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Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch
"Today, the U.S. Justice Department approved the merger between Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands, requiring an important divestiture, but nonetheless allowing one of the largest meat processing mergers in years. The Justice Department forced Tyson to sell its sow-buying business that competed head-to-head with Hillshire's sow slaughter business. The Justice Department should be commended for recognizing the buyer-power that pork processors and marketers have over hog farmers and taking a necessary step to protect farmers from increased consolidation in the pork packing industry. The pork packing industry remains overly concentrated, but at least the Justice Department prevented it from getting any worse.
"Although this divestiture is vitally important for farmers, the merger approval leaves consumers vulnerable to higher prices from a more consolidated pork-processing sector. The Justice Department should not have approved this merger until its anticompetitive impacts on consumers could be fully assessed. One month is insufficient time to analyze a merger that joins the largest meat processing company with the eleventh largest firm and creates a vertically integrated pork powerhouse that can exert market power from squeal to sausage.
"The merger disadvantages both consumers and rival manufacturers. Tyson has struggled for years to develop credible value-added pork product brands and by approving this merger Tyson seizes a leading position in the sausage, breakfast sandwich, hot dog and lunchmeat markets. Because Tyson can align its pork slaughter business with Hillshire's branded processing business, Hillshire products will have a leg up on competitors, who will likely have to raise prices. Consumers are especially vulnerable today, as pork prices are rising due to a widespread outbreak of a disease affecting piglets. A larger Tyson is unlikely to reduce pork prices as quickly or as fully when hog prices decline. The Justice Department should have investigated this merger more fully and divested more businesses before rapidly approving this mega-meat-merger.
Read Food & Water Watch's white paper to the Justice Department on the anti-competitive effects of the Tyson-Hillshire merger here.
Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people's health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.(202) 683-2500
Writers Guild of America members and local allies picketed outside while the crowd in the stadium booed David Zaslav and made clear to the industry executive that "we don't want you here."
As unionized film and television writers across the United States continue to strike, Warner Bros. Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav was met with critical chants both inside and outside of Boston University's Sunday commencement ceremony, during which he spoke and received an honorary degree.
After weeks of negotiating with Zaslav's company as well as Amazon, Apple, Disney, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Paramount, and Sony under the the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the Writers Guild of America (WGA) launched the strike in early May, saying that "the studios' responses to our proposals have been wholly insufficient, given the existential crisis writers are facing."
That same week, BU announced Zaslav as a commencement speaker, sparking backlash from students, alumni, community members, and the WGA, East director of communications, Jason Gordon, who expressed "deep disappointment with the university over its poor decision" to provide the industry CEO with a platform.
"Boston University should not give voice to someone who wants to destroy their students' ability to build a career in the film and television industry," Gordon told
The Boston Globe. "The university should expect students, Writers Guild members, as well as other unions and community groups to picket Zaslav's commencement address."
WGA members delivered the promised picket with support from local allies, including members of BU Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) and Boston DSA, who made signs that said: "F*!# Zaslav! Solidarity With the Writers."
\u201cSolidarity with the Writers Guild on strike! Out here with @Boston_DSA and @BU_YDSA comrades picketing Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav\u2019s commencement speech at BU.\u201d— Mike Connolly (@Mike Connolly) 1684692373
\u201cAfter getting booed by BU students David Zaslav had to cross the WGA picket line and Scabby the rat on his way out of the VIP exit. Sorry not sorry.\u201d— Annie Stamell (@Annie Stamell) 1684698472
Within Nickerson Field, "boos and expletives rained down" on Zaslav, who graduated from the BU School of Law in 1985.
During his speech, the CEO did not address the ongoing strike, "or the several dozen students who turned their backs to him, and instead shared the strategies that helped him become one of Hollywood's most powerful figures," reportedBU Today.
As The A.V. Club's Sam Barasanti wrote Sunday:
It seems like, for those of us who weren't there, that Zaslav's speech was as stunningly out-of-touch with reality as the decision to host him was in the first place, which speaks to a general contempt he seems to have for... oh, let's say everyone.
This is a man who was put in charge of a massive media empire, and the most notable things he has done with that power are burn money, dismantle one of the most prestigious brands in entertainment, double-dip on promoting J.K. Rowling, kick off the now-common trend of studios deleting content from their streaming services and making it completely inaccessible in some cases, and—how can we forget?—driving the writers who make his shows and movies to go on a strike that may soon lead to similar strikes from the DGA and SAG-AFTRA that would render Hollywood completely motionless.
