavanagh is director of the Institute for Policy Studies, which submitted testimony to Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Elijah Cumming’s panel on the Poor People’s Campaign on Tuesday.

Cavanagh said today: “There’s an enduring narrative that if the millions of people in poverty in the U.S. just worked harder they would be lifted up out of their condition. But here we’re proving — with data and analysis spanning 50 years — that the problem is both structural barriers for the poor in hiring, housing, policing, and more, as well as a system that prioritizes war and the wealthy over people and the environment they live in. It is unfathomable, for example, that in the wealthiest nation in the world, medical debt is the number one cause of personal bankruptcy filings, and one and a half million people don’t have access to plumbing.”

* ICE Contracts Former CIA Interrogator * Who Speaks? Bush and Obama Policy

KEN KLIPPENSTEIN, kenneth.klippenstein at gmail.com, @kenklippenstein
An independent journalist, Klippenstein broke the story: “Veteran CIA Interrogator Training ICE Officers” (for TYT Network), which states: “Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has contracted a private security firm run by a former top CIA interrogator to train ICE officers in ‘intelligence collection’ and ‘counterterrorism elicitation,’ federal documents show. The documents indicate that the training is to help ICE officers collect information from ‘terrorist suspects.’

“The $91,812 no-bid contract was awarded on May 7 — three days after the Department of Homeland Security,which oversees ICE, authorized its controversial new policy of separating undocumented families caught crossing the border.”

ROBERTO LOVATO, robvato at gmail.com, @robvato
An independent journalist, Lovato’s past pieces include “Central American deportees fear yet more trauma and violence back home” and “The Guantanamization of Immigrant Detention.”

He tweeted today: “Watching U.S. media, it would appear that Republican and Democratic Party operatives are better-suited to speak to these child separation issues than we Central Americans are. The amount of spin baked into much of the reporting on Trump’s child policy is as astonishing as it is tragic….

“I remember visiting S. Texas facilities that Laura Bush and Michelle Obama’s husbands built. I also remember interviewing Satsuki Ina, a Japanese psychologist, who as a child, was interned in a Texas concentration camp she compared to those Texas child refugee prisons Bush & Obama built.

“Between 2009 and 2014, I heard stories of and saw one to five-year-old Salvadoran kids who cried before being handed over to foster care after their parents were ripped from them by ICE.” Before becoming a journalist, Lovato supported refugee and displaced communities in wartime El Salvador.

See piece by The Onion: “Laura Bush Publishes Courageous Op-Ed Calling For Imprisonment Of Whoever Created ICE.”

Are Voters Fixing Voting? *Gerrymandering * Ranked Choice Voting

DREW SPENCER PENROSE, dpenrose at fairvote.org, via Rich Robinson, rrobinson at fairvote.org, @fairvote
Penrose is law and policy director for FairVote. He recently wrote the piece “Maine approves ranked choice voting, this time for keeps.” Maine Public is reporting: “Results from nation’s first statewide ranked-choice voting election could be announced as soon as Tuesday.”

DAVID DALEY, davedaley at gmail.com, @davedaley3
Daley is a senior fellow for FairVote, former editor-in-chief of Salon.com and a frequent lecturer and media source about gerrymandering. He is author of the book Ratf**ucked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count, as well as this recent piece in the Boston Globe.

He just wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post called “The only people who can fix gerrymandering now are voters,” which states: “This decade, Wisconsin voters have cast ballots for their state assembly on maps drawn so surgically by Republicans that, in 2012, the GOP captured more than 60 percent of the seats with 174,000 fewer votes.

“Whether Democrats found themselves ‘packed’ into districts that overwhelmingly went blue or efficiently sprinkled throughout reliably red seats, the end result was the same. Wisconsin’s politics lurched dramatically to the right: voter ID bills and antilabor laws that lacked voter support sailed easily through the legislature. Uncompetitive districts drew no competition at all. Nearly 50 percent of all state assembly seats went uncontested by a major party in 2016. Turnout plummeted as well; Between 2012 and 2016, Wisconsin suffered the second-biggest decline in voter participation nationwide.

“On Monday, however, the Supreme Court — on narrow, technical grounds — punted on two crucial partisan gerrymandering cases, one from Wisconsin and another from Maryland, that had provided an opportunity to rein in this toxic, destructive practice that has accelerated the extremism and polarization in our politics. A unanimous court, citing a lack of standing by the Wisconsin voters from any one district to bring a claim against statewide maps, sent the case back to the district court to be reargued on different grounds. The trouble is, there’s not much time before the 2020 Census and the next round of redistricting. …

“Unfortunately, the high court continues to step away from creative solutions to systemic problems. In Shelby County v. Holder, the court argued that anti-discriminatory provisions of the Voting Rights Act targeting states that had historically disenfranchised voters were no longer necessary. Now, instances of racially motivated voter suppression must be challenged one by one — and, as we saw in the case of Ohio’s voter purges last week, these individual cases are often punted back to state election boards, overwhelmingly controlled by the GOP. …

“Just last week in Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, the Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s policies of purging voters from the rolls after not participating in three federal elections (and not responding to official notices mailed to their homes). With Ohio’s policy greenlighted, over a dozen states have indicated that they will adopt a similar system. …

“There is some hope. This fall, as many as seven states will vote on ballot initiatives to create independent redistricting commissions. Arizona and California already use independent bodies for line-drawing to take the process out of the legislature — their maps, based on nonpartisan standards like compactness and keeping related communities together, are more just and more competitive. Maine, meanwhile, has enacted ranked choice voting to make its elections more representative and fair.” See FairVote’s page on ranked choice voting.

New Paper: Big Banks Again Putting Taxpayers on Hook with Complex Trades

NPR reported on “All Things Considered” Tuesday evening in “Big Banks Are Once Again Taking Risks With Complex Financial Trades, Report Says” that: “Big banks are skirting the rules on the sale of the complex financial instruments that helped bring about the 2008 financial crisis, by exploiting a loophole in federal banking regulations, a new report says.

“The loophole could leave Wall Street exposed to big losses, potentially requiring taxpayers to once again bail out the biggest banks, warns the report’s author, Michael Greenberger, former director of trading and markets at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.” Also see from Bloomberg: “Swap Loophole Leaves U.S. Taxpayers on Hook for Trades.”

The American Banker reports in “Will states pick up where feds left off on derivatives regulation?” that “Greenberger discussed the issue during an event sponsored by the nonprofit Institute for New Economic Thinking, alongside Paul Volcker, a former Federal Reserve chairman, and Thomas Hoenig, who recently retired as vice chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

“Both former regulators supported Greenberger’s argument.

“‘I am 90 years old. I started in banking 70 years ago,’ Volcker said, as he criticized the rising influence of financial lobbyists in the nation’s capital, and the urge among financial firms to roll back regulations when the economy is strong. ‘What strikes me is I’ve seen it all before, over and over again.'”

Available for a limited number of interviews for the next week, with more availablity thereafter:

MICHAEL GREENBERGER, via Ben Yelin, byelin@law.umaryland.edu and Janet Terry, jterry@law.umaryland.edu
Now a professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, Greenberguer summarizes his findings in “Too Big to Fail Banks’ Regulatory Alchemy“: “Thus, as the tenth anniversary of the Lehman failure approaches, there is an understanding among many market regulators and swaps trading experts that large portions of the swaps market have moved from U.S. bank holding company swaps dealers to their newly deguaranteed foreign affiliates. But, what has not moved abroad is the very real obligation of the lender of last resort to rescue these U.S. swaps dealer bank holding companies if they fail because of poorly regulated swaps in their deguaranteed foreign subsidiaries, i.e., the U.S. taxpayer.”

He concludes that with relief “unlikely to be forthcoming from either the Trump administration or a Republican-controlled Congress, some other means will have to be found to avert another multitrillion dollar bank bailout and/or financial calamity caused by poorly regulated swaps on the books of big U.S. banks. This paper notes that the relevant statutory framework affords state attorneys general and state financial regulators the right to bring so-called ‘parens patriae’ actions in federal district court to enforce, inter alia, Dodd-Frank on behalf of a state’s citizens. That kind of litigation to enforce the statute’s extraterritorial provisions is now badly needed.”

Executive Order and Child Separation

KEVIN JOHNSON, krjohnson at ucdavis.edu, @krjohnson58
Professor of public interest law and Chicana/o studies, Johnson wrote the piece “Trump and Sessions can end immigrant family separations without Congress’ help,” published Wednesday morning by The Conversation. He is author of How Did You Get to Be Mexican? A White/Brown Man’s Search for Identity.

KARINA MORENO, karymorenophd@gmail.com, @karyinbrooklyn
Moreno is an assistant professor in the School of Business, Public Administration, and Information Sciences at Long Island University-Brooklyn. She is a native of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Her pieces include “The Private Deportation Machine” and “Political Theater at the Border.”

She said today: “The announcement for Trump’s executive order comes as several ongoing lawsuits are challenging the separation policy. Additionally, a 1997 Flores agreement states that children can only be held in the least restrictive setting possible.

“Trump says this was the Democrats’ policy: yes and no. Obama had a huge influx of unaccompanied children at the border seeking asylum as part of the Central American refugee crisis. In an effort to not violate their right to procedural due process, the measures in place either held families together until they got to their immigration hearing, judge; or, the state assumed custody of minors until a guardian or family member claimed the child (the child was then released to this sponsor). Detention centers were regulated with basic standards on living conditions and how long children could be held, as well as required facilities to have childcare licensing. Most are run by private corporations. … Deportation has become a billion-dollar industry.”

Background:

From the New York Times: “Fact-Checking the Trump Administration’s Case for Child Separation at the Border.”

See AP piece “U.S. has split up families throughout its history“: “Some critics of the forced separation of Latino children from their migrant parents say the practice is unprecedented. But it’s not the first time the U.S. government has split up families, detained children or allowed others to do so.

“Throughout American history, during times of war and unrest, authorities have cited various reasons and laws to take children away from their parents.”

Ecosocialism

VICTOR WALLIS, zendive at aol.com
Wallis is author of the new book Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism. He will be speaking at Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C. on Monday evening.

He writes: “The alternatives are sharply etched. The currently dominant forces, rather than join the fight against climate change, erect walls to block out its victims. By militarizing the problem, they not only draw resources away from any possible remedial steps; they also accelerate the spread of devastation.

“What other path can be chosen? That is the subject of this book. The short answer is that a radical power-shift is needed. But it’s one thing to recognize this and quite another to draw the indispensable majority into the struggle to achieve it. Part of that task consists in relating the overarching ecological goal to popular aspirations at every level. Another part consists in developing a political mechanism — a political force — that can embody and enforce the collective interest. Yet another involves discovering, explaining, advocating, and applying all the measures needed in order to slow down — and, where possible, reverse — the dangerous environmental trends. …

“The idea of a red-green revolution is not new, but its implementation becomes more urgent all the time. Ecological restoration cannot take place as long as capitalist expansionist priorities continue to dominate decision-making. Reshaping our economic priorities requires reshaping our social relations. Above all, it requires, creating governing institutions at all levels in which everyone has an active role and can be persuaded to participate.”

Wallis is professor of liberal arts at Berklee College of Music in Boston. He was written for New Political Science and Monthly Review and edited Socialism and Democracy.

“No Way to Treat a Child”

JENNIFER BING, jbing at afsc.org, @nwttac

BRAD PARKER, brad.parker at dcips.org
Parker is international advocacy officer and attorney for Defense for Children International – Palestine. Bing is director of the Palestine-Israel program for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group.They co-lead the No Way to Treat a Child campaign. See: NoWayToTreatAChild.org.

They will be hosting a congressional briefing on Monday.

The campaign states: “Israel has the dubious distinction of being the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes between 500 and 700 children each year in military courts that lack fundamental fair trial rights and protections.

“Children within the Israeli military detention system commonly report physical and verbal abuse from the moment of their arrest, and coercion and threats during interrogations. Under Israeli military law, Palestinian children have no right to a lawyer during interrogation.

“Ill-treatment of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank has been widely documented. In 2013, UNICEF released a report titled ‘Children in Israeli military detention: Observations and recommendations.’ The report concluded that ‘ill-treatment of children who come in contact with the military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized throughout the process, from the moment of arrest until the child’s prosecution and eventual conviction and sentencing.'”

Mattis Visits China While “Provocatively Encircling” It

Pentagon head Jim Mattis is “set to begin a three-day visit to China on Tuesday at a time of rising military tensions between the two countries” reports the South China Morning Post.

MICHAEL KLARE, mklare at hampshire.edu, @mklare1
Klare is professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources. He will begin as senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association next week.

He just wrote the piece “Girding for Confrontation: The Pentagon’s Provocative Encirclement of China,” which states: “On May 30th, Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced a momentous shift in American global strategic policy. From now on, he decreed, the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), which oversees all U.S. military forces in Asia, will be called the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM). The name change, Mattis explained, reflects ‘the increasing connectivity between the Indian and Pacific Oceans,’ as well as Washington’s determination to remain the dominant power in both. …

“Consider the backdrop to the name change: in recent months, the U.S. has stepped up its naval patrols in waters adjacent to Chinese-occupied islands in the South China Sea (as has China), raising the prospect of future clashes between the warships of the two countries. Such moves have been accompanied by ever more threatening language from the Department of Defense (DoD), indicating an intent to do nothing less than engage China militarily if that country’s build-up in the region continues. ‘When it comes down to introducing what they have done in the South China Sea, there are consequences,’ Mattis declared at the Shangri La Strategic Dialogue in Singapore on June 2nd. …

“In addition to its plans to heighten naval tensions in seas adjacent to China, the Pentagon has been laboring to strengthen its military ties with U.S.-friendly states on China’s perimeter, all clearly part of a long-term drive to — in Cold War fashion — ‘contain’ Chinese power in Asia. On June 8th, for example, the DoD launched Malabar 2018, a joint Pacific Ocean naval exercise involving forces from India, Japan, and the United States. Incorporating once neutral India into America’s anti-Chinese ‘Pacific’ alliance system in this and other ways has, in fact, become a major twenty-first-century goal of the Pentagon, posing a significant new threat to China.”

Recent Pentagon Increases Exceed Russia’s Entire Military Budget

WILLIAM HARTUNG, williamhartung55 at gmail.com, @WilliamHartung
Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at Center for International Policy. He is author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. He recently wrote the paper “Ready to Profit: Corporate Beneficiaries of Congressional Add-Ons to the FY 2018 Pentagon Budget.”

He said today: “The House of Representatives’ $716 billion Fiscal Year 2019 Pentagon spending bill is one of the largest since World War II.  Spending at this level is both dangerous and unnecessary. It’s good news for Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and other weapons contractors, but bad news for the rest of us.

“The increase in Pentagon spending in the last two years alone is greater than Russia’s entire military budget.

“The bill continues to waste billions of dollars on a new generation of nuclear weapons, part of the Pentagon’s planned $1 trillion-plus nuclear weapons buildup over the next three decades. Even many advocates of nuclear deterrence acknowledge that other countries could be prevented from attacking the United States with a fraction of its current arsenal of over 6,000 warheads. And the only true way to protect us from nuclear weapons is to get rid of them altogether by supporting the global ban that passed the United Nations General Assembly last year.

“The new Pentagon spending bill will also continue to underwrite America’s seven current wars, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Niger, and Yemen.  America’s post-9/11 wars have done more harm than good, resulting in over 370,000 deaths on all sides at a cost of $5.6 trillion and counting, according to the Costs of War project at Brown University. Congress should be acting to end these devastating conflicts, not continuing to fund them.”

Pogroms in Ukraine

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

He just wrote the piece “Sorry, Howard Dean, Pogroms In Ukraine Are Not ‘Russian Propaganda’” for The Forward.

Golinkin writes: “It has reached the point where U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe — certainly not an arm of the Kremlin — is now filing regular reports about Roma pogroms and neo-Nazi street gangs, some of which are supported by the government — the very government we’re giving billions to. It’s reached the point where American Jewish organizations, which are some of Kiev’s strongest advocates, are starting to sound alarms. In fact, it’s reached the point where Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and U.S.-funded Freedom House issued a terrifying joint report warning that Kiev is in danger of losing control over monopoly of violence and rule of law.

“Most concerning, however, are the Roma pogroms. Last week, Ukraine had its sixth pogrom in two months. This time, they killed a man and stabbed a child.

“Have you seen the videos? They’re blood-chilling.

“I know what it’s like to run down Ukrainian streets chased by men screaming for the vermin to leave their country, so I guess I have a soft spot for the Roma predicament. And considering the U.S. is funding the Kiev government — which is allowing this to happen — I’d rather speak out than be silent and complicit.”

Last month, Golinkin wrote the piece “Violent Anti-Semitism Is Gripping Ukraine — And The Government Is Standing Idly By.”

Janus Decision: Why Does Labor Keep Losing?

New York Times reports: “Supreme Court Ruling Delivers a Sharp Blow to Labor Unions.”

RICHARD D. WOLFF, rdwolff@att.net, @profwolff
Wolff is professor of economics emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Amherst and currently visiting professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School University, New York City. His most recent book is Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown. He is a contributing author to Living in a Socialist USA.

He said today: “The Janus decision is the latest in a long 50-year series of blows against organized labor. Organized labor agreed after World War II to play by the rules of a capitalist system that gave lip service to the right of workers to organize to improve their bargaining position with capitalists. But beneath the lip service was an endless program to weaken and destroy organized labor by direct legislative attack and by a massive, ongoing program of celebrating capital and capitalists (‘entrepreneurship’ ‘job-givers’ etc.) while demonizing labor unions. Organized labor could have met and defeated that program, but that would have required a close, working alliance between labor and the left (as exists in other countries) and advocacy of basic social change toward an economic system that prioritizes labor. To date, and with few exceptions, organized labor in the U.S. has avoided such an alliance and such advocacy. That avoidance was and remains a losing strategy as the Janus decision illustrates yet again.”

Wolff is host of the program “Economic Update” and founder of Democracy at Work.

Ocasio-Cortez Victory: * Socialism * Democratizing the Democratic Party

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory over Joe Crowley, who was high in the Democratic Party leadership, has drawn attention in part because she calls herself a democratic socialist. It has also highlighted the tensions within the Democratic Party, especially given the recent changes on superdelegates.

