March, 04 2014, 11:01am EDT
For Immediate Release
Alli McCracken, CODEPINK National Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
CODEPINK Co-founder Medea Benjamin Detained, Brutally Attacked and Deported from Egypt en route to Gaza with International Delegation of Women
On the night of March 3, 2014, co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK Medea Benjamin was on her way to Egypt to join an international delegation of women going to Gaza when she was detained by border police in the Cairo airport, held overnight in a cell, and then brutally tackled (her arm badly injured), handcuffed, and deported to Turkey. During her time in the detention cell she had access to a cell phone, from which she contacted colleagues at CODEPINK about the poor conditions of the cell and chronicled her ordeal via Twitter. When the Egyptian police removed her from the detention center, they used such excessive force she sustained a fracture and torn ligament in her shoulder.
Calling from Istanbul, Benjamin gave the following statement: "I was brutally assaulted by Egyptian police, who never said what I was being accused of. When the authorities came into the cell to deport me, two men threw me to the ground, stomped on my back, pulled my shoulder out of its socket and handcuffed me so that my injured arm was twisted around and my wrists began to bleed. I was then forced to sit between the two men who attacked me on the plane ride from Cairo to Istanbul, and I was (and still am) in terrible pain the whole time." Doctors in the Cairo airport said she was not fit to travel because of her injury, but the authorities forced her to board anyways.
She is currently in Istanbul, Turkey, receiving medical attention at a hospital before she returns to the US. It is still unclear why the Egyptians deported her. Medea's colleagues at CODEPINK are appalled by the unnecessary use of force by Egyptian authorities.
In response to a call from the women of Gaza, Benjamin was traveling through Egypt to be a part of the CODEPINK contingent of an international coalition of 100 women traveling to Gaza to witness the hardships facing the 1.7 million residents, deliver humanitarian aid, and call attention to the need for a longer-term strategy to achieve peace and justice for Palestinians.
Benjamin has her phone and is available for interviews: 415 235 6517.
CODEPINK is a women-led grassroots organization working to end U.S. wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, and redirect our tax dollars into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming programs.(818) 275-7232
Sanders Calls for Repeal of Trump-Era Deregulation Blamed for Bank Collapses
"We cannot continue down the road of more socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else," said the U.S. Senator from Vermont.
Mar 13, 2023
Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday night called for a full repeal of the 2018 banking deregulations signed into law by former President Donald Trump and declared that "now is not the time for taxpayers bail out Silicon Valley Bank"—the California bank that collapsed Friday.
On Sunday evening, the U.S. Treasury Department, Federal Reserve, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) issued a joint statement outlining a plan to make all deposits for Silicon Valley Bank as well as Signature Bank, which was shuttered by New York regulators earlier in the day, available to costumers Monday morning.
In his statement, Sanders said, "If there is a bailout of Silicon Valley Bank, it must be 100 percent financed by Wall Street and large financial institutions. We cannot continue down the road of more socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else. Let us have the courage to stand up to Wall Street, repeal the disastrous 2018 bank deregulation law, break up too big to fail banks and address the needs of working families, not the risky bets of vulture capitalists."
The statement the Fed, Treasury, and FDIC noted that "no losses" associated with the rescue plan "will be borne by the taxpayer," though the extraordinary intervention—the largest of its kind since the 2008 financial collapse—is still seen by many economists and financial experts, even if bank investors and debt holders are not protected, as a "bailout" for the financial industry only made possible by taxpayers.
"Let us have the courage to stand up to Wall Street, repeal the disastrous 2018 bank deregulation law, break up too big to fail banks and address the needs of working families, not the risky bets of vulture capitalists."
Warren Gunnels, longtime staffer and top advisor to Sanders, made the connection between venture capitalists clamoring for a speedy government intervention to save the banking sector from a wider shock and the same kind of people who have adamantly opposed financial relief for the struggling middle- and working-class Americans:
As the Washington Postreports, "The decision by Treasury to backstop all deposits at SVB and Signature — not just those up to $250,000 that are insured under federal law — rested on a judgment that it was necessary to avoid a wider 'systemic' meltdown. The move will likely ignite a political firestorm over the decision to protect the assets of tech firms, venture capitalists, and other rich people in California."
In 2018, as Sen. Mike Crapo's (R-Idaho) Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act was making its way through Congress, Sanders took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to oppose the bill, warning of exactly this kind of economic disaster if the deregulation was approved:
"Let's be clear," Sanders said Sunday night in his statement. "The failure of Silicon Valley Bank is a direct result of an absurd 2018 bank deregulation bill signed by Donald Trump that I strongly opposed. Five years ago, the Republican Director of the Congressional Budget Office released a report finding that this legislation would 'increase the likelihood that a large financial firm with assets of between $100 billion and $250 billion would fail.'"
"Unfortunately," he added, "that is precisely what happened."
In a statement on Sunday ahead of the government's rescue plan announcement, Matt Stoller, research director for the American Economic Liberties Project, made the case against any taxpayer bailout for SVB.
"Silicon Valley Bank was a badly managed and corrupt institution that entangled itself with powerful actors in the technology industry," Stoller argued. "The operative question government regulators are now facing is whether to use taxpayer funds to bail out the depositors from the failures of SVB's management."
But a full bailout, Stoller warned, "will only encourage other large regional banks to take similar risks in the future, just as Silicon Valley Bank did."
While bank investors and executives will not be included in the emergency actions announced on Sunday, Rep. Ro Khanna, the California Democrat who represents Silicon Valley, applauded the actions taken by Treasury to keep depositors whole.
Among his constituents impacted by the bank's collapse, he said, were "non-profit leaders, small business owners, start-up founders, and impacted employees of small businesses."
While expressly arguing that government intervention "should not and need not ... cost taxpayers a dime" during a news interview Sunday morning, Khanna later applauded the government plan while echoing Sanders' call for a reversal of the deregulation that led to the current crisis.
"I am glad that the Department of Treasury listened and moved to protect workers, the innovation pipeline, and the economy at large," Khanna said. "But the work doesn't end here. We've known since 2008 that stronger regulations are needed to prevent exactly this type of crisis. Congress must come together to reverse the deregulation policies that were put in place under Trump to avert future instability.”
Keep ReadingShow Less
'Shocking': Saudi Aramco Posts Largest-Ever Annual Profit for a Fossil Fuel Company
"These extraordinary profits, and any future income derived from Aramco, should not be deployed to finance human rights abuses, cover them up, or try and gloss over them," said Amnesty International.
Mar 12, 2023
Saudi Aramco, an oil giant almost entirely owned by the government of Saudi Arabia, announced Sunday that it brought in a staggering $161.1 billion in profits last year as it joined other fossil fuel companies in capitalizing on energy market turmoil sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The company's profit figure for 2022 is the largest ever recorded by an oil corporation. Amin Nasser, Aramco's CEO, declared on an earnings call that "this is probably the highest net income ever recorded in the corporate world."
For comparison, ExxonMobil—the second-largest oil company in the world behind Aramco—reported $56 billion in net income last year, a record for the U.S. firm but nowhere close to the Saudi corporation's haul.
"It is shocking for a company to make a profit of more than $161.1 billion in a single year through the sale of fossil fuel—the single largest driver of the climate crisis," Agnès Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, said in a statement. "It is all the more shocking because this surplus was amassed during a global cost-of-living crisis and aided by the increase in energy prices resulting from Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine."
Aramco said its banner profits—driven by "stronger crude oil prices, higher volumes sold, and improved margins for refined products"—were up nearly 47% compared to 2021, a windfall the company has used to reward investors.
"Aramco declared a dividend of $19.5 billion for the fourth quarter, to be paid in Q1 2023," the oil firm said in a press release. "This represents a 4.0% increase compared to the previous quarter, aligned with the company's dividend policy aiming to deliver a sustainable and progressive dividend. Additionally, the Board of Directors also recommended the distribution of bonus shares to eligible shareholders in the amount of one share for every 10 shares held."
While Aramco said it intends to devote resources to "lower-carbon technologies" and carbon-capture initiatives that climate campaigners have dismissed as false solutions, the company made clear that it has no intention of shifting aggressively away from fossil fuel production—a transition scientists say is necessary to avert climate catastrophe.
In its earnings announcement, Aramco said it is committed to "expanding oil, gas, and chemicals production."
Saudi Arabia is the second-largest oil producer in the world behind the United States. Late last year, the Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed to slash oil production by 2 million barrels a day in a bid to keep prices high—benefiting companies like Aramco, Exxon, and other fossil fuel majors that have posted record-shattering 2022 profits as households struggle to heat their homes.
"It is past time that Saudi Arabia acted in humanity's interest and supported the phasing out of the fossil fuel industry, which is essential for preventing further climate harm," Callamard said Sunday. "These extraordinary profits, and any future income derived from Aramco, should not be deployed to finance human rights abuses, cover them up, or try and gloss over them."
Keep ReadingShow Less
Trump-Era Deregulation Deemed a Key Culprit in the Failure of Silicon Valley Bank
"President Trump and congressional Republicans' decision to roll back Dodd-Frank's 'too big to fail' rules for banks like SVB—reducing both oversight and capital requirements—contributed to a costly collapse," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Mar 12, 2023
This story has been updated to include comments from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
In 2018, ignoring the vocal warnings of experts and advocacy groups, the then-Republican-controlled Congress passed legislation that weakened post-financial crisis regulations for banks with between $50 billion and $250 billion in assets, sparking fears of systemically risky failures and more taxpayer bailouts.
Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), the California-based firm that collapsed on Friday, controlled an estimated $212 billion, leading analysts and lawmakers to argue that the 2018 law made the institution's market-rattling failure and resulting federal takeover more likely.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who was an outspoken opponent of the deregulatory measure, said in a statement Friday that "President Trump and congressional Republicans' decision to roll back Dodd-Frank's 'too big to fail' rules for banks like SVB—reducing both oversight and capital requirements—contributed to a costly collapse."
But the GOP wasn't alone in its support for Sen. Mike Crapo's (R-Idaho) Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act, which critics dubbed the Bank Lobbyist Act.
As Warren noted as the bill was flying through Congress, a number of Democrats—including Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.)—were integral to the legislation's passage, which led almost immediately to more bank consolidation.
Prior to the enactment of the Crapo bill, which then-President Donald Trump signed into law on May 24, 2018, banks with more than $50 billion in assets were subject to enhanced liquidity mandates and more frequent stress tests aimed at ensuring they could weather economic turmoil.
The 2018 law raised the threshold for the more stringent regulations to $250 billion or higher, a gift to banks like SVB that had been working for years to gut post-crisis regulations implemented under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010. The diminished oversight, some argued, is at least partly to blame for SVB's crisis.
"The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank was totally avoidable," Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) wrote on Twitter. "In 2018, Wall Street pushed a deregulation bill that allowed banks like SVB to take reckless risks. It passed, even as I and many others warned of the risks. I am writing legislation to reverse that law."
As The Leverreported Friday, SVB specifically pushed Congress in 2015 to hike the regulatory threshold to $250 billion, with the bank's president touting its "strong risk management practices."
"Three years later—after the bank spent more than half a million dollars on federal lobbying—lawmakers obliged," the outlet added.
The collapse of SVB, a major lender to tech startups, was the second-largest bank failure in U.S. history and the biggest since the 2008 crisis. SVB's failure came days after it announced it sold $21 billion worth of bonds at a substantial loss, triggering fears about the firm's health and a run on the bank that was intensified by venture capitalists' calls for startups to pull their money.
The bank's last-ditch efforts to raise capital and find a buyer failed, prompting regulators to seize its assets and begin efforts to make depositors whole. (SVB reportedly paid out bonuses to U.S. employees just hours before federal regulators took over.)
The American Prospect's David Dayen noted that "because the depositors holding the bag at SVB are Very Important People, there's going to be intense pressure for a bailout."
"Hedge fund titan Bill Ackman is already calling for one," Dayen observed. "Larry Summers told Bloomberg that the financial system should be fine, as long as depositors get every penny of their money back, which would be a $150 billion bailout."
In an appearance on "Face the Nation" Sunday morning, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pledged that "we are not going to do that again," referring to the bank bailouts of 2008.
"But we are concerned about depositors," Yellen said, "and we're focused on trying to meet their needs."
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is currently seeking a buyer for SVB, with final bids due by Sunday afternoon, according toBloomberg.
The Washington Postreported Sunday that "federal authorities are seriously considering safeguarding all uninsured deposits at Silicon Valley Bank, weighing an extraordinary intervention to prevent what they fear would be a panic in the U.S. financial system."
"Although the FDIC insures bank deposits up to $250,000, a provision in federal banking law may give them the authority to protect the uninsured deposits as well if they conclude that failing to do so would pose a systemic risk to the broader financial system," the newspaper reported. "In that event, uninsured deposits could be backstopped by an insurance fund, paid into regularly by U.S. banks."
"This predictable disaster should give serious pause to the current MAGA House majority who are pursuing further rollbacks of consumer financial protections after taking money hand over fist from Wall Street banks."
In a statement on Saturday, Liz Zelnick of the watchdog group Accountable.US said that "this mess was left behind by congressional Republicans and the Trump administration, who were too deep in the big banks' pocket to care about the consequences of gutting financial industry oversight."
"The chickens came home to roost this week in the Republican war against Wall Street reform and consumer financial protections," Zelnick continued. "This predictable disaster should give serious pause to the current MAGA House majority who are pursuing further rollbacks of consumer financial protections after taking money hand over fist from Wall Street banks—but don't count on it."
Some expert observers were quick to voice concern that SVB's collapse is just the start of broader chaos in the financial industry and the overall economy.
Dennis Kelleher, the president of Better Markets, warned that the fall of SVB "is going to cause contagion and almost certainly more bank failures," noting that the Federal Reserve's rapid and large interest rate increases left many financial institutions without "time to reposition their balance sheets and portfolios."
"That's why SVB is just the beginning," Kelleher argued. "Contagion, likely more bank failures, and various bailouts are almost certainly coming. While the immediate financial stability threats will materialize or be addressed, the underlying fundamental problems caused in large part by the Fed will remain and likely get worse."
"The Fed's actions to fight increasing inflation will need to be materially adjusted, which it should be anyway because inflation is driven by many factors that are beyond the Fed's control," he said. "Causing financial instability and a recession (of any depth and length) while missing the mark on inflation should cause a fundamental rethinking of the Fed's powers, authorities, and role."
This story has been updated to include comments from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
Keep ReadingShow Less
SUPPORT OUR WORK.
We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100%