News Release Archive - 2013

Inequality: TPP Fast Track, Fast Food

Share reports: “Income Inequality Is The ‘Challenge Of Our Time,’ Obama Says.”

LORI WALLACH, via Joseph Williams,, @pcgtw
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. The group recently posted the pieces “Study: ‘Trade’ Deal Would Mean a Pay Cut for 90 Percent of U.S. Workers” and “A Fast Track to Greater Inequality?” which states: “While Obama denounces inequality, the Obama administration is rushing to conclude talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a sweeping commercial pact with 11 Pacific Rim countries that implicates everything from the cost of our medicines to the safety of our food. The TPP also threatens to further widen the gap between rich and poor, as emphasized by economist Nancy Folbre in a New York Times piece … by perpetuating the inequality-spurring history of unfair trade deals spelled out below.” There’s a congressional teleconference on TPP this morning.

Protests and other actions by fast food workers are expected in 100 cities in the U.S. today.

ARUN GUPTA,, @arunindy
Co-founder of the Occupied Wall Street Journal and the Indypendent, Gupta wrote the piece “Fight For 15 Confidential” for In These Times and, for the Guardian, “The Story Behind America’s Fast Food Worker Uprising” which states: “The top ten employers in fast food alone account for 2.3 million U.S. jobs. Add in discount retailers, drug stores, clerking and material moving, and the number of workers in poverty-wage jobs soars to the tens of millions. The growth of part-time low-wage jobs has become a battering ram against the last citadels of unionism in heavy industry and the public sector, crushing wages, benefits, and workplace rights. That’s led organized labor to make a stand with organizing drives such as OUR Walmart, Domestic Workers United, Warehouse Workers for Justice and the fast-food worker campaign commonly known as ‘Fight for 15.’ …

Gupta said today: “Led by the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union, Fight for 15 is pushing for $15-an-hour pay and the right to unionize free of management retaliation. Workers in the campaign enthusiastically support these goals, but many question if SEIU’s legal and media-focused strategy will achieve those goals, and say the campaign should organize a low-wage workers movement at the shop and city level.”

“No More Detroits”: Can Public Banking Save Cities?

Share Tuesday, U.S. bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes certified that Detroit was “officially bankrupt,” with the AP reporting: “Detroit Bankruptcy Decision Puts Pensions at Risk.” The Sacramento Bee reports in “Bankrupt Detroit Can Cut Pensions; Implications Big for California,” that San Bernadino and other locales in California could suffer similar fates. The New York Times reports today that the Illinois State Legislature is following suit by approving cuts in that state’s retirement benefits.

However, many activists have suggested that public banking — state or municipally-owned public banks operating as public utilities — could save cities millions of dollars by avoiding bond debt, keeping interest rates low, and feeding interest back into the communities and municipalities supported by the democratically-run banks. The video “No More Detroits” puts forward this argument, as does the article “Why Cities Should Use Public Banks Instead of Big Banks.” See also, a view from the right just published in the Alaska Dispatch: “Alaska Could Walk Away from Wall Street with a Public Bank of its Own.”

ELLEN BROWN, via Matt Stannard, matt at, @publicbanking
Brown is president of the Public Banking Institute and author of The Public Bank Solution and Web of Debt. She recently wrote “The Detroit Bail-in: Fleecing Pensioners to Save the Banks,” which states: “In Detroit, it is the municipal workers who are being bailed in, stripped of a major portion of their pensions to save the banks. Bank of America Corp. and UBS AG have been given priority over other bankruptcy claimants, meaning chiefly the pensioners, for payments due on interest rate swaps they entered into with the city. Interest rate swaps — the exchange of interest rate payments between counterparties — are sold by Wall Street banks as a form of insurance, something municipal governments ‘should’ do to protect their loans from an unanticipated increase in rates. Unlike ordinary insurance, however, swaps are actually just bets; and if the municipality loses the bet, it can owe the house, and owe big. The swap casino is almost entirely unregulated, and it is a rigged game that the house virtually always wins. Interest rate swaps are based on the LIBOR rate, which has now been proven to be manipulated by the rate-setting banks; and they were a major contributor to Detroit’s bankruptcy.”

