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True Sovereignty Coalition Calls for Balance in Hearings on L.O.S.T. PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Travis Korson   
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 08:43
Listen to More than the ‘American Anti-Sovereignty Campaign’

Washington, D.C., May 11, 2012- In a choreographed roll-out yesterday – transparently timed to coincide with the end of Senator Richard Lugar’s ill-fated primary race for reelection to the United States Senate, a group styling itself the “American Sovereignty Campaign” announced that it would be mounting an aggressive effort to secure ratification of the obsolete and defective Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).  Given the threat LOST poses to U.S. sovereignty and vital interests, a better moniker for this entity would be the “American Anti-Sovereignty Campaign.”

A previously organized coalition that actually supports American sovereignty – the Coalition to Preserve American Sovereignty – responded by calling on Sen. Lugar, the Ranking Minority Member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and his Democratic counterpart, Chairman John Kerry, to assure the record reflects the insights of the treaty’s many critics, not just its boosters.
In a letter to the two Senators (below), the pro-sovereignty Coalition identified a number of LOST’s defects that should require close scrutiny.  It also identified a number of expert witnesses who could illuminate them and urged the Foreign Relations Committee to hear from such authorities.
The Coalition welcomes an honest, open debate about a treaty that was largely drafted when the Soviet Union and Non-Aligned Nations were still going concerns and dominated the United Nations and Law of the Sea negotiations.  If the Senate actually deliberates on this accord – rather than following the appalling 2010 precedent of hastily rubber-stamping the Obama administration’s unverifiable and inequitable New START Treaty, the outcome seems certain:  The Senate will reject the LOST Treaty, as did President Ronald Reagan 30 years ago.

Text of the Letter

10 May 2012

Hon. John Kerry
Chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
444 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0802

Hon. Richard G. Lugar
Ranking Minority Member, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
446 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-0802

Dear Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Lugar:

We understand that you will soon convene hearings in connection with possible U.S. ratification of the United Nations’ Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).  It is our view that this accord is seriously defective in a number of respects (several of which are enumerated below.)  Accordingly, we write to request that the individuals listed below be afforded an opportunity to testify in connection with the Foreign Relations Committee’s consideration of LOST with respect to the following problematic provisions of that treaty – an opportunity largely not afforded to critics of LOST during the last round of your panel’s hearings on the matter in 2003 and 2007.

First, ratification of LOST would commit the United States to submit to mandatory dispute resolution with respect to U.S. military and industrial operations.  While LOST proponents argue that the United States will choose available arbitration mechanisms to avoid legal decisions from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), such arbitration panels are no-less perilous for U.S. interests as the decisive, “swing” arbiters would be appointed by generally unfriendly UN-affiliated bureaucrats.  The arbitration panels can also be relied upon to look to rulings by the ICJ or ITLOS to inform their own decisions.

Furthermore, while there is a LOST provision exempting “military activity” from such dispute resolution mechanisms, the Treaty makes no attempt to define “military activity,” virtually guaranteeing that such matters will be litigated – in all likelihood to our detriment – before one or another of LOST’s arbitration mechanisms.  And the rulings of such arbitrators cannot be appealed.

Subjecting our military to the risks of such mandatory dispute resolution is all the more imprudent given that LOST provides the Navy with no navigational rights and freedoms beyond those it already enjoys under customary international law and the U.S. Freedom of Navigation Program.  The Navy has successfully protected American interests on the seas for the past two hundred years without the United States becoming a party to LOST – including during the thirty years since LOST was concluded, in 1982.  We see no compelling reason why that record will be improved upon by entrusting the job to international legal arrangements.

Second, the Law of the Sea Treaty contains provisions that risk putting sensitive, militarily useful information and technology in the hands of America’s adversaries and its companies’ commercial competitors.  That accord’s proponents would have you believe that there is no problem with technology transfer since the Treaty’s relevant mandates were eliminated by a 1994 agreement relating to the implementation of LOST’s Part XI.  Unfortunately, this is another area that cries out for close examination by the Senate and the Nation.