VICTOR WALLIS, zendive at aol.com
Wallis is author of the new book Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism. He was just recently on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release on ecosocialism.

Norman Solomon (who is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy) just wrote the piece “What Joe Crowley’s Defeat Has to Do With Democratic Party Superdelegates“: “In a simple and symbolic twist of fate, the stunning defeat of Crowley came a day before the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic Party voted on what to do about superdelegates. … [It] approved a proposal to prevent superdelegates from voting on the presidential nominee during the first ballot at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.”

RICHARD ESKOW, rjeskow at gmail.com, @rjeskow
Eskow is senior advisor, health and economic justice, for Social Security Works and is the host of The Zero Hour on Free Speech TV. His previous pieces include “Democrats Need More Democracy, Not Less.”

He just wrote the piece “How to Cover a Political Revolution“: “Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat of Crowley shows that the organizer’s approach to electoral politics can work. While Crowley raked in money from deep corporate coffers — after years spent trimming his political opinions to optimize donor cash flow — Ocasio-Cortez eschewed the party establishment’s model of raising money for costly media buys and expensive consultants. Instead, she relied on small-dollar donors and an activist-based, community-centered ground game that carried the day. …

“Ocasio-Cortez’s candidacy puts the lie to the party establishment’s claim that there is a conflict between class and identity politics. A millennial Latina woman, she campaigned on a working-class platform of social — and socialist — change.”

Left Populist Wins in Mexico

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, overwhelmingly won the Mexican presidential election Sunday.

GUADALUPE CORREA-CABRERA, gcorreac at gmu.edu, @gcorreacabrera
She is an associate professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. Her newest book is titled Los Zetas Inc.: Criminal Corporations, Energy, and Civil War in Mexico.

MARGARITA FAVELA, dfavelag at unam.mx
Favela is a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

MARK WEISBROT, ALEXANDER MAIN, REBECCA WATTS, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @ceprdc
Weisbrot, Main and Watts are with the Center for Economic and Policy Research. See the group’s statement: “Mexico Votes Overwhelmingly for ‘Change’ by Electing López Obrador President,” which highlights problems of disinformation, low wages, inequality, crime and corruption.

CHRISTY THORNTON, christy.thornton at jhu.edu, @llchristyll
She is an assistant professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Johns Hopkins University. She was an election observer for the Scholar and Citizen Network for Democracy. She is currently writing a book about Mexican economic history. She appeared on “Democracy Now” today and among other things, traced the political history of López Obrador. Contrary to the comparisons between him and Trump, Thornton said he is a populist but “is really something more like a Bernie Sanders.”

MANUEL PÉREZ-ROCHA, manuel at ips-dc.org, @ManuelPerezIPS
Just back in the U.S. from Central America, Pérez-Rocha is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He is from Mexico and has written extensively about U.S.-Mexican relations, especially regarding NAFTA. See his recent commentary “Failed U.S. Economic Policy Contributed to Asylum Seekers.”

If Catholic Anti-Nuclear Weapons Activists in North Korea or Iran Were Jailed

On Monday, attorneys filed motions to dismiss all criminal charges against the Kings Bay Plowshares in federal court in Brunswick, Georgia. The seven Catholic defendants are “charged with three federal felonies and one misdemeanor for their actions in going onto the Naval Base at Kings Bay Georgia and symbolically disarming the massive amount of nuclear weapons at that base.” The group states that their actions are “to make real the prophet Isaiah’s command to ‘beat swords into plowshares.’” The seven are: Mark Colville, Clare Grady, Martha Hennessy, Jesuit Fr. Stephen Kelly, Patrick O’Neill, Carmen Trotta and Elizabeth McAlister (the widow of Philip Berrigan). See legal update on the case: KingsBayPlowshares7.org/impact.

The request to dismiss ends the supporting memorandum with the following paragraph: “If the defendants took their actions in North Korea or Iran, the U.S. government would hail their actions. The same U.S. government cannot be allowed to criminally prosecute them at home. The charges should be dismissed.” …

The group states: “The Motion to Dismiss is supplemented by four important declarations…

“Professor Francis Boyle, a renowned Harvard Law graduate and professor of law at the Illinois College of Law, advised the court that nuclear weapons are flatly illegal and the actions of defendants are in full compliance with the law.

“Captain Thomas Rogers, a retired career Navy commander of nuclear armed submarines, told the court that nuclear weapons violate the principles of the laws of war and are both illegal and immoral.

“Catholic Bishop Thomas Gumbleton declared that the actions of the Kings Bay Plowshares are totally consistent with and supported by Catholic social teaching that any use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is totally immoral.

“Jeffery Carter, Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, explained to the court the fact that his organization and the American Medical Association condemn any use of nuclear weapons because of the horrific impact upon millions, perhaps even billions, of people.

“The Kings Bay Naval Station is home to at least six nuclear ballistic missile submarines. Each submarine carries 20 Trident II D 5 MIRV thermonuclear weapons. Each of these individual Trident thermonuclear weapons contains four or more individual nuclear weapons ranging in destructive power from a 100 kilotons to 475 kilotons. To understand the massive destructive power of these weapons remember that the nuclear bomb dropped on Hiroshima was a 15 kiloton bomb.”

For interviews and more information, see KingsBayPlowshares7.org and contact:

JESSICA STEWART, (207) 266-0919, PAUL MAGNO, kingsbayplowshares at gmail.com

Also, see coverage of Plowshares movement in the National Catholic Reporter.

Is NATO Obsolete? Does it Destabilize?

DAVID GIBBS, dgibbs at  email.arizona.edu
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 writes: “Donald Trump is raising legitimate concerns about the security value of the NATO alliance, given the very high expense of maintaining this alliance, borne in part by the U.S. public. By any reasonable standard, NATO lost its function in 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since then it has functioned as a make-work program for a series of vested interests, while it has generated global insecurity and destabilization. The NATO-directed overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, for example, destabilized Libya and the whole of northern Africa, generating new sources of terrorism. While foreign policy specialists are rightly suspicious of anything Trump says, in this particular case, his statements have a measure of truth.”

 

“Congress Welcomes an Actual Fascist as Nazi Violence Rages in Ukraine”

MAX BLUMENTHAL, maxjblumenthal at gmail.com, @MaxBlumenthal
Blumenthal is senior editor of the Grayzone Project. He just wrote the piece “Congress welcomes an actual fascist as Nazi violence rages in Ukraine,” which includes video of his questioning and background information.

Blumenthal writes: “While racist violence raged through Ukraine, punctuated by a wave of attacks on Roma encampments by the state-funded C14 neo-Nazi militia, Congress played host to an actual Ukrainian fascist. He was Andriy Parubiy, and besides being the proud founder of two Nazi-like parties — the Social-National Party and the Patriot of Ukraine — he was the speaker of Ukraine’s parliament.

“During a meeting hosted by the American Foreign Policy Society inside the Senate, I seized the chance to ask Parubiy’s hosts why they were welcoming a figure who was so central to the extremism overtaking Ukrainian society. I also put the question to Michael Carpenter, a former Pentagon official who helped deepen the U.S. relationship with post-coup Ukraine during the Obama administration.

“The responses I received reflected a semi-official policy of denying the very existence of Ukraine’s far-right plague in order to turn the heat up on Moscow.

“The Ukrainian lawmaker appeared on a panel alongside fellow speakers of Eastern European parliaments eager to join the U.S.-NATO crusade against Russia in exchange for handsome aid packages. At the top of the agenda was stopping the Nord Stream 2 pipeline between Russia and Germany, a project viewed in Washington as an existential threat to U.S. economic leverage over Europe.

“Earlier in the day, Parubiy held private discussions with the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan and enjoyed what Under Secretary of State for Arms Control Andrea Thomson described as an ‘excellent meeting’ with a ‘proactive’ leader.”

Kavanaugh and the Federalist Society

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh claimed Monday night: “No president has ever consulted more widely or talked to more people from more backgrounds to seek input for a Supreme Court nomination.”

FRANCIS BOYLE,  fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He is a longtime critic of the Federalist Society. See this in-depth piece on the group in Emerge magazine, “Hijacking Justice.”

He said today: “Brett Kavanaugh was chosen off a list of possibilities put to Trump by Leonard Leo, who is ‘on leave‘ as executive vice president of the Federalist Society.

“Kavanaugh drafted portions of the Starr report, a political hit job. Perhaps more importantly, he drafted parts of the Ken Starr ‘referral’ to the U.S. Congress recommending that Bill Clinton be impeached for a blowjob and lying about a blowjob.

“Kavanaugh worked for then-Republican nominee George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore, which effectively robbed the American people of the presidency.

“Kavanaugh amusingly invoked the name of Elena Kagan in his remarks last night, as if her hiring him at Harvard made him some kind of moderate. But it was Kagan who said ‘I love the Federalist Society.’

“The fact that if Kavanaugh gets through, the entire Supreme Court will have gone to Harvard or Yale is terrible for the country. And I say that as having graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law.

“Trump acknowledged Edwin Meese last night, which is fitting because in addition to being Ronald Reagan’s Attorney General, he was a leading founder of the Federalist Society. The Independent Counsel in the Iran-Contra Scandal Judge Lawrence Walsh found that Meese was the architect of its cover-up by the Reagan administration.

“Almost all of the Bush administration lawyers responsible for its war and torture memos are members of the Federalist Society. Many members of the Federalist Society say that Brown v. Board of Education [which struck down ‘separate but equal’] was decided wrongly and practice to overturn it at the United States Supreme Court.”

Boyle said in a recent interview with The Real News “Justice Anthony Kennedy’s Retirement: End of Roe v. Wade?” that since the Robert Bork nomination “all these nominees have learned that lesson, and they will present their narrative, their script, and they will stick to it to the end. … And the Democrats aren’t going to call them. They didn’t really call Gorsuch on anything. So this is all about raw power politics.”

Boyle added: “I first received the ire of the Federalist Society when they had a meeting about how to stop me from helping expose them, when I passed around a quote from Lawrence Walsh about the group. He, a lifelong Republican, wrote: ‘I was concerned about the continuing political allegiance of Republican judges as manifested in the Federalist Society. Although the organization was not openly partisan, its dogma was political. It reminded me of the communist front groups of the 1940s and 1950s, whose members were committed to the communist cause and subject to communist direction but were not card-carrying members of the Communist Party. In calling for the narrow construction of constitutional grants of government power, the Federalist Society seemed to speak for right-wing Republicans. I was especially troubled that one of White House Counsel Boyden Gray’s assistants had openly declared that no one who was not a member of the Federalist Society had received a judicial appointment from President Bush.'”

Trump-Putin Summit: How the New Cold War is More Dangerous Than the Last

Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in Helsinki on Monday, July 16. Beginning tomorrow, Wednesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will be among the participants of the NATO summit. See accuracy.org/calendar for upcoming events.

STEPHEN F. COHEN, via Caitlin Graf, press@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.

See his recent pieces and interviews in The Nation, including “Who’s Afraid of a Trump-Putin Summit?” “Russiagate’s ‘Core Narrative’ Has Always Lacked Actual Evidence” and “The Necessity of a Trump-Putin Summit,” which states: “U.S.-Russian military relations are especially tense today in the Baltic region, where a large-scale NATO buildup is under way, and in Ukraine, where a U.S.-Russian proxy war is intensifying. The ‘Soviet Bloc’ that once served as a buffer between NATO and Russia no longer exists. And many imaginable incidents on the West’s new Eastern Front, intentional or unintentional, could easily trigger actual war between the United States and Russia. What brought about this unprecedented situation on Russia’s borders — at least since the Nazi German invasion in 1941 — was, of course, the exceedingly unwise decision, in the late 1990s, to expand NATO eastward. Done in the name of ‘security,’ it has made all the states involved only more insecure. …

“Today’s U.S.-Russian proxy wars are different [than the Cold War], located in the center of geopolitics and accompanied by too many American and Russian trainers, minders, and possibly fighters. Two have already erupted: in Georgia in 2008, where Russian forces fought a Georgian army financed, trained, and minded by American funds and personnel; and in Syria, where in February scores of Russians were killed by U.S.-backed anti-Assad forces. Moscow did not retaliate, but it has pledged to do so if there is ‘a next time,’ as there very well may be. If so, this would in effect be war directly between Russia and America. Meanwhile, the risk of such a direct conflict continues to grow in Ukraine, where the country’s U.S.-backed but politically failing President Petro Poroshenko seems increasingly tempted to launch another all-out military assault on rebel-controlled Donbass, backed by Moscow.”

New Turn in “Russiagate” Debate

Controversies over “Russiagate” and U.S.-Russian relations took a new and possibly historic turn today as The Nation magazine published a rare open letter from an array of prominent Americans calling for “concrete steps … to ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers.”

Titled “Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security,” the open letter was signed by writer and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem; Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg; Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Alice Walker and Viet Thanh Nguyen; Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams; political analyst Noam Chomsky; former New Mexico governor and ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson; TV public-affairs pioneer Phil Donahue; former White House counsel John DeanThe Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel; and more than a dozen others.

We must reach common ground,” the letter says, “to safeguard common interests — taking steps to protect the nation’s elections and to prevent war between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.”

The open letter declares: “No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of U.S. and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange.”

The full text of the open letter and the list of signers are below. The letter is posted on The Nation‘s website.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, press at thenation.com, @KatrinaNation
Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor and publisher of The Nation magazine.

ANDREW BACEVICH, bacevich at bu.edu
Bacevich is professor emeritus of history and international relations at Boston University. His books include America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History.

THOMAS DRAKE, tadrake at earthlink.net, @Thomas_Drake1
Drake is a former NSA senior executive and whistle-blower.

Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security

An open letter by Gloria Steinem, Noam Chomsky, John Dean, Governor Bill Richardson, Walter Mosley, Valerie Plame, and others.

Many Americans remain deeply concerned about reports of Russian interference with the 2016 election. Meanwhile, relations between the United States and Russia are at their lowest and most dangerous point in several decades. For the sake of democracy at home and true national security, we must reach common ground to safeguard common interests—taking steps to protect the nation’s elections and to prevent war between the world’s two nuclear superpowers.

Whatever the truth of varied charges that Russia interfered with the election, there should be no doubt that America’s digital-age infrastructure for the electoral process is in urgent need of protection. The overarching fact remains that the system is vulnerable to would-be hackers based anywhere. Solutions will require a much higher level of security for everything from voter-registration records to tabulation of ballots with verifiable paper trails. As a nation, we must fortify our election system against unlawful intrusions as well as official policies of voter suppression.

At the same time, the U.S. and Russian governments show numerous signs of being on a collision course. Diplomacy has given way to hostility and reciprocal consular expulsions, along with dozens of near-miss military encounters in Syria and in skies above Europe. Both sides are plunging ahead with major new weapons development programs. In contrast to prior eras, there is now an alarming lack of standard procedures to keep the armed forces of both countries in sufficient communication to prevent an escalation that could lead to conventional or even nuclear attack. These tensions are festering between two nations with large quantities of nuclear weapons on virtual hair-trigger alert; yet the current partisan fixations in Washington are ignoring the dangers to global stability and, ultimately, human survival.

The United States should implement a pronounced shift in approach toward Russia. No political advantage, real or imagined, could possibly compensate for the consequences if even a fraction of U.S. and Russian arsenals were to be utilized in a thermonuclear exchange. The tacit pretense that the worsening of U.S.-Russian relations does not worsen the odds of survival for the next generations is profoundly false. Concrete steps can and must be taken to ease tensions between the nuclear superpowers.

 

Andrew Bacevich, Professor Emeritus, Boston University

Phyllis Bennis, Fellow, Institute for Policy Studies

Noam Chomsky, Professor, Author, and Activist

Stephen F. Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics, NYU and Princeton University, and Board Member, American Committee for East-West Accord

John Dean, Former Nixon White House Counsel

Phil Donahue, Journalist and Talk-Show Pioneer

Thomas Drake, Former NSA Senior Executive and Whistle-blower

Daniel Ellsberg, Activist, “Pentagon Papers” Whistle-blower, and Author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

Jack F. Matlock Jr., Former US Ambassador to the USSR and Board Member, American Committee for East-West Accord

Walter Mosley, Writer and Screenwriter

John Nichols, National Affairs Correspondent, The Nation

Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–Winning Novelist

Frances Fox Piven, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, CUNY Graduate School

Valerie Plame, Former Covert CIA Operations Officer and Author

Adolph Reed Jr., Professor of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania

Bill Richardson, Former Governor of New Mexico

Patricia Schroeder, Former Congresswoman

Norman Solomon, National Coordinator, RootsAction.org

Gloria Steinem, Writer and Feminist Organizer

Adlai Stevenson III, Former US Senator and Chairman, Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy

Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher, The Nation

Alice Walker, Writer, Poet, and Activist

Jody Williams, Professor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute

 

Signers have endorsed this Open Letter as individuals and not on behalf of any organization.

Helsinki Summit: Looking Beyond “Partisan Fixations”

With the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki just days away, The Nation has published “Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security,” which the magazine describes as “a rare open letter cosigned by over 20 prominent cultural and political figures — Democratic Party loyalists and former Republican politicos alike — imploring public officials to implement a pronounced shift in the U.S.’s approach to Russia.”

The letter warns that “the U.S. and Russian governments show numerous signs of being on a collision course.” Serious tensions “are festering between two nations with large quantities of nuclear weapons on virtual hair-trigger alert; yet the current partisan fixations in Washington are ignoring the dangers to global stability and, ultimately, human survival.”

Among the signers of the open letter are Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, writer and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem, former UN ambassador Gov. Bill Richardson, political analyst Noam Chomsky, former covert CIA operations officer Valerie Plame, activist leader Rev. Dr. William Barber II, filmmaker Michael Moore, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, former U.S. ambassador to the USSR Jack F. Matlock Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Alice Walker and Viet Thanh Nguyen, former longtime House Armed Services Committee member Patricia Schroeder and former senator Adlai Stevenson III.

Signers of the open letter are available for interviews, including:

PHYLLIS BENNIS, pbennis at ips-dc.org
Bennis is a fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies. Her most recent book is Understanding ISIS & the New Global War on Terror.