Brown puts forward the solution suggested by Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, Rick Snyder’s Democratic opponent in the last gubernatorial race. Bernero proposed “a state-owned bank. If the state or the city had its own bank, it would not need to borrow from Wall Street, worry about interest rate swaps, or be beholden to the bond vigilantes. It could borrow from its own bank, which would leverage the local government’s capital into credit, back that credit with the deposits created by the government’s own revenues, and return the interest to the government as a dividend, following the ground-breaking model of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota.”

MARK ARMSTRONG, via Matt Stannard, matt at
Executive director of the Public Banking Institute, Armstrong recently wrote “How America Can Replace Wall Street Financing With Public Banks,” which states: “North Dakota doesn’t issue general obligation bonds because the state has its own bank to finance public infrastructure. Last year their public bank, the Bank of North Dakota, issued a $50 million loan to fund a new water pipeline. The paid interest on this loan is reported as profits to the bank and — guess what — it gets returned to the state general budget, benefiting the very same people who paid for the water.”

Budget Transparency Group Blasts Congress’ “Secretive Negotiations”

Share COMERFORD, via Derrick Crowe, dcrowe at, @natpriorities
Today the National Priorities Project released the following statement from Executive Director Jo Comerford in response to the congressional budget conference committee’s failure to agree to top-line budget numbers.

Comerford said: “In late November, House Appropriations Committee leaders warned the budget conference committee that failing to reach agreement on top-line budget numbers by December 2 — yesterday — could have ‘extremely damaging repercussions.’ Those repercussions included another possible government shutdown, a requirement to budget by continuing resolution, and an inability to prevent further sequestration cuts to critical federal programs. Yesterday was the latest in a long line of critical dates that Congress sailed past without giving Americans a budget that reflects their priorities.

“Is it any wonder that the latest poll from The Economist/YouGov shows that only 6 percent of Americans approve of the way Congress handles its job?

“It is inexcusable that Congress continues to rely on ineffective, secretive negotiations when Americans deserve an open, regular, transparent budget process. And, with Americans agreeing on a wide range of priorities, from closing corporate tax loopholes to reducing military spending to securing Social Security, it’s unconscionable that Congress cannot put partisanship aside and deliver. We urge congressional negotiators to demonstrate their commitment to the basic functions of the legislative branch by passing a budget that reflects the values of the American people in time to avoid another government shutdown in early 2014.”

National Priorities Project is “a national, non-profit organization dedicated to making our complex federal budget transparent and accessible so people can exercise their right and responsibility to oversee and influence how their tax dollars are spent.”

Is Wall Street Buying Up Houses Leading to Another Bubble?

Share GOTTESDIENER, lauragottesdiener at, @Gottesdiener
Author of A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home, Gottesdiener just wrote the piece “The Empire Strikes Back, How Wall Street Has Turned Housing Into a Dangerous Get-Rich-Quick Scheme — Again,” which states: “You can hardly turn on the television or open a newspaper without hearing about the nation’s impressive, much celebrated housing recovery. Home prices are rising! New construction has started! The crisis is over! Yet beneath the fanfare, a whole new get-rich-quick scheme is brewing.

“Over the last year and a half, Wall Street hedge funds and private equity firms have quietly amassed an unprecedented rental empire, snapping up Queen Anne Victorians in Atlanta, brick-faced bungalows in Chicago, Spanish revivals in Phoenix. In total, these deep-pocketed investors have bought more than 200,000 cheap, mostly foreclosed houses in cities hardest hit by the economic meltdown.

“Wall Street’s foreclosure crisis, which began in late 2007 and forced more than 10 million people from their homes, has created a paradoxical problem. Millions of evicted Americans need a safe place to live, even as millions of vacant, bank-owned houses are blighting neighborhoods and spurring a rise in crime. Lucky for us, Wall Street has devised a solution: It’s going to rent these foreclosed houses back to us. In the process, it’s devised a new form of securitization that could cause this whole plan to blow up — again.

