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Proposals Raising the Normal Retirement Age for Social Security Would Lead to Increase in Inequality




Proposals Raising the Normal Retirement Age for Social Security Would Lead to Increase in Inequality
For Immediate Release: April 11, 2012
Contact: Alan Barber 202-293-5380 x115


Washington, D.C. – Social Security remains the most important source of income for most Americans in their retirement. Nonetheless, there are many proposals for cutting benefits that get serious consideration, including increasing the normal retirement age. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research examines the impact of raising the Social Security retirement age and its effect on the distribution of wealth from loss of future Social Security benefits.

“The full retirement age for Social Security is already scheduled to increase to 67 over the next 10 years,” said Dean Baker, a co-director of CEPR and an author of the report. “Despite the fact that each year of increase in the normal retirement age is equal to a cut in benefits of 6 to 7 percent, some policy makers are calling for raising the retirement age as high as 70.”

The report, “The Impact on Inequality of Raising the Social Security Retirement Age,” projects the impact of a gradual increase of the normal retirement age on various demographic groups, looking at each quintile of the wealth distribution, as well as the richest 1 percent. The paper also contains separate projections for homeowners and non-homeowners, single individuals and couples in several age cohorts. These projections demonstrate that Social Security wealth is a much larger share of wealth for the bottom four of the five groups. As a result, an increase in the retirement age would cause an increase in inequality.

“Since those in the top income quintile have vastly more wealth than those in other quintiles, a loss of 7 percent of Social Security benefits will not affect their total wealth as dramatically as those in the other four quintiles,” continued Baker.

For example, non-homeowner couples in the lowest wealth quintile aged 35-44 in 2012 would see an 18 percent decline in wealth from a further increase in the retirement age. By contrast, the top quintile in the same age cohort would see a decline of just 8 percent. For the bottom quintile of homeowners in the 55-64 cohort, the increase in the retirement age implies a cut in wealth of more than 2 percent. The reduction in wealth for those in the top quintile is less than 1 percent.

Proponents of making immediate changes to Social Security often justify calls for reform by saying that the program faces a looming shortfall. However, the Congressional Budget Office projects that Social Security can pay all scheduled benefits through 2038. Even with no changes whatsoever to the program, Social Security will still be able to pay more than 80 percent of benefits until 2070 and only slightly less than that for decades afterward. And while some might argue that we are living longer and should retire later, this justification makes little sense for workers in physically demanding jobs who would find it difficult to work into their late 60s. Also, most of the gains in life expectancy have gone to high-income workers. As this report demonstrates, proposals to raise the retirement age would lead to a substantial upward redistribution of wealth.

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http://www.cepr.net/index.php/press-releases/press-releases/proposals-raising-the-normal-retirement-age-for-social-security-would-lead-to-increase-in-inequality

Posted by Better Believe It | Wed Apr 11, 2012, 03:04 PM (2 replies)

The Liberal Betrayal of Bradley Manning: "Democrats in power defangs a lot of liberal criticism"




The liberal betrayal of Bradley Manning
By Charles Davis
April 10, 2012


More than three years into the presidency of Barack Obama, it’s almost a cliché now to ask: What if George W. Bush did it? From dramatically escalating the war in Afghanistan to institutionalizing the practice of indefinite imprisonment, Obama has dashed hopes he would offer a change from the Bush’s national security policies – but he hasn’t faced a whole lot of resistance from liberals who once decried those policies as an affront to American values.

“Obama and the Democrats being in power in Washington defangs a lot of liberal criticism,”Chase Madar, a civil rights attorney in New York, told me in an interview. Indeed, but with a few exceptions – Michael Moore, Dennis Kucinich, The Nation – those who would be inclined to defend Manning were Bush still in office are the ones either condemning him or condoning his treatment, which has included spending the better part of a year in torturous solitary confinement, an all too common feature of American prisons. Even his progressive defenders, remaining loyal to the Democratic Party, tend to downplay Obama’s role in the Bradley Manning affair; his authorizing the abuse of an American hero is certainly no means not to vote for him again.

