Category Archives: Bills

Did You Know War Is Illegal ?

When the World Outlawed War

In January 1929, the U.S. Senate ratified by a vote of 85 to 1 a treaty that is still on the books, still upheld by most of the world, and still listed on the U.S. State Department’s website. It’s a treaty that under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution is the “supreme law of the land.”

This treaty, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, bans all war.  Bad wars and “good wars,” aggressive wars and “humanitarian wars” — they are all illegal, having been legally abolished like duelling, blood feuds, and slavery before them.

World Affairs, August 27, 1928 – Coolidge and Foreign Affairs

Relations between the United States and France had cooled in the aftermath of World War I. A number of issues had driven the former allies apart, including:

  • residual tensions from hard bargaining and perceived double-dealing at Versailles;
  • the continuing effort of the U.S. to collect the full amount of war debts incurred by hard-pressed France;
  • the embarrassment felt by France because of being assigned a lesser naval role at the Washington Conference (1921);
  • the recent failure, regretted by both nations, of the Geneva Conference (1927).

An effort was made by French foreign minister Aristide Briand to warm-up relations between the two former allies. Columbia University professor James T. Shotwell met with Briand in France and suggested that a bilateraltreaty be negotiated that would outlaw war between the two nations. Briand seized this idea and presented it in an open letter to the American people.

The Coolidge government, at least initially, was not interested in having its hand forced in diplomatic matters and offered no response. A few weeks later, Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler sounded the same theme in a letter published in The New York Times. The press in New York and elsewhere began a drumbeat calling for the “outlawry of war.”

Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg was lukewarm to the idea, but at least gave formal recognition to Briand’s proposal. Meanwhile, public sentiment continued to build. A leader in this effort was Senator William E. Borah of Idaho, who secured the support of the National Grange; its petitions supporting the proposed agreement contained more than two million signatures and increased the pressure on the government. Kellogg began to see advantages in such an agreement, but insisted that the concept be expanded to encompass many nations.

The Kellogg-Briand Pact provided for outlawing war as an “an instrument of national policy,” and was further notable for the following:

  • No enforcement mechanism was provided for changing the behavior of warring signatories.
  • The agreement was interpreted by most of the signatories to permit “defensive” war.
  • No expiration date was provided.
  • No provision existed for amending the agreement was included.

Despite these shortcomings, the pact was signed in August 1928 by 15 nations. In the following months, more than 60 countries joined in this renunciation of war.

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee studied the matter and issued a report that maintained that the pact did not impair the nation’s ability to act to protect the Monroe Doctrine. Having cleared that hurdle, the full Senate voted 85 to one for ratification. Despite the lopsided tally, little true enthusiasm existed for the highly idealistic agreement. Other nations followed the U.S. lead by ratifying the treaty, but reserving the right to act to protect their special interests.

Events of the 1930s demonstrated the total inability of treaties to halt expansionist nations from making war on their neighbors, proving the skeptics to have been correct. Most damaging perhaps for the United States was that the Kellogg-Briand Pact may have induced some in positions of authority to delay action in the face of aggression, hoping in vain that the terms of the agreement would be honored.

Happy Holidays to all !

Maggie

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Al Franken - U.S. Senator, Minnesota

Dear Maggie,

Tuesday night, we saw progressives stand up and fight.

In Ohio, voters resoundingly defeated a terrible law that stole collective bargaining rights away from nurses, teachers, cops, and firefighters. In Mississippi, they voted down an extreme anti-choice amendment. In Maine, they reversed a decision to end same-day voter registration. In Arizona, they recalled a state senator well-known for being a radical right-wing demagogue on immigration. In Kentucky, Iowa, and New Jersey, Democrats triumphed.

And right here in Minnesota, I was proud to see Duluth add three terrific women to its City Council (meaning four of the nine Councilors will be women), and excited that a vast majority of school levy questions were approved.

We didn’t win every battle, but those who fought to stop far-right laws and elect progressive candidates deserve our gratitude. And, of course, those who won Tuesday night deserve our congratulations.

There’s going to be a lot of talk about what those results meant. But let’s not get big heads just yet. We have a lot of work to do. There are still a lot of workers whose basic rights are under attack, a lot of states where reproductive rights are in jeopardy, a lot of voters who may be disenfranchised by new Republican-backed laws, and a lot of work to do before 2012.

I hope that, if you were part of one of these fights, you took yesterday to celebrate and rest up. But today, it’s back to work. We have big fights ahead. And I’m proud to have you on my side.

