Category Archives: Business

China Expected to Shake Up Oil Markets

China Expected to Shake Up Oil MarketsChina is preparing to launch an oil futures contract based on its domestic currency instead of dollars in an effort to promote the renminbi as a global reserve currency.

It appears the liberal mainstream media is finally waking up to what TruNews readers have known for several months, that China is about to launch domestic oil futures trading not valued in American dollars, which will hugely impact the dollar’s “well-established role” as the global currency of trade.

According to a new report, the “petro-yuan” futures contracts will be offered beginning Jan. 18, following multiple rounds of testing. The Shanghai Futures Exchange will be traded under the “INE” acronym. Like all futures contracts, it will set a price in the present for the delivery of oil at a future date. Futures trading usually outpaces physical oil trading by a more than 20-to-1 ratio.

This will allow the yuan to undercut the dollar in global trade in the long term. In the short term, it’s unlikely to have a major impact on the dollar, the petro-dollar, or global trade. The Chinese oil futures contracts also will not have the relative stability of dollar-based oil contracts, and it’s unlikely non-Chinese investors will be allowed to participate initially. But President Xi Jinping seems to be focused on a long play.

From TruNews

Posted by The NON-Conformist

 

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Steve Bannon says Trump-Russia ties are ‘about money-laundering’ — but GOP won’t let Dems investigate

Congressional Republicans in charge of leading Capitol Hill’s investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election are continuing to stymie efforts by Democrats to investigate alleged collusion, according to a new report in Politico.

Despite ousted Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon alleging money laundering in the blockbuster new book Fire and Fury, Republicans won’t allow Democrats to follow the money.

Republican congressional leaders have refused to compel public testimony from Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. In addition to blocking public testimony, three Democratic lawmakers told Politico that Republicans “also have rejected closed-door interview sessions with several dozen witnesses.”

Most shocking may be Republican efforts to block the investigation of financial documents, which could potentially show a quid pro quo arrangement.

“Those Democrats, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell of California, also said Republicans have blocked their requests for financial documents from key players like Trump Jr., Kushner, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and Trump himself,” Politico reported.

Committee Democrats are also seeking records from Deutsche Bank.

“At the end of the day, we will have done the country a disservice if we conclude the investigation without doing a thorough job, and if we are willing to make an incomplete report to the American people, or worse, one that’s inaccurate, and later have to explain when information comes to the surface why we didn’t care enough to pursue it,” said Schiff, a former federal prosecutor.

“We need the committee to use the compulsory process, but the majority thus far has been unwilling to do so in most cases,” explained Swalwell, a former state prosecutor. “And that leaves some very important questions unanswered.”

“The fact that we have not had any kind of public visibility on ‘follow-the-money issues’ is a very significant deficiency of the inquiry,” Wyden said. “I think Jared Kushner ought to be back answering questions in public. I think Donald Trump Jr. should be back answering questions in public, and we would obviously coordinate with Mueller on that.”

By BOB BRIGHAM/RawStory

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Starbucks’ Dirty Secret Four billion cups a year end up in landfills, despite the company’s promise of a 100 percent recyclable cup.

It’s 7am. You drag yourself out of bed, pull on your work clothes, brush your teeth and hop on the bus. You get off at your stop, and head to the nearest Starbucks for a cup of coffee to wake up your foggy brain. You sip the delicious, caffeinated concoction on your walk to work, and the cup’s empty by the time you arrive. You look for a place to toss it—but wait, do you throw it away or put it in a recycling bin?

This is the story of the Starbucks cup.

Most people don’t know this, but Starbucks paper cups are not recyclable in most cities across the U.S. because the cups are lined with plastic. In today’s world, a paper cup is no longer just a paper cup. It’s plastic pollution.

These plastic-lined Starbucks cups are a huge problem for our waste and recycling streams. Although Starbucks cups are accepted for recycling in a few major cities in the U.S. (New York, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.), the rest go into the trash, to the tune of more than 4 billion cups a year. That’s 8,000 Starbucks cups each minute that are harvested from fresh-cut trees, used once, and sent straight to the landfill.

