Tagged: reveal release

reveal release

May 10, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tackling Childhood Asthma Not Coal Industry Priority After All
No more My Little Pony inhalers in stock

     Contact: asthma@coalcares.org, (314) 472-5539

A charitable initiative by the world's largest coal company to provide free “novelty-themed” inhalers to asthmatic children may have seemed for a moment like a (somewhat misguided) breath of fresh air, coming as it did from an industry whose emissions are directly linked to childhood asthma, and which is fighting to gut clean air legislation that would save children’s lives.

Coal Cares™ (www.coalcares.org) purported to “make asthma cool” with decorative and pop-culture inspired inhalers (“The Bieber,” “Harry Potter,” “My Little Pony,” and “My First Inhaler” were particular favorites). The site also announced that Peabody would offer $10 coupons towards asthma medication (about 5%-20% of the cost) for families living within 200 miles of a coal-fired plant. It featured a “Kidz Koal Korner” with asthma-related games for tots, an extensive asthma trivia section and FAQ (Peter the Great was asthmatic, who knew!), and a thorough condemnation of solar and wind alternatives.

It was, of course, a hoax, and it was aimed at Peabody Coal, which is lobbying ferociously against new pollution standards for power plants proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), standards the agency says will prevent 120,000 cases of childhood asthma each year in the United States. Peabody spent over $6 million lobbying Congress last year, and the industry has created a dizzying array of fake “grassroots” front groups to distort the public debate and fight legislation.

(Meanwhile, a new study by the American Lung Association notes that coal-fired power plants produce more hazardous air pollution in the United States than any other source, with the pollution killing 13,000 people a year. Coal-ash disposal alone increases risk of cancer, learning disabilities, birth defects and other illnesses due to exposure from heavy metals such as arsenic, lead and mercury.)

The Coal Cares™ hoax was devised by a group called Coal is Killing Kids (CKK), a small environmental and public health group that aims to challenge Big Coal’s expensive lobbying against sensible updates to the Clean Air Act. “We don’t have their millions, but we do have a knack for incredibly tasteless jokes,” said Veronica Tomlinson, a pediatrician and member of CKK. CKK worked with the Yes Lab, which is a project of The Yes Men to help activist groups carry out media-savvy creative actions on their own.

"Sure, it’s kind of tasteless to say that ‘Bieber’ inhalers are a solution to childhood asthma," said Janet Bellamy, a spokesperson for CKK. "But it's a great deal more tasteless to cause that asthma in the first place, as coal-fired power plants have been proven to do." Added Justin V. Bond, another spokesperson for CKK: “It’s even more tasteless to disproportionately kill poor people.” Coal-fired power plants are very often built in areas populated by low-income citizens, who then bear the brunt of the health effects.

“People may laugh at our sick jokes,” said Bellamy, “but they also understand the real health impacts of burning coal. That’s exactly what the coal industry doesn’t want people to think about, because if enough of us were aware of it, we would shut these plants down once and for all.”

 

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April 28, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Lindsey Dietzler, 773.554.0085, lindseydietzler@gmail.com
The Yes Lab, info@yeslab.org

New Coal Plant in the South Loop? Not So Much.
Elaborate Stunt Draws Attention to Need for Cleaner Energy Sources, and Midwest Gen’s Dirty Record in Chicago

Chicago, IL- Residents of the South Loop neighborhood were outraged yesterday to hear that Midwest Generation was purportedly building a new coal powered plant on a formerly abandoned lot at Harrison and Wells. The company, promising a plant with “a green roof,” even blanketed the neighborhood with fliers and pamphlets, advising residents that “construction and operation of the new plant will generate new revenue for local businesses.” Brochures, letters, warnings from the city, and solicitations from a legal firm were all part of a day's reading for the residents of the well heeled neighborhood, and they were not amused, flocking online to register their complaints.

“This is not an industrial neighborhood and shouldn't be treated as such,” said Yelp user Michelle in an angry post. “This is horrible, and Alderman Fioretti and others need to step up to stop this from happening.”

