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Musk defends receiving $4.9 billion in government support for Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX

RT | June 1, 2015

Tesla CEO Elon Musk defended the backing his companies get from state and federal sources as legitimate business practices, blasting a newspaper report about government subsidies as “inexcusable” and inaccurate.

According to the report published by the Los Angeles Times over the weekend, Musk’s companies – Tesla, SolarCity and SpaceX – have received an estimated $4.9 billion in government support in total over the years.

The electric entrepreneur didn’t deny the company gets the incentives, however he went on CNBC’s Power Lunch show on Monday, blasting the report as “incredibly misleading and deceptive to the reader.”

“Musk and his companies’ investors enjoy most of the financial upside of the government support, while taxpayers shoulder the cost,” wrote the LA Times, adding that public records show “a common theme running through his emerging empire: a public-private financing model underpinning long-shot start-ups.”

“The article makes it seem as though my company is getting some huge check, which is fundamentally false,” said Musk.

The subsidies have been disclosed in the companies’ filings and public records, but no one has tallied all the various forms of public assistance over time, the paper said. Its estimates of subsidies are based on state and federal records, interviews with local and state officials, credit analysts, and watchdog groups.

According to the LA Times, Tesla Motors has received $2.391 billion in government subsidies, while SolarCity has received $2.516 billion. Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), a private company that does not publicly report financial performance, received $20 million in local incentives and rebates for a space launch facility in Texas.

Among the examples cited by the paper was a $750 million solar panel factory in Buffalo, New York, which Musk’s SolarCity leased for $1 a year. The company will also not pay property taxes for a decade, amounting to $260 million in savings.

Tesla is getting $1.3 million from Nevada to build a battery factory near Reno, and has received more than $517 million from other automakers by selling environmental credits, known as carbon offsets.

Though after ten years in business Tesla and SolarCity still operate at a net loss, the stocks of both companies are riding high on future potential, the LA Times reported. … Full article

June 1, 2015 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Government watchdog doubts $400 million USAID program for Afghan women is working

RT | April 3, 2015

A $416 million program to empower Afghan women may leave them “without any tangible benefit” instead, a government watchdog warned, urging USAID to provide more data on the controversial project.

The Promoting Gender Equity in National Priority Programs – Promote, for short – was announced last November as part of US reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Its stated intent is to empower some 75,000 Afghan women between the ages of 18 and 30 to become political, business and civil service leaders, and engage girls ages 14 through 18 in “leadership development programs.”

However, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) warned that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has not shown what the program would actually do, provided for adequate safeguards and controls of the contractors involved, or even accounted for half the funding Promote is supposed to receive.

“I am concerned that some very basic programmatic issues remain unresolved and that the Afghan women engaged in the program may be left without any tangible benefit upon completion,” John F. Sopko wrote in a letter to the USAID acting administrator, made public Thursday.

“I do hope that we are not going to fall again into the game of contracting and sub-contracting and the routine of workshops and training sessions generating a lot of certificates on paper and little else,” Sopko said, quoting the words of Afghanistan’s First Lady, Rula Ghani, from a November 2014 conference.

Though his staff was briefed on Promote in late February, Sopko wrote, “USAID could not provide the audit team a list of all the agency’s projects, programs, and initiatives intended to support Afghan women, or how much the agency spent on each effort.”

“USAID was also unable to provide data demonstrating a causal relationship or correlation between the agency’s efforts to support Afghan women and improvements in Afghan women’s lives,” he added.

In October 2014, USAID announced the award of five-year, “indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity” contracts for Promote to three companies: Chemonics International, Development Alternatives and Tetra Tech. According to the agency, USAID would provide $216 million for the program, while another $200 million would come from unspecified foreign donors.

The SIGAR is questioning the basis of this estimate, since USAID failed to produce any supporting documentation, including any memorandum of the understanding between the three contractors and the Afghan government.

“Of this $416 million, how much will be spent in Afghanistan on Afghan women, and how much will be spent on security and overhead costs for the three contractors and program implementers?” the SIGAR asked. Sopko also raised the issue of USAID’s “sustainability plan,” asking whether any steps were taken to ensure the program survived past the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Read more: Expensive chaos: Billions of dollars meant for Afghanistan development wasted

April 4, 2015 Posted by | Corruption | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UK creates ‘political & economic reform’ fund for Eastern Europe to contain Russia

RT | March 20, 2015

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced the creation of a money pot specifically designed to aid Eastern European countries in tackling any future ‘aggression’ from Russia.

The “Good Governance Fund is aimed at strengthening democratic institutions in areas that are wary of Russia’s influence. The fund will total £20 million ($30 million, €28 million) in 2015 and 2016.

It is broken down into £5 million for Ukraine, and continuing grants for Moldova, Georgia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

The announcement comes as leaders of the European Union agreed to extend the economic sanctions currently in place against Russia until the end of 2015, in a move to force Moscow to undertake a full ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

The Minsk Agreement was reached in February after lengthy talks, but the truce has remained shaky. There have been reports of continuing skirmishes between Ukrainian forces and rebels.

EU leaders have criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s alleged “web of influence” across Europe after the reunification of Crimea in March 2014.

Earlier this month, the prime minister of Crimea said the former Ukrainian territory had returned to its historical homeland.

Russia has also formed an alliance with Cyprus, after Putin agreed a £1.8 billion loan for the country in return for the use of its docks for Russian military vessels.

Putin further created powerful western European allies following Marine Le Pens visit to Russia in the autumn. Russia has agreed to loan her party, the right-wing Front National, £6.5 million.

The Kremlin’s interests also extend to Greece, where Putin offered support to anti-austerity party Syriza when it campaigned for the country’s withdrawal from NATO two years ago.

When the party came to power in January, the Russian ambassador to Athens was one of the first to visit Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras.

The new fund is based on a Cold War program created by Margaret Thatcher in 1989.

At the time, her “Know-How-Fund” was used to help countries that had recently left the Soviet Union to develop, such as Hungary and Poland.

Russia denies it is providing rebels in Ukraine with arms and assistance.

The conflict has cost over 6,000 lives to date.

March 20, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Revolving door between arms dealers & govt exposed

RT | February 16, 2015

Arms manufacturers currently have dozens of employees seconded to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and other British government agencies, an investigation has discovered.

The revelations highlight the close relationship between business and government, especially in highly lucrative industries such as the arms trade.

Employees from BAE Systems (manufacturers of the Eurofighter Typhoon), MBDA (makers of missiles), Babcock (defense contractor working on Trident nuclear submarine replacement), and MSI (gunnery systems producer) have all taken senior level roles within the MoD.

BAE systems, the second largest arms company in the world, has had more than 10 executives seconded to the MoD and the arms sales unit of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in the last year.

The MoD’s Equipment and Support Branch, which has a £14 billion annual budget to buy equipment for the armed forces, hosted nine BAE executives in senior positions, the investigation by the Guardian found.

UKTI Defence and Security Organisation, another government department, had four secondments from BAE, two from MBDA, and two from Detica, a cyber-security specialist acquired by BAE in 2010.

While on secondment, salaries are paid by the company and not by the government department they join.

Personnel exchange between business and government works in the opposite direction as well, with 13 civil servants having been seconded from the MoD to outside organizations, including cyber-security company Templar Executives, Lloyds Banking group, arms firm QinetiQ, defense think tank the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies (ISRS) and the BBC.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) described the arrangement as “totally inappropriate.”

Speaking to the Guardian, Andrew Smith of CAAT said, “Arms companies already enjoy a significant and totally disproportionate level of government support, and these kinds of secondments only make it more so.

“It is totally inappropriate for arms companies that will be lobbying for extra military spending to be working for departments that buy their wares.”

Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party, said the British government’s relationship with arms manufacturers was “uncomfortably close.”

“All too often we’ve seen the government’s actions aligned with the interests of big business, which is particularly concerning when the businesses involved produce weapons,” she told the Guardian.

“For many years, the British government has had an uncomfortably close relationship with arms manufacturers and a shady record of arming dictatorships to match.”

“Secondments like these cast a shadow of doubt over the integrity over the actions of both the MoD and UKTI when it comes to their dealings with arms manufacturers. Our policies should serve the common good and must be free from the influence of vested interests like arms companies.”

The Guardian’s revelations come in the wake of the HSBC tax avoidance scandal in which the revolving door between financial institutions and government has also faced scrutiny.

Lord Green, the former head of HSBC, came under the spotlight for having taken the role of Minister of State for Trade and Investment immediately after leaving the bank.

Leaked documents allege that during Green’s tenure as Chairman of HSBC from 2006 to 2010, he oversaw the orchestration of industrial scale tax evasion for drug dealers, international criminals, dictators and terrorists.

Lord Green stood down from a senior position in the banking lobby group The City UK on Saturday.

RELATED: Pregnant activist crashes glitzy arms industry dinner, urges guests ‘consider career change’

February 16, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism | , , , | 2 Comments

UK government accused of sponsoring human rights abuses in Ethiopia

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RT | January 21, 2015

A development project funded by the UK government and run by the World Bank could be facilitating a violent resettlement program in Ethiopia that has been dogged by allegations of forced displacement, physical assaults and rape, a leaked report suggests.

Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) is the primary sponsor of the World Bank’s foreign aid initiative, supposedly set up to improve basic health, education and public services in Ethiopia. It has attracted over £388 million in UK taxpayer’s money to date.

According to a leaked report, obtained by the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists, the seemingly benign aid program is facilitating a controversial resettlement scheme driven by the Ethiopian government.

The scathing report, carried out by the Bank’s in-house watchdog, warns of poor oversight, inadequate auditing and a failure to adhere to its own regulations which has bred links between the development program and the forced displacement of the Anuak people.

The Anuaks are a marginalized minority Christian group in Ethiopia.

Severe human rights abuses

The Ethiopian government’s resettlement program has been condemned by human rights groups worldwide who warn it has led to the destruction of thousands of Ethiopians’ livelihoods.

The initiative, known as ‘villagization’, aims to relocate 1.5 million rural families from their homesteads to villages across Ethiopia.

Since its launch in 2010, the program has been the centre of allegations of rape, physical assaults, forced evictions and disappearances.

Many of those who are uprooted from their homes and resettled elsewhere are forced to reside in substandard living conditions in refugee camps in Southern Sudan.

While the World Bank’s top brass have long denied any links to the Ethiopian government’s villagization program, an inquiry conducted by the Bank’s internal watchdog indicates otherwise.

The inquiry’s leaked findings, which surfaced this week, said the Bank’s inadequate auditing controls created a situation whereby over £300m of the DfID’s foreign aid funding could have been siphoned directly into the contentious resettlement scheme.

The report did not examine allegations the resettlement program is responsible for human rights abuses in Ethiopia, however, stressing that such an inquiry was not within its remit.

Nevertheless, it uncovered a slew of failures in the planning and implementation of the World Bank’s foreign aid program, particularly the Bank’s failure to carry out risk assessments.

The watchdog also found the Bank did not adopt necessary safeguards to protect marginalized indigenous peoples.

Uneven economic development

Anuradha Mittal, founder of the Oakland Institute, a Californian development NGO that is active in Ethiopia, said the DfID participated in the World Bank’s development initiative, and should therefore take responsibility for the scheme’s failings.

“Along with the World Bank and other donors, DfID support constitutes not only financial support but a nod of approval for the Ethiopian regime to bring about ‘economic development’ for the few at the expense of basic human rights and livelihoods of its economically and politically most marginalized ethnic groups,” she told The Guardian.

David Pred of Inclusive Development International, an NGO that works to defend the rights of the Anuak people, said the World Bank has facilitated the forced displacement of “tens of thousands of indigenous people from their ancestral lands.”

“The Bank today just doesn’t want to see human rights violations, much less accept that it bears some responsibility when it finances those violations,” he told the Guardian.

A spokesman for the World Bank declined to comment on its internal watchdog’s leaked report.

Probed on the watchdog’s findings, the DfID also declined to comment.

A marriage of convenience?

In March 2014, an Ethiopian farmer secured legal aid to sue the British government following his claim UK taxpayers’ funds were sponsoring Ethiopia’s resettlement scheme.

He said murder, rape and torture were employed by Ethiopian authorities, as part of the forced displacement program.

The 34 year-old farmer, known as Mr. O, had been forced to flee Ethiopia after he was tortured and beaten for trying to protect his land.

He said the British government were contributing to the devastation of some of Ethiopia’s poorest people rather than assisting them.

In June, Britain’s DfID faced a judicial inquiry over its alleged funding of human rights abuses in Ethiopia.

A High Court judge ruled at the time that Mr. O had a case against the British government, and his legal challenge was upheld. His lawsuit is still ongoing.

Ethiopia’s single-party government is a core ally in the West’s war on terror.

It is also a leading recipient of UK aid, despite human rights groups’ repeated allegations the funding is used to crush dissent in the troubled state.

January 21, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment