Category Archives: current events

3 CNN journalists behind retracted Russia-Trump story resign

Three journalists, including the executive editor of a new investigative branch, have left CNN following the recent retraction of a story on an alleged Congress investigation into a “Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials.”

Report author Thomas Frank and two senior CNN Investigations Unit figures resigned over the story. Investigations Unit editor Eric Lichtblau and Lex Haris, CNN Investigations executive editor, who was building a team that includes notorious Russia-hawk Michael Weiss, both resigned.

“In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story’s publication,” CNN stated.

The Russia-related article quoted “a single anonymous source,” and was to be examined by “fact-checkers, journalism standards experts and lawyers” before being presented to the public. Haris, Lichtblau, and Frank failed to follow “some standard editorial processes,” a CNN internal investigation concluded.

“This breakdown in editorial workflow disturbed the CNN executives who learned about it,” CNN correspondent Brian Stelter said.

The resignations of the three men, who are experienced journalists, “are likely to come as a surprise to colleagues.” Lichtblau was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, and Haris had been working at the company since 2001 and was the executive editor of CNN Money before joining the investigative unit.

“On Friday, CNN retracted a story published by my team. As Executive Editor of that team, I have resigned,” Haris said.

CNN, however, has not concluded that “the facts of the story were necessarily wrong,” saying that “the story wasn’t solid enough to publish as-is,” the correspondent said, citing people involved in the investigation.

Following the journalists’ departures, US President Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., called the story “the biggest fake news scandal in the network’s history,” and called on the company’s president, Jeff Zucker, to admit the story was fake.

“Maybe Jeff Zucker should do an on-camera press briefing about CNN’s fake news scandal before the White House does any more of them,” he told Breitbart News.

Wow, CNN had to retract big story on “Russia,” with 3 employees forced to resign. What about all the other phony stories they do? FAKE NEWS!

The story claimed that the Senate Intelligence Committee was investigating ties between several figures in the Trump camp and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). The article mentioned a meeting between Trump’s ally and financier, Anthony Scaramucci, and the CEO of the RDIF, Kirill Dmitriev, claiming that the investigators wondered if they had discussed lifting US sanctions against Russia at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year. Both sides denied speaking on the topic, while Scaramucci told CNN that there was “nothing there.” The news company had to apologize to the financier.

Following the scandal, a report emerged on BuzzFeed, saying that all Russia-related articles will be under “new publishing restrictions.” BuzzFeed cited a leaked email which prohibits publishing “any content involving Russia” before showing it to the executive editor of CNN Money, Rich Barbieri, and Vice President of Premium Content Video Jason Farkas.

In wake of story retraction, CNNMoney exec editor sends memo to staff mandating all “Russia-related content” must be cleared by him or VP

From RT
Posted by The NoN-Conformist

Saudi Arabia Is ‘Playing’ Donald Trump With Potentially Disastrous Consequences

  President Trump and first lady Melania Trump are welcomed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

At this point, it’s no great surprise when Donald Trump walks away from past statements in service to some impulse of the moment. Nowhere, however, has such a shift been more extreme or its potential consequences more dangerous than in his sudden love affair with the Saudi royal family. It could in the end destabilize the Middle East in ways not seen in our lifetimes (which, given the growing chaos in the region, is no small thing to say).

Trump’s newfound ardor for the Saudi regime is a far cry from his past positions, including his campaign season assertion that the Saudis were behind the 9/11 attacks and complaints, as recently as this April, that the United States was losing a “tremendous amount of money” defending the kingdom.  That was yet another example of the sort of bad deal that President Trump was going to set right as part of his “America First” foreign policy.

Given this background, it came as a surprise to pundits, politicians, and foreign policy experts alike when the president chose Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, as the very first stop on his very first overseas trip. This was clearly meant to underscore the importance his administration was suddenly placing on the need to bolster the long-standing U.S.-Saudi alliance.

