Ignoring the memory of the over 1,100 factory workers that passed away at the Rana Plaza Factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh last month, at least 14 major North American retailers have declined to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, an agreement that would have entailed a five year commitment from all participating retailers to conduct independent safety inspections of factories and pay up to $500,000 per year towards safety improvements.
The retailers worried that the agreement would give labor groups and others the ability to sue them in U.S. courts, but anybody that has paid attention to the last 30 years of global unfettered corporate greed knows the truth: these corporations care more about their bottom line than they do about the lives and safety of third-world workers, and their actions reflect it. They are so obsessed with reducing production costs that they could not care less about a few cheap lawsuits from cash-starved labor groups. (more…)
Former bank regulator William Black and Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi join us to dissect the career of Jack Lew, President Obama’s pick to replace Treasury Secretary Timothy Geither. Currently Obama’s chief of staff, Lew was an executive at Citigroup from 2006 to 2008 at the time of the financial crisis. He backed financial deregulations efforts while he headed the Office of Management and Budget under President Bill Clinton. During that time, Clinton enacted two key laws to deregulate Wall Street: the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999 and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. Black, a white-collar criminologist and former senior financial regulator, is the author of “The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One.” A contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine, Taibbi is the author of “Griftopia: A Story of Bankers, Politicians, and the Most Audacious Power Grab in American History.”
CALIFORNIA — Tucked deep back in the tightly guarded machine shop of California’s oldest prison, well away from the muscle flexing inmates in “the yard,” a select group of convicted felons has their eyes on space. They fabricate metal housing for miniature satellites designed to explore the heavens. That’s right. San Quentin inmates serving time for horrible crimes are given easy access to some of the sharpest metal humans can make.
They are, most likely, the only prisoners on Earth helping to develop products for space exploration. Ariel Wainzinger, a man with ten months left on his sentence, said: “You come to prison and you think it’s gonna be all gloom and doom and you find yourself with a lot of different opportunities and you take advantage of it.”
Working under the strict guidance of NASA, Ariel and a handful of other skilled inmate machinists are making something most people have never heard of: P-PODs, Poly Picosatellite Orbital Deployers, essentially, aluminum boxes designed to hold tiny satellites known as CubeSats, which ride “piggyback” into space as secondary payloads. The devices are part of a new generation of low-cost, miniature launch vehicles developed for research used by more than 150 universities worldwide. (more…)
After failed Twinkies-maker Hostess filed for bankruptcy in November, acting chief executive Gregory Rayburn imposed an 8 percent across-the-board pay cut on the company’s workers. Despite those cuts, Rayburn, who took the company over after its second bankruptcy filing in March, will not be subject to the pay cut because he is not technically a company employee, the Huffington Post’s Bonnie Kavoussi reports:
Though he imposed an 8 percent pay cut for all Hostess workers, Gregory Rayburn’s monthly $125,000 pay — or $1.5 million a year — will remain unchanged, a company spokesman told The Huffington Post on Monday. Rayburn is not on the Hostess payroll and therefore isn’t subject to the imposed pay cut, the spokesman explained.
Earlier this year, Hostess’ former CEO received a pay increase from $750,000 to nearly $2.5 million even as the company was struggling. The pay package was later reduced to $1.5 million, and Rayburn reduced the salaries of four other senior executives who received bonuses to just $1 until the company emerges from bankruptcy, according to a company spokesperson. Four other executives who received raises, the spokesperson said, had their salaries reduced to pre-raise levels.
Still, the company asked a judge to approve $1.75 million in bonuses for 19 executives after it filed for bankruptcy in November. The judge approved the bonuses this week, making Hostess the latest company to dole out big pay packages to executives even as their firms were failing.
A wave of historic protests struck the retail giant Wal-Mart on Black Friday — the busiest shopping day of the year. Workers and their supporters demonstrated at more than 1,000 stores. The Wal-Mart protests were organized in part by OUR Walmart, an organization backed by the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union. Nine people, including three Wal-Mart workers, were arrested at a protest in Los Angeles after they blocked traffic. We broadcast the voices of protesters in Secaucus, New Jersey, and speak to Josh Eidelson, a contributing writer for The Nation magazine.
Nonpartisan Tax Report Withdrawn After G.O.P. Protest
WASHINGTON — The Congressional Research Service has withdrawn an economic report that found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth, a central tenet of conservative economic theory, after Senate Republicans raised concerns about the paper’s findings and wording.
The decision, made in late September against the advice of the agency’s economic team leadership, drew almost no notice at the time. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, cited the study a week and a half after it was withdrawn in a speech on tax policy at the National Press Club.
