Spinwatch director talks to VICE about British PR companies “reputation laundering” for dictatorships
‘The UK PR industry generates roughly £7.5 billion per year. If you work in media, it might feel like a good chunk of that comes via companies blasting your inbox with products that literally no one could ever want. But let’s be rational about this: there’s a lot more to be made by working for heavy hitters than trying to flog iridescent bean bags to a music reviews website.
Helped by a lack of interference from the government, and with no regulation standing in their way, British PR firms are doing their bit to suppress the evils of foreign dictatorships, and making a decent sum in the process. This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course – regimes have been employing spin doctors for decades whenever they need a dodgy human rights violation smoothed over. But thanks to the internet, there are increasingly more ways in which they can soften whatever blow it is that needs softening.’
Using TV, videos or a computer game as a stress reducer after a tough day can lead to feelings of guilt and failure
‘It seems common practice: After a long day at work, most people sometimes just want to turn on the TV or play a video or computer game to calm down and relax. However, in a study recently published in the Journal of Communication researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany and VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands found that people who were highly stressed after work did not feel relaxed or recovered when they watched TV or played computer or video games. Instead, they tended to show increased levels of guilt and feelings of failure.’
‘In a world that is becoming increasingly more polarized, it’s hard to decipher truth. News outlets we once turned to for information have now become sensationalized 24-hour “info-tainment” networks. Yet one journalist has had enough of the system that controls media, finance and government, and is Breaking the Set in hope of inspiring viewers to act and think locally. At 29 years old, Abby Martin has definitely left her mark on political journalism. Outspoken and a little unfiltered at times, she stands true to herself (nose ring included) in delivering stories that deserve public recognition.
As a Millennial herself, Abby understands the plight we face as a generation. Mainstream media has lost all legitimacy. Financial institutions have proven to be dangerous and manipulative. And our government has exercised unrestrained spending and power causing young adults to be eternally in debt and slaves to the authority. But with the rise of the Internet, new mediums are popping up daily that offer hope for the future.’
‘In a new report, Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union warn that “large-scale surveillance is seriously hampering U.S.-based journalists and lawyers in their work.” The report is based on interviews with dozens of reporters and lawyers. They describe a media climate where journalists take cumbersome security steps that slows down their reporting. Sources are afraid of talking, as aggressive prosecutions scare government officials into staying silent, even about issues that are unclassified. For lawyers, the threat of surveillance is stoking fears they will be unable to protect a client’s right to privacy. Some defendants are afraid of speaking openly to their own counsel, undermining a lawyer’s ability provide the best possible defense. We speak to Alex Sinha, author of the report, “With Liberty to Monitor All: How Large-Scale U.S. Surveillance is Harming Journalism, Law, and American Democracy,” and to national security reporter Jeremy Scahill.’ (Democracy Now!)
‘The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta has dedicated its front page today [25th July] to an apology to the Netherlands for the Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash, in which 193 Dutch citizens were killed. The poignant cover features the headline “Forgive us, Netherlands”, written in Dutch as “Vergeef ons, Nederlands” and translated into Russian below. The image, occupying the whole of the page, shows a procession of hearses carrying the coffins of victims. The picture was taken as the first bodies recovered from the crash site were transported to a military barracks in Holland on Wednesday for identification after a solemn ceremony at Eindhoven Airport.
Novaya Gazeta was established by Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union, who used money he received from him his 1990 Nobel Prize to part fund the publication in 1993. The publication is part-owned by Alexander Lebedev, whose son Evgeny owns The Independent. The liberal opposition newspaper is highly regarded for its investigative journalism and critical coverage of Russian politics. Four of its journalists have been murdered since 2001 including Anna Politkovskaya, a virulent critic of the government and high-profile human rights activist who was shot dead in 2006.’
‘After spending nearly 30 years of my life writing about business and finance, including several years dedicated to the commodities market, the idea of treating water as a pure commodity – something to bought and sold on the open market by those in quest of a profit rather than trying to deliver it to their fellow citizens as a public service – made me pause.
Sure, I’ve grown up surrounded by bottled mineral water – Evian, Volvic, Perrier, Pellegrino and even more chi-chi brands – but that has always existed alongside a robust municipal water system that delivers clean water to whatever home I’m occupying. All it takes is turning a tap. The cost of that water is fractions of a penny compared to designer bottled water.
This summer, however, myriad business forces are combining to remind us that fresh water isn’t necessarily or automatically a free resource. It could all too easily end up becoming just another economic commodity. At the forefront of this firestorm is Peter Brabeck, chairman and former CEO of Nestle.’
