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IMF report suggests credit scores could soon be based on web browsing history

Dystopian future

By Didi Rankovic | Reclaim The Net | September 21, 2021

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has published the results of research conducted into how lenders are likely to be doing their business in the future, and what new information and personal data these companies plan to start asking from borrowers in order to determine their credit score.

The biggest takeaway is the seemingly inevitable shift from merely accessing credit information to also incorporating people’s online behavior into the process of deciding whether to lend them money necessary, for example, to buy a house.

Compared to the way the system now works in most countries – these changes, which are expected to be coming soon, look fairly invasive privacy-wise, and with no “vision” of proper safeguards. Banks and others will go as far as to access personal browsing and shopping history. This would be done by allowing automated systems, powered by algorithms, to harvest the data and turn it into credit reports.

From the report:

“The use of non-financial data will have large effects on the provision of financial services. Traditionally, banks rely on the analysis of customer financial information from payment flows and accounting records. The rise of the internet permits the use of new types of nonfinancial customer data, such as browsing histories and online shopping behavior of individuals, or customer ratings for online vendors.”

Currently, those hoping to take out a loan can expect to have their repayment and credit history length, as well as total debt checked, but going forward, the IMF study suggests, this will be expanded to include what’s known as people’s digital footprint – either collected from data already publicly available, or that obtained by credit bureaus.

The stated goal is to improve “loan default predictions” – and the upcoming trend is sold as a way to give access to money to people who have previously been unable to use loans because their status is “unscorable.” Also known as “credit invisibles,” these are mostly low-income minorities and immigrants, and having access to their personal habits and behavior as exhibited on the internet is supposed to help banks and other lenders “profile” them precisely enough to determine if they should be given a loan.

On the other hand, citizens who are “scorable” but whose score is low might suffer in the new system now in the making, as their online activity could persuade lenders to cut them off from access to money.

Although the move in this direction looks inevitable, some key answers are missing: what data scraped from the internet will be used to determine someone’s credit rating, and how it will be secured.

IMF’s post warns, however, to expect an “efficiency-privacy trade-off.”

September 21, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption | | 1 Comment

Pediatricians Remove Info on Mask Risks, Dangers for Kids

By Dr. Joseph Mercola | September 20, 2021

Throughout 2020 and 2021, ever since the declared COVID-19 pandemic, government officials consistently have been inconsistent in their assessments and recommendations for public health. In August 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) joined the ranks when they endorsed the CDC’s recommendation for masking.1

Since they did not want to be seen holding inconsistent positions, they removed years of information from their website that explained the importance of facial cues to early brain and child development. The removal of the content culminated August 12, 2021, with the fourth in a series of tweets, in which they said:2

“Babies and young children study faces, so you may worry that having masked caregivers would harm children’s language development. There are no studies to support this concern. Young children will use other clues like gestures and tone of voice.”

At the end of the tweet, they provided a link to an article on HealthyChildren.org3 that suggested “… when one sense is taken away, the others may be heightened.” The series of tweets was aimed at masking in general, stating:4

  • Masks work to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among children
  • Masks are a vital part of keeping kids safe at school this fall
  • Masks do not compromise children’s breathing
  • Being around adults wearing masks doesn’t delay babies’ speech or language development

Experts argue over the efficacy and necessity of masking a population that has minimal risk from the virus. You need look no further than the CDC’s website,5 which shows that children ages birth to 17 had a death rate of 0.08% in 2021 and 0.05% in 2020. Yet, it was the final statement — that masking doesn’t affect children’s development — that unleashed a reaction on Twitter from parents, speech therapists and physicians who heartedly disagreed.

American Academy of Pediatrics Caught in a Quandary

To support the unsubstantiated long-term use of masks, the AAP turned their back on years of research and their own information on the importance of facial cues with infants to protect and promote brain growth and development.

To make this work, the organization has taken down significant sections from their website about early childhood development. Reuters6 asked why the content was removed the weekend after the tweets were published. They were told the content was in the process of being migrated to a different platform.

A spokesperson told Reuters, “The AAP can confirm that our web content migration has nothing to do with AAP’s mask guidance.”7 They assured Reuters the content would be republished, but were unsure about the timeline; they expect it to be complete by the end of the year.

In other words, this well-funded and organized group is coincidentally “migrating” one key section of web content that curiously contradicts their new mask guidance, and planned this so it would take months to complete.

According to Reuters,8 any links to this content that come up in the search engine are now redirected to the AAP’s homepage. However, not all the content has been deleted since other organizations use the AAP documents to educate their clients.

For example, the “Building ‘Piece’ of Mind” pdf that was pulled as a resource on the AAP website9 is available on the Ohio Bold Beginning! site and branded with the Ohio chapter of the AAP.10 You can also download the full document from an Internet archive.11

The now “migrated” document encourages parents to pay attention to their emotional responses to their children, since “Feelings are a language that your infant understands early in life.”12 Yet, without facial cues, it’s challenging for adults, much less children, to read and understand emotional reactions. In the migrated document, the AAP says:

“As your baby grows, social smiles lead to conversations. For example: When you smile, your infant will smile back … This ‘dance’ between you and your baby is fun for both of you. It is a great way to encourage your baby’s new skills as they appear. For this important dance to work, calmly and consistently meet your baby’s needs … and smile!”

But how is that supposed to work if your baby is staring at you and other adults who have two-thirds of their faces covered with masks? How do babies know you’re smiling if your entire face is covered up? In response to the AAP, Dr. James Todaro, who runs the website MedicineUncensored, tweeted:13

“AAP in 2018: ‘How Do Infants Learn? Infants love to look at you and hear your voice. In fact, faces, with all their expressions, usually are more interesting than toys. Spend time talking, singing, and laughing. Play games of touching, stroking, and peek-a-boo.’

AAP in 2021: ‘Babies and young children study faces, so you may worry that having masked caregivers would harm children’s language development. There are no studies to support this concern. Young children will use other clues like gestures and tone of voice.’”

Did Pfizer’s Funding of the AAP Influence Their Mask Policy?

Shortly after the AAP took down their facial cue documents and posted their new masking recommendations for children, a retired chief of police questioned the AAP’s motives — and in a telling opinion piece for Law Enforcement Today,14 he revealed that Pfizer is one of the AAP’s largest funders.

Twitter users15 noticed it too, with several asking what would Pfizer’s funding have to do with the AAP’s mask recommendations. Finally, one person figured it out, saying, “perhaps the plan is to get parents so fed up with their children having to wear them they break down and get them the vax.”

In fact, the AAP itself linked vaccination to mandatory mask-wearing quite clearly when they talked with NBC news,16 which reported: “The AAP said universal masking is necessary because much of the student population is not vaccinated, and it’s hard for schools to determine who is as new variants emerge that might spread more easily among children.”

When you consider that another COVID vaccine maker, Johnson & Johnson, is also a funder for the AAP — and that Dr. Anthony Fauci made the news September 9, 2021,17 saying that vaccines for children as young as 6 months may be ready as soon as November 2021 — the idea that the AAP would consider setting the stage for parents to come begging for a vaccine doesn’t sound so off the wall.

Not Just Children Are Affected

An AAP staffer was quoted in Live From Studio 6B,18 saying, “AAP recommends masks in schools and public settings to protect children. These documents are more about interactions between infants and their parents or primary caregiver, much of which will be in a home setting where masks are usually not needed.”

However, masking facial cues affects infants and young children in day care situations and when they are out of their home. This impacts “social referencing,” which the AAP finds important to child development and refers to the ability to read the face of a stranger.19

Research20 shows mothers have unique central nervous system responses when they first see the face of their newborn. This demonstrates the significance of facial cues in building mother-infant bonding. Yet, as comments on a Twitter thread point out, infants and children are not the only ones suffering from a lack of facial cues. Twitter user MDaly is a mother and teacher, who commented:21

“I teach English to students who are not native English speakers. Wearing a mask absolutely affected their language development last year. I had to ask students to repeatedly speak up and repeat themselves which negatively affects their self-esteem as well.”

A letter to the editor in The BMJ 22 expounds on the challenges faced by adults who are hearing impaired with mandatory masking. Health care has always been challenging for those with hearing impairment, especially in emergency departments where the noise level is high. Alexandra Dumitru is hearing impaired and commented:23

“Zero common sense. It’s tragic what our health institutions have become. First the CDC, now this — even adults benefit from seeing a full face. As someone hearing impaired masks have been a nightmare for me. Kids copy adults; they need to see mouths move.”

Data Are Sparse for a Very Good Reason

The AAP stated that there were no studies to support the concern that baby’s and young children’s development would be impeded by the constant use of masks in the adults who care for them. Yet, as one person on Twitter said, “If you don’t study something, you can say there are no studies.”24

However, the data are sparse and there are no studies analyzing the effect of masking on young children because before 2020 it would never have passed an ethical review board. Imagine gathering a cohort of 40 infants. Nearly from the time of birth 20 parents would wear masks anytime they had interactions with their children. The other 20 would serve as a control group, being raised in a way formerly advised by the AAP.

After five years of what could only be called abusive behavior, psychiatrists and behavior psychologists would test these children to find their brain development, language development and ability to recognize facial cues are stunted. And yet, the AAP would like us to believe that won’t happen — without testing infant development in an environment known to be detrimental, we cannot extrapolate the information and understand it would be detrimental.

In 1990, the world discovered a carefully guarded secret of the Romanian Communist Party’s leader, Nicolae Ceauşescu.25 After his execution the new government brought in Western psychologists and child specialists to help deal with the 170,000 children who were abandoned in orphanages where they received no interaction with adults.

Charles A. Nelson III, a professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, recounts his introduction to the environment these children lived in. He recalled:26

“I walked into an institution in Bucharest one afternoon, and there was a small child standing there sobbing. He was heartbroken and had wet his pants. I asked, ‘What’s going on with that child?’ A worker said, ‘Well, his mother abandoned him this morning and he’s been like that all day.’ That was it. No one comforted the little boy or picked him up. That was my introduction.”

The children in the orphanages of Romania not only didn’t have “face time” with their caregivers, but also didn’t have any comfort or interaction. It’s not hard to imagine how an infant, who relies on cues from other people to learn and grow, could be stunted by having little exposure to facial expressions.

The Still Face Experiment

The horrific environment these children and young adults lived in was the largest human experiment in which children did not receive interaction from other humans. Until, that is, 2020 and 2021, when many infants and children are being raised in an environment where they are unable to read facial cues. In this short video, you’ll see what happens during the “still face” experiment when the infant does not get a response from the mother.

The still face experiment demonstrated how infants are vulnerable to the emotional or nonemotional reactions of people. In the COVID-19 pandemic, infants and children are lacking visual facial cues, but the expectation is they continue to receive emotional interaction at the same level they did before the mask mandates.

Research has demonstrated that when parents struggle to be emotionally present with their children, the children grow up having more trouble with trust and regulating their own emotions.27 However, there has been no data before 2020 to determine if masking facial cues would cause children to grow up with the same issues.

Are Facial Cues Recognizable Through Masks?

Research produced after 2020 has demonstrated that children and adults struggle to recognize emotion in people who are masked. How this will affect overall child development and whether the children can “catch up” if mask mandates are ever removed, is yet to be determined.

For example, in one study28 published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in December 2020, researchers engaged children ages 7 to 13 and showed them photos of people exhibiting six different emotions. Without the masks, the children identified the emotions correctly 66% of the time.29

However, when masks were in place, this dropped to between 18% and 28% for sadness, fear and anger. A second study30 in children ages 3 to 5 years demonstrated that the younger children had even more difficulty.

The data were in line with past literature that confirmed that a face mask affected understanding emotions. They found the toddlers’ performance was more influenced by a mask than older children and adults.31

Similar studies have also been performed with adults. One study32 published in September 2020 with 41 healthy adults aged 18 to 87 years presented the participants with photos of six different expressions.

When the photos were not wearing masks, the overall performance for identifying emotions was 89.5%. This dropped significantly when masks were in place. A second study33 published in Scientific Reports in 2021, analyzed the effects of masking to measure emotion recognition and trust attribution in 122 adult men and women.

The researchers found that standard masks interfered with both measures and made it more difficult to identify an individual they had already encountered when the mask was removed.

Data produced since 2020 have shown that masks do an excellent job of masking a person’s ability to read emotions, but likely do not have the same efficacy in slowing the spread of a virus. The question we therefore must ask is, what will be the long-term effect on the emotional and mental health of society as the generation of children raised without full exposure to facial cues become doctors, lawyers, businesspeople and politicians?

Sources and References

September 20, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

ROBERT MALONE INTERVIEWED BY JIMMY DORE

anti_republocrat | September 15, 2021

Robert Malone, inventor of mRNA technology, is interviewed by Jimmy Dore. Malone is not “anti-vax,” but he is “pro-ethics” and believes that all medical procedures require truly informed consent, with absolutely no coercion. He shares the view of Geert Vanden Bossche, whom he mentions in the interview, that the vaccines help to generate the variants because they are non-sterilizing. He says they should be targeted toward those who are at highest risk from the virus, seniors and those with multiple co-morbidities. I personally disagree with that. I think they should be taken off the market altogether, but at least he is adamantly against mandates.

September 19, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Video | , , , , | Leave a comment

Inquiry launched as European Commission chief refuses to hand over text messages exchanged with Pfizer CEO

RT | September 17, 2021

The European Ombudsman has demanded that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen explain how she lost text messages that she exchanged with the CEO of Pfizer during talks about vaccine procurement.

European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, the EU’s top accountability and governance officer, launched an inquiry into the European Commission’s refusal to hand over the contents of communications between von der Leyen and a CEO of an unnamed pharmaceutical company about a Covid-19 vaccine contract.

As a first step, O’Reilly asked the Commission to explain its policy on keeping records of von der Leyen’s text messages. “The Commission has an obligation to record instant messages relating to important policy or political matters, such as the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines,” O’Reilly’s office wrote in a statement about the case.

