Michigan prepares for mass protests against right-to-work legislation

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/10/michigan-right-to-work-protests

Supporters and protesters of the law, which curbs unions ability to collect fees, will gather at the state Senate on Tuesday

in New York
guardian.co.uk, Monday 10 December 2012

Union leaders in Michigan have been training members in “peaceful civil disobedience” methods in preparation for a protest on Tuesday against controversial right-to-work legislation.

Supporters of the law, which among other measures would prohibit unions from collecting fees from non-union workers, are also expected to demonstrate at the state capitol in Lansing.

The Republican-dominated Michigan Senate voted the right-to-work bill on Thursday by 22 votes to 16. Governor Rick Synder has said he will sign the bill into law and could do so on Tuesday.

The Teamsters union, which helped host the training sessions at the weekend, said hundreds of people are “ready to get arrested” in the push against right-to-work legislation.

Union officials said the mass demonstration outside the capitol would be accompanied by flash mobs, rallies and news conferences throughout the day.

Barack Obama, who reiterated his opposition to right-to-work laws on Thursday, was due in Michigan on Monday as he presses his case for fiscal cliff negotiations to result in tax hikes for the wealthiest Americans. It is not known if Obama will discuss Michigan’s right-to-work status, but last week White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said the president “continues to oppose” the law.

“The president believes our economy is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits, and he opposes attempts to roll back their rights,” Lehrich said. “Michigan – and its workers’ role in the revival of the US automobile industry – is a prime example of how unions have helped build a strong middle class and a strong American economy.”

Continue reading at:   http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/10/michigan-right-to-work-protests

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“Fiscal cliff” cruelty

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2012/12/10/fiscal_cliff_cruelty/

Hiking the eligibility age is such a terrible idea Obama can’t possibly be considering it. Or can he?

Monday, Dec 10, 2012

I want to put a public service announcement on top of this post: The fiscal cliff scenarios discussed here may never become reality. The worst sellouts of liberal principles allegedly under consideration by the White House, particularly a hike in the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, may be trial balloons by staffers, or outrages floated in order to make other compromises more palatable to progressives later. Besides, given the stranglehold the Tea Party still has on John Boehner, President Obama can afford to make bad proposals and even promises: right-wing extremists will probably never agree to the tax hikes that would force him to keep them.  He could promise that David Axelrod would not only shave off his stache but cut off his nose, confident that his advisor’s schnoz would stay put.

And I admit: I’ve howled at reports of Obama “betrayals” before, only to find later that the president negotiated a better deal than early reports showed, Exhibit A being the payroll tax holiday and extended unemployment benefits he got in exchange for extending the Bush tax cuts after the “shellacking” of the 2010 midterm elections.

Still, progressives are right to howl at reports, most reliably from Ezra Klein in the Washington Post, that the White House is prepared to make big compromises to achieve a fiscal-cliff deal. Klein reported Friday that “smart folks” say the administration is prepared to raise the Medicare eligibility age to 67 and compromise on top tax rates, bringing them to 37 percent, not the 39.6 percent they’ll go to Dec. 31, to avert the supposed “cliff.”

These are terrible ideas. Raising the Medicare eligibility age is so bad that I literally can’t believe the president would consider it. Even though there’s evidence he might. But New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait believes it, and moreover, he thinks it’s a compromise liberals should accept. “Summary argument,” Chait wrote defending his case: “It carries disproportionate symbolic weight with Republicans, people will still be covered by Obamacare, and it will create a constituency against Republicans’ efforts to nullify Obamacare.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2012/12/10/fiscal_cliff_cruelty/

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Hostess Workers’ Pension Money Diverted For Other Uses: Report

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/hostess-pensions-diverted_n_2271868.html

Posted: 12/10/2012

Hostess Brands acknowledged for the first time in a news report Monday that the company diverted workers’ pension money for other company uses.

The bankrupt baker told The Wall Street Journal that money taken out of workers’ paychecks, intended for their retirement funds, was used for company operations instead. Hostess, which was under different management at the time the diversions began in August 2011, said it does not know how much money it took.

“It’s not a good situation to have,” Hostess CEO Gregory Rayburn told the WSJ.

“Whatever the circumstances were, whatever those decisions were, I wasn’t there,” Rayburn added. As the founder and owner of Kobi Partners, a restructuring advisory firm, Rayburn was appointed acting CEO in March 2012.

Hostess Brands, which filed for bankruptcy for a second time in January, started liquidating its operations in November after the bakers’ union refused to take another pay cut and went on strike. The liquidation will leave about 18,000 workers without jobs.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/10/hostess-pensions-diverted_n_2271868.html

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Dragging Secretive Trade Talks Into the Light: Activists Expose Slow-Motion Corporate Coup

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/world/dragging-secretive-trade-talks-light-activists-expose-slow-motion-corporate-coup

A highly secretive trade agreement aims to penalize countries that protect workers, consumers, and the environment. Luckily, the growing opposition goes beyond the usual trade justice suspects.

By Lori Wallach
December 5, 2012

While the election season seized everyone’s attention, government officials and 600 official corporate “advisors” were working behind closed doors to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Negotiations have been cloaked in unprecedented secrecy and its proponents have mislabeled the TPP as a “free trade” agreement. In reality, the TPP is about much more than trade. It threatens a stealthy, slow-motion corporate coup d’etat, formalizing and locking in corporate rule over most aspects of our lives.

Thirteen years ago, at the  World Trade Organization’s  (WTO) Seattle Ministerial, a similar threat in the form of a massive expansion of the powers and scope of the WTO was stopped.

At the Battle in Seattle, the immovable object called grassroots democracy was  victorious over the allegedly unstoppable force of corporate-led globalization. The “Doha Round,” which followed two years later and continued the attempt to expand the WTO’s reign, was also derailed thanks to  tenacious campaigning  by organizations and activists worldwide.

Recalling these historic moments, when people power stopped the dangerous expansion of corporate power, is especially sweet today, when we must again act to safeguard these inspiring victories. All of us who will live with the results must become active to stop the TPP, the latest iteration of corporate coup via “trade” agreement.

What Would the TPP Do?

Eleven countries are now involved—Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States—and there is an open invitation for more to join. Think of the TPP as a NAFTA on steroids, which could encompass half of the world.

This is the largest, most potentially damaging agreement since the 1995 establishment of the WTO. And you may never have heard about it before. That’s because the negotiations, which have been underway for three years, are being conducted in  extreme secrecy . The public,  Congress, and the press are locked out, but the 600 official corporate advisors have access to the negotiating texts.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/world/dragging-secretive-trade-talks-light-activists-expose-slow-motion-corporate-coup

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HSBC Said to Near $1.9 Billion Settlement Over Money Laundering

If corporations are people shouldn’t HSBC or at least its board of directors all be going to prison?

From The New York Times:  http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/12/10/hsbc-said-to-near-1-9-billion-settlement-over-money-laundering/?hp

December 10, 2012

Federal and state authorities plan to announce a record $1.9 billion settlement with HSBC on Tuesday, a major victory in the government’s broad crackdown on money laundering at banks.

The settlement with HSBC stems from accusations that the British banking giant transferred billions of dollars on behalf of sanctioned nations like Iran and enabled Mexican drug cartels to launder money through the American financial system, according to officials briefed on the matter. The deal, which will force the bank to forfeit more than $1.2 billion and pay additional penalties, is the largest to emerge from an investigation that has spanned several years and involved multiple government agencies.

The settlement on Tuesday is expected to include a deal with the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department, according the officials. The Treasury Department is also expected to join the settlement.

Since January 2009, the Justice Department, Treasury and the Manhattan prosecutors have charged six foreign banks, including Credit Suisse and Barclays. In June, ING Bank reached a $619 million settlement to resolve claims that it had transferred billions of dollars in the United States for Cuba and Iran.

On Monday, federal and state authorities announced a $327 million settlement with Standard Chartered. The British bank, which in August agreed to a larger settlement with New York’s top banking regulator, admitted to processing thousands of transactions for Iranian and Sudanese clients through its American subsidiaries. To avoid having Iranian transactions detected by Treasury Department computer filters, Standard Chartered deliberately removed names and other identifying information, according to the authorities.

“You can’t do it, it’s against the law and today Standard Chartered is being held to account,” Lanny A. Breuer, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in an interview.

The settlement with HSBC, the giant British firm, will help the bank put to rest a wide-ranging federal investigation that has loomed for years.

Continue reading at:  http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/12/10/hsbc-said-to-near-1-9-billion-settlement-over-money-laundering/?hp

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States Need to Stop Giving Subsidies to Corporations

From The Progressive:  http://www.progressive.org/states-need-to-stop-giving-subsidies-to-corporations

By Roger Bybee,
December 9, 2012

Corporations are playing states for fools. Across the nation, states are now pouring more than $80 billion in subsidies and tax breaks annually to corporations in a futile and counter-productive effort to retain and attract corporate investments in the name of job creation, as outlined in the outstanding series by Louise Story in the New York Times. This flow of subsidies is failing to generate family-supporting jobs and badly distorting the role of state government in a democracy.

First, the subsidies are superfluous. Corporate decisions are rarely based on subsidies, as Greg LeRoy shows in The Great Jobs Scam. But corporations have learned that there is no reason to pass up special “incentives,” as subsidies can invariably be easily extorted if they just pit the states against each other in a bidding war.

Second, the ever-growing flood of subsidies is failing to generate jobs, especially those paying family-sustaining wages, with almost 60% of new jobs paying under $13.83% an hour. From 2000 to 2010, major US corporations increased employment by 2.4 million jobs in their overseas subsidiaries, even as they wiped out 2.9 million jobs in America, as the Wall Street Journal reported.

Third, the interstate competition for jobs, by reducing the tax revenues coming from corporations, drains every state of funds needed to make higher education affordable for all, provide good K-12 education, make quality health care available, and hold down taxes for working families.

The outcome is a profound reshaping of state governments’ role: instead of improving the lives of all their citizens, states are now re-dedicated first and foremost to the task of using public resources to enlarge the profits of private corporations.

Wisconsin is a classic case of rewarding major corporations with piles of cash that they do not need. Among the corporate giants receiving multi-million dollar incentives are Kohl’s Department Stores, Harley-Davidson, Waste Management, Mercury Marine, the Oshkosh Corp., Kraft Foods, and the Eaton Corp. Kohl’s, which manages to pay its CEO Keith Mansell $9.4 million, nonetheless justifies taking $62.5 million in taxpayer dollars. “Wisconsin spends at least $1.53 billion per year on incentive programs including tax rebates, according to the most recent data available,” the New York Times reported. That amounts to a full 10% of the state budget.

Continue reading at:  http://www.progressive.org/states-need-to-stop-giving-subsidies-to-corporations

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Climate Fail: Cop18 Ends in ‘Betrayal’

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/12/08

UN climate negotiations end in Doha, Qatar with Kyoto extension

Andrea Germanos, staff writer
Published on Saturday, December 8, 2012 by Common Dreams

The United Nations climate change conference concluded on Saturday, a day after the talks were slated to end, addressing only a fraction of global greenhouse gases, in what is seen by climate activists as “betrayal” of the people and a commitment to add fuel to a planet already on fire.

The agreement decided in Doha, Qatar extends the 1997 Kyoto Protocol until 2020 in a second commitment period, but falls short of addressing the bulk of the greenhouse gas emissions. Agence France-Presse reports:

An extension of Kyoto was finally approved with the 27-member European Union, Australia, Switzerland and eight other industrialised nations signing up for binding emission cuts by 2020.

They represent about 15 percent of global emissions.

The protocol locks in only developed nations, excluding major developing polluters such as China and India, as well as the United States which refuses to ratify it.

Oxfam International Director of Campaigns and Advocacy Celine Charveriat said of the agreement: “Once again governments have done far too little to drive down dangerous greenhouse gas emissions any time soon. The planet is on fire, but our governments are trying to extinguish the flames with watering cans.”

“This is not where we wanted to be at the end of the meeting, I assure you,” added Nauru Foreign Minister Kieren Keke, leader of an alliance of small island states. “It certainly isn’t where we need to be in order to prevent islands from going under and other unimaginable impacts.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/12/08

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