Environmental activists quickly mobilized as well, and an ad hoc group called Citizens United Against Loop Coal (CUALC) even staged an impromptu protest against the proposed site on Wednesday afternoon.

“Midwest Generation has already fouled up enough Chicago neighborhoods,” said Susan Miller, a member of the CUALC protest group. “The last thing Chicago needs is more coal plants polluting our air and giving our kids asthma."

The plans, which were reported on by WBEZ and the Huffington Post, were quickly denounced by Midwestern Generation and 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti as an elaborate hoax.

They were right.

The entire spectacle was pulled together by local activists—also calling themselves CUALC, for Citizens United Against Lower-Income-Neighborhood Coal—in collaboration with the Yes Lab, a project of The Yes Men to help activist groups carry out media-savvy creative actions on their own. The goal was to raise awareness about the need for clean energy sources and push for the Clean Power Ordinance. Unfortunately dirty coal’s impact on Chicagoans’ health is no laughing matter.

Midwest Generation’s two Chicago plants, Crawford and Fisk, are located in the predominately low-income neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village. Residents in these neighborhoods experience higher levels of lung cancer, heart attacks, premature deaths, acute and chronic bronchitis, emergency room visits, asthma and other respiratory illnesses. As a result Chicago has one of the highest asthma rates in the entire country, and the plants also contribute to global warming, spewing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the air every year.

“Cleaner energy sources are readily available and should be implemented all over the world for the health of our planet and its inhabitants. It is obscene that coal-fired generating stations should go on operating,” said Lindsey Dietzler, a local activist who helped pull off the sophisticated plan. “That’s why we need the City Council to pass the Clean Power Ordinance and force the Fisk and Crawford plants to lower their emissions.”

The ruse, intended to spark interest and outrage about the existence of coal-fired plants in two of Chicago’s less affluent neighborhoods, involved a fake Midwest Generation website and a brochure and letter to residents allegedly from the company, distributed to the homes of Loop residents, extolling the benefits of the generating station and downplaying the possible disruption to the neighborhood. This was followed by a letter that appeared to be from the city’s Public Health Department suggesting that residents be alert for any changes in their health and explaining the pollutants emitted by coal-fired plants, as well as a solicitation from a faux law firm seeking potential claimants in a class-action law suit. Even those who turned out to Wednesday’s “protest” were in on the act.

“Midwest Generation is a powerful company, lobbying hard against the Clean Power Ordinance, even filling the hearing last week with employees to drown out the voices of those affected most by the plants,” said Dietzler. “We needed to create a little controversy to draw attention to the fact that Midwest Generation is polluting our city and poisoning its residents.”

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April 13, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Duncan Meisel 512-657-9124 duncan.meisel@gmail.com
Carl Gibson 601-454-6443 usuncut@gmail.com
The Yes Lab info@yeslab.org

GE Returns Billions to Public... NOT
USA Today, AP fall for US Uncut ploy; GE stock loses billions

Washington, DC - US Uncut, a burgeoning grassroots movement pressuring corporate tax cheats to pay their fair share, posted today a fake GE press release announcing that they would return their illegitimate (but legal) $3.2 billion tax refund, and that they would lobby to close the sort of corporate tax loopholes that had allowed them to skip taxes in the first place. Several major media outlets, including USA Today, ran the story as true. (Here is a link to the original USA Today story; here is the first article debunking the release.)

US Uncut quickly reacted with another release pretending to praise GE for this entirely unpredictable, unlikely, and in fact impossible act.

"At a time when working families are being asked to accept massive cuts nationwide, this action showed another way the world could work," said US Uncut spokesperson Carl Gibson. "For a brief moment people believed that the biggest corporate tax dodger had a change of heart and actually did the right thing. But the only way anything like this is really going to happen is if we change the laws that allow corporate tax avoidance in the first place."

In the period the hoax was believed, GE's stock plunged by .6% (far more than the value of the supposed return), then quickly recovered as soon as it became apparent the press had been duped. "Obviously, GE can't possibly be expected to do the right thing voluntarily; their stock would keep plunging," noted Gibson. "That's why we must change the law."

"GE's tax avoidance is unpatriotic, it's undemocratic, it's unfair," said Andrew Boyd, a US Uncut spokesperson. "It might be legal, but that's only because GE has used its money and lobbying influence to buy the loopholes they're now taking advantage of."

US Uncut developed the project with help from the Yes Lab (http://www.yeslab.org/).

 

About US Uncut

US Uncut, a grassroots movement organized through social media, connects corporate tax cheating to cuts in valuable public services. The group has lead over 100 actions nationwide against corporations who do not pay their fair share in taxes, bringing protests directly to the front door of corporate retail stores. US Uncut will hold more than 80 such events over the course of the upcoming Tax Day weekend.

"Billionaire corporations profit from the system of public services set-up by the government. It only makes sense for them to pay their fair share, just like everyone else," said Gibson. "No corporation is an island, even if they hide all their profits in tropical tax havens."

"While we all pay our taxes this weekend, Congress just passed the largest spending cuts in US history, much of it to social programs and investments for our country's future," said US Uncut DC organizer George Taghi, "Instead of slashing public services like Head Start and Pell Grants, why not go after corporations who don't bother to pay any taxes at all?"

Composed of self-organized citizens through social media, including Facebook and Twitter, the magnetic message of US Uncut has spread like populist wildfire. Anger is rising as Americans are being forced to endure brutal cuts at both the federal and state-level, for a budget crisis they did not cause. Over $100 billion estimated annually could be gained, if corporations ended practices of tax avoidance.

"Billionaire corporations have already abandoned America for foreign tax havens," said US Uncut spokesperson Ryan Clayton, "They pay zero income taxes here, hold their profits in international banks, and ship millions of American jobs overseas. That is un-American."

For more information, please visit http://USuncut.org
For time & locations of all the upcoming actions: http://USuncut.org/actions

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March 15, 2011

ENBRIDGE HAIR HOAX EXPOSED
Group responsible offers free haircuts at Enbridge HQ at noon

Earlier today, the world learned of oil transport giant Enbridge’s strategy for handling inevitable oil spills along its proposed pipeline through pristine British Columbian wilderness: mop it up with human hair.

The cockamamie “MyHairCares” hoax, dreamed up by former oil workers and involving outreach to over 1000 hair salons, was promoted in a slick Video News Release and involved a flurry of conflicting press releases. The original story ran in a number of major news outlets (archive will be posted shortly here), but was pulled with no retraction or explanation after a terse denial by Enbridge that seemed to miss the point entirely. (For a longer, better denial, written on behalf of Enbridge by the pranksters, click here.)

“This was a funny way to dramatize the fact that neither Enbridge nor any other oil company can prevent spills, and that they basically have no cleanup plan,” said Shannon McPhail, a former Canadian oil worker and Canadian spokesperson for People Enbridge Ruined in Michigan (PERM), the group responsible for MyHairCares. “What's happening in Michigan proves that.”

Between 1999 and 2008 Enbridge recorded an average of more than one oil spill every week. Just last summer, an Enbridge pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil into Michigan's Kalamazoo River. Enbridge is expected to face federal criminal charges for neglecting to maintain that pipeline; they are also accused of merely covering up, not actually cleaning up the oil. Further, a joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and CBS News found that Enbridge was coercing Kalamazoo spill victims into signing liability waiver forms. “Enbridge is manipulating and exploiting people who trust the company to do the right thing,” said former US Congressman Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., Chairman of the House Transportation Committee.

“We don’t want Canadian rivers or coastlines to end up like the oily mess that Enbridge has left in a number of places around here,” said US PERM spokesperson Rick Smith.

“In the U.S. Enbridge failed to maintain their pipeline, failed to clean up their mess, and are exploiting the victims,” said McPhail. “It would be madness to let them build a pipeline in Canada, especially through one of our planet’s last great wildernesses.”

Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline would cut across the Rocky Mountains, the pristine Great Bear rain forest, and over 1,000 streams and rivers. The pipeline would carry 700,000 barrels a day of petroleum products across 1,170 kilometres between Alberta’s Tar Sands and the Pacific Coast, where supertankers would carry the crude though the treacherous Douglas Channel—an area in which currents render conventional oil containment booms useless.

“A major spill on the coast or in a river would be devastating and irreversible,” said McPhail. “Canada must not trade in our wilderness just to make some foreign oil companies rich.”

One salon owner contacted after the ruse lauded the activists’ approach to getting the media to pay attention to one of the most pressing environmental issues in North America. "I wasn't tricked, I was educated,” said Brian Phillips, owner of World Salon in Toronto. “I had no idea what the people in Michigan were going through with Enbridge. We shouldn’t invite that treatment here in Canada.”

People Enbridge Ruined In Michigan (PERM) cooked up the “My Hair Cares” action with guidance from The Yes Men, as part of the Yes Lab for Creative Activism. Tomorrow, Canadian members of PERM will introduce themselves to the public during a noon press conference in front of Enbridge’s Vancouver offices. Free haircuts will available for all, and all clippings collected then (as well as any clippings mailed in by salons) will be donated to Michigan PERM members still struggling to clean up Enbridge’s mess in their community.

“Enbridge spends millions trying to convince people there's no problem,” noted McPhail. “We had to be a bit clever to compete with that.”

FREE HAIRCUTS: 12 noon PST, 505 Burrard St., Vancouver, CA

VIDEO DOWNLOAD: www.MyHairCares.com

CONTACTS:
Shannon McPhail (Smithers, BC), Canadian PERM spokesperson, 250-842-2494, shannon@kispioxriver.com
Rick Smith (Michigan), US PERM spokesperson: 269-425-1822, permkzoo@gmail.com
Sean Devlin (Vancouver) , The Yes Lab: 778.321.7306, sean@yeslab.org

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 27, 2010

Chevron “We Agree” Leaks Revealed
Activists ramp up fight against Chevron “greenwashing” with posters, videos, billboard alterations, etc.

Environmental and human rights activists have revealed the various leaks that permitted them to wreck the recent launch of Chevron's ultra-expensive new "We Agree" ad campaign. The revelations came with the announcement of a new print and video contest that, for a few dollars, continues the fight against Chevron's mega-millions in a no-holds-barred PR smackdown. (One video, submitted by the comedy troupe Funny or Die, is already cracking up online legions, as are a large number of print submissions. An upcoming billboard alteration contest promises to up the ante yet further.)

Chevron's plan for the “We Agree” offensive was first leaked to Amazon Watch over a month ago, when ecologist blogger Lauren Selman received a casting call to appear in one of Chevron's new split-screen television ads. Selman used the information she gathered to help Amazon Watch, the Rainforest Action Network, and the Yes Men pre-empt Chevron's insulting PR campaign. (Read Selman's blog post here.)

Another leak came shortly after, when Chevron's ad agency, McGarryBowen, asked DC street artist César Maxit if he could help wheat-paste the new Chevron posters. Instead, Maxit sent the Chevron files to the Rainforest Action Network and helped build their campaign. (See video here.)

The activists' continuing efforts are ensuring that Chevron's PR strategy backfires severely, as media continues to highlight Chevron's poor environmental and human rights record. That's exactly the point, say the activists: to raise public awareness around Chevron's abuses in Ecuador and elsewhere, and ultimately force Chevron to do something about them.

Coming soon: a billboard alteration kit for making Chevron's real-world “We Agree” ads better, an automagical “We Agree” poster generator, online resources for producing video parodies, and more! The contest will end in late November, and voting on entries will begin next week. Very special prizes will soon be announced.

Contacts:
Ginger Cassady, Rainforest Action Network, ginger@ran.org, (415) 640-7155
Han Shan, Amazon Watch, han@amazonwatch.org, (917) 418-4133
The Yes Men, press@theyesmen.org

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2010

Massive Chevron Ad Campaign Derailed, Media Slapstick Follows
News outlets, citizens duped by web of deceit - but whose?

