Category Archives: Corporations

Washington Post Makes History: First Paper to Call for Prosecution of Its Own Source (After Accepting Pulitzer)

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Three of the four media outlets which received and published large numbers of secret NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden – The Guardian, The New York Times and The Intercept – have called for the U.S. government to allow the NSA whistleblower to return to the U.S. with no charges. That’s the normal course for a news organization, which owes its sources duties of protection, and which – by virtue of accepting the source’s materials and then publishing them – implicitly declares the source’s information to be in the public interest.

But not The Washington Post. In the face of a growing ACLU-and-Amnesty-led campaign to secure a pardon for Snowden, timed to this weekend’s release of the Oliver Stone biopic “Snowden,” the Post editorial page not only argued today in opposition to a pardon, but explicitly demanded that Snowden — their paper’s own source — stand trial on espionage charges or, as a “second-best solution,” “accept a measure of criminal responsibility for his excesses and the U.S. government offers a measure of leniency.”

In doing so, The Washington Post has achieved an ignominious feat in U.S. media history: the first-ever paper to explicitly editorialize for the criminal prosecution of its own paper’s source — one on whose back the paper won and eagerly accepted a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. But even more staggering than this act of journalistic treachery against their paper’s own source are the claims made to justify it.

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There Is No Media

David Uberti writes for Columbia Journalism Review:

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 12.00.53 PM.png[…] Herein lies the caveat journalists should consider before they wet the bed over Gallup’s latest data: There is no media. There is only my media and your media.

“The media”—“such as newspapers, TV, and radio” per Gallup’s definition—has given way to an amorphous blob of email newsletters, podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels, tweets, Snaps, Facebook Live streams, and countless other vessels we couldn’t have imagined 20 years ago. Many people who produce content for them adhere to journalistic standards, but an increasing proportion of them do not. Consuming the fruits of that labor is an intensely personalized experience.

Peer further into Gallup’s data. Trust in media among self-identified Republicans, Democrats, and independents was in the same ballpark in 1998. That was in the early years of the cable news wars. The nearly two decades since coincided with an intense fragmentation of media among more digitally focused individuals and organizations.

Nowhere has this explosion been more forceful than with conservatives, whose half-century project of demonizing the lamestream media has begun splattering into myriad splotches on the internet. The world of a lone conservative media superpower, Fox News, is gradually giving way to a multi-polar world of abundant right-leaning choices.

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Why Do Americans Distrust the Media?

Derek Thompson writes for The Atlantic:

Do Americans “trust” “the media”? The question is often asked and often answered. But, to be fair, it’s not a very precise question.

Trust is a slippery measuring stick. Do I “trust” technology? Well, I trust strangers on Uber to be on time, but don’t trust my cable company to arrive within a four-hour window; I trust my iPhone to not explode, but don’t trust my email to be unhackable. Asking whether I trust “technology,” yes or no, is asking for an non-summarizable opinion of a diverse group of products and people, which fall along a continuum of confidence.

“The media,” like “technology,” is not a single tangible object, but rather an information galaxy, a vast and complex star system composed of diverse and opposing organizations, which are themselves composed of a motley group of people, each of whom are neither all good nor all bad, but mostly flawed media merchants, with individual strengths, weaknesses, biases, and blindspots. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are almost 200,000 Americans working for broadcast television and cable programming, 197,000 employed in digital publishing and broadcasting, 183,000 working for newspapers, 99,000 working for magazines, 86,000 in radio, and 64,000 employed in the editing and production of books. Asking survey respondents to briefly summarize their feelings about the daily work of one million strangers is asking for an impossible, and potentially meaningless, oversimplification, like, “Do you think food is too raw?” or “Is clothing red?”

With these enormous caveats out of the way, the fact remains that Americans’ “trust” in “the media” is falling steadily, according to Gallup. Even if the precise definitions of these terms is debatable, the overall decline is clear and noteworthy.

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Why the News Media May Be Too Broken to Stop Trump by Itself

John Ziegler writes for Mediate:

trump[…] During the past couple of weeks it has become clear that the news media may not really be fully devoted to disqualifying Trump and, to the extent that they are, they may be too badly broken as institution to pull it off. This growing concern has led to several interesting opinion pieces in the mainstream media which range from frustration/confusion to overt panic.

