Category Archives: Corporations

The Koch Intelligence Agency

Kenneth P. Vogel, author of Big Money, reports for Politico:

The political network helmed by Charles and David Koch has quietly built a secretive operation that conducts surveillance and intelligence gathering on its liberal opponents, viewing it as a key strategic tool in its efforts to reshape American public life.

The operation, which is little-known even within the Koch network, gathers what Koch insiders refer to as “competitive intelligence” that is used to try to thwart liberal groups and activists, and to identify potential threats to the expansive network.

The competitive intelligence team has a staff of 25, including one former CIA analyst, and operates from one of the non-descript Koch network offices clustered near the Courthouse metro stop in suburban Arlington, Va. It has provided network officials with documents detailing confidential voter-mobilization plans by major Democrat-aligned groups. It also sends regular “intelligence briefing” emails tracking the canvassing, phone-banking and voter-registration efforts of labor unions, environmental groups and their allies, according to documents reviewed by POLITICO and interviews with a half-dozen sources with knowledge of the group.


Glenn Greenwald on “Shameless” U.S. Officials Exploiting Paris Attacks, “Submissive” Media’s Drumbeat for War and “Despicable” Anti-Muslim Scapegoating

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh talks to Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, the Pulitzer-winning journalist who exposed NSA mass surveillance based on Snowden’s leaks. Greenwald discusses the Paris attacks and the response by U.S. officials and how the media has covered the events since 13th November. (Democracy Now!)

It’s True, Media Did Cover Beirut Bombings–About 1/40th as Much as They Covered Paris Attacks

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

New York Times front page: Paris attacksMax Fisher takes issue in Vox (11/16/15) with people who complain about the lack of media coverage of ISIS’s bombings in Beirut compared to its attacks in Paris:

The media has, in fact, covered the Beirut bombings extensively.

The New York Timescovered it. The Washington Post, in addition to running an Associated Press story on it, sent reporter Hugh Naylor to cover the blasts and then write a lengthy piece on their aftermath. The Economist had a thoughtful piece reflecting on the attack’s significance. CNN, which rightly or wrongly has a reputation for least-common-denominator news judgment, aired one segment after another on the Beirut bombings. Even the Daily Mail, a British tabloid most known for its gossipy royals coverage, was on the story. And on and on.

Yet these are stories that, like so many stories of previous bombings and mass acts of violence outside of the West, readers have largely ignored.

Let’s grant Fisher one point: The much-retweeted Twitter complaint that “no media has covered” the Beirut bombing is wrong—as is most media criticism that asserts that “no media” did anything.

But Fisher’s overarching argument—that because “the media does cover Beirut,” it’s wrong to blame media for the fact that “the world truly does care more about France”—is equally absurd.


Coverage of Russian Plane Bombing Shows What a Difference an Enemy Makes

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Vladimir Putin (photo: Alexei Nikolsky via AP/US News)FAIR (11/13/15, 11/16/15,11/17/15) has noted the contrast between US media coverage of Paris and Beirut after the militant ISIS movement claimed responsibility for terror attacks in both cities. It may be even more illuminating to look at media reactions to another ISIS-claimed disaster, the bombing of Metrojet Flight 9268, a Russian tourist plane that went down over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on October 31, killing all 217 people on board. When the victims of terror come from an official enemy state, it’s clear that different media rules apply.

Before it was determined that a bomb caused the crash, Associated Press‘s Jim Heintz (11/7/15) wrote a speculative piece that began, “No matter what caused the fatal crash of a Russian airliner in Egypt, the answer will almost certainly hit Russia hard—but not President Vladimir Putin.” Whether it was terrorism or mechanical failure, Heintz wrote, “Either answer could challenge Russia’s new self-confidence—but could also be used by Putin to advance his aims and reinforce his power.”

Needless to say, we’re not seeing a lot of coverage of how France’s François Hollande could use the Paris attacks “to advance his aims and reinforce his power.”

While US outlets were circumspect to the point of being unintelligible in drawing a connection between France’s war against ISIS in Syria/Iraq and the Paris attacks, AP had no trouble making it clear that Russia had been targeted not because of its values or symbols but because of its military attacks against a violent adversary: “A faction of the militant Islamic State group claimed it had downed the airliner in retaliation for Russia launching airstrikes on IS positions in Syria a month earlier.”


