Category: Economic News


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SHAMED AT LAST: AIDS-drug gouger Martin Shkreli is marched to court by FBI after securities fraud arrest for running a Ponzi scheme to pay debts – and freed on $5 MILLION bond

  • Martin Shkreli, 32, has been arrested on charges of securities fraud and running a Ponzi scheme to pay off debts from an old company  
  • It is also alleged he illegally used stock from the biotechnology firm he owned, Retrophin Inc., to pay off debts related to MSMB 
  • Retrophin and its investors suffered a loss in excess of $11million because of Shkreli’s scheme according to United States Attorney Robert Capers 
  • He earned the moniker of ‘most hated man’ in September after raising the cost of an AIDS and cancer drug from $13.50 per tablet to $750 overnight 
  • MSMB Capital Management was founded by Shkreli in 2009 and shuttered in 2012, the same year Retrophin was founded and Shkreli became CEO
  • He was released on a $5million bond after bring arraigned in federal court on Friday

Martin Shkreli was released on a $5million bond after being arraigned on charges of securities fraud in federal court in Brooklyn Thursday afternoon.

Shkreli, the son of immigrants, was also forced to forfeit his passport.

The price-hiking pharmaceutical entrepreneur was picked up by the FBI in the early hours of Thursday following an investigation into a former hedge fund and drug company he previously headed.

It is alleged he illegally used stock from the biotechnology firm Retrophin Inc. to pay off debts related to his struggling hedge fund and to pay back angry investors.

He is being charged with seven counts of fraud for running what United States Attorney Robert L. Capers of the Eastern District of New York is calling a Ponzi scheme.

Shkreli, 32, pleaded not guilty to these allegations.

He faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

 

Free: Martin Shkreli was released on a $5million bond Thursday afternoon

Free: Martin Shkreli was released on a $5million bond Thursday afternoon

Art: A courtroom sketch shows defendants Shkreli (C) and Greebel (R) a former partner at law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman (R) during their arraignment

Art: A courtroom sketch shows defendants Shkreli (C) and Greebel (R) a former partner at law firm Katten Muchin Rosenman (R) during their arraignment

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ISIS driving Toyotas a little too often, US Treasury wonders why

© Stringer
 
ISIS has many faults, but it sure knows a good car when it sees one. The US Treasury is now pressing Toyota about why so many of its vehicles are being driven around by the terrorist group, as evidenced in their propaganda videos.

Toyota has issued a statement to explain that this is part of a wider probe into terrorist supply chains and capital flow, according to ABC. The company also says it does not know how its trucks ended up in ISIS hands in such a quantity, and is “supporting” the inquiry.

 

The model most popular with Islamic State drivers seems to be the Hilux, similar to Tacomas and Land Cruisers. This overseas version is a mainstay in ISIS propaganda videos, often loaded to the brim with heavy weapons.

The company says the cars in the videos aren’t recent models, but ABC spoke to the Iraqi ambassador to the US, Lukman Faily, who said that in addition to re-purposing old vehicles, the terrorist group has been acquiring “hundreds” of “brand new” ones in recent years.

“This is a question we’ve been asking our neighbors,” the ambassador said. “How could these brand new trucks… these four-wheel drives, hundreds of them – where are they coming from?”

Some of the other cars paraded in victory parade videos include Mitsubishi, Hyundai and Isuzu.

“Regrettably, the Toyota Land Cruiser and Hilux have effectively become almost part of the ISIS brand,” said Mark Wallace, a former US ambassador to the United Nations. Wallace is CEO of the Counter Extremism Project, a group specializing in tracking terrorist finance channels.

“ISIS has used these vehicles in order to engage in military-type activities, terror activities, and the like,” he said. “But in nearly every ISIS video, they show a fleet – a convoy of Toyota vehicles and that’s very concerning to us.”

But according to Lewis, “It is impossible for Toyota to completely control indirect or illegal channels through which our vehicles could be misappropriated.”

