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Company Features Prominently in New Majority Staff Report on “Pharma Pandemic Profiteers”
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, announced on Wednesday that Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel will testify next month in front of the committee for a hearing entitled, “Taxpayers Paid Billions For It: So Why Would Moderna Consider Quadrupling the Price of the COVID Vaccine?”
In January, Sanders wrote to Bancel – who became a billionaire after U.S. taxpayers gave his company billions of dollars to research, develop, and distribute its Covid-19 vaccine – urging the chief executive to refrain from more than quadrupling the price of the vaccine to as much as $130 while it costs just $2.85 to manufacture. “As you know, the federal government, over the years, has supported Moderna every step of the way going back to 2013 when your company reportedly only had three employees,” Sanders wrote at the time. “Now, in the midst of a continuing public health crisis and a growing federal deficit, is not the time for Moderna to be quadrupling the price of this vaccine. Now is not the time for unacceptable corporate greed.”
The committee majority on Wednesday also released a staff report on the rapid growth of pharmaceutical CEO compensation packages during the pandemic. Among the findings is that 50 pharmaceutical executives in 10 companies made $1.9 billion in 2021 and could receive $2.8 billion in golden parachutes, 10 pharmaceutical CEOs could receive $1.6 billion in golden parachutes, and 10 pharmaceutical companies made $102 billion in profits in 2021 – a 137 percent increase from 2020.
Bancel will testify at 10 a.m. ET on Wednesday, March 22.
He will be joined by the following expert witnesses: Ameet Sarpatwari, Ph.D., J.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Christopher J. Morten, Ph.D, J.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Columbia Law School; and Craig Garthwaite, Ph.D., M.P.P., Herman Smith Research Professor in Hospital and Health Services Management, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
To read the Majority’s staff report on pharmaceutical greed, click here.
United States Senator for Vermont(202) 224-5141
"Public development banks must stop propping up a failing system, stand alongside Indigenous groups, and stop financing factory farming," said one campaigner.
A report published Monday reveals how multilateral development banks' financing of factory farms has unleashed significant social and ecological harm in Ecuador, and civil society groups say the banks' failure to consult or compensate affected Indigenous communities violates Ecuadorian law and their own policies.
Over the past 20 years, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and IDB Invest, respectively the private sector branches of the World Bank Group and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, have collectively poured more than $200 million into the expansion of PRONACA, Ecuador's fourth-largest corporation and by far its biggest pork and poultry producer.
The new analysis, assembled by the Ecuadorian Coordinator of Organizations for the Defense of Nature and the Environment (CEDENMA) with support from a coalition of international advocacy groups including Friends of the Earth and World Animal Protection, details the dire consequences of this lending in a small province west of Ecuador's capital of Quito.
"By giving millions of dollars of public money to PRONACA, IDB Invest and the IFC are violating their own policies and causing negative impacts to Indigenous communities and fragile ecosystems in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas," Kari Hamerschlag, deputy director of the Food and Agriculture Program at Friends of the Earth U.S., said in a statement.
"This report is more evidence that every dollar spent on factory farming harms communities and jeopardizes development progress," said Hamerschlag. "Public development banks must stop propping up a failing system, stand alongside Indigenous groups, and stop financing factory farming."
"We used to have a thriving tourism industry, and now we only have polluted air and water. The expansion of pig farms in our community will bring even more pollution to our already contaminated communities."
This is not the first time PRONACA, a meat giant operating more than 100 factory farms and slaughterhouses throughout Ecuador, has faced criticism for its deleterious social and ecological effects. In addition to documenting the historical and ongoing destruction the company has inflicted nationwide, the new investigation highlights how public development banks (PDBs) are complicit in the despoilation of communities in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas, which is home to 15 factory farms.
It is based on surveys of local residents that CEDENMA, an alliance of 52 environmental groups, conducted in the wake of the most recent round of PDB lending to PRONACA. IDB Invest provided its first loan, worth $50 million, to the company in 2020. IFC followed up with a $50 million loan of its own in 2021, though the World Bank Group's latest PRONACA financing came on top of the $120 million it had already lent to the company.
"Our extensive interviews with community members found that PRONACA's intensive pig farms in the Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas region have continued to pollute the air and contaminate rivers, killing off fish which local people rely on for food and jobs, and harming local tourism," said CEDENMA vice president Natalia Greene.
The report estimates that PRONACA's swine production in the area generates roughly 15 million pounds of toxic waste each day, fouling the soil, air, and waterways. Moreover, it examines for the first time how IFC and IDB Invest's most recent loans to PRONACA failed to comply with Ecuadorian law and five of their own policies (Performance Standards 1, 3, 4, 6, and 7), which require them to inform Indigenous communities about new operations and compensate them for ensuing damages.
"We used to have a thriving tourism industry, and now we only have polluted air and water," said Ricardo Calazacon, a local Indigenous leader in Santo Domingo de los Tsáchilas and medicinal plant expert. "The expansion of pig farms in our community will bring even more pollution to our already contaminated communities. We have filed many complaints about the company to the local authorities but they have not listened to us or done anything to resolve the problems."
