Category Archives: Corpocracy

Corporations pay no Olympic taxes; winners do


If the Olympics were portrayed as they really are, its corporations who would be the gold medal winners.

As for the athletes, well, they’re the losers — especially the ones who won.

First, the corporate winners, via teleSUR English [emphasis added]:

The exemption, which lasts until Dec. 31, 2017, excludes from taxes revenue generated by advertising, product sales, imports and any other activity related to the organization of the games.

“It is yet another manifestation of the privileges that multinationals worldwide have today,” said Antonio Martins, director of the alternative Brazilian news outlet Outras Palavras. “And it’s not an isolated event, which is limited to a sports mega event,” he told the BBC.

Brazil has 37 million people living in extreme poverty, its economy is currently in recession and the interim government of Senate-imposed President Michel Temer has approved a fiscal austerity program. Meanwhile, the country is expected to lose about a billion dollars in tax revenue thanks to the exemption, according to BBC.

According to Naomi Fowler of the Tax Justice Network, the tax exemption on corporations is a precondition forced on any candidate to host a world sport event.

And the losers are. . .the winners

At least that’s the case for American athletes

From BBC News:

American Olympians are subject to a so-called “victory tax” – a tax on both the money they receive from the Olympic committee for winning and on the value of the Olympic medal.

What are they taxed on?

US athletes who win a medal at the Rio games will take home the hardware and a cash bonus from the US Olympic Committee.

Gold medallists will receive $25,000, silver medallists get $15,000, and bronze winners earn $10,000.

Those winnings are taxed as income, the same way Americans are taxed on other prize money, like lottery winnings. Most countries exempt their athletes from these taxes.

So, let’s see if we’ve got this right.

Corporations, who get to use the Olympics to peddle their wares and make huge profits from sales at the events, get off without paying taxes, while the athletes, the very reason for the Olympics, are thoroughly taxed.

Anyone see anything wrong with this?

Blood on the newsroom floor. . .dying papers


John Oliver’s brilliant dissection of the problems facing America’s newspapers, the bedrock of the national press, finds confirmation in two charts from State of the News Media 2016, the latest annual report on the state of American journalism from the Pew Research Center.

First up, the bad news about the news business as reflected by the falling numbers of folks who pay to have the news deilvered to the front doorstep:

BLOG News circ
And then there’s this grim graphic on the vanishing American newspaper reporter, especially journalists who are women or belong non-Anglo ethnic groups:

BLOG News jobs

ChevronTexaco’s deadly Ecuadorian legacy


During our years reporting for the Berkeley Daily Planet, we wrote any number of stories about the Chevron refinery in nearby Richmond on the shores of San Francisco Bay.

As the dominant economic power in a city on of the region’s poorest city, one with a large minority population and in a state of economic implosion, the company was the target of considerable community concerns about fires [they had ‘em] and pollution.

The firm was represented by Willie Brown, the former powerful speaker of the lower house of the legislature of the richest and most populous state in the country, the same Willie Brown casino developers hired to sell the black population of Atlantic City on the ballot measure that legalized casinos there. Willie promised them jobs and good housing; they got neither.

Sophisticated at public relations and press-spinning, Chevron played a dominant role in funding city council elections and turning out supporters, sometimes financed by contributions to churches and other organizations, to ensure their messages got across at city council meetings.

But Richmond’s concerns pale compared to those experienced by thousands of Ecuadorians, the subject of former Bay Area journalist Abby Martin’s latest episode of her series for teleSUR English:

The Empire Files: Chevron vs. the Amazon – Inside the Killzone

Program notes:

A U.S. court just handed another victory to the oil giant Chevron Texaco, in its decades-long battle to avoid paying damages it owes in one of the worst environmental disasters in history. In the Ecuadorean Amazon, the most biodiverse area of the world, the energy titan deliberately poisoned 5 million acres of pristine habitat and subjected tens of thousands of indigenous peoples to destruction of their health and culture. In Part 1 of ‘Chevron vs. the Amazon,’ Abby Martin takes The Empire Files inside Chevron Texaco’s Amazon killzone to see the areas deemed “remediated” by Chevron, and spoke with the people living in the aftermath.

America’s biggest thieves: It’s the employers


And the pile they plunder makes the profits of burglars and stick-up artists pale by comparison.