The current inquiry isn’t the first time somebody’s asked about Toyota popping up frequently in IS hands. A report last year by Public Radio International exposed a delivery by the US State Department of 43 Toyota trucks to Syrian rebels – the “moderate” ones, as has been the Western line since the start of the Syrian war in 2011. Australian media has also this year been circulating reports of some 800 vehicles stolen, and authorities believing they may have been shipped to war zones in the Middle East.

 

Read More Here

 

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This one Toyota pickup truck is at the top of the shopping list for the Free Syrian Army — and the Taliban

 

Hilux_FSA_.jpg

Rebels operating under the Free Syrian Army sit in a Hilux pickup truck on one of the battlefronts in Jobar, Damascus, August 2013

Credit: REUTERS/ Mohamed Abdullah

 

The Hilux, a pickup truck Toyota has built since the late 1960s, isn’t available in the US, but it’s popular around the globe, including with insurgent groups such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda and Boko Haram.

 

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Recently, when the US State Department resumed sending non-lethal aid to Syrian rebels, the delivery list included 43 Toyota trucks.

Hiluxes were on the Free Syrian Army’s wish list. Oubai Shahbander, a Washington-based advisor to the Syrian National Coalition, is a fan of the truck.

“Specific equipment like the Toyota Hiluxes are what we refer to as force enablers for the moderate opposition forces on the ground,” he adds. Shahbander says the US-supplied pickups will be delivering troops and supplies into battle. Some of the fleet will even become battlefield weapons.

“You can absolutely expect for many of those trucks to be mounted with crew-served machine guns or other type of equipment, military equipment, that the opposition forces have access to. I mean, that’s one of the reasons why the Toyota Hilux is such an important force multiplier, because it could be used both for humanitarian purposes and for operational purposes as well.”

Syria is only the latest war zone where the Hilux has been a vehicle of choice. The BBC’s Kabul correspondent, David Loyn, saw the Hilux put through its paces by the Taliban in the 1990s, and credits the truck with having given Taliban forces a battlefield edge.

 

Read More and Liste to the Interview Here

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Deepening Inequality Driving US Middle Class into Oblivion

“The hollowing of the middle has proceeded steadily for four decades, and it may have reached a tipping point,” Pew Research Center says

A closer look at the shift out of the middle reveals that “a deeper polarization is underway in the American economy,” says Pew Research Center report. (Image: DonkeyHotey/flickr/cc)

The American middle class is shrinking.

For the first time in more than four decades, middle-income households have lost their majority status in the U.S., according to new findings, and are now outnumbered by their counterparts on opposite ends of the income spectrum.

“The fastest-growing segments are the ones at the extremes, the very lowest and highest ends of the income distribution.”
—Pew Research Center

Based on the definition used in the Pew Research Center report released Wednesday, the share of American adults living in middle-income households—that is, with an income that is two-thirds to double that of the overall median household income, or $42,000 to $126,000 annually in 2014—has fallen from a high of 61 percent in 1971 to 50 percent in 2015.

At the same time, the share living in the upper-income tier jumped from 14 percent to 21 percent over the same period, and the share in the lower-income tier rose from 25 percent to 29 percent.

“The hollowing of the middle has proceeded steadily for four decades, and it may have reached a tipping point,” the Pew study suggests. Furthermore, a “closer look at the shift out of the middle reveals that a deeper polarization is underway in the American economy.”

“The movement out of the middle-income tier has been more than just a step in one direction or the other,” the report says. “The fastest-growing segments are the ones at the extremes, the very lowest and highest ends of the income distribution.”

In addition, middle class families have fallen further behind financially, the study shows, with the share of U.S. aggregate household income held by middle-income households having “eroded significantly over time.”

“Upper-income households now command the greatest share of aggregate income and are on the verge of holding more in total income than all other households combined,” the report reads. “This shift is partly because upper-income households constitute a rising share of the population and partly because their incomes are increasing more rapidly than those of other tiers.”

