Category Archives: Corporations

Election 2015: Could the extreme bias of the Murdoch press actually be helping Ed Miliband?

From Another Angry Voice:

Rupert Murdoch is possibly the most powerful propagandist in the world. Every UK Prime Minister since 1979 has prostrated themselves at his feet in the hope of approval in his mass circulation propaganda rags.

Perhaps some of our leaders have been more willing than others to push the Murdoch approved right-wing economic agenda of privatisation of public property, financial sector deregulation, tax cuts for corporations and the super-rich and attacks on the labour rights of the poor and ordinary, but they’ve all adopted Murdoch approved right-wing economics and sucked up to him for the approval they think they need in order to achieve political power.

It’s already absolutely clear that despite Ed Miliband’s feeble efforts to suck up to Rupert Murdoch by doing a spot of free advertising for the S*n, Murdoch absolutely loathes him and wants to see David Cameron back in power. In fact Murdoch despises Ed Miliband so much that he has berated his S*n employees on several occasions for not doing enough to ensure that David Cameron and the Tories win the 2015 General Election.’

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‘Liverpool has never forgiven the Sun for Hillsborough': Interview with Liverpool Echo editor David Bartlett

Liverpool Echo news editor David Bartlett joins Afshin to discuss the issues of Liverpool in the run up to the election. From homelessness activists occupying the former Bank of England building to provide living space for rough sleepers, to government cuts eating into household budgets, to memories of the 96 people that died in the Hillsborough disaster, we look at what makes Liverpool tick.’ (Going Underground)

Writers Withdraw From PEN Gala to Protest Award to Charlie Hebdo

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Writers Withdraw From PEN Gala to Protest Award to Charlie HebdoAs I was close to finishing my own story, The New York Times published a long article last night about the rather intense and fascinating controversy that has erupted inside PEN America, the group long devoted to defending writers’ freedom of expression from attacks by governments. In essence, numerous prominent writers who were to serve as “table heads” or who are long-time PEN members have withdrawn from the group’s annual awards gala and otherwise expressed anger over PEN’s decision to bestow its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award to Charlie Hebdo.

The Times story does a good job laying out the events and describing the general controversy, so in lieu of repeating that, I instead want to publish the key correspondence between the writer Deborah Eisenberg and PEN’s Executive Director, former Obama State Department official and Amnesty USA Executive Director Suzanne Nossel, which sparked the controversy; post the full comment given to the Intercept by the writer Teju Cole, who has withdrawn as a table head; and make a few observations of my own. The Intercept has also submitted several questions to Nossel, which I’m also posting, and will prominently post PEN’s responses as soon as they are received. All of those documents are here.’

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‘Bloggers’ Compared to ISIS During Congressional Hearing on ‘Confronting Russia’s Weaponization of Information’

Paul Joseph Watson reports for Prison Planet:

‘Bloggers, conspiracy theorists and people who challenge establishment narratives on the Internet were all likened to ISIS terrorists during a chilling Congressional hearing which took place yesterday.

The hearing, hosted by the House Foreign Relations Committee, was titled “Confronting Russia’s Weaponization of Information,” and accused Russian state broadcaster RT of weaponizing “conspiracy theories” to spread propaganda.

One of the speakers giving testimony was former RT host Liz Wahl, who made a public spectacle of quitting Russian state media last year in an incident stage-managed by neo-con James Kirchick, himself a former employee of Radio Free Europe – a state media outlet.

Remarking that the Internet provided a platform for “fringe voices and extremists,” Wahl characterized people who challenge establishment narratives as a “cult”.’

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10 Most Censored Countries

Committee to Protect Journalists published a preview of their annual Attacks on the Press report, which released on Monday, 27 April:

Eritrea and North Korea are the first and second most censored countries worldwide, according to a list compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists of the 10 countries where the press is most restricted. The list is based on research into the use of tactics ranging from imprisonment and repressive laws to harassment of journalists and restrictions on Internet access.

