News Releases

Leftist Petro Wins Colombia Presidential Election

FORREST HYLTON, forresthylton@gmail.com

Associate professor of political science at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Hylton is author of Evil Hour in Colombia. He is a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books where he just wrote the piece “Fiesta Democrática.”

Hylton writes: “Most final polls, taken a week before yesterday’s election, showed Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernández more or less even, but Petro won by 50.44 to 47.3, with 11.28 million votes, nearly three million more than he got in the first round on 29 May. …

“Now Colombia is largely urban, and Petro’s margin of victory in Bogotá alone was enough to account for his victory over Hernández. The country lacked an urban left throughout the Cold War. The escalating war in the countryside between (Leninist) Farc or ELN [National Liberation Army] insurgents and military/paramilitary counter-insurgents left little room for politics in the public squares of Colombia’s cities. Three presidential candidates were murdered by the far right during the 1990 elections. This was when Gustavo Petro and his comrades in the nationalist urban guerrilla group M-19 laid down their arms to come in from the cold and take part in public life. Most of them were subsequently murdered, but Petro survived, and went on to expose [former President] Uribe [currently on trial for bribery and witness tampering] and the paramilitarism of the Colombian senate. He ran for president in 2010 but didn’t get far. Petroleum, gas, coal, gold and cocaine exports accelerated.

“He served as mayor of Bogotá from 2012 to 2015 — with a brief hiatus when his mandate was revoked and he was barred from public life, until the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights got him restored — and as an opposition senator in 2018, after winning 42 per cent of the vote in the second round of presidential elections. No previous candidate from the left had reached double digits. Many people, especially younger voters, see Petro as part of the political establishment. He wasn’t a leader in the general strike of late 2019 or the national popular uprising of mid-2021.“His running mate Francia Márquez, however, an Afro-Colombian environmental activist and human rights lawyer who has worked as a domestic servant — and, like Petro, survived credible death threats — did speak for the people seeking to assert their democratic rights and grassroots sovereignty, especially in 2021, when politicians lost contact with what was happening on the ground, as young frontline militants battled police nightly for over two months.”

Assange Case: Persecution for Exposing War Crimes

File:Julian Assange August 2014.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

British Home Secretary has approved extradition of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to the U.S. where he would face a 175 year sentence after being in prison for over three years in Britain. A news conference is being held with Assange’s lawyers, wife and press freedom groups.

JOHN SHIPTON, shipton@pm.me
GABRIEL SHIPTON, gab@shiptonhouse.com.au

John Shipton and Gabriel Shipton, who are in the U.S., are Assange’s father and brother. They are from Australia. Gabriel Shipton said in a recent interview: “There is a real opportunity for President Biden and Secretary Blinken to walk the walk [on press freedom and international human rights] by releasing Assange.”

KEVIN GOSZTOLA, kevin@shadowproof.com, @kgosztola
Managing editor of Shadowproof, Gosztola has extensively covered and attended legal proceedings against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

His forthcoming book is Guilty of Journalism: The Political Case Against Julian Assange

The U.S. is trying to extradite Assange for exposing documentation of U.S. government killings. Among the exposes that Assange is being prosecuted for is exposing video of the “Collateral Murder” killings by U.S. soldiers from a helicopter gunship mowing down Reuters staffers in Iraq. Reuters had requested the video and other evidence in 2007, when the attack occurred, but the U.S. government kept it secret until WikiLeaks made it public in 2010.See Gosztola overview article about core issues in the case: “In Charging Assange With 17 Espionage Act Offenses, Prosecutors Claim Power to Decide Who Is and Is Not a Journalist.”

See prior IPA news releases including “Assange: Exposed War Crimes, Imprisoned for 1000 Days; Blair: Committed War Crimes, was Just Knighted.”

