Bernie Sanders Maintains Support Among Delegates

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Three out of four former delegates for Bernie Sanders at the 2016 Democratic National Convention now say he’s their first choice to be the party’s 2020 presidential nominee, while one out of 20 say he isn’t their first choice, according to a recently-released poll conducted in late December by the independent Bernie Delegates Network.

The chair of the California Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus, Karen Bernal, said: “As the standard-bearer of policies finally considered mainstream by the base of our party, the importance of his presence in the upcoming presidential election cycle cannot be overstated — without him, the resistance to oligarchy and the war machine suffers.” Bernal was co-chair of California’s Sanders delegation to the national convention.

“The survey results are a green light for activating our network to advocate for making Senator Sanders the party’s 2020 presidential nominee,” said Norman Solomon, national coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org, who was a Sanders delegate from California and the coordinator of the Bernie Delegates Network at the 2016 convention.

Solomon added: “If there’s a Sanders 2020 presidential campaign, as now appears likely, it’s clear that he can count on support from a large majority of the people who were his delegates at the national convention. These are local leaders and activists who know how to organize effectively in their communities around the country.” Solomon is also executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

The executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, Alan Minsky, said: “These results from the straw poll once again confirm the powerful base of support that Senator Sanders will have if he runs for president in 2020. We, at PDA, have already called upon Senator Sanders to run, as it is essential that his voice be prominent in a presidential election cycle that will address the most pressing issues facing the country and the world at a perilous moment in our history.”

See full news release from the Bernie Delegates Network: “Poll Finds 76 Percent of Bernie Sanders Former Delegates Say He’s ‘First Choice’ for 2020 Nominee; 5 Percent Say He Isn’t.”

The two organizations that sponsored the Bernie Delegates Network in 2016 — Progressive Democrats of America and RootsAction.org — are sponsoring the recently relaunched network.

For interviews, email: berniedelegates at rootsaction.org.

Dirty Populists

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JANINE R. WEDEL, jwedel at gmu.edu, @janinewedel
Wedel is an anthropologist and University Professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. She is author of Unaccountable: How the Establishment Corrupted our Finances, Freedom, and Politics and Created an Outsider Class (2014).

She just wrote the piece “Dirty Populists” which states: “The election left one of the world’s largest countries deeply divided, handing the presidency to a military-loving, minority-bullying, media-bashing firebrand promising to smash a corrupt establishment. I am not talking about the 2016 U.S. presidential election that put Donald Trump in power, but rather the 2018 election in Brazil, won by the so-called Trump of the Tropics, Jair Bolsonaro, who was formally inaugurated on January 1.

“Bolsonaro joins the growing ranks of supposedly transformative leaders — including Trump, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, and de facto Polish leader Jarosław Kaczyński — who won power by railing against the establishment and vowing to end systemic corruption. Will he also join Trump, Orbán, and to a lesser extent Kaczyński, in overseeing the spread of new kinds of corruption, while attempting to reshape governance to entrench his own power?

“Despite repeatedly pledging to ‘drain the swamp,’ Trump has enabled a level of corruption that is arguably unprecedented in American history, affecting large swaths of the federal bureaucracy. He has failed to fill open positions, slashed budgets, bypassed established bureaucratic procedures and protocols, and sidelined diplomats. He has largely spared the military, though here, too, he frequently denigrates his commanders’ expertise in favor of his gut feelings.

“When the state apparatus is eviscerated, governance can become more informal, policy more personalized, executive power more dominant, and loyalty to the leader more important. Trump has installed family members as official and unofficial advisers, placed senior aides in agencies to monitor loyalty, and issued more executive orders in his first year than any president in a half-century.”

Senate Job One: Attack First Amendment Rights of Israel Critics

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Ryan Grim and Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept report: “U.S. Senate’s First Bill, in Midst of Shutdown, is a Bipartisan Defense of the Israeli Government from Boycotts.”

They write: “The bill is a top legislative priority for AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee]. In the previous Congress, that measure was known as S.170, and it gives state and local governments explicit legal authority to boycott any U.S. companies which themselves are participating in a boycott against Israel. As the Intercept reported last month, 26 states now have enacted some version of a law to punish or otherwise sanction entities which participate in or support the boycott of Israel, while similar laws are pending in at least 13 additional states.”

A lead sponsor of the bill is Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio and, The Intercept reports, it is “designed to strengthen the legal basis to defend those Israel-protecting laws from constitutional challenge.

“Punishment aimed at companies which choose to boycott Israel can also sweep up individual American citizens in its punitive net, because individual contractors often work for state or local governments under the auspices of a sole proprietorship or some other business entity. That was the case with Texas elementary school speech pathologist Bahia Amawi, who lost her job working with autistic and speech-impaired children in Austin because she refused to promise not to boycott goods produced in Israel and/or illegal Israeli settlements. …

“With the seven Democratic co-sponsors, the bill would have the 60 votes it needs to overcome a filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — who supported Sen. [Ben] Cardin’s far more draconian bill of last year and is one of the Senate’s most reliable AIPAC loyalists — also plans to support the Rubio bill, rather than whip votes against it, sources working on the bill said. Schumer’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders cited The Intercept piece and tweeted on Sunday: “It’s absurd that the first bill during the shutdown is legislation which punishes Americans who exercise their constitutional right to engage in political activity. Democrats must block consideration of any bills that don’t reopen the government. Let’s get our priorities right.”

The ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Kathleen Ruane issued a statement: “In the midst of a partial government shutdown, Democratic and Republican senators have decided that one of their first orders of business next week should be to sneak through a bill that would weaken Americans’ First Amendment protections. The bill, Combatting BDS Act, encourages states to adopt the very same anti-boycott laws that two federal courts blocked on First Amendment grounds. The legislation, like the unconstitutional state anti-boycott laws it condones, sends a message to Americans that they will be penalized if they dare to disagree with their government.”

See Sunday MSNBC interview with Arkansas Times publisher Alan Leveritt, who is being represented by the ACLU in a suit against such anti-BDS legislation. He asks: “Why should an American citizen have to take a position in favor of the foreign policy of a foreign government just so it can do business with its own government?” [See “Arkansas Times challenges law that requires state contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel in federal court.”]

JOSH RUEBNER, josh at uscpr.org, @joshruebner
Policy director of the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Ruebner has been following such legislation and wrote the piece “Americans have a constitutional right to boycott Israel.” Also see the group’s resource page: “Oppose the Israel Anti-Boycott Act.”

Scrutinizing Trump, and Pelosi and Schumer on Border

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TODD MILLER, toddmemomiller at gmail.com, @memomiller
Miller’s latest book is Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security. He said today: “Despite President Donald Trump’s insistence that we not reopen the federal government until his administration receives billions for a ‘border wall,’ not another cent should be dedicated to the enforcement regime that is in place on the U.S. border with Mexico. There is already the most massive concentration of agents and resources that we have ever seen in the history of the United States. There are already 650 miles of walls and barriers, high-powered cameras and radar, thousands of implanted motion sensors, and drones.

“Since the Bill Clinton administration’s initiation of Operation Gatekeeper in 1994, Border Patrol agents have increased from 4,000 to almost 21,000 (mostly on the southern divide), and annual budgets for border and immigration enforcement have gone from $1.5 billion in 1994 to $23 billion in 2018 (if you combine Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

“While it is true that the Trump administration is attempting to bring border fortification to new levels, make no mistake — it has long been bipartisan — from Clinton to Bush to Obama. And throughout those administrations, it has long been violent, nearly 8,000 corpses of crossers found in the borderlands since 1994, 2.5 million forcibly expelled from the country just under the Obama administration, 40,000 imprisoned administratively on any given day, untold thousands of children separated from their parents.

“The border enforcement apparatus needs to be reduced, not enhanced. This means no more wall funding to Trump and no more surveillance technologies to the border as Democratic leadership such as Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Shumer insist. They both amount to the same thing: a reinforcement of an apparatus of exclusion. The issue of people arriving to our border is correctly a ‘humanitarian’ one, and they need to be treated like refugees, not criminals. A long-term answer to this from a U.S. policy perspective requires a much more holistic conversation — which includes an honest discussion of free trade and neoliberal economic policies in Central America, the impacts of the U.S. sponsored drug war in the region, and climate change.”

Miller’s previous books include Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Homeland Security.

Is Threat of Emergency Powers to Override Power of the Purse Impeachable?

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The Washington Post reports: “Trump administration lays groundwork to declare national emergency to build wall.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He was legal adviser to Rep. Henry B. González when he released classified material on the House floor in 1992 in an attempt to impeach George H. W. Bush following the start of the the Gulf War and wrote the first draft of the Gonzalez Impeachment Resolution. Bush would later write in his memoirs that if the Gulf War “drags out, not only will I take the blame, but I will probably have impeachment proceedings filed against me.”

Boyle said today: “While establishment Democrats are eyeing various legal challenges to the possibility that Trump will declare a national emergency to get around Congress not agreeing on as much funding for a border wall as he would like, the most direct remedy is impeachment. A Bill of Impeachment could consist of articles including for (1) violating Article 1, Section 7 of the United States Constitution: ‘All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives…’ (2) Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution: ‘No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law…’ (3) It also violates the Federal Anti-Deficiency Statute. This could be initiated on Tuesday when the House reconvenes. All you need is one brave member of the House of Representatives to meaningfully assert that body’s Power of the Purse. Trump’s indications that he will override that legislative power and the seeming acquiescence by some Democrats is illegitimate and dangerous.”

RootsAction.org just released an alert: “Donald Trump has no Constitutional right to spend money that has been appropriated for something else … Click here to ask your Congress member to let Trump know that they will back impeachment if he declares a ‘national emergency.'” The group reports that 8,000 people have already done so.

As Bush AG, Trump Nominee Barr Approved Cover-up Pardons

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Trump’s Attorney General nominee William Barr is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. It is scheduled to continue through Wednesday.

DENNIS BERNSTEIN, dennisjbernstein at gmail.com, @flashpointsnews
Host of the award-winning “Flashpoints News Magazine” on Pacifica Radio, Bernstein covered the Iran-Contra scandal extensively. At the time, he was co-host of the program “Undercurrents” and his writings on the subject were published in NewsdaySpin and other outlets.He said today: “Many have speculated about Trump using the power of the pardon to help cover up his own criminal activity. That is exactly what Barr advised and supported regarding the pardoning of the key Iran-Contra criminals, who threw the Constitution in the garbage and conspired with drug traffickers and terrorists to overthrow the Sandinista government throughout the 1980’s.”Indeed, there’s been far too little attention paid to Barr’s actual record while attorney general in 1992, when he approved of then-President George H. W. Bush’s pardons of Iran-Contra criminals Caspar Weinberger, Elliott Abrams and Robert C. McFarlane. Barr also worked at a time for the CIA, including while Bush was CIA director.

“The Iran side of the Iran-Contra affair also involved, among other things, the Reagan-Bush administration trading missile sales to Iran for U.S. hostages, and using the proceeds of those arms sales to fund anti-Sandinista Contras in Central America — in violation of U.S. law. It was also tied into the narco drug trade and even plans by Oliver North to suspend altogether the U.S. Constitution — what they called ‘Continuity of Government.’

“It’s remarkable that Barr is up for attorney general again after helping facilitate the massive criminality of the Iran-Contra scandal.

“Sen. Leahy raised the issue briefly Tuesday morning with Barr, correctly noting that the independent investigator, Lawrence Walsh, called the pardons a ‘cover-up’ but, but Leahy didn’t actually ask about those pardons. In response to a question from Leahy, ‘Do you believe a President could lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient’s promise to not incriminate him?’ Barr responded: ‘No. That would be a crime.’ But does that have to be an explicit promise? How would he characterize what happened with Iran-Contra?”

Background: Consortium News founder Robert Parry, who broke much of the Iran-Contra story would later write in “Firewall: Inside the Iran-Contra Cover-up“: “The Republican independent counsel [Lawrence Walsh] infuriated the GOP when he submitted a second indictment of Weinberger on the Friday before the 1992 elections. The indictment 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. The ensuing furor dominated the last several days of the campaign and sealed Bush’s defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton.

“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 probe once and for all by pardoning Weinberger and five other convicted or indicted defendants.

“’George Bush’s misuse of the pardon power made the cover-up complete,’ Walsh wrote.”

See Walsh’s book Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-Up.

How Education and Healthcare Create More Jobs Than Military Spending

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HEIDI PELTIER, hrpeltier at gmail.com
Peltier is a research fellow at the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research focuses on the employment impacts of public and private investments.

She said today: “Amid this government shut down and as teachers are striking in Los Angeles and President Trump has touted the importance of military spending, it’s important to keep an eye on what different forms of spending actually do, including how many jobs they create.”

Peltier’s papers include “Job Opportunity Cost of War,” which states: “Increased military spending is often seen as a politically favorable strategy, since the military industrial complex is spread throughout many parts of the United States, and many Congresspeople want to earmark or protect spending for their constituents. Moreover, war spending is generally thought of as a way to increase employment — to create jobs not only in the military itself but also in the industries that supply goods and services to the military, for instance the manufacturers who produce weapons and uniforms….

“Education and healthcare create more than twice as many jobs as defense for the same level of spending, while clean energy and infrastructure create over 40 percent more jobs. In fact, over the past 16 years, by spending money on war rather than in these other areas of the domestic economy, the U.S. lost the opportunity to create between one million and three million additional jobs. …

“Each $1 million of spending on defense creates 5.8 jobs directly in defense industries and 1.1 jobs in the supply chain, for a total of 6.9 jobs per $1 million of federal defense spending. … Education creates up to nearly three times as many jobs as defense spending, particularly for elementary and secondary education. The employment multipliers for these domestic programs are 14.3 for healthcare, 19.2 for primary and secondary education, and 11.2 for higher education; the average figure for education is 15.2 jobs per $1 million spending.”

Floyd Abrams: Barr’s Stance “Deeply Threatening to First Amendment”

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At confirmation hearings on Tuesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar asked Attorney General nominee William Barr: “Will the Justice Department jail reporters for doing their jobs?”

Barr responded: “I think that, you know, I know there are guidelines in place. And I can conceive of situations where, you know, as a last resort and where a news organization has run through a red flag or something like that, knows that they’re putting out stuff that will hurt the country — there could be a situation where someone could be held in contempt.”

Today, Floyd Abrams, author of The Soul of the First Amendment provided the Institute for Public Accuracy with a statement responding to Barr:

“It’s one thing to say that there could be circumstances in which a journalist’s need to protect her sources could lead to a potential finding of contempt of court if she refused to obey a court order requiring such disclosure. But the notion that a journalist could properly be jailed for publishing material that the government thinks could ‘hurt the country’ is something else entirely and would be deeply threatening to First Amendment norms in general and journalistic freedom in particular.”

Abrams has litigated a host of critical First Amendment cases, including representing The New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case.

Russiagate Frenzy “Threatens to End Superpower Diplomacy”

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STEPHEN F. COHEN, sfc1 at nyu.edu, and via Caitlin Graf, caitlin at thenation.com
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Cohen is professor emeritus at New York University and Princeton University.

He is author of the just-released book War with Russia? From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate. He just wrote “Anti-Trump Frenzy Threatens to End Superpower Diplomacy” for The Nation: “Why the frenzy now? Perhaps because Russiagate promoters in high places are concerned that special counsel Robert Mueller will not produce the hoped-for ‘bombshell’ to end Trump’s presidency. Certainly, New York Times columnist David Leonhardt seems worried, demanding, ‘The president must go,’ his drop line exhorting, ‘What are we waiting for?’ …

“One of The New York Times’ own recent ‘bombshells,’ published on January 12, reported, for example, that in spring 2017, FBI officials ‘began investigating whether [President Trump] had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.’ None of the three reporters bothered to point out that those ‘agents and officials’ almost certainly included ones later reprimanded and retired by the FBI itself for their political biases. (As usual, the Times buried its self-protective disclaimer deep in the story: ‘No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.’)

“In preparing U.S.-Russian (Soviet and post-Soviet) summits since the 1950s, aides on both sides have arranged ‘private time’ for their bosses for two essential reasons: so they can develop sufficient personal rapport to sustain any policy partnership they decide on; and so they can alert one another to constraints on their policy powers at home, to foes of such détente policies often centered in their respective intelligence agencies. (The KGB ran operations against Nikita Khrushchev’s détente policies with Eisenhower, and, as is well established, U.S. intelligence agencies have run operations against Trump’s proclaimed goal of ‘cooperation with Russia.’)

That is, in the modern history of U.S.-Russian summits, we are told by a former American ambassador who knows, the ‘secrecy of presidential private meetings…has been the rule, not the exception.’ He continues, ‘There’s nothing unusual about withholding information from the bureaucracy about the president’s private meetings with foreign leaders…. Sometimes they would dictate a memo afterward, sometimes not.’ Indeed, President Richard Nixon, distrustful of the U.S. ‘bureaucracy,’ sometimes met privately with Kremlin leader Leonid Brezhnev while only Brezhnev’s translator was present.

“Nor should we forget the national-security benefits that have come from private meetings between U.S. and Kremlin leaders. In February 1986, President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, meeting alone with their translators, decided that all nuclear weapons should be abolished. The result, in 1987, was the first and still only treaty abolishing an entire category of such weapons, the exceedingly dangerous intermediate-range ones. (This is the historic treaty Trump has said he may abrogate.)

“And yet, congressional zealots are now threatening to subpoena the American translator who was present during Trump’s meetings with Putin. If this recklessness prevails, it will be the end of the nuclear-superpower summit diplomacy that has helped to keep America and the world safe from catastrophic war for nearly 70 years — and as a new, more perilous nuclear arms race between the two countries is unfolding.”

This commentary is based on the most recent of Cohen’s weekly discussions of the new U.S.-Russian Cold War with the host of the John Batchelor radio show. Cohen’s previous books include Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War.

Teachers’ Strike and PR Campaign Against Them

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ISABEL NUNEZ, nunezi at pfw.edu
Nunez is professor and director of the School of Education at Purdue University, Fort Wayne. She is the co-author of Worth Striking For: Why Education Policy Is Every Teacher’s Concern (Lessons from Chicago).

She just wrote a piece about the teachers’ strike in Los Angeles, where she began her teaching over 20 years ago: “When Alex Caputo-Pearl was elected the president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) in 2014, I knew that children, families, and communities would soon have a newly energized and empowered defender in the teachers union. Today, as a Los Angeles native and a supporter of public schools and their teachers, I am on the edge of my office chair following the news of the first strike by L.A. Unified School District teachers in 30 years.

“Caputo-Pearl’s election was part of a nationwide wave of teacher activism and movement building that hit closest to my then-home in the Chicago teachers’ strike of 2012. After witnessing a decade-plus of destructive educational policy making, teacher deskilling and disempowering, and inroads to school privatization, I felt like the Chicago teachers strike saved my life. The Chicago Teachers Union under President Karen Lewis led a united teaching force in a labor action that was supported by a majority of the residents of the city — and a bigger majority of Chicago Public School parents. The strike taught me that resistance to the neoliberal project in education is possible. … The wave of activism in teachers is not losing momentum, as evidenced by the past year’s statewide actions by teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Colorado, and Arizona.

“However, teachers aren’t the only ones learning these lessons. Significantly resourced pro-privatization forces in Los Angeles spent nearly $10 million to elect a market-friendly Board of Education and have been waging a strategic public opinion battle to frame the striking teachers as selfish and out for their own gain. In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel had the advantage of being able to appoint the members of the Chicago school board, in addition to highly supportive media outlets. The L.A. Unified School District should be forewarned that the Chicago Teachers Union emerged victorious from that fight nevertheless.”

Nunez is also the co-editor of Diving In: Bill Ayers and the Art of Teaching into the Contradiction.

MLK and the Silence on Palestine

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Michelle Alexander, a New York Times columnist and author of The New Jim Crow, over the weekend wrote the piece “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine:Martin Luther King Jr. courageously spoke out about the Vietnam War. We must do the same when it comes to this grave injustice of our time.”

Wrote Alexander: “On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his assassination, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped up to the lectern at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. …King … said, ‘I come to this magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice.’ Quoting a statement by the Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, he said, ‘A time comes when silence is betrayal’ and added, ‘that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam.’ …

“It was a lonely, moral stance. And it cost him. But it set an example of what is required of us if we are to honor our deepest values in times of crisis, even when silence would better serve our personal interests or the communities and causes we hold most dear. It’s what I think about when I go over the excuses and rationalizations that have kept me largely silent on one of the great moral challenges of our time: the crisis in Israel-Palestine.

“I have not been alone. Until very recently, the entire Congress has remained mostly silent on the human rights nightmare that has unfolded in the occupied territories. Our elected representatives, who operate in a political environment where Israel’s political lobby holds well-documented power, have consistently minimized and deflected criticism of the State of Israel, even as it has grown more emboldened in its occupation of Palestinian territory and adopted some practices reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow segregation in the United States.

“Many civil rights activists and organizations have remained silent as well, not because they lack concern or sympathy for the Palestinian people, but because they fear loss of funding from foundations, and false charges of anti-Semitism. They worry, as I once did, that their important social justice work will be compromised or discredited by smear campaigns.

“Similarly, many students are fearful of expressing support for Palestinian rights because of the McCarthyite tactics of secret organizations like Canary Mission, which blacklists those who publicly dare to support boycotts against Israel, jeopardizing their employment prospects and future careers. …

“Just as King received fierce, overwhelming criticism for his speech condemning the Vietnam War — 168 major newspapers, including The Times, denounced the address the following day — those who speak publicly in support of the liberation of the Palestinian people still risk condemnation and backlash. Bahia Amawi, an American speech pathologist of Palestinian descent, was recently terminated for refusing to sign a contract that contains an anti-boycott pledge stating that she does not, and will not, participate in boycotting the State of Israel.

“In November, Marc Lamont Hill was fired from CNN for giving a speech in support of Palestinian rights that was grossly misinterpreted as expressing support for violence. … And just over a week ago, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama, apparently under pressure mainly from segments of the Jewish community and others, rescinded an honor it bestowed upon the civil rights icon Angela Davis, who has been a vocal critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and supports B.D.S. [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions].”

MICHAEL FISCHBACH, mfischba at rmc.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Fischbach is professor of history at Randolph-Macon College and author of the just-released book Black Power and Palestine from Stanford University Press. He recently wrote the piece “The Firing of Marc Lamont Hill Raises This Question” for History News Network.

See just-released “Open Letter to the Leadership of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Support of Dr. Angela Y. Davis,” initiated by the Scholars for Social Justice, a “new national network of progressive scholar-activists.” A contingent of the group will “travel to Birmingham, Alabama on February 16th to participate in an alternative ceremony to honor Angela Y. Davis organized by local activists and officials in the city.”

Is Venezuelan Opposition Aiming for “Ungovernablity”?

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The New York Times reports: “Pence Tells Venezuelans That U.S. Backs Efforts to Oust Maduro.”

MIGUEL TINKER SALAS, mrt04747 at pomona.edu, at mtinkersalas
Tinker Salas is author of Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press). He is professor of history and Latin American studies at Pomona College; his previous books include The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela.

He said today: “The issue for Venezuela is how to create the context to reconcile differences, recognize the existence of the other and avoid a crisis of ungovernability.

“Even if there were elections tomorrow, it is unlikely that the loosing side would recognize the outcome, and we would face yet another political crisis. The Chavistas will not disappear and neither will the opposition.

“Each group needs to recognize the existence of the other and avoid a much larger crisis.

“Unfortunately, elements of Venezuelan opposition have given up on an internal strategy to achieve political change in Venezuela.

“They now rely on foreign pressure and potentially foreign intervention hoping that rightwing governments  such as  Brazil, Colombia or Argentina can oust the Maduro government. This strategy will backfire with the majority of the Venezuelan population who are against a foreign intervention.

“The Trump administration’s increased sanctions have inflicted real pain on the local population.”

In Pro-NATO Vote, Did Dems Ditch Medicare for All “Gold Standard” HR 676?

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Russell Mokhber just wrote the piece “Single Payer Gold Standard HR 676 Rest in Peace,” published by CommonDreams.

He writes: “HR 676, the gold standard single payer legislation for the past sixteen years, is no longer.

“The House Democrats have decided that their single payer Medicare for All bill will not carry the HR 676 number.

“They let that number go this week to a bill that reiterates ‘the support of the Congress of the United States for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).’

“Some in the single payer movement see the abandonment of HR 676 as a betrayal of years of grassroots activism, activism that drew 124 co-sponsors to HR 676 in the House last year.

“Now, with Democrats in charge of the House, the Medicare for All single payer bill is being rewritten, watered down and renumbered.”

Mokhiber reports Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) is writing a new bill “behind closed doors.” Last month, he wrote the piece “Advocates Call on Jayapal to Release Draft Text of House Single Payer Bill.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @H_O_P4E

Flowers is with Health Over Profit for Everyone and said today: “Now that the Democrats can no longer ignore that their base is demanding a single payer health system, we have lost both HR 676 by number and its status as the gold standard. From what we have heard, as we have still not seen the text of the draft as promised, the new health bill being written by Jayapal has an unnecessarily long transition period and maintains the for-profit providers in the system. The delayed transition means more preventable deaths and suffering. Keeping the for-profits means higher costs and lower quality of care.”

On Venezuela, Trump “Clear Violation” of International Law

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President Donald Trump recognized Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition as the interim president of Venezuela on Wednesday. Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro announced he was breaking off diplomatic ties with the United States.

See IPA Twitter list on Venezuela for updates.

MIGUEL TINKER SALAS, mrt04747 at pomona.edu, @mtinkersalas

Tinker Salas is author of Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press). He is professor of history and Latin American studies at Pomona College; his previous books include The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela.

He said today that the U.S. government’s actions were a “clear violation of the UN Charter and multiple international treaties.

“It is preposterous to suggest that the president of the U.S., Brazil or Colombia should dictate who should hold power in Venezuela. That is a decision to be determined solely by the people of Venezuela.”

He appeared on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release on Tuesday: “Is Venezuelan Opposition Aiming for ‘Ungovernablity’?

UN Charter reads in article 2(4): “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

Organization of American States Charter:

Article 19: “No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. The foregoing principle prohibits not only armed force but also any other form of interference or attempted threat against the personality of the State or against its political, economic, and cultural elements.”

Article 20: “No State may use or encourage the use of coercive measures of an economic or political character in order to force the sovereign will of another State and obtain from it advantages of any kind.”

“Attempted Coup” in Venezuela

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Thursday morning, former U.N. independent expert Alfred de Zayas called what is happening in Venezuela an “attempted coup.” (On the program “Democracy Now!”)

See IPA Twitter list on Venezuela for updates.

JOE EMERSBERGER, jemersberger at aol.com, @rosendo_joe
Emersberger has written extensively on Venezuela for the media watch group FAIR — see his pieces including “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.” He has also written for Z magazine: “Amnesty International Replied to Questions about Venezuela.”

Among his recent tweets: “Maduro is democratically elected but it does very little to defend a country against a U.S.-backed coup or economic assault. If you aren’t a dictator the Empire’s propaganda apparatus will simply declare you one or otherwise smear you to facilitate U.S. aggression.”

“We are coming up on the 15 year anniversary of the US-perpetrated coup in Haiti that took place on February 29 of 2004. U.S. troops kidnapped the democratically elected president Aristide. Canada and France helped out to provide cover for the widely loathed ‘W’ Bush in 2004.”

“In her book, Hilary Clinton boasted of her role in rendering ‘moot’ the return to office of the democratically elected Honduran President Manuel Zelaya who was ousted in a military coup in 2009.”

“And of course the only time Venezuela really did a have a dictatorship in the last 20 years (for two days under Pedro Carmona in 2002) the Bush administration, New York Times editorial board, and IMF all made it crystal clear that they were delighted with it.”

Background: See Bill Blum, author of The CIA: A Forgotten History and other books, piece: “Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List.”

Jerry Brown: Democrats’ Posture on Putin is “Stupid”

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Former California Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday stated: “I think it is stupid for Democrats to be attacking Putin on all issues and not holding open the channel of nuclear dialogue.”

His comments were made at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock unveiling at the National Press Club. Brown is executive chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

He continued: “Yes, deal with the issues in Syria, and killing diplomats, and Ukraine, and Crimea and all the rest of that, but that doesn’t warrant a nuclear blunder that kills billions of people, or millions. So yes, whether you’re a Democrat, a Republican, or somewhere in between, we need to have dialogue. And something that might help is a bit of humility. Yes, the Russians have plenty of faults, and sins I might even say, but we too have to look in the mirror and see ourselves, and we’re not perfect. So, in an imperfect world with imperfect human beings, the only path forward is dialogue. Dialogue about the most important threat facing humanity. So yes, knock it off guys, and ladies. Let’s talk to Putin. Let’s talk to anybody else who can do the kind of damage that you’re hearing about from this panel of nuclear scientists.” [See video]

STEPHEN F. COHEN, sfc1 at nyu.edu, and via Caitlin Graf, caitlin at thenation.com
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Cohen is professor emeritus at New York University and Princeton University. He is author of the just-released book War with Russia? From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate. His recent pieces include “Anti-Trump Frenzy Threatens to End Superpower Diplomacy” and “The End of Russia’s ‘Democratic Illusions’ About America” for The Nation.

Brown made his comments in response to a question about Russiagate posed by Sam Husseini, contributing writer to The Nation and senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Venezuela Intervention: Pretexts and Solutions

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FRANCIS BOYLE,fboyle at illinois.edu
Secretary of State Pompeo has announced he is going to New York for a UN Security Council meeting Saturday regarding Venezuela. Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He said today: “The U.S. government refusing to withdraw its officials from Venezuela may well set up a pretext for further intervention or blockade.” Boyle’s books include Foundations of World Order (Duke University Press).

ALEX MAIN, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @ceprdc
Director of international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Main was recently interviewed on FAIR’s program “CounterSpin”: “U.S. Administrations Have Been Intervening in Venezuela Since at Least the Early 2000s.”

