News Releases

AIPAC: Power and Origins

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CNN reports: “Rep. Ilhan Omar faces backlash over AIPAC comments.” See commentary by Glenn Greenwald on “Democracy Now!” Monday morning.

GRANT F. SMITH, gsmith at irmep.org, @IRmep
Smith is director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy and the author of the 2016 book, Big Israel: How Israel’s Lobby moves America and America’s Defense Line: The Justice Department’s Battle to Register the Israel Lobby as Agents of a Foreign Government.

He tweeted today: “In 1962, @aipac was ordered to register as an Israeli foreign agent. @TheJusticeDept kept this fact secret until 2010. It has never tried to enforce the order.”

Nora Barrows-Friedman tweeted: “AIPAC officials constantly brag about their ability to influence and push lawmakers to sign bills protecting Israel’s interests. But when a congresswoman who they don’t like points that out, they cry bigotry. And @ChelseaClinton and @bungarsargon [opinion editor at the Forward] jump on the bandwagon.”

Background: “Watch the film the Israel lobby didn’t want you to see” — an Al-Jazeera documentary leaked to the website Electronic Intifada.

You Paid More to Netflix Last Month Than It Paid in Taxes Last Year: $0

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MATT GARDNER, matt at itep.org
Senior fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Gardner just wrote the piece “Netflix Posted Biggest-Ever Profit in 2018 and Paid $0 in Taxes,” which states: “The popular video streaming service Netflix posted its largest-ever U.S. profit in 2018­­ — $845 million — on which it didn’t pay a dime in federal or state income taxes. In fact, the company reported a $22 million federal tax rebate.

“After a year of speculation and spin, the public is getting its first hard look at how corporate tax law changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affected the tax-paying habits of corporations. The law sharply reduced the federal corporate rate, expanded some tax breaks and curtailed others. The new tax law took effect at the beginning of 2018, which means that companies are just now closing the books on their first full year under the new rules.

“If Netflix’s earnings report is any indication, not much has changed. Many corporations are still able to exploit loopholes and avoid paying the statutory tax rate — only now, that rate is substantially lower.

“Netflix’s tax avoidance should come as no surprise to those who followed the debate leading up to the passage of the new tax law: A 2017 ITEP report identified Netflix as one of 100 profitable Fortune 500 corporations that paid a zero percent federal income tax rate in at least one profitable year between 2008 and 2015.” See “The 35 Percent Corporate Tax Myth.”

Shouldn’t Green New Deal Proposals Address Fossil Fuels?

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The Sustainable Energy & Economy Network just released a statement about the Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) proposal for a “Green New Deal” for the United States. The group notes: “Missing from that proposal was any mention of fossil fuels or a phaseout in fossil fuel consumption, despite the fact that fossil fuels are at the heart of the problem the Plan proposes to address: climate change.”

The group highlights efforts in the Pacific Northwest: “The Portland, Oregon-based Center for Sustainable Economy (CSE) has joined in coalition with grassroots and environmental justice organizations from around Oregon in calling for an Oregon Green New Deal to advance a state-level policy agenda that will complement congressional Green New Deal efforts. Today, in a report entitled, ‘Beyond Cap and Trade: A Green New Deal for Oregon,’ CSE released the beginning of an outline for what a Green New Deal for Oregon might look like. Their proposal calls for:

* No new fossil fuel infrastructure
* Ensuring the polluter — and not the taxpayer or fenceline communities — pays for climate and public health damages
* Building a climate-resilient workforce
* Monitoring and regulating all greenhouse gas emissions
* Rescinding or redirecting harmful subsidies that undermine Paris Accord goals
* Redirecting subsidies for urban sprawl, highway expansion to electrification of transport and low-cost public transit
* A climate test for all state-funded or -authorized projects
* Expediting the transition to 100 percent renewable energy in line with Paris Accords
* Making climate smart forest practices the law and not the exception
* Investing and removing barriers to regenerative agricultural solutions, and
* Reducing demand for carbon intensive goods and services

“The call for no new fossil fuel infrastructure is echoing throughout the Pacific Northwest and around the country. Just one week prior, on Jan 28, 2019, the King County Council in Washington voted by 6-3 to pass an immediate moratorium to prohibit new fossil fuel infrastructure, joining other jurisdictions on the West and East coasts in taking action on the climate crisis with local authority. The King County ordinance disallows permitting for major fossil-fuel projects in unincorporated King County, following the example of Portland, OR, which was the first city in the country to put in place an ordinance calling for an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure in 2016.”