The rising realization seems to be, just as I wrote about a couple of months ago, that the modern media may just not be equipped to properly deal with a candidate like Trump. There are many reasons this is the case; his lack of any formal political record, his talent for bringing ratings (which is like kryptonite to the media’s intensity of criticism), his amazing ability to constantly make stuff up so that” lies” are no longer considered “news,” and a dramatic lack of public trust in the news media (especially among conservatives) are all significant elements of this phenomenon.

However, for my money, the three most significant explanations for the news media’s impotence (at least so far) regarding Trump have to do with their pathetically short attention spans in this ratings-driven environment, Trump offering too MUCH fodder for attack, and a “false equivalency” which results in a “fake fairness” of coverage effect.

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The Behavioral Science Behind the Negative TV Ads of Trump and Clinton

Christopher Graves and Steve Simpson writes for Harvard Business Review:

In a series of conversations leading up to the U.S. presidential election in November, Christopher Graves — a recent Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Resident honoree for behavioral science, Global Chairman of Ogilvy Public Relations, and chair of the PR Council — and Steve Simpson — Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy & Mather North America — will dissect and debate the candidates’ communications and marketing strategies and techniques.

Graves: Steve, let’s kick off with two television spots that have been running head to head from Clinton and Trump. Trump’s first authorized general election spot, called “Two Americas: Immigration” sets a vision of a dystopian America under Clinton against a safe America under Trump. The first half, under Clinton, is dark and foreboding. Then the tone shifts abruptly.

 

Disinfo Wars: Alex Jones’ War on Your Mind

Nolan Higdon wrote for Project Censored in 2013:

In 1833, William Miller predicted the second coming of Jesus Christ in the year 1843. Only after his fourth failed prediction, each of which saw hundreds of thousands of followers turn out, did his followers abandon him. By this time, Miller had already absconded with copious amounts of their money, spent on his publications and for ascension robes that were supposed to prepare them for Jesus Christ’s arrival. A profiteer relying on distortion and unfulfilled predictions, contemporary radio personality and activist Alex Jones operates in the same mode as Miller. Instead of ascension robes, Jones profits from the fear and uncertainty he relentlessly peddles via DVDs, publications, books, a TV show, a radio show, and websites.

Jones is recognized as a spearheading figure of anti-establishment reporting for many Google-searching-truth-seekers. Jones’s work includes an abundance of unfulfilled predictions that often rely on distorted and unproven claims. Despite his many predictions going unfulfilled, Jones and his claims increasingly appear in the corporate press as major media outlets rely on Internet sources for news content. As a result, the works of Alex Jones have broken into the so-called mainstream. This creates a serious problem for investigative journalists and scholars who focus on controversial subjects. Jones’ self-promotional, unfulfilled predictions and his speculative writings and reports can take away from other legitimate, fact-based researchers who investigate similar topics by shifting the focus from the relevant facts of the particular topic to his unverified and often sensational claims. The result is that those inclined to believe the so-called mainstream media disassociate themselves with some political movements and topics because Jones’ and his speculative reports become the face of said particular movements and topics. Jones’ ability and pattern of delegitimizing controversial, yet evidence-based contingents of so-called truth movements through radicalization and guilt by association, is eerily analogous to the blueprints of various US Government programs– most notably COINTELPRO from the 1960s and ‘70s. More recently, this has also been the case regarding establishment efforts to discredit the Occupy Wall St. Movement. This article will explore the work of Alex Jones’ and the effects he has had on others who research similar controversial subjects, and how research into those very subjects comes to be viewed in the public once Jones is perceived as a spokesperson or figurehead.

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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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The Shady History of Big Sugar

David Singerman writes for The New York Times:

On Monday, an article in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to publish a study blaming fat and cholesterol for coronary heart disease while largely exculpating sugar. This study, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine in 1967, helped set the agenda for decades of public health policy designed to steer Americans into low-fat foods, which increased carbohydrate consumption and exacerbated our obesity epidemic.

This revelation rightly reminds us to view industry-funded nutrition science with skepticism and to continue to demand transparency in scientific research. But ending Big Sugar’s hold on the American diet will require a broader understanding of the various ways in which the industry, for 150 years, has shaped government policy in order to fuel our sugar addiction.

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Harvard’s Sugar Daddy

Michael Cook reports for Bio Edge:

Harvard nutrition researchers in the 1960s were suborned by the sugar industry to deflect the attention of the public away from its baneful role in chronic disease, claim hard-hitting articles in JAMA released this week.

Based on studies of the archives of the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF), researchers found that in the early 1960s three Harvard scientists were paid US$6,500 (about $50,000 in today’s dollars) to write a review of research into the role of sugar and fat in heart disease. The sugar industry selected the papers and the resulting two-part review, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, minimized the role of sugar and painted saturated fat as the villain. Its conclusion was that “there was ‘no doubt’ that the only dietary intervention required to prevent CHD was to reduce dietary cholesterol and substitute polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat in the American diet.” The SRF’s intimate involvement in the study was not disclosed.

The links of the scientists to the sugar industry were scandalously close. Dr. Fredrick J. Stare, the chairman of Harvard’s nutrition department at the time, and the senior author of the 1967 research review, was an ad hoc member of the sugar industry’s scientific advisory board.

This lack of transparency and conflict of interest may have had far-reaching effects. For the next 50 years, nutritionists focused on fighting fat while underestimating the role of sugar in coronary heart disease. For years they warned of the dangers of fat, leading people to eat low-fat, high-sugar foods which have contributed to America’s obesity epidemic.

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Snowden by Oliver Stone (Trailer)

Leaked Documents Reveal Secretive Influence of Corporate Cash on Politics

Ed Pilkington reports for The Guardian:

The pervasive influence of corporate cash in the democratic process, and the extraordinary lengths to which politicians, lobbyists and even judges go to solicit money, are laid bare in sealed court documents leaked to the Guardian.

The John Doe files amount to 1,500 pages of largely unseen material gathered in evidence by prosecutors investigating alleged irregularities in political fundraising. Last year the Wisconsin supreme court ordered that all the documents should be destroyed, though a set survived that has now been obtained by the news organisation.

The files open a window on a world that is very rarely glimpsed by the public, in which millions of dollars are secretly donated by major corporations and super-wealthy individuals to third-party groups in an attempt to sway elections. They speak to a visceral theme of the 2016 presidential cycle: the distortion of American democracy by big business that has been slammed by both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

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From Russian TV Network, Little Love for Donald Trump

Zaid Jilani reports for The Intercept:

Donald Trump’s interview with Larry King on the Russian-government-funded television network RT America is being widely seen in the mainstream U.S. media as evidence of unseemly coziness between Trump and authoritarian Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

The interview came after months of claims by Democratic Party officials and news media pundits that the Russian government is trying to get Trump elected.

RT America has a long history of coverage that benefits the Russian government and is critical of the United States, as many former employees have complained.

But there’s one glaring problem with the theory that RT America and the Russian government are fond of Trump: RT America is arguably more critical of Trump than U.S. media.

The interview with King itself was far from a softball event — with the host pressing Trump on topics from releasing his tax returns to his utter lack of any strategy in the Middle East. And it’s not uncommon to see criticism of Trump on the network.

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Mark Zuckerberg Accused of Abusing Power After Facebook Deletes ‘Napalm Girl’ Post

Julia Carrie Wong reports for The Guardian:

Norway’s largest newspaper has published a front-page open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, lambasting the company’s decision to censor a historic photograph of the Vietnam war and calling on Zuckerberg to recognize and live up to his role as “the world’s most powerful editor”.

Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief and CEO of Aftenposten, accused Zuckerberg of thoughtlessly “abusing your power” over the social media site that has become a lynchpin of the distribution of news and information around the world, writing, “I am upset, disappointed – well, in fact even afraid – of what you are about to do to a mainstay of our democratic society.”

“I am worried that the world’s most important medium is limiting freedom instead of trying to extend it, and that this occasionally happens in an authoritarian way,” he added.

The controversy stems from Facebook’s decision to delete a post by Norwegian writer Tom Egeland that featured The Terror of War, a Pulitzer prize-winning photograph by Nick Ut that showed children – including the naked 9-year-old Kim Phúc – running away from a napalm attack during the Vietnam war. Egeland’s post discussed “seven photographs that changed the history of warfare” – a group to which the “napalm girl” image certainly belongs.

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Five Corporations Now Dominate America’s Privatized Intelligence Industry

Tim Shorrock reports for The Nation:

Image result for America's Privatized Intelligence IndustryThe recent integration of two military contractors into a $10 billion behemoth is the latest in a wave of mergers and acquisitions that have transformed America’s privatized, high-tech intelligence system into what looks like an old-fashioned monopoly.

In August, Leidos Holdings, a major contractor for the Pentagon and the National Security Agency, completed a long-planned merger with the Information Systems & Global Solutions division of Lockheed Martin, the global military giant. The 8,000 operatives employed by the new company do everything from analyzing signals for the NSA to tracking down suspected enemy fighters for US Special Forces in the Middle East and Africa.

The sheer size of the new entity makes Leidos one of the most powerful companies in the intelligence-contracting industry, which is worth about $50 billion today. According to a comprehensive study I’ve just completed on public and private employment in intelligence, Leidos is now the largest of five corporations that together employ nearly 80 percent of the private-sector employees contracted to work for US spy and surveillance agencies.

Yes, that’s 80 percent. For the first time since spy agencies began outsourcing their core analytic and operational work in the late 1990s, the bulk of the contracted work goes to a handful of companies: Leidos, Booz Allen Hamilton, CSRA, SAIC, and CACI International. This concentration of “pure plays”—a Wall Street term for companies that makes one product for a single marketmarks a fundamental shift in an industry that was once a highly diverse mix of large military contractors, small and medium technology companies, and tiny “Beltway Bandits” surrounding Washington, D.C.

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TTIP May Be Dead, But Something Even Worse Is Coming

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Is it over? Can it be true? If so, it’s a victory for a campaign that once looked hopeless, pitched against a fortress of political, corporate and bureaucratic power.

TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – appears to be dead. The German economy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, says that “the talks with the United States have de facto failed”. The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, has announced “a clear halt”. Belgian and Austrian ministers have said the same thing. People power wins. For now.

But the lobbyists who demanded this charter for corporate rights never give up. TTIP has been booed off the stage but another treaty, whose probable impacts are almost identical, is waiting in the wings. And this one is more advanced, wanting only final approval. If this happens before Britain leaves the EU, we are likely to be stuck with it for 20 years.

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta) is ostensibly a deal between the EU and Canada. You might ask what harm Canada could do us. But it allows any corporation that operates there, wherever its headquarters might be, to sue governments before an international tribunal. It threatens to tear down laws protecting us from exploitation and prevent parliaments on both sides of the Atlantic from legislating.

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Bayer Bids $65b for Monsanto, One of the Most Hated Companies in the World

Angelo Young writes for Salon:

There are many companies whose very names have become synonymous with the evils of their industries, if not blatant examples of general corporate turpitude: Halliburton (Iraq war profiteering), Goldman Sachs (“The Vampire Squid“) and McDonald’s (a super-sized contributor to the obesity epidemic) to name but a few.

Naturally, the bioengineering sector has its own Voldemort-like villain: Monsanto Co. If liberal HBO talk-show host Bill Maher, Occupy Monsanto activists and monoculture opponents are to be believed, the St. Louis-based agricultural giant is poisoning the planet with mutant crops and herbicides and threatening the world’s food safety and security.

But if German pharmaceuticals and chemicals maker Bayer AG is to be believed, Monsanto is a moneymaking prize like no other. On Tuesday, Bayer came one step closer to becoming the new bad boy of GM crops, upping its bid to acquire Monsanto to more than $65 billion. In response, Monsanto has agreed to allow Bayer to review its books as part of a due-diligence check, a signal that the companies are closing in on on a friendly (rather than hostile) acquisition.

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Warner Bros Issuing Takedowns For Its Own Site Is No Laughing Matter

Mike Masnick reports for Techdirt:

Warner Brothers logoLots of people have been talking the past few days about TorrentFreak’s discovery of the fact that Warner Bros., via its hired DMCA agent Vobile, has been issuing DMCA takedowns on its own website. Specifically, in recent notices to Google from Vobile, on behalf of Warner Bros., the infringing domains include WB’s own official websites for movies like “Batman, the Dark Knight” and “The Matrix.”

It’s easy to look at this and laugh. And the story’s been getting lots of attention thanks to places like the BBC picking up on it as well. And thus, jokes like this one are an easy target.

And, yes, this is hardly the first time that companies have been caught targeting themselves. After all, Viacom famously sued YouTube over Viacom’s own promotional clips that it had uploaded to the site. And, the recording industry is famous for taking down the official videos of its artists.

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Roger Ailes Hires Lawyer Who Took Down Gawker to Go After New York Magazine‘s Gabriel Sherman

Rachel Stockman reports for Law Newz:

ailesLos Angeles based attorney Charles Harder is a busy man. First, he represented Hulk Hogan and won a $140 million defamation suit which resulted in Gawker‘s demise. Then, he was hired by Melania Trump and filed a $150 million lawsuit against The Daily Mail which led them to retract a story. Now, the libel lawyer has been retained by former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes to represent him in possible legal action against Gabriel Sherman, a reporter for New York Magazine, LawNewz.com has confirmed.

“New York Media and Gabriel Sherman were contacted by Charles Harder on behalf of Roger and Elizabeth Ailes, asking that we preserve documents related to the Ailes, for a possible defamation claim. The letter sent by Harder was not informative as to the substance of their objections to the reporting. Sherman’s work is and has been carefully reported,” Lauren Starke, a spokesperson for NY Mag said in a statement to LawNewz.com.

Sherman is best known for his series of articles accusing Roger Ailes of sexually harassing multiple woman. He’s been a constant thorn in the side of Fox News ever since publishing Ailes’ unauthorized biography. The network even reportedly had a massive opposition research file on Sherman. In the journalism world, he’s been praised for exposing the alleged culture of sexual discrimination at Fox News.

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Who Paid for the Democratic and Republican Conventions?

Anthony L. Fisher reports for Reason:

Here’s one bright spot in a bleak election year: This summer’s Democratic and Republican conventions were not subsidized by taxpayers.

In 2012, the public contributions to those distinguished demonstrations of democracy—the shows where you could see Clint Eastwood hectoring an empty chair or a weepy video tribute to Ted Kennedy—ran upwards of $18.2 million each (not including the cost of security), according to a May 2016 report from the Congressional Research Service. But this year, for the first time since 1972, the parties and their host cities’ host committees were on the hook to raise all the money to stage their own four-day infomercials. Under the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act, passed in 2014, funds that once went to subsidize political conventions have been diverted to pediatric health care research.

Supporters of convention subsidies argued—in the words of that Congressional Research Service report—that “conventions had a history of questionable fundraising and that eliminating public funding raised the prospects for real or apparent corruption.” Yet corporations have been openly sponsoring the conventions for years, even as public funds were also available. In that context, relying slightly more heavily on private financing seems a trivial concern.

A more substantial concern, at least for the Republicans, was certain corporations’ skittishness about having their brands associated with any event where Donald J. Trump was expected to receive a presidential nomination.

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The bloody history of Labor Day

Jeff Spross for The Week:

Most people probably don’t think of Labor Day as a holiday commemorating struggle and death. But that’s what it used to be.

The period between the Civil War and the Great Depression was a time of massive upheaval: The industrial revolution swept in, and millions of Americans were forced to leave their farms and move to cities in search of work in the newly-formed rail, steel, textile, and shipping industries.

Economic policymaking was still ad hoc and primitive. Massive recessions regularly created mass poverty and threw enormous numbers of people out of work. The rules, both legal and social, were still being formed for how employers could treat employees, and how the wealth they all collectively produced would be distributed. Inequality soared to enormous heights by the end of the period. The minimum wage, the 40-hour work week, laws against child labor, and more were only instituted after pitched political combat. Unions were growing as the one avenue by which workers could fight for their interests, and the economy saw waves of regular strikes and work stoppages that would be unheard of today.

Sometimes, the battles were literal: Employers and politicians were not shy about busting unions with police forces and hired enforcers. Riots, deaths, and bombings were not uncommon.

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Ending of TTIP Talks May Be Tactical But Should They Be Celebrated? Interview with Nick Dearden

Sharmini Peries speaks to Global Justice Now Director Nick Dearden who warns that if the left does not develop an alternative to failed trade agreements, the European far right or Trump-style economic nationalism will take their place. (The Real News)

Inside Facebook’s Political-Media Machine

John Herrman reports for The New York Times:

[…] Facebook, in the years leading up to this election, hasn’t just become nearly ubiquitous among American internet users; it has centralized online news consumption in an unprecedented way. According to the company, its site is used by more than 200 million people in the United States each month, out of a total population of 320 million. A 2016 Pew study found that 44 percent of Americans read or watch news on Facebook. These are approximate exterior dimensions and can tell us only so much. But we can know, based on these facts alone, that Facebook is hosting a huge portion of the political conversation in America.

The Facebook product, to users in 2016, is familiar yet subtly expansive. Its algorithms have their pick of text, photos and video produced and posted by established media organizations large and small, local and national, openly partisan or nominally unbiased. But there’s also a new and distinctive sort of operation that has become hard to miss: political news and advocacy pages made specifically for Facebook, uniquely positioned and cleverly engineered to reach audiences exclusively in the context of the news feed. These are news sources that essentially do not exist outside of Facebook, and you’ve probably never heard of them. They have names like Occupy Democrats; The Angry Patriot; US Chronicle; Addicting Info; RightAlerts; Being Liberal; Opposing Views; Fed-Up Americans; American News; and hundreds more. Some of these pages have millions of followers; many have hundreds of thousands.

Using a tool called CrowdTangle, which tracks engagement for Facebook pages across the network, you can see which pages are most shared, liked and commented on, and which pages dominate the conversation around election topics. Using this data, I was able to speak to a wide array of the activists and entrepreneurs, advocates and opportunists, reporters and hobbyists who together make up 2016’s most disruptive, and least understood, force in media.

Individually, these pages have meaningful audiences, but cumulatively, their audience is gigantic: tens of millions of people. On Facebook, they rival the reach of their better-funded counterparts in the political media, whether corporate giants like CNN or The New York Times, or openly ideological web operations like Breitbart or Mic. And unlike traditional media organizations, which have spent years trying to figure out how to lure readers out of the Facebook ecosystem and onto their sites, these new publishers are happy to live inside the world that Facebook has created. Their pages are accommodated but not actively courted by the company and are not a major part of its public messaging about media. But they are, perhaps, the purest expression of Facebook’s design and of the incentives coded into its algorithm — a system that has already reshaped the web and has now inherited, for better or for worse, a great deal of America’s political discourse.

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Politics can’t heal until politicians stand clear of the revolving door

John Harris writes for The Guardian:

Populism is rampant. Donald Trump is a contender for the US presidency. Marine Le Pen fancies her chances in France. Across Europe and beyond there is a powerful sense of mainstream politics reaching a state of abject failure. These are volatile, dangerous times: what with all that shouting about greedy, cosseted elites, people close to the summit of power and influence surely ought to be very wary of playing to type.

But just look. This week the petition protesting at José Manuel Barroso, a former president of the European commission, taking a new job as a nonexecutive chairman and adviser to Goldman Sachs International surpassed 75,000 signatures. It is the work of employees of the EU, whose horror at Barroso’s move is captured in its preamble, and reference to the “European project’s deteriorating image among our families, friends and neighbours as well as the many citizens we encounter all over Europe”. They are aiming at 150,000 signatories, and want the appointment to be referred to the European court of justice, which could theoretically take away Barroso’s €100,000-a-year pension.

How much he’ll be paid is unclear. But in a role partly built around advice about the consequences of Brexit, Barroso will be working for the bank that played a key role in the US subprime crisis, and helped Greece mask its fatal debt problems. The whole spectacle suggests a man gleefully posing for his own caricature, and it is hardly unique: indeed, highlighting a revolving door that never stops turning, his predecessor at Goldman Sachs International was Ireland’s former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland.

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How Fox News Women Took Down Roger Ailes

Gabriel Sherman reports for New York Magazine:

ImageIt took 15 days to end the mighty 20-year reign of Roger Ailes at Fox News, one of the most storied runs in media and political history. Ailes built not just a conservative cable news channel but something like a fourth branch of government; a propaganda arm for the GOP; an organization that determined Republican presidential candidates, sold wars, and decided the issues of the day for 2 million viewers. That the place turned out to be rife with grotesque abuses of power has left even its liberal critics stunned. More than two dozen women have come forward to accuse Ailes of sexual harassment, and what they have exposed is both a culture of misogyny and one of corruption and surveillance, smear campaigns and hush money, with implications reaching far wider than one disturbed man at the top.

It began, of course, with a lawsuit. Of all the people who might have brought down Ailes, the former Fox & Friends anchor Gretchen Carlson was among the least likely. A 50-year-old former Miss America, she was the archetypal Fox anchor: blonde, right-wing, proudly anti-intellectual. A memorable Daily Show clip showed Carlson saying she needed to Google the words czar and ignoramus. But television is a deceptive medium. Off-camera, Carlson is a Stanford- and Oxford-educated feminist who chafed at the culture of Fox News. When Ailes made harassing comments to her about her legs and suggested she wear tight-fitting outfits after she joined the network in 2005, she tried to ignore him. But eventually he pushed her too far. When Carlson complained to her supervisor in 2009 about her co-host Steve Doocy, who she said condescended to her on and off the air, Ailes responded that she was “a man hater” and a “killer” who “needed to get along with the boys.” After this conversation, Carlson says, her role on the show diminished. In September 2013, Ailes demoted her from the morning show Fox & Friends to the lower-rated 2 p.m. time slot.

Carlson knew her situation was far from unique: It was common knowledge at Fox that Ailes frequently made inappropriate comments to women in private meetings and asked them to twirl around so he could examine their figures; and there were persistent rumors that Ailes propositioned female employees for sexual favors. The culture of fear at Fox was such that no one would dare come forward. Ailes was notoriously paranoid and secretive — he built a multiroom security bunker under his home and kept a gun in his Fox office, according to Vanity Fair — and he demanded absolute loyalty from those who worked for him. He was known for monitoring employee emails and phone conversations and hiring private investigators. “Watch out for the enemy within,” he told Fox’s staff during one companywide meeting.

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Fast Fashion Is Creating an Environmental Crisis

Alden Wicker reports for Newsweek:

09_09_OldClothes_05[…] Picture yourself with a trash bag of old clothes you’ve just cleaned out of your closet. You think you could get some money out of them, so you take them to a consignment or thrift store, or sell them via one of the new online equivalents, like ThredUp. But they’ll probably reject most of your old clothes, even the ones you paid dearly for, because of small flaws or no longer being in season. With fast fashion speeding up trends and shortening seasons, your clothing is quite likely dated if it’s more than a year old. Many secondhand stores will reject items from fast-fashion chains like Forever 21, H&M, Zara and Topshop. The inexpensive clothing is poor quality, with low resale value, and there’s just too much of it.

If you’re an American, your next step is likely to throw those old clothes in the trash. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 84 percent of unwanted clothes in the United States in 2012 went into either a landfill or an incinerator.

When natural fibers, like cotton, linen and silk, or semi-synthetic fibers created from plant-based cellulose, like rayon, Tencel and modal, are buried in a landfill, in one sense they act like food waste, producing the potent greenhouse gas methane as they degrade. But unlike banana peels, you can’t compost old clothes, even if they’re made of natural materials. “Natural fibers go through a lot of unnatural processes on their way to becoming clothing,” says Jason Kibbey, CEO of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. “They’ve been bleached, dyed, printed on, scoured in chemical baths.” Those chemicals can leach from the textiles and—in improperly sealed landfills—into groundwater. Burning the items in incinerators can release those toxins into the air.

Meanwhile, synthetic fibers, like polyester, nylon and acrylic, have the same environmental drawbacks, and because they are essentially a type of plastic made from petroleum, they will take hundreds of years, if not a thousand, to biodegrade.

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Barack Obama to guest edit Wired magazine in ‘US presidential first’

Freddy Mayhew reports for Press Gazette:

Barack Obama will sit in the editor’s chair for an issue of Wired magazine, becoming the first ever sitting American president to guest edit a magazine, according to its publishers.

The 44th president of the United States will take over editorial direction of the monthly glossy for its November issue. Obama is said to have chosen “frontiers” as his theme for the edition.

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TTIP: German Economy Minister Says EU-US Trade Talks Have Failed

Frank Jordans reports for AP:

Germany Europe US TradeFree trade talks between the European Union and the United States have failed, Germany’s economy minister said Sunday, citing a lack of progress on any of the major sections of the long-running negotiations.

Both Washington and Brussels have pushed for a deal by the end of the year, despite strong misgivings among some EU member states over the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.

Sigmar Gabriel, who is also Germany’s vice chancellor, compared the TTIP negotiations unfavorably with a free trade deal forged between the 28-nation EU and Canada, which he said was fairer for both sides.

“In my opinion, the negotiations with the United States have de facto failed, even though nobody is really admitting it,” Gabriel said during a question-and-answer session with citizens in Berlin.

He noted that in 14 rounds of talks, the two sides haven’t agreed on a single common item out of 27 chapters being discussed.

 

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British Companies Are Selling Advanced Spy Tech to Authoritarian Regimes

Joseph Cox reports for VICE Motherboard:

Since early 2015, over a dozen UK companies have been granted licenses to export powerful telecommunications interception technology to countries around the world, Motherboard has learned. Many of these exports include IMSI-catchers, devices which can monitor large numbers of mobile phones over broad areas.

Some of the UK companies were given permission to export their products to authoritarian states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Egypt; countries with poor human rights records that have been well-documented to abuse surveillance technology.

“At a time when the use of these surveillance tools is still highly controversial in the UK, it is completely unacceptable that companies are allowed to export the same equipment to countries with atrocious human rights records or which lack rule of law altogether. There is absolutely a clear risk that these products can be used for repression and abuses,” Edin Omanovic, research officer at Privacy International, told Motherboard in an email.

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A Guided Tour of the ‘Alt-Right’ by the Trump Campaign Chief’s Website

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR):

“We’re the platform for the alt-right,” Donald Trump’s new campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon, told Mother Jones‘ David Corn (8/22/16)—”we” meaning Breitbart News, the online news outlet that Bannon headed until he was picked to run the turbulent Trump campaign.

And the “alt-right”? Well, Breitbart (3/29/16) tried to explain what that is in a 5,000-word piece last spring, written by Breitbart tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos—perhaps best-known for being banned from Twitter for harassing actress Leslie Jones—and Allum Bokhari, who describes himself as the “resident kebab at Breitbart Tech” and “Milo’s deputy.”

Not that Bokhari and Yiannopoulos find it easy to explain the “alternative right.” When it comes time to sum it up in a nutshell, this is the best they can offer:

Young, creative and eager to commit secular heresies, they have become public enemy No. 1 to Beltway conservatives…. The alt-right has a youthful energy and jarring, taboo-defying rhetoric that have boosted its membership and made it impossible to ignore.

They can tell you what it’s not, though—racist! Despite the fact that everyone seems to think it is:

Some — mostly Establishment types — insist it’s little more than a vehicle for the worst dregs of human society: antisemites, white supremacists and other members of the Stormfront set. They’re wrong…. Lefties dismiss it as racist, while the conservative press, always desperate to avoid charges of bigotry from the Left, has thrown these young readers and voters to the wolves as well.

Rather than giving one definition of the alt-right, the Breitbart article chooses to describe it piece by piece. Let’s put the pieces together and see what kind of picture it makes.

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