In a new segment with The Real News, “The U.S. Strategy for Regime Change in Venezuela,” Main states: “The case of Cuba is sort of emblematic of how Latin American governments both on the right and the left have been very much opposed to the U.S. strategy of regime change in Cuba for a very long time. … Venezuela is not just an outlier in political terms in the region now, but is a country that represents a real threat to the right regionally, to the extent that if they recover economically, if oil prices go up again, it can become once again a regional powerhouse as it was under Chavez.”

STEVE ELLNER, sellner74 at gmail.com, @sellner74
Ellner lives in Venezuela and is currently in the Washington, D.C. area. He is associate managing editor of Latin American Perspectives and is the editor of The Pink Tide Experiences: Breakthroughs and Shortcomings in Twenty-First Century Latin America. He appeared this morning on the program “Democracy Now!” He signed the statement: “An Open Letter to the United States: Stop Interfering in Venezuela’s Internal Politics.”

He said today: “Obama issued an executive order calling Venezuela a threat to U.S. national security and created a list of Venezuelan officials who were sanctioned. The Trump administration’s escalation included financial sanctions against the Venezuelan government and measures against the nation’s oil industry. In addition, top administration officials have played an openly activist role by traveling throughout the continent to promote the campaign to isolate Venezuela. …

“When Secretary of State Pompeo offered $20 million of ‘humanitarian assistance’ to the Venezuelan population. Many Venezuelans see this as humiliating and nothing short of a bribe designed to pressure the country into submission. …

“Never since the Cuban revolution, has the U.S. government played such an overtly activist role throughout the continent in favor of the isolation of a government that is not to its liking. In the process it has further polarized Venezuela and the continent as a whole. The moderates in the Venezuelan opposition, including two former presidential candidates of the two main traditional parties, Claudio Fermín and Eduardo Fernández, have favored electoral participation and recognition of the legitimacy of the Maduro government. Washington’s actions pull the rug from under the moderates and strengthen the hands of the extremists in the opposition. …

“But just as there are moderates in the Venezuelan opposition who support dialogue, which the mainstream media have pretty much ignored, there are moderates in the international community who are also in favor of dialogue. These figures include Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Pope Francis, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, and the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights and ex-president of Chile Michelle Bachelet.”

See IPA Twitter list on Venezuela for updates.

Rep. Ro Khanna‏ tweeted: “Let me get this straight. The U.S. is sanctioning Venezuela for their lack of democracy but not Saudi Arabia? …” Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: “The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela. Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders — so we have to stop trying to choose theirs.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar: “A U.S.-backed coup in Venezuela is not a solution to the dire issues they face. Trump’s efforts to install a far right opposition will only incite violence and further destabilize the region. We must support Mexico, Uruguay & the Vatican’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue.”

Will Elliott Abrams, “Abettor of Genocide,” do to Venezuela What he did to Guatemala?

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On Friday afternoon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo named Elliott Abrams to “lead our efforts on Venezuela” as that country is threatened by civil war. On Saturday, after making remarks to the UN Security Council about Venezuela, Pompeo vacated his chair and Elliott Abrams took over as representing the U.S. government, sparring with the Russian representative and others. (Partial textfull video).

Among the highlights of Abrams’ career: He was found guilty in the Iran-Contra scandal, and then got what prosecutor Lawrence Walsh called a “cover-up” pardon from George H.W. Bush. The pardon was approved by Bush’s attorney general, William Barr (who is also Trump’s current nominee for attorney general).

Abrams was a leading U.S. backer of right-wing forces during the 1980s in Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, resulting in tens of thousands killed in 1982 in Guatemala alone. See from the Guardian last year: “Guatemala: ex-military officers convicted of crimes against humanity.”

Abrams was George W. Bush’s point man in the 2007 U.S.-backed coup by Israeli-allied pro-Mahmoud Abbas militias against the elected Palestinian Hamas-led authority, leading to the division of West Bank and Gaza. See from Vanity Fair: “The Gaza Bombshell.”

ALLAN NAIRN, allan.nairn at yahoo.org, @AllanNairn14
Currently in Indonesia, Nairn is available for a limited number of interviews. He is a noted independent journalist. On an appearance with Elliott Abrams in 1995 on the program “Charlie Rose,” he accused Abrams of crimes against humanity — see video posted on Twitter on Friday which has been viewed over 400,000 times; now on YouTube with transcript. Also see interview with Nairn on the program “Intercepted” with Jeremy Scahill.

Nairn recently tweeted: “Elliott Abrams does indeed represent longstanding U.S. policy. The problem is that that policy is to be willing to abet genocide, as the U.S. did in Guatemala (under Abrams), as a Guatemalan court ruled last September after hearing evidence in a genocide trial in which I testified.”

“Last September 26 a Guatemalan court ruled that the U.S. policy pushed by officials like Elliott Abrams was behind the rapes, tortures, & mass murders of indigenous people, which they formally determined to constitute ‘genocide.'”

“Elliott Abrams, who dismissed as ‘ludicrous’ the idea that even he should be subject to trial for abetting massacres, may now be in position to do for Venezuela what he did for Guatemala.”

“If Trump really wanted to stop the Guatemalan and Honduran refugees, he’d stop propping up the thieving, repressive presidents (@jimmymoralesgt [Guatemala], @JuanOrlandoH [Honduras]) who are compelling them to flee in the first place. #TrumpAddress #TheWall”

“The U.S. doesn’t care about elections or the poor. In ’02 they tried a coup v the cleanly-reelected Chavez even as his govt was improving health, nutrition, living standards. But now, as Maduro runs the country into the ground, the U.S. is salivating at the chance to resume pulling the strings.”

Kamala Harris: “More AIPAC Than J Street”

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Al-Jazeera reports: “U.S. Senate advances controversial anti-BDS legislation” — see Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Senate Job One: Attack First Amendment Rights of Israel Critics.”

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes
Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco. He just wrote the piece “‘More AIPAC Than J Street’: Kamala Harris Runs to the Right on Foreign Policy” for Foreign Policy In Focus.

Zunes writes that Kamala Harris “is being embraced by many progressive Democrats, and she’s branding herself as a progressive. Yet in the course of her little more than two years in the U.S. Senate, she’s taken some foreign policy positions that should give pause to supporters of human rights and international law.

“In her very first foreign policy vote in January 2017, for instance, Harris sided with President Trump in criticizing the outgoing President Obama’s refusal to veto an otherwise-unanimous, very modest, and largely symbolic UN Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements. Among other things, that resolution reiterated previous Security Council calls for Israel to stop expanding its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, which violate the Fourth Geneva Convention and a landmark ruling by the International Court of Justice. …

“While most Democrats today ally more with the moderate pro-Israel group J Street rather than the hardline AIPAC, which has generally backed Republicans in recent years, Harris has been virtually the only Democrat to appear before the right-wing pro-Netanyahu organization each year since being elected to the Senate. Indeed, as the Jewish Telegraph Agency observed, her record demonstrates that ‘She’s more AIPAC than J Street.’

“It is not unusual for otherwise progressive members of Congress to have a blind spot when it comes to Israel and Palestine. However, Harris’ views are not only particularly extreme and dangerous, but may be indicative of a wider contempt for human rights and international law in her foreign policy views overall. …

“She’s accused campaigns supporting boycotts and divestment targeting the Israeli occupation of anti-Semitism, and she claims that efforts in the United Nations to pressure the Netanyahu government to end its violations of international humanitarian law are actually designed to ‘delegitimize Israel.’ She even signed a letter criticizing the United Nations and its agencies for such efforts which commended Trump’s former UN Ambassador Nicki Haley’s attacks on the world body.”

“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.”

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? …”

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.

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

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.”

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.

Rep. Omar and the Truth About AIPAC

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ALI ABUNIMAH, director at electronicintifada.net, @AliAbunimah
Abunimah wrote the piece “Ilhan Omar under attack for telling truth about Israel lobby.” He is co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, which recently released the documentary “The Lobby,” a four-part undercover investigation into Israel’s covert influence campaign in the United States. The documentary was produced by Al Jazeera, but it was censored after Qatar, the gas-rich Gulf emirate that funds Al Jazeera, came under intense Israel lobby pressure not to air the film. See “Watch the film the Israel lobby didn’t want you to see.”

He said today: “Rep. Ilhan Omar apologized under pressure for supposedly using ‘anti-Semitic tropes’ to criticize the powerful Israel lobby group AIPAC. But the apology was entirely unnecessary. Omar said nothing anti-Semitic, yet the new member of Congress was unable to stand alone against the racist, Islamophobic smear campaign targeting her, not just from the usual quarters — the Republicans and the far right — but from her own party leadership, starting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Despite that ‘apology,’ Omar is standing by her call for a public discussion of the role of AIPAC in U.S. politics, a taboo subject the bipartisan establishment is desperate to avoid.” Abunimah’s books include One Country and The Battle for Justice in Palestine.

[See Twitter thread from Lara Friedman: “Over 15+ yrs working the Hill on Israel-related issues from a non-AIPAC point of view, members/staff (both parties) told me over & over that they agreed with me but didn’t dare say so publicly for fear of repercussions from AIPAC et al. …”]

ABBA SOLOMON, abbasolomon at gmail.com, @Abba_A_Solomon
Solomon is author of The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech “The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.” Solomon said today: “When ‘anti-Semitic tropes’ match with facts, there is a dilemma. Is it possible that it is anti-Semitic to tell the facts of the case of Israeli and Zionist co-option of United States legislators and executive branch? The annual AIPAC Policy Conference has featured astounding numbers of American legislators and cabinet members making obeisance to Israel. The charitable interpretation is that principle drives this behavior. The human Palestinian experience has a difficult time being heard in the halls of the U.S. government in these circumstances, when reward and punishment is well-organized to enforce Israeli ends. The upcoming AIPAC extravaganza is scheduled March 24-26 this year at Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.”

SAM HUSSEINI, sam at accuracy.org, @samhusseini
Senior analyst with the Institute for Public Accuracy, Husseini said: “I can see the case for Rep. Omar offering an apology, but a very different one than what she did. It’s shallow to simply reduce U.S. government support for Israel to money to members of Congress or AIPAC, but it’s ridiculous to pretend it’s not a major factor. As Grant Smith has noted, the U.S. government could have effectively marginalized AIPAC by declaring it a foreign agent at any point since it was a project of the American Zionist Council in the 1960s. It didn’t and Israel’s influence on the U.S. now far exceeds that of Russia, despite the current obsessions of many. The U.S. government’s backing of Israel more than anything has to do with geopolitics, most obviously Israel effectively crushing Arab nationalism in 1967, preventing the development of the region along lines remotely responsive to the people of the region. Noam Chomsky has argued that ultimately the tie is based on the settler colonial nature of the two states. Some ask why we can talk about the influence of the NRA and not AIPAC and it’s a good question, but also ironic since talking about the NRA, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz has argued, similarly distracts from the settler origins of the Second Amendment.”

U.S. Government Propaganda on Venezuela

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In the just released “Intercepted” podcast “Neoliberalism or Death: The U.S. Economic War Against Venezuela,” Jeremy Scahill interviews former UN expert Alfred de Zayas, Venezuela’s Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Ron and others. The program also offers a short segment with Sam Husseini (senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy) attempting to question convicted felon Elliott Abrams, now special envoy on Venezuela for the Trump administration. Abrams is testifying before Congress Wednesday morning. He plead guilty to lying to Congress as part of the Iran-Contra scandal and received what prosecutor Lawrence Walsh called a “cover-up” pardon from George H.W. Bush after he lost the 1992 election. The pardon was approved by Bush’s attorney general, William Barr — who is also now Trump’s current nominee for attorney general. See @accuracy Twitter feed on Venezuela.

A bill to “prohibit the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities with respect to Venezuela” has received virtually no media attention.

STEVE ELLNER, sellner74 at gmail.com, @sellner74
Ellner lives in Venezuela and is currently in the U.S. He just wrote the piece “Regime Change ‘Made in the U.S.A.’“: “Since its outset, the Trump administration has ratcheted up pressure on Venezuela and radicalized its positions. In the process, the Venezuelan opposition has become more and more associated with — and dependent on — Washington and its allies.” Ellner is associate managing editor of Latin American Perspectives and is the editor of The Pink Tide Experiences: Breakthroughs and Shortcomings in Twenty-First Century Latin America.

ALAN MACLEOD, alanmacleod11 at gmail.com, @AlanRMacLeod
MacLeod is author of Bad News From Venezuela: 20 Years of Fake News and Misreporting, which was published by Routledge in April. A member of the Glasgow University Media Group, he has written a number of pieces for the media watch group FAIR recently, including “‘Venezuela’: Media’s One-Word Rebuttal to the Threat of Socialism,” “The ‘Venezuelan People’ Are Whoever Agrees With Donald Trump” and “‘Resistance’ Media Side With Trump to Promote Coup in Venezuela.”

FAIR also recently published the pieces “Western Media Fall in Lockstep for Cheap Trump/Rubio Venezuela Aid PR Stunt” and “Facts Don’t Interfere With Propaganda Blitz Against Venezuela’s Elected President.”

Sanders-Khanna Bill on Saudi Assault on Yemen and War Powers Clears House

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AP reports “House passes measure to pull troops from Yemen war, a rebuke of President Trump’s alliance with Saudi Arabia.”

Ro Khanna tweeted: “My War Powers Resolution passing in the House today is the culmination of over a year and a half of hard work and couldn’t be done without the activists and organizations who pushed every single day for action on Yemen.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders — a lead sponsor of the Senate bill — tweeted: “I applaud my House colleagues for today’s historic passage of HJ Res 37 — ending U.S. support for the disastrous Saudi-led war in Yemen. The Senate must quickly pass this resolution and finally reassert Congress’ constitutional authority over war.” A vote in the Senate is expected in the coming weeks.

JEHAN HAKIM, hakimjehan at gmail.com
Hakim is chair of the Yemeni Alliance Committee [see on Facebook], a leading grassroots group on the issue.

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB, eltayyab at justforeignpolicy.org, @justfp
El-Tayyab is co-director of Just Foreign Policy, a leading national group on the issue. He said: “As a tactic in the U.S.-backed war, the Saudi-led coalition has blockaded the ports of Yemen and cut off the flow of food, fuel and medicine, leaving roughly 14 million people on the brink of famine. More than one million people have been infected with cholera, with an alarming 10,000 new cases each week. As a result of the U.S.-Saudi military campaign, Yemen has become the site of the largest humanitarian crisis on the planet, according to the United Nations. Aid agencies have described Yemen as the worst place in the world to be a child — the conflict has claimed the lives of at least 85,000 children through hunger and disease.

“On December 13th, 2018, the U.S. Senate, led by Bernie Sanders, Mike Lee and Chris Murphy, passed an identical measure, S.J.Res. 54, with a 56-member bipartisan majority. That successful legislative push gave UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths greatly needed leverage in peace talks with Hadi and Houthi government officials.”

See prior Institute for Public Accuracy news releases on the issue.

Note: The ACLU has voiced legal objections to exceptions contained in the legislation since the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force is still in effect.

Emergency Powers “Impeachable”: “All You Need is One Brave Member”

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The New York Times reports: “Trump Plans National Emergency to Build Border Wall as Senate Passes Spending Bill.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. He was legal adviser to Rep. Henry B. González when he released classified material on the House floor in 1992 in an attempt to impeach George H. W. Bush following the start of the the Gulf War and wrote the first draft of the Gonzalez Impeachment Resolution. Bush would later write in his memoirs that if the Gulf War “drags out, not only will I take the blame, but I will probably have impeachment proceedings filed against me.”

Boyle said today: “While establishment Democrats are eyeing various legal challenges to the possibility that Trump will declare a national emergency to get around Congress not agreeing on as much funding for a border wall as he would like, the most direct remedy is impeachment. A Bill of Impeachment could consist of articles including for (1) violating Article 1, Section 7 of the United States Constitution: ‘All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives…’ (2) Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution: ‘No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law…’ (3) It also violates the Federal Anti-Deficiency Statute.

“This should be initiated immediately. All you need is one brave member of the U.S. House of Representatives to meaningfully assert that body’s Power of the Purse. Trump’s indications that he will override that legislative power and the seeming acquiescence by some Democrats is illegitimate and dangerous and subverts a fundamental premise of the Constitution.”

RootsAction.org recently released an alert: “Donald Trump has no Constitutional right to spend money that has been appropriated for something else … Click here to ask your Congress member to let Trump know that they will back impeachment if he declares a ‘national emergency.'”

Haiti on Edge

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The Miami Herald is reporting: “Haiti is once again on edge, and humanitarian aid groups debate whether to go or cancel.”

JAKE JOHNSTON, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @JakobJohnston
Johnston is a research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He has been following Haiti’s growing #PetrocaribeChallenge anti-corruption movement since last fall, and wrote the New York Timesop-ed, “Is Haiti Awakening to Change?” He is also quoted at length in this piece from France 24 on Thursday: “Haiti government silent as deadly protests show no sign of ending.”

“You can draw a pretty straight line from the last electoral process to the current unrest in Haiti. Building for months (and frankly years), the country has now been shut down for five days as tensions — and violence — increase, threatening [President Jovenel Moïse’s] mandate,” he tweeted this week.

“I believe what we are witnessing is the collapse of a system. A system that has failed the Haitian people. There are no more quick fixes; there are no more internationally devised compromises to paper over the reality,” he concluded in an article for The Haitian Times.

KIM IVES, kives15 at gmail.com, @kimives13
Ives is an editor at Haiti Liberté, the Editor in Chief is Fanfan Latour, and the Director is Berthony Dupont. And just wrote the piece “How Trump’s attacks on Venezuela triggered a revolution in Haiti” and just appeared on The Real News segment “How Haiti’s Spontaneous Uprising is Connected to Venezuelan Solidarity.”

ETANT DUPAIN, etant.dupain at yahoo.com, @gaetantguevara
Dupain is the founder and director of Kombit Productions and a Haiti-based freelance journalist and producer. He’s worked as a producer for international news media outlets and on documentary films including Al Jazeera, BBC, Vice, Discovery Channel, Raw TV, CANAL+, and the award-winning film “Where Did the Money Go?”

He said today: “This government has proven itself incapable of addressing the demands and needs of the people. Without concrete action the crisis is sure to continue.”

EMMANUELA DOUYON, emmanuela.douyon at gmail.com, @emmadouyon
Douyon has worked in Haiti across a range of sectors with different organizations in international cooperation, data analysis, monitoring and evaluation. She holds a master’s degree in development economics from Paris 1 Sorbonne University and wrote her master’s thesis on the political economy of the allocation of aid using the 2010 earthquake in Haiti as a case study. In 2019, she joined other young people across the country in the Petrocaribe Challenge movement to pressure the government to address the scandal.

She said today: “The people are protesting on the streets because they are experiencing the unprecedented consequences of corruption and bad governance that has been going on for the past 10 years.”

Bernie Sanders is Running for President: “The Wall vs. Medicare for All”

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SELINA VICKERS, mailtheselina at gmail.com

A West Virginia activist, Vickers was a Bernie Sanders delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention. She said today: “The 2020 election will be ‘The Wall vs. Medicare for All.’ It’s that simple, and we need the Medicare for All heavyweight champion, aka Sen. Bernie Sanders, in our corner, not the Johnny-come-lately options that eventually got on board after their pollsters said they needed it for a talking point.

“Our current leaders work to privatize profits and socialize losses…. The Democratic and Republican establishments are terrified of Bernie. The corporations are terrified they might have to pay their fair share in taxes and be responsible to their consumers. This is the reason that regular Democratic, Republican and independent voters like and trust Bernie. I know several Republicans who changed their registration to vote for Bernie in the primary and would have voted for him in the general if he had been the nominee.”

ALAN MINSKY, Alan at PDAmerica.org

Alan Minsky is the Executive Director of Progressive Democrats of America. He said today: “Progressive Democrats of America was the first national organization to call upon Bernie Sanders to run for president back in 2014. And following his transformative campaign in 2016, we called on him to run again. Thus, we are thrilled that he has entered the race.

“As a progressive, looking at how the 2020 race is shaping up, it is heartening to see so many other candidates voice support for Sen. Sanders’ policies. However, I’ve been around the block enough times to know that politicians who adopt positions in tune with the fashion of the moment are not as trustworthy as those rare few, like Bernie Sanders, who have held firm to a powerful social justice vision throughout his entire long career. If you want the progressive changes that American society so clearly needs, Bernie Sanders is your candidate.”

“Plutocracy Prevention Act”

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With Bernie Sanders’ announcement this week that he is running for President, the estate tax bill he recently introduced in Congress is getting more scrutiny.

CHUCK COLLINS, jessicah at ips-dc.org

Chuck Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and a longtime inequality activist. He said today: “We need bold intervention to break up growing dynasties of wealth and power. A century ago, Congress established the estate tax, paid only by a minuscule sliver of billionaires and multi-millionaires, to put a brake on the build-up of concentrated wealth and power.

“Under current estate tax law, someone with $15 million and $15 billion pay the same flat rate of 40 percent. Senator Bernie Sanders’ improved estate tax proposal restores the top rate that existed between 1941 and 1976, when the estate tax was more robust.

“Since estate tax rates were lowered in the late 1970s and 1980s — and more loopholes opened — new wealth dynasties have emerged. The three wealthiest families in the U.S. — the Waltons of Walmart, the Koch brothers, and the Mars family clan — together hold over $348 billion. Since 1983, their wealth has expanded an incredible 6,000 percent, adjusted for inflation.

“The Sanders legislation would put a substantial brake on the wealth and power of the country’s 588 billionaires who control over $3 trillion in wealth by establishing a much-needed graduated rate system, with the rate rising with the size of the fortune. For example, estates between $10 million and $50 million would pay a 50 percent rate. Estates in excess of $1 billion would pay a 77 percent rate on all wealth over that threshold.

“While his 99.8% Act would raise substantial revenue — potentially $2.2 trillion from this billionaire group alone — it would have the positive benefit of protecting our self-governing republic from the distorting influence of concentrated wealth.

“Sanders’ estate tax proposal is a plutocracy prevention act, squarely aimed at preventing the children of today’s billionaires from dominating our future democracy, economy, culture and philanthropy.”

Former UN Expert on Venezuela: U.S. Government “Weaponizing Aid”

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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.

He just appeared on Al Jazeera English, charging that the U.S. government was engaging in the “weaponization of human rights and the weaponization of aid” in its actions against Venezuela. See video. [See from FAIR: “Western Media Fall in Lockstep for Cheap Trump/Rubio Venezuela Aid PR Stunt” and from PBS: “Red Cross warns U.S. about risks of sending aid to Venezuela.” See piece in the New York Times from 1987 on recently-named Venezuelan envoy Elliott Abrams having “defended his role in authorizing the shipment of weapons on a humanitarian aid flight to Nicaraguan rebels.”]

Alfred de Zayas also just sent an “Open Letter to The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and to the High Commissioner For Human Rights Michelle Bachelet“: “As former UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order (2012-2018) I would like to urge you to once again make your voices heard and make concrete proposals for mediation and peace in the context of the Venezuelan crisis. … I think that the U.S. should turn over all the humanitarian assistance and medical supplies it has flown into Colombia and have them distributed as soon as possible with the help of the United Nations and other neutral organizations. …

“It would be appropriate to recognize the fact that the government of Venezuela has put into effect some of the recommendations contained in my report … Indeed, first the Venezuelan government released 80 detainees — including Roberto Picón and 23 others whose release I had specifically requested — that was on 23 December 2017, followed by other releases in the course of 2018. Alas, there has been practically no information about this in the mainstream media, although it is easily accessible in the internet. …

“Another item of information that is sorely missing from the mainstream media is the delivery last week of 933 tons of food and medicines at port La Guaira — coming from China, Cuba, India, Turkey etc.

Alfred de Zayas’ open letter was just initiated as a Change.org petition. Also, see just-launched petition from RootsAction: “Email your Representative and Senators to Block U.S. War on Venezuela.”

Over the weekend, Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted a photo of former Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi as he was being sexually and fatally assaulted. Alfred de Zayas recently wrote the piece “As a former UN special rapporteur, the coup in Venezuela reminds me of the rush to war in Iraq” for the British Independent: “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.”

India-Pakistan Nuclear Threat

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CNN is reporting: “Pakistan vows retaliation after Indian airstrikes, as hostilities rise between nuclear powers.”  The New York Times reports: “For the first time in five decades, Indian warplanes crossed into Pakistan and conducted airstrikes on Tuesday. But in the jarring escalation of hostilities, the leadership of each nuclear-armed country also appeared to leave itself a way out of pushing the conflict into war.

“In India, where election-year nationalism is fueling waves of anger over the militant attack in Kashmir that killed dozens of soldiers this month, the story line was of righteous vengeance accomplished.“’We won’t let this country bow down!’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a charged rally in New Delhi, speaking in front of a backdrop with the photos of the Indian soldiers killed by a suicide bomber.”

ZIA MIAN, zia at princeton.edu
Mian is a physicist and co-director of Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security, where he also directs the Project on Peace and Security in South Asia. He received the 2014 Linus Pauling Legacy Award for “his accomplishments as a scientist and as a peace activist in contributing to the global effort for nuclear disarmament and for a more peaceful world.”

He wrote or co-wrote several relevant pieces for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, most recently: “Managing Pakistan’s Bomb: Learning on the Job“: Pakistani Prime Minister “Imran Khan’s two-decade-long political career overlaps with the creation of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, but he has had very little to say about the Bomb. When he has spoken, it has been as a Bomb supporter. …

“Military crises have occurred in the subcontinent with awful frequency in recent decades, despite the Bomb, and perhaps because of it. Pakistan and India have survived at least five since 1987, giving both sides misplaced confidence that they will survive the next, too. This, in turn, leads to a lessening of political restraints on the militaries of both countries and greater nuclear brinksmanship.”

See from 2016: “Kashmir, Climate Change and Nuclear War“: “A potential trigger for armed conflict that might escalate to nuclear war between Pakistan and India is the dispute over the land and people of Kashmir. Pakistan has claimed this territory since the partition of British India in 1947 that created the borders of India and Pakistan. The dispute has led already to three wars, in 1947, 1965, and 1999, and left Kashmir divided between Pakistan and India along a Line of Control where the armies of Pakistan and India now confront each other in an uneasy stalemate.”

Also: “Nuclear Battles in South Asia“: “The armies of Pakistan and India are practicing for nuclear war on the battlefield: Pakistan is rehearsing the use of nuclear weapons, while India trains to fight on despite such use and subsequently escalate. What were once mere ideas and scenarios dreamed up by hawkish military planners and nuclear strategists have become starkly visible capabilities and commitments. When the time comes, policy makers and people on both sides will expect — and perhaps demand — that the Bomb be used.”

From Cohen to Venezuela: Hollowness of “Russiagate”

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AARON MATÉ, aaronmate at gmail.com, @aaronjmate
Since Trump became president, Maté has written a series of pieces for The Nation counter to the prevailing conventional wisdom on Russiagate, including: “Mueller Accuses Roger Stone of Lying and Bullying — but Not Collusion,” “The Manafort Revelation Is Not a Smoking Gun,” “New Studies Show Pundits Are Wrong About Russian Social-Media Involvement in U.S. Politics,” “Don’t Let Russophobia Warp the Facts on Russiagate,” “Russiagate Is More Fiction Than Fact” and “Stop With the Conspiracy Theories — Trump Is Bad Enough.”

He recently tweeted: “Do Russiagate peddlers get how bad this has gone? Cohen: – ‘I do not’ have collusion evidence – ‘Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress’ (cc @BuzzFeedBen) – Stone told Trump public info re: WL & false info re: Assange & we haven’t even heard his Prague denial yet.”

“Also crying out for explication is the claim that there were ‘negotiations over the Moscow project.’ There were no ‘negotiations’ in a meaningful sense because there was never any Russian approval or financing. The ‘negotiations’ were mainly Cohen & Sater bickering w/ each other.”

Maté was recently in Venezuela. He’s also recently tweeted: “The coda of collusion-free Mueller probe coinciding w/ top Democrats’ backing of Trump meddling in Venezuela underscores dangers some of us saw long ago: fixation on a Trump-Russia conspiracy theory is not real Resistance, & neither is supporting among worst of Trump’s policies.”

“‘Losing ties with Venezuela would be a huge blow to Russia. Putin will do his utmost to prevent regime change.’ Since regime change is Trump’s explicit goal, Russiagate peddlers will do their utmost to prevent this inconvenient fact from being acknowledged.”

Why Did Hanoi Summit Really Fail? 

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Speaking from Hanoi, Christine Ahn, a co-founder and a current associate of the Korea Policy Institute, appeared this morning on “Democracy Now” and cautioned against accepting President Trump’s depiction as to why the Hanoi summit was cut short.

Kevin Gray, a specialist in international relations at the University of Sussex, England tweeted that “Former SK unification minister Chong Se-hyun suggests that summit was derailed by last minute attendance of Bolton, who added demands for NK to also report chemical/biological weapons, in response to which NKs increased their demand for sanctions relief.” National Security Adviser John Bolton is widely seen as responsible for the recent U.S. government announcement of withdrawing from the INF Treaty with Russia.

Ahn also stated that continued military exercises by the U.S. government push North Korea into being more of a garrison state. She also stressed the humanitarian toll of continued sanctions on North Korea; see report from last year from Reuters: “60,000 North Korean children may starve, sanctions slow aid: UNICEF.” Ahn also highlighted the strong support for a peace agreement in South Korea and for South Korean President Moon Jae-in — and the need for people in the U.S. to be engaged in such issues. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Ca.) just introduced a House resolution to end the Korean War on Tuesday after 69 years of conflict.

HYUN LEE, hyunlee70 at gmail.com
CHRISTINE HONG, cjhong at ucsc.edu
Lee is with Zoom in KoreaHong is an associate professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her pieces include “The Long, Dirty History of U.S. Warmongering against North Korea.” Both are board members of the Korea Policy Institute.

Background: Siegfried Hecker, emeritus research professor at Stanford University and a leading specialist on the North Korean nuclear program noted before the Hanoi Summit: “We maintain that a risk-based, phased approach for elimination of the nuclear weapons program will stretch over a decade or so because of the enormity of the nuclear weapons enterprise and the huge trust deficits that remain.”

