News for progressives

US Statement on Iranian Disinformation

Voltaire dotnet - Sat, 2019-06-22 23:50
Iran's leaders know the truth is a dangerous thing. It is important to correct the record. First, President Trump did not pass a message through Oman calling for talks with Iran. We have made our position abundantly clear. We are willing to engage when the time is right. It's telling that the Iranian regime rejected the recent, historic diplomacy of Japanese Prime Minister Abe, attacked a Japanese tanker in the Gulf of Oman, and shot down a U.S. aircraft operating in international airspace. (...)

A Democratic Think Tank Is Promoting Pushback Against Climate Lawsuits

Truthout - Sat, 2019-06-22 23:41

As part of a growing trend of lawsuits over climate change impacts, cities and states across the U.S. are seeking damages from oil, gas, and coal companies whose products drive the crisis and which for years evidently engaged in disinformation and denial campaigns to stall climate action.

Now the fossil fuel industry is pushing back, taking a page out of Big Tobacco’s playbook to rein in that liability litigation, and getting help from an unexpected source.

Behind the scenes, politically affiliated groups are quietly providing support. One of the outfits promoting the efforts to counter the slew of climate lawsuits is none other than the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI), a center-left Washington, D.C.-based think tank with links to the Democratic party.

PPI’s Former Coal Lobbyist

Phil Goldberg, PPI’s director of its Center for Civil Justice, is leading the charge.

For over a year, PPI’s website has been showcasing Goldberg’s work attacking climate litigation, which he calls “copycat climate suits.” Goldberg is a former lobbyist for coal giant Peabody Energy, which his law firm still represents.

And while Goldberg’s bio on PPI’s website lists him as a partner in the corporate law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, there’s no mention of his hiring earlier this year by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) to serve as special counsel in its fight against climate litigation. NAM’s Manufacturers’ Accountability Project, which it launched in 2017, targets climate lawsuits against the manufacturing industry’s energy sector.

A great panel at today's @ppi "Combating Climate Change Beyond the Courts" event in Sacramento, California including Jarrell Cook of @cmta, @Lenny_Mendonca, and others! pic.twitter.com/Aypxnhz7X5

— MFG Accountability (@MFGProject) June 3, 2019

NAM’s members, many of which are facing litigation, include such fossil fuel powerhouses as ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, Koch Industries, Phillips 66, Southern Company, Continental Resources, Marathon Petroleum, Dominion, Energy Transfer, and Devon Energy.

The states of New York and Massachusetts, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands, have taken legal action against ExxonMobil, while a number of cities and counties across the country have filed a lawsuit against over thirty companies, including other NAM members ConocoPhillips, Phillips 66, Marathon Oil, and Devon Energy.

PPI’s website also does not disclose Goldberg’s recent work for Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN), a front group funded by several oil and gas trade associations. In a report for GAIN titled “Vigilante Regulation,” Goldberg, along with two other Shook, Hardy & Bacon attorneys, detail how tort law can be employed to stem what the authors call “anti-pipeline activism.”

“It’s just plain freaky that a hired gun for the fossil fuel industry would pretend to be neutral or, shockingly, even perhaps ‘progressive’ under the guise of PPI, which has a good reputation as a think tank,” said Denise Antolini, an associate dean at the University of Hawai’i-Manoa’s School of Law. “I guess the ‘tank’ is stronger than the ‘think’ with PPI’s embrace of Mr. Goldberg’s advocacy for big oil.”

Antolini, an expert in environmental law who supports climate litigation, recently found herself in a row with Goldberg, who last month emailed the academic with what she described as a “surprising” request she’s never received in her 23-year career. Goldberg asked Antolini to postpone a panel discussion in a conference on climate litigation she was scheduled to host and moderate that same day at the University of Hawai’i. His reasoning? The lack of opposing voices to climate litigation on the panel.

Then, after the pair sparred in two op-eds published in the Hawaiian press, Antolini, in a formal letter to Goldberg, rebuffed the lawyer’s request, which she called an attempt to “disrupt a public event.”

Criticizing Goldberg’s characterization of climate litigation as “controversial,” Antolini wrote: “It’s understandable that your client would take this position but that does not mean the lawsuits, brought by governments on behalf of injured communities, are ‘controversial.’”

ALEC, Big Tobacco and Asbestos

Shook, Hardy & Bacon has a long history of working for industries that have been subject to controversy.

Goldberg previously served as an adviser to the Civil Justice Task Force of the “corporate bill mill,” the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), where he published reports against state-led climate lawsuits in the group’s publication Inside ALEC.

ALEC, which works secretively with legislators to produce model legislation on behalf of its corporate sponsors, has a history of climate change denial and funding from fossil fuel interests and the Koch brothers’ foundations.

Goldberg’s colleague at Shook, Hardy & Bacon, attorney Mark Behrens, currently chairs ALEC’s Civil Justice Task Force. Another lawyer at the firm, Victor Schwartz, previously chaired the task force and is currently a member of ALEC’s board of scholars.

After going to bat for decades for Big Tobacco, Shook, Hardy & Bacon is now a leading defender of the asbestos industry, whose product causes a type of cancer known as mesothelioma.

Goldberg did not respond to several requests for comment.

PPI’s Fossil Fuel Backing

Growing out of the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), PPI is one facet in the Democratic Party wing that promotes “Third Way” free market, corporate-friendly policies to balance the party’s more leftist tendencies. Former President Bill Clinton previously chaired the DLC.

PPI’s website, which greets its visitors with the banner “radically pragmatic,” does not publicize its funding sources. But the group’s funding seems to come at least in part through its parent organization, the Third Way Foundation, whose tax forms states it is “doing business as the Progressive Policy Institute.”

In 2015 the Third Way Foundation received funding from the American Gas Association. The group receives other corporate funds, including from the pharmaceutical industry.

Evidently, oil and gas companies have for years donated to nonprofit institutions to further their own interests.

As DeSmog contributor Sharon Kelly recently revealed in an investigation for The Guardian, oil giant Mobil used its charitable giving to promote its interests through a range of universities, civic groups, and arts programs. She reported that a top Mobil official said: “I don’t know whether corporate philanthropy as I’ve sort of defined it, which is just to get a warm feeling, ever existed. But if it did, I’d have to say that it’s a dying concept in terms of corporate giving.” That was during a talk in 1987.

Third Way’s funding might, at least in part, explain why PPI supports fracking and the boom in building natural gas pipelines and other infrastructure.

A PPI spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

Industry Has Reason to Fear Climate Lawsuits

PPI and others’ pushback against climate litigation will only intensify, predicts Robert Brulle, a sociology professor at Drexel University, who studies environmental movements and climate science disinformation campaigns.

“As these cases move toward discovery and eventual trial, the architects of the campaign to obstruct climate action, such as the National Association of Manufacturers, are gearing up for a long battle in the courts,” he said.

Brulle, who, along with other academics, filed a brief detailing what major fossil fuel companies knew historically about climate change as part of the ongoing litigation, thinks the industry has good reason to be concerned.

“The evidence of deliberate obstruction and promulgation of misinformation to preserve corporate profits is strong, and these energy companies and trade associations know it,” he said. “Not surprising to see them lawyering up.”

"Bomb, Bomb, Bomb... Bomb, Bomb" Iran

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Sat, 2019-06-22 23:35

Authored by Raul Ilargi Meijer via The Automatic Earth blog,

As a nation, you’re certifiedly (is that a word?!) in deep trouble if and when Donald Trump is your most peaceloving man. But nevertheless, that is America today. It all harks back to the days when Trump was first -grudgingly and painstakingly- recognized as an actual presidential candidate.

He campaigned as a man who would end the costly and neverending decades-old and counting US wars far away from American shores and territory. He hasn’t lived up to those campaign goals at all, far from it, and he hired doofuses like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to show everyone that he didn’t, but in the early hours of June 21 2019 he apparently decided at the last minute that it just didn’t add up.

You don’t kill 150 people because someone destroyed a piece of machinery, he got that right. I vividly remember writing a hundred times that a country of 320 million people that can’t come up with a better president than Trump has a behemoth problem. I also remember saying that Trump himself is not that problem, it’s the system that gave rise to him and his popularity. A war-hungry-system, that is, which has pervaded Washington DC.

And there is absolutely nothing that tells me anything has changed in that system. There are hearings and investigations all over the place, right now from Hope Hicks to Jerry Nadler, but none of them are geared towards trying to make peace with Iran or Russia or China, or anyone else. None.

Trump’s domestic opponents don’t appear to want peace, not those in the Democratic party, and not those in the MSM, or at least not anyone I’ve seen, other than Tulsi Gabbard. I haven’t seen a word from Nadler or Pelosi trying to coax Trump away from bomb bombing Iran, and diddly squat from the NYT or WashPo either. But sure, tell me what you’ve seen that contradicts that.

Which means he’s on his own, fighting off not only Bolton and Pompeo, but the entire opposition as well. So far he’s done just that. But how much longer can he, when both sides of the aisle continue to call for blood? I find that a hard call to make. I don’t think Trump wants his presidency to be about starting WWIII, but there are so many others calling on him to make it just that.

I said a while ago to a friend that the US invading Iran would be the end of the US, not in 2 days or week, or even 2 years, but in 20 years surely. Because doing so would change the entire power structure in the Middle East so much it would become unrecognizable.

The terribly odd couple of Benjamin Netanyahu and MBS may think they can conquer the region if only Trump sends Americans kids to die there, but they’re as wrong as they are about anything else. Iran is where it is, and it won’t move or budge. It’s just 40 years ago the country rid itself from the US-installed Shah and his SS-like Savak secret services.

Iranians, Persians, have a very deep-seated aversion and -to put it exceedingly mildly- hatred of the US, and they have good reason to. The Shah unleashed pure terror upon “his” entire people, at the benefit of US Big Oil.

The only constructive thing the US can do at this point in time is to go talk to Iran, in open and honest discussions. The US will want to do that because Iran is the heart of the Middle East. Just ask Russia and China, they understand that point. Very well even.

Bombing Iran won’t lead to anything at all, other than the demise of the US, down the road. These people will not succumb, and Russia and China will make sure they won’t have to. And Trump’s declaration of US military capabilities being “superior” is just words (or as they say stateside “hogwash”).

The US military ceased being “superior” a long time ago, simply because Raytheon and Boeing et al develop weapons for profit, whereas Russia and China develop them for defense purposes, and at 10% of the price. That single “little” difference will do the US in. Promise.

America needs to start talking. About trade, about weapons, about everything. Maybe Trump can do that. Maybe not. But he won’t be able to do anything by threatening countries like iran who already have nothing left but their backs to a wall.

Trump appears to have some good points vis-a-vis China and trade talks. He has some very bad points vs Russia and the sanctions. He MUST retreat when it comes to Iran, because it would become a much deeper swamp than Washington could ever be.

And it would end any idea of a positive legacy of his presidency. And his grand kids would be far worse off. And and and. But if he would do it regardless, it would only be an extension of US presidential politics as it has has been going on for many decades. So what’s to win, and what’s to lose? You trust a 73-year old burger flipper with that assessment?

Bolsonaro’s New Security Policy Will Endanger Black and Marginalized Women

Truthout - Sat, 2019-06-22 23:25

Today, Brazil is the highest ranked country in the world for homicides and murders by firearm and fifth for female homicides. Black women fall victim particularly often to gun murders: In 2016, 66% of all women killed by a firearm were of color.

