Originally Published: 11/7/2015
TPP Revealed: President Obama released the full text of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. It has 30 chapters and more than 2,000 pages. The president must notify Congress of his intent to sign the agreement. Under the terms of the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), or “fast-track” (TWW, Fast Track, 6/27/15; TPA and Human Trafficking, 8/8/15), Congress then has 90 days to respond, but all they can do is vote to pass or block it. (Reuters) The Washington Post has a short, 75-second video outlining the agreement but here’s my reminder of what is currently known about the agreement and the problems with it. There’s the Intellectual Property Chapter (TWW, TPP Intellectual Property Chapter, 10/10/15; Wikileaks and TPP, 11/16/13); the issue of tariffs and VATs (TWW, TPP, Tariffs, and VAT, 10/10/15); issues with human trafficking (TWW, TPA and Human Trafficking, Tier 3, Malaysia Trafficking, 8/8/15); the Healthcare Annex to the Transparency Chapter (TWW, TPP and Healthcare, 6/13/15); its effect on the trade deficit (TWW, TPP & the Trade Deficit, 5/2/15); the Investment Chapter (TWW, More From Wikileaks, 3/28/15); its effect on the environment (TWW, TPP Environmental Chapter, 1/18/14); effects on prescription medications and bank regulations (TWW, TPP, 12/14/13); effects on economics and wages (TWW, TPP, 9/21/13); and finally, the Investor-State System (TWW, Investor-State System, 6/1/13). There’s probably something I’ve missed but - well, you get the idea. What I’ve been looking for is anything in this document that tells us something we don’t already know. I haven’t had time to read the thing so I’ve been scouring the InterTubes for experts who have read it to see what’s new. Here’s what I’ve found so far. I expect there will be more revelations next week as more people have time to read and digest this thing.
David Nakamura at the Washington Post wrote: “But a wide range of critics - from Ford Motor Co. to environmental groups - said Thursday that seeing the entire text of the deal for the first time only confirmed many of their worst suspicions.” Public Citizen said, “It’s worse than we thought, with limits on food safety and controversial investor-state system expanded, rollback of Bush-era medicine access, and environmental terms.” EcoWatch wrote: “The language included in the TPP is more aggressive than previous trade deals and provides broad new powers for other countries and foreign corporations to challenge U.S. food safety and food labeling measures.” And the Washington Post brought to light a new issues - post offices. In many countries post offices also perform banking and insurance functions. But the TPP “seeks to curtail what global insurance companies describe as the unfair advantages granted to post offices by governments worldwide.”
Ireland: The Minister in charge of National Drugs Strategy announced that starting next year drug users “will be able to use supervised injecting rooms in Dublin,” followed shortly by Cork, Galway, and Limerick. (Irish Times)
Mexico: The Supreme Court granted a group of activists the right to legally grow and smoke marijuana. “The ruling deemed unconstitutional aspects of the national health law that prohibits marijuana use.” The decision applies only to the plaintiffs in the case, but it could “accelerate efforts to pass legislation permitting recreational or medicinal use of marijuana.” (Washington Post)
Conservatives were big winners - typical for an off-year election where Democrats rarely show up.
Arizona: No exciting results but I thought it was interesting that last week John Brakey, “a longtime Election Integrity advocate from Pima County (Tucson), AZ,” caught an election official - on video - “breaking the security seal on the county’s new, central vote tabulator after party observers had left county election headquarters following pre-election ‘Logic & Accuracy’ testing of the system.” (Bradblog)
Colorado: Voters gave lawmakers permission to spend the $66.1 million in excess tax revenue from marijuana sales on public education and drug prevention programs for youths. (Denver Post)
Houston, TX: Voters rejected an anti-discrimination ordinance that would have improved legal rights for 15 classes, “among them race, color, disability, religion, age, military status, marital status, and sexual orientation.” (Guardian)
Kentucky: Millionaire Matt Bevin, a Republican, took the governorship, “installing an outsider businessman who has drawn comparisons to Donald Trump as the state’s next chief executive.” (Washington Post) By the way, Brad Friedman has a lot to say about the election results. (Bradblog)
Maine: Voters approved a measure to update the state’s system of publicly funding campaigns. (Huffington Post)
Michigan: 2 former Tea Party lawmakers who lost their seats 2 months ago after their extra-marital affair came to light lost their comeback bids to the state legislature. (Detroit Free Press)
Mississippi: Attorney General Jim Hood, the lone Democrat to hold a statewide office in Mississippi, won a fourth term. (Clarion-Ledger) And voters rejected a measure to change the state constitution to ensure that schools would be fully funded after 18 years of underfunding. (Clarion-Ledger) Republican Governor Phil Bryant won a second term. (Clarion-Ledger)
Ohio: Voters rejected legalizing marijuana. “Recent surveys showed support in Ohio for marijuana legalization, but voters balked at the specifics of the ballot initiative, which would have created an oligopoly on marijuana production for a small handful of the initiative’s wealthy donors.” (Washington Post) Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman at the Columbus Free Press think someone tampered with the election returns. (AlterNet)
Oregon: In Coos County, where an Oregon university was rocked a few weeks ago with a mass shooting, passed by more than 60% the “2nd Amendment Preservation Ordinance,” which prohibits local enforcement of Oregon’s new background check law, which requires universal background checks for all gun purchases in the state, including private sales. (Oregonian)
Pennsylvania: Democrats took the 3 seats up for election on the state’s Supreme Court. (Philly.com)
Portland, ME: Voters defeated a ballot measure that would have raised the local minimum wage to $15 an hour by July 2019 “for most businesses, and sooner for those with more than 500 employees.” (Washington Post)
San Francisco, CA: The “controversial proposals to restrict short-term home and apartment rentals” was defeated, “handing a victory to companies such as Airbnb.” (Guardian)
Seattle, WA: Voters approved a campaign finance proposal which “provides every registered voter with “Democracy Vouchers,” which they turn into campaign cash for the candidates of their choice.” The measure is “intended to make politicians rely more on their middle-class and lower-income constituents for political fundraising.” (Al Jazeera)
Virginia: Republicans kept their hold on the legislature by keeping the state Senate in their control. (Pilot Online)
NDAA: A couple weeks ago President Obama vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). He cited as reasons for the veto the increased spending for the Pentagon and the language, that has been included for the past 7 years, that would prevent the spending of any federal monies to transfer Gitmo detainees to the U.S., and, thus, close the prison on Cuba. (TWW, Defense Authorization Act, 10/24/15) This week House Republicans started on another NDAA bill. One change in the bill is that it would give the Pentagon $5 billion less than the previous bill, “and would align Congressional planning with levels agreed upon in a separate budget deal signed into law by Obama on Monday.” However, they left in the language regarding Gitmo detainees. (District Sentinel) Will Obama veto this?
Afghanistan: John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, found that the Pentagon spent $43 million building a compressed natural gas station in Afghanistan. A similar station in Pakistan was built for $500,000 (about $360,000 at the current exchange rate). About $30 million of that was for overhead. “Meaning the Afghanistan station cost 140 times as much.” Sopko said: “One of the most troubling aspects of this project is that the Department of Defense claims that it is unable to provide an explanation for the high cost of the project or to answer any other questions concerning its planning, implementation, or outcome.” (Washington Post)
The Counted: Up to 970 from last week's 950. (Guardian) That's 20 people killed by law enforcement this last week.
Police Misconduct: “In a year-long investigation of sexual misconduct by U.S. law enforcement, the Associated Press uncovered about 1,000 officers who lost their badges in a 6-year period for rape, sodomy, and other sexual assault; sex crimes that included possession of child pornography; or sexual misconduct such as propositioning citizens or having consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse. . . The number is unquestionably an undercount because it represents only those officers whose licenses to work in law enforcement were revoked, and not all states take such action.” California and New York, the 2 states with the largest law enforcement agencies, refused to turn over their records. And some states reported there were no officers removed for sexual misdeeds “even though cases were identified via news stories or court records.” (Chicago Tribune) Cops are out of control. They have far too much power and no or little oversight.
Ban the Box: President Obama has directed federal agencies to “ban the box” in their hiring decisions, “prohibiting them from asking prospective government employees about their criminal histories on job applications.” (USA Today) This is done as an attempt to give ex-felons a chance to start over.
Keystone XL: TransCanada sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to “pause” the State Department’s review of the Presidential Permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline. “This will allow a decision on the permit to be made later based on certainty with respect to the route of the pipeline.” But the White House said that Obama “had no intention of bowing” to this request, saying TransCanada’s request is only a bid to “delay a decision on the project” until there’s a new president. (NY Times) Obama immediately jumped on this and, on Friday, he announced that he was rejecting the pipeline. He said, “it does not serve the national interests.” (Guardian)
Global Climate Change: In anticipation of the United Nations summit on climate change in Paris this month, Pew conducted research in 40 countries asking respondents how concerned they are about climate change and how much they wanted “their governments to be more proactive about mitigating its effects.” The results are quite interesting. “Majorities in all 40 nations polled say it is a serious problem, and a global median of 54% consider it a very serious problem. . . Moreover, a median of 78% support the idea of their country limiting greenhouse gas emissions as part of an international agreement in Paris.” But the results aren’t the same everywhere. Countries with high per-capital levels of carbon emission, like the U.S., are “less intensely concerned about climate change.” But countries like those in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, “where the real effects of climate change are more keenly felt,” are much more concerned. Check out the map at the Washington Post.
Clean Water Rule: The Senate failed to pass the bill that would have required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rewrite the Clean Water Rule, so it passed a Resolution. The Resolution was put forward by Senator Joni Ernst (R, IA) and passed 55 to 43 with all Republicans voting “yeah” except Susan Collins (ME), and with help from Democrats Joe Donnelly (IN), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Joe Manchin (WV). The Resolution will kill the Clean Water Rule entirely. (Think Progress) It won’t have any problem getting through the House but it’s unlikely the president will sign it.
Amendsen Sea: As I reported to you last year (TWW, Climate Change, 5/17/14), the 6 glaciers on the ice sheet draining directly into the Amendsen Sea “are rapidly melting, as warming ocean water eats away and the base of the ice shelf.” But the Washington Post just reported that, “The urgency may now increase further in light of just published research suggesting that destabilization of the Amundsen Sea’s glaciers would indeed undermine the entirety of West Antarctica, as has long been feared.”
Sunscreen: A study, published in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, was conducted in the Virgin Islands and Hawaii, areas that attract tourists to swim in areas to view the coral reefs. The study found that the chemical oxybenzone, found in almost every sunscreen product, affects coral reefs in 3 different ways: it alters the reefs DNA; it makes coral susceptible to potentially fatal bleaching; and it acts as an endocrine disruptor, which causes baby coral to encase itself in its own skeleton and leads to its death. (Reuters)
Airline Fuel Efficiency: A recent study by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found a wide range in the fuel efficiency of U.S. airlines. The least efficient is American, which uses 25% more fuel per passenger than Alaskan Airlines, the most efficient. Alaska, Spirit, Frontier, and Southwest, all so-called budget airlines - were the most fuel efficient airlines for domestic flights.
Plastic: EcoWatch reported that a mature sperm whale was found dead it Taiwan. “Local marine biologists said plastic bags and fishing nets” filled its stomach.
Algae Blooms: Right whales are dying off the coast of Argentina “in increasingly high numbers for the past decade.” Before 2005 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported about 6 deaths per year. Now they’re reporting about 65. Researchers believe the deaths are due to toxic algae blooms - which are increasing worldwide due to climate change. (EcoWatch)
Jobs: Hiring “surged” in October with 271,000 jobs added, bringing the unemployment rate to just under 5%. (Washington Post)