Price-Gouging Rx Companies To Get $28 Billion Tax Break In GOP Health Plan

Newly leaked TPP text "is clearly intended to cater to the interests of the pharmaceutical industry," writes Dr. Deborah Gleeson in her analysis. (Photo: ep_jhu/flickr/cc)

By Will Rice for Americans for Tax Fairness – Pharmaceutical companies are among the biggest offshore tax dodgers. Three drug firms—Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck—are among the top 10 American corporations stashing earnings offshore to avoid U.S. taxes. Pfizer (maker of Celebrex, Lipitor, and Viagra) alone has some $200 billion in profits parked offshore, much of it presumably in tax havens. Gilead Sciences and Amgen each has around $37 billion offshore, apparently all of it in tiny nations where little or no tax is due. (American corporations owe U.S. taxes on all their worldwide profits each year, but a giant loophole lets multinationals indefinitely delay paying on profits booked offshore.) A big chunk of Gilead’s stashed profits came from hepatitis cures priced so high that hundreds of thousands of patients went untreated even as the federal government was laying out billions of dollars a year for Gilead’s drugs. Last year, Pfizer tried to renounce its American identity in order to dodge $35 billion in U.S. taxes, even though it’s prospered here for over 150 years and gets about a billion dollars annually in federal contracts.

Three Way Conflict Between Kurds, Shia And Sunni Arabs In Syria

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By Nauman Sadiq. the ethnic and sectarian conflict in Syria and Iraq is actually a three-way conflict between the Sunni Arabs, the Shi’a Arabs and the Kurds. Although after the declaration of war against a faction of Sunni Arab militants, the Islamic State, the US has also lent its support to the Shi’a-led government in Iraq, but the Shi’a Arabs of Iraq are not the trustworthy allies of the United States because they are under the influence of Iran. Therefore, the US was left with no other choice but to make the Kurds the centerpiece of its policy in Syria after a group of Sunni Arab jihadists overstepped their mandate in Syria and overran Mosul and Anbar in Iraq in early 2014, from where, the United States had withdrawn its troops only a couple of years ago in December 2011.

New Cracks In Russia-gate ‘Assessment’

The Kremlin and Russian President Vladimir Putin: Did the Russians hack U.S. election databases? (Yahoo News photo illustration, photos: Maxim Shemetov/Reuters, Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters, AP, AP)

By Robert Parry for Consortium News – At the center of the Russia-gate scandal is a curious U.S. intelligence “assessment” that was pulled together in less than a month and excluded many of the agencies that would normally weigh in on such an important topic as whether Russia tried to influence the outcome of a U.S. presidential election. The Jan. 6 report and its allegation that Russia “hacked” Democratic emails and publicized them through WikiLeaks have been treated as gospel by the mainstream U.S. media and many politicians of both parties, but two senior Obama administration intelligence officials have provided new information that raises fresh doubts about the findings. On Tuesday, former CIA Director John Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee that only four of the 17 U.S. intelligence agencies took part in the assessment, relying on analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the oversight of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Brennan said the report “followed the general model of how you want to do something like this with some notable exceptions. It only involved the FBI, NSA and CIA as well as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

New Inhumane Record: One Person Displaced Every Three Seconds

After three days on the road, South Sudanese refugees arrive at the newly constructed Gure Shembola Camp in Ethiopia. Credit: UNHCR/Diana Diaz

By Staff of IPS – ROME/GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS) – Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported. The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at which conflict and persecution is forcing people to flee their homes. The report Global Trends, which as been released ahead of the World Refugee Day on June 20, marks a jump of 300,000 since the end of 2015. “By any measure this is an unacceptable number,” said UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, urging “solidarity and a common purpose in preventing and resolving crisis.” Grandi also called for properly protecting and caring for the world’s refugees, internally displaced and asylum-seekers – who currently number 22.5 million, 40.3 million, and 2.8 million, respectively. The Biggest Refugee Producer. According to the report, Syria remains “the world’s biggest producer of refugees” with 12 million people living in neighbouring countries and away from the region. There are 7.7 million displaced Colombians, 4.7 million Afghans and 4.2 million Iraqis.

Are Robots Keeping Wages Low?

In this Aug. 21, 2015 photo, a man works amid orange robot arms at Rapoo Technology factory in southern Chinese industrial boomtown of Shenzhen.
AP Photo/Vincent Yu

By Jesse Ferreras for Global News – It used to be the case that when employers had trouble hiring, wages would increase in places with low jobless rates. Then came the rise of machines. These days, employees aren’t being paid much more than they were in the past, a BMO economist said in a report released on Friday. In a report titled “Wage Against the Machine,” economist Sal Guatieri looked at the effects of robots and automation on wages using data from the U.S. and the OECD. Hourly compensation per hour in the U.S. grew “smartly” in 2015, he wrote, but since then it has “barely kept pace with inflation.” Colorado and North Dakota, he noted, have “some of the lowest jobless rates and slowest wage gains in the country.” Wages could still grow, Guatieri said. But he went on to say that the national jobless rate only hit 4.3 per cent or less twice in the last 50 years: first, between 1965 and 1970, and second, between 1999 and 2001. The cost of labour went up in both of these periods. But now, “new automation is working its way up and down the skills’ chain,” and threatening more jobs than it used to. Previously, robots threatened jobs in industries such as manufacturing, transportation, office support and retail. Now, they’re inching into tasks that involve thinking.

Companies Can Either Make Things Or Make CEOs Rich

(Photo: Funny Solution Studio / Shutterstock)

By Sam Pizzigati for Other Words – Making breakthroughs for consumers is hard, companies have found. But making fortunes for CEOs is easy. Jeff Immelt, the CEO of General Electric since 2001, is retiring. The 61-year-old will be making a well-compensated exit. Fortune magazine estimates that Immelt will walk off with nearly $211 million, on top of his regular annual pay. Immelt’s annual pay hasn’t been too shabby either. He pulled down $21.3 million last year, after $37.25 million in 2014. But Immelt’s millions don’t come close to matching the haul that his predecessor Jack Welch collected. Welch’s annual compensation topped $144 million in 2000. He stepped down the next year with a retirement package valued at $417 million. What did Immelt and Welch actually do to merit their super-sized rewards? What did they add to a GE hall of fame that already included breakthroughs like the first high-altitude jet engine (1949) and the first laser lights (1962)? In simple truth, not much at all. “We bring good things to life,” the GE ad slogan used to proudly pronounce. Not lately.

Nevada Governor Vetoes Bill Banning Private Prisons

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By Beryl Lipton for Muckrock – After signing up for 200 private beds, the state leaves open the option of contracting even more. Nevada’s move to ban for-profit prisons was struck down at the finish line last week when Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill that would have prohibited their use by the state law enforcement, citing the possibility that for-profit prisons have a larger role to play in managing the state’s incarcerated population. Assembly Bill 303 would have provided the Department of Corrections five years to renovate existing facilities, allowing for out-of-state and private prison use in the interim, before eliminating the state’s relationships with the for-profit operators. In his statement on the veto, Governor Sandoval pointed to an encroachment on the authority of the executive branch as well as the possibility that overcrowding in the state’s facilities may require the option of utilizing private prison beds out-of-state. Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, D-North Las Vegas, a former corrections officer, introduced AB 303 and reportedly worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to deal with concerns that implementation would be too costly. The state is currently operating at over 183 percent capacity, well over emergency levels.

Former FCC Commissioner: Net Neutrality Is A First Amendment Issue

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai speaks during the 2017 NAB Show in Las Vegas on April 25, 2017. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

By Michael Winship for Moyers & Company – In just a few short months, the Trump wrecking ball has pounded away at rules and regulations in virtually every government agency. The men and women the president has appointed to the Cabinet and to head those agencies are so far in sycophantic lockstep, engaged in dismantling years of protections in order to make real what White House strategist Steve Bannon infamously described as “the deconstruction of the administrative state.” The Federal Communications Commission is not immune. Its new chair, Republican Ajit Pai, embraces the Trump doctrine of regulatory devastation. “It’s basic economics,” he declared in an April 26 speech at Washington’s Newseum. “The more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you’re likely to get.” His goal is to stem the tide of media reform that in recent years has made significant progress for American citizens. Even as we rely more than ever on digital media for information, education and entertainment, Pai and his GOP colleagues at the FCC seek to turn back the clock and increase even more the corporate control of cyberspace.

Poll Shows Broad, Bipartisan Support For Net Neutrality Rules

Internet tax protest in budapest Hungary, October 27, 2014

By Mariam Baksh for Morning Consult – With the Federal Communications Commission moving toward repealing Obama-era net neutrality rules, a new poll shows strong, bipartisan backing to keep them in place. Sixty-percent of respondents in a Morning Consult/POLITICO poll said they support rules that say internet service providers like Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. “cannot block, throttle or prioritize certain content on the internet.” The difference between supporters by party was 2 percentage points, with 59 percent of Republicans and 61 percent of Democrats backing the rules. The same percentage of tea party supporters and Democrats expressed strong support for net neutrality, at 37 percent. Internet service providers such as Comcast say they are committed to the net neutrality principles. But they don’t like the legal footing on which the rules were established — specifically, regulating ISPs like utilities by classifying broadband internet as a “common carrier” under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. “Our members believe consumers deserve enforceable rules that prohibit the blocking or throttling of legal internet traffic without relying on antiquated regulations that can stifle needed investments in networks,” said Amy Schatz, vice president of media affairs for ISP trade group U.S. Telecom, in an email to Morning Consult.

The Body Count Rises In The U.S. War Against Black People

Photo by Ryan Vaarsi | CC BY 2.0

By Ajamu Baraka for Counter Punch – Again, there is anger, confusion and calls for justice from the black community of Seattle, where the latest killing took place. Many might remember that it was in Seattle where two members of the local black community attempted to call out the racist and hypocritical liberal white community during a visit by Bernie Sanders. The black activists were subsequently shouted down by a majority of Bernie’s supporters. One of the issues that the activists wanted to raise was the repressive, heavy-handed tactics of the Seattle Police Department. Some have argued that this rash of killings of black people caught on video or reported by dozens of witnesses is nothing new, that the images of police chocking, shooting and beating poor black and working-class people is now more visible because of technological innovations that make it easier to capture these images. They are partially right. As an internal colony in what some refer to as a prison house of nations that characterizes the U.S. nation state, black communities are separated into enclaves of economic exploitation and social degradation by visible and often invisible social and economic processes.

Israel Makes Request To U.S. To Dismantle Life Support System For 5 Million Palestinians

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By Jonathan Cook for AlterNet – Israeli and US officials are in the process of jointly pre-empting Donald Trump’s supposed “ultimate deal” to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. They hope to demote the Palestinian issue to a footnote in international diplomacy. The conspiracy – a real one – was much in evidence last week during a visit to the region by Nikki Haley, Washington’s envoy to the United Nations. Her escort was Danny Danon, her Israeli counterpart and a fervent opponent of Palestinian statehood. Danon makes Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu look moderate. He has backed Israel annexing the West Bank and ruling over Palestinians apatheid-style. Haley appears unperturbed. During a meeting with Netanyahu, she told him that the UN was “a bully to Israel”. She has warned the powerful Security Council to focus on Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbollah, instead of Israel. To protect its tiny ally, Washington is threatening to cut billions in US funding to the world body, plunging it into crisis and jeopardising peacekeeping and humanitarian operations.

What Would An American Police State Look Like? Are Your Eyes Closed?

ICE. (photo: ACLU/Wikimedia Commons)

By William Boardman for Reader Supported News – country doesn’t need a monolithic totalitarian government to have an effectively working police state. The United States has had a partial police state in place since before it existed as a “free country.” Slavery required a police state structure to maintain “order.” Segregation required a police state structure. Ethnic cleansing of native peoples required police state management that still exists, most obviously in North Dakota, but also across the country. Fear of immigrants has fostered police state responses, especially under the Trump administration. Fear of Communists has produced police state responses since 1917, most notoriously during the 1950s McCarthy era. Fear of nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and their very real dangers, has produced a permanent police state security network. Fear of terrorism, spiked by 9/11, has produced a host of police state responses such as the 2001 Patriot Act (ready and waiting before the attack); such as expanded citizen surveillance by the NSA and some 16 other, more secret agencies; such as unprecedented punishment of whistleblowers for their truth-telling; and such as a unified police state structure euphemistically called Homeland Security, that encourages citizens to spy on each other…

The Washington Post Is Selling Snake Oil

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By Adam Gaffney for Jacobin Magazine – Our friends at the Washington Post are waging a brave campaign against Medicare for All. Over the weekend, the Washington Post editorial board took a bold stance: they argued that universal health care with single-payer financing is simply beyond reach. That the Post felt the need to issue the editorial at this particular moment is a testament to single payer’s rising fortunes. From coast to coast, activists are on the march: against the widely loathed, upward-wealth-redistributing, health-care-stripping abomination known as Trumpcare, for sure — but also for real universal health care. Yet the Post’s frail arguments should be confronted, because they repeat a number of common talking points that rest on flawed assumptions and that could do real harm. The Post editorial board begins by briefly conceding that single payer does have “some strong advantages.” It notes that single payer would be less of a hassle for many people (a good point), that it would get employers out of the messy role of providing health-care benefits (reasonable), and finally that it would facilitate cost-effectiveness research by government investigators (fine I suppose, although this is unlikely to galvanize the average person).

Miami Conference Signals Further Militarization Of US Policy In Central America

A man sits in front of a mural in Caracas, Venezuela | Photo: Reuters

By Jake Johnston for CEPR – In a high-level meeting Friday, the presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador will discuss the region’s security with American and Mexican officials. Innocuous enough, you may think. But part of the meeting will be held on a US military base in Miami, Florida ― the headquarters of the US Southern Command, the Pentagon’s regional subsidiary that oversees American military operations throughout Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. Under President Donald Trump, the militarization of US foreign policy is about to stretch more deeply into Central America. Central America policymaking, hardly an open book to begin with, is set to become more secretive. With the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America just days away, there is no official agenda of speakers or publicly listed events and no involvement of civil society organizations, and even press access is extremely limited. What we do know is US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be there, as will Vice President Mike Pence, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and of course, General John F. Kelly, the director of Homeland Security and the previous head of SOUTHCOM.

Break Through The Propaganda Watch Oliver Stone Interview With Vladmir Putin

Vladimir Putin at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting- Davos, 2009. (Photo: World Economic Forum)

By Alexander Mercouris for The Duran – I have now watched the first three episodes of the Putin Interviews, which is sufficient to give an overview of the series. In my opinion it is by far the best and most interesting series of programmes which have appeared on Western television about Vladimir Putin. I would say that claims that Oliver Stone fails to raise ‘difficult subjects’ with Putin are simply untrue. All the usual stories about Putin – his KGB past, his reputed homophobia, his ‘billions’, his ‘murders’, his ‘aggressions against Georgia and Ukraine’ etc – are all there. There is also one telling moment when Stone and Putin strongly disagree with each other. This is in relation to a recent Russian law that requires Russian internet providers to store data for longer than previously, and to hand it over to the Russian security services if requested following a court order. The US whistleblower Edward Snowden has denounced this law as a ‘big brother’ law. Stone clearly agrees with him and tells Putin as much. Putin predictably enough doesn’t agree. The key difference between Stone and other Western interviewers is that Stone doesn’t try to get the better of Putin by bullying and hectoring him.