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What 10 Years of Smartphone Use Means for the Planet

Truthout - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 21:00

Smartphones have undeniably changed our lives -- and the world -- in a very short amount of time. Just ten years ago, we took pictures with cameras, used maps to plan routes, and kept in touch with friends and family using T9 text messages.

If you're among the more than 2 billion people in the world that now uses a smartphone, chances are pretty good you remember your first smartphone. You remember how your life changed when your phone suddenly became connected to the internet and became a tool to find your way around almost anywhere instantaneously, send emails on the go, stay in touch with loved ones 24/7, and answer all your random curiosities.  

But do you remember when you got your second smartphone? Or your third? Do you remember how many smartphones you've had since 2007?

We wanted to find out how many smartphones had been made since Apple's first iPhone came on to the market in 2007, and the answer surprised us -- more than 7 billion. That means that if every smartphone ever made was still operational, there would be roughly enough for every person on the planet.

Of course, this is not the case. The average phone in the United States is used for just over 2 years, despite the fact it can function for longer. Phone users are often lured into prematurely replacing their phones -- either because they are up for a new contract and the new phone appears to be "free" or because of a single failing part, such as the screen or battery, that's too complicated or expensive for the average person to repair.

At this rate, we're all on track to use at least 29 phones in our lifetimes.

This rapid turnover of devices is what leads to record profits for smartphone manufacturers year after year. It also leads to many damaging impacts on people and our planet.

Miners in remote landscapes extract tons of metal ore and precious metals for these devices. From there, these materials pass through a complex refining, processing, and manufacturing supply chain. Workers in electronics factories are often unknowingly exposed to hazardous chemicals that damage their health. These facilities our powered by an energy mix that is dominated by fossil fuels, which furthers the impacts of climate change.

In our new report "From Smart to Senseless: The Global Impact of Ten Years of Smartphones" we unpack the problems with the current smartphone production model.

Here is some of what we found:

  • 7.1 billion smartphones have been produced ​since 2007.
  • More than 60 different elements are commonly used in the manufacturing of smartphones. While the amount of each element in a single device may seem small, the combined impacts of mining and processing these precious materials for 7 billion devices is significant.
  • In 2014 alone, e-waste from small IT products like smartphones was estimated to be 3 million metric tons. Less than an estimated 16 percent of global e-waste is recycled.
  • Only two (Fairphone and LG G5) of 13 models reviewed had easily replaceable batteries. This means consumers are forced to replace their whole devices when the battery life starts to dwindle.
  • Since 2007, roughly 968 terawatt hours (TWh) has been used to manufacture smartphones, which is nearly the same as one year's power supply for India (973 TWh in 2014).
  • At end-of-life, current design makes disassembly difficult, including the use of proprietary screws and glued in batteries; therefore, smartphones are often shredded and sent for smelting when "recycled." Given the small amounts of a wide diversity of materials and substances in small devices, smelting is inefficient, or ineffective, at recovering many of the materials.

The recent recall of Samsung's overheating and explosive Galaxy Note 7 phones is a prime example of the problems with the current production model -- rushed design and production cycles can lead to costly mistakes. After investigating, the company attributed the battery flaws in part to accelerated production efforts to outpace competitors. Recalling the phones was the right choice. But now Samsung needs to decide what to do with the 4.3 million handsets.

Since November 2016, we've been calling on the company to reuse and recycle phones. To date, Samsung has not revealed its plan. Join us in calling on Samsung to recycle these phones and commit to making phones in the future that can be easily repaired, reused, and recycled.

Sign the petition to Samsung!

Despite the many challenges that  confront it, the IT sector is well positioned to fix these problems and set an example for all industries by moving from a linear to a circular production model -- one that reuses precious raw materials.

As IT companies have shown again and again, technology and creativity can be used as powerful forces to disrupt outdated business models. Leading IT companies can become the greatest advocates for a circular production model and a renewably powered future. The brightest designers can create toxic-free gadgets to last, be repairable, and ultimately be transformed into something new.

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Debate: Are Trump's Ties to Russia a Dangerous Security Issue or Critics' Fodder for New Red Scare?

Truthout - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 21:00

The ongoing mystery of Russia's role in the 2016 US election took an unexpected turn early Saturday morning when President Trump took to Twitter, writing: "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" Trump offered no evidence, but within 24 hours he called on lawmakers to probe Obama's actions. The New York Times is reporting FBI director James B. Comey has asked the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump's assertion that Obama ordered the tapping of Trump's phones. The Times described Comey's request as a "remarkable rebuke of a sitting president." For more we host a debate between attorney Scott Horton, lecturer at Columbia Law School and a contributing editor at Harper's Magazine, and Robert Parry, veteran investigative journalist and editor of the website Consortiumnews.com.

Please check back later for full transcript.

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Advocate: DHS Proposal to Split Children From Parents at US Border Is "State-Sanctioned Violence"

Truthout - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 21:00

The Department of Homeland Security is considering a proposal to radically shift how federal agents treat undocumented families -- including asylum seekers -- who attempt to enter the country. Reuters is reporting DHS is considering a proposal to separate mothers from their children if they are caught trying to cross the border together. Under the plan, mothers would be held in custody while children would initially be placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar criticized the new proposal. He said, "Bottom line: separating mothers and children is wrong. That type of thing is where we depart from border security and get into violating human rights." For more we speak with Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

Please check back later for full transcript.

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Could War With Iran Be on Washington's Agenda?

Truthout - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 21:00

Pedestrians at Valiasr Square in Tehran, Iran, on February 8, 2017. Gloom and dread can be felt across Tehran, where some blame not only the Trump administration but also their own leaders for the possibility of a violent conflict between Iran and the United States. (Photo: Arash Khamooshi / The New York Times)

In the splurge of "news," media-bashing, and Bannonism that's been Donald Trump's domestic version of a shock-and-awe campaign, it's easy to forget just how much of what the new president and his administration have done so far is simply an intensification of trends long underway. Those who already pine for the age of Obama -- a president who was smart, well read, and not a global embarrassment -- need to acknowledge the ways in which, particularly in the military arena, Obama's years helped set the stage for our current predicament.

As a start, Nobel Prize or not, President Obama sustained, and in some cases accelerated, the militarization of American foreign policy that has been steadily increasing for the past three decades. In significant parts of the world, the US military has become Washington's first and often only tool -- and the result has been disastrous wars, failing states, and spreading terror movements (as well as staggering arms sales) across the Greater Middle East and significant parts of Africa. Indicators of how militarily dependent Obama's foreign policy became include the launching of a record number of drone strikes (10 times as many as in the Bush years), undeclared wars in at least six countries, the annual deployment of Special Operations forces to well over half of the countries on the planet, record arms sales to the Middle East, and a plethora of new Pentagon arms and training programs.

Nonetheless, from the New START treaty (which Trump has called "another bad deal," as he does any deal the Obama administration concluded) to the Iran nuclear deal to the opening with Cuba, Obama had genuine successes of a sort that our present narcissist-in-chief, with his emphasis on looking "tough" or tweeting at the drop of a hat, is unlikely to achieve. In addition, Obama did try to build on the nuclear arms control agreements and institutions created over the previous five decades, while Trump seems intent on dismantling them.

Still, no one can doubt that our last president did not behave like a Nobel Peace Prize winner, not even in the nuclear arena where he oversaw the launching of a trillion dollar "modernization" of the US nuclear arsenal (including the development of new weapons and new delivery systems). And one thing is already clear enough: President Trump will prove no non-interventionist. He is going to build on Obama's militarization of foreign policy and most likely dramatically accelerate it.

A Military First Administration

It's no secret that our new president loves generals. He's certainly assembled the most military-heavy foreign policy team in memory, if not in American history, including retired General James Mattis at the Pentagon; retired General John Kelly at Homeland Security; Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster as national security adviser (a replacement for Lieutenant General Michael Flynn who left that post after 24 days); and as chief of staff of the National Security Council, retired Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg.

In addition, CIA Director Mike Pompeo is a West Point graduate and former Cold War-era Army tank officer. Even White House adviser Steve Bannon has done military service of a sort. The military background of Trump's ideologue-in-chief was emphasized by White House spokesman Sean Spicer in his defense of seating him on the National Security Council (NSC). Bannon's near-brush with fame as a naval officer came when he piloted a destroyer in the Gulf of Oman trailing the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz that carried the helicopters used in the Carter administration's botched 1980 attempt to rescue US hostages held by Iran's revolutionary government. As it happened, Bannon's ship was ordered back to Pearl Harbor before the raid was launched, so he learned of its failure from thousands of miles away.

When it comes to national security posts of any sort, it's clear that choosing a general is now Trump's default mode. Three of the four candidates he considered for Flynn's spot were current or retired generals. And that's not even counting retired Vice Admiral Robert Harward, who declined an offer to take Flynn's post, in part evidently because he wasn't prepared to battle Bannon over the staffing and running of the NSC. The only civilian considered for that role was one of the more bellicose guys in town, that ideologue, Iranophobe, former UN ambassador, and neocon extraordinaire John Bolton. The bad news: Trump was evidently impressed by Bolton, who may still get a slot alongside Bannon and his motley crew of extremists in the White House.

Another early indicator of the military drift of future administration actions is the marginalization of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the State Department, which appears to be completely out of the policy-making loop at the moment. It is understaffed, underutilized, slated to have its funding slashed by as much as 30% to 40%, and rarely even asked to provide Trump with basic knowledge about the countries and leaders he's dealing with. (As a result, White House statements have, on several occasions, misspelled the names of foreign heads of state and the president mistakenly addressed the Japanese Prime Minister as "Shinzo," his first name, not "Abe.") The State Department isn't even giving regular press briefings, a practice routinely followed in prior administrations. Tillerson's main job so far has been traveling the planet to reassure foreign leaders that the new president isn't as crazy as he seems to be.

Although Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry were far more involved in the crafting of foreign policy than Tillerson is likely to be, the State Department has long been the junior partner to its ever better resourced counterpart. The Pentagon's budget is currently 12 times larger than the State Department's (and that's before the impending Trump military build-up even begins). As former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates once noted, there are more personnel in a single aircraft carrier task force than there are trained diplomats in the US Foreign Service.

Given the way President Trump has outfitted his administration with generals, the already militarized nature of foreign policy is only likely to become more so. As former White House budget official and defense expert Gordon Adams has pointed out, his military-dominated foreign policy team should be cause for serious concern. Policy-by-general is sure to create a skewed view of policy-making, since everything is likely to be viewed initially through a military lens by men trained in war, not diplomacy or peace.

