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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
Number of posts: 66,582

Journal Archives

Sam Seder: The TPP Global Disaster

Published on Apr 21, 2015

Why is the TPP getting so little attention? The dramatic threat that the TPP poses to health, the environment and labor. The problem with Fast Track Authority. How to get the right to oppose Fast Track and TPP?.

Rep. Alan Grayson Blasts the TPP

Published on Apr 23, 2015

Thom discusses fast-track and the TPP with Rep. Alan Grayson and whether European officials are pushing for regime change in Greece with Mark Weisbrot of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. In tonight’s special Thursday edition of “Conversations with Great Minds” Thom talks with Constitution Society for Law and Policy’s Caroline Fredrickson, author of the new book “Under the Bus: How Working Women Are Being Run Over.”

How a Protest Against Money in Politics was Spun as a Story on Terrorism

Doug Hughes wanted to deliver a message about campaign finance reform. Instead, the media and politicians used his story to talk about security at the White House and Capitol Building.

Analysts say Wall Street Fees Costing Baltimore Water Bureau Millions

$55 million spent on exotic interest rate swaps to fund water bonds between 2003-2014, and total fees could reach beyond $200 million for all deals in the near future.

U.S. Cities Fight Back Against Washington's Secretive Trade Deal

WASHINGTON -- As the trade debate heats up in Washington, city councils are fighting back against controversial legislation that would grant the president the authority to fast-track international trade deals without congressional amendments.

On the Hill, lawmakers are pushing full steam ahead on legislation the Obama administration is seeking in order to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade deal with Asian-Pacific countries. Some Democrats don't support the deal, arguing that certain trade provisions are worrisome and haven't received enough scrutiny. Nonetheless, a key Senate committee moved the bill forward on Wednesday.

Across the country, city officials are making their own concerns about the legislation crystal clear. This week, San Francisco adopted a resolution opposing fast-track, following similar efforts in other cities, including Seattle and Bellingham, Washington and Fort Bragg and Richmond, California. A Pittsburgh official introduced a "Will of Council" against the deal on Tuesday. And next week, New York City officials will consider a resolution declaring the Big Apple a "TPP-Free Zone." The sponsor expects it to quickly pass.

These resolutions are symbolic. Some of them urge representatives in Congress to oppose fast-track. Others claim that TPP's regulations will not be respected within city limits -- although of course, people must still follow federal and state law. Nonetheless, Celeste Drake, a trade policy specialist at AFL-CIO, a union federation that opposes the deal, called the resolutions "important statements of citizen sentiment." ................(more)


Some Union Pension Cuts Likely As New Federal Rules Take Shape

(In These Times) The likelihood that hundreds of thousands of union members nationwide won’t be receiving the full pension benefits promised to them is becoming clearer as federal regulatory agencies in Washington, D.C., move to implement new pension legislation quietly approved in the final weeks of 2014.

As reported by Cole Stangler in In These Times late last year, legislators rushed to amend a 40-year-old law governing private-sector multiemployer pension plans as part of broader budget legislation that was considered “must pass” by both Republicans and Democrats. The new law, which has been the subject of heated debate in Washington for more than a decade, is aimed specifically at union pension plans facing long-term insolvency and gives the trustees of such plans new freedom to cut benefits to retirees as a way to reverse the declining fortunes of those plans. President Barack Obama signed the measure, called the Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 (MPRA), into law on December 16.

“These people (affected pensioners) don’t know what’s going to happen to them” as a result of cuts authorized by the law, says Bob Amsden of the newly formed Wisconsin Committee to Protect Pensions. A Teamster truck driver for 33 years, Amsden says he’s now in danger of losing a substantial portion of his own pension, and that hundreds of thousands of other union members are facing similar cuts.

There are numerous unanswered question on how exactly the MPRA will be implemented in the coming months by the Department of the Treasury and other federal agencies, but a troubling early sign for the future comes from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, which has compiled a list of the 100 union pension plans deemed likely to face benefit cuts. ...........(more)


Your Pregnancy May Subject You to Even More Law Enforcement Violence

Your Pregnancy May Subject You to Even More Law Enforcement Violence

Thursday, 23 April 2015 09:20
By Victoria Law, Truthout | Report

As calls to end police violence swept the nation during the summer of 2014, the New York City Police Department demonstrated that pregnancy is no protection against brutality. Sandra Amezquita was five months pregnant when police threw her, belly first, onto the ground. An officer straddled her body, adding his weight to the pressure, before handcuffing and arresting her. Her offense? Trying to stop them from harassing her 17-year-old son, who had been arrested for robbery the year before.

A member of El Grito de Sunset Park, a neighborhood police watchdog group, recorded the entire event and posted it online. The video sparked outcry and local protests, drawing attention to the fact that women - even women who are visibly pregnant - are not immune to police violence. That same summer, Idaho police shot and killed Jeanetta Riley, a pregnant mother of three who pulled a knife on her husband when he attempted to take her to the hospital after she had threatened suicide.

But for pregnant women, law enforcement violence isn't limited to physical brutality. Police and other law enforcement frequently subject pregnant women to other, less visible forms of violence. For instance, in many precincts and jails, pregnant women are subject to inhumane practices such as shackling or the denial of food, clothing and medical care. But in many states, if a woman subjects herself and her fetus to such practices, she risks criminalization and arrest, often on charges such as child endangerment, child abuse or fetal homicide. Both the criminalization of pregnancy and the arrests of pregnant women constitute their own forms of police violence, but are often overlooked by much of the larger organizing movements against police violence sweeping the country after the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. But they are no less torturous and brutal than the violence being protested on the streets nationwide.

The violence that Jessica Venegas experienced was not the same physical brutality that the New York City Police Department inflicted on Sandra Amezquita. Instead, the violence and pain were inflicted by police protocol - or, in some cases, lack of protocol - as well as a lack of regard for her pregnancy and overall well-being. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/30363-your-pregnancy-may-subject-you-to-even-more-law-enforcement-violence

What’s Wrong with Wyden-Hatch-Ryan’s Fast Track Bill – The Specifics

By Gaius Publius, a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States and frequent contributor to DownWithTyranny, digby, Truthout, Americablog, and Naked Capitalism. Follow him on Twitter @Gaius_Publius, Tumblr and Facebook. This piece first appeared at Down With Tyranny.

When we first reported on the introduction of Fast Track legislation — the bill that makes it possible for Obama and corporate Congress men and women to pass TPP, the next NAFTA-style “trade” agreement, by neutering Congress’ role in the process — we said that the new bill was being analyzed.

That analysis is done, and the results are in. This version of Fast Track is worse than the last version, a bill which failed to pass Congress in 2014. Here are the specifics (pdf) via Lori Wallach at Public Citizen, the go-to person for “trade” analysis. I’m going to focus on the main problems so you’re not overwhelmed with detail. Your take-aways:

* What was bad in the prior agreement is worse, despite Wyden’s intervention.

* Every attempt in the bill to make TPP conform to mandated worker, environmental and currency protections is unenforceable.

Note that the bill failed to attract a single Democratic co-sponsor in the House. This is not a bipartisan bill; it’s a Wyden-plus-Republicans bill, at least so far. Wallach starts (my emphasis everywhere):

The trade authority bill introduced today would revive the controversial Fast Track procedures to which which nearly all U.S. House of Representatives Democrats and a sizable bloc of House Republicans already have announced opposition. Most of the text of this bill replicates word-for-word the text of the 2014 Fast Track bill, which itself replicated much of the 2002 Fast Track bill. Public Citizen calls on Congress to again oppose the outdated, anti-democratic Fast Track authority as a first step to replacing decades of “trade” policy that has led to the loss of millions of middle-class jobs and the rollback of critical public interest safeguards.

In the past 21 years, Fast Track authority has been authorized only once by Congress – from 2002 to 2007. In 1998, the U.S. House of Representatives voted down Fast Track for President Bill Clinton, with 71 GOP members joining 171 House Democrats.

Click through in the first paragraph to see the extent of the declared opposition in Congress. There is considerable undeclared opposition as well, hidden in the “not sure” statements of members, especially Republicans.


Fast Track Grants “Trade Authority” to the Next President As Well

Wallach, from the Public Citizen press release:

Today’s bill explicitly grandfathers in Fast Track coverage for the almost-completed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and would extend Fast Track procedures for three to six years. …

“Congress is being asked to delegate away its constitutional trade authority over the TPP, even after the administration ignored bicameral, bipartisan demands about the agreement’s terms, and then also grant blank-check authority to whomever may be the next president for any agreements he or she may pursue,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.


The Bill Makes Congress’ Declared “Negotiating Objectives” Unenforceable


The trade authority proposal does not require negotiators to actually meet Congress’ negotiating objectives in order to obtain the Fast Track privileges, making the bill’s negotiating objectives entirely unenforceable. …

Today’s bill would empower the executive branch to unilaterally select partner countries for a trade pact, determine an agreement’s contents through the negotiating process, and then sign and enter into an agreement – all before Congress voted to approve a trade pact’s contents, regardless of whether a pact met Congress’ negotiating objectives (as promised in the Fast Track bill.)


Rep. Barbara Lee on Fast Track: "I'm working hard to make it go down...It's pretty horrendous."

For the Bay Area's congressional delegation, positions on the issues often come easy: Side with the president, and you'll usually please the area's relatively progressive business community as well, on issues ranging from immigration to the environment to gay rights.

But a new trade bill being fiercely debated this week has put these liberal Democrats in an uncomfortable position, at odds with powerful constituencies they rarely offend.

The bill would give the White House "fast track" authority to strike international trade deals and limit the power of Congress to amend them.

Rep. Barbara Lee is one of President Barack Obama's most ardent supporters, but on this issue she is helping to whip votes against the bill.

"I'm working hard to make it go down," said Lee, D-Oakland, who said giving the president the right to sign trade agreements that lawmakers can only vote up or down leaves Congress muzzled, the environment at dire risk, and too many U.S. workers jobless. "It's pretty horrendous." ....................(more)


Washington State Hit With Brutal Drought


Authorities in the state that produces nearly 70 percent of U.S. apples for fresh consumption and loads of other foodstuffs have declared “drought emergencies” in 24 of its 62 watersheds—or 44 percent of the state’s area.

The Washington state Department of Ecology reports:

Snowpack statewide has declined to 24 percent of normal, worse than when the last statewide drought was declared in 2005. Snowpack is like a frozen reservoir for river basins, in a typical year accumulating over the winter and slowly melting through the spring and summer providing a water supply for rivers and streams. This year run-off from snowmelt for the period April through September is projected to be the lowest on record in the past 64 years.

Read more here

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