Dissident Voice

Dissident Voice
27 Mar 2023 | 3:05 pm

1. Supplying Ukraine with Depleted Uranium Shells

Should they be taking them? Ukraine is desperate for any bit of warring materiel its armed forces can lay their hands on, but depleted uranium shells would surely not be a model example of use. And yet, the UK, in an act of killing with kindness, is happy to fork them out to aid the cause against the Russians, despite the scandals, the alleged illnesses, and environmental harms.

An outline of the measure was provided by Minister of state for defence Baroness Annabel Goldie's written answer to a question posed by Lord Hylton: "Alongside our granting of a squadron of Challenger 2 main battle tanks to Ukraine, we will be providing ammunition including armour piercing rounds which contain depleted uranium. Such rounds are highly effective in defeating modern tanks and armoured vehicles."

The response from the Kremlin was swift. "If all this happens," warned Russian President Vladimir Putin, "Russia will have to respond accordingly, given that the West collectively is already beginning to use weapons with a nuclear component." Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu also foresaw "nuclear collision".

The statement from Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the Russian lower house, shifted the focus from potential nuclear catastrophe to the field of medical consequences, reminding his fellow members that the use of such ammunition by the US in former Yugoslavia and Iraq had led to "radioactive contamination and a sharp rise in oncological cases."

News networks were left trying to convey a picture to the public, much of it skimpy on the perilous consequences arising from using such munitions. The BBC's characteristic language of understatement notes that such uranium, stripped of much of its radioactive content, "makes weapons more powerful, but it is feared those weapons could be a threat to people in areas where they are used."

Sky News had its own benign interpretation of the dangers, suggesting that DU, in emitting alpha particles, did not "have enough energy to go through skin, so exposure to the outside of the body is not considered a serious hazard." An admission as to the dangers had to follow. "It can be a serious health hazard, however, if it is swallowed or inhaled."

The US Department of Veterans Affairs outlines a few points on the matter in greater detail. "When a projectile made with DU penetrates a vehicle, small particles of DU can be formed and breathed in or swallowed by service members in the struck vehicle. Small DU fragments can also scatter and become embedded in muscle and soft tissue."

Since their use in the Gulf War (1991), the Kosovo War (1999), the Iraq War (2003) and Afghanistan, the curriculum vitae of such weapons has become increasingly blotchy. The use of such shells has been contentious to the point of being criminal, said to be carcinogenic and a cause of birth defects. A study examining a civilian population sample from Eastern Afghanistan, published in 2005, revealed that "contamination in Afghanistan with a source consistent with natural uranium has resulted in total concentrations up to 100 times higher than the normal range for various geographic and environmental areas throughout the world."

Subsequent field research, notably in Iraq, has found instances of serious birth defects, including congenital heart disease, paralysis, missing limbs and neurological problems. While some of these outcomes can be attributable to other activities of the US military and its allies, the role of DU looms large.

The nature of such weaponry is also indiscriminate. As a law firm representing US war veterans acknowledges, those involved in campaigns, notably in Iraq, "may have been exposed to depleted uranium as a result of being in a vehicle that was hit by a projectile, being exposed to burning depleted uranium, or salvaging the wreckage of a vehicle that was hit by a depleted uranium projectile."

The Department of Veterans Affairs has also admitted that DU is a "potential health hazard if it enters the body, such as through embedded fragments, contaminated wounds, and inhalation or ingestion." It prefers, however, to treat each claim for disability that might have been the result of DU poisoning "on a case-by-case basis."

The claimed lack of unequivocal evidence linking such projectiles to adverse effects on the environment and humans has been a consistent theme in investigations – and a boon for militaries using them. A committee of review established by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia that covered, among other things, the use of these shells by NATO forces in the Kosovo campaign, proved less than satisfactory.

In recommending that no investigation be commenced regarding the bombing campaign – hardly a surprise – the members had to concede that NATO's responses to any queries were "couched in general terms and failed to address specific incidents." The Committee also found no consensus on whether the "use of such projectiles violate general principles of the law applicable to use of weapons in armed conflict."

The UN Sub-Commission on Human Rights proved more forthright on the issue, claiming in a resolution that DU are weapons with indiscriminate effects and should therefore be prohibited under international humanitarian law. The UN General Assembly's latest resolution on the matter, however, suggested a distinct lack of backbone, noting that "studies conducted so far by relevant international organizations have not provided a detailed enough account of the magnitude of the potential long-term effects on human beings and the environment of the use of armaments and ammunitions containing depleted uranium."

Little wonder, given such a muddled frame of mind, that the use of DU projectiles has persisted with some relish, despite an avalanche of studies warning of their dangers. Nature abhors a vacuum and fills it accordingly with the mean and ghastly. In November 2015, 5000 rounds of DU ammunition were used in an air raid on oil trucks used by Islamic State forces despite assurances from the US military that it had stopped using such weapons. As to whether it will supply Kyiv with this hazardous product remains unclear – the Pentagon is proving reticent on the subject.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament has attacked the UK's decision. Its General Secretary, Kate Hudson, outlined her concerns in a statement: "CND has repeatedly called for the UK government to place an immediate moratorium on the use of depleted uranium weapons and to fund long-term studies into their health and environmental impacts."

Short of a clear treaty on the subject, preferably one with teeth, this is much wishful thinking. The Ukrainian forces, however, should give the whole matter a second thought: the effects of such weapons will not distinguish between the users, the targets, and the civilians. In the long run, it will also prove unsparing to the environment, which promises to be richly contaminated by the toxicity of such lingering munitions.

Dissident Voice
25 Mar 2023 | 8:36 pm

2. China Denounces US TikTok Ban Threat as “xenophobic witch hunt,” Firmly Opposes Possible Forced Sale

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 23: TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew prepares to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill on March 23, 2023 in Washington, DC. The hearing was a rare opportunity for lawmakers to question the leader of the short-form social media video app about the company's relationship with its Chinese owner, ByteDance, and how they handle users' sensitive personal data. Some local, state and federal government agencies have been banning use of TikTok by employees, citing concerns about national security (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The US' TikTok hearing is politically manipulated to cover its real purpose of robbing the profitable firm from China, which reflects the US' mounting hegemony and bullying against firms with Chinese background, experts said on Friday, noting the US witch-hunting against TikTok portends US' technological innovation is going downhill and the political farce against a tiny app has seriously shattered the US values of fair competition and its credibility.

The US House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on Thursday (US time) titled, "TikTok: How Congress can safeguard American data privacy and protect children from online harms."

While US lawmakers acted like they are pursuing a solution on how to ensure data security, the hearing turned out to be a political show that was designed to smear an international firm that has Chinese background and cover up its real purpose of stealing the firm from its Chinese parent, experts said.

Whether it ends up "killing" TikTok or forcibly taking the child out of its parent ByteDance's arms, it is one of the ugliest scenes of the 21st century in high-tech competition, they said. "Your platform should be banned," House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers said as she started the hearing, claiming that the app has ties with Chinese government.

During the roughly five-hour  hearing, CEO Shou Zi Chew's attempts to illustrate TikTok's business operations were frequently interrupted. His requests to elaborate on concerns of members of US Congress were also blocked.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning denounced the US' move on Friday, saying the US is adopting the presumption of guilt and engaging in an unreasonable crackdown against TikTok without any proof.

"We noted that some US lawmaker has said that to seek a TikTok ban is a 'xenophobic witch hunt'," she said, urging the US to respect the market economy and fair competition rules, stop the unreasonable crackdown on foreign firms and provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory environment for other countries' firms in the US.

The Chinese government places high importance on protecting data privacy and security according to laws. China has never and will never ask firms or individuals to violate local laws to collect or provide data and information stored within other countries' borders, Mao stressed.

The latest hearing followed reports that the Biden administration has threatened to ban TikTok if its China-based parent company ByteDance doesn't divest its stakes in the popular video app.

It is another dark scene in Washington's struggle for US supremacy, the US' barbaric act only underscores that US values of fair competition, freedom of speech and inclusiveness are gradually disappearing and instead xenophobia is rising, experts said, noting that the US government lacks confidence in competing with China.

Even more ironic is that rather than finding a solution to problems brought about by the negative impact of US social problems on children such as suicide, self-harm and drug abuse, US lawmakers are instead faulting the company, Li Yong, deputy chairman of the Expert Committee of the China Association of International Trade, told the Global Times on Friday.

"The hearing was hegemonic and bullying against a private firm," Li said, noting that it's common for American politicians to put unwarranted labels on entities with Chinese background by fabricating excuses.

"While the US has always paraded itself as a rules-based market economy, they don't really have any objective rules. All the rules are selected and serve American political elites' interests and US hegemony," Li said.

The US' forced sale of TikTok is shameless robbery of a profitable firm from China, he said, noting that the US is increasingly politicizing an innovative app that has enriched the digital life of American people and benefited a lot of micro businesses in the US.

"TikTok itself is not available in the Chinese mainland, we're headquartered in Los Angeles and Singapore, and we have 7,000 employees in the US today," Chew said in his opening remarks.

