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Statement on NAFTA’s “Kafkaesque” Turn

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Associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, Manuel Pérez-Rocha wrote the articles, “NAFTA Pushes Many Mexicans to Migrate,” and “NAFTA’s 20 Years of Unfulfilled Promises: The trade deal has become an engine of poverty in Mexico.” 

The supposedly concluded renegotiation of NAFTA has reached a Kafkaesque stage. As the United States Trade Representative has stated: “The United States and Mexico have reached a preliminary agreement in principle, subject to finalization and implementation.”

Not only the negotiations have not been finalized, and without Canada, but the texts remain hidden from the public.

However, it is not surprising that the governments have conducted the negotiations in complete secrecy from the very beginning of Trump’s imposition to renegotiate NAFTA.

What is unconceivable is the blind support of Mexico’s newly elected government, not only to the current Mexican government’s negotiating position, but the whole process. AMLO’s [President Elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador] office came out immediately, yesterday, to support the “understanding between Mexico and the United States in the renegotiation of the Free Trade Agreement.” It declared that “it reflects the main concerns raised by the president-elect’s team. Especially, those related to the Mexican energy sector; the labor and salary conditions of our workers and the maintenance of trilateral spaces for the settlement of disputes, as well as the medium-term certainty of the Treaty itself.”

Unfortunately, the public doesn’t have an idea of what the exact decisions on energy are, labor organizations have been kept completely aside from the negotiations and in terms of the settlement of disputes these mechanisms will only handcuff AMLO’s government when it starts office on Dec. 1.

With respect to Chapter 11 of NAFTA and the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms that give supranational rights to transnational corporations, and rights to avoid the host country courts, it is paradoxical that the Mexican government is the one that wants to keep it. Mexico is the fifth country most sued under these investor-friendly rules and has had to pay more than $200 million in “compensation” for profits lost over governmental decisions in favor of the public interest and the environment. Moreover, under pending suits under NAFTA and other investment treaties (notably with European countries) it may be already liable to pay billions of dollars to transnational companies.

The newly elected government of Mexico must ensure that preeminence is given to human and environmental rights of Mexican communities instead of yielding to investors’ demands. The renegotiation of NAFTA in the present terms and process is incompatible with AMLO’s new project for the nation.

What’s the Cost of Medicare for All?

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Even a Koch-backed think tank finds Medicare for all would cut health care spending. In a report released by the Mercatus Center, a single-payer health care system would offset costs with even greater savings.

The Intercept and other media reporting on this are citing the work of Drs. David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler. They are distinguished professors of health policy at the City University of New York at Hunter College and lecturers in medicine at Harvard Medical School. They have written an analysis of the work of the Koch-backed think tank, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which is shown below.

PDF of the report

Comments_on_Blahous_analysis_of_Sanders__Bill__1_.doc

Trump Team Hired Israeli Spy Firm Used by Harvey Weinstein to Attack Obama Officials on Iran Deal

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Ronan Farrow reports in The New Yorker: “Israeli Operatives Who Aided Harvey Weinstein Collected Information on Former Obama Administration Officials.”

Mark Townsend and Julian Borger broke the story in the Observer this weekend: “Revealed: Trump team hired spy firm for ‘dirty ops’ on Iran arms deal,” which states: “Aides to Donald Trump, the U.S. president, hired an Israeli private intelligence agency to orchestrate a ‘dirty ops’ campaign against key individuals from the Obama administration who helped negotiate the Iran nuclear deal, the Observer can reveal.

“People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to ‘get dirt’ on Ben Rhodes, who had been one of Barack Obama’s top national security advisers, and Colin Kahl, deputy assistant to Obama, as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal.

“The extraordinary revelations come days before Trump’s 12 May deadline to either scrap or continue to abide by the international deal limiting Iran’s nuclear [program].”

RICHARD SILVERSTEIN, richards1052 at comcast.net, @richards1052, Skype: richards1052
Silverstein writes on security and other issues for a number of outlets. He was among the very first to highlight the role of Israel in connection to scandals around the Trump administration and will continue updating at his blog Tikun Olam.

His past pieces include “Flynn Pleads Guilty to Lying About Trump Sabotage of Security Council Resolution Against Israel Settlements,” which notes that: “Michael Flynn plead guilty to lying to the FBI about his efforts with Jared Kushner to torpedo a United Nations Security Council resolution criticizing Israeli settlements. These included lobbying the Russian ambassador to help in this campaign by delaying or cancelling a vote on the matter.” See also, “Trump, Kushner and Mueller: the Smoking Gun and the Bullet.”

See related Institute for Public Accuracy news releases including “Why is Israelgate Being Downplayed?

