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Through a PRISM, Darkly – Everything we know about NSA spying [30c3]
Published on Dec 30, 2013
Through a PRISM, Darkly
Everything we know about NSA spying
From Stellar Wind to PRISM, Boundless Informant to EvilOlive, the NSA spying programs are shrouded in secrecy and rubber-stamped by secret opinions from a court that meets in a faraday cage. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Kurt Opsahl explains the known facts about how the programs operate and the laws and regulations the U.S. government asserts allows the NSA to spy on you.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit civil society organization, has been litigating against the NSA spying program for the better part of a decade. EFF has collected and reviewed dozens of documents, from the original NY Times stories in 2005 and the first AT&T whistleblower in 2006, through the latest documents released in the Guardian or obtained through EFF’s Freedom of Information (government transparency) litigation. EFF attorney Kurt Opsahl’s lecture will describe how the NSA spying program works, the underlying technologies, the targeting procedures (how they decide who to focus on), the minimization procedures (how they decide which information to discard), and help you makes sense of the many code names and acronyms in the news. He will also discuss the legal and policy ramifications that have become part of the public debate following the recent disclosures, and what you can do about it. After summarizing the programs, technologies, and legal/policy framework in the lecture, the audience can ask questions.
Speaker: Kurt Opsahl
Event: 30th Chaos Communication Congress [30c3] by the Chaos Computer Club [CCC]
Location: Congress Centrum Hamburg (CCH); Am Dammtor; Marseiller Straße; 20355 Hamburg; Germany
Has Clinton Dispatched Oppo Researchers to UVM’s Sanders Archive?
By PAUL HEINTZ @PAULHEINTZ
Librarians at the University of Vermont’s special collections say interest is spiking in the “Bernard Sanders papers” — 30 boxes of meticulously organized material documenting Sanders’ eight years as mayor of Burlington.
That should come as no surprise, given the independent senator’s rapid rise in the polls in New Hampshire and Iowa, which hold the nation’s first presidential nominating contests.
Media outlets, such as the Guardian, have drilled deep into the archives and unearthed tasty tidbits — but they’re not the only ones interested in getting to know the senator.
Last Thursday, two casually dressed twentysomethings were spotted combing through the Sanders files and decades-old Vermont newspapers. As they were on their way out the door at the end of the day, Seven Days asked what they were doing.
“No comment,” said one of the young men, dressed in a T-shirt and flannel. “No comment.”
As they emerged into the sunlight outside Bailey/Howe Library, Seven Dayspressed again: “Come on! We’re all doing the same thing.”
“No, we’re not,” Flannel Man shot back.
“We’re just looking,” said the other one, dressed in a white shirt with black stripes.
“Looking at what?”
“Old newspapers,” Stripy said. “Vermont history.”
So who were these mysterious characters? Opposition researchers working for one of Sanders’ rivals? Earlier that day a super PAC supporting former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley launched the first negative ad of the race targeting Sanders.
Asked if Team O’Malley had dispatched Flannel Man and Stripy to Burlington, campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith said, “We have not, and they are not affiliated with our campaign.”
But wait! Here’s a clue: That T-shirt Flannel Man was wearing? It read, “New Hampshire for Jeanne Shaheen.”
Earlier this year, Hillary Clinton absorbed much of Shaheen’s political operation to run her Granite State campaign: state director Mike Vlacich, senior political aide Kari Thurman and spokesman Harrell Kirstein.
Asked if Flannel Man and Stripy belonged to Team Clinton, Kirstein did not respond.
Welcome to Burlington, Hillary. Next time, tell your people to leave their Shaheen shirts at home.
Story 1: Greece Defaults On Debt — Barring Last Minutes Rescue Attempts and Results of Sunday Referendum — No Vote Would Result in Greece Exiting Eurozone And Declaring Debt Odious! — Whose Next? — Videos
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Greece Defaults on IMF Loan Despite New Push for Bailout Aid
European finance chiefs shut down Athens’s last-minute request for emergency financial aid
GABRIELE STEINHAUSER and
VIKTORIA DENDRINOU in Brussels and
NEKTARIA STAMOULI in Athens
Updated July 1, 2015 12:12 a.m. ET
Greece became the first developed country to default on the International Monetary Fund, as the rescue program that has sustained it for five years expired and its creditors rejected a last-ditch effort to buy more time.
The Washington-based fund said the Greek government failed to transfer €1.55 billion ($1.73 billion) by close-of-business on Tuesday—the largest, single missed repayment in the IMF’s history.
The failure to pay the IMF was a dramatic, if anticipated, conclusion to a day full of unexpected twists and turns. On Tuesday morning—with the clock ticking toward the midnight expiration on the European portion of Greece’s €245 billion bailout—officials in Athens said they were working on a new solution to the four-month old impasse with creditors.
By the afternoon, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had asked for a new rescue program—the country’s third in five years—to help pay for some €29.15 billion ($32.52 billion) in debt coming due between 2015 and 2017.
Late Tuesday, Greek officials were also raising doubts over their plans for a referendum planned for Sunday, in which the government had asked its citizens to vote against pension cuts and sales-tax increases demanded by its creditors.
Some officials suggested that Mr. Tsipras and his ministers could campaign for a “yes” if a better offer from the rest of the eurozone and the IMF was on the table, while others indicated that the vote might even be called off altogether.
Whether any of these developments would keep Greece from financial meltdown andsecure its spot in Europe’s currency union was still unclear. But the prospect of more rescue loans—however dim—might help buffer some of the effects of the nonpayment to the IMF.
Before Greeks have voted on the measures demanded by creditors, “we will not negotiate about anything new at all,” Ms. Merkel said. Her deputy and coalition partner, Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democrats, urged Greece to cancel the referendum altogether. “Then one could very quickly gather for talks, initial talks. If that’s not the case, then we should certainly do this after the referendum,” Mr. Gabriel said.
European stocks and bonds fell amid the uncertainty and the euro declined against the U.S. dollar.
But most of the moves were smaller than the declines a day earlier in reaction to Athens’s weekend announcement that the government would call a referendum on whether to accept the terms that creditors are offering and the government’s shutdown of its banking system to prevent a financial collapse.
In Washington, President Barack Obama played down the potential impact of Greece’s worsening crisis on the U.S. and broader global economy. “That is not something that we believe will have a major shock to the system,” he said.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has been urging his European counterparts to press ahead with bailout talks to find a “pragmatic compromise” that includes both tough economic overhauls and debt relief, to prevent Europe’s economic problems from dragging on U.S. growth.
Greek banks have been heavily dependent on support from the European Central Bank. WSJ’s Charles Forelle explains why the country’s banking sector could turn out to be its Achilles heel.
Eurozone finance ministers are scheduled to discuss Greece’s bailout request, along with new proposals for budget cuts and policy overhauls, in a teleconference Wednesday morning.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told his counterparts Tuesday that these plans would be close to the creditors’ latest demands, Austrian Finance Minister Hans Jörg Schelling said in a television interview.
Mr. Varoufakis also suggested that his government might campaign for a “yes” in the referendum if its new proposals were accepted, Mr. Schelling said.
Other officials were more skeptical that, after four months of at times acrimonious negotiations, Mr. Tsipras’s left-wing government was finally giving in to creditors’ demands.
“The political stance of the Greek government doesn’t appear to have changed,” said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who presides over the talks with his eurozone counterparts. Mr. Dijsselbloem already said over the weekend that the government would have a hard time convincing creditors and investors that it would implement measures it has to far opposed.
The expiration of the existing bailout and a default on the IMF aren’t expected to have immediate consequences for Greece’s economy. Its banks have already been ordered closed until Monday, after the European Central Bank capped emergency loans to Greek lenders over the weekend. Cash withdrawals by Greeks have been limited to €60 a day for each account-holder since Monday.
On Wednesday, the focus will again be on the ECB, whose governing council is due to meet in Frankfurt.
The council, which includes central bankers from the eurozone’s 19 member states, is reluctant to take any additional steps for now that would inflict more pain on Greek banks—for instance, by forcing them to pay back the outstanding loans just days ahead of the referendum, people familiar with the matter said, despite a growing level of impatience over the central bank’s exposure to Greece.
One largely symbolic option would be for the ECB to raise the amount of collateral that banks have to post in return for the emergency loans, but calibrate the reductions on the face value of assets used for collateral so that Greek lenders would still have enough to cover the existing €89 billion loan pile.
Greek crisis deepens as loan repayment deadline passes
Kim Hjelmgaard and Marco della Cava,
reece’s midnight deadline passed Tuesday for repaying $1.8 billion to the International Monetary Fund and other international creditors, deepening a financial crisis that threatens the Mediterranean nation’s membership in the European Union.
Despite an eleventh-hour effort by Greek lawmakers Tuesday to secure a new two-year debt deal before the deadline, European finance ministers reviewing Greece’s proposal concluded their conference call without offering a bailout extension.
The ministers agreed to convene again Wednesday to further discuss the details of a new series of loans from the eurozone’s European Stability Mechanism, its $560 billion rescue fund.
After the deadline passed (at 6 pm ET), Greece joined Zimbabwe, Sudan and Somaliain being in arrears to the IMF. Fitch Ratings has downgraded Greece’s government debt further into junk territory.
Standing in the way of any new deal from the IMF and other creditors is Sunday’s Greek referendum on whether to accept the terms that would come with a new aid package, which includes tax increases and spending cutbacks after years of recession. There is some dispute over whether such a referendum could be canceled, with some Greek lawmakers arguing that the vote is now set in stone.
Late Tuesday, thousands of Greeks took to the streets of Athens, many of them in support of accepting new bailout terms. A “no” vote would lead to Greece leaving the European Union and abandoning the euro currency.
The $1.8 billion Greece owes is part of a $270 billion aid plan it received from the IMF, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission — 19 eurozone governments — during its financial crisis.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel made her position clear Tuesday, telling reporters in Berlin, “We’ll negotiate about absolutely nothing before the planned referendum is held.”
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said that his government would step down if “yes” votes prevailed, telling a Greek public broadcasting outlet Monday, “We’ll choose in a sovereign way what our future will be like, we will insist on negotiating.”
President Obama cautioned that a failed Greek economy could have significant ripple effects on markets around the world, adding Tuesday that “what you have here is a country that has gone through some very difficult economic times, and needs to find a path toward growth and a path toward staying in the eurozone.”
But should there be a so-called Grexit — or Greek exit from the European financial community — Obama added that “it is important for us that we plan for any contingency, that we work with the ECB and other international institutions to ensure that some of the bumps that occur in the financial markets are smoothed out.”
Greece had previously indicated it would not be able to make the payment. The IMF said it would not give Greece its customary 30-day grace period before issuing a notice of technical default.
But Athens is not expected to immediately go bankrupt. That would only happen if its non-payment triggers further defaults in its financial system, which is not expected.
Next month, on July 20, Greece is also due to pay the ECB $3.9 billion.
Talks between Greece and its creditors have broken down as Athens has tried to negotiate less onerous repayment terms, mainly centered around austerity measures. Global markets on Monday tumbled over fears that the country’s attempts to strike a better deal could see it forced out of the eurozone. Its membership in the European Union is also at stake.
But markets bounced back Tuesday in Asia, and European indexes moved away from earlier losses after steep sell-offs in those regions helped push the Dow down 350 points in the prior session — its biggest one-day point loss since June 20, 2013.
On Tuesday, U.S. markets edged higher, buoyed by Greece’s new proposal that came against the dominant crisis narrative of the last 48 hours.
Earlier, citing unnamed government sources, Greece’s Ekathimerini newspaper reported Athens was reconsidering a previous proposal by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. No details were provided.
A Greek eurozone exit, it is feared, would reignite the financial contagion experienced during the sovereign debt crisis of 2009 and beyond when billions of dollars were wiped off the value of European government debt and other assets.
Still, while many analysts and officials have warned that Greece leaving the eurozone could have far-reaching consequences for economies and markets across the world, the specific impact of that possible development remains mostly unclear.
“If Greece leaves the eurozone, there is unlikely to be a big bang moment when the country adopts the drachma (the currency it used prior to adopting the euro in 2001),” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, a unit of the ratings firm.
“It will happen over time, as the Greek government issues IOUs that effectively become the new currency,” he said.
Greek Prime Minister Tsipras hinted Monday that he may resign if his nation votes “yes” in the referendum Sunday. Tsipras’ leftist Syriza party insists the vote is being called to strengthen its negotiating mandate with its creditors.
“If the Greek people want to proceed with austerity plans in perpetuity, which will leave us unable to lift our head, we will respect it, but we will not be the ones to carry it out,” he said on Greek television late Monday.
European leaders including Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and French PresidentFrancois Hollande dispute that. They say that Sunday’s vote will effectively be a referendum on whether Greece wants to remain part of the eurozone.
The government has limited cash withdrawals from banks to about $68 per day in a bid to stave off bank runs and keep its financial system from collapsing, triggering protests from groups on both sides of Sunday’s yes or no vote.
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Greece’s bailout expires, country defaults on IMF payment
By ELENA BECATOROS and DEREK GATOPOULOS
y to fall into arrears on payments to the fund. The last country to do so was Zimbabwe in 2001.
After Greece made a last-ditch effort to extend its bailout, eurozone finance ministers decided in a teleconference late Tuesday that there was no way they could reach a deal before the deadline.
“It would be crazy to extend the program,” said Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbleom, who heads the eurozone finance ministers’ body known as the eurogroup. “So that cannot happen and will not happen.”
(AP) An elderly man passes a graffiti outside an old bank in Athens, Tuesday, June 30,… Full Image
“The program expires tonight,” Dijsselbleom said.The brinkmanship that has characterized Greece’s bailout negotiations with its European creditors and the IMF rose several notches over the weekend, when Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced he would put a deal proposal by creditors to a referendum on Sunday and urged a “No” vote.
The move increased fears the country could soon fall out of the euro currency bloc and Greeks rushed to pull money out of ATMs, leading the government to shutter its banks and impose restrictions on banking transactions on Monday for at least a week.
But in a surprise move Tuesday night, Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis hinted that the government might be open to calling off the popular vote, saying it was a political decision.
The government decided on the referendum, he said on state television, “and it can make a decision on something else.”
(AP) A demonstrator waves a Greek flag during a rally organized by supporters of the YES… Full Image
It was unclear, however, how that would be possible legally as Parliament has already voted for it to go ahead.Greece’s international bailout expires at midnight central European time, after which the country loses access to billions of euros in funds. At the same time, Greece has said it will not be able to make a payment of 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) to the IMF.
With its economy teetering on the brink, Greece suffered its second sovereign downgrade in as many days when the Fitch ratings agency lowered it further into junk status, to just one notch above the level where it considers default inevitable.
The agency said the breakdown of negotiations “has significantly increased the risk that Greece will not be able to honor its debt obligations in the coming months, including bonds held by the private sector.”
Fitch said it now considered a default on privately-held debt “probable.”
(AP) People stand in a queue to use an ATM outside a closed bank, next to a sign on the… Full Image
Hopes for an 11th-hour deal were raised when the Greek side announced it had submitted a new proposal Tuesday afternoon, and the eurozone’s 19 finance ministers held a teleconference to discuss it.But those hopes were quickly dashed.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she ruled out further negotiations with Greece before Sunday’s popular vote on whether to accept creditors’ demands for budget reforms.
“Before the planned referendum is carried out, we will not negotiate over anything new,” the dpa news agency quoted Merkel as saying.
Greece’s latest offer involves a proposal to tap Europe’s bailout fund — the so-called European Stability Mechanism, a pot of money set up after Greece’s rescue programs to help countries in need.
(AP) The word “NO”, referring to the upcoming referendum, is written in red paint outside… Full Image
Tsipras’ office said the proposal was “for the full coverage of (Greece’s) financing needs with the simultaneous restructuring of the debt.”Dijsselbloem said the finance ministers would “study that request as we should” and that they would hold another conference call Wednesday, as they had also received a second letter from Athens that they had not had time to read.
Dragasakis said the new letter “narrows the differences further.”
“We are making an additional effort. There are six points where this effort can be made. I don’t want to get into specifics. But it includes pensions and labor issues,” he said.
European officials and Greek opposition parties have been adamant that a “No” vote on Sunday will mean Greece will leave the euro and possibly even the EU.
(AP) Demonstrators shout slogans during a rally organized by supporters of the YES vote… Full Image
The government says this is scaremongering, and that a rejection of creditor demands will mean the country is in a better negotiating position.In Athens, more than 10,000 “Yes” vote supporters gathered outside parliament despite a thunderstorm, chanting “Europe! Europe!”
Most huddled under umbrellas, including Athens resident Sofia Matthaiou.
“I don’t know if we’ll get a deal. But we have to press them to see reason,” she said, referring to the government. “The creditors need to water down their positions, too.”
The protest came a day after thousands of government supporters advocating a “No” vote held a similar demonstration.
(AP) Demonstrators gather under the rain during a rally organized by supporters of the… Full Image
On Monday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker made a new offer to Greece. Under that proposal, Tsipras would need to accept the creditors’ proposal that was on the table last weekend. He would also have to change his position on Sunday’s referendum.Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the offer would also involve unspecified discussions on Athens’s massive debt load of over 300 billion euros, or around 180 percent of GDP. The Greek side has long called for debt relief, saying its mountainous debt is unsustainable.
A Greek government official said Tsipras had spoken earlier in the day with Juncker, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi and European Parliament president Martin Schulz.
Meanwhile, missing the IMF payment will cut Greece off from new loans from the organization.
And with its bailout program expiring, Greece will lose access to more than 16 billion euros ($18 billion) in financial support it has not yet tapped, officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because talks about the program were still ongoing.
On the streets of Athens, long lines formed again at ATM machines as Greeks struggled with the new restrictions on banking transactions. Under credit controls imposed Monday, Greeks are now limited to ATM withdrawals of 60 euros ($67) a day and cannot send money abroad or make international payments without special permission.
The elderly have been hit particularly hard, with tens of thousands of pensions unpaid as of Tuesday afternoon. Many also found themselves completely cut off from any cash as they do not have bank cards.
The finance ministry said it would open about 1,000 bank branches across the country for three days beginning Wednesday to allow pensioners without bank cards to make withdrawals. But the limit would be set at 120 euros for the whole week.
With negotiations have broken off in dramatic fashion last week, a cacophony of voices on Syriza’s Left have vowed to prioritise domestic obligations unless creditors finally unlock the remainder of its €240bn bail-out programme. Greece only avoided going bust earlier this month after the government has asked for a Zambia-style debt bundling which will now be due on June 30.
The rhetoric is a far cry from February, when Greece’s finance minister pledged his government would “squeeze blood out of a stone” to meet its obligations to the Fund.
Although no nation has ever officially defaulted on its obligations in the post-Bretton Woods era, Greece would join an ignominious list of war-torn nations and international pariahs who have failed to pay back the Fund on time.
What happens after a default?
In choosing to bundle up four separate June repayments, Greece avoided triggering an immediate default.
But in the event of a delayed repayment, according to IMF protocol, Greece could be afforded a 30-day grace period, during which it would be urged to pay back the money as soon as possible, and before Ms Lagarde notifies her executive board of the late payment.
However, with talks have broken down in acrimonious fashion between the country and its creditors, Ms Lagarde has said she will renege on this and notify her board “immediately”.
Having spooked creditors and the markets of the possibility of a fatal breach of the sanctity of monetary union, Greece may well stump up the cash if an agreement to release the country more emergency aid is reached (that’s looking increasingly unlikely however).
But should no money be forthcoming however, the arrears process may well extend indefinitely.
Greece’s other creditor burden would also start piling up, with the government due to pay another €6.6bn to the European Central Bank in July and August.
Stopping the cash
Although the exact process is uncertain, falling into a protracted arrears procedure could have major consequences for continued financial assistance from Greece’s other creditors – the European Central Bank and European Commission.
“If Greece defaults to the IMF, then they are considered to be in default to the rest of the eurozone,” says Raoul Ruparel, head of economic research at Open Europe.
“Such a scenario would risk the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) cancelling all or part of its facility or even declaring the principal amount of the loan to be due immediately,” say analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Should the EFSF take such a decisive move, it could activate a range of cross default clauses on Greek government bonds held by private investors and the ECB. These clauses state a default to one creditor institution applies to all.
The political and market damage that may ensue would be substantial. Popular sentiment in creditor nations would turn against the errant Greeks, while the position of the ECB in particular could quickly come under the spotlight.
The central bank has kept Greek banks on a tight leash, maintaining that it would only restore normal lending operations to the country once “conditions for a successful completion of the programme are in place”.
A wave of defaults may force the ECB into finally pulling the plug on the emergency assistance it has been providing in ever larger doses since February.
What would happen if Greece left the euro? In 60 seconds
Scrambling for funds
Whatever the outcome, Greece on many measures, is all but bankrupt.
In addition to the half a billion euros plus it owes the Fund this month, the Leftist government will still be paying back the IMF until 2030. In total, its repayment schedule stretches out over the next 42 years to 2057.
Greece makes new aid proposal, seeks debt restructuring
ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece has submitted to creditors a new two-year aid proposal calling for parallel debt restructuring, the office of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday, in what seemed like a last-ditch effort by Athens to resolve an impasse with lenders.
The statement came hours before Athens was set to default on a loan to the International Monetary Fund. It was unclear how creditors would respond.
“The Greek government proposed today a two-year deal with the ESM (European Stability Mechanism) to fully cover its financial needs and with parallel debt restructuring,” the government said in a statement.
“Greece remains at the negotiating table,” the statement said, adding that Athens would always seek a “viable solution to stay in the euro.”
If Greece defaults on its debt, it will be the biggest default by a country in history.
Greece is expected to miss a €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) debt payment on Tuesday. That won’t be enough to put it in the record books yet, but it could eventually make Greece default on its entire debt load: €323 billion ($360 billion).
This isn’t the first time Greece has been on the brink. Greece already holds the record for the biggest default ever by a country from 2012 when it went into technical default and had to restructure about $138 billion of its debt. Back then, Greece was quickly bailed out by its European peers. That’s unlikely to happen now.
The Greek government pulled its negotiators from talks with European officials Friday after little progress was made on a debt payment plan and economic reforms. Greece has called for a referendum vote on July 5 on the latest proposal from Europe and the International Monetary Fund.
Greece already holds the record: Greece’s 2012 technical default shattered the previous record set by Argentina in 2001, when the South American nation defaulted on $95 billion in debt. While there are parallels between the two countries, experts say this potential Greek default could be much worse.
“Things are incredibly dire,” says Anna Gelpern, a Georgetown University professor. “For political reasons and market-confidence reasons, they need to deal with the debt…It’s not clear to me how they deal with it without defaulting on anyone.”
Greece won’t officially be in default right away. The International Monetary Fund generally gives countries a month after missing a debt payment before it declares a country in defaulted. However, the markets will most likely judge Greece to be in default by July 1.
Greece’s debt is spread out across the board. Greece owes money to the International Monetary Fund, Germany, France, Greek banks and several others.
But consider this: Whatever happens to Greece, it’s likely to be a long process. Argentina is still in default. But a key difference is that Greece has four times the debt load of Argentina — the next worst default — but Greece’s economy is only half the size of Argentina’s.
While Greece would be the biggest sovereign default, Lehman Brothers had over $600 billion in assets when it filed for bankruptcy in 2008. A Greek default would be smaller and unlikely to rattle the global financial system like Lehman, but it would have a long-lasting impact on the Greek people.
Here are some of the worst sovereign defaults since 2000.
1. Greece — $138 billion, March 2012. Despite going into a technical default, the Greek government is propped up by bailout funds from its European peers. Those bailout funds eventually lead to the current dilemma.
2. Argentina — $95 billion, November 2001. Argentina’s currency was “pegged” or equal to one U.S. dollar for years — a currency exchange that eventually proved to be completely inaccurate. Like Greece is doing this week, Argentina also clamped down on Argentines trying to take money out of the banks. It didn’t help. The country’s economy was nearly three times smaller just one year later, according to IMF data. In July 2014, Argentina went into a technical default after it missed a debt payment to its hold out creditors.
3. Jamaica — $7.9 billion, February 2010. Massive government overspending for years and rapid inflation pushed Jamaica into default five years ago. At the time, over 40% of the government’s budget went to paying debts. Its economy, which depends on tourism, suffered when the U.S. recession began in late 2008.
4. Ecuador — $3.2 billion, December 2008. Ecuador pulled a fast one on its creditors. With a debt payment looming, the Ecuardor’s government, led by President Rafael Correa, just said no to its creditors. He claimed the debt, some which was owned by American hedge funds, was “immoral.” Rich in resources, Ecuardor could have made debt payments, but intentionally chose not to.
Despite Lagarde’s initial reluctance, IMF on the hook for Greece
By By Anna Yukhananov | Reuters – 21 hours ago
By Anna Yukhananov
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – As French Finance Minister in 2010, Christine Lagarde opposed the involvement of the International Monetary Fund in Greece.
Now as the country stands on the edge of defaulting on a 1.6 billion euro ($1.8 billion) payment to the Fund, Lagarde’s tenure at the head of the IMF since 2011 will be shaped by Greece, which holds a referendum on Sunday that could pave the way to its exit from the euro.
By its own admission the Washington-based institution broke many of its rules in lending to Greece. It ended up endorsing austerity measures proposed by the European Commission and European Central Bank, its partners in the troika of Greece’s lenders, instead of leading talks as it had done with other countries such as Russia and in the Asian financial crisis.
“I think the IMF has missed the opportunity (on Greece), because it has not fully leveraged the lessons it learned from the previous crises it was involved in, due to this asymmetric relationship within the troika,” said Domenico Lombardi, a former IMF board member.
That the IMF lent to Greece at the behest of Europe, which has nominated every IMF Managing Director since the inception of the Fund in 1946, may expose the institution to greater scrutiny, especially as it has $24 billion in loans outstanding to Greece in its largest-ever program.
“When it was clear that the Greek program was underperforming, they did not push back sufficiently against the euro zone, which had at the time a misguided policy emphasis on only austerity,” said Jacob Funk Kirkegaard, a fellow at the Peterson Institute in Washington.
The involvement of the Fund in Greece and its continued support for decisions driven by eurozone governments caused a deep split in the institution.
Some IMF economists had misgivings about lending to Greece in 2010 within the constraints of the so-called “troika” of lenders, where the Fund would be the junior partner to the European Central Bank and the European Commission.
IMF board members also protested the “exceptional” size of the program, as Athens did not meet the Fund’s criteria for debt sustainability, meaning it would have trouble repaying.
Yet swayed by the fear that contagion in Athens could spread to French and German banks, the IMF agreed to participate in a joint 110-billion-euro bailout of Greece with the Europeans.
“The Europeans have a third of the voting rights (at the IMF), and they have appointed the managing director since the beginning, so essentially it is the governance that has driven the Greek program,” said Lombardi who is now with the Canada-based Center for International Governance Innovation.
Later, the Fund admitted that its projections for the Greek economy had been overly optimistic. Instead of growing after a year of austerity, Greece’s economy plunged into one of the worst recessions to ever hit a country in peacetime, with output falling 22 percent from 2008 to 2012.
While the euro zone’s insistence on drawing a direct link between euro membership and Greece’s debt sustainability and the negotiating tactics of the Greek government have exposed both to questions of credibility, the Fund stands charged as well.
“The IMF’s reputation, too, has been shaken from widespread criticism of the Greek program, including its own admission of its failures,” said Lombard Street Research economist Konstantinos Venetis.
TEMPTATION TO GO BIG
If Greece does default on all $24 billion it owes to the Fund, that will dwarf previous delinquencies from countries like Sudan, Zimbabwe and Somalia.
While the IMF was worried about contagion when it made the loans, it also had institutional incentives for wanting to bail out troubled countries, said Andrea Montanino, a former IMF board member who left the Fund in 2014 after participating in reviews of Greece’s second bailout in 2012.
“The IMF is in a preferred creditor status; the more you lend, the more you earn,” said Montanino, now with the Atlantic Council.
The IMF’s heavy involvement in large bailouts for euro zone countries, which included Ireland and Portugal, have enabled it to build up its reserve buffers in recent years. It is now aiming to store away some $28 billion by 2018.
From interest and charges on the Greek program alone, the IMF has earned some $3.9 billion since 2010, according to figures on the IMF’s website.
“I think the Greek lesson is in the future, the IMF will be much more careful,” said Montanino.
Greece is widely expected to miss a crucial payment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday—hours before its bailout officially ends at midnight and the country is left with few, if any, financial lifelines.
Greek officials have already warned the country is unable to pay the 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) due to the IMF by 6 p.m. ET, after reforms-for-aid talks with creditors broke down at the weekend.
Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the Eurogroup, subsequently tweeted on Tuesday that there would be a teleconference to discuss an “official request” from the Greek government “received this afternoon” at 1 p.m. ET.
The Greek government on Tuesday proposed a new, two-year bailout deal with the European Stability Mechanism. This would be to “fully cover its financing needs and the simultaneous restructuring of debt,” according to a translated press release from the office of the Greek Prime Minister.
Yannis Behrakis | Reuters
A protester waves a Greek flag in front of the parliament building during a rally in Athens, Greece, June 22, 2015.
This comes at a time when Greece’s financial future is in jeopardy. The country will potentially have no access to external sources of cash, once its funding from the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) expires at midnight.
Meanwhile, Greece’s banking system is being kept afloat by emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) from the European Central Bank, which is up for review on Wednesday.
Against a backdrop of uncertainty, Tsipras has called a referendum on July 5 of the Greek people on whether to accept the bailout proposals—and accompanying austerity measures—proposed by creditors.
Tsipras has urged the public to vote “no” to more austerity.
“The Greek government will claim a sustainable agreement within the euro. This is the message of NO to a bad deal at the referendum on Sunday,” the translated statement from the prime minister’s office said on Tuesday.
‘Running out of notches’
Meanwhile, credit ratings agencies are increasingly nervous about the country’s solvency.
Fitch Ratings downgraded Greek banks on Monday to “Restricted Default,” after Athens imposed capital controls to prevent an exodus of deposits from Greece.
In addition, Standard & Poor’s (S&P) lowered Greece’s credit rating to CCC- from CCC, saying the probability of the country exiting the euro zone was now 50 percent.
Moritz Kraemer, chief rating officer of sovereign ratings at S&P, told CNBC on Tuesday that the group was “actually running out of notches” for Greece.
“We have the rating at CCC- and that’s pretty much the lowest rung that we have on our scale,” he told CNBC Europe’s “Squawk Box.”
If Greece misses its payment on Tuesday, then the IMF will consider it in “arrears” – a technical term used by the IMF, which is similar to default.
If a country is in arrears to the IMF, it means it won’t get any future aid until the bill is repaid.
Although the IMF payment is dominating headlines, S&P’s Kraemer said that Greece’s bailout program ending at midnight was just as significant.
“Basically after that we’re back to square one,” he said. “So even if there was to be a change of heart in Athens and they did decide to take the creditors’ offer, that’s legally no longer possible as the program would have elapsed.”
Greece’s debt crisis: It all started in 2001…
Yannis Behrakis | Reuters
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In international law, odious debt, also known as illegitimate debt, is a legal theory that holds that the national debt incurred by a regime for purposes that do not serve the best interests of the nation, should not be enforceable. Such debts are, thus, considered by this doctrine to be personal debts of the regime that incurred them and not debts of the state. In some respects, the concept is analogous to the invalidity of contracts signed under coercion.
When a despotic regime contracts a debt, not for the needs or in the interests of the state, but rather to strengthen itself, to suppress a popular insurrection, etc, this debt is odious for the people of the entire state. This debt does not bind the nation; it is a debt of the regime, a personal debt contracted by the ruler, and consequently it falls with the demise of the regime. The reason why these odious debts cannot attach to the territory of the state is that they do not fulfil one of the conditions determining the lawfulness of State debts, namely that State debts must be incurred, and the proceeds used, for the needs and in the interests of the State. Odious debts, contracted and utilised for purposes which, to the lenders’ knowledge, are contrary to the needs and the interests of the nation, are not binding on the nation – when it succeeds in overthrowing the government that contracted them – unless the debt is within the limits of real advantages that these debts might have afforded. The lenders have committed a hostile act against the people, they cannot expect a nation which has freed itself of a despotic regime to assume these odious debts, which are the personal debts of the ruler.
There are many examples of similar debt repudiation.
Patricia Adams, executive director of Probe International, a Canadian environmental and public policy advocacy organisation and author of Odious Debts: Loose Lending, Corruption, and the Third World’s Environmental Legacy, stated: “by giving creditors an incentive to lend only for purposes that are transparent and of public benefit, future tyrants will lose their ability to finance their armies, and thus the war on terror and the cause of world peace will be better served.” In a Cato Institute policy analysis, Adams suggested that debts incurred by Iraq during Saddam Hussein‘s reign were odious because the money was spent on weapons, instruments of repression, and palaces.
A 2002 article by economists Seema Jayachandran and Michael Kremer renewed interest in this topic. They propose that the idea can be used to create a new type of economic sanction to block further borrowing by dictators. Jayachandran proposed new recommendations in November 2010 at the 10th anniversary of the Jubilee movement at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C.
In December 2008, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa attempted to default on Ecuador’s national debt, calling it illegitimate odious debt, because it was contracted by corrupt and despotic prior regimes. He succeeded in reducing the price of the debt letters before continuing paying the debt.
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U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions: Trade Promotion Authority Legislation Is Not Good For Americans
.S. Senator Jeff Sessions, R., Alabama, on June 18, 2015, spoke on the senate floor to address his concerns on the Trade Promotion Authority legislation. He spoke at length and in a round about way said the legislation is seditious and treasonous.
Today, June 23, 2015, Sessions released the following statement after the passing of the TPA:
“Americans increasingly believe that their country isn’t serving its own citizens. They need look no further than a bipartisan vote of Congress that will transfer congressional power to the Executive Branch and, in turn, to a transnational Pacific Union and the global interests who will help write its rules.
The same routine plays out over and again. We are told a massive bill must be passed, all the business lobbyists and leaders tell us how grand it will be, but that it must be rushed through before the voters spoil the plan. As with Obamacare and the Gang of Eight, the politicians meet with the consultants to craft the talking points—not based on what the bill actually does, but what they hope people will believe it does. And when ordinary Americans who never asked for the plan, who don’t want the plan, who want no part of the plan, resist, they are scorned, mocked, and heaped with condescension.
Washington broke arms and heads to get that 60th vote—not one to spare—to impose on the American people a plan which imperils their jobs, wages, and control over their own affairs. It is remarkable that so much energy has been expended on advancing the things Americans oppose, and preventing the things Americans want.
For instance: thousands of loyal Americans have been laid off and forced to train the foreign workers brought in to fill their jobs—at Disney, at Southern California Edison, across the country. Does Washington rush to their defense? No, the politicians and the lobbyists rush to move legislation that would double or triple the very program responsible for replacing them.
This ‘econometarian’ ideology holds that if a company can increase its bottom line —whether by insourcing foreign workers or outsourcing production—then it’s always a win, never a downside.
President Obama, and allies in Congress, have won this fast-track vote. But, in exchange, they may find that they are losing something far greater: the trust of the American people. Americans have a fundamental, decent, and just demand: that the people they elect defend their interests. And every issue to come before us in the coming months will have to pass this test: does it strengthen, or weaken, the position of the everyday, loyal American citizen?”
TPA passes senate! (Traitors)
Victory for Obama as the Senate gives him the go ahead to negotiate Pacific Rim trade deal
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U.S. Senate Sells Out America!
Republican Senators Sell Out America!
Trade Promotion Authority
Senate advances fast-track trade bill for Obama
he Senate on Tuesday voted to advance President Obama’s trade agenda, approving a measure to end debate on fast-track authority.
The 60-37 motion sets up a vote on final passage on Wednesday. If the Senate approves fast-track or trade promotion authority (TPA), it would then be sent to Obama’s desk to become law.
Fast-track authority would allow Obama to send trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes. The White House wants the authority to conclude negotiations on a sweeping trans-Pacific trade deal.
Thirteen Democrats backed fast-track in Tuesday’s vote, handing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) a major legislative victory. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) voted against the procedural motion.
The Democrats cast “yes” votes even though the trade package did not include a workers assistance program for people displaced by increased trade. The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program was a part of the last fast-track package approved by the Senate in May, but became a key part of opposition to the package among Democrats in the House.
To move fast-track forward, the White House and GOP leaders in both chambers decided to break TAA away from fast-track and to try to approve both in separate votes.
