B12 Solipsism

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Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Corporate news from all over

China has called Trump’s bluff

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Storing Wheat  Agfa Scala 200
Storing Soy – Agfa Scala 200

The NYT reports:

China has called President Trump’s bluff.

Chinese negotiators left Washington this weekend with a significant win: a willingness by the Trump administration to hold off for now on imposing tariffs on up to $150 billion in Chinese imports. China gave up little in return, spurning the administration’s nudges for a concrete commitment to buy more goods from the United States, and avoiding limits on its efforts to build new high-tech Chinese industries.

China’s propaganda machine took a victory lap after the talks, proclaiming that a strong challenge from the United States had been turned aside, at least for now. “Whether in Beijing or Washington, in the face of the unreasonable demands of the United States, the Chinese government has always resolutely fought back, never compromised, and did not accept the restrictions set by the other side,” the official Xinhua news service said in a commentary on Sunday.

In a cheeky expression of China’s rising power, two juxtaposed photos were widely circulated on Chinese social media, a post that was shared (but later deleted) by the Communist Youth League. One photo was taken during the trade talks in Washington, appearing, if somewhat biasedly, to trumpet the youthfulness of Chinese delegates compared to American lawmakers. Another, dated from 1901, showed the opposite as representatives from China and colonial powers signed an accord to end the Boxer Rebellion, considered a national humiliation.

(click here to continue reading Trump’s Charm and Threats May Not Be Working on China. Here’s Why. – The New York Times.)

Like so many of the other self-given descriptions of the Orange Dotard, the Best Negotiator is a lousy deal maker. 

China gave up nothing, and Russian farmers got a big sale of soy beans that American farmers lost. Heck of a job, Trumpie…

Wheel of Life
Wheel of Life

As Bloomberg reported:

 

China, the world’s biggest soybean importer, almost tripled purchases from Russia amid a trade dispute with the U.S., the biggest producer.

 

Russia sold about 850,000 metric tons of soybeans to China from the start of the 12-month season in July through mid-May, according to Russia’s agriculture agency Rosselkhoznadzor. That’s more than during any season before and compares with about 340,000 tons sold during all of the previous period, Chinese customs data show.

China has already canceled several shipments from the U.S. in anticipation of tariffs on the country’s products. While Brazil is expected to take much of that market share, Russia is also benefiting.

 

 

(click here to continue reading China Buys Record Amount of Russian Soy as It Shuns U.S. Growers – Bloomberg.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 21st, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon

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Post Office Gilbert Ark
Post Office Gilbert Ark

The Washington Post reports:

President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.

Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery.

Few U.S. companies have drawn Trump’s ire as much as Amazon, which has rapidly grown to be the second-largest U.S. company in terms of market capitalization. For more than three years, Trump has fumed publicly and privately about the giant commerce and services company and its founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who is also the owner of The Washington Post.

Trump’s attacks on Amazon date to 2015, when he accused Bezos of using The Post as a tax shelter to allow Amazon to avoid paying taxes, a false accusation. (Amazon is a publicly traded company, and The Post, wholly owned by Bezos, is private. The companies’ finances are not intermingled. The Post’s editors and Bezos also have declared that he is not involved in any journalistic decisions.)

Bezos responded to Trump’s 2015 attack with a tweet.

“Finally trashed by @realDonaldTrump. Will still reserve him a seat on the Blue Origin rocket. #sendDonaldtospace,” Bezos, who owns a space company, tweeted in December 2015.

This angered Trump, who at the time was fighting for credibility during the GOP primary.

(click here to continue reading Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms – The Washington Post.)

It isn’t that Amazon irks Trump, it is that the Washington Post is reporting on Trump’s (mal)administration, and by the transitive property, since Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, and is a majority owner/founder of Amazon, Trump is angry at Amazon. 

Bezos is no saint, the USPS certainly has issues, the Washington Post has published plenty of ignorant or misleading articles over the years, but there is no reason Trump should be foaming at the mouth like this towards a corporation, much less a journalistic institution like the Washington Post.

The Irony of Freedom
The Irony of Freedom

Written by Seth Anderson

May 19th, 2018 at 7:49 am

Posted in Business,government

Tagged with , , ,

Illinois Supreme Court to weigh tax exemption for not-for-profit hospitals

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Window Washers at The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning
Window Washers at The Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning

The Chicago Tribune reports on a story we’ve been following for a while:

The state’s highest court will weigh the constitutionality of a law that lets not-for-profit hospitals skip paying property taxes — a question with potentially hundreds of millions of dollars at stake.

Current law says that not-for-profit hospitals in Illinois don’t have to pay property taxes as long as the value of their charitable services is at least equal to what they would otherwise pay in taxes. About three-fourths of the state’s more than 200 hospitals are not-for-profit.

But a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of that law has been working its way through the courts and will be heard Tuesday before the Illinois Supreme Court.

It’s an issue that’s stirred debate in Illinois and across the country, with some saying not-for-profit hospitals operate more like businesses and should have to pay taxes.

(click here to continue reading Illinois Supreme Court to weigh tax exemption for not-for-profit hospitals – Chicago Tribune.)

My position is the same as in previous blog posts: wealthy non-profits shouldn’t be able to avoid paying taxes simply because they sometimes do charitable work. If 100% of a particular hospital’s clients were not required to pay for any services, than perhaps I’d change my opinion. Wealthy non-profits shouldn’t be leeches on society.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 19th, 2018 at 7:19 am

Posted in Business,government,health

Tagged with ,

Trump cuts to H-2B guest worker visas hurt small business

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Stark beauty of snowy cemetery
Stark beauty of snowy cemetery

There’s an evergreen news topic: Trump voter screwed by Trump. It’s almost a joke, but certainly real for the people and business screwed by Trump and the GOP.

The Lexington Herald Leader reports:

Eddie Devine voted for President Donald Trump because he thought he would be good for American business. Now, he says, the Trump administration’s restrictions on seasonal foreign labor may put him out of business.

“I feel like I’ve been tricked by the devil,” said Devine, owner of Harrodsburg-based Devine Creations Landscaping. “I feel so stupid.”

Devine says it has been years since he could find enough dependable, drug-free American workers for his $12-an-hour jobs mowing and tending landscapes for cemeteries, shopping centers and apartment complexes across Central Kentucky.

Devine says he lost a $100,000 account because he didn’t have enough men to do the job. He’s worried he may be out of business next year if things don’t improve.

He isn’t alone. Cuts in H-2B visas are hurting small businesses across the country that can’t find Americans willing to do hard, manual labor: Maryland crab processors, Texas shrimp fishermen, and Kentucky landscapers and construction companies.

But what makes him most angry is that Trump’s properties in Florida and New York have used 144 H-2B workers since 2016. “I want to know why it’s OK for him to get his workers, but supporters like me don’t get theirs,” Devine said.

(click here to continue reading Trump cuts to H-2B guest worker visas hurt small business | Lexington Herald Leader.)

Do I have sympathy for Eddie Devine? Not much. Trump’s anti-immigration stance wasn’t some secret, only known to Steven Miller and John Kelly, no, Trump led chants of “Build the Wall” at seemingly every rally. Perhaps in the future, Trumpers might think a little bit harder about what they are really voting for, instead of becoming part of the Fox News mob. I doubt it, though. 

Fading One By One
Fading One By One

Thomas Frank wrote a book about this phenomena, even before Trump made this worse:

Wikipedia:

 

What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004) is a book by American journalist and historian Thomas Frank, which explores the rise of populist anti-elitist conservatism in the United States, centering on the experience of Kansas, Frank’s native state. In the late 19th century, says Frank, Kansas was known as a hotbed of the left-wing Populist movement, but in recent decades, it has become overwhelmingly conservative. The book was published in Britain and Australia as What’s the Matter with America?.

Frank applies his thesis to answer the question of why these social conservatives continue to vote for Republicans, even though they are voting against their best interests. He argues that politicians and pundits stir the “Cons” to action by evoking certain issues, such as abortion, immigration, and taxation. By portraying themselves as champions of the conservatives on these issues, the politicians can get “Cons” to vote them into office. However, once in office, these politicians turn their attention to more mundane economic issues, such as business tax reduction or deregulation. Frank’s thesis goes thus: In order to explain to the “Cons” why no progress gets made on these issues, politicians and pundits point their fingers to a “liberal elite,” a straw man representing everything that conservatism is not. When reasons are given, they eschew economic reasons in favor of accusing this elite of simply hating America, or having a desire to harm “average” Americans. This theme of victimization by these “elites” is pervasive in conservative literature, despite the fact that at the time conservatives controlled all three branches of government, were being served by an extensive media devoted only to conservative ideology, and had won 6 of the previous 9 presidential elections.

 

 

(click here to continue reading What’s the Matter with Kansas? – Wikipedia.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 15th, 2018 at 10:41 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with ,

Maryland seafood industry loses 40 percent of work force in visa lottery

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Claw
Crab Claw

The Baltimore Sun reports about another industry who voted for Trump with no regrets, yet is now feeling the effects of Trump’s campaign promises:

Maryland’s seafood industry is in crisis: Nearly half of the Eastern Shore’s crab houses have no workers to pick the meat sold in restaurants and supermarkets.

They failed to get visas for their mostly Mexican workforce, including many women who have been coming north to Maryland for crab season for as long as two decades. The Trump administration for the first time awarded them this year in a lottery, instead of on a first-come, first-served basis.

Maryland’s 20 licensed crab processors typically employ some 500 foreign workers each season, from April to November, through the H-2B visa program, Seiling said. The visas are for seasonal workers in non-agricultural jobs. Pickers are paid by the pound of meat they produce, and the most productive ones make up to $500 a week.

“Nobody wants to do manual labor anymore,” Seiling said. “Its just a very, very tight labor market right now, particularly in industries that are seasonal.”

(click here to continue reading Crab crisis: Maryland seafood industry loses 40 percent of work force in visa lottery – Baltimore Sun.)

Hmm, the best, most productive, hardest workers get nearly $500 a week ($2,000 a month). I’m guessing there aren’t many benefits included: no healthcare, no pension, and probably not including taxes. Doesn’t sound a great job for most.

And then there’s this:

“I voted for Donald Trump and I’d vote for President Trump again,” he said. “But I think in small rural towns in America, we’re getting the short end of the stick on labor.”

Personally, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for this dude. Trump repeatedly sneered loudly of his plans to stop immigration, but crab man decided   ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ the racism and Hillary bashing and so on was enough to earn his vote.

I Am Going To Eat You - Paul Noth 

King Crab Stuffed Tuna  Kamehachi
King Crab Stuffed Tuna – Kamehachi

The Guardian/Observer followed up:

Nearly half of the Eastern Shore’s crab houses have lost the temporary workers, mostly from Mexico, who come every season to pick crabs, The Baltimore Sun reported last week. The businesses couldn’t get visas for the crab pickers because the Trump administration awarded them by lottery this year, instead of on a first come, first served basis.

Just one month into crabbing season, everyone here is feeling it. The guy who builds the crab pots, the bait fishermen, the crabbers, the crab house suppliers, the little roadside crab shack, the local general store, the waterman’s wife who can’t afford to stay home with the kids anymore – all of them are in trouble thanks to the fear of immigrants that helped elect President Trump and is now shaping the administration’s hardline approach towards legal and illegal immigration.

Harry Phillips, owner of Russell Hall Seafood, understands that. Like his neighbours, he voted for Trump and supports him. But he believes the president has been misinformed on the seasonal H-2B worker visas and would see the devastating results in one quick visit to the island.

“We’re 15 minutes away from Washington by helicopter,” says Phillips, whose crab house was quiet Sunday morning, with empty bushel baskets stacked high because the crab pickers aren’t coming. “There’s a landing pad for the helicopter, and we would welcome him here. If the president could just come and see what’s happening to American workers, he could see it right here, the effects of all this.”

 

(click here to continue reading Trump’s tighter immigration restrictions causing ‘crab crisis’ in Maryland | The Independent.)

Yeah, that’s not happening. Trump doesn’t give a shit about anyone other than himself. You were just fooled. Were you one of those chanting “build the wall”? What did you think that meant? Keep those other immigrants out, but not the ones you need for your business?

World Without Borders
World Without Borders

Personally, I have no problem with as many immigrants coming to the US as can make it here. Money doesn’t have to respect borders, why do people? Have you ever driven in rural America? Say Iowa, or South Dakota? Or West Texas? There’s a lot of empty land out there. I think the US could continue to grow and thrive by going back to an open door immigration policy. 

Written by Seth Anderson

May 13th, 2018 at 9:36 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

Service Meant to Monitor Inmates’ Calls Could Track You, Too, and Probably Does

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Cell Phone Evolution
Cell Phone Evolution

Cell phones are useful for a lot of things, but owning one does have consequences, like the ability for 3rd party organizations or government entities to track your location down to 25-50 feet at any time your phone is connected to a cell tower.

The NYT reports:

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, wrote in a letter this week to the Federal Communications Commission that Securus confirmed that it did not “conduct any review of surveillance requests.” The senator said relying on customers to provide documentation was inadequate. “Wireless carriers have an obligation to take affirmative steps to verify law enforcement requests,” he wrote, adding that Securus did not follow those procedures.

The service provided by Securus reveals a potential weakness in a system that is supposed to protect the private information of millions of cellphone users. With customers’ consent, carriers sell the ability to acquire location data for marketing purposes like providing coupons when someone is near a business, or services like roadside assistance or bank fraud protection. Companies that use the data generally sign contracts pledging to get people’s approval — through a response to a text message, for example, or the push of a button on a menu — or to otherwise use the data legally.

But the contracts between the companies, including Securus, are “the legal equivalent of a pinky promise,” Mr. Wyden wrote. The F.C.C. said it was reviewing the letter.

Courts are split on whether investigators need a warrant based on probable cause to acquire location data. In some states, a warrant is required for any sort of cellphone tracking. In other states, it is needed only if an investigator wants the data in real time. And in others no warrant is needed at all.

Other experts said the law should apply for any communications on a network, not just phone calls. “If the phone companies are giving someone a direct portal into the real-time location data on all of their customers, they should be policing it,” said Laura Moy, the deputy director of the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology.

Mr. Wyden, in his letter to the F.C.C., also said that carriers had an obligation to verify whether law enforcement requests were legal. But Securus cuts the carriers out of the review process, because the carriers do not receive the legal documents.

The letter called for an F.C.C. investigation into Securus, as well as the phone companies and their protections of user data. Mr. Wyden also sent letters to the major carriers, seeking audits of their relationships with companies that buy consumer data. Representatives for AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon said the companies had received the letters and were investigating.

(click here to continue reading Service Meant to Monitor Inmates’ Calls Could Track You, Too – The New York Times.)

In this particular instance, the 3rd parties selling your location data is called 3Cinteractive and LocationSmart, but there are hundreds more such companies who have built their businesses on turning your location into sellable data, most of which are relatively obscure.

Securus received the data from a mobile marketing company called 3Cinteractive, according to 2013 documents from the Florida Department of Corrections. Securus said that for confidentiality reasons it could not confirm whether that deal was still in place, but a spokesman for Mr. Wyden said the company told the senator’s office it was. In turn, 3Cinteractive got its data from LocationSmart, a firm known as a location aggregator, according to documents from those companies. LocationSmart buys access to the data from all the major American carriers, it says.

How does it work?

CBS News:

 “Envision a cell site,” says Allen (a typical tower appears in the photo above). “They’re triangular, and each side has about 120 degrees of sweep.” Every time a signal is transmitted to a nearby phone, says Allen, there is a round-trip delay to the mobile device and back. By using all three sides of the triangle to “talk” to the mobile device, the tower can triangulate which edge of the base station is closest to the device. “Typically the accuracy return varies,” says Allen. “In urban settings, it can be accurate down to several blocks; in suburban settings, several hundred meters.”

“We can locate any subscriber,” says Allen, “and companies want all those subscribers to be addressable,” or discoverable. Normally, this requires passing through some privacy gateways, says Allen. “The end user must opt in through a Web portal or SMS, or an app like Foursquare,” he says, per “universal” CTIA and MMA guidelines, and carriers’ own privacy protocol.

But with enterprise services, there’s a catch. “In a workplace scenario, the corporate entity has the right to opt-in those devices,” says Allen. “The [employee] is typically notified, but the opt-in is up to the employer.”

In other words: if your employer owns your phone, tablet or 3G-enabled computer, they’re entitled to own your location, too.

(click here to continue reading iPhones as Homing Beacons: How AT&T and Verizon Help Companies Track Employees – CBS News.)

Apple Rising
Apple Rising

Even Apple, a corporation that prides itself on not selling users data as much as their competitors, has acknowledged that users data has sometimes been sold.

9To5 Mac reports:

Over the last few days, Apple has seemingly started cracking down on applications that share location data with third-parties. In such cases, Apple has been removing the application in question and informing developers that their app violates two parts of the App Store Review Guidelines…

Sylvania HomeKit Light Strip Thus far, we’ve seen several cases of Apple cracking down on these types of applications. The company informs developers via email that “upon re-evaluation,” their application is in violation of sections 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 of the App Store Review Guidelines, which pertain to transmitting user location data and user awareness of data collection.

Legal – 5.1.1 and Legal 5.1.2

The app transmits user location data to third parties without explicit consent from the user and for unapproved purposes.

Apple explains that developers must remove any code, frameworks, or SDKs that relate to the violation before their app can be resubmitted to the App Store

(click here to continue reading Apple cracking down on applications that send location data to third-parties | 9to5Mac.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 11th, 2018 at 8:26 am

Russia-linked company Columbus Nova that hired Trump lawyer Michael Cohen registered alt-right websites

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Part of Your Secret Life
Part of Your Secret Life

An odd thing for an investment firm to spend money on, wouldn’t you say?

The Washington Post reports:

A company at the center of widening questions involving President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen is listed as the organization behind a string of websites targeted toward white nationalists and other members of the alt-right.

Columbus Nova, a company whose U.S. chief executive, Andrew Intrater, and Russian investment partner Viktor Vekselberg have both reportedly been interviewed by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team, is listed as the registrant behind a handful of domains for websites named after the alt-right that were created during the 2016 election.

It is unclear if any of these websites were launched or ever hosted content.

These sites include Alt-right.co, Alternate-right.com, Alternate-rt.com, Alt-rite.com, and other similar combinations, which were all registered in the two days following a speech given by then candidate Hillary Clinton in August 2016 in which she excoriated the far-right movement known for its extremist, racist, anti-Semitic and sexist viewpoints.

(click here to continue reading Russia-linked company that hired Trump lawyer Michael Cohen registered alt-right websites during election – The Washington Post.)

Columbus Novus has been around for while, acting as an Angel Investor firm.

Crunchbase reports on typical investments that Columbus Novus has made in the past, like Atlis:

 

– Local search platforms using average star ratings are antiquated, creating a poor user experience, and causing significant harm to local business reputations. These products still live in the desktop era.

 

– The system has removed negativity from the consumer feedback loop to prevent toxicity and abuse of local businesses, instead empowering satisfied customers to have a larger voice than ever before.

 

– Atlis has taken the preferred channel of “friendly advice” and applied it to a city-wide audience, letting users ask each other for various local businesses, products, and services to receive suggestions directly in real-time.

 

– Atlis tracks user preferences and collects a repository of the word-of-mouth advice across an entire city, making that dataset consumable via a passive search experience, as well. Machine learning will eventually transform this the data collection into smart, personalized search results that knows what people would have suggested to you.

 

– Company launched in NYC in October 2016 with its R&D team based in Tel Aviv. It has already built an engaged user base of over 10,000 and has signed up over 200 local businesses (without any B2B efforts). It has also secured valuable partnerships with Google, OpenTable, and others.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Atlis | Crunchbase.)

How does one make a business case that purchasing alt-right domain names is part of investment strategy? Unless your real strategy is assisting Putin put Trump in office by any means available.

The secrets of the world are whispered
The secrets of the world are whispered

I guess the Russians didn’t want to spend all of their funds with the NRA, and decided to spread it around a bit?

Natasha Bertrand, when she was with Business Insider, reported:

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has emerged as a hero of several prominent alt-right figures, raising new questions about the Kremlin’s influence on the far-right, white nationalist movement that has asserted itself as a new force in American politics. Whether Russia has played a direct role in awakening the American alt-right, whose resurgence as a crusade against establishment politics coincided with the rise of President-elect Donald Trump, is debatable.

 

But the extent to which the alt-right has found a natural ally in Russia’s current zeitgeist — which perceives the US as a globalist, imperialist power working on behalf of liberal elites — is hard to overstate.

 

Self-described white nationalist Matthew Heimbach, who said he identifies as a member of the alt-right, has praised Putin’s Russia as “the axis for nationalists.”

 

“I really believe that Russia is the leader of the free world right now,” Heimbach told Business Insider in a recent interview. “Putin is supporting nationalists around the world and building an anti-globalist alliance, while promoting traditional values and self-determination.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Alt-right connections to Putin and Russia – Business Insider.)

or as Michelle Wolf put it:

 

 

Trump is racist, though. He loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a ‘white nationalist’ is like calling a pedophile a ‘kid friend,’ or Harvey Weinstein a ‘ladies man,’ which isn’t really fair — he also likes plants.”

 

 

(click here to continue reading Michelle Wolf’s Best White House Correspondents Dinner Jokes.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 10th, 2018 at 9:41 am

Posted in Business,politics

Tagged with , ,

Boeing C.E.O. Downplays Loss of $20 Billion Contract With Iran

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Which End Has the Pot of Gold
Which End Has the Pot of Gold?

The NYT reports:

The chief executive of the aerospace giant Boeing downplayed the fallout from the president’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear pact, saying on Wednesday that the company would abide by the Trump administration’s decision to cancel Boeing’s licenses to sell $20 billion of aircraft to Iran.

“We will continue to follow the U.S. government’s lead,” Dennis A. Muilenburg, the chief executive, told a luncheon crowd at the Economic Club of Washington.

(click here to continue reading Boeing C.E.O. Downplays Loss of $20 Billion Contract With Iran – The New York Times.)

Craven. Is there any other word for it? $20,000,000,000 is a rather large contract, wouldn’t you say?

I wouldn’t be surprised if Boeing has had discussions with Michael Cohen for a “consultant” deal, like AT&T, Novartis, or Korea Aerospace Industries. I wonder if Boeing agreed to it? I’m guessing they did not, and thus Trump has gone out of his way to antagonize Boeing.

Double Rainbow Over Boeing
Double Rainbow Over Boeing

3rd World Man:

 

Among the other payments to Mr. Cohen’s company described in the financial records were four for $99,980 each between October and January by Novartis Investments S.A.R.L., a subsidiary of Novartis, the multinational pharmaceutical giant based in Switzerland. Novartis — whose chief executive was among 15 business leaders invited to dinner with Mr. Trump at the World Economic Forum in January — spent more than $10 million on lobbying in Washington last year and frequently seeks approvals from federal drug regulators. Novartis said in a statement that its agreement with Essential Consultants had expired.

 

In addition, Korea Aerospace Industries paid Mr. Cohen’s company $150,000 last November, according to the records. The company, an aircraft manufacturer, has teamed with the American defense contractor Lockheed Martin in competing for a multibillion-dollar contract to provide trainer jets for the United States Air Force that is expected to be awarded this year.

 

 

(click here to continue reading Firm Tied to Russian Oligarch Made Payments to Michael Cohen – The New York Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 9th, 2018 at 7:20 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,

Former Little Village coal plant to be demolished, replaced with warehouses

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Gain the Whole World and Lose
Gain the Whole World and Lose

Ryan Ori of the Tribune reports:

The former coal-fired power plant in Little Village is set to be demolished and replaced with a 21st-century use: warehouses to speed orders for online customers in Chicago.

Northbrook-based Hilco Redevelopment Partners has bought the former Crawford Power Generating Station as part of a $100 million-plus project to demolish the facility and replace it with up to 1 million square feet of warehouses along Interstate 55, Pulaski Road and the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. No tenant has been signed.

The facility was one of the last two coal plants in operation in Chicago until 2012, when power company Midwest Generation closed the facility and its Fisk generating station in Pilsen. The Crawford plant opened in the 1920s.

Roberto Perez, president and managing director of Hilco Redevelopment Partners, said “70 acres in a perfect rectangle is almost impossible to find in downtown Chicago.”

Hilco is working on a community benefits agreement with 22nd Ward Ald. Ricardo Munoz on the Crawford redevelopment. “No. 1, I want to see it cleaned up properly, and No. 2, I want to see jobs go to local residents,” Munoz said. “It’s great that they’re going to repurpose the site, put it back on the tax rolls and bring jobs back to the site.”

Site cleanup and demolition is expected to take 14 to 24 months. Hilco will talk with prospective tenants during that time.

Hilco has been buying and redeveloping similar sites in other parts of the country, including Boston and Baltimore, as online retailers and other companies seek “last mile” distribution centers close to residential areas. The company signed leases with Amazon, FedEx Ground and Under Armour on a former Bethlehem Steel plant it is redeveloping into distribution space in Baltimore.

(click here to continue reading Former Little Village coal plant to be demolished, replaced with distribution center – Chicago Tribune.)

Good news, I guess, though I hope they use permeable pavement. Would have been nicer if that area had become a beautiful parkland instead of warehouses. But, still better than a heavy metal spewing power plant, especially if the site is cleaned thoroughly.

The Dark Doesn t Hide It
The Dark Doesn’t Hide It

West Wind Blowing Ill
West Wind Blowing Ill

Go Back To Where You Have Been Again
Go Back To Where You Have Been Again

West Wind Blowing Ill  Redux
West Wind Blowing Ill – Redux

Tales of the Towering Dead
Tales of the Towering Dead

Everything If You Want Things
Everything If You Want Things

Withered and Died
Withered and Died

Fisk Station
Fisk Station

Satanic Gift
Satanic Gift

Stack for Fisk Generating Station
Stack for Fisk Generating Station

Written by Seth Anderson

May 7th, 2018 at 8:21 am

Bank for Illinois’ medical marijuana industry is pulling out

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Truck full of Cannabis
Truck full of Cannabis, Washington State.

Ally Marotti of the Tribune reports:

The main bank serving Illinois medical marijuana companies is pulling out of the industry, leaving operators with few options other than dealing in cash.

Bank of Springfield sent a letter to its cannabis clients late last month informing them that their accounts will be closed May 21. The decision is tied to the reversal of an Obama-era policy that discouraged prosecution of those operating under state marijuana laws.

The move is a setback for the industry, which remains a pilot program more than two years after medical cannabis became legal in Illinois. Strict regulations and other obstacles have added challenges to running cannabis companies and kept patient numbers too low for some operators to recoup their investments.

Taking away the bank accounts medical marijuana companies use to pay their employees, vendors and the government is another hurdle. It also eliminates some of the legitimacy and traceability of transactions that banking added to the industry, which had $8.5 million in retail sales statewide in February, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

(click here to continue reading Main bank for Illinois’ medical marijuana industry is pulling out, leaving some operators to deal in cash – Chicago Tribune.)

Yet another reason to vote against Governor Bruce Rauner, as if we needed any more. His willful antagonism towards medical cannabis is undermining its growth. Illinois certainly could do better.

Republicans, Democrats, Independents, etc. all agree that money is good for the Illinois budget, why not follow the model of Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, and others?

Henry Anslinger
Henry Anslinger

From an article earlier this year, also by Ally Marotti:

As the legal marijuana industry navigates uncertainty on the federal level, state attorneys general are asking Congress to pass a law allowing banks to work with cannabis companies.

Along with Illinois, 28 other states, Washington, D.C., and several U.S. territories have legalized medicinal cannabis, and eight states and the District of Columbia allow recreational use. But in the eyes of federal law, weed is still illegal, and the cash earned selling it is drug money.

Without banks, though, operations and growth could be hindered.

The federal government has issued guidance for how banks can work with cannabis companies, but without a law, banks hesitate to enter the growing industry. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and 18 other attorneys general — from 16 states, the District of Columbia and Guam — signed a letter this week saying they want that to change. Madigan was not available Wednesday for further comment.

Passing a law “would bring billions of dollars into the banking sector, and give law enforcement the ability to monitor these transactions,” according to the letter. “Moreover, compliance with tax requirements would be simpler and easier to enforce with a better-defined tracking of funds. This would, in turn, result in higher tax revenue.”

Banks that work with the cannabis industry can take further guidance from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. But, again, that’s just guidance.

“That’s not enough for the national and international banks,” said Cresco’s Bachtell, who has a background in mortgage banking. “They’re not comfortable with guidance; they want real regulation.”

The letter from the state attorneys general asks Congress for legislation to provide a “safe harbor” for financial institutions that work with cannabis companies in states where the drug is legal in some capacity. It points to a bill introduced in the Senate in May that would do just that.

More banks would likely expand operations into the marijuana industry if such a law were instituted, though it might take time for financial institutions to become comfortable with it, said John Hudak, a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution.

(click here to continue reading U.S. law sought to allow banking for legal pot – Near West.)

Written by Seth Anderson

May 7th, 2018 at 8:03 am

Michigan OKs Nestlé Water Extraction, Despite 80K+ Public Comments Against It

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No Information Left Of Any Kind
No Information Left Of Any Kind

NPR reports:

In a much-watched case, a Michigan agency has approved Nestlé’s plan to boost the amount of water it takes from the state. The request attracted a record number of public comments — with 80,945 against and 75 in favor.

Nestlé’s request to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to pump 576,000 gallons of water each day from the White Pine Springs well in the Great Lakes Basin was “highly controversial,” member station Michigan Radio reports. But despite deep public opposition, the agency concluded that the company’s plan met with legal standards.

Under the plan, Nestlé will be approved to pump up to 400 gallons of water per minute from the well, rather than the 250 gallons per minute it had been extracting. The company first applied for the new permit in July 2016.

Water is a complicated and sore subject in many areas, but in few places more so than in Michigan, where a crisis has raged for years over high levels of lead and other dangerous heavy metals in the water in Flint. And back in 2014, Detroit resorted to shutting off water to thousands of customers as it fought bankruptcy.

With that recent history as a backdrop, Nestlé’s plan to boost the amount of water it takes from the Great Lakes State drew attention and added another dimension to a debate over whether water should be seen as a commodity, a commercial product — or a human right.

Nestlé’s well is in western Michigan, near the town of Evart…The company bottles the water for sale under its Ice Mountain label.

(click here to continue reading Michigan OKs Nestlé Water Extraction, Despite 80K+ Public Comments Against It : The Two-Way : NPR.)

Disgusting, really that Nestlé gets to sell, for profit, water that is taken from the public at a rate of 400 gallons a minute. By my quick math: 400 gallons x 60 minutes x 24 hours x 365 days=  approximately 210,240,000 gallons a year; roughly 1,681,920,000 Iron Mountain 16 ml bottles that are sold for $3.99 in airports, or cheaper at, for instance, Target). Even accounting for the costs of “extraction”, plastic bottles, shipping, labeling, and so on, that’s a damn nice profit margin. Almost 2 billion 16 ml bottles a year, for basically free!

Thirsty Side view
Thirsty? Side view of discarded plastic water bottles

Especially because of this:

in Mecosta County, Nestlé is not required to pay anything to extract the water, besides a small permitting fee to the state and the cost of leases to a private landowner. In fact, the company received $13 million in tax breaks from the state to locate the plant in Michigan. The spokesperson for Nestlé in Michigan is Deborah Muchmore. She’s the wife of Dennis Muchmore—Governor Rick Snyder’s chief of staff, who just retired and registered to be a lobbyist.

 

(click here to continue reading Michigan’s Water Wars: Nestlé Pumps Millions of Gallons for Free While Flint Pays for Poisoned Water | Democracy Now!.)

Private profits from public resources, despicable. And the Republican assholes currently running the State of Michigan are happy to do it.

Thirsty
Thirsty?

Written by Seth Anderson

May 6th, 2018 at 7:53 pm

AT&T and Verizon collude to keep you from switching cellphone carriers–allegedly

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 Zoey Getting Ready to Vote in the Nature Photo Contest

The Washington Post reports:

The Department of Justice is investigating potential efforts by AT&T and Verizon to hamstring a technology that could someday make it easier for consumers to seamlessly switch their wireless carriers, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The probe appears to focus on whether those companies — perhaps in a bid to stop their subscribers from jumping ship to rivals — colluded to undermine so-called eSIM cards, a technology that could someday allow the owners of smartphones, smartwatches or other devices to change their service provider on their own, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak freely about the probe, which has not been made public.

If the U.S. government ultimately determines that AT&T and Verizon harmed competitors or consumers, it could result in major fines or other penalties.

(click here to continue reading Did AT&T and Verizon collude to keep you from switching cellphone carriers? The Justice Department is investigating. – The Washington Post.)

Operative word being “if”…

In the Trump/GOP era of government, corporations are encouraged to run rampant over any rules or laws they don’t like, all that is needed is a nice campaign contribution, and issues miraculously vanish! Poof! 

Written by Seth Anderson

April 22nd, 2018 at 11:20 am

Posted in Business,crime

Tagged with , ,

SmugMug snaps up Flickr photo service from Verizon’s Oath

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Old Skooler
Old Skooler

USA Today reports:

Flickr has been snapped up by Silicon Valley photo-sharing and storage company SmugMug, USA TODAY has learned.

SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill told USA TODAY he’s committed to breathing new life into the faded social networking pioneer, which hosted photos and lively interactions long before it became trendy.

SmugMug, an independent, family-run company, will maintain Flickr as a standalone community of amateur and professional photographers and give the long neglected service the focus and resources it deserves, MacAskill said in an exclusive interview.

The mostly free Flickr was founded in 2004 and played a central role in the cultural and social life of the Internet. Friendships were forged on Flickr as people shared photographs and others commented on them. 

Overshadowed in the smartphone era by the rise of Facebook and Instagram, Flickr suffered defections to rival services but held onto a core loyal following of shutterbugs despite product and policy misses and the hacks of Yahoo, as well as encroaching competition from Google and other massive photo services.

Traffic has shrunk from its heyday, but Flickr says it has more than 75 million registered photographers and more than 100 million unique users who post tens of billions of photos. In March, Flickr had 13.1 million unique visitors, up from 10.8 million a year earlier, according to research firm comScore.

(click here to continue reading SmugMug snaps up Flickr photo service from Verizon’s Oath.)

Hmm, that’s potentially great news. I’ve used SmugMug for selling prints in the past,1 and of course, I’m a multiple-visits-daily user of Flickr ever since I was a beta-version Flickereeno.2 

Yesterday as I drifted off to sleep I even had the germ of an blog post idea about Flickr’s long term future. I assume Flickr is profitable, and gets quite a lot of traffic, but nothing has been changed there for a long, long time. I’m not sure what Verizon’s plans were, or if they had decided upon them. 

So I’m cautiously optimistic this will be good synergy.

And I especially liked this:

 

And, in an industry that dangles free services to suck up people’s personal information to target ads, SmugMug has catered to people who are willing to pay for privacy and storage, offering four levels of subscriptions to appeal to everyday shutterbugs and professional photographers alike.

 

MacAskill says the SmugMug model works for the business and his conscience because it aligns his incentives with his customers. “We don’t mine our customers’ photos for information to sell to the highest bidder, or to turn into targeted advertising campaigns,” he said.

 

After revelations that 87 million Facebook users had their personal information pilfered by Cambridge Analytica, a British political firm with ties to the Donald Trump presidential campaign, consumers are having second thoughts about trading their data for a free service.

 

 

(click here to continue reading SmugMug snaps up Flickr photo service from Verizon’s Oath.)

Footnotes:
  1. without much success to be honest []
  2. circa 2004 []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 20th, 2018 at 5:57 pm

Posted in Business,Photography

Tagged with

Facebook Doesn’t Pay You Because That’s Not Their Model

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Fuck The Internet
Fuck The Internet

In the context of describing yet another social network aimed at Facebook, albeit one that allegedly will pay you for your content1 Wired reports:

DURING MARK ZUCKERBERG’S over 10 hours of Congressional testimony last week, lawmakers repeatedly asked how Facebook makes money. The simple answer, which Zuckerberg dodged, is the contributions and online activities of its over two billion users, which allow marketers to target ads with razor precision. In which case, asked representative Paul Tonko (D – New York), “why doesn’t Facebook pay its users for their incredibly valuable data?”

(click here to continue reading Minds Is the Anti-Facebook That Pays You For Your Time | WIRED.)

Yeah, Facebook doesn’t want to really discuss this key aspect of their business in public: all their wealth is based on the mining and reselling of their users data. It was never a hidden fact, it was always known to anyone who bothered to ask, but Facebook doesn’t really like to explain it so that the majority realize they are the product being sold.

So let’s be clear, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter even2 only exist to collect data about their users, and use information gleaned from their users to sell to corporations, or governments, etc. That is the model. If everyone, including your grandmother, and my 14 year old nephew understands this basic fact, we’ll all benefit as a society.

Footnotes:
  1. in cryptocurrency []
  2. which I still use frequently, maybe even more than I should []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 19th, 2018 at 11:19 am

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with , ,

Facebook Tracks Non-Users

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Eyeing John Marshall Law School 

HuffPo reports disturbing news:

Concern about Facebook Inc’s respect for data privacy is widening to include the information it collects about non-users, after Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said the world’s largest social network tracks people whether they have accounts or not.

Privacy concerns have swamped Facebook since it acknowledged last month that information about millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, a firm that has counted U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 electoral campaign among its clients.

Zuckerberg said on Wednesday under questioning by U.S. Representative Ben Luján that, for security reasons, Facebook also collects “data of people who have not signed up for Facebook.”

(click here to continue reading Facebook’s Tracking Of Non-Users Sparks Broader Privacy Concerns | HuffPost.)

Wha? That seems problematic. How are these people consenting?

Of course, as this blog has discussed multiple times, there are hundreds or even thousands of digital advertising firms that track each and all of us, whether or not we’ve consented, or are even aware. Their model is to make money off of the data of others, and perhaps to share that data with NSA and other US intelligence agencies. Facebook is one of the higher profile firms, but they are not alone.

There is also the European Union’s new privacy law, the GDPR.1

Wiki:

GDPR extends the scope of EU data protection law to all foreign companies processing data of EU residents. It provides for a harmonization of the data protection regulations throughout the EU, thereby making it easier for non-European companies to comply with these regulations; however, this comes at the cost of a strict data protection compliance regime with severe penalties of up to 4% of worldwide turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher. The GDPR also brings a new set of “digital rights” for EU citizens in an age of an increase of the economic value of personal data in the digital economy.

 

(click here to continue reading General Data Protection Regulation – Wikipedia.)

Footnotes:
  1. General Data Protection Regulation []

Written by Seth Anderson

April 15th, 2018 at 11:18 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,