Category Archives: Corporations

Trump’s Great Gatsby Government Will Be a Gift to the Rich

Nomi Prins writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Trump's Great Gatsby government[…] Despite all his populist slogans, Trump was born with a golden spoon in his mouth. He understands having money because he never had to understand not having money. He understands bending the rules because he’s made money doing that. He became president doing that. He boasted about it during the election.

He gravitates to people similar to him, billionaires and up and coming millionaires. His cabinet choices are pedigreed and skilled at using the government to their profit advantage. We are supposed to believe that because they know how that game is played, that as public officials they will divert those talents on our behalf. The only fly in that ointment is that they have no reason to do so.

We have Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary nominee, whose hedge fund took over a California bank in 2009 on the cheap, got the government to back the risk of the deal and proceeded to foreclose on 36,000 homes between 2009-2015, reaping a profit for him and his group of around $1.5bn. He’s not going to regulate the industry that handed him that windfall. Then, there’s Commerce secretary nominee Wilbur Ross who made billions taking over flailing steel and other industrial companies, pushing costs like pension payments onto the government and firing people in the process. He’s not about to advocate for unions or higher minimum wages or equal pay for women in the workplace.

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Hillary Clinton’s “Corrupt Establishment” Is Now Advising Donald Trump

Zaid Jilani writes for The Intercept:

“The Establishment,” Donald Trump famously said during his closing argument for the presidency, “has trillions of dollars at stake in this election.”

He described “a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.”

He asked the country to be “brave enough to vote out this corrupt establishment.”

Now, four weeks after riding that line to victory, he formally invited the establishment into his administration.

Last Friday, Trump announced the creation of a “Strategic and Policy Forum” that will serve to advise him on domestic economic matters. The list of advisers is a who’s-who of corporate elites.

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Rio Tinto’s Plan to Use Drones to Monitor Workers’ Private Lives

Max Opray reports for The Guardian:

Image result for rio tinto dronesIn the remote Australian outback, multinational companies are embarking on a secretive new kind of mining expedition.

Rio Tinto has long mined the Pilbara region of Western Australia for iron ore riches but now the company is seeking to extract a rather different kind of resource – its own employees, for data.

Thousands of Rio Tinto personnel live in company-run mining camps, spending not just work hours but leisure and home time in space controlled by their employer – which in this emerging era of smart infrastructure presents the opportunity to hoover up every detail of their lives.

Rio Tinto is no stranger to using technology to improve efficiency, having replaced human-operated vehicles with automated haul trucks and trains controlled out of a central operations centre in Perth.

The company is embarking on an attempt to manage its remaining human workers in the same way, and privacy advocates fear it could set a precedent that extends well beyond the mining industry.

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The Grim Truth of Chinese Factories Producing the West’s Christmas Toys

Gethin Chamberlain reports for The Observer:

Related image[…] An investigation with the US-based NGO China Labor Watch reveals that toys including Barbie, Thomas the Tank Engine and Hot Wheels were made by staff earning as little as 86p an hour.

Overtime can run to nearly three times the legal limit. In some factories – including one producing Happy Meal toys for McDonald’s from the new DreamWorks movie Trolls – that means some are on 12-hour shifts and have to work with hazardous chemicals.

According to China Labor Watch, the world of toys may be heaven for children, but it is a world of misery for toy factory workers.

The group’s founder and executive director, Li Qiang, said: “We can’t tolerate that children’s dreams are based on workers’ nightmares, and we must fight against the unfair oppression of workers who manufacture toys.”

Undercover investigators infiltrated four factories, and the group shared wage slips and pictures with the Observer to support their findings.

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Supporters Don’t Really Care If Trump Drains The Swamp

Vera Bergengruen reports for McClatchy:

Image result for drain the swampAs a candidate, Donald Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Now that he’s been elected and is embracing part of that very establishment, Democrats and many in the media are slamming him as a typical politician who abandoned a principle as soon as it suited him.

But when McClatchy checked in with several dozen voters in central Pennsylvania – one of the swing states that swung the White House to Trump – to see how they defined the swamp, most didn’t really care. Instead, they said it’s fine with them if he uses the expertise of a DC establishment of lobbyists, donors and special interests to to get his way – and their way.

“This is his thing. He is a successful businessman who hires people to get him . . . what he wants,” said Fred Harris, 42, who works at a gas station near Philipsburg, Pa. “If he has to use swamp people to make America great again, why not?”

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Frightened By Donald Trump? You Don’t Know The Half Of It

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Image result for trump swampYes, Donald Trump’s politics are incoherent. But those who surround him know just what they want, and his lack of clarity enhances their power. To understand what is coming, we need to understand who they are. I know all too well, because I have spent the past 15 years fighting them.

Over this time, I have watched as tobacco, coal, oil, chemicals and biotech companies have poured billions of dollars into an international misinformation machine composed of thinktanks, bloggers and fake citizens’ groups. Its purpose is to portray the interests of billionaires as the interests of the common people, to wage war against trade unions and beat down attempts to regulate business and tax the very rich. Now the people who helped run this machine are shaping the government.

I first encountered the machine when writing about climate change. The fury and loathing directed at climate scientists and campaigners seemed incomprehensible until I realised they were fake: the hatred had been paid for. The bloggers and institutes whipping up this anger were funded by oil and coal companies.

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Trump’s Tax Plan: Massive Cuts For the 1% Will Usher ‘Era of Dynastic Wealth’

Rupert Neate reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Trump’s tax planPresident Donald Trump is set to give America’s richest 1% an average annual tax cut of $214,000 when he takes office, while more than eight million families with children are expected to suffer financially under his proposed tax plan.

On the eve of the election, Trump promised to “massively cut taxes for the middle class, the forgotten people, the forgotten men and women of this country, who built our country”. But independent expert analyses of Trump’s tax plan show that America’s millionaire and billionaire class will win big at the expense of struggling low- and middle-income people, who turned out in large numbers to help the real estate billionaire win the election.

Experts warn that Trump’s tax plan will exacerbate America’s already chronic income inequality and herald in a “new era of dynastic wealth”.

“The Trump tax plan is heavily, heavily, skewed to the most wealthy, who will receive huge savings,” said Lily Batchelder, a law professor and tax expert at New York University. “At the same time, millions of low-income families – particularly single-parent households – will face an increase.”

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Make America Great: The Koch Agenda Returns with a Vengeance

Theda Skocpol, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez and Caroline Tervo report for Talking Points Memo:

But we beg to differ. As researchers who have been tracking the long-term rise and recent impact of the Koch network, we see a very different picture. During the election campaign, Trump relied upon well-established conservative organizational networks that could reach into many states and communities. He made overt deals with the National Rifle Association and the Christian right, and he benefitted indirectly from Koch network operations centered in a nation-spanning, political party-like federation called Americans for Prosperity. Even more important, after his campaign squeaked through on November 8, an unprepared President-Elect Trump started to fall back on people and plans offered by the Koch network, which aims to dismantle not only Barack Obama’s accomplishments but much of what the federal government has done for 75 years to promote security and opportunity for ordinary Americans.

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Hedge Funds That Backed Trump Enter Washington, Demands in Hand

Simone Foxman reports for Bloomberg:

Image result for Hedge Funds That Backed Trump Enter Washington, Demands in HandDonald Trump, the candidate, was blunt: “Hedge fund guys are getting away with murder.”

But Donald Trump, the President-elect, is going a bit easier on the hedge funders — to huzzahs from the industry.

In Trump, hedge-fund types are finally getting their day in Washington. One of their own, Steven Mnuchin, is even a contender for Treasury secretary.

It’s a remarkable turnabout for a business that, at its height, came to symbolize an era of Wall Street hyper-wealth. After a painful run of scandals and investigations, industry veterans now hope Trump will bring a softer touch to the financial industry, if not rehabilitate its reputation.

“That nonsense is ending: the anti-banking cabal and the screed of hatred for people that live on Wall Street,” Anthony Scaramucci, a well-known money manager who is on the transition team, said last week following Trump’s victory.

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“It Might Not Be Good for America, But It’s Good for Us”: How the Media Got Rich off Donald Trump’s Rise

Earlier this year, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves openly bragged that the network is getting rich off Donald Trump’s run for the White House. “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS. … The money’s rolling in … This is going to be a very good year for us.” Moonves went on to say, “It’s a terrible thing to say, but bring it on, Donald. Go ahead. Keep going.” We look at the media’s role in propping up Donald Trump over the past 18 months with three journalists: Lee Fang, John Nichols and Jose Antonio Vargas. (Democracy Now!)

Trump’s Conflicts of Interest Are Without Precedent in American Presidential History

Drew Harwell writes for the Washington Post:

Donald Trump’s stunning victory will force the United States to confront a series of never-before-seen entanglements over the president’s private business, debts and rocky financial history.

No laws prohibit Trump from involving himself in his private company, the Trump Organization, while serving in the highest public office.

And Trump has so far resisted the long-standing presidential tradition of giving his holdings to an independent manager, stoking worries of conflicts of interests over his businesses’ many financial and foreign ties.

Trump’s business empire of hotels, golf courses and licensing deals in the U.S. and abroad, some of which have benefited from tax breaks or government subsidies, represents an ethical minefield for a commander in chief who would oversee the U.S. budget and foreign relations, some analysts say.

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Donald Trump Recruits Corporate Lobbyists to Select His Future Administration

Lee Fang reports for The Intercept:

Image result for Donald Trump Recruits Corporate Lobbyists to Select His Future AdministrationAs Donald Trump finishes his campaign with a promise to break the control of Washington by political insiders, his transition team is preparing to hand his administration over to a cozy clique of corporate lobbyists and Republican power brokers.

“Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you the American people,” Trump says in his closing campaign advertisement, followed by flashing images of K Street, Wall Street, and Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein.

But the Trump transition team is a who’s who of influence peddlers, including: energy adviser Michael Catanzaro, a lobbyist for Koch Industries and the Walt Disney Company; adviser Eric Ueland, a Senate Republican staffer who previously lobbied for Goldman Sachs; and Transition General Counsel William Palatucci, an attorney in New Jersey whose lobbying firm represents Aetna and Verizon. Rick Holt, Christine Ciccone, Rich Bagger, and Mike Ferguson are among the other corporate lobbyists helping to manage the transition effort.

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Would Wall Street Have a Place in a Clinton Administration?

Alec MacGillis writes for ProPublica:

On Oct. 29, 2013, Hillary Clinton joined Lloyd Blankfein, the CEO of Goldman Sachs, for a discussion at its Builders and Innovators Summit, at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain resort, near Tucson. During the discussion — one of more than 50 appearances for which Clinton received $225,000 since leaving the State Department — she lamented that the public’s wariness of Wall Street had made it difficult for top people in finance to move into government. For one thing, in order to avoid conflicts of interest, they often faced demands to relinquish financial holdings. “There is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives. You know, the divestment of assets, the stripping of all kinds of positions, the sale of stocks — it just becomes very onerous and unnecessary,” she said, according to a transcript released last month by WikiLeaks.

That is not the kind of thing that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, likes to hear. Warren supports Clinton, and has been one of her most effective advocates during the current campaign, but she has also made it clear that, if Clinton is elected, she will closely monitor the people she names to key posts. On Sept. 21, in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a left-of-center think tank based in Washington, Warren said, “Personnel is policy. When we talk about personnel, we don’t mean advisers who just pay lip service to Hillary’s bold agenda, coupled with a sigh, a knowing glance, and the twiddling of thumbs until it’s time for the next swing through the revolving door — serving government, then going back to the very same industries they regulate. We don’t mean Citigroup or Morgan Stanley or BlackRock getting to choose who runs the economy in this country so that they can capture our government.”

People with experience in business or finance are a necessity in Washington, but the specter of a privileged executive elite circulating in and out of government and the private sector — especially Wall Street — has shadowed the American political system for more than half a century. The financial industry still favors the Republican Party, but, since the 1990s, it has become more closely affiliated with the Democrats, and that has provoked a resurgent left, led by Warren and by Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont.

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The Empire Files: An Exposé of John Podesta

With the Wikileaks release of thousands of emails belonging to John Podesta, very little is known in US society about Podesta himself. While he’s maintained a low profile, John Podesta is actually considered one of Washington’s biggest players, and one of the most powerful corporate lobbyists in the world. In this episode, Abby Martin explores John Podesta’s political rise, his vast network of corporate connections and his think tank the Center for American Progress. Learn why the Podestas and the Clintons are a match made in ruling class heaven. (The Empire Files)

The Trump Brand Now Stronger Than Ever

Geoffrey James reports for Inc.com:

Several news stories recently suggested that Trump’s campaign, fueled by his personal endorsement of his ability and right to commit sexual assault, was damaging the Trump brand.

As evidence of this, CNN cited a report that bookings at his casinos and hotels are sharply down, prompting Trump to sidetrack to promote his recently-opened (and sparsely booked) Washington D.C. hotel. In addition, a grassroots group has been boycotting sales of Ivanka Trump’s line of clothing.

That Trump’s favorability rating was down to 31 percent from a post-convention high of 38 percent would seem to lend credence to the notion that the Trump brand is a disaster in the making.

