News Releases

How NATO Inflames Relations with Russia

Newsweek reports Monday morning: “NATO Puts Forces on Standby, Deploys Ships and Fighter Jets Near Russia.”

DAVID GIBBS, dgibbs@email.arizona.edu
Gibbs is professor of history at the University of Arizona and has written extensively on NATO.

He said today: “Coming so soon after their 20-year war in Afghanistan, U.S. officials should not be looking for new foreign interventions in the Ukraine — which risks even worse outcomes than the ‘War on Terror’ produced.”

He has argued regarding NATO: “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.”

Gibbs is author of the book First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, published by Vanderbilt University Press.

“Insane Reality”: As Wealthy Meet at Davos, Taxing them Could Provide for Humanity

As the World Economic Forum meets in Davos, Switzerland, a network of nonprofits has released a report “Taxing Extreme Wealth” about global mega wealth and the revenues that could be raised from taxing the rich.

Among the findings:

* There are 2,660 billionaires with a total combined wealth of $13.76 trillion.

* An annual wealth tax applied to the world’s richest would raise U.S. $2.52 trillion a year (with a graduated rate structure: 2 percent tax on wealth over $5 million; 3 percent on wealth over $50 million; 5 percent on wealth over $1 billion).

The groups find that such a modest annual tax on the world’s richest would “be enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty” as well as “deliver universal health care and social protection for all the citizens of low and lower middle-income countries (3.6 billion people).”

The groups releasing the report include the Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam, and Patriotic Millionaires.

“The insane reality is that whilst billions face a daily struggle to survive during this pandemic, billionaire wealth is spiraling out of control. This cannot be right,” said Jenny Ricks, Global Convenor of the Fight Inequality Alliance. “For years Davos has shown us the elites cannot and will not end the virus of inequality they have helped to create. We now have the rare opportunity to create the economy and society we want but this requires deep system change rather than a rehash of the status quo.”

“Wealth inequality has been supercharged by the pandemic, creating an unprecedented global concentration of wealth and power,” said Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of the report.

“There is no defending a system that endlessly inflates the wealth of the world’s richest people while condemning billions to easily preventable poverty. We need deep, systemic change, and that starts with taxing rich people like me,” said Morris Pearl of the Patriotic Millionaires.

The five richest people in the United States, as of November 30, 2021, are:

1. Elon Musk, $294.2 billion
2. Jeff Bezos, $202.6 billion
3. Bill Gates, $137.4 billion
4. Larry Ellison, $125.7 billion
5. Larry Page, $122.8 billion

Post Office Offering COVID Tests

The Postal Service just announced that it is making free at-home COVID tests available.

LISA GRAVES, via Evan Vorpahl, evan@truenorthresearch.org, @itstruenorth
Graves is the executive director of the watchdog group True North Research and leads the BOLD ReThink project. She wrote the report “The Billionaire Behind Efforts to Kill the U.S. Postal Service.”

She said today: “The Biden administration’s launch of free, at-home COVID-19 tests is a welcome advance with the surge in infections, and deploying the U.S. Postal Service to deliver them is an excellent example of how this essential institution can provide needed public services.” She cautioned about the “Trump-appointed Postmaster General Louis DeJoy” and “his track record and his ongoing efforts to try to privatize postal operations one contract at a time.”

Said Graves: “The Postal Service is one of the largest workforces in the U.S. and with forward-thinking leadership it can play a significant role in providing services and assistance so many Americans need, like COVID-19 tests to help Americans protect their health and postal banking to give people a real, low-cost option for needed financial services. Unfortunately, it seems that DeJoy’s public banking pilot program was designed to fail.”

Graves highlighted how a public institution like a vibrant Post Office would stand in contrast to how companies have conducted themselves, pointing to the example of Abbott labs destroying Covid tests: “Abbott’s shameful and greedy conduct in destroying test components demonstrates yet again why the public cannot depend on such for-profit corporations to prioritize the public health over the company’s quests for higher and higher profits.

“Current law is not adequate to prevent such selfish and destructive conduct by corporations like Abbott, whose tests were touted by politicians and the public, until Abbott’s executives decided that they were not profitable enough to retain even as the pandemic continued to spread in the U.S. and abroad — even though Abbott made enormous profits since the pandemic began, unlike many industries and many individuals adversely affected by the pandemic.”

Graves is a former deputy assistant attorney general in the office of legal policy at the U.S. Department of Justice and former chief counsel for nominations for the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

A Campaign Against COVID Public-Health Measures

An investigative report is shedding light on “a nearly two-year campaign by right-wing and big business interests to force a return to normalcy to boost corporate profits amid a pandemic that is now surging once again thanks to Omicron.”

