•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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com., 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
•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 email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
•Happy Passover. Comments to email@example.com.Please visit Mediachannel.org
There was no white smoke on Morningside Heights To announce the annual Pulitzer Prizes Monday.
The event is shrouded with the same sense of global importantance, as every major media outlet is there to see who are chosen.
This year, it was expected that the Snowden -originated NSA disclosures would be recognized but how. Activists had hoped that the team of Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras would be honored for their brave and focused work, but they are outsiders in the Temple of Journalism. (I actually had a former Dean of the Columbia Journalism School–where I taught as an adjunct–was “the Taj Mahal of Journalism. I don’t think she meant by that that the J School is a tomb like the Taj in India, but rather a symbol of world importance.
My partner Rory O Connor said weeks ago at a New York Times conference on Secrets and Spies that Glenn and Laura make the mighty oligarchs of media nervous.
“My perspective on that is that the people who have been giving us the truth about the NSA through these Snowden revelations, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras,… are not being embraced by the larger media, the so called “mainstream” media. Instead they’re kept at arms length.
Why is that, I asked? Is it because they, they’re too independent?
Because they’re too independent, and because even as you heard, the editors of the top publications here, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, and so on, all of them said on the panels today in fact that they not have been aggressive enough, that they have collaborated perhaps too much with the government in the past. These are the people who run the major media organizations being self-critical and saying “No, we don’t need to have more humility”, which is what was suggested by Mr. Lipp, the representative of the NSA and the CIA, he said that the press needed more humility. I was pleased at least that the leaders of the mainstream organizations fired back against that and said “No, we don’t need more humility, we need more aggressive reporting”. And I agree with that.”
Actually, media outlets had been debating and speculating about the challenge that the media titans faced. Dylan Byers wrote in Politico:
“Honoring the NSA reporting … would inevitably be perceived as a political act, with the Pulitzer committee invoking its prestige on behalf of one side in a bitter national argument. ….
Yet to pass on the NSA story would be to risk giving the appearance of timidity, siding with the government over the journalists who are trying to hold it accountable and ignoring the most significant disclosure of state secrets in recent memory”
The major media resolved the debate this way: They recognized the Snowden disclosures without recognizing him or the people closest to him.
How it was played: Every Media outlet that won something led with their honor.
•BBC: NSA stories take Pulitzer Prize
The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers share the Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism for a series of stories on US electronic spying.
•AP: Post, Guardian win Pulitzers for NSA revelations
NEW YORK (AP) – The Washington Post and The Guardian won the Pulitzer Prize in public service Monday for revealing the U.S. government’s sweeping surveillance efforts in a blockbuster series of stories based on secret documents handed over by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.
•Here’s the full list: The 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winners And Finalists
The 98th annual Pulitzer Prizes in Journalism, Letters, Drama and Music, awarded on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board, were announced today by Columbia University.
•Juan Cole, Informed Comment: US Press once again Declines to Call White Terrorism in Kansas, Nevada, White Terrorism
Heck, the LA Times said authorities are cautioning that it is too soon even to call the shootings a “hate crime.” Since the shooter is said to have shouted “Heil Hitler,” I’m going to go out on a limb and say it was a hate crime. And I’m also pretty sure it was a form of terrorism.
My Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others, judging by the Facebook shares, must be among the more popular pieces I have ever written. It keeps being proven correct by American journalism every day.
I get hot under the collar thinking about all the effort the US government is expending to monitor who we call and where we are when we do it–in the hundreds of millions!– and about all the surveillance of innocent American citizens of Muslim faith and of mosques, when the American fascists receive much less focus. If a group is armed and announces its purpose is to spread hate of another group, wouldn’t that warrant some surveillance? By surveiling us all, precious person power is being wasted.
Thus, we had the horrible day-before-Passover attack on two Jewish community facilities outside Kansas City, KS allegedly committed by a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, which left 3 people dead. My heart goes out to the innocent victims of hate. I put “Kansas” and “terrorism” in a search of Google News and did not get a single hit on this incident, which tells me that no US news services are describing it that way. Heck, the LA Times said authorities are cautioning that it is too soon even to call the shootings a “hate crime.” Since the shooter is said to have shouted “Heil Hitler,” I’m going to go out on a limb and say it was a hate crime. And I’m also pretty sure it was a form of terrorism.
Likewise, if you search for Wade Michael Page, the white supremacist who shot down Sikhs, “and terrorism,” you only get opinion pages and blogs, not MSM sites.
But a where a lone gunman committing a hate crime is a Muslim, there’s a demand to use the T-word. Moreover, there is the peculiar American practice of laying collective guilt on all Muslims for what any one wacko amongst them does. White people get a pass on having violent and destructive wackos among them.
•Who Rules America: US Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy, says Scientific Study by Eric Zuesse
Who governs? Who really rules?”
Ukraine Crisis Is Heating UP:
•NYT: Ukraine Asks U.N. to Help Control Insurgent East
KIEV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s failure to enforce its own ultimatums and its appeal on Monday to the United Nations to send peacekeepers laid bare a grim reality for the shaky government in Kiev, where political leaders and security forces have few reliable ways to confront Russian-backed separatists in the restive east.
