August 4, 2014


Big Players Promote Water Privatization
. . . Water is necessary to the lives of all beings on this planet. The water privatization industry knows this and wants to take advantage of our dependence on water and on the economic weakness of our country’s finances. A must-read source in the finance sector is The Bond Buyer. . . . .Those who are interested in how infrastructure privatization is financed would find Bond Buyer reporter Jim Watts’ May 28 story, “Groups Want Congress to Overturn Ban on Use of Bonds with WIFIA Program,” particularly riveting. Watts reports that even before President Obama signed the new water law, water groups and state and local officials were lobbying to amend it and, in particular, to make big changes in its subsection – WIFIA. Watts describes lobbyists’ feeding frenzy over the money-making opportunities that could be theirs, if only amendments could tweak WIFIA in their favor. Truth-Out

Food safety advocates decry ‘tremendous blow’ to inspection system
In a statement announcing the overhaul, the USDA says the new system will “prevent thousands of illnesses each year.” But under the new rules, some of the inspections that had been done by USDA inspectors will now be done by the companies themselves, a situation critics have called “the fox guarding the hen house.”  The Government Accountability Project’s Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) is among those who have sounded alarm about the plan.  Common Dreams

Toll roads, P3s and creative financing will bring short-term gain, long-term disaster for the road building industry
. . . Infrastructure must remain in the public’s hands and its financing done through fuel taxes and only fuel taxes. And those fuel taxes must only go to transportation infrastructure, not education or politicians’ pet projects. To privatize road building or continue to ring our cities with toll roads means that the banks, politicians, lobbyists and international conglomerates will get richer. The rest of us will pay vastly more for our roads than had we simply raised the gas tax and followed the pay-as-you-go model that has worked perfectly for the last half century. If you think the highway construction industry can afford to take a 73 percent hit, as did the homebuilders from 2006 to 2009, by all means, support toll roads and creative financing schemes. Wall Street and the politicians are always looking for a few more suckers to fleece. Equipment World Magazine

The Fourth Branch
. . . During the Cold War years and far more strikingly in the twenty-first century, the U.S. government has evolved.  It sprouted a fourth branch: the national security state, whose main characteristic may be an unquenchable urge to expand its power and reach. . . . Increasingly, post-9/11, under the rubric of “privatization,” though it should more accurately have been called “corporatization,” the Pentagon took a series of crony companies off to war with it.  In the process, it gave “capitalist war” a more literal meaning, thanks to its wholesale financial support of, and the shrugging off of previously military tasks onto, a series of warrior corporations.  Huffington Post

NY: NYC not getting much revenue from renting ‘landlord suites’ at Yankee Stadium and Citi Field 
In 2009, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to raise some cash by having the Yankees and Mets lease out the 12-person ‘landlord suites’ owned by the public. The teams would turn over rent and ticket revenue to the city. He predicted the city would make $1 million a year, but it’s only getting a fraction of that amount.  New York Daily News

MI: Officials mull decision on problem-plagued Aramark prison food contract
Michigan’s beleaguered prison food contractor should find out in the next two weeks whether it will be subject to more penalties or even dismissal after its first eight months were marred by food shortages, kitchen maggots and high turnover as employees were caught smuggling contraband and engaging in sex acts with inmates. Many Democrats and a few Republican lawmakers are urging Gov. Rick Snyder to terminate Aramark Correctional Service’s contract and return state employees to the kitchens, saying safety and security must take precedence over estimated contract savings of about $16 million a year. Detroit Free Press

IL: Fewer students taking, passing new GED test
. . . A new electronic version of the GED exam came online Jan. 1. It is more expensive and, now that the exam is aligned with state Common Core standards, it is, by most accounts, more difficult. Many test providers, especially those in the smaller collar counties, say fewer students are taking the exam and a smaller percentage passing. . . [Regional Superintendent] Leslie Schermerhorn blames the privatization of the exam through Minnesota-based Pearson VUE for many of the woes. The cost of the exam has more than doubled, from $50 to $120. “Somebody is profiting significantly, and it’s not our students and our state,” Schermerhorn said. “The cost increase is a big deal. The people taking this test are not the wealthier people in our county.”  Chicago Daily Herald