Sunday, April 30, 2017

Raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would lift wages for 41 million American workers

EDITORAL COMMENT: (...and this is the liberal analysis. Imagine if the Federal minimum wage were raised to $15 per hour immediately? Keep in mind that to keep up with the cost of living, the minimum wage needs to be $25 per hour TODAY! The Federal Davis-Bacon Prevailing Wage Act of 1931 needs to be expanded to cover all workers so that the minimum wage is never lower than the union wages paid in any industry. These two issues are inextricably linked and a principled struggle should be made to improve both of them together.)

Report • By David Cooper • April 26, 2017

Introduction and executive summary

The federal minimum wage was established in 1938, as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), to help ensure that all work would be fairly rewarded and that regular employment would provide a decent quality of life. In theory, Congress makes periodic amendments to the FLSA to increase the federal minimum wage to ensure that even the lowest-paid workers benefited from broader improvements in wage and living standards.
Yet for decades, lawmakers have let the value of the minimum wage erode, allowing inflation to gradually reduce the buying power of a minimum wage income. When the minimum wage has been raised, the increases have been too small to undo the decline in value that has occurred since the 1960s. In 2016, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 was worth 10 percent less than when it was last raised in 2009, after adjusting for inflation, and 25 percent below its peak value in 1968.
This decline in purchasing power means low-wage workers have to work longer hours just to achieve the standard of living that was considered the bare minimum almost half a century ago. Over that time, the United States has achieved tremendous improvements in labor productivity that could have allowed workers at all pay levels to enjoy a significantly improved quality of life (Bivens et al. 2014). Instead, because of policymakers’ failure to preserve this basic labor standard, a parent earning the minimum wage does not earn enough through full-time work to be above the federal poverty line.
Restoring the value of the minimum wage to at least the same level it had a generation ago should be uncontroversial. But such a raise would be insufficient. The technological progress and productivity improvements that the country has achieved over the last 50 years have not benefited all of America’s workers. This means lawmakers must strive to enact minimum wage increases that are bolder than the typical legislated increases in recent decades.
In April 2017, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) announced that they would introduce the Raise the Wage Act of 2017, a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage in eight steps to $15 per hour by 2024. Beginning in 2025, the minimum wage would be “indexed” to median wages so that each year, the minimum wage would automatically be adjusted based on growth in the median wage. The bill would also gradually increase the subminimum wage for tipped workers (or “tipped minimum wage”), which has been fixed at $2.13 per hour since 1991, until it reaches parity with the regular minimum wage.1
This report begins by providing historical context for the current value of the federal minimum wage and the proposed increase to $15 by 2024. It then describes the population of workers likely to receive higher pay under an increase to $15 by 2024, with detailed demographic data that refute a number of common misconceptions about low-wage workers. The report concludes with a discussion of the provisions of the Raise the Wage Act that would index the minimum wage to median wages, and gradually eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.
This report finds that:
  • A $15 minimum wage in 2024 would undo the erosion of the value of the real minimum wage that began primarily in the 1980's. In fact by 2019, for the first time in over 50 years, the federal minimum wage would exceed its historical inflation-adjusted high point, set in 1968.
  • Gradually raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would directly lift the wages of 22.5 million workers. On average, these low-wage workers would receive a $3.10 increase in their hourly wage, in today’s dollars. For a directly affected worker who works all year, that translates into a $5,100 increase in annual wage income, a raise of 31.3 percent. Another 19.0 million workers would benefit from a spillover effect as employers raise wages of workers making more than $15 in order to attract and retain their work forces.
  • All told, raising the minimum to $15 in 2024 would directly or indirectly lift wages for 41.5 million workers, 29.2 percent of the wage-earning workforce.
  • Over the phase-in period of the increases, the rising wage floor would generate $144 billion in additional wages, which would ripple out to the families of these workers and their communities. Because lower-paid workers spend much of their extra earnings, this injection of wages would help stimulate the economy and spur greater business activity and job growth.
  • The workers who would receive a pay increase are overwhelmingly adult workers, most of whom work full time in regular jobs, often to support a family.
    • The average age of affected workers is 36 years old. A larger share of workers age 55 and older would receive a raise (16.1 percent) than teens (9.8 percent). More than half of all affected workers are prime-age workers between the ages of 25 and 54.
    • Although men are a larger share of the overall U.S. workforce, the majority of workers affected by raising the minimum wage (55.6 percent) are women.
    • The minimum wage increase would disproportionately raise wages for people of color—for example, blacks make up 12.2 percent of the workforce but 16.7 percent of affected workers. This disproportionate impact means large shares of black and Hispanic workers would be affected: 40.1 percent of black workers and 33.5 percent of Hispanic workers would directly or indirectly get a raise.
    • Of workers who would receive a raise, nearly two-thirds (63.0 percent) work full time, nearly half (46.6 percent) have some college experience, and more than a quarter (28.0 percent) have children.
    • Four out of every 10 single parents who work (40.8 percent) would receive higher pay, including 44.6 percent of working single mothers. In all, 4.5 million single parents would benefit, accounting for 10.8 percent of those who would be affected by raising the minimum wage
  • The workers with families—defined as a worker with a spouse or a child in the home—who would benefit are, on average, the primary breadwinners for their family, earning an average of 63.8 percent of their family’s total income.
  • A federal minimum wage increase to $15 in 2024 would raise wages for the parents of 19 million children across the United States, nearly one-quarter (24.0 percent) of all U.S. children.
  • Indexing the minimum wage to median wages would ensure that low-wage workers share in broad improvements in U.S. living standards and would prevent future growth in inequality between low- and middle-wage workers.

