News Releases

War is a Racket: Fox Guarding Hen House; Stock Buybacks Rip Off Taxpayers

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The U.S. and Germany are sending more tanks to Ukraine.

ELI CLIFTON, eli.clifton@gmail.com@EliClifton
Clifton is a senior advisor at the Quincy Institute and Investigative-Journalist-at-Large at Responsible Statecraft.

He just wrote the piece “Foxes watching the hen house? DC insiders oversee Biden defense plans.” He reports: “After years at the trough, these government contractors are now empowered to judge how billions are spent on a key national security strategy. …

“Earlier this month, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees named eight commissioners who will review President Joe Biden’s National Defense Strategy and provide recommendations for its implementation.

“But the Commission on the National Defense Strategy … is largely comprised of individuals with financial ties to the weapons industry and U.S. government contractors, raising questions about whether the commission will take a critical eye to contractors who receive $400 billion of the $858 billion FY2023 defense budget.

“The potential conflicts of interest start at the very top of the eight-person commission. The chair of the commission, former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), sits on the board of Iridium Communications, a satellite communications firm that was awarded a seven-year $738.5 million contract with the Department of Defense in 2019.”

Clifton also just wrote the piece “Enormous Lockheed stock buybacks and dividends come at expense of taxpayers.

“The federal government and U.S. taxpayers are effectively underwriting massive returns for Lockheed Martin shareholders, returns so impressive that the weapons firm’s CEO, James Taiclet, boasted about how the company handed $11 billion over to shareholders in 2022 via share repurchases and dividend payments, creating ‘significant value for our shareholders.’

“Taiclet, speaking on a January 24 earnings call, said that Lockheed, the world’s largest weapons firm, was ‘ending the year with a total shareholder return of 40 percent.'”

Regulators Could Break Up Wells Fargo — If They Stay Strong

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SARAH PRAY, CARTER DOUGHERTY, carter at ourfinancialsecurity.org,  @RealBankReform
Dougherty is communications director at Americans for Financial Reform. He said today: “Over the last decade, Wells Fargo’s repeated misdeeds have been numerous and egregious enough to vault it into popular culture, notably Late Night with Seth Meyers, Saturday Night Live. Americans for Financial Reform has documented its role as a serial lawbreaker, in the Wells Fargo Scandal Tracker.

“Last week, prodded by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the main big-bank regulator of Wells Fargo, known as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), said it is looking at new ways to tame megabanks, which show signs of being ‘too big to manage,’ including breaking them up. Sen. Warren, who conceived of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and pushed for its creation in 2010, called for prompt action to break up Wells Fargo.”

Pray, managing director for policy at Americans for Financial Reform added: “The OCC now needs to demonstrate the will to solve the problem it has diagnosed, up to and including the breakup of repeat offenders. Process is nice, but results, delivered promptly, that finally end chronic abuse of consumers by too-big-to-manage banks would certainly be better.”

Confronting the Corporate Exploitation of Tweens

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CLAIRE NADER, via Francesco DeSantis, francesco.desantis@essential-books.com

Nader is a social scientist and recently wrote the book “You Are Your Own Best Teacher! — Sparking the Curiosity, Imagination and Intellect of Tweens.” See the website: InspiringTweens.com.


She said today about her book: “I seek to discuss the loss of control by parents over their youngsters who are being direct marketed everyday by corporate hucksters (e.g., junk food) and addicted by the Internet Gulag Wardens up to six hours a day. This massive abduction of our children into a manipulative and exploitative virtual reality, separating them from their parents, communities, nature and even their teachers — reality in a word — calls for action. My book with 54 short topics starts by directly speaking to these tweens, sparking their curiosity, imagination and intellect to the delight of their parents and resultant liberating family conversation. Teachers have told me that the book, which is to be read and used, will improve the classroom performance of these young readers.”

A review of Nader’s book by Dorothea V. Dicecco in the Republican-American in Connecticut was recently entered into the Congressional Record by John Larson (D-Conn.).

