Category Archives: Corporations

China’s building a new Silk Road to Europe, and it’s leaving America behind

Pepe Escobar writes for Tom Dispatch:

‘[…] The Yiwu-Madrid route across Eurasia represents the beginning of a set of game-changing developments. It will be an efficient logistics channel of incredible length. It will represent geopolitics with a human touch, knitting together small traders and huge markets across a vast landmass. It’s already a graphic example of Eurasian integration on the go. And most of all, it’s the first building block on China’s “New Silk Road,” conceivably the project of the new century and undoubtedly the greatest trade story in the world for the next decade.

Go west, young Han. One day, if everything happens according to plan (and according to the dreams of China’s leaders), all this will be yours—via high-speed rail, no less. The trip from China to Europe will be a two-day affair, not the 21 days of the present moment. In fact, as that freight train left Yiwu, the D8602 bullet train was leaving Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, heading for Hami in China’s far west. That’s the first high-speed railway built in Xinjiang, and more like it will be coming soon across China at what is likely to prove dizzying speed.

Today, 90% of the global container trade still travels by ocean, and that’s what Beijing plans to change. Its embryonic, still relatively slow New Silk Road represents its first breakthrough in what is bound to be an overland trans-continental container trade revolution.

And with it will go a basket of future “win-win” deals, including lower transportation costs, the expansion of Chinese construction companies ever further into the Central Asian “stans,” as well as into Europe, an easier and faster way to move uranium and rare metals from Central Asia elsewhere, and the opening of myriad new markets harboring hundreds of millions of people.

So if Washington is intent on “pivoting to Asia,” China has its own plan in mind. Think of it as a pirouette to Europe across Eurasia.’

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The Bilderberg Group and Its Link to World Financial Markets

Andrew Gavin Marshall writes:

This article looks at the published lists of participants attending recent Bilderberg meetings, specifically ones that took place between 2008 and 2014. From these lists, we’re better able to understand the relevance of Bilderberg meetings to specific institutions, ideologies and powerful sectors of society connected with global economic governance. As such, the following articles in this series examine financial markets, banks, technocracy, finance ministries, central banks, the IMF and the European Union.

When discussing the Bilderberg group, its meetings and their impacts, there is one major problem: the meetings are held in secret. When 130 of the world’s most influential individuals and institutions get together behind closed doors for a “private chat,” the public is left unaware of what was said, debated, agreed or decided. The official website for Bilderberg publishes recent lists of attendees as well as a press release of the “topics” due to be discussed.

With no details added, the list for the 2014 meeting’s topics included, “Is the economic recovery sustainable?”, “What next for Europe?”, “China’s political and economic outlook,” and “Current Events.” This is essentially all we have to go on in our efforts to discern what was debated and discussed behind the scenes.

So, instead of engaging in speculation about what was or was not discussed at Bilderberg meetings, let’s instead look at the individuals and institutions that are frequently represented there. What role do those groups play in society? What is their history and evolution as institutions and individuals? What ideologies do they embrace and propagate? Seeking the answers to these questions raises further inquiries: what do these individuals, institutions and ideologies tell us about our society? What do they tell us about power and how it is organized, exercised and expanded?’

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Google Shuts Down Its Spanish Language News Service Over New Intellectual Property Law

Loggers Assassinating Peru’s Land Defenders: Interview with Kate Horner

Abby Martin interviews Kate Horner, Forest Campaigns Director, about the massacre of four indigenous activists in Peru for standing up for their land, and the trade of illegal logging worldwide.’ (Breaking the Set)

Why The Guardian Censored One of Its Top Journalists: Interview with Nafeez Ahmed

Editor’s Note: Nafeez Ahmed recently launched a crowdfunding drive in order to support his great journalism and with the hopeful aim of creating his own investigative journalism collective. Please support him in any way you can. You can find links to more of his work here.

Abby Martin interviews investigative journalist, Nafeez Ahmed, about what was not discussed in the torture report and his claims of censorship at the Guardian newspaper, where he used to work.’ (Breaking the Set)

China is world’s worst jailer of the press; global tally second worst on record

Shazdeh Omari reports for the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Map of Imprisoned Journalists as of December 1, 2014‘The Committee to Protect Journalists identified 220 journalists in jail around the world in 2014, an increase of nine from 2013. The tally marks the second-highest number of journalists in jail since CPJ began taking an annual census of imprisoned journalists in 1990, and highlights a resurgence of authoritarian governments in countries such as China, Ethiopia, Burma, and Egypt.