“Since the buying frenzy began, no company has picked up more houses than the Blackstone Group, the largest private equity firm in the world. Using a subsidiary company, Invitation Homes, Blackstone has grabbed houses at foreclosure auctions, through local brokers, and in bulk purchases directly from banks the same way a regular person might stock up on toilet paper from Costco.

“In one move, it bought 1,400 houses in Atlanta in a single day. As of November, Blackstone had spent $7.5 billion to buy 40,000 mostly foreclosed houses across the country. That’s a spending rate of $100 million a week since October 2012. It recently announced plans to take the business international, beginning in foreclosure-ravaged Spain. …

“Last year, Mark Alston, a real estate broker in Los Angeles, began noticing something strange happening. Home prices were rising. And they were rising fast — up 20 percent between October 2012 and the same month this year. In a normal market, rising home prices would mean increased demand from homebuyers. But here was the unnerving thing: the homeownership rate was dropping, the first sign for Alston that the market was somehow out of whack. …”

* Iran Accord: “Profoundly Symbolic” * Honduras Election: “Don’t Rush to Recognize”

Share SAHIMI, moe at
Professor at the University of Southern California, Sahimi has been analyzing Iran’s political developments for the past two decades. He is the editor of the website Iran News & Middle East Reports. Sahimi recently wrote the piece “Iran Has a Right to Enrich — And America Already Recognized It.”

WILLIAM O. BEEMAN, wbeeman at, @wbeeman
Author of The ‘Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs’: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other, Beeman just wrote the piece “The Iran Accord — Profoundly, and Primarily, Symbolic,” which states: “The principal benefit of the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 nations on November 23 is that Iran and the United States were able to sit down to talk and reach an agreement on something. Given 33 years of estrangement and non-communication, this is an extraordinarily important development — nearly equivalent to the U.S. breakthrough to China — perhaps the signal achievement of the Nixon administration.”

Also today, following the election in Honduras, the Center for Constitutional Rights released a statement urging: “Don’t Rush to Recognize Honduras Election ‘Winner'”: “There must be an opportunity to do a full and accurate count and fully investigate reports of irregularities and intimidation and threats by authorities. Given the context of widespread opposition to the post-coup government and its violent repression of civil society, CCR urges the international community to do everything possible to ensure respect for and protection of Hondurans’ right to free expression, freedom of the press, and peaceful assembly in the coming days.”

ADRIENNE PINE, pine at, @adriennepine
Assistant professor of anthropology at American University, Pine is currently on leave on a Fulbright scholarship, residing in Tegucigalpa and teaching at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. She blogs at She appeared on “Democracy Now!” this morning: “Honduras Presidential Elections in Dispute as Activists Defy Violence to Back Ousted Leader’s Wife.”

SUYAPA PORTILLO, lavidagris at, @aisportillo
A professor at Pritzer College in Claremont, Calif., Portillo wrote early this morning: “The Honduran people’s votes continue to be counted as I write this email. Six hundred and eleven voting centers do not have scanning capacity and those results will come over the next two days. … I witnessed many irregularities the day before voting and the day of voting. … The voting materials boxes arrived late in the voting place I observed in Colonia Kennedy, a LIBRE stronghold; the voting box materials lacked markers needed to sign the ballot boxes; credentials seemed to have been bought by Nationalist party people; the secretary and president of a table did not show up. …

“The U.S. Ambassador came to my voting center with three different armed groups: Cobra soldiers, secret service-like men, and national police with high caliber guns. She visited the tables and the police with military grade guns blocked the entrances for voters and observers; press were pushed aside and almost dropped to the floor; her visit disturbed the voting process and all the men with guns caused tension and fear among voters. She told one table that was well-organized according to her that she would give them a price for high turn out and good organization. …”

MARK WEISBROT, DAN BEETON, beeton at, @Dan_Beeton
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Beeton is international communications director for the group, which stated today: “The official results as being reported by Honduras’ electoral authorities (the TSE) are being disputed by two of the political parties and presidential candidates: Xiomara Castro of the LIBRE party (who the TSE says finished second, based on 54 percent of electoral tallies counted) and Salvador Nasralla of the Anti-Corruption Party (PAC) (who the TSE says finished fourth). Nasralla told various TV and radio outlets last night that the results reported by the TSE did not match those that were transmitted to the parties. As part of the counting process, tally results from the voting centers are shared with the parties.

