News Releases

U.S. Suicide Epidemic: It’s Hitting Trump’s Base Hard

RAJAN MENON, rmenonnyc at gmail.com
Menon just wrote the piece “America’s Suicide Epidemic: It’s Hitting Trump’s Base Hard” for TomDispatch. He is professor of international relations at the City College of New York, and senior research fellow at Columbia University. He is the author, most recently, of The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention from Oxford University Press.

Menon writes: “We hear a lot about suicide when celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade die by their own hand. Otherwise, it seldom makes the headlines. That’s odd given the magnitude of the problem. …

“A suicide occurs in the United States roughly once every 12 minutes. What’s more, after decades of decline, the rate of self-inflicted deaths per 100,000 people annually — the suicide rate — has been increasing sharply since the late 1990s. Suicides now claim two-and-a-half times as many lives in this country as do homicides, even though the murder rate gets so much more attention. …

“This surge in the suicide rate has taken place in years during which the working class has experienced greater economic hardship and psychological stress. … Technological change, including computerization, robotics, and the coming of artificial intelligence, has similarly begun to displace labor in significant ways, leaving Americans without college degrees, especially those 50 and older, in far more difficult straits when it comes to finding new jobs that pay well. …

“In contrast to the United States, suicide rates are noticeably lower and have been declining in Western European countries where income inequalities are far less pronounced, publicly funded healthcare is regarded as a right (not demonized as a pathway to serfdom), social safety nets far more extensive, and apprenticeships and worker retraining programs more widespread. …

“White workers will remain crucial to Trump’s chances of winning in 2020. Yet while he has spoken about, and initiated steps aimed at reducing, the high suicide rate among veterans, his speeches and tweets have never highlighted the national suicide epidemic or its inordinate impact on white workers. More importantly, to the extent that economic despair contributes to their high suicide rate, his policies will only make matters worse. …

“Inevitably, the president and congressional Republicans will then demand additional reductions in spending for social programs. This is all the more likely because Trump and those Republicans also slashed corporate taxes from 35 percent to 21 percent — an estimated $1.4 trillion in savings for corporations over the next decade.”

Despite #MeToo, Hiding Malfeasance Still Legal

The New York Times reports in “Despite #MeToo Glare, Efforts to Ban Secret Settlements Stop Short” that: “Harvey Weinstein used them. So did R. Kelly, Bill O’Reilly and many less famous men.

“When these men were accused of sexual abuse or harassment, they would use a legal tool that was practically magical in its power to make their problems disappear: a nondisclosure agreement. That, along with a substantial payment, would be enough to ensure that no one outside a handful of people would ever know what they had been accused of.”Such agreements have been a requirement for years in virtually every out-of-court settlement for sexual misconduct. But after the #MeToo movement took off in late 2017, there were calls around the country to restrict or ban such agreements, and thunderous outrage over their secrecy.

“But almost two years on, as the legislative sessions in many states draw to a close, this much is clear: The N.D.A. has not gone away.”

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 articles and interviews about nondisclosure agreements include “End the confidentiality agreements that help perpetuate abuse” for the Philadelphia Inquirer in which Garfield writes that “neither companies nor individuals have a legitimate interest in keeping their malfeasance secret, whether it’s about dangerously defective products, predatory sexual behavior, or anything else. Hiding malfeasance only paves the way for more wrongdoing to more unsuspecting victims. Just ask Weinstein’s victims.”

Persian Gulf of Tonkin?

NYT: “One of the tankers that were attacked in the Gulf of Oman was struck by a flying object, the ship’s Japanese operator said on Friday, disputing at least part of the account of United States officials who had blamed Iran for the attack.”

During what the Nikkei Asian Review is reporting was the first visit to Tehran by a Japanese leader since the 1979 revolution, there was an attack on two Japan-bound tankers, near the Straits of Hormfuz Thursday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted: “Reported attacks on Japan-related tankers occurred while [Prime Minister Abe] @AbeShinzo was meeting with [Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] @khamenei_ir for extensive and friendly talks. Suspicious doesn’t begin to describe what likely transpired this morning. Iran’s proposed Regional Dialogue Forum is imperative.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who made a statement at the State Department and refused to take questions — tweeted: “It is the assessment of the U.S. government that Iran is responsible for today’s attacks in the Gulf of Oman.”Journalist Rania Khalek, warned that national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “are trying to create a Gulf of Tonkin incident with Iran,” referring to a falsified incident that the Johnson administration used in 1964 to dramatically escalate the Vietnam War.

TRITA PARSI, tparsi at gmail.com, @tparsi
Parsi founded the National Iranian American Council. He tweeted: “So literally while Japan’s Abe is meeting with Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei, a Japanese oil tanker is attacked in the Gulf of Oman. Sounds like some are afraid Japan may succeed in starting diplomacy. The message appears to be: Don’t you dare stand in the way of my war plans.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Professor of international law at the University of Illinois, Boyle’s books include Destroying World Order. He said today: “Some are claiming that the 2001 Authorization for Military Force would authorize attacking Iran. This is totally false. The AUMF is currently being stretched in a highly dubious manner and should be rescinded. To apply it to Iran would be totally absurd.

“Given the manner Bolton is pressing for war, a member of the House should put in a Bill of Impeachment against him immediately.

“It’s certainly possible that some Iranian faction, like the Revolutionary Guard, which the U.S. government designated as terrorists earlier this year (see accuracy.org news release), could have done this, but Pompeo provided no serious evidence. His basic reasoning, that Iran is likely guilty largely because it had the capacity to conduct such attacks, could just as easily be applied to the U.S., Saudi or Israeli governments or possibly groups they support.

“And it’s the U.S. government that has the most dramatic history of violence in this respect. The civilian Iran Air Flight 655 was downed by the USS Vincennes over the Persian Gulf in 1988. And Iran brought a suit against the U.S. at the International Court of Justice in the Oil Platforms case. The court eventually ruled that ‘the actions of the U.S. against Iranian oil platforms … cannot be justified as measures necessary to protect the essential security interests’ of the U.S., though the court rejected the call for reparations by Iran.”

Sam Husseini, senior analyst at accuracy.org noted that a Japanese ship being attacked while Japan was apparently attempting to decrease tensions was reminiscent of the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia by the U.S. after China had objected to the U.S. bombing there. The U.S. government claimed the bombing was accidental, but the British Observer would conclude “NATO bombed Chinese deliberately.” See Twitter thread.

Last month, the Guardian claimed regarding a previous attack in the region: “Evidence that Iran has been behind recent attacks on oil tankers and pipelines in the Gulf is likely to be presented to the UN Security Council as early as next week, John Bolton, the U.S. national security adviser, has revealed.” Early this month, Salon published investigative reporter Gareth Porter’s piece “Pentagon’s phony Iran ‘evidence’: New rationale for U.S. intervention?

Meanwhile, Twitter Thursday targeted Iranian accounts, Reuters reported: “Twitter deletes thousands of accounts tied to Iran.” See accuracy.org news release from last year: “Following Assassination Attempt, Facebook Pulled Venezuela Content.”

How Was Barr, Central to Iran-Contra Cover-up, Deemed Honorable?

Business Insider reports: “The House just voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and former White House counsel Don McGahn in civil contempt.”

CBS News reports in: “In the 1990s, Joe Biden said William Barr was ‘one of the best’ attorneys general” that Biden stated: “As I know you know, but others should know, too, I truly enjoyed working with you when you were attorney general,” Biden told Barr, who had been President George H.W. Bush’s attorney general.

In 1992, Barr was instrumental to the Iran-Contra cover-up, which included trading missile sales to Iran for U.S. hostages in Lebanon, and using the proceeds of those arms sales to fund anti-Sandinista Contras in Central America — all in violation of U.S. law. As Bush’s attorney general, Barr advocated for the pardons that covered up the scandal.

Biden told Barr in 1995: “You were one of the best I have ever worked with, and there have been a lot of attorneys general since I have been here, and I mean that sincerely.” CBS News notes: “When Biden made that remark, he was the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

ARUN GUPTA, arun.indypendent at gmail.com, @arunindy
Gupta is author of the piece “Let’s Talk About George H.W. Bush’s Role in the Iran-Contra Scandal” and was featured on an accuracy.org news release in December after it was reported that Barr was a “leading candidate” to become attorney general again: “Barr as AG? Bush and Trump Dovetail.” The release ran contrary to then-dominant conventional wisdom — showing the parallels between the Trump and George H.W. Bush administrations.

The release cited the work of the investigative reporter Robert Parry, founder of ConsortiumNews.com, and noted that the independent counsel examining the Iran-Contra scandal, Republican Lawrence Walsh, had indicted Casper Weinberger, Elliott Abrams and others. One of the indictments contained documents revealing that President Bush had been lying for years with his claim that he was “out of the loop” on the Iran-Contra decisions.

Walsh had discovered, too, that Bush had withheld his own notes about the Iran-Contra Affair, a discovery that elevated the President to a possible criminal subject of the investigation. But Bush had one more weapon in his arsenal. On Christmas Eve 1992, Bush destroyed the Iran-Contra investigation once and for all by pardoning Weinberger, Abrams and four other convicted or indicted defendants.

A January, 2019 news release from accuracy.org was headlined: “As Bush AG, Trump Nominee Barr Approved Cover-up Pardons” and noted that Walsh would later write in his book, Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-Up: “George Bush’s misuse of the pardon power made the cover-up complete.”

In January of this year, between the time Barr was nominated to become attorney general again and when he took office, Elliott Abrams was named special envoy for Venezuela, becoming the latest Bush administration official to join the Trump administration. See accuracy.org news release: “Will Elliott Abrams, ‘Abettor of Genocide,’ do to Venezuela What he did to Guatemala?

In their December, 2018 profile of Barr, the New York Times made no mention of Barr’s role in covering up the Iran-Contra scandal. On Sunday, in a lengthy profile, the New York Times finally noted: “In his waning days in office, Mr. Bush resolved to pardon Mr. Weinberger. ‘I went over and told the president I thought he should not only pardon Caspar Weinberger, but while he was at it, he should pardon about five others,’ Mr. Barr later said. Mr. Walsh called the pardons ‘the last card’ in the cover-up.”

Also see by Sam Husseini from January, 2019: “Triumph of Conventional Wisdom: AP Expunges Iran-Contra Pardons from Barr’s Record” for the media watch group FAIR.

Poor People’s Campaign and Voting Rights

The Poor People’s Campaign is organizing a series of actions in Washington, D.C. over the next week including a presidential candidates forum.

The Washington Post just ran an interview with Poor People’s Campaign co-chair, Rev. William Barber, “The Trump administration has violated what Jesus said should be our top priorities,” who said: “We’re traveling now with the Poor People’s Campaign, a national call for moral revival. Three years ago, even before the Trump administration, we went all across this country to more than 30 states, invited by persons who said it’s time for us to have a moral fusion movement, to say that we can challenge these five interlocking injustices: systemic racism, systemic poverty, ecological devastation, a war economy and the false moral narrative of religious nationalism.” Barber just appeared on Democracy Now: “Racist Gerrymandering Created a GOP Stronghold in the South. We Must Fight Back.”

Rev. GRAYLAN S. HAGLER, gshagler at verizon.net, @graylanhagler@UniteThePoor
Hagler is co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and senior pastor at the Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C.

At last year’s actions by the Poor People’s Campaign, Rev. Hagler was arrested at a protest for voting rights — see: “D.C. pastor shackled, held 27 hours for praying on Supreme Court steps.” He had his passport taken from him and has had to report to authorities on a weekly basis since that time.

See his page on C-SPAN. See his Facebook page and video of his arrest in front of the Supreme Court.

* Trump’s Mexico “Distraction” * Colombia: “Security Crisis”

MANUEL PÉREZ-ROCHA, manuel at ips-dc.org, @ManuelPerezIPS
Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research has called Trump’s recent moves on Mexico a “distraction.” The New York Times reports that Mexico had agreed to steps that are now cited as having averted a trade war months ago. Currently on his way to Mexico, and available for a limited number of interviews, Pérez-Rocha is associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. His past articles include “NAFTA Pushes Many Mexicans to Migrate.” See his recent interview on The Real News in which he said: “We need trade agreements, but we need trade agreements that work for the people, and not only large transnational corporations.”

GIMENA SANCHEZ, gsanchez at wola.org, @gimena_wola
Director for the Andes at the The Washington Office on Latin America, Sanchez recently wrote the piece: “Indigenous and Social Leaders Remain at Risk in Colombia” which begins: “Since WOLA’s last update on April 29, at least a dozen more Colombian activists or members of vulnerable Afro-Colombian, indigenous and rural communities were murdered. In total, 60 cases of murdered social leaders or members of vulnerable ethnic communities were reported to WOLA so far this year.

“As the [Ivan] Duque administration refuses to implement the peace accord in its entirety, social leaders at the forefront of the accord are facing a security crisis. The international community, 79 Members of Congress, and international publications, like the New York Times and Washington Post, have called out Duque’s government for reneging on its commitment to peace. WOLA expresses its deep appreciation to the 79 Members of the U.S. Congress who are encouraging Secretary of State Pompeo to advance peace and human rights protections in Colombia. We ask that policymakers, civil society, the international community and others continue to act to improve human rights and support peace in Colombia.”Below is a list of the incidents that have occurred since our April update: [See piece.]”

Biden’s Flip, Flops

JODI JACOBSON, jacobsonjodi at gmail.com, @jljacobson
Jacobson is president and editor-in-chief of Rewire.News, which reports on “reproductive and sexual health, rights, and justice, and the intersections of racial, environmental, immigration and economic justice.”

She just wrote the piece “Biden Now Says He No Longer Supports Hyde. That Is Not Enough.”

Jacobson writes: “Biden flipped again. Speaking in Atlanta, Biden said he now supports overturning Hyde because ‘I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to (access) their constitutionally protected right.’

“According to CNN, Biden told the crowd he had changed his mind because Republican state lawmakers have enacted ‘extreme laws in clear violation of constitutional rights’ protected by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wadedecision, making access to abortions more difficult for women who cannot afford the procedure or travel to obtain it.’ …

“Taken together, these statements reveal a profound misunderstanding of what the Hyde Amendment does. … During floor debate on the amendment in 1976, Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) for whom the amendment is named, asserted he ‘would certainly like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the HEW [Health, Education, and Welfare] Medicaid bill.’

“Hyde is not relevant because there are now more restrictions — it’s a restriction that has most deeply harmed low-income people and people of color by denying them abortion care. For the people affected by Hyde, it does not matter if there is one abortion provider or 60 abortion providers in a given state, because the issue is the means for paying for medical care, in the same way that it does not matter if someone lives within a ten-mile radius of 100 dentists but does not have money for dental care. Hyde is the long-standing precursor to every restriction that has come since. And it’s one Democrats helped sustain year after year, revealing that when it came to low-income people and people of color in need of abortion care, politics has always been prioritized over health and human rights.

“Biden did not begin to acknowledge the fact that Democrats, for all their pro-choice platforms and promises, have never fully supported access to abortion care. In the 2008 presidential campaign, for example, Barack Obama pledged to end Hyde. When he became president, he did not bother to pretend to fight it; the Obama administration included the amendment in every one of his administration’s budgets. And we know who his vice president was.”

NBC News reports: “As a U.S. senator from Delaware, Biden voted against a 1977 compromise that allowed Medicaid to fund abortions that included exceptions for victims of rape and incest in addition to concerns for the life of the mother. While the rape and incest exceptions passed in that case, Biden voted in 1981 to again remove them, in what was the most far-reaching ban on federal funds ever enacted by Congress. …

“Biden also voted several times, including in 1983, to prohibit federal workers from using health insurance on abortion services, with the only exception being to save the life of the mother.”

Postol on Syrian Attacks: OPCW Guilty of “Deception”

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has provided the Institute for Public Accuracy with a detailed assessment of a report the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons provided the UN Security Council earlier this year, see below. Assessing the evidence and the content of OPCW material, Postol states that the OPCW is “compromised” and has engaged in “deception.”

The report in question was submitted to the UN Security Council on March 1 of this year. An engineering assessment for the OPCW, which is dated Feb, 27, just two days earlier, was kept from the public and UN Security Council until it was made public last month by the British-based Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media.

The reports were about an alleged April 7, 2018 chemical weapons attack in Douma. On April 13, Trump announced U.S., British and French strikes against the Syrian government citing the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma.

In contrast to the “contradictory” March 1 document given to the Security Council by the OPCW’s political leadership, Postol regarded the until-recently-hidden Feb. 27 engineering report to be a “superb piece of professional work” which informed his assessment of the March 1 document touted by the OPCW’s political leadership.

Assessing the evidence, Postol has stated that the “gas attacks were staged.” Now, after scrutinizing what information the OPCW gave to the UN Security Council, he stated of the March 1 document: “The calculations produced as proof for the conclusions bear no relationship to what was observed at the scene and both the observed data from the scene and the calculations bear no relationship to the reported findings.”

Postol added: “The OPCW has been compromised in terms of the content they are providing. The deception of the OPCW is quite blatant. Perhaps they are not used to people who are knowledgeable on these issues scrutinizing their material.”

Postol’s detailed assessment scrutinizing the March 1 report states: “A review of the science-based analysis that appears to have been aimed at supporting the conclusions of the UN OPCW Fact-Finding Mission Report S/1731/2019 shows that the science-based analysis in the report completely contradict both the report’s conclusions and observed data.

“It therefore appears to be inescapable that this report must have been written without regard for the facts collected by the Fact Finding Mission or the results of the included science-based technical analyses. …

“An inspection of the photograph quickly shows that the diameter of the hole predicted by the finite element calculation does not match the diameter of the cylinder. It also shows that the rebar failed catastrophically due to an extremely intense impulse that was considerably larger than that associated with the low speed impact of a chlorine cylinder. … Thus, the conclusion stated by the OPCW report that the hole in the roof was produced by the falling cylinder is completely unsupported by both the observed evidence and the misleading finite element calculation.”

Postol is available for a limited number of interviews: postol at mit.edu.

See Postol’s assessment: “Contradictions in the Conclusions, Science and Data in the UN OPCW Fact-Finding Mission Report S/1731/2019 on the Chlorine Cylinder Attack on 7 April 2018 in Douma, Syria,” below:

“Fracking Endgame”: Industry Locking Us into “Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos”

A new report from Food & Water Watch: “The Fracking Endgame: Locked Into Plastics, Pollution and Climate Chaos” provides a detailed analysis of the emerging fracked gas infrastructure buildup, driven in part by tax subsidies. The group charges that the fossil fuel industry is seeking to use this to sustain another drilling boom in the U.S., locking the country into decades of fossil fuel pollution that will drive the climate crisis.

ALISON GRASS, via Seth Gladstone, sgladstone at fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Grass is the research director at Food & Water Watch: “We have found that there are more than 700 fracked gas infrastructure projects that have either been recently built, or are proposed for development. This includes over $200 billion in investments by the plastics industry, which relies on fracked gas liquids in petrochemical manufacturing. Over 300 new or expanded facilities will drive a 40 percent increase in global plastic production over the next decade.

“The supply of cheap fracked gas is also fueling the development of 364 new fracked gas-fired power plants by 2022, as well as terminals to export fracked gas — or what the Trump Energy Department is now calling ‘freedom gas.’

“What is revealed in this report is the industry blueprint for ensuring decades more of fossil fuel dominance over our society. If it becomes realized, the endgame would be a scary, dangerous world of omnipresent plastic waste, expanding air and water pollution, unacceptable health impacts and irreversible climate chaos. The solution is simple: We must cut off this filthy production stream at its source, by banning fracking and halting the runaway buildout of fracked gas infrastructure that is spreading like a toxic web all over the country.”

Cuba Embargo, Denounced at UN, “Violates Sovereignty” and “Freedom of Travel”

The Real Reason Trump’s Trying to Derail Cuba AdvancesThe New York Times reports: “New Rules on American Travel to Cuba Include Cruise Ban.”

NETFA FREEMAN, netfa at ips-dc.org, @Netfafree
Freeman is an analyst with the Institute for Policy Studies and was in Cuba last month, just as the Trump administration announced its ramping up of policies targeting the island in the form of implementing Title III of the Helms-Burton Act. He is able to speak about the policy itself and sentiments on the ground of regular Cuban people.

He said today: “The new measure of the Trump administration to eliminate people-to-people travel exchanges to Cuba should be seen by U.S. citizens as not only an assault against Cuba’s sovereignty but an affront against their human right of freedom of travel.”

“The hypocrisy of politicians like Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio who praise the Trump administration for its moves against Cuba is plain to see when one realizes Saudi Arabia and Israel just kill and maim as official policy and are never sanctioned.”

In November the United Nations reported that the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to urge the U.S. government “to heed the quarter‑century‑long call for an end to its restrictive policies.” By a “vote of 189 in favor to 2 against (Israel, United States), with no abstentions, the Assembly adopted the resolution titled ‘Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.’

Producers can use Jackson Browne’s “Going Down to Cuba” as lead-in music for segments on this subject.

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