From the desk of Noam Chomsky

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Celebrate and help continue the work of IPA as we approach our 20th anniversary and launch a legacy fund in honor of Ed Herman. Noam Chomsky explains:

Dear Friend of IPA,

As the Institute for Public Accuracy celebrates its 20th anniversary this April, they are launching the Edward Herman Memorial Fund to honor Ed’s life and work and to continue his legacy revealing critical truths and contesting the entrenched propaganda system.

Like you, I deeply appreciate the key role the Institute for Public Accuracy plays providing the media with informed and expert commentary on the crucial events of the day, offering a broader and richer range of independent sources on which reporters depend.

We are asking IPA’s supporters to collectively match what Ed left IPA in his will. Ed got IPA halfway to $100,000, which is a boost they need to challenge more giving during this important year. This will help IPA to keep pushing old media structures as far as possible while buttressing new ones, and supporting and promoting whistleblowers and other pressurized truths-tellers and various civil liberties.

Will you join me in supporting IPA today with a tax-deductible contribution?

Apart from its constructive contributions to media comprehensiveness and accuracy, for individuals who are seeking a better understanding of evolving world events IPA has been an incomparable source of critically important news that had escaped notice or received inadequate or misleading coverage, as well as acute analysis that is hard to find or completely missing in the mainstream. Speaking personally, I have found it invaluable as a source of insight and information, and for leads to pursue that I would otherwise have missed.

I urge you to support IPA with whatever you can contribute. If each of us sends $50 – just a few dollars for each year they’ve been getting progressives into the media – we could help them raise $100,000 with Ed’s generous match.

Thank you,

Noam Chomsky

15 Years Later: The Whistleblower Who Almost Blocked the Iraq War

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Media Advisory:

Press Conference to Mark 15th Anniversary

Of Leak by GCHQ Translator Katharine Gun

Revealing US “Dirty Tricks” at UN for Iraq War

When:  Thursday, 1 March 2018 at 11:00 a.m.

Where:  Head office, National Union of Journalists

Headland House, 72 Acton Street, London, WC1X 9NB

Who:  Katharine GunThomas DrakeMatthew HohJesselyn Radack

This press conference will take place the day before the 15th anniversary of the Observer’s publication of the explosive March 2, 2003 story “US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war” — based on a leak by GCHQ linguist and analyst Katharine Gun — revealing the US National Security Agency’s UN surveillance memo that aimed to grease the way for the Iraq invasion. She will be depicted by Keira Knightley in the film “Official Secrets” which is to start shooting in March.

Thomas Drake was a senior NSA executive at the time.

Matthew Hoh later fought in Iraq as a US Marine and then became a US State Department official before resigning in protest of the war in Afghanistan.

Jesselyn Radack was a whistleblower at the US Department of Justice in connection with the “war on terror” before becoming a national security and human rights attorney representing Drake as well as Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers.

The four speakers will assess the significance of the revelations that Katharine Gun provided 15 years ago and discuss the current conditions for whistleblowers and freedom of information in the UK and the US.

For further information:

ExposeFacts, Institute for Public Accuracy

norman at accuracy.org

NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake Statement on Surveillance Legislation

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At this late hour (with all the fear mongering by national security authorities pushing to reauthorize and expand an unconstitutional warrantless surveillance program), unless the Amash-Lofgren Amendment is passed, Congress may end up passing a bill (S. 139) that actually gives criminal suspects more Fourth Amendment protections than innocent people.

I urge all Americans who care about their privacy rights protected by the Fourth Amendment to call their Representative in Congress and tell them to vote for the Amash-Lofgren amendment instead and the proposed USA RIGHTS Act.

The USA RIGHTS Act reforms Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) by ending the pernicious and pervasive mass surveillance practice that licenses the secret backdoor warrantless searches and data mining of US person calls, emails, texts and other Internet and digital communications under the cover and color of spying on foreign targets.

I blew the whistle right after 9/11 on the original mass domestic warrantless electronic surveillance program known as STELLARWIND, and its secret subversion of privacy rights protected by the Constitution and paid a very high price for doing so.

This reauthorization bill just further codifies and expands the mass surveillance regime under the guise of protecting people by stripping their privacy protections.

National security does not trump our inalienable rights as a people, especially when the government want to “collect it all to know it all” and bypass the rule of law for secret executive rules to keep us safe from ourselves using legislative acts to make it all legal.

News Conference at Department of Justice on Threats to WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange by Attorney General Jeff Sessions

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Media Advisory

When: Friday, April 28 at 10 a.m.

Where: U.S. Department of Justice Building between 9th and 10th Streets NW (Constitution Avenue entrance)

CIA Director Mike Pompeo recently called WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently stated that Julian Assange’s arrest is a “priority” of the Trump administration. This has caused numerous individuals — with differing perspectives on WikiLeaks — to warn of a growing threat to press freedom.

The following will address U.S. government policy toward WikiLeaks and whistleblowers:

* Ann Wright is a retired U.S. Army Reserve colonel, and a 29-year veteran of the Army and Army Reserves. As a U.S. diplomat, Wright served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Krygyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia and helped re-open the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan in 2001. In March of 2003, she resigned in protest over the invasion of Iraq. She is co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

* Jesselyn Radack is National Security and Human Rights Director of WHISPeR — Whistleblower and Source Protection Program — at ExposeFacts. Her clients have included NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. She’s also a whistleblower herself. While at the Justice Department, she disclosed that the FBI committed an ethics violation in their interrogation of John Walker Lindh.

* Ray McGovern, a former Army officer and CIA analyst who prepared the President’s Daily Brief (under the Nixon, Ford, and Reagan administrations), is co-founder of Sam Adams Associates for Integrity (see: samadamsaward.ch), which gave Julian Assange its annual award in 2010. Sam Adams Associates strongly opposes any attempt to deny Julian Assange the protections that are his as a journalist.

Contact at ExposeFacts (a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy):
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020, sam [at] accuracy dot org.

Trump Education Policy

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by Diane Ravitch

Education was not a subject of great importance during the recent Presidential campaign. It did not come up during the debates and was not often mentioned during the general election. Hillary Clinton ran with the strong support of the two national teachers’ unions and promised to support schools and teachers. Donald Trump announced his education policy while visiting a for-profit charter school in Ohio. He pledged to divert $20 billion in federal funds for school choice, whether charters or vouchers for religious schools. He also promised on several occasions to “get rid of” Common Core, the controversial standards that were widely adopted by the states during Obama’s second term.

There has been widespread speculation about who might be picked as Secretary of Education. And there has been widespread speculation about whether the Trump administration would either trim the Department of Education or eliminate it altogether.

Some of the names that have been prominently mentioned are Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the public schools of the District of Columbia; Eva Moskowitz, chief executive officer of the Success Academy charter schools in New York City; and Williamson (Bill) Evers of the Hoover Institution.

Rhee and Moskowitz would certainly be zealous proponents of school choice. Selecting either of them would be a thumb in the eyes of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, who campaigned mightily for Clinton. Both have tangled with the unions and made clear their distaste for public schools and for teachers’ unions.

Rhee is a fierce warrior, who is known for firing teachers and principals who don’t raise test scores. Her negatives: a cheating scandal in D.C. during her tenure that was never fully investigated, and her husband, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, who has admitted to indiscretions with young girls in the past.

Moskowitz’s charter schools boast very high test scores, but critics say she gets them by pushing out kids with low scores and excluding children with disabilities and English language learners. Taking the job with Trump would be a big salary cut for Moskowitz, who now makes double the salary of a Cabinet Secretary. And it is not clear whether there is any number two in her organization to keep it running without her.

Evers has been a crusader for traditional math instruction for many years. He has fought against the Common Core. As part of the conservative Koret Task Force on Education at the Hoover Institution, he has written widely about curriculum and instruction and he served on a local school board in California. He served as an education advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and subsequently as an Assistant Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush.

The Common Core divides these three candidates. Rhee and Moskowitz are strong supporters of the Common Core, which they implemented in the schools they have commanded. Breitbart News has already reported that parents who supported Trump are worried that he might back down on his opposition to Common Core by appointing either of them.

If President-elect Trump wants to take a swat at the teachers’ unions and supporters of public schools, he can’t go wrong with Rhee or Moskowitz. If he wants to show his determination to remove federal support for Common Core, Evers is a good bet.

Whoever he chooses may be tasked with the job of downsizing or closing down the Department of Education. That doesn’t mean the programs it runs will disappear, just that they will be shifted to another department. For many years, education was part of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and education programs might be returned there or dispersed elsewhere.

Whoever Trump chooses for Secretary — and it might be someone totally different from the three mentioned here — these will be challenging times for public education …

Trump has declared his determination to privatize public schools, to the extent that federal funds can encourage that outcome. No high-performing nation in the world has privatized its public schools; all have strong and equitably resourced public schools, staffed by certified teachers, not well-meaning amateurs. The two nations that did buy into the free-market privatization ideology — Sweden and Chile — have regretted it. Instead of better education, they got greater segregation of students by race, income, religion, and social status.

The threat to public schools is real under a Trump administration. In the recent election, voters in Massachusetts and Georgia overwhelmingly defeated ballot measures to increase the number of charter schools. Trump won Georgia, but the voters of Georgia turned down the same education proposal that Trump wants to fund.

Under the terms of current law, states have the power to decide how to use federal funds that are not tied to a mandatory program. If Trump releases $20 billion to the states, it will be left to governors and legislatures to decide whether to protect their public schools. Some deeply conservative states might decide to side with privatization, but it is not at all clear that the parents and local school districts will go along, even in Republican-controlled states.

