• Was pleased to drop in on a symposium-tribute to People’s Historian Howard Zinn at NYU. There were brilliant presentations by Marylyn Young, Martin Duberman, the great poet-writer Alice Walker who studied with Howard, or Howie as most knew him at Spelman College in Atlanta in l960. My fave was my friend, historian and political analyst Irene Gendzier who worked with Zinn at Boston University. More on her latest work later.
•Radio Show Yesterday on PRN.FM: Guest Aljzeera political analysts and host of Empire, Marwan Bishara.
•News Dissection: That “Iron Law” Of Oligarchy Is Back To Haunt Us
By Danny Schechter
The word Oligarchy has finally come home.
For years, it was a term only used in connection with those big bad and sleazy Mafioso-type businessmen in Russia.
Russia had Oligarchs; we didn’t. That became a big difference between the official narrative of what separated our land of the free and the home of the brave from THEM, the snakes in the shades and private planes, in the post-Soviet period.
Actually, I first heard the term oligarchy when I was studying labor history at Cornell a half a lifetime ago. We were taught about something called the “Iron Law of Oligarchy.”
It was a concept coined by Robert Michels, a friend of sociology guru, Max Weber, way back in 1911. Here’s how it was defined in that relic of another age: The Encyclopedia Brittannica:
“Michels came to the conclusion that the formal organization of bureaucracies inevitably leads to oligarchy, under which organizations originally idealistic and democratic eventually come to be dominated by a small, self-serving group of people who achieved positions of power and responsibility. This can occur in large organizations because it becomes physically impossible for everyone to get together every time a decision has to be made.”
So, oligarchies have been with us seemingly forever—it’s an “iron law,” says he– but in current usage the term references the small elite—the 1% of the 1% that dominates economic and political decision making.
Every body on the liberal left is now discovering information spelled out in a number of studies that caught the attention of Bill Moyers and his writing colleague Michael Winship. They discuss the way governments become partial to oligarchs and insure that the rich rule:
“Inequality is what has turned Washington into a protection racket for the one percent. It buys all those goodies from government: Tax breaks. Tax havens (which allow corporations and the rich to park their money in a no-tax zone). Loopholes. Favors like carried interest. And so on. As Paul Krugman writes in his New York Review of Books essay on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, “We now know both that the United States has a much more unequal distribution of income than other advanced countries and that much of this difference in outcomes can be attributed directly to government action.”
According to the AFL-CIO,” CEOs of major companies earn an average of 331 times more than their employees!” The NY Times reports America’s middle class is “no longer the world’s richest.”
Asking if democracy can “tame” plutocracy, Bob Borosage of the Campaign for America’s Future, cites another study: “A recent exhaustive study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page found that elites got their way not often, but virtually all of the time (emphasis mine!) I guess the answer to his question re the possibility of “taming” plutocrats is, in the current moment, is a thundering NO.”
Even the barons of business news admit that wealth is concentrated as almost never before, Here’s Bloomberg:
“Just today, the world’s 200 richest people made $13.9 billion. In one single day, according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index… This is the Fed’s “wealth effect,” … It’s a construct that the Greenspan Fed conjured up out of thin air and presented to the incredulous American people as a valid economic theory. Bernanke then promoted it to the Fed’s stated raison d’être. His theory: if we immensely enrich during years of bailouts, money-printing, and interest rate repression the richest few thousand people in the world, everyone would be happy somehow.”
Adding critical fire power to this perspective, Eric Zuesse, cites the study to appear in the Fall 2014 issue of the academic journal Perspectives on Politics, that finds that “the U.S. is no democracy, but instead an oligarchy, meaning profoundly corrupt, so that the answer to the study’s opening question, “Who governs? Who really rules?” in this country, is:
“Despite the seemingly strong empirical support in previous studies for theories of majoritarian democracy, our analyses suggest that majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts…
When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
To put it short: The United States is no democracy, but actually an oligarchy.”
The underlying research for this study drew on “a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.”
Much of this involves what economist Simon Johnston calls the “capture” of the state by corporate interests. He explains in a recent post: “Before 1939, wages and profits in the financial sector in the United States amounted to less than 1% of GDP; now they stand at 7-8% of GDP. In recent decades, financial assets have expanded dramatically relative to any measure of economic activity, as life expectancy increased and the post-WWII baby boomers began to think about saving for retirement. Compared to the size of the US economy, individual banks are now much bigger than they were in the early 1990’s.”
Sounds pretty frightening—and depressing.
None of us should be shocked by these findings. Last year I did a TV documentary series, Who Rules America based, in part, on the writings of C. Wight Mills on The Power Elite years ago and the detailed research by sociologist William Domhoff who forecast these trends.
As the economy changes, so does internal politics, as Tom Lodge observes in the case of South Africa: “the degenerative changes that are observed within the ANC … appear to reflect a global trend in which mass parties are being replaced by electoral machines that depend less and less upon militant activism” and more on transactional exchanges between the electorate and the political elite. Amid these electoral limitations, what becomes the source of agency for ordinary people to instruct change in governance?”
What indeed? It behooves us to lobby our media to start reporting on the world as it is, not what it was, when today’s senior editors grew up, believing in the myths of American pluralism. And, now, disregarding who really has, and wields, power.
News Dissector Danny Schechter blogs at Newsdissector.net, and edits Mediachannel.org. His latest book is “When South Africa Called, We Answered, How Solidarity Helped Topple Apartheid. (2014). Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
In The News
•NYTimes: Russia to Start Drills, Warning Ukraine Over Mobilization
SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — Defying warnings from Moscow not to confront pro-Russian militants entrenched in towns across eastern Ukraine, government forces on Thursday revived a stalled operation to regain control by force but had little to show for their efforts other than Russian military drills on Ukraine’s border and heightened alarm about Moscow’s next move.
Russia has repeatedly denied having a hand in the unrest convulsing eastern Ukraine or any intention to invade. But an announcement Thursday by Moscow that it would immediately start military maneuvers along the border with Ukraine, and a threat by Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, of unspecified consequences for Ukraine as a result of what he called a “serious crime,” signaled a combustible new phase in a geopolitical battle set off by the overthrow of Ukraine’s government in February.
The day’s events also buried already feeble hopes that a deal reached last Thursday in Geneva by diplomats from the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and the United States might calm a crisis that has stirred fears of a wider conflict over control of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that straddles a volatile fault line between Europe and Russia.
In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia on Thursday night that it would face additional economic sanctions if it failed to carry out that agreement. “The window to change course is closing,” he said. Sanctions could be announced as soon as Friday if the Russians do not respond, said one senior administration official who asked not to be identified while discussing internal planning.
In his most detailed accusation of Russian interference to date, Mr. Kerry said that American intelligence services had concluded that Russia’s “military intelligence services and special operators are playing an active role in destabilizing eastern Ukraine.”
“Some of the individual Special Operations personnel who were active on Russia’s behalf in Chechnya, Georgia and Crimea have been photographed in Slovyansk, Donetsk and Luhansk,” Mr. Kerry said. “Some are even bragging about it by themselves on their Russian social media sites.”
•How The Moscow Times Is Reporting It: Ukraine Turmoil Heats Up to Military Action.
As tanks and troops sent by the central government in Kiev zeroed in to Ukraine’s wayward town of Slovyansk on Thursday, Moscow responded by ordering snap military drills on the border with the troubled region.
The move marks the first time Russia has officially acknowledged that its military action was directly related to events unfolding in neighboring Ukraine. During earlier military drills, the Kremlin had denied any connection with the Ukraine crisis.
But on Tuesday, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia had been “forced to react to these developments,” adding that Ukraine had deployed 160 tanks, 230 armored vehicles and at least 150 guns and mortars to counter 2,000 militants armed with about 100 machine guns.
“The forces are not equal. They were allowed to use arms against civilians. If this military machine does not get stopped today, it will lead to more bloodshed,” Shoigu said, Interfax reported.
Shoigu did not specify the amount of troops that would participate in the exercise, though he did specify that Russia’s Air Force would conduct patrol flights around the Ukrainian border.
Earlier in the day, President Vladimir Putin accused the new Kiev government of committing “serious crimes against its own people” and sapping last week’s deal aimed at de-escalation in conflict-ridden Ukraine.
“We have participated in the Geneva meeting, where we signed certain documents ordering people from both sides to disarm, vacate administrative buildings and so on. What is happening? The Right Sector, as well as other radical organizations do not disarm, on the contrary, these gangs are getting legalized,” Putin said in St. Petersburg on Thursday, referring to the radical nationalist movement that was instrumental in bringing down the pro-Moscow regime in Ukraine in February.
Ukraine’s army units started pouring into Slovyansk on early afternoon Thursday, launching an attack against militants at checkpoints that guard each entrance to the town of 129,000. In the past two weeks Slovyansk has been the epicenter of pro-Russian separatist zeal in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, which has made it a target for Ukraine’s authorities.
Ukraine’s Acting President Oleksander Turchynov on Thursday demanded that Russia stop interfering in his country’s domestic affairs.
No official information about the number of troops deployed in Slovyansk was released publicly by the Ukrainian officials by Thursday evening.
Speaking at the media forum in St. Petersburg on Thursday, Putin said that a crackdown against civilians by the regular Ukrainian Army would destroy whatever legitimacy the authorities in Kiev might have had before.
“If the regime in Kiev has done it then we cannot call them anything but junta or simply some kind of clique. They do not have a nation-wide mandate. They have got, at best, only elements of legitimacy in the framework of parliament. All other agencies cannot be called legitimate for one reason or another,” Putin said, addressing a crowd of regional journalists.
The clash with pro-Russia militants led to at least five casualties among the separatists, according to Ukraine’s security service. The operation was carried out not by the officers from the local branch but by the commandos dispatched from other regions. “At least three checkpoints” have been destroyed, the service said on its website Thursday. The town itself remained under control of the militants.
•Robert Parry, Consortium News: “Two days after the New York Times led its editions with a one-sided article about photos supposedly proving that Russian special forces were behind the popular uprisings in eastern Ukraine, the Times published what you might call a modified, limited retraction.”
•CLG: Obama breaks 2008 campaign pledge on net neutrality –This is what one might call a net-discrimination rule, and, if enacted, it will profoundly change the Internet as a platform for free speech and small-scale innovation.
In 2007, at a public forum at Coe College, in Iowa, Presidential candidate Barack Obama was asked about net neutrality. Specifically, “Would you make it a priority in your first year of office to reinstate net neutrality as the law of the land? And would you pledge to only appoint F.C.C. commissioners that support open Internet principles like net neutrality?” “The answer is yes,” Obama replied. “I am a strong supporter of net neutrality.” If reports in the Wall Street Journal are correct, Obama’s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler, has proposed a new rule that is an explicit and blatant violation of this promise.
‘Net Neutrality’ Overturned by FCC in Cave-in to Cable Lobbyists –One top cable executive said, ‘I have to say, I’m pleased.’ 23 Apr 2014 Regulators are proposing new rules on Internet traffic that would allow broadband providers to charge companies [and, in turn, consumers] a premium for access to their fastest lanes [and slow delivery of items such as the CLG Newsletter]. The Federal Communications Commission plans to put forth its new rules on Thursday. The proposal marks the FCC’s third attempt at enforcing “net neutrality”–the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. Net neutrality was a key part of President Barack Obama’s campaign platform in 2008.
•Thank You For Being Here. This Newsdissector.net is produced daily by Danny Schechter. Your help, ideas, skills and story ideas are welcome. Write: email@example.com. •••Mediachannel.org has been updated.
•LISTEN UP: hursday on News Dissector/Mediachannel radio on PRN.fm, 5 Pm to 6 PM: Marwan Bishara, AlJazeera Chief Political Analyst and correspondent on their on line program Empire. There was a screw up last week so we are trying again this week. Also, now posted on Mediachannel.org, the interview we did with Elsa Rassbach, an independent filmmaker based in Berlin.
News We Need To Know
•The Latest Betrayal-Say Goodbye To Net Neutrality: F.C.C., in ‘Net Neutrality’ Turnaround, Plans to Allow Fast Lane
WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission will propose new rules that allow Internet service providers to offer a faster lane through which to send video and other content to consumers, as long as a content company is willing to pay for it, according to people briefed on the proposals.
The proposed rules are a complete turnaround for the F.C.C. on the subject of so-called net neutrality, the principle that Internet users should have equal ability to see any content they choose, and that no content providers should be discriminated against in providing their offerings to consumers.
The F.C.C.’s previous rules governing net neutrality were thrown out by a federal appeals court this year. The court said those rules had essentially treated Internet service providers as public utilities, which violated a previous F.C.C. ruling that Internet links were not to be governed by the same strict regulation as telephone or electric service
The proposal, to be introduced by Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the commission, will prohibit broadband companies from blocking any sites or services from consumers.F.C.C. Seeks a New Path on ‘Net Neutrality’ RulesFEB. 19, 2014
Verizon challenged the rules set by the Federal Communications Commission, arguing that the commission had overstepped the authority granted to it by federal telecommunications laws
The new rules, according to the people briefed on them, will allow a company like Comcast or Verizon to negotiate separately with each content company – like Netflix, Amazon, Disney or Google – and charge different companies different amounts for priority service.
•Wall Street Journal Take: This latest plan is likely to be viewed as an effort to find a middle ground, as the FCC has been caught between its promise to keep the Internet open and broadband providers’ desire to explore new business models in a fast-changing marketplace. It likely won’t satisfy everyone, however. Some advocates of an open Internet argue that preferential treatment for some content companies inevitably will result in discriminatory treatment for others
The proposal would open the door to new products from companies such as Apple Inc., AAPL -1.31% which has explored the idea of offering a video service that would rely on a dedicated portion of the broadband pipe. Like the FCC’s previous open Internet rules, the proposal wouldn’t apply to wireless carriers, which aren’t governed by any net-neutrality rules.
The FCC will circulate the proposal on Thursday ahead of a vote to move forward with the proposal at its May 15 meeting. Moving forward would represent a milestone in the long fight over rules governing how service providers treat different kinds of content.
Net neutrality was a key part of President Barack Obama’s campaign platform in 2008. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the FCC’s last two attempts to implement an open Internet rule after challenges from broadband providers.
On a consumer level, the plan would probably not affect users’ Internet experience immediately but over the long term it could spawn new products that use broadband connections in a variety of ways for home and business communications—for an additional fee.
If the rule is adopted, winners would be the major broadband providers that would be able to charge both consumers and content providers for access to their networks. Companies like Google Inc. GOOGL -1.46% or Netflix Inc. NFLX -5.20% that offer voice or video services that rely on broadband could take advantage of such arrangements by paying to ensure that their traffic reaches consumers without disruption. Those companies could pay for preferential treatment on the “last mile” of broadband networks that connects directly to consumers’ homes.
