DIGITAL MUSIC NEWS

Judge Slashes $48 Million Verdict Against

MP3Tunes Founder Michael Robertson

 

     A federal judge this week slashed record label EMI’s $48 million jury verdict against defunct music storage service MP3Tunes and its founder by about $33 million, ruling many of EMI’s claims were “just too big to succeed” and were backed by very little actual evidence. U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III tossed out most of the jury’s findings of secondary infringement against MP3Tunes and founder Michael Robertson under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The judge also cut common law punitive damages from $7.5 million to $750,000, and additional elements of the ruling could reduce the total amount to just over $10 million.

Earlier this year a Manhattan jury found MP3tunes and Robertson liable for copyright infringement and awarded $48.1 million in damages. EMI Group Ltd originally contended in its 2007 lawsuit that MP3tunes and another website known as Sideload.com enabled the infringement of copyrights in sound recordings, musical compositions, and cover art. Since that suit was filed EMI was split up, with Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group acquiring its recording music business and a consortium led by Sony Corp purchasing its publishing arm in 2012.

In his ruling, Judge Pauley excoriated attorneys on both sides of the case. Slamming EMI’s lawyers, he wrote, “Despite this Court’s efforts to winnow the issues, the parties insisted on an 82-page verdict sheet on liability and a 331-page verdict sheet on damages that included dense Excel tables, necessitating at least one juror’s use of a magnifying glass. While the jury did its best, their assignment was beyond all reasonable scale.” Judge Pauley then turned his attention to Robertson, noting that he “created a business model designed to operate at the very periphery of copyright law.”

The plaintiffs now can either accept the decision or embark on a new trial on punitive damages, the judge said. He gave both sides until Oct. 17 to submit proposals for a final judgment. [Read more: Global Post Hollywood Reporter

Judge Hits Grooveshark In

Federal Copyright Infringement Case

 

Gavel      A federal judge in New York this week ruled that Grooveshark, an online music service long vilified by the major record companies, infringed on thousands of their copyrights. Judge Thomas P. Griesa of United States District Court in Manhattan said the digital music platform was liable for copyright infringement because its own employees and officers – including Samuel Tarantino, the chief executive, and Joshua Greenberg, the chief technology officer – uploaded a total of 5,977 of the labels’ songs without permission. Those uploads are not subject to the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

The case stems from Grooveshark’s claim that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protects websites that host third-party material (content posted by users and not company employees) if they comply with takedown notices issued copyright holders. Grooveshark and its parent company, Escape Media Group, insisted in court documents and testimony that all of the music files on its servers had been uploaded by its users.

But Judge Griesa didn’t buy that argument, and on Monday said, “Each time Escape streamed one of plaintiffs’  recordings, it directly infringed upon plaintiffs’ exclusive performance rights.” He also found the company destroyed important evidence in the case, including lists of files that Mr. Greenberg and others uploaded to the service.

As reported by The New York Times, the next step of the case will be to set damages, and the possibility of a multimillion-dollar ruling against Grooveshark puts the service’s future in doubt. When asked for a comment about the summary judgment decision, John J. Rosenberg, a lawyer for Grooveshark, said, “The company respectfully disagrees with the court’s decision and is currently assessing its next steps, including the possibility of an appeal.” 

Judge Rules Expert Testimony In Apple’s

Alleged “Monopoly” Case Can Be Included

 

Monopoly man      Unbelievably, the class action suit that claims Apple Inc. is guilty of monopolistic practices because of an iTunes update continues to move through the court system. According to Courthouse News Service, a federal judge has ruled the Cupertino, CA-based tech giant cannot exclude a key expert for the plaintiffs who are accusing it of monopolizing digital music and music players between 2006 and 2009.

The lawsuit, filed in 2005, alleges Apple illegally acquired a digital music player monopoly with an iTunes update that made it impossible for iPods to play songs purchased from another online music store. As part of their case, the plaintiffs asked Stanford economist Roger Noll to testify that the update made it more costly for an iPod user to switch media players because it would be harder to collect music that could be played on all devices. Noll said the update also encouraged iPod owners to only buy music from iTunes.

The resulting monopoly allowed Apple to charge more for iPods, causing $305 million in damages to the class, Noll told the court. Apple had asked the judge to exclude Noll’s testimony in December 2013, but U.S. District Judge Yvonne Rogers last week denied that motion. She also denied a motion by Apple for summary judgment. 

