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The Pitfalls of “Buy American”

Backed by a huge banner reading “Buy American — Hire American,” President Trump declared in March that his administration would make the US the “car capital of the world” again.

“For decades, I have raised the alarm over unfair foreign trade practices that have robbed communities of their wealth and robbed our people of their ability to provide for their families,” Trump said. “They’ve stolen our jobs, they’ve stolen our companies, and our politicians sat back and watched, hopeless. Not anymore.”

Who is “they”? Based on the president’s previous comments, two safe guesses are Mexico and China. Since the inauguration he has been pushing to restrict trade and immigration. Meanwhile Auto Workers (UAW) President Dennis Williams has announced that his union will launch a new “Buy American” campaign.

US history has seen at least three waves of “Buy American” fervor. Chris Brooks interviewed Dana Frank, history professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and author of Buy American: The Untold Story of Economic Nationalism, about the history and impact of these campaigns.

Chris Brooks: The idea behind “Buy American” campaigns sounds good to many people. What do you think of this idea?

Dana Frank: “Buy American” campaigns operate on the assumption that if you buy a product made in the United States, then the company making the profit off that sale is going to reinvest in good union jobs in the United States — but that is very rarely the case. The companies didn’t agree to that partnership. They have instead used those profits to lobby for free-trade agreements that grease the skids for them to go overseas.

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Is Charter School Fraud the Next Enron?

In 2001, Texas-based energy giant Enron shocked the world by declaring bankruptcy. Thousands of employees lost their jobs, and investors lost billions.

As a scholar who studies the legal and policy issues pertaining to school choice, I’ve observed that the same type of fraud that occurred at Enron has been cropping up in the charter school sector. A handful of school officials have been caught using the Enron playbook to divert funding slated for these schools into their own pockets.

As school choice champions like Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos push to make charter schools a larger part of the educational landscape, it’s important to understand the Enron scandal and how charter schools are vulnerable to similar schemes.

What Is a Related-Party Transaction?

Enron’s downfall was caused largely by something called “related-party transactions.” Understanding this concept is crucial for grasping how charter schools may also be in danger.

Related-party transactions are business arrangements between companies with close associations: It could be between two companies owned or managed by the same group or it could be between one large company and a smaller company that it owns. Although related-party transactions are legal, they can create severe conflicts of interest, allowing those in power to profit from employees, investors and even taxpayers.

This is what happened at Enron. Because Enron wanted to look good to investors, the company created thousands of “special purpose entities” to hide its debt. Because of these off-the-books partnerships, Enron was able to artificially boost its profits, thus tricking investors.

Enron’s Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow managed several of these special purpose entities, benefiting from his position of power at the expense of the company’s shareholders. For instance, these companies paid him US$30 …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Down the Memory Hole: Living in Trump's United States of Amnesia

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump exit Air Force One at Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, May 23, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump exit Air Force One at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, May 23, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

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The Trump administration seems intent on tossing recent history down the memory hole. Admittedly, Americans have never been known for their strong grasp of facts about their past. Still, as we struggle to keep up with the constantly shifting explanations and pronouncements of the new administration, it becomes ever harder to remember the events of yesterday, let alone last week, or last month.

The Credibility Swamp

Trump and his spokespeople routinely substitute “alternative facts” for what a friend of mine calls consensus reality, the world that most of us recognize. Whose inaugural crowd was bigger, Barack Obama’s or Donald Trump’s? It doesn’t matter what you remember, or even what’s in the written accounts or photographic record. What matters is what the administration now says happened then. In other words, for Trump and his people, history in any normal sense simply doesn’t exist, and that’s a danger for the rest of us. Think of the Trumpian past as a website that can be constantly updated to fit the needs of the present. You may believe you still remember something that used to be there, but it’s not there now. As it becomes increasingly harder to find, can you really trust your own memory?

In recent months, revisions of that past have sometimes come so blindingly fast that the present has simply been overrun, as was true with the firing of FBI Director …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Trump Administration Says It Isn't Anti-Science as It Seeks to Slash EPA Science Office

 Scott Pruitt before a confirmation hearing with the Environmental and Public Works committee in Washington, DC, January 18, 2017.  (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)

Scott Pruitt before a confirmation hearing with the Environmental and Public Works committee in Washington, DC, January 18, 2017. (Photo: Gabriella Demczuk / The New York Times)

When the city of Toledo temporarily lost access to clean drinking water several years ago after a bloom of toxic algae, the Environmental Protection Agency sent scientists from its Office of Research and Development to study health effects and formulate solutions.

The same office was on the front lines of the Flint water crisis and was a critical presence in handling medical waste from the U.S. Ebola cases in 2014.

Thomas Burke, who directed ORD during the last two years of the Obama administration and was the agency’s science adviser, calls the office the nation’s “scientific backstop in emergencies.”

President Trump’s 2018 budget would slash ORD’s funding in half as part of an overall goal to cut the EPA’s budget by 31 percent.

A statement from EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt did not directly address the cuts to ORD, but offered broad defense of the proposed agency budget, saying it “respects the American taxpayer” and “supports EPA’s highest priorities with federal funding for priority work in infrastructure, air and water quality, and ensuring the safety of chemicals in the marketplace.”

ORD has no regulatory authority, but it conducts the bulk of the research that underlies EPA policies. ORD scientists are involved in “virtually every major environmental challenge the nation has,” Burke said. Diminishing the role and input of the office, he said, risked leaving the country “uninformed about risks and public health.”

“In time, you’re flying blind,” he said. “Everything becomes a mystery.”

Trump’s budget, released Tuesday, reflects the president’s wish list. The numbers likely will change by the time it goes through the congressional appropriations process, but …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Dismantling Colonial Rule From Palestine to All of America

A Palestinian flag is displayed as activists sing in the #NoDAPL Emergency Rally in Washington, DC, February 8, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

A Palestinian flag is displayed as activists sing in the #NoDAPL Emergency Rally in Washington, DC, February 8, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian)

What connects Palestinian and Indigenous American scholarship and activism? What does it mean to decolonize settler societies? These are some of the questions tackled by Steven Salaita in his new book Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and Palestine, which makes the case for Palestine as an indigenous nation under colonial occupation. Click here to order this already acclaimed book by making a donation to Truthout!

In this section from the introduction to Inter/Nationalism, Salaita explains the goals his book aims to achieve, as well as the basis for making the link between colonialism and decolonial struggle in America and Palestine.

This book develops a theory of inter/nationalism, an amalgamation of what is sometimes called solidarity, transnationalism, intersectionality, kinship, or intercommunalism. I had no role in creating inter/nationalism. I have merely observed and subsequently named it. “Inter/nationalism” describes a certain type of decolonial thought and practice — not a new type of decolonialism, but one renewed vigorously in different strata of American Indian and Palestinian communities. At its most basic, inter/nationalism demands commitment to mutual liberation based on the proposition that colonial power must be rendered diffuse across multiple hemispheres through reciprocal struggle.

My goal in this book is to define, document, and advance bases for the scholarly and material comparison of American Indian and Palestinian societies. I imagine this project as both an activist and an intellectual document, though I am painfully aware that shortcomings of vision and execution are inevitable. Nevertheless, I hope the analysis I share will contribute to a larger movement seeking to conjoin radical thought within the academy to creative theorization beyond …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Journalist Desmond Cole on How the Toronto Star Tried to Silence His Activism for Black Liberation

Last month here in Toronto, journalist Desmond Cole was told by his editor at the Toronto Star that he had violated the newspaper’s rules on journalism and activism, after Cole protested a Toronto Police Services Board meeting. In his writings, Cole has long criticized the controversial police practice of carding — stopping, interrogating and collecting data on individuals without probable cause, a practice which disproportionately targets people of color in Canada. In 2015, he wrote a widely read piece for Toronto Life titled “The Skin I’m In: I’ve been interrogated by police more than 50 times — all because I’m black.” For more, we speak with Desmond Cole, former columnist for the Toronto Star and now a freelance journalist, activist and radio host on Newstalk 1010.

Please check back later for full transcript.

…read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Next Steps in the Fight for Paid Family Leave and Paid Sick Leave

Ellen Bravo takes part in a May Day march. (Photo: Courtesy of Ellen Bravo)

The so-called “paid leave” in the Trump budget is just part of a shell game in which a con man gets a player to look at one shell while manipulating others, says Ellen Bravo, co-director of the Family Values @ Work coalition. Bravo shares her insights on how to keep our eyes on the prize of paid sick and family medical leave, within the larger fight for good paying jobs and safety nets for working people.

Ellen Bravo takes part in a May Day march. (Photo: Courtesy of Ellen Bravo)

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Since election night 2016, the streets of the US have rung with resistance. People all over the country have woken up with the conviction that they must do something to fight inequality in all its forms. But many are wondering what it is they can do. In this ongoing “Interviews for Resistance” series, experienced organizers, troublemakers and thinkers share their insights on what works, what doesn’t, what has changed and what is still the same. Today’s interview is the 40th in the series. Click here for the most recent interview before this one.

Today we bring you a conversation with Ellen Bravo, co-director of Family Values @ Work, a network of coalitions in 24 states fighting for paid sick days and paid family medical leave insurance.

Sarah Jaffe: Donald Trump’s budget, if we can call it a budget, has some provisions that they are saying look like paid leave. Can you talk about what is in those proposals and what, perhaps most notably, is not in them?

Ellen Bravo: I have been thinking …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Could the Aliso Canyon Natural Gas Leak Happen in Ohio?

Ohio has the most underground natural gas storage wells of any state and the highest number of those which might be vulnerable to leaks, according to a new study by researchers at Harvard University and Boston Children’s Hospital.

Of Ohio’s 3,318 underground wells used for natural gas storage, 902 are repurposed wells. Those wells were initially drilled for something else, such as the extraction of oil and gas.

That means they’re more likely to share age and design characteristics that contributed to the four-month methane leak at Aliso Canyon in California from 2015 to 2016, said Drew Michanowicz at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. He is lead author of the study published Tuesday in Environmental Research Letters.

Ohio has about two dozen active facilities that put natural gas into wells under pressure and take it out on an as-needed basis, compared to 47 in Pennsylvania and 44 in Michigan. Each facility can have dozens or hundreds of storage wells connected to it.

“The primary function of gas storage is to meet peak demands of the winter heating season, especially for residential heating, and to balance the supply and demand on the system,” Dominion Energy Ohio spokesperson Tracy Oliver explained.

Nonetheless, on a nationwide basis, “around half of the facilities have potentially obsolete wells that wouldn’t meet today’s standards for safety,” Michanowicz said. Those facilities raise concerns about potential risks to public health and the environment.

Unsuspecting Neighbors

Natural gas storage fields are typically between 1,000 and 5,000 feet underground. But, “when an accident occurs at these facilities, it can create a major public health risk for unsuspecting neighbors,” said Melanie Houston at the Ohio Environmental Council. “And that risk is amplified by the fact that there are very limited standards in place for operators of these …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Indigenous Alliance Launches Divestment Campaign Against US and Canadian Pipelines

Indigenous activists march with allies in the Tar Sands Healing Walk in northern Alberta, Canada. (Photo: Velcrow Ripper)

Indigenous activists march with allies in the Tar Sands Healing Walk in northern Alberta, Canada. (Photo: Velcrow Ripper)

A coalition of 121 Indigenous tribes across North America is working to change the narrative around fossil fuels. Alongside a growing campaign to defund the banks that are financing the Dakota Access pipeline and four other pipeline projects to pump Alberta tar sands oil across the continent, they are also pushing a discussion on sustainable forms of alternative energy.

Indigenous activists march with allies in the Tar Sands Healing Walk in northern Alberta, Canada. (Photo: Velcrow Ripper)Indigenous activists march with allies in the Tar Sands Healing Walk in northern Alberta, Canada. (Photo: Velcrow Ripper)

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Toronto, Canada — It’s imperative to create an alternative to harmful fossil fuel extraction, according to Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

Nepinak is a member of the Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion, a coalition of 121 First Nations and other Indigenous tribes from across North America that are united against major projects stemming from the Alberta tar sands.

In its push for energy transformation, the Treaty Alliance’s latest targets are the financial institutions currently funding major oil pipelines across Canada and the United States.

“The Treaty Alliance is really about establishing an alternative discussion space and an alternative to the popular narrative,” Nepinak recently told Truthout in a telephone interview from Manitoba, in central Canada.

“It’s an alternative narrative looking at the need to transition to sustainable forms of alternative energy,” …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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