Even in cities where Starbucks paper cups are accepted for recycling, it remains unknown how many cups actually make it all the way through the recycling process. The plastic lining is inefficient and difficult to recycle; it adheres to the paper and can clog the recycling equipment, limiting the amount of high-quality paper fiber that can be captured and repurposed. Oftentimes, the cups ultimately still get tossed in the trash.

Our world faces an enormous challenge over the growing mounds of trash and plastic pollution, in our cities, our beaches and deep in our oceans. By 2050, the world’s oceans are projected to have more plastic in them than fish. And yet, 8,000 Starbucks cups per minute are thrown away. Scientists were recently shocked to discover the world’s seabeds and ocean floors are covered with countless tiny fragments of microplastics, all of which can travel up the food chain to humans. Our world’s waters are full of plastic.

Starbucks cups are contributing to this pollution problem, all because of the plastic lining. If the cups were lined with a different material, one that disintegrated at the same rate as paper, they would be much easier to recycle with conventional recycling equipment. Then, everyone could put their Starbucks coffee cups into the paper recycling bin, instead of straight into the trash.

That’s where the #BetterCup campaign comes in. Stand.earth has worked for decades to push corporations to take responsibility for their pollution, and to change their business model to support, not harm our climate. Right now, we’re calling on Starbucks to make a better cup—a 100% recyclable cup without a plastic lining.

The technology for a better cup is out there. Starbucks is a leader, and if they put their mind to it, they can create a recyclable cup. Who led the way on large-scale sourcing of sustainably-grown coffee? Starbucks. Who led the way on providing health benefits for domestic partnerships? Starbucks.

Nearly a decade ago, Starbucks’ own leadership acknowledged its plastic-lined paper cup is one of the company’s biggest environmental liabilities, and they pledged to create a 100% recyclable cup. Nine years later, we’re still waiting for Starbucks to deliver on that promise.

Posted by The NON-Conformist(who luvs SB’s…LOL)

5 Big Myths Sold by the Defenders of Capitalism Our dominant economic system causes too many Americans too much pain.

I’ve been writing about the economic and environmental realities of marginalized communities for some time, primarily from the perspective of positive systems that are growing to support disenfranchised people. Many of these alternative economic networks, such as barter and time trade, are born out of necessity. As I explore these economies and some of the new ways communities are fostering and investing in health and growth, I am increasingly met by the same arguments against them—and every single one of these arguments is a myth. Capitalism is, at its core, an entrenched system of addiction, whose very root is the greed of over-consumption, whether it’s food, sex, money, mouse clicks, or property.

Here are five myths people continue to promote that we’ll all be better off without.

1. Myth: Jobs Will Save Us!

Permits to pollute and tax breaks are just two of the things corporations receive when they promise jobs to local populations. In a city like Detroit, which has struggled for decades with unemployment and economic decay, oil companies, real estate moguls and sports teams have all offered jobs in exchange for getting something big in return. At the end of the day, the promised jobs aren’t necessarily fulfilled. The rich get richer while the poor fund corporate projects, die from corporate pollution or end up on welfare because they never got the jobs promised in the first place.

Yet politicians love to promise jobs—Trump ran on a jobs platform. But there’s a problem with that: People are infantilized to the point of not being able to support themselves or their families any other way but having a job. It creates a paternalistic mentality that everyone needs a big corporation to take care of them.

If you could hunt, fish, grow your own food, build your own house and have your own clean water source, would you really need a job to go to every day? Today, the basics of sustenance are heavily regulated and placed out of reach, even for the indigenous societies that relied on their way of life for thousands of years.

In our society, jobs are important. How else does one pay for gas, electricity, water, sewerage, and internet? And certainly there are lots of amazing jobs that support society that we absolutely do need. But when a politician pledges to bring jobs back to coal country, and the masses applaud and the coastal elites sneer when the jobs go undelivered, we have a problem.

