News Releases

Gates Foundation: Pushing “Values of Corporate America”

bill-gates-report-imagePOLLY JONES, via Kevin Smith, kevin.smith at globaljustice.org.uk, @GlobalJusticeUK
Jones is the head of campaigns and policy at Global Justice Now, which just released a 54-page report titled, “Gated Development – is the Gates Foundations always a force for good?” [PDF]

She said: “The Gates Foundation has rapidly become the most influential actor in the world of global health and agricultural policies, but there’s no oversight or accountability in how that influence is managed. This concentration of power and influence is even more problematic when you consider that the philanthropic vision of the Gates Foundation seems to be largely based on the values of corporate America. The foundation is relentlessly promoting big business-based initiatives such as industrial agriculture, private health care and education. But these are all potentially exacerbating the problems of poverty and lack of access to basic resources that the foundation is supposed to be alleviating.”

The group states that the foundation is “dangerously and unaccountably distorting the direction of international development,” leveling the following specific criticisms:

* “The relationship between the money that the foundation has to give away and Microsoft’s tax practices. A 2012 report from the U.S. Senate found that Microsoft’s use of offshore subsidiaries enabled it to avoid taxes of $4.5 billion — a sum greater than the BMGF’s annual grant making ($3.6 billion in 2014).

* “The close relationship that BMGF has with many corporations whose role and policies contribute to ongoing poverty. Not only is BMGF profiting from numerous investments in a series of controversial companies which contribute to economic and social injustice, it is also actively supporting a series of those companies, including Monsanto, Dupont and Bayer through a variety of pro-corporate initiatives around the world.

* “The foundation’s promotion of industrial agriculture across Africa, pushing for the adoption of GM [genetically modified], patented seed systems and chemical fertilizers, all of which undermine existing sustainable, small-scale farming that is providing the vast majority of food security across the continent.

* “The foundation’s promotion of projects around the world pushing private healthcare and education. Numerous agencies have raised concerns that such projects exacerbate inequality and undermine the universal provision of such basic human necessities.

* “BMGF’s funding of a series of vaccine programs that have reportedly lead to illnesses or even deaths with little official or media scrutiny.”

Understanding Scandinavian Socialism

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 11.02.11 AMANN JONES, annjonesonline at gmail.com
Jones went to Norway in 2011 as a Fulbright Fellow and recently returned to the U.S. Her books include, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars — the Untold Story.

She just wrote the piece “American Democracy Down for the Count: Or What Is It the Scandinavians Have That We Don’t?” for TomDispatch and The Nation. The piece states: “One night I tuned in to the Democrats’ presidential debate to see if they had any plans to restore the America I used to know. To my amazement, I heard the name of my peaceful mountain hideaway: Norway. Bernie Sanders was denouncing America’s crooked version of ‘casino capitalism’ that floats the already rich ever higher and flushes the working class. He said that we ought to ‘look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.’ He believes, he added, in ‘a society where all people do well. Not just a handful of billionaires.’ That certainly sounds like Norway. …

“In the U.S., full-time salaried workers supposedly laboring 40 hours a week actually average 49, with almost 20 percent clocking more than 60. These people, on the other hand, worked only about 37 hours a week, when they weren’t away on long paid vacations. At the end of the work day, about four in the afternoon (perhaps three in the summer), they had time to enjoy a hike in the forest or a swim with the kids or a beer with friends — which helps explain why, unlike so many Americans, they are pleased with their jobs. …

“In the U.S., oligarchs maximize their wealth and keep it, using the ‘democratically elected’ government to shape policies and laws favorable to the interests of their foxy class. They bamboozle the people by insisting, as Hillary Clinton did at that debate, that all of us have the ‘freedom’ to create a business in the ‘free’ marketplace, which implies that being hard up is our own fault.

“In the Nordic countries, on the other hand, democratically elected governments give their populations freedom from the market by using capitalism as a tool to benefit everyone. That liberates their people from the tyranny of the mighty profit motive that warps so many American lives, leaving them freer to follow their own dreams — to become poets or philosophers, bartenders or business owners, as they please. …

“In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, obliterating six decades of federal social welfare policy ‘as we know it,’ ending federal cash payments to the nation’s poor, and consigning millions of female heads of household and their children to poverty, where many still dwell 20 years later. Today, nearly half a century after Nixon trashed national child care, even privileged women, torn between their underpaid work and their kids, are overwhelmed. Things happened very differently in Norway. …”

On the Ground at Oregon Shootout

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 7.58.33 AMARUN GUPTA, arun.indypendent at gmail.com, @arunindy
Gupta is an investigative journalist who has written for dozens of publications including the Washington Post, the Guardian,The Nation, and Salon.

See his pieces covering the situation in Oregon for The Raw Story, which reports: “Arun Gupta was on his way to cover the community meeting when he was told the road was closed due to a crash — and law enforcement officers told him alternate routes might take hours to reach the meeting in Grant County. Gupta soon learned rumors of what happened — here’s his account from Harney County:”

Gupta said today: “We were minutes behind where the shooting took place at approximately 5 p.m., on Highway 395. But we didn’t know it. We were climbing the mountain and saw police lights ahead. There were at least two police cars, a car across the road, and a few cars ahead of us stopped. We thought it was an accident as an ambulance came into view. A cop told us to turn around, said it would be hours. …”

In his most recently posted piece, “The Oregon militant leaders are captured or dead — but anger toward the government lives on,” Gupta writes: “I saw LaVoy Finnicum [Tuesday] at the Malheur Refuge. He waved both times he saw me, the last as he drove in his pickup truck. I wanted to talk to him but I was rushing from one interview to the next and figured I could catch him later. He said weeks ago he would die before he was arrested. A few hours later he was shot dead.

“Ryan Payne also drove by in his pickup truck. He stopped, rolled down his window and chatted. Like the Bundys and others, Payne is adroit at talking to the media. He didn’t want to be pinned down, and threw out platitudes loved by the right, such as, ‘The government is best that governs the least.’

“Payne said he was going to the Grant County, Oregon, meeting Tuesday night to start up a new chapter of the ‘Committee of Safety.’ The first began in neighboring Harney County, Oregon, last month. The Bundys and Payne established it as the first institution in their armed revolt against the local, state and U.S. governments.

“Payne claimed all he wanted was a constitutional system of government, but when pushed he could name very few federal agencies that would remain in his vision of the United States. Most would be abolished, even the Departments of Defense and Commerce would be radically changed.”

Sanders and Socialism

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 11.43.16 AMAdam Johnson in “45 Million Americans Live in Poverty, but You Wouldn’t Know It From Watching 2016 Coverage” notes that: “Of the five Republican debates and of the three Democratic debates, not one moderator has asked a question involving the words ‘poverty’ or ‘poor.'” See: “Sanders Consoles Crying Woman Struggling To Live Off Minimum Wage.”

RICHARD WOLFF, rdwolff at att.net, @profwolff
Wolff is visiting professor at the New School University, New York and professor of economics emeritus, at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

He said today: “Bernie offers hope and change. Hope for something better than the capitalism we have and its worsening inequality, instability and endless warfare, environmental outrages, and basic injustice. Bernie’s “democratic socialism” is a change from all that to another New Deal. No real surprise that after Obama’s promise of hope and change proved an illusion, something further left would take up the cry, respond to the need. And here’s a thought: if Bernie is denied or blocked from delivering on his promises, movements further left will similarly emerge to respond to the need.

“The World Economic Forum in Davos obsessed, and rightly, over a global capitalism deeply mired in the iceberg of debt used to cope with the 2008 crash. The great fear is that the debt will cut off growth, produce deflation, and thereby increase the burden debt places on the system. Capitalism — the system — is in trouble. Of course, socialisms then arise; they always were among the alternatives to consider when people find it urgent to ‘do better than capitalism.'”