“Although some international observers reported that the process was clean, transparent, and peaceful, many other observers reported various violations and irregularities throughout the day, both during voting and the tally-counting process. Honduran media outlets and international observers reported that some voting centers were closed off and guarded by military in a violation of requirements that public access to the centers is supposed to be guaranteed. In other centers, international observers were told to leave as they attempted to witness the counting process. During the voting, observers witnessed various incidents of apparent party allegiance buying, where voting center representatives of small parties may have sold their representation to the National Party, as well as National Party intimidation and threats against observers and other party representatives. There are also allegations, with purported photo evidence, of vote-buying by the National Party in various voting centers. These are among other irregularities reported by human rights organizations, lawyers’ delegations, and others, and documented here, here, and here. Further, the murder of two LIBRE leaders on the eve of the elections as well as the murder of five people in Mosquitia, which led to the suspension of the electoral process in the local community, were notable and serious violent incidents that impacted the election.

“Regardless of the final outcome, Honduras’ century-long two-party dominance of the political system has been broken. The LIBRE especially has emerged as a major political force, institutionalizing in a political way the massive social movement that erupted in opposition to the 2009 coup and offering greater representation to the interests of Honduras’ historically disenfranchised sectors.”

Honduras Elections Amid “Intensified State Terror”

Share WEISBROT, beeton at
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and recently wrote the piece “South American Governments Should Support Hondurans’ Rights To Sovereignty and Free Elections” for the Guardian, which states: “In 2009, the country’s left-of-center President Mel Zelaya was overthrown in a military coup that was heavily supported (and, according to Zelaya, organized) by the United States government. After six months and a lot of political repression, the coup government was re-established with an election that almost the entire hemisphere — except, you guessed it, the United States — rejected as illegitimate. Four years later — on [Sunday] November 24 — Honduran voters will go to the polls again…” The group will be live blogging the election, see:

ADRIENNE PINE, pine at, @adriennepine
Assistant professor of anthropology at American University, Pine is currently on leave on a Fulbright scholarship, residing in Tegucigalpa and teaching at the National Autonomous University of Honduras. She blogs at

Pine recently wrote the article “Where Will the Children Play? Neoliberal Militarization in Pre-Election Honduras”, which states: “In the months leading up to the first national elections since the 2009 coup in which members of the Resistance movement will participate, state-led terror and the criminalization of social protest have intensified.Juan Orlando Hernández, the presidential candidate for current president Porfirio ‘Pepe’ Lobo’s National Party, has made the promise of security through militarization his central campaign theme. …

“The Honduran military and the judiciary both were primary institutional state actors in the 2009 coup against president Manuel Zelaya, whose wife Xiomara Castro is running for president against Hernández on the Resistance-affiliated LIBRE (Liberty and Refoundation) Party ticket.”

DARÍO EURAQUE, dario.euraque at
Euraque is professor of history and international studies at Trinity College in Connecticut. Euraque served as director, under President Manuel Zelaya, of the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History. Euraque is the author of numerous books in Spanish and English on Honduran history, culture and politics, including a 2010 memoir about the 2009 coup against Zelaya and its devastating impact on cultural heritage projects. He will arrive in Tegucigalpa Sunday to vote in the national elections.

Warsaw Climate “Conference of Polluters”?


Christiana Figueres

MICHAEL DORSEY, [in Warsaw, 6 hours ahead of U.S. ET, back in the U.S. on Monday] mkdorsey at, @usclimateplan, @GreenHejira
EVAN WEBER, evan at, @evanlweber
Dorsey and Weber are co-authors of the recently released report: “The Plan: How the U.S. Can Help Stabilize the Climate and Create a Clean Energy Future,” available at:

Dorsey said today: “The 19th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties or ‘COP’ meeting flirts dangerously close with being dubbed a ‘Conference of Polluters.’