While Brazil’s militarized approach to public security has systemically contributed to civilian victimization in armed operations, justified through an “us or them” war rhetoric in the combatting of drug traffic, the Bolsonaro administration has introduced several modifications to the current public security policy which have the capacity to take the already alarming levels of violence against black women and favela residents to a new record level.

These measures boil down to two significant changes in the current legislation: the flexibilization of the legal requirements for purchasing and carrying firearms, implemented through two presidential decrees, and the relaxation of the penalties for excesses committed by security agents, presented in the context of a measure package for public security and currently in progress in the Brazilian Congress.

The Flexibilization of Firearm Legislation

The relaxation of the gun legislation was one of the main pillars of Bolsonaro’s rhetoric during his election campaign. As one of his first acts in office, Bolsonaro established per presidential decree that adult citizens are now allowed to acquire up to four firearms, as long as they are older than 25 years, legally employed, have no outstanding criminal prosecutions or have been convicted, have a fixed residence and have a technical and psychological capacity to use the weapon.

With the new decree from 7 May, not only the requirements for the acquisition, but also for the carrying of weapons were relaxed. According to the new text, not only arms collectors, sport shooters and hunters, but also lawyers, truck drivers and elected politicians – from municipal councilors to the president – are exempted from proving their necessity for carrying a weapon, and are allowed to carry a loaded weapon while exercising their profession.

The Anti-Crime Package

In addition to the changes in the gun legislation, Justice Minister Sérgio Moro presented a so-called “anti-crime” law package in February, with proposals for changes in 14 laws related to issues of public security and criminal enforcement. Currently in progress in the Brazilian Congress, the new proposals include modifications for the penalization of so-called “excesses in self-defense”, containing the potential to enhance immunity over police killings and violence.

The current legislation understands self-defense as the possibility for the use of force in order to “repel unjust aggression, current or imminent”. According to the new proposal, any security agent who “prevents unjust and imminent aggression at his or her right, in armed conflict or at imminent risk of armed conflict” is acting in self-defense. This formulation would allow the judge not only to relax penalties for excesses committed in armed operations, but could even enhance impunity over police killings.

Black, Poor, and “From the Favela

While the new security policy of the Bolsonaro administration represents a danger for women’s lives in general, it can be expected that it will most likely expose those women to violence who already represent the largest share of gun related deaths and police abuse today: black women and favela residents.

Between 2006 and 2016, more than 60% of all women murdered by the use of a firearm were black. While the share of white women killed by a firearm has decreased since the year 2003, the proportion has only risen among their black counterparts in the same time frame.

By relaxing both the acquisition and carrying of firearms, the new legislation could potentially contribute to an increase in homicides: According to a study by economist Daniel Cerqueira of the Institute of Applied Economic Research (Ipea), for every 1% more weapons in circulation in society, a 2% increase in homicides has been detected.

Besides the expected impact of the new gun legislation on homicide rates, the government’s anti-crime package has the potential to enhance impunity over police killings and violence, as well as to incentivize violence against women in the context of armed operations.

While black men under 30 represent by far the largest share of killings by police and military forces, state violence directed against women often takes the form of sexual harassment and abuse.

A study carried out by the Office of the Public Defenders of the State of Rio de Janeiro found out that women and girls were raped and molested by state forces during the Military Intervention in 2018. The investigators even found evidence of the use of sexual violence as a measure of retaliation: state agents raped the partners of drug traffickers instead of arresting them. As victims typically refrain from denouncing the abuse due to fear of repression and social stigma, acts of sexual violence in the context of police and military operations are mostly undocumented and uninvestigated, representing the hidden wounds of the militarized approach to public security in Brazil.

Jair Bolsonaro’s new security measures do not only refrain from prioritizing the protection of women, but indeed carry the potential of endangering the lives of the most marginalized more than they are already. As long as the recognition and protection of their rights, bodily integrity and human dignity is not made a prerogative of state intervention, the Brazilian security policy will remain what it is now: a dispositive for the control, and not protection, of marginalized women.

‘Fire on Iran & US will be opening the gates of hell’ – George Galloway in video address

Greanville Post - Sat, 2019-06-22 23:17
eorge Galloway has warned the US and its allies in the Gulf that if they were to start “World War III” with an attack on Iran they will live to regret it because, unlike Iraq in 2003, they are capable of fighting back. The Scottish firebrand, who famously took US lawmakers to task over the Iraq war when he testified in front of the senate in 2005, has given his take on the recent ratcheting-up of tension in the Gulf region after Iran shot down a US drone, which, it says, had entered its airspace.

Hong Kong Protesters End "Illegal" Police Station Siege

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Sat, 2019-06-22 23:10

Though Chinese President Xi appears to have successfully deflected attention away from Hong Kong with his trip to North Korea and sudden detente with Washington, protesters have continued to take to the streets this week to demand the resignation of Carrie Lam, the city executive who was responsible for 'fast tracking' the extradition bill that would have made Hong Kongers and those just passing through vulnerable to punishment in Communist Party-controlled courts.

Early on Saturday, the final few hundred demonstrators who had kept the main police station under siege for hours finally dispersed as police moved in to break up the demonstration.

According to the AP, police had cleared the streets of barriers set up by protesters to block traffic in the Asian financial center, and only a few groups in the mostly youthful crowd remained. Some slept outside the legislature.

Around police headquarters, masked and helmeted protesters, clad in black, covered surveillance cameras, barricaded roads, and threw eggs at the building and sprayed graffiti on the building. Perhaps most annoyingly, protesters shined laser pointers into the eyes of officers.

Last Sunday, up to 2 million Hong Kongers, more than one-quarter of the city's population, took to the streets for the largest anti-extradition bill demonstration yet. That took place a day after Lam "indefinitely" withdrew the bill from debate, making it extremely likely that the legislation would die at the end of the term.

However, for thousands of individuals who fear Beijing's encroachment, simply pulling the bill from debate isn't enough. Many now want Lam - who retains the support of Communist Party leaders in Beijing - to step aside, to officially abandon the bill instead of waiting until the end of the legislative session for it to die a natural death, and they also want the police to release everybody who has been arrested during the demonstrations. One particularly aggressive event, which took place the Wednesday before last, saw student protesters clashing with police. Authorities have described it as a "riot-like" situation.

For the rally Friday night, an estimated 50,000 showed up at the peak, according to Bloomberg. By the time it was dispersed, at around 3 am local time, only a few remained.

In a statement, police said they had shown "the greatest tolerance" for the protesters, but criticized the crowds for using "illegal, irrational and unreasonable" methods.

"Police have shown the greatest tolerance to the protesters who assembled outside PHQ, but their means of expressing views have become illegal, irrational and unreasonable," according to the statement. "Police will stringently follow up on these illegal activities."

More than two weeks after the demonstrations began, and more than one week after Lam tried to capitulate by withdrawing the extradition bill, the catalyst for the demonstrations, people are still marching in the streets for Hong Kong.

To distract from this, things will either need to go really well in Osaka next week, or really poorly.

These are the people in the running to lead the Scottish Greens

Canary, The Other - Sat, 2019-06-22 23:00

The Tories aren’t the only ones choosing a new leader. The Scottish Green Party is also electing new people to its top jobs. The party is in the process of an election for its two co-leader positions. And three people have already thrown their hat into the ring.

Lorna Slater

The first person to announce her candidacy was Lorna Slater. She announced her intention to stand on Twitter:

I'm standing to be Co-leader of the Scottish Green Party @scotgp because I believe that we are ready for a fresh new start.

With a new party structure & a new election cycle in Scotland; I hope that you are as excited as I am about the opportunities that the next few years hold. pic.twitter.com/Ou1vsV6hPE

— Lorna Slater (@lornagreens) June 12, 2019

Slater’s background is in renewable energy engineering. And she was second on the Scottish Greens’ list for the 2019 European Parliament elections.

During that election, she built a reputation as a strong performer in public debates and the media.

Speaking to The Canary on her leadership bid, Slater said:

I hope to be a fresh start for the party and lead the Scottish Greens through the uncertainties of Brexit and toward the opportunities that Scottish Independence offers. I will support the Scottish Green volunteers in their work to get more Greens elected in Scotland.

Only the Scottish Greens are taking the climate emergency seriously and have practical policies to tackle it. We will continue to work for social justice, sustainability and grassroots democracy in Scotland. The Scottish Green party are committed to working towards an Independent Scotland inside the EU.

Graham Kerr

Shortly after Slater’s announcement, North Lanarkshire Green activist Graham Kerr also put his name forward:

Hi folks,

I'm standing to be Co-leader of the Scottish Green Party. I stood for the  Co-convener post a couple of years ago and was encouraged by the responses I got by many party members. pic.twitter.com/Ur3t3xqjd7

— Graham Kerr (@kerrazoo) June 14, 2019

This is Kerr’s second run at the party’s top job. He previously stood to be the Scottish Greens’ co-convener in 2017. Speaking to The Canary, Kerr said:

I want to take our party forward gathering support not only from our own current supporters but from people who are disillusioned with the poor offering of the other Scottish parties at a time when austerity is biting hard and there is a climate emergency.

Guy Ingerson

And then on 22 June, a third candidate announced their intention to run. Guy Ingerson, a campaigner from Aberdeen, put himself into the contest. Speaking to The Canary, Ingerson said:

We’ve seen how well Green parties can do across Europe, and it is my ambition to emulate that success here in Scotland. I got into Green politics during the height of the oil price crash in 2015, like many others in the North East I suffered, and as a result I [have] seen the need for us to change our economic future. Fossil fuels are [not] just destroying our planet, they are damaging the lives of ordinary working people too.

He continued:

We’ve seen Labour collapsing and, this week especially, we’ve seen the SNP block or delay progressive legislation in areas such as the environment, housing, transport, planning and LGBTI+ rights. That means we have to step up to the plate and offer a progressive and pragmatic alternative. That requires new leadership and a renewed sense of purpose.

Wider field

The Scottish Green Party’s present co-conveners – Maggie Chapman and Patrick Harvie – are yet to say whether they will be seeking election to the new leadership posts. Both have long been associated with the party among the public, with Harvie having been in the role since 2008, and Chapman since 2013. Should either of them stand in the election, they will enter as the favourites.

But Chapman and Harvie aren’t the only prominent Greens staying silent so far. None of the Greens’ five MSPs who sit alongside Harvie in the Scottish parliament have announced their intentions one way or the other. Any of them could be strong competition.

Alison Johnstone was recently appointed as the co-leader of the Scottish Greens’ parliamentary group. This has seen her taking on Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions. Standing for the leadership of the party could be a natural next step.

Another MSP with strong name recognition is Ross Greer. Elected to the Scottish Parliament aged 21, he was the youngest ever MSP. This year, he came to national attention through a heated exchange with Piers Morgan about Winston Churchill and racism.

The Greens’ other MSPs are John Finnie who recently pushed to overturn Thatcher’s ban on publicly owned bus companies; Mark Ruskell, who has been fighting to introduce a 20MpH speed limit in Scotland, and the land reform campaigner Andy Wightman.

Nominations close for the leadership election on 28 June, with voting taking place in July. With three contenders already in the race, it looks as if this election will be fiercely fought. And the two people who end up on top will steer the Scottish Greens’ course as it prepares for crucial Scottish Parliamentary elections in 2021.

By Chris Jarvis

Militia Threat Shuts Down Oregon Statehouse

Truthdig - Sat, 2019-06-22 22:53

SALEM, Ore.—The president of the Oregon Senate ordered the state Capitol to close on Saturday due to a “possible militia threat” from right-wing protesters as a walkout by Republican lawmakers over landmark climate change legislation dragged on.

Republican state senators fled the Legislature — and some, the state — earlier this week to deny the majority Democrats enough votes to take up the climate bill, which would dramatically reduce fossil fuel emissions by 2050. It would be the second program of its kind in the nation after California if passed.

Gov. Kate Brown then dispatched the state police to round up the rogue lawmakers, but none appeared in the Capitol on Friday and the stalemate seemed destined to enter its third day with a week left in the legislative session.

Right-wing groups posted their support for the GOP lawmakers Friday on social media — in one instance offering to provide escorts to them should the state police come for them.

Related Articles by Independent Media Institute

A group of local Republicans were set to protest inside the Capitol on Saturday when lawmakers were present, and anti-government groups threatened to join prompting the statehouse shutdown.

One of the groups, the Oregon Three Percenters, joined an armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. Dozens of people occupied the remote Oregon refuge for more than a month to protest federal control of Western lands. The standoff began to unravel when authorities fatally shot the group’s spokesman and arrested key leaders as they headed to a community meeting.

“The Oregon State Police has recommended that the Capitol be closed tomorrow due to a possible militia threat,” Carol Currie, spokeswoman for Senate President Peter Courtney, said in an e-mail to the AP late Friday.

The governor’s office also confirmed the threats.

Oregon State Police, in a statement, said it has been “monitoring information throughout the day that indicates the safety of legislators, staff and citizen visitors could be compromised if certain threatened behaviors were realized.”

Also late Friday, Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek, both Democrats, condemned comments made by Sen. Brian Boquist, a Republican from Dallas, Oregon, that urged the state police to “send bachelors and come heavily armed” when they come to bring him back to the Capitol.

“His comments have created fear among employees in our workplace,” the leaders said in a joint statement. “We will always defend free speech and welcome frank policy discussions, but threats like these are unacceptable.”

Boquist has not responded to multiple requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Senate Republicans did not respond to queries about the statehouse closure.

Democrats have an 18 to 12 majority in the chamber, but they need 20 members present for a quorum. One GOP senator recently died and has not yet been replaced.

Under the proposed cap-and-trade bill, Oregon would put an overall limit on greenhouse gas emissions and auction off pollution “allowances” for each ton of carbon industries plan to emit. The legislation would lower that cap over time to encourage businesses to move away from fossil fuels: The state would reduce emissions to 45% below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Those opposed to the cap-and-trade plan say it would exacerbate a growing divide between the liberal, urban parts of the state and the rural areas. The plan would increase the cost of fuel, damaging small business, truckers and the logging industry, they say.

Democrats say the measure is an efficient way to lower emissions while investing in low-income and rural communities’ ability to adapt to climate change. It has the support of environmental groups, farmworkers and some trade unions.

California has had for a decade an economy-wide cap and trade policy like the one Oregon is considering. Nine northeastern states have more limited cap-and-trade programs that target only the power sector.

The Bond Market Is Not Impressed With The Fed

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Sat, 2019-06-22 22:45

Authored by Bryce Coward via Knowledge Leaders Capital blog,

On Tuesday of this week we wrote about the four possible scenarios the Fed could adopt in their Wednesday policy decision. In order of most hawkish to most dovish, those scenarios were:

  1. Fed does not cut rates and signals that a rate cut may be appropriate later in the year (read the September meeting). Balance sheet policy remains unchanged.
    • This is a the most hawkish of the likely outcomes. The financial markets would likely read this is policy being too hawkish, causing long bond yields and equities to fall as a further slowing of economic growth is discounted.
  2. Fed does not cut rates, but instead signals a rate cut of 25bps is likely in the near term (read the July meeting). Balance sheet policy remains unchanged.
    • This too is a somewhat hawkish outcome since the first rate cut is typically the largest rate cut. The long end of the bond market is likely to rally (lower yields) as the market views the move as less than what is needed to arrest the slowdown. Impact on equities would be small.
  3. Fed does not cut rates, but instead signals a rate cut of 50bps is likely in the near term (read the July meeting). Balance sheet policy remains unchanged.
    • Now we are getting somewhere, and even though this is a somewhat dovish scenario long bond yields are likely to fall in sympathy with short rates, though perhaps not as much as short rates. Equities would likely rally.
  4. Fed does not cut rates, but instead signals a rate cut of 50bps is likely in the near term (read the July meeting). Balance sheet runoff stops tomorrow and the Fed opens up the possibility of more QE down the road.
    • This is the least likely outcome and also the most dovish. Short rates may fall while the long end would likely selloff, steepening the yield curve and ushering in a risk on environment. In this dovish case, equities are likely to do quite well as a reflation trade takes hold, a la QE2.

Well, it turns out the Fed indicated they will walk through door number 2 in July, but opened up the possibility of actually walking through door number 3 if enough voting members get on board with a 50bps rate cut. The market’s reaction to this news was pretty much as expected so far, though two days of trading is hardly enough to identify a lasting trend. The S&P 500 is higher by 1.1% (good but not great) and Treasury bond yields are lower by a bit in aggregate. Gold of course is in the midst of a major breakout above $1400/oz while the US dollar is under pressure. So far so good.

But, things are more interesting than those surface numbers portray, especially so in bonds. In aggregate, 10Y yields fell modestly from about 2.10% to about 2.06% as of this writing since the Fed’s announcement. However, growth expectations fell by a whopping 15bps while the inflation expectations component of the yield actually rose by 11bps. The bulk of the the rise in the inflation component of the yield is due to oil prices ratcheting higher by 12% since Tuesday, partly in response to geopolitical goings on. Therefore, but for the sharp rise in oil prices, the 10Y bond yield would be lower by 26bps since the Fed’s decision.

So what, you ask? The Fed signaled it was going to cut rates in July by either 25bps or 50bps so shouldn’t the rally in bonds have been expected?

Not necessarily. Given the slowing economic backdrop, long bond yields could actually have risen strongly if bond investors thought a rate cut or two would stave off a recession or further slowdown. Instead, the growth expectations component of the yield fell by quite a lot. This indicates that the bond market thinks a rate cut of 25bps (or even 50bps) in July is inadequate to stop the slide in eco activity. In other words, since the Fed meeting the bond market is discounting slower, not faster growth, which means that the Fed was not dovish enough.

Interestingly, the equity market is sending the same message. Yes, stocks have rallied this week and especially since Wednesday, but the rally has been concentrated in defensive areas of the market. Below we show the equal weighted performance by sector for US large, mid and small cap stocks. But for energy, leadership for the week was in health care, tech, utilities, real estate and telecom – all areas with defensive characteristics be it quality (health care and tech) or low volatility (utes, real estate and telecom).

A few days of trading certainly does not make a trend, but we have our eyes on the nuanced message coming from the market – a message that has yet to give us an all clear signal.

GOP Lawmakers Try to Squelch Voter Initiatives in 16 States

Truthdig - Sat, 2019-06-22 22:35

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.—Arkansas voters have been active in recent years, passing ballot initiatives that legalized medical marijuana, raised the minimum wage and expanded casino gambling.

That hasn’t gone over well with Republicans.

Arkansas’ GOP-dominated Legislature has taken steps this year that will make it harder to put such proposals before voters, and they are not the only ones.

Florida, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah also have enacted restrictions on the public’s ability to place initiatives on the ballot. In Michigan, the state’s top election official is being sued over Republican-enacted requirements that make it harder to qualify proposals for the ballot.

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In all, lawmakers in 16 states introduced more than 120 bills this year that would weaken the initiative process, according to the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. The moves worry advocates who say they undermine the idea of direct democracy and could effectively shut down the initiative process in some states.

“This is a way to make sure that there is absolutely no way that anyone can do something that (Republican lawmakers) don’t already approve,” said Florida state Sen. Oscar Braynon, a Democrat who opposed state restrictions recently signed into law.

In Arkansas, the changes came after voters legalized medical marijuana in 2016 and last year approved raising the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2021.

The state’s governor signed into law legislation overhauling the way measures are approved for the ballot so that a proposed initiative and the signatures collected in favor of it are reviewed at the same time. The change, critics say, would mean groups could waste time and money circulating petitions only to find out afterward that there was a problem with the wording that would disqualify it from the ballot.

Arkansas lawmakers also placed on next year’s ballot a measure that, if approved by voters, would impose additional restrictions. Those would include tripling the number of counties where initiative sponsors must collect a minimum number of signatures and eliminating a 30-day period groups have to gather additional signatures if they initially fall short. The lawmakers’ ballot measure also would move up by several months the deadline for submitting petitions.

“Everything they have done has … the ultimate goal to eliminate the petitioning process so that the people have no voice, and it is outrageous,” said Melissa Fults, executive director of the Drug Policy Education Group, who plans to try and get a recreational marijuana proposal on next year’s ballot.

The success of the medical marijuana initiative was celebrated by Arkansas residents such as Joanie Hopson, who was one of the first in line when retailers started selling marijuana last month. The 36-year-old said she suffers from a host of ailments, including muscle spasms, seizures and a connective tissue disorder, and cried when she was finally able to buy cannabis legally to ease her pain.

“We were really on the verge of moving out of the state because I need my medicine,” said Hopson, who lives in the community of East End, a short drive south of Little Rock.

Lawmakers pushing the restrictions said they are trying to rein in an initiative process that has been an easy target for out-of-state groups. Previous initiatives included unsuccessful attempts by pro-casino groups to give certain companies a gambling monopoly in the state.

Republican state Sen. Mat Pitsch, who co-sponsored the changes in Arkansas, said the state’s constitution has been changed 20 times over the past seven elections — a number that also includes measures lawmakers themselves put before voters.

“When you change your constitution three times every other year, that’s more like legislating than having a constitution,” said Pitsch, who noted the proposal on next year’s ballot also would raise the threshold for lawmakers to send measures to voters.

A similar argument was used in Florida when the governor this month signed wide-ranging legislation that erects a number of hurdles to those trying to get initiatives before votes.

The new Florida laws require paid petition gatherers to register with the secretary of state, prohibit payments based on the number of signatures collected and levy fines if petitions aren’t turned in within 30 days. The petitions also must include the name and permanent address of the signature-gatherer.

Gov. Ron DeSantis defended the bill, saying it’s aimed at protecting the Florida Constitution from outsiders. The governor said he wants to take more steps to revise the process of changing the constitution.

“This is not supposed to be driven by out-of-state special interests; it’s supposed to be driven by Floridians, but that’s really not what’s happened,” DeSantis said. “If people really feel the need to do it, then you band together, you do your organizations, you do it. Right now, you just have one guy write a check and you pay these people per signature. It creates a lot of bad incentives.”

Florida voters have approved a number of petition-driven amendments that Republicans don’t like, including limits on class sizes, preschool education for all, medical marijuana legalization and, last fall, restoring voting rights for felons who have completed their sentences. In the works are petition drives for 2020 seeking to ban assault rifles and raise the minimum wage.

In Utah, where voters last year approved medical marijuana, Medicaid expansion and redistricting proposals, the state’s Republican governor signed legislation delaying the implementation of successful initiatives to give lawmakers a chance to change them.

Rep. Brad Daw, the bill’s Republican sponsor, said the change allows lawmakers to keep state agencies running smoothly by revising portions of voter-approved laws that conflict with other rules before they go into effect.