For one thing, it is unclear to what extent the Treaty could be and was amended by the ’94 accord.  For another, a number of provisions obligating the transfer of potentially sensitive technology and data were not addressed in the latter agreement.  For example, LOST arbitration procedures specify that parties to a dispute would be required to provide an arbitral tribunal with “all relevant documents, facilities and information” – a potential avenue for compelling such transfers.

Third, the Law of the Sea Treaty entails commitments that have far-reaching implications for U.S. businesses, far beyond the possibility of mandatory technology transfers.  These include: embroiling this country in treaties bearing on commercial activities to which it is not a party; wide-ranging, intrusive and expensive environmental obligations; creating standing for foreign nationals to pursue alien torts in our courts; and jeopardizing our rights under the World Trade Organization, which was established after 1994.

Of particular concern is the fact that LOST creates an international taxation regime.  It does so by empowering the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to tax Americans for the purposes of meeting its own administrative costs and of globally redistributing revenue derived from the exploitation of seabed resources.  The wisdom of such compulsory payments to the ISA is highly questionable, considering the poor track record of international organizations’ management of finances.  Moreover, the ISA would be unconstrained in its discretion as to which countries or entities were to receive this redistributed American wealth, the recipients of which could include highly corrupt and undemocratic regimes or even countries identified by the Department of State as sponsors of terrorism.   

We believe the Foreign Relations Committee’s deliberations on the Law of the Sea Treaty will be incomplete, perhaps misleadingly so, unless they are informed by testimony on these and related points.  We formally request that you and your colleagues ensure that the following individuals are afforded an opportunity to provide such testimony:

Donald Rumsfeld                       Former Secretary of Defense
Edwin Meese                          Former United States Attorney General
John R. Bolton                         Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
John F. Lehman                         Former Secretary of the Navy
William Middendorf                     Former Secretary of the Navy
Douglas J. Feith                          Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy
Admiral James A. Lyons                    Former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet
Vice Admiral Robert Monroe             Former Director, Research, Development, Test and Evaluation
Phyllis Schlafly                       Eagle Forum
Fred Smith                          Competitive Enterprise Institute
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.                           Center for Security Policy
Doug Bandow                         Cato Institute
Steven Groves                         Heritage Foundation
Baker Spring                         Heritage Foundation
Thomas P. Kilgannon                      Freedom Alliance
Peter Leitner                        Author, Reforming the Law of the Sea Treaty
Kevin Kearns                         U.S. Business & Industry Council
John Fonte                          Hudson Institute
Jeremy Rabkin                         George Mason University School of Law

Sincerely,

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
Coalition to Preserve American Sovereignty
###

 
Braley, DeLauro Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Middle Class PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Giertz   
Monday, 14 May 2012 13:42

Braley, DeLauro Introduce Legislation to Strengthen Middle Class

Comprehensive Bill Makes Investments, Creates Stability, Restores Fairness Necessary to Rebuild America 

 

Washington, DC – Representatives Bruce Braley (D-IA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), co-chairs of the Populist Caucus, today introduced the Rebuild America Act, comprehensive legislation to rebuild the American middle-class.  The bill invests in our future through three main tenants: investment to foster jobs and growth, creating financial stability for middle-class families and restoring fairness to the tax code.  This stands in direct contrast to the vision for America Republicans are pushing today: slashing the social safety net to fund tax cuts for the wealthy.

 

“The Rebuild America Act is the kind of comprehensive plan we need to strengthen the middle class, grow America’s economy, and invest in the future,” Braley said.  “From the modernization of America’s schools to the expansion of renewable energy, from a national manufacturing strategy to raising the minimum wage, this bill is the kind of bold vision that will put America back on a path to prosperity and progress.  Congress has been paralyzed by inaction, but I believe this common sense plan can appeal to people regardless of partisanship.”

 

“The debate in Washington has gone on for too long.  We need to stop talking and start implementing solutions to get America back to work,” DeLauro said.  “The Rebuild America Act makes bold, critical investments in our future to create jobs and promote the financial stability so crucial to middle-class Americans.  These families have been facing pressures on all fronts, from struggling schools to declining manufacturing to the squeeze on pensions and retirement security.  This bill will help both individuals and businesses start to pull themselves out of the morass we have been in and prepare our economy for future challenges.”

