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Moore, Glover, Stone, Greenwald, Wolf, Ellsberg Urge Correa to Grant Asylum to Assange June 24, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice.
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Roger’s note: It is hard to believe that Correa will not come under tremendous pressure from the US government not to grant asylum to Assange.  As far as I can see the most leverage the US will have has to do with trade.  At present the US grants Ecuador privileged status with regards to export tariffs.  Should the US withdraw this privilege, it will have an impact of Ecuadorian exporters, how much I am not sure.  On other hand, accepting Assange is likely to be popular in Ecuador and internationally and would enhance Correa’s international profile.  And Correa can not be ignorant of the fact that Ecuador may very well be Assange’s last chance to avoid US “justice.”  Even if Assange somehow makes it to Ecuador, given the obsession of Obama, Holder, Congressional leaders, and — last but not least — the CIA, I doubt if the hunt will be over.  All Obama has to do is brand him as terrorist, and the US — which respects no national boundary or sovereignty — will have the “legal” pretext to nab or murder him.

opednews.com, June 24, 2012

By Michael Moore, Glenn Greenwald, Chris Hedges, Naomi Wolf, et al, Just Foreign Policy

The following letter has been circulated mostly in the United States by Just Foreign Policy. It will be hand-delivered to the Embassy of Ecuador in London by Just Foreign Policy Policy Director Robert Naiman on Monday, June 25.

We will also hand-deliver the online petition circulated by Just Foreign Policy, which has now been signed by more than 4,000 people. That petition — which you can still sign — is here:

June 25, 2012

Dear President Correa,

We are writing to urge you to grant political asylum to Julian Assange.

 

As you know, British courts recently struck down Mr. Assange’s appeal against extradition to Sweden, where he is not wanted on criminal charges, but merely for questioning. Mr. Assange has repeatedly made clear he is willing to answer questions relating to accusations against him, but in the United Kingdom. But the Swedish government insists that he be brought to Sweden for questioning. This by itself, as Swedish legal expert and former Chief District Prosecutor for Stockholm Sven-Erik Alhem testified, is “unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate.”

We believe Mr. Assange has good reason to fear extradition to Sweden, as there is a strong likelihood that once in Sweden, he would be imprisoned, and then likely extradited to the United States.

As U.S. legal expert and commentator Glenn Greenwald recently noted, were Assange to be charged in Sweden, he would be imprisoned under “very oppressive conditions, where he could be held incommunicado,” rather than released on bail. Pre-trial hearings for such a case in Sweden are held in secret, and so the media and wider public, Greenwald notes, would not know how the judicial decisions against Mr. Assange would be made and what information would be considered.

The Washington Post has reported that the U.S. Justice Department and Pentagon conducted a criminal investigation into “whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange violated criminal laws in the group’s release of government documents, including possible charges under the Espionage Act.” Many fear, based on documents released by Wikileaks, that the U.S. government has already prepared an indictment and is waiting for the opportunity t o extradite Assange from Sweden.

The U.S. Justice Department has compelled other members of Wikileaks to testify before a grand jury in order to determine what charges might be brought against Mr. Assange. The U.S. government has made clear its open hostility to Wikileaks, with high-level officials even referring to Mr. Assange as a “high-tech terrorist,” and seeking access to the Twitter account of Icelandic legislator Birgitta Jónsdóttir due to her past ties to Wikileaks.

Were he charged, and found guilty under the Espionage Act, Assange could face the death penalty.

Prior to that, the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of providing U.S. government documents to Wikileaks, provides an illustration of the treatment that Assange might expect while in custody. Manning has been subjected to repeated and prolonged solitary confinement, harassment by guards, and humiliating treatment such as being forced to strip naked and stand at attention outside his cell. These are additional reasons that your government should grant Mr. Assange political asylum.

We also call on you to grant Mr. Assange political asylum because the “crime” that he has committed is that of practicing journalism. He has revealed important crimes against humanity committed by the U.S. government, most notably in releasing video footage from an Apache helicopter of a 2007 incident in which the U.S. military appears to have deliberately killed civilians, including two Reuters employees. Wikileaks’ release of thousands of U.S. State Department cables revealed important cases of U.S. officials acting to undermine democracy and human rights around the world.

Because this is a clear case of an attack on press freedom and on the public’s right to know important truths about U.S. foreign policy, and because the threat to his health and well-being is serious, we urge you to grant Mr. Assange political asylum.

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

 Will Eric Holder Succeed in Executing Julian Assange for Telling the Truth?
 

 The world’s number one fear regarding Sweden’s attempt to extradite Julian Assange is that Sweden is simply acting as an agent of the United States. In fact the paranoia regarding our government’s desire to silence Assange is so strong that one Australian journalist suggested that Assange might be assassinated by a high power rifle as he leaves the Ecuadoran embassy or die in a Swedish jail incident reminiscent of how Stephen Biko was killed in South Africa. The Administration better pray that Assange is alive in November as voters would likely hold any death of Assange against Barack Obama when the polls open.

