Conservatives alongside many others denounce SPP Summit, North American Union

Leading Conservatives Denounce Bush on 'North American Union'
By Nathan Burchfiel
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
August 21, 2007

Ottawa, Ontario (CNSNews.com) - President Bush is meeting with other world leaders in Canada this week to establish, in part, a "New World Order" that subverts national sovereignty, according to some leading American conservatives who have taken a hard stance against the president over the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP).

President Bush is meeting in Quebec Monday and Tuesday with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon to discuss the SPP, which the U.S. government's Web site describes as a cooperative effort among Canada, the United States, and Mexico to "increase security and enhance prosperity ... through greater cooperation and information sharing."

Yet Howard Phillips, chairman of the Conservative Caucus, said at a news conference in Ottawa Monday that Bush is trying to develop a "New World Order" of centralized world government controlled by super-national bureaucracies. Phillips said some of the bureaucracies already exist, including the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and United Nations.


"George Bush and his daddy [former President George H. W. Bush] have both used the term 'New World Order.' It was used by Woodrow Wilson. It was used by Adolf Hitler. It was used by a number of people, and the New World Order relates to the desire of many people in the world to submerge national sovereignties to international institution." (See Video)

Other conservatives who joined Phillips at the news conference included author and columnist Jerome Corsi; John McManus, president of the John Birch Society; Tom DeWeese, president of the American Policy Center; and Bob Park, founder of Veterans for Secure Borders.

The SPP meetings (the fourth since 2005) have afforded little access to the media and no access to the general public except for leaders of some large corporations taking part in the concurrent North American Competitiveness Council. The secrecy has led activists on both sides of the political aisle to develop ideas about what might be happening behind closed doors.

Responding to protests staged in Ottawa Sunday by leftist, anti-government, anti-corporate activists, Phillips acknowledged a difference of approach. But, he said, "if we're all firing in the same direction, let's work together."

Conservative author Jerome Corsi criticized supporters of the SPP for labeling opponents "conspiracy theorists." (See Video)

"We're the Internet black helicopter conspiracy theorists?" asked Corsi. "What's going on over in Montebello behind closed doors? Is that not the real conspiracy?"

"Only to call us names does not answer the arguments we're making," he said. "We're called names because those supporting the Security and Prosperity Partnership wish to keep their secret agenda being advanced in secret, and we've ruined the party by exposing it."

Most recently, U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins called the opposition to the SPP "conspiracy theories." In an editorial in the Ottawa Citizen Monday, Wilkins said that "while conspiracy theories abound, you can take it to the bank that no one involved in these discussions is interested in, or has ever proposed, a 'North American Union,' a 'North American super highway' or a 'North American currency.'"

Wilkins further wrote that "security with prosperity remains the defining vision of the leaders' meeting" and that "each [nation] will continue to protect its own interests, but it makes sense, as friends and neighbors, to sit down together and see what we might accomplish better together."

Phillips responded by noting that Wilkins was appointed by Bush and represents an administration that "does not have a reputation for straight talking or accuracy ... ." And it’s high time for the SPP organizers to "tear down the wall of silence and let the people see what you are scheming to do," he said.

TxDOT to illegally spend taxpayer $ to push tolls...AGAIN!

It's not only an inappropriate and wasteful use of our gas tax dollars, but it's ILLEGAL for a PUBLIC agency to take a policy position and use the public's tax money to sell them something with an under-handed PR campaign. The State Auditor already found TxDOT "cooked the books" Enron-style on the Trans Texas Corridor mismarking funds as "engineering" when in fact, they spent it on PR. This is "an agency run amok", to quote Chisum himself, so why isn't the Attorney General prosecuting this blatant violation of the law? Let's back up the tough talk with ACTION to protect the taxpayers! When will the citizens see justice?

Then, TxDOT and House Transportation Chair Mike Krusee try to excuse using taxpayer money to lobby for the most expensive road tax by implying the public just doesn't "get" their message. No. we've got it loud and clear. What about "NO!" do they NOT understand??? TxDOT has arrogantly disregarded ANY public input, dismissed and ridiculed more affordable alternatives put forward by anyone other than themselves, and is purposely jacking up roads all over the State all at once and CAUSING TxDOT-induced congestion for the express purpose of getting us to cry "Uncle" and beg for tolls. Now they want to use OUR MONEY for "outreach?" What a JOKE! How 'bout you use our gas taxes to build FREEways, stop monkeying around with people lives to push the most expensive option to enrich your own pensions, and get on with it?

Don't like toll roads? TxDOT is talking to you
By Peggy Fikac
Express-News Austin Bureau
08/20/2007

AUSTIN — The Texas Department of Transportation, which complains about chronic underfunding, has launched a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign that promotes the divisive Trans-Texas Corridor plan and toll roads.The campaign is anticipated to cost $7 million to $9 million, according to a memorandum titled "Keep Texas Moving: Tolling and Trans-Texas Corridor Outreach" sent to transportation officials by Coby Chase, director of the agency's government and public affairs division.

Such use of state highway fund dollars is drawing concern and questions from some. Others, including the department, say it's an important effort to educate and engage Texans.

Put Rep. Warren Chisum, chairman of the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee, in the first category.


"I wonder what for? So people wouldn't hate 'em so bad?" he said of the campaign. "It's a waste of money, and they have no business out there trying to get public opinion to be in their favor."

Talk Back
• What do you think of the TxDOT advertising campaign?
The money would be better spent fixing roads, Chisum, R-Pampa, added: "It would probably take care of three or four potholes."

But Rep. Mike Krusee, House Transportation Committee chairman, said the campaign addresses lawmakers' concerns by explaining new financing methods.

"The Legislature has been beating TxDOT over the head for two years, telling them they need to explain what the Trans-Texas Corridor is and why it is necessary to the public. They've been telling TxDOT they are moving too fast — they are moving before the public and the Legislature has the chance to understand what they are doing and why," said Krusee, R-Round Rock. "I think it is the Legislature that has pressured TxDOT to do this sort of program."

If the outreach is effective, Krusee said, it could save money in the long run.

"Texas is losing money for roads by the hundreds of millions of dollars every year simply due to delay, because the Legislature and the public doesn't understand the need to move to a new finance method. And so an expenditure of a few million dollars could literally save hundreds of millions of dollars per year," Krusee said.

The agency's budget is more than $7 billion for fiscal year 2007 and more than $8 billion for fiscal year 2008.

The Trans-Texas Corridor — an ambitious transportation network — and toll roads have been championed by Gov. Rick Perry and others as necessary in the face of congestion and of gas tax revenues that can't keep up with huge transportation needs.

But the initiative has drawn widespread criticism over the potential route and the state partnering with private companies to run toll roads. Lawmakers this year sought to rein in new private toll projects.

The new campaign, as outlined in the memorandum obtained by the San Antonio Express-News, started June 1 with television, radio, print, billboard and Internet advertising meant to push people to the Keep Texas Moving Web site ( www.keeptexasmoving.com).

That site compares the Trans-Texas Corridor to "Eisenhower's Interstate System." Its toll road section lists a slew of benefits including "A Choice to Go Faster" and "More Roads, More Choices, More Time."

The campaign also will include direct mail pieces on Trans-Texas Corridor segments known as TTC-35 (parallel to Interstate 35) and TTC-69 (from East Texas to Mexico); training for agency representatives to appear on talk radio; and ads, events and guest editorials surrounding hearings on TTC-69.

Sal Costello, who founded the TexasTollParty.com group because of anger over the way tollways were being planned under Perry, said, "I just don't think an agency that has been ignoring the public and ignoring our representatives for years should be able to take our tax dollars intended for freeways and spend one dime on lobbying and selling their unaccountable schemes."

TxDOT spokesman Chris Lippincott said the aim of the campaign is to address concerns that the agency hasn't done enough outreach and the public hasn't had enough input. State law allows the agency to spend money on marketing toll roads, he said.

"The clearest and most often repeated criticism of the department during the legislative session was that we needed to do a better job of engaging the public. We heard that message loud and clear, and we're acting on it," he said. "You're going to see us expanding the way we talk with people instead of at people. We think that's really important."

Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice, which tracks money in politics, said the campaign appears to go beyond providing information, which he said isn't right although he knows of no law to prevent it.

"The tone of their public relations campaign seems to be to sell Texans on a very unpopular transportation scheme," he said. "That is, they are using our money to make us happy about spending money for every mile we drive through tolls."

Toll enthusiasts can hit the road

Link to article here.

Actually, the new market-based tolls unleashed in SB 792 will be much higher than 12-15 cents a miles. We're seeing toll rates more like 40 cents a mile, up to $1.50 a mile in Austin right now. Tolls are an inefficient, DOUBLE TAX, too easily raised on the whim of a bureaucrat whereas it takes an ACT OF CONGRESS to raise the gas tax. Let's put on a lid on this unaccountable, runaway tax, STOP the diversions of gas tax away from transportation, and get some fiscal sanity back into transportation, then we can look at the possibility of putting an adequate gas tax in place. Toll proponents need to take a hike...or as this columnists says, hit the road!

Toll enthusiasts can hit the road
By Paul Munshine
New Jersey Star-Ledger
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Last weekend I was vacation ing in the Poconos and I got talking to some of the locals. They were pretty steamed. It seems that Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell is pushing a scheme to impose tolls on the Pennsylvania section of Interstate 80.

I'm pretty steamed, too. If Pennsylvanians want to charge tolls on the roads they built with their own money, such as the Pennsylvania Turnpike, that's none of my business.

But I-80 was built with my tax dollars under a program begun by the esteemed Republican president Dwight Eisenhower. Now this Democrat wants to use the road as a cash cow. He isn't even pretending, as politicians usually do, that the purpose of the tolls is to fix up the road. Instead "Fast Eddie," as Pennsylvanians call their governor, wants to make a quick buck off the road to fund mass transit in Philly and Pittsburgh.

You can imagine how well that's going over in rural northern Pennsylvania. Several members of Congress are fighting the plan in the House. Rep. Phil English, a Republican, succeeded in getting a rider inserted in an appropriations bill that would ban the tolls. But the bill needs to win Senate approval and be signed by President Bush.

Here's where the plot thickens. You would expect Bush as a Republican to oppose the efforts of Rendell and our own Democratic governor, Jon Corzine, to balance their budgets through that form of fiscal trickery we have come to know as "asset monetization." Like Rendell, Corzine also flirted with the idea of putting tolls on our sec tions of I-80 and I-78, but Jersey drivers made it plain to Corzine that this was political suicide. So Corzine has to content himself for now with making a buck off our existing toll roads.