“The whole civil libertarian message only really seems to catch fire among liberals when there’s a Republican in the White House,” says Madar. When there’s not a bumbling Texan to inveigh against, all the sudden issues that were morally black and white become complex, and liberal media starts finding nuance where there wasn’t any before.

f you had free reign over classified networks for long periods of time,” Manning reportedly wrote to the man who ultimately turned him in, “and you saw incredible things, awful things… things that belonged in the public domain, and not on some server stored in a dark room in Washington DC… what would you do? ” We know what his answer was. And we know what the guardians of establishment liberalism would have had him do: Nothing.



Read the full article at:

http://news.salon.com/2012/04/10/the_liberal_betrayal_of_bradley_manning/singleton/
Posted by Better Believe It | Wed Apr 11, 2012, 02:59 PM (8 replies)

Big Trouble in Little Havana: The Perilous Politics of Ozzie Guillen



Big Trouble in Little Havana: The Perilous Politics of Ozzie Guillen
by Dave Zirin
April 9, 2012


Short of a hurricane or an armed taxpayer revolt, this had to have been Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria’s worst nightmare. Loria was opening a new state-of-the-art, tax-funded stadium in Little Havana that will cost the city $2 billion over the next forty years. He also paid out several hundred million dollars in salary for free agents, making his new ballplayers the nation’s wealthiest public employees. This was the last, best, chance to sell baseball in South Florida. Loria desperately needed a hot start for his team and some sugary-sweet media coverage for his new ballpark. Then his new manager, Ozzie Guillen, decided to share his views about Cuba and Fidel Castro. Guillen tends to talk without a filter, and in an interview with Time magazine, he revealed that he happens to not believe that Castro is Satan incarnate. Saying that he “loved” Castro, Guillen explained, “I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that son of a b—— is still here.”

The Miami Marlins immediately released a condemnation of Guillen, but that couldn’t stop a volcanic political explosion. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez called on the organization “to take decisive steps” against Guillen in the name of “freedom-loving people.” Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez demanded Guillen’s resignation. Cuban-American State Senator and Hispanic caucus chair Rene Garcia—in record time!—sent an open letter published in the Miami Herald calling Guillen’s comments “appalling” and said he was “looking forward to further actions taken against him for his deplorable comments.” Garcia also stuck Loria in the ribs by including, “What I also consider disturbing is the fact that the Miami Marlins received tax dollars from this community, including Cuban-American exiles, to fund the construction of the new stadium.” Suffice it to say, many a sports commentator also want Guillen fired or suspended. In their frothy anger, they have a common demand with the Cuban hardline exile group Vigilia Mambisa. An organization that has never shied from street violence and intimidation, Vigilia Mambisa has called for protests in front of the stadium until the Miami Marlins manager is fired.

Let’s leave aside the rather glaring irony that the politicians, sports commentators and Cuban exiles want to show their love of freedom by taking Guillen’s job for the crime of exercising free speech. The fact is that when looking for political consistency and clarity, Ozzie Guillen is not the best place to start. The Venezuela-born Guillen’s comments on Castro are not very different from what he has always said about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. He has made comments very favorable about Chávez and very negative. He said, “Viva Chávez” after his Chicago White Sox won the 2005 World Series. He has also been one of Chávez’s most high-profile critics.

Trying to make sense of Guillen based on public utterances is a fool’s errand. As someone who knows people that talk to Guillen when the cameras are off, I will try to explain his actual politics on Venezuela and Cuba. Guillen is big on a collective Latin American pride and will not abide anti-immigrant and anti-Latino words or deeds. He has a great deal of respect for the way Castro and Chávez stand up to the United States. He opposes efforts by the United States to impose its will on these countries and wishes the rest of Latin America would show similar mettle. It’s not a question of the relative good or bad of Cuba’s internal politics. It’s a question of independence. He’s also as gung-ho for the United States as any manager in baseball, going as far as to fine players for not showing proper respect for the National Anthem, a practice I criticized in 2005. I know that people love portraying Ozzie Guillen as an out-there, crazy kind of guy, and that’s in part because he is an out-there crazy kind of guy. But what’s crazier? Guillen’s views on Cuba or the fact that an aging coterie of people who mourn for the strong hand of Fulgencio Batista control the political debate in South Florida?