In Eritrea, President Isaias Afewerki has succeeded in his campaign to crush independent journalism, creating a media climate so oppressive that even reporters for state-run news outlets live in constant fear of arrest. The threat of imprisonment has led many journalists to choose exile rather than risk arrest. Eritrea is Africa’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 23 behind bars-none of whom has been tried in court or even charged with a crime.

Fearing the spread of Arab Spring uprisings, Eritrea scrapped plans in 2011 to provide mobile Internet for its citizens, limiting the possibility of access to independent information. Although Internet is available, it is through slow dial-up connections, and fewer than 1 percent of the population goes online, according to U.N. International Telecommunication Union figures. Eritrea also has the lowest figure globally of cell phone users, with just 5.6 percent of the population owning one.

In North Korea, 9.7 percent of the population has cell phones, a number that excludes access to phones smuggled in from China. In place of the global Internet, to which only a select few powerful individuals have access, some schools and other institutions have access to a tightly controlled intranet. And despite the arrival of an Associated Press bureau in Pyongyang in 2012, the state has such a tight grip on the news agenda that newsreel was re-edited to remove Kim Jong Un’s disgraced uncle from the archives after his execution.

The tactics used by Eritrea and North Korea are mirrored to varying degrees in other heavily censored countries. To keep their grip on power, repressive regimes use a combination of media monopoly, harassment, spying, threats of journalist imprisonment, and restriction of journalists’ entry into or movements within their countries.’

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116 Environmental Defenders Were Murdered Last Year, Mostly in Latin America: Interview with Billy Kyte

‘As we continue to mark Earth Day, we look at a new report that finds killings of environmental activists on the rise, with indigenous communities hardest hit. According to Global Witness, at least 116 environmentalists were killed last year — more than two a week. Three-quarters of the deaths occurred in Central and South America. Just recently, three indigenous Tolupán leaders were gunned down during an anti-mining protest in northern Honduras, which has become the most dangerous country for environmental activists. We speak to Billy Kyte, campaigner for Global Witness and author of their new report, “How Many More?“‘ (Democracy Now!)

Sony should not be able to tell journalists what to print

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

sonySony, which spent weeks holding itself out as a free speech martyr after North Korea allegedly hacked its emails, is now trying to do more damage to the spirit of the First Amendment than North Korea ever did. The corporation is using high-powered lawyers and lobbyists in an attempt to stifle the rights of media organizations to publish newsworthy information already in the public domain. Ironically, some of those emails include Sony and the MPAA’s attempts to censor the Internet on a much larger scale.

Sony’s lawyer, David Boies, has spent the week sending out a hyperbolic letter to various news organizations, pressuring them to avert their eyes from the hacked email trove that WikiLeaks published on its site last week. Boies, while misleadingly claiming that journalists could be breaking US law by even looking at the emails, also said if media organizations refused to write stories about them, they would somehow be “protecting the First Amendment.”

The head of the MPAA and former Democratic Senator Chis Dodd went a step further yesterday, outrageously suggesting the US government should go after WikiLeaks in some fashion for re-publishing the emails.’

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Patriot gains: Sir John Sawers is the latest in long line of British spy chief sell-outs

Charlie Skelton writes for the International Business Times:

Sir John Sawers (left) at the 2014 Bilderberg conference in Copenhagen, with BP chair Carl-Henric SvanbergYet more fallout from the HSBC tax scandal. The former head of MI6, Jonathan Evans, known to his friends as Baron Evans of Weardale, has resigned from the board of the National Crime Agency. He stepped down to avoid any “perceived conflict of interest” between his role at the publicly funded NCA and his rather more lucrative position as a director of HSBC.

What’s troubling about this situation is not so much the conflict of interest, perceived or otherwise, as the fact the former director of our domestic intelligence service is now a director of one of the world’s biggest banks.

In fact, Baron Evans is just one of a growing line of British spy chiefs who have hopped off the top of the intelligence pyramid into corporate boardrooms and cushy consultancies. But it wasn’t always so. There was a time, not long ago, when outgoing spy chiefs styled their post-resignation lives a little more along the lines of Sherlock Holmes, who retired to the Sussex Downs to keep bees.’

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Koch Brothers Reveal List of 5 Potential GOP Candidates to Support

Matt Wilstein reports for Mediate:

On Monday, The New York Timesand, in turn, Mediaite — reported that billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch had settled on Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) as their preferred Republican candidate to back in the 2016 presidential election. “We will support whoever the candidate is,” David Koch reportedly said at a fundraising event. “But it should be Scott Walker.”

Now, however, in an interview with USA TodayCharles Koch has said that their field of potential endorsees is larger than just one. He confirmed that they are actually looking at five candidates who they believe have “a good chance of getting elected: Walker, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio.’

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TTIP: Is democracy threatened if companies can sue countries?

Michael Robinson writes for BBC News:

Protesters in London demonstrating against TTIPThose protesting against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the proposed new trade treaty between the European Union and the United States, are part of a growing international opposition to pacts that allow multinational companies to sue governments whose policies damage their interests.

Opponents claim this right, known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), poses a threat to democracy.

But what is ISDS and why does it provoke such controversy?’

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TTIP: The US-EU Trade Deal Could Make the UK Election Mostly Pointless

René Lavanchy writes for VICE:

Picture the scene. It’s November 2015, and fresh from his unexpected election landslide in May, a smug Prime Minister Ed Miliband (bear with me) is admiring himself in the mirror of his office suite in Parliament, as he prepares for the Queen to deliver her annual speech in the House of Lords unveiling the new government’s policies. Top of the page is Miliband’s plan to bring the NHS back into full public ownership. This radical move has already had weeks of positive press coverage, even from the ‘papers that usually hate Labour, and now it’s time to seal the deal.

The phone rings. It’s an urgent call from the Attorney General, the government’s chief lawyer. “It’s, um, about the NHS thing, Prime Minister. I’m afraid we can’t do it – we haven’t got the legal powers”.

“What… What are you talking about?” stutters Ed. “We’re the government, we can do whatever the fuck we want… Can’t we?”

“Well, not quite, Prime Minister – remember TTIP?”‘

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Regulatory cooperation in TTIP: united in deregulation

Corporate Observatory Europe reports:

‘Negotiations between the EU and the US to conclude a transatlantic trade and investment treaty (TTIP) continue to generate controversy. Many are concerned about the anti-democratic nature of private arbitration tribunals that would enable investors to sue states in private courts, but another aspect of the talks is just as threatening to the public interest: “regulatory cooperation”.

This project, which is unprecedented in the history of international trade, means the establishment of permanent institutional arrangements for communication and negotiation between European and American technocrats.

The objective is to continue the work of harmonization of regulatory frameworks between the EU and the US once the TTIP negotiations are done. In this way, roadblocks that were not resolved during the TTIP talks can be resolved while also ensuring that no new regulation is likely to become a “barrier to trade.”

The fundamental problem with this approach is that it considers regulations simply in terms of whether they impact or restrict transatlantic trade, whereas standards and regulations are the result of political and societal debates over much wider concerns. Therefore, far from being a simple technical discussion as claimed by the Commission, the risk is that regulatory cooperation talks follow the same logic as the arbitration courts: a bad law for trade is necessarily a bad law!

Regulatory cooperation could thus become the graveyard for public interest regulations.’

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TTIP leak: EU proposal undermines democratic values

Lora Verheecke reports for Corporate Observatory Europe:

According to a leaked European Commission proposal in the ongoing EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations, EU member state legislative initiatives will have to be vetted for potential impacts on private business interests.

The proposal forms part of a wider plan for so-called “regulatory cooperation”. Civil society groups have already denounced earlier iterations of this plan as being a tool to stop or roll back regulation intended to protect the public interest. The new elements in the leaked proposal expand the problem, according to civil society organisations.

Civil society groups have condemned the “regulatory exchange” plan as an affront to parliamentary democracy. “This is an insult to citizens, elected politicians and democracy itself”, says Max Bank of Lobby Control.

The “regulatory exchange” proposal will force laws drafted by democratically-elected politicians through an extensive screening process. This process will occur throughout the 78 States, not just in Brussels and Washington DC. Laws will be evaluated on whether or not they are compatible with the economic interests of major companies. Responsibility for this screening will lie with the ‘Regulatory cooperation body, a permanent, undemocratic, and unaccountable conclave of European and American technocrats.’

