News

Call for a #Juneteenth2018 Mobilization Against Prison Slavery

It's Goin Down - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 19:18

The post Call for a #Juneteenth2018 Mobilization Against Prison Slavery appeared first on It's Going Down.

The following calls comes from SPARC and Fight Toxic Prisons.

This year we, supporters of #OperationPUSH, are calling on all opponents of mass incarceration and modern-day slavery internationally to honor the Juneteenth holiday (Tuesday, June 19, 2018) with community organizing and direct action.

This call to action is inspired by prisoners in Texas and Florida, two of the largest and most repressive prison systems in the U.S., who remain active in freedom struggle against all odds.

Background

Juneteenth is an abolitionist holiday originating in Texas, where many Confederate slave-holders fled to during the U.S. Civil War.

But that war was not merely a domestic civil conflict. It was a flare-up of the global movement to end slavery. It is a movement that continues to challenge the slave relations of today which occur under several names (examples include debt bondage, sex trafficking, prison labor) and generally impact the most historically exploited and most vulnerable among us.

Forced captivity and involuntary labor have been among the most abhorrent practices in human society since the earliest of written records.

The celebration of freedom from these conditions has formed the foundation of many cultures and identities.

Juneteenth in particular marked the official end of chattel slavery in the U.S. But the backlash against this victory saw the initial formation of many state prison systems in the country, especially in the South, born to manage a new era of slavery known as convict-leasing. That system was also technically done away with, but its remnants are visible all over the country.

Prison slave labor today can be seen in wildlands firefighters, disaster clean-up from hurricanes and oil spills, massive contracts with cities, counties and universities, and the running of the prisons themselves.

While prisons no longer provide the same scale of labor that chattel slavery and convict leasing did, they maintain the slave relation of captivity for another primary purpose: the warehousing of populations that pose a threat to a profit-obsessed society. This includes the unemployed or those in underground economies, the mentally ill, and those most likely to challenge the status quo.

The Juneteenth holiday originated in 1865, but the struggle for official recognition is still occuring today. As of May 2016, 45 of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have recognized Juneteenth as either a state holiday or a day of observance.

Juneteenth originally marked the freedom of African Americans from captivity. Today’s prison system has made slavery a multi-racial affair, where indigenous and immigrant people of all backgrounds are held in bondage along side the descendants of European settlers, joined by the common bond of poverty.

The aim of this call to action is to support the ongoing effort to recognize Juneteenth, and to add to that legacy by calling for an end to modern-day slave conditions in the prison system.

Goals

1. End slave labor
2. Stop profiteering off prisoners
3. Reduce the prison population
4. Demand environmental justice in the prison industrial complex

Strategy

Plan outreach activities in the weeks leading up to, and actions in the days surrounding, Juneteeneth. Aim to put pressure on the prison system and build community support for ending mass incarceration.

Specific Suggestions

1. Host large public film showings of Ava Duvernay’s documentary “13th” (available on Netflix) at spaces where people are likely to have not seen it yet, and facilitate discussion afterward;

2. Coordinate letter writing/mass mailing parties to prisoners in your state where you aim to reach out to at least 500 new prisoners by gathering addresses off online rosters, communicating to prisoners that there will be public events around Juneteenth and encourage them to inform family and friends. (If these letters are censored, appeal the censorship and seek First Amendment attorneys to assist.)

3. Plan actions that include highly visible street theater and civil disobedience that will attract media attention and disrupt business-as-usual. (If these include any risk of arrest, please prepare with trainings and bail funds.)

Context

In January this year we saw an international outpouring of support for the Florida prisoners who called for the #OperationPUSH prisoner strike. This came largely from networks developed around the 2016 Attica anniversary and the 2017 Black August organizing, as well as earlier coordinated prisoner-related efforts in Alabama, Texas, California, Georgia and elsewhere.

While we have developed strong relationships across the walls all around the country over these past two years, we have also learned some hard lessons about repression against prisoners from inside/outside organizing.

In response to efforts at increasing communication by mail and visits we’ve seen retaliation via censorship and visitation cuts. We’ve also seen many solid organizers thrown into solitary confinement or shipped off to other prisons repeatedly, as well as random prisoners punished just for being sent activist mailings. And we’ve watched organizations be labeled as Security Threat Groups in order to scare new prisoners away from associating with the movement.

Still we have persevered, escalated and evolved our strategies. We have repeatedly heard that mainstream media coverage is a major inspiration to people inside, that it reaches more than our mail ever could. (It is also more difficult to censor.)

For this reason, suggestion number 3, disruption and civil disobedience is a priority for activities surrounding Juneteenth.

Strategy

We know the media operates on a mantra of “if it bleeds, it leads.” Although this often refers to literal bloodshed, it thankfully does not require it. Any conflict that makes it on to a police scanner has always been the media’s priority. While coverage doesn’t require mass arrests, zero arrests can often result in a demonstration that does not make it into the headlines.

Media also often ignores in-depth stories too far from its primary urban audiences.

Take for example the Operation PUSH solidarity action where around 50 people occupied the FDOC lobby for 5 hours, effectively shutting down the building’s normal operations. It wasn’t until police aggression, a broken window and an arrest that TV cameras showed up to tell the story.

Meanwhile, prisoners launched regular uprisings with brutal retaliation. Coverage of this is rare do to the rural, remote location of most prisons.

Taking note of recent movements like Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, and the pipeline resistance at Standing Rock, along with historic examples in the civil rights, women’s suffrage and anti-nuclear movements, we’ve see that remote areas and underreported issues can be brought front-and-center using civil disobedience and strategic disturbances.

Talking points on the goals

End slave labor

This means the prisoners around the world who do industrial work for little-to-no pay in kitchens, laundries, on road crews, in fields or in factories must get a fair wage for their labor, or the prisons must pay outside workers to do this work. One way or another, the true cost of prison operation must be known and the broken system of mass incarceration must no longer be subsidized through slavery. The US acts appalled by other countries like China exploiting its prisoners for free labor, but tolerates the practice at home.

Stop profiteering off prisoners

All across the country, federal, state and municipal agencies contract with profit-driven companies for goods and services (on top of the prisons and detention centers where operations are handed over to private companies in attempt to cut costs.). In most every instance of these contracts for healthcare, commissary, phones and money transfers, prisoners are price-gouged because they are captive customers.

Reduce prison populations

State and federal officials can use re-sentencing, parole and clemency to drastically bring down the number of people held in cages. We know this can be done, as many other countries have shown by example that the U.S. practice of absurdly long prison sentencing contributes nothing remotely resembling rehabilitation.

Demand environmental justice

There is a nationwide effort to expose prisons as industrial operation with chronic conditions that are not conducive to health and safety. The Environmental Justice (EJ) movement has spent the past three decades developing an analysis that applies the need for environmental protections to all areas of our society, including places like prisons, and begun writing those protections into laws, such as Executive Order 12898, developing EJ through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In this analysis, the maintaining of warehouses for caged humans must be viewed as incompatible with environmental justice.

A list of organizations in support of #OperationPUSH and #Juneteenth2018 can be found here. Please contact FightToxicPrisons@gmail.com to add your organization to this call to action. For more on Juneteenth from TX prisoner Malik Washington, go here

Categories: News

Feds tapped Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's phones

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 19:14

Feds tapped Trump lawyer Michael Cohen's phones --At least one phone call between a phone line associated with Cohen and the White House was intercepted, a source said. | 03 May 2018 | Federal investigators have wiretapped the phone lines of Michael Cohen, the longtime personal lawyer for President Donald Trump who is under investigation for a payment he made to an adult film 'star' who alleged she had an affair with Trump, according to two people with knowledge of the legal proceedings involving Cohen. It is not clear how long the wiretap has been authorized, but NBC News has learned it was in place in the weeks leading up to the raids on Cohen's offices, hotel room, and home in early April, according to one person with direct knowledge. At least one phone call between a phone line associated with Cohen and the White House was intercepted, the person said. Previously, federal prosecutors in New York have said in court filings that they have conducted covert searches on multiple e-mail accounts maintained by Cohen.

Categories: News

17 States Sue EPA Over Pruitt's Decision to Weaken Auto Standards

deSmog - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 16:16
EPA union employees and supporters hold signs protesting Pruitt

It didn’t take long for the first legal challenges be filed against the Trump administration’s recent move to weaken automobile emissions standards. On April 3, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) withdrew the Obama-era decision to retain the greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks for model years 2022-2025. On Tuesday, 17 states and the District of Columbia sued the agency, challenging Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision.

