Professional Scam Artists – part 15

Amnesty International

“Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again” by Paul De Rooij (CounterPunch)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

One must marvel at the first few paragraphs of Amnesty International’s recent press release:

“The international community’s catastrophic failure to take concrete action to protect the people of Syria has allowed parties to the conflict, most notably the Syrian government, to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity with complete impunity, often with assistance of outside powers, particularly Russia. Every year we think it is just not possible for parties to the conflict to inflict more suffering on civilians, and yet, every year, they prove us wrong…

Right now, in Eastern Ghouta 400,000 men, women and children, who have been living under an unlawful government siege for six years, are being starved and indiscriminately bombed by the Syrian government with the backing of Russia. […] The international community had said ‘never again’ after the government devastated Eastern Aleppo with similar unlawful tactics. But here we are again. Armed opposition groups have retaliated by indiscriminately shelling two villages in Idleb, which they have also besieged since 2014.”

…Before cheering yet another US/NATO war, it is useful to analyse Amnesty International’s record in assisting propaganda campaigns on the eve of wars…

Before the US invasion to ouster the Iraqis from Kuwait, president George Bush Sr. appeared on TV holding an Amnesty International report claiming that Iraqi soldiers had dumped babies out of incubators. That was Amnesty International’s willing participation in spreading a hoax — a hoax fabricated by a major American PR company.

In the months prior to the US-NATO attack on Serbia, Amnesty-USA put two Croatian women on a ten city-speaking-tour to project their account of their “rape-camp” ordeal — in reality one of them was a top Croatian propaganda official, a close advisor to president Tudjman, who was also known for her acting abilities. Again, this hoax was pushed by a major American PR company.

AI’s coverage/non-coverage of Israeli mass crimes also deserves to be analysed. In this case, Amnesty plays a role in adulterating and reducing criticism after wars or the misery caused by its continuous occupation and abuse of the Palestinians (discussed below).

The article lists further atrocities by AI and notes that “Amnesty’s sorry record is much longer than these few examples indicate.” Human Rights Watch is another NGO similar to AI that is completely in the toilet.

Amnesty International

“Amnesty International Winks at Trump’s Economic Attack on Venezuelans” by Joe Emersberger (CounterPunch)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

The expression that “silence gives consent” applies perfectly to Amnesty’s stance which tacitly endorses Trump’s aggression against the Venezuelan people. To make this even more obvious, Amnesty also refused to condemn remarks by Rex Tillerson and Marco Rubio that encourage a military coup in Venezuela. Asked to comment on those remarks Amnesty replied that it ”believes that a responsible discussion on the current state of human rights in Venezuela should not be focused on statements made by parties outside the country and context”.

In the middle of an already grave economic crisis, the sanctions will cost Venezuela’s government billions of dollars this year. Its $64 billion USD in outstanding foreign currency bonds are all governed by New York Law, but the sanctions have outlawed Venezuela from borrowing or selling assets in the U.S. financial system. Debt restructuring is therefore made impossible and it blocks the government from rolling over its bonds (offsetting principal costs by issuing new debt). The sanctions also block CITGO, a U.S. based company owned the by the Venezuelan government, from sending its profits or dividends (which have totaled about $2.5 billion USD since 2015) back to Venezuela.

U.S. sanctions, which are illegal under of chapter 4 article 19 of the OAS Charter, are a direct assault on the Venezuelan peoples’ “right to health and food”.

“Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?” by Robert Hunziker (CounterPunch)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

As such, and if true that the EPA is hazardous to health, it is incumbent upon the public to root out and toss out perpetrators because a democracy, or an autocracy for that matter, should never allow public servants to knowingly harm/kill/maim its own people.

Still, according to Karen Perry, senior analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists: “This EPA is not interested in protecting people from harmful pesticides. It’s more interested in bowing to the wishes of Dow [Agrochemical].” (Source: Leah Douglan, Environment, Civil Eats, Feb. 5, 2018).

Scott Pruitt is the first, and only, anti-proponent EPA leader. He opposes EPA regulators and EPA regulations, as he methodically decimates the agency. Scientists are fleeing like locusts in spring.

The professional scam artist here is government employee Scott Pruitt and by extension his fascist government. When he’s done ruining the EPA, it too will be a professional scam artist.

CIBC (photo by DRheaume)

“Canada’s Five Giant Banks Ought to Be Nationalized, Not Bailed Out” by Mitchell Thompson (Canadian Dimension)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

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Last week, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) revealed that Canada, Hong Kong and China’s banking systems are the world’s most at-risk of a severe crisis. BIS joins the International Monetary Fund, Moody’s and S&P Global Ratings in warning record-high consumer debt could tank Canada’s “five giants” in the case of a downturn. The Bank of Canada’s Senior Policy Director, Gino Cateau, calls such debt the Canadian economy’s “key vulnerability.” The post-2008 lending surge, which boosted consumer spending to keep the economy afloat, has driven many to the edge of insolvency. Ipsos, for example, found 52 per cent of Canadians are $200 from bankruptcy by the end of an average month.

We’ve seen this before. Leading up to 2008, Canadians had about the same debt-to-income ratio as Americans. And, when the recession struck, Canada’s five giants faced insolvent borrowers and the federal government bailed them out. Most of the money came from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which bought loans that soured, but total support peaked at $114 billion. At around seven per cent of Canada’s 2009 GDP, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives economist David Macdonald notes, it would’ve been cheaper to buy most of the banks…

Bank executives responded to the last bailout by increasing executive bonuses (to the tune of millions of dollars between 2008 and 2009), closing branches (especially in poor and rural areas), laying off employees and engaging in the same over-lending that necessitated 2009’s bailout. With another crisis brewing, there’s no indication the same won’t transpire again.
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“Ottawa promises crackdown on loopholes that let big banks avoid billions in taxes” by Marco Chown Oved

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

An investigation published by the Star and Corporate Knights magazine in December crunched six years of corporate financial data to show that Canada’s Big Five banks avoided an average of $3.8 billion in tax every year.

Despite being the most profitable companies in the country, Canadian banks pay 1/3 the tax rate of other large corporations. They also pay a lower rate of tax than big banks in any other G7 country.

William Hartung

“Weapons for Anyone” by William Hartung (TomDispatch)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

It’s one of those stories of the century that somehow never gets treated that way. For an astounding 25 of the past 26 years, the United States has been the leading arms dealer on the planet, at some moments in near monopolistic fashion. Its major weapons-producers, including Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, regularly pour the latest in high-tech arms and munitions into the most explosive areas of the planet…

To be fair, Donald Trump is hardly the first American president to make it his business to aggressively promote weapons exports. Though seldom a highlighted part of his presidency, Barack Obama proved to be a weapons salesman par excellence. He made more arms offers in his two terms in office than any U.S. president since World War II, including an astounding $115 billion in weapons deals with Saudi Arabia…

It’s worth noting that three of those four Saudi deals involved weapons made by Lockheed Martin…

…General Joseph Rixey, until recently the director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency… has since gone directly through Washington’s revolving door and been hired by – you guessed it – Lockheed Martin.

In addition, former Lockheed Martin executive John Rood is now the Trump administration’s undersecretary of defense for policy, where one of his responsibilities will be to weigh in on… don’t be shocked!… major arms deals. In his confirmation hearings, Rood refused to say that he would recuse himself from transactions involving his former employer, for which he was denounced by Senators John McCain and Elizabeth Warren…

If Trump’s vision of an all-arms-sales-all-the-time foreign policy is realized, he may scale the weapons-dealing heights reached by the Obama administration. As Washington’s arms-dealer-in-chief, he might indeed succeed in selling American weaponry as if there were no tomorrow. Given the known human costs of unbridled arms trafficking, however, such a presidency would also ensure that whatever tomorrow finally arrived would prove far worse than today, unless of course you happen to be a major U.S. arms maker.

Marathon Petroleum Corporation spills oil into the Wabash River

“Delinquent $13.8 Billion Pipeline Company Receives Minor Fine For Major Oil Spill” by Dimitri Lascaris (Dimitri Lascaris)

Big Oil and the Trudeau government insist that the transportation of oil by pipelines is safe, but experience continues to contradict them.

In the last 12 years, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, which manages one of the largest petroleum pipeline networks in the U.S., has had 61 incidents, 12 of which have been in Indiana. These incidents include a recent spill of 42,000 gallons of diesel fuel into an Indiana creek. In the same week in which that spill occurred, Marathon paid a fine of about $300,000 for another spill last year into the Wabash River.

Mariner East 2 Pipeline

“Five Spills, Six Months in Operation: Dakota Access Track Record Highlights Unavoidable Reality — Pipelines Leak” by Alleen Brown (The Intercept)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

The Dakota Access pipeline leaked at least five times in 2017. The biggest was a 168-gallon leak near DAPL’s endpoint in Patoka, Illinois, on April 23. According to federal regulators, no wildlife was impacted, although soil was contaminated, requiring remediation. DAPL went into operation on June 1, along with its under-the-radar sister project, the Energy Transfer Crude Oil pipeline, a natural gas pipeline converted to carry crude. Together, the two make up the Bakken pipeline system. ETCO leaked at least three times in 2017.

Most of the Bakken system leaks were considered minor by state and federal monitors. According to regulators, water was not impacted in any of the cases. The only spill considered “significant” by the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, or PHMSA, was a 4,998-gallon leak on the ETCO pipeline in Dyersburg, Tennessee, on June 19…

Anne Rolfes, head of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, which is fighting ETP’s proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline, said the company’s argument about safety is unproven. “The company has an accident problem,” she said, adding that state agencies’ view of the spills as minor “just shows how problematic our so-called regulatory system is.”

Corporate Europe Observatory
click on image for source

“Packaging lobby’s support for anti-litter groups deflects tougher solutions” by ? (Corporate Europe Observatory)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article:

Almost all the plastic ever created still exists in some form, from waste choking marine life, to micro-plastics eaten by fish that end up on the dining table, to the plastics leaching chemicals with unknown consequences. As the problem reaches crisis levels, public pressure to tackle plastic waste has pushed it up the political agenda. In Brussels, Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, and London decision-makers are keen to respond. But when it comes to tackling the problem at source, the plastics and packaging industries, as well as their allies in the food and drink sector, are on the defensive.

It is much cheaper and more convenient for industry to focus on consumer and individual responsibility for litter and its clean-up, rather than to change production and packaging methods. Not surprisingly then, the packaging industry and its customers in the food and drink sector support various anti-litter campaigns across Europe. Industry does this for several reasons, including to green-wash their single-use packaging products with the veneer of environmental respectability. But this tactic also has other more insidious purposes; significantly, to try to change the popular and political narrative on waste, especially plastics and single-use packaging.

Joel Lexchin

“The Pharmaceutical Industry in Contemporary Capitalism” by Joel Lexchin (Monthly Review)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

The pharmaceutical industry has remained near or at the top of the list for profitability for many decades. The myth is that its profits come from producing and selling the many therapeutic advances that industry research has generated, but the reality is far different. In the first place, after tax deductions only about 1.3 percent of the money that the industry spends actually goes into basic research, the type of research that leads to new medications. Second, most of the new medicines that come from the pharmaceutical corporations offer little to nothing in the way of new therapeutic options…

The industry also justifies its high level of profits with the claim that drug development is inherently risky. To this end, the pharmaceutical corporations maintain that only one in every 10,000 molecules actually results in a new drug. Though this may be true, most of the molecules that fall by the wayside do so in the very early stages of development when costs are minimal. The $2.6 billion figure that is now cited as the cost to bring a new drug to market4 comes from data that are confidential, and the calculations are based on a set of assumptions that have been widely challenged.5 Were drug development such a risky proposition, then one would expect that from time to time the fortunes of corporations would vary. On the contrary, since 1980, all the large corporations have done well financially…

To maintain its attractiveness to the financial community, the pharmaceutical industry has developed several strategies. With the blockbuster model of development drying up, corporations have shifted to a “nichebuster” model. With fewer potential products in the research and development (R&D) pipeline, it is even more critical to ensure that drugs being developed make it through the regulatory process intact, and to do that, industry has deepened its relationship with regulatory agencies to circumvent or corrupt the intent of regulation, often with the collusion of government. Key to the industry’s survival is its ability to extend the period during which it has a monopoly on the sale of products, and that translates into stronger intellectual property rights, both in the developed world and in the developing countries that represent the emerging sites of growth. With the threat of price controls looming, the other way of expanding revenue is to increase the volume of prescriptions for existing and new drugs. The approach to that goal is to control the knowledge about how and when drugs should be prescribed…

However, despite successes in controlling overall spending, no developed countries have been willing to mount a challenge to the current intellectual property regime that grants monopolies for up to twenty years and keeps lower-priced generics off the market. All drug regulatory systems are funded to varying degrees by user fees, thereby embedding a system that makes regulators sensitive to the needs of the pharmaceutical industry when it comes to approving new products. Finally, clinical trials are still under control of pharmaceutical corporations worldwide. Promotion to both health care practitioners and consumers, even in countries like New Zealand, is poorly regulated, meaning that both prescribers’ and patients’ knowledge about medications remains limited.

“German Beer Industry in Shock Over Monsanto Glyphosate Contamination” by ? (Sustainable Pulse)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

=== == =
The Munich Environmental Institute (Umweltinstitut München) has released shocking results Thursday of laboratory testing it has completed on 14 of the most sold beers in Germany. The probable carcinogen and World’s most used herbicide – glyphosate – was found in all of the 14 beers tested…

Sustainable Pulse Director Henry Rowlands stated Thursday; “Stone-Age industry funded science suggested that the higher the dose of a chemical the more dangerous it was, however modern independent science has discovered that many toxic chemicals have as much or more of an influence on our health at low doses– these chemicals are known as hormone hackers (endocrine disruptors)…”
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Green City Growers Horticulture Group

“USDA Accused of Disseminating “Corporate Propaganda” Backing Agribusiness Switch of Organics to (Soil-less) Hydroponic Production” by ? (The Cornucopia Institute)

An excerpt from the above linked-to article follows:

In an affront to the farming pioneers who launched the organic movement, today a $50 billion industry, the USDA announced late last month that the “Certification of hydroponic, aquaponic, and aeroponic operations is allowed under the USDA organic regulations, and has been since the National Organic Program (NOP) began.”…

Much of the hydroponic production entering the organic market takes place in large, industrial-scale greenhouses using liquid fertilizers, mostly produced from conventional, hydrolyzed soybeans. Hydroponic produce under the organic label is rapidly displacing fruit and vegetables grown in soil, which is carefully nurtured to improve fertility, by diversified farms…

The USDA’s statement was made regardless of the fact that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the governing body that the USDA Secretary is required by Congress to consult on all organic rulemaking, has never voted to legalize soil-less production.

The present federal organic regulations and their enabling legislation, the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), both require careful stewardship of soil fertility as a prerequisite for organic certification…

“The NOP has unilaterally, and in secret, allowed for the certification of soil-less systems without standards, public notice, or opportunity for public comment,” said The Cornucopia Institute’s senior scientist, Linley Dixon, PhD.

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