That, of course, could increase costs for content companies, which would then have an incentive to pass on those costs to consumers as part of their subscription prices.
Proponents of net neutrality have feared that such a framework would empower large, wealthy companies and prevent small start-ups, which might otherwise be the next Twitter or Facebook, for example, from gaining any traction in the market.
•NYT: F.B.I. Informant Is Tied to Cyberattacks Abroad
WASHINGTON — An informant working for the F.B.I. coordinated a 2012 campaign of hundreds of cyberattacks on foreign websites, including some operated by the governments of Iran, Syria, Brazil and Pakistan, according to documents and interviews with people involved in the attacks.
Exploiting a vulnerability in a popular web hosting software, the informant directed at least one hacker to extract vast amounts of data — from bank records to login information — from the government servers of a number of countries and upload it to a server monitored by the F.B.I., according to court statements.
The details of the 2012 episode have, until now, been kept largely a secret in closed sessions of a federal court in New York and heavily redacted documents. While the documents do not indicate whether the F.B.I. directly ordered the attacks, they suggest that the government may have used hackers to gather intelligence overseas even as investigators were trying to dismantle hacking groups like Anonymous and send computer activists away for lengthy prison terms.
•Reuters; Apple Promises Billions in Paybacks
•JetBlue Airways’ Pilots Vote to Join Union
•RCP: Chris Hayes, What If Occupy Activists Had Rifles?
•AP: Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind
DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) – Russia’s foreign minister warned Wednesday that attacks on Russian citizens or interests in Ukraine would bring a firm response and drew a comparison to the circumstances that opened the war with Georgia in 2008.
“Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said,
•Robert Parry, Consortium News: Prepping for a Ukrainian Massacre
Between the anti-Russian propaganda pouring forth from the Obama administration and the deeply biased coverage from the U.S. news media, the American people are being prepared to accept and perhaps even cheer a massacre of eastern Ukrainians who have risen up against the coup regime in Kiev.
The protesters who have seized government buildings in ten towns in eastern Ukraine are being casually dubbed “terrorists” by both the Kiev regime and some American journalists. Meanwhile, it’s become conventional wisdom in Official Washington to assume that the protesters are led by Russian special forces because of some dubious photographs of armed men, accepted as “proof” with few questions asked by the mainstream U.S. news media.
While the U.S. news media is treating these blurry photos as the slam-dunk evidence of direct Russian control of the eastern Ukrainian protests – despite denials by the Russian government and the protesters – the BBC was among the few news agencies that provided a more objective assessment, noting that the photos are open to a variety of interpretations.
However, in Official Washington, the stage is now set for what could be a massacre of Ukrainian civilians who have risen up against the putschists who seized control of Kiev in a Feb. 22 coup that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych. The violent putsch was spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias, some of which have now been incorporated into Ukraine’s National Guard and dispatched to the front lines in eastern Ukraine.
If the slaughter of the eastern Ukrainian protesters does come, you can expect Official Washington to be supportive. Whereas the Kiev protesters who seized government buildings in February were deemed “pro-democracy” activists even as they overthrew a democratically elected leader, the eastern Ukrainian protesters, who still consider Yanukovych their legitimate president, are dismissed as “terrorists.” And, we all know what happens to “terrorists.”
The Biased Media
If you doubt the bias of the U.S. press corps, consider this interview by the Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth with Arsen Avakov, the Ukrainian coup regime’s minister of internal affairs. As published in Tuesday’s Washington Post, the interview quoted Avakov as saying the protesters “will be punished severely” and included an exchange reflecting how thoroughly U.S. journalists have bought into the coup regime’s narrative:
Weymouth: Do you think the Russians will actually release the [government] buildings, as they said they would in last week’s Geneva meeting?
Avakov: Russia is taking advantage of the depressed condition of the local economy of these regions. … But even in spite of that situation, in the city of Kramatorsk [the Russians] did not have the level of support that they expected. We do not behave radically there for one reason.
Weymouth: When you say ‘radically,’ do you mean you don’t fight the terrorists?
Avakov: We are not acting radically in that region for two reasons. One is we do not want to hurt the peaceful population. And the second reason is we don’t want to turn the population against the central government. But that does not mean it will stay like this forever.
Weymouth: Then what happens?
Avakov: We will act.
Weymouth: What will you do?
Avakov: We will start liberating people from the terrorists. … We are going to take full control over the roads, irrespective of the resistance of some groups.
What was journalistically remarkable about this interview was that it was Weymouth who began describing the eastern Ukrainian protesters as “terrorists,” though these people who have seized government buildings have not engaged in what we would traditionally call “terrorism.” Their actions have been no more violent – and indeed much less violent – than the “pro-democracy” activists in Kiev. In February, the neo-Nazi militias killed more than a dozen police officers with firebombs and light weapons.
And, when the “pro-democracy” protesters seized government buildings in Kiev, including the City Hall, they decked them out in Nazi symbols and a Confederate battle flag as the international expression of white supremacy. But the U.S. news media never described those acts as “terrorism.” [For more on the Ukrainian neo-Nazis, watch this report from the BBC.]
Indeed, it is now considered unacceptable to mention the key role played by the neo-Nazis in overthrowing Yanukovych, even though the neo-Nazis themselves are quite proud of what they did and got four government ministries as a reward. One of those positions is the chief of national security, Andriy Parubiy, who announced last week that some of those militias had been incorporated into the National Guard and sent to the front lines of eastern Ukraine.
For their part, those eastern protesters have said they are resisting the imposition of power from Kiev, which has included the appointment of billionaire “oligarchs” as regional administrators, and are rejecting a harsh austerity plan from the International Monetary Fund that will make their hard lives even harder.
Yet, Official Washington has largely banished those realities to the great memory hole. Many in the U.S. government and the mainstream press corps seem to be licking their lips over the prospect of unleashing hell on the eastern Ukrainians.
•Reuters: Who Is Behind Ukraine Revolt?
•BBC: Turkey: Armenia killings ‘inhumane’
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offers condolences for the first time for the mass killings of Armenians under Ottoman rule during WWI.’
•Palestine: Hamas and Fatah declare end to rift
Rival Palestinian Movements, Fatah and Hamas, announce a reconciliation deal, saying they will seek to form a unity government in the coming weeks.
•ICH/MaAn News: Hamas and Fatah Agree to Unity Government in Historic Deal
Fatah leader Azzam al-Ahmad said that neither side will accept the resumption of negotiations with Israel without clear guidelines, and that negotiations had stalled as a result of “Israel intransigence” and “American bias.”
•Tony Blair: War Criminal–Tony Blair’s ‘Why the Middle East Matters’ Speech
The threat of this radical Islam is not abating. It is growing. It is spreading across the world.
•Craig Murry, Blair’s Trick
The greatest boost ever received by Islamic fundamentalism was the invasion of Iraq.
Twitter users bombard the New York Police department with images depicting police aggression in the latest social media campaign to go awry.
•Slate: Chelsea Manning Officially Granted Name Change, But Will Still Be Treated As Male Prisoner
•American architect Philip Johnson designed some of the most iconic buildings of the 20th century. Johnson, who died in 2005, has long been hailed as one of the greats. But.
…Another day in the Empire. A weekly anti-war protest that’s been going for years in my neighborhood seems to have been rained out tonite. The Tribeca Film Festival is screening in the theater next door and attracting festival goers from all over the city. The Yogurt shop has reopened after a bit of a flood and signs of normalcy surround.
In The News:
•The Big Story–NYT: A Set Back for Affirmative Action
WASHINGTON — In a fractured decision that revealed deep divisions over what role the judiciary should play in protecting racial and ethnic minorities, the Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a Michigan constitutional amendment that bans affirmative action in admissions to the state’s public universities.
The 6-to-2 ruling effectively endorsed similar measures in seven other states. It may also encourage more states to enact measures banning the use of race in admissions or to consider race-neutral alternatives to ensure diversity.
States that forbid affirmative action in higher education, like Florida and California, as well as Michigan, have seen a significant drop in the enrollment of black and Hispanic students in their most selective colleges and universities.
In five separate opinions spanning more than 100 pages, the justices set out starkly conflicting views. The justices in the majority, with varying degrees of vehemence, said that policies affecting minorities that do not involve intentional discrimination should be decided at the ballot box rather than in the courtroom.
•From OurMissingNews.com: What Business Spends to Open Washington’s Doors by David Firestone
The next time a lawmaker or a corporate executive tries to persuade you that Washington is an even playing field, responsive to the concerns of all constituents, feel free to point them to the quarterly lobbying report of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Its most recent report, filed on Monday, shows the staggering amount of money that the business sector spends to influence legislation and regulation in Washington. No other competing interest group comes remotely close.
The report shows that the chamber spent $19 million on lobbying in just the first three months of 2014. That’s about $211,000 every day. And there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about that quarter. On an annualized basis, the chamber has spent more than that in several previous years.??The lengthy report reveals the chamber’s interests in great detail. An army of lobbyists pressed pro-business positions on hundreds of bills. Here are a few examples:
On the environment: The group lobbied on White House proposals on the “use of social cost of carbon in environmental and energy-related rulemakings, including cost-benefit analysis; potential environmental regulations on hydraulic fracturing; potential regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants.” (The report doesn’t say so, but it’s clear the chamber lobbied against these plans.)
On labor and the workplace, the group lobbied on the minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, unemployment insurance, overtime, exposure to silica, and the role of unions in occupational health inspections.
On taxes, they lobbied on business credits and corporate tax rates, online sales tax proposals and tax reform plans.
The list goes on and on. Telecommunications. Road building. Homeland security. Food safety. Consumer protection. Financial reform.
And it doesn’t even include the $6.2 million spent on lobbying during the same period by a sister agency, the chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, on a variety of criminal justice and tort reform issues.
The chamber is the biggest spender but not the only group representing business interests on the big lobbyist list. It’s joined there by the National Association of Realtors, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the cable TV industry, defense contractors, wireless firms, technology companies, and oil and gas producers. Each group knows what it costs to get its way in Washington.
For those who wonder why income inequality persists, why climate change is getting worse, and why consumers are losing their voice, the answer is right there in the reports piling up on a Congressional website.
•The Wrap: Aero At The Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments on the broadcast networks’ effort to stop Aereo from beaming their signals online. Nothing about it was simple, but we’ve tried to hone in on the key issues.
Aereo uses millions of stamp-sized antennas to send broadcast signals to customers. Those customers pay Aereo for the service, and neither Aereo nor the customers pay anything to the networks or cable companies. That troubles those businesses, because cable providers pay broadcasters billions each year for the privilege of transmitting their shows.
Aereo cuts them out of the process. The networks call that theft. But the case is even more complicated, because Aereo’s legal justification for its service is a decision that also provides a legal basis for cloud computing — allowing customers to use services like iCloud to store their favorite shows and songs online.
The justices want to avoid crafting a decision that will affect not only Aereo, but also your right to keep Katy Perry on the cloud.
It’s also hard to say what the justices are actually thinking, because they often ask questions just to play devil’s advocate and root out weaknesses in both sides’ arguments. But here are five takeaways from the arguments in the case.
1. Chief Justice John Roberts questioned Aereo’s business model — but also TV networks’ arguments.
Roberts wondered if the company’s use of millions of tiny antennas to relay broadcasts was anything but a way to exploit loopholes in copyright law.
“If your model is correct, can’t you just put your antenna up and then do it? I mean, there’s no technological reason for you to have 10,000 dime-sized antenna, other than to get around the copyright laws,” he said, adding that his question was not “necessarily determinative or bad” for a court decision.
He was also tough on the networks.
“You can go to Radio Shack and buy an antenna and a DVR or you can rent those facilities somewhere else from Aereo. They’ve — they’ve got an antenna. They’ll let you use it when you need it and they can, you know, record the stuff as well and let you pick it up when you need it,” he said.
2. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg questioned why Aereo wasn’t paying rights fees.
“If every other transmitter does pay a royalty — maybe it’s under compulsory license — and you are the only player so far that doesn’t pay any royalties at any stage,” she said.
3. Justice Elena Kagan questioned why Aereo was different than a DVR and an antenna.
“If Aereo has the hardware in its warehouse as opposed to selling the hardware to the particular end user, that is going to make all the difference in the world as to whether we have a public performance or not?” she asked.
4. The justices don’t want their decision to reach to the clouds — or cloud.
Several justices worried about issuing an overbroad ruling could affect unrelated tech services in which consumers and businesses buy and store music, backup files or content online.
“Are we somehow catching other things that really will change life and shouldn’t, such as the cloud?” Justice Stephen Breyer asked.
Aereo’s lawyer told the court that tech companies are “freaked out” by the potential for a ruling that would force them to start examining the legal rights for every file they store.
5. The judges are worried about opening too many doors.
Breyer worried about Aereo creating a device that could “pick up every television signal in the world and send it into a person’s computer. Justices Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Sonia Sotomayor also raised questions about content beyond local stations.
“Your client says this is just using this for local signals right now. But if we approve that, is there any reason it couldn’t be used for distant signals as well?” said Scalia.
•CLG: US sends 600 troops to Eastern Europe, warship USS Taylor enters Black Sea
US frigate USS Taylor (FFG 50) has entered the Black Sea, according to the US Navy, as the Pentagon announces plans to dispatch some 600 troops to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia for military exercises. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has previously stated that the US has been violating the Montreux Convention which restricts the number of US vessels operating in the Black Sea and sets a time limit of 21 days for each one…The 600 troops are to be sent to Poland and the Baltic states in the coming days in order to offer support to NATO allies which have expressed concern following Crimea’s accession to Russia, the Pentagon stated on Tuesday.
•BBC: Ukraine on Alert As
Ukraine’s acting president has ordered the relaunch of military operations against pro-Russian militants in the east after two men, one a local politician, were “tortured to death”.
Oleksandr Turchynov said the body of politician Vladimir Rybak was found near rebel-held Sloviansk.
“The terrorists who effectively took the whole Donetsk region hostage have now gone too far,” he said.
The move came as US Vice-President Joe Biden was visiting Ukraine.
The BBC’s Daniel Sandford reports on the “uncontrolled sorrow” at the funerals of pro-Russian activists in Sloviansk
As he met Ukrainian leaders in Kiev, Mr Biden called on Russia to “stop talking and start acting” to defuse the Ukraine crisis.
The US and the West accuse Russia of using undercover military to back separatists in eastern Ukraine, where public buildings are occupied in at least nine cities and towns. Russia denies involvement.
Mr Biden warned Russia that further “provocative behaviour” would lead to “greater isolation” and urged Moscow to end its alleged support for pro-Russian militants.