A deadline set by Ukraine’s acting president for the start of a “large-scale antiterrorist operation” in the east passed without any clear police or military intervention. Meanwhile, pro-Russian militants seized yet another government building in the Donetsk region, bringing to at least nine the number of eastern towns now swept up in a spiraling insurgency.
The country’s acting president, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, asked the United Nations to send peacekeepers. But the move was widely viewed as an act of desperation, given that Russia holds a veto at the United Nations Security Council and is unlikely to assent to a such a request.
•Putin to Obama: Russia not behind Ukraine protests
MOSCOW (AP) – The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin has urged President Barack Obama to discourage the Ukrainian government from using force against protesters in the country’s east.
The Kremlin said in a statement following Monday’s conversation that the Russian leader rejected the claims of Russian agents’ involvement in protests as “speculations based on unreliable information.”
•Guardian: US Blames Russia For Militias
•The Saker, ICH: The Next 24 Hours Are Crucial For Ukraine
There are a lot of reports of large columns of military units moving towards the East. They even include artillery and heavy multiple rocket launchers.
•Johannes Stern: Ukrainian Opposition Responsible for Lethal Shootings: Report
Evidence is mounting that the Western-backed opposition was responsible for the lethal shootings in Independence Square on February 20.
•Gareth Porter: The Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program That Wasn’t
The deceptive rhetoric about the Iranian nuclear programme began with the Bill Clinton administration.
• Beware The BU Biolab:
For years there has been a grassoots campaign in Roxury and other neighborhoods in Boston against the building of a highly dangerous Level 4 BioLab by Boston University in a residential neighborhood. The lab had been built with federal funds thanks to Teddy Kennedy who thought it would create jobs in the bio-tech area, jobs that haven’t materialized.
Now, as a scappy grassroots campaign led by the gutsy and outspoken veteran Roxbury organizer, Klare X Allen, presses a gutless City Council to have hearings and shut down the lab which has violated all sorts of ordinances. The Boston Globe that has largely ignored the issue but emerged from its slumber with a predictable its good for Boston editorial. I am sure no Globe honchos live next door.
Anti-lab Alice Kast, an anti-lab campaigner has circulated this critique of the Globe’s foggy view:
“Did you read the Sunday Globe editorial, ‘Level 4’ disease research can be safe, belongs in America’s medical capital? The Globe should be ashamed of the level of intelligence or lack thereof in this article. It is a total denial of the reality of biodefense work in Boston.
It was Ted Kennedy in his defense role who worked to get BU as the location for coveted biological warfare research back in the day when he was openly fighting bioterrorism. BU won the designated space for research in spite of the fact they had multiple violations of not following guidelines set for research. BU was honest then about the reason for the work. They sent NIH a confirmation of their 20 year commitment to allow NIH and the Defense Department the use of this promised lab for biodefense. Menino never was honest. He simply said “we” are going to do the work. period. no discussion allowed. It was the sealed documents from the national security peoples which told Judge Saris that they needed this lab for defense research; that we could trust them with handling any inevitable disaster that was the risk to pay for the benefit of having biological weapons technology. After all we have great first responders. Please listen to that. It is inevitable that something will happen but you can handle it. If we believe that, we are living a clear case of a delusion of safety. We are not safe because we have storm troopers in our streets.
“Boston as the world’s greatest repository of life-saving expertise”… with the world’s deepest concentration of medical brainpower.” Really? It could be and still can recover its public health mandate. In today’s technological world. there is absolutely no need to be in the same lab or building or country to benefit from any research. It may be that individual scientists are still competing for the glory of being the one who comes up with a great discovery, but humankind would benefit if they started working together for the good of public health.
Level 4 research has never had “a life-saving usefulness which attracts top-level scientists.” Nobel prize winners do not do Level 4 research. Level 4 is needed for extremely hazardous pathogens which have been in existence for millions of years. They are not emerging and will become dangerous if we allow scientists the space to mutate them and make them universally dangerous. Pathogens have always had a way of protecting themselves against threats and they have a way of becoming resistant to our attempts to control.
As City Councilors you have the responsibility to realize that some research should never be done anyplace. The only cinema taking place today fits in with the Third Reich of Germany. The good people were told that they could trust and take part in the pathological programs run by the militaristic leaders. Do it to be patriotic, good citizens. As citizens of an emerging world family, we have to draw the line somewhere and say no, we will not take part in the planned genocide of whomever our leaders choose to name as enemy. There is no one in the world we need to destroy in order to live our own lives in peace.
Someone of you has to take the responsibility of asking BU some hard questions. Ask them why top rated scientists, including two Nobel peace prize winners, told them this work should not be done. Ask them to define valid research. Ask them why they pursue the myth of space suits protecting lab workers. Ask them why, when the only known escape from a lab came as an inside job, they are calling the conclusion inconclusive. They have put us in the position of becoming complicit with a gross evil. Boston deserves better than that.