“The head honcho of the process, Christiana Figueres [executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change], offered gentle fig leaves to coal industry CEOs. While she refused to address activists across the street from the conference venue, she told coal industry CEOs and representatives at the concurrent International Coal and Climate Summit in Warsaw that they had ‘the opportunity to be part of the worldwide climate solution.’

“Figueres never once mentioned that social movement organizations especially in the U.S. and increasingly abroad, have actively stopped trying to collaborate with coal. Groups like the the Sierra Club, the United States’ largest environmental organization, shifted strategies almost a decade ago to completely shut the 20th century industry down. Working actively with a litany of activists, public health officials, lawyers and other experts, have closed more than 175 coal fired power plants in 10 years.

“While Figueres suggested to industry representatives that ‘low emission’ coal with Carbon Capture and Sequestration might be a significant part of a changing world, there are few proven examples of working CCS today, which is why even many industry representatives have stopped talking about it as a solution. Figueres’ remarks were also out of step with the state of ongoing vast political, economic, and legal sea changes — especially in coal financing.

Weber said: “We can’t rely on the same technologies that are driving us towards climate catastrophe to get us out of it. The clean and safe renewable technologies of the future exist today. We just need to create the political environment where they can flourish.”

* Iran Talks * Yemen Drone Kills * Afghanistan “Apology”

Share O. BEEMAN, Skype: wbeeman, wbeeman at
Talks regarding Iran’s nuclear program resumed today in Geneva. Author of The ‘Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs’: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other, Beeman just wrote the piece “Understanding the Iranian Perspective in Nuclear Negotiations.”

Vilkomerson is executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace. She said today: “We strongly support continuing diplomatic efforts with Iran at this critical moment. We see calls to pass new sanctions or restrictive policy language that would undercut U.S. diplomatic efforts as counter-productive and dangerous. Jewish American institutions that are promoting these measures are not representative of the Jewish American community.”

BARAA SHIBAN, baraashiban at, @BShtwtr
AP reports: “An airstrike Tuesday killed three alleged al-Qaeda militants in the country’s southeast, Yemeni tribal leaders said Tuesday.” Shiban is a member of the Yemeni National Dialogue Conference and the British-based group Reprieve’s project coordinator in Yemen. He is in D.C. until Friday and in New York City until the end of the month when he returns to Yemen. He said today: “Many claim the U.S. government targets Al-Qaeda militants with its drone strikes, but it hasn’t released their names. Indeed, the U.S. government might not have their names — they might not know who they are targeting. Too often, when these killings are later investigated, it’s often an anti-Al-Qaeda imam or a school teacher.” Shiban recently wrote the piece “Drone Strikes in Yemen are an Obstacle to Democracy.” Also see: “In Congressional Briefing, Yemeni Delegation Describe Terror Drones Bring to Their Communities.”

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal at
Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Cohn just wrote the piece “Voices From the Drone Summit.”

KATHY KELLY, kathy at
Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and just wrote the piece “War and Enlightenment in Afghanistan.”

CNN today quotes National Security Adviser Susan Rice: “There is not a need for the United States to apologize to Afghanistan.”

Kelly said today: “Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai seeks an apology from President Obama for U.S. military attacks that have killed and maimed Afghan civilians. Since April of 2009, we at Voices have kept track of U.S. military acknowledgment of and apology for killing Afghan civilians. We list 94 circumstances in which Afghan officials alleged that U.S./NATO forces killed civilians. In seven instances we note that U.S. authorities apologized or reversed themselves after initially denying that the atrocity had occurred. During the period included in the timetable, Gen. John Allen of the U.S. Army admitted to ISAF [International Security Assistance Force, i.e., NATO] to having conducted as many as 2,200 night raids within one year. Given the frequency of night raids and the lack of transparency involved in such operations, the number of civilian casualties may be much higher than the official figures.