“The fact is, the Legislature can make changes one way or another,” he said.

But critics say they worry the changes will leave voters feeling powerless.

“When you pass a ballot measure, you want to see something change,” said Yoram Bauman with Clean the Darn Air, which is pushing to get on the 2020 ballot with a proposed a carbon tax to curb pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. “If you have to wait an extra year to see something change, that’s frustrating, especially when you feel like during that extra time the Legislature can come in and monkey with it.”

Not all changes are winning favor in Republican states. Idaho Gov. Brad Little vetoed proposals that would have made it tougher to qualify a measure for the ballot, saying he didn’t believe the restrictions would stand up in court. The legislation was seen primarily as a reaction by the Republican-dominated Legislature to last year’s voter approval of Medicaid expansion.

“We argued that for a change to constitutional rights of this magnitude, the correct process is to take that to the voters as a constitutional amendment,” said Rebecca Schroeder, executive director of Reclaim Idaho, the group behind the Medicaid expansion initiative.

In Arkansas, the fight over initiative restrictions may not be over, with groups opposing them preparing a lawsuit. David Couch, the attorney who sponsored the minimum wage and medical marijuana initiatives, also sees another path to fighting back — placing an initiative on next year’s ballot that competes with the one pushed by the Legislature.

___

Associated Press Writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, Keith Ridler in Boise, Idaho, and Lindsay Whitehurst in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.

Police accused of pro-Boris Johnson cover up after saying they had ‘no record’ of visiting him

Canary, The Other - Sat, 2019-06-22 22:24

People have accused the Metropolitan Police of covering for Boris Johnson. That’s because the Met initially denied that they had any record of a neighbour calling them after hearing a disturbance between Johnson and his girlfriend. According to the Guardian, it was only after the news outlet provided reference numbers and information identifying the police vehicles that the Met admitted attending the scene.

The Met now denies this chain of events.

The incident

The Guardian reported that the neighbour phoned the police after hearing “screaming, shouting and banging” from the flat and knocking three times to try and make sure they were okay. Carrie Symonds, Johnson’s girlfriend, was also heard shouting “get off me” and “get out of my flat”.

After initially saying they had “no record” of the incident, the Met then released a statement:

At 00:24hrs on Friday, 21 June, police responded to a call from a local resident in [south London]. The caller was concerned for the welfare of a female neighbour.

Police attended and spoke to all occupants of the address, who were all safe and well. There were no offences or concerns apparent to the officers and there was no cause for police action.

Speaking to freelance journalist Alex Tiffin, the Met denied a cover-up:

The press office did not at any point deny or refuse to confirm that police had attended an address in Camberwell, and any suggestions of a ‘cover up’ are completely false.

“Shocking”

On social media, people had questions:

The most shocking line here is that the police seem to have attempted to cover up what happened in the first instance? Another reason why Boris Johnson is completely unfit to be PM: https://t.co/7oqgDTeb7E

— Liam Young (@liamyoung) June 21, 2019

Is nobody concerned that the Metropolitan Police tried to deny they attended the flat of Boris Johnson & Carrie Symonds.

They said it never happened until the guardian presented them with an incident reference and Police vehicle markings?

That needs investigation in itself.

— Alex Tiffin (@RespectIsVital) June 21, 2019

A striking line in this: “Police initially said they had no record of a domestic incident at the address.” https://t.co/yjfDAA4Mhc

— George Eaton (@georgeeaton) June 21, 2019

Given Symonds was shouting phrases like “get off me”, it’s right that the neighbour phoned the police. What’s worrying is the police apparently initially sought to deny that anything happened. The police must treat all citizens as equals and not go above and beyond to protect elites.

Featured image via AP Archive/ YouTube

By James Wright

BofA's Private Bank Goes On Hiring Binge To Try And Rope In New Wealthy Clients

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Sat, 2019-06-22 22:20

Bank of America’s private bank, formerly known as U.S. Trust, is seeking to serve more wealthy clients and, as a result, is planning a 35% increase to its adviser base, according to Bloomberg.

The division of the bank is slated to reach 600 client advisers by the end of next year, which is up from 445 in May. This would also be double the number of client advisers the bank had in May 2014.

Bank of America is among the biggest banks that are ramping up efforts to manage wealth: a business that offers exorbitant fees and doesn’t require the capital that trading units require. More established banks and firms are also seeing competition from start up rivals and firms that offer advisers the chance to go out on their own.

Bank of America's hiring spree comes at the same time that the company's private bank is expanding into cities like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City. This expansion will put the bank in 40 markets by the end of this year, up from 24 markets in the fourth quarter of 2017. The private banking unit is also adding to its presence in places like Michigan, Virginia, Tennessee, Texas and Florida.

Katy Knox, president of Bank of America Private Bank said: 

“We see significant opportunity for growth through new client relationships, doing more with our existing clients and expanding into new markets where traditionally we have not had a presence.”

The private bank posted revenue of $855 million in the first quarter, which was down 0.6% from the prior year. In 2018, revenue with the private bank totaled $3.4 billion, which was up 4.2% from the prior year.

The hiring isn't only restricted to the private bank, either. The company is also recruiting dealmakers, business bankers, financial advisors and consumer bankers in low and moderate income areas.

Knox continued: 

“One of our true strengths is our ability to bring together highly specialized teams that can handle a range of services, including investment management, trusts, estate planning, banking and philanthropy."

Knox is putting a priority on referrals between the private bank and other businesses, which were up 34% from the year prior in the first quarter. 

Beware of the “Easy” Way to Build Power. It Must Begin With Organizing.

Truthout - Sat, 2019-06-22 22:13
This article was originally published at Labor Notes.

The sad outcome of the United Auto Workers campaign at Volkswagen reminded me of when I entered the labor movement 15 years ago.

Back then the national leaders of the Service Employees (SEIU) had diagnosed labor’s big problem: we weren’t organizing fast enough. As the percentage of unionized workers in the U.S. slipped, so did unions’ influence.

If only we could regain sufficient union density, these leaders said, we would have power. Then we could start winning gains for members and change the political climate.

Their strategy to organize faster was to lower the bar—convince bosses to stay neutral, so that workers could win union recognition without a fight. Often this neutrality was bought by giving up rights and benefits in advance.

But I always wondered, if you won a union without building enough workplace power to fight your boss, how much would you really be able to win going forward? And would workers want to join such a weak organization?

Since then bosses have mostly lost interest in neutrality. Unfortunately, unions haven’t lost interest in shortcuts. The UAW counted on a speedy election instead of arming workers to fight.

Mountains to Climb

As an organizer helping nursing home and hospital workers unionize, I learned that power doesn’t come from an election. It comes from organizing.

That means building a committee of activists who can lead their co-workers in collective action. It means asking co-workers to support the union publicly, even when they’re scared and uncomfortable.

A good example is a group of Los Angeles hotel workers I wrote about in 2016. They faced tactics similar to Volkswagen’s—one-on-one and group anti-union meetings.

The workers marched on their boss repeatedly to defend their right to organize and to demand solutions to health and safety problems.

When it was time for the election, the boss tried one last intimidation tactic—telling workers individually what time to vote. Workers decided to go all together instead.

They won, and came out ready for the next fight, confident in their own power.

Win or lose, an election isn’t the end. If the Volkswagen workers had won, they would have had many more mountains to climb, starting with winning a first contract. That too requires lots of action—petitions, buttons, rallies, and sometimes more.

The UAW might have lost even if it did everything right. But it would have put workers in a better position to decide what to do next.

Don’t Skip Step One

The UAW’s post-election message was that workers need better labor laws. That’s true, but it shouldn’t be the main takeaway.

It’s always appealing to put off pushing co-workers to act. “If we can just get better laws,” we tell ourselves, “or elect better politicians, or win a raise, then workers will get involved.”

Union members aren’t immune to this impulse. Those who want to improve their union may say, “First we need to get elected to leadership. Then we can start organizing people to fight for a better contract.”

But the better strategy is what Chicago teachers did. Rank and filers started fighting school closures and building a network long before their caucus ran the union.

Following their example, teacher union reformers in Denver this year became strike captains. In Baltimore, when schools were without heat, the teacher caucus organized to fix it.

Both groups of reformers ran for election this spring and won. Both are facing challenges to the election results; Denver will re-vote in the fall, and it’s unclear what will happen in Baltimore. But because they’ve built organization, even if the incumbents manage to keep them out of office this round, they won’t have to start from scratch.

None of us can afford to wait on “solutions” that postpone organizing. Getting people involved is step one.

New book from Labor Notes: Secrets of a Successful Organizer is a step-by-step guide to building power on the job. “Full of so many creative examples and powerful rank-and-file stories, it makes you want to dive right in.” Buy one today, only $15.

The Irish government is using an obscure law to ‘sabotage and subvert’ democracy

Canary, The Other - Sat, 2019-06-22 22:03

A member of the Irish parliament has accused the government of being undemocratic due to its ability to stop bills from progressing. As a result, Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit (PBP) argued that the government is “sabotaging and subverting the democratic and legislative process”.

Undemocratic

Boyd Barrett declared that the government is unfairly stopping bills from other parties progressing in the parliament. He revealed that the government is blocking 55 bills. He then went on to argue that in the case of his own party:

a bill passed twice through the Dáil [parliament] to give access to medicinal cannabis.

Yet the government blocked the bill, like others, using what’s known as a “money message”. This is a relatively obscure piece of legislation. It allows the government to block any bill it claims will have an effect on spending and taxation. And because of this, it has an effective veto over almost any bill.

WATCH: @RBoydBarrett accuses Govt of "sabotaging and subverting the democratic and legislative process" for stalling the progress of legislation through the use of the little known "money message" rule. pic.twitter.com/M7ZukXjncr

— Conor McMorrow (@ConorMcMorrow) June 20, 2019

Bills blocked

Among the bills blocked via this method is a bill which would stop evictions, and another which would have provided “objective sex education in schools”. The government also blocked a climate emergency bill that would have banned the granting of new exploration licences to fossil fuel companies.

Boyd Barrett insisted that this is:

an abuse and sabotage of the democratic and legislative process.

And on Twitter, he called the practice a “Disgrace!”.

In Dail today I accused the Gov of sabotaging democratic process by blocking opposition bills passed by the #dail with “money messages” including @pb4p & @solidarityie bills to #KeepItInTheGround & medicinal cannabis, objective sex ed & anti-evictions bills. Disgrace! https://t.co/z3CbwxbLv1

— Richard Boyd Barrett (@RBoydBarrett) June 20, 2019

Good timing?

The same day Boyd Barrett made his comments, parliament passed a bill which the government had earlier said it would block. The bill would “give workers a legal right to the tips they earn”. And it passed in the parliament by 75 votes to 41.

But before members of parliament could even vote, the government had stated its intention to block it. The minister for employment affairs and social protection said she “asked that a money message be required” for the bill. And as a result, the future vote of 75 – 41 was meaningless given that the bill was effectively vetoed beforehand.

Fight for what’s right

With the government’s tendency to block bills it doesn’t like, democracy in Ireland is hollow. It means that while the government continues to do nothing constructive about Ireland’s housing and homelessness crisis, it’ll block any potential solutions.

This is not what democracy should look like. But unfortunately, this is the kind of fake democracy we live in. And given this, it means we need to fight even harder to make the changes we need and deserve.

Featured image via Twitter – Screenshot

By Bryan Wall

Germany vs. Iran – Has Germany Sold Out to the Devil?

New Eastern Outlook - Sat, 2019-06-22 21:59

Madame Angela Merkel – the head of Europe’s strongest economy, of the leader of the European Union, said that there was strong evidence that Iran attacked the two tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Ten days ago, German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, travelled to Tehran, officially to “save” the Nuclear Deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – JCPoA), but in reality, to ‘negotiate’ with Tehran ways so Germany and by association other EU members, might still do business with Iran, against some “concessions” by Iran, in order to appease Washington.

Iran’s President Rouhani reacted quickly. FM Maas got the cold shoulder and was dismissed. And rightly so. Maas was not really representing Germany – but the United States. Iran gave the EU an “ultimatum” of 60 days to stick to their commitments on trading with Iran according to the Nuclear Deal – despite the US reneging on it – or else, Iran may bypass some of the conditions under the JCPOA accord. The EU – not being independent and her member countries having lost all sovereignty by submitting to the dictate first from Brussels, second from the tyranny of Washington, didn’t like the ultimatum, and said so in a joint statement. They added a weak and meek phrase, “We call on countries not party to the JCPoA to refrain from taking any actions that impede the remaining parties’ ability to fully perform their commitments;” not even daring calling the country by name, for whom the statement was destined, i.e. the US of A.

Germany’s position is as absurd as it has ever been since Merkel and the entire Bundestag accepted the sanctions imposed by Washington on Russia in 2014 – and replicated them along with the rest of the EU – even to their own detriment and to the detriment of the entire EU. Chancellor Merkel and apparently the entire Bundestag, again, go along with Washington’s equally absurd and false accusation that Iran has attacked the two tankers, one Japanese owned, the other Norwegian. The latter belonging to a close friend of Iran’s, and the Japanese one, hardest hit – exactly at the time when Japan’s PM Shinzō Abe, was visiting the Ayatollah in Tehran to discuss how to maintain the Nuclear Deal – trading – despite the sanctions and threats of Washington, hence, a friendly visit.

A blind person can see that these were two false flags – so thinly masked, with badly fabricated US ‘video evidence’ that even according to CIA and US military brass did not deliver conclusive evidence. In fact, none at all. Madame Merkel – why do you not first ask the obvious question “Cui bono?”— Who benefits? Certainly not Iran – but the aggressor, the US which has been planning and preparing for war with Iran for decades, ever since the first Iraq war under Father Bush, in 1991. At the 2003 invasion of Iraq – Bolton openly expressed his dreams to demolish Iran. He and Pompeo are liars and war criminals, who run the White House and pretend to run the Pentagon – and who act in impunity. Their power seems limitless. Trump – seems to be a mere puppet.

Getting Merkel on board of the flagrant US lie that Iran was attacking two tankers in the Gulf of Oman, is a strategic hit, enhancing the lies’ credibility and, thus, making a US attack on Iran more palatable to the rest of the world. Yet, apparently this was not enough. The Pentagon sent an unmanned high-altitude Global Hawk drone into Iranian airspace, a provocation Iran could not resist and shot the drone down, but not before sending warning signals, about which today nobody talks. The world shouldn’t know that Iran had the noblesse to warn the US about the drone being in their airspace. As can be expected the White House gnomes deny that the drone was invading Iranian airspace, but pretend it was in international air space, when it was shot down.

This raised the ante for Washington to launch an attack on Iran. All was planned to be carried from Thursday to Friday (20 to 21 June), and at last minute Trump stopped it. Is it true? – It could be, because somebody a bit ‘higher up’ than Trump and his warrior minions, must have realized the danger that such an attack may pose to the rest of the world – or actually that it could trigger a nuclear conflict. However, that the attack plan was stopped doesn’t mean it was canceled. Maybe it was just postponed.

In the meantime, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has ordered all US airlines to avoid the Gulf of Oman and the Gulf of Hormuz. And, as could be expected, the airlines of Washington’s “true” puppet allies have followed suit, i.e. Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd, Singapore Airlines Ltd, Germany’s Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France and its Dutch KLM affiliate, as well as Malaysia Airlines, said they were re-routing flights to avoid the area. Others may follow under direct or tacit pressure of the US. The Japanese airline ANA said they were considering alternative routings. Effectively, the US was able to declare a no-fly zone over a significant area of Iran.

Let’s make no mistake, all the visible key figures at the helm of the White House – are run in the back by Israel, by Netanyahu and the Chosen People he represents, those who also run Wall Street and the western world’s banking and financial system. Israel would like to see Iran in rubbles, or better, in eternal chaos, the goal that was set for Iraq, Afghanistan and that the US was and still is dreaming for Syria. This bunch of evil elite pulls the strings and hopes to soon pull just ONE string for global hegemony, under a ONE World Order.

Back to Germany. Instead of jumping off the sinking ship of Washington and its faithful entourage of the willing, as rats would do, and as the vast majority of the German people would prefer, let alone German and European business, Madame Merkel and apparently all her circles, including Berlin’s Parliament, follow the US flagrant lie propaganda. Why? – Well, this is the deal: There are many ways to “buy” top politicians, with threats or with money or by outright inflicting fear through ‘proxy-assassinations’.

Once Germany is on board – the rest of Europe will follow suit. In that case, Washington – Trump and consortia – think they have Iran totally strangled, by blocking all trade and all financial transactions, plus confiscating Iranian assets abroad – on top of imposing stiff tariffs, so that Iran can no longer afford importing vital goods for manufacturing – or for sheer survival from the west. Once a country is weak, it can be taken over easily. So, the western, AngloZionist thinking goes.

Iran – her Fifth-Columnists aside – is strong and has already proven that it is detaching from the west. Even trying to adhere and fight for the Nuclear Deal which the west, i.e. Europe is incapable of respecting for lack of backbone, is a waste of time. To demonstrate that Iran has alternatives, Mr. Rouhani was attending the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on 13 and 14 June 2019, by invitation of China, the leader of the 8-member “club”.

SCO stands for promoting peace, trade and a non-aggressive defense strategy (the antidote to the NATO-type military aggression). As of now, Mr. Rouhani is an observer for his country, Iran which is in an advanced stage in the process of entering the SCO as a full member. This could happen later this year or in 2020. Iran would recover her sovereignty, her economic potential and would – and will – be able to detach from the west, pretty much as did Russia and China, the two super-powers under constant assaults of sanctions, denigration and false accusations.

Turkey – is in a similar situation. If Turkey is admitted by the SCO – also very likely – their NATO exit will be imminent. What that will mean for the rest of NATO, at this point we can only guess and dream of, especially since there is an ever-stronger people’s movement throughout Europe to exit NATO. It is particularly strong in Italy and paradoxically also in Germany. The vast majority of Germans want to exit NATO, but the government doesn’t listen. “So far” doesn’t listen. The German anti-NATO movement has been gaining strength ever since the anti-nuclear energy protests in the early seventies which were followed and intensified in the late 1970’s early 1980s against nuclear arms stockpiled in Germany by the US, particularly those stored at the US Air Force base of Ramstein, near Kaiserslautern.

The “so-far” is a precursor to a break with NATO, as the pressure against the USAF base Ramstein, against NATO, is mounting, and that, when Madame Merkel decides firmly to go with the sinking ship – risking to pull Germany and her people down the drain for sheer senseless and outdated obedience to the succumbing tyrant. How absurd!

While Iran is making smart moves, gradually away from western economics, from trading with the west – and moving eastwards – where the future is – Germany backtracks, literally into the orbit of a dying beast, into what is ever-more detectible – a decaying empire.

When will Germany wake up? When the first bombs fall on her cities – a WWI and WWII redux? Except this time, it may not be just the falling of conventional bombs. It may be nuclear meeting nuclear at Ramstein. Madame Merkel, your obligation to the people who apparently elected you is larger than you think and larger than yourself – and much larger than whatever goes on in your mind to follow a defeated warrior and rogue nation into hell.

Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. After working for over 30 years with the World Bank he penned Implosion, an economic thriller, based on his first-hand experience. Exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

Final Two: "Vote Rigging" & "Dark Arts" Dominate BoJo Vs Hunt Showdown

Zerohedge (BFFBT) - Sat, 2019-06-22 21:55

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,

Despite tabloid headlines hitting last night, Boris Johnson will face Jeremy Hunt in a Tory party vote that will determine the UK's next Prime Minister.

*JOHNSON SAYS TORIES DON'T WANT TO HEAR ABOUT HIS PRIVATE LIFE

Johnson vs Hunt Showdown

As expected all along, it's a Johnson vs. Hunt final showdown.

This will not be close. Expect Johnson to win in a blowout of major proportion.

Clear summary of the five leadership ballots and a graphic demonstration of how well organised @BorisJohnson’s campaign and team have been. #BackBoris pic.twitter.com/U1kLBfyPYf

— Owen Paterson MP (@OwenPaterson) June 20, 2019

Boris Johnson only picked up three MPs in the final vote. This led to charges of "Vote Rigging" and "Dark Arts".

Dark Arts

Vote Rigging Charge

No Vote Rigging

Well - there was one spoiled ballot.
And since when does tactical voting constitute rigging?
Very poor commentary. https://t.co/TwkKCVnPbL

— Mike Mish Shedlock (@MishGEA) June 20, 2019

Rigging is fraud.

There may have been tactical voting but that is questionable.

Perfect Result

If you were @gavinwilliamson you couldn't have invented a more perfect result. @borisjohnson wins over half of Tory MPs; @Jeremy_Hunt sneaks past the feared @michaelgove but not in such a way that anyone could prove electoral jiggery pokery

— George Parker (@GeorgeWParker) June 20, 2019

Had the spoiled ballot gone to Gove, he still would have lost by one. But give him that vote plus one more, and that would have been a 77-76 win for Gove.

Keep the spoiled ballot and assume one tactical vote switch, the result would gave been 76-76.

Fight of His Life

Thank you so much to my colleagues who have backed me to get this far - and to Lucia for all her incredible support. The campaign starts now. Please make sure you join me by volunteering here: https://t.co/JP6DslIj8V #HastobeHunt pic.twitter.com/R3ZMLAz7Ur

— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) June 20, 2019 Joke of the Day

This is all moot. Neither will beat Johnson.

However, it is likely that Johnson preferred to square off against Hunt.

The Tory party likes Hunt less than Gove.

Delusional Remainers

I posted that chart on June 6, in Stop Boris Madness In Five Pictures

My comment at the time still stands: "Winning is where the rubber meets the road. Tory party members do not believe either Gove or Hunt would win a national election."

This will not be close.

Three Questions Remain
  1. The election question "How big will this blowout be?" has an unknown moot answer.

  2. Will Johnson follow his stated convictions on leaving by October 31?

  3. How?

Question one is interesting, but irrelevant.

Question two is yes.

Question three is the important one.

More Delusions

The Guardian and others made a mountain out of molehill regarding Johnson's comments in the debate.

At the beginning, Johnson did indeed say the UK “must come out on the 31st October”. But when asked later by the host, Emily Maitlis, for an absolute guarantee the UK would leave on 31 October under his stewardship, he said: “Michael [Gove] was guaranteeing to get out by the end of December [2019]. I think that October 31st is eminently feasible.” (Johnson had been responding to a question from Gove about “getting [a] deal over the line” on or around that date or “ripping it up” just to keep to the timetable.)

He also spoke later about the importance of leaving with a deal, saying no one wanted a “disorderly Brexit”.

So, it’s – at best – debatable whether Johnson was failing to guarantee Brexit in any form on 31 October, or just failing to guarantee having a negotiated settlement done and dusted by that date.

Political Silliness

Johnson purposely made politically wishy-washy statements to win votes in the runoff and also to prevent an immediate leadership challenge when he becomes Prime Minister.

There's more than a bit of irony here.

Attributing meaning to political silliness is politically silly.

Johnson did and said what he had to say. It's meaningless.

This leads us back to the key question:

What Does Johnson Want?

That is the question I asked twice previously and there still is no guaranteed answer.

Four Possibilities
  1. If Johnson's intent is to deliver a hard-Brexit while avoiding a motion of no-confidence, he succeeded.

  2. If Johnson's intent is to deliver a repackaged Theresa May deal, he succeeded.

  3. If Johnson's intent is genuinely to get the EU to negotiate something beyond May's deal, willing to walk away if he doesn't, he succeeded

  4. If Johnson genuinely doesn't know, he successfully bought himself time.

My Vote - Door Three

Previously my answer was 3, 4, and tossup.

My vote now is 3, 4, 1, and 2.

The more Johnson is convinced he will win an election against Corbyn, the more likely option one is in play. Thus number 4 is more likely to resolve to 1 than 2.

This is of course dependent on Johnson all along not wanting a deal no matter what, no matter how bad it is.

Customs Union Is Not Brexit

I believe Johnson wants Brexit. And a permanent customs union or threat of one does not "deliver Brexit" in my book.

However, I also took Theresa May at her word when she said "no deal is better than a bad deal" while negotiating the worst deal in history.

So, if Johnson is as weak as May and wants to deliver custom union nonsense, or is willing to (if the EU holds firm), then that will be the result.

Negotiated WTO Brexit

It is highly unlikely the EU will renegotiate the backstop until there is a WTO Brexit.

However, the EU will likely be willing to work with the UK if Johnson takes care of EU citizens living in the UK and agrees to the Brexit breakup fee that May negotiated.

That would deliver Brexit. Moreover, a WTO Brexit is the single most likely outcome if one believes Johnson.

Regardless, a referendum or outright revocation has no chance at this point.

Johnson played his cards very well, whatever he wants.

Bernie Sanders Says Everything Must Be Done to Prevent US Attack on Iran

Truthout - Sat, 2019-06-22 21:37

As the threat of war “looms” amidst a coordinated push by the Trump administration that has ratcheted up tensions with Iran, 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling on the U.S. Congress and the American people to work together to ensure that another mistake like the 2003 invasion of Iraq—”the biggest foreign policy disaster in American history”—is not allowed to happen again.

“The drums of war are beating in Washington again,” Sanders wrote in a Friday night Guardian op-ed as he demanded Congress “do everything it can to prevent this war” and that people speaking out against the prospect of a U.S. attack—ultimately ignored by lawmakers ahead of the Iraq War—be listened to this time around.

According to the op-ed:

Sixteen years ago, the US committed one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the history of our country by attacking Iraq. That war was sold to the American people based on a series of lies about weapons of mass destruction. One of the leading advocates for that war was John Bolton, who served as a member of the Bush administration and is now Donald Trump’s national security adviser. Incredibly, even today, Bolton is one of the few remaining people in the world who continues to believe that the Iraq war was a good idea.

That war led to the deaths of more than 4,400 American troops, with tens of thousands of American soldiers wounded, many severely, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed. It unleashed a wave of radicalism and destabilization across the region that we will be dealing with for many years to come. It was the biggest foreign policy disaster in American history.

Trump campaigned on getting the US out of “endless wars,” but his administration is taking us down a path that has made war with Iran more and more likely.

As Common Dreams reported on Friday, progressive anti-war critics have sounded the alarm over the Trump administration’s claim that it has outright authority to launch offensive strikes against Iran. While Trump admitted Friday that he called off a bombing raid just minutes before it was set to begin—a claim and timeline of events that new reporting has now called into question—Sanders argues that the U.S. Constitution is explicit in stating that the executive branch does not possess such power.

“The constitution is very clear: it is Congress, not the president, who decides when we go to war,” wrote Sanders. “It is imperative that Congress immediately make it clear to the president that taking us into hostilities with Iran without congressional authorization would be both unconstitutional and illegal.”

Congress, he added, “must do everything it can to prevent this war.”

A war with Iran would be an absolute disaster.

-It would further destabilize the region
-It would result in never-ending war
-It would likely cost trillions of dollars
-Thousands of lives would be lost

We must not fight another unnecessary war. https://t.co/mP3mYRvsl0

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 21, 2019

Backing Sanders’ call, John Nichols, writing for The Nation late on Friday, detailed why, “since the shambling excuse for a president will not stand down, it is time for Congress to stand up.”

With several provisions moving through both the House and the Senate, Nichols reports, there are specific ways that lawmakers could exert their authority to curtail the president if they so choose.

“The House and Senate,” Nichols demanded, “need to send clear signals regarding the intentions of the branch of government that is constitutionally charged with responsibility for declaring wars and authorizing or rejecting military missions.”

With powerful voices—both in government and in the media agitating for war against Iran—Sanders in his op-ed emphasized that the same mistakes that led to the disastrous decision of 2003 must not be repeated.

“Voices of dissent went unheeded in the lead-up to the Iraq war,” Sanders said. “They must be heeded now.”

How Teach for America Evolved Into an Arm of the Charter School Movement

Truthout - Sat, 2019-06-22 21:16

When the Walton Family Foundation announced in 2013 that it was donating $20 million to Teach For America to recruit and train nearly 4,000 teachers for low-income schools, its press release did not reveal the unusual terms for the grant.

Documents obtained by ProPublica show that the foundation, a staunch supporter of school choice and Teach For America’s largest private funder, was paying $4,000 for every teacher placed in a traditional public school — and $6,000 for every one placed in a charter school. The two-year grant was directed at nine cities where charter schools were sprouting up, including New Orleans; Memphis, Tennessee; and Los Angeles.

The gift’s purpose was far removed from Teach For America’s original mission of alleviating teacher shortages in traditional public schools. It was intended to “generate a longer-term leadership pipeline that advances the education movement, providing a source of talent for policy, advocacy and politics, as well as quality schools and new entrepreneurial ventures,” according to internal grant documents.

The incentives corresponded to a shift in Teach For America’s direction. Although only 7% of students go to charter schools, Teach For America sent almost 40% of its 6,736 teachers to them in 2018 — up from 34% in 2015 and 13% in 2008. In some large cities, charter schools employ the majority of TFA teachers: 54% in Houston, 58% in San Antonio and at least 70% in Los Angeles.

Established nearly 30 years ago to tap idealistic graduates of elite universities to teach at traditional public schools in high-poverty areas, Teach For America has evolved into an informal but vital ally of the charter school movement. Not only does it place a disproportionate number of its teachers in charter schools, but the organization and its affiliated groups also have become reliant on the support of the Walton Foundation and other school choice advocates, including a daughter of billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor. As board members of Teach For America’s offshoot leadership organization, which gives to the political campaigns of former TFA teachers, Emma Bloomberg and a Walton family member have supplemented the organization’s contributions to charter school proponents with their own donations.

“There’s no question that Teach For America as it evolved became joined at the hip to a large degree with the national education reform movement. I suspect that some of this was coordinated in part with funders who are active in the Teach For America funding and the charter and reform activities,” said Jeffrey Henig, a professor at the Teachers College, Columbia University, and author of a book about education research and charter school policy. “These billionaire school reformers and the foundations with which they are allied really have become much more sophisticated in the way they strategically use their funding.”

Teach For America cautioned its public school teachers against participating in recent teacher strikes in Oakland, California, and Los Angeles. Ava Marinelli, one of just 35 Teach For America teachers in the Los Angeles traditional public schools, joined the picket line anyway.

“With the level of divisiveness between charter and public schools, Teach For America has aligned with the charter school agenda,” she said in a recent interview. “This shows with their donors and who their partners are.” Teach For America said that it took no stance on whether its teachers should strike, but that the terms of their AmeriCorps funding prohibited involvement with organized labor.

Teach For America CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard said that donors don’t sway its approach. “We don’t have any one funder that is more than 5% of our overall budget,” Beard said. “We are very focused on what are our objectives, what is our mission, what are our values and what are the needs of the community.” She said that current grants to Teach For America from the Walton Foundation and other organizations don’t favor charter schools over traditional public schools.

She said that the organization does not have a national placement strategy and that where corps members teach is determined by the needs of regional partners. “Every last strategy question is answered locally,” Beard said. “Our interest is just to make sure that we are working to ensure that we meet our partners’ needs, are serving the students who need us most and are able to advance the needle for opportunity for them.”

Both push and pull factors have fostered Teach For America’s shift in direction. Since 2016, school districts in San Francisco; Jacksonville, Florida; and Houston have decided to end their contracts with Teach For America, citing, among other reasons, its teachers’ relatively low retention rate. At the same time, Teach For America and the charter school movement share a similar goal: promoting innovation by streamlining bureaucracy. Teach For America’s alumni have started some of the nation’s largest charter networks, including KIPP, Rocketship Education, IDEA and YES Prep.

Whichever type of school they serve in, Teach For America’s teachers devote their intelligence and energy to helping low-income and minority students and closing the nation’s unrelenting achievement gap. But its metamorphosis reflects a broader trend: As nonunion charter schools have gained acceptance in the past 20 years, political support for traditional public schools and teacher unions has eroded.

While both the Obama and Trump administrations have backed charter schools, the appointment of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who once called the traditional public education system a “dead end,” fractured the political consensus. The issue divides candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. Bernie Sanders has called for a moratorium on federal funding of charters until a national review of their growth is conducted. Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren have criticized for-profit charter schools, with Sanders advocating an outright ban.

Other candidates, such as Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke, are sympathetic to charters. As Newark’s mayor, Booker raised millions in private funds for education reforms, including the expansion of charter schools. O’Rourke, whose wife started a charter school, has called them a “good idea” for encouraging competition and innovation.

As a Princeton University senior in 1989, Wendy Kopp had a radical idea to curb the teacher shortages plaguing America’s least resourced public school classrooms: Send them the country’s brightest college graduates.

“We take all of these promising future leaders and have their first two years be teaching in low-income communities, instead of working in banks,” Kopp said. “I thought that would change everything. It would change the consciousness of the country.”

Within a year, Kopp’s idea became Teach For America, which recruits new graduates from top colleges, trains them for five weeks, places them in schools nationwide and mentors them during a two-year classroom commitment.

Fueled by Kopp’s prolific fundraising, the nonprofit grew quickly. In 2000, it raised $25 million from private donors, government grants and foundations, which supported about 1,600 new corps members a year. By 2016, its contributions and grants rose to $245 million with an endowmentof about $208 million, enough for 3,500 new members a year. Today, Teach For America ranks among the 100 largest nonprofits in the country.

The charter school movement, which arose soon after Teach For America’s founding, was booming as well. Publicly funded but privately managed, and regarded by some proponents as a way to fix a failing education system weighed down by unions and bureaucracy, charter schools nearly tripled in enrollment from 2006 to 2016.

While Teach For America has received more than $40 million annually in government grants, according to the recent tax filings, some of its largest private donors also bankroll charter schools. Over the years, these backers — including Greg Penner, Walmart’s board chairman and a Walton family member by marriage; Arthur Rock, a retired Silicon Valley entrepreneur; and Eli Broad, a Los Angeles philanthropist — have cycled through Teach For America’s board. Together, the three tycoons and their family foundations have doled out at least $200 million to Teach For America.