Peru: Protests, Oligarchy and Racism

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PBS reports: “Protests in Peru demand ouster of president and call for new elections” and “Peru shuts down Machu Picchu as political unrest spreads across country.”

They write: “The protests erupted across the country last month after former President Pedro Castillo was removed from office and arrested. Threatened with impeachment on corruption charges, Castillo had tried to dissolve Congress and install an emergency government. Boluarte, who was Vice President, became president. …

“Castillo was Peru’s first leader from the rural Andes region. Campaigning on the slogan no more poor people in our rich country. He promised to address long standing issues of poverty and inequality. His ousters angered his rural and indigenous supporters, underscoring their alienation from leaders in Lima.”

FRANCESCA EMANUELE, emanuelefrancesca at gmail.com, @emanuelefrance6

Emanuele is a Peruvian sociologist and a doctoral student in Anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C. and a Council on Hemispheric Affairs board member. She recently wrote the piece “Overthrow of President Castillo Exposes the Race and Class Divide in Peru,” which states: “In the eyes of Castillo’s supporters, this triumphalist celebration, the constant insults, the obstruction of presidential functions, and the abusive way that justice was served, all show that Peru is stuck in an oligarchical past. There is a ruling class that resists allowing the poor and working classes to be represented in the highest echelons of power. The lesson is: Even if such Peruvians managed to reach the highest political spheres, they would still be treated like inferiors.

“Today the judicial and legislative branches of Peru continue to perpetuate this attitude of contempt for the people, using their legal tools arbitrarily. In a clumsy attempt at self-preservation — hours before an impeachment vote — Castillo announced the dissolution of Congress. While his conduct amounted to a self-coup, the supposedly democratic institutions that remained standing broke the law themselves when they sanctioned him. Congress deprived him of his immunity in an express trial in which he had no right to a defense. The judiciary is holding him prisoner under inapplicable charges. One of them is the charge of ‘rebellion,’ which even the former dictator Alberto Fujimori could not be tried for, even after consummating his dictatorship with tanks in the streets.

“One only needs to review recent history to see why tens of thousands of Peruvians, having given up the high hopes they were holding in Pedro Castillo, remain by his side. Not only do they identify with the racial injustices the president suffered — and his arbitrary imprisonment — they also feel orphaned by structures that keep political representation out of their reach.”

 

New Dem Leader Jeffries “Has Record of Defending Human Rights Violations”

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STEPHEN ZUNES,  zunes@usfca.edu, @SZunes

Zunes is professor of politics at the University of San Francisco.

In Congress, Hakeem Jeffries is now the House Democratic Leader — he was elected unanimously. Zunes just wrote the piece “Democrats’ New House Leader Has Record of Defending Human Rights Violations” which highlights Jeffries’ record on Israel. Zunes notes that he is close to the rightwing American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Indeed, AIPAC and similar pro-Israeli groups are three of Jeffries’ top five funders.

Zunes highlights that while virtually all members of Congress are supportive of Israel on some level, Jeffries is more extreme than most Democrats.

He writes: “Jeffries has been highly critical of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as Israeli human rights groups like B’tselem, for their recognition of Israel’s imposition of an apartheid system on Palestinians. Despite the overwhelming evidence in human rights reports that Israel’s policies meet the international definition of apartheid, Jeffries has dismissed the conclusions.”

Zunes goes on to discuss how Jeffries has attempted to abrogate the right to free speech: “In 2018, Jeffries co-sponsored a bill which would have effectively criminalized support for boycotts against Israel or companies doing business in the country or its occupied territories. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would have made it a crime to support or even furnish information about a boycott directed at Israel or the Israeli occupation supported by any entity of the United Nations, the European Union, or other international governmental organization. The penalties were draconian, including fines of up to $1 million and up to 20 years imprisonment.”

Zunes continues: “Jeffries has gone as far as defending Israeli war crimes. In response to international outrage at Israel’s 2014 war on the Gaza Strip, which killed nearly 1,500 civilians — roughly one-third of whom were children — he insisted it was all legitimate self-defense.”

