News Releases

Why is Russia Expanding Its Nuclear Arsenal?

The Washington Post reports: “Russia announced Tuesday that it will expand its nuclear arsenal, sparking concerns about a renewed arms race as old Cold War rivals Moscow and Washington plan to increase their military capacity amid rising tensions over Ukraine.”

An activist and an analyst — both in New York City — are available to comment:

Sr. MEGAN RICE, mrice12 at gmail.com
Rice, a nun and one of the Transform Now Plowshares, a group of three activists who were convicted of allegedly intending to harm national security by entering into a Y-12 National Security Complex, a nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tenn. The activists spent two years in prison before their sentences were finally overturned last month. Their actions — which including pouring blood and painting “The Fruit of Justice is Peace” — sparked Congressional hearings on the vulnerability of major nuclear facilities.

She said today: “The Russians are rather responding to U.S. government activity, aren’t they? The U.S. government put its military at Russia’s door step. The facility we entered into at Oak Ridge is illegal — it’s producing weapons of mass destruction. The government calls it ‘modernizing’ — but they’re making some 80 bombs a year. It’s unconscionable that we know the effects of nuclear weapons and continue to build them, threatening all of life. And of course, some are profiteering on these weapons while poor people sleep on the street tonight. It’s everyone’s responsibility to expose and oppose crimes, even crimes of the government.”

See the Washington Post coverage of their trial, including a video interview of Sister Rice. Also: “The Prophets of Oak Ridge” and “3 Peace Activists Sentenced for Breaking into Nuclear Site.”

ALICE SLATER, aslater at rcn.com
Slater is with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and the Abolition 2000 coordinating committee. She said today: “What’s going on here is we’ve pursued an aggressive posture, expanding NATO right up to Russia’s border, moving troops into eastern Europe, walking out of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and planting missiles in Turkey, Poland and Romania. Now quite predictably, Russia is pushing back. Some people don’t see it because Russia has been demonized in much of the media.

“The Obama administration has announced that the U.S. government will be spending $1 trillion dollars over the next 30 years for two new bomb factories, planes, missiles and submarines to deliver new nuclear weapons. That’s totally inconsistent with its pledge under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty to move toward disarmament.

“The talks for the NPT — which take place every five years — concluded last month in failure because the nuclear powers have continued their stalling tactics. The South African representative very eloquently spoke of ‘nuclear apartheid’ — where the nuclear states, claiming the need to protect their security, hold the rest of the planet hostage to their lethal arsenals. The good news is that 107 non-nuclear weapons states at the NPT signed a Humanitarian Pledge to negotiate a treaty to ban the bomb, without the participation of the nuclear weapons states who continue to illegally flaunt their NPT promises to make ‘good faith’ efforts for nuclear disarmament.”

See IPA release: “As Anti Nuclear Weapons Activists Released, 91 Nations Pressing Abolition.”

Background: The U.S. obligation to disarm under the NPT has been acknowledged by former Secretary of Defense McNamara (the U.S. signed the treaty during the Johnson administration, in which McNamara served). In 2005, he told the Institute for Public Accuracy: “The NPT was signed by a president. It was submitted to the Senate; it was ratified by the Senate. It is today the law of the land. The U.S. government is not adhering to Article VI of the NPT and we show no signs of planning to adhere to its requirements to move forward with the elimination — not reduction, but elimination — of nuclear weapons. That was the agreement, these other countries would not develop nuclear weapons and the nuclear powers would move to elimination. We are violating that.” In 2009, McNamara wrote the piece “Apocalypse Soon.”

Lack of “Congressional Will to Walk the Plank for Corporate Trade Agenda”?

The New York Times reports: “Congressional Republican leaders and White House officials on Monday explored ways to resurrect trade legislation that stalled last week when House Democrats objected and dealt President Obama an embarrassing defeat at the hands of his own party. In meetings at the Capitol and in telephone conversations with Mr. Obama and administration officials, lawmakers ticked through a list of complicated procedural options that could circumvent House Democratic opposition to granting the president the power to expedite trade deals.”

PATRICK WOODALL, pwoodall at fwwatch.org @foodandwater
Woodall is research director and senior policy advocate for Food & Water Watch. See their resources on fast track, including a video on how the Trans Pacific Partnership hurts American families: foodandwaterwatch.org/global/global-trade/fast-track-and-tpp.

Woodall said today: “The corporate trade agenda is stalled in Congress. After a stinging defeat last week on one provision of the fast track trade package on worker retraining, the House considered re-voting on that measure as early as today. Both the worker retraining and fast track trade procedure had to pass identically to the Senate measure for the package to go to the president’s desk to become law. But last night the Republican leadership realized they could not win a re-vote on the worker protection provisions and decided to extend the time they could reconsider this measure until the end of July. By extending the re-vote period by six weeks, the GOP leadership and the White House gave themselves time to work their parliamentary witchcraft, arm-twisting and gift-giving to cajole Congress into caving into the corporate trade agenda. But the delay shows that there is not Congressional will to walk the plank for a corporate trade agenda that is reviled by the voters. Congress is listening to the public and recognizes the TPP and other trade deals pose genuine risks to consumers, workers and the environment.”

See: “New Public Citizen Report Documents Systematic Bipartisan Betrayals on ‘Deals’ Made by Presidents, Congressional Leaders in Exchange for Trade Votes.

Boehner and Obama: Ramming Through “Rigged Trade”?

Reuters reports: “A raging battle over President Barack Obama’s request for ‘fast-track’ authority central to improving U.S. ties with Asia resumes in the House of Representatives this week when lawmakers are expected to try to reverse Friday’s defeat of linchpin trade legislation. … The legislation is stuck in the House because of the defeat Obama and House Speaker John Boehner suffered on the first vote. … A House Republican aide told reporters Republican leaders hope to stage a vote again on Tuesday to pass the worker aid portion of the bill. That would allow the entire bill to be signed into law by Obama, but its chances were unclear.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @MFlowers8
KEVIN ZEESE, kbzeese at gmail.com, @kbzeese
Zeese and Flowers are with Popular Resistance, which is part of the Stop Fast Track coalition. They have organized the “Rebellion Against Rigged Trade”; between the Capitol Building and the House Office Buildings, activists are holding a “24 hour presence to protest trade agreements rigged for the biggest transnational corporations in the world.”

“Elected officials are receiving tens of thousands of calls from constituents opposing fast track trade authority and we want them to see that people opposed to this undemocratic approach to passing laws are so dedicated they will stay outside 24 hours a day. Elected officials need to know the anger of their constituents is deep and that if Members vote for fast track, there will be serious political repercussions. We remember the impact that NAFTA had on elections. The people will not let Congress destroy their rights to protect the health and safety of their communities,” said Flowers.

“The grassroots from across the political spectrum is mobilized against fast track for rigged trade. One reason the Republican leadership is rushing to a vote, even though they do not know if they have a majority, is because they fear elected officials being home another weekend hearing directly from constituents and they do not want another week of tens of thousands of phone calls coming in to D.C.,” said Zeese.

ALAN TONELSON, ATonelson at aol.com, @alantonelson
Tonelson is author of The Race to the Bottom: Why A Global Worker Surplus and Uncontrolled Free Trade are Sinking American Living Standards. His recent pieces include “Trade deals have been both growth and recovery killers.” He regularly writes on trade and other issues on his RealityChek blog. His most recent piece there is “Thoughts on the Fast Track Trade Vote — Including Where Hillary Now Stands.”

MICHAEL BRUNE, via Dan Byrnes, daniel.byrnes at sierraclub.org, @sierraclub
Brune is executive director of the Sierra Club. See the group’s webpage on Fast Track: sierraclub.org/trade/fast-track.

PATRICK WOODALL, pwoodall at fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Woodall is research director and senior policy advocate for Food & Water Watch. See their resources on Fast Track, including a video on how the Trans Pacific Partnership hurts American families: foodandwaterwatch.org/global/global-trade/fast-track-and-tpp.

800th Anniversary of Magna Carta: What it Means Now

The 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta is on Monday, June 15. The Telegraph, gives a history in “What is the Magna Carta, and why is it important?” Its literal meaning is ”Great Charter” and it was agreed to by King John to appease his rebellious barons in 1215. The Magna Carta states: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned … except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land. To no-one will we sell, to no-one deny or delay right or justice.” [Note: IPA has a new calendar that might be a useful tool for journalists: accuracy.org/calendar.]

MICHAEL RATNER, mratner at ccrjustice.org, @justleft
Available for a limited number of interviews, Ratner is president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, author of the book The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld, and co-counsel in European cases to hold former president George W. Bush and other officials accountable. See “The Ratner Report” on The Real News.

He said today: “Those tortured and who remain imprisoned at Guantanamo, the over 2 million imprisoned by the U.S., those murdered by drones, by police, and killed in unlawful wars, and countless others oppressed by the U.S. ask, as Frederick Douglass did about the meaning of July 4 during slavery, ‘What to us is this Magna Carta?’ What have become cornerstone freedoms derived from the Charter: due process, habeas corpus, no imprisonment without a fair trial, the prohibition on torture and no delay in the right of justice are given at best lip service while justice is denied.

“In Rasul v. Bush, the first of the Guantanamo cases CCR took to the Supreme Court in 2004, the court used strong language against executive detention and upheld the right of habeas corpus to test a prisoner’s detention. Yet today, over 100 remain there and the courts do nothing. So yes, celebrate the Magna Carta, but fight to make its liberties have meaning.

“One aspect always forgot in the U.S. is that while the Magna Carta concerned primarily political and judicial rights, the Charter of the Forest, proclaimed at roughly the same time, guaranteed economic rights — the right of people to the commons — the right to the forest, honey etc: the right to economic survival. We are at the beginning of a struggle about those rights now. Let us not forget those rights as most celebrate judicial rights — that badly need reinvigoration.

“Finally, the American Bar Association  put up a plinth at Runnymede with the words, ‘freedom under law.’ That is not what the Magna Carta is about. It was about putting authority under law and as we have less and less democracy we need to go back to that principle.” See Noam Chomsky’s piece “Magna Carta Messed Up the World, Here’s How to Fix It,”

ROBIN KOERNER, robink at bluerepublican.org, @rkoerner
Koerner is a British American political commentator. He recently wrote the piece “800 years on, the Magna Carta for our time” and set up the website MagnaCarta.US as a celebration and a reassertion of the values of the Magna Carta.He said today: “The Magna Carta is widely regarded as the document that marked the beginning of the Anglo tradition of constitutional liberty that would eventually lead to the writing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

“The Constitution’s Fifth Amendment guarantees that ‘no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,’ a phrase that was derived from Magna Carta. The Constitution includes a similar writ in the Suspension Clause, Article 1, Section 9: ‘The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.’ Each of these proclaim that no person may be imprisoned or detained without evidence that he or she committed a crime. The Ninth Amendment states that ‘The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.'” Koerner is publisher of WatchingAmerica.com and started Blue Republican.

Vote Buying for Corporate Trade Deals

The New York Times writes this morning: “President Obama’s ambitious push to expand his trade negotiating powers faces a final congressional showdown on Friday, but lawmakers in his own party — pressed hard by organized labor, environmental groups and liberal activists — are threatening to bring down the entire package of trade bills.”

SARAH ANDERSON, sarah at ips-dc.org; also via Elaine de Leon, elaine at ips-dc.org
Anderson is the director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. She just wrote the piece “Supporting NAFTA Was the Kiss of Death for Democrats –Why Dems Should Think Twice About Voting for TPP,” which states: “It’s serious flashback time for those involved in the 1993 debate over the North America Free Trade Agreement. With the ‘fast track’ trade vote … a Democratic president is once again twisting arms and dangling rewards in a desperate effort to muster votes for a corporate-driven trade deal. … The word is only about a dozen members remain on the fence, most of them Democrats. The president is reportedly putting the tightest screws on members of the Congressional Black Caucus. After the NAFTA wheeling and dealing began in earnest back in 1993, it didn’t take long to push enough Dems off the fence. All these years later, NAFTA remains the basic blueprint for every U.S. trade deal.

“Let me skip over NAFTA’s failure to deliver on promises for workers, the environment, human rights, etc. These have all been extensively documented over the years by the Institute for Policy Studies, and many others across the continent. President Obama acknowledged its flaws himself when he made a campaign trail promise to renegotiate the deal. Instead, let’s take a look at what individual members got by helping to ram the pact through Congress. Did their support for the big business lobby’s dream deal ensure a glittering political career? …

“One of these unfulfilled promises targeted textile and apparel state members. In the days before the NAFTA vote, President Bill Clinton sent them letters aimed at calming concerns about a pending global trade rule to phase out import protections on these products within 10 years. The administration would secure an extension to 15 years, Clinton promised. A month after the NAFTA vote, U.S. negotiators accepted the 10-year timeline.

“Rep. Clete Donald Johnson, Jr. was one of the targets of that empty promise. After voting for NAFTA, the Georgia Democrat got demolished in 1994, losing by a margin of more than 30 percent. A few years later, Clinton offered Johnson a consolation prize: a post as chief U.S. trade negotiator for textiles, a sector in rapid decline due to low-wage foreign competition.”

See: “New Public Citizen Report Documents Systematic Bipartisan Betrayals on ‘Deals’ Made by Presidents, Congressional Leaders in Exchange for Trade Votes.”

See: “NAFTA: 20 Years of Costs to Communities and the Environment.”

Also see from Institute for Policy Studies Fellow Manuel Pérez-Rocha: “TTIP — Why the World Should Beware,” which states: “The trade and investment partnership TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), which is currently being negotiated between the EU and the U.S., will affect the whole world. But the other world regions, like the BRICS or the Global South are being excluded from the trade negotiations and hardly get attention in the debates around TTIP. This trend is shifting today: because TTIP as an ‘economic NATO’ is putting the rise of the BRICS, especially China and Russia, into relation with a looming ‘descent of Europe.’ According to the negotiating partners the economic rise of the BRICS has to be prevented. But at what price? TTIP is threat not only for the EU and the U.S., but for the whole world. Ultimately TTIP would serve as an instrument to the economic and political elites of the West to maintain their hegemonic power and dominance. The price is to be paid by the people in the Global North as well as in the Global South.”

Impending Fast Track Vote: Impacts on Recovery, Food Safety, Medicare…

The Hill reports: “GOP, Obama on cusp of fast-track trade victory.” “House Republicans have set the stage for a high-stakes vote Friday to grant President Obama fast-track trade authority.”

PATRICK WOODALL,pwoodall at fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Research director and senior policy advocate for Food & Water Watch, Woodall said today: “With Fast Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership now on its way to the House floor, it’s time for our Representatives to stand up to the so-called free trade attacks on common sense protections for public health, the environment and consumers. Fast Track will unleash havoc on American workers, offshore millions more jobs, and exacerbate the economic inequality that widens the gulf between economic ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’

“Fast Track would even make it harder for American consumers to know the ingredients and origins of their food because even a label can be considered a trade barrier. Free trade deals like the TPP have been used to attack straightforward food labeling like the country of origin labeling (COOL) laws for beef, pork and chicken. The Fast Track legislation specifically identifies labeling genetically modified foods (GMO labels) as illegitimate trade barriers.  All this and more is tucked into the secret fine print of the TPP. The Congress must reject a Fast Track for the secret TPP that will harm workers, the environment and consumers.”

ALAN TONELSON, ATonelson at aol.com, @alantonelson
Tonelson is author of The Race to the Bottom: Why A Global Worker Surplus and Uncontrolled Free Trade are Sinking American Living Standards. His recent pieces include “Trade deals have been both growth and recovery killers.” He regularly writes on trade and other issues on his RealityChek blog.

SEAN FLYNN, sflynn at wcl.american.edu, @sean_fiil_flynn
Flynn is associate director of the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property at the Washington College of Law at American University. He contributes to infojustice.org and just wrote the piece “TPP Leak Clarifies Application to Medicare Drug Prices,” which states: “Two previous agreements — with Korea and with Australia — contained restrictions on drug pricing programs, but were often thought not to apply to any U.S. program. The texts of those agreements left any U.S. application ambiguous. But new language in the TPP leak makes clear the application of disciplines to ‘The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), with respect to CMS’s role in making Medicare national coverage determinations.'”

MICHAEL BRUNE, via Dan Byrnes, daniel.byrnes at sierraclub.org, @sierraclub
Sierra Club executive director Brune said: “This fast-track bill is toxic for Congress and for our air, water, and climate. We’ve seen this all before. This bill replicates an old, failed model of trade authority that rushes deals through Congress and strips out the vital protections and oversight that ensure trade pacts benefit American communities, workers, and the environment. Americans who care about clean air and clean water won’t support a bill that takes away the ability of those we elected to protect our basic needs. Members of Congress need to carefully evaluate the costs and consequences of trade deals on our economy and environment — not to haphazardly push pacts over the finish line. That’s why we are calling on members of Congress to take back the reins on trade and toss aside the failed fast track model.”

Hawaii Aims for 100 Percent Energy Renewables: “Can the Nation Follow?”

This week Hawaii Governor David Ige signed a bill into law mandating that the state’s utilities turn to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045, making Hawaii the first state in the U.S. to pass such a law.

EVAN WEBER, evan at usclimateplan.org, @evanlweber
Weber is the executive director of U.S. Climate Plan. He was born and raised in Kailua, Hawaii. He is the co-author of the recent Newsweek op-ed, “Hawaii is Aiming for 100 Percent Energy Renewables. Can the Nation Follow?” “With rising seas already lapping at the foundations of the hotels along Waikiki Beach, Hawaii’s climate debate is over. The Aloha State is successfully proving that a clean and safe renewable-energy economy can save consumers money, create jobs and hedges against the worst impacts of climate change.”

The op-ed states that the rest of the country should look to surpass Hawaii’s climate goals: “If Hawaii can make renewables work on isolated island electrical grids, the rest of the nation — with the flexibility to transmit excess power between states in the event of strong winds in Iowa or excess solar generation in Arizona — can certainly accomplish even more.

“Fortunately, other states can also benefit as renewable energy is becoming cost-effective everywhere. For 93 percent of single family households in the nation’s 50 largest cities, North Carolina State University researchers found that investing in solar panels is cheaper than paying current electric bills.

“Moreover, burning fossil fuels significantly increases costs to taxpayers. According to a recent study the journal Climatic Change, U.S. fossil fuel power plants create between $330 and 970 billion worth of climate damages and negative health effects every year. That’s over $600,000 every minute.

“In Hawaii, taxpayers are already paying for those passed-on costs as state and county governments are forced to spend millions each year fighting impacts of climate change such as rising seas, diminishing rainfall, and increasingly frequent storms. Over five inches of sea level rise in recent decades has been a contributor to the erosion and total loss of Waikiki Beach, which few realize is now completely artificial. Without costly sand replenishment, losing that premier beach would result in an estimated $2 billion annual loss to our economy. …

“Urgency is critical, and Hawaii is not alone. California, in the fourth year of its record drought, is expected to lose $3 billion in crops in coming months and has imposed water restrictions on cities. NASA reports there is an 80 percent chance of a decades-long drought far more damaging than this one if we fail to take bold action to reduce fossil-fuel emissions.

“Climate inaction further threatens to cause more frequent and intense storms like Hurricane Sandy, which cost Northeastern states a whopping $65 billion as waters warm and sea levels continue to rise.”

WikiLeaks Publishes Secret TPP Docs; “Fast Track” Paving Way for “Global Corporate Governance”

Bloomberg is reporting now: “Fast-Track Trade Vote in House Set for Friday, Lawmaker Says.”

WikiLeaks just published the Healthcare Annex to the secret draft “Transparency” Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, along with each country’s negotiating position. The Healthcare Annex seeks to regulate state schemes for medicines and medical devices. States WikiLeaks: “It forces healthcare authorities to give big pharmaceutical companies more information about national decisions on public access to medicine, and grants corporations greater powers to challenge decisions they perceive as harmful to their interests.”

KEVIN ZEESE, kbzeese at gmail.com, @kbzeese
Zeese is an activist with PopularResistance.org and FlushtheTPP.org who has written and spoken extensively about so-called “trade” agreements and “Fast Track.” He is helping to lead protests outside the Capitol. Zeese notes that Fast Track authority would extend presidential powers for six years — extending to the next president — and include not just the TPP, but also the Trade in Services Agreement, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Said Zeese: “All three of these really are pushing toward a whole type of new, global corporate governance, where nation-states are weakened, where democracy is weakened, where the people’s voice is even made more quiet, and corporations gain greater and greater power.” Today’s publication from WikiLeaks is the latest of several such leaks. Zeese assessed the agreements and what the documents from WikiLeaks tell us about them in this recent segment from The Real News: “What the TiSA Leaked Documents Reveal About Negotiations.”

PETER MAYBARDUK, pmaybarduk at citizen.org, via Angela Bradbery, abradbery at citizen.org, @maybarduk
Director of Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines Program, Maybarduk said today: “This leak reveals that the Obama administration, acting at the behest of pharmaceutical companies, has subjected Medicare to a series of procedural rules, negotiated in secret, that would limit Congress’ ability to enact policy reforms that would reduce prescription drug costs for Americans — and might even open to challenge aspects of our health care system today.” The group just released “MEMO: Three Burning Questions about the Leaked TPP Transparency Annex and Its Implications for U.S. Health Care” [PDF]. Maybarduk was quoted in the New York Times piece this morning: “U.S. Shifts Stance on Drug Pricing in Pacific Trade Pact Talks, Document Reveals.”

JAMES LOVE, james.love at keionline.org, @jamie_love
Director of Knowledge Ecology International, Love just wrote the piece “TPP, designed to make medicine more expensive, reforms more difficult.” He said today: “Not only does USTR [United States Trade Representative] want to expand and extend intellectual property rights on medicines, they also want to undermine the ability of governments to negotiate reasonable reimbursements, and give drug companies the ability to sue governments who don’t pay top dollar.”

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange said in a statement today: “It is a mistake to think of the TPP as a single treaty. In reality there are three conjoined mega-agreements, the TiSA, the TPP and the TTIP, all of which strategically assemble into a grand unified treaty, partitioning the world into the west versus the rest. This ‘Great Treaty’ is described by the Pentagon as the economic core to the U.S. military’s ‘Asia Pivot.’ The architects are aiming no lower than the arc of history. The Great Treaty is taking shape in complete secrecy, because along with its undebated geostrategic ambitions it locks into place an aggressive new form of transnational corporatism for which there is little public support.”

TPP: Not “Free Trade” — But “Designed to Make Medicine Expensive”

President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner both back “Fast Track” and the TPP while many liberal Democrats and some conservative Republicans oppose them.

Politico reports: “Supporters of a controversial trade bill are increasingly confident they can secure the votes needed to pass so-called fast-track legislation when it hits the House floor, which could come as early as this week.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com, @MFlowers8
An activist with PopularResistance.org  and  FlushtheTPP.org, Flowers, who has written and spoken extensively about the Trans–Pacific Partnership and “Fast Track,” is with other activists outside the Capitol engaging members of Congress. She noted a recent New York Times poll that found that 30 percent of the public says they know “not much” about the TPP — and 48 percent say they know “nothing at all.” Flowers said: “What we see in this agreement is that it’s not really about trade; it’s about creating a backdoor for corporations to get some of the changes that they want. So deregulation of the financial industry, longer patent protections for the pharmaceutical industries, Internet privacy restrictions, these are the things that these corporations have wanted to get but they haven’t been able to so far, and this is a vehicle for doing that.”

JAMES LOVE, james.love at keionline.org, @jamie_love
Director of Knowledge Ecology International, Love just wrote the piece “TPP, designed to make medicine more expensive, reforms more difficult,” in which he writes:

“My wife is a stage 4 cancer patient. … She is alive today, and doing fairly well, because she had access to several years of treatment involving two expensive drugs. … Compared to the alternative, which is an early death, these drugs have worked pretty well. …

“But the economics of all of this is also important. The first drug [trastuzumab], approved in 1998, was costing about $1500 per week. The new drug, which is basically the old drug plus DM1, seems to be twice that, or more than $3,000 per week. Access to these expensive drugs is limited. Almost no one in the developing world has had access to trastuzumab, despite its highly regarded therapeutic benefits.

“The high prices are not an accident, the drugs are expensive by design. Governments grant monopolies to make and sell drugs, by issuing patents, but also by creating other deliberate barriers to competition, including in the United States, a 12-year monopoly on the right to rely upon evidence that a drug is safe and effective.

“In the absence of these government granted monopolies, drugs would be far less expensive. One manufacturer estimated they could manufacture trastuzumab for as little as $5 per week. …

“While patents normally create exclusive rights, governments can limit those rights, for example, to curb abuses or to achieve a public interest objective, safeguards that are as old as the patent system itself. In recent years, the White House allowed Apple to import iPhones and iPads that infringed Samsung patents…

“The TPP is the latest and most important new trade agreement that seeks to create new standards for intellectual property that are more friendly to pharmaceutical companies and publishers.”

Is the “War on ISIS” Actually Iran-Iraq War Redux?

Tariq Aziz’s death was announced on Friday. The top diplomat under Saddam Hussein, Aziz had been sentenced to death. Journalist Jeremy Scahill reports that in 2003, Aziz — who was a Christian — had told him a U.S. invasion of Iraq would open a “Pandora’s Box.” Here, Aziz is meeting with Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush during the Iran-Iraq War.

ABC News is now reporting: “President Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the G7 Summit in Germany today to discuss the fight against ISIS.”

KATE GOULD, kate at fcnl.org, @k8gould
Gould is legislative associate for Middle East policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation. She recently co-wrote the piece “Why the impending Iraqi offensive to retake Ramadi from the Islamic State group is doomed,” which states: “The Iraqi army’s impending offensive to retake Ramadi from Islamic State group control is bound to end in catastrophe. Unleashing sectarian militias and the Iraqi army on Ramadi will only continue this bloody whack-a-mole game against the Islamic State group. The only way to permanently halt the advance of the Islamic State group and other extremist groups is to deal with Iraqi grievances at the negotiating table instead of on the battlefield.”

DAHLIA WASFI, dahliaswasfi at yahoo.com, @liberatethis
Wasfi is an Iraqi-American justice activist who has written and spoken extensively on U.S. policy in the region. She recently wrote the piece “Battling ISIS: Iran-Iraq war redux” and said today: “President Obama continues to hear criticism for his failure to swiftly defeat ISIS. But while crushing ISIS may be the official stated goal, the actual agenda may be a long, drawn-out war to weaken regional powers. We have seen this policy before — with many of the same players — in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

“In February 1979, the Iranian Revolution overthrew Shah Reza Pahlavi, the ruler of Iran since 1953, when a CIA-orchestrated coup brought him to power. Once the Shah’s U.S.-friendly regime in Iran was deposed, American administrators sought a new ally in the region and began to warm relations with Iraq. As tensions escalated between Iraq’s secular government and the new theocracy in Iran, both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia assured Saddam Hussein that he had their backing in any armed conflict with Iran. In September 1980, with U.S. encouragement, Saddam Hussein launched the Iran-Iraq War.

“U.S. President Ronald Reagan officially allied with Iraq during the conflict. In secret, however, government officials sold arms to Iran. The eight-year war, sustained by the U.S. backing both sides, yielded over a million casualties. The extended conflict also left two of the strongest nations in the region bleeding and weakened, which benefited U.S. and Israeli hegemony.

“Today, comparably, the U.S. is arming both sides of the ‘war on ISIS,’ which was born out of the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq. After the fall of Baghdad, U.S. administrators imposed a repressive theocratic Shia regime on Iraq. The brutality of its rule inevitably spawned a counter movement: a sectarian Sunni opposition faction which in the last several years has morphed into ISIS. Western powers supported its creation (via funding and arms to extremist ‘rebel groups’ in Syria) to serve as a check on Shia power in the region — power that expanded as a result of U.S. policy in Iraq in the first place. …

“Just as with Iran and Iraq in the 1980s, the people in the battlefields of Syria and Iraq pay the highest price. And just as was the case in the 1980s, the devastation of these countries serves U.S. and Israeli hegemony.”

Additional background: Current Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter was assistant secretary of defense in the 1990s, when U.S. policy was “dual containment” of Iran and Iraq. See this 1996 testimony.

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