The lawsuit is short and direct — only 122 words, including the names of the 17 states — petitioning the District of Columbia Circuit Court to review EPA’s decision under the Clean Air Act.

Pruitt’s decision was immediately applauded by the oil industry and car companies through the powerful Auto Alliance trade group. It was simultaneously bashed by environmental and consumers’ rights groups who criticized the agency for replacing a comprehensive review by the Obama EPA with a shallow analysis that borrowed the auto industry’s talking points.

Tags: CAFEcarsauto standardscaliforniaU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyScott PruittTrump Administrationauto alliance
Categories: News

Registration Open for Worker Cooperative National Conference

Grassroots Economic Survival - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 15:32
Link: REGISTRATION IS OPEN!

 

 

Worker cooperators, unions, developers, allies, funders, investors, and visionaries — join us this September in Los Angeles!

This three day conference in Los Angeles, California will make space for connection, education, skill-building, and sharing, for worker-owners and our partners working to create better jobs and a fairer economy.

This moment in U.S. history is pivotal — we are taking this opportunity to catalyze workers across the country, joining with larger cooperative and economic justice movements to create the change we want to see.

Register for the conference

 

Go to the GEO front page

Categories: News

Labor Unions and Worker Co-ops: Today and Yesterday

Grassroots Economic Survival - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 14:41
Link: Labor Unions and Worker Co-ops: Today and Yesterday

For many, the new world order ushered into being in the late 1700’s was a catastrophe. As the nature of workers transitioned from independent operator to employee, the workers lost their ability to control their lives economically and, quite often, politically. The push back brought the rise of both the Trade Union Movement and the Co-operative Movement, both originating at the central of the new disruptive capitalism: Manchester, United Kingdom (Birchall, 1994; Fairbairn, 1994). This was not an accident. The two movements have been linked for good reason in that they attempt to embrace a market economy in a method that elevates individuals and replaces the profit motive with the concept of human dignity. These attributes have been the core of both movements since their founding.

Read the rest at Workers' Paradise

 

Go to the GEO front page

Categories: News

Kicking Big Polluters Out Of Climate Talks 'Not Very Useful', Says Poland's Climate Envoy

deSmog - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 10:33

By Megan Darby, Climate Home News

Poland’s climate envoy dismissed calls to keep polluters out of UN talks, ahead of a controversial negotiation in Bonn on Thursday about widening participation.

Activists outside the talks put pressure on the EU to support a conflict of interest policy for businesses getting involved in the process. They argue that fossil fuel companies are a malign influence and weaken climate ambition to protect their profits.

But Tomasz Chruszczow, who has a leading role in this December’s Katowice climate summit, told Climate Home News in an interview he did not recognise that problem.

“We want everybody in this action,” he said. “Even if they are now generating electricity from fossil fuels – the majority of electricity comes from fossil fuels – still it is changing, but it is a process.

Tags: PolandBonnclimate talksfossil fuelscorruption
Categories: News

Press freedom slides as journalists face growing threats around the world

Global Muckracker - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 07:47

Hostility towards the media is spreading from dictatorships to democracies, encouraged by U.S. President Donald Trump’s and other leaders’ attacks on ‘fake news,’ according to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

The annual yardstick produced by the advocacy group Reporters without Borders, which measures media freedom in 180 countries, found assaults on the press – ranging from taunts to murder – were becoming graver.

The worst decline in freedom was in Europe, though the region is still the world’s safest for journalists, according to the index. Two murders helped drive the decline. In October 2017, Daphne Caruana Galizia, a prominent Maltese journalist who probed corruption by the country’s elites, was assassinated in a car bomb.

In Slovakia, 27-year old investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova were shot to death during Kuciak’s investigation of ties between Slovakian officials and Italian Mafia figures.

Both murders were galvanizing. Kuciak’s led to massive popular protests that ended up toppling the regime of Prime Minister Robert Fico.

Related articles

The killings also prompted other journalists, including those in the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ network, to carry on the work of their late colleagues and continue their efforts to expose corruption.

“The silver lining here is that those who attack journalists are finding that their old, vicious methods are not as effective anymore,” said Marina Walker Guevara, ICIJ’s deputy director. “Investigative reporters are working together in teams, using technology to share data and documents and helping one another across national borders. These networks of collaboration keep stories alive even when a reporter is harassed or killed.”

In the case of Caruana’s murder, 45 journalists from 15 countries joined forces to publish the Daphne Project, a cross-border investigation of both her death and stories she was reporting on at the time of her death.

Following Kuciak’s death, longtime ICIJ media partners at the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), Czech Center for Investigative Journalism (CCIJ) and the Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI) published Kuciak’s final stories.

Another troubling trend noted in the World Press Freedom Index is increasing efforts to delegitimize and intimidate the press in countries with traditions of democracy. U.S. President Donald Trump has branded the media  an “enemy of the American people,” and his attacks on “fake news” to denounce unfavorable coverage have been adopted by authoritarian leaders in nations such as Turkey and Cambodia. Trump’s attacks on the media have led the U.S. to fall two places to 45th in the world in press freedom.

Other leaders of democratic countries who have adopted or encouraged violent rhetoric against the media include Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, Narendra Modi of India and Milos Zeman of the Czech Republic. The report noted that “Duterte not only constantly insults reporters but has also warned them that they ‘are not exempted from assassination.’”

“The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies,” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

World Press Freedom 2018 map

Reporters Without Borders also noted a substantial decline in press freedom in the Asia Pacific region, where China is taking censorship and surveillance to new heights, and Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore rank increasingly close to China among the world’s worst countries for journalistic freedom. These nations have been adopting China’s model of stifling dissent through strict control of mass media and censorship of social media, the press freedom index found.

Although conditions in Africa have improved somewhat from 2017, and three of its most oppressive presidents are no longer in office, Reporters Without Borders called attention to the huge difficulties facing journalists on the continent.

“Frequent Internet cuts, especially in Cameroon (129th) and Democratic Republic of Congo (154th), combined with frequent attacks and arrests are the region’s latest forms of censorship. Mauritania (72nd) suffered the region’s biggest fall (17 places) after adopting a law under which blasphemy and apostasy are punishable by death even if the accused repents,” the report noted.

Norway tops the list of countries where journalists have most freedom, followed by Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland and Switzerland, based on pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship among other factors.

North Korea finished last at 180, with Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China completing the bottom five. Overall, the 2018 report concludes, journalists around the world face more hostility towards their work in 2018 than they did last year.

Marking World Press Freedom Day, the Australian Press Council awarded ICIJ director Gerard Ryle with the 2018 Press Freedom Medal, alongside journalist and journalism academic Peter Greste. In accepting the honor, Ryle hailed the strength of collaborative journalism in bringing about positive change in the face of a challenging media environment.

“Never have we seen such calculated campaigns of misinformation from positions of authority. It has never been so easy for powerful people to undermine the work of journalists,” Ryle said. “It is more important than ever for journalists to stand together to protect each other and to protect the integrity of our profession.”

The post Press freedom slides as journalists face growing threats around the world appeared first on ICIJ.

Categories: News

US troops to remain in South Korea even if peace treaty signed with North - Moon

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 07:39

US troops to remain in South Korea even if peace treaty signed with North - Moon | 02 May 2018 | South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Wednesday that US troops will remain on the peninsula even if a peace agreement with the North is reached, saying their presence has "nothing to do with signing peace treaties." "US troops stationed in South Korea are an issue regarding the alliance between South Korea and the United States. It has nothing to do with signing peace treaties," Moon's spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said at a press conference. The statement came in response to a Foreign Affairs magazine article written by presidential adviser, Moon Cung-in, in which he stated that it would be "difficult to justify [US forces] continuing presence in South Korea," if peace is concluded with the North. The spokesperson warned the adviser "not to cause any more confusion" with such comments.

Categories: News

Mueller told Trump legal team a presidential subpoena could be possible, ex-attorney says

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 07:05

Mueller told Trump legal team a presidential subpoena could be possible, ex-attorney says | 02 May 2018 | Special counsel Robert Mueller told President Trump's legal team that he could subpoena the president to appear before a grand jury if Trump refuses an interview with Mueller's team, Trump's former lead attorney told The Associated Press Tuesday night. John Dowd told the AP that Mueller raised the possibility of a subpoena during a meeting with Trump's legal team in March. According to accounts of the meeting first reported by The Washington Post and confirmed by Fox News, Dowd retorted: "This isn't some game. You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States."