The report — “How the Koch Network Hijacked the War on COVID” — tells “the story of how that corporate-bankrolled campaign originally started, and how it has continued to supplant public health experts and hijack the governmental response to the pandemic.”

The authors of the report, Walker Bragman and Alex Kotch, point out that “when COVID began its spread across the United States in early March 2020, states responded by locking down to varying extents. All 24 Democratic governors and 19 of the 26 Republican governors issued weeks-long stay-at-home orders and restrictions on non-essential businesses. Lockdown measures drove down cases in the U.S. and likely saved millions of lives globally.”

However, “the decline of in-person shopping and work, combined with factory shutdowns in places like China, disrupted the economy. A 2020 report from the corporate consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found the hardest-hit industries would take years to recover.” And, “One sector in particular that took a big hit was the fossil fuel industry. Oil demand fell sharply in 2020, placing the global economy on uncertain footing.

“Before long, business-aligned groups — particularly those connected to fossil fuels — began targeting the public health measures threatening their bottom lines. Chief among them were groups tied to billionaire Charles Koch, owner of Koch Industries, the largest privately held fossil fuel company in the world.

“The war on public health measures began on March 20, 2020, when Americans For Prosperity, the right-wing nonprofit founded by Charles and David Koch, issued a press release calling on states to remain open…. To fight its war, the Koch network also relied on the astroturf roadmap behind the anti-government Tea Party movement, using its dark money apparatus to coordinate anti-lockdown protests.

“Participants for a number of anti-lockdown rallies were recruited by FreedomWorks, a dark money group tied to Charles Koch instrumental in organizing Tea Party protests in 2009. Several of the 2020 rallies were also promoted by the Convention of States Action, a group founded by an organization with ties to the Koch network and hedge fund billionaire Robert Mercer that wants to rewrite the U.S. Constitution.”

The report was produced by a partnership of the Center for Media and Democracy and The Daily Poster. The authors of the report are:

WALKER BRAGMAN, walkerbragman@gmail.com, @walkerbragman

   Bragman is a reporter for The Daily Poster and co-founder of OptOut Media Foundation, a nonprofit charity that promotes independent media and produces the OptOut news app.

ALEX KOTCH, alex@prwatch.org, @alexkotch

     Kotch is senior investigative reporter at the Center for Media and Democracy. He was previously a staff writer for SludgeTYT InvestigatesInternational Business Times and Facing South. His work has been published by dozens of outlets including The NationThe American Prospect, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch, and Vice. He is co-founder and executive director of the OptOut Media Foundation.

Newsom Fact-Checked on Rejection of Sirhan Parole on RFK Assassination

Late last week, California Governor Gavin Newsom denied parole for Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted of the killing of Robert F. Kennedy.

A parole board had recommended Sirhan’s discharge.

In his statement rejecting the release, Newsom claimed: “Mr. Sirhan shot Senator Kennedy in front of news cameras, which subjected the Kennedy family and American public to a ubiquitous video loop of Senator Kennedy’s violent death and his wife’s anguish at his side.”

LISA PEASE, lpease2@roadrunner.com, @lisapease
Pease is author of A Lie Too Big to Fail: The Real History of the Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., which was published in 2018.

She contends there are numerous falsehoods in Newsom’s statement. For example, contrary to Newsom’s claim above, Pease states: “The cameras were NOT on during the shooting — only after.”

She has argued that “Sirhan had been framed. Sirhan was in front of RFK, who was shot from behind.” See a talk by Pease televised by C-SPAN. The Washington Post covered some of Pease’s revelations: “CIA may have used contractor who inspired ‘Mission: Impossible’ to kill RFK, new book alleges.”

See recent IPA news release: “Did Sirhan Sirhan Kill Robert Kennedy?” which featured three people who have investigated the assassination of Robert Kennedy including Pease and Paul Schrade. A close associate of RFK’s, Schrade was with him the night he was assassinated and was also shot. Now in his 90s, he has long charged the Los Angeles police effectively framed Sirhan, who Schrade also states did not kill Kennedy.

Maya Angelou, the Quarter and Real Change

KALI HOLLOWAY, kali.mir@ind.media, @kalihollowayftw
Holloway is a monthly columnist for both The Nation and The Daily Beast. She is the former director of the Make it Right Project, a national initiative dedicated to taking down Confederate monuments and telling the truth about history. She is also lead vocalist for the band Easy Lover and is currently working on her first book, The Secret Racist History of Everything.