“There are only so many donors and Teach For America is probably going after all of them, certainly whether they have a charter agenda or not, but many of them are very supportive of charters,” Kopp said.

Rock said in an email that he devotes almost all of his time and philanthropy to supporting K-12 education. “I support those organizations which have a proven record of helping children,” he said. Penner declined to comment, and Broad did not respond to questions related to his support of the organization.

Teach For America has long maintained that it does not prefer charter schools. “We believe in public education,” the organization states on a webpage devoted to combating criticism. “We’re not concerned about whether kids (or teachers) go to traditional district schools or public charter schools or innovative magnet schools, and TFA takes no institutional position on school governance.”

Marc Sternberg, a former corps member, now runs K-12 education for the Walton Family Foundation, which has given more than $100 million to Teach For America over the years. He said the foundation has a “bedrock partnership” with Teach For America. To Sternberg, the missions of the two organizations are intertwined: expanding educational opportunity, and options, for children.

“I was placed in a school that was pretty dysfunctional,” said Sternberg, reflecting on his Teach For America experience at a traditional public school in the South Bronx in the late 1990s. “It lacked a leadership thesis that is necessary for organizational success. The entrepreneur walks into that environment, and sees all the great things, and develops an understanding of the problem statement and then wants to do something about it.”

While Sternberg said that the Walton foundation is “agnostic” about the types of schools it funds, the foundation has been one of the most generous supporters of charter schools, having spent more than $385 million to help launch and sustain about a quarter of the nation’s charter schools since 1997. In 2016, the foundation announced that it would spend an additional $1 billion to support charter schools, expand school choice and develop “pipelines of talent.”

The foundation’s 2013-15 grant paid more for placing TFA teachers in charter schools, Sternberg said in an email, because “we wanted to ensure that the growing number of charter schools had access to high-quality educators given increased demand from communities.” Its current grants to TFA provide equal funding for teachers at charter and traditional public schools, he said.

Today, in most of the cities targeted by the 2013 grant, TFA partners with more charter schools than traditional public schools, according to AmeriCorps data. In Indianapolis and greater Los Angeles, about two-thirds of TFA’s partner schools are charters. In New Orleans, where nearlyall of the schools are charters, all of TFA’s corps members are assigned to charter schools. In the past five years, the proportion of TFA teachers placed in charter schools has increased even as the raw numbers have gone down, reflecting an overall decrease in corps members.

Another major donor to both Teach For America and charter schools is the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, created by the founders of The Gap. In 2009, the fund gave $10 million over five years “to continue Teach For America’s role as a pipeline of teachers and leaders in the charter school movement,” according to an internal agreement.

In 1994, two Teach For America alumni founded the Knowledge is Power Program, now one of the nation’s largest charter school networks. As chief executive of the KIPP Foundation, Kopp’s husband, Richard Barth, has overseen the network’s expansion.

“Leadership is critical, and so we have been very involved with Teach For America, which is an organization that has really given birth to KIPP and to many of the top charter school organizations around the country,” the Fishers’ son, John, said in a filmed 2012 interview. “The human pipeline — the pipeline of top talent — has really been accelerated through the success of Teach For America.”

As of 2012, a third of KIPP’s teachers were Teach For America corps members and alumni. KIPP did not provide more recent figures. “You look at the percentage of the principals and teachers at KIPP and it’s clear that it’s a pipeline,” Kopp said.

As school superintendents and state education directors, TFA alumni have pushed to expand charters. In 2011, former corps member John White became superintendent of the state-run Recovery School District, which oversaw most of New Orleans’ schools. He’s now the state superintendentof education. Over the same period, charter schools in the city and across the state have proliferated. The last traditional public schools in New Orleans are set to close or begin a transition to charter control by the end of the year, and by 2022, all of the city’s schools will be charters.

Cami Anderson, a Teach For America alum and former employee, was a key adviser to Cory Booker in his unsuccessful 2002 campaign for mayor of Newark, New Jersey. In 2011, when Booker was mayor, she became Newark’s superintendent of schools. She reorganized the district, which led to mass layoffs of public school teachers and an increase in charter enrollment.

Under Teach For America alum Kevin Huffman, who served as Tennessee commissioner of education from 2011 to 2015, the number of charter schools there doubled. The state’s current commissioner, Penny Schwinn, was also a TFA corps member. In Washington, D.C., two charter-friendly Teach For America alumni have led the district over the past decade: Michelle Rhee and Kaya Henderson.

Eric Guckian, a former Teach For America corps member, headed the organization’s North Carolina chapter, and he later pushed for more charter schools as a senior adviser for education to the state’s governor. He said propelling TFA alumni into positions of power was always the plan.

“The promise of Teach For America, when I was pitching it to potential donors, was that all these kids are going to turn into leaders and that has manifested itself,” Guckian said.

Not all of Teach For America’s alumni leaders favor charter school expansion. After teaching for more than two decades in traditional public schools in Compton and Los Angeles, Alex Caputo-Pearl was elected to lead the local union, United Teachers Los Angeles.

“There are a lot of very good people who are attracted to the program and do good work,” said Pearl, who joined Teach For America in 1990. “I was in a classroom because nobody would be there if I wasn’t there.”

But, he said, Teach For America’s agenda has shifted. In Los Angeles, where about a quarter of students are enrolled in charter schools, Teach For America has become the “main contributor to the characterization and privatization of public schools, rather than helping to address the teacher shortage in public district schools,” he said.

At ICEF Inglewood Middle Charter Academy, in a low-income and predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles, five of the school’s eleven teachers are TFA members, including English teacher Joy McCreary. One morning in May, she peppered her seventh graders with questions about a passage they had read on the photographer Eadweard Muybridge.

“And what was Muybridge trying to find out by photographing a horse running?” she asked a student in the second row of her classroom, which was decorated with white lights strung against curtained windows, student projects and motivational messages promoting humility and determination.

“If a horse could fly,” the student responded. McCreary nodded.

McCreary grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs; both of her parents were teachers. In June 2018, she graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, with degrees in international development, political science and German studies, and joined Teach For America. Her five weeks of training included coursework and teaching at a summer school program. Unlike teachers at traditional public schools, who typically gain certification by completing a qualified prep program and passing a standardized test, charter school teachers and TFA corps members may not need traditional certification. Over the years, TFA has successfully lobbied state and federal legislators for a classroom fast track for its members.

“Teaching is very sink or swim,” McCreary said. “The best way to learn how to teach is just to teach.”

When McCreary joined Teach For America, she didn’t care what kind of school she ended up in. Now she’s glad it’s a charter school.

“Charter schools place a much higher focus on teacher development,” McCreary said. At traditional district schools in Los Angeles, she added, “You get these old, battle-ax teachers that have been there forever and are doing the same things every year and are not necessarily trying out new things or being challenged to try new things.”

Natalie Kieffer, the principal, also participated in Teach For America. After three years of teaching at a traditional public school in Los Angeles, Kieffer was laid off during the financial crisis and moved to a charter school. Within a decade, she rose from teacher to principal.

“There were opportunities for growth that I wouldn’t have been offered in [the Los Angeles Unified School District],” Kieffer said. “Being laid off was a blessing in disguise.”

The Inglewood school district recently revoked the academy’s charter due to low academic performance, forcing it to close at the end of the year. Kieffer, who did not respond to emailed questions about the closure, will become an assistant principal at a charter high school next year. McCreary will move to another Los Angeles charter chain, the Alliance College-Ready network.

Another Teach For America corps member in Los Angeles, Faisal Hirji, is equally loyal to his school — a traditional public high school. The veteran teachers whom McCreary perceives as battle-axes, Hirji praises for their hard-earned wisdom. Hirji, who teaches special education, said TFA’s five-week training, plus a handful of online modules that it provided on how to teach children with special needs, weren’t nearly enough.

“Our kids are being dramatically underserved compared to what an experienced teacher could do,” he said. (Teach For America said that students of its teachers were at least as likely to pass state assessments as their peers.)

Like Hirji, all of Teach For America’s corps members in Los Angeles public schools were assigned to special education classrooms. “We were thrown into the fire,” he said. Teach For America said that aside from the summer institute, it provides “coaching, collaboration with veteran teachers, and local professional development opportunities” throughout a corps member’s commitment, but Hirji said its support was not enough. Realizing that Hirji needed a mentor, the principal at his East Los Angeles school had him work alongside a veteran special education teacher for his first semester.

“I didn’t learn anything from Teach For America,” he said. “I learned it all from my school.”

Typically, public school districts or charter schools pay Teach For America an annual finder’s fee of $3,000 to $6,000 per teacher. From 2013 through 2017, Teach For America reaped more than $110 million in recruitment and placement fees, according to tax filings. The districts or charters also pay the teachers’ salaries and benefits.

Often, they’re ponying up for short-timers. According to Teach For America, about 30% of its corps members leave teaching at the end of their two-year terms, and research has shown that only one-fourth stay in the classroom for more than five years, compared with about half of all new teachers.

In 2016, the San Francisco Unified School District cut ties with Teach For America, citing concerns about retention rates. The following year, Duval County, Florida, which includes Jacksonville, ended its contract, which allowed for up to $600,000 a year to Teach For America for the annual recruitment of at least 100 teaching candidates. About a third of TFA corps members stayed beyond two years in the district and only a tenth stayed for five years, a study from Teachers College, Columbia University found. In comparison, 60% of new teachers who weren’t affiliated with Teach For America stayed more than two years, and 40% more than five years. Teach For America said that its retention rate in Duval County has since improved, and that almost 80% of those who started teaching in 2017 plan to stay for a third year.

“One of the biggest questions was the return on investment,” said school board chair Lori Hershey. “We could certainly recruit teachers at less expense and keep them longer than two years.”

In 2018, Houston’s district renewed its contract with Teach For America despite plans to lay off hundreds of teachers. Then, this May, its board discontinued the contract for the coming school year. Mika Rao, a managing director for regional communications and public affairs at Teach For America, called the decision “a great loss for [Houston’s] kids.”

School board trustee Elizabeth Santos, who has taught in Houston’s traditional public schools for over a decade, voted to end the contract, calling TFA “problematic.” It “deprofessionalizes teaching, increases turnover and undermines union organization,” she said at the board meeting.

Trustee Holly Maria Flynn Vilaseca, a former corps member who briefly worked as a program director for Teach For America, supported renewal. “We tend to have a teacher shortage every year and this just allows principals to be able to have the opportunity to hire with this route,” she said at a board meeting.

About a third of Teach For America corps members in Texas are still teaching there after five years, compared with over three-quarters of non-TFA teachers, according to a recent study by the American Institutes for Research. Rao said TFA’s retention rate in Texas school districts has improved 20% since 2010.

Many of those who stay in education after their two-year stint in a traditional public school eventually shift to charter schools. While a quarter of corps members were placed in charter schools, about 40% of alumni who stayed in education later worked in them, according to a review of survey data from Teach For America alumni in Texas. TFA said this disparity is misleading because their data shows that alums who continue as teachers, instead of going into administration, switch from traditional public schools to charters at a lower rate than the other way around. About two-fifths of its alums in Texas are currently employed in administration or leadership, mostly in charter schools, according to the survey.