Snapshot of workers affected by raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024

  • 37.4 million adults
  • 26.1 million full-time workers
  • 23.1 million women
  • 11.6 million parents
  • 4.5 million single parents
  • 19 million children, whose parents will get a raise

State tables

Supplemental tables showing characteristics of workers who would be affected by increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024 in the states and the District of Columbia are available here (pdf).

The minimum wage in context

Since its inception in 1938, the federal minimum wage has been adjusted through legislated increases nine times—from a nominal (non-inflation-adjusted) value of 25 cents per hour in 1938 to the current $7.25, where it has remained since 2009. These increases have been fairly irregular, varying in size and with differing lengths of time between increases. Yet aside from a few very brief deflationary periods in the post-WWII era, prices have consistently risen year after year. Each year that the minimum wage remains unchanged, its purchasing power slowly erodes until policymakers enact an increase. This haphazard maintenance of the wage floor has meant that low-wage workers of different generations or in different decades have been protected by significantly different wage standards.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

DPRK Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hits out at UNSC's Partiality

Pyongyang, April 26 (KCNA) -- A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of the DPRK gave the following answer to a question put up by KCNA Wednesday in connection with a meeting of the UN Security Council the U.S. plans to convene, terming the step taken by the DPRK to bolster its nuclear deterrent a "threat":
Taking an opportunity of holding chairmanship of the UNSC in April, the U.S. is going to convene a meeting of the UNSC over the issue of denuclearization of the DPRK.
Irony is that the U.S., which is wholly to blame for pushing the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war by staging the largest-ever joint aggression military drills against the DPRK for the past two months after bringing all sorts of nuclear strategic assets to south Korea, is orchestrating the farce of hyping up "threat" from someone.
This is reminiscent of the guilty party filing the suit first.
The U.S. once put up the signboard of "nuclear disarmament" and "world without nuclear weapons" only to deceive the world public. Now it is modernizing its nuclear weapons by spending a trillion U.S. dollars in a bid to secure a nuclear edge. Such direct acts of proliferating nukes should be taken issue with before tabling the denuclearization of the DPRK.
The nuclear force of the DPRK just serves as a treasured sword of justice and creditable war deterrent to protect the sovereignty and dignity of the country and global peace from the U.S. threat to ignite a nuclear war.
The steps taken by the DPRK to bolster its nuclear deterrent is an exercise of its legitimate right to self-defence in accordance with the UN Charter and international law. No one is entitled to fault it.
The government of the DPRK filed complaint with the UNSC several times against the U.S. hostile policy, which caused the DPRK's access to nukes, and the provocative and aggressive large-scale joint military drills, the clearest manifestation of the U.S. nuclear threat and blackmail.
However, the UNSC turned down every complaint but adopted a "resolution" banning the DPRK from taking steps for self-defence for no reason in the light of international law, imposing stricter sanctions upon it.
The UN Secretariat, too, gives no response to the proposal made by the DPRK to hold a forum of international lawyers to clarify the legal ground of the UNSC "resolutions."
What is more serious is the fact that the UNSC has never taken issue with the nuclear threat being posed by its permanent member state to other country, the missile attack made by the member state on a non-nuclear state and the spy satellite and missile launches conducted by its "allies."
The reality goes to clearly prove that the UNSC is the place where the "issue of global peace and security" is settled in the interests of its permanent member states holding veto power, not by yardstick of justice.
The U.S., therefore, is not morally entitled to force the UN member states to carry out the ill-intended "resolution" and the UN member states have no moral obligation to abide by such unfair "resolution."
It is a wild dream for the U.S. to think of depriving the DPRK of its nuclear deterrent through military threat and sanctions. It is just like sweeping the sea with a broom.
In case a war breaks out on the Korean peninsula, the U.S. will be held wholly accountable for causing troubles after bringing lots of strategic assets and special warfare means, not content with persisting in hostile policy toward the DPRK, no matter who will launch a preemptive strike.
The UNSC that has toed the U.S. line will never be able to evade its responsibility, either.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Why an American went to Cuba for cancer care