Thanks,

Al

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GOP “Dismatle Medical Coverage”

Paul Ryan (politician)

Image via Wikipedia

You need to hear this: Republican Budget Chairman Paul Ryan just announced a radical scheme that, according to Reuters’ reporting, would “effectively dismantle the way most Americans receive medical coverage,” leading “most companies to drop their employer-sponsored plans.”

That’s right. Apparently Republicans’ plan to end Medicare and raise health care costs on seniors, while protecting tax breaks for

Big Oil and billionaires, wasn’t enough. Now they are going after health care for middle class workers.

We can’t let this stand. As we enter the final stretch before tomorrow’s critical midnight Federal Election Commission deadline, we are just $87,102 shy of our $1.5 Million grassroots goal. We must have the immediate resources to call out Republicans for their latest attack on the middle class.

Chip in $3 or more before the Federal Election Commission (FEC) deadline Midnight Tomorrow and your donation will be triple-matched by a group of committed House Democrats.

We cannot let Tea Party Republicans repeal President Obama’s health reform law and impose a radical plan that shifts costs onto the middle class and puts more Americans at the mercy of insurance companies.

The Washington Post is already reporting on our action plan to call out Republicans’ latest scheme:

“…the DCCC plans to go on the offensive in the districts of 50 House Republicans, pressuring them to say whether they agree with Ryan’s latest designs on the health care system.”

With your generous support we’ll hold Republicans accountable for their reckless proposals to sell out the middle class.

Contribute $3 or more before Midnight Tomorrow and your donation will be triple-matched.

Grassroots Democrats have beaten their wrongheaded plans back once, and we can do it again — but only if we have the resources we need to get our message out. Please chip in right now >>

Robby

Robby Mook
DCCC Executive Director

P.S. We’re just 24 hours away from the critical FEC deadline and only $87,102 shy of our $1.5 Million grassroots goal. Please contribute today and we’ll triple the impact of your gift >>


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Yu asked for it: Your copy of the American Jobs Act

The White House Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Yesterday, President Obama was joined by teachers, veterans, small business owners, construction workers and first responders as he sent the American Jobs Act to Congress and urged them to pass it right away.

This is a bill that will put people back to work all across the country. This is the bill that will help our economy in a moment of national crisis. This is a bill that is based on ideas from both Democrats and Republicans. And this is the bill that Congress needs to pass. No games. No politics. No delays. I’m sending this bill to Congress today, and they ought to pass it immediately.

Interested in reading the full American Jobs Act? You can find it on Whitehouse.gov.

Have questions?

Over the next few days there are a number of ways for you to ask questions and engage with Administration officials about the American Jobs Act including Open for Questions live panels and Twitter Office Hours.

Here are the details:

Open for Questions
On Wednesday and Thursday this week, White House officials will answer your questions, submitted through Whitehouse.gov, Facebook, and Twitter about the American Jobs Act live on Whitehouse.gov/live.

Submit your questions:

Tune in and watch on Whitehouse.gov/Live:

  • Wednesday, September 14th at 4:00 p.m. EDT: Answering your questions on how the American Jobs Act will impact young Americans are Brian Deese, Deputy Director, National Economic Council and Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy.
  • Thursday, September 15th at 2 p.m. EDT: Join Jason Furman, Principal Director of the National Economic Council and Jon Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement.

White House Office Hours on Twitter
This week, we’re bringing back White House Office Hours, where White House officials answer your questions about the American jobs Act on Twitter.

Here’s how it works and how you can participate:

  • Use the hashtag #WHChat on Twitter to ask your questions on President Obama’s speech and the American Jobs Act
  • Senior staff will respond to your questions during scheduled “Office Hours” in real-time via Twitter from the @WHLive account
  • Follow the whole Q&A session @WHLive, or just check out the highlights @WhiteHouse

Here’s the schedule for this week:

  • TODAY: Tuesday, September 13th at 5:30 p.m. EDT: Office Hours with David Plouffe, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor
  • Wednesday, September 14th at 4:30 p.m. EDT: Office Hours with Stephanie Cutter, Assistant to the President and Deputy Senior Advisor
  • Thursday, September 15th at 4:00 p.m. EDT: Office Hours with Jason Furman, Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council

Follow @WhiteHouse and @WHLive for the latest updates.

Stay Connected

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Here’s how the American Jobs Act works “David Plouffe, The White House”

Good afternoon,

Last night President Obama walked Congress and the nation through the American Jobs Act, his plan to create jobs in America now. It’s up to Congress to act on this set of bipartisan ideas that put people back to work and put more money into the pockets of working Americans.

