Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Most illegal 'kids' coming across the US southern border are male teens per DHS stats, so save the teddy bears. 90% are from 4 Cent. Am. countries: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua-CIS

3/31/15, "Influx of Central American Teen and Family Arrivals Continues," Center for Immigration Studies, cis.org, Jessica Vaughan

"More than 2,000 illegal alien juveniles have been apprehended and taken into federal custody in each of the last several months, according to DHS statistics....Most of those apprehended are male teenagers, with the largest number from Guatemala....

About 90 percent of the recent Central American arrivals who had hearings scheduled last summer and fall failed to appear at their immigration hearings and have melted into the larger illegal alien population....

According to the DHS statistics, which have not been released to the public, but were obtained by the Center, about 99 percent of all the illegal alien minors taken into ICE custody since the beginning of the fiscal year were apprehended by the Border Patrol.

There were a few young children (including 25 infants under age 1) apprehended, but the vast majority — 84 percent — were between the ages of 13 and 17 when they were booked. Thirty-one percent of the total claimed to be age 17 at the time of booking.

Seventy percent of the minors were males....

Nearly 90 percent were from four Central American countries (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, in that order); half were from Guatemala alone. The rest were from Armenia, the Bahamas, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Ghana, Haiti, India, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Peru, Romania, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam."...via Drudge


Congratulations to Bob Murray of Murray Coal et al. winning court decision v EPA. Establishment Republicans having long since merged with Democrats, ordinary citizens are left to discover that EPA considers its records to be private and uses that view as a legal defense

3/27/15, "MEMORANDUM ORDER DENYING MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION TO STAY DISCOVERY," US District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia, Wheeling. Judge Bailey

Murray Energy et al Plaintiffs, Gina McCarthy as Admin. of EPA Defendant:

page 17: "This Court is unpersuaded by the EPA’s argument that had the EPA conducted the employment evaluations, the plaintiffs would not be entitled to the information. The EPA fails to point out any theory by which this information could be secreted from the plaintiffs or any other person. We do not live in a secret society, and the plaintiffs would have the ability to receive the information through the Freedom of Information Act, if not through other means."...via Junk Science


New Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey stabs voters in the back, campaigned against Common Core until safely elected then flipped, now actively supports it. Defeat of Ariz. Common Core repeal bill shows again Establishment GOP is worst enemy of right of center Americans-Breitbart, Dr. Berry

3/31/15, "Defeat of Arizona Common Core Repeal Bill Shows Grassroots’ Worst Enemy Is Establishment GOP," Breitbart, Dr. Susan Berry

"The Arizona Senate rejected a bill Monday that would have abolished the controversial Common Core standards in that state. Some Republicans joined with Democrats to defeat the bill, 16-13, a fact that underscores that while Democrats could be expected to vote in favor of keeping a federally-funded initiative like the Common Core, the worst enemy of the conservative base of the GOP is actually other Republicans.

As the Associated Press notes, repeal measure HB 2190 earlier passed the Arizona state House and the Senate Education committee, but the full Senate rejected the bill as it did a similar proposal last month and yet another last year.

The legislation, which was introduced in the Arizona House by Rep. Mark Finchem (R), would have abolished Common Core, created a new committee to evaluate alternative standards, and banned the state Board of Education from adopting new standards without the approval of the legislature.

The four Republicans who voted against the repeal of the standards are state Sens. Adam Driggs, Bob Worsley, Steve Pierce and Jeff Dial. AP reports that, despite urging from fellow Republicans to reconsider their vote, these members made no comment as they voted to reject the measure.

Breitbart News reported Monday that the Senate’s rejection of the bill is not surprising since Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey was not supportive of it, going as far as to call it “unnecessary” since it is his hope the Common Core standards can be “fixed” in his state.

Ducey ran last year for governor as a candidate opposed to the nationalized education initiative. Just five months later, however, he is telling a different story.

“I don’t think that legislation is necessary because we’re going to fix what’s wrong with these standards,” the governor said, referring to the Common Core as a “distraction.”

In a statement to Breitbart News prior to the vote, chairman of Arizona’s Senate Education Committee Sen. Kelli Ward (R) said she feared HB 2190 would fail on the Senate floor because of a group of pro-Common Core Republicans who are supporters of big government, amnesty and the Chamber of Commerce.

Ward, who is considering a primary run against U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), has staunchly opposed the Common Core standards.

“I believe that the Common Core standards are an egregious example of federal overreach into a clearly state issue – education,” she said. “I have been fighting against the federalization of our education system since I got to the legislature.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its affiliates in the states, in fact, have strongly lobbied in favor of the Common Core standards as part of a workforce development scheme to ensure government will provide big business with a steady stream of inexpensive labor. The data collection associated with the Common Core testing will be used to channel students into certain jobs and industries, creating a form of planned economy. Many establishment Republicans have signed onto Common Core in the hope of Chamber contributions to their political campaigns.

As Breitbart News’ Dan Riehl reported Monday, strong resistance by grassroots conservatives has led the Chamber to boost its political strategy to “include a greater emphasis on recruiting the right sort of business-friendly GOP candidates and intervening in primaries as it attempts to sculpt a compliant Congress that mirrors its priorities.”

