February, 17 2012, 01:40pm EDT
For Immediate Release
Arden Manning (202) 454-5108
Will Chevron Case Take Down Trade Pact 'Investor-State' Enforcement System?
Unprecedented Ruling Today by International Investor Tribunal Orders Ecuadorian Government to Violate Its Constitution, Interfere in Its Independent Court System to Help Chevron Evade Liability for Amazonian Contamination
An unprecedented ruling today, in which an investor-state international arbitral tribunal initiated by Chevron ordered the Ecuadorian government to interfere in the operations of Ecuador's independent court system on behalf of the oil giant, provides a chilling glimpse of how corporations are trying to use international investor tribunals to evade justice, said Public Citizen.
After having lost on the merits in Ecuador and U.S. courts and after 18 years of trying to stall judgment, Chevron turned to an ad hoc "investor-state" tribunal of three private lawyers as the last chance to help the company avoid paying to clean up contamination in the Amazonian rainforest. Chevron is trying to get this private tribunal to suspend enforcement of or alter an $18 billion judgment against Chevron rendered by a sovereign country's court system.
The tribunal issued a ruling today even though it has not even determined that it has jurisdiction over the case. Past such international investor cases in which tribunals have ordered governments to pay cash damages to corporations have led to growing controversy.
"The Ecuadorian government should not violate its own constitution and interfere with its independent courts' order for Chevron to clean up its horrific contamination in the Amazon, because some unelected ad hoc tribunal of three private sector lawyers called together by Chevron to meet in a rented room in Washington, D.C., pretends to have the authority to second-guess 18 years of U.S. and Ecuadorian court rulings," said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.
"Consider the broader implications of this star chamber 'investor-state' system: How can a panel of three unelected private sector lawyers order a sovereign government to violate its own constitution's separation of powers and interfere in its court system, all to help Chevron (a company whose severe contamination of the Ecuadorian Amazon has been repeatedly proven), and how can that tribunal do this all before it has even decided that it has jurisdiction over this case," Wallach said.
Meanwhile, the three private-sector lawyers serving as tribunalists on this kangaroo court will continue to rack up large hourly fees even as they order Ecuador's government to help Chevron deny justice to the 30,000 Amazonian indigenous people who have won a historic $18 billion clean-up of deadly environmental contamination. Tribunalists in this system, who alternate between serving as "judges" and representing corporations in cases before panels of their colleagues, are paid on an hourly basis.
"The only silver lining of this obscene ruling is that having one of these shady investor-state tribunals presume to attack a country's constitution, justice system and 30,000 people whose futures rely on Chevron cleaning up its mess could lead to the implosion of the entire investor-state system, which international companies are increasingly using to try to evade justice worldwide," said Wallach.
These unaccountable investor-state tribunals have issued perverse rulings in the past on behalf of corporate claimants. Recent U.S. trade agreements empower foreign corporations to use this system to skirt our domestic courts and directly use our government before these corporate tribunals to obtain payment of unlimited taxpayer funds when they claim domestic environmental, land use, health and other laws undermine their "expected future profits." More than $350 million has been paid by government to corporations in attacks on toxics bans, environmental issues and zoning permits under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA.) Billions in additional claims are pending. Possible inclusion of the investor-state private enforcement system for corporations to sue governments is becoming one of the most controversial issues in the first "trade" deal the Obama administration is negotiating - a new Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Public Citizen is a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that champions the public interest in the halls of power. We defend democracy, resist corporate power and work to ensure that government works for the people - not for big corporations. Founded in 1971, we now have 500,000 members and supporters throughout the country.(202) 588-1000
Uproar in Italy as Fascist Government Attacks Right of Same-Sex Parents to Adopt
"It is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view," said the mayor of Milan. "I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility."
Mar 18, 2023
Hundreds of people hit the streets of Milan, Italy on Saturday to protest the far-right government's assault on the parental rights of same-sex couples.
"You explain to my son that I am not his mother," read one woman's sign, while children wore shirts declaring, "It is love that creates a family."
Italy legalized same-sex civil unions in 2016, but it stopped short of granting gay and lesbian couples the right to adopt amid opposition from the Catholic Church. Since then, courts have made decisions on a case-by-case basis in response to lawsuits from prospective adoptive parents.
Some municipalities, however, "decided to act unilaterally," Agence France-Pressereported Saturday. "Milan had been registering children of same-sex couples conceived overseas through surrogacy—which is illegal in Italy—or medically assisted reproduction, which is only available for heterosexual couples."
"But its center-left mayor Beppe Sala revealed this week that this had stopped after the interior ministry sent a letter insisting that the courts must decide," the news agency noted.
In a podcast, Sala said that "it is an obvious step backwards from a political and social point of view."
"I put myself in the shoes of those parents who thought they could count on this possibility in Milan," he added, vowing to fight back.
"This government is the maximum expression of homophobia."
AFP reported that "about 20 children are waiting to be registered in Milan," citing leading LGBTQ+ rights campaigner Fabrizio Marrazzo. "A mother or father who is not legally recognized as their child's parent can face huge bureaucratic problems, with the risk of losing the child if the registered parent dies or the couple's relationship breaks down."
Earlier this week, Marrazzo said that "when a law is unjust and discriminatory those who engage in politics must have the courage to disobey it."
In the words of Gabriele Piazzoni, secretary-general of Arcigay, "The ban is one of the most concrete manifestations of the fury that the right-wing majority is unleashing against LGBTI people."
Last year, before she was elected to lead Italy's far-right coalition government, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni of the fascist Brothers of Italy Party said in a speech, "Yes to natural families, no to the LGBT lobby!"
Earlier this week, The Associated Pressreported, "a Senate commission blocked an attempt to recognize birth certificates of the children of same-sex couples issued by other E.U. states."
Alessia Crocini, president of Rainbow Families, warned that "this government is the maximum expression of homophobia."
"Meloni says that for a child to grow up well, they need a mother and father, even if decades of research say otherwise," Crocini told AP. "It is insulting to hundreds of thousands of families with two same-sex parents."
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'Beautiful': Minnesota Becomes 4th State to Provide Free School Meals to All Kids
"Let this serve as a reminder that poverty is a policy choice," said one advocate. "In the richest country in the world, it is absolutely inexcusable that millions of our children go to school hungry because they are living in poverty."
Mar 18, 2023
Surrounded by students, teachers, and advocates, Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz on Friday afternoon signed into law a bill to provide breakfast and lunch at no cost to all of the state's roughly 820,000 K-12 pupils regardless of their household income.
The move to make Minnesota the fourth U.S. state to guarantee universal free school meals—joining California, Maine, and Colorado—elicited praise from progressives.
"Beautiful," tweeted Stephanie Kelton, a professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University.
"No child should go hungry for any reason, period."
UC-Berkeley professor and former U.S. labor secretary Robert Reich wrote on social media: "Let this serve as a reminder that poverty is a policy choice. In the richest country in the world, it is absolutely inexcusable that millions of our children go to school hungry because they are living in poverty."
An estimated 1 in 6 children in Minnesota don't get enough to eat on a regular basis. But 1 in 4 food-insecure kids live in households that don't qualify for the federal free and reduced meal program, leading to "mounting school lunch debts in the tens of thousands of dollars," Minnesota Public Radioreported.
Tens of thousands of children are set to benefit from Minnesota's new law, which could be operational as early as summer school in July. Some of them were there to thank Walz at the signing ceremony, where the sense of elation was palpable.
"As a former teacher, I know that providing free breakfast and lunch for our students is one of the best investments we can make to lower costs, support Minnesota's working families, and care for our young learners and the future of our state," Walz said. "This bill puts us one step closer to making Minnesota the best state for kids to grow up, and I am grateful to all of the legislators and advocates for making it happen."
The Minnesota House—led by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party, the state's Democratic affiliate—first passed the bill in February in a 70-58 party-line vote. The state Senate—where the DFL holds just a single-seat advantage—approved it on Tuesday by a 38-26 margin. The state House rubber-stamped an amended version of the bill on Thursday.
In a now-viral clip from the state Senate's debate over the bill earlier this week. Sen. Steve Drazkowski (R-20) questioned whether hunger is really a problem in Minnesota—even as the state's food banks reported a record surge in visits last year, months before federal lawmakers slashed pandemic-era Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
"I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that is hungry," Drazkowski said before voting against the bill. "I have yet to meet a person in Minnesota that says they don't have access to enough food to eat."
During Friday's signing ceremony, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan (DFL) said, "To our decision-makers who believe they have never met someone who is experiencing or has experienced hunger: Hi, my name is Peggy Flanagan, and I was 1 in 6 of those Minnesota children who experienced hunger."