Mindful of Trump’s vanity, the Saudi government rolled out the red carpet for our narcissist-in-chief, lining the streets for miles with alternating U.S. and Saudi flags, huge images of which were projected onto the Ritz Carlton hotel where Trump was staying. (Before his arrival, in a sign of the psychological astuteness of his Saudi hosts, the hotel projected a five-story-high image of Trump himself onto its façade, pairing it with a similarly huge and flattering photo of the country’s ruler, King Salman.)  His hosts also put up billboards with pictures of Trump and Salman over the slogan “together we prevail.”  What exactly the two countries were to prevail against was left open to interpretation.  It is, however, unlikely that the Saudis were thinking about Trump’s much-denounced enemy, ISIS—given that Saudi planes, deep into a war in neighboring Yemen, have rarely joined Washington’s air war against that outfit.  More likely, what they had in mind was their country’s bitter regional rival Iran.

The agenda planned for Trump’s stay included an anti-terrorism summit attended by 50 leaders from Arab and Muslim nations, a concert by country singer Toby Keith, and an exhibition game by the Harlem Globetrotters. Then there were the strange touches like President Trump, King Salman, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi laying hands on a futuristically glowing orb—images of which then circled the planet—in a ceremony inaugurating a new Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology, and Trump’s awkward participation in an all-male sword dance.

Unsurprisingly enough, the president was pleased with the spectacle staged in his honor, saying of the anti-terrorism summit in one of his many signature flights of hyperbole, “There has never been anything like it before, and perhaps there never will be again.”

Here, however, is a statement that shouldn’t qualify as hyperbole: never have such preparations for a presidential visit paid such quick dividends.  On arriving home, Trump jumped at the chance to embrace a fierce Saudi attempt to blockade and isolate its tiny neighbor Qatar, the policies of whose emir have long irritated them.  The Saudis claimed to be focused on that country’s alleged role in financing terrorist groups in the region (a category they themselves fit into remarkably well).  More likely, however, the royal family wanted to bring Qatar to heel after it failed to jump enthusiastically onto the Saudi-led anti-Iranian bandwagon.

Trump, who clearly knew nothing about the subject, accepted the Saudi move with alacrity and at face value. In his normal fashion, he even tried to take credit for it, tweeting, “During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology.  Leaders pointed to Qatar—look!”  And according to Trump, the historic impact of his travels hardly stopped there.  As he also tweeted: “So good to see Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries paying off… Perhaps it will be the beginning of the end of the horror of terrorism.”

Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution hit the nail on the head when he commented that “the Saudis played Donald Trump like a fiddle.  He unwittingly encouraged their worst instincts toward their neighbors.” The New York Times captured one likely impact of the Saudi move against Qatar when it reported, “Analysts said Mr. Trump’s public support for Saudi Arabia… sent a chill through other Gulf States, including Oman and Kuwait, for fear that any country that defies the Saudis or the United Arab Emirates could face ostracism as Qatar has.”

And Then Came Trump…

And what precisely are the Saudis’ instincts toward their neighbors?  The leaders in Riyadh, led by King Salman’s 31-year-old son, Saudi Defense Minister and deputy crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, are taking the gloves off in an increasingly aggressive bid for regional dominance aimed at isolating Iran.  The defense minister and potential future leader of the kingdom, whose policies have been described as reckless and impulsive, underscored the new, harsher line on Iran in an interview with Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV in which he said, “We will not wait until the battle is in Saudi Arabia, but we will work so the battle is there in Iran.”

The opening salvo in Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iran campaign came in March 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition, including smaller Gulf petro-states (Qatar among them) and Egypt, intervened militarily in a chaotic situation in Yemen in an effort to reinstall Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi as the president of that country.  They clearly expected a quick victory over their ill-armed enemies and yet, more than two years later, in a war that has grown ever harsher, they have in fact achieved little.  Hadi, a pro-Saudi leader, had served as that country’s interim president under an agreement that, in the wake of the Arab Spring in 2012, ousted longstanding Yemeni autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh.  In January 2015, Hadi himself was deposed by an alliance of Houthi rebels and remnants of forces loyal to former president Saleh.

