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By John Grant
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (or AIPAC) is having its three-day annual meeting in Washington DC beginning Sunday March 4th. AIPAC is arriving in an atmosphere of beating war drums and rattling sabers against Iran.
Israel preemptively starting a war with Iran would be bad enough, but the assumption that the United States will be part of that war should be very disturbing to Americans -- who are just getting over one misguided, costly war in Iraq and are still involved in another in Afghanistan.
By John Nichols, The Nation
The Constitution of the United States can be amended in two formal ways: from the top down and from the bottom up.
But New Mexico legislators have found a third way and, hopefully, other state legislators around the country will follow their lead.
The US Constitution is traditionally amended via a process that begins with the endorsement of an amendment by the US House and US Senate and then the ratification of that amendment by the requisite three-fourths of state legislatures. That’s the top-down route. The bottom-up route begins when two-thirds of the state legislatures ask Congress to call a national convention to propose amendments.
By Felix Salmon, Reuters
One of the saddest aspects of the financialization of the US economy is the way in which America’s best and brightest found themselves working on Wall Street, rather than in jobs which improved the state of the world. Proof of this comes from the absolutely astonishing 325-page comment letter on the Volcker Rule which has been put together by Occupy the SEC; it’s pretty clear, from reading the letter, that the people who wrote it are whip-smart and extremely talented.
Occupy the SEC is the wonky finreg arm of Occupy Wall Street, and its main authors are worth naming and celebrating: Akshat Tewary, Alexis Goldstein, Corley Miller, George Bailey, Caitlin Kline, Elizabeth Friedrich, and Eric Taylor. If you can’t read the whole thing, at least read the introductory comments, on pages 3-6, both for their substance and for the panache of their delivery. A taster:
By Douglas A. Berg
Nancy Goodman Brinker, a pioneer of “cause marketing”, founded Susan G. Komen For the Cure in 1982, reportedly as the fulfillment of a deathbed promise made to her sister, a victim of breast cancer. In 1994, Brinker founded In Your Corner, Inc., a for-profit company that markets health products and information. In 1998, Brinker sold In Your Corner to AstraZeneca, the third largest pesticide manufacturer in the world, primarily through Syngenta, a giant global agribusiness company it owns jointly with Novartis.
The Codepink "Pink Panther Ladies Investment Club" met with Goldman Sachs in their posh San Francisco offices
Unconstitutional War: Strategic Risk in the Age of Congressional Abdication
by Joseph V. Gallagher III
Wholesale Approval of Genetically Engineered Foods
Obama Administration Disappoints/Angers Public
Agent Orange Herbicide Ingredient Would be Widely Used
WISCONSIN - January 4 - Over the holidays, the United States Department of Agriculture announced its approval of a novel strain of genetically engineered corn, developed by Monsanto, purportedly being “drought tolerant.”
Despite receiving nearly 45,000 public comments in opposition to this particular genetically engineered (GE) corn variety (and only 23 comments in favor), the Obama administration gave Monsanto the green light to release its newest GE corn variety freely into the environment and American food supply, without any governmental oversight or safety tracking.
HELENA — The Montana Supreme Court on Friday overturned a lower court’s ruling and reinstated the state’s century-old ban on direct spending by corporations for or against political candidates.
The justices ruled 5-2 in favor of the state attorney general’s office and commissioner of political practices to uphold the initiative passed by Montana voters in 1912.
Western Tradition Partnership, a conservative political group now known as American Tradition Partnership, joined by Champion Painting Inc., and the Montana Shooting Sports Association Inc., had challenged the Montana ban after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The U.S. Supreme Court decision granted political speech rights to corporations.
District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena ruled that the U.S. Supreme Court decision rendered the Montana ban unconstitutional.
But the Montana Supreme Court’s majority saw it differently and overturned Sherlock.
“Citizens United does not compel a conclusion that Montana’s law prohibiting independent political expenditures by a corporation related to a candidate is unconstitutional,” Chief Justice Mike McGrath wrote for the majority. “Rather, applying the principles enunciated in Citizens United, it is clear that Montana has a compelling interest to impose the challenged rationally tailored statutory restriction.”
The court held that corporations are not deprived of political speech by the Montana law.
They can form political committees, as many other groups have done, but must file reports disclosing where they raised their money and how they spent it. They also can hire legislative lobbyists.
“The many lobbyists and political committees who participate in each session of the Montana Legislature bear witness,” the majority opinion said. “Under the undisputed fact here, the political committee is an easily implemented and effective alternative to direct corporate spending for engaging in political speech.”
National security advisers to the Republican presidential candidates have ties to defense, homeland security and energy companies that have received at least $40 billion in federal contracts since 2008.