However, while a favorability rating of 31 percent is exceedingly low for a presidential candidate this close to an election, it’s actually much higher than the Trump brand has historically enjoyed.

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American Irrationalism

Chris Hedges writes for Truthdig:

There is no shortage of signs of impending environmental catastrophe, including the melting of the polar ice caps and the rise of atmospheric carbon to above 400 parts per million. The earth’s sixth mass extinction is underway. It is not taking place because of planetary forces. Homo sapiens is orchestrating it. Americans are at the same time bankrupting themselves by waging endless and unwinnable wars. We have allowed our elites to push more than half the U.S. population into poverty through deindustrialization. We do nothing to halt the waves of nihilistic violence by enraged citizens who carry out periodic mass shootings in schools, malls, movie theaters and other public places. The political and financial elites flaunt their greed and corruption. Donald Trump appears to pay no federal income taxes. Hillary and Bill Clinton use their foundation as a tool for legalized bribery. Our largest corporations have orchestrated a legal tax boycott. The judicial system is a subsidiary of the corporate state. Militarized police conduct public executions of unarmed people of color. Our infrastructure, including our schools, roads and bridges, along with our deindustrialized cities, are in ruins. Decay and rot—physical and moral—are pervasive.

We are blinded to our depressing reality by the avalanche of images disseminated by mass media. Political, intellectual and cultural discourse has been replaced with spectacle. Emotionalism and sensationalism are prized over truth. Highly paid pundits who parrot back the official narrative, corporate advertisers, inane talk shows, violent or sexually explicit entertainment and gossip-fueled news have contaminated cultural life. “Reality” television, as contrived as every other form of mass entertainment, has produced a “reality” presidential candidate.

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The AT&T Mega-Merger and Its Selling of Customer Data For Profit

Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak to Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, about the $85 billion proposed mega-merger of telecommunications giant AT&T and Time Warner. They also speak to Adam Schwartz, a senior lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, about U.S. police departments paying AT&T millions to spy on  Americans. (Democracy Now!)

Hillary Clinton’s Forgotten Career: Corporate Lawyer

Laura Meckler and Peter Nicholas writes for the Wall Street Journal:

Hillary Clinton with Bill Clinton and their daughter, Chelsea, in Little Rock, Ark., in September 1991.One of Hillary Clinton’s first assignments as a corporate lawyer landed her far from her roots. She helped overturn a ballot measure that increased electric rates for businesses and lowered them for the poor.

“Instead of defending poor people and righting wrongs, we found ourselves squarely on the side of corporate greed against the little people,” her colleague, Webb Hubbell, later wrote.

The future presidential contender worked for 15 years as a corporate litigator at the Rose Law Firm in Arkansas’s capital, longer than any other position in or out of government. Her portrait still hangs in the firm’s downtown offices.

Yet that chapter in her life has been all but excised from the official Hillary Clinton story. She hardly ever mentions it on the campaign trail. Her husband skipped past it when telling of her life story at the Democratic National Convention. Until August, it wasn’t even mentioned on her campaign’s official biography.

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At Hillary Clinton’s Favorite Think Tank, a Doubling Down on Anti-Iran, Pro-Saudi Policy

Zaid Jilani reports for The Intercept:

The Center for American Progress hosted a sort of preview of Hillary Clinton’s Middle East policy on Tuesday, with a Clinton adviser and a Gulf state diplomat agreeing that the next president should double down on support for the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, while ramping up action against Iran.

It is a signal that a future Clinton administration would overwhelmingly favor the Gulf states in their ongoing, Middle East-wide power struggle with Iran, implicitly rebuking President Obama, who has come under fire from Gulf states for mild criticism of their foreign policy and his nuclear deal with Iran.

The founder of the Center for American Progress, John Podesta, is the campaign chair for Clinton’s presidential bid; many of the candidate’s closest advisors are alumni of CAP and it is widely viewed as a launching pad for policy staff for Democratic presidents. The center is currently helmed by Clinton transition co-chair Neera Tanden.

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Documents Show AT&T Secretly Sells Customer Data to U.S. Law Enforcement

Nicky Woolf reports for The Guardian:

Image result for at&t surveillanceTelecommunications giant AT&T is selling access to customer data to local law enforcement in secret, new documents released on Monday reveal.

The program, called Hemisphere, was previously known only as a “partnership” between the company and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for the purposes of counter-narcotics operations.

It accesses the trove of telephone metadata available to AT&T, who control a large proportion of America’s landline and cellphone infrastructure. Unlike other providers, who delete their stored metadata after a certain time, AT&T keeps information like call time, duration, and even location data on file for years, with records dating back to 2008.

But according to internal company documents revealed Monday by the Daily Beast, Hemisphere is being sold to local police departments and used to investigate everything from murder to Medicaid fraud, costing US taxpayers millions of dollars every year even while riding roughshod over privacy concerns.

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AT&T Acquires Time Warner In Media Mega-Deal

Brian Stelter reports for CNN:

media shakeup att-twx merger graphic new AT&T and Time Warner have agreed to an $85 billion deal — one of the biggest media tie-ups ever.

The move, announced Saturday evening, will help AT&T expand beyond wireless and Internet service into programming. Time Warner is the parent of CNN, TNT, HBO, the Warner Bros. studio, and other channels and websites.

AT&T, which dates back to the invention of the telephone in 1876, is one of the country’s largest providers of wireless phone and Internet service. It also recently acquired the DirecTV satellite TV business.

The deal will be subject to a review by government regulators that could take more than a year to complete.

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We Never Voted for Corporate Rule

David Korten writes for YES! Magazine:

Corporate-Rule-Korten.gifLast week, Bayer, a transnational drug and pesticide company, secured funding for its $66 billion offer to acquire Monsanto, the world’s largest producer of agricultural seeds. This follows the announced $130 billion merger of chemical giants Dow and DuPont, and ChemChina’s proposed $43 billion purchase of the seed and pesticide firm Syngenta.

Bayer, DuPont, Dow, Monsanto, and Syngenta are five of the world’s six biggest pesticide and seed corporations. There are claims, which I find credible, that the “Big 6” and their products bear major responsibility for pesticide-resistant weeds and insects, and are implicated in impoverishment of small farmers, collapse of honeybee colonies, water pollution, and loss of biodiversity and soil fertility—all serious attacks on the common good. And similar consolidation continues in most every sector of the economy.

As individual corporations grow in size, global reach, and political power, we see a corresponding shift in the primary function of national governments—from serving the interests of their citizens to assuring the security of corporate property and profits. They apply police and military powers to this end, subsidize corporate operations, and facilitate corporate tax evasion. They let corporations off the hook with slap-on-the-wrist fines for criminal actions. Rarely, if ever, do they punish top executives.

We the People never voted to yield our sovereignty to transnational corporations. Nor was the corporate takeover a response to public need.

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Incessant Consumer Surveillance Is Leaking Into Physical Stores – Nextgov.com

Kaveh Waddell reports for The Atlantic:

Image result for The Aisles Have EyesYou just wanted to shop for a birthday cake in peace—instead, you got ads that follow you around the internet, and coupons in your email that remember exactly which products you clicked on. So you shut down your computer, stick your hands into your pockets, and walk to the store. Here, among the throngs of shoppers, you may feel more anonymous than you do behind a screen unburdened by cookies and tracking pixels, and you can browse in peace.

Except not really. If you brought your smartphone, its GPS probably tattled on you before you even walked through the doors. Take your phone out and it might start picking up inaudible sounds broadcast throughout the store to pinpoint your location and send you targeted ads. Surveillance cameras hidden in light fixtures track your movement through the aisles, and could even be using facial-recognition software to understand your preferences and habits and attach them to your personal profile.

For the past five years or so, brick-and-mortar retail stores have been trying to catch up with their online counterparts in tracking and personalization. Joseph Turow, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania, has been studying the marketing and advertising industries for decades. He chronicled the most recent developments in retail surveillance for his forthcoming book, “The Aisles Have Eyes,” which will be released by Yale University Press in January.

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TiSA Agreement Leaks Show Corporations Pushing Privatization of Public Services

Sharmini Peries speaks to Deborah James, Director of International Programs at CEPR, who discusses TiSA. (The Real News)

Neoliberalism Is Creating Loneliness, That’s What’s Wrenching Society Apart

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children’s mental health in England reflect a global crisis.

There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same: human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart. Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology. Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.

In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet. The education system becomes more brutally competitive by the year. Employment is a fight to the near-death with a multitude of other desperate people chasing ever fewer jobs. The modern overseers of the poor ascribe individual blame to economic circumstance. Endless competitions on television feed impossible aspirations as real opportunities contract.

Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do.

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Leaked Hillary Clinton Emails: Could Bernie Sanders Have Won Primary If Leak Occurred Earlier?

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Lee Fang of the Intercept, who discusses Wikileaks releasing thousands of John Podesta’s emails, including excerpts of Hillary Clinton’s paid remarks to Wall Street firms. (Democracy Now!)

Yahoo Secretly Scanned Customer Emails for U.S. Intelligence

Joseph Menn reports for Reuters:

Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter.

The company complied with a classified U.S. government demand, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said three former employees and a fourth person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to a spy agency’s request by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified.

Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

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Fake News and False Flags: How the Pentagon Paid a British PR Firm $500m for Top Secret Iraq Propaganda

Crofton Black and Abigail Fielding-Smith report for the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

General Petraeus signed off on Bell Pottinger's material, says Wells.Photo by Cate Gillon\/Getty ImagesThe Pentagon gave a controversial UK PR firm over half a billion dollars to run a top secret propaganda programme in Iraq, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can reveal.

Bell Pottinger’s output included short TV segments made in the style of Arabic news networks and fake insurgent videos which could be used to track the people who watched them, according to a former employee.

The agency’s staff worked alongside high-ranking US military officers in their Baghdad Camp Victory headquarters as the insurgency raged outside.

Bell Pottinger’s former chairman Lord Tim Bell confirmed to the Sunday Times, which worked with the Bureau on this story, that his firm had worked on a “covert” military operation “covered by various secrecy agreements.”

Bell Pottinger reported to the Pentagon, the CIA and the National Security Council on its work in Iraq, he said.

Bell, one of Britain’s most successful public relations executives, is credited with honing Margaret Thatcher’s steely image and helping the Conservative party win three elections. The agency he co-founded has had a roster of clients including repressive regimes and Asma al-Assad, the wife of the Syrian president.

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Is the Bayer-Monsanto Merger Too Big To Succeed?

David Francis writes for Foreign Policy:

Image resultIt took $66 billion — the largest all-cash transaction in history – for German biotech giant Bayer to win control over Monsanto, the global seed market leader. The takeover creates a very unique — and to some, very unsettling — kind of corporate beast, one tasked with feeding billions as temperatures rise and farmlands shrink.

If the merger goes through — and that’s a very big if, given that both EU and American regulators are likely to carefully scrutinize the deal — the new firm would corner more than a quarter of the world market for seeds and pesticides. In the United States, it would control some 58 percent of cottonseed sales. According to Vox, the new company would be the largest agribusiness in the world, selling 29 percent of the world’s seeds and 24 percent of its pesticides.

That puts one firm in a pole position to influence, and potentially control, how the world feeds itself. Regulators are likely to investigate whether the merged company will be too big and able to squeeze farmers and shoppers at the price register. And it comes as the rest of the agribusiness industry is also consolidating, in part to counteract slumping commodity prices due to the economic slowdown in China, which trickles down and forces farmers to spend less on supplies.

The specter of greater market power for firms that make the seeds that many poor farmers need to buy each spring before planting is sparking panic in the developing world.

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Heroin, Nazis, and Agent Orange: Inside the $66 Billion Merger of the Year

Lydia Mulvany reports for Bloomberg:

Image result for monsanto bayer historyTwo giants of the farming and chemical industries agreed to merge Wednesday in a $66 billion deal: the U.S.’s Monsanto and Germany’s Bayer, the original maker of aspirin. It’s the year’s biggest deal and will create the world’s largest supplier of seeds and farm chemicals, with $26 billion in combined annual revenue from agriculture. If the merger goes through, it will combine two companies with a long and storied history that shaped what we eat, the drugs we take and how we grow our food.

Bayer: Then & Now

Two friends making dyes from coal-tar started Bayer in 1863, and it developed into a chemical and drug company famous for introducing heroin as a cough remedy in 1896, then aspirin in 1899. The company was a Nazi contractor during World War II and used forced labor. Today, the firm based in Leverkusen, Germany, makes drugs and has a crop science unit, which makes weed and bug killers. Its goal is to dominate the chemical and drug markets for people, plants and animals.

Monsanto: Then & Now

Monsanto, founded in 1901, originally made food additives like saccharin before expanding into industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals and agriculture products. It’s famous for making some controversial and highly toxic chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, now banned and commonly known as PCBs, and the herbicide Agent Orange, which was used by the U.S. military in Vietnam. It commercialized Roundup herbicide in the 1970s and began developing genetically modified corn and soybean seeds in the 1980s. In 2000, a new Monsanto emerged from a series of corporate mergers.

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