She said today: “Whatever role Russia may have played in the past, the most important threat to our elections right now comes from the increasing campaigns of voter suppression underway across this country. The Helsinki summit won’t help that — but it does provide an opportunity to significantly de-escalate the rising threat of U.S.-Russian tensions turning into an even more dangerous — potentially even military — confrontation. Reducing the threat of new wars abroad will allow us to focus on rebuilding our democracy at home.”

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is national coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org, which has joined with five other organizations to cosponsor a nationwide petition campaign in support of the open letter. The petition gathered 10,000 signers during the first 24 hours after its launch on Wednesday and passed the 15,000 mark this afternoon.

He said today: “The petition campaign behind the open letter aims to build grassroots support for rejection of the false choice between protecting the digital security of U.S. elections and reducing tensions with Russia that boost the chances of nuclear apocalypse. We need a major shift in the U.S. approach toward Russia. Clearly the needed shift won’t be initiated by the Republican or Democratic leaders in Congress — it must come from Americans who make their voices heard in favor of a more rational approach to U.S.-Russian relations. The lives — and even existence — of future generations are at stake in the relationship between Washington and Moscow.”

Along with RootsAction, the other sponsors of the petition are The Nation, Just Foreign Policy, World Beyond War, Progressive Democrats of America, and Peace Action.

Solomon is IPA’s executive director.

* NATO * Trump-Putin — Reagan: “Why Wait to Eliminate all Nuclear Weapons?”

Presidents Trump and Putin are scheduled to meet in Helsinki on Monday.

MICHAEL KLARE, mklare at hampshire.edu @mklare1
Klare is senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources. He just wrote the piece “What Trump’s Critics Are Missing About the NATO Summit” for The Nation. The editor and publisher of The Nation, Katrina vanden Heuvel, was just on “Democracy Now” on NATO and avoiding a ruinous policy toward Russia.

Reuters reports in “Trump says ‘ultimate deal’ with Putin would be world without nuclear weapons” that: “Asked what would be the best possible result from his meeting with Putin, Trump said: ‘What would be the ultimate? Let’s see. No more nuclear weapons anywhere in the world, no more wars, no more problems, no more conflicts. … That would be my ultimate.'”

DAVID CORTRIGHT, David.B.Cortright.1 at nd.edu
Cortright is director of policy studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He said today: “If Trump is serious about an ‘ultimate deal’ with Putin to get rid of nuclear weapons, he should come to Helsinki with an offer to cut U.S. nuclear weapons in half immediately and call Putin’s bluff. He could dust off the formula for the elimination of all nuclear weapons that Reagan and Gorbachev almost concluded at Reykjavik in October 1986. To show he’s serious Trump should suspend the current so-called ‘modernization’ of U.S. nuclear systems, following the model of the suspension of military exercises he ordered for U.S. troops in South Korea in his summit with Kim Jong-un.”

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 recently wrote “Watch Out World: Peace May be Breaking Out,” which states that the “new Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons celebrated its first birthday on July 7 when 122 nations voted a year ago in the UN General Assembly to ban the bomb, just as we have banned biological and chemical weapons. The new ban treaty shattered the establishment consensus that the proper way to avoid nuclear catastrophe was to follow the endless step by step path of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, now 50 years old this month, which has only led to nuclear weapons forever.” Last year, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons won the Nobel Peace Prize, but the effort has been opposed by both the U.S. and Russian governments. Also see: “McNamara: U.S. a Violator of Proliferation Treaty.”

SVETLANA SAVRANSKAYA, THOMAS BLANTON, via Lauren Harper, leharper at gmail.com, @NSArchive
Savranskaya and Blanton are with the National Security Archive and have worked on declassified documents on a wide variety of security issues. See their “Gorbachev’s Nuclear Initiative of January 1986 and the Road to Reykjavik,” which notes: “Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s radical proposal in January 1986 to abolish nuclear weapons by the year 2000 met with derision on the part of many U.S. officials, who treated it as pure propaganda, but was welcomed by President Reagan. ….

“According to senior advisor Paul Nitze, Reagan’s first reaction to the Gorbachev letter after Nitze and [Secretary of State George] Shultz briefed him was, ‘Why wait until the year 2000 to eliminate all nuclear weapons?’ At the same time, Reagan remarked again and again on the fact that Gorbachev had set an actual date, which made the proposal sound more realistic. …

“There was a considerable difference of opinion within the administration: from Shultz arguing for engaging Gorbachev and his program, to [Secretary of Defense Caspar] Weinberger claiming that it was just an effort to ‘divert energy’ and to kill SDI. Shultz devotes several pages of his memoir to the internal debates. His account describes Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle as the most hard-line opponent: ‘Perle declared to the Senior Arms Control Group in mid-January that the president’s dream of a world without nuclear weapons — which Gorbachev had picked up — was a disaster, a total delusion.’ According to Shultz, Perle opposed even holding an NSC discussion of how to respond to Gorbachev ‘because then the president would direct his arms controllers to come up with a program to achieve that result.'”

Four Words That Shook Helsinki: “Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty”

In an article published this afternoon by The Nation magazine — “I Came as a Journalist to Ask Important Questions” — Sam Husseini sheds new light on what occurred at the Helsinki summit yesterday when he was forcibly ejected from the Trump-Putin news conference.

Husseini, a senior analyst with the Institute for Public Accuracy, writes: “I came to Helsinki to ask Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin questions about the threat of nuclear weapons and to distribute an open letter about the need for secure elections and true national security. Instead, I was dragged out of their press conference before it even began and into a Finnish jail.”

Husseini’s piece explains the significance of the small sign he was holding — “Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty” — when accosted and ejected by police. And he lists some key questions that were left unasked at the news conference.

SAM HUSSEINI, samhusseini at gmail.com, @samhusseini

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He said today: “Journalists should be assertive, ask tough questions and show real grit instead of running with the herd. In Helsinki, four words on a standard piece of paper — ‘Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty’ — raised profound issues in ways that neither Trump and Putin nor the assembled reporters managed to do.”

Shock at Trump’s Putin Treatment, But Netanyahu Gets a Pass

JUAN COLE, jrcole at umich.edu, @jricole
Available for a limited number of interviews, Cole is an author, a blogger and a professor at the University of Michigan. He just published the piece “D.C. Elites Shocked at Trump’s Bromance with Putin but Give Israel’s Netanyahu a Pass.

He writes: “The inside-the-beltway crowd was absolutely outraged and appalled by Trump’s performance at Helsinki. There, Trump violated all the principles of American hawkishness. …

“While Putin’s behavior has been objectionable, there is something profoundly hypocritical about the U.S. elite pretending that the U.S. doesn’t embrace people like Putin all the time.

“Take Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu. He is guilty of most of the same infractions held against Putin. Netanyahu openly campaigned for the Republican candidates in 2012 and 2016. He openly interfered in U.S. politics by insisting on addressing Congress to derail the Iran nuclear deal (a quest in which he ultimately succeeded, putting the U.S. closer to war footing with Iran).

“In fact, Netanyahu was one of those foreign influencers pushing Trump to do a ‘grand bargain’ with … Vladimir Putin. The Israeli leader allegedly pushed for lifting of U.S. sanctions on Putin and his circle in return for Putin pushing Iran out of Syria. …

“Netanyahu runs spy rings against the United States far more aggressive and extensive than those of European countries, the seriousness of which Congressional staffers have found ‘sobering.’

“Netanyahu is in the process of annexing the Palestinian West Bank, to which he has much less claim in international law than Putin does to the Crimea. (The Soviet Union assigned Crimea to Ukraine only in the 1950s, when the latter was a Soviet socialist republic, but Russian possession of it went back to the eighteenth century.) Netanyahu is presiding over an Apartheid state in which 4.5 million of the 12.5 million people controlled by the Israeli government are stateless and besieged or patrolled by the Israeli military.

“Netanyahu has even had people poisoned.

“So in Trump’s fanboy performance with Putin in Helsinki, Trump waxed lyrical about how close the U.S. is to Israel, and did opine that Iran needed to leave Syria. Nobody in D.C. is complaining about that piece of sycophancy.

“In Washington, it is all right to slam Trump for treason (it isn’t really treason since the U.S. isn’t at war with the Russian Federation) or for making nice with Putin despite the latter’s various misdeeds. But it is political death to criticize Netanyahu’s interference in American foreign policy or aggressive Israeli land theft or Israel setting the U.S. up for conflict with Iran.

“But there is no domestic Russia lobby, so it is all right to slam Putin.”

Trump-Putin Summitry: Contexts and Prospects

With another summit on the horizon for President Trump and Vladimir Putin, perhaps as early as this fall, will the future of U.S.-Russian relations largely hinge on such meetings? An editorial in the new issue of The Nation — “Parsing the Surreal From the Sensible in Trump’s Helsinki Performance” — calls for protecting the security of U.S. elections while pursuing diplomatic initiatives with Russia.

“Reforming our elections to ensure that they are free and fair is an imperative,” the magazine’s editor and publisher, Katrina vanden Heuvel, writes in the editorial. “And engaging the Russians to reduce tensions and resolve crises is both sensible and long overdue.”

Vanden Heuvel is scheduled to appear on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” this Sunday (July 22).

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, press at thenation.com, @KatrinaNation
The Nation editorial says: “With Trump’s own director of national intelligence — conservative former Republican senator Dan Coats — concluding that Russian interference continues to this day, Trump refused to publicly denounce that interference or warn Putin against persisting in it. Foreign powers, corporations, and billionaires may well see this as a green light for increased meddling in U.S. elections.

“Worse, the administration and the Republican-controlled Congress have done virtually nothing to bolster free elections or protect them from such meddling. Our digital-age voting systems are vulnerable to hackers based anywhere. The solutions will require a much higher level of security for everything from voter-registration records to the tabulation of ballots with verifiable paper trails. But the greatest threat to our elections comes from hyper-partisan politics: gerrymandering electoral districts, erecting obstacles to registration and voting, purging voter rolls, gutting the Voting Rights Act, and, of course, facilitating the flow of big money — much of it undisclosed — into political campaigns. Under the Republicans, Congress has blocked sensible election-law reform. And right-wing donors and activists continue to push voter-suppression schemes at the state level — schemes that would be given even freer rein if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice. Citizens must demand reforms, and hold politicians accountable if they stand in the way.

“Trump’s serial lying is infamous — yet just because Trump says something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s false. He began the press conference by making the sensible case that it’s better to negotiate than to isolate. ‘The disagreements between our two countries are well-known, and President Putin and I discussed them at length today,’ he said. ‘But if we’re going to solve many of the problems facing our world, then we are going to have to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests…. Constructive dialogue between the United States and Russia affords the opportunity to open new pathways toward peace and stability in our world.’

“Trump should not be scorned for simply convening a summit. The United States and Russia have a common stake in reducing tensions. Moreover, if the two powers continue to talk and, as Putin summarized the goals, if they manage to restart the arms-reduction talks, revive a working group on international terrorism, work together to forge peace and bring humanitarian relief to Syria, and enforce the Minsk agreements in Ukraine, then important progress will have been made. In any case, Trump is not wrong to say that attempting to reduce the tensions that have been building for years is a ‘good thing.’

“Although he was widely reviled for it, Trump is also not wrong to say that both powers have contributed to the deteriorating relations. Leaders of the U.S. national-security establishment protest our country’s innocence regarding the tensions in Georgia and Ukraine. But it was perhaps the wisest of them, the eminent diplomat George Kennan, who warned in 1998 that the decision to extend NATO to Russia’s borders was a ‘tragic mistake’ that would eventually provoke a hostile response. ‘I think it is the beginning of a new cold war,’ Kennan said presciently. ‘I think the Russians will gradually react quite adversely and it will affect their policies.’

“Earlier in July, The Nation released an open letter signed by a score of leading public scholars, activists, and former U.S. officials calling for a ‘common ground to safeguard common interests,’ including both protecting U.S. elections and easing the current state of enmity between the two nuclear superpowers. The independent investigation into Russian interference should continue to its conclusion. Reforming our elections to ensure that they are free and fair is an imperative. And engaging the Russians to reduce tensions and resolve crises is both sensible and long overdue.”

petition in support of the open letter, “Common Ground: For Secure Elections and True National Security,” has been signed by more than 40,000 people since last week. Initial signers include Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg; writer and feminist organizer Gloria Steinem; activist leader Rev. Dr. William Barber II; Pulitzer Prize-winning writers Alice Walker and Viet Thanh Nguyen; Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams; former senator Adlai Stevenson III; Russia scholar Stephen F. Cohen; former longtime House Armed Services Committee member Patricia Schroeder; political analyst Noam Chomsky; former UN ambassador Gov. Bill Richardson; TV public-affairs pioneer Phil Donahue; former Nixon White House counsel John Dean; and former covert CIA operations officer Valerie Plame.

“The Plot to Attack Iran”

President Donald Trump has recently made threatening statements toward Iran. In late May, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a major address at the Heritage Foundation following the U.S. government’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal.

Today, Pompeo speaks before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. See @accuracy Twitter feed on Iran: twitter.com/accuracy/lists/iran.

While many in the U.S. decry alleged Russian interference in U.S. political life, Reuters reports “U.S. launches campaign to erode support for Iran’s leaders.”

DAN KOVALIK, DKovalik at usw.org, @danielmkovalik
Kovalik is author of the just-released book The Plot to Attack Iran: How the CIA and the Deep State Have Conspired to Vilify Iran. He teaches international human rights at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

He recently wrote: “Pompeo’s claim about Iran and its neighbours simply reflect little understanding of the history of the country or the region. For the past 100 years, Iran has been subjected to military aggression from its neighbours, experiencing military occupation during both World Wars. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979, it went through eight years of war, defending itself from Saddam Hussein and the MEK — the latter which, despite assassinating 17,000 Iranians and even several Americans as well, have now developed a strong relationship with Pompeo and Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton.

“It should be mentioned that even prior to the recent antics, the Iranian people had little reason to accept the ‘goodwill’ of the United States. The CIA’s 1953 coup d’état against the democratically-elected government of Mohammad Mossadegh; the brutal sanctions regime of the past decades…”

Myths of Pakistani Election

JUNAID AHMAD, junaidsahmad at gmail.com
Ahmad is assistant professor at the University of Lahore in Pakistan, and Secretary-General of the International Movement for a Just World. See Ahmed’s interviews on The Real News.
He said today: “With more than 100 million eligible voters, Pakistan is witnessing one of its most highly contested elections ever. And democratic elections are important here, since half the country’s history has been under military rule.

“The cricketer-turned politician [Imran Khan] and his political party, PTI (‘The Movement for Justice’) stand a good chance in putting a significant dent in the PML(N) dominated by the Sharif family and their single party dominance of the influential Punjab over the past few decades.

“In all of Western mainstream and even alternative media, there’s the simplistic and erroneous narrative advanced that claims Khan is just riding on the coattails of the military. It actually may be the reverse, i.e. the military is exploiting the popular political campaign of Khan.

“But the Western political establishment, along with the rulers in New Delhi and Riyadh, love who they deem (not without merit) their businessman puppet-partner Nawaz Sharif — now jailed in Pakistan for being implicated in gross corruption. The Western press couldn’t seem to help itself in regurgitating nonstop this past week how this is the ‘dirtiest election’ ever in Pakistan’s history. In fact, it’s deemed so ‘dirty’ because the wrong guy, i.e. Khan, who has taken forceful positions against Pakistan’s involvement in the U.S./NATO ‘war on terror,’ stands a chance of winning or at least having his party gain enormously.

“However, defeating PML(N)’s stranglehold over the political life of Pakistan’s most influential and populous province, the Punjab, is certainly a Herculean task for Khan and his PTI.

“The other political parties, including secular ones like the PPP or ANP, as well as some religious parties, may become more significant in the context of a hung parliament where coalitions will be necessary.”

Wall St. Gouging Billions on Electric Bills

DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, davidcay at me.com, @DavidCayJ
A Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter formerly with The New York Times, David Cay Johnston is the founder of DCReport.org and just wrote the piece “Reason Blackout At D.C. Appeals Court.”

He writes: “New England electricity prices were inflated by up to $2.4 billion last year, a July 25 ruling by a federal appeals court confirms, but the court did not order any money returned to customers.

“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit also held that it cannot correct two additional years of manipulations, which cost electricity customers about $1.4 billion more, because of a legal technicality. That technicality? Judith W. Rogers, the presiding judge, created it, as we will explain [in the full article]. She could easily correct it — if she cares to.

“Consistent with actions by the Trump Administration, the federal appeals court in Washington sent a clear signal to those who manipulate the so-called electricity markets that they are pretty much free to gouge customers without worrying that they will be forced to disgorge their ill-got gains, much less pay penalties.

“When the federal judiciary turns its backs on substantial complaints of government-approved price gouging — a fancy word for theft — what hope do ordinary Americans have that our government will protect them from any bandits armed with ink pens, spreadsheets and complex financial contracts?

“At issue is the purchase of 17 electricity generating plants in 2014 by five former Wall Street energy traders. The buyers abruptly withdrew the largest power plant from the market, causing a spike in electricity prices by significantly reducing generating capacity.

“Last year, this year and next year, customers will pay up to $3.8 billion extra because that power plant, known as Brayton Point, shut down. That’s roughly $1,000 taken from each American family of four through market manipulation.

“The court ruling matters far beyond New England.

“By our reading, the Federal Circuit is, yet again, not applying settled law, but instead looking for ways to escape the admittedly tedious complexities of energy regulatory law. That certainly makes life more convenient for jurists, but it damages Americans and our economy.

“The court decision comes after Donald Trump, on his first working day in the White House, signaled Wall Streeters who manipulate the price of electricity that he has their backs. As we reported at the time, Trump appointed a sightless sheriff to chair the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“We reported in February 2017 that ‘the Trump administration has made its first move to raise electricity and other utility prices, actions that will cost families while pleasing the Wall Street traders whose manipulations of those markets will now be much easier.’

“It was the first of what are now many official acts that directly contradict Trump’s campaign promise to drain the swamp in Washington and his inaugural address pledge to stand up for the Forgotten Man. Trump later appointed two more FERC commissioners known for siding with industry against consumers, one of whom said Americans who challenge utility regulators are waging ‘jihad.’

