Sunday, July 05, 2015

PNN - The Artists Life

PNN - 7/5/15

Brook Hines
Peter Yianilos
Graham Drout

1. WIKILEAKS News & Olds
Today marks the 1,000th day WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has spent in political asylum inside Ecuador’s London embassy. For the first time, Swedish prosecutors have opened the door to Assange’s departure with a request to question him in London. Assange has never been charged over allegations of sexual assault, but has been holed up in the embassy since 2012, fearing a Swedish arrest warrant could lead to his extradition to the United States. We speak with Assange attorney, Michael Ratner, who says an interview with the prosecutor may result in no charges, and even if Assange were convicted of these allegations, “he has done all the time he would have to do... so the whole case is essentially a bogus way of keeping him in that embassy."

2.Zero for 40 at Predicting Attacks: 
   Why Do Media Still Take FBI Terror Warnings Seriously?

On Monday, several mainstream media outlets repeated the latest press releaseby the FBI that country was under a new “heightened terror alert” from “ISIL-inspired attacks” “leading up to the July 4th weekend.” One of the more sensational outlets, CNN, led with the breathless warning on several of its cable programs, complete with a special report by The Lead’s Jim Sciutto in primetime:

The threat was given extra credence when former CIA director—and consultant at DC PR firm Beacon Global Strategies—Michael Morell went on CBS This Morning (6/29/15) and scared the ever-living bejesus out of everyone by saying he “wouldn’t be surprised if we were sitting [in the studio] next week discussing an attack on the US.” The first piece of evidence Morell used to justify his apocalyptic posture, the “50 ISIS arrests,” was accompanied by a scary map on the CBS jumbotron showing “ISIS arrests” all throughout the US:

In any event, this nuance gets left out entirely. As I’ve previously shown, in the media’s rush to hype the threat, the fact of FBI-manufactured—or at least “assisted”—terror plots is left out as a complicating factor altogether, and the viewer is left thinking the FBI arrested 50 actual ISIS sleeper cells.
There’s only one problem: These warnings never actually come to fruition. Not rarely, or almost never, but—by all accounts—never. No attacks, no arrests, no suspects at large.

October 2001: “Potential use of chemical/biological and/or radiological/nuclear weapons
November 2001: California bridges
February 2002: “Hollywood studios”
July 2002: Stadiums
August 2002: “Landmarks”
October 2002: “AQ to attack Amtrak
November 2002:Spectacular Al Qaeda attacks
May 2004: “Attempt to affect the outcome” of presidential election
July 2004: “Military facilities and large gatherings” on July 4th
August 2004: VA hospitals
January 2005: Dirty bomb
March 2005: US/Mexican border
October 2005: NYC & Baltimore subways
June 2007: Colleges
December 2007:Shopping malls in Chicago and LA”
November 2008: “Al Qaeda to attack transit during Thanksgiving
October 2011: “Americans in Europe” facing “commando-style AQ attack”
June 2011: Al Qaeda “hit list”
July 2011: “Private jets of executives” involved in drone manufacturing
September 2011: “Small planes”
September 2011: “New York City or Washington around…10th anniversary of 9/11
September 2011: Airports
August 2012: Anarchists blowing up bridge during Tampa RNC
September 2012: “Islamic violence over movie
August 2013: “San Fransisco on high alert
November 2013: “cyber attacks”
December 2014: ISIS targeting Mississippi River bridge
December 2014: ISIS “sabotaging US military personnel” over social media
April 2015: ISIS targeting “parts of California
May 2015: ISIS targeting “military bases

The problem is three fold:
  1. The FBI has all the incentive in the world to issue warnings and no incentive whatsoever to not issue warnings. Issuing warnings has no downside, while not doing so is all downside.
  2. The FBI, like all agencies of the government, does not operate in a political vacuum. Emphasizing the “ISIS threat” at home necessarily helps prop up the broader war effort the FBI’s boss, the president of the United States, must sell to a war-weary public. The incentive is to therefore highlight the smallest threats. This was a feature that did not go unnoticed during the Bush years, but has since fallen out of fashion.
  3. It has no actual utility. What does it mean to be “more vigilant”? It’s a vague call to alertness that officials, aside from “beefing up security” by local police, never quite explain what it means. If the FBI wanted to tell local police departments to up their security of the 4th of July weekend, surely they could do so quietly, without the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security having to go on all major networks talking over b-roll of ISIS in apocalyptic terms.

