(Natural News) Government authorities in Japan have announced new plans to start dumping highly radioactive wastewater from the failed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility directly into the Pacific Ocean.
Though the amount of radiation in the water far exceeds legally-permitted levels, according to the plant’s operator and documents reviewed by the U.K.’s Telegraph, there’s apparently no other place to put it at the site, which is on the verge of seeing its storage capacity completely maxed out.
Reports indicate that approximately 1.09 million tons of contaminated water currently being stored inside 900 tanks at Fukushima will soon be drained in the Pacific in order to make more space for new water, a move that’s sparking outrage among local residents and a number of environmental organizations that worry about what the vast contamination will do to the world’s largest body of water.
TEPCO, Japanese government have clearly been lying about “safe” Fukushima wastewater
The announcement is sure to be puzzling for anyone who believes the narrative that’s long been conveyed by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) that nuclear wastewater at the Fukushima site is “safe,” containing only small levels of the radioactive contaminant tritium.
It also brings up questions about the repeated assurances from the Japanese government that a so-called “Advanced Liquid Processing System,” or ALPS, developed by the nuclear arm of Hitachi Ltd., has been effectively removing all other radioactive materials to “non-detect” levels, which doesn’t seem to be the case.
The Telegraph says it’s obtained documents from a source in Japan’s government revealing that ALPS “has consistently failed to eliminate a cocktail of other radioactive elements, including iodine, ruthenium, rhodium, antimony, tellurium, cobalt and strontium.”
When asked about these documents, Hitachi reportedly declined to comment on the performance of its ALPS technology. The Japanese government similarly refused to respond to multiple requests for comment about the seeming disparity.
Like we’ve been saying all along: Fukushima is a MAJOR coverup
According to The Telegraph, other “restricted” documents suggest that the arm of the Japanese government responsible for handling the Fukushima disaster didn’t even know that ALPS was “malfunctioning,” and not actually removing harmful radionuclides to “non-detect” levels. So there’s no telling what the actual levels are of nuclear radiation being dumped from the site into the Pacific.
A study conducted by the Kahoko Shinpo newspaper found in 2017 that 45 of 84 water samples collected from near the Fukushima site tested extremely high for iodine 129 and ruthenium 106, at levels far above what’s considered “acceptable” even by liberally-defined government standards.
Keep in mind that iodine 129 is known to cause thyroid cancer, and has a half life of 15.7 million years – meaning it’s not going anywhere once released into the environment. Ruthenium 106 is similarly carcinogenic and high-risk when its comes to its environmental pervasiveness.
And it was just last month that TEPCO was forced to admit that a shocking 80 percent of its stored wastewater still contains radioactive substances at levels far beyond what was established by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
“Tepco has now admitted that levels of strontium 90, for example, are more than 100 times above legally permitted levels in 65,000 tons of water that has been through the ALPS cleansing system and are 20,000 times above levels set by the government in several storage tanks at the site,” explains The Telegraph.
What this all suggests, of course – and affirming what we’ve been saying all along – is that TEPCO has for years been lying about the true level of radioactive contamination at the Fukushima site. There’s also no telling to what degree harmful radiation has already been dumped into the Pacific Ocean, only to spread far and wide across the globe.
For more Fukushima-related news, be sure to check out Fukushima.news.
Why isn’t Muskrat Falls megadam project sparking outrage?
In 2019, the entirely preventable methylmercury poisoning of the traditional country food web of Indigenous people downstream of the Muskrat Falls megadam in Labrador is set to begin. It’s remarkable, though perhaps unsurprising in a country with an ongoing history of such atrocities, that this impending criminal act — which violates all aspects of international humanitarian law, has been categorized by some as a war crime and of falling under the definition of genocide — is clearly and plainly happening out in the open, yet sparking little outrage.
It’s also funded to the tune of $9.2 billion by a federal government that touts this destruction of Indigenous people’s food supply and traditional way of life as part of its green-energy strategy and respectful nation-to-nation relationships.