“This is an ongoing story that we have reported on since, unlike most of the mainstream news media.”

Israel Seizes Gaza Flotilla Boat, Another on the Way

DAVID HEAP, david.heap@gmail.com@GazaFFlotilla
ANN WRIGHT, annw1946@gmail.com@AnnWright46
Heap and Wright are with the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, which has organized a number of boats to get relief to Palestinians in the Israeli-controlled Gaza strip. Wright is a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, a 29-year veteran of the Army and Army Reserves, and one of three State Department officials to publicly resign in protest of the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The Coalition said in a statement Monday: “Two people from Al Awda (The Return) have been released, but most of the crew and participants are still in unlawful detention at Givon prison in Israel. We are still gravely concerned for their safety and well-being as we had no contact with most of them as of 14:00 CEST today. We continue to demand that our boat and the medical supplies on board reach their rightful recipients, Palestinian civil society in Gaza.

“Although the Israeli [military] claim that the capture of our vessel happened ‘without exceptional incident’, eye-witness Zohar Chamberlain Regev reports that at the time of boarding: ‘People on board were tasered and hit by masked [Israeli] soldiers. We did not get our passports or belongings before we got off the boat. Do not believe reports of peaceful interception.’ We urgently need to know the details of who was injured and how seriously, and what treatment they are receiving, if any. A military attack on a civilian vessel is a violent act and a violation of international law. Taking 22 people from international waters to a country which is not their destination constitutes an act of kidnapping, which is also unlawful under the international Convention of the Law of Sea.”

The group stated Sunday that another boat is on the way. “Al Awda is being followed by the Swedish-flagged yacht Freedom, which is also carrying medical supplies along with people from a number of nations. We anticipate that it will reach a similar area where the [Israeli military] attacked Al Awda within the next two days. Two smaller sailing boats that traveled from Scandinavia and sailed through the canal system in Netherlands, Belgium and France visiting inland ports, participated in the mission until Palermo.”

See: “USS Liberty Survivor Joe Meadors on 2018 Gaza Freedom Flotilla.”

Manafort Trial Begins

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s trial begins today. See accuracy.org/calendar for upcoming events.

AARON MATÉ, aaronmate at gmail.com, @aaronjmate
Maté is a host/producer for The Real News. He has written a series of pieces for The Nation questioning the prevailing orthodoxy on “Russiagate.”

In “The Mueller Indictments Still Don’t Add Up to Collusion,” he wrote: “There is widespread supposition that Manafort’s dealings in Ukraine make him a prime candidate for collusion with Moscow. But that stems from the mistaken belief that Manafort promoted Kremlin interests during his time in Kiev. The opposite appears to be the case. The New York Times recounts that Manafort ‘pressed [then-Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor] Yanukovych to sign an agreement with the European Union that would link the country closer to the West — and lobbied for the Americans to support Ukraine’s membership.’ If that picture is accurate, then Manafort’s activities in Ukraine during the period for which he has been indicted were diametrically opposed to the Kremlin’s agenda.”

In his most recent piece, “The Elite Fixation With Russiagate,” Maté lists a host of Trump policies at odds with Russian interests, and writes: “This consistent record of Trump directly contradicting Putin’s agenda is inconvenient to a collusion-and-kompromat hypothesis, so it is little wonder that it is overlooked. Instead of focusing on policy, the press has engaged in commentary more appropriate for an ice-skating performance. Blake Hounshell of Politico questions why Trump is ‘oddly submissive’ with ‘the diminutive Putin,’ with the American president ‘slumping in his chair’ next to the Russian leader. ‘The way Trump behaves around Putin — quietly bowing and scraping, taking his word over America’s own chief of intelligence,’ writes The Week’s Ryan Cooper, ‘is simply wildly out of character.’ Except that it’s not. Trump has been deferential to many authoritarian leaders — hardly out of character, by the way, for any American president. And if Benjamin Netanyahu is to be believed, Trump even let the Israeli prime minister convince him to nix the Iran nuclear deal.

“Amid fervent speculation that Trump may be a Kremlin asset, Israel’s brazen (and actually documented) foreign meddling barely registers, joining an innumerable number of critical issues that the Russiagate frenzy has sidelined. It has gotten so extreme that even Trump’s new threats of war on Iran, coupled with an escalating administration campaign to destabilize its government, has been ignored or even downplayed as an effort to distract us from his Russia woes.” Another of Maté’s pieces is “The Trump Team Definitely Colluded With a Foreign Power — Just Not the One You Think.”

Even Koch-Backed Think Tank Finds Medicare for All Would Cut Health Care Spending

The Intercept reports: “Koch-Backed Think Tank Finds That ‘Medicare for All’ Would Cut Health Care Spending and Raise Wages. Whoops.”

The Intercept and other media reporting on this are citing the work of Drs. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler. They are distinguished professors of health policy at the City University of New York at Hunter College and lecturers in medicine at Harvard Medical School. They have written an analysis of the work of the Koch-backed think tank, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and it is now posted in full at the accuracy.org blog.

They write: “The Mercatus Center’s estimate of the cost of implementing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All Act (M4A) projects outlandish increases in the utilization of medical care, ignores vast savings under single-payer reform, and fails to even mention the extensive and well-documented evidence on single-payer systems in other nations — which all spend far less per person on health care than we do. Moreover, the Mercatus Center admits that universal first dollar coverage under Sen. Sanders’ bill would cause little increase in the nation’s total health expenditures; it would merely shift expenditures from private to public sources.

“We outline below some of the most glaring errors in the Mercatus Center analysis of Medicare for All, which was led by Charles Blahous.

“1. Administrative savings, Part 1: Blahous assumes that insurance overhead would be reduced to 6 percent of total health spending from the current level of 13 percent in private insurance. Although overhead in Canada’s single payer system is only 1.8%, Blahous justifies his 6 percent estimate by citing Medicare’s current overhead, which include the extraordinarily high overhead costs of private Medicare HMOs run by UnitedHealthcare and other insurance firms. However, Sen. Sanders’ proposal would exclude these for-profit insurers, and instead build on the traditional Medicare program, whose overhead is less than 3 percent. Moreover, even this 3 percent figure is probably too high, since Sanders’ plan would simplify hospital payments by funding them through global budgets (similar to the way fire departments are paid), rather than the current patient-by-patient payments. Hence a more realistic estimate would assume that insurance overhead would drop to Canada’s level of about 1.8 percent. Cutting insurance overhead to 2 percent (rather than the 6 percent that Blahous projects) would save approximately $2.9 trillion more than Blahous estimates over a 10-year period. …

“Moreover, even Blahous admits that Sanders’ program would cover all of the uninsured, and upgrade coverage for the vast majority of Americans who currently have private insurance or Medicare, with little increase in total spending for the nation. For instance, even his inflated cost projections foresee a NET increase of only $17 billion in 2022, equivalent to about a one-third of one percent increase in national health spending. In effect, Blahous admits that covering the uninsured and upgrading coverage for most others could be achieved at virtually no additional cost through a single payer reform.”

DAVID HIMMELSTEIN, STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, M.D., himmelhandler at comcast.net, @swoolhandler 

“The Utility of the Russiagate Conspiracy”

ALAN MACLEOD, alanmacleod11 at gmail.com, @AlanRMacLeod
MacLeod is a member of the Glasgow University Media Group and just recently wrote the piece “The Utility of the Russiagate Conspiracy,” for the media watch group FAIR.

He writes: “For the Democrats, Russiagate allows them to ignore calls for change and not scrutinize why they lost to the most unpopular presidential candidate in history. Since Russia hacked the election, there is no need for introspection, and certainly no need to accommodate the Sanders wing or to engage with progressive challenges from activists on the left, who are Putin’s puppets anyway. The party can continue on the same course, painting over the deep cracks in American society. Similarly, for centrists in Europe, under threat from both left and right, the Russia narrative allows them to sow distrust among the public for any movement challenging the dominant order.

“For the state, Russiagate has encouraged liberals to forego their faculties and develop a state-worshiping, conspiratorial mindset in the face of a common, manufactured enemy. Liberal trust in institutions like the FBI has markedly increased since 2016, while liberals also now espouse a neocon foreign policy in Syria, Ukraine and other regions, with many supporting the vast increases in the U.S. military budget and attacking Trump from the right.

“For corporate media, too, the disciplining effect of the Russia narrative is highly useful, allowing them to reassert control over the means of communication under the guise of preventing a Russian ‘fake news’ infiltration. News sources that challenge the establishment are censored, defunded or deranked, as corporate sources stoke mistrust of them. Meanwhile, it allows them to portray themselves as arbiters of truth. This strategy has had some success, with Democrats’ trust in media increasing since the election.”

MacLeod’s most recent book is Bad News From Venezuela: 20 Years of Fake News and Misreporting. It was published by Routledge in April.

New Book for Anniversary: “The Truth About Social Security”

NANCY ALTMAN, naltman at socialsecurityworks.org, @SSWorks
Altman is president of Social Security Works and author of the new book The Truth About Social Security: The Founders’ Words Refute Revisionist History, Zombie Lies, and Common Misunderstandings, which is being released on Aug. 14, the 83rd anniversary of the program.

She just wrote the piece “The Truth About Social Security: Exploding Five Destructive Myths,” which include “Myth: Social Security is welfare, a ‘safety net,'” “Myth: Social Security was intended to be simply a foundation on which to build — part of a ‘three-legged stool,'” and “Myth: Social Security is out of date, needs to be modernized, and no longer works for the 21st century.”

In “Myth: Social Security has grown much larger than the founders intended. Indeed, they might not even recognize today’s Social Security,” Altman states: “The late Robert J. Myers, who was a lifelong Republican and remains, to this day, the longest serving chief actuary of Social Security, started his career in 1934, helping to develop what would become Social Security. In his landmark, exhaustive treatise, Myers states, ‘The level of [Social Security benefits payable to retired workers, once fully phased in] under the original 1935 law is actually significantly higher than under present law.’

“More fundamentally, Roosevelt and the other founders had a bold, expansive vision of Social Security. They understood the phrase to encompass economic security that extended, in FDR’s words, ‘from the cradle to the grave.’ Indeed, in a 1938 speech, founder Molly Dewson, one of the three members of the Social Security Board (later replaced by a single Commissioner), defined Social Security to include education, a good paying job, housing, and guaranteed universal health insurance, as well as insurance against the loss of wages in the event of unemployment, old age, short- and long-term disability and death.

“In that 1938 speech, Dewson explained, ‘sickness compensation against loss of earning power during temporary or permanent disability [and] adequate medical care, including whatever medicines, treatment, and hospitalization are needed may still be mostly pious hope. But it is not a vain hope; both of these measures are already on the horizon.’ She was, of course, talking about what we today call Medicare and paid medical leave.

“If President Roosevelt and his colleagues were alive today, they would certainly recognize Social Security as fully consistent with their intent and their vision. They would undoubtedly be shocked, though, that so little progress has been made in the decades since 1935 when they laid down, in Roosevelt’s words, the ‘cornerstone in a structure which is being built but is by no means complete.'”

[Correction: Initial version of this news release incorrectly stated that it is the 53rd year of Social Security. It is in fact the 83rd year of that program. Medicare is in its 53rd year.]

Turning Space Into a War Zone


KARL GROSSMAN, kgrossman at hamptons.com
Professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, Grossman is author of The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet.His new piece “Turning Space Into a War Zone” was just published by Counterpunch.

Grossman writes: “The Trump administration is pushing hard on its scheme to create a Space Force.  Last week Vice President Pence, chairman of a newly reconstituted National Space Council, in a speech at the Pentagon declared: ‘The time has come to write the next great chapter in the history of our armed forces, to prepare for the next battlefield.’

“Pence claimed — falsely: ‘Our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already and the United States will not shrink from the challenge.’ …

“Beyond the intent of the Outer Space Treaty and its setting space aside as a global commons, neither Russia nor China have been interested in bringing war into space for economic reasons. I’ve been researching — writing books and articles and doing television programs — on the space warfare issue for more than 30 years and have made numerous trips to Russia and gone to China, too.” See 2008 piece from Reuters: “China, Russia to offer treaty to ban arms in space.”

Grossman continued: “Fielding space weaponry would be hugely expensive. It is no comparison to, let’s say, the tank-like Bradley Fighting Vehicle costing $3.1 million. Billions and billions would need to be expended. But the situation changes if the U.S. deploys weaponry in space with a Space Force and with the intention of dominating the Earth from this high ground.”

Grossman notes that the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space is planning protests in October. The group just put out a video on the Space Force.

Also see Grossman’s “Star Wars Returns” video from 2008, which features Craig Eisendrath, who had been a U.S. State Department official handling outer space relations and would go on to co-author the 2007 book War in Heaven: Stopping an Arms Race in Outer Space Before It Is Too Late.

Following Assassination Attempt, Facebook Pulled Venezuela Content

CNN reported last week: “Authorities have identified the masterminds of the apparent [Aug. 4] drone assassination attempt on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, as well as the people who assisted them, Attorney General Tarek William Saab said Monday. …

“‘The preliminary investigation indicates that many of those responsible for the attack, the financiers and planners, live in the United States in the state of Florida,’ Maduro said, adding that he hopes the White House is ‘willing to fight terrorist groups that commit attacks in peaceful countries.'”

Also recently, Facebook has suspended and then restored, apparently without explanation, two critical websites associated with Venezuela: The group Venezuela Analysis (which just reported that “Maduro Encourages FBI to Investigate Drone Attack Suspect“) and the network Telesur, which just had its Facebook page restored Wednesday morning.

CBS News recently reported: “Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey have agreed to testify sometime in September before the Senate Intelligence Committee, a source familiar with the matter confirms to CBS News.”

See the recent interview with journalist Max Blumenthal on The Real News network: “Facebook Taps Militarist Think Tank Atlantic Council to Police its Content.” Also see by Glenn Greenwald from 2017: “Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the U.S. and Israeli Governments.”

TATIANA ROJAS, trojas at telesurtv.net, @telesurenglish
Rojas is with Telesur — see the website for their content, including statements on the suspension of the network’s Facebook page.

JEANETTE CHARLES, jcharles913 at gmail.com, @venanalysis
Charles is with VenezuelAnalysis.com — see the website for their content, including statements on the suspension of the group’s Facebook page.

Democrats at Crossroads Next Week: Party of Elites or Grassroots?

A decisive meeting of the full Democratic National Committee next week will make historic decisions on the future direction of the party.

“Even in the face of a horrific menace like Trump, efforts to defeat the right at the polls are undermined by a Democratic leadership lacking in vision, values, and commitment to democracy,” activist Jeff Cohen wrote in a new article, “Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?

JEFF COHEN, jcohen at ithaca.edu
Cohen co-founded RootsAction.org, which is coordinating an informational picket line set for the DNC meeting in Chicago, August 23-25. He was an editor of “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis.”

A severe lack of democracy in the party was embodied in a DNC committee’s recent vote to rescind a short-lived ban on taking contributions from the fossil fuel industry, Cohen wrote. “The latest slap in the face to the Democratic Party’s base came Friday when the executive committee of the Democratic National Committee – behind closed doors – reversed its ban on accepting political donations from fossil fuel companies.” He added: “In the face of an energized activist base crying out for a party that will put forward bold social/economic and environmental proposals, the Democratic leadership dithers and grovels for donations from the Republican-allied fossil fuel industry that threatens our planet’s future.”

Cohen noted that “an alliance of progressive activists will be setting up informational picket lines” at the upcoming DNC meeting. “The alliance, led by groups such as RootsAction.org (which I co-founded) and Progressive Democrats of America, is supporting vital reforms to democratize the party. One reform to be debated in Chicago – one that activists believe is winnable – harks back to the calamitous Democratic loss to Trump in 2016. The reform would restrict the undemocratic voting power of ‘superdelegates’: party insiders who have exerted an outsized influence in choosing the presidential nominee. …

“It’s bad enough that our country’s governing party denies climate science while believing Exxon and Chevron are persons. It makes matters much worse when the opposition party’s leadership wants donations from Mr. Exxon and Ms. Chevron while tacitly denying that climate science demands drastic action – way far beyond the wishes of those donors. This country needs a serious opposition party that can defeat both corporate power and the GOP. Only democratic participation by the grassroots will make possible that kind of a winning party.”

“Trump-Media Logrolling”

SAM HUSSEINI, samhusseini at gmail.com, @samhusseini
Husseini is senior analyst with the Institute for Public Accuracy. He just wrote the piece “Trump-Media Logrolling.”

He writes: “Today, hundreds of newspapers, at the initiative of the Boston Globe, are purporting to stand up for a free press against Trump’s rhetoric.

“Today also marks exactly one month since I was forced out of the July 16 Trump-Putin news conference in Helsinki and locked up until the middle of the night. [See “I Came as a Journalist to Ask Important Questions” for The Nation.]

“As laid in my cell, I chuckled at the notion that the city was full of billboards proclaiming Finland was the ‘land of free press.’

“We should scrutinize both thuggish behavior toward journalists trying to ask tough questions — and to those professing to defend a free press when they are engaging in more of a marketing campaign.

“As some have noted, the editorials today will likely help Trump whip up support among his base against a seemingly monolithic media. But, just as clearly, the establishment media can draw attention away from their own failures, corruptions and falsehoods simply by focusing on some of Trump’s.

“Big media outlets need not actually report news that affects your life and point to serious solutions for social ills. They can just bad-mouth Trump. And Trump need not deliver on campaign promises that tapped into populist and isolationist tendencies in the U.S. public that have grown in reaction to years of elite rule. He need only deride the major media.”

Husseini is also founder of VotePact.org.

50 Years After Chicago Convention, a Crossroads for Democrats

The Democratic National Committee will convene in Chicago later this week, 50 years after the gavel fell at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in that city. On the DNC’s agenda is a decisive vote on what to do about the party’s “superdelegates.”

In an article for HuffPost, “Democrats Should Finally Put Superdelegates Behind Them,” Norman Solomon writes: “The schedulers for this coming week’s Democratic National Committee meeting either have a sly sense of irony or a touch of historical amnesia. Why else would they set the DNC’s most important vote in many years for Chicago on the day before the 50th anniversary of the start of the party’s disastrous convention in that city?”