BBC News Magazine | Thursday, 20 April 2017
Add caption

Judy Ingels and her family are in Cuba for just six days. They have time to go sightseeing and try out the local cuisine. Judy, a keen photographer, enjoys capturing the colonial architecture of Old Havana.
And while she is in the country, Ingels, 74, will have her first injections of Cimavax, a drug shown in Cuban trials to extend the lives of lung cancer patients by months, and sometimes years.
By travelling to Havana from her home in California, she is breaking the law.
The US embargo against Cuba has been in place for more than five decades, and though relations thawed under President Obama, seeking medical treatment in Cuba is still not allowed for US citizens.
"I'm not worried," Ingels says. "For the first time I have real hope."
She has stage four lung cancer and was diagnosed in December 2015. "My oncologist in the United States says I'm his best patient, but I have this deadly disease."
He does not know she is in Cuba. When she asked him about Cimavax, he had not heard of it.
"But we've done a lot of research - I've read good things," Ingels says. Since January, Cimavax has been tested on patients in Buffalo, New York state, but it isn't yet available in the US.
Ingels, her husband Bill and daughter Cindy are staying at the La Pradera International Health Centre, west of Havana. It treats mostly foreign, paying patients like Ingels, and with its pool complex, palm trees and open walkways, La Pradera feels more like a tropical hotel than a hospital.
This trip from their home in California, together with a supply of Cimavax to take back to the US, will cost the Ingels family more than $15,000 (£12,000).
Cimavax fights cancer by stimulating an immune response against a protein in the blood that triggers the growth of lung cancer. After an induction period, patients receive a monthly dose by injection.
It's a product of Cuba's biotechnology industry, nurtured by former President Fidel Castro since the early 1980s.
Ironically, Cuba's biotech innovations can partly be explained by the US embargo - something Castro continually railed against. It meant Cuba had to produce the drugs it could not access or afford. And medications like Cimavax - low-tech products that could be administered in a rural setting - were developed to fit the Cuban context.
Now the industry employs around 22,000 scientists, technicians and engineers, and sells drugs in many parts of the world - but not in the US.
And although the Cubans will not reveal the cost of producing Cimavax, it is cheaper than other treatments.
For Cuba's residents, all health care is free. One beneficiary is Lucrecia de Jesus Rubillo, 65, who lives on the fifth floor of a block of flats in the east of Havana
Last September she was given two or three months to live. What began as pain in Lucrecia's leg, was diagnosed as stage-four lung cancer that had spread.
She had chemotherapy. "That was really very hard," she says. "It gave me nausea, and it hurt. But my kids asked me to fight, so I did."
After radiotherapy, Lucrecia began Cimavax injections. Now she is strong enough to walk up the five flights of stairs to her home, and her persistent cough has diminished. She feels better, more hopeful, and is thinking about what to do next.
"Perhaps I'll go to Spain to visit my kid," she says. "I feel happy, and I'm still dreaming of the future, but I also feel sadness. I've had a lot of friends who've died of cancer, and they never had the chance I'm having with these injections. I feel privileged."
Her doctor is Elia Neninger, an oncologist at the Hermanos Ameijeiras Hospital in Havana. Neninger is one of the principal clinicians to trial Cimavax on patients since the 1990s.
"Lucrecia arrived incapacitated by her disease in a wheelchair," Neninger remembers. "Now the tumour on her lung has disappeared, and the lesions on her liver aren't there either. With Cimavax, she's in a maintenance phase."
In Cuba, specialists like Neninger do not talk about curing cancer - they talk about controlling it and transforming it into a chronic disease. She has treated hundreds of patients with Cimavax.
"I never thought I'd work on something that would improve the lives of so many people," she says. "I have stage-four lung cancer patients who are still alive 10 years after their diagnosis."
But mostly Cimavax is proven to extend life for months, not years. And it does not help everyone. In trials, around 20% of patients haven't responded, Neninger says, often because the disease is very advanced, or they have associated illnesses that make treatment more difficult.
It is the first time a Cuban medication has been trialed in the US, and required special permission because the embargo prohibits most collaboration and trade.
Cancer immunotherapy is getting more expensive in the US, Lee says. A cheap vaccine that can be administered at primary care level is very attractive. And he thinks it is possible that Cimavax could be used to prevent lung cancer, too.
"If we could vaccinate the high-risk smokers to prevent them from developing lung cancer, that would have an enormous public health impact both in the United States and worldwide."
This has not been proven, however, and the initial US trials of Cimavax only began in January.
There is political uncertainty, too. On the campaign trail before his election, President Trump said he would reverse the thaw with Cuba that began under the Obama administration, unless there was change on the island, which is governed as a one-party state.
"Our demands will include religious and political freedom for the Cuban people, and the freeing of political prisoners," Trump said on the campaign trail in Miami.
So far, Cuba has not made it to the top of his in-tray. There is a large constituency of Americans who believe that Cuba does not deserve the kind of recognition and status the association with the Roswell Park Cancer Institute brings.
But Lee thinks political arguments against US-Cuba collaboration are misplaced.
"The gas we put in our cars, the iPhones we tweet from, the shoes we buy our kids - all come from countries that the United States has fundamental differences with regarding women's rights, freedom of speech, personal liberties. Yet that has never stopped us from working with them in areas that benefit the people in both countries."
For now Bill Ingels, Judy's husband, isn't worried about falling foul of US authorities.
"I told them I was coming for educational purposes," he says. "And I am learning about cancer and medication! I'm basically a very honest person, but if I have to, I will lie."
Ingels will not know if the vaccine has made a difference until she has a scan in three months.
"We feel pretty positive, and we thought this would be a great experience and journey for my family to take together. It's the first time I've felt up since I was diagnosed."
Cindy Ingels, Judy's daughter, is a nurse - she will administer the Cimavax shots to her mother back home in California.

