Tag Archives | Corporation Watch

The Private Companies Helping Cops Spy on Protesters

John Knefel reviews promotional materials for private spy companies showing that mass surveillance technology is being sold to police departments as a way to monitor dissent, for Rolling Stone:

Graphic from 3iMIND with heading "Profile A Target"

Graphic from 3iMIND with heading “Profile A Target”

The documents leaked to media outlets by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden this year have brought national intelligence gathering and surveillance operations under a level of scrutiny not seen in decades. Often left out of this conversation, though, is the massive private surveillance industry that provides services to law enforcement, defense agencies and corporations in the U.S. and abroad – a sprawling constellation of companies and municipalities. “It’s a circle where everyone [in these industries] is benefitting,” says Eric King, lead researcher of watchdog group Privacy International. “Everyone gets more powerful, and richer.”

Promotional materials for numerous private spy companies boast of how law enforcement organizations can use their products to monitor people at protests or other large crowds – including by keeping tabs on individual people’s social media presence.

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The Mass Incarceration Telecommunications Industry

phonesFrom a Nation on the booming business of privatized prison profiteering:

The calls were expensive, more than a dollar per minute. In order to accept one, I had to set up a prepaid account with Global Tel* Link, or GTL, “The Next Generation of Correctional Technology.” If Tim called and my account was out of money, the automated voice would prompt me to replenish it via credit card, while he waited on the other line. “By accepting an inmate call, you acknowledge and agree that your conversation may be monitored and recorded,” the company advises.

For Tim’s relatives, this had been their reality for years. GTL makes more than $500 million a year exploiting families like his, who face the choice between paying exorbitant phone rates to keep in touch with incarcerated loved ones—up to $1.13 per minute—or simply giving up on regular phone calls. Like many other telecommunications companies that enjoy profitable monopolies on prison and jail contracts across the country, GTL wins its contracts by offering a kickback—or “commission”—to the prison or jail systems it serves.

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Government Shutdown Doesn’t Slow Negotiations On The Trans-Pacific Partnership

tpp

Democracy Now! reports the latest on the previously discussed sinister and corporate power-grab:

As the federal government shutdown continues, Secretary of State John Kerry heads to Asia for secret talks on a sweeping new trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The TPP is often referred to by critics as “NAFTA on steroids,” and would establish a free trade zone that would stretch from Vietnam to Chile, encompassing 800 million people and nearly 40 percent of the global economy. While the text of the treaty has been largely negotiated behind closed doors and, until June, kept secret from Congress, more than 600 corporate advisers reportedly have access to the measure, including employees of Halliburton and Monsanto.

“This is not mainly about trade,” says Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. “It is a corporate Trojan horse. The agreement has 29 chapters, and only five of them have to do with trade.

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How Monsanto Is Planning To Profit From Climate Change

Landscape

Not everyone is either worried or skeptical regarding man-made global warming. Mother Jones on how Monsanto is eagerly banking on it:

Data to help farmers grow crops in a changing climate. Climate Corporation, which Monsanto is acquiring, sells detailed weather and soil information to “help…manage and adapt to climate change.” Monsanto thinks the ag data business will be a $20-billion market.

Insurance for when it’s too hot, cold, dry, wet, or otherwise extreme outside. Climate Corporation currently sells both federally subsidized crop insurance and supplemental plans.

Drought-resistant corn. Monsanto lists the effects of climate change-related precipitation changes and droughts as a potential “opportunity.” This year, Monsanto started rolling out a new line of patented, first-of-its-kind genetically engineered corn seeds that are resistant to drought.

Cotton that needs less water to grow. The company is piloting genetically modified cotton that that can grow while using less water and survive drought.

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The “Experts” Who Pushed For Military Involvement In Syria Are Paid By The Defense Industry

1Public Accountability Initiative on “impartial” pundits and think tanks presented by the media arguing for war:

During the public debate around the question of whether to attack Syria, Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to George W. Bush, made a series of high-profile media appearances. Hadley argued strenuously for military intervention in appearances on CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and Bloomberg TV, and authored a Washington Post op-ed.

In each case, Hadley’s audience was not informed that he serves as a director of Raytheon, the weapons manufacturer that makes the Tomahawk cruise missiles that were widely cited as a weapon of choice in a potential strike against Syria. He owns 11,477 shares of Raytheon stock, which traded at all-time highs during the Syria debate ($77.65 on August 23, making Hadley’s share’s worth $891,189). Despite this financial stake, Hadley was presented to his audience as an experienced, independent national security expert.

Though Hadley’s undisclosed conflict is particularly egregious, it is not unique.

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Why Monsanto Bought The Climate Corporation (It’s The Weather, Stupid)

The_Climate_Corporation_Logo2Monsanto’s billion-dollar acquisition of The Climate Corporation plants the seeds for an agribusiness revolution, writes Vlad Savov for The Verge:

To look at Monsanto’s product pages, you’d think the company’s business is in selling two closely related commodities: agricultural seeds and weed killers. But that would be like saying that Verizon sells people data and phone calls. What these companies are truly engaged in is an effort to make themselves indispensable to their target market’s daily activities. Now Monsanto is stepping up that campaign by expanding into the high-tech world of big data with its $930 million acquisition of The Climate Corporation.

It’s not that Monsanto is unfamiliar with the cutting edge of technology — as its long list of patents will attest — but so far most of the company’s energies have been spent on altering, enhancing, and otherwise rearranging the basic ingredients that go into land farming. With Climate Corp’s expertise in hyper-local weather prediction and big data analytics, Monsanto looks set to become a fully fledged services company as well.

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Google: Doing Evil with ALEC

EvilGoogleGoogle Inc. is now aligned with the notorious ALEC.

Quietly, Google has joined ALEC — the American Legislative Exchange Council — the shadowy corporate alliance that pushes odious laws through state legislatures.

In the process, Google has signed onto an organization that promotes such regressive measures as tax cuts for tobacco companies, school privatization to help for-profit education firms, repeal of state taxes for the wealthy and opposition to renewable energy disliked by oil companies.

ALEC’s reactionary efforts – thoroughly documented by the Center for Media and Democracy — are shameful assaults on democratic principles. And Google is now among the hundreds of companies in ALEC. Many people who’ve admired Google are now wondering: how could this be?

Well, in his recent book “Digital Disconnect: How Capitalism Is Turning the Internet Against Democracy,” Robert W. McChesney provides vital context. “It is true that with the advent of the Internet many of the successful giants — Apple and Google come to mind — were begun by idealists who may have been uncertain whether they really wanted to be old-fashioned capitalists,” he writes.… Read the rest

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When Sugar Was Marketed As Healthy Eating

Buzzfeed has a collection of magazine advertising from the 1950s through 1970s run by the American Sugar Association’s PR division, Sugar Information. For decades sugar was aggressively advertised to consumers (specifically women) as a healthy source of energy and weight loss, providing the “natural energy” needed by busy kids and parents while containing less calories than “fattening” foods such as apples and grapefruit (no, really). Someone you know struggling with obesity? They better up their soda intake:

sugar

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Protesting Workers Shut Down Hundreds Of Clothing Factories In Bangladesh

Vast numbers of workers who sew the clothing of many of America's biggest brands didn't get the memo that they are supposed to be grateful for 12 cents an hour in awful conditions. Al Jazeera America writes:
Garment factory workers in Bangladesh protested for the third day in a row Monday, calling on their government to raise the minimum wage from about $38 dollars per month to $100. Garment workers often labor up to 80 hours per week. The protests forced the shutdown of hundreds of factories in the industrial Gazipur neighborhood near the capital, Dhaka, where factory owners and government officials called for workers to return to work. Western corporations that rely on Bangladeshi labor to make much of the clothing sold in their stores -- including Walmart, Gap and H&M -- appeared reluctant to comment publicly on the protests. Abdul Baten, police chief of the Gazipur industrial district, told AFP that "up to 200,000 workers" had joined the latest demonstrations.
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MIT Study Claims Air Pollution Kills 200,000 Americans Each Year

200,000I believe this is the ultimate example of what is known as “cost externalizing.” Via the MIT News Office:

Researchers from MIT’s Laboratory for Aviation and the Environment have come out with some sobering new data on air pollution’s impact on Americans’ health.

The group tracked ground-level emissions from sources such as industrial smokestacks, vehicle tailpipes, marine and rail operations, and commercial and residential heating throughout the United States, and found that such air pollution causes about 200,000 early deaths each year. Emissions from road transportation are the most significant contributor, causing 53,000 premature deaths, followed closely by power generation, with 52,000.

In 5,695 U.S. cities, the researchers [found] the highest emissions-related mortality rate in Baltimore, where 130 out of every 100,000 residents likely die in a given year due to long-term exposure to air pollution.

Barrett says that a person who dies from an air pollution-related cause typically dies about a decade earlier than he or she otherwise might have.

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