Thomas Donohue, the Chamber’s longtime president and CEO, said last month that his organization will be applying political pressure around the clock. “We’re just going to run it 24 months in a row, cycle after cycle after cycle,” he said.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, who won her election last November primarily running on an anti-Common Core platform, noted Ducey’s shift in position on the standards since he became governor.

Despite Gov. Ducey also running against Common Core, he has unfortunately reversed that position, interfering with the removal of two pro-Common Core staff, publicly stating that now is not the time to remove Common Core, and instead asking the Board of Education to review the standards,” she said in a statement to Breitbart News.

Douglas summed up the frustration of anti-Common Core grassroots Republicans who have been deceived and thwarted by members of the establishment GOP.

“I cannot fully express my frustration with a majority Republican House and Senate and a Governor who ran as ‘anti-Common Core’ who have so far refused to act and have in fact, in the case of the Governor, acted to so exactly the opposite,Douglas said.

With news of the defeat of the Common Core repeal measure, Douglas told Breitbart News, “I am disappointed. SB 2190 is an effort that I fully support because it puts additional pressure on the Board of Education to listen to the will of the people.”

“As the public weighs in around the state, I still believe it will create sufficient momentum for the Board to have to improve the standards,” she added." via Free Republic. Image above from AP


Opponents of TTIP trade treaty between US and EU object to standing of Investor States over existing nation states-BBC

3/31/15, "Is democracy threatened if companies can sue countries?" BBC, Michael Robinson

London protesters against TTIP treaty

"Those protesting against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the proposed new trade treaty between the European Union and the United States, are part of a growing international opposition to pacts that allow multinational companies to sue governments whose policies damage their interests. 

Opponents claim this right, known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), poses a threat to democracy.

But what is ISDS and why does it provoke such controversy?

What is an investor-state dispute settlement?

Investor-state dispute settlements were devised by industrialised nations in the 1960s as a way to protect their companies' overseas investments against threats such as nationalisation by the country they invested in.

Supporters of ISDS say it offers a fair and impartial forum for the settlement of disputes between investors and states and, if appropriate, for deciding the amount of compensation an investor should get.

They claim that ISDS encourages companies to invest in a country they might otherwise shun through fear that, in a dispute with that nation, they would be unable to get a fair hearing in its domestic courts.

How does ISDS work?

For an investment to be covered by ISDS, both the country where it is located and the investor's home nation must have agreed to its use. This is normally done through countries signing investment treaties with ISDS provisions.

There are now about 3,200 investment treaties globally. Most of these empower investors to launch ISDS actions.

So far, approximately 600 actions have been launched - though not all are reported. The number of cases has risen significantly in recent years. 

What is the TTIP?
  • The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is primarily a deal to cut tariffs and regulatory barriers to trade between the US and EU countries.
  • The British government claims TTIP could add £10bn to the UK economy, £80bn to the US and £100bn to the EU every year through the freeing-up of trade.
  • The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats broadly support the TTIP, though Labour has called for the NHS to be exempted from the ISDS measures.
  • Much of the opposition to the TTIP is focused on ISDS, food standards and financial regulation.
  • Negotiators have held eight rounds of talks on the TTIP, with a provisional deadline of December this year by EU leaders to agree a draft text.
Each case is judged by a panel of three arbitrators, selected by the government and the investor involved in the case from a small pool of specialist lawyers. The tribunals can meet anywhere convenient to the parties, with decisions based on the wording of treaties rather than national laws. Cases can last for years and are costly. In addition to paying arbitrators' fees, each side has to employ a team of lawyers to argue its case.

Even when governments win, as they have in around 40% of the known cases, they often have to pay their own costs - averaging around $4.5m per case.

When investors win, arbitrators can award damages. There is no appeal against the level of damages, which can amount to hundreds of millions and, in some cases, billions of dollars.

Why do opponents of ISDS claim it is biased in foreign investors' favour?

Opponents say it is easier for foreign investors to attack a government's policy using ISDS than it would be through even the most trusted, well-established national court systems.

First, they claim ISDS gives foreign investors an additional way to oppose government policies. One instance often cited occurred after Australia passed a law in 2011 requiring cigarettes to be sold only in plain packs.

Philip Morris and a group of other tobacco multinationals challenged this legislation in Australia's domestic courts and were roundly defeated. In Australian law, that was the end of the matter. But Philip Morris was able to launch another action - still continuing - under an ISDS treaty.

Opponents also claim that ISDS favours foreign investors over domestic ones.

In Germany, after the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster in Japan, the government announced it would phase out nuclear power altogether.

Germany was sued using ISDS by the Swedish state-owned power company Vattenfall for loss of profits from two nuclear power stations that the firm co-owns with the giant German energy company E.ON.

Being Swedish, Vattenfall counts as a foreign investor in Germany and so could use ISDS to claim damages. As a German enterprise, E.ON could not, despite both companies being large European power companies, facing the same potential losses on the same power stations as a result of the same government policy.

E.ON is able to claim damages under property rights set out in the German constitution. But because those property rights are balanced by considerations of the general public good, any compensation from the Constitutional Court is likely to be significantly lower than an ISDS tribunal would award.

Why do opponents claim ISDS is a threat to democracy?

Opponents say ISDS can deter governments from enacting policies, to benefit the environment or to improve the health or safety of their populations, for example, for fear that those policies might trigger an ISDS action from a foreign investor.

While wealthier countries can comfortably afford to defend such actions, cost can be a major issue for poorer nations.

