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Corporate news from all over

ADM to close Fulton Market wheat mill

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Industrial Devolution
Industrial Devolution.

Surprised that this took so long, actually…

Archer Daniels Midland is planning to close a 120-year-old Chicago wheat mill and move operations to a new facility it is building in rural Mendota, Ill.

The Chicago-based food processing giant on Friday announced construction of the new flour mill, which is slated to open in mid-2019. The high-capacity facility will be adjacent to ADM’s existing Mendota grain facility, about 90 miles west of Chicago in LaSalle County.

The current plant on West Carroll Avenue in the trendy Fulton Market district, will continue to churn out flour until the new facility is fully operational, the company said Friday.

The Chicago plant was built in 1897 by B.A. Eckhart Milling, which operated it for decades. ADM purchased it from Dixie Portland Flour Mills in 1990 for about $14 million, according to Cook County records. Located in the once-gritty meatpacking district on the Near West Side, the plant is now something of an anachronism amid the trendy restaurants, bars and office buildings that have sprung up in recent years.

The 250,000-square-foot industrial facility sits on a 2-acre site, according to CoStar Group.

(click here to continue reading ADM to close Fulton Market wheat mill for new LaSalle County plant – Chicago Tribune.)

That could turn into a monster new development if current real estate trends continue

Reliable, ADM In afternoon light
Reliable, ADM In afternoon light

Ogden Avenue - 1923
Ogden Avenue – 1923

I Doubt That Is True
I Doubt That Is True

Majestic Corn Silo- Kodak Ultra Color 100UC
Majestic Corn Silo- Kodak Ultra Color 100UC

ADM butt-crack
ADM butt-crack

Storing Corn - Agfa Scala 200
Storing Wheat – Agfa Scala 200

Written by Seth Anderson

June 3rd, 2017 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with , , , ,

A Sean Hannity Conspiracy Theory Finally Went Too Far

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Don't Forget to Suffer In Brooding Silence
Don’t Forget to Suffer In Brooding Silence.

We live in a new world, a world where advertisers don’t want to be associated with toxic scum like Sean Hannity. Finally!

Sean Hannity has been peddling his Roger Ailes-inspired schtick for a long, long time. Fear, hatred, anger, and related emotions are the currency Hannity and his ilk traffic in. But these days, there is a precedent for consumers to directly contact the advertisers for these shows, and pressure the corporations to withdraw their support. Sometimes the corporation is enlightened enough to act on their own.

Cars.com, Casper, and several other companies pulled advertising from Sean Hannity’s Fox News program Wednesday as the host continued to push a conspiracy theory about Seth Rich, the Democratic National Committee staffer who was killed in Washington, DC, last year.

For days, Hannity has been peddling a theory that Rich’s killing was ordered by the Clintons in retaliation for leaking DNC emails to WikiLeaks. Police have said his death was the result of a robbery gone wrong.

“Cars.com’s media buy strategies are designed to reach as many consumers as possible across a wide spectrum of media channels,” a Cars.com spokesperson said in a statement to BuzzFeed News when asked about Hannity’s focus on the conspiracy.

“The fact that we advertise on a particular program doesn’t mean that we agree or disagree, or support or oppose, the content. We don’t have the ability to influence content at the time we make our advertising purchase. In this case, we’ve been watching closely and have recently made the decision to pull our advertising from Hannity,” the company added.

After learning its commercials ran on Hannity’s show, Crowne Plaza Hotels said it terminated its relationship with its third-party ad-buying agency.

“We do not advertise on Fox News, Hannity or any political commentary show. We have a specific do not advertise list for this type of programming. Unfortunately, our expectation to adhere to this list was not met by a third-party agency. Since we learned of the airings, we addressed the issue immediately and terminated our relationship with the agency. We have no plans to advertise on Fox News for the foreseeable future,” the company explained.

Ring, a video doorbell company, and Peloton, a cycling studio, announced that they had directed their media agencies to stop advertising on the show.

Mattress companies Casper and Leesa Sleep also said Wednesday that they had pulled ad buys from the show. Casper said it was “reassigning the allocation.”

The decisions came after Rich’s brother sent a letter to Hannity’s executive producer pleading for the show to stop spreading rumors about Rich’s death. On Tuesday, Fox News retracted a story tying Rich to Wikileaks and wrote in a statement, “The article was not initially subjected to the high degree of editorial scrutiny we require from all our reporting.”

(click here to continue reading Sean Hannity’s Seth Rich Obsession Just Cost Him Several Advertisers.)

Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic
Grove’s Tasteless Chill Tonic

Corporations want to sell their goods and services, not support hate speech. Thus in the last few years there have been several instances of advertisers fleeing toxicity: Sandra Fluke vs. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Breitbart, Bill O’Reilly, and probably other incedents too. The right wing tried these tactics on Stephen Colbert’s The Late Show, but without much success, so far.

Media Matters added:

Fox News’ two decades of peddling bigotry, misogyny, and extremism are finally coming home to roost. After former president and CEO Roger Ailes was forced out last year, Fox News parted ways with Bill O’Reilly and co-president Bill Shine last month after their central roles inside the network’s workplace culture of sexual harassment and racial discrimination were put in the spotlight and advertisers started to flee.

At Media Matters, we know Fox News. We’ve spent more than 10 years watching the network profit from a dangerous mix of hate, lies, and propaganda. Ad buyers may think that because Fox dropped O’Reilly and some of the old guard executives who enabled him, it’s safe to get back in the water there. But we know that the network’s new prime-time lineup — featuring the likes of Sean Hannity, Eric Bolling, and darling of the “alt-right” Tucker Carlson — is just as bad. They’re committed to the same “culture war” racism and misogyny that made Fox culture toxic in the first place — and as a federal investigation into shady practices at Fox ramps up, there are no indications yet that this network is any less risky for advertisers than it was before.

The bottom line is this: When companies knowingly advertise alongside hate, they incentivize and enable more hate, and they put their reputations on the line. Like our ads say, “It’s one crisis after another with Fox. Don’t forget: Hate, misogyny, and racism are bad for business.” Advertisers beware.

(click here to continue reading Media Matters Launches “Know What You’re Sponsoring” Ad Campaign Targeting Buyers At Upfronts.)

Hannity had been one of the main purveyors of a widely discredited theory that DNC staffer Seth Rich was shot and killed near his home in Northwest Washington last year because he had supplied DNC emails to WikiLeaks. District police say Rich died in a botched robbery. His parents have pleaded with news outlets to stop speculating about his death.

Facing a wave of criticism over its reporting, Fox News retracted an article on Tuesday that said Rich made contact with WikiLeaks before he was shot.

At first Hannity refused to follow suit, telling listeners on his radio show, “All you in the liberal media, I am not Fox.com or Foxnews.com; I retracted nothing.” On his Fox News show Tuesday evening he said he would back off the story “for now,” but he continued to post cryptic tweets about Rich’s death.

The left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters published a list of Hannity’s sponsors on Tuesday — a move many interpreted as a call to boycott his show.

Hannity responded in a series of tweets saying “liberal fascists” were trying to bring him down.

(click here to continue reading Sean Hannity loses advertisers amid uproar over slain DNC staffer conspiracy theories – The Washington Post.)

This Man Was Talked To Death
This Man Was Talked To Death

Even some at Fox question why Hannity is allowed free reign…

Fox News staffers have told CNNMoney that they are frustrated and embarrassed by Hannity’s peddling of the conspiracy. “It is disappointing because it drags the rest of us down,” one senior Fox News employee said earlier this week. Several staffers have also questioned why Fox News leadership continued to allow Hannity to spread an unproven theory on the network.

The most common theory circulating among staff is that Rupert Murdoch, the executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, doesn’t want to run the risk of losing Hannity by upsetting him. Fox News has already lost its two biggest prime time stars — Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly — in the span of just five months. Losing Hannity would be a crushing blow to the network, these sources said.

(click here to continue reading Sean Hannity’s conspiracy theory puts pressure on Fox – May. 24, 2017.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Seth Anderson

May 25th, 2017 at 9:01 am

Posted in Advertising,Business,politics

Tagged with ,

Google now data mining credit card data

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Cougle Comission - Fulton Market
Cougle Comission – Fulton Market

Inevitable, and yet still creepy

Google has begun using billions of credit-card transaction records to prove that its online ads are prompting people to make purchases – even when they happen offline in brick-and-mortar stores, the company said Tuesday.

The advance allows Google to determine how many sales have been generated by digital ad campaigns, a goal that industry insiders have long described as “the holy grail” of online advertising. But the announcement also renewed long-standing privacy complaints about how the company uses personal information.

To power its multibillion-dollar advertising juggernaut, Google already analyzes users’ Web browsing, search history and geographic locations, using data from popular Google-owned apps like YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps and the Google Play store. All that information is tied to the real identities of users when they log into Google’s services.

The new credit-card data enables the tech giant to connect these digital trails to real-world purchase records in a far more extensive way than was possible before. But in doing so, Google is yet again treading in territory that consumers may consider too intimate and potentially sensitive. Privacy advocates said few people understand that their purchases are being analyzed in this way and could feel uneasy, despite assurances from Google that it has taken steps to protect the personal information of its users.

(click here to continue reading Google now knows when its users go to the store and buy stuff – The Washington Post.)

Of course it buys happiness
Of course it buys happiness

especially since all this data is vulnerable to hackers

Paul Stephens, of Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer advocacy group based in San Diego, said only a few pieces of data can allow a marketer to identify an individual, and he expressed skepticism that Google’s system for guarding the identities of users will stand up to the efforts of hackers, who in the past have successfully stripped away privacy protections created by other companies after data breaches.

“What we have learned is that it’s extremely difficult to anonymize data,” he said. “If you care about your privacy, you definitely need to be concerned.”

Such data providers have been the targets of cybercriminals in the past. In 2015, a hack of data broker Experian exposed the personal information of 15 million people.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 24th, 2017 at 10:05 am

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with ,

Illinois Senate approves Right to Know online privacy bill

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Eye see u Willis
Eye see u 

Hmm, good news, though I expect Governor Rauner to veto it, for reasons…

The state Senate on Thursday approved the groundbreaking Right to Know Act, a measure that would require online companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon to disclose to consumers what data about them has been collected and shared with third parties.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, now heads to the Illinois House after passing on a 31-21 vote.

“I think this is a step forward for Illinois in terms of data privacy,” Hastings said Friday. “It gives people the right to know what information (internet companies are) selling to a third party.”

Illinois is taking center stage in the national debate over internet privacy legislation, which is shifting from the federal to state level. Congress voted in March to undo the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules, which were adopted last fall under the Obama administration and set to go into effect this year.

President Donald Trump on April 3 signed the measure that repealed the broadband privacy rules.

The FCC protections would have required internet service providers, such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, to disclose what personal information they collect and share and would have required consent from consumers before sharing more sensitive information.

Privacy advocates believe Illinois and other states must step up to fill the void left by the shift in federal policy.

The Right to Know Act would require the operator of a commercial website or online service to make available “certain specified information” that has been disclosed to a third party and to provide an email address or toll-free telephone number for customers to request that information.

Major internet companies have been pushing back against the Illinois initiative, ramping up lobbying efforts as the privacy legislation advanced through the Senate, Hastings said. Online trade associations, including CompTIA, the Internet Association and NetChoice, also met with Hastings to voice opposition to the measure.

The Senate bill will head to committee in the House before it can be brought to a vote. A House committee approved a similar measure last month.

(click here to continue reading Illinois Senate approves Right to Know online privacy bill – Chicago Tribune.)

No Repercussions For You Yet
No Repercussions For You Yet

Of course the technology companies who have been profiting handsomely by selling our information are opposed to this bill, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea for consumers. I want, at minimum, to be able to share in the profits, and even better, a way to opt out entirely. Ha. Just for grins, read the text of the IL Senate bill to see what kinds of information being sold.

For instance:

(a) real name, alias, nickname, and user name.

(b) Address information, including, but not limited to, postal or e-mail.

(c) Telephone number.

(d) Account name.

(e) Social security number or other government-issued identification number, including, but not limited to, social security number, driver’s license number, identification card number, and passport number.

(f) Birthdate or age.

(g) Physical characteristic information, including, but not limited to, height and weight.

(h) Sexual information, including, but not limited to, sexual orientation, sex, gender status, gender identity, and gender expression.

(i) Race or ethnicity.

(j) Religious affiliation or activity.

(k) Political affiliation or activity.

(l) Professional or employment-related information.

(m) Educational information.

(n) Medical information, including, but not limited to, medical conditions or drugs, therapies, mental health, or medical products or equipment used.

(o) Financial information, including, but not limited to, credit, debit, or account numbers, account balances, payment history, or information related to assets, liabilities, or general creditworthiness.

(p) Commercial information, including, but not limited to, records of property, products or services provided, obtained, or considered, or other purchasing or consumer histories or tendencies.

(q) Location information.

(r) Internet or mobile activity information, including, but not limited to, Internet protocol addresses or information concerning the access or use of any Internet or mobile-based site or service.

(s) Content, including text, photographs, audio or video recordings, or other material generated by or provided by the customer.

