Category Archives: Corporations

Everyone Gets Cosmetic Procedures, Says Time – and by “Everyone” They Mean Almost No One

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Time: Nip. Tuck. Or Else“Now everyone gets work done. Will you?” reads the front-page teaser for Joel Stein’s piece about plastic surgery, “Nip. Tuck. Or Else. Why You’ll Be Getting Cosmetic Procedures Even if You Don’t Really Want To,” in the June 29, 2015, edition of Time.

The bandwagon effect continues inside: “Not having work done is now the new shame,” Stein writes. “Cosmetic surgery has become the new makeup.” He quotes a young-adult novelist: “This is the first generation that thinks about plastic surgery as almost a given.”

Stein’s article concludes:  “All of our friends are going to have to keep up with us. And then all of their friends, until everyone is getting every procedure they possibly can.”

Even by the standards of newsweekly hyperbole, this is ridiculous.’

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Journalist jailed in Zimbabwe for starting newspaper without government permission

The Associated Press reports:

Newspaper readersThe attorney for a Zimbabwe journalist says his client was convicted of publishing a newspaper in a southern town without government permission and sentenced to eight months in prison.

Several newspapers and radio stations have already been closed under Zimbabwe’s harsh media laws and dozens of journalists have been arrested over the past 15 years.

Defense lawyer Martin Mureri said his client Patrick Chitongo was only putting together a dummy version of the paper to apply for a license. They plan to appeal the conviction.

Although several privately owned newspapers are in circulation, the government is the largest media owner, running over a dozen national and community newspapers as well as enjoying television monopoly.’

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Humanitarian Warriors

Chase Madar writes for the London Review of Books:

Harold Koh is the former dean of Yale Law School and an expert in human rights law. As the State Department’s senior lawyer between 2009 and 2013, he provided the Obama administration with the legal basis for assassination carried out by drones. And despite having written academic papers backing a powerful and restrictive War Powers Act, he made the legal case for the Obama administration’s right to make war on Libya without bothering to get congressional approval. Koh, who has now returned to teaching human rights law, is not the only human rights advocate to call for the use of lethal violence. Indeed, the weaponisation of human rights – its doctrines, its institutions and, above all, its grandees – has been going on in the US for more than a decade.

Take Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the United Nations, former director of Harvard’s Carr Centre for Human Rights Policy and self-described ‘genocide chick’, who advocated war in Libya and Syria, and argued for new ways to arm-twist US allies into providing more troops for Obama’s escalated but unsuccessful war in Afghanistan. This last argument wasn’t successful in 2012, though she was at it again recently when interviewed on Charlie Rose. Or there’s Sarah Sewall, another former director of the Carr Centre, who was responsible for the material on human rights in the reworked US Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. Or Michael Posner, the founder of Human Rights First, now a business professor at NYU, who, as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labour in Obama’s first term, helped bury the Goldstone Report, commissioned by the United Nations to investigate atrocities committed during Israel’s 2008-9 assault on Gaza. Or John Prendergast, a former Human Rights Watch researcher and co-founder of Enough, an anti-genocide group affiliated with the Centre for American Progress, who has called for military intervention to oust Robert Mugabe.’

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Think it’s cool Facebook can auto-tag you in pics? So does the government

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

State-of-the-art facial recognition technology, which had been the stuff of hypothetical privacy nightmares for years, is becoming a startling reality. It is increasingly being deployed all around the United States by giant tech companies, shady advertisers and the FBI – with few if any rules to stop it.

In recent weeks, both Facebook and Google launched facial recognition to mine the photos on your phone, with both impressive and disturbing results. Facebook’s Moments app can recognize you even if you cover your face. Google Photos can identify grown adults from decades-old childhood pictures.

Some people might find it neat when it’s only restricted to photos on their phone. But advertisers, security companies and just plain creepy authority figures have also set up their own systems at music festivals, sporting events and even some churches to monitor attendees, which is bound to disturb even those who don’t give a second thought to issues like the NSA’s mass surveillance programs.’

