corporate media TV shows War!!!

"Nothing More Grotesque Than A Media Pushing For War," Edward Snowden Says

The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill similarly notes that “the talking heads on cable news are almost drooling over the prospect of a ratings-boosting war.”

By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

Exiled American whistleblower Edward Snowden on Friday joined global critics who are decrying news outlets for encouraging war with their coverage of rising tensions between the United States and Russia—where he has lived since 2013—over Ukraine.

“There is nothing more grotesque than a media pushing for war,” Snowden tweeted.

After a flood of responses—some highlighting that Russian President Vladimir Putin has stationed over 100,000 troops near his country’s border with Ukraine and is conducting military exercises in Belarus—Snowden doubled down on his anti-war message.

corporate media TV shows War!!!

“When you see snide quote-tweets of this from the boot-licking think-tank crowd, look at the ratio and remember that even if they’re loud, they are in the minority,” he said. “Being pro-war is not smart, cool, or sophisticated, and their performative outrage doesn’t change that.”

Snowden is far from alone in blasting a media march toward war that has been compared to the lead-up to U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“Here we go again,” Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of The Intercept, wrote in a Friday fundraising email. “With talk of war in Ukraine rising to a fever pitch, U.S. media outlets are once again beating the drums.”

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nancy pelosi shrugging

Nancy Pelosi Finally Endorses Congress Stock Trading Ban

House Democratic leaders were facing a discharge petition on Congress stock trading ban from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

By Ryan Grim, The Intercept

House Democratic leaders indicated today that they are moving forward with legislation aimed at banning members of Congress from trading stocks, a sharp reversal from their years of previous support for the practice. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has reportedly dropped her opposition to the effort, opening the way for a bill this year.

Wide majorities have long considered it ridiculous that members of Congress are able to own and trade stocks even as they have the power to move the prices of those stocks with legislative action or inaction. After multiple trading scandals, Congress required disclosure of ownership and trades, though members frequently flout the rules.

nancy pelosi shrugging

Pelosi may simply be bowing to the inevitable and caving to broad public pressure, but there was a specific, internal push that may have made a difference: a discharge petition in the works from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

A House rule allows 218 members who sign such a petition to force a bill onto the floor for a vote. Last week, Ocasio-Cortez got that process started by filing a bill banning member stock trades with the Rules Committee filled with requirements that would make the committee very unlikely to pass it. The resolution would have required an immediate floor vote on the bill and barred amendments.

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corporate media apps on phone screen, cnn and fox news

Corporate Media Is The Misinformation Problem

The largest media outlets are platforming con artists, skewing the news, and immersing the country in a flood of lies.

By David Sirota, The Daily Poster

“Misinformation” is all the rage these days — it’s the topic du jour. Polls suggest we all agree that it’s a problem, and lately liberals appear most mad at it — but seemingly only at certain kinds of misinformation that originate outside the corporate media sphere.

Notably, the ire is rarely directed at a corporate media machine that systematically rewards and praises the purveyors of misleading propaganda, and continues to flood the country with information sewage.

corporate media apps on phone screen, cnn and fox news

This selective outrage is a huge problem — because the only way to systematically combat misinformation is to construct a Fourth Estate that develops some trust with the audience. That trust will never be rebuilt if liberals pretend to hate misinformation while they patronize a media establishment that fortifies the pathologies that originally created a credibility crisis.

Consider the past week of media news, while the Joe Rogan controversy dominated headlines:

  • NBC News hired Stephen Hayes, one of the key architects of Iraq War misinformation, to serve as a political analyst across all of its properties amid a media drumbeat for a war with Russia. Despite Hayes publishing the seminal book amplifying one of the most egregious lies of the Iraq debacle, NBC’s Chuck Todd lauded him as “a principled reporter and analyst who always puts truth and facts above emotion and sentiment.” Meanwhile, CNN just hired another Iraq War proponent, right-wing propagandist Jonah Goldberg.
  • Speaking of CNN, its employees effusively praised their network’s recently deposed president, Jeff Zucker, even after Zucker oversaw the lionization of Andrew Cuomo while the New York governor was shielding his health care industry donors from legal consequences amid a massacre of nursing home residents. Rolling Stone reported that one source said Zucker was personally involved in engineering the Cuomo promotion — and even helped write talking points for the governor.

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supreme court building Washington, DC

Workers Just Won A Rare Supreme Court Victory Against Wall Street

The Supreme Court isn’t a friend of workers. So a recent ruling that retirees can sue employers who help investment firms rip them off with high fees and poor performance is a rare and crucial win.

By Matthew Cunningham-Cook, Jacobin

A unanimous Supreme Court ruling Monday in Hughes v. Northwestern University ensures that Americans will still be able to sue employers and Wall Street banks that bleed dry their retirement accounts — a landmark precedent in protecting the $7.3 trillion Americans hold in 401(k) accounts.

The 8-0 ruling, written by Sonia Sotomayor, found that 401(k) plan participants could continue to take legal action against employers for including high-fee, high-risk investments in their 401(k) lineup, even if they also included lower-fee, lower risk options.

supreme court building Washington, DC

The decision could be a blow against powerful private equity industry titans, who for years have been aiming to convince 401(k) plans to include their high-fee, high-risk offerings. Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman has said accessing retirees’ 401(k) accounts was “one of our dreams.”

With 3.5 million American seniors being unable to afford the cost of prescription drugs, and 5.2 million elders who are food insecure, the new ruling could trigger additional litigation that forces improved governance in 401(k)s — potentially saving Americans hundreds of billions of dollars in collective fees.

“It’s going to affect massive numbers of people,” said Jerry Schlichter, the St Louis-based attorney who brought the Hughes case before the court. “Because the 401(k) is America’s retirement system now.”

Currently, the median 401(k) balance for Americans sixty-five and older is just $64,548. That amount could be as much as 40 percent higher, if it wasn’t for fees paid to Wall Street.

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california medicare for all activists marching with healthcare for all banner

What Just Happened To Medicare for All In California?

Why hasn’t the overwhelming popularity of Medicare for All—85% of Democrats, 66% of independents and 52% (!) of GOP support it—translated into legislative majorities?

By Michael Lighty, Common Dreams

Why is a healthcare system—Medicare for All—that costs less described as “too expensive?”

Why hasn’t the overwhelming popularity of Medicare for All—85% of Democrats, 66% of independents and 52% (!) of GOP support it—translated into legislative majorities?

Why is Medicare for All, a version of which is utilized in 50 countries around the world, presented as ‘untested?’

The recent demise of the Medicare for All style reform bill in California, AB 1400, reveals some answers. The Wall Street Journal, who haven’t met a for-profit healthcare model they don’t like, suggest that if Medicare for All cannot be done in California, it won’t happen in the United States. And the opposite is more likely true: if we can do it in California, Medicare for All will be adopted nationally.

california medicare for all activists marching with healthcare for all banner

AB 1400, also known as “CalCare” sponsored by the California Nurses Association/NNU, was the latest version of a single-payer bill to be considered in the California Legislature designed to help lead the US towards Medicare for All. Since the 1994 ballot initiative for single payer that was heavily defeated—it received fewer votes than the petition signatures gathered to put it on the ballot—numerous single payer bills have passed one or both houses of the legislature, and those that made it to the Governor’s desk were vetoed.

Many advocates were encouraged when Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigned in support of the prior bill, SB 562, since the lack of gubernatorial support had proven fatal to reform efforts. As a result, the Healthy California Now coalition of organizations sought to hold Newsom to his promise and to utilize the Healthy California for All Commission he sponsored to move a single payer agenda. The pandemic delayed that Commission’s work, but it is on track to release a report in April likely favorable to what they term “unified financing,” having issued reports that demonstrated the unsustainability, inequities and expense of the present healthcare system compared to the cost and coverage advantages of single payer.

Rather than wait and rely on the Governor’s leadership, advocates sought to rally around a bill as the preferred organizing strategy and a necessary policy step to apply for the approvals from the Biden administration necessary to finance a state single payer program (known as ACA Section 1332 waivers).

The resulting bill AB 1400 faced significant hurdles in the California Assembly, which has a large contingent of pro-corporate Democrats, despite a nearly three-fourths Democratic majority (which has been eroded by early retirements). To protect its profits and power, the healthcare industry—the insurance companies, corporate hospital chains, and prescription drug corporations, which can charge whatever they want, choose our doctors, and restrict access to treatments—rolled out a series of lies:

  • Expensive and unproven approach to health care (only the US relies upon commercial insurance to allocate healthcare)
  • Removes consumer choice (of health plans, such as it is)
  • Threatens California’s ability to respond to future public health emergencies (as if the present system has done such a great job addressing Covid-19)
  • Californians need a stable health care system we can rely on (which is why we need single payer).

The Assembly Speaker required the AB 1400 author, Assembly member Ash Kalra, to develop a financing plan as a condition to move the bill through the legislative process. After eight months of work, Kalra complied in late December. With the introduction of the financing plan, known as ACA 11, the debate focused on the taxes necessary to replace the current premiums, co-payments, and deductibles: the media narrative adopted the industry perspective and highlighted the supposed costs of single payer.

No one mentioned that the “private taxes” workers and employers pay for healthcare are the greatest financial burden faced by the middle class, as the Commission had shown. Nor did we hear about the much greater expense of the present system ($517 billion in 2022!) even though it provides less benefits, is hugely inequitable, and includes out of pocket costs of $2000 per year from each Californian just for the administration of the commercial insurance system. AB 1400 proponents didn’t utilize the very favorable studies and analysis provided by the Commission—the Los Angeles Times pointed to one study after the fact, but it’s not just “supporters” who assert single payer will cost less (see researchers from UCSF review of 22 financing studies, 20 of which show savings from single-payer).

The bill moved to the Assembly Health Committee, where it passed 11-3 in early January. Time was of the essence, since for the bill to advance to the state Senate, it had to pass the Assembly by January 31st.

At this point significant changes in AB 1400 were made to how the bill’s policies would be implemented. Rather than go through the legislature this year never to return, amendments were adopted that required the bill’s governing board to apply for the necessary federal support, review and certify the sufficiency of the financing plan, and report back to the legislature which would have to vote again by July 1, 2024, to implement the resulting program, and send the financing plan to the voters for ultimate approval. In short, AB 1400 expressed the intent of the legislature and set up a process for implementation that depended on legislative votes and on winning a ballot initiative.

Given existing provisions in the California constitution regarding the size of the state budget and revenues devoted to education, a ballot initiative seemed inevitable to most observers, but many advocates presented a successful adoption of AB 1400 this year as “enacting CalCare,” which was not the case.

So how much of a setback is Assembly member’s Kalra decision not to bring up AB 1400 for a vote? Rather than risk a double-digit defeat and solidify a negative position among colleagues whose support he needs and expects, Ash Kalra opted to fight another day. Advocates expressed outrage and a sense of betrayal. It’s appropriate to hold elected officials accountable by forcing them to go on record on a bill, if we are prepared to act electorally to replace them, including having a fund and organizing strategy for credible primary challengers. That wasn’t the case here. AB 1400 has been characterized as the only true single payer bill in California history, yet all of its provisions were subject to federal approval and further state legislative review.

In fact, the “first step” established by the amended AB 1400 can still be taken by the Governor with legislative authorization if necessary and incorporating the Commission’s analysis and the key principles put forth in AB 1400. Once the federal support and approval for financing and program is secured by the Newsom administration, the California Legislature could approve it and send it to the ballot. The timeline would be at least as soon as in the amended AB 1400. There can be a convergence of state legislative and executive approaches.

Much has been accomplished. AB 1400 supporters organized the most comprehensive grassroots digital lobbying campaign ever, building a key infrastructure for future campaigns. The bill received significant endorsements, though the organizations including unions, that provide campaign funding and volunteers to elect Democrats did not make AB 1400 a priority. Organizational capacity to take on the industry was insufficient. There is also not a sufficient working-class base, particularly in non-union workplaces and during labor disputes, demanding single payer as the solution to the on-going healthcare crisis, and especially to the inequities exposed by the pandemic. We need to bring the diverse healthcare reformers who are in Sacramento everyday urging immediate improvements to pressure legislators for single payer. We need to be able to persuade and if necessary, force politicians to guarantee healthcare—not simply adopt “universal coverage” with all its gaps and disparities—whether they or their donors want to or not. That takes greater organizational and institutional support, and base building, in addition to activist mobilization.

The message environment matters, and single payer proponents are not winning the media narrative. Our slogan could be “We Care, They Scare. Better Healthcare, Not Bigger Profits.” We must educate and inoculate voters, which takes door-knocking, earned media and paid ads, funded by tens of millions of dollars over a few years. Once the industry funded TV campaign begins against a ballot initiative—and we can expect based on recent ballot fights $200 million to publicize their lies about high costs, taxes, unreliability, lost jobs and limited choice under single payer—we’ll need to be on TV, too.

This year in California we can establish the building blocks for single payer—seeking federal support, covering undocumented residents, setting up the infrastructure to set a state healthcare budget and rates, establishing a “single payer” for prescription drugs, and unwinding the for-profit domination of the state’s low-income health program, Medi-Cal.

We need a healthcare justice coalition guided by a strategic assessment of what it will take to win with the ability to communicate effectively against the industry’s lies. Can one bill do it all? Maybe not. But strategic organizing can.


medicinal marijuana in a tray in oregon

Drug Decriminalization Is Working In Oregon. Other States Should Follow.

Even though Oregon’s move to treat addiction as a public health issue is a huge step forward, there remains more work to do.

By Kassandra Frederique, Truthout

As COVID-19 continues to rage, another health crisis persists — one that is decades long. In the first year of the pandemic, the United States hit the devastating milestone of 100,000 overdose deaths, a nearly 28.5 percent surge from the record numbers we saw the previous year. Now, fentanyl is the leading cause of death in Americans ages 18-45. The reaction from many of our leaders has been to call for more arrests and criminalization, but this response is rooted in fear, not science. We have spent the last 50 years trying to treat a public health issue with a criminalization response, yet people are dying of overdose at record rates. This response is clearly not working.

medicinal marijuana in a tray in oregon

The evidence is clear: Criminalization worsens public health outcomes. From making the drug supply more dangerous, to deterring people from getting help out of fear and stigma, to denial of economic opportunities and supports for people with drug arrests, the associated consequences have been dire. Besides, sending someone to jail or prison doesn’t keep people from using drugs. In fact, deaths due to drug and alcohol intoxication have increased more than 600 percent in state prisons between 2001 and 2018.

It’s time for a new approach. Oregon has taken the bold step that we should adopt across the U.S.: Decriminalize drug possession and increase access to health services. In the year since the state decriminalized drugs through a ballot initiative (Measure 110), and with only about 10 percent of the allotted funding distributed to 70 community-based organizations so far, Oregon has already been able to provide peer support, harm reduction, evidence-based treatment, housing and job assistance to more than 16,000 people.

Prior to this measure passing, Oregon ranked last in access to treatment and recovery services.

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Facebook thumbs down

Good News: Facebook Had A Terrible Week!

Facebook is losing members which means Mark Zuckerberg is losing money.

By Aaron Mak, Slate

Facebook’s parent company Meta just had an unprecedented, jaw-droppingly bad week. In an earnings call on Wednesday, executives reported that for the first time in its history Facebook had actually lost daily active users in the previous quarter—about a million of them, to be exact. Meta also spent $10 billion on its virtual reality projects, which CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pitched as the company’s future, through the Reality Labs department. In the wake of the dismal disclosure, Meta dropped more than $237 billion in value on Thursday, the biggest one-day loss ever in the U.S. stock market. (That’s more than the market cap of Netflix or Twitter.) Zuckerberg’s own net worth also fell by $31 billion. It was shocking news for a company that has pretty reliably reported solid-to-fantastic numbers in the past, even during periods of scandal and public ire.

Facebook thumbs down

The forces working against Meta are formidable and multifarious. During the earnings call, executives specifically blamed a 2021 privacy update that Apple instituted in iOS for hitting Meta’s ad sales by about $10 billion this year. (About 97 percent of Meta’s revenue comes from advertising.) Apple’s update presents users with pop-up notifications asking if they want want to prevent certain apps from sharing identifiable personal information—like location or browsing history—with third parties. A study by the mobile marketing analytics company AppsFlyer in October indicated that 62 percent of iPhone owners who viewed such notifications chose to opt out. Users on iPhone are reportedly more likely to spend money on items that they see in mobile ads. The New York Times notes that, because advertisers are having a tougher time targeting Facebook users now, they’ve been devoting more of their ad budgets to Google instead. Google, which reported record sales on Tuesday, is less reliant on Apple devices for gathering data on its users. Zuckerberg said during the earnings call that Facebook would be rebuilding its ads infrastructure to adapt to this new landscape, though didn’t give many specifics on what changes might be implemented. COO Sheryl Sandberg also said that it would take some time to figure out new ways to serve relevant ads without relying on personal data collection.

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chuck schumer at marijuana justice event

Chuck Schumer Plans To File Marijuana Legalization Bill In April

Good News for legalization advocates as House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler works on his own separate bill.

By Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced at a press conference on Friday that he is aiming to formally file his much-anticipated bill to federally legalize marijuana in April. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who also spoke, discussed progress on his separate legalization bill.

Both top lawmakers detailed their efforts to end prohibition at an event in New York City, which also involved House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), New York lawmakers and advocates with the Drug Policy Alliance and other organizations.

chuck schumer at marijuana justice event

Friday proved to be an especially eventful day for federal cannabis policy, as the House earlier passed a large-scale bill that contains the bipartisan Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. It’s the sixth time that reform has cleared the chamber in some form.