Ravitch is author of many books, including Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools and The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She is a research professor of education at New York University and served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She now blogs at dianeravitch.net.

 

Costas Panayotakis on the Brexit

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14-slate22Costas Panayotakis is associate professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York and author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy. He has been published in numerous journals including Monthly Review and Capitalism Nature Socialism. Below are his thoughts on the EU referendum that are an addition to today’s release

“The Brexit vote may have partly been an expression of right-wing xenophobia but it is also an expression of disgust across the continent with the neoliberal monstrosity that the EU has become. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the result will be honored. In the past, European political and economic elites have often ignored referendum results they didn’t like by cranking up Pro-European propaganda and repeating the referendum so that the sovereign people could ‘correct’ their mistake.

Breaking Down the Brexit Decision

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james-a-paul

James A. Paul, a writer and non-profit executive working in the field of international relations and global policy, was asked by Sputnik News to comment on the UK’s decision to leave the European Union in the June 23 referendum. Below is his commentary.

In the wake of the Brexit vote, we must consider why it happened and what the future may hold in store.  The first results are already known – markets have plunged, British Prime Minister David Cameron is on the way out of office, and the right has shown its rising strength in  the UK. The European Union is under threat of possible dissolution if other countries follow the same course.  And the UK itself seems sure to suffer a large economic and political setback, especially if the Scots press again for an exit of their own.

To answer why this has happened we have to look primarily at two issues  – the effects of “national” identity with all the powerful symbols of tribalism and xenophobia created over time, and the social erosion resulting from a globalized, neoliberal economic system that harms so many (right-wing politicians easily blame declining material well-being on shadowy foreign forces and threatening migrants).  Both factors have led to the rise of right-wing political movements in England, but also broadly elsewhere as well – in the United States (Trump and the Tea Party), France (Front National), Germany (Pegida, Alternative für Deutschland), and virtually throughout the political landscape of the wealthy democracies, most notably in the Netherlands, Poland, Austria and Switzerland.  Turkey is a well-known case of a less-affluent country, while rightward swings and unstable politics are visible also in Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and many others.

The political center has lost its commanding appeal and the public is drawn to vague slogans like “freedom” and “independence.” Right-wing projects are implausible as solutions to the problems faced by ordinary citizens  but the electorate acts in desperation. The process has been under way for many years.  Reagan and Thatcher were early signs. The parties of the center-left fell ever-more-completely under the sway of financial interests and rich donors, providing very little choice. Programs shaped by the 1930s make little sense today, so political innovation is urgently needed but little-practiced. Citizens have consequently grasped for straws, as movements for regional independence and the breakup of states have arisen (consider the Flemish movement in Belgium, the Catalans and Basques in Spain, the Scots and Welsh in the UK, the Corsicans and Bretons in France, not to mention the actual division of Czechoslovakia, the division of Yugoslavia, etc.).

A great threat hangs over the world’s people – the threat of climate change – and the established political forces are doing very little to address it. In fact, their market-based solutions are worsening the crisis daily. The changing climate is already touching off waves of migration, as the climate analysts have long predicted, a force that virtually cannot be stopped, as drought, flood, rising temperatures and rising sea levels deepen the crisis and set desperate people in motion.  Political systems in the wealthy countries are not able to respond.  Captive of the wealthy and unable to think beyond the next election cycle, they stumble forward with little inspiration or leadership to offer.  Falling back on worn-out slogans and fading loyalties, they hope to boost the tribal spirit by appeals to past grandeur and current continuous military operations against foreign enemies and dictators du jour.

The UK is the first major power to succumb to this political crisis in a significant way.  The English still have a strong mentality of Empire, with all the contempt for foreigners that downward international mobility can engender.  Few English know a foreign language, and many think they are vastly superior, not just to the brown people knocking at the door but really to all the “others” across the Channel.   As if the Battle of Trafalgar and the Battle of Britain prove forever that everything beyond Calais is corrupt and contemptible.

We should not forget, however, that the rise of the right has been counterbalanced to some extent by the rise of the left.  In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn is the new left-leaning leader the Labor Party, in Germany there is Die Linke, in Spain Podemos, and so on. Even in the US, Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign provided a significant respite from politics as usual.  Thus, a major re-configuration of global politics appears under way, of which Brexit is only one manifestation.  Above all, however, there is the ticking clock of climate.  Brexit points to a dangerous future of weakened and teetering political systems, run by right-wingers looking backward to days of national glory.  There is reason to fear the post-Brexit British leaders (and their counterparts in other countries) will be unable to address an existential climate threat that requires real initiative, as well as daring and unprecedented global cooperation.  As the seas lick dangerously at our coastal cities, let us hope that in London and so many other places, the people will wake up.