Youngstown Residents Push To Oust Corporations From Election Campaigns

After several attempts to ban fracking in Youngstown, Ohio, the community rights movement is focusing on ending outside industry contributions to local election campaigns.   (Image: protectyoungstown.org)

By Staff of In These Times – Today, a long-standing community rights group in Youngstown, Ohio, submitted over 1,900 signatures to qualify their Youngstown Fair Election Bill of Rights initiative for the November ballot. The measure is the first of its kind in the state, limiting campaign contributions to registered voters within the City, and capping those contributions at $100. The Youngstown Community Bill of Rights Committee drafted the initiative with the support of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). CELDF has been assisting Youngstown residents to advance their democratic and environmental rights since 2013, when residents launched their community rights work to protect themselves from fracking activities. Fracking threatens their drinking water and has caused earthquakes in the area. “We have fought to keep fracking projects out of our City for several years, with six ballot measures that asserted our right to clean water and to local community self-government,” says Lynn Anderson, a lead organizer with the Youngstown Committee.

Activist Investors Must Disrupt Corporate Business As Usual

Shironosov / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Clara Herzberg for Truthout – Once known by terms like “asset strippers” or “corporate raiders,” activist investors — shareholders who take large stakes in a company and pressure or replace its management in order to raise share prices — have now entered the mainstream and are spreading like wildfire. Hundreds of companies are being singled out by activist investors, who are hungrily adding European firms to their target list after having nearly saturated the US market. Most recently, financier Nelson Peltz set his eyes on Proctor & Gamble (P&G), disclosing a $3.5 billion stake in the consumer goods behemoth and announcing that he’s vying for a seat on the board. The move came a few weeks after Third Point, led by activist investor Daniel Loeb, clinched an equally large stake in Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company. Peltz, Loeb and other activists are now making headlines with their calls for P&G and Nestlé to shed unprofitable brands and streamline operations, all in a bid to boost their own bank accounts by reconfiguring their investees’ operations. Their supposedly “disruptive” campaigns to “shake things up” at bloated Fortune 500 firms have won them applause from the media, commentators and fellow investors.

Going Soft On Corporate Crime A Bipartisan Affair

Russell Mokhiber
Editor
Corporate Crime Reporter

By Russell Mokhiber for Corporate Crime Reporter – Donald Trump is not a fan of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the law that says it’s illegal for any person — corporate or human — to bribe overseas. And you could argue that the Trump Justice Department’s first two FCPA enforcement cases reflect Trump’s point of view.Trump has called the FCPA “a horrible law” and has said that the law “puts us at a huge disadvantage.” Both were declinations — despite the fact that the companies disclosed illegal overseas payments and agreed to disgorge illegally gained proceeds. Some are using the cases to ask the question — is Trump soft on corporate crime? As the lawyers say, let’s stipulate for the record that he is. But let’s also remember that going soft on corporate crime was perfected by the Democrats. The Obama Justice Department, for example, regularly used declinations — five in Obama’s last year in office — and non prosecution agreements — 22 over the eight years of his administration — to settle corporate FCPA matters. And since September 2015, when the Obama administration put out the Yates memo calling for more prosecutions of individual executives, there have been 20 FCPA corporate prosecution agreements — yet not one individual has been charged in connection with those cases.

US Expanding Militarization & Corporate Looting In Central America

An injured protester flees as riot police use tear gas and batons to disperse a demonstration against the Tambor mining project at La Puya on May 23, 2014. (Reuters/Jorge Dan Lopez)

By Jeff Abbott for Towards Freedom – In mid-June, the Presidents of the Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) met with US Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly at the United States Southern Command base in Miami, Florida for the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America. The Presidents were joined by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. Their meeting looked at ways to transform the Alliance for Prosperity, a 2014 policy package that has since shaped relations between the US and Central America. The results of their meeting included plans to increase militarization of Central America while further opening the region to foreign investment. Their project involves dropping US aid to the region by roughly $300 million dollars, while combatting drug trafficking. The general approach reflects the model of Plan Colombia, originally applied by the Bill Clinton administration in the 1990s and continued into today to the tune of billions of dollars.

Don’t Let Corporations Pick What Websites You Visit

Flickr/Backbone Campaign

By Razan Azzarkani for Other Words – Think about the websites you visit. The movies you stream. The music you listen to online. The animal videos that are just too cute not to share. Now think about the freedom to use the internet however and whenever you choose being taken away from you. That’s exactly what Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs), are trying to do. Right now, those companies are constrained by a principle called net neutrality — the so-called “guiding principle of the internet.” It’s the idea that people should be free to access all the content available online without ISPs dictating how, when, and where that content can be accessed. In other words, net neutrality holds that the company you pay for internet access can’t control what you do online. In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission adopted strong net neutrality rules that banned ISPs from slowing down connection speeds to competing services — e.g., Comcast can’t slow down content or applications specific to Verizon because it wants you to switch to their services — or blocking websites in an effort to charge individuals or companies more for services they’re already paying for. But now the open internet as we know it is under threat again. Net neutrality rules are in danger of being overturned by Donald Trump’s FCC chairman Ajit Pai and broadband companies like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.