But it could actually draw new attention to the report, which questions the premise that lowering the top marginal tax rate stimulates economic growth and job creation. “This has hues of a banana republic,” Mr. Schumer said. “They didn’t like a report, and instead of rebutting it, they had them take it down.” (more…)
DemocracyNow.org – As consumers worldwide flood Apple Stores to buy the new iPhone 5, we look at why thousands of Chinese workers at a key Apple manufacturing plant walked off the job last week. The group China Labor Watch says up to 4,000 Foxconn workers walked off the job in protest of new employee demands on hours and product quality. Foxconn initially denied that a strike was taking place, but later said a small number of workers had participated in a dispute that was quickly resolved. We’re joined by Li Qiang, the founder and executive director of China Labor Watch.
To watch the entire weekday independent news hour, read the transcript, download the podcast, search our vast archive, or to find more information about Democracy Now! and Amy Goodman, visit http://www.democracynow.org.
In a remarkable policy shift, former Citigroup chairman and chief executive Sandy Weill now thinks that Wall Street should break up its big banks in an effort to regain the public’s trust. “What we should probably do is go and split up investment banking from banking,” Weill said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday. “Have banks be deposit takers, have banks make commercial loans and real estate loans, have banks do something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not too big to fail.”
“I’m suggesting that they be broken up so that the taxpayer will never be at risk, the depositors won’t be at risk, the leverage of the banks will be something reasonable, and the investment banks can do trading,” he said. Weill essentially called for the return of the Glass-Steagall Act, CNBC said. The 1933 Depression-era legislation separated investment and commercial banking activities in the wake of the 1929 stock market crash and commercial bank failure, according to Investopedia. It was repealed in 1999 during the Clinton administration.
Weill was one of the architects of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which helped repeal Glass-Steagall. (In his former office, Weill proudly displayed a large wooden sign with the words “The Shatterer of Glass-Steagall” etched into it.) The 79-year-old Wall Street legend also called for complete transparency in the banking industry. “There should be no such thing as off balance sheet,” he said. “I want to see us be a leader, and what we’re doing now is not going to make us a leader.”
Skechers advertised that its toning shoes would help people lose weight, build muscle and get in shape, claims that will now cost the company $40 million in a settlement with U.S. regulators. The Federal Trade Commission announced today that the company has agreed to the settlement on charges that it “deceived consumers by making unfounded claims” about its Shape-ups, Resistance Runner, Toners and Tone-ups lines of shoes. Consumers who bought the shoes are entitled to refunds.
“Skechers’ unfounded claims went beyond stronger and more toned muscles. The company even made claims about weight loss and cardiovascular health,” David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “The FTC’s message, for Skechers and other national advertisers, is to shape up your substantiation or tone down your claims.” (more…)
Protesters visited a half-dozen Apple stores around the world to deliver petitions calling for reforms in the working conditions at factories run by Apple’s suppliers in China. The protests come on the heels of recent revelations of harsh conditions and onerous work environments at Apple’s controversial Chinese supplier Foxconn, where more than a dozen employees have committed suicide. We’re joined by New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, who helped break the story about the human costs of Apple products for workers in China. We’re also joined by Mike Daisey, whose acclaimed one-man show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” is based partly on his visits to Apple’s Chinese factories and his interviews with the workers there. “I want Apple to take real responsibility,” Daisey says. “They have the resources to change this overnight.”
To watch the complete daily, independent news hour, read the transcript, download the podcast, and for the additional Democracy Now! reports, visit http://www.democracynow.org
New York Daily News columnist and Democracy Now! co-host Juan Gonzalez reports the Treasury Department has approved payouts exceeding $5 million for 49 executives at firms that most benefited from the Wall Street bailout. The executives’ pay came despite the $500,000 salary cap established under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).
WASHINGTON (AP) — Jon Corzine plans to tell a House committee that he doesn’t know the location of clients’ money that went missing from failed investment firm MF Global. The former U.S. senator has been subpoenaed to explain how MF Global, which he led for about 20 months, collapsed into the eighth-largest bankruptcy in U.S. history and why an estimated $1.2 billion in client funds is unaccounted for.
In prepared testimony posted Thursday on the House Committee on Agriculture’s website, Corzine apologizes to “all those affected” by MF Global’s failure. The company filed for bankruptcy protection on Oct. 31. Corzine resigned as CEO on Nov. 3 and hasn’t spoken publicly since.
“I simply do not know where the money is, or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date,” Corzine says in the statement. He says he can’t say whether there were “operational errors” at MF Global or whether banks or other companies have held onto funds that should be returned to MF Global. (more…)
A Bloomberg report reveals that the U.S. government loaned banks $7.7 trillion in secret bailout funds at no interest and then borrowed the money back at interest.