"By providing free breakfast and lunch to all of our students, we are removing barriers and removing stigma from the lunch room," said Flanagan. "We are helping family pocketbooks, especially for those 1 in 4 who don't qualify for financial assistance with school meals. We are leading with our values that no child should go hungry for any reason, period."
"This is an investment in the well-being of our children, as well as an investment in their academic success," Flanagan added, calling the "generation-changing" bill "the most important thing" she's ever worked on in her life.
"By providing free breakfast and lunch to all of our students, we are removing barriers and removing stigma from the lunch room... This is an investment in the well-being of our children, as well as an investment in their academic success."
As Minnesota Reformerreported: "The majority of Minnesota schools receive federal funding from the National School Lunch Program, which reimburses schools for each meal served, though it doesn't cover the cost of the entire meal. Under the new law, schools are prohibited from charging students for the remaining cost, and the state will foot the rest of the bill—about $200 million annually."
MPR noted that "the legislation is similar to a program that was introduced during the pandemic to provide meals for all students, but was discontinued at the end of last year."
Last month, The Star Tribune editorial board opined that providing free breakfast and lunch to all of Minnesota's students, including affluent ones, is "excessive."
Pushing back against this argument for means-testing, Darcy Stueber—director of Nutrition Services for Mankato Area Public Schools and public policy chair of the Minnesota School Nutrition Association—asserted that meals should be guaranteed to all kids at no cost, just like other basic learning necessities.
"We don't charge for Chromebooks and desks and things like that," she told MPR. "It's a part of their day and they're there for so many hours. It just completes that whole learning experience for the child."
Minnesota Rep. Sydney Jordan (DFL-60A), the bill's lead author, made the same point to counter GOP lawmakers' complaints following the initial passage of the legislation.
"We give every kid in our school a desk," Jordan said last month. "There are lots of kids out there that can afford to buy a desk, but they get a desk because they go to school."
Walz, for his part, stressed Friday that his administration is "just getting started" when it comes to boosting education funding.
"The big stuff," said the governor, "is still coming."
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'Threat to the Nation': Trump Calls for Protests to Stop Potential Arrest in Echo of Jan. 6
Trump has recently "excused or dismissed the violence of January 6," one journalist warned. "He is an authoritarian willing to (again) use violence for his own ends."
Mar 18, 2023
Former U.S. President Donald Trump claimed Saturday on his social media platform that he "will be arrested" on Tuesday and implored his supporters to "protest" and "take our nation back," sparking fears of additional right-wing violence.
Trump's call to action was reminiscent of how, six weeks after losing the 2020 presidential election, he took to Twitter to urge his supporters to join a "big protest" in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. "Be there, will be wild!" he wrote. Hundreds of far-right insurrectionists showed up and, after Trump told them to march from a rally near the White House to the Capitol, stormed the halls of Congress in a bid to prevent lawmakers from certifying President Joe Biden's win. Multiple people died as a result of the failed coup, which was fueled by Trump and his Republican allies' incessant lies about voter fraud.
Trump is expected to be indicted by a Manhattan grand jury in a criminal case involving hush money paid to women who said they had sexual encounters with the former president, but its timing is unclear.
Just before 7:30 am ET on Saturday, Trump baselessly declared on Truth Social: "Illegal leaks from a corrupt and highly political Manhattan district attorney's office... indicate that, with no crime being able to be proven... the far and away leading Republican candidate and former president of the United States of America will be arrested on Tuesday of next week. Protest, take our nation back!"
Alluding to Trump's prior use of social media to provoke the Capitol attack, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked, "Will Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube allow him to use their platforms to incite riots?"
Mother Jones' D.C. bureau chief David Corn, meanwhile, noted that Trump has recently "excused or dismissed the violence of January 6."
"He is an authoritarian willing to (again) use violence for his own ends," Corn tweeted. "That is a threat to the nation."
As HuffPost's senior White House correspondent S.V. Dáte pointed out, "The coup-attempting former president... began inciting civil unrest if prosecutors came after him more than a year ago."
At a January 2022 rally in Texas, Trump promised to pardon January 6 rioters if he wins in 2024 and urged huge protests if prosecutors investigating his effort to subvert the 2020 election and other alleged crimes try to bring charges.
"If these radical, vicious, racist prosecutors do anything wrong or illegal, I hope we are going to have in this country the biggest protest we have ever had... in Washington, D.C., in New York, in Atlanta, and elsewhere because our country and our elections are corrupt," Trump told a crowd of his supporters 14 months ago.
According toThe New York Times:
Early Saturday morning, there was little evidence yet that Mr. Trump's new demand for protests had been embraced by extremist groups.
But Ali Alexander, a prominent organizer of "Stop the Steal" rallies after the 2020 election, reposted a message on his Telegram channel on Saturday suggesting that he supported mass protest to protect Mr. Trump.
"Previously, I had said if Trump was arrested or under the threat of a perp walk, 100,000 patriots should shut down all routes to Mar-a-Lago," Mr. Alexander wrote. "Now I’m retired. I'll pray for him though!"
Lacking the platform provided by the White House or the machinery of a large political campaign, it is unclear how many people Mr. Trump is able to reach, let alone mobilize, using his Truth Social website.
After the FBI in early August searched Trump's Mar-a-Lago palace and removed boxes of documents as part of a federal probe into the ex-president's handling of classified materials, many anonymous and some well-known reactionaries called for "civil war" on Twitter, patriots.win, and elsewhere.
Three days later, Ricky Shiffer, a Trump loyalist with suspected ties to a far-right extremist group and an unspecified connection to the January 6 insurrection, was shot and killed by police after an hourslong standoff. Shiffer, wielding an AR-15 and a nail gun, allegedly attempted to break into the FBI's Cincinnati office and fled to a nearby field when he was unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, Trump continued to lie about the Mar-a-Lago search on Truth Social, sparking an "unprecedented" surge in threats against FBI personnel and facilities.
As Dáte noted on Saturday morning, many people downplayed warnings issued ahead of the January 6 assault.
"Many of Trump's core supporters want authoritarianism," the journalist tweeted. "They believe in neither democracy nor the rule of law."
As the Times reported:
Although prosecutors working for the [Manhattan] district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, have signaled that an indictment of Mr. Trump could be imminent, there was no immediate indication as to why the former president appeared confident that he would be arrested Tuesday. People with knowledge of the matter have said that at least one more witness is expected to testify in front of the grand jury, which could slightly delay any indictment.
Three people close to Mr. Trump said that the former president's team had no specific knowledge about when an indictment might come or when an arrest could be anticipated. One of those people, who were not authorized to speak publicly, said that Mr. Trump's advisers' best guess was that it could happen around Tuesday, and that someone may have relayed that to him, but that they also had made clear to one another that they didn't know a specific time frame.
Trump is expected to be charged in connection with payments his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, made to silence adult film actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal—both of whom alleged affairs with Trump—in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
Cohen has testified that at Trump's direction, he orchestrated payments totaling $280,000 to Daniels and McDougal. According to Cohen, the Trump Organization reimbursed him $420,000 and classified it as a legal fee. Trump's former fixer pleaded guilty to federal campaign violations in 2018.
Trump has so far evaded charges but that could soon change, as prosecutors are expected to accuse Trump of greenlighting the false recording of expenses in his company's internal records.
Citing five unnamed officials familiar with the matter, NBC Newsreported Friday that local, state, and federal law enforcement and security agencies are preparing for the possibility of a Trump indictment as early as next week.
If indicted, Trump would become the first U.S. president to face criminal charges in or out of office. Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing, says that he will keep campaigning regardless of whether he is arrested.
The Manhattan D.A.'s hush money probe is just one of Trump's many legal woes. The twice-impeached president is also facing a state-level criminal investigation in Georgia over his efforts to overturn that state's 2020 election results, as well as federal probes into his coup attempt and his handling of classified government documents.
Nevertheless, Trump is still seen as the front-runner to win the GOP's 2024 nomination.
David Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, said Saturday morning that if Trump is indicted in New York, "there will be protests here," warning: "You have to worry about potential violence."
He pointed out that questions remain as to whether Trump would surrender to New York authorities or face extradition. Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, another authoritarian demagogue who is widely considered Trump's leading rival for the GOP's 2024 nomination, "has to sign off [any] extradition orders," said Aronberg.
The Times noted that if "Trump is arraigned, he will almost certainly be released without spending any time behind bars because the indictment is likely to contain only nonviolent felony charges."
However, The Associated Pressreported that it is not clear when the other investigations into Trump "will end or whether they might result in criminal charges."
"But they will continue regardless of what happens in New York," the outlet explained, "underscoring the ongoing gravity—and broad geographic scope—of the legal challenges confronting the former president."
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