The Saudis—now joined by Trump and his foreign policy team—have characterized the conflict as a war to blunt Iranian influence and the Houthi rebels have been cast as the vassals of Tehran.  In reality, they have longstanding political and economic grievances that predate the current conflict and they would undoubtedly be fighting at this moment with or without support from Iran.  As Middle Eastern expert Thomas Juneau recently noted in the Washington Post, “Tehran’s support for the Houthis is limited, and its influence in Yemen is marginal. It is simply inaccurate to claim that the Houthis are Iranian proxies.”

The Saudi-Emirati intervention in Yemen has had disastrous results.  Thousands of civilians have been killed in an indiscriminate bombing campaign that has targeted hospitals, marketplaces, civilian neighborhoods, and even a funeral, in actions that Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) has said “look like war crimes.”  The Saudi bombing campaign has, in addition, been enabled by Washington, which has supplied the kingdom with bombs, including cluster munitions, and aircraft, while providing aerial refueling services to Saudi planes to ensure longer missions and the ability to hit more targets.  It has also shared intelligence on targeting in Yemen.

The destruction of that country’s port facilities and the imposition of a naval blockade have had an even more devastating effect, radically reducing the ability of aid groups to get food, medicine, and other essential supplies into a country now suffering from a major outbreak of cholera and on the brink of a massive famine. This situation will only be made worse if the coalition tries to retake the port of Hodeidah, the entry point for most of the humanitarian aid still getting into Yemen. Not only has the U.S.-backed Saudi war sparked a humanitarian crisis, but it has inadvertently strengthened al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which has increased its influence in Yemen while the Saudi- and Houthi-led coalitions are busy fighting each other.

Trump’s all-in support for the Saudis in its war doesn’t, in fact, come out of the blue. Despite some internal divisions over the wisdom of doing so, the Obama administration also supported the Saudi war effort in a major way. This was part of an attempt to reassure the royals that the United States was still on their side and would not tilt towards Iran in the wake of an agreement to cap and reverse that country’s nuclear program.

It was only after concerted pressure from Congress and a coalition of peace, human rights, and humanitarian aid groups that the Obama administration finally took a concrete, if limited, step to express opposition to the Saudi targeting of civilians in Yemen.  In a December 2016 decision, it suspended a sale of laser-guided bombs and other precision-guided munitions to their military.  The move outraged the Saudis, but proved at best a halfway measure as the refueling of Saudi aircraft continued, and none of rest of the record $115 billion in U.S. weaponry offered to that country during the Obama years was affected.

And then came Trump.  His administration has doubled down on the Saudi war in Yemen by lifting the suspension of the bomb deal, despite the objections of a Senate coalition led by Chris Murphy (D-CT), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Al Franken (D-MN) that recently mustered an unprecedented 47 votes against Trump’s offer of precision-guided bombs to Riyadh.  Defense Secretary James Mattis has advocated yet more vigorous support for the Saudi-led intervention, including additional planning assistance and yet more intelligence sharing—but not, for the moment, the introduction of U.S. troops.  Although the Trump foreign policy team has refused to endorse a proposal by the United Arab Emirates, one of the Saudi coalition members, to attack the port at Hodeidah, it’s not clear if that will hold.

A Parade for an American President?

In addition to Trump’s kind words on Twitter, the clearest sign of his administration’s uncritical support for the Saudi regime has been the offer of an astounding $110 billion worth of arms to the kingdom, a sum almost equal to the record levels reached during all eight years of the Obama administration. (This may, of course, have been part of the point, showing that President Trump could make a bigger, better deal than that slacker Obama, while supporting what he described as “jobs, jobs, jobs” in the United States.)

