Transparency

Obama Administration Helped Kill Transparency Reform, Documents Reveal

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Newly released documents from the Department of Justice reveal that despite calling itself the most transparent administration in history, the Obama administration worked behind the scenes to block bipartisan transparency reform. The documents, themselves obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request, show that the administration intervened to sink legislation that would make it easier for the public to access information through FOIA.

A Wish List for the 1 Percent

THE TRANS-PACIFIC Partnership may be the largest free trade agreement you’ve never heard of. Or if you have heard of the TPP, it’s likely due to media reports about efforts by President Obama to fast-track the agreement through legislative hurdles. Still, details of the agreement and its secret negotiation process are sparse. Were it not for released drafts of the document and sub-chapters made available by the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks, it is likely the general public would know little to nothing of the accord.

Building on the foundation of a 2006 economic partnership agreement adopted to encourage trade between Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore, the TPP’s expansion of the agreement grows the number of participant nations to 12, adding Australia, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Vietnam, and the United States. The combined economic force of these nations would dominate global trade, representing roughly $28 trillion—nearly 40 percent—of the world’s gross domestic product.

But the magnitude of this trading pool isn’t what concerns most critics of the TPP. What is more troubling to labor, environmental, and health groups are the powers seemingly granted to multinational corporations by the agreement and the unilateral easing of climate change laws that serve to restrain industrial nations from disproportionate consumption and pollution.

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Unfinished Business

John Howard Yoder

JOHN HOWARD YODER, who died in 1997, was a theological educator, ethicist, historian, and biblical scholar. He is best known for his 1972 masterpiece The Politics of Jesus, his radical Christian pacifism, his influence on theological giants such as Stanley Hauerwas, and his advocacy of Anabaptist perspectives within the Mennonite community and beyond. Many testify that Yoder’s exposition of the gospel allowed them to grasp radically good news in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

There is a dark cloud over Yoder’s legacy, however, that refuses to dissipate. Survivors of Yoder’s sexual abuse and other advocates have renewed their calls for the Mennonite Church, including Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS), to revisit unfinished business with his legacy.

On Aug. 19, the executive director of Mennonite Church USA, Ervin Stutzman, announced the formation of “a discernment group to guide a process that we hope will contribute to healing for victims of John Howard Yoder’s abuse as well as others deeply hurt by his harmful behavior. We hope this work will lead to church-wide resolve to enter into lament, repentance, and restoration for victims of sexual abuse by other perpetrators as well.”

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Pope Kicks Off Reform Mission in Meeting with Vatican Department Heads

Pope Francis met for three hours with the heads of all Vatican departments on Tuesday, Sept. 10, signaling his desire to introduce more collaboration and transparency in the traditionally secretive and top-heavy governance style of the Catholic Church.

About 30 people attended, including the heads of the Vatican’s eight congregations and 12 councils, as well as top officials from the church’s tribunals and from the administration of Vatican state.

Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s outgoing secretary of state, also participated, in one of his last official engagements before his successor, Archbishop Pietro Parolin, takes over on Oct. 15.

A Step Closer to Global Jubilee?

World map, Feraru Nicolae / Shutterstock.com
World map, Feraru Nicolae / Shutterstock.com

In the green hills of County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, the world’s leading developed nations agreed on Tuesday to make individuals and companies pay the taxes that they owe. With the release this morning of the Lough Erne Declaration the G8 countries plan to implement greater tax collection internationally through fairer tax policies, greater financial transparency, and open trade.

The G8 plans to clamp down on tax-evaders and require shell companies — often used to take advantage of tax loopholes or to invest money anonymously —to identify their effective owners or primary beneficiaries. Developing countries, reported CNN, lose more in tax avoidance than they receive in aid. With the protocols agreed to today, indebted poor countries will be given access to the global information they need to collect the taxes they are owed.

Some anti-poverty campaigners describe the G8 deal as a historic achievement.

What's Wrong with Drones?

SOME CHRISTIANS seeking moral guidance about drone warfare find enough clear teaching in Jesus’ command to love our enemies and respond to conflict with principled, active nonviolence. Other Christian traditions, seeking to restrict and limit warfare, have developed principles of “just war,” which deem certain acts of war immoral and illegitimate. Targeted killings by drones, which have become key elements of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy, fail the test of morality on a number of grounds:

1. Targeted assassinations outside of legally declared wars violate international law, which prohibits a country from carrying out military attacks in or against the territory of countries with which it is not at war. Drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia violate this prohibition.