Western Media Reporting on the ISIS Bombing in Beirut: Interview with Rania Masri and Vijay Prashad

Jessica Devereux talks to Rania Masri and Vijay Prashad. They both agree that the western media’s reporting on the ISIS bombing in Lebanon is deeply racist and accepts the ISIS narrative by describing the southern Beirut neighborhood as a “Hezbollah bastion”. (The Real News)

TPP Critics Say It’s Even Worse Than They Thought: Interview with Lori Wallach

Democracy Now! talked to Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, about the details of the the Trans-Pacific Partnership being made public. Wallach joins many other critics by stating that the trade deal is worse than feared based on previous leaks. (Democracy Now!)

U.S. Journalists Who Instantly Exonerated Their Government of the Kunduz Hospital Attack, Declaring it an “Accident”

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] The point here isn’t that it’s been definitively proven that the U.S. attack was deliberate. What exactly happened here and why won’t be known, as MSF itself has said, until there is a full-scale, truly independent investigation — precisely what the U.S. government is steadfastly blocking. But MSF’s Stokes is absolutely correct to say that all of the evidence that is known means that “mistake” is “quite hard to believe at this stage” as an explanation and that the compilation of all known evidence “points to … a war crime.”

Nonetheless, many U.S. journalists immediately, repeatedly and authoritatively declared this to have been an “accident” or a “mistake” despite not having the slightest idea whether that was true, and worse, in the face of substantial evidence that it was false.

[…] It is, of course, pleasing to view your own tribe as inherently superior. It feels nice to believe that your own side is so intrinsically moral, so Exceptional, that one needs no “evidence” or “investigation” to know immediately that any bad acts are unintended. It is a massive relief to know that things like “war crimes” and intentionally bombing structures protected by the Geneva Conventions can only be done by the countries declared by your government to be adversaries, but never by your own government.

But as comforting, uplifting and self-affirming as that worldview is, it is literally the exact antithesis of the skepticism that the most basic precepts of journalism require. Declaring your own government innocent when it repeatedly bombs a well-known, well-established hospital filled with doctors, nurses and patients — before you have the slightest idea what actually happened, and in the face of all kinds of evidence in conflict with such assurances of innocence — is inexcusable for all sorts of obvious reasons. Very unfortunately, this sort of hyper-nationalism and reflexively tribalistic self-love is pervasive in American journalism — Americans do not do such things — which is why the U.S. government knows that it can engage in such acts without any accountability or even pressure to allow an independent investigation.


The TPP risks making US-China relations worse

Steven Zhou writes for Al Jazeera:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), finalized  last month by 12 Pacific Rim nations, including the United States, will be the largest trade pact in modern history. It will rewrite the rules that affect how about 40 percent of the global economy does business, with the intent of increasing trade and investment. The White House released the agreement’s text to the public yesterday.

Much discussion regarding the TPP has focused on the absence from the pact of China, the largest economy in the Asia-Pacific region. President Barack Obama has portrayed the exclusion as an attempt by the U.S. and its allies to “write the rules” in the region before China does. But this kind of antagonism does nothing to push U.S.-China relations — perhaps the most important bilateral relationship in the world — toward anything productive. The increasing anti-China rhetoric that has accompanied the Obama administration’s Asian pivot will result in fewer opportunities to partner on major global initiatives and hurt both nations economically.

While the U.S. and China have cooperated on a number of important issues, including a notable recent agreement on climate change, geopolitical tensions persist. President Xi Jinping, who has led China since 2012, has pushed for a new brand of nationalism that emphasizes the projection of Chinese power in Asia. This has gotten China into territorial disputes with its neighbors, which in turn have looked to the U.S. for help. China’s periodic alignment with Syria, Iran and Russia has set it at odds with the Obama administration’s strategy in the Middle East. Finally, Washington has serious concerns about Chinese cyberattacks on U.S. businesses.


Release of TPP Full Text Shows Victory for Corporate Rights: Interview with Margaret Flowers

Jaisal Noor talks to Margaret Flowers, a co-director of Popular Resistance and a candidate for U.S. in Maryland. In this interview Flowers challenges President Obama’s claim that the trade deal will promote a strong middle-class. (The Real News)

In Defense of the Late Ahmad Chalabi

Jon Schwarz writes for The Intercept:

[…] If Americans want to blame someone for the Iraq War, we should be looking closer to home — at Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and ourselves. As former CIA officer Robert Baer put it: “Chalabi was scamming the U.S. because the U.S. wanted to be scammed.”