Categories: News

Trump Adds Clinton Impeachment Lawyer, Bracing for a Fight on Multiple Fronts

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 06:47

Trump Adds Clinton Impeachment Lawyer, Bracing for a Fight on Multiple Fronts | 02 May 2018 | President Trump hired on Wednesday a Washington lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment, a sign that the White House sees no immediate end to its legal problems and is girding for a combative relationship with a new Congress after the midterm elections. The new lawyer, Emmet T. Flood, will replace Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer who persuaded Mr. Trump to cooperate with the special counsel for the first year of its investigation...Lawyers say the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is unlikely to conclude his work soon. Mr. Trump's advisers see a new peril on the horizon: If Democrats win control of the House, they would have the authority to issue subpoenas or even convene impeachment hearings.

Categories: News

Call for International Week of Action against Fossil Fuel Infrastructure: May 12-19

Anarchist News - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 04:48

[Short version: Block the flows of fossil fuels and capital. Attack the systems that destroy our lives and our only home. Build connection and new worlds through struggle. Fight where you stand. Connect with other people about it. May 12-19, and also every other moment.]

In our daily lives, in the ecosystems we live in, in the ever stranger and more violent weather patterns we are subject to, and in even the most mainstream of capitalist media, we are bombarded by increasingly dire proof of what we’ve known all along: catastrophic climate change is happening and will only amplify as more fossil fuels are extracted and burned. In the face of this, we are given three official options: denial, despair, or delegation to those who “know better,” those whose “job” it is to fix these problems—through the same means that got us into them.

But all over the world, brave and compassionate souls have shown that we can also choose defiance. From resistance to mountaintop removal in Appalachia, to rebellion against Shell Oil in the Niger Delta, to pipeline blockades all across North America, and to anyone in any corner of the world who has stood their ground against those who threaten their lands with plunder and devastation, we have a thousand examples of people moving beyond and against the state to defend what they love and what nurtures them.

In resistance, we strengthen the human and non-human bonds that keep us alive and thriving. In the US, we saw a generation re-awake through direct opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock. The state will always seek to divide and disempower us through fear and co-option—let’s remember that we can outwit their strategies through action, care, and strength of heart.

This is a call for a multitude of diverse actions against the infrastructure of the fossil fuel economy. The capitalist project of destruction and dispossession oftentimes feels omnipotent, and it pays to remind ourselves how vulnerable and interconnected this complex system really is. So, an invitation to act in the way that feels most relevant to each person or community’s experience and context. At least we can take solace in the fact that there’s no shortage of options!

Some questions/points to consider:
- What fossil fuel infrastructure is active in your area? Pipelines, mines, refineries, wells, machinery, rigs, supply chains, capital…
- Where are the chokepoints and vulnerable areas in these? What can be done to achieve the most disruption relative to risk?
- What’s the social context where you live? What affects people’s lives directly and what resonates? What’s your relationship to the land and the people there?
- Any struggle needs a wide variety of tasks to survive, amplify, and generalize. Organization, publication, cooking, writing, art, networking, clandestine and open direct action of many types, all sorts of logistical support… What are the characters and needs of struggles in your area? What are you capable of and inclined towards?
- What does indigenous life and struggle look like in your area? How has it historically?

In direct opposition to their world, we build and strengthen our own worlds and selves.

Please do what you can to translate and disseminate this through your networks and media. Modify it to fit your context, put it up on posters, talk to your friends. Communiques and action reports vigorously encouraged.

For life and joy, against the machinery of death!

Tags: fossil fuelscall upcategory: Actions
Categories: News

US judge orders Iran to pay billions to families of 9/11 victims

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 04:45

US judge orders Iran to pay billions to families of 9/11 victims | 02 May 2018 | Tehran has been ordered by a US court to pay more than $6 billion to victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, despite the fact that most of the plane hijackers were Saudi nationals, and no direct link was ever found to Iran. On Tuesday, a federal judge in New York found Iran, the country's central bank, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps liable for the deaths of more than 1,000 people in the September 11 attacks. As a consequence, District Judge George Daniels ordered Iran and its entities to pay over $6 billion in compensation to the victims' families...Tehran has yet to react to the latest ruling, but has previously dismissed such accusations as ridiculous, given the fact that none of the perpetrators were Iranian citizens, and no investigation ever found direct links to Iran.

Categories: News

Detained and Then Deported: US Human Rights Lawyers Barred From Entry Into Israel

Truth Out - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 04:00

Two US human rights lawyers were detained Sunday for 14 hours at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport before being deported back to the United States. Columbia University's Katherine Franke and Center for Constitutional Rights executive director Vincent Warren were repeatedly questioned about their associations with groups critical of Israel. They were part of a delegation of American civil rights activists heading to Israel and Palestine to learn about the human rights situation and meet with local activists. They arrived back in New York City early Monday. This comes just days after Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Palestinian protesters and wounded hundreds more on Friday, when the soldiers and snipers opened fire during the Palestinians' weekly nonviolent protest near the Gaza border. On Saturday, a fourth protester died after succumbing to his wounds. The nonviolent protests demanding the right for Palestinian refugees to return to their land began on March 30. Since then, the Israeli military has killed at least 42 Palestinians, including two journalists, and injured thousands more. For more, we speak with Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Katherine Franke, professor of law, gender and sexuality studies at Columbia University.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, we turn now to Israel, where two US human rights lawyers were detained Sunday for 14 hours at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport, before being deported back to the United States. Columbia University's Katherine Franke and Center for Constitutional Rights president Vince Warren were repeatedly questioned about their associations with groups critical of Israel. They were part of a delegation of American civil rights activists heading to Israel to learn about the human rights situation and meet with local activists. They arrived back in New York City early Monday.

Earlier this year, Israel published a blacklist of 20 different organizations worldwide whose members are being banned from entering the country over their groups' support for BDS, the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. Among the groups whose members are banned from entering Israel are Jewish Voice for Peace, National Students for Justice in Palestine, the American Friends Service Committee, American Muslims for Palestine, CodePink and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, as well as Palestinian solidarity groups in France, Italy, Norway, Sweden, Britain, Chile and South Africa.

AMY GOODMAN: This comes just days after Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Palestinian protesters and wounded hundreds more on Friday, when the soldiers and snipers opened fire during the Palestinians' weekly nonviolent protest near the Gaza border. On Saturday, a fourth protester died after succumbing to his wounds. The nonviolent protest demanding the right for Palestinian refugees to return to their land began on March 30th. Since then, the Israeli military has killed at least 42 Palestinians, including two journalists, and injured thousands more. No Israeli soldiers or civilians have been injured in the nonviolent protests. Israel's bloody crackdown has sparked international condemnation.

We're joined now by the two, I guess you could say, deportees. Vince Warren and Katherine Franke are here in our New York studio. Vince Warren, who was leading the delegation, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. And Katherine Franke is a professor of law, gender and sexuality studies at Columbia University. She's faculty director of the Public Rights/Private Conscience Project and a member of the executive committee of the Center for Palestine Studies.

We welcome you both back to Democracy Now! Vince, what happened? When did you fly into Israel?

VINCENT WARREN: We flew in Saturday evening. And we had a delegation of folks that were coming with us. And having done this before, getting into Israel --

AMY GOODMAN: You did this just a few years ago?

VINCENT WARREN: We did this first in 2016, where we actually brought legal academics and other folks that were in the legal field. This delegation was actually about black and brown thought leaders and civil rights leaders in the communities, people that had worked on Dakota Access pipeline, people that had been key in Ferguson and taken that fight to Geneva, folks that have been doing work in the South. So, we flew out on Saturday evening, and we arrived in Tel Aviv on Sunday morning. And Sunday morning, that's when we found out, as we got the delegates through, that we found out that Katherine and I had been singled out to be detained.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Katherine, you were the first to be detained and questioned. Tell us what happened.

