Category Archives: Corporations

Obama, Intelligence Community Continue Crack Down on Transparency

John Glaser writes for Antiwar:

According to Stephen Aftergood at Secrecy News, a new intelligence directive forbids any official from talking with the media and threatens “termination of employment” or “criminal prosecution” for any violators. [...] In the aftermath of Snowden’s leaks, this is an assertive attempt to crack down on leakers and enforce absolutely secrecy. It reminds one of the Obama administration’s government-wide crack down on talking to the media, dubbed the “Insider Threat Program.”


U.S. brands fail to act on Bangladesh tragedy

HMRC to sell taxpayers’ financial data

Rowena Mason reports for The Guardian:

HMRC on screenThe personal financial data of millions of taxpayers could be sold to private firms under laws being drawn up by HM Revenue & Customs in a move branded “dangerous” by tax professionals and “borderline insane” by a senior Conservative MP. Despite fears that it could jeopardise the principle of taxpayer confidentiality, the legislation would allow HMRC to release anonymised tax data to third parties including companies, researchers and public bodies where there is a public benefit. According to HMRC documents, officials are examining “charging options”.

The government insists that there will be suitable safeguards on personal data. But the plans, being overseen by the Treasury minister David Gauke, are likely to provoke serious worries among privacy campaigners and MPs in the wake of public concern about the government’s scheme – a plan to share “anonymised” medical records with third parties. The initiative has now been suspended for six months over fears that people could be identified from the supposedly anonymous data, which turned out to contain postcodes, dates of birth, NHS numbers, ethnicity and gender.


4 Years After BP Disaster, Ousted Drilling Chief Warns U.S. at Risk of Another Oil Spill

‘Four years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded and killed 11 workers, causing more than 200 million gallons of oil to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, the Environmental Protection Agency has lifted a ban that excluded BP from new federal contracts. In a broadcast exclusive, we speak with Elizabeth Birnbaum, who was director of the Minerals Management Service in the Interior Department at the time of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. She was forced out soon after. In her first broadcast interview since her departure, Birnbaum warns the risk of another offshore oil drilling blowout is real. We are also joined by Jaclyn Lopez, staff attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity.’ (Democracy Now!)

Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times Double Page Spread on the ‘Rise of the New Russian Empire’

Of course, there are lies coming from both sides. This has virtually always been the case during wartime, whether it’s actual physical war or psychological like the media war that we’re currently experiencing.  While here in the West we’ve have heard plenty about the manipulative ways of Russia Today, the pictures below from Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times are a fine example of how the propaganda machine in the West operates.

There has also been a lot more Neo-Cons on U.S. news channels than usual in recent weeks and months. Often they’ve been touted as ‘Russia experts’.  Here’s Leon Aron from the American Enterprise Institute on CNN as just one recent example.

No wonder the credibility of the media is shrinking all the time. How can we take them seriously when they pump out such utter rubbish like the double page spread below and run to war mongering Neo-Cons for ‘expert’ opinions.  It would be hilarious if the situation wasn’t potentially so dangerous with these maniacs stoking the fire of war.

Hat tip to Media Lens for posting this on their Facebook page.

Glenn Greenwald interviewed on CNN about the Pulitzer Prize, returning to the US and his upcoming book

Glenn Greenwald book to contain ‘new stories from the Snowden archive’

Martin Pengelly reports for The Guardian:

Photograph: Eduardo Munoz/ReutersGlenn Greenwald, one of the journalists who broke the National Security Agency revelations from Edward Snowden in the Guardian, said on Sunday a book he is writing about the case will contain “a lot of new stories from the Snowden archive”. Speaking to Brian Stelter, the host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, at the end of a week in which Guardian US and the Washington Post shared a Pulitzer prize for public service reporting, Greenwald said: “There are stories that I felt from the beginning really needed the length of a book to be able to report and to do justice to, so there’s new documents, [and] there’s new revelations in the book that I think will help inform the debate even further.”


Russia Today Reporter Interviewed on CNN

Silvio Berlusconi sentenced to community service at old people’s home for tax fraud

Kashmira Gander writes for The Independent:

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is to complete community service by helping senior citizens at an old people’s home for a year, after he was convicted of tax fraud. A Milan court ruled that the 77-year-old will spend four hours a week helping elderly people in the Lombard region where he lives.

While his conviction means he cannot run in the upcoming Italian elections, as head of the Forza Italia party he remains influential in the country’s politics. As the ruling permits him to travel to Rome each week from Tuesday to Thursday and come and go from his respective residences in Roma and Milan between 6am and 11pm, he is effectively free to participate in political campaigns.


Hundredth Anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre: Interview with Jonathan Rees and Jeff Biggers

World Bank wants water privatized, despite risks

 writes for Al Jazeera:

Humans can survive weeks without food, but only days without water — in some conditions, only hours. It may sound clichéd, but it’s no hyperbole: Water is life. So what happens when private companies control the spigot? Evidence from water privatization projects around the world paints a pretty clear picture — public health is at stake.

In the run-up to its annual spring meeting this month, the World Bank Group, which offers loans, advice and other resources to developing countries, held four days of dialogues in Washington, D.C. Civil society groups from around the world and World Bank Group staff convened to discuss many topics. Water was high on the list.


5 Journalists Labeled ‘Traitors’ for Doing Their Job

‘Abby Martin goes over 5 instances of Pulitzer prize winning journalists who have been labeled ‘Traitors’ for their coverage of groundbreaking stories, highlighting journalists such as Neil Sheehan of the New York times for publishing the Pentagon Papers, and most recently Glenn Greenwald and his coverage of the ongoing NSA’s dragnet spying.’ (Breaking the Set)

Labour Party hire Obama campaign propagandist David Axelrod as election advisor

From BBC News:

The Labour Party has appointed US election strategist David Axelrod as a strategic adviser on leader Ed Miliband’s 2015 election campaign. Mr Axelrod was a key architect of Barack Obama’s victory over John McCain in the 2008 presidential race. He will work alongside shadow foreign secretary, Douglas Alexander, who is to run Labour’s general election strategy. Labour will pay Mr Axelrod a six-figure sum and use his consulting firm AKVD in its bid to win power.

After masterminding Mr Obama’s election to the White House, Mr Axelrod went on to become a senior adviser to the president. He quit the post in 2011 in order to work on the successful 2012 campaign to re-elect Mr Obama. The strategist has since acted as a media commentator and as a director of the Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.