Free Speech for People: Reclaim the Court

The Supreme Court is facing a crisis of legitimacy. In the wake of Brett Kavanaugh’s hasty confirmation last year, Americans are on edge as the Court rules on issues that radically impact our lives.

Brett Kavanaugh may have been confirmed to the Supreme Court, but the fight isn’t over. We’re asking House members to investigate his fitness for office since the Senate failed to do so. Because no matter how entitled Kavanaugh thinks he is, that seat belongs to us – the people. Join Women’s March, Demand Justice, and Center for Popular Democracy on the anniversary of his confirmation, October 6th, to Reclaim the Court.

RECLAIM THE COURT

Sunday, October 6th at 12:30 PM ET

Columbus Circle

Free Speech For People has repeatedly called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment on the basis of perjury, credible sexual assault allegations, and actions during his confirmation process which brought the judiciary into disrepute. Today, we renew that call and we are proud to join with our allies in demanding that the House of Representatives open this investigation.

A thorough vetting of Brett Kavanaugh and his actions is more important now than ever. The House has a constitutional duty to conduct this investigation and to finish the work that the Senate failed to complete last year. But they need to act now.

RSVP at www.ReclaimTheCourt.com and Facebook. Let’s do this.

In solidarity,

Free Speech For People

Legislative Update from Maine State Senator Brownie Carson

brownie at veterans event

Dear friends, neighbors and constituents,

On Monday, I was back at the State House with legislative colleagues. As you know, we voted on four important bond issues, all of which I supported. Endorsing all of these bonds would have allowed us to send a package of critical investments to voters this November: $20 million for Land for Maine’s Future (LMF); $105 million for road and bridge maintenance; $23 million for broadband, technical education and upgrading National Guard facilities; and $15 million for environmental infrastructure and energy efficiency. Unfortunately, we approved only one — the transportation bond.

In advance of the special session, I made calls to Senate colleagues who appeared to be “on the fence” about whether to vote for the LMF bond. I reminded them that voters have strongly endorsed every one of the six LMF bonds that have appeared on ballots since 1987. There is absolutely no question about both the value of, and popular support for, protecting farmland, working forests, wildlife habitat, high-value recreational land, access to working waterfronts, and more. I spoke in favor of this bond on the senate floor. To approve this bond, we needed one Republican vote to meet the two-thirds requirement; we did not get a single one. Putting it mildly, I was very disappointed at the end of the day.

We must re-start the LMF program, and funds from this bond would have done that. I also believe that we must invest in maintenance and upgrades to our state parks. There was significant controversy at the end of session in June about any borrowing (except the transportation bond). As a compromise, the governor reduced the overall size of this bond package and spit it into four separate bonds. When the legislature reconvenes in January, we will revisit the bonds that failed on Monday. Our rural residents need reliable high-speed internet; our technical schools deserve our support; all of Maine’s infrastructure, including water and sewer as well as roads and bridges, needs to be kept up.

In addition, we took up the question of whether to use ranked-choice voting for the 2020 presidential primary in Maine. This was a “hold-over” bill. Thanks to so many who wrote emails in the past week — most in support, some in opposition. I have carefully considered this issue since it first surfaced several years ago. I believe that RCV strengthens our electoral system, making every vote count when there is a particularly close election. Having voters engaged and evaluating all candidates, not just our top choice in a crowded field, is a very good thing. So, I voted “yes” on LD 1083, and it was enacted in the Senate. It’s now in the hands of Governor Mills, for her to approve, veto or hold.

One final thought: As we spend time with family and friends on Labor Day, it’s important to remember that before Labor Day was a national holiday, before the labor movement took root, workers across our country faced unbearably long hours, often in unsafe conditions. Many factories used child labor. Now, our laws protect workers, and we expanded those protections this year. More workers will have access to paid family leave and loggers now have the same right to organize that farmers and lobstermen already had. I will always support policies that value hardworking people throughout Maine.

I hope you’re enjoying these final days of summer. It has been wonderful to spend so much time outdoors in Harpswell!

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, you can reach me at Brownie.Carson@legislature.maine.gov or (207) 287-1515. You can also follow me on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/BrownieForMaine/. Thank you for the honor of serving you in the Maine Senate.