The following six-minute video summarizes many of the report's findings.
"CEDENMA is deeply concerned about IFC and IDB Invest's failure to adequately enforce its standards and mandates with respect to PRONACA's severe impacts on the water and the health of locally affected Indigenous communities," said Greene. "We are urging the public development banks and the government to enforce their policies and laws and help resolve long-standing impacts of PRONACA's operations on the health and well-being of Indigenous communities."
Community members and civil society groups are calling on IFC, IDB Invest, and the Ecuadorian government to uphold their obligations and force PRONACA to monitor and clean up its pollution. Their demands come amid a broader global campaign to get PDBs to "Stop Financing Factory Farming" (SFFF), including fresh efforts to persuade newly inaugurated World Bank President Ajay Banga to end all support for destructive, high-emitting livestock operations.
The SFFF campaign was launched in 2021 to expose how "financing industrial-scale meat and dairy operations directly contradicts PDBs' commitments to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and align their lending with the Paris climate agreement."
A major share of deforestation in Latin America over the past 50 years can be attributed to land clearing for cattle and animal feed production. The corporate-dominated global food system is now the leading driver of biodiversity loss, and animal agriculture is responsible for nearly 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, the five largest PDBs have dumped more than $4.6 billion and counting into factory farms over the past decade.
"This is Gov. DeSantis, this is his baby, this is his project."
California Attorney General Rob Bonta on Sunday accused Florida governor and 2024 GOP presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis of duplicitously sending a group of South American migrants to Sacramento in a bid to score "cheap political points."
"This is Gov. DeSantis, this is his baby, this is his project, his fingerprints are all over it," Bonta, a Democrat, told the Los Angeles Times. "The governor signed it, the Legislature approved to fund it in the budget, and they hired Vertol Systems Co., a vendor, to carry out the work."
"It's DeSantis being exactly who he is and advertising to the world that he is petty, little... and full of political stunts that hurt, harm, and abuse and exploit people to try and get cheap political points," he added. "It's wrong."
Bonta's remarks were based on documents the 16 migrants from Venezuela and Colombia were carrying that showed the chartered flight they took from New Mexico to Sacramento was coordinated by the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Vertol Systems has arranged similar flights in the past, including the September 2022 transportation of a large group of Venezuelan and Colombian migrants from San Antonio, Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.
"Human trafficking is not only despicable; it's a felony."
According to the faith-based community organizing group PICO California, the 16 South Americans were approached outside a migrant center in El Paso, Texas by representatives of a private contractor who promised them jobs and other assistance. The group was bused from El Paso to New Mexico and then flown to Sacramento, where they were dropped off Friday night outside the city's main Catholic church.
"They were lied to and deceived," PICO campaign director Eddie Carmona told the Associated Press.
\u201cPICO CA ardently condemns the actions that led to 16 of our immigrant brothers & sisters being transported across the country under false pretenses. We are grateful to our Sac community @SacramentoACT for showing up with radical compassion. https://t.co/3mAyDzHde7\u201d— PICO California (@PICO California) 1685836583
Bonta told the Times that "they never intended to help them find a job but told them that they would do that so they could get on the plane and sign their documents and be transported to Sacramento."
"They completely exploited, abused, and manipulated these folks who were vulnerable and were hoping and dreaming of a job and told they would be helped finding that job only to be abandoned," he added.
Cecilia Flores, narrative and communications strategist at the multi-faith advocacy group Sacramento Area Congregations Together, toldKCRA that the migrants are "in shock."
"I think they're very exhausted," she added. "I think they are just trying to catch up with processing exactly what happened."
Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto told the Times that "the urgency to respond was heard by Catholics and people of goodwill."
"We are thankful to our partner organizations who took up the holy work of hospitality, dedicating their time and resources to ensure that every migrant did not feel alone and abandoned," he added.
\u201cAn investigation is underway after over a dozen migrants arrived in Sacramento, CA by private jet with no prior arrangement or care in place and documentation \u201cpurporting to be from the government of the State of Florida."\n\nUsing people as pawns -- again.\nhttps://t.co/YJQj6uqrbf\u201d— Rep. Anna V. Eskamani \ud83d\udd28 (@Rep. Anna V. Eskamani \ud83d\udd28) 1685896011
Bonta and Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newson said Saturday that they met with around a dozen of the affected migrants. Bonta said the California Department of Justice is investigating who paid for their flight and whether any laws were broken.
"While we continue to collect evidence, I want to say this very clearly: State-sanctioned kidnapping is not a public policy choice, it is immoral and disgusting," Bonta said in a statement. "We are a nation built by immigrants and we must condemn the cruelty and hateful rhetoric of those, whether they are state leaders or private parties, who refuse to recognize humanity and who turn their backs on extending dignity and care to fellow human beings."
"California and the Sacramento community will welcome these individuals with open arms and provide them with the respect, compassion, and care they will need after such a harrowing experience," he added.