Digital Streaming Revenue Grew In First

Half While Overall Revenues Slipped 4.9%

 

     U.S. music revenues slipped to $3.2 billion in the first half of 2014, a 4.9% drop from the $3.35 billion the industry tallied in the first half of 2013. According to the latest figures released by the Recording Industry Association Of America (RIAA), digital music revenue declined about 0.5% to $2.203 billion, from $2.214 billion in the first half of 2013. Meanwhile, subscription revenue jumped 23.2%, to $371.4 million from $301.4 million, and ad-supported streaming jumped 56.5% to $164.7 million from $105.2 million. CD sales fell 19.1% to $715.6 million from $994.1 million, while the sale of vinyl product – an infinitesimal line item – jumped 41% to $6.5 million, from $4.8 million in the same period last year.

The RIAA says paid subscription services averaged 7.8 million U.S. subscribers in the first six months of the year, up from an average of 5.5 million subscribers in the first half of 2013. Download sales of albums and tracks fell 11.8% to nearly $1.3 billion from $1.47 billion. Distribution of performance royalties collected by SoundExchange grew 21.3% during the same period, from $266.5 million in the first half of 2013 2013 to $323.4 million in H1 2014.

As noted by Billboard, the RIAA for the first time also provided an overall market volume for wholesale. Typically, the RIAA numbers add up the value of units for each album by that album’s list price, not the wholesale price that the labels receive when they ship the albums to retailers. But converting their data to wholesale values for downloads and the physical formats, RIAA estimates the U.S. music marketplace at $2.2 billion, down from $2.3 million at mid-year 2013.

 

Spanish Broadcasting System, 7digital

Launch Digital Content Partnership

 

Handshake      Spanish Broadcasting System has entered into a partnership with 7digital to provide SBS’ LaMusica.com with secure content management technology and a royalty reporting system to support additional music products beyond the site’s current streaming content. LaMusica.com currently streams 14 of the broadcasting company’s Spanish-language radio stations, and also provides a variety of entertainment, news, and cultural offerings leveraged from SBS’ radio network, television, and live entertainment properties.

“We continue to invest in strengthening our LaMusica.com portal and extending the robust content offerings we provide to the nation’s Latino music fans,” SBS Chairman/CEO Raul Alarcón, Jr. said in a statement. “Our agreement with 7digital will provide us with additional tools to maximize the LaMusica.com experience, further building on our momentum as we seek to fully capitalize on our strong media brands and close ties to the vibrant Latino music community.”

“We are pleased to partner with fast-growing entertainment services such as LaMusica.com to enhance the infrastructure that is required to deliver comprehensive and seamless digital entertainment offerings,” Simon Cole, 7digital’s CEO, commented in the same statement. “SBS has an exceptional history in creating top-ranked media brands attracting large and loyal audiences in the nation’s biggest Hispanic media markets, and we look forward to playing a role in expanding LaMusica.com’s operating platform.”

 

Yes, eMusic Is Still Around…And

It’s Returning To Its Indie Roots

 

     For years eMusic – one of the first MP3 download services on the web – positioned itself as specializing in independent label content and, in fact, thrived (somewhat) as a music subscription service, whereby users paid a set fee each month to download a set number of tracks.

Over the years, however, the company grdually aligned itself with the major labels in order to survive, but iTunes and Amazon eventually cornered the mainstream download market, leaving eMusic to languish in the nether regions between major and indies. In fact, most industry execs more or less forgot eMusic still existed, except when it popped up as a sponsor at various industry events.

So imagine the surprise of eMusic’s small but loyal user base this week when they received an announcing the service was ending its partnerships with the majors, and returning to its roots as a hub of indie label content. In fact, the email said that beginning today (Oct. 1, the start of the fourth quarter), eMusic “will be exiting the mainstream music business and exclusively offering independent music. The company’s goal is to build the most extensive catalogue of independent music in the world.” While Complete Music Update calls that an admirable goal, it does raise the question of whether it’s too little, too late, for two reasons: 1) Much of eMusic’s small user base has drifted to the subscription streaming services, and 2) The indie labels that 10 years ago would have applauded this move are now focused on trying to get a piece of that same streaming revenue.

 

A publication of Bunzel Media Resources © 2014

How to Stop Time

Credit Viktor Hachmang

IN the unlikely event that we could ever unite under the banner of a single saint, it might just be St. Expeditus. According to legend, when the Roman centurion decided to convert to Christianity, the Devil appeared in the form of a crow and circled above him crying “cras, cras” — Latin for “tomorrow, tomorrow.” Expeditus stomped on the bird and shouted victoriously, “Today!” For doing so, Expeditus achieved salvation, and is worshiped as the patron saint of procrastinators. Sometimes you see icons of him turned upside down like an hourglass in the hope that he’ll hurry up and help you get your work done so he can be set right-side up again. From job-seekers in Brazil to people who run e-commerce sites in New Orleans, Expeditus is adored not just for his expediency, but also for his power to settle financial affairs. There is even a novena to the saint on Facebook.