Five of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s 41 national security and foreign policy advisers have links to companies that last year alone received at least $7.9 billion in federal contracts, according to data compiled by Bloomberg Government analyst Christopher Flavelle. Of that, $7.3 billion came from the Department of Defense.
Romney and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, who are leading in the polls, have advisers who sit on the board of directors of BAE Systems Inc., which has received at least $37 billion in U.S. government contracts since 2008, the most of any of the companies with ties to Republican national security advisers.
William Schneider, an adviser to Gingrich, and Michael Chertoff, who counsels Romney, serve on the board of the U.S. subsidiary of BAE Systems Plc, Europe’s largest defense contractor. The American company makes the Army’s Bradley Fighting Vehicle and provides information technology systems to American intelligence agencies and repair services to the U.S. Navy.
19 December 2011 - Almost two-thirds of countries asked by human rights groups about their involvement in extraordinary rendition flights have failed to comply with freedom of information requests – with European nations in particular accused of withholding evidence of the controversial CIA programme.
From The New Bottom Line and the Public Accountability Initiative
According to a "mini-report" released today by the The New Bottom Line and the Public Accountability Initiative, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, US Bank, and Wells Fargo are set to award themselves $156 billion in compensation (including salaries, benefits and bonuses) to executives in 2011, a 3.7 percent increase over 2010. (Although, they do not release data on compensation until next year, it is possible to estimate the size of the compensation pool based on the first three quarters of 2011.)
- To download the mini-report: click here.
- To see our blog post about the report (including info on bank bonus actions in Chicago and Minneapolis last week), click here
- To read the full press release, click here
- To see some infographics we cooked up (comparing BofA, Wells Fargo, Chase CEO compensation to that of hourly, daily, annual pay to average worker) click here
We recently called on the CEOs of Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase to forego holiday bonuses for their executives and use the money to write down mortgage principal for families facing foreclosure or who owe more than their homes are worth, make loans to small businesses, and pay their fair share of taxes. In Chicago and Minneapolis last week, National People's Action groups delivered more than 5,000 signatures from that online call to action. On Thursday, families in Chicago pledged to move $218,000 from Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase to community banks and credit unions that share their values (Move Our Money campaign in action!!). On Friday, in Minneapolis, about 50 people protested in front of Wells Fargo and urged the bank to create jobs and help people stay in their homes instead of dispersing huge bonuses. In January, when information about the banks’ compensation packages becomes more available, there will be more protests to come.
(Washington, DC) Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich just got 14 years in prison. He wheeled and dealed to leverage contributions and other favors based on his position as governor. He was indicted by former special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald (who tanked the Valerie Plame case).
Maybe it was the former governor's colorful (and to some vulgar) language captured on audio tapes or his brash style. Regardless of the motives, the time, money and attention wasted on his indictment and trial stands in stark contrast to the crimes never prosecuted, crimes that resulted in death, unnecessary illness and suffering, and the loss of trillions of dollars caused by the perpetrators of the current economic crisis. (Image: michaelpickard)
While prosecutors pick easy targets like Blagojevich, serious crimes go unprosecuted.
President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney lied about the basis for invading Iraq. As a result, they are responsible for the deaths of soldiers resulting from that invasion and occupation.
Student Interrupts US Climate Destoyer, You Can Tell It's an International Forum Because They Applauded Rather Than Yelling U-S-A
At the Unmanned Systems Fair on September 21, the latest drone technology was on display. The drone fair, which took place in the lobby of the Rayburn House Office Building, also displayed the easy mix of government and business. Also on exhibit was the kind of bipartisan unity often seen when Democrats and Republicans rally around security and federal pork.
Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., and Henry Cuellar, D-Tex., co-chairs of the Unmanned Systems Caucus, welcomed the drone industry and its supporters to Capitol Hill.
The drone caucus, which has more than 50 members, cosponsored the drone fete with the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry group that brings together the leading drone manufacturers. Drone orders from the federal government are rolling in to AUVSI corporate members, including such top military contractors as General Atomics, Lockheed Martin and Northrup Grumman.
US to Pay $2.5M in Photo Editor's Anthrax Death
Although a number of lawsuits have been dismissed, the U.S. Government chose to settle in the case of Mr. Stevens' death. The deal comes on the heels of [ new evidence ] that further clouds the summary determination that Dr. Bruce Ivins, who committed suicide during the investigation, was the lone source of the anthrax attack. This deal forestalls the possibility of new details being revealed in court. - JPS/RSN
ore than a decade after tabloid photo editor Robert Stevens became the first victim of the 2001 anthrax attacks, the U.S. government has agreed to pay his widow and family $2.5 million to settle their lawsuit, according to documents released Tuesday.
Stevens, 63, died on Oct. 5, 2001, when a letter containing deadly anthrax spores was opened at the then-headquarters in Boca Raton of American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, Sun and Globe tabloids. Eventually four other people would die and 17 others would be sickened in similar letter attacks, which the FBI blames on a lone government scientist who committed suicide.