In remarks to Ukrainian MPs, Mr Biden said the US stood with Ukraine’s new leaders against “humiliating threats” – an apparent reference to Russia.
•RT: Link Between Austerity And Suicide
Spending cuts in Greece have caused some 500 male suicides since their implementation, according to a new study. The research found a positive correlation between austerity and suicide rates after other possible links proved to be unrelated.
The 30-page study, titled ‘The Impact of Fiscal Austerity on Suicide: On the Empirics of a Modern Greek Tragedy’ and published in the Social Science and Medicine journal was authored by Nikolaos Antonakakis and Alan Collins from Portsmouth University.
“Suicide rates in Greece (and other European countries) have been on a remarkable upward trend following the global recession of 2008 and the European sovereign debt crisis of 2009,” states the study’s abstract.
•BBC: Colombia pays tribute to author Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos led a ceremony in Bogota’s cathedral, which was also attended by the author’s sisters.
On Monday, a formal commemoration in honour of Garcia Marquez was held in Mexico City, where the author lived.
He was cremated in Mexico in a private family ceremony last week.
Family members have not yet revealed what they intend to do with his ashes.
There have been suggestions that they may be divided between his birth country and Mexico, his home for several decades.
Ahead of the event in Bogota’s cathedral, organisers said it would not be of a religious nature, but it began with prayers led by Ruben Salazar Gomez, the Archbishop of Bogota.
Committed to peace
Colombia’s National Symphonic Orchestra and the Saint Cecilia Choral Society then played Mozart’s Requiem.
Afterwards, President Santos addressed the audience and called Gabo, as Garcia Marquez was affectionately known, a “giant man”.
“Gabo was committed to the fate of his country and Latin America. (…) He was especially concerned about achieving peace (in Colombia),” the president said.
The Colombian government and the largest rebel group, the Farc, have been in negotiations since November 2012 to end a 50-year civil conflict which has killed an estimated 220,000 people and displaced more than five million others.
•News From Afghanistan
•LBN: The U.S. is considering dropping the number of troops in Afghanistan below 10,000, which is the minimum needed to train Afghan forces, to possibly even less than 5,000. Officials say the small force is based on a belief by the White House that the recent elections went well and the local security forces are prepared to handle the Taliban factions. There are around 33,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and the debate over their withdrawal this year has been lively in Washington.
•Interview: Afghan security advisor confident over signing BSA with U.S.
KABUL, April 20 (Xinhua) — Afghan National Security Advisor Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta has said that he is confident his country would sign the controversial Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States. “Principally we agreed with this BSA, we agreed to have a limited number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan for training, equipping Afghan forces, and I am confident that we will reach it,” Spanta told Xinhua in a recent exclusive interview.
•Guardian: Guantánamo Bay detainees’ release upon end of Afghanistan war ‘unlikely’
US officials indicate fate of inmates captured during the country’s longest conflict will continue to complicate Obama administration’s efforts to close wartime detention complex
Typically, when a war ends, so does the combatants’ authority to detain the other side’s fighters. But as the conclusion of the US war in Afghanistan approaches, the inmate population of Guantánamo Bay is likely to be an exception – and, for the Obama administration, the latest complication to its attempt to close the infamous wartime detention complex.
•••From The Harper’s Weekly Review: A Texas man was sentenced to 18 months in jail for urinating on the Alamo, and Portland, Oregon, discarded nearly 38 million gallons of drinking water after surveillance cameras recorded 19-year-old Dallas Swonger peeing into a city reservoir. “During the summertime,” said Swonger, “I’ve seen hella dead animals in there.” A man looking for an alligator along Florida’s Alligator Alley was bitten by a water moccasin. While swimming off the Spanish island of Lanzarote, British prime minister David Cameron was stung by a jellyfish. “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” he said.
•Thats the Newsdissector.net blog for today. Your stories and suggestions welcome. Write: firstname.lastname@example.org
•ITS EARTH DAY. I am told that some of the occupiers of Zuccotti Park will be rallying there later this afternoon.
The Conflict To Watch
•NYT: Russia Accuses Ukraine of Flouting Accord
With Vice President Joseph R. Biden in Kiev on Monday, comments from Russia’s foreign minister suggested that Moscow may be preparing groundwork for a military intervention
•Pepe Escobar via ICH: Ukraine and the Grand Chessboard
Welcome to the Two Stooges doctrine of post-modern warfare.
• Thierry Meyssan, Ukraine: Poland Trained Putchists Two Months in Advance
New revelations belie Western discourse and demonstrate that the current interim government of Oleksandr Tourtchynov was imposed by NATO in violation of international law.
The classified Justice Department memorandum provided the legal justification for the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, who had joined Al Qaeda and died in a drone strike in Yemen.
Iran’s Defense Ministry says the country’s Armed Forces are prepared to give an “unforgettable” response to any actual enemy threat.
“The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic, particularly the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and the country’s defense industry sector are ready to teach an unforgettable lesson to enemies and ill-wishers in case of any actuated danger and threat,” the ministry said in a Monday statement on the eve of the establishment anniversary of the IRGC.It added that the IRGC is a revolutionary and popular body which symbolizes the resistance and defensive might of the Iranian nation against the arrogant powers.
ALCU: Obama Admin gagging internet companies to hide supoenas from the public
The government is using shaky legal arguments to silence major Internet companies without giving them – or the public – the opportunity to respond. In three separate recent cases, the government has sent a grand jury subpoena to Yahoo or Twitter and requested a gag order from a magistrate judge, attempting to bar these tech companies from informing the customers in question. To make matters worse, the government won’t disclose its reasoning for requesting the gag, effectively shutting the public out of the courthouse without any explanation.
The ACLU has filed a motion seeking to represent the public’s interest in open court proceedings when the government seeks gag orders on Internet companies. We know about the three cases only because the magistrate judge pushed back on the government, inviting Yahoo and Twitter to weigh in and ordering the government to make its legal arguments public. The government appealed those orders to a district court, where the judge ordered the appeals sealed. The ACLU is now moving to intervene in the district court for the purpose of opening these gag order proceedings to public scrutiny. In a democracy, if your government is going to gag someone from speaking, it should publicly explain why.
•Media: Juan Cole on Obama and David Brooks’s Manhood Problem
Basically since Yalta we’ve had an assumption that borders are basically going to be borders, and once that comes into question, if in Ukraine or in Crimea or anywhere else, then all over the world … all bets are off . . .
… “And let’s face it, Obama, whether deservedly or not, does have a — I’ll say it crudely — but a manhood problem in the Middle East. Is he tough enough to stand up to somebody like Assad or somebody like Putin? I think a lot of the rap is unfair, but certainly in the Middle East there is an assumption that he’s not tough enough.”
Brooks is an intellectual bully who likes bullies. He once criticized me in an NYT column for doubting that far right wing Israeli hawk Ariel Sharon was a man of peace. We know what sort of “peace” with the Palestinians would have made Sharon happy. It is quite annoying that Zionists keep demanding that the rest of us assent to their belligerence. Imagine if Serbian-Americans who supported Slobodan Milosevic had had this sort of megaphone in the US.
The post-Yalta assumption that ‘borders are going to be borders’ of which Brooks says he approves was violated by Israel, which is illegally annexing the Palestinian West bank. But that violation of international law doesn’t bother Brooks in the least, though it causes the US among its biggest diplomatic headaches in the Muslim world. Shouldn’t he be complaining that Obama hasn’t properly stood up to the Likud Party?
Brooks exemplifies the problem with US foreign policy, which is that the inside-the-beltway chickenhawks with small peckers equate military aggression with “manhood.”
You know who had a “manhood” problem? George W. Bush. He acted childishly, wantonly invading Iraq without a shred of international legality, because Saddam “tried to kill my daddy.” He even adopted the diction of a 4-year-old as he initiated the mass slaughter of several hundred thousand people and the displacement of millions. You see, the opposite of “manly” is not, as Brooks imagines, “cautious.” It is childish petulance.
Brooks, of course, was a cheerleader for the Iraq War. How often do you have to be completely wrong on the big issues of our time before you stop being given a prominent perch in giving the country policy advice?
Brooks also seems not to know much history. After Yalta, the Soviet Union invaded both Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and the US did nothing about either. Brooks is insinuating that Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander who destroyed Adolf Hitler, has a “manhood problem”! Or LBJ, whose presidency was ruined by his inability to let Vietnam go when the US was obviously losing the guerrilla war there. Manhood isn’t recklessly confronting a rival in the rival’s own sphere of influence. The US is very far away from Crimea and would be unwise to get entangled there. Obama’s sanctions on Russia have already spooked its entrepreneurs, and are the most likely path to effective pressure on Moscow.
•Africa News: Principal Pleads With Kidnappers To Release Abducted Girls in Nigeria
Apr. 21 (GIN) – While divers conducted their final searches in Korea for the high school students drowned in a misguided ferry excursion, in Nigeria, Principal Asabe Kwambula pleaded with kidnappers of over 100 high school girls to “have mercy on the students.”
“I am pleading with the government to secure the release of the children, to save the lives of these innocents,” she said. “I am with the parents, praying continuously for the teenagers’ safe return.”
Last Tuesday, unknown persons, some wearing military uniforms, dragged some 200 girl students of the Chibok Government Secondary School in Borno State into waiting trucks. They drove deep into the Sambisa forest in north-east Nigeria, according to several girls who managed to escape by leaping from the trucks.
Isa Umar Gusau, a spokesman for the Borno governor’s office, put the number of missing students at 234 — 129 science students and 105 art students.
While security forces claim they are in “hot pursuit” of the kidnappers, residents say they have not seen soldiers in the area since the attack. A military press release that claimed that all but eight of those abducted – between 16 and 18 years of age – had been rescued turned out to be was false. It was retracted the following day.
Angry parents and men from the town have gone into the Sambisa forest to find the students, despite the dangers of confronting extremists.
Failure to locate the young women has been particularly puzzling in light of the nearby presence of highly-trained American forces working with African soldiers in Libya, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic among other hot spots.
In fact, U.S. “special ops” forces were specifically sent this year to track down reputed warlord Joseph Kony, one-time head of the Lord’s Resistance Army from 1986 to 2009 now believed to be hiding in the Central African Republic and in ill health.
Another search spearheaded by U.S. special operations took place in October last year when a team of Navy SEALS was deployed to find two American sailors kidnapped by pirates.
U.S. Marines were most recently in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to train Nigerian troops in “basic riot-control formations, how to use shields and shin guards and how to properly use collapsible batons,” according to senior Marine Staff Sgt. Camilo Zamora on the website of the Dept. of Defense.
“When we were conducting the take-down techniques, the Nigerians were aggressive, which is exactly what you want. It was motivating and showed their professionalism,” Zamora was quoted to say.
The kidnapping comes as oil-rich Nigeria prepares to host the World Economic Forum on Africa from May 7-9. President Goodluck Jonathan announced he will deploy 6,000 troops to protect delegates but the plan has prompted widespread criticism in the media which asked: “If we can spend such resources to protect foreigners for a glorified shindig, why can’t we protect our own people?”
•Lion of Zimbabwe Recalls Zimbabwe Independence
Apr. 21 (GIN) – As Zimbabwe marks its 34th year of independence from colonialism, singing star Thomas Mapfumo sent a salute “to the brave heroes and heroines who joined the war of liberation.”
In a radio interview, Mapfumo – the “Lion of Zimbabwe” – recalled the time of the independence war. “When we were singing — it was about freedom, justice hence I coined my music “Chimurenga”.
“Even though I was not holding a gun, it was a difficult terrain and I was constantly harassed, arrested and detained because I denounced oppression and colonialism,” he told Nehanda radio. “My dream was to see a free Zimbabwe where our citizens are able to access education, health, access to decent accommodation, and above all a better life for everyone.”
He continued: “Today, we need all hands on deck to do more to make real the dream of equality, justice and a better life for all. The brutalities of the past – detentions without trial, disappearances of our people, deaths in detentions, hangings of those opposed to colonialism, imprisonment, exile, massacres, assassinations, forced evictions, banishments and laws that made the lives of black Zimbabweans unbearable — are testimonies that our freedom was never free.”
“Although today we walk tall because our collective efforts culminated in the 18th of April being our Independence Day, we all still carry scars that remind us that our freedom, which is at times taken for granted was never free.”
“We cannot allow tribalism to prevail in our society, communities and in any of our various and diverse institutions.”
Finally, Mapfumo closed with the theme of one of his popular songs. “Our nation must develop, but instead of working to develop our country there are those selfish individuals who because of their positions of influence are busy stealing from the poor. That must stop; it’s a betrayal of the values of the liberation struggle and our national independence.”
The 69 year old Mapfumo was imprisoned without charges under the white-dominated regime of Rhodesia. He now lives in exile in Oregon and although he has occasionally returned to Zimbabwe he has not returned since 2005.
•Commentary by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship: Government = Protection Racket for the 1 Percent
The evidence of income inequality just keeps mounting. According to “Working for the Few,” a recent briefing paper from Oxfam, “In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.”
Our now infamous one percent own more than 35 percent of the nation’s wealth. Meanwhile, the bottom 40 percent of the country is in debt. Just this past Tuesday, the 15th of April — Tax Day — the AFL-CIO reported that last year the chief executive officers of 350 top American corporations were paid 331 times more money than the average US worker. Those executives made an average of $11.7 million dollars compared to the average worker who earned $35,239 dollars.
As that analysis circulated on Tax Day, the economic analyst Robert Reich reminded us that in addition to getting the largest percent of total national income in nearly a century, many in the one percent are paying a lower federal tax rate than a lot of people in the middle class. You may remember that an obliging Congress, of both parties, allows high rollers of finance the privilege of “carried interest,” a tax rate below that of their secretaries and clerks.
And at state and local levels, while the poorest fifth of Americans pay an average tax rate of over 11 percent, the richest one percent of the country pay — are you ready for this? — half that rate. Now, neither Nature nor Nature’s God drew up our tax codes; that’s the work of legislators — politicians — and it’s one way they have, as Chief Justice John Roberts might put it, of expressing gratitude to their donors: “Oh, Mr. Adelson, we so appreciate your generosity that we cut your estate taxes so you can give $8 billion as a tax-free payment to your heirs, even though down the road the public will have to put up $2.8 billion to compensate for the loss in tax revenue.”
All of which makes truly repugnant the argument, heard so often from courtiers of the rich, that inequality doesn’t matter. Of course it matters. Inequality is what has turned Washington into a protection racket for the one percent. It buys all those goodies from government: Tax breaks. Tax havens (which allow corporations and the rich to park their money in a no-tax zone). Loopholes. Favors like carried interest. And so on. As Paul Krugman writes in his New York Review of Books essay on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, “We now know both that the United States has a much more unequal distribution of income than other advanced countries and that much of this difference in outcomes can be attributed directly to government action.”