JESS WALLACH, jess.wallach at gmail.com, @350_Seattle
Wallach is with 350 Seattle and said today: “Saying no to new fossil fuel infrastructure is the first step to saying yes to real climate action, yes to a just transition and yes to a healthy climate future for all. King County just took a bold first step towards this fossil free future — now it’s time for our elected officials working on a Green New Deal in Washington, D.C. to do the same.”

NICK CALEB,  nick.caleb at gmail.com

Caleb is staff attorney for the Portland, Oregon-based Center for Sustainable Economy, and played a key role in the Portland ordinance and played a key role in the Portland ordinance, which he said “has withstood several legal challenges by the fossil fuel industry and others. The King County ordinance goes further than Portland’s in that it declares an emergency and directs the county executive’s office to review existing fossil fuel facilities, study those facilities’ impacts on local communities and prepare recommendations to mitigate their health and environmental harms. With the passage of this ordinance, King County joins a growing wave of communities stopping fossil fuel projects before they start — including Portland, five separate WA jurisdictions, including two of the state’s largest counties, and Baltimore MD.

“Climate advocates and local elected officials in the Pacific Northwest have stepped in where our federal government has failed us — calling for an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure because climate science tells us we must. With so many fossil fuel projects still being proposed, we now need all elected officials who want to act on climate to band together and enact moratoria on all new fossil fuel infrastructure as part of a Green New Deal.”

ANTHONY ROGERS-WRIGHT, anthony at seen.org
Anthony Rogers-Wright, a member of the board of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network, said: “This moratorium on new fossil fuel infrastructure is a big deal for King County, a huge deal for Cascadia, and an indication of things to come for the country overall. The excellent work of local organizers should be lauded as they join environmental justice advocates nationally in calling for an end to all new fossil fuel infrastructure as part of any Green New Deal. The climate crisis is a global crisis that must be fought and led at the local level. The discrepancies contained in the most recent release of a Green New Deal resolution vindicates this idea. These are the lessons we’ve learned from frontline coalitions like the Climate Justice Alliance, NY Renews and others. What we learned today is that this must also be a bottom-up process, we cannot centralize all the power in D.C. and expect that federal solutions are the only solutions to dismantle the climate crisis — local action is global action. We still have some work to do to turn six months into forever — but the journey starts with the first step, and this was a great step in the right direction to a fossil-free future.”

Former UN Official on Venezuela: “Nothing More Undemocratic Than a Coup”

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ALFRED DE ZAYAS, alfreddezayas at gmail.com, @alfreddezayas
Alfred de Zayas was the first UN rapporteur (independent expert) to visit and report from Venezuela in 21 years. His piece: “As a former UN special rapporteur, the coup in Venezuela reminds me of the rush to war in Iraq” was just published by the British Independent.

He writes: “There is nothing more undemocratic and corrosive to the rule of law than a coup d’état. Members of the United Nations are bound by the Charter, articles one and two of which affirm the right of all peoples to determine themselves, the sovereign equality of states, the prohibition of the use of force and of economic or political interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Yet these fundamental principles of international order are being grossly violated in the case of Venezuela.

“The international community witnessed a revolt against the UN Charter when in 2003 the United States together with the ‘coalition of the willing’ decided to invade Iraq, a war which the late secretary general Kofi Annan described as illegal. This massive act of aggression was probably the most serious violation of the Nuremberg Principles since the Second World War. What shocks the conscience is not that the United States would place itself above international law, but that it dragged 42 countries into this destructive looting campaign. The war was preceded by an ocean of fake news and disinformation, intended to make the aggression more palatable to world public opinion. War crimes and crimes against humanity were committed for which no political leader has been held accountable. One may ask, is the International Criminal Court credible, when it has thus far only focused on African politicians, and has failed to investigate or indict leaders of powerful countries, who have hitherto enjoyed total impunity?

“In 2011 another oil-rich state was devastated, Libya, with the aggression similarly preceded by systematic governmental and media disinformation. Today’s crisis in Venezuela has much in common with the prior aggressions against the two other oil-producing countries.