You can watch a special enhanced version of the speech, featuring charts and other relevant information here:

Here are a few important points about how the American Jobs Act works, and why Congress should act quickly:

  • First, it provides a tax cut for small businesses, not big corporations, to help them hire and expand now and provides an additional tax cut to any business that increases wages.
  • Second, it puts people back to work, including teachers, first responders and veterans coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and construction workers repairing crumbling bridges, roads and more than 35,000 public schools, with projects chosen by need and impact, not earmarks and politics.
  • Third, it helps out-of-work Americans by extending unemployment benefits to help them support their families while looking for work and reforming the system with training programs that build real skills, connect to real jobs and help the long-term unemployed.
  • Fourth, it puts more money in the pockets of working and middle class Americans by cutting in half the payroll tax that comes out of every worker’s paycheck, saving families an average of $1,500 a year. And it removes the barriers that exist in the current federal refinancing program (HARP) to help more Americans refinance their mortgages at historically low rates, save money and stay in their homes.

The American Jobs Act is based on ideas supported by both Democrats and Republicans, and is fully paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes and by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. It would have an immediate impact on job and economic growth, but Congress has to act now.

You can learn more about the American Jobs Act on Whitehouse.gov.

Over the next few days there are a number of ways for you to ask questions and engage with Administration officials about the American Jobs Act including Open for Questions live panels and Twitter Office Hours.

In fact, next week, I’ll be participating in my very first White House Office Hours on Twitter, so be sure to tune in and send me your questions using the hashtag #WHChat.

Here’s a list of the full lineup of events so far:

  • Today at 4:30 p.m. EDT: Brian Deese, Deputy Director of the National Economic Council will be answering your questions on Twitter during White House Office Hours using the hashtag #WHChat.
  • Monday September 12 at 4:30 p.m. EDT: White House Office Hours on Twitter with Stephanie Cutter, Assistant to the President and Deputy Senior Advisor.
  • Tuesday, September 13 at 5:30 p.m. EDT: I’ll be answering your questions on Twitter during White House Office Hours using the hashtag #WHChat.
  • Wednesday, September 14th at 4:00 p.m. EDT: White House Office Hours with Brian Deese, Deputy Director of the National Economic council.

Sincerely,

David Plouffe

Senior Advisor to the President

P.S. After last night’s address, a few White House policy experts answered questions about the speech. Check out the video of the event: WhiteHouse.gov/JobsSpeechOFQ

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President Obama has heard you loud and clear!

From the Presente.org team

Dear Maggie,

President Obama has heard you loud and clear!

Just yesterday–on the heels of nationwide events criticizing his immigration policy–the administration announced reforms to his deportation policy–reforms that could help keep 300,000 out of deportation proceedings and stop the deportation of many young men and women eligible under the DREAM Act.1

This amazing turnabout would not have happened without Presente.org members like you who have been writing, calling and chipping in to media campaigns calling the President out on this. Thank you for your activism.  We will closely moniter this new policy to ensure our voices are heard during its implementation.

But our work is NOT done. President Obama is still sticking by his dangerous S-COMM policy–a highly criticized law that forces police officers to act like immigration officials, puts countless immigrant families at risk and tears hundreds of thousands of families apart.  Yesterday’s announcement also does little to help the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants who are not currently in deportation proceedings.2

As long as S-COMM is still on the books, the administration will continue ripping our families apart–something he explicitly promised would not happen during his campaign in 2008.

So while we are pleased that some DREAMers may be saved from senseless deportation, we cannot forget about the millions of others who are still caught in a broken and unjust system–a system Obama has the power to fix by ending S-COMM.

Can you call the White House today? Thank them for taking a step in the right direction and helping the DREAMers but make sure they know that S-COMM needs to end. 

http://act.presente.org/call/scomm_wh/

While these problems remain, Presente members will continue to elevate the voices of the Latino community, mobilizing online and in our communities until justice becomes the law of the land

Thank you for making this possible and continuing to join in this fight.

Thank you and ¡adelante!

Favianna, Laurie, Felipe, Roberto, Carlos and the rest of the Presente.org team

P.S. This is a step forward, but we still have a long way to go. Will you support Presente.org’s work with a donation of $5, $10, or $20 to help us ensure that the deportations truly stop, and that harmful programs like S-Comm don’t continue?