"Even if she remains stable - that it maintains the tumour size, and it doesn't worsen - we'd be happy with that," she says. "If the tumour decreases from what it is now, that would really be a miracle."

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Yesterday, April 22, was the anniversary of the birthday of Lenin -

Sun Apr 23, 2017 8:11 am (PDT) . Posted by:

"Grover Furr" sq178pv

Dear Friends:

Yesterday, April 22, was the anniversary of Lenin's birth, on April 22,
1870. His birth name was Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov. "Lenin" was his
revolutionary name.

Lenin was perhaps the greatest revolutionary who has ever lived.
Certainly he is one of the giants, along with Karl Marx and Friedrich

We still have a great deal to learn from him.

Other great revolutionaries have come from the working class - Stalin
was one of these. Lenin came from the petty bourgeoisie, as did Marx and

They showed that, in the last analysis, what counts for every individual
is his or her ideology, and what he or she decides to dedicate their
lives to.

Like Marx and Engels, his great teachers and models, Lenin dedicated his
life to the exploited and oppressed of the world - the working class
first of all, but also the peasantry and those super-exploited by
colonialism and racism.

We should study Lenin's works -- critically, of course. But respectfully
too, since we have much to learn.

Hard to do -- be both critical and respectful. It's something we have to
learn to do better.

Lenin represented a whole movement, and an entire historical epoch. He
did nothing "by himself." At the same time, he pushed the working class
struggle for communism ahead by his tireless efforts.

We, and class-conscious workers, intellectuals, students, and others
everywhere, owe him an immense debt. The best way to acknowledge that
debt is by working for communist revolution, the best we can.

So, Happy Birthday, Lenin! -- a great inspiration to us all, every day!

Grover Furr

Monday, April 17, 2017

The "Madrid Declaration" is dangerous for the peoples

The signature of the Prime Minister, A. Tsipras, on the "Madrid Declaration" issued by the leaders of the states of the South of the European Union, which was signed on Monday 10th of April 2017 and provides complete cover to the US missile attack on Syria, demonstrates in the most characteristic way the determination of the Greek government to support dangerous imperialist plans in order serve the efforts of the geo-strategic upgrading of Greek capital.

France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Greece and Cyprus through this Declaration have adopted and legitimized the pretexts used for such interventions and provide complete cover for the US offensive, which is further escalating the imperialist confrontation in the region, arguing that it "had the understandable intention to prevent and deter the spread and use of chemical weapons.."!

The Declaration supports the further militarization of the EU, mentioning amongst other things that the governments of the countries of the South, representatives of capital support the conclusions of the European Council, "enhancing the EU’s strategic autonomy and its capacity to act, becoming more involved in the protection of Europe and its citizens, sharing more responsibilities with NATO."!  

The French Presidential Election and the Prospects for Peace

Jean Luc Melenchon  leads an alliance of the French Communist Party and other movements on the left. The movement seems to be gaining ground in the French election campaign which is alarming the Zionist right, hence the article in Canada’s leading right wing tabloid posing as a newspaper, the National Post.

A more reliable read on what is happening is L’Humanite’s English web page.

What is happening in France could be significant for politics in Europe and open the path to a more vigorous struggle for peace and against the reactionary EU-NATO alliance.  

Melenchon seems to be attracting sections of the youth. A careful read would indicate that the alliance is also the most direct response to the Euro-skeptics as represented by Le Pen.

The left alliance is calling for withdrawing from NATO and renegotiating France’s membership in the EU. It has a good position on the struggle of the Palestinians. The alliance calls for nationalization of the banks and challenges the autocratic presidential system in France that dates to the De Gaulle era.

Sylvia and I were in the GDR in 1968 attending the 150 Anniversary celebrations of the birth of Karl Marx, May 8th 1818 just as the student working class uprising in Paris took place in May 1968. De Gaulle and the military surrounded Paris with tanks out of fear of revolution. There was a revolutionary situation and there was much debate at the time as to why the French Communist Party was unable to lead it to a higher level.

What is happening today is a far cry from those days in 1968. However the events unfolding in the French election deserve the close attention of all those who consider peace and socialism as indivisible. The revolutionary traditions of the French people and working class run deep and the anti-fascist heroism of the French Communists in WW2 is well known.

The last time I looked and my information may now be out of date, France was the third largest in the amount spent by European monopoly imperialist states on the military after Britain and Germany. France continues  to be a powerful nuclear armed imperial power in the post-colonial era with French finance capital heavily involved in neo-colonialist exploitation of Africa and the French military is routinely employed to protect French capital including regime change interventions.

A return of the left to French electoral politics is encouraging and will strengthen the militant labour and peace forces.

Putin’s Russia appears to be engaged with Malcon, a candidate of a section of monopoly capital in France, who has made some anti-Trump statements and about the importance of renewing the French Russian relationship. That would indicate some joint interests between French and Russian finance capital that will alarm US interests and their EU allies.  That is inter-capitalist politics and more evidence of the instability afflicting ruling elites in all of the G7 NATO states.

For those of us who consider that what the working class, the overwhelming majority does as primary in capitalist politics, the events unfolding in France bear scrutiny. If the unexpected should happen that Melenchon can make it to the run-off stage of the election it would be as a result of a shift in working class voters and would set European politics on the boil.

The leader of the French Trade Union  movement appears to be anti-communist which would suggest that the once mighty Communist led French trade union movement is now in the hands of the right wing social democrats and will support Hollande socialists.

Right wing social reformism is nothing if not predictable.

The CLC supports the NDP,  the AFL-CIO supported Hillary Clinton and the French TU supports Hollande. Jeremy Corbyn is being pilloried by the right wing in the Labour Party for condemning the US missile attack on Syria. Bernie Sanders was ousted by the Obama-Clinton cabal with the support of the AFL-CIO.

When an avowed left leader comes to the fore in France openly allied with the Communist Party we should look at that situation from a clear eyed working class standpoint.

Don Currie Editor FOS

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Trump Attacks Syria and Threatens DPRK

PCUSA Mid-West Region Chair displays one of the protest signs
 getting ready for demonstration for peace in Minneapolis, MN.

President Trump recently attacked Syria, carrying out a bombing for the Syrian government’s alleged involvement in a gas attack on civilians. However, Trump has provided no proof of the Syrian government’s responsibility. Syria would have no motive to carry out the attack because it is winning its war against ISIS and other terrorist groups. The US also dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan, a war crime and an act of capitalist barbarity. The Trump regime is threatening the Democratic People’s Republic of (north) Korea (DPRK) using the excuse that the DPRK is conducting nuclear and missile tests. The DPRK has the right of self-defense because the US war on Korea in the 1950s decimated the country, leaving no building over one story tall standing. The US maintains about 30,000 troops in the south Korea and carries out annual exercises to prepare for an attack on north Korea. The government of the DPRK feels threatened and so is preparing to defend itself. Wouldn’t people in the US react the same way if, for example, Russia had tens of thousands of troops in México preparing for war against the US? These wars and threats are not in the interest of the people in the US. They only serve the US monopoly corporations that do not want any country in the world to maintain positions independent of the military-industrial complex.

Friday, April 14, 2017

New Revelations Belie Trump Claims on Syria Chemical Attack

President Donald Trump leaves after making a statement about the American attack on an air base in Syria, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla., April 6, 2017. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)Thursday, April 13, 2017By Gareth Porter, Truthout | ReportPresident Donald Trump leaves after making a statement about the American attack on an air base in Syria, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, April 6, 2017. (Photo: Doug Mills / The New York Times)

Two unnamed senior Trump administration officials briefing journalists Tuesday asserted that a Syrian regime airstrike in the city of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 had deliberately killed dozens of civilians with sarin gas.
The Trump administration officials dismissed the Russian claim that the Syrian airstrike had targeted a munitions warehouse controlled by Islamic extremists as an afterthought to cover up the Syrian government's culpability for the chemical attack. Moreover, the Trump officials claimed that US intelligence had located the site where the Syrian regime had dropped the chemical weapon.
However, two new revelations contradict the Trump administration's line on the April 4 attack. A former US official knowledgeable about the episode told Truthout that the Russians had actually informed their US counterparts in Syria of the Syrian military's plan to strike the warehouse in Khan Sheikhoun 24 hours before the strike. And a leading analyst on military technology, Dr. Theodore Postol of MIT, has concluded that the alleged device for a sarin attack could not have been delivered from the air but only from the ground, meaning that the chemical attack may not have been the result of the Syrian airstrike.
The Trump administration is pushing the accusation that the Assad regime was the force that carried out the highly lethal chemical attack on April 4 very hard, perhaps not so much to justify the already politically popular US strike against the Shayrat airbase on April 6, but rather to buttress a new hardline policy against the Syrian regime.
The two unnamed senior Trump officials who briefed journalists Tuesday sought to discredit the Russian claim that the Syrian airstrike had hit a warehouse in Khan Sheikhoun that was believed to hold weapons including toxic chemicals. One of the two unnamed officials said that a Syrian military source had "told Russian state media on April 4 that regime forces had not carried out any strike in Khan Sheikhoun, which contradicted Russia's claim directly." 
This Trump administration official appeared to be suggesting that there was no evidence that a weapons storage site had been hit by a Syrian airstrike. But an internal administration paper on the issue now circulating in Washington, a copy of which Truthout obtained, clearly refers to "a regime airstrike on a terrorist ammunition dump in the eastern suburbs of Khan Sheikhoun."
More importantly, the US military allegedly knew in advance that the strike was coming: Russian military officers informed their American counterparts of the Syrian military's plan to strike the warehouse in Khan Sheikhoun city 24 hours before the planned airstrike, according to the former US official who spoke with Truthout. The official is in direct contact with a US military intelligence officer with access to information about the US-Russian communications. The military intelligence officer reported to his associate that the Russians provided the information about the strike to the Americans through the normal US-Russian Syria deconfliction telephone line, which was established after the Russian intervention in 2015 to prevent any accidental clash between the two powers. The officer said that Russia communicated to the US the fact that the Syrians believed that the warehouse held toxic chemicals. 