For five years El Salvador, one of the poorest countries in Central America, has been fighting an ISDS action launched by a Canadian gold-mining company after the nation declared a moratorium on mining licences. This followed widespread public concern of a potential threat to drinking water quality from mining operations.

The gold-mining company is claiming $250m in damages - representing the profit it says it would have made had it been given a licence to mine.

That $250m would represent almost 5% of El Salvador's total government budget.

The gold-miner's claim may still fail - a decision is expected imminently - but opponents of ISDS argue that the fear of such awards makes many poorer countries hesitate before implementing policies that might benefit their populations.

In the light of such cases, some countries, particularly in Latin America, are now considering terminating their treaties. Others, including South Africa, have already started doing so.

These countries are reassured by Brazil, which - though it has never signed an ISDS treaty - can still point to large inflows of foreign investment.

If ISDS has been around for decades, why is it now suddenly a big issue?

For decades, while ISDS treaties were being signed, few claims were launched. Academic research suggests that most countries then regarded the treaties as little more than tokens of diplomatic goodwill, safely ignored.

In the late 1990s, lawyers started waking up to the potential of ISDS and began advising investors to launch actions. The number of cases increased sharply.

The current protests have been fuelled by proposals to include ISDS provision in two trade treaties: the TTIP and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. 

Have the protests made any difference?

They seem to have done. In January, the EU Commission revealed that of the 150,000 responses to its public consultation on the proposed EU-US treaty, 97% were against it.

In negotiations with the US over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU Trade Commissioner, is seeking to limit the scope of the ISDS provisions. She proposed giving governments a "right to regulate" free from ISDS attack, and exempting issues of general public benefit such as health and the environment.

If she succeeds, she says she hopes the new treaty would become a new "gold standard" for ISDS, eventually replacing provisions in the thousands of existing treaties. This network, she says, is "not fit for purpose in the 21st Century".

Some commentators believe the new EU demands could mean negotiations fail and that no new treaty is signed.

Is it a problem for investors if the new treaties don't contain ISDS?

Surprisingly, given the claims made by advocates of ISDS, it may not.

Academic researchers report that when they ask investors what matters to them when deciding where to invest, investors typically cite factors such as market access, the availability of raw materials and the quality of a workforce.

For all the present fuss and bother, ISDS appears to be low on their list of requirements."

Image caption: "Protesters in London demonstrating against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a proposed new EU-US trade treaty" BBC



Ted Cruz and Scott Walker tied for first place in new Gravis Nevada poll

3/31/15, "Post Harry Reid US Senate Poll and Ted Cruz Gains," Gravis Marketing

"Polls conducted on March 27, 2015...

If the Nevada Republican Caucuses for President were held today and the candidates were Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, and Ben Carson, whom would you vote for?

Unsure: 20
Ted Cruz: 18
Scott Walker: 18
Jeb Bush: 16
Marco Rubio: 7
Ben Carson: 6
Rand Paul: 5
Chris Christie: 4
Mike Huckabee: 4
Rick Santorum: 2
Carly Fiorina: 1...
Executive Summary

Gravis Marketing, a nonpartisan research firm, conducted a random survey of 850 registered voters in Nevada regarding potential matchups. The voter list sample includes 443 Republican Primary participants, 319 Democratic Primary participants, and the remainder are Independents/Other. The poll has a margin of error of ± 3% [5% for Republican Primary/6% for Democratic Primary]. The total may not round to 100% because of rounding. The polls are weighted separately for each population in the question presented."...

Via Free Republic


Ed. note: Gravis showed two sets of GOP candidates who were tied. It alphabetized the second set (Christie-Huckabee) but not the first, ie Cruz-Walker. I took the liberty of alphabetizing the Cruz-Walker tie as Free Republic did.


Monday, March 30, 2015

To save itself the inconvenience of having to nullify elections as they did in 2010 and 2014, GOP Establishment and its 'experts' assure us that conservative candidates can't win general elections-Lester Jackson

GOP Establishment's constant fight to keep the Democrat agenda in ascendance is exemplified by its nullification of 2014 midterms:

1/2/15, "The Last Resort: Replace John Boehner," Lester Jackson, American Thinker

"Conservatives find it especially galling -- and intolerable -- to have a Speaker who (a) shows utter contempt for the representatives whose election resulted in his ascension to power; and (b) does everything he can to subvert the wishes, interests and values of these representatives and their constituents.... 

The RINO modus operandi is crystal clear. First, RINOs savagely and falsely smear conservatives who offer a choice in Republican primaries, even courting Democrat votes with classic shameless Democrat-style race-baiting.  

Second, after working and spending vast sums to defeat conservatives in primaries, the Establishment demands that conservatives support RINOs in general elections because Democrats are allegedly worse and conservatives have no place else to go. After the lame-duck effrontery the country just suffered (in Dec. 2014 via the Cromnibus), defiant RINO nullification of an election won by candidates who campaigned on the appeal and strength of conservative promises, the "lesser evil" siren song has lost a lot of its appeal.

Third, and most important, while demanding conservative "lesser evil" support for RINO nominees, the Establishment often does not reciprocate. Nor are RINOs content to remain mute about their distaste for conservative nominees. Instead, RINOs feel free to trash conservative Republican nominees. Then Establishment "experts" pontificate that conservative candidates can't win general elections because they are incompetent, too extreme and just plain nuts. Obviously, when a conservative primary winner has to fight not only a Democrat opponent but also malicious attacks by those supposed to be on his or her own side, it is grossly unfair to declare him or her unelectable.

The Lesson: Turnabout Is Fair Play     

There is a lesson here. For RINOs, the "lesser evil" ploy is a one-way street. Many RINOs favor defeat of conservative Republicans by leftist Democrats, if that's the choice. Turning the tables is long overdue....

By 1988, Connecticut's conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr. had had enough of RINO Senator Lowell Weicker. So Buckley endorsed and helped elect Democrat Joseph Leiberman. Currently, no junior Democrats can do as much damage to conservatism as Boehner."...


Added: A Boehner aligned group, American Action Network, recently ran attack ads against Republican congressmen suggesting they were helping terrorists for merely wanting to vote as they had promised their constituents rather than for Boehner's Democrat agenda. The group says it will spend millions more to force Republican congresspersons to vote against the will of those who elected them:

3/3/15, "John Boehner’s Running Attack Ads Against His Own Party Now, That’s Fun," wonkette, Kaili Joy Gray

"With the ominous music and scary pictures of scary terrorists and totally unsubtle accusations of not caring about national security, you’d think this was an ad against a Democrat in the 2002 election. But it’s not. This beauty, airing in three states and targeting Republican Rep. Huelskamp and his fellow Republican Reps. Jim Bridenstine and Jim Jordan, is paid for by the American Action Network, which is spending $400,000 this week to run television, radio, and digital ads against a whole bunch of conservatives, telling their constituents to demand a clean longer-than-one-week-DUH funding bill — from Republicans.

Who is the American Action Network? Glad you asked. It’s a nonprofit “action tank” (groan) aligned with John Boehner. How aligned? This aligned:
AAN is housed in the same office as the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC associated with Boehner, and the two organizations share senior aides, including Brian O. Walsh, the president of both organizations, and Dan Conston, the spokesman for both.
Boehner spoke at a fundraiser for CLN earlier this summer and also headlined the organization’s inaugural event. The group’s website has posted links to numerous news stories that refer to the group as “Boehner’s” super PAC.
So really, these ads against his fellow conservatives could not be more Boehner-endorsed unless he appeared at the end saying, “I’m John Boehner, and I approved this message because I’m trying real hard not to look like an idiot by allowing our national security to be put at risk by my own damned party.”

Boehner’s super PAC has dozens of House Republicans on its shit list, though only three are lucky enough to star in TV ads. So far. But the “action tank” (seriously, GROAN) has big long-term plans for House members who don’t fall in line to make Boehner look like he doesn’t suck at his job, threatening to “spend millions of dollars to contact voters in the coming months.” The group’s executive director, Mike Shields, says the “center-right conservative organization” is running attack ads — against conservatives! — because it is “our job is to educate voters on issues that matter and this is one of the issues that’s very, very important.”"...[Politico]

Below, image of Boehner attack ad against GOP Congressman Huelskamp:

image above from Wonkette


After the Nov. 2010 landslide that rescued the GOP House from Siberia, it was clear GOP bosses would have preferred remaining in the minority: Rush Limbaugh, 2010:

"Establishment Republicans will fight harder and more viciously to stop conservatives than to stop Obama and the left."...(2/3 down page). 
11/4/10, "Ruling Class GOP Declare War on Country Class Conservatives," RushLimbaugh.com

"The ruling class of the Republican Party doesn't want conservatives having any kind of a foothold, any success or any leadership in the party. ...(item half way down page)....So it appears to me they're (GOP) perfectly happy being in the minority if it means not supporting conservatives. (2/3 down page).

Apparently the establishment Republicans will fight harder and more viciously to stop conservatives than to stop Obama and the left."...(2/3 down page).  

Unregulated marijuana growing in California is exacerbating drought conditions and endangering aquatic species including federally listed salmon and steelhead trout per peer reviewed study-UK Independent

3/30/15, "California is in one of its worst-ever droughts because people are growing too much weed," Independent UK, Ben Tufft

"The current drought in California, one of the most severe on record, could have been exacerbated by marijuana cultivation, scientists say.

Some marijuana farms are sucking more water from the ground than can be replaced, threatening the state’s water entire supply, according to a study published in the Public Library of Science journal.

The amount of water being used to cultivate marijuana was said to be “unsustainable” in the report.

Smaller streams were found to be completely “dewatered” by the demands of marijuana farming, while larger streams experienced substantial “flow diversions and increased temperatures”.

In some areas the water use was so extensive, fish and other aquatic wildlife were threatened.

The study warned: “Continued diversions at a rate necessary to support the current scale of marijuana cultivation in northern California could be catastrophic for aquatic species.”

Marijuana is illegal to use recreationally in California, but the cultivation of marijuana in California has increased rapidly since 1996, when the use and growth of medical marijuana was legalised.

Marijuana is considered particularly water intensive compared to other crops. Wine grapes, for example, require roughly half as much water as marijuana plants.

California consistently outranks all other states for the number of marijuana plants that are eradicated by law enforcement.

The main areas of cultivation are on private property, located in the northwest of the state, primarily because it is “remote, forested, and sparsely populated”.

Therefore, it is often difficult for authorities and scientists to accurately gauge the extent and the impact of the farming.

The state authorities do not regulate marijuana farms and it had been seen as unrealistic to expect that growers would register for permits to divert water.

But that is now changing following concern over the effect on the environment.

The California Water Resources Control Board is developing a permit that growers in 10 northern counties will be required to obtain.

And water diversion permit checks are being stepped up, with fines starting at $8,000 for each transgression."


"In the most impacted study watersheds, diminished streamflow is likely to have lethal or sub-lethal effects on state-and federally-listed salmon and steelhead trout and to cause further decline of sensitive amphibian species."

3/18/15, "Impacts of Surface Water Diversions for Marijuana Cultivation on Aquatic Habitat in Four Northwestern California Watersheds," journals.plos.org


"Marijuana (Cannabis sativa L.) cultivation has proliferated in northwestern California since at least the mid-1990s. The environmental impacts associated with marijuana cultivation appear substantial, yet have been difficult to quantify, in part because cultivation is clandestine and often occurs on private property. To evaluate the impacts of water diversions at a watershed scale, we interpreted high-resolution aerial imagery to estimate the number of marijuana plants being cultivated in four watersheds in northwestern California, USA. Low-altitude aircraft flights and search warrants executed with law enforcement at cultivation sites in the region helped to validate assumptions used in aerial imagery interpretation. We estimated the water demand of marijuana irrigation and the potential effects water diversions could have on stream flow in the study watersheds. Our results indicate that water demand for marijuana cultivation has the potential to divert substantial portions of streamflow in the study watersheds, with an estimated flow reduction of up to 23% of the annual seven-day low flow in the least impacted of the study watersheds. Estimates from the other study watersheds indicate that water demand for marijuana cultivation exceeds streamflow during the low-flow period. In the most impacted study watersheds, diminished streamflow is likely to have lethal or sub-lethal effects on state-and federally-listed salmon and steelhead trout and to cause further decline of sensitive amphibian species."


parag. 6, "In northern California, unregulated marijuana cultivation often occurs in close proximity to habitat for sensitive aquatic species. Because of this proximity and the water demands associated with cultivation, we chose to focus on the cumulative impacts of low-volume surface water diversions associated with marijuana cultivation. We evaluate these water demands at a watershed scale to determine whether they could have substantial effects on streamflow during the summer low-flow period. In addition, we discuss which sensitive aquatic species are most likely to be impacted by stream diversions and describe the nature of these impacts."...

UN Green Climate Fund will finance coal plants. Japan, China, and Saudi Arabia insisted fossil fuel projects be allowed-UK Guardian

Japan, China and Saudi Arabia say new coal plants must be among green energy projects financed by global Green Climate Fund which in turn is funded by taxpayer dollars:

3/29/15, "UN green climate fund can be spent on coal-fired power generation," UK Guardian, Suzanne Goldenberg

"The UN fund to help developing countries fight climate change can be spent on coal-fired power plants– the most polluting form of electricity generation – under rules agreed at a board meeting.
The green climate fund (GCF) refused an explicit ban on fossil fuel projects at the contentious meeting in Songdo, South Korea, last week.

“It’s like a torture convention that doesn’t forbid torture,” said Karen Orenstein, a campaigner for Friends of the Earth US who was at the meeting. “Honestly it should be a no-brainer at this point.”

The fund was set up as part of the ongoing UN climate negotiations to help developing countries finance clean energy and measures to help adapt to climate change.

Its website states: “The fund will promote the paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways by providing support to developing countries to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.”

It has struggled for support, however, with industrialised countries paying only about 1% of the $10.2bn (£6.9bn) committed at the UN climate negotiations in Lima last December. The deadline for contributions is 30 April.

With no clear rules on climate finance, much of the funds can be channelled to dirty energy, campaigners say.

Japan designated $1bn in loans for coal plants in Indonesia as climate finance, according to reporting by the Associated Press. Last week Japan counted another $630m in loans for coal plants in India and Bangladesh as climate finance.

Japan claims the projects are less polluting than older coal-fired plants and so qualify as clean energy. 

Japan is of the view that the promotion of high-efficiency coal-fired power plants is one of the realistic, pragmatic and effective approaches to cope with the issue of climate change,” Takako Ito, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, told AP.

Campaigners say the lack of clear rules makes a mockery of the fund. “Many people think it’s crazy that they are not going to have a no-go zone,” (Karen) Orenstein said. “The fact that the GCF won’t say it is problematic both for the integrity of the fund, and also reputational risk.”

Japan, China and Saudi Arabia opposed such a ban, she said.

The board agreed to set a minimum benchmark for the greenhouse gas emissions cuts that projects must achieve, but not until 2016. Meanwhile, they will apply an “assessment scale” to the first projects, which are set to be approved in October."



Sunday, March 29, 2015

French Conservatives win in key local voting, Government Left Loses-AP

3/29/15, "French Conservatives Win Key Local Voting, Gov't Left Loses," AP, by Sylvie Corbet and Elaine Ganley, Paris

"Former President Nicolas Sarkozy blasted the "lies, denial and impotence" of France's governing Socialists after estimates showed his conservative party and their allies chalked up wins across France in Sunday's local elections that saw the left lose nearly half of its councils. The far-right National Front edged forward in its bid to create an army of grassroots support, but fell short of its dream to capture its first council.

Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls conceded that the mainstream right won the voting. "It is incontestable," Valls said, bemoaning divisions within the left that he said proved costly.

The Socialists even lost its hold on the council in Correze, President Francois Hollande's home away from home in the French heartland, taken back by the right, the Interior Ministry said.

Valls' political fief, the Essonne, south of Paris, appeared headed for a victory by the rival right.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigration National Front, may be in for a bitter surprise, apparently failing to win a single council, even the southern Vaucluse where her niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen, one of three party lawmakers, is a major figure. The National Front chief was triumphant after last week's first round when her party took 25 percent of the vote, second behind the mainstream right. Still, her party can claim as many as 90 councilors around France.

The Interior Ministry, counting results of 66 of 98 regions, said Sarkozy's UMP and its allies won 46 percent of the vote, compared to 34 percent for the left and 20 percent for the National Front. Sarkozy, in a victory statement, said the right would prepare a changing of the guard "to redress the country, stop the decline that the most archaic socialism in Europe has plunged it into."

Estimates suggested the anti-immigration National Front could win up to two councils with scores that Valls said were "clearly in progression."

The political stakes were high despite the local vote as Hollande's left tried to save itself after failing to boost the lagging French economy or increase jobs and Sarkozy's right eyed a comeback, and each side tried to fend off the anti-immigration National Front which comes off a series of electoral victories.

The elections were a "critical step for the patriot movement on the road to power," National Front leader Marine Le Pen said. "The goal is near, reaching power and applying our ideas to redress France."

Valls had called on voters to choose anyone running, even a rival conservative, to block a National Front candidate, and he suggested the large victory by the right was partially because of his calls for solidarity against the far right. Sarkozy refused to reciprocate, telling supporters to simply abstain if a candidate from his UMP party wasn't running.

Valls said the French economy was showing signs of improvement, and vowed to march onward with his program. "Jobs. Jobs. Jobs," Valls said, announcing plans for a new measure in the coming days addressing public and private investment.

Turnout was lower three hours before polls closed, measured at 41.94 percent compared to 42.98 percent in the first round, the Interior Ministry said.

Voters cast ballots to choose 4,108 local council members across the country for the 98 councils. Candidates appear on ballots in pairs — one man, one woman — to ensure that 50 percent of council members are women.

Le Pen, who wasn't a candidate in the election but looked toward the 2017 presidential race, said Sunday that new council members would help win future elections, saying her party is the "only real opposition" to the powers that be in France.

Regional elections are set for December, and all parties are laying the groundwork for 2017 presidential voting."


3/29/15, "French local elections: Exit polls suggest Conservative win," BBC

"France's Conservative UMP Party and its allies appear to have come first in the final round of departmental elections.

The UMP, led by former President Nicolas Sarkozy, appeared set to secure at least 65 local councils, exit polls suggested, up from 41.

Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front also appeared to have made gains, while the ruling Socialists and their allies may lose about 30 departments.

These elections are seen as a test case ahead of 2017's presidential election. 

Paris and Lyon, France's two biggest cities, were excluded from Sunday's election. 

The National Front appeared to have won a significant number of seats in Sunday's second round of elections, but did not appear to have gained control of any councils, the exit polls said....

French Prime Minister Manual Valls admitted it was "incontestable" that the Socialist Party had lost ground.

"The French have declared... their anger at a daily life that is too difficult," he said. He vowed to redouble efforts to boost the economy, and said his focus was "jobs, jobs, jobs".

He added that the rise in the National Front's popularity was "a sign of a lasting upheaval of our political landscape and we will all need to draw lessons from it".

Mr Sarkozy said voters had "massively rejected" the policies of his successor as president, Francois Hollande.

"Never has our political family won so many councils," he told supporters. "The repudiation of those in power is without question."...

Bastions of the Socialists like the Nord department around Lille have swung to the right, as has President Hollande's own fiefdom of the Correze in central France."...


Saturday, March 28, 2015

With passage of Trans-Pacific Partnership, US towns and cities will be subject to UN and World Bank tribunals. Republicans and Obama admin. seek to fast track this, details secret from US citizens-NY Times

US towns and cities will be subservient to UN and World Bank tribunals. "Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a member nation would be forbidden from favoring “goods produced in its territory.”"

3/25/15, "Trans-Pacific Partnership Seen as Door for Foreign Suits Against U.S.," NY Times, Jonathan Weisman

"An ambitious 12-nation trade accord pushed by President Obama would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States government for actions that undermine their investment “expectations” and hurt their business, according to a classified document.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership — a cornerstone of Mr. Obama’s remaining economic agenda — would grant broad powers to multinational companies operating in North America, South America and Asia. Under the accord, still under negotiation but nearing completion, companies and investors would be empowered to challenge regulations, rules, government actions and court rulings federal, state or local — before tribunals organized under the World Bank or the United Nations.
Backers of the emerging trade accord, which is supported by a wide variety of business groups and favored by most Republicans, say that it is in line with previous agreements that contain similar provisions. But critics, including many Democrats in Congress, argue that the planned deal widens the opening for multinationals to sue in the United States and elsewhere, giving greater priority to protecting corporate interests than promoting free trade and competition that benefits consumers.
The chapter in the draft of the trade deal, dated Jan. 20, 2015, and obtained by The New York Times in collaboration with the group WikiLeaks, is certain to kindle opposition from both the political left and the right. The sensitivity of the issue is reflected in the fact that the cover mandates that the chapter not be declassified until four years after the Trans-Pacific Partnership comes into force or trade negotiations end, should the agreement fail.
Conservatives are likely to be incensed that even local policy changes could send the government to a United Nations-sanctioned tribunal. On the left, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, law professors and a host of liberal activists have expressed fears the provisions would infringe on United States sovereignty and impinge on government regulation involving businesses in banking, tobacco, pharmaceuticals and other sectors.
Members of Congress have been reviewing the secret document in secure reading rooms, but this is the first disclosure to the public since an early version leaked in 2012..
“This is really troubling,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s No. 3 Democrat. “It seems to indicate that savvy, deep-pocketed foreign conglomerates could challenge a broad range of laws we pass at every level of government, such as made-in-America laws or anti-tobacco laws. I think people on both sides of the aisle will have trouble with this.”...
Such “Investor-State Dispute Settlement” accords exist already in more than 3,000 trade agreements across the globe. The United States is party to 51, including the North American Free Trade Agreement. Administration officials say they level the playing field for American companies doing business abroad, protect property from government seizure and ensure access to international justice.
But the limited use of trade tribunals, critics argue, is because companies in those countries do not have the size, legal budgets and market power to come after governments in the United States. The Trans-Pacific Partnership could change all that, they say. The agreement would expand that authority to investors in countries as wealthy as Japan and Australia, with sophisticated companies deeply invested in the United States.
“U.S.T.R. will say the U.S. has never lost a case, but you’re going to see a lot more challenges in the future,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. “There’s a huge pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for these companies.”
One 1999 case gives ammunition to both sides of the debate. Back then, California banned the chemical MTBE from the state’s gasoline, citing the damage it was doing to its water supply. The Canadian company Methanex Corporation sued for $970 million under Nafta, claiming damages on future profits. The case stretched to 2005, when the tribunal finally dismissed all claims.
To supporters of the TPP, the Methanex case was proof that regulation for the “public good” would win out. For opponents, it showed what could happen when far larger companies from countries like Japan have access to the same extrajudicial tribunals....
Civil courts in the United States are already open to action by foreign investors and companies. Since 1993, while the federal government was defending itself against those 17 cases brought through extrajudicial trade tribunals, it was sued 700,000 times in domestic courts.
In all, according to Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, about 9,000 foreign-owned firms operating in the United States would be empowered to bring cases against governments here. Those are as diverse as timber and mining companies in Australia and investment conglomerates from China whose subsidiaries in Trans-Pacific Partnership countries like Vietnam and New Zealand also have ventures in the United States.
More than 18,000 companies based in the United States would gain new powers to go after the other 11 countries in the accord.
A similar accord under negotiation with Europe has already provoked an outcry there.
Senator Brown contended that the overall accord, not just the investment provisions, was troubling. 
“This continues the great American tradition of corporations writing trade agreements, sharing them with almost nobody, so often at the expense of consumers, public health and workers,” he said.
Under the terms of the Pacific trade chapter, foreign investors could demand cash compensation if member nations “expropriate or nationalize a covered investment either directly or indirectly.” 
Opponents fear “indirect expropriation” will be interpreted broadly, especially by deep-pocketed multinational companies opposing regulatory or legal changes that diminish the value of their investments.
Included in the definition of “indirect expropriation” is government action that “interferes with distinct, reasonable investment-backed expectations,” according to the leaked document.
The cost can be high. In 2012, one such tribunal, under the auspices of the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, ordered Ecuador to pay Occidental Petroleum a record $2.3 billion for expropriating oil drilling rights.
Under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a member nation would be forbidden from favoring “goods produced in its territory.”
Critics say the text’s definition of an investment is so broad that it could open enormous avenues of legal challenge. An investment includes “every asset that an investor owns or controls, directly or indirectly, that has the characteristic of an investment,” including “regulatory permits; intellectual property rights; financial instruments such as stocks and derivatives”; construction, management, production, concession, revenue-sharing and other similar contracts; and “licenses, authorizations, permits and similar rights conferred pursuant to domestic law.”
“This is not about expropriation; it’s about regulatory changes,” said Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch and a fierce opponent of the Pacific accord. “You now have specialized law firms being set up. You go to them, tell them what country you’re in, what regulation you want to go after, and they say ‘We’ll do it on contingency.’”
In 2013, Eli Lilly took advantage of a similar provision under Nafta to sue Canada for $500 million, accusing Ottawa of violating its obligations to foreign investors by allowing its courts to invalidate patents for two of its drugs.
All of those disputes would be adjudicated under rules set by either the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes or the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law....
There are other mitigating provisions, but many have catches. For instance, one article states that “nothing in this chapter” should prevent a member country from regulating investment activity for “environmental, health or other regulatory objectives.” But that safety valve says such regulation must be “consistent” with the other strictures of the chapter, a provision even administration officials said rendered the clause more political than legal.
One of the chapter’s annexes states that regulatory actions meant “to protect legitimate public welfare objectives, such as public health, safety and the environment” do not constitute indirect expropriation, “except in rare circumstances.” That final exception could open such regulations to legal second-guessing, critics say."

"Correction: March 27, 2015 An article on Thursday about provisions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as outlined in a classified document, that would allow foreign corporations to sue the United States over actions that hurt their business or investment expectations misstated when the document was made available to members of Congress. Drafts were available for review soon after being written; it is not the case that the latest document was not made available until last week."
"A version of this article appears in print on [Thurs.] March 26, 2015, on page B1 of the New York edition."...


3/17/15, "Putting the TPP on the Right Track," Politico, "There is a real choice to be made between two different approaches to international trade." by Simon Johnson and Rep. Sander Levin
p. 2, "Vietnam represents the first time the U.S. is negotiating a broad trade agreement with a command economy. As a country that has never allowed workers to choose their own representatives and where the single labor union is part of the Communist Party, Vietnam will require not only major changes to its laws and practices, but also regular monitoring of compliance by a panel of experts.

And if TPP is to serve as a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico will need to change its labor laws and practices to properly implement its TPP obligations."...

1/13/14, "Noam Chomsky: Obama Trade Deal A 'Neoliberal Assault' To Further Corporate 'Domination'," Huffington Post, Zach Carter, Ryan Grim

"The Obama administration's Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is an "assault," on working people intended to further corporate "domination," according to author and activist Noam Chomsky.

“It’s designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity,” Chomsky said during an interview with HuffPost Live.

The Obama administration has been negotiating the TPP pact with 11 other Pacific nations for years. 

While the deal has not been finalized and much of it has been classified, American corporate interest groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have already voiced strong support for the TPP, describing it as a free trade deal that will encourage economic growth. The Office of U.S. Trade Representative has also defended the talks, saying the TPP will include robust regulatory protections. 

But labor unions and a host of traditionally liberal interest groups, including environmentalists and public health advocates, have sharply criticized the deal. 

Chomsky argues that much of the negotiations concern issues outside of what many consider trade, and are focused instead on limiting the activities governments can regulate, imposing new intellectual property standards abroad and boosting corporate political power.
“It’s called free trade, but that’s just a joke," Chomsky said. 

"These are extreme, highly protectionist measures designed to undermine freedom of trade. In fact, much of what's leaked about the TPP indicates that it's not about trade at all, it’s about investor rights.”

The Obama administration is treating the precise terms of the deal as classified information, blocking many Congressional staffers from viewing the negotiation texts and limiting the information available to members of Congress themselves. The deal's only publicly available negotiation documents have come to light through document leaks. Recent documents have been published by WikiLeaks and HuffPost.

According to these leaked documents, the TPP would empower corporations to directly challenge laws and regulations set by foreign nations before an international tribunal. The tribunal would be given the authority to not only overrule that nation's legal standards but also impose economic penalties on it. Under World Trade Organization treaties, corporations must convince a sovereign nation to bring trade cases before an international court. Chomsky said the deal is an escalation of neoliberal political goals previously advanced by the WTO and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"It's very hard to make anything of the TPP because it's been kept very secret," Chomsky told HuffPost Live. "A half-secret, I should say. It's not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing the legislation. To them, it's perfectly public. They're, in fact, writing it. It's being kept secret from the population. Which of course raises obvious questions."

Several members of Congress, including Obama's fellow Democrats, have attacked the intense secrecy surrounding the talks. But others want to give the TPP the "fast track" to passage; Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced legislation on Thursday that would prevent members of Congress from offering legislative amendments to whatever final trade deal Obama reaches. 

But the move to fast track the TPP hit headwinds in the House, where no Democrat has agreed to co-sponsor the legislation. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the fast track bill cannot pass without Democratic support. Chomsky quipped that of course the administration and lawmakers would want to speed up a sweeping trade deal that may be more in the interest of corporations than the public.

“It’s very understandable that it should be kept secret from the public," Chomsky said, "why should people know what’s happening to them?”"


TPP to be followed by US-EU version, TTIP:

3/28/15, "A new US-EU free trade agreement could make countries subservient to corporations," Business Insider, Don Quijones, Wolf St.

"After eight rounds of secret negotiations, Washington and Brussels are still struggling to breathe life into the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). According to current European Union President, Latvia, the chances of the agreement being signed by the year-end target are growing perilously slim.

The potentially game-changing trade deal is aimed at radically reconfiguring the legal and regulatory superstructures of the world’s two largest markets, the United States and the European Union – for the almost exclusive benefit of the world’s biggest multinational corporations.

However, resistance continues to mount on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S. Wikileaks’ perfectly timed exposé of the investment chapter of TTIP’s sister treaty, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), could derail White House efforts to gain fast track approval to bulldoze the treaty through Congress. 

This time, even the mainstream media seems to be paying an interest, with the New York Times in particular publishing a broadly critical report.

On the other side of the Atlantic, things seem to be going from bad to worse — at least for the treaty’s supporters. Even the U.S.’s ever-faithful ally and fellow Five-Eye member, the United Kingdom, is beginning to express reservations about TTIP. Earlier this week an all-party committee of Members of Parliament released a scathing report on the trade agreement. The Business, Innovation and Skills committee said the government needed “stronger evidence” to back up its claim that TTIP would bring a boost of £100bn a year to the UK.

The report also warned that the case had yet to be made for the highly controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), a provision that elevates individual foreign corporations and investors to equal (or arguably superior) status with a sovereign nation’s government. If signed, it would allow companies to skirt domestic courts and directly “sue” signatory governments for compensation in foreign extrajudicial tribunals."...