Category Archives: Corporations

The Convicted Con Artist Of The Winter White House

Tarini Parti reports for BuzzFeed News:

[…] The Rinkuses are the gatekeepers to the Winter White House — or at least Ari wants people to think so. Before she landed her job at Mar-a-Lago, Heather worked for one of the companies owned by the family of Betsy DeVos, the wealthy former chair of the Michigan Republican Party who is now Trump’s education secretary. Ari, a stocky former used car salesman, frequently holds court over a vodka soda at a local bar, bragging about his and his wife’s connection to Trump and his team while trolling for investors for business deals he’s peddling.

The tale of the Rinkus couple — one a repeat felon and the other a Trump employee who interacts regularly with top government officials — raises the curtain on the way Trump’s sprawling business holdings can sweep minor figures into his political orbit. For a man with a serious criminal record, Ari Rinkus has been in remarkably close proximity to the president. He has parlayed that access — and the perception of access — to his own advantage, sources said, while pursuing potentially lucrative government contracts on behalf of a foreign company.

Reached this week, Heather Rinkus had no comment, and Ari, told what this story would contain, changed his account. He said that in previous exchanges with BuzzFeed News, he had exaggerated his access to the president and his family. He told similarly inflated tales to other people, he said, but insisted that he had not done so to gain government contracts or seek investments. Raising money, he acknowledged, would violate the terms of his ongoing probation for the Ponzi scheme.

The White House declined to comment, referring questions to the Trump Organization. The Trump Organization said it had no business relationship with either Heather or Ari Rinkus. Mar-a-Lago did not respond to emails and a phone message.

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U.S. Tobacco Industry Rebounds From Its Near-Death Experience

Jennifer Maloney and Saabira Chaudhuri report for The Wall Street Journal:

Image result for U.S. Tobacco Industry Rebounds From Its Near-Death ExperienceIt’s a great time to be a cigarette company again.

Far fewer Americans are smoking, and yet U.S. tobacco revenue is soaring, thanks to years of steady price hikes. Americans spent more at retail stores on cigarettes in 2016 than they did on soda and beer combined, according to independent market-research firm Euromonitor International. Consolidation and cost cutting are boosting profit. Big Tobacco shares are on a roll.

Two decades ago, such a boom didn’t seem possible. The industry faced a future of increasing regulation and declining sales, as older smokers quit and fewer young people picked up the habit. States were suing for billions of dollars. Bankruptcies for some players seemed just around the corner.

Things didn’t turn out so badly, though. Costs from an avalanche of legal settlements and regulatory requirements have been heavy, but they haven’t put any big players out of business. Cigarette makers found they could more than make up for falling volumes with higher prices.

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It’s James Murdoch’s Fox News Now

Michael Wolff writes for Hollywood Reporter:

After The New York Times wrote about the sexual harassment claims leveled at Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly and the settlements made by the company and O’Reilly himself, James Murdoch, according to 21st Century Fox sources, kept repeating with horror to his friends and executives: “This is on the front page of The New York Times!”

These sources say James Murdoch’s longtime annoyance if not disgust with Fox News became cold fury after the Times‘ April 1 story — even though several of the O’Reilly settlements had happened when James was CEO of the parent company. This was a similar reaction to what had followed the harassment suit by former anchor Gretchen Carlson against Fox News chief Roger Ailes in July. Every time Fox controversies spilled over into the wider world, James took it personally. “It was somehow against him,” says one person close to the Murdochs.

Fox News is a business he should not be in, he had told people before, despite its major contribution to 21st Century Fox’s bottom line — 20 percent of its profits came from Fox News last year, the biggest-earning division in the company. Presumably, he meant the in-your-face world of conservative cable news with its mega personalities. Indeed, James regarded many of the people at Fox News as thuggish Neanderthals and said he was embarrassed to be in the same company with them.