For the military-industrial complex, however, many of Trump's national security picks are the best of news. They're "twofers," having worked in both the military and the arms industry. Defense Secretary Mattis, for instance, joined the administration from the board of General Dynamics, which gets about $10 billion in Pentagon contracts annually and makes tanks and ballistic missile submarines, among many other weapons systems. Trump's pick for Secretary of the Air Force, former New Mexico representative Heather Wilson, is an Air Force veteran who went to work as a lobbyist for Lockheed Martin's nuclear weapons unit when she left Congress. Deputy National Security adviser Keith Kellogg has worked for a series of defense contractors including Cubic and CACI. (You may remember CACI as one of the private companies that supplied interrogators implicated in the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal during the US occupation of Iraq.) This practice is rife with the potential for conflicts of interest, as such officials are in a position to make decisions that could benefit their former employers to the tune of billions of dollars.

The Adults in the Room?

While rule by generals and weapons company officials may be problematic, an even more disturbing development is the tendency of President Trump to rely on a small circle of White House advisers led by white nationalist Steve Bannon in crafting basic decisions, often with minimal input from relevant cabinet officers and in-house experts. A case in point is Trump's disastrous rollout of his Muslim ban. Homeland Security head John Kelly asserts that he was consulted, but Bannon disregarded his advice to exclude green card holders from the initial ban. Kelly later issued a waiver for them.

Mattis was evidently only informed about the contents of the executive order at the last minute. Among the issues he later raised: the ban was so expansively drawn it could exclude Iraqi translators who had worked alongside American troops in Iraq from entering the United States. Now that the courts have blocked the original plan, the Trump team is working on a new Muslim ban likely to be almost as bad as the original. And the fingerprints of Bannon and his anti-immigrant sidekick Stephen Miller will be all over it.

Numerous commentators have welcomed the appointments of Mattis and McMaster, hoping that they will be the experienced "adults in the room" who will help keep Bannon and company in check. Former Obama Pentagon official Derek Chollet, a member of Foreign Policy magazine's "shadow cabinet," put it this way: "Other than the dark figures in the White House cabal, Trump's national security team is led by nonideological, level-headed policy technocrats from the military or industry." President (and also General) Dwight D. Eisenhower, who introduced the term "military-industrial complex" in his farewell address to the nation, is probably rolling over in his grave at the thought that a government packed with ex-military men and former arms industry officials is in many quarters considered the best anyone could hope for under the Trump regime.

Let's think for a moment about what such a "best case" scenario might look like. Imagine that, in the battle for Trump's brain, Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly wrest control of it from Bannon and his minions when it comes to foreign policy decision-making. The assumption here is that the generals have a far saner perspective than an extreme ideologue (and Islamophobe), among other things because they've seen war up close and personal and so presumably better understand what's at stake. But we shouldn't forget that Mattis and McMaster were at the center of one of the most disastrous and unsuccessful wars in American history, the invasion, occupation, and insurgency in Iraq -- and it appears that they may not have learned what would seem to be the logical lessons from that failure. 

In fact, as late as 2011, overseeing Washington's wars in the Greater Middle East as the head of Central Command (CENTCOM), Mattis actually proposed a radical escalation, an expansion of the conflict via a direct strike inside Iran. The Obama administration would, in fact, remove him as CENTCOM commander five months early in part because the president disapproved of his proposal to launch missile strikes to take out either an Iranian power plant or an oil refinery in retaliation for the killings of US soldiers by Iranian-backed militias. In August 2010, shortly after taking control of Central Command, Mattis was asked by President Obama what he thought were the top three threats in his area of responsibility, which stretched from Egypt to the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan and included the active war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan. His classic (and chilling) response, according to a "senior US official" who witnessed it: "Number one: Iran. Number two: Iran. Number three: Iran." He will now have a major hand in shaping Washington's Iran policy.

As for McMaster, a warrior-strategist widely respected in military circles, his biggest potential flaw is that he may be overconfident about the value of military force in addressing Middle Eastern conflicts. Although his 1997 book Dereliction of Duty opens with a searing indictment of the costs and consequences of the failed US intervention in Vietnam, he may draw a different set of lessons from his experiences in the Middle East and Iraq in particular. McMaster cut his teeth in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, a quick and devastating defeat of Saddam Hussein's overmatched military, a force notably short on morale and fighting spirit. Along with General David Petraeus, McMaster was also a key player in crafting the much-overrated 2007 "surge" in Iraq, a short-term tactical victory that did nothing to address the underlying political and sectarian tensions still driving the conflict there. Military analyst Andrew Bacevich has aptly described it as "the surge to nowhere."

Boosters of the surge in Iraq frequently refer to it as if it were partial redemption for the disastrous decision to invade in the first place. At a staggering cost in money and Iraqi and American lives, that invasion and occupation opened the way for a sectarian conflict that would lead to the rise of ISIS. It cannot be redeemed. And the suggestion that things would have turned out better if only President Obama had kept significant numbers of US troops there longer -- overriding both the will of the Iraqi parliament and a status of forces agreement negotiated with Iraq's leaders by the Bush administration -- is a pipe dream.

Logically, the American experience in Iraq should make both Mattis and McMaster wary of once again using military force in the region. Both of them, however, seem to be "go big or go home" thinkers who are likely to push for surge-like actions in the war against ISIS and possibly in the Afghan war as well.

The true test of whether there will be any "adults" in the room may come if Trump and Bannon push for military action against Iran, an option to which Mattis has been open -- as a long history of statements and proposals urging exactly that course of action indicates. Such a war would, of course, be better sold to Congress, the public, and the media by the generals.

Ultimately, another Middle Eastern war planned and initiated by generals is unlikely to be any more successful than one launched by the ideologues. As Ali Vaez, an Iran expert at the International Crisis Group, noted after then-National Security Adviser Flynn declared that the administration was putting Iran "on notice": "In an attempt to look strong, the administration could stumble into a war that would make the Afghan and Iraqi conflicts look like a walk in the park."

Trump's generals should know better, but there's no reason to believe that they will, especially given Mattis's history of hawkish proposals and statements about "the Iranian threat." Even if he and McMaster do prove to be the adults in the room, as we all know, adults, too, can make disastrous miscalculations. So we may want to hold off on the sighs of relief that greeted both of their appointments. Washington could go to war in Iran (and surge in both Iraq and Afghanistan), regardless of who's in charge.

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As Politicians Target Sanctuary Cities, Faith Communities and Campuses Seek to Become Refuges

Truthout - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 21:00

Dating back thousands of years, the concept of sanctuary stems from the custom of offering hospitality to the stranger. In ancient Greek cities, slaves and thieves took sanctuary at the shrines of the gods. During biblical times, those who had killed someone accidentally could take asylum in cities designated for refuge.

In recent years, dozens of US cities and counties became part of this tradition by adopting so-called "sanctuary policies" that bar local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. The policies aim to build safer communities by strengthening undocumented immigrants' trust in local police. Though the South has disproportionately fewer sanctuary communities compared to other regions, they include major cities like New Orleans and Austin, Texas.

But these sanctuary policies are now under attack at the federal and state levels.

President Donald Trump (R) signed an executive order on Jan. 25 titled "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States" that makes all undocumented immigrants targets of deportation, citing them as "a threat to national security and public safety." The order specifically targets sanctuary cities, claiming that they cause "immeasurable harm to the American people," and threatens to deprive them of federal grants "except as deemed necessary for law enforcement purposes."

After the signing of this executive order, Florida's Miami-Dade County became the first major metro area to rescind its sanctuary city policy, with Mayor Carlos Giménez (R) instructing the county jail to honor all immigration detainer requests from the US Department of Homeland Security. The mayor's actions are now being fought over in the courts.

In Texas, after Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced that her department would not comply with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer requests unless federal officials had a warrant, Gov. Gregg Abbott (R) cancelled $1.5 million in criminal justice grants to the county, which includes the state capital of Austin. Meanwhile, the Texas legislature is again considering legislation banning sanctuary cities, which is drawing protests.

Other Southern legislatures are also considering bills targeting sanctuary cities:

  • After defeating a ban on them last year, Florida lawmakers are again considering outlawing sanctuary city policies and imposing penalties and fines on local governments that adopt them.
  • North Carolina lawmakers banned local measures that limited cooperation with federal immigration officials in 2015, but there are now separate bills being considered in the state House and Senate that would raise the stakes by withholding funds from local governments with sanctuary policies.
  • There's also a sanctuary city ban on the books in Tennessee, but this year legislators there introduced a bill to impose penalties on sanctuary cities. Though there are no sanctuary cities in the state, the sponsors call their measure "proactive."
  • Virginia lawmakers are currently considering SB 1262, which would make any sanctuary city liable for injuries and damages caused by an "illegal alien."

And Georgia, which has had a ban on sanctuary cities since 2009, last year began requiring local governments to certify that they cooperate with federal immigration officials in order to receive state funding.

Schools, Churches Organize to Help the Undocumented

Despite these attempts to stifle sanctuaries, some local governments are refusing to cave into the political pressure.

Days after Trump signed his executive order targeting sanctuary cities, Mayor William Bell (D) of Birmingham, Alabama, declared his a "welcoming city" and said the police would not be "an enforcement arm of the federal government" with respect to immigration law. Though Birmingham's policy does not allow the city to implement ordinances that oppose federal laws, the city council unanimously passed a resolution on Jan. 31 symbolically supporting Birmingham being a sanctuary.

"Birmingham stands with immigrants," City Council President Johnathan Austin said. "Birmingham stands with our residents."

Campuses and faith communities are also standing up to protect people at risk of deportation.

Following the election of Donald Trump, student activists at dozens of universities nationwide rallied to make their campuses sanctuaries that would protect undocumented students by banning ICE agents unless they have a warrant, forbidding campus police from enforcing immigration policies, barring the gathering or disclosing of information about a student's immigration status, and offering legal support to students with immigration questions.

The presidents of Connecticut College, Portland State University and the University of Pennsylvania among others have released statements declaring their campuses to be sanctuaries. Though no Southern university has officially declared itself a sanctuary, student activists at Duke University in North Carolina, Florida State University, Texas State University, the University of Mississippi and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are among those pressing their administrations to declare the schools sanctuaries.

Faith communities are also stepping up to offer sanctuary to undocumented immigrants. Drawing on the tradition of the sanctuary movement of the 1980s in which thousands of people fleeing US-funded civil wars in Central America were given refuge in churches, faith-based immigrant advocates are organizing a new sanctuary movement, with participants pledging to resist the Trump administration's proposals to target and deport millions of undocumented immigrants and to open up congregations and communities as sanctuary spaces. It now involves as many as 800 faith congregations including Christians, Jews and Muslims.

While the organizers hope it is unlikely that ICE agents will enter churches, which are classified as "sensitive locations" under department policy, they say they are prepared to implement a modern Underground Railroad if necessary to transport undocumented immigrants to Canada, which has more protective refugee policies.

"If the law is unjust, you have to disobey it," said Jim Rigby, pastor of Saint Andrew's Presbyterian Church, a sanctuary congregation in Austin, Texas. "To me you're not a church if you say no. I mean, what does it mean to say that I'm Christian only up to my nation's boundary?"

Allie Yee assisted with research for this story.

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The Many Ways to STRIKE on March 8: Rise, Resist, Organize, Dance, Dialogue, Refuse

Truthout - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 21:00

Also see: A Feminism for the 99 Percent: Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor on the March 8 Women's Strike

The International Women's Strike/US on March 8, 2017 hopes to be a catalyst for the liberation of all women, cis and trans -- of every color, sex, gender, class, nation, and identity -- from every kind of exploitation. "We" have an opportunity in this moment that we should not ignore. There is a long labor history to the celebration of women on March 8. A strike for women is more complex and multiple than the usual notion of strike. So much of the work women do takes place outside the factory or restaurant or daycare unit, and is not paid at all. There are as many ways to strike as there are ways that women labor.

Women always need to be imaginative and inventive with the political language that exists. So a strike for us, the "big inclusive" us, means in part to reinvent the meaning of strike. In established discourse, a strike happens at one's place of work, and work means a waged-labor site like a factory or a service job. And, a great many women, especially women of color, work at these sites. But work is happening elsewhere all the time, and most women do it whether they are working a traditional job or not. So, the IWS/US intends to strike in new ways that recognize the multiple and differing and complex forms of labor that all women do. So, there are many kinds of actions -- recognizable and newly formed -- that will be taking place throughout the country from California, to New York, to Wisconsin, to Washington, DC, to Illinois.

The purpose of a strike is to stop the usual work being done and to make sure that people acknowledge that the work is not getting done. And it is not getting done because the worker says no, that the labor is unfairly taken, stolen, un-remunerated, and so on. For women, our labor is never paid its worth. And there is a raced hierarchy to the exploitation. Often the labor is not paid at all. Almost all women labor as domestics in their own homes for no pay, and when women, particularly women of color, labor in someone else's home, it is for super-exploitive wages.

Women also labor as the major consumers of necessities like food and clothing. This consumer work is dispersed and chaotic. The emotional work of family life is a full-time job, but most women have other jobs as well. Women routinely multitask, so a triple day of labor is a matter of course: reproductive, productive, domestic, and consumer laboring goes on simultaneously. So, the IWS/US asks women to refuse, or strike, on March 8, in new creative ways that reflect their complex lives. These actions will amplify the already on-going mobilizations planned by women workers in the workforce. These unions and work groups are also planning with new strategies that protect workers who cannot afford to be fired; so there will be partial work stoppages, the use of vacation and sick days, etc.

The guide to "us" all is to make our labor visible, especially if it seems invisible to the larger world. As a friend suggested to me: maybe instead of refraining from the invisible caring work that we do for our families we can make it visible: make a Facebook post and/or a Tweet describing the labor of the day. And, tell others to do it to. "Today I made 3 breakfasts, did 2 loads of laundry, shopped for dinner, went to the office for 4 hours, came home, made dinner, comforted a distraught child and…" The national planning committee is hoping to set up a log-on to the IWS/US website so women can keep a labor tally for the day, and collectively.

And for whatever part of your labor you refrain from on March 8, publicize it in as many ways as you can. With the time this frees you up from your work, we hope you will join with other women to: support each other, listen to each other, organize against what feels tyrannical to you. There is no action that is too small. Hold a sign outside your place of work or supermarket. All you need is two people to do this. Our work is dispersed to multiple sites so our resistance will be as well. Build small and large communities with others that you will trust and resist with. This is what an anti-racist/anti-capitalist revolutionary process looks like.

The International Women's Strike/US and the Women's March initiated on January 21 share similar commitments for March 8, with the Women's March campaign to highlight "a day with out a woman," along with recognizing the multiple forms of labor, paid and not paid. We are coordinating together when possible, and also may have autonomous commitments. We are doing what women do: partnering, sharing, endorsing, and embracing one another, and across difference. We all are hoping to grow our coalitions while at the same time many of us have uncompromising commitments to anti-racism, anti-colonialism, anti-misogyny, and anti-neoliberalism. Out of this unknown mix of commitments, we are growing a new feminism for the 99 percent. Do not be too ready to say that this cannot work. Give us a chance to make it work.

It is urgent to find and build the camaraderie that develops as coalitions across differences of race and class and gender and sexual identity become possibilities. All of these actions taking place before and on March 8 are getting us ready to confront and dismantle the present political regime."We" are getting ready for whatever is coming."We" are building a revolutionary resistance. March 8 is not an end to itself. It is a process of mobilizing new alliances and coalitions involving risk and trust.

If you think sexual violence towards women is part of everyday life, especially in places of work, if you are ready to dismantle white supremacy, if you want a living wage, if you want to have access to contraception and abortion facilities, if you believe in universal and affordable health care, if you want to end the wars everywhere, if you want to end all deportations of immigrants, if you want to welcome refugees until the wars end, if you want your city to be a sanctuary in this unsettled time, if you want to build schools rather than prisons, if you want guns controlled and then eliminated, if you want Palestinians to be free and equal, if you want to save the planet from environmental devastation, if you want every woman who needs an abortion across this globe to be able to get one, if you want to end hunger and poverty…you want to strike with "us" on March 8. All you need to do is to decide on one action related to the labor(s) that you do, and share it with others.

Women are already readying to do this. A doctor in Miami, Florida says she will be standing with IWS/US while she treats her uninsured and undocumented patients. A friend from South Africa says he will invite a speaker to his university on March 8 who will speak about "women, race and revolution." In Poland, women write that they will take no more abuse and denial of their rights to their bodies. They say they have the best weapon available to them in order to win: their solidarity. Tocan a una, tocan a todas. They say their rulers should be scared of them. I say, let us join our Polish sisters.

