Harvard Students Sue University Over Refusal To Divest From Fossil Fuels

A group of Harvard law, graduate and undergraduate students is suing to compel Harvard to withdraw its investments in oil, coal and natural gas. (Harvard Climate Justice Coalition v. Harvard)  Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/19/students-sue-force-harvard-divest-fossil-fuels/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS#ixzz3JnZl9Vys  Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter

On November 19, 2014, we sued the Harvard Corporation to compel it to withdraw its investments from fossil fuel companies. As seven Harvard students organized under the name “Harvard Climate Justice Coalition,” we allege that the Corporation’s funding of global warming harms its students and future generations, and that Harvard’s leaders have a duty to divest the university’s endowment from the reckless activities of the oil, gas, and coal industries. We’re bringing this case by ourselves, without lawyers, because we believe that we have a responsibility to confront global warming. Climate change has arrived, wrecking the planet and posing serious dangers to the most vulnerable among us.

Whistleblowers Are Punishing Banks, We Need More

Former Enron vice-president Sherron Watkins, left, leaves court with her attorney Philip Hilder after testifying in the fraud and conspiracy trial of her former Enron bosses, chairman Kenneth Lay and CEO Jeff Skilling. Photograph: Dave Einsel/Getty Images

A new study tracking the economic effects of whistleblowers has found that people who come forward to report wrongdoing helped the US government secure $21.27bn more in fines over 35 years. The study, conducted by researchers from Arizona State University, American University, Texas A&M University and University of Iowa, set out to discover if the costs of promoting and maintaining programs set up for financial whistleblowers were worth it. It found that in cases where whistleblowers were involved: Firm penalties were $90.16m to $90.88m greater. Penalties imposed on executives and employees averaged $50.22m to $56.50m more than if no whistleblower was involved. The prison sentences for those involved were on average 21.86 to 27 months longer.

Students: You Are Not A Loan

Germany just made tuition free at all public universities. That’s the kind of big picture change we need in the US. Original photograph: otto-yamamoto / flickr via Creative Commons

The American higher education system is broken: between predatory student lenders, rapacious for-profit colleges, skyrocketing tuition rates and the number of people taking on a lifetime’s worth of debt before they can legally drink, the current system is not sustainable. Instead of providing a ladder to a better life, higher education too often reinforces class- and race-based disparities. And our government is not doing anything to provide relief to students even in the most egregious cases. What we really need is a revolution. Individually, debt can be overwhelming and isolating. Together, given the fact Americans collectively owe over $1.2tn in student loans, we may be able to overwhelm and transform the system. It’s time to believe in power in numbers: You are not a loan.

As TPP Trade Talks Miss Third Deadline, Opponents Claim Momentum

Rally outside the TPP talks in Sydney, Oct. 25, 2014. Credit: SumOfUs/cc by 2.0

For the third year in a row, government negotiators for 12 Pacific Rim countries have missed an internal deadline to reach agreement on a controversial U.S.-led trade deal. And though negotiators for the accord, known as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), say the process is nearing completion, critics of the deal are expressing optimism that both public opinion and political timing are increasingly against the deal. “TPP proponents know they’re under the clock. The resistance against the TPP is as strong as it’s ever been, and is only growing stronger.” — Arthur Stamoulis of the Citizens Trade Campaign. TPP negotiators confirmed the news on Monday at a regional summit in Beijing. President Barack Obama’s administration, which has been spearheading the TPP talks, had set the meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) grouping as a key target for agreement.

Luxembourg Tax Scandal, Hiding Billions In Corporate Tax Dollars

LUX Leaks Document news reports

Tens of thousands of leaked confidential documents have shown that Luxembourg has been making special tax deals with transnational corporation that have allowed them to avoid billions of dollars in taxes. According to a report from the International Consortium of Professional Journalists: Pepsi, IKEA, FedEx and 340 other international companies have secured secret deals from Luxembourg, allowing many of them to slash their global tax bills while maintaining little presence in the tiny European duchy, leaked documents show. These companies appear to have channeled hundreds of billions of dollars through Luxembourg and saved billions of dollars in taxes, according to a review of nearly 28,000 pages of confidential documents conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a team of more than 80 journalists from 26 countries. More: Explore the Documents: Luxembourg Leaks Database The story is growing into a major worldwide scandal as report in the article below.

