Archive for the ‘Business’ Category
David Archambault II writes in the NY Times:
It is a spectacular sight: thousands of Indians camped on the banks of the Cannonball River, on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota. Our elders of the Seven Council Fires, as the Oceti Sakowin, or Great Sioux Nation, is known, sit in deliberation and prayer, awaiting a federal court decision on whether construction of a $3.7 billion oil pipeline from the Bakken region to Southern Illinois will be halted.
The Sioux tribes have come together to oppose this project, which was approved by the State of North Dakota and the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The nearly 1,200-mile pipeline, owned by a Texas oil company named Energy Transfer Partners, would snake across our treaty lands and through our ancestral burial grounds. Just a half-mile from our reservation boundary, the proposed route crosses the Missouri River, which provides drinking water for millions of Americans and irrigation water for thousands of acres of farming and ranching lands.
Our tribe has opposed the Dakota Access pipeline since we first learned about it in 2014. Although federal law requires the Corps of Engineers to consult with the tribe about its sovereign interests, permits for the project were approved and construction began without meaningful consultation. The Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior and the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation supported more protection of the tribe’s cultural heritage, but the Corps of Engineers and Energy Transfer Partners turned a blind eye to our rights. The first draft of the company’s assessment of the planned route through our treaty and ancestral lands did not even mention our tribe.
The Dakota Access pipeline was fast-tracked from Day 1 using the Nationwide Permit No. 12 process, which grants exemption from environmental reviews required by the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by treating the pipeline as a series of small construction sites. And unlike the better-known Keystone XL project, which was finally canceled by the Obama administration last year, the Dakota Access project does not cross an international border — the condition that mandated the more rigorous federal assessment of the Keystone pipeline’s economic justification and environmental impacts.
The Dakota Access route is only a few miles shorter than what was proposed for the Keystone project, yet the government’s environmental assessment addressed only the portion of the pipeline route that traverses federal land. Domestic projects of this magnitude should clearly be evaluated in their totality — but without closer scrutiny, the proposal breezed through the four state processes.
Perhaps only in North Dakota, where oil tycoons wine and dine elected officials, and where the governor, Jack Dalrymple, serves as an adviser to the Trump campaign, would state and county governments act as the armed enforcement for corporate interests. In recent weeks, the state has militarized my reservation, with road blocks and license-plate checks, low-flying aircraft and racial profiling of Indians. The local sheriff and the pipeline company have both called our protest “unlawful,” and Gov. Dalrymple has declared a state of emergency.
It’s a familiar story in Indian Country. This is the third time that the Sioux Nation’s lands and resources have been taken without regard for tribal interests. The Sioux peoples signed treaties in 1851 and 1868. The government broke them before the ink was dry.
When the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Missouri River in 1958, it took our riverfront forests, fruit orchards and most fertile farmland to create Lake Oahe. Now the Corps is taking our clean water and sacred places by approving this river crossing. Whether it’s gold from the Black Hills or hydropower from the Missouri or oil pipelines that threaten our ancestral inheritance, the tribes have always paid the price for America’s prosperity.
Protecting water and our sacred places has always been at the center of our cause. . .
Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:
On July 25, during the opening night of the Democratic National Convention, Senator Elizabeth Warren made the following comments during her speech:
Here’s the thing: America isn’t going broke. The stock market is breaking records. Corporate profits are at all-time highs.
We noted at the time that Senator Warren is one of the smartest members of Congress; a former Harvard law professor who taught commercial contracts and bankruptcy law; a member of the Senate Banking Committee and its Economic Policy Subcommittee.
If Senator Warren was not aware that quarterly earnings on a year-over-year basis as measured by the largest companies in America – the Standard and Poor’s 500 – were on track to log in their fifth consecutive quarterly decline in earnings, how could the average American possibly know this?
Equally important, if the stock market was setting new highs based on a prevailing misconception among investors that corporate earnings were still climbing, shouldn’t responsible media be setting the record straight? Or is it the job of corporate media to keep investors ignorant of the economic realities in the U.S. because it might hurt their own publicly traded stock prices?
We decided to see if Senator Warren could have possibly been misled by the so-called “paper of record,” the New York Times. The Times has a nifty search tool that allows one to set a customized time period for searches. We set our time period to search between January 2, 2015 through August 25, 2016. We searched under profit recession. Next we tried corporate earnings. Then we tried S&P earnings. And, finally, we searched under Standard and Poor’s earnings.
We could find no article at the New York Times, much less a headline, that gave any clue to its readers that S&P 500 earnings have been in decline for the past five quarters.
We did find a very misleading headline that appeared in the New York Times’ print edition on the second page of the Business Section on July 21, 2016. The headline reads: . . .
There it is. For more information on its provenance, see Jay Jones’s article in the Chicago Tribune.
A very interesting advance in malware, described in Motherboard by Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:
On the morning of August 10, Ahmed Mansoor, a 46-year-old human rights activist from the United Arab Emirates, received a strange text message from a number he did not recognize on his iPhone.
“New secrets about torture of Emiratis in state prisons,” read the tantalizing message, which came accompanied by a link.
Mansoor, who had already been the victim of government hackers using commercial spyware products from FinFisher and Hacking Team, was suspicious and didn’t click on the link. Instead, he sent the message to Bill Marczak, a researcher at Citizen Lab, a digital rights watchdog at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs.
As it turned out, the message wasn’t what it purported to be. The link didn’t lead to any secrets, but to a sophisticated piece of malware that exploited three different unknown vulnerabilities in Apple’s iOS operating system that would have allowed the attackers to get full control of Mansoor’s iPhone, according to new joint reports released on Thursday by Citizen Lab and mobile security company Lookout.
This is the first time that anyone has uncovered such an attack in the wild. Until this month, no one had seen an attempted spyware infection leveraging three unknown bugs, or zero-days, in the iPhone. The tools and technology needed for such an attack, which is essentially a remote jailbreak of the iPhone, can be worth as much as one million dollars. After the researchers alerted Apple, the company worked quickly to fix them in an update released on Thursday.
The question is, who was behind the attack and what did they use to pull it off?
It appears that the company that provided the spyware and the zero-day exploits to the hackers targeting Mansoor is a little-known Israeli surveillance vendor called NSO Group, which Lookout’s vice president of research Mike Murray labeled as “basically a cyber arms dealer.”
The researchers at Citizen Lab and Lookout were impressed by this new, never-seen-before, type of malware.
“We realized that we were looking at something that no one had ever seen in the wild before. Literally a click on a link to jailbreak an iPhone in one step,” Murray told Motherboard. “One of the most sophisticated pieces of cyberespionage software we’ve ever seen.” . . .
Continue reading. And do read the whole thing. Later in the article:
. . . NSO’s malware, which the company codenamed Pegasus, is designed to quietly infect an iPhone and be able to steal and intercept all data inside of it, as well as any communication going through it.
“It basically steals all the information on your phone, it intercepts every call, it intercepts every text message, it steals all the emails, the contacts, the FaceTime calls. It also basically backdoors every communications mechanism you have on the phone,” Murray explained. “It steals all the information in the Gmail app, all the Facebook messages, all the Facebook information, your Facebook contacts, everything from Skype, WhatsApp, Viber, WeChat, Telegram—you name it.” . . .
Industrialized farming operations are extremely sensitive to the danger that the way they treat animals will be exposed to the public, since quite often the animals are treat inhumanely—sometimes very inhumanely. In the US, agribusiness has worked at the state level to make it illegal to reveal anything about how they treat animals: no videos, for example, and not even published criticism. This is an industry that does it best to hide what it does because it knows most people will not like it.
Kaleigh Rogers reports at Motherboard:
For the past few days, a trial unfolding in a sleepy Toronto suburb has drawn international attention. It’s not the trial of a celebrity, or a high-profile criminal like a serial killer: it’s a mischief trial, for a woman who gave some pigs a drink of water.
Anita Krajnc, a 49-year-old animal rights activist, was arrested last summer for dribbling some water into the mouth of a pig inside a transport truck on its way to slaughter. Krajnc now faces up to $5,000 in fines or even jail time for this mischief charge, which she caught on tape after the driver confronted her:
Krajnc is a founding member of Toronto Pig Save, an animal rights group that holds weekly “vigils” on the side of the road for pigs on their way to slaughter. It isn’t the first time they’ve given pigs water through the slats of transportation trucks, but on this occasion the driver of the truck, Jeffrey Veldjesgraaf, grew alarmed. He tried to stop Krajnc, then phoned his boss, hog farmer Eric Van Boekel, who called the police.
At court this week, Van Boekel testified that he was worried the water could have had contaminants that would have made the 190 pigs—worth about $45,000—sick or unfit for slaughter. He also said he was concerned for activists’ safety.“One of my biggest fears—and it’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when it’s going to happen—is one of the protesters has their arm in the slat, and the driver pulls away, they’ll get [pulled] under the truck,” Van Boekel testified.
Despite the potential jail time, . . .
Very interesting article in Jacobin by Jon Anderson.
Clint Smith writes in the New Yorker:
People who have spent time in prison say that it is difficult to adequately convey what it means to have someone else in full control of your movements—when you eat, when you sleep, where you go, and how you get there. But when control is combined with a profit-making business model, it takes on a different character.
The absurdity of privatizing prisons, institutions whose purpose is to rehabilitate, so that their economic motivations no longer match up with their social missions, has for years been at the forefront of conversations regarding criminal-justice reform. During the Democratic Presidential primaries, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders promised to end the use of private prisons if elected. Then, last week, the Justice Department announced its plans to phase out their use in the federal system. The government had concluded, as Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates wrote in a memo to federal officials, that these prisons, contrary to the private-prison industry’s claims, “do not save substantially on costs; and as noted in a recent report by the Department’s Office of Inspector General, they do not maintain the same level of safety and security.”
The Justice Department’s decision will directly affect only thirteen federal facilities, which, taken together, house approximately twenty-two thousand of the country’s hundred and ninety-three thousand federal prisoners. But those numbers do not fully reflect the influence that private prisons have had on the broader criminal-justice system. After the private sector first entered the world of incarceration, in 1983, a handful of companies quickly began to exert a disproportionate amount of power in shaping the American prison landscape. Private-prison companies have spent millions of dollars lobbying legislators in state capitals and in Washington, D.C. As Adam Gopnik reported in this magazine, in 2012, Corrections Corporations of America (C.C.A.), the largest for-profit prison company in the United States, has said explicitly that changes to drug laws and sentencing, as well as immigration reform, would hurt its business. A 2005 annual report from C.C.A. states:
Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities. . . . The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.
The distorted incentives of the for-profit prison industry have even managed to find bright sides to undisputed social problems like unemployment. In 2008, one industry executive wrote a letter to shareholders saying that he believed the demand for prison beds would increase because people being released at the time would have a more difficult time finding jobs as a result of the recession, thus increasing their likelihood of ending up back in prison. The higher the recidivism rates, the more beds that are filled, and the more beds that are filled, the better for a for-profit prison. That said, not all private prisons have to worry about recidivism rates: some of their contracts at the state level guarantee them a certain number of prisoners. Four years ago, Harley Lappin, the chief corrections officer of C.C.A. and the former director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, offered states a deal: the company would buy state prisons (the money could help plug state budgets) in exchange for twenty-year contracts and guaranteed ninety-per-cent occupancy. A 2013 analysis by the privatization watchdog In the Public Interest found that two-thirds of private-prison contracts in the country include occupancy guarantees and stipulations that taxpayers cover the cost of any empty beds.
The U.S. prison system, over all, disproportionately affects black and brown people, but people of color are overrepresented to a greater degree in private prisons. Chris Petrella, a doctoral candidate in African-American studies at the University of California, Berkeley, has written that this overrepresentation can be directly attributed to contractual provisions that “implicitly exempt private prison companies from housing certain types of individuals whose health care and staffing costs disproportionately attenuate profit margins. Health and therefore age tends to serve as a proxy for race without any explicit reference to it.” For example, black males between the ages of eighteen and nineteen are ten times more likely to be in state or federal prison than white males of the same age, and, because these young people tend to be healthier than their older counterparts, they are more likely to be incarcerated in a for-profit prison. Older prisoners are more expensive for prisons to house because they tend to require more health care over time. According to Petrella, private prisons attempt to keep older and sicker prisoners out, because the more they have to spend on an elderly prisoner’s health care, the more it cuts into their profit margin per inmate.
For-profit institutions also tend to be more violent and to provide fewer opportunities to prisoners for education and rehabilitative treatment. For years, activists have been asking a basic question: If getting an education while incarcerated has been proved to reduce recidivism rates, then what incentive does an institution that makes its money keeping people in prison have to provide any sort of educational programming? The private-prison company’s ultimate responsibility is not to the imprisoned, or even to the non-imprisoned—it is to the shareholder.
Of course, even in government-run prisons, private companies operate in a number of capacities. . .