3. UPDATED Project Censored
In September 2015, Project Censored and the Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME) will launch the Global Critical Media Literacy Project (GCMLP). The project is the first of its kind, teaching digital media literacy education and critical thinking skills, as well as raising awareness about corporate and state-engineered news media censorship around the world. The goal of the GCMLP is to use a service-learning-based media literacy education to create more equitable democratic and economic participation in our 21st century public spheres. Rather than wait for states or the nation to mandate media literacy education, the GCMLP will provide educators with training, course materials, and a national network of colleagues to provide college- and high school-level media education. Stay tuned for more about this exciting partnership!

4. ISRAELIs Deploy Electronic Stun Guns against the Flotilla

By Ali Abunimah in The Electronic Intifada. International water near Gaza - Contrary to Israeli claims that the Marianne was taken peacefully, this video shows that armed commandos used brutal violence against unarmed passengers aboard the Gaza-bound boat early on Monday. According to the organizers of the flotilla, 14 of the 18 civilian passengers and crew remain in Israeli custody more than two days after they were violently abducted in international waters to prevent them breaking the Israeli-imposed siege on Gaza. Palestinian citizen of Israel and member of the Israeli parliament Basel Ghattas, former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki, Spanish European Parliament member Ana Miranda and Israeli journalist Ohad Hemo have been released. -more-

5. Leaked: What’s In Obama’s TPP Trade Deal

A recent draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal would give U.S. pharmaceutical firms unprecedented protections against competition from cheaper generic drugs, possibly transcending the patent protections in U.S. law.

POLITICO has obtained a draft copy of TPP’s intellectual property chapter as it stood on May 11, at the start of the latest negotiating round in Guam. While U.S. trade officials would not confirm the authenticity of the document, they downplayed its importance, emphasizing that the terms of the deal are likely to change significantly as the talks enter their final stages. Those terms are still secret, but the public will get to see them once the twelve TPP nations reach a final agreement and President Obama seeks congressional approval.
Still, the draft chapter will provide ammunition for critics who have warned that TPP’s protections for pharmaceutical companies could dump trillions of dollars of additional health care costs on patients, businesses and governments around the Pacific Rim. The highly technical 90-page document, cluttered with objections from other TPP nations, shows that U.S. negotiators have fought aggressively and, at least until Guam, successfully on behalf of Big Pharma.
The draft text includes provisions that could make it extremely tough for generics to challenge brand-name pharmaceuticals abroad. Those provisions could also help block copycats from selling cheaper versions of the expensive cutting-edge drugs known as “biologics” inside the U.S., restricting treatment for American patients while jacking up Medicare and Medicaid costs for American taxpayers.

“There’s very little distance between what Pharma wants and what the U.S. is demanding,” said Rohit Malpini, director of policy for Doctors Without Borders.
Throughout the TPP talks, the Obama administration has pledged to balance the goals of fostering innovation in the drug industry, which means allowing higher profits, and promoting wider access to valuable medicines, which means keeping prices down. U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has pointed out that pharmaceutical companies often have to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to get a new drug to market, which they would have little incentive to do without strong protections for the patented product. But Froman has also recognized the value of allowing much cheaper generic drugs to enter the market after those brand-name patents expire. In the U.S., generics now comprise more than five-sixths of all prescription drugs, but only about one-quarter of drug costs.

Advocates for the global poor, senior citizens, labor unions and consumers as well as the generics industry have accused the administration of abandoning that balance, pushing a pharmaceutical-company agenda at the expense of patients and taxpayers. One critic, hoping to illustrate the point and rally opposition to TPP in Congress, gave POLITICO the draft chapter, which was labeled “This Document Contains TPP CONFIDENTIAL Information” on every page.
U.S. officials said the key point to remember about trade deals is that no provision is ever final until the entire deal is final—and that major compromises tend to happen at the very end of the negotiations. They expect the real horse-trading to begin now that Obama has signed “fast-track” legislation requiring Congress to pass or reject TPP without amendments.
“The negotiations on intellectual property are complex and continually evolving,” said Trevor Kincaid, a spokesman for Froman. “On pharmaceutical products, we are working closely with stakeholders, Congress, and partner countries to develop an approach that aims to make affordable life-saving medicine more widely available while creating incentives for the development of new treatments and cures. Striking this important balance is at the heart of our work.”
The draft chapter covers software, music and other intellectual property issues as well, but its most controversial language involves the rights of drug companies. The text reveals disputes between the U.S. (often with support from Japan) and its TPP partners over a variety of issues—what patents can cover, when and how long they can be extended, how long pharmaceutical companies can keep their clinical data private, and much more. On every issue, the U.S. sided with drug companies in favor of stricter intellectual property protections.
Some of the most contentious provisions involve “patent linkage,” which would prevent regulators in TPP nations from approving generic drugs whenever there are any unresolved patent issues. The TPP draft would make this linkage mandatory, which could help drug companies fend off generics just by claiming an infringement. The Obama administration often describes TPP as the most progressive free-trade deal in history, citing its compliance with the tough labor and environment protections enshrined in the so-called “May 10 Agreement” of 2007, which set a framework for several trade deals at the time. But mandatory linkage seems to be a departure from the May 10 pharmaceutical provisions.

In an April 15 letter to Froman, Heather Bresch, the CEO of the generic drug company Mylan, warned that mandatory patent linkage would be “a recipe for indefinite evergreening of pharmaceutical monopolies,” leading to the automatic rejection of generic applications. The U.S. already has mandatory linkage, but most other TPP countries do not, and Bresch argued that U.S. law includes a number of safeguards and incentives for generic companies that have not made it into TPP.
“With all due respect, the USTR has…cherry-picked the single provision designed to block generic entry to the market,” Bresch wrote.
Generics are thriving in the U.S. despite linkage, saving Americans an estimated $239 billion on drugs in 2013. But the U.S. is the world’s largest market, and advocates fear that generic manufacturers may not take on the risk and expense of litigation in smaller markets if TPP tilts the playing field against them. One generics manufacturer, Hospira, reportedly testified at a TPP forum in Melbourne, Australia, that it would not launch generics outside the U.S. in markets with linkage.
The opponents are also worried about the treaty’s effect on the U.S. market, because its draft language would extend mandatory patent linkage to biologics, the next big thing in the pharmaceutical world. Biologics can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for patients with illnesses like rheumatoid arthritis, hepatitis B and cancer, and the first knockoffs have not yet reached pharmacies. The critics say that extending linkage to biologics—which can have hundreds of patents—would help insulate them from competition forever.
“It would be a dramatic departure from U.S. law, and it would put a real crimp in the ability of less expensive drugs to get to market,” said K.J. Hertz, a lobbyist for AARP. “People are going to look at this very closely in Congress.”
Drug companies are already pushing for TPP to guarantee them 12 years of exclusivity for their data regarding biologics, although the draft text suggests the other TPP nations have not agreed. Jay Taylor, vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said it’s crucial for TPP to protect the intellectual property that emerges from years of expensive research, so that drug companies can continue to develop new medicines for patients around the world.
“These innovations could be severely hindered if IP protections are scaled back,” Taylor said. “This is especially important in the area of biologic medicines, which could hold the key to unlocking treatments for diseases that have thwarted researchers for years.”
U.S. officials would not discuss the status of the TPP talks. But they suggested the May 10 Agreement did include a milder form of linkage, although it didn’t prevent regulators from approving generics mired in patent disputes.  They also believe a 2009 U.S. law included a form of linkage for biologics, although again, that law’s dispute resolution process for patent issues was not as prescriptive as the TPP draft. And they cautioned that any pre-Guam draft would not reflect recent negotiations over “transition periods” that would delay the stricter patent standards in developing countries like Vietnam.
In any case, Kincaid said U.S. negotiators are determined to strike a balance between innovation and access in the final product.
“While this is our touchstone, the negotiations are still very much in process, and the details of a final outcome cannot yet be forecasted,” he said.
But Malpani of Doctors Without Borders said U.S. negotiators have basically functioned as drug lobbyists. The TPP countries have 40 percent of global economic output, and the deal is widely seen as establishing new benchmarks for some of the most complex areas of global business. Malpani fears it could set a precedent that crushes the generic drug industry under a mountain of regulation and litigation.
“We consider this the worst-ever agreement in terms of access to medicine,” he said. “It would create higher drug prices around the world—and in the U.S., too.

6. Rising Fascism in Ukraine

The following is a report to the International Anti-EU Forum held in Athens, Greece on June 26-28, 2015. The translation is by Greg Butterfield of ‘Red Star Over Donbass‘.
Ukrainian fascism, whose existence is hard for even the most ardent supporters of the Kiev regime to deny today, did not emerge in 2014. Ukrainian fascism did not arise suddenly. Its development, first slowly and then rapidly, can be traced to the turn of the 1980s-90s and reached its culmination during the so-called “revolution of dignity” last winter.
This gradual fascization of Ukrainian society, the peak of which naturally came at a time of economic crisis, has long been the subject of analysis by the Ukrainian left. In 2012, two years before the Maidan, our organization, Borotba, published a report entitled “Ukrainian oligarchy prepares a creeping fascist coup.” The report predicted the events of last winter with remarkable accuracy.
Here are some quotes from the document:
“Under cover of security agencies, and with funding from oligarchic groups, nationalist militias will be formed which will constitute the power for a future fascist coup. These units will carry out attacks on leftist and anti-nationalist forces and their headquarters, and carry out terror against individual politicians and social activists.
“As the power of ethnocratic Ukrainian nationalists will inevitably lead to the growth of separatist movements in the southeast of the country, as well as in the Carpathians, the establishment of a dictatorship of the fascist type will be supported by international players who are interested in the disintegration of Ukraine and the destruction of the Ukrainian state.
“Leftist political organizations and social organizations opposed to nationalism, chauvinism and xenophobia will be banned. Criminal cases will be opened against their leaders. In parallel with persecution under the law, attacks will be carried out by the radical nationalists against left and progressive movements, ethnic and linguistic minorities.”

7. Greece and The Giant Bailout, Day 4
– The International Monetary Fund admitted Greece needed 60 billion euros, in the next three years, and major debt relief to survive
– German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel: Alexis Tsipras is a threat to the “European order”
Remember that time Greece forgave Germany’s debt?
– There are two sides in regards to the Greece crisis: Those for Greece and those against. We must side with Greece
– The Independent Greeks, a party in the coalition government with SYRIZA, are angry with Tsipras’ recent decisions and protesting against SYRIZA

– Previous Greek prime ministers called for a “Yes” vote on Sunday; Of course, the elites who caused this mess in the first place would decide to side with the bourgeoisie

– Greek Financial Minister Yanis Varoufakis: If Greece votes yes, then I will resign
International Politics

– Professor Baris Karaagac and journalist Patrick Cockburn join The Real News to talk about Turkey’s probable intervention in the Syrian Civil War

– Secretary of State John Kerry: Venezuela must find a “peaceful resolution” with the opposition

– A former British official urged the U.S. to negotiate with terrorists

– Russia believes a P5+1-Iran nuclear agreement will happen in next few days

Middle East
– The Pentagon announced a top leader of ISIS died in Syria because of U.S.-led air strikes
– Rebels in Syria launched a major attack to capture the city of Aleppo from the government

8. DIMON &  WARREN exchange smoke signals
DIMON - “I don’t know if she fully understands the global banking system,” Dimon, speaking Wednesday at an event in Chicago, said of the Massachusetts Democrat. Still, he said he agrees with some of her concerns about risks.
Warren, a Senate Banking Committee member, has won popular support and gained influence in her party by openly challenging the size of large lenders and their political power. She has said it was a mistake for the U.S. government to refrain from breaking up big banks, such as Citigroup Inc., after the 2008 financial crisis. Last month, as firms including JPMorgan pleaded guilty to resolve probes into market-rigging, she criticized regulators for granting waivers that let the companies continue operating certain businesses.
Warren - "The problem is not that I don't understand the global banking system. The problem for these guys is that I fully understand the system and I understand how they make their money. And that's what they don't like about me."

9. NPR & RWS - exchange views
Listening to NPRs coverage of the TPP VOTE -
I was moved to write

RWS I am disappointed almost beyond words Where once NPR - made a virtue of airing two or even three sides of an issue.  We have come to such an unhappy pass that all the economic commentators sing from the Wall Street Journal or the ALEC hymn book. But WHY NPR? WHY - Only include happy TPP enthusiasts to discuss its passage. Are you unaware there is a large noisy ANTI-TPP Movement? , one needn't look to far to find an opponent. Oh for the days of two sides! -  Richard Spisak New Mercury Media 

Thank you for contacting NPR. 

We appreciate your feedback regarding the June 25, 2015, Morning Edition story “Business Groups Win After Senate Passes Fast-Track Trade Bill."

When reporting on important issues, no single story can cover every relevant angle or point of view. We always encourage listeners to consider our coverage comprehensively. For example, you may have missed Morning Edition’s story the previous week:Labor Unions Remain Steadfastly Opposed To Trans-Pacific Trade Measure” or this interview from May with Senator Elizabeth Warren about her objections to the Trans-Pacific Partnership: “Sen. Warren On The 'Tilted Process' Of Asia Trade Bill.”

It should be noted that our report did remind listeners that labor and environmental groups opposed the fast-track deal. Also, we pointed out that a claim made by supporters – that NAFTA made U.S. manufacturing stronger – is not supported by jobs figures. As we said, “after an initial bump following NAFTA, manufacturing employment declined."

That being said, we can always do a better job of examining all points of view and telling our audience about earlier coverage that goes into more detail about such issues. Our senior news gathering staff is aware of your concerns and looking at ways to make improvements toward that end.

Thank you again for taking the time to share your perspectives. We are grateful for your candid feedback and interest in public radio programming.

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