Utah Tar Sands Protestors Burn Money At Shareholder Meeting

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On November 12, 2014 as protestors from the group Utah Tar Sands Resistance (UTSR) assembled in front of the Alta Club building to voice their opposition to the Delaware-based, French-backed company Red Leaf Resources. The event was staged to coincide with Red Leaf’s annual shareholder meeting in an effort to deter would-be investors from putting their money into the company – a financial choice that UTSR equates to throwing precious dollars away into the fire of Red Leaf’s proposed massive rock-cooking oven. The protest was also intended to voice opposition against dirty fossil fuels as a whole, as well as the company’s oil shale strip-mining project; currently underway in its preliminary stages in Northeastern Utah.

TPP Trade Talks Must Stop

TPP protest in Mexico 2

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, said “This secretive trade deal is good for some multinational corporations, but deeply damaging to ordinary people and the very role of governments. Corporate interests are at the negotiating table, but national parliaments and other democratic actors are being kept in the dark. What we do know, much of it through leaks, is that this proposed deal is not about ensuring better livelihoods for people, but about giving multinational companies a big boost to profits. Governments should shut down the negotiations, and not re-open them unless they get genuine and transparent public mandates at home that put people’s interest in the centre.” Proposals for protection of workers’ rights have met with heavy resistance from some countries, and appear to not cover all ILO Conventions that establish Fundamental Rights at Work or subnational (state and province) labour legislation. The proposals also contain no enforcement for environmental provisions, and fail to address the need for action to mitigate climate change.

$3.4 Billion Bank Settlement; Will Anyone Go To Jail?

Painted monetary symbols are seen on a wall in Dublin city centre October 22, 2014. 

Regulators fined five major banks $3.4 billion for failing to stop traders from trying to manipulate the foreign exchange market, the first settlement in a year-long global investigation. UBS (UBSN.VX), HSBC (HSBA.L) and Citigroup (C.N), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) and JP Morgan (JPM.N) all face penalties resulting from the probe that has also put the largely unregulated $5 trillion-a-day market on a tighter leash. One regulator gave banks a 30 percent discount for settling early. In the latest scandal to hit the financial services industry, dealers shared confidential information about client orders and coordinated trades to make money from a foreign exchange benchmark used by asset managers and corporate treasurers to value their holdings. Dozens of traders have been fired or suspended.

Deepening TNCs Gains From The WTO

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The “historic” first agreement of the WTO at the December 2013 Bali Ministerial, after years of stalemate in multilateral trade negotiations, is a prime example of how WTO trade rules favor TNCs. The Bali Package has several elements but the centerpiece is the legally binding agreement: the Agreement on Trade Facilitation. The deal on agriculture is a weak and watered down peace clause – a temporary measure – that grants a short-term reprieve for developing country governments to provide support to their poor farmers and constituents without getting sued under the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM). The entire section on special and differential treatment and concerns of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are all declarations and promises for future action. The Agreement on Trade Facilitation, however, in stark contrast, is legally binding and once it hurdles the current stalemate in Geneva will be legally adopted, ratified and included as an Annex into the “Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the WTO,” and thus will be legally enforced and guaranteed by the all-powerful WTO DSM.

Politics And A Food Fight Are Stalling A Major U.S.-Asia Trade Deal

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Earlier this year, some trade supporters had predicted this week’s APEC summit would bring a breakthrough on a comprehensive trade deal. They had hoped that when the 21 global leaders met at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit, Obama would be able to use a smaller side meeting to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal involving the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as eight Asian and Latin American countries. But the deal wasn’t reached, and there’s no telling when it will be. “There are still significant divides that need to be bridged, especially between Japan and the United States,” said Joshua Kurlantzick, a Southeast Asia expert with the Council on Foreign Relations.