China’s use of anti-state charges and Iran’s revolving door policy in imprisoning reporters, bloggers, editors, and photographers earned the two countries the dubious distinction of being the world’s worst and second worst jailers of journalists, respectively. Together, China and Iran are holding a third of journalists jailed globally—despite speculation that new leaders who took the reins in each country in 2013 might implement liberal reforms.’

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Outsourced and unaccountable: This is the future of local government in Britain

Aditya Chakrabortty writes for The Guardian:

'Whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband get in will make little odds for town halls.'‘[…] Between January 2012 and October 2013, Barnet farmed out its care for people with disabilities, legal services, cemeteries and crematoriums, IT, finance, HR, planning and regeneration, trading standards and licensing, management of council housing, environmental health, procurement, parking, and the highways department.

This evening [Monday 15th], a full council meeting will vote on whether to consider cuts and “alternative delivery models” for another tranche of services, including libraries, rubbish collection, street gritters and children’s speech therapy, among others. Should they go the way of the rest and be outsourced, the local Unison branch calculates that Barnet council will shrink from having 3,200 staff in September 2012 to just 332.

That is one hell of a municipal disappearing act. Residents now find it easier to list what their council doesn’t directly provide than what it does. Which means that if you want to see what the next five years of cuts hold for your local services – whether David Cameron or Ed Miliband get in will make little odds for town halls – you’d best pay close attention to what Barnet is doing.’

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Raids Stun Turkish Media

Man can’t challenge $280K tax bill he probably doesn’t really owe, court says

Matt Miller reports for Penn Live:

Pennsylvania Judicial CenterWith undisguised reluctance, Commonwealth Court has issued an order requiring a Philadelphia man to pay a $280,772 tax bill that he probably doesn’t really owe.

In fact, city officials acknowledged in court that the tax bill they sent Nathan Lerner was a “jeopardy assessment” based on a fabrication.

The problem is that Lerner didn’t follow the right procedural course in challenging it, a Commonwealth Court panel found in a ruling issued this week. And so, the state judges determined, he’s stuck with that unfounded tax tab.’

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Ukraine just created its own version of Orwell’s ‘Ministry of Truth’

Christopher Miller reports for Mashable:

‘The Ukraine government has established a department that critics are calling the “Ministry of Truth” — borrowing a term from George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984.

Officially called the Ministry of Information Policy, the new office will be headed by Yuriy Stets, head of the Information Security Department of the National Guard of Ukraine. A close ally to President Petro Poroshenko, Stets was formerly chief producer of the TV channel that Poroshenko sill owns.

While its main objective appears to be confronting Russia’s formidable propaganda machine, the Ministry is likely to also restrict free speech and inhibit journalists’ work — particularly in war-torn eastern Ukraine, according to observers.’

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Manifesto for a Media Revolution

Editor’s Note: Nafeez Ahmed recently launched a crowdfunding drive in order to support his great journalism and with the hopeful aim of creating his own investigative journalism collective. Please support him in any way you can. You can find links to more of his work here.

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Medium:

‘Dominated by special interests — whether corporate lobbies, financial power, ideological bias, chauvinistic institutional racism, the entrenched problems are well-documented.

My experience at The Guardian — the highly-regarded liberal newspaper that broke the Edward Snowden whistleblowing stories — though particularly flagrant, illustrates just how entrenched and structural the problems are.

The skewed coverage of the Gaza crisis is merely the tip of the iceberg. One of the best studies of the British media’s servile attitude to warmongers was published by Manchester University Press in 2010. The book, Pockets of Resistance: British news media, war and theory in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is based on a research project funded by the Economic Social and Research Council (ESRC). Studying coverage of Iraq War 2003 by the BBC, Channel 4, Sky News and seven national newspapers, the study’s findings were damning.

At a conference in Liverpool to launch the book, lead author Dr Piers Robinson, a respected media scholar, said:

“Although we found examples of media independence, journalists need to think more critically about the extent to which they allow the national perspective of ‘our boys’ to influence their war reporting. We also urge them to be more discerning when accepting official versions such as the humanitarian intervention line promoted by Tony Blair during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”

Funnily enough, though press was invited, the book received no mainstream coverage at all.