- The Human Right to Waterand Sanitation
- What is the minimum quantity of water needed?
- Nestlé’s Peter Brabeck: our attitude towards water needs to change
- Nestle: Water’s Corporate Takeover
- World Bank wants water privatized, despite risks
- This Man Went to Prison for Collecting Rainwater
- Report: 60% of China underground water polluted
- Brazil’s largest city faces water shortage
- ‘Water war’ threatens Syria lifeline
- Seven U.S. states running out of water
- In dry California, water fetching record prices as sellers cash in on drought
- Study: Colorado River Basin drying up faster than previously thought
- What Happens When Detroit Shuts Off the Water of 100,000 People
- Emergency water supplies on tap for Detroiters faced with shutoffs
- Is solar-powered desalination answer to water independence for California?
- List Recognizes Top Water Tech Companies
- Massive ‘ocean’ discovered towards Earth’s core
‘If ever a story deserved to be filed under the heading “irony” it is the one about a “caring capitalism” summit ending in a bitter legal dispute among the organisers over money. Thursday’s Evening Standard reports that Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild – the former financier, director of Estee Lauder and the Economist and member of one of the world’s wealthiest families – is suing the charity that helped stage the Conference on Inclusive Capitalism in May, the Henry Jackson Society, on a catalogue of issues, including intellectual property and residual funds and unpaid invoices totalling £187,000.
The world was abuzz in the 90s with conversations of whether capitalism could indeed be “caring”. Companies such as Ben & Jerry’s were leading the way with new corporate concepts and ethical structures. Some academic articles glumly concluded that such new concepts “will be prone to eventual failure and subsumption by fast capitalism”. Twenty years later, while inequality continues to grow and the world is becoming increasingly volatile, we are still having the same conversation. Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry’s has been bought by Unilever.
Capitalism, in its unadulterated form, is not caring. It is not inclusive, responsible or ethical. It is fast, callous, amoral, decisive, aggressive, self-interested and only cares about one thing: the bottom line. This is not a criticism. It is just how it is built.’
‘Jeff Cohen discusses several freedom of information issues, including a new campaign encouraging whistleblowing, the case of journalist James Risen, and net neutrality.’ (The Real News)
‘Two-thirds of fresh retail chicken in the UK is contaminated with campylobacter, a nasty bug that affects about 280,000 people a year.’ (The Guardian)
‘While Internet trolls and members of Congress wage war over edits on Wikipedia, Swedish university administrator Sverker Johansson has spent the last seven years becoming the most prolific author…by a long shot. In fact, he’s responsible for over 2.7 million articles or 8.5% of all the articles in the collection, according to The Wall Street Journal. And it’s all thanks to a program called Lsjbot.
Johansson’s software collects info from databases on a particular topic then packages it into articles in Swedish and two dialects of Filipino (his wife’s native tongue). Many of the posts focus on innocuous subjects — animal species or town profiles. Yet, the sheer volume of up to 10,000 entries a day has vaulted Johansson and his bot into the top leaderboard position and hence, the spotlight.’
‘The Western news media are in crisis and are turning their back on the world. We hardly ever notice. Where correspondents were once assigned to a place for years or months, reporters now handle 20 countries each. Bureaus are in hub cities, far from many of the countries they cover. And journalists are often lodged in expensive bungalows or five-star hotels. As the news has receded, so have our minds.
To the consumer, the news can seem authoritative. But the 24-hour news cycles we watch rarely give us the stories essential to understanding the major events of our time. The news machine, confused about its mandate, has faltered. Big stories are often missed. Huge swaths of the world are forgotten or shrouded in myth. The news both creates these myths and dispels them, in a pretense of providing us with truth.’
‘The McDonald’s cheeseburger will have its day in court. Russia’s consumer protection agency has filed a claim accusing the restaurant chain of violating government nutritional and safety codes in a number of its burger and ice cream products, a Moscow court announced Friday.
The suit could temporarily ban the production and sale of the chain’s ice cream, milkshakes, cheeseburgers, and Filet-o-Fish and chicken sandwiches, said Yekaterina Korotova, a spokeswoman for Moscow’s Tverskoi District Court, where the case will be heard.
“We have identified violations which put the product quality and safety of the entire McDonald’s chain in doubt,” Anna Popova, the head of Rospotrebnadzor, Russia’s consumer protection agency, said in statements reported by the Interfax news agency.’