Expeditus was martyred in A.D. 303, but was resurrected around the time of the Industrial Revolution, as the tempo of the world accelerated with breathtaking speed. Sound familiar? Today, as the pace of our lives quickens and the demands placed on us multiply, procrastination is the archdemon many of us wrestle with daily. It would seem we need Expeditus more than ever.

Photo

Credit Viktor Hachmang

“Procrastination, quite frankly, is an epidemic,” declares Jeffery Combs, the author of “The Procrastination Cure,” just one in a vast industry of self-help books selling ways to crush the beast. The American Psychological Association estimates that 20 percent of American men and women are “chronic procrastinators.” Figures place the amount of money lost in the United States to procrastinating employees at trillions of dollars a year.

A recent infographic in The Economist revealed that in the 140 million hours humanity spent watching “Gangnam Style” on YouTube two billion times, we could have built at least four more (desperately needed) pyramids at Giza. Endless articles pose the question of why we procrastinate, what’s going wrong in the brain, how to overcome it, and the fascinating irrationality of it all.

But if procrastination is so clearly a society-wide, public condition, why is it always framed as an individual, personal deficiency? Why do we assume our own temperaments and habits are at fault — and feel bad about them — rather than question our culture’s canonization of productivity?

I was faced with these questions at an unlikely event this past July — an academic conference on procrastination at the University of Oxford. It brought together a bright and incongruous crowd: an economist, a poetry professor, a “biographer of clutter,” a queer theorist, a connoisseur of Iraqi coffee-shop culture. There was the doctoral student who spoke on the British painter Keith Vaughan, known to procrastinate through increasingly complicated experiments in auto-erotica. There was the children’s author who tied herself to her desk with her shoelaces.

The keynote speaker, Tracey Potts, brought a tin of sugar cookies she had baked in the shape of the notorious loiterer Walter Benjamin. The German philosopher famously procrastinated on his “Arcades Project,” a colossal meditation on the cityscape of Paris where the figure of the flâneur — the procrastinator par excellence — would wander. Benjamin himself fatally dallied in escaping the city ahead of the Nazis. He took his own life, leaving the manuscript forever unfinished, more evidence, it would seem, that no avoidable delay goes unpunished.

As we entered the ninth, grueling hour of the conference, a professor laid out a taxonomy of dithering so enormous that I couldn’t help but wonder: Whatever you’re doing, aren’t you by nature procrastinating from doing something else? Seen in this light, procrastination begins to look a lot like just plain existing. But then along come its foot soldiers — guilt, self-loathing, blame.

Dr. Potts explained how procrastination entered the field as pathological behavior in the mid-20th century. Drawing on the work of the British-born historian Christopher Lane, Dr. Potts directed our attention to a United States War Department bulletin issued in 1945 that chastised soldiers who were avoiding their military duties “by passive measures, such as pouting, stubbornness, procrastination, inefficiency and passive obstructionism.” In 1952, when the American Psychiatric Association assembled the first edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — the bible of mental health used to determine illness to this day — it copied the passage from the cranky military memo verbatim.

And so, procrastination became enshrined as a symptom of mental illness. By the mid-60s, passive-aggressive personality disorder had become a fairly common diagnosis and “procrastination” remained listed as a symptom in several subsequent editions. “Dawdling” was added to the list, after years of delay.

While passive-aggressive personality disorder has been erased from the official portion of the manual, the stigma of slothfulness remains. Many of us, it seems, are still trying to enforce a military-style precision on our intellectual, creative, civilian lives — and often failing. Even at the conference, participants proposed strategies for beating procrastination that were chillingly martial. The economist suggested that we all “take hostages” — place something valuable at stake as a way of negotiating with our own belligerent minds. The children’s author writes large checks out to political parties she loathes, and entrusts them to a relative to mail if she misses a deadline.

All of which leads me to wonder: Are we imposing standards on ourselves that make us mad?

Though Expeditus’s pesky crow may be ageless, procrastination as epidemic — and the constant guilt that goes with it — is peculiar to the modern era. The 21st-century capitalist world, in its never-ending drive for expansion, consecrates an always-on productivity for the sake of the greater fiscal health.

In an 1853 short story Herman Melville gave us Bartleby, the obstinate scrivener and apex procrastinator, who confounds the requests of his boss with his hallowed mantra, “I would prefer not to.” A perfect employee on the surface — he never leaves the office and sleeps at his desk — Bartleby represents a total rebellion against the expectations placed on him by society. Politely refusing to accept money or to remove himself from his office even after he is fired, the copyist went on to have an unexpected afterlife — as hero for the Occupy movement in 2012. “Bartleby was the first laid-off worker to occupy Wall Street,” Jonathan D. Greenberg noted in The Atlantic. Confronted with Bartleby’s serenity and his utter noncompliance with the status quo, his perplexed boss is left wondering whether he himself is the one who is mad.

A month before the procrastination conference, I set myself the task of reading “Oblomov,” the 19th-century Russian novel by Ivan Goncharov about the ultimate slouch, who, over the course of 500 pages, barely moves from his bed, and then only to shift to the sofa. At least that’s what I heard: I failed to make it through more than two pages at a sitting without putting the novel down and allowing myself to drift off. I would carry the heavy book everywhere with me — it was like an anchor into a deep, blissful sea of sleep.

Oblomov could conduct the few tasks he cared to from under his quilt — writing letters, accepting visitors — but what if he’d had an iPhone and a laptop? Being in bed is now no excuse for dawdling, and no escape from the guilt that accompanies it. The voice — societal or psychological — urging us away from sloth to the pure, virtuous heights of productivity has become a sort of birdlike shriek as more individuals work from home and set their own schedules, and as the devices we use for work become alluring sirens to our own distraction. We are now able to accomplish tasks at nearly every moment, even if we prefer not to.

Still, humans will never stop procrastinating, and it might do us good to remember that the guilt and shame of the do-it-tomorrow cycle are not necessarily inescapable. The French philosopher Michel Foucault wrote about mental illness that it acquires its reality as an illness “only within a culture that recognizes it as such.” Why not view procrastination not as a defect, an illness or a sin, but as an act of resistance against the strictures of time and productivity imposed by higher powers? To start, we might replace Expeditus with a new saint.

At the conference, I was invited to speak about the Egyptian-born novelist Albert Cossery, a true icon of the right to remain lazy. In the mid-1940s, Cossery wrote a novel in French, “Laziness in the Fertile Valley,” about a family in the Nile Delta that sleeps all day. Their somnolence is a form of protest against a world forever ruled by tyrants winding the clock. Born in 1913 in Cairo, Cossery grew up in a place that still retained cultural memories of the introduction of Western notions of time, a once foreign concept. It had arrived along with British military forces in the late 19th century. To turn Egypt into a lucrative colony, it needed to run on a synchronized, efficient schedule. The British replaced the Islamic lunar calendar with the Gregorian, preached the values of punctuality, and spread the gospel that time equaled money.

Firm in his belief that time is not as natural or apolitical as we might think, Cossery, in his writings and in his life, strove to reject the very system in which procrastination could have any meaning at all. Until his death in 2008, the elegant novelist, living in Paris, maintained a strict schedule of idleness. He slept late, rising in the afternoons for a walk to the Café de Flore, and wrote fiction only when he felt like it. “So much beauty in the world, so few eyes to see it,” Cossery would say. He was the archetypal flâneur, in the footsteps of Walter Benjamin and Charles Baudelaire, whose verses Cossery would steal for his own poetry when he was a teenager. Rather than charge through the day, storming the gates of tomorrow, his stylized repose was a perch from which to observe, reflect and question whether the world really needs all those things we feel we ought to get done — like a few more pyramids at Giza. And it was idleness that led Cossery to true creativity, dare I say it, in his masterfully unprolific work.

After my talk, someone came up to ask me what I thought was the ideal length of a nap. Saint Cossery was smiling. Already one small battle had been won.

Mass protests continue in Hong Kong

By Peter Symonds WSWS
1 October 2014

Thousands of protesters remained on the streets of central Hong Kong overnight in anticipation of far larger demonstrations today, China’s National Day—a holiday in both Hong Kong and mainland China. The protests have already drawn in tens of thousands during recent days to demand the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and open elections for his post in 2017.

The protest in Hong Kong [Credit: FlickrUser Pasu Au Yeng]

The immediate trigger for the protests was last month’s announcement by China’s National People’s Congress that the 2017 election, while under a new system of universal suffrage, would be restricted to candidates vetted by a nomination committee stacked with pro-Beijing appointees. The decision was widely regarded as a breach of the promise of a fully-elected chief executive by 2017, made when China took over the former British colony in 1997. Currently the chief executive is chosen by a 1,200-member committee dominated by Beijing loyalists.