Are you ok with Acxiom, Experian and other similar corporations collecting, collating, selling and re-selling this information about you? I’m not.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 6th, 2017 at 9:01 am

Posted in Business,government

Tagged with ,

AT&T ready to cancel landline phone service

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at&t light
at&t

The wiring is in the wall. Err, you know what I meant…

With traditional landline service dwindling to less than 10 percent of Illinois households in its territory, AT&T is pushing legislation in Springfield that, pending Federal Communications Commission approval, would allow it to unplug the aging voice-only network and focus on the wireless and internet-based phone offerings that have supplanted it.

…If it passes, the Illinois telecommunications modernization bill would take effect July 1, giving AT&T the right to cancel the old landline service with 60 days’ notice. Existing customers would have the opportunity to appeal the decision to state regulators.

While AT&T ultimately needs approval from the FCC to abandon a long-standing obligation to maintain its “plain old telephone service,” it has passed similar legislation in 19 of the 21 states where it is the legacy telephone carrier, with California the only other holdout.

AT&T is hoping to have all of the states on board before moving forward at the FCC, La Schiazza said.

A previous measure didn’t get to a vote in Illinois two years ago, but the current version made it through a state Senate committee in March, and La Schiazza is optimistic that with ongoing changes in consumer phone use, sentiment has shifted toward passage.

(click here to continue reading AT&T ready to hang up on traditional landline phone service in Illinois – Chicago Tribune.)

Calumet 5-6969
Calumet 5-6969

POTS lines are more reliable, and at least in my experience, have better audio quality than cellular services. I am also genuinely curious as to how AT&T plans to handle this aspect:

While more than 70 percent of 911 calls come from wireless phones, according to the FCC, they present challenges for emergency personnel to pinpoint location.

Some medical monitoring devices and home alarm systems only work on traditional landlines. AT&T said it will certify that “reliable replacement options” are available before retiring the old network.

Julie Vahling, associate state director of AARP Illinois, said seniors shouldn’t be forced to switch until alternative phone services prove as reliable as traditional landlines.

“I think AT&T’s goal is to put everybody on a wireless service,” Vahling said. “I don’t care if it is 140 years old, (traditional landline service) is the most reliable form of communication that we have right now.”

My building has 2 AT&T landlines connected to the elevator (one is a backup) for emergency calls to the fire department, plus a landline connection to our building’s fire panel. I suppose we’ll have to upgrade this equipment at some time in the future, I wonder how many downtown buildings will have to do so as well? 

Last Of A Dying Breed
Last Of A Dying Breed

Written by Seth Anderson

May 5th, 2017 at 10:51 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,

Trump Inadvertently Cripples U.S. Coal Exports

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Everything If You Want Things

Everything If You Want Things

The Cheeto-in-Chief’s shoot from the hip governing style has struck again, this time screwing his big time buddies, the US coal industry. I giggled.

On Monday, at the urging of the U.S. timber industry, Trump imposed tariffs of up to 24 percent on imports of Canadian softwood lumber. The issue of Canadian lumber imports has been vexed for years, but this latest hardball from Trump—especially at a time when he is threatening to pull the United States out of NAFTA—hit a nerve with Canada. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to stand up for Canada’s lumber industry, warning, “You cannot thicken this border without hurting people on both sides of it.”

Today, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark dropped a bombshell tweet, saying, “It’s time to ban thermal coal from BC ports.” In a letter to Trudeau, she wrote:

For many years, a high volume of U.S. thermal coal has been shipped through BC on its way to Asia. It’s not good for the environment, but friends and trading partners cooperate. So we haven’t pressed the issue with the federal government that regulates the port.

Clearly, the United States is taking a different approach. So, I am writing you today to ban the shipment of thermal coal from BC ports.

Clark goes on to note the success of the Beyond Coal movement in shutting down coal terminals on the U.S. Pacific Coast:

As you may know, over the past five years, every proposed coal export facility on the West Coast of the United States has been rejected or withdrawn, typically as a result of ecological or environmental concerns. . . . Oregon, Washington, and California have all made significant commitments to eliminate the use of coal as a source of electricity for their citizens. In fact, in August 2016, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed Bill 1279 that banned the provision of any state transportation funding for new coal export terminals.

Due to the lack of U.S. terminals, Clark says, U.S. exports through Canada have been increasing. Last year, she says, 6.2 million tons of U.S. thermal coal moved through the Port of Vancouver, and the number was expected to increase in the future.

(click here to continue reading D’oh! Donald Trump Inadvertently Cripples U.S. Coal Exports | Sierra Club.)

Maybe If You Slowed Down
Maybe If You Slowed Down

a little background about the lumber dispute which led to the imposition of tariffs: doesn’t seem like it is that clear of a “win”.

The average American’s stake in all of this — or the average Canadian’s, for that matter — is considerably less clear than the Trump administration’s rhetoric would imply.

As a lumber producer, Canada enjoys a basic advantage over the United States: a timber inventory that’s 13 times greater, per capita, according to Daowei Zhang, a professor of forest economics and policy at Auburn University who has made a career of his own studying this never-ending kerfuffle. Canada’s resource endowment, plus exchange rates and many other economic factors, helps explain the rise of Canadian softwood-lumber imports from a mere 7 percent of the U.S. market during the Korean War to 30 percent or so in recent years.

U.S. producers emphasize the fact that Canada’s forests are government-owned, whereas most U.S. timber stands are on private land. Provincial agencies set the price loggers must pay — delightfully known as the “stumpage fee” — for cutting down pines and other conifers, a.k.a., “soft” wood. U.S. producers say that this results in below-market stumpage fees for Canadian loggers — or, as the U.S. industry contends, a subsidy.

A 2105 Congressional Research Service report called evidence on this point “widespread, but inconclusive.” The U.S. side has not fared well in international arbitration. Even so, Canada has agreed to a series of temporary market-sharing agreements, the most recent of which expired in the waning days of the Obama administration, thus freeing the Trump team to take its new position, whether in earnest or as posturing ahead of a NAFTA renegotiation remains to be seen.

The best thing for the public, in both countries, would be to use market mechanisms to allocate timber resources to the maximum extent feasible, then allow free cross-border trade in lumber as in (almost) everything else. May the most efficient producer win!

Certainly, limiting imports of Canadian lumber, whether through tariffs or by negotiated agreement, will make U.S. housing more expensive, since Canada supplied roughly 31 percent of the U.S. market for softwood lumber in 2016 and softwood lumber accounts for about 7 percent of the construction cost of a home, according to the Washington-based National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The NAHB, another D.C. lobby that the softwood-lumber dispute periodically activates, estimates that the jobs that Trump’s latest move saves in American saw mills would be offset elsewhere, resulting in a net loss of 8,241 U.S. jobs, $498.3 million in wages and salaries, and $350.2 million in taxes and other government revenue.

