May 20, 2015
By Peter Gelling
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NEED TO KNOW:
Pretty much everyone who knows the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership says it’s a good thing. And they want to give US President Barack Obama’s administration the authority to negotiate it without interference or approval from Congress. This, they say, will make negotiations run more smoothly.
The White House knows the details and it likes the deal. Making it happen has been one of Obama’s top priorities. Leaders from the countries involved can also see it. There are at least a dozen of them. And they support the negotiations as well. Then there are several hundred representatives from America’s most powerful corporations. They can see the TPP. And they support it.
But the average American can’t see it, as Senior Correspondent Patrick Winn has reported. Neither can many of their representatives. It’s classified. So on Tuesday — in a kind of surprising move to support transparency and open debate — US senators voted against “fast-tracking” the negotiations. If Obama wants to pass the TPP now, he is going to have to show it to Congress and get their approval first.
That will be disappointing for the governments and the corporations trying to make this deal happen. They say the TPP would be great for the global economy, better plugging the United States into rising markets in Asia. There’s a lot of money in it.
But those who are blocked from seeing the inner workings of the deal are ecstatic. Even some of those who do know the details are happy. They believe the TPP would increase the gap between rich and poor around the world, drive up pharmaceutical prices in poor countries, hurt America’s middle class, and even lead to tighter controls on the internet.
The deal could still happen. But it will be much more difficult for Obama to negotiate if the governments he is working with know that the US Congress will have a say. The TPP is probably now a long way from happening, if it ever does.
WANT TO KNOW:
Mexico is insanely corrupt. It ranks somewhere close to the bottom of any global corruption index. By some estimates, corruption costs the country $20 billion. It also costs lives. And Mexicans have had enough.
The protests began in earnest in November, when a local mayor was arrested and charged with working with drug cartels. It seems the small-time mayor was complicit in the disappearance of 43 students and owned dozens of houses and jewelry stores he likely bought with drug money. Then, GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Ioan Grillo writes, journalists uncovered evidence that the wife of Mexican President Peña Nieto had a $7 million mansion in the name of a company rich off government contracts.
Hundred of thousands took to the streets after that. Corruption has been a problem for years, but for the first time in a long time, there appears to be some momentum behind anti-corruption activism.
The internet has been a big help. News of corruption scandals spreads fast on social media, which can have significant repercussions. When one official took his family on vacation using a government helicopter, his neighbor took photos and Twitter exploded. He was forced to resign.
There is also now a website called Transparent Candidate, where political hopefuls can upload information about their assets, income and taxes, making the data available to everyone. Dozens of candidates are already using it. The hope is that all politicians will eventually be compelled to share this information, lest voters begin to ask why they haven’t.
STRANGE BUT TRUE:
Relations between Russia and the United States are the worst they’ve been in a long time. So it was likely a tense meeting on Tuesday when US Secretary of State John Kerry met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The talks were mostly about conflict. Conflict in Ukraine, conflict in Yemen, conflict in Syria, conflict in Libya.
It’s tempting to wonder if there was much discussion about the conflict between the United States and Russia. At this point, more Americans think Russia is a bigger threat to the United States than any other country. Almost 60 percent of Russians, meanwhile, think the United States is their biggest threat. And 31 percent of those Russians genuinely fear an actual American military invasion, writes GlobalPost Senior Correspondent Dan Peleschuk.
Such perceptions probably say more about the rhetoric and propaganda coming from both governments than reality.