‘First lady Michelle Obama on Thursday night urged Democrats to “dig deep” into their pockets and “write a big fat check” before the midterm elections, but minutes later complained of too much money in politics.
Speaking at a party fundraiser in Chicago, Mrs. Obama said Democrats must triumph in the November contests if President Obama is to make progress on his agenda during the final two years of his term. She also blasted special interest groups that funnel money to Republicans.’
‘Twitter has long been the go-to platform for customers to vent their fury at bad customer service, and usually a complaint on social media will lead to a swift apology if nothing else. But not for Minneapolis man Duff Watson, who says he and his two children were ejected from their flight for a tweet criticising Southwest Airlines’ service.’
‘A divided U.S. appeals court on Thursday threw out claims against produce giant Chiquita Brands International made by relatives of thousands of Colombians killed during years of bloody civil war.
A panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that federal courts have no jurisdiction over the Colombian claims. The lawsuits accused Chiquita of assisting in the killings by paying $1.7 million to a violent right-wing paramilitary group known as the AUC, the Spanish acronym for United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.
Chiquita, based in the U.S., formerly operated large banana plantations in Colombia through its Banadex subsidiary. Chiquita insists it was the victim of extortion and was forced to pay the AUC or face violence directed at its employees and assets in Colombia.’
‘The current British definition of terrorism is so broadly drawn that it could even catch political journalists and bloggers who publish material that the authorities consider dangerous to public safety, said the official counter-terrorism watchdog. David Anderson QC, the official reviewer of counter-terrorism laws, said Britain had some of the most extensive anti-terrorism laws in the western world, which gave police and prosecutors the powers they needed to tackle al-Qaida-inspired terrorists, rightwing extremists and dissident Northern Irish groups.
“But if these exceptional powers are to command public consent, it is important they need to be confined to their proper purpose, and recent years have seen a degree of ‘creep’ in parliament that could be reversed without diminishing their impact” In his annual report to be published on Tuesday [July 22nd], Anderson is expected to give three examples of how the terror laws were too widely drawn. They included “actions aimed at influencing governments”, hate crime and what he called the “penumbra of terrorism”.’
Hat tip to Media Lens for drawing attention to these
‘It’s a thin line between morbid curiosity about the catastrophes of others and a genuine desire to understand the world’s most sensitive areas. It’s what separates war tourism from deep journeying into a region in conflict. Nicholas Wood, a former New York Times Balkans correspondent who founded the study-tour company Political Tours five years ago, insists that his firm’s activities fall into the latter group. You want to get a nuanced and complex understanding of the situations we see on the television news, he said, adding, that the idea is not to be voyeuristic, but rather to gain a deeper understanding.
[...] Political Tours’s list of destinations is long and varied. It includes North Korea, Bosnia, Kosovo, South Africa, Russia, Georgia, Libya, Northern Ireland and Scotland, where the focus is on the referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. A tour of Israel and the Palestinian Authority is planned for October.’
‘A survey of major cable news discussion programs shows a stunning lack of diversity among the guests.
FAIR surveyed five weeks of broadcasts of the interview/discussion segments on several leading one-hour cable shows: CNN‘s Anderson Cooper 360° and OutFront With Erin Burnett, All In With Chris Hayes and the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, and Fox News Channel‘s O’Reilly Factor and Hannity.
Guests were coded by gender, race/ethnicity and occupation, as well as the affiliations of partisan guests-those who are identified with a party as current or former government officials or campaign professionals.’
‘Will David Cameron go down in history as the man who gave away this country’s greatest achievement to Wall Street, the man who enabled big American healthcare access to our hospital wards? The answer will be yes – unless the prime minister makes it clear once and for all that he will protect the NHS from the world’s largest bilateral trade negotiations, happening right now in Brussels.
Make no mistake, we are in the fight of our lives to save the NHS from being sold off lock, stock and barrel. But to make matters even worse a trade deal called TTIP (the transatlantic trade and investment partnership) will mean that reversing the damage done by this government could be impossible unless Cameron acts.’
- EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht Confirms NHS Exemption from TTIP
- The VAT loophole driving NHS pharmacy services into hands of private sector
- The Secret Deal that Threatens the NHS
- NHS cancer care may be privatized in biggest ever outsource plan
- PM must exclude NHS from EU-US trade deal or it could be sued, union warns
‘Walk through your local grocery store these days and you’ll see the words “all natural” emblazoned on a variety of food packages. The label is lucrative, for sure, but in discussing the natural label few have remarked on what’s really at stake — the natural ingredients and the companies themselves.
If you take a look at some of the favorite organic and natural food brands, you’ll see they’re owned by some of the largest conventional companies in the world. Coca-Cola owns Odwalla and Honest Tea. PepsiCo. owns Naked Juice. General Mills owns Lara Bar. Natural and organic food acquisitions aside, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and General Mills all opposed California’s GMO Proposition 37 that would require GMO food labeling. Today, some of those companies touting an all-natural list of grains and sugars can be seen changing the ingredients in their natural food products as the natural foods’ distribution channels are pushed to larger and larger markets.’
- The Big Green Buyout
- Organic Processing Industry Structure
- Cereal Crimes: How “Natural” Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label
- The word “natural” helps sell $40 billion worth of food in the U.S. every year—and the label means nothing
- Salt Sugar Fat: NY Times Reporter Michael Moss on How the Food Giants Hooked America on Junk Food
- Food Giants Are Getting People Addicted to Their Food: Interview with Michael Moss
Editor’s Note: When you understand the context of what has been happening in eastern Ukraine, how Willy Wonka’s military forces from Kiev have been shelling the shit out of the area for months killing innocent people, the idea that the jet shoot down was a mistake makes much more sense than the cartoonist super villain propaganda that Putin blew it out of the sky just for kicks. I put forward the theory that it was an accident a couple of days ago on several threads in the midst of all the hysteria so many people were certain it was a deliberate act and that Russia had be be directly involved. The same idea was put forward in an article in Time that quoted Austin Long, professor of political and international affairs at Columbia.
‘Senior U.S. intelligence officials say they have no evidence of direct Russian government involvement in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. They say the passenger jet was likely felled by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and that Russia “created the conditions” for the downing by arming the separatists.
The officials briefed reporters Tuesday under ground rules that their names not be used in discussing intelligence related to last week’s air disaster, which killed 298 people. They said they didn’t know if any Russians were present at the missile launch, and they wouldn’t say that the missile crew was trained in Russia. A senior official said the most likely explanation was the plane was shot down by mistake.’
‘The New York Times (7/22/14) didn’t mince words in its editorial on the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17: “Whoever unleashed a lethal missile not knowing how to distinguish between a military and a civilian plane is not only irresponsible and stupid, but a war criminal.”
That seems pretty unequivocal. But if you look at the New York Times‘ archives, you’ll see that some people who unleash lethal missiles without knowing how to distinguish between military and civilian planes aren’t irresponsible, stupid or criminal–they’re just doing what they had to do. Of course, if you’re going to shoot down a civilian jetliner–from the Times‘ point of view–it helps to be working for the US Navy when you do it.’
Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar: ‘The hysterical allegations surrounding the apparent shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines MH17 in eastern Ukraine continue to grow. The latest round of unproven allegations seems to be focusing on the situation at the crash site itself. Earlier this morning, NBC News presented the story “fury grows as pro-Russian rebels block access to MH17 site,” which pictures of scary-looking rebels with masks and guns. But that doesn’t seem to be true, as BBC News was reporting at virtually the same time that “Dutch experts examine bodies,” a story focusing on how the rebels were actually letting the Dutch access the bodies. Another group of international investigators is making their way to the site as well.’ READ MORE…
- Rebels turn over MH17 black boxes
- MH17: Remains of victims ‘still at crash site’
- Malaysia’s prime minister reaches deal with rebel leader to allow “safe access” to crash site
- State Dept. Annoyed at Press Questioning MH17 Narrative
- Ukrainians report sightings of missile launcher on day of MH17 crash
- Jet Wreckage Bears Signs of Impact by Supersonic Missile, Analysis Shows
- Russia challenges accusations that Ukraine rebels shot down airliner
- Netherlands opens war crimes investigation into airliner downing
- Dutch PM: MH17 bodies expected Wednesday, IDs could take months
- Dutch declare day of national mourning for plane crash victims
‘A supplier to McDonald’s and KFC in China has been accused of supplying rotting meat to the fast-food chains and falsifying product expiration dates, in the latest food safety scandal to hit the country. It is also the latest blow to foreign fast food companies operating in the country, where promises of rapid growth – there are more than 4,400 KFC restaurants alone – are being undermined by food safety issues.
The Shanghai food safety watchdog said on Monday it had closed a meat and poultry processor on the outskirts of the city after an undercover investigation by a local television station found the company to be putting new labels on expired meat, among other food safety violations. KFC and McDonald’s, both of which used the US-owned meat processor to supply their Shanghai outlets, apologised to their Chinese customers.’