KATHERINE FRANKE: Well, the curious thing is, is that Vince and I had already been cleared through immigration, and we were waiting on the other side for the rest of the delegates to come through. And an immigration official comes out and drags the two of us back in. And at that point, I was interrogated for over an hour by the Israeli immigration officials, where they screamed at me, "You're lying! You're here to promote BDS in Palestine." And I said, "I'm not," which is -- it's kind of ludicrous. You don't promote BDS in Palestine.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain BDS, very quickly.

KATHERINE FRANKE: The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is a movement that's grown from civil society actors in Palestine to the rest of the world as a form of action to protest the human rights violations of the -- committed by the Israeli government. So BDS takes place elsewhere, not in Palestine.

But in any event, that's not what the delegation was about. We were there to witness and testify to the kinds of human rights violations we were seeing there, not to engage in any BDS-related activity.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, they actually showed you, on a cellphone, some right-wing site about you?

KATHERINE FRANKE: They did. They did. After he said, "Aren't you here to promote BDS in Palestine?" and I said, "Absolutely not," he held up his phone, where they had googled me. And there are these right-wing trolling sites that have all sorts of false things that say I'm committed to the destruction of Israel, I'm anti-Semitic, I hate Jews, I want to kill Jews. None of that is true. And he said, "See! You're lying! You're lying to me because you're here to promote BDS in Palestine!" And I said, "I'm absolutely not here to do that. We're here as tourists" -- political tourists, to be sure, but tourists. And at that point, two other guys started yelling at me that I was a liar and that they were going to deport me and ban me permanently, for life, from entering Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how long were you held for?

KATHERINE FRANKE: Fourteen hours.

AMY GOODMAN: How long were you questioned?

KATHERINE FRANKE: About an hour.

AMY GOODMAN: Of that time.

KATHERINE FRANKE: Mm-hmm.

AMY GOODMAN: And did they tell you then, "We are deporting you"?

KATHERINE FRANKE: He said he was deporting me. And then, later, he came back out and said, "Well, if you tell me more about your delegation and about the other people in the delegation" -- basically give them intelligence about the other people in the delegation -- "I'll think about not deporting you." And I said, "I've told you the truth about everything." And then he started in again about how I was lying.

VINCENT WARREN: And that's actually where my interrogation picked up, because after they interrogated Katherine, they pointed to Katherine and said, "Why are you traveling with someone who's the head of the BDS movement in the United States?" which is -- you know, it's ridiculous. But then they also were asking me a lot of questions about who was on the delegation, where were they going, that sort of thing. So they were really trolling for information. And part of the thing that's important is that, in these spaces, you really shouldn't and can't give information about where the delegation is going, because we want to keep those people safe, and we want them -- and as well as the people that they're visiting with. And, you know, there are 20 or 30 different organizations, both Palestinian and Israeli, that they were looking at.

They moved us to a secure detention area. We were separated. I was taken in a van to a cell, an immigration detention cell, where I was held for about four-and-a-half hours in that cell, before Katherine and I were reunited. Interestingly enough, virtually everybody in that cell other than myself was Ukrainian and Russian. And so, my Russian is not that good, so I didn't really communicate, other than in sign language, but I communicated enough to know that some of those folks had been there for three days and didn't know when they were going to be going home. And so, my takeaway from this was, this is the type of things that people trying to immigrate into a country like Israel or the United States have to deal with all the time. And as horrible as it was to be there for a number of hours and to be questioned, we have to be mindful that in the immigration fights this is happening to people all over the place. This is not a sort of a temporary transaction. This is a real incursion, I think, into liberty and dignity, just for people who want to be able to transit and to live their lives.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of your deportation, did it get any coverage in the Israeli press at all?

VINCENT WARREN: Well, we're getting inquiries now from the Israeli press, and so I think they're interested in, I guess, hearing our side of the story. I'm sure some of them already have their side of the story. But we're starting to get inquiries into that, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: And how are you -- are you planning to challenge this deportation?

VINCENT WARREN: Well, we're looking into it, because it was -- as Katherine mentioned, it was totally untrue. It was based on all of these lies and conclusions. So, we -- I think we're looking into what we can do about that.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: It also, though, Katherine, does seem to signal the increasing desperation of the Israeli government in trying to stop the BDS movement, doesn't it, to some degree?

KATHERINE FRANKE: Well, they pride themselves as being, supposedly, the only democracy in the Middle East. But they're a democracy, supposedly, that represses free speech within Israel itself, within the West Bank, and punishes civil rights defenders or human rights defenders like ourselves, by not letting us come and witness what's going on there. That, to me, doesn't sound like a democracy.

You know, the curious thing is, as we're sitting in detention, and, actually, while I was being interrogated, the president of Columbia University walked right by us. He was leaving the country while we were in the airport. He didn't know we were there, so it's not that he shunned me in any way. But Columbia University is planning on or thinking about opening up a global center in Tel Aviv -- a center that faculty and students at Columbia University cannot visit, myself most prominently now. Part of why I was in --

AMY GOODMAN: This is Lee Bollinger, walked by?

KATHERINE FRANKE: Lee Bollinger.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you able to say hello to him? Did you see him?

KATHERINE FRANKE: No, I didn't see him. I heard about it afterwards, when I got home, that he was traveling through the airport the same time we were there. I would like to think that Lee would have reached out, had he known I was there.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: "That's one of my employees."

KATHERINE FRANKE: Yeah. He's a -- he's a good person.

But part of what I had planned to do while I was in Israel was visit with graduate students, both in Haifa and in Ramallah, who actually can't come to Columbia right now to work with me, because they can't get -- the one in Ramallah cannot get a permit --

AMY GOODMAN: In the West Bank.

KATHERINE FRANKE:  -- from the Israelis to visit the United States. And so, I can't work with my own graduate students because of this ban and because of the enormous travel restrictions that are placed on Palestinians.

AMY GOODMAN: So, in January, Israel published a list of 20 international groups, many of them affiliated with the BDS movement, that are banned from entering the country. Israel's Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, whose office published the list, said that the list signaled that Israel has shifted, quote, "from defense to offense." He went on to say, "Boycott organizations need to know that Israel will act against them and will not allow [them] to enter its territory in order to harm its citizens." Professor Franke, can you respond?

KATHERINE FRANKE: Well, the curious thing is, in deciding about who they ought to let in and who they shouldn't let in and what their security interests are, the security personnel of the Israeli government have assigned to private, right-wing, unreliable trolls the job of deciding who is a security risk and who isn't. That's the folks that they googled when they held up the phone to me and said, "Look, you're committed to the destruction of the state of Israel." Right? So, it's actually a kind of hack way to be doing their own security project, by allowing these websites to decide who to admit and who not to admit. But it's quite clear that they are very worried about a peaceful mode of resistance, which is the boycott movement, and they've really ratcheted up the ways in which they're excluding people from entering.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Vince, I wanted to ask you. Interestingly, those who remember the boycott and divestment movement against the South African white minority regime, even the South African government didn't go to this kind of extreme for people who were opposed to its policies.

VINCENT WARREN: No, that's definitely true. I really cut my political teeth in college, and I was one of the leaders in my college to get the school to divest from, you know, holdings in South Africa. But you're right. I mean, the political situation was a little bit different, because there was also not only a divestment movement, but there was also -- people were not traveling to the country, at least officially, to get in. I'm sure that if they had been, that the South African government might have taken this role.

But what is interesting about Israel is that it is a fluid situation. I think it has also captured the international attention the way that South Africa has. And I think the big challenge now in the information age, which we didn't have back in 1980-something, is how do we stay in touch and support the work that's happening on the ground from a place like the United States, which would include also working, in country, with students and with activists, to make sure that, if nothing else, the actual stories get out to the international community.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, we're talking about a moment now of severe crisis, not that in recent years it hasn't been, but in Gaza. Since March 30th, this massive, nonviolent, ongoing protest at the wall between Israel and Gaza, nonviolent protesters gunned down by the Israeli military, more than 40 of them at this point, two journalists, Palestinian journalists, as we described the picture of -- showing the picture of one of them with a very clear "PRESS" sign on him, these protests continuing up through May 15th, the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel, what Palestinians call the Nakba, when they were, so many, hundreds of thousands of them, were expelled. Were you planning to go to Gaza?

VINCENT WARREN: No, we were not planning to go to Gaza, and mostly because you can't get into Gaza, number one. Number two, that these -- the delegation were people that had not been to the region before, mostly, and so we were looking primarily to have them interact with folks in Israel and in the West Bank, but outside of Gaza.