See Wolff’s “Socialism For Dummies” talk.

 

Clinton Laughs Off Calls for Wall St. Transparency; Santa Fe, Philly Consider Public Bank Solution

GettyImages-456024380-promoThe Wall Street Journal recently reported: “Both of the leading Democratic presidential candidates made the case [during the last debate] that the financial services industry wants to keep them out of the White House, fearing the tough regulatory measures they would impose if elected.” Vox reports: “According to [Bernie] Sanders, a bank that is too big to fail is too big to exist … Sanders has gone beyond offering dream legislation to suggest that if he is elected president he will achieve a bank breakup within one year, whether Congress likes it or not.” And Lee Fang of The Intercept reports January 23: “After Hillary Clinton spoke at a town hall in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Friday, I asked her if she would release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs. She laughed and turned away.” See video and RootsAction DIY alert urging release of Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs.

Meanwhile, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican‘s Bruce Krasnow on January 13: “A feasibility study released Wednesday concluded that the city of Santa Fe could save money by establishing a public bank.” The feasibility study states: “The projected fiscal and economic impact to the City exceeds $24 million in the first seven years, based upon assumptions of how much of the City’s deposits are deployed in self-funding and reduced collateral programs.”

ELLEN BROWN, ellenhbrown at gmail.com
Founder of the Public Banking Institute, Brown is the author of Web of Debt and The Public Bank Solution. She recently appeared on The Real News: “Can Clinton Be Trusted to Regulate the Industry That Made Her Wealthy?

She said today: “The hazards posed to the economy and our savings by risky Wall Street banks have become a major campaign issue in the presidential debates. Some say the problem can be solved with more regulation. But we already tried that with Dodd-Frank, currently the most complicated bill ever passed by Congress — and it hasn’t solved the problem. Dodd-Frank replaces bailouts with ‘bail-ins’ — depositors will be at least partly liable for keeping too-big-to-fail banks afloat. And the massive tangle of new regulations has hamstrung smaller community banks that loan to small businesses, creating jobs. What will replace the banks if we break them up? Publicly-owned depository banks modeled after the Bank of North Dakota can serve that purpose, and partner with community banks to direct credit where it’s needed locally, reduce the costs of government, and eliminate outlandish Wall Street fees and the need for derivatives to mitigate risk.” The Public Banking Institute notes that in addition to recent moves in New Mexico, the Philadelphia City Council passed a resolution last week authorizing hearings on public banking.

25 Years of Bombing Iraq

baghdad-bombingAP is reporting: “Satellite photos obtained by The Associated Press confirm what church leaders and Middle East preservationists had feared: The oldest Christian monastery in Iraq has been reduced to a field of rubble, yet another victim of the Islamic State group’s relentless destruction of heritage sites it considers heretical.”

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 is currently writing a book on Iraq and her pieces include: “Battling ISIS: Iran-Iraq War Redux.”

She said today: “The hawkish Center for Strategic & International Studies boasts that ‘January 17 … marks an unrecognized milestone. The United States has been bombing that country almost continuously for a quarter of a century.’ In fact, the U.S. bombings over the years were often based on false or dubious rationales, most obviously the 2003 invasion under the pretext of ridding Iraq of non-existent weapons of mass destruction, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The initial 1991 attack obliterated the infrastructure of Iraq, there were bombings of Iraq throughout the 1990s, including Operation Desert Fox. The illegal U.S. invasion and occupation installed de facto puppet Iraqi regimes and orchestrated the bloody sectarian strife that plagues Iraq today. And the bombing raids continue, killing countless innocent Iraqis in their own country.”

CNN reports: “Nearly 19,000 civilians were killed in Iraq between January 2014 and October 2015 — a toll the United Nations calls ‘staggering’ in a new report [PDF].” Wasfi said today, “The figure of 19,000 is the number of dead from armed conflict. Previous studies like the landmark Lancet studies estimate ‘excess deaths’ due to violence as well as lack of water, food, shelter, medicine, etc. This study notes, ‘In addition, the number of civilians who have died from the secondary effects of armed conflict and violence — such as lack of access to basic food, water or medical care — is unknown.’ So the number of dead is higher than 19,000 for this period; we don’t know how much higher.” A 2006 Lancet study estimated over 650,000 excess deaths from the 2003 invasion.

