Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour continued to aggressively downplay the damage done by the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, telling Fox News Sunday (6/6) that tar balls washing up on the state’s beaches were “no big deal” because you can “pick them up and throw them in the bag.” He blamed the media for creating a “misperception” of crisis but also suggested that President Obama was “destroying himself” by not adequately responding to the spill, Alex Seitz-Wald of ThinkProgress.org noted, Barbour had nothing negative to say about BP.

Barbour, a former D.C.-based lobbyist for energy companies who received $1.8 mln from oil and gas companies for his gubernatorial campaign, also joined Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sens. David Vitter (R-La.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) in calling for Obama to end the six-month moratorium on offshore deepwater drilling, ThinkProgress.org noted (6/6).

The White House responded to the letters from Jindal and Vitter, Sam Stein reported at HuffingtonPost.com (6/3): “The 6-month moratorium on deepwater drilling was instituted for a clear reason: the President believes we must ensure that the BP Deepwater Horizon spill is never repeated,” the White House official wrote. “This will allow for the new safety equipment and procedures announced in Secretary Salazar’s May 27th report to be implemented and for the independent commission to review the cause of the spill and analyze the rules and regulations governing offshore drilling.

“A repeat of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill would have grave economic consequences for regional commerce and do further damage to the environment.

“Among the drilling rigs that have frozen exploration in the Gulf are 2 operated by BP, and 2 jointly operated by BP and another company. Proceeding without the moratorium would mean that BP would continue deepwater exploration in the Gulf.

“Economic impacts were certainly taken into account — the moratorium is surgical and shallow water drilling, in which the risks are better known, is continuing under stricter safety rules. Additionally, oil and gas production is continuing at the existing set of production wells, so we are not expecting short term effects on our oil and gas supply.

“Under the administration’s legislative proposal to assist those harmed by the spill, workers unemployed because of the 6-month moratorium would be eligible for unemployment assistance. The proposal would also create jobs for cleanup, restoration, renovation and recovery. And the Small Business Administration is currently offering economic injury loans to impacted businesses on the Gulf Coast.”

While promoting his new book, Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto on ABC’s Top Line (6/7), Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, was asked how his statement that “lower taxes plus less government equals more freedom” squares with the massive government effort to contain the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Kibbe replied, “Well I think if you look at what’s happened down there, it’s a sad story of government incompetence as well as negligence on the part of BP. And I think what you have to look at is when there is a natural disaster like this we do expect our government to do some things and to do them well. And the whole point of limited government is you want the government to be competent at those few things that we need it to do and this is an example where the government was asleep at the switch and there’s a series of regulations that led to deep drilling as opposed to more economical and safer options.”

ThinkProgress noted (6/7) that FreedomWorks has worked with BP to build grassroots support for opening up large sections of the East and West coasts to new oil drilling.

JOBS NEED MORE STIMULUS. Employers added 431,000 nonfarm jobs in May, the biggest increase in a single month since the recession, and dropped the unemployment rate to 9.7%, but the bulk of the growth was in government jobs, mainly temporary jobs of Census workers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported (6/4). The private sector added only 41,000 jobs.

That suggests to us that more government employment is needed, particularly if the recovery is stalling. But to House GOP Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), the 431,000 new jobs “underscores the need to repeal & replace ObamaCare & pass the spending cuts economists say we need to boost the economy.”

Steve Benen noted at WashingtonMonthly.com, “This, of course, is the same man who was absolutely certain that the Clinton economic plan would be a massive failure, was completely convinced that Bush’s economic policies would produce extraordinary prosperity, and just knew beyond a doubt that the recovery efforts that have produced 2.8 mln jobs so far would hurt the economy.”

Robert Reich, an economist and former labor secretary blogging at RobertReich.org, said more stimulus is needed to avoid a double-dip recession. “The only reason the economy isn’t in a double-dip recession already is because of three temporary boosts: the federal stimulus (of which 75% has been spent), near-zero interest rates (which can’t continue much longer without igniting speculative bubbles), and replacements (consumers have had to replace worn-out cars and appliances, and businesses had to replace worn-down inventories). Oh, and, yes, all those Census workers (who will be out on their ears in a month or so),” Reich wrote (6/4).

“So what’s the answer? In the short term, more stimulus – especially extended unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments that are whacking schools and social services because they can’t run deficits.

“But the deficit crazies in the Senate, who can’t seem to differentiate between short-term stimulus (necessary) and long-term debt (bad) ... shot it down.

“In the longer term, we need a new New Deal that will bolster America’s floundering middle class.” He suggests expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and extend it through the middle class to give them the resources to buy goods and services the economy is capable of producing. “Finance that extension through higher marginal income taxes on the wealthy, who have never had it so good.”

But Obama appears to be giving in to “deficit hawks” as the White House directed agencies to cut at least 5% from their budgets. Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post reported (6/8) House Democratic leaders are discussing a budget plan for next year that would cut deeper than Obama’s freeze, while Republicans dismissed the spurt of presidential activity as vague promises that will have little effect until after the fall elections.

MINERS’ SAFETY A FORBIDDEN TOPIC. Upper Big Branch miners feared losing their jobs if they complained about safety problems, a congressional committee was told May 24 at Beckley, W.V. Although Massey officials denied that they put coal production ahead of safety concerns, Gary Quarles, a coal miner who lost his son, Gary Wayne Quarles, in the Upper Big Branch disaster, told the US House Education and Labor Committee, “When MSHA is not present, there is no thought of doing anything other than producing coal.” As reported by the Charleston, W.V., Gazette, Quarles, a 34-year mining veteran employed by a nearby Massey mine, described how the mine superintendents and underground foremen were warned in advance of federal Mine Safety and Health Administration inspections.

Steve Morgan, whose 21-year-old son Adam died at Upper Big Branch, said his son told him at least weekly of dangerous levels of methane underground and that ventilation curtains meant to feed fresh air to the longwall mining machine’s workers were regularly removed. His son told him highly explosive “float coal dust” in the mine was at times so thick that he couldn’t see. In one instance, Morgan said, his son was told to hurry up and apply crushed limestone to keep the dust down because inspectors were on their way underground.

Also, Morgan said his son was frequently left to work alone despite being a “red hat,” or apprentice miner, who is required to be accompanied by a more experienced worker.

“I told Adam to tell his boss that this practice was unsafe and he didn’t want to do it, and when Adam told his boss, the boss told him if he was that scared, he needed to rethink his career,” Steve Morgan testified.

Quarles said the miners looked to the MSHA for leadership, “but MSHA has let us down many times.”

Stanley Stewart, a miner who was entering the mine when the explosion occurred, said miners knew better than to complain about safety problems. “No one felt they could go to management and express their fears or the lack of air on our sections,” Stewart said. “We knew that we’d be marked men and the management would look for ways to fire us.”

Alice Peters said her son-in-law, section foreman Edward Dean Jones, had told her before he was killed in the explosion about “at least seven” instances where Massey supervisors told him that if he shut down production because of ventilation problems he would lose his job.

A former Massey Energy coal miner has filed a complaint to the Department of Labor that he was fired after talking about unsafe conditions at two Massey mines in West Virginia, NPR reported (6/7). Ricky Lee Campbell’s whistleblower complaint said he repeatedly told his supervisors about failing brakes on the coal shuttle cars he drove at the Slip Ridge Cedar Grove mine. The 24-year-old from Beckley, W.V., also spoke to a newspaper about unsafe conditions at Upper Big Branch, where he worked until shortly before the accident. And he provided information in the federal investigation of the blast. He was suspended a week after he spoke to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and then he was fired on April 23. The Labor Department is seeking Campbell’s temporary reinstatement, finding his complaint “is not frivolous” and “there is reasonable cause to believe that Mr. Campbell’s dismissal was motivated by his exercise of protected activities” under federal mine laws, the Wall Street Journal reported (6/7).

Federal and state investigators looking into the mine disaster are being hampered by Massey employees who aren’t showing up for voluntary interviews, the Charleston Gazette reported (5/26).

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, urged President Obama to make immediate changes in the enforcement of mine safety regulations. He is calling for new criminal penalties for the firing of miners who blow the whistle on neglected safety rules. He wants regulators to stop giving management a heads-up before inspections, and to have working miners accompany safety inspectors so they can share their expertise about the dangers. Recommendations included re-establishing the US Bureau of Mines, improving rock dusting and mine ventilation standards and enhancing criminal penalties for tampering with safety equipment such as methane monitors. He also recommended requiring each mine to have a certified mine safety team; requiring federal inspectors to take miners with them on safety inspections; requiring inspectors to inspect mines on evenings and weekends, not just during day shifts; and taking enforcement action against operators, mine guards or other employees who try to subvert inspections by warning mine owners that inspectors are at the mine.

A non-profit organization that wants to prosecute Massey Energy for the Upper Big Branch explosion, says billboard companies are hesitant to sell space against the company, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported (6/3). ProsecuteMassey.org is a project of the Daily Citizen, a non-profit organization based out of Washington D.C. The group has billboards in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia that read “29 Coal Miners Dead Prosecute Massey for Manslaughter. www.prosecutemassey.org.” But it has been unable to place billboards in Raleigh County, where the mine is. Russell Mokhiber, who organized ProsecuteMassey.org and edits Corporate Crime Reporter, said one of the billboard dealers originally agreed to accept the Massey Manslaughter billboard, but reversed his decision after discussing it with a machine shop guy in Logan, W.V. “And this guy says to me — you want to get yourself killed, don’t you?” the dealer told Mokhiber.

A spokesman for Massey Energy told West Virginia Public Broadcasting, “If billboard vendors decline to post inaccurate and misleading advertisements from Daily Citizen it is likely due to the fact that they reject the organization’s extremist ideologies.”

HISTORIC MOUNTAIN TO BE STRIP-MINED? Environmentalists hope to stop Massey Energy Co. and Arch Coal from blasting and strip-mining huge chunks of the upper slopes and ridge of Blair Mountain, removing much of the mountaintop. The West Virginia mountain was the site of a pitched battle in 1921 between thousands of coal miners and coal industry forces, private detectives and state police who were intent on stopping them. As Heather Pringle wrote at NationalGeographic.com (6/2), the miners were marching to Mingo County, W.V., to free miners imprisoned by state authorities and unionize workers who lived in dire poverty in company towns when they ran into the coal industry forces in fortified positions. The battle lasted five days and claimed dozens of lives before federal troops arrived. Twelve years later, Congress passed an act giving workers the right to form unions and bargain collectively. Cecil Roberts, president of United Mine Workers, has called for protection of the entire battleground, which “stands as a pivotal event in American history, where working men and women stood up to the lawless coal barons of the early 20th century and their private armies and fought for their rights as Americans and indeed, the rights of working families all over the world.” The mountain was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, but West Virginia’s State Historic Preservation Officer, Randall Reid-Smith, a political appointee, requested that Blair Mountain be taken off the register and federal officials complied in December.

CHASE RECONSIDERS MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL. JPMorgan Chase bank officials have agreed to review all proposed banking transactions for companies engaged in mountaintop removal strip mining, Rainforest Action Network noted (5/17). In its corporate responsibility report, the bank said its review would include “considerations of a company’s regulatory compliance history, as well as exposure to future regulatory changes and litigation risks, particularly as they relate to valley fills and water quality issues.” Environmentalists and citizen activists targeted the bank, which less than two years ago managed a $690 mln bond offering with the top MTR mining company, Massey Energy.

“Rainforest Action Network is encouraged by JPMorgan’s move to address its financing of mountaintop removal coal mining, the devastating practice of blowing up the Appalachian Mountains and contaminating drinking water for a tiny amount of coal. This is a welcome step forward.

“JPMorgan has joined but not surpassed Bank of America and Citi who both announced financing guidelines on mountaintop removal coal mining in 2008. If JPMorgan wants to lead instead of follow on environmental responsibility, the way forward is a complete phase-out of mountaintop removal coal financing.”

The EPA in April announced plans to open the permitting process for greater transparency and to review the effects of mining on water quality.

THOMAS RETIRES, BECK BABBLES ON ... Helen Thomas had a great and groundbreaking career as a White House correspondent and it’s a shame that ill-considered comments on Israel, suggesting that Israeli Jews “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Poland, Germany and America, caused the 89-year-old columnist to get the bum’s rush from the Hearst Newspapers bureau. Working for the old United Press International, Thomas had covered every president since the end of the Eisenhower years and she was known for her tough question. She was the first woman to be an officer of the National Press Club, the first female member and president of the White House Correspondents’ Assn. and she had a coveted front-row seat at presidential press conferences, at least until she spoke her mind (to a rabbi with the video camera at a White House celebration of Jewish heritage, no less).

Then there’s Glenn Beck, the Fox “News” host who, on his radio show (6/4), promoted The Red Network: A ‘Who’s Who’ and Handbook of Radicalism for Patriots, a 1934 book by Elizabeth Dilling, a virulent anti-Semite and racist who, among other things, attacked the Committee for Human Rights Against Naziism that called for a boycott of Germany because of its persecution of the Jews. Beck noted that Dilling singled out the National Education Association as part of the Red Menace, but MediaMatters.org noted, as part of her attack on the Germany critics, Dilling wrote that “it is only fair to note” that Germany’s Jewish population contained “Russian Jews” who “had made themselves prominent in the Red movement,” and if Germany “has discriminated against the innocent also, it has been with no such ferocity and loss of life as the planned and imminent Communist revolution would have wreaked upon the German population.” Dilling later became a full-throated supporter of Naziism who reportedly attended Nazi party meetings in Germany and pro-Nazi rallies in the US.

Professor Glen Jeansonne, who wrote about Diller in Women of the Far Right: the Mother’s Movement and World War II, notes that Dilling referred to Dwight Eisenhower as “Ike the Kike,” attacked Richard Nixon for his alleged “service to the synagogue” and smeared John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier program as the “Jew frontier.” Jeansonne, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in an interview with MediaMatters, criticized Beck’s “ludicrous” promotion of Dilling’s The Red Network, saying that she was considered a “crackpot” in her own day who “appealed to the lunatic fringe.” Jeansonne termed Dilling as probably the “most bigoted woman anti-Semite of the period around World War II,” and said she “did the cause of anti-Communism a disservice.”

At press time, there was no word on Beck’s plans to “retire.”

BUSH: ‘YEAH, WE WATERBOARDED.’ George W. Bush’s casual acknowledgment (6/2) that he had Khalid Sheikh Mohammed waterboarded -- and he would do it again -- horrified former military and intelligence officers who argued that the former president doesn’t seem to understand the gravity of what he was admitting, Dan Froomkin reported at HuffingtonPost.com (6/3).

“Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” Bush told a Grand Rapids audience (6/2), of the self-professed 9/11 mastermind. “I’d do it again to save lives.”

Waterboarding, a form of controlled drowning, is “unequivocally torture,” said retired Brig. Gen. David R. Irvine, a former strategic intel officer who taught POW interrogation and military law for 18 years. “As a nation, we have historically prosecuted it as such, going back to the time of the Spanish-American War,” Irvine told Froomkin. “Moreover, it cannot be demonstrated that any use of waterboarding by US personnel in recent years has saved a single American life.”

James P. Cullen, a retired brigadier general in the US Army Reserve’s Judge Advocate General's Corps, told HuffingtonPost.com that the net effect of Bush's remarks -- and former Vice President Cheney’s before him -- is “to establish a precedent where it will be permissible to our enemies to use waterboarding on our servicemen in future wars.”

Cheney famously once agreed with an interviewer that “a dunk in the water” was a “no-brainer” if it saves lives.

“This is not the last war we're going to fight,” said Cullen. “Americans not yet born are going to be prisoners of war in those conflicts. And our enemies are going to be able to point back to President Bush and Vice President Cheney saying that waterboarding is OK.”

JOBLESS CAUSE UNEMPLOYMENT? Some Republicans, including Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) have argued that the government should cut off extended unemployment benefits because, as he said on CNBC, “you basically keep an economy that encourages people to, rather than go out and look for work, to stay on unemployment.” Les Leopold of the Labor Institute noted at Blog.uswtmc.com (6/7) that more than 29 mln Americans are still without work or forced into part-time work — for an underemployment rate of 16.6%. “Nearly 7 mln people have been jobless for over 26 weeks (the ‘long-term unemployed’) — more than at any time since the Great Depression. We still need more than 22 mln new jobs to get us anywhere near full-employment.”

The key to solving the crisis? Leopold wrote: “Move money from Wall Street to Main Street. The only argument we need to have is over how best to do it. Personally, I’m for massive government investment in renewable energy, conservation, and education (especially for dislocated workers). We could create a million weatherization jobs almost overnight if we had the guts to put a 50 percent windfall profits tax on Wall Street bonus babies and hedge fund billionaires. Not only would we get people back to work, but we’d have better insulated homes and offices, vastly reducing our dependence on oil.

“But no. Now that we’ve propped up Wall Street and shoveled out some stimulus money, we’re told that we’re broke. Deficit mania is setting in. So forget creating jobs. Besides, the mysterious and all-powerful ‘markets’ won’t like it if government starts playing a more active role. They’ll jack up interest rates to punish any country that fails to cut government spending. The politicians are on their knees praying to the market gods and offering up sacrifices in the hopes that they can get through the next election cycle.

“Catering to the whims of financial markets is madness. Are we living in a theocracy or a democracy? Do we have to grovel before the market gods? Or can we create a world where there is ample work and more harmony with our environment? Who decides? The wrathful gods of Wall Street? Or the people who actually work for a living — or would like to, if only they could find a job?”

TRAGIC MISUNDERSTANDING. Israel didn’t do itself any favors with its bungled intervention of a Turkish-flagged flotilla that aimed to take humanitarian supplies to Gaza, which resulted in Israeli commandos apparently killing at least nine activists, including an American citizen, but leave it to the partisans to make things worse.

President Obama sought to tread carefully in the dispute between Israel and Turkey, a NATO member and longtime ally of the United States. He didn’t take sides but said it was “a tragic situation” and “loss of life that was unnecessary” and called for “an effective investigation of everything that happened.”

Liz Cheney, a former deputy assistant secretary of state in the Bush administration, objected to Obama’s remarks. “What is truly tragic is that President Obama is perpetuating Israel’s enemies’ version of events ... President Obama is contributing to the isolation of Israel, and sending a clear signal to the Turkish-Syrian-Iranian axis that their methods for ostracizing Israel will succeed, and will be met by no resistance from America.

There is no middle ground here,” she added. “Either the United States stands with the people of Israel in the war against radical Islamic terrorism or we are providing encouragement to Israel’s enemies — and our own.”

Her statement ignores that Turkey is a secular democracy and Syria is a secular one-party dictatorship — but then, the Bushites never were very good at figuring out those sorts of nuances. There is some cause for alarm that the Turkish government led by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, a former Islamist, feels more freedom to stray from the secularism that has been enforced by the military since the early 20th century.

But Steve Benen commented at WashingtonMonthly.com (6/6): “Even for Liz Cheney, this is pretty nutty. Turkey is not only a NATO member and long-time ally of the United States, it’s also been a key *Israeli* ally. Obviously, the May 31 raid has pushed the relationship to the breaking point, but labeling Turkey as a country that threatens to destroy Israel ignores years of history.

“As the [New York Times] recently explained, Turkey ‘has long been Israel’s closest friend in the Muslim world, with $2.5 billion in trade in 2009 and strong ties between the countries’ militaries and governments.’”

Juan Cole, a professor of modern Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan and the author of Engaging the Muslim World, noted that Turkey is central to US military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and 70% of materiel for US troops in Iraq comes in through Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey. Also, Turkey has troops in Afganistan as part of the NATO contingent. “Turkey is a key bridge for Obama to the Muslim world,” Cole said. “Strategically, if the US had to choose between Turkey and Israel, it would have to choose Turkey.”

The Israeli action also places pressure on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, another US ally who ordered that the blockade of Gaza be lifted, at least temporarily. Egypt has treaty obligations with Israel and Mubarak’s ruling National Democratic Party has been locked in a struggle with Muslim Brotherhood fundamentalists for decades. Mubarak, who is 81 and in poor health, also has little use for fundamentalist Hamas, which rules Gaza, but he also does not want a flood of Palestinian refugees from Gaza. See JuanCole.com for good background on the Middle East.

THE PRICE OF BUSH WARS. May marked the seventh anniversary of President George W. Bush’s declaration of “mission accomplished” in Iraq, Rep. Jan Schakowsky noted (5/28), yet five American soldiers were killed there in that month. “The only clear winner of the Iraq war in Iraq is Iran,” Schakowsky wrote at HuffingtonPost.com. “Their mortal enemy, Saddam Hussein, was taken out and fellow Shi’ites are in charge. Iran has been emboldened to the point of threatening the stability of the region and the world with its growing nuclear capability.

“And then there’s Afghanistan, which, after nearly a decade of war, represents the longest continuous US military engagement ever. Even the non-partisan Congressional Research Service recently declared the situation in Afghanistan as a ‘deteriorating security situation and no comprehensive political outcome yet in sight.’ And the US military just suffered its 1,000th casualty in Afghanistan on Friday (5/28).” She noted that two days later we would pass the $1 tln mark on Bush’s wars. Over 5,000 American men and women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. President Obama is withdrawing troops from Iraq, and he proposes to start drawing down troops from Afghanistan in July 2011. But Gen. Stanley McChrystal told reporters in Kabul (5/30) the fight will extend long beyond that deadline, though hopefully with increasing involvement of Afghan forces.

AUTO INDUSTRY BAILOUT ‘MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.’ GM reported its first quarterly profit in nearly three years and Chrysler reported that it had a positive cash flow after nearly bleeding to death in 2008. Steven Rattner, who counseled the treasury secretary on the car bailout, wrote in the Washington Post (6/1) that the bankruptcies succeeded in wiping vast liabilities from the companies’ balance sheets, more than $65 bln in the case of GM. A cold-blooded look at operating costs cut GM’s North American expenses by $8 bln per year and allowed the company, which used to need to sell 16 mln vehicles a year in the US to break even, to make a profit with 10 mln sales — and annual sales are now running above 11 mln. “Accordingly, what would have been losses at “old GM” are now profits at shiny new GM,” he wrote.

The US Treasury is well on its way to recovering most of the $81 bln that the government invested in the auto sector to prevent its collapse, he wrote.

The bailout also saved more than 100,000 US jobs at GM and Chrysler and more than 2 mln jobs at contractors that would be lost if Republicans had their way. GM’s workforce shrank from 88,000 US employees at 47 plants and 6,000 dealerships before the bankruptcy to 68,500 at 33 plants and 3,600 dealerships after bankruptcy, CNNMoney.com reported (7/10/09). Chrysler’s workforce shrank 44%, losing 40,000 jobs from 2004 through 2009, but it is hiring more than 1,000 hourly workers and dozens of salaried workers in Detroit, the Free Press reported (6/8).

“After Obama intervened to rescue auto manufacturers a year ago, the right insisted it was an example of his purported desire to be a communist dictator. Twelve months later, his efforts look pretty smart, and his detractors’ apoplexy looks pretty foolish,” Steve Benen wrote at WashingtonMonthly.com. “For that matter, the conservative theme of the year is that government spending is the single most odious phenomenon in the known universe. And yet, it was government spending that prevented a depression, and it was government spending that rescued the American auto industry.”

SUPPORT FAIR TRADE. The Obama administration in July will host round two of negotiations for what could be the president’s first trade deal. Officials from seven Asian/Pacific countries will hold Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks in San Francisco (7/14), James Ploeser, senior organizer for Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, wrote, adding that “the usual corporate interests are digging in to block true reforms, such as the TRADE Act ... They want (Obama) to take ownership of the failed NAFTA model by ensuring that his first trade pact ... is cut from the same stained cloth.”

Obama inherited from former President George W. Bush three leftover NAFTA-style pacts with Colombia, Panama and Korea. “These deals are tremendously unpopular with the American public and Congress. Thanks to you, they’ve been sidelined,” Ploeser wrote. “As a result, TPP talks have become the proving ground for Obama’s trade policy. The administration must make a clean break from the failed NAFTA past and move toward a fair trade future that puts workers, the environment and the public interest ahead of corporate profits.” He urges people to write letters to the editor of their local paper to demand that any new Obama trade deal embody the standards laid out in the TRADE Act, which creates jobs, protects against climate change and environmental destruction, ensures food and product safety and doesn’t allow corporations to challenge out laws in foreign tribunals.

US HEALTH CARE FAILS WOMEN AND CHILDREN. America is, by all standards, one of the wealthiest country in the world and spends more per capita than any other developed nation. But a new study published in *The Lancet* from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington found that the US still has a much higher infant mortality rate (6.7 per 1,000 live births) than women from countries with similar levels of wealth. Megan Carpenter notes at Firedoglake.com (5/31) that countries with similar infant mortality rates have less than half our per capita GDP and spend one fifth or less than us on health care. “The only country that even comes close to our health care spending (Luxembourg), has less than half of our child mortality rate; countries with comparable per capita income levels (the [United Arab Emirates], Switzerland and Ireland) all have significantly lower mortality rates (3.0, 4.2 and 4.2 respectively),” Carpenter wrote. She noted, “one thing that all the countries with low child mortality rates have in common: comprehensive, government-led universal health coverage, which ensures that women have care before they contemplate pregnancy, before they attempt pregnancy, while they are pregnant and after their children are born.”

From The Progressive Populist, July 1-15, 2010


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