WikiLeaks: While Upholding U.S. Government’s Core Arguments, British Judge Rejects Assange Extradition

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KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin@shadowproof.com@kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola reports: “Citing harsh federal prison conditions in the United States, a British district court judge rejected the United States government’s extradition request against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Judge Vanessa Baraitser found Assange suffers from a ‘recurrent depressive disorder.’ Although he functions at a high level, he suffers from autism as well.”

In a detailed Twitter thread, Gosztola wrote this morning: “Judge Baraitser accepted virtually all of [the] allegations against Assange that made this a dangerous case for press freedom. Despite the fact that the request was rejected, there is plenty in this ruling to cause alarm.” See Gosztola’s extensive reporting on Assange’s trial, which he covered in London.

JAMES GOODALE, jcgoodal@debevoise.com
Goodale is a former vice chairman and general counsel of the New York Times and is the author of Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles. His piece on the verdict is expected to be published in The Hill shortly. His prior articles include: “Pentagon Papers lawyer: The indictment of Assange is a snare and a delusion.”

Can We Make the Electoral College Representative? Two Proposals

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PATRICK ROSENSTIEL, pat@ainsleyshea.com, @NatlPopularVote
Rosenstiel is with NationalPopularVote.com, which advocates for “The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact” which would “guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Compact ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election. The Compact is a state-based approach that preserves the Electoral College, state control of elections, and the power of the states to control how the President is elected.”

The group states: “Because of these state winner-take-all laws, presidential candidates only pay attention to the concerns of voters in closely divided battleground states. In 2020, 2016, and 2012, a dozen battleground states received 96 percent, 94 percent, and 100 percent of all of the general-election campaign events, respectively. In these three elections, 25 states did not receive even one campaign event, and six additional states received only one. The politically irrelevant spectator states included almost all of the small states, rural states, agricultural states, Southern states, Western states, and Northeastern states.”

JABARI ZAKIYA, jzakiya@gmail.com@jzakiya
Zakiya wrote the piece “The Case for Proportional Allocation of Presidential Electors,” which states: “Currently there are 538 electors distributed among the 50 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.). To become President, the U.S. Constitution requires a candidate must receive the Electoral College vote of a majority of electors (270), but it doesn’t specify, or mandate, the manner in which electors shall be allocated by the states to candidates. The practice has become to allocate electors on a winner-take-all basis to whichever candidate merely wins a plurality (not even a majority) of the popular vote in each state.” Zakiya presents a proposal for all states to proportionally allocate electors from each state. Currently Maine and Nebraska are the only two states that don’t use winner-take-all to allocate their electors.

Biden Nominating Victoria “F*ck the EU” Nuland

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Various media outlets are reporting that Joe Biden will nominate Victoria Nuland for the influential role of under secretary of state for political affairs.

JAMES CARDEN, jamescarden09@gmail.com
Carden is the executive editor of the American Committee for East-West Accord and founding editor thescrum.substack.com. He is also a former adviser to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Commission.

He said today: “Victoria Nuland has had a long and storied career in the foreign service and for a long time was viewed with something like reverence by career officers. Nuland served as U.S. Ambassador to NATO and later was national security adviser to vice president Dick Cheney. After that, Nuland found herself on the ‘outs’ at the State Department during the early Obama years. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had other plans for Nuland, the well-connected wife of the neoconservative publicist Robert Kagan. Clinton, to the astonishment of many of the political appointees in Clinton’s orbit, plucked Nuland from the obscurity of her position at the Naval War College to become Clinton’s spokeswoman.

“This was the road back to influence and Nuland used it, quickly ascending to the position of assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. It is from that post that she oversaw U.S. efforts to encourage a street coup in Kiev — going so far as to hand out cookies to anti-government protesters alongside the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt. The February 2014 coup, undertaken by an alliance of pro-Western liberalizers and hardline anti-Semitic militants, resulted not in a more peaceful order, but in a civil war (in which both Russia and NATO funded and armed their proxies) that resulted in the loss of over 10,000 lives and the displacement of well over a million people from the Russophone east. After the coup, Nuland became an unwitting symbol of American heavy-handedness in the region when a call between her and Pyatt leaked in which they were seen to be hand-picking personnel for the new government in Ukraine. What would the EU think? ‘Fuck the EU,’ exclaimed Nuland, a diplomat.

“After the coup — violent and unnecessary, given that the deposed Ukrainian leader had agreed to an early peaceful transition at the ballot box, Nuland bragged at a conference sponsored by Chevron that: ‘Since Ukraine’s independence in 1991, the United States has supported Ukrainians as they build democratic skills and institutions, as they promote civic participation and good governance. … We’ve invested over $5 billion to assist Ukraine in these and other goals that will ensure a secure and prosperous and democratic Ukraine.’

“In the years following, we have ‘invested’ a great deal more money into Ukraine — for questionable returns. But the affair has not seemed to have clouded Nuland’s career prospects. Smart, well-connected, and well-liked, she, like many of her fellow neocons, seems to move from strength to strength in this town, never held to account for the damage they’ve caused. After her stint in the State Department ended (she was replaced in the early Trump years by the woefully unqualified neocon operative A. Wess Mitchell), Nuland took up what one can only assume were lucrative positions on the other side of the revolving door at the Center for a New American Security (where she served as CEO), the Boston Consulting Group and the Albright Stonebridge Group (from which, perhaps not coincidentally, her future boss, Biden’s nominee for deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman, hails).

“Her views on Russia and European affairs are well known. Less known, however, are her views on America’s role in the Middle East. Let’s hope that changes because in an article in Foreign Affairs earlier this year, Nuland lamented that the U.S., under Trump, ‘made both Putin’s and Assad’s lives easier by neutralizing a shared threat, the Islamic State, or, ISIS.’

“As Biden’s undersecretary of political affairs, Nuland would have immense influence over policy and personnel. Progressives in Congress and their partners in the media, think tank world and among grassroots activists should join forces with the growing caucus of anti-interventionist Republicans on the Hill and vigorously oppose this nomination.”

Trump’s Twitter Suspension Raises Calls for Democratic Accountability

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Following the Capitol Hill riot which delayed Congress certifying the Electoral College results, Donald Trump was banned by Twitter, Facebook and other big tech corporations. Google removed the far-right user-friendly platform Parler from its mobile app store and Apple threatened the same.
 
THOMAS HANNA, tmhanna@democracycollaborative.org, @ThomasMHanna  
    Hanna is director of research at The Democracy Collaborative. He is the author of the book Our Common Wealth: The Return of Public Ownership in the United States.

MICHAEL BRENNAN, mb@democracypolicy.network, @mrbrnn
    Brennan is a research fellow at The Democracy Collaborative and a policy organizer at the Democracy Policy Network.

    Hanna and Brennan recently published an article in Jacobin: “There’s No Solution to Big Tech Without Public Ownership.” They contributed to the report from Common Wealth UK and The Democracy Collaborative as part of the think tanks’ Ownership Futures project: “A Common Platform: Reimagining Data and Platforms.”

    Following the suspension of Donald Trump’s Twitter account, Brennan said: “While people may laugh at the absurdity of the Twitter President being put in permanent time-out, it raises a serious question about decision-making. There is an ongoing constitutional crisis occurring within and between the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government. Citizens depend on media to communicate events and narratives as they unfold in real-time, but the means of communication have long been unaccountable to users, workers, or governments. What are the implications of platform monopolies’ direct intervention in political conflict?

    “In October, the House Judiciary Committee completed its historic investigation into Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Apple, which included evidence for Google and Apple’s duopoly in mobile app stores. The duos move to bar platforms who do not conform to their standard of free speech, such as Parler, effectively limits the entire social media ecosystem to that decided by the dominant platforms. …

    “The companies face Congressional investigation, antitrust lawsuits, tense political maneuvers, as well as recent major union activity with the formation of the Alphabet Workers Union. But the terms of this debate are still narrowly focused on ‘increasing competition’ rather than a full-scale re-imagination of the platform economy away from surveillance capitalism and toward democratic control.”

Slava Zilber posited that monopolies are now targeting rightwingers because Democrats are now in charge of Congress.

See past Institute for Public Accuracy news releases:

From 2020: “Zoom Censors University Event

2019: “Israel Bombs Palestinians as Twitter Censors Them

2018: “Following Assassination Attempt, Facebook Pulled Venezuela Content

Abolish the Electoral College?

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Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties is introducing a bill Monday to abolish the Electoral College.

STEVEN MULROY, smulroy@memphis.edu
Mulroy is Bredesen professor of law at the University of Memphis and author of Rethinking U.S. Election Law.

He said today: “Fair elections should have all votes count the same, avoid encouraging officials to play favorites, and never let someone with fewer votes beat someone with more votes. The Electoral College fails all three of these basic tests. It is an outmoded relic. While abolishing outright would be great and valuable to debate in Congress, a constitutional amendment will be challenging to win. That’s why the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is so crucial. We are 70 percent of the way toward making the Compact effective.”

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would “guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”

Threats of Impeachment, Wagging the Dog as Pompeo and Facebook Join in Targeting Iran

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Journalist Dan Cohen tweets that today’s Facebook “ban on PressTV comes hours before [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo’s speech to lie the U.S. into war with Iran and shortly after Pompeo’s dinner with Israel’s top spy. This isn’t a coincidence.” (See 2018 accuracy.org news release: “Following Assassination Attempt, Facebook Pulled Venezuela Content.” and 2019 “Israel Bombs Palestinians as Twitter Censors Them.”)

Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg’s piece “Donald Trump’s parting gift to the world? It may be war with Iran” was just published in The Guardian.

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle@illinois.edu
Boyle is a professor of law at the University of Illinois. Since the storming of the Capitol, he has been calling for the immediate impeachment and conviction of Trump. See his interview with Dennis Bernstein on Flashpoints the day after the Capitol riot: “Professor Francis Boyle on Why Trump Must Be Removed NOW.

Boyle argues for impeachment as an immediate remedy to address “the seditious storming of the Capitol” as well as to prevent Trump from “further illegal activities, like attacking Iran.” The Trump administration just designated the Cuban government as a state sponsor of terrorism and Yemen’s Ansar Allah as terrorists, prompting the International Rescue Committee to warn the latter puts “24 million Yemenis at catastrophic humanitarian risk.” Said Boyle: “These designations are horrible as it is, but we cannot put anything past Trump, including the possibility of a wag the dog scenario by attacking Iran.”

Boyle stresses that the Democratic leadership should have immediately moved to impeach Trump last week, but instead, “they have been engaging in Kabuki theater.” He adds that any new “terrorism” law would simply be a pretext to have further reductions in civil liberties — “like George W. Bush did with the Patriot Act after 9/11.”
Thirty years ago, as George H. W. Bush began the 1991 attack on Iraq, Boyle drafted the impeachment resolution that Rep. Henry B. González introduced at the time against Bush. George H. W. Bush would later state in his memoirs that impeachment was a concern, writing that if the war “drags out, not only will I take the blame, but I will probably have impeachment proceedings filed against me,” indicating that the threat of impeachment may have averted a ground war at the time. The Obama administration was also concerned about impeachment over attacking Syria.

Samantha Power’s Yemen Record and Potential for More Disasters at USAID

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NPR reports: “President-elect Joe Biden has nominated former UN Ambassador Samantha Power to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development. Biden also said he was elevating that role — USAID administrator — to be a member of the White House National Security Council.”

The International Rescue Committee has released a statement: “24 million Yemenis at catastrophic humanitarian risk following new U.S. terrorist designations of Ansar Allah, warns IRC.”

DANIEL KOVALIK, dkovalik@outlook.com, @danielmkovalik
Kovalik is the author of No More War: How the West Violates International Law by Using “Humanitarian” Intervention To Advance its Economic and Strategic Interests (see on Simon and Schuster’s website.)

He was featured on an accuracy.org news release last month: “Samantha Power’s Role in Yemen Disaster.”

Said Kovalik: “While making her name by penning a Pulitzer-prize award-winning book inveighing against the evils of genocide — A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide — Power went on as Obama’s ambassador to the UN to actually help facilitate quite possibly the greatest slaughter of innocents in modern history.”

Kovalik cites the work of Shireen Al-Adeimi who wrote the piece “How Dare Samantha Power Scrub the Yemen War From Her Memoir,” which states that Power, in her 2019 autobiography, The Edu­ca­tion of an Ide­al­ist, “down­plays her role in the blood­shed that fol­lowed in Libya. … The most strik­ing thing about Power’s mem­oir is her com­plete omis­sion of her role in what became the world’s worst human­i­tar­i­an cri­sis: the ongo­ing U.S. inter­ven­tion in Yemen.”

See past accuracy.org news releases on USAID.

See “Democracy Now” segment from 2014: “Is USAID the New CIA? Agency Secretly Built Cuban Twitter Program to Fuel Anti-Castro Protests.”

You Can’t Fight Fascism by Expanding the Police State

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EVAN GREER, evan@fightforthefuture.org, @fightfortheftr

Greer is deputy director of Fight for the Future and recently wrote the piece “You can’t fight fascism by expanding the police state” for Fast Company, which states: “In the coming days and weeks we are likely to see pundits and lawmakers call for things like passing a new domestic terrorism law, expanding mass surveillance programs, increasing funding for the FBI and law enforcement, installing backdoors in encrypted messaging apps, and arming police with more technology like facial recognition and social media monitoring software. …

“This is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing. Expanding the U.S. government’s already bloated surveillance state will only bring more terror and harm to the same communities that Trump targeted with his racist policies and rhetoric. …

“President-elect Joe Biden has already expressed that he supports the creation of a new domestic terrorism statute. Experts warn that a new law isn’t needed — acts of terrorism are already illegal. Creating a new designation would fail to prevent right-wing attacks while threatening marginalized communities with increased surveillance, prosecution, and harassment for engaging in First Amendment protected activities. In the last few years, top Democrats and Republicans have called for billions of dollars in additional funding for the FBI, and have scuttled attempts to rein in the phone and internet spying programs enabled by the USA Patriot Act, which was rushed through Congress faster than lawmakers could read it in the immediate wake of 9/11.”

New Domestic Terrorism Legislation “Would Make It Worse”

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CHIP GIBBONS, chip@defendingdissent.org, @ChipGibbons89
Policy director at Defending Rights & Dissent, Gibbons recently wrote the piece “The Capitol Riot Was Bad Enough. New Domestic Terrorism Legislation Would Make It Even Worse” for Jacobin, which states that since 9/11, the U.S. government has erected a vast “apparatus in the name of ‘national security.’ Yet this security apparatus completely failed to thwart a plot carried out in plain sight.

“On top of that, just last summer, demonstrations against police violence and racism were repeatedly met with militarized police and wanton repression. In a country where you can’t even take expired suntan lotion past airport security, where Quakers organizing against the death penalty are surveilled in the name of ‘counterterrorism,’ and where police that resemble an occupying army — because they are literally equipped with gear from an occupying army — greet peaceful protests, it’s rational to wonder just how all of this could have happened.

“One thing is certain: the failure to prevent the Capitol attack is not because of a lack of police powers or anti-terrorism measures. Still, some people have wasted no time hijacking the moment to advocate new domestic terrorism legislation. A lawmaker in the solidly Democratic state of Maryland has proposed a state domestic terrorism statute, and others are sure to follow.

“This is not the first time in recent memory that far-right violence has sparked calls for new domestic terrorism legislation. The general uptick in violence that has plagued the Trump years, including the horrific white supremacist shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, has produced a steady drumbeat of demands for a new domestic terrorism law. Joe Biden’s campaign website put him on record as backing a new domestic terrorism law, though it’s unclear where he currently stands.”

Last year, The Intercept published Gibbon’s in-depth investigation: “FBI Opened Terrorism Investigations Into Nonviolent Palestinian Solidarity Group, Documents Reveal.”

See National Security Archives documents on FBI and NSA spying on Martin Luther King Jr.

Questions for Blinken Today

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President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, is scheduled to have his confirmation hearing today at 2:00 p.m. ET.

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson@gmail.com@davidcnswanson
Swanson is executive director of World Beyond War and campaign coordinator of RootsAction.org, which just sent out an email to their membership urging Senators to ask Binken serious questions: “Blinken should be asked about his role in helping start wars in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Which of those wars does he now regret? What would he do to prevent similar catastrophes going forward?

“The trend of the past dozen years is away from ground wars in favor of air wars. This often means more killing, more injuring, and more making people homeless, but with an even higher percentage of all that suffering concentrated on the non-U.S. side. We need to know whether Blinken favors continuing this trend and how he claims to defend it morally and legally.

“Much of the U.S. public has been wanting an end to endless wars, and President-elect Biden has promised it. Blinken has suggested that endless wars shouldn’t really be ended. We need to know which of these wars, if any, he supports actually ending every U.S. role in: Yemen? Afghanistan? Syria? Iraq? Somalia?

   “Blinken co-founded WestExec Advisors, a company that helps war profiteers get contracts, and serves as a revolving door for unscrupulous individuals who get rich from private money for what they do and whom they get to know in their public jobs. WestExec has paid Blinken nearly $1.2 million for advising corporations, including seven that have recently lobbied the State Department, including Facebook, Boeing, and Blackstone.” See the full backgrounder.

See past accuracy.org news releases regarding Blinken.

Leading Big Tech Lawyer May Head Biden Antitrust

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The Intercept and The American Prospect are reporting “Renata Hesse, who has worked for Google and Amazon, is the leading candidate to run the Justice Department’s antitrust division.”

MAX MORAN, moran@cepr.net@revolvingdoorDC

Moran is a researcher at the Revolving Door Project and said today: “In 2010, Renata Hesse worked alongside Ted Cruz to persuade the Texas Attorney General not to sue to break up Google’s monopoly over the online search market. As recently as 2018, Hesse publicly stated that she thinks people mostly use Google Search ‘because they like it better’ (not because of its fiercely-defended priority status in most internet browsers) and that it would be wrong to punish Google ‘because they did a great job.’

   “And yet if appointed assistant attorney general for antitrust, Hesse would inherit a DOJ case joined by almost every attorney general nationwide to break up her former client. Moreover, Hesse’s deputies might find themselves arguing against their boss’ spouse: her husband, Joshua Soven, is a fellow antitrust lawyer representing Google and employed by its go-to law firm Wilson Sonsini.

   “Just as concerning is that in 2017, Hesse assisted Amazon in its acquisition of Whole Foods. While the federal government has not yet announced plans to sue to break up Amazon, activist coalitions have called for antitrust action against the firm. Under Amazon, moreover, Whole Foods has engaged in unprecedented mass surveillance of employees to deter unionization.

“Notably, when Hesse served at the DOJ in 2005, she protected TurboTax-creator Intuit from the threat of a competitor offering free tax filing to all taxpayers, by deploying a tortured reading of antitrust law. If not for Hesse, Americans might not need to pay to file their taxes this year.

   “Hesse’s past work defending Google and enabling Amazon’s acquisitions create irresolvable conflicts of interest that must disqualify her from serving in a Biden administration’s DOJ antitrust division or Federal Trade Commission.”

See past accuracy.org news releases on Biden’s cabinet.

Will Biden Continue Bombings?

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As thousands of troops were deployed to Washington, D.C. during Joe Biden’s inauguration, Rev. Silvester Beaman gave the benediction, saying: “We will make friends of our enemies. We will make friends of our enemies. People, your people, should no longer raise up weapons against each other. We will rather use our resources for the national good and become a beacon of life and goodwill to the world. And neither shall we learn hatred anymore. We will lie down in peace and not make our neighbors afraid.”

As of a few days ago, the U.S. government has now been bombing Iraq for 30 years.

Chris Wood of airwars.org just tweeted: “Amid discussions about what Biden’s foreign policy might look like, it’s worth noting that he’ll be inheriting U.S. military actions at a post-9/11 low. The U.S. declared around 1,000 strikes last year across four theatres — down from 13,000 under Obama in 2016. … Given this low level of U.S. military engagement there’s clearly an opportunity for the incoming Biden administration radically to rethink overseas actions.”

See Sen. Rand Paul’s questioning of Biden Secretary of State nominee Anthony Blinken about the U.S. government’s wars in Libya, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Mali and numerous other countries.

KATHY KELLY, kathy.vcnv@gmail.com, @voiceinwild
Kelly is a peace activist and author working to end U.S. military and economic wars. She just wrote the piece “About Suffering: A Massacre of the Innocents in Yemen” which states: ” Yemeni children are not ‘starving children;’ they are being starved by warring parties whose blockades and bomb attacks have decimated the country. The United States is supplying devastating weaponry and diplomatic support to the Saudi-led coalition, while additionally launching its own ‘selective’ aerial attacks against suspected terrorists and all the civilians in those suspects’ vicinity.” AFP reports that Blinken stated yesterday, regarding support for Saudi Arabia’s attacks: “our support should end.”

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson@gmail.com@davidcnswanson
Swanson is executive director of World Beyond War and campaign coordinator of RootsAction.org. He was just on an accuracy.org news release on Blinken.

Biden Continuing Trump’s Targeting of Venezuela

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Reuters reports: “Biden will recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s leader, top diplomat says.”

AP reports: “Carlos Vecchio, [Trump-backed opposition leader Juan] Guaidó’s envoy in Washington who the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela’s ambassador, tweeted photos of himself at Biden’s inauguration. The invitation to attend was touted by Venezuela’s opposition as evidence the Biden administration will continue its strong support and resist entreaties by Maduro for dialogue that the U.S. has strenuously rejected until now.”

STEVE ELLNER, sellner74@gmail.com
Ellner is an associate managing editor of Latin American Perspectives. He is the editor of the recently published book Latin American Extractivism: Dependency, Resource Nationalism and Resistance in Broad Perspectives

He said today: “In spite of claims to the contrary, the Biden foreign policy team is not breaking with the Trump administration in its policy toward Venezuela. … The Biden people claim that their plans to enlist the support of allies is an innovation in that it corrects Trump’s go-it-alone approach toward Venezuela. In fact, Trump did seek and attain the support of over 50 nations (hardly a majority in the UN’s General Assembly) by taking advantage of the fact that much of Europe and Latin America was in the hands of conservative and right-wing leaders.

“In addition,” said Ellner, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken has indicated that “the Biden administration will provide Venezuela with much-needed humanitarian assistance. The Trump administration, however, also extended Venezuela humanitarian aid. But it was channeled through the parallel government of Juan Guaidó resulting in multiple denunciations of misuse of funds — not to say blatant acts of corruption — by members of his team who resigned in protest.

“Blinken also claims Biden will embark on a new course in that it will ‘more effectively target’ sanctions. Exactly what this means is unclear, but decades of the use of sanctions throughout the world demonstrate that, regardless of intent, the real victims of sanctions are the entire population. Even the Trump administration announced that the supply of medicine and food would not be affected but in fact it was. Everyone in the global commercial chain feared reprisals if they had any interaction at all with Venezuelan companies, both private and state-owned.

“Far from regime change, the starting point of U.S. policy toward Venezuela has to be recognizing Nicolás Maduro as the nation’s legitimate president. There may have been some irregularities in the Venezuelan presidential elections of 2018, as there have been in U.S. electoral contests, but there was no credible evidence of the votes not getting counted correctly, that is, electoral fraud. The commercial media’s uncritical employment of the term ‘authoritarian’ and ‘dictator’ to refer to Maduro is nothing short of deceptive and it ignores context, namely the multiple violent attempts to remove him, even physically.

“Maduro has clearly indicated his interest in negotiations with the U.S. and of late has expressed willingness to make concessions specifically regarding the release of several jailed U.S. citizens. He has also recently indicated his openness to concessions on the economic front.”

Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty Now in Force: What Does it Mean?

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The Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons went into force today with over 50 nations having ratified it. It was backed by more than 120 countries in October 2016 at the UN despite the efforts — especially from the U.S. government — to stop it.

U.S. President Joe Biden has stated in the past that: “As a nation, I believe we must keep pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

But the U.S. government — through both the Trump-Pence and Obama-Biden administrations — has strongly opposed the Treaty, ensuring that virtually all NATO members voted against it, see below for analysis of NATO. Some other non-NATO nuclear weapons states, like Russia and Israel, have also opposed it. China, India and Pakistan abstained on the 2016 UN vote.

FELICE and JACK COHEN-JOPPA, nukeresister@igc.org
Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa edit the Nuclear Resister. They write: “January 22, 2021 will be a historic day for nuclear weapons. … Neither the United States nor the other nuclear armed nations have joined the Treaty. ‘But just because they aren’t signed on to the Treaty doesn’t mean it won’t affect them,’ said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance.” See listing of events in over 70 U.S. cities and towns.

GREG MELLO, gmello@lasg.org
Mello is executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group. He said today: “Disarmament is an inherently political process, with milestones codified in law. Milestones, such as the birth of the Treaty we welcome today, are not the journey. Political processes, rooted in civil society, remain paramount. Without political will nothing will happen, with or without this or any treaty. Even this wonderful treaty is only a piece of paper, worth as much as the active political will behind it.

“It is not enough to sign and ratify this infant Treaty. States Parties must actively protect and feed it, so it can grow in stature and strength. States have to challenge nuclear deterrence, and the conventional threats that lead to it, to fulfill this parental role.

“Ways in which the political will to nuclear disarmament, as well as the Treaty itself, can be strengthened are prime topics for discussion in the important Article 8 meetings required by the new Treaty.

“This Treaty can affect the practice of states immediately, if rigorously applied. For example, as long as NATO remains a nuclear alliance, its posture of nuclear threat, its basing of U.S. nuclear weapons on member states’ territories, its war plans that involve transferring control over these weapons to member states’ pilots, are forbidden under this Treaty. NATO states and the Western Pacific states under the U.S. nuclear ‘umbrella,’ are all engaged in practices this Treaty outlaws. These nuclear-allied states now lie outside an actively-growing norm of international law.

“Will States Parties sanction these states, or deny them overflight privileges, or otherwise use this Treaty to further the disarmament agenda to which these parties — indeed all NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] member states — are committed? Time will tell.

“Meanwhile everyone can now see that more than ever, nuclear disarmament is a ‘thing.’ Young people can again confidently invest themselves in furthering this noble goal. Political leaders everywhere are now on notice that the moral force which produced this Treaty is far from asleep. The world’s peoples are crying for security, not the nuclear sword of Damocles — for real peace and not the silence of ashes, where cities and civilizations once stood.”

Calls for Biden to End the War on Yemen

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JEHAN HAKIM, yemenialliancecommittee@gmail.com@jehan_hakim
Hakim is chair of the Yemeni Alliance Committee, one of hundreds of organizations which are backing a push Monday against the war in Yemen. They state: “Since 2015, the Saudi-led bombing and blockade of Yemen have killed tens of thousands of people and devastated the country. The UN. calls this the largest humanitarian crisis on Earth. Half the country’s people are on the brink of famine, the country has the world’s worst cholera outbreak in modern history, and now Yemen has one of the very worst COVID death rates in the world. …

“And yet Saudi Arabia is escalating its war and tightening its blockade.

“The war is only possible because Western countries — and the United States and Britain in particular — continue to arm Saudi Arabia and provide military, political and logistical support for the war. The Western powers are active participants and have the power to stop the world’s most acute human crisis.

“The disaster in Yemen is man-made. It is caused by the war and blockade. It can be ended.”

Danny Glover (actor), Rep. Ro Khanna, Daniele Obono (French National Assembly member), Yanis Varoufakis (MeRA25 secretary general), Cornel West, and many others will participate in a global online rally: “World Says No to War on Yemen.”

Hakim also stated that Biden should end support for the war in Yemen and urged him to contemplate Trump’s signing of weapons deals with Gulf states. See resource page on Yemen, which included articles such as “Joe Biden Said He’s Against the Yemen War. He Needs To End It on Day One.”

ISACC EVANS-FRANTZ, isaacef@yahoo.com@actioncorpsnyc
Isaac Evans-Frantz is with Action Corps, which has focused on Yemen and has helped lead protests in New York City.

Groups Organizing Against Tom “Mr. Monsanto” Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture

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WENONAH HAUTER, SETH GLADSTONE, sgladstone@fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Hauter and Gladstone are with the group Food & Water Watch, which recently put out the statement “Tom Vilsack, a Friend of Big Ag, is the Wrong Choice for USDA.” They have joined with RootsAction and other groups to advocate against his nomination as secretary of agriculture.
See from the Guardian: “Tom Vilsack’s Cozy Relationship With Big Ag Makes Him a Non-Starter at USDA.”

“Tom Vilsack has made a career of catering to the whims of corporate agriculture giants — some of whom he has gone to work for — while failing to fight for struggling family farmers at every turn,” said Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “America needs an Agriculture Secretary that will finally prioritize sustainable family farming and national food security over corporate profits. Tom Vilsack has proven not to be the leader we need.”

See from The Counter: “How USDA Distorted Data to Conceal Decades of Discrimination against Black Farmers.”

      In These Times reports that while Vil­sack was secretary of agriculture during the Obama administration, he “resist­ed Repub­li­can attacks on food stamps and upped fed­er­al sup­port for organ­ic food – he angered pro­gres­sive groups by let­ting poul­try fac­to­ries self-reg­u­late, speed­ing up the approval process for GMO crops, shelv­ing new reg­u­la­tions on big agri­cul­ture at the industry’s behest, and step­ping in to craft an indus­try-friend­ly nation­al GMO-labelling bill intend­ed to replace a pio­neer­ing stricter stan­dard in Ver­mont. The move helped earn him the deri­sive moniker ‘Mr. Mon­san­to.'”

Biden Playing “Trump Card” Against Iran

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GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50@gmail.com@GarethPorter

Investigative reporter Porter just wrote the piece “Biden Admin’s Coercive Iran Policy Threatens Serious New Regional Crisis” for the Grayzone.

Porter writes:  “A close analysis of recent statements by members of President Joseph Biden’s foreign policy team indicates his administration has already signaled its intention to treat negotiations with Iran as an exercise in diplomatic coercion aimed at forcing major new concessions extending well beyond the 2015 nuclear agreement. The policy could trigger a renewed U.S.-Iran crisis as serious as any provocation engineered by the Trump administration.

“Although the Biden team is claiming that it is ready to bring the United States back into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if Iran comes into full compliance first, it is actually planning to demand that Iran give up its main source of political leverage. Thus, it will require Iran to cease its uranium enrichment to 20 percent and give up its accumulated stockpile of uranium already enriched to that level before the United States has withdrawn the economic sanctions that are now illegal under the JCPOA deal.

“Meanwhile, the Biden team is planning to hold on to what it apparently sees as its ‘Trump card’ — the Trump administration’s sanctions against Iran oil exports that have gutted the Iranian economy. …

“By piling up onerous demands while offering few concessions of its own, the new administration conveys the clear message that it is in no hurry to return to the JCPOA. Secretary of State of Tony Blinken stated in his confirmation testimony that the Biden administration was ‘a long way’ from returning to the deal and said nothing about reversing any of the sanctions that were introduced or reintroduced by the Trump administration after it quit the agreement.”

Porter’s books include: Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

Why Are There Monuments to Nazi Collaborators?

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Wednesday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the Soviet army liberating Auschwitz.

LEV GOLINKIN, golinkin@gmail.com
Golinkin just wrote the piece “How many monuments honor fascists, Nazis and murderers of Jews? You’ll be shocked,” in the Forward, launching the The Nazi Monument Project.

He writes: “The most curious thing about last year’s protests that toppled statues of slavers and colonizers is that the monuments of Holocaust perpetrators didn’t even make headlines.”

Golinkin documents — with a map — “320 monuments and street names in 16 countries on three continents which represent men and organizations who’ve enabled — and often quite literally implemented — the Final Solution. …
“The Nazi collaborators honored with monuments on U.S. soil represent governments, death squads and paramilitaries that murdered a half million Jews, Poles and Bosnians. …

“Even more worrying than the sheer number is the overall trend. The vast majority of these statues were erected in the past 20 years. Wherever you see statues of Nazi collaborators, you’ll also find thousands of torch-carrying men, rallying, organizing, drawing inspiration for action by celebrating collaborators of the past.”

Golinkin provides a country-by-country breakdown. These include:

In the Ukraine, which is where a quarter of the Jews killed in the Holocaust came from: “In 2016, a major Kyiv boulevard was renamed after [Nazi collaborator Stepan] Bandera. The renaming is particularly obscene since the street leads to Babi Yar, the ravine where Nazis, aided by Ukrainian collaborators, exterminated 33,771 Jews in two days, in one of the largest single massacres of the Holocaust.”

In Belgium, in 2018, a monument titled “Latvian Beehive for Freedom” was erected. The Latvian prisoners of war commemorated “were none other than the Latvian Legion, a unit in the Waffen-SS, which was the military wing of the Nazi party.”

Golinkin adds that “a disturbing number of Nazi collaborators documented in this database resettled in the West after the war.”

He is the author of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, a memoir of Soviet Ukraine, which he left as a child refugee.

Beyond the GameStop Drama: Tax the Wall Street Casino

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The Chicago Tribune reports: “GameStop’s stock is back to the races Friday, and the overall U.S. market is down again, as the saga that’s captivated and confused Wall Street ramps up the drama.”

JAMES HENRY, jamesshelburnehenry@mac.com
Henry is Global Justice Fellow at Yale University and managing director at the Sag Harbor Group, an IT consulting firm.

He said that the GameStop story highlights the need for a Financial Transaction Tax, small tax on each financial transaction that traders make. He states that it would “dampen casino trading” as well as raise substantial revenue in a progressive manner.

He adds the “Senate filibuster and Chuck Schumer’s Wall Street ties make such a development a long shot” in Washington, D.C., but New York State, as a hub of financial activity, could impose such a tax and that unions in New York are making a fresh push for exactly this.

He said: “We don’t have to take sides in this week’s particular stock mania to observe that it is the perfect illustration of much more fundamental, disturbing institutional reality. We have allowed Wall Street’s leading securities exchanges — a crucial part of the global capitalist order — to become by far the world’s largest casino. Indeed, 2020 was an all-time high for trading on New York’s two largest exchanges, with more than $49 trillion of stock trades on the NASDQ and the NYSE — more than half of the world’s trading total. Indeed, 2020 alone saw 19 of the 20 heaviest trading days since the year 2000, with the trend continuing into 2021. And up to 85 percent of these trades consist of speculative plays by hedge funds and high-frequency traders like the ones involved here.

“Fortunately, we have the perfect remedy — one that can also yield an extraordinary amount of tax revenue and help to reduce inequality, at a time when ‘the rest of us’ badly need it to help pay the soaring costs of the pandemic and prevent state and local governments from going bankrupt.

“Eighty-five years ago, in the depths of the Great Depression (1936), the economist John Maynard Keynes had already taken note of the fact that, especially during times of economic crisis, stock markets had become casinos. He commented: ‘Casinos should always be remote and expensive to use,’ and went on to propose that we put a simple ‘progressive sales tax’ on stock trades.

“Just so happens that we already have a .05 percent stock transfer tax in New York which has been rebated to the financial institutions since 1982. $344 billion ($2020) rebated thru 2020, We’re on the verge of getting the legislature to restore it. Governor Cuomo will have to decide whether he’s going to go along with Wall Street or join the herd.

“Yesterday we had a two-hour Zoom conference in which the tax was endorsed by the TWU [Transport Workers Union of America], CWA [Communications Workers of America]” and other unions, with more expected shortly.

Desmond Tutu: Biden Should End Israeli Nuclear Cover-up and Save Billions

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The Biden administration is pressuring concessions from Iran regarding a renewed nuclear deal. Iran, which has no nuclear weapons, is under sanction by the U.S. government. Meanwhile, the administration is expected to sign secret letters that it will not acknowledge Israel’s nuclear arsenal, facilitating the continuation of billions of U.S. dollars to Israel.

On New Year’s Eve, The Guardian published a piece by Archbishop Desmond Tutu titled “Joe Biden Should End the U.S. Pretence over Israel’s ‘Secret’ Nuclear Weapons: The cover-up has to stop — and with it, the huge sums in aid for a country with oppressive policies towards Palestinians.”
Tutu, a Nobel peace laureate, is a former archbishop of Cape Town and, from 1996 to 2003, was chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The piece states: “Every recent U.S. administration has performed a perverse ritual as it has come into office. All have agreed to undermine U.S. law by signing secret letters stipulating they will not acknowledge something everyone knows: that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal. …

“Israel in fact is a multiple nuclear weapons proliferator.” In addition to its own acquisition of nuclear weapons, “there is overwhelming evidence that it offered to sell the apartheid regime in South Africa nuclear weapons in the 1970s and even conducted a joint nuclear test. The U.S. government tried to cover up these facts. …

“Amendments by former Senators Stuart Symington and John Glenn to the Foreign Assistance Act ban U.S. economic and military assistance to nuclear proliferators and countries that acquire nuclear weapons. … Another U.S. statute, the Leahy law, prohibits US military aid to governments that systematically violate human rights.”

Instead of applying the rule of law, Tutu wrote, “there has been an oral agreement since President Richard Nixon to accept Israel’s ‘nuclear ambiguity’ — effectively to allow Israel the power that comes with nuclear weapons without the responsibility. And since President Bill Clinton, according to the New Yorker magazine, there have been these secret letters. …

“The incoming Biden administration should forthrightly acknowledge Israel as a leading state sponsor of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and properly implement U.S. law. …

“South Africa learned that it could only have real peace and justice by having truth that would lead to reconciliation. But none of those will come unless truth is faced squarely — and there are few truths more critical to face than a nuclear weapons arsenal in the hands of an apartheid government.”

Available for interviews:

RONNIE KASRILS, rkasrils@gmail.com
Kasrils was Minister for Intelligence Services in South Africa from 2004 to 2008 and was a leading member of the African National Congress during the apartheid era. He wrote the piece “I Fought South African Apartheid. I See the Same Brutal Policies in Israel” for The Guardian.

GRANT F. SMITH,, gsmith@irmep.org@IRmep
Smith is director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy. He recently wrote the piece “Biden Could Reverse Six Harmful Israel Policies… With the Only Power That Stops Israel’s Lobby.” He notes: “Publicly known cumulative U.S. foreign assistance (excluding intelligence support and other covert funding) to Israel is on track to reach $295 billion.”

Vilsack’s “Cozy Relationship With Big Ag Makes Him A Non-Starter at USDA”

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President Biden’s nominee to head the Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, is scheduled to have his hearing Tuesday.

CommonDreams reports: “Amid Broader Concerns Over Biden USDA Nominee, Watchdog Flags ‘Disturbing Suppression’ of Science by Vilsack.”

WENONAH HAUTER, SETH GLADSTONE, sgladstone@fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Hauter and Gladstone are with the group Food & Water Watch, which recently put out the statement: “Tom Vilsack’s Cozy Relationship With Big Ag Makes Him A Non-Starter at USDA.” They have joined with RootsAction and other groups to advocate against his nomination as secretary of agriculture.

Food & Water Watch states: “The Biden administration will fail rural America right out of the gate with a choice like Tom Vilsack for Secretary of Agriculture. ..

“As [Obama’s] Secretary of Agriculture, Vilsack failed to hold up his promise of addressing antitrust issues in the agricultural industry. A series of public meetings on the issue held jointly with the Department of Justice never resulted in regulatory action, and USDA policy continued to favor large-scale, corporate farming at the expense of family farms. Vilsack went on to become a lobbyist for the Dairy Export Industry, raking in more than $1 million in his first year, at a time when prospects for dairy farmers were so bleak that some received a suicide prevention hotline number along with their dairy checks. The prospect of Vilsack returning to head the USDA is an egregious example of a revolving door between industry and government.”

Also, see from the Guardian: “Tom Vilsack’s Cozy Relationship With Big Ag Makes Him a Non-Starter at USDA.”

See from The Counter: “How USDA Distorted Data to Conceal Decades of Discrimination against Black Farmers.”

In These Times reports that while Vil­sack was secretary of agriculture during the Obama administration, “he angered pro­gres­sive groups by let­ting poul­try fac­to­ries self-reg­u­late, speed­ing up the approval process for GMO crops, shelv­ing new reg­u­la­tions on big agri­cul­ture at the industry’s behest, and step­ping in to craft an indus­try-friend­ly nation­al GMO-labelling bill intend­ed to replace a pio­neer­ing stricter stan­dard in Ver­mont. The move helped earn him the deri­sive moniker ‘Mr. Mon­san­to.'”

Nonviolent Resistance to Myanmar Coup

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MICHAEL BEER, michael@nonviolenceinternational.net, @NVIntl
Executive director of Nonviolence International, Beer has been to Myanmar many times and has worked for 30 years supporting the nonviolent campaigns for peace, justice, and democracy in the country. He is in contact with activists there, many of whom are afraid to speak publicly.

He said today: “The people of Myanmar are resisting the military coup d’etat. Government doctors are going on strike. Myanmar citizens responded last night by engaging in a mass nonviolent tactic of caceleroza which involves the banging of pots and pans. Many governments, including South East Asian nations, are protesting. Ethnic minorities in the country are united in opposition. World-wide, citizens are planning to re-launch global boycotts. This coup will not succeed if enough pressure can be brought upon the coup plotters.

“Despite the overwhelming electoral defeat of the military’s political party, the military has copied U.S. former president Trump’s strategy of criticizing the validity of the election and are now trying to overturn the election. This may have been prompted by the military leader’s fear of losing power as a civilian where his vast wealth might be at risk.

“People around the world are sickened by the coup d’etat in Myanmar by the rapacious Burmese military. Despite having enormous power in the country, they were not satisfied with sharing power with a civilian government but decided to return to their long-standing practice of ruling the country for the benefit of themselves.”

Over 100 Groups Call for Biden to Close Guantánamo

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More than a hundred human rights and civil liberties groups are calling on President Joe Biden to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and end indefinite military detention.

See the letter they have signed, noting that Guantánamo was “designed specifically to evade legal constraints, and where Bush administration officials incubated torture. … United States government has viewed communities of color — citizens and non-citizens alike — through a security threat lens, to devastating consequences. … It is long past time for both a sea change in the United States’ approach to national and human security, and a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage that the post-9/11 approach has caused. Closing Guantánamo and ending indefinite detention of those held there is a necessary step towards those ends. We urge you to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for nearly 20 years.”

Among the groups signing the letter are the Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Victims of Torture, American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Advocacy Project, Physicians for Human Rights, Muslim Solidarity Committee and Witness Against Torture.
Available for interviews:

ALIYA HUSSAIN, via Jen Nessel, jnessel@ccrjustice.org@theCCR
Hussain, a Center for Constitutional Rights advocacy program manager said: “That so many groups are calling for an end to the indefinite detention of Muslim men without charge or fair trial at Guantánamo, and see it as part of a broader movement to uphold human rights, demand accountability for U.S.-sanctioned torture and violence, and fundamentally change the flawed criminal legal system, is significant. There is wide-ranging public support for President Biden to close Guantánamo. He must take bold and decisive action, and we will hold him accountable until he does.”

Over 100 Groups Call for Biden to Close Guantánamo

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More than a hundred human rights and civil liberties groups are calling on President Joe Biden to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba and end indefinite military detention.

See the letter they have signed, noting that Guantánamo was “designed specifically to evade legal constraints, and where Bush administration officials incubated torture. … United States government has viewed communities of color — citizens and non-citizens alike — through a security threat lens, to devastating consequences. … It is long past time for both a sea change in the United States’ approach to national and human security, and a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage that the post-9/11 approach has caused. Closing Guantánamo and ending indefinite detention of those held there is a necessary step towards those ends. We urge you to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for nearly 20 years.”

Among the groups signing the letter are the Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Victims of Torture, American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Advocacy Project, Physicians for Human Rights, Muslim Solidarity Committee and Witness Against Torture.

Available for interviews:

ALIYA HUSSAIN, via Jen Nessel, jnessel@ccrjustice.org@theCCR
Hussain, a Center for Constitutional Rights advocacy program manager said: “That so many groups are calling for an end to the indefinite detention of Muslim men without charge or fair trial at Guantánamo, and see it as part of a broader movement to uphold human rights, demand accountability for U.S.-sanctioned torture and violence, and fundamentally change the flawed criminal legal system, is significant. There is wide-ranging public support for President Biden to close Guantánamo. He must take bold and decisive action, and we will hold him accountable until he does.”

Biden Says He’s Ending the Yemen War, but Will He?

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SHIREEN AL-ADEIMI, @shireen818
Al-Adeimi an assistant professor of education at Michigan State University. Since 2015, she has played an active role in raising awareness about the Saudi-led war on her country of birth, Yemen, and works to encourage political action to end U.S. support.

She just wrote the piece “Biden Says He’s Ending the Yemen War — But It’s Too Soon to Celebrate” for In These Times. She gives Biden credit for positive moves, but scrutinizes his speech at the State Department yesterday in which he said: “We are ending all American support for offensive operations in the war in Yemen including relevant arms sales. … At the same time, Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks and UAV strikes and other threats from Iranian supplied forces in multiple countries. We are going to continue to help Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people.”
But Al-Adeimi notes: “Unfortunately, qualifiers like ‘offensive’ and ‘relevant’ do not signal a clear commitment to ending all forms of support for the U.S. war in Yemen, which includes targeting assistance, weapons sales (the U.S. is the largest supplier of arms to Saudi Arabia), logistics, training, and intelligence sharing with the Saudi-led coalition. Labeling Yemen’s Houthis as ‘Iranian supplied forces,’ and making a commitment to defending Saudi Arabia’s ‘sovereignty,’ echoes President Obama’s initial pretense for entering the war on Yemen in 2015. …

“Importantly, [National Security Advisor Jake] Sullivan noted that ending the war in Yemen ‘does not extend to actions against AQAP,’ or al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. While sanctioned by the [2001] AUMF [which is continuing to be used to justify attacks in many countries], it’s important to oppose this parallel U.S.-led war in Yemen that has also led to the killing of civilians.

“Now, more than ever, it is vital to hold a firm line about what a real end to U.S. participation in the Yemen war means: an end to all U.S. assistance, including intelligence sharing, logistical help, training, providing spare parts transfers for warplanes, bomb targeting, weapons sales and support for the naval blockade (we still don’t know the full extent of U.S. support for the latter). It also requires that the United States immediately reverse the Trump administration’s designation of the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), a determination that is cutting off critical aid to northern Yemen and significantly escalating the crisis of mass starvation.

“Because these things have not yet come to pass, it is critical to keep up the pressure until the war is really ended. As much as we might welcome positive messaging – no doubt a result of the pressure exerted by dogged organizers – we must not rest until we have won actual material relief. …

“The Obama-Biden administration made numerous announcements in 2012 and 2013 that it would end the U.S. war in Afghanistan by 2014. But we saw that declarations do not, in themselves, end U.S. aggression. This principle especially applies when declarations are loaded with red-flag-raising qualifiers like ‘offensive operations’ and ‘relevant weapons systems.'”

Debunking Biden State Dept. Claim Putting Israel Above the Law

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Friday evening, the U.S. State Department released a statement: “Opposing International Criminal Court Attempts to Affirm Territorial Jurisdiction Over the Palestinian Situation.”

JOHN QUIGLEY, quigley.2@osu.edu
Professor emeritus of international law at Ohio State University, Quigley’s books include The Statehood of Palestine: International Law in the Middle East Conflict and The International Diplomacy of Israel’s Founders: Deception at the United Nations in the Quest for Palestine (both Cambridge University Press).

He said today: “The United States bucks the international consensus by claiming that Palestine is not a state. The U.S. opposition to an investigation into war crimes committed in Palestine hinders the International Criminal Court in preventing such crimes. The decision by the pre-trial chamber to allow an investigation to proceed will allow the Prosecutor to investigate crimes committed by both sides. One of the war crimes the Prosecutor seeks to investigate is the transfer of civilians to Israeli settlements in the Palestine territory that Israel occupies. That activity is defined as a crime in international law, because a belligerent occupant does not gain a right to move its own people into the territory it occupies. The actions of Israeli officials in regard to the settlements is almost universally regarded as a war crime. The International Criminal Court is the only international institution that has jurisdiction to investigate this crime. It has that jurisdiction because Palestine, as a state, is party to the Statute of the International Criminal Court. The fact that the United States does not consider Palestine to be a state does not keep the International Criminal Court from taking jurisdiction. An investigation will now be able to proceed.”

Also see recent accuracy.org news release: “Desmond Tutu: Biden Should End Israeli Nuclear Cover-up and Save Billions.”

Biden Continuing Assange Prosecution, Launched By Trump DOJ

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KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin@shadowproof.com, @kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola just wrote the piece “Assange Prosecution, Launched By Trump Justice Department, Will Continue Under Biden.”

He writes: “The Justice Department under President Joe Biden plans to continue the case against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that was launched under President Donald Trump.

“‘We continue to seek his extradition,’ Justice Department spokesperson Marc Raimondi told Reuters, days before February 12, the deadline for the United States government to submit its ‘grounds for appeal.’

“The statement represents a departure from President Barack Obama’s administration, which declined to prosecute Assange. Justice Department officials were reportedly concerned about the threat it would pose to press freedom.

“On January 4, British district judge Vanessa Baraitser rejected the U.S. government’s extradition request and concluded Assange’s mental condition was ‘such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America.'”

Gosztola notes that earlier this week “a coalition of civil liberties, press freedom, and human rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Center for Constitutional Rights, Committee to Protect Journalists, Fight for the Future, Freedom of the Press Foundation, Human Rights Watch, PEN America, Project on Government Oversight, and Reporters Without Borders, signed on to a letter demanding that the Biden Justice Department drop the charges against Assange. …

“During Biden’s first foreign policy speech on February 4, he proclaimed, ‘We believe a free press isn’t an adversary; rather, it’s essential. A free press is essential to the health of a democracy.’ …

“However … U.S. security agencies believe they should monitor, neutralize, and even target dissident media organizations that may employ practices pioneered by WikiLeaks.”

See Gosztola’s extensive reporting on Assange’s trial, which he covered in London.

While vice president, Biden likened Assange to a “hi-tech terrorist.”

Will Biden End the Militarization of Police?

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JARIBU HILL, jaribu.hill@gmail.com@truthteller711@blacks4peace
NETFA FREEMAN, netfa@ips-dc.org@Netfafree

Hill and Freeman are both on the coordinating committee of the Black Alliance for Peace. Freeman is writing a forthcoming book: Community Control Over Police.    The group recently released a statement calling for an executive order to end the Pentagon’s 1033 program, which siphons military equipment to police in the U.S.

The group states: “The gratuitous militarization of police forces across the United States through this program has helped to turn these agencies into brutal weapons of repression. Therefore, nothing short of complete abolition of this program is acceptable.

“BAP has demanded abolition of the 1033 program since BAP’s 2017 founding. It now asks the public to sign a petition (available in English and Spanish) demanding the Biden administration and Democrats commit to abolishing this racist and brutal program.”

Hill is also executive director of the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights. She added: “Here in the belly of the Deep South beast, we understand the harsh and irreversible effects measures like 1033 have had and continue to have on those who languish in poverty, forced to live in shanty shacks and tenements.” She formerly served as municipal judge for the city of Hollandale and is a human rights attorney and a veteran community organizer.

The group noted: “The National Defense Authorization Act of 1997 that then-Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) supported and President Bill Clinton (D) signed into law created the 1033 program by expanding on a previous program.”Responding to outrage about the heavily militarized police response to protests after Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama enacted a policy in 2015 that appeared to limit the program, but made little difference in any department’s ability to acquire and use military weapons.

“Even with the scale-back, the Obama administration managed to transfer a $459 million arsenal to police agencies. …

“President Donald Trump came into office and reversed Obama’s cosmetic changes. What the Biden administration is now proposing by reversing Trump’s reversal to the Obama policy is not enough, as reverting the policy to Obama’s altered version is not justice.”

World Said No to Iraq War, Backers of Invasion Now Running Policy

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STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes@usfca.edu
Zunes is professor of politics at the University of San Francisco who has written extensively on the Mideast. He said today: “Eighteen years ago today, tens of millions of people around the world, in the largest single protest event in history, came out against the incipient U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. I spoke before half a million people gathered in San Francisco. Every mainline Christian denomination, 90 percent of Mideast scholars, and the vast majority of the world’s governments were saying no to war. The following current U.S. office-holders, however, insisted we were all wrong and that Bush and Cheney were right:
Joe Biden (President)
Anthony Blinken (Secretary of State)
Chuck Schumer (Senate Majority Leader)
Mitch McConnell (Senate Minority Leader)
Steny Hoyer (House Majority Leader)
Kevin McCarthy (House Minority Leader)

“In other words, current leaders of both the executive and legislative branches have demonstrated their belief that the United States somehow has the right to illegally invade a country on the far side of the world that is no threat to us despite being warned of the disastrous humanitarian, strategic, fiscal, and environmental consequences. People like that should not be in positions of power. Don’t think for a moment they won’t try to get us into another war. (And they all insist we should still have combat troops in Iraq 18 years later.)”

Weapons Biz Bankrolls Experts Pushing to Extend Afghan War

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ELI CLIFTON, [in NYC] , eliclifton@gmail.com@EliClifton@RStatecraft
Clifton is senior advisor at the Quincy Institute and investigative-journalist-at-large at Responsible Statecraft. He just wrote the piece “Weapons Biz Bankrolls Experts Pushing to Extend Afghan War,” which states: “Earlier this month, a study group established by Congress recommended that President Joe Biden extend the May 1 deadline for withdrawing troops from America’s longest war. It’s a strategy that many experts say runs the risk of abrogating the U.S.-Taliban agreement and potentially setting back the potential peace process in Afghanistan — or even dooming it to failure.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is a striking similarity in the backgrounds of the individuals involved in these critical recommendations, which are likely to influence whether Biden maintains a ‘conditions based’ U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan. Two of the group’s three co-chairs and nine of the group’s 12 plenary members, comprised of what the group refers to as ‘members,’ have current or recent financial ties to major defense contractors, an industry that soaks up more than half of the $740 billion defense budget, and stands to gain from protracted U.S. military involvement overseas. …

“For example, Ret. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford was a co-chair of the Afghanistan Study Group. Dunford served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2015 to 2019, commandant of the Marine Corps, and Commander of all United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2013.

“He led the group alongside Kelly Ayotte, who represented New Hampshire in the Senate from 2011 to 2016, and Nancy Lindborg, the President and CEO of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

“Dunford and Ayotte have also used their expertise not just to advise the Biden administration on the Afghanistan War but to cash in with major defense contractors.

“Since 2017, Ayotte has served on the board of BAE Systems Inc., a subsidiary of the U.K. defense giant BAE Systems plc. Dunford, for his part, joined the board of Lockheed Martin last year. SEC filings show Dunford holds approximately $290,000 worth of stock as part of the ‘Lockheed Martin Directors Equity Plan,’ a scheme to award stock to directors in order to ‘further align their economic interests with the interests of stockholders generally.’

“Nine plenary group members also maintained deep ties to the weapons industry.

“Susan M. Gordon, the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence from 2017 to 2019, collected $26,250 in cash from defense contractor CACI for her partial year’s work on its board in 2020 and reported holding approximately $160,000 in CACI stock.

“Stephen J. Hadley served as deputy national security adviser during George W. Bush’s first term, a role in which he offered his resignation due to his part in allowing faulty intelligence about Iraq’s pursuit of alleged nuclear weapons material from Niger to be included in the president’s 2003 State of the Union Address. Bush denied Hadley’s resignation request and Hadley went on to become national security adviser in 2005, leading a 2007 campaign to promote the troop surge in Iraq.

“After the Bush administration, Hadley cashed in, joining Raytheon’s board in 2010 and receiving nearly $2.6 million in cash and stock awards over the following nine years.”

Bill Gates, Super Emitter

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TIM SCHWAB, timschwab2020@gmail.com@TimothyWSchwab
Available for a limited number of interviews, Schwab is an independent journalist who just wrote the piece “Bill Gates, Climate Warrior. And Super Emitter” for The Nation. His prior pieces on Gates include “Are Bill Gates’s Billions Distorting Public Health Data?” and “While the Poor Get Sick, Bill Gates Just Gets Richer” and “Journalism’s Gates Keepers” for Columbia Journalism Review.

Schwab writes: “During the pandemic, Bill Gates’s personal fortune has increased by an impressive $20 billion, but even these gains pale in comparison to his soaring political influence — as the news media has widely trumpeted his leadership on Covid-19, praising his charitable donations or extolling him as a ‘visionary’ who predicted the outbreak.

“It’s a highly questionable narrative, one that ignores widespread controversy over the way Gates made his fortune and how he chooses to spend it. …

“’I expect to spend much of my time in 2021 talking with leaders around the world about both climate change and Covid-19,’ Gates notes in his new book, How To Avoid A Climate Disaster, which seems destined to be a best seller.

“Even before the release of his book this week, Gates’s move into climate change has made waves — an interview on ’60 Minutes,’ op-eds in Time magazine and The Guardian, and a podcast with actor Rashida Jones. Given Gates’s track record of success inserting himself into other policy debates — everything from U.S. education to global health — it seems likely he will continue to take up oxygen in the climate discourse going forward.

“If so, he proceeds from a precarious position, not just because of his thin credentials, untested solutions, and stunning financial conflicts of interest, but because his undemocratic assertion of power — no one appointed or elected him as the world’s new climate czar — comes at precisely the time when democratic institutions have become essential to solving climate change.

“Gates’s main credential related to climate change is as an investor. In 2015, he started a multibillion-dollar venture capital fund called Breakthrough Energy — recruiting a who’s who of the global super rich to join the fund: Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg, Jack Ma, Mukesh Ambani, and others.

“This billionaire club boasts that its investments in new technologies can ‘lead the world to zero emissions,’ but the fund’s portfolio includes companies whose impact on fighting climate change is largely hypothetical and in some cases highly dubious — like lab-cultured breast milk substitute and a hydrogen-powered airplane.

“In some ways, Gates’s book could be read as a long-winded advertisement for his investments, because he devotes many pages to promoting the need for new technologies to fight climate change. At one point, Gates even calls on the U.S. government to become a co-investor in advanced nuclear energy companies, like the one he founded, TerraPower (which has yet to put any energy into the power grid). …

“In many respects, that’s the entire modus operandi — or sleight of hand — of the Gates Foundation. Incorporated as a charity, the foundation is probably better understood as a political organization, one that uses its outsize resources to push public policy in line with Bill and Melinda Gates’s view of how the world should work (which is also sometimes in line with the Gates Foundation’s financial investments). …

“According to a 2019 academic study looking at extreme carbon emissions from the jet-setting elite, Bill Gates’s extensive travel by private jet likely makes him one of the world’s top carbon contributors — a veritable super emitter. In the list of 10 celebrities investigated — including Jennifer Lopez, Paris Hilton, and Oprah Winfrey — Gates was the source of the most emissions.

“The study only looked at Gates’s jet travel, but might have also considered Gates’s emissions from his farmland, which includes large tracts of corn and soybeans, which typically goes to feed animals (often on factory farms) — a particularly carbon-intensive model of agriculture.”

Biden and the Money Behind the “Virtual Wall” with Mexico

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TODD MILLER, toddmemomiller@gmail.com, @memomiller
Miller is co-author of the just-released report “Biden’s Border — The border industry, the Democrats and the 2020 elections” co-published by the Transnational Institute, Mijente, and AFSC.

He said today: “President Joe Biden and Democratic candidates received more money than Donald Trump and Republicans from leading border security corporations despite their markedly different campaign promises and rhetoric. Biden himself received three times more in contributions ($5,364,994) than Trump ($1,730,435) from 13 leading border security and immigration detention firms. Overall, these companies donated over $40 million to both political parties but favored Democrats (55 percent) over Republicans (45 percent). These numbers suggest that the industry, which has traditionally favored Republicans, sought to ensure influence regardless of the election outcome and protect a lucrative industry worth $55.1 billion between 2008 and 2020.

“In the report ‘Biden’s Border — The border industry, the Democrats and the 2020 elections,’ we welcome key initiatives by the Biden administration to change course on border and immigration from Trump’s aggressive anti-immigrant policies. However, Biden’s support for a ‘virtual wall’ and ‘smart borders’ that depend more on surveillance technologies than physical wall construction is more profitable for this industry and would continue a long-standing bipartisan approach to border militarization. As a result of these policies in place since the mid 1990s, approximately 8,000 bodies have been recovered in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and many more people have disappeared or have been separated from their families.

“If Democrats truly want to oppose the cruelty and deadliness of this border and immigration enforcement apparatus, they will have to do much more than reverse Trump’s inhumane policies. They will have to challenge this entrenched and lucrative system, including the infrastructure and technology that facilitates it and the industry that thrives off it. They will have to challenge a complex of companies that finances their campaigns and lobbies their offices.”\

Miller is author of the books Empire of Borders:The Expansion of the U.S. Border Around the World (2019), Storming the Wall (2017), Border Patrol Nation (2014), and the forthcoming Build Bridges Not Walls (2021).

New Look at Why the Democrats Did So Poorly in the Congressional Races: Their Highly Touted Fundraising Advantage Turned Out to Be a Fable

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THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson@umb.edu
PAUL JORGENSEN, pdj78@me.com
Ferguson is professor emeritus, University of Massachusetts Boston and director of research, Institute for New Economic Thinking. His books include Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems.

Jorgensen is associate professor and director of environmental studies at the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley.

With Jie Chen, they just co-wrote the piece “Big Money Drove the Congressional Elections — Again” which is a comprehensive analysis of campaign spending in the 2020 congressional elections.

They commented that “We were very skeptical about the strong pre-election claims of a huge Democratic fundraising advantage in Congressional races. Those doubts turned out to be well founded. Two thousand twenty looks very much like the last 40 years of Congressional election results: the outcome shows strong straight line relationships between money and votes. In American politics you get mostly what affluent people pay for — which goes a long way toward explaining why stimulus programs for ordinary people, but not Wall Street, are so controversial.”

Actual Causes of the Texas Disaster

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MITCH JONES, mjones@fwwatch.org@foodandwater
Jones is policy director of Food & Water Watch, which just released a statement: “The climate change-supercharged deep freeze covering Texas has left millions without power and water. The failure of the energy system is the direct result of corporate deregulation and an overreliance on fracked gas. While right-wing media outlets and politicians make wildly false claims about the failure of wind power, the whole disaster is yet another clear sign that we need bold government action to transform our energy system.

“The Texas energy system relies primarily on fracked gas — a source that greatly contributes to climate change, in addition to the litany of public health and environmental impacts linked to the fracking process. The failure of Texas’ gas-powered system due to freezing temperatures shows fracked gas to be an unreliable energy source.

“The other culprit is the structure of the Texas power system itself. The grid, primarily operated by ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), is mostly cut off from the rest of the country. In the late 1990s, companies like Enron were pushing energy deregulation across the country, most notably in states like California and Texas. The ‘free market’ disaster in California led to wild price swings, market manipulation and widespread blackouts in 2000 and 2001. In Texas, critics of deregulation point out that the promised cost savings have never arrived, and there is little incentive for companies to invest in the kind of weatherization and maintenance that would have prevented some of the problems that have left millions without power. And in a deregulated market faced with a supply shortage, prices have skyrocketed.”

Jones added: “The power and water crisis in Texas is the result of climate change, fracking, deregulation, and poorly maintained water and power infrastructure. It’s exhibit A on why we need a Green New Deal that invests in building renewable energy with battery storage, modernizes our power systems, rebuilds our water infrastructure, and regulates these systems in the public interest. This should be a massive wakeup call that oil and gas barons shouldn’t be driving decisions around our energy needs. We need publicly-owned utilities that are operated for the benefit of the people and the planet, not corporate profits.”

Opposition to Neera Tanden Builds

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced on Friday that he would vote against Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget, increasing the possibility that she cannot be confirmed for the influential position. 

JEFF COHEN, jeff@rootsaction.org, @Roots_Action

    Co-founder of RootsAction.org and its policy adviser, Cohen said today: “For decades, Democratic Party leaders and top advisers have wallowed in donations from the super-rich while moving the party toward policies that have shifted wealth and income from working-class people to elites. Consummate fundraiser Neera Tanden is a prime symbol of corporatism within a party that once fought for working-class interests, and that’s why RootsAction has opposed her OMB nomination since it was announced in December. We call on the Biden administration to nominate someone who will put the public interest ahead of corporate interests when it comes to overseeing federal budgetary and regulatory policies.”

The group’s action alert reads in part: “In recent years, Tanden has become known as one of the loudest voices of the neoliberal establishment. … Her coziness with corporate elites raises questions about her potential role in the regulatory process. As the Washington Post recently reported, she has ‘mingled with deep-pocketed donors who made their fortunes on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and in other powerful sectors of corporate America.’ And, ‘at formal pitches and swanky fundraisers, Tanden personally cultivated the bevy of benefactors fueling the $45 million to $50 million annual budget’ of her think tank, the Center for American Progress.”

See Washington Post piece from Dec. 5: “Neera Tanden, Biden’s Pick for Budget Chief, Runs a Think Tank Backed by Corporate and Foreign Interests.”

Cities Targeting Homeless

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KEITH McHENRY, keith@foodnotbombs.net@keith_mchenry    McHenry is co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement. He can connect media with other activists. He points to a series of efforts in various cities targeting homeless people.

He tweeted Tuesday of the most recent example: “The City of Santa Cruz is threatening to evict Food Not Bombs again claiming they will arrest us if we don’t stop.” The group was evicted from another location just last week, see Santa Cruz Sentinel: “Food Not Bombs displaced from Santa Cruz lot.”

McHenry said today: “City governments across the United States are waging a war against the homeless and their supporters as millions of Americans are facing eviction. As the Santa Cruz City Council was meeting to introduce an ordinance against ‘Temporary Outdoor Living’ it was sending an email to Food Not Bombs threatening to arrest our volunteers if we continue to share meals in an empty parking lot at a main intersection in Santa Cruz.

“Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs will be celebrating its 365th day in a row of providing food, drinking water, and the city’s only reliable hand-washing station while the city and its corporate sponsors failed to provide for the needs of most of our community’s unhoused. The city is also pressuring the state to evict over 100 people from the roadway outside Housing Matters homeless center and is seeking to vacate an injunction ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Susan van Keulen against their holiday evictions of over 100 people living in San Lorenzo Park.

“The Denver Police Department cleared camps of unhoused on February 21, 2021. Police used an armored vehicle to support a sweep of unhoused in Bellingham, Washington on January 28, 2021. The cities of Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle, New Orleans, San Jose and Sacramento are among the many other municipalities clearing camps of unhoused into the doorways and roadways of their communities.”
Food Not Bombs is a global movement. See from the London-based Freedom News: “Belarus: Food Not Bombs activists receive prison sentences for giving away food.”

New Report Calls on Biden to Put an End to Program That’s “Not Far From Slavery”

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DAVID BACON, dbacon@igc.org@photos4justice
ANURADHA MITTAL, amittal@oaklandinstitute.org, @oak_institute
Bacon is author of the new report “Dignity or Exploitation – What Future for Farmworker Families in the United States?” for the Oakland Institute. Mittal is founder and executive director of the group.

Bacon said today: “The H-2A program has created a captive labor force, made to work in brutal and often illegal conditions. In practice, it is not far from slavery. The majority of these migrant workers arrive in the U.S. already in debt. Department of Labor regulations permit companies to subject them to quotas that require them to work at an exhausting speed. Efforts to organize against exploitative conditions have been met with terminations, deportations and blacklisting.”

The report states that: “H-2A workers also face disproportionate exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The report describes some of the most acute situations, and analyzes the basic reason for the high infection rate — congregate housing, or barracks, where workers sleep in bunk beds.

Growth of the H-2A program has also exacerbated an existing housing crisis for rural workers, as recruitment has skyrocketed from 10,000 visas in 1992 to over 250,000 in 2020. The exploitative conditions and vulnerability of migrants who came under the H-2A program are very close to those of the bracero program that was in place from 1942 to 1964. The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965, which put an end to the bracero program, established an immigration system based on family reunification and community stability, protecting the wages, rights, health, and housing of farmworkers. This system is under increasing threat today.

Mittal said: “Restoring the family preference system and halting the H-2A program are two of the most important decisions that will face the Biden administration in regards to the direction of U.S. immigration policy. The new administration needs to choose whose interests they are going to serve. Will it support the H-2A program and protect the profits of growers, or will it stand with the farmworkers who labor in the fields to feed this country?”

Mars Mission Had 1-in-960 Odds of a Plutonium Release

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KARL GROSSMAN, kgrossman@hamptons.com
Grossman just wrote the piece “Applause for Perseverance Ignores Plutonium Bullet We Dodged” for the media watch group FAIR.

He writes: “With all the media hoopla last week about the Perseverance rover, frequently unreported was that its energy source is plutonium — considered the most lethal of all radioactive substances — and nowhere in media was the NASA projection that there were 1-in-960 odds of an accidental release of the plutonium on the mission.

“’A “1-in-960 chance” of a deadly plutonium release is a real concern,’ says Bruce Gagnon, coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
“Further, NASA’s Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the $3.7 billion mission acknowledges that solar energy could have been an ‘alternative’ power source for Perseverance. Photovoltaic panels have been the power source for a succession of Mars rovers.

“One in 100 rockets undergo major malfunctions on launch, mostly by blowing up.”

See NASA document: “Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement for the Mars 2020 Mission” [PDF] which gives the 1 in 960 probability.

Earlier this month, Grossman wrote the piece “Nuclear Rockets to Mars?” for Counterpunch.

Grossman is professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, and is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet, and the Beyond Nuclear handbook, “The U.S. Space Force and the dangers of nuclear power and nuclear war in space.” [PDF]

Biden Bombing Syria: “Illegal”

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FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle@illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of law at the University of Illinois. His most recent book is World Politics, Human Rights, and International Law.

He said today: “Biden’s bombing of Syria on Thursday is illegal — a violation of international law. It’s especially egregious since the attacks in Syria came out of Iraq, as the Iraqi government has been telling the U.S. government to leave.

“There have been reports that the U.S. government has been bombing Afghanistan. Presumably this is pretextually justified by the 2001 AUMF. It’s ridiculous to cite that at this point, but there’s some legal pretense to the effort. Attacking forces in Syria — which are allegedly backed by the Iranian government — have no plausible legal justification.

Jen Psaki, now the White House press secretary, tweeted after Trump bombed Syria in 2017: “Also what is the legal authority for strikes? Assad is a brutal dictator. But Syria is a sovereign country.” At the time, IPA put out a news release: “Attacking Syria ‘Impeachable.’” Boyle stated today: “There’s been a lot of clamor about the ‘rule of law’ by many Democratic Party officials over Trump’s second impeachment, but Biden’s bombing is also a violation of the War Powers Clause of the Constitution, Congress’s own War Powers Resolution and the UN Charter — so of course it is an impeachable offense. So, there’s no real fidelity to the rule of law, just partisan preference here. Biden, who was a critical backer of the illegal Iraq invasion, has predictably carried on with the wholesale military interventionism by the Obama/Biden administration.”

Boyle was legal adviser to Rep. Henry B. González and wrote the first draft of the González Impeachment Resolution in 1991. George H. W. 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.”

In 2017, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, and foreign policy speechwriter, told Politico that President Obama feared impeachment if he targeted the Syrian government.

Tax Billionaires to Pay for Pandemic Recovery

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CHUCK COLLINS, chuck@ips-dc.org; also via Bob Keener, bobk@ips-dc.org@inequalityorg

Collins just wrote the piece “We should tax billionaires’ wealth to help pay for pandemic recovery” for MarketWatch. He writes: “This week, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts introduced the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act, an annual wealth tax on households with more than $50 million. Lead sponsors in the House are Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania.

“’The ultrarich and powerful have rigged the rules in their favor so much that the top 0.1 percent pay a lower effective tax rate than the bottom 99 percent, and billionaire wealth is 40 percent higher than before the COVID crisis began,’ Warren explained.

“Around two-thirds of Americans, including majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, said they supported a wealth tax in a January survey. ‘A wealth tax is popular among voters on both sides for good reason: because they understand the system is rigged to benefit the wealthy and large corporations,’ Warren said.

“Under the Warren-Jayapal-Boyle bill, the richest 100,000 Americans would be subject to an annual tax of a few pennies on the dollar on their great fortunes.

“The tax rate would be just 2 cents on the dollar, or 2 percent, for people with wealth between $50 million and $1 billion. It would rise to just 3 cents on the dollar, or 3 percent, for wealth above the $1 billion threshold.

“Only the country’s 650 or so billionaires would pay the 3 percent rate.

“It makes sense to tax billionaires to pay for the immediate-term pandemic recovery, as well as for longer-term investments in infrastructure, health care, and education. As hundreds of thousands of Americans lost their lives, and millions lost their livelihoods, U.S. billionaires have seen their combined wealth increase $1.3 trillion over the last 11 months, an increase of 45 percent.

“U.S. billionaires now have a combined wealth of $4.2 trillion. That’s nearly double the wealth owned by the bottom half of all U.S. households — 165 million people combined — who collectively own just $2.4 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve.”

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he co-edits Inequality.org. His new book is The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions.

Withdrawal of Tanden Nomination

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JEFF COHEN, jeff@rootsaction.org
NORMAN SOLOMON, norman@rootsaction.org
Cohen and Solomon co-founded the group RootsAction.org, which led the progressive opposition to Neera Tanden’s nomination as head of the Office of Management and Budget.

They issued a statement Tuesday just after her nomination was withdrawn, saying they are “heartened that she will not be OMB director. The opposition of Republican senators over nasty tweets was of course hypocritical and absurd, given their muted response to years of Trump’s tweeting. But it was inexcusable for Democratic senators to be silent about the legitimate reasons to oppose her nomination — the potential conflicts of interest raised by her years of coziness with powerful corporate elites. That silence may be explained by the fact that Democrats in the Senate are beholden to some of the same corporate donors that lavishly bankroll Tanden’s think tank. Tanden was the wrong choice to head a federal agency that is vital in the regulatory process. It strains credulity to contend that she would have been a true advocate for the public interest after many years of dutifully serving corporate interests.”

RootsAction began its nationwide campaign to defeat the Tanden nomination on Jan. 3.

Cohen was on The Young Turks minutes before Tanden’s nomination was withdrawn.

Thirty Years of Bombing Iraq

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AP reports this morning: “U.S. forces: Rockets hit airbase in Iraq hosting U.S. troops.” This follows a U.S. government strike from Iraq into Syria last week. Last year NBC reported:”Iraq asks U.S. to make plans to withdraw forces.”

KATHY KELLY, kathy.vcnv@gmail.com, @voiceinwild
A long-time peace activist, who has frequently been in war zones and prison, Kelly just wrote the piece “Blood for Oil: Amid the ongoing horror, it’s important to find ways to atone for war crimes — including reparations,” originally published by The Progressive.

Pope Francis is scheduled to make the first papal visit to Iraq from March 5 to 8.

Kelly writes: “Thirty years ago, when the United States launched Operation Desert Storm against Iraq, I was a member of the Gulf Peace Team. We were 73 people from fifteen different countries, aged 22 to 76, living in a tent camp close to Iraq’s border with Saudi Arabia, along the road to Mecca. …

“Iraqi authorities told us we must pack up, readying for a morning departure to Baghdad. Not all of us could agree on how to respond. Adhering to basic principles, twelve peace team members resolved to sit in a circle, holding signs saying ‘We choose to stay.’ …

“Another evacuation was happening as Iraqi forces, many of them young conscripts, hungry, disheveled and unarmed, poured out of Kuwait along a major highway, later called ‘the Highway of Death.’ …

“Shortly after viewing photos of gruesome carnage caused by the ground and air attacks, President George H.W. Bush called for a cessation of hostilities on February 27th, 1991. An official cease fire was signed on March 4. …

“Noam Chomsky notes that there were diplomatic alternatives to the bloodletting and destruction visited upon Iraq by Operation Desert Storm. Iraqi diplomats had submitted an alternative plan which was suppressed in the mainstream media and flatly rejected by the U.S. …

“After the ‘success’ of Operation Desert Storm, the bombing war turned into an economic war, which lasted through 2003. As early as 1995, United Nations documents clarified that the economic war, waged through continued imposition of U.N. economic sanctions against Iraq, was far more brutal than even the worst of the 1991 aerial and ground war attacks. …”

How Hedge Funds Are Wrecking the U.S.’s Green New Deal

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LYNN PARRAMORE, lynn@lynnparramore.com@INETeconomics
Parramore is senior research analyst for the Institute for New Economic Thinking and just wrote the piece “Meet the ‘New Koch Brothers’ — the Hedge Fund Activists Wrecking America’s Green New Deal.”

The piece gives a series of case studies. Parramore summarized the problem: “Players on Wall Street have been torpedoing our chances of averting environmental catastrophe for years. A group of billionaire financiers has made sure the companies the government must partner with to fight climate change are focused on one thing only – making these men (they all seem to be men) even richer. Instead of leading the world in climate change technology, firms like Apple, GE, and Intel have been pressured to become the personal piggy banks of powerful moneymen — known as hedge fund activists — who can’t see beyond the next quarterly report.

“These guys are blocking their fellow Americans from the chance to leave their kids a safe, sustainable world. That world will never materialize unless we understand what they are doing and stop them. …

“People who did this used to be called ‘corporate raiders.’ They took over companies, fired people, played stock market games to swell the stock price, made a quick buck, and then split. …

“The playbook of today’s hedge fund” manipulators, Parramore notes, “looks like this: Buy a wad of shares of a company on the stock market. Then, line up the proxy votes of the managers of funds who let have hedgies manage pieces of their portfolio. Next, send a letter to the CEO of a target company demanding that he or she get busy pumping up the stock price. Hedge funds with deep pockets will spend millions making this happen — remember, their money comes from rich people or institutional investors like pensions and mutual funds who are seeking high yields. Occasionally hedgies will use their own money — those whose ‘war chests’ have come from previous raids.”

Twitter Blocking Labor Reporting on Amazon, a Business Partner

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MIKE ELK, mike.elk@gmail.com@MikeElk
Elk is the senior labor reporter at Payday Report. On Thursday, he wrote the piece “Twitter Worked With Amazon to Block Payday, Labeling Payday & Other Labor Reporters as ‘Suspicious Content.'” Elk wrote: “Earlier today, several readers of Payday Report’s Twitter feed informed us that Twitter was blocking labor reporting content shared by us from being viewed.

“I direct messaged my friends a tweet of a screenshot showing a link to an American Prospect story by retired New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse that described psychological warfare being performed by Amazon on its workers.

“After I sent the tweet, several of my friends told me they were given a warning when they tried to access the content: ‘Message hidden due to suspicious content.’

“Twitter’s feeds are powered through Amazon Web Services who also help run Twitter’s program that identifies ‘fake news.’ They often work closely with the company to block ‘flagged’ news links from going viral.

“Now, multiple reporters from various left outlets including Payday Report, franknews, The American Prospect, and More Perfect Union, have reported that they have all had their content blocked and pegged as ‘suspicious.’

“More Perfect Union, a new labor reporting organization founded by former Bernie Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir, made a viral video supporting the Amazon union workers. The video went viral and garnered over a million views before Amazon suddenly removed it for nearly a day.

“’We never got any explanation for why they removed it,’ said RWDSU [Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union] organizer Josh Brewer, who has been helping lead the battle against the e-commerce giant.

“In response to the negative publicity, Amazon has hired teams of rapid response PR agents who are scouring the web searching for viral tweets that make Amazon look bad. Thus, many on the left believe that Amazon is working closely with Twitter to prevent negative Amazon content from going viral.”

Momentum Builds for Financial Transaction Tax in NY on Tuesday

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Forbes just published a piece by pollster John Zogby: “Majority Of New Yorkers Want To Collect A Century-Old Phantom Tax That Will Generate Billions In New Revenue,” which states: “For over 100 years, New York State law has provided for a stock transfer tax that essentially collects a tax on all stock transactions. For many years, after heavy lobbying by stock traders, tax money was actually collected — then immediately rebated to the firms that sold the stocks. In other words, it has been for most of its existence a phantom tax.

“Since 1982, the charade of collecting first then rebating the revenue was halted, but the stock transfer tax is still on the books as state law. So, what are we talking about in real dollars and cents? The tax translates into a 5-cent tax per share every time a stock is sold, thus in 2020, with the average trade on the NASDAQ at about eight thousand four hundred dollars, the total tax would have been around $8.80 a trade, or .1 percent — a minuscule sum anyway you look at it. Since 1982, however, New York has kept the tax on the books, but it has rebated more than $350 billion to Wall Street investors.

“Most New Yorkers are not even aware of this issue. John Zogby Strategies was commissioned by a coalition of public interest groups, unions, and Albany legislative leaders to test support or opposition of breathing new life into this phantom tax. Our poll of 704 likely voters statewide found that overall, 53 percent agreed it should be collected while only 34 percent disagreed. After arguments both in support and opposition were read to voters, agreement rose to 59 percent while opposition declined to 30 percent — a 29-point differential.”

JAMES HENRY, jsh11963@gmail.com@submergingmkt
Henry is Global Justice Fellow at Yale University and managing director at the Sag Harbor Group. He said today: “The New York State legislature is meeting Tuesday to decide what its revenue options are and Wall Street is really digging in especially because Gov. Andrew Cuomo is imperiled. They have systematically understated the Wall Street revenues that this tax would produce. … If the feds adopt a national financial transaction tax before New York State does then all the money would flow into the federal treasury. So there’s really no good argument for not doing this except that Wall Street is very nervous about this escalating into the first successful progressive tax reform in 50 years.”

Henry is co-author of the paper “Submission to New York State Assembly: the case for Financial Transactions Taxes,” which states: “In New York state, Assemblyman Rep. Phil Steck has sponsored a disarmingly simple three-page bill that would raise some $10-20 billion a year from Wall Street and plough the money into the pandemic response and the local economy, creating jobs with a fair, efficient and progressive tax.”

Biden’s Venezuela Policy: “Continuity Disguised as Change”

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On Monday, the Biden administration gave temporary legal status to thousands of Venezuelans in the U.S.

STEVE ELLNER, sellner74@gmail.com@sellner74
Ellner, a retired professor from Venezuela’s Universidad de Oriente, is currently an associate managing editor of Latin American Perspectives and editor of the recently published Latin American Extractivism: Dependency, Resource Nationalism and Resistance in Broad Perspective.

He said today: “The Biden administration’s posture toward Venezuela is continuity disguised as change. Its statement that it is dropping Trump’s approach to Venezuela is based on the claim that it will be consulting governments in the region and Europe. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Biden is calling for regime change, just as Trump did, and he continues to recognize Juan Guaidó as president. In contrast, the European Union has terminated its recognition of Guaidó. And the winds of change in Latin America are upending the strategy of isolating the Maduro government in the region that Trump did so much to promote.

“The Biden administration has learned nothing from the disaster of Trump’s Venezuelan policy. It has been a disaster for the Venezuelan people because the sanctions have caused them untold suffering. Ninety five percent of the deterioration in living standards in Venezuela occurred during Trump’s four years. That, in itself, puts the lie to Secretary of State spokesman Ned Price’s assertion on Monday that Maduro is ‘at the root of much of the misery and the suffering of the people of Venezuela.'” See Ellner’s piece “Explanations for the Current Crisis in Venezuela: A Clash of Paradigms and Narratives.”
He added: “The U.S. has always wanted to teach Venezuela a lesson (just like Cuba), specifically because Chavez, more than any other progressive Latin American president, served as a spokesman for the entire region, if not the world. And second, Washington policy makers are now using the term ‘leverage’ which means the sanctions are not designed to bring about immediate regime change but rather improve the U.S. bargaining position.”

Is the White House Greenlighting Haiti’s Descent into Dictatorship?

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EMMANUELA DOUYON, emmanuela.douyon@gmail.com@emmadouyon
In Haiti, Douyon is an activist with Nou Pap Dòmi (We Will Not Sleep) and executive director of the group Policité. She will be testifying before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Friday.

BRIAN CONCANNON, beconcannon@gmail.com@HaitiJustice
Human rights lawyer Brian Concannon is executive director of Project Blueprint, which promotes a “progressive, human rights-based U.S. foreign policy by bringing the perspectives of people impacted by U.S. actions abroad into policy discussions.” He founded the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and was its Executive Director from 2004-2019. He lived in Haiti from 1995 to 2004, where he served as a Human Rights Officer with the United Nations.

He just wrote the piece “Is the White House Greenlighting Haiti’s Descent into Dictatorship?” for Responsible Statecraft, which states: “As thousands of Haitians protest each Sunday against Jovenel Moïse, their embattled and increasingly authoritarian president, their protest signs and songs exhort the U.S. ambassador and the head of the United Nations mission in Haiti, who is also a career U.S. diplomat, ‘to stop supporting a dictatorship.’ The protests reflect a broad consensus among politicians, intellectuals, lawyers and others in Haiti, supported by human rights experts and members of the U.S. Congress, that the Biden administration is propping up Moïse and preventing the emergence of a Haitian-led solution to the political crisis.

“The Trump administration had backed Moïse despite revelations of spectacular corruption, government-linked massacres, and the expiration of Haiti’s parliament. In just one incident, the 2018 La Saline massacre, government-allied gangs killed at least seventy people to retaliate against anti-government organizing in the neighborhood. I interviewed survivors, and their stories were eerily similar to the stories I had heard 30 years before from the survivors of the 1988 St. Jean Bosco Church massacre — also in La Saline — by the vestiges of Jean-Claude Duvalier’s Tonton Macoute death squad.

“Haitians were hopeful that the Biden administration would change course before February 7, the day that Moïse’s term in office ended, according to Haiti’s judicial oversight body, the bar federation, and religious leaders, as well as the leadership of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee. But on February 5, the State Department, citing the position of Luis Almagro, Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, pronounced that Moïse’s term extended until 2022. This interpretation is based on a constitutional ambiguity generated by election delays in 2015 and 2016. But, as most commentators note, it is inconsistent with electoral law and with precedent set by Moïse himself.

“Taking Moïse’s side might have been an attempt to manage Haiti’s political crisis at a time when the administration’s attention is focused elsewhere. But Moïse proceeded as if this support provided a green light for continued repression. Before sunrise on February 7, his police arrested Supreme Court Justice Yvickel Dabrésil and at least 19 other suspected dissidents, illegally, alleging they were planning a coup d’état. The next day, Moïse, fired Dabrésil and two of his Supreme Court colleagues, who, under the country’s constitution, can only be removed by parliament. Haitians who protested the arrests and other autocratic measures were met with police beatings, tear gas and bullets, as were journalists covering the protests.

“The State Department added gaslighting to its green light on February 12, claiming there had been a ‘remarkable lack of popular response to calls for mass protest in recent weeks.’ The State Department knew very well that Haitian demonstrators had been subjected to violent attacks by government forces and allied militias once they marshaled in the streets. Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security reported in February that the government was using gangs ‘to repress the opposition,’ and noted ‘President Jovenel Moïse’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies.'”

Biden Should Halt Trump Privatization of Medicare Moves

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DIANE ARCHER, via Linda Benesch, lbenesch@socialsecurityworks.org
Archer is president of Just Care USA, an independent digital hub “covering health and financial issues facing boomers and their families and promoting policy solutions.” She is the past board chair of Consumer Reports and serves on the Brown University School of Public Health Advisory Board. Benesch is communications director of Social Security Works.

Archer just wrote the piece “The Ghost of the Trump Administration Is Haunting Medicare,” which states: “In the last quarter of 2020, the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services launched an experiment, euphemistically called, ‘direct contracting,’ that could fully turn Medicare over to private health insurers. The Biden administration needs to halt this experiment before millions of older and disabled Americans lose their right to choose traditional Medicare.

“Traditional Medicare — public insurance administered by the federal government — has been a hallmark of Medicare since the program was first enacted in 1965. Under traditional Medicare, the government sets rates for doctors and hospitals, sets the conditions for coverage, and pays providers directly. Public insurance is cost-effective, reliable, transparent and publicly accountable.

“Most important, traditional Medicare guarantees people access to care from the doctors and hospitals they choose anywhere in the country. It is designed to meet the needs of healthy older adults and people with disabilities as well as those with complex medical conditions. No corporate health insurer profits from denying care or second-guessing treating physicians.

“Nonetheless, the Trump administration has outsourced Medicare to insurance companies and other for-profit middlemen, placing them between Americans and their doctors. The experiment could assign millions of people who elected traditional Medicare to a corporate health plan that works like Medicare Advantage, the Medicare private health insurance choice, with fewer consumer protections. …

“Allowing for-profit insurers to restrict access to care in traditional Medicare is a dangerous social experiment with the health and lives of the most vulnerable older and disabled Americans. It’s bad policy, a government giveaway to Wall Street, and a betrayal of the most basic principles of Medicare. Congress has given every older and disabled American the right to choose traditional Medicare. The Biden administration should immediately kill this toxic legacy of the former president.”

Rights Group Calls on Biden to Reverse Trump’s Treatment of Gitmo Prisoner Attempting Suicide

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The Center for Constitutional Rights has put out a detailed news release: “Gitmo Torture Survivor Asks Court to Reject Eleventh-Hour Trump Bid to Deny Medical Evaluation,” which states: “Lawyers representing Guantánamo prisoner Mohammed al Qahtani are urging a federal judge to deny an effort by the Trump administration in its final days to reverse a court order to convene a panel of medical experts to evaluate him. A former Defense Department official appointed by Trump attempted to avoid convening the panel by purporting to make an exception excluding men imprisoned at Guantánamo from the military regulation requiring such an evaluation.

“Mr. al Qahtani is the only person imprisoned at Guantánamo whose torture has been formally admitted to by a U.S. government official, and he suffers from schizophrenia, diagnosed years before his detention, and major depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from his torture. He has attempted suicide multiple times, including twice within the last four months, when, in a haze of hallucinations, he swallowed broken glass and cut veins in his arms. He is legally entitled to a neutral medical evaluation to determine whether the United States may continue to detain him.

“In an unclassified phone call with his lawyer, Mr. al Qahtani said, ‘I feel so much worse. I tried to kill myself again. I was in a state of madness. I don’t know what I did. … Even the psychiatrists here told me I’ve reached a stage where I might kill myself without even realizing it. These are dangerous behaviors. They put me in the clinic at first and now I’m back in the cellblock. They’re watching me but it’s as if they’re just waiting for me to kill myself. …’

“Al Qahtani experiences a host of symptoms, including hallucinations, screaming, insomnia, crying for hours, banging his head against walls, impaired concentration and memory, hypervigilance, hopelessness, and physical pain throughout his body, among others.”

Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights said: “Our government knowingly tortured a man who was already suffering from schizophrenia from his teenage years, long before he was brought to Guantanamo. Eighteen years later, it serves no purpose to hold him alone in a largely-empty prison, where he is losing what little touch with reality he still has.”

“The Biden administration can and should reverse course on Trump’s effort to resist the independent medical examination of a mentally ill prisoner that the U.S. government has admitted torturing,” said Ramzi Kassem, a professor at CUNY School of Law and the director of the CLEAR Clinic, which also represents Mr. al Qahtani.

Contact: Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, jnessel@ccrjustice.org

Groups Oppose Rahm Emanuel for Ambassadorship, Citing Absence of “Ethics, Integrity and Diplomatic Skills”

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BREE CARLSON, via Johanna Kichton,  j.kichton@peoplesaction.org@PplsAction
Carlson is deputy director of People’s Action, one of more than two dozen organizations that announced Tuesday that they strongly oppose any nomination of former Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to be a U.S. ambassador. Noting that President Biden is reportedly considering Emanuel to be ambassador to Japan or China, a joint statement declared: “Such top diplomatic posts should only go to individuals with ethics, integrity and diplomatic skills. Emanuel possesses none of those qualifications.”

Said Carlson: “He covered up the murder of Laquan McDonald, defunded public schools, and attacked benefits for poor people. It would be a slap in the face for many to see President Biden ignore the loud calls of opposition towards him.” See on Common Dreams: “Progressives to Biden: No Ambassadorship for ‘Ladder-Climbing Hack’ Rahm Emanuel.”

The coalition statement said that Emanuel “has routinely served elite corporate interests and rarely the interests of the broad public or the causes of racial justice, economic equity or the peaceful resolution of conflicts at home or abroad. And whether in federal or municipal office, he has been known for his abrasive, arrogant style of wielding power. Emanuel’s disgraceful behavior as mayor of Chicago cannot be erased or ignored.”
National organizations signing the statement include Black Youth Project 100, Demand Progress Education Fund, Justice Democrats, People’s Action, Progressive Democrats of America, RootsAction.org, Veterans For Peace, and Working Families Party. Several Chicago groups also signed the statement, including the Chicago Committee Against War and Racism, Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, and Indivisible Chicago Alliance.

Blinken and Austin Trip: Are There Plans for War With China?

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Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will be in Japan and South Korea, and then meet with Chinese officials in Alaska in the coming days.

JAMES BRADLEY, james@jamesbradley.com, Skype: JamesOnSound
Bradley is author of several bestsellers focused on U.S. policy in the Pacific and Asia, including Flags of Our Fathers and The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia.

He is currently in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand producing his “Untold Pacific” podcast about “the American experience in Asia.” Recent episodes include “China Rising,” “The #1 Focus of the U.S. National Security State is War with China” and “U.S. Military: ‘War with China Inevitable.'”

He said today: “Emperor Mao made dismembered China one. Emperor Deng made a poor China rich. Now Emperor Xi is determined to make a powerful China whole.

“The big issue between Beijing and Washington is Taiwan. Both sides have strong arguments, but start their observations at different points, sometimes different centuries.

“The business of China is business. The business of America is war. Will the U.S. make a business-like deal with China over Taiwan in Alaska? Or will the U.S. insist upon the Taiwan question being settled as a matter of war?”

Public Citizen: “How the Pandemic Makes the Case for Medicare for All”

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Bloomberg reports: “Medicare for All Gets Renewed Push After Pandemic Devastation.”
EAGAN KEMP, via Derrick Robinson, drobinson@citizen.org
Kemp serves as health care policy advocate for Public Citizen. He just wrote the white paper: “Unprepared for COVID-19: How the Pandemic Makes the Case for Medicare for All.”
Said Kemp: “The pandemic has shown how wide the gaps in our health care system remain and how easy it is for families to fall through them. Too many Americans were already suffering unnecessarily prior to the pandemic and COVID-19 just exacerbated the challenges people face. We already spend far more than any comparably wealthy country on health care while achieving far less and were left wholly unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Among the group’s findings:
• “Before the pandemic, approximately 87 million Americans were uninsured or underinsured. About one-third of COVID-19 deaths and 40 percent of infections were tied to a lack of insurance.”

• “About half of Americans receive their health care through their employer. With more than 22 million Americans losing their job during the pandemic, millions have lost their health insurance.”

• “Racial health disparities, including access to care, have led to disproportionate deaths in communities of color.”

• “Historical under funding of long-term care — the majority of long-term care are funded by Medicaid at minimal rates — left many nursing homes unprepared for a pandemic and already struggling to contain infectious diseases.”

Roots of Anti-Asian Violence and Military Prostitution

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CHRISTINE AHN, christineahn@icloud.com@christineahn
Ahn is executive director of Women Cross DMZ and coordinator of Korea Peace Now!
Following the shootings in Atlanta, killing eight workers in massage parlors, six of Asian decent, she pointed to statements made by Red Canary Song, a grassroots collective of Asian sex workers and their allies. She also urged people to “draw the links between U.S. militarism in Asia with its hundreds of U.S. bases, violence against women, and human/sex trafficking.”

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken is in South Korea and said he condemns the Atlanta shootings: “We are horrified by this violence which has no place in America or anywhere.” Ahn tweeted in response: “Yet the U.S. has no problem waging violence against Asians through its forever wars and military occupation. Biden should do the right thing and end [the] U.S. oldest war with North Korea. That would help mitigate the jingoism and orientalism against Asian-Americans which fuels violence.” Ahn signed a just-released letter: “71 Korean American Leaders Call on President Biden to Formally End the Korean War.”

She added: “The roots of anti-Asian violence stems from the long history of U.S. wars and militarism in Asia and Pacific. When you can drop thousands of bombs and splatter napalm and agent orange on millions of Asian lives, that dehumanization will come home to roost.”

She spoke of a “clear linkage between the anti-Asian violence in the U.S. with its violence dominating Asians with its imperial wars” and will be on a panel Thursday at 8 p.m. ET: “The Feminist Case for a Peace Agreement to End the Korean War.”
Journalist Tim Shorrock tweeted that he has written about an example of what Ahn is talking about. “Between the end of the Korean War and the 1990s, more than a million Korean women were caught up in a state-controlled prostitution industry that was blessed at the highest levels by the U.S. military.” See his article: “Welcome to the Monkey House: Confronting the ugly legacy of military prostitution in South Korea.” Shorrock added: “One of the shocking things I learned while researching this article was how the U.S. military prostitution system in South Korea was modeled on the Japanese military’s ‘comfort stations’ in World War II.”
Also see: Sex Among Allies: Military Prostitution in U.S.-Korea Relations by Katharine H. S. Moon, reviewed in the Journal of World History

Zoom Pays $0 in Federal Income Taxes on Pandemic Profits

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MATT GARDNER, matt@itep.org@iteptweets
Gardner is a senior fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. He just wrote the piece “Zoom Pays $0 in Federal Income Taxes on Pandemic Profits,” which states: “Zoom Video Communications, the company providing a platform used by remote workers and school children across the country during the pandemic, saw its profits increase by more than 4,000 percent last year but paid no federal corporate income tax on those profits.

“The company reports that it made $660 million of pre-tax profits for 2020, an exponential increase from its $16 million in pre-tax profits in 2019. The immediate shift to online activity explains the company’s unprecedented income growth. For many, Zoom has become a ubiquitous daily meeting space, both for work, class instruction, family gatherings and evening happy hours.

“But why was the company’s income bonanza not matched by at least a token federal tax bill? The main answer appears to be the company’s lavish use of executive stock options. Zoom’s income tax reconciliation says it reduced its worldwide income taxes by $300 million in 2020 using stock-based compensation.

“As an ITEP report explains, companies that compensate their leadership with stock options can write off, for tax purposes, huge expenses that far exceed their actual cost. This is a strategy that has been leveraged effectively by virtually every tech giant in the last decade, from Apple to Facebook to Microsoft. Zoom’s success in using stock options to avoid taxes is neither surprising nor (currently) illegal.

“Stock options aren’t the entire story behind Zoom’s success in avoiding federal income taxes in 2020. The company appears to have enjoyed tax benefits from accelerated depreciation and research and development tax credits. Notably, the combination of three tax breaks appears to be the recipe that Amazon and Netflix have used with such success to reduce their federal tax bills during the Trump corporate tax era so far.”

A Biden-Putin Summit?

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JACK MATLOCK, matlock@ias.edu
Former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, Matlock is available for a limited number of interviews. He wrote last month: “The United States will not be able to deal successfully with the most important challenges facing it unless it can work in tandem with other large countries to manage threats that are global in nature: nuclear weapons, pandemics, global warming and ever more destructive technologies if used in warfare. The same, of course, can be said of Russia.”

Matlock, who served as the top American envoy in Moscow from 1987 to 1991, added: “Both the United States and Russia are wrestling with serious problems at home. Only Americans can solve theirs and only Russian citizens can solve theirs. It does not help either country for outsiders to take sides in the other’s disputes. Nevertheless, the life-threatening dangers, the truly existential dangers, face both countries equally — as they do the rest of the world. Presidents Biden and Putin now have the opportunity to find ways to cooperate in dealing with global threats, and encouraging others to do so as well.”

Matlock is quoted in a new piece published by Salon by Norman Solomon, Institute for Public Accuracy’s executive director: “Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin urgently need to hold a summit meeting — and soon.”

He writes: “Last week’s outbreak of rhetorical hostilities between the White House and the Kremlin has heightened the urgent need for a summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin. The spate of mutual denunciations is catnip for mass media and fuel for hardliners in both countries. But for the world at large, under the doomsday shadow of nuclear arsenals brandished by the United States and Russia, the latest developments are terribly ominous.

“Whatever you think of Biden’s assertion during an ABC News interview that Russia’s President Putin is ‘a killer’ — and whether or not you think the label might apply to Biden, given his pro-war record — the existential imperative of U.S.-Russian relations is to avert a nuclear war. Biden’s claim during the same interview that Putin does not have ‘a soul’ indicates that much of the new president’s foreign-policy thinking is stuck in a Cold War rut. …

“Let’s face it: Biden is playing to the domestic anti-Russia gallery in the U.S. media and ‘defense’ establishment, while making a dangerous mockery of his own claims to be a champion of diplomatic approaches to foreign affairs. …

“If the leaders of the two countries with more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads can’t have a summit meeting and talk with each other, we’re in trouble. Real trouble.”

The Border-Industrial Complex

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TODD MILLER, toddmemomiller@gmail.com@memomiller
Miller just wrote the piece: “The Greater the Disaster, the Greater the Profits The Border-Industrial Complex in the Post-Trump Era” for TomDispatch.com, which states: “In early January 2021, Biden’s nominee to run DHS, Alejandro Mayorkas disclosed that, over the previous three years, he had earned $3.3 million from corporate clients with the WilmerHale law firm. Two of those clients were Northrop Grumman and Leidos, companies that Nick Buxton and I identified as top border contractors in ‘Biden’s Border: The Industry, the Democrats and the 2020 Election,’ a report we co-authored for the Transnational Institute.
“When we started to look at the 2020 campaign contributions of 13 top border contractors for CBP [Customs and Border Protection] and ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], we had no idea what to expect. It was, after all, a corporate group that included producers of surveillance infrastructure for the high-tech ‘virtual wall’ along the border like L3Harris, General Dynamics, and the Israeli company Elbit Systems; others like Palantir and IBM produced border data-processing software; and there were also detention companies like CoreCivic and GeoGroup.

“To our surprise, these companies had given significantly more to the Biden campaign ($5,364,994) than to Trump ($1,730,435). In general, they had shifted to the Democrats who garnered 55 percent of their $40 million in campaign contributions, including donations to key members of the House and Senate Appropriations and Homeland Security committees.

“It’s still too early to assess just what will happen to this country’s vast border-and-immigration apparatus under the Biden administration, which has made promises about reversing Trumpian border policies. Still, it will be no less caught in the web of the border-industrial complex than the preceding administration.

“Perhaps a glimpse of the future border under Biden was offered when, on January 19th, Homeland Security secretary nominee Mayorkas appeared for his Senate confirmation hearings and was asked about the 8,000 people from Honduras heading for the U.S. in a ‘caravan’ at that very moment. The day before, U.S.-trained troops and police in Guatemala had thwarted and then deported vast numbers of them as they tried to cross into that country. Many in the caravan reported that they were heading north thanks to back-to-back catastrophic category 4 hurricanes that had devastated the Honduran and Nicaraguan coasts in November 2020.

“Mayorkas responded rather generically that if people were found to qualify ‘under the law to remain in the United States, then we will apply the law accordingly, if they do not qualify to remain in the United States, then they won’t.’ Given that there is no climate-refugee status available to anyone crossing the border that meant most of those who finally made it (if they ever did) wouldn’t qualify to stay.”

Miller is author of the books Empire of Borders:The Expansion of the U.S. Border Around the World (2019), Storming the Wall (2017), and Border Patrol Nation (2014).

Biden Rejection of Afghan Agreement Means the “Taliban Will Resume Killing Americans”

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MATTHEW HOH, matthew_hoh@riseup.net
Hoh is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a member of the Eisenhower Media Initiative. He is a 100 percent disabled Marine combat veteran, and, in 2009, he resigned his position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the Afghan War by the Obama administration.
He said today: “Signals from D.C. that the Biden administration will not honor the agreed upon withdrawal date of U.S. forces from Afghanistan on May 1 may be the most disappointing of the many disappointments proffered by the still-young Biden administration. The Afghan War has been a living nightmare for the Afghan people for more than 40 years now, and the current peace process, while flawed, is the first formal opportunity for peace in Afghanistan in three decades. Biden’s refusal to follow the agreement made by his predecessor will mean the Taliban will resume killing Americans in Afghanistan on May 2 (the Taliban have not attacked any Americans or foreign forces since the agreement was signed more than a year ago). This will provide the necessary accelerant of violence that hardliners, on all sides, will utilize to ensure the killings, devastation and profiteering continue, without hope of ending, in Afghanistan.

“Arguments about the need for a U.S. military presence to protect against the spread of terrorism are undercut by the reality that terrorism has only spread as U.S. warfare has spread. Men and women join these terrorist and insurgent groups to fight against Western powers that they understand as occupying their lands and keeping in place corrupt, predatory and non-representative governments. Continuing with the failed and counter-productive war policies of Bush, Obama and Trump will only mean more war which will only benefit the recruitment of the terrorist and insurgent organizations, the profits of weapons companies and the promotion of generals.”

Syria: Concerns Building that the OPCW Is Rigged

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With the U.S. having the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council for March, NPR is highlighting that Secretary of State Tony Blinken is chairing a meeting of the Council on Monday dealing with Syria.

A group of former top UN and OPCW officials, whistleblowers, noted analysts and journalists recently signed a “Statement of Concern: The OPCW investigation of alleged chemical weapons use in Douma, Syria,” below, pointing to manipulation of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in Syria:

“We wish to express our deep concern over the protracted controversy and political fall-out surrounding the OPCW and its investigation of the alleged chemical weapon attacks in Douma, Syria, on 7 April 2018.

“Since the publication by the OPCW of its final report in March 2019, a series of worrying developments has raised serious and substantial concerns with respect to the conduct of that investigation. These developments include instances in which OPCW inspectors involved with the investigation have identified major procedural and scientific irregularities, the leaking of a significant quantity of corroborating documents, and damning statements provided to UN Security Council meetings. It is now well established that some senior inspectors involved with the investigation, one of whom played a central role, reject how the investigation derived its conclusions, and OPCW management now stands accused of accepting unsubstantiated or possibly manipulated findings with the most serious geo-political and security implications. Calls by some members of the Executive Council of the OPCW to allow all inspectors to be heard were blocked.

“The inspectors’ concerns are shared by the first Director General of the OPCW, José Bustani, and a significant number of eminent individuals have called for transparency and accountability at the OPCW. Bustani himself was recently prevented by key members of the Security Council from participating in a hearing on the Syrian dossier. As Ambassador Bustani stated in a personal appeal to the Director General, if the Organization is confident in the conduct of its Douma investigation then it should have no difficulty addressing the inspectors’ concerns.

“To date, unfortunately, the OPCW senior management has failed to adequately respond to the allegations against it and, despite making statements to the contrary, we understand has never properly allowed the views or concerns of the members of the investigation team to be heard or even met with most of them. It has, instead, side-stepped the issue by launching an investigation into a leaked document related to the Douma case and by publicly condemning its most experienced inspectors for speaking out.

“In a worrying recent development, a draft letter falsely alleged to have been sent by the Director General to one of the dissenting inspectors was leaked to an ‘open source’ investigation website in an apparent attempt to smear the former senior OPCW scientist. The ‘open source’ website then published the draft letter together with the identity of the inspector in question. Even more alarmingly, in a BBC4 radio series aired recently, an anonymous source, reportedly connected with the OPCW Douma investigation, gave an interview with the BBC in which he contributes to an attempt to discredit not only the two dissenting inspectors, but even Ambassador Bustani himself. Importantly, recent leaks in December 2020 have evidenced that a number of senior OPCW officials were supportive of one OPCW inspector who had spoken out with respect to malpractice.

“The issue at hand threatens to severely damage the reputation and credibility of the OPCW and undermine its vital role in the pursuit of international peace and security. It is simply not tenable for a scientific organization such as the OPCW to refuse to respond openly to the criticisms and concerns of its own scientists whilst being associated with attempts to discredit and smear those scientists. Moreover, the on-going controversy regarding the Douma report also raises concerns with respect to the reliability of previous FFM reports, including the investigation of the alleged attack at Khan Shaykhun in 2017.

“We believe that the interests of the OPCW are best served by the Director General providing a transparent and neutral forum in which the concerns of all the investigators can be heard as well as ensuring that a fully objective and scientific investigation is completed.

“To that end, we call on the Director General of the OPCW to find the courage to address the problems within his organization relating to this investigation and ensure States Parties and the United Nations are informed accordingly. In this way we hope and believe that the credibility and integrity of the OPCW can be restored.”

HANS VON SPONECK, via contact@berlingroup21.org
THEODORE A. POSTOL, postol@mit.edu
Von Sponeck is former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq. Postol is Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy at MIT. They are among the signers of the statement.

Other signers of the statement include: Denis J. Halliday, former UN Assistant Secretary General; Dirk van Niekerk, former OPCW Inspection Team Leader, Head of OPCW Special Mission to Iraq; Noam Chomsky; Katharine Gun, GCHQ, whistleblower; Daniel Ellsberg; Antonius Roof, former OPCW Inspection Team Leader and Head Industry Inspections; Professor John Avery Scales, Professor, Pugwash Council and Danish Pugwash Chair; Alan Steadman, Chemical Weapons Munitions Specialist, former OPCW Inspection Team Leader and UNSCOM Inspector;  Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East, National Intelligence Council; member, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence.

Shortly after the April 7, 2018 alleged attack in Douma, the U.S., Britain and France bombed Syria. See IPA news releases at the time: “Syria Attack: Seeing Through the Propaganda” and “Claims about Syria Attack ‘Unraveling’.” Also see IPA news releases in 2019 including: ”Postol: Newly Revealed Documents Show Syrian Chemical ‘Attacks Were Staged'” and “New Assessments from Leading Scientist Accuse OPCW Leadership of Rigging on Alleged Syrian Chemical Weapons Attacks Used to Justify U.S. Bombings.”

Also see reporting in The Grayzone, including: “OPCW investigator testifies at UN that no chemical attack took place in Douma, Syria,” “OPCW executives praised whistleblower and criticized Syria cover-up, leaks reveal,” “Chomsky: OPCW cover-up of Syria probe is ‘shocking’” and “Ex-OPCW chief defends Syria whistleblowers and reveals he was spied on before Iraq War.”

Groups Call for Biden Administration to Stop “Reckless” Exchanges with Russia

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Twenty-seven national organizations issued a joint statement Tuesday decrying the recent negative salvoes between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin and urging the Biden administration to “stop participating in such reckless rhetorical exchanges.”

Groups signing the statement included Demand Progress, Just Foreign Policy, Our Revolution, Progressive Democrats of America, RootsAction.org, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Veterans for Peace, Win Without War, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom and World Beyond War.

Pia Gallegos, chair of the RootsAction board, said: “With vast nuclear arsenals on hair-trigger alert, Washington and Moscow have unimaginable power to destroy human life. President Biden has a profound duty to decrease the chances of a global nuclear holocaust. We must insist on a consistently diplomatic approach. Instead of engaging in holier-than-thou rhetoric, Biden should be constructively engaging with Russia as a partner to safeguard human survival.”

The joint statement:
“As national organizations that advocate for diplomacy, arms control, disarmament and peace, we are deeply alarmed by the recent negative exchanges between leaders of the two countries with more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear warheads in their arsenals. As Americans, we urge the Biden administration to stop participating in such reckless rhetorical exchanges and to instead vigorously pursue nuclear-arms negotiations with the Russian government. The need for constructive bilateral talks to address the clear and present dangers of the nuclear arms race has never been more apparent. With great urgency, we call upon President Biden to make good on his stated commitment that ‘diplomacy is back at the center of our foreign policy.'”

JOE GERSON, jgerson80@gmail.com

Gerson is executive director of the Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security, one of the groups issuing the joint statement. His books include Empire and the Bomb: How the U.S. Uses Nuclear Weapons to Dominate the World and With Hiroshima Eyes: Atomic War, Nuclear Extortion and Moral Imagination.

The other signers are: Action Corps, American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord, Backbone Campaign, Blue America, Center for Citizen Initiatives, Environmentalists Against War, Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, Historians for Peace and Democracy, Justice Democrats, Muslim Delegates and Allies Coalition, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, NuclearBan.US, Other98, People for Bernie, U.S. Palestinian Community Network and Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation.

U.S. Military Poisoning Nationally and Globally with Toxic Chemicals

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The Guardian recently published the piece “The U.S. military is poisoning communities across the U.S. with toxic chemicals” by David Bond, a professor at Bennington College in Vermont, which states: “From Portsmouth, New Hampshire to Colorado Springs, Colorado, the last decade has witnessed communities near military bases waking up to a nightmare of PFAS contamination in their water, their soil and their blood.” Professor Bond highlighted the military origins of toxic PFAS chemicals that were incinerated in Cohoes, New York. Bond writes there is no evidence that incineration actually destroys these synthetic chemicals.
PAT ELDER, pelder@militarypoisons.org
Elder is the founder of MilitaryPoisons.org and has written extensively on the issue of the military’s reckless use of PFAS. Elder initially broke the story on the military’s shipment of PFAS materials to be incinerated at Norlite’s facility in Cohoes, New York.
Elder said today: “The military is poisoning people and the environment in the U.S. and worldwide through its careless use of PFAS in firefighting foams and in other military applications. Recent events in Vermont provide insight into the military’s intransigence.

“Vermont’s Senate recently passed a bill that would ban the use of PFAS in firefighting foams and other consumer products. PFAS are per-and-poly fluoroalkyl substances that are linked to a host of cancers, fetal abnormalities, and childhood diseases. The substances leach into surface water and drinking water from military installations — even those that were closed 30 years ago. The legislature reached out to the Vermont Air National Guard regarding the measure and were told the Guard no longer uses firefighting foam containing toxic PFAS. The Senate moved ahead with the measure with the knowledge that the bill would not affect the Guard.

“PFAS foams are used and stored at Guard bases across the country. Historically, the foams have contained PFOS and PFOA, two particularly deadly varieties of PFAS. The DOD has replaced these foams with other toxic variants of PFAS.

“In published reports the Air Force claims the legacy PFAS used at the burn pit on the Burlington Air National Guard base has been ‘removed and properly disposed of’ but the deadly chemicals continue to slowly leach off the Burlington base and into the Winooski River where PFAS levels have been found above 700 parts per trillion. The Air National Guard has not removed the chemicals and there is no known method for properly disposing of these toxins known as ‘forever chemicals.'”

Last year, Elder tested seawater, rockfish, crabs, and oysters at his home in Southern Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay and found the levels to be a threat to human health. See piece on his work in the Baltimore Sun: “Maryland to begin testing drinking water, Chesapeake Bay oysters for harmful ‘forever chemicals’ known as PFAS.”

Elder’s articles include a three-part series on contamination at the Burlington base, as well as a report on the contamination of rivers and fish near U.S. bases in Germany and an article on contamination in Okinawa, Japan.

He added: “PFAS is used on U.S. military installations worldwide, with widespread contamination reported in Belgium, South Korea, Guam and other locations. Drinking water, rivers and aquatic life have been poisoned.”

Military Analyst Daniel Hale to Be Sentenced for Exposing Drone Killings to Public

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The Washington Post reports “Former intelligence analyst Daniel Hale pleads guilty to leaking classified information.”

JESSELYN RADACK, jess@exposefacts.org@JesselynRadack
Radack serves as Hale’s whistleblower attorney. She heads the Whistleblower and Source Protection Program (WHISPeR) at ExposeFacts and is quoted in the Post article.
She said today: “Hale is not a spy. He was accused of giving an investigative journalist truthful information in the public interest about the U.S. drone warfare program. That information revealed gross human rights violations, and that drones were more deadly and less accurate than the U.S. presented publicly. Ninety percent of people killed were not the intended target — including an American father and teenage son. Articles, books, and documentaries featuring his disclosures have won numerous awards.”

Radack’s work focuses on the issues of secrecy, surveillance, torture, and drones, where she has been at the forefront of challenging the government’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers. Among her clients are national security and intelligence community employees who have been prosecuted under the Espionage Act for allegedly mishandling classified information, including Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, and John Kiriakou. (IPA is the fiscal sponsor of WHISPeR.) For more on the case, see: StandWithDanielHale.org.
CHIP GIBBONS, chip@rightsanddissent.org@RightsDissent
Gibbons is policy director at Defending Rights & Dissent, which has done extensive work on Hale’s case. He said today: “On Wednesday, Daniel Hale pled guilty to one count of ‘retention and transmission of national defense information’ in violation of the Espionage Act. Hale’s crime is exposing the human rights abuses of U.S. drone strikes, including that during a given time period nearly 90 percent of those killed by drone strikes were not the intended target.

“It is a disgrace to this country that time and time again when brave truth tellers, many of them relatively young, expose the crimes of our government it is they who go to jail.

“Shame on both [political] parties for their role in this and Congress for failing to act.

“Whistleblowers charged under the Espionage Act have an almost impossible chance of mounting a fair defense, which is why Defending Rights & Dissent has repeatedly urged Congress to amend this draconian and antiquated law. Had Hale gone to trial he would have been barred from even uttering the word whistleblower, fairly explaining his actions, or how they were in the public interest.

“It is outrageous that a law ostensibly designed to target spies and saboteurs is used to jail journalists’ sources and even journalists who act in the public interest to reveal official abuses of power.

“Hale’s case spans three administrations, including presidents from both major parties. Espionage Act abuse to prosecute whistleblowers is a bi-partisan disgrace.”

Correction: This IPA news release was initially titled “Military Analyst Daniel Hale Jailed for Exposing Drone Killings to Public.” That is inaccurate. Hale is not in jail, but is currently out on his own recognizance awaiting sentencing, which is widely expected to include jail time.  

Will Infrastructure Investment be Syphoned by Hedge Funds?

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A top USA Today headline reads: “Joe Biden wants to spend $2 trillion on infrastructure and jobs.”

LYNN PARRAMORE, lynn@lynnparramore.com@INETeconomics
Parramore is senior research analyst for the Institute for New Economic Thinking and recently wrote a piece key to understanding how President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan could be thwarted by hedge fund predators: “Meet the ‘New Koch Brothers’ — the Hedge Fund Activists Wrecking America’s Green New Deal.”

She explains how “billionaire financiers have made sure the companies the government must partner with to achieve critical goals like clean energy are focused on further enriching predatory hedge fund executives.” According to Parramore, these predators “force companies to play Wall Street casino games with their resources instead of investing in R&D and attracting and retaining the best talent.”

“Putting infrastructure plans in place requires the government to partner with companies that have the deep know-how and the substantial resources to develop these complicated and cutting-edge technologies,” writes Parramore. “The problem is,” these hedge fund “activists” usually “aren’t interested in companies being the best at what they do, or doing anything, really, except handing over money to shareholders. A favorite tactic is to force companies to use their cash, or even borrow it, to buy back outstanding shares of their own stock.

“The playbook of today’s hedge fund” manipulators, Parramore notes, “looks like this: Buy a wad of shares of a company on the stock market. Then, line up the proxy votes of the managers of funds who have hedgies manage pieces of their portfolio. Next, send a letter to the CEO of a target company demanding that he or she get busy pumping up the stock price. Hedge funds with deep pockets will spend millions making this happen — remember, their money comes from rich people or institutional investors like pensions and mutual funds who are seeking high yields. Occasionally hedgies will use their own money — those whose ‘war chests’ have come from previous raids.”

Parramore notes that “companies partnering with the government for infrastructure projects should be protected from hedge fund predators, prevented from doing stock buybacks, and incentivized for building up capabilities and new technologies and training employees rather than playing stock market games.”

Fasting for Yemen and Against U.S. Support for Saudi as Over 2 Million Children Face Extreme Malnutrition

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IMAN SALEH and MONICA ISACC, yemeniliberationmovement@gmail.com@liberateyemen
Saleh and Isacc are with the Yemeni Liberation Movement which is having a news conference Saturday, April 3rd at 1 p.m. ET at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

    Members of the group began a hunger strike on Monday, March 29 to protest U.S. government support for the Saudi-led blockade on Yemen. The group is also leading a nationwide fast for Yemen on Monday.

    The hunger strikers and their supporters, largely from Detroit, are “demanding an end to any U.S. support for the blockade — including military, intelligence, diplomatic, or other support — and call for President Biden to use all diplomatic tools to pressure Saudi Arabian dictator Mohammed bin Salman to end it.”

The group notes that despite Biden’s pledge to the contrary, Al-Jazeera reported in March that “the U.S. military is reported to be increasing its assistance to the Saudis, claiming such help is defensive and not offensive.”

The group adds: “Calls for an immediate end to the blockade have become widespread after CNN aired a groundbreaking report on March 10.”
According to a joint statement by four leading United Nations agencies in February: “Nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five in Yemen are projected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, four United Nations agencies warned today. Of these, 400,000 are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition and could die if they do not receive urgent treatment.”

Saudi Starvation Blockade of Yemen — Why is Biden Admin Denying it’s Happening? 

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Friends Committee on National Legislation, Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation, Demand Progress, and Just Foreign Policy have teamed up with actor and humanitarian Mark Ruffalo and the creators of the 2021 Oscar-nominated film “HUNGER WARD,” to urge President Biden to convince Saudi Arabia to immediately lift its “inhumane blockade of Yemen.” Their letter to the administration is excerpted below.

Meanwhile, a group of activists are continuing their hunger strike to stop U.S. backing of Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

IMAN SALEH and MONICA ISACC, yemeniliberationmovement@gmail.com@liberateyemen
Saleh and Isacc are with the Yemeni Liberation Movement. Members of the group began a hunger strike on Monday, March 29 to protest U.S. government support for the Saudi-led blockade on Yemen.

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB, hassan@fcnl.org@HassanElTayyab
El-Tayyab is the FCNL’s legislative manager for Middle East policy. He said today: “The U.S.-backed Saudi blockade on Yemen is a key driver of the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe.”
See the letter the coalition of groups just sent to the Biden administration and news release. The letter states: “We are deeply concerned that prior to the CNN report, no U.S. official in the new administration had explicitly publicly acknowledged the six-year-old, Saudi-imposed blockade — much less criticized it. U.S. special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, declined to adequately respond to [CNN reporter Nima] Elbagir’s on-the-ground reporting and direct questions, referring to Yemen’s hunger crisis simply as ‘complex,’ while denying evidence of the blockade shown in CNN’s report, and, per Elbagir’s account, falsely claiming that ‘food continues to flow through Hodeidah unimpeded.’
“Elbagir concluded: ‘How is [peace] possible when you are not acknowledging the full impact of that U.S.-backed Saudi embargo on the people of Yemen?’ According to the UN, 400,000 children under the age of five could perish from hunger this year without urgent action. For years, the Saudi blockade has been a leading driver of Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe. The recent fuel shortages triggered by the blockade are quickly accelerating major reductions in access to affordable food, clean water, electricity, and basic movement across Yemen. The blockade also threatens to shut down, within weeks, the hospitals reliant on power generators to tend to victims of famine, while making even emergency travel to hospitals prohibitively expensive for Yemeni families, condemning untold numbers of children to certain death at home.”

“Bad Apple” Argument Obscures Systemic Nature of Racist Police Violence

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MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal@gmail.com
Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, just wrote the piece “Calling Chauvin a ‘Bad Apple’ Denies Systemic Nature of Racist Police Violence, which states: “As the murder trial of Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd proceeds, the prosecution will try to portray the defendant as a ‘bad apple.’ In his opening statement, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell alerted the jurors that they would hear police officials testify Chauvin used excessive force in violation of departmental policy to apply restraints only as necessary to bring a person under control. However, this argument obfuscates the racist violence inherent in the U.S. system of policing. …

“Black people who are unarmed or not attacking police are 3.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white people, the Brookings Institution found. … More than 75 percent of the time, chokeholds are applied on men of color. …

“Prosecutors were compelled to bring charges against Chauvin because the whole world had seen him kill Floyd. After massive protests erupted following the horrifying video of Chauvin’s torture of Floyd — now known to have lasted nine minutes and 29 seconds — the MPD [Minnesota Police Department] fired Chauvin and prosecutors charged him with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. They later added a charge of second-degree murder.

“But what would have happened if eyewitnesses had not recorded Floyd’s death? Would Chauvin have been fired and charged with murder? …

“For nine minutes and 29 seconds, Chauvin continued to choke Floyd as several bystanders watched, many visibly recording the killing. Chauvin didn’t try to hide what he was doing. As eyewitness Genevieve Hansen testified, Chauvin looked ‘comfortable’ with his weight on Floyd’s neck.”

Nuclear Weapons: “The Taproot of Violence”: Plowshares Activist Being Sentenced Friday

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MARK COLVILLE, markcolville9761@gmail.com@amistadobrero @kingsbayplow7
also via Mary Anne Grady Flores, gradyflores08@gmail.com

As the Biden administration assesses U.S. nuclear weapons policy, Colville is facing sentencing on Friday morning for entering the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia to protest such policy. Colville’s sentencing — the last one of the activists to be sentenced — will be conducted by phone on Friday, so the public will have access. The codes are below. The activists are known 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.

He said today: “Deep gratitude to everyone who wrote letters to the judge. I’m asking her to consider them as expressions of the conscience of the community regarding the criminal enterprise of nuclearism, as it continues to scourge humanity and creation beyond reason or accountability. My family, my neighborhood and I have a right to live without a nuclear gun on hair-trigger alert held perpetually to our heads, and this court’s failure to recognize that right has made it an accessory to crimes against humanity. This is the reality that I plan to confront as clearly and simply as possible on Friday — and the rest, as an old friend used to remind me, is God’s problem.”

Colville is co-founder of the Amistad Catholic Worker House in New Haven with his wife Luz Catarineau. In 2019 the New Haven Register wrote: “For their sustained, compassionate approach to building and supporting their community and for their lived opposition to war and violence, the Colvilles are the New Haven Register’s Persons of the Year.”

Colville has been profiled in the Yale Daily News: “The Church at the End of the World: In 2018, a group of Catholic anti-nuclear activists made national news when they broke into a naval base in Georgia. One of their members — a New Haven resident — now awaits his sentencing.” Though Catarineau stresses that the facility in Georgia is “not a ‘navy base,’ it’s a military facility that threatens all humanity.”

See interview with Colville in the New Haven Independent: “Jailed Activist Targets ‘Culture Of Death.'” He quotes Rev. Richard McSorely, S.J.: “The taproot of violence in our society today is our intention to use nuclear weapons. Once we have agreed to that, all other evil is minor in comparison. Until we squarely face the question of our consent to use nuclear weapons, any hope of large scale improvement of public morality is doomed to failure.”

Colville said nuclear weapons “contribute to the cheapening of life and inform the other forms of violence. … When we talk about school shootings, we don’t talk about the cheapening of life that permits this.” Colville used a hammer made from melted-down guns to smash parts of a shrine to nuclear weapons at the facility. See online “Festival of Hope” featuring Colville and other activists from Monday.

To listen to Colville’s sentencing on Friday at 10 a.m. ET: Dial 1-888-684-8852, enter the call access code 2296092 and enter the security code 1234 or dial 1-888-684-8852, enter the call access code 8878734 and enter the security code 1234. If one isn’t working or overloaded try the other access code. And remember to mute.

Biden Re-ups Policies that Fuel Desperate Migration from Central America

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AVIVA CHOMSKY, achomsky@salemstate.edu
Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts and a contributor to TomDispatch. Her book, Central America’s Forgotten History: Revolution, Violence, and the Roots of Migration, is being published this month. Her latest piece, “Will Biden’s Central America Plan Slow Immigration — Or Speed it up?” was just published by Salon.

She writes: “Read closely, a significant portion of Biden’s immigration proposal focuses on the premise that addressing the root causes of Central America’s problems will reduce the flow of immigrants to the U.S. border. In its own words, the Biden plan promises to promote ‘the rule of law, security, and economic development in Central America’ in order to ‘address the key factors’ contributing to emigration. Buried in its fuzzy language, however, are long-standing bipartisan Washington goals that should sound familiar to those who have been paying attention in these years.

“Their essence: that millions of dollars in ‘aid’ money should be poured into upgrading local military and police forces in order to protect an economic model based on private investment and the export of profits. Above all, the privileges of foreign investors must not be threatened. As it happens, this is the very model that Washington has imposed on the countries of Central America over the past century, one that’s left its lands corrupt, violent, and impoverished, and so continued to uproot Central Americans and send them fleeing toward the United States. …

“For almost two decades the United States has been bullying (and funding) military and police forces to its south to enforce its immigration priorities, effectively turning other countries’ borders into extensions of the U.S. one. In the process, Mexico’s forces have regularly been deployed on that country’s southern border, and Guatemala’s on its border with Honduras, all to violently enforce Washington’s immigration policies.

“Such outsourcing was, in part, a response to the successes of the immigrant rights movement in this country. U.S. leaders hoped to evade legal scrutiny and protest at home by making Mexico and Central America implement the uglier aspects of their policies. …

“The model Washington continues to promote is based on the idea that, if Central American governments can woo foreign investors with improved infrastructure, tax breaks, and weak environmental and labor laws, the ‘free market’ will deliver the investment, jobs, and economic growth that (in theory) will keep people from wanting to migrate in the first place. Over and over again in Central America’s tormented history, however, exactly the opposite has happened. Foreign investment flowed in, eager to take advantage of the region’s fertile lands, natural resources, and cheap labor. This form of development — whether in support of banana and coffee plantations in the 19th century or sugar, cotton, and cattle operations after World War II — brought Central America to its revolutions of the 1980s and its northbound mass migration of today. …

“In mid-March, President Biden appeared to link a positive response to Mexico’s request for some of Washington’s surplus Covid-19 vaccine to further commitments to cracking down on migrants. One demand: that Mexico suspend its own laws guaranteeing humane detention conditions for families with young children. Neither country had the capacity to provide such conditions for the large number of families detained at the border in early 2021, but the Biden administration preferred to press Mexico to ignore its own laws, so that it could deport more of those families and keep the problem out of sight of the U.S. public.”

Ban Killer Drones Campaign Seeks a Treaty to Prohibit Weaponized Drones

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Veterans for Peace and other groups this week have held protests outside Creech Air Force Base in Nevada against killer drones coordinated from the facility. The demonstrators also held a vigil in support of military analyst Daniel Hale who will soon be sentenced for exposing drone killings to the public.

 As the Biden administration assesses the U.S. government’s use of drones to kill people, a grassroots global campaign — BanKillerDrones.org — was launched on Friday, declaring its “commitment to achieving an international treaty that will ban weaponized drones and military and police surveillance.” The campaign is being launched on the 12th anniversary of the first protest of U.S. drone attacks, when 14 activists were arrested at Creech Air Force Base. Since 2009, activists have sustained international protests at numerous military bases while also decrying military and police drone surveillance.

The campaign is endorsed by 1976 Nobel Peace Prize winner and Irish peace activist Mairead Maguire; international peace activist Kathy Kelly; CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin; Christine Schweitzer, Coordinator of the German peace organization Federation for Social Defence; Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army colonel and State Department diplomat and many other peace and justice organizations.

Mairead Maguire, who visited Afghanistan in 2012, said, in support of the ban: “One Afghan youth told us how, when they went up into the mountains with their donkeys to collect wood for their fires, many of their friends were killed by armed drones. These drones are controlled by men in U.S. military bases far away, and with the switch of a computer they blow to pieces kids in Afghanistan trying to warm their families.”Nick Mottern, coordinator of KnowDrones.com said: “After 20 years of experience with drone killing and drone surveillance, we are at the point of awareness that the technologies that enable drone atrocities, endless war and wholesale violation of human rights, particularly against people of color, must be put back in the box.”

David Swanson of World Beyond War said: “According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, drone murder-strikes in Afghanistan climbed from at least 235 in 2015 to at least 7,167 in 2019. In Somalia the same pair of years saw an increase from at least 11 to at least 63. Yemen saw at least 21 drone murder-strikes in 2015, but at least 127 in 2017. The numbers are uncertain, because the U.S. public relies on reports from the receiving end, not being entitled apparently to any reports from the U.S. government. The numbers of people killed, injured, made homeless, driven to starvation, forced into a wider war, or traumatized are even less certain. But we do know enough to be certain that the people launching the missiles never identify most of the people they kill.”

BRIAN TERRELL, brian1956terrell@gmail.com
    Terrell, who has served seven months in federal prison and local jails for his drone war protests, is one of the lead organizers of the campaign. He said: “Along with governmental and diplomatic efforts, an international agreement to ban killer drones will be made possible through sustained protest and petition at the grassroots level. Not an end in itself, a ban will have effect only when the private and state actors that profit from drone proliferation are held accountable by the world’s people.”

The Ban Killer Drones campaign will be working with other anti-war and human rights groups to organize protests, letter-writing, promotion of supportive legislation and other outreach in the U.S. and globally, engaging especially those who have experienced or are experiencing drone attacks, especially by the U.S., Israel, the U.K., France and Turkey, the foremost perpetrators of drone war.

Amazon Union Vote

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MIKE ELK, mike.elk@gmail.com@MikeElk
Elk is senior labor reporter for PaydayReport.com. His latest piece is “Anti-Union Amazon Workers Explain How Mandatory Anti-Union Meetings Turned Them Against RWDSU [Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union].”

He said today: “As the union is trailing nearly 2-to-1 with almost half of the vote in, it appears likely that the union drive at Amazon in Alabama will be defeated.

“In our interviews with workers, we discovered that most workers weren’t so heavily anti-union as much as they just didn’t know anything about unions.

“This union failed to form a strong organizing committee that had a real plan to show how the union worked prior to the election. To win union elections, the election feels like more formality since the organizing committee has already been acting as a union, winning campaigns in the workplace to change things and standing up for co-workers facing unfair discipline.

“When the union election comes, workers already feel like they know the union and are a part of it. Instead, what happened at Amazon was that workers knew little; this allowed the company through anti-union meetings to create a fear of the change that unions could bring — from warning workers that their wages may actually decrease under a contract, or worse, the facility closes.

“Within 24 hours of the defeat of the union at Amazon appearing likely, non-union workers at Amazon went on a wildcat strike in Chicago. So while it may appear that workers at Amazon were defeated, they are still on the march as the strike in Chicago shows.

“Winning union elections is tough, but the key to winning them is to invest heavily in training workers in how to organize and mobilize workers before they even have a union. Otherwise, unions will never win these union votes because workers won’t feel already like they’re part of the union.”

Israel Targeting of Iran the Result of U.S. Backing, Refusal to Acknowledge Its Nuclear Weapons

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RONNIE KASRILS, rkasrils@gmail.com
Kasrils was Minister for Intelligence Services in South Africa from 2004 to 2008 and was a leading member of the African National Congress during the apartheid era.

    He said today: “Israel is once again acting criminally as the hand behind the recent attack on an Iranian vessel in the Gulf and now as The New York Times reports: ‘Blackout Hits Iran Nuclear Site in What Appears to Be Israeli Sabotage.’ …

    “There can be little doubt that this attack on Iran is calculated to damage the prospects for a wider peace, seeming to sabotage the talks in Vienna about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran which have started on a positive note in Vienna. [The New York Times reported Friday: “Iran Nuclear Talks Start on Positive Note in Vienna.”]

    “Israel is granted an effective green light for its illegal actions and dangerous war mongering whilst the U.S. government has time and again backed it. Just a few months ago South Africa’s emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote, urging incoming President Biden, to end the USA’s ‘pretence over Israel’s secret nuclear weapons’ and that ‘the refusal of [the] U.S. administration to even acknowledge Israel’s massive nuclear weapons arsenal threatens the region and indeed the planet’.” See piece by Tutu in The Guardian: “Joe Biden Should End the U.S. Pretence over Israel’s ‘Secret’ Nuclear Weapons: The cover-up has to stop — and with it, the huge sums in aid for a country with oppressive policies towards Palestinians.”

    Kasrils added: “All this reminds us in South Africa that Israel worked with the apparethid government to enable it to develop its nuclear weapons. Such proliferation violates U.S. and international law, and should result in a cutoff of billions in U.S. taxpayer funding, which enables Israel to destabilise the Middle East and threaten even nuclear war, whilst it continues to brutally oppress the Palestinian people. The USA, and Western powers, allows Israel to act with chilling impunity and are therefore complicit in its crimes.” He wrote the piece “I Fought South African Apartheid. I See the Same Brutal Policies in Israel” for The Guardian.

GRANT F. SMITH, gsmith@irmep.org, @IRmep, Skype: grant.f.smith
Smith is director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy and recently wrote the piece “Biden Could Reverse Six Harmful Israel Policies… With the Only Power That Stops Israel’s Lobby.”

    He said today: “During the Obama administration, Israel and its U.S. lobby did everything they could to sabotage the JCPOA, including spying on secret negotiations and coordinating opposition in the U.S. where the majority of Americans supported the deal.

“Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on the Biden administration to be forthright about the Middle East’s leading state sponsor of nuclear proliferation — Israel. Only by reentering the JCPOA and negotiating for a Middle East nuclear free zone — by dismantling Israel’s nuclear arsenal — will the U.S. be truly serving as an honest broker in the region.”

Israeli Attack on Iraqi Nuclear Facility *Began* Weapons Program

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IMAD KHADDURI, khadduri.imad@gmail.com
Now retired in Toronto, Khadduri is an Iraqi nuclear scientist. He is author of Iraq’s Nuclear Mirage: Memoirs and Delusions and Unrevealed Milestones in the Iraqi National Nuclear Program 1981-1991. He now blogs at Free Iraq and has written about the Iranian nuclear program.

The New York Times is reporting: “Blackout Hits Iran Nuclear Site in What Appears to Be Israeli Sabotage” and “Blaming Israel, Iran Vows Revenge for Blackout at Nuclear Site.”
In 1981, Israeli warplanes bombed the Iraqi reactor at Osirak and many in the U.S. cheered it on as a way of allegedly stopping Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons. Khadduri was working at the time on the Iraqi nuclear program and says the effect was exactly the opposite. The Iraqi scientists didn’t trust Saddam Hussein with a nuclear weapon, so they refused to work on weapons for him — until the Israelis attacked.

Khadduri states: “I worked on the pre-1981 nuclear program and I was certain it would not be used for military purposes. But after the 1981 bombing, we were so angry that we were ready to work on a military program. The Israeli attack didn’t end the nuclear weapons program, it began it.” See past IPA news release with Khadduri for more background: “Iraqi Nuclear Scientist Debunks Nuclear Myths.”

Khadduri’s account is corroborated by the late Richard Wilson, who was Mallinckrodt research professor of physics at Harvard University. Wilson visited the Osirak Iraqi reactor in 1982 after it was bombed by Israel. He told IPA in 2006: “Many claim that the bombing of the Iraqi Osirak reactor delayed Iraq’s nuclear bomb program. But the Iraqi nuclear program before 1981 was peaceful, and the Osirak reactor was not only unsuited to making bombs but was under intensive safeguards. Certainly, Saddam Hussein would clearly have liked a nuclear bomb if he could have had one, but the issue is whether there were enough procedures for that reactor in place to prevent him from doing so and all the indications are that there were enough procedures.

“The Osirak reactor was destroyed in June 1981. It was not until early in July 1981 that Saddam Hussein personally released Dr. Jafar Dhia Jafar from house arrest and asked him to start and head the clandestine nuclear bomb program. The destruction of Osirak did not stop an Iraqi nuclear bomb program but probably started it.”

Did Biden’s Pick for Border Agency Cover-up Police Killings?

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The New York Times reports in “Not Your Usual Police Chief: Biden Picks Trump Critic to Run Border Agency” that “Chris Magnus, the Tucson police chief who carried a Black Lives Matter sign at a protest, was chosen to lead Customs and Border Protection.”

But journalist Dennis Bernstein examined Magnus’s record as police chief in both Tucson and Richmond, Calif. Bernstein’s three-part expose, “Fatal Errors” examines Magnus’ record in the two cities where he held sway and scrutinizes his actions in two deadly cases where young Latino men died in custody when there was no justification for their deaths.

DENNIS J. BERNSTEIN, dennisjbernstein@gmail.com, @flashpointsnews
Bernstein is an award-winning journalist and executive producer of “Flashpoints,” broadcast from KPFA and syndicated on Pacifica Radio.

Last year he wrote an in-depth three-part series for Who.What.Why. titled “Fatal Errors.” The pieces included: “Police Brutality in Tucson,” “Shot by Police in Richmond, CA” and “Police Reformer — or Cover-Up Artist?”

    Bernstein said: “Magnus of the Tucson PD really wants you to think of him as a reformer. But while he was tweeting about how he would never allow this kind of in-custody police killing that he had witnessed in the 8:46 second killing of George Floyd, the chief’s men had done the Kenosha cops one better. Their in-custody suffocation of a brown man went on for over 12 minutes and the chief covered it up for over two months, even as he commented as a reformer about George Flyod.

“Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez desperately pleads as he drops to all fours, naked, disoriented, and terrified in a darkened corner of his grandmother’s Tucson garage. He wails and screams as three officers swoop down on him, forcing his face into the floor as they double handcuff his arms behind his back. He offers no resistance, apologizing, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I love everybody.’ He cries out for his grandmother to help, ‘Nana, ayúdame! … Please give me some water. … I can’t breathe!” See video.

“‘Tranquilo! Chill the f– out, man,’ shouts Officer Ryan Starbuck, bearing down on the man’s back.”

    Following the killing of Ingram-Lopez last year, his family settled for $2.9 million in December.

The Case Against Fukushima Releasing Over One Million Metric Tons of Radioactive Wastewater

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CINDY FOLKERS, cindy@beyondnuclear.org
KEVIN KAMPS, kevin@beyondnuclear.org
Folkers is radiation and health hazard specialist with Beyond Nuclear. Kamps is the radioactive waste specialist for the group.

Folkers stated: “On Tuesday, the government of Japan announced its decision to intentionally discharge, directly into the Pacific Ocean, 1.25 million metric tons (330 million U.S. gallons) of radioactively contaminated wastewater, enough volume to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The contaminated wastewater has accumulated over the past decade at the triple-reactor meltdown site of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. It is currently contained in more than a thousand giant storage tanks onsite. The dumping will begin in a couple of years, and continue for decades.

“Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) data show that even twice-through filtration leaves the water 13.7 times more concentrated with hazardous tritium — radioactive hydrogen — than Japan’s allowable standard for ocean dumping, and about one million times higher than the concentration of natural tritium in Earth’s surface waters.

“TEPCO wants us to believe that the radioactive contamination in this water will be diluted in the ocean waters. But some of the radioactive isotopes will concentrate up the food chain in ocean life. And some of the contamination may not travel out to sea and can double back on itself. Dilution doesn’t work for radioactive isotopes, particularly tritium, which research shows can travel upstream.

“Tritium has a persistent hazardous life of about 123 to 246 years. Organically-bound tritium, can bio-accumulate in food, including seafood, and reside in our bodies for a decade, causing cancer, genetic damage, birth defects, and reproductive harm. Radioactive carbon-14, also present in the wastewater to be dumped, remains hazardous for 55,000 to 110,000 years. Women, children, and fetuses are significantly more susceptible to the hazards of radioactivity than are men.” See Folkers’ factsheet: “Tritium: a universal health threat released by every nuclear reactor.” See Folkers’ full press statement, as well as a list of relevant Beyond Nuclear and other backgrounders.

Kamps said today: “Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO), the Japanese government, and the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are trying to justify the oceanic releases as being of ‘allowable’ or ‘permissible’ radioactive concentrations, that will then further dilute in the Pacific. But ‘allowable’ or ‘permissible’ does not mean ‘safe.’ The U.S. National Academy of Sciences have long held that any exposure to ionizing radioactivity carries a health risk, no matter how small the dose, and that such harm accumulates over a lifetime of exposure. Thus, ‘dilution is not the solution to radioactive pollution,’ as Dr. Rosalie Bertell of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health warned decades ago. Dilution is a delusion, when bio-accumulation, concentration, and magnification in the seafood supply is taken into consideration. Humans are at the top of that food chain, at risk of the most concentrated, hazardous internal exposures to ingested ionizing radiation.

“American spokesmen — such as former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Dale Klein, and former U.S. Department of Energy official Lake Barrett — tapped by TEPCO to advocate for this tritiated wastewater ocean dumping, should be ashamed of themselves. So too should the Biden administration State Department, which has expressed support for this ocean dumping scheme in order to advance its own irresponsible pro-nuclear power agenda, which it shares in common with the Japanese government and the IAEA.

“The claim is made that there is no more room for storing ever accumulating quantities of radioactive wastewater. So arbitrary property lines are taking precedence over what is an ongoing radioactive emergency? The nuclear power plant host towns of Futaba and Okuma are already largely uninhabitable due to extensive radioactive contamination, and in fact are being used to store very large quantities of bagged radioactively contaminated soil, leaves, and other materials gathered from across a broad region. The radioactive wastewater should be stored in robust containers on solid ground for as long as it remains hazardous, even if this means beyond the arbitrary confines of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant property line.” See Kamps’s full press statement, as well as additional factual background information.

The U.S. Government Will Not Withdraw Forces from Afghanistan

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New York Times headline claims: “Biden to Withdraw All Combat Troops From Afghanistan by Sept. 11” but deep in the piece acknowledges: “Instead of declared troops in Afghanistan, the United States will most likely rely on a shadowy combination of clandestine Special Operations forces, Pentagon contractors and covert intelligence operatives to find and attack the most dangerous Qaeda or Islamic State threats, current and former American officials said.”

MATTHEW HOH, matthew_hoh@riseup.net
Hoh is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a member of the Eisenhower Media Initiative. He is a 100 percent disabled Marine combat veteran, and, in 2009, he resigned his position with the State Department in Afghanistan in protest of the Afghan War by the Obama administration. He was featured on an accuracy.org news release last month: “Biden Rejection of Afghan Agreement Means the ‘Taliban Will Resume Killing Americans.’

“Comparisons of Afghanistan to Iraq in 2014, play on the specious fear that a U.S. exit from Afghanistan will result in a comeback of Islamic militant forces, are disingenuous, and ignore the reality of what actually happened in Iraq after 2011.

“The success of the Islamic State in Iraq in 2014 was not due to the absence of U.S. forces in Iraq, but rather was due to the brutal sectarianism of the Iraqi government against the Sunni minority, and, critically, the the direct and indirect support of the Islamic State in Syria by the United States and its allies. The U.S. believed it could control the Islamic State, and other jihadist groups in Syria, in order to overthrow the Assad government. The U.S. also believed the Islamic State would not cross the literal line in the sand that divides Syria and Iraq, the country that most of the Islamic State leadership came from. The Obama administration decided it could control the Islamic State for its purposes, which resulted in another example of catastrophic blowback in U.S. military and foreign policy.

“Further, the idea Kabul will resemble Saigon in 1975 is again specious fear mongering. The Taliban, of course, want power, but they are not suicidal. They understand a violent takeover of Kabul, akin to the Islamic State takeover of Mosul or al Qaeda’s takeover of Aleppo, will result in Kabul being completely devastated by foreign air forces, just as occurred in Afghanistan in 2001, and in multiple cities in Iraq and Syria from 2014-2017, including Mosul and Aleppo. That is an outcome the Taliban are aware of and cannot want.

“Additionally, the Taliban cannot win in Afghanistan without the support of the Pakistanis. The Pakistanis want a client state in Afghanistan, but they also do not want the instability and chaos of Afghanistan to continue, particularly if a Taliban takeover of Kabul results in renewed resumption of a U.S.-led escalation of the war similar to 2001.

“The Pakistanis have an incentive to see stability and a power sharing agreement occur in Afghanistan, especially if their ally is given a prominent role. This outcome necessitates the need for negotiations and a peace process, and cannot occur if the Taliban are only given the option of victory or defeat.

“This is the first formal peace process in Afghanistan in over 30 years in a war whose violence goes back to 1978, prior to the Soviet invasion. This peace process is dependent upon foreign forces leaving Afghanistan. Regardless of whether the 3500 acknowledged U.S. troops leave Afghanistan, the U.S. military will still be present in the form of thousands of special operations and CIA personnel in and around Afghanistan, through dozens of squadrons of manned attack aircraft and drones stationed on land bases and on aircraft carriers in the region, and by hundreds of cruise missiles on ships and submarines.

“A peace process is what the Afghan people need and deserve after so many decades of cruel and unimaginable suffering, much of which has been perpetrated and sustained by foreign forces and intentions. Violence has proven to be counterproductive and horrifically destructive, a peace process is the only chance for Afghanistan, its neighbors and the world.”

Wall St. Pumped Record $2.9 Billion to Washington Politicians, At Least

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LISA DONNER, Carter Dougherty, carter@ourfinancialsecurity.org
Donner is executive director of Americans for Financial Reform, which just released the report “Wall Street Money in Washington.” She said today: “The enormous sums that Wall Street has at its disposal, combined with a broken campaign finance system, means there is little practical limit to the amount of money the financial services industry can inject into American debate on politics and policy. Year in and year out, this torrent of money gives Wall Street an outsized role in how we are governed, while driving and protecting policies that help this industry’s super wealthy amass even greater fortunes at the expense of the rest of us.”

The group found: “During the 2019-20 election cycle, Wall Street spent at least $2.9 billion on campaign contributions and lobbying to influence policy in Washington. … That total, which amounts to $4 million a day, shatters the previous record of $2 billion set in the 2015-16 presidential cycle.

“The highest-ever level of spending by Wall Street banks and financial services reflects the industry’s relentless push to influence decision-making, regardless of the party that controls Congress or the executive branch.”

The group states that “the financial sector spent an extraordinary amount of money in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to preserve Republican control of the Senate and maintain a divided government that would lock in deregulation and tax cuts enacted under President Trump and prevent financial reform legislation. …

“In this election cycle, individuals and entities associated with the financial sector reported making $4,971,464 in contributions to the eight Republican Senators and $38,512,126 to the 139 House members who voted to overturn the election (as reported by February 17, 2021), for a total of $43,483,590.” But the group also notes that “of the $982,775,706 in party-coded contributions by individuals and PACs associated with finance, 47 percent went to Republicans and 53 percent went to Democrats.” The group also stresses that because of dark money, these numbers are a bare minimum — they are simply unable to track all the cash involved.

Among the biggest spenders were: Bloomberg LP, National Association of Realtors, Blackstone Group, Charles Schwab & Co., American Bankers Association, Paloma Partners, Bain Capital, Renaissance Technologies and Wells Fargo.

Among the largest recipients: Senate Leadership Fund, Senate Majority, Independence USA PAC, House Majority PAC, Congressional Leadership Fund and America First Action, NextGen Climate Action and American Bridge 21st Century.

How Bill Gates Makes Intellectual Property More Important than Public Health

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JAMIE LOVE, james.love@keionline.org
Love is director Knowledge Ecology International, and has been arguing that the Gates Foundation, with its sprawling financial ties, allowed it to assert influence early in the pandemic.

He is quoted in a just-published piece in The New Republic: “Few have observed Bill Gates’s devotion to monopoly medicine more closely than James Love, founder and director of Knowledge Ecology International, a Washington, D.C.–based group that studies the broad nexus of federal policy, the pharmaceutical industry, and intellectual property. Love entered the world of global public health policy around the same time Gates did, and for two decades has watched him scale its heights while reinforcing the system responsible for the very problems he claims to be trying to solve. The through-line for Gates has been his unwavering commitment to drug companies’ right to exclusive control over medical science and the markets for its products.

“‘Things could have gone either way,’ says Love, ‘but Gates wanted exclusive rights maintained. He acted fast to stop the push for sharing the knowledge needed to make the products — the know-how, the data, the cell lines, the tech transfer, the transparency that is critically important in a dozen ways. The pooling approach represented by C-TAP [WHO Covid-19 Technology Access Pool] included all of that. Instead of backing those early discussions, he raced ahead and signaled support for business-as-usual on intellectual property by announcing the ACT-Accelerator [Access to COVID-19 Tools] in March.’ …

“Technically housed within the WHO, the ACT-Accelerator is a Gates operation, top to bottom. It is designed, managed, and staffed largely by Gates organization employees. It embodies Gates’s philanthropic approach to widely anticipated problems posed by intellectual property–hoarding companies able to constrain global production by prioritizing rich countries and inhibiting licensing. Companies partnering with COVAX are allowed to set their own tiered prices. They are subject to almost no transparency requirements and to toothless contractual nods to ‘equitable access’ that have never been enforced. Crucially, the companies retain exclusive rights to their intellectual property. If they stray from the Gates Foundation line on exclusive rights, they are quickly brought to heel. When the director of Oxford’s Jenner Institute had funny ideas about placing the rights to its COVAX-supported vaccine candidate in the public domain, Gates intervened. As reported by Kaiser Health News, ‘A few weeks later, Oxford — urged on by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — reversed course [and] signed an exclusive vaccine deal with AstraZeneca that gave the pharmaceutical giant sole rights and no guarantee of low prices.’ …

“Gates can hardly disguise his contempt for the growing interest in intellectual property barriers. In recent months, as the debate has shifted from the WHO to the WTO, reporters have drawn testy responses from Gates that harken back to his prickly performances before congressional antitrust hearings a quarter-century ago. When a Fast Company reporter raised the issue in February, she described Gates ‘raising his voice slightly and laughing in frustration,’ before snapping, ‘It’s irritating that this issue comes up here. This isn’t about IP.’

“In interview after interview, Gates has dismissed his critics on the issue — who represent the poor majority of the global population — as spoiled children demanding ice cream before dinner. ‘It’s the classic situation in global health, where the advocates all of a sudden want [the vaccine] for zero dollars and right away,’ he told Reuters in late January. Gates has larded the insults with comments that equate state-protected and publicly funded monopolies with the ‘free market.’ ‘North Korea doesn’t have that many vaccines, as far as we can tell,’ he told The New York Times in November. (It is curious that he chose North Korea as an example and not Cuba, a socialist country with an innovative and world-class vaccine development program with multiple Covid-19 vaccine candidates in various stages of testing.)”

Did Amazon Shred the Law to Stop Worker Unionization?

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PAUL GOTTINGER, paul.gottinger@gmail.com@PaulGottinger
Gottinger is a staff reporter at Reader Supported News which just published his piece: “How Much Did Amazon Spend to Crush the Union Drive in Alabama?” He writes: “Last week, Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, voted against forming a union after an almost two-month-long election that received significant national attention. The vote was 738 in favor of a union to 1,798 against it.

“But this isn’t over yet.

“The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union is challenging the election with the National Labor Relations Board over what the union describes as Amazon’s illegal interference in the election. The union alleges that Amazon put a ballot dropbox on warehouse property after the NLRB told Amazon that wasn’t allowed because it could be seen as an attempt to intimidate workers. The union will ask for a second election, claiming the last one was spoiled by Amazon’s illegal practices. …

“Amazon faces dozens of federal allegations from its facilities across the country for firing workers who organized protests and walk-outs demanding the company improve its COVID-19 safety best practices. Amazon employees at multiple facilities report fear of being open about their support for a union at work because they might be fired or harassed.

“Since February of 2020, there have been at least 37 charges filed with the NLRB against Amazon in 20 cities across the country.

“One tactic Amazon used to its advantage against the union campaigners was engineering extremely high turnover in Amazon facilities (averaging about 100 new employees a week). This meant union organizers constantly had to convince new employees of the merits of the union, while losing union-supporting employees. …

“In one particularly disturbing account, an Amazon employee named Jonathon Bailey, who organized a walkout over Covid-19 safety concerns, alleges he was ‘detained’ on his lunch break by an individual wearing a black camouflage vest who identified himself as former FBI. …

“Corporations spend $340 million per year on ‘union avoidance’ consultants in an attempt to deny workers their right to organize.

“Until the laws in the U.S. change to force corporations to be more transparent about their anti-union funding and tactics, and put strict limits on what they can do, organized labor will continue to face a tough road ahead.”

What Does the Conviction of Chauvin Mean?

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MAX RAMEAU, afrimax@niainteractive.com
NETFA FREEMAN, netfa@ips-dc.org@Netfafree
Rameau and Freeman are writing a forthcoming book, Community Control Over Police, and wrote the piece “Community Control Vs. Defunding the Police: A Critical Analysis.”

Freeman said today: “There is a struggle to control the narrative of what the Chauvin conviction actually means. This struggle is between, on the one hand, the people whose actions in the streets nearly a year ago sent then president Trump fleeing to a bunker and forcing the prosecution of Chauvin. And on the other hand you have the ruling class establishment trying to uphold the illusion of shared interests and obscure notions of systemic change. The same President Biden claiming the country must ‘confront head-on systemic racism and the racial disparities in policing and the criminal justice system’ is the same Biden who has sped up the flow of military gear to police departments, exceeding in this first quarter of 2021 such transfers under his predecessor.

“Real justice for the Black and Brown working class against the repression of police requires a power shift. It requires putting such forces and all the resources allocated to it under the collective democratic control of those most directly impacted by this repression.”

Also, see recent Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Did Biden’s Pick for Border Agency Cover-up Police Killings?

Hollywood Spins the ’60s

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DAVID CLENNON, djjc123@earthlink.net@daveclennon
Clennon is an actor and activist who recently wrote three pieces about how Hollywood spins the 60s. The first is “Hollywood’s New Blackface,” which states: “I don’t believe Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Fred Hampton would have been satisfied with the presence of more Black faces on our movie screens. The display of diversity has very little to do with a radical transformation of a political economy that screws so many to reward so few. …

In “How Hollywood Neuters the 60s: Sorkin’s ‘Trial of the Chicago 7’ Sentences American Radicalism to Oblivion,” Clennon writes: “If you need a dramatic hook, exaggerate the minor tactical differences of opinion among the good guys. And put your money on a far-out casting choice: Sacha Baron Cohen as ‘Abbie.’

“Instead of telling the story of eight political activists vs a corrupt, unjust legal system serving the Empire, the ‘Trial’ filmmakers exaggerate and fabricate tactical disagreements among the defendants themselves. As the two principal antagonists, they select the sober grassroots activist, Tom Hayden, and the madcap agitator, Abbie Hoffman, for conflict and contrast.”

And in “A Radical’s Complaint and Fan’s Appreciation of an Exceptional Actor,” Clennon writes: “It seems 2020 was the year for Hollywood to trivialize and marginalize the 1960s. To American citizens who participated in those struggles, ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ and ‘One Night in Miami…’ and ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ are an insult and an injury. … And, as one who lived through the period, my greatest grievance over ‘Chicago 7’ is this: The shabby writing, and the miscasting of Dave Dellinger marginalizes and diminishes one of the most admirable political organizers and moral leaders of the anti-war struggle. …

“Each of the four men [Ali, Jim Brown, Sam Cooke and Malcolm X] gets an epilogue, after the ‘One Night in Miami’ is over. In his epilogue, we see Ali receiving his new, Muslim name from the leader of the Nation of Islam.

“Why did the filmmakers choose that event to put their period on the story of Muhammad Ali? Would it have been too controversial for movie-goers to see, instead, a far more courageous act in Ali’s life? Would it have been too dangerous to show Ali publicly refusing to be conscripted into the U.S. military machine, when hundreds of thousands of American troops were slaughtering three million human beings in Vietnam? The young boxing champ we see in ‘Miami’ in 1964 made a heroic moral stand in 1967, and was banned from boxing for three of the most important years of a boxer’s career. (He also had a five-year prison term hanging over him, until the Supreme Court reversed his conviction in 1971.) If the filmmakers were serious about capturing something special in those four men, why did they omit the single most significant decision of Ali’s life? …

“I believe that ‘Judas and the Black Messiah’ is inauthentic history. It features a false rendering of the real, historical, Fred Hampton. It makes me wonder, ‘What would Boots Riley have done with this tale?’

“Outsourcing. Off-shoring. Importing worker talent.

“In the last six years, Hollywood has put four historical African-American figures on screen:

Martin Luther King in ‘Selma’ (2015)
Harriet Tubman in ‘Harriet’ (2017)
Malcolm X in 2020’s ‘One Night in Miami…’
Fred Hampton in ‘Judas and the Black Messiah.’

“Every single one of these African-American characters has been portrayed by an Afro-British actor.

“Now, just as African-American characters — fictional and historical — are beginning to appear in movie and TV scripts, African-Americans have to compete with imported talent from the UK and other parts of the British Commonwealth to play those parts.

“Blackface on Black faces.

“It’s not just a trade imbalance, it’s a glaring moral deficit.”

Clennon asks, “What is Hollywood’s message to African-American actors? Black Livelihoods Don’t Matter?”

Examining the Democratic Israeli Lobby: “Burn Gaza”

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ALI ABUNIMAH, aliabunimah@me.com@AliAbunimah
Abunimah is founder of the Electronic Intifada and can address the events escalating in Jerusalem and Gaza. He can also address the scheduled Palestinian elections, which may be delayed yet again by Mahmoud Abbas, whose term as president, Abunimah notes, expired in 2009.

Abunimah recently wrote the piece “Israel Lobby’s ‘Death to the Arabs’ Damage Control” and tweeted: “Zionist settlers carrying out a pogrom against a Palestinian family in occupied Jerusalem. As the reporter says, you can hear the children screaming. This is everyday Zionism.”

He wrote on Friday: “Over the last few days, disturbing videos have shown mobs of Israeli Jewish youths rampaging through occupied East Jerusalem and attacking Palestinians.”

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported on Wednesday: “Every evening this week, dozens of young Jews walked around Jerusalem’s city center, chanting ‘Death to Arabs’ and attacking passersby with stones and tear gas.”

Abunimah noted that pro-Israeli groups including Democratic Majority for Israel, “a U.S. lobby group aligned with the ruling Democratic Party” condemned the marches.

But he notes that “DMFI has yet to condemn or repudiate its own board member Archie Gottesman, an advocate of genocide who in 2018 tweeted: ‘Gaza is full of monsters. Time to burn the whole place.'”

Abunimah also recently wrote the piece “J Street Brings Together Progressives, Israeli War Criminals.” His past books include One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse and The Battle for Justice in Palestine.

Biden “Continues to Support Saudi Aggression on the People of Yemen”

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AISHA JUMAAN, aisha@yemenfoundation.org@AishaJumaan
Jumaan is president of the Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation. She said today: “On Monday, I learned that the Biden administration continues to support Saudi aggression on the people of Yemen.”

Jumaan cited a little-reported recent quote from Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby: “The United States continues to provide maintenance support to Saudi Arabia’s Air Force given the critical role it plays in Saudi air defense and our longstanding security partnership.”

She added: “This is extremely disturbing because the U.S. acts like it regards its envoy Tim Lenderking as a mediator in the Saudi-led war on Yemen. But the U.S. government is not an impartial mediator.

“The Biden administration needs to delink the blockade from the political negotiations. We should NOT use the Yemeni population, who are being starved, as hostages to gain concessions from warring parties. Blockade on all points of entry to Yemen MUST be lifted. Aid alone can not support a population of 30 million.

UN Security Council Resolution 2216 is one sided, written by the Saudis with the support of the U.S., UK and France. It calls for Houthi surrender. The U.S. should support efforts to revise it, if we are to realize fair and just peace negotiations.

“The Saudis and the UAE and all Western powers that support them need to pay reparation to the Yemeni people.

“The U.S. government is more concerned about saving face for [Saudi monarch] MBS than they are about the 400,000+ starving Yemeni children.

“Yemeni have a rich history of conflict resolution and negotiations, we need all foreign interference out.”

Why Does IRS Target Working Poor More than Billionaires?

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CHUCK COLLINS, chuck@ips-dc.org or via Bob Keener, bobk@ips-dc.org
On the news of President Biden’s plan to increase the IRS’s enforcement efforts, reportedly targeting the wealthy, Collins, director of the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies, and author of the new book, The Wealth Hoarders; How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Billions, released the following statement:

“Taxes have become almost optional for the super-rich. President Biden’s plan is a welcome first step in reversing wealth hidding and tax avoidance by billionaires and multi-millionaires. You are four-times more likely to get audited if you use the Earned Income Credit – a tax break for working families – than if you’re a billionaire using a Grantor Retained Annuity Trust.

“This is not an accident. The super-rich — those with over $30 million and up — hire a veritable army of what social scientists call the ‘wealth defense industry’ to dodge taxes, stash wealth, and lobby for weak taxes. These are highly paid tax attorneys, wealth managers, and accountants, who specialize in creating complex shell games using offshore tax havens, dynasty trusts, anonymous shell companies, and bogus transactions. Billionaires pay them millions to hide trillions.

“Strengthening the IRS is a vital first step to economic recovery and reducing extreme wealth inequality. The future of the IRS may determine whether we become a society dominated by billionaires or a functioning democracy.”

U.S. Military Spending Still Dwarfs China, Russia, Iran…

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Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept just released his latest project: “EMPIRE POLITICIAN: A Half-Century of Joe Biden’s Stances on War, Militarism, and the CIA.”

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson@gmail.com, @davidcnswanson
Swanson is executive director of World Beyond War and recently wrote the piece “Biden’s Announcement That Trump Got Military Spending Just Right Is Dead Wrong.” Today, he tweeted about New York Times columnist Tom Friedman now claiming: “China is now a true peer competitor in the military.” As Swanson recently wrote: “U.S. military spending is $1.25 trillion per year across numerous departments. Even just taking the $700 billion and change that goes to the Pentagon and stands in for the full amount in media coverage, U.S. military spending has been climbing for years, including during the Trump years, and is the equivalent of many of the world’s top military spenders combined, most of which are U.S. allies, NATO members, and U.S. weapons customers.

“Still using that artificially reduced figure, China is at 37 percent of it, Russia at 8.9 percent, and Iran is spending 1.3 percent. These are, of course, comparisons of absolute amounts. Per capita comparisons are extreme as well. The United States, every year, takes $2,170 from every man, woman, and child for wars and war preparations, while Russia takes $439, China $189, and Iran $114.”

LINDSAY KOSHGARIAN, lkoshgarian@nationalpriorities.org, @natpriorities
Koshgarian is program director of the National Priorities Project, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies. She notes that while Biden is heralding the delayed withdrawal of thousands of troops from Afghanistan, “instead of redirecting any savings to our dire domestic situation, they are plowing those savings right back into the Pentagon.

“The majority of Americans support shifting at least ten percent of the Pentagon budget to pay for other urgent needs. Americans deserve to know that the administration isn’t representing their priorities on Pentagon spending. It’s past time we had a national conversation about the resources being wasted on the Pentagon.”

Earlier this month, the group put out a statement on Biden’s proposed budget: “There is no shortage of options for how to rein in the Pentagon’s excesses. Profitable weapons systems and costly service contracts account for more than half of the Pentagon budget, and the nation’s longest war continues to drain national coffers. Experts from across the political spectrum have put forth detailed proposals for Pentagon cuts that would put real security needs above contractor profits and endless war. … The cumulative cost of these wars has topped $6.4 trillion, and every one of those dollars could have been put to better use. Even a moderate ten percent cut in Pentagon spending could be used to create more than one million jobs in infrastructure, or end homelessness.”

International Commission Charges that U.S. Police Violence is Torture

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KERRY McLEAN, kerrymclean@gmail.com
McLean is an international human rights lawyer and the spokesperson for the Commission of Inquiry on Systemic Racist Police Violence, which just released their extensive report [PDF].

The commission was set up by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, National Conference of Black Lawyers, and National Lawyers Guild “to examine whether widespread and systematic racist violence in policing against people of African descent” in the U.S. constitutes violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The report finds “a pattern and practice of racist police violence in the U.S. in the context of a history of oppression dating back to the extermination of First Nations peoples, the enslavement of Africans, the militarization of U.S. society, and the continued perpetuation of structural racism.”

These conclusions were drawn by twelve Commissioners — judges, lawyers, professors and experts from Pakistan, South Africa, Barbados, Japan, India, Nigeria, France, Costa Rica, Antigua and Barbuda, the United Kingdom, and Jamaica — who held public hearings from January 18 to February 6, 2021.

The Commissioners “find violations of the rights to: life, security, freedom from torture, freedom from discrimination, mental health, access to remedies for violations, fair trial and presumption of innocence, and to be treated with humanity and respect. … The Commissioners find that U.S. laws and police practices do not comply with the international standards on the use of force, which require legal basis, legitimate objective, necessity, precautions, proportionality, protection of life, non-discrimination, and accountability. …

“Many Black people are killed in broad daylight to intimidate communities and because officers don’t fear accountability.”

For World Press Freedom Day, U.S. Government Hypocrisy

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KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin@shadowproof.com, @kgosztola
    Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola just wrote the piece “U.S. Marks World Press Freedom Day By Ignoring Their Government’s Attacks On Press Freedom,” writing: “Secretary of State Antony Blinken marked World Press Freedom Day [Monday] by calling attention to governments that are ‘becoming less transparent’ and ‘more repressive.’

“In the U.S., ‘In 2020, 416 journalists were assaulted. One hundred and thirty-nine journalists were arrested or detained. One hundred and nine journalists had their equipment damaged. Thirty-one journalists or news organizations were subpoenaed, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker curated by the Freedom of the Press Foundation and several other leading press freedom organizations. …

“Journalist Linda Tirado lost an eye in 2020 while covering the uprising after George Floyd was murdered. …

“Attorney General Merrick Garland has allowed the extradition case to proceed against former WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange.

“Assange has been detained at the Belmarsh high-security prison in London for more than two years, and every reputable press freedom organization recognizes the case poses a distinct threat to journalism.

“For example, Reporters Without Borders international campaigns director Rebecca Vincent pointed out, ‘If the U.S. government is successful in securing Assange’s extradition and prosecuting him for his contributions to public interest reporting, the same precedent could be applied to any journalist anywhere. The possible implications of this case simply cannot be understated. It is the very future of journalism and press freedom that is at stake.’ …

“Furthermore, instead of abandoning the prosecution launched under Trump, the Biden Justice Department secured a guilty plea from Daniel Hale, a former military contractor and drone whistleblower.

“Hale helped expose the targeted assassination program, including drone warfare. He pled guilty on March 31 to one charge of violating the Espionage Act, when he provided documents to Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill and anonymously wrote a chapter in Scahill’s book, The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.

“Astonishingly, prosecutors refused to dismiss additional charges and cancel the trial altogether. Hale is set to be sentenced in July, and if prosecutors are not pleased with the severity of the sentence, they can continue to target an unemployed military veteran already coping with mental health problems.

“The Biden administration has done nothing to rein in policies that allow Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to engage in suspicionless searches of travelers’ electronic devices in violation of both the First and Fourth Amendments.”

Could Postal Banking Address “Inequality in the Financial System”?

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Members of Congress, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, are proposing a postal banking program to address inequalities. She recently said: “This pilot program will not only help us begin to address systematic inequality in the financial system, but it will also create much needed source of revenue for the U.S. Postal Service.”

CHRISTOPHER W. SHAW, christophershaw.ca@gmail.com@chris_w_shaw
Shaw is author of the book Preserving the People’s Post Office and recently wrote the piece “The U.S. Postal Service Was Designed to Serve Democracy” for Foreign Affairs.

He said today: “Eight million households in the United States lack bank accounts because the existing system of privately owned banks doesn’t offer accessible and affordable financial services. But the U.S. Postal Service can serve as a solution. A growing political movement highlights how the Postal Service could offer a public option for banking, making essential financial services more available to low- and middle-income households at over 30,000 post offices nationwide. Significantly, there is an important historical precedent: postal banking operated for more than fifty years during the twentieth century, when millions of Americans deposited billions of dollars in the postal bank. A new congressional push for programs in selected rural and urban areas to provide surcharge-free ATMs, wire transfers, check cashing, and bill payment at post offices would perform a pilot study for extending banking services to millions of underserved Americans. Expanding financial services at post offices also would bring new revenues to the Postal Service helping to revitalize the agency.”

See his op-ed in the Washington Post last year: “Postal banking is making a comeback. Here’s how to ensure it becomes a reality.

With Blinken in Ukraine: Where to on U.S.- Russia Relations?

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On Wednesday, Secretary of State Tony Blinken is traveling to Ukraine with Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, kat@thenation.com, or via Ricky D’Ambrose, rdambrose@thenation.com, @KatrinaNation
Editorial Director and Publisher of The Nation magazine, Katrina vanden Heuvel recently wrote for the Washington Post: “The successful campaign to block Matthew Rojansky’s appointment is ominous for Biden’s Russia policy”: “When a new administration comes to Washington, the flowery rhetoric and springtime promises are often less revealing than who is put where to run the place. That’s why many of Washington’s most scurrilous campaigns are backstage fights over potential appointments. And that’s why the successful campaign to block the appointment of Matthew Rojansky as Russia director on the National Security Council is not only a sad reflection of the poisonous state of the debate on Russian policy today, but also an ominous sign for Biden’s foreign policy going forward. …

“Rojansky’s tempered realism is at odds with the strident consensus of the foreign policy establishment. The foreign policy ‘blob’ sees Russia as weak and paints Putin as the devil. They call Russia’s SolarWinds hack an ‘act of war,’ when intelligence experts describe it as ‘reconnaissance and espionage of the sort the U.S. itself excels at.’ They seem intent on extending the U.S. commitment to Ukraine, writing a check that the American people have no intention of backing. New sanctions on Russia are shortsighted and are likely to drive Moscow still further toward Beijing. The result is a self-reinforcing spiral of tensions and hostile postures strengthening hawks on both sides. For the Biden administration, Rojansky’s sensible perspectives would provide a necessary balance to voices such as Victoria Nuland, the hawkish new undersecretary of state for political affairs.

“Upon taking office, Biden promised a ‘foreign policy for the middle class,’ tacitly acknowledging that the debacles of the past decades have badly served all but the few. Keeping that promise requires profound rethinking. By reversing some of Donald Trump’s most egregious follies — returning to the Paris climate accord and the WHO, ending the Muslim ban, beginning negotiations to return to the Iran nuclear deal, extending the START nuclear accord with Russia — Biden has taken the first steps. Recalibrating our relations to Russia — and reducing the tensions around Ukraine and the Russian border — surely must be part of that effort. Getting that right will be much harder if sensible experts such as Rojansky have no place in the administration.”

Katrina vanden Heuvel is vice-president of the American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord, a group interested in an informed dialogue about improving U.S.-Russia relations. The group recently participated in a talk organized by the Committee for the Republic (see background on the group) on the critical issues confronting U.S.-Russian relations, see video.

Is Big Pharma’s Intellectual Property More Important than Lives?

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The Hindu reports: “U.S. President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that he had not made a decision on whether the U.S. would support an Indian and South African initiative at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waive Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) to facilitate the production of COVID-19 related vaccines and therapeutics around the world.”

JAMES LOVE, james.love@keionline.org, @jamie_love
Love is director Knowledge Ecology International, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization that “searches for better outcomes, including new solutions, to the management of knowledge resources.” KEI is focused on “social justice, particularly for the most vulnerable populations, including low-income persons and marginalized groups.”

He said today: “Critics of the TRIPS waiver have used a barrage of misleading and inaccurate arguments. The notion that the WTO TRIPS agreement already has sufficient flexibility is true up to a point, but ignores the toxic impacts of Articles 31.f and 31bis on exports, and Article 39 on access to manufacturing know-how and trial data. The claim that weaker patent rights will have no impact on vaccine production does not explain why removing legal barriers to making vaccines isn’t helpful, and why drug companies have hired more than 100 registered lobbyists to protect those patents. It is true that patents are not the only barrier to scaling generic or biosimilar vaccine production. Access to cell lines and manufacturing know-how, as well as vaccine inputs, are a challenge for some vaccine platforms, and the regulatory barriers to approval are important too. IP [intellectual property] is not the only issue, but the argument that IP is not an issue is wrong. Indeed, over time, IP becomes the most important barrier to entry. The benefits of weaker IP rules will depend in part on how long the COVID-19 pandemic persists, and no one really knows the answer to that. Governments need to do more than lift the most toxic WTO TRIPS rules, they should play a more constructive role in opening up access to know-how, and making vaccine technologies global public goods. The transfer of manufacturing know-how can be required, or even purchased. The WHO [World Health Organization] COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and the proposed mRNA technology hubs should be supported, and the proposed WHO pandemic treaty should include provisions to internationalize public rights in publicly funded know-how, inventions and data.” 

See related statements and documents from KEI including: “KEI submission to Canada Standing Committee on International Trade and Investment Policy: Concerning COVID-19,” “COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturing Capacity,” “Buying Know-How to Scale Vaccine Manufacturing” and “KEI Statement at WTO COVID-19 Vaccine Equity Event.”

Love was recently on the accuracy.org news release: “How Bill Gates Makes Intellectual Property More Important than Public Health.”

Coup in El Salvador?

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ALEXIS STOUMBELIS, alexis@cispes.org@CISPES
Stoumbelis is with the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador. They recently released a statement condemning the decision of a group of political parties which “upon taking office on May 1, and with the backing of President Nayib Bukele, voted to unconstitutionally remove the five magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, in what is being denounced in El Salvador as a coup d’etat.” The group is holding a demonstration and press conference on Friday at 3:30 p.m. in front of the Salvadoran Embassy in Washington, D.C.
The group continued: “While it is true that Supreme Court magistrates have historically represented oligarchic interests and that the new Legislative Assembly was democratically elected — though the process was plagued by violations to the electoral code on part of the president and his New Ideas party — this does not justify an assault on democratic institutions. The legislators’ actions set a dangerous precedent that deteriorates the democratic advances made in El Salvador since the signing of the Peace Accords.

“The decision to remove and replace the five magistrates did not adhere to the constitutionally-established justifications for doing so, nor were the magistrates granted a hearing and defense, as is their right under the law. Clearly, the basis for this decision is to eliminate any institutional opposition and guarantee the president’s authority over other branches of government. This explains why legislators also removed the Attorney General, Raúl Melara and next may remove the Human Rights Ombudsman, José Apolonio Tobar Serrano, who, during the pandemic, denounced widespread violations of human rights and corruption among many members of the Bukele administration. …

Condescending lectures from the Biden administration will not impede the continuation of these assaults on democracy; President Bukele and his party are very clear on the type of dictatorship they wish to establish in El Salvador. If the United States government does not immediately act to restrict police, military, and other funds that strengthen the regime, there is no doubt that the United States, too, will be responsible for what follows.”

“Jerusalem Uprising”?

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Maram Humaid of Al Jazeera reports: “This is an open war against unarmed people. Israeli forces are showering Palestinian worshipers inside Al-Aqsa mosque with gas bombs and stun grenades.”

MAZIN QUMSIYEH, mazin@qumsiyeh.org, Skype: mbqumsiyeh
Qumsiyeh has been on the faculties of the University of Tennessee, Duke, and Yale Universities. He is now a professor at Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities. His books include Popular Resistance in Palestine and Sharing the Land of Canaan. He is founding director of the Palestine Institute of Biodiversity and Sustainability.

He said Sunday night of what he termed the “Jerusalem uprising” — it “started with Israeli racists chanting ‘death to Arabs‘ in Jerusalem and progressed as Israeli authorities insisted on going ahead with more ethnic cleansing in the Shaikh Jarrah neighborhood (considered a crime against humanity by international law) and progressed as the same racist authorities denied rights of native Christians and Muslims to have access to their holy sites in Jerusalem over Easter and Ramadan. As usual the mainstream Western media were silent or if they covered events, tried to equate oppressor with oppressed (colonial settlers with native people). The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas continued to organize with Israel against resistance. … Other governments were spineless (giving pointless verbal declarations while supporting the oppressor in practical ways) so the local people acted and resisted the encroachment. … [Some] 205 were injured (several shot in the eyes, two losing both eyes).”

He notes that Monday “will be pivotal” as Zionist forces “‘celebrate’ their occupation of Jerusalem. … Next week we commemorate the Nakba (the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, which is still ongoing).”

In a statement on Sunday, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan “encouraged the Israeli government to pursue appropriate measures to ensure calm during Jerusalem Day commemorations” on Monday, effectively greenlighting the commemorations to go on.

See: “Israeli Man Trying to Take Over Palestinian Home Says ‘If I Don’t Steal It, Someone Else’ Will’” from CommonDreams.

Blinken Ignoring Glorification of Nazis in Ukraine for Geopolitical Gain

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LEV GOLINKIN, golinkin@gmail.com
Ahead of last week’s visit to Ukraine by the U.S. Secretary of State, Golinkin wrote the piece “Secretary Blinken Faces a Big Test in Ukraine, Where Nazis and Their Sympathizers Are Glorified.”

After Blinken’s visit, Golinkin noted that Blinken “said nothing about the recent pro-Nazi SS march, or anything substantial about the Holocaust. When I asked the State Department for comment, they immediately pivoted to Russia. When I asked about Ukraine having an SS march — one that even Germany condemned — they immediately started attacking by invoking Russian disinformation. …”

Golkin noted in his recent article: “From the moment he was nominated for secretary of state, the media has made much over the Holocaust’s impact on Antony Blinken. Blinken’s stepfather was a famous survivor; his upbringing made the Holocaust an indelible part of Blinken’s identity. Indeed, last month Blinken lambasted America’s callousness during the genocide, going so far as denouncing a World War II-era State Department official for refusing to aid Jews fleeing Europe. …

“The reality is that glorification of Nazi collaborators and Holocaust perpetrators isn’t a glitch but a feature of today’s Ukraine.

“Shortly after the Maidan uprising of 2013 to ’14 brought in a new government, Ukraine began whitewashing Nazi collaborators on a statewide level. In 2015, Kyiv passed legislation declaring two WWII-era paramilitaries — the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) — heroes and freedom fighters and threatening legal action against anyone denying their status. The OUN was allied with the Nazis and participated in the Holocaust; the UPA murdered thousands of Jews and 70,000–100,000 Poles on their own accord.”

Earlier this year, Golinkin wrote the piece piece “How many monuments honor fascists, Nazis and murderers of Jews? You’ll be shocked,” in the Forward, launching the The Nazi Monument Project. He is the author of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, a memoir of Soviet Ukraine, which he left as a child refugee.

Biden Green Light for Israeli Aggression?

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FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle@illinois.edu
    Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law. He notes media reports that Biden’s Secretary of State Tony “Blinken didn’t press the Israelis to stop the operation in Gaza for now.” Said Boyle: “So in other words Blinken gave them the green light to escalate.”

NOURA ERAKAT, nourae@me.com@4noura
    Erakat is a human rights attorney and associate professor at Rutgers University. She is the author of Justice for Some: Law and the Question of Palestine from Stanford University Press.

    She just co-wrote the piece “Sheikh Jarrah highlights the violent brazenness of Israel’s colonialist project,” which was published in the Washington Post. Her co-author, Mariam Barghouti, a Palestinian writer and researcher based in Ramallah, had her Twitter account suspended for a time yesterday, because she allegedly violated the “Twitter Media Policy.” (See accuracy.org 2019 news release “Israel Bombs Palestinians as Twitter Censors Them.”)

State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Monday asserted “Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself” in justifying its bombings. When questioned about the Palestinians’ right to defend themselves, Price wouldn’t engage in the substance of the issue, stating: “I’m not in a position to debate the legalities from up here.” See video clip.

    Some have criticized aspects of Israel’s bombings of Gaza, with 53 Palestinians killed, including 14 children and the destruction of towers, including one with media offices. In 2014, during a major Israeli bombing of Palestinians in Gaza, Erakat wrote the piece “No, Israel Does Not Have the Right to Self-Defense In International Law Against Occupied Palestinian Territory,” which argued: “A state cannot simultaneously exercise control over territory it occupies and militarily attack that territory on the claim that it is ‘foreign’ and poses an exogenous national security threat. In doing precisely that, Israel is asserting rights that may be consistent with colonial domination but simply do not exist under international law.”

Israel-Palestine: Is BDS the Solution?

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See @accuracy Twitter list for continuously updated information on Israel-Palestine. And see accuracy.org for past news releases.

NORA BARROWS-FRIEDMAN,  nora@electronicintifada.net@norabf
Barrows-Friedman is author of In Our Power: U.S. Students Organize for Justice in PalestineShe is an associate editor at The Electronic Intifada who has covered the grassroots boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement. This effort is modeled on the struggle against apartheid South Africa.

On Wednesday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized Biden’s statement of support for Israel’s attack on Palestinians: “Blanket statements like these w/ little context or acknowledgement of what precipitated this cycle of violence – namely, the expulsions of Palestinians and attacks on Al Aqsa – dehumanize Palestinians & imply the US will look the other way at human rights violations. It’s wrong.”

Barrows-Friedman in turn criticized Ocasio-Cortez: “So… are you going to support the Palestinian call for BDS? Or demand that Biden immediately cut all aid to Israel? Because if that’s not going to happen, this itself is an unhelpful blanket statement.”
Last New Year’s Eve, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, calling Israel an apartheid state, called for implementation of existing U.S. law to cut off all U.S. taxpayer funds: “Joe Biden should end the U.S. pretence over Israel’s ‘secret’ nuclear weapons.”

But the Biden administration has pledged to fight BDS activist efforts. These governmental moves have been criticized as restricting freedom of speech.
Barrows-Friedman’s pieces on the BDS activist and legal battles include: “U.S. Palestinian activist defeats Israeli ‘defamation’ lawsuit” and “Israel lobby loses legal effort to harass Palestinian rights activists.”

In her piece “What were the top BDS victories of 2020?” she gives examples including: “the United Nations published its long-awaited list of corporations that profit from Israel’s war crimes. …

“United Nations representatives warned the German government in October that its tightening crackdown on supporters of Palestinian rights violates freedom of expression. …

“In April, the UK Supreme Court struck down an anti-divestment rule imposed by the government in 2016. …

“In the U.S., journalist and filmmaker Abby Martin sued the state of Georgia over its draconian anti-BDS law.

“Martin was scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at a media literacy conference held at Georgia Southern University. When officials demanded that she sign a contract stating she would not engage in a boycott of Israel, Martin refused to do so and her keynote was canceled, as was the entire conference.

“Martin’s lawsuit against Georgia is one of several filed by activists, attorneys, educators and reporters in states across the U.S.

“In 2020, the governors of Missouri and Oklahoma signed anti-BDS measures into law, but civil rights defenders are fighting them in courts.”

From Gaza

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REFAAT ALAREER, refatr17@gmail.com, @itranslate123
The New York Times just published Alareer’s piece “My Child Asks, ‘Can Israel Destroy Our Building if the Power Is Out?’.” Alareer is the editor of Gaza Writes Back and is a university professor of comparative literature, translation and creative writing.

See @accuracy Twitter list for continuously updated information.

HAIDAR EID, haidareid@gmail.com, @haidareid
Author of the book Worlding, Eid highlighted “Nakba Day” protests scheduled for Saturday against the “Ongoing Nakba and the Massacre in Besieged Gaza” organized in large part by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. The Nakba, Arabic for “catastrophe” — commemorated on May 15 — refers to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948. Eid and many other Palestinians view this as an ongoing process — as Israel expels Palestinians from their homes and makes life for Palestinians more unbearable in Gaza and elsewhere — a continuing ethnic cleansing. See The Gaza Voice on Facebook. For information on protests around the world, see at Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and on Twitter.

RAJI SOURANI, pchr@pchrgaza.org, @pchrgaza
Sourani is executive director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, which “calls on the international community to intervene immediately to:
* End instantly and unconditionally the offensive on the Gaza Strip
* Stop the Israeli crimes in al-Sheikh Jarrah and al-Aqsa Mosque and respect its sanctity
* Hold Israel accountable for its crimes before the International Criminal Court
* Stop Israel’s clear war crimes and crimes against humanity, emphasizing that each state believing in the rule of law should impose sanctions on Israel, such as those imposed on the apartheid regime in South Africa”

Coalition to Fight Rahm Emanuel Nomination

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JEFF COHEN, jeff@rootsaction.org, @Roots_Action
Cohen is co-founder of RootsAction.org, one of 20 organizations that announced Friday they “will launch a nationwide grassroots campaign urging senators to vote against President Biden’s expected nomination of Rahm Emanuel to be the U.S. ambassador to Japan.” The announcement followed reports earlier this week that Biden has decided to nominate Emanuel, the former Chicago mayor who has been denounced by activists challenging police brutality.

“Emanuel’s abysmal record as mayor of Chicago disqualifies him to represent the United States in a foreign capital,” a joint statement said today. “Our organizations will make sure that every senator hears, loud and clear, from constituents who will insist that this unwise nomination be rejected.”

National organizations signing the statement include Demand Progress, Justice Democrats, People’s Action, and Progressive Democrats of America. Chicago-based groups that signed the statement include The People’s Lobby and American Friends Service Committee, Chicago Office.

“We are appalled at the reported plans to nominate Rahm Emanuel as ambassador to Japan,” the statement said. Noting that “back in March, we publicly warned against such a nomination of Emanuel,” the organizations said: “The deep concerns that we expressed at that time will now be greatly amplified. Top diplomatic posts should only go to individuals with ethics, integrity and diplomatic skills. Emanuel possesses none of those qualifications.”

The joint statement added: “As he faced a re-election campaign, for 13 months Emanuel’s administration suppressed a horrific dashcam video showing the death of Laquan McDonald, an African-American teenager who had been shot 16 times by a Chicago police officer as he walked away from the officer.”

Also see by Max Moran of the Revolving Door Project: “The Tattered Insider Histories Of Our Possible Future Ambassadors.”

“Gaza Unsilenced” with Global Protests Against Israeli Assault

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Saturday is “Nakba Day” commemorating the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that accompanied the creation of Israel. This takes on increasing meaning this year with more overt attempts by Israel to drive Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem, use of tear gas and stun grenades at the Al-Aqsa mosque, numerous attacks on Palestinian citizens of Israel, mobs chanting “Death to Arabs” and ongoing bombings of Palestinians in Gaza, killing at least 137 Palestinians, including 36 children and wounding over 900 with 10,000 forced from their homes. Hamas is firing rockets at Israel and eight Israelis have reportedly been killed.

There are protests around the world Saturday and the days following — see listing organized by Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network.

Unless otherwise noted, the Palestinians below are currently in Gaza. Electricity, phone and internet availability can be difficult in Gaza, which has been under siege and suffered bombing campaigns by Israel, so connections may be intermittent. Medical personnel of course may be especially difficult to reach. WhatsApp is often the best method of communication. If calling from the U.S., prefix numbers with 011.

See @accuracy Twitter list.

RAJI SOURANI, rajisourani@gmail.com, @pchrgaza
Sourani is executive director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, which just released the statement: “On Fifth Day of Israeli Offensive on Gaza: State Terror and Displacement Recalling Nakba Scenes.” Sourani is a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award.

MEDHAT ABBAS
Dr. Medhat Abbas is the director of the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

LAILA EL-HADDAD, laila.elhaddad@gmail.com@gazamom
Now in Maryland, El-Haddad’s books include Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between.

BASEM NAIM, basemn63@gmail.com
Dr. Naim is the Director of the Council on International Relations in Gaza. He served as the former Minister of Health in Gaza from 2007 until 2012. See his page on Facebook.

REFAAT ALAREER, refatr17@gmail.com, @itranslate123
The New York Times just published Alareer’s piece “My Child Asks, ‘Can Israel Destroy Our Building if the Power Is Out?’.” Alareer is the co-editor of Gaza Unsilenced.

HAIDAR EID, haidareid@gmail.com, @haidareid
Eid is author of the book Worlding and associate professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University. See his writings at Middle East Eye.

MOSHEER AMER, mamer@iugaza.edu.ps, @mosheeramer
Amer is the Director of the Center for Political and Development Studies and an associate professor of linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza.

MALAK MATAR, Malakmattar47@gmail.com
Matar is a Palestinian artist in Gaza. See her Facebook page.

YOUSEF AL-HELOU, al-helou.y@hotmail.com, @YousefAlhelou
Al-Helou is a Palestinian journalist from in Gaza and is now in London. See his writing in Middle East Monitor.

MOHAMMED ALQATTAWI, Alqattawi24@gmail.com, @m_alqattawi
Alqattawi is an activist, originally from Gaza, and is now in Istanbul.

ISSAM A. ADWAN, issam@wearenotnumbers.org, @WeAreNotNumbers
Adwan is with the group We Are Not Numbers and was recently on the show “Democracy Now!

Biden Approves More Weapons to Israel as It Threatens Schools

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SAREE MAKDISI, makdisi@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 just wrote the piece “The Nakba Is Now” for The Nation, which states: “The events in Sheikh Jarrah are so important because they represent a microcosm of the entire conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, going all the way back to that primal scene of 1948. The removal of Palestinians and their replacement by Jewish settlers has been going on, sometimes on a large scale, sometimes on a small scale — family by family, household by household — for over 70 years.”

The Washington Post reports today that the Biden administration recently approved more missile sales to Israel.

JOE CATRON, joecatron@gmail.com@jncatron
Currently in New York City, Catron lived in Gaza for years. He is with Samidoun, the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, which organized the listing of world-wide protests that took place this weekend and are continuing. They are now calling for a “Day of Action in Solidarity with the Palestinian Uprising and General Strike: Tuesday, May 18.” He highlights reports that Israel has informed the Gaza ministry of education that it will target two schools.

Over the weekend, Israel continued destroying buildings in Gaza, including a tower housing the AP office, hindering information getting out. See @accuracy Twitter list.

Unless otherwise noted, the Palestinians below are currently in Gaza. Electricity, phone and internet availability can be difficult in Gaza, which has been under siege and suffered bombing campaigns by Israel, so connections may be intermittent. Medical personnel of course may be especially difficult to reach. Recent Israeli bombings killed at least three prominent doctors. WhatsApp is often the best method of communication. If calling from the U.S., prefix numbers with 011.

MALAK MATAR, Malakmattar47@gmail.com
Matar is a Palestinian artist in Gaza. See her Facebook page.

REFAAT ALAREER, refatr17@gmail.com@itranslate123
The New York Times just published Alareer’s piece “My Child Asks, ‘Can Israel Destroy Our Building if the Power Is Out?’.” Alareer is the co-editor of Gaza Unsilenced. He was recently on BBC. He was just on “Democracy Now!

LAILA EL-HADDAD, laila.elhaddad@gmail.com@gazamom
Now in Maryland, El-Haddad’s books include Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between.

RAJI SOURANI, rajisourani@gmail.com@pchrgaza
Sourani is executive director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, which just released the statement: “On Seventh Day of Israeli Offensive on Gaza, Residential Area Destroyed over People’s Heads; Airstrikes Cause Earthquake-like Destruction.” Sourani is a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award.

MEDHAT ABBAS
Dr. Abbas is the director of the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

BASEM NAIM, basemn63@gmail.com
Dr. Naim is the Director of the Council on International Relations in Gaza. He served as the former Minister of Health in Gaza from 2007 until 2012. See his page on Facebook.

HAIDAR EID, haidareid@gmail.com@haidareid
Eid is author of the book Worlding and associate professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University. See his writings at Middle East Eye.

MOSHEER AMER, mamer@iugaza.edu.ps@mosheeramer
Amer is the Director of the Center for Political and Development Studies and an associate professor of linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza.

YOUSEF AL-HELOU, al-helou.y@hotmail.com@YousefAlhelou
Al-Helou is a Palestinian journalist from in Gaza and is now in London. See his writing in Middle East Monitor.

MOHAMMED ALQATTAWI, Alqattawi24@gmail.com@m_alqattawi
Alqattawi is an activist, originally from Gaza, and is now in Istanbul.

ISSAM A. ADWAN, issam@wearenotnumbers.org@WeAreNotNumbers
Adwan is with the group We Are Not Numbers and was recently on the show “Democracy Now!

Biden “Aiding and Abetting War Crimes” by Israel

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FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle@illinois.edu
Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law.

He said today: “Under Article 24 of the United Nations Charter, the United Nations Security Council has ‘primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.’ Despite its obligation thereunder as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, the Biden administration has now three times in a row prevented the Security Council from fulfilling its duty and obligation under the terms of the United Nations Charter. The Biden administration has now aided and abetted war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by Israel against the Palestinians.

“Biden has also knowingly let U.S. weapons to be used by Israel to commit war crimes in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the U.S. Arms Control Export Act and the Arms Supply Agreement between the U.S. and Israel.”

Regarding the use of the term “genocide” — see commentary by the late noted legal expert Michael Ratner from 2014, during the last major Israeli bombing of Gaza: “UN’s Investigation of Israel Should Go Beyond War Crimes to Genocide.” Also see research paper from the Center for Constitutional Rights (where Ratner was president) from 2016: “The Genocide of the Palestinian People: An International Law and Human Rights Perspective.”

TeleSUR reports: “Iran’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to declare Israel’s aggressions against Palestinians as genocide and crimes against humanity.” See video.

While the U.S. of course excercises a veto at the UN Security Council, Boyle notes that almost any member state of the UN can invoke the Genocide Convention at the General Assembly, but none have done so; see “A Global Legal Intifada: If It’s a Genocide in Gaza, then Invoke the Convention to Stop it” from 2014 by Sam Husseini.

What is the Palestinian Children and Families Act?

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See the article “Will the U.S. Media Cover Nadine and Kinda?” about the marginalization of the impact of Israeli bombings on Palestinian children.

See @accuracy Twitter list which highlights people in Gaza. See from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza: “Day 8 of Israeli Offensive on Gaza: Non-Stop Bombing and Systematic Infrastructure Destruction.”

JENNIFER BING, jbing@afsc.org@JBing215
Bing is with the Palestine Activism Program of the American Friends Service Committee, working on the Gaza Unlocked and No Way to Treat a Child campaigns.

She said today: “We are in a moment where more people around the globe are speaking up against Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people — including members of the U.S. Congress. The disastrous impact of not holding the Israeli and U.S. governments accountable for violating Palestinian rights is seen as each apartment building in Gaza is leveled by U.S.-supplied weapons and dead children are pulled from the rubble. This must end. One vehicle for accountability that is making its way in Congress (today with 20 co-sponsors), is HR 2590 the ‘Palestinian Children and Families Act‘ led by Rep. Betty McCollum. Thousands of activists are using this bill to educate their members of Congress about the rights denied to Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation and to demand change.”

Background: see from The Intercept: “Rank-and-file Democrats Slow to Call for Restricting Aid to Israel.”

If Israel is an Apartheid State, Shouldn’t it Be Sanctioned?

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FAIR just published the piece: “Israel/Palestine Coverage Presents False Equivalency Between Occupied and Occupier.” See from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza: “Day 9 of Israeli Offensive on Gaza: Houses Bombarded and More Civilians Displaced.” The Hill reports: “Biden approves $735M weapons sale to Israel” though some in Congress are attempting to object.

Many are framing the charge that Israel is practicing a form of apartheid as an extreme or new charge. A recent Human Rights Watch report on the subject is titled “A Threshold Crossed.”

In fact, the charge is decades old, frequently coming from South Africans themselves, see below for more. One such South African is:

RONNIE KASRILS, rkasrils@gmail.com
Kasrils was Minister for Intelligence Services in South Africa from 2004 to 2008 and was a leading member of the African National Congress during the apartheid era. He just wrote the piece “How to Stop Apartheid Israel” which states: “It is imperative that we of the international community redouble our efforts to aid the Palestinian people in solidarity actions. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign remains the most formidable weapon in our arsenal. It worked to bring about the demise of South African Apartheid behind the internal people’s resistance struggle, and is growing in scope and efficacy, to the extent that Israel has identified the non-violent global movement as a strategic threat. Israel, like apartheid South Africa must pay for its crimes — above all by sanctions.”

BILL FLETCHER, Jr., billfletcherjr@gmail.com@BillFletcherJr
Past president of TransAfrica Forum, Fletcher just wrote the forthcoming piece “You knew that this would happen, right?”: “You knew that the Palestinians would have to respond after years of being expelled from their land, kicked to the curb, subjected to what is now being publicly described as ‘apartheid’ conditions.” In 2014, Fletcher wrote the piece “Why Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Should Be Used to Target Israeli Apartheid.”

Background: At least as early as 2002, Archbishop Desmond Tutu publicly likened Israel to apartheid South Africa. He repeated it recently in “Joe Biden should end the U.S. pretence over Israel’s ‘secret’ nuclear weapons,” in The Guardian, where Tutu, who chaired the South African Truth and Reconcilation Commission, wrote: “there are few truths more critical to face than a nuclear weapons arsenal in the hands of an apartheid government.”

In 2008, South African member of parliament Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge said “What I see here is worse than what we experienced — the absolute control of people’s lives, the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw…”

In 2014, Tutu backed divestment moves targeting companies that work with Israel and spoke up against attempts to limit free speech around Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, which are now being backed by the Biden administration. In a 2013 interview, David Frost asked Tutu if he was ever tempted to back violence, as Nelson Mandela had done, in the South African anti-apartheid struggle.

Tutu stated that it was only the application of sanctions which prevented him from embracing the use of violence.

Tutu replied that “we urged the world to apply sanctions and said to them this is really the last nonviolent way of seeking to change the system” crediting “students at universities and colleges who helped to change the moral climate.” All the while, Tutu said he “recognized that there might come a time when you would have to say that nonviolent means were no longer viable.”

While Congress placed sanctions on South Africa in 1986 over then-President Ronald Reagan’s veto, now many in Congress concur with Biden’s stance to hinder the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Could Biden Be Impeached for Aiding and Abetting Israeli War Crimes?

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Jewish Currents reports: “AOC to Introduce Resolution Blocking Bomb Sale to Israel.” Groups are urging Sen. Bernie Sanders and other senators to introduce similar resolutions in the Senate, which, unlike the House, would likely force a vote. According to Jewish Insider, Sen. Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Chris Van Hollen will “introduce a resolution today urging an immediate cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle@illinois.edu
Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law.

He said today: “The Biden administration has repeatedly prevented the United Nations Security Council — which under Article 24 of the United Nations Charter — has ‘primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security’ from addressing the Israeli assault on Gaza.” During the 2014 war, the UN Security Council called for a ceasefire, which the Biden administration has been preventing.

“Biden has repeatedly stated that Israel has the ‘right to defend itself’ — effectively a green light for bombing — rather than demanding an immediate ceasefire and allowing the Security Council to do its job. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has correctly understood Biden’s statements and dismissed Biden’s rhetorical call for ‘de-escallation.’

“The Biden administration is thus now aiding and abetting war crimes.

“There is now rocket fire between Israel and Lebanon. The actions of the Biden administration — a green light to Israel — are now threatening global security.

“Biden has knowingly let U.S. weapons to be used by Israel to commit war crimes in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the U.S. Arms Control Export Act and the Arms Supply Agreement between the U.S. and Israel.

“Moreover, Biden is moving to ship more weapons to Israel as we speak. These efforts by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others may be worthwhile, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi and company will likely push them aside. The efforts by Sanders and other senators, while a welcome departure from the usual rhetoric from Capitol Hill … are unlikely to jar the Biden administration.

“During the impeachment of Trump earlier this year — which I supported — Democrat after Democrat stated that the issue was not disliking Trump, it was his pernicious violation of the law that was the issue. Well, President Biden is now violating laws. He is aiding and abetting a foreign power in conducting war crimes in violation of both international law and domestic law.

“The remedy for this situation is for one sitting member of Congress to live up to their responsibilities under our Constitution which they have pledged to uphold and introduce articles of impeachment. We are supposed to be a nation of laws and not men. Impeachment is effectively a check given to each and every member of Congress against a president who is violating the law.”

Boyle was legal adviser to Rep. Henry B. González and wrote the first draft of the González Impeachment Resolution in 1991. George H. W. Bush would later write in his memoirs about his fear of impeachment — that if the Gulf War “drags out, not only will I take the blame, but I will probably have impeachment proceedings filed against me.”

In 2017, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor, and foreign policy speechwriter, told Politico that President Obama feared impeachment if he targeted the Syrian government.

While many regard Rep. Rashida Tlaib and other members of “The Squad” as unique in their stance on Israel, that is not accurate. For example, Rep. Paul Findley — the author of the War Powers Resolution and a longtime associate of Boyle’s — addressed the issue in a manner that resulted in his political defeat at the hands of political operatives including Rahm Emanuel.

Also see: “War in Palestine: a timeline.”

Could Congress Cut off Funding to Israel by Acknowledging its Nuclear Weapons?

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Many media outlets are reporting that members of “the Squad” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, as well as other members of Congress including Pramila Jayapal, are trying to “block a $735 million arms sale to Israel.”

But Grant Smith, author of Big Israel: How Israel’s Lobby Moves America, states that members of Congress who have been critical of Israel “won’t use the tools available to them.”

Specifically, he states “there are legal avenues to challenge the entire $3.8 billion of U.S. taxpayer funds that Israel gets every year.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu cited Smith’s work recently in a piece published by The Guardian: “Joe Biden should end the U.S. pretence over Israel’s ‘secret’ nuclear weapons.” Tutu challenged Biden to break with past U.S. administrations and acknowledge Israel’s undeclared nuclear weapons arsenal. Wrote Tutu, who chaired the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission: “There are few truths more critical to face than a nuclear weapons arsenal in the hands of an apartheid government.”

Grant notes: “there are laws already on the books that call for a cutoff of aid to nuclear proliferators.”

GRANT F. SMITH, gsmith@irmep.org@IRmep
Smith is director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy. Last year he wrote letters to several members of Congress who have voiced criticism of Israel, noting: “I believe your coalition has far more influence on the matter of foreign aid than it may realize. In 2016 and 2017 we sued the administration(s) over violations of the Arms Export Control Act, but did not prevail for lack of standing. Your coalition does not have such issues.”

Grant explained: “The Symington & Glenn provisions of the Arms Export Control Act (22 USC §2799aa-1: Nuclear reprocessing transfers, illegal exports for nuclear explosive devices, transfers of nuclear explosive devices, and nuclear detonations) forbid U.S. foreign aid to countries with nuclear weapons programs that are not signatories to the Treaty on the Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, absent required special procedures.”

Smith said today: “But no member of Congress has taken up this issue — or even mentioned Israel’s nuclear weapons arsenal.”

Grant also wrote the piece “Challenging the secret ‘Israel Nuclear Weapons Gag Order’ WNP-136” about a government order that “forbids all U.S. government agency employees and contractors from discussing Israel’s nuclear weapons program.”

Grant said today: “It seems as though even these members of Congress, as well as the rest of the U.S. government, are abiding by this secret gag order when they could take action which would challenge the administration’s refusal to acknowledge Israel’s nuclear weapons and possibly stop $3.8 billion in taxpayer money from going to Israel.

“Eleanor Holmes Norton confirmed that there have never been proper waivers filed by POTUS either. (See page 39 of this legal filing PDF.)”

Grant wrote to the members of Congress last year: “If you really want to leverage U.S. foreign aid to Israel, you may easily do so by raising the issue of proper waivers and whether Congress is in compliance with the Arms Export Control Act when delivering aid to Israel.”

Israel-Palestine: Critical Voices

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MICHAEL LYNK, mslynk@uwo.ca
Lynk is the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories. See recent statements from May 18: “Gaza-Israel escalation: End violence now, then work to end occupation, say UN experts” and from May 11: “East Jerusalem: UN experts deplore brutal police response to protests, urge eviction threats to be lifted.”

For updates, see @accuracy Twitter list.

BETH MILLER, via Sonya Meyerson-Knox, sonya@jewishvoiceforpeace.org, @jvplive
HASSAN EL-TAYYAB, hassan@fcnl.org@HassanElTayyab
Miller and El-Tayyab are able to discuss what the Washington Post is now reporting: “Sen. Bernie Sanders to introduce resolution of disapproval on $735 million U.S. arms sale to Israel.” Miller is government affairs manager with Jewish Voice for Peace. El-Tayyab is legislative manager for Middle East policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. He has also worked extensively on stopping U.S. weapons to Saudi Arabia as it has attacked Yemen, see CNN report today.

Unless otherwise noted, the people below are currently in Gaza. Electricity, phone and internet availability can be difficult there, which has been under siege and suffering bombing campaigns by Israel, so connections may be intermittent. Medical personnel of course may be especially difficult to reach. WhatsApp is often the best method of communication. If calling from the U.S., prefix numbers with 011.

MALAK MATAR, Malakmattar47@gmail.com
SIMONA SHARONI, simona.sharoni@gmail.com
Matar is a Palestinian artist in Gaza. See her Facebook page and her recent interview on the BBC. Educated at Haifa University in Israel, Sharoni has facilitated showing Matar’s art in the U.S. She is now professor of women’s and gender studies at Merrimack College, is co-founder of Faculty Against Rape and author of Gender and The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Politics of Women’s Resistance.

REFAAT ALAREER, refatr17@gmail.com@itranslate123
The New York Times recently published Alareer’s piece “My Child Asks, ‘Can Israel Destroy Our Building if the Power Is Out?’.” Alareer is the co-editor of Gaza Unsilenced. He was among the first to report Israel’s bombing critical infrastructure, including hospitals.

LAILA EL-HADDAD, laila.elhaddad@gmail.com@gazamom
Now in Maryland, El-Haddad’s books include Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything in Between.

RAJI SOURANI, rajisourani@gmail.com@pchrgaza
Sourani is executive director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza, which just released the statement: “Day 9 of Israeli Offensive on Gaza: Houses Bombarded and More Civilians Displaced.” Sourani is a recipient of the Right Livelihood Award.

MEDHAT ABBAS
Dr. Abbas is the director of the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

BASEM NAIM, basemn63@gmail.com
Dr. Naim is the Director of the Council on International Relations in Gaza. He served as the Minister of Health in Gaza from 2007 until 2012. See his page on Facebook.

HAIDAR EID, haidareid@gmail.com@haidareid
Eid is author of the book Worlding and associate professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University. See his writings at Middle East Eye.

MOSHEER AMER, mamer@iugaza.edu.ps@mosheeramer
Amer is the Director of the Center for Political and Development Studies and an associate professor of linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza.

YOUSEF AL-HELOU, al-helou.y@hotmail.com@YousefAlhelou
Al-Helou is a Palestinian journalist from in Gaza and is now in London. See his writing in Middle East Monitor.

MOHAMMED ALQATTAWI, Alqattawi24@gmail.com@m_alqattawi
Alqattawi is an activist, originally from Gaza, and is now in Istanbul.

ISSAM A. ADWAN, issam@wearenotnumbers.org@WeAreNotNumbers
Adwan is with the group We Are Not Numbers and was recently on the show “Democracy Now!

Beyond Israel-Hamas Ceasefire, Will BDS Movement Help End Apartheid Again?

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Israel and Hamas declared a ceasefire on Thursday. While some praised the Biden administration, many are arguing that the violence escalated largely because it gave Israel a greenlight to to attack in Jerusalem and then in Gaza, including approving more weapons; see this timeline by Asa Winstanley. 

As many have noted, ceasefires can be tenuous.

While the U.S.-brokered Oslo process has dominated the dynamics in the violence-laden Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades, activists have initiated the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement modeled on the South African anti-apartheid struggle. Many South Africans, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have long embraced the comparison, see below.

See interview from Thursday with Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS Movement for Palestinian rights by Ayman Mohyeldin on MSNBC.

But the Biden administration, like the Trump administration, has pledged to fight grassroots BDS efforts. These governmental moves have been criticized as restricting freedom of speech.

RONNIE KASRILS, rkasrils@gmail.com
Kasrils was Minister for Intelligence Services in South Africa from 2004 to 2008 and was a leading member of the African National Congress during the apartheid era. He just wrote the piece “Bloodshed in Palestine: Fundamental Cause and Solution.” He recently wrote the piece “How to Stop Apartheid Israel” which states: “It is imperative that we of the international community redouble our efforts to aid the Palestinian people in solidarity actions. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign remains the most formidable weapon in our arsenal. It worked to bring about the demise of South African Apartheid behind the internal people’s resistance struggle, and is growing in scope and efficacy, to the extent that Israel has identified the non-violent global movement as a strategic threat. Israel, like apartheid South Africa must pay for its crimes — above all by sanctions.”

BILL FLETCHER, Jr., billfletcherjr@gmail.com@BillFletcherJr
Past president of TransAfrica Forum, Fletcher just wrote the piece “You knew that this would happen, right?”: “You knew that the Palestinians would have to respond after years of being expelled from their land, kicked to the curb, subjected to what is now being publicly described as ‘apartheid’ conditions.” In 2014, Fletcher wrote the piece “Why Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions Should Be Used to Target Israeli Apartheid.”

NORA BARROWS-FRIEDMAN, nora@electronicintifada.net@norabf
Barrows-Friedman is author of In Our Power: U.S. Students Organize for Justice in PalestineShe is an associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, see her pieces on the BDS activist and legal battles include: “U.S. Palestinian activist defeats Israeli ‘defamation’ lawsuit” and “Israel lobby loses legal effort to harass Palestinian rights activists.”

Background: At least as early as 2002, Desmond Tutu publicly likened Israel to apartheid South Africa. He repeated it recently in “Joe Biden should end the U.S. pretence over Israel’s ‘secret’ nuclear weapons,” in The Guardian, where Tutu, who chaired the South African Truth and Reconcilation Commission, wrote: “there are few truths more critical to face than a nuclear weapons arsenal in the hands of an apartheid government.”

In 2008, South African member of parliament Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge said “What I see here is worse than what we experienced — the absolute control of people’s lives, the lack of freedom of movement, the army presence everywhere, the total separation and the extensive destruction we saw…”

In 2014, Tutu backed divestment moves targeting companies that work with Israel and spoke up against attempts to limit free speech around BDS.

In a 2013 interview, David Frost asked Tutu if he was ever tempted to back violence, as Nelson Mandela had done, in the South African anti-apartheid struggle.

Tutu stated that it was only the application of sanctions which prevented him from embracing the use of violence.

Tutu explained that “we urged the world to apply sanctions and said to them this is really the last nonviolent way of seeking to change the system” crediting “students at universities and colleges who helped to change the moral climate.” All the while, Tutu said he “recognized that there might come a time when you would have to say that nonviolent means were no longer viable.”

While Congress placed sanctions on South Africa in 1986 over then-President Ronald Reagan’s veto, now many in Congress concur with Biden’s stance to hinder the BDS movement.

Israel’s Invention of Hijacking and its “Sacred Terrorism”

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CNN reports: “Did Belarus ‘hijack’ a civilian airliner to detain an activist?” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki claimed Sunday: “Hijacking of a civilian plane is an unprecedented act of state terrorism. It cannot go unpunished.” Such charges have been echoed by other officials and media, but the statement is inaccurate — Israel originated the practice in 1954 and suffered no legal consequence, see below.

BEAU GROSSCUP, bgrosscup@csuchico.edu
Grosscup is professor emeritus at the department of political science at California State University, Chico. He is author of several books on terrorism, including Terrorism and Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial BombardmentHis latest book is Tell Them What You Want, co-authored with Laverne Merritt-Gordon.

He said today: “The U.S. government is demanding an international investigation here while refusing one for the horrific bombing of Gaza by Israel. It is another instance that the oft quoted ‘one person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter’ is a vacuous statement. The U.S. government (and its allies) ‘owns’ the concept terrorism, meaning it tells the global community who the terrorists are and who the freedom fighters are, and has the power to make that distinction meaningful in policy, law, practice, and public opinion.”

Jeremy Scahill tweeted: “If the reports are accurate, Lukashenko’s government forcing this plane to land in an effort to arrest a dissident is a terrible crime. Interesting to contrast this with the Obama admin. forcing Evo Morales’s plane to land in 2013 in an effort to arrest a US dissident, [NSA whistleblower Edward] @Snowden.” See by John Pilger: “Forcing down Evo Morales’s plane was an act of air piracy.”

Israel originated the practice of a state hijacking an airplane in 1954. On Dec. 8 of that year, five Israeli soldiers were captured in Syria, apparently retrieving eavesdropping equipment. On Dec. 12, Israeli jet fighters intercepted a Syrian civilian aircraft flying from Damascus to Egypt, claiming that the plane had violated Israeli airspace.

The following day, the New York Times reported that this “development appears to have given Israel an unexpected position of strength for negotiating the release of Syria’s prisoners.”

Gen. Moshe Dayan was then Israeli Chief of Staff. The Israeli Prime Minister, Moshe Sharett, wrote in his diary, “It is clear that Dayan’s intention…is to get hostages in order to obtain the release of our prisoners in Damascus.”

Contrary to General Dayan’s hopes, no exchange took place. Prime Minister Sharett added that the United States State Department complained that “our action was without precedent in the history of international practice.” See Israel’s Sacred Terrorism by the late Livia Rokach, which has a forward by Noam Chomsky and prefix by Naseer Aruri.

What is Hamas?

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The Jerusalem Post is reporting: “Blinken trip to Israel aimed at preventing aid to Gaza from reaching Hamas.” Poorly understood is that Hamas won the last Palestinian parlimentary elections, in 2006, that have been allowed to take place. In 2014, Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson wrote a piece in Foreign Policy titled: “Ending this war in Gaza begins with recognizing Hamas as a legitimate political actor.”

TAREQ BACONI, tbaconi@crisisgroup.org@TareqBaconi
Baconi is the Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Israel/Palestine and economics of conflict. He is author of Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance, Stanford University Press, 2018.

See his recent interview with +972 Magazine, “Hamas breaks out of its Gaza cage,” in which he states: “The pro forma language around Israel’s ‘right to self-defense’ and ‘de-escalation on both sides’ is a symptom of that inability to grapple with Hamas, showing that the international community is very much frozen when it comes to the movement. They are unable to understand Hamas as a political faction committed to Palestinian liberation and are still focused on a very particular narrative.

“It’s not just about Hamas, though. What’s mind-boggling to me is that by the time the international community started saying ‘self-defense,’ there were 500 Palestinians injured by Israeli forces in Jerusalem. The rhetoric of a ‘right to self-defense’ only came out when the first rocket landed in Israel; it is triggered only for Israel and is triggered only by Hamas. Outside of that, there’s no way for the diplomatic community to understand the violence of the occupation or the right of Palestinians to defend themselves.

“Until we fix that premise, no form of engagement with Hamas is going to be productive, because it is only going to be seen as a party that is irrationally attacking Israel for some decontextualized, unknown reason. …

“For a long time, even under [former political chief] Khaled Meshaal, Hamas has flirted with the idea of popular protest. The movement was not always exclusively committed to armed struggle; it had thought about the power of popular demonstrations and of international law. However, there’s a streak of cynicism within the movement that popular protests are never going to garner the level of international pressure or support like that of the U.S. Civil Rights struggle or the South African anti-Apartheid struggle.

“This cynicism was tested in the Great March of Return. Over weeks and weeks of a sustained popular mobilization, there was no adequate response from the international community, even when Israel was sniping off Palestinians. It was only when Hamas came into the fray and started upping the ante of ‘disturbances’ against Israel that the situation started shifting, and negotiations began around concessions such as easing the blockade on Gaza. The lesson for Hamas was very clear: unless Israel feels pressure — usually militarily or other forms of ‘disturbances’ — nothing would give.”

“Ceasefire” Does Not Mean Israeli Violence Has Stopped

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SAREE MAKDISI, makdisi@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 recently wrote the piece “The Nakba Is Now” for The Nation.

He said: “Israel is not dropping bombs. But it is still besieging Gaza; still smothering Palestinian life in the West Bank and East Jerusalem; still repressing its second-class Palestinian citizens; still violently barring the refugees’ right of return. This racial violence must also end.

“Israeli police on both sides of the 1947-67 line are raiding Palestinian homes and dragging people off to dungeons. The line distinguishing ‘Israel’ from ‘the occupied territories’ is meaningless: the same racial violence grips both sides of the line.

“A ceasefire in Palestine means we’re back to the slow suffocation of apartheid and brutal military occupation. As Dickens said in a different context, it’s like being drowned by drops, stung to death by single bees. Slow violence, everyday occupation, is still violence.”

Facebook Collaboration with Israeli Military “Beyond Outrageous”

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NADIM NASHIF, nadim@7amleh.org@7amleh
DANI NOBLE, via Sonya Meyerson-Knox, sonya@jewishvoiceforpeace.org, @jvplive
Nashif, a Palestinian living in Haifa, is co-founder of 7amleh (pronounced Hamleh), the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media, a non-profit organization that advocates for Palestinian digital rights. Nobel is campaign organizer for Jewish Voice for Peace.

The two groups are signers of a letter generated by the new initiative FacebookWeNeedToTalk.org along with a host of other groups including Access Now, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Fight for the Future and BDS France:

“As Palestinian residents defend their homes in Jerusalem from forced dispossession by the Israeli government and state-sanctioned Zionist settler groups, their calls for support have received widespread international attention — inspiring social media campaigns and mass protests around the world. This international outcry only grew after the Israeli military attacked Ramadan worshippers at al-Aqsa mosque and started brutally bombing Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip …

“Facebook executives’ decision at this moment to directly collaborate with Israeli Defense and Justice Minister Gantz on content moderation, without appropriate parity of government engagement until prompted by civil society, is beyond outrageous. …

“In addition, the numerous reports of removal or chilling of political speech that several of our organizations have received over the past two weeks, combined with the report released by 7amleh last week [‘The Attacks on Palestinian Digital Rights,’ PDF] that includes 429 reported incidents from Instagram and Facebook, raise concerns about Facebook’s relationship with the Israeli Ministry of Justice’s extra-legal Cyber Unit. The fact that since May 6 there has been widespread removal of Palestinians’ content or supportive content (including removal of content and deactivation of accounts or pages based on Community Standards violations, as well as the mass removal of Instagram stories) that after review have been restored for lack of any violation, indicates that Facebook is perhaps voluntarily agreeing to takedowns recommended by the Israeli Cyber Unit. This unclear relationship between Facebook and the Israeli Cyber Unit is concerning, as it is not subject to any formal governmental or legal process.”

Colombia: La Resistencia

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FORREST HYLTON, [currently in Brazil] forresthylton@gmail.com
Hylton teaches history and politics at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Medellín. He just wrote the piece “La Resistencia” for the London Review of Books.

He writes: “Long one of Latin America’s most conservative countries, Colombia is undergoing a sea change. The second general strike in as many years evolved rapidly into a nationwide urban insurrection. ‘La Resistencia’ has endured for a month in the teeth of ferocious repression. …

“Soon after the protests started on 28 April, the proposed tax reform package that had triggered the strike was withdrawn, proposed healthcare reforms died in committee, and the finance minister and the foreign minister were forced to step down. There were (toothless) calls for dialogue and de-escalation from the international community. Yet the overwhelmingly non-violent protests have continued, as has the government’s response using deadly force.

Ninis (young people without education or job prospects) from urban peripheries have been the leading force on the barricades and they have faced the brunt of police terror — some of it captured on cell phone videos, including sexual assault, torture and murder — in Bogotá, Medellín, Pereira, Cartago, Buga, Tuluá, Cali, Popayán, Pasto, Bucaramanga and Barranquilla. They and their families account for perhaps half the population, and on the rare occasions they are interviewed, they say things like: ‘We have no future because they have taken everything from us, even fear. We have nothing left to lose.’ This was already true before Covid-19 hit, but lack of basic income support during the pandemic has made daily life impossible.”

Is a Network of Donors Neutralizing Peace Activism?

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DAVE LINDORFF, dlindorff@gmail.com
Lindorff is an investigative journalist who just wrote the piece “Peace-washing: Is a network of major donors neutralizing activism in the peace movement?” for Salon.

He writes: “Consider the liberal response to the Biden transition team floating Michèle Flournoy’s name as a potential secretary of defense. Instead of outrage at the idea of someone who had spent the previous four years helping arms contractors win business with the Trump Pentagon and who is an advocate for tough, even aggressive stances towards Russia, China and Iran, we saw an open letter of support signed by 29 key people active in the peace and arms-control arena. Signatories included Joe Cirincione, former president for 12 years of the Ploughshares Fund, along with Tom Collina, Michelle Dover and Emma Belcher of that same well-endowed grant-offering organization. They were joined by the likes of Tom Countryman and Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association, Rachel Bronson of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Ilan Goldenberg of the Center for New American Security, Joan Rohlfing of the Nuclear Threat Initiative and others. …

“Interestingly though, while serious opposition coalesced among anti-militarism, anti-revolving-door people and groups in the Flournoy case, her WestExec Advisors co-founder Antony Blinken, nominated as secretary of state, sailed through his nomination and hearing process. This despite Blinken’s record as an enthusiastic interventionist while serving in the Obama administration as deputy national security advisor and later as deputy secretary of state, and despite his profiting off his connections as a WestExec adviser to arms makers after leaving office.”

MATTHEW HOH, matthew_hoh@riseup.net
Hoh is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. Until his resignation five years ago, he was a board member of Council for a Livable World, one of the larger national security/arms control organizations in the Peace and Security Funders Group (PSFG). Hoh tells Lindorff that while he has no inside information about the funding policies of the funding consortium or its members, “The assumption that the big peace and national security funding groups are taming the peace movement is a correct one.”

He explains: “When you have a bunch of organizations in a group like that, and some of them are really mainstream vanilla like Open Society, you’re going to see the whole organization and its member groups moderate their positions and their funding policies to the lowest denominator. These big groups, especially the ones that also act as holding pens for people in the foreign policy area who have to leave government employment when a Republican administration comes in, and use them as references when looking for government jobs under a new Democratic administration like this one, don’t want to be funding groups that mount protests in House or Senate committee hearings or try to arrest [former Nixon Secretary of State] Henry Kissinger for war crimes.”

Hoh says he recalls comments being made while he was at CLW about organizations receiving grants needing to “ease up” on their rhetoric or protest actions, but doesn’t recall that kind of conversation moving beyond CLW to the collective PSFG membership. But he also says, “I think the issue of putting pressure on activist groups has deepened over the last 10 years.” He adds, “The best evidence that there is pressure on activists to tone down is the way you’re finding so few leaders of groups that get funding from PSFG member organizations willing to speak for this article on the record.”

Research for Lindorff’s article was funded by a grant from the ExposeFacts program of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Biden $750 Billion Pentagon Budget Called “Excessive”

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The Biden administration, in a “Friday news dump,” released its Pentagon budget late last week.

WILLIAM HARTUNG, whartung@internationalpolicy.org
Hartung is director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy.

Following the release of the budget, he said: “At over $750 billion, the Biden administration’s proposal for spending on the Pentagon and related work on nuclear weapons at the Department of Energy is both excessive and misguided. At a time when the greatest challenges to human lives and livelihoods stem from threats like pandemics and climate change, sustaining Pentagon spending at over three quarters of a trillion dollars a year is both bad budgeting and bad security policy.”

Hartung’s recent pieces include “Memorial Day Can’t Obscure Biden’s Excessive Pentagon Budget” for The National Interest and “Two Weapons That Shouldn’t Be In The Pentagon’s New Budget” for Forbes.

He added: “Continued spending on unnecessary weapons systems like a new Intercontinental Ballistic Missile ($2.6 billion) and the troubled F-35 combat aircraft ($12 billion) represent budgetary and policy malpractice, diverting billions of dollars from other urgent national priorities. …

“The identification of China as a ‘pacing challenge is not an adequate justification for current, exorbitant levels of spending. The challenge posed by China is primarily political and economic, not military. And the United States already spends nearly three times on its military what China does, and has 13 times as many nuclear warheads in its stockpile.”

How Worker Co-Ops Weathered COVID-19 by Prioritizing People Over Profits

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JAISAL NOOR, jaisal@therealnews.com, @JaisalNoor
Noor, a senior reporter at Real News Network, just released a 26-minute documentary that explores how worker-owners at eight cooperative run businesses weathered the pandemic, “Worker cooperatives prove your job doesn’t have to be hell.” Noor recently appeared on Means TV and Hill TV’s “Rising” to discuss his findings.

“Pandemic profiteers increased their wealth by over $1.6 trillion dollars during the pandemic, while frontline workers risked their lives for low pay and dangerous working conditions,” Noor said. “Retail online giant Amazon even unveiled a ‘therapy box‘ for workers experiencing stress from high workloads and unreasonable expectations. Meanwhile, the small but growing sector of worker-run cooperatives is demonstrating another way is possible: workplaces that operate democratically and share profits. Because the workers are the owners, they aren’t going to sacrifice themselves for profit,” Noor said. As the Biden administration talks of wanting to “Build Back Better,” Noor explores the lessons learned from eight cooperative businesses in four states.

Noor added: “Worker cooperatives distribute decision-making power, profits and risk. Data indicates that during the pandemic, worker cooperatives were less likely to lay off staff and often pivoted their business models so they could continue to operate while protecting their workers and the public. The country’s largest co-op, Cooperative Home Care Associates, partnered with textile cooperatives to provide their workers with PPE while other home care agencies frequently failed to do so. Baltimore’s majority Black-owned Taharka Brothers Ice Cream lost 70 percent of their revenue during the lockdown, but quickly recovered by shifting to a home-delivery model. And a growing number of businesses that closed during the pandemic are reopening as worker-cooperatives, which have proved to be a more sustainable model.”

The documentary, which Noor produced with support from Solutions Journalism Network, also explores the limitations of employing the cooperative model in the U.S.’s corporate capitalist system. “While cities like Baltimore offered Amazon billions in incentives in exchange for building a headquarters, it has invested a fraction of that in local worker co-ops. Banks also typically don’t lend to co-ops, so a network of revolving loan funds across the country has been created to fund worker co-ops, and provide workers with technical assistance to help create sustainable business models. None of the 60 worker co-ops that work with Seed Commons’ revolving loan fund closed permanently during the pandemic.”

The documentary is licensed through Creative Commons and can be republished and excerpted with attribution to The Real News Network; additional segments are available here.

Peru Election Crisis?

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Reuters reports: “Peruvian socialist Pedro Castillo widened his lead against right-wing rival Keiko Fujimori in the country’s presidential vote on Monday, but she said she will not concede yet and alleged ‘irregularities,’ although without showing much proof.” Reuters also reports: “Peru’s presidential election vote count ticked closer to the end on Tuesday, but a slender margin between the two polarized candidates, contested ballots and accusations of fraud mean the winner may take a lot longer to confirm.”

FRANCESCA EMANUELE, [currently in Peru] emanuelefrancesca@gmail.com
Emanuele is a Peruvian sociologist, born and raised in the province of Ica, four hours from Lima. She is currently a research assistant at American University in Washington, D.C., where she is pursuing doctoral studies in Anthropology. For the past 15 years, her articles have been published in numerous Peruvian newspapers. She is currently a regular columnist for the progressive Peruvian publication, Wayka. Prior to academia, Francesca was the correspondent for Telesur in Washington D.C., and a communications director for the Peru-based non-profit Promsex, which advocates for LGTBI rights and women’s reproductive rights. Her most recent piece in English, on the coup in Bolivia, was published by the magazine Red Pepper.

Democratic Socialists of America and Progressive International have been publishing statements about the elections. Both are in Peru as electoral observers.

Expert: NATO Expansion Cause of Conflict with Russia

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DAVID GIBBS, dgibbs@email.arizona.edu
Gibbs is a professor of history at the University of Arizona who has written extensively on NATO.

He said today: “As we approach the 2021 NATO Summit meeting, it is worth recalling how much the alliance has weakened world security since the end of the Cold War, by inflaming relations with Russia. It is often forgotten that the cause of the current conflict arose from a 1990 U.S. promise that NATO would never be expanded into the former communist states of Eastern Europe. Not ‘one inch to the East,’ Russian leaders were promised by the U.S. Secretary of State at the time, James Baker. Despite this promise, NATO soon expanded into Eastern Europe, eventually placing the alliance up against Russia’s borders. The present-day U.S.-Russian conflict is the direct result of this expansion.”

Relatives of Chicago Police Victims Oppose Ex-Mayor Rahm Emanuel as Ambassador to Japan

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Victims and relatives of victims of police brutality in Chicago while Rahm Emanuel was mayor released a joint statement Thursday against the reported plan by President Biden to nominate Emanuel as the U.S. ambassador to Japan.

“During his eight years in office, Emanuel displayed contempt for communities of color,” says the statement. “He showed callous disregard for terrible losses suffered by the families of those who were killed or brutalized by officers of the Chicago Police Department.”

The 28 signers of the statement declared: “The possibility that Rahm Emanuel will become the U.S. ambassador to Japan is abhorrent to those of us who continue to mourn the loss of our loved ones due to police violence that he aided and abetted as mayor of Chicago. … No president who is truly serious about stopping brutality and murders by police would nominate Rahm Emanuel for an important government post. …. Rahm Emanuel became a symbol of lethal disrespect for Black lives. Making him a U.S. ambassador would make the U.S. government a similar symbol.”

Emanuel was mayor of Chicago from 2011 to 2019.

Five of the signers are willing to talk to journalists:

They are reachable via DELMARIE COBB, dlcobb@thepublicityworks.net

DOROTHY HOLMES
Holmes is the mother of Ronald “Ronnie Man” Johnson, who was shot in the back by CPD the same week that Laquan McDonald was killed in 2014. Video featuring Ms. Holmes is being released today. She says: “Rahm Emanuel covered up the murder of my son.”

AREWA KAREN WINTERS
Winters is the aunt of Pierre Loury, killed by CPD in April 2016. Pierre was shot in the back as he was climbing a fence fleeing from the police. Video featuring Ms. Winters is being released today.

EMMETT FARMER
Farmer is the father of Flint Farmer, killed in June 2011. Police officer Gildardo Sierra shot him in the back three times as he lay on the ground. He didn’t have a weapon. Sierra was involved in multiple shootings as an officer.

KENYATTA BRAND
Brand is the sister of Rekia Boyd, who was killed by off-duty officer Dante Servin in 2012. Servin was drinking, then driving when he saw young people in the park. He shot at one of the young men, killing Rekia. State’s attorney Anita Alvarez undercharged him — manslaughter instead of first or second degree murder — and then the judge pronounced a mistrial instead of requiring the state to charge him correctly.

MARTINEZ SUTTON
Sutton is the brother of Rekia Boyd.

G7’s Minimal Corporate Tax Proposal; Case for a Financial Transaction Tax

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A group of economists and others have just released a letter to the G7 urging the adoption of a Financial Transaction Tax, see PDF.

The letter states: “We believe that a global FTT would eventually raise substantial revenue for many countries, including for the G7. But given the emergency situation in poor countries right now, our focus here is on them. Given the dominance of G7 financial markets, a G7-wide FTT could quickly start to provide at least $50 billion a year of emergency finance to fund vital public works and longer-term investments in developing countries, especially struggling young democracies.”

The signers include James S. Henry, global justice fellow at Yale and senior advisor, Tax Justice Network, who organized the letter; James K. Galbraith professor of economics at the  Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, The University of Texas at Austin; Sarah Anderson, Global Economy Project director at Inequality.org co-editor, Institute for Policy Studies; Pedro Biscay, former director, Central Bank of Argentina Buenos Aires; Ralph Nader, consumer advocate; William K. Black, associate professor of economics and law, University of Missouri-KC; Patrick Bond, professor of government, University of the Western Cape Cape Town, South Africa.

The signers write that while they “applaud the G7’s support for a minimum global corporate income tax (CIT) rate for multinational corporations,” the G7’s “current proposals would do little for poorer countries. Indeed, they would actually reinforce the unfair bias of international tax rules in favor of the richest countries, which host most of these corporations. If this were the only collective tax reform that the G7 undertakes right now, therefore, a huge opportunity will be missed — the chance to help developing countries recover from this historic tax injustice as well from as the pandemic, and to help finance public investments and advance the cause of international tax justice.”

The group suggests a very small tax: “a 0.1 percent transactions tax on all stock trades, paid for by investors located anywhere in the world who transact through G7 public exchanges.”

Still, substantial funds could be raised: “In 2020, for example, NewYork’s top two exchanges, the NYSE and the NASDQ, registered nearly $60 trillion in trades, nearly half the total volume of the world’s 85 stock exchanges.”

They add that to the “extent that the FTT does ‘pinch’ certain high-frequency traders, this may actually be a good thing. It enables G7 countries themselves to tackle ‘the finance curse,’ the bloated, unproductive and extractive part of high finance. It promotes longer-term investing and discourages casino-like stock speculation. …

“This nearly-perfect tax could channel $billions from a few hundred thousand wealthy folks at the top to tens of millions of people at the very bottom, whose very lives may depend on it. The FTT is so minimal and frictionless that it is not even noticed by most of those who pay it. It is hardly perceptible at all, especially compared with, say, New York City’s 8.875 percent retail sales tax or Europe’s double-digit VAT taxes. But in the right hands and if well spent, the positive impacts of all this tax revenue on the reduction of human suffering will be very perceptible. …

“FTTs also dramatically boost financial transparency and help to combat money laundering and corruption — as Kenya recently discovered when its new FTT surfaced a huge amount of ‘funny money’ washing through Nairobi’s stock exchange.”

Available for interviews:

JAMES HENRY, jsh11963@gmail.com@submergingmkt
Henry is Global Justice Fellow at Yale University, senior advisor to the Tax Justice Network and managing director at the Sag Harbor Group.

Biden-Putin Summit

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President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are scheduled to meet in Geneva on Wednesday.

The American Committee for U.S.-Russia Accord has released a letter signed by a group of scholars and former diplomats including Jack F. Matlock, former U.S. ambassador to the USSR.

The letter states: “The dangerous and in many ways unprecedented deterioration in relations between the United States and the Russian Federation must come to an end if we are to leave a safer world for future generations.

“For many years now, relations between the U.S. and Russia have been marked by sanctions and counter-sanctions; the passage of ‘foreign agents’ designations on media outlets and NGO’s; the curtailing of people-to-people exchange programs; and the end of cooperation in areas of mutual interest such as counter-terrorism, drug interdiction, and the environment.”

The following signers and ACURA board members are available for a limited number of interviews:

NICOLAI N. PETRO, [currently in Ukraine] npetro@uri.edu
Professor of political science at the University of Rhode Island.

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, kat@thenation.com@KatrinaNation
Publisher and editorial director of The Nation.

The letter also states: “The Trump era and Russiagate brought about an unprecedented credulity among the media and the Washington punditry — or perhaps more, a willingness to assign blame to Russia for the outcome of the 2016 election [this has now been discredited]. It has now in turn given birth to two much more dangerous phenomena: an escalating militarism reminiscent of the darkest days of the Cold War; and a dangerous erosion of the decades-long bilateral arms control regime negotiated even during that Great Power standoff.”

The letter offers concrete suggestions:

i. “We urge the Biden administration to reopen the Consulates and reverse its recent decision to halt visa services for most Russians.

ii. “President Biden should invite President Putin to join him in reaffirming the declaration first made by President Reagan and Soviet leader Gorbachev at their 1985 summit in Geneva that ‘A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’ This went a long way during the Cold War to reassure the peoples of the two countries and the world that even though we had deep differences we were committed to never fighting a nuclear war. It would go a long way to do the same today.

iii. “Reengage with Russia. Restore wide contacts, scientific, medical, educational, cultural and environmental exchanges. Expand people-to-people citizen diplomacy, Track II, Track 1.5 and governmental diplomatic initiatives.”

NATO Trying to Use Cyber Attacks to Trigger Article 5

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Jens Stoltenberg: NATO's Ties with Russia at 'Lowest Point ...JOHN QUIGLEY, quigley.2@osu.edu
Professor emeritus of international law at Ohio State University, Quigley’s books include The Ruses for War: American Interventionism Since World War II.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently told the Atlantic Council (which is funded by various NATO governments): “We have decided that a cyber attack can trigger Article 5. … It doesn’t matter if an attack is kinetic or cyber, we will assess as allies when it meets the threshold. … and it sends a message that we are cyber allies.”

Quigley said today: “There are obviously concerns about cyber attacks, they can be very damaging, for example the cyber attacks against Iran by the U.S. and Israel.

“But Article 5 of the NATO Treaty references Article 51 of the UN Charter which provides for collective self defence in the event of ‘armed attack.’

“And the notion of ‘self defense’ is a very slippery slope and has been misused as an illegal threat or for outright war.

“So the notion of the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Biden administration seeking to expand NATO’s capacity is very dangerous and could be used to try to undermine the democratic processes within each country regarding war-making decision making.

“NATO was set up to counter the Soviet Union from supposedly invading Western Europe. So, there’s really no legitimate reason for NATO to exist as an organization. Instead, it has expanded. The last time Article 5 was used was for the invasion of Afghanistan and look where that has gotten us. And that presumably didn’t have to do with Russia.

“The notion of expanding NATO further to Ukraine is seen as a threat by Russia and such movement exacerbates tension and in turn makes Russia do things that NATO members don’t seem to like.” AP recently reported: “As Russia tensions simmer, NATO conducts massive war games.”

Quigley recently wrote the pieces “UN Gaza Commission Will Collect Evidence of Crimes” and “The Palestinian Right of Return Could Go to the ICC.” His past books also include The International Diplomacy of Israel’s Founders: Deception at the United Nations in the Quest for Palestine, Cambridge University Press, 2016.

NATO Targeting China as well as Russia?

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The China MirageA New York Times headline reads: “Shifting Focus, NATO Views China as a Global Security Challenge.” A Politico headline reads: “Biden fears what ‘best friends’ Xi and Putin could do together.”

JAMES BRADLEY, james@jamesbradley.com
Bradley is author of several best-sellers focused on U.S. policy in the Pacific and Asia, including Flags of Our Fathers and The China Mirage: The Hidden History of American Disaster in Asia.

He is currently in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, producing his “Untold Pacific” podcast about “the American experience in Asia.” Recent episodes include “China Rising,” “The #1 Focus of the U.S. National Security State is War with China,” “U.S. Military: ‘War with China Inevitable'” and “America’s Pacific Problem is America.”

Bradley said today: “We’ve seen Biden ratchet up the anti-Chinese rhetoric and it is incredibly dangerous. Now, we’re seeing NATO being used toward those ends. There’s a great deal of propaganda that depicts China as this great threat and that taps into a long history of anti-Chinese sentiment and misinformation.”

In a recent interview with CovertAction Magazine, Bradley states: “The U.S. military could withdraw from Asia in a second and what’s going to fall apart? What is the danger? The American media promotes so much anti-Chinese propaganda: It creates the illusion that China is aggressive and going to invade. No. China doesn’t want to rule the world. China is too smart for that.

“The [last time] China went out was in the 13th century. They had those fleets of ‘treasure ships’ larger than any flotilla until World War II. They sailed worldwide. It cost a lot of money and they came back and they reported to the Emperor: ‘The only thing outside of China are Barbarians and bad food.’ Then they burned the ships. The idea of conquering the world is not Chinese. America goes all the way around the world to Iraq or Vietnam.”

“You know all those lines in the South China Sea and China is doing that and this island belongs here and Japan has this island claim … that was all written by the U.S. Navy after Japan surrendered and the U.S. Navy was predominant in the Pacific in 1945.”

Biden Exalts Human Rights While Pushing More Weapons for Israel as New PM Bombs Gaza

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Biden is widely quoted in U.S. media regarding his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin: “How could I be the president of the United States of America,” Biden said, “and not speak out against the violation of human rights?” A USA Today piece is headlined: “Biden warns Putin on human rights and cybersecurity in Geneva. U.S. moral clarity is back.”

The New York Times reports: “Israeli Aircraft Bomb Gaza Just Days Into New Government.”

Commondreams reports: “Just hours after far-right marchers chanted ‘Death to Arabs!’ during a demonstration in the streets of Jerusalem, Israeli war planes bombarded the occupied Gaza Strip early Wednesday morning in the first series of airstrikes launched by the new government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a former IDF officer who once boasted that he has ‘killed a lot of Arabs.’ … The Israeli military characterized the latest airstrikes as retaliation for ‘incendiary balloons’ released into Israel from the Gaza Strip.”

Axios is reporting: “Israel to ask U.S. for $1 billion in emergency military aid.”

HASSAN EL-TAYYAB, hassan@fcnl.org@HassanElTayyab
El-Tayyab is legislative manager for Middle East policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, which recently put out the statement: “FCNL Joins 100 National Organizations Calling on Biden to Halt Weapons Sales to Israel.”

He said: “Moving ahead with these transfers will be seen as an endorsement of Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on Gaza and encourage more acts of violence against Palestinian civilians. The administration’s efforts should instead be focused on delivering humanitarian assistance to Palestinians, helping with reconstruction efforts in Gaza, using U.S. leverage with Israel to end its occupation and blockade, and supporting human rights and justice for Israelis and Palestinians.”

Threats of Coup in Peru as OAS is “Shamefully Silent”

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The Guardian reports in “Peru: Fujimori cries electoral fraud — and unleashes torrent of racism“: “The prospect of the son of illiterate Andean peasants becoming president as his rival cries fraud has shaken Peru’s entrenched class system and its fragile democracy, letting loose a torrent of racism in the bicentennial year of the country’s independence.

“With 100 percent of the official vote counted, leftist Pedro Castillo had 50.12 percent and [an] advantage of about 44,000 votes over his far-right rival Keiko Fujimori. But Fujimori has claimed fraud, challenging about 500,000 votes, calling for half to be annulled, and obliging officials at Peru’s electoral board to reexamine ballots — despite the lack of evidence of wrongdoing.”

The following two analysts are recently back from observing the election in Peru:

FRANCESCA EMANUELE, emanuelefrancesca@gmail.com
Emanuele is a Peruvian sociologist, born and raised in the province of Ica, four hours from Lima. She is currently a research assistant at American University in Washington, D.C., where she is pursuing doctoral studies in Anthropology.

She said today: “Keiko Fujimori still has not presented evidence supporting her allegations of fraud but continues to use legal tricks to delay the announcement of Pedro Castillo’s victory. This is despite the fact that all the votes have been counted and Castillo is clearly the winner with an advantage of more than 44,000 votes.

“Each day that passes without the official announcement of Castillo’s victory increases further destabilization of the country. Meanwhile, Peruvian elites are becoming increasingly belligerent, supported by a monopolized Peruvian mainstream media that amplifies their unfounded claims. Hundreds of retired members of Peru’s Armed Forces published a letter threatening a coup against Pedro Castillo’s future government. Other violent threats could follow if Keiko’s desperate and irresponsible attempts to reverse the results are not curbed.”

For the past 15 years, Emanuele’s articles have been published in numerous Peruvian newspapers. She is currently a regular columnist for the progressive Peruvian publication, Wayka. Prior to academia, Francesca was the correspondent for Telesur in Washington D.C., and a communications director for the Peru-based non-profit Promsex, which advocates for LGTBI rights and women’s reproductive rights. Her most recent piece in English, on the coup in Bolivia, was published by the magazine Red Pepper.

ALEXANDER MAIN, main@cepr.net@ceprdc
Director of international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Main said today: “By any objective measure, Pedro Castillo has won Peru’s presidential election. The vote count has been completed and the complaints filed by Fujimori’s team within the legal time frame have been duly addressed by the electoral authorities. Yet, facing enormous pressure from Fujimori and her powerful backers, Peru’s National Jury of Elections has delayed the announcement of Castillo’s victory, generating increasing instability and tension in the country.

“The Organization of American States is the primary international observer of these elections but has failed to denounce the extraordinary pressure and threats targeting Peru’s electoral authorities. Nor has the OAS sought to dispel the unfounded claims of fraud being propagated by Fujimori and her supporters. The OAS’ deafening silence at this critical juncture is shameful and suggests that they may be bowing to political pressure coming from the organization’s Secretary General Luis Almagro, who has frequently supported far right, undemocratic actors in the region. It’s worth remembering that, following Bolivia’s 2019 elections, an OAS observation team promoted false fraud claims and Almagro welcomed the military coup that took place a few weeks later.” See from CEPR from last year: “Data from Bolivia’s Election Add More Evidence That OAS Fabricated Last Year’s Fraud Claims.”

Biden, Building on Trump’s Censorship, Targets Iranian and Palestinian Websites

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Al Jazeera reports in “U.S. seizes three dozen websites used for ‘Iranian disinformation’” that: “Seized sites include Press TV and Houthi and Palestinian outlets. Move comes amid tense efforts to revive nuclear deal.”

At NATO headquarters recently, Biden spoke of his commitment to the “important shared missions” of “renewing and strengthening the resilience of our democracies” as well as “protecting the free press and independent judiciaries.” Later, he spoke of his insistence to Russian President Vladimir Putin of the “importance of a free press and freedom of speech.”

See Institute for Public Accuracy news release from last year: “Code Red: Barr Seizes Internet Domains of Media Outlets.”

ANDREW STEWART, hasc.warrior.stew@gmail.com@DCBabylon1
On Tuesday, Stewart wrote the piece “FBI & Dept of Commerce Seize Iranian Press TV Web Domain” for Washington Babylon.

He states: “This step by Commerce and the FBI proves … rhetorical flourishes are a smokescreen for a widening censorship mandate within Washington. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, the federal policing agencies have sharpened a carceral lens upon the information superhighway, invoking moral panics like ‘internet radicalization,’ aberrant sexual behavior, multimedia piracy, or illicit drug trafficking to justify the crackdown. While there’s certainly no denying that serious malfeasance like white nationalist indoctrination, child pornography, copyright infringement, or sales of narcotics take place online, laws passed in the name of combatting such practices are wildly overreaching and create judicial precedents for later use in cases like that of Press TV. These legislative efforts also conveniently ignore that there were already plenty of laws with harsh, sometimes overly-sadistic penalties for sexual assault, kidnapping, murder, or narco vending. However, none of those laws provided censorship opportunities, something that Washington and Silicon Valley have been desperate to implement after the early Wild West days of the web opened floodgates for free information that could not be used for profits and taxes.

“I have always been wary of state-sponsored broadcasters like RT or Press TV. Both have editorial lines driven by the geopolitical concerns of their sponsors, which is anathema to what journalists are mandated to serve. … None of these qualms, however, justify censorship.”

Can We Really Build Infrastructure When Wall Street Games the System?

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Can We Really Build Infrastructure When Wall Street Games the System?

WILLIAM LAZONICK, william.lazonick@gmail.com
Lazonick is professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts and president of the Academic-Industry Research Network and has written several papers for the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

He is co-author of Predatory Value Extraction: How the Looting of the Business Corporation Became the U.S. Norm and How Sustainable Prosperity Can Be Restored (Oxford University Press, 2020).

He argues that Wall Street machinations like stock buybacks are effectively “distributions to shareholders that manifest the legalized looting of the U.S. business corporations, rendering employment unstable and incomes inequitable.”

He adds that without regulations on stock buybacks the Biden infrastructure plan will simply send large sums of money to companies that will go right out the door into stock buybacks, just as happened with the Trump taxcuts. To ‘build back better’ the companies need to invest the money in their products and workers, not send it to Wall Street.

He said today: “The Biden administration’s plans to ‘build back better’ must address the transformation in corporate resource allocation that has underpinned the increase in income equality in the United States since the 1980s. The key characteristic of the rise in income inequality has been the concentration of income among the richest households, driven in large part by distributions of corporate cash to shareholders. Over the decade 2010-2019, companies included in the S&P 500 Index spent a total of $5.3 trillion on buybacks, equal to 54 percent of net income, and another $3.8 trillion on dividends, equal to 39 percent of net income.”

See also from the Institute for New Economic Thinking: “Stock Buybacks Stand in the Way of Biden’s Infrastructure Plan” by Lynn Parramore.

Mike Gravel’s Challenge to Militarism and Push for Real Democracy

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Sen. Mike Gravel, best known for having risked censure and expulsion from the Senate by reading the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record exactly 50 years ago on Tuesday, died on Saturday at the age of 91.

Gravel twice sought the presidency. In 2008, he challenged the other candidates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, from the debate stage: “They frighten me. When you have mainline candidates that turn around and say that there’s ‘nothing off the table’ with respect to Iran — that’s code for using nukes.” He then told then-candidate Biden: “You have a certain arrogance. You want to tell the Iraqis how to run their country.” President Biden bombed Iraq and Syria on Sunday.

The DNC kept Gravel off the debate stage in 2020 to his protests, but his campaign gave rise to the Gravel Institute, which is powered by a group of young people, has become a force on Twitter and produces short educational videos.

On Sunday, Daniel Ellsberg, who disclosed the Pentagon Papers, a massive top-secret government study that documented its own deceit of the public during the Vietnam War, appeared with Gravel’s daughter, Lynne Mosier, on the Katie Halper Show.

Ellsberg lauded Gravel’s courage for entering the top-secret documents into the Congressional Record — saying he helped assert a “precedent that no one else has taken advantage of in 50 years” — meaning virtually no other Senator has used the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution to expose classified information that should be made public.

In 1971, the New York Times and other papers were enjoined by the courts against publishing further material from the Pentagon Papers. Gravel obtained a copy from Ellsberg who was then underground, and read from them in Congress. He said on the night of June 29, 1971: “People are dying, arms and legs are severed and metal crashes through human bodies because of policy decisions conceived in secret and kept from the American people. Free and informed public debate is the source of our strength. Remove it and our democratic institutions become a sham.” And then he wept.

The following day, June 30, 1971, the Supreme Court ruled against the Nixon administration.

Gravel sought to get a book publisher to publish the Pentagon Papers, but no commercial or university press would do so. Finally, Beacon Press, an arm of the Unitarian Universalist Association, published the “Gravel Edition” of the Pentagon Papers and was targeted for years afterwards by the Nixon administration and the FBI. See talk by Ellsberg, Gravel and Robert West, who was the president of the UUA.

Consortium News — see their obituary of Gravel — is currently publishing excerpts from his memoirA Political Odyssey The Rise of American Militarism and One Man’s Fight to Stop It, for the anniversary of the Pentagon Papers, co-authored with Joe Lauria.

In 2010, Gravel told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Whenever something comes up that [Senate minority leader] Mitch McConnell is opposed to … he just threatens a filibuster.” Then, the Democrats “back down and pundit after pundit says you need 60 votes to pass it. Baloney. You need 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, but a filibuster is a really costly thing to do.

“I used the filibuster for five months to end the [military] draft in 1971. I succeeded. I’m proud of what I did. I helped end the war in Vietnam. But I paid a price politically and among my colleagues for using the filibuster.”

Much of Gravel’s final years were focused on constitutional solutions to the public effectively being left out of the governing process. He founded the group The National Citizens Initiative for Democracy and wrote the book The Failure of Representative Government and the Solution: A Legislature of the Peoplearguing for the creation of a fourth branch of government which manifests a form of direct democracy.

LYNNE MOSIER, lynne@mosier.name
Mosier, (pronounced Moe Z A) is Gravel’s daughter. She just wrote an obituary of her father which encompasses these issues and others, including his opposition of nuclear power, his embrace of renewables, his early backing of drug legalization, and his backing in the 1970s of the Trans Alaska Pipeline: “Gravel was instrumental in lifting Alaska from one of the poorest and most unequal states in the U.S. in the 1970 Census to one of the richest and most equal by the 2000 Census. The state’s Native population moved from poverty to the middle class and from a subsistence economy to a mixed subsistence/cash economy with educated young Native leaders managing multi-billion dollar corporations in one generation. He was a leading proponent and one of the key congressional players in settling the indigenous land claims of Alaskan Natives. The settlement created 12 Alaska Native regional corporations and over 200 village corporations that have helped transform Alaska’s economy.”

Former State Dept. Officials Call on Biden to Bar “Over the Horizon” Drone Attacks in Afghanistan

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Retired Army Colonel Ann Wright and former Marine Captain Matthew Hoh, both of whom resigned from the State Department because of their opposition to U.S. war policies in Afghanistan, are among peace and justice leaders and policy analysts who have signed an online petition calling on President Joe Biden “to pledge that there will be no further U.S. air attacks on the Afghan people and that the U.S. will discontinue drone surveillance there as well.”

The petition is being circulated in response to press reports and officials statements that the U.S. is planning “over the horizon” air missions against Al Qaeda and ISIS in Afghanistan while not foreclosing the possibility of U.S. air attacks against the Taliban, should it be on the verge of taking over Afghanistan’s central government. These missions would be flown from the system of U.S. bases in Qatar, the United Arab Republic, and Kuwait; the U.S. Air Force is seeking $10 billion to support this system, according to a June 8, 2021 report in Defense One, referencing the “over the horizon” planning.

The 10-point petition notes that the “over the horizon” operation will reportedly depend heavily on the use of attack and surveillance drones, which, the petition says “amounts to an effort to further occupy Afghanistan from the sky, and represents a bid for U.S. influence in events on the ground through the veto power of assassination and ability to target attacks by manned aircraft.”

The petition, drafted by BanKillerDrones.org, expresses concern that U.S. air operations will hasten the introduction into Afghanistan of drones and other high-tech weaponry by China, Turkey, Russia, and other nations, prolonging the civil war, as has happened in Libya.

Early signers of the petition include:

Ann Wright – Col. U.S. Army (Retired), resigned U.S. State Department official in Afghanistan and member of the CODEPINK anti-drone war delegation to Pakistan in 2012

Matthew Hoh – Former U.S. Marine officer and resigned U.S. State Department official in Afghanistan

Kathy Kelly – Peace activist who has made 30 trips to Afghanistan and co-coordinator of BanKillerDrones.org

Brian Terrell – Peace activist who has made multiple trips to Afghanistan and board member of BanKilerDrones.org

* Key Witness Against Assange Admits Fabrication * China Whistleblower

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KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin@shadowproof.com, @kgosztola

Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola has extensively covered the legal proceedings regarding Assange. He highlights the reporting of the Icelandic outlet Stundin, which reports: “A major witness in the United States’ Department of Justice case against Julian Assange has admitted to fabricating key accusations in the indictment against the Wikileaks founder. The witness, who has a documented history with sociopathy and has received several convictions for sexual abuse of minors and wide-ranging financial fraud, made the admission in a newly published interview in Stundin where he also confessed to having continued his crime spree whilst working with the Department of Justice and FBI and receiving a promise of immunity from prosecution.”

Added Gosztola: “What [the witness, Sigurdur Ingi] Thordarson recanted, contradicted, or clarified about Assange for Stundin shows why cross-appeal is priority for Assange and his legal team. Though extradition was denied, they never had [a] fair opportunity to impeach witness testimony after [a] third indictment was sprung on them.”

Since the charges against Assange have to do with helping expose U.S. war crimes and not with Russiagate, Gosztola noted: “More than two years later and Respectable Elite Pundits still have no clue what the U.S. case is against Assange. They just know why they hate him and damn the consequences to freedom and democracy if he’s ever actually brought before a U.S. court.”

Gosztola also just wrote the piece: “Pentagon whistleblower under investigation after warning about risks of war with China over Taiwan,” which states: “Pentagon whistleblower Franz Gayl has been part of the United States Marine Corps for over four decades. He spent the last months trying to warn U.S. government officials and the public of the threat of becoming entangled in a war with China over Taiwan.

“Yet instead of seriously considering his perspective, Gayl faces a counterintelligence investigation into articles he wrote and early retirement.

“He published an open letter to President Joe Biden on LinkedIn on June 22 in a last-ditch effort to reach the White House and communicate his concerns over the increased potential for an ‘ill-advised foreign war.’

“Gayl warned, ‘Taiwan’s own watershed “Gulf of Tonkin” event is only a matter of time, probably through an accident or miscalculation. Sensing the urgency, I submitted numerous op-eds to U.S. newspaper and electronic media outlets, but each was rejected.’

“’As a last resort, I contacted the [People’s Republic of China’s] own Global Times, which published my op-eds in April and May.’

“The publications spurred an investigation by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). His security clearances were revoked on June 1. …”

The Case for a National Infrastructure Bank

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ALPHECCA MUTTARDY, via Angela Vullo, avullo@nibcoalition.com
Muttardy is with the Coalition for the National Infrastructure Bank and recently released a statement: “In the final weeks of June, 2021, the Biden administration has negotiated with a bipartisan group of Senators on the terms of a package to provide $973 billion for infrastructure projects over five years ($579 billion in new spending, plus $394 in re-authorization of existing spending). Finalizing the Bi-Partisan Plan (BPP) will still depend on reaching agreement on how to pay for it, as well as on the terms of a second, companion package — The American Family Plan — moving through Congress under reconciliation rules.

“Even if approved, the BPP will not be enough to cover the full infrastructure financing gap identified by the American Society of Civil Engineers. ASCE estimates that $2.6 trillion is needed over 10 years, far greater than the $579 billion of new money over five years suggested under the BPP.” The group states that currently, “nothing is allocated under the BPP to cover high speed rail, schools, dams and levees, public parks, affordable housing, or new water delivery projects for drought stricken areas in the U.S. And the amount assigned to water infrastructure is a fraction of what is needed, according to ASCE.

“A fully funded, public, National Infrastructure Bank (NIB), as set out in HR 3339, would finance up to $5 trillion to cover all of the infrastructure projects listed above, in every single jurisdiction in the country. Passage of the Bill would guarantee complete funding over a ten-year period, without the need to re-negotiate again in five years or beyond. Moreover, the NIB would pay its own way, offer low-cost loans, mobilize for economic growth and development, all without adding to federal taxes or deficits.”

Muttardy is a macroeconomist and was with the International Monetary Fund for 25 years, now retired. She has also been involved with Our Revolution, as chair of economic policy for the group in northern Virginia.

“The Terrible Origins of July 4th”

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MARGARET KIMBERLEY, margaret.kimberley@blackagendareport.com@freedomrideblog
Kimberley is author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents which was published last year.

She just wrote the piece “The Terrible Origins of July 4th,” which notes that among the grievances toward the British monarch outlined in the Declaration of Independence were: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

Kimberley explains the context: “The men who every school child is taught to think of as ‘patriots’ had two concerns which pushed them to declare independence. First, in 1763 the British emerged victorious after the end of a conflict against France. It was known in Europe as the Seven Years War and in America as the French and Indian War. The American moniker existed precisely because the French allied themselves with indigenous nations against the British. British victory brought them French held territory west of the Appalachians in the region now comprising midwestern states, but they knew they could not easily end indigenous wars if settlers along the eastern seaboard were allowed to go further west.

“Because of continued resistance from leaders such as Pontiac of the Ottawa nation, King George III issued the Proclamation of 1763, which forbade settlement west of the Appalachian mountains. One of the speculators poised to become a wealthier man if settlements were permitted to move westward was George Washington.

“He was not alone in his wish to conquer the entire continent and to get rich doing it. Property claims had already been made in these regions, and neither he nor the rest of his cohort were going to let British treaties with indigenous people stand in their way. They largely ignored the edict and went wherever they wanted to go.

“Their second concern was whether the British were committed to continuing the previously unfettered right to slave holding. In 1769 an enslaved man named James Somerset was purchased in Virginia and brought to England. He eventually escaped but was recaptured and was in the process of being sold to Jamaica. But Somerset had friends who went to court on his behalf. In 1772 a judge ruled that enslaved people could not be forcibly removed from England.

“The ruling didn’t end slavery in British territories and in fact it lasted in those regions for 50 more years. But even this narrow decision was too much for white Americans who feared that the crown might undermine or even end their right to slaveholding.”

Kimberley blogs at Freedom Rider and is editor and senior columnist at Black Agenda Report.

Supreme Court “Drives a Stake Through the Heart of the Voting Rights Act”

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MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal@gmail.com@marjoriecohn
Cohn, professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, recently wrote the piece “Supreme Court Drives a Stake Through the Heart of the Voting Rights Act.”

She writes: “Divided strictly along ideological lines, the Supreme Court construed what was left of the historic Voting Rights Act (VRA) to uphold two Arizona voter suppression laws that civil rights organizations had challenged for disproportionately burdening voters of color. This decision sends a dangerous signal to states that the courts are likely to uphold their voter suppression laws that make it harder for people of color to vote.

“In Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the Court’s six right-wingers ruled, over the dissent of the three liberals, that Arizona’s ‘out of precinct policy’ and ‘ballot harvesting’ provision did not violate Section 2 of the VRA. Section 2 forbids any voting procedure that ‘results in a denial or abridgment of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race.’ …

“’In recent months, State after State has taken up or enacted legislation erecting new barriers to voting,’ [Elena] Kagan wrote. ‘Those laws shorten the time polls are open, both on Election Day and before. They impose new prerequisites to voting by mail, and shorten the windows to apply for and return mail ballots. They make it harder to register to vote, and easier to purge voters from the rolls. Two laws even ban handing out food or water to voters standing in line.’

“The ball is in Congress’s court. Two federal voter protection bills are pending, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. In addition, the Judiciary Act of 2021 would increase the number of Supreme Court justices from nine to 13. That could provide an opportunity to dilute the right-wing agenda of the current six members of the Court who voted to open the floodgates of voter suppression legislation.”

Haiti: Assassination

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Al Jazeera reports: “Haiti’s President [Jovenel] Moïse was assassinated by unidentified gunmen at his home, says the PM. Moïse had been ruling Haiti by decree after delaying elections, sparking protests that he illegally stayed past his term. The country is also facing growing poverty and gang violence.”

BRIAN CONCANNON, beconcannon@gmail.com@HaitiJustice

A longtime Haiti specialist, Concannon wrote the piece “Is the White House greenlighting Haiti’s descent into dictatorship?” for the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. He said today that much of Haitian civil society had concluded that Moïse’s presidency was not legitimate.

CHRIS BERNADEL, cbernadel@protonmail.com

Bernadel is on the Haiti Committee of the Black Alliance for Peace; both of his parents are Haitian immigrants. See the group’s statement, issued Tuesday, which quotes Bernadel: “Black Alliance for Peace Condemns Increasing Human Rights Violence in Haiti and the Continued U.S./OAS/UN Support for Unconstitutional Actions by Haiti’s Illegitimate Government.”

JAKE JOHNSTON, johnston@cepr.net@jakobjohnston
Just back in the U.S. from Haiti, Johnston is senior research associate at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He had just written the piece “Biden Continues Trump’s Policy in Haiti Despite Bipartisan Congressional Pushback” published on Tuesday.

Assange Case: British Court Grants Biden Limited Appeal to Continue Attack on WikiLeaks Founder

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KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin@shadowproof.com, @kgosztola

Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola has extensively covered the legal proceedings regarding Assange.

He just wrote the piece “Assange Extradition: British High Court Grants U.S. a Limited Appeal” for The Dissenter which reports: “The High Court of Justice rejected U.S. efforts to ‘second guess’ factual findings made about medical and expert evidence.”

Gosztola notes that he has “reviewed the appeal submissions, which are not publicly available” and gives a breakdown of the arguments in his just-published article.

He reports: “’It comes as no surprise that the U.K. High Court will consider the U.S. government’s appeal, but Julian Assange should not be in this position in the first place,’ stated Reporters Without Borders director of international campaigns Rebecca Vincent. ‘He has been targeted for his contributions to public interest reporting, and his prosecution in the U.S. would have severe and long-lasting implications for journalism and press freedom around the world.’

‘”We call again for [President Joe Biden’s] administration to drop the appeal and close the case, and for the U.K. to immediately release Assange from prison, where his mental and physical health remain at high risk,’ Vincent added.

“‘[Stella] Moris [Assange’s partner] asserted, [Attorney General] Merrick Garland has egg on his face because of the decision to use a witness that perjured himself in order to try to imprison Julian and keep him imprisoned.'” See IPA news release from a week ago: “Key Witness Against Assange Admits Fabrication.”

Gosztola wrote in January: “British Judge Keeps Assange In Prison, Despite Ruling Against Extradition.”

Haiti and the Disaster Foreign Manipulation Has Wrought

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The Miami Herald reports in “Haiti President Jovenel Moïse assassinated in middle-of-the-night attack at his home“: “The assailants apparently claimed to be agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to videos taken by people in the area of the president’s home. Moïse, 53, lived in Pelerin 5, a neighborhood just above the hills in the capital.

“On the videos, someone with an American accent is heard yelling in English over a megaphone, ‘DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.'”

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said: “These reports are absolutely false.”

See Wednesday Institute for Public Accuracy news release on Haiti. Also see Twitter list on Haiti.

AMY WILENTZ, awilentz@uci.edu@amywilentz
Wilentz is author of numerous books on Haiti including The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier and Farewell, Fred Voodoo: A Letter From Haiti. She can talk about the history of Haiti and how U.S. interventions have “inspired enmity and disgust” among the Haitian people.

See Twitter thread on U.S. interventions in Haiti.

CHRIS BERNADEL, cbernadel@protonmail.com@Blacks4Peace
Bernadel is on the Haiti Committee of the Black Alliance for Peace; both of his parents are Haitian immigrants. See the group’s statement from Wednesday: “Will the Biden administration and other political players use this moment as the pretext for military intervention, as was done in 1915? Will interim Prime Minister Claude Joseph attempt to consolidate power under the pretext of the current state of siege? Will the Core Group find a new willing puppet, more pliable than Moïse, to bring ‘stability?'”

EMMANUELA DOUYON, [in Haiti] emmanuela.douyon@gmail.com@emmadouyon
Douyon testified in March before the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs on what Biden administration policy on Haiti should be. She said today: “Since last June, with the collective of activists, NOU PAP DOMI (We Will Not Sleep), I have been actively denouncing the increase in violence in Haiti and urging the authorities to act accordingly. A friend and fellow activist, Netty Duclaire, was killed less than a week ago along with 18 other Haitian citizens. I am mourning and now comes this terrible news.

“Never would I have imagined that the head of the country would be assassinated. If he can be assassinated in his home, who is safe in this country? Whose life matters in this country? How are we supposed to keep going and keep burying our loved ones?

“We, young activists, Petrochallengers, tried to warn the international community with the hashtag #freeHaiti but it was to no avail. We are not receiving the kind of support we need whether it’s from the UN or other countries and organizations. This partly explains why the situation keeps getting worse and we can’t see the impact of all the aid received, not to mention that because of corruption there is at least one notable case of mismanagement of aid money: the Petrocaribe scandal.

“I am shocked by the news of the assassination of former president Jovenel Moïse. This shows the extent to which violence reigns in Haiti. Justice must be served. We, the Haitian people, must stop the current political crisis and end the vicious cycle of violence.”

Fact: Biden Plans to Continue Bombing Afghanistan

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An NBC headline claims: “Biden defends decision to end war in Afghanistan.” Similarly, a recent New York Times headline claims: “Unlikely Coalition of Veterans Backs Biden on Ending Afghan War.”

Nick Mottern in “Biden Betrays Another Campaign Pledge — Admits that U.S. Will Continue to Bomb Afghanistan” scrutinizes comments Biden made on July 4: “When the President refers to ‘over-the-horizon capacity that we can be value added,’ he is referring to a plan, that appears might cost $10 billion, to fly drones and manned attack aircraft from bases as far away as Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.”

Similarly, David Swanson in “Biden Defends Ending a War He’s Not Fully Ending” notes that Biden’s remarks on Thursday referred to “counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region, and act quickly and decisively if needed.”

On July 6, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby was asked for examples of continued military operations. He responded: “the way you’ve seen it being conducted in the past, through — through airstrikes.”

Late last month a petition was launched: “To: President Joe Biden — No More U.S. Air Attacks in Afghanistan” to forestall such continued war-making. See June 29 IPA news release: “Former State Dept. Officials Call on Biden to Bar ‘Over the Horizon’ Drone Attacks in Afghanistan.”

Signers of the petition include:

Matthew Hoh – Former U.S. Marine officer and resigned U.S. State Department official in Afghanistan

Kathy Kelly – Peace activist who has made 30 trips to Afghanistan and co-coordinator BanKillerDrones.org

Media contact: Nick Mottern — nickmottern@gmail.com

Haiti, Cuba and U.S. Interference

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KIM IVES, kives15@gmail.com, @kimives13
    Ives is the English language editor for Haiti Liberté and has recently been interviewed on “Anti-Empire Project” and “Democracy Now!” and other programs following the assassination of Jovenel Moïse.

    The New York Times states: “Haitian Officials Say U.S.-Based Suspect in President’s Killing Was Seeking Power.”

    Ives states that many in Haiti assess that the assassination is linked to wealthy families in Haiti. Ives notes: “Moïse’s government had issued an arrest warrant for Reginald Boulos, perhaps the most prominent member of this sector, and was on the verge of seizing his facilities in Haiti. On top of that, the entire bourgeoisie was panicked” because of the “growing organization of armed groups in Haiti’s impoverished shantytowns. Their leader, former police officer Jimmy ‘Barbecue’ Cherizier last week declared a ‘revolution’ against the bourgeoisie, saying that the people were preparing to raid their grocery stores, banks, and car dealerships.” See “Suspected Assassins of Haitian President Moïse Trained by US, Linked to Pro-Coup Oligarchy” by Dan Cohen, which quotes Ives. Ives also notes that Boulos hired a D.C. lobbyist two days before the assasination of Moïse.

    Ives also notes: “There had been dozens of protests against Jovenel Moïse over the past months, but they hardly made a blip on the mainstream media’s radar. Contrast that coverage to the hullabaloo being made about one protest in Cuba and you get an idea of how dismissive and downplaying the U.S. scribe press is toward protest against a Washington ally.”

The BBC states: “Cuba protests: Thousands rally against government as economy struggles.”

JAMES EARLY, earlytempos@gmail.com
    Early has visited Cuba many times over 45 years. He is the former Smithsonian Institution assistant secretary for education and public service and was director of its Cultural Heritage Policy Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

    He said today: “First we have to face the material reality inside Cuba — a decades-long U.S. bipartisan economic sanctions war which was intensified by Trump and continued by Biden-Harris. Cuba is especially vulnerable to this because of its dependence on limited natural resources and its own self-critical attempts to rectify its economic policy. The U.S. government economic war, despite U.S. corporate projects desirous of normal economic relations with Cuba, was designed to undermine the economy and compel the people to rise up against their elected officials. And they are elected, though their system is different from others.

    “And prior president Raúl Castro had called for more self-reflection and self-criticism to consolidate the county’s achievements over the past 60 years, and to rectify its errors and failures independent of the U.S. blockade. So, we’re seeing these protests in the U.S. media significantly orchestrated via Cuban dissidents inside and outside Cuba openly funded by the U.S. State Department. What we’re not seeing is that the current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, has said that the Communist Party and the Cuban government are obligated to improve their performance in collaboration with a proactive critical citizenry. Despite the economic woes suffered by all Cubans, there is a refreshing, open critical debate mostly to improve the existing inefficiencies of the economic and political system in Cuba. ….

    “This even includes people calling for a return to corporate capitalism. What’s needed is that the Cuban people have that open debate about their own internal development. They can’t have that with the U.S. government waging an economic war or talking about some sort of interventionist humanitarian salvation. Such claims from the Biden administration are ridiculous given their backing of the brutal Colombian government or the apartheid Israeli government’s constant attacks on the Palestinians.”

    People in the U.S. should “demand that the U.S. government abandon the economic blockade and allow Cuban citizens and their government to address and resolve their own internal disputes within the frameworks and protocols established by the community of nations that overwhelmingly vote against the U. S. blockade.”

    See from UN on June 23: “UN General Assembly calls for U.S. to end Cuba embargo for 29th consecutive year.”

    See in-depth pieces and interviews with Early from The Real News with Early, including on Cuba.

Image source: Wikipedia

Is Big Pharma’s Dominance Through Bayh-Dole Act Finally Getting Scrutiny from Biden?

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STAT News in “Biden’s executive order would pause a Trump rule forbidding march-in rights to lower drug costs” reports: “In a little-noticed move, the Biden administration has hit the pause button on a rule that would prevent the federal government from using a controversial legal provision for combating the high prices of products developed with taxpayer dollars.”

(Last week, STAT News reported: “Major pharmaceutical companies and trade groups helped fund the campaigns of more than 2,400 state legislators nationwide in the 2020 election.” STAT News focuses on health issues and is produced by Boston Globe Media.)

JAMES LOVE, james.love@keionline.org, @jamie_love
    Love is director Knowledge Ecology International, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization that “searches for better outcomes, including new solutions, to the management of knowledge resources.” KEI is focused on “social justice, particularly for the most vulnerable populations, including low-income persons and marginalized groups.”

    He said today: “The Bayh-Dole Act, passed in 1980, created a uniform policy for the management of patents on federally funded R&D. Among the provisions are some that can be used to increase competition and address abuses, such as excessive pricing. In the early 1990s, Congress pressed the federal government to curb high prices on federally funded drugs for HIV, cancer and rare diseases. In 1995, President Clinton announced he would no longer enforce reasonable pricing conditions in contracts. Since then, the NIH has rejected a number of petitions to use its rights to ‘march-in’ on patent rights, and grant licenses to generic manufacturers, when prices are excessive.

    “Universities and drug companies have lobbied aggressively and successfully for more than 20 years to prevent this from happening. There is a petition outstanding today by three prostate cancer patients for the government to grant a march-in request on Xtandi, a drug that costs $150k+ per year in the United States, and far less everywhere else. On Jan 5, 2021, NIST [National Institute of Standards and Technology] proposed a regulation to eliminate pricing as a grounds for a march-in request. The executive order put a hold on that provision, and now the Biden administration will have to rule on the Xtandi petition, which is before DoD. The precedent will be important for many other products.”

Propaganda Campaign Against Cuba

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JAMES EARLY, early1947@aol.com
Early has visited Cuba many times over 45 years. He is the former Smithsonian Institution assistant secretary for education and public service and was director of its Cultural Heritage Policy Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

He said today: “The widely propagated U.S. media reports and images in support of public demonstrations in Cuba and criticism of the Cuban government have invited proposals to punish the Cuban government by continuing and expanding draconian Trump administration policies. This would lead to further deterioration of the already suffering national economy, heighten frustrations of Cubans across the ideological and political spectrum, and plummet the material quality of life for all Cubans caused mainly by the global pandemic and U.S. economic warfare called the ‘Cuban Embargo’ by the U.S. government, and ‘Blockade’ by Cubans. …

Early called for scrutiny of “blame pronounced in U.S. mainstream media and the threadbare standard propaganda of Democratic and Republican Party administrations” against Cuba.

He stressed that there has been more open, internal criticism within Cuba: “Contrary to President Biden’s uninformed or intentional mischaracterization of recent protests in Cuba that the Cuban government is denying the needs of its citizens to ‘enrich themselves,’ Cuban President Diaz Canal Bermudez has proactively convened government officials and Cuban citizens to assert national sovereignty and assume responsibility for informing the nation of the causes of their economic predicament, including inefficiencies in government economic plans, and explained proposals for resolving the crisis and public conflicts without external intervention. …

“We urgently call upon all U.S. citizens to demand that the Biden-Harris administration implement its campaign promise to drop Trump Cuba policy, which he said has ‘inflicted harm on the Cuban people and done nothing to advance democracy and human rights,’ to restart normal diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States crafted by former presidents Barak Obama and Raul Castro, and take immediate steps to dismantle the inhumane and illegal embargo economic warfare against the Cuban people and the Cuban government.”

See in-depth pieces and interviews with Early on The Real News, including on Cuba.

Last month, UN News reported: “A total of 184 countries … voted in favour of a resolution to demand the end of the U.S. economic blockade on Cuba, for the 29th year in a row, with the United States and Israel voting against.”

Public Banking Gaining Traction in California

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MICHAEL BRENNAN, mryanbrennan@gmail.com@mrbrnn
Brennan is a research fellow for The Democracy Collaborative and just published the report “Constructing the Democratic Public Bank: A Governance Proposal for the Los Angeles Public Bank.” They also published a Public Banks policy kit for the Democracy Policy Network. Last year, Brennan had an op-ed in the Washington Post on the need for public banks in response to the pandemic.

Brennan explains: “In 2019, California passed AB-857, allowing the state to charter ten local public banks. The grassroots group Public Bank Los Angeles has been organizing since 2017 to advance public banking, and legislation to create a business plan for the public bank in Los Angeles is currently pending before the City Council. In June, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance mandating a task force create the business and governance plans for a public bank, and the California State Assembly passed AB-1177, which would create a free retailing banking public option. Ten cities and counties in central California have recently passed resolutions to begin the process of creating a joint regional public bank.

“The emerging California public banks have the potential to address a host of economic, social, and ecological crises, and public banking efforts across the country are looking to California’s cities and regions to lead the way. State and local governments need public financial infrastructure to recapture the public’s money being extracted by private banks and bond investors. The economic recovery from COVID-19 must be equitable. The ongoing housing crisis demands better tools to keep tenants and the public in control of housing and real estate development. To address the climate crisis, the financial sector must embed social values beyond profit. Economic development needs a paradigm shift toward community wealth building, especially as part of strategies for reparations for Black and Indigenous peoples.

“But with public banks moving now to a question of ‘how,’ rather than ‘if,’ movements have to begin critically considering the governance design of these banks. Because banking, finance, and policymaking are intentionally obscure and technocratic terrains, ensuring the new public banks are designed to address these crises requires ongoing popular education and engagement.”

Global Rights Threat of Israeli Spying Firms

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RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052@gmail.com, @richards1052
Silverstein is an independent journalist and researcher writing about Israeli foreign policy and covert operations. He writes the Tikun Olam blog and contributes to Al Jazeera English, Middle East Eye, and Jacobin magazine.

He just wrote the piece “NSO Group Targets 50,000 Cell Phone Numbers in 50 Countries: Heads of State, Cabinet Ministers, Diplomats, Security Officials.” He also recently wrote the piece “Israeli Cyber-Mercenary Company, Candiru, Exposed as New Global Rights Threat.”

He said today: “Two major media exposes in the New York Times and Washington Post have shone a light on the damage done by Israeli cyber-hacking companies to human rights around the world. The Post story, published in collaboration with Amnesty International’s Pegasus Project, details a massive corporate spying campaign by the world’s largest such company, NSO Group, targeting 50,000 cell phones located in 50 countries. At its heart is the most sophisticated cyber-malware product on the world market, Pegasus.

“Among those targeted were heads of state, cabinet ministers, diplomats, and military-security officials. The articles indicate that the NSO client state Saudi Arabia had infected the phones of a close associate of murdered journalist, Jamal Khasoggi, his ex-wife, and his fiance. The electronic device of a Mexican journalist was hacked less than two weeks before his murder.

“As it faces a major lawsuit from Whatsapp, which was compromised by an exploit created by NSO, the company is mounting an aggressive defense including creating an ethics panel meant to whitewash the moral and ethical lapses for which the technology is responsible. Members of the panel included former Obama administration officials including Julie Kayyem and former U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro. It has also hired a major D.C. lobbying firm and one of Washington’s leading libel lawyers in an effort to cajole or intimidate its critics into silence.

“These reports prove that this industry must be regulated by U.S. legislation and/or international treaty. Cyber-hacking on this scale is an incredibly lucrative business in which the more dangerous the technology, the more money is to be made. If restraints aren’t imposed, the damage could spread exponentially in coming years.”

Is Biden Obscuring Root Causes of Migration?

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CommonDreams reports: “Outrage as Biden Says Fate of Immigration Reform Is ‘For the Parliamentarian to Decide.’

AVIVA CHOMSKY, achomsky@salemstate.edu
    Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts. Her new book is Central America’s Forgotten History: Revolution, Violence, and the Roots of Migration.

    She just wrote the piece “Migration Is Not the Crisis: What Washington Could Really Do in Central America” for TomDispatch: “Earlier this month, a Honduran court found David Castillo, a U.S.-trained former Army intelligence officer and the head of an internationally financed hydroelectric company, guilty of the 2016 murder of celebrated Indigenous activist Berta Cáceres. His company was building a dam that threatened the traditional lands and water sources of the Indigenous Lenca people. For years, Cáceres and her organization, the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras, or COPINH, had led the struggle to halt that project. It turned out, however, that Cáceres’s international recognition — she won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 — couldn’t protect her from becoming one of the dozens of Latin American Indigenous and environmental activists killed annually.

    “Yet when President Joe Biden came into office with an ambitious ‘Plan for Security and Prosperity in Central America,’ he wasn’t talking about changing policies that promoted big development projects against the will of local inhabitants. Rather, he was focused on a very different goal: stopping migration. His plan, he claimed, would address its ‘root causes.’ Vice President Kamala Harris was even blunter when she visited Guatemala, instructing potential migrants: ‘Do not come.'”As it happens, more military and private development aid of the sort Biden’s plan calls for (and Harris boasted about) won’t either stop migration or help Central America. It’s destined, however, to spark yet more crimes like Cáceres’s murder. There are other things the United States could do that would aid Central America. The first might simply be to stop talking about trying to end migration. …

    “It’s true that Central America is indeed plagued by poverty, violence, and corruption, but if Biden were willing to look at the root causes of his root causes, he might notice that his aren’t the solutions to such problems, but their source. …

    “We could undo the harmful provisions of the 2005 Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Yes, Central American governments beholden to Washington did sign on to it, but that doesn’t mean that the agreement benefited the majority of the inhabitants in the region. In reality, what CAFTA did was throw open Central American markets to U.S. agricultural exports, in the process undermining the livelihoods of small farmers there. …”

Cuba and the “Pink Tides” in Latin America

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Pedro Castillo of the Free Peru party, which is both socialist and Marxist, has been declared Peru’s president-elect. He is a former teacher and son of peasant farmers.

In “Chile Stocks Surge as Communist Knocked Out of Presidential Race” Bloomberg reports: “Chilean assets bucked a global sell-off after a communist presidential hopeful unexpectedly lost a primary vote before the country’s November election, making room for a more moderate candidate to move forward. One-time student protest leader Gabriel Boric won the far-left vote with 60.4 percent of support, beating Communist Party candidate Daniel Jadue, a front-runner who had spooked financial markets with calls for radical economic reform.”

CARLOS GARRIDO, carlos.garrido@siu.edu@MarxMidwest
    A Cuban American currently in Miami, Garrido is an editorial board member and co-founder of the Journal of American Socialist Studies and Midwestern Marx, which, among other things, produces podcasts. A graduate student at Southern Illinois University, he was just on a podcast titled “Hands Off Cuba,” which highlighted continuous attacks on Cuba by the U.S. governemnt. See “USAID shells out $2.6 million for Cuba projects” and other reports from the Cuba Money Project. Also see AP story from 2014: “U.S. co-opted Cuba’s hip-hop scene to spark change.”

Last month Garrido co-hosted a podcast “The Struggle for Socialism in Peru: An Interview with Peruvian Intellectual Sebastian León.”

Garrido recently wrote the piece “A Marxist Analysis of the New Socialist Tide in Latin America” for The International. Garrido notes that about 20 years ago, there was a “Pink Tide” of left-wing victories in Latin America, but was followed by right-wing governments: “Brazil saw the emergence of Michel Termer after the illegitimate, U.S. backed impeachment of Dilma Rousseff — this, along with the imprisonment of Lula [da Silva], was a precondition for the 2018 electoral victory of Jair Bolsonaro and neofascism in Brazil. Along with this we have Peronist Cristina Fernández’s loss in Argentina (2015); the loss of socialist president Michelle Bachelet in Chile (2018); the turn towards neoliberalism of Lenín Moreno (2018); the U.S.-backed coup in Bolivia (2019); and more. In all of these cases,” Garrido argues, the U.S. government helped play a critical role in turning back the leftist victories.

Garrido argues that left-wing governments therefore are “working on borrowed time” if they do nothing “to change the fundamental bourgeois nature of the existing state apparatuses.” This includes meaningful changes to the “liberal-democratic electoral processes, the legal institutions, the military, the police.”

AFRICOM Strikes Somalia: Black Bombings Matter

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CommonDreams reports: “Sanders, Lee, and Murphy Slam Biden Administration’s First Drone Strike in Somalia.” It also reports: “‘A Huge Outrage’: Senate Panel Approves $25 Billion Pentagon Budget Increase.”

Politico reports in “Welcome to Joe Biden’s Somalia war“: “On Tuesday, U.S. Africa Command [AFRICOM] chief Gen. Stephen Townsend authorized a single drone strike against al-Shabaab militants attacking an American-trained elite Somali force known as the Danab. While no U.S. troops accompanied the Somalis during the operation near Galkayo, Pentagon spokesperson Cindi King told NatSec Daily that Townsend has the authority under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter ‘to conduct collective self-defense of partner forces.'”

In February, Biden bombed Syria, see Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “Biden Bombing Syria: ‘Illegal.’

ABDI SAMATAR, [currently in Mogadishu] samat001@umn.edu
    Available for a limited number of interviews, Samatar is professor and chair of the Department of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota.

    Samatar recently wrote the piece “Somalia’s toxic political and security order: the death knell of democracy” for The Conversation: “In 2006, after a decade-and-a-half of cruel civil war, the Union of Islamic Courts, a homegrown alliance of religious leaders, terminated 15 years of warlords’ terror and tyranny. They pacified Mogadishu and surrounding areas and were about to set up local administration for the city and the surrounding settlements.
“But the initiative was short-lived. The international community, led by the U.S., reversed this local initiative, and empowered a government dominated by warlords.

    “U.S. (and foreign) influence was further consolidated after 2008 — the year Washington listed Al-Shabaab as a terrorist organisation. Since then, the U.S. and its allies have spent billions of dollars on illusive security and superficial development that has failed to improve the capacity of Somalis to take charge of their future.”

    Vice just published the piece: “U.S. Airstrikes Have Torn Somali Families Apart. They’re Still Seeking Justice.” See their reporting on AFRICOM.

    See Institute for Public Accuracy news release from last year on AFRICOM: “U.S. Bombings in Africa: Why Are People Unaware?

Biden Escalates Cuba Sanctions, Reneges on Campaign Promise