The Pew findings support what many 2016 presidential candidates, led by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, have been saying on the campaign trail.

In an op-ed published this summer, Sanders decried what he called “the war against the American middle class,” marked by Wall Street greed, anti-worker policies, and corporate tax evasion.

And on Thursday, he tweeted:

There’s been a massive transfer of wealth from the 99% to the top 1%. We’ve got to bring that money back to working families.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in January found that 47 percent of respondents considered reducing income inequality an absolute priority for the government to pursue this year, with Democrats placing far greater importance on it than Republicans.

In a piece for Gawker on Thursday, Hamilton Nolan responded to Pew report with an irreverent eulogy.

“The Middle Class, a popular figure in American folklore, died this week after a long battle with capitalism,” Nolan wrote. “Its passing has been expected since the recent death of its partner, The American Dream.”

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The Economic Collapse

Are You Prepared For The Coming Economic Collapse And The Next Great Depression?

 

JP Morgan And Citigroup Agree That The U.S. Economy Is Steamrolling Toward A Recession

Locomotive - Public Domain

As we approach the end of 2015, researchers at both JP Morgan and Citigroup agree that the probability that the U.S. economy will soon plunge into recession is rising.  Just last week, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives asked Janet Yellen about Citigroup’s assessment that there is a 65 percent chance that the United States will experience an economic recession in 2016.  You can read her answer below.  And just a few days ago, JP Morgan economists Michael Feroli, Daniel Silver, Jesse Edgerton, and Robert Mellman released a report in which they declared that “the probability of recession within three years” has risen to “an eye-catching 76%”

“Our longer-run indicators, however, continue to suggest an elevated risk that the expansion is nearing its end, and our preferred model now puts the probability of recession within three years at an eye-catching 76%.”

The good news is that the economists at JP Morgan believe that a recession will probably not hit us within the next six months.  But due to steadily weakening economic conditions, they are convinced that one is almost certain to strike within the next few years

“When we first wrote, only manufacturing sentiment was signaling an above-average probability of imminent recession,” they said. “But recent weakening in the Richmond Fed services survey and the ISM nonmanufacturing index have now pushed the nonmanufacturing sentiment probability up somewhat as well.”

In the short term, the note says that the 6-month likelihood is only 5%, but within a year it stands at 23%, in two years 48%, and in three years the “eye-popping” 76%.

To be honest, I believe that this assessment is far too optimistic, and it appears that researchers at Citigroup agree with me.  According to them, there is a 65 percent chance that the U.S. economy will plunge into recession by the end of next year.  Last week, Janet Yellen was asked about this during testimony before Congress

In testimony before Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, Yellen was asked by Rep. Pat Tiberi about a piece of research released by Citigroup’s rates strategy team Monday.

Specifically, Tiberi, an Ohio Republican, wanted to know what Yellen made of Citi’s conclusion that there is a 65 percent chance of a U.S. recession in 2016.

“The economists said that they would assign about a 65 percent likelihood of a recession in the United States in 2016. Now, 65 percent sounds high to me, but I’m not an economist and I’m not the Fed chair. But zero risk might be too low as well. So what would you assign a risk level of a recession next year?” Tiberi asked.

So how did Yellen respond?

 

Read More Here

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World Tribune

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Russia accuses U.S. of cover-up over ISIL-Turkey oil smuggling

Special to WorldTribune.com

The United States is involved in a “cover-up” over Turkey’s alleged smuggling of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) oil, Russia’s defense ministry said on Dec. 5.

“When U.S. officials say they don’t see how the terrorists’ oil is smuggled to Turkey… it smells badly of a desire to cover up these acts,” the ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page.

An oil convoy was completely destroyed when it was hit by a Russian air strike in Syria. /Twitter

An oil convoy was destroyed when it was hit by a Russian air strike in Syria. /Twitter

ISIL’s sales of captured oil assets on the black market is credited with making it the best-funded terror organization in history.

“The declarations of the Pentagon and the State Department seem like a theater of the absurd,” the statement said, adding that Washington should “watch the videos taken by its (own) drones which have recently been three times as numerous over the Turkey-Syria border and above the oil zones.”

 

Read More Here

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Israel buys most oil smuggled from ISIS territory – report

Islamic State

Israel has become the main buyer for oil from ISIS controlled territory, reports “al-Araby al-Jadeed.”

Kurdish and Turkish smugglers are transporting oil from ISIS controlled territory in Syria and Iraq and selling it to Israel, according to several reports in the Arab and Russian media. An estimated 20,000-40,000 barrels of oil are produced daily in ISIS controlled territory generating $1-1.5 million daily profit for the terrorist organization.The oil is extracted from Dir A-Zur in Syria and two fields in Iraq and transported to the Kurdish city of Zakhu in a triangle of land near the borders of Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Israeli and Turkish mediators come to the city and when prices are agreed, the oil is smuggled to the Turkish city of Silop marked as originating from Kurdish regions of Iraq and sold for $15-18 per barrel (WTI and Brent Crude currently sell for $41 and $45 per barrel) to the Israeli mediator, a man in his 50s with dual Greek-Israeli citizenship known as Dr. Farid. He transports the oil via several Turkish ports and then onto other ports, with Israel among the main destinations.

In August, the “Financial Times” reported that Israel obtained 75% of its oil supplies from Iraqi Kurdistan. More than a third of such exports go through the port of Ceyhan, which the FT describe as a “potential gateway for ISIS-smuggled crude.”

 

Read More Here

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‘No way West was unaware of ISIS-Turkey oil trade’

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan © Umit Bektas
 
What will be the reaction of Ankara’s Western allies following Moscow’s revelations that Turkey is involved in ISIS oil smuggling, RT asked experts.

READ MORE: Russia presents proof of Turkey’s role in ISIS oil trade

The evidence presented by the Russian Defense Ministry will be “partly ignored and distorted” by Western MSM, says Foreign Affairs Editor Srdja Trifkovic.

I think that Erdogan will scream ‘blue murder’ and claim that this is all a set-up and a reaction to what he calls ‘justified downing of the Russian plane’. The real issue is what the US will do about this. Because it is quite obvious the Turkish tail has been wagging the American dog for far too long,” he said.

My hunch is that the US will continue to be reluctant to really do something about it. They have had a chance to do so for 15 months prior to the beginning of the Russian air strikes on September, 25. The question of all questions is whether Erdogan will finally be pressed by his Western partners to shape up and to act like a civilized person, which unfortunately he is not,” Trifkovic told RT.

 

Read More Here

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Erdogan & his family involved in ISIS oil trade – Russian MoD

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Published on Dec 2, 2015

Turkish leadership, including Erdogan & his family are involved in ISIS oil trade, Russian MoD announced on Wednesday, showcasing satellites images and footage from oil facilities and Syrian-Turkish border.

RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-air

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Russia presents proof of Turkey’s role in ISIS oil trade

© syria.mil.ru

The Russian Defense Ministry has released evidence which it says unmasks vast illegal oil trade by Islamic State and points to Turkey as the main destination for the smuggled petrol, implicating its leadership in aiding the terrorists.

READ MORE: Map, images from Russian military show main routes of ISIS oil smuggling to Turkey

The Russian Defense Ministry held a major briefing on new findings concerning IS funding in Moscow on Wednesday.

According to Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov, Russia is aware of three main oil smuggling routes to Turkey.

“Today, we are presenting only some of the facts that confirm that a whole team of bandits and Turkish elites stealing oil from their neighbors is operating in the region,” Antonov said, adding that this oil “in large quantities” enters the territory of Turkey via “live oil pipelines,” consisting of thousands of oil trucks.

The routes of alleged oil smuggling from Syria and Iraq to Turkey © syria.mil.ru

Antonov added that Turkey is the main buyer of smuggled oil coming from Iraq and Syria.

