By Oscar Perry Abello in Next City – Jennifer Meccozi spent two decades chopping onions as a restaurant cook before she became “chief door knocker” in Buffalo, New York, or in other words, director of organizing at People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo. PUSH is a membership-based community organization dedicated to affordable housing, equitable jobs and ecological sustainability for the West Side of the city. “People know that there are door-knocking campaigns and community organizers do it all the time, but have they thought of this consciously as a tool for economic development,” explains Keane Bhatt, senior associate for policy and strategy at the Democracy Collaborative, based in Takoma Park, Maryland. Bhatt is co-author of Educate and Empower: Tools for Building Community Wealth, a report released today that features profiles of 11 organizations including PUSH Buffalo.
By Paul Gallagher in The Independent – The European Commission has been accused of a cover-up after refusing to release details of talks between its officials and the tobacco industry during negotiations over the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) treaty. Corporate lobbying campaigners published documents that revealed the EU’s executive body had met and corresponded with lobbyists from British American Tobacco and Philip Morris. But the documents, as released, revealed little else. Almost all the content, including the names of officials and tobacco lobbyists involved, the issues discussed and even the dates some meetings took place, had been redacted.
By Ryan Koronowski in Think Progress – In a move that shocked both industry observers and grassroots clean energy advocates, the Public Service Commission of Washington, D.C. unanimously rejected a proposed merger between Exelon and Pepco. Together, they would have created the nation’s largest utility. The commission wrote in its official summary, released Tuesday, that Exelon and Pepco “have not met their burden of persuading this Commission that the Proposed Merger is in the public interest.” Why? The summary listed several points but a central conflict was over how renewable energy would fare. “We are also concerned about the inherent conflict of interest that might inhibit our local distribution company from moving forward to embrace a cleaner and greener environment,” the Commission wrote in its summary.
By Seumas Milne in The Guardian – It may not yet be the moment to get in supplies of tinned food. That was whatGordon Brown’s former adviser during the 2008 crash, Damian McBride, suggested on Monday as stock markets crashed from Shanghai to New York and $1tn was wiped off the value of shares in one day. But seven years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers brought down the global financial system and plunged half the world into a slump, it’s scarcely alarmist to see the financial panic as the harbinger of a new crisis in a still crippled world economy. The market gyrations that followed “Black Monday” this week and the 40% drop in the value of Chinese stocks since June have only underlined the fragility of what is supposed to be an international recovery.
By Mike Gold in Radical SoapBox – You thought the banking crisis and the recession were bad? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet! TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – is the latest deal the bankers, corporations and governments don’t want you to know about. But just in case you find out just how toxic it could become, they’ve made sure that voters in the EU and the US will not have any opportunity to vote on it. It’s happening behind closed doors in Brussels and Washington. The politicians and the corporations want to make sure that there is nothing ‘ordinary’ people can do to halt the progress of this capitalist and/or fascist corporatist behemoth. The essence of TTIP is that the US and EU regulatory systems should be harmonised by dismantling trade barriers. This will lead to additional trade, and we can all live happily ever after. Or more likely not.
By Ralph Nader – Welcome to the world of extreme dependency by the U.S., the world’s biggest economy, on the instabilities of small and large nations overseas. This dependency is exactly what the giant corporations further by pushing globalization, often to misname it “free trade” in order to boost Congressional and White House support for the “global economy”. Although big business won’t go so far as to advocate U.S. dependence-inducing globalized markets for oil, they are pushing for trade agreements that make the U.S. more dependent even on essentials like food and medicines. For example, 80 percent of our seafood is now imported, often through dubiously treated fish farms from China. Eighty percent of the ingredients in the medicines you take come from China and India where there are very few inspectors from the Food and Drug Administration, assuming they can gain entry visas.
By Ellen Brown – In short, the sovereign debt crisis can be solved by issuing sovereign money. But is there really such a thing as a free lunch? Wouldn’t buying up the debt with newly-issued money lead to a hyperinflationary disaster?That was the fear when the Federal Reserve began its QE program in 2008. But the Fed has now monetized $4.5 trillion in QE ($2.7 trillion of which consisted of buying back federal securities, and these fears have not materialized. The stock market has gone up, but not apparently from an increased money supply. More likely it is from very low interest rates, making bonds unattractive and facilitating stock buybacks and borrowing to invest. The cost of produce has gone up, but it is largely because of drought in California, which supplies nearly half the country’s fruits, vegetables and nuts; and because speculators have moved into foodstuffs. Despite all that, the overall inflation rate remains at manageable levels.
By Walden Bello in Focus Web – It is great to see so many of those who have been part of Focus on the Global South’s twenty-year journey here today, cherished comrades and friends, all of who are also 20 years older…but all still burning with youthful energy like Focus. Focus was born in the same year as the World Trade Organization, with the goal of challenging that force of which the WTO was said to be the cutting edge: corporate-driven globalization. When we were founded, we were said to be on the wrong side of history. We were told that we were like the people who claimed that the earth was flat, that globalization would sweep all before it and deposit us in the dung heap of history. We were undeterred because we were convinced we were on the right side of history, on the side of the vast majority of people who were hurt and devastated by globalization.
By Stephen J. Butler in Occupy – I personally think the time has come to set wheels in motion to organize a state-owned bank here in California. North Dakota has operated its own bank since the early 1900s and it has made money for taxpayers while strengthening the state’s own regional banks. The net effect has been to keep bank profits in North Dakota. The only losers have been the “too-big-to-fail” banks that would otherwise have enjoyed making the spread on money borrowed by, and throughout, the state. Of course, there is little political will to organize anything this effective in California because the banking lobby deploys too much money throughout the political process. However, our state’s initiative process offers voters an option to do an end-run around elected officials.
By Jeff Abbott in Waging Non-Violence – Along the Atlantic coast of Honduras, Afro-Caribbean Garifuna communities are being forced from their land, as proposals for the creation of mega-tourism projects and corporate-run cities, commonly referred to as “model cities,” gain momentum internationally. Congress is set to vote on one such plan this summer. Originally proposed by Vice President Joseph Biden in January, the plan would provide the governments of Central America $1 billion — on top of previously existing aid agreements — to bring further investment into the region.
By Darwin Bond Graham in East Bay Express – Last April, when plans to ship coal through the old Oakland Army Base became public, Phil Tagami, the master developer of the base, came under fire from local officials and community groups. Tagami, however, downplayed the news, claiming that coal is only one of many goods that might be shipped through a new maritime bulk terminal that he’s building on the base. He also said in statements to the press that a $53 million investment that four Utah counties hope to make in the marine terminal would allow these counties to ship potash, hay, salt, and other Utah goods, perhaps including coal, through the facility. But emails, contracts, and reports reviewed by the Express show that the proposed investment in the bulk marine terminal by the Utah counties is, in fact, driven by a secretive Kentucky-based coal company, Bowie Resource Partners, that wants to massively expand its coal mining operations in Utah.
By Zachary Davies Boren in The Independent – The European Commission is making the secret Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal even more secret, introducing a new rule that means politicians can only view the text in a secure ‘reading room’ in Brussels. An investigation by German news site Correct!v has revealed that the Commission is cracking down on TTIP security following a series of leaks, purportedly by EU member states who had accessed information on the deal electronically. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström has said that no more reports on TTIP negotiations will be sent to Member States because of “important vulnerabilities in the last rounds of negotiations”. Officials were told of this change in policy on July 24th at a meeting in Brussels in which the Commission explained that the documents had “been submitted to databases of [member states'] national parliaments” meaning that “hundreds of people have actually uncontrolled access”.
By Benjamin Clement in Economy In Crisis – “Free trade” has essentially led to the most massive wealth transfer in the history of the world. The United States has not witnessed a trade surplus since 1975, and since then trillions of dollars have been lost through trade deficits caused by “free trade” on our end and protectionism on the other. The most significant flaw with all of our “free trade” agreements is that they are impossible to enforce, and because of this competition is impossible. “Free trade” depends on the premise that all countries will play by the same rules. However, in the real world, assuring that this occurs is incredibly expensive, time-consuming and inefficient to contest. We have simply been unable to create a universally free market. Like communism before it, true “free trade” works only in theory, on a large scale and when utilized by all.
By Tara Lohan in Alternet – Deborah Lawrence had been watching a once-empty parking lot near Midland-Odessa, Texas, fill up with idled drilling rigs usually at work plumbing for oil in the nearby Permian Basin. In January she noticed 10 rigs, then 17 a few weeks later. As winter turned to spring, the number climbed to 35. That trend has continued across the country. By the end of July, the nationwide rig count had slipped 54 percent since the same time a year ago, indicating distress in the oil and gas industry. The most obvious culprit is the precipitous drop in crude prices. But the trouble goes deeper, as Lawrence knows — and she isn’t just a casual observer. Lawrence is a former Wall Street financial consultant who now runs the Energy Policy Forum, helping to identify and analyze trends in the industry. Right now, our fossil-fueled energy path has us on a roller-coaster ride and we are plunging, white knuckled.