From The Week:

In dollar terms, what group of Americans steals the most from their fellow citizens each year?

The answer might surprise you: It’s employers, many of whom are committing what’s known as wage theft. It’s not just about underpaying workers. They’re not paying workers what they’re legally owed for the labor they put in.

It takes different forms: not paying workers the federal, state, or local minimum wage; not paying them overtime; or just monkeying around with job titles to avoid regulations.

No one knows exactly how big a problem wage theft is, but in 2012 federal and state agencies recovered $933 million for victims of wage theft. By comparison, all the property taken in all the robberies of all types in 2012, solved or unsolved, amounted to a little under $341 million.

Remember, that $933 million is just the wage theft that’s been addressed by authorities. The full scale of the problem is likely monumentally larger: Research suggests American workers are getting screwed out of $20 billion to $50 billion annually.

Read the rest.

Proof: Ads manipulate children’s food choices


And as the second entry in this post reveals, those choices can have serious consequences.

First up, news of a new study [we’d title it “This is your brain on sugar”], reported by Elsevier — and in a rarity, the full report is available for free from the global academic study giant:

Food advertising is a multi-billion dollar industry, with approximately $1.8 billion annually aimed at children and adolescents, who view between 1,000 and 2,000 ads per year. Some studies have shown that there is a relationship between receptivity to food commercials and the amount and type of food consumed.  In a new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers studied the brain activity of children after watching food commercials and found that the commercials influence children’s food choices and brain activity.

Twenty-three children, 8-14 years old, rated 60 food items on how healthy or tasty they were. Dr. Amanda Bruce and researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center and University of Missouri-Kansas City then studied the children’s brain activity while watching food and non-food commercials and undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). According to Dr. Bruce, “For brain analyses, our primary focus was on the brain region most active during reward valuation, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex.” During the brain scan, children were asked whether they wanted to eat the food items that were shown immediately after the commercials.

The researchers found that, overall, the children’s decisions were driven by tastiness rather than healthfulness.  However, taste was even more important to the children after watching food commercials compared with non-food commercials; faster decision times (i.e., how quickly the children decided whether they wanted to eat the food item shown) also were observed after watching food commercials.  Additionally, the ventromedial prefrontal cortices of the children were significantly more active after watching food commercials.

Food marketing has been cited as a significant factor in food choices, overeating, and obesity in children and adolescents.  The results of this study show that watching food commercials may change the way children value taste, increasing the potential for children to make faster, more impulsive food choices.  Notes Dr. Bruce, “Food marketing may systematically alter the psychological and neurobiological mechanisms of children’s food decisions.”

A second study reveals the costs of obeying those ads

Few products are as aggressively advertised as soft drinks sweetened with that nasty high fructose corn syrup [previously and ominously].

Yet the costs of indulging in that commercially nurtured sweet tooth can result in a lifetime of misery, as demonstrated in a new study from a Virginia Tech nutritional epidemiologist.

From Virginia Tech:

Think one little sugary soda won’t make a difference on your waistline? Think again.

If people replace just one calorie-laden drink with water, they can reduce body weight and improve overall health, according to a Virginia Tech researcher.

“Regardless of how many servings of sugar-sweetened beverages you consume, replacing even just one serving can be of benefit,” said Kiyah J. Duffey, an adjunct faculty member of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and independent nutrition consultant.

Consuming additional calories from sugary beverages like soda, energy drinks, and sweetened coffee can increase risk of weight gain and obesity, as well as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Duffey’s findings, which were recently published in Nutrients, modeled the effect of replacing one 8-ounce sugar-sweetened beverage with an 8-ounce serving of water, based on the daily dietary intake of U.S. adults aged 19 and older, retrieved from the 2007-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Obama administration’s private prison payoff


The whole notion of letting private corporations run American prisons is abominable, going back to 1852 when California opened the first such institution, the now state-run San Quentin Prison.

Privatization failed to gain traction, and governments ran prisons, which, after all, are extensions of the governments’ judicial systems, until Ronald Reagan took over the White House.

Reagan, an avid proponent of turning public institutions into centers for private profits, inaugurated a building boom, with privately owned and operated prisons proliferating like noxious weeds across the country.