U.N. Report of Israeli Crimes and the Efforts to Silence Critics

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The New York Times reports: “Israelis May Have Committed Crimes Against Humanity in Gaza Protests, U.N. Says.”  “Israeli security forces committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law,” Santiago Canton, the head of the United Nations independent commission of inquiry, stated on Thursday.

“These violations clearly warrant criminal investigation and prosecution,” he added.

“[Israeli forces] have intentionally shot children, they’ve intentionally shot people with disabilities, they’ve intentionally shot journalists, knowing them to be children, people with disabilities and journalists,” Sara Hossain, one of the other three investigators appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council, said.

The report also calls on third states to arrest “persons alleged to have committed, or who ordered to have committed, the international crimes,” or seek their extradition. See report by Maureen Clare Murphy at the Electronic Intifada.

HATEM BAZIAN, hatemb at berkeley.edu, @HatemBazian
Bazian was profiled in the just-published New Yorker piece “How a Private Israeli Intelligence Firm Spied on Pro-Palestinian Activists in the U.S.

He said today: “This U.N. report is just the latest piece of evidence about Israel’s systematic brutality. The U.S. government quit the Human Rights Council to stop any serious criticism of Israel. And there’s a whole structure of anti-B.D.S. legislation and targeting of activists to silence people in the U.S.”

The New Yorker piece leads: “Hatem Bazian, a veteran pro-Palestinian activist in his fifties, lives with his family on a quiet street in North Berkeley, near the campus of the University of California, where he lectures. Early on the morning of May 10, 2017, as Bazian was about to drive his teen-age daughter to school, he noticed fliers on the windshields of cars parked on his block. At first, Bazian assumed that they were advertisements for a new movie or restaurant. When he looked more closely at the flier that had been left on his BMW sedan, he realized that it featured a photograph of his face, below a tagline that read, ‘He supports terror.’ Bazian quickly folded up the flier so his daughter wouldn’t see it. …”Although it is unclear who left the fliers, internal documents from a private Israeli intelligence firm called Psy-Group show that, at the time of the incident, the company, and possibly other private investigators, were targeting Bazian because of his leadership role in promoting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, known as B.D.S. Supporters of B.D.S. urge corporations, universities, and local governments to impose economic, academic, and cultural boycotts on Israel to protest its treatment of the Palestinians. …

“Psy-Group’s operations against B.D.S. activists on U.S. college campuses began in February, 2016, according to internal documents describing the campaign. The company raised money in New York from Jewish-American donors and pro-Israel groups, and assured them that their identities would be kept secret. Psy-Group told them that its goal was to make it appear as though the donors were not involved in any way.”

Bazian is co-founder and professor of Islamic law and theology at Zaytuna College, the first accredited Muslim liberal arts college in the United States. He is also a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. He is author of the book Palestine…it is something colonial.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace tweeted: “Disconcerting to find out that the flyer targeting ⁦@HatemBazian⁩ and I at our homes in May 2017 discussed here was the work of ex-Mossad agents. Psy-Group seems like bumbling fools tbh, I worry more about the groups doing it who are good at it.” See a joint statement about the targeting from American Muslims for Palestine (which Bazian founded) and Jewish Voice for Peace from 2017.

See IPA news release: “Trump Team Hired Israeli Spy Firm Used by Harvey Weinstein to Attack Obama Officials on Iran Deal.”

See from the Electronic Intifada: “Watch the film the Israel lobby didn’t want you to see.” The Electronic Intifada has obtained a complete copy of “The Lobby — USA,” a four-part undercover investigation by Al Jazeera into Israel’s covert influence campaign in the United States.

What Happened to Syria? What’s Next?

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CHARLES GLASS, charlesglassbooks at gmail.com, @CharlesMGlass
Currently based in London, Glass is former Mideast Correspondent for ABC News. His latest book is They Fought Alone: The True Story of the Starr Brothers, British Secret Agents in Nazi-Occupied France. It tells the story of the Special Operations Executive, set up by Churchill in 1940 to “set Europe ablaze.” The SOE would train the U.S. Office of Strategic Services, which became the CIA.

He is also author of Syria Burning and recently wrote the piece “Tell Me How This Ends” for Harper’s about the Obama administration’s policy on Syria. See his website: CharlesGlass.net.

In a very recent talk at Dartmouth College, he gave critical background and assessments about the future of Syria:

Syria, after the French departed in 1946, had a parliamentary democracy until 1949 when, in order to force through an Aramco oil pipeline from Saudi Arabia through Jordan and Syria to Lebanon, the CIA overthrew the elected government. This ushered in a period of almost annual coups in Syria, typically by a colonel backed by either the CIA, KGB or British MI6. This ended with the rule of Hafez Assad in 1970. Glass notes that part of the reason Assad was able to rule the country was that he came from the Alawite minority, members of whom were placed in key positions of power by the French.

Glass notes that despite Bashar Assad’s apparent victory, the Syrian civil war was much bloodier and more prolonged because of outside powers — the U.S., Russia and Iran — backing and arming various sides. The Saudis and the Qataris backed opposing jihadist forces. Thousands of these forces remain in the north of Syria, he warns, now controlled by Turkey, and pose a greater threat than ISIS. The Israeli government, he notes, was quite happy to see Syrians killing each other.

He warned that now, as Assad secures his hold, he will quickly and violently put down any rebellion. He also sees an increased rivalry between Iran and Russia for influence and profit in Syria, though opportunities in Syria will be limited as the U.S. government seeks to keep Syria outside the world economy, which may lead to an expanding black market there.

Manipulating Charges of Anti-Semitism

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ABBA SOLOMON, abbasolomon at gmail.com, @Abba_A_Solomon
Solomon is author of The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech “The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews.” Solomon said today: “’Anti-semitic tropes’ are tendentiously read into Omar’s comments. AIPAC allies should stop hiding behind Jews, and Democratic politicians should stop feigning such sensitivity to Jewish feelings when Zionist lobbying is the subject. It’s a distasteful game.”

ALI ABUNIMAH, director at electronicintifada.net, @AliAbunimah
Abunimah wrote the piece “Ilhan Omar under attack for telling truth about Israel lobby.” He is co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, which recently released the documentary “The Lobby,” a four-part undercover investigation into Israel’s covert influence campaign in the United States. The documentary was produced by Al Jazeera, but it was censored after Qatar, the gas-rich Gulf emirate that funds Al Jazeera, came under intense Israel lobby pressure not to air the film. See “Watch the film the Israel lobby didn’t want you to see.”

The Electronic Intifada has also covered how charges of anti-Semitism are used in Britain. See the pieces “Yes of course Israel is interfering in British politics” and “Israel lobby funders back breakaway British MPs” by Asa Winstanley.

Breaking: Documents Show Gov Tracking Journalists and Lawyers at Border

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The U.S. government is working with the Mexican government to target journalists, lawyers, and activists who were covering or supporting the migrant caravan at the border. See breaking story: “Source: Leaked Documents Show the U.S. Government Tracking Journalists and Immigration Advocates Through a Secret Database” from NBC San Diego, which includes the names, photos, dates of birth, countries of commencement and dispositions of 59 people, mostly U.S. citizens. The document labels the people as “organizer,” “instigator,” and “lawyer,” or “media.”

The list includes ten journalists, seven of whom are U.S. citizens, and three U.S. citizens on the list are identified as “Administrators of the Caravan Support Network Facebook Page.”

People on the list were subjected to secondary inspections at the border, and several were denied entry into Mexico. The whistleblower who leaked the documents said that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) created dossiers on each person on the list that includes personal information.

The information was shared across CBP, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security Investigations and some agents from the San Diego sector of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

SUE UDRY, sue at rightsanddissent.org
CHIP GIBBONS, chip at rightsanddissent.org, @rightsdissent
Udry is executive director of Defending Rights & Dissent, Gibbons is policy and legislative counsel for the group. Udry said today: “We’ve seen lawyers, activists, and journalists subject to unacceptable harassment and interrogation, with their electronic devices being searched or seized at the border for years. But this document provides clear evidence that the government is targeting people based on their First Amendment-protected activities. The U.S. border has become a Constitution-free zone, and CBP is an agency out of control. It’s time for Congress to step in to rein in the agency and reassert constitutional protections at the border.”

Ellsberg: Manning Acting Heroically for Press Freedom in WikiLeaks Case

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DANIEL ELLSBERG, @DanielEllsberg
Ellsberg exposed the Pentagon Papers. He just released a statement regarding Chelsea Manning, who was jailed Friday by the U.S. government for refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify in front of a grand jury believed to be investigating WikiLeaks’s publishing activities.

Manning revealed information that WikiLeaks made public, including the “Collateral Murder” video: collateralmurder.wikileaks.org.

Ellsberg stated to the Freedom of the Press Foundation: “Chelsea Manning is again acting heroically in the name of press freedom, and it’s a travesty that she has been sent back to jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury. An investigation into WikiLeaks for publishing is a grave threat to all journalists’ rights, and Chelsea is doing us all a service for fighting it. She has already been tortured, spent years in jail, and has suffered more than enough. She should be released immediately.”

In 2017, Ellsberg warned about steps the U.S. government might take against a free press in: “Trump Threats to WikiLeaks ‘Nuclear Option’ Against the First Amendment.”Available for interviews:

LISA LING, limalima at protonmail.com, @aretvet
Ling is a U.S. military drone program whistleblower. She was profiled in the documentary “National Bird” and is following the Chelsea Manning case and other whistleblower cases. She notes that Manning has said: “These secret proceedings tend to favor the government. I’m always willing to explain things publicly.”

Also, see from January of this year, Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Floyd Abrams: Barr’s Stance ‘Deeply Threatening to First Amendment.”‘

Lies About Venezuela

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The New York Times reports: “Footage Contradicts U.S. Claim That Nicolás Maduro Burned Aid Convoy.”

JOE EMERSBERGER, jemersberger at aol.com, @rosendo_joe
Emersberger has written extensively on Venezuela and media coverage of the crisis for the media watch group FAIR including “Facts Don’t Interfere With Propaganda Blitz Against Venezuela’s Elected President” and for the Canary. He said: “NYT was scooped on this by weeks by independent journalists like Max Blumenthal, but good to see. Bigger lie was the whole premise of the aid stunt.” (See FAIR piece “Western Media Fall in Lockstep for Cheap Trump/Rubio Venezuela Aid PR Stunt.”)

Max Blumenthal wrote just after the Feb. 23 incident: “Burning Aid: An Interventionist Deception on Colombia-Venezuela Bridge?” Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted at the time: “Maduro National Police set fire to an aid truck carrying food & medicine while people in #Venezuela starve.” Journalist Dan Cohen tweeted back at him: “You have no evidence of who set the aid truck on fire and these photos indicate your guarimberos had a hand in it.”

Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept highlights the falsifications of administration officials John Bolton and Mike Pompeo as well as CNN and Kasie Hunt of NBC in his latest: “NYT’s Exposé on the Lies About Burning Aid Trucks in Venezuela Shows How U.S. Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda.”

Emersberger’s pieces include “Trump’s Economic Sanctions Have Cost Venezuela About $6bn Since August 2017.”

Economist Mark Weisbrot writes about another Times piece: “This is amazing: buried deep in this NYT article is a sentence indicating the Trump economic sanctions are a major cause of the deadly blackout in Venezuela, contradicting the rest of the article. No one has noticed; this should have been the main story.” The Times acknowledged: “The sanctions have affected Venezuela’s ability to import and produce the fuel required by the thermal power plants that could have backed up the Guri plant once it failed.”

Breaking: U.S. Contractors Recently Arrested in Haiti Have Ties to Prominent Elites and Politicians

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JAKE JOHNSTON, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @JakobJohnston
The Center for Economic and Policy Research just released an investigation, authored by Johnston, who is the main contributor to the group’s “Haiti: Relief and Reconstruction Watch” blog. The group summarizes the findings: “The seven U.S.-based security contractors arrested in Port-au-Prince last month have ties to Haitian elites and politicians.” The investigation raises questions about why the U.S. government “broke with diplomatic procedures in getting the contractors — who were arrested a few blocks from the Central Bank with an array of weapons and driving in unmarked vehicles — out of Haiti, and why they have yet to be charged with any crimes in either the U.S. or Haiti.

“Johnston traveled to Haiti just after the arrest of the Blackwater-like security contractors, and his investigation is based on interviews with sources close to the situation, government documents, flight data, existing reports, and other records relating to the case.

“The investigation reveals new details of what transpired at the Central Bank; how some of the contractors traveled to Haiti, and when; and provides the most complete account of the contractors’ detention, what they had done in Haiti before their detention, and the political and diplomatic discussions that surrounded the event.

“’This case raises a number of disturbing and important questions about what these men, widely referred to as “mercenaries” in Haiti, were actually up to in Port-au-Prince,’ Johnston said, ‘And why the U.S. government worked to “rescue” them and cover up what happened.’

“On February 17, Haitian police arrested seven Blackwater-like security contractors after the group attempted to enter the Central Bank. Driving in unmarked vehicles and transporting semi-automatic rifles, drones, and other tactical equipment, the contractors claimed to be on a government mission. Four days later, the U.S. ‘rescued’ them, as one of the freed contractors described it. None are expected to face charges.

“Over the course of just a few days, the case took on political significance much greater than the detention and release of the contractors. The chain of events initiated by their arrests revealed the weakness of Haiti’s justice system and the precariousness of the current Haitian administration; it exposed the close ties between criminal networks and the ruling party; and casts doubt on the idea that this was a simple security operation gone wrong.”

FlyersRights.org Calls on FAA to Ground Boeing 737 MAX 8

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AP reports Tuesday afternoon: “Britain, France and Germany on Tuesday joined a rapidly growing number of countries grounding or closing airspace to a new Boeing plane involved in the Ethiopian Airlines disaster, as a global team of investigators began looking for parallels with a similar crash just five months ago. … Oman, Norwegian Air Shuttle and South Korean airline Eastar Jet were among the latest to halt use of the Boeing model. Malaysia, Australia and Singapore suspended all flights into or out of their countries.”

PAUL HUDSON, paul at flyersrights.org, @flyersrights
Hudson is president of Flyersrights.org and has been a member of FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee since 1993.

He just appeared on NPR’s “Up First.” The group has “called on the FAA to ground the Boeing 737 MAX 8 Aircraft after two fatal accidents in the past five months have claimed 346 lives.

“Lion Air crashed in October 2018 after pilots were unable to override an automatic control system (MCAS or Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System) that was not clearly disclosed by Boeing to airlines and pilots. Although it is too early to identify the cause of Sunday’s Ethiopian Airlines crash, early signs point to the same problem.”

Corporate Crime Reporter states in “Calls Mount for FAA to Ground Boeing 737 Max 8” that Hudson wrote to Dan Elwell, acting director of the FAA: “If you fail to do so now and a third crash occurs, you will be responsible. You will always be remembered for this decision.” CCR also reports: “Ethiopian Airlines, Cayman Airlines and Comair have grounded their Boeing Max 8 planes. But Southwest Airlines continues to stand by the plane, which has 34 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes, refusing calls from passengers to ground it.”

Hudson added: “The FAA’s ‘wait and see’ attitude risks lives as well as the safety reputation of the U.S. aviation industry. Even assuming this design defect should not by itself take the aircraft out of service, the failure to warn airlines and pilots of the new feature, and the inadequacy of training requirements, necessitate an immediate temporary grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 8.”

FlyersRights.org is the nation’s largest airline passenger organization. It publishes a weekly newsletter and operates a hotline for passengers, (877) FLYERS6.

“Biden’s Disastrous Legislative Legacy”

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The Hill is now reporting: “Exclusive: Biden to run for White House, says Dem lawmaker.”

ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn at gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn just wrote the extensive cover story: “No Joe! Joe Biden’s disastrous legislative legacy.” Cockburn argues that many of today’s problems — “from ISIS to the so-called border crisis” — have their roots in policies Biden championed. Here are a few excerpts:

“Biden was long a willing foot soldier in the campaign to emasculate laws allowing debtors relief from loans they cannot repay. As far back as 1978, he helped negotiate a deal rolling back bankruptcy protections for graduates with federal student loans, and in 1984 worked to do the same for borrowers with loans for vocational schools. …

“Even when the ostensible objective lay elsewhere, such as drug-related crime, Biden did not forget his banker friends. Thus the 1990 Crime Control Act, with Biden as chief sponsor, further limited debtors’ ability to take advantage of bankruptcy protections.”

Biden worked diligently to strengthen the hand of credit-card firms against consumers. At the same time, “the credit card giant MBNA was Biden’s largest contributor for much of his Senate career, while also employing his son Hunter as an executive and, later, as a well-remunerated consultant. …

“By the 1980s, Biden had begun to see political gold in the harsh antidrug legislation … Biden later took pride in reminding audiences that ‘through the leadership of Senator Thurmond, and myself, and others,’ Congress had passed a law mandating a five-year sentence, with no parole, for anyone caught with a piece of crack cocaine ‘no bigger than [a] quarter.’ …

“Biden not only allowed fellow committee members to mount a sustained barrage of vicious attacks on [Anita] Hill: he wrapped up the hearings without calling at least two potential witnesses who could have convincingly corroborated Hill’s testimony and, by extension, indicated that the nominee had perjured himself on a sustained basis throughout the hearings. …

“Biden was among the 90 senators on one of the fatal (to the rest of us) legislative gifts presented to Wall Street back in the Clinton era: the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act of 1999. The act repealed the hallowed Depression-era Glass–Steagall legislation that severed investment banking from commercial banking, thereby permitting the combined operations to gamble with depositors’ money, and ultimately ushering in the 2008 crash. …

“An ardent proponent of NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, an ill-conceived initiative that has served as an enduring provocation of Russian hostility toward the West, Biden voted enthusiastically to authorize Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, was a major proponent of Clinton’s war in Kosovo, and pushed for military intervention in Sudan. Presumably in deference to this record, Obama entrusted his vice president with a number of foreign policy tasks over the years, beginning with ‘quarterbacking,’ as Biden put it, U.S. relations with Iraq. ‘Joe will do Iraq,’ the president told his foreign policy team a few weeks after being sworn in. ‘He knows it, he knows the players.’ It proved to be an unfortunate choice, at least for Iraqis. …

“[Biden’s book] Promise Me, Dad also covers Biden’s involvement in the other countries allotted to him by President Obama: Ukraine, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Anyone seeking insight from the book into the recent history of these regions, or of actual U.S. policy and actions there, should look elsewhere.

“Biden’s recollections of his involvement in Central American affairs are no more forthright, and no more insightful. There is no mention of the 2009 coup in Honduras, endorsed and supported by the United States, that displaced the elected president, Manuel Zelaya, nor of that country’s subsequent descent into the rule of a corrupt oligarchy accused of ties to drug traffickers. He has nothing but warm words for Juan Orlando Hernández, the current president, who financed his 2013 election campaign with $90 million stolen from the Honduran health service and more recently defied his country’s constitution by running for a second term.” As Cockburn points out: “The net result has been a tide of refugees fleeing north, most famously exemplified by the ‘caravan’ used by Donald Trump to galvanize support prior to November’s congressional elections and his subsequent fraudulent ‘border crisis.'”

Breaking: Sanders War Powers Bill to Stop Saudi Attack on Yemen Passes Senate

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The Senate just passed a bill invoking the War Powers Resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen by a vote of 54-46.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of the bill’s sponsors just tweeted: “This is historic. For the first time in 45 years, Congress is one step closer to withdrawing U.S. forces from an unauthorized war. We must end the war in Yemen.” See video.

JEHAN HAKIM, hakimjehan at gmail.com
Hakim is chair of the Yemeni Alliance Committee [see on Facebook], a leading grassroots group on the issue.

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB, eltayyab at justforeignpolicy.org@justfp
El-Tayyab is co-director of Just Foreign Policy, a leading national group on the issue. The group helped organize a letter on the bill signed by over 70 major groups, stating: “The war in Yemen has helped create the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the UN, with roughly 12 million people at risk of famine. Aid agencies have described Yemen as the worst place in the world to be a child — the conflict has claimed the lives of at least 85,000 children under the age of five from hunger and disease. More than 1 million people have been infected with cholera, with an alarming 10,000 new cases each week. All of the parties have demonstrated a near-total indifference to the welfare of Yemeni civilians. In one particularly harmful example of this, the Saudi-led coalition has imposed a de-facto blockade on Yemen and impeded the flow of food, fuel, and medicine, pushing prices of essential goods out of reach for millions of Yemenis.”

See prior Institute for Public Accuracy news releases on the issue.

The bill is titled: “A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress.”

Note: The ACLU has voiced serious legal objections to exceptions contained in the legislation since the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force is still in effect.

What Does Beto O’Rourke Actually Stand For?

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ZAID JILANI, areo64 at gmail.com, @ZaidJilani
Jilani recently wrote the in-depth piece “What Does Beto O’Rourke Actually Stand For?”  for Current Affairs. He writes about political polarization for UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center and co-hosts “Extremely Offline,” a podcast “about better conversations between political tribes.” Jilani is blogging on the 2020 election at: 2020watch.org.

Jilani writes that O’Rourke “seems to have received nothing but praise from everyone from Wall Street donors like [Robert] Wolf to Obama alumni like [Dan] Pfeiffer to a large liberal following enamored by his skateboarding at Whataburger and his passionate defense of kneeling NFL players. He has become a uniting figure for Democrats, beloved by all and loathed by none. What kind of Democratic politician can be so adored?

“Maybe one who rarely, if ever, challenged the powerful.

“There is no doubt that O’Rourke is a talented politician. His $60 million haul, much of it from small donors, came from extremely aggressive campaigning all over the state of Texas, alongside a national donor base cultivated by signaling to culturally liberal activists. But a talented politician is not necessarily someone who has talent in governing. So what was Congressman O’Rourke like?

“In his six years in Congress, O’Rourke passed three bills. Two were related to veterans issues, the third renamed a federal building and courthouse. Of course, O’Rourke was in a GOP-dominated House, which would limit his effectiveness. But part of being effective as a Member of Congress is learning to deal with the environment you are in. Between 1995 and 2007, when the Republicans solidly held the House of Representatives, the lawmaker who passed the most amendments was not a far-right Republican but instead Vermont’s independent democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, dubbed an ‘amendment king.’ The firebrand Florida Democrat Alan Grayson was similarly effective at writing and passing legislation.

“But even if you’re not passing bills or amendments, you can chair investigations and help uncover important information that changes the debate in Washington. You can earn media appearances and become a leader on major issues. You can help move legislation that isn’t going to pass anytime soon, but set it up for the future.

“O’Rourke was missing in action on virtually all of these areas, and rarely challenged concentrated power in D.C. — except during his initial run for Congress, in which he unseated conservative Democrat Silvestre Reyes. Reyes was a proponent of America’s drug war while O’Rourke favored legalizing marijuana to cut into the cartels’ power. Reyes ran dirty campaign ads claiming O’Rourke was encouraging drug use among children. It didn’t work, and O’Rourke’s smart campaign was victorious.

“But it may have been the last time O’Rourke waged a sustained campaign against the Democratic establishment. While the Democratic base is coalescing around single-payer health care and free college, O’Rourke sponsored neither House bill. During his time in Congress, he never joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He has been, however, a member of the New Democratic Caucus, the group organized to carry on the ideas of Clintonite policies. During the 2016 presidential primary, he stayed on the sidelines.

“If you’re not familiar with O’Rourke’s district, you might chalk this all up to representing a conservative region. It’s Texas, right? Our system is a representative democracy with single member districts, and lawmakers must represent politically diverse constituencies. Otherwise, they risk being thrown out. But Texas’s 16th Congressional District is among the more liberal in the country. In 2016, O’Rourke netted 85 percent of the vote, while a Libertarian grabbed 10 percent and a Green received 4 percent. …

“You probably don’t know the name Sema Hernandez. (She may not even know how to skateboard.) But the 32-year-old Houston activist and self-described ‘Berniecrat’ netted 24 percent in Texas’s Democratic Senate primary, despite raising less than $10,000 to O’Rourke’s $9 million.

“Hernandez is the child of immigrants, a first-generation Mexican American who struggles to afford healthcare and ran her campaign on a shoestring budget. O’Rourke, on the other hand, was born into a wealthy Texas political family, attended Columbia University, and has a business background in Internet start-ups. … He is married to the daughter of billionaire real estate developer William D. Sanders (‘the richest man in El Paso’) — whose development plan in downtown El Paso O’Rourke vigorously championed, against the protests of many local residents. During his run for Senate, his disclosures showed that O’Rourke’s assets are somewhere in the range of $3.5 to $16 million, thanks to rental and commercial real estate as well as his wife’s trust fund.”

Blum, Documenter of U.S. Interventions, Memorialized

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While much of official Washington has focused on allegations that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and officials like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo openly call for the ouster of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, a leading chronicler of the U.S. government’s numerous invasions, interventions and assassination plots is being memorialized in Washington, D.C.

William Blum died in December. See obituaries in CovertAction Magazine, the Washington Post and the New York Times: “William Blum, U.S. Policy Critic Cited by bin Laden, Dies at 85” as well as by FAIR: “William Blum, U.S. Policy Critic Derided by NYT, Dies at 85.”

The memorial will take place Sunday, March 17, 2019 from 4:00-7:00 p.m. at the Washington Ethical Society. CovertAction Magazine states that reminiscences from the stage or via video are anticipated from filmmaker Oliver Stone; former CIA analysts Ray McGovern and John Kiriakou; author Michael Parenti; political commentator Bill Moyers; consumer advocate Ralph Nader; political activist Noam Chomsky, and CovertAction Magazine co-founders Louis Wolf and Chris Agee.

In a 2011 talk, Blum called the U.S. government “An equal opportunity bomber. There’s only two qualifications to being a bombing target: You have to pose some sort of obstacle to the desires of the empire and you have to have very poor defense against aerial attacks.” See video.

CovertAction Magazine reports: “What first put Mr. Blum on the CIA’s radar (and kept him there for nearly 50 years) was his 1969 blockbuster exposé that revealed the names and addresses of more than 200 theretofore anonymous CIA employees who were hard at work fomenting coups, subverting democratic institutions, and assassinating popular leaders in dozens of countries throughout the globe. Blum’s articles, together with Inside the Company: CIA Diary — the 1975 international best-seller by ex-CIA agent Philip Agee — so frightened the CIA that it pressured Congress into passing the Intelligence Identities Protection Act which thereafter made exposés like Blum’s and Agee’s a federal crime.”

Blum wrote several books including Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (which is ironically, and perhaps illegally, on the CIA website) and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower.

Blum also wrote his regular “Anti-Empire Reports.” In one of its final editions, he wrote that Russiagate was “Much ado about nothing,” broke down the subject and contrasted it with election interference as done by the U.S. government in country after country. One central resource of Blum’s was his “Master List” of overthrowing other people’s governments, see below.

LOUIS WOLF, ‭LOUW7 at live.com
Co-founder and research director (1978-2005) of CovertAction Information Bulletin, later renamed CovertAction Quarterly. The magazine was relaunched as CovertAction Magazine. Wolf also co-edited two books, Dirty Work: The CIA in Western Europe with CIA whistleblower Philip Agee and Dirty Work II: The CIA in Africa. Wolf and Blum were lifelong friends and worked on numerous projects together, including the latest relaunch of CovertAction Magazine.

CHRIS AGEE, chris.agee at icloud.com
Agee is the son of CIA whistleblower Philip Agee. Together with Wolf and other writers, he relaunched CovertAction Magazine last year. As a political sociologist and historian, he has written numerous articles for publications including for CovertAction Magazine, the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA) and The International Encyclopedia of Revolutions and Protest: 1500 to Present.

Blum had a “Master List” of the United States overthrowing foreign governments since the Second World War. Here’s that list of countries, with links to Blum’s writing or other background. This list below doesn’t include major interventions that didn’t actually result in ousting the government, like ongoing U.S. “covert” operations in Syria since 2012. A few ousters of governments were short-lived, like Venezuela in 2002:

Iran 1953
Guatemala 1954
British Guiana 1953-64
Iraq 1963
North Vietnam 1945-73
Cambodia 1955-70
Laos 1958, 1959, 1960
Ecuador 1960-63
Congo 1960
Brazil 1962-64
Dominican Republic 1963
Bolivia 1964 
Indonesia 1965
Ghana 1966
Chile 1964-73
Greece 1967
Bolivia 1971 
Australia 1973-75
Portugal 1974-76
Jamaica 1976-80
Seychelles 1979-81
Chad 1981-82 
Grenada 1983
Fiji 1987
Nicaragua 1981-90
Panama 1989
Bulgaria 1990
Albania 1991

Afghanistan 1980s
Yugoslavia 1999-2000
Ecuador 2000
Afghanistan 2001
Venezuela 2002
Iraq 2003
Haiti 2004
Honduras 2009
Libya 2011
Ukraine 2014

Blum asks:
Q: Why will there never be a coup d’état in Washington?
A: Because there’s no American embassy there.

Will New Zealand (and the U.S.) Finally Follow Australia on Gun Laws?

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REBECCA PETERS, rebecca.peters101 at gmail.com, Skype: rebecapeters
Peters is with the International Action Network on Small Arms. She helped lead the campaign to reform Australia’s gun laws in the 1990s. She just wrote the piece “‘It didn’t have to be this way’: how the gun lobby made NZ less safe” for the Sydney Morning Herald.

She writes: “Australians over 40 can identify with the grief gripping New Zealand just now. We felt it in the aftermath of the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, when 35 people were murdered and dozens more wounded at the popular holiday location in Tasmania. Just as in Christchurch, the Port Arthur killer was a 28-year-old loner with no criminal record armed with semi-automatic weapons. …

“It didn’t have to be that way. Australia’s comprehensive overhaul of firearm policy after Port Arthur should also have been applied in New Zealand. Under our National Firearms Agreement, we banned semi-auto rifles and shotguns, removed 640,000 of these weapons from circulation with a buyback, required registration of all guns and dramatically raised the standard of screening for a gun license, including the obligation to prove a legitimate reason. This scheme was developed under the auspices of the Australasian Police Ministers Council — Australasian as in Australia plus New Zealand. Our two countries routinely collaborate on matters of criminal investigation and prevention, so it made sense for the solution to be Australasian.