Detroit Activists Resist Bankruptcy Plan

Hundreds participate in a march and rally calling for a moratorium on water shutoffs from Cobo Center to Hart Plaza in Detroit on July 18, 2014.(Photo: Kathleen Galligan/Detroit Free Press)

Federal Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes’ approval of the Plan of Adjustment is not in the best interests of Detroiters. The plan, submitted by emergency manager Kevyn Orr, supported by Mayor Duggan and Gov. Snyder, protects banks, gives away public resources, and has no method to revitalize the city. We object! “We don’t live in a bankrupt city; we live in a city being attacked by bankrupt officials,” said Rev. Ed Rowe of Central United Methodist Church. From the very beginning this process has been a sham. The city was not bankrupt. Independent analysts demonstrated that the city suffered from a cash flow problem, caused by the cessation of promised state revenue sharing. The systematic withdrawal of state support, cutbacks to public services and schools, and massive layoffs in the public sector, combined with policies encouraging industry to move elsewhere, have created enormous pain for the people of Detroit.

The Peasants Still Have Their Pitchforks

United States of Poverty and Inequality Map

What can we expect Congress to do about America’s staggeringly top-heavy concentration of income and wealth over the next two years? Absolutely nothing. What do Americans want Congress to do about that concentration? A good bit. We know the first answer from the simple math of last week’s election results. Republicans now hold a chokehold on both chambers of Congress. No legislation that would even slightly inconvenience America’s awesomely affluent has any chance of even coming up for a vote. The answer to the second question reflects, in part, exit polling that the Washington Post and other major media outlets jointly conducted on election day. That polling included a suggestive question about the nation’s economy.

Movements Need Whistle-Blowers, Whistle-Blowers Need Movements

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In a feature for Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi tells the story of Alayne Fleischmann, a former securities lawyer for JPMorgan Chase who the bank spent $9 billion trying to keep quiet. Taibbi describes Fleischmann’s position as that of a “quality-control officer,” evaluating securities to ensure that the bank wasn’t taking in spoiled product to sell out again. The trouble was that the loans were rotten from the start: Chase, along with most other major banks, issued sub-prime mortgages to borrowers they knew would have difficulty paying them back. Fleischmann recounts one loan issued to a manicurist approved after claiming an annual income of $117,000 — by Fleischmann’s calculation, a sum it would have taken the same manicurist 488 days to accrue. The real trouble came when these risky loans were grouped together en masse and repacked into mortgage-backed securities — which are nothing new in financial markets, but banks like Chase had discovered that by simply lowering their standards (and flat-out deceiving borrowers) they could begin selling more of them and raking in more profit.

A Plan To End Cycle Of Native American Poverty With New Kind Of Community

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Native American reservations are hotbeds of poverty and alcoholism, with residents often struggling to find employment or basic housing. On many reservations, residents often do what they can to leave. The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, home of the Oglala Lakota Nation, is emblematic of the situation. Some 55% of residents travel 50 miles each day to work—and those are just the residents that have jobs. Poverty is so dire that it’s not uncommon to find up to 20 people living in a trailer with two or three bedrooms. A community regenerative plan, led by Nick Tilsen, a young member of the tribe, is aimed at changing all that. Tilsen and his Thunder Valley Community Economic Development Corporation are trying to build an entirely new “regenerative community” on 34 acres of empty land on the reservation. Tilsen’s ambitious plan for a sustainable community consists of a number of affordable single-family residences, lofts, townhouses, and co-housing spaces; a daycare center; onsite wind power; an aquaponics greenhouse, and other amenities that residents don’t currently have access to.

The $9 Billion Witness: JPMorgan Chase’s Worst Nightmare

Chase whistle-blower Alayne Fleischmann

In today’s America, someone like Fleischmann – an honest person caught for a little while in the wrong place at the wrong time – has to be willing to live through an epic ordeal just to get to the point of being able to open her mouth and tell a truth or two. And when she finally gets there, she still has to risk everything to take that last step. “The assumption they make is that I won’t blow up my life to do it,” Fleischmann says. “But they’re wrong about that.” Good for her, and great for her that it’s finally out. But the big-picture ending still stings. She hopes otherwise, but the likely final verdict is a Pyrrhic victory. Because after all this activity, all these court actions, all these penalties (both real and abortive), even after a fair amount of noise in the press, the target companies remain more ascendant than ever. The people who stole all those billions are still in place. And the bank is more untouchable than ever.