According toThe Hollywood Reporter, "'We don't want you here,' 'Pay your writers,' and 'Shut up, Zaslav' could be heard emanating from the crowd, messages similar to the prepared chants for the picket, including some created by the school's YDSA chapter members and school students who were inspired by BU hockey chants."
\u201cEnjoy a free serotonin boost every time he\u2019s forced to pause!\u201d— DSA-LA's Hollywood Labor (@DSA-LA's Hollywood Labor) 1684696957
\u201cThe WGA is thankful to all the B.U. graduates for chanting "Pay your writers" at Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav while he delivered the #BU2023 commencement address. #WGAStrike\u201d— Writers Guild of America, East (@Writers Guild of America, East) 1684698396
As The Hollywood Reporter detailed:
Students from BU's College of Communications, which houses its film and TV program, as well as the College of Fine Arts and some enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, were among those who had expressed interest or were expected to take part in the ceremony protest, according to Vanessa Barlett, a graduating senior who helped lead the student-led writers strike solidarity event inside Nickerson Field.
"I'm in the same college as a bunch of film and TV kids," Barlett, who studied political science and journalism and was among those who created the day's official chants, told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the event. "I'm friends with a lot of people in the College of Fine Arts, people who are in the theater arts program, so having a sense of solidarity is very important to me."
Striking workers' demands from studios, which include pay increases and limits on artificial intelligence, "would gain writers approximately $429 million per year," according to WGA. "AMPTP's offer is approximately $86 million per year, 48% of which is from the minimums increase."
"Energy security can only be achieved by rapidly and equitably phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy, not locking in deadly fossil fuels and lining the pockets of oil and gas executives," said one critic.
Since Group of Seven leaders on Saturday put out a wide-ranging communiqué from a Japan-hosted summit in Hiroshima, climate action advocates from G7 countries and beyond have blasted the statement's support for future investments in planet-heating gas.
The statement comes after G7 climate, energy, and environment ministers were criticized for their communiqué from a meeting in Sapporo last month as well as protests around the world this week pressuring the summit's attendees to ditch fossil fuels and "deliver a clear and just renewable energy agenda for a peaceful world."
To meet the 1.5°C goal of the Paris climate agreement, the new statement commits to "accelerate the phaseout of unabated fossil fuels so as to achieve net-zero in energy systems by 2050 at the latest" along with "the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies by 2025 or sooner."
"The G7 must stop using fossil fuels immediately—the planet is on fire."
The statement also highlights that last year, G7 nations—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—pledged to end "new direct public support for the international unabated fossil fuel energy sector, except in limited circumstances," though as recent analysis
shows, some are breaking that promise.
The communiqué then endorses liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a solution to "the global impact of Russia's war on energy supplies, gas prices and inflation, and people's lives," referencing the invasion of Ukraine:
In this context, we stress the important role that increased deliveries of LNG can play, and acknowledge that investment in the sector can be appropriate in response to the current crisis and to address potential gas market shortfalls provoked by the crisis. In the exceptional circumstance of accelerating the phaseout of our dependency on Russian energy, publicly supported investment in the gas sector can be appropriate as a temporary response, subject to clearly defined national circumstances, if implemented in a manner consistent with our climate objectives without creating lock-in effects, for example by ensuring that projects are integrated into national strategies for the development of low-carbon and renewable hydrogen.
"The G7 energy outcome correctly diagnoses a short-term need for energy security, then promotes a dangerous and inappropriate lock-in of fossil gas that would do nothing to address this need," responded Collin Rees, United States program manager at Oil Change International (OCI). "Energy security can only be achieved by rapidly and equitably phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable energy, not locking in deadly fossil fuels and lining the pockets of oil and gas executives."
After accusing the summit's attendees of "using the war as an excuse," deflecting blame for current conditions, and neglecting Global South countries disproportionately suffering from the climate crisis, Max Lawson, head of inequality policy at Oxfam, declared that "the G7 must stop using fossil fuels immediately—the planet is on fire."
\u201cShame on the #G7 \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8\ud83c\uddec\ud83c\udde7\ud83c\uddeb\ud83c\uddf7\ud83c\udde8\ud83c\udde6\ud83c\udde9\ud83c\uddea\ud83c\uddee\ud83c\uddf9\ud83c\uddef\ud83c\uddf5\n\nIn their official communique released today, they frame fossil gas as "important" & "appropriate" &\u00a0even called for expansion.\n\nFossil fuels are the top cause of the climate crisis. \n\nIt's time for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.\u201d— Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative (@Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative) 1684589865
Greenpeace International global climate politics expert Tracy Carty also demanded a swift end to fossil fuels, charging that "G7 leaders' endorsement of new fossil gas is a blunt denial of the climate emergency" which dooms "current and future generations."
Gerry Arances, executive director of the Philippine Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, similarly argued that "the endorsement of increased LNG deliveries and investment in gas in the G7 communiqué is no mere backsliding—it is a death sentence being dealt by the G7 to the 1.5°C limit and, in consequence, to the climate survival of vulnerable peoples in the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and across the world."
"Unless they genuinely put forward the phaseout of all fossil fuels, Japan and all G7 nations spout nothing but lies when they say they have aligned to 1.5°C," he continued. "They cannot claim to be promoting development while subjecting our people to decades more of pollution and soaring energy prices. We reject this notion of a development powered by fossil fuels."
Looking to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) planned for later this year, Arances added that "Japan and G7 leaders should already be warned that civic movements will not tire in pushing back against fossil fuels and false solutions and in demanding a renewable energy transition."
"Civic movements will not tire in pushing back against fossil fuels and false solutions and in demanding a renewable energy transition."
Other campaigners also specifically called out the Hiroshima summit's host—including Ayumi Fukakusa, deputy executive director at Friends of the Earth Japan, who asserted that the country "has used the G7 presidency to derail the global energy transition."
"Japan has been driving the push to increase gas investments and has been promoting its so-called 'green transformation’ strategy," Fukakusa said of a "greenwashing scheme" featuring hydrogen, ammonia, nuclear, and carbon capture and storage technologies.
OCI Asia program manager Susanne Wong agreed that given the nation's promotion of gas expansion and technologies to prolong the use of coal, "this year's G7 is revealing Japan's failure of climate leadership at a global level."
"Activists mobilized 50 actions across 22 countries this week to demand that Japan end its fossil fuel finance and stop driving the expansion of gas and other fossil-based technologies," Wong added. "Japan will continue to face intense international scrutiny until it stops fueling the climate crisis."
\u201cShame on Canada & other #G7 leaders for caving to the narrow financial interests of fossil gas companies \n\nThe world is burning and our leaders keep dumping more fuel on the fire\u201d— Julia Levin (@Julia Levin) 1684587302
Groups from other G7 countries also called out their political leaders. Petter Lydén, head of international climate policy at Germanwatch, said, "Most likely, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has been a driving force behind the weak language on gas, which is a serious blow to Germany's international credibility on climate."
Citing sources familiar with summit negotiations,
The New York Timesreported Saturday that "Britain and France fought the German effort" while U.S. President Joe Biden was caught between defending his climate agenda and "aiding other United States allies intent on increasing their access to fossil fuels."
OCI's Rees said the that "this betrayal continues a disturbing turn by President Biden and Chancellor Scholz from rhetorically committing to climate leadership to openly boosting fossil fuel expansion. History will not look kindly on world leaders who accelerate the pace of fossil fuel buildout in the face of worsening climate crisis."
"DOJ can and SHOULD admit that the plaintiff is right," one political observer said of NAGE's case that takes aim at the debt limit statute. "The administration is not required to defend the legally indefensible."
As the White House and congressional negotiators fail to stop the U.S. from hurtling toward an economically "catastrophic" default, a labor union representing nearly 75,000 government workers on Friday asked a federal court to take emergency action.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling—which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other GOP lawmakers refuse to do without spending cuts targeting working people—the government could run out of money to pay its bills as early as June 1.
That rapidly approaching deadline and fruitless negotiations have led a growing number of lawmakers and legal scholars to urge President Joe Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states that "the validity of the public debt... shall not be questioned."
Friday's request for judicial intervention stems from a lawsuit—which cites the 14th Amendment—that attorneys for the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts on May 8. While Biden and Yellen are named as defendents, the aim of the case is to have the debt limit law declared unconstitutional.
"This litigation is both an effort to protect our members from illegal furloughs and to correct an unconstitutional statute that frequently creates uncertainty and anxiety for millions of Americans."
"This litigation is both an effort to protect our members from illegal furloughs and to correct an unconstitutional statute that frequently creates uncertainty and anxiety for millions of Americans," NAGE national president David Holway said earlier this month. "The debt ceiling has become a political football for certain members of Congress. If Congress will not raise the debt limit as it has nearly 80 times before without condition, it leaves no constitutional choice for the president."
"Congress' failure of will to act is not justification to violate the Constitution," added Holway, just days after his union endorsed Biden for reelection. "But it is the reason this case had to be filed to protect the American public, federal employees, and our Constitution."
