News Releases

Following Assassination Attempt, Facebook Pulled Venezuela Content

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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.

Turning Space Into a War Zone

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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.

New Book for Anniversary: “The Truth About Social Security”

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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.]

“The Utility of the Russiagate Conspiracy”

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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.

Even Koch-Backed Think Tank Finds Medicare for All Would Cut Health Care Spending

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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 

Manafort Trial Begins

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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.”

Israel Seizes Gaza Flotilla Boat, Another on the Way

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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.”

Wall St. Gouging Billions on Electric Bills

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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.”

Myths of Pakistani Election

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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.”

“The Plot to Attack Iran”

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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…”

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