No doubt the housing lobby is a dubious proxy for the public, given its own dependence on government market manipulation and subsidies. Yet, in this case, the NAHB study illustrates a valid point: The Trump administration is not proposing to protect America from Canada; it’s proposing to protect certain American special interests from certain Canadian special interests.

(click here to continue reading Trump has set out to protect lumber workers. Instead, he’s helping lobbyists. – The Washington Post.)

So Trump purses his lip, imposes a tariff on Canadian lumber to show how “tough” he is against those meanie Canadians, and ends up screwing his coal producing buddies. Doh! Coal is a dirty, dying business, and shouldn’t be propped up in any circumstance.

Oh, and since I had to look it up: thermal coal is coal used for power generation, as opposed to metallurgical coal used mostly for steel production.

Written by Seth Anderson

April 27th, 2017 at 9:02 am

Posted in Business,environment,politics

Tagged with ,

Smart TVs Just as George Orwell Envisioned

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You Are Being Film
You Are Being Film. 

As I mentioned recently, I’ve been immersed in dystopian novels. George Orwell would mutter I told you so about these latest Smart TV revelations if he was still around.

Careful what you say around your TV. It may be listening. And blabbing. A single sentence buried in a dense “privacy policy” for Samsung’s Internet-connected SmartTV advises users that its nifty voice command feature might capture more than just your request to play the latest episode of Downton Abbey. “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party,” the policy reads.

Samsung’s privacy policy notes that in addition to voice commands being transmitted, information about your device, “including device identifiers,” may also be beamed over the Internet to the third-party service, “or to the extent necessary to provide Voice Recognition features to you.”
McSherry called that bit of qualifying language “worrisome.”

“Samsung may just be giving itself some wiggle room as the service evolves, but that language could be interpreted pretty broadly,” she said.

(click here to continue reading Your Samsung SmartTV Is Spying on You, Basically – The Daily Beast.)

Samsung eventually admitted the 3rd party:

Samsung has confirmed that its “smart TV” sets are listening to customers’ every word, and the company is warning customers not to speak about personal information while near the TV sets.

The company revealed that the voice activation feature on its smart TVs will capture all nearby conversations. The TV sets can share the information, including sensitive data, with Samsung as well as third-party services.

Samsung has updated its policy and named the third party in question, Nuance Communications, Inc.

(click here to continue reading Samsung warns customers not to discuss personal information in front of smart TVs.)

Lonely Zenith
Lonely Zenith

Hmm, sounds familiar. Remember this from a few weeks ago:

Consumers have bought more than 11 million internet-connected Vizio televisions since 2010. But according to a complaint filed by the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, consumers didn’t know that while they were watching their TVs, Vizio was watching them. The lawsuit challenges the company’s tracking practices and offers insights into how established consumer protection principles apply to smart technology.

Starting in 2014, Vizio made TVs that automatically tracked what consumers were watching and transmitted that data back to its servers. Vizio even retrofitted older models by installing its tracking software remotely. All of this, the FTC and AG allege, was done without clearly telling consumers or getting their consent.

What did Vizio know about what was going on in the privacy of consumers’ homes? On a second-by-second basis, Vizio collected a selection of pixels on the screen that it matched to a database of TV, movie, and commercial content. What’s more, Vizio identified viewing data from cable or broadband service providers, set-top boxes, streaming devices, DVD players, and over-the-air broadcasts. Add it all up and Vizio captured as many as 100 billion data points each day from millions of TVs.

Vizio then turned that mountain of data into cash by selling consumers’ viewing histories to advertisers and others. And let’s be clear: We’re not talking about summary information about national viewing trends. According to the complaint, Vizio got personal. The company provided consumers’ IP addresses to data aggregators, who then matched the address with an individual consumer or household. Vizio’s contracts with third parties prohibited the re-identification of consumers and households by name, but allowed a host of other personal details – for example, sex, age, income, marital status, household size, education, and home ownership.  And Vizio permitted these companies to track and target its consumers across devices.

(click here to continue reading What Vizio was doing behind the TV screen | Federal Trade Commission.)

Continuous Video Recording in Progress
Continuous Video Recording in Progress

You didn’t realize that your habits were worth so much money to the corporate surveillance world did you? Too bad the data mining industry doesn’t share in any of the profits they’ve harvested from your habits and propensities.

Plus the whole listening to you every second might not always be in your own best interests:

Upon further investigation, however, police began suspecting foul play: Broken knobs and bottles, as well as blood spots around the tub, suggested there had been a struggle. A few days later, the Arkansas chief medical examiner ruled Collins’s death a homicide — and police obtained a search warrant for Bates’s home.

Inside, detectives discovered a bevy of “smart home” devices, including a Nest thermostat, a Honeywell alarm system, a wireless weather monitoring system and an Amazon Echo. Police seized the Echo and served a warrant to Amazon, noting in the affidavit there was “reason to believe that Amazon.com is in possession of records related to a homicide investigation being conducted by the Bentonville Police Department.”

That warrant threw a wrinkle into what might have been a traditional murder investigation, as first reported by the Information, a news site that covers the technology industry.

While police have long seized computers, cellphones and other electronics to investigate crimes, this case has raised fresh questions about privacy issues regarding devices like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home, voice-activated personal command centers that are constantly “listening.” Namely, is there a difference in the reasonable expectation of privacy one should have when dealing with a device that is “always on” in one’s own home?

The Echo is equipped with seven microphones and responds to a “wake word,” most commonly “Alexa.” When it detects the wake word, it begins streaming audio to the cloud, including a fraction of a second of audio before the wake word, according to the Amazon website.

A recording and transcription of the audio is logged and stored in the Amazon Alexa app and must be manually deleted later. For instance, if you asked your Echo, “Alexa, what is the weather right now?” you could later go back to the app to find out exactly what time that question was asked.

(click here to continue reading Can Alexa help solve a murder? Police think so — but Amazon won’t give up her data. – The Washington Post.)

Luckily, my “dumb” tv still chugs along…

 

Update: the Samsung story is from 2015, the Amazon and the Vizio stories are more recent. Main point still stands however…

Written by Seth Anderson

February 16th, 2017 at 9:54 am

IL Supreme Court Weighs Whether Hospitals Can Avoid Property Tax

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Sun Setting On A Sacred Cow
Sun Setting On A Sacred Cow

Personally, I don’t think hospitals should be exempt from property tax. What exactly is the standard here, that if a corporation “does good” they don’t have to pay their fair share of tax? Who defines what the good is? Who monitors it? 