Stevens' widow, Maureen Stevens, sued the government in 2003, claiming its negligence caused her husband's death by failing to adequately safeguard anthrax at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. The FBI probe concluded that Fort Detrick was the source of the spores used in the attacks in New York, Washington and Florida.
The government failed to carry out its "duty of care, the highest degree of care" in making sure the deadly microbes were kept tightly under lock and key, said the lawsuit filed in West Palm Beach federal court.
The case languished for years in procedural delays and appeals until the FBI announced in 2008 that a Fort Detrick scientist, Dr. Bruce Ivins, was responsible for the attacks. Although some of his colleagues and outside experts have raised doubts about his intent and ability to weaponize the anthrax, the FBI formally closed its "Amerithrax" investigation in 2010.
Ivins killed himself with an overdose of Tylenol and valium as investigators closed in. His attorney has maintained Ivins is innocent, but Justice Department prosecutors say they had more than enough evidence to convict him at trial.
Stevens' attorney, Richard Schuler, said when the FBI announced that Ivins was their man that it proved a key allegation in their lawsuit: "We've maintained all along this was an inside job," he said. Schuler called the settlement a "tremendous victory" for the Stevens family after years of litigation.
"They fought us at every turn and dragged this thing out," Schuler said. "You have to control access to these tremendously dangerous organisms and they didn't have any of that. You had security that was Swiss cheese out there."
The Justice Department declined comment beyond the settlement documents.
Government attorneys who handled the Stevens settlement said in the court papers that it is not "an admission of liability or fault on the part of the United States" and that the intent of the deal was "avoiding the expenses and risks of further litigation."
The settlement avoids a trial that had been set for early 2012 before Senior U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley, who had earlier rebuffed U.S. efforts to get the case dismissed.
The deal allows for attorney fees of up to 25 percent and requires that a host of sensitive documents be destroyed or returned to U.S. officials. In addition to Maureen Stevens, 68, the settlement will benefit her three grown children.
Schuler said he felt confident Stevens would prevail at a trial but likely would face years of appeals and uncertainty about whether she would ever collect. The settlement avoids all that.
"She's delighted that the case has come to a successful conclusion and with the improved security the government has engaged in," Schuler said.
For years the FBI investigation focused on another scientist, Steven Hatfill, who was identified as a "person of interest" in 2001 by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. Hatfill was eventually cleared and sued the government for invasion of privacy, eventually reaching a $5.8 million settlement.
Lawsuits filed by other victims have been dismissed, although at least one is on appeal. Employees of a postal facility in Washington, D.C., where two workers died, sued the Postal Service for allegedly failing to protect them, but a judge in 2004 ruled that the service was immune.
The 67,200-square foot AMI building in Boca Raton, meanwhile, took years to decontaminate and was finally reopened in 2007. AMI had long since moved its headquarters to New York, leaving behind an archive of some 5 million photographs, although many were digitally scanned for preservation.
An AMI mailroom worker, Ernesto Blanco, was sickened in the attack but recovered.
Whistleblowing in our federal government may soon be a thing of the past, not because whistleblowers face more vicious retribution than ever before -- although that is true; and not because important acts of whistleblowing now result in fewer reforms and less accountability than they used to -- although that is also true and is getting closer; but fundamentally because the actions against which we need whistles blown are publicly acknowledged.
‘Corporations Are Not People’
‘PEOPLE’S RIGHTS AMENDMENT’ WOULD REPEAL CITIZENS UNITED RULING AND THE CORPORATE RIGHTS DOCTRINE
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts introduced today a constitutional amendment bill to overturn the US Supreme Court’s January 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC and to make clear that corporations are not people with rights under the US Constitution. The introduction of the bill – the “People’s Rights Amendment” -- marks a major breakthrough in the growing movement across the country to end corporate personhood and restore democracy to the people.
By Dave Lindorff
What a devilishly sneaky guy that Jose Danial Ortega Saavedra is!
Why this president of Nicaragua, and former leader of the Sandinista rebels in their successful 1979 overthrow of U.S.-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle, in order to win re-election this fall, as he appears to have done, according to the New York Times, “shrewdly adopted policies aimed at pleasing his base of poor and working-class Nicaraguans, including supplying them with government-donated food”!
Why of all the nerve! What a crook and a scheister! Imagine catering to the needs of the poor in order to win an election. How low can a politician stoop?
From Sam Husseini
Two House budget committee members — Rep. Heath Shuler, (D-N.C.), and Rep. Mike Simpson, (R- Idaho) — have been making the media rounds as the new faces of establishment bipartisanship in favor of a letter 100 congress people signed on to stating “all options for mandatory” — presumably including Social Security, which adds nothing to the deficit — “and discretionary spending and revenue must be on the table.”