But I will say that it is an absolute crisis that's going on. And even -- even in places like the West Bank and in parts of Jerusalem, which doesn't even approach the horror that's happening in Gaza, it is an extraordinary situation. This would have been my second time going. And I have to say, the first time that I went, I was expecting really bad things, but I was not prepared -- I was not prepared for the level of structural targeting and racial profiling that is happening in that region. It is mind-boggling. And that's why we were trying to bring people to the delegation, because people need to see this for themselves. They can't read about it on Facebook. They can't look at these websites that are characterizing it. They have to see for themselves.

AMY GOODMAN: And certainly, it's astounding the lack of coverage of what's happening in Gaza right now by the corporate media here in the United States.

KATHERINE FRANKE: It is astounding, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there. Vince Warren, head of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Katherine Franke, professor at Columbia University, law professor. That does it for our show. Both deported from Israel this weekend.

Democracy Now! is accepting applications for our paid, year-long social media and video production fellowships, as well as a variety of paid internships. Find out more at democracynow.org. The deadline is almost upon us.

Categories: News

Puerto Rico Needs Help: Unelected Fiscal Board Pushes Austerity as Island Continues Slow Recovery

Truth Out - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 04:00

It's been almost eight months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and at least 30,000 homes in Puerto Rico still lack power. As anti-austerity protests hit San Juan, we speak to Giovanni Roberto, director of the Center for Political Development in Puerto Rico.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: Well, from those streets to our New York studio, we're joined by Giovanni Roberto. He's director of the Center for Political Development in Puerto Rico, an umbrella organization that sets up community kitchens after Hurricane Maria and now has 10 mutual aid centers throughout the island. He's on tour now to raise awareness and meet with members of the Puerto Rican diaspora.

Giovanni, welcome to Democracy Now!

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: It's great to have you with us.

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: It must be very odd for you to be here in New York when this mass protest took place in Puerto Rico.

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: But explain what you're confronting now. I mean, we're talking Hurricane Maria more than six months ago, but you had another mass blackout in Puerto Rico just in the last weeks.

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Yeah, exactly. And we are probably facing the new season of hurricanes, so we have an unstable situation in Puerto Rico, as you say, a lot of people still without energy and basic needs. So, from part of the mutual aid center, we are trying to get ready our centers, to be solar panels, to have water, to get ready, because what we see now is that the crisis is going to increase. What the board is doing is going to increase the crisis. And Maria gave us a glimpse of what is going to look like Puerto Rico in the next few years.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, when you mentioned what the board is doing, there's been very little attention here in the US media about the oversight control board. There was more attention to the impact of the hurricane. But the board now is facing the fact that even the governor of Puerto Rico and most of the Legislature now is in open rebellion against its demands. Could you talk about that? Because the governor, Ricky Rosselló, originally was supportive of the board coming in, but now he's saying, "You're acting illegally. I'm opposed to the pension cuts." Could you talk about that?

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Yeah. Well, that's what he said. But, actually, what he's doing is not different from what the board is doing. Because they know that the people are in need, and the politicians need, you know, some support by the people. But when you see the actual act that they're sending to the Congress or to the local representatives, they're sending really similar kind of law. So, what we are expecting -- you know, the privatization of schools, the privatization of the energy and the cutting in labor rights -- are going to put people in more need. So that's why we are here in the United States, making people here aware of what's happening in Puerto Rico, you know, because international press disappeared now from Puerto Rico, but people are still in need a lot there.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what about the -- what about the austerity measures that are being implemented? How many schools now have been closed again, after several hundred were closed previously?

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Yeah. We have to remember that Puerto Rico has been in a recession, a crisis, since 2006. So, these austerity measures have been being implemented in Puerto Rico for the last 10 years to 12. In the last five years, more than 500 schools have been shut down. This year, they're trying to shut down 283 schools. They're saying that it's because there is a depopulation of the island, but if you shut down most of the schools, mainly elementary schools, you're pushing people out of Puerto Rico. So that's the main reason. You know, people are being pushed out of Puerto Rico because of the austerity measures. And they have already cut the pensions of teachers and other workers, public workers, in Puerto Rico. So they're pushing people to poverty.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about this latest news of a number of unions in Puerto Rico and other groups suing the federal control board over the US territory's finances? They are saying that it should be declared unconstitutional, this coming after the board approved these fiscal plans with new austerity measures that the governor has refused to implement?

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Yeah, because the retired people have rights. You know, they worked their whole life, 30 years or plus, because they were expecting to retire and to have, you know, rights. So, they're changing that. It's a contract between workers and the government, and that contract, they cannot change it. You know, it's illegal. It's unconstitutional. And I hope the courts can attend the case.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what about the resistance? Obviously, after -- especially after Hurricane Maria, there was the development of all of these grassroots efforts of people helping themselves. Could you talk your organization's work with these mutual groups at the neighborhood and local level?

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Yeah. Even before Maria, we had Irma, too. And people know from the reaction and from what the government has abandoned the people, that there's no other way to get out of the crisis but to act ourselves.

AMY GOODMAN: Hurricane Irma devastated Puerto Rico, as well?

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Yeah, devastated a part. It actually awake -- it awake a lot of the people. It didn't devastate the island, but we were more ready. Because of Irma, we were more ready to Maria. So, across the island, you know, thousands of people were acting by themselves, organizing community. We, in Caguas, we started a mutual aid center, and we started a discussion with other activists throughout the island that we should do organizing on a grassroots level with the mutual aid principles and philosophy of helping the people, but also ask people to help themselves. We don't want to do charity, because we know charity transmits passive attitude in people. A lot of the government, what they do is, you know, they throw food for a week, and then they disappear. We want a long-term change in Puerto Rico, so we need long-term organizations in Puerto Rico, too.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, the only blackout in world history bigger than Puerto Rico's is the one that came after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in 2013. About 6.1 billion hours of power were lost after that massive storm. And, Juan, you just gave a major speech on Puerto Rico and follow this very closely. We're talking about so many months, well over half a year. What do you think is most important to understand about what's happened in Puerto Rico right now and how the island is going to come out of this? We just had this hour discussion on the Bitcoin industry moving in.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, I mean, to me, the key thing to understand is not only that Puerto Rico is a colony of the United States, but it is now a colony for which the United States has no interest in. It can't make money out of the colony the way it used to. I mean, it can still make finances, financial money, Wall Street money, Bitcoin money, but it's no longer the cheap labor resource it used to be. It's no longer the extractive industry that it used to be. And it's no longer the military bastion that the United States needed during the Cold War. So you have a situation where you've got this strange situation of you're holding a colony, you really don't want the colony, but you don't know what to do with it. And that's, I think, the problem that Congress is facing, and then, of course, that the Puerto Rican people have to deal with the fact that they're still a US territory, but they're not being treated anywhere near how other US citizens are. And that's the big dilemma of how to move forward. And you don't want the people of the island to determine their own destiny, but you also don't want to assume responsibility for holding it captive.

AMY GOODMAN: And I assume Trump doesn't want the massive number, the hundreds of thousands, of Puerto Ricans moving from the island, where they can't vote for president, to moving to the continental United States, where they can -- for example, in Florida -- changing the demographics of places like Florida, because they would most likely vote Democrat.

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Yeah.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I'm interested, Giovanni, where you think things go from here, because for a while there wasn't a sign of massive resistance to what was going on. Now, with this May Day protest and others, you're beginning to see people getting their second breath and beginning to organize again. Where do you think it goes from here?

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Yeah, I think we are going to see in the next week a couple of struggles, especially in teachers. They are going to face, and they are going to strike against, the privatization of schools. And I think that might help to increase confidence in people. You know, after the traumatic situation like the disaster after Maria, it was hard to talk to people about struggling, about striking, about protesting. But now that things have passed, and months and months after Maria we see the situation in the same level, I think more people are going to be willing to protest and to be out there striking and other things.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, talking about determining the politics of the continental United States, the conservative Republican governor of Florida, where so many hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans are going, has just said he supports making Puerto Rico the nation's 51st state. He said the United States should "respect the will of the people of Puerto Rico." It sounds like he understands they're going to be voting in the next election, where, I believe, he's running for Senate. Is that right?

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: There's a lot of politicians in the US paying attention now to Puerto Rico. I think Cuomo was in Puerto Rico within the last weekend.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I think it's his third or fourth trip that he's made there, yes.