Like all things Trumpian, however, that $110 billion figure proved to be an exaggeration.  Tens of billions of dollars’ worth of arms included in the package had already been promised under Obama, and tens of billions more represent promises that, experts suspect, are unlikely to be kept.  But that still leaves a huge package, one that, according to the Pentagon, will include more than 100,000 bombs of the sort that can be used in the Yemen war, should the Saudis choose to do so.  All that being said, the most important aspect of the deal may be political—Trump’s way of telling “my friend King Salman,” as he now calls him, that the United States is firmly in his camp.  And this is, in fact, the most troubling development of all.

It’s bad enough that the Obama administration allowed itself to be dragged into an ill-conceived, counterproductive, and regionally destabilizing war in Yemen. Trump’s uncritical support of Saudi foreign policy could have even more dangerous consequences. The Saudis are more intent than Trump’s own advisers (distinctly a crew of Iranophobes) on ratcheting up tensions with Iran.  It’s no small thing, for instance, that Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who has asserted that Iran is “the single most enduring threat to stability and peace in the Middle East,” and who advocated U.S. military attacks on that country during his tenure as head of the U.S. Central Command, looks sober-minded compared to the Saudi royals.

If there is even a glimmer of hope in the situation, it might lie in the efforts of both Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to walk back the president’s full-throated support for a Saudi confrontation with Qatar. Tillerson, for instance, has attempted to pursue an effort to mediate the Saudi-Qatari dispute and has called for a “calm and thoughtful dialogue.” Similarly, on the same day as Trump tweeted in support of the Saudis, the Pentagon issued a statement praising Qatar’s “enduring commitment to regional security.”  This is hardly surprising given the roughly 10,000 troops the U.S. has at al-Udeid air base in Doha, its capital, and the key role that base plays in Washington’s war on terror in the region.  It is the largest American base in the Middle East and the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command, as well as a primary staging area for the U.S. war on ISIS. The administration’s confusion regarding how to deal with Qatar was further underscored when Mattis and Qatari Defense Minister Khalid Al-Attiyah signed a $12 billion deal for up to 36 Boeing F-15 combat aircraft, barely a week after President Trump had implied that Qatar was the world capital of terrorist financing.

In a further possible counter to Trump’s aggressive stance, Secretary of Defense Mattis has suggested that perhaps it’s time to pursue a diplomatic settlement of the war in Yemen.  In April, he told reporters that, “in regards to the Saudi and Emirati campaign in Yemen, our goal, ladies and gentleman, is for that crisis down there, that ongoing fight, [to] be put in front of a U.N.-brokered negotiating team and try to resolve this politically as soon as possible.” Mattis went on to decry the number of civilians being killed, stating that the war there “has simply got to be brought to an end.”

It remains to be seen whether Tillerson’s and Mattis’s conciliatory words are hints of a possible foot on the brake in the Trump administration when it comes to building momentum for what could, in the end, be a U.S. military strike against Iran, egged on by Donald Trump’s good friends in Saudi Arabia.  As Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group has noted, if the U.S. ends up going to war against Iran, it would “make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park.”

In fact, in a period when the turmoil has only risen in much of the rest of the Greater Middle East, the Saudi Arabian peninsula remained relatively stable, at least until the Saudi-led coalition drastically escalated the civil war in Yemen.  The new, more aggressive course being pursued against the royal family in Qatar and in relation to Iran could, however, make matters much worse, and fast.  Given the situation in the region today, including the spread of terror movements and failing states, the thought that Saudi Arabia itself might be destabilized (and Iran with it) should be daunting indeed, though not perhaps for Donald Trump.

So far, through a combination of internal repression and generous social benefits to its citizens—a form of political bribery designed to buy loyalty—the Saudi royal family has managed to avoid the fate of other regional autocrats driven from power.  But with low oil prices and a costly war in Yemen, the regime is being forced to reduce the social spending that has helped cement its hold on power. It’s possible that further military adventures, coupled with a backlash against its repressive policies, could break what analysts Sarah Chayes and Alex de Waal have described as the current regime’s “brittle hold on power.” In other words, what a time for the Trump administration to offer its all-in support for the plans of an aggressive yet fragile regime whose reckless policies could even spark a regional war.