All the evidence indicates the Bush administration would have invaded Iraq with or without him. According to Mickey Herskowitz, Bush’s one-time ghostwriter, Bush was hoping to invade Iraq as early as 1999. Bush’s treasury secretary, Paul O’Neill, later claimed that Bush had begun planning for war with Iraq within days of his inauguration. And on September 12, 2001, Bushwas demanding that his top terrorism adviser find out if there were any way to blame the previous day’s attacks on Saddam Hussein.

Likewise, the Times didn’t need Chalabi to give Bush’s war a big boost. The 2005 book Hard News explains that Howell Raines, who at the time was the paper’s editor in chief, wanted to prove that he wasn’t leading the Times in a way that showed his liberal views. Doug Frantz, a former investigations editor, told the book’s author, “My sense was that Howell Raines was eager to have articles that supported the warmongering out of Washington. He discouraged pieces that were at odds with the administration’s position on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction and alleged links of al Qaeda.


Richard Perle: The Disappearing Prince of Darkness

Editor’s Note: You can listen to a recent interview with the author of the Perle piece from the Scott Horton Show.

Jim Lobe recently wrote for LobeLog:

richard_perle_640x0_rozmiar-niestandardowyWhere is Richard Perle?

His virtually total absence from the Iran nuclear debate over the past two years was perhaps one of the most remarkable features of the whole controversy. Ubiquitous in the major media in the run-up to and aftermath of the Iraq war debacle and a long-time advocate of “regime change” by whatever means in Iran, the “prince of darkness,” Washington’s leading neoconservative operative for several decades, seems almost to have entirely disappeared from public view.

[…] If it’s true that Pletka has maneuvered Perle out of AEI, it marks something of a watershed. Probably Washington’s most influential neocon operative of his generation, he played a critical role in driving the U.S. to war in Iraq, along with Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith (another Perle protégé). But he seems to have retired to the fever swamps of Gaffney’s CSP.

His departure, if that indeed is what it is, follows those of his long-time collaborators at the Institute.


Why Is The Daily Beast’s Russia Critic Silent About So Many Hideous Abuses?

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

[…] The highly selective moral outrage expressed by Sam Charles Hamad is not the point here. The point is the incredibly deceitful, miserably common, intellectually bankrupt tactic that The Daily Beast just aired: smearing people not for what they write, but for what they don’t write. It’s something I encounter literally every day, almost always as an expression of the classic “whataboutism” fallacy — ironically depicted in the West as having been pioneered by Soviet Communists — designed to distract attention from one’s own crimes (OK, fine, we just bombed a hospital in Afghanistan, are constantly droning innocent people to death, and are arming the Saudi slaughter of Yemeni citizens, but look way over there: Why don’t you talk more about Russia????).

And that’s to say nothing of the ignoble history of this tactic in the U.S. — dating back to the height of McCarthyism — of declaring people suspect or morally unhealthy due to a failure to condemn Russia with sufficient vigor and frequency. For decades in the U.S., one could be accused of being a “Kremlin sympathizer” without ever having uttered a syllable of support for Russia, and that’s still just as true today, if not more so. That’s accomplished by a constant measuring of how much one devotes oneself to the supreme loyalty test of publicly denouncing the Ruskies.

This tawdry, self-serving, self-exonerating tactic rests on multiple levels of deceit. “Hypocrisy” always meant “contradicting with words or actions one’s claimed principles and beliefs” (e.g., lecturing the world on freedom and human rights while arming and funding the world’s worst tyrannies). It is now being re-defined to mean: “one who denounces some terrible acts but not all.” If that’s the new standard, it should be applied to everyone, beginning with those who most vocally propound it. As a result, from now on, I’ll be asking the endless number of people who invoke this standard to show me their record of denunciation and activism with regard to the above list of abuses.


Indonesia is burning: Why is the world looking away?

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

[…] Why is this happening? Indonesia’s forests have been fragmented for decades by timber and farming companies. Canals have been cut through the peat to drain and dry it. Plantation companies move in to destroy what remains of the forest to plant monocultures of pulpwood, timber and palm oil. The easiest way to clear the land is to torch it. Every year, this causes disasters. But in an extreme El Niño year like this one, we have a perfect formula for environmental catastrophe.

The president, Joko Widodo, is – or wants to be – a democrat. But he presides over a nation in which fascism and corruption flourish. As Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary The Act of Killing shows, leaders of the death squads that helped murder a million people during Suharto’s terror in the 1960s, with the approval of the west, have since prospered through other forms of organised crime, including illegal deforestation.

They are supported by a paramilitary organisation with three million members, called Pancasila Youth. With its orange camo-print uniforms, scarlet berets, sentimental gatherings and schmaltzy music, it looks like a fascist militia as imagined by JG Ballard. There has been no truth, no reconciliation; the mass killers are still treated as heroes and feted on television. In some places, especially West Papua, the political murders continue.

Those who commit crimes against humanity don’t hesitate to commit crimes against nature. Though Joko Widodo seems to want to stop the burning, his reach is limited. His government’s policies are contradictory: among them are new subsidies for palm oil production that make further burning almost inevitable. Some plantation companies, prompted by their customers, have promised to stop destroying the rainforest. Government officials have responded angrily, arguing that such restraint impedes the country’s development. That smoke blotting out the nation, which has already cost it some $30bn? That, apparently, is development.


Despite Military Crackdown in Papua and Other Rights Abuses, Obama Recently Hosted Indonesian President: Interview with John Sifton and Allan Nairn

Last Monday, President Obama met Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, at the White House to discuss climate change, trade and strengthening U.S.-Indonesian ties. President Obama described Indonesia as one of the world’s largest democracies, but human rights groups paint a different story, citing the military’s ongoing repression in West Papua as well as discriminatory laws restricting the rights of religious minorities and women. Indonesia has also been criticized for attempting to silence any discussion about the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Indonesian genocide that left more than 1 million people dead. (Democracy Now!)

James Bond, the Spy Who Loved Brands

Nicholas Tufnell writes for Bloomberg:

Bond films are some of the most heavily branded in movie history, with companies paying millions to get their products on screen alongside the world’s most famous spy. The latest instalment, Spectre, has its world premiere in the U.K. on Monday.

With Bond-themed ad campaigns and pre-release hype in full-swing, Seesaw Media’s Daryl Collis explains that the link between brands and Bond is deep and long-standing, but not a relationship that the viewer will always accept without question.

Pierce Brosnan’s Bond swansong Die Another Day saw producers link up with 21 “brand partners.” By the time of Daniel Craig’s debut in Casino Royale that number had been pared back to seven.

Bond now promotes “brand partners who are more real, and more authentic to his [Craig’s] interpretation of James  Bond,” says Collis.


A Growing Disenchantment With October ‘Pinkification’

Gina Kolata reports for The New York Times:

[…] Pinkwashing, as some breast cancer activists call it, has become an October rite, to “raise awareness” of breast cancer during what has for years been called National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Those who promote the pink campaigns say they raise millions of dollars to fight the disease.

“When I see Delta flight attendants dressed in pink, I thank them,” said Daniela Campari, senior vice president for marketing at the American Cancer Society.

But many women with breast cancer hate the spectacle. “I call it the puke campaign,” said Marlene McCarthy, the director of the Rhode Island Breast Cancer Coalition, who has metastatic breast cancer.

“Breast cancer awareness,” critics charge, has become a sort of feel-good catchall, associated with screening and early detection, and the ubiquitous pink a marketing opportunity for companies of all types. For all the awareness, they note, breast cancer incidence has been nearly flat and there still is no cure for women whose cancer has spread beyond the breast to other organs, like the liver or bones.

“What do we have to show for the billions spent on pink ribbon products?” asked Karuna Jaggar, the executive director of Breast Cancer Action, an activist group whose slogan is “Think before you pink.”

She concluded: “A lot of us are done with awareness. We want action.”


BBC Protects U.K.’s Close Ally Saudi Arabia With Incredibly Dishonest and Biased Editing

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

The BBC loves to boast about how “objective” and “neutral” it is. But a recent article, which it was forced to change, illustrates the lengths to which the British state-funded media outlet will go to protect one of the U.K. government’s closest allies, Saudi Arabia, which also happens to be one of the country’s largest arms purchasers (just this morning [Oct 26], the Saudi ambassador to the U.K. threatened in an op-ed that any further criticism of the Riyadh regime by Jeremy Corbyn could jeopardize the multi-layered U.K./Saudi alliance).

Earlier this month, the BBC published an article describing the increase in weapons and money sent by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf regimes to anti-Assad fighters in Syria. All of that “reporting” was based on the claims of what the BBC called “a Saudi government official,” who — because he works for a government closely allied with the U.K. — was granted anonymity by the BBC and then had his claims mindlessly and uncritically presented as fact (it is the rare exception when the BBC reports adversarially on the Saudis). This anonymous “Saudi official” wasn’t whistleblowing or presenting information contrary to the interests of the regime; to the contrary, he was disseminating official information the regime wanted publicized.

[…] The Saudis, says the anonymous official, are only arming groups such as the “Army of Conquest,” but not the al Qaeda affiliate the Nusra Front. What’s the problem with this claim? It’s obvious, though the BBC would not be so impolite as to point it out: The Army of Conquest includes the Nusra Front as one of its most potent components. This is not even in remote dispute; [as] the New York Times’ elementary explainer on the Army of Conquest from three weeks ago states.


U.S. Military Used Christian NGO as Front for North Korea Espionage

Matthew Cole reports for The Intercept:

HISG_NGO-graphicOn May 10, 2007, in the East Room of the White House, President George W. Bush presided over a ceremony honoring the nation’s most accomplished community service leaders. Among those collecting a President’s Volunteer Service Award that afternoon was Kay Hiramine, the Colorado-based founder of a multimillion-dollar humanitarian organization.

Hiramine’s NGO, Humanitarian International Services Group, or HISG, won special praise from the president for having demonstrated how a private charity could step in quickly in response to a crisis. “In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” read Hiramine’s citation, “HISG’s team launched a private sector operation center in Houston that mobilized over 1,500 volunteers into the disaster zone within one month after the hurricane.”

But as the evangelical Christian Hiramine crossed the stage to shake hands with President Bush and receive his award, he was hiding a key fact from those in attendance: He was a Pentagon spy whose NGO was funded through a highly classified Defense Department program.

The secret Pentagon program, which dates back to December 2004, continued well into the Obama presidency. It was the brainchild of a senior Defense Department intelligence official of the Bush administration, Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin. Boykin, an evangelical Christian who ran into criticism in 2003 for his statements about Islam, settled on the ruse of the NGO as he was seeking new and unorthodox ways to penetrate North Korea.


Drones, IBM, and the Big Data of Death

Jon Schwarz writes for The Intercept:

Last week The Intercept published a package of stories on the U.S. drone program, drawing on a cache of secret government documents leaked by an intelligence community whistleblower. The available evidence suggests that one of the documents, a study titled “ISR Support to Small Footprint CT Operations — Somalia/Yemen,” was produced for the Defense Department in 2013 by consultants from IBM. If you look at just one classified PowerPoint presentation this year, I recommend you make it this one.

Like a good poem, the ISR study has multiple meanings, and rewards careful attention and repeated reading. On its surface, it’s simply an analysis by the Defense Department’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Task Force of the “performance and requirements” of the U.S. military’s counterterrorism kill/capture operations, including drone strikes, in Somalia and Yemen. However, it’s also what a former senior special operations officer characterized as a “bitch brief” — that is, a study designed to be a weapon in a bureaucratic turf war with the CIA to win the Pentagon more money and a bigger mandate. The study was also presumably an opportunity for IBM to demonstrate that it can produce snappy “analysis” tailored to the desires of its Defense Department clients, as well as for current Defense employees to network with a potential future employer.

But the presentation’s most compelling meaning is much deeper: It’s a rare, peculiar cultural artifact that opens a window into the deep guts of the military-industrial complex, where the technologies of assassination and corporate sales converge, all described in language as dead as the target of an ISR platform kinetic engagement.


How Newark Refused to Be a Lab for Facebook-Funded Neoliberal School Reform: Interview with Dale Russakoff

‘Five years ago, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to fix the trouble-plagued schools of Newark, New Jersey. Joining forces with Republican Gov. Chris Christie and then-Democratic Mayor Cory Booker, the effort was billed as a model for education reform across the nation. But the story of what followed emerges as a cautionary tale. Tens of millions were spent on hiring outside consultants and expanding charter schools, leading to public school closures, teacher layoffs and an overall decline in student performance. Parents, students, teachers and community members pushed back in a grassroots uprising to save their schools. We are joined by Dale Russakoff, who tells the story in her book, “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?“‘ (Democracy Now!)

For Murdoch and Fox, the chickens might be coming home to roost

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

Rupert Murdoch[…] Murdoch owns or controls print, cable and film outlets in so many places that his cultural and political views are fast becoming a feature of global geography. The sun never sets on his broadcast empire, a giant hovering Death Star that’s been firing laser cannons of “Rupert Murdoch’s Many Repellent Thoughts About Stuff” at planet Earth for decades now.

Yet Murdoch apparently still doesn’t feel like he’s getting his point across. At 8:59 p.m. last Wednesday night, the 84 year-old scandal-sheet merchant had to turn to Twitter to offer his personal opinion on Ben Carson and the American presidential race. To recap:

“Ben and Candy Carson terrific. What about a real black President who can properly address the racial divide?”

Forget for a minute what Murdoch said. Think about the why.


Fake ISIS nuke plot about creating homeland insecurity to sell homeland security: Interview with Greg Palast

Investigative journalist Greg Palast joins Simone Del Rosario to discuss a recent report by the Associated Press which claimed that the FBI foiled plans by Moldovan gangs in Russia to sell nuclear material to Islamic State insurgents. Despite the report not adding up, the U.S. media ran with it. Palast explains why. (RT America)

War, Propaganda and the Enemy Within: Abby Martin Interviews Chris Hedges

Abby Martin interviews Chris Hedges, journalist and the author of several books including Empire of Illusion and Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt, about the “folly of empire.” (The Empire Files)

Berlin anti-TTIP trade deal protest attracts hundreds of thousands

Chris Johnston reports for The Guardian:

Protesters gather to demonstrate against the TTIP trade agreement in Berlin on Saturday. Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Berlin on Saturday to oppose a planned free trade deal between the European Union and the United States that is claimed to be anti-democratic and to threaten food safety and environmental standards.

The environmental groups, charities and opposition parties that organised the protest claimed 250,000 people took part, while a police spokesman said 100,000 attended. Smaller protests were also held in other cities, including Amsterdam, with a rally due to be held in London on Saturday night at which shadow chancellor John McDonnell is scheduled to speak.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) would create the world’s largest free-trade zone, encompassing some 800 million consumers, and harmonise regulation between the EU and North America in areas ranging from food safety law to environmental rules and banking regulations. It would mean that cars made in Britain could be sold in the US, for example, but opponents say it would water down important EU regulations.


Vast Majority of U.S. Voters Want Citizens Overturned: Why the Media Isn’t Covering It

The Families Funding the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Nicholas Confessore, Sarah Cohen and Karen Yourish reports for The New York Times:

They are overwhelmingly white, rich, older and male, in a nation that is being remade by the young, by women, and by black and brown voters. Across a sprawling country, they reside in an archipelago of wealth, exclusive neighborhoods dotting a handful of cities and towns. And in an economy that has minted billionaires in a dizzying array of industries, most made their fortunes in just two: finance and energy.

Now they are deploying their vast wealth in the political arena, providing almost half of all the seed money raised to support Democratic and Republican presidential candidates. Just 158 families, along with companies they own or control, contributed $176 million in the first phase of the campaign, according to a New York Times investigation. Not since before Watergate have so few people and businesses provided so much early money in a campaign, most of it through channels legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision five years ago.

These donors’ fortunes reflect the shifting composition of the country’s economic elite. Relatively few work in the traditional ranks of corporate America, or hail from dynasties of inherited wealth. Most built their own businesses, parlaying talent and an appetite for risk into huge wealth: They founded hedge funds in New York, bought up undervalued oil leases in Texas, made blockbusters in Hollywood. More than a dozen of the elite donors were born outside the United States, immigrating from countries like Cuba, the old Soviet Union, Pakistan, India and Israel.

But regardless of industry, the families investing the most in presidential politics overwhelmingly lean right, contributing tens of millions of dollars to support Republican candidates who have pledged to pare regulations; cut taxes on income, capital gains and inheritances; and shrink entitlements. While such measures would help protect their own wealth, the donors describe their embrace of them more broadly, as the surest means of promoting economic growth and preserving a system that would allow others to prosper, too.


Media Reports ISIS Nuclear Plot That Never Actually Involved ISIS

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

CBS on Moldavian radiation stingThe AP published this week (10/5/15) a thrilling account of how the FBI, in concert with Moldovan authorities, “disrupted” a smuggling ring that was supposedly trying to sell “nuclear material” to ISIS and other terror organizations over a five-year span. The primary developments in the story are almost a year old, but the resurfaced tale made news across the English-speaking world:

‘Annihilate America’: Inside a Secret, Frightening Scheme to Sell Nuclear Material to ISIS — Salon (10/7/15)

AP: Smugglers Busted Trying to Sell Nuclear Material to ISIS — CBS News (10/7/15)

FBI Foils Smugglers’ Plot to Sell Nuclear Material to ISIS — The Independent (10/7/15)

There was only one problem: At no point do the multiple iterations of the AP‘s reporting show that anyone involved in the FBI sting were members of or have any connection to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (aka ISIL or Daesh). While one of several smuggling attempts discussed in AP‘s reporting involved an actual potential buyer–an otherwise unknown Sudanese doctor who four years ago “suggested that he was interested” in obtaining uranium–the “terrorists” otherwise involved in the cases were FBI and other law enforcement agents posing as such.


Making Money from Misery: Antony Loewenstein on his new book ‘Disaster Capitalism’

Amy Goodman talks to Antony Loewenstein about his new book, ‘Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe.’ Lowenstein travelled across the globe examining how companies like G4S, Serco and Halliburton are deploying for-profit private contractors to war zones and building for-profit private detention facilities to warehouse refugees, prisoners and asylum seekers. Loewenstein has also teamed up with filmmaker Thor Neureiter to create a forthcoming documentary that chronicles how international aid and investment has impacted communities in Haiti, Afghanistan, Papua New Guinea and beyond. (Democracy Now!)

Wikileaks release of TPP deal text stokes ‘freedom of expression’ fears

Sam Thielman reports for The Guardian:

President Obama meets with agriculture and business leaders to discuss the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership for American business and workers.Wikileaks has released what it claims is the full intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the controversial agreement between 12 countries that was signed off on Monday.

TPP was negotiated in secret and details have yet to be published. But critics including Democrat presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders,unions and privacy activists have lined up to attack what they have seen of it. Wikileaks’ latest disclosures are unlikely to reassure them.

One chapter appears to give the signatory countries (referred to as “parties”) greater power to stop embarrassing information going public. The treaty would give signatories the ability to curtail legal proceedings if the theft of information is “detrimental to a party’s economic interests, international relations, or national defense or national security” – in other words, presumably, if a trial would cause the information to spread.

A drafter’s note says that every participating country’s individual laws about whistleblowing would still apply.


The Trans-Pacific Free-Trade Charade

Joseph Stiglitz and Adam Hersh wrote for Project Syndicate prior to TPP agreement:

As negotiators and ministers from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries meet in Atlanta in an effort to finalize the details of the sweeping new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), some sober analysis is warranted. The biggest regional trade and investment agreement in history is not what it seems.

You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for “free trade.” The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies. Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about “free” trade.

New Zealand has threatened to walk away from the agreement over the way Canada and the US manage trade in dairy products. Australia is not happy with how the US and Mexico manage trade in sugar. And the US is not happy with how Japan manages trade in rice. These industries are backed by significant voting blocs in their respective countries. And they represent just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how the TPP would advance an agenda that actually runs counter to free trade.

For starters, consider what the agreement would do to expand intellectual property rights for big pharmaceutical companies, as we learned from leaked versions of the negotiating text. Economic research clearly shows the argument that such intellectual property rights promote research to be weak at best. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary: When the Supreme Court invalidated Myriad’s patent on the BRCA gene, it led to a burst of innovation that resulted in better tests at lower costs. Indeed, provisions in the TPP would restrain open competition and raise prices for consumers in the US and around the world – anathema to free trade.