Tiffany Cuellar Needham, the executive director of Teach For America in Houston, said many alumni shuttle between both types of schools. “We see our alums make very intentional decisions about, for example, starting in a traditional public school district and maybe going to a charter school to get a certain sort of professional development that they think they need and then going back to a traditional district,” she said.

Beard, TFA’s chief executive, said the rejections by major school districts don’t indicate a national trend. “Every community has different dynamics and politics and budgets, and there’s lots of nuance and complicated factors going in,” she said.

This year, TFA’s turnover prompted Cristina Garcia, a Democratic state assemblywoman in California and former math teacher, to proposerequiring teachers from Teach For America and other trainee programs to stay in the classroom for at least five years. Because Teach For America only demands a two-year commitment, it would have to change its model to operate in the state.

Supported by the California NAACP and the California Federation of Teachers, and opposed by the charter school lobby, the bill would also ban the finders’ fees that Teach For America charges schools. “Allowing Teach For America to come in, learn on the job, to experiment and create reform advocates is not creating people that are going to stay in the classroom,” Garcia said. “Is it really about creating a void because we have a teacher shortage, or is it about creating education reform advocates?”

Republican state Assemblyman Kevin Kiley cast the only vote against the bill in the education committee. “It’s probably the most disgraceful piece of legislation I’ve seen,” he said. It passed the appropriations committee in May, but it has been delayed until next January.

Kiley himself contributed to Teach For America’s low retention rates. After graduating from Harvard in 2007, he joined Teach For America and taught at a traditional public school in Los Angeles, where he started a debate team. After his two-year stint, he attended Yale Law School and worked as a deputy California attorney general.

“Many [corps members] stay in the classroom, but others move on, and that’s by design,” he said.

When Kiley ran for State Assembly in 2016, Leadership for Educational Equity, a “dark money” group that does not disclose its donors in its tax filings, advised him on strategy in regular phone calls. “I was a first-time candidate, and I was seeking wisdom wherever I could find it,” he said.

LEE contributed $8,360 to his winning campaign, according to campaign finance filings. In addition, after he filled out an internal questionnaire that asked the charter school supporter about his views on education reform and other issues, his campaign received more than $33,000 from three LEE directors — Silicon Valley entrepreneur Arthur Rock, Emma Bloomberg and Steuart Walton — and some of their family members.

LEE “put me in touch with two or three donors, which is a small percentage of overall funding,” Kiley said. “You draw from all sources when you’re running.”

Kopp established LEE in 2006 to help Teach For America alumni gain power, including by giving to their political campaigns. Although the two organizations operate independently, they share office space, and Teach For America donates millions of dollars to LEE each year through an intermediary foundation. Only Teach For America alumni can be LEE “members,” entitling them to free training on leadership development, civic engagement and other topics.

LEE, which received $29 million in contributions and grants in 2017, helped more than 150 alumni run in local and state races in 2018, according to an internal presentation obtained by ProPublica. (Leadership for Educational Equity said the presentation’s figures were incomplete and unreliable.) Half of LEE members that ran for office were women, and almost half were people of color.

The group gives to TFA alums regardless of their views on education. But if candidates indicate on the internal questionnaire that they support school choice or charters, directors Walton, Bloomberg and Rock often add their own individual donations, according to three former employees.

“The survey that the team uses is to really help the candidates to articulate” their positions and values, said Jason Llorenz, vice president of communication for LEE. “Certainly where we can help to connect to other people that can support them, whether that be about choice or about gun control or any number of other things, we certainly do.” Leadership for Educational Equity said it has contributed to several candidates who were supported by teacher unions.

Carl Zaragoza, LEE vice president of elected leadership, also said his team teaches candidates to network. “With money, the value added that we offer our folks is to how they will build relationships with folks that do have money who are aligned with their values,” he said. “That is part of the individual coaching we provide.”

Bloomberg, who is also on the KIPP board, said that Leadership for Educational Equity “supports a diverse set of leaders in communities across the country who believe deeply in the importance of high quality public education.” In the past, at her request, LEE has recommended candidates for whom her contributions could make the biggest difference, according to her communications adviser. It’s a coincidence that some of the candidates she funds favor education reform, because that’s not one of her criteria, the adviser said. Walton declined to comment on his donations or work with LEE, and Rock didn’t address questions about them.

Beard, TFA’s chief executive, is also on the LEE board. When asked about its work, she said it’s “a totally separate entity,” which Teach For America’s alumni choose to participate in. “We believe leadership development is core to what we do. We believe that we should be supporting our alumni in pursuing all of their interests and helping them ensure that they are accelerating their own leadership.”

Vilaseca, the Houston school board trustee who voted to renew Teach For America’s contract, was a founding teacher at a KIPP charter school. Walton family members and Rock gave a total of $20,000 to her 2017 campaign, in addition to $6,000 from LEE. Vilaseca did not respond to emailed questions.

Also in 2017, two Teach For America alumni ran against each other for the Los Angeles school board. Nick Melvoin, a charter school advocate, challenged board president Steve Zimmer, who taught at a traditional public school and was backed by the union. LEE contributed $2,200 to Melvoin, and $1,100 to Zimmer. (LEE said it gave another $1,100 to Zimmer, but his campaign treasurer said it was never received.) Rock and the Bloomberg family added $5,400 for Melvoin, but nothing for his opponent. Melvoin won and has become the most vocal charter supporter on the board.

“My north star is anything that will help improve outcomes for kids is good, and charter schools are doing that,” Melvoin said. This year, he was the only school board member to oppose a citywide moratorium on charters.

When Ava Marinelli heard last fall that her fellow teachers at Los Angeles Unified School District were planning a strike, she wanted in.

“I know where my values lie, and they lie with the union,” said the second-year Teach For America corps member, who graduated in 2017 from Boston University. “I’m not crossing a picket line.”

But her decision carried a financial risk. Through Teach For America, she and other corps members received scholarships from AmeriCorps, a federal program that prohibits assisting or promoting union organizing. The money helped pay for Marinelli’s coursework toward a master’s degree in education, a key teaching credential.

Teach For America cautioned Marinelli and other corps members not to strike, or else they would lose their Americorps funding. As a strike loomed, they asked Lida Jennings, executive director of Teach For America in Los Angeles, if they could give up their AmeriCorps money. Jennings agreed, but she told them that to retain even partial funding, they would have to cite extenuating circumstances for striking, such as harassment, pressure or bullying from other teachers, according to three corps members who spoke with her.

Jennings confirmed this position in an email to ProPublica. The teachers “had a difficult process to navigate due to the federal regulations they have to follow,” she wrote. “Those choosing to exit would have to demonstrate and detail extenuating circumstances, such as challenges at their placement school or other impact.”

Marinelli followed this advice. She told Jennings in an email that she faced “intimidation” at her school — a falsehood that still haunts her. “I lied to exercise my civil rights,” she said. “I was encouraging my colleagues to go on strike. No one intimidated me to do this.” Teach For America agreed to replace the striking teachers’ lost scholarship money with private funds. It has since arranged that, in the future, all teachers who choose to join a picket line will be suspended from AmeriCorps during the strike and then reinstated at the end, with no impact on their scholarships.

Alongside her students, their parents and her fellow teachers, and wearing a bright red scarf wrapped around her neck, Marinelli picketed outside of her school as well as the district’s headquarters, frequently leading chants with a megaphone, for all six school days until the strike was settled. The union extracted key concessions, including a board vote on whether to support a statewide cap on the number of charter schools.

“It felt so hypocritical to join Teach For America for the social justice lens and then not go on strike, compromising the values that brought me to Teach For America,” Marinelli said. “Even though they claim to be an apolitical organization, I really felt there was an agenda.”

The AMA Is on the Wrong Side of History on Medicare of All

Truthout - Sat, 2019-06-22 21:12

What does the American Medical Association (AMA) have in common with Sen. Mitch McConnell?

Both refuse to support Medicare for All, the single-payer universal health care program proposed by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal. On June 11, the AMA underscored that opposition, taking a formal vote at their annual conference in Chicago.

A recent poll reveals that 70 percent of Americans favor Medicare for All, yet the AMA’s position suggests that a majority of doctors do not. In fact, 56 percent of doctors expressed support for single-payer health care in a separate poll.

In response to the AMA, medical students and younger physicians are joining organizations like Physicians for a National Health Program, a leading organization in the single-payer movement for decades. The organization’s student affiliate, Students for a National Health Program (SNaHP), decided to confront the AMA directly at this year’s annual meeting.

The AMA has a long record of being on the wrong side of history. They refused to admit Black physicians up until the civil rights era, effectively blocking their ability to get residency appointments and ensuring the maintenance of Jim Crow segregation in health care. They also voiced strong opposition before the passage of Medicare and Medicaid, calling those programs “socialized medicine.”

Continuing that history today, the AMA helped co-found the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a benevolently-named entity which is actually a corporate lobbying group set up to kill Medicare for All. The Partnership’s other members include insurers Blue Cross Blue Shield and drug industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Studies have already demonstrated that Medicare for All would save $2 trillion over 10 years. Moreover, patients would have greater choice, access and quality of care. Under our current health care system, about 30 million Americans lack any health coverage at all.

The AMA helped co-found the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, which is actually a corporate lobbying group set up to kill Medicare for All.

To amplify the voices of patients, SNaHP’s medical students joined activists from the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, People’s Action, and others in a protest “die-in” that disrupted the AMA’s conference in Chicago on June 8.

As the meeting started, doctors, medical students, seniors and people with disabilities filed into the room and assembled on the floor, face up like corpses. Gripping cardboard tombstones, they took turns sharing heartbreaking stories about navigating the health care system.

At the same time, a rally outside the hotel attracted 500 activists demanding that the AMA and the Partnership drop their opposition to Medicare for All.

The Chicago die-in was inspired by a similar protest I participated in with People’s Action members outside Senator McConnell’s D.C. office in April. I was among those who ended up getting arrested by Capitol police after demanding hearings in the Senate on Medicare for All.

I joined this fight because I was without health care coverage, and ended up working at the federally funded clinic where I was provided care during that time. We served almost exclusively low-income women of color who relied on sliding scale and subsidized services. More recently, while working as an independent contractor, I paid almost $5,000 a year just for insurance.

I share my story to encourage others to do the same at protests bubbling up across the country. These personal narratives fuel the growth of the grassroots movement for Medicare for All.

While protest tactics may differ, the message is the same: 30 million Americans without insurance and 41 million underinsured is a crisis that can no longer be ignored. We cannot let patients fall through the cracks of a for-profit health care system when we have a solution.

The AMA must drop its opposition and stop funding the corporations and lobbyists that put greed over patient need. We need its leadership and members to truly live up to the AMA motto to “[promote] the betterment of public health” by supporting a single-payer system.

American Gov’t, NGOs Fuel and Fund Hong Kong Anti-Extradition Protests

Greanville Post - Sat, 2019-06-22 21:10
ALEXANDER RUBINSTEIN—The coalition cited by Hong Kong media, including the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Free Press, as organizers of the anti-extradition law demonstrations is called the Civil Human Rights Front. That organization’s website lists the NED-funded HKHRM, Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the Civic Party, the Labour Party, and the Democratic Party as members of the coalition. It is inconceivable that the organizers of the protests are unaware of the NED ties to some of its members. During the 2014 Occupy protests, Beijing made a big deal out of NED influence in the protests and the foreign influence they said it represented. The NED official, Greve, even told the U.S. government’s Voice of America outlet that “activists know the risks of working with NED partners” in Hong Kong, but do it anyway.

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