In Washington DC on March 8, women workers from around the country will join together in a massive rally along with women of One Billion Rising who rise against all violence towards any women -- they demand an end to sexual violence and all its iterations -- at work, at home, in war, against the earth. They will surround the Department of Labor with their bodies. They -- the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), Jobs with Justice, the National Nurses United, National Domestic Workers Alliance, OUR Wal-Mart, along with V-Day activists -- will demonstrate and rally and say no to exploitation, to work place violence, and yes to a living wage, paid leave, and labor rights at work. These women of all colors express the solidarity "we" all wish to achieve. Their rally will be done in solidarity with women around the world rising for racial, sexual, economic justice. Join them if you can.

Women will rally in Washington Square Park, New York City to publicly stand together for a feminism against the cruelty of neoliberalism and deportations and criminalization of Black and Brown people. They will be organizing a feminism of and for the 99 percent.

Nawal el Saadawi is standing with us from Egypt. Years ago, when US women asked her how we could support the revolution in Egypt during the Arab Spring, she said: "Make your own revolution, and free the rest of the world from your imperial government." And that is what "we" will hopefully begin to do now.

Figure out what makes sense for you and your friends and get organized for March 8. When you read the IWS/US declaration of purpose you will see a large and inclusive set of commitments. It is a feminism against racist/capitalist hetero-patriarchy; it is an anti-imperial and anti-colonial feminism. It is feminism for anti-white supremacy and anti-rape culture. Even if you are hesitant, even if you disagree with some of the commitments, even if you think the vision is incomplete, join us. Join us, and engage with us. We will build a new revolutionary camaraderie together.

The women's actions, and rallies, and marches on March 8 are part of a process that began with the first resistances against the Trump regime after his inauguration, beginning with the Women's March on Washington, and its sister marches throughout the country and globe. Acts of resistance have continued apace ever since that moment. The International Women's Strike/US will continue this process. And the process is readying us for when we must all come together and dismantle this regime. No one knows when this moment will occur, but we do know how to build the camaraderie to get us ready. Revolutionary resistance is a process. Help us begin and continue to nurture this process.

Hopefully, the International Women's Strike/US will build coalitions with and between our shared and differing needs. Unity is not needed -- just trust and a belief in the possible.

Check out our web page for a local action. If you don't see one, make one.

A note: Here are some possible hashtags you can begin to reach out to others with:

#BreadAndRoses

#WomenWorkersRising

#InternationalWomenStrike/US

#WomenStrike

#ADayWithoutAWoman

#AWoman'sWorkIsNeverDone

#WomenRisingMarch8

#WomenUnitedMarch8

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UK Banks Continue to Bankroll Controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, as Green Party Calls for "Immediate" Divestment

Truthout - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 21:00

The Green Party has issued a letter to the chief executives of all UK banks currently financing the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline asking them to "immediately suspend all credit lines."

Despite previous calls for British institutions to divest from the polluting project, financial data reveals Barclays and HSBC continue to bankroll the companies constructing the pipeline.

Signed by party co-leaders Caroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley and four other party members, the Green Party letter calls on Barclays and HSBC to stop funding the US pipeline project due to its impact on the climate and indigenous communities.

Calling the pipeline a "barrier to climate safety," they write: "The Dakota Access Pipeline is a major fossil fuel infrastructure project, and thus represents exactly the kind of project that should no longer receive the support of those with a serious commitment to tackling the climate crisis."

The 17 February letter continues: "We ask you to remember that this project had already been put on hold by the Obama Administration due in part to wide-spread concerns about its environmental impacts. The restart of this project by a President whose administration has actively cast doubt on basic climate science -- and after the brave protests by indigenous people, climate protesters and many other citizens inside and outside the US -- is deeply alarming."

A DeSmog UK analysis of Bloomberg data of the British banks shows that Barclays' investment in the pipeline companies comes to just over $151.6 million according to the latest end of year filings. HSBC's investment comes to a total value of $229.9 million.

This represents the value of the banks' shares held in the various companies responsible for constructing the pipeline. This includes Energy Transfer Partners, Energy Transfer Equity, and Sunoco Logistics.

.@TheGreenParty is calling on UK banks (inc @HSBC @Barclays) to stop funding climate-wrecking #DakotaAccess Pipeline. #KeepItInTheGround pic.twitter.com/DBa5zyQ5Hf

— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) February 28, 2017

The Green Party letter is also addressed to ICBC London, a Chinese bank with headquarters in London, which according to data from last December has $120 million invested in the pipeline project.

The British banks are also directly involved in bankrolling the Dakota Access pipeline through their loans and credit facilities to these US energy companies.

As data collected by Food and Water Watch shows, over the last five years Barclays, HSBC, and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) had together put more than $800 million towards financing the pipeline's construction.

Since then however, RBS has claimed to have "exited the relationship." As an RBS press officer told DeSmog UK: "In the past, RBS did provide general finance to Energy Transfer Partners LP and Energy Transfer Equity LP, (the parent company of Dakota Access LLC), but we exited these relationships in September 2015 and November 2015 respectively.

"We no longer have a significant presence in North America as a result of our strategy to become a smaller, simpler bank focused on the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Western Europe. As a result of these changes, our overall lending to energy sectors -- including coal, oil and gas -- has declined by 75 percent since 2010."

Meanwhile, the data up to November 2016 shows Barclays had provided $175 million as part of a revolving credit line for Energy Transfer Partners, $65 million as a loan package to Energy Transfer Equity and $130 million for a credit line for Sunoco Logistics. HSBC's loans to the Energy Transfer Partners and Energy Transfer Equity come to a total $189 million. These loans are set to mature by 2020.