This week in Labrador, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people who live downstream of the megadam — which also threatens mass casualty drowning because a significant portion of the dam is supposed to be held back by a natural formation composed of quick clay, which liquefies and gives way under intense pressure — are spending their days in a colonial court. Their alleged crime has been to commit a series of peaceful acts of land protection, from occupying the work site for four days in October 2016 to conducting a sacred ceremony.
Direct action October 29
As the Labrador land protectors face fines, restrictions on their movements and associations, and possible jail time — four land protectors have already spent weeks at a time in maximum security prisons — a group of their supporters heads to Parliament Hill on Monday, October 29. On that afternoon, they plan a non-violent rally and direct action, risking arrest to enter the House of Commons and place on the desks of MPs the pictures and words of those most at risk, as well as copies of the scientific reports and treaties being ignored by politicians who claim that the most important relationship is the one they have with Indigenous peoples.
Given the proximity to Halloween, some demonstartors will be wearing masks of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, and Labrador MP Yvonne Jones will also try and enter to apologize in advance for the Muskrat Falls disaster and demand that federal support be ended.
The Parliament Hill gathering takes place just over two weeks after the passing of Steve Fobister Sr., the former Treaty 3 Grand Chief and Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief who died October 11 at the age of 66 from mercury poisoning. Fobister fought most of his life for the rights of those poisoned by mercury at Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong, where up to 90 per cent of the people suffer from the debilitating effects of mercury poisoning. (A vigil honouring Fobister at Toronto’s Queen’s Park takes place Thursday, October 25 at 7 p.m.)
In a letter to the provincial and federal governments, Fobister’s family challenged both Trudeau as well as provincial Health Minister Christine Elliott directly. “Our beloved Steve passed away without ever getting the closure of having a government minister look him in the eye and admit that he was poisoned by mercury,” they wrote.
“Instead he was forced to fight for four decades for mercury justice in the face of denial, delay, and discrimination. We call on you to admit at long last that Steve Fobister Sr. lived with mercury poisoning and died from mercury poisoning. Will you respect Steve by speaking the truth, and commit to fairly compensate all Grassy Narrows people for the ongoing mercury crisis that has been denied and neglected for so long? Steve always wanted the government to admit that he had been poisoned by mercury. Now we take up his fight to honour him. Trudeau and Elliott, will you admit that Steve was poisoned, and will you compensate Grassy Narrows fairly for our mercury crisis?”
Ontario chose to poison Indigenous people
A petition to Trudeau and Elliott reminds them that:
“94 per cent of Grassy Narrows people receive no compensation for the mercury crisis which continues to rob them of their loved ones and to ravage their health, culture, livelihood, rights, and environment. The survivors of this avoidable disaster deserve the best possible health care and support, including a Mercury Home and Treatment Centre so that their sick loved ones can be treated with dignity, close to their families.”
Last October, Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner Dianne Saxe said successive provincial governments in Ontario “chose to allow the ongoing poisoning of the communities,” and a report she wrote noted that “after accepting financial responsibility for the mercury contamination, the Ontario government declined to take action for decades, largely ignoring the suffering of the Grassy Narrows First Nation and Wabaseemoong peoples.”
Saxe’s report pointed out that the contamination “stripped the people of Wabaseemoong and Grassy Narrows of important facets of their cultural practices, livelihoods and health.”
It’s an all-too familiar story for Rita Monias, a Pimicikamak Okimawin elder who will travel more than 3,000 kilometres from her home in what is also known as Cross Lake, Manitoba, to take part in the Parliament Hill rally October 29. Monias, who helped lead a six-week occupation of the Jenpeg Manitoba generating station in 2014, says she hopes to shine a national spotlight on the role hydro dams have played in devastating Indigenous communities like hers, and to share with MPs — if she is allowed into the House of Commons — that the same future is in store for Indigenous people in Labrador unless the Muskrat Falls megadam is shut down.
(Significantly, Manitoba Hydro International played a major role in helping sanction the Muskrat Falls project, producing a report that was embraced by then Newfoundland and Labrador premier Kathy Dunderdale as ammunition she needed to fight back against those who demanded the seeking of Indigenous consent and solid scientific proof that the megadam would not cause serious damage. In recognizing this connection, a fundraiser for Labrador Land Protectors takes place in Winnipeg on October 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Strong Badger Coffeehouse).
“We have always heard promises of jobs, of compensation, of respectful nation-to-nation relationships, but that’s not the reality we see in our communities once hydro dams come in and change everything, destroying our ways of life,” Monias says.
“We have seen major displacement, a loss of cultural knowledge, reduced access to traditional foods and medicines and far fewer opportunities to take part in our traditional economy, destruction of our burial grounds and cultural sites, the fear of eating our traditional foods because of methylmercury poisoning, injury and death due to hazardous navigation on the waters, and major changes and reductions in the wildlife whose patterns have been disrupted by the dams. We cannot allow any more environmental devastation on our Mother Earth. We have to protect it.”
Unnecessary and avoidable suffering
In 2001, the Manitoba Aboriginal Rights Coalition (MARC) released a report, “Let Justice Flow,” which concluded that “the ongoing suffering of Cree and Métis peoples as a result of hydroelectric dams is both unnecessary and avoidable.” This followed on the report of the Manitoba Aboriginal Justice Inquiry in 1991, which found that:
“Aboriginal people also argue that they were never told of the environmental destruction that would occur. They say that they were never told that graves would be washed away and fish habitats demolished, nor that an entire way of life for what previously had been strong communities would disappear.”
The MARC report quoted Pimicikamak Okimawin resident Bobby Brightnose, who said:
“Our people are grieving, they are grieving for land, the water and a way of life that was brought to an abrupt halt. I remember going along the shoreline to pick medicine with my late grandmother only to find it flooded. My grandmother stood there crying because that was her life. Her life was the land. There is a great deal of grief that needs to be resolved and dealt with among our people in Cross Lake.”
APTN reporter Justin Brake recently completed a series of news reports on the impact of hydro dams on the Indigenous people in northern Manitoba. In one segment, Ramona Neckoway, from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation at Nelson House, truthfully names what is taking place as genocide.
“For me this is a cultural genocide that’s going on,” she told APTN. “And I don’t use those words lightly. I say that because I see that there are entire generations of children in our communities that don’t go on the water, that don’t understand the importance of that water to who we are, that have never left the reserve, this cage that they’ve created through colonial policies that have been imposed on us. To me, Nisichawayasihk, our territory, actually is much bigger than the reserve that they allotted to us. And we were using that territory — my mother’s generation was using that territory, going to camps, going to these different spaces and actively using that land and that water.”
Misipawistik councillor Heidi Cook agreed, noting that the effects of hydro dams have been worse even than residential schools because they have destroyed their homes. She spoke poignantly of how hearing the sounds of the rapids for miles around not only defined a sense of place, but also helped remind people of who and where they were. But after construction and damning the flow of the rivers, there was only silence. Cook told APTN that:
“I felt it myself, personally, that as somebody from Grand Rapids I was robbed of my birthright to know these rapids and to have this beautiful part of my home sing me to sleep at night, and greet me in the morning when I wake up.”
In September, the abuses of Manitoba Hydro were the focus of a press conference where one Indigenous woman, Martina Saunders, announced a Manitoba Human Rights Commission complaint, as Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Garrison Settee reminded reporters that “our people have been oppressed. Our people have been treated as if they are second-class citizens in their own lands.”
A coast-to-coast scourge
The devastating impact of hydro dams on Indigenous communities is not limited to Muskrat Falls or Manitoba (nor are such appalling consequences limited to hydro projects, given the endless examples of Canadian extractive industries wreaking havoc in Indigenous communities around the globe). Dozens of other communities face predictions that the scourge of methylmercury poisoning will threaten them with current and planned projects. A group of Harvard scientists wrote in their 2016 report, “Future Impacts of Hydroelectric Power Development on Methylmercury Exposures of Canadian Indigenous Communities,” that “all 22 Canadian hydroelectric facilities being considered for near-term development are located within 100 kilometres of Indigenous communities.” (eight are in Yukon; two each in Nunavut and Manitoba; four in Quebec, one each in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and B.C.; and two in Labrador).
They explore both the significant projected increases in the bioaccumulating neurotoxin methylmercury at Muskrat Falls and then point out that modeled poison reservoir levels at 11 of the proposed 21 hydroelectric sites across Canada “are comparable or greater than the Muskrat Falls reservoir.” In practical terms, this means that said poison will affect those who rely on a traditional country diet of fish, fowl, seal and other mammals in whom the poison bioaccumulates.
“Country foods are known to confer a wide-range of nutritional and social health benefits to indigenous communities, and nutritious alternative food choices are limited in the Canadian North,” the report’s authors write. “Past studies suggest reducing or avoiding consumption of country foods may also result in substantial adverse impacts on individual health.” They propose that any such project must focus first and foremost on the removal or mitigation of poison risk, noting that interventions “such as the removal of organic carbon from the planned reservoir regions prior to flooding” should be considered.
That recommendation for clearance of the reservoir area at Muskrat Falls has been flat-out rejected by the Newfoundland and Labrador government, and it’s an issue on which the federal government remains deathly silent, even as their own experts have urged such mitigation measures. Once reservoir levels rise next spring, the methylmercury accumulation will accelerate, as will the heightened risk of a dam break.
In the meantime, the Canadian government’s support for these dangerous dams flies in the face of their legally binding commitments under the Minamata Convention on Mercury, a legally binding treaty negotiated under the United Nations Environment Program to reduce mercury emissions and to protect the environment and human health. When she signed the treaty in April, 2017, Catherine McKenna proclaimed: “Our government is unwavering in its commitment to safeguard the environment and the health of Canadians from the effects of mercury.”
The convention Canada signed on to is clear in recognizing “the particular vulnerabilities of Arctic ecosystems and Indigenous communities because of the biomagnification of mercury and contamination of traditional foods, and concerns about Indigenous communities more generally with respect to the effects of mercury.”
But the Trudeau government is plowing ahead nonetheless, having shown with Trans Mountain, the tar sands, Site C, Line 3, LNG and other megaprojects, that it simply does not care about the voices of Indigenous people. The scourge of methylmercury and other poisons contaminating traditional country food webs is one 21st-century version of the Canadian government’s 19th-century approach to genocide, when the same strategy of using food as a weapon was employed by John A. Macdonald.
As James Daschuk, author of Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation and the Loss of Aboriginal Life, writes:
“Despite guarantees of food aid in times of famine in Treaty No. 6, Canadian officials used food, or rather denied food, as a means to ethnically cleanse a vast region from Regina to the Alberta border as the Canadian Pacific Railway took shape. For years, government officials withheld food from Aboriginal people until they moved to their appointed reserves, forcing them to trade freedom for rations. Once on reserves, food placed in ration houses was withheld for so long that much of it rotted while the people it was intended to feed fell into a decades-long cycle of malnutrition, suppressed immunity and sickness from tuberculosis and other diseases. Thousands died.”
Daschuk adds that Macdonald, acting as “both prime minister and minister of Indian affairs during the darkest days of the famine, even boasted that the Indigenous population was kept on the ‘verge of actual starvation,’ in an attempt to deflect criticism that he was squandering public funds.”
Promises to ancestors
All of these issues provide a backdrop to the trials taking place in Labrador’s colonial courts, where land protectors will be speaking many truths about their motivations, their hopes, and their commitments. Among them is Denise Cole of Happy Valley Goose Bay, who was hauled into court for allegedly violating a court order by Nalcor, the provincial Crown corporation behind Muskrat Falls, when she performed a ceremony “to ask for healing and safety for the land, water, and people.”
Writing earlier this year, Cole declared:
“My duties to pray and hold sacred ceremony are more important than the unjust court orders that Nalcor uses to keep us away from our traditional lands as they destroy them for their Muskrat Falls hydro project. Creator is watching, Mother Earth is reacting. I know I am on the side of what is right along with many beautiful protectors and supporters across the nation and on our homeland of Labrador. I had to sign an undertaking to stay away from the place of our Labrador ancestors. The Muskrat Falls north side is a very spiritual and sacred place. This court order essentially keeps me away from my ‘church’ and forces me to dishonour my responsibilities to the land and spirits of Muskrat Falls. I know that right now I have to do that for the greater cause of helping save the river, land, and lives downstream from this megadam disaster. Still rest assured, my resolve is strong and unwavering and there is strength in my tears. I will perform ceremony in this place again, I promise that to the ancestors and Creator.”