Opposition legislators from the broad grouping known as the pan-Democrats criticised the plan and threatened to veto it in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council. Occupy Central, an organisation founded last year by a collection of academics, church leaders and professions, announced a civil disobedience campaign that was due to start today to force Beijing to withdraw its decision. These parties and groups represent layers of the Hong Kong elites who, while concerned that Beijing’s control will undermine their interests, are even more fearful of a mass movement of the working class that could destabilise bourgeois rule.

The cautious approach of the pan-Democrats and Occupy Central, holding out for a compromise with Beijing, was pre-empted when the Hong Kong Federation of Students and other student organisations called for a boycott of classes and protests last week. Clashes between students and police outside the government headquarters on Friday provoked larger demonstrations over the weekend. The Hong Kong administration attempted to break up the protests using riot police, but failed.

A tense standoff continues after riot police were withdrawn from the protest sites on Monday. Chief Executive Leung has refused to resign, declaring that Beijing will not back down from its election plan and urging Occupy Central leaders to call off the protests. He pointed out that the “Occupy Central founders had said repeatedly that if the movement is getting out of control, they would call for it to stop.”

Occupy Central, however, only stepped into the protests late Saturday. Its leaders, along with various pan-Democrats, are clearly seeking to bring the rather heterogeneous movement under its control, but their influence, particularly over younger layers of protesters, is far from certain. The diffuse and confused political character of the protests is reflected in their limited demands, along with their vague slogans of “democracy” and chants of “love Hong Kong” and “we want a real vote.”

At this stage, the involvement of the working class appears to be limited. A call by the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, which is aligned with the pan-Democrats, for a general strike yesterday went largely unheeded. Some teachers and social workers stopped work, according to the South China Morning Post. On Monday, about 200 workers from a Coca-Cola distributer walked out.

Protest outside government headquarters

Nevertheless, the opposition is being fuelled by broader democratic and social concerns that reflect the deepening social divide in Hong Kong. The New York Times yesterday noted that polls over the past year indicated that “the most disaffected and potentially volatile sector of Hong Kong society is not the students, the middle-aged veterans or even the elderly activists who have sustained the democracy movement for decades. Instead, the most strident calls for greater democracy—and often for greater economic populism, as well—have come from people in the 20s and early 30s who have struggled to find well-paying jobs as the local manufacturing sector has withered away, and as banks and other service industries have hired mainland Chinese instead of local college graduates.”

Hong Kong analyst Michael DeGolyer told the New York Times that these layers paid more attention to student leaders than Occupy Central or the pan-Democrats. “There’s a large number of people who are disaffected and alienated who are not students, who are not affiliated with any political party and who are angry,” he said.

Beijing is deeply concerned that the protests in Hong Kong could spiral out of control and spark unrest in the Chinese mainland amid a deepening economic slowdown and rising social tensions. Beijing has heavily censored news in the Chinese media and on the Internet about the protests and could resort to force to suppress the opposition in Hong Kong.

To date, Chinese authorities have adopted a cautious attitude, leaving the public handling of the situation to the Hong Kong administration and hoping that the protests will fizzle out. An editorial in yesterday’s state-run Global Times dismissed the demonstrations as “merely noise” and predicted that “tide will turn against the oppositionists” once Hong Kong people see that “the Central government will not change its mind.”

A more strident tone was sounded by the official People’s Daily on Monday. It denounced pro-democracy leaders who sought support from “anti-China forces” in Britain and the US, raising the spectre of a US-engineered colour revolution in Hong Kong. However, the protest movement bears none of the hallmarks of the putsch engineered and financed by the US and Germany in February to oust elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The carefully-staged, anti-Yanukovych protests in Kiev, which were dominated by extreme right-wing and fascist organisations, had no democratic content whatsoever.

At present, the response of the US and Britain to the events in Hong Kong is decidedly low key by comparison to mind-numbing deluge of anti-Russian propaganda that accompanied the Kiev coup. In comments on Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest declared that the US was “closely watching the situation in Hong Kong” and appealed to local authorities to “exercise restraint.” British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called for a meeting with the Chinese ambassador to express his “dismay and alarm” over the situation.

While the Ukrainian coup was aimed at integrating Ukraine into the European Union and imposing drastic austerity measures, the US appears to be more concerned at present with preserving the status quo in Hong Kong. Assuming the bogus mantle of defending democracy in Hong Kong, Earnest said: “We believe that an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by the rule of law is essential for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity.”

