Category Archives: Corporations

Demand for ethical goods and services continues to grow despite recession

From Ethical Consumer:

The annual Ethical Consumer Markets Report reveals that demand for ethical consumer goods and services continues to defy recessionary pressures and grew by more than 12% in 2012 whilst the mainstream UK economy grew by just 0.2%.

Total ethical spending in the UK is now worth £54 billion, an amount greater than that spent on both cigarettes and alcohol.

The Ethical Consumer Markets Report has been acting as an important barometer of green spending since 1999 by tracking sales data across a wide range of consumer sectors from food to fashion.

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Corporate Lobbying: MEPs behaving like ventriloquist dummies for big business

‘Paul Murphy MEP speaking out against corporate lobbying in the European Parliament which sees MEPs, including Irish MEPs, act like ventriloquist dummies for big business, regularly attending corporate ‘breakfasts’ and even tabling their amendments directly. ‘ (Paul Murphy MEP)

Still not loving ISDS: 10 reasons to oppose investors’ super-rights in EU trade deals

From Corporate Europe Observatory:

Credit: Matt Wuerker, Politico

At the end of March, the European Commission launched a public consultation over its plan to enshrine far-reaching rights for foreign investors in the EU-US trade deal currently being negotiated. In the face of fierce opposition to these investor super-rights, the Commission is trying to convince the public that these do not endanger democracy and public policy. See through the sweet-talk with Corporate Europe Observatory’s guide to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS).

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TTIP means trading away better regulation

Baskut Tuncak writes for EurActiv:

It might come as a shock to EU voters to learn exactly how weak US laws are when it comes to toxic chemicals, especially when the US’s chief negotiator for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) has been claiming otherwise.  This unprecedented “trade” agreement is primarily about regulation, and threatens to create new and additional avenues for industry and government to use their influence to stall necessary action on toxic chemicals, climate change, and other critical issues that must be addressed by the EU and global community to protect human health and the environment.

How weak are US laws for toxic chemicals?  Only eleven ingredients are restricted from cosmetics in the US, versus over 1300 in the EU.  Under a law dating back to 1976, US regulators have only been able to restrict the use of merely five of over 60,000 industrial chemicals that were presumed safe when the law was adopted, including asbestos.  Under this law, and despite over a century of substantial evidence of serious adverse effects, US regulators were unable demonstrate sufficient “risk” to justify a ban on the use of asbestos, unlike EU counterparts.  Moving ahead of the US, the EU has started to implement legislation that has the potential to systematically substitute over 1000 toxic chemicals—including those linked to cancer, interference with hormone systems, reproductive harms, and other serious adverse health effects—with safer alternatives in a wide range of everyday products.  The US has no such law.

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Yes, Net Neutrality Is A Solution To An Existing Problem

MarvinAmm writes for TechDirt:

While AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon have argued — with incredible message discipline — that network neutrality is “a solution in search of a problem,” that’s simply not true.

There are many concrete examples of network neutrality violations around the world. These network neutrality violations include ISPs blocking websites and applications, ISPs discriminating in favor of some applications and against others, and ISPs charging arbitrary tolls on technology companies.

We have seen network neutrality violations all over the world.

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Scientists discover how to make ethanol using just water and CO2

From RT:

AFP Photo / Joe RaedleScientists at Stanford University in the state of California say they’ve developed a procedure for making potent liquid ethanol that doesn’t rely on corn or any other crops traditionally involved in the process. The researchers disclosed their discovery in the latest online edition of the journal Nature, and in it they say that in less than three years’ time they expect to have a prototype device ready that will make biofuel from using not much more than carbon monoxide, easily derived from carbon dioxide.

We have discovered the first metal catalyst that can produce appreciable amounts of ethanol from carbon monoxide at room temperature and pressure – a notoriously difficult electrochemical reaction,” wrote Stanford’s Matthew Kanan, a co-author of the report released this week. The scientists say that they are still a ways from developing said prototype, but believe they are on the right track towards achieving a goal that has the potential of providing people with a new, less-costly biofuel that could essentially revamp the energy industry.

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Will Glenn Greenwald Winning The Pulitzer Prize Reignite The Conversation About NSA Spying?

Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline bribed doctors to boost sales, says whistleblower

Chloe Hamilton writes for The Independent:

Britain’s biggest drug company, GlaxoSmithKline, allegedly bribed doctors in Poland using money that was meant to be spent on educating patients, according to new evidence revealed today by the BBC Panorama programme. A GSK whistleblower claims that money put aside to teach patients in Poland about an asthma drug, Seretide, actually went towards paying doctors to prescribe more of the medicine. Jarek Wisniewiski, who was with the company for eight years until 2012, worked on a marketing programme across the country in 2010 to push the asthma drug. He told Panorama that although officially the money was to be spent on medical training, in reality it was used to bribe doctors to boost the company’s sales.

[...] GSK sells some of the world’s best-known medicines and has an annual turnover of more than £26bn. However, allegations of bribery have hounded the company in recent months. The most recent claims come just a week after reports that GSK hired Iraqi government doctors and pharmacists to act as sales representatives for the Brentford-based company, to boost revenues for its medicines. The company is also waiting to find out whether it will face prosecution in China following claims it paid £300m to doctors and government officials there. The company’s Chinese sales plummeted by 61 per cent in the third quarter of last year, and 18 per cent in the final quarter, after its offices were raided by Chinese police and its staff arrested.

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US ambassador to Kosovo hired by construction firm he lobbied for

Paul Lewis, Lawrence Marzouk, Petrit Collaku and Erjona Rusi write for The Guardian:

Kosovo road signing (Photograph courtesy of Kosovo Ministry of Transport and Communications)A US ambassador to Kosovo, who lobbied for the construction of a $1bn road through the war-torn country, has taken up a post with the American construction giant that secured the lucrative contract. Christopher Dell, a career diplomat nominated by Barack Obama to represent the US in Pristina, was employed by the Bechtel Corporation, which he helped win a contract to build a highway to neighbouring Albania.

Dell took on a role as an African country manager with Bechtel late last year, months after ending a three-decade career at the State Department. His employment at Bechtel, America’s largest engineering and construction firm, has ignited a debate over the controversial road-building project, named the “Patriotic Highway”.

Pieter Feith, the senior EU diplomat in Kosovo when the contract was secured, criticised the way the US ambassador pushed through the deal, and has called for an inquiry. Feith accused Dell of withholding information about the Bechtel contract, and lobbying Kosovo to agree to what he describes as an ill-advised deal with a US company, which placed enormous pressure on the fledgling country’s budget.

It is routine for western ambassadors to push the business interests of companies from the countries they come from. But it is unusual for a former diplomat to land a job with a major corporation after using their sway to secure lucrative government contracts. After he was appointed ambassador in 2009, Dell had huge influence in Kosovo, where the US is widely viewed as a supervising power and is feted for its role in securing independence for the tiny Balkan state. A statue of President Clinton adorns the capital, Pristina, and boulevards are named after George W Bush and other US officials.

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The Comcast Merger Isn’t About Lines On A Map; It’s About Controlling The Delivery Of Information

Kate Cox writes for Consumerist:

(knight725)Comcast and proposed merger partner Time Warner Cable claim they don’t compete because their service areas don’t overlap, and that a combined company would happily divest itself of a few million customers to keeps its pay-TV market share below 30%, allowing other companies that don’t currently compete with Comcast to keep not competing with Comcast. This narrow, shortsighted view fails to take into account the full breadth of what’s involved in this merger — broadcast TV, cable TV, network technology, in-home technology, access to the Internet, and much more. In addition to asking whether or not regulators should permit Comcast to add 10-12 million customers, there is a more important question at the core of this deal: Should Comcast be allowed to control both what content you consume and how you get to consume it?

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Former Foreign Secretary of India: ‘West scared of BRICS as it has no control over it’

New studies show super rich have more in offshore tax havens than thought

JohnThomas Didymus writes for All Voices:

Wealth

Two scholars published a research paper in March that sought to explain the seeming discrepancy in the sharp rise in income inequality since the1980s and the relatively modest increase in wealth concentration in the top economic bracket.

While approaching the problem, focusing on the question of how to measure the total wealth of the rich, the duo may have opened a new can of worms on the hidden wealth of the superrich.