Another recent book is The Trial of Julian Assange: A Story of Persecution by Nils Melzer, former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The book’s description summarizes much of the case:

“In July 2010, WikiLeaks published the ‘Afghan War Diary,’ one of the biggest leaks in U.S. military history, including evidence for war crimes and torture. Shortly afterwards, Sweden investigated WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for rape and a secret grand jury in the U.S. investigated him for espionage. When both Sweden and Britain refused to guarantee that Assange would not be extradited to the U.S., he sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he stayed for the next seven years.

“When Ecuador finally turned him over to Britain in 2019, the U.S. immediately demanded his extradition and threatened him with 175 years in prison. Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, initially declined to get involved. Only when he visited Assange in prison and researched the facts did he begin to see through the deception and recognize the case for what it really was: the story of a political persecution.”

Saudi: The Death of One is a Tragedy; the Death of Millions is a Statistic

Yemen: responding to the world's largest humanitarian cris… | Flickr

The Biden administration has recently announced the president will be traveling to meet with the Sauci monarch Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud in July.

On Wednesday, the street in front of the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. was named “Jamal Khashoggi Way” in honor of the journalist the Saudi government murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. (See Los Angeles Times piece: “‘Cut it into pieces’: Jamal Khashoggi’s dismemberment was methodically planned, U.N. report says.”)

AISHA JUMAAN, MD, aisha@yemenfoundation.org, @AishaJumaan

Dr. Jumaan is president of the Yemen Relief and Reconstruction FoundationShe recently co-wrote the piece “Corporate Media Fail to Cover War in Yemen Due to U.S. Support for Saudi Arabia.” 

She said today regarding the killing of Khashoggi and the Saudi war against Yemen: “It is true what they say, ‘The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.'”
While many have focused on the oil factor regarding Saudi Arabia, Jumaan notes that historically, Saudi Arabia is often the world’s largest importer of weapons — meaning that part of Biden’s motivation in going to Saudi Arabia is to ensure continued weapons sales. See USA Today report from 2019: “Saudi Arabia buys the most weapons from the U.S. government.”
Dr. Jumaan added: “Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has been using these weapons to wage a brutal war against the Yemeni people, committing many war crimes. Yet President Biden is traveling to Saudi Arabia to offer security guarantees! It is the Yemeni people who need protection, and President Biden must ensure that Saudi Arabia stops its aggression against Yemen.”She writes in her recent piece: “News outlets in the United States give prime coverage to the war in Ukraine but mostly ignore the devastating war that the U.S. has supported. … As a result, most of the U.S. public is unaware of the war’s catastrophic impact on the Yemeni population: according to the United Nations, around 400,000 people have died and 16.2 million are at the brink of starvation.”

Robert Naiman recently wrote the piece: “Mad About Biden’s Saudi Safari? Pass the Yemen War Powers Resolution!” — urging Congress to take effective steps to force a stop to the Saudi targeting of Yemen. He writes: “The administration claims that it is trying to make the current truce permanent. Why would administration officials have any problem with codifying stated administration policy?”

338,000 U.S. Lives Could Have Been Saved from Covid, Study Finds

A new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, has found that between the beginning of the pandemic until mid-March 2022, universal health care could have saved more than 338,000 lives from Covid-19. The study also calculated that $105.6 billion could have been saved in health care costs associated with Covid hospitalizations. The study demonstrates that a significant share of Covid mortality in the U.S. is “due to our reliance on a system of market-driven health care.” 

JAMES G. KAHN, MD, JGKahn@ucsf.edu
    Kahn is a professor at the Institute for Health Policy Studies at UCSF’s Institute for Health Policy Studies.

Kahn, who is a co-author on the study, told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “This important modeling analysis and its companion empirical study in Lancet Regional Health demonstrate the massive mortality burden imposed on the U.S. population by the lack of universal insurance––tens of thousands of added deaths in a typical year and more than 300,000 during [Covid]. Placing the profits of private insurers over the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans is obscene.”

Kahn’s comment in Health Justice Monitor notes that the pair of studies finally provide a “firm numerical estimate” of Covid-19 mortality and its relation to American health care. 