Iraq was under economic sanctions from 1990 until after the 2003 invasion. In 1998, Denis Halliday, who had just resigned as the head of the UN “oil-for-food” program, gave a speech on Capitol Hill, citing a “conservative estimate” of “child mortality for children under five years of age is from five to six thousand per month.” See: accuracy.org/iraq. Later in 1998, Halliday warned that the long-term U.S. policies and social strains of bombings and sanctions threatened the rise of a “Taliban-type” movement — in effect foreseeing the rise of ISIS. See video and transcript.

RAED JARRAR, rjarrar at afsc.org, @raedjarrar
Jarrar is the government relations manager with the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization. His colleagues recently stated in a Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed: “Saturday marked 25 years since the 1991 launch of Operation Desert Storm with bombing attacks against Baghdad and other cities in Iraq. U.S. ground troops entered the country by late February and a cease-fire agreement was signed in March. A quarter century later, Iraq is still spiraling down, the United States is still bombing, and a devastating war rages in Syria, further destabilizing the region.”

The group also recently released a statement about the start of the 1991 bombing: “In just over a month, thousands of civilians, including families hiding in bomb shelters, had been killed as well as tens of thousands of Iraqi troops, including those withdrawing from Kuwait. It was a massive bombing campaign. Tremendous damage had been inflicted on homes, businesses, and infrastructure. All while Iraq was dealing with harsh, painful economic sanctions. A UN report concluded that the impact of the war had reduced Iraq to a ‘pre-industrial age.’

“The Gulf War sunk the hopes of many of us who thought that the end of the Cold War, signaled by the fall of the Berlin Wall, would lead to a new era where real peace could be possible. But once the Iraq war started, those who opposed the war were also committed to offering assistance to the victims, bringing a swift end to the fighting, and looking over the horizon to address root causes that could lead to future conflict.”

Sanders Challenging “Primary Driver of Educational Disparities”

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 12.15.10 PMDuring last week’s Black and Brown Democratic Presidential Forum in Iowa, presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the nation’s dependency on local property taxes to fund public schools, offering instead that we need “to make sure the federal government plays an active role to make sure that those schools who need it the most get the funds that they deserve.” See from Vox: “Bernie Sanders has a Bold, Simple Idea for Improving Public Education” and “Bernie Sanders is Right: We Should Federalize Public School Funding.”

KEVIN KUMASHIRO, kkumashiro at usfca.edu, @kevinkumashiro
Kumashiro is dean of the School of Education at the University of San Francisco, and author of numerous books, including Bad Teacher!: How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture.

He said today: “In contrast to Congress’ recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that moves much decision-making authority from the feds to the states, Sanders offers a refreshing call for the feds to play a much more impactful, and very different role, than in the past.

“The research is clear that inequitable funding is a primary driver of educational disparities, but also that initiatives to increase funding for struggling schools have had significant impact on student learning and on students’ future economic prosperity. But inequitable funding will continue to plague our nation’s schools if we continue to rely on local property taxes as the primary source of funding. Currently, school funding consists primarily of state and local funding, and on average, we see that in poorer communities, individuals are paying a greater percentage of their income in state/local taxes, but seeing a much lower amount of per-pupil spending, when compared with wealthier communities, and ballot initiatives have failed to change these formulas.

“Sanders is correct: The federal government can and should play ‘a more active role,’ in at least two ways. First, we need to recognize that budgets reflect priorities, and therefore, that investing in the education of our children and youth should be a top priority of the federal government. We have the political will to spend enormous amounts of federal tax dollars on war and prisons, but not on schools? Second, we need bolder and smarter national policies on how to spend these funds. We know that current policies are exacerbating inequities, including local funding formulas that benefit the rich, competitive grants that fuel privatization, funding contingencies that are tied to ‘reforms’ that do not work (like high-stakes testing) — all of these are making our schools less effective and less democratic, and the federal government can and should put forth a vision of public schooling that puts us on a better course.”

Clinton’s Healthcare Mythology

m50-sand-photoThe following analysts can debunk various myths regarding the current healthcare debate:

GERALD FRIEDMAN, gfriedma at econs.umass.edu
Professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Friedman’s work was the basis for attacks on Sanders in the Wall Street Journal, which the Clinton campaign seems to be drawing from. See in-depth accuracy.org news release on his analysis from last week: “Clinton Doubling Down on False Healthcare Statements about Sanders.”

JEAN ROSS, Contact:  Charles Idelson, cidelson at nationalnursesunited.org
While Clinton claimed at the Democratic debate: “We finally have a path to universal health care,” referring to Obamacare, which penalizes people who don’t purchase private insurance, Ross, co-president of National Nurses United notes: “Today, 29 million people remain uninsured. Tens of millions more remain under insured, facing bankruptcy or the choice of getting the care they need or paying for food or housing for their families.”

NNU, the largest nurses union in U.S. history, has endorsed Sanders for president. In “Nurses Applaud New Sanders Plan for Healthcare for All,” they say “It is Bernie Sanders, who in contrast to the Clinton campaign, clearly understands that our profit-focused healthcare system continues to abandon millions of Americans to crushing medical debt, discrimination based on race, gender or ability to pay, and an inability to buy expensive insurance due to the still high cost.”

STEFFIE WOOLHANDLER, M.D., DAVID HIMMELSTEIN, M.D., himmelhandler at comcast.net
While Clinton claimed at the Democratic debate: “I don’t want to see us start over again with a contentious debate,” Woolhander and Himmilstein met with Clinton while she led healthcare overhaul efforts in the 1990s. They urged a single-payer plan, and note that she understood it would be better for the country, but was uninterested in persuing it for political reasons. See The Intercept: “In 1993 Meeting, Hillary Clinton Acknowledged ‘Convincing Case’ for Single-Payer.” See The Washington Monthly in 1993: “Dead on arrival: why Washington’s power elites won’t consider single payer health reform“: How, Clinton asked Himmelstein, “do you defeat the multi-billion dollar insurance industry? ‘With presidential leadership and polls showing that 70 percent of Americans favor [the features of] a single-payer system,’ Himmelstein recalls telling Mrs. Clinton. The First Lady replied: ‘Tell me something interesting, David.'”

JEFF COHEN, jcohen at ithaca.edu
Clinton claimed that when she headed the healthcare overhaul efforts in the 1990s, “the revolution never came. (LAUGHTER) And I waited and I’ve got the scars to show for it.”

Director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of media watch group FAIR and cofounder of the online activism organization RootsAction.org, Cohen co-wrote the piece “Clintons vs. Insurance Industry: A Media Myth” in 1993 that notes: “We can expect mainstream news outlets to paint a picture of Bill and Hillary Clinton in mortal battle against the big bad insurance industry. It’s a vivid picture, but it distorts reality. …

“A full-blown media myth was born, with most reports omitting basic facts:

“** The Health Insurance Association of America, which opposes the Clinton plan, … represents small to medium-size insurance companies. They would lose out to bigger firms under the administration’s ‘managed competition’ plan.

“** The ‘Big Five’ of health insurers-Aetna, Cigna, Metropolitan Life, Prudential and Travelers-have formed the Alliance for Managed Competition, which is sympathetic to the Clinton plan. That’s because those firms, heavily invested in Health Maintenance Organizations, would be enriched by it.

“** Operating through the Jackson Hole study group, the insurance giants helped draw up the managed competition blueprint, later adopted by the Clinton administration.”

Trump and Corporate “Inversions”

2dba7e8c-7408-4818-affe-17f8313af09eERIC LeCOMPTE, via Greg Williams, greg at jubileeusa.org, @jubileeusa
LeCompte is executive director of Jubilee USA Network and Williams is communications director for the group. Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 U.S. organizations, 400 faith communities and 50 Jubilee global partners.

In a statement Friday morning, the group states: “Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump criticized the practice of corporations moving their headquarters overseas in name only to avoid U.S. taxes during the presidential debate [Thursday night] in South Carolina. Trump called these corporate ‘inversions’ ‘one of the biggest problems’ facing the United States. Democratic presidential candidates have also criticized the practice. According to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, inversions could cost the U.S. government nearly $20 billion over the next ten years.”

LeCompte said today: “It’s clear the issue of inversions crosses party lines. This is an issue where Congress can work together and solve a problem that affects all of us.”

Clinton Doubling Down on False Healthcare Statements about Sanders

hillaryhealthWebsiteDemocratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday night on MSNBC claimed regarding Sen. Bernie Sanders’ healthcare proposals: “The bulk of what he is advocating for is a single payer health care system, which would probably cost about $15 trillion. … it would basically end all the kinds of health care we know, Medicare, Medicaid, the CHIP program, children’s health insurance, TRICARE for the National Guard, military, Affordable Care Act exchange policies, employer-based policies. … It would take all that and hand it over to the states.”

Clinton is apparently echoing a Wall Street Journal piece from last year: “Price Tag of Bernie Sanders’ Proposals: $18 Trillion,” which relies on the analysis of Professor Gerald Friedman, quoted below.

In under 24 hours, a RootsAction.org petition, “Tell Hillary Clinton to Stop Lying About Single-Payer,” has gained nearly 10,000 signers. “A single-payer health plan covers everyone and lowers costs. It does not deprive anyone of health coverage or empower any governor to do so. Unless you’re in the top 5 percent for income, you save more by tearing up your health insurance bills than you pay in higher taxes under single-payer.”

See Politifact debunking of similar claims from the Clinton camp: “Chelsea Clinton mischaracterizes Bernie Sanders’ health care plan.”

GERALD FRIEDMAN, gfriedma at econs.umass.edu, @gfriedma
Professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Friedman’s work was cited by the Wall Street Journal about Bernie Sanders’ proposals for government spending. Last year he was featured in an accuracy.org news release: “How WSJ is off by $18 Trillion on Sanders’ Proposals.”

Today, he told accuracy.org: “The statement that Sanders ‘would take all that and hand it over to the states’ is wrong. What Clinton is doing is shameful. Sanders’ plan would end or transform those programs, but more importantly end employer based healthcare — and that’s good. The gold standard of single payer plans is HR 676, Medicare for All, which actually enhances Medicare and covers everybody. What Sanders has done is take that proposal and — in an apparent attempt to make it palatable to some Republicans — let the states administer the new, comprehensive program.” Friedman recently wrote the piece “Chelsea Clinton Is Confused about Single Payer” for Dollars & Sense magazine.

“Obamacare allowed coverage for 15 to 20 million people, and that was a good step. But it’s by no means what is really needed. We have 30 million people who are still uninsured and tens of millions who are under insured. The insurance companies still dominate how healthcare is done and that adds tons of overhead costs. Even Medicare now leaves people having to cover 20 percent of hospitalization. Sanders’ proposal solves all those problems — and it also adds pharmaceutical coverage.

“It does let the states administer it under strict guidelines. That’s not control — it has provisions in place that if they don’t administer it properly, the federal government can move in. It would in effect move administrative functions from private federal contractors to states.

“The $15 trillion figure is my old number from 2013 for the 10-year cost of a single payer program (HR 676) over and above current federal spending. (The exact number was $14.6 trillion.) That was based on projections from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid statistics from 2009. Later projections have lowered spending and my current estimate of the ten-year cost of a single-payer program would be $13 trillion. I have proposed several alternative ways to finance such a program — all have payroll taxes well under what people pay now for health care, on the order of 3 to 7 percent.”

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