Read the full article at:

http://www.thenation.com/blog/167303/big-trouble-little-havana-perilous-politics-ozzie-guillen
Posted by Better Believe It | Tue Apr 10, 2012, 09:35 PM (14 replies)

5 Ways to Avoid Getting Busted for Pot

5 Ways to Avoid Getting Busted for Pot
How not to become a statistic in our nation's enormous, expensive war on marijuana.
by Scott Morgan
April 9, 2012


Each year, close to a million Americans are arrested for possessing marijuana, and many millions more are targeted and searched by police on suspicion of being a marijuana user. It's an incredible waste of limited law enforcement resources, and the experience of being harassed, arrested, and slapped with a criminal record isn't exactly getting rave reviews from anyone either. Heck, even cops are getting sick of this idiocy.

I've spent several years teaching the public how to deal with police. I've heard more than my share of horror stories from people who froze up when confronted by the cops and soon found themselves in the back of a squad car. When that happens, chances are it wasn't because they hurt someone, but rather, because they possessed a small amount of marijuana.

Now that half the nation is in favor of legalizing marijuana, there is hope that we'll soon see a day when none of us are placed in handcuffs for having a little pot in our pockets. But until then, those who use marijuana –- whether to treat an illness, or simply as part of a healthy lifestyle –- should have a plan prepared just in case they find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The following tips are designed to help responsible adults avoid becoming statistics in our nation's enormous, expensive and embarrassing war on marijuana.

1. Don't Consent to Searches

2. Don't Let Them Into Your House

3. Ask if You're Free to Go

4. Don't Do Dumb Stuff in Public

5. Don't Snitch on Yourself


Read the full article and details on the tips to avoid getting busted for pot at:

http://www.alternet.org/drugs/154845/5_ways_to_avoid_getting_busted_for_pot/?page=entire

If you have any additional advice please post it! BBI
Posted by Better Believe It | Tue Apr 10, 2012, 04:23 PM (12 replies)

U.S. stops input from consumer, health, environmental and labor groups in Trans-Pacific trade talks!



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 10, 2012

U.S. Abandons Final Pretense of Transparency or Inclusion of Consumer, Health, Environmental, Labor Perspective in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Talks


WASHINGTON - April 10 - U.S. trade officials have quietly cut stakeholder presentations from the next set of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations, eliminating the last pretense that the process of the talks is transparent and inclusive and sending a message that only the views of the 600 official corporate trade advisors provided special access to the talks will be reflected in the final deal, Public Citizen said today. At previous TPP negotiating rounds, a day was set aside for civil society groups and others with concerns about the TPP to make presentations to negotiators.

“The message is clear: From now on, not only will the talks remain behind closed doors, but all pretense of consideration of consumer safety, health, environmental or labor concerns has been thrown out in favor of ensuring that the damning record of past U.S. trade pacts use of the same terms being pushed by the U.S. for TPP are not brought into the discussion,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

“The stakeholder presentations were the last vestige of transparency in these TPP talks,” Wallach said. “Many negotiators from other countries have told me that the stakeholder process was very valuable because it provided detailed information on the problems caused by past U.S. trade agreements (and on how they have actually worked) that was not generally available and certainly not being shared by U.S. negotiators, who generally have promoted positions promoted by industry interests.”

Indeed, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently noted on its website that it had “led the business community’s advocacy for U.S. negotiators to include strong disciplines in the TPP trade agreement on intellectual property and path-breaking new rules on regulatory coherence, due process in antitrust enforcement and state-owned enterprises. In these and other areas, U.S. negotiators have proposed negotiating text that hews close to the chamber’s recommendations.”

