Category Archives: Corporations

G20 Summit Failed to Seriously Address Global Problems: Interview with James Henry

Editor’s Note: James Henry is an economist and author who serves as a senior advisor at the Tax Justice Network. In this interview with the Real News he discusses how the recent G20 meeting in Brisbane, Australia neglected serious focus on long-term issues like tax reform, infrastructural investment, and climate change.

Antiwar Voices Absent from Corporate TV News Ahead of U.S. Attacks on Iraq and Syria: Interview with Peter Hart

‘A new analysis of corporate TV news has found there was almost no debate about whether the United States should go to war in Iraq and Syria. The group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that of the more than 200 guests who appeared on network shows to discuss the issue, just six voiced opposition to military action. The report, titled “Debating How — Not Whether — to Launch a New War,” examines a two-week period in September when U.S. involvement in Iraq and Syria dominated the airwaves. The report also finds that on the high-profile Sunday talk shows, out of 89 guests, there was just one antiwar voice — Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation. We speak to Peter Hart, activism director at FAIR.’ (Democracy Now!)

Newspaper Advertising Revenue: Adjusted for Inflation, 1950-2013

The siege of Julian Assange is a farce

John Pilger writes:

Czu.jpg[...] Ny has never properly explained why she will not come to London, just as the Swedish authorities have never explained why they refuse to give Assange a guarantee that they will not extradite him on to the US under a secret arrangement agreed between Stockholm and Washington. In December 2010, the Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the US before the European Arrest Warrant was issued.

Perhaps an explanation is that, contrary to its reputation as a liberal bastion, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA “renditions” – including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and WikiLeaks cables. In the summer of 2010, Assange had been in Sweden to talk about WikiLeaks revelations of the war in Afghanistan – in which Sweden had forces under US command.

The Americans are pursuing Assange because WikiLeaks exposed their epic crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of tens of thousands of civilians, which they covered up; and their contempt for sovereignty and international law, as demonstrated vividly in their leaked diplomatic cables.’

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Police face legal action for snooping on journalists

Rob Evans reports for The Guardian:

New Scotland Yard signA group of journalists has launched a legal action against Scotland Yard after discovering that the Metropolitan police has been recording their professional activities on a secret database designed to monitor so-called domestic extremists.

The six journalists have obtained official files that reveal how police logged details of their work as they reported on protests. One video journalist discovered that the Met police had more than 130 entries detailing his movements, including what he was wearing, at demonstrations he attended as a member of the press.

They have started the legal action to expose what they say is a persistent pattern of journalists being assaulted, monitored and stopped and searched by police during their work, which often includes documenting police misconduct.

In legal paperwork, the journalists who have worked for national newspapers describe how they have regularly exposed malpractice by the state and big corporations and have campaigned for press freedom.’

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Media ‘gagged over bid to report MP child sex cases’

Daniel Boffey reports for The Observer:

The security services are facing questions over the cover-up of a Westminster paedophile ring as it emerged that files relating to official requests for media blackouts in the early 1980s were destroyed.

Two newspaper executives have told the Observer that their publications were issued with D-notices – warnings not to publish intelligence that might damage national security – when they sought to report on allegations of a powerful group of men engaging in child sex abuse in 1984. One executive said he had been accosted in his office by 15 uniformed and two non-uniformed police over a dossier on Westminster paedophiles passed to him by the former Labour cabinet minister Barbara Castle.

The other said that his newspaper had received a D-notice when a reporter sought to write about a police investigation into Elm Guest House, in southwest London, where a group of high-profile paedophiles was said to have operated and may have killed a child. Now it has emerged that these claims are impossible to verify or discount because the D-notice archives for that period “are not complete”.

Officials running the D-notice system, which works closely with MI5 and MI6 and the Ministry of Defence, said that files “going back beyond 20 years are not complete because files are reviewed and correspondence of a routine nature with no historical significance destroyed”.’

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The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed

Adrian Chen reports for Wired:

[...] So companies like Facebook and Twitter rely on an army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us. And there are legions of them—a vast, invisible pool of human labor. Hemanshu Nigam, the former chief security officer of MySpace who now runs online safety consultancy SSP Blue, estimates that the number of content moderators scrubbing the world’s social media sites, mobile apps, and cloud storage services runs to “well over 100,000”—that is, about twice the total head count of Google and nearly 14 times that of Facebook.

This work is increasingly done in the Philippines. A former US colony, the Philippines has maintained close cultural ties to the United States, which content moderation companies say helps Filipinos determine what Americans find offensive. And moderators in the Philippines can be hired for a fraction of American wages. Ryan Cardeno, a former contractor for Microsoft in the Philippines, told me that he made $500 per month by the end of his three-and-a-half-year tenure with outsourcing firm Sykes. Last year, Cardeno was offered $312 per month by another firm to moderate content for Facebook, paltry even by industry standards.’