The ludicrous extradition and Obama’s obsession with WikiLeaks and Assange play well into these fears. What country (other than Sweden in the Assange case) extradites someone over a broken condom? England, instead of exercising common sense, is willing to allow extradition, but England has a history of going to war and committing crimes against humanity on behalf of the United States. Neither England nor Sweden has a death penalty, but acting as agents of the United States, they could put an honest, innocent man to death simply by extraditing him to the United States.

As Assange is not an American and not physically in the United States, a round-about method is needed for the U.S. Government to apprehend him for extinction. Hence the entrance of Sweden and a claim by a female CIA agent that a condom broke while Assange was having sex with her. This little rouse is enough to launch a hero of the people into a nightmare that could lead to the American death chambers.

Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder can play all the games they want, but they’ve already gone public with enough information to verify all of Julian Assange’s claims that the Sweden nonsense is nothing more than a rouse for the real criminal prosecution awaiting Assange in the United States for going public with evidence of U.S. Government corruption in its prosecution of the war in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The FBI’s WikiLeaks probe commenced with the arrest of Private Manning in May 2010 after he had allegedly confessed to former computer hacker turned FBI informant Adrian Lamo that he had leaked classified documents.

On November 29, 2010, US Attorney-General Eric Holder told a Washington press conference that the Justice Department was pursuing “an active, ongoing criminal investigation” into WikiLeaks. This was the day after WikiLeaks and its media partners began releasing more than 250,000 State Department cables, showing wrongdoing by the U.S. Government.

 

Holder was urged to prosecute Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917 in a December 2, 2010, letter from PATRIOT Act and Iraq War proponent Dianne Feinstein (Chairwoman, U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee) and Christopher Bond (Deputy Chairman of said committee). The Espionage Act of 1917 was used to round up thousands of American patriots for their opposition to World War I in a witch hunt that was worse than the one engaged in by Joe McCarthy. Now they expected Holder to use his authority as Attorney General to create a new witch hunt aimed at suppressing international opposition to the current undeclared wars in the Middle East.

It is known that a grand jury was convened in Alexandra Virginia on or before December 22, 2010 and continuing thereafter for the purpose of prosecuting Julian Assange. Therefore, any pretense that the United States is not targeting Assange for a possible life or death sentence is a flat out lie that is disrespectful to the citizens of the United States.

 Guilt or innocence has little to do with whether a person is executed in the United States. It was universally known that Troy Davis was innocent when he was executed with the acquiescence of President Barack Obama. Across America and around the world, people offered up their own lives in exchange for saving an innocent Troy Davis. Following the example of Spartacus, people everywhere took up the slogan, “I am Troy Davis.” Showing that economics matters more than innocence, Obama intervened for economic reasons on behalf of a likely-guilty death row convict the day after Davis was killed.

Executing likely innocents has had a long tradition in the United States. Nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize and saving potentially thousands of lives in Los Angeles was not enough to prevent the execution of Stan “Tookie” Williams. Condemnation from the Queen of England and even Nikita Khrushchev was not enough to save Caryl Chessman. Millions of German death camp victims might have been saved if the United States Government had not stopped Chessman from succeeding in his attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler prior to Chessman’s own execution by the State of California for an act Chessman probably did not commit and that was no longer even chargeable as a crime, not long after the erroneous conviction.

From using its Wall Street connections in preventing donations to WikiLeaks to arresting and torturing American military hero Bradley Manning on suspicion Manning leaked photos Americans NEEDED TO SEE, Eric Holder and the U.S. Government have made it clear they have ZERO TOLERANCE FOR TRUTH.

So with truth and justice still hanging in the balance, Ecuador may be the last hope of those who do not want truth to die. People around the world are praying that President Correa will do the right thing and take a stand for truth and freedom. Interestingly, it has been pointed out that the CIA has operatives in Ecuador and it may not be the perfect place for a CIA target to hang out. Yet, it is the only country offering to stand up for freedom of the press in this instance.

Ecuador has long opposed the death penalty and could really show its opposition to the death penalty through granting Assange asylum or going further and making him a diplomat and providing him with full immunity. Either would allow Assange to continue his work in ferreting out truths that the U.S. Government would rather keep hidden. If Obama ever decides to Hussein or Gadhafi Correa, Correa’s best hope for survival would be an informed public. Without safety for the Julian Assanges of the world, the U.S. is free to plunder Ecuador or other vulnerable countries at will.