References:

1. “New Policy On Deportations Allows Some Non-Criminal Undocumented Immigrants To Stay,” Huffington Post, 8/18/11
http://huff.to/pnYcC8

2. “Secure Communities Nets Immigrants For Minor Offenses: Report,” Huffington Post, 8/19/11
http://huff.to/pv6xgV

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Constitution of the United States Bill of Rights

The following is a transcription of the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution. Called the “Bill of Rights”, these amendments were ratified on December 15, 1791. Each amendment’s title is linked to a set of detailed annotations presented on the Findlaw website.

  1. Freedom of Speech, Press, Religion and Petition
  1. Right to keep and bear arms
  1. Conditions for quarters of soldiers
  1. Right of search and seizure regulated
  1. Provisons concerning prosecution
  1. Right to a speedy trial, witnesses, etc.
  1. Right to a trial by jury
  1. Excessive bail, cruel punishment
  1. Rule of construction of Constitution
  1. Rights of the States under Constitution

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  1. Freedom of Speech, Press, Religion and Petition Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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  1. Right to keep and bear arms A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

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  1. Conditions for quarters of soldiers No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

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  1. Right of search and seizure regulated The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

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  1. Provisons concerning prosecution No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

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  1. Right to a speedy trial, witnesses, etc. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

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  1. Right to a trial by jury In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

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  1. Excessive bail, cruel punishment Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

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  1. Rule of construction of Constitution The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

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  1. Rights of the States under Constitution The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

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Exactly whats in the debt ceiling deal – HuffingtonPost

WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders and President Obama on Sunday night announced they’ve cut a deal to avert a historic U.S. default, saying they have assembled a framework that cuts some spending immediately and uses a “super Congress” to slash more in the future.

The deal calls for a first round of cuts that would total $917 billion over 10 years and allows the president to hike the debt cap — now at $14.3 trillion — by $900 billion, according to a presentation that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) made to his members. Democrats reported those first cuts at a figure closer to $1 trillion. It was unclear Sunday night why those two estimates varied.

The federal government could begin to default on its obligations on Aug. 2 if the measure is not passed.

The next round of $1.5 trillion in cuts would be decided by a committee of 12 lawmakers evenly divided between the two parties and two chambers. This so-called super Congress would have to present its cuts by Thanksgiving, and the rest of Congress could not amend or filibuster the recommendations.

But if the super Congress somehow failed to enact savings, the measure requires automatic cuts worth at least $1.2 trillion. Those cuts would be split equally between military and domestic programs. Social Security, Medicaid and programs for the poor would be spared, but Medicare providers — not beneficiaries — would take a hit.

White House officials confirmed that there would not be an extension of unemployment benefits as part of the final package. The administration had insisted that an extension be part of the grand bargain it was negotiating with Boehner. But when those discussions fell apart, so too did efforts to ensure that unemployment insurance was part of a final package. A senior administration aide added that the president would push for an extension in the months, if not weeks, ahead.

Some observers scored one victory for the president — the second round of cuts do not kick in until 2013, when the Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire. Having a fresh round of deficit reduction that is all cuts with no revenues could give the White House ammunition to end the tax cuts on wealthier Americans, as it failed to do last winter.

Though none of the leaders sounded pleased about the deal, they said they were relieved it may present a chance to avert default. President Obama seemed especially dissatisfied with the idea of the super committee, saying the leaders should have been able to accomplish all the cuts now.

“Is this the deal I would have preferred? No,” Obama said. “I believe that we could have made the tough choices required — on entitlement reform and tax reform — right now, rather than through a special congressional committee process.”

The two Senate party heads also expressed qualified support for the deal.

“Leaders from both parties have come together for the sake of our economy to reach a historic, bipartisan compromise that ends this dangerous standoff,” Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on the Senate floor Sunday night.

“At this point I think I can say with a high degree of confidence that there is now a framework to review that will ensure significant cuts in Washington spending,” said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

“We can assure the American people tonight that the United States of America will not for the first time in our history default on its obligations,” McConnell added.

In spite of the guarded optimism, all sides will face quite a sales job in getting enough lawmakers in the middle to accept a deal.

Liberals were extremely displeased with the final result of the talks, which began with Democrats saying there should be no strings attached to a debt limit increase that would enable the country pay its bills.

Then they insisted that if deficit reduction was going to be linked to the debt limit, then closing loopholes and raising taxes on the rich had to be part of the deal.

They lost completely on both counts, and House Republicans managed to pull the entire deal further and further to the right, even inserting a requirement into the agreement for a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Both the Congressional Black Caucus and the Progressive Caucus in the House had called emergency meetings for Monday as details of the plan started to leak. They seemed likely to oppose the deal.

One top House aide said his boss would vote against the measure, and the aide predicted Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would not be eager to whip her members to get on board.