The prison contractors have emerged as the nation’s most potent lobbying force, reported the Washington Post in April, 2o15:

The two largest for-profit prison companies in the United States – GEO and Corrections Corporation of America – and their associates have funneled more than $10 million to candidates since 1989 and have spent nearly $25 million on lobbying efforts. Meanwhile, these private companies have seen their revenue and market share soar. They now rake in a combined $3.3 billion in annual revenue and the private federal prison population more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute. Private companies house nearly half of the nation’s immigrant detainees, compared to about 25 percent a decade ago, a Huffington Post report found. In total, there are now about 130 private prisons in the country with about 157,000 beds.

>snip<

The Justice Policy Institute identified the private-prison industry’s three-pronged approach to increase profits through political influence: lobbying, direct campaign contributions, and building relationships and networks.

One current presidential candidate, Libertarian Gary Johnson, won the New Mexico governorship on a platform which included the promise to privatize all prisons in his state.

From the Sentencing Project:

Gary Johnson’s platform during his initial 1994 run for governor of New Mexico included a pledge to privatize every prison in the state. By the time he left office in 2003 44.2 percent of the state’s prisoners were in privately run facilities.

And the Obama administration jumped on the bandwagon, no doubt with the prompting of his former chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who since decamping to win the job of mayor of Chicago has ruthlessly privatized public housing, schools, parking meters, nursing services, and more.

It’s no wonder that private prisons are an American corporate success story: With only five percent of the planet’s population, the U.S. accounts for 25 percent of the global incarceration population.

Mapping the Prison/Industrial Complex

This map, from the federal Bureau of Prisons, shows the locations of prisons currently run by private corporations on behalf of the notional government:

BLOG Prisons

Another map, this time from The Private Prison Project, shows the locations of state and federal prisons run by the three largest private prison corporations:

BLOG Prisons all

Federal prisons mushroom, violence reigns

So how effective are private contractors at running their prisons?

A just-released review of private federal prisons by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General concluded:

We found that in a majority of the categories we examined, contract prisons incurred more safety and security incidents per capita than comparable BOP [Bureau of Prisons — esnl] institutions. We analyzed data from the 14 contract prisons that were operational during the period of our review and from a select group of 14 BOP institutions with comparable inmate populations to evaluate how the contract prisons performed relative to the selected BOP institutions.  Our analysis included data from FYs [fiscal years — esnl] 2011 through 2014 in eight key categories: (1) contraband, (2) reports of incidents, (3) lockdowns, (4) inmate discipline, (5) telephone monitoring, (6) selected grievances, (7) urinalysis drug testing, and (8) sexual misconduct. With the exception of fewer incidents of positive drug tests and sexual misconduct, the contract prisons had more incidents per capita than the BOP institutions in all of the other categories of data we examined.

And just how much more violent are private prisons compared to prisons run by Uncle Sam?

One chart from the Inspector General’s report says it all:

BLOG Prisons assaults

A massive release of documents acquired by The Nation revealed a stunning lack of concern:

[N]ew records show that BOP monitors documented, between January 2007 and June 2015, the deaths of 34 inmates who were provided substandard medical care. Fourteen of these deaths occurred in prisons run by CCA. Fifteen were in prisons operated by the GEO Group. The BOP didn’t respond to repeated requests for comment or to written questions before deadline.

The records and interviews with former BOP officials reveal a pattern: Despite dire reports from dozens of field monitors, top bureau officials repeatedly failed to enforce the correction of dangerous deficiencies and routinely extended contracts for prisons that failed to provide adequate medical care.

The Obama administration greases the skids

And that brings us to the latest boondoggle, reported by the Washington Post:

As Central Americans surged across the U.S. border two years ago, the Obama administration skipped the standard public bidding process and agreed to a deal that offered generous terms to Corrections Corporation of America, the nation’s largest prison company, to build a massive detention facility for women and children seeking asylum.

The four-year, $1 billion contract — details of which have not been previously disclosed — has been a boon for CCA, which, in an unusual arrangement, gets the money regardless of how many people are detained at the facility. Critics say the government’s policy has been expensive but ineffective. Arrivals of Central American families at the border have continued unabated while court rulings have forced the administration to step back from its original approach to the border surge.

In hundreds of other detention contracts given out by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, federal payouts rise and fall in step with the percentage of beds being occupied. But in this case, CCA is paid for 100 percent capacity even if the facility is, say, half full, as it has been in recent months. An ICE spokeswoman, Jennifer Elzea, said that the contracts for the 2,400-bed facility in Dilley and one for a 532-bed family detention center in Karnes City, Tex., given to another company, are “unique” in their payment structures because they provide “a fixed monthly fee for use of the entire facility regardless of the number of residents.”

The rewards for CCA have been enormous: In 2015, the first full year in which the South Texas Family Residential Center was operating, CCA — which operates 74 facilities — made 14 percent of its revenue from that one center while recording record profit. CCA declined to specify the costs of operating the center.

Prisons and presidential politics

Marco Rubio was the private prison industry’s favorite son, the source of both their largess and of legislation that gained them even greater profits, as the Washington Post reported last year:

Marco Rubio is one of the best examples of the private prison industry’s growing political influence, a connection that deserves far more attention now that he’s officially launched a presidential bid. The U.S. senator has a history of close ties to the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, GEO Group, stretching back to his days as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. While Rubio was leading the House, GEO was awarded a state government contract for a $110 million prison soon after Rubio hired an economic consultant who had been a trustee for a GEO real estate trust. Over his career, Rubio has received nearly $40,000 in campaign donations from GEO, making him the Senate’s top career recipient of contributions from the company. (Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment.).

And while Hillary Clinton has made some statements about reining in the trend, as with so many things, her promises may well prove a facade, and the Intercept reported in June:

The chief executive of the largest private prison company in America reassured investors earlier this month that with either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House, his firm will be “just fine.” Damon Hininger, the chief executive of Corrections Corporation of America, was speaking at the REITWeek investor forum.

Private prisons have received a great deal of criticism this election cycle, first with Bernie Sanders campaigning to end for-profit incarceration, followed by Clinton taking up a similar pledge.

After The Intercept revealed that the Clinton campaign had received campaign donations from private prison lobbyists, a number of activist groups confronted Clinton, leading her to announce that she would no longer accept the money and later declaring that “we should end private prisons and private detention centers.”

But Corrections Corporation is apparently not concerned. Asked about prospects under Trump or Clinton, Hininger argued that his company has prospered through political turnover by taking advantage of the government’s quest for lower costs.

Legislators slam Mexican massacre coverup


On 19 June, government forces attacked striking teachers in Nochixtlan [more here] and elsewhere in the state of Oaxaca, where they had been conducting ongoing protests against corporate-friendly neoliberal education “reforms” designed to strip educators of their classroom autonomy.

The ongoing strikes have been organized by members of the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [CNTE], a teachers union strong in Southern Mexico and created in opposition to a the government-backed union, the  Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación [SNTE].

On Thursday, members of the government of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Office of the Attorney General [Procurador General de la República, or PGR] offered preliminary results of their investigation of the killings, and promptly drew fire from leftist legislators.

From teleSUR English:

Officials seemed to be more interested in outlining the alleged misdeeds of the residents of Nochixtlan, specifying the investigation into a series of crimes was already open before the massacre took place.

They also went to great lengths to emphasize the alleged presence of weapons in the hands of the civilians in Nochixtlan.

“A relevant fact is that the PGR confirmed that there were civilians carrying weapons and a Federal Police helicopter was damaged by these weapons and a second was damaged by impact of rockets,” said conservative Senator Mariana Gomez del Campo, who also participated in the press conference.

She added that over hundred police officers had apparently suffered injuries.

No police were killed, meanwhile at least ten civilians were killed in different clashes throughout Oaxaca on June 19, six alone were killed in Nochixtlan.

Senator Alejandro Encinas, from the center-left PRD, grilled Higuera on this point during Friday’s session of the special commission of the Mexican Congress following up on the incident.

Encinas said Roberto Campa, the undersecretary for Human Rights from the Interior Ministry, had no problem entering the town in order to interview witnesses and had done so several times.

“Campa went in, talked with the victims, with the authorities … he has assembled the facts … the PGR cannot pretend it has dementia, because it has the elements it needs to go further in the investigation,” said Encinas, as quoted by La Jornada.

In addition, a consortium of human rights organizations were even able to produce a preliminary report, based on interviews with the town’s residents, detailing the human rights abuses committed by the state in Nochixtlan.

Encinas also questioned how the PGR could claim civilians were armed without offering proof.