Sincerely, Alice Kast
•Thanks for being here for another Newsdissector.net blog flowing from the passions of your news dissector Danny Schechter. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Mediachannel.org
•In case you missed my latest dissection on the Pistorius Trial that’s getting blanket coverage in South Africa and other news that isn’t.
***Thank you April Watters for documenting the recent tribute to the “Central Park 5″–5 NYC teenagers featured in a recent film documenting how they were falsely convicted and jailed. It’s 25 years later and some restorative justice is on the way. This story has been documented but the victims and their families are still fighting to put their lives together. Watch this video and then goo back and research the story
April writes: Yusef Abdus Salaam first up at expressing his feelings on being swiftly Wrongfully convicted them having justice denied when it’s been Proven they were innocent after Matias Reyes, already jailed,, confessed after finding out Korey Wise was jailed for what he did.
Raymond Santana,, who broke my heart, in the Central Park 5 documentary by Ken Burns
Kevin Richardson,, then Antron McCray’s Mother.
Where’s the Justice!?
In the News
•NY Times: Climate Efforts Falling Short, U.N. Panel Says
BERLIN — Delivering the latest stark news about climate change on Sunday, a United Nations panel warned that governments are not doing enough to avert profound risks in coming decades. But the experts found a silver lining: Not only is there still time to head off the worst, but the political will to do so seems to be rising around the world.
In a report unveiled here, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that decades of foot-dragging by political leaders had propelled humanity into a critical situation, with greenhouse emissions rising faster than ever. Though it remains technically possible to keep planetary warming to a tolerable level, only an intensive push over the next 15 years to bring those emissions under control can achieve the goal, the committee found.
“We cannot afford to lose another decade,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, a German economist and co-chairman of the committee that wrote the report. “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.”
The good news is that ambitious action is becoming more affordable, the committee found. It is increasingly clear that measures like tougher building codes and efficiency standards for cars and trucks can save energy and reduce emissions without harming people’s quality of life, the panel found. And the costs of renewable energy like wind and solar power are falling so fast that its deployment on a large scale is becoming practical, the report said.
•AP: Cost of fighting warming ‘modest,’ says UN panel
BERLIN (AP) – The cost of keeping global warming in check is “relatively modest,” but only if the world acts quickly to reverse the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere, the head of the U.N.’s expert panel on climate change said Sunday.
Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s appointment to the board of technology firm Dropbox draws criticism from some customers.
•LA Times: Heil Hitler Heard to KC Shooting: Three dead, teenager critical after shootings at Jewish facilities
•AP: 3 dead after suburban Kansas City shooting
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) – A man in his 70s opened fire Sunday outside of a Jewish community center and nearby retirement community, killing three people, authorities said.
Overland Park Police Chief John Douglass said at a news conference Sunday evening that a person who had been reported to be in critical condition earlier was among three killed in the attacks
•BBC: Syria’s Assad claims war advantage
Syria’s President Assad claims his government has gained the upper hand in the civil war which has raged for more than three years.
•Willam Boardman, RSN: New Questions on Benghazi
• Is it possible that the Benghazi attack was orchestrated by the Islamist president of Turkey for the sake of freer rein in helping Syrian Islamist rebels?
• How much credence should be given to the YouTube recording of Turkish officials discussing a false flag operation designed to provoke a war between Turkey and Syria? ( Turkish officials have not denied the authenticity of the recording, but they claim it was manipulated and have shut down the YouTube site in Turkey.)
• Have the arms shipments from Libya to Syrian rebels included any chemical weapons? Or biological weapons?
• What did the White House know, and when did the White House know it?
•CLG: Inside the FBI’s secret relationship with US elite assassination team, JSOC –FBI agents were regularly involved in shootings, sometimes fighting side by side with the military – James Davis, FBI’s legal attaché 10 Apr 2014 …
•FBI officials have become more willing to discuss a little-known alliance between the bureau and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that allowed agents to participate in hundreds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan. The FBI’s presence on the far edge of military operations was not universally embraced, according to current and former officials familiar with the bureau’s role. As agents found themselves in firefights, some in the bureau expressed uneasiness about a domestic law enforcement agency stationing its personnel on battlefields.
•FBI secretly worked in Iraq, Afghanistan
The Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have secretly worked with American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in hundreds of operations, according to a new report. The FBI formed an alliance with Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and deployed its agents in hundreds of raids in Iraq and Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported on Friday. JSOC took advantage of the agency’s ability to utilize digital media to identify suspects… The agents who participated in these military raids by JSOC, described by retired General Barry McCaffrey as the “most dangerous people on the face of the earth,” and came from the FBI’s Hostage and Rescue Team (HRT).
•CIA and White House under pressure after Senate torture report leaks
A leak of the major findings of a landmark Senate inquiry into the CIA’s post-9/11 torture of terrorism detainees led, on Friday, to intensified pressure on the White House and the CIA to release the inquiry speedily and with a minimum of redactions. The classified study, prepared by the Senate select committee on intelligence, concluded that the CIA’s interrogations, secret detentions and outsourced torture sessions were “brutal, and far worse than the agency communicated to policymakers.” More suspected terrorists underwent the agency’s post-9/11 treatment, which largely lasted from 2002 to 2006, than the CIA has publicly admitted, according to the report’s findings, which were first reported by McClatchy.
•GITMO AGAIN: I just saw the documentary on former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who claimed that on his watch, no torture took place at Guantanamo. Now this:
•SP: Window opens on secret camp within Guantanamo
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) – Attorney James Connell has visited his client inside the secret Guantanamo prison complex known as Camp 7 only once, taken in a van with covered windows on a circuitous trek to disguise the route on the scrub brush-and-cactus covered military base.
•Renee Parsons: Building a Russian Wall
The US/NATO Enlargement Project
There had been a concerted effort at the US State Department to establish what has become a Russian Wall – meant to cut the country off from land and sea access.
•Eric Margolis: Patriotism is the First Platform of Fools
President Putin is being demonized into America’s leading hate figure. Few in the media dare say that Putin is reacting in Russia’s interests to NATO’s foolish push right up to his borders.
•Patrick Cockburn: MI6, The CIA And Turkey’s Rogue Game In Syria
New claims say Ankara worked with the US and Britain to smuggle Gaddafi’s guns to rebel groups.
• Felicity Arbuthnot: Hijacking God?
Tony Blair, George W. Bush and David Cameron
“Beware false prophets”, there are some very powerful ones around and these are dangerous times.
•Ellen Brown: The Global Banking Game Is Rigged, and the FDIC Is Suing
•Guardian: Scandal Makes The Rich Grow Stronger
•Lapham’s Quarterly, FLASH BACK TO 1865–“With Malice Toward None”
At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it—all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.
One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, “The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
•Flash Forwad: The Atlantic–Black Culture and Progressivism
•Homeless People In NYC: Living in Bridges
•A New Week is here. Happy Passover to all who celebrate it. It is a freedom story. Comments and story suggestions to email@example.com. Please visit Mediachannel.org…Happy Holidays from your news dissector, Danny Schechter
•Join me and Reverend Jesse Jackson and guests on KeepHopeAliveRadio.com at 9 AM Sunday morning. Topic Remembering LBJ.
•TRNN: Courts Uphold Obama’s Power to Kill
•Other News and Views
•Hallelujah: The NY Times Endorses AlJazeera: “Al Jazeera Series Depicts U.S. Problems
•Related: Daily Beast: Lack of Civility is Destroying Washington D.C.
•Reuters: Risk of ‘gas war’ grows as Ukraine halts payments to Russia
*Julian Sanchez, Guardian: The NSA’s ‘Heartbleed Problem” is the Problem WIth the NSA
•NY Times: Obama Lets N.S.A. Exploit Some Internet Flaws, Officials Say
WASHINGTON — Stepping into a heated debate within the nation’s intelligence agencies, President Obama has decided that when the National Security Agency discovers major flaws in Internet security, it should — in most circumstances — reveal them to assure that they will be fixed, rather than keep mum so that the flaws can be used in espionage or cyberattacks, senior administration officials said Saturday.
But Mr. Obama carved a broad exception for “a clear national security or law enforcement need,” the officials said, a loophole that is likely to allow the N.S.A. to continue to exploit security flaws both to crack encryption on the Internet and to design cyberweapons.
The White House has never publicly detailed Mr. Obama’s decision, which he made in January as he began a three-month review of recommendations by a presidential advisory committee on what to do in response to recent disclosures about the National Security Agency.
But elements of the decision became evident on Friday, when the White House denied that it had any prior knowledge of the Heartbleed bug, a newly known hole in Internet security that sent Americans scrambling last week to change their online passwords. The White House statement said that when such flaws are discovered, there is now a “bias” in the government to share that knowledge with computer and software manufacturers so a remedy can be created and distributed to industry and consumers.
Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the review of the recommendations was now complete, and it had resulted in a “reinvigorated” process to weigh the value of disclosure when a security flaw is discovered, against the value of keeping the discovery secret for later use by the intelligence community.
•AL Jazeera: Pakistan Judge Drops Charges Against Baby
•Robert Parry, Consortium News: Reagan-Bush Ties to Iran-Hostage Crisis
U.S. government officials are in high dudgeon again – this time over Iran’s audacity in naming an ambassador to the United Nations who allegedly played a minor role in the 1979-81 crisis in which 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days in Iran. But the same U.S. officials ignore the now overwhelming evidence that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush helped extend the hostages’ suffering to gain an edge in the 1980 election.
The double standard – getting worked up over the allegations about Iranian Ambassador Hamid Aboutalebi and going silent over the evidence implicating Reagan and Bush – is just the latest in a long series of examples of the U.S. government’s hypocrisy.
Indeed, one might think that the near treasonous behavior of Reagan and Bush was more objectionable than whatever Aboutalebi did as a young man in Tehran. He has denied direct participation in the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 though he apparently provided some assistance with translations and negotiations. Aboutalebi is now a close adviser to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani and has served as Iranian ambassador to Belgium, Italy, Australia and the European Union.