As supporters gather in Ottawa — unceded, unsurrendered Algonquin Territory — on Monday, Cole’s words will be among the many that other land protectors hope to place on the desks of MPs in the House of Commons. When a similar group, including four Labrador Land Protectors, tried to do the same thing in May, 15 of them were arrested and banned from Parliament Hill for 90 days.
The presence of land protectors from Manitoba on Monday will also help mark the fourth anniversary of the six-week occupation of the Manitoba Hydro Jenpeg generation site, where Pimicikamak Okimawin evicted colonial staff and refused to leave. At the time, Tommy Monias, one of the hundreds on site, informed media that:
“We’re just doing what we normally do in the last 2,000 years which is hang around in our lands. Hydro is occupying our lands. This is traditional territory of Pimicikamak people. We were always here. It’s Hydro that showed up here 31 years ago and occupied our lands. This is where my ancestors have travelled for thousands of years.”
It is such outbreaks of democracy that remind us of the words of the sorely missed Steve Fobister, Sr., who said when on hunger strike in 2014 at the Ontario legislature: “Words don’t mean anything anymore. Direct action is all I have left. And here I am.”
Matthew Behrens is a freelance writer and social justice advocate who co-ordinates the Homes not Bombs non-violent direct action network. He has worked closely with the targets of Canadian and U.S. ‘national security’ profiling for many years.
Help make rabble sustainable. Please consider supporting our work with a monthly donation. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!
Trudeau goes bold on emissions; Sheer attacks, but has no plan
The Trudeau government has taken the bull by the horns and imposed a carbon-pricing scheme on four provinces — Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Ontario — which account for nearly half of Canada’s population.
Other provinces have their own mechanisms consistent with federal carbon-pricing targets. Ontario was one of those others until Doug Ford became premier and cancelled all measures designed to combat climate change. The result for Canada’s most populous province is a projected increase in carbon pollution, by the year 2030, equal to the emissions of 30 coal-fired electricity plants.
As Justin Trudeau’s Liberals promote their greenhouse-gas reduction plan, they point out that three of the cooperating provinces — Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia — are among the top economic performers in Canada. The Liberal message: putting a price on pollution does not kill jobs and growth. To the contrary, they say, taxing pollution actually creates good jobs.
This is a government that was elected on a pledge to focus like a laser on the economic well being of the middle class. And so, even as it takes steps to head off the global catastrophe a United Nations’ climate change panel so recently warned is imminent, the Trudeau government goes to great pains to emphasize its concern for ordinary families and their pocketbooks.
Government documents promoting its carbon-pricing measures offer few figures as to how much tax anyone will pay. What they emphasize is the need to prevent the huge and devastating damage climate change will bring, of which recent events like forest fires in B.C. and heat waves in Ontario and Quebec are mere harbingers.
The government does, on the other hand, go into great detail about the carbon-pricing rebates average families will receive, starting in the spring of 2019. Nearly three-quarters of Canadians, they say, will receive more money back than they will pay in increased fuel costs.
A two-tiered carbon-pricing system
The official opposition Conservatives claim to accept the science that tells us climate change is caused by humans. They even say they will, someday, tell Canadians their plan to reduce greenhouse gases. They are just not quite ready to make that announcement yet.
Instead of telling Canadians what they will do, Conservatives put all their energy into picking holes in the Liberal plan.
Their main line of attack is based on the fact that the government is imposing two types of carbon tax.
There is the levy of $20 per tonne of greenhouse gas, eventually rising to $50, on distributors of fossil fuels. Those distributors will, presumably, pass their increased costs on to consumers.
For large industrial emitters, there is a different mechanism, what they call an output-based carbon-pricing system.
What happens here is that the government sets an emissions limit for each industry. Companies that produce less than the limit pay no tax. Instead, they receive credits based on the difference between the limit and their emissions, which they can trade for cash with companies that produce more than their limit. Those latter companies will have a choice of paying $20 per tonne of emissions to the federal government, buying credits from other companies, implementing carbon offset measures (such as planting trees) – or undertaking a combination of all three.