But you can't blame Democrats for this fiasco. In fact, it was the prior President Bush who pushed the change in federal law that permits imposing tolls on federally funded freeways. And the current President Bush's transportation secretary, Mary Peters, has been turning up in Pennsylvania to offer support for putting tolls on I-80.

And guess where else Peters has been hanging out? You got it: Texas. There she's been buddying up to Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican and a Bush protégé. Peters and Perry have been plotting with a Spanish firm by the name of Cintra to build a massive 4,000-mile network of toll roads called the Trans-Texas Corridor. One problem: Texas already has an excellent network of freeways. So how do the pols plan to get Texans to use the toll roads instead?

Texas Transportation Secretary Ric Williamson has provided the answer. In a 2004 Houston Chronicle article, he was quoted as telling Texans "in your lifetime most exist ing roads will have tolls." The I-80 effort in Pennsylvania, in other words, looks like just the first step in a national effort to convert the interstate system into a network of toll roads. Private corporations such as Cintra are ready to hand over billions of dollars up front against future toll collections.

The benefits for politicians are immense.

It's a disaster for drivers, however.

If you think those Pennsylvanians are peeved, give Dave Stall a call. He and his wife have founded a citizens' group to fight the Texas toll plans. When I got him on the phone, Stall told me that Texas plans to charge 15 cents a mile on toll roads. If you're driving a car that gets 27 miles per gallon, that's equivalent to approximately a $4-a-gallon gas tax.

"It's really interesting that there is a complete aversion to any increase in the gasoline tax by the governor, yet there is this rush to privatize and toll," he said.

Indeed it is. And it's really interesting that on the national level Bush claims to be firmly opposed to a mere 5-cent-a-gallon increase in the federal gas tax while his transportation secretary supports tolls. Let's say I want to drive from the Delaware Water Gap to the Ohio state line on I-80. That 5-cent gas-tax increase would cost me perhaps 50 cents. The projected toll, meanwhile, would be about $20.

That $19.50 difference explains why politicians of both parties are so hot on tolls. Every cent of a gas tax increase would go to transportation. But tolls provide a vast pool of money for lobbyists, lawyers, patronage jobs -- you name it.

By the way, if you're confused by the term "asset monetization," Stall has a definition that any Jersey driver will understand.

"It's Tony Soprano," Stall said. "He gives you an envelope on top of the table, and then he hands you another envelope under the table."

In 50 short years, we've gone from a Dwight Eisenhower approach to funding freeways to a Tony Soprano approach. Call me nostalgic, but I like Ike.

Stern: Toll Roads NOT needed, what is? An Adequate Gasoline Tax

Toll Roads are NOT needed
The Alternative to Toll Roads: An Adequate Gasoline Tax
By Peter Stern
Texas Monthly blog
Monday, August 20, 2007

A fuel tax, a.k.a. gasoline tax, is a sales tax imposed on the sale of fuel. The fuel tax in Texas is currently set at 20 cents/gal since being raised to that amount in 1991.

As in most instances throughout the U.S. the fuel tax collected in Texas is dedicated to the building and maintenance of roadways; however, often it is 60-percent of the tax revenue that goes toward this effort while 40-percent of the collection is used for more general purposes, e.g., public and/or higher education. Consequently, much of the revenue is diverted to other interests.


We are told by Governor Rick Perry and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) that there is a vast shortage in the revenue for building and maintaining roadways and that the only method to improve that shortage is to generate toll roads.

Another reason for the lack of sufficient revenue from the collection of gasoline taxes is that the tax rate has been frozen in Texas since 1991. The reason for the freeze is unknown, at least publicly. Perry has been instrumental during his 2 terms as governor in continuing the freeze, frequently stating that increasing the gas tax is NOT an option. Furthermore, the Texas GOP has kept a platform of "No new taxes" and has supported the governor in maintaining the freeze on gasoline taxes.

So, apparently what we have in Texas is a self-imposed shortage of available financing to build and maintain roadways throughout the state. Six years ago Gov. Perry authorized TxDOT to "use whatever creative means available" to compensate for the shortage of financing and to generate more revenue for roadways. In reality, the meaning of that statement was for TxDOT and the legislature to develop the ways and means to build toll roads. The push for toll roads also was sparked by Perry’s wealthy pro-toll campaign contributors, which already had been determined and initiated when George Bush had been governor.

In conclusion, the shortage of revenue from the gasoline tax is self-imposed because of two reasons:

o The gasoline tax rate has been frozen since 1991
o Approximately 40-percent of gasoline tax revenue is being diverted to other interests.

Toll roads are NOT a cost-effective method of financing roadways. Generally, 80-percent of the toll revenue collected goes to the management, building and operations of the toll roads. It is not unusual for the state to contract the toll road to a private concern, e.g., on some toll projects the state has a 70-year contract with international toll maven CINTRA and its American partner Zachry Construction.

Because of the relatively inelastic nature of demand for fuel, in the short run the tax will be an effective source of revenue. In the long run, however, theory predicts that people adjust their consumption of petrol; that is, over a period of years, people will consume less as the price increases (by buying more fuel-efficient cars, for instance). Thus, some environmentalists have advocated a fuel tax as a way to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

Still, the more intelligent alternative to toll roads is to permit the gasoline tax rate to increase naturally along with the inflationary index and cost-of-living factors and to ensure that 100-percent of the revenue collected from the tax goes to the building and maintenance of our roadways.

Gov. Perry has vehemently stated that he will NOT support increasing the gasoline tax.

However, if the state legislature agrees with and authorizes this effort, the revenue collected from adequate gasoline taxes will generate sufficient financing needed for building and maintaining our roads. Toll roads are NOT needed.

Highway Robbery and the NAFTA connection

Link to article here.

Highway Robbery of Texas Roads
By Cathie Adams, president of Texas Eagle Forum
Published: 08-20-07

Texas drivers are tired of traffic gridlock. We want new roads built sooner rather than later, but we do not want a Trans-Texas Corridor that would surely invite more illegal drugs and more illegal aliens.

Legislators have gotten our message but since both highway funds, the State Highway Fund (a gasoline tax) and the Texas Mobility Fund (bond money), have been pilfered for other uses, there is no money for road building.

Members of the Texas Senate Transportation & Homeland Security Committee met on August 7 to discuss this funding dilemma. Committee Chairman John Carona suggested a new constitutional amendment to protect the two existing highway funds from future abuses. He also recommended linking the state gas tax to inflation, in order to keep pace with the economy. Both ideas could be helpful in the future, but do nothing to remedy our current state of affairs.

A new funding scheme, public-private partnerships, was also discussed which allows foreign interests to lease our infrastructure for 50-99 years. Like highway robbers, those private investors would profit as much as 39 times the road building cost and then take their loot and leave the country. That’s a bad deal for Texans who currently own our infrastructure, want to continue to own it and furthermore want our taxes / tolls to be invested back into road building.

The committee has until 2009 to come up with funding solutions, but they would be wise to consider WHY the demand for new roads is so great because it is not just because of population growth. The elephant in the room that no one wants to tackle is the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, which former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called “the architecture of a new international system.”

When Congress approved NAFTA in 1993 with a simple majority of both chambers in a lame duck session, they ignored the U.S. Constitution’s requirement that the international treaty be approved by two-thirds of the U.S. Senate. Setting aside our U.S. Constitution has destabilized our borders with Mexico and Canada and created new and mounting crises.

NAFTA has encouraged manufacturers to leave our shores presumably to avoid government regulations and union wages, but at what cost to American workers? Is it fair to force American workers to compete with millions of Communist government-enslaved laborers who earn about 30 cents an hour in Asia?
NAFTA has created a U.S. trade deficit of $725.8 billion, 26% of that, almost $233 billion, is with China. The deficit is not only unsustainable, the Chinese government is now threatening to liquidate its $1.33 trillion of foreign reserves, including about $900 billion in U.S. treasury bonds, as a political weapon if the U.S. imposes trade sanctions to force revaluation of the Chinese currency, the Yuan. Such a move would cause our dollar to collapse!

More than American jobs and the dollar being negatively impacted by NAFTA, importing goods that America used to manufacture causes an enormous strain to our nation’s infrastructure.

As a hearty endorser of this “architecture of a new international system,” President Bush agreed to a Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP, www.spp.gov) with Canada and Mexico without Congressional approval or debate in March 2005. He then directed the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Transportation to begin merging their bureaucracies with their counterparts in Mexico and Canada. In 2006 he met with the presidents of Mexico and Canada in Cancun, Mexico, and this year he took time from his vacation in Crawford to attend another closed-door meeting with them in Quebec, Canada.

As the President and most members of Congress deny their unconstitutional actions, every state is forced to deal with the consequences of NAFTA and the SPP. Taxpayers must pay for an invasion of illegal aliens and drug traffickers, as well as deal with colossal levels of congestion on our roads.

The tragic Minneapolis bridge disaster last August shined light on the overweight danger to our nation’s infrastructure. Federal transportation officials claim that one-fourth of our nation’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and one-third of our major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. They further claim that the cost to repair roads and bridges would be $461 billion and that traffic congestion is costing drivers $63 billion a year in wasted time and fuel costs.

Congress is just as guilty as state legislators in spending our highway funds on other projects. To counter their pilfering, they created a new federal program that grants cities $848 million aimed at discouraging people from driving, and in many cases by imposing new tolls or fees. Some in Congress also wanted to raise federal gas taxes, but President Bush quashed that bad idea. Thus far Texas legislators have also rejected a gas tax increase, but they embraced both toll/tax roads and public-private partnership funding.

When Texas taxpayers learned about Cintra, a foreign company public-private partnership, they were outraged. As a result, the legislature passed a moratorium on the public-private partnership scheme to build the Trans-Texas Corridor (TTC), the Texas segment of the NAFTA Highway that bisects the entire country from Laredo, TX to Duluth, MN.

Regretfully, Governor Rick Perry vetoed not only the moratorium, but also a law to require our Attorney General to study the impact of federal laws on our state and a good eminent domain bill aimed at protecting farmers and ranchers from the unfair taking of 580,000 acres to build the 12-lane TTC super-highway.

The unconstitutional NAFTA treaty and unilateral SPP agreement are undermining our nation’s sovereignty and security. In order for America to remain strong, we must be able to:

• Produce our own food;
• Manufacture our own military equipment; and
• Prevent foreign powers from obtaining access to our heartland.

Americans know that our roads have become busier, but few recognize that most of that traffic is due to the fact that we are importing goods that we used to manufacture. Even fewer are aware that as much as 60% of our food is now being imported or that much of our military equipment manufacturing has moved offshore. Yet federal and state lawmakers seem more committed to enabling elitist global interests, than fulfilling their constitutional responsibility to protect citizens from outside threats.

Each state should study the impact of NAFTA and the SPP within its borders, which would rightly lead to the repeal of both.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: It has taken more than a decade to realize the impact of the NAFTA “architecture of a new international system.” It cannot be repealed outright, but as citizens realize the source of the chaos in our communities, then they will influence their Congressmen as we have done with our state legislators in Texas. As for the SPP, ask your Congressman to co-sponsor HR 40 that would require discussion and debate of the president’s unilateral agreement. Congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121.

Looking ahead to the 2009 Texas legislative session, let us ask our representatives to pass another eminent domain bill to protect property owners from unfair takings and another bill to require the Attorney General Abbott to study the impact of federal laws, i.e. NAFTA and the SPP, on our state. Capitol switchboard: 512-463-4630.

SPP summit opens amid protests

Bush Seeks Neighborly Agenda
By DEB RIECHMANN
August 20, 2007

MONTEBELLO, Canada (AP)
- President Bush and the leaders of Mexico and Canada worked Monday to craft a plan to secure their borders in the event of a terrorist strike or other emergency without creating traffic tie-ups that slowed commerce at crossings after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper want their homeland security experts to figure out the best way to protect citizens in an emergency, perhaps an outbreak of avian flu, without snarling business among the trading partners.

More broadly, the goal of the North American summit was to seek middle ground on shared concerns about the border and a host of other issues ranging from energy to trade, food safety to immigration. The three-way meeting at a highly secured red cedar chateau along the banks of the Ottawa River focused on administrative and regulatory issues, not sweeping legislative proposals for North America.

Few, if any, formal announcements were expected. The meeting served to address thorny problems between the U.S. and its neighbors to the North and South and bolster a compact - dubbed the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America - that serves as a way for the nations to team up on health, security and commerce.

Several hundred demonstrators protested on issues such as the war in Iraq, human rights and integration of North America. One carried a banner that said: "Say No To Americanada."

Calderon and Harper both want tight relations with Bush, yet don't want to be seen as proteges of the unpopular president or leave the impression that the U.S. is encroaching on their sovereignty.

To that end, Harper is asserting his nation's claim to the Northwest Passage through the Arctic.

The race to secure subsurface rights to the Arctic seabed heated up when Russia sent two small submarines to plant a tiny national flag under the North Pole. The United States and Norway also have competing claims in the vast Arctic region, where a U.S. study suggests as much as 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas could be hidden.

Canada believes much of the North American side of the Arctic is Canada's, but the United States says that the thawing Northwest Passage is part of international waters.

"We look at the Northwest Passage as an international waterway, and want the international transit rights to be respected there," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. "But certainly President Bush will listen to what Prime Minister Harper has to say."

Harper also plans to raise concerns about new passport requirements for travelers, longtime U.S. restrictions on Canadian softwood lumber exports and the war in Afghanistan.

Harper has said Canada's military mission in Afghanistan will not be extended beyond 2009 without a consensus in the country and the Parliament. Canada has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, fighting against the Taliban in the violet southern parts of the nation. Other countries, such as Germany ad Italy, restrict the use of their forces to more peaceful areas in the north.

With Hurricane Dean bearing down on Mexico, Calderon might have to cut his meetings short with Bush and Calderon. This is his first meeting with Bush since the U.S. immigration legislation died in the Senate. Calderon has called that a "grave error" and also is rankled by the Bush administration's newly announced crackdown on employers who use illegal immigrants.

It's unclear whether the United States will use the summit to announce a major new aid plan to help Mexico fight violent drug trafficking. U.S. anti-drug officials have been impressed with Caldron's crackdown on drug traffickers since he took office.

But Calderon has repeatedly pushed the U.S. to take more responsibility in fighting the two countries' common drug problem, including doing more to stop the flow of illegal U.S. arms into Mexico and trying to combat the demand for drugs north of the border. The issue of U.S. aid is a sensitive subject among Mexicans wary that U.S. help could lead to interventions that violate Mexican sovereignty.

Bush stepped off Air Force One and onto a red carpet at an airport in Ottawa where he was greeted by a bagpiper and a ceremonial honor guard dressed in red jackets and tall, black fur hats. Bush flew to the resort on the Marine One presidential helicopter, which landed in a grassy clearing along the water.

A few hundred protesters amassed at the gate of the resort. Police in riot gear used tear gas to hold back about 50 of them, who responded by flinging rocks, branches and plastic bottles. A line of police in riot gear jostled with about 50 demonstrators. A few hundred marched on the front gate of the summit compound shouting taunts.

"I've heard it's nothing," Harper said, dismissing the protests as Bush arrived at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello. "A couple hundred? It's sad."

Toll rate increases in Dallas, Houston...let the gouging begin!

Surprise, surprise, while it literally takes an Act of Congress to raise the gasoline tax, it only takes a whim of politicians to raise your toll taxes. Whether it's a public or private toll contract, they're gonna raid your wallet, quite handsomely. With TxDOT's trumped up studies insisting the government can a should charge more because their "surveys" have shown people would pay more to drive the toll roads, what do you expect? There is no longer any incentive to keep toll taxes as low as possible. Just like appraisal creep on your property taxes, tolls will start to increase annually at staggering rates. Why? Just because they can.
Link to article in Dallas Morning News here.

Tollway rates to increase in Sept.
Friday, August 17, 2007
By MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER / The Dallas Morning News
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Driving without a toll tag is going to get more expensive for NTTA motorists beginning Sept. 29.

Also Online
Link: Learn more about the new toll rates

Rates vary across the Dallas area, but beginning next month, customers with a tag will pay a dime more than they do now at main lane plazas, while cash customers will pay a quarter more.

“Now is the time to get one,” said Rick Herrington of the NTTA. “Cash customers will pay 40 percent more than toll tag customers.”


The rate increase, which was approved by the NTTA board in November, comes just as the authority has begun a three-year transition to all-electronic toll collections.

More rate increases are likely, as local elected officials who set regional transportation policy have been urging the NTTA to adopt a more aggressive toll rate policy. The new State Highway 121 toll road, for instance, will open in 2010 with rates set about 14 cents a mile, and will increase every two years. The Regional Transportation Council has encouraged the NTTA to consider adopting that policy for all or most of its toll roads.

Despite the Sept. 29 increase, rates for the Mountain Creek Lake Bridge and the Addison Airport Toll Tunnel will stay at 50 cents.

__________________________________

The Harris County Toll Authority actually explains how one's tolls are stealing from you to pay for improvements elsewhere, while your fellow citizens who don't pay the tolls get road improvements courtesy of your wallet! Tolls are the most unfair distribution of taxes, stealing from Peter to pay Paul, Robin Hood, graft...you pick the term, but you get the idea, all under the guise of your tax dollars at work! View the Harris County Toll Authority web site for the news here.


August 10, 2007
Small increase. Big improvements. Coming soon.
Don't Forget: The 25¢ Rate Increase Takes Effect September 3, 2007


New Rates for Standard Two-Axle Vehicles
A detailed rate chart is available here (PDF files - 18.1KB), and an updated rate map will be available August 20, 2007, on www.hctra.org. Below is a summary of the rate changes for standard (two-axle) vehicles.

For the most part, the increases are 25¢ system-wide, but there are some exceptions. For example, entrance and exit ramps currently tolled at $1 will remain unchanged for standard (two-axle) vehicles. In addition, the Ship Channel Bridge rates will remain unchanged in order to bring mainlane toll rates and the Ship Channel Bridge toll rates closer to equal.

September 07 Toll Rate Increase Summary

2007 Toll Increase: The Facts

The Harris County Toll Road Authority is responsible for getting hundreds of thousands of drivers where they need to go each day-quickly and safely. Unfortunately, current tolls no longer provide the funds required to keep our toll roads in top shape and expand the system to meet the future mobility needs of our region. This is why Harris County Commissioners Court approved a system-wide 25¢ toll rate increase, effective September 3, 2007.

This increase represents only the third such increase in the Harris County Toll Road Authority's 20-year history, a testament to HCTRA's reputation as one of the most cost-effective, well-run systems in the nation.

What Your Tolls Pay For

Tolls collected on HCTRA roadways are used to fund maintenance and upkeep of the existing toll roads and to meet future expansion needs-without using tax dollars. All revenue generated from tolls is used to finance six major categories: operations, maintenance, construction projects, connectivity, debt service, and future projects.

In 2006, over 50 percent of toll revenue went toward maintenance, construction and connectivity projects, as well as new initiatives designed to enhance the future mobility of our region. Here's a preview of what's ahead at HCTRA to keep you up to speed:

Recent or Ongoing Enhancements/Capacity Improvements

South Sam Houston Tollway widening ($140 million)
West Sam Houston Tollway widening from White Oak Bayou to east of West Road ($9.1 million)
Sam Houston exit to SH 249: additional EZ TAG lane ($2.1 million)
Hardy Toll Road pavement reconstruction and widening ($21.6 million)
Westpark Tollway Dynamic Message Signs ($2 million)

Proposed Future Enhancements/Capacity Improvements

Continued conversion of cash and coin lanes to EZ TAG lanes
Additional electronic signage to better communicate in real-time with drivers
Real-time traffic cameras to facilitate better traffic management, faster response, and safer roads
Expansion of the Sam Houston widening between Gessner and West Road
Addition of two lanes to West Sam Houston Tollway, north of Briar Forest
Direct connector southbound SH 249 to westbound Sam Houston Tollway

New Projects

Thanks to legislation recently enacted by the Texas Legislature, HCTRA has the go-ahead to move forward on $4.5 billion in planned route expansions, some of which have been on hold for several years. These proposed mobility-enhancing new projects include:

Beltway 8 Northeast
Hardy Extension into downtown
Hempstead Highway (US 290) Managed Lanes
SH 288 Managed Lanes
Fairmont Parkway
Fort Bend Extension to 610

Congress tells Bush: Back off SPP agenda!

Link to article here.

Congress tells Bush: Back off SPP agenda
Lawmakers' letter warns 'stealth' effort to 'harmonize' could undermine security
By Jerome R. Corsi
World Net Daily
August 17, 2007

Twenty-two members of the U.S. House of Representatives – 21 Republicans and a Democrat – are urging President Bush to back off his North American integration efforts when he attends the third summit meeting on the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America next week in Montebello, Quebec.
They make it clear that continuing any such agenda at this point would be disregarding growing apprehension in Congress about the plans.

"As you travel to Montebello, Canada later this month for a summit with your Canadian and Mexican counterparts, we want you to be aware of serious and growing concerns in the U.S. Congress about the so-called Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) you launched with these nations in 2005," the letter said.
While the letter authors express their support for the president's "desire to promote good relations with our neighbors to the north and south," they are worried about the secretive manner in which SPP is being conducted and concerned it "may actually undermine our security and sovereignty."


"For instance," the letter said, "measures that would make it easier to move goods and people across borders could have the effect of further weakening this country's ability to secure its frontiers and prevent illegal immigration."

The letter also cited documents obtained by Judicial Watch in a Freedom of Information Act Request that suggest, "Such secretiveness seems not to be accidental."

WND was among the first news organizations to obtain and publish the agenda and the list of attendees for a secret North American Forum meeting held at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta, Canada, from September 12-14, 2006. The meeting was closed to the press and the documents obtained by WND were marked "Internal Document, Not for Public Release."


President Bush with then-Mexico President Vicente Fox, left, and then-Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin in March 2005 at the inaugural summit of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (White House photo)
Judicial Watch also used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain a set of notes from the Pentagon attendees at the secret Banff meeting.

One particularly disturbing comment was noted in the official conference record of the speeches given, as recorded in the "Rapporteur Notes" obtained by the Judicial Watch FOIA request. In Section VI of the conference, entitled "Border Infrastructure and Continental Prosperity," the reporter summarized as follows:

To what degree does the concept of North America help/hinder solving problems between the three countries?

Vision is helpful
A secure perimeter would bring enormous benefit
While a vision is appealing working on the infrastructure might yield more benefit and bring more people on board ("evolution by stealth")
Reflecting on those perceptions, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, "It is not encouraging to see the phrase 'evolution by stealth' in reference to important policy debates such as North American integration and cooperation. These documents provide more information to Americans concerned about the Security and Prosperity Partnership. The more transparency the better."

The members also noted in their letter the amendment added by Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., to the transportation funding bill.

As WND reported, Hunter successfully offered an amendment to H.R.3074, the Transportation Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2008, prohibiting the use of federal funds to participate in SPP-related working group meetings in the future.

The members noted in their letter that, "This vote is an indication of the serious concerns felt by those of us in Congress and by our constituents about this initiative – concerns that will only be intensified if pursuit of the SPP continues out of public view and without congressional oversight or approval."

The last paragraph of the letter called upon the president "not to pledge or agree to any further movement in connection with the SPP at the upcoming North American summit."

The letter concluded that, "in the interest of transparency and accountability, we urge you to bring to the Congress whatever provisions have already been agreed upon and those now being pursued or contemplated as part of this initiative, for the purpose of obtaining authorization through the normal legislative process."

Signatories to the letter included the following members of the House of Representatives:

Rep. Terry Everett, R-Alabama
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California
Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas
Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kansas
Rep. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina
Rep. David Davis, R-Tenn.
Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Georgia
Rep. John Boozman, R-Arkansas
Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn.
Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Virginia
Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Florida
Rep. Sue Myrick, R-North Carolina
Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Alabama
Rep. Gary Miller, R-Calif.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa
Rep. Greg Walden, R-Oregon
Rep. Michael Rogers, R-Alabama
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Michigan
Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama
Rep. Todd Akin, R-Missouri

Perry denies TTC part of push for North American Union

Link to article here.

Read Jerry Corsi's book, The Late Great USA, the Coming merger with Mexico and Canada, to see the irrefutable evidence for yourself. Search this web site for SPP, NAFTA Superhighway, or North American Union to connect the dots. Anyone who believes the Governor over ordinary citizens and documents available from our own government needs their head examined.

Remember Perry is pushing the Trans Texas Corridor (against his own Party's platform) to such a degree that he vetoed a bill that would have protected landowners from their land being taken and given to private interests for private gain, HB 2006, he vetoed the people's moratorium bill on privatized toll roads, HB 1892, and his ex-aide worked for the company awarded the bid to build the Trans Texas Corridor before and after working for the Governor. He barely won re-election running on strong border security, and, in less than a month after he won, flip-flopped and came out for open borders and a guest worker program. Perry's not looking out for you, and his word is for sale to the highest bidder just like our highways. While politicians and reporters are busy trying to marginalize watchdogs, our government is laying the groundwork for deep integration with Canada and Mexico through the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). Since 19 state legislatures have passed resolutions against it, it's getting tougher for Perry and his crowd to make the "conspiracy theory" charge stick.

Perry's push for super highway raises conspiracy buzz
Some say it's part of a plan to create one nation in North America
By R.G. RATCLIFFE
Aug. 18, 2007
Houston Chronicle

AUSTIN — Black helicopters, the Illuminati, Gov. Rick Perry and the Trans-Texas Corridor are all now part of the vernacular of the global domination conspiracy theorists.

Perry's push for the Trans-Texas Corridor super highway is part of a secret plan, the conspiracy theorists say, to create the North American Union — a single nation consisting of Canada, Mexico and the United States with a currency called the Amero.

Government denials of the North American Union and descriptions of it as a myth seem to add fuel to the fire. A Google search for "North American Union" and "Rick Perry" returns about 13,400 Web page results.

"Conspiracy theories abound, and some people have an awful lot of time on their hands to come up with such far-fetched notions," said Perry spokesman Robert Black.


Perry enhanced the conspiracy buzz earlier this summer by traveling to Turkey to attend the secretive Bilderberg conference, which conspiracy theorists believe is a cabal of international monied interests and power brokers pressing for globalization.

And the conspiracy rhetoric is likely to ratchet up this week as President Bush meets with Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Quebec in their third summit to discuss North American relations under the Security and Prosperity Partnership.

"There is absolutely a connection with all of it," said Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams. The Trans-Texas Corridor "is something not being driven by the people of Texas."

The first, and most controversial, leg of the Trans-Texas Corridor plan is a proposed 1,200-foot-wide private toll road to run from Laredo to the Oklahoma border parallel to Interstate 35. This TTC-35 would be built by a consortium headed by Spanish owned Cintra S.A. and Zachry Construction Corp. of San Antonio.

The seed of the North American Union controversy rests in the 1992-93 passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Under that treaty, Interstate 35 was designated informally as the NAFTA highway.

'Stealth' attempt

Fast-forward to March 2005 to Crawford, when President Bush, Harper and then-Mexican President Vicente Fox agreed to pursue the Security and Prosperity Partnership, SPP. The idea was to promote cooperation among the countries on economic and security issues.But conservative author Jerome Corsi — in his new book: The Late Great U.S.A.: The Coming Merger with Mexico and Canada — argues the SPP is a "stealth" attempt to wipe out the nations' borders and form a single economy like the European Union.

With an entire chapter dedicated to Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor plan, Corsi says the first step to integrating the economies is to integrate the transportation infrastructure.

"His (Perry's) actions have been to fight hard to build this toll road and not listen to the objections expressed by the people of Texas," Corsi said.

Corsi became nationally known in 2004 as the co-author of Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry. Corsi said extensive research shows the SPP has created working groups on the North American Union that answer to presidential Cabinet secretaries.

"This is more of a shadow bureaucracy, a shadow government already in effect," Corsi said. "Unless it is stopped, it will turn into a North American Union with an Amero."

The official federal Web site for the SPP has a section dedicated to busting the North American Union as myth.

"The SPP does not attempt to modify our sovereignty or currency or change the American system of government designed by our Founding Fathers," the site says.

But that has not stopped a growing opposition to the North American Union by groups such as the Eagle Forum, The Conservative Caucus and the John Birch Society.

'Wanted' individual

The North American Union also has been fodder for cable television commentators: CNN's Lou Dobbs and Fox's Bill O'Reilly.Perry fueled his role in the debate in June by attending the Bilderberg annual conference, a secretive closed-door meeting of about 120 business, government and media leaders from Europe and North America.

Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Lake Jackson was asked about the trip on the syndicated talk radio show of Alex Jones in June. Paul said the trip was "a sign that he's involved in the international conspiracy."

Jones' Web site features mug shot-like photos of Perry labeled "Wanted for Treason." Jones in an interview said Perry's trip and the Trans-Texas Corridor show a willingness by the governor to sell out Texas' infrastructure to international bankers.

"Perry is actively waging war, economically in the interests of the elites and neomercantilism," Jones said.

The 2001 book Toward a North American Community: Lessons from the Old World for the New by Robert A. Pastor, an American University professor and director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management, is cited by Corsi as the blueprint for the merger.

"I've never proposed a North American Union," Pastor said. "The only people who talk about a North American Union are those people who are trying to generate fear."

Belief in sovereignty

Pastor said greater cooperation between the three countries makes sense for both economics and internal security.Pastor said those promoting the conspiracy are doing so because of "historical xenophobia," "a fear of immigrants, mostly from Mexico" and a "traditional isolationism."

Black said there is no way the governor would support merging the U.S. with its neighbors.

"The governor is a firm believer in the sovereignty of the United States. Too many of our brave men and women have died defending it," Black said.

Left, right unite to protest SPP summit in Quebec

Link to story here.

Left, right unite to protest Quebec summit
By Julie Smyth
National Post
Friday, August 17, 2007

OTTAWA -- The far right and far left will find common ground next week as representatives from both political spectrums protest the summit between Canadian, American and Mexican leaders in Montebello, Que.

An ultra-conservative U.S. group calling itself the Coalition to Block the North American Union, made up of politicians and activists, as well as singer Pat Boone, will hold a news conference in Ottawa on Monday to oppose the two-day Security and Prosperity Partnership meeting of U.S. President George Bush, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico.

Members of the group also plan on going to the meeting to voice their concerns about what they deem secretive talks. They tried, unsuccessfully, to book rooms at the high-end resort hotel where the meeting is being held under intense security. They will go along in an attempt to engage anyone in discussion about their opposition to the leaders, all of whom share conservative values. The group is to the political right of Mr. Bush.

The coalition will make strange bedfellows with others protesting the summit, including the Green party and the People's Global Action Bloc, an activist organization that rejects capitalism and all trade agreements.

Howard Phillips, chairman of the U.S. coalition, said in an interview Friday that he will not engage in any violent protests or street demonstrations but is travelling to Canada to find others interested in his cause. He is upset he will not have access to the meeting or the hotel -- all protesters will be kept away from the building and grounds but the demonstrations will be videotaped and shown inside the summit meeting.

Mr. Phillips' group is opposed to a North American union and was against the North American Free Trade Agreement. It is concerned these meetings and agreements detract from each of the country's ability to achieve national independence and self-determination, he said yesterday. Mr. Phillips, who runs a public policy action group called Conservative Caucus and once worked for government agencies during the Nixon administration, said his other complaint is the "secrecy" of the talks.

He said protesters with opposite political views to his own share his concerns about the loss of independence for countries -- and have for years -- and he welcomes them all to the battle against next week's discussions.

"We share many of the concerns that people on the liberal side have on NAFTA, WTO, etc.," he said in a telephone interview.

In a press release to be released on Monday, he states: "Our message is, 'President Bush, President Calderon, Prime Minister Harper, tear down the wall of silence and let the people see what you are scheming to do.' Behind closed doors, step by step, the leaders of Mexico, Canada, and the United States are setting the stage for, first, a North American Community and, ultimately, a North American Union [NAU], in which new transnational bodies would gain authority over our economy, our judiciary, and our lawmaking institutions ... Our message is similar to the one which Ronald Reagan delivered to Mikhail Gorbachev when he said, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.' "

On Monday and Tuesday, the three leaders will be discussing issues around security and the economy, as well as timely matters such as the mass import of products from China following the recent toy recalls. This is an annual summit that began two years ago in Texas. The impetus was to expand NAFTA but that has become less of a focus following public opposition and protests.

Mr. Phillips' coalition is made up of about 100 U.S. politicians and conservative public policy advocates. Tom DeWeese, president of the American Policy Center and John McManus, president of the John Birch Society, will be at the Ottawa press conference and Congressman Virgil Goode, Jr., the chief sponsor of House Concurrent Resolution 40, which opposes the North American union and "NAFTA Superhighway," will participate through video conference.

Crooner Pat Boone, as well as U.S. Congressmen Ron Paul and Walter Jones will be issuing statements of protest.

Florida Congressman worries about transportation funding, wants tolls & to hike gas taxes

Florida congressman pushes transportation infrastructure plan
By PAUL J. WEBER
Associated Press
Wednesday, August 8, 2007

IRVING, TEXAS — The top Republican on the House Transportation Committee continued pushing a national infrastructure plan Wednesday that would seek to address more than just aging bridges like the one that collapsed in Minnesota last week.

Rep. John Mica said his plan attacked a larger problem than the bridge-specific proposal made Wednesday by Rep. Jim Oberstar, who wants to create a trust fund for structurally deficient spans on the National Highway System.

Oberstar, D-Minn., is chairman of the House committee that includes Mica and is expected to hold a hearing on structurally deficient bridges when Congress returns from recess next month.

“That’s sort of like me coming to you and saying I have an 80-year-old house, the roof is leaking, the plumbing is decrepit and the floors are caving in,” Mica said. “But what I’m going to do is make some repairs on the driveway and everything will be OK.”

Speaking at the Texas Transportation Summit, Mica said last week’s Minnesota bridge collapse that killed at least five people and injured about 100 should result in more than the typical “knee-jerk” reactions from lawmakers.

Mica is pushing for what the Florida lawmaker calls a national strategic transportation infrastructure plan, in which Congress would definitively answer questions like the federal government’s role in infrastructure maintenance and create a solution to transportation financing.

Mica characterized the federal gasoline tax that pays for building and repairing roads and bridges as “becoming obsolete” in an outline of his plan. He said that while Congress may need to look at the indexing, the rising number of cars using alternative fuels means that an increasing number of drivers won’t be paying the tax.

“The solution is not just raising gas taxes,” Mica said. “There’s a much more fundamental need for correcting the whole way in which we finance the system.”

Mica said he would like to have his plan in place by September 2009.

Under Oberstar’s proposal, the trust fund would be modeled on the federal Highway Trust Fund, which pays for building and repairing roads and bridges through a gasoline tax. Money in the new trust fund could not be used for any other purpose.

The proposal would require that the U.S. Department of Transportation come up with a formula for distributing funds based on public safety and need, banning congressional and executive branch earmarks.

Across the country, more than 70,000 bridges are rated structurally deficient, including the bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis. Repairing them all would cost more than $188 billion, engineers estimate.

© 2007 Naples Daily News and NDN Productions. Published in Naples, Florida, USA by the E.W. Scripps Co.

Dems candidates want to re-think "free trade" & outsourcing American jobs

Considering the Trans Texas Corridor has also been called the NAFTA Superhighway and its purpose is to serve as a trade corridor that takes jobs away from American workers at our ports and gives them to Mexico, this discussion about scrapping NAFTA and re-thinking so called "free trade" is important. Republican candidates are now being hounded about this issue as well. Read about it here.

Democratic Candidates Make Their Pitch to Union Workers
By Matt Purple
CNSNews.com Correspondent
August 09, 2007

(CNSNews.com) - Following the Democrats' latest pitch to organized labor -- a Tuesday-night debate in Chicago sponsored by the AFL-CIO -- Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean reaffirmed his party's commitment "to stand with America's hard-working families."

"From expanding health care coverage, to protecting the right of America's workers to organize and be a part of a union, to ensuring that workers have a secure retirement, to strengthening our economy and creating jobs at home, Democrats understand the challenges facing workers in our country," Dean said in a statement.

Dean ticked off what he views as the recent accomplishments of congressional Democrats: a minimum-wage hike, college affordability, and expanded health care for children.

But more needs to be done, he said - and that includes passing the Employee Free Choice Act, "to make sure that the right of workers to organize and start unions without fear of harassment or intimidation is protected. A Democratic president will continue this fight so that everyone can achieve the American Dream," Dean said.

On its Web site, the AFL-CIO said the winner of the Democratic debate was "working families." (The union has not endorsed a presidential candidate.)

And clearly, the candidates' responses were intended to impress the debate's hardhat audience.

During the debate - broadcast on MSNBC -- the Democrats advocated universal health care and pension reform; recommended either reforming or scrapping the North American Free Trade Agreement; and denounced the political influence of lobbyists and corporations.

In particular, the candidates attempted to use the recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis as a springboard to discuss America's transportation networks.

"We have to make investments in infrastructure," Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) said. "This will create jobs" and "it's also part of homeland security."

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said the nation must readjust its spending priorities. This includes defunding and halting the war in Iraq, he said.

"That also will allow us to free up the kind of resources that will make us safer here at home because we'll be able to invest in port security, chemical plant security, all the critical issues," he said.

The Democrats also denounced corporations and Washington insiders as exploiters of workers and the lower class.

"We need to give the power in America back to you, back to the working men and women all across this country," said Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.).

The candidates tried to gain traction on trade by denouncing trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA, which are unpopular with American unions.

"I believe in smart trade," said Clinton. "I've said that for years." She advocates "pro-American trade," which she defined as "trade that has labor and environmental standards."

Clinton called for the creation of a special trade prosecutor and emphasized that she voted against CAFTA.

All the candidates advocated reforming and reexamining NAFTA, with the exception of Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) who wants to scrap the treaty. Kucinich also insisted that the United States pull out of the World Trade Organization.

The debate also produced an argument among some of the candidates over which one of them had walked the most picket lines.

Declining union influence

Before the MSNBC broadcast the Democrats' debate, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney gave a brief speech, praising the candidates for their hard work on behalf of American labor. He said his union is mounting the "biggest election effort ever."

"You can think of this AFL-CIO forum as one giant job interview, with workers doing the interviewing," Sweeney said. "It's workers who make our country great and it's workers who will make a difference in 2008."

But as U.S. industry evolves, the influence and relevance of unions may be simultaneously declining.

According to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, 12 percent of the national workforce belonged to labor unions in 2006, down from 12.9 percent in 2004. That number is down from the 35 percent of workers who were union members in the 1950s.

Union issues have gained little traction in recent years. International trade agreements such as NAFTA and CAFTA have been passed by both Republican and Democrat administrations, and union-supported initiatives, including a recent bill making it easier for workers to organize, have gone nowhere.

Additionally, labor unions' support for oil drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has yielded little result, mainly due to Democrats who denounced the initiative on environmental grounds. ANWR was not mentioned in Tuesday's debate.

Regardless of their influence, unions such as the AFL-CIO have deep pockets. Unions spent $66 million on the 2006 midterm elections, most of it going to liberal Democratic candidates.

SPP summit fuels backlash

Upcoming Meeting Fuels 'North American Union' Fears
By Nathan Burchfiel
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
August 15, 2007

(CNSNews.com) - An upcoming meeting among President Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon is raising concerns on both sides of the northern border and the political aisle over sovereignty, immigration, natural resources and corporate influence over government.

The Aug. 20-21 meeting is the fourth in a series of meetings among the leaders of the three countries as part of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), a "trilateral effort to increase security and enhance prosperity ... through greater cooperation and information sharing." The first meeting took place in 2005 in Waco, Texas.

A lack of transparency and openness about what occurs at the meetings, however, has led skeptics from both sides of the political aisle to question the SPP's goals and possible outcomes.

Many opponents in the United States raise concerns about forfeiting U.S. sovereignty to the other governments -- especially Mexico -- in regard to immigration and labor policies. Opponents in Canada, as well as some liberals in the U.S., worry the United States is making a power play for control of Mexican and Canadian resources.

The SPP is "quite literally about eliminating Canada's ability to set independent regulatory standards, environmental protection, energy security, foreign, military, immigration and a frighteningly wide range of other policies," according to the Council of Canadians, an anti-SPP group.

In a fundraising letter Monday, Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow wrote that "the decisions that Harper, Bush and Calderon make on Aug. 20 and 21 will affect the food we eat, the air we breathe and the human rights and civil liberties we enjoy."

"The SPP's objectives include removing barriers and securing access to Mexican and Canadian natural resources," Dana Gabriel, author of the blog New World Order Must Be Stopped, wrote in a column opposing the SPP. "This will lead to the further corporate takeover of our resources, with more control of our oil and gas reserves in the hands of U.S. corporations."

Stephen Lendmen, a self-described "progressive" activist from Chicago, in July described the SPP as "a corporate coup d'etat against the sovereignty of three nations enforced by a common hard line security strategy already in play separately in each country."

"It's a scheme to create a borderless North American Union under U.S. control without barriers to trade and capital flows for corporate gains, mainly U.S. ones," Lendmen wrote.

While Lendmen's complaints center on a perceived corporate effort to gain control of resources, he also touched on the main concern for conservative opponents within the United States: the creation of a "North American Union" where each country must get approval from the other two to enact policies normally subject to individual sovereignty.

Some opponents openly refer to their concerns as a "conspiracy theory." The Web site "Stop the NAU" states that "this 'conspiracy' is transpiring between top U.S., Canadian and Mexican officials, the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Homeland Security and the media who are keeping these plans out of the public spotlight."

The group's primary concerns involve American national sovereignty, open borders, immigration policies, the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs and increases in foreign aid to Mexico.

"It is incredible, but just three years from now ... the United States may cease to exist as an independent political entity," the Web site states. "Its laws, rules and regulations -- including all freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution -- will be subject to review and nullification by the North American Union's governing body."

Supporters of the SPP and the group itself, through the American government's Web site about the partnership, deny that groundwork is being laid for a North American Union. But a lack of available information about what takes place at the meetings fuels those fears.

The SPP "does not change our courts or legislative processes and respects the sovereignty of the United States, Mexico and Canada," according to spp.gov. "The SPP in no way, shape or form considers the creation of a European Union-like structure or a common currency."

"It builds on efforts to protect our environment, improves our ability to combat infectious disease ... and ensures our food supply is safe through the exchange of information and cooperation -- improving the quality of life for U.S. citizens," the Web site states. "Americans enjoy world-class living standards because we are engaged with the world."

Robert Pastor, an American University professor who has been at the forefront of calling for the establishment of a "North American community," said in a panel discussion Monday that the leaders of the three nations ought to be more open about what's going on.

Criticizing the "secretive, bureaucratic implemental process," Pastor called for a new approach to cooperation because the SPP is "clearly inadequate to the tasks that lay in front of them." He predicted the Montebello meeting will amount to little more than a "photo opportunity."

"What should come is a very different approach than SPP," Pastor said during the discussion at the conservative Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C. "It's one that invites a public debate in all three countries about the future of our relationship."

He said that if the people were really to be heard, a majority of the public would support what the SPP is trying to accomplish.

"The silent majority ... is out there wanting some leadership by our president," Pastor said, adding that "such leadership would find resonance in our country and hopefully might quell some of the loud screaming that's going on against working with our neighbors."

China to install sensors along NAFTA highway

China to install sensors along NAFTA highway
Documents reveal NASCO plan to militarize I-35


By Jerome R. Corsi
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com
August 18, 2007

Radio sensing stations to track traffic and cargo up and down the I-35 NAFTA Superhighway corridor are being installed by Communist China, operating through a port operator subsidiary of Hutchison Whampoa, in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and the North America's SuperCorridor Coalition, Inc.

The idea is that RFID chips placed in containers where manufactured goods are shipped from China will be able to be tracked to the Mexican ports on the Pacific where the containers are unloaded onto Mexican trucks and trains for transportation on the I-35 NAFTA Superhighway to destinations within the United States.

NASCO, a trade association based in Dallas, Texas, has teamed with Lockheed Martin to use RFID tracking technology Lockheed Martin developed for the U.S. Department of Defense's projects in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as at U.S. military stations throughout the world.

China has a central position in applying the RFID technology on I-35, given Hutchinson Port Holdings' 49 percent ownership of Savi Networks, the Lockheed Martin subsidiary that will get the job of placing the sensors all up and down the NAFTA Superhighway.


Nathan Hansen, a Minnesota attorney, has archived on his blog a series of NASCO documents obtained under a Minnesota Data Practices Act.

Among these documents released by Hansen is a Letter of Intent between NASCO and Savi Networks which details how NASCO and Lockheed Martin intend to implement NAFTRACS.

The letter calls for Savi Networks to establish RFID sensors along the I-35 NAFTA trade corridor, with tracking designed to begin at Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas, and include "inland points of data capture" positioned at Laredo, San Antonio, Dallas, Kansas City, the Ambassador Bridge, and Winnipeg.

Data captured by the RFID sensors would be sent to a data collection center that NASCO has named "The Center of Excellence."

The Center of Excellence data collection center will be integrated into Lockheed Martin's militarized Global Transport Network Command and Control Center that is installed and operating at the Lockheed Martin Center for Innovation or "Lighthouse" facility in Suffolk, Virginia.

Lockheed Martin's GTN was developed for the U.S. Department of Defense as an electronic system used to support supply shipments and defense logistics to U.S. armed forces deployed worldwide.

GTN is operated by the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.

In releasing to the public the NASCO internal documents, Hansen characterized NASCO's Total Domain Awareness as "an Orwellian nightmare," commenting that, "At least Orwell's tyrants had the dignity to be creative with the names of their various maniacal bureaucracies."

NASCO documents describe Total Domain Awareness as the ability to "automatically gather, correlate, and interpret fragments of multi-source data," including data received from radar, Automatic Identification System shipboard radar, Global Positioning System, open source data including weather reports, military intelligence data, law enforcement data, bioterrorism data, plus video surveillance and security cameras.

Hansen comments about the NASCO Total Awareness Domain that, "Truly, a major defense contractor tracking our every move here in our own country is undoubtedly a threat to our liberties."

As WND has previously reported, Hutchison Port Holdings owns 49 percent of Savi Networks, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin's wholly-owned subsidiary Savi Technology.

A contract signed with NASCO authorizes Savi Networks to place a system of RFID sensors along the entire length of I-35 to track RFID equipped containers which travel the I-35 NAFTA Superhighway, including those Chinese containers that enter the continent through the Mexican ports of Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas.

The Federal Highway Administration website is currently archiving a slide show presentation by Tiffany Melvin, NASCO’s executive director, containing a discussion of the North American Facilitation of Transportation, Trade, Reduced Congestion and Security, designed to track containers along I-35 with Savi RFID technology and to provide the information to "various federal and state DOT (Department of Transportation) participants."

Hutchison Ports Holding operates the ports at Manzanillo and Lázaro Cárdenas, as well as both ends of the Panama Canal.

Savi Technology spokesmen refused to return WND calls after messages were left at the company for three consecutive days.

Government abuse of travel info collected already afoot in China

For those that think an electronic toll collection system sounds hassle-free, take a gander at how government and/or the private companies government hires to collect tolls can and will abuse your personal information. Granted, this article involves Communist China, but we have already highlighted how the first steps of abuse are already happening (also read here) on our own shores. While an EZ Pass toll tag is sold as the silver bullet to toll booth delays, think about where the government government starts and stops and how the push to a surveillance society invades your privacy at best, and can be abused by government at worst.

China Enacting a High-Tech Plan to Track People

By KEITH BRADSHER
New York Times
August 12, 2007

SHENZHEN, China, Aug. 9 — At least 20,000 police surveillance cameras are being installed along streets here in southern China and will soon be guided by sophisticated computer software from an American-financed company to recognize automatically the faces of police suspects and detect unusual activity.Starting this month in a port neighborhood and then spreading across Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 million people, residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips programmed by the same company will be issued to most citizens.Data on the chip will include not just the citizen’s name and address but also work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status and landlord’s phone number. Even personal reproductive history will be included, for enforcement of China’s controversial “one child” policy. Plans are being studied to add credit histories, subway travel payments and small purchases charged to the card.
Security experts describe China’s plans as the world’s largest effort to meld cutting-edge computer technology with police work to track the activities of a population and fight crime. But they say the technology can be used to violate civil rights.


The Chinese government has ordered all large cities to apply technology to police work and to issue high-tech residency cards to 150 million people who have moved to a city but not yet acquired permanent residency.

Both steps are officially aimed at fighting crime and developing better controls on an increasingly mobile population, including the nearly 10 million peasants who move to big cities each year. But they could also help the Communist Party retain power by maintaining tight controls on an increasingly prosperous population at a time when street protests are becoming more common.

“If they do not get the permanent card, they cannot live here, they cannot get government benefits, and that is a way for the government to control the population in the future,” said Michael Lin, the vice president for investor relations at China Public Security Technology, the company providing the technology.

Incorporated in Florida, China Public Security has raised much of the money to develop its technology from two investment funds in Plano, Tex., Pinnacle Fund and Pinnacle China Fund. Three investment banks — Roth Capital Partners in Newport Beach, Calif.; Oppenheimer & Company in New York; and First Asia Finance Group of Hong Kong — helped raise the money.

Shenzhen, a computer manufacturing center next to Hong Kong, is the first Chinese city to introduce the new residency cards. It is also taking the lead in China in the large-scale use of law enforcement surveillance cameras — a tactic that would have drawn international criticism in the years after the Tiananmen Square killings in 1989.

But rising fears of terrorism have lessened public hostility to surveillance cameras in the West. This has been particularly true in Britain, where the police already install the cameras widely on lamp poles and in subway stations and are developing face recognition software as well.

New York police announced last month that they would install more than 100 security cameras to monitor license plates in Lower Manhattan by the end of the year. Police officials also said they hoped to obtain financing to establish links to 3,000 public and private cameras in the area by the end of next year; no decision has been made on whether face recognition technology has become reliable enough to use without the risk of false arrests.

Shenzhen already has 180,000 indoor and outdoor closed-circuit television cameras owned by businesses and government agencies, and the police will have the right to link them on request into the same system as the 20,000 police cameras, according to China Public Security.

Some civil rights activists contend that the cameras in China and Britain are a violation of the right of privacy contained in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Large-scale surveillance in China is more threatening than surveillance in Britain, they said when told of Shenzhen’s plans.

“I don’t think they are remotely comparable, and even in Britain it’s quite controversial,” said Dinah PoKempner, the general counsel of Human Rights Watch in New York. China has fewer limits on police power, fewer restrictions on how government agencies use the information they gather and fewer legal protections for those suspected of crime, she noted.

While most countries issue identity cards, and many gather a lot of information about citizens, China also appears poised to go much further in putting personal information on identity cards, Ms. PoKempner added.

Every police officer in Shenzhen now carries global positioning satellite equipment on his or her belt. This allows senior police officers to direct their movements on large, high-resolution maps of the city that China Public Security has produced using software that runs on the Microsoft Windows operating system.

“We have a very good relationship with U.S. companies like I.B.M., Cisco H.P., Dell,” said Robin Huang, the chief operating officer of China Public Security. “All of these U.S. companies work with us to build our system together.”

The role of American companies in helping Chinese security forces has periodically been controversial in the United States. Executives from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Cisco Systems testified in February 2006 at a Congressional hearing called to review whether they had deliberately designed their systems to help the Chinese state muzzle dissidents on the Internet; they denied having done so.

China Public Security proudly displays in its boardroom a certificate from I.B.M. labeling it as a partner. But Mr. Huang said that China Public Security had developed its own computer programs in China and that its suppliers had sent equipment that was not specially tailored for law enforcement purposes.

The company uses servers manufactured by Huawei Technologies of China for its own operations. But China Public Security needs to develop programs that run on I.B.M., Cisco and Hewlett-Packard servers because some Chinese police agencies have already bought these models, Mr. Huang said.

Mr. Lin said he had refrained from some transactions with the Chinese government because he is the chief executive of a company incorporated in the United States. “Of course our projects could be used by the military, but because it’s politically sensitive, I don’t want to do it,” he said.

Western security experts have suspected for several years that Chinese security agencies could track individuals based on the location of their cellphones, and the Shenzhen police tracking system confirms this.