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George Carlin: Bullshit is everywhere

Thailand: Five Arrested For ‘Hunger Games’ Salute

Pope Urges World Leaders To Rein In Greed, Feed The Hungry

Growth: the destructive god that can never be appeased

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

A man walks past a television monitor showing a drop in Hong Kong's benchmark Hang Seng IndexAnother crash is coming. We all know it, now even David Cameron acknowledges it. The only questions are what the immediate catalyst will be, and when it begins.

You can take your pick. The Financial Times reported yesterday that China now resembles the US in 2007. Domestic bank loans have risen 40% since 2008, while “the ability to repay that debt has deteriorated dramatically”. Property prices are falling and the companies that run China’s shadow banking system provide “virtually no disclosure” of their liabilities. Just two days ago the G20 leaders announced that growth in China “is robust and is becoming more sustainable”. You can judge the value of their assurances for yourself.

Housing bubbles in several countries, including Britain, could pop any time. A report in September revealed that total world debt (public and private) is 212% of GDP. In 2008, when it helped cause the last crash, it stood at 174%. The Telegraph notes that this threatens to cause “renewed financial crisis … and eventual mass default”. Shadow banking has gone beserk, stocks appear to be wildly overvalued, the eurozone is bust again. Which will blow first?

Or perhaps it’s inaccurate to describe this as another crash. Perhaps it’s a continuation of the last one, the latest phase in a permanent cycle of crisis exacerbated by the measures (credit bubbles, deregulation, the curtailment of state spending) that were supposed to deliver uninterrupted growth. The system the world’s governments have sought to stabilise is inherently unstable; built on debt, fuelled by speculation, run by sharks.’

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Five Companies That Have Profited From War

On Media Outlets That Continue to Describe Unknown Drone Victims As “Militants”

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

It has been more than two years since The New York Times revealed that “Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties” of his drone strikes which “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants…unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” The paper noted that “this counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths,” and even quoted CIA officials as deeply “troubled” by this decision: “One called it ‘guilt by association’ that has led to ‘deceptive’ estimates of civilian casualties. ‘It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants. They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.’”

But what bothered even some intelligence officials at the agency carrying out the strikes seemed of no concern whatsoever to most major media outlets. As I documented days after the Times article, most large western media outlets continued to describe completely unknown victims of U.S. drone attacks as “militants”—even though they (a) had no idea who those victims were or what they had done and (b) were well-aware by that point that the term had been “re-defined” by the Obama administration into Alice in Wonderland-level nonsense.’

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Study finds little opposition to attacks on Iraq, Syria in U.S. media

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting reports:

Debate, corporate media style:  Two pro-war guests go at it. While Congress may soon debate the ongoing US wars in Iraq and Syria, a new FAIR study shows that at the critical moments leading up to the escalation of US military action, mainstream media presented almost no debate at all.

The study of key TV news discussion programs from September 7 through 21 reveals that guests who opposed war were scarce.

The study evaluated discussion and debate segments on the Sunday talk shows (CNN’s State of the Union, CBS‘s Face the Nation, ABC‘s This Week,Fox News Sunday and NBC‘s Meet the Press), the PBS NewsHour and a sample of cable news programs that feature roundtables and interview segments (CNN‘s Situation Room, Fox News Channel‘s Special Reportand MSNBC’s Hardball).’

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French government opposes ISDS, will not sign TTIP agreement in 2015

EurActiv reports:

‘Matthias Fekl, France’s Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, has made it clear that France will not support the inclusion of the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS) in a potential TTIP agreement. The ISDS is a point of heated debate between the EU and the United States. EurActiv France reports.

Europe’s fears over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) are not abating, while America is beginning to show signs of impatience. Europe and the United States have reached a standoff in the TTIP negotiations, over the question of the Investor State Dispute Settlement.

This mechanism could give companies the opportunity to take legal action against a state whose legislation has a negative impact on their economic activity.

“France did not want the ISDS to be included in the negotiation mandate,” Matthias Fekl told the French Senate. “We have to preserve the right of the state to set and apply its own standards, to maintain the impartiality of the justice system and to allow the people of France, and the world, to assert their values,” he added.’

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Journalists Detained for Talking Politics in Cairo Cafe

Robert Mackey reports for The New York Times:

Two years ago, as the forces of revolution and counterrevolution struggled for control in Egypt, a mysterious public service announcement warned Egyptians against the seemingly innocuous behavior of chatting with foreigners in cafes.

The ad, which seemed to equate grumbling to foreign journalists with revealing state secrets to spies, was widely mocked by young Internet activists as a crude attempt by Egypt’s security services to instill paranoia in the public on the eve of the country’s first free presidential election.

After it was shown a few times on public and private television channels, the ad was pulled from the airwaves in June 2012, but an event this week in Cairo suggested that its message still resonates.

As the Cairene news site Mada Masr reported, a prominent French journalist and two Egyptian companions were detained and questioned by the police in the capital on Tuesday after a concerned citizen overheard them discussing local politics in a cafe and reported them to the authorities.’

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Money is God

How the House of Lords Mixes Politics and Business

Justin Scheck and Charles Forelle report for The Wall Street Journal:

[...] For centuries, the upper chamber of the British Parliament was filled largely by the landed gentry. But in 1999, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair ’s government replaced most of the hereditary lords with business people, civic leaders and politicians appointed for life.

Mr. Blair said the shift would “end the feudal domination of one half of our legislature.” Opponents said he was turning the House of Lords into a den of patronage—a “House of Cronies” to be occupied by a lord of “Lobbygate” and lord of “Offshore Funds,” said then-Conservative Party leader William Hague.

In the 15 years since, the House of Lords has struggled with the boundaries between public and private service. A code of conduct meant to separate the two has repeatedly been altered.’

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Media Worships Bush Family on Veterans Day

Abby discusses the mainstream media’s coverage of President George W. Bush’s new book about his father and how it distracts from the case of several Libyans that were allegedly tortured by the CIA at black sites in Afghanistan.’ (Breaking the Set)

Journalists killed around the world since 1992

SOURCE: COMMITTEE TO PORJECT JOURNALISTS/THOMSON REUTERS

US wealth inequality: Top 0.1% worth as much as the bottom 90%

Angela Monaghan reports for The Guardian:

Wealth inequality in the US is at near record levels according to a new study by academics. Over the past three decades, the share of household wealth owned by the top 0.1% has increased from 7% to 22%. For the bottom 90% of families, a combination of rising debt, the collapse of the value of their assets during the financial crisis, and stagnant real wages have led to the erosion of wealth.

The research by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman [pdf] illustrates the evolution of wealth inequality over the last century. The chart shows how the top 0.1% of families now own roughly the same share of wealth as the bottom 90%.

The picture actually improved in the aftermath of the 1930s Great Depression, with wealth inequality falling through to the late 1970s. It then started to rise again, with the share of total household wealth owned by the top 0.1% rising to 22% in 2012 from 7% in the late 1970s. The top 0.1% includes 160,000 families with total net assets of more than $20m (£13m) in 2012.

In contrast, the share of total US wealth owned by the bottom 90% of families fell from a peak of 36% in the mid-1980s, to 23% in 2012 – just one percentage point above the top 0.1%.’

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Syrian ‘hero boy’ video faked by Norwegian director

Anne-Marie Tomchak and Charlotte McDonald report for BBC News:

A film being shot in a desert settingMillions of YouTube viewers have been captivated by the ‘Syrian hero boy‘ who manages to rescue a little girl while under gunfire. Now a group of Norwegian filmmakers have told BBC Trending they are behind it. They say it was filmed on location in Malta this summer with the intention of being presented as real.

Lars Klevberg, a 34-year-old film director based in Oslo, wrote a script after watching news coverage of the conflict in Syria. He says he deliberately presented the film as reality in order to generate a discussion about children in conflict zones.

“If I could make a film and pretend it was real, people would share it and react with hope,” he said. “We shot it in Malta in May this year on a set that was used for other famous movies like Troy and Gladiator,” Klevberg said. “The little boy and girl are professional actors from Malta. The voices in the background are Syrian refugees living in Malta.”‘

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EU Scrutinizes Spyware Exports To Sketchy Regimes

Cora Currier writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - EU Scrutinizes Spyware Exports To Sketchy RegimesThe European Union will start paying closer attention to sales of invasive surveillance software, which has previously flowed from European companies to countries with questionable human rights records.

Under new EU rules issued recently, certain kinds of monitoring software will require a license to export. Those license applications would provide more transparency about where the software is going, and could potentially allow governments to block unsavory sales.

As The Intercept has reported, companies like Milan-based Hacking Team or FinFisher, of Munich, sell to countries where authorities appear to have used the software to spy on dissidents and the press. Hacking Team implants have been discovered on the devices of Moroccan and Ethiopian journalists, while leaked FinFisher documents showed that activists and political opposition members in Bahrain had been targeted.’

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Chinese firm’s human rights record “wasn’t relevant”, says Mayor of London after a £1bn property deal

Legendary Talk Show Host Phil Donahue on the Silencing of Antiwar Voices in U.S. Media

‘Phil Donahue is one of the best-known talk show hosts in U.S. television history. The Phil Donahue Show was on the air for almost 30 years, until 1996. In 2002, Donahue returned to the airwaves, but was fired by MSNBC on the eve of the 2003 U.S.-led war in Iraq because he was allowing antiwar voices on the air. We talk to Donahue about his firing and the silencing of antiwar voices by the corporate media — that continues to this day.’ (Democracy Now!)

Number’s up for “Big Four” accountants behind tax avoidance and wilful blindness to fraud

Professor Prem Sikka writes for This Is Money:

‘The UK is drowning in a tide of greed and complacency, not least among wealthy, educated people occupying city offices.

Examples of this can be found amongst the big four accountancy firms: Deloitte & Touche, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and KPMG, which audit 99 per cent of FTSE 100 and 96 per cent of FTSE 250 companies.

Their global income is around £75billion, of which £25billion comes from tax advice.

They have escaped retribution for their role in tax avoidance and duff audits of banks, some would say because they are ‘too big to close’ and wield enormous political power.

The UK’s tax revenues are under attack from major corporations that use ingenious schemes to dodge taxes.

Behind the headlines is a tax avoidance industry often involving the big four firms.’

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TTIP: The British government is leading a gunpowder plot against democracy

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

‘[...] The central problem is what the negotiators call investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). The treaty would allow corporations to sue governments before an arbitration panel composed of corporate lawyers, at which other people have no representation, and which is not subject to judicial review.

Already, thanks to the insertion of ISDS into much smaller trade treaties, big business is engaged in an orgy of litigation, whose purpose is to strike down any law that might impinge on its anticipated future profits. The tobacco firm Philip Morris is suing governments in Uruguay and Australia for trying to discourage people from smoking. The oil firm Occidental was awarded $2.3bn in compensation from Ecuador, which terminated the company’s drilling concession in the Amazon after finding that Occidental had broken Ecuadorean law. The Swedish company Vattenfall is suing the German government for shutting down nuclear power. An Australian firm is suing El Salvador’s government for $300m for refusing permission for a goldmine over concerns it would poison the drinking water.

The same mechanism, under TTIP, could be used to prevent UK governments from reversing the privatisation of the railways and the NHS, or from defending public health and the natural world against corporate greed. The corporate lawyers who sit on these panels are beholden only to the companies whose cases they adjudicate, who at other times are their employers.’

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Luxleaks: a very modern scoop

Colm Keena writes for The Irish Times:

‘The publication on Wednesday of details from 28,000 pages of leaked files from PricewaterhouseCoopers, by media organisations in 26 countries, about the tax affairs of some of the largest multinationals on the globe is an example of the way technology is changing journalism.

The investigation has exposed the complex tax arrangements of many companies and individuals, including the Irish food group Glanbia and members of the Sisk family, which owns the construction and healthcare group of the same name. Their methods, which are perfectly legal, save large sums in tax.’

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Leaked Documents Expose Global Companies’ Secret Tax Deals in Luxembourg

Leslie Wayne, Kelly Carr, Marina Walker Guevara, Mar Cabra and Michael Hudson report for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists:

ICIJ's investigation into secret corporate tax deals in Luxembourg‘The landlocked European duchy has been called a “magical fairyland” for brand-name corporations seeking to drastically reduce tax bills.

Pepsi, IKEA, FedEx and 340 other international companies have secured secret deals from Luxembourg, allowing many of them to slash their global tax bills while maintaining little presence in the tiny European duchy, leaked documents show.

These companies appear to have channeled hundreds of billions of dollars through Luxembourg and saved billions of dollars in taxes, according to a review of nearly 28,000 pages of confidential documents conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a team of more than 80 journalists from 26 countries.’

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British Spies Are Free to Target Lawyers and Journalists

Ryan Gallagher reports for The Intercept:

‘British spies have been granted the authority to secretly eavesdrop on legally privileged attorney-client communications, according to newly released documents.

On Thursday, a series of previously classified policies confirmed for the first time that the U.K.’s top surveillance agency Government Communications Headquarters (pictured above) has advised its employees: “You may in principle target the communications of lawyers.”

The U.K.’s other major security and intelligence agencies—MI5 and MI6—have adopted similar policies, the documents show. The guidelines also appear to permit surveillance of journalists and others deemed to work in “sensitive professions” handling confidential information.’

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