Citizens Begin Reclaiming Coal Country After Decades Of Corporate Land Grabs

The Appalachian Citizen’s Law Center recently found it would cost more than $9.6 billion to reclaim the 6.2 million acres of lands and waters of abandoned and polluted mine sites.

Photo of West Virginia mountaintop by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images.

By Emma Eisenberg for Yes! Magazine – “Land is the most important thing to us, yet it’s not clear at all who owns it,” says Karen Rignall, assistant professor of community and leadership development at the University of Kentucky. “Without broad-scale knowledge of the patterns of land ownership this region cannot work together to move forward. But who owns it on paper is not always who owns it in actuality. That takes time and money to find out.” The coal industry of central Appalachia has been on the decline for more than 30 years, with West Virginia and Kentucky losing more than 38,000 coal jobs in that time. As coal companies pulled out, they took with them the dollars that small towns used to use to fund their schools and infrastructure, and left behind abandoned mines, polluted rivers and vast swaths of vacant land. All over Appalachia, communities and organizations are working around the clock to come up with a way to “justly transition” the Appalachian economy to whatever comes next. Rignall and postdoctoral researcher Lindsay Shade are collaborating with a growing group of citizens that think a part of the answer to a post-coal economy may lie with an old land ownership study—and have been inspired by it to do a new one.

Detecting What Unravels Our Society – Bottom-up And Top-down

Flickr/ torbakhopper

By Staff of The Nader Page – The unraveling of a society’s institutions, stability and reasonable order does not sound alarms to forewarn the citizenry, apart from economic yardsticks measuring poverty, jobs, wages, health, savings, profits and other matters economic. However, we do have some signs that we should not allow ourselves to ignore. Maliciousness, profiteering and willful ignorance on the part of our political and corporate rulers undoubtedly contribute to worsening injustice. Let’s consider some ways that we as citizens, far too often, collectively allow this to happen. Democracy is threatened when citizens refuse to participate in power, whether by not voting, not thinking critically about important issues, not showing up for civic activities or allowing emotional false appeals and flattery by candidates and parties to sway them on important issues. Without an informed and motivated citizenry, the society starts to splinter. If people do not do their homework before Election Day and know what to expect of candidates and of themselves, the political TV ads and the plutocrats’ campaign cash will take control of what is on the table and what is off the table. This leads to the most important changes a majority of Americans want ending up on the floor.

Digital Media Companies: Net Neutrality Rules Help Us Compete

AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza

By Sara Fischer for Axios – Why it matters: Many news publishers believe the current net neutrality rules help them survive in an economic environment that already favors tech and telecom companies that distribute content over media companies that create it. In comments to the FCC, Digital Content Next CEO Jason Kint argues on behalf of nearly 80 online publishers that the rule prohibiting internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, or Comcast from blocking a consumer’s ability to access lawful content should remain clearly intact. He also argues that the regulation banning those providers from striking financial deals to give priority to certain content on their networks should remain intact. DCN’s position that the rules ensure that all types of content can get to consumers is generally echoed by the Internet Association, which represents tech giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Netflix. Internet service providers like AT&T and Comcast support the FCC’s efforts to roll back the rules, saying the current rules went beyond the agency’s authority.

Just 100 Companies Responsible For 71% Of Global Emissions, Study Says

An oil rig exploring for oil and gas. A new report says more than 50% of global industrial emissions since 1988 can be traced to just 25 companies. Photograph: Dazman/Getty Images/iStockphoto

By Tess Riley for The Guardian – Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report. The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) “pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions,” says Pedro Faria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute. Traditionally, large scale greenhouse gas emissions data is collected at a national level but this report focuses on fossil fuel producers. Compiled from a database of publicly available emissions figures, it is intended as the first in a series of publications to highlight the role companies and their investors could play in tackling climate change. The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established – can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988.

Biomass Industry’s Hollow Self-Regulatory Scheme Has Been Exposed

Anna Moskvina/Shutterstock

By Adam Macon and Sasha Stashwick for AlterNet – If we want clean air and a livable planet, cutting down trees for fuel is one of the most counterproductive things we can do. Standing forests are a critical tool in the fight against climate change. Cutting trees down to use as fuel in energy production—known as biomass energy or bioenergy—is one of the most counterproductive things we can do if our goal is clean air and a livable planet. Despite this reality, policymakers around the world have invested heavily in bioenergy. Nowhere is this more true than in the European Union, where bioenergy policies in the U.K. and other member states enable billions in subsidies each year to flow to the balance sheets of large utility companies, padding their profits and financing the conversion of old coal-fired power plants to burn wood. Meanwhile, the evidence of the climate and ecological harm wrought by the biomass industry continues to mount. Yet too many policymakers remain unwilling to acknowledge the impacts of bioenergy and adequately limit its growth. They argue that the industry’s impacts on the climate, forests, and people are still uncertain, that we need more studies, more “proof.”

The Destructive Power Trips Of Amazon’s Boss

Flickr/ Jo N

By Ralph Nader for The Nader Page – For his smallish stature, Amazon Boss Jeff Bezos has a booming, uproarious laugh. Unleashed during workdays, its sonic burst startles people, given it comes from as harsh and driven a taskmaster as exists on the stage of corporate giantism. Is Bezos’s outward giddiness a worrisome reflection of what Bezos is feeling on the inside? Is he laughing at all of us? Is Bezos laughing at the tax collectors, having avoided paying most states’ sales taxes for years on all the billions of books he sold online, thereby giving him an immediate 6 to 9 percent price advantage over brick-and-mortar bookstores, that also paid property taxes to support local schools and public facilities? That, and being an early online bookseller, gave Bezos his crucial foothold, along with other forms of tax avoidance that big companies utilize. Is Bezos laughing at the bureaucratic labor unions, that somehow can’t get a new handle on organizing the tens of thousands of exploited blue collar workers crying for help in Amazon warehouses and other stress-driven installations? With a net-worth over $80 billion, why should he worry?

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.

Corporations & Western Governments Continue To Profit From Looting Africa

Flickr/ Gigi Ibrahim. Martyrs & Revolution

By Ben Dangl for Counter Punch – A recent report published by a coalition of African and British social justice organizations lays bare the truth that foreign corporations and wealthy governments continue to profit from the looting of the world’s most impoverished continent. In 2015, the year the most recent data is available, African nations received $162 billion in aid, loans, and remittances. At the same time, $203 billion was taken from these nations through resource extraction, debt payments, and illegal logging and fishing. “We find that the countries of Africa are collectively net creditors to the rest of the world, to the tune of $41.3 billion in 2015,” explain authors of the report, titled How the World Profits from Africa’s Wealth. “There’s such a powerful narrative in Western societies that Africa is poor and that it needs our help,” explained Aisha Dodwell, a campaigner with Global Justice Now, one of the organizations that authored the report. “This research shows that what African countries really need is for the rest of the world to stop systematically looting them,” Dodwell said. “While the form of colonial plunder may have changed over time, its basic nature remains unchanged.”

We’re Winning In The Fight Against Corporate Courts And Toxic Trade Deals

Screenshot 2017-06-03 at 2.00.01 PM

By Staff of War On Want – In recent weeks two EU court rulings and a decision taken by Ecuador to scrap its investment treaties have dealt a heavy blow to secretly negotiated, corporate trade deals. The events have proved a major boost to social movements resisting these toxic deals in the UK and around the world, as part of a wider fight for trade justice and democracy. Growing opposition to ‘corporate courts’. The decisions have severely dented the deeply undemocratic investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) or ‘corporate court’ system, under which corporations can sue governments for lost future profits. Corporate courts are effectively taxpayer-funded risk insurance for corporations. Time and again countries around the world have been sued by corporations for lost future profits after taking action to ban nuclear power, safeguard the human right to water or stop harmful mining operations. In response, a broad opposition to corporate courts has built up across Southern countries, civil society groups, among trade unions, academics, progressive political parties and UN independent experts. EU states must have a say. In the midst of election campaigning here in the UK, it’s been easy for these somewhat technical stories to pass under the radar.

“Corporate Free” Richmond Candidates Moving Up

From beyondchron.org

By Steve Early for Beyond Chron – Since 2004, members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) have won ten out of the sixteen city council and mayoral races they have contested in their majority minority city of 110,000. Last November, progressives gained an unprecedented “super-majority” of five on Richmond’s seven-member council—despite more than a decade of heavy spending against them by Chevron Corp. and other big business interests. For 12 years, RPA candidates have distinguished themselves from local Democrats by their lonely, Bernie Sanders-like refusal to take corporate contributions. Now two Progressive Alliance leaders–city councilors Jovanka Beckles and Gayle McLaughlin–are preparing to run as “corporate free” candidates for higher office. It’s the first time either one has sought a ballot line outside their own blue-collar refinery town. Both hope to capitalize on the energy and enthusiasm (and campaign donations) of thousands of former Sanders supporters, including those who tried to reform the Democratic Party at its statewide convention in Sacramento May 20-21.