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BREAKING: WikiLeaks Releases Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) - Investment Chapter

Source: WikiLeaks Press Release

@wikileaks: RELEASE: Secret draft for the Trans-Pacific Partnership - Investment Chapter https://t.co/GkBXbq8hTI/s/CmD9 #TPP #TTIP http://t.co/Ose0kwwdLH/s/NlgH

Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) - Investment chapter

WikiLeaks releases today the "Investment Chapter" from the secret negotiations of the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) agreement. The document adds to the previous WikiLeaks publications of the chapters for Intellectual Property Rights (November 2013) and the Environment (January 2014).

The TPP Investment Chapter, published today, is dated 20 January 2015. The document is classified and supposed to be kept secret for four years after the entry into force of the TPP agreement or, if no agreement is reached, for four years from the close of the negotiations.

The TPP has developed in secret an unaccountable supranational court for multinationals to sue states. This system is a challenge to parliamentary and judicial sovereignty. Similar tribunals have already been shown to chill the adoption of sane environmental protection, public health and public transport policies.

Current TPP negotiation member states are the United States, Japan, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Malaysia, Chile, Singapore, Peru, Vietnam, New Zealand and Brunei. The TPP is the largest economic treaty in history, including countries that represent more than 40 per cent of the world´s GDP.

The Investment Chapter highlights the intent of the TPP negotiating parties, led by the United States, to increase the power of global corporations by creating a supra-national court, or tribunal, where foreign firms can "sue" states and obtain taxpayer compensation for "expected future profits". These investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals are designed to overrule the national court systems. ISDS tribunals introduce a mechanism by which multinational corporations can force governments to pay compensation if the tribunal states that a country's laws or policies affect the company's claimed future profits. In return, states hope that multinationals will invest more. Similar mechanisms have already been used. For example, US tobacco company Phillip Morris used one such tribunal to sue Australia (June 2011 – ongoing) for mandating plain packaging of tobacco products on public health grounds; and by the oil giant Chevron against Ecuador in an attempt to evade a multi-billion-dollar compensation ruling for polluting the environment. The threat of future lawsuits chilled environmental and other legislation in Canada after it was sued by pesticide companies in 2008/9. ISDS tribunals are often held in secret, have no appeal mechanism, do not subordinate themselves to human rights laws or the public interest, and have few means by which other affected parties can make representations.

The TPP negotiations have been ongoing in secrecy for five years and are now in their final stages. In the United States the Obama administration plans to "fast-track" the treaty through Congress without the ability of elected officials to discuss or vote on individual measures. This has met growing opposition as a result of increased public scrutiny following WikiLeaks' earlier releases of documents from the negotiations.

The TPP is set to be the forerunner to an equally secret agreement between the US and EU, the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).

Negotiations for the TTIP were initiated by the Obama administration in January 2013. Combined, the TPP and TTIP will cover more than 60 per cent of global GDP. The third treaty of the same kind, also negotiated in secrecy is TISA, on trade in services, including the financial and health sectors. It covers 50 countries, including the US and all EU countries. WikiLeaks released the secret draft text of the TISA's financial annex in June 2014.

All these agreements on so-called “free trade” are negotiated outside the World Trade Organization's (WTO) framework. Conspicuously absent from the countries involved in these agreements are the BRICs countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Read more: https://wikileaks.org/tpp-investment/press.html

@wikileaks: RELEASE: Analysis of Trans-Pacific Partnership Investment Chapter https://t.co/CiDjAT7ZfG/s/2hXl

FR: Lori Wallach and Ben Beachy, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch

DT: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 RE: Analysis of Leaked Trans-Pacific Partnership Investment Text

After more than five years of negotiations under conditions of extreme secrecy, on March 25, 2015, a leaked copy of the investment chapter for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was posted. Public Citizen has verified that the text is authentic. Trade officials from the United States and 11 Pacific Rim nations – Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam – are in intensive, closed-door negotiations to finish the TPP in the next few months.

The leaked text provides stark warnings about the dangers of “trade” negotiations occurring without press, public or policymaker oversight. It reveals that TPP negotiators already have agreed to many radical terms that would give foreign investors expansive new substantive and procedural rights and privileges not available to domestic firms under domestic law.

The leaked text would empower foreign firms to directly “sue” signatory governments in extrajudicial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) tribunals over domestic policies that apply equally to domestic and foreign firms that foreign firms claim violate their new substantive investor rights. There they could demand taxpayer compensation for domestic financial, health, environmental, land use and other policies and government actions they claim undermine TPP foreign investor privileges, such as the “right” to a regulatory framework that conforms to their “expectations.”

The leaked text reveals the TPP would expand the parallel ISDS legal system by elevating tens of thousands of foreign-owned firms to the same status as sovereign governments, empowering them to privately enforce a public treaty by skirting domestic courts and laws to directly challenge TPP governments in foreign tribunals. Existing ISDS-enforced agreements of the United States, and of other developed TPP countries, have

5 Years In, Republicans Are Massively More Ignorant About The Realities of Obamacare


Obamacare is 5 years old, and Americans are still worried about death panels

by Sarah Kliff on March 23, 2015

- snip -

If there's any area of consensus, it's in misperceptions of the law: 82 percent of Americans either say the price tag has gone up, or aren't sure (the law's price has actually decreased as compared with initial estimates), and only 13 percent know the law met its first-year enrollment goals.

- snip -

But it's not all good news for Republicans, either: though most Americans dislike Obamacare, more want to see it improved than repealed. Democrats have lost the battle — they haven't made the health law more popular — but in thwarting repeal, and keeping Obamacare in place, they're arguably winning the war.

- snip -

But there's a stark divide between parties: 74 percent of Democrats agree with the fact that Obamacare has increased health coverage, compared with only 49 percent of Republicans.

Conversely, 54 percent of the country thinks businesses are cutting back on their employees' hours so they can dodge Obamacare's employer mandate. (There is evidence of this happening in isolated cases, but not at a widespread level.) Seventy-four percent of Republicans think this is true, compared with 42 percent of Democrats.

A similar divide shows up on insurance costs: 70 percent of Republicans say costs are going up as a "direct result" of Obamacare, while only 33 percent of Democrats agree with this statement. The best evidence we have shows that Obamacare has had a negligible effect on insurance premiums for people who get insurance at work, and that premiums have actually grown slower in the individual market since the start of the insurance expansion.

- snip -

The myth that's duped everyone: Obamacare is getting more expensive

Forty-two percent of Americans think Obamacare has gotten more expensive over the past five years. Only 5 percent of poll respondents hit on the right answer: budget estimates for the Affordable Care Act have consistently fallen since it became a law.


TOM TOMORROW: Highlights of the Next Two Years!

DAILY KOS LINK: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/23/1372205/-Cartoon-A-sneak-peek

FBI, DOJ Investigating Former Rep. Aaron Schock's Spending

Source: CBS News

@CBSNews: BREAKING: FBI, DOJ investigating former Rep. Aaron Schock's spending, federal official confirms.


Updated 26 mins ago
WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department has launched a formal criminal investigation into the office and campaign expenses of resigning Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock, as well as his personal business dealings with political donors, a person familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Friday.

The government was convening a federal grand jury in Springfield, Illinois, and the FBI has begun issuing subpoenas to compel people close to the Republican congressman to testify, the person said. The person spoke only on grounds of anonymity because the person wasn't authorized to publicly discuss the case. The grand jury was hearing testimony in early April, according to the subpoenas.

Schock abruptly resigned on Tuesday, citing a "heavy heart," following six weeks of revelations about his business deals and lavish spending on trips, mileage reimbursements and office decor in the style of "Downton Abbey."

Schock, 33, a young, media-savvy Republican, said in a statement earlier this week that the constant questions about his spending and business dealings made it impossible to serve effectively as congressman.

Read more: http://abc7chicago.com/politics/doj-opens-criminal-inquiry-into-allegations-against-rep-aaron-schock-/566395/

Breaking: Presbyterians Give Final Approval for Same-Sex Marriage

Source: New York Times

Presbyterian Church votes to change definition of marriage in church's constitution to include same-sex marriage - @nytimes

Presbyterians Give Final Approval for Same-Sex Marriage

MARCH 17, 2015

After three decades of debate over its stance on homosexuality, members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) voted on Tuesday to change the definition of marriage in the church’s constitution to include same-sex marriage.

The final approval by a majority of the church’s 171 regional bodies, known as presbyteries, enshrines a change recommended last year by the church’s General Assembly. The vote amends the church’s constitution to broaden marriage from being between “a man and a woman” to “two people, traditionally a man and a woman.”

The Presbytery of the Palisades meeting in Fair Lawn, N.J., put the ratification count over the top on Tuesday on a voice vote. With many presbyteries still left to vote, the tally early Tuesday evening stood at 86 presbyteries in favor and 41 against and one tied.

“Finally, the church in its constitutional documents fully recognizes that the love of gays and lesbian couples is worth celebrating in the faith community,” said the Rev. Brian D. Ellison, executive director of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, which advocates gay inclusion in the church. “There is still disagreement, and I don’t mean to minimize that, but I think we are learning that we can disagree and still be church together.”

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/18/us/presbyterians-give-final-approval-for-same-sex-marriage.html

Judge to Gov't: 'National Security' Isn't a 'Magic Word' That Allows Constitutional Rights Violation


Judge to Government: 'National Security' Isn't a 'Magic Word' That Allows Constitutional Rights Violations


By Lindsay Nash, Skadden Fellow, Immigrants' Rights Project at 11:20am

For the past seven months, the Department of Homeland Security has been detaining and refusing to release immigrant mothers and children – even newborns – who have fled extreme violence and persecution in Central America to seek refuge in the United States. Why would the government implement such a heartless policy? To send this message to other people who may consider coming in the future: "You're not welcome."

- snip -

But now, by court order, this policy must end.

On February 20, in response to a class-action suit by the ACLU and others, a federal district court in D.C. ruled that it is illegal to detain asylum-seeking families to send a message to others and enjoined the government from doing so. The ACLU represents asylum-seeking families who have already been found by an immigration officer or judge to have a "credible fear" of persecution, meaning there is a "significant possibility" they will be granted asylum. Many have family members living in the United States who are willing to ensure that the families appear for scheduled court appearances.

The heartbreaking stories of our plaintiffs reflect the reasons these families braved a dangerous journey to the United States, and the reasons why they should not be subjected to detention. One is a mother who along with her son fled from Honduras after years of physical abuse at the hands of her son's father; another is a mother who fled from El Salvador with her 5-year-old and 8-month-old daughters to escape brutal and unrelenting abuse by the children's father; and another is a Salvadoran woman who escaped to the United States with her young son and daughter after her common-law husband physically abused her and threatened to kill her children.

Unfortunately, in family detention centers nationwide, these stories are not unique.

In the past, DHS generally did not detain families who arrived in the United States seeking asylum. Most eligible individuals were released if they could show that they were not a flight risk or a danger to the community. However, beginning in the summer of 2014, DHS started detaining families in large numbers as part of an "aggressive deterrence strategy" intended to send a message to other Central Americans that if they sought refuge in the United States, they would be similarly punished. Under this policy, even if families demonstrated that they had a credible fear of persecution and were neither flight risks nor dangerous, DHS refused to consider them for release and kept them locked up.

Sound cruel? It is. It's also unnecessary and illegal.

In its February 20 decision, the district court for the District of Columbia agreed. It ruled that the government cannot continue to lock up these families without determining that these individuals actually pose a danger or flight risk that requires their detention. It made a provisional decision that the case can proceed as a class action and granted a preliminary injunction against the government's policy. This means that DHS must now release families on bond or other conditions unless the family members pose a flight risk or danger.


"Why I'm Pissed Off At 'Pissed-Off Rednecks'" - Awful Song Of Tthe Year


Why I’m pissed off at rednecks like you

There’s a cheesy country-western song that is getting quite popular. I admit, I’m not fond of the genre; while there’s the occasional spark of brilliance or great performer, most of it is smug white folks crying about how miserable their lives are while blaring out either fist-pumping patriotism or treacly self-pity. It’s still the music many people grew up with, though, so it’s fine if you like it. You don’t have to rationalize why you like it here, OK?

But some things need explaining. This new song, Pissed Off Rednecks Like Me” is getting a lot of undeserved attention because it is “controversial”. It isn’t — it’s dumb. It feeds a lot of bigotry, though, so bigots are enjoying it.

Let me explain why a lot of people detest Jamie Jones’ terrible little ditty. We’ll just go through the lyrics.

- snip -

This is coming from real America, son
And pissed off rednecks like me

OK, you know why you are “controversial”? It’s because you say idiotic things like that.

You are part of real America. I’m one of those liberal college professors, and I’m also part of real America. I come from a family of blue-collar factory workers, and they’re part of real America. Those black teenagers getting shot in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri? Also real Americans. You don’t get to appropriate the term “American” as only rightfully belonging to rural rednecks. It’s that selfish, unthinking self-righteousness that rankles.

Also, don’t call me “son,” you patronizing asshole.

No, I won’t push one for English
I just as soon hang up the phone

So you are so lazy and arrogant that you would deny people access to basic services because you can’t be bothered to push one button on your phone?

If you wanna serve in a Muslim church
Go and take your ass back home

There you go. You have the right to follow whatever benighted faith you want; that’s guaranteed in the Constitution. But so does the other fellow. Do you even realize that Muslims have been living in America for centuries? That white protestants like you dragged them over to this country in the 18th century as slaves? That they fought and died in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars? There are many Muslims who were born right here in the USA, and you want to tell them to go “home”. This is their home. Get used to it.

No, the Minimum Wage Isn't Forcing These Seattle Restaurants to Close (COUNTER TO NEW RIGHT-WING BS)


No, the minimum wage isn't forcing these Seattle restaurants to close

Anti-minimum wage conservatives are in full gloat over a recent report in a Seattle magazine that lots of Seattle restaurants have closed lately or are due to close in the next weeks or months.

The conservatives gleefully associate this phenomenon with the coming increase in the city's minimum wage, which kicks in April 1 with a rise to $11 an hour from $9.32. (Employers whose workers earn tips get a break--they can pay $10 if the workers make up at least another dollar from their tips.) The wage hike builds over time; for employers with fewer than 500 workers, which would probably cover every full-service Seattle restaurant, the ultimate increase to $16.49--or $15 for tip earners--doesn't happen until 2021.

David Watkins of the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog points out that the minimum wage opponents are declaring "We told you so" way too soon. In fact, the article that inspired the gloating doesn't ascribe any of the closings to the minimum wage increase and, indeed, points to different reasons in every case. As for the idea that Seattle restaurants are "closing in record number" (sic), as the Tea Party News Network proclaims, it's just not so.

Here's the rundown. Of the seven restaurants specifically mentioned in Seattle Magazine's March 4 post, one was reported by its owner to be located in the wrong neighborhood for its particular mix of bar space and atmosphere. Another is being offloaded by an owner who has three other restaurants in the city and is opening two more. (A neighboring restaurant is expanding into its space.) A third turned out to be too big for the clientele at its location. Three aren't closing at all, but are getting new chefs because their old boss is moving to Spain to join his partner.

How many owners cited the minimum wage as a factor in their actions? None.


TOM TOMORROW: Just Kidding!

DAILY KOS LINK: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/03/16/1370685/-Cartoon-Just-kidding

#YOUCANTMAKETHISSH*TUP: McCain Now Blaming Snowstorm For Iran Letter



Republicans Feeling Heat Over Iran Letter Express Regrets
Mar 13, 2015 12:23 PM EDT

(Bloomberg) -- At least a few of the Republican senators feeling the backlash from signing an open letter to Iran’s leaders are expressing some second thoughts.

Amid mounting criticism from allies, home-state editorial boards and colleagues who opted not to sign the missive, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson became the latest Republican to suggest he might do things differently if given another chance.

While Johnson said he stood by the content of the letter, which warned Iran that any deal with President Barack Obama might not outlast his term in office, he said it probably shouldn’t have been directed to leaders of the Islamic Republic.

‘I suppose the only regret is who it’s addressed to,’’ Johnson said at a Bloomberg breakfast in Washington. The Wisconsin Republican said it may have been a “tactical error” and that the letter could have been addressed to Obama’s administration or the American people.

Arizona Senator John McCain, a prominent Republican voice on foreign affairs and national security, has said haste and an impending snowstorm in Washington short-circuited more measured consideration of the letter.

“It was kind of a very rapid process. Everybody was looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm,” McCain told Politico in an interview. “I think we probably should have had more discussion about it, given the blowback that there is.”
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