SEE ALSO: Is Obama the New Nixon? (Common Dreams)
by Jack Kaskey
‘Monsanto Co. (MON) opponents who want to block genetically modified foods are guilty of “elitism” that’s fanned by social media and fail to consider the needs of the rest of the world, Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant said.
The global population is growing and food consumption will rise even faster as people enter the middle class and eat more protein, the head of the world’s largest seed maker said in an interview. Those who can pay more for organic food want to block others from choosing more affordable options, Grant said.
“There is this strange kind of reverse elitism: If I’m going to do this, then everything else shouldn’t exist,” Grant said at Monsanto’s St. Louis headquarters yesterday. “There is space in the supermarket shelf for all of us.”’
‘The Isle of Man’s Chief Minister has defended the island’s work against tax evaders as international pressure mounts on overseas territories.
On Monday UK Prime Minister David Cameron wrote to 10 British overseas territories, urging them to “get their house in order”.
The island’s chief minister Allan Bell said the Isle of Man has led the way in cracking down on tax evaders.
The UK is expected to push for tighter tax measures at June’s G8 summit.
The 10 territories that received Mr Cameron’s letter are Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, Anguilla, Montserrat, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man.
Mr Bell told the BBC Politics Show that there were evasion issues in the UK, US and Europe that needed tidying up and “not just in smaller jurisdictions”.’
by Lauren McCauley
‘One month before his January 11th suicide, web pioneer and creative commons architect Aaron Swartz completed one last project—an “opensource drop box for leaked documents along the lines of WikiLeaks.”
Launched Thursday, Deaddrop is the brainchild of former hacker turned Wired editor, Kevin Poulsen, who approached Swartz with the idea. Swartz built the code for the project—one last gift to journalists and whistleblowers worldwide and the open-source internet community.
“He agreed to do it,” writes Poulsen, “with the understanding that the code would be open-source—licensed to allow anyone to use it freely—when we launched the system.”
As the Obama Administration continues their dogged pursuit and prosecution of press sources and whistleblowers like Bradley Manning and while the news of the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press records continues to swirl, newsrooms are frantically reevaluating their security procedures.
“With the risks now so high,” said Poulsen, “it’s crucial that news outlets find a secure route for sources to come to them.”‘
At this year’s Bilderberg conference, for the first time, there will be a Press Office – hosted by the Bilderberg Welcoming Committee – located on the hotel grounds. The aim of the Press Office will be to facilitate the mainstream and alternative media in their coverage of the meeting.
The Press Office will be located in a larger Reception Zone, within the grounds of The Grove Hotel (near the hotel gates). It will provide journalists, photographers, bloggers and researchers with information on this year’s conference, and details about the delegates: including an ID service for delegate photographs.
Besides the Press Office, the Reception Zone will feature a place for speakers, lavatories, and a view of the hotel drive for photographers. Electricity will be available at the Press Office for recharging cameras and phones.
There will be liaison officers from the Hertfordshire Constabulary present in the Reception Zone for the duration of the conference.
The Bilderberg Welcoming Committee is a loose association of pro-transparency campaigners, journalists and organizations, who will be hosting the Press Office.
This is the first officially sanctioned Press Office for the Bilderberg conference, and is a considerable step forward in the relations between the conference and the press.
The Bilderberg Group is famously shy of press attention. An article in the Daily Express, February 12, 1957 (a few years after the first official conference) shows how a veil of “secrecy and security” was drawn over the event:
But this attitude is finally changing, as the Chancellor George Osborne (Bilderberg attendee 2005-9, 2011) said, shortly after taking office: “We have already begun to implement the most radical transparency agenda the country has ever seen” (speech, June 8, 2010).
This sentiment was echoed, a year later, by David Cameron himself, in Prime Minister’s Questions (July 13, 2011):
“the relationship between politicians and the media must change and we must be more transparent, too, about meetings, particularly with executives, editors, proprietors and the rest of it.”
The Press Office and Reception Zone at the 2013 Bilderberg conference is a welcome part of this shift towards transparency.
If you are a member of the press, or plan to report on the event, please contact: press [at] bilderberg2013.co.uk
If you have any questions about coming along to witness the 2013 Bilderberg conference, please contact: info [at] bilderberg2013.co.uk
There will be parking for press and activists on the Old Hempstead Road, which runs alongside the A411. The details of the parking arrangements are still being finalized.
by CONOR FRIEDERSDORF
‘Prompted by Peggy Noonan’s claim in The Wall Street Journal that “we are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate,” Andrew Sullivan steps forward to defend Pres. Obama’s honor. “Can she actually believe this?,” he asks incredulously. “Has this president broken the law, lied under oath, or authorized war crimes? Has he traded arms for hostages with Iran? Has he knowingly sent his cabinet out to tell lies about his sex life? Has he sat by idly as an American city was destroyed by a hurricane? Has he started a war with no planning for an occupation? Has he started a war based on a lie, and destroyed the US’ credibility and moral standing while he was at it, leaving nothing but a smoldering and now rekindled civil sectarian war?”
An Obama critic, having overplayed her hand, gave Sullivan an opening to respond with what amounts to, “It isn’t as bad as Watergate, nor as bad as George W. Bush.” Let’s concede those points. I don’t much care what Obama’s Republican critics say about him. The scandals they’re presently touting, bad as two of them are, aren’t even the worst of Team Obama’s transgressions.
I have a stronger critique. Sullivan hasn’t internalized the worst of what Obama’s done, because his notion of scandal is implicitly constrained by whatever a president’s partisan opponents tout as scandalous. If they criticize Obama wrongly, he defends Obama proportionately.
To see what he’s forgotten as a result, let’s run once more through the first questions in Sullivan’s latest Obama apologia.’
Jail Terms For Unlocking Cellphones Shows The True Black Heart Of The Copyright Monopoly ~ Refreshing News
‘The discussion around people’s banished right to unlock their own cellphones has been framed as an unexpected and unanticipated effect of the copyright monopoly. To the contrary, it shows the heart of the monopoly’s philosophy: killing ownership as a concept.
‘The so-called Monsanto Protection Act signed into law earlier this year caused such an outrage that people around the world are planning to protest the biotech company later this month. Now a United States senator is expected to try and repeal that law.
According to the Huffington Post, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) plans to introduce an amendment in Washington that would repeal Section 735 from the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, a provision that has put St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto in the sights of environmentalists around the world.
Deep within the nearly 600-page spending bill, Section 735 includes language that lets biotech companies that experiment with genetically-engineered and genetically-modified crops test and sell lab-made products even if legal action is taken against them.’
by Matthew Taylor
‘A G4S security guard who was restraining an Angolan man who died as he was being deported from the UK had 65 racist jokes on his mobile phone when it was seized by police.
Terry Hughes, one of three detention custody officers in charge of Jimmy Mubenga’s forced deportation in October 2010, was told at an inquest at Isleworth crown court on Friday to read out a selection of the texts, which included offensive language directed at black, Asian and Muslim people.
Karon Monaghan QC, the assistant deputy coroner for Hammersmith, west London, said the texts contained “very racially offensive material”. The court heard that some of the texts had been sent by other detention custody officers.
Hughes is the second G4S officer involved in Mubenga’s case to be found with racist jokes on his mobile phone. This week, Stuart Tribelnig was found to have a string of texts deriding black, Pakistani and Muslim men.’
‘Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt will meet David Cameron next week, just days after the internet giant was mauled by a Commons committee over its tax affairs, it has emerged. Downing Street confirmed that Schmidt is set to attend a quarterly meeting of the prime minister’s Business Advisory Group at No 10 on Monday.
The Google chief is one of 16 members of the group, established in 2010 as a sounding board for the PM to hear business leaders’ concerns and priorities and discuss the government’s policies for the economy and growth, and has regularly taken part in its gatherings.
Downing Street said Monday’s meeting had been in the diary for some time and was not called in response to the recent controversy over the levels of tax Google pays in the UK. Details of the discussions are not normally released by Downing Street, but the spokesman said he was not aware of any plans for multinationals’ tax arrangements to be on the agenda.
Google was branded devious, calculating and unethical on Thursday, as furious MPs stepped up pressure on the search engine over its efforts to shelter its multibillion-pound profits from UK taxes.’
In lieu of the recent IRS scandal it might seem a little like a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Nevertheless, it looks like Apple CEO Tim Cook will be appearing in front of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations on Tuesday, May 21, to explain why the company is borrowing money to pay investors when they have $102 billion in offshore funds.
As of March 2013 Apple reported having a total of $145 billion cash on hand, but $102 billion was stashed in offshore funds. On April 24, CEO Tim Cook announced that Apple would return $100 billion to shareholders by the end of 2015. To finance the expanded capital return, Apple will raise its dividend 15 percent and increase its share buyback program six-fold to $60 billion. In other words, Apple is going to go into debt, for the first time in more than a decade, in order to keep investors happy.
Why go into debt? Why not just use some of those offshore billions they’ve got lying around gathering dust? Because, to bring that money into the U.S., Apple would have to pay a 35 percent corporate tax. Why pay an outrageous tax bill when a company with a AA-rating like Apple’s can borrow money at a 1.9% interest rate?
Under current tax laws, money in offshore accounts can not be spent or invested in the United States. It can’t even be given to the shareholders who rightfully own the money, until someone antes up 35% to cover the taxes. At that point, once the taxes are paid, the investors would also be responsible for paying income taxes on their dividends – a double whammy for investors.
It should be noted that the money in these offshore accounts was earned outside the U.S. and the appropriate taxes are paid to the countries involved.
For major corporations like Apple, which has more money than it knows what to do with, it just makes sense to leave that money in offshore accounts. Analysts estimate that the amount of corporate money in offshore accounts could exceed $1 trillion, money which could be boosting the US economy if it were repatriated.
Apple isn’t the only U.S.-based corporation holding money in offshore accounts. Last year, a lobbying coalition consisting of Google, Microsoft, Cisco and Apple sought a tax holiday, similar to one in 2004, for repatriating offshore funds. In 2004 Congress agreed to let companies repatriate money at a discounted tax rate of only 5 percent.
The 2012 effort was suspended because Republicans were focused more on permanent tax policy and Democrats were worried about the potential loss of tax revenue.
What they failed to understand is that there is no loss of revenue as long as Apple and other major corporations can use those offshore funds to secure low-interest loans right here on American soil. It only makes sense: Why pay a 35% tax when you can get the same results with a 1.9% loan?
Abby Martin calls out the corporate press for their coverage of AP hacking scandal, pointing out how the US government routinely conducts this type of surveillance without the same type of media outcry.
SEE ALSO: DOJ: We don’t need warrants for e-mail, Facebook chats (CNET)
SEE ALSO: Eric Holder Has No Idea
Spying on Members of the US Congress: DoJ Tapped Congressional Rooms as Well as Reporters’ Offices ~ Washington’s Blog
Has the Obama Department of Justice Violated the Separation of Powers?
California Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) says that the Department Of Justice tapped phones in the rooms where Congress members speak informally and off the record, eat, sleep and socialize when they’re not on the floor of the House of Representatives or in their individual offices.These rooms are known as “cloak rooms”, which are the spaces in which a lot of informal conversations occur… both between Congress members, and Congress members and reporters.
Congressman Nunes told Hugh Hewitt:
[Congressman Nunes]: I don’t think people are focusing on the right thing when they talk about going after the AP reporters. The big problem that I see is that they actually tapped right where I’m sitting right now, the Cloak Room.
[Interviewer]: Wait a minute, this is news to me.
Congressman Nunes: The Cloak Room in the House of Representatives.
[Interviewer]: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Congressman Nunes: So when they went after the AP reporters, right? Went after all of their phone records, they went after the phone records, including right up here in the House Gallery, right up from where I’m sitting right now. So you have a real separation of powers issue that did this really rise to the level that you would have to get phone records that would, that would most likely include members of Congress ….
Now that is a separation of powers issue here ….
Liberals rightfully lambasted the Bush administration for considering doing something similar. As Mother Jones reported in 2009:
James Risen and Eric Lichtblau report in the New York Times today that the NSA may have exceeded the wiretapping authority it was given by Congress in 2008.
But then there’s this buried in the middle of the story, which isn’t vague at all:
New details are also emerging about earlier domestic surveillance activities, including the agency’s attempt to wiretap a congressman without court approval on an overseas trip, according to interviews with current and former intelligence officials.
….The agency believed that the congressman, whose identity could not be determined, was in contact as part of a congressional delegation to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance, the official said. The agency then sought to eavesdrop on the congressman’s conversations to gather more intelligence, the official said.
The official said the plan was ultimately blocked because of concerns from some officials in the intelligence community about the idea of using the N.S.A., without court oversight, to spy on a member of Congress.
Jesus. If a member of Congress isn’t a “United States person” protected from warrantless surveillance by every version of FISA that’s ever been on the books, who is? Shouldn’t this have set off alarm bells at every possible level at NSA, rather than merely being “ultimately blocked” because “some” officials had “concerns” about it?
But – even though top expert say that Obama is trampling on separation of powers and Constitutional liberties more than Bush or Nixon – many Democrats are still hypnotized by what liberal writer Glenn Greenwald calls the “cult of personality“.
Update: Nunes’ director of communications – Jack Lagner – has issued a clarification:
What Rep. Nunes meant by “tapped” was that the DOJ seized the phone records, as has been widely reported. There was a little confusion between him and the host during the conversation: He did not mean to refer to phone records of the cloakroom itself, but of the Capitol. This refers to the phone records for the AP from the House press gallery, which the DOJ admitted to looking at. He was explaining that if those phone records were seized, they would reveal a lot of conversations between the press and members of Congress, since reporters often speak to Members from the press gallery phones. The notion of the DOJ looking at phone records from the Capitol of conversations between Members of Congress and reporters is something that concerns Rep. Nunes, bringing up issues related to the separation of powers.
Nunes’ point still stands, though. The Department of Justice collection of phone records of conversations between Congress members and reporters violates the principal of separation of powers.
KBR Tells U.S. Army it will Cost $500 Million and Take 13 Years to Close out Its Iraq Contract ~ All Gov
‘The recipient of the largest government services contract in U.S. history has told military officials it will take another 13 years and half a billion dollars to finish off its work stemming from the Iraq war.
With the conflict over and the pullout of combat units, the Pentagon sought to alter the terms of payment for the remainder of the contract. U.S. Defense Department officials want to pay KBR a fixed amount for what’s left to do (which could save it hundreds of millions of dollars), while the company wants to be reimbursed for its efforts, which has been the case since the deal was arranged last decade.
The Army’s move to implement the change prompted KBR to sue in court, where its lawyers argued that the remaining duties will cost $500 million and take 13 years to complete.’
‘Last night, UK Prime Minister David Cameron “threatened” to prosecute the four oil giants who stand accused (along with intermediary price reporter Platts) of manipulating the oil price for their own advantage – if they’re found guilty. Why is he only threatening to do so? And why did he only threaten to do so after the EC had already caught them at it?
Let me give you a simple answer to each question. Cameron can only threaten, because energy providers – like bankers – are more equal before the law than the rest of us. And he has only made the threat after the EC went ahead with their raids because there is no way any British government would risk evoking the ire of these criminal sociopaths. Mr Cameron, and most politicians at his level, are nothing more than ordures on the shoes of oilmen.’
‘The internet giant Google has been challenged by MPs over the way it reports its income for tax.
The chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge, said whistleblowers had told her that Google had sold advertising within the UK and invoiced customers in the UK.
Google had earlier said that UK customers paid Google in Ireland.
“No one in the UK can execute transactions,” said Google’s head of sales in Northern Europe, Matt Brittin.
“No money changes hands,” he said, despite the fact that he employed sales staff in Britain.
But Ms Hodge said: “It was quite clear from all that documentation that the entire trading process and sales process took place in the UK.”‘
‘Number 10 admitted that any change in the law to prosecute anyone for allegedly fixing the pump price would be forward-looking, and would not be able to hold to account any executives caught up in the current scandal.
David Cameron said he will urgently look at “extending criminal offences” to cover market manipulation in the energy sector, after BP and Shell were raided by European authorities on suspicion of rigging oil prices.The Prime Minister said on Wednesday that any executives should face criminal prosecution if they are found to have fixed the price of petrol.’
The Huffington Post
;The BBC Trust’s Editorial Standards Committee, which upheld the complaint, concluded: “The phrase was not articulated clearly enough and could easily have been misheard for the offensive word “c*** suckers” by the majority of the audience.”;
Chris Hedges: From WikiLeaks to AP Scandal, U.S. Nears “Totalitarian Security & Surveillance State” ~ Democracy NOW!
‘Watch the full interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges on Democracy Now! at http://owl.li/l3xAO. Hedges says that the Obama administration’s monitoring of Associated Press phone records continues a pattern of targeting press freedom that began with WikiLeaks. “I find all of these measures to essentially shut down the freedom of information — including the persecution of Julian Assange and Bradley Manning — as symptomatic of a reconfiguration of our society into a totalitarian security and surveillance state,” Hedges says. “One where anyone who challenges the official narrative, who digs out cases of torture, war crimes — which is of course what Manning and Assange presented to the American public — is going to be ruthlessly silenced. And I find the passivity on the part of the mainstream press [who used WikiLeaks'] information and turning their backs on Manning and Assange to be very shortsighted for precisely this reason. If they think is just about Manning and Assange, and no conception of what it is that’s happening.”‘
The European commission said its officers carried out “unannounced inspections” at several oil companies in London, the Netherlands and Norway to investigate claims they may have “colluded in reporting distorted prices to a price reporting agency [PRA] to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products”.
The commission said the alleged price collusion, which may have been going on since 2002, could have had a “huge impact” on the price of petrol at the pumps “potentially harming final consumers”.
Lord Oakeshott, former Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, said the alleged rigging of oil prices was “as serious as rigging Libor” – which led to banks being fined hundreds of millions of pounds.’
‘After US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks showed that the State Department was lobbying worldwide for Monsanto and other similar corporations, a new report based on the cables shows Washington’s shilling for the biotech industry in distinct detail.
The August 2011 WikiLeaks revelations showed that American diplomats had requested funding to send lobbyists for the biotech industry to hold talks with politicians and agricultural officials in “target countries” in areas like Africa and Latin America, where genetically-modified crops were not yet a mainstay, as well as some European countries that have resisted the controversial agricultural practice.
After a concerted effort to “closely examine five years of State Department diplomatic cables from 2005 to 2009 to provide the first comprehensive analysis of the strategy, tactics and U.S. foreign policy objectives to foist pro-agricultural biotechnology policies worldwide,” nonprofit consumer protection group Food & Water Watch published on Tuesday a report showing in plain detail the depth of the partnership between the federal government and a number of controversial biotech companies that have slowly but surely pushed their GMO products on a number of new countries in recent years.’
by Clare O’Connor
‘In her keynote speech at last year’s annual Netroots Nation gathering, Darcy Burner pitched a seemingly simple idea to the thousands of bloggers and web developers in the audience. The former Microsoft programmer and congressional candidate proposed a smartphone app allowing shoppers to swipe barcodes to check whether conservative billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch were behind a product on the shelves.
Burner figured the average supermarket shopper had no idea that buying Brawny paper towels, Angel Soft toilet paper or Dixie cups meant contributing cash to Koch Industries through its subsidiary Georgia-Pacific. Similarly, purchasing a pair of yoga pants containing Lycra or a Stainmaster carpet meant indirectly handing the Kochs your money (Koch Industries bought Invista, one of the world’s largest fiber and textiles companies, in 2004 from DuPont).
At the time, Burner created a mock interface for her app, but that’s as far as she got. She was waiting to find the right team to build out the back end, which could be complicated given often murky corporate ownership structures.
She wasn’t aware that as she delivered her Netroots speech, a group of developers was hard at work on Buycott, an even more sophisticated version of the app she proposed.’
‘Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) on Monday announced he would veto controversial legislation that would have made it harder to expose animal abuse.
[...] The so-called “ag gag” bill would have required that evidence of animal abuse be turned over to law enforcement within 48 hours or face criminal charges. The bill’s sponsors said the proposal would ensure animal cruelty was quickly investigated.
But groups like the Humane Society of the United States said the true purpose of the bill was to prevent undercover activists from exposing cruelty on factory farms’