2. They violate the sovereignty of other countries. The government of Pakistan has repeatedly objected to drone strikes on its territory, calling them a “clear violation of our sovereignty and a violation of international law,” but its concerns have been repeatedly ignored.

3. There is little transparency or accountability. CIA drones are remotely controlled, primarily from Air Force bases in the United States, with no clear accountability, and with the targeting sometimes based on dubious intelligence.

4. They set a dangerous precedent. More than 70 countries now possess drone aircraft. While most of these drones are not armed, that is clearly the next step. The covert use of combat drones by the U.S. and the rapid expansion of the U.S. armed drone program represent escalations into a new kind of arms race.

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Calling of the Shepherd

WHEN POPE BENEDICT XVI unexpectedly announced his resignation in mid-February, many expressed admiration for the decision's honesty and humility, and much speculation followed about the reasons for it—and the consequences it would have.

As transition takes shape in the Vatican, Catholics around the world are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, which took place from 1962 to 1965 and which redefined the church's relationship to the world. Vatican II's final document said: "This council can provide no more eloquent proof of its solidarity with, as well as its respect and love for the entire human family with which it is bound up, than by engaging with it in conversation about these various problems," referring in part to the "profound and rapid changes ... spreading by degrees around the whole world." Half a century ago, few could have predicted the dramatic changes that were to follow in science, technology, global integration, and social mores.

Catholics know that in the last 50 years the institutional church has been at the forefront of calls for a more just, compassionate, and sustainable world. Catholic social and ecological teaching is well developed and clearly articulated. The church has offered analysis and challenging proposals for financial reform, arms control, care for creation, and multilateral political structures of accountability in response to globalization.

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Jim Wallis on Congo, Supply Chain and the Good Samaritan

Children in Congo. Image via Wylio http://bit.ly/s42oFx
Children in Congo. Image via Wylio http://bit.ly/s42oFx

Your neighbor is every man woman and child who touched the supply chain used to make your cell phone, used to make the clothes you wear, the computers you type on and the cars you drive.

Your neighbors are all of God’s children. The theological reality that people of faith try to live out is that our neighbor is not defined by geographical proximity. Our neighbor is the person in need.

Sometimes, caring for our neighbor means a change of plans. Sometimes, caring for our neighbor means we have to slow down a little bit. Sometimes, caring for our neighbor might even cost us money.

There are people who haven’t wanted to get involved in the mess by the side of the road. They walk by it and say that it’s somebody elses responsibility. My job, they say, is at the end of the road at Jericho.  I’m just being faithful to my shareholders by maximizing profit. My job is just getting the products people want into the hands of those that want them. I can’t be worried about those who get left by the side of the road of my supply chain. If I stop to help clean up the mess along the way it might cost time and money.

 

Friday Links Round Up: Cookies. Dads. Harry Potter.

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookiesphoto © 2009 Ted Major | more info (via: Wylio)Here's a little round up of links from around the Web you may have missed this week:

  • The changing face of AIDS.

    Poverty, Treasure Islands, and Global Tax Dodgers

    Bahamasphoto © 2010 John Hilliard | more info (via: Wylio)
    As Christians concerned about poverty, it is time to turn our full attention to the injustices of an "offshore tax system" that enables corporations and the wealthy to dodge taxes and impoverish countries around the world.

    As members of Congress in the United States debate deep and painful budget cuts, people of faith should raise our voices against an unfair system that enables profitable U.S. corporations to dodge taxes, depleting an estimated $100 billion from the U.S. Treasury each year. Instead of cutting $1 trillion over the next decade from programs that assist the poor and ensure greater opportunity, we should eliminate these destructive tax gimmicks.

    Recent reports show that aggressive tax dodgers such as General Electric, Boeing, and Pfizer, avoid billions in taxes a year. They use accounting gymnastics to pretend they are making profits in offshore subsidiaries incorporated in low- or no-tax countries like the Cayman Islands, thereby reducing their tax obligations in the United States. This system is unfair to domestic businesses that have to compete on an un-level playing field.

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