Solomon notes that “much of the mayhem in the streets and the angry dissent inside the amphitheater a half-century ago stemmed from the well-grounded belief that the Democratic establishment had rigged the nominating process for its candidate, Vice President Hubert Humphrey.”

Drawing a parallel with present-day concerns about unfairness in the party’s presidential nominating process, Solomon writes: “Widely unpopular at the grassroots, the superdelegate system remains a burr in the donkey’s saddle, threatening to further undermine party unity in the quest to regain the White House.”

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com
Solomon co-founded RootsAction.org, which is coordinating an informational picket line outside of the DNC meeting in Chicago, August 23-25. He was a coauthor of “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis.” He will be in Chicago from Wednesday morning through Saturday.

Solomon writes in his HuffPost piece that despite support for superdelegate reform from grassroots Democrats and DNC Chair Tom Perez, “significant pushback is underway from sectors of the party establishment. Some Democrats in Congress and a number of officials in state parties are now vocally making clear that they do not want to lose their superdelegate voting privileges.

“A historic showdown is again looming in Chicago. And for the long term, the stakes could turn out to be just as momentous as they were in August 1968. Fifty years later, the national Democratic Party can take a big step toward becoming worthy of its name.”

Solomon is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Trump Overrides Minimal Protections in Yemen War

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, aladeimi@msu.edu@shireen818
Originally from Yemen, Al-Adeimi is an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University.

She just co-wrote the piece “Trump Quietly Overrides What Little Civilian Protections Remain in Yemen War,” which states: “With little public attention, President Donald Trump used his August 13 signing statement for the $716 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to override restrictions aimed at minimizing civilian deaths in the U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen. The move came just days after the Saudi-led coalition struck a school bus in Yemen’s northern Saada province with a U.S.-supplied and manufactured bomb, killing 54 people, 44 of them children.
The signing statement is the latest evidence that, after three years and tens of thousands killed, the Trump administration has no intention of curbing its role in the bloody war it inherited from Obama. The United States supplies arms, intelligence and aerial refueling of Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) warplanes — and gives political cover to the war. …

“Even before it reached Trump’s desk, the NDAA was a giveaway to the president, handing him a historically high military budget, which earmarks $21.9 billion for nuclear weapons, despite the president’s proven willingness to threaten nuclear annihilation on a whim. The bill sailed through Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support, backed by key Democrats purportedly leading the #Resistance — even as they claim the president is unhinged and dangerous, and publicly criticize the war in Yemen. Among the yes votes was Ted Lieu, a vocal Trump critic who — when news of the school bus bombing hit — expressed concern that the U.S. role in Yemen ‘could qualify as aiding and abetting these potential war crimes.'”

Al-Adeimi’s past pieces for In These Times magazine include “Fine Print in Defense Bill Acknowledges U.S.-Backed War in Yemen Will Go On Indefinitely” and “Attack on Yemen Port Shows U.S.-Backed Coalition Willing To Use Starvation as a Weapon.” She recently appeared on “Worldview” on WBEZ and the program “Democracy Now!

 

Amazon and Pentagon

MAY JEONG, may.s.jeong at gmail.com, @mayjeong
Jeong recently wrote the piece “’Everybody Immediately Knew That It Was for Amazon’: Has Bezos Become More Powerful In D.C. Than Trump?” for Vanity Fair.

Jeong writes: “There’s a new scandal quietly unfolding in Washington. It’s far bigger than Housing Secretary Ben Carson buying a $31,000 dinette set for his office, or former EPA chief Scott Pruitt deploying an aide to hunt for a deal on a used mattress. It involves the world’s richest man, President Trump’s favorite general, and a $10 billion defense contract. And it may be a sign of how tech giants and Silicon Valley tycoons will dominate Washington for generations to come.

“The controversy involves a plan to move all of the Defense Department’s data — classified and unclassified — on to the cloud. The information is currently strewn across some 400 centers, and the Pentagon’s top brass believes that consolidating it into one cloud-based system, the way the CIA did in 2013, will make it more secure and accessible. That’s why, on July 26, the Defense Department issued a request for proposals called JEDI, short for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure. Whoever winds up landing the winner-take-all contract will be awarded $10 billion — instantly becoming one of America’s biggest federal contractors.

“But when JEDI was issued, on the day Congress recessed for the summer, the deal appeared to be rigged in favor of a single provider: Amazon. According to insiders familiar with the 1,375-page request for proposal, the language contains a host of technical stipulations that only Amazon can meet, making it hard for other leading cloud-services providers to win — or even apply for — the contract. One provision, for instance, stipulates that bidders must already generate more than $2 billion a year in commercial cloud revenues — a ‘bigger is better’ requirement that rules out all but a few of Amazon’s rivals. …

“In a larger sense, the JEDI contract represents the growing clout that technology companies are wielding in Washington — and how they are increasingly wiring the swamp for their own benefit. Amazon has spent $67 million on lobbying since 2000 — including more this year than Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo combined.”

Jeong is an award-winning magazine writer and investigative reporter. She is best known for her months-long investigation into the MSF hospital bombing in Kunduz, Afghanistan for The Intercept. This won her the 2017  South Asian Journalists Association’s Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Report on South Asia. She is also a visiting scholar at the New York University Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.See IPA news release from 2013: “CIA Cloud Over Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post.”

Nationwide Strike to “End Prison Slavery”

USA Today reports: “‘You can’t just treat people like animals’: U.S. prison strike prompts solidarity rallies.”

Newsweek reports in “U.S. Inmates Launching Nationwide Strike to ‘End Prison Slavery‘” that: “The strike, which is supposed to last until September 9 — the anniversary of the 1971 Attica Prison uprising in upstate New York — calls for an ‘end to prison slavery’ and for a number of prison reforms.

“For 19 days, inmates across at least 17 states plan to refuse to work, with some also refusing to eat, to draw attention to poor conditions and what advocates have called exploitative labor practices in the prison system.”

The Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee states: “Rebels incarcerated in prisons across the nation declare a nationwide strike in response to the riot in Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in South Carolina. Seven comrades lost their lives when prison officials turned their backs on a riot they provoked. We are demanding humane living conditions, access to rehabilitation, sentencing reform and the end of modern day slavery.”

ED MEAD, ed.mead71 at gmail.com
Mead is former director of the Prison Art Project, former co-editor of Prison Focus and a former prisoner. He writes that the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that is commonly viewed as having ended slavery actually simply constricted it by giving an exception to the ban. The Amendment stated that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude … shall exist within the United States” — but explicitly stated: “except as a punishment for crime where of the party shall have been duly convicted.”

Mead writes: “It is this exception that has resulted in the enslavement of some 2.2 million Americans behind bars and restricted the rights of 14 million formerly convicted citizens.”

He adds that this violates the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 4 of which states: “No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery … shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

Mead is author of Lumpen: The Autobiography of Ed Mead.

See 2016 piece from Shaun King in the New York Daily News: “How the 13th Amendment didn’t really abolish slavery, but let it live on in U.S. prisons.”

See video excerpt from the Netflix documentary “13th” of Michele Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, on the path from “plantation to prison.”

Democratic Convention Delegate Fasting for Superdelegate Reform

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is meeting in Chicago this week, 50 years after the gavel fell at the 1968 Democratic convention in that city. On the DNC’s agenda is a decisive vote on what to do about the party’s “superdelegates.”

SELINA VICKERS, (304) 663-3037, emailtheselina at gmail.com, @SelinaVickers
West Virginia activist Selina Vickers, a delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, is at the DNC meeting in Chicago to advocate for superdelegate reform. She has been fasting since last Saturday.

She said today: “This isn’t a hunger strike. It isn’t a religious or health fast. It isn’t even a protest. My decision to not eat is a physical expression of the hunger that I feel for change. I hope and expect to have my hunger sated by the passing of the superdelegate reform on Saturday… I’ve traveled, advocated, educated, started a blog, live-streamed — all I can think to do to push the end of superdelegates.  Now, I had my last meal last Saturday and I won’t eat until after the superdelegate vote this Saturday. It’s all I can think to do to boldly underscore the importance of this critical issue.

“I’ve been waiting for the DNC meeting this Saturday since July 2016. That’s when the DNC (Democratic National Convention) delegates, of which I was one, unanimously passed a resolution to make major reforms within the DNC, most importantly to me, superdelegate reform. Many voters in the 2016 Democratic primary had their vote eliminated by a few very powerful superdelegates. My personal example, the West Virginia Superdelegate Disaster, is that even though Sen. Sanders won all 55 counties in the West Virginia primary, after the superdelegates weighed in, Clinton won West Virginia with only 36 percent of the vote.”

McCain “Obit Omit”: In His Own Words

Today on the program “Democracy Now,” Institute for Public Accuracy Executive Director Norman Solomon criticized coverage of the death of John McCain as taking part in an “obit omit.”

Following are some parts of McCain’s record that have been ignored or underplayed.

Making the case for the Iraq invasion:

“We can make the case that it is obvious that Saddam Hussein continues this buildup of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. But we are not the ones who are forcing this issue. The President of the United States in this resolution is not forcing the issue. It is Saddam Hussein who is forcing this issue.” (Oct. 8, 2002, textvideo)

On the Iraq invasion:

“I believe that success will be fairly easy.” (Sept. 24, 2002, CNN)

“I don’t think it’s, quote, ‘easy,’ but I believe that we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time.” (Nov. 29, 2002, CNN)

“The American people … were led to believe that this would be some kind of a day at the beach which many of us, uh, fully understood from the very beginning would be a very, very difficult undertaking.” (Aug. 22, 2006, CNN)

“I knew it was probably going to be long and hard and tough. And those that voted for it and thought that somehow it was going to be some kind of an easy task, then I’m sorry they were mistaken. Maybe they didn’t know what they were voting for.” (Jan. 4, 2007, MSNBC)

McCain’s top career political funders (from OpenSecrets.org) :

Merrill Lynch
JPMorgan Chase & Co
Citigroup Inc
AT&T Inc
Goldman Sachs

Top Student Loan Official Resigns

AP reports: The government’s top official overseeing the $1.5 trillion student loan market resigned in protest on Monday, citing what he says is the White House’s open hostility toward protecting the nation’s millions of student loan borrowers.

“Seth Frotman will be stepping down as student loan ombudsman at the end of the week, according to his resignation letter, which was obtained by The Associated Press. He held that position since 2016, but has been with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau since its inception in 2011.

“Frotman is the latest high-level departure from the CFPB since Mick Mulvaney, President Donald Trump’s budget director, took over in late November. But Frotman’s departure is especially noteworthy, since his non-partisan office is one of the few parts of the U.S. government that was tasked with handling student loan issues. …

“’You have used the bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America,’ Frotman wrote, addressing his letter to Mulvaney. ‘The damage you have done to the bureau betrays these families and sacrifices the financial futures of millions of Americans in communities across the country.'”

REMINGTON GREGG, rgregg at citizen.org, @ragregg
Counsel for civil justice and consumer rights at Public Citizen, Gregg said today: “Under the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the agency protected consumers against many unscrupulous practices and returned $12 billion to more than 20 million people. In contrast, the current political leadership of the Consumer Bureau is methodically rolling back any regulation or guidance it can put their hands on, stopping dedicated career civil servants from robustly enforcing consumer laws, and giving scammers a Get Out of Jail Free card. In just eight months of temporary director Mick Mulvaney’s tenure, the Consumer Bureau is unapologetically doing the bidding of predatory lenders and fraudulent colleges rather than protect servicemembers, students, and seniors.

“Sadly, the Trump administration is rolling back regulations and stopping enforcement actions against corporate wrongdoers government-wide — from regulations protecting seniors in nursing homes from abuse and neglect to making it harder for students who are defrauded by predatory colleges to get financial relief.

“The current nominee to be the permanent CFPB director, Kathy Kraninger, has *no* experience in consumer issues. Zero. Seth Frotman’s resignation letter serves as a clarion call to all of us. If this administration and Congress continue to abdicate their responsibilities to protect the most vulnerable in our society, all of us — consumers, activists, and advocates — must do so.”

NAFTA: What Should a Deal Do?

[See “Statement on NAFTA’s ‘Kafkaesque’ Turn” by Manuel Pérez-Rocha, associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, on the accuracy.org blog. He has written extensively on NAFTA, is currently in Mexico and will be back in D.C. this weekend.]

LORI WALLACH, via Ufuoma Otu, uotu at citizen.org, @PCGTW
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. She said today: “A preliminary NAFTA renegotiation deal between the United States and Mexico has just been announced.”We know progress was made between the U.S. and Mexico on some key changes we have demanded for decades.

“But we also know that the enforceability of the new labor standards to which the countries agreed is still lacking, which is a serious problem that needs to be resolved.

“Mainly though, we do not have enough information to determine if this initial U.S.-Mexico deal can be the basis for the real NAFTA replacement we’ve been demanding that could stop NAFTA’s serious, ongoing damage.

“A lot of critical issues are still in play.

“Canada has not participated in negotiations since May, so it’s unclear where it stands on the terms agreed to by Mexico and the United States. …

“Any new deal must end NAFTA’s job outsourcing incentives and ISDS [Investor-state dispute settlement] tribunals where corporations can attack our laws and add strong environmental and labor terms with swift and certain enforcement to raise wages.”

Labor Day Today

Monday is Labor Day. See accuracy.org/calendar for upcoming events.

MIKE ELK,  mike.elk at gmail.com, @MikeElk
Elk is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report and frequently reports on labor actions on the ground. His pieces in the last year include “Wave of Teachers’ Wildcat Strikes Spreads to Oklahoma and Kentucky” for the Guardian. He also wrote “Immigration to Be Central Focus in Arizona’s Teachers Strike.”

He has examined a number of under-reported actions by the Trump administration: “AFGE Says Trump’s Union Busting Aimed at Minority Workers in Federal Government” and “Trump Likely to Drop Google Gender Discrimination Investigation.”

He also wrote “Union Members Picket Washington Post Demanding a Fair Contract from Billionaire Owner Jeff Bezos.” See recent Common Dreams report: “Sanders vs. Amazon Intensifies as Senator Stands With Struggling Workers Against World’s Richest Man,” which quotes Sen. Bernie Sanders: “No one working for a man who earns $260 million a day should be forced to sleep in their car. Yet that is what’s happening at Amazon.”

Elk also recently wrote the piece “Machinist Move to Major N.C. Union Vote — 200 Immigrant Detainees Strike — SEIU Stays Silent On Sexual Misconduct Suit.”

In 2016, he wrote the piece “The Next Step for Organized Labor? People in Prison” for The Nation. See recent IPA news release: “Nationwide Strike to ‘End Prison Slavery.'”

Kavanaugh “Scorns International Law and Loves Executive Power”

Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh are set to begin on Tuesday. For upcoming events, see accuracy.org/calendar.

MARJORIE COHN,  marjorielegal at gmail.com, @marjoriecohn
Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and recently wrote the piece “Kavanaugh Scorns International Law and Loves Executive Power” for Truthout.

She said today: The Constitution gives Congress the power to make laws and the president the duty to execute them. Yet in 2014, Kavanaugh wrote that the president must follow the law ‘at least unless the President deems the law unconstitutional, in which event the President can decline to follow the statute until a final court order says otherwise.’

“Kavanaugh would thus create a dangerous presumption in favor of a president who refuses to follow the law. Kavanaugh reportedly played a key role in Bush’s signing statements, in which Bush reserved the right to ignore parts of Congressional statutes with which he didn’t agree.

“In nearly all ‘war on terror’ cases that came before him on the Court of Appeals, Kavanaugh voted to uphold Bush’s decisions. In an unprecedented move, the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee refuses to postpone Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing until all relevant documents are made available to committee members. If confirmed to the Supreme Court, we can expect Kavanaugh to defer to Trump on matters of war and peace, a perilous proposition.”

Cohn is former president of the National Lawyers Guild and deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers.

Kavanaugh: “Stakes are Astronomical”


FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He is quoted in a Guardian overview “‘The Stakes are Astronomical’: Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Hearing Will be a Battle Royale,” which states: “’The only hope the country has is that Democrats will treat Kavanaugh like a hostile witness on the witness stand under cross-examination, throw him off script and break him down,’ said Francis Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois.“’You do not need a gentleman or gentlewoman to deal with Kavanaugh. You need a district attorney. Some Democrats are going to have to go for the jugular.’

“But Kavanaugh, 53, is no Daniel in the lions’ den. He is the ultimate Washington insider, steeped in the city’s political and legal establishments. His father spent more than two decades in the city as a lobbyist for the cosmetics industry. …”The groups Women’s March and Center for Popular Democracy Action are planning a day of action in Washington on Tuesday.

“Boyle … shares these concerns. ‘I think Kavanaugh was put on there to ensure Roe is overturned,’ he said. ‘He has used the Roberts dodge of saying it is settled law. So what? The Supreme Court can unsettle it tomorrow. He did not say it was decided correctly.’

“Critics note that Trump has relied heavily on the rightwing Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society to develop his shortlist for Supreme Court nominations. Boyle said: ‘Kavanaugh is an extreme ideologue and a legal hatchet man for the Federalist Society. He was their spear carrier for years. He is being put on there by Trump to do their business and make the court as far right as he can under the circumstances. It’s going to be bad for a lot of people: for gays, for African Americans, for labour, for women.'”

See IPA news release: “Kavanaugh and the Federalist Society.”

Will the Public See Incriminating Kavanaugh Documents?

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ): “I stand by the public’s right to have access to this document and know this nominee’s views on issues [that are] are profoundly important — like race and the law, torture and other issues.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle was legal adviser to Rep. Henry B. González when he released classified material on the House floor in 1992 in an attempt to impeach George H. W. Bush following the Gulf War. See New York Times piece at the time: “C.I.A. Chief Says Legislator Disclosed Secrets.”

Boyle, who is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, said today: “If Booker and the other Democratic senators are serious here, they should all start sequentially releasing all prejudicial and incriminating documents against [Supreme Court nominee Brett] Kavanaugh now during the course of the hearings when they will be protected by the Speech or Debate Clause [of the Constitution]. This would include documents relating to torture and war crimes.”