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Political Smears in U.S. Never Change: the NYT’s 1967 Attack on MLK’s Anti-War Speech

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Political Smears in U.S. Never Change: the NYT’s 1967 Attack on MLK’s Anti-War Speech[…] I defy anyone to listen to any Democratic apparatchik insinuate that Snowden is a Russian agent and identify any differences with how Nixon apparatchiks smeared Ellsberg (or, for that matter, how today’s warnings from Obama officials about the grave harm coming from leaks differ from the warnings issued by Bush and Nixon officials). The script for smearing never changes — it stays constant over five decades and through the establishments of both parties — and it’s one of the reasons Ellsberg so closely identifies with Snowden and has become one of his most vocal defenders.

A reader this morning pointed me to one of the most illustrative examples of this dynamic: an April 1967 New York Times editorial harshly chastising Martin Luther King for his anti-war activism. That editorial was published three days after King’s speech on the Vietnam War at the Riverside Church in New York City, which, as I have written about many times, was one of the most powerful (and radical) indictments of American militarism delivered in the 20th century.’

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Quality has been sacrificed in the “melee of digital change” at the Daily Telegraph

John Jewell writes for The Conversation:

[…] The shift in emphasis from print to digital content appears to be bearing fruit. The Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), the industry body for media measurement, showed that in the period between June 2013 and July 2014 the Telegraph’s worldwide digital audience rose 46% while in June 2014 the number of people accessing the Telegraph online and on mobile phones reached 79m.

For some seasoned commentators the above developments have been to the detriment of journalistic standards at the Telegraph titles. Former Guardian editor, Peter Preston, wrote in the Observer in February that in “the melee of digital change” the Daily Telegraph no longer has an editor: “What they have instead is content managers who don’t sit on the editorial floor but reside elsewhere trying to make more clicks and more bucks for the [Barclay] brothers.”‘

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George Carlin: Bullshit is everywhere

“They Live” Inspired “Consume” Posters by Hal Hefner

Artist Hal Hefner has put together a superb selection of “Consume” posters inspired by “They Live,” a 1988 film directed by John Carpenter starring former WWE wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper. If you’ve never seen the film you can watch it here.

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Rand Paul pens tribute to the Koch brothers

David McCabe reports for The Hill:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) writes that controversial conservative donors Charles and David Koch have “always stood for freedom, equality and opportunity” in a tribute published by Time magazine on Thursday.

“Consistent with their love of liberty, they have become prominent advocates for criminal-justice reform,” the 2016 GOP presidential candidate said in his short piece, published as part of the annual Time 100 list of influential people.

“The Koch brothers’ investment in freedom-loving think tanks will carry on for generations, reminding all of us that ideas and convictions ultimately trump all else,” he added.’

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TPP “A Corporate Trojan Horse”: Interview with Lori Wallah & Rep. Alan Grayson

‘Senate Finance Committee leaders Republican Orrin Hatch and Democrat Ron Wyden are expected to introduce a “fast-track” trade promotion authority bill as early as this week that would give the president authority to negotiate the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and then present it to Congress for a yes-or-no vote, with no amendments allowed. On Wednesday, more than 1,000 labor union members rallied on Capitol Hill to call on Democrats to oppose “fast-track” authority. We speak with two people closely following the proposed legislation: Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, and Rep. Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida.’ (Democracy Now!)

Obama plays China card in TPP sales pitch

Justin Sink and Carter Dougherty report for the Sydney Morning Herald:

US President Barack Obama warns of China's intentions to fill any gap left open if Trans-Pacific Partnership fails.United States President Barack Obama, trying to sway free-trade sceptics among his supporters, said that if the US can’t come to terms on an accord being worked on with other Pacific nations, China will step in to fill the void.

Asia has the globe’s most populous and fastest-growing markets and the US has to have access to sustain economic growth, Obama said at a White House news conference with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

“If we do not help to shape the rules so that our businesses and our workers can compete in those markets, then China will set up rules that advantage Chinese workers and Chinese businesses,” he said.’

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NBC’s Conduct in Engel Kidnapping Story is More Troubling than the Brian Williams Scandal

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] The Brian Williams scandal is basically about an insecure, ego-driven TV star who puffed up his own war credentials by fabricating war stories: it’s about personal foibles. But this Engel story is about what appears to be a reckless eagerness, if not deliberate deception, on the part of NBC officials to disseminate a dubious storyline which, at the time, was very much in line with the story that official Washington was selling (by then, Obama was secretly aiding anti-Assad rebels, and had just announced – literally a week before the Engel kidnapping — “that the United States would formally recognize a coalition of Syrian opposition groups as that country’s legitimate representative”). Much worse, the NBC story was quite likely to fuel the simmering war cries in the West to attack (or at least aggressively intervene against) Assad.

That’s a far more serious and far more consequential journalistic sin than a news reader puffing out his chest and pretending he’s Rambo. Falsely and recklessly blaming the Assad regime for a heinous kidnapping of Western journalists and directly linking it to Iran and Hezbollah, while heralding the rebels as heroic and compassionate — during a brewing “regime change” and intervention debate — is on the level of Iraqi aluminum tubes.’

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Did NBC Cover Up Role of U.S.-Backed Free Syrian Army in 2012 Kidnapping of Richard Engel?

‘NBC News is at the center of a new controversy, this time focused on its chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel. Back in 2012 he and five other members of an NBC News team were kidnapped by armed gunmen in Syria. They were held for five days. Just after his release Engel spoke on NBC News and said this about his captors: “This is a government militia. These are people who are loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. They are Shiite.” Well, earlier this week, a New York Times investigation prompted Engel to revise his story and reveal he was actually captured by Sunni militants affiliated with the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army. In an article published on Wednesday, Engel said the kidnappers had “put on an elaborate ruse to convince us they were Shiite shabiha militiamen.” According to the Times investigation, NBC knew more than it let on about the kidnappers. We speak to As’ad AbuKhalil, professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He runs the Angry Arab News Service blog. He expressed serious doubts about the circumstances surrounding Engel’s captivity and release when the story first broke in December 2012.’ (Democracy Now!)

Campaign 2016: Hillary Clinton’s Fake Populism Is a Hit

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

Melina Mara/The Washington Post[…] The reaction to Hillary’s campaign announcement went exactly according to script. Newspapers and news sites ever-so-slightly raised figurative eyebrows at the tone of Hillary’s announcement, remarking upon its “populist” flair.

This is no plutocrat who plans to ride to the White House upon a historically massive assload of corporate money, the papers declared, this is a candidate of the people!

“Hillary’s Return: Her Folksy, Populist Re-Entry,” proclaimed Politico. “Populist Theme, Convivial In Tone!” headlined the Los Angeles Times. “Hillary Lifts Populist Spirits,” commented The Hill, hook visibly protruding from its reportorial fish-mouth.

Having watched this campaign-reporting process from both the inside and the outside for a long time now, I knew what was coming after the initial wave of “Hillary the Populist!” stories.’

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Putin’s Annual Q&A Session 2015

Editor’s Note: Last night RT aired Putin’s annual marathon Q&A session. You can watch the full four hours, or you can read selected highlights in the links below (I’d go with this option). 

They Have “Propaganda,” US Has “Public Diplomacy” – and a Servile Private Sector

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

The Red Menace movie posterThe New York Times headline (4/15/15) paints a dire picture: Turmoil at Voice of America Is Seen as Hurting US Ability to Counter Propaganda

But wait a second–isn’t Voice of America itself a propaganda outlet? Not in the New York Times stylebook, apparently. The piece, by Ron Nixon, describes VOA as “the government agency that is charged with presenting America’s viewpoint to the world.” Later on, the Times refers to what it calls “America’s public diplomacy.”

The US’s enemies, on the other hand, have “sophisticated propaganda machines that have expanded the influence of countries like China and Russia and terrorist groups like the Islamic State.” The difference between “propaganda machines” and “public diplomacy” is never explained in the article, but the former appears to be what “they” do while the latter is what “we” do.’

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Labour’s media plurality pledge: Campaigners want 30% ownership cap which would hit Murdoch’s News UK

Matthew Gilley writes for Press Gazette:

Media reform campaigners have welcomed Labour’s manifesto promise to tackle media plurality.

In its manifesto released yesterday the Labour Party said it would “take steps to protect the principle of media plurality, so that no media outlet can get too big”.

The party appeared single out Rupert Murdoch’s News UK with apparent reference to the hacking scandal which said: “No media company should have so much power that those who run it believe themselves above the rule of law.”

Labour has not set out how it would cap media ownership. But if it adopts the proposals of campaigners, it could limit national newspaper ownership to 30 per cent of the market.’

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CEO Raises Workers’ Minimum Salary To $70,000, Takes 90% Pay Cut

‘Money can’t buy happiness, but Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price doesn’t believe in that philosophy. The boss announced a big raise for many of his employees and took a big pay cut. Anthony Mason reports.’ (CBS This Morning)

The Slow Death of the American Newsroom

Tim Adams writes for the Guardian:

Will Steacy DeadlineIn the past decade, as a percentage, more print journalists have lost their jobs than workers in any other significant American industry. (That bad news is felt just as keenly in Britain where a third of editorial jobs in newspapers have been lost since 2001.) The worst of the cuts, on both sides of the Atlantic, have fallen on larger local daily papers at what Americans call metro titles. A dozen historic papers have disappeared entirely in the US since 2007, and many more are ghost versions of what they used to be, weekly rather than daily, freesheets rather than broadsheets, without the resources required to hold city halls to account or give citizens a trusted vantage on their community and the world.

The reasons for this decline are familiar – the abrupt shift from print to pixels, the exponential rise in alternative sources of information, changes in lifestyle and reading habits, and, above all, the disastrous collapse of the city paper’s lifeblood – classified advertising – with the emergence of websites such as Craigslist and Gumtree. The implications are less often noted.

Stephan Salisbury, a prize-winning culture writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer for the past 36 years, puts them like this: “Newspapers stitch people together, weaving community with threads of information, and literally standing physically on the street, reminding people where they are and what they need to know. What happens to a community when community no longer matters and when information is simply an opportunity for niche marketing and branding in virtual space? Who covers the mayor? City council? Executive agencies? Courts?… It is this unravelling of our civic fabric that is the most grievous result of the decline of our newspapers. And it is the ordinary people struggling in the city who have lost the most, knowing less and less about where they are – even as the amount of information bombarding them grows daily at an astounding rate.”’

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‘India’s Enron': Court Convicts Ex-Satyam Chief of Fraud

Vivek Nemana reports for AFP:

An Indian court on Thursday convicted the former chief of outsourcing giant Satyam and his aides over a $2.25 billion accounting fraud scandal dubbed “India’s Enron”, the prosecutor said.

Byrraju Ramalinga Raju, his brother and eight others were found guilty of manipulating Satyam’s books in 2009 during the IT boom in India in a case that shook the industry and raised questions about the country’s regulators.

[…] The Satyam scandal erupted in 2009 after Raju admitted in a letter to shareholders to overstating profits for years and inflating the company’s balance sheet, a confession that saw the company’s share price plummet.’

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Nestlé’s California Water Permit Expired 27 Years Ago

Zoë Schlanger reports for Newsweek:

Last month, California newspaper The Desert Sun published an investigation revealing that Nestlé Water’s permit to transport water across the San Bernardino National Forest for bottling has been expired since 1988. On Friday, the California Forest Service announced it would make it “a priority” to reassess the permit, and that it might impose as-of-yet unspecified “interim conditions” on the bottling operation in light of the severe drought, The Desert Sun reports.

The fact that Nestlé has continued its massive water-bottling operation while the state struggles with crippling water shortages has become a sticking point for activists. A petition demanding Nestlé immediately stop bottling and profiting off California water has drawn 27,000 online signatures and counting, and last month activists reportedly blocked the entrances to Nestlé’s bottling plant in Sacramento.’

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