The Wall Street executives, who think they own America, and the tyrants, who enforce the will of these spoiled rich elitists, should learn from history. They should read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and ponder whether three hundred million Americans are ready to listen to the words of Thomas Jefferson about patriots and tyrants. People and children are dying of starvation in the streets of America. Hard workers have lost their homes to Wall Street greed. The innocent are being maced and clubbed at their schools and arrested for standing on public property. Cities are enacting ordinances to prevent good Samaritans from feeding the homeless (like similar “Don’t feed the animals” ordinances). Revolution is in the air and it would not surprise me if any action taken against Assange were the catalyst. If Obama has any actual ability to govern and has not completely lost touch with reality, he should end all attempts to persecute Julian Assange and welcome any assistance from Ecuador in protecting this human symbol of everything for which America once stood.

 

Take action — click here to contact your local newspaper or congress people:
Stand up for Julian Assange and Freedom of the Press

Click here to see the most recent messages sent to congressional reps and local newspapers

The author is the chairman of a liberal Democratic club that is working to move the Democratic Party towards its true base, the people. She has organized major political events and helped elect some of the most liberal politicians in America. Her (more…)

 

Montreal streets turn chaotic as protesters clash with police May 21, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Democracy, Education, Quebec.
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Published On Mon May 21 2012

www.thestar.com

Protesters opposing Quebec student tuition fee hikes demonstrate in Montreal, Sunday night. The protest led to clashes with police and more than 300 arrests.Protesters opposing Quebec student tuition fee hikes demonstrate in Montreal, Sunday night. The protest led to clashes with police and more than 300 arrests.

Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Benjamin ShinglerThe Canadian Press
 
MONTREAL—Quebec’s student protests took a dark, angry turn over the weekend following the introduction of an emergency law aimed at restoring order in the province, while the movement gained a number of high-profile supporters on the international stage.

For the second night in a row, police clashed with protesters repeatedly into the late hours Sunday in a chaotic scene that left at least 300 arrested and 20 injured, including 11 police officers. At least one person was taken to hospital with what emergency services called “non-life threatening injuries.”

Windows were smashed, construction cones and signs tossed into the streets, and there were reports a fire hydrant was burst open at the same spot where a bonfire was lit a night earlier.

Riot police used tear gas and sound grenades to try to break up the protest, which was deemed illegal moments after it began for not complying with the new law. The result was a series of violent exchanges between small groups of protesters and police in pockets throughout the downtown core.

One video circulated online captured what appeared to be a police cruiser moving forward briefly with a protester on the hood, before the protester jumped off to the side and the cruiser sped away. Police later denied a rumour that a person had been run over.

Two journalists from local newspapers also reported being arrested and later released.

The legislation passed Friday was intended to put an end to three months of student protests, but it appears only to have given the movement momentum.

“I think the government put the police in a difficult situation,” said protester Nino Gabrielli, who got his Master’s last fall at a Montreal university. “I think the population is mobilizing around this thing.”

As the scenes of unrest played out in the city the movement also gained some celebrity support.

Montreal’s Arcade Fire wore the movement’s iconic red squares during an appearance with Mick Jagger on Saturday Night Live. Activist and filmmaker Michael Moore also gave his support to the students, featuring links about the issue prominently on his website.

“Their uprising is inspiring,” he tweeted to over a million followers. “One of the most amazing mass protests of the year.”

The global hacker collective Anonymous took an interest as well, releasing two videos denouncing the legislation and the planned tuition increases. The group, which regularly hacks into government websites around the world, warned of future actions in Quebec.

“Resistance is futile,” a computer-modulated voice stated in one video. “The hour of war has come.”

The website for the Quebec Liberal party and the province’s Education Ministry were down for portions of the weekend in an apparent cyber attack. Anonymous, however, did not claim responsibility.

The newfound support came during a weekend marked by violence and vandalism. The unrest reached a climax with a blaze of plastic traffic cones and construction materials lit Saturday during a melee on a busy downtown street.

Meanwhile, police came under criticism on Sunday over an altercation caught on video that shows patrons on a bar patio getting pepper sprayed.

Surveillance footage, played in a loop on one of Quebec’s all-news stations, shows several people sprayed by riot police at close range. Customers are seen scrambling to get inside the bar as a police officer knocks over tables and chairs.

Another video from a local TV station shows the officers took action after one was hit by a flying chair. The chair was then flung back toward the patio. The bar owner said police went too far and he’s considering taking legal action.

“People were falling on each other running inside to get away from the pepper spray, breaking things, and then people left by the back exit,” said Martin Guimond, who runs the Saint Bock brasserie in the city’s lively Latin Quarter. His waitress was initially going to call 911 after it happened.

“And then she said, ‘But wait, it’s the police that are doing this,’” Guimond recalled. “That’s when you realize there’s a total loss of security.”

Police didn’t return a request Sunday for comment about the incident, which occurred only steps from where the fires were set.

