Contact: George Farah (202-688-1340), | October 2, 2012

Washington, D.C. – In response to an organized email and letter-writing campaign, three of the ten corporations identified as sponsors of the Commission on Presidential Debates have withdrawn their sponsorship.  Over the past week, advertising agency BBH New York, nonprofit organization YWCA, and tech giant Philips North America have terminated their sponsorship as a result of accusations that the Commission is anti-democratic and subservient to the major parties.  Never before has a sponsor of the Commission withdrawn its support.

On September 26, Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, CEO of YWCA, wrote in an email to activists, “As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, we have decided to withdraw our sponsorship effective immediately.”

On September 28, Mark Stephenson, director of corporate communications for Philips North America, explained, “We respect all points of view and, as a result, want to ensure that Philips doesn’t provide even the slightest appearance of supporting partisan politics. As such, no company funds have been or will be used to support the Commission on Presidential Debates.”

“This is a triumph for the debate reform movement,” said George Farah, executive director of Open Debates, which advocates replacing the Commission with a genuinely nonpartisan debate sponsor.  “Increasingly, voters are discovering that the Commission on Presidential Debates is often more concerned with the partisan interests of the major parties than with the democratic interests of the America people, and they are directing their frustration at the institutions that financially and logistically support it.”

Since its creation by the Republican and Democratic parties in 1987, the Commission has raised millions of dollars from its corporate sponsors.  Anheuser-Busch has been, by far, the largest contributor to the Commission, serving as national sponsor of every debate held since 1996.  At the debate themselves, Anheuser-Busch girls have distributed Bud Light and pamphlets denouncing beer taxes to journalists and campaign staff.  

The Commission is co-chaired by individuals with loyalties to the major parties and a history of lobbying on behalf of corporations.  Co-chair Frank Fahrenkopf is the former chair of the Republican Party and the nation’s leading gambling lobbyist, as head of the American Gaming Association.  Co-chair Mike McCurry is the former press secretary to President Bill Clinton and has lobbied extensively on behalf of the telecommunications industry.

In 1986, the Republican and Democratic National Committees ratified an agreement “to take over the presidential debates” from the nonpartisan League of Women Voters.  Fifteen months later, then-Republican Party chair Frank Fahrenkopf and then-Democratic Party chair Paul Kirk incorporated the Commission on Presidential Debates, and it has sponsored every presidential debate since.  The Commission exercises a monopoly over the presidential debates and routinely implements and conceals debate contracts that are drafted behind closed-doors by the Republican and Democratic campaigns.  Those contracts have often contained anti-democratic provisions that sanitize and weaken debate formats, exclude viable third-party candidates and prohibit additional debates from being held. 

The seven remaining sponsors supporting the Commission this year are: Anheuser-Busch Companies; The Howard G. Buffet Foundation; Sheldon S. Cohen, Esq.; Crowell & Moring LLP; International Bottled Water Association (IBWA); The Kovler Fund; and Southwest Airlines.  Email and letter-writing campaigns organized by Open Debates, Help the Commission and other critics of the presidential debate process are targeting those remaining sponsors.

California Makes History on the Right to Water

by Shiney Varghese | October 3, 2012

On Wednesday, September 26 Governor Jerry Brown of California signed the bill AB 685, into law, establishing the policy that every person in California has the right to safe, clean, affordable and accessible water. This is a historic moment in the U.S. debate over the right to water.(Image: Creative Commons license from Happy Sleepy.)

The U.S. federal government has not recognized water as a human right, but this policy initiative at the state level could become a turning point as far as water policy and politics goes. It is indeed a step in the right direction, given the concerns about “right to water” violations in California which were raised by the U.N. Special Rapporteur Catalina de Albuquerque following her visit to the United States in 2010.

The bill was authored by assembly member Mike Eng (D-Alhambra) and was co-sponsored by Safe Water Alliance, a coalition which includes many of our allies, and has been advocating for right to water in California for several years. The reach of the bill is extensive, and would help address some of the issues raised in the U.N. report, which identified specific cases where people were denied access to water or had to spend a large percentage of their income to secure water for domestic use.

The bill would “require all relevant state agencies, including the Department of Water Resources, State Water Resources Control Board, and State Department of Public Health, to employ all reasonable means to implement this state policy. Those state agencies would be required to revise, adopt, or establish policies, regulations and grant criteria to further this state policy, to the extent that those actions do not affect eligibility for federal funds.”

Not surprisingly the bill was opposed by almost all established (and powerful) water interests in the state. These include groups such as Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), which called on the Governor to veto the bill. They were concerned that the bill will prohibit water agencies from turning off the tap of a customer who does not pay the bill, irrespective of her or his ability to pay. Some farm and industrial interests also opposed the bill, fearing that it would add to the regulations with which they have to comply. However, these fears are misplaced, as pointed out by the Safe Water Alliance, “as AB 685 merely underscores what is already required by the” existing “policies and regulations to protect the State’s water resources relied upon as a source of drinking water.”

On World Water Day earlier this year, reflecting on what is at stake in recognizing the right to water, I wrote that “in the absence of effective regulatory frameworks, safeguards and the clear recognition of water as a fundamental human right, corporate interests will continue to supersede marginalized, low-income communities and smallholder farmers.”  While the right to water is now enshrined in international law and in the constitution of several countries (including Bolivia, Congo, Ecuador, South Africa, Uganda and Uruguay), and national legislations of many others, we still have a long way to go globally. At the Food + Justice=Democracy conference last week in Minneapolis, local activists from around the country insisted that policies don’t always need to start at the federal level, they can follow a bottom up approach too.

California has created history by becoming the very first state in the U.S. to recognize human right to water; it need not remain the only state to do so. The way is now open for other states to follow suit.

© 2012 Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Shiney Varghese

Shiney Varghese is Senior Policy Analyst with IATP. She leads IATP’s work on global water policy, focusing on the water crisis, its impact on water and food security, and possible local solutions that emphasize equity, environmental justice and sustainability.

NAFTA Super Corridor Video

Link to the following video.

ALERT! UPDATED! MUST WATCH! EMERGENCY ALERT! UPDATE Prime Minister Stephen Harper, along with Winnipeg’s new inland port officials began a trade mission this month (January, 2010) in an effort to sell the idea to potential tenants and trade partners. The mission kicked off in Guanajuato, Mexico and will also include visits to Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, Memphis, Tennessee, and Chicago. This mission is about meeting key decision makers, learning more about their needs, exploring joint opportunities and promoting the strategic advantages of CentrePort Canada, such as the fact we are now a North American foreign trade zone, CentrePort CEO Diane Gray said in a release. It is also about getting a first-hand look and gaining a community-wide understanding of all the factors that go into building a successful inland port. Port mission begins

Video Credit To:

Savings? Math on how the East-West Corridor doesn’t add up

125000 highway miles per year. (Saved by one company)


/8 MPG = 15625 gallons of diesel fuel (Saved by one company)


* $5.00 per gallon = $78125 (Saved by one company) $1.60 per mile


“IF” a company uses the proposed Highway, 1/4 the way (220/4) would be 55 miles


55 miles * $1.60 per mile = $88. one way or

$176 round trip (assuming loaded both ways)

(less maybe if empty, but not a profitable trip (aka Donkeying))


3X $176 if you travel 3/4 the length =  $528


3787878.787878788 trips / 20 years =  189393.95 per year


189393.95 per year = 518.8875342465753 trips per Day 3/4 away across the highway

This would be required in Maine company savings to justify the 2 Billion investment

probably an equal amount for the investment payoff for the same time period.


1037.775068493151 per day traversing at least 3/4 of Maine each day.

43.24062785388129 per hour

1 every 45 seconds.


Now, This savings is going to go where? Better wages for the truck drivers? I doubt it.


I previously calculated approximately $375 per trip for Toll fees. Both ways would be about  $775 trip

This still looks more realistic, as the above is just to justify the construction.




Now the mind boggling stuff:


         220 miles of corridor? All vehicles today can make that distance on a fill-up. Why stop in Maine when you can fuel up in New-Brunswick and make it to Quebec across Maine without a stop. At 70-75 miles per hour, pack a lunch, eat on the road, dispose of your trash in Maine along the way. If not, well it is only 3 hours back to Canada. Again why stop in Maine.  With Limited Access in Maine, how many Maine businesses will be able to use this corridor and with ownership by “Private Investors” and the proposed Fee’s / Toll Rates I have seen proposed in other such proposals (nearly 50¢ to $1.00 per mile) , it may be cost prohibitive to those of us in Maine.  Would the Canadians be reimbursed for their transport fees across Maine for their Commerce or other travel, leaving it to Maine users to foot that portion of the expense as well?

         In my web browsing, for other references to such proposals of the past, I happened on an article (Opinion – Piscataquis Observer – May 23, 2012 ) which stated (accuracy unknown by myself) that it costs the community nearly $11,000 per mile to maintain its roads.  That would, if accurate, calculate at today’s costs of approximately $4,840,000 per year to maintain the road of this corridor. (22,000 per year per mile for 4 lanes, would need to be generated by Fees / tolls.) Probably this would be a greater expense considering this roadway would have to be maintained at a higher standard such as our national interstate system which is funded federally.

         The estimated expense of this project is projected to be about $2 billion. Given the Census population of Maine, that would be nearly $1538.46 for every resident of Maine, man, woman and child,  provided you can round up 1,300,000 investors. At a 1% return per year for my $1538.46 that would be $15.3846 or $20 million per year revenue for usage. This equates to $90,909 per mile additional Fee’s / Tolls. Now this totals thus far to $112,909 per mile. Now having invested in the stock market from time to time,  I would hope to see a return much greater than the 1% so this seems to be an unwise investment unless a sure thing for a greater return is brought forth.  Six access points (seven traveled segments) across 220 miles would equate to an average of  31.43 miles per segment, so it would cost each user and average $15.71 to $31.43 per ride. Who in Maine would/could ride? Being an Investor I would expect a much greater return such as 5% or greater, thus projecting Fee’s / Tolls to be nearly 5 times this figure. Now at a $75 to $155 per segment of travel your looking at $375 to $775 trip across the entire 220 miles. (not the $50 to $100 fee / 220 miles) Now who, Maine or Canadian, in their right mind want that expense?

         Assuming these calculations are not flawed to any great extent, as an investor, I would not take part in such a venture. As a citizen of Maine the cost is astounding in that we not only would be robbed of our natural resources and beauty of our land, but also of the hard earned money should we venture to use such a highway that no one could afford at any price or return.

         There has to be some agenda we are not being informed of, that would bring forth such a project that has little hope of  being cost effective or investment wise to anyone involved.


Eric A. Tuttle



Net savings would be $28.00 ????


Cough! Cough! Cough!


Opps, Savings of now $775 – $528 =        – ($247)

Since that appears to be about a 50% return, you need to deduct the maintenance, medical, police, Road kill, and other expenses

which is a variable, and unknown.


Ok maybe they are better at Math than I, or they know how to Cook the books for their stockholders.


Both methods of calculations from two different aspects, still tend to agree with each other on the cost of transportation.



 —- Savings? —-




@ 70 mph, * 4 hours between meals = 280 miles (St Stephens to Sherbrook)

[no meals needed at restaurants]

[no fuel sold in Maine for the trip]

[no motel stays in Maine]

[no guaranteed jobs in Maine]

[no pure water in Maine in areas]

[no natural migration of animals]

[no future roads for private use N-S]



Ahhhh, it is a highway of BRIDGES, wildlife, hiking, sports, future camp roads, and the list goes on….. Our future tourists can be housed under them.

The future of Hillsboro’s water and roads the topic of Tuesday meetings

by andrew Theen, the Oregonian
HILLSBORO — Hillsboro’s roadways and water supply dominated conversation on Tuesday night as the City Council signed off on a plan for proposed roadways and heard an update from city Water Department officials about how to address future needs.
The fifth-largest city in Oregon is expected to continue to grow, and expanding road capacity in the city’s north industrial area is a priority. As is addressing the city’s water supply. The Hillsboro Utilities Commission governs municipal water systems, according to the city charter, but Water Department officials briefed the council at a work session on Tuesday.
“This isn’t an emergency situation,” Tacy Steele, water public information officer, told the council. “We have time to make really good decisions.”
Public Meetings
– Oct. 25 (for South Hillsboro) Civic Center, 150 E. Main Street, Room 113B & C, 6–7:30 p.m.
– Nov. 7 (bilingual, for Hispanic Community, Lincoln Street Elementary School, 801 N.E. Lincoln Street, 6-7:30 p.m.
– Nov. 14 (for North Hillsboro) Main Library, 2850 N.E. Brookwood Pkwy, Community Room, 6– 7:30 p.m.
The department is eyeing a plan to secure water supply for the next 50 years, although actual construction is likely more than a decade away. Steele is leading the department’s ongoing outreach efforts, and she acknowledged getting people to think about water issues is difficult.
The department is in the preliminary stages of pinpointing a “preferred” water source, and five options are being examined. The department advocates using the Willamette River as another water resource to accommodate growth. The commission is expected to make a decision early in 2013 on which option to explore.
Water Department director Kevin Hanway said the city’s current water source, the Tualatin River, will be fine until around 2025. The city peaks at 30 million gallons of water a day in the summer months, Hanway said, but that is expected to soar as the region grows. Hillsboro also taps into Hagg Lake and Barney Reservoir as needed.
The so-called mid-Willamette River option is near Wilsonville. Hanway notes that Wilsonville and Sherwood both use the river. The department analyzed each project on factors like cost, reliability, ownership and environmental impact.
Each of the five proposed locations factors in other municipalities or government partners contributing to the bill.
The mid-Willamette option is the cheapest of the five and Hillsboro’s share projects to be upwards of $370 million, according to Hanway. The total estimated cost is $870 million. The department also looked at the South Willamette, Portland, and using groundwater as possible water sources.
The long-discussed and analyzed Tualatin Basin Water Supply project, which calls for raising the Scoggins Dam by 40 feet, is also on the short list. Hanway said that “reliability is an issue for that project” which is dependent on the federal government and wouldn’t accommodate future growth beyond the dam build-out. A seismic study of the dam is expected out this month. The projected price tag, according to water department officials, is upwards of $1 billion.
During the council session, the city approved a resolution that amended the city’s transportation system plan for the North Hillsboro Industrial area. The plan, which serves a blueprint for the city’s future transportation projects, needed approval prior to an Oregon Transportation Commission meeting regarding the $45 million Brookwood Parkway/Helvetia Road interchange project. 
The council approved a first reading of transportation plans for the AmberGlen community. The plan calls for road extensions and realignments of several roads in the planned community in Northeast Hillsboro. A second reading is expected for Oct. 16.

Corrosive Waters Emerge as New Climate Threat

Sept. 30, 2012,
The Washington Post News Service with Bloomberg News

(c) 2012, The Washington Post.

HOMER, Alaska — Kris Holderied, who directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Kasitsna Bay Laboratory, says the ocean’s increasing acidity is “the reason fishermen stop me in the grocery store.”

“They say, ‘You’re with the NOAA lab, what are you doing on ocean acidification?’ ” Holderied said. “This is a coastal town that depends on this ocean, and this bay.”

This town in southwestern Alaska dubs itself the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World. But worries about the changing chemical balance of the ocean and its impact on the fish has made an arcane scientific buzzword common parlance here, along with the phrase “corrosive waters.”

In the past five years, the fact that human-generated carbon emissions are making the ocean more acidic has become an urgent cause of concern to the fishing industry and scientists.

The ocean absorbs about 30 percent of the carbon dioxide we put in the air through fossil fuel burning, and this triggers a chemical reaction that produces hydrogen, thereby lowering the water’s pH.

The sea today is 30 percent more acidic than pre-industrial levels, which is creating corrosive water that is washing over America’s coasts. At the current rate of global worldwide carbon emissions, the ocean’s acidity could double by 2100.

What impact it is having on marine life, how this might vary by geography and species, and what can be done about it if humans do not cut their carbon output significantly are some of the difficult questions scientists and policymakers are seeking to answer.

The decline in pH will likely disrupt the food web in many ways. It is making it harder for some animals, such as tiny pteropods and corals, to form their shells out of calcium carbonate, while other creatures whose blood chemistry is altered become disoriented and lose their ability to evade predators.

To study what is happening off the West Coast, Gretchen Hofmann, a professor of marine biology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has recruited everyone from sea-urchin divers to Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement officials.

She calls it “an all-hands-on-deck moment in our country, and it’s happening before our eyes.”

The NOAA has started tracking changes in the ocean’s pH over time in eight coastal and coral reef ecosystems, ranging from the Gulf of Maine to coastal Hawaii, and is evaluating its impact on more than two dozen commercially important species, such as red king crab, summer flounder and black sea bass.

“One of the primary questions is how is the chemistry of the water changing and how variable is that change across the water we’re responsible for, which is a lot of coastline,” said Libby Jewett, director of the program.

Federal and state authorities are searching for ways to cope with a problem whose obvious solution — slashing global carbon emissions — remains elusive. A blue-ribbon panel established by outgoing Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, D, which will issue its recommendations in November, is examining local contributors such as agricultural runoff. Federal officials and scientists, meanwhile, are trying to determine which species may be able to adapt to more acidic seas and explore what other protections could bolster fish populations under pressure.

In the 1970s, NOAA senior scientist Richard Feely and his colleagues began talking about measuring carbon concentrations in the ocean, the way Charles David Keeling had charted atmospheric carbon from a station in Hawaii’s Mauna Loa starting in 1958. Keeling pushed the oceanographer to refine his methods before taking any measurements, and Feely conducted his first transect of the Pacific Ocean in 1982.

By the late 1990s, scientists such as the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Joan Kleypas were demonstrating that the sea’s declining pH posed a threat to marine life. At first, scientists assumed that the growing acidity of the ocean would dismantle ecosystems around the world in a uniform way, by dissolving the coral reefs that provide essential habitats and impeding the development of the smallest organisms that form the basis of the food web.

But now, scientists are beginning to tease out a more complex picture, in which some parts of the world could be more vulnerable and others may demonstrate resilience. Water from the deep ocean normally comes up and spills over the continental shelf in a process called upwelling; in the Pacific Northwest this water is increasingly acidic, killing oyster larvae that farmers are growing. Much of Alaska’s waters already have lower pH levels, because the water is colder and cold water can hold more carbon dioxide, and the water that reaches the Arctic has been circulating around the planet, absorbing CO2 along the way.

According to NOAA supervisory oceanographer Jeremy Mathis, “It doesn’t take much to push it past the thresholds we’re concerned about.”

And last year, a team of researchers led by Oregon State University professor George Waldbusser found that the pH in the lower part of the Chesapeake Bay is declining at a rate that’s three times faster than the open Pacific Ocean, partly because of increased nutrient runoff from farming and other activities. This stream of nutrients causes phytoplankton to take more carbon dioxide out of the upper Bay; as the plankton release CO2 as they move to the lower Bay, it increases carbon concentrations and lowers the overall pH.

A.J. Erskine, aquaculture manager for the Kinsale, Va.-based Bevans Oyster Co., and Cowart Seafood Corp. in Lottsburg, Va., said they started focusing on the issue when “two years ago we were seeing production losses, and we didn’t know where it was from.”

Six shellfish hatcheries in Virginia have used state funds to conduct their first year of water chemistry monitoring and hope to do more; Erskine said they suspect nutrient runoff from the land contributes to the problem.

Oyster farmers off the coasts of Washington and Oregon were the first to see how ocean acidification threatened their business. Alan Barton, an employee at Oregon’s Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery, suspected that lower pH waters were killing off oyster larvae, or spat. Working with Oregon State University and NOAA researchers, they were able to prove it was the case, and now time their intakes to ensure that their oysters are exposed to less-acidic water.

“The scientists helped provide an adaptation strategy to help that industry, and it worked,” Feely said, adding that a $500,000 investment in pH-monitoring equipment “saved that industry $34 million in one year,” in 2011.

But Feely and Jewett acknowledged that tackling the problem in the open ocean will be harder. Jewett said that if they can identify which species are most vulnerable, “we can try to be even more protective of them for the future” by limiting their catch.

The die-off of oyster larvae in the Pacific Northwest has implications for oyster growers in places as far away as Homer, Alaska, since they traditionally buy their spat from Washington and Oregon farms. Out on the Homer spit, a slim strip of land jutting out into Kachemak Bay, the Kachemak Shellfish Growers cooperative office now boasts a small hatchery where it hopes to produce 3 million spat this year.

“We just can’t rely on the Lower 48 anymore,” said co-op manager Sean Crosby, whose group received $150,000 in federal funds over the past two years to start up and run the hatchery. “Even though we’re not seeing ocean acidification in Kachemak Bay, we’re feeling its effects.”

Alaska and the NOAA are jointly funding four buoys throughout the state to monitor pH levels, while other NOAA scientists are testing how species such as surf smelt would likely gain from a lower pH because they thrive under those conditions, while others, including dungeness crab, would lose.

These species interact with each other, which is why ocean acidification could have such large ripple effects. The highly vulnerable pteropods, for example, can make up as much as 40 percent of the diet of Alaska’s juvenile pink salmon.

“When you ask why does ocean acidification matter, often we’re interested because of the fish we eat and the things we make money off of,” said Shallin Busch, a research ecologist at the NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center.

Other species, such as purple sea urchins off California’s coast, have shown some genetic capacity to adapt to more acidic conditions, in part because they are periodically exposed to corrosive waters. Hofmann described her job as seeking an answer to the question, “Will there be sushi?”

“The question is, can they adapt quickly enough in this rapidly changing environment?” Hofmann asked. “And the answer, at least in the case of sea urchins, could be yes.”