Alison Galvani, the study’s lead author, told Scientific American that “health care reform is long overdue in the U.S.Prior to the pandemic, 28 million American adults were uninsured, and 9 million more lost their insurance as a result of unemployment at the start of the pandemic. The study compared the mortality risks of Covid-19 among people with and without insurance. In their cost estimates of insuring the entire U.S. population, the authors found that “a single-payer health care system would generate savings in three ways: more efficient investment in preventative care, lowered administrative costs and increased negotiating power for pharmaceuticals, equipment and fees.”

Does the Supreme Court Administer Justice?

Abortion rights advocates this week have been blockading intersections near the Supreme Court. At least one activist has been arrested for chaining himself to the fencing that now surrounds the Supreme Court building.

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle@illinois.edu
Boyle is professor of law at the University of Illinois. His books include Tackling America’s Toughest QuestionsHe has been advocating that the Democrats embrace expanding the court since the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.Boyle said today: “Any violent actions against members of the Supreme Court are condemnable but should not obscure a central truth to people: The Federalist Society, with its complete distortion of the Constitution and phony concept of ‘Originalism,’ has been packing the courts since the Reagan administration. The Democratic Party should embrace counterpacking the courts. “Contrary to what many claim, FDR’s plan to expand the Supreme Court was a great success. The court got the message and began to uphold his New Deal legislation after previously striking it down, which prompted his scheme in the first place. So he did not have to pack the court. But these Federalist Society members are so hard core, it will be needed now. [Boyle is a longtime critic of the Federalist Society; see “Hijacking Justice” from 1999 in Emerge magazine.]“Eliminating life tenure would require a Constitutional amendment, which is a non-starter to begin with and even a waste of time, efforts and money to try. Counterpacking is the best way to deal with this.” See recent interview: “Noam Chomsky: The Supreme Court Is Wielding Illegitimate Authority in the U.S.

Sam Husseini of the Institute for Public Accuracy just wrote the piece “Stop Calling them ‘Justices’ — That’s ‘Not Their Job.’” He notes that John Roberts has said: “What is morally just and right — that’s not my job.”

Trailer Park Residents Take on Venture Capitalists

JOSEPH BULLINGTON, joseph@inthesetimes.com
Bullington is rural editor for In These Times. His most recent piece is “Trailer Park Residents Take on Venture Capitalists — and Win.”

He writes from Colorado: “Alejandra Chavez, 30, moved to the area 18 years ago to join her parents, who fled economic desolation in Mexico and found work in Durango. In 2008, the family bought their trailer in Westside Mobile Home Park for $12,000. It was in rough shape, but Chavez’s father, who owns a construction company, spent years and some $20,000 renovating it into a comfortable home. Westside, Chavez says, has been a good place to live – a neighborhood where Latino, Native American and white families raise their kids together.

“As is common in trailer parks, however, the Chavezes and most of their neighbors own their homes but not the land beneath them. In December 2021, they received notice that the park was for sale. Chavez pictured their homes being torn down to make way for a hotel, a gas station or some other amenity for ski resort-goers. Or their homes might simply become unaffordable: In recent years, an inrush of tourists, remote workers and investors has driven land and housing prices out of control in Durango and across the West. The park’s prospective buyer, Harmony Communities, raised lot rents by 50 percent when it bought a trailer park in Golden, Colo., in 2021.

“Chavez and the other Westside residents saw one other option – one way to turn private tragedy into collective victory. On Jan. 14, residents formed a cooperative, elected representatives (including Chavez to the role of vice president), and voted to try to buy the park themselves.

“The $5.46 million asking price was daunting, but residents knew the cost of failure. Chavez has friends who pile in six to a car and drive 2.5‑hour commutes to Durango from cheaper towns in New Mexico, casualties of this new, outdoorsy form of gentrification.

“The land rush has not spared mobile home parks, which speculators buy up as investment properties. Two such investors even started ‘Mobile Home University’ (MHU) to sell online courses in how to do it. In a blog post titled ‘How to Make Huge Returns on Mobile Home Parks,’ MHU co-founder Frank Rolfe sums up the strategy: ‘It costs $3,000 to move a mobile home. … As a result, tenants cannot leave when you raise their rents.'”