Maybe it’s time for opponents of a stepped-up U.S. military role in the Middle East to throw Donald Trump a big, glitzy parade aimed at boosting his ego and dampening his enthusiasm for the Saudi royal family.  It might not change his policies, but at least it would get his attention.

William D. Hartung, a TomDispatch regular, is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and the author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

By William D. Hartung/TomDispatch

Posted by The NON-Conformist

NC’s Final budget delivers hits to legal services, emergency judges, Department of Justice

It’s only been a little over 24 hours since the North Carolina General Assembly introduced its final budget and its already well on its way to a House vote after passing the Senate on Tuesday.

There is plenty to read in the 438-page document and plenty to get confused about. Below are a few highlights from the Justice and Public Safety budget:

Raise the Age

Lawmakers have finally agreed to raise the juvenile age of prosecution from 16 and 17 years old to 18 years old. The final budget allocates $519,600 the first fiscal year toward “Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act Planning” and $478,000 the second fiscal year.

The budget policy decision mandates that 16- and 17-year-olds who are accused of committing misdemeanors and two classes of felonies no longer be automatically prosecuted in the adult criminal system.

The policy decision also increases the information available on juveniles to law enforcement and establishes a juvenile jurisdiction advisory committee to help with implementation. You can read more about the decision beginning on page 309 of the budget.

The proposed budget would cut $1.7 million in legal services programs across the state, affecting those most in need and almost assuredly creating unequal access to justice.

The Access to Civil Justice Act funds all traditional legal services programs, including Legal Aid Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC), Legal Services of Southern Piedmont and Pisgah Legal Services.

As written in the final budget, the provision means that $1.50 of every court fee imposed in District and Superior Courts would no longer be distributed to the North Carolina State Bar for legal services. It could also mean reducing LANC staff across the state by 50 to 60 or more positions.

More from NC Policy Watch

Posted by Libergirl

Handel Defeats Ossoff In Georgia House Race, Dealing Blow To Democrats

House Republicans are now 4-0 in contested special elections since PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP won the presidency.

Read that about 4 times and you’ll know how much the Democrats suck!

Image: Curtis Compton, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Republican Karen Handel defeated Democrat Jon Ossoff Tuesday in a special election to fill a Georgia congressional seat, dashing Democrats’ hopes of flipping a House district in order to build momentum ahead of the 2018 midterms.

Polling had been showing a tight race, with several recent surveys showing Ossoff just ahead of Handel. However, a poll released Monday evening had the two candidates neck-and neck. As of around 11 p.m. Tuesday night, incomplete returns showed Handel leading Ossoff by a little under six points.

Democrats had hoped that they could harness the anti-Trump energy in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District, located in the Atlanta suburbs and brimming with well-educated voters, to take over what had for several decades been a solidly Republican seat. Though now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price handily won re-election there in November, President Donald Trump only won the district by one point, signaling that the seat could be up for grabs. But Handel’s win suggests Republicans can outrun Trump’s low approval ratings.

More from Talking Points Memo

Posted by Libergirl

Capital City of Jackson, MS elects Black Mayor!

He enjoyed his win in the general election for Jackson mayor in the same place he celebrated a landslide victory in the primary a month earlier.

TCL Lumumba Celebration Mayoral Elections
Image: Clarion Ledger

An energized Chokwe Antar Lumumba addressed a room of hundreds of supporters at the King Edward Hotel after defeating eight candidates in the democratic primary in May. But it was Tuesday’s celebration that solidified his position as Jackson’s next mayor.

“I’m really, really, really happy,” Lumumba said just before 9 p.m Tuesday. “At the same time, I don’t know it’s entirely sunk in yet.”

Tuesday’s general election, a ticket including a popular, well-known democrat and five virtually faceless opponents, was not expected to drive the same kind of excitement, or voters, as the primary.