According to our data, the top political leadership of the country – President Erdogan and his family – is involved in this criminal business.”

READ MORE: Russia says Turkey’s Erdogan & family involved in illegal ISIS oil trade

However, since the start of Russia’s anti-terrorist operation in Syria on September 30, the income of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) militants from illegal oil smuggling has been significantly reduced, the ministry said.

The income of this terrorist organization was about $3 million per day. After two months of Russian airstrikes their income was about $1.5 million a day,” Lieutenant-General Sergey Rudskoy said.

At the briefing the ministry presented photos of oil trucks, videos of airstrikes on IS oil storage facilities and maps detailing the movement of smuggled oil. More evidence is to be published on the ministry’s website in the coming says, Rudskoy said.

 

Read More Here

 

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‘Great partners’: Pentagon rejects Russian evidence of Turkey aiding ISIS

Col. Steve Warren © Khalid Mohammed
A Pentagon spokesman rejected Russia’s evidence of Turkey’s involvement in oil deals with Islamic State militants, calling Turkey a “great partner” just a day after his boss complained to Congress that Ankara was not fighting ISIS enough.

“Let me be very clear that we flatly reject any notion that the Turks are somehow working with ISIL,” said Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the US-led coalition fighting against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). “That is preposterous and kind of ridiculous. We absolutely, flatly reject that notion.”

Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman Steve Warren: We flatly reject the notion that is working with .

Warren was responding to questions about the evidence presented by the Russian Defense Ministry on Wednesday, including satellite photos and maps pointing the finger at Turkey – and President Recep Erdogan personally – for aiding the militants in smuggling oil.

“The Turks have been great partner to us in the fight against ISIL. They are hosting our aircraft, they are conducting strikes, they are supporting the moderate Syrian opposition,” Warren told reporters during a weekly Pentagon briefing from Operation Inherent Resolve headquarters in Baghdad. “They’ve been good partners here. Any thought that the Turks, that the Turkish government is somehow working with ISIL is just preposterous and completely untrue.”

Just yesterday, however, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter was telling the House Armed Services Committee that most of Turkey’s military operations were directed against the Kurds, rather than the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

“Most of their air operations are not directed at ISIL,” Carter told lawmakers. “They are directed at the PKK, which we understand their concern about — it’s a terrorist organization within their borders — but we would like to see them do more against ISIL.”

 

Read More Here

 

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US-led coalition not striking ISIS oil trucks despite evidence – Russia’s General Staff

A pair of U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fly over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria, in this U.S. Air Force © Senior Airman Matthew Bruch
Despite mounting evidence of ISIS oil smuggling, the US-led coalition in Syria and Iraq is not striking convoys of oil trucks heading to Turkey, Russia’s General Staff has said.

“It’s hard not to notice” the thousands of trucks used by terrorists for oil smuggling, Lieutenant General Sergey Rudskoy, deputy commander of the General Staff, said at a briefing in Moscow on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Russia presents proof of Turkey’s role in ISIS oil trade

“However, we see no strikes on those convoys by the coalition – only a tripling in the number of strategic UAVs has been observed,” he said.

With the US and its allies unwilling to act, the Russian Defense Ministry has reported the locations where Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) oil tankers are concentrated, Rudskoy said.

Vehicles parked 8km west of Zakho, Iraq © syria.mil.ru

The deputy commander stressed that defeating IS would be impossible without curbing its main source of income – the illegal oil trade – and urged the coalition to strike IS oil infrastructure.

 

Read More Here

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TPP Deal Finally Revealed

Details of the long-secret Trans-Pacific Partnership are public at last: it will undermine the safety of our food supply, make medicine more expensive, and give power to the biotech monopoly. Action Alert!

A few weeks ago, the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal was finally released after many years of closed-door negotiations between officials from the US and eleven other countries, all of whom border the Pacific Ocean. Its provisions were apparently kept secret from all but the biotech and pharmaceutical industries.

