Related: Zeitgeist, The Movie, Final Edition
Added: Oct 3, 2008
Source: Google Video
Salam Adhoob, former investigator for Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity, at the Democratic Policy Committee hearing on waste and fraud in Iraq. (By Susan Walsh — Associated Press)
A former Iraqi official estimated yesterday that more than $13 billion meant for reconstruction projects in Iraq was wasted or stolen through elaborate fraud schemes.
Salam Adhoob, a former chief investigator for Iraq’s Commission on Public Integrity, told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee, an arm of the Democratic caucus, that an Iraqi auditing bureau “could not properly account for” the money.
While many of the projects audited “were not needed — and many were never built,” he said, “this very real fact remains: Billions of American dollars that paid for these projects are now gone.”
He said a report that went to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other top Iraqi officials was never published because “nobody cares” about investigating such cases. Many investigators, he said, feared for their safety because 32 of his co-workers have been murdered.
BEIJING (AFP) – China’s tainted milk scandal spiralled into uncharted territory Monday with the government announcing that up to 53,000 children had been sickened and its top product-quality inspector sacked.
In a dramatic update of previous figures, the health ministry said a total of 52,857 children were taken to hospital after drinking milk thought to have been contaminated by the industrial chemical melamine.
Most had “basically recovered” after developing kidney stones, the main symptom of drinking the tainted milk, but 12,892 of them remained in hospital, a health ministry official told AFP.
Paulson, Bernanke, and Congress are conspiring to make the US taxpayer the fall guy for financial stupidity by banks and brokers. Congress is now willing to ram through legislation at the last moment, even though Senate Majority Leader Reid Says “No One Knows What to Do”.
Please consider Paulson, Bernanke Push New Proposal to Cleanse Balance Sheets (at taxpayer expense).
U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke proposed moving troubled assets from the balance sheets of American financial companies into a new institution.
Congressional leaders who met with Paulson and Bernanke late yesterday in Washington said they aim to pass legislation soon. The initiative, which may also insure money-market funds, is aimed at removing the devalued mortgage-linked assets at the root of the worst credit crisis since the Great Depression.
“There are 5 giant multinational corporations who control all 14.000 radio stations in America, all 5.000 TV Stations, 80% of our newspapers, all of our billboards and most of the large internet content providers.”
A child receives an ultrasonic inspection for kidney stones at a children’s hospital in Chengdu, in southwest China’s Sichuan province Friday, Sept. 19, 2008.
BEIJING (AP) – China’s tainted milk crisis widened Friday after tests found the industrial chemical melamine in liquid milk produced by three of the country’s leading dairy companies, the quality watchdog said.
Singapore suspended the sale and import of all Chinese milk and dairy products because several tested items were contaminated.
Tainted baby formula has been blamed for killing four infants and sickening 6,200 in China since the scandal broke last week. Some 1,300 babies, mostly newborns, are currently in hospitals and 158 of them are suffering from acute kidney failure. Thousands of parents across the country were bringing their children to hospitals for health checks.
UNDERCOVER animal activists have filmed horrific scenes of cruelty to farm pigs.
The incidents include workers slamming piglets on floors and leaving them still wriggling to die, beating animals to death with metal rods and inserting rods into sows’ hindquarters.
Activists from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) posed as workers between June and September this year at a farm in the midwestern US state of Iowa, the Associated Press (AP)reports.
Government officials in charge of collecting billions of dollars worth of royalties from oil and gas companies accepted gifts, steered contracts to favored clients and engaged in drug use and illicit sex with employees of the energy firms, federal investigators reported yesterday.
Investigators from the Interior Department’s inspector general’s office said more than a dozen employees, including the former director of the oil royalty program, took meals, ski trips, sports tickets and golf outings from industry representatives. The report alleges that the former director, Gregory W. Smith, also netted more than $30,000 from improper outside work.
The Debut of Chrome, Google’s New Browser, May Have Been Quiet for a Reason
While we’re transfixed by the presidential election, in the world of high tech another duel between two well-funded, take-no-quarter candidates has just emerged & and in the long run the impact on our daily lives may be nearly as great — and perhaps even sinister.
HONG KONG (Reuters) – Coca-Cola Co (KO.N), the world’s largest soft drinks maker, offered to buy juice maker China Huiyuan (1886.HK) for a hefty premium, marking the biggest takeover in China by a foreign company.