The truth is, jobs will not save coal country. But what can save the people and places with mass numbers of unemployed are new systems that build people up rather than breaking them down: Educating people to be be self-sufficient and contribute to community and offset taxes would be a better use of taxpayer dollars than a new arena or factories polluting with impunity.

What we need aren’t jobs, but opportunities to identify what we can contribute to our communities, and learn and develop those skills to the best of our abilities, not just for our communities, but for ourselves and our families. A job that a machine can do isn’t the future. The future is in developing human potential. Every minute and dollar spent on the jobs myth is a minute wasted and stolen from that much-needed development.

2. Myth: Brand Loyalty Over Small Businesses

You know it when you see it: Nike, Adidas, Apple, Polo. People identify by the logos they wear, and they’ll pay top dollar for that logo. But why pay top dollar to advertise a company you have no connection to? Brands should pay you for your loyalty, but unless you’re Instafamous, they don’t. For the hundreds you spend on a label, you could pay a local tailor or seamstress to make something tailored just for you. Retail doesn’t want you to do that, but why not give it a try? You might be surprised to find what replacing brand loyalty with real-world community loyalty can bring you.

3. Myth: Trickledown Economics Works

We’ve been talking about this issue as long as I can remember, and it still doesn’t work. Just because the rich received a special tax break that will make them exponentially richer does not mean they will spend any money on you, or contribute anything healthy or beneficial to any community other than their own. Isn’t that what “A Christmas Carol” was all about? That the only way the wealthy will ever share their wealth is if they are terrorized by ghosts? Believing in the benevolent goodness of the super-rich is one of the most perverse things we do in the U.S., and perhaps it’s rooted in the myth that you, too, can one day be wealthy.

4. Myth: Pull Yourself up by Your Bootstraps

The myth that if you just work hard enough you will one day be rich is a pervasive idea in the United States. This myth relies on the absence of inherited wealth and ignores the grievous injustices often committed in creating that wealth, and denies racism, marginalization and generational disenfranchisement. Yet people continue to preach it as gospel. The exceptions are held up as rules, without a close examination of how those folks got to where they are. No one in this world makes it to the top alone, and the lower one is on the ladder, the harder it is to get to the top—especially when the structure is the ladder of capitalism. Make the system a jungle gym, and have the community work together to navigate it, and see how much more successful and happy everyone can be.

5. Myth: Everyone Is Free in a Capitalist Society

In an age of clicks, sponsored content and fake news, it’s sometimes hard to tell capitalism from freedom. After all, capitalism is marketed to you every day as freedom, on television, social media and even NPR. But capitalism doesn’t equate freedom. Look at the prison industrial complex or the number of people going to debtors prison for unaffordable and unpaid civil infractions. Look at the nearly 20,000 households in Detroit that had their water shut off just this year as a result of unpaid water bills. Look at the homelessness created by bad mortgages from which lenders continue to profit. Capitalism in each of these cases isn’t promoting freedom, but robbing freedom from millions of Americans who could, in another time and under a humane system of economic governance, might prosper in communities they are able to contribute to and benefit from.

Capitalism is fueled by many more myths than just these. But these five might be nice places to start disassembling the dominant economic system that is causing too many Americans pain.

By Valerie Vande Panne / AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Net neutrality repeal: ‘Good day for the internet’ or ‘step in the wrong direction’?

It is sad to see US net neutrality repealed as only internet service providers will benefit, says Katy Anderson, Net Neutrality campaigner. The rules are a way for the government to control the content, argues Chris Kitze.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Thursday to eliminate net neutrality protection.

Net neutrality means internet service providers must treat all data on the web equally, regardless of the content, website, platform, application or method of communication.
The FCC says net neutrality is preventing websites from investing trillions of dollars in network services. However, it is feared that with net neutrality regulations gone internet service providers will charge extra to prioritize traffic, effectively creating a ‘slow lane’ for smaller websites.