Zunes writes that such maneuvers by Democrats in Congress are not new and have historically had harmful effects. House Democrats similarly “backed Rep. John McCormack in the 1960s despite his vocal support for the Vietnam War, contributing to alienation with the two-party system.”

Patient-Nurse Ratios: Chronic Problem Made Worse by Pandemic

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Strikes at two major New York City hospitals, Mount Sinai main hospital and Montefiore Medical Center, ended last week. More than 7,000 nurses had struck, making it the largest nursing strike the city saw in decades. 

ERIN HOGAN; text (646) 322-6616 to set up an interview
    Hogan is a nurse in the emergency department at Mount Sinai Hospital and a union delegate. 

LILY MEYERSOHN; lilymeyersohn@gmail.com 
    Meyersohn is a researcher at the Institute for Public Accuracy and a freelance journalist covering health and politics.

In an article for Truthout, Meyersohn described how nurses struck over staffing issues and unmanageable patient-nurse ratios. But this “is not a pandemic problem,” Hogan said of the issues. “This existed years before the pandemic. The pandemic has only made it worse. There’s nothing protecting staffing ratios. We’ve been doubling, tripling up on patient load. Every unit, we would bring it up to management.” 

Meyersohn wrote: “Mount Sinai and Montefiore agreed to staffing ratios similar to the ones included in the tentative agreements forged at the other hospitals. The contracts include clearer enforcement language compared to prior years, including penalties for short staffing. Montefiore, meanwhile, announced it would create at least 170 nursing positions, with a focus on the emergency department… Ideally, the new contracts will also help the hospital retain current nurses and hire new ones.” 

The Davos Billionaire Class is Seeing Their Wealth Skyrocket

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The report “Extreme Wealth” [full PDF] was just released by the Institute for Policy Studies,  Oxfam, Patriotic Millionaires, and Fight Inequality Alliance. This report is a complement to Oxfam’s recently released “Survival of the Richest.”

The groups state: “The global billionaire class is gathering this week in Davos, Switzerland to talk about the ongoing ‘polycrisis‘ — a term embraced by the World Economic Forum (WEF) to describe the convergence of ecological, political, pandemic and economic disruptions. The one acute crisis they won’t talk about is the extreme levels of concentration of wealth and power happening across the globe.”

The report estimates that “$1.7 trillion could have been raised in 2022 alone if a progressive wealth tax were imposed on the ultra-rich.” In addition, over the last decade:

  • The global billionaire class has more than doubled and their wealth has skyrocketed at a similar rate: 99.6 percent. This is a gain of more than $5.9 trillion — almost twice as much as the combined GDP of Africa, a continent with over 1.3 billion people.
  • Wealth in the U.S. has been steadily concentrating in fewer hands. U.S. households with more than $50 million have seen their wealth increase 53.9 percent since 2012.  
  • As of November 22, there are an estimated 1,468,400 individuals in the U.S. with wealth over $5 million. Their total combined wealth is equal to $28 trillion.
  • Within this group, there are 64,500 individuals with wealth over $50 million, with a combined wealth of $12.5 trillion.
  • There are 728 U.S. billionaires with a combined wealth of $4.5 trillion, a 34.6 increase since the pandemic began in mid-March 2020.
  • Since 2012, the richest 1 percent in the U.S. saw their wealth gain 19 times more than the bottom half of the country’s population.
  • For every $100 of wealth created over the last decade, $37.40 went to the top 1 percent. The bottom half of U.S. households only saw a $2 gain. 
  • In the U.S., a graduated annual wealth tax of 2 percent on millionaires over $5 million, 3 percent on wealth over $50 million, and 5 percent on wealth over $1 billion, would raise $583.5 billion in revenue annually.

For more information and to speak with report co-authors Chuck Collins and Omar Ocampo, contact IPS’s deputy communications director Olivia Alperstein at  olivia@ips-dc.org.

Supreme Court Set to “Eviscerate the Right to Strike”

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MARJORIE COHN,  marjorielegal@gmail.com, @marjoriecohn
Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild.

The Supreme Court has just heard oral arguments [PDF] in Glacier Northwest, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local Union No. 174 and is set to hand down its ruling by June 2023. Marjorie Cohn recently wrote the piece “The Supreme Court Is About to Eviscerate the Right to Strike.”

