Category Archives: Corporations

‘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.’

The U.S. Government War Against Reporter James Risen

Norman Solomon and Marcy Wheeler write for The Nation:

‘Ever since New York Times reporter James Risen received his first subpoena from the Justice Department more than six years ago, occasional news reports have skimmed the surface of a complex story. The usual gloss depicts a conflict between top officials who want to protect classified information and a journalist who wants to protect confidential sources. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Sterling—a former undercover CIA officer now facing charges under the Espionage Act, whom the feds want Risen to identify as his source—is cast as a disgruntled ex-employee in trouble for allegedly spilling the classified beans.

But the standard media narratives about Risen and Sterling have skipped over deep patterns of government retaliation against recalcitrant journalists and whistleblowers. Those patterns are undermining press freedom, precluding the informed consent of the governed and hiding crucial aspects of US foreign policy. The recent announcement of Eric Holder’s resignation as attorney general has come after nearly five years of the Obama administration extending and intensifying the use of the Justice Department for retribution against investigative journalism and whistleblowing.’

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America’s intelligence agencies agree: ISIS isn’t that big of a threat, so why are we all freaking out?

Bonnie Kristian writes for The Week:

Featured photo - The Panic Over Traveling Terrorists Could Ruin Your Vacationam no fan of America’s national-security state, which continues to grow steadily larger, more intrusive, and increasingly dismissive of civil liberties. The NSA has removed all expectations of privacy in digital communications, and the TSA is, at best, inept security theater. The Department of Homeland Security’s “If you see something, say something” campaign imagines a terrorist around every corner, while the CIA is busy spying on Congress and torturing away the rule of law.

But sometimes, America’s intelligence agencies are actually the voice of reason, offering a far less scary view of security threats than public perception or political pontificating provides. But we don’t listen.

Perhaps nowhere is this phenomenon more obvious than in an unjustified level of fear of ISIS, says Karen Callaghan, a political scientist at Texas Southern University who researches framing in political discourse about terrorism.’

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The Daily Mash: How satire website written by ‘weirdos in pyjamas’ became internet sensation

Adam Sherwin writes for The Independent:

‘“UKIP MP strangely familiar”. “Anything bends if you f**k about with it enough, says Apple.” “Non-smokers have no way to signal that sex is over.” Those are just a typical day’s headlines from The Daily Mash, the British satirical website that has become a surprise dotcom money-spinner – even if Nigella Lawson failed to see the joke.

Launched by a pair of disillusioned newspaper journalists in 2007, who spotted a gap for a domestic parody news website inspired by the success of The Onion in the US, The Daily Mash has grown from a source of online distraction for office workers into a thriving business, complete with a lucrative merchandise sideline.’

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How Putin’s American Fixers Keep Russian Sanctions Toothless

Lee Fang reports for VICE:

‘[...] Ketchum, a public relations firm that has represented the Russian government and Gazprom, the Russian oil behemoth, just filed its latest 6-month disclosure form with the US Department of Justice. Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law signed by President Franklin Roosevelt to regulate international lobbying, agents of foreign governments are required to report a significant amount of their activities to the public. The disclosures show a number of media contacts on behalf of the Russian government, including with the New York Times, AP, Bloomberg, the Washington Post, Politico, CNBC, CNN, and PBS.

The form also shows that Ketchum has corresponded closely with two trade groups that have been pivotal in beating back sanctions against Russia since the revolution in Ukraine: the US-Russia Business Council and the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, a Moscow affiliate to the US Chamber of Commerce known as an AmCham. Both groups are funded by companies with a stake in the US and Russia, including CitiGroup, BP, GE, GM, and Caterpillar.

But the most important business link between the two countries is ExxonMobil. The oil giant has multiple deals with Rosneft worth upwards of $1 trillion, including plans to drill in the Arctic, throughout Siberia, and in Alaska.
’

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Coca Cola places faith in FIFA to clean up its act

Keir Radnedge reports for World Soccer:

Coca Cola World Cup‘Coca-Cola has been investing in the World Cup’s pulling power since 1974 – and it will take more than a few years of scandal and corruption to shake its trust in FIFA. Complaints have escalated about the lack of backbone shown by the world federation’s commercial partners in insisting on greater integrity at the top of the power pyramid.

The latest critic was Michael Hershman. The former member of FIFA’s independent reform panel suggested on Monday that sponsors such as Coca-Cola, Adidas, Visa and Emirates merely “paid lip-service” to concerns about internal integrity failings.

But Amber Steele, director of football management for the soft drinks giant, insisted at Leaders Sport Summit in London that the company trusted FIFA – and by implication president Sepp Blatter – to put its house in order.’

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Union berates Bono for supporting tax breaks for multinational corporations

Henry McDonald reports for The Guardian:

‘Bono’s statement that Ireland’s “tax competitiveness has brought our country the only prosperity we’ve known” will be regarded with derision by Irish people suffering deprivation and poverty, one of the Republic’s largest unions has said.

Unite, which represents 100,000 workers on the island of Ireland, launched a blistering attack on the U2 singer for remarks in the Observer defending the 12.5% tax rate on corporations enjoyed by multinational companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon.

“We are a tiny little country, we don’t have scale, and our version of scale is to be innovative and to be clever, and tax competitiveness has brought our country the only prosperity we’ve known,” Bono said.’

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Top 400 US Billionaires Own $2.29 Trillion, Equal To Brazil’s GDP: Interview with Robert Johnson

Editor’s Note: Robert Johnson is the Executive Director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, a Senior Fellow and Director of the “Project on Global Finance” at the Roosevelt Institute. He was also a former currency trader on Wall Street who worked under George Soros.

“Kill the Messenger” Resurrects Gary Webb, Journalist Maligned for Exposing CIA Ties to Crack Trade

‘The new Hollywood film “Kill The Messenger” tells the story of Gary Webb, one of the most maligned figures in investigative journalism. Webb’s explosive 1996 investigative series “Dark Alliance” for the San Jose Mercury News revealed ties between the CIA, Nicaraguan contras and the crack cocaine trade ravaging African-American communities. The exposé provoked protests and congressional hearings, as well as a fierce reaction from the media establishment, which went to great lengths to discredit Webb’s reporting. We revisit Webb’s story with an extended clip from the documentary “Shadows of Liberty,” and speak with Robert Parry, a veteran investigative journalist who advised Webb before he published the series.’ (Democracy Now!)

Detroit Faces “Humanitarian Crisis” as City Shuts Off Water Access for Thousands of Residents

‘We are on the road in Detroit, broadcasting from the “Great Lakes State” of Michigan, which has one of the longest freshwater coastlines in the country. But its residents are increasingly concerned about their access to affordable water. A judge overseeing Detroit’s bankruptcy recently ruled the city can continue shutting off water to residents who have fallen behind on payments after a judge concluded there is no “enforceable right” to water. The city began cutting off water to thousands of households several months ago, prompting protests from residents and the United Nations. Today, some 350 to 400 customers reportedly continue to lose water service daily in Detroit, where poverty rate is approximately 40 percent, and people have seen their water bills increase by 119 percent within the last decade. Most of the residents are African-American. Two-thirds of those impacted by the water shutoffs involve families with children. We speak with Alice Jennings, the lead attorney for residents who have lost their water access. “What’s happening here is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis,” Jennings says. “In a military way, the truck would start at one end of the street, and by the time it reached the other end maybe 50 percent of the homes were shut off.”’ (Democracy Now!)

Former NSA director had thousands personally invested in obscure tech firms

Cyrus Farivar repors for Arstechnica:

‘New financial disclosure documents released this month by the National Security Agency (NSA) show that Keith Alexander, who served as its director from August 2005 until March 2014, had thousands of dollars of investments during his tenure in a handful of technology firms.

Each year disclosed has a checked box next to this statement: “Reported financial interests or affiliations are unrelated to assigned or prospective duties, and no conflicts appear to exist.”

Alexander repeatedly made the public case that the American public is at “greater risk” from a terrorist attack in the wake of the Snowden disclosures. Statements such as those could have a positive impact on the companies he was invested in, which could have eventually helped his personal bottom line.’

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Glenn Greenwald TED Talk: Why Privacy Matters

Editor’s Note: Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept and author of No Place To Hide recently delivered a talk at the TEDGlobal 2014 conference in Rio de Janeiro. Check it out.. 

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.” ~ George Orwell, 1984

Three of UK’s big four mobile phone networks providing customer data to police forces

James Ball reports for The Guardian:

‘Three of the UK’s four big mobile phone networks have made customers’ call records available at the click of a mouse to police forces through automated systems, a Guardian investigation has revealed.

EE, Vodafone and Three operate automated systems that hand over customer data “like a cash machine”,as one phone company employee described it.

Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, a transparency watchdog, said: “If companies are providing communications data to law enforcement on automatic pilot, it’s as good as giving police direct access [to individual phone bills].”

O2, by contrast, is the only major phone network requiring staff to review all police information requests, the company said.’

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Bill Maher Isn’t a ‘Politically Incorrect’ Liberal, He’s Just a Bigot

Murtaza Hussain writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Bill Maher Isn’t a ‘Politically Incorrect’ Liberal, He’s Just a Bigot‘Like many others, of late I’ve been sharing in the surreal experience of watching Bill Maher transform from a mildly interesting, “edgy,” talk show host into a crude, overbearing demagogue. It hasn’t been pleasant viewing, but Maher really does appear to be in rare form these days. Between him sharing his fears about the terrifying number of babies today being named Muhammad, to complaining about Muslims in America who “bring that desert stuff into our world” — the first question that comes to mind is: this guy is a liberal?

Watching his increasingly outlandish public performances, one gets the sincere impression that Maher believes that since he smokes weed and supports gay marriage it’s impossible for him to be a bigot. Needless to say, it’s become glaringly obvious that self-awareness is not really his strong suit.

Maher last week got into a rather heated argument on his show with Ben Affleck over the broadly defined subject of Islam and Muslims. Maher, who became visibly scandalized by Affleck’s suggestion that most Muslims are normal people, launched into an indignant tirade about the Muslim world, alleging, among other things, that Islam “acts like the Mafia” comprised of people who will “fucking kill you” for trying to leave.’

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Russell Brand: BBC “validating UKIP’s ideas” with Clacton by-election coverage

Cut benefits? Yes, let’s start with our £85bn corporate welfare handout

Aditya Chakrabortty writes for The Guardian:

daniel pudles for Aditya Chakrabortty‘[...] Politicians and pundits talk about welfare as if it’s solely cash given to people. Hardly ever discussed is corporate welfare: the grants and subsidies, the contracts and cut-price loans that government hands over to business. Yet some of our biggest companies and industries operate a business model that depends on them extracting money from the British taxpayer. The operators of our supposedly privatised train services are kept afloat by billions in public money. Or take the firm created by billionaire Jeff Bezos: last year it emerged that Amazon had paid less in corporation tax to the UK than it had received in government grants.

The bill for corporate welfare is huge – and largely hidden. We know a lot about the people who claim social welfare: we know how much each benefit costs the public, the government sets strict rules for eligibility – and we even have detailed estimates for how much cheating goes on. Between them, Whitehall, academia and NGOs have churned out enough surveys on social welfare claimants to fill a wing of the Bodleian library. But corporate welfare? The government has itself acknowledged: “There is no definitive source of data about spending on subsidies to businesses in the UK.” The numbers are scattered across government publications and there is not even any agreement on what counts as a corporate handout.’

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The UK’s big supermarkets sowed the seeds of their own decline

Deborah Orr reports for The Guardian:

‘If Britain’s big supermarkets fondly imagined that they’d come roaring back to health once the recession ended, then they’ve been sorely disappointed. Instead, as the new Sainsbury’s chief executive, Mike Coupe, put it: “The reality is that the market has changed more rapidly in the last three to six months than I’ve seen in my 30 years in the industry.”

And Sainsbury’s isn’t even the company most in trouble. Tesco has been caught cooking its books in order to make its fall in profits look slightly less vertiginous. The conventional wisdom is that this is all because shoppers are flocking to Aldi and Lidl. Maybe that’s part of it. But figures from August confirm that the big four – Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – still have a market share of nearly 75%. Between them, Aldi and Lidl have 8.4%. The real difference is that, with their pared-down approach, those two sell at a decent profit.

The success of Aldi and Lidl does mean something, of course. But I suspect that Britain’s changing grocery habits are the consequence of much more than mere bargain hunting. As a society, we are a bit different post-recession. I think a lot of people’s lives and priorities have changed.’

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James Risen: Obama hates the press

Hadas Gold writes for Politico:

‘New York Times reporter James Risen said Sunday that none of the current leak investigations would be happening if President Barack Obama did not hate the media so much, the Morning Sentinel of Maine reports.

“I don’t think any of this would be happening under the Obama administration if Obama didn’t want to do it,” Risen said at Colby College in Maine after he received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy award for journalism. “I think Obama hates the press. I think he doesn’t like the press and he hates leaks.”

Risen could face jail time for refusing to reveal his sources about a failed CIA operation, though Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama have indicated Risen will not go to jail.’

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