She said today: “Maya Angelou was a brilliant poet, a visionary writer, and an icon to those of us gifted with her words; for all of those reasons, her legacy and impact should be celebrated and commemorated. But I suspect that Dr. Angelou, an outspoken activist for the liberation of black folks, would question her placement on the same coin as a man who stole even the teeth of those he enslaved. I believe she would recognize the irony of America’s willingness to put a black woman on its money, even as it refuses to address the tenfold wealth gap between black and white families, or to provide recompense for centuries of state-backed anti-black racism. To be clear, representation matters, and Dr. Angelou represents the best of this country. But to genuinely reckon with anti-black racism and misogynoir, we need to not only change our narratives, monuments and currency, but to do so as part of a larger effort to create substantive social justice change.”

Martin Luther King’s Call for a “Radical Revolution of Values”

In a major speech at Riverside Church in New York, given exactly a year before his assassination, 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.

JARED A. BALL, imixwhatilike@gmail.com, @IMIXWHATILIKE
Ball is a professor of communication and Africana studies at Morgan State University 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 video: “Dr. MLK Jr.: Struggling Not To Lose Him” and more recently, see “Dr. King Did Not Support ‘#BuyBlack.'”

Organizations Call for Elimination of “Launch on Warning” Land-Based Nuclear Missiles

More than 60 national and regional organizations on Wednesday issued a joint statement calling for the elimination of the 400 land-based nuclear missiles now armed and on hair-trigger alert in the United States.

The statement, titled “A Call to Eliminate ICBMs,” warns that “intercontinental ballistic missiles are uniquely dangerous, greatly increasing the chances that a false alarm or miscalculation will result in nuclear war.”

Citing the conclusion reached by former Defense Secretary William Perry that ICBMs “could even trigger an accidental nuclear war,” the organizations urged the U.S. government to “shut down the 400 ICBMs now in underground silos that are scattered across five states — Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Wyoming.”

“Rather than being any kind of deterrent, ICBMs are the opposite — a foreseeable catalyst for nuclear attack,” the statement reads.

“I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction,” Martin Luther King Jr. said as he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. The statement ends: “Nearly 60 years later, the United States must eliminate its ICBMs to reverse that downward spiral.”

Among the groups signing the statement are Physicians for Social Responsibility, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy and Veterans For Peace. See the full statement and list of signers.

Guantánamo Prison: 20 Years, Biden “Must Uphold His Commitment” to Close it

The group Witness Against Torture is holding numerous events and protests marking the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo Bay prison. Contact for the group: Helen Schietinger, h.schietinger@verizon.net.

Amnesty International recently released a statement: “This is an anniversary that should never have been reached. Since the Bush administration, there has been agreement among national security experts and across the political spectrum that the Guantánamo prison — a notorious site of torture and unjustifiable indefinite detention — should be closed.

“President Biden must uphold his commitment to close Guantánamo once and for all.” Contact: Gabby Arias, media@aiusa.org.

Santa Cruz Threatens to Evict Food Not Bombs

In the latest of a series of restrictions on people giving out free meals, the city government of Santa Cruz is targeting the group Food Not Bombs for eviction on Tuesday

KEITH McHENRY, keith@foodnotbombs.net@keith_mchenry

McHenry is co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement. He has a regular segment on the radio program “Flashpoints” on KPFA, “Foodfight: the Life and Death Battle Against Hunger and Houslessness,” and will be the first featured guest on Monday afternoon.   He just wrote the post: “Santa Cruz Threatens to Evict Food Not Bombs“: “It is 3:30 pm on Friday, January 7, 2022, when I finally get a call from Larry Imwalle, the Santa Cruz City Homelessness Response Manager. He never returned my calls about moving people to higher ground before the Benchlands flood or after my desperate efforts to get two families into housing. He is paid $150,000 a year to ‘manage the homeless.’

“I was buying two more sets of Industrial Steel Shelving at Home Depot to place in our new shipping container. We are rushing to remove our back stock of rice, lentils and other dry goods from India Joze’s Restaurant before he closes down to make way for a luxury apartment complex to be built in its place.”

McHenry was told that “the city will require that Food Not Bombs vacate Lot 27 by Tuesday, January 11, 2022 at 2:00 PM.”

McHenry writes: “Larry tells me, as can be read in his email, that, ‘The Pure Water Soquel Construction Project will be working in this area and requires use of Lot 27 and the surrounding area to accomplish the project and stage equipment.’ I suggested he have the project manager call me so we can make this work and pointed out that there is another parking lot next to Wheelworks that is always vacant.

“As soon as Larry and I hang up I start getting calls from our volunteers at Lot 27. The police have arrived and are handing out papers saying we have to leave by Tuesday. This is not the first late Friday afternoon eviction from Lot 27 during our 664 days of sharing meals with the community during the pandemic. …”

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