\u201cToday I met with over a dozen migrants who were brought to Sacramento by private plane, with no prior arrangement or care in place.\n\nWe are investigating the circumstances by which these individuals were brought to California.\u201d— Rob Bonta (@Rob Bonta) 1685845344
Democratic Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg also issued a statement Saturday asserting that "human trafficking is not only despicable; it's a felony."
"I urge the appropriate authorities to investigate how 16 vulnerable people were lured to travel from El Paso, Texas, to Sacramento," he added. "Whoever is behind this must answer the following: Is there anything more cruel than using scared human beings to score cheap political points?"
DeSantis, along with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey, Arizona's former GOP governor, have bused or flown more than 12,000 migrants to Democratic-led cities since April to protest what they falsely call the Biden administration's "open border" immigration policies.
Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature has recently authorized $22 million for DeSantis' program of sending migrants to sanctuary states and cities.
"It's become apparent that no corporation or CEO is going to save local news, it's up to journalists to preserve our industry and our democracy," said unionized journalists at The Arizona Republic.
As shareholders gathered at the annual meeting of Gannett, the largest newspaper company in the United States following a 2019 merger, hundreds of unionized employees from across the country walked off the job on Monday to demand investors take action against what the journalists say is corporate greed at the top of the organization.
The journalists, who are represented by the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America (CWA), say CEO and chairman Mike Reed has overseen the gutting of local newsrooms across the country at Gannett's more than 300 publications, jeopardizing readers' access to local news and threatening the livelihoods of reporters while Reed collects a multi-million-dollar salary.
With the walkout, the unionized employees are calling on shareholders to hold a no-confidence vote against Reed.
In a letter to investors last month, the NewsGuild-CWA argued that Reed has "failed shareholders" by taking on debt with high interest rates when Gannett merged with GateHouse Media in 2019.
While taking home a $7.7 million salary in in 2021 and $3.4 million last year, Reed has "maintained a compensation policy that is forcing many of our journalists to seek work elsewhere," the union wrote.
"From a shareholder perspective, these cuts to local news reporters and local news don't just weaken civil society, they diminish the future of that company in the community."
"He has reduced local content by relying on wire service and regional stories [and] cut newsroom staff," the NewsGuild said. "As a result, our communities are not being served and our employees are demoralized. Therefore, we believe it is time for a change in leadership: a clear vote of no-confidence in a guy who has weakened our company, forsaken the towns and cities where we have outlets, and impoverished shareholders."
In order to cut costs to service the company's debt, The New York Times reported Monday, Gannett has cut its workforce nearly in half since 2019. The Austin American-Statesman now has 41 newsroom employees, down from 110 before the merger. The Milwaukee Sentinel's staff has been cut from 104 to 83 in that time period; The South Bend Tribune's was cut from 45 to just 14 in South Bend, Indiana; and The Arizona Republic in Phoenix has cut its workforce from 140 to 89.
Gannett has also closed dozens of newspapers entirely, including six weekly publications in the Akron, Ohio area this past February and four papers in Northern Kentucky last year.
Cost-cutting measures have left readers of The Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York without a business section; The Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, Florida without dedicated reporters focusing on the environment or city government; and just one reporter at TheAmerican-Statesman covering issues related to City Hall, Travis County, transportation, and public safety.
"We know what happens to communities when the light from news outlets dims,"
said the NewsGuild last month. "Political extremism can surge, corruption has fewer watchdogs, high school sports have fewer chroniclers, corporate misconduct has fewer witnesses, and municipal borrowing costs can rise. From a shareholder perspective, these cuts to local news reporters and local news don't just weaken civil society, they diminish the future of that company in the community."
The shareholder meeting and walkout come five months after Gannett laid of 6% of its 3,440-employee media division.
Richard Ruelas, a columnist at The Arizona Republic, organized a crowd-sourced fundraiser to support employees as they stage the walkout, which they plan to continue on Tuesday at the newspaper.
While cutting jobs across the company, said the
Arizona Republic Guild, Gannett officials have refused to provide remaining journalists with fair wages and working conditions.
\u201cGannett claims it's going to "save journalism." We're not sure how overworking and underpaying journalists accomplishes that goal.\n\nIt's become apparent that no corporation or CEO is going to save local news, it's up to journalists to preserve our industry and our democracy.\u201d— Arizona Republic Guild \ud83c\udf35 (@Arizona Republic Guild \ud83c\udf35) 1685630391
"After over three years of bargaining and repeated unfair labor practices, it's also become apparent that asking nicely isn't going to get us fair wages, benefits and protections for our newsroom, and that Gannett has no intention to bargain over these issues in good faith,"
said the union.
According to Jon Schleuss, president of the NewsGuild, Reed oversaw a "complete farce" at the shareholder meeting on Monday, ending the conference after just eight minutes and refusing to take questions.
"What a complete joke. Mike Reed needs to go,"
said Schleuss. "He has no ability to lead Gannett and no ability to be accountable to journalists or shareholders."