The Pentagon suppressed a report that climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters, the London Observer reported Feb. 22. The secret report, which was made public the following day, predicts that abrupt climate change could bring the planet to the edge of anarchy as countries develop nuclear weapons to defend and secure dwindling food, water and energy supplies. The threat to global stability vastly eclipses that of terrorism, experts told the Observer. "Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life," concludes the Pentagon analysis. "Once again, warfare would define human life."
The Bush administration has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. The report was commissioned by influential defense adviser Andrew Marshall, who has held considerable sway on US military thinking over the past three decades. He was the man behind a sweeping recent review aimed at transforming the US military under Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Climate change "should be elevated beyond a scientific debate to a US national security concern," say the authors, Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network. The Observer report came a week after the Bush administration came under heavy fire from 60 top US scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, who claimed that it cherry-picked science to suit its policy agenda and suppressed studies that it did not like. Jeremy Symons, a former whistleblower at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), told the Observer that suppression of the report for four months was a further example of the White House trying to bury the threat of climate change. See the report at www.ems.org/climate/pentagon_climate_change.pdf.
STOP 'FREE TRADE' SNEAK ATTACK. The Bush administration is trying to get governors to "voluntarily" commit their states to comply with draconian constraints on domestic procurement (purchasing) policy included in the recently completed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) and proposed for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Leaked documents show that the US trade representative is seeking blanket permission from governors to sign states on to the procurement provisions of all trade agreements under negotiation.
According to Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch at least 38 states agreed to "sign on" to that pact's procurement rules, which also covers all cities and counties within that state. The trade rules negotiated behind closed doors would shut down their right and authority to halt off-shoring of state services, require living or prevailing wages in government contracts, or preferences for recycled paper content, locally-grown food, locally-produced vehicles and more. Until there is a vote on one of these agreements, the states can pull their names off the list with no liability. But once Congress votes to approve a pact, getting a state OFF the list requires compensating trading partners for their lost opportunity -- an expensive and often unviable solution.
Pacts up for votes as soon as this spring are CAFTA (US, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica) and the US-Australia Free Trade Agreement. States that have signed onto CAFTA and/or WTO procurement provisions include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Global Trade Watch urges you to call your governor's office to inquire about your state's response to the US trade representative's request for sign-off on the new generation of procurement agreements. If your governor consented to be included, urge that she or he withdraw the state from the list. If your state has not responded, ask the governor's office to turn over the request to the legislature for their consideration. Call your state attorney general's office, any and all state legislators, city councilors and mayors you know to warn them about the letter and ask them to contact the governor's office immediately. For more information see www.citizen.org/trade or contact Global Trade Watch's Sara Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-454-5193.
NEW ECONOMICS: FAST FOOD FACTORIES. Restaurant workers might be reclassified as manufacturing workers as the Bush administration seeks a way to stem factory job losses, at least on paper. David Cay Johnston of the New York Times on Feb. 20 noted that the new Economic Report of the President, a thick annual compendium of observations and statistics on the nation's health, questions whether fast-food restaurants should continue to be counted as part of the service sector or should be reclassified as manufacturers. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, told Washington economists on Feb. 17 that properly classifying such workers was "an important consideration" in setting economic policy. The report notes that the Census Bureau's North American Industry Classification System defines manufacturing as covering enterprises "engaged in the mechanical, physical or chemical transformation of materials, substances or components into new products," which could include cooking a hamburger and inserting meat, lettuce and ketchup inside a bun.
In response to the McJobs-as-manufacturing assertion, US Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., wrote to Mankiw asking if special sauce will now be counted as a durable good? "I am sure the 163,000 factory workers who have lost their jobs in Michigan will find it heartening to know that a world of opportunity awaits them in high growth manufacturing careers like spatula operator, napkin restocking and lunch tray removal," Dingell wrote. (Salon.com.)
WHITE HOUSE: 'DON'T HOLD US TO JOBS PROMISE.' The White House Feb. 18 backed away from its prediction that the economy would add 2.6 million new jobs before the end of the year, saying the forecast was the work of number-crunchers and that Bush was not a statistician. Bush had claimed his massive tax cuts would generate millions of new jobs by the end of the year but with only 366,000 jobs added since last August he is still down 2.2 million since he took office. "I think the economy's growing, and I think it's going to get stronger," the nation's first MBA president insisted.
BUSH DEFIES JUDICIAL FILIBUSTERS. Bypassing Senate Democrats who have stalled his judicial nominations, Bush used a recess appointment to put right-wing Alabama Attorney General William Pryor on the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 20. The recess appointment, which would last only until the end of 2005, would be the second by Bush to sidestep Democrats who have blocked Pryor and five other appeals court nominees. In January, Bush used an identical appointment to promote Mississippi federal judge Charles Pickering. a former segregationist, to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The good news is that the judicial positions will be open after 2005 if a Democrat is elected president.
FAMILY FARMERS WIN IN COURT. Tyson Foods suffered two setbacks recently as a jury in Alabama Feb. 17 awarded $1.3 billion to cattle producers that had sued Tyson/IBP for using captive supplies to drive down cattle prices paid to independent producers. The jury found that Tyson manipulated prices unfairly with captive supply cattle, driving down the price that 30,000 independent producers received by 5.1% over the period of 1994-2002. On Feb. 19, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled that hog farmers whose contracts were canceled in 2002 could take their case to court rather than settling via an arbitration panel. The court upheld a lower court's ruling that Tyson's contracts with over 100 producers in the state improperly forced farmers to accept arbitration to settle disputes, while allowing the company to "pursue any other remedies" like taking farmers to court. See www.competitivemarkets.com.
PRESSURE AGAINST GENE-ALTERED WHEAT. A legal petition that calls for the Bush administration to conduct a more thorough public review of the social, economic and environmental impacts of Monsanto's application for genetically-engineered, Roundup Ready wheat has been endorsed by 27 groups, from the Minnesota Farmers Union, to the Center for Food Safety, to the Organic Trade Association, to the National Catholic Rural Life Conference, to the Intertribal Agriculture Council. The groups signed on in support of the original petition filed by Northern Plains' wheat farmers last March. The petition argues that the US Department of Agriculture is legally obligated by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to conduct a full environmental impact statement (EIS) on Monsanto's pending application to deregulate and commercially release its genetically-engineered Hard Red Spring Wheat. Wheat farmers and their allies demand an EIS because of social, economic, agronomic and environmental concerns, including the potentially devastating loss of millions of dollars in export markets. They also want the petition to look at other key issues, such as the feasibility of segregating GE wheat from non-GE wheat; and the creation so-called "super weeds" -- volunteer GE wheat plants that may be resistant to herbicides and could therefore disrupt cropping practices. See www.iatp.org.
BUSH DOUBTS BUILD. Republicans might have a problem making an issue of the trustworthiness of Bush's Democratic foe, as Bush's credibility has been taking a hit lately, George E. Condon of Copley News Service reported Feb. 22. Only 52% view Bush as "honest and trustworthy," down 7 points from the last poll and down significantly from a high of 71% in the summer of 2002, a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press also also showed Bush's image slipping, as the numbers of positive and negative responses were even and the most frequently used negative word to describe Bush was "liar" &endash; a word that never showed up in last May's survey. His credibility has been undercut by controversy over Bush's National Guard service and by a budget that contains overly optimistic numbers on the deficit and doesn't include funds to pay for ongoing war operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. It was further eroded when the White House had to back away from its forecast for new jobs.
CANADA TOPS US IN HEALTH CARE. Canadians, with their single-payer national health care program, live longer, healthier lives than do US residents, with our patchwork of health insurance and other plans. And they pay about half as much ($2,163 vs. 4,887 in 2001) for the privilege, Judy Foreman wrote in the Feb. 23 Los Angeles Times. According to a World Health Organization report published in 2003, life expectancy at birth in Canada is 79.8 years, versus 77.3 in the US (Japan's is 81.9.) "There isn't a single measure in which the US excels in the health arena," says Dr. Stephen Bezruchka of the School of Public Health at the University of Washington in Seattle. She added, "Fifty-five years ago, we were one of the healthiest countries in the world. What changed? We have increased the gap between rich and poor. Nothing determines the health of a population [more] than the gap between rich and poor." During the last quarter-century, all income groups in Canada showed gains in life expectancy. During much the same period in the US, death rates widened between America's rich and poor, according to a 2002 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology by American and Australian researchers. Infant and maternal mortality rates also show striking differences between the US and Canada. And more than half of Canadians with severe mental disorders received treatment, compared with little more than a third of Americans, according to the May-June 2003 issue of Health Affairs.
COPS, FIREFIGHTERS LOSE TO DRUG COMPANIES. Fred Kaplan of Slate.com looked into Bush's Homeland Security budget and found that half of the increase in the $40.2 billion budget would go to the "BioShield" program, which is essentially a cash handout to pharmaceutical companies. Bush asked $2.5 billion for this program next year, up from this year's $885 million. According to the Office of Management and Budget, $400 million will "maintain and augment" a stockpile of vaccines in the event of a biological-weapons attack. However, the rest of the money will be given to drug companies as "an incentive to manufacture" the "next generation" of medications. "Encouraging the production of new vaccines and antitoxins is a good idea," Kaplan wrote. "But this program seems to have no oversight, timetables, quality standards, or other strings attached. Its connection to tangible results is so tenuous that the OMB, in calculating how much has really been budgeted for homeland security, makes a point of deducting the allocations to the BioShield program." Meanwhile, programs to train local firefighters and law enforcement, provide air marshals, screen aviation passengers, patrol the border and provide and provide emergency medical response are being cut.
UNHOLY MACKEREL. The Bush re-election campaign sent out Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Feb. 21 to accuse John Kerry, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, of having a weak voting record on military affairs. Similar accusations in 2002 helped Chambliss, who dodged service in Vietnam, defeat Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam. This time Cleland replied, "For Saxby Chambliss, who got out of going to Vietnam because of a trick knee, to attack John Kerry as weak on the defense of our nation is like a mackerel in the moonlight that both shines and stinks."
AL QAEDA REBUFFS IRAQI TERROR. The most active terrorist network inside Iraq got turned down by al Qaeda in its request for help in attacking Shi'ite Muslims in Iraq, American officials told the New York Times. Before the US invasion of Iraq, Bush administration officials portrayed al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam as close associates and used the alleged links as part of their justification for war against Saddam Hussein's government. But the US in January intecepted a request to al Qaeda for assistance by Ansar's leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
GOP LIES ABOUT W'S GUARD SERVICE. "Just when you start debating how much or whether the president's military service record should be an issue in this campaign," Josh Marshall wrote Feb. 23 at talkingpointsmemo.com, "you realize that the main reason it's an issue is that the president and his surrogates just won't stop lying about it." Marshall noted that Bush campaign chairman Marc Racicot, in an interviewed with NPR's Juan Williams, had the gall to say the Bush's and John Kerry's military service "compare very favorably ... He [Bush] signed up for dangerous duty. He volunteered to go to Vietnam. He wasn't selected to go, but nonetheless served his country very well " Williams didn't call Racicot on it, but Marshall noted when the president signed up for the Texas Air National Guard in 1968 there was a check box asking whether he wanted to volunteer for overseas service. "And he checked off 'do not volunteer.' ... This is just a preview of what we're certain to see from the Bush campaign this year since it follows past practice so closely: Wait till the brouhaha subsides and then hopscotch over the remaining unanswered questions about the president's service by making stuff up that is flatly contradicted by the record." The record, by the way, shows Kerry actually went to Vietnam and came back with three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star and a Silver Star.
Marshall earlier noted that former Major John "Bill" Calhoun, whom the GOP produced for reporters, said Bush showed up for his drills in Alabama through the summer and fall of 1972, when the records show Bush's transfer to the Alabama unit wasn't approved until September 1972. "Now, needless to say, if we were still operating under the rules that prevailed in the mid-1990s, James Carville would have been appointed Independent Counsel in the late summer of 2002 to investigate Halliburton. He'd have had the Intel shenanigans, the Plame matter and the Niger documents added to his brief since then. A cowed AG would have given him the Guard matter around the middle of last week. And in a couple days some FBI agents would be showing up on Calhoun's doorstep ready to squeeze him as silly as any freshly sliced wedge of lime in close proximity to a bottle of Corona. Lucky for him Dems don't play so rough."
PENTAGON FAVORITE GETS $400M IRAQ CONTRACTS. US authorities in Iraq have awarded more than $400 million in contracts to a start-up company that has extensive family and, according to court documents, business ties to Ahmed Chalabi, the Pentagon favorite on the Iraqi Governing Council, Knut Royce reported in Newsday Feb. 15. The most recent contract, for $327 million to supply equipment for the Iraqi Armed Forces, was awarded in January and drew an immediate challenge from a losing contester, who said the winning bid was so low that it questions the "credibility" of that bid. Earlier, an $80-million contract, awarded by the Coalition Provisional Authority last summer to provide security for Iraq's vital oil infrastructure, became a controversial when the company started recruiting many of its guards from the ranks of Chalabi's former militia, raising allegations from other Iraqi officials that he was creating a private army. Chalabi, 59, was living in exile in London when the US invaded Iraq. The chief architect of the umbrella organization for the resistance, the Iraqi National Congress, Chalabi is viewed by many Iraqis as America's hand-picked choice to rule Iraq.
AL QAEDA REBUFFS IRAQI TERROR. The most active terrorist network inside Iraq got turned down by al Qaeda in its request for help in attacking Shi'ite Muslims in Iraq, American officials told the New York Times. Since before the US invasion of Iraq, Bush administration officials have portrayed al Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam as close associates and used the alleged links as part of their justification for war against Saddam Hussein's government. But the US in January intercepted a request to al Qaeda for assistance by Ansar's leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
CBS CAVES AGAIN. Once again bowing to pressure from conservatives, CBS announced it will resume airing the Bush administration's controversial TV ad touting the new Medicare prescription drug law. The network had pulled the ad pending a US General Accounting Office investigation into whether the ad constitutes improper expenditure of taxpayer money for political purposes. The ad, which has been criticized as inaccurate and partisan, was produced at taxpayer expense by Bush's campaign media firm -- a firm that also does ads for the drug industry. (See www.americanprogress.org). CBS purportedly has a "policy" against air advertisements that include advocacy of viewpoints on controversial issues of public importance. CBS invoked this "policy" to decline a Moveon.org ad during the Superbowl exploring the consequences of the administration's fiscal policies. To tell CBS that the only way they can maintain any credibility is to pull the Medicare ad again, email email@example.com; write CBS, 51 W 52nd St, New York NY 10019; or phone 212-975-4321.
ANTI-WAR MARCH. Momentum is building around the world for the Global Day of Action against War and Occupation on March 20, the one-year anniversary of the US bombing and invasion of Iraq. United for Peace and Justice is a national coalition with more than 700 groups under its umbrella (see www.unitedforpeace.org). The March 20 Global Day of Action has been endorsed by the Global Assembly of the Anti-War Movement, the World Social Forum, and the 3rd Hemispheric Forum Against the FTAA. In the US, there will be a massive protest in New York City plus dozens of local and regional demonstrations across the country. See www.unitedforpeace.org or call UFPJ for information on demonstrations.
CRAWFORD PROTESTERS CONVICTED. Five peace activists arrested last year en route to a demonstration outside George W. Bush's ranchette near Crawford were convicted Feb. 16 of violating the town's protest ordinance. A jury deliberated about 90 minutes before returning guilty verdicts for the five on the Class C misdemeanor of violating Crawford's parade and procession ordinance, which the city's police chief testified could outlaw a person wearing political buttons without a permit. "It's completely absurd that you can't even get near the people's president," said one of the defendants, Amanda Jack, 23-year-old Austin resident, reported in the Waco Tribune-Herald. "You can't even petition your own government representative." The five activists, who were jailed overnight following their arrests last May, were given fines ranging from $200 to $500. They plan to appeal the verdict to McLennan County Court. Jim Harrington, attorney for the five, said they were not demonstrating at the time of their arrests, but were stopped by a police blockade and had gotten out of their cars to negotiate with the officers, according to testimony.
TERROR PROSECUTOR SUES ASHCROFT. A federal prosecutor in a major terrorism case in Detroit has taken the rare step of suing Attorney General John Ashcroft, alleging the Justice Department interfered with the case, compromised a confidential informant and exaggerated results in the war on terrorism, the Associated Press reported Feb. 17. Assistant US Attorney Richard Convertino of Detroit accused the Justice Department of "gross mismanagement" of the war on terrorism in a whistleblower lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington. Convertino came under internal investigation last fall after providing information to a Senate committee about his concerns about the war on terror. His testimony came just months after he helped convict some members of an alleged terrorism cell in Detroit. The government now admits it failed to turn over evidence during the trial that might have assisted the defense, including an allegation from an imprisoned drug gang leader who claimed the government's key witness made up his story. Convertino also accused Justice officials of intentionally divulging the name of one of his confidential terrorism informants (CI) to retaliate against him for taking the story to the Senate. The leak put the informant at grave risk, forced him to flee the US and "interfered with the ability of the United States to obtain information from the CI about current and future terrorist activities," the suit alleges.