Best regards,

Brownie

DemocracyNow: Greta Thunberg, Frances Crowe and a Passing of the Torch

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By Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, sailed into New York Harbor Wednesday after an occasionally harrowing, two-week trans-Atlantic voyage. Greta walks the walk, living her life with as small a carbon footprint as she can. She decided to forgo flying as part of that commitment, so, in order to make it from Europe to North America, she sailed on a zero-emissions racing yacht.

The day before Greta’s arrival, on Tuesday, another activist ended a remarkable voyage. Frances Crowe, a lifelong peace activist, died at home in Western Massachusetts, surrounded by her family, at the age of 100. Frances was a firebrand, a nonviolent warrior for justice, arrested countless times protesting war, nuclear weapons, nuclear power plants and more.

The departure of one elder activist on the eve of the arrival of one so young symbolizes, bittersweetly, the passing of a torch.

Frances was born just months after World War I ended. “My mother told me she took me to my first march when the soldiers came home,” she wrote in “Finding My Radical Soul,” her memoir. “I was only a baby, but I have always had the feeling that war has defined my life.”

Her husband, Tom, was a medical doctor. Speaking on the “Democracy Now!” news hour in 2005, she described a pivotal moment in her life, Aug. 6, 1945, the day the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima: “I was a bride. My husband was in the Medical Corps in the Army. He had told me a few weeks before that he had heard rumors that we were developing this incredible weapon. He was at sea when we dropped the bomb, but I was alone in our apartment in New Orleans. When I heard it on the radio, I unplugged the iron, left the place mat that I was ironing and went out looking for a peace center in the streets of New Orleans.”

From that day, at the age of 26, until she died, Frances Crowe never relented in her pursuit of peace and justice. She was a war tax resister, refusing to pay taxes to support the sprawling Pentagon budget. She opposed South African apartheid and U.S. intervention in Central America in the 1980s and in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s. She climbed fences into the Seneca Army Depot, and was arrested for pouring her own blood on a newly built Trident nuclear submarine just before it was launched in Connecticut.

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Wednesday, at Manhattan’s North Cove Marina, a vessel of a different kind arrived.

Hundreds of young climate activists cheered as Greta disembarked, standing on terra firma for the first time in two weeks. “The ground is still shaking for me,” she said as she opened her press conference.

“The climate is an ecological crisis, a global crisis, the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced,” she said. “If we don’t manage to cooperate, to work together despite our differences, then we will fail. … Let’s not wait any longer. Let’s do it now.”

We first met Greta at the U.N. climate change summit in Katowice, Poland, last December. She explained then on “Democracy Now!” that, because of her Asperger’s, “I work a bit different. I see things in black and white. I guess I saw the world from a different perspective.”

She focused intently on the worsening climate crisis, even suffering debilitating depression around the age of 11. “I got out of that depression by promising myself that I’m going to do everything I can to change things,” she said Wednesday.

That determination led her to launch a school strike for the climate, skipping school every Friday to stand in front of the Swedish parliament, demanding action to prevent catastrophic climate change. Her protest spread, quickly going global. Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren around the globe have participated in their own, local school strikes for the climate.

This Friday, Greta will join kids in New York at their monthly strike outside the United Nations. A global strike for the climate, expected to be one of the largest global protests in history, will take place on Sept. 20. After that, Greta will make her way, using “a lot of trains, buses and probably even sailing,” she
explained, to the next U.N. climate change summit in Santiago, Chile, in December.

Greta’s work as an activist is just beginning. She is a living example of what Frances Crowe said not long ago: “There is something else also to life, the joy of struggle, that not enough people have tasted. The joy of community, and the joy of cooperation, instead of competition; these are the values that I want to perpetuate and talk about to young people.”

Frances Crowe, rest in power. Greta Thunberg, long may you carry the torch.

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Al Jazeera: BlackRock in Amazon: ‘World’s largest investor in deforestation’

Report by Friends of the Earth faults asset manager for investing in companies that contribute to Brazil’s fire risk.

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An aerial view of a burning tract of Amazon jungle as it is cleared by loggers and farmers near Porto Velho, Brazil [Ricardo Moraes/Reuters]
An aerial view of a burning tract of Amazon jungle as it is cleared by loggers and farmers near Porto Velho, Brazil [Ricardo Moraes/Reuters]

As Amazon fires spark unprecedented deforestation, a report released on Friday shows that BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, holds extensive investments in the sectors deemed responsible for the devastation of forests in Brazil.