“One would think that the human rights community is committed to advancing the civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights of all without discrimination. Their silence in the face of the enormous suffering inflicted on the Venezuelan people by the United States is nothing less than appalling. The economic war against Venezuela, carried out not only by the United States, but also by the Grupo de Lima in clear violation of Chapter 4, Article 19 of the OAS Charter, the financial blockade and the sanctions have demonstrably caused hundreds of deaths directly related to the scarcity of food and medicines resulting from the blockade.

“It is all too obvious that the intention of the sanctions has been to asphyxiate the Venezuelan economy in the expectation that the Venezuelan people or the Venezuelan military will topple the Maduro government. This kind of interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela is not only contrary to fundamental principles of international law, but it also gives rise to personal criminal liability. To the extent that the number of victims of the artificial ‘humanitarian crisis’ continues to grow, this is a matter for the International Criminal Court pursuant to article 7 of the Rome Statute, which defines ‘crimes against humanity.’

The report of my UN mission to Venezuela was presented to the Human Rights Council on 10 September 2018. Among the many constructive recommendations formulated in my report was the revival of the dialogue between the opposition and the government. Already between 2016-2018 the former Spanish prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero hosted a multilateral mediation in which the Vatican and six Latin American states participated.

“After two years a reasonable compromise document was agreed upon, and on the day of signature, 6 February 2018, Julio Borges, the representative of the opposition refused to sign. This can only be qualified as a grave manifestation of bad faith.”

Trump’s Attack on Socialism

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VICTOR WALLIS, zendive at aol.com
Wallis is author of Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism (2018) and a book currently in press entitled Democracy Denied: Five Lectures on U.S. Politics.

He said today: “Trump embodies an agenda that ignores the well-being of the majority of the population. This was detailed in the response offered to his speech by Bernie Sanders. It is significant that Trump, while showing his indifference to popular needs, chose to denounce socialism. His pretext for doing so is the contention that socialism is ‘coercive.’ Yet he has no hesitation in imposing the coercion of the capitalist market on the tens of millions of people in this country whose income is inadequate and whose health needs are ignored. Moreover, while allying himself with Saudi Arabia, one of the most coercive regimes in the world, he feels entitled to strangle and then attack — and openly stage a coup against the Venezuelan government.”

See also commentary by economist Richard Wolff.

Pacific Northwest Shows Path to Green New Deal: End Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

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On Jan 28, 2019, the King County Council in Washington voted by 6-3 to pass an immediate moratorium to prohibit new fossil fuel infrastructure, joining other jurisdictions on the West and East coasts in taking action on the climate crisis with local authority.

JESS WALLACH, jess.wallach at gmail.com, @350_Seattle
Wallach is with 350 Seattle. She said today: “Saying no to new fossil fuel infrastructure is the first step to saying yes to real climate action, yes to a just transition and yes to a healthy climate future for all. Now it’s time for our elected officials working on a Green New Deal in Washington, D.C. to do the same.”

The King County ordinance disallows permitting for major fossil-fuel projects in unincorporated King County, following the example of Portland, OR, which was the first city in the country to put in place an ordinance calling for an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure in 2016.

NICK CALEB,  nick.caleb at gmail.com
Caleb is staff attorney for the Portland, Oregon-based Center for Sustainable Economy, and played a key role in the Portland ordinance, which he said “has withstood several legal challenges by the fossil fuel industry and others. The King County ordinance goes further than Portland’s in that it declares an emergency and directs the county executive’s office to review existing fossil fuel facilities, study those facilities’ impacts on local communities and prepare recommendations to mitigate their health and environmental harms. With the passage of this ordinance, King County joins a growing wave of communities stopping fossil fuel projects before they start — including Portland, five separate WA jurisdictions, including two of the state’s largest counties, and Baltimore MD.

“Climate advocates and local elected officials in the Pacific Northwest have stepped in where our federal government has failed us — calling for an end to new fossil fuel infrastructure because climate science tells us we must. With so many fossil fuel projects still being proposed, we now need all elected officials who want to act on climate to band together and enact moratoria on all new fossil fuel infrastructure as part of a Green New Deal.”

ANTHONY ROGERS-WRIGHT, anthony at seen.org
Anthony Rogers-Wright is a member of the board of the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network. He said today: “This a big deal for King County, a huge deal for Cascadia, and an indication of things to come for the country overall. The excellent work of local organizers should be lauded as they join environmental justice advocates nationally in calling for an end to all new fossil fuel infrastructure as part of any Green New Deal. The climate crisis is a global crisis that must be fought and led at the local level. These are the lessons we’ve learned from frontline coalitions like the Climate Justice Alliance and others. We still have some work to do to turn six months into forever — but the journey starts with the first step, and this was a great step in the right direction to a fossil-free future.”

After U.S. INF Withdrawal, Plowshares Activists, Facing Years in Prison, Warn of Nuclear Peril

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The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 released the following statement on Monday: “On Friday, the United States unilaterally withdrew from the landmark Intermediate Range Nuclear Missile Treaty (INF). ‘There is a real and present danger that this action will provoke a renewed nuclear arms race and brings us closer to nuclear war,’ says Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day and co-defendant of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7.”

[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: Hennesse, Mark Colville, Clare Grady, Jesuit Fr. Stephen Kelly, Patrick O’Neill, Carmen Trotta and Elizabeth McAlister (the widow of Philip Berrigan). [See KingsBayPlowshares7.org as well as National Catholic Reporter coverage and recent piece in The Brunswick News.]

The group’s statement continued: “This is not the first failure by the U.S. to either endorse or abide by treaties which would reduce the threat posed by the mere possession of weapons of mass destruction. The crucial Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1996, and has been ratified by 166 countries, but the U.S. is not among them. In 2001, President George W Bush formally withdrew from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) signed with the U.S.S.R. in 1972. We must worry that the U.S. will next quit the New START Treaty signed with Russia in 2010; such an action would erase a legally binding, verifiable agreement capping the number of strategic nuclear warheads possessed by the nuclear powers.

“Since 1980 Plowshares has been a movement of nonviolent symbolic direct actions disarming nuclear weapons on at least 100 separate occasions.

“Most recently, on April 4, 2018, seven Plowshares activists entered the Kings Bay nuclear submarine base, in Georgia for a nonviolent symbolic disarmament action. The base is homeport to six U.S. nuclear ballistic missile submarines, each armed with 16 Trident II missiles.

“The Kings Bay Plowshares 7, all devout Catholics, now face up to 25 years in federal prison. Their trial in Southern Georgia federal court may begin in March or April. As in previous acts of civil resistance and conscience, the defendants seek to expose the illegality and immorality of Trident’s omnicidal nuclear weapons.

“The INF Treaty is a highly imperfect shield against the growing nuclear arsenals festering in nine countries. What will help to ensure human survival is the moral conviction of people willing to undertake symbolic acts as one way to chart other roads leading to a disarmed world.

“With actions such as Kings Bay Plowshares 7 and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, also known as ICAN (the 2017 Nobel Prize winner), which is promoting the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, this nation could pull back from the brink of omnicide.”

For interviews with members of the Kings Bay Plowshares and others in their support network, contact: Bill Ofenloch, kbp7media at gmail.com

Venezuela Analysis

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CNN is reporting: “Venezuela’s Guaido refuses to rule out accepting U.S. military support amid escalating political crisis.”

Former U.N. independent expert Alfred de Zayas tweeted: “The disinformation campaign about Venezuela is reminiscent of the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq 2003.”

See report from The Real News with Mark Weisbrot: “New Oil Sanctions on Venezuela: ‘Would Destroy What’s Left of its Economy.'”

Bloomberg reports that the Bank of England has refused to turn over $1.2 Billion in Venezuela’s gold to the Maduro government.

JOE EMERSBERGER, jemersberger at aol.com, @rosendo_joe
Emersberger has written extensively on Venezuela, most recently “The most unforgivable Western lie about Venezuela: that it has a ‘caged’ media” for The Canary. His past pieces for the media watch group FAIR include “WaPo: Trump Needs to Destroy Venezuela to Save It.”

He has also written for Venezuela Analysis, including the piece “Trump’s Economic Sanctions Have Cost Venezuela About $6bn Since August 2017.”

Other contributors and editors for VenezuelAnalysis.com (@venanalysis) are in that country:

LUCAS KOERNER, lmkoerner11 at gmail.com
Koerner has repeatedly appeared on The Real News and just appeared on Sky News Australia.

PAUL DOBSON, paul1dobson at hotmail.com
See Dobson’s most recent interviews and pieces on VenezuelAnalysis.com, They are here and here.

Sanders and Khanna Move on War Powers Against Saudi Bombing of Yemen

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The Hill reports Wednesday: “Congress is poised to face off with President Trump for a second time over his administration’s policy toward Saudi Arabia, as lawmaker groups in both chambers reintroduce resolutions to end U.S. involvement in the Yemen civil war.

“Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), along with Democratic Reps. Ro Khanna (Calif.) and Mark Pocan (Wis.), on Wednesday introduced updated versions of their Yemen war powers resolutions, renewing a battle they first fought with Trump in the previous Congress. [See the video on Facebook and YouTube.]

“‘Today we are coming together to address one of the great humanitarian crises facing the planet and also in a historical way to make certain that that United States Congress reasserts its constitutional responsibilities in terms of war making,’ Sanders said at a press conference Wednesday. ‘The United States should not be supporting a catastrophic war led by a despotic Saudi regime with a dangerous and irresponsible military policy.’ …

“The Senate voted 56-41 in December to pass a resolution from Sanders, Murphy and Lee that would withdraw U.S. forces in or ‘affecting’ Yemen, except troops fighting al Qaeda and associated forces.

“It was the first time a chamber of Congress voted in favor of a war powers resolution since the War Powers Act was passed in 1973.

“But the Republican-controlled House last year blocked Yemen war powers resolutions from coming to the floor for a vote. With Democrats now in the majority, Khanna’s office said it expects the resolution to come to the House floor next month.

“‘This will be the first time in the history of this country since 1973 that we will successfully pass a war powers resolution through the Senate and through the House,’ Khanna said.” [See House resolution and Senate resolution.]

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, 1shireen at gmail.com, @shireen818
Originally from Yemen, Al-Adeimi is an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University. Her recent pieces include for NBC News: “Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance has accomplished what 50,000 Yemeni deaths could not.”

See also her pieces for In These Times magazine, including: “’Our Present Is a Nightmare’: 100 Yemenis Speak Out Against the U.S.-Saudi War,” “Attack on Yemen Port Shows U.S.-Backed Coalition Willing To Use Starvation as a Weapon” and “What the Deployment of Green Berets to the Saudi-Yemen Border Tells Us About America’s Dirty War.”

Also on Wednesday, Ro Khanna had an op-ed published in the Washington Post: “Why I strongly oppose U.S. intervention in Venezuela.”  He writes: “Congress must also make it clear to the Trump administration that military action in Venezuela requires congressional authorization. If Trump does take military action without congressional authorization, I am prepared to invoke the War Powers Act to remove our troops from the conflict as I have done in the case of Yemen.” He also tweeted recently: “Let me get this straight. The U.S. is sanctioning Venezuela for their lack of democracy but not Saudi Arabia? …”

“Bolsonaro Wants to Plunder the Amazon. Don’t Let Him”

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LEILA SALAZAR-LÓPEZ, via Paul Paz y Miño, paz at amazonwatch.org, @AmazonWatch
Leila Salazar-López is executive director of Amazon Watch and just wrote the New York Times oped “Bolsonaro Wants to Plunder the Amazon. Don’t Let Him.”

She writes: “The rise of President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has put the environment and human rights in peril. His promises to open the Amazon for business could result in huge deforestation and the release of vast greenhouse-gas emissions. His threats to slash fundamental environmental and indigenous rights standards that help keep the Amazon standing are a threat to climate stability.

“Mr. Bolsonaro, however, wouldn’t be the only one to blame for devastating the Amazon. Companies that accept his invitation to reap profit from Amazon destruction, and the financial institutions that provide the capital, will also bear great responsibility. And those poised to benefit from Mr. Bolsonaro’s reckless policies include American companies and financial institutions.

“Two of the largest publicly traded agribusiness firms operating in the Brazilian Amazon — Archer Daniels Midland and Bunge — are American-based companies. Agribusiness, in particular soy and beef production, is a leading driver of forest loss and human-rights abuses in the Brazilian Amazon, and A.D.M. and Bunge are two of the largest soy traders in Brazil. As producers seek more and more land for growing crops and grazing cattle, they push ever deeper into the Amazon. According to a report published in 2014, an estimated 90 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is due to agribusiness activities.

“Where would these powerful agribusiness companies get the capital they need to bulldoze deeper into the Amazon, if they should take Mr. Bolsonaro up on his offer to eliminate environmental protections?

“In no small part from American-based asset managers BlackRock, State Street and Vanguard, which are shareholders in all five of the largest publicly traded agribusiness companies operating in the Brazilian Amazon.”

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