Category: Allied Approaches

EPA move to revoke California vehicle emissions waiver generates bipartisan outrage

E.A. Crunden

E.A. Crunden Reporter, Think Progress

A bipartisan group of nearly 70 lawmakers are asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to preserve a waiver allowing California to regulate its own vehicle efficiency standards, which the Trump administration has threatened to revoke.

In a letter sent to acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler on Tuesday, 68 House members urged the agency to halt plans they say could severely impact public health, Politico first reported Thursday.

Under the Clean Air Act, California has historically been allowed to set its own air pollution standards for new motor vehicles if granted an EPA waiver. The state’s stronger standards have been adopted by 12 states and the District of Columbia, which the letter’s signatories argue collectively represent more than 35 percent of the U.S. population and 1 in every 3 cars sold in the country.

The letter, shared with ThinkProgress, argues that “hundreds of thousands of premature deaths” have been prevented thanks to the stronger standards, along with “hundreds of millions of cases” of diseases relating to respiratory and cardiovascular issues.

“Thanks to these high standards, many states have significantly reduced pollutants like health-threatening smog and soot, in addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to help combat climate change,” the letter continues. “Automakers and their suppliers have risen to the challenge of achieving technology-driving standards.”
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Senators Tell the Federal Trade Commission to Get Tougher on “Made in the USA” Cheats

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Nearly 4,000 people signed onto our action last week urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to impose tougher penalties on companies that falsely label their imported products as “Made in USA.”

It turns out a few Senators also sent a similar message of their own to the agency.

Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), and Chris Murphy (Conn.) sent a letter to the FTC on Oct. 12 to “express our concerns with ‘no-fault, no-money’ settlements for ‘Made in the USA’ labeling violations” and “urge the Commission to take all steps necessary to protect the integrity of the label.” The trio continue:

“Consumers view American-made goods more positively and are often willing to pay a higher price for them. In addition, consumers may be less likely to have health or quality concerns about a product when its true country of origin is concealed. If the consequences of misusing the “Made in the USA” label do not include paying fines or admitting wrongdoing, it is unlikely that these and other companies will be deterred from using the same deceptive tactics to sell their products in the future.” 

The senators specifically were responding to recent rulings by the FTC that found three individual companies labeled their products as “Made in USA” but actually imported them from countries like China.

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No Surprise Here: U.S. Defense Supply Chain is Reliant on China & Other Rivals, Report Finds

Jesús Espinoza

Jesús Espinoza Press Secretary, AAM

The Defense Department released an urgent report on Friday outlining how its supply chains are alarmingly reliant on China and other potential military rivals for essential materials.

How can the U.S. military properly defend our nation if it can’t source what it needs from domestic sources -- and instead must depend on potential adversaries for those materials?

The simple answer: it can’t.

This shouldn’t be surprising, though.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) has been sounding the alarm on this pressing issue since 2013, when we published a report that identified many of the same weaknesses in our military supply chains and overall defense preparedness.

Authored by Brig. Gen. John Adams, U.S. Army (Ret.), ReMaking American Security found glaring gaps in our military’s ability to source materials that produce everything from steel armor plate and lithium ion batteries to hellfire missile propellant and biological weapons defense—important tools that could mean life or death for Americans in combat.

The origin of many of these weaknesses is the fact that our leaders have neglected our vital manufacturing sector for too long. Every action—or inaction—has a consequence, and these cracks in America’s armor have only widened because Washington fails to thoroughly back policies that support the factories, workers, and mines that source the essential resources and goods our military requires.

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American Manufacturers Can Lead the World to a Cleaner, Brighter Future

Cathalijne Adams

Cathalijne Adams Researcher/Writer, AAM

The United Nations’ climate change report issued on Monday is nothing short of terrifying. But as scientists consistently exhort, we can stabilize our climate future — and another report finds that manufacturing can lead the way.

Supporting domestic manufacturing rather than outsourcing our pollution to countries with less stringent pollution standards is the first step in addressing America’s emissions, but there’s still plenty American manufacturers can do to increase energy efficiency. These improvements would not only support a cleaner environment, but also usher manufacturers into a market that promises substantial growth and new workforce opportunities.

“Working people are counting on us to reduce emissions and create high-quality jobs,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a press release for the report.

As transportation and power become more energy-efficient, national attention should turn to continuing progress for industry as well, according to the report produced by Third Way, the AFL-CIO, and the Council on Competitiveness.

Industrial emissions represent the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in America when including emissions from power generation to the sectors that use the energy.