That is not to say that the US and Britain will not be using their close ties with elements in the Hong Kong political and corporate elite to try to exploit the protests for their own advantage. As part of its “pivot to Asia”, the Obama administration has mounted a concerted diplomatic offensive throughout the region to undermine China’s influence.

The danger that the major powers could manipulate the pro-democracy demonstrations arises from the present confusion and lack of political perspective. While the protesters are hostile to the police-state methods of the Chinese regime, they must also oppose any intervention by imperialism. The US and its allies are certainly no defenders of democratic rights—either at home, or in their brazen interventions and wars around the globe. A genuine struggle for democratic rights is completely bound up with the development of an independent movement of the working class in Hong Kong, China.

How the U.S. Concocted a Terror Threat to Justify Syria Strikes



…and the Corporate Media Went Along

According to writer Murtaza Hussain, anonymous officials say there was not any plan in the works to attack the United States.
 

As the U.S. expands military operations in Syria, we look at the Khorasan group, the shadowy militant organization the Obama administration has invoked to help justify the strikes. One month ago, no one had heard of Khorasan, but now U.S. officials say it poses an imminent threat to the United States. As the strikes on Syria began, U.S. officials said Khorasan was “nearing the execution phase” of an attack on the United States or Europe, most likely an attempt to blow up a commercial plane in flight. We are joined by Murtaza Hussain of The Intercept, whose new article with Glenn Greenwald is “The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria.”

Below is an interview with Hussain, followed by a transcript:

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2014/9/29/how_the_us_concocted_a_terror

AMY GOODMAN: The United States is continuing to expand its military operations in Iraq and Syria. Late last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel deployed a division headquarters unit to Iraq for the first time since the U.S. withdrawal in 2011. The 200 soldiers from the Army’s 1st Infantry Division headquarters will joins 1,200 U.S. troops already inside Iraq. Overnight, U.S.-led warplanes hit grain silos and other targets in northern and eastern Syria. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the attacks killed a number of civilians working at the silos.

While the United States has been bombing areas in Syria controlled by the Islamic State, it has also struck targets connected to a separate militant group that U.S. officials are calling the Khorasan group. If you never heard of the group before this month, you’re not alone. The Associated Press first reported on this new entity on September 13th. In the article, unnamed U.S. officials warned of a shadowy, terrorist group that posed a more imminent threat than the Islamic State. The AP described the group as, quote, “a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.” It went on to say the group poses a, quote, “direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation.” Soon, major TV networks began echoing these claims about the Khorasan group.

FOX NEWS REPORTER: They say that they were facing a, quote, ‘imminent threat’ from the Khorasan group here in the United States.

JEFF GLOR: We are learning about a new and growing terror threat coming out of Syria. It’s an al-Qaeda cell you probably never heard of. Nearly everything about them is classified.

BARBARA STARR: The reason they struck Khorasan right now is they had intelligence that the group of al-Qaeda veterans was in the stages of planning an attack against the U.S. homeland.

AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about the Khorasan group, we’re going to go to Toronto, Canada, where we’ll be joined by Murtaza Hussain, a reporter with The Intercept. He wrote a piece with Glenn Greenwald called “The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria.” We’ll go to Murtaza Hussain after this break.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to Murtaza Hussain, a reporter at The Intercept who, together with Glenn Greenwald, wrote the piece “The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria.”

Murtaza, welcome to Democracy Now! Murtaza is joining us from Toronto. Can you talk about what you’ve learned about the so-called Khorasan group?

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: So, the Khorasan group is a group which first came up in the media around September 13th, roughly a week or so before the U.S. bombing campaign of Syria began. Heretofore, no one had heard of this group. It was not known in intelligence circles or among people who follow Syria. And suddenly we saw in the media that this was being described as the major terrorist threat emanating from that country and a direct threat to the U.S. homeland, unlike ISIS. So, this ended up being one of the main justifications for the war on Syria or the military airstrikes which are conducted on Syria, and it became the major media narrative justifying that action.

AMY GOODMAN: And talk about, well, for example, where the Khorasan group got its name.

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: So, the Khorasan group, the name itself does not denote any group within Syria that anyone has familiarity with or has heard of before. It’s a name that was developed within the U.S. government to describe a certain set of groups—individuals within the group Jabhat al-Nusra, which is one of the opposition factions fighting the Syrian government. Jabhat al-Nusra is also believed to be a franchise of al-Qaeda within Syria, but unlike al-Qaeda proper, it’s focused exclusively on fighting the government of Bashar Assad. So, in order to justify these strikes against this group, the U.S. had to create a new name to designate these few individuals within that group that they’re looking to target, so they developed this name, the Khorasan group, which identified several fighters who, they say, planned to wage attacks against the United States, as opposed to the government of Bashar Assad, and they conducted the strikes under that justification.