Recently, researchers at Connecticut’s Trinity College ploughed through the data and concluded that the US Senate is responsive to the policy preferences of the rich, ignoring the poor. And now there’s that big study coming out in the fall from scholars at Princeton and Northwestern universities, based on data collected between 1981 and 2002. Their conclusion: “America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened… The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” Instead, policy tends “to tilt towards the wishes of corporations and business and professional associations.”
Last month, Matea Gold of The Washington Post reported on a pair of political science graduate students who released a study confirming that money does equal access in Washington. Joshua Kalla and David Broockman drafted two form letters asking 191 members of Congress for a meeting to discuss a certain piece of legislation. One email said “active political donors” would be present; the second email said only that a group of “local constituents” would be at the meeting.
•That’s my blog for today. I was out speaking earlier at a panel on Nelson Mandela at the Newark Law School in Newark. Excellent discussion. Comments on the blog to email@example.com. Visit Mediachannel.org.
•Listen: Radio Diaries/Podcast: The Day Nelson Mandela Became Nelson Mandela
The moment Nelson Mandela really became Nelson Mandela was on April 20th, 1964 – fifty years ago today. It happened when he stood up in a stuffy South African courtroom and gave a speech.
50 years is a long time. It’s long enough for things to become history. Long enough that people start to be forgotten, stories get smoothed over, narratives get hardened in stone. That’s what happened this past December with the death of Nelson Mandela. His life story was written… in sharpie.
•Tom Engelhart:Engelhardt, Knowledge Is Crime; Why Kidnapping, Torture, Assassination, and Perjury Are No Longer Crimes in Washington
How the mighty have fallen. Once known as “Obama’s favorite general,” James Cartwright will soon don a prison uniform and, thanks to a plea deal, spend 13 months behind bars. Involved in setting up the earliest military cyberforce inside U.S. Strategic Command, which he led from 2004 to 2007, Cartwright also played a role in launching the first cyberwar in history — the release of the Stuxnet virus against Iran’s nuclear program. A Justice Department investigation found that, in 2012, he leaked information on the development of that virus to David Sanger of the New York Times. The result: a front-page piece revealing its existence, and so the American cyber-campaign against Iran, to the American public. It was considered a serious breach of national security. On Thursday, the retired four-star general stood in front of a U.S. district judge who told him that his “criminal act” was “a very serious one” and had been “committed by a national security expert who lost his moral compass.” It was a remarkable ending for a man who nearly reached the heights of Pentagon power, was almost appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and had the president’s ear.
In fact, Gen. James Cartwright has not gone to jail and the above paragraph remains — as yet — a grim Washington fairy tale. There is indeed a Justice Department investigation open against the president’s “favorite general” (as Washington scribe to the stars Bob Woodward once labeled him) for the possible leaking of information on that virus to the New York Times, but that’s all. He remains quite active in private life, holding the Harold Brown Chair in Defense Policy Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as a consultant to ABC News, and on the board of Raytheon, among other things. He has suffered but a single penalty so far: he was stripped of his security clearance.
A different leaker actually agreed to that plea deal for the 13-month jail term. Nearly three weeks ago, ex-State Department intelligence analyst Stephen E. Kim pled guilty to “an unauthorized disclosure of national defense information.” He stood before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who offered those stern words of admonition, and took responsibility for passing classified information on the North Korean nuclear program to Fox News reporter James Rosen in 2009.
Still, someday Cartwright might prove to be unique in the annals of Obama era jurisprudence — the only Washington figure of any significance in these years to be given a jail sentence for a crime of state. Whatever happens to him, his ongoing case highlights a singular fact: that there is but one crime for which anyone in America’s national security state can be held accountable in a court of law, and that’s leaking information that might put those in it in a bad light or simply let the American public know something more about what its government is really doing.
If this weren’t Washington 2014, but rather George Orwell’s novel 1984, then the sign emblazoned on the front of the Ministry of Truth — “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength” — would have to be amended to add a fourth slogan: Knowledge is Crime. (See TomDispatch.com for more.)
•BBC: Obama signs UN envoy visa ban law
President Barack Obama signs into law a measure that would bar entry to any UN ambassador whom the US says has engaged in “terrorist activity”.
•The Hill: Ukraine threatens to undermine Obama’s delayed Asia ‘pivot’
President Obama is traveling to Asia this week under the cloud of the Ukraine crisis, which threatens to put Asian allies on edge about U.S. security commitments and create yet another distraction from the administration’s much-delayed “pivot” to the region.
Obama will be visiting Asian allies, including Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, that are involved in increasingly tense territorial disputes with China, and will seek to reaffirm U.S. commitment to them.
That connection was supposed to have been cemented earlier in Obama’s tenure, when the administration announced a “rebalance,” or “pivot,” to Asia. But crises at home and around the world, the latest of which is in Ukraine, have stymied that plan.
NYT: Ukraine Truce Called Fragile–Obama Threatens More Sanctions
SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — A shootout at a checkpoint run by pro-Russian militants near this town in eastern Ukraine, which left at least three people dead on Sunday highlighted the fragility of a truce reached days earlier by diplomats in Geneva.
Around 2 a.m., on a road lined with blossoming apricot trees, four cars drove toward the checkpoint when their occupants opened fire, killing three local men who were standing guard, according to pro-Russian militants who control this town.
“We thought nothing would happen because it was the holy night,” said Yevgeny Bondarenko, 62, who said he had been there to celebrate Easter with the people at the checkpoint. “Who can we trust now?”
It was unclear whether the shooting was an event staged by provocateurs, an accident or an attack on pro-Russian militants. The difficulty in sorting out what happened will resonate far beyond Slovyansk, the linchpin of a string of midsize towns north of the regional capital, Donetsk, that are controlled by pro-Russian militants.
A diplomatic settlement reached on Thursday by the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and the United States called for illegally armed groups to lay down their weapons, though the chances that real peace would be accomplished seemed slim from the beginning.
Within hours, pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine said they had no intention of disarming in accordance with the agreement, which they did not sign. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said the provision calling for disarmament covered “in the first place” the Ukrainian nationalist group Right Sector, which has its base in western Ukraine.
The United States has said it will impose additional sanctions on Russian businessmen, and possibly on a bank or oil company, if the Geneva agreement falls apart. So far, militants have not budged from the buildings they have occupied, nor have they relinquished their guns.
•Consortium News: Exposing The Cold War Roots Of The Coup In Ukraine
•The Return: Karl Marx is coming back
•TRNN: Miners Protest Challenges The ANC
•Truthout: Dahr Jamail: International Lawyers Seeking Justice For Iraqis
*James Harkin, Evaporated: Journalists in Syria
•Victor Gilinsky and Roger J. Mattson, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists/Portside: Did Israel Steal Bomb-grade Uranium from the United States?
Last month newly released U.S. government documents shed additional light on the so-called NUMEC affair – the story that won’t go away – the possibility that in the 1960s, Israel stole bomb-grade uranium from a US nuclear fuel-processing plant. Nearly 50 years have passed since the events in question. It is time to level with the public.
Last month the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel (ISCAP), the nation’s highest classification authority, released a number of top-level government memoranda that shed additional light on the so-called NUMEC affair, “the story that won’t go away – the possibility that in the 1960s, Israel stole bomb-grade uranium from a US nuclear fuel-processing plant.”
The evidence available for our 2010 Bulletin article persuaded us that Israel did steal uranium from the Apollo, Pennsylvania, plant of the Nuclear Materials and Equipment Corporation (NUMEC). We urged the US government to declassify CIA and FBI documents to settle the matter. In releasing the current batch – the release being largely due to the persistent appeals of researcher Grant Smith – the government has been careful to excise from all the released documents the CIA’s reasons for fingering Israel. Despite this, the documents are significantly revealing. For one thing, the excisions themselves are a backhanded admission of the persuasiveness of the CIA’s evidence. (Why these excisions are legally justified is not apparent – after nearly 50 years, the “sources and methods” issues have long ago dissipated.)
While we still don’t know exactly what the CIA told high government officials, we do know from the released memoranda that top officials thought the CIA’s case was a strong one. Also, as described in our earlier article, one of us was present at the CIA’s February 1976 briefing of a small group at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). At that session Carl Duckett, then-CIA deputy director for science and technology, told the NRC group the CIA believed the missing highly enriched uranium ended up in Israel.
The newly released documents also expose government efforts, notably during the Carter administration, to keep the NUMEC story under wraps, an ironic twist in view of Jimmy Carter’s identification with opposition to nuclear proliferation.
•BBC: Egypt left-winger to challenge Sisi
Egyptian left-winger Hamdeen Sabahi submits his official bid to run for president, the only challenger so far to ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
•Missing News.com: Hunting For The Plane: A Critical Weekend but William Deane
“The narrowing of the search for today and tomorrow is at a very critical juncture, so I appeal to everybody around the world to pray and pray hard that we find something to work on over the next couple of days,” says Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. At the end of Sunday, the unmanned U.S. Navy sub Blufin will have covered 51 square miles since Monday having turned up no clues to the missing Malaysia Air flight 370 6 weeks ago. This is the area where searchers were able to zero in on where the pings were believed to have been coming from before the batteries died about a week ago. If nothing, no clue, no sign of the tiniest bit of jet wreckage is not found over the weekend, the search will have to be widened, says the defense minister.
“The search will always continue. It’s just a matter of approach. All efforts will be intensified for the next few days with regards to the underwater search.”
A myriad of leads, such as oil on the ocean have all turned out to be false. So for the next few days, the 11 aircraft and 12 ships will continue to search the 19-thousand square mile area while the sub crosses the 6.2 square miles where the airplane pings were thought to be originating
•BBC: US ‘delays’ Keystone XL decision
The US state department gives federal agencies more time to review the Keystone XL oil pipeline before determining whether to issue a permit.
*AP: Public smoke-out marks pot holiday in Colorado
DENVER (AP) – Tens of thousands of revelers raised joints, pipes and vaporizer devices to the sky Sunday at a central Denver park in a defiant toast to the April 20 pot holiday, a once-underground celebration that stepped into the mainstream in the first state in the nation to legalize recreational marijuana.
•RIP (LBN:) RUBIN ‘HURRICANE’ CARTER DEAD
Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the boxer who infamously served 19 years in jail after he was wrongly convicted for a triple murder, passed away Sunday in Toronto at the age of 76. Immortalized in a Bob Dylan song and a 1999 feature film, Carter was jailed in 1966 for a fatal shooting at a bar in New Jersey. Although he and his acquaintance John Artis passed a lie detector test and professed their innocence, the all-white jury convicted them. After multiple legal efforts, in 1985 a federal judge ruled that the convictions of Carter and Artis were based “upon an appeal to racism rather than reason and concealment rather than disclosure.” Once freed, Carter began a new life in Canada and devoted himself to helping others who were wrongly convicted.
•National Geo: Pompeii “Exposed and Vulnerable” to Neglect and the Elements
•Chuck Slatkin: Going Postal About Attack on Postal Workers
The secret deal between the Postal Service and Staples is designed to privatize basic postal services by replacing trained, living wage union jobs with low paid, untrained, non-union Staples employees. There is a National Day of Protest to Stop Staples this Thursday, April 24th. The action in NYC is organized by the New York Metro Area Postal Union.
When: Thursday, April 24th at 11am
Where: JAF Post Office 8th Avenue between 31-33 Streets
What: Rally and then march to the Staples store at 34th Street and 5th Avenue
Who: NY Metro Area Postal Union, Branch 36 NALC, Local 300 NPMHU, and
concerned citizens who want to keep the Postal Service public.
Why: The US Mail is not for sale. Stop Staples and the USPS from a
secret, dirty deal to privatize the Postal Service.
For further information please contact Kevin Walsh at 212-563-7553, ext 105.
•••A new week is with us. Follow the News nn the news and the news that isn’t in the news on NewsDissector.net. Thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Mediachannel.org.
•The Atlantic: How The US Turned Putin Against The West
•CLG: U.S. Plans Ground-Force Exercises in Eastern Europe –U.S. considering other ways to maintain regular ground-force presence in Eastern Europe
The United States plans to carry out small ground-force exercises in Poland and Estonia, Western officials said Friday. It is not yet clear what additional troop deployments the United States and other NATO nations might undertake in Eastern Europe after the exercises. The exercise in Poland, which is expected to be announced next week, would involve a United States Army company and would last about two weeks, officials said. The exercise in Estonia would be similar, said a Western official who declined to be identified because he was talking about internal planning.
•CLG: Ex-Russian Alaska ‘too cold’ to annex, Putin jokes
In a patriotic fervour, Russians are asking President Vladimir Putin to bring back the US state of Alaska, sold off to the United States in Tsarist times. Putin’s answer? It’s too cold. During Putin’s annual marathon phone-in session Thursday, when Russians pose questions to the Russian leader, a pensioner asked him to possibly follow the annexation [reunification] of Crimea from Ukraine with the taking of Alaska… “We have a northern country — 70 percent of our territory are in the north and the far north,” he noted. “Alaska is cold too,” he said. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
Iran condemns a decision by the US to seize a Manhattan high-rise belonging to a charitable foundation and sell proceeds to victims of attacks by Iran-backed militants.
•ICH: Alec Luhn in Donetsk, Antisemitic Flyer ‘by Donetsk People’s Republic’ in Ukraine a Hoax
City’s chief rabbi states pamphlet is fake, claiming it is meant to discredit pro-Russian protesters or Jewish community.
•Mark Karlin, BuzzFlash at Truthout: Banking Industry Shamelessly Fleeces Even the Paltry Savings of Ex-Prisoners
After incarceration, prisoners often have a small savings account that has accrued from work – and money provided by family and friends. Now, in some states, they are being forced to accept a fee gouging debit card to use their funds upon release.
*The Hill Warren fills void for Democrats as Hillary stays on the sidelines
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has emerged as one of the top fundraisers for Senate Democratic candidates in the midterm election campaign, filling a void left by the absence of Hillary Clinton.
Warren, who was elected to her first term in 2012, has already raised more than $2.3 million for Senate Democratic candidates this election cycle, according to her staff. She has also transferred $100,000 from her campaign account to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).
“She’s the biggest draw so far,” said a Senate Democratic campaign aide, referring to Warren’s knack for getting donors to open up their checkbooks.
NYT: Promise and Perils of Obamacare
…President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, the $1.4 trillion effort to extend health insurance to all Americans, is challenging the traditional calculus about government benefits and political impact.
Even as Mr. Obama announced that eight million Americans had enrolled in the program and urged Democrats to embrace the law, those in his party are running from it rather than on it, while Republicans are prospering by demanding its repeal.