The Glasgow University Media Group, a leading group of media scholars, has for decades conducted in-depth academic studies exposing the extent of the British media’s biased reporting on a wide range of issues, from war to the economy to politics, race and culture. Despite being ridiculed and marginalized by mainstream journalists, the group’s stellar research remain svindicated.

Media Lens is another watchdog organization that for several decades has focused on tracking the systematic sanitization of war, foreign policy and corporate power in the British liberal media, especially The Guardian, The Independent, BBC and Channel 4. Its two-man team, David Cromwell and David Edwards, put out regular media alerts, encouraging a sizeable community of citizen supporters to write to journalists and editors when coverage is particularly skewed, constrained or inaccurate. Media Lens frequently annoys and alienates journalists and pundits employed by the liberal press when confronting them via email or Twitter, but whatever one feels about that strategy, their concrete output in the form of their substantive archive of alerts and two book published by Pluto Press (Newspeak in the 21st Century and Guardians of Power) for the most part provides an important and valuable resource on the extent to which the UK’s liberal press supports false and inaccurate narratives that legitimize official British militarism, both at home and abroad.

In the US, the situation is much the same. The media watchdog, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting), has just released a study that found that US broadcasters offered no debate at all in the run-up to Obama’s proposed airstrikes in Iraq and Syria — instead invariably opting in favour of war.

Last year, a landmark study of US and UK media coverage of Iran’s nuclear program from 2009 to 2012 by University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies found direct parallels with distorted media reporting in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War. Reporting was largely dishonest, inaccurate, confused and contradictory, and served to reinforce “negative sentiments about Iran” while emphasizing “policy prescriptions and narratives put forth by government officials” and “deemphasizing other voices and alternative policy approaches that could be used to resolve the dispute, such as that of international organizations like the IAEA.”’

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U.S. Attorney General Won’t Force New York Times Reporter James Risen to Reveal Source

Pete Williams reports for NBC News:

‘Attorney General Eric Holder has decided against forcing a reporter for the New York Times to reveal the identity of a confidential source, according to a senior Justice Department official.

The reporter, James Risen, has been battling for years to stop prosecutors from forcing him to name his source for a book that revealed a CIA effort to sabotage Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

The government wanted Risen’s testimony in the trial of a former CIA official, Jeffrey Sterling, accused of leaking classified information.

But now, according to the Justice Department official, Holder has directed that Risen must not be required to reveal “information about the identity of his source.”‘

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Fox News Host Andrea Tantaros’ “Awesome” Rant On CIA Torture Report

Editor’s Note: The “awesome” rant beings at around 2:59

Co-founder of Pirate Bay says it should stay closed

Daniel Cooper reports for Engadget:

‘Earlier this week, Sweden’s police took down The Pirate Bay, the world’s most contentious torrent site. One person who won’t be mourning the closure is co-creator Peter Sunde, who would be happier if the site never came back. Just one month after being released from prison, Sunde took to his blog to describe his disillusionment with what the website had grown to represent and its “distasteful” adverts.

TPB may have been founded with an anarchic spirit, but Sunde feels that successive owners did nothing to improve the site or help its community. In addition to the website become “ugly” and “full of bugs,” it became plastered with adverts for porn and viagra that, when he felt couldn’t get any more “distasteful, they somehow ended up even worse.”‘

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Reuters Report Exposes Absurd Level of Cronyism In U.S. Supreme Court

CIA Had Propaganda Campaign Which Involved Leaking Classified Information to Sell Torture

Kevin Gosztola writes for The Dissenter:

The CIA had a propaganda campaign to defend its detention and interrogation program. It involved the leaking of classified information to shape the public’s opinion, undermine criticism and deceive Congress and is detailed in the executive summary of the Senate intelligence committee’s torture report, which shows the extent to which CIA officials were willing to engage in unauthorized disclosures, even as it fought to keep the program secret in the courts.

The torture report summary additionally highlights how the agency would not file crimes reports when leaked information was flattering to the agency.

In a conversation on April 13, 2005, with the chief of ALEC Station, the CIA unit hunting down Osama bin Laden, Deputy Chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC), Philip Mudd, declared, “We either get out and sell, or we get hammered, which has implications beyond the media. [C]ongress reads it, cuts our authorities,” and “messes up our budget.”

Mudd added, “We either put out our story or we get eaten. There is no middle ground.”

The CIA developed a campaign to push propaganda on the “effectiveness” of using torture techniques on detainees into the media.’

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Going Underground Interview with Seymour Hersh

Editor’s Note: The interview with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh begins at 2:56

Henry Kissinger’s secret role in the Bhopal tragedy

Rob Edwards reports for The Scottish Herald:

‘Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger put pressure on the Indian Government to agree a legal settlement that let the American chemical company Union Carbide off the hook for the 25,000 people killed by the toxic gas disaster in Bhopal 30 years ago.

A letter released under freedom of ­information legislation reveals that the late Indian steel magnate JRD Tata wrote secretly to the Indian prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, in May 1988 conveying ­Kissinger’s concern about the delays in reaching agreement on the compensation to be paid to victims.

At the time, Kissinger – who became notorious around the world in the 1970s for being involved in some of most hawkish US foreign policy decisions – was an adviser to Union Carbide and other major US corporations.’

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Obama and Media

Editor’s Note: This episode of Al Jazeera English series ‘Empire’ looks at the relationship between the Obama administration and the media. The host talks to members of the foreign press, American journalist James Risen and others about their experiences. 

Don’t Mourn the New Republic (It’s been dead for years)

Corey Robin writes for Jacobin:

Here we go again.‘The New Republic is coming to an end. And the autopsies have begun. So have the critiques. But the real problem with the New Republic is not that it was racist, though it was. It’s not that it was filled with warmongers, though it was. It’s not that it punched hippies, though it did. No, the real problem with the New Republic is that for the last three decades, it has had no energy. It has had no real project.

The last time the New Republichad a project was in the late 1970s/early 1980s, when it was in the journalistic vanguard of what was then called neoliberalism (not what we now call neoliberalism). That is what a great magazine of politics and culture does: it creates a project, it fashions a sensibility. The Spectator did it in the early eighteenth century, Partisan Review in the 1930s did it, Dissent in the 1950s did it, and the New Republic in the 1970s/1980s did it.’

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30 Years After Bhopal Gas Leak, U.S. Company Responsible Remains Unpunished: Interview with Vijay Prashad

How the Kremlin uses TV to shape political ‘reality’ in Russia: Interview with Peter Pomerantsev

War by media and the triumph of propaganda

John Pilger writes:

C25.jpg‘Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers?

Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what’s called the mainstream media is not information, but power?

These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.’

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Emails Show FBI Worked to Debunk ‘Conspiracy Theories’ Following Michael Hastings’ Death

Jason Leopold writes for VICE News:

‘When journalist Michael Hastings died in a car crash in Los Angeles last year, rumors immediately began to surface on social media suggesting his death was tied to a federal investigation into his work.

The claims attracted widespread media interest when WikiLeaks tweeted the day after the crash that Hastings had contacted the anti-secrecy group’s attorney and said that the FBI was investigating him. The FBI was then bombarded by inquiries from journalists who tried to confirm or deny the allegations, and the bureau struggled to come up with a statement to debunk what it referred to as “rampant conspiracy theories.”

[…] VICE News obtained dozens of internal FBI emails that provide a behind-the-scenes look at how the bureau managed the inquiries into Hastings’ death and the rare steps it took to shoot down claims that he was the target of a federal probe. The documents were turned over in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit VICE News jointly filed with Ryan Shapiro, a doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who specializes in FOIA research.’

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Apple Allegedly Deleted Songs From Users’ iPods That Were Downloaded From Rival Services

Editor’s Note: Deleting music that you like and replacing it with U2? Despicable behaviour :)

Jeremy Gordon reports for Pitchfork:

Apple Allegedly Deleted Songs From Users' iPods That Were Downloaded From Rival Services‘A class-action antitrust lawsuit alleges that between 2007 and 2009, Apple intentionally deleted songs purchased through rival services from its users’ iPods without informing them, The Wall Street Journal reports. The plaintiffs of the case are seeking $350 million in damages, contending that they were subsequently forced to pay more for Apple’s services.

Attorney Patrick Coughlin, speaking in U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, stated that when a user attempted to sync an iPod containing music purchased from a rival service, an error message would be displayed. The user would then be directed to restore factory settings, but when that step was fulfilled, the rival songs would be deleted.’

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On ‘the menace of Memes’ Spectator piece: Why you should use your critical thinking skills, whatever the information source

Another Angry Voice writes:

‘I’ll begin this article with an admission that I made a mistake. I always try to be careful that the infographics I create for social media are completely accurate (or clearly marked as satire when they’re jokes), however on Sunday 30th of November 2014 I shared an infographic made by someone else without properly fact checking it (the one in the article header).

It turns out that the image I shared was slightly misleading. The nine images of incredibly sparsely attended debates in parliament were perfectly accurate, but the two below claiming to be debates about MPs pay and expenses were just stock images of the House of Commons. The infographic in question was then cited in a Spectator article by Isabel Hartman entitled “The menace of Memes: How pictures can paint a thousand lies”.

I apologised as soon as I realised that I’d made a mistake in sharing a partially inaccurate image, but also took note of the fact that Isabel Hartman’s article was also misleading for the fact that that it implied that the image was deliberately inaccurate (made in bad faith), rather than the result of a quite obvious mistake (made in good faith), and also because it made the ludicrous argument that so few MPs bother to turn up to some debates because “it is more constructive to be outside the Chamber during those sessions”. The author casually dismissed all of the perfectly accurate pictures of incredibly sparsely attended parliamentary sessions (on the war in Afghanistan, child sex abuse, preventing knife crime, drugs laws, the effects of Iain Duncan Smith’s brutal welfare “reforms” on disabled people, the living wage, recognition of Palestine, tenancy reform, and Syrian refugees) as if they were probably just unconstructive waste-of-time type debates that might have been better had nobody bothered to attend them at all!

Had Isabel Hartman done the vaguest research on how someone might have mistakenly concluded that the two stock images were what they were claimed to be, she would have easily found this article on the BBC News website, and this article on the Daily Telegraph website which both lazily used old stock images to illustrate their articles about parliamentary debates on MPs pay and MPs expenses.’

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‘Palestine is not an environment story’: How Nafeez Ahmed was censored from The Guardian for writing about Israel’s war for Gaza’s gas

Editor’s Note: Nafeez Ahmed recently launched a crowdfunding drive in order to support his great journalism and with the hopeful aim of creating his own investigative journalism collective. Please support him in any way you can. You can find links to more of his work here.

Nafeez Ahmed writes Medium:

‘After writing for The Guardian for over a year, my contract was unilaterally terminated because I wrote a piece on Gaza that was beyond the pale. In doing so, The Guardian breached the very editorial freedom the paper was obligated to protect under my contract. I’m speaking out because I believe it is in the public interest to know how a Pulitizer Prize-winning newspaper which styles itself as the world’s leading liberal voice, casually engaged in an act of censorship to shut down coverage of issues that undermined Israel’s publicised rationale for going to war.

I joined the Guardian as an environment blogger in April 2013. Prior to this, I had been an author, academic and freelance journalist for over a decade, writing for The Independent, Independent on Sunday, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, among others.

On 9th July 2014, I posted an article via my Earth Insight blog at The Guardian’s environment website, exposing the role of Palestinian resources, specifically Gaza’s off-shore natural gas reserves, in partly motivating Israel’s invasion of Gaza aka ‘Operation Protective Edge.’ Among the sources I referred to was a policy paper written by incumbent Israeli defence minister Moshe Ya’alon one year before Operation Cast Lead, underscoring that the Palestinians could never be allowed to develop their own energy resources as any revenues would go to supporting Palestinian terrorism.’

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Prison Factory: Amazon’s Deplorable Warehouses

Who Does David Cameron Really Work For? Russell Brand Talks To George Monbiot About TTIP

Andy Coulson leaves prison after serving five months of 18-month term

Mark Sweney reports for The Guardian:

Andy Coulson‘Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor and Downing Street communications boss, has been released from prison.

He served less than five months of an 18-month term imposed in July after he was convicted of conspiring to intercept voicemails at the now-defunct Sunday tabloid following an eight-month trial at the Old Bailey.

Coulson, 46, said nothing to reporters as he left Hollesley Bay, an open prison in Suffolk, at 8am . It is understood he will have to wear an electronic tag until he has served half of his full sentence as a condition of his early release.’

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