After the Senate votes Wednesday on final passage for fast-track, it will take a procedural vote on a package that includes TAA and trade preferences for African countries known as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).
McConnell has promised both bills, as well as a customs and enforcement bill favored by Democrats, will reach Obama’s desk by the end of the week.
“If we all keep working together and trusting each other, then by the end of the week the President will have TPA, TAA and AGOA and Preferences on his desk — with Customs in the process of heading his way too,” he said on the floor.
The House has already passed fast-track but it must still vote on the package including TAA, which faces opposition from conservatives.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) reiterated on Tuesday his pledge to vote again on TAA as soon as it clears the upper chamber.
“The House will consider TAA once it passes the Senate as part of a new trade preferences bill. And we are ready to go to conference on the customs bill. Our goal is to get TPA and TAA to the president’s desk this week and deliver this win for the American people,” he said in a statement.
The Senate vote to end a filibuster against fast-track appeared in doubt until the final moment as a group of pro-trade Democrats balked at McConnell’s decision to split it off from TAA, a move made necessary to circumvent opposition in the House.
Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Chris Coons (Del.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Patty Murray (Wash.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) refused to say publicly how they would vote.
McConnell’s margin for error shrank further when Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is running for president, announced he would vote to block the bill, declaring in a Breitbart.com op-ed that it had “become enmeshed in corrupt Washington backroom dealmaking.”
Other Republican White House hopefuls, including Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, oppose fast-track.
Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the senior Democrat on the Finance Committee, held talks with other pro-trade Democrats late into the evening Monday to address their concerns.
He delivered an impassioned speech in favor of the bill shortly before the vote, arguing that it would allow the United States to keep pace with China in the competition for Asian markets.
“This is our chance to set a new course. This is our chance to put in place higher standards in global trade on matters like labor rights and environmental protection, shine some real sunlight on trade agreements and ensure that our country writes the rules of the road,” he said.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who co-wrote the trade bill with Wyden, argued the vast majority of global economic growth will take place outside of the United States over the next decade.
“If our workers, farmers, ranchers and service providers are going to be able to compete in these growing markets, we must have open access to these markets and fair trade rules to boot,” he said on the floor.
Opponents led by Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) warned fast-track would cost thousands of American jobs and allow multi-national companies to evade U.S. law.
Brown reproached his colleagues for voting to give Obama fast-track authority while having little idea of the shape of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade accord that will receive expedited consideration in Congress as a result.
“We’ve gotten the worst of both worlds because we’re voting on TPA and we haven’t been able to see what’s in TPP,” Brown said before the vote.
The AFL-CIO waged a fierce lobbying campaign against fast-track for months.
“It will do nothing to prevent repeating the mistakes of failed trade policies that have contributed to stagnating wages, increasing inequality and the closure of more than 60,000 factories since 2000,” the union wrote in a letter dated Monday.
Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and other business leaders applauded the development.
“Today’s vote is an important step towards revitalizing our economy, creating more good American jobs, and reasserting our country’s global economic leadership,” Donohue said in a statement.
Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) missed the vote. McConnell said Corker would have voted “yes” if he had been present, while Brown noted that Lee and Menendez would have voted “no.”
SESSIONS WARNS TPA WOULD CREATE ‘PACIFIC UNION’ AKIN TO EUROPEAN UNION
by JEFF POOR 10 Jun 2015 1302
In a joint appearance on Sean Hannity’s radio show on Wednesday,
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA)
warned against the passage of the so-called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) currently being considered by the Congress.Sessions argued it was more than just a framework for a process for the president of the United States to use in negotiating trade agreements, but instead was creating an economic union with wide-ranging powers.
“I’ve been there three times and I can tell you it is far more than a trade agreement,” he said. “It is a creating of an economic union. The congressional resource said it is a wide-ranging political and economic partnership that is created where the Sultan of Brunei gets one vote. The president of the United States gets one vote. Twelve countries – they have the ability to add other treaties and pass them. They have the ability to deal with climate issues, wage issues and environmental issues. There’s just no doubt about that.”
The junior Alabama senator went on to explain that he felt it was being kept secret because if the public were aware of this union, which he likened to the European Union, it would be stopped dead in its tracks.
“I think it’s because if the trade commission – if the international commission, the Pacific union that is being created here – were made public, it wouldn’t go anywhere. I just don’t think it has any chance – look, England found out after they joined the EU they can’t fox hunt anymore.”
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How climate-change doubters lost a papal fight
By Anthony Faiola and Chris Mooney
Pope Francis was about to take a major step backing the science behind human-driven global warming, and Philippe de Larminat was determined to change his mind.
A French doubter who authored a book arguing that solar activity — not greenhouse gases — was driving global warming, de Larminat sought a spot at a climate summit in April sponsored by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Nobel laureates would be there. So would U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs and others calling for dramatic steps to curb carbon emissions.
After securing a high-level meeting at the Vatican, he was told that, space permitting, he could join. He bought a plane ticket from Paris to Rome. But five days before the April 28 summit, de Larminat said, he received an e-mail saying there was no space left. It came after other scientists — as well as the powerful Vatican bureaucrat in charge of the academy — insisted he had no business being there.
“They did not want to hear an off note,” de Larminat said.
The incident highlights how climate-change doubters tried and failed to alter the landmark papal document unveiled last week — one that saw the leader of 1 billion Catholics fuse faith and reason and come to the conclusion that “denial” is wrong.
Wearing a yellow raincoat, Pope Francis waves to the faithful as he arrives in Tacloban, Philippines, in January. (Wally Santana/AP)
It marked the latest blow for those seeking to stop the reform-minded train that has become Francis’s papacy. It is one that has reinvigorated liberal Catholics even as it has sowed the seeds of resentment and dissent inside and outside the Vatican’s ancient walls.
Yet the battle lost over climate change also suggests how hard it may be for critics to blunt the power of a man who has become something of a juggernaut in an institution where change tends to unfold over decades, even centuries. More than anything, to those who doubt the human impact of global warming, the position staked out by Francis in his papal document, known as an encyclical, means a major defeat.
“This was their Waterloo,” said Kert Davies, executive director of the Climate Investigations Center, who has been tracking climate-change deniers for years. “They wanted the encyclical not to happen. And it happened.”
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Papal advisers say Francis signaled his intent to draft a major document on the environment soon after assuming the throne of St. Peter in March 2013. His interest in the topic dates to his days as a bishop in Buenos Aires, where Francis, officials say, was struck by the effects of floods and unsanitary conditions on Argentine shantytowns known as “misery villages.”
In January, Francis officially announced his goal of drafting the encyclical — saying after an official visit to the Philippines that he wanted to make a “contribution” to the debate ahead of a major U.N. summit on climate change in Paris in December.
But several efforts by those skeptical of the scientific consensus on climate change to influence the document appear to have come considerably later — in April — and, maybe, too late.
In late April, the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, a free-market group that serves as a hub of skepticism regarding the science of human-caused global warming, sent a delegation to the Vatican. As a Heartland news release put it, they hoped “to inform Pope Francis of the truth about climate science: There is no global warming crisis!”
It was meant to coincide with the same April meeting that de Larminat was trying to attend. Heartland’s activists were not part of the invited contingent, either, Heartland communications director Jim Lakely said.
“It was a side event,” he said. “We were outside the walls of the Vatican. We were at a hotel — literally, I could throw a football into St. Peter’s Square.”
Seven scientists and other experts gave speeches at the Heartland event, raising doubts about various aspects of the scientific consensus on climate change, even as several also urged the pope not to take sides in the debate. It’s impossible to know how that influenced those in the Vatican working on the pope’s document — which one Vatican official said was at “an advanced stage.” But Lakely said his group did not see much of its argument reflected in the final document.
“We all want the poor to live better lives, but we just don’t think the solution to that is to restrict the use of fossil fuels, because we don’t think CO2 is causing a climate crisis,” Lakely said. “So if that’s our message in a sentence, that message was not reflected in the encyclical, so there you go.”
The father of conservative movement-building through direct mail, Richard A. Viguerie, issued a forceful denunciation of Francis, his encyclical and his priorities, calling the pope’s message on climate change “a confusing distraction that dilutes his great moral authority and leadership.”
Mr. Viguerie’s post does not address the substance of the encyclical; rather, it argues at length that the pope should not be writing about climate change “at a time when Catholics, indeed Christians of all denominations, are facing persecution” as well as “a host of moral and spiritual challenges”:
While the pope fiddles with one controversial political issue that is not at the core of spiritual matters, our spiritual culture is burning.
He goes on to assert that the Catholic clergy has “abandoned the teaching of morals” and “sees, hears, and knows few sins,” while “the liberals’ true agenda is to destroy religion” and, he says, the environmental movement has socialist roots.
Those who most fervently deny the scientific consensus on climate change have ridiculed Pope Francis. Steven Milloy, who regularly denounces climate scientists on his website and on Twitter, posted a series of strident messages after a draft of the encyclical leaked earlier this week. Mr. Milloy is linked to the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute and has also argued against the scientific studies that suggest that secondhand smoke causes cancer.
In recent Twitter posts, he called some of the leaked portions of the encyclical “adolescent, insipid, primitive, embarrassing,” as well as “a stumbling, bumbling PR disaster for Red Pope.”
Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change
By JIM YARDLEY and LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Pope Francis on Thursday called for a radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles to confront environmental degradation and climate change, blending a biting critique of consumerism and irresponsible development with a plea for swift and unified global action.
The vision that Francis outlined in a 184-page papal encyclical is sweeping in ambition and scope: He describes relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment and says apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology and political shortsightedness are to blame.
The most vulnerable victims, he declares, are the world’s poorest people, who are being dislocated and disregarded.
Francis, the first pope from the developing world, used the encyclical — titled “Laudato Si’,” or “Praise Be to You” — to highlight the crisis posed byclimate change. He places most of the blame on fossil fuels and human activity, while warning of an “unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequence for all of us” if corrective action is not taken swiftly. Developed, industrialized countries were mostly responsible, he says, and are obligated to help poorer nations confront the crisis.
“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods,” he writes. “It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”
The Vatican released the encyclical at noon on Thursday, three days after an Italian magazine posted a leaked draft online, to the fury of Vaticanofficials. The breach led to speculation that opponents of Francis in the Vatican wanted to embarrass him by undermining the release.
Even so, religious figures, environmentalists, scientists, executives and elected officials around the world awaited the official release, and scheduled news conferences or issued statements afterward. News media interest was enormous, in part because of Francis’ global popularity, but also because of the intriguing coalition he is proposing between faith and science.
“Humanity is faced with a crucial challenge that requires the development of adequate policies, which, moreover, are currently being discussed on the global agenda,” Cardinal Peter Turkson said at a news conference at the Vatican. “Certainly, ‘Laudato Si’ ’ can and must have an impact on important and urgent decisions to be made in this area.”
In his encyclical, read by a nun at the Vatican on Thursday, Francis focused on the harm climate change poses to the poor.CreditMax Rossi/Reuters
Francis has made it clear that he hopes the encyclical will influence energy and economic policy and stir a global movement. He calls on ordinary people to press politicians for change. Catholic bishops and priests around the world are expected to discuss the encyclical in services on Sunday. But Francis is also reaching for a wider audience, asking in the document “to address every person living on this planet.”
Even before the encyclical, the pope’s stance against environmental destruction and his demand for global action had already thrilled many scientists. Advocates of policies to combat climate change have said they hoped that Francis could lend a “moral dimension” to the debate.
“Within the scientific community, there is almost a code of honor that you will never transgress the red line between pure analysis and moral issues,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder and chairman of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “But we are now in a situation where we have to think about the consequences of our insight for society.”
Francis has been sharply criticized by those who question or deny the established science of human-caused climate change, and also by some conservative Roman Catholics, who see the encyclical as an attack on capitalism and as political meddling.
Governments are now developing domestic climate-change plans to prepare for aUnited Nations summit meeting on the issue in Paris in December. The meeting’s goal is to achieve a sweeping accord in which every nation would commit to new policies to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. Many governments have yet to present plans, including major emitters like Brazil, which has a large Catholic population. The encyclical is seen as an unsubtle nudge for action.
“It gives a lot of cover to political and economic leaders in those countries, as they make decisions on climate change policy,” said Timothy Wirth, vice chairman of the United Nations Foundation.
Catholic theologians say the overarching theme of the encyclical is “integral ecology,” which links care for the environment with a notion already well developed in Catholic teaching: that economic development, to be morally good and just, must take into account people’s need for things like freedom, education and meaningful work.
“The basic idea is, in order to love God, you have to love your fellow human beings, and you have to love and care for the rest of creation,” said Vincent Miller, who holds a chair in Catholic theology and culture at the University of Dayton, a Catholic college in Ohio. “It gives Francis a very traditional basis to argue for the inclusion of environmental concern at the center of Christian faith.”
Metropolitan of Pergamon John Zizioulas, left, and Cardinal Peter Turkson presented the 184-page papal encyclical on Thursday.CreditAndrew Medichini/Associated Press
He added: “Critics will say the church can’t teach policy, the church can’t teach politics. And Francis is saying, ‘No, these things are at the core of the church’s teaching.’ ”
Francis tapped a wide variety of sources in his encyclical, partly to underscore the universality of his message. He cites passages from his two papal predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, and draws prominently from a religious ally, Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople, leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church. He also cites a ninth-century Sufi mystic, Ali al-Khawas.
“This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church,” Francis writes. The Bible teaches human beings to “till and keep” the garden of the world, he says. “ ‘Tilling’ refers to cultivating, plowing or working, while ‘keeping’ means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving.”
His most stinging rebuke is a broad critique of profit-seeking and the undue influence of technology on society. He praises achievements in medicine, science and engineering, but says that “our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience.”
Central to Francis’ theme is the link between poverty and the planet’s fragility. The pope rejects the belief that technology and “current economics” will solve environmental problems, or “that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth.”
“A huge indictment I see in this encyclical is that people have lost their sense of ultimate and proper goals of technology and economics,” said Christiana Z. Peppard, an assistant professor of theology, science and ethics at Fordham University in New York. “We are focused on short-term, consumerist patterns.”
Encyclicals are letters to the clergy and laity of the church that are considered authoritative. Catholics are expected to try to sincerely embrace their teachings. But more specific assertions in them can be categorized as “prudential judgments,” a phrase that some critics have invoked to reject Francis’ positions on issues like climate change or economic inequality.
Many conservatives will be pleased with the encyclical’s strong criticism of abortion, and its dismissal of arguments that population control can be an answer to poverty. However, Francis sharply criticizes the trading of carbon credits — a market-based system central to the European Union’s climate policy — and says it “may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.”
Above all, Francis frames the encyclical as a call to action. He praises young people for being ready for change, and said “enforceable international agreements are urgently needed.” He cites Benedict in saying that advanced societies “must be prepared to encourage more sober lifestyles, while reducing their energy consumption and improving its efficiency.”
“All is not lost,” he writes. “Human beings, while capable of the worst, are also capable of rising above themselves, choosing again what is good, and making a new start.”
St. Francis of Assisi’s hymn Laudato Si’ spoke of “Brothers” Sun and Fire and “Sisters” Moon and Water, using these colorful phrases figuratively, as a way of praising God’s creation. These sentimental words so touched Pope Francis that he named his encyclical after this canticle (repeated in paragraph 87 of the Holy Father’s letter).
Neither Pope Francis nor St. Francis took the words literally, of course. Neither believed that fire was alive and could be talked to or reasoned with or, worse, worshiped. Strange, then, that a self-professed atheist and scientific advisor to the Vatican named Hans Schellnhuber appears to believe in a Mother Earth.
The Gaia Principle, first advanced by chemist James Lovelock (who has lately had second thoughts) and microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, says that all life interacts with the Earth, and the Earth with all life, to form a giant self-regulating, living system.
This goes far beyond the fact that the Earth’s climate system has feedbacks, which are at the very center of the debate over climate change. In the Gaia Principle, Mother Earth is alive, and even, some think, aware in some ill-defined, mystical way. The Earth knows man and his activities and, frankly, isn’t too happy with him.
This is what we might call “scientific pantheism,” a kind that appeals to atheistic scientists. It is an updated version of the pagan belief that the universe itself is God, that the Earth is at least semi-divine — a real Brother Sun and Sister Water! Mother Earth is immanent in creation and not transcendent, like the Christian God.
What’s this have to do with Schellnhuber? In the 1999 Nature paper “‘Earth system’ analysis and the second Copernican revolution,” he said:
Ecosphere science is therefore coming of age, lending respectability to its romantic companion, Gaia theory, as pioneered by Lovelock and Margulis. This hotly debated ‘geophysiological’ approach to Earth-system analysis argues that the biosphere contributes in an almost cognizant way to self-regulating feedback mechanisms that have kept the Earth’s surface environment stable and habitable for life.
Geo-physiological, in case you missed it. Cognizant, in black and white. So dedicated is Schellnhuber to this belief that he says “the Gaia approach may even include the influence of biospheric activities on the Earth’s plate-tectonic processes.” Not the other way around, mind you, where continental drift and earthquakes effects life, but where life effects earthquakes.
Although effects such as the glaciations may still be interpreted as over-reactions to small disturbances — a kind of cathartic geophysiological fever — the main events, resulting in accelerated maturation by shock treatment, indicate that Gaia faces a powerful antagonist. Rampino has proposed personifying this opposition as Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction.
Mother Earth gets the flu and instead of white blood cells and a rise in temperature to fend off the infection, it sends white ice and a decrease in temperatures. How? Geophysiologically! I remind the reader that our author, writing in one of the world’s most prominent science journals, does not use these propositions metaphorically. He proposes them as actual mechanisms.
Schellnhuber echoes the theme of a cognizant, i.e. self-aware, planet in another (co-authored) 2004 paper in Nature 2004, “Climbing the co-evolution ladder,” suggesting again that mankind is an infection, saying that mankind “perturbs … the global ‘metabolism’” of the planet.
Schellnhuber, a one-time quantum physicist who turned his attention to Mother Earth late in his career, was also co-author of a 2009 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences paper “Imprecise probability assessment of tipping points in the climate system,” which asked select scientists their gut assessment about the arrival of various “tipping points.” Tipping points are a theme of Schellnhuber’s research (see inter aliathis and this).