“If we're serious about fighting climate change, we simply can't leave the industrial sector behind,” said Third Way Co-Founder and Senior Vice President Matt Bennett  in the report’s press release. “We'll need a variety of low-carbon technologies and processes to aggressively cut carbon in this sector. But we also need to include manufacturers and the millions of Americans they employ in this policy conversation and make sure they can be part of the climate solution.”

The past success of steel and iron producers in dramatically reducing their industrial emissions shines as an example of what can be done. By implementing improvements in energy efficiency, these sub-sectors reduced their emissions by almost 60 percent between 1990 and 2016.

But many other American manufacturers have also spearheaded energy-efficient practices and continue to do so.

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Trump administration wins first conviction for non-citizen voting

Joshua Eaton

Joshua Eaton Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

The Justice Department secured the first conviction this week in its hunt for the millions of non-citizens President Donald Trump has claimed voted illegally in 2016.

Italian citizen Alessandro Cannizzaro, 47 of North Carolina, pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of voting by an alien. U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle sentence Cannizzaro to a $200 fine.

Cannizzaro, a registered Republican, passed a citizenship test in 2003 but officials never let him know when he could take his citizenship oath. That apparently led Cannizzaro to believe he was eligible to vote when his family headed to the polls in 2016.

“I never checked the status of me if I was okay to vote,” Cannizzaro said, according to HuffPost. “So I’m here today to take full responsibility, and I’m deeply sorry.”

Cannizzaro still wants to become naturalized, he told Boyle. But his guilty plea could put him at risk of deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — even though he has lived in the U.S. for 20 years, has a wife and two children here, and has no previous criminal record.

The government and Elliot Abrams, Cannizzaro’s lawyer, briefly disagreed over a 2005 letter in which the government says it asked Cannizzaro to be fingerprinted before he could become a citizen. Abrams said his client never received the letter and had tried to comply with all the naturalization requirements.

Boyle largely agreed with Cannizzaro and declined to impose probation, which the government asked for and Abrams agreed to.

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Georgia GOP gubernatorial candidate sued for blocking 53,000 voter registrations

Kira Lerner Political Reporter, Think Progress

Two voting rights groups filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R) of unlawfully blocking 53,000 voter registrations ahead of the November election. Kemp is currently in a tightly-contested race against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who would be the first black woman governor in the United States.

Using an “exact match” voter registration system, Kemp’s office flagged tens of thousands of voter registration forms where the voter’s information does not exactly match the information on file by the Department of Driver Services or Social Security Administration databases. In many cases, the error was as small as a missing hyphen. According to an AP report this week, 70 percent of the registrations placed in a “pending” status belong to African American voters.

“Kemp has been a driving force behind multiple voter suppression efforts throughout the years in Georgia,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, one of the groups behind the lawsuit. “If there is one person in Georgia who knows that the ‘Exact Match’ scheme has a discriminatory impact on minority voters, it’s Brian Kemp because we successfully sued him over a mirror policy in 2016.”

The lawsuit, filed by the Lawyers’ Committee and the Campaign Legal Center, alleges that the exact match system violates the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act, and the U.S. Constitution. As Clarke noted, legal groups sued Kemp over the same issue before the 2016 presidential election, and a court ordered Kemp to restore the more than 40,000 registrations he put on hold that year.

“Georgia’s ‘exact match’ protocol has resulted in the cancellation or rejection of tens of thousands of voter registration applications in the past,” Danielle Lang, senior legal counsel with the Campaign Legal Center, said in a statement. “The reintroduction of this practice, which is known to be discriminatory and error-ridden, is appalling.”

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Living in a New Gilded Age

Robert Reich

Robert Reich Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley

The Trump Justice Department has approved a $69 billion merger between CVS, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, and insurance giant Aetna. It’s the largest health insurance deal in history.

Executives say the combination will make their companies more efficient, allowing them to gain economies of scale and squeeze waste out of the system.

Rubbish. This is what big companies always say when they merge.

The real purpose is to give Aetna and CVS more bargaining power over their consumers and employees, as well as pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers (which have also been consolidating).

The result: Higher prices. Americans already spend far more on healthcare and medications per person than do citizens in any other developed country – and our health is among the worst.

America used to have antitrust laws that permanently stopped corporations from monopolizing markets, and often broke up the biggest culprits. 

But now, especially with Trump as president and lobbyists and CEOs running much of the government, giant corporations like Aetna and CVS are busily weakening antitrust enforcement and taking over the economy.