It is rare for the United States to block an ambassador to the United Nations, which is located in New York City, but Aboutalebi’s selection has become the latest excuse for congressional hardliners to throw a wrench into negotiations aimed at limiting but not eliminating Iran’s nuclear program. On Monday, the U.S. Senate passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to deny Aboutalebi a visa for entering the United States. Following the Senate’s lead, the Obama administration also has criticized the nomination.
The irony, however, is that Cruz and pretty much every leading Republican model themselves after President Reagan whose election in 1980 now appears to have been aided by his campaign’s behind-the-scenes maneuvering to frustrate President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations to gain the hostages’ freedom. Those talks broke down in October 1980 and the hostages were only freed after Reagan was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1981.
Reagan’s purported “October Surprise” operation to torpedo Carter’s hoped-for success in getting the hostages out before the Nov. 4, 1980, election would have made the Republican icon a much bigger villain in the hostages’ ordeal than Aboutalebi. George H.W. Bush, who was Reagan’s running mate in 1980, was also implicated in the sabotage operation.
The evidence of this Republican skullduggery has been building for more than three decades, with the 1980 contacts between the Reagan team and radical Iranians appearing to be the opening chapter of the Iran-Contra saga of 1985-86, which also involved secret contacts and the trading of arms for hostages.
Both operations also were shielded by aggressive Republican cover-ups that extended from 1986 to 1993, although congressional and government investigators did a much better job in excavating the Iran-Contra secrets than they did with the October Surprise case. It wasn’t until last June that Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana, who headed both congressional inquiries, admitted that he had been misled about key October Surprise evidence.
•Uri Avnery, RSN: Once Again, Israel Sabotages Palestinian Peace Talks
POOR John Kerry.
This week he emitted a sound that was more expressive than pages of diplomatic babble.
In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee he explained how the actions of the Israeli government had torpedoed the “peace process”. They broke their obligation to release Palestinian prisoners, and at the same time announced the enlargement of more settlements in East Jerusalem. The peace efforts went “poof”.
POOR John Kerry. This week he emitted a sound that was more expressive than pages of diplomatic babble.
In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations committee he explained how the actions of the Israeli government had torpedoed the “peace process”. They broke their obligation to release Palestinian prisoners, and at the same time announced the enlargement of more settlements in East Jerusalem. The peace efforts went “poof”.
“Poof” is the sound of air escaping a balloon. It is a good expression, because the “peace process” was from the very beginning nothing more than a balloon full of hot air. An exercise in make-believe.
John Kerry cannot be blamed. He took the whole thing seriously. He is an earnest politician, who tried very very hard to make peace between Israel and Palestine. We should be grateful for his efforts.
The trouble is that Kerry had not the slightest idea of what he was getting himself into.
A Basic Lie
The entire “peace process” revolves around a basic misconception. Some would say: a basic lie.
Namely: that we have here two equal sides of a conflict. A serious conflict. An old conflict. But a conflict that can be solved when reasonable people of the two sides sit down together and thrash it out, guided by a benevolent and impartial referee.
Not one detail of these assumptions was real. The referee was not impartial. The leaders were not sensible. And most importantly: the sides were not equal.
The balance of power between the two sides is not 1:1, not even 1:2 or 1:10. In every material respect – military, diplomatic, economic – it is more like one to a thousand.
There is no equality between occupier and occupied, oppressor and oppressed. A jailer and a prisoner cannot negotiate on equal terms. When one side has total command of the other, controls his every move, settles on his land, controls his money flow, arrests people at will, blocks his access to the UN and the International courts, equality is out of the question.
If the two sides to negotiations are so extremely unequal, the situation can only be remedied by the mediator supporting the weaker side. What is happening is the very opposite: the American support for Israel is massive and unstinting.
Throughout the “negotiations” the US did nothing to check the settlement activity that created more Israeli facts on the ground – the very ground whose future the negotiations were all about.
A PREREQUISITE for successful negotiations is that all sides have at least a basic understanding not only of each other’s interests and demands, but even more of each other’s mental world, emotional setup and self-image. Without that, all moves are inexplicable and look irrational.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali, one of the most intelligent people I have met in my life, once told me: “You have in Israel the most intelligent experts on the Arab world. They have read all the books, all the articles, every single word written about it. They know everything, and understand nothing. Because they have never lived one day in an Arab country.”
The same is true for the American experts, only much more so. In Washington DC one feels the rarefied air of a Himalayan peak. Seen from the grandiose palaces of the administration, where the fate of the world is decided, foreign people look small, primitive and largely irrelevant. Here and there some real experts are tucked away, but nobody really consults them.
The average American statesman has not the slightest idea of Arab history, world-view, religions, myths or the traumas that shape Arab attitudes, not to mention the Palestinian struggle. He has no patience for this primitive nonsense.
SEEMINGLY, THE American understanding of Israel is much better. But not really.
Average American politicians and diplomats know a lot about Jews. Many of them are Jews. Kerry himself seems to be partly Jewish. His peace team includes many Jews, even Zionists, including the actual manager of the negotiations, Martin Indyk, who worked in the past for AIPAC. His very name is Yiddish (and means a Turkey).