“Under pressure from the local gun lobby, New Zealand declined to join the scheme and instead held a review of its law. Unsurprisingly, the review recommended major changes along the lines of the Australian reforms, but those recommendations were ignored and never implemented. This left New Zealand out of step, not only with Australia, but with most other industrialised countries which recognise the need for robust controls over a product designed specifically for the purpose of causing death and injury.

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has declared that the gun laws will change. No need to start from scratch: she should take advantage of the extensive policy thinking already done for the New Zealand review and Australia’s National Firearms Agreement. Ideally, New Zealand should adopt the same measures as Australia. She should act fast, before the media spotlight moves on and gun lobby pressure begins to drain the resolve of legislators.”

Peters’ past pieces include “When will the U.S. learn from Australia? Stricter gun control laws save lives” published in 2013 by the British Guardian.

Trump and Bolsonaro Meeting

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MARIA LUISA MENDONÇA, marialuisam222 at gmail.com
Maria Luísa Mendonça, director of the Network for Social Justice and Human Rights in Brazil said today: “As Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro visits Washington, D.C. this week, we must point out his record of racism, misogyny and homophobic views. Bolsonaro represents an extremist tendency that finds in Trump a strong ally. He has expressed support for the military dictatorship and its torturers, saying that Brazil’s regime at that time did not go far enough in killing political opponents. Recent investigations about the assassination of Rio de Janeiro state legislator Marielle Franco suggest links between Bolsonaro’s family and militia members accused of killing her.”

ALEXANDER MAIN, main at cepr.net, @ceprdc
Director of international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Main said today: “Venezuela will undoubtedly be at the top of the agenda in the meeting between Bolsonaro and Trump. The current U.S. strategy for regime change in Venezuela — based on supporting Juan Guaido’s claim to the Venezuelan presidency and trying to trigger a military coup against the Maduro government — has not been working.  The Trump administration’s single-minded goal is to persuade South American allies to join the U.S. in imposing crippling economic sanctions on Venezuela. There are also signs that Trump and his team — which now includes hawkish Iran-Contra hand Elliott Abrams — would like to see Venezuela’s neighbors, Colombia and Brazil, intervene militarily in Venezuela, with possible U.S. logistical support. While there exists resistance to these plans within Bolsonaro’s government, the Brazilian president, who is one of Trump’s biggest international fans, is likely to commit to taking on a much more aggressive policy towards Venezuela.”

See past Institute for Public Accuracy news releases on Bolsonaro.

Leading Expert on Islamophobia

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ARUN KUNDNANI, arunkundnani at gmail.com
Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror and a lecturer at New York University. His articles include “The belief system of the Islamophobes” and “Recharging the Batteries of Whiteness: Trump’s New Racial Identity Politics.” See his website: kundnani.org.

Ali Abunimah tweeted: “The Christchurch massacre was years — years in the making. The killer was a child when the 9/11 attacks happened. Islamophobia didn’t start then, but since 2001 ‘mainstream’ media and politicians have pumped out a message that Muslims, immigrants, people of color are a ‘threat.'” Abunimah also identified a pattern of some major political figures initially not acknowledging the terrorist targeted Muslims.

NoToNATO.org: Trump a NATO Booster

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NATO foreign ministers are scheduled to gather in Washington, D.C. on April, 4 2019 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the organization. There will be protests, news conferences and other events scrutinizing NATO.

DAVID SWANSON, david at worldbeyondwar.org, @davidcnswanson
Swanson is director of the group World Beyond War, which is helping organize the upcoming protests in D.C. and elsewhere with a host of other groups. See: NoToNATO.org.

On Tuesday, President Trump, while meeting with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, said he intends “to designate Brazil as a major non-NATO ally — or, maybe a NATO ally.” While the Washington Post writes that “Trump misunderstands NATO so badly, he thinks Brazil could be part of it,” Swanson notes that in fact, Colombia is already a NATO partner. This policy was pushed by the Atlantic Council, which itself is funded by the U.S. mission to NATO as well as various weapons makers.

Swanson adds: “The pretense of North-Atlanticness was pretty well gone with the wars on Afghanistan, Pakistan. Libya.” Swanson also questions the depiction of Trump as “anti-NATO” while he has been “the biggest promoter of NATO ever” since his past comments have “already got most NATO members buying more weapons.”

[This week marks the anniversaries of both the Iraq invasion (see background and videos) and the NATO bombing of Libya.]

See NoToNATO.org for information, events and critical background on NATO: “NATO is the largest military alliance in the world with the largest military spending and weapons dealing (roughly three-quarters of the world total) and nuclear stockpiles. While claiming to ‘preserve peace,’ NATO has violated international law and bombed Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. NATO has exacerbated tensions with Russia and increased the risk of nuclear apocalypse. …

“War is a leading contributor to the growing global refugee and climate crises, the basis for the militarization of the police, a top cause of the erosion of civil liberties, and a catalyst for racism and bigotry. We’re calling for the abolition of NATO, the promotion of peace, the redirection of resources to human and environmental needs, and the demilitarization of our cultures.”

Beto O’Rourke Offering “Rorschach Politics”

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In a story headlined “Centrist or Liberal? Beto O’Rourke’s Political Splits,” The Associated Press reports that in the early days of his presidential campaign O’Rourke “has vowed to work with Republicans. . . The architects of his campaign insist he’s not interested in adhering to a particular ideological lane, and O’Rourke himself shuns party labels. But trying to have it both ways could leave Democratic voters with the impression that O’Rourke is a candidate with a split political personality.”

The AP story quotes Norman Solomon, who was a Barack Obama delegate in 2008 and a Bernie Sanders delegate in 2016 at Democratic national conventions. “I see him [O’Rourke] as offering Rorschach politics,” Solomon said. “In the age of Trump, when you want to be something for everybody, you’re going to end up being amorphous for a lot of people.” He added: “We can’t just be nice to Republicans. We know that doesn’t work.”

In an opinion piece published today — “Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President” — Solomon writes that “to understand Beto O’Rourke as a candidate, it’s vital to go beneath the surface of his political backstory.”

To arrange an interview, contact:

NORMAN SOLOMON, solomonprogressive at gmail.com

Solomon is co-founder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org, which has 1.2 million active supporters online in the United States. At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, Solomon was the coordinator of the independent Bernie Delegates Network. He is currently on the coordinating team of the relaunched Network.

In his article today, Solomon writes about “an inconvenient truth that could undermine the O’Rourke campaign among the people who matter most — the ones who’ll be voting to choose the Democratic presidential nominee next year.”

Solomon’s piece says that “O’Rourke would much rather talk in upbeat generalities than answer pointed questions about why anti-Republican voters should cast ballots for him — when he has a long record of going along with many GOP positions they find abhorrent.” For example, “he supported raising the minimum age for Social Security in 2012,” and while in Congress through the end of 2018 “he often aligned himself with Republican positions.”

And Solomon concludes: “In his quest for a Democratic nomination that will require support from a primary electorate that leans progressive, Beto O’Rourke will be running to elude his actual record. If it catches up with him, he’s going to lose.”

Solomon is the executive director of IPA.

Trump’s Recognition of Golan Violates International Law

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President Donald Trump on Thursday tweeted it’s “time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights.”

The annual AIPAC conference begins on Sunday and The Hill reports it “boasts headliners from both parties, including Vice President Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also routinely come to the event, and will do so again this year.”

Ali Abunimah tweeted: “How do the delusional @Maddow #Russiagate peddlers explain that ‘Putin puppet’ @realDonaldTrump still refuses to recognize Russian annexation of Crimea, but just did Netanyahu’s bidding and recognized illegal Israeli annexation of Syria’s Golan Heights?”

Abunimah is among the speakers at the “Israel Lobby & American Policy Conference,” now taking place on Friday at the National Press Club. See information, including livestream — also on C-SPAN2. Other speakers include Walter Hixson, author of Israel’s Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict and organizer Grant Smith, author of Big Israel: How Israel’s Lobby moves America.

JOHN QUIGLEY, quigley.2 at osu.edu
Quigley is professor emeritus of international law at Ohio State University. Regarding Trump’s statement on the Golan Heights, which was seized by Israel in 1967, he cites the Stimson Doctrine, which which forbids recognition of any legal consequences as a result of the use of force. See information on State Department website about the Stimson Doctrine.

Quigley’s books include The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict (Cambridge University Press) and The Ruses for War: American Interventionism Since World War II. He also wrote “Finding a Way Forward for Crimea,” for the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law.

Russiagate: “Massive Gift for Trump”

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AARON MATÉ, aaronmate at gmail.com, @aaronjmate
For over two years, Maté has written a series of pieces for The Nation questioning the prevailing orthodoxy on “Russiagate” including: “A Skeptic’s Guide to the Russiagate Fixation,” “New Studies Show Pundits Are Wrong About Russian Social-Media Involvement in U.S. Politics,” “Don’t Let Russophobia Warp the Facts on Russiagate,” “Don’t Count on Russiagate to Bring Trump Down,” and from Feb. 2017: “Stop With the Conspiracy Theories — Trump Is Bad Enough.”

He was also featured on numerous Institute for Public Accuracy news releases on the subject, including: “Behind MSNBC’s Russia Obsession,” “From Cohen to Venezuela: Hollowness of ‘Russiagate,’” “Is Flynn/Kushner Actually Israelgate?” and “Why is Israelgate Being Downplayed?

He said today: “Robert Mueller’s findings should put to rest the Trump-Russia collusion theory that has dominated U.S. media and political culture for more than two years. They also should come as no surprise to anyone who closely followed the available evidence in the case to date. The narrative of a Trump-Russia conspiracy was not grounded in fact. Unfortunately, prominent media and political voices ignored the countervailing evidence to blow it far out of proportion and mislead millions of people into expecting that Mueller would uncover a Trump-Russia plot.”

Maté also blamed the “intelligence agencies that relied on dubious evidence, namely the Steele dossier, to target a major presidential campaign — setting up a dangerous precedent, no matter one’s party affiliation.

“The collapse of Russiagate need not be a defeat for the anti-Trump resistance that got behind it. The Trump-Russia fixation has sidelined attention on Trump’s actual policies, and channelled liberal energy into unrealistic expectations. With Mueller no longer able to fill that fantasy role, those who oppose Trump have the opportunity to build a real resistance to his administration, and confront the serious issues that Russiagate has helped us avoid. The task will not be easy: as some of us progressive skeptics of Russiagate warned, the incessant faith in a conspiracy theory did not take into account that it not only overlooked Trump’s actual policies, but also stood to benefit Trump should it collapse. With Mueller’s probe wrapping up with no finding of a conspiracy, those who led their audiences to expect the opposite have just handed Trump a massive gift for his re-election campaign.”

AIPAC and Israel’s Influence

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The Washington Post reports in “Hoyer delivers strong defense of U.S.-Israel alliance in veiled rebuke of Rep. Omar,” “’I stand with Israel, proudly and unapologetically. So, when someone accuses American supporters of Israel of dual loyalty, I say: Accuse me. I am part of a large, bipartisan coalition in Congress supporting Israel. I tell Israel’s detractors: Accuse us,’ Hoyer said at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s annual conference at Washington’s Convention Center.”

Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are expected to meet today.

WALTER HIXSON, walter4 at uakron.edu
Hixson is distinguished professor of history at the University of Akron. He is author of the just-released Israel’s Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict (Cambridge University Press).

He recently wrote “We Need to Acknowledge the Power of the Israel Lobby” for History News Network. He wrote: “While reams of type and hype have spilled forth concerning the intrusions by the big, bad Russian bear (yes, he’s back after a post-Cold War hibernation) on American politics, we hear very little about Israel’s influence, which has profoundly shaped United States Middle East diplomacy since World War II. As I document … the Israel lobby goes much deeper historically than most people realize and has long exercised an outsized influence on Congress and presidential elections. …

“Even more absurd than over-hyping Russian influence on U.S. elections while ignoring those of Israel, is the widespread condemnation of Iran for supposedly pursuing a nuclear weapon, while ignoring the history of Israel’s utter contempt for nuclear non-proliferation in defiance of the United States dating back to the Eisenhower administration.”

In his talk on Friday at the “Israel Lobby & American Policy Conference,” Hixson said that the lobby has been political armor for Israel for decades. Israel found early on it “could massacre people and rely on the lobby to effectively manage the political fallout.” The conference was on C-SPAN.

Hixson’s past books include American Settler Colonialism and The Myth of American Diplomacy: National Identity and U.S. Foreign Policy.

See piece by Institute for Public Accuracy senior analyst Sam Husseini: “Rep. Omar’s Choice.”

Is “Russiagate” Helping Push the NATO Agenda?

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Radio Free Europe is reporting that during a visit to the country of Georgia, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the South Caucasus country will join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, despite Russia’s strong opposition. See: “Stoltenberg: Georgia Will Join NATO, And Russia Can Do Nothing About It.” See NATO statement on NATO-Georgian military exercises. The country of Georgia borders Russia, Turkey and the eastern end of the Black Sea. It is about 2,000 miles from the Atlantic.

Stoltenberg is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress on April 3.

STEPHEN F. COHEN, sfc1 at nyu.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Cohen is professor emeritus of Russian studies, history, and politics at New York University and Princeton University. A Nation contributing editor, he is the author, most recently, of War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate.

He recently wrote the piece “Even a Vacuous Mueller Report Won’t End ‘Russiagate.’

Cohen writes: “The top Democratic congressional leadership evidently has concluded that promoting the new Cold War, of which Russiagate has become an integral part, is a winning issue in 2020. How else to explain Nancy Pelosi’s proposal — subsequently endorsed by the equally unstatesmanlike Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and adopted — to invite the secretary general of NATO, a not-very-distinguished Norwegian politician named Jens Stoltenberg, to address a joint session of Congress? The honor was once bestowed on figures such as Winston Churchill and at the very least leaders of actual countries. Trump has reasonably questioned NATO’s mission and costs nearly 30 years after the Soviet Union disappeared, as did many Washington think tanks and pundits back in the 1990s. But for Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, there can be no such discussion, only valorization of NATO, even though the military alliance’s eastward expansion has brought the West to the brink of war with nuclear Russia.”

Russia and NATO Expansion

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The group RootsAction.org today released an action alert: “Next Wednesday, a rare joint session of Congress will hear a speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“NATO began 70 years ago with an announced mission of being a defensive alliance of Western European nations, Canada and the United States. But in recent decades, NATO has been a destabilizing and deadly force — with large-scale military interventions in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya — while more and more countries have become NATO members. …

“Just days ago, NATO confirmed that it intends to bring into military membership yet another country on the Russian border — Georgia. But before that dangerous change can take effect, the U.S. Senate must vote on it. …

“The historical record is clear. After the 1990 reunification of Germany, the first Bush administration promised that NATO would move ‘not one inch eastward.’ But during the last three decades, NATO has added 13 counties and now is up against Russia’s borders.”

PIETRO SHAKARIAN, shakarian.3 at buckeyemail.osu.edu
Shakarian is a specialist in the Caucasus region, particularly Armenia and Georgia. He is currently a history PhD candidate at The Ohio State University. He hosts the “Reconsidering Russia” podcast and has written introductions for a series of classic books on the region.

He said today: “Nestled on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, Georgia is a nation with two breakaway regions — Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Both entities desire to secede as a result of longstanding grievances that erupted into open conflict with the unraveling of the Soviet Union in 1991. A peace process involving Tbilisi and these self-proclaimed republics began in the 1990s, with Russia acting as mediator. After the 2003 Rose Revolution, the pro-Western Mikheil Saakashvili ascended to power with the support of Washington and made membership in the EU and NATO a priority for Georgia. This move alienated the Abkhaz and Ossetes, and aggravated Moscow. Then, in August 2008, convinced of American support, Saakashvili attacked South Ossetia, prompting the well-known bear-like response from Moscow. In 2012, his party was ousted by Georgian voters and the Georgian Dream (GD), led by the pragmatic billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, assumed power. The GD seeks a rapprochement with Russia and dialogue with the Abkhaz and the Ossetes. However, it has also retained Georgia’s EU and NATO aspirations as a form of geopolitical leverage vis-à-vis Moscow.

“Pro-NATO sentiments in Georgia are encouraged by Washington war hawks and NATO officials, such as Mr. Stoltenberg. What motivated Stoltenberg’s latest remark about Georgia and NATO? At first glance, such a statement seems like business as usual. U.S. and NATO officials periodically travel to Georgia and make such declarations to reinforce Tbilisi’s commitment to its NATO aspirations. However, the exceptional hawkishness of this particular statement suggests another context, which is the Russiagate controversy in the U.S. Keep in mind that Stoltenberg’s pronouncement came one day after Attorney General Bill Barr announced the findings of the Mueller Report. It also came a week before Stoltenberg’s upcoming address to a joint session of Congress on April 3. The idea is to bolster support in Washington for a harder policy toward Russia.

“Although especially provocative, Stoltenberg’s statement will most likely not change the status quo. It is highly doubtful that Georgia will ever join NATO, not only because the EU has no stomach for a confrontation with Russia, but also because Tbilisi does not fully control its own territory. Bringing Georgia into NATO would be a dangerous enterprise that could spark a nuclear confrontation between Moscow and Washington in the Caucasus. The alternative would be for the Georgians, Russians, Abkhaz, and Ossetes to come together at the negotiating table and resolve all matters through diplomatic means.”

NATO: “A Gift to Vested Interests, Source of Global Tension”

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Next week marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of NATO. Foreign ministers from NATO countries will participate in commemorations in Washington, D.C. General Secretary of NATO Jens Stoltenberg will address a joint meeting of Congress. There will also be teach-ins and protests, see: NoToNato.org.

RootsAction.org will hold a news conference “NATO and U.S. Foreign Policy: Dangers Ahead” at the National Press Club on Tuesday, which will include former State Department officials Matthew Hoh and Ann Wright.

DAVID GIBBS, dgibbs at arizona.edu
Gibbs is professor of history at the University of Arizona, and author of the 2009 book First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, published by Vanderbilt University Press.He said today: “Since the ending of the Cold War in 1989, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has ceased to have a positive function. Instead, it has become an extravagant gift to vested interests, including the uniformed militaries in both the United States and Europe, as well as weapons manufacturers – all funded by taxpayers. Far from providing security, NATO has become a major source of global tension. It contributed significantly to the current conflict between the U.S. and Russia, which could easily evolve into a new Cold War, posing a dire threat to world security.”

NATO Expansion: The Skeptics Were “Proven Correct”

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[RootsAction.org will hold a news conference “NATO and U.S. Foreign Policy: Dangers Ahead” at the National Press Club on Tuesday, which will include former State Department officials Matthew Hoh and Ann Wright. There will also be teach-ins and protests in D.C., see: NoToNato.org.]

JAMES CARDEN, [in D.C.], jamescarden09 at gmail.com
Carden is a contributing writer at The Nation and the executive editor for the American Committee for East-West Accord.

He just wrote the piece “NATO Turns 70“: “On April 4, 1949, representatives of the United States, Canada, and 10 European countries, including the United Kingdom and France, gathered in Washington to sign the North Atlantic Treaty, a defense pact created at the urging of wartime allies France and Britain as a means to, in the words of NATO’s first secretary general, Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay, ‘keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.’ …

“To mark the 70th anniversary of that occasion, NATO foreign ministers will descend on Washington for a ministerial meeting, various think-tank panels and commemorations, all to be topped off by an address from NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg to a joint meeting of Congress. …

“One of NATO’s first major post-Cold War missions, the 78-day aerial bombing of Serbia, nearly ended in disaster when NATO Supreme Allied Commander Wesley Clark ordered British General Mike Jackson, commander of NATO’s troops in Kosovo, to retake the airfield in Pristina, the capital, from the Russians — by force if necessary.

“Jackson refused: ‘I’m not going to start Third World War for you.’ …

“In an open letter to the Clinton administration in June 1997, dozens of high-ranking former policy-makers and diplomats, including Senators Bill Bradley, Gary Hart, and Sam Nunn; Paul H. Nitze, Ambassador Jack Matlock, and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, warned that ‘NATO expansion is neither necessary nor desirable and that this ill-conceived policy can and should be put on hold.’

“The diplomat-scholar George F. Kennan also foresaw trouble. Writing just after the New Year in 1997, Kennan predicted that ‘the Russians will not react wisely and moderately to the decision of NATO to extend its boundaries to the Russian frontiers.’ For Kennan, the decision was ‘the greatest mistake of the entire post-Cold War period.’ Time has proven the skeptics correct.

“The policy of NATO expansion is largely responsible for the dangerous deterioration in relations between Russia and the West and lies at the heart of the ongoing Ukraine crisis. …

“Instead of a self-serving, self-justifying anniversary celebration, NATO should address what has gone so wrong over the past three decades by reexamining its policies of eastward expansion and non-defensive deployment and seriously consider adopting a nuclear ‘no first use’ policy.”

NATO’s Record of Destabilization

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NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will address a joint meeting of Congress today.

[See video of RootsAction.org news conference “NATO and U.S. Foreign Policy: Dangers Ahead” at the National Press Club on Tuesday, which included former State Department officials Matthew Hoh and Ann Wright and Martin Fleck of Physicians for Social Responsibility.]

This week marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of NATO. Foreign ministers from NATO countries will participate in commemorations in Washington, D.C. There will also be teach-ins and protests, see: NoToNato.org.

While Stoltenberg has argued that NATO provides stability, security and peace, many scrutinizing NATO have come to the opposite conclusion.

DAVID GIBBS, dgibbs at arizona.edu
Gibbs is professor of history at the University of Arizona, and author of the 2009 book First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, published by Vanderbilt University Press.He said today: “The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s record on global security has been disastrous, especially with regard to its efforts at interventionism and regime change. Its 1999 bombing of Serbia and Kosovo greatly augmented the scale of atrocities and ethnic cleansing. The 2011 NATO intervention in Libya was even more disastrous, triggering a generalized destabilization of the whole North African region. And more recently, NATO expansion into Eastern Europe has contributed to rising tensions between the West and Russia. Since the end of the Cold War, NATO’s principal legacy has been to generate global insecurity and destabilization — all at great expense to taxpayers.”

See from FAIR: “Media Erase NATO Role in Bringing Slave Markets to Libya.”

The Norway-based analyst John Y. Jones states that NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg is seen as a Norwegian Blair (with respect to privatization and tax reduction). Jones states that Stoltenberg’s enthusiasm for Norway’s participation in the 2011 bombing of Libya was seen as his ticket to becoming Secretary General of NATO. A critical book about him, The Man Without Spine, was written by Magnus Marsdal.

See from the Swedish analyst Jan Oberg of the Transnational Foundation for Peace & Future Research: “NATO’s Crisis and the Transatlantic Conflict.”

Rev. Tutu Among Luminaries Backing Activists Facing 25 Years for Nuclear Weapons Action

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A host of luminaries, including Nobel Peace Prize laureates Rev. Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire and Jody Williams, have released a joint statement/petition backing a groups of activists — the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 — who “nonviolently and symbolically disarmed the Trident nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay, Georgia.”

The action took place on April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — a year ago Thursday.

The nonviolent activists — several of whom have been behind bars for the past year, including Elizabeth McAlister, the widow of Phil Berrigan — are facing decades in jail. Other plowshares activists, and people in the support network, are now available for interviews, see below. Their trial is expected to start in the coming weeks.

Other signers of the statement include noted critics of U.S. foreign policy Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed the Pentagon Papers and recently wrote the book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.

[The group’s supporters in a news release on Wednesday give critical background and note that NATO, which is this week being celebrated in Washington, D.C. (with its secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg addressing a joint meeting of Congress today), overwhelmingly opposes the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which is supported in the statement.]

Here is the petition, with a listing of the initial signers, which is now open for all to sign:

The Kings Bay Plowshares 7 (KBP7) are facing a federal trial and a 25-year prison term for having confronted a system in which nuclear weapons that can destroy all creation are accepted as a normal, even inevitable, part of life.

This threat, and the lack of public outrage over it, compelled seven principled activists (Elizabeth McAlister, Stephen Kelly S.J., Martha Hennessy, Clare Grady, Patrick O’Neill, Mark Colville, and Carmen Trotta) to enter Naval Station Kings Bay Submarine Base in Georgia on the 50th anniversary of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Kings Bay is homeport to six U.S. nuclear ballistic missile submarines carrying hundreds of nuclear weapons, many of which have up to 30 times the explosive power of the bomb that destroyed the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945. Following the Prophet Isaiah’s Biblical command to “beat swords into plowshares” (Is. 2:4), the seven were also acting legally to uphold anti-nuclear treaties as the supreme law of the land according to the U.S. Constitution, international law manifested in the U.N. Charter and the Nuremberg principles. By their actions at Kings Bay, they sought to draw attention to the urgency of withdrawing consent and dismantling what Dr. King called the “triple evils” of racism, excessive materialism, and militarism. The KBP7’s action statement reads: “Nuclear weapons eviscerate the rule of law, enforce white supremacy, perpetuate endless war and environmental destruction, and ensure impunity for all manner of crimes against humanity. Dr. King said, ‘The ultimate logic of racism is genocide.’ We say, ‘The ultimate logic of Trident is omnicide. A just and peaceful world is possible when we join prayers with action. Swords into Plowshares!’”

We who share the moral vision of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 proclaim our support for their courage and sustained sacrifice and call for the immediate dismissal of all charges against them. The defendants invite us to act creatively. They invite us to join global coalitions working to promote governments’ adherence to, and full implementation of, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. They also invite us to participate in campaigns for divestment from nuclear weapons as complementary efforts towards the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons.

Three of the Plowshares activists are still behind bars: Fr. Steve Kelly, S.J., Elizabeth McAlister, and Mark Colville (Amistad Catholic Worker, New Haven, Conn.) have been in a rural county jail in Georgia since their arrest last year.

Four of the defendants are out of jail on bail, bond and GPS monitors, and are available for interviews. They are Clare Grady (daughter of John Grady, Camden 28), Ithaca Catholic Worker, N.Y.; Martha Hennessy (granddaughter of co-founder of the Catholic Worker, Dorothy Day) of Vermont; Patrick O’Neill of the Fr. Charlie Mulholland Catholic Worker, Garner, N.C.; and Carmen Trotta of the New York City Catholic Worker.

For interviews, contact:
Mary Anne Grady Flores, in Ithaca, N.Y., gradyflores08 at gmail.com, @kingsbayplow7
Bill Ofenloch, in NYC, billcpf at aol.com

House Clears Yemen War Powers

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Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Ro Khanna issued the following joint statement today after the House passed the Yemen War Powers Resolution. The resolution will now be sent to President Trump’s desk. “Today, the U.S. House of Representatives took a clear stand against war and famine and for Congress’ war powers by voting to end our complicity in the war in Yemen. This is the first time in the history of this nation that a War Powers Resolution has passed the House and Senate and made it to the president’s desk. Despite the many procedural roadblocks deployed in both chambers to block this resolution, commitment to human rights and Congressional responsibility prevailed. Finally, the U.S. Congress has reclaimed its constitutional authority over matters of war and peace.”

JEHAN HAKIM, hakimjehan at gmail.com
Hakim is chair of the Yemeni Alliance Committee [see on Facebook], a leading grassroots group on the issue.

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB, eltayyab at justforeignpolicy.org, @justfp
El-Tayyab is co-director of Just Foreign Policy, see their campaigns on Yemen and on War Powers.

See prior Institute for Public Accuracy news releases on the issue.

Note: The ACLU has voiced legal objections to exceptions contained in the legislation since the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force is still in effect.

Trump ICC and Iran Moves: Latest Attacks on International Law

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FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. His books include Foundations of World Order (Duke University Press).

In “Trump Designates Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a Foreign Terrorist Group” the New York Times reports: “The timing of Mr. Trump’s announcement appeared aimed at giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel a final boost in a tight re-election campaign before a vote on Tuesday.”

Boyle said today that the administration’s move is “a complete negation and violation of the Third Geneva Convention of 1949 and thus a war crime. It opens us up to reprisals against our own military forces. Under the laws of war, reprisals against military personnel are permissible. This is continuing down the path of Bush Jr. determining that Taliban and Al Qaeda are not protected by the Geneva Conventions, which was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Hamdan decision. …. Iran could now determine that U.S. Special Forces, Seals, Green Berets, Rangers, etc. are terrorists and thus do not benefit from the Third Geneva Convention. Apparently, for that reason, the Pentagon was against it.”

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council has responded to the U.S. government move by designating the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and all the “forces connected to it” as a “terrorist group.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently announced “a policy of U.S. visa restrictions on those individuals directly responsible for any I.C.C. [International Criminal Court] investigation of U.S. personnel. This includes persons who take or have taken action to request or further such an investigation. These visa restrictions may also be used to deter I.C.C. efforts to pursue allied personnel, including Israelis, without allies’ consent.”

Boyle referred cases against top U.S. government officials to the International Criminal Court. He also advised Mahmoud Abbas to accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

In an interview published Monday with The Real News, Boyle said the “I.C.C. investigation, despite what Pompeo said, is not really against U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. The I.C.C. does not have jurisdiction as it were to go after low-level soldiers. Basically, the I.C.C. in the case of the United States, would be going after the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the head of the C.I.A.” See: “Sec. of State Pompeo Protecting Bush Jr. from War Crimes Prosecution

Also see recent IPA news release: “Trump’s Recognition of Golan Violates International Law.”

“Russiagate” and “Media-Driven Hallucinations”

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STEPHEN KINZER, kinzer.stephen at gmail.com, @stephenkinzer
Kinzer is a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University. His books include Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq and most recently, The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire.

He recently wrote the piece “The Folly of ‘Russiagate’” for the Boston Globe: “As long as Clinton and those who followed her off the electoral cliff believe [Russiagate], they can avoid self-criticism and blame someone else for her loss. Best of all, years of relentless attacks by American pundits and politicians have turned the person they want to blame — President Vladimir Putin of Russia — into a caricature of evil. That made it possible to imagine Putin as powerful enough to decide the outcome of a presidential election in the United States. Mueller’s report is a rude shock to those who dove down this rabbit hole.

“Media-driven hallucinations have shaped American political history. Spain’s 1898 destruction of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor propelled the United States into the Spanish-American War — but 70 years later the explosion was found to have been caused by sparks from the ship’s furnace. Congress voted to plunge into war in Vietnam after Communists attacked U.S. warships in the Gulf of Tonkin; later it became clear that no such attack occurred. As we prepared to invade Iraq in 2003, almost every important politician and media outlet parroted baseless assertions that Iraq had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction.”

He warns that as “Russiagate” “becomes dogma, anyone in Washington who urges diplomacy with Russia is stigmatized. That is more dangerous to our security than anything that happened during the last presidential campaign.”

Also see Kinzer’s piece “How to Interfere in a Foreign Election.”

See some of the past Institute for Public Accuracy news releases on “Russiagate.” Also see from FAIR by Sam Husseini: “Triumph of Conventional Wisdom: AP Expunges Iran/Contra Pardons from Barr’s Record.”

Assange Arrest: “Nuclear Option” Against the First Amendment?

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Consortium News notes in “Moreno Withdraws Asylum as Assange is Arrested” that Jen Robinson, a lawyer for Assange tweeted: “Just confirmed: Assange has been arrested not just for breach of bail conditions but also in relation to a U.S. extradition request.”

Edward Snowden tweeted: “Important background for journalists covering the arrest of Julian Assange by Ecuador: the United Nations formally ruled his detention to be arbitrary, a violation of human rights. They have repeatedly issued statements calling for him to walk free — including very recently.”

Last month, Chelsea Manning was jailed by the U.S. government for refusing to comply with a subpoena to testify in front of a grand jury believed to be investigating WikiLeaks’s publishing activities. Manning had revealed information that WikiLeaks made public, including the “Collateral Murder” video, which showed U.S. soldiers killing civilians, including media personnel, in Iraq: collateralmurder.wikileaks.org.

Floyd Abrams, author of The Soul of the First Amendment, has litigated a host of critical First Amendment cases. He provided the Institute for Public Accuracy with a statement responding to Attorney General William Barr’s remarks during his confirmation hearings: “It’s one thing to say that there could be circumstances in which a journalist’s need to protect her sources could lead to a potential finding of contempt of court if she refused to obey a court order requiring such disclosure. But the notion that a journalist could properly be jailed for publishing material that the government thinks could ‘hurt the country’ is something else entirely and would be deeply threatening to First Amendment norms in general and journalistic freedom in particular.”

ExposeFacts, a project of IPA, released a statement by Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg in 2017 warning: “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). To switch the metaphor, an indictment of Assange is a ‘first use’ of ‘the nuclear option’ against the First Amendment protection of a free press. (By the way, the charges they’re reportedly considering against him — conspiracy, theft, and violation of the Espionage Act — are exactly the charges I faced in 1971.)

“If journalists and publishers fail to call this out, denounce and resist it — on the spurious grounds that Julian is ‘not a real journalist’ like themselves — they’re offering themselves up to Trump … for indictments and prosecutions, which will eventually silence all but the heroes and heroines among them.”

JOE EMERSBERGER, jemersberger at aol.com@rosendo_joe
Emersberger wrote the piece “Assange Case Shows Support for Free Speech Depends on Who’s Talking” for the media watch group FAIR: “The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded in February 2016 that the governments of the UK and Sweden had forced WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange into a condition of arbitrary detention in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been since 2012. The group’s press release stated: ‘The expert panel called on the Swedish and British authorities to end Mr. Assange’s deprivation of liberty, respect his physical integrity and freedom of movement, and afford him the right to compensation.’

“Assange has never been charged with a crime in Sweden. At the secret urging of the UK government, Sweden refused for several years to question Assange in London regarding sexual assault allegations. That kept the case in ‘preliminary investigation’ limbo, while Sweden also refused to guarantee that Assange would not be extradited to the United States, where he is likely to face prosecution for his work as a publisher.”

Emersberger notes that a year ago “Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno made the conditions of Assange’s arbitrary detention much worse. … Moreno won the presidency in 2017 by running as a staunch Correa [the pervious president who gave Assange asylum at the Ecuadoran embassy in London] loyalist. Immediately after taking office, Moreno shifted dramatically to the right, disavowed the longstanding ties to Correa that he used to get elected, and, crucially, ensured that public media no longer provided a counterweight to Ecuador’s right-wing private media that always attacked Correa.”

Rep. Barbara Lee’s Startling Vote to Boost Military Spending

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To the surprise of many, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) provided the winning margin in the House Budget Committee last week when she voted for a bill that would raise military spending by $17 billion next year. Some prominent constituents of the famously antiwar congresswoman are now vocally questioning her pivotal action.

GUS NEWPORT, gusnewport at gmail.com
Newport is former mayor of Berkeley, Calif. and former vice president from the U.S. to the World Peace Council. He said today: “It is with great sadness that I have to speak out in opposition to Congresswoman Barbara Lee for voting in favor of raising an already inflated military budget. She will always be remembered as the lone vote in September 2001 against a green light for endless war; however in no way is her present position justified.”

MICHAEL EISENSCHER, meisenscher at gmail.com, @meisenscher

National coordinator emeritus of U.S. Labor Against the War, Eisenscher said today: “Politicians are pragmatic about trading votes to move their legislative priorities. But there’s a difference between trading votes and trading away principles. The war machine and military-industrial complex consume more than half our discretionary budget, starving social programs and other national priorities in the name of ‘national security.’ Real national security is not determined by how large and lethal our military is but rather by whether our people earn living wages, have affordable housing, can see a doctor when needed without incurring huge medical bills and can go to college without becoming life-long indentured servants to their student loans. And we gain more influence in the world by being respected than by being feared.”

See recent piece — “Rep. Barbara Lee’s Startling Vote to Boost Military Spending” — by Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction.org and founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Contrary to Reports, the U.S. Gov. Can Add Charges After Assange Extradition

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In “Julian Assange Arrested in London as U.S. Unseals Hacking Conspiracy Indictment,” Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman and Eileen Sullivan of the New York Times state: “If Mr. [Julian] Assange is convicted on the conspiracy to hack offense alone, he could face up to five years in prison. The government could later seek to charge him with additional offenses, but because of extradition practices, any such superseding indictment would most likely need to come soon, before Britain formally decides whether to transfer custody of him.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law. His books include Foundations of World Order (Duke University Press).

He said today: “The New York Times report is wrong and understates the dangers to Assange. What it states is normally the case in extradition treaties, but it’s not the case in the relevant U.S.-British extradition treaty.

“Once the U.S. government has Assange over here, they can concoct whatever charges they want to against him for anything and then ask the British to waive what’s called the Rule of Specialty. That could add up to much more than the current five years Assange is facing. The British government will almost certainly consent, unless Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister.

“I’d expect that Assange’s lawyers will try to use the European Court of Human Rights to stop the extradition and in any event, they would need to ensure that the British government receives assurance from the U.S. government that the death penalty will not be sought.”

Also see from the Freedom of the Press Foundation: “The Trump administration’s indictment of Julian Assange threatens core press freedom rights.”

Also see: Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed the Pentagon Papers, was just interviewed by The Real News. (As Assange was forced out of the Ecuadorian embassy, he was holding a book — Gore Vidal: History of the National Security State — based on a collection of interviews Vidal did with The Real News.)

International Court Caving to Trump Pressure

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The New York Times reports: “Hague Court Abandons Afghanistan War Crimes Inquiry.”

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal at gmail.com, @marjoriecohn
Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. She said today: “After conducting a preliminary examination, Fatou Bensouda, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) found ‘a reasonable basis to believe’ that ‘war crimes of torture and ill-treatment’ had been committed ‘by U.S. military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.’ In 2017, Bensouda recommended to the ICC’s Pretrial Chamber that it open a formal investigation, which could involve subpoenas and arrests.

“In March 2019, the U.S. announced it would revoke or deny visas to members of the ICC involved in the investigation of war crimes allegedly committed by U.S. or allied personnel in Afghanistan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened economic sanctions if such investigations proceed. On April 4, the U.S. made good on its threat and revoked Bensouda’s visa.

“On April 12, the Pretrial Chamber, apparently succumbing to U.S. threats, refused to authorize an investigation based not on a lack of jurisdiction or reasonable grounds, but on the ‘extremely limited’ prospects for a successful investigation and prosecution, in large part due to a demonstrated and anticipated lack of cooperation from authorities in Afghanistan and other relevant States.

“This refusal does not bode well for the prospects of international justice against war criminals not just in Afghanistan, but in Israel as well, as Bensouda continues herpreliminary examination into war crimes committed in Gaza.”

See Cohn’s pieces: “John Bolton Escalates Blackmail to Shield U.S. War Criminals” and “Lawyers Worldwide Urge International Court: Investigate Israeli Crimes.”

Also see Institute for Public Accuracy news release from last week: “Trump ICC and Iran Moves: Latest Attacks on International Law” with Prof. Francis Boyle, who filed the original complaint against Bush administration officials to the ICC and his interviews with The Real News: “Sec. of State Pompeo Protecting Bush Jr. from War Crimes Prosecution.”

Examining the Center for American Progress

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The New York Times has had a pair of stories in recent days on the Center for American Progress: “Bernie Sanders Accuses Liberal Think Tank of Smearing Progressive Candidates” and “The Rematch: Bernie Sanders vs. a Clinton Loyalist,” which states: “The Center for American Progress and its sister political arm, with a $60 million combined annual budget and 320 staff members, have played an outsize role in the Democratic Party for nearly two decades. Founded in 2003 by top advisers to Bill and Hillary Clinton, the organization has sought to rebrand itself as a brain trust for the anti-Trump resistance.

“Its donor rolls overlap substantially with those of the Clintons’ campaigns and foundation. The think tank has taken in millions from interests often criticized by liberals, including Wall Street financiers, big banks, Silicon Valley titans, foreign governments, defense contractors and the health care industry. Individual donors can ask to remain anonymous. …

“From 2016 through last year, the center accepted nearly $2.5 million from the United Arab Emirates to fund its National Security and International Policy initiative, according to previously unreported internal budget documents. …

“Internal criticism of the Emirati donations leaked into the news media, prompting an in-house investigation that led to the firing of two staff members. One of them, Ken Gude, a longtime executive, is working with a lawyer on a wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

“In November 2015, after Ms. Tanden invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to a question-and-answer session at the center, a dozen staff members stood during an all-staff meeting and read a statement of protest. ‘Our goal is to promote humanity and shut down oppression and genocide and terrorism. Bringing in another head of state with a record of oppression would further push our mission away,’ it read in part.

“In an email Ms. Tanden sent on the day of the Netanyahu visit … released by WikiLeaks, she told the think tank’s founder, John D. Podesta, that the ‘far left hates me’ for hosting Mr. Netanyahu, but the invitation ‘may have sealed the deal with a new board member.’ Ms. Tanden was wooing Mr. [Jonathan] Lavine, a pro-Israel philanthropist.”

ZAID JILANI, [in D.C.] areo64 at gmail.com, @ZaidJilani
Jilani writes about political polarization for UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center and co-hosts “Extremely Offline,” a podcast “about better conversations between political tribes.” Jilani is blogging on the 2020 election at 2020watch.org.

He used to work at CAP and just wrote the piece “Constructive criticism of the Center for American Progress has helped make it more transparent and responsive over time” which states: “While I worked at the institution from 2009-2012, most of its donors were kept secret. However, following investigations by journalist Ken Silverstein, the think tank decided to disclose most of its donors.

“Similarly, I wrote several articles based off of presumably hacked and leaked emails from the inbox of the Ambassador from the United Arab Emirates that showed that the UAE was both financing CAP and using its senior staff to lobby the Trump administration and influence Washington policy. After a series of articles noting these ties, CAP eventually decided to end its financial relationship with the UAE, as was reported earlier this year.”

See piece by Silverstein from 2013 for The Nation: “The Secret Donors Behind the Center for American Progress and Other Think Tanks.”

Trump Vetoes Yemen War Powers Bill

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Rep. Ro Khanna tweeted late Tuesday: “With Trump’s veto of @BernieSanders’ and my War Powers Resolution, which passed with bipartisan support in Congress, he is risking the lives of millions of Yemeni civilians to famine, deadly airstrikes, and the war crimes of the Saudi regime. We must override his veto.”

SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, 1shireen at gmail.com, @shireen818
Originally from Yemen, Al-Adeimi is an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University. Her most recent piece is “As War on Yemen Hits the 4-Year Mark, Here’s a Brief History of U.S. Involvement.”

She tweeted Tuesday night: “Just yesterday, MbS [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al Saud] met with U.S. Central Command in Riyadh … Also yesterday, @SenSanders called on Trump to sign #SJRes7 during the #BernieTownHall on Fox. And this evening, Trump vetoed the bill. #Yemen”She writes in her recent piece: “This brutal and ongoing onslaught has taken the lives of more than 60,000 Yemenis and left half the population — 14 million people — on the verge of famine. What began as a civil war in Yemen escalated into what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Yemen became an international killing field, with Saudi Arabia leading a vicious bombing campaign, which the Obama and then Trump administrations helped unleash. As the political tide in the United States finally turns against the war, we must not let its early proponents — and those who remained silent — whitewash their misdeeds. We must be willing to look honestly at what the United States has done to the Yemeni people, so that we can finally end this war, and prevent similar atrocities in the future. …”

ISAAC EVANS-FRANTZ, isaacef at yahoo.com, @actioncorpsnyc
Isaac Evans-Frantz is with Action Corps NYC, which is organizing a number of protests, including targeting media outlets that have largely ignored the devastation in Yemen. See on Facebook: “Tell Morning Joe to Report on Yemen.” Background: recent piece from the media watch group FAIR: “Bill to End Yemen Siege Passes — No Thanks to MSNBC.”

Mueller and Barr’s Real History of Cover-ups

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

She said today: “The real issue that I and most other ‘Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity’ (see their latest memo) care about is whether any real evidence exists proving Russia meaningfully interfered in the election (regardless of whether that interference was with Trump’s collusion or not). Trump himself should care about that since it insinuates he would not have won except for Russian interference and thus weakens his presidency. As always, Mueller relies without critical questioning or thought upon intelligence agencies’ specious ‘assessments’ similar to how he relied upon Colin Powell’s presentation of false ‘intelligence’ to the U.N. to help the Bush administration gin up their illegal and disastrous war on Iraq. There could be gaping holes in Mueller’s indictment of the 12 Russian GRU agents for hacking the DNC — and indeed independent forensic researchers have challenged some of the hacking evidence he used. Prosecutors like Mueller know they ‘can indict a ham sandwich’ (and indeed Mueller’s been wrong before on several big cases, including misidentifying the Anthrax killer). In this case Mueller could have been even more lax as he was virtually assured that it would be unlikely he would ever need to prove his allegations in court.

“What’s worse is that the U.S. and its economic and military rivals (and even some allied countries) have spent decades in cyber[space], spying and hacking of each others’ communications to gain competitive advantages. This has been going on forever. That’s why the NSA hires so many hackers for heaven’s sake! But doesn’t anyone remember the stuff of John LeCarre novels?! What more people should recognize is that what’s been a constant backdrop on the international scene and occasionally amounted, at most, to some trading of each others’ spies (when caught) has all of a sudden been used to put us on a dangerous war footing between nuclear superpowers and to end freedom of the press (via prosecution of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange).”

ARUN GUPTA, arun.indypendent at gmail.com
Gupta was featured on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release in December: “Barr as AG? Bush and Trump Dovetail” in which — contrary to conventional wisdom — he showed the parallels between the Trump and George H.W. Bush administrations. He noted that Barr was in the CIA when Bush headed it and that Barr was Bush’s Attorney General when Bush pardoned Elliott Abrams and other officials for illegal activities. In January of this year, Elliott Abrams was the latest Bush administration official to join the Trump administration. See Gupta’s piece “Let’s Talk About George H.W. Bush’s Role in the Iran-Contra Scandal.”Now that it seems to suit their political agenda, some vocal advocates of “Russiagate” are finally highlighting Barr’s role in the Iran-Contra cover-up while they had been depicting him as a straight arrow. Also see IPA news release from December with Dennis Bernstein: “As Bush AG, Trump Nominee Barr Approved Cover-up Pardons.” Also see by Sam Husseini “Triumph of Conventional Wisdom: AP Expunges Iran/Contra Pardons from Barr’s Record” for the media watch group FAIR.

Biden’s Deceitful Record on Iraq Invasion

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CNN and other media are reporting that Joe Biden will enter the 2020 presidential race this week.

STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes
Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco. He just wrote a piece for The Progressive on Biden’s positions on the Iraq invasion. In his floor speech defending his vote for authorizing the 2003 Iraq invasion, Biden said that “few resolutions that come before the Congress are as grave and consequential as the one before us today.”

Zunes writes: “As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2002, Biden stated that Saddam Hussein had a sizable arsenal of chemical weapons as well as biological weapons, including anthrax, and that ‘he may have a strain’ of smallpox, despite UN inspectors reporting that Iraq no longer appeared to have any weaponized chemical or biological agents. And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency had reported as far back as 1997 that there was no evidence whatsoever that Iraq had any ongoing nuclear program, Biden insisted that Saddam was ‘seeking nuclear weapons.’

“At the start of hearings before his committee on July 31, 2002, Biden stated, ‘One thing is clear: These weapons must be dislodged from Saddam, or Saddam must be dislodged from power. If we wait for the danger from Saddam to become clear, it could be too late.’

“In an Orwellian twist of language designed to justify the war resolution, Biden claimed in Senate session in October 2002, ‘I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe it is a march to peace and security.’ …

“During the summer of 2002, as the Bush administration was pushing for war, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under Biden, had the opportunity to hear from any number of academics, former foreign service officials, United Nations personnel, and others specializing in Iraq. Public statements and leaks from the administration in the preceding months had been filled with false claims regarding Iraq’s military capabilities and links to terrorist groups while insisting a U.S. invasion and occupation of that country would go smoothly, with minimal casualties or other negative consequences.

“When the hearings commenced on July 31, eighteen witnesses were called, none of whom challenged the administration’s claims that Iraq was in possession of chemical and biological weapons and a nuclear weapons program. All three witnesses who addressed the question of Al-Qaeda claimed that Iraq directly supported the Islamist terrorist group.

“Despite overwhelming opposition among academics and foreign service officers familiar with the region, among the twelve witnesses who addressed whether the United States should invade, six were supportive, four were ambivalent, and only two opposed it. Among the witnesses was former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, whom Biden insisted was credible despite multiple perjury indictments for lying before Congress and his history of grossly exaggerating the military capabilities of Nicaragua, Cuba, the Soviet Union, and other designated enemies of the United States.

“Throughout the hearings, Biden insisted that Iraq was a threat to U.S. national security and that ‘regime change’ was a legitimate U.S. policy. And he expressed skepticism that renewed inspections would work.

“Scott Ritter, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, noted just prior to the hearings, ‘For Senator Biden’s Iraq hearings to be anything more than a political sham used to invoke a modern-day Gulf of Tonkin resolution-equivalent for Iraq, his committee will need to ask hard questions — and demand hard facts — concerning the real nature of the weapons threat posed by Iraq.’

“But Biden had no intention of doing so, refusing to even allow Ritter — who knew more about Iraq’s WMD capabilities than anyone and would have testified that Iraq had achieved at least qualitative disarmament — to testify. (Ironically, on ‘Meet the Press’ in 2007, Biden defended his false claims about Iraqi WMDs by insisting that ‘everyone in the world thought he had them. The weapons inspectors said he had them.’)” See video of some of Biden’s statements on YouTube and Twitter.

“Russiagate” Used to Demonize WikiLeaks

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CHARLES GLASS, [currently in France] charlesglass at gmx.com, @CharlesMGlass
Glass was ABC News Chief Middle East correspondent from 1983 to 1993. His latest book is They Fought Alone: The True Story of the Starr Brothers, British Agents in Nazi-Occupied France.

He recently wrote the piece “Julian Assange Languishes in Prison as His Journalistic Collaborators Brandish Their Prizes,” which states: “At my last meeting this year with Assange, the energy I recall at our first encounter in January 2011 was undiminished. He made coffee, glancing up at surveillance cameras in the tiny kitchen and every other room in the embassy that recorded his every movement. We talked for about an hour, when an embassy official ordered me to leave. In between, we discussed his health, his strategy to stay out of prison, his family, and the Democratic National Committee’s accusation that he colluded with President Donald Trump and Russia to hack its emails and publish them. The DNC was alleging that Assange revealed its ‘trade secrets,’ a reference to the methods the DNC used to deprive Bernie Sanders of the presidential nomination. The DNC is using the 1970 Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, meant to control organized crime, to pursue a journalist-publisher. If successful, it will set a precedent that should worry media everywhere.

“Trump’s personal lawyers insist that no crime was committed and therefore, no criminal conspiracy took place. That won’t stop the DOJ under Trump’s attorney general from pursuing criminal charges against Assange, not only for working with Manning to gain access to government secrets, but also to examine how Assange obtained confidential Defense and State Department documents, as well as the CIA’s hacking program that WikiLeaks published in 2017 under the name Vault 7. London’s Guardian newspaper, which had once cooperated with Assange, had accused him of meeting Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort in the embassy. Assange said, ‘I have never met or spoken to Paul Manafort.’ The embassy’s logbook, signed by all visitors, had no record of Manafort.”

Biden’s “Disastrous” Legislative Record

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Joe Biden is widely expected to formally announce his presidential run on Thursday.

ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn at gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn wrote the extensive cover story “No Joe! Joe Biden’s disastrous legislative legacy” earlier this year. It highlighted two issues that have become more widely noted since:

Cockburn quotes a “leading female Democratic activist” as saying: “We never had a talk when he wasn’t stroking my back.”

Cockburn also reported: “Further to the issue of Biden’s assurances that he is the man to beat Trump is the awkward fact that, as the former staffer told me, ‘he lacks the discipline to build the nuts and bolts of a modern presidential campaign.'”

In terms of policy, Cockburn argues that many of today’s problems — from personal debt to ISIS to the so-called border crisis — have their roots in policies Biden championed. Here are a few excerpts:

“Biden was long a willing foot soldier in the campaign to emasculate laws allowing debtors relief from loans they cannot repay. As far back as 1978, he helped negotiate a deal rolling back bankruptcy protections for graduates with federal student loans, and in 1984 worked to do the same for borrowers with loans for vocational schools. …

“By the 1980s, Biden had begun to see political gold in the harsh antidrug legislation … Biden later took pride in reminding audiences that ‘through the leadership of Senator Thurmond, and myself, and others,’ Congress had passed a law mandating a five-year sentence, with no parole, for anyone caught with a piece of crack cocaine ‘no bigger than [a] quarter.’ …

“Biden not only allowed fellow committee members to mount a sustained barrage of vicious attacks on [Anita] Hill: he wrapped up the hearings without calling at least two potential witnesses who could have convincingly corroborated Hill’s testimony and, by extension, indicated that the nominee had perjured himself on a sustained basis throughout the hearings. …

“Biden was among the 90 senators on one of the fatal (to the rest of us) legislative gifts presented to Wall Street back in the Clinton era: the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999. The act repealed the hallowed Depression-era Glass-Steagall legislation that severed investment banking from commercial banking, thereby permitting the combined operations to gamble with depositors’ money, and ultimately ushering in the 2008 crash. …

“An ardent proponent of NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, an ill-conceived initiative that has served as an enduring provocation of Russian hostility toward the West, Biden voted enthusiastically to authorize Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, was a major proponent of Clinton’s war in Kosovo, and pushed for military intervention in Sudan. Presumably in deference to this record, Obama entrusted his vice president with a number of foreign policy tasks over the years, beginning with ‘quarterbacking,’ as Biden put it, U.S. relations with Iraq. ‘Joe will do Iraq,’ the president told his foreign policy team a few weeks after being sworn in. ‘He knows it, he knows the players.’ It proved to be an unfortunate choice, at least for Iraqis. …

“[Biden’s book] Promise Me, Dad…has nothing but warm words for Juan Orlando Hernández, the current [Honduran] president, who financed his 2013 election campaign with $90 million stolen from the Honduran health service and more recently defied his country’s constitution by running for a second term.” As Cockburn points out: “The net result has been a tide of refugees fleeing north, most famously exemplified by the ‘caravan’ used by Donald Trump to galvanize support prior to November’s congressional elections and his subsequent fraudulent ‘border crisis.'”

Report: U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela Are Responsible for Tens of Thousands of Deaths

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USA Today and DCist report the Venezuelan embassy building is now largely filled with activists opposed to Trump policy. They are seeking to prevent the building being taken over by the “illegitimate” government of Juan Guaidó and have draped banners outside the building including “End the Deadly Sanctions.” See Facebook page of the activists and Twitter feed for CodePink founder Medea Benjamin; or contact: Margret Flowers of Popular Resistance, mdpnhp at gmail.com

MARK WEISBROT, JEFFREY SACHS, via Karen Conner, conner at cepr.net, @ceprdc
Wesibrot and Sachs, two noted economists, co-authored a just-released report: “Economic Sanctions as Collective Punishment: The Case of Venezuela,” for the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The group reports the study “finds that economic sanctions implemented by the Trump administration since August 2017 have caused tens of thousands of deaths and are rapidly worsening the humanitarian crisis.”

“The sanctions are depriving Venezuelans of lifesaving medicines, medical equipment, food, and other essential imports,” said Mark Weisbrot, co-director of CEPR and co-author of the report. “This is illegal under U.S. and international law, and treaties that the U.S. has signed. Congress should move to stop it.”

The paper notes that the recognition by the Trump administration of a “parallel government in January created a whole new set of financial and trade sanctions that are devastating to the economy and population. These new restrictions make it much more difficult to even pay for medicines and other essential imports with the limited foreign exchange that is available.”

“Venezuela’s economic crisis is routinely blamed all on Venezuela,” said Jeffrey Sachs, co-author of the paper. “But it is much more than that. American sanctions are deliberately aiming to wreck Venezuela’s economy and thereby lead to regime change. It’s a fruitless, heartless, illegal, and failed policy, causing grave harm to the Venezuelan people.”

Among the results of broad economic sanctions implemented by the Trump administration since August 2017:

* “An estimated more than 40,000 deaths from 2017-18;

* “The sanctions have reduced the availability of food and medicine, and increased disease and mortality;

* “The U.S. sanctions implemented since January, if they continue will almost certainly result in tens of thousands more avoidable deaths;

* “This is based on an estimated 80,000 people with HIV who have not had antiretroviral treatment since 2017, 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 people with cancer, and 4 million with diabetes and hypertension (many of whom cannot obtain insulin or cardiovascular medicine);

* “Since the sanctions that began in January 2019, oil production has fallen by 431,000 barrels per day or 36.4 percent. This will greatly accelerate the humanitarian crisis, but the projected 67 percent decline in oil production for the year, if the sanctions continue, would cause vastly more loss of human life.”

The Antitrust Case Against Facebook

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Facebook recently announced that Jennifer Newstead would “join the company as General Counsel, overseeing the company’s global legal functions.” Newstead had been a legal adviser for the State Department. During her time in the Bush administration, Newstead was known for being the “day-to-day manager of the Patriot Act in Congress,” according to torture memo author John Yoo.

DINA SRINIVASAN, dina.srinivasan at aya.yale.edu, @DinaSrinivasan
Former ad tech entrepreneur and advertising executive Srinivasan is author of a recent study in the Berkeley Business Law Journal: “The Antitrust Case Against Facebook: A Monopolist’s Journey Towards Pervasive Surveillance in Spite of Consumers’ Preference for Privacy.”

She said today: “Clearly, Facebook is preparing for battle and hiring a government insider to lead it.

“But let’s remember that in the early 1900s, AT&T was also proficient at playing inside baseball. AT&T settled an early antitrust investigation with the Department of Justice but it was a settlement that pulled the wool over regulators’ eyes. It allowed AT&T to continue consolidating and monopolizing the market, at the expense of the American public. It would take another 60 or so years for our government to intervene and eventually break-up the AT&T monopoly.”

See Srinivasan’s recent interview with Lynn Parramore for the Institute for New Economic Thinking: “Facebook is what’s called a closed communication network, very similar to what AT&T was. There was a point in history when American consumers who had an AT&T phone could only make calls to and receive calls from other AT&T customers.

“We see something similar in social networking: You have to have the Facebook app, the Instagram app, and the Twitter app on your phone because none of the messaging platforms want to communicate with each other. Old time telecommunications was like that. An office would have multiple phones on a desk — one for each telecommunications network. Eventually this creates a dynamic in which the market tends to consolidate towards the one company that has the greatest base of customers.

“For social networking, you want to be where all of your friends and family are so that you can communicate with the most people. So the market starts to tip in Facebook’s favor, yet Facebook continues to perpetuate one particular promise of not tracking users as they move around the web. But after competitors folded and left the market, Facebook reneges on the most important privacy promise: not to track users across the web.”

Legal Escalation Against Catholic Activists Facing 25 Years for Anti-Nuclear Weapons Action

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Seven Catholic peace activists are facing 25 years in jail for entering the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia last April to protest U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

The activists are knowns as the Kings Bay Plowshares 7. They sought to “nonviolently and symbolically disarm the Trident nuclear submarine base at Kings Bay, Georgia” on April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

On Friday, a magistrate moved to hinder their motion that the charges against them be dismissed under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. See the group’s statement: “Anti Nuclear Activists, Kings Bay Plowshares 7 Respond to U.S. Magistrate Cheesbro’s recommendation that our Motions to Dismiss be denied.” They are appealing this decision in the next 30 days.

Last month, the group gained the backing of Rev. Desmond Tutu, several Catholic Bishops and noted critics of U.S. foreign policy Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed the Pentagon Papers and recently wrote the book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.

See recent a episode of “Intercepted” podcast with Jeremy Scahill: “Catholic Workers Carmen Trotta and Martha Hennessy Discuss Their Protest at Kings Bay and the History of the Plowshares Movement.”

See recent “Democracy Now” segment: “Kings Bay Plowshares: Peace Activists Face 25 Years for Action at U.S. Nuclear Submarine Base.”

The defendants are Elizabeth McAlister (the widow of Phil Berrigan), Martha Hennessy, granddaughter of Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day, Stephen Kelly S.J., Clare Grady, Patrick O’Neill, Mark Colville, and Carmen Trotta.

Some of the defendants are out of prison for the time being and, along with some close supporters and legal representatives, are available for interviews:

Defendant Martha Hennessy, marthahennessy at gmail.com
Mary Anne Grady Flores, Ithaca, NY, gradyflores08 at gmail.com
Bill Ofenloch, NYC, billcpf at aol.com
Attorney Bill Quigley,  quigley77 at gmail.com, @kingsbayplow7

* Secretary of Navy “Lied to Congress” * U.S. Withdrawal from Arms Trade Treaty

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PAT ELDER, pat.elder at civilianexposure.org
Elder is director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy and author of the book Military Recruiting in the United States. Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer is testifying before Congress Tuesday. When he testified in December, he claimed there are in “excess of 1,100 schools and districts that deny access to uniform members to recruit on campuses.” Elder co-wrote with David Swanson the piece “Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found.”

Military.com then published the piece: “Do U.S. High Schools Bar Military Recruiters? Activists Try to Call Pentagon’s Bluff.” See follow-up from Swanson: “The Secretary of the Navy Lied to Congress.”

RALUCA MURESAN, raluca.muresan at controlarms.org
Muresan is with the group Control Arms and just wrote the piece “The USA announces intention to withdraw signature from the Arms Trade Treaty.” She is co-author of the report  “Taming the Devil Within: How to Use the Arms Trade Treaty to Address Diversion in Latin America.” Muresan writes: “The Treaty seeks to regulate the $100 billion global arms trade, requiring governments to assess the risk of violations of international human rights and humanitarian law before they authorize an arms deal, to not transfer arms where they are likely to end up in the hands of terrorists and organized criminal groups.”

Venezuela: U.S Sanctions Killing Tens of Thousands

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David Cicilline (D-RI) tweeted yesterday: “I introduced H.R.1004 to prevent American military action in Venezuela. Congress should pass this bill before we rush into another unnecessary war.” See: @accuracy Twitter feed on Venezuela.

MARK WEISBROT, JEFFREY SACHS, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net, @ceprdc
Wesibrot and Sachs, two noted economists, co-authored a just-released report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research estimating that U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela are responsible for tens of thousands of deaths.

TERI MATTSON, [now in Venezuela] teri at intrepidnewsfund.org
Mattson is program manager with the Intrepid News Fund. She said today: “The people here are amazingly calm and incredibly resilient despite the sanctions and constant threat of military intervention. … The U.S. does not seem to understand the pulse of the street nor does it understand the history of the Venezuelan military.” She highlights other sources of information including VenezuelAnalysis.comOrinocoTribune.com and afgj.org.

MARGARET FLOWERS, mdpnhp at gmail.com, @PopResistance
Flowers is with Popular Resistance and is among the U.S. activists currently in the Venezuelan embassy building in Washington, D.C. They are seeking to prevent the building being taken over by the “illegitimate” government of Juan Guaidó and have draped banners outside the building including “End the Deadly Sanctions” and “No War for Oil” — a reference to Venezuela having the world’s largest proven oil reserves. See Facebook page of the Embassy Protection Collective.

Time to Pursue an International Cyber Treaty?

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JAMES CARDEN, jamescarden09 at gmail.com
Carden is a contributing writer at The Nation and the executive editor of the American Committee for East-West Accord.

He just wrote the piece “Time to Pursue an International Cyber Treaty?

Carden writes that “perhaps now is the time to pursue an international cyber treaty that would prohibit similar intrusions in the future. As Dr. Robert G. Papp, a former director of the Center for Cyber Intelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency has recently pointed out, ‘It is in our national interest to negotiate some limits to this activity to reduce these threats and the human and financial resources needed to address them.’ …

“Other countries, particularly our main cyber-rivals, Russia and China, would seem to agree. Yet the Bush and Obama administrations rejected multiple Russian proposals for an international cyber code of conduct. …

“Harvard University political scientist Joseph Nye cites the precedent set by the 1972 Incidents at Sea Agreement that sought to limit behavior on the high seas that might lead to escalation and war. Says Nye, ‘Skeptics object that such an arrangement is impossible, owing to the differences between American and Russian values. But even greater ideological differences did not prevent agreements related to prudence during the Cold War.'”

Issues with Mueller: Was There a Russian “Attack”? Why Didn’t He Question Assange?

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STEPHEN F. COHEN, sfc1 at nyu.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Cohen is professor emeritus of Russian studies, history, and politics at New York University and Princeton University. A Nation contributing editor, he is the author, most recently, of War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate.

He just wrote the piece “Mueller’s Own Mysteries,” which states: “Mueller begins, on Page 1, with this assertion: ‘The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.’ Maybe so, but Mueller, who is not averse to editorializing and contextualizing elsewhere in the report, gives readers no historical background or context for this large generalization. In particular, was the interference — or ‘meddling,’ as media accounts characterize it — more or less ‘sweeping and systematic’ than was Washington’s military intervention in the Russian civil war in 1918 or its very intrusive campaign to re-elect Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1996 — or, on the other side of the ledger, the role of the Soviet-backed American Communist Party in U.S. politics in the 20th century? That is, what warranted a special investigation of this episode in a century of mutual American-Russian interference in the other’s politics? …

“Nor does Mueller consider alternative scenarios and explanations, as any good historical or judicial investigation must do. For example, he accepts uncritically the Clinton/Democratic National Committee allegation that Russian agents hacked and disseminated their emails in 2016. Again, maybe so, but why did he not do his own forensic examination or even mention the alternative finding by VIPS [Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity] that they were stolen and leaked by an insider? Why did he not question Julian Assange, who claimed to know how and through whom the emails reached WikiLeaks?”

Note: Julian Assange of WikiLeaks had a hearing today in Britain and is facing extradition to the U.S. for having published material such as the “Collateral Murder” video of U.S. soldiers killing journalists in Iraq. His source for that video, Chelsea Manning, is also being detained in the U.S. See piece today from Consortium News: “Assange to Extradition Court: I Won’t Surrender to the U.S. for Doing Journalism.’” May 3 is World Press Freedom Day.

Cohen’s past pieces include “Will the Mueller Report Make the New Cold War Even Worse?” “The Fictitious ‘Russian Attack’ vs. the ‘Real Imperative to Cooperate With Russia.'”

At Venezuelan Embassy: U.S. Government Ignoring Vienna Convention, “Facilitating Right-Wing Mob’s Illegal Acts”

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In an apparently unprecedented situation, a group of peace activists, known as the Embassy Protection Collective, have been at the Venezuelan embassy while it is besieged and attacked by backers of the Venezuelan opposition.

MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD, mvh at justiceonline.org, @ThePCJF
Verheyden-Hilliard is executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. She said today that the peace activists at the Venezuelan embassy “remain lawfully present until divested of that right, which has not happened. If they were not lawfully present law enforcement would be able to take lawful steps to have them leave, but instead it is trying to force them to leave by allowing and facilitating a right-wing mob to commit repeated illegal acts — directly in front of law enforcement who repeatedly allow such criminal acts — in an effort to besiege and embargo the embassy. If the State Department or the police had probable cause to assert they are present unlawfully they have the means to address that. In lieu of legal process they are conducting and facilitating an unlawful effort to violate the civil rights of those lawfully present in the building.”

See video of Verheyden-Hilliard challenging Secret Service officers as they refuse to take action after a supporter of the opposition was apparently found to be attempting to use a drill to try to enter the back of the embassy. (The loud siren in the background is from a bullhorn, one of the tactics used by the opposition supporters to create a chaotic atmosphere.)

Peace activists were arrested yesterday, apparently for attempting to throw food and medicine into the embassy after the opposition forces seized control of the entrances and refused to allow people or food in. An opposition supporter was detained only after apparently physically assaulting a peace activist, see more videos at @codepink.

See Verheyden-Hilliard’s letter to the United States Secret Service and D.C. Metropolitan Police Department: “As you know, the Embassy is protected by the Vienna Convention and under that binding law the ‘premises of the mission shall be inviolable.’ Under the law the ‘premises of the mission’ include not only the building but the ‘land ancillary thereto.’ This without question includes the area of the front steps and landing, the back steps, and the back walkway. The host country is required to ensure that the mission and its premises are not violated.”

See recent interview with Verheyden-Hilliard on FAIR’s radio program, CounterSpin.

Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation

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The New York Times reports Monday: “Fragile Cease-Fire Takes Hold Between Israel and Gaza After Weekend Attacks.”

SAREE MAKDISI, makdisi at humnet.ucla.edu, @sareemakdisi
Makdisi’s books include Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation. He is professor of English and comparative literature at UCLA. His pieces include “Apartheid” for Critical Inquiry.

He said today: “The way sentences are constructed and the word choices made (‘militant,’ ‘retaliation,’ etc.) frame the story in such a way that the story is told before it even really begins, because the words have done their work. (Once you hear that a state is ‘retaliating’ for ‘militant’ rocket fire, what more do you really need to know? And how different would it be if you read that the rockets were being fired in ‘retaliation’ for years of occupation?). ‘Militant’ is used to describe Palestinians but not Israelis (who are presumably peaceable).”

Makdisi wrote in the Los Angles Times last year: “The Palestinian scholar Edward Said once pointed out that facts don’t speak for themselves; they require a narrative to absorb and sustain them. What was missing from almost all of the mainstream media coverage, as usual, was not the facts as such, but rather the Palestinian narrative of enforced exile and struggle for return that renders those facts comprehensible, both politically meaningful and emotionally resonant.”

Background: In March, United Nations investigators found “Israeli security forces committed serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. … These violations clearly warrant criminal investigation and prosecution.” And that Israeli forces have “intentionally shot children, they’ve intentionally shot people with disabilities, they’ve intentionally shot journalists.” See Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “U.N. Report of Israeli Crimes and the Efforts to Silence Critics.” 

Environmental Disasters and Their Beneficiaries

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On Monday, the New York Times reported: “Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.”

“Democracy Now” reports Tuesday morning that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remarked at a meeting of the Arctic Council: “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade.” [See video and text]

VICTOR WALLIS, zendive at aol.com
Wallis is author of Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism (2018) and Democracy Denied: Five Lectures on U.S. Politics (2019). See his website: VictorWallis.com.

Wallis said today regarding Pompeo’s remarks: “‘Denial’ is what they broadcast to the public. To the captains of industry, Pompeo is confirming that climate change is indeed taking place and is something to rejoice in! However, the very ice-melting that makes him salivate will lead, at the same time, to the submersion of coastal regions — including major population centers — around the world.” Wallis added that this might result in “opportunities” for “disaster capitalism” that are economic in nature, but “perhaps more significantly, would provide pretext for tightening the screws politically.”

Wallis has written: “The disaster that ecological activists of the last half-century have sought to prevent is already vividly present. Its most dramatic expression, apart from the endlessly repeated scenes of fire, flood, parched earth, and emaciated polar bears, is the tens of millions of refugees, desperate for a place to live. Some are fleeing sea-level rise and flooded or storm-battered homes; others are fleeing wars precipitated by sustained, drought-induced collapses of the food supply (as in Syria, Central Africa, and Central America). Still others are fleeing wars and repression that reflect long-standing imperialist projects, but whose initiators have become ever more intransigent as they seek to ward off the prospect of a diminished resource-base.”

“Increasing percentages of the refugees, if they survive their typically harrowing treks or dangerous sea voyages, come up against vast numbers of agents ‘trained, armed, and paid to stop them.’ This drive to ‘stop them’ is promoted by a ruling class which at the same time relentlessly stokes the economic engines of capital that gave rise to the climate crisis in the first place. While the top U.S. mouthpiece of this ruling class, along with his acolytes at the Environmental ‘Protection’ Agency, mocks the reality of climate change, the military leaders who command the system’s armed enforcers have had no hesitation (for at least the last fifteen years) in publicly situating what they acknowledge to be the consequences of global warming — the droughts, floods, and hurricanes that directly or indirectly have pushed mass migration to its current extreme levels — at the center of their concerns.”

“The alternatives are sharply etched. The currently dominant forces, rather than join the fight against climate change, erect walls to block out its victims. By militarizing the problem, they not only draw resources away from any possible remedial steps; they also accelerate the spread of devastation.”

Scrutinizing the Bolton/Pompeo/Trump Threats to Iran

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Tuesday, CNN reported: “In a written statement, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton said the U.S. was deploying a carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Middle East ‘to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime.'”

Wednesday, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted: “On May 8, 2018, U.S. withdrew from #JCPOA [the The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka, ‘the Iran nuclear deal’], violated #UNSCR 2231 & pressured others — incl #E3 [Germany, Britain and France] — to do the same. After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that U.S. has made impossible to continue. Our action is within the terms of JCPOA. EU/E3+2 [Russia and China] has a narrowing window to reverse this.”

The following analysts are available for interviews:

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Porter is a noted independent investigative journalist and author of the book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He said today: “Donald Trump’s key advisers are looking for an excuse for an air attack on Iran, and they have now taken a big step closer to their publicly announced objective. Pompeo and Bolton both threatened war with Iran last September over a few mortar shells landng in the vicinity of … the U.S. Embassy and a consulate in Iraq, blaming Iran-backed militias that are fighting ISIS. Now they have broadened the rationale for war to include any attack on an ally’s interests — after consultations with the Israelis last month.” Earlier this year, Porter wrote the piece “The Right May Finally Get Its War on Iran.”

PAUL PILLAR, prp8 at georgetown.edu
Pillar was an analyst at the CIA for 28 years. He is now a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown. On Tuesday, LobeLog published his piece “Bolton’s War.”

DAN KOVALIK, DKovalik at usw.org, @danielmkovalik
Kovalik is author of the book “The Plot to Attack Iran” (2018, from Simon & Schuster.)

TRITA PARSI, tparsi at gmail.com, @tparsi
Parsi is founder of the National Iranian American Council and author of Losing an Enemy. He sent out a thread on Twitter Wednesday morning: “Tehran’s retaliation against the Trump administration’s violations of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal is making the costs and dangers of Trump’s disastrous Iran policy clear for all to see. …”

Trump State Department in “Wholesale Violation” of Law at Venezuelan Embassy

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Last night, the electricity was cut off to the Venezuelan Embassy. In an apparently unprecedented situation, a group of U.S. activists — who are at the embassy by permission of the Venezuelan government headed by Nicolás Maduro — have formed the Embassy Protection Collective.

See video of the Embassy Protection Collective and the sometimes violent situation outside from Alex Rubinstein of MintPress News.

MEDEA BENJAMIN, medea.benjamin at gmail.com, @medeabenjamin
Benjamin and other members of the Embassy Protection Collective are holding a news conference at the Embassy at 1:00 p.m. Thursday. Co-founder of CodePink, she just wrote “Our Venezuelan Embassy protest aims to push peace and diplomacy over war,” which was published by the Washington Post and makes the parallel between some Iraqis who wanted a U.S. invasion in 2003, while Benjamin was in Iraq, and the views of some of the supporters of the Venezuelan opposition today. She also just wrote “What Is Happening at the Venezuelan Embassy Is an Outrage.”

MARA VERHEYDEN-HILLIARD, mvh at justiceonline.org, @ThePCJF
Verheyden-Hilliard is executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. She said today: “The Trump State Department, working with and through the Secret Service and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, is engaged in wholesale violation of civil rights, constitutional rights, and international law. The State Department has authorized violations of core provisions of the Vienna Convention — an unprecedented step that will have global repercussions. Even in times of war diplomatic missions have remained protected between countries. Law enforcement is allowing and facilitating acts of violence and terror against peace activists inside and outside the embassy refusing to arrest members of the right-wing mob who commit assaults in plain view. The State Department has now cut off utilities to the Embassy, even though the bills are fully paid, which violates Articles 22 and 25 of the Vienna Convention. The persons inside remain lawfully present with no order to leave having been issued, so the government is trying to force them out through illegal means. The Trump administration is being assisted in this process by the silence of local and federal elected officials who are voicing no objection to this extraordinary violence and violation of human rights and international law.”

JANICE SEVRE-DUSZYNSKA, rhythmsofthedance1 at gmail.com
A member of the Embassy Protection Collective who spent six days in the embassy, Janice Sevre-Duszynska said today: “The well-funded pro-Guaidó people have harassed and assaulted those who support the Embassy Protection Collective.”

Racism of the Venezuelan Opposition

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JAMES EARLY, earlytempos at gmail.com
Early has spent time in Venezuela and is former director of the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. He is a board member of the Institute for Policy Studies and the Regional Articulation of Afro Descendants Latin America and Caribbean.

While many of the members of the Embassy Protection Collective who are currently at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C. have pointed to racism among the pro-opposition protesters currently surrounding the embassy, see this video for example, James Early highlights that racism is a feature of much of the opposition in Venezuela. He said: “From 2007, several or more Afro-descendants have been burned alive by the violent sectors of the opposition. There were regular depictions in elements of the opposition of Chavez as a monkey — they highlight his curly hair and big lips as part of the racialized nature of their outlook. Skin color is a substantial indicator of privilege in Venezuela.”

New Trump Nominee and the Pentagon Accounting Scandal

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Numerous media outlets are reporting that Trump will nominate acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan to head up the Pentagon.

DAVE LINDORFF, dlindorff at gmail.com
Lindorff is founder of the independent collectively-run journalists’ news site ThisCantBeHappening.net. He wrote “Exclusive: The Pentagon’s Massive Accounting Scandal Exposed,” a Nation magazine cover story, which includes a discussion of Deputy Secretary of Defense Shanahan’s role in last year’s failed Pentagon audit. He has also scrutinized Shanahan’s alleged corruption in favoring contracts for his former employer, Boeing.

Earlier this year, Lindorff won the “Izzy” award for outstanding independent journalism from the Park Center for Independent Media for “uncovering the opaqueness of Pentagon accounts and bloated military budgets.”

Lindorff said today: “Shanahan was ‘cleared’ by the Pentagon of charges that he favored his old employer in contract awards by the Pentagon. Shanahan oversaw the first ever complete audit (not!) of the Pentagon last year which ended in a blowout failure on Nov. 15. In announcing the failure, he made light of it, saying ‘We expected to fail,’ and asked the press corps to give the Pentagon credit ‘for trying.’ This is laughable. For 20 years they have stonewalled Congressional orders to develop an auditable budget — something every other federal agency and department has had to do and has been able to do. That the Pentagon hasn’t done it is an outrage and is inexcusable. …

“What I found was how the Pentagon’s accountants for decades have been simply making up the numbers, internally referred to disparagingly as ‘plugs,’ in the annual financial reports on Pentagon spending submitted to Congress in support of each year’s typically ever larger budget requests.

“While other departments are routinely audited, the Pentagon failed its first-ever outside full departmental audit last November, yet Congress continues to rubber stamp out-of-control military spending that accounts for over 54 percent of all discretionary federal spending year after year.

“This May 20, the Senate will begin considering (if the process can really be called ‘considering’) the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which at $750 billion would be a record for the post-WWII era in constant dollars, exceeding even the years of the Vietnam War and the height of the Cold War. A vote on the NDAA in the Senate is slated for May 22, only a few days later.

“Congress’s routine passing of such colossal military budgets year after year without any real oversight is an astounding abdication of Constitutional responsibility.”

Lindorff wrote the book The Case for Impeachment (St. Martin’s Press, 2006).

Grounding Bezos

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ABC News reports: “Jeff Bezos’s space company unveils lunar lander.”

CHUCK COLLINS,  Chuck at ips-dc.org, @Chuck99to1
Collins is with Inequality.org, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies. He said today: “Could Jeff Bezos be any less grounded? The Amazon founder — and world’s richest individual — opined last week that building the infrastructure that would allow humanity to leave Earth en masse rates as the most important thing he could be doing.

“’We’re gonna build a road to space,’ the billionaire said about his new plans to help us exit Earth, ‘and then amazing things will happen.’

“Of course, Bezos could make plenty of amazing things happen right here on our home planet — like allowing Amazon workers to unionize, refusing to play ball with the Trump deportation machine, or ending his company’s corporate tax dodging.”

See his piece: “A Cure for Excessive Wealth Disorder.”

On Iran: U.S. in Danger Being “Sleepwalked into Military Confrontation” by Bolton

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CommonDreams.org summarizes recent developments on Iran in “‘Disturbing’: Trump Reportedly Reviewed Bolton Plan to Threaten Iran by Sending 120,000 Troops to Middle East“: “According to the New York Times, the military plan was crafted by national security adviser John Bolton — who has repeatedly expressed support for bombing Iran, including in the pages of the Times — and presented to the president last Thursday by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, a former Boeing executive who Trump nominated last week to serve as permanent Pentagon chief. …

“According to the Times, U.S. officials believe — without citing any evidence — that Iran was involved in reported attacks on UAE and Saudi oil tankers in the Persian Gulf over the weekend.”

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Available for a limited number of interviews, Porter is a noted independent investigative journalist and author of the book Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare. He recently wrote the piece “Bolton Is Spinning Israeli ‘Intelligence’ to Push for War Against Iran.”

He said today: “We are in grave danger of being sleepwalked into military confrontation with Iran over an incident that is blamed wrongly on Iran. Corporate media have given Bolton and his conniving to achieve such a crisis a free pass, and now Director of National Intelligence has lent the intelligence community’s support to Bolton’s scheme by suggesting Iran is suspected in the oil tanker incidents, in the absence of any evidence.” Earlier this year, Porter wrote the piece “The Right May Finally Get Its War on Iran.”

SIMIN ROYANIAN, ciwhr at yahoo.com
Royanian blogs at CassandraSpeaksBlog.wordpress.com. See her piece “The ‘Iran Nuclear Deal.’” She is co-founder of Women for Peace and Justice in Iran. See her appearance on C-SPAN while the Bush administration was threatening to attack Iran.

PAUL PILLAR, prp8 at georgetown.edu
Pillar was an analyst at the CIA for 28 years. He is now a nonresident senior fellow at the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown University. Recently, LobeLog published his piece “Bolton’s War.”

DAN KOVALIK, DKovalik at usw.org, @danielmkovalik
Kovalik is author of the book The Plot to Attack Iran (2018, from Simon & Schuster). He said today: “A war with Iran would be unconscionable. Iran, which helped the U.S. in the fight against terror after 9/11, is no threat to us. The biggest threat to our nation and the world is in fact the warmongers currently running the White House.”

Israeli NSO Group Behind WhatsApp Hack Targeting Human Rights Workers

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The New York Times reports: “An Israeli firm accused of supplying tools for spying on human-rights activists and journalists now faces claims that its technology can use a security hole in WhatsApp, the messaging app used by 1.5 billion people, to break into the digital communications of iPhone and Android phone users. Security researchers said they had found so-called spyware — designed to take advantage of the WhatsApp flaw — that bears the characteristics of technology from the company, the NSO Group.”

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN,  richards1052 at gmail.com, @richards1052

Silverstein wrote the piece “After Buying Major Stake in Israeli Cyber-Attack Firm, NSO Group, Global Witness Director Quits Board” for his Tikun Olam blog, which focuses on national security issues.

See his piece in The Nation: “How Israeli Tech Firms Act as Global Agents of Repression.” He writes: “Two Israeli companies are at the forefront of this commercialization of dirty ops: NSO Group and Black Cube. … Israel’s NSO Group sabotages the political affairs of foreign nations in a different way. It too hires talented cyber-intelligence specialists from Unit 8200; one of the company’s three founders was an 8200 cyber-hacker. They are hired because they bring with them methods and code used by Israeli SIGINT to hack the phones of Palestinians and other targets of Israeli surveillance.”

He said today: “NSO Group is the ‘dirty ops’ company behind the most recent WhatsApp hack. Many are focusing on the hack and its impact on WhatsApp customers. But less on NSO itself and its culpability for causing harm to human rights activists (including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, for which it was an accessory). There’s also NSO’S recent unicorn status, after its billion-dollar sale to a British vulture capitalist, who himself claimed to be a philanthropist funding human rights NGOs.”

See from Wired: “How Hackers Broke WhatsApp With Just a Phone Call.”

Venezuelan Embassy: “Outrageous” U.S. Behavior vs “People Power”

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Four activists from the Embassy Protection Collective remain at the Venezuelan embassy despite a cut-off of electricity and water and the government prohibiting people, including journalists from entering. Jesse Jackson appeared at the embassy Wednesday afternoon, facilitating a rare delivery of food and water, see interview and video.

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.

He said today: “International law applies to all States, even if some States violate the norms with impunity. Against the arrogance of power, law is impotent, because the international community has yet to create effective mechanisms of implementation. However, the breach does not abrogate international law, which remains in force until a future time when it is vindicated by the political will of governments and by people power.”

Since the adoption of the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the United States has committed multiple violations of its provisions. Normally such violations would lead to international adjudication and the obligation to make reparation to the injured State. The outrageous behavior of the United States with regard to the Venezuelan embassy in Washington violates the Vienna Convention, to which the United States is bound, and which has served United States interests in the past, when the premises of U.S. embassies and consulates have been targets of terrorism and/or illegal occupation.”

As the Venezuelan government has demanded, the United States must comply with the Convention, protect the Venezuelan diplomatic premises and respect the human rights of the activists who protect the building with authorization from the Venezuelan government.”

When on 4 November 1979 Iranian students and militants occupied the U.S. embassy, the U.S. promptly brought a case before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, invoking the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention, which refers disputes on its application to the World Court. The U.S. also requested the indication of provisional measures of protection, which the Court granted, holding that there was no more fundamental prerequisite for relations between States than the inviolability of diplomatic premises, and demanding the immediate restoration to the United States of the embassy premises. In its decision on the merits of the case, the Court, in its Judgment of 24 May 1980, found that Iran had violated and was still violating obligations owed by it to the United States, that the violation of these obligations engaged Iranian responsibility, and that Iran was bound to make reparation for the injury caused to the United States.

“The current situation concerning the Venezuelan embassy in Washington justifies adjudication by the Court, but in 1986 President Reagan withdrew U.S. recognition of the Court’s automatic jurisdiction, and in 2018 President Trump denounced the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention, precisely to be able to violate it with impunity, without fearing the inconvenience of having to appear in The Hague and defend the indefensible.

“Article 22 of the Convention stipulates:

“‘1. The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State [United States] may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.

“‘2. The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.

“‘3. The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.’

“Article 45 stipulates:”‘1. If diplomatic relations are broken off between two States … (a) The receiving State must … respect and protect the premises of the mission, together with its property and archives. …

‘”The legal situation is therefore clear. But since an adjudication by the International Court of Justice is no longer possible following the unilateral withdrawals by the United States, it is up to the international community to defend the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and to demand that the United States respect it. Also the United Nations Secretary General and the United Nations General Assembly could make public statements and adopt resolutions reminding the United States that it is not exempt from the application of customary international law, the UN Charter and the Vienna Convention.

“Jesse Jackson and the many volunteers in the Venezuelan embassy have demonstrated that people power can reaffirm human rights and hold — even if only temporarily — against abuse of power by governments. It is now for the media to fulfill its obligation to inform the people about the facts and to condemn obvious violations of the international order.”

See recent statement from the Embassy Protection Collective on resolving the conflict at PopularResistance.org.

Background: Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “At Venezuelan Embassy: U.S. Government Ignoring Vienna Convention, ‘Facilitating Right-Wing Mob’s Illegal Acts.'”

Venezuelan Embassy Protectors Arrested in Unprecedented Raid

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Four members of the Embassy Protection Collective, Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, Adrienne Pine and David Paul were arrested this morning after the U.S. government raided the Venezuelan embassy in an apparently unprecedented move that legal experts described as an open violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Zeese and Flowers are with the group PopularResistance.org. See piece the Embassy Protection Collective issued to resolve the standoff. See comments shortly after their arrest by their lawyer, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard

Pine — who stated “this is an illegal order that they’re following” as she was driven off in a police vehicle — is an associate professor of anthropology at American University. A piece she wrote was just published: “An Academic Arrested for Protecting the Venezuela Embassy.” She wrote: “As an anthropologist who has researched and published on Honduras for over 20 years, I have witnessed and lived firsthand the devastating consequences of the U.S.-based coup in that country. That coup, like the one that is being attempted in Venezuela, was plotted by a small group of wealthy elites with the principal aims of privatizing the public sector for their own financial gain, tightening their control over the thriving illegal drug trade, and deregulating and capturing for themselves and their foreign allies the profits of the lucrative extractive sector.”

JEB SPRAGUE, js6hc at virginia.edu, @jebsprague
Sprague just wrote the piece “Who’s Behind the Pro-Guaidó Crowd Besieging Venezuela’s D.C. Embassy?” with Mintpress News reporter Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi), who extensively covered events from inside and outside the embassy. In their piece, heavily backed up with links to videos, they write: “On April 30 — the same day self-proclaimed ‘president’ Juan Guaidó staged a failed military coup — pro-Guaidó Venezuelans initiated their siege of the embassy. As they converged on the premises, some unleashed a wave of violentmisogynistic, and racist attacks on peace activists both inside and outside the building.”

Sprague is a lecturer in the Sociology Department at the University of Virginia. His books include the just-released Globalizing the Caribbean: Political Economy, Social Change, and the Transnational Capitalist Class.

GAEL MURPHY, gaelmurphy at gmail.com@codepink
A member of the Embassy Protection Collective, Murphy was in the embassy from May 1 till May 6; her stepfather died on May 5. She notes around ten people left the embassy over the last several days to preserve the food and water since the State Department, Secret Service and Metropolitan Police Department were effectively laying siege to the embassy. Electricity and water were cutoff. She also highlighted the police repeatedly turning a blind eye to the violence of rightwing “pro-democracy” protesters. Several activists see the siege of the embassy as a microcosm of what the U.S. is doing economically to Venezuela.

See Institute for Public Accuracy news release on recent study by Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs: “Venezuela: U.S Sanctions Killing Tens of Thousands.” See CodePink events calendar for continuing protests regarding Venezuela.

Sanders Joins Calls to Break Up Facebook

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Politico reports that presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Friday joined Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) in calling for the breakup of Facebook.

Asked on Capitol Hill whether he backed such calls for antitrust action against the social networking company, Sanders replied, “The answer is yes of course.”

He added: “We have an increasingly monopolistic society where you have a handful of very large corporations having much too much power over consumers.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on internet advertising, privacy and competition on Tuesday morning.

CNBC reports: “Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg: Chinese tech companies are also powerful, and will not be broken up.”

DINA SRINIVASAN, dina.srinivasan at aya.yale.edu, @DinaSrinivasan
Former ad tech entrepreneur and advertising executive Srinivasan is author of a recent study in the Berkeley Business Law Journal: “The Antitrust Case Against Facebook: A Monopolist’s Journey Towards Pervasive Surveillance in Spite of Consumers’ Preference for Privacy.”

Srinivasan rebutted Facebook’s argument: “Time and again, history has shown us that competition and not state-directed industrial policy is what results in innovation and long term growth. …

“If the aim is to make the market more competitive then we need to adopt policies like we did in telecom markets that allow people to communicate across networks. Specifically, we should enable interoperability in the social network market (cross-posting between social networks) and data portability (letting users port their list of contacts to other sites). To restore competition on the variable of privacy, we should also prohibit Facebook from tracking people off of Facebook properties.”

Venezuela Embassy Protectors: Out of Jail, Focusing on Building Peace Movement

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Four members of the Embassy Protection Collective, Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, Adrienne Pine and David Paul were arrested Thursday after the U.S. government broke into the Venezuelan embassy in an apparently unprecedented move that legal experts described as a violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The four were released Friday afternoon and participated in protests in front of the Venezuelan embassy and White House over the weekend.

As Trump administration officials escalated threats toward Iran, Rev. Jesse Jackson and other clergy participated in the Sunday protest and called for a revived peace movement: “We don’t just need a new president. We need a new commitment, a movement for peace in the world,” said Jackson. See “U.S. Government Fails in Bid to Restrict Final Four Venezuelan Embassy Protectors, Protests Continue Through Weekend” by Sam Husseini for Washington Babylon.

DAVID PAUL, dpaul4peace at yahoo.com
A nurse practitioner based in California, Paul stressed the humanitarian consequences of the economic measures the U.S. government has taken against Venezuela. See study by Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs: “Report: U.S. Sanctions on Venezuela Are Responsible for Tens of Thousands of Deaths.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @MFlowers8
KEVIN ZEESE, kbzeese at gmail.com, @kbzeese

Zeese and Flowers are co-directors of PopularResistance.org — she is a medical doctor and he is an attorney. They were both part of a peace delegation to Iran earlier this year.

Zeese said: “We are going to defeat this coup with the Venezuelan people who have stood strong against attacks on their economy. This should be a major issue in the 2020 election. We are changing the politics of this issue. This was the first time ever that U.S. citizens were in an embassy to help stop a coup. We need to put a stop to U.S. coups. International law must be obeyed. We were in the Venezuelan embassy to protect it. We were there legally. The U.S. government came in illegally.”

Flowers: “We know what we went through in the embassy was nothing compared to what the Venezuelan people are dealing with. We know that the U.S. invading Venezuela would be catastrophic. We held out for 37 days, we did everything we could do and we’re going to continue to fight and work in solidarity with the people of Venezuela to uphold international law.”

Warnings of Venezuela Becoming U.S. Puppet from Honduras Expert

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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. She was arrested on Thursday morning after the government broke into the embassy; she was released on Friday afternoon. She participated in protests outside the Venezuelan embassy and White House this weekend.

She had an article published just as she was arrested: “An Academic Arrested for Protecting the Venezuela Embassy.” Pine wrote: “As an anthropologist who has researched and published on Honduras for over 20 years, I have witnessed and lived firsthand the devastating consequences of the U.S.-based coup in that country. That coup, like the one that is being attempted in Venezuela, was plotted by a small group of wealthy elites with the principal aims of privatizing the public sector for their own financial gain, tightening their control over the thriving illegal drug trade, and deregulating and capturing for themselves and their foreign allies the profits of the lucrative extractive sector. …

“The vast increase in political violence there is a direct consequence of U.S. intervention in support of the usurpation of electoral and other forms of democratic participation. Above and beyond the political violence used by the Honduran regime to maintain its power, the coup paved the way for immeasurable increases in everyday forms of violence. The destruction of the public health and education systems by the coup-installed neoliberal regime has left Hondurans without those options and while members of the resistance movement are murdered and jailed, organized criminals — from neighborhood gang members to the most powerful politicians in the nation — continue to enjoy impunity.

“These conditions — all tracing back to the U.S.-backed coup — are the immediate root cause of the great migration taking place right now. Honduran families are risking their lives to leave their homes, because staying is even more dangerous than making the journey to the United States, where they face family separation and imprisonment in border concentration camps.”

See AP piece from December: “U.S. charges Honduran president’s brother with drug conspiracy.” Last year AP reported that the Honduran police chief was dealing in illegal drugs and the Honduran government took action — against the AP reporters. When questioned about this by Sam Husseini of IPA last year, State Department officials referred questions back to the Honduran government. See: “Honduras’ national police chief helped cartel move 1,700 lbs. of cocaine, report says.”

Also see recent report: “Violence, poverty reign in Honduran city where caravans form.” And last month from the BBC: “Honduras protests: Buildings burn during clashes” about protests by doctors and teachers against proposed government privatization of services.

Pine also highlights the role of Elliott Abrams, the Trump administration’s “special envoy” on Venezuela, see IPA news release: “Will Elliott Abrams, Abettor of Genocide,’ do to Venezuela What he did to Guatemala?

Postol: Newly Revealed Documents Show Syrian Chemical “Attacks Were Staged”

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The British-based Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media recently revealed an internal engineering assessment by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that undermines claims justifying U.S. attacks on Syria.

Last year, many claimed that the Syrian government had launched a chemical weapons attack on Douma on April 7. This was used to justify strikes on Syrian government targets on April 14. The British Guardian claimed: “Syria: U.S., U.K. and France launch strikes in response to chemical attack.” NPR headlined a story: “U.S., Allies Hit 3 Syrian Sites Linked To Chemical Weapons Program.”

Theodore Postol, professor of science, technology, and international security at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, provided the Institute for Public Accuracy with his initial assessment of the newly revealed OPCW document:

“The OPCW engineering assessment unambiguously describes evidence collected by the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) that indicates two analyzed chlorine cylinder attacks were staged in April 2018 in Douma. The holes in the reinforced concrete roofs that were supposedly produced by high-speed impacts (impact at speeds of perhaps 100 m/s or more, 250 mph) of industrial chlorine canisters dropped from helicopters were instead created by earlier explosions of either artillery rockets or mortar shells. In one event a chlorine canister that was damaged on another occasion was placed on the roof with its head inserted into an existing crater hole, and in the other case a damaged chlorine cylinder was placed on a bed supposedly after it penetrated the building roof and bounced from its original trajectory into a bed. In both cases the damage to the chlorine cylinders was incompatible with the damage to the surroundings that was allegedly caused by the cylinder impacts.

“As such, 35 deaths that were originally attributed to these staged chlorine events cannot be explained and it cannot be ruled out that these people were murdered as part of the staging effort.

“The evidence provided in the OPCW report is quite clear. For example, rebar in the cement roof slabs was splayed out from the forces of an intense supersonic shockwave that produced the holes. The only source of such a violently impulsive force in this environment would be that of the shockwave from the forward end of an explosive warhead that impacted and detonated on the roof. The forward end of the explosive charge in the warhead would have been touching or nearly-touching the roof surface when it detonated. Under these conditions the near-in shockwave generated from the forward end of the cylinder shaped explosive produces a shockwave that is traveling at a very high Mach number. Such a shockwave creates a reflected shock that is tremendously hotter and more intense than the incident shock due to the extreme compression of the supersonic incident shock as it violently decelerates during its encounter with a rigid surface.

“The net result of the shock interactions is that the incident and tremendously amplified reflected shocks coalesce together to produce an extremely intense impulse at the surface of the concrete slab. This impulse is so intense that it might well cut through rebar and readily splay the rebar in the forward direction in a geometry like that of the petals of a flower pointing downward.

“This is what is described in the report.

“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.”

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

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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.”

Arguments for Taxing Wall Street Trading

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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.”

“Unprecedented” Attack on Freedom of the Press

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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.”

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

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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.”

European Crisis Beyond the Elections

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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.”

Rowley Scrutinizes Mueller’s Statement

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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.”

On Russia, Did Mueller Overstate His Own Report?

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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.]

Why Are So Many Shooters Military Veterans?

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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?

Big Tech Dominance: Is Antitrust the Solution?

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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.”

Mass Protests in: * Sudan * Honduras

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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.”

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

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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.

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

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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.”

Postol on Syrian Attacks: OPCW Guilty of “Deception”

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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:

Biden’s Flip, Flops

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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.”

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

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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.]”

Poor People’s Campaign and Voting Rights

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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.

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

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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.

Persian Gulf of Tonkin?

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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.”

Despite #MeToo, Hiding Malfeasance Still Legal

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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.”

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

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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.”

When Joe Biden Collaborated With Segregationists

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Former Vice President Joe BidenThe New York Times reports in “Biden, Recalling Civility in Senate, Invokes Two Segregationist Senators,” that at a Tuesday night fundraiser, Biden spoke fondly of his relationship with the late Senator James O. Eastland of Mississippi, a staunch segregationist. Eastland was the powerful chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Biden entered the chamber in 1973. “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Mr. Biden said, slipping briefly into a Southern accent, according to a pool report from the fundraiser. “He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’”

The Washington Post reports Wednesday morning: “Biden’s campaign didn’t immediately return a request for comment about why it would be notable that the Dixiecrat — who thought black Americans belonged to an ‘inferior race’ and warned that integration would cause ‘mongrelization’ — didn’t call Biden ‘boy,’ a racial epithet deployed against black men.” See new piece from Slate: “Meet James Eastland, the Senator Joe Biden Keeps Waxing Nostalgic About.”

JONATHAN KOZOL, jonathankozol at gmail.com
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Kozol is the National Book Award-winning author of Savage InequalitiesThe Shame of the Nation, and other books on race and education. Just recently, he wrote the piece “When Joe Biden Collaborated With Segregationists.”Kozol writes: “Crucially, Biden didn’t just talk the anti-busing talk. He also took a leading role in fighting what he called ‘unnecessary busing’ by pushing bills that would have forced the federal government to consider other ways of equalizing education — ways that would not have required what old-fashioned bigots used to call race mixing. In a series of letters, recently released by CNN, that he wrote to Dixiecrat Senator James Eastland in 1977, Biden expressed thanks to Eastland for supporting anti-busing legislation that Biden introduced.

“’I want you to know that I very much appreciate your help … in attempting to bring my anti-busing legislation to a vote,’ he wrote the Mississippi Democrat, a virulent opponent of civil rights who frequently referred to black people as ‘an inferior race.’

“Biden, moreover, did not simply reinforce the efforts of Southern segregationists. He also took a decisive role in fueling opposition to desegregation efforts in Northern states and providing Northern liberals with a convenient rationale for joining him in these attempts. In a stunning piece of reportage in Politico in 2015, historian Jason Sokol surfaced Biden’s argument that busing children for the sake of integration was an insult to black people because it implies that they ‘have no reason to be proud of…their own culture’ and cannot learn unless they’re sitting next to a white child. By dragging out this chestnut, Biden sought to turn the tables on Senate integrationists. …

“Senator Ed Brooke, a liberal Republican who served two terms representing Massachusetts and was the sole black member of the Senate at the time, was outraged by Biden’s stance. ‘Perhaps,’ says Sokol, ‘Brooke foresaw the new political consensus that would take shape in the ensuing decades: Liberals would pay homage to the civil rights movement and its dream of integration, but refrain from championing the legislation that would make that dream a reality.’ …

“Unlike Bernie Sanders, who recently proposed a Thurgood Marshall Plan for public education that calls for a renewal and expansion of desegregation plans by means of transportation, Biden still believes his original position was correct and, according to one of his aides, Bill Russo, sees no reason to revise it. No matter how he tries to blur the edges of his past or present beliefs, no matter how he waffles in his language in order to present himself as some kind of born-again progressive, Biden has not shown that he can be trusted to confront our nation’s racist past and one of its most urgent present needs.”

Iran Attack? * Pretext for War * Impeaching Bolton

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The U.S. and Iranian governments are giving contradictory accounts surrounding the downing of a large U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz. A major issue revolves around whether the downed drone was in international waters; see below. The Trump administration is meeting this afternoon with members of Congress, some of whom have argued that the administration already has authorization to attack Iran.

See accuracy.org news release from last week: “Persian Gulf of Tonkin?” — a reference to the U.S. government deceiving its way to the massive escalation of the Vietnam War in 1964. Also last week, the New York Times reported: “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.”

While many pointed out Bush administration falsehoods after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, accuracy.org produced some of the most hard-hitting scrutiny prior to the invasion, including: “U.S. Credibility Problems” and “White House Claims: A Pattern of Deceit.” See from 2013: “Legacy of Iraq War Myths Ten Years Later.” Also. see accuracy.org news release from last month: “Postol: Newly Revealed Documents Show Syrian Chemical ‘Attacks Were Staged‘” regarding the pretext for U.S. attacks on Syria in April of 2018.

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: “Iran has not committed an ‘armed attack’ upon the United States that would trigger the right of self-defense set forth in UN Charter Article 51. So under the current circumstances as they stand now, a U.S. military attack upon Iran would constitute a violation of international and domestic law. The 2001 AUMF most certainly does not authorize force in this case as some have claimed.

“Given the manner in which National Security Advisor John Bolton is pressing for war, a member of the House should put in a Bill of Impeachment against him immediately. It may be the best way to avoid a catastrophic war.” Boyle was a lead author of the bill of impeachment put forward by Rep. Henry Gonzalez in 1991 against George H.W. Bush, who later wrote that fear of impeachment prevented him from a full invasion of Iraq.

Regarding the Strait of Hormuz, Boyle said: “This is not an international strait or waterway as defined by the International Court of Justice in the Corfu Channel Case. So U.S. warships and planes and drones need the permission of the territorial sovereign (Oman or Iran) to pass through there including their respective airspaces.” See below for more details.

TRITA PARSI, tparsi at gmail.com, @tparsi
Parsi founded the National Iranian American Council. He just wrote the piece “America’s Confrontation With Iran Goes Deeper Than Trump.” He was on NPR’s “Morning Edition” earlier today.

He tweeted today: “First the U.S. denied that a drone had been shot down. Now it admits that a drone has been shot down, but that it was in international airspace, not Iranian airspace. It is still not established which version is true. Both sides have a history of being untruthful. For instance:

“When the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian passenger plane in 1988, the U.S. first denied they had shot it down. It also denied that the ship had been in Iranian waters. A later investigation revealed the Vincennes actually was deep in Iranian waters when it shot down the plane.

“When the Iranians apprehended British sailors about ten years ago in the Persian Gulf, the UK first denied they had entered Iranian waters. A later investigation by the British Parliament revealed they actually were inside of Iranian waters. They were released within two weeks.”

Regarding the U.S. claim that the drone was in international waters, the U.S. Energy Information Administration states that: “At its narrowest point, the Strait [of Hormuz] is 21 miles wide.” Countries are entitled to a belt of coastal waters extending 12 nautical miles.

United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea maybe relevant, except for the fact that UNCLOSdebate.org notes: “Iran signed the 1982 Convention in [the] same year, but it has not ratified it, primarily due to their opposition to the ‘innocent passage’ provisions of UNCLOS that allow U.S. warships freedom of navigation.” Will Rogers, writing for the Center for a New American Security, has advocated the U.S. ratify the treaty — as a way to gain leverage over Iran: “Ratification will also help the United States deflate Iran’s recent challenges to U.S. freedom of navigation through the Strait of Hormuz.”

Kozol: Biden Opposed School Desegregation, Refuses to Disown, It Wasn’t About “Civility”

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JONATHAN KOZOL, jonathankozol at gmail.com
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Kozol is the National Book Award-winning author of Savage InequalitiesThe Shame of the Nation, and other books on race and education. Earlier this month, he wrote the piece “When Joe Biden Collaborated With Segregationists.”

He said today: “Most of the media have missed three of the most alarming points in Biden’s stance on segregation:

“(1) Biden’s now pretending that his willingness to reach out to Southern segregationists like James Eastland and Herman Talmadge was simply a matter of consensus-building and ‘civility.’ What he isn’t saying — and what the press has failed to note — is that it was all too easy for him to reach consensus with them, as he also did with Jesse Helms and other Southern racists, because he himself was opposed to school desegregation, as he made very clear in 1975 when he said, ‘I’ve gotten to the point where I think our only course to eliminate busing may be a constitutional amendment.’ He also introduced anti-busing legislation of his own and warmly thanked Senator Eastland for trying to bring it to a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“(2) More to the point, as I noted in TheNation.com on June 6, Biden refuses to disown his original position on these issues, even today when hypersegregation in our public schools is greater than at any point since 1968. At a time when red-lining and residential segregation remain unabated, Biden surely knows that, without allowing children to ride the yellow bus across school district borders, he will be consigning another generation to separate and unequal education.”

(3) Biden made his recent comments about the ease with which he found consensus with Southern segregationists at a fundraising party for wealthy donors in New York. Would he dare to say this in front of an audience of young black and Hispanic voters? Biden’s skill at waffling and equivocation, depending on the race and class of those to whom he’s speaking, is one of several reasons why I feel compelled to oppose his nomination.”

BadBlues: RootsAction Announces List of Democrats who “Deserve to Be ‘Primaried’”

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Portrait of House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer made up of logos of his largest funders, by Sarah Darley.

The group RootsAction.org just released a report — “Bad Blues: Some of the House Democrats Who Deserve to Be ‘Primaried’” — profiling 15 Democratic Party House incumbents. The report concedes: “It isn’t easy to defeat a Democratic incumbent in a primary. Typically, the worse the Congress member, the more (corporate) funding they get.” The group adds: “While most insurgent primary campaigns will not win, they’re often very worthwhile — helping progressive constituencies to get better organized and to win elections later. And a grassroots primary campaign can put a scare into the Democratic incumbent to pay more attention to voters and less to big donors.” See the just-published HuffPost piece: “Left-Wing Group Announces List Of House Democrats To Unseat.”

Below are excerpts on each of the incumbents. The full report is at BadBlues.org:

CHERI BUSTOS (IL-17)
Few Democrats in Congress have earned faster or fiercer notoriety among progressives nationwide than Cheri Bustos. Just 10 weeks after becoming chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in early January, she imposed a new policy that blacklists any consultant or vendor who works for a primary challenger against an incumbent House Democrat.

JIM COOPER (TN-5)
With Nashville as its main population center, the 5th Congressional District is something of a progressive oasis in Tennessee; Hillary Clinton topped Trump there by 18 points. Yet voters have been saddled for more than 16 years with Jim Cooper, an old-style GOP-type deficit hawk who supports austerity economics that hurts the vast majority of his constituents.

JIM COSTA (CA-16)
In 2018, Data for Progress found that 64 percent of Democrats support a Green New Deal, reflecting the view that a massive government commitment to fighting climate change is the only way to save the planet — while providing jobs and economic justice. A Hart research poll pegged support at 83 percent among likely Democratic primary voters. Given these numbers, how can a congressmember in a Democratic district stay in office when plainly doing the bidding of our nation’s largest polluters?

HENRY CUELLAR (TX-28)
Although nominally a Democrat, he is close to Texas Republicans like former Governor Rick Perry, now Trump’s Secretary of Energy. Cuellar crossed party lines to endorse George W. Bush for president in 2000. He’s one of the rare Democrats to receive Koch Industries PAC funding, including a donation in 2019. Roughly 25 percent of Cuellar’s constituents live below the poverty line, and Cuellar often votes to make their lives more difficult.

ELIOT ENGEL (NY-16)
For someone in the Democratic leadership, this 16-term Congressman and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is notable for repeatedly breaking with his own party to support Republican foreign policy positions. In 2003, when most House Democrats refused to authorize an invasion of Iraq, Engel voted for President Bush’s disastrous war. In 2015, he was one of only 25 House Democrats to join Republicans in opposing President Obama’s historic Iran nuclear deal. [Note: Last week, Engel effectively backed a possible Trump administration strike on Iran, saying on CNN: “individual strike, we don’t want to tie the president’s hands.”]

JOSH GOTTHEIMER (NJ-5)
Very few House Democrats are more eager to align with the GOP than Josh Gottheimer. During his first two years in Congress, he voted with Trump a whopping 55 percent of the time. Gottheimer cochairs the reach-across-the-aisle Problem Solvers Caucus; his official website says he leads the group “to find areas of agreement” for such goals as “lowering taxes” and “cutting burdensome and unnecessary regulation.” Gottheimer’s generous Wall Street patrons are no doubt gratified.

JIM HIMES (CT-4)
“Wall Street’s Favorite Democrat.” That’s how a Bloomberg profile described Jim Himes in 2011, with a subtitle: “Jim Himes works to dial back laws that get in the big banks’ way.” During his decade in Congress, the Connecticut congressman has done much to win Wall Street’s favor.

STENY HOYER (MD-5)
Consummate power broker Steny Hoyer has long served as the number-two Democrat in the House, often using leverage for policy agendas that are unpopular with the party’s base but popular with Wall Street and the military-industrial complex. In late 2002, he was among the minority of House Democrats voting to authorize war on Iraq. In 2008, he angered civil-liberties advocates when he helped draft a “compromise bill” with Republicans that expanded government surveillance power and immunized telecom firms for privacy abuses. (Senator Russ Feingold called it “a capitulation.”) In 2012, he urged a “grand bargain” budget deal that would cut entitlement programs. … Hoyer’s prodigious corporate services haven’t flagged. These days, he’s busy obstructing progressive initiatives from Medicare for All to a Green New Deal.

DEREK KILMER (WA-6)
Kilmer’s increased clout on Capitol Hill means that he has more leverage against the interests of many constituents in a district where the median household income is scarcely $63,000. Meanwhile, the congressman gets plenty of corporate money. During the last term, Kilmer — who sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee — received nearly a quarter of a million dollars combined from the casinos/gambling and securities/investment industries. The military and tech sectors also contributed; Northrop Grumman and Microsoft each chipped in more than $30,000. His campaign and PAC ended last year with more than $3 million cash on hand.

DAN LIPINSKI (IL-3)
In the 2018 primary, Lipinski narrowly defeated (by 2,145 votes, 51 to 49 percent) liberal challenger Marie Newman. Yet Lipinski remains mostly conservative. … A leading member of the “fiscally conservative” Blue Dog Coalition, the eight-term congressman is not generous toward working-class needs (he voted against Obamacare), but he’s lavish in supporting military spending and domestic surveillance. He was one of a few dozen Democrats who voted against the 2010 Dream Act. … Lipinski was smuggled into his congressional seat by his dad Bill Lipinski, a conservative Democrat (now a DC lobbyist) and 11-term Congress member who won the Democratic primary for a twelfth term in 2004 and then stepped aside after finagling to have his son replace him on the November ballot.

GREGORY MEEKS (NY-5)
Meeks’ corruption problems are an open secret. The watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has repeatedly chosen Meeks as among the most corrupt inside the Beltway, calling him one of three who “really stand out.” Meeks bought a million-dollar-plus home built for him by a campaign contributor, paying far less than its value. He founded a nonprofit that collected $31,000 in Hurricane Katrina relief but paid out only $1,392. He traveled to the Caribbean at least six times on the dime of a convicted Ponzi schemer (who also donated to Meeks’ campaign).

BRAD SCHNEIDER (IL-10)
“Brad’s been named one of the most bipartisan members of Congress because he’s interested in solving problems,” Schneider’s campaign website declares. A big problem he seems interested in solving is how to impress middle-class constituents without fighting for their economic interests. Instead of backing such proposals as Medicare for All and tuition-free public college, Schneider prefers to talk vaguely about “affordable” healthcare and “affordable” college.

KURT SCHRADER (OR-5)
Mark Gamba, now in his fifth year as the mayor of Milwaukee (pop. 20,000), is running to replace Schrader. “He likes to pretend that he’s reaching across the aisle to get things done,” Gamba told us, “but it almost always goes back to the corporations that back him financially.” Schrader, a longtime member of the Blue Dog Coalition, gets a lot of money from corporate interests, including from the Koch Industries PAC.

DAVID SCOTT (GA-13)
After sixteen years as one of the most conservative African-American Democrats in Congress, David Scott is facing a primary fight in a deep blue district that includes southwest Atlanta and neighboring suburbs, where Clinton beat Trump by nearly 3-to-1. The challenge is coming from a former chair of the Democratic Party in populous Cobb County, Michael Owens, who launched his uphill campaign in May while signaling that he’ll make Scott’s big-business entanglements a central issue in the race. “Owens said Scott, a member of the House Financial Services Committee, has gotten too cozy with the payday lending industry and other corporate interests,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

JUAN VARGAS (CA-51)
Juan Vargas represents an overwhelmingly Latino and Democratic district (where Clinton beat Trump by a 50-point margin) that includes California’s entire U.S.-Mexico border. Since being elected to the House in 2012, he has become known for one pet issue, far from uppermost in the minds of his largely working-class constituents: defending Israel no matter what.
******************************
The report was edited by Jeff Cohen, founder of the media watch group FAIR and co-founder of RootsAction.org. Contributors to the report were Sam McCann (writer and researcher whose recent projects include Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9); Pia Gallegos (communications chair of the Adelante Progressive Caucus, Democratic Party of New Mexico, a member of the state party’s Rules Committee and a civil rights attorney); and Norman Solomon (author of War Made Easy, the national coordinator of RootsAction.org and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.)

Further information:
info at rootsaction.org

Biden, Sanders and Getting to Roots of Problems with Education

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[Last week, accuracy.org put out the news release “Kozol: Biden Opposed School Desegregation, Refuses to Disown, It Wasn’t About ‘Civility.’” Kozol appeared Monday evening on the syndicated radio program “Flashpoints” and this morning on “Democracy Now!”: “Jonathan Kozol: Joe Biden Didn’t Just Praise Segregationists. He Also Spent Years Fighting Busing.”]

KEVIN KUMASHIRO, kevin at kevinkumashiro.com, @kevinkumashiro
Kumashiro is former dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco, and author of the book, Bad Teacher!: How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture.

He said today: “Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed on Monday to cancel the entire $1.6 trillion in student debt. Rep. Ilhan Omar is introducing parallel legislation in the House. Sanders’ proposal exceeds those by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Julian Castro, and accompanies his previous call to make public universities and colleges tuition-free.

“The level of student debt is egregious, harming not only individual workers but also the overall economy, and proposals to cancel debt and to waive tuition push our country to create budgets that reflect our values and priorities. However, as ambitious as is Sanders’ proposal, I hope that the conversation goes deeper than equitable financing for individuals, and instead, examines how to leverage public funding to address inequitable systems.

“We should not strive simply to make education more affordable, as if it’s a commodity to be enjoyed by some; rather, we should be insisting that every student have access to the very best education that we have to offer as one of the most basic and fundamental of human rights. We should not strive simply to increase access to the current educational system, given that public colleges and universities have been increasingly starved of resources over time even while serving the vast majority of the working class, communities of color, first-generation students, immigrants and refugees, English language learners, students with disabilities, and so on; rather, we should be diving more deeply in analyzing the roots of a starkly inequitable educational system, and insisting that we can do better.”

* Can Dems Debate Climate? * “Primarying” House Democrats

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The New York Times just published the piece “Democrats Will Debate in a City Under Siege by Climate Change” about the upcoming Democratic Party debates on Wednesday and Thursday in Miami. Buzzfeed just published the piece: “America Is Burning, Flooding, And Overheating. Why Aren’t Democrats Debating Climate?

STAN COX, cox at landinstitute.org, @CoxStan

Cox is co-author of the book How the World Breaks: Life in Catastrophe’s Path, from the Caribbean to Siberia. He is research coordinator at The Land Institute and co-wrote the piece “A Rising Tide: Miami is sinking beneath the sea — but not without a fight” for The New Republic. He said today: “The way we ‘develop’ a place is part of the problem. Some economic stimulus is adding fuel to the fire; this is true for Miami because of its extraordinary vulnerability to sea level rise, as well as other parts of Florida. For decades, we’ve been building in places that should have remained as ecological buffers.”

See from the media watch group FAIR: “Previewing the Democratic Debates: Every Flavor of NBC, Trusting Corporate Media on Climate” and from 2016: “The Debates Are Over, and No One Asked About Climate Change.”

See petition from RootsAction.org: “Tell the DNC to Hold a Climate Debate.”

JEFF COHEN, jcohen at ithaca.edu, @Roots_Action
Cohen is founder FAIR and co-founder of RootsAction.org which just released the report “Bad Blues: Some of the House Democrats Who Deserve to Be ‘Primaried’.” The report, edited by Cohen, profiles 15 House Democrats, many of whom are funded by the fossil-fuel industry and Wall Street. The full report is at BadBlues.org and was summarized on Monday’s accuracy.org news release. Cohen faults both the DNC and major media for dramatically underplaying critical issues like global warming.

Biden’s Record: Segregationists, Wall Street, War

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ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn at gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn is in Ireland and available for a limited number of interviews. He wrote the extensive cover story “No Joe! Joe Biden’s disastrous legislative legacy” earlier this year. It highlighted several issues that have become more widely noted since; for example by the noted writer Jonathan Kozol “Biden Opposed School Desegregation, Refuses to Disown, It Wasn’t About ‘Civility’” and just this week in the New York Times: “‘Lock the S.O.B.s Up’: Joe Biden and the Era of Mass Incarceration.”

Cockburn wrote: “By tapping into these popular tropes — ‘The system is broken,’ ‘Why can’t Congress just get along?’ — the practitioners of bipartisanship conveniently gloss over the more evident reality: that the system is under sustained assault by an ideology bent on destroying the remnants of the New Deal to the benefit of a greed-driven oligarchy. It was bipartisan accord, after all, that brought us the permanent war economy, the war on drugs, the mass incarceration of black people, 1990s welfare ‘reform,’ Wall Street deregulation and the consequent $16 trillion in bank bailouts, the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, and other atrocities too numerous to mention. If the system is indeed broken, it is because interested parties are doing their best to break it. …

“It fell to Biden to highlight some redeeming qualities when called on, inevitably, to deliver [segregationist Sen. Strom] Thurmond’s eulogy following the latter’s death in 2003 at the age of one hundred. … [They had a] shared opposition to federally mandated busing in the effort to integrate schools … ‘The black community justifiably is jittery,’ Biden admitted to the Washington Post in 1975 with regard to his position. ‘I’ve made it — if not respectable — I’ve made it reasonable for longstanding liberals to begin to raise the questions I’ve been the first to raise in the liberal community here on the [Senate] floor.’ … Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, then the sole African-American senator, called Biden’s measure ‘the greatest symbolic defeat for civil rights since 1964.’ …

“The pair [Biden and Thurmond] sponsored the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which, among other repressive measures, abolished parole for federal prisoners and cut the amount of time by which sentences could be reduced for good behavior. The bipartisan duo also joined hands to cheerlead the passage of the 1986 Anti-Drug Abuse Act and its 1988 follow-on, which cumulatively introduced mandatory sentences for drug possession. Biden later took pride in reminding audiences that ‘through the leadership of Senator Thurmond, and myself, and others,’ Congress had passed a law mandating a five-year sentence, with no parole, for anyone caught with a piece of crack cocaine ‘no bigger than [a] quarter.’ …

“Biden was long a willing foot soldier in the campaign to emasculate laws allowing debtors relief from loans they cannot repay. As far back as 1978, he helped negotiate a deal rolling back bankruptcy protections for graduates with federal student loans, and in 1984 worked to do the same for borrowers with loans for vocational schools. …

“Biden not only allowed fellow committee members to mount a sustained barrage of vicious attacks on [Anita] Hill: he wrapped up the hearings without calling at least two potential witnesses who could have convincingly corroborated Hill’s testimony and, by extension, indicated that the nominee had perjured himself on a sustained basis throughout the hearings. …

“Presumably in deference to this record, Obama entrusted his vice president with a number of foreign policy tasks over the years, beginning with ‘quarterbacking,’ as Biden put it, U.S. relations with Iraq. ‘Joe will do Iraq,’ the president told his foreign policy team a few weeks after being sworn in. ‘He knows it, he knows the players.’ It proved to be an unfortunate choice, at least for Iraqis. In 2006, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, had selected Nouri al-Maliki, a relatively obscure Shiite politician, to be the country’s prime minister. ‘Are you serious?’ exclaimed a startled Maliki when Khalilzad informed him of the decision. But Maliki proved to be a determinedly sectarian ruler, persecuting the Sunni tribes that had switched sides to aid US forces during the so-called surge of 2007–08. In addition, he sparked widespread allegations of corruption. According to the Iraqi Commission of Integrity set up after his departure, as much as $500 billion was siphoned off from government coffers during Maliki’s eight years in power.”

On foreign policy, see accuracy.org news releases:

From 2019: “Biden’s Deceitful Record on Iraq Invasion” which debunks Biden’s false claims in 2002, and rationalizations since, that Saddam Hussein “possesses chemical and biological weapons” and “is seeking nuclear weapons” and “for years he has prevented the UN inspectors from uncovering those weapons.”

From 2008: “Anti-War Candidate, Pro-War Cabinet?

Trump-Putin Meeting: “Will U.S. Elites Give Détente With Russia a Chance?”

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STEPHEN F. COHEN, sfc1 at nyu.edu
Cohen is professor emeritus of Russian studies, history, and politics at New York University and Princeton University. A Nation contributing editor, he is the author, most recently, of War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate.

He just wrote the piece “Will U.S. Elites Give Détente With Russia a Chance?” which states: “Despite determined attempts in Washington to sabotage such a ‘summit,’ as I reported previously, President Trump and Russian President Putin are still scheduled to meet at the G-20 gathering in Japan this week. Iran will be at the top of their agenda. The Trump administration seems determined to wage cold, possibly even hot, war against the Islamic Republic, while for Moscow, as emphasized by the Kremlin’s national security adviser, Nikolai Patrushev, on June 25, ‘Iran has been and will be an ally and partner of ours.’

“Indeed, the importance of Iran (along with China) to Russia can hardly be overstated. Among other reasons, as the West’s military alliance encroaches ever more along Russia’s western borders, Iran is a large, vital non-NATO neighbor. Still more, Teheran has done nothing to incite Russia’s own millions of Muslim citizens against Moscow. Well before Trump, powerful forces in Washington have long sought to project Iran as America’s primary enemy in the Middle East, but for Moscow it is a necessary ‘ally and partner.’

“In normal political circumstances, Trump and Putin could probably diminish any potential U.S.-Russian conflict over Iran — and the one still brewing in Syria as well. But both leaders come to the summit with related political problems at home. For Trump, they are the unproven but persistent allegations of ‘Russiagate.’ For Putin, they are economic.

“As I have also previously explained, while there was fairly traditional ‘meddling,’ there was no ‘Russian attack’ on the 2016 American presidential election. But for many mainstream American commentators, including the editorial page editor of the Washington Post, it is an ‘obvious truth’ and likely to happen again in 2020, adding ominously that Trump is still ‘cozying up to the chief perpetrator, Russian President Vladimir Putin.’ A New York Times columnist goes further, insisting that Russia ‘helped to throw the election’ to Trump. Again, there is no evidence whatsoever for these allegations. Also consider the ongoing assault on Attorney General William Barr, whose current investigation into the origins of ‘Russiagate’ threatens to conclude that the scandal originated not with Russia but with U.S. intelligence agencies under President Obama, in particular with the CIA under John Brennan.

“We should therefore not be surprised, despite possible positive national security results of the Trump-Putin summit in Japan, if the U.S. president is again widely accused of ‘treason,’ as he so shamefully was following his meeting with Putin in Helsinki in July 2018, and as I protested at that time. Even the Times’ once-dignified columnist pages thundered, ‘Trump, Treasonous Traitor’ and ‘Putin’s Lackey,’ while senior U.S. senators, Democrat and Republican alike, did much the same.”

Biden’s Deceits on * Busing * Iraq War

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JONATHAN KOZOL, jonathankozol at gmail.com
Kozol is the National Book Award-winning author of Savage InequalitiesThe Shame of the Nation, and other books on race and education. Earlier this month, he wrote the piece “When Joe Biden Collaborated With Segregationists.”

In response to Joe Biden’s claim at the Thursday night debate, “I did not oppose busing”:

Kozol said today: “Biden should not be allowed to get away with this bald-faced lie. As I noted this week in The Nation, Biden flatly said, ‘I oppose busing’ in an interview with a Delaware paper in 1975. ‘I’ve gotten to the point where I think our only recourse to eliminate busing may be a constitutional amendment.’ In the U.S. Senate, he didn’t merely give support to Southern segregationists. He introduced legislation of his own to prohibit busing for school integration. All this is in the public record. And it’s a shameful record for a potential Democratic nominee.” Also see accuracy.org news release: “Kozol: Biden Opposed School Desegregation, Refuses to Disown, It Wasn’t About ‘Civility.'”

STEPHEN ZUNES zunes at usfca.edu, @SZunes
Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

Rachel Maddow asked Biden last night: “You made your decades of experience in foreign policy a pillar of your campaign, but when the time came to say yes or no on one of the most consequential foreign policy decisions of the last century, you voted for the Iraq war. You have since said you regret that vote. But why should voters trust your judgment when it comes to making a decision about taking the country to war the next time?”

In fact, what is often cited as Biden’s “regret” was a 2005 statement from him that mostly blames Bush: “It was a mistake to assume the president would use the authority we gave him properly.”

Zunes said today: “It was not just the matter that he was among the right-wing minority of Democrats to vote for the war authorization as Bush requested. Biden had actually called for ‘boots on the ground’ to remove Saddam Hussein as far back as 1998. As head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2002 prior to the war vote, he only allowed a day and a half of hearings and stacked the testimony heavily in favor of war supporters. He continued to defend Bush’s decision to go to war even after he acknowledged that his claims about Iraq having chemical weapons, biological weapons, a nuclear program, and sophisticated delivery systems were all untrue. Scores of prominent Middle East specialists from academia and the Foreign Service briefed him and his staff that an invasion of Iraq beforehand would be illegal, unnecessary, and a total disaster, yet he voted for it anyway. He very well could get us into another similar tragedy.” See accuracy.org news release: “Biden’s Deceitful Record on Iraq Invasion” from earlier this year and from 2008: “Anti-War Candidate, Pro-War Cabinet?

Further background, see: BidenFactSquad.org

And accuracy.org news release: “Biden’s Record: Segregationists, Wall Street, War.”

“Kamala Harris Was Not a ‘Progressive Prosecutor'”

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Before she was a senator, Kamala Harris was an attorney general and district attorney who acted in ways that could hardly be described as 'progressive,' Lara Bazelon writes.LARA BAZELON, lbazelon at usfca.edu, @larabazelon
Bazelon is an associate professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law and the former director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent in Los Angeles. She is author of Rectify: The Power of Restorative Justice After Wrongful Conviction and writes on issues arising from wrongful convictions for Slate.

She said today: “Kamala Harris claims to be a champion of criminal justice reform. But as a prosecutor, first as San Francisco’s District Attorney and later as California’s Attorney General, she was anything but. She needs to make the case to the voters that her change of heart is genuine. Crucial to that case is reckoning with her past.”

Earlier this year, Bazelon wrote the New York Times op-ed  “Kamala Harris Was Not a ‘Progressive Prosecutor’” which states: “With the growing recognition that prosecutors hold the keys to a fairer criminal justice system, the term ‘progressive prosecutor’ has almost become trendy. This is how Senator Kamala Harris … a former prosecutor, describes herself.

“But she’s not.

“Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms as a district attorney and then the state’s attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent. Most troubling, Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.

“Consider her record as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011. Ms. Harris was criticized in 2010 for withholding information about a police laboratory technician who had been accused of ‘intentionally sabotaging’ her work and stealing drugs from the lab. After a memo surfaced showing that Ms. Harris’s deputies knew about the technician’s wrongdoing and recent conviction, but failed to alert defense lawyers, a judge condemned Ms. Harris’s indifference to the systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights.

“Ms. Harris contested the ruling by arguing that the judge, whose husband was a defense attorney and had spoken publicly about the importance of disclosing evidence, had a conflict of interest. Ms. Harris lost. More than 600 cases handled by the corrupt technician were dismissed.

“Ms. Harris also championed state legislation under which parents whose children were found to be habitually truant in elementary school could be prosecuted, despite concerns that it would disproportionately affect low-income people of color.

“Ms. Harris was similarly regressive as the state’s attorney general. When a federal judge in Orange County ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional in 2014, Ms. Harris appealed. In a public statement, she made the bizarre argument that the decision ‘undermines important protections that our courts provide to defendants.’ (The approximately 740 men and women awaiting execution in California might disagree.)

“In 2014, she declined to take a position on Proposition 47, a ballot initiative approved by voters, that reduced certain low-level felonies to misdemeanors. She laughed that year when a reporter asked if she would support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Ms. Harris finally reversed course in 2018, long after public opinion had shifted on the topic.

“In 2015, she opposed a bill requiring her office to investigate shootings involving officers. And she refused to support statewide standards regulating the use of body-worn cameras by police officers. For this, she incurred criticism from an array of left-leaning reformers, including Democratic state senators, the ACLU and San Francisco’s elected public defender. The activist Phelicia Jones, who had supported Ms. Harris for years, asked, ‘How many more people need to die before she steps in?’

“Worst of all, though, is Ms. Harris’s record in wrongful conviction cases. …”

Kamala Harris’ Claims About Her Record on Big Banks “Doesn’t Withstand a Moment’s Scrutiny”

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Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California and 2020 presidential candidate, speaks during a campaign stop in Ankeny, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019. Harris is one of six women running for the Democratic nomination to become the first female to hold the highest office in the nation. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesDAVID DAYEN, david.dayen at gmail.com, @ddayen

Dayen is executive editor of The American Prospect and author of Chain of Title: How Three Ordinary Americans Uncovered Wall Street’s Great Foreclosure Fraud.

Sen. Kamala Harris recently claimed: “I took on successfully and I prosecuted the big banks when they preyed on homeowners.”

Dayen said today: “Kamala Harris’s role in the failed attempt to hold banks accountable for stealing homes from families during the foreclosure crisis was no more or less tragic than that of many other officials. But now that she’s running for president, Harris is not only eliding responsibility for her part in the failure, but claiming it as an outright success. That claim doesn’t withstand a moment’s scrutiny.

“Equating a toothless settlement with a sufficient penalty for criminal fraud sets a meager baseline for what constitutes punishment, virtually ensuring subsequent crimes. If we will ever dismantle a system that delivers one set of laws for the powerful and another for everybody else, we must be honest about the glaring inadequacies of the past.”

Dayen wrote the piece “Kamala Harris Celebrates Her Role in the Mortgage Crisis Settlement. The Reality Is Quite Different,” earlier this year for The Intercept which states: “Harris initiated a ‘mortgage strike force’ to prosecute individuals, but it only brought a handful of cases, and the ones her campaign touts as triumphs were against penny-ante ‘foreclosure rescue’ scams, not the bankers who maneuvered homeowners into foreclosure in the first place. Harris passed up the opportunity to charge OneWest Bank, then chaired by current Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, with what her own investigators called ‘widespread misconduct’ in state foreclosure cases.

“Overall, the national mortgage settlement was a blight on this country, a tragic missed opportunity to rebalance the unfair burden thrown on homeowners for a financial crisis they did not cause. The architects of the settlement should be embarrassed by the very mention of it. If this is what we hold up as justice, then we have none.”

NoMoreCamps.org

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ARUN GUPTA, JUAN CARLOS RUIZ  arun.indypendent at gmail.com, @CampsNo
Gupta and Ruiz are among the many signers to the just-released “Call to Action: Close the Concentration Camps Now!” which is being published by The Progressive and numerous other outlets today.

Gupta is an investigative reporter, Ruiz is co-founder, New Sanctuary Coalition. They have helped organize the website NoMoreCamps.org which is just launched today and features the call to action signed by authors Barbara Ehrenreich, Noam Chomsky, Bill Fletcher, Jr., former president of TransAfrica Forum and others.

They write: “We are calling on all people of conscience to shut down the concentration camps on the U.S.-Mexico border through any nonviolent means necessary.

“From Abolitionism to Standing Rock, Americans have come together time and again to defy horrific injustice. Now, as the government tries to normalize concentration camps, it is time like never before to target those responsible.

“Inspired by the civil rights movement, ACT-UP, and early labor struggles, we must employ every nonviolent tactic at our disposal to oppose this institutionalized criminality. We are calling on everyone to organize: your community, your school, your house of worship, your workplace, your friends and family.

“We can blockade the concentration camps with occupations and die-ins. We can set up our own ‘freedom camps’ on their doorstep. We can support workers who walk out and strike. We can make life impossible for the tech companies profiting from this misery, for the big banks that fund it, and for the politicians that make it possible. And we can directly aid the immigrants-rights groups who are already working to end the illegal mass detention of our brothers and sisters. We ask everyone to recognize and respect the front-line immigrant communities and organizers who have been fighting for many years, and to take leadership from those most impacted by this brutal system.”

Military Spending: * Pentagon’s Massive Accounting Scandal * Backing Saudi Aggression in Yemen

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Congress has begun debating a military spending bill of more than $730 billion. See Politico‘s breakdown of amendments.

DAVE LINDORFF, dlindorff at gmail.com, @davidlindorff
Lindorff is founder of the independent collectively-run journalists’ news site ThisCantBeHappening.net. He wrote “Exclusive: The Pentagon’s Massive Accounting Scandal Exposed,” a Nation magazine cover story. Earlier this year Lindorff won the “Izzy” award for outstanding independent journalism from the Park Center for Independent Media for “uncovering the opaqueness of Pentagon accounts and bloated military budgets.”

DAVID SEGAL, david at demandprogress.org, @DemandProgress
Segal is executive director of Demand Progress, which just joined with more than 40 groups in a letter “Urging House Leadership NDAA Amendment 339 to Defund U.S. Participation in Yemen War.”

Segal said of the Saudi-led war in Yemen: “Congress has another opportunity to show that it will not stand idly by as the Trump administration acts with impunity — and disregards the war-making authority that the founders vested in the legislative branch — as he facilitates the slaughter of tens of thousands of people, in the name of American allegiance to one of the most vicious regimes on the face of the planet.”

Epstein: Protected Because He Is a Spy? — A Backgrounder

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Vicky Ward, who tried to report on Jeffrey Epstein’s criminality as early as 2003, recently wrote that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta “cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had ‘been told’ to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. ‘I was told Epstein “belonged to intelligence” and to leave it alone,’ he told his interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer and went ahead and hired Acosta. (The Labor Department had no comment when asked about this.)” See Ward’s recent pieces for The Daily Beast: “Jeffrey Epstein’s Sick Story Played Out for Years in Plain Sight” and “I Tried to Warn You About Sleazy Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in 2003.”

The Observer notes that Acosta was asked if Epstein had ties to intelligence agencies at his news conference Wednesday and gave a “a non-denial denial of an epic kind”: “I would [be] hesitant to take this reporting as fact” said Acosta. See “It Sure Looks Like Jeffrey Epstein Was a Spy — But Whose?

Ward charged on “Democracy Now” on Monday: “This is a man who definitely trades in the knowledge he has over the rich and famous, and uses it for leverage. He also introduces rich and famous people, like Bill Clinton, like Donald Trump, to girls.”

Epstein’s associate who allegedly helped connect him with his girl victims is Ghislaine Maxwell. She is the daughter of Robert Maxwell, the media mogul who died under mysterious circumstances in 1991. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh alleged in his book The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy that Maxwell was tied to the Israeli Mossad. Hersh was sued for the allegation, but then received an apology.

Attorney General William Barr, who spent years at the CIA, stated he would recuse himself on the Epstein matter on Monday and then reversed himself on Tuesday. Barr helped cover up the Iran-Contra scandal by approving the pardons of Elliott Abrams and other officials who were caught in illegal activity. In 1973, Epstein got his start as a math teacher thanks to Barr’s father, Donald Barr, who was headmaster of the elite Dalton School despite Epstein not having a college degree. His New York Times obituary notes that Donald Barr belonged to the Office of Strategic Services (better known as the OSS, the precursor to the CIA).

Julie K. Brown of the Miami Herald has named two women — Virginia Roberts Giuffre and Sarah Ransome — who say that Epstein, when they were very young, directed them to have sex with Alan Dershowitz. Yet, the New York Times and other media continue to reference and even quote Dershowitz about the case without noting that he has been thus accused. Dershowitz was also one of Esptein’s lawyers when Acosta agreed to the non-prosecution agreement. The Times has recently noted that Dershowitz attacked the Herald‘s reporting in an attempt to deprive them of a Pulitzer. A piece by Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman quoted him saying that if you didn’t know Epstein and Trump in the 80s, “you were a nobody” — again, without noting that Dershowitz has so far been accused by two of Epstein’s victims.

Liaquat Ali Khan, the founder of Legal Scholar Academy, and a professor emeritus at the Washburn Law School interviewed Alan Dershowitz in 2004 and wrote that Dershowitz participated in the “Israeli assassination committee that reviews evidence before terrorists are targeted and killed.” Said Dershowitz: “I actually sat in on one of the committee meetings.”

Venezuela: “Humanitarian Intervention” That Isn’t

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The Los Angeles Times reports in “Trump administration diverts Central America aid to U.S.-backed opposition in Venezuela” that: “The Trump administration plans to divert more than $40 million in humanitarian aid from Central America to the U.S.-backed opposition in Venezuela, according to an internal memo and interviews.

“The memo, dated July 11 and obtained by The Times, is a notification to Congress from the U.S. Agency for International Development that the money is going to Venezuela in response to an ‘exigent’ crisis involving U.S. ‘national interest.’

“The U.S. has been an ardent supporter of forces attempting to oust the leftist government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and now recognizes his challenger, opposition leader Juan Guaido, as the legitimate ruler of the besieged nation.

“All of the money being diverted will go to Guaido and his faction, the memo said, to pay for their salaries, airfare, ‘good governance’ training, propaganda, technical assistance for holding elections and other ‘democracy-building’ projects.

“The $41.9 million had been destined for Guatemala and Honduras, two of three countries in Central America’s so-called Northern Triangle, an impoverished and violence-ridden region that accounts for the majority of migrants now fleeing to the United States.”

DAN KOVALIK, dkovalik at outlook.com, @danielmkovalik
Kovalik is author of the just-released book The Plot To Overthrow Venezuela, which has a foreword by Oliver Stone.

Kovalik said today: “Again, we see that the claim of ‘humanitarian intervention’ in Venezuela is nothing but a fig leaf for imperial designs aimed at stealing Venezuela’s oil. As a recent study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, co-authored by economist Jeffrey Sachs, concluded, U.S. sanctions since August of 2017 have killed over 40,000 Venezuelans and will kill even more this year. Yet, the U.S. continue to ratchet up these sanctions, even attempting to sanction Venezuela’s food-distribution system known as CLAP [Local Supply and Production Committees]. The U.S. is simply running the same game plan of regime change it has since its coup in Iran in 1953 — starve out the target country and then blame it for starving.

“And now, we see the U.S. diverting much-needed humanitarian aid for Central America — a region greatly in need of such aid given the U.S.’s ravaging of that region with war and death squads — to the Venezuelan opposition. And, it is doing so despite recent revelations that the opposition forces it is supporting have themselves diverted aid to such things as luxury hotels, clothing and their own pockets. No, this is not a humanitarian intervention in Venezuela — it is an old-time stick-up which must be opposed.”

Background accuracy.org news release: “Will Elliott Abrams, ‘Abettor of Genocide,’ do to Venezuela What He did to Guatemala?

“Official Secrets” Highlights Lies of Iraq War

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The film “Official Secrets” is premiering in Washington, D.C. and New York City this week. It is set for general release on August 30; see trailer.

The film stars Keira Knightley who plays Katharine Gun, a former analyst for GCHQ, the British equivalent of the secretive National Security Agency. She tried to stop the impending invasion of Iraq in early 2003 by exposing George W. Bush and Tony Blair governmental deceit in their claims about Iraq.

Gun was charged under the repressive Official Secrets Act for exposing — before the invasion of Iraq — a secret U.S. government memo showing it was mounting a spying “surge” against U.N. Security Council delegations in an effort to force approval for an Iraq war resolution. The leaked memo was big news in parts of the world. The U.S. government then failed to get the U.N. resolution, but launched the invasion anyway, withdrawing the weapons inspectors and issuing a unilateral demand that Saddam Hussein leave Iraq in 48 hours — and then saying the invasion would commence regardless.

Among the issues raised by the film:

* While the U.S. and British governments and their supporters were claiming they were trying to avoid war with Iraq, they were actually not only falsifying for war, but engaging in illegal activity to ensure war. Joe Biden, then chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, claimed at the time: “I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe it is a march to peace and security.”

* Dan Ellsberg: “No one else — including myself – has ever done what Katharine Gun did: Tell secret truths at personal risk, before an imminent war, in time, possibly, to avert it. Hers was the most important — and courageous — leak I’ve ever seen, more timely and potentially more effective than the Pentagon Papers.”

* It was the official view of the British government that the invasion of Iraq was illegal without the U.N.’s approval, but it concocted a fringe legal case for war when pressured by the Bush administration. The British government — unlike the U.S. government — did ultimately produce a study ostensibly around the decision-making leading to the invasion of Iraq (the Chilcot Report in 2016) but that report incredibly made no mention of the Gun case. See IPA release from 2016: “Chilcot Report Avoids Smoking Gun.”

* The U.S. and British governments use surveillance powers largely not as advertised, to protect against terrorist attacks, but often for Machiavellian goals, including launching an illegal war.

* The film does not explicitly address, but gets at the complicity of governments, international institutions, major media, alleged political opposition figures and others in the launching of the Iraq invasion. In the U.S., that included media figures from Judith Miller to Tim Russert, political figures who included not just Bush administration officials, but also Democrats such as Joe BidenJohn Kerry and Nancy Pelosi.

The Institute for Public Accuracy covered the Gun revelations from the beginning (see overview page) and organized a statement signed by various notables calling for the British government to drop the charges against her. “Official Secrets” highlights that ultimately the charges were dropped against Gun — to spare the British government a trial that might further expose the lies leading to war.

Gun remarked at the D.C. premiere that she was influenced by having read the book Target Iraq, which was co-written by IPA Executive Director Norman Solomon and released just before she exposed the memo in early 2003.

See articles by staff of the Institute:

By Norman Solomon: “To Stop War, Do What Katharine Gun Did

By Sam Husseini: “Katharine Gun’s Risky Truth-telling

Also see past IPA news releases from before the invasion including: “White House Claims: A Pattern of Deceit,” “Bush’s War Case: Fiction vs. Facts,” “U.S. Credibility Problems” and “Tough Questions for Bush on Iraq Tonight.”

Progressive Groups “Urgently” Ask for a Meeting with Pelosi

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Expressing “deep concern” about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent comments disparaging four progressive first-term congresswomen, a coalition of organizations with active support from nearly 10 million Americans has “urgently” requested a meeting with her “to discuss possibilities for turning a corner.”

“Dismissive comments about new progressive members of Congress have given the impression of a disdainful attitude toward like-minded progressives and Democratic activists across the country,” the groups said in a letter released today after delivery to Pelosi’s office at the Capitol on Wednesday.

The letter was signed by six national organizations — Demand Progress, Democracy for America, Just Foreign Policy, Our Revolution, Progressive Democrats of America and RootsAction.org. It was also signed by the largest caucus of the biggest state party, the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party.

“Going forward, it is imperative that your role — not only toward those individual legislators, but also toward many millions of Americans who share their transformational outlooks — now include mitigating the damage from those comments and providing the caliber of leadership needed at this fateful historic moment,” the groups told Pelosi.

The letter added: “At a time when flagrant institutionalized cruelty, racism, xenophobia, misogyny and other forms of bigotry have reached new depths from Republican leaders, we can ill afford the slightest wavering from unequivocal opposition to such extremism. Efforts to strengthen our resolve should be welcomed.”

Noting that “the ultimate fate of legislative and electoral efforts will depend on active support from millions of people at the grassroots,” the groups wrote that “we respectfully request a meeting with you in Washington before the end of this month to discuss these pressing concerns.”

The letter was accepted by a legislative aide in Speaker Pelosi’s office at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. No response has been received yet.

The full letter can be seen here.

“Mueller’s Own Report Undercuts Its Core Russia-Meddling Claims”

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Former FBI head Robert Mueller is finally scheduled to testify about his Russiagate report on Wednesday. While many were blindsided by Mueller’s conclusion of no collusion, many are now ignoring the story: “Judge Sides With Indicted Russian Firm on Mueller Report’s Harm,” see below.

AARON MATÉ, aaronmate at gmail.com, @aaronjmate

Maté recently won the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College’s Izzy Award (named after I. F. Stone) for “meticulous reporting” that “consistently challenged the way the public was being informed about the Mueller investigation and related issues.” His first pieces on the subject were in 2017 and included, for The Nation: “Stop With the Conspiracy Theories — Trump Is Bad Enough” and “Russiagate Is More Fiction Than Fact.” He was regularly featured by accuracy.org on some of the scores of news releases that debunked and scrutinized numerous aspects of Russiagate.

He just wrote the piece “CrowdStrikeOut: Mueller’s Own Report Undercuts Its Core Russia-Meddling Claims,” which states: “While the 448-page Mueller report found no conspiracy between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia, it offered voluminous details to support the sweeping conclusion that the Kremlin worked to secure Trump’s victory. …

“But a close examination of the report shows that none of those headline assertions are supported by the report’s evidence or other publicly available sources. They are further undercut by investigative shortcomings and the conflicts of interest of key players involved:

* “The report uses qualified and vague language to describe key events, indicating that Mueller and his investigators do not actually know for certain whether Russian intelligence officers stole Democratic Party emails, or how those emails were transferred to WikiLeaks.

* “The report’s timeline of events appears to defy logic. According to its narrative, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange announced the publication of Democratic Party emails not only before he received the documents but before he even communicated with the source that provided them.

* “There is strong reason to doubt Mueller’s suggestion that an alleged Russian cutout called Guccifer 2.0 supplied the stolen emails to Assange.

* “Mueller’s decision not to interview Assange — a central figure who claims Russia was not behind the hack — suggests an unwillingness to explore avenues of evidence on fundamental questions. …”

Maté stresses: “In a newly unsealed July 1 ruling, a federal judge rebuked Mueller and the Justice Department for having ‘improperly suggested a link’ between the IRA [Internet Research Agency] and the Russian government. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said Mueller’s February 2018 indictment ‘does not link the [IRA] to the Russian government’ and alleges ‘only private conduct by private actors.’ The judge added the government’s statements violate a prohibiting lawyers from making claims that would prejudice a case.”

Rowley on Ruling Against Mueller’s Anti-Russian Charges

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Attorneys Eric Dubelier, right, and Katherine Seikaly, left, representing Concord Management and Consulting LLC, walk out of federal court in Washington on May 9, 2018, after pleading not guilty on behalf of the company, which has been charged as part of a conspiracy to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

COLEEN 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.

In 2017, she warned of people putting their trust in “Russia-gate’s Mythical ‘He