Boyle was featured in a recent Guardian overview piece on the Kavanaugh nomination. Also, see his comments on an IPA news release: “Kavanaugh and the Federalist Society.”

“Kavanaugh Lied Under Oath About Memos I Wrote”

LISA GRAVES, lisa at documentedinvestigations.org, @thelisagraves

Graves just wrote the piece “I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About” for Slate.

Graves is the co-founder of Documented, which investigates corporate influence on democracy. She is the former chief counsel for nominations for the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice.

Her just-published piece states: “Much of Washington has spent the week focusing on whether Judge Brett Kavanaugh should be confirmed to the Supreme Court. After the revelations of his confirmation hearings, the better question is whether he should be impeached from the federal judiciary.

“I do not raise that question lightly, but I am certain it must be raised.

“Newly released emails show that while he was working to move through President George W. Bush’s judicial nominees in the early 2000s, Kavanaugh received confidential memos, letters, and talking points of Democratic staffers stolen by GOP Senate aide Manuel Miranda. That includes research and talking points Miranda stole from the Senate server after I had written them for the Senate Judiciary Committee as the chief counsel for nominations for the minority.

“Receiving those memos and letters alone is not an impeachable offense.

“No, Kavanaugh should be removed because he was repeatedly asked under oath as part of his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings for his position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit about whether he had received such information from Miranda, and each time he falsely denied it.”

Will a Member of Congress Move to Impeach Kavanaugh?

LISA GRAVES, lisa at documentedinvestigations.org, @thelisagraves
Graves just wrote the piece “I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About” for Slate.

She was on the program “Democracy Now!” this morning. She is the former chief counsel for nominations for the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice. Graves is the co-founder of Documented, which investigates corporate influence on democracy.

She writes that Kavanaugh should be removed from his current judgeship “because he was repeatedly asked under oath as part of his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings for his position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit about whether he had received such information from [GOP Senate aide Manuel] Miranda, and each time he falsely denied it.

“For example, in 2004, Sen. Orrin Hatch asked him directly if he received ‘any documents that appeared to you to have been drafted or prepared by Democratic staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.’ Kavanaugh responded, unequivocally, ‘No.’

“In 2006, Sen. Ted Kennedy asked him if he had any regrets about how he treated documents he had received from Miranda that he later learned were stolen. Kavanaugh rejected the premise of the question, restating that he never even saw one of those documents.

“Back then the senators did not have the emails that they have now, showing that Miranda sent Kavanaugh numerous documents containing what was plainly research by Democrats. Some of those emails went so far as to warn Kavanaugh not to distribute the Democratic talking points he was being given. …

Graves writes: “He lied. Under oath. And he did so repeatedly.

“Significantly, he did so even though a few years earlier he had helped spearhead the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for perjury in a private civil case. Back then Kavanaugh took lying under oath so seriously that he was determined to do everything he could to help remove a president from office.

“Now we know that he procured his own confirmation to the federal bench by committing the same offense. And he did so not in a private case but in the midst of public hearings for a position of trust, for a lifetime appointment to the federal judiciary.” See recent New York Times piece “Brett Kavanaugh Urged Graphic Questions in Clinton Inquiry.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “What’s needed is a brave member of the House to introduce a Bill of Impeachment against Kavanaugh immediately for perjury to force this issue. That’s what we need. Machinations from the Democratic Party leadership are more Kabuki theater.” See recent comments from Boyle on The Real News, in The Guardian and the IPA news release “Kavanaugh and the Federalist Society.”

Boyle was was legal adviser to Rep. Henry B. González when he released classified material on the House floor in 1992 in an attempt to impeach George H. W. Bush following the Gulf War. Bush would later write in his memoirs that if the Gulf War “drags out, not only will I take the blame, but I will probably have impeachment proceedings filed against me.”

See recent piece from The Daily Beast: “Newly Released Emails Show Brett Kavanaugh May Have Perjured Himself at Least Four Times,” which notes the documentation of Kavanaugh’s past falsehoods is only due to recently released emails, but that “only 7 percent of Kavanaugh’s White House records have been released to the public. …

“The clearest contradiction between Judge Kavanaugh’s sworn testimony and the formerly confidential email record concerns the nomination of Judge William Pryor, a conservative firebrand. In 2006, Kavanaugh was asked, by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, whether Pryor’s extreme statements disturbed him. Kavanaugh replied that he was not involved in the selection or vetting of Judge Pryor.”

The Daily Beast notes that last week, Sen. Patrick Leahy entered “a formerly-confidential email into the record that states clearly that Kavanaugh actually did interview Pryor. ‘How did the Pryor interview go?’ he was asked in December, 2002. ‘Call me,’ he replied.”

The just-disclosed emails also show a leading voice defending Kavanaugh knew he was actually involved in the Pryor nomination. Benjamin Wittes, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and editor-in-chief of Lawfare blog was himself communicating with Kavanaugh about the Pryor nomination at the time, writing to Kavanagh: “I take it back. I will write something about the decision to nominate Pryor promptly. … You should send over any exculpatory information you might have quickly.”

Wittes just responded to this revelation by writing: “I’m off Twitter until further notice.”

Major Attack on Syria Approaching?

PETER FORD, peterford14 at yahoo.com
Ford was the U.K.’s ambassador in Syria and Bahrain before joining the United Nations to work on refugee issues. He is the co-chairman of the British Syrian Society. He recently wrote the piece “Is a Syrian Suez approaching?

Ford recalls the Suez crisis: “The plan was for France, soon joined by the U.K., to invade Egypt on the pretext of safeguarding the Suez Canal, in hopes of precipitating the overthrow of President Gamal Abdel Nasser. The Tripartite Aggression, as the Arabs call it, was duly triggered on 29 October 1956, when Israel invaded.”

He warns that a similar plan may be unfolding in Syria: “September 2018 is likely to witness another tripartite aggression based on pretexts and plotting, this time involving the U.S. alongside the U.K. and France. The victim now is Syria.

“The three governments in April staged a rehearsal for the upcoming performance, responding with bombing raids to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma. While Plan A for the raids involved heavy attacks on presidential offices and armed forces command and control centers, President Donald Trump was reportedly talked down from this by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, concerned by the prospect of possible clashes with Russia and risks to U.S. forces stationed in Syria.

“Aspects of the Douma operation conspired to make it likely that Plan A would be given a fresh run, which is now imminent. …

“It is not necessary to rehash the mountain of evidence pointing to the probability that Douma was fabricated. Suffice to say that OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] inspectors, in their interim report presented on 6 July, stated that they had found no evidence that chemical weapons such as nerve agents had been used, and that the evidence for the use of chlorine as a weapon was inconclusive. …

“Were there any doubt that skulduggery was afoot, it was removed by media reports, based on Russian statements and briefings, of the White Helmets being on maneuver in the vicinity of Jisr al-Shughur, and the transfer to a nearby village of canisters of chlorine, under the direction of English-speaking special forces or contractors.

“Simultaneously, reports appeared of the U.S. bolstering its naval presence in the Gulf and land forces in Iraq on the borders with Syria. Russia has moved more of its naval forces into Syrian territorial waters in response to the warning of imminent action, say reports.

“How could anybody be so credulous as to believe a conspiracy theory like this, and from such tainted sources? Was it for a moment believable that the British or the Americans could be so duplicitous as to create for themselves a pretext to bomb a weak country in the Middle East? No need to go back as far as Suez to answer that; a quick recap of events in Iraq (weapons of mass destruction again) and Libya (baselessly alleged imminent massacres in Benghazi) would suffice.”

“Climate Change Supercharging” Hurricanes

KEVIN TRENBERTH, trenbert at ucar.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Trenberth is a distinguished senior scientist in the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

He said today: “Human-caused increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere produced an energy imbalance and its partitioning between atmospheric, ocean, cryosphere and land heat reservoirs govern how the global climate evolves. Most of the imbalance, over 90 percent, goes into the ocean and accordingly OHC [ocean heat content] provides a primary indicator of climate change, along with sea level rise.

“Last year [2017] was the warmest year on record for the global OHC down to 2000 meters depth and the latest quarter (April to June) is the hottest on record. The heat fuels storms of all sorts and contributes to very heavy rain events and flooding. Hurricanes are natural, but climate change is supercharging them!

“The observed increases of upper OHC support higher sea surface temperatures and atmospheric moisture, and fuels tropical storms to become more intense, bigger and longer lasting, thereby increasing their potential for damage. Sea level is also steadily rising, increasing risks from coastal storm surges. The damage and loss of life from such storms does not have to be disastrous, however, if there is adequate preparation. We have the options of stopping or slowing climate change from humans, and/or adapting to and planning for the consequences, but we are not doing enough of either!” See recent paper Trenberth co-wrote.

Ecological Disasters: Causes and Remedies

VICTOR WALLIS, zendive at aol.com
Wallis is the author of the new book Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism.

He writes: “The disaster that ecological activists of the last half-century have sought to prevent is already vividly present. Its most dramatic expression, apart from the endlessly repeated scenes of fire, flood, parched earth, and emaciated polar bears, is the tens of millions of refugees, desperate for a place to live. Some are fleeing sea-level rise and flooded or storm-battered homes; others are fleeing wars precipitated by sustained, drought-induced collapses of the food supply (as in Syria, Central Africa, and Central America). Still others are fleeing wars and repression that reflect long-standing imperialist projects, but whose initiators have become ever more intransigent as they seek to ward off the prospect of a diminished resource-base.

“Increasing percentages of the refugees, if they survive their typically harrowing treks or dangerous sea voyages, come up against vast numbers of agents ‘trained, armed, and paid to stop them.’ This drive to ‘stop them’ is promoted by a ruling class which at the same time relentlessly stokes the economic engines of capital that gave rise to the climate crisis in the first place. While the top U.S. mouthpiece of this ruling class, along with his acolytes at the Environmental ‘Protection’ Agency, mocks the reality of climate change, the military leaders who command the system’s armed enforcers have had no hesitation (for at least the last fifteen years) in publicly situating what they acknowledge to be the consequences of global warming — the droughts, floods, and hurricanes that directly or indirectly have pushed mass migration to its current extreme levels — at the center of their concerns.

“The alternatives are sharply etched. The currently dominant forces, rather than join the fight against climate change, erect walls to block out its victims. By militarizing the problem, they not only draw resources away from any possible remedial steps; they also accelerate the spread of devastation.”

Ten Years after Lehman: A Co-op Revival

NATHAN SCHNEIDER, nathan.schneider at colorado.edu, @ntnsndr
Schneider is author of Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition That Is Shaping the Next Economy, published this week by Nation Books.

Schneider said today: “The financial crisis that many are remembering this month with the 10-year anniversary of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy on Sept. 15, was a crisis of accountability. In the service of its investor owners, the financial industry was willing to sacrifice millions of people’s homes and jobs for profits. In the years since, there’s been a revival in another kind of business, showing how it has already shaped our world and could provide a real alternative to Wall Street.

“Cooperatives are businesses owned by and accountable to their participants — ranging from small grocery stores to Cabot Creamery and Organic Valley, from Ace Hardware to the Associated Press. There’s a new generation bringing this legacy into the 21st century, building co-ops out of Bitcoin and low-wage care-work, challenging the likes of Uber and the coal industry, as electric co-ops are doing.

“The co-op tradition is also a trans-partisan consensus hiding in plain sight. Both Democrats and Republicans have sponsored recent legislation to support credit unions and expand employee ownership. Cooperative business is something that can bring us together and address the root causes of this major crisis.”

Schneider is also a professor of media studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Kavanaugh’s Pattern of Lying Under Oath

LISA GRAVES, Lisa at documentedinvestigations.org, @thelisagraves
Graves just co-wrote the piece “Brett Kavanaugh Can’t Be Trusted. We Know Because We Worked as Counsel to Senators When He Was in the Bush White House” for Time magazine. She also recently wrote the piece “I Wrote Some of the Stolen Memos That Brett Kavanaugh Lied to the Senate About” for Slate.

She is the former chief counsel for nominations for the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice. Graves is the co-founder of Documented, which investigates corporate influence on democracy.

She writes that Kavanaugh should be removed from his current judgeship “because he was repeatedly asked under oath as part of his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings for his position on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit about whether he had received such information from [GOP Senate aide Manuel] Miranda, and each time he falsely denied it.

“For example, in 2004, Sen. Orrin Hatch asked him directly if he received ‘any documents that appeared to you to have been drafted or prepared by Democratic staff members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.’ Kavanaugh responded, unequivocally, ‘No.’

“In 2006, Sen. Ted Kennedy asked him if he had any regrets about how he treated documents he had received from Miranda that he later learned were stolen. Kavanaugh rejected the premise of the question, restating that he never even saw one of those documents.

“Back then the senators did not have the emails that they have now, showing that Miranda sent Kavanaugh numerous documents containing what was plainly research by Democrats. Some of those emails went so far as to warn Kavanaugh not to distribute the Democratic talking points he was being given. …

Graves writes: “He lied. Under oath. And he did so repeatedly.

“Significantly, he did so even though a few years earlier he had helped spearhead the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for perjury in a private civil case. Back then Kavanaugh took lying under oath so seriously that he was determined to do everything he could to help remove a president from office.

“Now we know that he procured his own confirmation to the federal bench by committing the same offense. And he did so not in a private case but in the midst of public hearings for a position of trust, for a lifetime appointment to the federal judiciary.” See recent New York Times piece “Brett Kavanaugh Urged Graphic Questions in Clinton Inquiry.”

Will Kavanaugh Take a Lie Detector Test?

The Washington Post reports: “An attorney for Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who alleged Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh assaulted her when the two were in high school, said Monday that Ford is willing to testify about the allegations before the Senate Judiciary Committee.” The Post also reports “On the advice of [attorney Debra] Katz, who said she believed Ford would be attacked as a liar if she came forward, Ford took a polygraph test administered by a former FBI agent in early August.”

Time magazine just published the piece “Brett Kavanaugh Can’t Be Trusted. We Know Because We Worked as Counsel to Senators When He Was in the Bush White House.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law and has taught criminal law. He said today: “Kavanaugh clearly has little compulsion against lying under oath. Prof. Christine Blasey Ford has taken and passed a lie detector test. So the question becomes: Will Kavanaugh take a lie detector test?” See Boyle’s analysis in The Guardian and the IPA news release “Kavanaugh and the Federalist Society” and “Will a Member of Congress Move to Impeach Kavanaugh?

See recent piece from The Daily Beast: “Newly Released Emails Show Brett Kavanaugh May Have Perjured Himself at Least Four Times,”

Also, see from FAIR: “Establishment Media Shy Away From Claims of Perjury by Kavanaugh.”

Kavanaugh “Can’t Be Trusted”

[Former Senator Russ Feingold just wrote the piece “We Know Brett Kavanaugh Has Lied Already” for the Huffington Post.]

BOB SCHIFF, robertfschiff at gmail.com
JEFF BERMAN, jeffberman at gmail.com
KRISTINE LUCIUS, lucius at civilrights.org
LISA GRAVES, lisa at documentedinvestigations.org
Schiff served as chief counsel for Senator Russ Feingold; Lucius served as nominations counsel and staff director for Senator Patrick Leahy; Berman served as chief counsel for Senator Charles Schumer; Graves served as chief counsel for nominations for Sen. Leahy.

They just wrote the piece “Brett Kavanaugh Can’t Be Trusted. We Know Because We Worked as Counsel to Senators When He Was in the Bush White House” for Time magazine.

They write: “We watched the testimony of Judge Brett Kavanaugh before the Senate Judiciary Committee with dismay and disbelief. His many misleading and false statements cast serious doubt on whether he should be confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. …

“This is not about the dance many nominees attempt in order to avoid expressing an opinion on legal issues they might face on the court. It is about a pattern of deceptive answers on a range of questions about his past activities and agenda to change our laws through the courts. We believe this deception, both earlier this month and in his 2004 and 2006 nomination hearings for the D.C. Circuit, was intentional.”

They give several examples, including: “At his first confirmation hearing in April 2004, Kavanaugh said he had never received material stolen from Democrats. He repeated that testimony in May 2006 under questioning by both Democratic Senators and Chairman Hatch.

“But emails released earlier this month, after originally being deemed ‘committee confidential,’ show that Kavanaugh was in frequent contact with [Manuel] Miranda and received material that had been stolen from the Senate Judiciary Committee server. These emails contradict his testimony under oath. …”

Suing Over Israeli Nuclear Coverup That’s Allowed $222 Billion in Funding

Next week, Trump is expected to focus on Iran and North Korea during a session of the UN Security Council. Meanwhile, official Washington refuses to admit that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal, see video of Pence and others.

Thursday, at the State Department briefing, while defending the cutoff of funding to hospitals and other relief efforts for Palestinians, spokesperson Heather Nauert said: “It’s as though some folks here think that we can never spend — we, the United States Government, can never spend enough money. We can never spend enough money to satisfy some critics’ concerns.” Israel has long been the largest recipient of U.S. funding, exceeding that of all sub-Saharan Africa.

GRANT F. SMITH, @IRmep
Smith is director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy. The group just announced that a lawsuit “has been filed against the National Archives and Records Administration [NARA] demanding immediate release of presidential letters held by the George W. Bush and William J. Clinton presidential libraries.

“The New Yorker in June reported Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barak Obama and Donald Trump all issued letters at the beginning of their terms promising never to pressure the Israeli government into signing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons [NPT] or publicly discuss Israel’s nuclear weapons program.”IRmep believes the government of Israel sought the guarantees in order to preempt Arms Export Control Act [AECA] limitations on U.S. aid to foreign countries with clandestine nuclear weapons programs.

“Defendant NARA refused to release the letters to IRmep under the Freedom of Information Act, claiming that to even confirm or deny their existence is a classified national security matter. Obama and Trump administration records are unavailable under the Presidential Records Act and FOIA.

“Plaintiff argues that the authorities cited in the NARA classification decision under Executive Order 13526 are unlawful since 13526 specifically prohibits classification of information to ‘conceal violations of law.’