A day-long comedy of errors began Monday morning when the Yes Men, supported by Rainforest Action Network and Amazon Watch, pre-empted Chevron's enormous new “We Agree” ad campaign with a satirical version of their own. The activists' version highlights Chevron's environmental and social abuses - the same abuses they say Chevron is attempting to “greenwash.”

“Chevron's super-expensive fake street art is a cynical attempt to gloss over the human rights abuses and environmental degradation that is the legacy of Chevron's operations in Ecuador, Nigeria, Burma and throughout the world,” said Ginger Cassady, a campaigner at Rainforest Action Network. “They must think we're stupid.”

“They say we're 'interrupting the dialogue,'” said Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men, referring to Chevron's terse condemnation. “What dialogue? Chevron's ad campaign is an insulting, confusing monologue - with many tens of millions of dollars behind it.”

The activists' pre-emptive campaign began early Monday with a press release from a spoof Chevron domain, which launched the fake “We Agree” site hours before the real Chevron could launch its own, real campaign The fake “We Agree” site featured four “improved” advertisements, complete with downloadable PDF files to be used in on-the-street postering.

Nine hours later, after issuing its own “We Agree” press release, the real Chevron decried the hoax in a predictably curt and humorless manner. Mere moments later, the counter-campaign issued a much better denial on Chevron's behalf, laying out Chevron's principal arguments in its Ecuador case. “We have binding agreements with the Ecuadorian Government exempting us from any liabilities whatsoever, granted in exchange for a $40 million cleanup of some wells by Texaco in the 1990s,” the spoof press release crowed, absurdly yet accurately.

Throughout the day, a sort of slow vaudeville unfolded on the web, as a number of press outlets, from industry mouthpieces to the AFP and even a watchdog group, produced accidental mash-ups of “real” and fake information.

First, Fast Company fell for the hoax (archived article here), then related their duping with humor. An outlet called “Environmental Leader,” quoted indiscriminately from both real and fake press releases, before quietly removing the fake parts a few hours later (original article archived here).

Shortly after that, Energy Digital, an online source providing “news and information for Energy Executives” (capitalization theirs), quoted extensively (archive here) from the fake release to describe Chevron's campaign, then mentioned that the campaign had “already been spoofed.” They didn't realize they'd just fallen for that very same spoof.

Even the AFP found itself duped (original article archived here). It described with glee the hoax “that appeared to have fooled some news outlets,” before going on to quote “the real firm” at length. (The “real firm” wasn't.)

Nor were industry watchdog groups immune. “Oil Watchdog” dissected the hoax minutely and accurately, before citing Advertising Age as one of the outlets duped. That whole article, however, was a fake.

“If you really want to snooker the media, it's pretty hard for them to resist,” said Mike Bonanno of the Yes Men. “We cobbled together some fake releases and websites with string and thumbtacks and chewing gum, and we fooled some of the most respectable press in the world.”

“Chevron is doing what we did, a million times over, with a ginormous budget - and it never reveals its subterfuge,” said Bichlbaum. “No wonder the media's full of lies.”

“Yesterday's spoof was a comedy of errors, but what's happening in Ecuador is no joke,” said Mitch Anderson, a campaigner at Amazon Watch. “While Chevron spends tens of millions every year to greenwash their image and fool the media, Ecuadorians continue to die from their toxic legacy."

Yesterday's hoax is just the beginning for the activists. “Stay tuned,” said RAN's Cassady. “There's a lot more to come in the days ahead. We're going to keep Chevron scrambling.”