With $6.5 trillion of assets under management, BlackRock was labeled the “world’s largest investor in deforestation” by the report’s authors – Friends of the Earth US, Amazon Watch, and Dutch research firm Profundo.

The report, BlackRock’s Big Deforestation Problem, looks at financial data from 2014 to 2018 showing the global investment management firm to be among the top three shareholders in 25 of the planet’s largest publicly traded companies with “deforestation risk”.

The data reveal that BlackRock’s holdings in six sectors – soy, beef, palm oil, rubber, timber and pulp/paper – have increased by more than $500m in the last five years.

Jeff Conant, the report’s lead author and senior international forest programme manager with Friends of the Earth US, said that “BlackRock’s investments are directly causing the forest fires in the Amazon and deforestation around the globe”.

“I don’t believe that BlackRock and their providers are even looking at deforestation risk,” he told Al Jazeera. “There are not a lot of worse companies out there than the companies on [our] list.”

Of the 167 deforestation-risk companies identified by the researchers, BlackRock held shares in 61 of them – valued at $1.5bn by the end of last year.

“Sound corporate governance practices, including how companies manage the material environmental and social factors inherent to their business models, have the potential to impact the long-term value of our clients’ assets,” BlackRock said in a statement provided to Al Jazeera.

“Our obligation as an asset manager and a fiduciary is to manage our clients’ assets consistent with their investment priorities,” the company added.

“Absent the option to divest from these companies, we engage with them to evaluate how they manage the material sustainability-related risks and opportunities within their businesses, and encourage them to adopt the robust business practices consistent with sustainable long-term performance.”

ESG: ‘Do whatever they want’

Conant said that BlackRock makes money off of environmentally destructive agribusiness, particularly through commodity holdings in index funds that passively track global markets.

“[BlackRock] can get the ESG industry to do whatever they want,” Conant said, referring to environmental, social and governance factors that thus far appear unsuccessful at screening out companies with deforestation risk from such funds. “Passive investment is an active problem.”

“Most ESG funds are based on data from the ESG industry, which is really not necessarily looking at the whole picture and scanning the right sources for information,” he added. “They are not thinking extremely deeply about what environmental impacts are – and their relative weights.”

Overuse of land, water and pesticides – when combined with the adverse effects of climate change – have contributed to fires raging in Brazil, as well as in the Arctic, Indonesia and Central Africa.

Conant said, however, that these blazes are “to be expected and we will see more of them”.

He also suggested that the problems were exacerbated by the “authoritarian regime of [Brazilian President Jair] Bolsonaro, which is being backed by global finance”.

High-risk holdings and conflict-linked securities could pose a dilemma for BlackRock that is financial, environmental and moral.

Earlier in August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that deforestation and other land-use practices account for almost one-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.

“BlackRock can follow the lead of other global asset managers and make change for the good of the rainforest, the climate, and its customers by shifting investments out of companies wrecking the planet, and applying maximum pressure to change company behaviour,” said Moira Birss of Amazon Watch.

The report cited the Norwegian Government Pension Fund for having blacklisted many companies in BlackRock’s portfolios. In addition, CalPERS – which provides benefits for public employees in the US state of California – has recognised deforestation as a “material investment risk”.

“Responsible stewardship is about more than just public statements,” said Ward Warmerdam of Profundo, which performed much of the research for the report. “It is about aligning your investment strategy with broadly accepted environmental and social standards.”

Earlier this summer, a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis faulted BlackRock for losing $90bn through fossil fuel investments during the past decade.

The new report says that BlackRock could instruct companies active in the Amazon to audit their supply chains, and in turn remove investments at all linked to the current fires.

“It takes time to unwind those investments but a public statement is very easy,” Conant told Al Jazeera. “[BlackRock] should ask all index providers to develop default fossil-fuel and deforestation-free investment funds.”

He criticised the Brazilian government’s efforts to “wipe out one of the world’s most precious ecosystems for short-term profit”, adding that BlackRock should “take an active stance in rejecting that offer to destroy the Amazon for business“.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA NEWS

Moveon.org: Free Sticker!

The Trump administration has reached a shocking new low—yes, shocking even for Donald Trump. This week, our government began sending letters to immigrants with gravely ill children, informing them that the program allowing them to stay in the country to get their children lifesaving treatment had been terminated and that they and their children may be deported in the next month.1

The Trump administration’s policies are despicable. They are cruel. And we’ve got to make sure that voters end them in 2020—as we work to build the genuinely equitable, just society we really need.