Leaked documents during the trade negotiations provided reason to be concerned about the final agreement. And now, a review of the deal’s twenty-nine chapters and five thousand pages proves these early concerns were completely justified. The final package now awaits a vote in Congress, which is likely to take place in Spring 2016.

Here are some of the most pressing concerns for natural health advocates:

It Undermines the Safety of the Food Supply

The TPP contains a number of provisions that threaten current food safety laws.

Generally speaking, passage of the TPP would mean that any US food safety law concerning things like pesticides, food additives, or labeling that is more stringent than “international standards” may be considered an “illegal barrier” to trade, and subject to enforcement. We have learned to beware of such “international standards.” They are largely determined by global special interests.

The TPP expands corporate power in other ways. The deal includes an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system in which multinational corporations can challenge a host company’s regulations in an international court. ISDS has been a fixture in other trade treaties, including NAFTA (the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement), and has been used to challenge countries’ economic policies, anti-smoking efforts, and environmental preservation laws. It is another giveaway to Big Food and other powerful multinational interests—a recurring theme throughout the TPP document.

The trade agreement also undercuts US efforts to inspect food imports. The agreement limits food import inspections at the border “to what is reasonable and necessary,” and if an issue arises, a country must also provide an “opportunity for a review of the decision.” This provision, referred to as the Rapid Response Mechanism, may give exporting countries the right to challenge basic food safety provisions in the US.

It Gives New Patent Protections to Big Pharma

The TPP contains an entire chapter on intellectual property rights, with many provisions relating to pharmaceutical patents. No doubt heavily influenced by the pharmaceutical industry, the trade deal will force signatory countries to accept many of the same patent laws that have kept drug prices so astronomically high in the US.

The deal would extend and broaden certain patent and data protections for the pharmaceutical industry, which Big Pharma can then use to keep prices high and delay competition from generics. It is a wonderful gift to the pharmaceutical industry—but a grave loss to patients in developing countries looking for access to affordable drugs.

The TPP also allows a practice known as “evergreening,” which lets drug companies extend a patent on an old drug when it can be used to treat a new condition—another boon for Big Pharma’s monopoly power.

Even when Big Pharma loses in the TPP, it wins. One of the more controversial topics in TPP negotiations concerned patent and data protections for biologic drugs—medicines derived not from inert chemical compounds but from living organisms. Big Pharma wanted twelve years of exclusivity— they already have this in the US—and US trade officials pushed hard in the negotiations to make this the standard. Instead, the deal grants them at least five years of exclusivity and as much as eight.

It’s Also a Gift to Biotech Seed Companies

Finally, the TPP deal expands biotech’s monopoly over the seed industry. The deal requires all twelve countries to join a number of global intellectual property treaties. One of these treaties is the 1991 International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV91), which emphasizes the rights of seed companies over farmers. Among other things, UPOV91:

  • Requires intellectual property (IP) protection for all plant species;
  • Provides IP protection for 20 to 25 years; and
  • Stops farmers from exchanging seeds—a common and important practice in many developing nations and indeed throughout human history.

In countries that have not already turned agriculture over to the biotech industry, this could mean a substantial rewrite of regulations meant to protect farmers.

Other treaties that signatory countries are compelled to join make it easier to apply for patents—making it very likely that more plants and seeds will be patented.

If these gifts to industry were not enough, President Obama moved earlier this summer to have the deal “fast-tracked”—that is, Congress will be given a fixed period to review the agreement, after which time legislators must make a yes/no vote without the possibility of amending the deal. Essentially, it’s “take it or leave it.”

We say: leave it. And if the US does reject it, do not worry about losing the reduction of tariffs that is already included. There will just be a second (and, we hope, a better) version to replace it.

Action Alert! Write to your members of Congress and urge them to oppose the TPP deal, which undermines consumers and farmers and extends monopoly rights to major industries. Please send your message immediately.

Take-Action

 

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