Yet, more than 23,100 Jacksonians voted Tuesday for the 34-year-old defense attorney and son of late-Mayor Chokwe Lumumba — nearly 5,000 more than voted for him in the primary.

More from The Clarion Ledger

Posted by Libergirl

 

Voters are Fired Up for Single Payer Creating Dilemma for Democrats

On Sunday, June 4, the same day that Our Revolution, a Democratic Party group that arose from the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, organized rallies and die-ins to highlight the number of people dying in the United States due to lack of access to health care, the New York Times published an article, “The Single Payer Party? Democrats Shift Left on Health Care“, prominently on the front page and above the fold.

The article quotes RoseAnn DeMoro, head of National Nurses United, saying, “There is a cultural shift. Health care is now seen as something everyone deserves. It’s like a national light went off.” Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan was also quoted, saying that rank and file Democrats “are energized in a way I have not witnessed in a long, long time.” Nolan is correct in stating that following the Democrat’s large loss in 2016, the party needs “a more boldly ‘aspirational’ health care platform.”

Democratic Party voters have been strong supporters of single payer health care for a long time. Polls have consistently shown that super-majorities of Democratic Party voters want single payer, but Democratic Party candidates keep telling them that they can’t have it. The Democratic Party has refused to add Medicare for All to its healthcare platform despite resolutions introduced by single payer advocates. Even the Congressional Progressive Caucus refuses to include single payer health care in their “People’s Budget.”

In 2009, with a Democratic President and majorities in the House and Senate, single payer health care was off the table. Instead, the “public option” was used to divide the Democratic Party voters and convince them that they were asking for too much. Democrats were told that the public option would be more politically feasible and would create a “back door” to single payer. Many were fooled. And the joke was on them because even the public option, which I call the “Profiteer’s Option,” was never meant to be in the final legislation.

While the New York Times wrongly blames the liberal and centrist Democrats for not supporting a public option, it was actually the White House and Democratic Party leadership that kept it out of the final bill. In December of 2009, public pressure was working to convince the Senate to include a public option in its healthcare bill. That’s when leadership stepped in to stop them. Glenn Greenwald writes:

I’ve argued since August that the evidence was clear that the White House had privately negotiated away the public option and didn’t want it, even as the President claimed publicly (and repeatedly) that he did.  … it is the excuse Democrats fraudulently invoke, using what I called the Rotating Villain tactic (it’s now Durbin’s turn), to refuse to pass what they claim they support but are politically afraid to pass, or which they actually oppose (sorry, we’d so love to do this, but gosh darn it, we just can’t get 60 votes).  If only 50 votes were required, they’d just find ways to ensure they lacked 50.  Both of those are merely theories insusceptible to conclusive proof, but if I had the power to create the most compelling evidence for those theories that I could dream up, it would be hard to surpass what Democrats are doing now with regard to the public option.  They’re actually whipping against the public option.  Could this sham be any more transparent?

I was present at the Center for American Progress in March of 2009 when Senator Max Baucus stated that the public option was a bargaining chip being used to convince private health insurers to accept more regulations. It was Baucus’ staffer, Liz Fowler, a former senior vice president for one of the largest private insurance corporations, WellPoint, who wrote the framework for the Affordable Care Act and shepherded it through Congress. The scam was revealed early and though progressive groups knew it, they were complicit in the scam because they accepted being controlled and silenced by the White House.