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Global Corporations Are Scheming to Take Control of Our Economy — We Can Put a Stop to It

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers write for Alternet:

Photo Credit: arindambanerjee/Shutterstock.comThe broad movement for fair trade has stalled the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).  When fast track trade promotion authority was introduced by former Senator Baucus, the Chairman of the Finance Committee, it was announced dead by Harry Reid and many of the members of the Finance Committee. A similar bill in the House also died quickly, not even proceeding to mark-up in the Ways and Means Committee, despite being introduced by its Chairman, David Camp (R-MI).

Congressional leadership including Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) all announced that they opposed the Baucus-Camp version of fast track. Vice President Biden acknowledged that trade promotion authority was unlikely this year. This happened because a movement of movements engaged in protests across the country, the issue was raised at town hall meetings and hundreds of thousands of phone calls and emails went to Capitol Hill saying “no” to fast track for the TPP.

But, we knew that efforts to rig global trade in the favor of trans-national corporations would not stop there. The movement of movements that stopped the first version of fast track has been preparing for the next stage.

The new chairman of the Finance Committee, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), made a speech this week announcing that he was working to introduce a new version of trade promotion authority that he is propagandistically calling “smart-track,” but which sounds more like fast track in sheep’s clothing.  Wyden was vague on the details, but this far into the process any fast track bill being pushed will still rig trade in favor of transnational corporations.

For people who care about worker’s rights, the environment, Internet freedom, health care for all, regulation of banks and big finance, healthy food, access to water and other issues, the fundamental question is: will trade put the necessities of the people and environment before the profits of transnational corporations and the already wealthy? From what we’ve seen, the TPP does not and that is why we must continue to organize not only to stop it but also to redefine how trade is negotiated from the first step and to correct the failures of past trade agreements.

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Why is TTIP more than a trade agreement?

‘EU and US are currently negotiating a trade and investment agreement. How will this deal affect people from both regions and around the world? See reflections from EU and US activists who gathered to discuss about the impacts and possible solutions.’ (Transnational Institute)

The Government Listens To Lobbyists And The Wealthy, Not You And Me

Bryce Covert writes for Think Progress:

When organized interest groups or economic elites want a particular policy passed, there’s a strongly likelihood their wishes will come true. But when average citizens support something, they have next to no influence.

That’s according to a forthcoming article in Perspectives on Politics by Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University. The two looked at a data set of 1,779 policy issues between 1981 and 2002 and matched them up against surveys of public opinion broken down by income as well as support from interest groups.

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Google, once disdainful of lobbying, now a master of Washington influence

Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold write for The Washington Post:

Virginia Mayo, AP[...] The behind-the-scenes machinations demonstrate how Google — once a lobbying weakling — has come to master a new method of operating in modern-day Washington, where spending on traditional lobbying is rivaled by other, less visible forms of influence. That system includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects. The rise of Google as a top-tier Washington player fully captures the arc of change in the influence business.

Nine years ago, the company opened a one-man lobbying shop, disdainful of the capital’s pay-to-play culture. Since then, Google has soared to near the top of the city’s lobbying ranks, placing second only to General Electric in corporate lobbying expenditures in 2012 and fifth place in 2013. The company gives money to nearly 140 business trade groups, advocacy organizations and think tanks, according to a Post analysis of voluntary disclosures by the company, which, like many corporations, does not reveal the size of its donations. That’s double the number of groups Google funded four years ago.

This summer, Google will move to a new Capitol Hill office, doubling its Washington space to 55,000 square feet — roughly the size of the White House. Google’s increasingly muscular Washington presence matches its expanded needs and ambitions as it has fended off a series of executive- and legislative-branch threats to regulate its activities and well-funded challenges by its corporate rivals. Today, Google is working to preserve its rights to collect consumer data — and shield it from the government — amid a backlash over revelations that the National Security Agency tapped Internet companies as part of its surveillance programs. And it markets cloud storage and other services to federal departments, including intelligence agencies and the Pentagon.

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The real Miller’s tale: the threat to press freedom

Mick Hume writes for Spiked:

The real Miller’s tale: the threat to press freedomIt is axiomatic in big, historic political scandals, from Profumo to Watergate, that the attempted cover-up is always worse than the original offence. The affair of UK culture secretary Maria Miller confirms that this is also true of petty little political scandals. The shenanigans over Conservative minister Miller’s expenses claims for mortgage interest on her designated second home are really of no great consequence. Nor does it much matter in wider political terms whether or not she is sacked or forced to resign over this; as one embittered Tory ex-minister observed, if she goes she will be forgotten and if she stays she will be ignored.