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Harder Times for Poultry Workers

Jordan Barab

Jordan Barab Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA

A 59-year-old employee at Allen Harim poultry plant in Harbeson, Delaware was killed last week from a serious head trauma after being struck in the head with a piece of equipment on an electric hoist when he and another employee were attempting to change the battery on a pallet jack.

This was not Allen Harim’s first workplace safety and health problem.

In 2015, OSHA issued a $35,000 citation to the company, warning the poultry processor that “The combination of musculoskeletal disorder hazards, lack of proper medical treatment for musculoskeletal disorders and underreporting of injuries at this plant must be addressed.”  The OSHA citation also included a violation for not allowing workers to use the bathrooms. OSHA also sent a Hazard Alert Letter to Allen Harim, warning of deficiencies in the facility’s medical management program.

And workplace safety is not Allen Harim’s only problem.  The Washington, D.C., nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project issued a report yesterday, “Water Pollution from Slaughterhouses” noting that Allen Harim is facing a $241,000 fine for dozens of wastewater-related violations found at its Harbeson plant between 2012 and 2016 – which the company has appealed. The report studied poultry processing companies who dumped illegal levels of nitrogen, fecal bacteria or other pollutants into the waterways across the country.

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Trump administration waives 28 environmental and health protections to build border wall in Texas

E.A. Crunden

E.A. Crunden Reporter, Think Progress

Effective Wednesday, the Trump administration will suspend nearly 30 laws, most of which focus on environmental protections, in order to proceed with construction on border wall gates and infrastructure in South Texas, despite outcry from environmental groups in the state.

In an announcement Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said it would waive 28 laws in order to accelerate construction in Cameron County, Texas on President Donald Trump’s long-touted wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The area includes spots adjacent to wildlife refuges, like the Lower Rio Grande National Wildlife Refuge. The waiver allows the administration to suspend laws protecting clean air and water, in addition to public lands and endangered wildlife.

Among those laws waived are the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Migratory Bird Conservation Act, and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act.

“Border security is critical to the nation’s national security. Recognizing the critical importance of border security, Congress has mandated DHS to achieve and maintain operational control of the international land border,” the waiver reads.

Green groups slammed the announcement and expressed concern over its long-term implications for both people and the environment.

“Waiving environmental laws forgoes the opportunity to fully examine the impacts, mitigation strategies and alternatives,” said Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas, in an email to ThinkProgress. “This is an irresponsible move which puts wildlife and Texas parks at risk.”

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U.S.-China Trade Fight Increasingly Includes Currency

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

The last time the United States labeled China a currency manipulator was 1994. It looks like it might be preparing to do so again.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose department is responsible for the biannual report (due out next week) that identifies currency distortions around the globe, didn’t flat out say so in an interview with the Financial Times, instead saying Treasury was “very carefully” monitoring the Chinese renminbi, which has fallen significantly during the past year.

But there has been speculation for some time that the Trump administration might take the plunge and place China on this list as part of the larger trade dispute between Washington and Beijing. And now other senior (and anonymous) Treasury officials are worrying about the trading value of the renminbi, too, before Secretary Mnuchin travels to a meeting of finance ministers in Indonesia.  

Naming China (or any other country) a currency manipulator via this report doesn’t immediately do anything. It doesn’t trigger sanctions, but it would require the administration to enter into direct talks with the country it accuses. And it would likely further chill relations between the Trump administration and Xi Jinping’s government in the context of the ongoing trade dispute.

While it’s hard to see how relations could get icier, currency manipulation is a big deal. By keeping a currency undervalued, a country can make its exports less expensive and imports more so. That has directly contributed to the yawning U.S. goods trade deficit with China in years past and has cost the United States a substantial number of jobs.

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Union Matters

Keeping Cancer Cures a Corporate Profit Center

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Who knew fighting cancer could be so lucrative? Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center CEO Craig Thompson, for one. Last year, Thompson pulled down nearly $600,000 in cash and stock from his service on two for-profit drug company boards, all on top of his $6.7 million in Sloan Kettering pay the year before. No wonder Thompson looked the other way while his chief medical officer “failed to disclose” in medical journal articles that he had received millions from companies that could be banking on matters he was writing about. In September, that scandal went public, and Thompson at first insisted that working with for-profit companies must remain a priority. Last week, amid mounting public outrage, Thompson retreated and announced he would resign his corporate board seats. But the real scandal remains: a hospital-Big Pharma complex that focuses single-mindedly on patentable pharmaceuticals that generate huge returns for corporate execs and shareholders.

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Unions for All, Unions for 15

Unions for All, Unions for 15