 

The Rebuild America Act has three overarching principles:

 

  1. Investing in America to Create Jobs and Future Growth
  2. Creating Financial Stability and a Better Future for Middle-Class Families
  3. Restoring Fairness to the Tax Code and Ensuring Fiscal Responsibility

 

Investing in America to Create Jobs and Future Growth

Creating solid middle-class jobs that cannot be outsourced will lay the foundation for long-term economic growth.  To do this, we need to move from being a nation that consumes to one that builds and exports.  The Rebuild America Act invests in our schools and teachers, renewable energy and roads, bridges and infrastructure.  It also rebuilds our manufacturing power through expanded tax credits and access to credit for business.

 

Creating Financial Stability and a Better Future for Middle-Class Families

Middle-class families are facing enormous financial pressures, both during their working years and in retirement.  The Rebuild America Act helps ease this stress by strengthening social security, establishing a fair minimum wage and ensuring paid sick days are available for workers across the country.

 

Restore Fairness to the Tax Code and Ensuring Fiscal Responsibility

Our current tax system is unfair, too complex and keeps us on a path of perennial deficits.  The Rebuild America Act takes action to level the playing field for all Americans.  The bill includes the Buffet Rule, ends tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and makes Wall Street take responsibility for their irresponsible actions that led to the 2008 financial collapse.  Crucially, the Rebuild America Act protects the pensions that workers are counting on to get through retirement by encouraging employers to continue to provide pensions and creating additional protections for people whose pension is a casualty of bankruptcy.

 

The following organizations support the Rebuild America Act:

 

SEIU

AFSCME

AFL-CIO

AFT

Building Trades Unions

Machinists Union

UAW

NEA

IAFF

USW

IUPA

Main Street Alliance

American Sustainable Business Council

Campaign for America’s Future

American Dream

National Women’s Law Center

National Partnership for Women and Families

National Employment Law Center

Urban League

US Action

Community Change

Moms Rising

NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Children’s Defense Fund

Young Invincibles

Social Security Works

Coalition on Human Needs

Family Values at Work

ADA

First Five Years Fund

NAEYC

CLASP

NWLC

PEW

PreKnow

Independent

NACCRAA

ECE Consortium

Zero to Three

Head Start

First Focus

Voices

NAWB

Workforce Alliance

JAG

American Progress

Knowledge Works

Alliance for American Manufacturing

American Small Manufacturer Coalition

Industrial Unions Council

United Spinal Association

The Arc

 

Formed in 2009, the House Populist Caucus is the only caucus in Congress dedicated soley to strengthening America’s middle class.  The Populist Caucus has 28 members.

 

# # #

 
Reports dings IRS whistleblower progress, President should engage PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 14 May 2012 13:27

May 10 


Today the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released a report calling for better Internal Revenue Service (IRS) management of the IRS whistleblower program aimed at curbing big-dollar tax cheating.  Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa last week expressed his “extreme disappointment in the management of the program” in a letter to the agency.  Grassley wrote the 2006 law improving the IRS whistleblower office.

Grassley made the following comment on today’s report.

“This report confirms my concern that the IRS isn’t serious about processing whistleblower claims in a timely way.   Open-ended timeframes don’t get the job done.  Ironically, taxpayers are subject to strict deadlines and stiff penalties for foot-dragging with the IRS.  The accountability is one-sided.  Meanwhile, while the grass grows at the IRS, big-dollar tax cheating continues.   Whistleblowers who are trying to expose the wrongdoing are left twisting in the wind.   If the IRS and the Treasury Department really want to close the tax gap, they need to focus on cleaning up the processing of claims and issuing awards.   Instead of going to conferences in Miami and San Diego, they should process whistleblower claims and make these payments.    For example, the whistleblower office director’s approval of an award apparently has to be reviewed by an executive committee before a whistleblower can be paid.   As I said in my letter last week, the IRS needs to get the process moving.   President Obama should make this a priority.  While he promotes higher taxes on millionaires, his own administration is allowing big-dollar tax cheating to continue by letting whistleblower cases sit on the shelf.  He could do a lot for tax compliance by lighting a fire under the IRS on whistleblowers.”


Today’s report is available here.

The text of Grassley’s latest letter is available here.

 
Bringing Up Little Angels PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Monday, 14 May 2012 13:25
Children’s Authors Offer Character-Building Tips

A recent rash of news stories highlights the positive in society’s youngest members: “Child Saves Kids from Bus Crash;” “Child Saves His Brother from Possible Abduction;” “Child Saves Family from House Fire.”

But all too often, the news involving children indicates a dangerous lack of morality: 7- and 8-year-olds stealing cars; a 9-year-old’s recent shooting of a school classmate; a 12-year-old charged with armed robbery. A particularly bad one nearly 20 years ago shocked sisters Debbie Burns and Patty Cockrell. Two 10-year-old truants abducted a toddler in England, tortured the little boy and beat him to death.

It prompted the women to begin work on Tukie Tales: A New Beginning for a Better Tomorrow (www.tukietales.com), a series of five children’s books designed to help parents teach young children important values.

“There is something especially senseless in reading about small children committing sadistic crimes,” Burns says. “We wanted to be part of a ‘positive push’ in the right direction.”

The younger the child, the more impressionable they are, she says. We wanted to help busy parents scrambling to make ends meet teach children empathy, compassion, environmental awareness and other values.

“I don’t think parents are bad,” she says. “But with all the economic worries, the job losses and home foreclosures, many are focused on working and worrying. It’s hard to also be thinking, ‘What value will I teach my child today?’ ”

Burns and Cockrell offer tips for parents to help positively shape children:

• Promote a love for nature: Are your kids outdoors much? Parents who are busying shuttling their sons and daughters from one building to another may overlook the benefits of the great outdoors. Wilderness, however, has a therapeutic effect on indoor dwellers. Spending time in nature also helps children learn about their place in the world and the value of all the life that shares space with us.

• Show the value of teamwork: Working together toward a common goal doesn’t always come naturally to children – or adults. Many youngsters learn teamwork through sports, which is good but almost always includes a competitive element. It’s important for children to experience the added benefits of creating, problem-solving and getting chores done as a team. Parents should look for opportunities to point out their children’s great teamwork.

• Make sure they appreciate safety: No good parent wants to unnecessarily frighten their children, but carelessness leads to bad habits, injuries and opportunities for others to do them harm. The best medicine for any problem is prevention. Remember: Don’t take for granted that your young child knows what’s safe and what’s not. Some years ago, someone taught you that stoves can burn your hand – even though you can’t remember who or when it was.

• Build their confidence with at least one skill: Remember what it’s like to be 4 years old? Very young children come into this world with no previous experience, which means their brains are hungry for know-how. Knowledge and skills to a child are like water for a thirsty man in the desert.

• Kindness counts: It is one thing to teach kids the old idiom that one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar. But children should also know that people who make kindness a habit tend to be happier; there is an inherent joy in helping others.

“I understand parents are busy earning a living to support their children,” Cockrell says. “But who you raise in the process makes all the difference to the future world.”

About Debbie Burns & Patty Cockrell

Burns and Cockrell are sisters and best friends. They were determined to instill honest and wholesome values in their children after establishing their families. Deeply affected by the bad news of the world, they decided to promote a better experience for children. The “Tukie Tales” series is written with compassion and love for all of the world’s children in the hope of making a positive difference.

 
State Treasurer Fitzgerald's Letter to Editor Part of White House Blog PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Karen Austin   
Monday, 14 May 2012 12:48

DES MOINES, IA (05/09/2012)(readMedia)-- State Treasurer Michael L. Fitzgerald's comments in a letter to the editor released statewide last week regarding college affordability is part of a blog posted on the White House website. To read the entire blog, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/05/08/iowa-state-treasurer-michael-fitzgerald-let-s-invest-our-youth-don-t-double-their-ra.

"This is quite an honor to have the President and his staff take quotes from my recent letter to the editor," Fitzgerald stated. "I have worked for years helping families make college affordable by saving through College Savings Iowa. But not all families can save for all expenses and many students turn to student loans. We need to ensure that those students do not pay an additional price."

You can read the Treasurer's entire letter to the editor by going to iowatreasurer.gov.

 
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