Dismissing Chew's testimony, US officials have stepped up their fight against TikTok. Speaking at a separate House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday TikTok should be "ended one way or another," adding that he did not know if it would be sufficient for TikTok to be divested from its Chinese parent company, CNN reported.

The high-profile hearing also attracted wide attention from netizens who called US Congress members arrogant, ridiculous and ignorant.

"Not a single one of them has made an argument that makes a lick of sense," an American net user posted on Twitter. "By his logic every other social media app should be banned," posted another netizen.

The topic "TikTok CEO attending US hearing" became trending on China's Twitter-like social media Sina Weibo, generating nearly 5 million views.

"I feel sorry for what Chew endured at the hearing. American politicians weren't so arrogant and aggressive at Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook hearing. It seems all the lawmakers are bullying Chew," a Chinese netizen posted on Sina Weibo.

While Chew was grilled in Washington, Apple CEO Tim Cook was met with cheers and applause at an Apple store in Beijing on Friday, prompting Chinese netizens to compare the "so-called free market" in the US and "real free market" in China.

The Biden administration's so-called "national security" narrative has also caused widespread speculation among TikTok users, scholars and researchers.

A TikTok sale would be "completely irrelevant to any of the alleged 'national security' threats" and go against "every free market principle and norm" of the state department's internet freedom principles, the Guardian reported, citing Karim Farhat, a researcher with the Internet Governance Project at Georgia Tech.

NBC News reported on Thursday that a 19-year-old Harvard freshman named Aidan Kohn-Murphy, who used TikTok to rally support for Biden in 2020, is now trying to use the app to stop Biden from killing the platform.

"If they went ahead with banning TikTok, it would feel like a slap in the face to a lot of young Americans," he said. "Democrats don't understand the political consequences this would have."

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Sinister move doomed

By forcing the sale of TikTok, the Biden administration is aiming to repeat its takeover of French power company Alstom and its torment on Japanese chip firm Toshiba, but the US' sinister move is doomed to meet challenges, given similar roadblocks faced by Trump three years ago, experts said.

"The Biden administration will find it hard to completely ban TikTok, as the app has a large user base of more than 150 million in the US," Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Beijing-based Information Consumption Alliance, told the Global Times.

It's an even more complicated issue for the US to take over TikTok, as a possible deal should also be in compliance with Chinese laws, he said. Experts said the Chinese government may step in to block the sale of TikTok.

"The Chinese side is firmly opposed to the forced sale or divestiture of TikTok," Chinese Commerce Ministry spokesperson Shu Jueting said on Thursday.

Exports of Chinese technology must be subject to administrative licensing procedures in accordance with Chinese laws, and the Chinese government is legally bound to make a decision, she reiterated.

In August 2020, China's Ministry of Commerce revised its restrictions on technology exports, including personalized content recommendations based on data analysis and a number of other technologies such as AI algorithms, which is widely considered as China's countermeasures against US' forced sale of TikTok then.

Back in 2020, then president Donald Trump and his administration sought to remove TikTok from app stores and force ByteDance to sell off its US assets. US courts blocked the order, concluding that banning the app would likely restrict the "personal communications" and sharing of "informational materials" by TikTok users.

In addition, the Washington Post reportedly worked with a privacy researcher to look under the hood at TikTok in 2020, concluding that the app does not appear to collect any more data than typical mainstream social network platforms in the US.

"From the US' groundless crackdown on Huawei to targeting TikTok citing the so-called 'national security,' American politicians have not had a comprehensive 'blueprint' for their moves, it's all politically motivated," Xiang said, referring to reports saying Biden is seeking a second presidential term.

On Thursday, the US put an additional 14 Chinese companies to a red flag list, forcing US exporters to conduct greater due diligence before shipping goods to them, mainly technology and solar firms.

Xiang said the US' unabated crackdowns on international firms including those from China violate international rules, disrupt global industrial and supply chains and harm both sides' interests and the global economy as a whole.

Ghost of McCarthyism haunts TikTok Hearing. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

Dissident Voice
25 Mar 2023 | 6:25 pm

3. Historic Meeting between Xi and Putin

This week's News on China in 2 minutes.

• Historic meeting between Xi and Putin
• Hong Kong announces industrial policy for the first time
• Baidu unveiled its version of ChatGPT

Dissident Voice
25 Mar 2023 | 6:12 pm

4. The Theatrics of COVID

Dissident Voice
25 Mar 2023 | 3:30 pm

5. Imran Khan, a Zionist Army Chief, and Pakistan-Israel Normalization

Historical Precedent

While many base Pakistan's enmity towards Israel on the latter's post-1948 transgressions such as occupying Gaza and West Bank, military incursions in Gaza, ethnic cleansing of Arabs, building unlawful Israeli settlements, and innumerable other events, this is an incomplete story. Pakistan's opposition to Israel can be traced back to Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, two of Pakistan's founders, when the two nations were nonexistent.

Mr. Iqbal, Mr. Jinnah, and their political party worked selflessly toward the cause of Palestine after World War I, despite chasing the dream of Pakistan. They sent Indian Muslim delegations to aid with the Palestine question, built anti-British/Zionist momentum through scathing letters and speeches, passed countless resolutions for Palestine, organized Palestine Days, and started a Palestine Fund for Arab victims et cetera. They did so much, that on several occasions even the Grand Mufti of Palestine acknowledged their efforts.

Pakistan's Current Situation

After the Abraham Accords in 2020, the Middle East's already waning anger toward Israel dissolved further. In a shock move Oman, UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan, recognized Israel. There were similar murmurings of Saudi Arabia being next as it was not possible for UAE, Bahrain, and Oman to recognize Israel without big brother Saudi Arabia's blessing.

While in office, Pakistan's ex-PM Imran Khan verified that he was fighting enormous exogenous pressures to recognize Israel. One of the nations placing such pressures, he asserted, was America, yet he abstained from referencing the other countries. However, he did note that they were close allies of Pakistan, which many perceived as Saudi Arabia and UAE. Imran Khan's position on the Palestine issue, aptly, reflected that of Pakistan's founders as evidenced by his statement that Pakistan cannot make any decisions on a matter which has been refused by the Palestinians.

Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa: A Semi-Closeted Zionist

In April 2022, Imran Khan was ousted through a no-confidence motion. Many in Pakistan, including the former PM, assert that the then-army chief Bajwa was behind this – this is no surprise as the military establishment has ruled for 33 years directly; and always indirectly. After Imran's removal, information regarding how Bajwa was undermining the ex-PM became public knowledge. While the mainstream media remains largely muzzled, journalists, analysts, and even ex-army officers began unveiling Bajwa's obfuscated plots via YouTube and Twitter. From ousting Imran Khan to jailing and even torturing critics (politicians and journalists alike), everything was exposed. Videos such as "Woh Kaun Tha?" (Who was he?) by investigative journalist Arshad Shareef, who was later murdered in Kenya under suspicious circumstances, went viral. The video (the original deleted) implied culpability towards Bajwa on his copious behind-the-scene ploys.

One specific area where Bajwa's manoeuvrings were exposed was vis-à-vis recognizing Israel which Imran Khan was clearly against. This assertion grew more substantial when senior journalists revealed more information. For example, senior anchor Imran Riaz Khan, (unrelated to ex-PM Imran Khan), expressed that when Bajwa met journalists, he would state that Pakistan ought to soften its stance on Israel. Bajwa would express his bafflement in front of the journalists regarding how Arab states were normalizing relations but Pakistan persisted with a stringent anti-recognition of Israel policy. Imran Riaz also noted that while meeting journalists in a one-on-one environment, General Bajwa would push them to start a discussion on the potential of Pakistan-Israel relations on TV and/or social media.

Another senior anchor Hamid Mir expressed that General Bajwa was constantly undermining Imran Khan and was pushing him toward the recognition of Israel. Bajwa's romance with Israel was additionally established when Hamid Mir wrote in an article, "Gen Bajwa also wanted to engage Israel but Imran Khan was reluctant." On another anchor's show on TV, Hamid Mir asserted that Imran Khan should take the name of the person who was pushing his administration to recognize Israel – signifying Bajwa. Due to this and various other conspiracies coming to light, Imran Khan's popularity has peaked while Bajwa has become one of the most detested figures in Pakistan's history.

Pakistani-American Delegations Visit Israel

When the new PDM (Pakistan Democratic Movement) government sponsored by and beholden to the army chief and the military establishment took charge, Bajwa's pro-Israel policies seemed to manifest. In May 2022, a group of Pakistani-Americans visited Israel which set off tremors across Pakistan. Pakistanis were infuriated as this delegation, sponsored by Sharaka (a pro-Israel civil group), met with Israeli president Isaac Herzog. More concerning was that an anchor from PTV (Pakistan's state telecaster), Ahmed Qureshi, was part of this group. Anila Ali, the head of the delegation gave the Israeli president a book on Pakistan's founder, Mr. Jinnah – the irony being Mr. Jinnah's feverish opposition to Zionism. Facing heavy reaction from the public, the PDM government declared that it did not send the group to Israel and that the delegates were dual nationals. They were forced to fire the PTV anchor, however.