She describes the strike that led to the anti-union lawsuit: “Eighty-five truck drivers walked off the job. Sixteen of them whose trucks had been loaded with cement but hadn’t made their deliveries returned the trucks to the employer, leaving the trucks running to prevent the concrete from hardening. Glacier was unable to deliver all of the concrete and had to dispose of it. The trucks, however, were not damaged.”

She continues, describing why the anti-union lawsuit now being considered by the Supreme Court was at first lawfully dismissed: “…an employer must obtain a ruling from the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] saying that the workers’ strike was not federally protected before it can file a lawsuit against the union in state court. If the NLRB decides the union’s action is ‘arguably’ protected by the NLRA [National Labor Relations Act], the state court doesn’t have jurisdiction to hear the case.”

Cohn Concludes: “Given the political makeup of the court, it will likely rule that the drivers’ conduct was not protected by the NLRA and allow Glacier’s state court lawsuit to proceed. … The radical right-wing Supreme Court is about to deal a severe blow to the right to strike — the most potent weapon workers have to obtain justice.”

Moderna Plans Huge Price Hike for Covid-19 Vaccine

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Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has begun petitioning Moderna against a price increase on its Covid vaccine from $26 to $130. Moderna announced the price hike last week as Covid vaccines shift to the commercial market.

WILLIAM LAZONICK; william.lazonick@gmail.com 
    Lazonick is a professor emeritus of economics at the University of Massachusetts and co-founder and president of the Academic-Industry Research Network.

Sanders noted that Moderna’s Covid vaccine costs $2.85 to produce. Lazonick told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “Moderna has made a bonanza off of a global public health crisis. What more do they want? This story is about greed. We can see [based on the price of Moderna’s stock value in the past two years] that they didn’t take a hit at $20 a dose,” which is the price at which the drug is currently set. Further, the National Institutes for Health “in effect gave Moderna the vaccine. They’ve already gauged us. The message they’re now sending is that they were giving us a gift when the price was $20 a dose––a price at which they still made massive profits and received government subsidies. Why should one company capture all that value? Decades of research, much of it publicly funded, ended up in that vaccine.”

He added: “It wasn’t a gift. They made out like bandits from it.” 

Now that Moderna and Pfizer have announced a new price range, Lazonick added, “I believe we shouldn’t negotiate, we should regulate. Congress needs to act––for instance, by passing a law that says that in a public health crisis, the government gets to set the price.”

 

MLK’s Call to Get on the “Right Side of the World Revolution”

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In a major speech at Riverside Church in New York, exactly a year before his assasination, Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed: “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.'”

King came out against the war in Vietnam, calling military spending a “demonic destructive suction tube” and said: “A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. … True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

“A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. …

“A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.” See text and audio.

See the piece “Nuclear Weapons and the Legacy of Dr. King“: “In 1959, five months after being stabbed in Harlem, King addressed the War Resisters League’s thirty-sixth annual dinner, where he praised its work and linked the domestic struggle for racial justice with the campaign for global disarmament: ‘Not only in the South, but throughout the nation and the world, we live in an age of conflicts, an age of biological weapons, chemical warfare, atomic fallout and nuclear bombs … Every man, woman, and child lives, not knowing if they shall see tomorrow’s sunrise.'”

See C-SPAN’s coverage of the Church Committee’s investigation of the FBI’s “Suicide Letter” to Dr. King, part of the Counter Intelligence Program or COINTELPRO.

JARED A. BALL, imixwhatilike@gmail.com, @IMIXWHATILIKE
Ball is a professor of communication and Africana studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore and author of The Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power. Ball is also host of the podcast “iMiXWHATiLiKE!” and co-founder of Black Power Media. His decades of journalism, media, writing, and political work can be found at imixwhatilike.org.

See Ball’s videos: “Dr. MLK Jr.: Struggling Not To Lose Him,” “Dr. King Did Not Support ‘#BuyBlack” and his interview with The Real News: “The Revolutionary MLK.”

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