Slime and Slander: The FWSO email
| September 24, 2016 | 9:04 pm | Analysis, Labor, political struggle | No comments
Slime and Slander: The FWSO email
Please read the following article regarding an email sent from the CEO of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra to the Board of Directors. In this email the CEO of the FWSO openly dismisses small donors, subscribers and community members. The CEO also attacks an orchestra supporter by name with a fictitious source.
Read it here: Slime and Slander: The FWSO email
Below is the Musicians’ rebuttal to management’s claims that appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on September 20th.
The Musicians of the FWSO would like to comment on the most recent public statements from the FWSO Management.  Ms. Adkins is quoted in Tuesday’s Star-Telegram article as stating “The union has not requested a meeting with us…” Apparently Ms. Adkins is unaware that the union is the Musicians and we have already repeatedly requested that Management return to the negotiating table in order to resolve the remaining issues with their recent Last, Best and Final offer.  Cancelling programs one week at a time, but with no movement toward a return to negotiations is punitive to the public, as well as the Musicians who are hoping for a resolution.

In a September 19 email sent to FWSO patrons, Management asserted that the “Union” and Musicians’ negotiating committee reversed course.  This is false.

  • The call for “Growth, not Cuts” has been consistent for the last 15 months.
  • The job of a negotiating committee and union representatives is to come to the best possible agreement, and present it to the Musicians at large.
  • The August 31st tentative agreement was brought to the Musicians with a clear recommendation for ratification.
  • Despite this, the Musicians overwhelmingly rejected the contract.
  • This wasn’t a reversal.  It was a vote of no confidence.

Overview of the Tentative Agreement

The key dispute between the Musicians and Management has nothing to do with the projected deficit, nor the fact that there have been deficits from losses over the last couple of years.  The Musicians are always made fully aware of these challenges.

The real issue is that the Musicians took a 13.5% pay cut in 2010 worth $3 million, and saw no benefit from their sacrifice.
Specifically, Management

  • did not turn that $3 million savings into success.
  • kept a flat budget even after the Texas/Fort Worth economy came back to life post-2010.
  • consistently dipped into a contingency fund to balance the budget.
  • never made a plan to replenish the contingency fund.

Accepting additional cuts would have been a tacit acceptance of how this organization is doing business.

Financial Background

The Musicians do not dispute the projected $700,000 deficit, except perhaps to add that the FWSO carries no actual debt.  The Musicians dispute management’s constant motto that “there is no more money in Fort Worth” for the following reasons:

  • Through its 2016 “Million Dollar Summer” campaign, the Fort Worth Opera doubled its donor base and raised $1 million in just three months.
  • The FWSO’s Strategic Plan clearly recommends an increase in fundraising staff to 5 members, but that department has had only 3 members, on average, for the past three years.  Orchestras of similar size have 2-3 times the number of fundraising staff members as the FWSO.
  • Orchestras of similar size spend about 8% of their budget on fundraising; the FWSO only spends 4% of its budget on fundraising.
  • When paid performances lost in the recession returned and demand for concerts increased, the budget continued to shrink.
  • When the Musicians repeatedly asked for plans for an endowment campaign or reaching out to the subscribers and donors for additional help, Management said no.

The Musicians’ rejection of the most recent proposal was a vote for positive change.

Musician Salaries 

Management has repeatedly referenced principal players’ salaries in an attempt to disguise the fact that section Musicians, who represent the majority of the orchestra, will have their salary cut to $51,370.  As a result, the Fort Worth Symphony salary would rank 33rd among the nation’s top 50 orchestras.  The reason principal players have additional compensation is that they have more responsibilities, including performing solos with the orchestra and administrative duties outside of rehearsal time.

Management’s offer of “surplus sharing” seems disingenuous, considering Management projects a deficit every year.  Given Management’s unwillingness over 15 months of negotiation to discuss any plan for growth, wouldn’t this contract language only encourage Management NOT to raise additional funds?  Wouldn’t it be a greater incentive to have language that offers the Musicians a raise if Management does NOT hit their targeted fundraising goals?