The reasons are complex and layered in the early assessments, but say much about the nation’s political polarization, its shifting fault lines of class and race, and a diminished faith in government.
“The angry opponents are more mobilized than the beneficiaries,” said David Axelrod, the longtime adviser to Mr. Obama.
Young adults and minorities tend to vote in midterms at lower rates than older and white voters. And a poll by the Pew Research Center and USA Today found that more Republicans than Democrats will be influenced by a candidate’s stance on the health law.
•Slate: How The Media Would Cover The Clintons In Another Country
Though free of monarchy for more than two centuries, Americans this week were strangely fascinated by the news that one of the country’s preeminent political families will be producing its next heir.
We look at and run the code that exploits the Heartbleed bug.
Two journalists from The Sunday Times set out to investigate whether Bulgarians would sell babies. And a Bulgarian journalist set out to investigate whether Britons would buy their babies.
As Shelley predicted through her literary proxy Victor Frankenstein, humanity never lets mishaps or moral ambiguity stand in the way of innovation. Nor does Hollywood miss a moment to skewer the technology
•Ed Rampell, The Progressive: Charlie Chaplin’s Legacy Looms Large – He would have 125 April 16
Most people know Charlie Chaplin, whose 125th birthday was April 16, as a giant figure in the history of film. Chaplin’s films were as funny as they were deeply revelatory of the human condition. His raucous cinematic assault on fascism, discussed here, helps enrich our understanding about what made this clown one of our most sublime and important artists.
Friday marks 100 years since Charlie Chaplin’s beloved character “The Tramp” made his silver screen debut.
While the actor is best known for his slapstick silent movies featuring the well-meaning vagabond, Chaplin’s progressive legacy is less familiar to folks these days, even though his first all-talking film features what is perhaps cinema’s greatest political speech to date.
“Soldiers, don’t give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you, who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder,” he roared in the 1940 film “The Great Dictator.” “Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate. Only the unloved hate. Soldiers, don’t fight for slavery, fight for liberty!”
That performance lives on even today thanks to the viral nature of social media. A re-edited version of Chaplin’s speech in “The Great Dictator” went on to score over 13 million viewers on YouTube in 2011, under the title “The Greatest Speech Ever Made.”
Compelling as that may be, the true weight of Chaplin’s progressive legacy seems to have been forgotten in popular Hollywood lore. He is instead best associated with cane-twirling comedic antics, and little else.
However, “The Great Dictator” marked the end of Chaplin’s Tramp. In that film, he plays a dual role: Adenoid Hynkel, the tyrant of Tomania, and a humble Jewish barber victimized by the rise of fascism. While this undertaking may not sound controversial today, it made huge waves in 1940 because Chaplin broke two taboos with one cinematic stone, taking on Adolf Hitler directly and portraying a Jewish protagonist on the silver screen.
The satirical masterpiece is full of hilarious scenes ridiculing fascism, inter-cut with the increasingly desperate plight of the Jews, including the Barber’s sweetheart Hannah, played by Paulette Goddard. “The Great Dictator” concludes with Hynkel invading what’s supposed to be Austria, but the Jewish Barber, who resembles Hynkel (Chaplin used to quip, “Hitler stole my mustache!”), is mistaken for the dictator and asked to address the masses at a Nuremberg-type rally. That’s when Chaplin’s little Jewish character delivers his impassioned cinematic sermon on the mount.
By using the power of movie mockery, Chaplin showed that Hollywood could cut the fascist behemoths down to size. It’s impossible to grasp the full impact of “The Great Dictator,” which noted film critic Bosley Crowther called “perhaps the most significant film ever produced.” It ultimately scored five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor.
Although Chaplin was not a Jew, his wife was, and so was his half-brother Sydney. By association, and largely due to Chaplin’s portrayal of a Jewish protagonist, the rightwingers of his day savagely attacked him with anti-Semetic rhetoric. Chaplin, however, did not bother to correct them. By not denying he was Jewish, Chaplin publicly conferred the status of the most popular star in the world at the time upon the planet’s most hyper-oppressed minority, right in the midst of the Nazis Party’s genocidal “final solution.”
But “The Great Dictator” was not Chaplin’s first foray into the political issues of his day. While Chaplin never again wore the cane-twirling, mustachioed character’s trademark baggy pants, tight coat, over-sized shoes and small derby hat in front of a camera, it was the Tramp that made his stunning achievement in “The Great Dictator” possible. It almost seems hard to believe that the Tramp’s first appearance was a whole century ago, in Mack Sennett’s short film “Kid Auto Races at Venice.”
Although initially a bumbling vagabond prone to slapstick comedy, Chaplin’s Tramp evolved through the years into a symbol of the underdog. Theatergoers could relate to this everyman’s plight in silent movies like 1917′s “The Immigrant,” wherein the Tramp crosses the Atlantic in a boat bound for a new life in America. Chaplin made that very same journey in his younger years, fleeing the extreme poverty of England.
As the character grew and changed, Chaplin’s Tramp often clashed with police and other authority figures to make a point about the most pressing social issues of the day. In 1921′s heartbreaking “The Kid,” for instance — which drew water from Chaplin’s troubled childhood — he battles government officials who try to prevent him from raising an orphaned child played by Jackie Coogan, an actor best known for his depiction of “Uncle Fester” in “The Addams Family.”
By 1936 and the release of “Modern Times,” Chaplin’s cane-twirling everyman rose to the status of a true proletarian, depicting an oppressed factory worker who is literally swallowed by assembly line machinery and fired, only to fall in love with a homeless waif. Together, the beleaguered couple struggle to survive during the Great Depression, giving a darkly comedic depiction of the abhorrent conditions working people faced in those days.
Chaplin’s portrayal of the Jewish Barber in “The Great Dictator” is the apotheosis of the Little Tramp as an emblem of ordinary people. Although he retired his derby hat and big shoes in his few remaining films, Chaplin never stopped speaking out against injustice. He paid the price for this advocacy, too. So potent was his advocacy for the poor and oppressed that many rightwingers truly believed Chaplin was a communist, although he was not. As a result, Chaplin was relentlessly red-baited in the press, particularly after campaigning with the American Committee for Russian War Relief, which sought to help the Soviets during World War II.
By 1947 and the release of “Monsieur Verdoux,” Chaplin’s social commentary really began to sear conservatives. He was picketed by the Catholic Legion of Decency for playing a serial wife murderer who compares himself to world leaders. “As a mass killer, I am an amateur by comparison,” he declared.
That same year, Chaplin was subpoenaed to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), a precursor to the red-scare McCarthyism that dominated the 1950s. He was ultimately denied reentry to the U.S. in 1952 after attending the London premiere of “Limelight” — a film that depicts a vaudevillian who loses his audience.
Chaplin ultimately settled in the neutral, democratic nation of Switzerland, where he directed two more feature films: 1957′s “A King in New York,” which took on McCarthyism, and his much-overlooked swan song, 1967′s “A Countess from Hong Kong.”
In “A King in New York,” Chaplin’s son Michael is forced to inform on his parents’ allegedly un-American activities, and Chaplin himself is ultimately called before the HUAC. He scatters the committee’s members in hilarious fashion by spraying them in their faces with a firehose. His final film, “A Countess from Hong Kong,” features the great Marlon Brando giving up and walking away from his political ambitions to woo a down-on-her-luck Sophia Loren. “I’d rather be happy than be president,” Brando declares.
Chaplin returned to the U.S. just once more after being blacklisted by Hollywood during the McCarthy-era, accepting an honorary Academy Award in 1972. He lived out the remainder of his life in Vevey, Switzerland, where Chaplin raised a large family with Eugene O’Neill’s daughter Oona in his emeritus years, a woman he loved very dearly. Unlike the tyrant he spoofed in “The Great Dictator,” Chaplin lived on to the ripe old age of 88.
While he may be gone, Chaplin’s legacy lives on even today. Next year, his home above Lake Geneva will be converted to a museum, and later this month, Chaplin’s only known novella, titled “Footlights,” will finally see the light of day.
Despite the progressive activism many popular actors engage in these days, Hollywood will never have another star like Charlie Chaplin. He was a titan of the cinema, and a true hero to oppressed people everywhere. His influence is sorely missed.
[Ed Rampell is The Progressive's man in Hollywood and author of "The Hawaii Movie and Television Book," available now.]]]]
•••Happy Easter Sunday. I may be too optimistic but warm weather may be on the way. Comments and stories to email@example.com. Visit Mediachannel.org.
•Huffington Post: In Case You Missed My Latest News Dissection on the Pulitzers and Media
New York Times: Snowden Defends His Part in Putin Forum
One day after he took part in a stage-managed forum with President Vladimir V. Putin on Russian state television, the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden defended his participation, in an essay published by The Guardian.
Mr. Snowden wrote that he “was surprised” by the backlash because he had used the opportunity to raise the issue of “Russia’s involvement in mass surveillance on live television,” by asking the former intelligence agent in the Kremlin “a question that cannot credibly be answered in the negative by any leader who runs a modern, intrusive surveillance program: ‘Does [your country] intercept, analyze or store millions of individuals’ communications?’ ”
According to Mr. Snowden, his question was consciously shaped to echo what Senator Ron Wyden asked James Clapper, the United States director of national intelligence, at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on March 12 of last year: “Does the N.S.A. collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
•From Snowden’s article in the Guardian
On Thursday, I questioned Russia’s involvement in mass surveillance on live television. I asked Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, a question that cannot credibly be answered in the negative by any leader who runs a modern, intrusive surveillance program: “Does [your country] intercept, analyse or store millions of individuals’ communications?”
I went on to challenge whether, even if such a mass surveillance program were effective and technically legal, it could ever be morally justified.
The question was intended to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion. (See a side-by-side comparison of Wyden’s question and mine here.)
Clapper’s lie – to the Senate and to the public – was a major motivating force behind my decision to go public, and a historic example of the importance of official accountability.
In his response, Putin denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter. There are serious inconsistencies in his denial – and we’ll get to them soon – but it was not the president’s suspiciously narrow answer that was criticised by many pundits. It was that I had chosen to ask a question at all.
I was surprised that people who witnessed me risk my life to expose the surveillance practices of my own country could not believe that I might also criticise the surveillance policies of Russia, a country to which I have sworn no allegiance, without ulterior motive. I regret that my question could be misinterpreted, and that it enabled many to ignore the substance of the question – and Putin’s evasive response – in order to speculate, wildly and incorrectly, about my motives for asking it.
•Washington Post: Long-term unemployed struggle to find — and keep — jobs
New research shows many of the long-term unemployed who finally land work can’t hold onto those jobs.
•FAIR: Peter Hart: Something You Still Won’t See on MSNBC
A liberal-leaning Democrat is waging a somewhat lonely but passionate fight against a mega-corporate merger. That’s the kind of thing you’re going to see talked about on the liberal-leaning cable channel MSNBC, right?
Not at the moment. Because that politician, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, is talking about the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger (New York Times, 4/11/14). And, of course, Comcast is MSNBC’s parent company.
As we’ve noted before (FAIR Blog, 2/19/14), MSNBC mostly skipped the announcement of the merger. The only substantive coverage was on Morning Joe, where the CEOs enjoyed a victory lap. As co-host Joe Scarborough put it, “Comcast seems to be doing everything right over the past four or five years.”
Not much has changed. Franken’s questioning of company officials at a Senate judiciary committee hearing last week (4/9/14) drew notice from the likes of the New York Times (4/11/14), but it doesn’t seem to change the dynamic over at Comcast’s cable channel, which has a political point of view that you might think would be sympathetic to Franken’s criticism–not to mention the dozens of public interest groups that have spoken out publicly against the deal.
Interestingly, CNN–which no longer has any corporate ties to Time Warner Cable–has done much more on the Comcast story, most recently on the media program Reliable Sources (4/13/14), which had also featured an interview with Craig Aaron of Free Press on the same subject (2/16/14).
But at this point, a merger of two massive media companies–which raises some fundamental questions about one corporation holding enormous power over cable, broadband and programming–isn’t generating any interest over at MSNBC. If Franken and other Comcast critics need any more evidence showing how these media giants wield their power, they don’t have to look very far.
•Marching on the Mainstrean Media in Chicago
Chicago Media Action is passing word about an event scheduled for this
weekend, April 19th. Quoting from a mission statement:
“The MARCH AGAINST MAINSTREAM MEDIA is a world-wide rally to expose
mainstream media outlets such as FOX news, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, and
others for their proven practices of lying to, distracting, and
manipulating the general public. For years, Mainstream Media outlets
have fabricated details of events, and even ignored crucial events all
together, for many reasons. These reasons often have to due with the
political agendas of governments, such as gaining the support of their
countrymen in invading other countries( for all of the wrong reasons ),
covering up and even attempting to justify uncalled for, inhumane war
crimes, and keeping the mass public in the dark about what’s REALLY
going on in the world.”
The Chicago MAMSM will begin at Saturday, April 19, 12PM, starting at
190 N. State, Chicago (the home for WLS, Chicago’s ABC affiliate) — and
is expected to make stops at Chicago’s CBS, NBC and FOX affiliates.
More information and flyers can be found on the event’s Facebook page:
•UN: Ban: Attack on UN compound a “serious escalation” of South Sudan crisis
Dozens of refugees were killed when armed civilians attacked a United Nations peacekeepers compound in Bor, South Sudan, where nearly 5,000 refugees are living. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored the attack, saying “any attack on United Nations peacekeepers is unacceptable and constitutes a war crime.
Food for Thought:
•Roberto Savio: Our Planet’s Future Is in the Hands of 58 People
ROME, Apr 2014 (IPS) – In case you missed it, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the third and final part of a report on Apr. 13 in which it says bluntly that we only have 15 years left to avoid exceeding the “safe” threshold of a 2°C increase in global temperatures, beyond which the consequences will be dramatic.
And only the most myopic are unaware of what these are – from an increase in sea level, through more frequent hurricanes and storms (increasingly in previously unaffected areas), to an adverse impact on food production.
Now, in a normal and participatory world, in which at least 83 percent of those living today will still be alive in 15 years, this report would have created a dramatic reaction. Instead, there has not been a single comment by any of the leaders of the 196 countries in which the planet’s 7.5 billion “consumers” reside. It’s just been business as usual.
Anthropologists, who study human beings’ similarity to and divergence from other animals, concluded a long time ago that humans are not superior in every aspect. For instance, human beings are less adaptable than many animals to survive in, for example, earthquakes, hurricanes and any other type of natural disaster. You can be sure that, by now, other animals would be showing signs of alertness and uneasiness.
The first part of the report, released in September 2013 in Stockholm, declared with a 95 percent or greater certainty that humans are the main cause of global warming, while the second part, released in Yokohama at the end of March, reported that “in recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans”.