Lisa Schencker reports:

Illinois not-for-profit hospitals currently are exempt from having to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes so long as the value of their charitable services is equal to or greater than their estimated tax liabilities.

But some municipalities argue that many not-for-profit hospitals are more like businesses, making handsome profits. They say hospitals should have to contribute their fair share of taxes to their communities, like any other business. A 2009 report by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability said 47 Chicago-area not-for-profit hospitals had property tax exemptions worth a total of $279 million.

About 156 of Illinois’ more than 200 hospitals are not-for-profit.

In the case before the state Supreme Court, the city of Urbana and others argue that Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana should not be exempt from paying property taxes. They say the 2012 state law allowing hospitals to be exempt if they provide charity equal in value to their property tax liabilities is unconstitutional. The state constitution only allows such exemptions if the property in question is used exclusively for charitable purposes, they say.

Urbana Mayor Laurel Prussing said after oral arguments Thursday that regardless of what the court decides — or doesn’t decide — the issue is one the legislature should weigh.

The hospital association might work with lawmakers to craft a new law if the court strikes the current one down. Association President and CEO A.J. Wilhelmi has said the group will “assess all options” once a ruling is made.

“Why should the most profitable companies in the state be shifting their burden onto every other business and homeowner?” Prussing asked.

Last year, a study published in the journal Health Affairs named Carle the 10th most profitable hospital in the country when it came to patient care services, with $163.5 million in profits in fiscal year 2013.

 

(click here to continue reading Illinois Supreme Court weighs whether hospitals must pay property taxes – Chicago Tribune.)

There Are Some Things To Talk About
There Are Some Things To Talk About

I don’t believe that churches should be exempt either, unless they can scientifically prove that god exists. Are medical cannabis dispensaries tax exempt? Planned Parenthood clinics? Is Feeding America’s offices on Wacker Drive tax free? What about ACLU headquarters? Union halls? Bars and taverns? Wrigley Field? Seriously, where does it end? Our society would be much better off and more equitable if corporations didn’t get so many freebies from taxpayers. I’ve always liked the idea of a “mandatory minimum” for corporations above a certain size – the idea that Boeing and Archer Daniels Midland and all the rest can’t evade taxes by exploiting shell corporations and loopholes.

Written by Seth Anderson

January 16th, 2017 at 10:12 am

Whale Oil, Horse & Buggies Will Never Again Be The Driver of US Economy

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Tourist Trolley Ketchikan

Coal mining, lumber, whale oil extraction: none of these industries are going to be resurrected to save the working classes of the United States, those eras are over, and are not returning. No amount of new regulation or removal of existing regulation is ever going to bring those jobs back.

Sadly for all of us, many Trump voters expect him to be able to magically recommission steel plants, to make coal a cost efficient means to create energy, and so on.

To see where things get more tangled, head into the damp woods of the Cascade Range in central Oregon, and the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, where a long economic decline began in the late 1980s as international trade shifted timber markets to places like Canada, and automated mills eliminated tens of thousands of jobs. Those computer-run mills are not going away even if more logs start arriving.

“We really don’t have a clear and easy path to go back to the good old days when natural resource extraction was driving our economy,” said Sean Stevens, the executive director of Oregon Wild, a conservation group. “It is not as easy as just logging more,” he said.

But the hopes, and the fears, about how that system might now change are boundless.

“My big hope is that people would be able to go back to work in San Juan County and these rural areas,” said Phil Lyman, a county commissioner in southern Utah, where antigovernment feelings run as deep as the slot canyons. “You just feel like everything has been stifled with regulations.”

Robot, living in the future
Robot, living in the future

Republicans in Congress have proposed bills weakening federal laws that protect wilderness, water quality, endangered species or that allow presidents to unilaterally name new national monuments. Some conservatives hope Mr. Trump will support their efforts to hand federal land over to states, which could sell it off or speed up drilling approvals.

Uranium mines around the Grand Canyon. Oil drilling rigs studding the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. New coal and timber leases in the national forests. States divvying up millions of acres of federal land to dispose of as they wish.

To environmental groups, it would be a nightmare. To miners, loggers, ranchers and conservative politicians in resource-dependent areas, it would be about time. Either way, Donald J. Trump’s election presages huge potential change on America’s 640 million acres of federal public lands, from the deep seas east of Maine to the volcanic coasts of Hawaii.

(click here to continue reading Battle Lines Over Trump’s Lands Policy Stretch Across 640 Million Acres – The New York Times.)

This Tree Is Older Than You

This Tree Is Older Than You

and on that topic from D Watkins:

A common theme that’s being tossed around is that Trump’s election was the white working class’ chance way to say “F**k you!” to the political elites who forgot about them, sucked up their factory jobs and left them out to dry. I take issue with this for a number of reasons.

The first and most obvious reason is this: How do you buck a system ruled by elites by electing a billionaire who was born rich, employed the Mexicans he blamed for taking jobs away and could never possibly understand someone else’s struggle? Next, I don’t fully understand the term “hard-working whites.” I come from the blackest community in one of the blackest cities, and I don’t know how not to have 10 jobs. Everybody I know has 10 jobs, even the infants. Black people, Asians and Mexicans alike work their asses off, so why is the “hard-working white” class even a voting bloc?

What’s sad is that these angry, hard-working white people don’t understand that they saw more economic gains under President Obama than they did under George W. Bush. Unemployment went down across the board except among African-Americans — the rate actually doubled for us — so those folks should be praising Obama, not championing Trump or subscribing to all this alt-right B.S.

Then there’s the myth of returning factory jobs. It’s not a real thing! And trust me, I used to subscribe to the same ideas, all caught up in the nostalgia of the old dudes from my neighborhood. My friend Al’s grandpa used to park his Cadillac on Ashland Avenue, hop out and roll up on us nine-year-olds like, “Finish high school, get a job at Bethlehem Steel and your future is set!” He’d spin his Kangol around backwards, pull out a fistful of dollars, give us each a couple and continue, “I made so much money at the steel factory, my lady ain’t worked a day in her life! I bought a house that I paid off and that shiny car right there! Yes sir, life is good!”

Those jobs were long gone by the time we came of age, at Bethlehem Steel and almost every place like it across the country. They weren’t taken by Mexicans or sent overseas — industries changed, new products were made and robots were invented that could do the job of 10 men and work all night without complaining. Those beautiful factory positions for uneducated hard-working whites (or anybody else) aren’t coming back, and I don’t care what Trump says. What’s even weirder is that we have created a generation of people complaining about jobs that they have never had and will not see in their lifetime — and again, for what?

(click here to continue reading Dear hard-working white people: Congratulations, you played yourself – Salon.com.)