A couple of months after this, a second Pakistani-American group sponsored again by Sharaka met the Israeli president. This designation was shockingly headed by Nasim Ashraf, a previous Pakistani minister (and another dual national). These two delegations touted that they were working for the cause of interfaith harmony but many analysts exclaimed conversely. For instance, Electronic Intifada notes "… the real purpose of these visits – typically led by Muslim Zionists – is to open a path to formal diplomatic and even military relations between Islamabad and Tel Aviv." This is further proven by Sharaka and other like-minded groups' ties to US government institutes as well as Zionist organizations – the implication being that such groups can be and are used surreptitiously by US-Israel agencies.

Raza Rumi of the Pakistani publication Naya Daur notes: "There must be some debate going on, and this visit was just a testing-the-waters-type visit." Such delegations are utilized to measure public perception as well as influence it. For instance, in 2017 an interfaith group of Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus from Bahrain visited Jerusalem, three years before Bahrain began diplomatic relations with Israel.

Lastly, the timing of these delegations visiting Israel is suspect as they occurred shortly after the pro-Palestine PM Imran Khan was removed from office, and Bajwa, then chief and still a Zionist could pull strings freely.

Will Pakistan Accept Israel?

Pakistan is nearing economic default, industries are shutting down, terrorism is rising once more, and inflation is wreaking havoc. Perhaps the Israel-US nexus could offer monetary relief and perhaps later military aid in exchange for recognition – this might sway the government to build a pro-Israel narrative to sell to the public. Since most of the debilitated PDM government is indebted to Bajwa because of their myriad corruption charges magically evaporating after they assumed power, this might be plausible. Furthermore, the PDM government has realigned towards the US, as Bajwa wanted, which was under threat when Imran Khan was PM. For Israel to attain nuclear Pakistan's recognition would be a political masterstroke. Netanyahu is on record as claiming that Pakistan is the biggest threat to Israel behind Iran.

Although Bajwa is no longer the army chief, Asim Muneer, his replacement, is accused of being Bajwa's veritable arm and vehemently anti-Imran Khan as well. Recognizing Israel would be an affront to Pakistan's revered founders, to the resilient Palestinians, and to the Muslim world. Pakistan's founding fathers drew a glaring line in the sand when it came to Israel – to cross beyond this pale would be an outright moral catastrophe for the country.

Dissident Voice
25 Mar 2023 | 3:24 pm

6. American Labor: Prospects and Possibilities

Starbucks workers at over 100 sites greeted Spring and the company's new CEO by walking off the job. Some pundits hail this action as a reflection of labors' growing new strength. Public approval of unions is at a fifty year high, petitions for union elections are on the upswing, and the recent well-publicized organizing victories at Trader Joes, Amazon, outdoor outfitter REI, and almost 300 Starbucks stores, among others. suggest that unions are on the rise. But glowing reports of the resurgence of the American labor movement are premature. The organizing efforts by Starbucks workers illustrate the many obstacles produced by corporate animus toward unions and hostile labor laws. In contrast, many other American labor activists have sought to avoid the strictures of labor law by taking their case directly to the streets and state legislatures, while European labor offers an entirely different model for securing workers' rights — sectoral bargaining.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz insists he's "not an anti-union person." Growing up in a Brooklyn housing project, he says he understands the working class. He believes that unions have a place in companies that the lack worker-friendly environs of Starbucks, which, he contends, offers the best possible workplace for his so-called "partners." Instead of helping workers, American labor law gives CEOs like Schultz the tools for keeping unions out. Workers who want a union must first convince co-workers to petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a union certification election. Once 30% of workers sign the petition, the NLRB sets a time and place for the election. Starbucks relies on its union busting law firm of Littler-Mendelson to tie the union up in court for months, if not years. A typical first step is to challenge categories of workers included in the bargaining unit. For instance, the Taft-Hartley Act excludes supervisors and independent contractors from union coverage. Other legal avenues exist for Starbucks to obstruct unionization. While union backers can organize only on break-time or outside the workplace, Starbucks can wage its anti-union campaign twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week by distributing anti-union literature, forcing workers to attend anti-union meetings, and compelling workers to watch anti-union videos. Starbucks can, and does, threaten store closings too, and when the threats don't work, store closings do.

In addition to legal anti-union activities, Starbucks, like other anti-union companies, frequently violates labor laws. The New York Times reported that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed 81 unfair labor practice charges and over 500 complaints against Starbucks for violations of federal labor laws, including illegally disciplining or firing workers for their union activities. Recently, a federal judge in Michigan ordered Starbucks to stop the firings and paved the way for the NLRB to reinstate workers fired for their union activities.

After winning union certification, workers must negotiate their first contract. Because of labor laws, union organizing in the United States is based on the enterprise system, one workplace at a time. Starbucks Workers United, then, must launch separate organizing drives and negotiate individual contracts for each of the company's more than 15,000 cafes. The union proposed a baseline contract as a national model, which Starbucks refused. To date, no unionized Starbucks store has a first contract. As cited in the Buffalo News, Cornell's Cathy Creighton observed, "Delay is a frequent and effective tool used by employers in first contract bargaining, because the longer negotiations drag on the more turnover, fear and frustration will work to undermine union support." Unionized workers responded by filing charges against Starbucks for failing to negotiate in good faith. On two occasions they also walked off the job in protest at more than 100 stores. Starbucks has the resources to prolong negotiations until union members finally give up and vote to decertify.

Starbuck's resistance to unionization is by no means unique, and labor law reform is nowhere in sight, not only in this divided Congress but even when Democrats held the presidency and both houses: A Senate filibuster stopped reform during the Carter administration, the Employee Free Choice Act died during the Obama years, and a looming filibuster killed Biden's Protecting the Right to Organize Act.

Labor law often fails American workers, but organized labor is only part of a larger labor movement. Many workers without unions are using their collective power to improve their terms and conditions of employment on an industry-wide basis through the political process. This approach, a nascent form of sectoral bargaining, could represent the future of the American labor movement, as Bill Scheuerman argues in A New American Labor: The Decline of Collective Bargaining and the Rise of Direct Action (SUNY Press, 2021).

Sectoral bargaining – the norm in Europe – is a form of collective bargaining that sets a minimum wage and other contractual conditions across an entire industry for its all workers, unionized or not. This approach removes many of the obstacles American unions face in organizing and raises the standard of living of all workers employed in the same industry. Mandating an industry-wide living wage prevents firms from cutting wages in a race to the bottom and encourages businesses to compete by increasing quality and productivity. Under existing U.S. labor law companies must consent to sectoral bargaining. Tens of thousands of American workers are by-passing federal labor laws by taking their case to state legislatures through direct political actions that seek higher state minimum wages, benefits, and workplace protections for workers on an occupation or industry wide basis.

Broad-based worker gains made through the political process are happening all over the United States. In conservative Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and West Virginia massive teacher walkouts for better pay, benefits and school funding culminated in successful negotiations with state legislatures, not single school districts. Fast food workers have made similar legislative gains. In New York, Colorado, and New Jersey wage boards set minimum wages and more for the industry. More recently, California has joined this group. As a September 2022 news release from the office of California Governor Gavin Newsome announced:

AB 257, the Fast Food Accountability and Standards Recovery Act by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), authorizes the creation of the Fast Food Council comprised of representatives from labor and management to set minimum standards for workers in the industry, including for wages, conditions related to health and safety, security in the workplace, the right to take time off from work for protected purposes and protection from discrimination and harassment.

And thanks in large part to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) work with the Fight For $15 coalition, in 2023 the minimum wage will jump to $15 in 23 states. The coalition is now making gains in the struggle for paid family and sick leave, a fight that points to another element underpinning sectoral bargaining in Europe – the strong social safety net of its member nations, including universal health insurance and extended paid parental and family leave. Given the dominance of corporate power in the United States, the road to sectoral bargaining will be built slowly. Already an industry group called Save Local Restaurants has secured a court order temporarily blocking California's AB 257. But Fight for $15 and One Fair Wage, like the teacher walkouts of 2018, have union help, but they are larger social and political movements that have momentum on their side.

Dissident Voice
25 Mar 2023 | 2:43 pm

7. The Terrorist Forefathers of Israel: The Irgun and Lehi

To the unbiased eye, Israel's true colors are not obfuscated due to its innumerable crimes against the Palestinians whether in the form of innocent Gazans being killed or the proliferation of illegal settlements in the West Bank. It is interesting to note that the state of Israel and the IDF's (Israel Defence Forces) terrorist proclivities are nothing new – instead, they are rooted in the ideologies and actions of Jewish pre-independence terror groups, the Irgun and Lehi. The article describes the Irgun and Lehi's origins, sheds light on their gruesome terrorist undertakings in Palestine, and then concludes with how their extremist legacy has been kept alive via the actions of the state of Israel.