Police were newly armed on the weekend with Bill 78, which lays out regulations governing demonstrations of over 50 people. It includes requiring organizers to give eight hours’ notice for details such as the protest route, the duration and the time at which they’re being held.

The City of Montreal also adopted a new bylaw that threatens protesters who wear masks with heavy fines. But it failed to deter dozens of protesters from wearing masks Saturday or Sunday night, and police said they would use the new law with discretion.

Montreal police took a tougher stance on the weekend than previously seen during the nightly marches. The march was almost immediately declared illegal on both Saturday and Sunday because, police said, they weren’t provided with a protest route and bottles and rocks were thrown at police.

US Targeting Cuba’s Health-Care System June 4, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Cuba, Foreign Policy, Health, Latin America.
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Published on Saturday, June 4, 2011 by Consortiumnews.com

The U.S. government’s half-century campaign to discredit and destroy Cuba’s experiment with socialism has had many ruthless aspects, but perhaps none more so than efforts to disparage and damage the Caribbean island’s widely admired health-care system

  by  William Blum

In January, the government of the United States of America saw fit to seize $4.207 million in funds allocated to Cuba by the United Nations Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the first quarter of 2011, Cuba has charged.

The UN Fund is a $22 billion a year program that works to combat the three deadly pandemics in 150 countries. [Prensa Latina (Cuba), March 12, 2011]

“This mean-spirited policy,” the Cuban government said, “aims to undermine the quality of service provided to the Cuban population and to obstruct the provision of medical assistance in over 100 countries by 40,000 Cuban health workers.”

Most of the funds are used to import expensive AIDS medication to Cuba, where antiretroviral treatment is provided free of charge to some 5,000 HIV patients. [The Militant (US, Socialist Workers Party), April 4, 2011]

The United States sees the Cuban health system and Havana’s sharing of such as a means of Cuba winning friends and allies in the Third World, particularly Latin America; a situation sharply in conflict with long-standing US policy to isolate Cuba.

The United States in recent years has attempted to counter the Cuban international success by dispatching the U.S. Naval Ship “Comfort” to the region.

With 12 operating rooms and a 1,000-bed hospital, the converted oil tanker has performed hundreds of thousands of free surgeries in places such as Belize, Guatemala, Panama, El Salvador, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Nicaragua and Haiti.

However, the Comfort’s port calls likely will not substantially enhance America’s influence in the hemisphere.

“It’s hard for the U.S. to compete with Cuba and Venezuela in this way,” said Peter Hakim, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a pro-U.S. policy-research group in Washington. “It makes us look like we’re trying to imitate them. Cuba’s doctors aren’t docked at port for a couple days, but are in the country for years.” [Bloomberg News, Sept. 19, 2007]

The recent disclosure by WikiLeaks of U.S. State Department documents included this little item: A cable was sent by Michael Parmly from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana in July 2006, during the run-up to the Non-Aligned Movement conference.

Parmly notes that he is actively looking for “human interest stories and other news that shatters the myth of Cuban medical prowess.”

Michael Moore refers to another WikiLeaks State Department cable: “On Jan. 31, 2008, a State Department official stationed in Havana took a made-up story and sent it back to his headquarters in Washington. Here’s what they came up with: [The official] stated that Cuban authorities have banned Michael Moore’s documentary, ‘Sicko,’ as being subversive.

“Although the film’s intent is to discredit the U.S. healthcare system by highlighting the excellence of the Cuban system, the official said the regime knows the film is a myth and does not want to risk a popular backlash by showing to Cubans facilities that are clearly not available to the vast majority of them.”

Moore points out an Associated Press story of June 16, 2007 (seven months prior to the cable) with the headline: “Cuban health minister says Moore’s ‘Sicko’ shows ‘human values’ of communist system.”

Moore adds that the people of Cuba were shown the film on national television on April 25, 2008. “The Cubans embraced the film so much it became one of those rare American movies that received a theatrical distribution in Cuba. I personally ensured that a 35mm print got to the Film Institute in Havana. Screenings of Sicko were set up in towns all across the country.” [Huffington Post, Dec. 18, 2010]

The United States also bans the sale to Cuba of vital medical drugs and devices, such as the inhalant agent Sevoflurane which has become the pharmaceutical of excellence for applying general anesthesia to children; and the pharmaceutical Dexmetomidine, of particular usefulness in elderly patients who often must be subjected to extended surgical procedures.

Both of these are produced by the U.S. firm Abbot Laboratories.

Cuban children suffering from lymphoblastic leukemia cannot use Erwinia L-asparaginasa, a medicine commercially known as Elspar, since the U.S. pharmaceutical company Merck and Co. refuses to sell this product to Cuba. Washington has also prohibited the U.S.-based Pastors for Peace Caravan from donating three Ford ambulances to Cuba.

Cubans are moreover upset by the denial of visas requested to attend conferences in the field of Anesthesiology and Reanimation that take place in the United States. This creates further barriers for Cuba’s anesthesiologists to update themselves on state of the art anesthesiology, the care of severely ill patients, and the advances achieved in the treatment of pain.

Some of the foregoing are but a small sample of American warfare against the Cuban medical system presented in a Cuban report to the United Nations General Assembly on Oct. 28, 2009.

Finally, we have the Cuban Medical Professional Parole (CMPP) immigration program, which encourages Cuban doctors who are serving their government overseas to defect and enter the U.S. immediately as refugees.

The Wall Street Journal reported in January of this year that through Dec. 16, 2010, CMPP visas had been issued by U.S. consulates in 65 countries to 1,574 Cuban doctors whose education had been paid for by the financially-struggling Cuban government. [Wall Street Journal, "Cuban Doctors Come In From the Cold" (video), Jan. 14, 2011]

This program, oddly enough, was initiated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Another victory over terrorism? Or socialism? Or same thing?

Wait until the American conservatives hear that Cuba is the only country in Latin America offering abortion on demand, and free.

© 2011 Consortiumnews.com

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William Blum

William Blum is an American author, historian, and critic of United States foreign policy. He studied accounting in college. Later he had a low-level computer-related position at the United States Department of State in the mid-1960s. Initially an anti-communist with dreams of becoming a foreign service officer, he said he became disillusioned by the Vietnam War. Blum can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com

Why I’m Posting Bail Money for Julian Assange December 14, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11, Media.
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Published on Tuesday, December 14, 2010 by MichaelMoore.comby Michael Moore

Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that I have put up $20,000 of my own money to help bail Mr. Assange out of jail.

Furthermore, I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.

We were taken to war in Iraq on a lie. Hundreds of thousands are now dead. Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a WikiLeaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy. That guarantee has now been ripped from them, and I hope they are never able to operate in secret again.

So why is WikiLeaks, after performing such an important public service, under such vicious attack? Because they have outed and embarrassed those who have covered up the truth. The assault on them has been over the top:

**Sen. Joe Lieberman says WikiLeaks “has violated the Espionage Act.”

**The New Yorker‘s George Packer calls Assange “super-secretive, thin-skinned, [and] megalomaniacal.”

**Sarah Palin claims he’s “an anti-American operative with blood on his hands” whom we should pursue “with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.”

**Democrat Bob Beckel (Walter Mondale’s 1984 campaign manager) said about Assange on Fox: “A dead man can’t leak stuff … there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”

**Republican Mary Matalin says “he’s a psychopath, a sociopath … He’s a terrorist.”

**Rep. Peter A. King calls WikiLeaks a “terrorist organization.”

And indeed they are! They exist to terrorize the liars and warmongers who have brought ruin to our nation and to others. Perhaps the next war won’t be so easy because the tables have been turned — and now it’s Big Brother who’s being watched … by us!

WikiLeaks deserves our thanks for shining a huge spotlight on all this. But some in the corporate-owned press have dismissed the importance of WikiLeaks (“they’ve released little that’s new!”) or have painted them as simple anarchists (“WikiLeaks just releases everything without any editorial control!”). WikiLeaks exists, in part, because the mainstream media has failed to live up to its responsibility. The corporate owners have decimated newsrooms, making it impossible for good journalists to do their job. There’s no time or money anymore for investigative journalism. Simply put, investors don’t want those stories exposed. They like their secrets kept … as secrets.

I ask you to imagine how much different our world would be if WikiLeaks had existed 10 years ago. Take a look at this photo. That’s Mr. Bush about to be handed a “secret” document on August 6th, 2001. Its heading read: “Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US.” And on those pages it said the FBI had discovered “patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings.” Mr. Bush decided to ignore it and went fishing for the next four weeks.

But if that document had been leaked, how would you or I have reacted? What would Congress or the FAA have done? Was there not a greater chance that someone, somewhere would have done something if all of us knew about bin Laden’s impending attack using hijacked planes?

But back then only a few people had access to that document. Because the secret was kept, a flight school instructor in San Diego who noticed that two Saudi students took no interest in takeoffs or landings, did nothing. Had he read about the bin Laden threat in the paper, might he have called the FBI? (Please read this essay by former FBI Agent Coleen Rowley, Time’s 2002 co-Person of the Year, about her belief that had WikiLeaks been around in 2001, 9/11 might have been prevented.)

Or what if the public in 2003 had been able to read “secret” memos from Dick Cheney as he pressured the CIA to give him the “facts” he wanted in order to build his false case for war? If a WikiLeaks had revealed at that time that there were, in fact, no weapons of mass destruction, do you think that the war would have been launched — or rather, wouldn’t there have been calls for Cheney’s arrest?

Openness, transparency — these are among the few weapons the citizenry has to protect itself from the powerful and the corrupt. What if within days of August 4th, 1964 — after the Pentagon had made up the lie that our ship was attacked by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin — there had been a WikiLeaks to tell the American people that the whole thing was made up? I guess 58,000 of our soldiers (and 2 million Vietnamese) might be alive today.

Instead, secrets killed them.

For those of you who think it’s wrong to support Julian Assange because of the sexual assault allegations he’s being held for, all I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey. Please — never, ever believe the “official story.” And regardless of Assange’s guilt or innocence (see the strange nature of the allegations here), this man has the right to have bail posted and to defend himself. I have joined with filmmakers Ken Loach and John Pilger and writer Jemima Khan in putting up the bail money — and we hope the judge will accept this and grant his release today.

Might WikiLeaks cause some unintended harm to diplomatic negotiations and U.S. interests around the world? Perhaps. But that’s the price you pay when you and your government take us into a war based on a lie. Your punishment for misbehaving is that someone has to turn on all the lights in the room so that we can see what you’re up to. You simply can’t be trusted. So every cable, every email you write is now fair game. Sorry, but you brought this upon yourself. No one can hide from the truth now. No one can plot the next Big Lie if they know that they might be exposed.

And that is the best thing that WikiLeaks has done. WikiLeaks, God bless them, will save lives as a result of their actions. And any of you who join me in supporting them are committing a true act of patriotism. Period.

I stand today in absentia with Julian Assange in London and I ask the judge to grant him his release. I am willing to guarantee his return to court with the bail money I have wired to said court. I will not allow this injustice to continue unchallenged.

P.S. You can read the statement I filed today in the London court here.

P.P.S. If you’re reading this in London, please go support Julian Assange and WikiLeaks at a demonstration at 1 PM today, Tuesday the 14th, in front of the Westminster court.

Michael Moore is an activist, author, and filmmaker.  See more of his work at his website MichaelMoore.com

The Health Insurance Industry’s Vendetta Against Michael Moore November 25, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Health.
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Published on Wednesday, November 24, 2010 by TruthDig.comby Amy Goodman

Michael Moore, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker, makes great movies but they are not generally considered “cliff-hangers.” All that might change since a whistle-blower on the “Democracy Now!” news hour revealed that health insurance executives thought they may have to implement a plan “to push Moore off a cliff.” The whistle-blower: Wendell Potter, the former chief spokesman for health insurance giant Cigna. He was quoting from an industry strategy session on how to respond to Moore’s 2007 documentary “Sicko,” a film critical of the U.S. health insurance industry. Potter told me that he is not sure how serious the threat was but he added, ominously, “These companies play to win.”

Moore won an Oscar in 2002 for his film about gun violence, “Bowling for Columbine.” He followed that with “Fahrenheit 9/11,” a documentary on the presidency of George W. Bush that became the top-grossing documentary film in U.S. history. So when Moore told a reporter that his next film would be about the U.S. health care system, the insurance industry took notice.

AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans), the major lobbying group of the for-profit health insurance corporations, secretly sent someone to the world premiere of “Sicko” at the Cannes Film Festival in France. Its agent rushed from the screening to a conference call with industry executives, including Potter. “We were very scared,” Potter said, “and we knew that we would have to develop a very sophisticated and expensive campaign to turn people away from the idea of universal care. … We were told by our pollsters [that] a majority of people were in favor of much greater government involvement in our health care system.”

AHIP hired a public-relations firm, APCO Worldwide, founded by the powerful law firm Arnold & Porter, to coordinate the response. APCO formed the fake grass-roots consumer group “Health Care America” to counter the expected popularity of Moore’s “Sicko” and to promote fear of “government run health care.”

Potter writes in his new book, “Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans,” that he “found the film very moving and very effective in its condemnation of the practices of private health insurance companies. There were many times when I had to fight to hold back tears. Moore had gotten it right.”

The insurance industry declared its campaign against “Sicko” a resounding success. Potter wrote, “AHIP and APCO Worldwide had succeeded in getting their talking points into most of the stories about the movie, and not a single reporter had done enough investigative work to find out that insurers had provided the lion’s share of funding to set up Health Care America.” Indeed, everyone from CNN to USA Today cited Health Care America as if it were a legitimate group.

Moore concedes, “Their smear campaign was effective and did create the dent they were hoping for-single payer and the public option never even made it into the real discussion on the floor of Congress.”

Moore has called Potter the “Daniel Ellsberg of corporate America,” invoking the famous Pentagon whistle-blower whose revelations helped end the Vietnam War. Potter’s courageous stand made an impact on the debate, but the insurance industry, the hospitals and the American Medical Association prevailed in blunting the elements of the plan that threatened their profits.

A recent Harvard Medical School study found that nearly 45,000 Americans die each year-one every 12 minutes-largely because they lack health insurance. But for the insurance lobby, the only tragedy is the prospect of true health care reform. In 2009, the nation’s largest health insurance corporations funneled more than $86 million to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to oppose health care reform. This year, the nation’s five largest insurers contributed three times as much money to Republican candidates as to Democrats, in an effort to further roll back insurance industry reform. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., an advocate of single payer health care, declared in Congress that “the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry.” Potter agrees, saying the Republican Party has “been almost bought and paid for.”

The health insurance industry is getting its money’s worth. Moore said that the industry was willing to attack his film because it was afraid it “could trigger a populist uprising against a sick system that will allow companies to profit off of us when we fall ill.” Now that is truly sick.  


Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2010 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

Prescription for a Real Healthcare Debate July 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, Media.
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Published on Monday, July 27, 2009 by CommonDreams.org

How Corporate Media Have Ruined the Health Care Debate

by Isabel Macdonald

The debate about health reform is clearly in critical condition, with the prospects for President Barack Obama’s proposed “public option” looking increasingly uncertain. The U.S. is the only industrialized nation where insurance for primary healthcare is largely in the hands of private corporations, but despite overwhelming public support for a greater government role in health insurance, pundits are now advising us that even Obama’s modest proposal of making private insurance corporations compete with a public insurance fund may have to be scrapped.

Sen. Max Baucus (D.-Mont.) — the politician who played one of the most powerful roles in shaping this debate — would seem at first blush an unlikely man to diagnose the ailments afflicting our health reform debate. 

After all, many people will recall that when several doctors asked at a recent Senate hearing why “Medicare-for-all” — a reform option that many citizens and healthcare professionals see as the best tool for fixing healthcare — was not on the table, Baucus responded by asking for more police. 

Yet as the NYT reported, Baucus has since:

Conceded that it was a mistake to rule out a fully government-run health system, or a ‘single-payer plan,’ not because he supports it but because doing so alienated a large, vocal constituency and left Mr. Obama’s proposal of a public health plan to compete with private insurers as the most liberal position.

After all, what better way to diffuse the fearmongering about Obama’s plan being a “Trojan horse” for the right’s favorite boogeyman — “socialized” medicine — than provide the public with accurate information on Medicare-for-all and its benefits? After all, a single public fund that would provide all Americans with healthcare coverage, much like Medicare currently provides for seniors, is seen by many experts as the most effective way of achieving the goals of healthcare reform: reducing costs while expanding coverage.

What better way to counter the pundits’ insistence that Obama “compromise” with industry-backed politicians than by pointing out that the “public option” is already a serious compromise, given that most citizens and physicians actually favor “single-payer” — a more comprehensive and progressive option.  After all, a recent New York Times/CBS poll (1/11-15/09) found that 59 percent of respondents said they would prefer that”the government in Washington provide national health insurance,” rather than leaving health insurance to private industry. Meanwhile a recent survey (Annals of Internal Medicine, 4/1/08) found that 59 percent of physicians also support single-payer.

Of course, the insurance lobbies and many politicians have never wanted to talk about single-payer. 

But it is largely the media’s fault that Obama’s plan has come to be seen as the most liberal position in the debate. For the corporate media has long shut single-payer and its advocates out of the discussion. 

A recent study by FAIR found that of hundreds of stories about healthcare in major outlets earlier this year, only five stories included the views of advocates of single-payer — none of which appeared on the TV networks.

Now more than ever, it is crucial that the public have information about the full range of options for healthcare reform — including Medicare-for-all. 

That is why the media watch group FAIR, filmmaker Michael Moore, former MSNBC host Phil Donahue, Harvard medical professors David Himmelstein and Stephanie Woolhandler and Quentin Young of Physicians for a National Health Program, Obama’s longtime physician David Scheiner, actors Mike Farrell, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, and Donna Smith of the California Nurses Association are calling onto the TV networks to include single-payer in their coverage of healthcare reform.

You can read their letter to ABC, CBS and NBC — and add your voice to this effort to bring about the broad debate on reform options that is so essential to fixing the broken U.S. healthcare system — here: 

On Tuesday, July 28th, FAIR, Physicians for a National Health Program, Healthcare Now!, Code Pink, the Private Health Insurance Must Go Coalition and the Raging Grannies will be delivering this message to the NYC offices of ABC News — the network that disinvited Obama’s longtime physician from its recent healthcare forum where he’d been planning on asking a question about Medicare-for-all.

A version of this article appeared on Alternet.

Isabel Macdonald is Communications Director for FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting)

Michael Moore Needs Your Help to Expose Wall Street Swindle February 13, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis.
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Posted by ZP Heller, Brave New Films on February 13, 2009 at 7:00 AM.

www.alternet.org

 

Michael Moore is about to uncover “the biggest swindle in American history,” and he needs your help.  In an e-mail yesterday, Moore asked for anyone connected to Wall Street or the financial industry to contact him at bailout@michaelmoore.com with information about the economic meltdown.  All correspondence with him will be kept confidential.

The activist filmmaker’s previous documentaries like SiCKO, Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11, Roger & Me, and last year’s free release of Slacker Uprising revealed, ripped, and ridiculed gross injustices in the health-care industry, gun violence, the 9/11 attacks and aftermath, General Motors, and youth voter turnout, respectively.  You can only imagine what he’ll do to the bailed out bank CEOs whose excessive greed and impropriety resulted in millions of Americans facing foreclosure, soaring unemployment, and $1.1 trillion in economic loss.

As Howard Rubenstein, president of a New York-based public-relations firms that advises hedge funds, private-equity firms and banks, told Bloomberg, “Moore’s reputation is locked in. Whatever he touches gets gored.”  But this time around, Moore needs your help to tell “the greatest crime story ever told.”

 

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Nothing to Fear But No Health Care January 13, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health.
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Posted on Jan 13, 2009 By Amy Goodman

www.truthdig.com

Fifty million Americans are without health insurance, and 25 million are “underinsured.” Millions being laid off will soon be added to those rolls. Medical bills cause more than half of personal bankruptcies in the U.S. Desperate for care, the under- and uninsured flock to emergency rooms, often dealing with problems that could have been prevented. The U.S. auto giants are collapsing in part due to extraordinary health-care expenses, while they are competing with companies in countries that provide universal health care. Economist Dean Baker calculated how General Motors would fare if its health-care costs were the same as costs in Canada: “GM would have had higher profits, making no other changes … that would equal $22 billion over the course of the last decade. They wouldn’t have to be running to the government for help.” GM is sometimes referred to as a health-care company that makes cars. Former Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca said in 2005, “It is a well-known fact that the U.S. automobile industry spends more per car on health care than on steel.” He supports national health care. Barack Obama said in 2007 that “affordable, universal health care for every single American must not be a question of whether, it must be a question of how. … Every four years, health-care plans are offered up in campaigns with great fanfare and promise. But once those campaigns end, the plans collapse under the weight of Washington politics.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his March 1933 inaugural address, famously declared: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself. … This nation asks for action, and action now.” Deep in the Great Depression, a flurry of ambitious policies followed, detailed by New York Times editorial writer Adam Cohen in his new book, “Nothing to Fear.” He writes that FDR developed the New Deal with key, visionary advisers and Cabinet members who enacted bold policies, among them Frances Perkins, the United States’ first woman Cabinet member. Perkins, FDR’s secretary of labor, pushed for a rapid, national relief program that formed the basis of the welfare system, and for regulations on minimum wage, maximum hours and a ban on child labor. But she failed to achieve universal health care. Cohen told me: “She really was the conscience of the New Deal in many ways … she chaired the Social Security committee. And she wanted it to go further … to include national health insurance, but the AMA (American Medical Association), even back then, was very strong and opposed it. And she and a couple other progressives on the committee said, you know, ‘We better just settle for what we can get.’ They didn’t want to lose the whole Social Security program.” Obama appointed former Sen. Tom Daschle as secretary of health and human services, and director of the new White House Office of Health Reform. Daschle’s health-care book, “Critical,” recalls historical failures to achieve universal care: “Like Clinton, Truman had reason to be confident. His fellow Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, and polls showed that Americans were anxious about the high cost of health care and eager for change. But both presidents underestimated the strength of the forces arrayed against them … [s]pecial-interest lobbyists—led by doctors in Truman’s time, and insurance companies in Clinton’s.” Obama knows well the issue—while his mother lay dying of cancer, she still had to battle the insurance industry. He said in that 2007 speech, “Plans that tinker and halfway measures now belong to yesterday … we can’t afford another disappointing charade … we need to look at … how much of our health-care spending is going toward the record-breaking profits earned by the drug and health-care industry.” Yet Daschle proposes not much more than tinkering—improving Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Health Administration, all examples of “single-payer health care”—in which the government is the single payer for the health care – while preserving the inefficient, multipayer, for-profit insurance model. In December 2007, the American College of Physicians compared U.S. health care with other countries’, writing, “Single-payer systems generally have the advantage of being more equitable, with lower administrative costs than systems using private health insurance, lower per capita health care expenditures, high levels of consumer and patient satisfaction.” Michael Moore, in his film “SiCKO,” includes a recording of John Ehrlichman speaking to Richard Nixon, discussing medical-insurance profits: “The less care they give ‘em, the more money they (the insurance companies) make.” Obama is in charge now. Who will he emulate—Nixon or FDR? People across the political and economic spectrum, from big business to the little guy, are dying to know.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December. © 2009 Amy Goodman Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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