Sam Husseini questioned them as they left the Fox studios on Sunday morning.
Shuler: “I think the thing that you look at: here’s an opportunity that we can do so much because once the Supercommittee releases its finding and that becomes a bill, and it’s put on the House floor, there’s no amendments to it, it can’t be altered or changed when it goes from the House to the Senate. So that gives us an opportunity to have a clean slate to be able to put everything on the bill, to increase the revenue. The problem is, you don’t find this very often when you have members of the different political parties working together and acting. It’s much easier to split the screen and let us debate and argue something. But we’re united. We’re together. Now we have 100 members in the House and counting, with the 45 members in the Senate. That is the best, most newsworthy thing we can provide for you under the most difficult situations that we have. And to be able to come up with the cuts that’s necessary and the revenue that’s necessary to put us on a more sustainable path.
Shuler and Simpson’s handlers begin shouting to try to stop the questioning.
Husseini: “Why aren’t you united to tax the rich and the corporations and end the wars? Why aren’t you united for something that is actually popular rather than pursues monied interests?”
Simpson: “We’ve ought to be looking at everything.”
Husseini [holding up box of Band-Aids just off camera]: “Let me ask you this: yesterday I went to a pharmacy and there’s a tax on Band-Aids. Why isn’t there a tax on financial transactions? I had to pay a 6 percent tax on Band-Aids that people need.”
Simpson: “Probably a state sales tax, right?” [Actually, it's D.C. and D.C. is not a state, with many of its laws set by a Congress that D.C. residents have no real voice in and which Simpson and Shuler are members of.]
Husseini: “What’s your position on financial transaction tax?”
Simpson: “You’d have to look it up.”
Husseini: “Why can’t JP Morgan pay its transaction tax on their dealings [like ordinary people have to pay on necessities like Band-Aids]?”
Shuler and Simpson walk away.
Special thanks to Chris Belcher (video), Sam McCanne (transcription), Jonathan Schwarz, Matthew Bradley, David Swanson, Wendy Mink, Thomas Ferguson and Elisa Salasin for helping.
As the Occupy Wall Street movement pushes forward, evolving daily in mission and meaning, its cinematic companion has arrived on the scene. Heist: Who Stole The American Dream? is the latest socially and politically relevant documentary executive produced by Earl Katz, President of Public Interest Pictures. Heist will soon premiere as the fundamental primer on the historical and present-day inequities which gave rise to the Occupy Movement. From its 1930s depiction of Depression Era breadlines to Wisconsin Governor Walker's current assault on Collective Bargaining, Heist tells the story of America in decline due to the excessive greed of corporate executives and politicians bent on destroying the middle class.
Nov. 2, 2011 - A new study suggests that defense hawks are crying crocodile tears over planned cuts to Pentagon spending.
Capitol Hill conservatives and Pentagon brass fighting cuts to defense spending have argued that the military is limping off the battlefield with decrepit hardware. It's quite the sob story: At a hearing last week, Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the chair of the House armed services committee, cut his remarks short to literally sob for "these young men that are going outside the wire over in Afghanistan, every day on patrol."
28 October, 2011 - A human rights group has filed a lawsuit against Lithuania for its role in a CIA rendition program which allegedly involved the illegal detention and torture of “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah.
Zubaydah, who was initially captured by American and Pakistani special services in a raid in Pakistan in 2002, spent some of his time in custody in a secret detention center in Lithuania, according to the Interights group. The European country allegedly collaborated with the CIA on its program of secret prisons, which allowed suspects to be incarcerated and tortured outside American territory.
Oct. 28: Rachel Maddow expresses exasperation that Paul Wolfowitz is still treated by the media as if he has credibility on foreign policy matters despite his infamous history of disastrously poor judgment.
By Dave Lindorff
Shanghai -- I was talking yesterday with the chief financial officer of a US-based drug firm that operates here in China, producing for the Chinese market, and got an up-close look at how bad things are for what used to be called the Almighty Dollar.
The company in question, a joint venture between a very profitable U.S. drug company and a local Chinese company, is quite profitable itself.
Yesterday, NPR's PR flack was haranguing me on the phone about how NPR had nothing to do with getting Lisa Simeone fired from an independent program called Soundprint. This was despite NPR having gone public with its concerns over Simeone's "unethical" participation in democracy, and Soundprint's referencing of NPR's "ethics" rules in firing Simeone. It was also despite NPR's clear intention to get Simeone removed from our airwaves.
I have no evidence that NPR contacted Soundprint, but "World of Opera" is a different story. Today I read that NPR has dropped distribution of "World of Opera," a program produced by WDAV which contracts with Simeone to host it. NPR's original frantic email and blog post had read: