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Partners In Health Physician On Haiti: “Cholera Will Not Go Away Until Underlying Situations That Make People Vulnerable Change”

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 at 7:07 pm

Oldspeak:“Wow, this latest misery and suffering visited on the Haitian people can be traced back to U.S. interference and blockage of Haitian water infrastructure projects during the Bush administration. Apparently it was a brilliant Rove-ian scheme hatched up to destabilize Democratically elected Jean Bertrand-Aristide’s Government. Corporatocracy in action, when you’re a third world leader and you have the audacity to pledge to raise the minimum wages for impoverished sweatshop workers, this is how they do you. Dirty.”

From Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

The Haitian government says a cholera outbreak is slowing down, but experts are warning the disease could remain for many years. At least 259 people have died, and over 3,300 have been infected. We speak with Dr. Evan Lyon, a physician with the group Partners in Health who has spent years working in Haiti. In 2008, he helped lead a study on how the US undermined clean water projects in Haiti.

GuestDr. Evan Lyon, physician with the group Partners in Health who has spent years working in Haiti.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to turn now to another top story of the day. The Haitian government says a cholera outbreak is slowing down, but experts are warning the disease could remain for many years. At least 259 people have died. Over 3,300 have been infected. But the numbers could be far higher, because some remote areas haven’t been counted and the disease is generally symptomless in 75 percent of cases. Most of the deaths have occurred in the rural Artibonite region, but at least five cases have been confirmed in the capital Port-au-Prince. Authorities have established treatment centers in Port-Au-Prince, where over a million Haitians have lived in camps following the January earthquake.

On Monday, the Haitian government said the outbreak appears to have been contained, with just six new deaths since Sunday, compared to 220 late last week. But the deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization, Dr. Jon Arbus, said Haiti could be dealing with cholera for years to come.

DR. JON ARBUS: Cholera has established itself with a strong foothold in Haiti. It’s probably clear to us that this will not go away for several years. We’ll need to—this front-full surge of cases will come down, but there will probably be sporadic cases in the future, now that the bacteria is well established in the environment.

AMY GOODMAN: Cholera is easily spread through contaminated drinking water and poor sanitation, major issues for a country devastated by the January earthquake. But there’s a political dimension to the cholera outbreak. Just as the earthquake’s impact was worsened by US trade policies that undermined Haitian self-sufficiency and forced thousands of Haitians to abandon rural areas for the teeming neighborhoods of Port-au-Prince, the cholera outbreak is renewing focus on the denial of key loans to Haiti nearly a decade ago. In an effort to destabilize then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Bush administration blocked millions of dollars in international loans. Key water projects were canceled or stalled, including some in the region where the cholera outbreak occurred.

For more, we’re joined right now by Dr. Evan Lyon in Chicago, physician with the group Partners in Health who’s spent years working in Haiti. In 2008, he helped lead a study on how the US undermined clean water projects in Haiti, the report dealing with the denial of the right to water in Haiti.

Evan, thank you very much for being with us. Describe this cholera outbreak, Dr. Lyon. We’re talking about a disease that is both treatable and preventable. How is it that so many thousand people are now infected?

DR. EVAN LYON: Thank you, Amy.

To describe the disease is pretty difficult. It’s a terrifying—it’s a terrifying situation. The economic and social conditions in Haiti have left Haitians vulnerable to any manner of infectious diseases that are endemic there—typhoid, TB, malaria, HIV. But this is new. There hasn’t been cholera in Haiti for more than fifty years, so the population has little experience with it. It’s a very fast-moving disease. Often, from the first onset of symptoms, someone will die of dehydration, if they’re not given help within twenty-four hours. For the young, for the old, for vulnerable people, that’s often within twelve hours. So this is a very fast-moving disease. In a population where at least 70 percent of people have no access to improved water or sanitation, people cannot protect themselves. So the country is terrified at this point. So the people have no experience with this disease. Their immune systems have no exposure, which will help the disease spread more rapidly. And then, of course, nurses and doctors also have not seen this disease in several generations. So it’s a terrifying situation, rooted, as you introduced, in the lack of infrastructure, lack of sanitation and clean water, which has been very clearly—very clearly slowed down and diminished by manipulation from the outside.

AMY GOODMAN: And very quickly, we know it’s in the Artibonite region, which is considered the breadbasket of Haiti. You’ve also found it in a prison.

DR. EVAN LYON: Yeah, that’s right. This epidemic first came to light about a week ago with the first cases and then was confirmed a day or so later, and then it exploded. About fifty or sixty miles upriver from Saint-Marc, where the epidemic has been most dense, there’s a prison in a town called Mirebalais, where I’ve worked for a number of years providing healthcare and trying to increase legal access. Inside that prison, to the best of my knowledge from talking to folks on the ground yesterday, there have been six deaths, and we now have twenty-five inmates who are inpatients with us at a center called La Colline, just up the road there. These prisoners obviously don’t leave the prison. The infection was brought to them by the water that’s around them. And the number of deaths and number of infections is really extraordinary. We understand that somewhere beneath—somewhere below a quarter of people who are exposed and inoculated with the Vibrio cholerae germ become sick. So, in this prison of about 250 prisoners, there are now thirty documented cases of sickness and death. Everyone was exposed. Every single person in that prison was exposed to the germ. A good number became sick. They’re malnourished. They’re in horrible sanitation conditions. There’s very little access to water or food inside the prisons.

The other really remarkable and sad fact about this is that 80 percent of those inmates are not convicted of any crime. They’re awaiting—they’re awaiting trial. So, people who are in the prison based on accusations, but not yet in front of a judge, have now been handed a death sentence. The prisoners are still packed in the same crowded conditions, they’re going to be receiving the same water, and this epidemic is not going away. Again, like your introduction, I think a really salient feature and something that people need to remember is that cholera will not go away in Haiti until the underlying conditions that make people vulnerable are changed. This is another—this is another disease that Haiti will now have to manage, and many people will die, not just now. Maybe this first wave of epidemic is passing, but more important, this disease will be around as long as there’s poor infrastructure. With the population shifts that have happened since the earthquake and diminishing health resources throughout the country, it’s a very frightening time for the country.

AMY GOODMAN: And the loans denied by the Bush administration, in 2001 the Inter-American Development Bank loans, talk about how that contributes, what you see, as the problem today. Very quickly, Dr. Lyon?

DR. EVAN LYON: Sure. The Inter-American Development Bank recognized that water systems were vulnerable in 1997, approved loans around $54 million in 1998 to come to Haiti to improve water systems because of the recognition of how important this is to maintaining public health. In 2000, 2001, based on political considerations, trying to pressure the Haitian government to proceed with some electoral changes, the American—the US Treasury Department, which has a majority voting stake in the IDB, pressured the IDB to slow down loan disbursement. We uncovered this in a report that Partners in Health, Zanmi Lasante, the RFK Foundation in New York and the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU published to reveal that for political reasons these humanitarian loans were slowed down.

Ultimately, at this point, we know that the first water systems in Port-de-Paix in the north, where we did our study, and in Les Cayes in the south, those systems have not been improved in any substantial way, despite the fact that loans have been disbursed. Saint-Marc was on the list for a second wave of IDB loans for water improvement, but nothing has been done to date. So we have a direct line to—showing a recognition that water systems are vulnerable, the need for loans to come out to repair these life-saving infrastructures, and then a slowdown, a decade-long slowdown, which has a tremendous effect on the population at large. And now, in this period after the earthquake, when people are moving out of the city into the countryside, where health resources are scattered and less available, it’s made the population vulnerable. And I think it’s reasonable to draw a straight line from these loans being slowed down and cut off to the epidemic that emerged a week ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Evan Lyon, I want to thank you for being with us. We will continue to follow what’s happening in Haiti with cholera ripping through certain areas. Dr. Evan Lyon is a physician who’s worked in Haiti with the group Partners in Health for years.

 

 

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U.S. Citizenship For Sale.

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Oldspeak:“Logical extension. Pretty much every U.S. industry has been outsourced, NBC has hit comedy by the same name, and apparently it’s perfectly acceptable for monied foreigners to purchase citizenship to the United States of America. More evidence that the hullabaloo over, immigration reform is all about racially specific xenophobia and class, not security or legal citizenship. “The phrase “bring us your moneyed investors yearning to breathe free” doesn’t have the same poetic heft as the inscription about the tired, poor, huddled masses etched on the Statue of Liberty.'”

From Daniel Gross @ Yahoo Finance:

Every day investors around the world choose to put their hard-earned cash into the U.S. Billions of dollars flow in the form of foreign direct investment, as when a group of Brazilians bought Burger King, and foreigners purchase hundreds of billions of U.S. stocks and bonds, as measured by the Treasury’s TIC data.

But a small number of investors show up on these shores drawn by something more valuable than financial returns: the prospect of U.S. citizenship.

You can’t simply purchase an American passport (at least not legally). But since 1990, foreigners with as little as $500,000 in cash have been able to invest their way to a quick green card, putting them on the path to citizenship. Quick, somebody call Lou Dobbs!

Yes, the U.S. government lets people with cash to jump the line for a green card through the EB-5 program.

Starting in 1990, 10,000 visas have been set aside each year for the EB-category. The program was designed to encourage foreign investors to create jobs by starting a new business or preserve jobs by investing in money-losing businesses. If they agree to invest $1 million, foreigners can get a visa, apply for green cards, and become conditional permanent residents.

After two years, provided they’ve made good on their promise to invest, created 10 jobs (family members don’t count), and the business is still an ongoing concern, they can apply to have those conditions removed. And after five years with a green card, holders can apply for citizenship.

Of the 10,000 visas in the program, 3,000 are set aside for “targeted employment areas” — rural areas, or places with an unemployment rate that’s 150 percent or more of the national average. For these visas, the threshold is lowered to $500,000.

Another 3,000 visas are set aside for investments in “regional centers” — areas or industries designated by states. (A full list of regional centers can be seen here.)

Some organizations, professional service firms, and companies promote the program as a whole, or market investment in particular projects as appropriate for EB5 aspirants, such as a ski resort in Vermont. Other entrepreneurs having a tough time raising cash are now seeking to use the program to tap into new sources of financing. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that developer Bruce Ratner is seeking to use the program to help raise funds in China for his massive, controversial Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Now, many may view the prospect of giving favorable immigration treatment to investors as problematic. The phrase “bring us your moneyed investors yearning to breathe free” doesn’t have the same poetic heft as the inscription about the tired, poor, huddled masses etched on the Statue of Liberty. From its inception, the price of citizenship has traditionally been a willingness to leave behind the old world and work hard — not write a check to support the construction of a bunch of ski-in, ski-out condos.

But I happen to think this is a very good thing. If it were fully utilized, the EB5 program would bring at least $7 billion annually and create or preserve 100,000 jobs per year. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things — there are currently about 130 million Americans with payroll jobs. But given the trauma inflicted upon American workers in the past three years, every little bit helps. And this is something the U.S. should be doing more of.

One cure for the vast overhang of excess housing would be to offer expedited citizenship to people willing to purchase vacant homes in places in like Las Vegas or Detroit.

In fact, it’s surprising that more people don’t take the U.S. up on its offer. Consider the changing shape of the world’s economic geography: We’ve got American companies with lots of cash that are reluctant to invest at home because they see better prospects abroad. Thanks to that same dynamic, millionaires are being minted by the millions in China, India, and Brazil, and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the EB5 program has never come close to maxing out. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in 2009, just 1,028 people applied for EB5 status and 966 were approved, up from 776 applications and 485 approvals in fiscal 2007. Applications and approvals rose sharply in fiscal 2010, to 1,727 and 1,271, respectively.

I’m guessing the lackluster numbers can be chalked up to a failure of marketing rather than the limited attraction of the underlying product, or of its expense. In fact, the investment-related green card should probably be priced higher. Here’s a thought experiment: Ask how much you’d have to be paid to give up American citizenship for you and your family and assume that of a randomly chosen foreign country. Something tells me the bidding would start at a point much higher than $500,000.

Daniel Gross is economics editor and columnist at Yahoo! Finance.


Memo: Health Insurance, Banking, Oil Industries Met With Koch Industries, U.S.Chamber of Commerce, Glenn Beck to Plot 2010 Election

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Oldspeak:“More evidence that plutocracy has replaced democracy in America. Brought to you Koch Industries, News Corp, Amway, Burger King, Aon, Bank of America, Aspect Energy, etc, etc, etc….”

From Lee Fang @ Think Progress:

In 2006, Koch Industries owner Charles Koch revealed to the Wall Street Journal’s Stephen Moore that he coordinates the funding of the conservative infrastructure of front groups, political campaigns, think tanks, media outlets and other anti-government efforts through a twice annual meeting of wealthy right-wing donors. He also confided to Moore, who is funded through several of Koch’s ventures, that his true goal is to strengthen the “culture of prosperity” by eliminating “90%” of all laws and government regulations. Although it is difficult to quantify the exact amount Koch alone has funneled to right-wing fronts, some studies have pointed toward $50 million he has given alone to anti-environmental groups. Recently, fronts funded by Charles and his brother David have received scrutiny because they have played a pivotal role in the organizing of the anti-Obama Tea Parties and the promotion of virulent far right lawmakers like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). (David Koch praised DeMint and gave him a “Washington Award” shortly after the senator promised to “break” Obama by making health reform his “Waterloo.”)

While the Koch brothers — each worth over $21.5 billion — have certainly underwritten much of the right, their hidden coordination with other big business money has gone largely unnoticed. ThinkProgress has obtained a memo outlining the details of the last Koch gathering held in June of this year. The memo, along with an attendee list of about 210 people, shows the titans of industry — from health insurance companies, oil executives, Wall Street investors, and real estate tycoons — working together with conservative journalists and Republican operatives to plan the 2010 election, as well as ongoing conservative efforts through 2012. According to the memo, David Chavern, the number two at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Fox News hate-talker Glenn Beck also met with these representatives of the corporate elite. In an election season with the most undisclosed secret corporate giving since theWatergate-era, the memo sheds light on the symbiotic relationship between extremely profitable, multi-billion dollar corporations and much of the conservative infrastructure. The memo describes the prospective corporate donors as “investors,” and it makes clear that many of the Republican operatives managing shadowy, undisclosed fronts running attack ads against Democrats were involved in the Koch’s election-planning event:

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– Corporate “investors” at the Koch meeting included businesses with a strong profit motive in rolling back President Obama’s enacted reforms. Several companies impacted by health reform, including Allan Hubbard of A & E Industries, a manufacturer of medical devices and Judson Green, a board member of health insurance conglomerate Aon, were present at the meeting. Other businessmen at the meeting, like Omaha Burger King franchiser Mike Simmonds, are owners of fast food stores which have fought efforts to provide health insurance to their employees. Many corporate attendees of the meeting represent the financial industry impacted by Wall Street reform. For instance, attendee Bill Cooper is the CEO of TCF Financial, a corporation involved in the mortgage banking industry. Cooper recently filed a lawsuitchallenging the constitutionality of Wall Street reform. Other financial industry players in the meeting hail from firms ranging from Bank of America, JLM Investment, Allied Capital Corp, AMG National Trust, the Blackstone Group and Citadel Investment. Annie Dickerson, a representative of Paul Singer, a powerful hedge fund manager who also gives tens of millions to Republican causes, was present. In addition, Koch Industries itself has a hedge fund and other financial derivative products in its portfolio of interests, which include oil pipelines, coal shipping, asphalt, refineries, consumer goods, timber, ranching, and chemicals.

– Corporate “investors” at the Koch meeting included businesses with a strong profit motive in preventing progressive reforms promised by President Obama. Several executives at the meeting have an incentive to stop Democrats and President Obama from addressing climate change and enacting clean energy reform. The meeting included oil executives from Aspect Energy, Murfin Drilling, Anschutz Company, GeoPark Holdings, Smoky Oil, and several members of Koch’s various subsidiaries. The meeting documents explicitly state that funding efforts to curb “climate change alarmism” were discussed.

– Fred Malek, Karl Rove’s top fundraiser for his $56 million attack ad campaign against Democrats, attended the meeting, along with leaders of other secret attack groups. Heather Higgins, who leads the Independent Women’s Forum, a shadowy group that has spent millions of dollars in attack ads on health reform, attended the meeting. So did Gretchen Hamel, a former Bush flak who now runs an attack ad group called “Public Notice” that runs ad which denounce spending programs.

– Participants collaborated with infamous consultants who specialize in generating fake grassroots movements, as well as experts on how corporations should take advantage ofCitizens United. One session, about how to “mobilize citizens for November,” involved a discussion with Republican strategists Tim Phillips and Sean Noble, anti-union leader Mark Mix, and longtime Koch operative Karl Crow. Phillips — a veteran astroturf lobbyist who previously managed a deceptive grassroots lobbying campaign to help the Hong Kong-based Tan family maintain their forced abortion sweatshops in the Mariana Islands — now leads the day-to-day operations of Americans for Prosperity, the group ThinkProgress first reported to have helped organize many of the initial Tea Party rallies against Obama. Americans for Prosperity, founded and financed by David Koch, has a field team of over 80 campaign staffers spread out around the country, and additionally plans to spend $45 million dollars worth of attack ads against Democrats. Shortly before the planning meeting, Crow authored a campaign financememo explaining that because of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, he advised specifically that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 501(c)(6) and Americans for Prosperity’s 501(c)(4) can “now use general treasury funds to produce communications materials opposing or supporting specific candidates” and corporations can aggressively pressure their employees to vote a certain way.

 

The memo notes that participants in the 2010 election planning meeting “committed to an unprecedented level of support.”

Interestingly, the Koch meetings are managed by Kevin Gentry, an executive who doubles as a staffer in the Koch Industries lobbying office in Washington and as the key point person who helps deliver Koch charitable foundation grants. As ThinkProgress hasdocumented, Koch Industries has dramatically boosted its own profits by using conservative front groups to manipulate public policy. The fusion between the “intellectual” conservative movement and big businesses opposed to regulations and accountability has a history in America dating back to the New Deal. During the thirties, the Du Pont family and other wealthy interests organized an assortment of “Liberty League” front groups to try to defeat New Deal agenda items and repeal President Roosevelt’s Social Security program. Now, corporations fund groups like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute — both had representatives at the Koch meeting — to further their lobbying agenda. The American Enterprise Institute even changed its name from the New Deal-era American Enterprise Association to try todispel the notion that they were nothing more than a glorified business trade association.

As the memo states, Beck has addressed this regular gathering of conservative corporate executives in previous years. Past Koch meetings have included various Republican lawmakers, including DeMint, and Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia as speakers.

After ThinkProgess published its exclusive investigation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce revealing that the Chamber has been actively fundraising from foreign corporations for its 501(c)(6) account used to run a $75 million attack ad campaign, Chamber lobbyists found common cause with Beck and many of the conservative talking heads. Shortly after our investigation, Beck hosted an on-air fundraiser, asking his audience to give to the Chamber. Casual observers might have been surprised by the Chamber’s swift alliance with Beck (Chamber executives appeared on the Beck radio program and sung Beck’s praises on the Chamber blog), who has compared Obama to Adolf Hitler and called the President a “racist” who has a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” By telling his listeners to give money to the Chamber, Beck, who owns a media company worth more than $32 million dollars and an experimental Mercedes Benz, essentially told his working class viewers to give their wages back to their employers. However, Beck never disclosed his long working history of discussing political strategy with America’s largest corporations. The Koch memo clearly shows that Beck has been collaborating with the Chamber, as well as other titans of industry, for years. In his latest appeal for support to the Chamber’s foreign-funded trade association, which already counts JP Morgan and ExxonMobil as dues-paying members, Beck yesterday told his audience that the Chamber simply “defends the little guy.”

Click below to view a letter inviting corporate executives to attend the next Koch meeting in January, along with a list of the sessions held by Koch for the last meeting in June of 2010. An attendee list of the June, 2010 meeting is attached at the bottom of the document:

CAPAF interns Salvatore Colleluori, Riley Waggaman, and Ben Kaldunski contributed to this post.

Some of the donors at the Koch meeting were longtime Bush fundraisers, like Cintas Corporation CEO Dick Farmer and wholesale executive Art Pope. However, many names appear to be relatively new to conservative movement “investment.” Click below for a listing of the attendees

Name(s) Industry Notes
Jack and Rose Marie Anderson Finance Culver Corp, Rose Marie and Jack R. Anderson Foundation- Financial Advisor
Neil Anderson and Amy Fisher-Smith Runs Rose Marie and Jack R. Anderson Foundation
Phil and Nancy Anschutz Investment Industrialist, Owner, Weekly Standard, Examiner newspapers
Cliff Asness Investment AQR Capital Management
Nate and Lynda Bachman Finance The Bachman Group-Financial Advisor
Whitney Ball Think Tank Owner of a firm that helps corporations give anonymous gifts to front groups
Michael Barone Media Fox News
Frank and Kathy Baxter Banking Ambassador Frank E. Baxter is Chairman Emeritus of Jefferies and Company, Inc., a global investment bank focusing on mid-cap companies.
Steve and Betty Bechtel Engineering Owns the Bechtel Group (Corporation), Largest engineering company in United States
Glenn Beck Media Fox News
Bernard and Margaret Blasingame Manufacturing President and owner of Aqua Dynamics Systems, Inc
Alan and Lisa Boeckmann Oil CEO Fluor Corporation
Boysie Bollinger Shipping/Commerce Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Bollinger Shipyards
Patrick and Paula Broe Real Estate Founder and CEO of Denver-based real estate asset management firm, The Broe Group
Arthur Brooks Think Tank President, American Enterprise Institute
David and Ann Brown Think Tank Heritage Foundation
John Bryan
Bob and Martha Buford Oil C. Robert Buford has been President and owner of Zenith Drilling Corporation
Tim Busch
Shelby and Nell Bush Energy Vice President, Legal and Administration – Hillwood Energy
Tim Carney Media Political Columnist, Washington Examiner
Charlies and Marla Chandler
David Chavern Lobbyist Executive Vice President and COO at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
John Childs Insurance Chairman and CEO of J.W. Childs and Associates
Paul and Lea Clifton Runs Robert and Marie Hansen Family Foundation
Susie Coelhoe Media founder and CEO of Susie Coelho Enterprises Inc.
Bill Cooper and Kristin Tollefson Finance/Banking CEO of TCF Financial
Dino and Joan Cortopassi
Joe Craft Coal Joseph W. Craft III is president, chief executive officer and director of Alliance Resource Partners LP
Alex Cranberg Energy Aspect Holdings, LLC – Chairman
Jeff Crank Americans For Prosperity / Radio Pundit AFP State Director
Karl Crow Policy Analyst Capital Research Center
Eric Crown and Isabella King Technology Sales Sell Technology Equipment
Kevin Crutchfield Coal Kevin S. Crutchfield serves as Chief Executive Officer of Alpha Coal Sales Co., LLC.
Ravenell and Beth Curry
Jim and Shirley Dannenbaum Engineering Mr. Dannenbaum, Chairman of Dannenbaum Engineering Corporation
Veronique de Rugy Think Tank Senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center
Rich and Helen DeVos Business Founder and CEO of Amway
Annie Dickerson Business CBRE analyst
Ned and Nancy Diefenthal
Jim and Dorothy Patterson Oil Gulf Stream Petroleum
Dan and Kellie Peters Non-for Profit Daniel S. Peters is president of the Ruth and Lovett Peters Foundation in Cincinnati, Ohio
Tom Petrie Banking Co-founder of BofA Merrill Lynch Petrie Divestiture Advisors
Dixon and Carol Doll Technology Co-Founder and General Partner of DCM
Karl and Stevie Eller Advertising
Ron and Kris Erickson Retail Ronald A. Erickson is the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Holiday Companies
Melvyn and Suellen Estrin Natural Gas Director of WGL Holdings INC
Dick Farmer
Peter Farrell Biomed Founder of Resmed
Bob Kohlhepp Manufacturing/Services Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp.
Charles Krauthammer Media Washington Post
Jim and Zibbie Ferrell Fuel Oil Ferrellgas Partners, L.P. engages in the distribution and sale of propane and related equipment primarily in the United States.
Dave Fettig Natural Gas Tank Craft, Duracraft Fuel energy
Bob Fettig Natural Gas Tank Craft, Duracraft Fuel energy
Steve Fettig Natural Gas Tank Craft, Duracraft Fuel energy
Jerry and Nanette Finger Banking Managing Partner, Finger Interests LTD
Richard Fink Koch Industries Director of Georgia-Pacific, EVP of Koch Industries
Budd and Lauri Florkiewicz Manufacturing Foam Fabricators
Charlie and Kaye Lynn Fote Finance Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Fotec Group LLC
Randy and Jean Foutch Oil Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Laredo Petroleum, Inc.
Foster Friess Investment Mr. Foster Stephen Friess is the Founder and Chairman of Friess Associates, LLC
Steve and Polly Friess
Jerry and Leah Fullinwider Energy/Petroleum Vice Chairman, Hillwood International Energy, L.P.
Richard and Leslie Gilliam Coal Richard Gilliam has been President of Cumberland Resources Corporation since 1993.
Susan Gore Think Tank Founder, Wyoming Liberty Group
Oliver and Carolyn Grace Jr. Med and Telecom President and chief executive officer of Anderson Group, Inc.,
Judson and Joyce Green Energy and Med Mr. Judson C. Green is the President and Chief Executive Officer of NAVTEQ Corp.
Ken and Anne Griffin Investment Banking Founder and CEO of Citadel Investment Group
Gretchen Hamel
Fred and Jane Hamilton Oil Mr. Frederic C. Hamilton served as the President, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of BHP Petroleum, Hamilton Oil Company and various Hamilton Oil Corporation subsidiaries and affiliates
Bob and Mary Sue Hawk Communications President of Hawk Communications
Dick and Ethie Haworth Retail Head of Haworth Furniture, Multi-national corporation, 3rd largest corporate furniture company in US
Robin and Barbara Hayes Government Former NC Congressman
Dan and Carolyn Heard Manufacturing Executive Officer of John H. Carter Co.,
Diane Hendricks Manufacturing Husband of Ken Hendricks
Steve and Regina Hennessy Auto Sales Auto Sales
James and Heather Higgins Think Tank Independent Women’s Forum
Paul Hill Oil Paul J. Hill serves as the Chief Executive Officer and has been President of Harvard Developments Inc. since 1978. Mr. Hill serves as the Chief Executive Officer and President of The Hill Companies.
John and Joan Hotchkis Education Board of Directors for Teach for America UC Berkley
Allan and Kathy Hubbard Chemicals and Manufacturing Founder and Chief Executive Officer, E & A Industries, Inc.
Stan and Karen Hubbard Communications Executive Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President, Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc.
Ethelmae Humphreys Think Tank Cato Institute
Manley and Mary Johnson Political Consultant
Merritt Johnson
Gerry and Priscilla O’Shaughnessy Oil Gerald Eugene O’Shaughnessy Co-founded Geopark Holding Limited in 2002.
Michael O’Shaunessy Technology Petters Consumer Brands, LLC develops consumer electronics and appliances.
Tim O’Shaughnessy Media Hungry Machine, Inc., doing business as LivingSocial.com, is a social discovery and cataloging network.
Marshall Johnson
Kyle and Kirsten Johnstone
Mike and Beth Kasser Real Estate President, Holualoa Inc
Ken and Randy Kendrick Education/Technology Chairman, Datatel
Phil and Joanna Kerpen Advocacy Group/Think Tank VP of Policy, Americans for Prosperity
Gerry and Kathryn Kingen Restauranteur Red Robin, Happy Guests Int’ll
Scott Kirkpatrick Investor Teton Capital
Charles and Liz Koch Koch Industries
Chase and Annie Koch Koch Industries
David and Julia Koch Koch Industries
Elizabeth Koch Koch Industries
Bob and Cindy Koch Koch Industries
Bob Kohlhepp Manufacturing/Services Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp.
Dennis Kuester Banking Retired CEO of M&I Bank
Andrew Kupersmith Consultant MD, Cardiology Consultants
Andre Lacy Investment Chairman, Lacy Diversified Industries
Ken and Elaine Langone Retail Invemed, Home Depot
Jay and Sally Lapeyre Services Laitram Corp
Ken and Frayda Levy Investment JLM Investment Mgmt
Tom Love Retail CEO, President, Love’s Country Stores
Bob Luddy Manufacturing President, Captive Aire Systems
Fred and Marlene Malek Investment Management Thayer Capital Partners
Elaine Marshall Homemaker
Pierce Marshall Administrative Management MAROPCO
Preston Marshall
Bill Mayer Health Care MD, Mayer & Cope Family Practice
Glen and Diane Meakem Business Solutions CEO, Freemarkets Inc.
Ed Meese Think Tank Heritage Foundation
Lew and Suzy Meibergen Goods/Services President, Johnston Enterprises/WG Johnston Grain Co
Don and Deede Meyers Attorney Self Employed
Jerry and Caroline Milbank Investment Management CEO/Principal, Milbank Winthrop & Co.
Jack and Goldie Miller Retail CEO/President, Quill Corp.
Mark Mix Advocacy Group President, National Right to Work Committee
Joe and Mary Moeller Koch Industries Vice Chairman
Steve Moore Media member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board
David Murfin Energy President, Murfin Drilling Co.
Walter and Suzette Negley
Mina Nguyen
Larry and Polly Nichols Energy Executive Chairman, Devon Energy Corp
Sean Noble Front Group Americans for Prosperity
Tim and Teresa Oelke Advocacy Group/Construction Teresa – State Director of Americans for Prosperity, Tim – Crossland Construction Corp
Eric O’Keefe Front Group Sam Adams Alliance
Kurt and Nancy Pfotenhauer Media President of MediaSpeak Strategies/former political commentator on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC and former Senior Policy Advisor and National Spokesperson with the 2008 John McCain presidential campaign
Tim Phillips Advocacy Group president, Americans for Prosperity
Ramesh Ponnuru Media National Review magazine
Art and Kathy Pope Goods/Services Senior Exec, Variety Wholesaler
Russ Roberts Attorney Roberts, Ashby & Parrish
Corbin and Barbara Robertson Energy President, Quintana Minerals Corp
Richard Roder and Karin Hsu Construction Management CEO, Cmt-Construction Management
Gary and Kathleen Rogers Goods Former CEO, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream
Durk Rorie Manufacturing United Air Specialists
Chris Rufer Goods/Manufacturing Morningstar Company
Peter Schiff and Martha O’Brien Investor Schiff: Euro Pacific Capital Inc.,
Steve and Christine Schwarzman Financial Services CEO/founder, Blackstone Group
Rick and Sherry Sharp Retail Former CEO, Circuit City
Mike and Lin Simmonds Services CEO, Simmonds Restaurant Mgmt
Peter Smith Services CEO, Service Group of America
Dick Strong Investment Services Strong/Corneliuson Capital Mgmt
Michael Sullivan Investment Services CR Intrinsic Investors
Ray and Ladeline Thompson Manufacturing President/CEO, Semitool
Lynn Tilton Investment Management CEO, Patriarch Partners LLC
Dave and Melanie True Oil Partner
Steve Twist Consultant Rose & Allyn PR Consultants
Jim and Gayla Von Ehr Research/Development CEO, Zyvex Corp
Rick and Debra Waller Manufacturing Owner, Rollmeister Inc
Peter Wallison Think Tank Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
Bill and Sarah Walton Real Estate Allied Capital Corp
Lew and Myra Ward Oil Ward Petroleum Corporation owns and operates wells. It engages in oil and gas exploration and production. The company was founded in 1963 and is based in Enid, Oklahoma.
Dick Weekley Real Estate Weekley Properties
Fred and Susie Wehba Real Estate Bentley Forbes Real Estate
Nestor Weigand and Darcy Buehler Real Estate JP Weigand & Sons Real Estate
Dick and Mary Beth Weiss Life Insurance Wells Fargo, Hawthorne Rances
Howard and Rhonda Wilkins Insurance Diversified Insurance
Don and Sue Wills Oil
Bob Kohlhepp Manufacturing/Services Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp.
Bob Kohlhepp Manufacturing/Services Vice Chairman, Cintas Corp.
Larry and Lorraine Winnerman Real Estate Win Win Enterprises
Joe Woodford
Earl Wright Finance AMG Natinal Trust
Karen Wright and Tom Rastin Energy/Manufacturing Tom Rastin, vice president of marketing and engineering, Ariel Corp – Karen Wright, Ariel CEO
Cliff and Susan Yonce Investment Banking Goldman Sachs
Fred and Sandra Young Services Diversified Search, LLC provides senior-level executive and corporate board search services in the United States and internationally. It provides recruitment services for various organizations in consumer and industrial, education, not-for-profit, arts and culture, financial and professional services, business, healthcare and human services, life sciences, media and entertainment, sports and leisure, energy and utilities, private equity, retail, and technology and communications industries.


 

Facebook Admits Major Breach Of Privacy

In Uncategorized on October 21, 2010 at 11:17 am

Oldspeak:”This is beginning to become a regular thing now. No Bueno. Can’t wait for Diaspora to come online. ‘ “Apps” are pieces of software that let Facebook’s 500 million users play games or share common interests with one another. The Wall Street Journal found that all of the 10 most popular apps on Facebook were transmitting users’ IDs to outside companies.’

From Emily Steele & Geoffrey A. Fowler @ The Wall Street Journal:

Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.

Facebook says it is taking steps to “dramatically limit” the exposure of users’ personal information, after a WSJ investigation showed that personal IDs were being transmitted to third parties via Facebook apps. But how hard is it to fix such a breach – and how concerned should users be about the sharing of these IDs? Julia Angwin joins Digits to discuss.

The problem has ties to the growing field of companies that build detailed databases on people in order to track them online—a practice the Journal has been examining in its What They Know series. It’s unclear how long the breach was in place. On Sunday, a Facebook spokesman said it is taking steps to “dramatically limit” the exposure of users’ personal information.

Many top applications on Facebook have been transmitting identifying information to Internet tracking and ad companies. Emily Steel discusses. Also, Michael Ramsey discusses skepticism about the auto industry’s big bet that battery-powered cars will become big sellers.

“A Facebook user ID may be inadvertently shared by a user’s Internet browser or by an application,” the spokesman said. Knowledge of an ID “does not permit access to anyone’s private information on Facebook,” he said, adding that the company would introduce new technology to contain the problem identified by the Journal.

“Our technical systems have always been complemented by strong policy enforcement, and we will continue to rely on both to keep people in control of their information,” the Facebook official said.

“Apps” are pieces of software that let Facebook’s 500 million users play games or share common interests with one another. The Journal found that all of the 10 most popular apps on Facebook were transmitting users’ IDs to outside companies.

The apps, ranked by research company Inside Network Inc. (based on monthly users), include Zynga Game Network Inc.’s FarmVille, with 59 million users, and Texas HoldEm Poker and FrontierVille. Three of the top 10 apps, including FarmVille, also have been transmitting personal information about a user’s friends to outside companies.

Most apps aren’t made by Facebook, but by independent software developers. Several apps became unavailable to Facebook users after the Journal informed Facebook that the apps were transmitting personal information; the specific reason for their unavailability remains unclear.

The information being transmitted is one of Facebook’s basic building blocks: the unique “Facebook ID” number assigned to every user on the site. Since a Facebook user ID is a public part of any Facebook profile, anyone can use an ID number to look up a person’s name, using a standard Web browser, even if that person has set all of his or her Facebook information to be private. For other users, the Facebook ID reveals information they have set to share with “everyone,” including age, residence, occupation and photos.

The apps reviewed by the Journal were sending Facebook ID numbers to at least 25 advertising and data firms, several of which build profiles of Internet users by tracking their online activities.

Defenders of online tracking argue that this kind of surveillance is benign because it is conducted anonymously. In this case, however, the Journal found that one data-gathering firm, RapLeaf Inc., had linked Facebook user ID information obtained from apps to its own database of Internet users, which it sells. RapLeaf also transmitted the Facebook IDs it obtained to a dozen other firms, the Journal found.

Name Games

All 10 of the top Facebook apps transmitted users’ IDs, The Journal found

RapLeaf said that transmission was unintentional. “We didn’t do it on purpose,” said Joel Jewitt, vice president of business development for RapLeaf.

Facebook said it previously has “taken steps … to significantly limit Rapleaf’s ability to use any Facebook-related data.”

Facebook prohibits app makers from transferring data about users to outside advertising and data companies, even if a user agrees. The Journal’s findings shed light on the challenge of policing those rules for the 550,000 apps on its site.

The Journal’s findings are the latest challenge for Facebook, which has been criticized in recent years for modifying its privacy rules to expose more of a user’s information. This past spring, the Journal found that Facebook was transmitting the ID numbers to advertising companies, under some circumstances, when a user clicked on an ad. Facebook subsequently discontinued the practice.

“This is an even more complicated technical challenge than a similar issue we successfully addressed last spring on Facebook.com,” a Facebook spokesman said, “but one that we are committed to addressing.”

The privacy issue follows Facebook’s effort just this month to give its users more control over its apps, which privacy activists had cited as a potential hole in users’ ability to control who sees their information. On Oct. 6, Facebook created a control panel that lets users see which apps are accessing which categories of information about them. It indicates, for example, when an application accesses a user’s “basic information” (including a user ID and name). However, it doesn’t detail what information friends’ applications have accessed about a user.

Video From ‘What They Know’ Series

It’s rarely a coincidence when you see Web ads for products that match your interests. WSJ’s Christina Tsuei explains how advertisers use cookies to track your online habits.

A new report in the Wall Street Journal’s “What They Know” series illustrates how companies like Microsoft must balance conflicting interests: helping people surf the Web with its browser to keep their mouse clicks private, and helping advertisers who want to see those clicks. WSJ’s Julia Angwin, Nick Wingfield, and Jessica Vascellaro join host Simon Constable as panelists on this special Digits live show.

Facebook apps transform Facebook into a hub for all kinds of activity, from playing games to setting up a family tree. Apps are considered an important way for Facebook to extend the usefulness of its network. The company says 70% of users use apps each month.

Applications are also a growing source of revenue beyond advertising for Facebook itself, which sells its own virtual currency that can be used to pay for games.

Following an investigation by the Canadian Privacy Commissioner, Facebook in June limited applications to accessing only the public parts of a user’s profile, unless the user grants additional permission. (Canadian officials later expressed satisfaction with Facebook’s steps.) Previously, applications could tap any data the user had access to, including detailed profiles and information about a user’s friends.

It’s not clear if developers of many of the apps transmitting Facebook ID numbers even knew that their apps were doing so. The apps were using a common Web standard, known as a “referer,” which passes on the address of the last page viewed when a user clicks on a link. On Facebook and other social-networking sites, referers can expose a user’s identity.

The company says it has disabled thousands of applications at times for violating its policies. It’s unclear how many, if any, of those cases involved passing user information to marketing companies.

Facebook also appeared to have shut down some applications the Journal found to be transmitting user IDs, including several created by LOLapps Media Inc., a San Francisco company backed with $4 million in venture capital. LOLapp’s applications include Gift Creator, with 3.5 million monthly active users, Quiz Creator, with 1.4 million monthly active users, Colorful Butterflies and Best Friends Gifts.

Since Friday, users attempting to access those applications received either an error message or were reverted to Facebook’s home screen.

“We have taken immediate action to disable all applications that violate our terms,” a Facebook spokesman said.

Data From ‘What They Know’

[wtkkids2]

The Wall Street Journal analyzed the tracking files installed on people’s computers by the 50 most popular websites, plus WSJ.com. Explore the data here and see separate analysis of the files on popular children’s sites.

A spokeswoman for LOLapps Media declined to comment.

The applications transmitting Facebook IDs may have breached their own privacy policies, as well as industry standards, which say sites shouldn’t share and advertisers shouldn’t collect personally identifiable information without users’ permission. Zynga, for example, says in its privacy policy that it “does not provide any Personally Identifiable Information to third-party advertising companies.”

A Zynga spokeswoman said, “Zynga has a strict policy of not passing personally identifiable information to any third parties. We look forward to working with Facebook to refine how web technologies work to keep people in control of their information.”

The most expansive use of Facebook user information uncovered by the Journal involved RapLeaf. The San Francisco company compiles and sells profiles of individuals based in part on their online activities.

The Journal found that some LOLapps applications, as well as the Family Tree application, were transmitting users’ Facebook ID numbers to RapLeaf. RapLeaf then linked those ID numbers to dossiers it had previously assembled on those individuals, according to RapLeaf. RapLeaf then embedded that information in an Internet-tracking file known as a “cookie.”

RapLeaf says it strips out the user’s name when it embeds the information in the cookie and shares that information for ad targeting. However, The Wall Street Journal found that RapLeaf transmitted Facebook user IDs to a dozen other advertising and data firms, including Google Inc.’s Invite Media.

All 12 companies said that they didn’t collect, store or use the information.

Ilya Nikolayev, chief executive of Familybuilder, maker of the Family Tree application, said in an email, “It is Familybuilder’s corporate policy to keep any actual, potential, current or prior business partnerships, relationships, customer details, and any similar information confidential. As this story relates to a company other than Familybuilder, we have nothing further to contribute.”

Write to Emily Steel at emily.steel@wsj.com and Geoffrey A. Fowler at geoffrey.fowler@wsj.com


The Economic Hit Man Confesses Again : John Perkins

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2010 at 10:43 am

Oldspeak:”Trinket capitalism,” an economic system that produces junk that people don’t really need. Behold, a rare and beautiful sight. A corporatocracy whistleblower who’s still alive and hasn’t been discredited! A wide-ranging interview with one of the most important and seldom heard voices of reality.”

From Reclaima!:

Reclama: Thank you for the opportunity to interview you. We’ve found that many Peace Corps Volunteers have read your books. One told me that “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” totally reshaped her view of our foreign policy. She just wishes she would have read it sooner. Another reconsidered a job proposal working on one of the large infrastructure projects you used to forecast after reading the book. So it’s definitely had an impact on our community, which is why we wanted to interview you.

John Perkins: Well, I’m glad to hear that. Incidentally, when I’m on speaking tours at universities, I often have students come up to me and tell me they’re considering Peace Corps. They ask what I recommend, and I always say, “Go! Do it! It’s an incredible experience.” That happens quite frequently; I promote Peace Corps.

How do you respond to people who read about your economic hit man work and say, “This is just too fantastic to believe, it’s just one man’s story, and there is no way to independently verify the claims he makes?”

I almost never get that question because I think that most people who talk to me about these things say that they always figured that stuff like that was going on, but they’d never actually seen anyone write about it before. I will say that The New York Times did a major piece. It was the whole top fold of the front page of the business section in the Sunday edition back three years ago. They went in and looked at the details and it was thoroughly vetted. So the information is all there if they’re willing to dig.

Everything that I talk about obviously happened – the assassination of Roldos of Ecuador and Torrijos of Panama is pretty well known throughout Latin America. You can ask people in the Dominican Republic, I’m sure that most people who were alive at that time in Latin America realized that it was an assassination. And there’s tremendous amounts of evidence. And there was no question that economic hit men were talking to those two people along with many others. Every incident I talk about in my books happened. You can verify it. The only question might be, was I actually one of the economic hit men there? And my passport proves that I was in those countries at the time. So, there’s a lot of evidence.

Bechtel Corporation wrote a letter setting up a lawsuit against me, saying that they wanted us to remove their name and portions of the book that refer to Bechtel. Other organizations did something similar. We gave them the backup information that I had – my files are extensive. So we told them that if they continued to try to blackmail us, we would write an addendum to the next edition of the book exposing the fact that they were trying to get us to change things that are facts. They never filed a lawsuit, they never gave us more trouble. The evidence is all there; I have no problem at all substantiating it if people really want to dig, like Bechtel did and The New York Times did. But most people, I think, have a real sense that these things go on anyway, and so the book just confirms what they already suspected.

While discussing modern robber barons in “Hoodwinked,” you write that “from a purely economic perspective, philanthropy is inefficient. A person who has accumulated billions of dollars and in doing so has caused others to lose their jobs, closed the doors of small businesses, or ravaged the environment, and then donates a small percentage of his fortune to correcting those problems or to the arts, would have served the world far better by making fewer profits while increasing employment, supporting small businesses, and insisting that his executives practice good environmental stewardship.” This is such a critical point that even most educated people don’t recognize. Why haven’t universities made this point clear, and how can we ensure that the next generation will learn this obvious and important point?

I do all I can do, which is when I’m at universities and this question comes up I say exactly that, and I talk to university professors and have told them they should point that out. So it seems to me that it’s something that ought to be part of business school curricula, particularly, but of course I have no control over [laughs] what Wharton or Stanford or Cornell or any of the other business schools teach. All I can do is, every chance I get, I say these things. I also want to say that although I come down pretty hard on these kinds of philanthropists – people like Bill Gates today, and in the past, the Carnegies, and so on – I also recognize that once someone has done the things they’ve done and perhaps sees the light, has a change of heart, that I certainly honor the fact that they are trying to somehow redeem themselves by giving some of the money back, and so I certainly do encourage that, too. After all, I did some pretty bad things in my life as an economic hit man and now I’m working to turn things around, to try to change those very things. So I think it is important that if people have done things that are not the best for the world, that if they realize their mistakes, we do everything we can to encourage them to give back as much as they can. However, it would be far better if they had worked hard in the beginning to do the socially and environmentally responsible things, as I write in the book. So all I can do is encourage that in my writings and in my speeches and I hope more and more business schools will teach that, too.

You criticize what you call “trinket capitalism,” an economic system that produces junk that people don’t really need. However, our current model is also heavily financialized, producing speculation no one really needs; indeed, much of the blame of the financial crisis rests on highly leveraged, little-understood financial “trinkets” based on a housing bubble, not real production. One of the best examples of the uselessness of this financial speculation is the commodities market, where many of the goods produced by poor farmers are gambled on by traders and manipulated by huge agribusiness conglomerates. As you know, this price volatility wreaks havoc on the Third World, which is ironic since futures contracts were designed to provide stability. Are these financial instruments causing more harm than good? Should they be eliminated?

Yeah! Absolutely. I think they should be eliminated for the most part or at least we should have very strong laws regulating them so that they do more good than harm. The system that we’ve experienced, which has brought us into this global recession that we’re in today, has virtually let these people – hedge funds and other investment types – get away with what I consider to be criminal activity. Legally speaking, it’s not criminal because we’ve passed laws to decriminalize it, but it should be criminal. In other words, investments, business in general, should be there to support the public good. I think the guideline is that the first 100 years of the United States, no company, including investment companies, could get charters unless they could prove that they were serving the public interest. On average, the charter lasted ten years. Then the company had to go back in and demonstrate that it had served the public interest and would continue to do so.

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I think that’s a very reasonable thing to expect of corporations. There’s absolutely no reason why they should not be serving a public interest as well as making profits and serving their investors. Investors need to get a fair rate of return. But that should not be at the expense of everyone else. And we need regulations to support that, or, if there’s vehicles out there such as certain hedge funds that can’t possibly serve a public interest, we ought to get rid of them.

Do you think the forces behind “trinket capitalism” – cultivating a demand and hyping selling points of essentially useless items – has been applied to the realm of politics, like in elections?

No question. The politicians are controlled by big money – what I call the corporatocracy. Nobody gets elected in this country – or almost nobody – without the support of the corporatocracy. Nobody gets elected to a major national office without that support. We saw that with Obama. He went in saying he was not going to accept money from big corporations; by the end he accepted a lot of money from big corporations. And we’re now seeing the results. His financial policy is essentially run by Wall Street, particularly Goldman Sachs, and his agricultural policy is run by the big agribusinesses, especially Monsanto, because they provided so much money in his campaign. So politicians are very, very much tied in with these corporations.

But we the people ought to recognize that ultimately, we’re the ones with the control. Because these big corporations only benefit, only survive, when we support them, by buying their goods and services or allowing our tax dollars to buy their goods and services. So the marketplace is democratic if we choose to make it democratic, if we choose to shop consciously, invest consciously, and let them know. Send emails. Let Nike know that we’re not going to buy from them anymore because they’ve got sweatshops. Send them an email and if enough of us do that, they’ll have to turn their sweatshops into legitimate factories that pay real wages and have working conditions that are supportive of life rather than making life miserable for the workers. We have the control. And I say in “Hoodwinked” that the way we vote when we shop is just as important as – and perhaps more important than – the votes we give in polls on election day. We need to recognize that every time we buy something or choose not to, we’re casting a vote, but it’s important to communicate that and email makes it very easy to communicate to these corporate executives why we’re buying their goods and services or why we’re not buying them.

Do you believe there are enough affordable options to really provide a choice – a democratic marketplace, as you say?

I do. And it’s increasing all the time. Within the last month I’ve spoken at the Chicago Green Festival and the Seattle Green Festival. And there’s another one coming up in DC and then one in San Francisco. And they have a marketplace of these many, many vendors that have been vetted for their environmental and social responsibility. They offer a lot of options, from tennis shoes to toilets, food and clothes. We need to support those people. Now, I don’t think there’s anybody out there that’s one hundred percent perfect, and I’m not sure anybody ever will be one hundred percent perfect; who amongst us is? But what we need to do is encourage those companies and the entrepreneurs and the small companies even, like in the green marketplace, that are trying, that are making headway, and if we continue to do that then we’ll find that, ultimately everybody will have to go along with it. We have a lot of choices. You can go to dreamchange.org; there’s links there to various places if you’re looking to buy tennis shoes, shirts, food, there’s links that will help you to know which companies are trying to do their best job. We need to keep pushing harder and harder for that, letting people know that we absolutely refuse to buy things that are not socially and environmentally green, and we will buy things that are done that way. And I think it’s also important while saying this to say that we all need to cut back. We don’t need so many pairs of shoes and t-shirts and blue jeans, most of us don’t anyway – and we don’t need to use as much energy. We need to be much more conservative in the way we approach life.

You seem to be very positive about the corporate social responsibility (CSR) movement. In fact, that seems to be your cure for the mutant form of capitalism you describe. You say that today every major company pays “at least lip service to the idea of the ‘triple bottom line, ‘” that is, financial, social, and ecological costs and benefits. Many would argue that most of it remains just that – lip service. Can we reasonably expect a company not to focus on short-term profit maximization given that, generally speaking, within the current system of state capitalism, it will be driven out of business by competitors if it focuses on anything but?

I don’t think it will be driven out of business by competitors if we the people insist that we will only buy from socially and environmentally responsible sources. Those that are not will be driven out of business. We have sent the message that we want cheap t-shirts and tennis shoes even if they’re made in sweatshops by slaves in Indonesia or Honduras. And we want cheap oil even if that means destroying the Amazon. That’s the message we the consumers have sent these corporations, and they maximize their profits based on that message. We need to send an entirely different message. It’s not acceptable; we won’t buy anything that’s made in sweatshops. It’s not that we’re trying to put Indonesians out of work, but we want the sweatshops to pay life-supporting wages and provide decent working conditions. Or we won’t buy from them. That’s the message we want to send, and that’s the only way these corporations are going to make profits, is if they do these things. We the people have to send that message, and that’s why I’m encouraged, because I think we are getting the word out there.
I’ve been lecturing in universities since “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” came out, so it’s been a little over five years, and I’ve seen a tremendous change in attitude among students, especially in MBA programs, across the United States and China, Iceland and in Latin America.

Five years ago, all these students were telling me they wanted to make more money, wanted to have more power. Now, most of them – the ones I talk to anyway [laughs] – are saying that they want to do the right thing. They want to create businesses, they want to support businesses that are responsible, they want to create a world that they can be proud to bring children up in. I’m seeing a change in attitude. I am encouraged by that. I am hopeful that we can turn things around.

When I was in the Peace Corps in the Amazon, I was near death at one point, and I was cured by a shaman. Shamans teach us that we can change things – I wrote about this in a book called “Shapeshifting” that talks about this – by applying energy and intent to the things we want to create in the future. We can turn things around, as they put it. We change the dream by giving energy into a new dream. And it can happen very quickly. We’ve seen it happen. We got out of Vietnam because people changed their energy. We got corporations to clean up terribly polluted rivers in the United States because people put new energy into it. We got rid of apartheid in South Africa because of it. Recently, we got trans fats out of foods, for the most part, because people gave that energy. Now we need to give energy to a whole new scenario, which is to say, we’ll only support corporations that make profits within the context of creating a sustainable, just and peaceful world for everybody on this planet.

Do you think international agreements that regulate production and pricing of commodities should take the place of “free trade” agreements, which you recognize as heavily biased to favor wealthy countries? The International Coffee Agreement which Reagan torpedoed in 1989 comes to mind.

I’m all for real free trade and agreements that will support real free trade. But most of the ‘free trade’ agreements – in quotations – these days are just the opposite. They work in the benefit of the corporatocracy, the big international corporations, and, as you know and as every Peace Corps Volunteer probably knows, they generally work against the campesinos, the farmers in these other countries. I think that there’s a movement in Latin America today to support that. We’ve seen a number of presidents recently elected democratically who are really trying to establish true free markets, at least amongst their countries. I’m particularly thinking of Rafael Correa of Ecuador, Evo Morales, and I think Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, despite all the controversy that always swirls around him, is trying to promote some of these things. So I think that we can see agreements amongst countries in South America and I’d like to see that happen more in Africa, Asia and elsewhere. The idea of true free trade is excellent, but the idea of the kind of free trade that’s promoted by the United States and the G8 countries is a horrible form of exploitation – a subtle and yet very effective type of exploitation.

On that note, in an interview with Malibu Magazine you defended Chavez against the false portrayals of him as a dictator in the corporate media. You stated that while you didn’t appreciate his rhetorical approach, “He is a wild man, but one needs to be a wild man to do what he did.” What has he done for Venezuela?

Well, I don’t know if I can speak for the Venezuelans; I can’t. I’m not Venezuelan, so to say what he’s done for Venezuela – I’m not in a position to do that. I’m a United States citizen. I’m much more comfortable speaking about my country. And what I will say is that Hugo Chavez made the United States back down. He’s made history in a big way; people will remember Hugo Chavez for hundreds of years because he stood up to the United States. The coup launched against him in 2002 was successful for, I think about 40 hours. But he overcame it; he was very smart, and he knew what he was up against. And by doing that, he set a new precedent. The other countries in Latin America after that, many of them voted in presidents that probably would not have run for office had Chavez not been successful in putting down that coup. But it gave a tremendous impetus to people throughout Latin America, and I think in other parts of the world, too.
So by showing the United States to be a paper tiger in 2002, I think he sent a very strong message out to the world. I think he’s played a major role in world politics, and when I talked to a lot of poor Venezuelans, they love many of the things that he’s done in terms of education and healthcare and setting up clinics for poor people, etcetera. Talk to wealthy Venezuelans, they’re unhappy with what he did, so, personally, I’d rather not comment on what he’s done or not done for Venezuela. That’s simply to say that he has done something to the United States and he has encouraged a spirit of liberty and optimism throughout South America. As I travel in places like the Dominican Republic, Panama, and Costa Rica, and Nicaragua and Ecuador, I hear young people being very, very inspired by the fact that a president successfully stood up to a CIA-orchestrated coup in 2002 and survived and is now trying to establish various alliances throughout Latin America.

This information seems to be lost on most progressives. How do we bridge the gap that allows so many well intentioned people to be misled about the great progress being made in Latin American countries that have rejected the neoliberal approach to development?

I think we all have to keep talking about it a lot more [laughs]. We have to understand that the mainstream press is aligned against the progressive movement in Latin America primarily because it is either owned outright by the corporatocracy or supported through advertising budgets, and, therefore, the mainstream press does not want to talk about the tremendous revolution that’s taking place in Latin America. So the rest of us have to do it a lot more. And however we can, using whatever media that’s available to us. And it’s so important to spread this word, but I totally agree with you, it’s just not said very much in the United States. It is throughout Latin America, but not in the United States.

One of my favorite presidents is Rafael Correa, who has a PhD in economics from the University of Illinois and recently pushed through a new constitution which was supported in a referendum by roughly 75 percent of the population of Ecuador – the first constitution in the history of the world that gives unalienable rights to nature. And now Correa is looking to introduce a new currency in his country that will reflect the value of people who normally are outside the market economy – housewives, people taking care of children, subsistence farmers – so amazing things are happening there. And yet we don’t get information in the United States.
It’s very significant that today in the United States, every time you turn on the radio you hear about the BP oil spill in the Gulf, and yet you still don’t hear about the biggest environmental lawsuit in the history of the world: $27 billion dollars on behalf of 30,000 Ecuadorians against Chevron. This is what Texaco, which Chevron now owns, did in Ecuador in the ’60s and ’70s, spilling, the last time I heard, roughly 400 times more toxic waste in the Amazon than BP has spilled into the Gulf of Mexico at this point. We don’t hear about that. We just don’t hear about these things and I think it’s a terrible travesty that we don’t. For The New York Times to claim that it has “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” is very ironic in this case, because they don’t print these kinds of things very much. So you and I have to keep pushing to get this information out there.

One last question on that thread: The transformation occurring in Latin America that you speak of with such respect and hope is founded on participatory democracy with some socialist economic features, or at least some steps in that direction. Chavez, in a recent interview with the BBC, said: “I … believed in a ‘third way,’ but it was all a farce. I thought it was possible to articulate … a capitalism with a human face, but I realized I was wrong. Democracy is impossible in a capitalist system … it’s the tyranny of the richest against the poorest. That’s why the only way to save the world is through a democratic socialism.” How do you compare this approach with your own? Your stance, if I portray it accurately, is that capitalism is not inherently the problem, but it must be fixed.

I think we’re playing with words, to a certain degree. What is capitalism? Capitalism has been around for about 400 years and it’s taken many different forms. Most recently, for most of my lifetime, as for most of Chavez’s lifetime, it’s taken the form of what I call predatory capitalism, which is based on some very faulty assumptions, the first assumption being that the only responsibility of business is to maximize profits, regardless of the social and environmental costs; and, number two, that they shouldn’t be regulated – that you should minimize all the rules and regulations around business because that gets in the way of making profit; and, number three, everything should be run by private business – let’s privatize everything, including the military, the schools, the jails, everything. Those three premises were really promoted by Milton Friedman, the economist from the Chicago School of Economics. They were embraced by Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and just about every major president since then, Democratic and Republican alike in the United States, and presidents throughout the world. And they brought us to a terrible situation where all we can say is that this is a failure.

Less than 5 percent of the world’s population lives in the United States and consumes almost 30 percent of the world’s resources, while roughly half of the world lives in dire poverty, many people starving or on the verge of starving. That’s a failed system, it’s not a model; it can’t be replicated in Latin America or Africa or anywhere else. It’s a failure. But that doesn’t mean that capitalism in and of itself is a failure. It is, however, a question of definitions. I would rather define capitalism as being the use of capital, and capital includes mental capital; it includes creativity; it includes poetry and writing. Those are forms of capital. So in a way we’re playing with words here.

The fact of the matter is, we need to come up with a new system that takes care of the poorest of the poor. We are a species in evolution and I think nature is quite perfect in that nature puts species on this planet and throws tests in front of them and if they fail, they go extinct. And I think you can say that at this point, with our current predatory capitalistic system, we’re on the verge of extinction. We’re on the verge of failing. We’ve created a system that simply does not work. It’s not sustainable. By definition, if you’re a species that’s doing practices that are non-sustainable, you’re not going to survive. So we need to turn it around. And I don’t really care if we call it capitalism or xyz-ism. It doesn’t matter what we call it, but we need a system that will allocate the use of our resources in ways that help everybody, every living human being and, in fact, every sentient being.
We need to come up with a system that creates a just and peaceful world for all life on this planet. We simply must do that. And I think that some of the leaders in Latin America are headed in that direction and I don’t really care whether you call it democracy or capitalism, or social democracy or social capitalism, or whatever you call it; we just need to come up with a system, like the one I outlined in “Hoodwinked,” that will allow us to move forward into a world that my grandson will be happy to inherit and every child on this planet will be happy to inherit.

With regard to your account of the last military coup in Honduras, raising the minimum wage may have been the last straw for the internal elite, but you’ve also recognized the use of what happened to President Zelaya as a signal. Was the Obama administration showing that it is not afraid to get its hands dirty to “maintain credibility,” or was this a pet project of other actors at the State Department and the Pentagon acting on behalf of companies like Dole and Chiquita?

The coup was definitely acting on behalf of companies like Dole and Chiquita, Kraft, Russell Athletics, and all the other multinational corporations that are exploiting the people and resources of Honduras, no question. I think Obama’s in a very difficult situation, where Eric Holder, his attorney general, had been the chief attorney for Chiquita in Colombia and had very close ties, as did many other people in the Obama administration – very close ties to these companies. That’s part of the problem with the system: it’s this revolving door where people at the top of the government come out of these corporations and know that they’ll go back into the corporations later on. It’s a tremendous conflict of interest there.
And the other thing that we all need to be aware of is that any United States president – whether his name is Obama or Bush – whatever his name is, is in a very vulnerable position. These presidents know that they can be brought down very quickly if they do things that are not liked by the corporatocracy. Today there’s many ways to destroy a person. You don’t necessarily have to physically assassinate him – there’s character assassination. Bill Clinton experienced character assassination with the Monica Lewinsky deal. A guy like Obama has got to know the first day he’s in the White House that he’s in a very vulnerable position and his ability to do things that the corporatocracy doesn’t like is extremely limited. So regarding his position in Honduras, I don’t know what he personally would have liked to have done, but I suspect that if he had wanted to support Zelaya, he would’ve been in a very vulnerable and difficult situation.

In “Hoodwinked,” you state that the corporatocracy’s candidate did not win the 2008 presidential elections. Given what you’ve just said, and that Obama received more money from Wall Street than McCain, do you still agree with that statement? Doesn’t it just illustrate that both parties are equally indebted to different factions within the same corporatocracy?

I think the corporatocracy has a lot of control all along the line and although they might’ve preferred to see McCain win, when Obama began to establish himself as a popular candidate, they immediately stepped in and supported his campaign financially. So they were supporting both. Big money – Wall Street, big agribusinesses, many of the other big corporations – were supporting both candidates. So by the time Obama got elected, he may not have been the corporatocracy’s first choice, but they had a lot of leverage over him by then, through campaign financing, and, also, as soon as he gets into office, as I just said earlier, he was read the riot act, and he knows that they can take him down very easily. We’ve all got skeletons in our closet, of course Obama has skeletons in his closet; I don’t know what they are, but I’m sure he’s got them [laughs]. Who knows what’s there? [laughs] And actually, even if you don’t have skeletons in your closet, just rumors can bring a person down – whether they’re true or not, if they’re placed in the right places and repeated often enough. So by the time Obama became president, the corporatocracy was pretty comfortable that they would get their way with him on most cases.

Is Peace Corps as an institution still serving as a gateway for more economic hit men? What would you suggest for a volunteer approaching close of service who doesn’t want to serve the corporatocracy? Any career paths that you recommend, where one can earn a living wage while doing good, and also express her or his creativity?

Well, I was screened by the NSA [the National Security Agency] even before taking on the Peace Corps position. I learned a lot from Peace Corps, and that helped me see past the lies as an economic hit man because I had that experience of living and working with the people impacted by these programs, although it took a full ten years to manifest itself. I was lured in by an interest in seeing and living in Asia and Indonesia; my weaknesses and proclivity as a very young man for sex and wealth were exploited. I think my Peace Corps experience is probably what distinguished me from the rest of my economic hit man peers and provided the grounding to expose this system. I was in Ecuador when Texaco first began operations.
One of the benefits of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer is learning the language, and language influences, in a subtle way, how you think. I think somewhat differently in Spanish than I do in English, which expands my capacity to understand. I would tell volunteers to follow your heart. Follow your passion – it’s the only way you’re really going to be successful. Don’t sell out to the big corporations; money doesn’t buy happiness. If you do work for a big multinational, make a commitment to using your position as a platform to help that corporation become dedicated to serving the public interest, to creating a sustainable, just and peaceful world. Life experience and the gratification of doing good work are what’s important. Do what you love. If you want to write books, write books. If you like to paint, paint. If you become a lawyer, commit to using the law to protect the environment and downtrodden people. Or if journalism calls you, be a journalist who exposes the truth and strives to inspire others to fashion a compassionate world.

One of my concerns has been that many people take away the wrong lessons from Peace Corps – that development simply doesn’t work or that campesinos are just lazy. The Progressive Circle, which publishes Reclama is trying to open volunteers’ eyes to the structural and historicalcauses for the decisions and attitudes which prevail among the poor with whom we work. Do you have any suggestions for accomplishing this?

Wow. I’m not sure about this one. This is an issue that I’m devoting my life’s work to at this point. Talking with you, doing this interview, dedicating time to magazines like this, spreading the word and not blaming the victims of the system. I can’t imagine anyone spending two years in the Peace Corps, nearly three years in my case, coming away thinking that these people are lazy; these people are hungry, they have parasites, no good medical care, and yet they’re the hardest-working people I’ve ever seen in my life. It reminds me of the whole immigration issue – immigrants are the hardest working people in our society. I speak Spanish, and I talk with so many of them and I find that many of them don’t want to be here, they would rather be back in Guatemala or wherever with their families. They’re here because we destroyed their livelihoods with free trade agreements – NAFTA and CAFTA, for example.

For those of us living on the Dominican side of Hispaniola, the case of Haiti is never far from our minds. Even before the earthquake, that country probably had more development workers per capita than anywhere else in the world. Why has development work there and elsewhere been such a failure?

Well, Haiti is a country that we’ve exploited forever. I mean, [laughs] since Columbus arrived. The French exploited it, and it was one of the first countries to declare independence and the first to get rid of slavery in the hemisphere. The French then sued Haiti, saying that by getting rid of slaves, that it hurt the French economy. When the United States Marines went in there in the early 1900s, the cry was, “You gotta pay back the French for the money you owe them.” It goes way back in time, including money that’s owed them because you got rid of slavery. I mean, how awful is that?!
And there’s no question at this point in time – for anybody who seriously looks at this issue – that Jean-Bertrand Aristide was taken out by the CIA, and probably for the same reasons that Zelaya was taken out of Honduras, and that is because he was increasing the minimum wage. Haiti and Honduras set the bottom line for the minimum wage in this hemisphere, especially Haiti. No country in the Americas will allow itself to have a minimum wage below that of Haiti. And so, when the president of Haiti decides to increase the minimum wage, it doesn’t just impact Disney and the other companies that have sweatshops in Haiti. It potentially impacts every company that’s working in Latin America, because if Haiti actually increases its minimum wage, then it probably means that everybody else is going to have to increase their minimum wage just to stay that much more above Haiti. That’s the way it works.

So, Aristide was taken down because he strongly opposed the corporatocracy; he was trying to create something more egalitarian for his people. And there’s this long history. Sadly, I think a lot of the nonprofits – certainly not all of them, by any means – but a number of nonprofits working in Haiti are basically serving the interests of the corporatocracy, rather than the people of Haiti. Haiti is an example of a country that we know has a huge, long history of terrible corruption, but we have to take responsibility for being the people that have corrupted it and kept corrupt leaders in power. And when leaders try to step up to the plate to do something different, we in the United States take them down, and take them out one way or another. It has been consistent and consistent and consistent.

What are your thoughts about what happened to the humanitarian aid flotilla that Israel attacked in international waters, killing nine people?

Well, I can’t speak from any personal experience; having never been there, having never worked in Israel, I don’t know the circumstances. But I think it’s very much to the detriment of Israel, and everyone else, that Israel is taking such a hard stance against the Palestinians and other people. Certainly, what’s happened with this flotilla has created extremely bad press for Israel. Again, I don’t know the truth behind it or the circumstances, but it’s put Israel in a terrible, terrible light and I think Israel needs to try very hard to turn the situation around, to show much more compassion for the Palestinians, and other Arab people. Not just because it’s the morally and ethically correct thing to do, but because ultimately it will serve Israel’s future best. Israel right now is in a very, very vulnerable position and the world is outraged by what happened there. Again, I don’t know what happened there, but reading the press from around the world, there’s an outpouring of outrage against Israel which certainly can’t serve Israel’s long-term interests, or anyone else’s.

On that note, despite being out of the economic hit man game, you remain well informed. In the past you’ve criticized the corporate media, which includes almost everything the average person sees. Aside from Democracy Now!, which you have recommended before, what other sources do you suggest?

There’s tremendous sources. There’s the Internet. It’s hard to be terribly specific because, for example, I go onto a lot of Latin American media because I can read Spanish. Other people don’t have that option, but you can go to other English-speaking countries and look at what they’re doing online. There are so many sources available that I don’t like to promote any particular one very much. People have a tremendous number of options, I just think that we don’t need to rely on The New York Times and Fox [laughs] or The Washington Post anymore. All of those are very biased in favor of the corporatocracy. There’s so many alternatives and I think the Internet provides a great equalizer.

The hot spot in the so-called War on Drugs seems to have been transferred from Colombia to Mexico. This has made it easier to blame someone else for the problems our drug-user demand and prohibition program create since that country is our neighbor. A leaked report from the Mexican government identified 23,000 deaths in that country related to the narcotrafficking problem since the start of the crackdown in 2006 (no doubt initiated as a bargaining chip for immigration reform that Bush had promised Mexican President Vicente Fox). The powerful military-industrial complex obviously has a big stake in maintaining and expanding the drug war, but how can the American people put an end to this nightmare?

We have to put our foot down about this whole military-industrial-complex, the corporatocracy. We have to realize that we have to create a new economy in this country. And you’re absolutely right, I mean, so many of the drug wars around the world, whether it’s Colombia, Mexico or wherever, are driven by the fact that the corporatocracy makes a huge amount of money in sales of equipment. Colombia has been the number four recipient of US military aid in the world, following behind Egypt, Israel and Iraq. And I suspect that Afghanistan may have surpassed Colombia, but the drug war in Colombia has provided a tremendous source of revenue for big US corporations that are providing helicopters, planes and other military equipment. And now we’re doing it in Mexico.

In my opinion – and it’s just my opinion – the CIA is very, very deeply involved in drug trafficking. We know about the Iran-Contra deal, where very mysterious things were going on; we know about the Opium Wars that were started under the British Empire, in India and China. These countries have a history of using drugs as a way to finance clandestine activities. And for a long time, in Vietnam and throughout the Golden Triangle of Asia, the CIA was funneling funds from drug use into its own clandestine operations. We know this goes on. I’m sure it’s part of what’s happening in Colombia and Mexico now. Again, it’s a tremendous impetus for weapons suppliers and industries that support that. We have to remember that every time a missile is sold, or an AK-47 that’s made in the U.S. or any other military equipment made in the United States or sold by a multinational corporation, it isn’t just the manufacturer and distributor that make money, it’s insurance companies that support these corporations, healthcare service companies, it’s the banks, every one of these major military suppliers has a huge ripple effect on many other industries. And we, the people of the United States, must insist that we get out of this terrible dependency that we have on the military. In the last budget that the Obama administration presented, 25 percent of it was allocated to direct military expenditures. That doesn’t include Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s amazing that this is outside the budget. And it also doesn’t show these ancillary businesses that are supported by the military establishment. As I mentioned, the banks, the insurance companies, health servers, the pensions funds and so forth.

How were you able to morally justify the work you performed as an economic hit man to yourself?

I didn’t try to justify it morally at the time. At the time I thought it was the right thing because business school had taught me – as all business schools, the World Bank and everybody in the business promoted in those days – that by investing lots of money into infrastructure projects in developing countries, you could increase their economies – and in fact, the statistics showed that you did. You increased gross domestic product. But what the statistics didn’t show was that only a few people – a few wealthy families – really benefited. And the poor got poorer, and the gap between rich and poor got wider. And as I saw that over time, I kept thinking, well, I can be the exception. I’ll go in and do this and then I’ll expose the system and turn it around. Which in a way is what I’ve done. It took me a long time to get here. So at the time I kept convincing myself I was doing the right thing. In the process I was getting to see countries around the world, I was flying first-class, I was staying in the best hotels and eating at the best restaurants. I can’t justify what I did, but I can say that now, what I’m trying to do is everything I possibly can to turn it around.

I have a two-and-a-half-year-old grandson and I realize that he can’t inherit a sustainable, just, and peaceful world, unless every child – growing up in Botswana, Bolivia, Indonesia, every country on the planet – has that same opportunity. We live in a very tiny, interwoven global society today, and in order for any of our grandchildren to inherit a world that they will want to live in, we have to understand that every child has to inherit that world. We must understand that for us to have homeland security in the U.S. means that we must see that the planet is our homeland. This is not about protecting the U.S., it’s about protecting the planet. We’re all citizens of this planet and we must simply devote ourselves to doing that. I think my experiences in the Peace Corps and then later as an economic hit man helped me to really be clear on this and now I have to do everything I can for the rest of my life to promote that.

It’s been a tremendous pleasure. Thank you very much.

My pleasure. Keep up your great work. I really appreciate what you’re doing and my final comment to Peace Corps volunteers out there is: see the opportunities. We’re in revolutionary times. This is a time that’s more important than the American Revolution of the 1700s. This is a global revolution and it’s fun to be a part of it. The most gratifying, rewarding thing you can do is to create a better world for ourselves and future generations. Nothing is more fun, more rewarding, more satisfying than doing that, and I think the Peace Corps provides a tremendous launching pad for that kind of career.

¡Reclama! is a small, quarterly print publication produced in the Dominican Republic by the Progressive Circle, a loose, independent collective of activists concerned with critical analysis, social justice and universal human development. They can be reached at progcircle@gmail.com.


Haiti’s 1.3 Million Camp Dwellers Waiting in Vain, Despite Massive NGO Apparatus On The Ground

In Uncategorized on October 19, 2010 at 10:34 am

 

Hundreds of displaced Haitians live in make-shift homes outside Gheskio Field Hospital, located on Quisqueya University grounds, near Port-au-Prince

 

Oldspeak: “In 70 percent of Haiti’s refugee camps, the residents are on their own. Apart from water deliveries, they get nothing from the government and the massive humanitarian apparatus on the ground. No food. No jobs. And no news about their future. In the meantime, camp dwellers are getting impatient. 21-year-old Marie Lucie Martel, has a message for the NGOs “making tonnes of money, driving expensive rental cars.” “If they don’t take care of us, we will revolt. They won’t be able to drive down this highway. They will call us violent – they will call us all kinds of names. But we are being forced to do this, because ‘hungry dogs don’t play around’,” she warned”

From International Press Service:

GRAND GOÂVE, Oct 15 (IPS) – Rosie Benjamin is just one of over 1.3 million people living in Haiti’s 1,354 squalid refugee camps. She and 1,200 others are jammed into 300 tents and plastic tarp-shacks on a soccer field in Grand Goâve.

“We went to City Hall, we didn’t learn anything. We went to Terre des Hommes, nothing,” Banjamin said. “So far we haven’t gotten anything. Nothing. We are sitting here and we have no idea what anyone is thinking.”

Benjamin and her neighbours live on money from relatives overseas, share what food they have, and every now and then a non-governmental organisation (NGO) drops off some bulgar wheat and vegetable oil, but that’s about it. Some of the children – many of whom will likely not go to school this year – even have orange-tinted hair.

Asked about that obvious sign of malnutrition and other conditions, Deborah Hyde, a member of the U.N. “Shelter Cluster” – a U.N.-mandated management team tasked with trying to coordinate the NGOs working on the shelter issue – said that in March, most food distributions stopped because, she said, the Haitian government requested that the NGOs cease the handouts.

Besides, she added, “[M]alnutrition is unfortunately something that has been here since the 1980s.”

Hyde said that she felt some camp residents actually had a place to live, or could find one. Instead, they stay because, she said, “to be perfectly frank, are afraid they will miss a [food or aid] distribution.”

But Benjamin and her neighbours say nothing could be further from the truth. Some camp residents are homeowners but they do not have the means to destroy their hulk of a home, truck away the rubble, and rebuild. Others are renters. Benjamin, like almost two-thirds of Haiti’s homeless, rented her home. That means that she can’t move her family back home until her landlord makes repairs.

Benjamin said nobody is in her camp by choice. And no wonder – recent reports document increasing expulsions, gang activity and sexual exploitation, unsanitary conditions and putrid, inadequate latrines.

And so, despite the massive flow of donations – from citizens and governments – to humanitarian agencies, nine months after the catastrophic earthquake which killed some 300,000 people and devastated the capital and other major cities, most of Haiti’s “internally displaced people” are exactly where they were on Jan. 13: crammed into cardboard, canvas and plastic shantytowns, exposed to hot sun and to the frequent downpours and storms of Haiti’s infamous “rainy season”.

Last month, a storm touched down in the capital Port-au- Prince, killing six people and destroying 8,000 tents.

The apparent stagnation of resettlement efforts has led camp residents like Benjamin to assume there is no plan for the internal refugees.

But there is.

A three-week investigation by a new “reconstruction watch” effort, Ayiti Kale Je/Haiti Grassroots Watch, unearthed one. Unfortunately for Benjamin and her neighbours, however, it is a plan that is unlikely to succeed.

Crafted by U.N. agencies and the NGOs, the plan has three options:

• Return homeless to their neighbourhoods of origin, but into better-built and better-zoned houses;

• Convince some to move to the countryside;

• Put the rest in new housing developments on new land.

On paper – Haiti Grassroots Watch obtained the Oct. 5 draft of the “Strategy of Return and Resettlement”, translated from French – the plan seems sound. Put families into safe “transitional shelters” or T-Shelters – wooden or plastic houses – while more permanent, earthquake-safe structures go up in properly planned rebuilt or new neighbourhoods.

But there are many challenges, including the fact that so far, the government hasn’t officially bought into it.

Shelter Cluster Coordinator Gehard Tauscher said the lack of coordination and participation at the national level is a real roadblock, noting he wished “all layers of the government would come together and speak with one voice.”

“I wish they would lock up all of the people in a nice place for a weekend – the U.N., the agency people and the national government – and not let them out until they make decisions,” he said.

There are so many other obstacles, almost every step of the plan appears difficult, if not nearly impossible, to implement.

Take the T-Shelters, for example. First of all, there are over 300,000 families who need safe shelters. The agencies and NGOs are planning to build only 135,000. What about the other 165,000 families? And where will the shelters be put?

That’s not an insurmountable challenge. NGOs can try to negotiate leases for families like Benjamin’s. But but who will pay the lease?

That leads to another – Haiti’s “land problem”.

Haiti’s land tenure system is “a bordello… a complete disorder that has been going on for 200 years,” according to Bernard Etheart, director of the National Institute of Agrarian Reform.

Ever since Haiti’s independence, dictators have stolen, sold or given land to their families and allies. Many “owners” do not have titles to prove their ownership, while some parcels have two or three “owners”, all with “legal” papers.

Added to the land issue is another roadblock – quite literally. There are an estimated 20 to 30 million cubic tonnes of rubble around the capital and Haiti’s smaller affected cities that experts say will take years to clear.

In its three-article series, Haiti Grassroots Watch ran through the plan and pointed out the challenges, concluding that the problem of Haiti’s 1.3 million homeless can’t be dealt with until the underlying structural issues are tackled.

Dr. Paul Farmer, the U.N. Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti and also co-founder of Partners in Health, put it this way: “[W]hat happened on Jan. 12 is aptly described as an ‘acute- on-chronic’ event.”

Sanon Renel of FRAKKA, the Front for Reflection and Action on the Housing Issue, a coalition of camp committees and human rights groups that advocates for the right to housing, echoed Farmer.

“The NGOs don’t have a solution to the country’s problems. We need more than a short-term solution. We need another kind of state – a state that serves the majority,” he said.

In the meantime, camp dwellers are getting impatient. Benjamin’s neighbour, 21-year-old Marie Lucie Martel, said she was tired of seeing the NGOs “making tonnes of money, driving expensive rental cars”.

“I have a message for the government and all the NGOs. If they don’t take care of us, we will revolt. They won’t be able to drive down this highway. They will call us violent – they will call us all kinds of names. But we are being forced to do this, because ‘hungry dogs don’t play around’,” she warned.

*Read the complete series, see accompanying videos and listen to audio podcasts at Haiti Grassroots Watch – http://www.haitigrassrootswatch.org. Ayiti Kale Je (Haiti Eyes Peeled, in Creole), Haiti Grassroots Watchin English and Haïti Veedor (Haiti Watcher in Spanish), is a collaboration of two well-known Haitian grassroots media organisations, Groupe Medialternatif/Alterpresse (http://www.alterpresse.org/) and the Society for the Animation of Social Communication (SAKS – http://www.saks- haiti.org/), along with two networks – the network of women community radio broadcasters (REFRAKA) and the Association of Haitian Community Media (AMEKA), which is comprised of community radio stations located throughout the country.


In Guantanamo Detainee Opinion, Two Versions of Reality

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Oldspeak: “Close to 2 years later, Obama has yet to close Gitmo, and has compliled his own secret list of detainees to be held indefinitely without trial, violating Habeus Corpus, and contradicting his own senatorial rhetoric. In this case a jugde was pressured by the Obama Justice Department to rewrite his opinion freeing Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman. His original opinion was deleted from the public record and replace with rewritten and more Gov’t favorable account. The Gov’t had used testimony of psychotic, mendacious detainees who’d been tortured in their case against Uthman. It changed the location where Uthman was apprehended from Pakistan to Afghanistan to jive more with their case. Whew. Plutocracy in Action.”

From Dafna Linzer @ Pro Publica:

When Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. ordered the release of a Guantánamo Bay detainee last spring, the case appeared to be a routine setback for an Obama administration that has lost a string of such cases.

But there turns out to be nothing ordinary about the habeas case brought by Uthman Abdul Rahim Mohammed Uthman, a Yemeni held without charges for nearly eight years. Uthman, accused by two U.S. administrations of being an al-Qaida fighter and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, is among 48 detainees the Obama administration has deemed too dangerous to release but “not feasible for prosecution.”

A day after his March 16 order was filed on the court’s electronic docket, Kennedy’s opinion vanished. Weeks later, a new rulingappeared in its place. While it reached the same conclusion, eight pages of material had been removed, including key passages in which Kennedy dismantled the government’s case against Uthman.

In his first opinion, Kennedy wrote that one government witness against Uthman had been diagnosed by military doctors as “psychotic” with a mental condition that made his allegations against other detainees “unreliable.” But the opinion the public sees makes no mention of the man’s health and discounts his testimony only because of its inconsistencies.

The alterations are extensive. Sentences were rewritten. Footnotes that described disputes and discrepancies in the government’s case were deleted. Even the date and circumstances of Uthman’s arrest were changed. In the first version, the judge said Uthman was detained on Dec. 15, 2001, in Pakistan by Pakistani authorities. Rewritten, Kennedy said in the public opinion that Uthman admitted being captured “in late 2001 in the general vicinity of Tora Bora,” the cave complex where bin Laden was thought to be hiding at that time.

The creation of the additional opinion stemmed from a mishap inside the Justice Department: Kennedy’s first opinion was accidentally cleared for public release before government agencies had blacked out all the classified information it cited.

While the government privately took responsibility for the error, it initially refused to correct it. Two people familiar with the discussions said prosecutors in the Justice Department’s Civil Division gave Kennedy a choice: his entire decision would remain classified or he could write a new version that did not reference classified evidence.

Justice Department sources offered a different account. They said the department later relented and gave Kennedy a properly redacted version of the opinion, in which classified material had been blacked out. The sources said this opinion was meant to be published. But for reasons that remain unclear, the edited opinion became the starting point for the creation of an entirely new version.

Matthew Miller, a spokesman with the Justice Department, said “the department’s practice in all of these cases is to propose release of a properly redacted opinion.”

The second opinion, drafted after a contentious exchange between Kennedy and the prosecutors, did not refer to the earlier version and gave no indication material had been removed.

Legal scholars and classification experts said the drafting of a second opinion was a deception. All previous opinions in Guantánamo habeas cases have noted when material has been blacked out or removed to protect security.

Stephen Gillers, who teaches legal ethics at New York University School of Law, said Kennedy may well have had a legitimate concern about “national security issues.”

“But that concern then inspired him to participate in the creation of a parallel universe that fools everyone except a small circle of judges. We don’t allow the justice system to create false impressions,” Gillers said.

ProPublica obtained the original version of Kennedy’s opinion when it appeared briefly in the court record and conducted a line-by-line comparison with what was published five weeks later. That comparison, highlighting information that was removed, can be found here.

Reporting for this story was complicated by the fact that much of the evidence is classified, and judges, lawyers and prosecutors are barred from discussing most aspects of the litigation. But an examination of the opinions and additional documents, as well as interviews with government and intelligence officials, former military prosecutors and key players in the habeas cases, makes it possible for the first time to publicly examine the evidence against a detainee designated for indefinite detention.

To justify Uthman’s incarceration, the government relied on statements from five current or former detainees who were previously discredited by judges in other cases, questioned by internal Obama administration assessments or found unreliable by military psychiatrists because they were mendacious, mentally ill or subjected to torture.

Kennedy’s first opinion reveals that some of the government’s evidence came from a detainee who committed suicide at Guantánamo three years ago after months of hunger strikes. In the second opinion, the detainee’s name is concealed, making it impossible for the public to know he is dead.

DOJ’s Miller said witness testimony is thoroughly reviewed before it is presented. “In every habeas case where we ask the court to rely upon detainee statements, we do so because we believe courts can and should consider their accounts based on the totality of the evidence,” Miller said.

The Justice Department has appealed Kennedy’s ruling and officials there declined to say what they might do if the government does not prevail.

Uthman, according to senior government officials, is on the secret list of 48 Guantánamo detainees who the Obama administration designated for indefinite detention and, officials said, he is the first of those men to win his habeas petition.

Further complicating matters, Uthman hails from Yemen — a country the White House has deemed too unstable to handle such a transfer. Should he send Uthman home, President Obama risks a fierce political backlash from Republican lawmakers eager to portray the president as weak on terrorism.

Disclosure of the Uthman case comes at a pivotal moment in the government’s complicated efforts to prosecute detainees and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On Oct. 6, a federal judge in New York barred the government from using its main witness against a terrorism defendant because the information that led investigators to the witness was obtained through torture.

Botched Classification

When Kennedy, who serves on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled in February that Uthman was being improperly detained, his 27-page opinion was turned over to a court security officer for classification review.

The judges themselves have very little insight into the process and no sway over what is redacted. Government security officials review filings in the habeas litigation and other cases involving classified evidence and remove sensitive information.

In the Uthman case, that clearance process took three weeks. Kennedy’s decision was stamped “Redacted,” by the court’s security officer and returned to his chambers on March 16. The deletions were minimal. For the first 16 pages, the only word blacked out was “secret,” stamped at the top and bottom of each page.

Kennedy’s clerk added the document to the electronic court file late in the day. Twenty-five hours later, the security office sent out urgent notices to attorneys and the judge that the opinion had not been ready for release and needed additional deletions. The decision was promptly removed from the public docket.

In a closed hearing in his courtroom four days later, Kennedy lashed out at the government for releasing classified information. He and Justice Department attorneys then argued over what to do, according to three sources familiar with the discussion.

Kennedy insisted that the reasoning behind his first habeas ruling be made public. But the Justice Department resisted releasing it in redacted form, arguing that blacked out portions would call attention to the exact material the government wanted to conceal.

With Uthman slated for indefinite detention, the stakes were high.

During the next month, government lawyers scoured the Internet for the original decision; the legal database Westlaw was asked to remove it from archives; defense attorneys were instructed to destroy their electronic copies.

Even the court docket was altered. When the opinion was originally posted on March 16, the docket noted Kennedy’s grant of the writ of habeas corpus to the petitioner. Today, the entry for March 16 simply reads: “Document Entered In Error Erroneously.”

Kennedy ordered the Justice Department to explain how the information was released and to suggest solutions. In the written response, according to three people who saw it, the department took responsibility for the error. Kennedy rejected the government’s initial attempt to keep the opinion classified, insisting on other options, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.

One Justice Department source said the department relented, gave Kennedy a properly redacted copy of his opinion, and expected him to publish it. But two others said no such intention was conveyed to Kennedy.

Classification experts could not recall another case in which a second decision was secretly created.

“Reconstituting and replacing a judicial opinion without public notice is active deception,” said Steven Aftergood, a classification expert with the Federation of American Scientists in Washington. “There is a role for classification and there are things that need to be redacted, but there is never a justification for deception in the judicial process and that’s what this is,” Aftergood said, after reviewing both versions of Kennedy’s ruling in the Uthman case.

Two senior officials in the Obama administration and two others with direct involvement in habeas cases were surprised to learn that Kennedy’s final opinion was a different version than the original.

Changing the Record

Uthman was 21 years old and traveling with about 30 other men when he was taken into custody by Pakistani police in the town of Parachinar, near the Afghan border. It was Dec. 15, 2001, and U.S. troops were in the middle of a five-day battle against an al-Qaida stronghold known as Tora Bora, where bin Laden was believed to have taken shelter. Parachinar and Tora Bora are 12 miles apart but separated by a treacherous mountain range that takes two to three days to traverse.

The government maintains that Uthman was in Afghanistan to fight for bin Laden; Uthman has claimed he went there to teach the Quran to children. Some facts of his story are not in dispute, some critical ones are. They look different depending on which of Kennedy’s two opinions you read.

Kennedy’s original opinion noted that Uthman was seized in Parachinar; that he reached the town after an eight-day trek from the Afghan town of Khost, nowhere near Tora Bora; and that his journey to Pakistan began around Dec. 8, 2001. Those facts make it difficult to portray Uthman as a fighter in a battle that took place between Dec. 12 and Dec. 17 at Tora Bora. Two footnotes in the original opinion note that the government does not contest that Uthman was taken into custody in Parachinar.

Both were removed in the second opinion and Kennedy substituted wording to write instead that Uthman admitted he was seized “in late 2001 in the general vicinity of Tora Bora, Afghanistan.”

The intent of this editing may have been to conceal the role of the Pakistanis in capturing al-Qaida fighters although those details were long ago declassified. But the effect was to link Uthman more closely to the retreat of bin Laden and his inner circle through Tora Bora.

It is unclear precisely what restrictions or classification requests guided Kennedy’s alterations. Neither the judge nor the Justice Department would say.

Gillers said such editing has an effect on public opinion, even when it doesn’t change the outcome of the case.

“The ability to influence Kennedy’s opinion gives the government a public relations advantage,” Gillers said. “These battles are fought outside the court system as well as within it.”

Another advantage has been the government’s ability to largely conceal the identities of its witnesses.

In ordinary federal proceedings, from mob cases to white-collar crime, prosecutors would be loath to attempt such strategies because repeated use of a discredited witness would provide a significant opening to defense attorneys. In the habeas cases, it is difficult for defense lawyers and judges to learn of the roles played by flawed witnesses in previous cases.

The issue arose in a separate habeas case in May 2009, when Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia noted that a government witness had been diagnosed by Guantánamo medical staff as suffering from “psychosis.” In a footnote, she said she was troubled that the diagnosis had come to her attention “through the diligent work” of the defense attorney “and not as a result of the government’s obligation to provide” it.

Attorneys with security clearances can access classified information the government plans to raise in court at a secure facility near the Pentagon. But the material is not easy to use.

The facility is staffed by court security officers and Justice Department officials who determine what information the lawyers can remove from the facility, including, in some cases, their own notes. No classified information can be shared over the telephone or Internet, a significant burden for lawyers who reside outside the Washington area.

“It’s monumentally difficult to fight these battles when the government holds all the cards,” said David Remes, one of the attorneys representing Uthman. Neither Remes nor Uthman’s other Washington attorneys, including William Livingston at Covington & Burling, would discuss the details of the Uthman case.

Near Total Secrecy

Although President Obama inherited many aspects of U.S. detention policy from his predecessor, Guantánamo detainees have been fighting their detentions in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia almost entirely on his watch.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2008, as Obama was campaigning for president, that detainees could challenge their detentions in federal court under the constitutional doctrine of habeas corpus, which protects individuals from unlawful imprisonment by the government.

Obama, still a senator then, issued a statement calling the ruling “an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus. Our courts have employed habeas corpus with rigor and fairness for more than two centuries, and we must continue to do so as we defend the freedom that violent extremists seek to destroy.” The first challenges were decided on Nov. 20, just three weeks after Obama’s election.

Lawyers from the Justice Department’s Civil Division handle the Guantánamo litigation in coordination with intelligence agencies and the Department of Defense, which acts as warden of Guantánamo. The litigation process was built around the government’s assertion that the bulk of the evidence is classified, a claim that has enabled the government to operate under a cloak of near total secrecy, with judges and defense attorneys barred from publicly discussing most aspects of the litigation. Court filings that reveal details about the cases undergo classification review before they are made public.

Intelligence and military officials take the lead in determining what can be released. As this story was going to publication, the Justice Department released an unclassified version of its appeal brief in the Uthman case. A number of details that were excised from Kennedy’s final opinion appear in the appeals brief.

Justice Department spokesman Miller said, “as a general matter, Justice Department litigators are not responsible for classification or declassification decisions in habeas cases.”

Officials at other agencies said they had a fairly free hand in removing information supplied for the government’s case. “Whenever a court security officer identifies a document slated for posting on the court’s public docket as potentially containing classified information, the officer refers that document to appropriate agencies for classification review,” Maj. Tanya Bradsher, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon, said.

One government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity acknowledged that the classification process has been plagued with inconsistencies and that no one is coordinating the effort. In most declassified habeas filings, the names of all detainee-witnesses are removed; in others, a name or two slips past the redaction process.

Some government-ordered deletions clearly appear designed to conceal names of confidential informants, associations with foreign intelligence services and the identities of certain federal agents. But the Uthman case shows that many of the deletions go further.

“This censorship has nothing to do with protecting ‘national security’ and everything to do with covering up government mistakes and malfeasance,” said Jonathan Hafetz, a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law who has represented a number of detainees in habeas litigation. The practice, he said, allows the government to “mislead the American public on issues of profound importance to the country by skewing the perception of who really is at Guantánamo.”

There have been some attempts, but with limited results, to make more of the habeas proceedings public. Nearly two years ago, as the litigation was getting under way, three media organizations — The Associated Press, The New York Times and USA Today — sought access to the court filings in which the government argued for holding the detainees.

The government fought the request but Judge Thomas Hogan, then the chief judge of the U.S. district court in Washington, ordered the government to release redacted, unclassified versions of its filings within 14 days.

David Schulz, a First Amendment attorney who is representing the media group, said the government is flouting Hogan’s order.

“The frustrating thing about this litigation is that the judge in no uncertain terms upheld the public’s constitutional right to inspect the records of the habeas proceeding and yet, nearly two years after the documents were supposed to be filed and publicly available, we are still waiting to get properly redacted filings,” Schulz said.

The government is now seeking to amend Hogan’s order to include six new broad categories of information that it can restrict without review by a judge unless the detainee objects. Schulz has opposed this idea. Both sides are waiting to hear from Hogan.

When the media group first fought for access, just weeks after the 2008 presidential election, the Bush administration was still in office. But Schulz said the election has had no impact on the department’s position in this area.

Said Schulz: “The Obama Justice Department has fought as hard and resisted as strongly the right that the public has to see these court records.”


Half A Million Americans Denied Health Coverage For “Pre-Existing Conditions”, Like Pregnancy

In Uncategorized on October 14, 2010 at 9:26 am

Oldspeak:”Still not quite sure why Obama and the Democrats agreed to allow one the the most popular provisions of their “Health Care Reform” bill to not take effect until 2014, when they are are in dire need of “wins” to show the American people they instituted positive change. In the meantime Health Insurers are denying insurance claims at nearly DOUBLE THE RATE they were a few years ago… 😐 Health Insurers are clearing the decks, cutting as many “costs” and gobbling up as much profit as possible before the party is over. At the expense of  millions of Americans in need of heath care.”

From The Financial Times:

The four largest health insurance companies in the US denied coverage to more than half a million individuals because of their pre-existing conditions from 2007 to 2009, according to a congressional investigation.

On average, the four companies – Aetna Humana UnitedHealth Group andWellPoint – denied one out of seven applicants’ coverage based on conditions such as pregnancy, angina, diabetes and heart disease.

The investigation found that the number of people who were denied coverage increased about 49 per cent from 2007 to 2009. In that period, the groups refused to pay 212,800 claims for individuals who were already insured based on their previous medical conditions.

New revelations about the extent of denials based on pre-existing conditions comes at a crucial time for Democratic lawmakers.

Many of them have come under pressure in the lead up to the November mid-term elections because of their support for President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law, which was passed by Democrats in Congress in March.

Polls show that roughly 50 per cent of voters disapprove of the wide-ranging new law.

But one of the most universally popular provisions – which will not take effect until 2014 – makes it illegal for insurance groups to deny an individual coverage based on a person’s health status or pre-existing condition.

Democrats have argued that the provision is economically feasible because the new law also includes a mandate forcing every individual to be covered, one of the least popular aspects of the bill.

Republican candidates for Congress have vowed to “repeal and replace” the healthcare law, but keep the new provision on pre-existing conditions. They have not, however, explained how they would extend coverage to those individuals without a broader mandate.

The congressional investigation by Democrats on the House energy and commerce committee was initiated shortly before the landmark vote on healthcare reform, when Congressman Henry Waxman, chairman of the committee, asked each of the companies for extensive information about their denial policies.

Each of the companies complied with the request. The congressional probe found that each company saw its policy on pre-existing conditions as a key area of growth.

For example, internal documents by a company that was not identified by the committee showed that executives were considering practices such as denying payments for drugs related to pre-existing conditions and linking additional claims to pre-existing condition exclusions as ways to limit the amount of money the company had to pay for claims.

Although the committee found that a total of 651,000 individuals were denied insurance coverage in the individual market between 2007 and 2009, investigators said the number was likely “significantly higher” because the figure did not include individuals who were discouraged from applying for coverage by insurance agents.

The four companies covered about 2.8m people in the individual market in 2009. In some cases, the denials were issued without review.

A memo circulated by one unidentified company in 2006 listed 14 medical categories that did not require review, including: any woman who was pregnant or had been treated for infertility within five years.


Why Are Bailed-Out Banks Breaking Into Struggling Borrowers’ Homes?

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Oldspeak:” Hmmm…I wonder how many people have been fraudulently ousted from their homes by the International Banking Cartel…Last week Florida resident Nancy Jacobini revealed that an agent hired by her bank broke into her home after she fell behind on her mortgage payments. Thinking she was being burglarized, Jacobini called 911. The intruder turned out to be an employee hired by Jacobini’s bank, JPMorgan Chase, to change her locks, they said. But Jacobini was only three months behind on her payments. And she wasn’t in foreclosure.”

From Amy Goodman At Democracy Now:

Guests:

Matthew Weidner, consumer rights and foreclosure defense attorney and a frequent blogger on foreclosure issues at his website.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re continuing on the issue of foreclosures. Last week a Florida woman named Nancy Jacobini revealed an agent hired by her bank broke into her home after she fell behind on her mortgage payments. Nancy Jacobini of Orange County was inside her home when she heard the intruder. Thinking she was being burglarized, she called 911.

Dispatcher: Do you hear somebody trying to open the front door?

Nancy Jacobini: Yes, yes.

Dispatcher: Ma’am?

Nancy Jacobini: My alarm is going off.

Dispatcher: OK.

Nancy Jacobini: He’s in. He’s in the house.

Dispatcher: He’s in the house?

Nancy Jacobini: Yes.

Dispatcher: So there’s a male outside and inside? Is that—they’ve gotten in.

Nancy Jacobini: I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m locked in my bathroom. I don’t know. I just know somebody is breaking—somebody broke into my house.

AMY GOODMAN: The intruder turned out to be an employee hired by Jacobini’s bank, JPMorgan Chase, to change her locks, they said. But Jacobini was only three months behind on her payments. She wasn’t in foreclosure.

NANCY JACOBINI: I was not in foreclosure. I was not given any warning. I am working in a loan modification, and I actually was perhaps maybe four months, five months behind, at the most.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Nancy Jacobini on MSNBC. Chase has apologized for the incident, but Jacobini has hired an attorney to pursue legal action against the bank. Well, we’re joined now from Tampa, Florida, by Nancy Jacobini’s lawyer Matthew Weidner. He’s a consumer rights and foreclosure defense attorney and a frequent blogger on foreclosure issues at his mattweidnerlaw.com.

Matthew Weidner, welcome to Democracy Now!

MATTHEW WEIDNER: Good morning, and thank you so much for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: This is just shocking. Explain exactly what happened with Nancy Jacobini.

MATTHEW WEIDNER: Look, it’s absolutely terrifying, and I wish this were an isolated incident. But the fact of the matter is, Nancy was sitting on her couch at about 5:30 in the evening, she hears the door being violently kicked and attacked, and she’s absolutely certain that someone is breaking into her home. You can listen to that 911 tape, and you can hear the terror in her voice. But it’s clear, it’s absolutely important to keep in mind, that she is not in foreclosure with this bank, and so she would have no reason to suspect that someone other than a burglar would be breaking into her home. And so, she goes running into the bathroom with her cell phone, she’s dialing 911, and she is just absolutely terrified. And it turns out, after the sheriffs are there, that this individual says that he’s hired by the banks.

Now, what’s so terrifying about this episode is this is not at all unique. I have examples from all around the country where these banks, these jackbooted thugs that are hired by the banks, are kicking down the doors of people’s homes all across the country. The thing to keep in mind, you know, the problems that are existing across this country are not isolated to people in foreclosure. And I think why this particular incident has caught the attention of people across the country is because they recognize that, wait a minute, if this happened to Nancy, then this could happen to me.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the story as it’s told is that she was behind in her payments, but she wasn’t even in foreclosure. So, when you’re in foreclosure, this is fine?

MATTHEW WEIDNER: It’s not at all fine ever. But this happens to people in foreclosure. Look, the problem is, they’re doing this when folks are not even in foreclosure. I’ve got examples all across the country where no foreclosure has even been filed. I think we’re going to find examples of people that are in formal modifications with the banks, where they have agreed, because the borrowers are making payments, that nothing at all will happen, but these jackbooted thugs continue with their work. You know, there are examples where people are living in their homes, where they leave for a week or so, where they go on vacation, and these jackbooted thugs are kicking down the doors. And unfortunately, the jackbooted thugs that are representing the banks are emboldened by this.

I confront law enforcement with these issues. Law enforcement, if you can get them to come out to the home, oftentimes won’t take a report of these activities. If they do happen to take a report of the bank’s breaking in and taking property, they will almost always determine that no crime has been committed, and there’s nothing at all that we can do. That really is what’s so disturbing and troubling is that, you know, our law enforcement, that work for us locally, are working now for the banks and saying that what these banks are doing is acceptable. And I’m here to tell you it absolutely is not. I mean, let’s keep in mind that one of the fundamental principles, a core value of this country, has been property ownership. We should have a right to be secure within our castles, within these homes that we own. And unfortunately, this foundation is being shaken by these banks, because they are now just emboldened, kicking down the doors and coming in whenever they please.

AMY GOODMAN: Chase simply said, “We’re sorry”?

MATTHEW WEIDNER: Well, Chase at first wanted to confirm that the power was on in my client’s name. But she’s had power in her name uninterrupted for something like twenty years or so. An irrelevant fact whether power was in her name or not, but the fact of the matter is that sort of a typical response that these banks offer when this happens, if law enforcement calls or if press or someone calls, is, “Well, they’ve abandoned the home,” or, “Well, they’re in foreclosure,” “Well, power isn’t on,” or something such as this. It’s just an excuse. But I think when they offer that excuse to somebody that might question, that leads them off in a different direction. And so, it’s just completely unacceptable.

And what Americans need to start waking up to is the fact that this is occurring with alarming frequency. You know, I’m pleased to appear on Democracy Now!, but I’m going to suggest to you that maybe it’s time we start changing to tell the truth about what’s happening in this country, and the logo might should read “Kleptocracy Now,” because that’s very much what it feels like in this country, a kleptocracy, where those at the top of the pyramid are working feverishly and with amazing efficiency to take from everybody down near the bottom of the pyramid. That’s frightening to me.

AMY GOODMAN: Matthew Weidner, you’re saying she wasn’t in foreclosure, so she wasn’t in any way alerted about this, but they’re saying, because they thought she hadn’t paid her electricity bill, that her electricity was cut off, they thought, which wasn’t true, that that’s why they had sent in an agent to break into her house?

MATTHEW WEIDNER: I believe that’s just an excuse after the fact, but it’s sort of a typical response. Whether she’s got power in her name or not is totally irrelevant. Whether they had filed a foreclosure or not, again, totally irrelevant. The only justification or the only legal right that someone might have to break into your property is when they have an order from a court saying that despite the fact that you own your home, this lender has a right to kick down your door while you’re in there. So, you know, it’s a red herring. They’re throwing out excuses, but they’re doing this in repeated instances.

AMY GOODMAN: Matthew Weidner, tell me about Darlene Decinti, another of your clients.

MATTHEW WEIDNER: Another client, just south of us here in Tampa, a family had left to go take care of an ailing grandparent. The bank had actually been stalking them for months, driving by, taking pictures, making reports of the property. And shortly after they had left for a little bit to go take care of their ailing grandmother, they came home to find their house ransacked, property removed and violated. They felt completely violated by what this bank had done. Again, another case of where they absolutely did not have the right to go in there and destroy and ransack that house. They did so. She’s got very disturbing photographs. And they’re still in that home.

AMY GOODMAN: Debra Fischer, another client?

MATTHEW WEIDNER: Again, I could keep going on and on with stories that are more disturbing than the next. This is a client, again south of us here in Tampa. She had let the house be used by some Canadian tourists. They came down to visit. As they went off to the beach, they came home and found that the house had been broken into, laptops stolen, their personal property stolen. When they called the sheriff’s office, the sheriff’s office came out. They at first refused to investigate. They found a cold beer had been cracked and left on the counter. And the Canadian tourists hadn’t drank that beer. They took fingerprints on it. It turns out that the fingerprints belong to some of the jackbooted thugs that came in and did this. My client had to scream bloody murder in order to get this sheriff’s office to investigate. And when the thugs that came in and did this were interviewed by the sheriff’s department, they admitted that it was part of their practice to go and enter into properties, prying open doors. The Palm Beach Postreported on this story, and the quote that burns me more than anything else was the president of the company that is attributed with these activities is quoted as saying, “We’re not even phased by lawsuits anymore.”

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to Bruce Marks, who’s usually in Boston, has been fighting for a moratorium on foreclosures for years now. He’s with the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, he’s founder and CEO. He’s in Sacramento right now. As you listen to these stories from Matt Weidner, Bruce, what do you hear? What do you—how typical is this?

BRUCE MARKS: Well, you know, Amy, this is very typical. But let’s take a step back for a second. When President Obama was running for president, he said one of the first things he’ll do is put a moratorium on foreclosures. He never did. He never backed bankruptcy reform so people could have the right to go in front of a bankruptcy judge. So, you know, and now, this is not a paper issue. You know, we hear now, “Well, let’s make the process right.” You know, this is symbolic of this industry. When they started, when Wall Street and these banks started making loans, they never took into consideration what people can afford, because there is so much money, billions and billions of dollars, can be made on mass production of these mortgages. And they looked at homeowners as a commodity.

Well, they’ve continued that same practice. Now what they’re doing is, in the foreclosure process, they’re not looking at whether someone can afford to stay in their home. What they’re saying is they’re a commodity. There’s a mass production out there, and they can’t stop that conveyor belt. Well, the fact of the matter, this is not something where they didn’t cross the T’s and dot the I’s. This is something that says this is an industry that is just based on greed.

And where is President Obama? When he says, “Well, you know, we don’t want to upset the market,” what is good about a market when someone is foreclosed on and, you know, next door to people who are making their mortgage payments, you’ve got a vacant building, or you’ve got investor-owned property where there is no consideration of taking the homeowner in to account? So we’ve got to—we have to have a national moratorium to give ourselves a window of opportunity to restructure mortgages, to make them affordable, and have this industry start to look at homeowners as people, as families, as part of the community, not as a commodity to make money. And that’s the problem. And yes, the American people are angry at the government, because—I used to be the regulator. I used to work at the Federal Reserve Bank as a regulator. And we have the authority as regulators to stop these predatory practices.

So, the attorney is absolutely correct. This is not, you know, a one-off.

AMY GOODMAN: Bruce?

BRUCE MARKS: This is, you know—

AMY GOODMAN: Why are you focusing—

BRUCE MARKS:—what the industry is doing across the—yes?

AMY GOODMAN: Bruce, why are you focusing on California right now?

BRUCE MARKS: Well, because, you know, this is our twenty-third Save the Dream event. And, you know, so we were in Los Angeles, now we’re in Sacramento, because it’s devastating out here. But Amy, it’s devastating across the country. And that’s the problem. And this industry has run amok. And, you know, yes, you have these stories, which is—you know, happens all the time, but, you know, the fact of the matter is, it’s devastating here, it’s devastating throughout the country, in Florida and elsewhere. And we’ve been there.

But people can afford a mortgage payment. So isn’t it better to keep an existing homeowner in their properties doing that than really selling it at even less of a price to get rid of it in the foreclosure?

But, Amy, a very important point is not being talked about. The government is the largest foreclosure entity out there. FHA mortgages, government-owned, are doing massive numbers of foreclosures. Fannie Mae, massive numbers of foreclosures. So President Obama maybe doesn’t want to do a full moratorium, but why not make the government-owned entities, the ones that the taxpayers own and control—let’s start with them. Let’s say, “FHA, a moratorium on foreclosures; Fannie Mae, moratorium on foreclosures,” and give us the opportunity to restructure the mortgages. So, in essence, the American taxpayer are foreclosing on ourselves. And people are fed up of bailing out the banks and not helping the homeowners. And we should be able to do this without one dollar of taxpayer money.

AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, we interviewed New York Supreme Court Justice Arthur Schack, who’s made national headlines for rejecting dozens of foreclosure filings due to faulty paperwork from banks and lenders.

JUSTICE ARTHUR SCHACK: Right now, active foreclosures in Brooklyn, which is Kings County, my county, are probably one-quarter of all the civil cases that we have. There are right now 12,000 foreclosures that are somewhere in a—pending, whether it be in early stages or further down the road as the case develops, whereas if we went back four, five years ago, maybe there were probably three or four thousand. So we’re getting buried. […]

If banks do not like what they—what I have done, or anyone else, they have a right to appeal. This is how our system of justice works. I know that in my own county more judges now scrutinize these mortgages than they did before, looking for—looking for any—looking to make sure that everything’s done legally correct. I don’t want to say that we look for defects. We look to make sure that justice is done. So, if the little guy wins, he wins; the bank wins, they win. It isn’t a matter of we’re out to—we’re out with an agenda. Our agenda is justice.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Brooklyn Judge Arthur Schack. Matthew Weidner, how typical is this judge?

MATTHEW WEIDNER: I wish that he were not atypical. I think that judges run a spectrum. Judge Schack has clearly been way ahead of all of this for many years. We’ve got good judges all across this country who have recognized the problem, but the fact of the matter is that they, too, have been overwhelmed by this crisis.

You know, we talk a lot about this moratorium, and frankly, I find the controversy over the issue of a moratorium a bit perplexing. Let’s talk about the practical consequences. Nothing would happen if we had a moratorium on foreclosures, practically, right now, because the banks can’t sell the properties that they already have title to. So, frankly, one of the problems that I have is that regulators and legislators are a bit late to the game. One of the things I find most disturbing is that it was not legislators or regulators that shut this down; it’s been the industry itself. When they realized what problems they have caused themselves by the faulty paperwork, by all the problems, they’re the ones that have said, “Wait a minute. We’ve got greater liabilities ahead, because of all that we’ve done wrong.” And so, that’s why this is slowing down.

But again, let’s talk about the very real consequences here. And Bruce Marks, I totally agree a hundred percent. One of the questions that we all miss when we’re talking about this is, what’s the point of foreclosure? If we granted every single foreclosure that’s pending right now across this country, what would happen to those homes? We can’t get people qualified to get in homes as it is. So, really, we need to focus on the practical consequences of a moratorium, which would only be to stabilize the market. What we need to be doing is working, like Bruce is doing, to keep people in homes, because the fact of the matter is, that’s far better for these lenders in the long run than tossing people out into the streets.

AMY GOODMAN: NACA, Bruce Marks, your organization, the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America—we’ve just got fifteen seconds—how many—what percentage of faulty foreclosure notes do you find?

BRUCE MARKS: Oh, there is a large—there’s a large number. But let’s remember, let’s get to the fundamental issues. The government program has failed to get affordable mortgages. Make the government program work. And Chase is the worst one out there. We’ve got to make an example of Chase to say, “Chase, you’re the predatory servicer out there. Stop your practices.” And President Obama has to stop meeting with Jamie Diamond and Chase executives, so he can make the government program work. He’s got to stand up—

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to have to leave it there.

BRUCE MARKS:—for working people, not for Wall Street. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Bruce Marks, thanks so much for being with us from Sacramento, founder and CEO of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America.

BRUCE MARKS: Thank you for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: And thank you to Matt Weidner, speaking to us from Tampa PBS station WEDU, foreclosure defense attorney, frequent blogger on foreclosure issues at mattweidnerlaw.com. We’ll link to both of your blog and to NACA, as well


Gulf Of Mexico Drilling Ban Lifted; Salazar Declares “Immediate Crisis” Is Over

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 10:22 am

Oldspeak: “Some muthafuckas is always tryna ice skate uphill.” -Blade  A full 6 weeks early, the Obama Administration has decided to lift the moratorium on gulf oil drilling, exposing the ecologically devastated region to another potential disaster when all the oil from the last disaster hasn’t even been cleaned up. With no inspectors in place to enforce the rules. :-|Oil ain’t cocaine, but in the immortal words of Rick James “IT’S A HELLUVA DRUG!”

From Mike Ludwig @ Truthout:

The Obama administration on Tuesday lifted the temporary ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico set in place after the Deepwater Horizon blowout in April. The moratorium was originally set to expire November 30.

The temporary ban affected drilling operations on 36 deepwater offshore rigs in the Gulf, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Salazar said in a press conference that the rigs must undergo additional inspections before resuming operation, and rig operators must prove they can meet safety standards set by new rules introduced in late September.

The Gulf oil industry has called for an end to the drilling moratorium for months, arguing that the ban put people out of work and did further damage to the Gulf economy.

Environmentalists have called on the Obama administration to extend the moratorium on deepwater drilling and broaden it to include shallow water drilling.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) blocked the confirmation of Jack Lew, Obama’s nominee to run the Office of Management and Budget, until the moratorium was lifted, according to The New York Times.

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Salazar said he made the decision to lift the ban after reviewing a report from Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement. Salazar said that the well that leaked for months following the BP blowout has been dead since September 19, and the appropriate disaster response resources are now available to the rest of the Gulf.

“We are now past that immediate crisis,” Salazar said.

Bromwich said rig operators must prove their rigs comply with new rules issued last month governing blowout preventors, well casing, worker safety and emergency response. Operators will also have to prove sufficient access to containment resources in case of a spill or leak.

Salazar called the rules set a “new gold standard,” and he expects those in favor of deregulation to complain that the rules go too far.

“Others will say we are lifting too soon … The truth is, there will always be risk in deep water drilling,” said Salazar, who used the conference to promote a new wind-power facility in Colorado as evidence of the Obama administration’s investment in clean energy.

Bromwich said it is unclear how soon idled rigs will be back in business, but “it’s not going to happen tomorrow.” He said that his department is in the process of recruiting more inspectors to enforce the new rules, but hasn’t made any considerable additions to its staff.