The assumption is that Israelis are not very different from American Jews. But that is entirely false. Israel may claim to be the “Nation-State of the Jewish People”, but that is only an instrument for exploiting the Jewish Diaspora and creating obstacles for the “peace process”. In reality there is very little similarity between Israelis and the Jewish Diaspora, not much more than between a German and a Japanese.
Martin Indyk may feel an affinity with Tzipi Livni, the daughter of an Irgun fighter (or “terrorist” in British parlance), but that is an illusion. The myths and traumas that shaped Tzipi are very different from those that shaped Martin, who was educated in Australia.
If Barack Obama and Kerry knew more, they would have realized from the beginning that the present Israeli political setup makes any Israeli evacuation of the settlements, withdrawal from the West Bank and compromise about Jerusalem quite impossible.
ALL THIS is true for the Palestinian side, too.
Palestinians are convinced that they understand Israel. After all, they have been under Israeli occupation for decades. Many of them have spent years in Israeli prisons and speak perfect Hebrew. But they have made many mistakes in their dealings with Israelis.
The latest one was the belief that Israel would release the fourth batch of prisoners. This was almost impossible. All Israeli media, including the moderate ones, speak about releasing “Palestinian murderers”, not Palestinian activists or fighters. Right-wing parties compete with each other, and with rightist “terror-victims”, in denouncing this outrage.
Israelis do not understand the deep emotions evoked by the non-release of prisoners – the national heroes of the Palestinian people, though Israel itself has in the past exchanged a thousand Arab prisoners for one single Israeli, citing the Jewish religious command of “redemption of prisoners”.
It has been said that Israel always sells a “concession” three times: once when promising it, once when signing an official agreement about it and thirdly when actually fulfilling the undertaking. This happened when the time came to implement the third withdrawal from the West Bank under the Oslo agreements, which never happened.
Palestinians know nothing about Jewish history as taught in Israeli schools, very little about the holocaust, even less about the roots of Zionism.
RECENT NEGOTIATIONS started as “peace talks”, continued about a “framework” for further negotiations, and now the talks have degenerated to talks about the talks about the talks.
Fear of the Alternative to Make-Believe
Nobody wants to break off the farce, because all three sides are afraid of the alternative.
The American side is afraid of a general onslaught of the Zionist-evangelical-Republican-Adelson bulldozer on the Obama administration in the next elections. Already the State Department is frantically trying to retreat from the Kerry “poof”. He did not mean that only Israel is to blame, they assert, the fault lies with both sides. The jailer and the prisoner are equally to blame.
As usual, the Israeli government has many fears. It fears the outbreak of a third intifada, coupled with a world-wide campaign of de-legitimization and boycott of Israel, especially in Europe.
It also fears that the UN, which at present recognizes Palestine only as a non-member state, will go on and promote it more and more.
The Palestinian leadership, too, is afraid of a third intifada, which may lead to a bloody uprising. Though all Palestinians speak about a “non-violent intifada”, few really believe in it. They remember that the last intifada also started non-violently, but the Israeli army responded by deploying snipers to kill the leaders of the demonstrations, and more suicide bombing became inevitable.
President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has responded to the non-release of the prisoners, which amounted to a personal humiliation, by signing the documents necessary for the Palestinian State to join 15 international conventions. The Israeli government exploded in anger. How dare they?
In practice, the act means little. One signature means that Palestine joins the Geneva Convention. Another concerns the protection of children. Shouldn’t we welcome this? But the Israeli government fears that this is one step nearer to the acceptance of Palestine as a member of the International Criminal Court, and perhaps the indictment of Israelis for war crimes.
Abbas is also planning steps for a reconciliation with Hamas and the holding of Palestinian elections, in order to strengthen his home front.
IF YOU were poor John Kerry, what would you say to all this?
“Poof!” seems the very minimum.
•Happy Sunday. Comments on the NewsDissector.net blog to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Mediachannel.org
•Quote of the Day: “I remember those who made it possible for us to be here like the three civil rights workers in Mississippi, two white and one black who were murdered 50 years ago as they tried to help their fellow citizen to register to vote. James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner believed so strongly that change was possible that they were willing to lay down their lives for it. The least you can do is take them up on the gift they have given you. You go out and vote. You can make a change. You do have the power.” —President Obama, April 11, 2014. Watch On YouTube
•I felt S-G-C’s spirit today when I invoked their memory at a workshop held by Three Dot Dash–the We Are Family Foundation’s action arm and training platform for Global Teen Leaders (GTL’s) from a around the world. Their work, led by Nile Rogers and Nancy Hunt is amazing, bringing young change makers from around the world to be empowered with sklls and contacts. I have been involved with these folks since 2001 and it only gets better.
•News Dissection: ‘Marching on Pistorius:’ Athlete and Democracy On Trial in South Africa
By Danny Schechter
New York, New York: With Nelson Mandela’s death, news from South Africa seemed to have died along with the world’s most famous ex-political prisoner turned president. It was as if the people there don’t deserve to be covered unless there is a larger than life celebrity or scandal to focus on.
