Category Archives: Corporations

Number of global billionaires has doubled since the financial crisis

Jamie Merril reports for The Independent:

‘The number of billionaires has doubled since the start of the financial crisis, according to a major new report from anti-poverty campaigners.

According to Oxfam, the world’s rich are getting richer, leaving hundreds of millions of people facing a life “trapped in poverty” as global “inequality spirals out of control”.

The report found that the number of billionaires in the world has more than doubled to 1,646 since the financial crisis of 2009, and Oxfam says is evidence that the benefits of a return to economic growth are “not being shared with the vast majority”.’

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The Top Censored Stories of 2014: Interview with Mickey Huff

Abby Martin interviews, Mickey Huff, Director of Project Censored, about some of the top 25 censored stories of 2014, covering everything from the lack of police brutality statistics to the impact of ocean acidification.’ (Breaking the Set)

The Special Interest Problem: How AIPAC and the NRA Came to Rule American Politics

Lawrence Davidson writes for CounterPunch:

‘The problem of special interests or lobbies was one of the foremost concerns of the Founding Fathers of the United States. In their day they were called factions. James Madison, who is considered the architect of the U.S. Constitution, devoted the entire tenth Federalist Paper (1787) to the problem. He defined a faction as “a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority … actuated by some common … interest, adverse to … the aggregate interests of the community,” and believed that within the context of liberal republicanism, they could never be eliminated. However, he did feel they could be controlled. To this end he sought to create representative bodies with high numbers of delegates and a wide diversity of interests in the hope that they would counterbalance each other.

When George Washington delivered his famous Farewell Address in 1796, he too noted the problem. Washington warned of “combinations and associations” which attempt to “direct, control, counteract and awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities” and thereby substitute their own desires for the “delegated will of the nation.” As Washington’s continued concern implied, James Madison’s approach to controlling special interests or factions never proved adequate.’

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The FBI Was So Hapless Hunting a Teen Kid, It Had To Pretend To Be from a Newspaper

Andrew Jerell Jones reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - The FBI Was So Hapless Hunting a Teen Kid, It Had To Pretend To Be from a Newspaper‘The Federal Bureau of Investigation decided in 2007 that it didn’t need to be the Federal Bureau of Investigation to trick a teenager online. Instead, it acted as a local newspaper.

At the time, the FBI wanted to identify the owner of an anonymous MySpace account connected to bomb threats against a high school in Lacey, Washington. So the bureau created a fake news story about the bomb threats and ginned up an email appearing to come from the Seattle Times, which it sent to the MySpace account, according to documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Included in the email were links that appeared to point at the Times‘ website but which, in fact, linked to servers controlled by the FBI. Those servers, in turn, installed spyware on the target’s computer. The ruse worked: The owner of the account clicked on the links, compromising his identity as a 15-year-old student. He was subsequently arrested and convicted.’

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Matt Taibbi Leaves Omidyar’s First Look Media

Editor’s Note: Pierre Omidyar confirmed on Tuesday night that Matt Taibbi has now left First Look Media. And on Thursday an article was put out by The Intercept in an attempt to explain the situation further. 

Andrew Rice reports for New York Magazine:

‘Matt Taibbi, the star magazine writerhired earlier this year to start a satirical website for billionaire Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media, is on a leave of absence from the company after disagreements with higher-ups inside Omidyar’s organization, a source close to First Look confirmed today.

Taibbi’s abrupt disappearance from the company’s Fifth Avenue headquarters has cast doubt on the fate of his highly anticipated digital publication, reportedly to be called Racket, which First Look executives had previously said would launch sometime this autumn.’

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The Shadow of the Transnationals: Latin America and the US Techno-Empire

Mateo Pimentel writes for CounterPunch:

‘The notion that history tends to favor the hegemonies that would write it is nothing new. This is especially the case for the United States today. Take US-Latin American international relations, for example: they are indelibly stippled with gunboat diplomacy and seditious coups; even the many perverse trade agreements and subsequent growing poverty belie the neoliberal overtures that America continually makes. Yet, in spite of a most basic realpolitik approach to assessing America’s litany of hegemonic aggression, history is still quick to cite the anarchic nature of international relationships in general, and in doing so, it excuses fratricidal US ‘diplomacy’ throughout Latin America by simply referencing a manifest ‘self-help’ system amongst states.

America, in other words, is not to blame; rather, the anarchy of inter-state relationships is to be understood as a given, and its inherent culpability, understood.

This road, of course, is too easily taken. Though it may explain the what, it does not explain the why apropos general US meddling in Latin America. And while polemical inter-state issues between the US and its closest neighbors are well documented and investigated with some frequency, an “empire for empire’s sake” argument does not suffice as a believable impetus for such aggressive behavior in Latin America—at least, not any more than a phenomenon like self-interest can or does. No. To truly understand these international affairs, one must look beyond hackneyed tautologies. One must weigh the interest that runs the state, the lifeblood of the state’s moneyed organs, the whip that drives the imperial mule. Then, the raison d’être for America’s imposition and coercion in Latin America becomes clear.’

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Noam Chomsky at United Nations: It Would Be Nice if the United States Lived up to International Law

Couch potatoes have killed the internet dream

John Naughton writes for The Guardian:

‘[...] To those of us who were accustomed to thinking of the internet as a glorious, distributed, anarchic, many-to-many communication network in which anyone could become a global publisher, corporate gatekeepers had lost their power and peer-to-peer sharing was becoming the liberating norm, Labovitz’s brusque summary comes as a rude shock. Why? Because what he was really saying is that the internet is well on its way to being captured by giant corporations – just as the Columbia law professor Tim Wu speculated it might be in The Master Switch, his magisterial history of 20th-century communications technologies.

In that book, Wu recounted the history of telephone, movie, radio and TV technologies in the US. All of them had started out as creative, anarchic, open and innovative technologies but over time each had been captured by corporate interests. In some cases (eg the telephone) this happened with the co-operation of the state, but in most cases it happened because visionary entrepreneurs offered consumers propositions that they found irresistible. But the result was always the same: corporate capture of the technology and the medium. And the most insidious thing, Wu wrote, was that this process of closure doesn’t involve any kind of authoritarian takeover. It comes, not as a bitter pill, but as a “sweet pill, as a tabloid, easy to swallow”. Most of the corporate masters of 20th-century media delivered a consumer product that was better than what went before – which is what consumers went for and what led these industries towards closure.’

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Ebola Fears Turn Into an Epidemic of Racism and Hysteria

Andrew Jerell Jones wrote for The Intercept:

‘[..] Far more contagious here has been a new virus of hysteria — and of the sort of ignorant discrimination that immigrants in general and Africans specifically have endured for decades.

People are being shunned and mocked for having visited, or even for simply having been born in, Africa — and anywhere in Africa will do, afflicted with Ebola or not. Others face discrimination simply for living in the same neighborhood where a single Ebola patient once lived. Politicians and pundits have seriously discussed closing our borders to entire nations. Panic is dividing the country at a time when the U.S. and indeed the whole world needs to pull together to solve a viral health crisis.’

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Ottawa Killings: Who Wins?

French Journalists Jailed in Indonesia’s Papua

From The Associated Press:

Valentine Bourrat, Thomas Dandois‘Two French television journalists were sentenced to two and a half months in jail Friday for illegal reporting in Indonesia’s easternmost province of Papua.

Thomas Dandois, 40, and Valentine Bourrat, 29, were detained for tourist visa violation in August in Jayapura, the capital of Papua, after filming a documentary about separatist movement in a mountainous area of Wamena along with three suspected rebels.’

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Iranian Photojournalist Reportedly Detained After Covering Protest Against Acid Attacks

Robert Mackey reports for The New York Times:

‘An Iranian photojournalist was reported to have been detained on Friday, two days after his images of protesters deploring acid attacks on women in the city of Isfahan were published by news organizations around the world.

[...] Mr. Jafari had covered the demonstration on Wednesday outside the gates of a local judiciary office for the semiofficial Iranian Students’ News Agency, which still features 20 of his images on its website. His photographs were also distributed internationally by Getty Images.’

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Public trust in U.S. has dwindled with rise in income inequality

Science Daily reports:

‘Trust in others and confidence in societal institutions are at their lowest point in over three decades, analyses of national survey data reveal. The findings are forthcoming in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Compared to Americans in the 1970s-2000s, Americans in the last few years are less likely to say they can trust others, and are less likely to believe that institutions such as government, the press, religious organizations, schools, and large corporations are ‘doing a good job,'” explains psychological scientist and lead researcher Jean M. Twenge of San Diego State University.’

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Canada’s Coverage of the Ottawa Shootings Put American Cable News to Shame

‘The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation today gave a master class in calm, credible breaking news reporting.

Anchored by the unflappable Peter Mansbridge, news of the shootings in Ottawa unfolded live on the CBC much like they do here in the United States: lots of sketchy details, conflicting reports, unreliable witnesses, and a thick fog of confusion. All of that was familiar. What was less familiar was how Mansbridge and his team managed that confusion, conveying a concise and fact-based version of fast-moving events to viewers across Canada and the world.

This live bit of level-headed reporting by Mansbridge, from around 11:10am Wednesday, should be given to journalism students around the country. It basically contains everything you need to know about why CBC did its audience proud.’

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Pew Study On Media Habits In The U.S.

IAPA: Press Freedom Deteriorating in the Americas

The Associated Press reports:

‘Freedom of expression and the press have sharply deteriorated in the Americas over the last six months due to an increase in censorship and physical attacks on journalists, the Inter American Press Association said Tuesday.

Eleven journalists were killed in attacks “carried out by organized crime, drug traffic hit men and police-style groups on the orders of several governments of the region,” the group said in a statement at the end of its 70th General Assembly.

Journalists suffered violence in almost every country in the region, including Venezuela, where some were attacked by police, and in Bolivia, Brazil and Peru during election coverage. Journalists also experienced violence while reporting on street protests in the U.S. city of Ferguson, Missouri, and the Brazilian cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.’

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Whistleblowers: IRS officials behind ‘fraudulent’ multi-billion dollar corporate tax giveaways

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Raw Story:

IRSArt‘A 10-year veteran Internal Revenue Service (IRS) attorney has demanded a Congressional audit of the IRS to investigate the agency’s alleged role in allowing American corporations to illegally avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes at the same time the agency is cracking down on individuals and small businesses.

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, IRS commissioner John A. Koskinen, and IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, Jane J. Kim, an attorney in the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel in New York, accused IRS executives of “deliberately” facilitating multi-billion dollar tax giveaways. The letter, dated October 19, will add further pressure on the agency, which is under fire for allegedly targeting conservative and Tea Party groups.’

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‘Ethical’ funds still pouring money into coal, oil and gas, new report finds

Rupert Jones reports for The Guardian:

‘Should ethical investment funds be putting millions of pounds of people’s money into oil, gas and coal companies?

A new report says too many UK ethical funds are still invested in fossil fuels and heavily polluting industries, at a time when growing numbers of people are looking to reduce their exposure to these sectors.

Launched to coincide with Good Money Week (the new name for National Ethical Investment Week), which kicks off on Sunday 19 October, the report from ethical independent financial adviser firm Barchester Green names the “sinners” and “winners” of the multibillion-pound ethical and environmental funds industry.’

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False Advertising: Red Bull to pay $13m because it doesn’t ‘give you wings’

Pamela Newenham reports for The Irish Times:

‘So, a can of Red Bull doesn’t give you wings after all. The energy drink giant has agreed to pay $13 million to settle a lawsuit in the US over false advertising.

The drinks maker is refunding customers who were allegedly deceived by a marketing slogan that said “Red Bull gives you wings.”

The Austrian company admitted no wrongdoing, but said it would give a $10 refund or $15 worth of products to US customers who purchased Red Bull between January 1st 2002 and October 3rd 2014.’

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“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

What ‘Democracy’ Really Means in U.S. and New York Times Jargon: Latin America Edition

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - What ‘Democracy’ Really Means in U.S. and New York Times Jargon: Latin America Edition‘One of the most accidentally revealing media accounts highlighting the real meaning of “democracy” in U.S. discourse is a still-remarkable 2002 New York Times Editorial on the U.S.-backed military coup in Venezuela, which temporarily removed that country’s democratically elected (and very popular) president, Hugo Chávez. Rather than describe that coup as what it was by definition – a direct attack on democracy by a foreign power and domestic military which disliked the popularly elected president – the Times, in the most Orwellian fashion imaginable, literally celebrated the coup as a victory for democracy:

With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.

Thankfully, said the NYT, democracy in Venezuela was no longer in danger . . . because the democratically-elected leader was forcibly removed by the military and replaced by an unelected, pro-U.S. “business leader.” The Champions of Democracy at the NYT then demanded a ruler more to their liking: “Venezuela urgently needs a leader with a strong democratic mandate to clean up the mess, encourage entrepreneurial freedom and slim down and professionalize the bureaucracy.”’

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iEmpire: Apple’s Sordid Business Practices Are Even Worse Than You Think

Arun Gupta writes for AlterNet:

‘Behind the sleek face of the iPad is an ugly backstory that reveals once more the horrors of globalization. The buzz about Apple’s sordid business practices comes courtesy of the New York Times series on the “iEconomy.” In some ways it’s well reported but adds little new to what critics of the Taiwan-based Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, have been saying for years. The series’ biggest impact may be discomfiting Apple fanatics who as they read the articles realize that the iPad they are holding is assembled from child labor, toxic shop floors, involuntary overtime, suicidal working conditions, and preventable accidents that kill and maim workers.

It turns out the story is much worse. Researchers with the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) say that legions of vocational and university students, some as young as 16, are forced to take months’-long “internships” in Foxconn’s mainland China factories assembling Apple products. The details of the internship program paint a far more disturbing picture than the Times does of how Foxconn, “the Chinese hell factory,” treats its workers, relying on public humiliation, military discipline, forced labor and physical abuse as management tools to hold down costs and extract maximum profits for Apple.’

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The great British money launderette

Jim Armitage reports for The Independent:

‘Front companies in the UK are at the heart of an investigation into one of Europe’s biggest money-laundering operations, allegedly forming part of a conspiracy to make $20bn (£12.5bn) of dirty money look legitimate. The funds are believed to have come from major criminals and corrupt officials around the world wanting to make their ill-gotten cash appear “clean”, so they can spend it without suspicion.

At least 19 UK-based front companies are under suspicion. The scandal highlights how lax corporate rules have made this country an attractive destination for global organised crime. The secrecy company directors are entitled to under UK law is also hindering attempts to identify the “Mr Bigs” behind the scam.

An investigation by The Independent and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an NGO, has identified dozens of firms in a global web spreading from Birmingham to Belize.’

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Richest 1% of people own nearly half of global wealth, says Credit Suisse study

Jill Treanor reports for The Guardian:

1percent 300x201 The Global 1%: Exposing the Transnational Ruling Class‘The richest 1% of the world’s population are getting wealthier, owning more than 48% of global wealth, according to a report published on Tuesday which warned growing inequality could be a trigger for recession.

According to the Credit Suisse global wealth report (pdf), a person needs just $3,650 – including the value of equity in their home – to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens. However, more than $77,000 is required to be a member of the top 10% of global wealth holders, and $798,000 to belong to the top 1%.

“Taken together, the bottom half of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth. In sharp contrast, the richest decile hold 87% of the world’s wealth, and the top percentile alone account for 48.2% of global assets,” said the annual report, now in its fifth year.’

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From Sex Worker to Seamstress: The High Cost of Cheap Clothes

‘Cambodia’s aggressive anti-trafficking campaign is designed to rescue and rehabilitate sex workers. But many women say authorities in Cambodia are actually forcing them into a trade where conditions and pay are even worse: making clothing for Western brands. VICE founder Suroosh Alvi traveled to Phnom Penh to speak with former and current sex workers, officials, and labor organizers to investigate what is happening to those swept up in the country’s trafficking crackdown.’ (VICE)

Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire: Interview with Deepa Kumar

Editor’s Note: Below are parts three and four of a five part interview with Deepa Kumar, author of ‘Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire‘. You can view the other parts of the interview at The Real News.

New Zealand Cops Raided Home of Reporter Working on Snowden Documents

Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher report for The Intercept:

Featured photo - New Zealand Cops Raided Home of Reporter Working on Snowden Documents‘Agents from New Zealand’s national police force ransacked the home of a prominent independent journalist earlier this month who was collaborating with The Intercept on stories from the NSA archive furnished by Edward Snowden. The stated purpose of the 10-hour police raid was to identify the source for allegations that the reporter, Nicky Hager, recently published in a book that caused a major political firestorm and led to the resignation of a top government minister.

But in seizing all the paper files and electronic devices in Hager’s home, the authorities may have also taken source material concerning other unrelated stories that Hager was pursuing. Recognizing the severity of the threat posed to press freedoms from this raid, the Freedom of the Press Foundation today announced a global campaign to raise funds for Hager’s legal defense.’

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The American Government Tried to Kill James Risen’s Last Book

Murtaza Hussain reports for The Intercept:

‘James Risen’s new book on war-on-terror abuses comes out tomorrow, and if you want to find a copy it shouldn’t be hard to obtain. As natural as that seems, it almost wasn’t the case with the Risen’s last book, “State of War,” published in 2006. Not only did U.S. government officials object to the publication of the book on national security grounds, it turns out they pressured Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS, to have it killed.

The campaign to stifle Risen’s national security reporting at the Times is already well-documented, but a 60 Minutes story last night provided a glimpse into how deeply these efforts extended into the publishing world, as well. After being blocked from reporting on the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program for the paper of record, Risen looked into getting these revelations out through a book he was already under contract to write for Simon & Schuster, a book that would look at a wide range of intelligence missteps in the war on terror.’

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U.S. Media Cry Foul As Obama Attacks Freedom of the Press

Former NSA Director Says Government Shouldn’t Pursue Reporter James Risen

The Associated Press reports:

‘A former director of the National Security Agency says he doesn’t see the need for the U.S. government to prosecute the New York Times reporter who revealed the agency’s warrantless surveillance of Americans.

Michael Hayden says he is “conflicted” about whether reporter James Risen should be compelled to reveal his sources. Risen is facing potential jail time as he battles government efforts to force him to testify at the trial of a former CIA officer accused of leaking classified information.

Hayden tells CBS’ “60 Minutes” that Risen’s story damaged national security. But Hayden also says it’s “wrong” if “the method of redressing that actually harms the broad freedom of the press.” Hayden says “government needs to be strong,” but not so strong that it threatens individual liberties.’