The all-cash deal of $2.5 billion, which still requires regulatory approval, values Huiyuan at nearly three times its closing price on Friday.
Coca-Cola, which has offset flat sales at home by expanding globally, dominates a growing Chinese diluted-juice market and now hopes to make inroads into an untapped pure-juice sector.
· Up to 34% rise as last two big suppliers get into line
· Government urged to act as more face fuel poverty
Photograph: Steve Taylor/Getty Images
This summer’s misery for energy consumers reached a climax yesterday when the last two of the big six suppliers raised prices for millions of household customers.
ScottishPower, which has just over 5 million customers, said gas bills would rise by 34% from the beginning of next month, and electricity by 9%. Npower said it was putting up gas prices by 26% and electricity by 14% for its 6.6 million customers with immediate effect.
Added: August 12, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) – Two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005, according to a new report from Congress.
The study by the Government Accountability Office, expected to be released Tuesday, said about 68 percent of foreign companies doing business in the U.S. avoided corporate taxes over the same period.
Collectively, the companies reported trillions of dollars in sales, according to GAO’s estimate.
Drug companies are quietly pushing through price hikes of 100% – or even more than 1,000% – for a very small but growing number of prescription drugs, helping to drive up costs for insurers, patients and government programs.
The number of brand-name drugs with increases of 100% or more could double this year from four years ago, researchers from the University of Minnesota say. Many of the drugs are older products that treat fairly rare, but often serious or even life-threatening, conditions.
Among the examples: Questcor Pharmaceuticals last August raised the wholesale price on Acthar, which treats spasms in babies, from about $1,650 a vial to more than $23,000. Ovation raised the cost of Cosmegen, which treats a type of tumor, from $16.79 to $593.75 in January 2006.
On Tuesday, the SEC issued an emergency rule in an attempt to curb naked short selling in 19 major financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase and Company.
Related article: – Big Traders Dive Into Dark Pools
We can almost hear that ominous “Jaws” theme music in the background and can see that huge dorsal fin as it slices threateningly through the water – knowing full well that the real terror is hidden beneath the water’s surface.
But this time around, it’s not a “Great White” that’s sparking our fears; it’s a well-capitalized and broadly based series of secret stock exchanges known as “Dark Pools of Liquidity,” “Dark Liquidity,” or just “Dark Pools.”
Most investors have never even heard the term – and are truly shocked to discover these “off-the-books” trading networks actually exist.
But to Wall Street insiders looking to anonymously move billions of dollars in stocks, bonds, and other investment instruments, dark pools are de rigueur – especially when you’re an institutional trader who doesn’t want to reveal your intentions or your actions to the “rest” of the market, until after the fact when the orders are “printed.”
And that makes these dark pools of capital highly problematic when it comes transparency: There is literally none in most pools and only limited visibility in others.
Dark Pools are electronic “crossing networks” that offer institutional investors many of the same benefits associated with making trades on the stock exchanges’ public limit order books – without tipping their hands to others, meaning publicly quoted prices aren’t affected. This is the capital markets’ version of a godsend – especially for traders who desire to move large blocks of shares without the public investors ever knowing.
In an era in which “secret” transactions contributed to what’s shaping up to be the largest credit crisis in history, you’d think that any mechanism that allows insiders to trade in complete secrecy and with total anonymity would be scrutinized more closely than a Roger Clemens vitamin shot. But that’s not the case with Dark Pools.
‘Irregular’ oversight of KBR work alleged
Ex-Army official faults Pentagon on contract in Iraq and Afghanistan
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon’s oversight of Houston-based KBR’s work in Iraq and Afghanistan has been “irregular and highly out of the ordinary,” a former Army contracting official told Senate Democrats Wednesday.
Charles Smith, the former chief of the Army Field Support Command with responsibility for overseeing KBR’s massive contract with the Army, contends he was forced out of his job in 2004 for objecting to the Pentagon’s treatment of KBR.
“The interest of a corporation, KBR, not the interests of American soldiers or American taxpayers, seemed to be paramount,” Smith told the Democratic Policy Committee, a Democrats-only panel.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — Falling stock markets around the globe and the credit crunch are putting the pension funds of some of the largest U.S. companies into deeper financial holes, according to a report released Monday.
Since the credit crunch hit last fall, pension plans funded by S&P 1500 companies have lost about $280 billion in assets, according to an actuary at Mercer, a human resources consulting firm.
On paper, the losses from last October tally $160 billion. However, according to Mercer actuary Adrian Hartshorn, the asset losses are closer to $280 billion when pension plan assets and liabilities are considered together. The losses amount to about 7% of a total $4 trillion in pension plan assets.
Companies should be concerned, he said, because – assuming no change in the market – a typical U.S. company can expect their pension expenses to increase between 20% and 30% in 2009. That’s due to the higher cost of servicing the pension plan’s debt and the smaller return from the plan’s assets.
“I think it’s important for corporations to be aware of what’s going on in their pension plans, as corporations would be concerned when any part of its business is performing badly,” Hartshorn said.
According to the report, the total losses on pension assets and liabilities from the last day of 2007 through the end of June has grown to more than $80 billion.
Part of the loss has been reflected in companies’ current financial statements, but many losses incurred since the end of 2007 have yet to hit company balance sheets.
Every day in Vienna the amount of unsold bread sent back to be disposed of is enough to supply Austria’s second-largest city, Graz. Around 350,000 hectares of agricultural land, above all in Latin America, are dedicated to the cultivation of soybeans to feed Austria’s livestock while one quarter of the local population starves.
Every European eats ten kilograms a year of artificially irrigated greenhouse vegetables from southern Spain, with water shortages the result.
In WE FEED THE WORLD, Austrian filmmaker Erwin Wagenhofer traces the origins of the food we eat. His journey takes him to France, Spain, Romania, Switzerland, Brazil and back to Austria. Leading us through the film is an interview with Jean Ziegler, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
WE FEED THE WORLD is a film about food and globalisation, fishermen and farmers, long-distance lorry drivers and high-powered corporate executives, the flow of goods and cash flow-a film about scarcity amid plenty. With its unforgettable images, the film provides insight into the production of our food and answers the question what world hunger has to do with us .
Interviewed are not only fishermen, farmers, agronomists, biologists and the UN’s Jean Ziegler, but also the director of production at Pioneer, the world’s largest seed company, as well as Peter Brabeck, Chairman and CEO of Nestlé International, the largest food company in the world.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) said on Tuesday it plans to close another 500 underperforming stores and eliminate as many as 12,000 fill- and part-time positions.
The company, which now plans to close a total of 600 underperforming stores, will take related charges totaling more than $325 million.
The majority of the stores will be closed by the end of the first half of its fiscal year ended September 2009, the company said.
American supermarkets are epics of excess: it often seems like every item in the store comes in a “Jumbo” size or has “Bonus!” splashed across the label. But is it possible that the amount of food Americans are buying is, in fact… shrinking? Well, yes. Soaring commodity and fuel prices are driving up costs for manufacturers; faced with a choice between raising prices (which consumers would surely notice) or quietly putting fewer ounces in the bag, carton or cup (which they generally don’t) manufacturers are choosing the latter. This month, Kellogg’s started shipping Apple Jacks, Cocoa Krispies, Corn Pops, Froot Loops and Honey Smacks containing an average of 2.4 fewer ounces per box.
Similar reductions have recently happened or are on the horizon for many other products: Tropicana orange juice containers are shrinking from 96 ounces to 89; Wrigley’s is dropping its the 17-stick PlenTPak in favor of the 15-stick Slim Pack; Dial soap bars now weigh half an ounce less, and that’s even before they melt in the shower. Containers of Country Crock spread, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Edy’s and Breyer’s ice cream have all slimmed down as well (although that may not necessarily be a bad thing).
“People are just more sensitive to changes in price than changes in quantity,” says Harvard Business School Professor John Gourville, who studies consumer decision-making. “Most people can tell you how much a box of cereal costs, but they have no clue how much is actually in it.” Other segments of the economy have made similar moves to pass on their higher costs to the consumer without raising prices directly. American Airlines announced in May that it would charge $15 each way for a single checked bag, part of what airlines have dubbed “a la carte” pricing, which – along with the industrywide drive to put price tags on former freebies like soft drinks, meals and headphones – some airline observers say is really an effort to avoid increasing base ticket prices.
If you’re a CEO of one of America’s largest corporations and have enjoyed the Presidency of George W. Bush, a contribution to the McCain campaign is looking like a pretty good investment.
A new report from the Center For American Progress Action Fund finds that a key piece of John McCain’s tax plan — cutting the corporate tax rate from 35% to 25% — would cut taxes by almost $45 billion every year for America’s 200 largest corporations as identified by Fortune Magazine.
Eight companies — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Bank of America Corp., AT&T, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Microsoft Corp. — would each receive over $1 billion a year.
The following table shows the tax savings to America’s five largest firms. See a full list of all 200 companies and their savings under McCain here:
These giveaways are just one part of McCain’s doubling of the Bush tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy which would create the largest deficits in 25 years and drive the United States into the deepest deficits since World War II.
A recent analysis by the Public Campaign Action Fund found that John McCain’s campaign has received $5.6 million from the PACs and executives of the Fortune 200.
Over the past eight years, under George W. Bush, American workers have seen their wages stagnate as corporate profits have skyrocketed. John McCain’s misguided priorities show he’s more of the same: the same $45 billion in tax cuts for America’s 200 largest companies could be used to lift over 9 million Americans out of poverty.
“What it means is that U.S. drug companies contract with cheap, low-end Chinese chemical factories to manufacture their drugs at something like two cents a pill (which they can mark up to $20 a pill or more…), and then they import these Chinese-made pills and don’t even test them before selling them to U.S. consumers!”
“And finally, consider this: Big Pharma is now pushing the Supreme Court to grant the industry blanket immunity for all pharmaceuticals, a move that would immediately lift any and all testing requirements and quality control measures since the drug companies would no longer be liable for what’s in their pills! See this story for more details: http://www.naturalnews.com/023042.html
(NaturalNews) Remember a couple of years ago how the FDA warned Americans not to buy prescription drugs from Canada because they might be “contaminated by terrorists?” I’m not making that up: That was the official announcement of an FDA spokesperson, and it was part of their fear strategy for enforcing a monopoly on U.S. consumers so that Big Pharma could continue engaging in rampant price fixing.
The implication in that warning is that drugs purchased in the United States are therefore safer, correct? What the FDA didn’t tell anyone, however, is that most pharmaceuticals purchased in the United States are manufactured outside the U.S.; many from China or Puerto Rico. So they’re not even made in the U.S. anyway, and drug companies are simply importing them from other countries just like a consumer might do if she drove across the border and bought her medications in Canada or Mexico.
But hold on: The FDA actually used to run full-page magazine ads warning consumers about the dangers of drugs being contaminated if they were bought from Mexico, Canada or — God forbid — the Internet! Those drugs were dangerous, the FDA warned us, because they were not subjected to rigorous quality control requirements. The implication in that warning, of course, is that brand-name pharmaceuticals sold in the U.S. at U.S. pharmacies must therefore NOT be contaminated.
The CIA is having a growing problem with their analysts and spies being recruited away by corporations.
One unpleasant, for government intelligence agencies, development of the last few decades has been the growing popularity of “competitive intelligence” (corporate espionage.) It’s a really big business, with most large (over a billion dollars of annual sales) corporations having separate intelligence operations. Spending on corporate intel work is over $5 billion a year, and is expected to more than double in the next four years.
The corporate recruiters have a pretty easy time of it, as they can offer higher pay, better working conditions and bonuses. The U.S. government is fighting back, at least on the bonus front. The big innovation is an old corporate one, “performance-based compensation.” Government employee unions usually fight this sort of thing, because it makes too many union members look bad. But there is no union at the CIA, and most other intel agencies. So the Director of National Intelligence is implementing a number of new personnel practices, in order to make it more difficult for corporate intelligence operations to recruit government operatives.
May 8, 2008
Source: Strategy Page
The tax provisions of the Foreclosure Prevention Act, which consumer groups and labor leaders say amount to government handouts to big business, show how the credit crisis, while rattling the housing and financial markets, has created beneficiaries in the power corridors of Washington.
It also shows how legislation with a populist imperative offers a chance for lobbyists to press their clients’ interests.
This has proved especially true on the housing legislation, which many lawmakers and lobbyists view as one of the last opportunities before Congress grinds to a halt amid election-year politics.
In the Senate bill, the nation’s biggest home builders, some now on the verge of bankruptcy, won a provision that would let them claim millions in tax refunds by charging their current losses against the huge profits they made three or four years ago. Other struggling industries would benefit from this provision.
(The ones who will really benefit from this are, like always, the corporations.
And guess who will pay for these tax breaks in the end? – The Infinite Unknown)