Happily for the media industry there is a now an anti-Mandela in the public eye—famous not for what he achieved, but infamous for killing his girlfriend, mistaking her for an intruder who he gunned down. It was either a tragic accident or the work of mad man.
Oscar Pistorius’ trial is now getting far more coverage than the one that Mandela and his co-defendents went through in 1962 leading to his life sentence. That’s partly because his late live-in lover, Reeva Steenkamp, was a stunning blonde beauty known to local media, while he was a medal winning athlete dubbed the “blade runner” because he had been a double amputee since childhood and overcame adversity to won races wearing prosthetic devices.
This story of white on white violence—although, note, it is never, described that way—is being given the full tabloid treatment with cover stories in People Magazine and lots of hype by the networks.
Unlike the days of apartheid, a black judge is hearing this case with race rarely alluded to. Oscar had lived in a pricey gated community where fear of black burglers is legion, all an unstated reflection of the dramatic inequality that remains in that country, and another dimension of the back story about his fears and guilt that gets less press attention.
If Pistorius had killed an unknown black intruder, instead of his celebrity paramour, this trial wouldn’t be news.
The coverage of him as been mosty negative although he has fought back with his own communications team with a Twitter feed, @OscarHardTruth, designed to give “factual updates” on the trial. Its profile reads, “Truth Shall Prevail. Innocent until Proven Guilty.” http://www.oscarpistorius.com . In just 24 hours, it had over 16 400 followers, but only follows 28 – mostly international media outlets.
South Africa’s Media Monitor, Media Tenor, said that the local media is trying him as well as the court. According to researcher, Minnette Nieuwoudt, “my instinct tells me the media likes a damsel-in-distress type of story. The outright victim is something that resonates with a lot of people. The fact that she was very beautiful, it made her a bit of an icon.
Pistorius, on the other hand, started getting increasingly negative coverage over the months after the shooting.
“There seemed to be a slight change in the tonality. Also, with regards to Oscar, he was initially compared to fallen sport heroes — then this changed to a more the general criminal comparison. First, he was an athlete who stumbled. Now, he’s a criminal, who used to be an athlete,” said Nieuwoudt.”
But even as the world focuses on his courtroom tears and the aggressive and often bungled prosecution that aims to show the dark side of this Olympic hero, other issues of perhaps worst crimes in South Africa draw little interest from the global media machine.
2014 is the twentieth anniversary of South Africa’s “freedom” and the coming of democracy. It is an election year with national campaign underway pitting President Jacob Zuma, who was once part of the African National Congress’s armed struggle, and a popular if controversial/detested politician seeking reelection against a number of challengers.
Zuma is carrying lots of baggage because of a current theft of public monies for private use scandal involving lavish improvements on his home compound, and an earlier rape case.
The ANC has a serious political challenge as well.
On the Center right, there’s the DA—the Democratic Alliance, now transitioning from its roots in all white politics into a multi-racial Party that holds power in the Western Cape Province with Cape Town as its capital.
And, then there are two new outfits, among other players, contesting for seats in this Parliamentary democracy. Businesswoman and educator Mamphela Ramphele, best known as the anti-apartheid icon Steve Biko’s girl friend and her Agang Party is focusing on corruption and attracting women, while former ANC Youth League Leader, Julius Malema has set up a militant radical sounding youth-oriented party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, and says the ANC died with Mandela.
South Africa’s powerful labor unions that have been in an alliance with the ANC for decades were expected to organize a worker’s party but they have been persuaded not to. None of these political divisions fall on strict left-right differences.
Many on all sides have strong disagreements with the ANC’s neo-liberal economic policies, and complain about pervasive poverty and low growth.
Outside the traditional political party structure, dissent is heard daily in noisy press stories exposing corruption and the ‘politics of concealment’ by the ruling ANC party.
Long time activists and ANC members are incensed by the lack of transparency and arrogance in a political elite that seems more focused on enriching themselves than serving the public.
Now, a former Minister, Ronnie Kasrils, and supporters have launched a new Vote No campaign to put the issues of the ANC’s betrayal and corruption on the agenda. They have just issued this release:
“A one-time minister and a deputy minister in ANC governments are among a group of former anti-apartheid activists who are backing a campaign calling on voters to come out and vote by either spoiling their ballots or to voting tactically in protest against corruption and current government policies.
Former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and former deputy health minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge are among a number of prominent figures who have endorsed a statement headed: Sidikiwe! (We are fed up) Vukani! (Arise/Wake up), Vote ‘NO’ that will be released at the Press conference.”
It criticises the economic policies of “both the ANC and the main opposition the DA for supporting a system that has caused such alienation.
Many are struggle veterans and most of the signatories have supported the ANC throughout the years since the 1994 transition, but are appealing to the wider range of disillusioned voters. Their statement concludes:
“The ANC needs to know that it can no longer take for granted its traditional support and we would be failing South Africa and our democracy by not voting. After the elections efforts will be intensified to build an inclusive and transformative political program premised on social justice, redistribution, clean governance and democratic principles.”
All of this textured opposition politics does not meet the celebrity smell test that seems to motivate international media to pay attention.
Corruption stories in Africa are widely covered although the focus is rarely ever on the corruptor, just the corruptee. It is virtually never on the disasterous impact of western corporations, banks and international financial institutions.
Years ago the anti-government song “Marching on Pretoria” was well-known. Today, with the media “marching on Pistorius,” the deeper and critical issues of a deepening economic and political crisis have been supplanted by another distraction–what looks to all the world as another OJ Simpson trial focused on personal pain for audiences relishing more newstainment.
News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org and blogs at newsdissector.net. His latest book is Madiba AtoZ: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela (Madibabook.com). Comments to email@example.com
•Heavy.com: Photos at Polk Awards
*NY Times: Journalists Who Broke News on N.S.A. Surveillance Return to the U.S.
The journalists had been threatened, cajoled and condemned by the British and American governments. Their work together had set off a hunt for their source and a debate on both sides of the Atlantic about government surveillance.
But they had never met — until Friday.
That was when Glenn Greenwald, the journalist, lawyer and civil liberties crusader, and Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian newspaper, finally shook hands after months of working remotely on articles based on material from the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. The two were in New York for the prestigious Polk Award for national security reporting, awarded to Mr. Greenwald and his colleagues, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, and the Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman.
Mr. Greenwald and Ms. Poitras returned to the United States for the first time since their articles broke in June. They arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York from Berlin, where Mr. Greenwald had given a speech on Thursday and where Ms. Poitras lives and is making a documentary on surveillance.
Mr. Gellman, who revealed the Snowden findings alongside The Guardian, has lived in the United States since their publication beginning last June. But there were fears among Mr. Greenwald’s supporters that he and Ms. Poitras might be detained upon returning to the United States. Federal prosecutors have charged Mr. Snowden with violating the Espionage Act. He has been given asylum in Russia.
The crowd of journalists at the Polk ceremony at the Roosevelt Hotel in Manhattan cheered and applauded when it was announced that Mr. Greenwald and Ms. Poitras had cleared customs and were en route. They arrived just after 1 p.m., trailed by flashing cameras. With the ceremony already underway, Guardian editors, including Mr. Rusbridger, welcomed the two.
“I am finally really happy to see a table full of Guardian editors and journalists, whose role in this story is much more integral than the publicity generally recognizes,” Mr. Greenwald said, as he accepted the award for national security reporting.
It speaks to the increasingly wired and global news-gathering ecosystem that two of the journalists who collaborated on the complex and politically charged revelations from Mr. Snowden about global surveillance had never met. Ms. Poitras, Mr. Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, a veteran Guardian reporter, flew to Hong Kong to meet with Mr. Snowden, someone they had only known via the Internet until they met in person at a hotel. Mr. Snowden identified himself by carrying a Rubik’s cube.
Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse.
•Guardian: CIA Under Pressure After New Torture Leaks
•James Kwak, Baseline Scenario.com: What Might Have Been . . .
I was reading the plea deal in the SAC case, which was approved by the judge yesterday, and then I started reading the criminal indictment filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. What I noticed was how relatively simple it was for the prosecutors to convict SAC Capital for the insider trading committed by its employees. In short, because the firm enabled and benefited from the employees’ crimes, the firm was itself criminally liable.
Looking back at the enormous amount of effort the Southern District has put into Preet Bharara’s crusade against insider trading, you have to wonder what they might have accomplished had they instead targeted, say, fraud committed by Wall Street banks that contributed to the financial crisis. That’s the topic of my new column in The Atlantic. One of the frustrations of post-crisis legal proceedings is that it’s so hard to show that any senior executives themselves committed fraud, since they can usually plead some combination of ignorance and incompetence instead. Failing that, though, the government could have put more resources into flipping lower-level employees and then filing criminal indictments against their banks. Yesterday Bharara claimed, “when institutions flout the law in such a colossal way, they will pay a heavy price.” But only if the Department of Justice chooses to go after them.
*OURMISSINGNEWS.COM: “Hidden GM Documents show 10-Year Coverup”
House investigators on Friday made public some of the more than 200,000 pages of internal General Motors correspondence and other documents detailing years of internal deliberations over a dangerous flaw in a small-car ignition switch that the company did not disclose to the public until this year.
The documents were requested as part of an investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee into why it took the automaker more than a decade to disclose the safety issue to the public and to order a recall of the vehicles with the defective switch. A Senate committee is conducting a separate inquiry, as are the Justice Department and regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The documents include at least one internal email exchange with Mary T. Barra, a 30-year veteran of the company who became chief executive in January.
Ms. Barra has repeatedly said that she first learned of an internal investigation of Chevrolet Cobalt ignition switches in December 2013, a few weeks before she became chief executive. A safety team had met at that time, and was in the final process of recommending the first recall of Cobalts and Pontiac G5 sedans because of faulty switches, which G.M. has now tied to 13 deaths.
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