Benefits: Health care, Vacation

As Management states, it is no surprise that health care costs are rising.
However, you may be surprised to learn:

  • It costs $1750 per month for a musician to insure their family through the FWSO plan.
  • The FWSO is the only orchestra in the country that plays more than 20 weeks per year and has NO disability benefits.
  • The Dallas Symphony and the Houston Symphony each has 65 days of paid vacation per year.  The FWSO Management’s current offer is 35 days.

Conclusion

Management says the “letters, emails and calls of encouragement confirm your understanding that the FWSO must be managed in a fiscally responsible manner for the long-term health of the Orchestra.”
Does this mean Management

  • is only receiving positive phone calls?
  • is ignoring all of the calls they have received in complaint?  (Perhaps because those who have called haven’t donated enough to warrant consideration?)
  • is counting how many calls they get for both sides and then deciding where public opinion really lies?

We just ask you to consider the following as you decide for yourself about fiscal responsibility:
Is the FWSO Management being fiscally responsible when they:

  • Fall short on raising enough money to pay the musicians?
  • Use a contingency fund every year to cover operating costs?
  • Ignore professional advice to expand the fundraising department?
  • Have a new Vice-President of Development every year?
  • Don’t have a Strategic Plan past the year 2017?

The September 19 email from the Board and the CEO states that they “all aspire for the issue to be resolved and for the Orchestra to return to providing beautiful music and bringing joy to us all.”  We would like to see the FWSO Management and Board JOIN US in work and action that proves we are ALL committed to having beautiful music performed at the highest level by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

“With KKE, on counterattack!”- Massive political event at KNE-Odigitis youth festival in Athens (PHOTOS)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

“With KKE, on counterattack!”- Massive political event at KNE-Odigitis youth festival in Athens (PHOTOS)

http://communismgr.blogspot.com/2016/09/with-kke-on-counterattack-massive.html
Thousands of people attended a large political event during the third- and last- day of the 42nd KNE-Odigitis festival in Athens. The major speaker was the General Secretary of the CC of KKE Dimitris Koutsoumbas
 
Other speakers included the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) Sitaram Yetsury who delivered “red” revolutionary salutes on behalf of his country’s communists and Nikos AbatielosSecretary of the Central Council of KNE, who stressed that “our festival is a picture from the beautiful world for which our Party struggles”.
 
In his speech, apart from the contemporary political, social and economic issues, the GS of the Communist Party of Greece Dimitris Koutsoumbas refered also to the Party’s 100th anniversary in 1918. He said, among other things: 
“Today, moving towards the completion, in two years, of the 100 years of our honoured and heroic Party, we can become more capable in the promotion of our political proposal, which responds to the potentiality of a better life for the working people, on the basis of today’s modern needs” Secretary Koutsoumbas pointed out, adding that this can become a reality if “the productive capabilities of the country, the natural resources, the concentrated means of production become social property, with a central scientific plan, with the active participation of the workers in the organization of social production and social services”. 
 
Among other visitors, the political event of the festival was attended by the ambassadors of Palestine, Cuba and Venezuela, as well as by the communist mayors (backed by KKE) of Patras, Petroupolis, Chaidari and Kesariani. 
 
Below you can see some photos from the event (Source: 902.gr).
 
 
‘Like candy’: Clinton staffers given immunity deals by FBI – GOP lawmaker
| September 24, 2016 | 8:48 pm | Analysis, Hillary Clinton, political struggle | No comments

https://www.rt.com/usa/360457-clinton-staffers-given-immunity-deals/

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton © Carlos Barria
Hillary Clinton’s former chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, and two other staff members, were granted partial immunity deals in exchange for their cooperation with the FBI, according to a Republican congressman.

“No wonder they couldn’t prosecute a case. They were handing out immunity deals like candy,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Associated Press on Friday.

The now-closed FBI investigation was over Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.

Chaffetz, who has been looking into Clinton’s email practices, and who requested the immunity agreements from the Justice Department, said they showed Mills had given federal investigators access to her laptop on the condition that whatever they found couldn’t be used against her.

Chaffetz told AP he was “absolutely stunned” that the FBI cut a deal with someone as close to the investigation as Mills, and said by including the emails recovered from the laptops in the immunity agreements, “the Justice Department exempted key physical evidence from any potential criminal case against the aides.”

Mills had been among Clinton’s closest confidants and voluntarily appeared last year for a lengthy interview as part of the House GOP’s investigation into the 2012 Benghazi attacks that left four Americans dead.

The Justice Department issued the House Oversight Committee chair copies of the agreements, but they remain under seal.

Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon accused House Republicans of “trying to make something out of nothing” by requesting the files, and timing the request “just three days before the first presidential debate.”

“Congressman Chaffetz continues to abuse his office by wasting taxpayer dollars to try to second-guess the FBI in what amounts to a desperate attempt to boost Donald Trump’s chances against Hillary Clinton,” Fallon said.

But Chaffetz said he disclosed the immunity deal Friday, because that’s when he first learned of it from the FBI.

A total of five Clinton staffers received immunity deals, including John Bentel, then-director of the State Department’s Office of Information Resources Management, and Clinton aide Heather Samuelson, according to Chaffetz. Others granted immunity were Bryan Pagliano, a tech expert who set up Clinton’s email server, and Paul Combetta, a computer specialist for a private firm that later maintained Clinton’s email setup.

FBI Director James Comey said in July his agents hadn’t found evidence to support any criminal charge or direct evidence that Clinton’s private sector server had been hacked.

Chaffetz is due to question Comey about the immunity deals when the FBI director testifies before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Chaffetz is also a member of that panel.

Clinton’s aide left classified briefing paper in Russian hotel – FBI documents
| September 24, 2016 | 8:45 pm | Analysis, Hillary Clinton, political struggle | No comments

https://www.rt.com/usa/360506-clinton-classified-russia-hotel/

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Moscow, March 18, 2010. © Sergey Pyatakov
The FBI investigation looking into Hillary Clinton’s breaches of professional conduct has made public another violation, which culminated in “verbal security counselling,” after an aide to the secretary of state left sensitive documents at a Moscow hotel.

Amidst another 189 pages of various interviews looking into Hillary Clinton’s use of her private email account during her work as secretary of state in 2009-2013, the FBI published an incident with Monica Hanley, one of the former aides who was closely involved into the scandal.

According to earlier reports, Hanley bought multiple BlackBerry smartphones for Clinton from AT&T stores located in the Washington, DC, area, which were potentially used to send work emails and which the FBI now cannot find.

In an interview with Hanley, which was conducted in January, it was revealed that during one of Clinton’s trips to Russia, Hanley was given a diplomatic pouch with the secretary of state’s briefing book. The aide took the pouch to the suite of the Russian hotel she was sharing with Clinton.

US Diplomatic Security (DS) “found a classified document from the briefing book in the suite during a sweep following Clinton and Hanley’s departure.”

As a result Hanley received “verbal security counseling” from the DS who told her that the briefing book and document “should never have been in the suite.”

According to the documents, much of the carelessness in handling the classified information over email was due to the staffers thinking they were doing nothing wrong, due to a lack of training.

In 2014, Clinton’s office released some 55,000 emails to State Department investigators, while admitting that she erased another 33,000. The Judicial Watch filed lawsuits demanding that another cache of 14,900 emails uncovered by the FBI are also released.

READ MORE: FBI releases 58 pages of Clinton email probe

While the FBI began its investigation in July 2015 at the request of the US Intelligence Community Inspector General, most of the recovered emails – around 1,050 pages – are not expected to be available until after the November 8 presidential election, according to the Wall Street Journal. The paper said that the material could be as much as 10,000 pages.