The Muslim Ban. Shutting down the government for 35 days over his border wall. Locking up children in cages. Calling murderous Nazis in Charlottesville “very fine people.” Pardoning former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who shackled a pregnant woman, refused to investigate child sex crimes, and even bragged that his tent city jail was a “concentration camp.”2,3,4 The list goes on and on.

As the 2020 election gets underway, we must mobilize to defeat this disgusting ideology at the ballot box.

That’s why MoveOn just printed a big batch of “Vote Against Hate” stickers, and we’re giving them away for free while supplies last.

Just click here 

Although Trump may be the most public face of America’s racism, he is only a symptom of the larger problem of ingrained racism in our society—from the insides of our living rooms to our board rooms, schools, criminal justice system, and the halls of Congress.

Fighting to truly dismantle white supremacy must happen on all fronts. It’s not a partisan project—and defeating Trump and the GOP isn’t the end-point. But in 2020 we have a chance to deal a real blow to racism and its enablers by not only defeating Racist in Chief Donald Trump but also his allies in the House and Senate.

Like Steve King, the white nationalist representative from Iowa.

Like Mitch McConnell, Trump’s single biggest defender.

And like Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and so many more who remain silent in the face of Trump’s hateful attacks in a desperate effort to protect their GOP majority.

These Republican politicians deserve a pink slip, and that is exactly what MoveOn members are planning to deliver to them next November, by building a grassroots movement that powers a blue wave to sweep Trump and his apologists out of Washington—and that presses every candidate for office to be anti-racist.

Are you ready to join the fight? Get your free “Vote Against Hate” sticker now.

Thanks for all you do.

–Kelly, Chris, Liia, Emma, and the rest of the team

BBC: Two New York ex-policemen walk free after sex with handcuffed suspect

Former NYPD officers Eddie Martins (L) and Richard HallFormer NYPD officers Eddie Martins (L) and Richard Hall

Two former New York detectives have walked free after admitting to having sex with a handcuffed 18-year-old woman after arresting her.

Eddie Martins and Richard Hall arrested the woman for possession of marijuana before having sex with her in the back of a van in exchange for her release.

They will serve five years probation but escaped the prosecutor’s request for one to three years in prison.

The men were initially accused of rape but the charges were later dropped.

On Thursday the former police officers, both in their mid to late thirties, pleaded guilty to official misconduct and other charges linked to the incident.

The police officers pulled the woman over in September 2017 as she was driving with friends and found her to be in possession of marijuana.

They then took turns to have sex with her in the back of the police vehicle, the court heard. The police officers did not report the arrest.

Afterwards, the woman went to hospital, where tests identified DNA matching both detectives.

The rape charges were dropped because the victim’s credibility was “seriously, seriously questionable” and the charges could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt, said Justice Danny Chun.

The woman’s attorney, Michael N. David, said it was a “complete injustice” that the ex-police officers escaped a jail sentence.

A NYPD van pictured in New YorkThis New York police van has the slogan “Courtesy, Professionalism, Respect” painted on the side

As a result of the case, a loophole was closed that previously allowed New York police officers to have sex with those in custody as long as it was consensual.

Martins and Hall, who resigned from the New York police department in 2017, “engaged in a shocking abuse of power”, said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, adding that he “would have preferred to see them serve prison time”.

“We could not apply the new law retroactively, and serious credibility issues in this case precluded us from proceeding on additional charges,” said Mr Gonzalez, “yet we remained committed to holding these defendants accountable”.

Dark Money: Jane Mayer on How the Koch Bros. & Billionaire Allies Funded the Rise of the Far Right (David Koch crosses under at age 79.)

Democrats and Republicans are expected to spend about $1 billion getting their 2016 nominee elected. There’s a third group that will spend almost as much. It’s not a political party, and it doesn’t have any candidates. It’s the right-wing political network backed by the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David Koch, expected to spend nearly $900 million in 2016. The Kochs’ 2016 plans come as part of an effort to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to conservative candidates and causes over the last four decades. The story of the Koch brothers and an allied group of billionaire donors is told in a new book by New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.” Mayer traces how the Kochs and other billionaires have leveraged their business empires to shape the political system in the mold of their right-wing agenda.