Public Citizen earlier this month joined with other public interest groups from the nine TPP countries to demand that the draft TPP text be released. Negotiating texts for past deals have been released, such as for the Free Trade Area of the Americas in 2001. Currently, more than 600 official corporate trade advisors have access – to which the press and public are denied. Indeed, TPP countries signed an agreement in 2010 to not release negotiating texts until four years after a deal is completed or negotiations abandoned.

To date, U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk has refused to release any draft TPP text, despite repeated calls from civil society groups for more than a year. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), chair of the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Trade, has led congressional efforts to make the process more transparent. Wyden told Oregon Live, “When international accords, like ACTA, are conceived and constructed under a cloak of secrecy, it is hard to argue that they represent the broad interests of the general public.”

“USTR’s response to the request by civil society groups and Sen. Wyden to see draft texts of a massive agreement that will rewrite wide swaths of U.S. non-trade law has been to slam the door shut, instead of opening up the process and making it more transparent,” said Wallach.

The fallout from the U.S. decision already has begun. In response, New Zealand civil society groups have called on their government to “pull the plug” and walk away from the TPP talks. The TPP negotiations cover issues ranging from banning Buy America policies, to curbing Internet freedom, to providing offshoring incentives and special rights for corporations to attack U.S. laws in foreign tribunals.

“You can only assume that the TPP would not survive the light of day, and that is why the U.S. public is being denied access to details and now civil society groups are being sidelined,” Wallach said. “The Obama administration declares itself the most transparent administration ever, and President Barack Obama campaigned on transparency in government. It’s time he put those words into action.” The next round of TPP talks will take place May 8-18 at the InterContinental Dallas hotel in Addison, Texas.
.
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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2012/04/10-1
Posted by Better Believe It | Tue Apr 10, 2012, 01:17 PM (5 replies)

Rolling Stone Magazine Article: Why Obama's JOBS Act Couldn't Suck Worse



Why Obama's JOBS Act Couldn't Suck Worse
by Matt Taibbi
April 9, 2012


Boy, do I feel like an idiot. I've been out there on radio and TV in the last few months saying that I thought there was a chance Barack Obama was listening to the popular anger against Wall Street that drove the Occupy movement, that decisions like putting a for-real law enforcement guy like New York AG Eric Schneiderman in charge of a mortgage fraud task force meant he was at least willing to pay lip service to public outrage against the banks.

Then the JOBS Act happened.

The "Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act" (in addition to everything else, the Act has an annoying, redundant title) will very nearly legalize fraud in the stock market.

In the meantime, let's just say this is a dramatic step taken by Barack Obama. Nobody should have any illusions about where he stands on Wall Street corruption after this thing. Boss Tweed himself couldn't have done any worse.


Please read the full article which explains how this so-called "Jobs Act" really works against investors and new legitimate business start-ups at:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/why-obamas-jobs-act-couldnt-suck-worse-20120409

For more information on DU which you may not have read go to:

Obama Signs Wall Street/Corporate Backed "Jobs Act": A “Recipe for Fraud” And Job Destruction
http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002522293

Presidents Clinton and Obama sign Wall Street Deregulation Bills. Two Photos That Tell It All
http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1002&pid=525025
Posted by Better Believe It | Mon Apr 9, 2012, 11:07 PM (256 replies)

Local, State Officials Decry Federal Attacks on Medical Marijuana Program




FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 9, 2012
Local, State Officials Decry Federal Attacks on Medical Marijuana Program


SAN FRANCISCO - April 9 - A coalition of medical marijuana patients, activists, dispensing centers, and concerned citizens has compelled public officials to stand up to recent federal attacks. Last week, the coalition "San Francisco United for Safe Access" held a press conference with several city supervisors and state officials, decrying the Obama Administration's aggressive tactics before a crowd of more than 500 supporters. By Friday, San Francisco United had secured a statement from Mayor Lee, expressing his opposition to "recent federal actions targeting duly permitted Medicinal Cannabis Dispensaries...that aim to limit our citizens’ ability to have safe access to the medicine they need."

Since the beginning of the year, five San Francisco dispensaries have been forced to shut down due to threats from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. Early last week, federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents raided city-compliant medical marijuana businesses in Oakland, including one of the state's oldest established distribution facilities. Dispensary proprietor and founder of Oaksterdam University Richard Lee has vowed to fight against further federal attacks, claiming that, "this is a fight we can win." San Francisco United and Lee have targeted President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, who have so far eluded accountability for the unprecedented attacks.

"By opposing federal interference, San Francisco officials are taking a stand for patients and for sensible public health policy," said Americans for Safe Access founder and Executive Director Steph Sherer. "The federal government must not be allowed to push patients into the illicit market without consequence." Since U.S. Attorneys announced a concerted crackdown in California last October, more than 200 dispensaries have shut down as a result of threats to owners and their landlords. However, more than 1,000 locally compliant facilities still continue to operate in the state.

"The assault on medical marijuana patients currently underway by the Obama Administration is unprecedented in this country's history, despite hollow proclamations to the contrary," continued Sherer. "The intensity and breadth of the attacks has far surpassed anything we saw under the Bush Administration and has resulted in the roll-back of numerous local and state laws, not just in California." Delaware officials were the latest to be threatened by the Justice Department, derailing that state's recently passed medical marijuana law.

It was also announced last week that legislators from five medical marijuana states from California, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, and Washington issued an open letter to President Obama opposing the federal attacks and asking his administration to "respect our state laws." The lawmakers underscored that such an aggressive policy "makes no sense" and is "not a good use of our resources," which is reflective of Obama's original pledge to de-emphasize enforcement in medical marijuana states.

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Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

http://www.safeaccessnow.org/local-state-officials-decry-federal-attacks-on-medical-marijuana-program
Posted by Better Believe It | Mon Apr 9, 2012, 10:44 PM (3 replies)

Obama Administration Pushes to Privatize Poultry Inspection



Obama Administration Pushes to Privatize Poultry Inspection
By Mike Elk
April 6, 2012


WASHINGTON, D.C.—Last Monday, members of American Federation of Government Employees union and food safety advocates rallied outside of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protest a plan that they argue would essentially privatize poultry inspection. The USDA wants to expand a pilot program that currently allows 20 chicken slaughterhouses and five turkey slaughter houses to employ their own meat inspectors instead of using independently funded federal government inspectors.

The HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) expansion plan proposed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack would expand the pilot program to 200 slaughterhouses, allowing companies to employ their own poultry inspectors. Chairman of the National Joint Council of AFGE Food Inspection Council Chair Stan Painter says that the proposed program could lead to the elimination of 1,000 USDA poultry inspection jobs. The USDA has claimed (PDF) that the proposed change could save inspectors $95 million during its first three years and would save the poultry industry about $250 million.

“This new inspection system for poultry slaughter plants is another example of attacks on everyday working people while billionaires and corporations are getting tax breaks. And this time, it’s putting our kids and families at risk while taking jobs away from people we count on. It’s shocking,” AFL-CIO Online Mobilization Director Manny Herrmann wrote in an e-mail petition.

“It’s really fraud for the industry,” says Erin Kessler of the Food Integrity Campaign at the Government Accountability Project. “In the new program there is only inspection at the end of the production line and they discourage stopping the production line. Under the proposed program, the inspector can see only see the back of the bird and not the front of the bird where a lot of fecal material lies. If there is fecal matter on the chicken and it goes out to folks, it can increase the chances of e. coli outbreak.”

Read the full article at:

http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/entry/12994/obama_administration_pushes_to_privatize_poultry_inspection/




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PRESS RELEASE
April 5, 2012

USDA Inspectors: Government 'HIMP' Plan is a Threat to Food Safety

GAP Releases Early Evidence From HIMP Investigation – Shocking Whistleblower Affidavits Detailing Dangers of Poultry Plant Self-Inspection


(Washington, DC) – Today, the Government Accountability Project (GAP) is releasing evidence it has gathered from federal poultry inspectors/whistleblowers about the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposal to fully implement a high-speed poultry production model known as the HAACP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) – designed by the USDA Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) that allows greater corporate "self-policing" of the poultry industry.

GAP has spoken with multiple FSIS inspectors stationed at different plants across different states that mass-produce whole chickens. GAP is making publicly available affidavits from actual inspectors – those employees inside of the plants who monitor the safety and wholesomeness of poultry. These affidavits, which illustrate the serious problems that the HIMP program directly poses to food safety, are all from inspectors at different plants. GAP plans to release more in the coming weeks.

"Industry has established its own inspection baseline," stated Amanda Hitt, Director of GAP's Food Integrity Campaign (FIC). "The new standard for poultry isn't 'would you eat it' but 'will it kill you or make you sick.' These firsthand reports from USDA inspectors clearly show that processed chickens will become more dangerous if this plan is enacted."

Just some of the numerous problems that all three whistleblower inspector affidavits independently raise include:
At non-HIMP plants, line speeds for bird inspection are set at 72-90 birds per minute (bpm) with multiple federal inspectors monitoring the line, so that each inspector is in charge of overseeing approximately 30-36 bpm. At HIMP plants, however, this line speed increases to 165-200+ bpm with only one federal inspector monitoring the production line for infected/tainted product. This means that one federal inspector is going to be responsible for safeguarding over 10,000 birds per hour. These rates are so fast, that inspectors simply cannot look at every bird.

Under HIMP plans, federal inspectors are replaced with plant workers who are powerless to speak out against their employers, and are responsible for removing adulterated product. The inspector whistleblowers have witnessed that these sorters are "rebuked by supervisors" when they try to slow down the line for food safety concerns.

Under traditional inspection methods, inspectors can see all sides (and the inside) of the bird. But inspectors at HIMP plants can only see the backside of the bird – not the front (where the breast meat is) that may clearly show tumors or scabs. Nor can HIMP inspectors see the inside of the bird, where fecal matter and other disease causing abnormalities are found.

In each Inspector's case, the placement of the "Critical Control Point (CCP)" – the main purpose of which is to identify and catch potential food safety problems – under the HIMP plan was moved to a point further down the conveyor line, after a key "Inspection Station." This has the effect of taking away the inspectors' ability to see noncompliances or issue Noncompliance Reports (NRs), documentation showing a plant CCP's failure to prevent important regulatory violations. Multiple NRs can lead to increased enforcement action against the plant.

Each inspector clearly conveys in their affidavit that, if the HIMP plan is implemented nationwide, it is more likely that unsafe products will reach consumers.

The affidavits being released today can be found here: Affidavit #1, Affidavit #2, Affidavit #3. Direct quotes from them can be found below.

Criticism of HIMP and its effect on food safety has been widespread among consumer advocates, including FIC. "These affidavits reveal that HIMP plants may not be safe," Hitt continued. "Corporate 'self-policing' plans should not be operating, let alone expanded significantly. Make no mistake – HIMP does nothing to protect the wholesomeness of chicken or the integrity of the food on your family's table."

The names of the inspectors, and all identifying information of the specific plants, have been redacted upon the requests of the inspectors. Whistleblower protections for USDA-regulated government employees – like these inspectors – are extremely weak, and retaliation for exposing safety issues is commonplace. These affidavits have the full backing of GAP, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.

The USDA is accepting public comments on the regulations until April 26, 2012. GAP has launched an investigation into the concerns brought up by these whistleblowers, whose anonymous affidavits are critical in providing the agency with first-hand accounts of the disastrous consequences of full implementation of the proposed "Modernization of Poultry Inspection" rule. GAP hopes to hear from more USDA inspection whistleblowers – confidentially or not – who can shed light on exactly what is going on inside HIMP plants.

Direct Quotes from the Affidavits

I am making this statement because, based on my many years of experience as a HIMP inspector, I know that the claims the government is making about the HIMP program are not true. I also have children and I am concerned about the poultry products they may eat if this program is implemented nationally. (Affidavit #1)
...I believe that unsafe and unwholesome birds will be more likely to reach consumers. (Affidavit #1)
I've seen sorters attempt to slow down or stop the line to move birds to the reprocessing line, only to be rebuked by their supervisors. (Affidavit #1) GAP Note: 'Sorters' are non-USDA plant workers.
I believe that more unwholesome and potentially harmful products will reach consumers if the HIMP system is mandated on a national scale. (Affidavit #2)
My experience under both inspection systems is that poultry plants are concerned with making money and not protecting the consumer, inspectors fulfill this crucial role instead. (Affidavit #2)
Under the traditional system, our inspection was characterized by a "hands on" mentality ... Under HIMP, we are explicitly told to be "hands off." (Affidavit #2)
Plant "sorters" are supposed to pull birds from the line for defects or food safety issues, with little, if any, training about what to look for. (Affidavit #2)
It is my experience that the HIMP guidelines for USDA inspectors give too much power to the plants themselves, which are concerned primarily with keeping the line speeds up and maintaining productivity. USDA inspectors are trained to protect the consumer, but we are not supported by the Agency to do so when they create systems like HIMP. (Affidavit #2)
The Agency says that its proposal to make HIMP the primary inspection system is based on food safety objectives. However, from what I have seen, I do not know how they can make that claim. (Affidavit #3)
Under HIMP, the plant is supposed to be responsible for producing a safe and wholesome product. In my opinion, we are not holding them to that standard. (Affidavit #3)
...with 10,000 or more birds going down the line in an hour, there is not much of a chance that the will find such defects even if many birds violate the regulations. (Affidavit #3)

The Government Accountability Project is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization. Through litigating whistleblower cases, publicizing concerns and developing legal reforms, GAP's mission is to protect the public interest by promoting government and corporate accountability. Founded in 1977, GAP is a non-profit, non-partisan advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

http://foodwhistleblower.org/press/press-releases/25-2012/345-usda-inspectors-government-himp-plan-is-a-threat-to-food-safety
Posted by Better Believe It | Mon Apr 9, 2012, 12:25 PM (18 replies)

Obama Administration Silencing Pakistani Drone-Strike Lawyer

Obama Administration Silencing Pakistani Drone-Strike Lawyer
by Medea Benjamin
April 9, 2012


When is the last time you heard from a civilian victim of the CIA’s secret drone strikes? Sure, most of them can’t speak because they’re deceased. But many leave behind bereaved and angry family members ready to proclaim their innocence and denounce the absence of due process, the lack of accountability, the utter impunity with which the U.S. government decides who will live and die.

But in Pakistan, where most strikes have occurred, the victims do have someone speaking out on their behalf. Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who co-founded the human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Right, filed the first case in Pakistan on behalf of family members of civilian victims and has become a critical force in litigating and advocating for drone victims.

Akbar is by no means anti-American. He has traveled to the United States in the past, and has even worked for the U.S. government. He was a consultant with the U.S. Agency for International Development, and helped the FBI investigate a terrorism case involving a Pakistani diplomat.

But his relationship with the US government changed in 2010, when he took on the case of Karim Khan, a resident of a small town in North Waziristan who claimed that his 18-year-old son and 35-year-old brother were killed when a CIA-operated drone struck his family home.

Read the full article at:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/04/09-6


Shahzad Akbar (left), a Pakistani lawyer who co-founded the human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Right, filed the first case in Pakistan on behalf of family members of civilian victims and has become a critical force in litigating and advocating for drone victims. On his right is, Karim Khan, a resident of a small town in North Waziristan who claimed that his 18-year-old son and 35-year-old brother were killed when a CIA-operated drone struck his family home


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 9, 2012

Pakistani Lawyer Representing Victims of Drone Strikes Prevented From Speaking in U.S.


WASHINGTON - April 9 - Pakistani lawyer Shahzad Akbar has been invited to speak at an International Drone Summit in Washington DC on April 28, but the U.S. government is failing to grant him a visa.

The Summit is organized by the peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights. Akbar, co-founder of the Pakistani human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Rights, is important to the Summit because of his work providing legal aid to victims of CIA-operated drone strikes. Akbar filed the first case in Pakistan on behalf of family members of civilian victims and has been a critical force in litigating and advocating on victims' behalf.

While Akbar has traveled to the United States in the past, he has not been granted permission to return since becoming an outspoken critic of drone attacks in Pakistan that have killed hundreds of civilians. He was previously invited to speak about drone strikes at Columbia University in New York, but he never received a response to the visa application he filed in May 2011. One year later, he is still waiting for a response, and he has been unable to get an answer from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad as to why his application is being held up.

“Denying a visa to people like me is denying Americans their right to know what the U.S. government and its intelligence community are doing to children, women and other civilians in this part of the world,” Akbar said. “The CIA, which operates the drones in Pakistan, does not want anyone challenging their killing spree. But the American people should have the right to know.”

The CIA’s secret drone program has killed hundreds of people in Pakistan with no due process and no accountability. Akbar represents families whose innocent loved ones have been killed and maimed in these drone attacks.

“Shahzad is the voice for these poor tribal people who have had no recourse,” said CODEPINK co-director Medea Benjamin. “It’s outrageous that our government is trying to keep him from speaking at the Drone Summit.”

“The Obama administration has already launched six times as many drone strikes as the Bush administration in Pakistan alone, killing hundreds of innocent people and devastating families,” said Leili Kashani, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “By refusing to grant Shahzad Akbar a visa to speak about this abhorrent reality in the United States, the Obama administration is further silencing discussion about the impact of its targeted killing program on people in Pakistan and around the world.”

The Drone Summit’s organizers vow to keep pressuring the U.S. government to grant Akbar a visa.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government has increasingly deployed unmanned drones in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. While drones were initially primarily used by the U.S. military and CIA for surveillance, these remotely controlled aerial vehicles are currently routinely used to launch missiles against human targets in countries where the United States is not at war, including Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. As many as 3,000 people, including hundreds of civilians and even American citizens, have been killed in such covert missions.

Shahzad Akbar is available for interviews from Pakistan. To arrange an interview, contact Ramah Kudaimi at rkudaimi@gmail.com or 708-822-5880.

http://www.codepink4peace.org/article.php?id=6122

So what are they afraid of? BBI
Posted by Better Believe It | Mon Apr 9, 2012, 12:11 PM (7 replies)

Who Takes the Gold for Corporate Tax Avoidance in 2011?


Who Takes the Gold for Tax Avoidance in 2011?
by Paul Buchheit
April 9, 2012


This is tax time, or in the case of many big businesses, just another time without taxes. These companies deserve to be recognized. With the help of SEC data and the results of several excellent research studies, PayUpNow.org has selected the 'winners' of the 2011 Tax Avoidance Awards.

First a review of last year's results. The top spot went to General Electric, which made pre-tax profits of $44 billion from 2008 to 2010 but received almost $5 billion in refunds. A GE spokesperson added, "We are committed to acting with integrity in relation to our tax obligations."

A close second was Exxon, notable for having the nation's highest pre-tax earnings three years in a row, a 2% federal income tax payment rate, and hubris comparable to that of GE: "Any claim we don't pay taxes is absurd...ExxonMobil is a leading U.S. taxpayer."

There were numerous other candidates, each no less unworthy than the next. Verizon and Boeing and Dow and DuPont all made profits three years in a row, but all paid zero taxes over the three-year period. Banking leaders Citigroup and Bank of America, with a combined $8 billion of pretax earnings in 2009 and 2010, each paid zero taxes two years in a row. From 2008 to 2010, Chevron paid less than 5% a year. Merck paid 5%. Hewlett-Packard 3%. IBM 2%. Carnival 1%.

Read the full article at:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/04/09-3

For more information on corporate tax avoidance go to:

http://payupnow.org/

As you can see, corporate taxes are way too high and they need some major tax relief! BBI
Posted by Better Believe It | Mon Apr 9, 2012, 12:00 PM (5 replies)
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