Obama implicated in Clinton email scandal – New FBI docs
| September 24, 2016 | 8:42 pm | Analysis, Hillary Clinton, political struggle | No comments

https://www.rt.com/usa/360528-obama-implicated-clinton-email/

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton thanks U.S. President Barack Obama © Jonathan Ernst
President Barack Obama used a pseudonym when communicating with then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by email, while her IT company referred to her email deleting as a “cover-up”, new FBI documents reveal.

The heavily-redacted documents, almost 200 pages, include summaries of interviews with senior Clinton aides concerning the private email server, and brings to light details previously unknown.

During the interview with Huma Abedin, who served as deputy chief of staff under Clinton, the FBI reportedly presented her with an email exchange between Clinton and a person she did not recognize. The FBI then revealed the unknown person’s name was believed to be a pseudonym used by Obama. Abedin reacted by saying, “How is this not classified?”

This exchange could expose Obama as having mislead the public on the issue, given his 2015 statement that he found out about Clinton’s use of a private email server “the same time everybody else learned it, through news reports.”

The State Department will not make public the emails Clinton exchanged with Obama, citing “presidential communications privilege,” as reason to withhold the emails under the Freedom of Information Act, Politico reports.

The documents also include interview notes with other senior Clinton aides; Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan and former Bill Clinton advisor Justin Cooper, who registered the clintonemail.com domain. Romanian hacker Guccifer and a number of state department officials were also interviewed.

The latest FBI document cache also refers to the engineer who used BleachBit to permanently delete emails from Clinton’s server soon after the House Benghazi Committee issued a subpoena for documents relating to the 2012 attack on the US embassy in Libya. According to the engineer, he did this “of his own accord based on his normal practices as an engineer.”

Documents show employees from Platte River Networks, the IT company who managed Clinton’s emails, referring to a request to wipe emails in 2014 as the “Hilary [sic] cover-up operation”. An employee told the FBI this was a joke.

Clinton aide, Bryan Pagliano, said concerns were raised about whether Clinton’s server created a “federal records retention issue” by state department officials in 2009 or 2010. When he communicated these concerns to Mills, however, she said that Clinton’s  predecessor, Colin Powell, had also used private email.

The reports further reveal Clinton’s alleged ineptitude with technology, with aides claiming she “could not use a computer,” and didn’t know her email password.

Abedin said she had two computers in her State Department office, one for unclassified communications and another for classified communications. She did most of her work on the unclassified computer and would go “days or weeks without logging into the classified system.”

READ MORE: Clinton’s aide left classified briefing paper in Russian hotel – FBI documents

One redacted interviewee described himself as a “Clintonista” and said he has a relationship with the Clintons dating back years. He said he would meet with Clinton four or five times a day and initially traveled with her until she was comfortable with the position of secretary of state.

The unnamed interviewee said he only became aware of the server after receiving an email from the address, which he thought was spam. He described Clinton as a “paper person” who preferred using paper over electronic communications.

Clinton’s spokesperson, Brian Fallon, responded to the new revelations by saying the interviews “further demonstrate why the Justice Department believed there was no basis to move forward with this case.”

He also criticized the timing of the release, three days before the first debate, in a tweet. Others also questioned the timing , but for a different reason.

The Trump camp said through advisor Jason Miller, the reference to a cover-up “suggests there was a concerted effort to systematically destroy potentially incriminating information.”

‘Game changer’: Rev. Jesse Jackson talks Museum of African American History to RT (VIDEO)

https://www.rt.com/usa/360470-african-american-history-musem/

© Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture‎
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is gearing up to open in Washington, DC, not a moment too soon, according to civil rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson who spoke with RT.

The Museum of African American History will open on Saturday, following a week of protests over two highly publicized killings of black men by law enforcement officers. The museum will open with President Barack Obama ringing the “Freedom Bell” that was provided by the First Baptist Church in Virginia, USA Today reported.

For many, the museum will offer a unique look at the culture and history that African-Americans have contributed to the US. But for some, it will hopefully provide a history lesson to its visitors on the depth of contributions and work that the US was founded on.

