Since the start of this year, two curious new groups have set up shop in Brussels: the Consumer Choice Center and an EU branch of the Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco (Forest EU).
They claim to represent consumers, but a closer look shows no links to those they allege to speak for. At the same time, they seem to be exclusively funded by corporations like Japan Tobacco International and right-wing billionaires such as controversial US plutocrats the Koch Brothers. Both groups add their voices to a network of corporate-funded organisations aggressively pushing for de-regulation in the EU.
This does make it look like the Consumer Choice Center and Forest EU represent their funders’ rather than consumer interests.
Here we take a look at the groups in more detail to see if they are indeed lobby outfits pushing a corporate agenda.
“Consumer Choice” Organization Speaking Up for Industry?
In March 2017, a new consumer rights organisation announced, with much fanfare, that it was setting up shop in Brussels. The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) was first featured in Politico’s publication for EU insiders, Brussels Influence, which presented them as “a grassroots-led movement” aiming to “mobilize millennials against what its founders argue is the overburdensome regulation that limits choice.”
An intriguing message, especially coming from a completely unknown organisation. So, what is the CCC? The group’s website states that it “represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe” and that it monitors regulatory trends in Washington, Brussels, Geneva and other “hotspots of regulation.” Its professed mission is to “inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice.” But details about what this entails are sparse.
Treating drug users as whole people with human rights rather than as criminals used to be considered a radical act but that is changing. Mass incarceration and a far-reaching opioid crisis are forcing even former anti-drug crusaders to consider tackling addition as a health issue rather than a criminal one.
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids recently startled me with a blog post titled, “Why You Shouldn’t Use the Word Addict.” Drug addiction is a disease, the blog explains. People shouldn’t be defined by having an illness, so it’s better to use first-person language and say “someone with diabetes” rather than “diabetic.” The same should go for the word “addict.”
In other words, the ad was saying, we shouldn’t stigmatize people living with addiction by identifying them based on one condition with which they struggle. I was startled by the blog because stigmatizing drugs and drug users is exactly what the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids …read more
Going to college is a good thing, right? That’s at least what I was told as a kid, and what led me to get a college degree. I was the first one in my family to do so.
Yet new public opinion polling shows most Republicans think colleges have a negative impact on the country. Unfortunately, they might be right — but not for the reasons you might expect them to give.
Attending college has been proven to unlock opportunities. A report by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities found that college graduates are 24 percent more likely to be employed than high school graduates — and earn $1 million more over a lifetime.
Those with college degrees are also more than twice as likely to volunteer, and over three times more likely to give back to charity.
College educations also affect the way people vote. Three-quarters of bachelor’s degree holders vote in presidential elections, compared to just over half of high school graduates.
So why might some view college negatively? Well, there’s a lot of reasons — 1.3 trillion, to be precise. That’s how much debt students, current and former, are carrying in this country: $1.3 trillion worth, and rising.
Who’s hit worst by this skyrocketing debt? Women, who owe two-thirds of that amount — and especially black and Latina women.
A recent report from the American Association of University Women found that the average woman who graduated from a four-year university between in 2012 carried $21,000 in college debt. That’s about $1,500 more than the average man. Black women are even more negatively impacted, averaging over $29,000 in student loans.
Cook County, which includes Chicago, is poised to become the largest jurisdiction in the country to stop incarcerating people pretrial just because they cannot pay bail. The victory is the result of a sustained campaign by activists to end the incarceration of people for poverty. This movement is making its way across the nation.
As of July 17, 2017, Cook County, which includes Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, is poised to become the largest jurisdiction in the country to stop incarcerating people pretrial, solely because they cannot post money bail. Thanks in large part to a sustained push by activists over the past several years, the Cook County Circuit Court’s Chief Judge has announced a new order that instructs judges making bail decisions to impose monetary bail only in amounts that people can pay. If judges follow the order, it could lead to the end of money bail in Cook County, setting a historic precedent on an issue that impacts hundreds of thousands of people around the country.
Right now, more than 4,000 people are incarcerated in Chicago’s Cook County Jail because they cannot post monetary bail. They have been granted release by a judge, but remain in cages because they cannot pay a certain amount of money to secure their freedom. This is the pretrial justice system wrought by money bail, and it is mirrored across the country: 443,000 people are incarcerated before trial in the US, 90 percent of them because they cannot afford to post a monetary bail. In fact, there are more people in US jails pretrial than there are …read more
The social contract is shrinking: war has become normalized, environmental protections are being dismantled, fear has become the new national anthem, and more and more people, especially young people, are being written out of democracy’s script. Yet around world, the spirit of resistance on the part of young people is coming alive once again as they reject growing racism, Islamaphobia, militarism and authoritarianism.
According to famed anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, the central question of our times is whether we’re witnessing the worldwide rejection of liberal democracy and its replacement by some sort of populist authoritarianism.
There’s no doubt that democracy is under siege in several countries, including the United States, Turkey, the Philippines, India and Russia. Yet what’s often overlooked in analyses of the state of global democracy is the importance of education. Education is necessary to respond to the formative and often poisonous cultures that have given rise to the right-wing populism that’s feeding authoritarian ideologies across the globe.
Under neo-liberal capitalism, education and the way that we teach our youth has become central to politics. Our current system has encouraged a culture of self-absorption, consumerism, privatization and commodification. Civic culture has been badly undermined while any viable notion of shared citizenship has been replaced by commodified and commercial relations. What this suggests is that important …read more
Donald Trump continued his ongoing tour of cherished American institutions on Monday night, delivering yet another jarringly partisan speech to an apolitical audience—this one, comprised of tens of thousands still too young to vote.
During the campaign, his performance at the Al Smith dinner—where presidential candidates roast their rivals and themselves every four years—devolved into overt attacks on his opponent. Shortly after his election, he stunned CIA employees by delivering a campaign-style stump speech before the agency’s Memorial Wall. On Saturday, he surprised the crowd of uniformed personnel at the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford by imploring them to lobby Congress in support of his agenda.
So his speech on Monday night to the 2017 Boy Scout Jamboree ought to have been unsurprising. Trump, after all, seems to have only one mode, irrespective of the setting, or the nature of the audience he’s addressing; one familiar litany of triumphs and grievances to which he constantly returns, delighting his fans and galling his critics.
But he retains the capacity to surprise.
“As the Scout Law says: ‘A Scout is trustworthy, loyal’—we could use some more loyalty, I will tell you that,” Trump said, and paused there. The assembled scouts shouted the rest of it for him: “…helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.”
Like millions of other boys, I grew up reciting that creed on weekends. I had always taken it to be a list of obligations; its lessons that the path to leadership lay in serving others, and that there are ideals greater than self-interest. The Scout Oath is a pledge to “do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law,” to subordinate self gratification to the pursuit of that litany of virtues.
So when Trump paused at “loyal”—when he interjected, “we …read more
Via:: The Atlantic
None of us can choose how we are remembered. Most of us are not remembered at all. Senator John McCain knows that he will be remembered. He faces a choice about how his remarkable career will be noted in its autumnal phase.
McCain will of course be remembered most of all for his service, and sacrifice and bravery, as a naval aviator and then as prisoner of war in Vietnam. He should also be known for his efforts in his early days in politics to heal divisions within the United States over the Vietnam war, and then between Vietnam and the United States.
In the world of politics he is known and will probably be remembered as a steadfast personal friend, despite disagreements of party. Michael Lewis’s remarkable tale of McCain’s loyalty to the disabled and mostly forgotten one-time liberal champion Morris Udall is, well, an unforgettable example. More than most politicians, McCain has had dramatic moments of principle-above-party high-road stands, as when he told a Republican questioner that she should stop suggesting that his then-opponent for the presidency, Barack Obama, was “an Arab.” As Colin Powell later pointed out, McCain’s response fell an inch short of perfection, in that he answered the questioner by saying that Obama wasn’t “an Arab—he’s a decent family man.” Still, in real time and near the end of a bitter campaign it was brave, right, to his credit—and in character.
John McCain knows that he will also be remembered for having lost that race, and having lost his cool by “suspending” his campaign (while trailing in the polls) supposedly to concentrate on the financial emergency, and of course for steering American politics down the path that led to Donald Trump by choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate.
These are all things he has done, …read more
Via:: The Atlantic
Senate Republicans on Tuesday will begin debating legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, making good on the party’s most enduring campaign promise of the last seven years.
Or maybe they won’t.
The Senate’s next move on health care has been cloaked in mystery over the last several days, as President Trump and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell try to clear a crucial procedural vote while preparing for the increasing possibility that it will fail.
McConnell is determined to call up legislation the House passed in May to replace Obamacare as a means of starting formal debate in the upper chamber. But the Senate wouldn’t ultimately be voting on the House bill. Instead, McConnell would immediately move to substitute the House bill with a different proposal—either the bill he drafted to partially repeal and replace Obamacare, or a copy of legislation Republicans advanced in 2015 that repeals but does not replace the health law.
Which one will come up? McConnell won’t say, and that uncertainty is frustrating Republican senators. It’s also infuriating Democrats, who accuse the majority leader of using subterfuge to pass legislation that would overhaul the nation’s health-care system and affect tens of millions of Americans. The GOP plan, which would still need to go back to the House, would cut Medicaid by more than $700 billion over 10 years while repealing Obamacare’s insurance mandates on individuals and employers, as well as some of its taxes.
Yet McConnell’s maneuvering might end up being too cute by half. That first vote, known as the motion to proceed to debate, requires the support of at least 50 senators, and right now McConnell doesn’t have them. “I presume the vote tomorrow will fail,” a senior Senate GOP aide told me on Monday afternoon.
A once-confident Trump has turned pessimistic about the outcome as well. After trying to …read more
Via:: The Atlantic
Today in 5 Lines
Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, told reporters that he “did not collude with Russians, nor do I know of anyone in the campaign who did.” The remarks came after Kushner met privately with the Senate Intelligence Committee as part of its probe into Russian interference in the presidential election. During a press conference at the White House, Trump encouraged Senate Republicans to “do the right thing,” and vote to repeal and replace Obamacare this week. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi unveiled the Democrats’ new agenda, “A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages, Better Future.” The driver accused of smuggling dozens of suspected migrants in an overheated tractor-trailer was charged and could face the death penalty.
Today on The Atlantic
Better Ingredients. Better Party: Eight months after the presidential election, congressional Democrats are embracing a new, populist economic agenda that sounds far more like Bernie Sanders than Hillary Clinton. (Clare Foran)
Don’t Politicize the Military: During a speech on Saturday, President Trump encouraged active-duty personnel to lobby Congress for increased defense spending. In doing so, argues Andrew Exum, he reinforced the idea that the U.S. military “is a special, privileged class of men and women within our society.”
Easy Enough: Here are five ways a foreign government could influence an election without breaking the law. (Uri Friedman)
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