Originally Published: 11/16/2013
WikiLeaks and TPP: That great hacker, WikiLeaks, released the “secret negotiated draft text for the entire TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) Intellectual Property Rights Chapter.” (Guardian) This is the agreement negotiated in Salt Lake City, Utah November 19-24, 2013. And TPP is the forerunner of TTIP. (TWW, TTIP, 11/9/13) The leaked documents disclose that the U.S. wants tobacco companies to be permitted to sue governments in the tribunals (TWW, TTIP, 11/9/13; TAFTA, 7/13/13; Investor-State System, 6/1/13) to demand taxpayer compensation for health regulations. (ASH) The U.S. is also proposing that member countries must get patents for plants, animals, and medical procedures, and it is demanding longer terms of patent protection and compensation for delays in the patent application process. “In multiple passages in the documents, the United States is seen as pressing for greater leeway for companies to seek patents in the medical field, a move that could potentially restrict cheaper generic drugs . . . The text also shows that the United States and Japan are seeking to restrict nations from denying patents on the argument that products do not result in ‘enhanced efficacy.’” (AFP) There’s more. According to Knowledge Ecology International, “Negotiated in secret, the proposed text is bad for access to knowledge, bad for access to medicine, and profoundly bad for innovation.” Public Citizen claims, “The WikiLeaks text also features Hollywood and recording industry inspired proposals - think about the SOPA [Stop Online Privacy Act] debacle - to limit internet freedom and access to educational materials, to force internet providers to act as copyright enforcers, and to cut off people’s internet access.” Let me point out that there’s no need for copyright language since countries that are members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are already bound by copyright laws. “The implications are staggering. Computers and networks create, in the normal course of operation, temporary and ephemeral copies. Regulations on these sorts of copies . . . would interfere with basic technical operations and give rights holders an opportunity to sit on an essential choke point of the Internet.” (Electronic Frontier Foundation) The AARP and other consumer advocacy groups, in a letter to Obama, have expressed concern that TPP would limit the ability of states and the federal government to moderate drug and medical device costs.
File Sharing: McClatchy did an interesting piece on American’s personal data that was shared with the CIA, the IRS, and others in a security probe. “Federal officials gathered the information from the customer records of 2 men who were under criminal investigation for purportedly teaching people how to pass lie detector tests. The officials then distributed a list of 4,904 people - along with many of their Social Security numbers, addresses, and professions - to nearly 30 federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Food and Drug Administration.” The people were from all across and the country and in all kinds of professions. Many wanted to beat a polygraph test for personal reasons - like spouses suspected of infidelity. McClatchy summarizes: “The unprecedented creation of such a list and decision to disseminate it widely demonstrates the ease with which the federal government can collect and share Americans’ personal information, even when there’s no clear reason for doing so.”
Ecuador: The country’s Supreme Court upheld a 2012 ruling ordering Chevron, and its subsidiary Texaco, to pay for environmental damage in its Amazon region. However, it lowered the fine from $19 billion to $9.51 billion. (AFP)
Iran: It has agreed to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to enter and inspect sites where they had previously been denied entry, “including the Gchine uranium mine and a heavy-water reactor in Arak, as part of a cooperation deal struck in Tehran.” Iran had been in negotiations with the 6 world powers in Geneva but that meeting ended “without a decisive agreement.” Nevertheless, it agreed to greater cooperation with the AEIA. (Guardian)
Hawaii: The state legislature passed a same-sex marriage bill. The governor, Neil Abercrombie, called a special session to get the bill passed. (Guardian) He signed it. (LGBTQ Nation)
Lockheed Martin: It’s going to cut 4,000 jobs worldwide. It’s due to lower government spending from the sequester cuts. They’re closing operations in Akron, OH; Newtown, PA; Goodyear, AZ; and Horizon City, TX by mid-2015. Lockheed is the #1 supplier of F-35 fighter jets, satellites, missile defense equipment, and warships.” (Reuters)
Sexual Assault: Reports of sexual assault in the military increased by 46% last fiscal year. “It wasn’t possible to know whether the spike represented an increase in assaults, an increase in the number of people reporting them, or both.” (Washington Post)
Corporate Control: 10 mega-corporations - Kraft, Coca-Cola, Pepsico, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Nestle, P & G, Johnson & Johnson, and Unilever - control the output of almost everything you buy. “These corporations create a chain that begins at one of 10 super companies.” And don’t forget mergers and acquisitions of the financial industry. (PolicyMic)
Obamacare: We need to understand what’s happening with the cancellations of insurance plans that everyone is blaming on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). First, Obama wasn’t lying. ACA said that any plan that existed before the enactment of the law were grandfathered in - even if they didn’t meet the standards laid out in the ACA. So the plans that are being cancelled are those that don’t meet the standards but were introduced after the passage of ACA. Insurers introduced these plans knowing full well that they would not meet standards in 2014 and they didn’t tell their customers that the plan would only be available for a short period of time. Second, ACA has strict provisions for how much a company can raise its premiums or deductibles and the small amount wouldn’t allow for pre-ACA plans to change enough to make them profitable, so the companies are canceling them. In some cases the companies chose to raise the premiums and deductibles to the maximum amount, making the plans more expensive. Third, many plans are being dropped for multiple reasons - something that has nothing to do with ACA. Insurers do it all the time. Every year thousands of people are informed that the plan they had is no longer available. Finally, there will continue to be the discontinuance of plans as the marketplace changes due to the ACA. Many plans will not be able to compete with the plans offered on the Exchanges and will be discontinued.
The Fix: Obama has offered a fix for the complaints. He’s going to let people keep their insurance for a year. However, the insurance companies must advise people of their options - that they aren’t getting the expanded benefits and that they may be able to get a better policy at a better price and get a subsidy if they go to the Exchange. (Salon) Of course the insurance companies have to be willing to allow them to keep the policy. Yes, we’re still dependent upon the insurance companies willingness to do anything. Also, since these policies aren’t up to the ACA standards, the state insurance departments will have to approve them. According to the Washington Post, this “fix,” as bad as it is, is “not as bad as the ‘fixes’ being floated by panicked Democrats and gloating Republicans in Congress.” But those “panicked Democrats and gloating Republicans” passed their bill anyway, even though Obama said he’d veto it. The bill would “allow insurance companies to renew individual health insurance policies and sell similar ones to new customers next year even if the coverage does not provide all the benefits and consumer protections required by the new health care law.” (NY Times)
Germany’s Solar: Germany's production of solar energy reached a record 22 gigawatts in 2012, “equivalent to the output of 20 nuclear plants.” (CS Globe)
Keystone Pipeline: The southern leg of the Keystone Pipeline is almost finished. But already they’re finding construction problems. Public Citizen, in a recent report, “documents construction problems and apparent engineering code violations along the Texas portion of the southern segment of the pipeline.” It has also documented “more than 125 excavations in 250 miles of possible ‘anomalies’ on pipe that had been buried for months. Those anomalies included dents, sags, and other problems that could lead to spills or leakage of toxic tar sands crude.” There have been many breaches in the pipeline already (TWW, Pipeline, 7/16/11; Athabasca Tar Sands, 8/20/11), which is the main concern with its construction over the Ogallala Aquifer, the U.S.’ main source of freshwater for America’s heartland. (TWW, Tar Sands Pipeline, 8/27/11) The major reason for the pipe breaches is that tar sands is bitumen, which is extremely acidic and thus extremely corrosive. (TarSandsFreene)
Fukushima: Radiation from the disaster has reached Alaska along the northern west coast. “That’s raised concern over contamination of fish and wildlife. More may be heading toward coastal communities like Haines and Skagway.” Researchers have been running models to try to predict the amount of radiation. “The levels they are projecting in some of the models are in the ballpark of what they saw in the North Pacific in the 1960s.” That was when we were setting off nuclear bombs all over the ocean. (CBC)
Another Oil Spill: Last Thursday, not this past Thursday but the one before that, a 90-car train carrying 2.7 million gallons of crude oil, derailed and exploded in rural Alabama. On Sunday it was still burning. Each of the 90 cars was carrying 30,000 gallons of oil. “Most” of the cars didn’t spill “all” of its oil. Hmm. The accident occurred in the wetlands near Aliceville. Apparently the marsh is stagnant so they don’t think it will spread the oil to neighboring systems. (LA Times)
U.S. Oil: According to the IAEA, we are about to surpass Russia and Saudi Arabia and “become the world’s largest oil producer.” The big producers are Texas and North Dakota. But IAEA also predicts that within a decade the Middle East will retake the #1 position. That’s probably when Iraq’s oil fields will be in full production. (McClatchy)
Sick Leave: The war on American workers goes on, but this time it’s being waged by Republican-led states. The new attack is on sick leave. States are passing laws that ban cities and counties from establishing a right to sick leave. “In Wisconsin, legislators repealed the city of Milwaukee’s mandatory paid sick leave law, which had been established by a referendum supported by 69% of voters in 2008.” Prior to 2010 only Georgia had such a law. Then came Wisconsin in 2011, Louisiana in 2012, then 7 states passed a law in 2013. “In each of the 10 states, the bills’ sponsors included members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). And in each case, the bills were adopted following vigorous advocacy by corporate lobbies such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business, and Restaurant Association.” (Economic Policy Institute)
S&P: The Justice Department is suing Standard & Poor’s for fraud in their rating of mortgage-backed securities as AAA when they were really junk.