RT discussed the possible consequences of the decision in regards to the freedom of the internet with Chris Kitze, founder of “Unseen,” a company providing secure communications, and Katy Anderson, the director for the Net Neutrality campaign.

RT: Could you give us your insight on what this ruling on net neutrality will mean, in practice, for ordinary internet users?

Chris Kitze: Let’s look at what happened before they had these net neutrality rules – they had no rules. And the internet did just fine. And then they imposed these rules under President Obama, and now they are getting rid of these rules. Why did they want to impose these rules? If you look at the people who benefited from having everything equally carried – if you are Netflix and you are literally consuming one-third of the internet bandwidth, and you want to be charged the same as some small website to deliver their content, of course, it makes sense. That is why those are the people who are in favor of net neutrality. What they did is they dressed it up and tried to put it in the class warfare, the kind of communist things that you hear about from a lot of people who are in favor of a lot of regulations. And what happened is that they just swept it away. It is actually a very good day for the internet, I think.

RT: The FCC is controlled by Republicans. Why is scrapping net neutrality so important for the Republican Party? What are they gaining by it?

CK: I don’t look at it politically. I don’t get politically motivated. I just believe in freedom. And the problem with net neutrality is that it is a way for the government to come in and regulate and control the content that is going through the pipes. That to me is the real issue…If you look at Google and Facebook, they are controlling the access to a lot of content, [if] you look at Netflix – all these different large Silicon Valley companies have controlled the dialog, they are the once who are behind this net neutrality. And this is in effect, something from Donald Trump going against these big companies, who by the way, did everything they could to keep him from being elected.

‘Step in the wrong direction’

RT: Is this the end of the open internet as we know it, essentially equality for all web-users?

Katy Anderson: We’ll see. The vote is definitely a step in the wrong direction as it repeals the 2015 order that put in force these net neutrality protections. It is sad to see, but I hope, we’ll see Congress in the US repeal it. We already had five Republicans come forward as well as a slew of Democrats. Hopefully, it is something that we will see overturned over the next coming months.

RT: What does it mean for the average American?

KA: Over the past 20 years we’ve seen the internet where all content was treated equally. It doesn’t matter what news website you want to see, it doesn’t matter what video content you want to see – the internet service provider treats it exactly the same, and they can’t charge a content producer more money to actually get in front of consumers… What we will see is that internet search providers can charge more for some companies to get in front of consumers faster or completely block other companies that don’t pay. For consumers what that can mean that prices could go up as their favorite service providers are forced to pay more or that their favorite websites could get blocked.

RT: Who will benefit from the absence of net neutrality?

KA: Internet service providers. The people that control the networks right now are the ones that are going to benefit. They will be able to charge more and just have more control. And those billions of dollars industry will have even more control of what you and I see and do online.

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Net-neutrality rollback: Tech giants blast threat to ‘freedom & innovation’

Net-neutrality rollback: Tech giants blast threat to ‘freedom & innovation’Supporters of Net Neutrality protest the FCC’s recent decision to repeal the program in Los Angeles, California, November 28, 2017. © Kyle Grillot / Reuters

Amazon, Netflix, Facebook and many other tech giants have blasted Congress’ decision to repeal net neutrality, branding it ‘harmful’ for all internet users.

“I am extremely disappointed in the FCC decision to remove the #NetNeutrality protections,” wrote Amazon’s Chief Technology Officer Werner Vogels on Twitter. “We’ll continue to work with our peers, partners and customers to find ways to ensure an open and fair internet that can continue to drive massive innovation.”

Today’s decision from the Federal Communications Commission to end net neutrality is disappointing and harmful. An open internet is critical for new ideas and economic opportunity – and internet providers shouldn’t be able to decide what people can see online or charge more for certain websites,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer.

We’re disappointed in the decision to gut #NetNeutrality protections that ushered in an unprecedented era of innovation, creativity & civic engagement. This is the beginning of a longer legal battle. Netflix stands w/ innovators, large & small, to oppose this misguided FCC order,” Netflix tweeted.

Mozilla called the vote an “unsurprising, unfortunate disappointment” in a statement against the rollback, Vimeo labelled it as “disheartening”. Microsoft Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith said the decision “jeopardizes” the benefits of an open internet.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian shared an example from the telecommunications market in Portugal and Spain in which specific apps are included as add-on data package plans and wrote: “We cannot let this happen to our internet in the US.”

Three out of five federal congress regulators voted to completely repeal the FCC’s 2015 Open Internet Order decision, taken during the Obama administration, on Thursday. Net neutrality ensured that Internet Service Providers accomodated a fast, free and open internet space for giant players and small businesses alike.

If the rollback goes ahead – it will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, which could take a minimum of six weeks after the FCC vote, and several states have already filed against the FCC decision – ISPs will be able to control accessibility to certain websites.

For example, if Verizon buys Yahoo!, they would be legally allowed to charge users to access Google or facilitate a faster loading time/improved quality when visiting a certain webpage.

FCC Chairman for the Trump administration Ajit Pai has previously expressed his dislike for net neutrality and argued that the regulations discouraged ISP from investing in their networks or expanding to rural areas.

I sincerely doubt that legitimate businesses are willing to subject themselves to a PR nightmare for attempting to engage in blocking, throttling, or improper discrimination. It is simply not worth the reputational cost and potential loss of business,” said Commissioner Mike O’Rielly who also voted to overturn the protections.

For what it’s worth Verizon, AT&T (which is seeking to buy Time Warner, the parent company of CNN) and the US Telecom and Broadband Association have all spoken out against the proposed law change and promise to uphold the unbiased market.

We do not block websites, nor censor online content, nor throttle or degrade traffic based on the content, nor unfairly discriminate in our treatment of internet traffic,” said a spokesperson for AT&T in a statement.

These principles, which were laid out in the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order and fully supported by AT&T, are clearly articulated on our website and are fully enforceable against us. In short, the internet will continue to work tomorrow just as it always has.”

Verizon fully supports the open Internet, and we will continue to do so,” said Verizon’s Senior Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Will Johnson. “Our customers demand it and our business depends on it.”

Today, the future of our open, thriving internet has been secured,” wrote the US Telecom and Broadband Association.

America’s broadband providers – who have long supported net-neutrality protections and have committed to continuing to do so – will have renewed confidence to make the investments required to strengthen the nation’s networks and close the digital divide, especially in rural communities.”

From RT

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Trump and GOP Tax Cut Is Handing Corporations Like Ford a Giant Incentive to Move Offshore Giant corporations got what they wanted out of Republicans on taxes, now they’re lobbying the Trump administration hard to retain their NAFTA privileges.

Ford hit Michigan and its auto workers with some crappy holiday news. Instead of building a $700 million electric vehicle factory in Michigan as promised in January, Ford will construct the plant in Mexico.

Ford reneged on its promise to Michigan workers just days after the Senate passed a tax plan intended to end levies on corporate profits made at factories offshore – in places like Mexico. News of the letdown also arrived just days before new negotiations on a revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are to begin in Washington, D.C.

Ford and other giant corporations got what they wanted out of Republicans on taxes, dramatically lower levies on domestic profits and total elimination on foreign profits. That makes Mexico an even more attractive manufacturing site for them than NAFTA did. So now they’re lobbying the Trump administration hard to retain the privileges that NAFTA bestowed on them. If they win that argument, they’ll have secured double incentives to offshore.

Trump administration officials don’t sound like they’re buying the corporate line, however. And they shouldn’t. NAFTA has cost Americans nearly a million jobs as thousands of factories migrated to Mexico. As he campaigned, President Trump promised untold numbers of factory workers and their families across the nation’s industrial belt that he would fix or end NAFTA to keep jobs and industry in America. He needs to keep that promise.

That means elimination of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) scam that allows corporations to sue governments in secret courts presided over by corporate lawyers when legislatures pass laws corporations don’t like. That means standing strong on the Trump administration demands that the new pact expire in five years if it’s not working and that a substantial portion of automobiles – including Fords – be made in the USA to attain duty-free status. It means strong protection for workers’ right to organize and collectively bargain. It means substantially raising the Mexican minimum wage, which now stands at $4.70. That’s for a day, not an hour.

What it really means is prioritizing the needs of workers over the demands of corporations, something that was not done the first time around by NAFTA negotiators. As it stands now, NAFTA places all of the jeopardy on the shoulders of workers and communities while substantially eliminating normal business risks for corporations.

The jeopardy NAFTA created for workers is that its corporate-friendly provisions prompt employers to close American factories that sustain both workers and communities and move them to Mexico. This exodus of American manufacturing to Mexico has continued apace this year, even as the Trump administration began renegotiating NAFTA, probably because corporations assume they’ll get everything they want in the end. They have, after all, always done so in the past because they are, after all, massive political campaign donors and lobby firm patrons, while hourly workers are not.

Bloomberg reported in October, for example, that firms whose function it is to help corporations move factories from the United States to Mexico had a boom year in 2017, with one reporting it had done more offshoring this year than in any during the previous three decades.

Mexico is alluring because of its dirt-cheap wage rates, the paucity of environmental enforcement and the ISDS scam that lets corporations sue the government if Mexico would regulate in a way some CEO claims would crimp his profits.

The ISDS along with NAFTA’s unlimited lifespan reduce risk for corporations. Normal business decisions in capitalist systems involve some jeopardy. A chemical company could, for example, invest in developing a new pesticide, but then lose when the government bans the product after determining it kills babies as well as bugs.

NAFTA provides corporations with investment protection because it ensures they’ll get their profits even if a government changes regulations. ISDS enables corporations to sue to recoup money the corporations supposedly would have made if the government hadn’t issued new laws or regulations. The corporate-run court can order a country’s citizens to pay tens of millions to the corporation.

Some say this government-financed investment insurance corrupts capitalism. Among the significant people who have is U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. He said corporations are insisting the government absolve CEOs of political risk. CEOs are using ISDS as a guarantee rather than buying risk insurance or factoring political risk into economic decisions about whether to move.

Lighthizer said businessmen have literally told him the administration cannot change ISDS because corporations wouldn’t have invested in Mexico without it. “I’m thinking,” he said, “‘Well, then, why is it a good policy of the United States government to encourage investment in Mexico?’”

These are the same corporate honchos who object to a five-year sunset clause for a new NAFTA, he said. They want a free eternal warranty on the provisions of a deal they describe as the world’s greatest. Lighthizer’s response is that if the deal is so great, why would the government choose to end it after five years? What are they really worried about?

The worry may be that those CEOs know NAFTA is great for their bottom line but not for the workers who elected Donald Trump President.

They know NAFTA was drafted by CEOs for CEOs. Its priorities were determined by corporate bigwigs behind doors closed to the public. Corporations designed it at the expense of workers and ordinary citizens, Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize winning economist, said in an op-ed in the Guardian newspaper this week.

It often seems, he wrote, “that workers, who have seen their wages fall and jobs disappear, are just collateral damage – innocent but unavoidable victims in the inexorable march of economic progress. But there is another interpretation of what has happened: one of the objectives of globalization was to weaken workers’ bargaining power. What corporations wanted was cheaper labor, however they could get it.”

U.S. corporations like Ford got it by writing a trade deal that gave them market-distorting profit protections, then abandoning their dedicated American workers and moving to Mexico where they could pay $4.70 a day and pollute unfettered.

President Trump has threatened to withdraw from NAFTA if his negotiators can’t get new reasonable terms that protect American manufacturing and American workers.

That is right. It’s appropriate that corporations like Ford sustain the actual risk of offshoring rather than workers bearing it all.

By Leo Gerard / AlterNe

Posted by The NON-Confomist