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Video at the bottom.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Copenhagen Spoof Shames Canada; Climate Debt No Joke
African, Danish and Canadian youth join the Yes Men to demand climate justice and skewer Canadian climate policy

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - "Canada is 'red-faced'!" (Globe and Mail) "Copenhagen spoof shames Canada!" (Guardian) "Hoax slices through Canadian spin on warming!" (The Toronto Star) "A childish prank!" (Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada)

What at first looked like the flip-flop of the century has been revealed as a sophisticated ruse by a coalition of African, North American, and European activists. The purpose: to highlight the most powerful nations' obstruction of meaningful progress in Copenhagen, to push for just climate debt reparations, and to call out Canada in particular for its terrible climate policy.

The elaborate intercontinental operation was spearheaded by a group of concerned Canadian citizens, the "Climate Debt Agents" from ActionAid, and The Yes Men. It involved the creation of a best-case scenario in which Canadian government representatives unleashed a bold new initiative to curb emissions and spearhead a "Climate Debt Mechanism" for the developing world.

The ruse started at 2:00 PM Monday, when journalists around the world were surprised to receive a press release from "Environment Canada" (enviro-canada.ca, a copy of ec.gc.ca) that claimed Canada was reversing its position on climate change.

In the release, Canada's Environment Minister, Jim Prentice, waxed lyrical. "Canada is taking the long view on the world economy," said Prentice. "Nobody benefits from a world in peril. Contributing to the development of other nations and taking full responsibilities for our emissions is simple Canadian good sense."

Thirty minutes later, the same "Environment Canada" sent out another press release, congratulating itself on Uganda's excited response to the earlier fake announcement. A video featuring an impassioned response by "Margaret Matembe," supposedly a COP15 delegate from Uganda, was embedded in a fake COP15 website. "Canada, until now you have blocked climate negotiations and refused to reduce emissions," said "Matembe." "Of course, you do sit on the world's second-largest oil reserve. But for us it isn't a mere economic issue - it's about drought, famine, and disease."

(The video was shot in a replica of the Bella Center's briefing room, at Frederiksholms Kanal 4, in the center of Copenhagen. Matembe was actually Kodili Chandia, a "Climate Debt Agent" from ActionAid, a collective of activists that push for rich countries to help those most affected by climate change for adaptation and mitigation projects. The "Climate Debt Agents," with their signature bright red suits, have been a ubiquitous presence in Copenhagen during the climate summit.)

Then it was time for Canada to react. One hour later, another "Environment Canada" (this one at ec-gc.ca) released a bombastic response to the original release. This one quoted Jim Prentice, Canada's Minister for the Environment, decrying the original announcement: "It is the height of cruelty, hypocrisy, and immorality to infuse with false hopes the spirit of people who are already, and will additionally, bear the brunt of climate change's terrible human effects. Canada deplores this moral misfire."

Because almost none of the resulting news coverage even mentioned Uganda or "Matembe's" response, a fourth release was sent from the second website (ec-gc.ca).

Meanwhile, in the real world

The real Canadian government's reactions were almost as strange as the fake ones in the release. Dimitri Soudas, a spokesperson for the Canadian Prime Minister, emailed reporters and blamed Steven Guilbeault, cofounder of Quebec-based Equiterre. "More time should be dedicated to playing a constructive role instead of childish pranks," said Soudas in a first email, while misspelling Guilbeault's name.

Guilbeault demanded an apology. "A better way to use his time would probably be to advise the Canadian government to change its deeply flawed position on climate," said Guilbeault. Soudas and Guilbeault were seen exchanging angry words in the hallway outside of Canada's 3:30pm press conference, which did not start until 4:30pm, and at which the Canadians refused to answer any questions about the flurry of false releases.

(Update: Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff has called for Soudas's dismissal over the incident.)

More raised voices were heard when Stephen Chu, the US Secretary of Energy, refused to pose for a photo with his Canadian counterpart, Jim Prentice. After Steve Kelly, Prentice's chief of staff, begged for 10 minutes, the US guy finally asked why a photo was so important. Kelly replied that "we were carpetbagged this morning by [environmental non-governmental organizations] with a false press release. I gotta change the story."

Why Blame Canada?

The only country in the world to have abandoned the Kyoto Protocol's emissions and climate debt targets, Canada also has the most energy-intensive, destructive and polluting oil reserves in the world. The Alberta tar sands, according to The Economist, are in fact the world's biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions.

"By not agreeing to emissions reductions, Canada is holding a loaded gun to our heads, and seems ready to pull the trigger on millions of us around the globe, " said Margaret Matembe aka Kodili Chandia of the "Climate Debt Agents." "They leave us no choice but to see them as criminal."

At last year's climate summit in Poznan, Poland, over 400 civil society organizations voted Canada worst of all nations in blocking progress towards a binding climate treaty. Will Canada take the dubious prize again this year in Copenhagen?

"The Canadian government is not listening to its citizens," says Sarah Ramsey, a resident of Alberta who has seen the destruction of the tar sands firsthand. Ramsey traveled to Copenhagen to give voice to a generation of young Canadians. "We are discouraged and demoralized by our government's position on climate change. We decided to lend our government a hand, and show them what good leadership looks like."

In solidarity with the delegates from the G77 Bloc of nations, today's intervention was also meant to highlight an issue at the heart of the ongoing talks—the issue of climate justice, and the climate debt that the developed world owes the developing world. Seventy-five percent of the historical emissions that created the climate crisis came from 20% of the world's population in developed countries, according to the UN, yet up to 80% of the impacts of the climate crisis are experienced in the developing world, according to the World Bank.

"I meant every word I said," says Kodili Chandia, a spokesperson for the Climate Debt Agents, who spoke out as a member of the Ugandan delegation. "This debate isn't just about facts and figures and abstract concepts of fairness—the drought we are seeing right now in East Africa is directly threatening the lives of millions of people, including farmers in my own family. We have not created this problem but we are living with the consequences. That's why I still say: It's time for rich countries to pay their climate debt."

(Hi-res download)

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"We've finally made it," says Andy Bichlbaum (aka Hingo Sembra) of the Yes Men. "We're officially part of the the Extreme Left-Wing Agenda.

"At least that's what you'll learn if you click through to the Google ads keyed to the phrase 'Yes Men' that have popped up overnight steering people to a fundraising page for the Chamber. Or if you received the email solicitation they sent out to their supporters, claiming 'we're under attack,' a message which also directs to a fundraising page.

"We can see why they might need those funds: after all, this year alone they've already spent a mind-boggling $50+ million on lobbying fees. But it's still pretty ironic that the Chamber would ask for money for its effort to punish criticism, given that they are so publicly opposed to frivolous lawsuits and publicly in support of free speech.

"The Chamber complains that we've misled the public. But the Chamber misleads the public every day when it claims to speak for 3 million business, effectively masquerading as a populist lobbying organization - when a closer look reveals it represents barely a tenth of that. In fact, the Chamber repeated that debatable number in the press release sent out announcing the lawsuit against us. Now that's chutzpa!

"Bragging about their size is only the tip of the iceberg, of course. Among many other things, the Chamber routinely undermines American democracy by spending millions to oppose sane climate legislation, health care reform, and employee free choice - not to mention so-called 'grassroots' campaigns to kill banking regulations on derivatives trading. That's right: the Chamber is lobbying to prop up the same system that left the American economy in a shambles.

"No wonder 63% of Americans distrust the news: powerful business lobbies and their massively funded PR campaigns are subverting the media every day, expensively and effectively, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. It's shameful that the Chamber has decided to lash out at a public interest group like ours for trying to push back and call attention to the Chamber's outrageous positions."

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Monday, October 19, 2009, 4 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WILL THE REAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE PLEASE STAND UP?
Business as usual; Chamber is its own parody

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In a dramatic announcement at the National Press Club today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reversed its position on climate change policy, and promised to immediately cease lobbying against the Kerry-Boxer bill.

Not.

Within minutes of the Chamber's dramatic announcement, it was revealed that the "Chamber spokesperson" was an impostor, and the press conference an elaborate hoax designed by activists to draw attention to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's "troglodytic" fight against climate change legislation. At the close of the news conference, a visibly rattled Chamber of Commerce spokesperson (Eric Wohlschlegel) barged into the room and declared the event a fraud. (Video here.)

The stunt was pulled off by the Yes Men, the activists best known for posing as corporate executives in order to reveal how corporate greed negatively influences public policy. Recently, the Yes Men have focused their attention on the urgent need for action on climate change. Today they sought to highlight relentless corporate lobbying of elected officials aimed at derailing domestic climate legislation and a much-needed global climate accord.

The group of reporters at the Press Club listened closely as U.S. Chamber "representative" "Hingo Sembra" (Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men) asserted that the Chamber would put its full weight behind supporting the Kerry-Boxer bill, while working with Senators Kerry and Boxer to strengthen the bill.

"We believe that climate legislation currently being considered by the U.S. Senate is a great start towards a bill that will spur American innovation, create jobs, and give us all a good chance of survival," he said. To the visible delight of reporters in the audience, he added, "We at the Chamber have tried to keep climate science from interfering with business. But without a stable climate, there will be no business."

The Chamber has recently come under fire for launching multi-million dollar advertising campaigns designed to derail climate negotiations. Their position has been so controversial that Apple, Exelon, PNM Resources, PG&E, PSEG, Levi Strauss & Co, and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce have all left the U.S. Chamber, and Nike very publicly stepped down from the board.

"The Chamber's position against climate legislation is completely troglodytic," said Bichlbaum. "The rest of the world sees the need for urgent action on the climate. The rest of the world's rich countries have pledged large emissions reductions. With scientists saying if we don't reduce carbon emissions, then sooner or later we're doomed, the Chamber represents corporate America at its most backwards."

"An entity claiming to represent the public good, but that opposes action on the climate, is obviously illegitimate," Bichlbaum added.

News outlets were quick to jump on the story, including a Reuters story which was reprinted in the New York Times and elsewhere. The Chamber's "about-face" was also reported on Fox Business Network and CNBC before the anchors were forced to retract in mid-sentence.

At the end of Sembra's remarks, Eric Wohlschlegel confronted Bichlbaum. In the stand-off, both accused the other of being a fraud. The standoff ended with Wohlschlegel dispensing his business card to reporters in the room, and attempting to field a number of pointed questions about the Chamber's real stance on climate legislation currently in Congress, which the real Chamber opposes. (Video here.)

"Mr. Wohlschlegel was feeling defensive," added Bichlbaum. "He should, what with the Chamber's ridiculous stance in the face of all science."

International climate talks are currently stalled, largely because the U.S. negotiators won't make any promises that Congress can't keep. Breaking the gridlock in negotiations will require the passage of ambitious U.S. legislation within the next 2 months.

An official response from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce read: "These irresponsible tactics are a foolish distraction from the serious effort by our nation to reduce greenhouse gases."

"The only irresponsibility and distraction here is the Chamber's doublespeak," said Bichlbaum. "They're pretending to support the idea of legislation while opposing actual proposed legislation."

The Yes Men collaborated on this action with activists from BeyondTalk.net, the "Climate Pledge of Resistance," which calls on citizens to risk arrest in the interest of creating pressure for sane climate legislation, and received tactical support from the DC Climate Action Factory, a semi-autonomous group of climate activists sponsored by Avaaz.org.

The Yes Men will be holding a rally tomorrow at 10:30am on the Capitol lawn, northeast corner (across from the Dirksen Senate Office Building), to kick off the 350.org Day of Climate Action by showcasing a fleet of SurvivaBalls, an alternate solution to climate change that protects America's most valuable citizens from the ravages of climate change.

 

See also:

UPDATE: Chamber of Commerce knocks out entire Mayfirst hosting company over Chamber-of-Commerce.us
UPDATE #2: Chamber uses Yes Men hoax to raise money! Seriously. Not a joke (apparently).
UPDATE #3: Chamber of Commerce sues the Yes Men (also apparently not a joke)
UPDATE #4: Chamber cries uncle, drops lawsuit

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