Originally Published: 9/16/2017
Influence Map: The Corporate Carbon Policy Footprint is a new analysis from a UK nonprofit organization. InfluenceMap, which doesn’t use a company’s greenhouse gas emissions in its scoring system. Instead it measures “the extent to which a corporation is supporting or obstructing the climate policy process.” [Emphasis added.] For this report they analyzed more than 30,000 “pieces of evidence” on 250 global companies and 50 major trade associations on their lobbying records, advertising, public relations, and sponsored research. (Bloomberg) It gave Koch Industries an “F” for having the strongest opposition to the Paris climate agreement and for the company that most intensely lobbies against policies in line with the global accord. On the other side, it ranked Apple highest on the list and gave it an “A+” for its support of climate change action and its positive engagement with a number of climate change policy areas. The data illustrate that climate policy is being driven by a small number of massive global corporations. Check out the full list here.
Influence Map Key Findings: 35 of the 50 most influential companies are actively lobbying against climate policy. These are, of course, energy companies, energy intensive companies, and electric utilities with large amounts of coal generating capacity. Those 35 companies also include influential companies that are not supporting strong climate policy, like Fiat Chrysler, Ford, BMW, and Daimler. However, 15 of the 50 most influential companies are pushing for an ambitious climate policy agenda, favoring renewable power and electric vehicles.
Magnitsky Act: On Friday, September 8th, Trump released his latest Executive Order. According to The Balance, “The oldest trick in the book is to release a bad story after 5 p.m. on a Friday, knowing that almost every reporter and editor has gone home.” That particular Friday, however, every reporter and network still working was busy covering Hurricane Irma as it barreled toward Florida. So it was a really great time to release this Order. In fact, to date I’ve found no one reporting on this so I guess Trump’s goal to keep it under the radar was effective. This EO relates to the Magnitsky Act (TWW, Magnitsky Act, 7/15/17) which requires a list of Russians who cannot do business in the U.S. The Treasury Department maintains this list, many of whom are close friends of Vladimir Putin. Trump’s EO delegates to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “the authority to administer financial sanctions under . . . the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act . . .” [Emphasis added.] It also directs Tillerson to “coordinate” with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, to whom he delegates “the authority to administer visa sanctions.” [Emphasis added.] What does this mean? Does it undermine the effects of the Magnitsky Act? I don’t know. Could it be a backdoor way to repeal the Act?
Kaspersky Software: Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke ordered all federal agencies to remove the Russian security software within 3 months. “Duke ordered the scrub on the grounds that the company has connections to the Russian government and its software poses a security risk.” (Washington Post)
Tax Returns: The House Tax Committee, in a 21 to 14 vote, rejected another Democratic resolution directing the Treasury Department to provide Congress with Trump’s tax returns “and other financial information.” (Independent)
Cheryl Stanton: Trump has appointed her to chair the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division - the folks in charge of making sure working people aren’t cheated on their paychecks. (Reuters) She has spent her career defending major corporations accused of cheating their employees and was recently sued for not paying cleaning staff in her own home. (Reveal)
David Zatezalo: Trump has nominated him as chair of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Zatezalo is a former coal mining executive whose company was previously identified as having numerous health and safety violations. (The Hill)
The Constitution: The University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center just conducted a survey on the public’s knowledge of the Constitution. Here are some of the shocking results: More than 1 in 3 people couldn’t name a single right protected by the First Amendment but about 48% remember there is something in there about freedom of speech. Only 15% remembered there was the right to freedom of religion. Only 1 in 4 could name all 3 branches of government. 1 in 3 couldn’t name any branch of the government. And my personal favorite: “More than half of Americans (53%) incorrectly think it is accurate to say that immigrants who are here illegally do not have any rights under the U.S. Constitution.”
Barbuda: Before Hurricane Irma, the island was almost 400 miles across. After Irma, it is barely 60 square miles. All 1,800 residents have been evacuated to Antigua and are now homeless. “For the first time in 300 years there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda - a civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished.” (Washington Post)
Germany: It has an election coming up and right-wing activists are “taking aim.” According to Der Spiegel, “An international alliance of extremist online activists is busy inciting on the Internet. They’re spreading hate, fake news, and Kremlin propaganda in an effort to help the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany.” Sound familiar?
North Korea: A draft of a United Nations resolution proposed by Trump would have imposed a partial naval blockade and an oil embargo on North Korea. It would have also blocked “textile exports and the hiring of North Korean labor by foreign countries” and would freeze the assets of Kim Jong-un. According to the Guardian: “The most striking language in the resolution authorizes naval vessels of any UN member state to inspect North Korean ships suspected of carrying banned cargo and to use ‘all necessary measures to carry out such inspections.’ The implications of such a resolution would be far-reaching. Any attempt to board or divert a North Korean vessel could trigger an exchange of fire.” Immediate opposition pushed the U.S. to “water down” its resolution. It dropped the freeze on Kim Jong-un’s assets and the oil embargo and replaced them with a proposal “to gradually reduce oil exports.” They also “softened” restrictions on North Koreans working overseas and the inspection of ships suspected of carrying banned cargo. (Guardian) The Security Council passed the resolution. (Guardian) Didn’t seem to deter Kim Jong-un one bit. On Thursday he launched another missile - over Japan again. (NY Times)
Saudi Arabia: Crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman (TWW, Saudi Arabia, 4/30/16) is cracking down on “perceived opponents” of his policies. Over the last week, 16 people were detained including “prominent Islamic clerics, academics, a poet, an economist, a journalist, the head of a youth organization, at least 2 women, and 1 prince, a son of a former king.” They are being held incommunicado, “and it is not clear if they have been formally charged with crimes.” (NY Times)
Washington: Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (D) resigned after the 5th allegation of sexual abuse. (Guardian)
Texas: The U.S. Supreme Court blocked 2 rulings by a U.S. District Court (TWW, Texas, 8/26/17) that would have required Texas to redraw its state and federal congressional districts. It was a 5 to 4 vote ensuring that gerrymandering will remain through 2018. (Bloomberg)
Travel Ban: The Justice Department appealed last week’s decision on the travel ban (TWW, Travel Ban, 9/9/17) to the Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who handles cases on an emergency basis from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, stopped the ruling that allowed refugees “with a formal assurance to enter the country.” That decision is stayed until he gets a response to the Justice Department application. (Washington Post)
National Flood Insurance: It’s official. Just like I said (TWW, Spending Bill, 9/9/17), the insurance will clean up after the hurricanes. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) runs on 5-year authorizations from Congress and the current one expires September 30th - the end of the federal fiscal year (FFY). The program was set up in 1968 after Hurricane Betsy since most private insurance companies had abandoned flood insurance because the risk pool was so small that premiums were prohibitively expensive. So the NFIP was intended to provide affordable flood insurance, so that we taxpayers subsidize premiums. (We can subsidize premiums for flood insurance but not for health insurance?) The program has been unsuccessful, running large deficits “because few of those who need it buy it” and “those who do pay steeply subsidized premiums.” What’s worse, it creates incentives for people to invest in property in flood-prone areas. “A huge fraction of the program’s payouts have gone to the same properties over and over again.” NFIP calls these “Repetitive” and “Severe Repetitive Loss Properties.” That’s because NFIP subsidizes rebuilding but not relocation. If you want to know, here’s a great piece at the Washington Post.
DACA: Wednesday night Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D, NY) and House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA) announced they had made a deal with Trump to place the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or Dreamers, protections into law. The deal, they said, included a package for border security which does not include a wall. (NY Times) Shortly thereafter, Trump supporters “erupted in anger” (Washington Post), so on Thursday morning, Trump contradicted the Dems, saying no deal had been struck. (Reuters) What happened? No one really knows. Yet it appears that Republican congressional leaders are “begrudgingly” going along with it. (Vox)
Medicare for All: Senator Bernie Sanders (I, VT) unveiled his Medicare for All bill. While it’s unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Congress, support is (finally) growing among Democrats. 15 senators have signed on to the bill. And a similar bill has been introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D, MI) in the House every year since 2003. Still, big-name Dems are fighting it - like Rep. Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Senator Chuck Schumer (NY). (Guardian) Why do people oppose the government being the insurer? The current U.S. population is about 325 million. About 155 million (48%) have employer-based coverage. Of the remaining 170 million (52%), 27 million are uninsured and 12 million get coverage on Exchanges through the Affordable Care Act. The remaining 131 million get insurance through government programs - Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or the military. (Wikipedia) That’s 40% of the United States population getting health insurance from the government right now.
Hurricane Harvey: Floodwaters in 2 Houston neighborhoods have been contaminated with bacteria and toxins. “It is not clear how far the toxic waters have spread.” It’s believed the contamination came from breaches at “numerous” waste treatment plants. (NY Times)
Parasites: A new study in the journal Science Advances warns that about a third of all parasite species could be extinct by 2070 due to climate change. The loss of species like lice, fleas, and worms could have profound ripple effects on the environment and might pave the way for new parasites to colonize humans and other animals, which have no defense, with disastrous health outcomes.
Arctic Drilling: Trump is “quietly” moving to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) “for the first time in more than 30 years.” The Washington Post obtained a draft rule “that would lay the groundwork for drilling.” Since Congress is the sole authority to allow drilling, seismic studies “represent a necessary first step, and Interior Department officials are modifying a 1980s regulation to permit them.”
Chocolate: The chocolate industry is destroying West Africa’s rainforest. “As global demand for chocolate booms, ‘dirty’ beans from deforested national parks have entered big business supply chains.” Cocoa traders who sell to Mars, Nestlé, Mondelez, and other big brands “buy beans grown illegally inside protected areas in the Ivory Coast, where rainforest cover has been reduced by more than 80% since 1960.” (Guardian)
Equifax: After the massive data breach (TWW, Equifax, 9/9/17), the Chief Information Officer, David Webb, and Chief Security Officer, Susan Mauldin, are “retiring,” effective immediately. (Washington Post) Of course, they’ve already cashed in their stocks so they’re retiring with a nice little nest egg. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D, MA) has introduced a bill “to allow consumers to freeze their credit for free. A credit freeze prevents thieves from applying for a loan using another person’s information.” (Reuters)
PATH: The Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015 is having an unusual effect. If you’ve done any work for anyone lately - where you would be getting a 1099 at the end of the year for filing your taxes - you’re being asked for a W-2 before they’ll pay you. Here’s what’s going on. The PATH Act, attempting to go after people filing for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), requires the IRS to match W-2s to 1099s and the filer’s reported income. So the IRS is demanding W-2s from “employers” to match to 1099s from filers to make sure they’re paying their just taxes. Just so you know.