“The Symington and Glenn Amendments to the AECA restrict and condition all U.S. foreign aid to nuclear weapons countries that have not signed the NPT.

“Multiple IRmep lawsuits argue that U.S. aid to Israel violates the AECA and that secrecy is improperly invoked to conceal that the U.S. has long known Israel is a nuclear power. IRmep is also suing the U.S. Departments of State and Energy to release WNP-136, a ‘gag order’ that severely punishes federal employees that publicly release U.S. government information, speak or write forthrightly about Israel’s nuclear weapons.

“Since American presidents first began signing the secret pledges to Israel, inflation-adjusted U.S. aid to Israel has grown to $99.9 billion, not counting ‘black budgets.’ Since the Symington and Glenn Amendments to the AECA became law in 1976, U.S. aid to Israel grew to $222.8 billion. Since 1948, Israel is the largest cumulative U.S. foreign aid recipient.”

Trump at the UN and the “P1”

Heads of state, including Trump, are scheduled to begin addressing the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. On Wednesday, with the U.S. as the rotating president of the UN Security Council this month, Trump is scheduled to chair a meeting of the Council.

JAMES PAUL, james.paul.nyc at gmail.com
Paul is author of the new book Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy and Power in the UN Security Council.

He said today: “The topic of the Wednesday Security Council meeting — Iran — was pushed onto the agenda in the usual ‘P1’ way, with the U.S. insisting on a debate on the Iran nuclear deal in spite of the opposition of the other members.

“The U.S. is in clear breach of an earlier SC resolution endorsing and implementing the Iran nuclear deal. Will other SC members remain silent…? Russia and China are likely to point out this discrepancy. Iran will be in the room and likely to speak.

“The biggest question will be whether Trump will use the opportunity to announce new sanctions or even military operations against Iran. Rumor has it that Washington is pressing NATO and other allies to join it, Israel and Saudi Arabia in a coalition of the willing to overthrow the perfidious mullahs and restore democracy to Iran. …

He just wrote the piece “Trump at the UN — a Dramatist Seizes an Opportunity,” which states: “Trump has grievously weakened the UN and multilateralism. Who can forget the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Human Rights Council, the withdrawal from UNESCO, the demanded cuts to the UN’s core budgets, and the diminished U.S. contributions to many of the UN funds and programs … and the plan to destroy the International Criminal Court. John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Advisor, is famous for his hostility to the UN.

“But the President comes — as they all come — not out of enthusiasm for the UN and multilateralism but to take advantage of the theatrical opportunity. For Trump in particular, it is a chance to reach for global grandiosity, to rail against foreign enemies, to ‘disrupt’ the status quo and to bask in the limelight of the frenzied news media.”

In his book, Of Foxes and Chickens: Oligarchy and Power in the UN Security Council, Paul writes: “Though the P5 [permanent five members of the Security Council] share the same powers and privileges, they are far from equals. They form a steep hierarchy, which is reflected in the language of UN insiders. First and foremost there is the ‘P1’ — the United States — with its unique and exceptional influence, far above the rest. Then there is the ‘P2’ — the duo of the United States and its close ally, the United Kingdom. Between them they largely run the show, with assistance from France, with whom they constitute the ‘P3.’ Finally, and well behind in Council influence, are Russia and China, for whom a special ‘P’ designation is not used. Senior P3 diplomats have openly stated that they — the P3 — ‘run’ the Security Council and largely control it.” The full text of the book is available online.

Paul is also author of Syria Unmasked and was executive director of Global Policy Forum, a think tank that monitors the UN, for nearly 20 years. He was also a longtime editor of the Oxford Companion to Politics of the World and executive director of the Middle East Research and Information Project.

Who’s the Terrorist: Trump Praises Saudi Arabia, Demonizes Iran

Trump stated at the UN today regarding Iran: “We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons.”

BEAU GROSSCUP,  bgrosscup at csuchico.edu
Grosscup is emeritus professor at California State University, Chico. His books include The Newest Explosions of Terrorism and Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment.

He said today: “In Trump’s speech, as is often the case from U.S. government pronouncements, the emphasis is on counter-terrorism with Saudis. Among other things, this ignores how U.S. and Saudi policies have enabled groups like ISIS and al Qaeda. We saw this same ‘us vs. them’ approach in the State Department ‘report on terrorism’ that was just released last week.

“The demonization of Iran was particularly ironic given that civilians were just killed in what would ordinarily be called a terrorist attack there.

“Particularly notable was Trump painting the Saudis as part of the solution in the Yemen war when they have been unleashing horrific bombing in that country with catastrophic results.”

Is Kavanaugh a War Criminal?

Amnesty International USA just issued a “Rare Call for a Halt on Kavanaugh Nomination.”

The group states: “Amnesty International believes that the vetting of Brett Kavanaugh’s record on human rights has been insufficient and calls for the vote on his nomination for Supreme Court of the United States to be further postponed unless and until any information relevant to Kavanaugh’s possible involvement in human rights violations — including in relation to the U.S. government’s use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment, such as during the CIA detention program — is declassified and made public.”

Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA said: “Amnesty International takes no position on the appointment of particular individuals to government positions, unless they are reasonably suspected of crimes under international law and could use their appointment to the position in question to either prevent accountability for these crimes or to continue perpetration.”

See report from earlier this month on “Confidential Emails Reveal Kavanaugh Wanted to Make Author of Bush-era Torture Memo a Judge” about just some of Kavanaugh’s documents highlighted by Sen. Cory Booker.

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He was an elected member of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International USA from 1988 to 1992.

He said today: “Contrary to the mantra that the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have it in for Kavanaugh, they’ve largely let him off the hook on a number of critical issues, instead favoring theatrics.

“While there’s substantial attention being paid to the serious charges of sexual assault by Kavanaugh, there’s been very little note that he is a putative war criminal. Specifically, recently released documents show that while Kavanaugh worked for the George W. Bush administration, one of the people he attempted to put on the judiciary was John Yoo, who authored many of the justifications for torture that came out of the Bush administration.

“I’ve had very serious problems with others placed on the Supreme Court, but I’ve never thought of them as putative war criminals. And while other parts of Kavanaugh’s professional record are unseemly, including his lying under oath, his work for Ken Starr and for Bush’s election during the Florida standoff in 2000, this stands out even in such a record.

“And while some of the current members of the Supreme Court have been members of the Federalist Society, none have been of this ilk of members like John Yoo and Bush Attorney General/White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez — as Kavanaugh, who worked for Gonzalez at the White House. The U.S. Senate must not place a putative war criminal on the U.S. Supreme Court.” See Boyle’s analysis in The Guardian

The following exchange is from a debate between Yoo and Doug Cassel, director of Notre Dame Law School’s Center for Civil and Human Rights held on Dec. 1, 2005:

Cassel: “If the president deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?”
Yoo: “No treaty.”
Cassel: “Also no law by Congress — that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.”
Yoo: “I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that.”

Listen to audio here.

Kavanaugh Coverups

Sen. Dick Durbin and other senators repeatedly asked Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Thursday whether he would ask for an impartial FBI investigation into the allegations against him. He repeatedly declined to do so. See video.

The Intercept in, “Republicans Stop Having Prosecutor Ask Questions After She Presses Kavanaugh on July 1, 1982 Calendar Note,” reports: “Republican senators have reclaimed their time from Rachel Mitchell, the sex crimes prosecutor they brought in to conduct questioning on their behalf.

“The change in tactics came just after Mitchell zeroed in on Kavanaugh’s entry on his calendar for the night of Thursday, July 1, 1982.

“The entry recorded Kavanaugh’s plan to ‘Go to Timmy’s for Skis, w/ Judge, Tom, PJ, Bernie, Squi.’ [The Washington Post now identifies Timmy as Tim Gaudette, see “Kavanaugh is pressed on the key July 1 entry in his calendar. But only to a point.”]

“The slang word ‘brewskis’ was a common term for ‘brews’ or beers in the 1980s, so this appears to be about a planned drinking session on the Thursday before the Fourth of July weekend.

“In her prepared testimony, Christine Blasey Ford said that she was assaulted in the summer of 1982 at a house party attended by her friend Leland Ingham, as well as ‘Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Judge, P. J. Smyth and one other boy whose name I cannot recall.'”As the Washington Post article summarized: “During her testimony, Ford made clear that the event at which she says she was assaulted was a casual get-together before the others (who were older than her and had a later curfew) went to other, bigger parties. Kavanaugh says that the gathering at Timmy’s on July 1 was essentially that.

“We noted Thursday, too, that the time frame of this July 1 party fits with Ford’s testimony. She says that six to eight weeks after the alleged assault, she saw Judge working at a store in the area. Judge’s book indicates that he was working at that store for several weeks in early to mid-August.”

BOB SCHIFF, robertfschiff@gmail.com
LISA GRAVES, lisa@documentedinvestigations.org
JEFF BERMAN, jeffberman@gmail.com

Schiff served as chief counsel for Senator Russ Feingold; Graves served as chief counsel for nominations for Sen. Leahy; Berman served as chief counsel for Senator Charles Schumer. They recently wrote the piece “Brett Kavanaugh Can’t Be Trusted. We Know Because We Worked as Counsel to Senators When He Was in the Bush White House” for Time magazine.

They give examples of Kavanaugh lying under oath, including: “At his first confirmation hearing in April 2004, Kavanaugh said he had never received material stolen from Democrats. He repeated that testimony in May 2006 under questioning by both Democratic Senators and Chairman Hatch. But emails released earlier this month, after originally being deemed ‘committee confidential,’ show that Kavanaugh was in frequent contact with [Manuel] Miranda and received material that had been stolen from the Senate Judiciary Committee server. These emails contradict his testimony under oath. …”

Similarly, former Senator Russ Feingold recently wrote the piece “We Know Brett Kavanaugh Has Lied Already” for the Huffington Post.

In “‘Boofed,’ ‘Devil’s Triangle,’ ‘FFFFFFourth of July’: How Brett Kavanaugh explained his yearbook jokes,” CBS News now indicates Kavanaugh falsified under oath on Thursday when asked about the meaning of several sexual terms he used in his high school yearbook profile. For example, Devil’s Triangle: “This term on the yearbook page is also known as a sexual slang term for a threesome involving two men and one woman. … But Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee that this was a reference to a ‘drinking game’ with three cups arranged in a triangle. … ‘Boofed’ is also sometimes used as a vulgar slang term, usually referring to some mix of anal sex and drugs. The New Yorker said it ‘refers to the practice of anally ingesting alcohol or drugs.’ But Kavanaugh said it was simply a teenage joke between him and Judge about ‘flatulence.'”

See New York Times piece: “Brett Kavanaugh Urged Graphic Questions in Clinton Inquiry.”

Kavanaugh Showcases “Persecution Complex”

On Tuesday, Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony against his Supreme Court nominee, Brent Kavanagh: “What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs — where was it? I don’t know — but I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.”

Also on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported: “In an unprecedented move, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday released an explicit statement that purports to describe the sexual preferences of a woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh of misconduct.”

JENNIFER L. POZNER, jenniferleepozneratgmail.com, @jennpozner
Pozner is a media critic, media literacy educator and media activist. She is the author of Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV and founder of Women In Media & News.

She just wrote the piece “Kavanaugh Hearings Showcase GOP’s White Male Persecution Complex” for Truthout, in which she writes: “Kavanaugh emerged from the hearing looking guiltier than ever, and his apparent history of sexual violence seemed to make the GOP Judiciary members embrace him more fervently. The motives underneath this empathy for Kavanaugh are frightening. In the days since the allegations first leaked, GOP men fell all over themselves to make male sexual violence in high school seem universal and normative. ‘If this is the new standard, no one will ever want or be able to serve in government or on the judiciary,’ said Ed Rollins, a Trump PAC co-chair, while a lawyer close to the White House told Politico, ‘If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried.’ …

“Why would they do this with the contentious midterm elections hanging in the balance? It’s not just that they’re obsessed with controlling the Supreme Court, or that they want the seat to go to a guy who would legally prevent prosecution of the president: They simply don’t seem to believe this strategy is a risk.”

Also see from Shamus Khan, the chair of the sociology department at Columbia University in the Washington Post: “Kavanaugh is lying. His upbringing explains why,” which states: “Brett Kavanaugh is not telling the whole truth. When President George W. Bush nominated him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 2006, he told senators that he’d had nothing to do with the war on terror’s detention policies; that was not true. Kavanaugh also claimed under oath, that year and again this month, that he didn’t know that Democratic Party memos a GOP staffer showed him in 2003 were illegally obtained; his emails from that period reveal that these statements were probably false. And it cannot be possible that the Supreme Court nominee was both a well-behaved virgin who never lost control as a young man, as he told Fox News and the Senate Judiciary Committee this past week, and an often-drunk member of the ‘Keg City Club’ and a ‘Renate Alumnius,’ as he seems to have bragged to many people and written into his high school yearbook. Then there are the sexual misconduct allegations against him, which he denies.”

Why the Rush on Kavanaugh? Why the “Presumption of Confirmation”?

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal at gmail.com, @marjoriecohn
Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and just wrote the piece “Five Reasons Why the GOP Is Rushing to Confirm Kavanaugh” for Truthout, which goes through the upcoming Supreme Court docket. She said today: “Responding to pressure from Sen. Jeff Flake, a swing vote on Kavanaugh, the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee ordered a perfunctory FBI ‘investigation,’ which failed to interview several critical witnesses. Now Flake and Sen. Susan Collins, another swing vote, say the FBI report contains no corroboration of Dr. Blasey Ford’s claim. They are setting up political cover to vote for confirmation of Kavanaugh.”

Cohn said today that contrary to much rhetoric, including from Flake, “presumption of innocence only applies in criminal cases, not in a judicial confirmation proceeding.” See also CNN piece “What Exactly is Jeff Flake Looking for?” by Page Pate, which notes that “There is no such thing as a ‘presumption of confirmation.'”

Cohn’s past pieces include “Brett Kavanaugh is a Threat to Racial Justice and Voting Rights” and “Aggressive Kavanaugh Portrays Himself as Victim,” which states: “Kavanaugh’s outrage at being accused of sexual misconduct is hypocritical. And his contempt for Bill Clinton goes back at least two decades. During the 1998 investigation of Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky affair, Kavanaugh worked for independent counsel Kenneth Starr. At the time, Kavanaugh advocated asking Clinton explicit and detailed questions about oral sex, masturbation, vaginal stimulation and phone sex.”

She also wrote “Kavanaugh Scorns International Law and Loves Executive Power,” which states: “During the Bush administration [which Kavanugh worked for], the Supreme Court checked and balanced the executive branch in several war on terror cases. … If confirmed to the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh will almost certainly defer to the president’s wartime decisions during the perpetual war on terror. He will likely extend that deference to Donald Trump’s immigration policies under the guise of ‘national security.’ And Kavanaugh’s frightening theory will encourage the president to disobey any law he deems unconstitutional, including customary and treaty-based international law.”

Is Brazil Slipping Back into Fascism?

The Washington Post reports that Jair Bolsonaro, a “far-right former military man won nearly half the votes in Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday, raising the strong prospect that he could take the helm of Latin America’s largest nation in a runoff later this month.”

MARIA LUISA MENDONÇA, marialuisam222atgmail.com
Maria Luísa Mendonça, director of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil said today: “The election results in Brazil show the risk of a discourse based on fear and manipulation, which benefited a candidate who is openly misogynistic, racist, homophobic, who defends torture and the return of the military dictatorship. Brazilian women have organized against him in the social media campaign #EleNão (#NotHim) that has attracted more than 4 million participants. Progressive forces will continue to organize to defend democracy in Brazil, and to send a strong message to the world against fascism.”

ALEXANDER MAIN, mainatcepr.net
Director of international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Main said today: “How did we end up with these terrifying election results in Brazil, a country that not long ago was seen as a beacon of progress within the developing world? Attacks on Brazil’s democracy have played a major role, in particular the unconstitutional removal of president Dilma Rousseff and the unjustified imprisonment of former president Lula da Silva, who had been widely expected to win the election before being barred from running. The rightwing ‘coup’ against Dilma and Lula, promoted by elite sectors eager to implement neoliberal ‘shock therapy’ measures, had the unintended effect of creating a political opening for fascism.”

For more, see “How a homophobic, misogynist, racist ‘thing’ could be Brazil’s next president” in The Guardian by the Brazilian journalist Eliane Brum.

Roots of Kavanaugh’s Agenda

LYNN STUART PARRAMORE, lynn@lynnparramore.com, @lynnparramore
Lynn Stuart Parramore is a cultural historian and freelance writer who covers gender issues and the economy. She said today: “It is my view that on the Supreme Court, Judge Brett Kavanaugh will work to thwart the will of the American people, especially women.

“Hand-picked by the Federalist Society and backed by the Koch network, Kavanaugh is an emblem of the right-wing takeover of America outlined by historian Nancy MacLean in her 2017 book, Democracy in Chains. He is part of a movement, never stronger in America, to reorient the legal system away from the influence of ordinary citizens and towards the interests of corporations and the wealthy — a movement dedicated to lowering taxes for the rich and transferring critical public functions to the private market. [See her review of MacLean’s book: “Meet the Economist Behind the One Percent’s Stealth Takeover of America.”]

“On the Supreme Court, Kavanaugh can be expected to be a staunch defender of efforts to deregulate business, eliminate civil rights protections, and gut regulations for health and the environment. He is philosophically oriented to support the privatizing of government institutions like public schools and prisons and to attempt to do away with programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

“For women, Kavanaugh’s role on the Supreme Court has particularly devastating potential. His hostility to Roe v. Wade and reproductive freedom; his hostility to workers making discrimination and harassment claims; and his opposition to the social safety net upon women disproportionately depend make him a threat to women’s health, dignity, and economic security. He is poised to be a foe of the public sector, a vital source of women’s employment, as well as critical services like publicly subsidized daycare. Kavanaugh poses a serious threat to women in their dual roles as wage earners and caregivers.”

Protesting Saudi Crimes

NBC News reports: “Friends of the missing Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi described him as being deeply afraid of his country’s rulers and of being targeted by the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the months before his disappearance.”

