News Releases

Google and Amazon Workers Call Out Project with Israeli Military

On Tuesday, The Guardian published an anonymous statement which began: “We are writing as Google and Amazon employees of conscience from diverse backgrounds. We believe that the technology we build should work to serve and uplift people everywhere, including all of our users. As workers who keep these companies running, we are morally obligated to speak out against violations of these core values. For this reason, we are compelled to call on the leaders of Amazon and Google to pull out of Project Nimbus and cut all ties with the Israeli military. … We are anonymous because we fear retaliation.

“GABRIEL SCHUBINER, via notech4apartheid@protonmail.com

Schubiner is a software engineer for Google and one of the signers of the statement to come forward. He said today: “It’s important for engineers and other workers to uphold our ethical values and ensure the company reflects that. Android and Google search users are told that privacy is a priority, but at the same time, Google is selling powerful cloud technology to those who intend to surveil those same users. This project is a bellwether.”

He wrote a just-published piece for NBC News with Bathool Syed, a content strategist at Amazon: “We’ve joined together as workers across corporate lines for the first time to send a joint letter Tuesday calling on Google and Amazon to respect Palestinian human rights and cancel Project Nimbus, the $1.2 billion venture that will provide cloud services to the Israeli government, specifically including the military. The services encompass both storage and computational resources, as well as features that enable users to easily train powerful artificial intelligence.

“Under these contracts, our cloud services would help facilitate the Israeli military’s control and persecution of Palestinians, demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied Palestinian territories and attacks on Gaza that have hit civilian targets such as hospitals. In addition to the military, Project Nimbus will also provide our cloud services to the Israel Land Authority, an agency that enables Israel’s continued expansion of segregated settlements in violation of international law and U.S. policy. …

“Nearly 1,000 anonymous signatories at Amazon and more than 600 at Google have joined this call. …

“Large tech corporations have responded to human rights concerns before, and they can do it again. In 2019, Google terminated Project Dragonfly, a censored search engine in China, and pulled out of the Pentagon’s Project Maven in 2018. The same principles should apply to the Project Nimbus contracts and all future contracts based on their real-world consequences. Since we have no ability to guarantee that the technology we build won’t be used to commit human rights abuses against Palestinians, cutting the contracts entirely is the only ethical option left for our companies.”

Also see: NoTechForApartheid.com.

Women Advocates Call on the World Bank to Release Funds to Pay Afghan Teachers

As the World Bank holds its annual meeting, women’s rights advocates will hold a press conference calling on the Bank to release frozen Afghan funds to pay the salaries of women teachers and healthcare workers in Afghanistan. They have formed a new group called Unfreeze Afghanization. The news conference is at 10 a.m. ET this morning at the World Bank in Washington, D.C.

They “are responding to an urgent appeal from the 45,000-member Teachers Association of Afghanistan on October 6, 2021 warning that the situation for teachers is dire,” as most have not been paid since June.

“The Ministry of Education has very few resources, and it is hard to ask our teachers to keep working without salaries. Many of them are the sole breadwinners in their families, and they are really struggling. It will be difficult to keep the schools open if we have no funds,” the Afghan teachers statement said.

Prominent women involved in the call to release frozen World Bank funds include Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker; Jamila Safi, President of the Afghan Female Teachers Association; Toorpakai Momand, former Director of Female Education in Afghanistan; Sunita Mehta, co-founder of Women for Afghan Women and Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission. In addition, over 3,000 people have added their names to a petition hosted on the CODEPINK website.

The group notes that needed healthcare funding has been cut off as well.

After the Taliban took hold of Kabul, the new group notes the U.S. government “froze nearly $10 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank and stopped shipments of cash to the country. The International Monetary Fund has frozen the distribution of more than $400 million destined for COVID relief and the World Bank is holding back hundreds of millions in the Afghan Reconstruction Trust Fund. Foreign aid to Afghanistan had previously been about $8.5 billion a year — nearly half of the country’s gross domestic product, and the freezing of funds has been disastrous for the Afghan people.”