Tipping points are supposed moments when some doom which might have been avoided if some action had been taken, is no longer possible to avoid and will arrive no matter what. Tipping points have come and gone in climate forecasts for decades now. The promised dooms never arrive but the false prophets never quit. Their intent is less to forecast than to induce something short of panic in order to plead for political intervention. When the old tipping point is past, theorists just change the date, issue new warnings and hope no one will notice.
One of the tipping points Schellnhuber asked about was the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, depending on what the temperature did. All of the selected experts (who answered the questions in 2004 and 2005) gave moderate (~15-25%) to quite high probabilities (50-80%) for this event to have occurred by 2015. The ice did not melt.
Schellnhuber presented more tipping points to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 2014 in the co-authored paper, “Climate-System Tipping Points and Extreme Weather Events.” In that paper, Schellnhuber has a “scientific” graph with Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Adam “flicking” a planet earth over a methane tipping point, such that the earth would roll down into a fiery pit labeled the “Warming Abyss.” Hell on earth.
The Problem of People
Schellnhuber is most famous for predicting that the “carrying capacity” of the earth is “below” 1 billion people. When confronted with this, he called those who quoted him “liars.” But he then repeated the same claim, saying, “All I said was that if we had unlimited global warming of eight degrees warming, maybe the carrying capacity of the earth would go down to just 1 billion, and then the discussion would be settled.” And he has often said that this temperature tipping point would be reached — unless “actions” were taken.
The man is suspicious of people. In that same interview he said, “If you want to reduce human population, there are wonderful means: Improve the education of girls and young women.” Since young women already know where babies come from, and since this knowledge tends neither to increase nor decrease population, the “education” he has in mind must be facts about how to avoid the consequences of sex. Austin Ruse discovered a 2009 talk in which Schellnhuber said the earth “will explode” due to resource depletion once the population reaches 9 billion, a number that the UN projects in 2050. Presumably he wants earth to avoid that fate, so he mustsupport the population control that Pope Francis so clearly repudiated in his encyclical.
Confirmation bias happens when a scientist manipulates an experiment so that he gets the outcome he hoped he would get. When Schellnhuber invites only believers in tipping-points-of-doom to characterize their guesses of this doom, his view that the doom is real will be confirmed. And when he publishes a paper that says, “Scientists say world is doomed” the public and politicians believe it. Scientists skeptical of the doom are dismissed because they are skeptics. This isn’t good science. It’s really bad religion, and a pagan one at that.
Global warming research is characterized by an insider’s club. If you believe, you’re in. If you doubt, you’re out. This is also so at the Pontifical Academies of Science where Schellnhuber was appointed by Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo. The bishop locked scientists with contrary views out of the process, scientists he has repeatedly dismissed as “funded by the oil industry.” Given this, how likely is it that the Holy Father was fully aware of the views of the chief scientist who advised him?
Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change
“…On June 2, as Congress debated global warming legislation that would raise energy costs to consumers by hundreds of billions of dollars, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) released an 880-page book challenging the scientific basis of concerns that global warming is either man-made or would have harmful effects.
In “Climate Change Reconsidered: The 2009 Report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC),” coauthors Dr. S. Fred Singer and Dr. Craig Idso and 35 contributors and reviewers present an authoritative and detailed rebuttal of the findings of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), on which the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress rely for their regulatory proposals.
The scholarship in this book demonstrates overwhelming scientific support for the position that the warming of the twentieth century was moderate and not unprecedented, that its impact on human health and wildlife was positive, and that carbon dioxide probably is not the driving factor behind climate change.
The authors cite thousands of peer-reviewed research papers and books that were ignored by the IPCC, plus additional scientific research that became available after the IPCC’s self-imposed deadline of May 2006.
The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) is an international panel of nongovernment scientists and scholars who have come together to understand the causes and consequences of climate change. Because it is not a government agency, and because its members are not predisposed to believe climate change is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions, NIPCC is able to offer an independent “second opinion” of the evidence reviewed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). …”
SSRI Stories is a collection of over 6,000 stories that have appeared in the media (newspapers, TV, scientific journals) in which prescription drugs were mentioned and in which the drugs may be linked to a variety of adverse outcomes including violence.
This updated site includes the stories from the previous site and new ones from 2011 to date. We have used a new “category” classification system on the new stories. We are working back through previously SSRI Stories to bring them into the new classification system. In the meantime use the search box in the upper right column to search through both the old and the new stories.
SSRI Stories focuses primarily on problems caused by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), of which Prozac (fluoxetine) was the first. For more see About SSRIs. Other medications prescribed as antidepressants that fit the “nightmares” theme of the collected stories are sometimes included.
Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit (Grace Slick, Woodstock, aug 17 1969)
Jefferson Airplane – Somebody to love
Dylann Roof makes first South Carolina court appearance
Bond Hearing For Charleston Church Shooter Dylann Roof (Full Unedited): First Court Appearance
New video shows church group moments before shooting
Who is Dylann Roof?
Dylann Roof: Charleston Church Shooting | True News
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SSRI’s Behind Mass Shootings – Psych Speaks Out!
Friend: Dyllan Storm Roof Took Gun from His Mom – She Didn’t Trust Him With It (VIDEO)
Witnesses: Shooter said he was there ‘to shoot black…
Charleston Church Shootings: Special Report
Best 7 minutes on gun control I have ever seen!
In this segment of his Virtual State of the Union, the Virtual President talks about why politicians want to talk about gun control rather than crime control, and delivers the factual evidence and historical truths that make the case for the Second Amendment self-evident.
Dr Susan Gratia-Hupp – Survivor of the 1991 Kileen TX Lubys Shooting Massacre
Hupp and her parents were having lunch at the Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen in 1991 when the Luby’s massacre commenced. The gunman shot 50 people and killed 23, including Hupp’s parents. Hupp later expressed regret about deciding to remove her gun from her purse and lock it in her car lest she risk possibly running afoul of the state’s concealed weapons laws; during the shootings, she reached for her weapon but then remembered that it was “a hundred feet away in my car.” Her father, Al Gratia, tried to rush the gunman and was shot in the chest. As the gunman reloaded, Hupp escaped through a broken window and believed that her mother, Ursula Gratia, was behind her. Actually however, her mother went to her mortally-wounded husband’s aid and was then shot in the head.
As a survivor of the Luby’s massacre, Hupp testified across the country in support of concealed-handgun laws. She said that if there had been a second chance to prevent the slaughter, she would have violated the Texas law and carried the handgun inside her purse into the restaurant. She testified across the country in support of concealed handgun laws, and was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1996. The law was signed by then-Governor George W. Bush.
The Animals – The House of the Rising Sun
“House Of The Rising Sun”
There is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God, I know I’m oneMy mother was a tailor
She sewed my new blue jeans
My father was a gamblin’ man
Down in New OrleansNow the only thing a gambler needs
Is a suitcase and trunk
And the only time he’s satisfied
Is when he’s on a drunk[Organ Solo]Oh mother, tell your children
Not to do what I have done
Spend your lives in sin and misery
In the House of the Rising SunWell, I got one foot on the platform
The other foot on the train
I’m goin’ back to New Orleans
To wear that ball and chainWell, there is a house in New Orleans
They call the Rising Sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor boy
And God, I know I’m one
The Moody Blues – Nights In White Satin
Charleston shooting: c’s stepmother defends ‘smart’ boy ‘drawn in by internet evil’
The stepmother of Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old charged with nine counts of murder for the shooting at a church in Charleston, has spoken out in his defence.
Paige Mann, who was married to Mr Roof’s father for 10 years and helped raise him, said that her stepson was so smart that he became bored in school and was a germophobe for some time.
“He went to catechism, he went to church,” Ms Mann said. “He was locked in his room looking up bad stuff on the computer.”
In an interview with the New York Daily News, she said: “Something on the computer drew him in – this is Internet evil. We just thought he was a lazy, this-generation kind of kid.”
Mr Roof’s manifesto, published online, shows how the 21-year-old’s views hardened after the shooting of Travyon Martin in Florida in 2012. Ms Paige claimed that it was only after her step-son began living with his mother over the past few years that he became a recluse.
Mr Roof sat with members of the Emanuel African Methodist Epsicopal Church for nearly an hour before he allegedly shot nine of them dead, including the pastor.
Divorce papers filed by Ms Paige in 2008 claim that Franklin Roof had hit her and that any hope Dylann had of a normal home left with her, it was reported by the Inquisitr.
According to the manifesto, which was updated just hours before the fatal attack, he believed that he had no choice but to carry out the attack on the church and “chose Charleston because it is the most historic city in my state”.
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Affidavits spell out chilling case against Dylann Roof
As a subdued Dylann Roof made his first official appearance Friday on charges of killing nine people at a historic black church, police affidavits offered grim details of the murder case, including an allegation that the gunman fired multiple shots into each victim and stood over them to issue “a racially inflammatory statement.”
The documents also said that Roof’s father and uncle contacted police to positively identify the 21-year-old as the suspect after authorities issued photos of the gunman within hours of the attack at the Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston Wednesday evening.
As those details trickled out, the suspect’s family issued a statement expressing sadness and offering condolences to the families of the victims:
Dylann Roof’s father, according to the court documents, told investigators that his son owned a .45-caliber handgun. The documents note that .45-caliber casings were found at the scene of the shootings.
The affidavits allege that Roof, wearing a fanny pack apparently to hide a weapon, spent an hour with the parishioners before opening fire on the group. Before leaving the scene of the carnage, he allegedly “uttered a racially inflammatory statement” over the bodies to a witness who was apparently allowed to survive to convey the message.
Roof was returned to South Carolina after waiving his extradition rights following his arrest Thursday near Shelby, N.C., about 245 miles northwest of Charleston.
He appeared at ease when he allegedly told investigators shortly after his capture that he had launched the attack that left nine dead, a federal law enforcement official said. The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said that the suspect expressed no remorse and appeared “comfortable” with what he had done.
Authorities have determined that Roof legally obtained a .45-caliber handgun earlier this year, using money likely provided as birthday gift from his family, the official said. The weapon was purchased at gun store near Columbia, S.C.
Statements made by some family members of victims were particularly powerful.
Charleston shooting: What is a ‘hate crime’?
Appearing by video link from jail, the 21-year-old Roof, who was handcuffed and wore a striped jail jumpsuit, often pursed his lips, closed his eyes, or stared at the floor as the relatives of five victims spoke to the court at the bond hearing.
“You took something really precious away from me, I will never talk to her again, never hold her again, but I forgive you,” said the daughter of one of the victims, Ethel Lance. “You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people but God forgive you and I forgive you.”
Roof appeared wan and subdued, his distinctive bowl hair, shown in surveillance photos outside the church on the night of the killings, stringy and unkempt. He stood with his hands cuffed behind his back. Two heavily armed guards stood behind him.
Bethanee Middleton-Brown, sister of another victim, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, addressed the hearing amid sniffles and sobs in the tiny courtroom.
She said her sister “taught me me that we are the family that love built, we have no room for hate, so we have to forgive. And I pray to God for your soul and I also thank God that And I also thank God I won’t be around when your judgment day comes with him.”
Although the court legally could not issue any bond in on the murder charges, Magistrate James Gosnell Jr. set Roof’s bond on a related weapons possession charge at $1 million.
Roof, who often swallowed hard as the judge asked questions, spoke only three times, answering “yes, sir” and “no, sir” to questions about his employment status. Roof is unemployed.
At the opening of the emotional, 13-minute hearing, Gosnell addressed the court, saying Charleston is a strong, loving community with “big hearts.”
“We are going to reach out to everyone, all the victims, and we will touch them,” he said. “We have victims — nine of them — but we also have victims on the other side.
“There are victims on this young man’s side of the family. No one would have ever thrown them into the whirlwind of events that they have been thrown into … We must find it in their heart to also help his family as well.”
In Washington, meanwhile, Justice Department spokeswoman Emily Pierce said the federal inquiry into the church shooting is ongoing.
What happens to mass killers: the data behind the crimes
Pierce said the investigation will not only consider possible hate crime violations, but prosecutors also will review the shooting as a possible “act of domestic terrorism.”
“This heartbreaking episode was undoubtedly designed to strike fear and terror into this community, and the department is looking at this crime from all angles,” Pierce said.
Charleston, South Carolina Mayor Joseph Riley said although he doesn’t condone the death penalty, he thinks prosecutors will seek it in the Emanuel AME church shooting. VPC
Gov. Nikki Haley, speaking on NBC’s Today show on Friday, said that “we will absolutely will want him to have the death penalty” for the fatal shooting of nine members of a Bible study group at the Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday evening.
Charleston Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr., said at a news conference Friday that though he’s not a proponent of the death penalty, it’s the law in South Carolina and he expects it will be sought in the church shooting. “If you are going to have a death penalty, certainly this case would merit it,” Riley said.
Shelby police officials did not interview Roof formally, according to WBTV, a Charlotte TV station, which quotes an unidentified source as saying the suspect was videotaped during the entire time he was at the Shelby police department.
The source told WBTV that Roof spoke freely, told investigators he had been planning the attack for a period of time, had researched the Emanuel AME Church and targeted it because it was a historic African-American church.
According to WBTV’s source, Roof told investigators he had a Glock handgun hidden behind a pouch he was wearing around his waist. He also told investigators he thought he’d only shot a few people and when told he actually had killed nine people, he appeared to be somewhat remorseful, according to the source.
During the recorded conversation, Roof reportedly told investigators he actually thought he would be caught in Charleston before fleeing and was headed to Nashville when he was captured. When asked why he was going to Nashville, he reportedly told investigators “I’ve never been there before.”
Police alleged that Roof opened fire on worshipers after sitting with them for at least an hour. The victims included the pastor, Clementa Pinckney, 41, who was also a state senator.
The 21-year-old man accused of killing nine people as they worshiped at a Charleston, South Carolina church has a criminal past. Dylann Roof was arrested twice this year and images of him posted to social media seem to show a racist ideology. WCNC
Roof allegedly told police he “almost didn’t go through with (the shooting) because everyone was so nice to him,” other sources told NBC News’ Craig Melvin.
Police say they thought Roof was the lone gunman within hours of the bloody attack on the church, which was founded in 1816. Asked whether authorities believe Roof had acted alone, Mullen said: “We don’t have any reason to believe anyone else was involved.”
A one-time acquaintance of Roof’s told the Associated Press that he would rant that “blacks were taking over the world” as the pair got drunk on vodka.
Roof railed that “someone needed to do something about it for the white race,” said the former friend, Joseph Meek Jr., according to the AP.
Story 1: American People’s Crisis of Confidence in Big Government And Out of Control Spending and Taxes — Abandoning Both Political Parties — The Coming Of A Third Independent Party — Toppling Two Party Tyranny — The Wealth Creators Will Lead The American Renaissance — Videos
Free Market Revolution -The Solution to what Ails America Today
The mission of the Financial Policy Council Inc. (FPC), a research think tank and educational institution, is to formulate and promote sound public policy based on the principles of free enterprise and wealth creation as envisioned by the ideals of the American Founding Fathers.
Our goal is to ensure that America, the land of opportunity where freedom and prosperity have flourished, is not derailed by poorly formulated and reactive economic, fiscal and tax policy. In addition, our goal is to retain and reclaim America’s leading role in the global economic community.
Dr. Yaron Brook | Why Be Selfish? | Full Length HD
G. Edward Griffin – The Collectivist Conspiracy
Confidence In Institutions – GBTV
Matt Welch Tackles Two Party Tyranny on Stossel
TAKE IT TO THE LIMITS: Milton Friedman on Libertarianism
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index registered at -9 for the week ending June 7, the sixth straight week the index has been at or below -5.
After climbing steadily during the fall of last year and registering positive scores from late December through mid-February, the U.S. Economic Confidence Index slipped to between -3 and -4 for most of March and April in Gallup’s weekly averages. The index dipped more at the start of May, reaching -9, and has remained near that level since.
Still, on a relative basis the recent weekly index readings are much higher than Gallup found for most weeks between January 2008 and November 2014, when the index ranged from -65 to -3.
Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index is the average of two components: Americans’ views of current economic conditions and their perceptions of whether the U.S. economy is getting better or getting worse. The theoretical maximum for the index is +100, if all Americans say the economy is excellent or good and getting better. The theoretical minimum is -100, if all Americans say the economy is poor and getting worse.
For the week ending June 7, 24% of Americans said the economy is excellent or good while 30% said it is poor, resulting in a current conditions score of -6. The economic outlook score of -12, the lowest score for this component since early May, is the result of 42% of Americans saying the economy is getting better and 54% saying it is getting worse.
Americans’ outlook has improved on a variety of economic measures, but their overall confidence in the U.S. economy is registering significantly lower values in the past several weeks than it did from late December to late April.
The recent erosion in confidence may be related to rising gas prices since the beginning of the year. The direction of gas prices in the months ahead could help predict the trajectory of economic confidence, as could other economic information consumers are likely to pick up on, including the monthly government jobs report — which for May was stronger than some analysts expected.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 1-7, 2015, on the Gallup U.S. Daily survey, with a random sample of 3,035 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
Confidence in U.S. Institutions Still Below Historical Norms
by Jeffrey M. Jones
Only military, small business top historical averages
Military, small business highest-rated institutions overall
Confidence in organized religion, police at all-time lows
PRINCETON, N.J. — Americans’ confidence in most major U.S. institutions remains below the historical average for each one. Only the military (72%) and small business (67%) — the highest-rated institutions in this year’s poll — are currently rated higher than their historical norms, based on the percentage expressing “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the institution.
These results are based on a June 2-7 Gallup poll that included Gallup’s latest update on confidence in U.S. institutions. Gallup first measured confidence ratings in 1973 and has updated them each year since 1993.
Americans’ confidence in most major institutions has been down for many years as the nation has dealt with prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a major recession and sluggish economic improvement, and partisan gridlock in Washington. In fact, 2004 was the last year most institutions were at or above their historical average levels of confidence. Perhaps not coincidentally, 2004 was also the last year Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States averaged better than 40%. Currently, 28% of Americans are satisfied with the state of the nation.
From a broad perspective, Americans’ confidence in all institutions over the last two years has been the lowest since Gallup began systematic updates of a larger set of institutions in 1993. The average confidence rating of the 14 institutions asked about annually since 1993 — excluding small business, asked annually since 2007 — is 32% this year. This is one percentage point above the all-institution average of 31% last year. Americans were generally more confident in all institutions in the late 1990s and early 2000s as the country enjoyed a strong economy and a rally in support for U.S. institutions after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Confidence in Political, Financial and Religious Institutions Especially Low
Today’s confidence ratings of Congress, organized religion, banks, the Supreme Court and the presidency show the greatest deficits compared with their historical averages, all running at least 10 points below that mark. Americans’frustration with the government’s performance has eroded the trust they have in all U.S. political institutions. Likewise, Americans’ confidence in banks fell after the bursting of the housing bubble and the subsequent financial crisis.