See from the British Independent: “Jamal Khashoggi joins growing list of Saudi dissidents who have mysteriously disappeared in recent years.” The New Arab report from Monday: “Lebanon lawmaker Paula Yacoubian confirms Riyadh detained PM Hariri amid journalist disappearance mystery.”

MEDEA BENJAMIN, medea at codepink.org, @medeabenjamin
    Benjamin is co-founder of the activist group CodePink, which is organizing protests on Wednesday at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C. at noon and at the Saudi consulate in New York City at 5 p.m.

    CodePink said in a statement: “The last anyone has heard from prominent Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi was October 2, when he walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to get some papers needed for his marriage. Turkish investigators have leaked what they believe happened: A 15-person hit team was sent from Saudi Arabia to Turkey to murder Khashoggi, who had been a critic of the Saudi government.”

    Benjamin is author of Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection. On Monday, she appeared on “Democracy Now!“: “I think it has to be put in the context that the Saudi crown prince, MBS [Mohammed bin Salman], is out of control — what he is doing in Yemen, the bombing of schoolchildren, the kidnapping of Hariri in Lebanon, the throwing in prison of women activists, of scholars, and creating an economic war with Qatar.”

The New York Times reported in August: “U.N. Says Saudi-led Airstrike Killed at Least 22 Yemeni Children.”

Trump’s “New Lies” on Medicare-for-All

ROBERT WEISSMAN, Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, Angela Bradbery, abradbery@citizen.org@Public_Citizen
President of Public Citizen, Weissman just released a statement, “Fact Check: Trump is Dead Wrong on Medicare-for-All“:”Lies and deceptions from Trump are nothing new. Lies and deceptions from Trump about Medicare-for All are new, so it’s worth correcting his USA Todaycolumn [“Democrats ‘Medicare for All’ plan will demolish promises to seniors.”] attacking such a system.

“One reason his attacks on Medicare-for-All are new is that he probably has supported it in the past. But whatever, there’s no reason to think Trump particularly believed what he said then, or what he says now. On to the major lies and deceits:

“Medicare-for-All would not ‘end Medicare as we know it and take away benefits that seniors have paid for all their lives.’ The reason it’s called Medicare-for-All is because it would take the existing program and expand it to everyone. Seniors’ benefits would not be taken away — in fact, they would be improved, but everyone else would gain the benefits of Medicare, too.

“Medicare-for-All is not going to cost an ‘astonishing $32.6 trillion’ over 10 years, because it will introduce major savings not adequately accounted for in the study Trump cites. Significant savings would come from eliminating vast amounts of paperwork and bureaucracy imposed by the current dysfunctional system, and steeply dropping costs for brand-name pharmaceuticals. But even if Medicare-for-All cost as much as Trump alleges, that amount would be LESS than projections for our current system, which also leaves tens of millions of Americans without coverage.” See related Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Even Koch-Backed Think Tank Finds Medicare for All Would Cut Health Care Spending” featuring Drs. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, distinguished professors of health policy at the City University of New York at Hunter College and lecturers in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

See full Public Citizen statement here.

The Saudi Lobby Juggernaut

Sen. Rand Paul states: “The Saudis will keep killing civilians and journalists as long as we keep arming and assisting them. The President should immediately halt arms sales and military support to Saudi Arabia.” See video of Paul’s comments regarding the Saudi bombing of Yemen and missing Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The Hill reports: “Senators demand answers on Trump administration backing of Saudi coalition in Yemen.”

BEN FREEMAN, ben at ciponline.org
Freeman is the director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy. He just wrote the piece for TomDispatch: “The Saudi Lobby Juggernaut,” which states: “The growth of Saudi lobbying operations [has been] extraordinary. In 2016, according to FARA records, they reported spending just under $10 million on lobbying firms; in 2017, that number had nearly tripled to $27.3 million. And that’s just a baseline figure for a far larger operation to buy influence in Washington, since it doesn’t include considerable sums given to elite universities or think tanks like the Arab Gulf States Institute, the Middle East Institute, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (to mention just a few of them).

“This meteoric rise in spending allowed the Saudis to dramatically increase the number of lobbyists representing their interests on both sides of the aisle. Before President Trump even took office, the Saudi government signed a deal with the McKeon Group, a lobbying firm headed by Howard ‘Buck’ McKeon, the recently retired Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. His firm also represents Lockheed Martin, one of the top providers of military equipment to the Kingdom. On the Democratic side, the Saudis inked a $140,000-per-month deal with the Podesta Group, headed by Tony Podesta, whose brother John, a long-time Democratic Party operative, was the former chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Tony Podesta later dissolved his firm and has allegedly been investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for serving as an unregistered foreign agent. …

“Such activity reveals a clear pattern: Saudi foreign agents are working tirelessly to shape perceptions of that country, its royals, its policies, and especially its grim war in Yemen, while simultaneously working to keep U.S. weapons and military support flowing into the Kingdom.”

Autopsy on Democrats: One Year Later

Advance excerpts published today by The Nation unveil a new assessment of the Democratic Party’s progress during the year since release of a scathing Autopsy titled “The Democratic Party in Crisis.”

Produced by the same task force of researchers, the new report — “Democratic Autopsy: One Year Later” — “evaluates how well the Democratic Party has done in charting a new course since the autumn of 2017.” The document rates developments in each of the seven categories that the original Autopsy assessed — corporate power, race, young people, voter participation, social movements, war and party democracy.

The new report says that “the upsurge of progressive activism and electoral victories during the last year has created momentum that could lead to historic breakthroughs in the midterm elections and far beyond.” But the report concludes that the party is still major steps away from becoming a political force capable of ending Republican rule and implementing vital progressive reforms.

The Nation has posted advance excerpts of the new report here.

Today, RootsAction.org emailed information about the new report to the group’s 1.2 million active supporters online in the U.S. The new report and the original Autopsy were supported by Action for a Progressive Future, which sponsors RootsAction.

The following co-authors of “Democratic Autopsy: One Year Later” are available for interviews:

JEFF COHEN, jcohen at ithaca.edu
Cohen is founder of the media watch group FAIR and co-founder of RootsAction.org.

DONNA SMITH, donna at pdamerica.org
Smith is former executive director and current national advisory board chair of Progressive Democrats of America.

U.S. Officials Could Be Prosecuted with Saudis for War Crimes in Yemen

MOHAMAD BAZZI, mohamad.bazzi at nyu.edu, @BazziNYU
Available for a limited number of interviews, Bazzi is a journalism professor at New York University and a former Middle East bureau chief at Newsday. He is writing a book on the proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

He just just wrote the piece “American Officials Could Be Prosecuted for War Crimes in Yemen” for The Nation and “Congress Is Forcing a Confrontation With Saudi Arabia” for The Atlantic.

Trump just announced that he is sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia.

Bazzi notes that just last month Pompeo certified to Congress that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates “were trying to minimize civilian casualties and to enable deliveries of humanitarian aid. … But the administration’s assurances contradicted virtually every other independent review of the war, including the recent report by a group of UN experts and several Human Rights Watch investigations that found the Saudi coalition culpable of war crimes.

“On September 20, The Wall Street Journal reported that Pompeo decided to certify Saudi and Emirati compliance over the objections of many State Department officials. The Journal quoted a classified memo in which most of the agency’s regional and military experts urged Pompeo to reject certification ‘due to a lack of progress on mitigating civilian casualties.’ But Pompeo was worried that a negative statement from the administration and potential disruption in U.S. military assistance could jeopardize $2 billion in upcoming weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. …

“Few Americans realize how deeply the United States is implicated in potential war crimes in Yemen — and both the Trump and Obama administrations have been unwilling to stop the bloodshed. …

“Soon after Trump took office, he escalated U.S. military involvement in Yemen, with little public attention or debate. In March 2017, Trump reversed a decision by Obama to suspend the sale of about $400 million in laser-guided bombs and other munitions to the Saudi military. (Obama and his advisers tried to use the weapons deal as leverage to force the Saudis and their allies to take concerns about civilian deaths more seriously, to little effect.) …

“Documents obtained by Reuters under the Freedom of Information Act showed that U.S. officials were especially worried about a 2012 ruling from an international tribunal at The Hague that convicted Charles Taylor, Liberia’s former president. He was found guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes committed by rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone during its civil war in the 1990s, and sentenced to 50 years in prison. The ruling built on precedents set by the Yugoslavia war crimes tribunal, which found that the accused can be guilty of ‘aiding and abetting’ if he provided ‘practical assistance, encouragement, or moral support which had a substantial effect on the perpetration of a crime.’ The court found that prosecutors do not have to prove that a defendant had direct control over the perpetrators, or participated in a specific crime. U.S. government lawyers worried that similar legal reasoning could be used to prosecute American officials who continue to provide weapons and military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition, despite mounting evidence that it was committing war crimes.”

Black Voters Matter Blocked from Taking Georgia Seniors to Vote

Think Progress is reporting in “Black Voters Matter Blocked from Taking Georgia Seniors to Vote” that: “Seniors in rural Georgia were dancing in the street, preparing to board Black Voters Matter‘s bus to cast their ballots on the first day of Georgia’s early voting period. But the 40 or so African American senior citizens were told to get off the bus, an act organizers described as ‘live voter suppression.’

“While the elderly people were boarding the vehicle plastered with photos of African Americans and raised black fists, the Leisure Center in Jefferson County was notified that someone had called the county commissioner and complained that the bus should not be taking voters to the polls.

“LaTosha Brown, one of the co-founders of Black Voters Matters, said there was nothing illegal about the group’s activity. The organization is non-partisan and the bus doesn’t endorse any particular candidate. She called it a clear-cut case of ‘voter intimidation.’”

LATOSHA BROWN, latoshabrown777 at gmail.com
CLIFF ALBRIGHT, cliff at strategiccliffnotes.com

Brown and Albright are co-founders of Black Voters Matter, which is based in Atlanta.

Brown said today: “This is a continuation of voter suppression and voter intimidation. … Even in the absence of law or policy they use voter Intimidation as a strategy to use their power and authority to intimidate black folks in rural areas.

“These people did nothing wrong by riding with us on our bus, but when the authorities said the seniors could not ride on our bus — which was legal — they got off and boarded the bus that was their pre-arranged transportation.

“But Jefferson County officials cancelled the group’s appointment to do early voting today anyway.”Albright added: “They made us even more energized. Can’t stop, won’t stop.”

Women’s March on the Pentagon

CINDY SHEEHAN, CindySheehan at MarchOnPentagon.com, @womenmarch4paz
BONNIE CARACCIOLO, Bosmarch2018 at gmail.com, @green42020
EMMA FIALA, Emma at MarchOnPentagon.com, @bymyelf

Cindy Sheehan gained global recognition for protesting against the Iraq invasion outside of then-President George W. Bush’s Crawford ranch in 2005. She has continued her antiwar activism in the years since, regardless of the party in the White House. She is lead organizer for the Women’s March on the Pentagon taking place this weekend. Caracciolo and Fiala are fellow organizers of the march — see: MarchOnPentagon.com.

The group released a statement: “Despite the fact that our children are getting third rate public schooling; homelessness is a national crisis and disgrace; U.S. infrastructure is failing at an alarming rate; and this nation is being dissolved foot by foot by global warming and unprecedented natural disasters: the Pentagon receives almost 60 cents of every tax dollar to continue the war machine’s program of global domination for resource control and profit.

“We at WMOP reject the thinking that just because the U.S. has long been the world’s dominant hegemonic force, that it has to remain that way. Maintaining the U.S. war machine at its current levels is sucking the life our of our families, communities, nation and world.”

“Imperialism is the disease,” the group continued and such efforts at “organizing in a dedicated and militant (we won’t stop until they stop) way for a peaceful and sustainable planet is the answer!”

Gaza’s Escalating Water Crisis

SANDY TOLAN, sandytolan at gmail.com, @Sandy_Tolan
Recently back from Gaza, Tolan just wrote the piece “Gaza’s Dying of Thirst, and Its Water Crisis Will Become a Threat to Israel” for The Daily Beast.

Tolan writes: “Mohammed Nimnim carries the water for his family. On a scorching late morning last summer, the 15-year-old pushed an old wheelchair piled high with empty plastic jugs through Gaza’s Shati (Beach) refugee camp. He rattled past modest groceries, makeshift tire shops, and graffiti praising Gaza’s martyrs, down broken concrete lanes, and toward the local mosque, where sputtering taps provide the family’s only source of drinking water.

“No luck. …

“Studies point to sharp rises in water-borne ailments, as doctors here forecast an outbreak of epidemic disease due to deteriorating water quality. Already, 97 percent of the water from Gaza’s wells is unfit for human consumption — the result of seawater leaking into the aquifer from severe over-pumping. And because there’s insufficient electricity to run Gaza’s sewage plant, 110 million liters of untreated sewage flows into the Mediterranean every day. …

“Another huge factor was the ‘Nakba,’ or Palestinian catastrophe, in 1948, when Gaza’s population quadrupled in just a few weeks, putting immense new pressure on the aquifer. And then there is Israel’s bombing of wells, water towers and pipelines, and sewage plants in Gaza, which caused an estimated $34m of damage.  …

“Israeli officials refute those charges in repeated statements, laying the blame squarely on Hamas. …

“Yet all of these factors, according to doctors and human rights groups, are minor compared to Israel’s ongoing economic blockade of Gaza, which has restricted the movement of basic goods, including medical supplies. ‘Occupation and siege are the primary impediments to the successful promotion of public health in the Gaza Strip,’ declared a 2018 study in The Lancet, which cited ‘significant and deleterious effects to health care.’ …

“It may seem that Gaza’s torments are sealed off from the outside world by layers of fences, locked gates, patrolling Israeli drones and war planes, and international disdain and indifference. But sewage travels across borders.”

Tolan is author of The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East and Children of the Stones. He is also a professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. His website is SandyTolan.com.

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on the Ballot

NANCY ALTMAN, LINDA BENESCH, lbenesch at socialsecurityworks.org, @ssworks
Altman is president of Social Security Works, Benesch is communications director for the group. Altman just wrote the piece “The Future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid Is on the Ballot This November,” which states that Mitch McConnell “just said that spending on so-called ‘entitlement programs’ must be ‘addressed.’ That is Washington insider code for ending Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

“Right-wingers have opposed Social Security and Medicare ever since they were first created. But because these programs enjoy overwhelming support from the American people, including voters of all political affiliations, they do not normally talk about their plans for benefit cuts three weeks before an election. If this is how they are talking now, imagine how emboldened they will be if they ride out the blue wave and keep control of Congress!

“Since losing the Bush privatization fight, these Republicans have worked hard to avoid political accountability, through using fast-tracked, unaccountable supercommittees, commissions or other forms of bipartisan cover. But with Democrats now in favor of expanding, not cutting these vital programs, Republican elites may see their latest chance slipping away. And they are determined not to let that happen. Like the proverbial child who murders his parents and then pleads for leniency because he is an orphan, today’s Republicans are planning to use the cost of their tax giveaway to the wealthy as the excuse to do what they have wanted to do for so long.

“Time and time again, McConnell has shown that the only thing he truly cares about is power. And he has been rewarded for his ruthlessness. He was able to steal a Supreme Court appointment in 2016. If Congress remains in Republican control, he will do anything he has to do to ensure that he destroys Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.”

Will Congress Take Action Against Saudi Arabia, or Is It Just Rhetoric?

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, aladeimi at msu.edu, @shireen818
Originally from Yemen, Al-Adeimi is an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University. Available for a limited number of interviews, she just wrote the piece “Saudi Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s Disappearance has Accomplished What 50,000 Yemeni Deaths Could Not” for NBC News, which states: “Though long overdue, these condemnations of the Saudi government are welcome. Saudi Arabia has been a close U.S. ally for decades, but during that time it has engaged in numerous violations of human rights, including creating what is currently the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. For over three-and-a-half years, Saudi Arabia has been waging a brutal attack on its poorest neighbor, Yemen, causing the killings of as many as 50,000 people and the silent deaths of an estimated 113,000 children who have perished from malnutrition and preventable diseases like cholera. By using starvation as a weapon and causing the collapse of the Yemeni economy, health care and educational systems, Mohammed bin Salman has proven himself to be a ruthless monarch, and not the progressive reformer that many in the Western press have, until very recently, been happy to paint him as. …

“Despite warning that Saudi should expect ‘severe punishment’ if they are found responsible, Trump reiterated in a ’60 Minutes’ interview that halting weapons sales is out of the question.”In stark contrast, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., took a much harder line, declaring: “There’s not enough money in the world to buy back our credibility on human rights if we do not move forward and take swift action.” And yet, Rubio’s concern for human rights was absent when, earlier this year, he joined 54 mostly Republican colleagues in killing a bill that called for an end to the U.S. role in Yemen altogether.”

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB, hassan@chipeaceaction.org, @justfp

El-Tayyab is policy and organizing director at Chicago Area Peace Action and policy and government affairs fellow at Just Foreign Policy.

He recently wrote the piece “Khashoggi Disappearance Is an Opening for Referendum on U.S.-Saudi Alliance,” which states: “With no leadership coming from the White House, the onus falls on Congress to impose swift and concrete consequences on the Saudis. Luckily, it already has a clear path for doing so in pending legislation H.Con.Res. 138, a new bipartisan war powers resolution introduced in the House to end U.S. military involvement in Saudi Arabia’s War on Yemen, introduced by Reps. Khanna, Jones, Massie, Pocan, and Smith last month. …

“If passed, H.Con.Res. 138 will direct the president to stop the fueling of Saudi warplanes and cut off targeting assistance for the war in Yemen. This would send a clear and indelible signal that the U.S. will no longer give a blank check to bad actions by the Saudis, whether it be in their brutal bombing of civilians in Yemen, or the apparent murder of a U.S.-based journalist.”

As Many Call for Abolishing Nukes, U.S. Pulling Out of Treaty

AP reports: “U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton faces two days of high-tension talks in Moscow beginning Monday after President Donald Trump announced his intention to withdraw from a landmark nuclear weapons treaty.

“Trump’s announcement that the United States would leave the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty brought sharp criticism on Sunday from Russian officials and from former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who signed the treaty in 1987 with President Ronald Reagan.”

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 wrote the piece “The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear