News Releases

Mass Protests in: * Sudan * Honduras

KHALID MUSTAFA MEDANI, khalid.medani at mcgill.ca
Khalid Mustafa Medani is chair of the African Studies Program at McGill University. He was recently on the PBS “NewsHour” and on The Real News.

He said today: “In the worst massacre since the beginning of Sudan’s peaceful popular uprising, yesterday at least 35 people were killed, and hundreds injured by Janjaweed militia linked to the Military Council led by Gen. Abdelfatih Burhan. At the moment the same militia responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese in Darfur is occupying the capital of Khartoum and attempting to break the general strike announced by the opposition group the Forces of Freedom and Change.

“The military generals and their militia are counting on the silence of the international community in its attempt to destroy the majority of Sudanese who have been protesting peacefully for a civilian-led government and democracy. They have cut off the internet and all outside communication signalling their intent to put down the uprising by force.

“Backed by its benefactors in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the UAE, Burhan and the Janjaweed leader Hemeti are claiming that this is the only true path to stability and have called for early elections in order to silence the international community’s opposition to its brutality while simultaneously preserving the institutions and para-military forces of the ousted Omer Bashir regime. … The utilization of the Janjaweed militia to put down the uprising by brute force will lead to, as in Darfur, mass killings and instability at the very heart of the capital city in ways that will destabilize Sudan as well as the region.”

ADRIENNE PINE, pine at american.edu, @adriennepine
Assistant professor of anthropology at American University, Pine was one of the final four embassy protectors in the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C. Pine was on an accuracy.org news release just after her arrest: “Warnings of Venezuela Becoming U.S. Puppet from Honduras Expert.”

She said today: “The fire at the U.S. embassy in Tegucigalpa last Friday took place in the context of over a month of teacher- and healthcare-worker-led protests against IMF-led legislation to privatize both sectors. The new laws would include massive layoffs and would destroy what’s left of public education and healthcare in Honduras. The ongoing protests also build on the anger against Juan Orlando Hernandez, who came to power with a rigged election. It’s a coincidence that the news broke a few days ago that he’s being investigated by the DEA; his drug trafficking ties have been well known in Honduras for many years. But the DEA investigation certainly increases frustration with the State Department, which — despite also knowing of his DEA investigation — has thrown its weight fully behind his presidency.”

Kevin Zeese, another of the final four embassy protectors warned shortly before the U.S. government broke into the embassy: “Violating the Vienna Convention at an embassy in Washington, D.C. sends a message to the world that embassies in Washington, D.C. are no longer protected by international law. It sends a message around the world that U.S. embassies are not subject to the Vienna Convention either. There’ll be tremendous blowback to this; tremendous risk.”

Big Tech Dominance: Is Antitrust the Solution?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting Monday afternoon: “FTC Gets Jurisdiction for Possible Facebook Antitrust Probe.”

In recent days, the Washington Post (owned by Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com) reported: “Amazon could face heightened antitrust scrutiny under a new agreement between U.S. regulators” and the Wall Street Journal reported: “Justice Department Is Preparing Antitrust Investigation of Google.”

NBC News reports Monday afternoon: “Amazon, Google and Facebook shares tumble on antitrust concerns.” Also, Reuters reports: “U.S. Justice Dept considering Apple probe — sources.”

DINA SRINIVASAN, dina.srinivasan at aya.yale.edu, @DinaSrinivasan
Srinivasan is an antitrust scholar. Her piece “Why Privacy Is an Antitrust Issue” was just published by the New York Times. Srinivasan is the author of “The Antitrust Case Against Facebook”, an academic paper published in the Berkeley Business Law Journal early this year.

She has been featured on two accuracy.org news releases earlier this year: “Sanders Joins Calls to Break Up Facebook” and “The Antitrust Case Against Facebook,” in which she likens Facebook to the old AT&T monopoly and notes that Facebook had just hired State Department lawyer Jennifer Newstead, who was reportedly the day-to-day manager of getting the Patriot Act through Congress, as its general counsel. Said Srinivasan: “Clearly, Facebook is preparing for battle and hiring a government insider to lead it.”

Srinivasan said today: “As I outlined in my paper ‘The Antitrust Case Against Facebook,’ there are several antitrust stories that the FTC will be looking at. They involve Facebook continuously abusing consumer privacy and selectively revoking API [application programming interface] access and interoperability functionality.

“The antitrust case against Google is also clear. Google has consistently leveraged its dominant position in search, but also its dominant position in other markets — like the publisher ad server market — to keep the digital advertising markets non-transparent and sheltered from real competition.

“For example, on its face, Google’s AMP [accelerated mobile pages] initiative seems to be about helping publishers with mobile page loads. But upon deeper analysis, AMP is really about Google using its power in search to force publishers into giving up more control over their reader data and consenting to less transparency in how Google is auctioning publisher inventory.

“Publishers are wary of doing either of those things. To coerce publishers into these terms, Google announced that Google Search would thereafter decrease page ranks based on mobile page loads speed. In essence, Google is using its power in search, and the guise of this AMP initiative, to get publishers to agree to more coercive terms.”

Why Are So Many Shooters Military Veterans?

Journalist Michael Tracey writes: “DeWayne Craddock, the Virginia Beach mass shooter, enlisted in the Virginia National Guard in April 1996 and served for 17 years. Increasingly seems the most predictive trait for mass shooters is not race or religion, but a military/law enforcement background. (And gender: male.)

Tracey cites other cases:

“Ian David Long (2018): Marine, Afghanistan war vet
Nikolas Cruz (2018): High school Army ROTC
Devin Patrick Kelley (2017): Air Force
Stephen Paddock (2017): Worked for Defense Dept., Lockheed Martin
Omar Mateen (2016): Private security guard, wanted to be a cop
Aaron Alexis (2013): Navy”

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson at gmail.com, @davidcnswanson
Swanson is director of World Beyond War and just wrote the piece “You Can Almost Count on Each New Mass Shooter Being a Veteran.”

See accuracy.org news release: “Are Mass Shootings in U.S. Blowback from its Perpetual Wars?

On Russia, Did Mueller Overstate His Own Report?

AARON MATÉ, aaronmate at protonmail.com, @aaronjmate

In his closing press conference, Special Counsel Robert Mueller asserted “that there were multiple systemic efforts to interfere in our election,” by Russia, efforts that amounted to “the central allegation of our indictments.” But journalist Aaron Maté of The Nation argues that Mueller has not substantiated his central allegation, and that the Mueller report displays a lack of certainty about whether Russian GRU officers actually stole the DNC [Democratic National Committee] emails.

Maté highlighted a passage of the report where Mueller writes that “[GRU] officers appear to have stolen thousands of emails and attachments” from the DNC. “If Mueller knows that the officers stole the emails,” Maté argues, “why use the qualifier ‘appear’?” Maté also points out that Mueller, as the report notes, “cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries who visited during the summer of 2016.”

“So not only does Mueller not know for sure if the GRU stole the emails, he also does not know for sure how those emails were supposedly transferred to WikiLeaks,” Maté says. In terms of the other main component of the alleged Russian interference effort, Maté argues that Russian social media posts were “juvenile clickbait that was minuscule in reach and mostly unrelated to the election.”

He has written extensively for The Nation magazine about Russiagate, for which he recently won the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College’s Izzy Award (named after I. F. Stone) for outstanding achievement in independent media. Maté was cited for “meticulous reporting for The Nation [that] consistently challenged the way the public was being informed about the Mueller investigation and related issues.” Commented the judges: “Aaron Maté bravely offered a factual and sober approach to the story while urging a focus on President Trump’s provable assaults on U.S. democracy.”

[Meanwhile, Consortium News reports: “The UN special rapporteur [expert] on torture has issued a stinging rebuke to the United States, Great Britain, Sweden and Ecuador for ‘deliberately’ exposing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to years of ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,’ which can only be described as ‘psychological torture.’ … Rapporteur Nils Melzer visited Assange at Belmarsh prison in London on May 9 with two doctors, expert in recognizing potential torture victims, who examined the WikiLeaks founder. Melzer’s statement makes no mention of Assange having been hospitalized in the prison…”

[Assange faces unprecedented charges under the Espionage Act for having published material exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq. Mueller attacked WikiLeaks on Wednesday for publishing material which showed the DNC worked to undermine the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign, information which Mueller says WikiLeaks got from Russia. Consortium News will have a live web discussion on WikiLeaks at 4:00 ET.]

Rowley Scrutinizes Mueller’s Statement

PJppppCOLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net, @ColeenRowley
Rowley, a retired FBI special agent and division legal counsel whose May 2002 memo to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller exposed some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of TIME magazine’s Persons of the Year in 2002.

She said today: “While Mueller’s comment that it would not be right to accuse a sitting president with a crime when that crime could not be prosecuted in court (due to a DOJ [Department of Justice] policy memo) may be good as far as it specifically goes, his reliance on that prior DOJ memo for his punting decision-making on whether or not to charge Trump with obstruction raises more questions than it answers. Maybe that’s why he would not answer any questions. Beyond the DOJ memo, there are a number of premises upon which any obstruction charge, even if hypothetical, would have to be based in this case, including:

1) the sufficiency of evidence of the only crimes allegedly being obstructed, those described in Mueller’s earlier indictments of Russians;

2) the totally missing context that many, if not most, nations (but especially the U.S.), have long engaged in (LeCarre novel-type) spy activities targeting each other, which now encompass hacking and cyber ‘meddling’ without legal ramifications since this area lacks international legal consensus…

“And don’t forget that Mueller has shown himself to be a tool of the (illegal) wars of aggression establishment including when he testified about Saddam’s (non-existent) WMD and ties to Al Qaeda.” See video of then-FBI Director Mueller testifying before Congress in February 2003: “As [then CIA] Director Tenet has pointed out, [then] Secretary Powell presented evidence last week that Baghdad has failed to disarm its weapons of mass destruction, willfully attempting to evade and deceive the international community. Our particular concern is that Saddam Hussein may supply terrorists with biological, chemical or radiological material.”

Rowley appeared on an Institute for Public Accuracy news in 2017: “9/11 Whistleblower Rowley on Mueller’s History of ‘Cover-up.’” Also see her 2017 piece “Comey and Mueller: Russiagate’s Mythical Heroes.”

European Crisis Beyond the Elections

JEAN BRICMONT, jean.bricmont at uclouvain.be

Noted author and academic Bricmont was just in in Nice, where he was scheduled to give a talk on quantum mechanics. The talk was canceled because of his political views, especially his views on free speech. He is a physicist and professor emeritus at the University of Louvain in Belgium.

He has been posting his analysis of the European elections on Facebook. He said today: “We are facing a choice between a neo-liberal and ‘Green’ alliance versus a radical right, none of which is appealing to progressive ideas.”
Bricmont has been critical of Green parties in Europe embracing militarism. His books include Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War and Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science. He is co-editor of Chomsky Notebook.

Bricmont has been a consistent critic of the establishment parties in Europe.

He wrote the piece “French Thought Police and the Creeping Dictatorship of Virtue” for Consortium News.

See his interviews with The Real News, including “France’s ‘Yellow Vest’ Protests Emerged Spontaneously, without Leadership.”

Trump Administration Circumventing Congress on Arms to Saudi Arabia While Knowing Civilians Are Being Targeting

MOHAMAD BAZZI, mohamad.bazzi at nyu.edu, @BazziNYU

Bazzi has written extensively on the war in Yemen. He said today: “On Friday afternoon, the Trump administration stated it plans to circumvent Congress to sell billions in new weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. U.S. officials have known for years that the Saudi/UAE coalition deliberately targets civilians in Yemen with U.S. weapons.”

Bazzi is a journalism professor at New York University, a former Middle East bureau chief at Newsday and a former Council on Foreign Relations fellow. He is currently writing a book on the proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

He recently wrote for The Nation that Trump’s public statements on Saudi killing in Yemen reflect “a narrative that has been gaining traction for years among U.S. officials and in sectors of the Western media: that the Saudis and their allies in the Yemen war, especially the United Arab Emirates, are killing civilians and destroying infrastructure by mistake. But this is not true. The Saudi coalition has targeted civilians and the country’s infrastructure by design since it intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March 2015. It’s not that the Saudis and their allies don’t know how to use American-made weapons or need help in choosing targets — they’re using them as intended. And American officials have known this for years.”

Also see Bazzi’s recent piece “The heart of the U.S.-Saudi relationship lies in the Kushner-prince friendship.”

“Unprecedented” Attack on Freedom of the Press

On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. government indicted Julian Assange of WikiLeaks for publishing material allegedly obtained from Chelsea Manning that exposed U.S. war crimes in Iraq, including the killing of Reuters journalists there in the Collateral Murder video. The government used the Espionage Act against Assange, the first such use against a journalist or publisher. Manning is now in jail for refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify in front of a grand jury targeting WikiLeaks.

Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed the Pentagon Papers, just said in an interview with The Real News: “I was sure that the Trump administration would not be content with keeping Julian Assange in prison for five years, which was the sentence for the one charge of conspiracy that he was charged with earlier. So I was sure they would go after him with a much longer sentence under the Espionage Act. I was charged with 12 counts, including one of conspiracy, in 1971, for a possible sentence of 115 years. In this case they brought 17 counts under the Espionage Act, plus the one conspiracy. …

“These indictments are unprecedented. And I would say they are blatantly unconstitutional. … This is an impeachable offense, to carry on a prosecution this blatantly in violation of the Constitution, which the president and the attorney general are sworn to uphold. …

“What is most ominous to me, by the way — it’s not obvious — is that they referred to 2010, when he was dealing with Chelsea Manning. … I followed that fairly closely, including in the Chelsea Manning trial. That clearly was shown to result in no damage, no harm to any individual, which was precisely what they’re charging him now with having risked.”

In 2017, Ellsberg warned: “Obama having opened the legal campaign against the press by going after the roots of investigative reporting on national security — the sources — Trump is going to go after the gatherers/gardeners themselves (and their bosses, publishers).” See accuracy.org news release: “Ellsberg: Trump Threats to WikiLeaks “Nuclear Option” Against the First Amendment.”

In the Obama administration, Joe Biden led the charge against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. In 2010, Biden called him a “hi-tech terrorist” and outlined a legal attack against Assange similar to what the Trump administration is following now. His stance, the Guardian reported at the time, contrasted with “more sanguine comments from other senior figures.” Former Attorney General Eric Holder’s spokesperson in the Obama administration Matthew Miller just tweeted of the indictment: “Dangerous and probably unconstitutional. DOJ doesn’t get to decide who is deserving of First Amendment protections and who isn’t. There’s a reason we wouldn’t charge this in the Obama administration.”

While much media have focused on Trump rhetoric against various media outlets, few have scrutinized the legal attack on journalism, including against sources and now a publisher. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette just published a rare editorial: “Amend the Espionage Act: Public interest defenses must be allowed.”

JOE EMERSBERGER, jemersberger at aol.com, @rosendo_joe
Emersberger’s pieces for the media watch group FAIR include: “Assange Case Shows Support for Free Speech Depends on Who’s Talking” and “Assange’s ‘Conspiracy’ to Expose War Crimes Has Already Been Punished.”

He has also written for the British publication The Canary: “Amnesty International still doesn’t recognize Chelsea Manning as a Prisoner of Conscience,” “A human rights commission has just monumentally failed Julian Assange” and “Amid Assange’s ongoing censorship, all leftists must learn from Ecuador’s hostile takeover.”

Arguments for Taxing Wall Street Trading

CommonDreams.org reports: “‘A Small Tax on Wall Street to Make Big Change’: Bernie Sanders and Barbara Lee Introduce New Financial Transaction Tax.” Also, see: “As 2020 Democrats Cozy Up to Wall Street Donors, Warren and Sanders Refuse to Play Big-Money Game.”

DOUG HENWOOD, dhenwood at panix.com, @DougHenwood
Henwood’s books include Wall Street. He said today: “I’m skeptical of some of the revenue claims made for a financial transactions tax, because if imposed, it would put a damper on hyperactive trading. A lot of computer-driven trading, for example, relies on tiny oddities in market pricing of no economic significance, but which have a great power to destabilize the markets. Taxing those, even at very low rates, would take away all the profit opportunities. But that would be a good thing, like taxing carbon or tobacco: the point isn’t to raise revenue, though some might be raised, but to stomp out noxious things.”

Founder of Left Business Observer, Henwood now blogs at lbo-news.com and hosts the program “Behind the News.”

New Assessments from Leading Scientist Accuse OPCW Leadership of Rigging on Alleged Syrian Chemical Weapons Attacks Used to Justify U.S. Bombings

Today accuracy.org is publishing several detailed analyses of claims by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. These assessments are by Theodore Postol, professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT. The OPCW reports are about alleged chemical weapons attacks by Syria. Those alleged attacks were used to justify bombings of Syria by the U.S., Britain and France.

On Tuesday, the Institute for Public Accuracy released an initial assessment by Postol of recently-revealed documents from the OPCW. Postol stated that these engineering assessments, which he regards at highly professional, and which were notably not made public until recently, show that the alleged April 7, 2018 chemical weapons attacks in Douma “were staged.” These ostensible attacks were used as a justification by the U.S., Britain and France to bomb Syria on April 14, 2018.

Through Tuesday, calls — especially on social media — escalated for there to be media reporting on the recently-revealed OPCW document, as well as Postol’s initial assessment. Then, late Tuesday afternoon, the State Department issued a statement claiming that Syria might use chemical weapons, leading instead to a series of media stories echoing the State Department’s alleged concerns, i.e., New York Times: “U.S. Says Assad May Be Using Chemical Weapons in Syria Again.”

Today, Postol charges that the recently revealed OPCW engineering assessment, which is dated Feb. 27, 2019 — and which Postol describes as highly competent — runs counter to the document the OPCW presented to the UN Security Council on March 1, just a few days later. Said Postol of the document presented by the OPCW: “It contradicts the rigorous engineering assessment — it doesn’t just exclude it as I’d initially thought.” He pointed to several problematic portions of the March 1 document, including sections 2.13, 2.14, 2.15 and 2.17. He also notes a series of technical red flags between the two documents, including the engineering assessment referring to “supposed experts” on page two.

Also today, the Institute for Public Accuracy is releasing a letter Postol sent to the German Foreign Ministry on April 15, 2019, when Germany held the presidency of the UN Security Council.

Postol warned of “misleading information and conclusions” by the OPCW regarding the alleged chemical weapons attack on Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017. This alleged attack was used to justify the first Trump administration bombing targeting the Syrian government, on April 6, 2017. Much reporting on this attack was glowing, such as “63 Hours: From Chemical Attack to Trump’s Strike in Syria” from Michael D. Shear and Michael Gordon at the New York Times.

Postol also provided the three supporting documents, which accuracy.org is making public today; see below.

In his overview letter, Postol stated the reports “contain inaccurate descriptions of primary evidence from satellite imagery, photographs and videos cited by the OPCW. They also cite conclusions and analysis based on physics and phenomenology that are not based on sound scientific principles and show little evidence of real expertise on munitions, explosive effects, and delivery mechanisms. The misleading information and conclusions from these reports led to a pointless exchange of vetoes between Russia and the United States in the UN Security Council on Nov 6, 2017. In addition, the erroneous findings in these reports pose a serious long-term threat to the credibility of the UN and its investigative agencies as enforcers of international law.”

Postol summarizes his supporting documents:

“The first of the three documents is a scientific manuscript titled Computational Forensic Analysis for the Chemical Weapons Attacks at Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, 2017. This manuscript has been accepted for publication by Science and Global Security, a refereed science-based journal published out of Princeton University. The paper has seven authors all of whom are established scientists plus it has been refereed under the supervision of the editors of the journal. The manuscript reports supercomputer calculations that show that the OPCW finding is incorrect that a crater at Khan Sheikhoun was produced by the kinetic impact of a bomb that was the source of a sarin release. The crater was instead produced by the explosion of an improvised artillery rocket warhead. …

The second document attached to this letter is an annotated and highlighted version of the letter of 26 October 2017 transmitted by the Leadership Panel of the OPCW to the UN Security Council. …

“The third critical document is an Attachment to the annotated and highlighted version of the letter of 26 October 2017. The attachment is titled Forensic Evidence Cited by the OPCW that Contradict Its Reported Analysis and Conclusions henceforth referred to as The Attachment.”

Postol noted in his assessment on Tuesday: “I will have a much more detailed summary of the engineering report later this week. For now, it suffices to say that the UN OPCW engineering report is completely different from the UN OPCW report on Khan Sheikhoun, which is distinguished by numerous claims about explosive effects that could only have been made by technically illiterate individuals. In very sharp contrast, the voices that come through the engineering report are those of highly knowledgeable and sophisticated experts.

“A second issue that is raised by the character of the OPCW engineering report on Douma is that it is entirely unmentioned in the report that went to the UN Security Council. This omission is very serious, as the findings of that report are critical to the process of determining attribution. There is absolutely no reason to justify the omission of the engineering report in the OPCW account to the UN Security Council as its policy implications are of extreme importance.”

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