The large decline in confidence in organized religion is likely tied to a decline in religiosity overall, but also to scandals that have plagued various religious organizations, most notably the Catholic Church. This year’s 42% score for confidence in the church or organized religion is the lowest Gallup has measured for that institution. The prior low was 44% in 2012.
Confidence in the police, at 52% this year, ties the low for that institution recorded in the first year it was measured, 1993. In the past year, the police have been a major focus of news coverage in several incidents in which white police officers’ actions resulted in the deaths of black men they were trying to apprehend.
Still, the church and the police rank among the highest-rated institutions, trailing only the military and small business among the 15 institutions tested in this year’s poll. Further back in history, the church ranked first or tied for first in all but one survey from 1973 through 1988. Since then, the military has been the top-ranked institution each year except 1997, when small business was first.
Congress is the institution in which Americans express the least confidence this year, with 8% doing so, one point above its 7% rating last year — the lowest Gallup has ever measured for any institution. Congress has ranked last each year since 2010, and a total of 12 times since 1973. Other institutions that have held this unwelcome distinction in the past include big business (nine times), health maintenance organizations (eight), the criminal justice system (six) and organized labor (four). The top- and bottom-rated institutions in each Confidence in Institutions poll are shown at the bottom of this story.
Americans continue to show lower levels of confidence in most of the major institutions central to U.S. society, with only the military and small business getting ratings in 2015 that are above their historical averages. That speaks to the broader dissatisfaction Americans have with the state of the nation more generally over the past decade as the U.S. has faced serious economic, international and political challenges. Americans have tended to be more confident in U.S. institutions when the economy has been strong, such as in the mid-1980s and the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although Americans are now more upbeat about the economy than they were in 2008-2013, they are not yet convinced that the economy is good, given that their assessments of national economic conditions remain more negative than positive.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 2-7, 2015, with a random sample of 1,527 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
Confidence in U.S. Branches of Government Remains Low
by Justin McCarthy
Americans’ confidence in presidency up four points, at 33%
Thirty-two percent have confidence in the Supreme Court
Congress retains the least confidence, at 8%
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans’ confidence in each of the three branches of the U.S. government remains low, with confidence in Congress and the Supreme Court near their all-time lows reached last year. Currently, 33% of Americans have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the presidency, 32% are this confident in the Supreme Court, and Congress is still well behind, at 8%.
While Congress has consistently received the lowest confidence rating of the three branches of government, the Supreme Court and the presidency usually track each other closely. This is apart from times when the incumbent president has been extremely popular, as in 1991 and 2002, or exceptionally unpopular, as in 2007 and 2008.
Gallup’s June 2-7 poll found confidence in the presidency rising slightly to 33% from 29% last year, which in turn was just four percentage points above the historical low of 25% in 2007. The uptick in confidence in the presidency this year is consistent with Americans’ higher job approval ratings of President Barack Obama since last fall.
Meanwhile, ratings of the Supreme Court and Congress, which had dropped to record lows in 2014, have barely moved.
Confidence in the Presidency in Obama’s Seventh Year Exceeds Bush’s
The president in office is not mentioned by name in the confidence in the presidency question, but Americans’ evaluations of the sitting president at the time are strongly related to how much confidence Americans place in the presidency as an institution.
Confidence in the presidency as an institution during each year of Obama’s presidency has generally been lower than the comparable year in the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. An exception is Obama’s first year, when Americans had greater confidence in the institution than in the first years of either Bush or Clinton. Also, in Obama’s current year in office, his seventh, confidence in the presidency is higher than the 25% found in Bush’s seventh year — the record low — but lower than the 49% in Clinton’s seventh year.
The highest confidence rating the presidency has ever received is 72%, in March 1991 during the administration of George H.W. Bush shortly after he had succeeded in pushing Iraq out of Kuwait in the Gulf War. However, by October of that same year, after the Gulf War was over, confidence in the presidency had dropped to 50%.
Average Confidence in the Three Branches Is Low, but Has Been Lower
The average confidence rating for the three branches of government combined is 24%, lower than most previous averages since 1991 and well below the high of 50% that year.
But the average of confidence ratings for the three branches of government has been lower — including in 2008 (23%) and 2014 (22%).
Americans’ confidence in two of the three institutions that make up the U.S. government — Congress and the Supreme Court — remains near their all-time lows reached in 2014, while confidence in the presidency, although low, is up marginally compared with last year.
For Congress, low confidence in the institution is nothing new to members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, who have also seen low job approval ratings in recent years. Individual members likely aren’t as interested in Americans’ collective opinions as they are in the views of the voters they must appeal to back home. But the public’s extremely low confidence no doubt weighs on Congress at some level.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, is not directly accountable to the public — and often defies public opinion completely. Although its unelected members serve indefinite terms, confidence in the court is not unsusceptible to a drop in confidence in government as a whole.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted June 2-7, 2015, with a random sample of 1,527 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All reported margins of sampling error include computed design effects for weighting.
Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods.
Americans have little confidence in most of their major institutions including Congress, the presidency, the Supreme Court, banks and organized religion, according to the latest Gallup poll.
“Americans’ confidence in most major U.S. institutions remains below the historical average for each one,” a Gallup spokesman said in a news release. Only the military, in which 72 percent of Americans express confidence, up from a historical average of 68 percent, and small business, with 67 percent confidence, up from 63, are currently rated higher than their historical norms. This is based on the percentage expressing “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in these institutions, the Gallup spokesman said.
Only 8 percent have confidence in Congress, down by 16 points from a long-term average of 24 percent – the lowest of all institutions rated. The rating is about the same as last year’s 7 percent, the lowest Gallup has ever measured for any institution.
Thirty-three percent have confidence in the presidency, a drop from a historical average of 43 percent.
Thirty-two percent have confidence in the Supreme Court, down from 44.
All in all, it’s a picture of a nation discouraged about its present and worried about its future, and highly doubtful that its institutions can pull America out of its trough. In a political context, the findings indicate that the growing number of presidential candidates for 2016 will have a difficult time instilling confidence in a skeptical electorate that they have the answers to the country’s problems.
“Americans’ confidence in most major institutions has been down for many years as the nation has dealt with prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a major recession and sluggish economic improvement, and partisan gridlock in Washington,” the Gallup spokesman said. “In fact, 2004 was the last year most institutions were at or above their historical average levels of confidence. Perhaps not coincidentally, 2004 was also the last year Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States averaged better than 40 percent. Currently, 28 percent of Americans are satisfied with the state of the nation.”
The Gallup spokesman added: “From a broad perspective, Americans’ confidence in all institutions over the last two years has been the lowest since Gallup began systematic updates of a larger set of institutions in 1993.”
Twenty-eight percent have confidence in banks, down from 40 percent.
Twenty-one percent have confidence in big business, down from 24 percent.
Twenty-four percent have confidence in organized labor, down from 26.
Twenty-four percent have confidence in newspapers, down from 32 percent. Twenty-one percent have confidence in television news, down from 30 percent.
The police also have experienced a drop in public esteem, with 52 percent of Americans saying they are confident in the police compared with 57 percent who have been confident in the police historically. Police have been widely criticized in recent months for abusive tactics toward African-Americans, which resulted in the deaths of several black men.
Forty-two percent express confidence in organized religion, down from 55.
“Americans continue to show lower levels of confidence in most of the major institutions central to U.S. society, with only the military and small business getting ratings in 2015 that are above their historical averages,” the Gallup spokesman said. “That speaks to the broader dissatisfaction Americans have with the state of the nation more generally over the past decade as the U.S. has faced serious economic, international and political challenges. Americans have tended to be more confident in U.S. institutions when the economy has been strong, such as in the mid-1980s and the late 1990s and early 2000s. Although Americans are now more upbeat about the economy than they were in 2008-2013, they are not yet convinced that the economy is good, given that their assessments of national economic conditions remain more negative than positive.”
AMERICANS LOSE CONFIDENCE IN EVERYTHING
Poll shows views turning negative on banks, government, religion, police, media
An explosive new Gallup poll shows Americans have lost confidence in almost every major institution – from the U.S. presidency, Congress and the Supreme Court to banks and organized religion.
“Americans’ confidence in most major U.S. institutions remains below the historical average for each one,” a Gallup spokesman said.
Only the military (72 percent) and small business (67 percent) have Americans’ increasing confidence, both of which are now rated 4 percentage points higher than their historical norms, according to the poll.
Congress – which plunged 16 points from its average of 24 points – is the lowest ranking institution at just 8 percent.
Just as numerous presidential candidates attempt to convince America that they have the answers to the nation’s problems, the poll shows only one-third, or 33 percent, of Americans have confidence in the presidency, a nosedive from the historical average of 43 percent.
Likewise, just 32 percent said they have confidence in the Supreme Court, which is down from an average of 44 just before the court announces its decisions on landmark issues such as same-sex marriage and Obamacare subsidies to states without insurance-exchange websites.
“Americans’ confidence in most major institutions has been down for many years as the nation has dealt with prolonged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a major recession and sluggish economic improvement, and partisan gridlock in Washington,” a Gallup spokesman said. “In fact, 2004 was the last year most institutions were at or above their historical average levels of confidence. Perhaps not coincidentally, 2004 was also the last year Americans’ satisfaction with the way things are going in the United States averaged better than 40 percent. Currently, 28 percent of Americans are satisfied with the state of the nation.”
In 2004, President George W. Bush was re-elected and the U.S. transferred sovereignty and control of Iraq back to the Iraqi people.
At the beginning of 2004, the U.S. economy was booming. Four middle-class tax cuts were extended, including a $1,000-per-couple child tax credit, expansion of the lowest (10 percent) tax bracket, exceptions for the alternative minimum tax, and relief from the “marriage penalty” for two-income families. Another $140 billion in tax relief was granted to U.S. business. Unemployment dropped from 5.7 percent to 5.4 percent.
Regarding the latest poll numbers, the Gallup spokesman added, “From a broad perspective, Americans’ confidence in all institutions over the last two years has been the lowest since Gallup began systematic updates of a larger set of institutions in 1993.”
In the last two years, Americans have seen President Obama begin his second term of office. Amid an explosion of legalized same-sex marriage in numerous U.S. states, the Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Americans witnessed the debt-ceiling crisis in October 2013, which resulted in the shutdown of the federal government and furlough of federal workers.
By 2014, the Obama administration had announced its plan to shrink the military budget to $522 billion and slash the Army to a size unseen since before World War II. The nation also saw Americans impacted by a West African Ebola outbreak and revelations that the Veterans Administration had covered up exceedingly long wait times for veterans seeking medical attention.
The year 2014 also saw the rise of terrorist group ISIS and racial riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and St. Louis after the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in August. By 2015, riots had broken out in Baltimore, Maryland, over the shooting of Freddie Gray.
According to the Gallup poll, 28 percent of Americans now have confidence in banks, compared to the historical average of 40 percent.
Twenty-one percent said they have confidence in big business, down from 24 percent.
Twenty-four percent have confidence in organized labor, down from 26 percent.
Twenty-four percent have confidence in newspapers, down from 32 percent.
Twenty-one percent have confidence in TV news, down from 30 percent.
Fifty-two percent have confidence in police, down from 57 percent.
Forty-two percent have confidence in organized religion, down from 55.
“Americans continue to show lower levels of confidence in most of the major institutions central to U.S. society, with only the military and small business getting ratings in 2015 that are above their historical averages,” the Gallup spokesman said.
“That speaks to the broader dissatisfaction Americans have with the state of the nation more generally over the past decade as the U.S. has faced serious economic, international and political challenges. Americans have tended to be more confident in U.S. institutions when the economy has been strong, such as in the mid-1980s and the late 1990s and early 2000s.”
While Americans are more confident in the economy than they were from 2008 to 2013, the Gallup spokesman said, “[T]hey are not yet convinced that the economy is good, given that their assessments of national economic conditions remain more negative than positive.”
The Vice President of the United States has the additional duty of President of the Senate. Because the number of seats in the United States Senate is an even number (two senators per state), it is the Vice President’s duty as President of the Senate to cast a tie-breaking vote in the event that “they be equally divided”—an equal number of Senators voting both for and against a motion.
A party that has “an independent state organization… in a majority of the states” is listed as a major party. An “independent state organization” is not to be confused with the organization of an Independent Democrat or Independent Republican.
These parties are based only in states or certain regions and rarely, if ever, offer candidates for national offices. These are all parties that are unaffiliated with national parties. Each state has official state chapters of the major parties as well as some of the minor parties.
Since its inception in 1995, the Index of Economic Freedom has chronicled hundreds of examples of government policy changes that have enhanced economic freedom, thereby promoting human progress and greater prosperity. As the Index has catalogued, nations with higher degrees of economic freedom prosper because they capitalize more fully on the ability of the free-market system not only to generate, but also to reinforce dynamic growth through efficient resource allocation, value creation, and innovation. Policies that promote freedom, whether through improvements in the rule of law, the promotion of competition and openness, or suitable restraints on the size and economic reach of government, turn out in practice to offer and advance practical solutions to a wide range of economic and social challenges that face the world’s societies.
The findings of the 2015 Index once again demonstrate the strongly positive linkages between economic freedom and various dimensions of human development. Many of the linkages are straightforward: Higher taxes, for example, reduce investment and hurt job growth. Others, such as the impact on economic growth from the promotion of property rights or the maintenance of a stable monetary system, are more intricate, multidimensional, and nonlinear.
Even in these cases, however, the evidence is strong that adherence to the principles of economic freedom is an unmatched strategy for promoting solutions to human problems and advancing overall well-being. No alternative systems—and many have been tried—come close to the record of free-market capitalism in promoting growth and improving the human condition.
Economic Freedom: Advancing Opportunity
Today’s successful economies are not necessarily geographically large or richly blessed with natural resources. Many economies have managed to expand opportunities for their citizens by enhancing their economic dynamism. In general, the overarching objective of economic policies must be to create an environment that provides the most opportunity for the widest range of activities that can lead to increased prosperity.
The Index results have shown that sustaining such economic dynamism is achievable only when governments adopt economic policies that empower individuals and firms with more choices, encouraging greater entrepreneurship.
It is noteworthy that despite recent policy missteps by many countries in responding to the global economic slowdown, which amounted to a political assault on capitalism in some places, the free-market system is not on the verge of breakdown. In fact, as the negative impact of regulatory and spending mistakes has become apparent, a greater number of people around the world seem to be realizing that the economic damage inflicted by the heavy hand of government—subpar growth, deteriorating entrepreneurial environments, and lower employment growth—is not inevitable, but rather the result of bad policy choices.
Even as the free market has been under challenge in countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Russia, and even the United States, many other governments around the world have acknowledged its superiority. Decades of evidence, some presented in the pages of this Index, are hard for even the most ideological governments to ignore. Not only does the free-market system remain viable, but many of its core features, such as private property rights, openness to trade and investment, and fiscal discipline, have entrenched themselves as the policy standard, any deviation from which requires strong justification.
Economic Freedom: Promoting Prosperity
In many respects, economic freedom is merely shorthand for an openness to entrepreneurial activity that increases opportunity for individuals to succeed in their endeavors. Chart 1 shows the close correspondence between economic freedom and entrepreneurial opportunity as measured by the Entrepreneurship and Opportunity sub-index of the Legatum Prosperity Index, which “measures a country’s entrepreneurial environment, its promotion of innovative activity, and the evenness ofopportunity.”
Given such a strong relationship, it should be apparent that a government’s most effective stimulus activity will not be to increase its own spending or increase layers of regulation, both of which reduce economic freedom. The best results are likely to be achieved instead through policy reforms that improve the incentives that drive entrepreneurial activity, creating more opportunities for greater economicdynamism.
Equally notable are the fundamental benefits that stem from the strong positive relationship between economic freedom and levels of per capita income. For countries achieving scores in the Index that reflect even moderate levels of economic freedom (60 or above), the relationship between economic freedom and per capita GDP is highly significant.
As indicated in Chart 2, countries moving up the economic freedom scale show increasingly high levels of average income. Economies rated “free” or “mostly free” in the 2015 Index enjoy incomes that are over twice the average levels in all other countries and more than five times higher than the incomes of “repressed” economies.
Economic Freedom: Antidote to Poverty
By a great many measures, the past two decades during which the Index has been charting the advance of economic freedom have been the most prosperous in the history of humankind. Those countries that have adopted some version of free-market capitalism, with economies supported by efficient regulations and open to the free flow of goods, services, and capital, have participated in an era of globalization and economic integration in which solutions to many of the world’s development problems have taken hold and generated real improvements in living standards.
The free-market system that is rooted in the principles of economic freedom has fueled unprecedented economic growth around the world. As Chart 3 illustrates, as the global economy has moved toward greater economic freedom over the past two decades, real world GDP has increased by about 70 percent, and the global poverty rate has been cut in half, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.
Greater economic freedom has had a positive impact not just on the number of people in poverty, but also on the intensity of the poverty still experienced by some. Poverty intensity as measured by the United Nations Development Programme’s Multidimensional Poverty Index, which assesses the nature and intensity of deprivation at the individual level in education, health outcomes, and standard of living, is much lower on average in countries with higher levels of economic freedom. Chart 5 shows that the intensity of poverty in countries whose economies are considered mostly free or moderately free is only about one-fourth the level in countries that are rated less free.
The key driver of poverty reduction is dynamic and resilient economic growth that creates jobs. Not surprisingly, one of the most important goals of economic policy in almost every country in the world has thus been to increase the rate of economic growth.
As Chart 4 demonstrates, there is a robust relationship between improving economic freedom and achieving higher per capita economic growth. Whether long-term (20 years), medium-term (10 years), or short-term (five years), the relationship between changes in economic freedom and changes in economic growth is consistently positive.
Undeniably, countries moving toward greater economic freedom tend to achieve higher rates of per capita GDP growth over time. Whether in the short term or over the long run, the average annual per capita economic growth rates of countries that have grown economic freedom the most are at least 50 percent higher than those of countries where freedom has stagnated or slowed.