The group calls on the Taliban “to re-open all schools for boys and girls throughout the country and calls on the international community to enable the re-opening and operation of these schools by releasing the frozen funds.”

See full statement here.
Contact: Ariel Gold, ariel@codepink.org
Medea Benjamin, medea@codepink.org, @codepink

U.S. Policy Toward China Called Aggressive

JAMES BRADLEY, james@jamesbradley.com
    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 lives in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand, producing the “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.'”

    See his recent interview with Covert Action Magazine on the U.S. military encirclement of China.

    “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? Or will the U.S. insist upon the Taiwan question being settled as a matter of war? It’s not China that’s aggressive — it’s the U.S. government that invades Iraq and Afghanistan and puts a fleet on China’s doorstep.

    “Now we have the U.S. government prodding Australia into a more militaristic posture toward China when China has been largely responsible for economic prosperity in Australia.

    “My daughter is in Taipei. She’s not worried about any sort of impending war.

    “The U.S.’s history in China is disastrous. One of the first war lobbies in the U.S. was to get the U.S. to pour millions into supporting Chiang Kai-shek against Mao when Chiang Kai-shek had much, much less popular support. FDR ended up spending more on Chiang Kai-shek than he did on the atomic bomb.”

“Nobel Committee Gets Peace Prize Wrong Yet Again”

The Nobel Peace Prize this year is being awarded to Maria Ressa from the Philippines who founded Rappler and Dmitry Muratov, a founder of the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

Fredrik Heffermehl of Nobel Peace Prize Watch tweeted this morning: “Again, the Nobel Committee has its loyalty to the United States and NATO and is pointing its finger at Russia rather than criticizing U.S. imperial power for eradicating global press power in its revenge on [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange. The same forces support military bases for the United States in Norway.”

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson@gmail.com, @davidcnswanson
    Executive director of WorldBeyondWar.org, Swanson just wrote the piece “Nobel Committee Gets Peace Prize Wrong Yet Again,” which states: “The Nobel Committee has yet again awarded a peace prize that violates the will of Alfred Nobel and the purpose for which the prize was created, selecting recipients who blatantly are not ‘the person who has done the most or best to advance fellowship among nations, the abolition or reduction of standing armies, and the establishment and promotion of peace congresses.

    “That there are numerous candidates who plausibly meet the criteria and could have been appropriately awarded a Nobel Peace Prize is established by the list of nominees published by Nobel Peace Prize Watch.”

    World Beyond War is associated with the War Abolisher Awards which were given out two days ago. Three awards were presented. The Lifetime Organizational War Abolisher of 2021: Peace Boat. The David Hartsough Lifetime Individual War Abolisher of 2021: Mel Duncan. The War Abolisher of 2021: Civic Initiative Save Sinjajevina.

    Swanson added: “The trouble with the Nobel Peace Prize has long been and remains that it often goes to warmongers, that it often goes to good causes that have little direct connection to abolishing war, and that it often favors the powerful rather than those in need of funding and prestige to support good work. This year it has been awarded to another good cause that has little direct connection to abolishing war. Although virtually every topic can be tangentially connected to war and peace, the avoidance of actual peace activism intentionally misses the point of the prize’s creation by Alfred Nobel and the influence of Bertha von Suttner.”

    Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa and Rappler are funded by the Omidyar Network and the U.S. government through the National Endowment for Democracy. Rappler also has a partnership with Facebook.

    “The prize has also been used to advance the propaganda of some of the world’s major war makers. Awards like this year’s have been used to denounce violations of human rights in non-Western nations targeted in the weapons-funding propaganda of Western nations. This record allows Western media outlets each year to speculate before the prize announcement on whether it will go to favorite propaganda topics, such as Alexei Navalny. The actual recipients this year are from Russia and the Philippines, Russia being the primary target of U.S. and NATO war preparations, including the primary excuse for the construction of new military bases in Norway.”

20 Years into “War on Terror”: Will Religious Leaders Finally Speak Out?

JACK GILROY, jgilroy1955@gmail.com
NICK MOTTERN, nickmottern@gmail.com
    On Oct. 7, the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and the start of the so-called U.S. “War on Terror,” a group of justice and peace organizations and activists are urging leaders of all U.S. religious denominations to end their “shocking” 20-year “near silence” on U.S. government wars.

    Gilroy and Mottern are among the signers of a letter being delivered to clergy around the U.S. Thursday. Gilroy recently wrote the piece “Blessed be the Warmakers? Why Post-9/11 American Religious Leaders Must Atone.”

    The letter states: “approximately a million people have died in the Middle East in wars generated by the United States starting on 10/7.”

    “We ask you, we implore you, to vocally object to existing plans for more drone warfare. We urge you to call for an end of the ‘Over the Horizon‘ drone attack plan of our United States government. We ask as well that you speak out in opposition to the political, military, and corporate fear-making depicting China as our new enemy — a fear that is already generating great financial benefit to the Pentagon war contractors. …

    “Praying for the troops was a mantra of all religious groups and music to the ears of the Pentagon and its war contractors,” the peace advocates say. Simply praying for U.S. troops, the letter continues, “enables the war-makers to do their business.”

    Mottern, who is co-coordinator of Ban Killer Drones also notes that U.S. drone attacks are also believed to be striking “Somalia, Niger, Syria, Yemen and Iraq as well as Afghanistan and possibly parts of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan” with minimal attention while “Iran appears to be under intensive U.S. military drone surveillance.”

    A copy of the letter, full list of signers and other material is available on the website of Pax Christi USA.

What’s the Matter with South Dakota? State an “Insanely Corrupt” Magnet for “Wealth-Hoarding Megarich”

CHUCK COLLINS, BOB LORD, KALENA THOMHAVE, via Olivia Alperstein, Olivia@ips-dc.org
    Following the release of the “Pandora Papers,” experts cited in the papers are highlighting the structures that allow billionaires to get away with avoiding paying taxes.

    Drawn by low taxes and some of the nation’s most generous trust laws, “shady billionaires from around the world are going to South Dakota,” says Collins, author of The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions, and co-editor of Inequality.org at the Institute for Policy Studies. See: “How ‘Insanely Corrupt’ South Dakota Became a Magnet for the Wealth-Hoarding Megarich.”

    The Mount Rushmore State “now rivals Switzerland, Panama, the Cayman Islands, and other famous tax havens as a premier venue for the international rich seeking to protect their assets from local taxes or the authorities,” The Guardian, one of the members of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which published the “Pandora Papers” reports.

    Collins writes: “Findings suggest that South Dakota has sheltered billions in wealth linked to wealthy individuals previously accused of serious financial crimes and labor violations. Two examples: Brazilian orange juice baron Horst Happel was fined $88 million in 2016 for underpaying his workers. In 2017, he moved substantial wealth to a trust in South Dakota. Carlos Morales Troncoso was the former vice president of the Dominican Republic. He ran a sugar company called Central Romana … that was accused of human rights violations. He set up trusts for his daughters in the Bahamas that were moved, after his death, to South Dakota.

    “Lawmakers should convene hearings on trust law and act at the federal level to shut down or discourage the formation of dynasty trusts and GRATs [Grantor Retained Annuity Trust] for the purposes of tax avoidance and dynastic succession,” he said. “Actions could include the passage of a federal ‘rule against perpetuities,’ banning certain trust arrangements, and taxing income and wealth in trusts.”

    Other U.S. states noted as problematic in the “Pandora Papers” include Delaware, Florida, Nevada, and Texas.

    “The world is going to be looking at us differently after the Pandora Papers,” said Collins. “They’re going to see that the United States is the weak link now in the system of global financial transparency.”

    Lord is a veteran tax attorney and associate fellow with the Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies. Thomhave is a researcher at the program.

    They just wrote the piece “Why Do South Dakota Politicians Help Billionaires?” which states: “South Dakota prides itself on being ‘the premier trust jurisdiction in the United States,’ according to its Division of Banking. After all, South Dakota is home to a task force of estate and trust professionals appointed by the governor to ensure that it remains the most ‘competitive’ place in the nation to establish a dynasty trust, with low taxes and fees and few regulations. … There are more than $500 billion in trust assets in South Dakota, managed by 105 state trust companies. … When politicians from South Dakota, Wyoming, and Alaska are doing the bidding of billionaires in New York and California, we should be deeply suspicious.”

Postal Banking Worked Before, and Can Again

In “Can a post office be a bank? New services test a progressive priority,” NBC News reports: “The U.S. Postal Service has quietly begun offering a handful of new or expanded financial services in four cities, a potential first step toward a return to postal banking, which advocates say could help rescue the agency’s finances and assist millions of people who have limited or no access to the banking system.”

The piece quotes Christopher Shaw: “It’s a case of market failure where the banking industry is not interested in serving these people because they’re not profitable enough and where the Postal Service, because it is a government service, can step in and help with that market failure and ensure those services are available.” Shaw is a historian who wrote the books Money, Power, and the People: The American Struggle to Make Banking Democratic (University of Chicago Press) and Preserving the People’s Post Office.

CHRISTOPHER W. SHAW, christophershaw.ca@gmail.com, @chris_w_shaw
Shaw is also author of the forthcoming book First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat (City Lights Books), which will be published in early November. His past pieces include “The U.S. Postal Service Was Designed to Serve Democracy” for Foreign Affairs and “Postal Banking is Making a Comeback. Here’s How to Ensure it Becomes a Reality” for the Washington Post.

He said today: “Many other nations use postal banking, and in the twentieth century the United States did too. Grassroots activism had demanded this service in the face of arguments by banking lobbyists who claimed postal banking was impractical and improper. My research reveals that in the 1960s the banking lobby killed postal banking, opening the door for the millions of unbanked who currently pay high fees for basic financial services. That we’re hearing similar arguments now against postal banking is an indication that special interests again feel threatened by it. In fact, we need this service to help millions of people now more than ever.”

“Pandora Papers” Experts: U.S. Now a Billionaire Tax Haven

“Pandora Papers” experts, Chuck Collins, author of The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions (Polity Books), and tax attorney Bob Lord, are available for comment on the Pandora Papers revelations.

Over the last three months, Collins has briefed members of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), on the “wealth hiding” systems in the USA. Articles interviewing Collins are now appearing in the British Guardian, El Pais (Spain) Infobae in Argentina, El Pais (Brasil), Univision (Mexico), and dozens of others.

On Sunday, the ICIJ released “The Pandora Papers,” based on 11.9 million leaked files. It exposes billionaires involved in aggressive wealth hiding and tax avoidance. It reveals, for instance, that “South Dakota now rivals opaque jurisdictions in Europe and the Caribbean in financial secrecy,” notes Collins.

“It is time for U.S. lawmakers to shut down the hidden wealth system that allows for such aggressive tax avoidance and the sequestering of wealth,” said Collins, who just wrote the piece “Why billionaires love to park their wealth in places like South Dakota” for Salon and is co-editor of Inequality.org at the Institute for Policy Studies. He added: “The U.S. has become the weak link in stopping global crime and wealth hiding. States like South Dakota and Delaware have morphed their laws to attract billions, sometimes illicitly obtained, from around the world. We in the U.S. should be embarrassed that we’ve become a magnet for kleptocratic funds.”

Collins’ book, The Wealth Hoarders, points to the role of enablers, what scholars call “the wealth defense industry,” in facilitating the use of dynasty trusts, off-shore tax havens, and anonymous shell companies. These wealth defenders include accountants, tax attorneys, wealth managers, and family office staff, that aid the super-rich in putting vast amounts of wealth beyond the reach of tax authorities. Collins also puts forward a comprehensive plan for shutting down the hidden wealth system.

Bob Lord is a Phoenix tax attorney, associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, and legal expert on trusts, estate tax law, and explaining the complicated tax dodges deployed by the superwealthy.

Collins and Lord are available to comment on the latest revelations from the ICIJ Pandora Papers. Email: Contact Olivia Alperstein Olivia@ips-dc.org or Chuck Collins: chuck@ips-dc.org

Additional background resources:

Interview with Chuck Collins by International Consortium of Investigative Journalists:

How the world’s richest defend their wealth with help from a dedicated industry.”

By Bob Lord: “Beyond Lucrative: Jeffrey Epstein’s Billionaire Tax Avoidance Business” and “Taxing 7 Billionaires Could Pay For Third of Biden’s $3.5 Trillion Spending Package.”

IPS Policy Brief: “Dynasty Trusts: How the Wealthy Shield Trillions from Taxation Onshore,” by Kalena Thomhave and Chuck Collins.

How Milton Friedman Aided Segregationists in Quest to Privatize Public Education

NANCY MacLEAN, nancy.maclean@duke.edu

MacLean is William H. Chafe distinguished professor of history and public policy at Duke University and author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.

Her new study for the Institute for New Economic Thinking is: “How Milton Friedman Aided and Abetted Segregationists in His Quest to Privatize Public Education.”

The essay reveals how the Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman allied himself with southern white efforts to defy the 1954 Supreme Court decision barring racial segregation in U.S. public schools. The iconic American academic hoped that the segregationists would advance his crusade to end public schools in the U.S. with vouchers for private schools.

“Friedman and his allies saw in the backlash to the desegregation decree an opportunity they could leverage to advance their goal of privatizing government services and resources. Whatever their personal beliefs about race and racism, they helped Jim Crow survive in America by providing ostensibly race-neutral arguments for tax subsidies to the private schools sought by white supremacists. Indeed, to achieve court-proof vouchers, leading defenders of segregation learned from the libertarians that the best strategy was to abandon overtly racist rationales and embrace both an anti-government stance and a positive rubric of liberty, competition, and market choice.”

MacLean concludes by bringing the story up to the present. “The sad fact of the matter is that improving education was never the true reason for free-market fundamentalists’ embrace of vouchers. As Friedman signaled in his first 1955 manifesto and argued for over a half century, school ‘choice’ was a tactic. The strategy it served was to ultimately stick parents with the full cost of their children’s schooling and the labor of finding and arranging it.

“He was as frank in addressing a meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) four months before his death in 2006. Said Friedman: ‘the ideal way [to give parents control of their children’s education] would be to abolish the public school system and eliminate all the taxes that pay for it.’
“That,” writes MacLean, “is what today’s billionaire libertarian backers of vouchers, with Charles G. Koch in the lead, are keeping from the unsuspecting parents on whom the cause relies for electoral success, now Black and Latino as well as white.”

New DeJoy Policy Will Permanently Slow Down Billions of Pieces of Mail

CHRISTOPHER W. SHAW, christophershaw.ca@gmail.com, @chris_w_shaw
    Shaw is author of the forthcoming book First Class: The U.S. Postal Service, Democracy, and the Corporate Threat (City Lights Books), which will be published in early November. His past pieces include “The U.S. Postal Service Was Designed to Serve Democracy” for Foreign Affairs and “Postal Banking is Making a Comeback. Here’s how to Ensure it Becomes a Reality” for the Washington Post.

    He said today: “Even as the FBI continues to investigate Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for a pattern of suspicious donations made by employees of his former business, a new policy will slow down billions of pieces of first-class mail starting October 1. Service standards for first-class mail will be lowered from the existing one- to three-days to one- to five-days, a permanent change that will impact approximately 40 percent of all mail. Residents of the Pacific coast will be most affected by the imposition of these new delivery delays. Ironically, after widespread delays under DeJoy’s tenure, degrading service guidelines will allow the U.S. Postal Service to claim improved performance due to the extended window for on-time delivery. With the Postal Service facing a number of financial challenges — notably the unique burden of massively pre-funding its retirees’ health benefits — reducing service will only discourage use of the U.S. Mail, which is not a formula for long-term financial health and stability.”

Next Page »