It’s a game changer, in a sense,” Reverend Jackson told RT. “The narrative has been ‘the whites brought us here’ in the most general sense.

He pointed out that slaves have been in the US since 1619. After 400 years of people of African descent living in America, Jackson says, “we’re not the bottom, we’re the foundation. Bottom is where you end up, foundation is where you start from.

All those whites who got their PhD in history have got to come and get their degree recertified because if it leaves out this chapter, it’s not authentic American history,” he said.

He also pointed out that the museum is especially important considering the current civil rights struggles against police brutality.

While many on social media wring their hands over the riots in Charlotte and bemoan the departure protests have taken since Martin Luther King, Jr.’s time, Jackson offered a brief history lesson.

The 1967 Newark riots were fueled by police brutality, along with similar riots in Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles, he said.

Dr. King concluded that riots are the voices of the unheard,” he added.

Perhaps this museum can offer some context on the current situation.

Bombing of Syrian troops no mistake, US is ISIS accomplice – Syrian FM at UN
| September 24, 2016 | 8:31 pm | Analysis, political struggle, Syria | No comments

https://www.rt.com/news/360532-syria-us-air-strike-un/

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem © Maxim Zmeyev
The recent bombing of Syrian troops by the US-led coalition was no mistake, Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem, said at the UN General Assembly, calling America and its allies accomplices to crimes committed by Islamic State and other terrorists.

“The Syrian government puts all the responsibility for aggression on the US, as the facts show, that it was a deliberate attack, but not a mistake – even if America says the opposite,” Muallem said during a general debate at the 71st Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“This vile aggression proves that the US and its allies are accomplices of Islamic State and other terror groups,” he stressed.

On September 17, Syrian troops encircled by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants near the town of Deir ez-Zor were bombed by US-led coalition warplanes.

Sixty-two soldiers were killed in the airstrike, which was followed by an offensive by the jihadists on the positions of the government forces.

Washington said that that it hit Syrian troops by mistake and, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, offered its apologies to Syria’s President Bashar Assad via Moscow.

Despite harsh rhetoric towards the US, Muallem stressed that Syria “confirms its adherence to the principles of the Geneva peace process under the auspices of the UN.” 

The Syrian government maintains “a constructive stance on the issue of political settlement” of the conflict in the country, he said.

“Such a decision must be based on respect towards the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Syria and unity of its people,” the FM said.

The intra-Syrian talks between sides involved in the conflict have remained stalled since April, with new rounds of negotiations being constantly rescheduled.

The foreign minister also said that anti-terror efforts on Syrian soil can only be carried out in accordance with the country’s authorities.

“We have always welcomed all international efforts to counter terrorism in Syria. But we stress once again the need to coordinate such efforts with the government of the Syrian Arab Republic and the Syrian Arab Army that has been combating terrorism on the ground for more than five years. Without such coordination any action would be considered a breach of sovereignty, a flagrant interference and a violation of the principles and purposes of the charter,” Muallem added.

“Without such coordination, any action will fall short of achieving real results and will even make matters worse,” he added.

The diplomat again slammed the “Turkish incursion into Syrian territories under the pretext of countering terrorism. This is a flagrant aggression and must be stopped immediately.”

READ MORE: Lavrov to UN: Important not to let US-Russia agreements on Syria collapse

A ceasefire in Syria was agreed on during talks on September 9 between Moscow and Washington. Both sides agreed to influence the Syrian government and the so-called moderate rebel forces respectively in order to bring an end to hostilities.

Since then, Moscow has repeatedly complained that Washington is failing to keep to its side of the bargain.

The US has blamed Russia for not pressuring Damascus enough to facilitate humanitarian access to Syria.

READ MORE: US airstrikes on Syrian troops were ‘intentional,’ lasted nearly 1 hour – Assad to AP

The ceasefire was put at risk by the bombing of Syrian government forces by US-led coalition warplanes in Deir ez-Zor and an attack on UN-humanitarian aid convoy in Aleppo, in which 21 people were killed.