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Yeah. So, they're paying attention to the Puerto Ricans now. And they don't want the people to be in Puerto Rico, but they want Puerto Rico for them. They want the place, the land.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we'll continue to cover this issue, of course. Giovanni, you mentioned teachers, and we're going to move on to what's happening with teachers in Arizona right now, tens of thousands continuing to protest. Giovanni Roberto is director of the Center for Political Development in Puerto Rico, an umbrella organization that set up community kitchens after Hurricane Maria and now has 10 mutual aid centers throughout the island, on tour now to raise awareness and meet with members of the Puerto Rican diaspora. When we were just recently in Puerto Rico, one of the things we saw in the midst of the devastation is that the mutual aid groups, even -- well, much more so than FEMA, were the ones that were there for the people, that people were depending on.

GIOVANNI ROBERTO: Yeah, and depending on people's support from the States, from the diaspora, which is really important for us, people-to-people support.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Giovanni, thanks so much.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, teachers strike in Arizona. Stay with us.

Categories: News

Fox and Friends

Truth Out - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 04:00
Categories: News

Economic Adviser to the Sanders 2016 Campaign Debunks Budget Deficit Myths

Truth Out - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 04:00
Nonprofit, independent news outlets like Truthout are critical to countering the mainstream media narrative. Help get the real stories out by supporting Truthout with a tax-deductible donation.

"Left Out," a podcast produced by Paul Sliker, Dante Dallavalle and Michael Palmieri, creates in-depth conversations with the most interesting political thinkers, heterodox economists and organizers on the Left. Follow "Left Out" on Twitter: @leftoutpodcast

Stephanie Kelton is a leading American economist and a professor of public policy and Economics at Stony Brook University. Kelton was chief economist on the US Senate Budget Committee and economic adviser to the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign. She's most known for being a pioneer of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT).

In this episode, Professor Kelton debunks budget deficit and government spending myths, and explains why understanding how our monetary system works is crucial to making the political and economic case for important programs like universal health care, free public higher education, infrastructure investment, and more.

We also explore some current economic issues, including how we might be able to cancel all public and private student debt in the US, and lastly the role and challenges of women in economics.

Categories: News

UN Chief Implores Trump to Maintain "Important Diplomatic Victory" and Stay in Iran Nuclear Deal

Truth Out - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 04:00

 LW / TO)UN secretary general António Guterres speaks at the 64th executive committee meeting of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on September 30, 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland. (Photo: UNHCR Photo Unit; Edited: LW / TO)

The United Nations secretary general added his voice on Thursday to the international call urging President Donald Trump to maintain the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, days before the president is expected to announce his decision on the agreement.

"I believe the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)] was an important diplomatic victory and I think it will be important to preserve it, but I also believe there are areas in which it will be very important to have a meaningful dialogue because I see the region in a very dangerous position," António Guterres told BBC Radio 4.

Guterres added that the risks of a confrontation between Israel and Iran are real, and said, "We need to do everything to avoid those risks."

The secretary general's statement comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appealed directly to Trump, in a televised presentation and an appearance on Fox & Friends, to pull out of the deal, in which Iran agreed to permit regular inspections of its nuclear sites in exchange for loosened sanctions.

Trump has claimed the deal is a "major embarrassment" to the US despite widespread agreement among global leaders and arms control experts that the deal offers the best chance to restrain Iran's nuclear activities and to work towards friendly international relations with the country.

International investigators have repeatedly declared that Iran has been in compliance with the agreement since it was reached three years ago and Iran has stated repeatedly -- both before the deal was signed and currently -- that it has no intentions of desire to have a nuclear weapons program.

"If one day there is a better agreement to replace it it's fine, but we should not scrap it unless we have a good alternative," Guterres said.

As Trump's May 12 deadline for deciding whether to scrap the deal approaches, his negative view of the JCPOA has left him alienated in the US as well as in the international community. A Morning Consult poll released on Wednesday found that 56 percent of respondents support staying in the deal.

The current political climate is hostile to real accountability. Help us keep lawmakers and corporations in check -- support the independent journalism at Truthout today!
Categories: News

Rudy Giuliani Contradicts Trump and Says the President Funded the Stormy Daniels Hush Money Payment

Truth Out - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 04:00

In a stunning departure from President Donald Trump's own account, Rudy Giuliani, acting as the president's lawyer, said that Trump himself financed the $130,000 hush money payment to Stephanie Clifford (known as Stormy Daniels) to keep quiet about an alleged affair.

Trump has previously denied having any knowledge of this payment, and his lawyer Michael Cohen has said he paid the money out of his own funds. Giuliani's contradictory remarks came Wednesday night in conversation with Fox News' Sean Hannity.

The payment has been reported to be a subject of a federal investigation of Cohen. Some have argued that the payment was a campaign finance violation.

Guiliani said, "That money was not campaign money. Sorry -- I'm giving you a fact now that you don't know. It's not campaign money! No campaign finance violation."

"They funneled it through the law firm," Hannity said.

"Funnelled it through the law firm, and the president repaid it," Guiliani said.

"Oh," Hannity said. "I didn't know -- he did?"

While Fox News appeared to try to play down the information, the other news networks and news outlets immediately began reporting the revelation.

“I am stunned and speechless," Michael Avenatti, Clifford's lawyer, said to CNN reporter MJ Lee. "If this is accurate, the American people have been lied to and deceived for months. And justice must be served.”

MSNBC host and legal analyst Ari Melber tweeted: "This is big news considering Trump had claimed not to know about it, then threw Cohen under the bus about it, now his lead Russia lawyer is publicly claiming Trump was behind the Stormy payment?"

Watch the clip below:

? Giuliani says Trump repaid Cohen the $130,000 used as hush money for Stormy Daniels pic.twitter.com/pqNtZthgwf

— Jon Passantino (@passantino) May 3, 2018 With everything going on in the White House, the media must maintain relentless pressure on the Trump administration. Can you support Truthout in this endeavor? Click here to donate.
Categories: News

War and the Imperial Presidency: Congress Offers a Bipartisan Blank Check to Donald Trump

Truth Out - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 04:00

 The US Army)UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters fly over armored vehicles that have been loaded onto trucks for transport on February 9, 2018, at the Kuwait Naval Base. (Photo: The US Army)

It may be too late. The president of the United States is now a veritable autocrat in the realm of foreign policy. He has been since at least 1945, when the last congressionally declared war finally ended. Wars in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen (among other places) were all waged via executive fiat or feeble, open-ended congressional authorizations for the use of military force, aka AUMFs. So it has been with increasing intensity for 73 years and so, most likely, it will remain.

Along with many others, this military officer has repeatedly decried the no-longer-new normal of congressional acquiescence to presidential power to no avail. When, in September 2017, Republican Senator Rand Paul sought to repeal (and replace within six months) the existing 2001 AUMF, which had authorized the president to use force against the perpetrators and enablers of the 9/11 attacks, he could barely muster 35 votes. Given that any president, Republican or Democrat, would veto such a curtailment of the essentially unlimited executive prerogative to make war, that's still some 32 votes short of a Senate override. In hopelessly divided Washington, that's the definition of impossibility.

Fear not, two brave "centrist" senators, Republican Bob Corker and Democrat Tim Kaine, are riding to the rescue. Their recently announced bill to repeal and replace the existing AUMF promises to right seven decades of wrong and "establish rigorous congressional oversight," "improve transparency," and ensure "regular congressional review and debate."

In reality, it would do none of those things. Though Senator Kaine gave a resounding speech in which he admitted that "for too long Congress has given presidents a blank check to wage war," his bill would not stanch that power. Were it ever to pass, it would prove to be just another blank check for the war-making acts of Donald Trump and his successors.

Though there have certainly been many critiques of their piece of legislation, most miss the larger point: the Corker-Kaine bill would put a final congressional stamp of approval on the inversion of the war-making process that, over the last three-quarters of a century, has become a de facto constitutional reality. The men who wrote the Constitution meant to make the declaration of war a supremely difficult act, since both houses of Congress needed to agree and, in case of presidential disagreement, to be able to muster a supermajority to override a veto.

The Corker-Kaine bill would institutionalize the inverse of that. It would essentially rubber stamp the president's authority, for instance, to continue the ongoing shooting wars in at least seven countries where the US is currently dropping bombs or firing off other munitions. Worse yet, it provides a mechanism for the president to declare nearly any future group an "associated force" or "successor force" linked to one of America's current foes and so ensure that Washington's nearly 17-year-old set of forever wars can go on into eternity without further congressional approval.