The Irgun and Lehi

The Haganah was a paramilitary group active between 1920-1948 to protect Jews from Arab attacks and rioting. Poorly organized and composed mainly of farmers in its infancy, the group became better equipped and structured after the 1929 riots as well as the 1936-1939 Arab revolt. Until the end of WWII, the Haganah was moderate in its approach according to its policy of havlaga (self-restraint). The group was ordered not to attack Arabs indiscriminately and cooperated heavily with the British security forces in Mandatory Palestine. Such moderation, however, irked some members of the group which later led to splintering and the creation of the more indiscriminately violent Irgun (or Etzel) and Lehi (or Stern Gang).

Akin to many militant organizations, the Irgun evolved from a rudimentary group to a proper fighting force over time complete with a chain of command. The Irgun was formed by Ze'ev Jabotinsky, a Revisionist Zionism leader. Throughout the years it also battled an inward ideological tug of war – i.e. the debate of self-restraint versus actively attacking the Arabs and British.

In response to dissatisfaction with Britain's governance, Zionist land purchases, dispossession, and debt, the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939 erupted in Palestine. Instances of Arab violence and terrorism against the Jews heightened in this period, which saw Irgun's policy of self-restraint waning. In 1936, the Irgun unofficially ended this policy and began attacking Arabs in response to Arab attacks on Jews. In July 1937, Irgun's self-restraint policy officially ended as even Jabotinsky, who had been opposed to retaliatory actions, ceded to the growing demands to attack Arabs. On 14 November 1937, or Black Sunday, a massive indiscriminate campaign was launched against the Arabs (details later).

The British White Paper in 1939 was a watershed moment as it restricted Jewish migration to Palestine which subsequently invited the vehemence of the Irgun. The Irgun and Haganah in retaliation illegally brought thousands of Jews to Palestine.

World War II saw increased terrorist attacks by the Irgun primarily against the British administration to coerce them into reverting the 1939 White Paper. The war also allowed the Jewish militias to arm themselves more effectively. However, there was again an internal rift, which had been festering before the war, that caused another split. Avraham Stern, once the political head of the Irgun, disagreed with Jabotinsky on certain matters. When World War II broke out, Stern wanted to leverage the Irgun and attack the British as he discerned them, not the Arabs, as the principal antithesis to the Jewish state. Conversely, Jabotinsky opined that the Irgun must cease anti-British activities and that the British could be convinced that the Jews could safeguard their interests in the region. The schism led to the creation of the Lehi on 17 July 1940. Although the Lehi were far inferior in numbers (less than 300 members), their assassinations and terrorist attacks not only shook Palestine but also the world.

From 1944 until Israel's independence, a Jewish insurgency led primarily by the Irgun and Lehi against British rule engulfed Palestine with hundreds of British security personnel dying. After independence, the terrorists from the Irgun, Lehi, and Haganah were either disbanded or integrated into the IDF.

Terrorist Activities of the Irgun and Lehi

Although there are too many terrorist attacks to form an exhaustive list here, the article will highlight the more devastating ones. The Irgun conducted over 60 attacks on the Arabs during the Arab Revolt 1936-1939. The group used four different tactics: 1) Assassinations 2) Attacking transportation routes 3) Shootings 4) Using explosive devices. One of their most infamous attacks, called Black Sunday, was where 10 Arabs were killed and many wounded by Irgun units around Jerusalem. The Irgun commemorated the day by brazenly asserting "the Day of the Breaking of the Havlagah."

On June 19, 1938, 18 Arabs were killed – including 6 women and 3 children – and 24 injured in Haifa by an Irgun bomb that was ignominiously detonated in a crowded Arab marketplace.

In July 1938, the group planted a mine in a Haifa market, which tragically resulted in over 70 Arab deaths.

In February 1939, 33 Arabs were killed in multiple attacks – a bomb that killed 24 in Haifa and another that killed 4 in Jerusalem.

In 1939, the Irgun shifted its animus toward the British authorities. In August 1939, the British administration's broadcast center in Jerusalem was blown up and a few days later, a high-ranking British officer was killed.

In December 1945, 3 British policemen and 4 Sotho soldiers were killed when a British CID HQ was bombed in Jerusalem.

One of the most infamous of these terrorist attacks was the one conducted in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. The hotel was the British Mandatory authority's central office. A bomb was placed in the basement by Irgun members and the resulting explosion "killed over a hundred people, including many civilian employees, Arab, British, and Jewish."

As for Lehi, it too conducted many reprehensible attacks in Palestine. One such was the assassination of Lord Moyne, the British Minister Resident in the Middle East, as he was seen as a model of Britain's intransigence. He was gunned down in Cairo in November 1944.

On 4 January 1948, the Lehi introduced a new form of terror to the world – the car bomb. Yaakov Heruti and Eliezer Ben-Ami, the pioneers of this evil, targeted the Saraya building in Jaffa. The explosion killed 28 Arabs including many civilians as well as injuring hundreds more. Not only was the car bomb used commonly in pre-independence Israel against the Palestinians but was later adopted by other militant groups primarily in the Middle East.

The most detestable terrorist attack however was the Deir Yassin Massacare. On 9 April 1948, around 120 Lehi and Irgun fighters in cooperation with the Haganah attacked Deir Yassin village and massacred hundreds of Arab civilians, many of whom were women and children. This incident was so heinous that it was condemned by Jewish authorities, the chief Rabbinate, as well as Ben-Gurion. Condemnation, however, was not enough as no one was ever punished for the tragedy that befell the Arabs. According to Benny Morris, Deir Yassin was not an isolated incident. He says, "The worst cases were Saliha (70-80 killed), Deir Yassin (100-110), Lod (250), Dawayima (hundreds) and perhaps Abu Shusha (70)…. The fact is that no one was punished for these acts of murder. Ben-Gurion silenced the matter. He covered up for the officers who did the massacres."


Labeling and admonishing the Irgun and Lehi as terrorists is neither controversial nor hyperbolic. To the British leaders, the Jewish Agency, prominent Jews including Albert Einstein, and most importantly, the Palestinian Arabs, the members of the Irgun and Lehi were nothing less than terrorists.

Perhaps the most monolithic of Israel's sins was permitting these terrorists to become soldiers in the new IDF as well as allowing the Irgun and Lehi's leadership to segue, without culpability, from terrorism into politics. For example, Menachem Begin, an Irgun leader in 1944, later founded the Likud party and became Israel's 6th PM. Yitzhak Shamir, leader of Lehi in 1943, served in the Mossad and became Israel's 7th PM. One of Lehi's members, Yaakov Heruti, who pioneered the car bomb, later founded the right wing political parties Tehiya and Tsomet – and was responsible for helping settlers buy land in the occupied territories. Due to this this post-independence apathy, the Irgun and Lehi's terrorist proclivities still permeate within Israel's political and security power corridors.

This is evidenced by Israel's perennial war crimes and human rights abuses against the Palestinians. In the last 4 conflicts in Gaza (from 2008 to May 2021), 18,992 Palestinian casualties (civilians and combatants) occurred compared to 1,563 Israeli casualties (civilians and combatants) – 92% of the casualties were Palestinian.

On May 11, 2022, Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was deliberately killed by the IDF. Despite Israel rebuffing this, independent investigations from many organizations including CNN and Forensic Architecture assert otherwise. The latter stating that the IDF deliberately targeted Shireen "with the intention to kill."

Violence in the occupied West Bank has also surged in the past year with Israel conducting "near-daily raids over the last year, killing hundreds of Palestinians." The recent Huwara riots or "pogroms" as many are calling it also traumatized the world, which saw hundreds of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank ravaging Huwara by torching buildings and cars. The violence led to one Palestinian's death and hundreds injured. Commentators rebuked the settlers, the IDF for its inaction, as well as ministers such as Bezalel Smotrich who stated that Huwara should be "wiped out."

Dissident Voice
25 Mar 2023 | 1:50 pm

8. Banking Crisis 3.0: Time to Change the Rules of the Game

On CNN March 14, Roger Altman, a former deputy Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, said that American banks were on the verge of being nationalized:

What the authorities did over the weekend was absolutely profound. They guaranteed the deposits, all of them, at Silicon Valley Bank. What that really means … is that they have guaranteed the entire deposit base of the U.S. financial system. The entire deposit base. Why? Because you can't guarantee all the deposits in Silicon Valley Bank and then the next day say to the depositors, say, at First Republic, sorry, yours aren't guaranteed. Of course they are.

… So this is a breathtaking step which effectively nationalizes or federalizes the deposit base of the U.S. financial system.

The deposit base of the financial system has not actually been nationalized, but Congress is considering modifications to the FDIC insurance limit. Meanwhile, one state that does not face those problems is North Dakota, where its state-owned bank acts as a "mini-Fed" for the state. But first, a closer look at the issues.

Bail In, Bail Out, or "Socialism for the Rich"?

On Friday, March 10, Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) was put into receivership by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The FDIC announced that deposits over the $250,000 insurance limit would get an advance dividend within the next week, and would receive a receivership certificate for the rest of the funds. Most of the depositors were venture-backed startups that needed to keep large deposits in the bank to meet payroll and pay suppliers, and over 95% of the deposits were uninsured and at risk of being lost. It was basically a "bail in" of the uninsured deposits, which would be recoverable only if funds were available after the bank's assets had been sold.

But that arrangement lasted only two days. On March 12, Signature Bank was put into receivership; and the FDIC, Treasury and Federal Reserve jointly announced that all of the deposits at the two banks, not just those under the insurance limit, would be available for withdrawal on demand.

At a Senate Finance Committee hearing on March 16, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that the guarantee would not apply to all deposits at all banks. Rather, the determination would be made on a case-by-case basis.

In a Bloomberg News interview on March 16, former FDIC Chair Sheila Bair criticized that decision. She observed that the two banks getting special treatment were not "systemically important," and that the cost of the expanded guarantee was to be covered by a special assessment against all insured banks, including the small community banks that provide essential credit to local businesses. She argued that if guarantees were going to be given over the $250,000 limit, they should apply to deposits everywhere.

Meanwhile, on March 12, the Federal Reserve announced that it had set up a special purpose vehicle of the sort arranged for COVID relief in March 2020, called the Bank Term Funding Program (BTFP). Like the COVID special purpose vehicles, it would be backstopped with $25 billion from the Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF), a fund set up in 1934 to stabilize the exchange value of the dollar. The BTFP was to be available to any bank needing it, and many banks obviously did. Over $300 billion in short-term loans were withdrawn from the Fed's various facilities just in the week after SVB's collapse.

This money is not, however, the sort of "free lunch" provided to troubled banks in the last financial crisis. The money is to be advanced as a loan for up to a year, at a hefty interest rate as of March 22 of 4.88%. According to a Federal Reserve press release, advances will be made to "eligible depository institutions pledging U.S. Treasuries, agency debt and mortgage-backed securities, and other qualifying assets as collateral. These assets will be valued at par. The BTFP will be an additional source of liquidity against high-quality securities, eliminating an institution's need to quickly sell those securities in times of stress."

"Valued at par" means that banks can hold their long-term federal securities to maturity while acquiring ready cash against them to meet withdrawals, without having to "mark to market" and sell at a loss.

The Systemic Flaw

So what caused this crisis, and what can be done to remedy it?

In the midst of the 2008 economic crisis, former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan conceded that there was a flaw in his perception of the financial operating system. For 40 years, he had believed that banks could "self regulate" responsibly, a presumption that had proven to be flawed.

In the case of SVB, however, the bank was not engaged in the sort of risky lending seen in the subprime crisis, and increased "stress testing" wouldn't have saved it. It had put its deposits largely in federal securities, purported to be the safest assets available – so safe that they carry a "zero risk weighting" requiring no extra capital buffer. What went wrong was that they were long-term bonds at low interest. When rates shot up, the market value of the bonds dropped, since buyers prefer newer bonds paying higher interest. Bonds that could be sold were sold at a loss, and some marked "hold to maturity" could not be sold at all. As a result, SVB lacked the liquidity to meet the sudden unexpected demand for withdrawals.

The flaw to which SVB and many other "troubled" banks have fallen victim is the age-old systemic problem of "borrowing short to lend long." For centuries, banks have borrowed the money of depositors who expect to have it available on demand, and have invested it in long-term assets that cannot be immediately liquidated. The system works well so long as the depositors don't panic and rush to pull their money out all at once. But when they do, if the problem is systemic, not just single banks but the whole banking system can collapse.

We used to see this flaw dramatized every December, when TV networks ran the 1946 Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life. When the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan suffered a bank run, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) had to explain to the panicked depositors that their money had been lent to their neighbors. He was on the verge of suicide, when a guardian angel showed him how critical he and his bank had been to the community; and the neighbors pitched in and rescued the bank.

Even closer to the situation today was the crisis of the savings and loan associations (S&Ls) of the 1980s, after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates dramatically to kill inflation. Most of the assets of the S&Ls were long-term fixed-rate mortgages. As rates rose, they had to pay more to attract deposits; but the amount they earned on their fixed-rate mortgages didn't change. Losses mounted, but the S&L insurance fund, the FSLIC, lacked sufficient money to reimburse all the depositors at failed S&Ls; so the regulators turned a blind eye and allowed them to keep operating as "zombies." The matter was finally resolved with legislation in 1989 that placed S&L insurance under the FDIC and established the Resolution Trust Corporation to resolve the remaining troubled S&Ls. The ultimate cost to the taxpayers was estimated to be as high as $124 billion.

As with George Bailey's savings and loan, the flaw was not "fractional reserve" lending. The S&Ls pooled the money of their customers and lent only what they had. The systemic flaw was and still is that to make long-term loans, banks must borrow "other people's money," which is expected to be available on demand. Today the banks' liquidity options include not just their own depositors but other banks' depositors in the fed funds market, and pension funds and other institutional creditors lending in the repo market. But they all expect their money to be available on demand; and if the bank has lent it out in long-term loans, the bank can be caught short shuffling reserves around trying to meet that demand.

The Failed Banks Were Not Nationalized, But Maybe They Should Have Been

One option that was debated in the 2008-09 crisis was actual nationalization.  As Prof. Michael Hudson wrote in February 2009:

Real nationalization occurs when governments act in the public interest to take over private property. … Nationalizing the banks along these lines would mean that the government would supply the nation's credit needs. The Treasury would become the source of new money, replacing commercial bank credit. Presumably this credit would be lent out for economically and socially productive purposes, not merely to inflate asset prices while loading down households and business with debt as has occurred under today's commercial bank lending policies.

Gar Alperovitz, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, also weighed in on the issue. In a 2012 New York Times article titled "Wall Street Is Too Big to Regulate," he noted that the five biggest banks—JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs—had amassed assets amounting to more than half the nation's GDP. He wrote:

With high-paid lobbyists contesting every proposed regulation, it is increasingly clear that big banks can never be effectively controlled as private businesses. If an enterprise (or five of them) is so large and so concentrated that competition and regulation are impossible, the most market-friendly step is to nationalize its functions …

Nationalization isn't as difficult as it sounds. We tend to forget that we … essentially nationalized the American International Group, one of the largest insurance companies in the world, and the government still owns roughly 60 percent of its stock.

Another example was Continental Illinois, the largest bank bankruptcy and the seventh-largest bank in the country when it failed in 1984. The FDIC wiped out existing shareholders, infused capital, took over bad assets, replaced senior management, and owned the bank for about a decade, running it as a commercial enterprise, selling it in 1994.

What constituted a radical departure from capitalist principles in the last financial crisis was not "nationalization" but an unprecedented wave of bank bailouts, sometimes called "welfare for the rich." The taxpayers bore the losses while the culpable management not only escaped civil and criminal penalties but made off with record bonuses. Banks backed by an army of lobbyists succeeded in getting laws changed so that what was formerly criminal behavior became legal. Instead of nationalization, we got TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program, in which toxic assets were purchased from financial institutions by the Treasury.  Faced with the inequity of that solution, many economists recommended nationalization instead. Willem Buiter, chief economist of Citigroup and formerly a member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, wrote in the Financial Times in September 2009:

Is the reality of the modern, transactions-oriented model of financial capitalism indeed that large private firms make enormous private profits when the going is good and get bailed out and taken into temporary public ownership when the going gets bad, with the taxpayer taking the risk and the losses?

If so, then why not keep these activities in permanent public ownership? There is a long-standing argument that there is no real case for private ownership of deposit-taking banking institutions, because these cannot exist safely without a deposit guarantee and/or lender of last resort facilities that are ultimately underwritten by the taxpayer. 

. . . Once the state underwrites the deposits or makes alternative funding available as lender of last resort, deposit-based banking is a license to print money. [Emphasis added.]

Those are all good arguments, but Congress is not likely to nationalize the whole banking system any time soon.

What About Nationalizing the Liquidity Pool?

Without going to those lengths, what could be made a public utility is the banks' liquidity pool. Banks could borrow directly from the deep pocket of the central bank, the "lender of last resort" (or from the Treasury if it were re-engineered so that it could issue money as credit without taxing or going into debt). Banks would still need to make "prudent" loans – loans to borrowers who had demonstrated an ability to pay the money back – since if they suffered substantial defaults, they would not be able to balance their books and could be put into bankruptcy. They would still charge interest to cover their costs, and they would still compete for borrowers by keeping their interest rates low, maintaining the principles of "market capitalism" operating now. Customer deposits could be sequestered separately from loans, e.g. at government-backed postal banks. In fact, sequestering customer funds is what brokerages (such as Schwab and Fidelity) do now. Rather than the bank gambling with your money, you gamble with it yourself. But that, of course, can be risky too!

In any case sequestering deposits is not likely to happen either. What is being sought is what Roger Altman predicted – FDIC insurance coverage of the entire deposit base. In a March 17 letter first reported by Bloomberg News, the Midsize Bank Coalition of America called on regulators "immediately … to reinstate full deposit insurance coverage for depositors," for two years. That was done in 2008, the letter noted, "and was one of the most effective tools used in the great financial crisis and it needs to be brought back immediately. Importantly, as happened previously, this increase in insurance should be paid for directly by the banks themselves by simply increasing the deposit insurance assessment on banks who choose to participate in this increased insurance coverage."

The concern for midsize banks is that depositors have been fleeing to giant "too big to fail" banks, perceiving them to be safer. But as Cornell Prof. Robert Hockett observes, midsize banks lend to the midsize businesses that are the backbone of the productive economy. He has drafted legislation to provide for universal deposit insurance, discussed in Forbes. However, it's an uphill battle. Even Sheila Bair, who is clearly sympathetic to the plight of local banks, has reservations on full coverage. As reported on

FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair said Tuesday that Congress should consider temporarily providing guarantees for deposits in transaction accounts used by employers to pay their workers — a move that some Democrats are considering.

But Bair said it would be an "overreaction" to insure all bank deposits.

"Unlimited insurance would be very expensive to do. It would be assessed on the banking system, backstopped by taxpayers, and would primarily help very, very wealthy people," Bair said on Washington Post Live.

Small community banks — defined as banks with $10 billion or less in assets — have spoken out against paying more to cover the failure of larger banks such as SVB.

The Public Bank Option

Meanwhile, one midsize bank that has escaped this furor is the Bank of North Dakota. With assets in 2021 of $10.3 billion and a return on investment of 15%, the BND is owned by the state, which self-insures it. There is no fear of bank runs, because the state's revenues compose the vast majority of its deposits, and they must be deposited in the BND by law.

The state's local banks are also protected by the BND, which is forbidden to compete with them. Instead, it partners with them, helping with liquidity and capitalization. The BND has been called a "mini-Fed" for the state and its banks. That helps explain why North Dakota has more local banks per capita than any other state, at a time when other states have been losing banks to big bank mergers, causing the number of U.S. banks to shrink radically.

UK Prof. Richard Werner recently published a briefing memo supporting the case for a public bank. It was prepared for the state of Tennessee, which is considering a sovereign state bank on the North Dakota model, but the arguments apply to all states. Benefits discussed include dividends, higher state-level tax revenues, greater job creation, greater local autonomy and resilience to shocks, more options for funding public sector borrowing and state pension funds, and protection of financial transaction freedom and privacy.

Small and local is good, but even small regional banks need to pool their resources for maximum efficiency and security. A state-owned bank on the model of the Bank of North Dakota can provide low interest loans, liquidity, and financial sovereignty, keeping financial resources in the state directed to public purposes, all while turning a profit for the state.

This article was first posted on ScheerPost.

Dissident Voice
25 Mar 2023 | 12:47 am

9. How Chelsea Manning’s Court-Martial Laid the Groundwork for Julian Assange’s Prosecution

Adapted from Guilty of Journalism: The Political Case against Julian Assange

Private First Class Chelsea Manning received the harshest punishment any United States military officer or federal government employee has ever received for leaking classified information to the press. Colonel Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over her court-martial, sentenced Manning to thirty-five years at Fort Leavenworth prison in Kansas.

She was found guilty of six charges under the Espionage Act, five stealing charges, one charge involving the "wanton publication" of "intelligence," multiple charges of "failure to obey an order or regulation," and one charge under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Notably, Manning was acquitted of an "aiding the enemy" offense that carried a potential sentence of life in prison.

Manning was never charged with any conspiracy offenses, and, unlike the charges against Assange, military prosecutors did not accuse her of attempting to crack a password hash. Even with logs from alleged chats between Manning and Assange, there was scant evidence that Assange or any WikiLeaks staff attempted to enlist her to leak. Prosecutors only expressed disgust that she had independently chosen to become a source and shared more than 700,000 documents.

When Manning's trial occurred in 2013, WikiLeaks was not yet designated a "hostile intelligence agency" by the CIA. However, by 2019, there was no longer division in the government over whether to treat WikiLeaks as a journalistic entity or not. The indictment plainly claimed, "To obtain information to release on the WikiLeaks website, Assange recruited sources and predicated the success of WikiLeaks in part upon the recruitment of sources" in order to "illegally circumvent legal safeguards on information."

Prosecutors at the Justice Department (DOJ) would like the public to believe that Assange posted a "Most Wanted Leaks" list to the WikiLeaks website in 2009 to solicit leaks from "insiders" like Manning, and Manning used it to determine which documents to provide to WikiLeaks.3

Yet, this conspiracy theory, which forms the basis of criminal allegations against Assange, was promoted by military prosecutors during Manning's trial, and it was discredited by Manning's own statement to the court and David Coombs, her defense attorney.

Despite Manning's statement, DOJ prosecutors concocted their own conspiracy theory to further their political case. Central to this theory is the "Most Wanted Leaks" list.

On May 14, 2009, WikiLeaks requested nominations from human rights groups, lawyers, historians, journalists, and activists for documents as well as databases from around the world that the media organization would work to expose.

The list, according to prosecutors, was "organized by country and stated that documents or materials nominated to the list must 'be likely to have political, diplomatic, ethical, or historical impact on release.'" WikiLeaks suggested the information should be "plausibly obtainable to a well-motivated insider or outsider."

With little to no evidence, military prosecutors called the list Manning's "guiding light," a characterization Manning's defense attorney David Coombs directly challenged during his closing argument.

"It was WikiLeaks saying, look, tell us, humanitarians, activists, NGOs, fellow reporters, what do you want to know in your country? What in your country is being hidden from the public that you believe the public should know? Give us a list," Coombs said.

"We are going to compile that list, and we are going to work to obtain that list. What does this sound like? Any journalistic organization that has like a hotline or anything else says, call us. You got a story. Call us. We'll investigate."

There were seventy-eight items on the list. As Coombs noted, military prosecutors were only able to "remotely" tie Manning to "four of the things on the list." She could have used Intelink, which is a US intelligence network of top secret, secret, and unclassified databases, to search for specific items on the list. She did not.

DOJ prosecutors emphasized in their indictment that the list requested "bulk databases," including Intellipedia, a classified Wikipedia for US intelligence analysts. Yet Manning never released this database to WikiLeaks, nor did she release the complete CIA Open Source Center database or PACER database containing US federal court records, which were listed as "important bulk databases."

Chat logs show Manning brought up the CIA Open Source Center on March 8, 2010, and a user, whom the government claims was Assange, replied, "That's something we want to mine entirely." But Manning never engaged in any attempts to download and transfer this database to WikiLeaks.

Manning released four sets that could be labeled "bulk databases." She released the Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs, the US State embassy cables in the Net-Centric Diplomacy database, and the database containing detainee assessments from Joint Task Force Guanta?namo. None of those documents were on the "Most Wanted Leaks" list.

DOJ prosecutors contended Manning's searches on November 28, 2009, for "retention+of+interrogation+videos" and "detainee+abuse" matched up with the "Most Wanted Leaks" list. However, at the time, WikiLeaks was interested in obtaining copies of any of the ninety-two CIA torture tapes that were destroyed as well as "detainee abuse photos withheld by the Obama administration." It is far more plausible that Manning searched for abuse photos or torture videos.

Contrary to Manning's version of events, DOJ prosecutors insisted that Assange convinced Manning to find the detainee assessment briefs and release them. FBI special agent Megan Brown, of the "counterespionage squad" at the Washington Field Office in the District of Columbia, wrote, "Manning asked Assange, 'how valuable are JTF GTMO detention memos containing summaries, background info, capture info, etc?' Assange replied, 'Time period?' Manning answered, '2007–2008.'"

Assange allegedly responded, "Quite valuable to the lawyers of these guys who are trying to get them out, where those memos suggest their innocence/bad procedure," and added, "also valuable to merge into the general history. Politically, Gitmo is mostly over though."

Yet in the messages Brown referenced, Assange never specifically asked Manning to provide the reports to WikiLeaks. He did not say whether WikiLeaks would publish the documents. He certainly did not solicit Manning to leak the detainee assessments. All Assange allegedly did was state his opinion that the documents were in the public interest.

Prosecutors attempted to link Manning's disclosure of rules of engagement for US military forces in Iraq to the supposed "Most Wanted Leaks" list because it included "Iraq and Afghanistan U.S. Army Rules of Engagement 2007–2009." They suggested Manning provided the files to WikiLeaks on March 22, 2010, after Assange allegedly wrote on March 8, "Curious eyes never run dry."

Manning said she uploaded the rules of engagement with the "Collateral Murder" video on February 21, weeks before the alleged exchange with Assange.

One lesser-known Espionage Act charge against Manning involved the alleged disclosure of video showing the Garani massacre by US military forces in the Farah province of Afghanistan. An air strike killed at least eighty-six Afghan civilians on May 4, 2009. She was acquitted, a fact that poses a problem for the DOJ's theory.