The Liberals add the important caveat that the entire package of measures aimed at industry is calibrated, in their words, to “minimize competitiveness risks for emissions-intensive, trade-exposed industrial facilities.”
Conservative leader Andrew Sheer and his opposition colleagues have seized on that “minimize risks” part. They argue that the Liberals are giving an unfair special deal to large industrial polluters, while small businesses and ordinary Canadians will have to absorb the full brunt of increased fuel costs.
Conservatives hammers this message daily in the House.
On Wednesday, October 24, Sheer accused Trudeau of protecting “large corporate emitters by giving them a massive exemption from the costs that they will have to pay.” At the same time, he said, “small businesses who will face rising fuel and home-heating costs will have to bear the brunt of his new carbon tax plan.”
The Liberals do not bother answering this argument, which simplifies their complex carbon-pricing regime beyond recognition. Instead, they pillory the Conservatives for their refusal, since the time of the previous Harper government, to commit to any sort of climate-change measure.
As Trudeau put it on Wednesday:
“We are moving forward with putting a price on pollution … something the Conservatives were unwilling and unable to do for 10 years while in government…. They have no plan to approach the fight against climate.… They want to make pollution free again.”
A polarized campaign in 2019 could help Trudeau
The NDP and Greens both offer at least qualified support for the government’s most recent move.
The NDP successfully pushed for an emergency debate on the UN report on climate change, but has held its fire in the House on the most recent developments in the government’s carbon-pricing scheme.
When asked to comment, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh expressed concern over the more than $4 billion the Liberals paid for the Trans Mountain pipeline, suggesting that money could be better invested in alternative energy solutions. He also worried, in a general way, about the impact of carbon taxes on those least able to absorb the increased costs. He did not take issue with the principle of what the government is doing.
Green leader Elizabeth May was all for the most thorough solutions during the recent emergency debate in the House. Among other measures, she called for completely getting rid of internal combustion engines and ensuring energy efficiency and retrofits for every building. The carbon-pricing measures imposed on the four provinces might not be quite so radical, but May was still happy to give the Liberals at least a passing grade, while adding that there is “much more to be done.”
“Adequate carbon pricing is a start,” she said, “but we need to eliminate the use of fossil fuels altogether, especially in the production of electricity.”
When the Liberals last adopted a carbon-tax policy, they called it a “Green Shift.” That was a bit more than a decade ago when Stéphane Dion was leader. It did not work out at that time. The Harper Conservatives lambasted the Liberals for their “tax on everything” and won the 2008 election with an increased seat count.
This time, the Liberals hope public attitudes have changed.
Since they made a point of not changing the first-past-the-post electoral system, having solemnly promised to do so multiple times, Trudeau’s party also hopes a polarized campaign between those who want to save the planet and those who deny science will drive NDP and Green voters into their arms. The next election is a year away.
Karl Nerenberg has been a journalist and filmmaker for more than 25 years. He is rabble’s politics reporter.
Trump personally pushed U.S. Postal Service head to double rates on Amazon, other firms
WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.
Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a group of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.
Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery.
Few U.S. companies have drawn Trump’s ire as much as Amazon, which has rapidly grown to be the second-largest U.S. company in terms of market capitalization. For more than three years, Trump has fumed publicly and privately about the giant commerce and services company and its founder Jeff Bezos, who is also the owner of The Washington Post.
Trump alleges Amazon is being subsidized by the Postal Service, and he has also accused The Post as being Amazon’s “chief lobbyist” as well as a tax shelter — both false charges. He says Amazon uses these advantages to push bricks-and-mortar companies out of business. Some administration officials say several of Trump’s attacks aimed at Amazon have come in response to articles in The Post that he didn’t like.
Brennan and Trump have met at the White House about the matter several times, beginning in 2017, and most recently four months ago, the three people said. The meetings have never appeared on Trump’s public schedule. Brennan has spent her career at the Postal Service, starting 32 years ago as a letter carrier. In 2014, the Postal Service’s Board of Governors voted to appoint her as postmaster general.
Clouding the matter even further, Trump’s aides have also disagreed internally about whether Amazon is paying enough to the Postal Service, with some believing the giant commerce company should be paying more, while others believe that if it weren’t for Amazon, the Postal Service might be out of business, according to the three people.
Trump has met with at least three groups of senior advisers to discuss Amazon’s business practices, probing issues such as whether they pay the appropriate amount of taxes or underpay the Postal Service, according to the three people.
These groups include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, then-National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Domestic Policy Council Director Andrew Bremberg. Bremberg has served as a key liaison with Brennan.
One of Amazon’s biggest defenders within the White House was Cohn, who had told Trump that the Postal Service actually made money on the payments Amazon made for package delivery. Cohn announced his departure from the White House in March.
The White House, the Postal Service and Amazon — as well as Bezos, via an Amazon spokesman — declined to comment for this report.
While Trump has leveled a range of criticisms at Amazon, his efforts to increase the company’s shipping and delivery costs stand as the only known official action he’s taken to go after the company.
The company, meanwhile, has tread carefully around Trump. It has dramatically expanded its spending on lobbying in the past few years, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, but Amazon officials have not been directly engaged with White House officials about the review, according to the three people familiar with the White House deliberations as well as others familiar with Amazon’s approach.
The company has, however, hosted more than a dozen lawmakers and governors at numerous Amazon facilities across the country to impress upon them the company’s economic footprint and job creation potential.
On March 7, when the company announced that it would be building a new fulfillment centre in Missouri and hiring 1,500 employees, it alerted the state’s two U.S. senators on Twitter, Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Roy Blunt.
Trump has berated Amazon and The Post on social media, briefly driving down Amazon’s stock price. And he has said publicly that he doesn’t believe the information he has been presented by some of his advisers and Brennan herself regarding the Postal Service’s contract with Amazon.
“I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy,” he wrote on April 3. “Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourn by the American Taxpayer. Many billions of dollars. P.O. leaders don’t have a clue (or do they?)!”
Details of Amazon’s contract with the Postal Service are secret, making it difficult for financial experts to assess claims about the relationship. Amazon has said that publicly releasing the contract, which contains detailed information on the company’s delivery systems, would give competitors an unfair advantage.
Amazon primarily uses the Postal Service for the “last mile” of its deliveries. It brings the packages to the post office closest to the final destination, and then the Postal Service takes it from there. The Postal Service says other companies also have “last-mile” agreements with it but declines to say whom.
Amazon is the leading player in e-commerce but competes with other retail giants such as Walmart, Macy’s and Costco to offer fast and inexpensive delivery of products. The Postal Service competes with UPS, FedEx and others for delivery.
Amazon said it spent US$21.7 billion on shipping costs in 2017, a figure that includes sorting, delivery center and transportation costs. Roughly 40 per cent of its packages are delivered by the Postal Service, according to some analysts, a figure neither Amazon nor the Postal Service have confirmed. It is not known how much Amazon pays the Postal Service each year and what percentage of its items are shipped via the Postal Service.
The Postal Service, meanwhile, reported shipping and package income of US$19.5 billion last year, an 11.8 per cent increase from one year before. This increase wasn’t enough to stop the Postal Service from losing money for the eleventh straight year. That’s largely because of the continued decline in first-class mail, and expensive health benefit costs that the Postal Service must set aside for future retirees, according to data released by the agency.
Delivering packages has been a financial boon to the Postal Service in an otherwise tumultuous time, but experts say it is an open question whether Amazon’s arrangement fully compensates the Postal Service for its range of expenses. While the Postal Service is legally prohibited from charging a shipper less than it costs to deliver a package, the Postal Service is not required to include in its costs things such as retiree benefits.
David Vernon, an analyst at Bernstein Research, estimates that Amazon pays the Postal Service roughly US$2 per package for each delivery, about half of what Amazon would pay United Parcel Service or FedEx. He based this estimate on broader data released by the Postal Service.
The Postal Service has tried to rapidly adjust its business model to take on more package delivery, but he said it would be better suited if it delivered fewer packages at a higher rate.
“In my business judgment, there’s too much ‘package’ in the postal network,” he said in an interview. “If you doubled the price, you would have fewer of them, but you would make money off what is left.”
Still, Postal Service officials, both in meetings with Trump and publicly, have insisted that they are making money off their arrangement with Amazon.
In January, Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer wrote an op-ed in the Hill newspaper pushing back against calls for it to raise package rates.
“Some of our competitors in the package delivery space would dearly love for the Postal Service to aggressively raise our rates higher than the marketplace can bear – so they could either charge more themselves or siphon away postal customers,” he wrote.
“The Postal Service is a self-funding public institution that generates its revenue from the sale of postal products and service, we compete for every customer across all of our product categories, and we exist for the benefit of American businesses and consumers.”
Because the Postal Service has lost money for 11 straight years, it has had to repeatedly borrow funds from the Treasury Department’s Federal Financing Bank, totalling US$15 billion. Its reliance on taxpayer funds has allowed Mnuchin — one of Trump’s closest advisers — to gain a foothold in its future.
One of Mnuchin’s counsellors, Craig Phillips, is leading Trump’s review of the Postal Service, along with Kathy Kraninger, associate director for general government at the Office of Management and Budget. It is due in July.
The review group is tasked with reviewing the package delivery market, the Postal Service’s role in that market and the decline in first-class mail volume, among other things. It is required to recommend changes to the White House and Congress.
The Postal Service is overseen by a board of nine governors, which pick the postmaster general and the deputy postmaster general. Currently, there are no governors serving on the board, though Trump has nominated three individuals who are awaiting Senate confirmation. The Postal Service, led by the postmaster, works out contracts with private companies that are approved by an independent federal agency, the Postal Regulatory Commission, which also assesses each year whether the contracts are in compliance with the law. Amazon has a multiyear contract with the Postal Service, and it is not clear how quickly it could be changed.
Trump’s attacks on Amazon date to 2015, when he accused Bezos of using The Post as a tax shelter to allow Amazon to avoid paying taxes, a false accusation. (Amazon is a publicly traded company, and The Post, wholly owned by Bezos, is private. The companies’ finances are not intermingled. The Post’s editors and Bezos also have declared that he is not involved in any journalistic decisions.)
Bezos responded to Trump’s 2015 attack with a tweet.
“Finally trashed by @realDonaldTrump. Will still reserve him a seat on the Blue Origin rocket. #sendDonaldtospace,” Bezos, who owns a space company, tweeted in December 2015.
This angered Trump, who at the time was fighting for credibility during the GOP primary.
“Trump takes everything personally,” said Steve Moore, a former economic adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign.
Moore says he has told White House officials that Amazon is paying the Postal Service plenty for its services and in fact helping the agency survive.
But others say Trump sees one company exploiting the government for a competitive edge. Amazon’s stock price is up close to 70 percent in the past year, and a growing list of competitors have complained that they have a hard time competing with the giant company on everything from delivery to its cloud computer business.
“I think this particular issue is one that he comes at from his business background and understanding the dynamics of cost and delivery and overhead,” Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said of Trump’s approach to the postal issue with Amazon. “And so . . . when you put all those components in there, it allows him to probably have a position on this that is deeper rooted in an understanding of a business model than perhaps some other presidents.
Popular on The Canadian
- Agora Publishing Consortium
- Le Journal Canadien
- Dominion: Food News
- The Rebellife Magazine
- The Ottawa Star
- Elections Canada Magazine
- Toronto Business Journal
Health3 weeks ago
Boswellia is a powerful anti-inflammatory herbal extract that can prevent cancer
Business5 months ago
Cranes: Pros and Cons to Consider
Business3 months ago
Easy Instagram Marketing Tips For Gaining Real-Time Results
Entertainment3 weeks ago
7-time lottery winner shares tips to win the jackpot
Health3 months ago
Barbecue 101: 5 Health Tips For An Outdoor Party
Headline News6 months ago
Trump personally pushed U.S. Postal Service head to double rates on Amazon, other firms
Lifestyle3 weeks ago
Ford’s labour law rollbacks are another blow against Ontario workers
Business1 month ago
What does Digital Marketing in South Africa look like today?