By transferring the invocation of war powers to the executive branch, Congress would, in fact, make it even more difficult to stop a hawkish president from deploying US soldiers ever more expansively. In other words, the onus for war would then be officially shifted from a president needing to make a case to a skeptical Congress to an unfettered executive sanctioned to wage expansive warfare as he and his advisers or "his" generals please.

How to Make War on Any Group, Any Time

Should the Corker-Kaine bill miraculously pass, it would not stop even one of the present ongoing US conflicts in the Greater Middle East or Africa. Instead, it would belatedly put a congressional stamp of approval on a worldwide counter-terror campaign which isn't working, while politely requesting that the president ask nicely before adding new enemies to a list of "associated" or "successor" forces; that is, groups that are usually Arab and nominally Muslim and essentially have little or no connection to the 9/11 attacks that produced the 2001 AUMF.

So let's take a look at just some of the forces that would be preemptively authorized to receive new American bombs and missiles, Special Operations forces raids, or whatever else the president chose under the proposed legislation, while raising a question rarely asked: Are these groups actually threats to the homeland or worthy of such American military efforts?

Al-Qaeda (AQ) proper naturally makes the list. Then, of course, there's the Afghan Taliban, which once upon a time sheltered AQ. As nearly 17 years of effort have shown, however, they are militarily unbeatable in a war in their own homeland that is never going well for Washington. In addition, there are no significant al-Qaeda forces left in Afghanistan for the Taliban to potentially shelter. AQ long ago dispersed across the region. The age of plots drawn up in the caves of the Hindu-Kush is long over. In addition, the focus of the Taliban remains (as it always was) highly local. I fought those guys for 12 months and, let me tell you, we never found any transnational fighters or al-Qaeda vets. The vast majority of the enemies Washington mislabels as "Taliban" are poor, illiterate, unemployed farm boys interested, at best, in local power struggles and drug running. They rarely know what's happening just one valley over, let alone in Milwaukee.

Then there's al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a particularly vicious AQ franchise in Yemen. These are genuine bad actors and, for a while during the Obama administration, were considered the top terror threat to the US Still, that's not who the American military actually fights in Yemen most of the time. US Air Force fuelers provide in-flight service, US analysts provide updated targeting intelligence, and US megacorporations sell guided bombs to the Saudis, who mostly bomb Shia Houthi rebels (and often civilians) unaffiliated with -- in fact, opposed to -- AQAP. Worse still, the US-backed campaign against the Houthis actually empowers AQAP by sowing chaos and creating vast ungoverned spaces for it to move into. The Houthis aren't on the Corker-Kaine list yet, but no doubt (amid increasing military tensions with Iran) Mr. Trump would have little trouble adding them as "associated forces." Are they brown? Yes. Do they worship Allah? Sure. Throw 'em on the list.

Al-Shabaab in Somalia is also included. Its nasty militiamen do make life miserable in Somalia and have occasionally called for attacks on US targets. There's no evidence, however, that US military operations there have ever stabilized the region or improved long-term security. Meanwhile, al-Shabaab tries to radicalize young Somali-American youth in immigrant communities like cities like Minneapolis. Their main gripe: the US military presence and drone strikes in East Africa. And on and on the cycle goes.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), which operates in North Africa, is another "associated force" that's taken on the AQ moniker, though with a distinctly local flavor. AQIM operates in several countries. Does the Corker-Kaine bill then imply that the US military may conduct strikes and raids anywhere in North Africa? Odds are that it does. Again, though AQIM is violent and problematic for local African security forces, they've never successfully attacked the United States. As professor and Africa expert Nathaniel Powell has shown, more often than not US military operations in the Maghreb or the Sahel (just south of the Sahara desert) tend only to exacerbate existing conditions, motivate yet more Islamists, and tangle Washington up in what are essentially local problems and grievances.

Finally, there's al-Qaeda in Syria, as the bill labels them. This is the crew that used to be known as the al-Nusra Front. The Islamic State, or ISIS, eventually brokeoff from AQ and has even fought al-Nusra Front militants on occasion. No doubt, US interests are never served when any al-Qaeda franchise gains power and influence. Still, there's little evidence that the former al-Nusra Front, which is losing the civil war inside Syria, has either the staying power or capacity to attack the US homeland.

Add in this: the US military in Syria has rarely attacked al-Nusra, focusing instead on ISIS or occasional strikes at the regime of Syrian autocrat Bashar al-Assad. In addition, in the past, America's Saudi allies have supported and funded this and other radical Islamist groups and some US aid has even inadvertently fallen into the hands of al-Nusra Front fighters in the mess that passes for the Syrian civil war.

And don't let me get started on those "successor forces" -- think ISIS and its brands around the world -- a term so vague as to ensure that any Islamist organization or country, including Iran, could, by a stretch of the imagination, be defined as a target of the US military.

Lumping these various groups under the umbrella of "associated" or "successor" forces ignores the agency and specificity of each of them and so provides any president with a blank check to fight anyone he deems loosely Islamist the world over. And if he cares to, he can just add any new gang he chooses onto the list and dare the Senate to muster 67 votes to stop him.

Consider it a remarkable formula for forever war.

The Dangerous Evolution of Article II of the Constitution

When you get right down to it, all the debate over AUMFs is little more than a charade. It hardly matters whether Congress ever updates that post-9/11 document. When, for instance, President Trump recently sent missiles soaring against the Assad regime in response to an alleged chemical attack on a suburb of Damascus, neither he nor his advisers even bothered to suggest that the strike fell under that AUMF. Instead, they simply claimed that Trump was exercising his presidential prerogative under Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, which makes him commander-in-chief.

In such moments, right-wing presidents and their advisers have no compunctions about turning the standard liberal argument about the Constitution on its head -- that it's a "living document" subject to the exigencies of changing times. Of course, it's not exactly an obscure fact of history that the framers of that document never meant to grant the chief executive unilateral authority to start new conflicts -- and "strictly constructionist" conservatives know it. The Founders were terrified of standing armies and imperial overreach. After all, when they wrote the document they'd only recently brought their own revolt against imperial England and its vaunted army of redcoats to a successful conclusion. So, to construe the Constitution's commander-in-chief clause, which gave the president the authority to oversee the generals in an ongoing war, as letting him declare wars or even expand them qualifies as absurd. Nonetheless, that's just what recent presidents have claimed.

What they like to say is that times have changed, that warfare is now too swift for an eighteenth-century recipe involving Congress, and that, in such abbreviated circumstances, presidents need the authority to apply military force at will on a global scale. The thing is, Congress has already recognized this potential reality and codified it into law in the 1973 War Powers Act. This fairly sensible, though generally ignored, piece of legislation requires the president to notify Congress within 48 hours of a military deployment and remove the troops after 60 days unless legislation officially sanctions the escalation. Presidents tend to be meticulous about the first requirement and then -- like Congress itself -- pay no attention to the second.

Obviously, Bashar al-Assad's regime had nothing to do with 9/11 and so falls under no imaginable interpretation of that 2001 AUMF. Therefore, President Trump has on his own essentially launched a new conflict, with a new enemy, in western Syria. He's "notified" Congress of the latest missile strikes, of course, and that's that.

Salvation Will Not Come From the "Bipartisan" Center

Early indications are that the Corker-Kaine bill is unlikely to pass the Senate (no less the House) and, if it did, wouldn't have a hope in hell of outlasting a presidential veto. You know that the system is broken, possibly beyond repair, when the secretary of defense -- one "Mad Dog" Mattis -- is reportedly the only figure around Donald Trump to have argued for getting a congressional stamp of approval before launching those missiles against the Assad regime. Think of it this way: a retired general, the official top dog of destruction in this administration, was overruled by the civilian leadership in the White House when it came to an act of imperial war-making.

In other words, we're through the looking glass, folks!

As a thought experiment: What would it actually take for a supermajority of both houses of Congress to curtail a president's unilateral war-making power? Liberals might have thought that the election of a boorish, uninformed executive would embolden moderates on both sides of the aisle to reclaim some authority over the lives and deaths of America's soldiers. It didn't, nor did such passivity start with Donald Trump. Mainstream liberals certainly treated the presidency of George W. Bush as if it were the worst disaster since Richard Nixon, Watergate, and Vietnam. Even so, they never had the guts to cut off funds for the obvious, ongoing folly in Iraq. Mostly, in fact, they first voted for a resolution supporting that invasion and then heckled pointlessly from the sidelines as Bush waged a dubiously legal, unwinnable war to his heart's content.