Economic Freedom: Societal Development and Democratic Progress
Growing economic freedom is unequivocally about more than financial success. Achieving greater overall prosperity that goes beyond materialistic and monetary dimensions of well-being is equally important. The societal benefits of economic freedom extend far beyond higher incomes or reductions in poverty. Countries with higher levels of economic freedom enjoy higher levels of overall human development as measured by the United Nations Human Development Index, which measures life expectancy, literacy, education, and the standard of living in countries worldwide. As Chart 6 shows, governments that choose policies that increase economic freedom are placing their societies on the pathway to more education opportunities, better health care, and higher standards of living for their citizens.
In some countries, government policies and actions concerning the environment have become more intrusive and economically distortionary. Many governments have pushed programs to tax carbon emissions and increase taxes on gasoline, organized non-transparent and sometimes corrupt exchanges for the buying and selling of carbon emissions, and provided subsidies for “clean” energy to politically favored firms. Such policies impose a huge direct cost on society, and they also retard economic growth—and all for uncertain environmental benefits.
Interestingly, the same free-market principles that have proven to be the key to economic success have also proven to deliver environmental success. Around the world, economic freedom has been shown to increase countries’ capacity for innovation and thus to improve overall environmental performance.
The positive link between economic freedom and higher levels of innovation ensures greater economic dynamism in coping with various developmental challenges, and the most remarkable improvements in clean energy use and energy efficiency over the past decades have occurred not as a result of government regulation, but rather because of advances in technology and trade. A virtuous cycle of investment, innovation (including in greener technologies), and dynamic economic growth has flourished where governments have trusted market forces and competition to spur efficiency. (See Chart 7.)
Greater economic freedom can also provide more fertile ground for effective and democratic governance. Debate over the direction of causality between economic freedom and democracy has become more controversial in recent years because of the multifaceted interaction between the two. Undoubtedly, achieving greater political freedom through well-functioning democracy is a messy and often excruciatingprocess.
However, the positive relationship between economic freedom and democratic governance is undeniable. (See Chart 8.) By empowering people to exercise greater control of their daily lives, economic freedom ultimately nurtures political reform by making it possible for individuals to gain the economic resources necessary to challenge entrenched interests and compete for political power, thereby encouraging the creation of more pluralistic societies.
Pursuit of greater economic freedom is thus an important stepping-stone to democracy. It empowers the poor and builds the middle class. It is a philosophy that encourages entrepreneurship and disperses economic power and decision-making throughout society.
Economic Freedom: The Key to Upward Mobility and Greater Social Progress
The massive improvements in global indicators of income and quality of life largely reflect a paradigm shift in the debate over how societies should be structured to achieve the most optimal outcome. Over the past two decades, this debate has largely been won by capitalism. However, fears that the immediate benefits of capitalism are fading has brought to the forefront concerns about economic mobility and economicfreedom.
At the heart of ensuring upward economic mobility is the task of advancing economic freedom so that dynamic and inclusive growth can meaningfully occur for ordinary people in a free society. Milton and Rose Friedman made a keen observation on the critically intertwined relationship between freedom andmobility:
[S]o long as freedom is maintained, it prevents … positions of privilege from becoming institutionalized. Freedom means diversity, but also mobility. It preserves the opportunity for today’s disadvantaged to become tomorrow’s privileged and, in the process enables almost everyone, from top to bottom, to enjoy a fuller and richer life.1
Economic freedom is critical to generating the broader-based economic growth that brings more opportunities for a greater number of people to work, produce, and save. In other words, ensuring greater economic freedom is directly related to preserving and enhancing dynamic upward mobility.
Also notable is that although some naysayers claim that economic and social progress has been limited in recent years as incomes in some countries have become more unequal as a result of economic freedom, the evidence does not support this contention. Instead, societies based on economic freedom are the ones that have demonstrated the strongest social progress.
As shown in Chart 9, countries that largely embrace economic freedom provide the environments that are most conducive to social progress.2 Countries that improve their competitiveness and open their societies to new ideas, products, and innovations have largely achieved the high levels of social progress that their citizens demand. It is not massive redistributions of wealth or government dictates on income levels that produce the most positive social outcomes. Instead, mobility and progress require lower barriers to entry, freedom to engage with the world, and less government intrusion.
Staying on Course
The 21st edition of the Index of Economic Freedom shows economic freedom once again on the rise, reaching the highest point in the Index’s 21-year history. Behind this record are stories of human progress and the achievements of countries and their citizens—literally billions of people around the world whose lives have measurably improved.
It is no coincidence that the increase of economic liberty over the past decades has coincided with a massive reduction in worldwide poverty, disease, and hunger. The link between economic freedom and development is clear and strong. People in economically free societies live longer. They have better health. They are able to be better stewards of the environment, and they push forward the frontiers of human achievement in science and technology through greater innovation.
A recurring theme of human history has been resilience and revival. The country profiles in the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom include many examples of countries that have accelerated their economic and social progress in the face of difficult challenges and a sometimes harsh international environment. Their successes can be emulated by others. The Index of Economic Freedom charts not just one path to development, but as many as the ingenuity of humans can produce when they are free to experiment andinnovate.
The principles of economic freedom are a sure guide, but only a guide. What truly will matter are the creative solutions to pressing world problems that are certain to flow from people who are, in the words of Milton and Rose Friedman, “free to choose.”
1. Milton Friedman and Rose D. Friedman, Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1979).
2. The Social Progress Index defines social progress as the capacity of a society to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, establish the building blocks that allow citizens and communities to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential.
The United States’ economic freedom score is 76.2, making its economy the 12th freest in the 2015 Index. Its score is 0.7 point higher than last year, with modest gains in six of the 10 economic freedoms, including control of government spending, outweighing a slight decline in business freedom.
Although the precipitous downward spiral in U.S. economic freedom since 2008 has come to a halt in the 2015 Index, a 1.6-point decline in overall economic freedom over the past five years reflects broad-based deteriorations in key policy areas, particularly those related to upholding the rule of law and limited government. Continuing to trail such comparable economies as Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Canada, America has been ranked “mostly free” since 2010.
The anemic post-recession recovery has been characterized by slow growth, high unemployment, a decrease in the number of Americans seeking work, and great uncertainty that has held back investment. Increased tax and regulatory burdens, aggravated by favoritism toward entrenched interests, have undercut America’s historically dynamic entrepreneurial growth.
President Barack Obama’s second-term efforts to expand government spending and regulation have been thwarted to some extent by Republican Party opposition in Congress. Economic policy leadership has devolved by default to the Federal Reserve, whose attempts to use monetary policy to stimulate economic activity have not restored robust growth. Implementation of the 2010 health care law, which has reduced competition in most health insurance markets, remains a drag on job creation and full-time employment. Overall, the U.S. economy continues to underperform, despite a private sector–led energy boom that has made the U.S. the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas. The weak economic recovery and uncertain responses to foreign policy challenges, particularly in the Middle East, in Ukraine, and along the southern U.S. border, have contributed to a loss of support for the President and his party and Republican majorities in both chambers of Congress as a result of 2014 midterm elections.
Corruption in government and the political process remains a concern. High levels of government spending and the expansion and complexity of the government’s regulatory agenda have increased opportunities for political favoritism and cronyism. The judiciary functions independently. Protection of property rights has been uneven, with instances of regulatory overreach by the executive branch requiring court adjudication.
The top individual income tax rate is 39.6 percent, and the top corporate tax rate remains among the world’s highest at 35 percent. Other taxes include a capital gains tax and excise taxes. Tax revenue is equal to 24.3 percent of gross domestic product, and government spending is well over one-third of GDP. Public debt exceeds the value of the economy’s annual production.
The regulatory burden has been mounting. Since 2009, over 150 new major regulations have been imposed at an annual cost of more than $70 billion. As of 2014, 125 new regulations were in the pipeline. The labor market, primarily regulated at the state level, remains flexible. Subsidies for agriculture, health care, and renewable energy have bred economic distortions.
The average tariff rate is 1.5 percent. Tariffs on clothing are high, sugar imports face tariff-rate quotas, and petroleum and liquefied natural gas exports are restricted. Foreign investment in some sectors is capped. The financial market is well developed, but the 2010 Dodd–Frank Act has instituted more federal regulation, socializing the cost of financial risk-taking and increasing the likelihood of future financial crises and bailouts
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U.S. House votes to buy more time to revive Obama’s trade plans
BY ROB HOTAKAINEN
McClatchy Washington BureauJune 16, 2015
The U.S. House voted Tuesday to give itself more time to try to salvage President Barack Obama’s faltering trade agenda.
House members will now have until July 30 to reconsider a vote on trade-adjustment assistance that failed last Friday. House leaders originally planned to bring up the issue early this week.
The House voted 236 to 189 for the extension, including it in a rule for debate on the 2016 intelligence authorization bill.
The measure is linked to Obama’s bid to win trade-promotion authority to help him pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation trade pact that would rank as the largest in history.
While trade backers said the postponement would give them more time to regroup, opponents said it was unfair to delay a vote for so long and to make it part of an intelligence bill.
“This is one more attempt to play games with the future of hard-working families,” said Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro, one of the leading opponents of Obama’s trade plans.
Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas said the delay would allow House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio to bring up the issue for a vote at any time in the next six weeks, with no notice. He said Republicans are looking for “the ideal time to muscle through a broken trade policy.”
Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina said that 95 percent of the world’s customers now live overseas and that 1.2 million jobs in her state rely on trade. She said that passing trade-promotion authority, or TPA, is in the best economic interests of her state.
“The allegations that TPA is something for President Obama is false,” she said.
In a big loss for Obama, the House voted overwhelming last week to reject trade-adjustment assistance for American workers who lose their jobs as a result of global trade.
A majority of House Democrats fell in line behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who said that voting against trade-adjustment assistance was the only way to defeat trade-promotion authority.
The Senate passed trade-promotion authority, also known as fast-track authority, last month.
Under fast-track rules, Congress could not amend or filibuster a trade pact once it’s negotiated and submitted for approval.
Critics say that would give too much authority to Obama, while backers of trade-promotion authority say it would be the best way to gain concessions from foreign governments at the negotiating table.
Boehner told reporters Tuesday that he has talked with Obama several times, “trying to find a way to move ahead.”
“No decisions have been made, but when we have one, we’ll let you know,” he said.
U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman has stated in an interrogatory with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and via letter that nothing is being negotiated in the TPP that “would require any modification to U.S. immigration law or policy or any changes to the U.S. visa system.”
For many years, Congress has made it abundantly clear that international trade agreements should not change, nor require any change, to U.S. immigration law and practice…
The Committee continues to believe that it is not appropriate to negotiate in a trade agreement any provision that would (1) require changes to U.S. immigration law, regulations, policy, or practice; (2) accord immigration-related benefits to parties to trade agreements; (3) commit the United States to keep unchanged, with respect to nationals of parties to trade agreements, one or more existing provisions of U.S. immigration law, policy, or practice; or (4) expand to additional countries immigration-related commitments already made by the United States in earlier trade agreements.
Congress’ intent could not be any clearer, but there’s strong evidence to doubt that these assurances will be upheld. If you read these statements closely, you’ll see that most of them concern only the TPP and its lack of impact on immigration policy. But the Trade in Services Agreement, or “TiSA”—another trade deal being negotiated in secret by the Obama administration—is another story; there is little doubt that it will constrain the future ability of the United States Congress to regulate U.S. immigration policy. In fact, deregulating the U.S. work visa system, and therefore opening it up to foreign corporations that provide services (as opposed to goods) is the explicit purpose of an entire annex (section) in TiSA, entitled “Movement of Natural Persons.” The text was heretofore secret until Wikileaks published it on its website last week.
It should be noted that much of the text is a proposed draft for negotiation, and within the text, numerous parts of specific provisions are bracketed to denote which countries support or oppose particular sections or language within sections. But the thrust of the text in the annex is clear. For example, Article 4 is about the schedules (i.e., lists) of commitments that countries will have to put together regarding the “Entry and Temporary Stay of Natural Persons,” and a proposed version of Article 4, Section 2 would prohibit member states from “maintain[ing] or adopt[ing] Economic Needs Tests, including labor market tests, as a requirement for a visa or work permit” in the sectors where commitments are made. (In other words, U.S. laws or regulations limiting guestworkers only to jobs where no U.S. workers were available would violate the terms of the treaty.)
Proposed draft Article 5, Section 1 then requires that “Each Party shall take market access and national treatment commitments for intra-corporate transferees, business visitors and categories delinked from commercial presence: contractual service suppliers and independent professionals.” Section 3 gets more specific about the sectors of the economy where member states will have to allow access to intra-corporate transferees, business visitors, contractual service suppliers, and independent professionals:
3. Subject to any terms, limitations, conditions and qualifications that the Party sets out in its Schedule, Parties shall allow entry and temporary stay of [contractual service suppliers and independent professionals3] for a minimum of [X%] of the following sectors/sub-sectors:
Accounting, auditing and bookkeeping services (CPC 862)
Architectural services (CPC 8671)
Engineering services (CPC 8672)
Integrated engineering services (CPC 8673)
Urban planning and landscape architectural services (CPC 8674)
Medical & dental services (CPC 9312)
Veterinary services (CPC 932)
Services provided by midwives, nurses, physiotherapists and paramedical personnel (CPC 93191)
Computer and related services:
Consultancy services related to the installation of computer hardware (CPC 841)
Software implementation services (CPC 842)
Data processing services (CPC 843)
Data base services (CPC 844)
Other (CPC 845+849)
Research and Development services:
R&D services on natural sciences (CPC 851)
R&D services on social sciences and humanities (CPC 852)
Interdisciplinary R&D services (CPC 853)
Other business services
Advertising services (CPC 871)
Market research and public opinion polling services (CPC 864)
Management consulting services (CPC 865)
Services related to management consulting (CPC 866)
Technical testing & analysis services (CPC 8676)
[CH propose: Services incidental to manufacturing]
Related scientific and technical consulting services (CPC 8675)
Maintenance and repair of equipment (not including maritime vessels, aircraft or other transport equipment) (CPC 633 + 8861-8866)
Specialty design services (CPC 87907)
Construction and related engineering services:
General construction work for buildings (CPC 512)
General construction work for civil engineering (CPC 513)
Installation and assembly work (CPC514+516)
Building completion and finishing work (CPC 517)
Other (CPC 511+515+518)
Sewage services (CPC 9401)
Refuse disposal services (CPC 9402)
Sanitation and similar services (CPC 9403)
[CH propose: Financial Services]
[CH propose: Financial advisors]
Tourism and travel related services:
Hotels and Restaurants (CPC Ex. 641)
Travel Agencies and Tour Operators services (CPC 7471)
Tourist Guides services (CPC 7472)
[CH propose: Transport services
[CH propose: Other services auxiliary to all modes of transport CPC]
Recreational, cultural and sporting services:
38. Sporting and other recreational services (CPC 964)
In the United States, this means the L-1 intra-company transferee, B-1 business visitor visa programs, and any other applicable visa programs could be used to permit temporary employees from abroad to work in the United States, and no economic needs tests (i.e., testing the labor market) could ever be imposed by Congress. To translate, that means that foreign firms would not be required to advertise jobs to U.S. workers, or to hire U.S. workers if they were equally or better qualified for job openings in their own country. (It should be noted that the L-1 is already restricted in this way, as a result of the United States’ commitments under the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATS).) These visa programs are already under-regulated and abused by employers, but since neither the L-1 nor the B-1 visa program is numerically limited by law, this means that potentially hundreds of thousands of workers could enter the United States every year to work in these 38 sectors.
This is worrying and problematic, not because there shouldn’t be any foreign competition from service-providing companies in the United States, but because the competitive advantage foreign companies will get from TiSA is the ability to provide cheaper services by importing much cheaper labor to supplant American workers. They’ll do this by paying their workers the much lower salaries they would earn in their home countries (as they often already do in the L-1 and B-1 visa programs), and the United States might even be prohibited in future from imposing minimum or prevailing wage standards (at present, neither the L-1 or B-1 visa program has a minimum or prevailing wage rule).
There is clear precedent for this. The multilateral GATS agreement, to which the United States is a party, includes limits on the U.S. government’s ability to change the rules on H-1B and L-1 guestworker visas. That’s why when Congress wants to raise visa fees, as they did in 2010, the Indian government cries foul and threatens to formally complain to the World Trade Organization. The U.S.-Chile and U.S.-Singapore trade deals also included new guestworker programs similar to the H-1B and constraints on the U.S. government’s ability to set rules on L-1 intracompany transfers.
The TiSA draft annex on Movement of Natural Persons would also likely restrict the ability of the current and future administrations to continue some of the basic immigration procedures it currently follows, such as requiring an in-person interview with L-1 applicants. The draft treaty might even prohibit common sense legislative proposals that Congress has considered over the past few years, including minimum wage rules for companies seeking to hire guestworkers in the L-1 visa program. This is particularly disturbing since the L-1 visa program has been a primary vehicle to facilitate the offshoring of high wage jobs and for replacing American workers with cheaper guestworkers.
TiSA has been written in secret by and for major corporations that will benefit greatly if it becomes law. If the House of Representatives grants the Obama administration the fast-track trade promotion authority it seeks, the authority will be valid for six years, which means TiSA (like TPP) would also get an up-or-down vote in Congress without any amendments—making it very likely to pass and become law without the necessary democratic deliberations on immigration that such major changes should have. The leaked TiSA text makes it clear that contrary to the claims by proponents of fast-track trade promotion authority, the reality is that those voting for fast track are ceding key powers to make immigration law and policy to an unelected group of corporations and foreign governments.
TPP/TISA Will Give Barack Obama Vastly Expanded Immigration Powers Experts Say
The Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) is an international trade agreement between the U.S. and 23 other countries including Turkey, Mexico, Canada, Australia, Pakistan, Taiwan and Israel. The agreement aims at liberalizing the worldwide trade of services such as banking, health care and transport.
TISA is the sibling of the TPP and the TTIP. All are being negotiated in absolute secrecy and it appears that TISA is covered by TPP fast-track authority. TISA has immigration requirements that would allow Barack Obama to play fast and loose with our immigration laws.
Breitbart reported that inside the Obamatrade being debated on Friday, is a chapter that vastly expands Barack Obama’s power over immigration.
The documents released by Wikileaks had not been examined thoroughly but Breitbart brought in experts and they uncovered a serious problem with fast track. Their findings agree with VDare and Immigration Reform who reported on this last week.
TISA (The Trade and Services Agreement) is covered by fast track authority under TPA. The “implication” is that the U.S. intends to be a party to all or some of the provisions of this agreement. The U.S. would be required to “change its immigration laws”, according to Rosemary Jenks of Numbers USA.
Ten pages of TISA deal exclusively with immigration.
Rosemary Jenks, the Director of Government Relations at Numbers USA, said those 10 pages make it absolutely clear that the administration is negotiating immigration.
Since 2003, a Senate resolution said no immigration provision should be in trade agreements. Hillary Clinton voted for this resolution.
The U.S. Trade Representative who wrote TPA told Congress that the “U.S. is not negotiating immigration– or at least is not negotiating any immigration provisions that would require us to change our laws.” That appears to be inaccurate.
On page 4 and 5 of the agreement, about 40 industries are listed where potentially the U.S. visa processes would have to change to accommodate the requirements within the agreement.
There would be no requirement to show there aren’t U.S. workers available for the job.
On page 7 of the agreement, it suggests, “The period of processing applications may not exceed 30 days.”
There wouldn’t be enough time to vet the visas and the U.S. would end up rubber stamping visa approvals.
The application process has a footnote that says face-to-face interviews are too burdensome, yet we know from experience that they are invaluable and the best opportunity to vet the applicants..
On page 4 of the agreement. It only provides an “[X]” where the number of years would be filled in for the entry or temporary stay. That means our 7-year limit would have to change and Obama could do it constitutionally if he has fast-track authority.
On June 4th, Immigration Reform also saw red flags throughout the document. In addition to the ones mentioned by Breitbart, they found that the deal creates “a presumption that all spouses of L-1/B-1 visitors who stay for 12 months should also get visas.’
TISA also has “language about “independent professionals” that is very non-specific and it could be an attempt to allow self-petitioning.”
“Finally, the total impact is uncertain because even after the agreement is signed every signatory needs to publish a schedule of industry sectors that they will allow business visitors, contractual service professionals and independent professionals to enter.”
Senator Sessions said that the administration could use the fast-track authority to expand immigration but Paul Ryan said it was an ‘urban legend.” Ryan chairs the House Ways and Means Committee oversees trade. Right now it looks like Senator Sessions was correct.
Barack Obama is a serious and dangerous globalist. If there is any way that he can use these trade agreements to violate our laws and our sovereignty, he will.
REVEALED: THE SECRET IMMIGRATION CHAPTER IN OBAMA’S TRADE AGREEMENT
Discovered inside the huge tranche of secretive Obamatrade documents released by Wikileaks are key details on how technically any Republican voting for Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) that would fast-track trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal would technically also be voting to massively expand President Obama’s executive authority when it comes to immigration matters.
The mainstream media covered the Wikileaks document dump extensively, but did not mention the immigration chapter contained within it, so Breitbart News took the documents to immigration experts to get their take on it. Nobody has figured how big a deal the documents uncovered by Wikileaks are until now. (See below)
The president’s Trade in Services Act (TiSA) documents, which is one of the three different close-to-completely-negotiated deals that would be fast-tracked making up the president’s trade agreement, show Obamatrade in fact unilaterally alters current U.S. immigration law. TiSA, like TPP or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) deals, are international trade agreements that President Obama is trying to force through to final approval. The way he can do so is by getting Congress to give him fast-track authority through TPA.
TiSA is even more secretive than TPP. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill can review the text of TPP in a secret, secured room inside the Capitol—and in some cases can bring staffers who have high enough security clearances—but with TiSA, no such draft text is available.
Voting for TPA, of course, would essentially ensure the final passage of each TPP, T-TIP, and TiSA by Congress, since in the history of fast-track any deal that’s ever started on fast-track has been approved.
Roughly 10 pages of this TiSA agreement document leak are specifically about immigration.
“The existence of these ten pages on immigration in the Trade and Services Agreement make it absolutely clear in my mind that the administration is negotiating immigration – and for them to say they are not – they have a lot of explaining to do based on the actual text in this agreement,” Rosemary Jenks, the Director of Government Relations at Numbers USA, told Breitbart News following her review of these documents.
Obama will be able to finalize all three of the Obamatrade deals, without any Congressional input, if Congress grants him fast-track authority by passing TPA. Fast-track lowers the vote thresholds in the Senate and blocks Congress from amending any trade deals—and also, since each of these three deals are pretty much entirely negotiated already, it wouldn’t lead to any more congressional involvement or transparency with each.
The Senate passed the TPA last month, so it is up to the House to put the brakes on Obama’s unilateral power. The House could vote as early as Friday on fast-track, but may head into next week. By all counts, it’s going to be a very tight vote—and may not pass. It remains to be seen what will happen in light of leaks about things like the immigration provisions of TiSA—which deals with 24 separate parties, mostly different nations but also the European Union. It is focused on increasing the free flow of services worldwide—and with that, comes labor. Labor means immigration and guestworkers.
“This Trade and Services Agreement is specifically mentioned in TPA as being covered by fast-track authority, so why would Congress be passing a Trade Promotion Authority Act that covers this agreement, if the U.S. weren’t intended to be a party to this agreement – so at the very least, there should be specific places where the U.S. exempts itself from these provisions and there are not,” explained Jenks.
She emphasized that this is a draft, but at this point “certainly the implication is that the U.S. intends to be a party to all or some of the provisions of this agreement. There is nothing in there that says otherwise, and there is no question in my mind that some of the provisions in this Trade and Services Agreement would require the United States to change its immigration laws.”
In 2003, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution that said no immigration provision should be in trade agreements – and in fact, former Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) voted for this resolution.
The existence of these 10 pages is in clear violation of that earlier unanimous decision, and also in violation of the statements made by the U.S. Trade Representative.
“He has told members of Congress very specifically the U.S. is not negotiating immigration – or at least is not negotiating any immigration provisions that would require us to change our laws. So, unless major changes are made to the Trade and Services Agreement – that is not true,” said Jenks.
There are three examples within the 10 pages of areas where the U.S. would have to alter current immigration law.
First, on page 4 and 5 of the agreement, roughly 40 industries are listed where potentially the U.S. visa processes would have to change to accommodate the requirements within the agreement.
Jenks explained that under the agreement, the terms don’t have an economic needs based test, which currently U.S. law requires for some types of visa applications in order to show there aren’t American workers available to fill positions.
Secondly, on page 7 of the agreement, it suggests, “The period of processing applications may not exceed 30 days.”
Jenks said this is a massive problem for the U.S. because so many visa applications take longer than 30 days.
“We will not be able to meet those requirements without essentially our government becoming a rubber stamp because it very often takes more than 30 days to process a temporary worker visa,” she said.
Jenks also spotted another issue with the application process.
“The fact that there’s a footnote in this agreement that says that face to face interviews are too burdensome … we’re supposed to be doing face to face interviews with applicants for temporary visas,” she added.
“According to the State Department Consular Officer, it’s the in person interviews that really gives the Consular Officer an opportunity to determine – is this person is a criminal, is this person a terrorist … all of those things are more easily determined when you’re sitting face to face with someone and asking those questions.”
The third issue is present on page 4 of the agreement. It only provides an “[X]” where the number of years would be filled in for the entry or temporary stay.
Jenks explained that for example, with L visas under current U.S. immigration law, the time limit is seven years – so if the agreement were to go beyond seven years, it would change current U.S. law.
This wouldn’t be unconstitutional if Obama has fast-track authority under TPA, as Congress would essentially have given him the power to finalize all aspects of the negotiations, including altering immigration law.
“I think this whole thing makes it very clear that this administration is negotiating immigration – intends to make immigration changes if they can get away with it, and I think it’s that much more critical that Congress ensure that the administration does not have the authority to negotiate immigration,” Jenks said.
Breitbart News’ Matthew Boyle contributed to this report.
On June 3, WikiLeaks released parts of the TISA (Trade in Services Agreement), which is related to the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) agreement. However, it is still a separate agreement and would be ratified separately. One of the TISA annexes/sub-sections they posted covers “Movement of Natural Persons”, linked here: https://wikileaks.org/tisa/
The focus of the Movement of Natural Persons annex appears to be business visitors and intra-company transfers. Most of the proposed agreement deals with standards for visa applications (30-day deadlines for processing, fee schedules, etc.).
There are red flags throughout the document including:
A prohibition on “Economic Needs” testing, aka, labor market certification on B-1/L-1 visitors;
Creating a presumption that all spouses of L-1/B-1 visitors who stay for 12 months should also get visas;
The proposal appears to forbid mandatory face to face visa interviews as burdensome;
The language about “independent professionals” is very non-specific and it could be an attempt to allow self-petitioning;
Finally, the total impact is uncertain because even after the agreement is signed every signatory needs to publish a schedule of industry sectors that they will allow business visitors, contractual service professionals and independent professionals to enter.
Republican leaders in Congress have opposed President Obama at almost every turn, but they supported his push for fast-track trade authority and, through months of meticulous work within their caucus, formed a strong coalition of support around the issue.
Republicans got on board with the legislation because they felt it contained enough safeguards against executive overreach and that ultimately, fast-track trade authority would benefit the U.S. economy.
And, as it turned out, it was House Democrats who turned their backs on the president. In the days leading up to the House’s failure to pass that trade legislation Friday, the conversation was not about Republican opposition to the president, but the resistance from progressive Democrats. And when it came time to vote, Republicans banded together to pass the half of the trade legislation that they generally support, while Democrats banded togetherto defeat the half of the legislation that was intended to bring them on board.
The measure that passed – Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA – grants the president the right to submit trade deals to Congress for an up-or-down vote without any amendments. The White House says fast-track authority is crucial to successfully completing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the TPP, the 12-nation trade deal currently being negotiated.
The measure that failed – Trade Adjustment Assistance, or TAA – was intended to aid workers who may lose jobs because of international trade deals. Though TPA passed narrowly, 219-211, it cannot go to the president’s desk without TAA because of the way the legislation was packaged.
Despite the failure of TAA, Republican leaders said they were “proud” of passing TPA, which took months of effort and was by no means guaranteed to make it through the chamber.
“We’ve passed the component that’s been the Republican lift, and that’s getting TPA done,” Majority Whip Steve Scalise said after the vote. “We did it with a strong vote on our side and we made it clear we’re not just going to shut this thing down because the president can’t deliver on his side.”
The groundwork for that successful vote on TPA – which passed with 191 Republicans and just 28 Democrats – began months ago, with the intense outreach and vote whipping from Republican leadership and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan on trade.
The first obstacle was cutting through the confusion. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I have rarely seen this much confusion surrounding an issue,” Ryan said last week at a Rules Committee hearing about the trade legislation.
Part of the problem was the alphabet soup of trade acronyms – TPA being the fast-track authority, TAA the workers assistance program, and TPP the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Because that confusion came from both outside the halls of Congress and from within Capitol Hill – where many members weren’t around last time TPA was completed more than a decade ago – the process including educating the public as well as fellow lawmakers.
It began with Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee, which had jurisdiction over the trade legislation, said Rep. Pat Tiberi, chairman of the Ways and Means trade subcommittee. Outreach included voluntary “listening sessions,” where lawmakers were invited to come listen to Ryan, Tiberi and others outline what was in the TPA legislation, and to ask questions about it. Members who were more knowledgeable on trade, Tiberi said – either because they’d done it before or represent a district that is heavily reliant on trade – started the ball rolling.
The Whip’s office hosted 23 meetings with members to speak with Scalise and Ryan. They also often reached out one-on-one with phone calls, official meetings or just informal conversations on the House floor. Slowly, members became educated and the count of supporters grew.
“Early on, it was people who just didn’t know what was in it and wanted to find out,” a GOP leadership aide told RCP. “As things went on, certain members who were pro trade and kind of got it, who were very comfortable to begin with, they were good. As you go on, you’ve got fewer and fewer people that you need to make the case for, so necessarily as we’ve gone through this, the audience has turned more from soft-yes and undecided’s to soft-no’s but who really want to do their due diligence on this before they cast the vote.”
Rep. Dave Reichert, a member of the Ways and Means trade subcommittee and the founder of the “Friends of TPP” caucus – a group of lawmakers in support of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal currently being negotiated – called the individual outreach to members “critical.” He added that they had “absolutely” changed minds.
“One at a time. One member at a time,” Reichert told RCP the day before the vote.
For some members, the listening sessions were about determining whether fast-track trade authority, and the trade deals that could follow, were right for their district, and Ryan and Scalise’s offices worked hard to be able to make those individual arguments. For others, it was a blank slate process and they wanted to just learn about TPA. For some, it was about clearing up what many pro-TPA Republicans describe as “misconceptions” about what the legislation does.
The length of time and number of meetings it took before members came on board – if they did come around to supporting TPA – varied significantly, according to one House Republican aide.
“Some people needed more time and more convincing, and some, once they got a few things set straight were like, ‘Okay, I’m all set, I’m on board,’” the aide said. “It all depended on who they were talking to and what their concerns were.”
There was a prevailing feeling – perhaps not helped by the legislation being shorthanded as “fast track” – that it gave Obama sweeping power over trade deals at the expense of Congress’ role. The pro-TPA Republicans worked hard to counter those points.
The argument boiled down to transparency and accountability. Under TPA, Congress would have the ability to vote down a trade deal that didn’t live up to its standards, and the legislation includes 150 parameters for negotiating deals. Also, while Congress couldn’t amend trade deals, the deals would have to be available to the public for 60 days before being signed by the president.
“That’s slow track – that’s no fast track in my mind,” Tiberi told RCP. “Nothing sits in the public for 60 days around here before the president can sign it, before the president can submit it to Congress in bill form, so that everybody can see, including members of Congress, including the public, including the press, and that’s part of what TPA is all about.”
Supporters also had to contend with opponents’ arguments that trade deals hurt U.S. workers and cost jobs. Ultimately, these were chief among the reasons Democrats blocked the trade package – they wanted more protections for workers.
Tiberi called the lost jobs argument a “bumper sticker” about why trade is bad, and said it’s difficult for those who disagree with that position to effectively counter it.
“This is very hard to get your arms around if you don’t spend day after day after day studying this and understanding this,” he said. “The other side is much easier, and that is trade costs jobs, trade ships jobs overseas, trade is all about losing. That’s just not the case.”
Along with the general questions about Obama’s authority and the impact of trade, those whipping the trade bills had to court members with specific problems. Rep. Steve King, perhaps the most vocal congressional opponent of illegal immigration, wanted to insert language preventing trade deals from being used to change immigration laws. King said he laid out exactly what he wanted to Ryan, whom he met with three or four times to discuss the matter. Ultimately, Ryan agreed to place the language in a separate trade bill and King was a “yes” on TPA.
“I can’t measure how it’s been with others, but if [Ryan was] dealing with everyone else the way he was dealing with me, you couldn’t ask for it to be any better,” King said.
Other times, the specific interests of members weren’t met. Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he and some of his fellow conservatives had made three very clear requirements to gain their support: a guarantee not to bring up a reauthorization of the Export-Import bank; elimination of the TAA workers assistance component; and a provision that lawmakers who aren’t on the Ways and Means Committee get equal power in rejecting trade deals.
With those three things, Jordan said he and some fellow conservatives were for TPA. Without, they were against. Though they met with Ryan and leadership, they didn’t get the concessions and Jordan voted against the legislation.
“Conservatives in Congress support free trade,” Jordan said in a statement after the vote. “We have been and still are willing to work with our leadership to make this legislation better. Our leadership tried to compromise with Democrats instead of us, and now we know that strategy failed. We stand ready to work on free trade legislation that is both transparent and consistent with Republican principles.”
Majority Leader McCarthy sighed during a briefing with reporters Monday when asked about Jordan’s comments.
“We’ve listened to everybody in the House,” McCarthy said. “You can’t assume every single Republican is pro-free trade. Some people are opposed to it and that’s a microcosm, that’s when you have a national party, I understand that. People are going to have a difference of opinion, but one thing is that inside this House, everybody had meetings numerous times. There are some things that people asked for that are impossible to get to as well.”
Ultimately, the months of work from Ryan, Scalise, Tiberi and others could be for naught. Democrats overwhelmingly blocked TAA – and thus stalled TPA – Friday, and though a second vote could happen as early as this week, it’s unclear whether the White House has been able to push any Democrats to support its position. Republicans are generally opposed to TAA, and though 86 GOP members did vote for it last week, that number is unlikely to increase. Because the Senate passed the two trade measures together, one can’t go to the president’s desk without the other. And while Republicans could take up TPA on its own at a later time, it’s unclear if that could pass the Senate, where the TPA/TAA combo passed with 62 votes, just barely over the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster.
Despite those question marks going forward, Republican leaders remained confident after the vote.
“I’m very proud of this Congress today,” Ryan said in a press conference. “I’m very proud of the House Republican caucus. I’m also very proud and thankful for the pro-trade Democrats that kept their word and stuck with us in this process. America is being watched by the rest of the world as to whether or not America is going to lead in the world, and I think this sent the right signal. Now the president has some work yet to do with his party to complete this process. This isn’t over yet.”
GOP LEADERSHIP’S LATEST OBAMATRADE PLOY REVEALED: SMALL BUSINESS TAX HIKE THAT VIOLATES GOP’S ANTI-TAX PLEDGE
Establishment Republicans desperately trying to secure the passage of Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which would give President Obama fast-track authority to secure congressional approval of at least three secretive trade deals, are now willing to increase taxes on small businesses in a way that would violate a pledge almost every Republican Congressman has taken when elected into office.
To secure final passage through Congress of a package that would include TPA fast-track authority—which would ensure finalization of the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) and Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), among other deals—the House would need to pass the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) package that was necessary for Senate passage of TPA. The House voted TAA down 302-126 with widespread bipartisan opposition to last week, but House Ways and Means Committee chairman
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
and his allies in House GOP leadership have pledged that they will try to pass it again early next week. The vote would potentially be on Monday, but more likely on Tuesday—and if there is no vote by Tuesday, it’s unlikely that Ryan will be able to succeed in his ploy to revive TPA.
TAA is a big government program usually favored by Democrats—it increases the size and scope of government, and is essentially viewed by Republicans as a welfare program—so their opposition to it during Friday’s complicated and confusing House vote schedule was not opposition to TAA as a specific concept, but opposition to the full Obamatrade package, especially TPA.
House Minority Leader
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
gave a blistering floor speech against the full Obamatrade deal, causing a Democratic rebellion against TAA—and forcing Ryan to push Republicans to vote for that part of the package.
TAA was originally supposed to be financed with Medicare cuts – which sparked major outrage, and cries of hypocrisy in what would have certainly turned into boldly negative campaign advertisements against Republicans by Democrats this next cycle. But under pressure, Republican leadership, mainly Boehner and Ryan, negotiated with Democrats to remove the Medicare cuts from the financial backing of TAA and instead using direct tax hikes by raising the penalties for misfiled taxes.
“A vote for Obamatrade on Tuesday is a vote to give the IRS more power and more incentives to go after small businesses,” said Curtis Ellis, founder of the Obamatrade.com website, in an exclusive interview with Breitbart News.
Democrats overwhelmingly opposed TAA Friday after Pelosi voiced opposition to giving President Obama fast-track trade authority.
“So while I am a big supporter of TAA, if TAA slows down the fast-track, I am prepared to vote against the TAA because then its defeat, sad to say, is the only way that we will be able to slow down the fast-track,” Pelosi said just minutes before the crucial vote. She concluded: “The facts are these: If TAA fails, the fast-track bill is stopped.”
“It’s pretty outrageous what is called for in this bill that Congress is going to vote on Tuesday – it literally doubles and triples the taxes on small businesses,” explained Ellis.
Ellis spent hours researching this legislation and explained to Breitbart News how it could impact small business taxes if Congress passes the TAA during its vote on Tuesday.
“Small businesses that are already over-burdened with IRS paperwork will be penalized even further if they make a technical mistake on filing informational paperwork,” he said. “There’s a lot of dishonesty going on when the bill is described as raising the fines on tax violations. That’s dishonest because the fines aren’t for people who failed to pay their taxes, the fines are on businesses that for no fault of their own, they forget to fie a piece of paperwork telling the IRS how much someone else owes on their taxes.”
“It’s outrageous that Republicans who complain all the time – rightfully so – about the IRS’s overreach and over burdening small business are actually increasing the incentive for the IRS to spy on people – to spy on small businesses,” he added.
Essentially, as explained by Ellis, any time a small business paid an independent contractor or freelancer a commission or any tips, it must be reported to the IRS with a 1099 form, which a copy is also sent to the contractor or freelancer. If the small business is late in filing this form, then it is fined by the IRS. The proposal Tuesday, as it stands, would double and triple these fines.
“It is the height of cynicism for Congress to plan on paying for a welfare program for unions by increasing the penalties for small businesses,” Ellis reacted.
President of Americans for Limited Government Rick Manning agrees with Ellis about this increasing penalty being a tax increase on small businesses.
“There is no question that raising the penalty on small businesses who commit a paperwork error is a tax increase. It is directly intended to raise revenues, so it can’t be considered anything else. For Republican leadership to ask their members to vote to raise taxes on small business to fund a union bailout that Big Labor doesn’t want is both horrific policy and terrible politics,” Manning told Breitbart News.
This program was so unpopular with both Democrats and Republicans that they removed it from Obamacare.
“This is very similar to one of the ways Obamacare was going to be paid for – as Obamacare was enacted they were looking for revenue to pay for it by increasing the penalties on small businesses who failed to file 1099 forms – that was repealed because it was so unpopular,” Ellis said. “Republicans led the charge in repealing it and now they’re the ones leading the charge to once again increase the penalties in already burdensome paperwork for the IRS.”
Therefore, the Republicans that voted for TAA Friday, essentially voted to finance TAA at the expense of increasing small business taxes – a direct violation of the Grover Norquist tax pledge, which many Republican Congressmen took, pledging to the American public not to raise any more taxes.
Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, a group for taxpayer advocacy to limit size of government, organized the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The pledge asks all politicians for both federal and state office to sign the pledge, committing themselves to oppose tax increases.
“This is clearly a tax increase – and it’s a violation of Grover Norquist’s no tax increase pledge that most of these Congressmen signed,” Ellis said. “This legislation assumes that there are small businesses out there that will fail to file the 1099 form and will therefore have to pay a fine.”
“It assumes small businesses will be forced to pay the IRS and then it goes further and says ‘let’s make them pay more’ – it doubles and triples the fines,” he argued.
Nearly every elected Republican in America—with rare exception—has signed Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. As such, the 86 Republicans who voted to raise small business taxes through the TAA on Friday most likely did as well.
ATR spokesman John Kartch told Breitbart News he doesn’t think TAA as it’s structured now in the House is a tax and that it does not violate the tax pledge—but that ATR is vehemently opposed to the program and is recommending all Republicans vote against it. That means ATR is in agreement with other groups from a more conservative perspective—albeit for slightly different reasons—on this matter, and won’t back down to help Obamatrade across the finish line.
“The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) is, like most government jobs training programs, a well intentioned, but flawed program,” Kartch said in an email on Sunday night.
“Americans for Tax Reform opposes the TAA program and any increase in funding for it. The TAA is tied to the Trade Promotion Authority designed to facilitate trade agreements that reduce tariffs. Tariffs are taxes. For most of our nation’s history our national government was largely funded by tariffs. The increases in fines for not filing 1099s are not tax hikes. Tax increases come from changes in tax law. ATR opposes the increase in the fines. Not every stupid move by government is a tax. Civil asset forfeiture is a vicious misuse of government power — but it is not a tax. Excise taxes are taxes and the bottom line of the drive to expand free trade is that — even with silly ‘bribes’ to Democrats like the TAA –freer trade driven by tariff reductions will reduce the taxes paid by American consumers and increase the nation’s economic strength. As has happened with every tariff reduction in our history.”
This is extraordinarily significant, since Norquist and his organization did support the TPA portion of Obamatrade, but the public opposition to its TAA portion means it’s unlikely any GOP votes will budge if and when leadership brings up TAA again next week. In fact, if any Republicans change their votes, they’re likely to switch from voting in favor of TAA to against it so not to violate their pledge.
Ellis, Manning and Norquist are hardly the only influential right-of-center figures opposing TAA.
“Regardless of how TAA is financed, it is a wasteful ineffective program that undermines the virtues of free trade,” Dan Holler, Communications Director for Heritage Action for America, told Breitbart News.
Heritage Action and Club for Growth – a conservative group – both oppose the TAA program saying it’s a wasteful welfare program. Heritage Action scored against TPA and TAA, but Club For Growth supported—like ATR—TPA but not TAA.
When TAA went down in the House last week, only 86 Republicans voted for it—and they were joined by just 40 Democrats.
A whopping 158 Republicans joined 144 Democrats to oppose TAA. To pass TAA this week, the only way to truly keep Obamatrade alive without having to go through a grueling conference committee strategy that would likely lead to even more lost votes on both the House and Senate side when they would vote on an eventual conference report, the establishment would need to pick up 92 votes to get to 218.
That seems highly unlikely, given that the widespread GOP opposition and the revelation that voting for this TAA portion is technically voting for a tax increase. That alone is likely to keep the 158 Republican noes in their column and probably add GOP opposition as several of the 86 GOP ayes are likely to change their votes to oppose it as Democrat opposition is getting stronger too. On Sunday, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton—the likely eventual Democrat nominee for president in 2016—urged Democrats to trust Pelosi and oppose granting Obama fast track trade authority until a good deal is assured.
“The president should listen to and work with his allies in Congress, starting with
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
,” Clinton said in Iowa.
If TAA were to pass—which is even more unlikely now that there’s probably not going to be any Democrat or GOP defections into supporting it—then so does TPA. The bills would move on to President Obama’s desk together, giving him fast-track authority to finalize his trade deals without any amendments to his deals by Congress.
Ryan’s office has not responded to a request for comment in response to these revelations about Obamatrade’s tax increases.
The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is a proposed international trade treaty between 24 Parties, including the European Union and the United States. The agreement aims at liberalizing the worldwide trade of services such as banking, health care and transport. Criticism about the secrecy of the agreement arose after WikiLeaks released in June 2014 a classified draft of the proposal’s financial services annex, dated the previous April.
Parties to Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)
The process was an initiative of the United States. It was proposed to a group of countries meeting in Geneva and called the Really Good Friends. All negotiating meetings take place in Geneva. The EU and the US are the main proponents of the agreement, and the authors of most joint changes. The participating countries started crafting the proposed agreement in February 2012 and presented initial offers at the end of 2013.
The agreement covers about 70% of the global services economy. Its aim is privatizing the worldwide trade of services such as banking, healthcare and transport. Services comprise 75% of American economic output; in EU states, almost 75% of its employment and gross domestic product.
Once a particular trade barrier has unilaterally been removed, it cannot be reintroduced. This proposal is known as the ‘ratchet clause’.
The EU has stated that companies outside its borders will not be allowed to provide publicly funded healthcare or social services.
Market access for publicly-funded health, social services and education, water services, film or TV will not be taken. Therefore, the ‘racket clause’ will not apply.
Initially having 16 members, the TISA has expanded to include 24 parties. Since the European Union represents 28 member states, there are 51 countries represented. The number of countries represented in each continent are: 32 in Europe, 7 in Asia, 5 in North America, 5 in South America, and 2 in Oceania. The 24 TiSA parties in order of their income categories are:
The agreement has been criticized for the secrecy around the negotiation. The cover page of the negotiating document leaked by Wikileaks says: “Declassify on: Five years from entry into force of the TISA agreement or, if no agreement enters into force, five years from the close of the negotiations.” Because of this practice it is not possible to be informed about the liberalizing rules that the participating countries propose for the future agreement. Only Switzerland has a practice of making public on the Internet all the proposals it submitted to the other parties since June 2012. European Union published its “offer” for TISA only in July 2014,after the Wikileaks disclosure.
Digital rights advocates have also brought attention to the fact that the agreement has provisions which would significantly weaken existing data protection provisions in signatory countries. In particular, the agreement would strip existing protections which aim to keep confidential or personally identifiable data within country borders or which prohibit its movement to other countries which do not have similar data protection laws in place.
The agreement bans government mandates for use of open source software, stating “No Party may require the transfer of, or access to, source code of software owned by a person of another Party, as a condition of providing services related to such software in its territory.” The open source word processing application LibreOffice has been deployed by many local governments throughout the EU to save money.
a treaty that would further liberalize trade and investment in services, and expand “regulatory disciplines” on all services sectors, including many public services. The “disciplines,” or treaty rules, would provide all foreign providers access to domestic markets at “no less favorable” conditions as domestic suppliers and would restrict governments’ ability to regulate, purchase and provide services. This would essentially change the regulation of many public and privatized or commercial services from serving the public interest to serving the profit interests of private, foreign corporations.
One concern is the provisions regarding retention of business records. David Cay Johnston said, “It is … hard to make the case that the cost of keeping a duplicate record at the home office in a different country is a burden.” He noted that business records requirements are sufficiently important that they were codified in law even before the Code of Hammurabi.
Impacts of the law may include “whether people can get loans or buy insurance and at what prices as well as what jobs may be available.”
“Amendments from the US are seeking to end publicly provided services like public pension funds, which are referred to as ‘monopolies’ and to limit public regulation of all financial services … They want to freeze financial regulation at existing levels, which would mean that governments could not respond to new developments like another global financial crisis.”
Regarding the secrecy of the draft, Professor Kelsey commented: “The secrecy of negotiating documents exceeds even the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement(TPP) and runs counter to moves in the WTO towards greater openness.” Johnston adds, “It is impossible to obey a law or know how it affects you when the law is secret.”
United States Visas were issued to 8.9 million foreign nationals visiting the United States and to 482,000 immigrants in 2012. A foreign national wishing to enter the U.S. must obtain a visa unless he or she is
Immigrant visa – for people to immigrate to the United States. At the port of entry, the immigrant visa holder is processed for a permanent resident card (I-551, a.k.a. green card). Upon endorsement (CBP admission stamp) it serves as temporary I-551 evidencing permanent residence for 1 year.
In order to immigrate, one should either have an immigrant visa or have a dual intent visa, which is one that is compatible with making a concurrent application for permanent resident status, or having an intention to apply for permanent residence.
Entering the U.S. on an employment visa may be described as a three-step process in most cases. First, the employer files an application with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requesting a particular type of category visa for a specific individual. If the employer’s application is approved, it only authorizes the individual to apply for a visa; the approved application is not actually a visa. The individual then applies for a visa and is usually interviewed at a U.S. embassy or consulate in the native country. If the embassy or consulate gives the visa, the individual is then allowed to travel to the U.S. At the border crossing, airport, or other point of entry into the U.S., the individual speaks with an officer from U.S. Customs and Border Protection to ask to admission to the U.S. If approved, the individual may then enter the U.S.
Contrary to a popular misconception, a U.S. visa does not authorize the alien‘s entry to the United States, nor does it authorize the alien’s stay in the U.S. in a particular status. A U.S. visa only serves as a preliminary permission given to the alien to travel to the United States and to seek admission to the United States at a designated port of entry. The final admission to the United States in a particular status and for a particular period of time is made at the port of entry by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. For aliens entering the U.S. in a nonimmigrant visa status these details are recorded by the CBP officer on the alien’sForm I-94 (Form I-94W for citizens of the Visa Waiver Program countries entering the U.S. for short visits), which serves as the official document authorizing the alien’s stay in the United States in a particular non-immigrant visa status and for a particular period of time. Another type of U.S. visa is lottery visa. 50,000 additional visa numbers are available each year under the section of visa lottery. In the last few years more than 9 million people have participated in the visa lottery
The United States and its territories
Visa free countries
Visa Waiver Program countries
Citizens of the following countries, linked with the USA by theCompacts of Free Association, do not require a visa to enter, reside, study, and work indefinitely in the United States:
Visitors may stay for 90 days in the United States which also includes the time spent in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the islands in the Caribbean if the arrival was through the United States.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is not a visa. Rather, obtaining a travel authorization from ESTA is a prerequisite to travelling by air to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. ESTA authorization, once obtained, is valid for two years unless during that time the person obtains a new passport or his/her answers to any of the eligibility questions change.
Citizens of the following countries and territories can travel without obtaining a visa for the United States under certain circumstances:
Bermuda – British Overseas Territories citizens by virtue of their connection to Bermuda can enter the United States visa-free provided they are bona-fide visitors – no I-94 is required. To qualify, they must not have had a criminal conviction or ineligibility, violated U.S. immigration laws in the past and must not be arriving the United States from outside the Western Hemisphere. In addition, they must present a Bermudian passport which fulfils the following criteria: the front cover has printed on it “Government of Bermuda”, the holder’s nationality must be stated as either “British Overseas Territory Citizen” or “British Dependant Territories Citizen”, the passport must contain one of the following endorsement stamps: “Holder is registered as a Bermudian”, “Holder Possesses Bermudian Status” or “Holder is deemed to possess Bermudian status”.
Bahamas – Citizens do not require a visa to enter the United States if they apply for entry at one of the Preclearance Facilities located in Nassau orFreeport International Airports. Bahamian citizens must not have had a criminal conviction or ineligibility, violated U.S. immigration laws in the past and must be in possession of valid, unexpired passport or a Bahamian Travel Document indicating that they have Bahamian citizenship. In addition to a passport, all applicants 14 years of age or older must present a police certificate issued by the Royal Bahamas Police Force within the past six months. All Bahamians applying for admission at a port-of-entry other than the Preclearance Facilities located in Nassau or Freeport International Airport are required to be in possession of a valid visa to enter the United States.
British Virgin Islands – British Overseas Territories Citizens by virtue of their connection to the British Virgin Islands may travel without a visa to the United States Virgin Islands. They may also continue travel to other parts of the United States if they present a Certificate of Good Conduct issued by the Royal Virgin Islands Police Department indicating no criminal record.
Cayman Islands – Whilst residents of the Cayman Islands, as British Overseas Territories Citizens, are eligible automatically to register as a full British citizen under Section 4(A) of the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, thereby able additionally to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, they can alternatively enter visa-free using their Cayman Islands passports. To qualify under the latter method, their Cayman Islands passports must confirm their British Overseas Territories citizenship and be endorsed by the Cayman Islands Passport and Corporate Services Office with a Cayman-U.S. visa waiver, issued at a cost of $15–25 and valid for one entry. They must travel directly between the Cayman Islands and the United States and their Cayman Islands passport must also have a validity of at least six months beyond their intended departure date from the United States. If Cayman Islanders elect to enter the U.S. using the Cayman-U.S. visa waiver, they are not required to apply for an ESTA online, since they are not entering under the VWP.
Turks and Caicos Islands – British Overseas Territories Citizens by virtue of their connection to the Turks and Caicos Islands can enter the United States visa-free for short business and pleasure. To qualify, they must not have had a criminal conviction or ineligibility, not violated U.S. immigration laws in the past and must arrive in the United States on a direct flight from the territory. In addition, they must present a Turks and Caicos Islands passport which states that they are a British Overseas Territory Citizen and have the right to abode in the Turks and Caicos Islands. In addition to a valid, unexpired passport, all travellers 14 years of age or older must present a police certificate issued by the Royal Turks and Caicos Islands Police Force within the past six months. All British Overseas Territories Citizens of the Turks and Caicos Islands who apply for admission at a port-of-entry that does not have direct air service to/from the territory, are required to be in possession of a valid visa to enter the United States.
Guam and Northern Mariana Islands Visa Waiver Program]
The U.S. territories of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands have a specific Guam-Northern Mariana Islands Visa Waiver Program too. Under this program, first enacted in October 1988 and periodically amended, nationals from several additional countries in Asia and the Pacific islands are permitted to enter the Northern Marianas and Guam as tourists without a visa for up to 45 days. Travel is not permitted onwards to the mainland United States, and because of special visa categories for the Northern Mariana Islands foreign workers, traveling between Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands still requires a full immigration inspection. In addition to the citizens of Australia, Brunei, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and the United Kingdom who are also eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (but do not require ESTA for Guam and Northern Mariana Islands), citizens of the following countries and territories are eligible only for the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program:
Russia – despite not being included in the new Guam-CNMI visa waiver program, as part of a parole arrangement, Russian citizens in possession of a machine-readable passport, a completed Form I-736 (Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Information form) and Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) and a non-refundable and non-transferable return ticket can visit both Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands visa-free for up to 45 days.
China – Chinese citizens in possession of a machine-readable passport, completed Form I-736 (Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Information form) and Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record) may enter the CNMI only visa-free for up to 45 days (travel to Guam still requires applying for a visa in advance).