The IPCC is made up of over 2,000 scientists, and this is the first time that it has come to firm and final conclusions since its creation in 1988 by the United Nations.
The main conclusion of the report is that to slow the race to a point of no return, global emissions must be cut by 40 to 70 percent by 2050, and that “only major institutional and technological changes will give a better than even chance” that global warming will not go beyond the safety threshold and that these must start at the latest in 15 years, and be completed in 35 years.
It is worth noting that roughly half of the world’s population is under the age of 30, and it is largely the young who will have to bear the enormous costs of fighting climate change.
The IPCC’s main recommendation is very simple: major economies should place a tax on carbon pollution, raising the cost of fossil fuels and thus pushing the market toward clean sources such as wind, solar or nuclear energy. It is here that “major institutional changes” are required.
Ten countries are responsible for 70 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas pollution, with the United States and China accounting for over 55 percent of that share. Both countries are taking serious steps to fight pollution.
U.S. President Barack Obama tried in vain to obtain Senate support, and has used his authority under the 1970 Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution from vehicles and industrial plants and encourage clean technologies. But he cannot do anything more without backing from the Senate.
The all-powerful new president of China, Xi Jinping, has made the environment a priority, also because official sources put the number of deaths in China each year from pollution at five million.
But China needs coal for its growth, and Xi’s position is: “Why should we slow down our development when it was you rich countries that created the problem by achieving your growth?” And that gives rise to a vicious circle. The countries of the South want the rich countries to finance their costs for reducing pollution, and the countries of the North want them to stop polluting.
As a result, the report’s executive summary, which is intended for political leaders, has been stripped of charts which could have been read as showing the need for the South to do more, while the rich countries put pressure on avoiding any language that could have been interpreted as the need for them to assume any financial obligations.
This should make it easier to reach an agreement at the next Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in Lima, where a new global agreement should be reached (remember the disaster at the climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009?).
The key to any agreement is in the hands of the United States. The U.S. Congress has blocked any initiative on climate control, providing an easy escape for China, India and other polluters: why should we make commitments and sacrifices if the U.S. does not participate?
The problem is that the Republicans have made climate change denial one of their points of identity.
They have mocked and denied climate change and attacked Democrats who support carbon taxing as waging a war on coal. The American energy industry financially supports the Republican Party and it is considered political suicide to talk about climate change.
The last time a carbon tax was proposed in 2009, after a positive vote by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, the Republican-dominated Senate shot it down.
And in the 2010 elections, a number of politicians who voted for the carbon tax lost their seats, contributing to the Republican takeover of the House. The hope now for those who want a change is to wait for the 2016 elections, and hope that the new president will be able to change the situation – which is a good example of why the ancient Greeks said that Hope is the last Goddess.
•Another Media maker Gone: Robert Knight: September 6, 1949 – April 16, 2014 (via Randy Credico)
Robert Knight was the anchor of the daily “Five O’Clock Shadow” investigative newsmagazine, and host of the weekly free-form radio series “Earthwatch:Transterrestrial Radio with Robert Knight”on New York Pacifica station WBAI-FM. He was a former correspondent for Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”, the Public News Service, where his reports have been heard on hundreds of public, commercial and community radio stations. He anchored Pacifica’s nationally syndicated investigative news program “Flashpoints,” its national election series “Informed Dissent” and Pacifica Radio’s live bicoastal coverage of President Obama’s Afghanistan War speech at West Point. He was also a regular WBAI News contributor and occasional host of “Wake Up Call”.
Most recently, Knight produced the two-hour investigative historical documentary, “The Sweet Science of Racism in Haiti,” one of WBAI’s most popular locally-produced public affairs premiums.
Along with Dennis Bernstein, Knight was a cofounder of the groundbreaking investigative news series “Contragate” (later renamed “Undercurrents”) – which provided daily exposés of the clandestine and military operations surrounding the wars in Central America and elsewhere. He also served as WBAI’s News Director, “Wake Up Call” morning show host, and as a successful fundraising copywriter for the station. Knight served as a correspondent for Pacifica National News, Free Speech Radio and National Public Radio, and been broadcast on WNYC, WLIB, KPFA, WEVD, WABC, WAMC, and WMCA, among other stations.
As an international correspondent, Knight traveled to five continents, reporting from such hot spots as Nicaragua (where he covered the contra war), Colombia (where he reported to the international drug complex), Libya (where he visited the home of Muammar Khadafy), North and South Korea (where he covered nuclear and reunification issues), and Panama – where his interviews with Manuel Noriega and coverage of the 1989 US invasion earned him the prestigious George R. Polk Award.
In addition to the Polk Award, Knight’s work also won the Jesse Meriton White Award for International Reporting, the Ethical Culture ‘Man of the Year’ Peace Award, the “Madre Padre” Award (presented to “a few good men” by MADRE, the international feminist human rights organization), the Humanist Journalism Award (presented by the Rev. Joseph Ben-David, a colleague of Hannah Arendt), the News Reporting Award presented by Asian-Americans for Equality, and the National Association of Black Journalists’ Radio Reporting Award for his documentary series on covert activities in apartheid South Africa.
Knight’s domestic reportage includes travels to Tulia, Texas, where he covered the false arrests of most of the town’s African American population on fabricated drug charges, and to Albany, New York, where his reporting contributed to reform of the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.
Knight also made television appearances, including “Like It Is”, with Gil Noble and “Tony Brown’s Journal.” and news anchoring on “International News Net”. He hosted a televised town hall discussion with the Rev. Al Sharpton at the Schomberg Center for Research into African Culture. He was also interviewed by Harold Channer on “Conversations with Harold H. Channer”
His writing has been published in Esquire, Essence, New York Magazine, SPY, SPIN, Newsday. The New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, BaltimoreSun, The Guardian, and the Premiere Edition of Civil Rights Journal, published by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights – among others.
•Another week gone. Happy Easter. Thanks for being supportive if you have been. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org., Visit the updated Mediachannel.org
•WP: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the master of magical realism whose rich and allusive explorations of myth and reality in Latin America won him the Nobel prize for literature and a place among the greatest writers of the 20th century, has died. He was 87.
Known throughout Latin America by the pet name “Gabo,” the Colombian-born Mr. Garcia Marquez was a journalist, novelist, screenwriter, playwright, memoirist and student of political history and modernist literature.’
•AP: World reacts to death of Gabriel Garcia Marquez
“A thousand years of loneliness and sadness for the death of the greatest Colombian of all time!” – Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos.
“With the passing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the world has lost one of its greatest visionary writers – and one of my favorites from the time I was young … I offer my thoughts to his family and friends, whom I hope take solace in the fact that Gabo’s work will live on for generations to come.” – U.S. President Barack Obama.
“A great man has died, one whose works gave the literature of our language great reach and prestige,” Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa, who had once famously feuded with Garcia Marquez.
“I owe him the impulse and the freedom to plunge into literature. In his books I found my own family, my country, the people I have known all my life, the color, the rhythm, and the abundance of my continent.” – Chilean writer Isabel Allende
“One would really have to go back to Dickens to find a writer of the highest literary quality who commanded such extraordinary power over whole populations.” – British novelist Ian McEwan, to the BBC.
•Portside: Carl Bloice, a brilliant journalist, political theorist, and teacher who inspired and mentored generations of activists in the U.S. and around the world for more than five decades, died in San Francisco April 12 after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.
•News Dissection: Pulitzers Awarded At The ‘Taj Majal” of Journalism for Snowden Leaks Stories While TV Networks Grumble and Keep Their Distance
By Danny Schechter
New York, New York: First the good news: The Pulitzer Prize for Public Service was not only the best covered of its awards this year, but it recognized a series of disclosures that made many media outlets nervous, if not adversarial—the publication of NSA secrets leaked by Edward Snowden.
They recognized the reporting by the Guardian in England and also Bart Gellman’s work in the Washington Post even as they, did not recognize the work directly of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras whose independent reporting appeared in many newspapers.
Laura and Glenn still make the news world nervous because a) they are outspoken, b) not always under the control and discipline of traditional editors and have a 3) respectful and acknowledged positive relationship with their source as if that is a high crime or misdemeanor. It is significant that they were recognized by the Polk awards, but not the Pulitzer.
In some higher circles, their source, Ed Snowden, is still considered a traitor or worse.
The Pulitzer Prize is the big enchildada in the media word announced in a formal ceremony at the Pulitzer room in the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism on New York’s Morningside Heights. The journalists who win these prizes are recognized for life as “Pulitzer Prize Winners” a sign that they reached the highest heights in the profession. It’s a ticket to raises and more recognition.
I once was once told by a former dean of the same “J School” —where I taught as an adjunct — that they considered themselves the “Taj Mahal” of American Journalism. I didn’t have the heart to remind her that the original Taj was built as a tomb.
Almost as significant as the prizes to stories emanating from a whistle blower, was the award to an investigative report into coal miners who were denied black lung disease benefits by one of the new not-for-profit media organizations, the Center for Public Integrity. A CPI reporter, Chris Hamby, won that one.
The ink on his award was not even dry before ABC News, a network I used to work for, muscled in with a high profile media claim that since they aired a story based on Hamby’s reporting, they deserved the Pulitzer too. The embarrassingly loud demand for credit by outgoing ABC President Ben Sherwood was gently, and then indignantly rebuffed by the Center’s Director, Ben Buzenberg,
According to Talking Points Memo, Buzenberg said: “I don’t take well to being bullied by anybody or threatened by anybody. We just stuck to the facts.”
Buzenberg explained that the Pulitzer committee did not award the prize for broadcast pieces and told ABC to cease its demands.
“The Center is prepared to show in great detail how little ABC’s Brian Ross and Matt Mosk understood about even the most fundamental concepts and key facts and how they repeatedly turned to Chris to advise them or, in some instances, to do their work for them,” he wrote in the letter.’
He noted in a letter to ABC, “Though you have framed the issue as the Center seeking to diminish ABC’s contributions, the reality is quite the opposite: ABC is seeking to take credit for a large body of work that it did not produce. These are the facts, as confirmed under the very strict Pulitzer Prize rules by the Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler again just yesterday.”
Having worked at ABC for eight years and written about the experience in my book. The More You Watch, The Less You Know, I could identify with Buzenberg’s taking umbrage at network arrogance and bullying.
In my experience, TV executives see their shops as if they are military units under the control of the men who control the control rooms. (After reports leave the control room, they pass through the even more Orwellian sounding “Master Control.”) These news chiefs would not do well on school report cards evaluating their ability to “work well with others.”
The TV networks are desperate these days for legitimating recognition in a media world that has fragmented, and in which they no longer have the commanding position.
That is not say, that they don’t also relish insider recognition and pats on the head from people in power.
At the same time that the newspaper world had recognized its obligation to recognize the Snowden story—sans Snowden, of course, who the Moscow Times reports has run out of money in his forced exile but may finally have a new job—a major network disses Snowden.
CBS News, once known as the network of Edward R Murrow and, then, Walter Cronkite has veered in another direction since it canned Dan Rather after a star chamber proceeding to punish him for a story showing that president Bush lied about his military credentials.
Today, predictably, CBS has gone the other way on the Snowden story too. That shouldn’t be a surprise for an outlet that appointed Pentagon groupie Lara Logan as its chief foreign correspondent, only to be called on their attempt to cover-up her erroneous Benghazi report that gave credence to right-wing spin on the subject.
More recently, CBS produced a two part pro-NSA story on 60 Minutes, reported by John Miller who acknowledged on air that he has worked for the Director of National Intelligence, but, then after it ran, left the network to become an intelligence chief at the New York Police Department.
As the Village Voice reported: “Miller is not the first reporter to make this sort of switch–newsrooms are shrinking and folks have families to feed. ….He has shown that there is a viable, and lucrative, career in circling the revolving door between journalism and law enforcement (or any other institution).”
Now, CBS, the “big eye” network, has gone even further, as Danny Weil reports:
‘CBS News has hired former acting director of the CIA, Mike Morell, as their senior security correspondent. Morell has been a frequent guest on CBS’ Face the Nation, where he has disseminated CIA propaganda and misleading information, raising questions about CBS’ journalistic integrity. Morell also works for Beacon Global Strategies, a DC consulting firm which peddles its government connections to defense contractors, raising even more questions about his role at CBS.
(This news came a few days after it was reported that CBS overlord, Les Moonves, is now bringing home $63 million a year.)
On December 23, 2013, Morell appeared on Face the Nation, where he promoted the government’s campaign to prosecute Edward Snowden. On that day, Morell stated:
“He violated the trust put in him by the United States government. He has committed a crime, in my view. You know a whistleblower doesn’t run. A whistleblower does not disclose information that has nothing to do with what he says his cause is which is the privacy and civil liberties of Americans. You know if I could talk to Mister Snowden myself, what I would say is, Edward, you say you’re a patriot, you say you want to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, you say that you wanted Americans to have a debate about this and to make up their mind about what to do about this. Well, if you really believe that, if you really believe that Americans should be the judge of this program, then you should also believe that the Americans should be the judge of your behavior in this regard. So if you are the patriot that you say you are, you should come home and be judged.’”
Now, it’s our turn to judge: is this or is this not media complicity in the surveillance state? Bear in mind that had Snowden not done what he had—and if Greenwald and Poitras—hadn’t done what they did, we would not have learned of what’s being done by the NSA in our name. If we had waited on the big media to tell the story, we would all still be waiting.
News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org and blogs at News Dissector.net. His latest book is Madiba A to Z: the Many Faces of Nelson Mandela. (Madibabook.com) Comments to email@example.com.
•The Hill: Obama: 8 million ObamaCare enrollments
President Obama on Thursday announced that 8 million people enrolled in private health plans on ObamaCare’s exchanges so far, surpassing the most optimistic projections for the program’s first year.
Obama revealed the figure after meeting with state insurance regulators and insurance company executives at the White House.
The new figures represent total enrollment on the exchanges from their launch last October to April 15, the end of a special enrollment period for HealthCare.gov. They reflect consumers who picked plans, not the estimated 80 to 90 percent who have paid their premiums.
•NY Times: U.S. and Russia Agree on Pact to Defuse Ukraine Crisis
GENEVA — The United States, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union reached an agreement here on Thursday evening that calls for armed pro-Russian bands to give up the government buildings they have seized in eastern Ukraine and outlines other steps to de-escalate the crisis.
Secretary of State John Kerry described the package of measures as an important first step to avert “a complete and total implosion” in eastern Ukraine and said that it could be followed by negotiation of more far-reaching steps to ease a crisis in which violence seemed to be growing by the day.
Mr. Lavrov said the deal was “largely based on compromise” and that a settlement of the crisis was primarily the responsibility of Ukraine’s. Mr. Lavrov made the remarks at a news conference that he gave before Mr. Kerry had spoken.
But President Obama sounded a cautious if not skeptical note in Washington. “I don’t think we can be sure of anything at this point,” he said, but there is a chance “that diplomacy may de-escalate the situation.”
ICH: Julian Borger: “Ukraine Crisis: Geneva Talks Produce Agreement On Defusing Conflict
US, Russia, Ukraine and EU agree measures including end of violence, disarming of illegal groups and amnesty for protesters.
•IP Accuracy: Ukraine Agreement: ‘Propaganda’ and Low Expectations?
The problem is that Kiev authorities do not control all neo-Nazi or radical nationalist groups who refused to disarm.
•Text: Putin’s Annual Q&A Session 2014
Full Video – English
It’s hard to negotiate with European leaders who choose to whisper even at home amid fears of the US spying on them – Putin.
From China to Ukraine, the US is pursuing its longstanding ambition to dominate the Eurasian landmass.
•IPA: Comment Mikhail Beznosov,: Head of the governing board of the East-Ukrainian Society for International Studies, Beznosov is now an associate professor in sociology at Kharkiv National University. He received his PhD in political science from the University of Arizona, where he continues to be an adjunct professor.
He said today, “The proposed plan is the only option to resolve the crisis in its current state. I am still skeptical though, that this is going to release the tensions in the short run. The problem is that Kiev authorities do not control all neo-Nazi or radical nationalist groups who refused to disarm when the government officials demanded disarming. It is also not clear how the disarming will be accepted now by the protesters in Eastern Ukraine, when they saw that this did not work previously with their main adversaries. The other problem is that many of those radical nationalist (neo-Nazi) fighters, who acted for several months in Kiev and now are being used to suppress the protest in the east and the south of Ukraine, were co-opted into the newly formed National Guard of Ukraine and other semi-legal armed ‘militias.’ I do not really see how these problems will be resolved at this point, but with the political will that the three major players put into pressuring the Kiev authorities, perhaps, it can be done eventually.”
Regarding the BBC report where “Mr. Kerry said the extent of the crisis had been highlighted in recent days by the ‘grotesque’ sending of notices to Jews in eastern Ukraine, demanding that they identify themselves as Jewish,” Beznosov said, “I think that this is the typical example when the information is not confirmed but used at such a serious forum. Now we can see the attempt to attach the ‘anti-Semitic’ label to anti-fascist protesters in eastern Ukraine, when in reality the anti-Semitism is a part of the ideology of such groups as ‘Right Sector’ or the political party ‘Svoboda,’ that represent the spectrum of political forces fighting against the protesters in the east and the south of Ukraine.”
•How Nice: Chelsea Clinton announces she’s pregnant
•Thats the NewsDissector.net blog for today. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Mediachannel.org
I spoke too soon. Just as I began to acclimate to the coming of spring, temperatures fell, along with Snow. It was cold out–double sweater weather. Go Figure. As someone I once admired once said in another context: Claim No Easy Victories.
•Thursday 5-6 PM on Mediachannel.org/News Dissector Radion on Prn.fm: I will be talking with two media revolutionaries in their respective fields. I will be joined by the dynamic Marwan Bishara, the host and anchor of Al Jazeera’s hard hitting program EMPIRE. It is available in the US now on line bury not yet on the air. Why? We’ll find out. At 5:30, we will connect to Berlin to speak with Elsa Rassbach, an impressive filmmaker who is just back from Gaza. We will play a clip from her new production now up on Vimeo. Both interviews will be in the PRN archives and on Mediachannel.org. We have just posted last week’s interviews with former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps about media concentration, and the new President of Common Cause, Miles Rapoport on the Supreme Court decision on campaign finance.
•LBN: Bloomberg Plunks Down $50 Million To Challenge NRA
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that he will donate $50 million to building a grassroots, nation-wide network for voters against gun violence. He plans to restructure two gun control groups he funds into a new umbrella group called Everytown for Gun Safety. Bloomberg said he envisions it as a pro-gun control answer to the National Rifle Association, especially its ability to effectively turn the screws on politicians. “They say, ‘We don’t care. We’re going to go after you. If you don’t vote with us we’re going to go after your kids and your grandkids and your great-grandkids. And we’re never going to stop,’” he said of the NRA. “We’ve got to make them afraid of us.” He’s already rounded up an elite and bipartisan board, which includes Tom Ridge, Michael Mullen, and Warren Buffett as members.
A 19-year-old Canadian citizen is charged with hacking into the Canada Revenue Agency’s website, becoming the first arrest in relation to the Heartbleed security breach.
•Portside/Working In These Times: UPS Workers Rehired
Two hundred and fifty UPS drivers, clad in their brown uniforms, rallying in a Queens parking lot, must have been quite a sight. Not very many people got to see it, however. The 90-minute work stoppage outside the Maspeth, Queens, UPS facility on February 26 was a spontaneous protest against the firing, allegedly without due process, of one of their colleagues, Jairo Reyes.
On March 26, UPS retaliated by beginning to give all 250 notices that they’d be terminated – but the company did not fire the workers all at once. According to the Teamsters, UPS fired 20 drivers on March 31 and kept the rest waiting for the axe to fall while their replacements were trained.
Nearly two months later, all 250, including Reyes, will be headed back to work, their terminations reduced to ten-day suspensions. Driver Steven Curcio, who says he was one of the first to be fired, credits the support of the community, elected officials and particularly his own customers.
Tim Sylvester, president of Teamsters Local 804, the union that represents the Queens drivers, said, “The drivers delivered their message to UPS about unfair treatment. Now every one of them will be back delivering packages.”
•Michael Brenner: Motion Versus Action
This confusion of motion with action directed at a concrete policy objective is best exemplified by John Kerry. He has jetted around the world at a whirlwind pace that makes his peripatetic predecessor Hillary Clinton look like a coach potato by comparison. Kerry’s compulsive commitment to hands-on diplomacy has personalized the United Sates’ foreign relations to an unprecedented degree. All conducted at breakneck speed. The seems an unspoken faith that if you move fast enough, all accidents occur behind you. He, of course, does have short-term objectives but it is the process that has become all-important – as witness the enormous time and energy expended on Palestinian “peace process” which from the outset has been devoid of real progress toward an accord – and now predictably has sunk beneath the sands.
The media coverage of Kerry’s non-stop travels, and most of the commentary, has been caught up in same confusion. It’s all about goings and comings, the press conferences, the leaks as to what he will say, the leaks as to what his counterparts did say in inescapably brief meetings, and – most certainly – how all this is playing in the Center Ring back in Washington. Sober analysis of the issues, of where a given meeting fits into a well crafted strategy, of the linkages between place A in the Middle East and places B and C – all are most conspicuous by their absence.
•NYT: Ukraine Push Against Rebels Grinds to Halt
SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — A military operation that the Ukrainian government said would confront pro-Russian militants in the east of the country unraveled in disarray on Wednesday with the entire contingent of 21 armored vehicles that had separated into two columns surrendering or pulling back before nightfall. It was a glaring humiliation for the new government in Kiev.
Though gunshots were fired throughout the day, and continued sporadically through the evening in this town that is occupied by pro-Russian militants, it was unclear whether anybody had been wounded.
One of the armored columns stopped when a crowd of men drinking beer and women yelling taunts and insults gathered on the road before them, and later in the day its commander agreed to hand over the soldiers’ assault rifles to the very separatists they were sent to fight.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said on Wednesday that NATO would increase patrols along its eastern border in response to Russian interference in Ukraine.
Another column from the same ostensibly elite unit, the 25th Dnipropetrovsk paratrooper brigade, surrendered not only its weapons but also the tracked and armored vehicles it had arrived in, letting militants park them as trophies, under a Russian flag, in a central square here.
•RT: Ukraine on brink of civil war after blood was spilt in east – Yanukovich
Ukraine is a foot in the door to civil war, ousted President Viktor Yanukovich said in his address from Rostov-on-Don, where he has been residing for over a month after fleeing Kiev amid protests.
“Blood was spilt today,” Yankovich told journalists referring to the events in the eastern city of Slavyansk. “Now our country finds itself in a totally new situation – with one foot in the door of a civil war. The Kiev junta has issued a criminal order to use armed forces and the army against the protesters.”
“During my time in Kiev, we never used such methods against radicals or extremists,” he added.
Part of the responsibility for dragging the country into domestic war lays on the US, which brutally interfere in the situation and to point out what to do, Yanukovich said.
The ousted president declared that CIA director John Brennan visited Ukraine and it was after the meeting that the coup-imposed authorities in Kiev ordered a military operation in the country’s east.
Brennan “de facto sanctioned” the use of weapons and thus provoked the bloodshed, Yanukovich said. Earlier, sources told Interfax news agency that Brennan was paying a secret visit to Kiev.
In the event of a mass crackdown on protesters and use of force, the “new rulers” of Ukraine will carry full responsibility, the ousted President said, adding that the people of Ukraine will never accept “dictatorship” and “especially nationalists’ dictate.”
•Undernews/Progressive Review: Former news media CBS hires former acting CIA director as “senior security correspondent”
Even CNN hasn’t sold out journalism this badly. . .
Danny Weil, RINF – CBS News has hired former acting director of the CIA, Mike Morell, as their senior security correspondent. Morell has been a frequent guest on CBS’ Face the Nation, where he has disseminated CIA propaganda and misleading information, raising questions about CBS’ journalistic integrity. Morell also works for Beacon Global Strategies, a DC consulting firm which peddles its government connections to defense contractors, raising even more questions about his role at CBS.
On December 23, 2013, Morell appeared on Face the Nation, where he promoted the government’s campaign to prosecute Edward Snowden. On this day Morell stated:
“He violated the trust put in him by the United States government. He has committed a crime, in my view. You know a whistleblower doesn’t run. A whistleblower does not disclose information that has nothing to do with what he says his cause is which is the privacy and civil liberties of Americans….
Morell also made the following statement, which is now known to be false, thanks to Snowden’s disclosures:
“The NSA is not spying on Americans. I think that is a perception that some have out there. It is not– it is not– it is not focused on any single American. It is not reading the content of your phone calls or my phone calls or anybody else’s phone calls. It is focused on this metadata for one purpose only, and that is to make sure that foreign terrorists aren’t in contact with anybody in the United States.
On April 14, 2014 McClatchy News reported on the still secret Senate report on the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques”. McClatchy reported that the CIA systematically mislead Congress, lied to the Justice Department and that the legal foundation for the CIA’s activities were doubtful. According to McClatchy, some of the report’s findings include:
“The CIA used interrogation methods that weren’t approved by the Justice Department or CIA headquarters. The agency impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making regarding the program. The CIA actively evaded or impeded congressional oversight of the program. The agency hindered oversight of the program by its own Inspector General’s Office”
The findings of misconduct reported by McClatchy occurred during Michael Morell’s tenure at the CIA, raising questions about the appropriateness of his role as CBS’ senior security analyst.
•Wrap: Pulitzer Dispute Puts Center for Public Integrity Against ABC News
Center for Public Integrity executive director Bill Buzenberg excoriated ABC News president Ben Sherwood in a letter Wednesday, calling Sherwood’s request to share credit for a Pulitzer Prize-winning story “an unfortunate PR campaign by ABC News.”
“It is curious that you repeatedly reference dictionary definitions of ‘integrity’ in an apparent attempt to play off the Center’s name and imply hypocrisy,” Buzenberg wrote in response to a letter Sherwood sent — and released to the media — on Tuesday.
Also read: Edward Snowden-NSA Stories Win Pulitzer for Guardian, Washington Post
“In fact, it is the behavior of ABC that should give rise to questions about honesty and moral uprightness.”
At issue is a year-long investigation into the coal mining industry’s treatment of black lung sufferers, for which CPI writer Chris Hamby won a Pulitzer Prize Monday. ABC News claims that CPI’s submission to the Pulitzer committee drastically understated the amount of work its journalists did on the story.
Also read: James Goldston, Ben Sherwood on ABC News, ‘GMA’ Shakeup: ‘We Need to Play Like Underdogs’
“Given CPI’s professed commitment to integrity, our team is quite surprised that you now seem inclined to diminish the significant contributions of our reporters; you seem inclined to marginalize the amount of time, effort, and resources that ABC News contributed and you seem determined to pretend that ABC News was simply a megaphone for Chris Hamby’s work,” Sherwood wrote in his letter to Buzenberg.
Buzenberg insisted in his response that ABC reporters relied on Hamby’s research for its reporting, rather than doing original reporting on its own that would have merited equal credit.
Also read: Ben Sherwood to Replace Anne Sweeney at Disney
“At every step of the way, ABC turned to Chris for his longstanding connections to key sources in the coal mining community, his expertise in complex legal and medical issues and his vast trove of evidence, painstakingly gathered over a long period of time,” Buzenberg wrote.
“Now that the series has won high praise, however, ABC seems to have changed its tune. Suddenly, both parties contributed equally, in ABC’s telling,” he added. ”In other words, I agree with your proposal: Let’s show some integrity.”
Also read: James Goldston Tapped as ABC News President
In his response, Buzenberg included a note from Pulitzer Administrator Sig Gissler saying that Gissler reviewed the entry again and determined that Hamby did the overwhelming majority of work. In accordance with Pulitzer rules on limited partnerships, Gissler wrote, the prize would go only to the eligible organization that submitted the piece
•Guardian: Guantanamo Judge Halts Trial because of New Allegations of FBI Interferance
•IWMF announces inception of Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award
Washington, DC – The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) is honored to announce the inception of the Anja Niedringhaus Courage in Photojournalism Award honoring the courage and dedication of AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus who was killed in Afghanistan earlier this month.
Created with a $1million endowment gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Award will be given annually to a woman photojournalist whose work follows in the footsteps of Anja Niedringhaus.
Niedringhaus who won the IWMF Courage in Journalism Award in 2005, spent her life documenting wars and the effects of conflict on people in war-torn regions. “I could have stayed out of trouble most of my life but always have been drawn to the people who suffer in difficult situations,” she told the audience at the 2005 Courage Awards ceremony.
•Wrap: Rightwing Newspaper opens in LA: Los Angeles Register Launches With Upbeat News Mix
•Our Missing News.com.“Vermont Bucks GMO Maker Monsanto” written by William Deane.
The Monsanto “law” army must be racing to Vermont tonight. The Vermont Senate voted 28 to 2 for mandatory GMO labeling. The bill now goes back to the House of Representatives to consider some senate modifications of the original house-passed bill. Remember, neighboring New Hampshire passed a GMO labeling bill 2 years ago. But the governor was afraid to sign it after Monsanto lawyers threatened, “You do that and we will sue every adult in your state of New Hampshire.” The governor believed the Monsanto threat and was literally afraid to sign the bill into law. Again, with the Vermont bill, there is no ban on Genetically Modified Organism products, it’s clearly an informational bill. The label would tell consumers if products contain GMOs–Then it’s up to the grocery shopper to decide whether to buy the box of cereal, flour, bread, rice, soy, apples.