That information was considered so politically sensitive that after its initial dissemination, it was available only to a few officials, the US military intelligence officer told his associate.
Despite the US denial of the Russian account of a Syrian strike on a warehouse in the city, an eyewitness account appears to confirm it. A 14-year-old resident told The New York Times she was walking only a few dozen yards away from a one-story building when she saw a plane drop a bomb on it.  The eyewitness reported the explosion created a "mushroom cloud" that stung her eyes. 
She added that she then hurried back home and watched as people began to arrive to help others in the neighborhood and were stricken by the toxic chemical in the air.
The airstrike she saw appears to be the one that was the objective of the Syrian operation in Khan Sheikhoun. The mushroom cloud she saw seems to be the widest of the three mushroom clouds shown in a video taken sometime after the explosion.
Two other strikes were apparently carried out after the initial strike on the building for which there is an eyewitness account. One was at a hospital in or near the city and the other was at a center of the White Helmets organization, built into a rock formation. The hospital strike was reported in an Associated Press story on Tuesday, which reported that a Russian drone was said to be hovering over a hospital as victims of the earlier attack were being brought in for treatment. The story said the hospital was later attacked. 
The hospital attack was cited by an anonymous AP source as evidence that the Russians knew in advance that a chemical weapons attack was going to be carried out. In fact it indicates that the hospital strike may well have been linked to the earlier airstrike on the one-story building.
When asked about the bombing at the hospital during the press briefing on Tuesday, one of the unnamed senior US officials would not confirm that the Syrians had carried out the attack or discuss the issue further, saying, "We don't have any comment right now on who may have been involved in bombing that hospital and why and how."
The senior US officials briefing the press insisted that a Syrian air strike delivering sarin was the only credible explanation for the dozens of deaths in Khan Sheikhoun. One of the officials cited a video showing a crater in the middle of a main road, which the Trump administration's key officials have determined was the site of the chemical weapon that reportedly killed 50 to 100 people. He implied that this was evidence that a Syrian airstrike had released what was believed to be sarin.
But Dr. Theodore Postol of MIT, who debunked the original official claims of the location of rockets that hit Syria's Ghouta area with what appeared to be sarin on August 21, 2013, has come to a different conclusion. Postol says that the carcass of the delivery vehicle -- shown in last week's video and in still photos of the small crater -- indicates that the chemical attack was not delivered via airstrike but from the spot on the road where it was found.
In an assessment completed on Tuesday, Postol called the collapsed metal tube shown in the crater, which he estimates to be about two and a half feet long, "an improvised dispersal device." He analyzes the device as having been assembled from a section of pipe from a 122 mm rocket with caps at both ends that was filled with sarin and with some kind of explosive placed on top of it. The explosive on top smashed in the pipe holding the sarin, and pushed the sarin out of its tube, according to Postol, "like toothpaste from a toothpaste tube."
Postol estimates that the device might have held eight to 10 liters of sarin. Was it actually used to emit the toxic chemical that killed dozens of residents? Postol doesn't claim to know, but he states that it did not resemble an air-delivered chemical weapon. "The administration attempted to use evidence that contradicted their own claim," Postol told Truthout.
One of the unnamed US officials briefing the press declared, "We are confident that terrorists or non-state actors did not commit this particular attack," and explained that non-state actors don't have the sarin required. But whether that assumption is well-founded or not, the universal assumption that the deaths could only have been caused by exposure to sarin is mistaken. Exposure to smoke munitions that create phosphine gas when in contact with moisture can cause neurological symptoms that mimic those of sarin, because they both damage the body's ability to produce the enzyme cholinesterase.
Both the Syrian Army and the Al-Nusra Front fighters in the Aleppo area, moreover, had abundant stocks of phosphine-producing smoke munitions in 2013, as was documented by German journalist Alfred Hackensberger of Die Welt. Furthermore, both ISIS (also known as Daesh) and al-Qaeda in Aleppo have been reported to have access to phosphine-based weapons.
These phosphine-producing munitions can be lethal if humans are exposed in confined space, and they have the smell of garlic or rotting food. That is precisely the smell that was reported by eyewitnesses in Khan Seikhoun. Sarin, on the other hand, is normally odorless.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.


Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on US national security policy. His latest book, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare, was published in February of 2014. Follow him on Twitter: @GarethPorter.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


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Dear comrades,
Receive classist and revolutionary greetings from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV), as we call on your attention to offer you an explanation on the threat of illegalization that currently weighs on our Party for the fourth time during our 86 years of struggles.
For more than a year, both publicly and in private meetings, PCV has stated repeatedly that it will not submit itself to the stipulations set forth by the Rules for the Renewal of Enrollment Lists of Members of Organizations for National Political Purposes. These new Rules, issued on March 4th, 2016, by the National Elections Council (CNE for its Spanish initials), contain some terms and conditions which had never been applied before, which are unacceptable to the dignity and safety of a revolutionary organization and its members, and which overstep the current legal framework.
According to the new procedures established by these Rules, it is now mandatory that the membership of all parties must register directly with CNE, distorting the legally and historically established relationship between the electoral authorities and the political parties, and between these and their respective members. This not only goes against the Statutes and organic principles of PCV as a party of cadres, but also creates a situation potentially dangerous to the internal life of our organization, since if tens, hundreds or thousands of people who are not really members of our Party, get registered as such by CNE, then these may claim the right to participate in internal decisions and debates, including the election of our leadership and candidates.
Also, the Rules provide for open and public access, through the CNE website, to the personal data of those who register as members of each party, which violates the right of citizens to maintain privacy about their political choices, and weakens the principle of secret vote. This, in turn, puts at risk the personal security and employment stability of Communists and other left-leaning militants, since neo-fascists and public and private employers will be able to access this information and use it to identify and attack revolutionaries. Moreover, the new Rules issued in 2016, compared to the old ones of 2011, not only reduced from six months to 14 hours the period for registration of enrollment lists, but also established equal procedures and requirements for the parties that did not take part in the previous two elections and those, like ours, that did participate.
After the publication of these Rules, the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of PCV sent on June 10th, 2016, a letter to CNE explaining our objections and proposing amendments, but the electoral authorities never replied, thus disregarding their constitutional duty to provide «a timely and adequate response» to any proper request by the citizenry (Article 51 of the National Constitution); this also demonstrates the lack of political will that has prevailed within CNE to seek a solution to this situation.
For more than fourteen months, there have been several bilateral meetings and exchanges with senior Government officials, as well as broader meetings between representatives of the different parties that make up the «Simón Bolívar» Great Patriotic Pole and drive the Bolivarian process, including leaders of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). In all of those opportunities, PCV has expressed our objections to the Rules issued by CNE, objections which were shared by the majority of the parties therein. However, while some national leaders of PSUV have expressed their «concern» about this matter, others have publicly stated that the «renewal» process is legal and should be carried out by CNE as established; therefore, the official position of the party in Government still remains unclear.
Earlier this year, it became evident that CNE was getting ready to enforce the process of «renewal» under these opprobrious Rules, shielding itself behind the Law on Political Parties, Public Meetings and Demonstrations, which dates back to 1965 when it was enacted during the most repressive moment of the «Puntofijista» regime as part of its efforts to police and control leftist parties. This Law, despite an amendment in 2010, still maintains its repressive contents and nature, and thus clashes with the principles and postulates of the National Constitution of 1999, especially with regards to the promotion of people's participation, activism and control over public administration.
Therefore, on February 16th, 2017, PCV filed at the Constitutional Court of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ for its Spanish initials) an appeal for the annulment of Article 25 of the Law on Political Parties, which establishes the requirement of «renewal» of political parties, on the grounds that such a requirement is unconstitutional. At the same time, our Party also requested precautionary measures to suspend the process of «renewal», which nevertheless was started by CNE on March 4th.
Almost two months have elapsed since PCV filed the appeal in the TSJ, and more than a month since CNE started the process of «renewal», and still the Constitutional Court has not made any decision neither on our request of precautionary measures nor on the merits of our appeal. This is a violation of the constitutional principle that establishes the right «to obtain promptly the relevant decision» from the courts (Article 26 of the National Constitution).
This would outlaw the main, oldest and most persistent instrument for the struggle of the Venezuelan working class and people against imperialist domination and capitalist exploitation. Such a threat takes place in the midst of a severe crisis of the extractionist and dependent capitalist model of our country; an increase in the interventionist policies of imperialism against the moral reference that the Bolivarian process still represents; and a sharpening of class contradictions and of the struggle for power between the pro-imperialist right-wing bloc and the forces that support the Government, and even within each of these blocs.
In this context, the Central Committee of PCV proposes to the Communist, Workers and Revolutionary Parties of the World that they consider the possibility of participating in the campaign «No to the illegalization of PCV!», thus expressing the opinion of the international Communist and anti-imperialist movement in support of PCV and for the protection of the rights and constitutional guarantees of our Party. We suggest that this opportunity be used also for the denunciation of imperialist interference against the sovereignty and self-determination of the Venezuelan people.
We ask that the public statements that your Parties may issue on this matter, be delivered to the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in your country, and also that you send them to our e-mails: and And, if possible, also to the Twitter accounts: @DPresidencia@NicolasMaduro@TSJ_Venezuela@Tibisay_Lucena@taniadamelio and @PCV_Venezuela.
Thanks in advance for the support and internationalist solidarity you may offer us.

With Communist greetings, on behalf of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV):
Oscar Figuera G.
General Secretary
Carolus Wimmer
Secretary for International Relations

Caracas, April 12th, 2017