Archive for April 2014
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) threatens so much of what we hold dear — this secret agreement will censor our Internet, send jobs overseas, undermine environmental regulations, and remove our most basic democratic rights.
Under previous presidential administrations, the United States signed a number of free trade agreements (FTAs) that grant foreign corporations extraordinary rights and protections beyond the rights of domestic companies. A little-known FTA mechanism called “investor-state” enforcement allows foreign firms to skirt domestic court systems and directly sue governments for cash damages (our tax dollars) over alleged violations of their new rights before UN and World Bank tribunals staffed by private sector attorneys who rotate between serving as “judges” and bringing cases for corporations. Using this extreme system, corporations have sued the U.S. government in foreign trade tribunals for enacting laws or regulations that “interfered” with the corporations’ expected profits. This “interference” has included essential environmental regulations, health laws, and domestic court decisions. These cases are not just threats to domestic U.S. policies. U.S. corporations have also used FTAs to attack public interest laws abroad.
If a corporation wins its private enforcement case, the taxpayers of the “losing” country must foot the bill. Over $380 million in compensation has already been paid out to corporations in a series of investor-state cases under U.S. FTAs. Of the nearly $14 billion in the 18 pending claims under U.S. FTAs, all relate to environmental, energy, public health, land use and transportation policies – not traditional trade issues.
The Obama administration is currently negotiating a sweeping new FTA called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam — the first FTA negotiated by the Obama administration. Despite Obama’s many campaign promises to scale down investor-state enforcement in trade agreements, the leaked investment chapter of the TPP reveals that the Obama administration intends to expand even further the extreme investor-state model of past FTAs. If passed, the TPP would grant thousands of corporations these extraordinary rights to sue governments over public interest policies for taxpayer compensation.
Below are the maps of the locations of multinational corporations that would get these new rights if Congress would pass the TPP. More than 6,000 corporations with nearly 30,000 corporate affiliates would be able to use these rights, including over 300 financial services companies that could challenge essential financial sector regulations through investor-state provisions. These corporations could challenge the local zoning and environmental laws of your community, so zoom in using the “+” button to see which corporations are in your city. Click on the dots to see the names of the corporations and their industry. The color of the marker indicates the country of the parent company. The red lines on the map are the borders of the districts of the U.S. House of Representatives. Click here for a full list of companies based in TPP countries that operate in the United States, sorted by congressional district.
[read the rest (and see the interactive graphic) here]
Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.
Not affiliated in any way with the links below, but it might be of interest:
Actors: Anne Wilson, Peter McAllum, Will Young
04/09/14 The Institute of Science in Society
Glyphosate’s metal-chelating activity causes bioaccumulation of toxic metals in the body, resulting in an estimated 400 000 cases in Sri Lanka and 20 000 deaths Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji
Sri Lanka is set to partially ban glyphosate-based herbicide use following a new peer-reviewed study linking it to a fatal chronic kidney disease epidemic badly affecting the country . Kidney problems have been further documented in other global regions, prompting an earlier complete ban by El Salvador late last year . A complete ban was initially proposed, but due to plantation sector representatives claiming a shortage of agricultural workers that would not sufficiently manage weeds without glyphosate, the government has now limited the ban to disease endemic areas . Even Brazil, one of the largest growers of glyphosate-tolerant genetically modified (GM) crops has now filed a law suit by Federal Prosecutors to ban glyphosate along with 8 other dangerous pesticides . It is becoming increasingly difficult for government regulators and glyphosate producers to justify the use of this herbicide when other nations are banning the chemical outright in order to protect their citizens.
Glyphosate can impact human health in a number of ways, one of which is through its potent metal chelating abilities. Indeed, glyphosate was originally patented by Stauffer Chemical Co. in 1964 (U.S. Patent No. 3,160,632)  for this very function. Chelating mineral ions can lead to nutritional depletion in plants and animals, which has already been shown to cause health problems in both. In the case of this kidney disease epidemic, its chelation of metals such as arsenic in the water supplies is now though to lead to their bioaccumulation in the body, resulting in kidney failure and even death, as proposed in a new study  by Channa Jayasumana (Rajarata University, Sri Lanka), Sarath Gunatilake (California State University, USA) and Priyantha Senanayake (Hela Suwaya Organization, Sri Lanka) published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Glyphosate has also been linked to many other health problems including cancers (see  Glyphosate and Cancer, SiS 62), infertility (see  Glyphosate/Roundup & Human Male Infertility, SiS 62), along with neurotoxicity, reproductive problems, birth defects, and other problems (see  Ban GMOs Now, special ISIS report). Read the rest of this entry »
Glad to hear from Hersh again, even if only thru the London Review of Books. Evidently he has been successfully muffled/censored in the US. This is quite a different story about Obama’s “red line” in Syria than you’ve heard before.
The Red Line and the Rat Line
By Seymour M. Hersh April 06, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “LRB” –– – In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.
Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.
Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbours, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.’
The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. Read the rest of this entry »