Satanic Gift
Satanic Gift

Written by Seth Anderson

November 22nd, 2016 at 11:05 am

Posted in Business,environment

Tagged with , , ,

Donald Trump’s Far-Flung Holdings Raise Potential for Conflicts of Interest

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Memorial to the Great War and a poser
Memorial to the Great War and a poser

More details on Trump’s walking conflicts of interest from the failing NYT:

The Trump International operates out of the Old Post Office Building, which is owned by the federal government. That means Mr. Trump will be appointing the head of the General Services Administration, which manages the property, while his children will be running a hotel that has tens of millions of dollars in ties with the agency.

He also will oversee the National Labor Relations Board while it decides union disputes involving any of his hotels. A week before the election, the board ruled against Mr. Trump’s hotel in a case in Las Vegas.

The layers of potential conflicts he faces are in many ways as complex as his far-flung business empire, adding a heightened degree of difficulty for Mr. Trump — one of the wealthiest men to ever occupy the White House — in separating his official duties from his private business affairs.

Further complicating matters are Mr. Trump’s decision to name his children to his transition team, and what is likely to be their informal advisory role in his administration. His daughter Ivanka Trump joined an official transition meeting on Thursday, the day before Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was removed from his post leading the effort.

Mr. Trump has said he will eliminate ethical concerns by turning the management of his company over to his children, an arrangement he has referred to as a blind trust. But ethics lawyers — both Republicans and Democrats — say it is far from blind because he would have knowledge of the assets in the trust and be in contact with the people running it, unlike a conventional blind trust controlled entirely by an independent party.

“To say that his children running his businesses is the equivalent of a blind trust — there is simply no credibility in that claim,” said Matthew T. Sanderson, a Washington lawyer and Republican who has worked on the presidential campaigns of John McCain, Rand Paul and Rick Perry. “Yes, the American public elected him knowing he has these assets, but unless he deals with this properly there will just be a steady trickle of these conflict-of-interest stories, and it could be a drag on his presidency.”

Perhaps most troubling for Mr. Trump, several ethics lawyers said, is a relatively obscure provision of the Constitution, called the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits any government official from taking payments or gifts from a foreign government, or even from sharing in profits in a company that has financial ties to a foreign government.

 Mr. Trump has had business deals with foreign governments or individuals with apparent ties to foreign governments, including multimillion-dollar real estate arrangements in Azerbaijan and Uruguay. His children have frequently traveled abroad to promote the Trump brand, making trips to Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Scotland. Closer to home, the Bank of China is a tenant in Trump Tower and is a lender for another building in Midtown Manhattan where Mr. Trump has a significant partnership interest.

(click here to continue reading Donald Trump’s Far-Flung Holdings Raise Potential for Conflicts of Interest – The New York Times.)

Perplexed By the Light Of Your Moon
Perplexed By the Light Of Your Moon

plus there is this minor detail that the Trumpsters will have to ignore or overturn:

As president, Mr. Trump will be exempt from a federal ethics rule that prohibits government employees and members of Congress from taking actions that could benefit their financial interests.

But the president still must comply with a law that requires annual financial disclosures of his assets. The first will not be due until May 2018, although President Obama filed one voluntarily during his first year in office.

Experts said that even if Mr. Trump was exempt from some federal ethics rules, the public will expect him to not use his office to benefit his personal finances.

(click here to continue reading Donald Trump’s Far-Flung Holdings Raise Potential for Conflicts of Interest – The New York Times.)

Of course, we must remember that Ms. Clinton used a private email server.

Written by Seth Anderson

November 14th, 2016 at 9:18 pm

Trump Has a Serious Conflict-of-Interest Problem

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Moon Over 58th Street
Moon Over 58th Street

There were a plethora of reasons to oppose Donald Trump, his massive international businesses is a rather large and important one.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) requested a formal congressional investigation into Donald Trump’s “financial arrangements” Monday, urging a key congressional committee to examine the president-elect’s sprawling business empire for any conflicts of interests.

“I am writing to request that the Oversight Committee immediately begin conducting a review of President-elect Donald Trump’s financial arrangements to ensure that he does not have any actual or perceived conflicts of interest, and that he and his advisors comply with all legal and regulatory ethical requirements when he assumes the presidency,” Cummings wrote in a Nov. 14 letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, wrote that the United States has “never had a president like Mr. Trump in terms of his vast financial entanglements and his widespread business interests around the globe.” Given Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, Cummings added, it’s impossible to know how the real estate mogul’s many businesses will affect his future decision-making.

(click here to continue reading Trump Has a Serious Conflict-of-Interest Problem. Maybe Congress Will Investigate Him. | Mother Jones.)

If there is a business that has dealings with the US government, how are we to know if those businesses are going to make a big cash donation to Trump’s “not-blind trust”? We won’t see this cash on his tax returns, that’s for sure.

Laid Your Hand On Me
Laid Your Hand On Me

Some backstory from before the rigged election:

In his most recent financial disclosure statement, Donald Trump notes he has billions of dollars in assets. But the presumptive GOP nominee also has a tremendous load of debt that includes five loans each over $50 million. (The disclosure form, which presidential candidates must submit, does not compel candidates to reveal the specific amount of any loans that exceed $50 million, and Trump has chosen not to provide details.) Two of those megaloans are held by Deutsche Bank, which is based in Germany but has US subsidiaries. And this prompts a question that no other major American presidential candidate has had to face: What are the implications of the chief executive of the US government being in hock for $100 million (or more) to a foreign entity that has tried to evade laws aimed at curtailing risky financial shenanigans, that was recently caught manipulating markets around the world, and that attempts to influence the US government?

Trump’s disclosure form lists 16 loans from 11 different lenders, totaling at least $335 million, and the aggregate amount is likely much more. Deutsche Bank is clearly his favorite lender, and Trump’s financial empire has become largely dependent on his relationship with this major player on Wall Street and the global markets. The German bank has lent him at least $295 million for two of his signature projects. In 2012, Deutsche provided Trump with $125 million to help him buy Trump National Doral golf course. Last year, it handed Trump a $170 million line of credit for his new hotel project on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.

Should Trump move into the White House, four blocks away from his under-construction hotel, he would be its first inhabitant to owe so much to any bank. And in recent years, Deutsche Bank has repeatedly clashed with US regulators. So might it be awkward—if not pose a conflict of interest—for Trump to have to deal with policy matters that could affect this financial behemoth?

Richard Painter, an attorney who teaches at the University of Minnesota and who was the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, says a situation in which a sitting president owes hundreds of millions of dollars to any entity, especially a bank that jousts with regulators, is disturbing. There have been wealthy presidents and vice presidents, Painter notes, pointing to John Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and Nelson Rockefeller, but none were as heavily leveraged as Trump. “They had large assets and usually diversified assets. They weren’t in a situation where someone could put pressure on them to do what they want,” Painter remarks. “Whereas having a president who owes a lot of money to banks, particularly when it’s on negotiable terms—it puts them at the mercy of the banks and the banks are at the mercy of regulators.” Painter adds: “In real estate, the prevailing business model is to own a lot but also owe a lot, and that is a potentially very troublesome business model for someone in public office.”

(click here to continue reading Trump Has a Conflict-of-Interest Problem No Other White House Candidate Ever Had | Mother Jones.)

Another Loony
Another Loony

and from the failing NYT:

For example, an office building on Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, of which Mr. Trump is part owner, carries a $950 million loan. Among the lenders: the Bank of China, one of the largest banks in a country that Mr. Trump has railed against as an economic foe of the United States, and Goldman Sachs, a financial institution he has said controls Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, after it paid her $675,000 in speaking fees.

Real estate projects often involve complex ownership and mortgage structures. And given Mr. Trump’s long real estate career in the United States and abroad, as well as his claim that his personal wealth exceeds $10 billion, it is safe to say that no previous major party presidential nominee has had finances nearly as complicated.

 As president, Mr. Trump would have substantial sway over monetary and tax policy, as well as the power to make appointments that would directly affect his own financial empire. He would also wield influence over legislative issues that could have a significant impact on his net worth, and would have official dealings with countries in which he has business interests.

Yet The Times’s examination underscored how much of Mr. Trump’s business remains shrouded in mystery. He has declined to disclose his tax returns or allow an independent valuation of his assets.

Mr. Trump’s opaque portfolio of business ties makes him potentially vulnerable to the demands of banks, and to business people in the United States and abroad, said Professor Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer.

“The success of his empire depends on an ability to get credit, to get loans extended to his business entities,” he said. “And we simply don’t know a lot about his financial dealings, here or around the world.”

(click here to continue reading Trump’s Empire: A Maze of Debts and Opaque Ties – The New York Times.)

Sounds just about right, if Trump ends up being the last president of the American experiment in democracy. Well, 240 years, we’ve had a good run.

Written by Seth Anderson

November 14th, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Supermarkets’ Best Weapon Against E-tailers: Produce

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Tomatoes from the Green City Farmers Market
Tomatoes from the Green City Farmers Market

Like so many other tech-centric new businesses, online grocery is a major topic, and yet it seems few people actually use the service.

While Wal-Mart and other retailers, including Ahold USA and Meijer Inc., are pouring money into ramping up online sales, the grocers are also buckling down on the basics of the produce department. That’s because high-quality fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods are emerging as a physical store’s best defense against growing competition from Amazon.com Inc.

Many customers decide where to shop based on the quality of the produce, and—for now—most shoppers want to pick their own ripe tomatoes or perfectly green heads of lettuce, say grocers and industry researchers. Shoppers who don’t buy groceries online most often cite the desire to pick their own produce as the reason, according to an online survey from Morgan Stanley earlier this year.

Online food and beverage sales are growing fast, up 20% since 2013, but still make up a tiny 0.16% of the $670 billion food and beverage market, according to Commerce Department figures. Only 4% of consumers said they purchased some produce through online grocers in the past year, a 2015 Nielsen survey found.

Produce also is often part of “fill-in” trips, those moments a shopper dashes to the store for a last-minute ingredient and might not wait for an online order. Produce itself isn’t usually a big moneymaker, but it draws people to stores to buy higher-margin packaged food, apparel, electronics and other items—products customers increasingly are buying online. Even Amazon wants part of the valuable market. It plans to build small stores that sell perishable foods and allow shoppers to order shelf-stable items for same-day delivery, say people familiar with the matter.

Improving Wal-Mart’s fresh food is “a huge priority for us because it’s a big traffic driver,” says Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart U.S. in a March call with investors.

(click here to continue reading Supermarkets’ Best Weapon Against E-tailers: Produce – WSJ.)

Speaking strictly for myself, I’ve tried ordering from Instacart twice. The first time, everything came as if I had picked it myself, but the second time, the produce was sub-par. All of it. Brown spots on lettuce, bruised avocados, moldy tomatoes, mushy cucumbers, etc. So I’ve never ordered from them again, and probably never will. When it comes to grocery delivery, if it isn’t perfect, forget it. I have less than zero tolerance for mistakes. A few years prior, I had an account with a local company that delivered farmers market produce, but again, after a few bad deliveries, I cancelled my service, and have not ordered from them again. In the winter months, I sometimes use Peapod, but I tend to only buy staples like pasta, paper towels, cat litter, and bottles of wine, and don’t purchase much produce because items that are delivered are often less than ideal.

A fan of Peapod
A fan of Peapod

Time willing, I would much rather go to a farmers market or a local grocery store and carefully pick my own vegetables and fruits. 

Written by Seth Anderson

October 17th, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Brexit buzz Re the fate of England’s honeybees

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Bee Cee Honey
Bee Cee Honey

As a brief follow-up to yesterday’s question about future food crops in England post-Brexit: the honeybees are also in the divorce negotiation apparently.

SURBITON, England — The honeybees buzzing inside the hives in this community garden outside of London appear blissfully oblivious of the follies of man. But the political drama that has engulfed their human keepers since Britain voted to leave the European Union could ensnare them as well.

Few have bothered to consider what the country’s historic decision to end its four-decade alliance with the continent will mean for the humble arthropod. Gaining far more attention have been the passionate debates over the merits of immigration and the limits of globalization that fueled the nation’s desire to quit the E.U.

But unraveling any marriage is a complicated affair, and the fate of Apis mellifera highlights how entangled Britain has become with the 27 countries beyond the English Channel. At stake are the future of European regulations of pesticides that could threaten the 250,000 hives on this island nation; medicines that can be used to treat honeybee ailments; and funding for inspectors responsible for ensuring the health of Britain’s bees.

The honeybee falls under the jurisdiction of the European Food Safety Authority. The E.U. produces more than 200,000 tons of honey for human consumption each year, but officials’ interest is not merely culinary. Bees are a critical pollinator of Europe’s farm crops, and their indirect impact on agriculture is estimated to be 22 billion euros, dwarfing the sales of honey. Beekeepers hope that means their interests would not be ignored in any future discussions.

Beekeepers are divided over what Britain’s departure from the E.U. will mean for their hives. Generating the most buzz is a temporary ban on pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, used by farmers. Environmentalists and bee enthusiasts had lobbied for the moratorium after noticing that bees exposed to the chemical appeared to act drunk — becoming disoriented and getting lost.