When a police officer goes indoors and cannot receive a global positioning signal from satellites overhead, the system tracks the location of the officer’s cellphone, based on the three nearest cellphone towers. Mr. Huang used a real-time connection to local police dispatchers’ computers to show a detailed computer map of a Shenzhen district and the precise location of each of the 92 patrolling officers, represented by caricatures of officers in blue uniforms and the routes they had traveled in the last hour.

All Chinese citizens are required to carry national identity cards with very simple computer chips embedded, providing little more than the citizen’s name and date of birth. Since imperial times, a principal technique of social control has been for local government agencies to keep detailed records on every resident.

The system worked as long as most people spent their entire lives in their hometowns. But as ever more Chinese move in search of work, the system has eroded. This has made it easier for criminals and dissidents alike to hide from police, and it has raised questions about whether dissatisfied migrant workers could organize political protests without the knowledge of police.

Little more than a collection of duck and rice farms until the late 1970s, Shenzhen now has 10.55 million migrants from elsewhere in China, who will receive the new cards, and 1.87 million permanent residents, who will not receive cards because local agencies already have files on them. Shenzhen’s red-light districts have a nationwide reputation for murders and other crimes.

USDOT offers $354 mil in gas taxes to NYC if it implements "congestion tolling"

Talk about bribe money...for anyone who still thinks that the Bush Administration or federal government has no role in this push to toll tax everything that moves (in a double or triple tax on driving), feast your eyes on this story. The U.S Department of Transportation is offering up $354 million in "incentives" (ie - bribes) to New York City if they PUNISH motorists (with a DOUBLE TAX) for the unmitigated gall of entering the city limits during rush hour. So the Bush Administration is now paying local government to DOUBLE TAX TOLL its citizens. They claim there's no money to build roads, perhaps that's because they're too busy funneling gas taxes into toll roads instead of maintaining our aging infrastructure and an efficient freeway system!

So they're actually advocating TRIPLE TAXATION if those dollars are used to implement the toll roads (as Bloomberg says he plans to do)...the gas tax you paid for the existing non-toll road, the gas taxes used to implement tolls, and the toll you pay to use the road you now use toll-free. What government efficiency! You pay for something twice and then they charge you again to lease it back to you. More accurately, what a scam and public fleecing!

NYC gets $354 million for traffic-toll plan

BY ANN GIVENS AND JAMES T. MADORE

August 15, 2007

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's plan to reduce midtown traffic by collecting tolls from vehicles that travel to the city on weekdays got a major boost Tuesday, when the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it will pay $354 million to launch the plan.

Still, "congestion pricing" is hardly a done deal. The city won't get the money unless state legislators approve Bloomberg's plan or an alternative to it within 90 days of reconvening -- roughly by the end of March, DOT Secretary Mary Peters said at a news conference.


So far, all state lawmakers have agreed to do is appoint a commission to study the plan. That commission's recommendations, which are expected by Jan. 31, must then be brought back to the City Council and state legislature for final approval.

"This is a very significant piece of what we need to begin this process," said Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who answered questions on the DOT announcement alongside Bloomberg at an affordable housing news conference in the Bronx yesterday. "We feel great that we will get this done."

Spitzer and others said now that the federal money has come through, they expect to appoint the members of the 17-member commission soon.

The mayor's plan is to charge motorists $8 -- $21 for trucks -- to enter Manhattan below 86th Street on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Motorists within the zone also would have to pay to drive but the charges would be lower. He says it would be a way to reduce congestion and pollution while creating a steady source of money for mass transit improvements.

New York would be the first U.S. city to implement the plan, which is in place in London and Singapore.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), who has raised many questions about the mayor's plan, stressed that it hasn't been approved yet.

"My Assembly colleagues in and near New York City have heard concerns from their constituents as well. I believe it is essential that we consider these concerns," Silver said.

Some lawmakers from Long Island and the four boroughs outside Manhattan have said the plan will squeeze their constituents, many of whom commute into the city; stress public transportation; and cause parking problems outside the toll areas.

"If the City Council and state Legislature come up with a viable alternative to the mayor's plan, I believe Transportation Secretary Peters has an obligation to approve that plan," Silver added.

Bloomberg said he is open to new ideas.

"We're not married to any one plan; we're married to reducing congestion so the economy isn't hurt and so our air is better," Bloomberg said. "I'll junk my plan and take yours if it's better."

The $354 million, which Bloomberg said he will use to pay for the plan's start-up costs, is about $150 million less than the city had asked for, but about $150 million more than the amount the legislature set as a minimum for the state commission to proceed.

Peters said the legislature's bickering about the plan -- and failure to meet a July 16 deadline to approve it -- was not the reason the city didn't get the full $536 million it requested. New York was among nine finalists for $1.1 billion in federal funds being awarded to combat urban congestion.

The DOT money would help buy buses and set up express routes, park-and-ride facilities, ferries, and cameras and electronic toll collectors to track vehicles entering Manhattan, Bloomberg said.

Imported goods from China, the reason for trade corridor, threat to health and sovereignty

Link to article here.

The primary reason for the Trans Texas Corridor, or NAFTA Superhighway, is to facilitate the free flow of goods from China into the United States. Just reading the headlines of late, consumers not only need to be wary of Chinese goods, they ought to question why U.S. taxpayers (through federally backed loans) and Texans (through gas taxes) are footing the bill to import DANGEROUS and even life-threatening cheap goods into our country. Wonder why Chinese goods are so cheap? They lace them with melamine, anti-freeze, and lead paint. Their standards cannot come close to U.S. standards. It's well past time to re-think free trade.

Recalls are just plain bad business
By Meena Thiruvengadam
Express-News Business Writer
08/15/2007

A "Made in China" label used to be the sign of a bargain.

That was before Tuesday, when Mattel recalled 9.6 million toys because of detachable magnets and lead paint. And it was before other massive recalls of toys, dog food, toothpaste, seafood and a slew of other household items tarnished the reputation of the world's factory.

Now, a growing number of American consumers are looking at the "Made in China" mark as a sign of potential danger.

"To be honest, I'd rather not buy anything from China right now," said Phillip Garcia, a Family Services Association employee who was outside the Target store on Jones Maltsberger Road near U.S. 281.

Garcia said he never used to pay much attention to where products were made.


San Antonio veterinarian Suzi Hahn also is paying more attention to the products she buys.

"Buying toothpaste at the dollar store and checking the label never would have crossed my mind," she said outside Target. "If something's made in China, I'll really think about buying it now."

Since October, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has issued 370 recalls, putting it on track to meet or beat the record 467 recalls issued in fiscal 2006. Of the recalls issued since October, 61 percent have been for products manufactured in China.

In January, more than 100,000 children's necklaces made in China were recalled for high levels of lead. In May, Pier 1 Imports recalled 180,000 pieces of glassware made in China because of a threat of cuts. In June, Thomas & Friends wooden railroad toys made in China were pulled from store shelves because of high levels of lead.

"You're bound to see an increase in the number of recalled Chinese products because China is such a huge and growing exporter to the U.S.," said Patty Davis, a spokeswoman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

In 2006, China exported more than $287.8 billion to the United States, nearly triple the $102.3 billion it exported to the U.S. in 2001. In 2003, China beat Mexico to become the United States' No. 1 import source.

Last year, about half of the Consumer Product Safety Commission's recalls involved products made in China.

The commission is just one of many that tracks product recalls. It handles recalls for 15,000 consumer goods such as toasters, bicycles and jewelry.

The Food and Drug Administration handles recalls for canned goods, toothpaste, dog food and similar items. And the National Highway Safety Administration issued a recall this month of hundreds of thousands of Chinese-manufactured tires that lack a safety feature to prevent tread separation.

No agency was able to provide a comprehensive list of recalled products or a list of recalled products by country.

Of the 21 products recalled so far this month by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 12 were manufactured in China. Six were made in the United States, one of them in San Antonio.

There's no clear evidence that Chinese manufactured goods are more dangerous than products made elsewhere. But there is concern that China's ability to police itself hasn't grown with its economic prowess.

After a visit to Beijing this month, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt released a statement mentioning "systemic problems" related to China's ability to ensure its seafood exports are safe.

A Chinese government survey cited on the country's Ministry of Commerce Web site also found "problem products" among exports, but overall the Chinese government insists its products are safe.

A statement from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce estimates more than 99 percent of the country's exports are safe. Even if that statistic is accurate, it leaves room for nearly $2.9 billion worth of potentially dangerous exports to the U.S.

"When developing nations are suddenly global suppliers, often their internal processes haven't matured as quickly as their economic opportunities," said Nancy Childs, a professor of food marketing at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. "When you drive things to the lowest possible price in a developing economy with minimum standards, this will happen. This pursuit and priority on lowest price does have a tipping point."

The shift toward low-cost manufacturing in China, although most visible in the past decade, began with toys in the 1970s, said Conrad Winkler, a partner with the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

Now, most of the world's toys are made in Chinese factories. Winkler doesn't expect the recent spate of recalls will divert that business.

"The economics are pretty good for low-cost manufacturing," he said. "I don't think there's going to be a major shift of all these products that are manufactured in China suddenly shifting back to be manufactured in the U.S."

Instead, Winkler expects U.S. companies to work to develop stronger relationships with their suppliers and their suppliers' suppliers.

"I expect more scrutiny of the processes the contracted company uses," he said.

Now, U.S. manufacturing deals in China are handled in one of two ways. In one scenario, American companies rely on long-term relationships with suppliers. In another, suppliers make "a product to a specification and it doesn't necessarily matter how they do it," Winkler said.

Contractors often farm out work without always telling their clients, leading to an environment in which companies can't always be sure of the origin of their products.

Safe or not, Utah-based Food for Health International, which sells health foods and emergency supplies, is attempting to capitalize on Americans' fears about Chinese manufactured goods.

It recently began labeling some of its health bars "China Free."

"My preferable message would be synthetic free, but it just doesn't resonate with people," said Frank Davis, the company's president. "I have no bone to pick with China. I'm just reassuring people that our product doesn't include ingredients made in China."

Davis isn't pulling China-made components from other, nonfood products he sells. One of them, an emergency kit sold in Arizona Costco stores, contains Chinese-made tools, radios and pots.

"I believe you can get top-quality stuff out of China," he said. "The problem is with contracting and subcontracting."

Commentary: Politicians the real threat to nation's bridges

Comment: Politicians the real threat to nation's bridges
08/15/2007

By Terri Hall

Let's face it: We live in a quick-fix world. Rather than thinking long term and genuinely planning for the nation's present and future, politicians have become an extension of the 24/7 sound-bite media and short-term gain addicts on Wall Street.Those against the push to privatize and toll our freeways as a quick fix for America's aging infrastructure see the Minnesota bridge tragedy as a transportation wake-up call.

It's criminal for politicians in Congress to have passed a highway bill in 2005 that funded a $223 million "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska instead of retrofitting that Minneapolis-St. Paul bridge, located on heavily traveled Interstate 35. We have seriously misplaced priorities in this country, pointing to politicians who are derelict in their duties.


 
The 2005 federal highway bill had 6,000 earmarks for frivolous congressional pet projects pilfered from dedicated gas tax revenues at a time when the Bush administration was pushing the privatization and tolling of our highways, saying new toll taxes were necessary to address congestion and the aging infrastructure because of a shortfall in revenues.

By design, they want to double-tax us by tolling the traveling public to plug their own leaky boat.

Politicians are now blaming taxpayers for not giving them enough of our money to pay for infrastructure when, in fact, they have pilfered and diverted billions from both federal and state gas tax funds, creating an artificial revenue shortfall and causing our infrastructure to fall into disrepair.

In Texas, 25 percent of otherwise dedicated state fuel tax revenue is diverted to nonroad uses, such as public schools, while another 10 percent goes to other budgetary items that don't relate to highways. The Legislature has diverted more than $10 billion from the highway fund since 1986 for items like the arts, the Historical Commission and mineral rights litigation.

It also has deceived taxpayers into thinking the only way out of our infrastructure woes is to toll citizens who drive on what their taxes have already built and to sell our highway system to the highest foreign bidder while still failing to keep bridges and highways safe.

With a $14 billion surplus in Texas (Minnesota had a $2.1 billion surplus), it is clear America doesn't have a revenue shortfall problem, but a profound case of fiscal irresponsibility on both the state and national levels.

Heads need to roll rather than politicians in Austin and Washington double-taxing drivers and consumers by irresponsibly spending our dedicated gas tax revenues and then adding insult to injury by tolling our roads.

Terri Hall is founder/director of Texans United for Reform and Freedom, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that educates the public on the shift to privatizing and tolling freeways.

Schlafly: Americans need China-free food

Americans need China-free food
By Phyllis Schlafly

Eagle Forum
Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The scandal of imported products from China has accelerated to a level that the public should demand "China-free" labels on anything that goes into a mouth. This includes not only food, vitamins and medicines but toothpaste and toys which, as all parents know, go into children's mouths.

The U.S. recall of nearly 1 million toys sold by Fisher-Price, because its paint contains excessive amounts of lead, is only the latest in a string of Chinese product safety scandals. Those toys are Fisher-Price's multimillion-dollar mistake, but the safety of food and drugs is a government responsibility; that's why there is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Chinese government's response was, first, to deny the problem, then, to execute its top food and drug regulator. Sorry, that doesn't assuage our anxiety.

It would take a couple of generations and many billions of dollars to bring Chinese food up to U.S. health and safety standards. Nearly half of China's population lives without sewage treatment, and the water isn't safe, whether from the tap or in the sea or a pond.

The Chinese food scandal first came to public attention this spring when cats and dogs in the United States died. The FDA discovered that pet food processed in the United States and Canada used wheat flour from China contaminated with melamine, a chemical used to make plastics and fertilizers that fooled testers with false high protein readings.

The FDA announced an extensive recall of 100 pet food brands, but nobody asked the question, why is the United States importing wheat products? Can America possibly be short of wheat?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that as many as 20 million chickens and thousands of hogs in several states may have been fed contaminated feed. In May, 900,000 tubes of toothpaste imported from China were withdrawn because tests showed that glycerine had been replaced by diethylene glycol, a chemical used in antifreeze. This poisoned toothpaste has turned up in U.S. hospitals, prisons, and juvenile detention centers.

The United States imports 80 percent of the seafood consumed by Americans, and China is the largest foreign source. The FDA says that a quarter of the shrimp coming from China contains antibiotics that are not allowed in U.S. food production and cannot be eliminated by cooking.

The FDA rejected 51 shipments of catfish, eel, shrimp, and tilapia because of contaminants such as salmonella, veterinary drugs, and a cancer-causing chemical called nitrofuran.

China raises most of its fish in water contaminated with raw sewage, and China compensates by using dangerous drugs and chemicals, many of which are banned in the United States. The Chinese try to control the spread of bacterial infections, disease and parasites by pumping the food with antibiotics and the waters with pesticides.

Chicken pens are often suspended over ponds where seafood is farmed, recycling chicken feces as fish food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to allow China to sell cooked (but not raw) chickens to the U.S. even though public health officials have warned for several years about a potential avian influenza pandemic. Doesn't the United States have enough chickens?

China exports more than 80 percent of the world's vitamin C, which is put in thousands of processed foods from fruit drinks to applesauce to granola, and is used as a key food preservative. There is no claim of contamination yet, but many worry about dependence on China, which has driven all U.S. competitors out of business.

Last year, China sold $675 million in pharmaceutical ingredients and products to the United States. It is estimated that 20 percent of finished generic and over-the-counter drugs, and 40 percent of the active ingredients for pills come from China or India.

The United States long ago banned lead in paint because it can cause learning disabilities, kidney failure, anemia and irreversible brain damage in children. But lead is widely used in Chinese manufacturing, and 80 percent of toys sold in the United States come from China.

Every one of the 24 kinds of toys recalled for safety reasons in the U.S. so far this year was manufactured in China. Because of lead paint, the U.S. has recalled hundreds of thousands of children's necklaces, bracelets, earrings, charms, rings, toy drums, and 1.5 million Thomas & Friends wooden trains. Other recalled products include a ghoulish fake eyeball toy filled with kerosene, Easy-Bake Ovens that could trap children's fingers and burn them, and 450,000 tires that lacked an essential safety feature called a gum strip to keep the belts of a tire from separating.

The FDA inspects 1 percent of our imports from China. It's not realistic to believe that doubling or tripling the inspection rate would make any significant difference in the safety of foods or toys.

Nor would FDA on-site inspection of producers in China be practical. When FDA investigators visited China in May, they found factories closed, machinery dismantled, and records destroyed.

TxDOT's new incarnation of CDAs...availability payments

Link to article here.

Connecting the dots on "availability payments"...The Legislature knew TxDOT intended to try to circumvent the private toll moratorium using this type of maneuver, and tried to head it off in HB 1892. However, the Governor's compromise bill, SB 792, didn't plug it up. So it shouldn't shock legislators like Carona, who actually brokered the deal, that TxDOT will try to employ its use. They did NOTHING to stop them, they only fed the beast by failing to override the Governor's veto of HB 1892.

My guess is TxDOT is going to try and pay Cintra for Hwy 121 using availability payments in Carona/Shapiro's backyard. Cintra was granted the rights to the 121 toll road using a CDA and then due to a massive political backlash, it was yanked from Cintra and given to the public North Texas Toll Authority (NTTA). Wham, Cintra was out billions and Rick Perry and Ric Williamson had egg all over their faces. Guess Carona thought he could make a deal with the devil and not get burned. Now he's beginning to learn what it feels like to be a Texas taxpayer who was betrayed by the Governor and the Legislature not once but multiple times with HB 3588, HB 2702, SB 792 and many other toll road bills over their LOUD objections.

This attempt to invoke availability payments explains why Alamo Regional Mobility Authority Executive Director Terry Brechtel told the San Antonio MPO that a "private partner" may still be used on area toll projects in spite of the two year private toll (CDA) moratorium. TxDOT's willingness to flout the will of the Legislature has infected the RMA & Ms. Brechtel who told Rep. David Leibowitz to his face she intended to flout the intent of the law, too.

Transportation panel finds another way to skin toll cat
'Availability payments' are TxDOT's newest idea for bringing the private sector into the toll road game.

By Ben Wear
Austin American Statesman
August 13, 2007

The folks at the Texas Department of Transportation, and their friends in the Worldwide Tolloplex, are nothing if not resourceful.

Witness their newest invention for slow dancing with the private sector on toll roads: availability payments.

Haven't heard of this creature? Consider yourself in good company with about 99.999 percent of all Texans. But the Texas Transportation Commission has been talking about using them for a couple of months, at least publicly, which coincides with the interval since the Legislature passed a bill restricting private toll roads and then went home for awhile.

Availability payments — you gotta love the perfect bureaucratic inscrutability of that name — are an attempt to split the difference between government-run tollways and the privately financed and operated toll roads that had the public and Legislature steamed up earlier this year. In theory, it would be a best-of-both-worlds thing, tapping the private investment sector's purportedly bounteous piggy bank while leaving full ownership and operation of tollways in public hands.

In theory, this would stand in contrast to concessions. With those, a private entity (like Cintra-Zachry, which is building the next 40 miles of the Texas 130 tollway) gets a long-term lease from the government to finance, build and operate a tollway, including the right to set the tolls (within contractual limitations). Concessions can be accompanied by upfront payments to the government, money that can be used for other transportation projects.

The Legislature said it didn't like concessions and put a two-year moratorium on them, although the promise of those upfront payments and quickly getting critically needed roads built moved lawmakers to allow about a dozen exceptions across the state.

How would availability payments work? The private entity (probably some sort of consortium) would use its own money to design, build and maybe even maintain the road. In return, its contract with the state or a local toll authority might guarantee minimum and maximum payments.

The size of those periodic payments would be based on how well the toll road performs, fluctuating based on the money "available." Thus, the name.

There could, of course, be endless variations on this theme, limited only by the seemingly limitless capacity of financial experts to structure deals. The private entity, for instance, could instead get a percentage of toll revenue, Transportation Commission Chairman Ric Williamson said last week. But that starts to look uncomfortably similar to a concession, and one imagines that a percentage partner would want some contractual say in toll rates.

Williamson said an availability payment scenario could even include the beloved upfront payments.

This might be relevant in Central Texas. The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization board in October probably will vote on a second wave of tollways for the Austin area, and the five-road plan is said to be at least a half-billion dollars short of state and local tax money. Availability payments, and tolls to generate the money for them, could fill in that hole. Or the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, which probably will operate the roads, could go the traditional route and just borrow money on the bond market.

Availability payments, some argue, offer a lower financing cost. One would hope the mobility authority would do whatever it takes to make a gimlet-eyed comparison of the two approaches.

Given the raw feelings generated by the Perry administration's tollway and concession push, legislators are wary of this new animal. They fear that availability payments might just be concessions with rouge and lipstick.

"On first blush, it appears this is an attempt to get around what the Legislature did in Senate Bill 792," state Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security, said last week.

Williamson would say this is an attempt to pay for needed highways, after lawmakers diverted more road money to other stuff and failed to raise the gas tax.

Carona opposes those diversions and supports raising the gas tax. But until the Legislature actually agrees with Carona and addresses the problem, it's hard to blame Williamson too much for using what's, eh, available.