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cali's Journal
cali's Journal
August 19, 2016

If you oppose the TPP, you don't care about people in poor countries

Bullpucky. Baloney.

I care about the labor activists murdered in Columbia.

I care about those suffering La Oroya, Peru because of the massive poisoning of the environment resulting in death and illness and 35,000 people leaving the town.

I care about those supposedly protected by FTAs written by corporations for the profits of corporations. The reality has been and continues to be woefully lacking environmental and labor enforcement provisions. And that's true about the TPP.

There's nothing wrong about the ISDS, proponents of the TPP and other FTAs tell us. The U.S. has never lost a case. True, but there have been several cases that were lost on technicalities and if the TPP is enacted, many, many more corporations will have the right to bring cases under the ISDS provisions against the U.S. There are also pending cases.

It's ironic that those of us opposing the TPP are accused of being selfish and America-centric and not caring about people in poor and emerging economy nations.

If you want to understand the cases brought against nations by corporations, read this entire chart


It details all the cases.

The Investor State Dispute Settlement System may not have impacted the U.S. yet, but it's a matter of time with more and more corporations gaining access to it should the TPP be enacted.

The obscure legal system that lets corporations sue countries

Luis Parada’s office is just four blocks from the White House, in the heart of K Street, Washington’s lobbying row – a stretch of steel and glass buildings once dubbed the “road to riches”, when influence-peddling became an American growth industry. Parada, a soft-spoken 55-year-old from El Salvador, is one of a handful of lawyers in the world who specialise in defending sovereign states against lawsuits lodged by multinational corporations. He is the lawyer for the defence in an obscure but increasingly powerful field of international law – where foreign investors can sue governments in a network of tribunals for billions of dollars.

Fifteen years ago, Parada’s work was a minor niche even within the legal business. But since 2000, hundreds of foreign investors have sued more than half of the world’s countries, claiming damages for a wide range of government actions that they say have threatened their profits. In 2006, Ecuador cancelled an oil-exploration contract with Houston-based Occidental Petroleum; in 2012, after Occidental filed a suit before an international investment tribunal, Ecuador was ordered to pay a record $1.8bn – roughly equal to the country’s health budget for a year. (Ecuador has logged a request for the decision to be annulled.)

Parada’s first case was defending Argentina in the late 1990s against the French conglomerate Vivendi, which sued after the Argentine province of Tucuman stepped in to limit the price it charged people for water and wastewater services. Argentina eventually lost, and was ordered to pay the company more than $100m. Now, in his most high-profile case yet, Parada is part of the team defending El Salvador as it tries to fend off a multimillion-dollar suit lodged by a multinational mining company after the tiny Central American country refused to allow it to dig for gold.

The suit was filed in 2009 by a Canadian company, Pacific Rim – later bought by an Australian mining firm, OceanaGold – which said it had been encouraged by the government of El Salvador to spend “tens of millions of dollars to undertake mineral exploration activities”. But, the company alleged that when valuable deposits of gold and silver were discovered, the government, for political reasons, withheld the permits it needed to begin digging. The company’s claim, which at one point exceeded $300m, has since been reduced to $284m – still more than the total amount of foreign aid El Salvador received last year. El Salvador countered that the company not only lacked environmental permits but also failed to prove it had obtained rights to much of the land covered by its request: many farmers in the northern Cabañas region, where the company wanted to dig, had refused to sell their land.



One bit of good news:

Peru won an arbitration case over Renco Group Inc.’s claim that the government overstepped its authority by ordering an affiliate, Doe Run Peru, to clean up pollution linked to lead and zinc smelting in the mountain town of La Oroya and forcing it into bankruptcy.

An arbitration panel issued a partial award for Peru on July 15, the Ministry of Economy and Finance said Monday in a statement. New York-based Renco, owned by billionaire Ira Rennert, sought $800 million in compensation.

In a statement, Renco described the decision as “an insignificant victory for Peru” based on “technical legal grounds.”

“Renco plans to immediately refile the same claims in a manner that cures the technical legal defect that was the basis for the dismissal,” it said, voicing confidence that a tribunal ultimately will “render a substantial award in Renco’s favor.”

The case illustrated the complexities of allowing private investors to file arbitration claims against sovereign nations, and it became a lighting rod for the debate over remediation claims allowed under trade agreements.



An arbitration proceeding aimed at ending a longstanding dispute between Mexico and the US on 'dolphin safe' labeling of Mexican tuna could occur soon, the publication STR Trade reported.

In November 2015 the World Trade Organization (WTO) upheld a ruling that the US was discriminating against Mexican tuna imports, by applying the tougher catch verification and documentation rules to Mexican fishing fleets in the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean purportedly to safeguard dolphins.

The US has since changed its rules but Mexico is requesting the US be subject to $472 million in sanctions related to its actions.



The WTO ISDS is not exactly the same as the ISDS provisions incorporated into FTAs.


I am not against free trade. I am firmly opposed to the template long used by the USTR which drives these agreements.

Fair Trade, not Trade that is tilted sharply toward corporate entities.