Now, within Syria, people view this group as being indistinguishable from the regular group of Jabhat al-Nusra, and it’s being viewed as an attack on that group, which is why yesterday you saw a statement from that group’s leader vowing revenge for the deaths of his commanders.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to CNN’s Pentagon reporter Barbara Starr talking about the Khorasan group.

BARBARA STARR: What we are hearing from a senior U.S. official is the reason they struck Khorasan right now is they had intelligence that the group of al-Qaeda veterans was in the stages of planning an attack against the U.S. homeland and/or an attack against a target in Europe. And the information indicated that Khorasan was well on its way, perhaps in the final stages, of planning that attack.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Barbara Starr of CNN. Your response?

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: So, in the days leading up to the attack, several anonymous sources suggested that an attack was imminent. They suggested that there were a threat against airliners using toothpaste bombs or flammable clothing. And they said that, like Barbara Starr mentioned, they were in the final stages of planning this attack. After the strikes were carried out, several U.S. officials started walking back that estimation quite far and saying that the definition of “imminent” is unclear, and when we’re saying is a strike about to happen, we’re not sure what that means exactly. So, in retrospect, this definition of a strike being imminent and this characterization of a threat coming from this group, which is very definable and very clear, became very unclear after the strikes, and they suggested through The New York Times the strikes were merely aspirational and there was no actual plot today existing against the United States. So, the actual justification for the strikes was completely negated after the strikes ended, which was something quite troubling.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean, negated right after the strikes began, right after the justification worked.

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: Right. So, after the strikes happened and there were statements saying that people were killed and the group had been scattered, James Comey and many others within the U.S. establishment started saying that, “Well, you know, we said the strikes were imminent from this group, but what does ‘imminent’ really mean? Could be six months, could be a year.’” And other anonymous officials started saying there was not any threat at all, there was not any plan in the works to attack the United States. And then, further it came to light that the Khorasan group itself, which we had been hearing about in the media was a new enemy and was a definable threat against the United States, did not really exist per se; it was simply a group of people whom the U.S. designated within a Syrian opposition faction as being ready to be struck. So, the entire narrative that had been developed, and within the media developed, was completely put to a lie after the strikes. And it was interesting that Ken Dilanian reported the story first in the Associated Press, saying that this was a new threat and a new group, and he was one of the first people to break the story afterwards saying that U.S. officials are now adding more “nuance,” is the word he used, to their previous warnings about the group. So, it was kind of a really egregious case of media spin, whereby the media had taken up this narrative of a threat from a new terrorist, and then, after the strikes had been conducted which justified this group, they immediately took the opposite tack, saying that in fact there was no threat that was imminent and the group itself did not exist per se. So, it was really quite a failure of the media, which we’ve seen several times in the past, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: You mentioned Ken Dilanian of AP. Now, Intercept just put out another story, “The CIA’s Mop-Up Man: L.A. Times Reporter Cleared Stories with Agency Before Publication.” Ken Silverstein writes, “A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.” He goes on to say, “Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the [Los Angeles] Times. Your response to that piece?

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: Right. So, essentially, the administration will seek out reporters who are pliant and willing to work with them to leak stories like this. So, in the sense of those CIA stories, this reporter had his stories vetted. He promised favorable coverage in exchange for access. And again here, the Khorasan group stories first came out with this reporter. And, you know, the media’s role is to ask questions and to vet these claims quite thoroughly, but instead the claims were put out through reporters who were known to give favorable coverage and who were known to, you know, take the administration’s line in exchange for access. And it seems like this happened again, in the sense that here was a reporter who put out the story, they did not vet who the Khorasan group is, what the veracity of these claims are, but they put it out in the media, and it became a media story on its own. So I think that you’re seeing the same narrative replay as happened as we detailed in the previous story, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to another piece that you wrote, Murtaza, “Why the Islamic State is Not Really Islamic,” which refers to a letter that has been signed by many Muslims. Can you explain who has written this letter and who it was sent to?

MURTAZA HUSSAIN: So, there was an open letter published to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, from over 120 of the most prominent religious scholars among Muslim scholars in the world. And there was the mufti of Egypt, Bosnia, Nigeria and many other countries around the world, including the United States. And they published an open letter condemning point by point the practices of the so-called Islamic State. And it was purely from a theological standpoint, and they had given a very rigorous critique of the group and found it, by their standards, to be un-Islamic. Now, this goes back to the question of what is or is not Islamic. Islam is not a monolith; it’s subject to interpretations of the people who take part in it. And, you know, this group found them to be decidedly un-Islamic. I think most Muslims around the world would find them to be un-Islamic, despite their pretensions to the contrary.

So, the point I was making in the article is that when you identify them as being Islamic and you say that they are the definition of Islam, you’re playing to their narrative. That’s the legitimacy they want and which today they don’t have, and they’re rejected broadly by Muslims around the world. So it’s important to say that while, you know, they may partake in Islamic dialogue and they may use the symbols of Islam, we cannot let any one group of extremists anywhere define a faith or a civilization which is, you know, identified with by over a billion people around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’ll link to your pieces at democracynow.org. I want to thank you for being with us. We’ve been talking to Murtaza Hussain, who is a reporter with The Intercept. His latest two pieces, “The Khorasan Group: Anatomy of a Fake Terror Threat to Justify Bombing Syria” and “Why the Islamic State is Not Really Islamic.” This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.

Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,000 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “The Silenced Majority,” a New York Times best-seller.

http://www.alternet.org/world/how-us-concocted-terror-threat-justify-syria-strikes-and-corporate-media-went-along?akid=12308.265072.nH2MIk&rd=1&src=newsletter1021271&t=19&paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

President Obama’s perfect example of D.C.’s warmongering con

“That’s how we roll”:

In a swaggering “60 Minutes” interview, the president shows how Washington defends its thirst for endless war VIDEO

"That's how we roll": President Obama's perfect example of D.C.'s warmongering con
President Barack Obama (Credit: Screen shot, CBS “60 Minutes”)

Among the many things that make the United States such an exceptional nation, its relative unwillingness to spend money on programs to better its citizens’ lives is especially notable. Ditto its utterly unrivaled enthusiasm for spending its money on programs to make it easier to end other citizens’ lives. But while it’s true that Americans work more for less, it’s also true that no other country’s political class is quite so festooned with top-of-the-line killing machines, or so unencumbered when it comes to deploying those killing machines wherever and whenever they please.

Assuming you’re not a defense contractor lobbyist or lifetime bureaucratic warrior in the Pentagon, it doesn’t sound like too good a deal for the vast majority of America’s 300-million-plus population. But as President Obama showed during Sunday night’s new interview with Steve Kroft for “60 Minutes,” there’s a tried and true way that U.S. leadership manages to square that circle: By telling Americans that the globe is in many ways like a big university — one where the United States is the undisputed big man on campus.

http://www.cbsnews.com/common/video/cbsnews_video.swf



“It looks like once again we are leading the operation,” Kroft complained to the president, noting that despite Obama’s efforts to build a broad coalition for his war against ISIS, the United States found itself still in the role of first among equals when it came to shouldering the campaign’s burden. It was a pointed question to deliver to a president who was ushered into office in part on a promise to wield America’s military more wisely, more judiciously and with more of a mind on the problems unresolved at home.

Still, President Obama, that one-time candidate of change, had a quick and direct answer: “Steve, that’s always the case. That’s always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation; we have capacity no one else has; our military is the best in the history of the world.

“When trouble comes up anywhere in the world,” Obama continued, “they don’t call Beijing, they don’t call Moscow — they call us.”

Having reduced geopolitics to the level of “Ghostbusters” (because when there’s sectarian killing born from a centuries-long ethnic and cultural conflict in your neighborhood, who ya gonna call?) Obama continued, “When there’s a typhoon in the Philippines, take a look at who’s helping the Philippines deal with that situation. When there’s an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who’s leading the charge, making sure Haiti can rebuild.”

Obama then laid down the hammer, delivering the sound bite one imagines White House message mavens thought was terrifically badass when they came up with it during the waning hours of an all-night planning session some recent, godforsaken morning: “That’s how we roll,” the president of the United States said. “That’s what makes us America.” (“Bring ‘em on!” was already taken.)

So if in years ahead — perhaps during a time when the debate has shifted from whether to send troops back to Iraq to how many troops we should send; or perhaps during the next time when a temporary economic downturn persuades the most serious people in Washington that the welfare state is a luxury the United States cannot afford — you find yourself wondering why the debate in Washington is always between less welfare and more war now or less welfare and more war later, remember what Barack Obama told you.

That’s how we roll. Because we’re America.

Elias Isquith is staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith, and email him at eisquith@salon.com.

Wild Geese

Wild-Geese-400x400
Wild Geese
 
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
 
from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver
Sleeping in the Forest