New Database Aggregates Pandemic Policies

A database introduced this month aggregates state policies that had the goal of mitigating the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic consequences. 

The group began working on the Covid-19 U.S. State Policy (CUSP) databaseto document the dates and components of economic relief and public health measures issued at the state level” in response to the pandemic. 

JULIA RAIFMAN, jraifman@bu.edu, @JuliaRaifman 
    Raifman is an Assistant Professor of Health Law, Policy and Management at Boston University. She conducts research on population health and health disparities.

The Covid-19 U.S. State Policy database has provided continually updated information documenting the “widespread variation in state policy decisions and implementation dates” across the country. It has also already been used to shape pandemic response.  

Raifman, one of the creators of CUSP, has spoken out in the past about the end to economic pandemic support to families. Raifman told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “Starting in March 2020, we documented state policies to prevent [Covid-19] and to reduce economic hardship to inform rapid response research and policymaking. Researchers have used [CUSP] to conduct important research on eviction freezes, mask mandates, physical distancing policies, unemployment insurance and minimum wage. We hope the database will be useful for informing further learning about policy impacts in the years ahead, to better prepare us for future outbreaks or crises.” 

New Paper: Corporate Profits Central Role in Causing Inflation

SERVAAS STORM, [in the Netherlands, for print reporters] S.T.H.Storm@tudelft.nl
PIA MALANEY, pmalaney@ineteconomics.org@piamalaney
Storm is senior lecturer of economics at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. His “Inflation in the Time of Corona and War” [full PDF] has just been published by the Institute for New Economic Thinking in New York.

Malaney is senior economist at the Institute for New Economic Thinking. She was recently featured on the IPA news release: “Fed’s Fix is Wrong: Inflation Caused by ‘Skyrocketing’ Corporate Profits More Than Wages.”

Storm writes in his new paper: “The non-financial corporate profits per unit of real GDP have increased from 10.8 percent in 2020 Q2 to 15.6 percent in 2021 Q3 during the corona-period [see Figure 10]. Nominal growth of corporate profits (by 35 percent) during 2021 has vastly outstripped nominal increases in the compensation of employees (10 percent) as well as the PCE [personal consumption expenditure] inflation rate (6.1 percent). According to The Wall Street Journal, nearly two out of three of the biggest U.S. publicly traded companies had larger profit margins this year than they did in 2019, prior to the pandemic. Nearly 100 of these corporations did report profits in 2021 that are 50 percent above profit margins from 2019. Evidence from corporate earnings calls shows that CEOs are boasting about their ‘pricing power,’ meaning the ability to raise prices without losing customers. Even the Chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, has weighed in on this issue, stating that large corporations with near monopolistic market power are ‘raising prices because they can.’ These profit increases have contributed to a process of profit-price inflation.”

National Survey: More Older Adults Unvaccinated and Unboosted Than Previously Reported

A nationwide survey by the COVID States Project found that a higher number of older Americans are unvaccinated and unboosted than widely reported in the CDC data used by most public health officials. At the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, researcher Benjy Renton writes that the survey “sheds light on the critical need to vaccinate and boost older Americans.” 

MATTHEW BAUM, matthew_baum@harvard.edu
    Baum is Marvin Kalb Professor of Global Communications and a professor of public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. 

The preprint of the survey’s findings notes that “the risk of hospitalization and death from [Covid-19] is far higher for older adults, making vaccination particularly critical in reducing the impact of the pandemic.” The survey found that 13% of older Americans are still completely unvaccinated, and an additional 14% are fully vaccinated but have not received a booster––a significant gap considering the Omicron variants’ ability to evade immune defenses. 

The survey takes a second look at national CDC data, which oddly asserts that over 100% of the population of older adults are vaccinated. The “CDC data on vaccination rates are clearly significantly flawed,” the authors write, “because they indicate that there are more older Americans who have received at least one dose of vaccine than there are older Americans.”