“In the coming weeks, we’re ramping up our outreach—and we expect to introduce final legislation. Our goal is to do it in April,” Schumer said at the New York event. “Then we begin the nationwide push, spearheaded by New York, to get the federal law done. As majority leader, I can set priorities. This is a priority for me.”

Advocates were encouraged when Schumer first disclosed details about his Cannabis Administration & Opportunity Act (CAOA), which he unveiled in draft form for public comment in July, but they’ve grown impatient with his repeated comments in the months since that a formal introduction was coming “soon.” Now he’s set a target timeline, and the leader also separately said in a meeting with activists that he expects committee hearings on the proposal shortly after it’s finally filed.

 

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CSPAN video of state department spokesperson provides zero evidence to back claims

'I Remember WMDs In Iraq': Reporter Calls Out US Official On Russian Intel Claims

“You just come out and say this and expect us just to believe it without you showing a shred of evidence that it’s actually true,” said Associated Press reporter Matt Lee.

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

Veteran Associated Press reporter Matt Lee grilled a State Department spokesperson Thursday over the U.S. government’s refusal to provide direct evidence for its claim that Russia is planning to fabricate a mass casualty event as a pretext to invade Ukraine, an allegation that the Pentagon said is backed up by intelligence.

During a press briefing, Lee asked the State Department’s Ned Price—a former CIA official—to furnish concrete proof of the government’s accusation, which suggests Russia is plotting an elaborate false flag attack involving a graphic “propaganda video… depicting corpses, crisis actors pretending to be mourners, and images of destroyed locations or military equipment.”

CSPAN video of state department spokesperson provides zero evidence to back claims

Lee said he has every reason to be skeptical of U.S. government assertions, given the lies that the Bush administration used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

“I remember WMDs in Iraq,” said Lee.

Watch the exchange:

After Price outlined the U.S. government’s allegations, Lee noted that the Biden administration has “shown no evidence to confirm” the alleged plot. As the New York Times reported earlier Thursday, “Officials would not release any direct evidence of the Russian plan or specify how they learned of it, saying to do so would compromise their sources and methods.”

But Price insisted during Thursday’s briefing that the Biden administration’s decision to go public with the false flag accusation constitutes, in and of itself, evidence that Russia is planning such an operation.

“This is derived from information known to the U.S. government, intelligence information that we have declassified,” Price said.

“Okay, well, where is it?” Lee asked in response. “Where is this information?”

“I just delivered it,” the State Department spokesperson said.

When Lee continued to press the matter, noting that “a series of allegations and statements” is not evidence, Price accused the longtime journalist of wanting “to find solace in information that the Russians are putting out.”

The exchange circulated rapidly and widely on social media, with observers applauding Lee for his persistent and straightforward questioning and arguing that Price’s responses were indicative of the U.S. government’s intolerance of skeptical inquiry.

“This is wild,” NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, president of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, tweeted in response to the back-and-forth. “The State Department’s spokesman can’t comprehend why the Associated Press feels the need to distinguish between a claim and a fact, and becomes visibly offended—and then angered—by the suggestion that his claims may require evidence to be accepted as credible.”


coral reef bleaching

Research Finds Warming Ocean Leaves No Safe Havens for Coral Reefs

New research finds coral refugia, where reefs are protected from global warming by cool local currents, are disappearing faster than expected.

By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News

In the race to save at least some remnants of the world’s coral reefs, a new study shows only one thing really matters—capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Even at only that level of warming, more than 99 percent of areas previously seen as potentially safe havens for coral will disappear. Warming of 2 degrees C would wipe out all the “reef refugia” where corals might survive relentlessly warming oceans.

coral reef bleaching

The grim projections are made in research published today in the journal PLOS One using new climate models that more accurately show how interactions between different parts of the climate system, like winds, ocean currents, clouds and multiyear ocean temperature changes like El Niño, affect reefs.

As recently as 10 years ago, models tended to show uniform ocean warming, without details critical to understanding coral reef survival, said co-author Piers Forster, director of the Priestley Centre at the University of Leeds.

“The latest generation are better able to capture marine heatwaves,” which cause coral-killing bleaching, he said. Bleaching occurs when ocean water temperatures become too warm and cause corals to expel the algae living in their tissues, turning their color white. Bleaching is the main cause of coral reef die-offs.

“We know that our baths do not warm uniformly when you turn the hot tap on,” he said, but can burn a bather’s toes while other parts of their body are comfortable.

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