Jim Messina, a former Baucus chief of staff, was hired by the White House to be “the enforcer” for President Obama’s agenda. Ari Berman described the situation in this enlightening article:

The administration deputized Messina as the top liaison to the Common Purpose Project. The coveted invite-only, off-the-record Tuesday meetings at the Capitol Hilton became the premier forum where the administration briefed leading progressive groups, including organizations like the AFL-CIO, MoveOn, Planned Parenthood and the Center for American Progress, on its legislative and political strategy. Theoretically, the meetings were supposed to provide a candid back-and-forth between outside groups and administration officials, but Messina tightly controlled the discussions and dictated the terms of debate (Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake memorably dubbed this the “veal pen”). “Common Purpose didn’t make a move without talking to Jim,” says one progressive strategist. During the healthcare fight, Messina used his influence to try to stifle any criticism of Baucus or lobbying by progressive groups that was out of sync with the administration’s agenda, according to Common Purpose participants. “Messina wouldn’t tolerate us trying to lobby to improve the bill,” says Richard Kirsch, former national campaign manager for Health Care for America Now (HCAN), the major coalition of progressive groups backing reform. Kirsch recalled being told by a White House insider that when asked what the administration’s “inside/outside strategy” was for passing healthcare reform, Messina replied, “There is no outside strategy.”

The inside strategy pursued by Messina, relying on industry lobbyists and senior legislators to advance the bill, was directly counter to the promise of the 2008 Obama campaign, which talked endlessly about mobilizing grassroots support to bring fundamental change to Washington. But that wasn’t Messina’s style—instead, he spearheaded the administration’s deals with doctors, hospitals and drug companies, particularly the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), one of the most egregious aspects of the bill. “They cared more about their relationship with the healthcare industry than anyone else,” says one former HCAN staffer. “It was shocking to see. To me, that was the scariest part of it, because this White House had ridden in on a white horse and said, ‘We’re not going to do this anymore.’” When they were negotiating special deals with industry, Messina and Baucus chief of staff Jon Selib were also pushing major healthcare companies and trade associations to pour millions of dollars into TV ads defending the bill.

This was the Democratic Party’s deal with the devil. They rejected their voter base and went with the donor class to create and market a health law, the so-called Affordable Care Act, that protected the profits of the medical-industrial complex, and it backfired. In the 2010 election, 63 Democratic incumbents lost their seats in Congress and the party has been in decline ever since with a record low number of elected officials nationally. On issue after issue, the Democratic Party betrayed its base and voters finally gave up, choosing either to vote for other parties or not vote at all.

The question now is whether the Democrats will change.

So far, despite the title of the New York Times article, the answer is no. Although there is widespread voter support for single payer, Nancy Pelosi says the party is not going there and is funneling advocates’ energy to the state level, even though state single payer systems are not possible without federal legislation. At the national level, Democrats are paying lip service to Medicare for All: “We need to get there eventually but right now our task is to fix the ACA” is the current talking point.

The reality is that the political currents have shifted. The public is not going along with the con. People want solutions to the healthcare crisis, not more tinkering with the current failed healthcare system. Across the country, the message is clear that the public supports National Improved Medicare for All. And whichever political party in power embraces this will see a surge in popularity.

Our task as advocates for National Improved Medicare for All is to stay fired up – continue to speak out about Medicare for All, write about it in local papers, meet with members of Congress, organize in our communities and run for office. We must be clear and uncompromising in our demand for National Improved Medicare for All to create a visible tsunami of support that will wake our legislators up.

When the people lead, the legislators will follow.

• First published in Health Over Profit

By Margaret Flowers/DissidentVoice

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

US newspaper circulation slumps to ‘lowest since 1945’ despite some digital gains – study

Though digital subscriptions are surging for the largest US newspapers, estimated industry circulation and revenue fell overall, the Pew Research Center found. Americans now read newspapers at levels not seen since 1945, but there’s growth in cable news.

Among the findings are US newspaper circulation, including print and digital, fell 8 percent in 2016 for both weekday and Sunday editions to 35 million and 38 million readers, respectively, the study estimates.

“[T]he lowest levels since 1945,” Pew said, in its annual study on the “state of the news media,” released Thursday.

Weekday print circulation decreased 10 percent and Sunday newspaper readership fell 9 percent.

“Newspapers are a critical part of the American news landscape, but they have been hard hit as more and more Americans consume news digitally,” Pew said. “The industry’s financial fortunes and subscriber base have been in decline since the early 2000s, even as website audience traffic has grown for many. Meanwhile, alt-weekly papers have also seen their circulation drop.”