According to evidence presented during the trial, Jason Katz, an employee at Brookhaven National Laboratory from February 2009 to March 2010, tried to help WikiLeaks and downloaded an encrypted file with the air strike video onto his work computer on December 15. Katz was unable to use a password-cracking tool to open the file.

WikiLeaks indicated on Twitter on January 8, "We need supercomputer time." The media organization apparently had an encrypted file of the attack, but they were never able to decrypt the file.

Military prosecutors attempted to connect Manning to Katz. They claimed during their case that Manning's earliest violations began on November 1, and Manning had provided the video to Katz to decrypt with a supercomputer. Although Manning searched and downloaded "Farah" files, the video Katz had did not match any of Manning's files.

"Let's go along with the government and its logic. Pfc. Manning hits the ground in Iraq in mid-November," Coombs argued. "For whatever reason, [her] motive, I'm now going to use the 2009 'Most Wanted [Leaks]' List as my guiding light. And I'm going to give something to WikiLeaks. I'm going to do it because I'm now a traitor. I'm now an activist.

"So what is the first thing I'm going to choose? What is the very first thing I'm going to give to WikiLeaks and say look, WikiLeaks, I'm for you? Well, I'm going to give you an encrypted video I can't see. You can't see. Guess what? We don't have a password for it. By the way, you never asked for it. That's not on your 2009 'Most Wanted [Leaks]' list."

Coombs suggested, "This is kind of like someone showing up to a wedding and giving you something that's not on the list that you registered for. What do you think Pfc. Manning is doing at this point? According to the government, [she] is like, hey, you know what, I can go to the seventy-eight things that you want, but I don't want to give you that stuff."

Military prosecutors seem to have failed to persuade the military judge that Manning used the "Most Wanted Leaks" list as her guide. Lind's "special findings" show she accepted evidence that Manning viewed a tweet from WikiLeaks on May 7, 2010, which requested a list of as many military email addresses as possible. This led Manning to compile a list of over 74,000 addresses for WikiLeaks. Except Lind did not find that WikiLeaks had solicited Manning to leak any of the more than 700,000 documents that were published.

When the first indictment against Assange was disclosed by the Justice Department on April 11, 2019, the response from some attorneys and advocates was mixed. It was widely viewed as "narrowly tailored" to avoid "broader legal and policy implications."

The DOJ did not accuse Assange of hacking into a US military computer. He was accused of "conspiracy to commit computer intrusion" when he allegedly "agreed" to assist Manning in "cracking a password hash" to help her browse information databases anonymously.

DOJ prosecutors were already presented with evidence related to these allegations during Manning's trial. Patrick Eller, a command digital forensic examiner responsible for a team of more than eighty examiners at US Army Criminal Investigation Command headquarters, reviewed court-martial records for Assange's defense. He testified during the evidentiary hearing in the extradition case in September 2020.

Eller found testimony from the US military's own forensic expert that contradicted presumptions at the core of the computer crime charge. Password hashes are generally used to help authenticate users and passwords on a computer. Manning never provided the two files necessary to "reconstruct the decryption key" for the password hash. According to Eller, at the time it was not "possible to crack an encrypted password hash, such as the one Manning obtained."

James Lewis QC, a prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service, asked Eller if he agreed that Manning and Assange "thought they could crack a password and agreed to attempt to crack a password." Eller told Lewis a hash was provided and that the account user that the US government associated with Assange said they had "rainbow tables for it." (Using "rainbow tables" is one decryption method for cracking the hash by guessing different password values.) However, Manning never shared where she obtained the hash.

"The government's own expert witness in the court-martial stated that was not enough for them to actually [crack the password]," Eller added. A user must also have a system file to complete an attempt at password-cracking. During the Manning trial, David Shaver, a special agent for the Army Computer Crimes Investigating Unit, testified that the "hash value" was included in the chat, but it was not the "full hash value."

Major Thomas Hurley, who was on Manning's defense team, asked if Manning would have needed more of the hash value to crack the password. Shaver replied, "I mentioned the system file, you would need that part as well." (This was one of the two files Eller said were necessary for decryption.)

"So the hash value included in the chat wouldn't be enough to actually gain any passwords or user information?" Hurley asked.

Shaver replied, "Correct."

Eller's statement submitted to the Westminster Magistrates' Court in London was even more explicit.

Upon reading the indictment, it became clear that the technical explanation of the password hashing allegations is deficient in a number of ways which cast doubt upon the assertion that the purpose of the Jabber chat was for Manning to be able to download documents anonymously.

Jabber is the software Manning used to chat with the account allegedly associated with Assange.

Manning had already downloaded the Reykjavi?k cable, Guanta?namo Files, Iraq War Logs, and Afghanistan War Logs before the alleged exchange on password-cracking occurred. "Routinely in the course of work," according to Eller, she downloaded military incident reports to have "offline backups" in the event of "connectivity issues" with the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network that hosted the information.

"The only set of documents named in the indictment that Manning sent after the alleged password-cracking attempt were the State Department cables," he said. However, Eller acknowledged, "Manning had authorized access to these documents." Eller showed that soldiers at Forward Operating Base Hammer in Iraq, where Manning was stationed, constantly tried to crack administrative passwords to install programs that were not authorized for their computers.

Jason Milliman, a computer engineer contracted to manage laptops at the base, testified during Manning's court-martial that "soldiers cracked his password in order to install a program and then deleted his administrator account."

As Eller asserted, Manning never would have tried to use a password hash to exfiltrate files for submission to WikiLeaks because she already had a way to anonymously access the files: a Linux CD that allowed her to bypass Windows security features.

Sgt. David Sadtler, a soldier in Manning's battalion, testified that Manning proposed starting "some sort of hash cracking business." The idea had already been done in the "open source world." So "reimplementing it" made sense to Sadtler.

Eller concluded, "While she was discussing rainbow tables and password hashes in the Jabber chat, she was also discussing the same topics with her colleagues. This, and the other factors previously highlighted, may indicate that the hash cracking topic was unrelated to leaking documents."

During the court-martial, military prosecutors underscored the fact that Manning exchanged messages with a user identified as "Nathaniel Frank," a name the government believed was associated with Assange.

Assange attorney Mark Summers QC asked Eller multiple times if he found evidence that linked Assange to this account. "No, I did not," Eller replied.

Summers asked if Eller was aware of the person who sat at the other end of whatever computer terminal "Nathaniel Frank" used. "Of course not. I could not have that personal knowledge," Eller added.

Major Ashden Fein, a military prosecutor, said during the closing argument, "[Manning] was a determined soldier with a knowledge, ability, and desire to harm the United States in its war effort. And, Your Honor, [she] was not a whistleblower. [She] was a traitor—a traitor who understood the value of compromised information in the hands of the enemy and took deliberate steps to ensure they, along with the world, received all of it."

The attacks on Manning's character were nasty. In addition to questioning her loyalty to the United States, military prosecutors pejoratively labeled Manning an "anarchist" and a "hacker." But missing from the prosecutors' narrative of her acts was any explicit claim that she collaborated with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange or that she engaged in a password-cracking conspiracy.

As Captain Joe Morrow, one of the military prosecutors, declared during her sentencing: "Pfc. Manning is solely responsible for [her] crimes. Pfc. Manning is solely responsible for the impact."

Manning was not an insider or spy who worked for WikiLeaks to steal US government documents. She had whistleblower motives that inspired her to take action. That is an inconvenient truth for prosecutors, who are compelled to deny her agency to bolster their arguments.

In fact, submitting documents to WikiLeaks was not Manning's first choice. As she recounted in her 2022 memoir, README.txt, "While I shared WikiLeaks' stated commitment to transparency, I thought that for my purposes, it was too limited a platform. Most people back then had never heard of it. I worried that information on the site wouldn't be taken seriously."

Manning used landlines, mostly at Starbucks, to reach out to "traditional publications." She contacted the Washington Post in January 2010. During her court-martial she testified that a reporter she spoke to at the Post had not taken her seriously. Next, she called the New York Times. No one responded to the message she left for the Times' public editor. She considered going to Politico, but weather conditions hampered plans to travel to its offices in Arlington, Virginia.

WikiLeaks, as she put it in her memoir, was "the publication of last resort."

Dissident Voice
25 Mar 2023 | 12:45 am

10. More Like Cousteau’s Son, Not Bradley Cooper’s Twin!

I'm back at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport Oregon, part of the Oregon State University campus harboring marine mammal-fisheries-benthic-ocean researchers and students.

The topic: How humans decimated whale populations through hundreds of years of industrial whaling, leaving some species and populations on the brink of extinction. But despite these impacts, many whale populations have made remarkable recoveries, demonstrating the ability of threatened and endangered species to bounce back from intense human pressure.

The presenter: Joshua Stewart, a new faculty member at OSU's Marine Mammal Institute, PhD from Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

The running joke with Stewart last night was he WAS not Bradley Cooper, and so he let people know not to be too disappointed that instead of that overpaid undertalented Holly-Dirt guy (my phrasing) we were in for a presentation by a nerd, a passionate whale guy, and young at that!

He's been focusing on the Southern Right whale and the Antarctic minke, but his interest is also around the many species of whales/cetaceans not recovering despite whaling and hunting of those species having been stopped decades ago.

The history of whaling as a commercial endevour goes back to the Basques, a thousand years ago, going after the Right Whale, so called southern Right whale. Then after a few centuries with simple boats, things got going, and in fact the Basques went for Northern Right whales with larger ships. They had a 500 year monopoly on commercial whaling.

The big push in whaling occurred in the 1700s, Nantucket, and that included the big ships of Moby Dick fame. Then, into the 1800s and 1900s the ships had steam engines, and alas the range for these whalers extended far and wide. Processing ships were introduced, with diesel engines and factories on board, and with the advent of massive industrialization for the two "great" wars, the whalers got explosive harpoons and fast engines.

So, whereas for more than 700 years the blue and fin whales were too fast for the simple whalers, hence they were not being decimated by the whalers of that age. In the 1950s, however, as Stewart stated, more than three million whales were killed, which he calls the largest cull of wild mammals in the world. Many species became "commercially extinct," i.e., the few numbers left in these species were not profitable enough for the big commercial operations.That included blues, sperms and fin whales.


I cut my teeth in the early 1970s on fighting whaling, that is, the commercial whaling tyranny. That effort globally — stopping whaling — super-charged the first Earth Day:

We are now 53 years later, and guys like Stewart, 35, is looking at declining whale populations, including the Southern Resident Orcas:

There are 73 (total) of these distinct salmon eaters left, and the issues around climate change, habitat degradation and their prey availability play into any researcher's tool chest. Many of these iconic animals generations ago were part of the live capture "industry" to supply killer whales to theme parks.

The issue around sea traffic, the noise from that traffic, the pollutants in that Salish Sea (Vancouver and Seattle area), the food stock (Chinook salmon) and climate change play into the degradation of the Southern Residents, as their offspring are coming out smaller, stressed, and a skinny whale triples the probability of dying in the first year of life.

There were around fifty of us there, March 23, and the auditorium allowed for the first time the beer and wine drinkers to bring in their libations. There were fellow researchers in attendance, as well as students, both graduate and undergraduate. As far as the public, it seems that most people going to these talks are associated with academia or marine research. As I point out time and time again — where are the K12 kids? This was a 6 pm event. Stewart's slide show/Power Point was good, and he is young (he kept alluding to the fact he is doing research on the backs of old-timers still working as researchers). This is an existential crisis in my mind. Having like minded, fellow marine wonks at an event is NOT enough in 2023. It's barely anything, really. There are no outreach programs for K12 and families and fisher folk, and since this is after school hours, there seems to be no way in hell of getting high schools students who are interested in science and math and engineering in general to come out to these events. America is a cultural waste land, and one with dream hoarders ruling over the rest of us.

This is the echo chamber that is science, in my estimation. I can't fault the students there from OSU, or the retired faculty or the active faculty, but this sort of event I have attended in the hundreds over the course of 50 years as a diver, then student of marine sciences, journalist, writer, educator and sustainability "wonk."

There are no avenues now in 2023 built-in to go above and beyond, and surely, the happy hours/social hour from 5 to 6 pm could have been an hour where students got a little tour of the Hatfield which does have a public access educational center:

Yes, we have the Oregon Aquarium, a commercial marine park of sorts. And the Hatfield Visitor Center does get public attendance, but the K12 schools here in Lincoln county need to do outreach. We also need crab and fisher folk here to to have an open discussion with these wonky folk like Joshua Stewart who may or man not agree with the mitigation ideas, including limiting catches, closing seasons, biodegradable lines, and more.

Here's my piece on the Oregon Aquarium: Depth of Experience? 20 years with Oregon Coast Aquarium gives CEO deep blue view of world

And, I've covered many of the researchers at Hatfield and in our Coastal area:

A story with bite

In otter news

I am finding many of my stories I did for Oregon Coast Today have vanished from the sister company, Discover Our Coast. This is disturbing, the culling of my work, as always. However, I have a book with all those stories captured in their original form, here: Coastal People inside a Deep Dive: stories about people living on the Central Coast and other places in Oregon.

Back to Stewart, AKA "not" Bradley Cooper: His work looks at the last two decades of declines with spring chinook salmon, through the San Juan Islands up to Vancouver Island. That's an 85 percent decline in those salmon. As the orcas' food stock, that means their lives are now in peril because of all those other factors, including food availability.

Here on the Coast we have the iconic gray whales, coming from breeding grounds in Mexico and Central America, making their way to the Arctic. We have whale watching as one tourist attraction, as the gray whales hang out here and push volumes of water into the sand to eat the anthropods that make small tubes as their feeding ritual. The only whale — a baleen whale, filter feeder, that is — which does this sort of feeding is "our" gray whale. ((Here's another piece: Gray Whales Are Dying: Starving to Death Because of Climate Change; and another: Understanding the ocean's web of life; and another: Experts paint sobering potential for sea change.))

So, those gray whales, while in a state of recovery and delisted from the Environmental Species Act list, are still experiencing massive die offs, and the food they get in the Arctic is losing its own biomass, that is, the body weight has declined by one-third in the last fifty years.

So, like orca, gray whales are being studied now with drone photography, and the body shapes can be tracked over entire lifetimes. The lower the weight, the tougher it is on the individual and species in general.

Line entanglements are a big issue, as fishers use lobster and crab "pots" in the tens of thousands on our coast and east coast, with a buoy at the surface. Whales get entangled, and some live days, months and even a year with the gear in tow.

And, ship strikes are becoming a bigger and bigger issue not just on the USA's coast, but worldwide.

Obviously, if there are more Fraser River spring Chinook salmon, then there will be a healthier Southern Resident Killer Whale population. But fish stocks are declining, and so many other factors play into the marine mammals' overall health worldwide.

Is it not curious, that so vast a being as the whale should see the world through so small an eye, and hear the thunder through an ear which is smaller than a hare's? But if his eyes were broad as the lens of Herschel's great telescope; and his ears capacious as the porches of cathedrals; would that make him any longer of sight, or sharper of hearing? Not at all. Why then do you try to 'enlarge' your mind? Subtilize it.

–Hermann Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 74 – "The Sperm Whale's Head"

While gray whales were almost hunted to extinction, with 1,000 left, they have been delisted from the ESA — now estimated to be around 20,000 total population. However, researchers like Joshua are looking at these UME's, Unusual Mortality Events.

2019-2023 Gray Whale Unusual Mortality Event along the West Coast and Alaska: Since January 1, 2019, elevated gray whale strandings have occurred along the west coast of North America from Mexico through Alaska. This event has been declared an Unusual Mortality Event (UME).

There are so many issues that marine mammals face in this industrialized, highly toxic and waste heavy modern society. Lobster/crab gear entanglements are possibly a small problem when compared to the microplastic now found in the zooplanton's, anthropods' and the whale's bodies. Add to that mercury and PCBs, and we have a triple toxic soup for the mammals.

We can imagine what the carrying capacity is for one whale species, and these researchers have "cool" jobs when they get to go out to sea and chase whales and tag them and photograph them and collect their feces, for sure. Here, yet another piece from my work attending these Science on Tap Hatfield events: Whales and People: A Tragedy! (note: you will see two live links referenced here in this story, which are now no longer available; I have a sneaking suspicion that the university's thugs, PR spinners, got to the publisher of Discover Our Coast, to knock out all articles tied to OSU that I wrote!)

At the end of the talk, I asked Joshua to look at the glass half EMPTY. A few in the crowd were not happy about "ending on a negative note" (Yikes, this is academic in a nutshell). His biggest fear is climate change, which is warming seas, that is, where certain areas of the ocean are heating up faster than others. Sea ice is melting earlier and capping over later (according to the past 80 years or more data), and food stocks for marine mammals are become less and less.

This is the continuing story of extinction, and the supreme right of homo sapiens consumopithecus to rule the world, rule all species, and rule even a majority of our own species in this criminal and corrupting and colluding Capitalism. And, well, green washing and green pornography have taken center stage, man, in the so called sustainability arena. I was head of many sustainability initiatives. Here, a long time ago: Sustained Discussion And, from a standing column I headed up, Metro Talk: Facing uncertainty, the Inland Empire needs more than a global warming bucket list

I showed many a class as a college teacher, Empty Oceans Empty Nets

The film is 2002!

So much work put into research and documentary making. But is it all echo chamber, now that the world is run totally by banks, hedge funds, Blackrock, Vanguard, Pharma-Media-Military-Congressional-Mining-Oil-Gas-Prison-Insurance-Surveillance-IT-AR-Digital Complex? Empty Nets, Emptying Oceans, Farming the Sea, and Soylent Green is People?

On a happy note, the crowd at Hatfield drank locally produced IPA's, Oregon wine and locally backed pasteries. There was not mention of Greta's honory doctorate from Helsinki, and Putin was not blamed for the the UME's.

All was well at OSU, as if the world outside was outside of the bubble that is academia. Your choice, Stewart or Cooper!

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