The New Republic staff writer Timothy Noah wrote a couple of days after the first filing that "the NAGE lawsuit invites us to think of Congress as a body that's not merely able but obliged to govern. You don't like how the president spends the taxpayer's money, Mr. Speaker? Then pass a budget, for Chrissakes, and stop playing childish games."
As The American Prospect executive editor David Dayen noted later that week—citing University of Missouri law professor Tommy Bennett—because the president "has the option of minting the trillion-dollar coin to cover obligations, or issuing premium bonds known as consol bonds," he has "a way out of the lose-lose choice of violating one law or the other," which could imperil the case.
Still, Dayen has advocated for the lawsuit to move forward quickly. Early Friday, he highlighted that if the case could be decided soon, "there would be no legal chaos," but lawyers for NAGE "inexplicably" have not sought a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction that would force Judge Richard Stearns—an appointee of former President Bill Clinton—to act urgently.
Later Friday, the union's legal team did just that—asking the court for an order of preliminary injunction.
Dayen broke down the filing in a series of tweets, then concluded by pointing out that representatives for Biden and Yellen aren't currently required to even respond to the case until days after June 1, the so-called "X-date."
\u201cDOJ can and SHOULD admit that the plaintiff is right. The Administration is not required to defend the legally indefensible.\u201d— Jeff Hauser (@Jeff Hauser) 1684542306
As Biden met with other world leaders at the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan on Friday, debt ceiling talks in Washington, D.C. stalled for a bit, then resumed. But negotiators' evening meeting ended without a deal, according toCNN, and "sources at the White House and on Capitol Hill said there were no debt ceiling meetings scheduled for Saturday."
Biden, who is set to head back to D.C. on Sunday, struck an optimistic tone, reportedly saying during a Saturday press conference in Hiroshima that "I still believe we'll be able to avoid a default and we'll get something decent done."
The president said earlier this month that he had been "considering" the 14th Amendment, but "the problem is, it would have to be litigated," so "I don't think that solves our problem now."
Despite growing demands that Biden swiftly end the GOP's economic "hostage-taking" by invoking the amendment—including from at least 11 senators and 66 House progressives this week—Politico's Adam Cancryn reported Friday that publicly, "the White House remains resistant... And privately, its message has been even blunter."
In line with reporting earlier this month by Washington Post White House economics reporter Jeff Stein, Cancryn wrote:
Senior Biden officials have told progressive activists and lawmakers in recent days that they do not see the 14th Amendment... as a viable means of circumventing debt ceiling negotiations. They have argued that doing so would be risky and destabilizing, according to three people familiar with the discussions.
The White House has studied the issue for months, with some aides concluding that Biden would likely have the authority to declare the debt limit unconstitutional as a last-ditch way to sidestep default. But Biden advisers have told progressives that they see it as a poor option overall, fearing such a move would trigger a pitched legal battle, undermine global faith in U.S. creditworthiness, and damage the economy. Officials have warned that even the appearance of more seriously considering the 14th Amendment could blow up talks that are already quite delicate.
"They have not ruled it out," one White House adviser told Politico. "But it is not currently part of the plan."
As McCarthy left the U.S. Capitol Saturday evening, he said that "I don't think we're going to be able to move forward until the president can get back in the country," according toABC News.
The White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said in a statement Saturday evening that after agreeing with Biden that any budget deal would need to be bipartisan, "last night in D.C., the speaker's team put on the table an offer that was a big step back and contained a set of extreme partisan demands that could never pass both Houses of Congress."
"The president has over and over again put deficit reduction proposals on the table, from limits on spending to cuts to Big Pharma profits to closing tax loopholes for oil and gas," she added. "Let's be clear: The president's team is ready to meet any time. And, let's be serious about what can pass in a bipartisan manner, get to the president's desk, and reduce the deficit. It is only a Republican leadership beholden to its MAGA wing—not the president or Democratic leadership—who are threatening to put our nation into default for the first time in our history unless extreme partisan demands are met."
\u201cAll caveats about deals usually being struck before everything falls apart, but this doesn't look like a negotiation with an endgame.\u201d— David Dayen (@David Dayen) 1684624571
Ahead of Jean-Pierre's statement Saturday, Stein and his Post colleagues reported—citing sources with knowledge of the talks—that "Republican negotiators rejected a White House offer to limit spending next year on both the military and a wide range of critical domestic programs as part" and "are instead pushing for higher defense spending and more significant domestic spending reductions."
This article has been updated with additional comment from the White House and reporting by ABC News and The Washington Post.