It’s simply a right to know bill. The U.S. Congress in the twenties, almost a hundred years ago, approved the first American labeling law which you now see on virtually all food products. But Monsanto is bucking the law and our paid-off Congress is supporting the chemical company and not the public’s “right to know.” A bill was just introduced in Washington to nullify any state law requiring GMO labeling. Will the ingredients law on all our packages soon be eliminated as well? “The Right to Know GMO” Vt. coalition, now expects to see Monsanto get tough with Vermont. Maine and Connecticut passed “you first” laws, afraid to go it alone as the laws of those states don’t trigger until other states enact ahead of them.
There’s no “you first” in the present Vermont bill. The Grocery Manufacturers Association poured millions into the anti-labeling campaign and helped defeat the Washington State proposal last year and the California bill the year before. Much like the 40-year tobacco-cancer debate which wasn’t settled until the 1970s, there are presently arguments pro and con on GMOs. Millions don’t want to wait 40 years to know the GMO answer. They believe Monsanto is revoking America’s right to know.
•RIP: David Swanson writes about an activist I knew: “The Loss of John Judge Hits Hard:
Our society has lost a great activist today with the death of John Judge. No one spoke more clearly, strongly, and informedly on political power, militarism, and activism for positive change. While John lived nextdoor to Dennis Kucinich — and with one of the best views and one of the best collections of political books and documents — in Washington, D.C., it was as staff person for Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney that he advanced numerous causes of peace and justice and accountability for the powerful on Capitol Hill. On impeaching Bush and Cheney he was there first.
•Wesley Brown: A Friend and Computer Genius Has Died
•Thats my take on what’s in the news and not in the news today. Comments and story suggestions to email@example.com. Please visit Mediachannel.org and tune into Mediachannel radio on Thursday at 5 on PRN.fm.
•Huff Post: Boston Marathon Finish Line Evacuated Due To Unattended Backpacks
•Guardian: Ukraine On the Brink
•Independent: Refugee saved from deportation by flight passengers
•NYT: New York Drops Unit That Spied Among Muslims
The New York Police Department has abandoned a secretive program that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped, the department said.
The decision by the nation’s largest police force to shutter the controversial surveillance program represents the first sign that William J. Bratton, the department’s new commissioner, is backing away from some of the post-9/11 intelligence-gathering practices of his predecessor. The Police Department’s tactics, which are the subject of two federal lawsuits, drew criticism from civil rights grou
•••Via Carolyn Baker:
MICHAEL C. RUPPERT
February 3, 1951–April 13, 2014
Mike was found dead Sunday night following his beloved Lifeboat Hour. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. That particular radio episode was one of the best he and I ever did together.
Thank you Mike, for all of the truth you courageously told us. Thank you for all the people you awakened. I will miss you always.
For those who have followed Mike for many years and understand “conspiracy fact,” no, this was not a faked suicide. It was deliberate, intentional, and involved a great deal of planning by Mike. It is both terribly tragic and everyone’s divine right.
“Death, be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so; For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me. From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be, Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow, And soonest our best men with thee do go, Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery. Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell, And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then? One short sleep past, we wake eternally, And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.”
Tax Day, 2014
•Cass R. Sunstein: “Most Americans comply with the tax laws, but every year many of our fellow citizens don’t. The result is the ‘tax gap’ — the amount of revenue that the government loses because people are cheating. In one recent year, for example, the tax gap was $450 billion.”
•NYT: Andrew Ross Sorkin: Envy Those Corporate Loopholes on Tax Day
It’s Tax Day.
That means accountants across the country are working furiously to meet the midnight deadline for submitting individual returns.
In corporate America, however, many accountants are already done. The deadline for corporate returns this year was March 17, though companies could seek a six-month extension.
While individuals have long sought to take advantage of dozens of deductions and loopholes, corporations have famously excelled at this game.
How well? Companies paid an average effective federal tax rate of 12.6 percent in 2010, the last time the Government Accountability Office measured the rate. That compares with the nominal federal tax rate of 35 percent, so all those accountants appear to have done their jobs in exploiting the loopholes in our tax code.
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Representative Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, proposed a vast reform of our tax code this year, eliminating a lot of the Swiss cheese that makes it so porous and, arguably, unfair. Mr. Camp’s proposal, as you might imagine, isn’t gaining a lot of traction.
In recognition of Uncle Sam’s payday, it’s only proper to take note of some of the most egregious corporate tax loopholes and some unexpected beneficiaries.
¦ For the last seven years, a debate has raged over the “carried interest” benefit taken by private equity and hedge fund executives. Instead of paying ordinary rates on much of their income — typically 35 percent for the highest bracket (39.6 percent for this tax year) — these executives pay the capital gains rate of 15 percent. It’s a clear loophole that is plainly unfair. Despite repeated efforts to repeal it, the loophole has remained, in part because of well-financed industry lobbying in Washington.
But much of the lobbying isn’t coming from the private equity industry — it’s coming from another beneficiary that often goes overlooked: the real estate industry. The carried-interest loophole is related to what is known as partnership accounting. Any company that uses such treatment can take advantage of the loophole. That means not just private equity and hedge funds, but also venture capital and much of the oil and gas industry. The National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, which has lobbied against the repeal of the loophole, says that “41 percent of all investment partnerships are real estate related.” When Mr. Camp announced his tax reform proposal, guess which industry was exempted? Real estate.
¦ If individual taxpayers are arrested, admit guilt and reach a civil settlement with the government, they cannot deduct the costs from their returns. But amazingly, a company is allowed to claim those costs as a business expense. JPMorgan Chase, for example, which has agreed to pay billions of dollars in fines for various transgressions, can deduct a large portion — and all the legal expenses — from its taxes.
“Ordinary citizens don’t deduct their parking tickets or library fines from their taxes,” U.S. PIRG, the federation of state public interest research groups, said in a statement. “Corporations like JPMorgan shouldn’t be able to deduct their settlements for wrongdoing either. The settlement loophole costs taxpayers billions each year.”
In one case, at least, JPMorgan has agreed to forgo this benefit. It will not take a deduction on its $1.7 billion fine related to its actions regarding Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, saving the taxpayers about $600 million.
And it’s not the only one. This year, Toyota, which admitted it hid safety defects from the public, agreed as part of a $1.2 billion criminal penalty with the United States government that it would not “file a claim, assert or apply for a tax deduction or tax credit.” The U.S. PIRG said this one line saved taxpayers $420 million.
Still, the U.S. PIRG highlighted a study conducted by the Government Accountability Office in 2005 that found that of 34 settlements worth more than $1 billion, 20 companies took advantage of tax rules to deduct all or part of the settlement costs.
¦ A tiny but symbolic loophole still persists. Companies that own aircraft can depreciate their planes more quickly than airlines — over five years instead of seven — and claim the deduction. In total, closing the loophole is worth $3 billion to $4 billion over a decade.
•National Priorities Project:
While you’re rushing to file today or feeling relieved that you beat the deadline, some of the biggest corporations in this country are getting a fat tax refund.
In fact, General Electric has received more than $3 billion in tax refunds over the last five years, on top of $27 billion in profits. Sounds pretty nice, especially considering that the average American taxpayer pays the government $11,715 in federal income taxes each year.
How do they get away with it? Two of the biggest loopholes in our tax code allow corporations like General Electric, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup to avoid billions in taxes by moving their profits — and jobs — offshore.’
•Natiional Journal: What Obamacare Means for Your Taxes
Some taxpayers owe more this year because of changes related to the health care law, reports Health Care Correspondent Sam Baker:
The law’s biggest tax provision—billions of dollars in tax credits to help people cover the cost of their premiums—is already in effect, but doesn’t affect the taxes due on Tuesday. A handful of smaller provisions, mostly affecting wealthy households, will show up for the first time in this year’s filing. Among this year’s changes: a 0.9 percent increase in Medicare taxes and a 3.8 percent surtax on investment income. Both are limited to high-income taxpayers, and both took effect for the first time in the tax season that just ended. Most people won’t notice the extra Medicare tax because it was automatically deducted from their paychecks, but some could face a tax bill they did not expect, said Jackie Perlman, principal tax research analyst at the H&R Block Tax Institute. The Affordable Care Act also raises the bar for writing off medical expenses. Previously, a tax deduction was available if medical expenses reached 7.5 percent of your income. Obamacare moved the cutoff to 10 percent for taxpayers younger than 65.
•Fitzgibbopn Media: ‘New IRS’ Allows Americans Choose How Their Federal Income Tax Dollars Are Spent
TheNewIRS.com Allows Taxpayers to Develop Personal Allocation Plans, Presents Lawmakers with a Crowd-Sourced Directly Democratic Representation of Taxpayer’s Desires
Tax day is upon us, and for the first time ever, Americans everywhere will have the chance to say —and meticulously catalog— exactly how they want their Federal Income Tax dollars spent. TheNewIRS.com provides users with interactive, visually arresting, and shareable infographics that juxtapose how users choose to have their taxes allocated versus how they will actually be spent by our Federal Government.
On April 17th, 2014, TheNewIRS.com will issue a detailed report comprised of “Personal Allocation Plans” created by thousands of New IRS users, wherein the allocation data collected will be paired against the projected use of our 2014 Federal Income Taxes.
Conceived by Alex Ebert (Golden Globe winning, front-man for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros), TheNewIRS.com was born out of the Sundance Film Festival’s star-studded “Hackdance” hackathon, which awards innovators using technology to create social impact.
It will be the first in a series of websites created by Ebert and his team that will provide users a virtual, parallel world to experiment with new forms of government.
From National defense, to healthcare, to education, to agriculture TheNewIRS.com is a medium in which to democratize what some critics consider stagnant or misrepresentative forms of government spending.
“We present to you a simulation, that you may peruse and develop a taste for a new paradigm of citizen power,” said New IRS founder Alex Ebert “through your participation, we will be able to collect national data that will serve to reflect our ethics as a nation, as well as to illuminate disparities between our will and the actual expenditures of the current political powers”
•GetLiberty.org: Celebrate tax day by repealing income tax amendment
Last November, U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine introduced legislation to repeal the Sixteenth Amendment — which he hopes to replace in part with some form of consumption-based tax.
•Otherworlds.Org: Real Tax Reforms
•E-Wall Streeter” HAPPY TAX DAY, AND WHY THE TOP 1% PAY A MUCH LOWER TAX RATE THAN YOU
It’s tax time again, April 15, when our minds turn toward paying the taxes we owe or possibly getting a tax refund. But what we don’t think about enough is whether our tax system is fair. The richest 1 percent of Americans are now getting the largest percent of total national income in almost a century. So you might think they’d pay a much higher tax rate than everyone else. But you’d be wrong.
Many millionaires pay a lower federal tax rate than many middle-class Americans. Some don’t pay any federal taxes at all. That’s because they‘re allowed to deduct from their taxable income such things as large interest payments on mortgages for huge homes, also the costs of business entertainment and conferences (aka vacations at golf resorts), and gold plated health care plans. Some also take advantage of tax loopholes that let them park some of their earnings in offshore tax havens like the Bahamas or the Netherlands Antilles. And other loopholes that allow them to treat some income as capital gains – subject to a much lower tax rate than ordinary income. If you happen to be a hedge-fund or private-equity manager, there’s a capital gains loophole designed especially for you. Consider the Social Security payroll tax and the situation is even more lopsided. That tax applies to every dollar of income up to a cap — which this year is $117,000. Anything earned above the cap is not subject to Social Security taxes at all – meaning anyone with a high income pays a much smaller percentage of it in Social Security taxes than most people do. Put these all together and you see why Warren Buffet, the second richest person in America, pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, as he readily admits. State and local taxes are even more regressive.
The poorest fifth of Americans pay an average state and local tax rate of over 11 percent, while the richest fifth pay only 5.6 percent. This isn’t small change. State and local taxes account for about 40 percent of all government revenues. Believe it or not, Republicans want to make all this worse by cutting taxes on the wealthy even more. Paul Ryan’s new budget doesn’t just slice Medicare, education, and food stamps. It also lowers the top federal tax rate to 25 percent. When the rich are let off the hook in all these ways, the rest of America has to pay more in taxes to make up the difference – or have services cut because government doesn’t have the funds.
•Daily Beast: You Pay Higher Taxes Than Boeing (and GE, Verizon & 23 More U.S. Corporations)
Feeling the sting of Tax Day today? Prepare to feel even worse—with a look at the 26 U.S. corporations who pay no federal corporate income tax at all. Plus, see how your tax bill compares to the rest of the country.
You may be among the 95 percent of Americans who believe it’s their civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes, but sending a portion of your salary to the IRS still smarts. Even for the more than 100 million who will receive refunds, no day is more agonizing than April 15.
If only we could all be corporations. Although they all start with a flat 35 percent federal tax rate, most employ a team of clever accountants to whittle down their liability—sometimes to nothing at all.
After taking advantage of credits, exemptions, and offshore tax havens, U.S. corporations get away with paying an average of less than 13 percent, according to the Government Accountability Office. What’s more, the GAO found that more than half of them reported owing no federal taxes in at least one year between 1998 and 2005.
According to a study by the advocacy group Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ), 26 Fortune 500 corporations paid no federal corporate income tax over the most recent five-year period. In fact, according to CTJ, they generated so many tax breaks that they reported negative taxes and often received a rebate check. As procrastinators rush to post offices and computers to file by deadline, let us pause—in anger, jealousy, or admiration—to recognize the corporations who manage to avoid the taxman.
Corporation and 2008-2012 Rate
1. Pepco Holdings -33.0%
2. PG&E Corp. -16.7%
3. NiSource -13.6%
4. Wisconsin Energy -13.5%
5. General Electric -11.1%
6. CenterPoint Energy -8.5%
7. Integrys Energy Group -8.2%
8. Atmos Energy -7.7%
9. Tenet Healthcare -6.0%
10. American Electric Power -5.8%
11. Ryder System -4.7%
12. Con-way -3.5%
13. Duke Energy -3.3%
14. Priceline.com -3.0%
15. FirstEnergy -3.0%
16. Apache -2.4%
17. Interpublic Group -2.1%
18. Verizon Communications -1.8%
19. NextEra Energy -1.6%
20. Consolidated Edison -.1%
21. CMS Energy -1.1%
22. Boeing -1.0%
23. Northeast Utilities -0.7%
24. Corning -0.3%
25. Paccar Rate -0.1%
26. MetroPCS Communications -0.1%
•From Ken Burns, The Address
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