In April, the New York Times reported that von der Leyen had been exchanging texts and calls with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla for a month as part of negotiations about vaccine procurement for the bloc. The paper wrote at the time that personal diplomacy played a big role in securing the vaccine deal.

O’Reilly requested that the Commission hand over the text messages, but the Commission claimed that “no record had been kept of any such messages,” according to the ombudsman’s office.

The office has previously warned about the importance of record-keeping within EU institutions amid an increased amount of remote work in the Covid era. “EU administration is required by EU law to draw up and retain documentation pertaining to its activities, as far as possible and in a non-arbitrary and predictable manner,” the watchdog said in June.

September 17, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , | 3 Comments

How Politicians Make Millions Off Our Corrupt Political System

By Dr. Joseph Mercola | September 16, 2021

Politicians receive very comfortable salaries. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for instance, earns $223,500 a year, making her the third-highest-paid elected official in the U.S. Yet, since 2004, her wealth has increased from $41 million to nearly $115 million, according to OpenSecrets, which began tracking lawmakers’ personal finances that year.

She’s not alone in her wealth. Personal financial disclosures reveal that more than half of Congress members are millionaires, with a median net worth of just over $1 million. As is often the case, however, the top 10% of the lawmakers in terms of wealth are three times richer than the bottom 90%. Pelosi comes in as number 6 on a list of the wealthiest members of the 116th Congress.

At issue isn’t the fact that politicians are multimillionaires — rather, as noted on a recent Twitter thread by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald, it’s how they made their millions:

“If you think it’s fine and normal that the Speaker of the House’s personal wealth tripled to $115 million ever since financial disclosures were required (2004), that’s fine, but the issue is how that money was made. It was from companies directly affected by her actions.”

Politicians get rich from ‘lucky’ stock trading

In the last two years, nearly 75% of Pelosi’s stock trades have involved Big Tech stocks, totaling over $33 million in trading. “That has happened as major legislation is pending before the House, controlled by the committees Pelosi oversees, which could radically reshape the industry and laws that govern the very companies in which she and her husband most aggressively trade,” Greenwald wrote in a blog.

Pelosi’s most traded company was Apple, accounting for 17.7% of her trades. But unlike most people buying and selling Apple stock, Pelosi had the privilege of speaking privately with Apple CEO Tim Cook on at least one occasion to discuss the company’s standing and how it could be affected by pending bills relating to Silicon Valley reforms.

The call in question occurred just days after antitrust reform legislation was introduced. Big Tech pushed back, and Cook called Pelosi directly to voice his concerns. Pelosi, according to The New York Times, then asked him which measures he specifically objected to. Greenwald reported on the blatant conflict of interest:

“Sources who refused to be identified tried to convince the Times’ reporters that ‘Ms. Pelosi pushed back on Mr. Cook’s concerns about the bills.’ But in doing so, they confirmed the rather crucial fact that Pelosi was having personal, private conversations with the CEO of a company in which she and her husband were heavily invested and off of which they were making millions of dollars in personal wealth.

“And Pelosi, according to the report, asked Cook what changes were needed to avoid harming Apple and other Silicon Valley giants.”

Trading stocks in companies affected by pending legislation

Greenwald also revealed that Pelosi’s five most-traded stocks in the last two years — Apple, Microsoft, FacebookAmazon and Google — were those that stood to be most affected by pending legislation, and not just any legislation, but legislation that she was working to negotiate and work through Congress.

Four of the companies — Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google — were directly identified by the House Antitrust Subcommittee as being monopolies, making their futures heavily dependent on the pending legislation. According to Greenwald:

“Beyond that, Google — one of the companies in which the Pelosis’ stock trades have made millions — is one of the top five donors to the House Speaker. The wealthy couple buys and sells in Google stock, making millions. She works on bills that directly affect the future trajectory of Google. And they lavish her campaign coffers with cash, a key source of her entrenched power.”

Meanwhile, Pelosi’s husband, Paul, purchased risky options in Alphabet, the parent company of Google, in February 2020, which he sold in June, netting more than $5 million in profits. The purchase was made, Greenwald wrote:

“… right before the market began plunging due to the COVID epidemic and right before the House, led by his wife, was set to introduce new legislation to regulate those same tech companies. Yet even as the prices in several of those companies plummeted, Paul Pelosi held onto them, only to sell them last June at a massive profit.”

He also cited two other “disturbing incidents” in which Paul Pelosi had impeccable timing with his investment decisions, including exercising nearly $2 million worth of Microsoft call options within two weeks of a Microsoft contract to supply the U.S. Army with augmented reality headsets. The other incident involved the purchase of about $1 million in Tesla stock after calls made prior to the government announcing incentives it would offer to promote the shift toward electric vehicles.

“In response to media inquiries,” Greenwald reported, “Pelosi denied that she is involved in or even has knowledge of her husband’s stock trading. There is, of course, no way to confirm or disprove that, but what is clear is that the vast wealth generated by those stock trades in companies Pelosi greatly affects — and about which she clearly has non-public information — directly enriches Pelosi herself.”

Suspicious COVID-related trading

Not every lawmaker had filed annual financial disclosures at the time of OpenSecrets’ latest report, including Sen. Kelly Loeffler, (R-Ga.), who has an estimated worth of over $500 million.

She and her husband, New York Stock Exchange chief executive Jeff Sprecher, came under fire for suspicious stock trades worth between $1.2 million and $3.1 million that occurred immediately after a “closed-door coronavirus briefing in late January” 2020. Among them:

  • Buying stock in an online travel booking site in February 2020, then selling it four days later, just before a ban on flights from Europe was publicly announced.
  • Purchasing stock in Citrix, which sells GoToMeeting teleworking software.

Loeffler denied using confidential information from her Senate duties to make a private profit but announced in April 2020 that she and her husband were liquidating their stock holdings and “moving into exchange-traded funds and mutual funds.” In other suspicious instances:

  • Sen. Richard Burr, (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who receives frequent briefings about potential U.S. threats, also dumped stock, including in hotel companies, worth up to $1.7 million in late January 2020.
  • “As Intel chairman,” Burr “got private briefings about coronavirus weeks ago,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-N.Y.), tweeted at the time. “Burr knew how bad it would be. He told the truth to his wealthy donors while assuring the public that we were fine.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-Calif.), and Sen. James Inhofe, (R-Okla.), also sold stock after Intelligence Committee briefings.

How is this legal?

Corruption runs deep in politics, with Big Tech and Big Pharma giving campaign money to politicians who in turn receive non-public information about the corporations that can be used to enrich their personal stock portfolios. The lawmakers then have influence over legislation that affects the companies in which they’re personally invested.

Politicians are supposed to be performing a public service, but once they’re out of the public eye, many go on to serve as lobbyists or work in the corporate world. This means that during their tenure, they don’t want to close doors that may help them once they’re no longer in politics.

The system is such that most politicians aren’t fighting for the public but, rather, are looking out for their own self-interest and wealth accumulation. Case in point: There were 1,502 pharmaceutical lobbyists in 2020, 63.91% of whom were former government employees.

A revolving door, in which government employees and former members of Congress take jobs with lobbying firms, is common among lobbyists, and the reverse also occurs, in which people from the private sector end up in government positions. How is this legal? As Greenwald explained, unless insider trading can be proven, this type of “lucky” trading that is building the wealth of numerous politicians will continue:

“While the trades cannot be declared illegal unless it can be proven that either Pelosi acted on non-public information — in which case it would be the felony of insider trading — the ethical stench is obvious.

“Just as was true when numerous Senators from both parties sold stocks in COVID-related industries before the pandemic began — raising questions about whether they had advance knowledge of what was coming through classified briefings — watching Nancy Pelosi’s wealth skyrocket by millions of dollars from trades in the very companies she is directly overseeing creates a sleazy appearance, to put that mildly.”

Politicians are in good company, as top health officials also cash in on stock options tied to the companies they oversee. For instance, Dr. Julie Gerberding — director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2002 until 2009, who after leaving the CDC became president of Merck’s vaccine division in January 2010 — sold half her Merck stock options for $9.11 million in January 2020.

In March 2020, a group of legislators introduced the Ban Conflicted Trading Act to “prohibit members of Congress and senior congressional staff from abusing their positions for personal financial gain through trading individual stocks and investments while in office or serving on corporate boards.”

“Members of Congress should not be allowed to buy and sell individual stock,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “We are here to serve the public, not to profiteer.” Senator Jeff Merkley, who introduced the Act to the Senate, added:

“Buying and selling stocks while making decisions that affect the stock’s value is inherently a conflict of interest. At best, it can seriously degrade public trust — as we are seeing today. At worst, it’s a blatant abuse of power.”

September 17, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | | 2 Comments

Florida & Texas fume as Biden seizes and RATIONS supply of life-saving Covid treatments

RT | September 16, 2021

Seven southern US states, mostly led by Republican governors, say they are now facing shortages of monoclonal antibody treatments for Covid-19 after the federal government took over the distribution, citing the need for “equity.”

Monoclonal antibodies (MAB) are lab-created proteins that help those already infected deal with the virus. They have been intensively deployed in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas – states dealing with the recent surge of Delta-variant cases. With the exception of Louisiana, they are all run by Republicans.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced it would take over the distribution of these treatments using the Defense Production Act and would be centralizing them under the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A HHS spokesperson said this was being done to avoid shortages, as the seven states account for 70% of all orders.

“Given this reality, we must work to ensure our supply of these life-saving therapies remains available for all states and territories, not just some,” the spokesperson told CNN.

“HHS will determine the amount of product each state and territory receives on a weekly basis. State and territorial health departments will subsequently identify sites that will receive product and how much,” the spokesperson said. “This system will help maintain equitable distribution, both geographically and temporally, across the country – providing states and territories with consistent, fairly-distributed supply over the coming weeks.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has clashed with President Joe Biden on Covid policies – from mask mandates to compulsory vaccination – said that the move has resulted in cutting the supply to his state by more than 50%.

The federal government has allocated fewer than 31,000 doses to Florida this week, while the average need for hospitals and state clinics is 72,000, his office said.

DeSantis said on Thursday that he has reached out to GlaxoSmithKline, another pharmaceutical company, to purchase their MAB treatment in order to make up the shortfall.

In Texas, the Biden administration told the state “to reduce its use of the therapeutic treatment that has literally been saving lives and reducing hospitalizations,” Mark Keough, a judge in charge of Montgomery County, just north of Houston, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

“The manufacturer has confirmed supplies are ample but due to the Defense Production Act, the White House and it’s agencies are the only entities who can purchase and distribute this treatment,” Keough added.

“So, less than a week after the president tells us his patience is wearing thin and he is mandating vaccines to millions of Americans, his administration limits and all but removes a non-controversial and highly successful treatment from our war chest of combating this virus,” he said.

One DeSantis aide said that the HHS hasn’t adequately explained its move, or given a warning.

“They had a vague statement about ‘equity’ but sorry that doesn’t cut it,” the aide told Real Clear Politics. “No explanation of how the allocation was determined. No explanation of why it’s only Florida and a few other red states being restricted. No warning.”

“How is it equitable to only send treatment for HALF the Floridians who need it, & NO state sites in Alabama?” DeSantis’s press secretary Christina Pushaw asked on Twitter.

She also pointed out that, just weeks ago, Democrats and their allies in the corporate press were claiming that MAB treatments were a scam to enrich a DeSantis donor – prompting a war of words – but have now suddenly pivoted to claiming that Florida is using too many doses.

Some pundits are going so far as to speculate that the move is part of a “civil war” in the US, since six out of seven states hardest-hit by HHS rationing are run by Republicans, and incumbent Donald Trump won all of them in the 2020 election.

September 16, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, War Crimes | | 1 Comment

Shocking report exposes how US defense contractors have wasted trillions through fraud and corruption

By Kit Klarenberg | RT | September 15, 2021

The newly released ‘Profits of War’ report from Brown University has revealed in staggering detail the full extent of the corruption unleashed by Washington’s profligate defense spending during the 20-year War on Terror.

It notes that since the start of the intervention in Afghanistan in October 2001, Pentagon spending has totalled $14 trillion, with the US war budget increasing between 2002 and 2003 by more than the entire military spending of any other country. Between one-third and one-half of that total was pocketed by defense firms, which provided logistics and reconstruction, private security services and weapons – along the way, these contractors habitually engaged in “questionable or corrupt business practices,” including fraud, abuse, price-gouging and profiteering.

Wartime conditions meant standard contract processes were circumvented – bidders, bids, and subsequent delivery weren’t subject to significant oversight, so fleecing the Pentagon was extremely easy, particularly for well-connected companies with government ties.

Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman have in recent years been awarded between a quarter to a third of all Pentagon contracts. It’s surely no coincidence that four of the past five US Defense Secretaries previously worked at one of the ‘big five’.

A key focus of the report is Halliburton, which was awarded an open-ended contract without competition, to provide a wide array of support for US soldiers overseas, including setting up and managing military bases, maintaining equipment, catering, and laundry services. A 2003 internal Pentagon review found the company had dramatically overcharged for basic goods and services to the tune of tens of millions, and conducted faulty work on bases that put soldiers at risk.

In some cases, Halliburton billed Washington for services it didn’t actually provide – in 2009, it was determined the number of meals for which it charged the Pentagon was up to 36 percent greater than the true figure. In others, the company’s reckless conduct had fatal consequences. The report documents how, from 2004 to 2008, at least 18 military personnel in Halliburton-built bases across Iraq were electrocuted due to sub-par installations.

It took the death of a Green Beret who was electrocuted while showering for Congress to launch an investigation into the issue, with a resultant review revealing that the wider building was found to have “serious electrical problems” almost a year before he died, but Halliburton did nothing to remedy the situation – not least because its contract didn’t oblige the firm to “[fix] potential hazards.” The company was also found to have employed untrained or inexperienced electricians to do work at a lower rate, while billing Washington for fees provided by professionals.

Despite criminal investigations being launched by the FBI, Justice Department, and Pentagon Inspector General during the mid-00s into Halliburton’s activities in Iraq, not a single employee was ever penalized, its government contracts only multiplied thereafter, and a civil servant who’d raised numerous concerns about the company’s conduct was demoted.

The firm’s insulation from prosecution may well be explained by Vice President Dick Cheney serving as its CEO between 1995 and 2000 – he still held stock options worth millions, and had received millions of thousands of dollars more in deferred compensation for his role, when the War on Terror began.

Cheney was also instrumental in the privatization of US warfare more widely. In 1992, under his direction as Defense Secretary, the Pentagon paid the parent company of Halliburton $3.9 million to produce a report on how private contractors could provide logistics in overseas theaters of conflict.

Numerous examples of fraud, waste, and abuse in Afghanistan are also documented in ‘Profits of War’, including a US-appointed economic task force spending $43 million on a gas station that was never used, $150 million on lavish living quarters for economic advisors, and $3 million for patrol boats for the Afghan police that were also never used.

A cited Congressional investigation found a significant portion of the $2 billion in transportation contracts splurged by Washington ended up as kickbacks to warlords, police officials, or even the Taliban, sometimes as much as $1,500 per vehicle, or up to half a million dollars for each large convoy of 300 trucks. In 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated such “protection money” was one of the group’s major sources of funding.

Smaller contractors weren’t always bulletproof though. Custer Battles, a firm founded by a former Army Ranger and an ex-CIA operative in the aftermath of 9/11, was awarded a contract – its first ever – to guard Baghdad airport, and collect old Iraqi currency so it could be destroyed. The firm’s chiefs had no experience in airport security, employed security guards with no prior training, didn’t hire translators who spoke Arabic, and acquired no security dogs to detect explosives.

Its operatives also went on a shooting spree in the city of Umm Qasr, firing on civilian cars and crowded minibuses, and only stopping when local authorities and a British military unit intervened. Mercifully, no one was injured or killed – no disciplinary actions arose either, as the staffers bribed witnesses to keep quiet.

Custer’s CEO was paying himself $3 million annually, and company staff on-the-ground lived in supreme luxury, their complexes replete with swimming pools, air conditioning and wireless internet – meanwhile, US troops often stayed in tents and abandoned buildings. In 2004, a consultant to the firm came across an internal document that exposed gross overcharges, provision of fake leases and bills, and use of false front companies by Custer. The company was barred from receiving any further US government contracts, and fined a meagre $10,000.

Still, those repercussions are positively seismic when one considers no major US defense contractor has to date ever suffered significant financial or criminal consequences for their work – or lack thereof – during the War on Terror. What’s more, there’s no indication any lessons have been learned in Washington – quite the opposite, in fact. The report notes the sector has “ample tools at its disposal to influence decisions over Pentagon spending going forward.”

Foremost is a vast and extremely well-funded lobbying effort. Defense contractors have provided $285 million in campaign contributions since 2001, with a special focus on presidential candidates, Congressional leadership, and members of the armed services and appropriations committees. Moreover, these firms have spent $2.5 billion on lobbying since 9/11, each employing over 700 lobbyists annually over the past five years on average, more than one for every member of Congress.

Many of these lobbyists, the report states, have passed through a “revolving door” from jobs in Congress, the Pentagon, National Security Council and other agencies key to determining the size and scope of the US military budget. Company chiefs openly brag about their effective purchase of lawmakers – in October 2001, Harry Stonecipher, then-Vice President of Boeing, declared that “any member of Congress who doesn’t vote for the funds we need to defend this country will be looking for a new job after next November.”

With the War on Terror now seemingly over, “exaggerated estimates of the military challenges posed by China have become the new rationale of choice” for defense contractors, as they seek to bloat the already unbelievably voluminous US defense budget even further.

In 2019, the National Defense Strategy Commission published a scaremongering report, which proposed three to five percent annual growth in the Pentagon budget to address the purported threat of China. Ever since, those figures have become a mantra for hawks in government, think tanks and the media – as the report notes, nine of the 12 members of the Commission had direct or indirect ties to the arms industry.

One can’t help but be reminded of President Eisenhower’s farewell address, in which he offered a prophetic – and clearly unheeded – warning about the ever-growing power of the defense sector.

“We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all US corporations,” he reflected. “The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government…We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

By Kit Klarenberg, an investigative journalist exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. 

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Militarism | , | 1 Comment

A Legacy of Corruption in the FDA and Big Pharma

By Liam Cosgrove | Mises Wire | September 11, 2021

Our healthcare system is broken, a fact nobody would have disputed in precovid days. Regulatory capture is a reality, and the pharmaceutical industry is fraught with examples. Yet we trusted private-public partnerships to find an optimal solution to a global pandemic, assuming a crisis would bring out the best in historically corrupt institutions.

Here is a brief list of less-than-savory behavior demonstrated by our titans of healthcare:

  • Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson plead guilty to “misbranding with the intent to defraud or mislead” and paying “kickbacks to health care providers to induce them to prescribe [their] drugs,” resulting in fines of $2.3 billion in 2009 and $2.2 billion in 2013, respectively.
  • Pfizer settled another lawsuit for “manipulating studies” and “suppressing negative findings” just a few years later.
  • Moderna has never developed an approved drug, yet one of their board members was placed in charge of Operation Warp Speed. This certainly is unrelated to the fact that they received the most federal vaccine research and development funding and have received over $6 billion from our government since the start of the pandemic.
  • Gilead Sciences paid $97 million in fines, because it “illegally used a non-profit foundation as a conduit to pay the Medicare co-pays for its own drug.”
  • In 2005, AstraZeneca’s drug Crestor was shown to be linked to a life-threatening muscle disease while the company withheld evidence of this and two dozen other effects from the public.
  • In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline paid $3 billion in fines, as it “failed to include certain safety data” relating to their drug, since labeled as connected to heart failure and attacks.

Thankfully, our public health guardians are in place to protect us from the greed and deceit of the private sector, right? Wrong. Enjoy another brief list:

  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) worked behind the scenes with company Biogen to alter previously conducted trials of their $56,000 per year Alzheimer’s treatment, and “by removing the subset of people for whom the drug didn’t work, they found a slight statistical effect in favor of the drug.” Even after doing this, an advisory committee voted 10–0 against approving the drug. The FDA approved the drug anyway, causing three committee members to resign.
  • In that case, the third-party advisors did the right thing. This is not always the case: a study by Science Magazine tracking 107 FDA advisors for four years found that 62 percent received money from related drug makers, with 25 percent receiving over $100,000 and 6 percent receiving over $1 million. It only takes a few corrupt advisors to fix a panel and feign medical consensus.
  • In 2017, it was revealed that the acting Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director for heart disease and stroke prevention had been secretly communicating with Coca-Cola, providing guidance on how “to influence world health authorities on sugar and beverage policy matters.”

The American healthcare system remains mired in good old-fashioned crony capitalism, fascism, corporatism, mercantilism, protectionism … fancy words for when private companies work with governments to subvert the forces of competition. The suppression of research into off-patent drugs is a nasty symptom of this problem.

While there are countless drugs to which this applies, we will discuss ivermectin. First, addressing the drug’s dismissal by its own manufacturer, Merck, let it be known that ivermectin is no longer under patent. Merck no longer owns exclusive rights to the drug’s production. The forces of competition have been bestowed upon the drug, thus making it far cheaper. Meanwhile, Merck is also currently rolling out an oral covid treatment, which the US government is providing $1.2 billion in funding to research. This would be under patent and may explain the company’s opposition to using ivermectin.

The usefulness of ivermectin remains debatable. However, it’s important to note that in early April 2020,  a study at the University of Monash in Australia suggested it can be effective. Moreover, the drug is FDA approved, has existed for forty years, won a Nobel Prize, and is extremely safe when used at recommended levels. Given the crisis and ivermectin’s safety—safe even if not conferring big benefits for covid sufferers—the rush to condemn use of the drug appears suspect. Indeed, a week after the Australian study was published, the FDA advised against using ivermectin for COVID-19 treatment, forcing desperate people to the black market and to self-prescribe versions of the drug intended for animals.

The FDA noted subsequently that “additional testing is needed.” Yet, to date, there has not been a single completed government-funded study on the effectiveness of ivermectin against covid-19. Meanwhile, they have funneled billions toward research into vaccines and patented treatments. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded trials for remdesivir, still under patent with Gilead, despite it being less effective and having more severe side effects than ivermectin. The FDA approved remdesivir under emergency use authorization (EUA) despite published trials, later stating “remdesivir was not associated with statistically significant clinical benefits.”

One would think that if “additional testing” is so important, the US government might be interested in funding research to examine the potential benefits of cheap, safe, and proven drugs that have shown some promise in treating covid. But that’s clearly not what going on. Funding is geared toward helping huge pharmaceutical companies develop new patented drugs. As long Big Pharma wants it, and if there’s a profit to be made, apparently our government will be there to provide funding.

September 13, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

CDC Gives Incoming Refugees Nobel Prize-Winning Ivermectin

By Kelen McBreen | InfoWars | September 3, 2021

All Middle Eastern, Asian, North African, Latin American, and Caribbean refugees entering the U.S. since 2019 have been prescribed ivermectin.

The CDC recommendation advises doctors working for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), who screen refugees in their home countries, and American doctors who treat them when they arrive to prescribe both ivermectin and albendazole.

Since the CDC guidance was released pre-Covid, naysayers will point out the ivermectin was prescribed for parasites and not for Covid-19, and presume the drug probably doesn’t work against viral infections.

Ivermectin’s creators won a Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2015 for the drug’s ability to battle infections caused by roundworm parasites.

As Tokyo, Japan’s top health official Dr. Haruo Ozaki recently explained, “In Africa, if we compare countries distributing ivermectin once a year with countries which do not give ivermectin… I mean, they don’t give ivermectin to prevent Covid, but to prevent parasitic diseases… but anyway, if we look at Covid numbers in countries that give ivermectin, the number of cases is 134.4 per 100,000, and the number of death is 2.2 in 100,000.”

He continued, “Now, African countries which do not distribute ivermectin: 950.6 cases per 100,000 and 29.3 deaths per 100,000. I believe the difference is clear.”

Several studies show ivermectin actually is effective at treating Covid-19, but what this information truly exposes is the current media and government demonization campaign against it.

Despite media cries of “people eating horse paste” and several stories about an increase in poison control calls from people misusing the drug, the CDC has been giving it to refugees for at least two years.

By the way, a Fox 9 Minnesota story lists possible symptoms of an ivermectin “overdose” as “nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, decreased consciousness, hallucinations, seizures, coma, and death.”

However, not a single person in the United States has died from a Covid-related ivermectin overdose.

Plus, the majority of people resorting to the horse version of ivermectin are doing so because the attacks on the drug have convinced many doctors and pharmacies not to prescribe or carry it.

The establishment is even upset that celebrities like top podcast host Joe Rogan and “Cheers” star Kirstie Alley have touted the drug as helping them defeat Covid.

The CDC is obviously aware that the drug is safe for people to use as its physicians prescribe it to refugees just as tens of thousands of doctors across the U.S. are now giving it to patients for Covid.

So, why is mainstream media and a government agency like the FDA scaring Americans out of a treatment that could help them with the virus?

The FDA’s website explains, “Certain animal formulations of ivermectin such as pour-on, injectable, paste, and ‘drench,’ are approved in the U.S. to treat or prevent parasites in animals. For humans, ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses to treat some parasitic worms, and there are topical (on the skin) formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea.”

Well, no doctors are prescribing ivermectin animal formulations to their patients, and the government and media both know this.

Perhaps it’s because the FDA, which is “virtually controlled by Pfizer” according to President Trump, is currently developing their own Covid drug to be taken twice a day alongside their vaccine.

Merck, the company that produces ivermectin, is also developing a drug to treat Covid which will make them much more money than the cheap antiviral ivermectin.

On June 9, Merck revealed that the U.S. government is paying the company $1.2 billion to supply 1.7 million courses of the new drug to federal government agencies.

Or, it could be that the Covid vaccines still being used under Emergency Use Authorization would no longer have that emergency approval if a legitimate low-risk treatment were available.

Follow the money and stop paying attention to establishment media.

September 5, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | 1 Comment

Top US generals lined their pockets off Afghanistan war

Press TV – September 4, 2021

The top generals who commanded American forces in Afghanistan have amassed fortunes from their postings there despite their disastrous conduct in the occupied country.

Eight American generals leading foreign forces in Afghanistan, including United States Army General Stanley McChrystal, who sought and supervised the 2009 American troop surge, went on to serve on more than 20 corporate boards, according to US media.

In an article titled, “Corporate boards, consulting, speaking fees: How US generals thrived after Afghanistan,” published by Stars and Stripes, the publication reveals how top generals amassed clout despite the failure of the American offensive in Afghanistan.

A review of company disclosures and other releases conducted by the specialized medium showed that the top Americans generals who led the mission in Afghanistan had thrived in the private sector after leaving the war zone.

They have amassed influence within businesses, at universities and in think tanks, in some cases selling their experience in a conflict that left millions of people dead and displaced, and costing the United States more than $2 trillion and concluded with the restoration of Taliban rule, the report said.

Meanwhile, the debate remains hot in the United States over what was the mission and who benefited from the 20-year war against the impoverished country.

A compilation of data from lobbying disclosures archived at Open Secrets, a US-based research group tracking money in US politics, showed that Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing and Northrop Grumman were the top 5 military contractors who received $2 trillion dollars in public funds from 2001 and 2021.

Retired Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., who commanded American forces in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, joined the board of Lockheed Martin last year. Retired Gen. John R. Allen, who preceded him in Afghanistan, is president of the Brookings Institution, which has received as much as $1.5 million over the last three years from Northrop Grumman.

September 4, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Amazon, “Economic Terrorism” and the Destruction of Competition and Livelihoods

By Colin Todhunter | OffGuardian | August 30, 2021

Global corporations are colonising India’s retail space through e-commerce and destroying small-scale physical retail and millions of livelihoods.

Walmart entered into India in 2016 with a US$3.3 billion take-over of the online retail start-up Jet.com. This was followed in 2018 with a US$16 billion take-over of India’s largest online retail platform, Flipkart. Today, Walmart and Amazon control almost two thirds of India’s digital retail sector.

Amazon and Walmart have a record of using predatory pricing, deep discounts and other unfair business practices to attract customers to their online platforms. A couple of years ago, those two companies generated sales of over US$3 billion in just six days during Diwali. India’s small retailers reacted by calling for a boycott of online shopping.

If you want to know the eventual fate of India’s local markets and small retailers, look no further than what US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in 2019. He stated that Amazon had “destroyed the retail industry across the United States.”

AMAZON’S CORPORATE PRACTICES

In the US, an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee concluded that Amazon exerts monopoly power over many small- and medium-size businesses. It called for breaking up the company and regulating its online marketplace to ensure that sellers are treated fairly.

Amazon has spied on sellers and appropriated data about their sales, costs and suppliers. It has then used this information to create its own competing versions of their products, often giving its versions superior placement in the search results on its platform.

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) published a revealing document on Amazon in June 2021 that discussed these issues. It also notes that Amazon has been caught using its venture capital fund to invest in start-ups only to steal their ideas and create rival products and services.

Moreover, Amazon’s dominance allows it to function as a gatekeeper: retailers and brands must sell on its site to reach much of the online market and changes to Amazon’s search algorithms or selling terms can cause their sales to evaporate overnight.

Amazon also makes it hard for sellers to reduce their dependence on its platform by making their brand identity almost invisible to shoppers and preventing them from building relationships with their customers. The company strictly limits contact between sellers and customers.

According to the ILSR, Amazon compels sellers to buy its warehousing and shipping services, even though many would get a better deal from other providers, and it blocks independent businesses from offering lower prices on other sites. The company also routinely suspends sellers’ accounts and seizes inventories and cash balances.

The Joint Action Committee against Foreign Retail and E-commerce (JACAFRE) was formed to resist the entry of foreign corporations like Walmart and Amazon into India’s e-commerce market. Its members represent more than 100 national groups, including major trade, workers’ and farmers’ organisations.

JACAFRE issued a statement in 2018 on Walmart’s acquisition of Flipkart, arguing that it undermines India’s economic and digital sovereignty and the livelihoods of millions in India. The committee said the deal would lead to Walmart and Amazon dominating India’s e-retail sector. It would also allow them to own India’s key consumer and other economic data, making them the country’s digital overlords, joining the ranks of Google and Facebook.

In January 2021, JACAFRE published an open letter saying that the three new farm laws, passed by parliament in September 2020, centre on enabling and facilitating the unregulated corporatisation of agriculture value chains. This will effectively make farmers and small traders of agricultural produce become subservient to the interests of a few agrifood and e-commerce giants or will eradicate them completely.

Although there was strong resistance to Walmart entering India with its physical stores, online and offline worlds are now merged: e-commerce companies not only control data about consumption but also control data on production and logistics. Through this control, e-commerce platforms can shape much of the physical economy.

What we are witnessing is the deliberate eradication of markets in favour of monopolistic platforms.

BEZOS NOT WELCOME

Amazon’s move into India encapsulates the unfair fight for space between local and global markets. There is a relative handful of multi-billionaires who own the corporations and platforms. And there are the interests of hundreds of millions of vendors and various small-scale enterprises who are regarded by these rich individuals as mere collateral damage to be displaced in their quest for ever-greater profit.

Thanks to the helping hand of various COVID-related lockdowns, which devastated small businesses, the wealth of the world’s billionaires increased by $3.9tn (trillion) between 18 March and 31 December 2020.

In September 2020, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s executive chairman, could have paid all 876,000 Amazon employees a $105,000 bonus and still be as wealthy as he was before COVID. Jeff Bezos – his fortune constructed on unprincipled methods that have been well documented in recent years – increased his net wealth by $78.2bn during this period.

Bezos’s plan is clear: the plunder of India and the eradication of millions of small traders and retailers and neighbourhood mom and pop shops.

This is a man with few scruples. After returning from a brief flight to space in July, in a rocket built by his private space company, Bezos said during a news conference:

I also want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all of this.”

In response, US congresswoman Nydia Velazquez wrote on Twitter:

While Jeff Bezos is all over the news for paying to go to space, let’s not forget the reality he has created here on Earth.”

She added the hashtag #WealthTaxNow in reference to Amazon’s tax dodging, revealed in numerous reports, not least the May 2021 study ‘The Amazon Method: How to take advantage of the international state system to avoid paying tax’ by Richard Phillips, Senior Research Fellow, Jenaline Pyle, PhD Candidate, and Ronen Palan, Professor of International Political Economy, all based at the University of London.

Little wonder that when Bezos visited India in January 2020, he was hardly welcomed with open arms.

Bezos praised India on Twitter by posting:

Dynamism. Energy. Democracy. #IndianCentury.”

The ruling party’s top man in the BJP foreign affairs department hit back with:

Please tell this to your employees in Washington DC. Otherwise, your charm offensive is likely to be waste of time and money.”

A fitting response, albeit perplexing given the current administration’s proposed sanctioning of the foreign takeover of the economy, not least by the unscrupulous interests that will benefit from the recent farm legislation.

Bezos landed in India on the back of the country’s antitrust regulator initiating a formal investigation of Amazon and with small store owners demonstrating in the streets. The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) announced that members of its affiliate bodies across the country would stage sit-ins and public rallies in 300 cities in protest.

In a letter to PM Modi, prior to the visit of Bezos, the secretary of the CAIT, General Praveen Khandelwal, claimed that Amazon, like Walmart-owned Flipkart, was an “economic terrorist” due to its predatory pricing that “compelled the closure of thousands of small traders.”

In 2020, Delhi Vyapar Mahasangh (DVM) filed a complaint against Amazon and Flipkart alleging that they favoured certain sellers over others on their platforms by offering them discounted fees and preferential listing. The DVM lobbies to promote the interests of small traders. It also raised concerns about Amazon and Flipkart entering into tie-ups with mobile phone manufacturers to sell phones exclusively on their platforms.

It was argued by DVM that this was anti-competitive behaviour as smaller traders could not purchase and sell these devices. Concerns were also raised over the flash sales and deep discounts offered by e-commerce companies, which could not be matched by small traders.

The CAIT estimates that in 2019 upwards of 50,000 mobile phone retailers were forced out of business by large e-commerce firms.

Amazon’s internal documents, as revealed by Reuters, indicated that Amazon had an indirect ownership stake in a handful of sellers who made up most of the sales on its Indian platform. This is an issue because in India Amazon and Flipkart are legally allowed to function only as neutral platforms that facilitate transactions between third-party sellers and buyers for a fee.

UNDER INVESTIGATION

The upshot is that India’s Supreme Court recently ruled that Amazon must face investigation by the Competition Commission of India (CCI) for alleged anti-competitive business practices. The CCI said it would probe the deep discounts, preferential listings and exclusionary tactics that Amazon and Flipkart are alleged to have used to destroy competition.

However, there are powerful forces that have been sitting on their hands as these companies have been running amok.

In August 2021, the CAIT attacked the NITI Aayog (the influential policy commission think tank of the Government of India) for interfering in e-commerce rules proposed by the Consumer Affairs Ministry.

The CAIT said that the think tank clearly seems to be under the pressure and influence of the foreign e-commerce giants.

The president of CAIT, BC Bhartia, stated that it is deeply shocking to see such a callous and indifferent attitude of the NITI Aayog whch have remained a silent spectator for so many years when:

…the foreign e-commerce giants have circumvented every rule of the FDI policy and blatantly violated and destroyed the retail and e-commerce landscape of the country but have suddenly decided to open their mouth at a time when the proposed e-commerce rules will potentially end the malpractices of the e-commerce companies.”

Of course, money talks and buys influence. In addition to tens of billions of US dollars invested in India by Walmart and Amazon, Facebook invested US$5.5 billion last year in Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms (e-commerce retail). Google has also invested US$4.5 billion.

Since the early 1990s, when India opened up to neoliberal economics, the country has become increasingly dependent on inflows of foreign capital. Policies are being governed by the drive to attract and retain foreign investment and maintain ‘market confidence’ by ceding to the demands of international capital which ride roughshod over democratic principles and the needs of hundreds of millions of ordinary people. ‘Foreign direct investment’ has thus become the holy grail of the Modi-led administration and the NITI Aayog.

The CAIT has urged the Consumer Affairs Ministry to implement the draft consumer protection e-commerce rules at the earliest as they are in the best interest of the consumers as well as the traders of the country.

Meanwhile, the CCI probably will complete its investigation within two months.

Colin Todhunter specialises in development, food and agriculture and is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization in Montreal.

August 30, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , | 1 Comment

Afghanistan Withdrawal Is Hurting Its Profits. It’s Funding a Pro-War Think Tank.

BY SARAH LAZARE | IN THESE TIMES | AUGUST 25, 2021

On August 12, the military contractor CACI International Inc. told its investors that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is hurting its profits. The same contractor is also funding a think tank that is concurrently arguing against the withdrawal. This case is worth examining both because it is routine, and because it highlights the venality of our ​expert”-military contractor feedback loop, in which private companies use think tanks to rally support for wars they’ll profit from.

The contractor is notorious to those who have followed the scandal of U.S.-led torture in Iraq. CACI International was sued by three Iraqis formerly detained in Abu Ghraib prison who charge that the company’s employees are responsible for directing their torture, including sexual assault and electric shocks. (The suit was brought in 2008 and the case is still ongoing.)

In 2019, CACI International was awarded a nearly $907 million, five-year contract to provide ​intelligence operations and analytic support” for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

During an August 12 earnings call, CACI International noted repeatedly that President Biden’s withdrawal from the 20-year Afghanistan War harmed the company’s profits. John Mengucci, president and CEO of CACI International, said, ​we have about a 2 percent headwind coming into FY 2022 because of Afghanistan.” A ​headwind” refers to negative impacts on profits.

Afghanistan was mentioned 16 times throughout the call — either in reference to the dent in profits, or to assure investors that other areas of growth were offsetting the losses. For example, Mengucci said, ​We’re seeing positive growth in technology and expect it to continue to outpace expertise growth, collectively offsetting the impact of the Afghanistan drawdown.”

Similar themes were repeated in an April 22 earnings call, where the company lamented the ​headwinds” posed by the Afghanistan withdrawal. (Industry and defense publications have picked up on this theme, but framed it in the company’s terms, by emphasizing the offsets to its losses.)

Despite CACI International’s clear economic interest in continuing the war, on the August 12 call, company officials were careful not to editorialize about the Biden administration’s decision. The closest they came was a cautious statement from Mengucci: ​At least as of today we’ve watched the administration make the decision to completely exit Afghanistan by 9 – 11 and all I can say is they’re executing on that decision.”

But CACI International does not have to broadcast its positions on the war: Instead, it is funding a think tank that has been actively urging the Biden administration not to leave Afghanistan.

CACI International is listed as a ​corporate sponsor” of the Institute for Study of War, which describes itself as a ​non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.” Dr. Warren Phillips, lead director of CACI International, is on the board of the think tank. (Other funders include General Dynamics and Microsoft.)

When it comes to the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, however, the think tank is extremely partisan. In an August 20 paper, the think tank argued that ​Russia, China, Iran, and Turkey are weighing how to take advantage of the United States’ hurried withdrawal.”

Jack Keane, a retired four star general and board member of the Institute for Study of War, meanwhile, has been on a cable news blitz arguing against the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, as reported by Ryan Grim, Sara Sirota, Lee Fang and Rose Adams for The Intercept. (The Intercept noted CACI’s International’s backing of the think tank.)

Kimberly Kagan, founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War, told Fox News on August 17 that the U.S. withdrawal could cause Afghanistan to become the ​second school of jihadism.” She warned, ​It is not clear that the Taliban, which seeks international recognition and legitimacy, is going to want to tolerate or encourage direct attacks on the U.S. from al Qaeda or other extremist groups based in Afghanistan.”

The think tank’s backing from a military contractor was not discussed in these media appearances.

The case of CACI International is not unique. The Intercept notes, ​Among the other talking heads who took to cable news segments or op-ed pages without disclosing their defense industry ties were retired Gen. David Petraeus; Rebecca Grant, a former staffer for the Air Force secretary; Richard Haass, who worked as an adviser to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell; and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.”

This cacophony of voices matters because Biden is facing a media uproar over the withdrawal. Pundits and mainstream press outlets that have been ignoring civilian deaths for years are suddenly expressing moral outrage at their hardships now that the war is ending. While there are legitimate concerns about the fate of Afghans as the Taliban seizes control, the vast majority of the firestorm stems from a reflexively pro-war perspective, in favor of the indefinite extension of an occupation that has proven brutal and lethal for civilians. The overwhelming effect is to send the message to Biden, and any future presidents, that they should think twice before withdrawing from a war, lest they have a media revolt on their hands.

But this outcry didn’t materialize out of nowhere. Think tank ​experts,” whose organizations are financed by the very companies profiting from the war, play a key part. They are trotted out in front of cameras and quoted in major media outlets, presented as above-the-fray observers. They are well-financed, polished and groomed precisely for moments like these. And the companies financing them get to launder their own objectives through institutions that are seen as respectable, academic and rigorous. It’s a grotesque system that is functioning as it was designed.

In its August 12 call, CACI International simply acknowledged the company’s economic interests out loud.

August 28, 2021 Posted by | Corruption, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , | 1 Comment