NEWS REPORT (29 April 2018)
Vol. 1, №5
The mass media’s main functions are to divide, distract, and disinform. To consume news intelligently, we need filter out the distractions. Only then can we see how power works, in real time.
This week, while the mass media was talking about Kanye West, these things happened:
Korea. Bloomberg reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in agreed Friday to finally end the 70-year-old Korean War, and pursue the “complete denuclearization” of the peninsula.
· Al-Masdar News reported that Palestinian fighters have joined the government’s Syrian Arab Army (SAA) in the battle to take the Yarmouk Camp District, located south of Damascus, from the Islamic State (ISIS).
· The New Arab reported that a SAA bombing in the Yarmouk Camp District killed 17 civilians.
· Al-Masdar News reported that the Russian Air Force has resumed bombing Syrian opposition rebel positions south of Idlib, in northwestern Syria. The rebels are reportedly preparing to launch an offense against SAA positions in that area.
· Asharq Al-Awsat reported that Mazloum Abdi, commander-in-chief of the Kurdish-affiliated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which controls northeastern Syria, met with U.S. envoy Brett McGurk following President Trump’s premature troop withdrawal announcement on March 29. Abdi indicated that the SDF would have “no problem if Arab forces” joined the SDF.
· Al Arabiya and The New Arab reported that a Houthi leader acknowledged that President Saleh Ali al-Sammad was killed in a US/KSA coalition airstrike. A second airstrike killed 38 Houthi leaders, while they were planning al-Sammad’s funeral.
· AP reported that a US/KSA coalition airstrike killed over 20 people in a wedding party, including the bride.
Iran. El Arabiya reported that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on all Arab nations to united against the United States. This came in response to President Trump’s boast that some countries in the Middle East “wouldn’t last a week” without U.S. protection.
Quatar. Middle East Eye reported that Saudi’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir suggested that Quatar should pay the cost of the U.S. military presence in Syria, or lose the protection provided by the U.S. airbase located in Al-Udeid. One analyst called it “a silly, silly suggestion.”
Iraq. AP reported that Oil Minister Jabar Ali al-Luaibi moved up a coming bidding deadline on oil exploration and extraction rights in 11 undeveloped districts. Critics called the move politically motivated. This will be the fifth bid for oil rights in Iraq. Oil production in Iraq has gone from 2.4 million barrels a day in 2009, to 3.45 million barrels a day in 2018.
· Middle East Eye reported that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved up elections from November to June, in an effort to install a “super-presidency” system, which critics claim would endanger the existing parliamentary system. In response, Turkey’s Supreme Election Board announced that the opposition Ily Party had qualified for the June elections, despite formal irregularities. The Iyi Party was formed in protest against the nationalist MHP’s alliance with the ruling Justice and Development Party.
· The BBC reported that 13 journalists who work for the Cumhuriyet (chump-hoor-d-et) newspaper were convicted of treason, in the wake of a failed coup attempt in July 2016. Those convicted include cartoonist Musa Kart.
· Sputnik News, which is funded by the Russian government, and The Hill, reported that Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced a bill that would halt the sale of 116 F-35A fighters to Turkey. Senator Lankford said that the country’s “strategic decisions regrettably fall more and more out of line with, and at times in contrast to, U.S. interests.” They are also calling for the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been held for allegedly assisting in the July 2016 attempted coup.
Armenia. Huffington Post reported that Serzh Sargsyan resigned as the country’s leader, in response to massive street protests calling for his ouster. His term in office was limited by the constitution. Crowds gathered in response to his effort to extend his term with a legislative maneuver.
Algeria. Al Jazeera reported that the country’s ruling party will nominate 81-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to run for a fifth term as president, despite being wheelchair bound as a result of a stroke for over five years. The country is run by an uneasy coalition between the civilian government and the military. Both sides are seeking a consensus candidate to replace Bouteflika.
France. The BBC reported that Vincent Bolloré, billionaire former chairman of the Vivendi media group, is under criminal investigation for giving Guinean President Alpha Condé and Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé deeply discounted media time, in exchange for deep water port contracts for a Vivendi affiliate.
Egypt. Human Rights Watch reported that an on-going blockade of the north Saini peninsula could lead to a humanitarian crisis. The blockade is in response to a 2017 attack by ISIS-affiliate called the “Saini Province” on a mosque that killed 305 citizens. Human Rights Watch said the blockade borders on collective punishment, a war crime.
Zimbabwe. Human Rights Watch reported that thousands of villagers around east Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields took to the streets to protest the looting of diamond revenue by state-owned companies. They were met with tear gas canisters. In March 2016, former President Robert Mugabe, while providing no evidence, told the state broadcaster that diamonds worth more than US$15 billion had been looted in Marange. No one has been held to account for the alleged looting.
· Reuters reported that the Maduro government arrested two Chevron employees, who face charges of treason for refusing to sign a joint venture agreement with the state-owned oil company, PDVSA. In response, Chevron evacuated executives from Venezuela.
· AP reported that ConocoPhillips won a $2 billion arbitration award against PDVSA in connection with the Maduro government’s nationalization of two oil projects.
Boeing. Agence France-Presse reported that Boeing’s profits surged in the first quarter of 2018. The company’s performance was boosted by increased world-wide air travel, and by strong weapons volume.
CFPB. Vanity Fair reported that Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Rick Mulvaney has frozen all new investigations by the agency. In a meeting with the American Bankers’ Association, speaking about his prior career on Capitol Hill, Mulvaney said, “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”
Democrats. The Intercept reported that the Democratic National Committee is paying the Clinton campaign $1.65 million for its 2016 campaign data. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is paying Clinton $700 thousand for use of the same list. Previously, the Clinton campaign had indicated that it was donating the list as an in-kind contribution, as President Obama had done.
Education. Mother Jones and ProPublica reported that the Department of Education reported that black students are disproportionately given suspensions, expulsions, physical restraint, and arrests. Meanwhile, Secretary Betty DeVos is pursuing rescinding an Obama-era guidance aimed at ensuring discipline is not meted out disproportionately. White students, on the other hand, are much more likely to be given entrance exams for gifted programs.
HUD. The Washington Post reported that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson proposed tripling the rent for the poorest households in the government program, and to impose work requirements. The plan would require congressional approval.
National Football League. Alternet reported that, in a meeting with NFL players, owners indicated that they would not draft Colin Kapernick, because they feared negative publicity from President Trump via Twitter.
National Rifle Association. FoxNews reported that the NRA broke a 15 year fundraising record, in the wake of the school shootings in Parkland, Florida.
Prisons. Injustice Today reported that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is implementing a new policy where prisoners must purchase books though the BOP, at grossly inflated prices, instead of buying direct from retailers like Amazon.
Wal Mart. CNN reported that CEO Doug McMillon earned $22.8 million during the retailer’s last fiscal year, which ended in January. That is 1,188 times more than the company’s median wage.
Wells Fargo. Reuters reported that CEO Tim Sloan earned $17.6 million for 2017, which is 291 times the company’s median wage. More than a dozen employees posted critical comments on an internal website, until the bank disenabled comments, claiming some of the comments did not comply with company policies.
STATE AND LOCAL
California. The Intercept reported that Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s re-election campaign received over $420 thousand from police unions and associations. It is Schubert’s decision whether to file charges against the police officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark in his grandmother’s back yard.
· The Denver Post reported that nearly 30 school districts closed their doors due to teacher walkouts aimed at bringing attention to the state’s low school funding.
· The Intercept reported that, in a meeting with Levi Tillmann, a candidate in the Democratic primary in Colorado’s 6th congressional district, Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD), acting as a representative for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the DCCC has a “policy that early on,” they agree on a candidate to support in the general election. Hoyer asked Tillmann to leave the race.
Louisiana. The Advocate reported that a bill that would require unanimous verdicts in felony cases is advancing through the legislature, to appear as a voter referendum in the fall. Louisiana and Oregon are the only states that allow for convictions with split juries.
· The Hill reported that Lezley McSpadden is considering a run for city council in Ferguson. McSpadden is the mother of Michael Brown, whose killing by a police officer in 2014 set off nationwide protests against police violence.
· St. Louis Today reported that a vote on a “right to work” referendum which would move the vote from the November general election to the August primary election, is advancing through the legislature. Governor Eric Grietens is expected to sign the bill. He is currently indicted on charges relating to campaign finances and an extramarital affair.
Texas. The Hill reported that Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) has refused to accept funds from NextGen America Super PAC, run by billionaire Tom Steyer. “This is going to be a real test for Texas and for the country and our democracy to see if people are a match for the PACs and the super PACs and the special interests and the corporations, and I’m all in on the people,” O’Rourke said. But the Democrat added that he can’t stop Steyer or anyone else from running political ads on his behalf.
Wisconsin. The Journal Sentinel reported that no charges will be filed against two West Milwaukee police officers who killed a man with mental illnesses. Responding to a medical emergency, the officers broke down his door while he was showering. Over the course of 30 minutes, they tased him 18 times. The man had a black eye, a broken rib and more than two dozen cuts and bruises. District Attorney John Chisholm concluded that there was “no basis to conclusively link” the death to the officers’ actions.