Now the question is whether Britain will keep the ban or roll it back.

“Environmental issues cross political boundaries. In order to tackle them, you have to work together,” said Norman Carreck, science director at the International Bee Research Association. “If the U.K. leaves, everything is open to negotiation.”

To those who supported remaining in the E.U., the moratorium is exactly the type of regulatory minutiae that the alliance is supposed to alleviate. A centralized bureaucracy helps Britain compete in an increasingly interconnected world. Rather than negotiate with 28 agencies over pesticide use across Europe, beekeepers need only deal with one. A unified bloc also gives Britain greater leverage in negotiations with other world leaders. Collectively, the E.U. is the largest economy in the world — bigger than the United States. Alone, the United Kingdom is a distant fifth.

(click here to continue reading The latest Brexit buzz is about the fate of England’s honeybees – The Washington Post.)

Gee, Dad, What’s That?
Gee, Dad, What’s That?

Written by Seth Anderson

August 20th, 2016 at 9:43 am

With nearly half its food imported, who will feed Britain after Brexit?

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Organic Tomatoes Produced in Kent
Organic Tomatoes Produced in Kent, UK.

Trump called himself “Mr. Brexit” yesterday. Funny, almost, in light of the reality of how removing E.U. immigrants is going to drastically change how Britain feeds itself. America too if the anti-immigrant brigade ever gets a modicum of power. Have you ever picked vegetables in the hot sun? It’s not work I’d do voluntarily, even if it paid above minimum wage. Trump’s anti-immigrant army will be spluttering in impotent rage if tomatoes were $50/lb, if lettuce was something you only could afford to eat over the holidays, if a hamburger cost $35 even to make it at home with store-bought ingredients. 

But then Trump’s cult has never had the ability to comprehend facts.

Courgetts (or Courgettes)
Courgetts (or Courgettes) (a/k/a Zucchini)

Anyway, back to Britain, where Carla Power writes, in part:

“Brexit” has sown deep uncertainty in Britain’s food system, which for the last 43 years has been entwined with the rest of Europe’s, relying heavily on the EU for everything from pork to peaches to farm subsidies to the labor that picks its tomatoes. Now, the country is going to have to rethink how it feeds itself, from farm to fork.

“Food is the biggest sector of engagement with Europe,” said Timothy Lang, a professor at City University London’s Center for Food Policy. “It’s hundreds of thousands of contracts, all woven into long supply chains.”

Currently, European laws regulate nearly everything that ends up on British plates: how clean a chicken should be before slaughter, how cold to keep frozen cod, who gets to call their biscuits “gluten free.”

Now, Britain will have to decide all that for itself. Some groups already have begun lobbying Prime Minister Theresa May’s new government for regulations to improve animal welfare and protect soils.

But what Britain can’t do is feed itself. The country imports more than $50 billion a year in food, or nearly half of what it eats. That’s more than double what it exports. Most wine and beef come from mainland Europe, as do about 40% of fruit and vegetables.

The future of food in Britain will depend largely on what sort of trade deals the government can strike with the European alliance it is preparing to abandon.

Germany and other European powers have made it clear that they will not grant Britain the benefits of EU membership if it leaves and that the country probably will face tariffs on many of its imports.

New tariffs on food would drive up prices and potentially change the nation’s diet.

EU membership has brought them a flexible, energetic and mobile labor force of Romanians, Bulgarians and other Eastern Europeans. While EU-born workers from outside Britain make up 6% of the country’s workforce, they account for more than a quarter of employees in the food manufacturing industry — and 95% of crop pickers.

“Every strawberry eaten at Wimbledon was picked by an Eastern European,” said John Hardman of Hops Labour Solutions, an agricultural recruitment firm in Kenilworth. “Every Brussels sprout eaten at Christmas dinner was picked by an Eastern European.”
If Britain stops free movement of EU workers, farmers may struggle to find replacements. Britons themselves don’t seem keen on the low wages and long hours in the orchards and fields.

(click here to continue reading With nearly half its food imported, who will feed Britain after ‘Brexit’? – LA Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 19th, 2016 at 1:15 pm

The Free Trade Myth, Explained

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Milwaukee Venetian Blind Co Since 1936
Milwaukee Venetian Blind Co Since 1936

Gail Ablow tackles the question, “What is the difference between Fair Trade and Free Trade”…and discusses the oft-mentioned Tran-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Fair traders are in favor of government policies that protect workers, farmers and the environment, and they will pay a premium for fair trade-certified goods. Free traders favor less government regulation and fewer trade barriers between countries and want the market to determine the price of goods in the hope of having the most choices at the lowest prices. The two terms are not opposites, but in the real world “free trade” comes with costs — and the TPP trade agreement that the Obama administration recently finished negotiating is, in the view of many critics, a shining example of that.

All trade is political. All trade is about power.

When you buy something — a car, clothes, coffee, computer, a hamburger, you name it — international trade agreements affect the price and determine who profits from it. Proponents of free trade say businesses should thrive or fail in an open market without government interference such as protections, tariffs or subsidies.

But trade is about much more than the price of your shoes. In practice, the parties who craft trade agreements are less interested in unfettered markets and far more interested in increasing corporate profits and pursuing international strategic goals. “There is no such thing as free trade,” says Barry Lynn, director of the Open Markets Program at the New America Foundation. “The idea that there is a self-regulating marketplace out there is fundamentally wrong, as opposed to a bunch of power relationships between large corporations and nation-states. Put simply, free trade is a myth.”

According to Lynn, the main reason people promote this “myth” is to push the idea that “government should not regulate the large corporations that run the marketplace. The two groups who push this argument in a coherent manner are the libertarian right and the neoliberal left.”

Big Pharma benefits because the TPP extends patents, copyrights and other monopoly protections to companies that want to profit for as long as possible. In an interview with Bill Moyers in 2013, economist Dean Baker explained there is nothing “free market” about these corporate safeguards against competition that will prevent millions of people around the world from getting cheaper generic medicines. “If this was really about trade,” he said, “we’d be going, ‘How can we bring those prices down?’

Firms that want to sue governments also benefit. The TPP creates an extra-judicial process known as an investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Foreign investors would be able to sue governments for compensation if they impose environmental, health and safety, and even labor regulations that result in lost profits to the company. These suits would be arbitrated by international tribunals that aren’t subject to US laws. There is no appeals process. Putting ISDS into such a sweeping deal, writes Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), “would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine US sovereignty… America’s current trade policy makes it nearly impossible to enforce rules that protect hard-working families, but very easy to enforce rules that favor multinational corporations.”

(click here to continue reading The Free Trade Myth, Explained – BillMoyers.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 17th, 2016 at 5:09 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,