“This is going to be close. I think in the end, the president and Nancy are going to have to twist arms, and I’m not sure how hard she’ll work to do that,” the aide said, noting that Pelosi still remembers the infamous TARP vote where she delivered 150 of her members but Boehner did not get 100 of his.

Many of Boehner’s freshman Tea Party members also are likely to find the proposal tough to swallow, since many wanted no hike in the borrowing limit to begin with. They also wanted the passage of a balanced budget amendment to be a prerequisite for increasing the debt ceiling.

Both sides can afford to lose members if 217 representatives can still back the plan.

Boehner’s talk to his 240 members Sunday night had the greatest note of triumph.

“Now listen, this isn’t the greatest deal in the world,” he said, according to remarks his office sent out. “But it shows how much we’ve changed the terms of the debate in this town.”

He also sounded a note of vindication.

“There is nothing in this framework that violates our principles. It’s all spending cuts. The White House bid to raise taxes has been shut down,” Boehner crowed. “And as I vowed back in May — when everyone thought I was crazy for saying it — every dollar of debt-limit increase will be matched by more than a dollar of spending cuts.”

Notably, Pelosi was the only of the four congressional leaders not to pledge support for the plan.

“I look forward to reviewing the legislation with my Caucus to see what level of support we can provide,” she said in a statement.

 

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Lies! Lies, Lies ! On Senate Bill 1619

“Fight the lies!” was State Senator Heather Steans’ challenge to supporters of responsible, medically accurate sexual health education in public schools who gathered in Springfield last week.

Opponents of Senate Bill 1619, the Illinois Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) Act, have been spreading numerous lies about this critical legislation:

  • LIE: SB 1619 teaches kids “the “how to’s” of sexual activity”
    SB 1619 provides that if an elementary or secondary public school offers sex education or sexual health education courses, the programs must be medically accurate and developmentally and age appropriate. Further, programs MUST include the benefits of delaying or abstaining from sexual activity. Fight the Lies: Take Action!
  • LIE: Abstinence-only education works
    Research demonstrates that high-quality, accurate information enables teens to make healthy and responsible decisions about all aspects of their sexual health – decisions that help teens today and throughout their lifetimes. According to research at Columbia University, recent declines in teen pregnancy, for example, have been linked to better contraceptive use. Fight the Lies: Take Action!
  • LIE: SB 1619 would lead to teaching first graders about masturbation
    SB 1619 applies only to public school students in grades 6-12. It stresses that sexual health education programs must be developmentally and age appropriate, and it gives schools the flexibility to choose their own curricula, amongst numerous available programs that meet those standards. SB 1619 ensures that students get the information they need to make responsible, healthy decisions. Fight the Lies: Take Action!

Illinois public schools are not currently required to teach medically accurate sexual health education – and many don’t. Help us ensure Illinois students get the infomation they need to make healthy, responsible decisions. Take action today!

Sincerely,
Colleen K. Connell
Colleen Connell
Executive Director
ACLU of Illinois

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Here comes another NAFTA with Korea!

Did you know that over the coming weeks Congress is slated to pass the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KorUS FTA) that would be the largest trade deal since the passage of North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)? NAFTA devastated livelihoods for millions of peasants, family farmers, and workers in Mexico, the U.S., and Canada while allowing corporations to make exorbitant profits.

Now is the time to tell your U.S. Representatives and Senators that we need to learn from the mistakes of the past, not repeat them.

The Economic Policy Institute reports that KorUS FTA will destroy at least 159,000 American jobs.  The Korean Peasants League projects that the KorUS FTA would decrease South Korean agricultural production by 45 percent, and make nearly half of South Korean family farmers lose their livelihoods (despite rice production being protected). And, passage of this trade agreement may also contribute to even more far-reaching land grabs as South Korean corporations purchase and lease land in Africa and Asia to safeguard against the looming threat of food insecurity. Other bilateral free trade agreements on the horizon, such as those with Colombia and Panama, are just as troubling.

Grassroots International ally and grantee, the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) has taken a strong position against the KorUS FTA, and is working in solidarity with the Korean Peasants League in a campaign to oppose the trade deal. Both organizations are members of Grassroots’ partner the Via Campesina, and are working in concert with hundreds of unions and organizations in both countries to stop this trade deal.

Take action today in solidarity with peasants, family farmers, and workers both here in the U.S. and in Korea by urging your members of Congress to vote no on the KorUS FTA.

Thank you for standing up for food sovereignty and global justice! Sincerely,
Nikhil's Aziz' signature

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