More

Congress is trying to pass a massive corporate power grab. You need to know what's in it.

Meet the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a secretive trade agreement that would let 9,000 foreign corporations bypass the U.S. legal system and force taxpayers to pay them millions. Why would both Congressional Republicans and President Obama support such a naked corporate power grab? Just follow the money.

Congress is trying to pass a massive corporate power grab. You need to know what's in it.

The TP-What now?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a massive proposed free-trade deal that would include roughly 40% of the world economy. It's also highly secretive — leaks to the press are the only reason the public has any idea what could be in it.



You down with TPP? (Source: Congressional Research Service)

The TPP lets corporations bypass the domestic legal system.

Imagine if a multinational corporation was accused of something truly reprehensible — like, say, poisoning hundreds of children with faulty mining equipment. What if when the government tried to make them pay for the cleanup, they responded by suing taxpayers for $800 million? And what if instead of filing in a normal court, they were allowed to take their case to a tribunal of three highly paid corporate lawyers whose rulings can never be appealed?

Well, you don't have to imagine — That's exactly what's happening in Peru right now (poisoned children and all):


This is all possible thanks to a process called Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which is frequently included as a feature of modern free-trade agreements, including the TPP. ISDS cases allow foreign companies to bypass the legal systems of sovereign governments and go straight to an international trade tribunal to demand compensation directly from taxpayers.


It's as bad as it sounds. (Source: The Economist)

It's a policy designed perfectly to infuriate both the American right (ceding U.S. power to tribunals organized by the United Nations and World Trade Organization) and left (giving corporations massive new power to attack everything from environmental policy to public health measures on a global scale). It has drawn heavy criticism from all sides, from Tea Party groups to Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Why is this happening?

How could it be that the TPP, which would open the U.S. to ISDS actions from 9,000 foreign companies, has the support of both congressional Republicans and President Obama?

Here's a hint: The answer rhymes with "$."

Some of the most powerful special interests in Washington — from Hollywood to pharmaceutical companies — are huge fans of the TPP. ISDS is just one of many, many corporate-friendly provisions being pushed by the Obama administration's trade negotiators. Other leaked draft texts have revealed provisions that critics say could sharply increase the cost of prescription drugs, threaten Internet freedom and privacy, and hit American workers with outsourced jobs and lower wages.

The pro-TPP lobby is composed of industries that help raise big money for both Republicans and Democrats, which could explain why major political donors have been given full access to TPP documents even though the Obama administration has made every effort to conceal the details from the public. (Even members of Congress had to jump through hoops to view draft texts.) It also helps that many of the administration's trade negotiators used to work for companies that are now lobbying for the TPP.

They know what's in it. (Source: Maplight)

What happens now?

Congressional leaders recently struck a deal that would give President Obama authority to "fast-track" TPP negotiations, which would help rush the TPP through with extremely limited debate. However, the deal isn't final quite yet.

The TPP's supporters know they have a small window before the public catches on and they lose their chance, which is why they're trying to rush fast-track language through Congress as quickly as possible. Without fast track, the TPP will have to work its way through Congress in the full view of the American public — which means a massive wave of opposition that could derail the entire agreement.

You're telling us. (Source: The New York Times)

It has already cleared two key committees and is headed to the House floor for a likely vote in early May.

If you think the TPP sounds awful, call your member of Congress right this second and demand they make a public statement against fast track. If email is more your speed, you can also send a short message using this form.

And lest you get all cynical on me, remember that the fast-track agreement is very much up in the air and is facing growing opposition from both liberal Democrats and Tea Party Republicans in the House. With enough public attention and pressure, fast track will fall apart, which could derail the entire TPP agreement.

TL;DR

If want to see the TPP stopped, now's your chance. Get calling.

True

Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

Anyone who has gone through the process of disentangling themselves from an addiction knows it's an ongoing, daily battle. It may get easier, and the payoffs may become more apparent, but it's still a decision someone makes each day to stay detached from their substance of choice.

Seeing someone who has a long record of sobriety—especially after a very public struggle—can be motivating and inspiring for others in different stages of their recovery journey. That's part of why actor Rob Lowe's announcement that he's reached 31 years sober is definitely something to celebrate.

"Today I have 31 years drug and alcohol free," Lowe wrote on Twitter. "I want to give thanks to everyone walking this path with me, and welcome anyone thinking about joining us; the free and the happy. And a big hug to my family for putting up with me!! Xoxo"

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

Keep Reading Show less