“We also did not include statistics from human rights organizations about the number of prisoners who may have died while in ISAF custody at prisons such as the facility at Bagram Air Force Base. We believe that the U.S. should apologize for the suffering caused, and assure that it will no longer cause so-called collateral damage by canceling any future authorization for night raids, aerial bombings, drone strikes, renditions, and detentions.”

Beyond the NSA: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofits


GARY RUSKIN, ruskin at, @garyruskin
Director of the Center for Corporate Policy, Ruskin wrote the just-released report “Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations” [PDF] for the group Essential Information.

He said today: “Giant corporations are employing highly unethical or illegal tools of espionage against nonprofit organizations with near impunity. Our report documents how corporations hire shady investigative firms staffed with former employees of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, U.S. military, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Secret Service and local police departments to target nonprofit organizations.

“Many of the world’s largest corporations and their trade associations — including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Walmart, Monsanto, Bank of America, Dow Chemical, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Chevron, Burger King, McDonald’s, Shell, BP, BAE, Sasol, Brown & Williamson and E.ON — have been linked to espionage or planned espionage against nonprofit organizations, activists and whistleblowers.

“Many different types of nonprofit organizations have been targeted with corporate espionage, including environmental, anti-war, public interest, consumer, food safety, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control, social justice, animal rights and arms control groups.

“Corporations and their trade associations have been linked to a wide variety of espionage tactics against nonprofit organizations. The most prevalent tactic appears to be infiltration by posing as a volunteer or journalist, to obtain information from a nonprofit. But corporations have been linked to many other human, physical and electronic espionage tactics against nonprofits. Many of these tactics are either highly unethical or illegal.”

Al-Qaeda Affiliate Claims Responsibility for Iran Embassy Bombing, Highlighting Mideast Alliances

Share reports: “Iran’s Foreign Minister blamed Israel for the attacks. Hezbollah and Syrian officials indirectly blamed Saudi Arabia, the Sunni Arab kingdom that along with fellow Gulf nation Qatar has been a major backer of Syria’s rebels.

“‘Each of the terrorist attacks that strike in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq reek of petrodollars,’ a Syrian government statement said, in a clear reference to oil-rich Gulf Arab countries.

“The Abdullah Azzam Brigades [an al-Qaeda-linked group operating in Lebanon] claimed responsibility for Tuesday’s attacks, saying they would continue until Hezbollah withdraws its forces from Syria.” CNN noted the group “also demanded the release of its members being held prisoner in Lebanon.”

RADWAN MORTADA, [Lebanon is 7 hours ahead of U.S. ET] mortadaradwan at, @radwanmortada
A journalist with Al-Akhbar in Lebanon, Mortada wrote a two part series on Abdullah Azzam Brigades, sometimes called Al-Qaeda in Lebanon: “Searching for Al-Qaeda in Lebanon (I): Coming of Age” and “Searching for Al-Qaeda in Lebanon (II): An Emir for Greater Syria.”

MALAK KHALED, malak20_02 at, @Malakhaled
Khaled is a reporter for Al-Mayadeen Network and teaches at the Lebanese International University.

RANIA MASRI, rania.z.masri at, @rania_masri
Masri is assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Balamand in Lebanon. She said today: “Many media organizations that routinely use the word ‘terrorist’ are not doing it for this attack, even though it was clearly a civilian target and for political purposes. Abdullah Azzam Brigades in their claim of responsibility cited release of their prisoners held in Lebanon.

“It might seem strange to hear Saudi Arabia and Israel accused of backing the same bombing, but it shouldn’t. There’s an effective alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia in the region and one of the tragedies of it is to deepen sectarian divides which groups like al-Qaeda in Lebanon feed off of. See As’ad AbuKhalil’s excellent recent piece ‘Background of the Saudi-Israeli Alliance.'”

Masri was recently interviewed on The Real News. Also see past related releases Masri has been featured on regarding Lebanon: “Why Isn’t Beirut Bombing Called “Terrorist”? What’s Behind It?” and “‘Impossible to Choose Good Guys’ as Rebel Army Claims Responsibility for Beirut Bombing.”