Conservatives absolutely hated Obama. They questioned his very legitimacy and even his citizenship (as did Citizen Trump, of course) -- or at least stayed conveniently silent while the far right of the GOP caucus did so. Still, Republicans then essentially did nothing to curtail his unilateral decision to expand drone attacks to a kind of frenzy across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa and oversee a special operations bonanza. Rarely, for example, in the bazillion hearings the Republicans sponsored on the deaths of an American ambassador and others in Benghazi, Libya, did anyone call for a serious reappraisal of executive war-making authority.

Despite the paltry Corker-Kaine bill, expect no respite or salvation from Congress, which is, in truth, at the heart of the problem. To move the needle on war-making would take grassroots pressure similar to that applied by the Vietnam-era antiwar movement. But such a movement looks highly unlikely with the draft long gone, few citizens engaged in foreign policy issues, and even fewer seeming to notice that this country has now been involved in still-spreading wars for almost 17 years.

To recapture military authority from an imperial president and inject sanity into the system, "We the People" would have to break out the pink pussy caps, gather the young and their social media skills -- Parkland-style -- and bring the sort of energy now going into domestic crises to issues of war and peace. Suffice it to say, I'm not hopeful.

Whether noticed or not, whether attended to or not, there is, however, a grave question before the American people: Is the United States to remain a democracy (of sorts) within its borders, but a war-making empire beyond its shores? Certainly, it's most of the way to such a state already with its "all volunteer" imperial military and unrestrained war presidency.

Just about everything is in place for an (elected) executive emperor to move his imperial chess pieces wherever he pleases. Nothing in the Corker-Kaine cop-out of a bill can or will change that. In truth, it doesn't even pretend to.

When it comes to war, the president reigns supreme -- and so, it seems, he shall remain.

Hail, Caesar!

In these troubling and surreal times, honest journalism is more important than ever. Help us keep real news flowing: Make a donation to Truthout today.
Categories: News

How the Central Banks May Bring About Another Economic Implosion

Truth Out - Thu, 05/03/2018 - 04:00

"Conjured money" issued by central banks is one of the strategies at the heart of the vulnerability of the banking system and ultimately led to the US financial crisis in 2007-2008. In this excerpt of Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World, Nomi Prins explains how this method of injecting capital into the system has far-reaching consequences.

 LW / TO)(Photo: Pedrik; Edited: LW / TO)

Can the bank collapse of 2008 occur again in the near future? Nomi Prins, author of Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World, emphatically believes "yes." Get the book from Truthout. Click here.

"Conjured money" issued by central banks is one of the strategies at the heart of the vulnerability of the banking system. Nomi Prins explains in this excerpt from Collusion.

It is not the responsibility of the Federal Reserve -- nor would it be appropriate -- to protect lenders and investors from the consequences of their decisions.

— Ben Bernanke, Federal Reserve chairman, 2007

The 2007-2008 US financial crisis was the consequence of a loosely regulated banking system in which power was concentrated in the hands of too limited a cast of speculators. Since the crisis, G7 central banks have pumped money into private banks through an unconventional monetary policy process called quantitative easing (QE). QE is an overtly complex term that entails a central bank manufacturing electronic money and then injecting it into banks and financial markets in return for purchasing bonds or securities (or stocks). The result of this maneuver is to lift the money supply within the financial system, reduce interest rates (or the cost of borrowing money, disproportionally in favor of the bigger banks and corporations), and boost the value of those securities. The whole codependent cycle is what I call a "conjured-​money" scheme, wherein the cost of money is rendered abnormally cheap.

Speculation raged in the wake of this abundant cheap capital much as a global casino would be abuzz if everyone gambled using someone else's money. Yet bank lending did not grow, nor did wages or prosperity, for most of the world's population. Instead, central bankers created asset bubbles through their artificial stimulation of banks and markets. When these bubbles pop, the fragile financial system and economic world underlying them could be thrown into an economic depression. That's why central banks are so desperate to collude.

Enabling certain banks to become "too big to fail" was the catastrophic mistake of the very body supposed to keep this from happening, the Federal Reserve. The Fed happens to be the arbiter of bank mergers -- and it has never seen a merger it didn't like. Legislation to deter "too big to fail" had been in existence since 1933. In the wake of the Great Crash of 1929, a popular bipartisan act called the Glass-​Steagall Act restricted banks from using federally insured customer deposits as collateral for large-​scale speculation and asset creation. Banks that were engaged in both of these types of practices, or commercial banking and investment banking, were required to pick a side. Either service deposits and loans, or create securities and merge companies and speculate. By virtue of having to choose, they became smaller. Big bank bailouts became unnecessary. But that act was repealed in 1999 under President Clinton. As a result, banks went on a buying spree. The larger ones gobbled up the smaller ones. Along the way, their size and loose regulations gave them the confidence and impetus to engage in riskier practices. Ultimately, they became so big and complex that they could create toxic assets and provide financing to their customers to buy them, all at once.

That's how the subprime mortgage problem became a decade-​long financial crisis that required multiple central banks to contain it. Big banks could buy up mortgages, turn them into more complex securities, and either sell them to global customers, including pension funds, localities, and insurance companies, or lend substantive money to investment banks and hedge funds that engaged in trading these securities. The Fed allowed all of this to happen.

Massive leveraging (or betting with huge sums of borrowed money) within the securities those big banks created and sold exacerbated the risk to which they exposed the world. Eight years after the crisis began, the Big Six US banks -- JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley -- collectively held 43 percent more deposits, 84 percent more assets, and triple the amount of cash they held before. The Fed has allowed the biggest banks on Wall Street to essentially double the risk that devastated the system in 2008.

But in the banks' moment of peril, the Fed unleashed a global policy of injecting fabricated money into the worldwide financial system. This flood of cheap money resulted in the subsequent issuance of trillions of dollars of debt, pushing the global level of debt to $325 trillion, more than three times global GDP.1 By mid-​2017, the total assets held by the G3 central banks -- the US Fed, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the Bank of Japan (BOJ) -- through conjured-​money QE programs had hit more than $13.5 trillion. The figure was equivalent to 17 percent of currency-​adjusted global GDP.

To garner support for their multi-​trillion-​dollar QE strategies, the G3 central bank leaders peddled the notion that they were helping the general economy. That couldn't have been further from the truth. There was no direct channel, no law, no requirement to divert the Fed's cheap money into helping real people. This was because borrowing and subsequent investing in the real economy required funds from private banks, and not from central banks directly. That's how the monetary system was set up. And private banks were under no obligation to do anything with this cheap money they didn't want to do.

Truthout Progressive Pick  How Central Bankers Rigged the World

Can the bank collapse of 2008 occur again in the near future?

Click here now to get the book!

 Central bank money crafters realized early on that simply adjusting benchmark interest rates in their countries was no longer effective without quantitative easing. They had to wax unconventional with monetary policy. And then they had to collude to spread their programs globally. They concocted and plowed cash into their respective banking systems.

Specifically, the largest private banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank, and HSBC, that inhaled this cheap money were not required to increase their lending to the Main Street economy as a condition of the availability of that money. Instead, the banks hoarded the cash. US banks colluded with the Fed to get that cash by stashing their bonds as "excess reserves" (more reserves for emergencies than regulations required) on the Fed's books. And, because of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, they received 0.25 percent interest per year from the Fed on those reserves, too. Wall Street used its easy access to cheap money to increase speculation in derivatives and other complex securities. They used it to buy back their own shares, thus effectively manipulating their own stock -- in broad daylight and with explicit approval from the Fed. In turn these banks dialed back their lending to small and midsized businesses, which hampered their growth potential.

The danger with having a system rely on so much conjured capital is that when central bankers stop manifesting it, it could go into shock; markets could plunge, credit seize, and a new crisis emerge. That's why central banks are walking the tightrope between altering their policies and doing nothing to alter them, thereby continuing them by default, with no exit plan.

Copyright (2018) by Nomi Prins. Not be republished with permission of the publisher, Nation Books, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group.

Categories: News

Pages