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Profits Can be Made from Catastrophes With Disaster Capitalism

Gregory Wilpert speaks with Antony Loewenstein, author of Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing Out of Catastrophe, who says companies that make profits from disasters around the world also have a vested interest in maintaining these disasters. (The Real News)

How Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Personally Profit from Their Roles in the White House

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Sheikh speak with Vicky Ward, New York Times best-selling author, investigative journalist and contributor to Esquire and Huffington Post Highline magazine, about whether Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are personally profiting from their official roles in the White House. (Democracy Now!)

Trump Companies Don’t Always Follow His ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Pledge

Jacob Pramuk reports for CNBC:

President Donald Trump delivers opening remarks during a meeting with (L-R) Wendell Weeks of Corning, Alex Gorsky of Johnson & Johnson, Michael Dell of Dell Technologies, Mario Longhi of US Steel, and other business leaders and administration staff in the Roosevelt Room at the White House, Jan. 23, 2017 in Washington, DC.President Donald Trump promoted his “buy American, hire American” policy again Tuesday — but his family’s companies haven’t always followed that pledge themselves.

After touring a Snap-on tools plant in Wisconsin on Tuesday afternoon, Trump signed an executive order pushing the hiring of domestic workers by American companies.

The measure will aim to make it more difficult for businesses to hire lower-wage foreign workers, particularly through changes to the H-1B program favored by technology companies, The New York Times reported. The order will also direct a review of government rules related to the use of American companies for federal contracts.

“We are sending a powerful signal to the world. We are going to protect our workers, defend our jobs and finally put America first,” Trump said Tuesday.

But businesses owned by Trump and his family members don’t always favor American workers.

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Ivanka Trump Brand Secures China Trademarks on Day U.S. President Met Xi Jinping

Benjamin Haas reports for The Guardian:

Related imageAs Donald Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping dined on Dover sole and New York strip steak earlier this month, thousands of miles away in China a government office quietly approved trademarks that could benefit the US president’s family.

On the day the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump met the Chinese leader, China granted preliminary approval for three new trademarks for her namesake brand, covering jewellery, bags and spa service, according to official documents.

Her company, Ivanka Trump Marks LLC, has been granted four additional trademarks since her father’s inauguration and has 32 pending, according to the Associated Press, which first reported the new approvals.

Donald Trump’s White House has created a minefield of ethics concerns, according to critics, and the president and his top officials represent one of the wealthiest cabinets in history, with business empires spanning the globe. Ivanka Trump was appointed assistant to the president last month, after previously saying she would not join her father’s administration.

Ivanka Trump no longer manages her clothing, jewellery and accessories brand, but still owns the business and is frequently seen wearing clothes from her own collection. She has put her business in a trust, run by family members.

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The Right-Wing Machine Behind the Curtain

Theo Anderson reports for In These Times:

The mood was jubilant two days after the November 2016 election at a Washington, D.C., panel co-hosted by two powerhouse conservative thinktanks—the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation.

In his opening remarks, Heritage president Jim DeMint rejoiced that Donald Trump’s election had “preserved our constitutional republic.” Panelist John Yoo, a Berkeley law professor best known as the architect of George W. Bush’s justification for torture, drew laughs with feigned surprise at the audience size. “I thought everyone at Heritage was working over at transition head quarters,” Yoo quipped. “I asked the taxi cab driver to take me to Trump transition headquarters, and he dropped me off here.”

Indeed, Politico reported in November that Heritage, based in D.C., had become “a crucial conduit between Trump’s orbit and the once-skeptical conservative leaders who ultimately helped get him elected.” By Heritage’s own account, “several dozen” of its staff members worked on the transition team, and Trump used its recommendations for his list of potential Supreme Court picks.

Vice President Mike Pence, the head of that transition team, has deep ties to the foundation. In 2006, Heritage co-founder Paul Weyrich, a mentor of Pence’s, said of him, “Nobody is perfect, but he comes pretty close.” In early December, Pence gave the keynote speech at a Heritage event (held at Trump’s D.C. hotel) to honor its biggest donors. He promised that the Trump administration “is now and will continue to draw on” the institution’s work.

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Sharmini Peries speaks to Theo Anderson, staff writer for In These Times, about how the Heritage Foundation’s ties to the Trump administration are very extensive and his budget proposal shows it. (The Real News)

‘Dark money’ Is Threat to Integrity of UK Elections, Say Leading Academics

Carole Cadwalladr reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Dark moneyAn urgent review of “weak and helpless” electoral laws is being demanded by a group of leading academics who say that uncontrolled “dark money” poses a threat to the fundamental principles of British democracy.

A working group set up by the London School of Economics warns that new technology has disrupted British politics to such an extent that current laws are unable to ensure a free and fair election or control the influence of money in politics.

Damian Tambini, director of the media policy project at the LSE, who heads the group made up of leading experts in the field, said that new forms of online campaigning had not only changed the ways that political parties target voters but, crucially, had also altered the ability of big money interests to manipulate political debate. “There is a real danger we are heading down the US route where whoever spends the most money is most likely to win. That’s why we’ve always controlled spending in this country. But these controls are no longer working.”

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Meet the Hundreds of Officials Trump Has Quietly Installed Across the Government

Justin Elliott, Derek Kravitz and Al Shaw report for ProPublica:

Image result for Meet the Hundreds of Officials Trump Has Quietly Installed Across the GovernmentA Trump campaign aide who argues that Democrats committed “ethnic cleansing” in a plot to “liquidate” the white working class. A former reality show contestant whose study of societal collapse inspired him to invent a bow-and-arrow-cum-survivalist multi-tool. A pair of healthcare industry lobbyists. A lobbyist for defense contractors. An “evangelist” and lobbyist for Palantir, the Silicon Valley company with close ties to intelligence agencies. And a New Hampshire Trump supporter who has only recently graduated from high school.

These are some of the people the Trump administration has hired for positions across the federal government, according to documents received by ProPublica through public-records requests.

While President Trump has not moved to fill many jobs that require Senate confirmation, he has quietly installed hundreds of officials to serve as his eyes and ears at every major federal agency, from the Pentagon to the Department of Interior.

Unlike appointees exposed to the scrutiny of the Senate, members of these so-called “beachhead teams” have operated largely in the shadows, with the White House declining to publicly reveal their identities.

While some names have previously dribbled out in the press, we are publishing a list of more than 400 hires, providing the most complete accounting so far of who Trump has brought into the federal government.

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Amy Goodman speaks to journalist Justin Elliott who has been looking into the hundreds of officials Trump has quietly installed across the government. He describes the backgrounds of these officials in a recent piece for ProPublica. (Democracy Now!)

Why Does WikiLeaks Keep Publishing U.S. State Secrets? Private Contractors

Tim Shorrock, author of Spies for Hire, writes for The Washington Post:

Image result for Why does WikiLeaks keep publishing U.S. state secrets? Private contractorsWhen WikiLeaks released more than 8,000 files about the CIA’s global hacking programs this month, it dropped a tantalizing clue: The leak came from private contractors. Federal investigators quickly confirmed this, calling contractors the likeliest sources. As a result of the breach, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange said, the CIA had “lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal.”

Intelligence insiders were dismayed. Agencies “take a chance with contractors” because “they may not have the same loyalty” as officers employed by the government, former CIA director Leon Panetta lamented to NBC.

But this is a liability built into our system that intelligence officials have long known about and done nothing to correct. As I first reported in 2007, some 70 cents of every intelligence dollar is allocated to the private sector. And the relentless pace of mergers and acquisitions in the spies-for-hire business has left five corporations in control of about 80 percent of the 45,000 contractors employed in U.S. intelligence. The threat from unreliable employees in this multibillion-dollar industry is only getting worse.

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Peter Thiel: Donald Trump’s ‘Shadow President’ in Silicon Valley

Eliana Johnson reports for Politico:

170224_peter_thiel_trump_gty_1160.jpg[…] “Once Election Day came and went, Peter Thiel was a major force in the transition,” said a senior Trump campaign aide. “When you have offices and you bring staff with you and you attend all the meetings, then you have a lot of power.” At the Presidio, the old Army fort in San Francisco where Thiel’s investment firms are housed, many of his employees have taken to calling him “the shadow president.”

The notion is not entirely absurd. If Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, is one ideological pillar of the Trump White House, Thiel, operating from outside the administration, is the other. Bannon’s ideology is a sort of populist nationalism, while Thiel’s is tech-centric: He believes progress is dependent on a revolution in technology that has been largely stymied by government regulation.

Thiel is a contrarian by nature, and his support for Trump was a signature long-shot bet that is paying big dividends in terms of access to and influence on the new administration.

Trump’s surprise victory in November also gave Thiel a renewed faith in the possibilities of politics, and he has worked around the clock to push friends and associates into positions that will give them sway over science and technology policy, an area he believes has been routinely neglected under previous administrations.

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How Uber Deceives the Authorities Worldwide

Mike Isaac reports for The New York Times:

Image result for How Uber Deceives the Authorities WorldwideUber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been banned.

The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials who were trying to clamp down on the ride-hailing service. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities like Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China and South Korea.

Greyball was part of a program called VTOS, short for “violation of terms of service,” which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The program, including Greyball, began as early as 2014 and remains in use, predominantly outside the United States. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team.

Greyball and the VTOS program were described to The New York Times by four current and former Uber employees, who also provided documents. The four spoke on the condition of anonymity because the tools and their use are confidential and because of fear of retaliation by Uber.

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How Peter Thiel and Alex Karp’s Palantir Helped the NSA Spy on the Whole World

Sam Biddle reports for The Intercept:

Image result for Thiel and KarpDonald Trump has inherited the most powerful machine for spying ever devised. How this petty, vengeful man might wield and expand the sprawling American spy apparatus, already vulnerable to abuse, is disturbing enough on its own. But the outlook is even worse considering Trump’s vast preference for private sector expertise and new strategic friendship with Silicon Valley billionaire investor Peter Thiel, whose controversial (and opaque) company Palantir has long sought to sell governments an unmatched power to sift and exploit information of any kind. Thiel represents a perfect nexus of government clout with the kind of corporate swagger Trump loves. The Intercept can now reveal that Palantir has worked for years to boost the global dragnet of the NSA and its international partners, and was in fact co-created with American spies. 

Peter Thiel became one of the American political mainstream’s most notorious figures in 2016 (when it emerged he was bankrolling a lawsuit against Gawker Media, my former employer) even before he won a direct line to the White House. Now he brings to his role as presidential adviser decades of experience as kingly investor and token nonliberal on Facebook’s board of directors, a Rolodex of software luminaries, and a decidedly Trumpian devotion to controversy and contrarianism. But perhaps the most appealing asset Thiel can offer our bewildered new president will be Palantir Technologies, which Thiel founded with Alex Karp and Joe Lonsdale in 2004.

Palantir has never masked its ambitions, in particular the desire to sell its services to the U.S. government — the CIA itself was an early investor in the startup through In-Q-Tel, the agency’s venture capital branch. But Palantir refuses to discuss or even name its government clientele, despite landing “at least $1.2 billion” in federal contracts since 2009, according to an August 2016 report in Politico. The company was last valued at $20 billion and is expected to pursue an IPO in the near future. In a 2012 interview with TechCrunch, while boasting of ties to the intelligence community, Karp said nondisclosure contracts prevent him from speaking about Palantir’s government work.

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The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight

In 2014 Bill Moyers was joined by Mike Lofgren, a congressional staff member for 28 years, to talk about what he calls Washington’s ‘Deep State’, in which elected and unelected figures collude to protect and serve powerful vested interests. “It is how we had deregulation, financialization of the economy, the Wall Street bust, the erosion or our civil liberties and perpetual war,” Lofgren tells Moyers. Lofgren also authored an essay titled: Anatomy of the Deep State(Moyers & Company)

TPP is Not Dead: It’s Now Called the Trade In Services Agreement (TISA)

Pete Dolack writes for CounterPunch:

Photo by SumOfUs | CC BY 2.0Think the ideas behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership or the so-called “free trade” regime are buried? Sadly, no. Definitely, no. Some of the countries involved in negotiating the TPP seeking to find ways to resurrect it in some new form — but that isn’t the most distressing news. What’s worse is the TPP remains alive in a new form with even worse rules. Meet the Trade In Services Agreement, even more secret than the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And more dangerous.

The Trade In Services Agreement (TISA), currently being negotiated among 50 countries, if passed would prohibit regulations on the financial industry, eliminate laws to safeguard online or digital privacy, render illegal any “buy local” rules at any level of government, effectively dismantle any public advantages to be derived from state-owned enterprises and eliminate net neutrality.

TISA negotiations began in April 2013 and have gone through 21 rounds. Silence has been the rule for these talks, and we only know what’s in it because of leaks, earlier ones published by WikiLeaks and now a new cache published by Bilaterals.org.

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How Blair and Clinton created the conditions for Brexit and Trump

Thomas G. Clark writes for Another Angry Voice:

[…] In my view the ruptures in British and American politics happened in the 1990s with the accession of Bill Clinton in 1993 and Tony Blair in 1997. These were men who inherited the Democratic Party of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Labour Party of Clement Attlee, but instead of pursuing the kind of prosperity yielding democratic socialism of their predecessors they adopted a “third way” strategy.

Clinton and Blair held onto power by slightly slowing down the radical and destructive right-wing neoliberalisation agenda rather than actively working to reverse the worst of the damage. Of course they seemed like an improvement after the chaotic crisis-ridden 1980s, but both men slowly continued the progress of the right-wing zealotry introduced by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

One of Clinton’s most overt moves towards hard-right economic dogma was a piece of legislation called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 which exempted all manner of derivatives trading from financial regulation. a move that unleashed the frenzy of speculative derivative trading that resulted in the 2007-08 global financial sector insolvency crisis.

Aside from the extraordinarily dodgy PFI privatisation scams and the commodification of the higher education system through the introduction of student fees (aspiration taxes), one of Tory Blair’s most blatant rightward lurches saw the de facto privatisation of the Bank of England and the establishment of what turned out to be an astoundingly weak tripartite system of financial sector regulation.

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Who’s Paying for the UK Government’s ‘Free’ Smart Meters?

Afshin Rattansi speaks to Chris Choi, ITN’s Consumer Editor for ITV News, about why Theresa May wants the UK to spend £11 billion on so-called ‘free’ smart meters. (Going Underground)

News Corp execs visit Downing Street more than any other company in the UK

Dominic Ponsford reports for Press Gazette:

New analysis of UK government hospitality registers suggests executives from News Corp are more likely to visit Downing Street than any other company.

The Media Reform Coalition, a campaign group which objects to the the concentration of media powers in the hands of News Corp proprietor Rupert Murdoch, has compiled the data.

It has looked at the quarterly returns filed by government departments detailing meetings with outside organisations from April 2015 to September 2016. The time span covers two governments.

News Corp includes The Sun, Times and Sunday Times newspapersin the UK.

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How Corporate Dark Money Is Taking Power on Both Sides of the Atlantic

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Corporate Dark MoneyIt took corporate America a while to warm to Donald Trump. Some of his positions, especially on trade, horrified business leaders. Many of them favoured Ted Cruz or Scott Walker. But once Trump had secured the nomination, the big money began to recognise an unprecedented opportunity.

Trump was prepared not only to promote the cause of corporations in government, but to turn government into a kind of corporation, staffed and run by executives and lobbyists. His incoherence was not a liability, but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network already developed by some American corporations was perfectly positioned to shape it. Dark money is the term used in the US for the funding of organisations involved in political advocacy that are not obliged to disclose where the money comes from. Few people would see a tobacco company as a credible source on public health, or a coal company as a neutral commentator on climate change. In order to advance their political interests, such companies must pay others to speak on their behalf.

Soon after the second world war, some of America’s richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who fund them.

We have no hope of understanding what is coming until we understand how the dark money network operates.

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On Same Day Rex Tillerson is Confirmed, House Votes to Kill a Transparency Rule for Oil Companies

Brad Plumer reports for Vox:

On the same day the Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson as Donald Trump’s secretary of state, the House voted to kill a transparency rule for oil companies that Tillerson once lobbied against while CEO of Exxon Mobil.

So all in all, a good day for America’s largest oil and gas firm.

Using the little-known Congressional Review Act, the House GOP voted on Wednesday to kill an Obama-era regulation that would require publicly traded oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose any payments that they made to foreign governments, including taxes and royalties.

The rule itself dates back to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act — when senators from both parties included a provision requiring greater disclosure from mining and drilling companies working abroad. The hope was to cut down on corruption in resource-rich developing countries by increasing transparency.

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Rex Tillerson’s Vow to Keep Away From Exxon Runs Into a World of Oil

Nick Wadhams reports for Bloomberg:

Exxon Mobil Corp. boasts that it drills for oil and gas on six continents and sells fuel and chemicals in almost every country on the planet. That global reach will pose a wealth of conflict-of-interest questions for former CEO Rex Tillerson now that he’s the U.S. secretary of state.

Tillerson, who spent his entire 41-year career at Exxon, cut his financial ties under an ethics agreement after Donald Trump nominated him, giving up deferred stock rights in return for a $180 million cash payout to an independently managed trust. Tillerson also must recuse himself from decisions “directly and substantially related to” his former employer for two years under the president’s ethics order for his appointees.

“He has severed himself in a pretty final and conclusive way, and I just don’t see him being influenced given the structure of his disengagement,” Stan Brand, an ethics lawyer at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, said in an interview.

Yet the $350 billion company is so big, and so deeply entrenched in countries around the world, that Tillerson’s past will inevitably shadow him, critics say. They say that no ethics agreement can protect against Tillerson viewing the world through “oil-coated glasses,” as Senator Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said this week.

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The Koch Brothers Oppose President Trump’s Immigration Ban

Philip Elliott reports for Time:

Image result for The Koch Brothers Oppose President Trump's Immigration BanThe powerful policy and politics network organized by the billionaire Koch brothers made official what many had expected: an opposition to President Trump’s ban on visitors from seven countries with Muslim majorities.

In a statement provided to reporters covering the Kochs’ twice-a-year retreat, top official Brian Hooks said Sunday that the groups under his umbrella would not support Trump’s move, which has drawn thousands of protesters against the ban on immigrants and refugees.

“We believe it is possible to keep Americans safe without excluding people who wish to come here to contribute and pursue a better life for their families. The travel ban is the wrong approach and will likely be counterproductive,” said Hooks, the co-chairman of the Koch network. “Our country has benefited tremendously from a history of welcoming people from all cultures and backgrounds. This is a hallmark of free and open societies.”

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Linda McMahon: Trump’s Small Business Pick Has A History Of Crushing Smaller Competitors

Travis Waldron and Dana Liebelson report for The Huffington Post:

Related imageLinda McMahon, the former World Wrestling Entertainment chief executive whom President-elect Donald Trump has tapped to run the Small Business Administration, built her billion-dollar corporate empire by crushing many of WWE’s smaller competitors.

Trump has claimed that McMahon helped grow WWE from a “modest 13-person operation to a publicly traded global enterprise with more than 800 employees in offices worldwide” ― a statement that appears word-for-word on McMahon’s personal website.

But the real story is more complicated — and controversial.

The World Wrestling Federation, which later became WWE, and that McMahon had a hand in running for nearly three decades, was not exactly a small business when she and her husband, Vince, took it over from Vince’s father in 1982, said Dr. Scott Beekman, a historian at the University of Rio Grande and the author of Ringside: A History of Professional Wrestling in America.

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Linda McMahon Seems a Perfect Fit for the Trump Administration

Dave Hannigan reports for The Irish Times:

Linda McMahon was a failed Republican candidate for the US Senate in 2010 and 2012. Photograph: Abigail Pheiffer-Pool/Getty Images.When Mick Foley, an iconic figure in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) universe, missed an episode of Monday Night Raw last month, initial reports indicated the current general manager of the production was away getting a hip replacement.

Not an unexpected surgery for a man who has been putting his body on the line for decades. However, it later emerged that Foley didn’t have the operation because it costs $60,000 and he currently does not have health insurance to cover that astronomical figure.

Foley was embarrassed by the subsequent brouhaha and stymied an effort by devoted fans to crowdfund the treatment. But that somebody who is performing for the American public on television every week has to wait to replace a hip damaged over years in the line of duty highlighted once again the strange work practices of the WWE. Despite annual revenues around the $650 million mark, all wrestlers are independent contractors, not employees, and they must purchase their own health insurance.

As former president and CEO of this company notorious for putting the bottom line before the welfare of workers, Linda McMahon seems an obvious pick by Donald Trump to head up America’s Small Business Administration (SBA).

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Trump’s Nominee Linda McMahon: How the Small Business Administration Will Be Used to Destroy Regulations

Sharmini Peries speaks to former financial regulator Bill Black who says Linda McMahon’s career has involved exploiting workers as independent contractors and sabotaging small businesses. (The Real News)

Trump’s Crony Cabinet May Look Strong, But They Are Scared

Naomi Klein writes for The Nation:

Protest Crane at the White House[…] This is the backdrop for Trump’s rise to power—our movements were starting to win. I’m not saying that they were strong enough. They weren’t. I’m not saying we were united enough. We weren’t. But something was most definitely shifting. And rather than risk the possibility of further progress, this gang of fossil-fuel mouthpieces, junk-food peddlers, and predatory lenders have come together to take over the government and protect their ill-gotten wealth.

Let us be clear: This is not a peaceful transition of power. It’s a corporate takeover. The interests that have long-since paid off both major parties to do their bidding have decided they are tired of playing the game. Apparently, all that wining and dining of politicians, all that cajoling and legalized bribery, insulted their sense of divine entitlement.

So now they are cutting out the middleman and doing what every top dog does when they want something done right—they are doing it themselves. Exxon for secretary of state. Hardee’s for secretary of labor. General Dynamics for secretary of defense. And the Goldman guys for pretty much everything that’s left. After decades of privatizing the state in bits and pieces, they decided to just go for the government itself. Neoliberalism’s final frontier. That’s why Trump and his appointees are laughing at the feeble objections over conflicts of interest—the whole thing is a conflict of interest, that’s the whole point.

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Days Into His Presidency, Donald Trump Cashes In

Emily Jane Fox reports for Vanity Fair:

A few weeks before taking office, then-President-Elect Donald Trump held court at a press conference in Manhattan to address questions about his conflicts of interest. With a giant stack of papers stacked artfully to signal legal documents beside him onstage, he explained that he would step down from the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization, hand over the keys to his adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and pay the business no mind until he returns. “I hope at the end of eight years I’ll come back and say, ‘Oh, you did a good job,’” he said. “Otherwise, if they do a bad job, I’ll say, ‘You’re fired.’ ” Trump’s tax attorney, dispatched to detail the particulars, told reporters that the Trump Organization would appoint ethics advisers, avoid foreign deals while Trump is in office, and donate profits from foreign officials staying at his hotels to the U.S. Treasury.

These measures were meant to avoid the appearance of conflicting interests once Trump took office, though they did little to satisfy ethics experts, since the president continues to own a vast array of hotels, resorts, golf courses, real estate holdings, and licensing deals around the world. His children, to whom he is very close, stand to benefit from anyone looking to curry favor with the White House, too.

Trump has argued that he doesn’t care about the business anymore, now that he has the fate of the free world on his shoulders. He has opted to forgo his salary as president, too, since the billionaire (if you take him at his word, though he has not released his tax returns) can manage just fine without it.

But just five days since taking up residence in the White House, Trump is already managing to make money off his new gig. According to a report from CNBC, Mar-a-Lago, the sweeping Palm Beach resort owned by the Trump Organization, doubled its initiation fee on January 1, three weeks before Trump’s inauguration. The “Winter White House” now charges $200,000 to join, plus tax and $14,000 in annual dues, a massive increase that went into effect just hours after Trump spent the night there with his family, shaking hands and enjoying his last days there as a private citizen, for its New Year’s Eve party. Sources told the network that Mar-a-Lago, which last raised prices in 2012, had been considering a price hike for some time.

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Get Ready for the First Shocks of Trump’s Disaster Capitalism

Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, writes for The Intercept:

We already know that the Trump administration plans to deregulate markets, wage all-out war on “radical Islamic terrorism,” trash climate science and unleash a fossil-fuel frenzy. It’s a vision that can be counted on to generate a tsunami of crises and shocks: economic shocks, as market bubbles burst; security shocks, as blowback from foreign belligerence comes home; weather shocks, as our climate is further destabilized; and industrial shocks, as oil pipelines spill and rigs collapse, which they tend to do, especially when enjoying light-touch regulation.

All this is dangerous enough. What’s even worse is the way the Trump administration can be counted on to exploit these shocks politically and economically.

Speculation is unnecessary. All that’s required is a little knowledge of recent history. Ten years ago, I published “The Shock Doctrine,” a history of the ways in which crises have been systematically exploited over the last half century to further a radical pro-corporate agenda. The book begins and ends with the response to Hurricane Katrina, because it stands as such a harrowing blueprint for disaster capitalism.

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Everyone Seems to Agree That Globalisation Is a Sin

Fareed Zakaria writes for The Washington Post:

Image result for Everyone Seems to Agree Globalisation Is a SinThe World Economic Forum this year feels like an exercise in ritual self-flagellation, which — as with the old Christian practice of fasting and whipping one’s own body — is supposed to purify the sinful nature of man. The sin, of course, is globalization, which everyone now seems to agree has been lopsided, inequitable and dangerous. In fact, most of the flaws attributed to globalization are actually mistakes in national policy that can be corrected.

It took a Chinese billionaire to speak frankly on this topic. Jack Ma, the founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, estimated that over the past three decades the U.S. government spent $14.2 trillion fighting 13 wars. That money could have been invested in America, building infrastructure and creating jobs. “You’re supposed to spend money on your own people,” he said. He pointed out that globalization produced massive profits for the U.S. economy but much of that money ended up on Wall Street. “And what happened? Year 2008. The financial crisis wiped out $19.2 trillion [in the] U.S.A. alone. . . . What if the money [had been] spent on the Midwest of the United States developing the industry there?” he asked. “It’s not [that] the other countries steal jobs from you guys — it is your strategy,” he concluded.

You don’t have to accept Ma’s specifics and statistics to recognize the validity of his general point. Globalization created huge opportunities for growth, many of which were taken by U.S. companies. The global economy is still dominated by large American firms; 134 of Fortune’s Global 500 are American. And if you look at those in cutting-edge industries, the vast majority are American. These companies have benefited enormously by having global supply chains that can source goods and services around the world, either to lower labor costs or to be close to the markets in which they sell. Since 95 percent of the world’s potential consumers live outside the United States, finding ways to sell to them will have to be a core strategy for growth, even for a country with a large domestic economy such as the United States.

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