What should matter far more is her office’s attempt to stop press coverage of the affair, by using the culture secretary’s role in deciding the post-Leveson system of press regulation to warn off the Daily Telegraph reporters digging into her expenses payments. What is remarkable is not that yet another MP made ‘questionable’ financial claims, but that a government minister few had previously heard of felt able to lay down Leveson’s law to newspapers that we are always being told run the country. In this, the minister and her advisers were not acting as arrogant mavericks, but appointed themselves as the shrill voice of the entire political class, which wants to tame the troublesome press. Miller and her minders might have overstepped the mark. Yet we now know that their threats were backed up by Downing Street from the first.

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White House ‘awarded’ for press freedom

Lesley Clark reports for McClatchy:

TISH WELLS — McClatchy Washington BureauThe White House — which has been pilloried by the press corps for limiting access to President Barack Obama — is getting a dubious award for those efforts: a Jefferson Muzzle. Handed out by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, the Muzzles — now in their 23rd year — are bestowed by the center on individuals and institutions it says are “responsible for some of the more egregious or ridiculous affronts to First Amendment principles.”

This past year was remarkable for freedom of the press issues, said Josh Wheeler, director of the center. “From the White House to the state house, from universities to high schools, members of the press have had to defend against a variety of challenges, some never seen before,” he said. The awards include a number of less well-known acts of censorship, Wheeler said, “because such an indictment challenges the assumption held by many that, because of the First Amendment, attempts at censorship are few in the United States.”

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Louisiana: Ex-US general takes on big oil lobby and US plants accused of ‘environmental racism’

Most Senators Overseeing the Comcast-Time Warner Deal Have Taken Money From Both

Alex Park writes for Mother Jones:

Out of the committee’s 18 members, 15 have accepted donations from at least one of the two media giants since the 2010 election cycle; 12 have received money from both. The average contribution over that time: $16,285. Democrats were the biggest recipients, taking an average of $18,531 from the two cable and internet giants, nearly twice as much as their Republican counterparts.

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NSA reporters Greenwald and Poitras to brave U.S. return Friday

Micah Singleton reports for The Daily Dot:

Journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are returning to the United States for the first time since they first reported on the top-secret National Security Agency documents leaked by Edward Snowden some 10 months ago, the Huffington Post reports. The pair will fly from Berlin to New York on Friday to accept the George Polk Award for national security reporting. They will share the award with theGuardian’s Ewen MacAskill and Barton Gellman of the Washington Post.

Greenwald, formerly of the Guardian, and Poitras have extensively reported on documents provided by Snowden and other sources relating to the surveillance and information apparatus of the NSA, GHCQ, and other governmental organizations that have carried out mass surveillance across the globe. Senior officials within the U.S. government have repeatedly called for the arrest of Greenwald upon his return to the States.

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Interview with Chuck D of Public Enemy on Corplantations, Booty & Thug Television and Fighting the Power

‘Abby Martin features an exclusive interview with Hip Hop Legend and Public Enemy front-man, Chuck D, discussing the corporatization of Hip Hop, his views on internationalism and the upcoming United We Stand Festival on May 10th, where both Abby and Chuck are featured guests.’ (Breaking the Set)

George Monbiot: How the Corporate Takeover of Society Is Leaving Us Feeling Empty Inside

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

How do you engineer a bland, depoliticised world, a consensus built around consumption and endless growth, a dream world of materialism and debt and atomisation, in which all relations can be prefixed with a dollar sign, in which we cease to fight for change? You delegate your powers to companies whose profits depend on this model.

Power is shifting: to places in which we have no voice or vote. Domestic policies are forged by special advisers and spin doctors, by panels and advisory committees stuffed with lobbyists. The self-hating state withdraws its own authority to regulate and direct. Simultaneously, the democratic vacuum at the heart of global governance is being filled, without anything resembling consent, by international bureaucrats and corporate executives. The NGOs permitted – often as an afterthought – to join them intelligibly represent neither civil society nor electorates. (And please spare me that guff about consumer democracy or shareholder democracy: in both cases some people have more votes than others, and those with the most votes are the least inclined to press for change.)

To me, the giant consumer goods company Unilever, with which I clashed over the issue of palm oil a few days ago, symbolises these shifting relationships. I can think of no entity that has done more to blur the lines between the role of the private sector and the role of the public sector. If you blotted out its name while reading its web pages, you could mistake it for an agency of the United Nations.

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BBC Points West transmits week of advertorials for £300m p.a. firm Hargreaves Lansdown

Lee Camp: You Don’t Even Know You’re Being Manipulated

The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene

Kyle DroppJoshua D. Kertzer and Thomas Zeitzoff write for The Washington Post:

Where’s Ukraine?  Each dot depicts the location where a US survey respondent situated Ukraine; the dots are colored based on how far removed they are from the actual country, with the most accurate responses in red and the least accurate ones in blue. (Data: Survey Sampling International; Figure: Thomas Zeitzoff/The Monkey Cage)

Since Russian troops first entered the Crimean peninsula in early March, a series of media polling outlets have asked Americans how they want the U.S. to respond to the ongoing situation.  Although two-thirds of Americans have reported following the situation at least “somewhat closely,” most Americans actually know very little about events on the ground — or even where the ground is.

On March 28-31, 2014, we asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans (fielded via Survey Sampling International Inc. (SSI), what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: In addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, we also asked our survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S.  to intervene with military force.

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George Carlin: The Best 3 Minutes of His Career

Steven Spielberg to give Obama ‘ambassador to humanity’ award

Ian Swanson reports for The Hill:

President Obama will speak next month at a gala celebrating the 20th anniversary of a Holocaust history foundation established by director Steven Spielberg. The USC Shoah Foundation, created by Spielberg after he completed the film “Schindler’s List,” will honor Obama with its Ambassador to Humanity Award at an event in Los Angeles on May 7.

“President Obama’s commitment to democracy and human rights has long been felt,” Spielberg said in a statement. “As a constitutional scholar and as president, his interest in expanding justice and opportunity and all is remarkably evident.” Spielberg was among the president’s top donors in 2012, donating $1 million to Priorities USA, the super-PAC backing the president’s re-election.

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Cities to Carpoolers: Sharing Your Car is Illegal, We Will Seize Your Cars

Jason Mick writes for Daily Tech:

Image Source: SF ExaminerThe U.S. isn’t exactly a “free market” at times, with outright bribery — condoned by the U.S. judicial system — or collusive public-private cartels leading to some products and services being banned from the market.  Just ask Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA) whose electric vehicles have been banned from sale in many states.  That debacle arose due to the fact that Tesla has no dealerships and fearful dealership lobbyists banded together to pay off state politicians to ban direct auto sales.

Now the same principle is being applied to stymie the emergency of another set of companies in the transportation sector — cloud-driven ride-sharing services.

Ridesharing — also known as carpooling — involves members of the public contacting each other via a smartphone or PC internet networking service and arranging to ferry each other to various destinations for fees.  The practice in informal form is almost as old as the automobile itself, but in the digital age app-enabled ridesharing has seen an explosion in interest, threatening the commercial taxicab industry and the city officials who depend on that industry for revenue.

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Advertising exec: If you block ads, then websites may block you

Ms. Smith writes for Network World:

…An interesting, yet infuriating, CNET interview in which Mike Zaneis, general counsel for Interactive Advertising Bureau, described a “counterattack” plan to start “blocking the blockers.”

Although Zaneis makes the threat of ad-blockers sound dire, some sites experience “less than 5%” of users blocking ads. Yet he more-or-less said ad blockers are the devil and will be the reason why more websites will wall-off their content behind a paywall or choose to block content from surfers who block ads. In the block the ad-blockers scenario, instead accessing the content, there could be an error message saying you can’t see it because you have enabled an ad-blocker.

IAB’s “counterattack” plan has far-reaching potential since IAB is not some little group; it “is comprised of more than 600 leading media and technology companies that are responsible for selling 86% of online advertising in the United States.”

Although it seems like the acceptable ads manifesto could be the best compromise as non-annoying ads would not be blocked, Zaneis called the manifesto “a ransom note. These people are no better than Internet pirates facilitating the theft of content. To do it under the guise of ‘these ads aren’t acceptable’ is a complete facade. It’s a sham. They block all ads by default.”

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