Baum told the Institute for Public Accuracy today that there has been a need to critically assess the CDC data, which has been understood as “flawed ground truth” for the duration of the pandemic. According to Baum, the federal government has significant challenges to obtain “an accurate picture of first, second, and booster shots and then align [those numbers] with individuals. States are uneven in reporting data.” But now that some older Americans are receiving third and fourth shots, we start seeing “numbers over 100 percent.” 

The preprint notes that this is most likely because “the CDC attributes the boosters (and perhaps second shots) that many people have received to being first shots, likely due to poor vaccination record linkage for those individuals. As a result, CDC data likely understate how many people are completely unvaccinated and how many people have received boosters, and overstate the number of individuals who have received only a single dose.” The survey data, however, are more sensitive to “discerning things like booster shots,” as it is an opt-in survey that can get a “critical mass of respondents in every state,” Baum says. 

In the past several months, much of the public, including many public health officials, have landed on a narrative that assumes older Americans are safely vaccinated and boosted. Yet Baum says that “there is still work to be done in that age group… Our evidence suggests it’s not over and done.”

Harvard public health researcher Renton told the Institute for Public Accuracy today that “while [older Americans] were prioritized during the initial rollout––with 91% having completed the primary series––there are currently 15.1-plus million Americans over the age of 65 who have not received their first booster. We must continue to bring vaccines to people where they are.”

The study also looked at the reasons older Americans cite for being unvaccinated. Contrary to depictions that all those who remain unvaccinated are ideologically opposed to it and are unpersuadable, the data found that many older Americans were not necessarily resistant to being vaccinated: Rather, they “indicated an openness to getting a booster but cited obstacles or a lack of urgency to do so.” Baum says that public health officials could address the concerns held by these older Americans who may be persuadable to be vaccinated ––but “that will take time and effort.” 

Watergate at 50: The Hidden Hand of the CIA

Scorpions' Dance

JEFFERSON MORLEY, morleyj@gmail.com, @jeffersonmorleyMorley’s book Scorpions’ Dance: The President, the Spymaster and Watergate was just released Tuesday. The 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in is June 17.

The book focuses on the relationship between President Richard Nixon and then-CIA Director Richard Helms and relies on documents that have since been partly released and a reexamination of overlooked portions of Nixon’s tapes. Morley said today: “We can now say with confidence what the CIA denied: that Howard Hunt was a CIA asset at the same time he was a Watergate burglar.”
In his recent piece “The [Redacted] Truth About the CIA’s [Redacted] Role in Watergate” for the Daily Beast, Morley writes: “A redacted FBI memo from May 1973 conceals details about Hunt’s role in breaking into the office of the psychiatrist of Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense Department analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. The memo was addressed to Acting FBI Director Mark Felt who was serving as a confidential source, known as Deep Throat, for Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward.”

Morely also just wrote “Nixon’s Plan to Threaten the CIA on JFK’s Assassination” for Politico. Nixon’s obsession with “the whole Bay of Pigs thing” has intrigued many for decades. A largely overlooked tape provides answers.

Morley recounts a Nixon conversation with then-CIA director Helms. Morley writes: “‘The “Who shot John?” angle,’ he [Nixon] said quietly, 17 minutes into the conversation. Nixon did not dwell on the phrase. He didn’t need to. In the context of his long-standing demand for the CIA’s records, the invocation of ‘the “Who shot John?” angle’ can only refer to one thing: Kennedy’s assassination. The ambush in Dallas was the first thing on Nixon’s mind as he pressed the director for the agency’s Bay of Pigs files. The president intuited a connection between the failed invasion in 1961 and JFK’s assassination two years later.

“Nixon had no desire to expose what Helms called the agency’s ‘dirty linen.’ Rather, he wanted to use the Bay of Pigs issue against presumed rival Ted Kennedy while defending the CIA from recent allegations that the CIA’s plots against Castro had led to JFK’s death. Nixon knew the Agency was vulnerable to JFK’s assassination, which he presumed gave him leverage over Helms.”

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