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U.S. private prisons hold inmates longer but no reduction in crime seen, study finds

‘Financial incentives have been found as the main motivation for private prisons to maximize the lengths of inmate stays, but the results are not saving states very much money or reducing crime, according to research done by the University of Wisconsin. Anya Parampil speaks with Nazgol Ghandnoosh, a prison reform activist, about the study.’ (RT America)

After 15 Years of Killing Journalists Pentagon Writes It Into Manual

Marko Marjanović writes for Russia Insider:

[…] It may be the case that US military has only now produced a “law of war manual” explaining its policy of killing journalists, but it is the case it has been at it for at least 15 years.

The thing to understand is that Pentagon has convinced itself that media has dealt it its greatest defeat in history – the hugely traumatic loss in the Vietnam War. In Pentagon’s retelling of the Vietnam debacle journalists delivered a fatal stab in the back of a war effort that was on the cusp of turning things around.

The problem according to US military wasn’t so much US atrocities and real strategic setbacks, but the fact the knowledge of these was spread by journalists to the people at home.

That is to say the main lesson Pentagon drew from the Vietnam War was the need to control information coming out from the war zone. Military thinkers spent the next two decades thinking about the ways to accomplish this and eventually perfected it into an art form.

Thus the highly managed and highly favorable coverage of US military invasion of Iraq – served up by embeded journalists assigned to this or that unit of the US military. But if embeding journalists showed to just what degree they may be tamed it also served to highlight how unfriendly and dangerous (at least in the Pentagon’s imagination) the remaining independent journalists were by comparison.

In Pentagon’s thinking an independent journalist threatens its control of information coming out of the war zone and therefore threatens “the mission” – that above all is what really makes him a “legitimate” target.

The rest, the nonsense about “unprivileged belligerents” and what not – that’s just sophistry and mumbo jumbo to obscure the fact that US military – the armed force of the “land of the free and the home of the brave” believes in murdering civilian non-combatants.’

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TPP: Obama’s Pacific trade deal will not tame China

Gideon Rachman writes for the Financial Times:

Ingram Pinn illustration[…] Debating the strategic logic behind the TPP has been difficult because, until recently, the US has not been frank about the reasons for China’s exclusion. The official line is that the Chinese economy is just not open enough to merit inclusion. A couple of weeks ago, however, Mr Obama came closer to acknowledging that the TPP is about much more than trade when he told The Wall Street Journal that it was crucial to get the deal because: “If we don’t write the rules, China will write the rules . . . We will be shut out . . . We don’t want China to use its size to muscle other countries in the region.”

Mr Obama still framed the argument in economic terms. But others in the US foreign policy establishment are willing to spell out the broader issues of power politics. A much-discussed recent report for the Council on Foreign Relations argued that decades of effort by America to “integrate China into the liberal international order” had in effect backfired because China’s power now threatened US “primacy in Asia”. Robert Blackwill and Ashley Tellis, the report’s authors and two of America’s most prominent Asia-watchers, argue for various measures to push back, including “new preferential trading arrangements among US friends and allies . . through instruments that consciously exclude China”. That is a description of the TPP.’

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Inside the Minds of the TPP Writers…

Western collusion with Egypt’s reign of terror

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

[…] So far, Egypt has signed a grant total of $158 billion worth of agreements and memoranda of understanding with international companies, many of which have focused on energy.

Apart from Germany, Britain and Israel, as of March 2015, Egypt has also signed a $1.8 billion deal with China to develop Egypt’s electricity transmission grid; a $2.4 billion deal with companies from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to develop solar and wind power stations; a $7 billion deal with Saudi Arabia to develop a coal power station; a $5 billion deal with Italian oil major Eni to develop Egypt’s oil resources over four years.

Meanwhile, Sisi has appropriated the “war on terror” rhetoric of his Western benefactors to legitimise his brutal crackdown on political dissent and civil society activism.

Presenting himself as a bulwark of regional stability in the face of rising Islamist extremism, the West has rushed to shore up his tyranny primarily with energy contracts, but also, it seems, through direct collusion in Sisi’s domestic human rights abuses to crush political opposition.

The West has learned no lessons from the fall of Mubarak – except to keep doing more of the same.’

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New Pentagon ‘Law of War Manual’ declares journalists can be enemy combatants

Rowan Scarborough reports for The Washington Times:

The Pentagon’s new thick book of instructions for waging war the legal way says that terrorists also can be journalists.

The description appears in a 1,176-page, richly footnoted “Department of Defense Law of War Manual” that tells commanders the right and wrong way to kill the enemy.

[…] An eye-catching section deals with a definition of journalists and how they are expected to stay out of the fight.

The manual defines them this way: “In general, journalists are civilians. However, journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorized to accompany the armed forces, or unprivileged belligerents.”

Lumping terrorist writers with bona fide scribes prompted one officer to call the paragraph “odd.” A civilian lawyer who opines on war crime cases called the wording “an odd and provocative thing for them to write.”’

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‘A Great Day for Corporate America': US Senate Passes Fast Track

Deirdre Fulton reports for Common Dreams:

In a win for multinational corporations and the global one percent, the U.S. Senate on Tuesday narrowly advanced Fast Track, or Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) —ensuring for all practical purposes the continued rubber-stamping of clandestine trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The cloture motion to end debate needed 60 votes and it got just that, passing the chamber 60-37. The full roll call is here. A final vote will come on Wednesday. Having overcome the biggest hurdle, the legislation is expected to pass, and will then be sent to President Barack Obama’s desk to become law.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who campaigned vigorously against Fast Track, said the vote represented a win for corporate America. “The vote today—pushed by multi-national corporations, pharmaceutical companies and Wall Street—will mean a continuation of  disastrous trade policies which have cost our country millions of decent-paying jobs,” the presidential candidate said in a statement.’

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Charlie Brooker On British And American TV News

A clip taken from the first series of Charlie Brooker‘s Newswipe, originally aired on 8th April 2009. Brooker examines the workings of television news comparing anchors on British and American channels.

The Asshole Factory

Umair Haque writes for Bad Words at Medium:

‘[…] Our world is now full of Asshole Factories. That’s what the stores, offices, industrial parks, skyscrapers, malls, low-rise blocks, gleaming headquarters, whimsically designed corporate campuses, really are.

It’s the grand endeavor of today. We don’t make stuff anymore. We make assholes. The Great Enterprise of this age is the Asshole Industry.’

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National Center for Public Policy Research Defends Trans Fats

Ben Norton reports for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Fight to Defend Trans Fats Funded With Dark MoneyA conservative Washington think tank that opposed a federal ban of trans fats has also actively campaigned against climate science and environmental regulation, and is funded by secret donors.

The government on Tuesday announced a ban of industrial partially hydrogenated oils, the primary source of artificial trans fats, giving food manufacturers three years to remove them from their products. Food and Drug Administration acting commissioner Stephen Ostroff said the ban “is expected to reduce coronary heart disease and prevent thousands of fatal heart attacks every year.”

Five European countries already ban trans fats. California and several U.S. cities, including New York City, ban them in restaurant food.

But the federal ban had its opponents. The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), which identifies itself as a “non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative” think tank, campaigned against it, calling it a “horrible idea.”

The NCPPR argued that the solution to minimizing trans fats in foods is to allow the free market to operate.’

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Google, Dow and Deutsche Bank break into top 10 biggest corporate EU lobbying spenders

Olivier Hoedeman reports for Lobby Facts EU:

[…] While Exxon, Microsoft and Shell were also in the top of the biggest spenders last October, Google (which almost tripled its declared lobby spending), Dow (quadrupled), Deutsche Bank (doubled) and BP (doubled) are new in the top-10, due to remarkable increases in lobby spending. Compared to last October, Philip Morris International (PMI), GDF SUEZ (now called Engie) and Bayer have fallen out of the top-10. The new figures from tobacco giant PMI indicate that it has reduced its spending by almost 75%. This may reflect that the EU Tobacco Product Directive was finalised in early 2014, after several years of intense and controversial tobacco industry lobbying.

Combined, the top-10 declares to have spent over 37 million euro on lobbying on an annual basis, compared to 39 million euro the previous year. A modest decline in overall lobby spending among companies was perhaps to be expected, considering that 2014 was a year with European Parliament elections and the transition to a new European Commission team, which meant the EU’s legislative process was dormant for many months.

All the above figures should be treated with great caution, as the EU’s Transparency Register relies on estimates of lobby spending provided by the registrants themselves, with insufficient oversight or quality control due to low staff numbers at the register secretariat. Increases in declared lobby spending may reflect real changes in level of lobbying activity, but may also show up because companies were previously under-reporting on their spending, preferring their lobbying to appear smaller than it really is.’

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Russell Brand on the recent Bilderberg Group meeting

The American far-right’s trojan horse in Westminster

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Insurge Intelligence:

There is a violent extremist fifth column operating at the heart of power in Britain, and they stand against everything we hold dear in Western democracies: civil liberties, equality, peace, diplomacy and the rule of law.

You wouldn’t think so at first glance. In fact, you might be taken in by their innocuous-looking spokespeople, railing against the threat of Muslim extremists, defending the rights of beleaguered Muslim women, championing the principle of free speech — regularly courted by national TV and the press as informed experts on global policy issues.

But peer beneath the surface, and an entirely different picture emerges: a web of self-serving trans-Atlantic elites who are attempting to warp public discourse on key issues that pose a threat not to the public interest, but to their own vested interests.

One key organisation at the centre of this web is the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), an influential British think-tank founded a decade ago, ostensibly to promote noble ideals like freedom, human rights and democracy. But its staff spend most of their energies advancing the very opposite.’

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Scott Trust chair: Before Guardian phone-hacking revelations “journalists had switched off their moral compass”

Dominic Ponsford reports for Press Gazette:

Scott Trust chair Dame Liz Forgan has said that it seemed like a “whole generation of journalists had switched off their moral compass” prior to The Guardian’s exposure of the phone-hacking scandal.

Forgan (pictured, Guardian Media Group) was speaking at an event to mark Alan Rusbridger’s departure as Guardian editor. He succeeds Forgan as head of the Scott Trust, the body which owns The Guardian and The Observer, later this year.

In a speech paying tribute to Rusbridger she said that the phone-hacking investigation was “emblematic” of the “nature and importance” of The Guardian.

She described it as “Nick Davies’s seven-year relentless, nearly doomed but ultimately vindicated, revelation of the corruption of the trade of journalism by the systematic use of phone-hacking to bully, intimidate and invade privacy on a massive scale”.’

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How Thatcher and Murdoch made their secret deal

Harold Evans writes for The Guardian:

Margaret Thatcher and Rupert Murdoch‘The coup that transformed the relationship between British politics and journalism began at a quiet Sunday lunch at Chequers, the official country retreat of the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. She was trailing in the polls, caught in a recession she had inherited, eager for an assured cheerleader at a difficult time. Her guest had an agenda too. He was Rupert Murdoch, eager to secure her help in acquiring control of nearly 40% of the British press.

Both parties got what they wanted.

The fact that they met at all, on 4 January 1981, was vehemently denied for 30 years. Since their lie was revealed, it has been possible to uncover how the greatest extension of monopoly power in modern press history was planned and executed with such furtive brilliance.

All the wretches in the subsequent hacking sagas – the predators in the red-tops, the scavengers and sleaze merchants, the blackmailers and bribers, the liars, the bullies, the cowed politicians and the bent coppers – were but the detritus of a collapse of integrity in British journalism and political life. At the root of the cruelties and extortions exposed in the recent criminal trials at the Old Bailey, was Margaret Thatcher’s reckless engorgement of the media power of her guest that January Sunday. The simple genesis of the hacking outrages is that Murdoch’s News International came to think it was above the law, because it was.’

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News of the Screws, Rupert Murdoch and MI5: Interview with former news editor Neville Thurlbeck

‘Afshin Rattansi goes underground with the former news editor at the News of the World and author, Neville Thurlbeck. As the Prime Minister’s former Press Secretary, Andy Coulson, is cleared of perjury, we talk to man who shared a cell with him- and he tells us what it was like to work on the most scandalous stories of the last few decades.’ (Going Underground)

Rupert Murdoch Among The Most Corrupt Oligarchs in the World: Interview with Bill Black

William K. Black is a lawyer, academic, author, and a former bank regulator. Black played a central role in exposing Congressional corruption during the Savings and Loan Crisis. He is the author of several books including ‘The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One‘ and also writes regularly at New Economic Perspectives.

FIFA and KPMG: Swilling the beans

KPMG and FIFA (PE1394)

Thom Hartmann: The U.S. Media Won’t Tell You The Truth About Itself…

‘Sixteen candidates from both parties have announced that they’re running for president. That’s sixteen candidates with different positions on different issues. So why is the media treating the campaigns like a popularity contest – instead of a real political debate?’ (The Big Picture)

AT&T fined $100 million for internet speed cap on “unlimited” data plans

Brian Fund reports for The Independent:

The Federal Communications Commission slapped AT&T with a $100 million fine Wednesday, accusing the country’s second-largest cellular carrier of improperly slowing down Internet speeds for customers who had signed up for “unlimited” data plans.

The FCC found that when customers used up a certain amount of data watching movies or browsing the Web, AT&T “throttled” their Internet speeds so that they were much slower than normal. Millions of AT&T customers were affected by the practice, according to the FCC.

The fine, which AT&T says it will fight, is the largest ever levied by the agency.

AT&T implemented the practice in 2011, prompting thousands of customers to complain to the FCC, according to an agency statement.

By not properly disclosing the policy to consumers who thought they were getting “unlimited” data, the company violated the FCC’s rules on corporate transparency, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement.’

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Juncker’s hidden hand? EU tax haven blacklist omits Luxembourg

Tax Justice Network reports:

We have often remarked how international tax haven blacklists generally reflect the political powers and influence of nation states; as a result they tend to include ‘minnows’ but not the big fish. (Among other things, this means a lot of econometric studies resting on a baseline of nonsense.)

So The Guardian‘s headline yesterday illustrates our point exactly. We’ve partly plagiarised its headline Tax haven blacklist omits Luxembourg as Brussels announces reform plans, which kind of tells the whole story. Yesterday’s huge Walmart story involving Luxembourg just emphasises the point.’

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Walmart hid $76bn of assets in foreign tax havens, new study claims

Rupert Neate reports for The Guardian:

WalmartWalmart hid $76bn of assets in tax havens across the world, including $64.2bn managed by 22 different subsidiaries in Luxembourg, where Walmart has no stores, according to a study published on Wednesday.

The study, published by campaign group Americans for Tax Fairness and funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, alleged that Walmart has “kept its tax haven subsidiaries secretive by burying mention of their existence”. Walmart denied the claims.

The authors claimed Walmart’s global empire keeps billions of dollars of assets away from the prying eyes of the taxman via a network of shell companies in Luxembourg, the Netherlands and a host of Caribbean countries known for their low taxes.’

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Hillary Clinton has position on TPP – well, sort of… Interview with Ari Rabin-Havt

‘It’s the first time she’s talked about the TPP – and she seems to have taken a progressive stance about how the deal should benefit the American worker and strengthen the American economy first and foremost. She reiterated her position earlier today. But she didn’t say anything about how to achieve those goals with the TPP. She also didn’t give her opinion on whether Congress should grant the president “fast track” authority – authority that would carry over through her first term if she were elected. And she didn’t address the fact that it’s a crime for Congress to disclose the details of the TPP to the American public – a fundamental block to the democratic process.’ (The Big Picture)

UN accuses Eritrea of “possible crimes against humanity”

Baku games organisers “blame government for barring media”

AFP reports:

Russia's Emil Zinnurov attempts to pass the ball during the men's water polo Group A preliminary round match against Ukraine at the European Games in Baku on June 13, 2015‘The final say on whether foreign journalists attended the inaugural European Games in Baku lay with the Azerbaijan Government and not with the organisers, officials said on Saturday.

The barring of a noted journalist from English newspaper ‘The Guardian’ — who was due to fly in on Friday — caused a furore but Azeri Sports Minister Azad Rahimov said his case was not an isolated one.

“The Baku European Games Organising Committee (BEGOC) issued accreditation for the journalists, more than 1,500 for them,” said Rahimov.

“We just issue accreditations. The government within the framework of its laws itself has the right to give or refuse accreditation.”‘

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The Guardian to focus on political rather than sports side of Baku Games after reporter “banned”

William Turvill reports for Press Gazette:

The Guardian has been “banned” from entering Azerbaijan to cover the inaugural European Games, which start today. (Baku venue pictured, Reuters)

As a result, head of sport Ian Prior said the newspaper will focus on the political and human rights side of the games rather than the sport.

The newspaper today reports that its chief sports correspondent Owen Gibson applied for accreditation in January and that flights had been booked and media village accommodation confirmed by the organisers.

But The Guardian said it was contacted by the head of press operations for the games on 5 June and told the accreditation application, which also acts as a visa for entry into the country, was still pending.

The newspaper said that it was informed yesterday morning – three hours before his flight – that Gibson’s application had been turned down.’

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