August 19, 2016

Mining’s permanent pollution

The environmental damage caused by mining often can’t be undone. And companies are trying hard to convince us otherwise.

The global mining industry spends tens of millions of dollars each year trying to convince us that it is “sustainable” and an indispensable part of the global economy, both now and in the future. There’s even an initiative to demonstrate mining’s ability to contribute to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The truth is that mining presents major problems for development; including one that is not well-known outside mining-nerd circles: Pollution of ground and surface water “in perpetuity,” i.e. forever.

This is a globally pervasive and enormously costly problem. And the mining industry’s unwillingness to comprehensively address it undercuts nearly everything the industry says about “sustainability.” For developing countries, this permanent pollution represents an unresolvable financial burden that will drain away precious resources needed to address poverty and development.

A quick geology lesson: the mining of hard rock minerals such as gold, silver and copper often exposes other rocks known as sulfides. This exposure causes the rock to produce sulfuric acid that drains into the surface and ground water near mine sites. The acid generation process continues for thousands of years (i.e. “in perpetuity”). Rivers in Spain are still contaminated today by acid that began generation during Roman mining 2000 years ago. Once this contamination begins, it can’t effectively be stopped, only neutralized through the continual chemical treatment of the water. Water treatment of this type is extremely expensive; costing $67 billion per year in the US alone.

For communities around the world, especially rural agricultural communities in developing countries, water is the essential resource that makes their lives and livelihoods possible. Women in particular suffer from the effects of contaminated water. No amount of fancy industry PR or high-sounding principles can make mining “sustainable” if mines are generating pollution that will permanently destroy communities’ access to this life-sustaining necessity. To provide a graphic depiction of the risks communities face, Oxfam is finalizing a mapping of rural agricultural areas in Honduras that are potentially impacted by mining-contaminated water.



August 19, 2016

An email I just sent: It's time to end your "First Lady" cookie contest

Dear Editor:

It’s time. Time to end your “First Lady” cookie contest. It’s outdated. It’s sexist. It’s just darn silly. I was inspired to contact you regarding this rather unimportant issue due to an article I saw on right wing website, accusing former President Clinton of “plagiarizing” Hillary’s cookie recipe of 20+ years ago.

I’m an avid baker and cook, but I recognize that not everyone is- and not every presidential spouse bakes.

This is 2016, not 1958 or even 1992. Let’s laud the potential first spouses for their achievements and contributions, not the goodness of some cookie recipe.


August 19, 2016

Toomey, in Fight for Political Life, Abandons TPP Trade Deal

In a fight for his political life, Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey is abandoning a major international trade deal that has emerged as a divisive campaign issue.

Announcing his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement puts the Pennsylvania senator more in line with labor unions and Democrats, including his challenger, Katie McGinty, who say the deal will drain jobs from the U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and her Republican rival, Donald Trump, have opposed it, too.

However, it puts Toomey out of step with Republican Senate leaders and a major Toomey backer, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on the deal involving the U.S. and 11 other Pacific rim countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Polls show a neck-and-neck race between the first-term Toomey and McGinty, who has held various high-ranking posts in state and federal government. Millions of dollars in TV ads by outside groups are pouring into the contest, which could tip control of the chamber in the Nov. 8 election.

McGinty's campaign quickly called Toomey's opposition to the TPP a "flip flop" on a career spent supporting free-market principles and international trade deals.

In a sign of the unpopularity of trade deals in this election season, Clinton — who promoted the deal as the "gold standard" of trade agreements when she was secretary of state — also turned against it as a candidate.

McGinty, as a member of President Bill Clinton's administration in 1994, defended the then-newly signed North American Free Trade Agreement, but in this campaign, she has hammered trade deals as bad for domestic manufacturing jobs and the middle class.



August 19, 2016

What does Malaysia's losing a FIFA event have to do with the TPP? Quite a bit.

Malaysia. Part of the TPP, a country with serious human rights issues and human trafficking so prevalent, that the SD upgraded despite no improvement in these areas, to push the TPP.


August 2, 2016 12:00AM EDT

Malaysia: New Law Gives Government Sweeping Powers

Malaysia’s new National Security Council (NSC) Act, which came into force on August 1, 2016, is a tool for repression that should be immediately repealed, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should instead revise its laws to incorporate international human rights standards into the effort to counter terrorism.


“Given the Malaysian government’s recent track record of harassing and arresting government critics, the likely abuses under this new law are truly frightening,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “There are serious concerns that this law will be used as a back door to severe rights violations, using government claims that it only seeks to protect its citizens from terror threats.”

Enacting this law is a serious step backward on human rights by Prime Minister Najib, who in September 2011 scrapped the country’s infamous Internal Security Act (ISA) as part of what he said were efforts to find “the right balance” between national security and personal freedom. He promised new legislation that would protect fundamental rights and freedoms.



Malaysia Needed a Clean Human Rights Record—So the State Department Just Gave It to Them

When President Obama was selling Congress on granting “fast track” for his Trans-Pacific Partnership, he made lots of huge (and improbable) promises. His new 12-nation trade deal would protect worker rights better than ever before in the global economy, he vowed, and the environment too. Human exploitation is wrong; Obama said he would stop it. Despite spirited resistance from skeptical Democrats, the Republican Congress drank the Kool-Aid.

Sure enough, Obama sort of kept his promise to address human rights abuses in Malaysia, though he did so by simply denying the country’s well-documented record of human exploitation. With an obscure bureaucratic fix at the State Department, the president cleansed Malaysia—where millions of Asian women, men, and children come in search of jobs and find themselves forced into sex slavery, indentured labor, and debt peonage—of its notorious record of human trafficking

Malaysia was just awarded a ratings upgrade that contradicts the facts of the State Department’s own reports and investigations. This is the kind of odious backroom deal that often accompanies trade negotiations. Without the upgrade, Malaysia would have been barred from signing on as one of America’s TPP partners.

Senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Robert Menendez of New Jersey didn’t like the smell. The decision, Brown said, “is grounded in politics—not in facts.… Giving countries with clear evidence of human rights violations like Malaysia a front row seat to join the TPP is unconscionable.”



There hasn't been reform in Malaysia since the SD upgraded Malaysia's rating regard human rights. To the contrary there is CLEAR and indisputable evidence that human rights are degrading even further in that country.

How anyone could believe that the TPP will improve human rights in Malaysia isn't beyond me- it's a clear case of shutting one's eyes to the obvious.

August 19, 2016

It sucks. And it's titled "Two Americas". Trump's 1st GE TV ad:

Gee, wonder who he stole that "Two Americas" concept from:

August 19, 2016

Re Trump and his campaign: It's all political rubbernecking at this point

the prospect of his imploding completely due to his horrible, capering antics, is enjoyable, but I worry that I and others are celebrating his demise too soon.

Beyond that, I worry that we're all becoming so engrossed in Trump's surreal campaign that we're losing the issues for the bizarre spectacle of this unfolding election season.

August 19, 2016

Zika Virus May Affect Brain Function in Adults

Many researchers have suggested for some time that the Zika virus may have serious health consequences—particularly on brain function. Several months ago, health officials verified that the virus can cause a range of congenital birth defects, including microcephaly and brain damage in infants born to mothers who were infected during pregnancy.

Zika’s effects on adults have not yet been studied widely. Although most adults who contract the virus remain asymptomatic, some researchers suspect the Zika virus may also have deleterious effects on the adult central nervous system in ways that we don’t fully understand. Simply put, Zika may not be as innocuous for adults as public health officials currently claim.

A new study published Thursday in Cell Stem Cell contains some of the first research to look specifically at how the virus may affect the brains of adults who become infected. Though this research, conducted on mice, is highly preliminary, it provides clear evidence that health officials may need to closely monitor and track patients’ neurological and cognitive functions even after the acute infection has resolved.

The study found that the Zika virus appears to target neural progenitor cells—stem cells that are the earliest form of brain cells, which eventually become fully formed neurons. While the fetal brain is composed of mostly neural stem cells, they are present in only two areas of the brain in adults: the anterior forebrain and the hippocampus. These regions are critical to neuroplasticity and are linked to memory and cognitive function.


August 19, 2016

Yemen conflict: MSF to withdraw staff from 6 northern hospitals

More places in desperate need of medical personnel, losing the invaluable services of MSF. As well as helpless patients, 3 doctors were killed in these war crimes.

The charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says it will withdraw staff from six hospitals in north Yemen after a Saudi-coalition air strike hit one of its buildings, killing 19 people.

Monday's attack was the fourth and deadliest on MSF's facilities in Yemen.

The French charity said in a statement it was "unsafe for both patients and staff" in the Saada and Hajjah governorates to continue.

They said hospitals will remain staffed by local volunteers.

MSF said air strikes have continued even though they have shared the satellite co-ordinates of their hospitals with the parties involved in the conflict.



August 19, 2016

Pregnancy-Related Deaths Nearly Doubled In Texas After Cuts To Women’s Health

Texas experienced a sudden and dramatic spike in pregnancy-related deaths in 2011, the same year the state slashed funding for Planned Parenthood and women’s health programs, according to a study in the September issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

After a modest increase in maternal mortality in Texas between 2000 and 2010, the rate of pregnancy-related deaths nearly doubled in 2011 and 2012 ― something researchers described as “puzzling” and out of sync with data from the other 49 states. Seventy-two women in Texas died from complications of pregnancy and childbirth in 2010, and that number jumped to 148 in 2012.

While the study does not suggest a clear cause for Texas’ alarming data, the rise in pregnancy-related deaths coincided with lawmakers slashing family planning funds by 66 percent in the state budget in 2011. The cuts forced 82 family planning clinics to close, one-third of which were Planned Parenthood clinics, and left Texas’ women’s health program able to serve less than half as many women as it had previously served. Low-income women in particular had less access to affordable birth control and thus had more babies, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times.

The new data on pregnancy-related deaths is too dramatic to be explained only by the budget cuts to women’s health, the study notes.

“In the absence of war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval, the doubling of a mortality rate within a two year period in a state with almost 400,000 annual births seems unlikely,” researchers write.



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