In its reply to the Green Party's letter, seen by DeSmog UK, HSBC acknowledged that climate change is "one of the most serious threats that the world faces today" and explains it does its due diligence to "determine if there is an unacceptable impact on people and the environment from a company's operations and where we feel that risk is unacceptable we exit relationships."

It continues: "We know that banks have a role to play in combating climate change; we believe that HSBC is playing its part; and we want to do more in the transition to a low-carbon economy."

However, it did not address its investment in the pipeline, saying: "HSBC does not and cannot discuss individual customers, nor do we confirm whether an individual or business is or has been a customer, for reasons of client confidentiality."

Barclays and HSBC are also invested in Phillips 66, which in conjunction with Sunoco Logistics and Energy Transfer Partners has proposed building the Bayou Bridge pipeline -- the tail end of the Dakota Access pipeline that would bring oil fracked in North Dakota to Louisiana. According to Bloomberg data accessed this week, Barclay's shares in Phillips 66 are currently valued at $54 million while HSBC has $59.14 million in shares invested.

More and more attention is turning to this section of the pipeline as the permitting process gets underway with environmentalists calling for Louisiana agencies to deny the permits needed to begin construction. If built, the 163-mile-long pipeline would stretch across from south Louisiana from Lake Charles through the Atchafalaya Basin to St. James, a community on the Mississippi River. Some activists describing themselves as "water protectors" have warned the battle to stop this pipeline could turn the Atchafalaya Basin into the next Standing Rock.

This article was updated to include HSBC's response to the Green Party's letter.

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Reaching Out to the Working Class

Truthout - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 21:00

Farm workers remove weeds from an onion field near Stratford, California, on March 15, 2014. (Photo: Matt Black / The New York Times)

In the months following the election there has been a strange debate about whether Democrats should try to recapture the white working class voters who supported Donald Trump. Those arguing against reaching out have said that there is no reason to try to appeal to voters who supported a racist, xenophobic and misogynist candidate.

While no one should have empathy for the hatred expressed by Donald Trump and many of his supporters, there is a separate policy issue. The question is whether progressives should look to support policies that help the working class.

Note that I said "working class," not "white working class." It's true that many white manufacturing workers have been hit badly by changes in the economy over the last four decades, most notably the rise in the trade deficit and the decline in unionization. But millions of African-American, working-class workers were also hit by these same trends, as were working-class Latinos and Latinas, although fewer Latinos and Latinas were working in factories three decades ago.

Workers without college degrees have been losers in the last three decades regardless of their race or ethnic background. This is a simple and important point, but one that is widely misunderstood.

In recent months there actually have been several pieces in major news outlets arguing the opposite: that somehow white workers are unique in losing out over this period. These analyses, that ostensibly showed that African Americans and Latinos and Latinas had done better in the labor market than whites, either failed to control for the aging of the population or relied on picking a single month of highly erratic data rather than a longer time period. Any honest account shows that workers without college degrees have faced a weak labor market and stagnant wages over the last four decades.

This point is important because, just as is the case with whites, most African-American workers do not have college degrees nor do most Latino, Latina or Asian workers. Policies that help workers without college degrees will benefit most non-white workers. This means that even if we didn't give a damn about the white working class voters that supported Trump, we should still be promoting policies that reverse the massive upward redistribution we have seen over the last four decades.

On trade this means policies designed to reduce the trade deficit. This issue here is not "winning" in negotiations with our trading partners. It's a question of priorities in trade negotiations.

Rather than demanding stronger and longer protections for Pfizer's patents and Microsoft's copyrights, we should be getting our trading partners to support a reduction in the value of the dollar in order to make our goods and services more competitive. If we can reduce the trade deficit by 1-2 percentage points of GDP ($180 billion to $360 billion) it will create 1-2 million manufacturing jobs, improving the labor market for the working class.

We should use trade to reduce the pay of doctors and other highly paid professionals. If we open the door to qualified professionals from other countries we can save hundreds of billions of dollars a year on health care and other costs, while reducing inequality.

We should also support policies that rein in the financial sector, such as reducing fees that pension funds pay to private equity and hedge funds and their investment advisors. This money comes out of the pockets of the rest of us and goes to some of the richest people in the country. A financial transactions tax, which could eliminate tens of billions of dollars spent each year on useless trades, would also be a major step towards reducing inequality.

Policies that put downward pressure on the pay of CEOs and other top executives would also help the working class. This could mean, for example, making it easier for shareholders to reduce CEO pay. In the nonprofit sector we could place a cap on the pay of employees for anyone seeking tax-exempt status. Universities and nonprofit charities could still pay their presidents whatever they wanted; they just wouldn't get a taxpayer subsidy.

There is a long list of market-based policies that we can pursue to reverse the upward redistribution of the last four decades. (For the fuller list see Rigged [it's free]). These are policies that we should pursue because it is the right thing to do. It will help the working class of all races, including the white working class.

These policies may not get the white working class to vote for progressive candidates instead of racist demagogues like Donald Trump. But it is worth noting that almost all the people who insist that such policies won't matter also assured us that Hillary Clinton would be elected president.

There is one other point on these policies that is worth mentioning. If we increase opportunities for working class people, there will be less of them, in the sense that more children from working class backgrounds would complete college. While Trump won among white college graduates also, his margin among these voters was much smaller than his margin among whites without college degrees.

If the growth in college graduation rates had grown at the same rate since 1979 as they had in the years from 1959 to 1979, there would have been 10.4 million more white college graduates voting last November and 10.4 million fewer whites without college degrees. If these people split their votes in the same ratio as other white college graduates and non-graduates, it would have increased Hillary Clinton's popular vote margin by more than 1.8 million votes, virtually guaranteeing her a solid victory in both the popular vote and the Electoral College.

This is of course a very simplistic analysis, but it is the sort of calculation that should cause people to ask what is meant by asserting that a particular group of people are hopeless. Whatever the implications for winning elections, progressives should support policies that reverse upward redistribution because it is the right thing to do. And this is true even for those who don't give a damn about the white working class.

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How the Trump Administration May Be Skirting Its Own Ethics Rules

Truthout - Sun, 03/05/2017 - 21:00

The Trump administration appears to be either ignoring or exempting top staffers from its own watered-down ethics rules. President Trump in January issued an order weakening Obama-era ethics policies, allowing lobbyists to work at agencies they had sought to influence. The Trump order did limit what lobbyists could do once they entered government, banning them from handling issues on which they had lobbied.

President Trump signs back-to-back executive orders in the White House in Washington, DC, on February 28, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

The Trump administration appears to be either ignoring or exempting top staffers from its own watered-down ethics rules.

As we have detailed, President Trump in January issued an order weakening Obama-era ethics policies, allowing lobbyists to work at agencies they had sought to influence. The Trump order did limit what lobbyists could do once they entered government, banning them from directly handling issues on which they had lobbied.

But the administration may not be even following that.

We've found three hires announced this week who, in fact, are working on the same issues on which they were registered lobbyists while in the private sector.

Consider Shahira Knight, President Trump's special assistant for tax and retirement policy.

Lobbying disclosures show that Knight lobbied the government on a host of retirement and tax issues for financial services giant Fidelity. In one case, she lobbied against a regulation requiring financial professionals to act in the best interests of their clients when it comes to retirement accounts such as 401(k)s. The regulation is strongly supported by consumer advocates and strongly opposed by Fidelity. Retirement savers lose billions of dollars a year because of conflicts of interest in the industry, the Obama administration estimated.

The Trump executive order says former lobbyists like Knight cannot work in the "specific issue area" in which they lobbied, though that phrase is not defined.

Given that Knight lobbied on tax and retirement issues and is now working as Trump's assistant on tax and retirement issues, how can she be in compliance with the ethics policy?

It's not at all clear.

One possibility is that the Trump administration has issued waivers exempting Knight and the other lobbyists they've hired from the new rules.

Unfortunately, there's no way for the public to know if this has been done. In a little-noticed action, Trump killed the Obama-era requirement that the Office of Government Ethics publish an annual report disclosing such waivers. Trump's order also removed the requirement to provide a public interest justification for waivers.

That means Trump can exempt an official from the lobbying limits at any time, for any reason, with no public disclosure.

Critics of the administration's approach to conflicts of interest said it is impossible to know whether the rules are being ignored or rendered irrelevant by the officials implementing them.

"I very much suspect that Trump's ethics executive order either is not understood within the administration and not enforced, or the White House counsel is single-handedly interpreting the restrictions of the executive order so narrowly that they are next to meaningless," said Craig Holman of the watchdog group Public Citizen.

The White House didn't respond to a request for comment about whether any waivers have been issued or the how the ethics policy is being enforced.

Asked about Knight, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said in a statement:

"Shahira Knight has been working with the Office of White House Counsel since before she joined the White House staff to ensure she is in compliance with all rules and regulations."

Walters wouldn't provide any further details.

The two other lobbyists hired this week, whose names were first flagged by The Intercept, are Michael Catanzaro and George David Banks. They, like Knight, were named to National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn's senior staff.

Just a few months ago Catanzaro was lobbying on fuel standards and greenhouse gas regulations for the ​American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. He is now special assistant to the president for domestic energy and environmental policy.

As for Banks, disclosure records state he recently lobbied on environmental issues for a business group. He is now special assistant to the president for international energy and environment.

In an interview, Banks told ProPublica that he had signed an ethics pledge but no one from the White House Counsel's office has contacted him about any restrictions on his job or the fact that he was a registered lobbyist.

"I haven't had a conversation about it yet," he said. He has not received a waiver.

Banks also said that he was mistakenly registered as a lobbyist due to an error by his office manager. His former employer, the American Council for Capital Formation, said in a statement that Banks "did not meet the legal threshold for registering with Congress as a lobbyist" and it is seeking to correct the filings.

That distinction matters because the Trump ethics policy applies only to officials who were registered lobbyists.

The law requires a lobbyist to register based on a complicated test including spending more than 20 percent of his or her time lobbying. In recent years there has been a well-documented decline in the ranks of registered lobbyists, who must report details of their work publicly, and a rise in so-called shadow lobbying by people who do not meet the registration requirements.

The White House spokeswoman said that Knight and Catanzaro "have been working with the Office of White House Counsel since before they joined the White House staff to ensure they are in compliance with all rules and regulations," but declined to provide any details.

There are multiple signs the Trump administration is not aggressively policing ethics issues beyond its handling of the rules on lobbyists. In January, Trump's team cancelled a previously scheduled ethics and leadership training course for White House appointees, Politico reported. The White House Counsel's office also gave a pass to Trump aide Kellyanne Conway for violating ethics rules by urging Americans to buy Ivanka Trump's clothing line.

During the Obama administration, the White House posted copies of ethics waivers on its website. Obama issued a handful to former lobbyists during his eight years in office.

The current White House website still has a page for ethics waivers, but it is empty. It states: "Ethics pledge waivers will be published as they become available."

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