Pew stated that digital circulation is more difficult to gauge, it estimated trends to be fairly flat, with weekday down 1 percent and Sunday up 1 percent.

“Following last year’s presidential election, some major US newspapers reported a sharp jump in digital subscriptions, giving a boost to their overall circulation totals,” Pew researcher Michael Barthel said in a statement. “The newspaper industry as a whole, however, faced ongoing challenges in 2016.”

The primary reason is that “more and more Americans consume news digitally,” the report explained.

Among the study’s other findings are that three of the largest US daily newspapers reported a jump in digital subscriptions, with the New York Times adding more than 500,000 digital subscriptions in 2016, a 47 percent rise; the Wall Street Journal added more than 150,000 digital subscriptions, a 23 percent rise; and the Chicago Tribune added about 100,000 weekly digital circulation, a 76 percent year-on-year gain.

In a commentary on WGBH in 2016, Dan Kennedy, an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University, said the biggest obstacle for attracting readers is that customers are already paying hundreds of dollars a month for broadband, cell service and their various digital devices.

Total estimated circulation revenue for US newspaper industry was $11 billion in 2016, on par w/ 2015 http://pewrsr.ch/2ss6RVJ 

“It’s not crazy for them to think that the content should come included with that, as it does (for the most part) with their monthly cable bill,” said Kennedy. “Those who wag their fingers that newspapers never should have given away their content overlook the reality that customers had none of those extra expenses back when their only option was to pay for the print edition.”

Kennedy said the paywalls also interfere with how people now consume news, skipping around the internet, checking with multiple sources.

“To wall off content runs contrary not just to what news consumers want but to the sharing culture of the internet,” he added.

Pew said circulation data is estimated because the industry has stopped releasing data about print editions, and there are varying standards in reporting digital readership.
Revenues also demonstrate a downward trend.

Total estimated newspaper industry advertising revenue for 2016 was $18 billion, a decrease of 10 percent from 2015, and just one-third the level of 10 years ago, based on Pew’s analysis for financial statements for publicly traded newspaper companies.

Circulation revenue was estimated at $11 billion, largely unchanged from 2015.

For cable news, 2016 was a year of strong gains, and became “the destination for political news,” especially in 2016 during the presidential election, Pew found.

“These channels have generally set themselves apart from other news media by their comparatively robust business model,” Pew said.

Its analysis of Nielsen Media data found that viewership increased for cable news channels in 2016 in prime time by 55 percent to 4.8 million viewers.

Total revenue across the three major channels, Fox, CNN and MSNBC, was projected to increase by 19 percent in 2016, to a total of nearly $5 billion, according to Pews’s analysis of SNL Kagan data.
The three channels were projected to grow their profits in 2016, a combined 29 percent.

Revenue for three major financial networks (CNBC, Fox Business and Bloomberg) saw increases in total and license fee revenue, while ad revenue was flat.

Cable news could take a hit in 2017 as a new poll released on May 24 showed that nearly two-thirds of US voters believe that the mainstream media is producing so-called “fake news.”

Many also believe that fake news is purposely published to push an agenda. Fox News appears to be hurt the most by viewers’ mistrust.

From 2015 to 2016 license fee revenue for the three major financial networks grew from $699M to $757M http://pewrsr.ch/2qEvQ7O 

Across the political spectrum, 65 percent of voters believe there is a lot of fake news in the mainstream media, including 80 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats, according to the latest Harvard-Harris poll provided exclusively to The Hill. In total, 84 percent of voters said it is hard to know what news to believe online.

Those numbers have increased since the end of March, when six in 10 Americans believed the mainstream media report fake news regularly or occasionally, with 54 percent thinking that online news websites report fake stories on purpose to push an agenda, according to a Monmouth University poll. A whopping 80 percent of respondents believed that online outlets report fake news regularly or occasionally.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist