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Offline knarf

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White Collar Crime Pays
« Reply #16860 on: August 11, 2020, 09:26:28 AM »
Since the 1980s, the fruits from rising economic output from workers at American corporations have concentrated earnings at the top. Average worker wages have stagnated, while those of senior managers soared. This follows a precipitous decline in the top marginal tax rate along with deterioration in the power of collective bargaining owing to declining unionization rates.

Meeting certain performance benchmarks, often pegged to a firm’s stock price, determines that senior pay. A survey of misconduct and other catastrophes of the American workplace shows the abiding presence of extraordinary pay packages.

Because of badly constructed pay incentives, thousands of bankers engaged in widespread fraud, inflating a housing bubble whose rupture cost millions their jobs, savings and homes.
Health care costs are rising as private equity manipulators inflate prices, opioid profiteers are addicting countless victims leading to thousands of mortalities and more.
The worst mine disaster in recent history followed years of compensation tied to cutting safety expenses
Similarly, corners cut at Boeing led to the crash of two airliners, while the CEO’s pay turned, in part, on cost cutting.
Stagnating worker wages for decades to bloat the pay in the C-suite has led to massive income and wealth inequality. The induced coma of the pandemic has ripped the scar off this economic wound, requiring massive aid to newly displaced workers who have no savings to fund more than a few weeks of basic expenses, such as groceries, rent, or medicine.
Washington must to repair this dynamic. Leaders should reform executive compensation, force board directors to exercise responsible diligence over management, overhaul tax laws, and restore union organizing and bargaining rights.



On July 21, 2010, 10 years ago, President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This groundbreaking legislation was a response to the worst financial crash since 1929, brought about by greedy malefactors who committed widespread fraud, largely in mortgage-making and mortgage securities trading, in the pursuit of lucre.[1] In response to this greed, Dodd-Frank directed bank regulatory agencies to adopt stricter rules in mortgage-making; tighter controls on the gambling known as derivatives trading; restrictions on banks wagering with federally insured deposits; and critically, guardrails on how bankers could profit personally. It also created a new consumer financial protection agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In all, Dodd-Frank mandated the agencies to adopt some 400 rules. While many rules were simple, such as the mandate that companies post the CEO’s pay as a multiple of the median-paid worker at the firm to demonstrate the level of pay inequity, the agencies still labored for years to finalize them. They were besieged by bank lobbyists who considered passage of the reform measure simply the “first quarter” in football game and counted on an inevitable fading of citizen demands for reform. Perhaps one of the five most important of these 400 rules called for prohibiting incentive-based payment arrangements for senior bank officials that would encourage taking “inappropriate risks,” such as by offering “excessive compensation.” Lawmakers recognized that this reform was crucial, and because of that (unlike the vast majority of the 400 rules), they set a deadline for regulators to implement it: May 2011. Yet today, evincing the vast power of the bank lobby in Washington, this rule remains unimplemented.

Along with Dodd-Frank, Congress also approved vast sums of money to bail out the bank creditors, as the banks lacked the capital to make good on their own debts. With this debt relief, bailout proponents promised that the banks could forebear on delinquent mortgage holders and keep people who’d lost their jobs in their homes. But as the bailout proceeded, it became clear that many banks simply sat on the money and proceeded with evictions and foreclosures. In the end, more than 10 million people lost their homes, their jobs, and their savings, while bankers effectively pocketed some of the bailout, returning to the salad days of high bonuses. In the year that JP Morgan paid record fines for mortgage fraud during the years leading to the crisis, its board gave CEO Jaime Dimon a raise.[2] Had regulators completed the job of banker pay reform, and the ability to make a personal fortune even at the expense of others’ misfortune been eliminated, this could not have happened.

Now, as the world struggles with a pandemic, governments across the planet have placed their economies in voluntary comas. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs. While many low-paid workers have been deemed essential, such as those in health care, grocery sales, delivery, trash-pick up, and remain on the job, some 40 percent of Americans who were paid less than $40,000 before the shut-down are unemployed.[3] Janitors in now dark office buildings cannot telework, nor can restaurant or hotel workers. To soften the blow, Congress approved massive aid packages, which include direct payments to citizens. It also includes a massive aid package to corporations of $500 billion. With loans from the Federal Reserve, this corporate aid package approaches $5 trillion, with a goal of helping corporations retain their workforce, even as they lack the business that requires this labor.

However, the lessons of the 2008 bank bailout have left us with legitimate fears that corporate profiteers may siphon some of this aid into their own pockets, leaving less for workers.

No corporation caused the pandemic. Yet in many ways, the necessity of the CARES Act, the $2.3 trillion relief package during the pandemic, an unprecedently large measure conceived and approved in 11 days with inevitable shortcomings, and the direct $1,200 individual payments[4] stem from corruptions in high pay.  Yet in many ways, the need for the government to offer trillions of dollars in relief to businesses and regular Americans was, indirectly, related to the problems excessive pay has created. Corporations spent well more than the $2.3 trillion in the CARES Act on buy backs of their own stock in recent years. Those buybacks sparked increases in the stock price to which senior pay is pegged. Corporations failed to reward workers for productivity gains with real wage growth for decades, instead bloating the paychecks of senior executives. Hence, almost half of Americans lack even $400 in savings to buy groceries beyond a few weeks during the lockdown.[5]

So, with the failures of leaving reforms incomplete from the 2010 Dodd-Frank law standing as a stark object less in the bank bailout, Congress must not repeat that error, and must be diligent to ensure that the trillions in aid goes not to corporate profiteers but to workers. That means strong complete transparency of where the money goes and on what terms, oversight to ensure that recipients are worthy, and vigilant police and prosecutors to hold wrongdoers accountable.

I. Corruptions from High Pay
From World War II through the 1970s, the rewards from America’s collective economic effort was spread somewhat evenly across the workers of U.S. corporations.[6] When productivity increased, that is, when the value of what was produced each hour increased by a certain amount year-to-year, wages increased across firms by roughly that same amount.

During these decades, organized labor played an important role in determining the pay both for workers represented by the unions, and others whose employers, though not unionized, still needed to compete with these wages. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 limited labor organizing, which had been rising, so that the percentage of Americans represented by unions peaked in 1954 at 35 percent.[7] Still, the number of union members grew for the next several decades, even if by less than employment growth, so that the total number of union members peaked in 1979 at 21 million. Collective union bargaining power helped police the equitable allocation of income from economic growth during these post-war decades.[8]

Meanwhile, tax policy discouraged extraordinary paychecks. In 1963, the top marginal tax rate for individuals was 91 percent, down from 92 percent in 1952.[9] This top rate of 91 percent applied to any income beyond $400,000.[10]  That meant that compensation above this amount really meant revenue for the IRS. For example, in 1950, the highest paid CEO in the United States was Charles Wilson of General Motors. He received $626,000.[11] [12]  In 1974, more than 20 years later, with high marginal tax rates, the GM CEO received $923,000, an increase that largely kept pace with inflation over this period. Moreover, that 1974 GM pay package generated shareholder criticism as overpayment and led to a donation of shareholder money to Uncle Sam.[13] When compared with average workers, CEO pay held steady from the end of the war through the 1960s. In 1965, the average CEO of the largest 350 firms received 20 times the pay of the average worker. That was in line with the advice of management guru Peter Drucker now offers.[14]

By the early 1980s, however, union power began to decline precipitously. Observers point to a strike by air traffic controllers, in which President Ronald Reagan responded by permanently terminating the workers. Historians consider it “one of the most important events” in late 20th century U.S. labor history.[15] The momentous move by a sitting president opened the door for similar and even more draconian anti-union behavior by private sector managers, including replacing striking workers with scabs—non-union replacements. A Reagan official noted at the time, “When the president said no [to the workers]… American business leaders were given a lesson in managerial leadership that they could not and did not ignore.”[16] Beginning in the 1980s, union membership declined, as the power of the strike became less effective. Even though the population of the United States has doubled since 1960, the number of workers represented by unions has declined from about 20 million to 14 million today, and [17]union density stands at 10 percent nationally. This figure masks the fact that union density among government workers stands at 33 percent, and for private sector workers, the figure is 6.2 percent.[18] At the end of 2019, there were 7 million private sector union members out of 144 million total American workers.

Since the 1980s, wages for average workers have stagnated. While productivity has continued to increase, the benefits of greater economic output has not found its way into the pockets of the line employees most responsible for that greater output. Instead, it has gone to senior employees of American corporations.

Another Reagan legacy: the 1981 Economic Recovery Act. The top marginal tax rate for individuals, which had already fallen to 70 percent before his presidency, was further reduced to 50 percent.[19] Reagan pushed tax cuts again in 1986, lowering the top marginal rate to 38.5 percent. [20]

With lower tax rates on top salaries, and less pressure from unions to raise worker wages, company managers began to concentrate company income on larger CEO and senior management salaries. In most cases, the bulk of larger compensation packages came in the form of incentive plans. If the manager met a certain target, such as increased sales, or reduced expenses, then he or she received a bonus. [21]

Nevertheless, pursuing goals to achieve extraordinary payoffs has occasionally led to extraordinary behavior by senior managers. If one surveys corporate misconduct, one factor seems ever present—money. The subsequent sections of this chapter demonstrate that there is a big problem with corporate misconduct. Whether it is bank fraud, health care profiteering, mine safety infractions, flawed commercial jet design, or book-cooking, the common motivating agent seems to be money, the ability for the bad actor to grow rich from the misconduct.

In fact, the connection between corporate misconduct and money seems axiomatic.

The following is an overview of the landscape of recent corporate misconduct and the tie to extraordinary compensation.[22]

(lengthy description )

Health Care
(lengthy description )

Drug Pricing
(lengthy description )

Opioid Crisis
(lengthy description )

Unsafe Mine Conditions
(lengthy description )

Air Safety
(lengthy description )

Cheating Investors
(lengthy description )

Stock Buybacks
(lengthy description )

Cutting Jobs
(lengthy description )

Rewarding Mismanagement
(lengthy description )

Looting by Private Equity
(lengthy description )

Pay Gaps Exacerbating Income Inequality
(lengthy description )

Exploiting the Pandemic
(lengthy description )

II. Reforming Pay
To confront the myriad ills of incentive plans that cause income concentration to senior managers which leads to widespread misconduct, the next Congress and president must adopt an ambitious agenda of reform. Fortunately, many members of Congress and a number of presidential aspirants have floated responsible, sensible solutions.

much more on this topic follows...

NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

Offline knarf

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Frantz Fanon: A Personal Tribute to the Philosopher of the Colossal Mass
« Reply #16861 on: August 11, 2020, 09:29:06 AM »
"The colonized intellectual you so much detest has come to become the so-called guardian of your name. I hope you come into the whirlwind and destroy that myth... But in the end, I guess that’s our battle to fight."

The wretched of the earth, the damned of humanity are still here. Still clamoring, still caught in a thousand many battles with themselves and the world built to keep them in their place. Their fate signed, sealed, and packaged for the consumption of the rich and wealthy few of the earth — buffets where the flesh, blood and tears of the poor are served to a greedy, barbaric, capitalist horde are even more sumptuous. Their feasting is the stuff of legend and their belch a recognition of a satisfied bunch of heartless thieves who rejoice more in their heist than any sort of remorse or regret thereof. The proverbial cocktail party list that was supposed to be changed at the dawn of decolonization remains the same even as it is inherited and one family name supplanted for another in a vicious circle of inheritance.

(Un)fortunately your book ‘The Wretched of the Earth’ is still relevant to us. It was supposed to be an artifact of history, forever to rest in the museums of liberated territories. But fact is, it remains this living, breathing, painful reminder to us the colonized of the earth. We still study it because it’s more relevant than ever in this colonial continuity. From the favelas of Brazil, the hoodlands of America, the jungles of Chiapas, from the townships of Johannesburg to the slums of Nairobi, this masterpiece continues to shine in the eyes of a new generation whose parents were sold nothing but dreams.

The shantytown, the medinas, the slums of the world still persist. The compartmentalization of the world continues unabated. However, the divide gets deeper and more cancerous, the line, the border isn’t in the same town or neighborhood anymore, but between the geography of the oppressed — the third world — and the center of the oppressor, the colonist. With the ever-increasing globalized configuration of capital, the choke hold of a staggering market to the expansion of “soft” imperialism in the form of intergovernmental organizations and NGOs from the colonizer, the metropolis has exceeded all expectations of a shared analysis between our generations; the chasm deepened as Hannibal crossed the alps. It all has gotten deeper since you've succumbed to the white claws of death in that hospital in Maryland. The rich neighborhood and the slums today are mostly populated by the same faces, the same race of men and women. When I was in Nairobi last year, it reminded me so much of your analysis on the divided, schizophrenic colonial society.

In more ways than one it’s as if your take was about the neocolonial state in those illuminating first chapters of The Wretched of the Earth. The naked violence of it and the wanton disregard for human life makes you a prophet in this secular tradition of progressive politics we share. But more searing and penetrating of your analysis was the scholar and intellectual who comes home from the west. They’re here after all this time, still concerned about particulars and false western moralisms. They do all kinds of gymnastics with the minds of the masses to divert them from the struggle for land, bread, and water.

They are being found out, though. Young and old progressive Africans have started studying and propagating your works and see their (colonized intellectuals') likeness once again. The objective conditions are also giving rise to a newer, more badass context that defies the pull and gravity of bourgeois intellection grown from those barren western soils. These new rebels, ghetto-grown intellectuals, unknown revolutionaries, are at once denouncing these puppets and concretely building again the old-but-known mass organizational model that led to our liberation in times gone by from the clutches of classic colonialism.

Your name, though, continues to raise colonial anxiety. It continues to sound like metal dropping on the silence and soothing sounds of the corporate world. From Palestine to Panama, it continues to liberate, to agitate, even, as it brings home sanity to a lost generation. Your righteous ghost keeps coming back to haunt the Towers of Babel. Even after all this time! It reminds one of the old saying that wickedness tarries but a little while, but the works of the righteous lives on forevermore. Your lives and afterlives have clearly shown the truth and precision of that good old saying. Year after year, you resurface in the most unlikeliest of places, but unbeknownst to bourgeois historians, so long as oppression exists and there is a demand for the objective material conditions to change, you, the philosopher of the colossal mass, will show face, heart, and mind, and guide the movement even from the grave.

But there is trouble now. Your name and your work continues to be appropriated by academe. You’ve become a career for the well-to-do, the ones who erase. They have complicated your legacy. The colonized intellectual you so much detest has come to become the so-called guardian of your name. I hope you come into the whirlwind and destroy that myth. I hope you come into the thunder, into the tsunami, into the catalytic force of nature. But in the end, I guess that’s our battle to fight. To honor your name by bringing it home to the oppressed and the wretched of the earth.

There is so much to enrich this letter with, but so little time and space. But we who inherited the disinherited, we who took the pledge to raise a billion-strong army, we who know liberation and freedom is a birthright, we who want to end the compartmentalization of the world — the Manichaeism of the land — we are here, in our many forms, subjectively and objectively honoring the call to “...shake off the great mantle of night which has enveloped us, and reach for the light. The new day which is dawning must find us determined, enlightened and resolute. We must abandon our dreams and say farewell to our old beliefs and former friendships. Let us not lose time in useless laments or sickening mimicry.”
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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The lies of the deadly Tobacco Companies REVEALED
« Reply #16862 on: August 11, 2020, 09:43:19 AM »
older article but relevant to the increasing awareness that we don't have free market capitalism, we have NECROCAPITALISM!,13853.0.html
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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How Fossil Fuel Industry Fraud is Setting Us Up for a Financial Implosion
« Reply #16863 on: August 11, 2020, 09:46:05 AM »
Executive Summary
In the past several years, U.S. states, cities, counties and individuals concerned about climate change have filed important lawsuits against fossil fuel companies, asserting that the companies are responsible for climate-related damage due to their carbon pollution. These cases confront “what might be the greatest scam in history,” in the words of historian Naomi Oreskes: the massive disinformation campaign designed to stall action on climate change by persuading decision makers and the public that it is not a problem to be taken seriously.

In this report, the National Whistleblower Center focuses on a related deception that, with a small handful of notable exceptions, is unaddressed in the climate change lawsuits filed to date: the dramatic understatement of risks posed by climate change to fossil fuel companies’ own financial condition and to the economy at large. We describe an important pathway to ensuring proper disclosures of climate risks: collaborative work by whistleblowers, prosecutors and regulators to enforce anti-fraud laws.
This report is a call to action for executives of fossil fuel companies and others with knowledge of improper accounting and disclosure practices, such as external auditors, to take the steps needed to obtain protected whistleblower status and work with the SEC, other regulators and law enforcement officials to help expose and prosecute fraud. For the first time, we offer legal strategies for whistleblowers and others to expose and prosecute climate risk fraud in the fossil fuel industry. This is also the first report to use the methods of professional fraud investigators to identify fossil fuel industry financial disclosure practices that are likely to be fraudulent.

Climate risks—comprised of “transition risks,” the financial risks to some companies due to the world’s shift away from fossil fuels, and “physical risks,” those associated with climate change-related damage to property— uniquely threaten the finances of fossil fuel companies. Fossil fuel companies, fearful of losing access to investment capital and loans, are therefore highly motivated to conceal their exposure to these risks.

Concealment of climate risks is a matter of great public interest because when it is successful, it harms investors, the environment and the economy. Investors who provide capital to these companies suffer because they invest based on a false sense of the companies’ readiness for the transition to a low-carbon economy and for the physical shocks of climate change. This deception undercuts efforts to address climate change because it slows the shift of investments to businesses developing and deploying low-carbon technologies. It harms the economy by leaving financial institutions such as banks and insurers less prepared for the stresses of rapid asset deflation.

This last type of harm deserves special attention. The potential for rapid asset deflation at large fossil fuel companies is a ticking time bomb that, if not detected and addressed, could make the global financial system implode. This is because banks, insurers and other globally significant financial institutions are heavily invested in these companies and may not be able to withstand the stresses of simultaneous company failures. Numerous companies and industries are also linked to the financial condition of fossil fuel companies, posing a danger that simultaneous collapses of fossil fuel companies will reverberate widely across the economy, destroying countless jobs and livelihoods.

This systemic risk, which threatens many more people than just the shareholders of fossil fuel companies, has put climate change at the center of the agenda of the world’s financial regulators, investors and asset managers. In June 2020, the central banks of 66 nations warned that, without aggressive action to reduce carbon emissions, global Gross Domestic Product will fall 25 percent by the end of the century.  In July 2020, financial institutions that together manage almost $1 trillion in assets wrote to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other U.S. financial regulators warning that the “systemic threat” of climate change means “significant disruptive consequences on asset valuations and our nation’s economic stability” as well as “the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of people across the country.” Both documents call for regulators to mandate that companies provide robust and consistent disclosures of the climate risks facing them.

Although a number of companies with large fossil fuel investments such as Shell and BP have agreed on the need to shift to an economic system not dependent on carbon emissions and have even pledged to achieve “net zero” emissions by mid-century, the National Whistleblower Center’s analysis of public statements by these and other exploration and production companies reveals that material information on climate risks is being deceptively omitted. Further investigation by whistleblowers and law enforcement officials is needed to determine whether this deception constitutes legally actionable fraud.

In a new approach to climate risks, NWC looks at fossil fuel companies through the skeptical lens of a fraud investigator using “fraud triangle” analysis, which considers incentives, opportunities and rationalizations to commit fraud.

We find that a vast array of deceptions about climate risk are underway in the fossil fuel industry. These deceptions generally fall into three categories:

Overstating the value of reserves
Understating environmental liabilities
Understating physical risks to infrastructure
A small number of pending legal actions allege climate risk deceptions by one fossil fuel company, ExxonMobil (Exxon), the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas company. A climate risk fraud case has been filed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts against Exxon, shareholders have filed similar cases in federal courts in Texas and New Jersey, and a group of whistleblowers has filed a complaint against Exxon with the SEC. The Massachusetts case is particularly significant because it alleges misleading statements and omissions by Exxon about climate risk that we find are pervasive in the industry.

NWC’s analysis of these and other cases dealing with climate change, corporate fraud and whistleblowers shows these cases are likely just the tip of the iceberg.  We anticipate that the number of cases and defendants will likely increase dramatically in the near future once potential whistleblowers learn about the benefits of modern whistleblower laws and begin providing information to regulators and prosecutors about the variety of climate risk deceptions outlined in this report.

Whistleblowers have long played a central role in exposing frauds and ensuring successful government investigations and prosecutions. In the tobacco, banking and health care sectors, for example, they are credited with producing major legal precedents and industry reforms. Their contributions to global efforts to combat private sector corruption have dramatically increased since U.S. whistleblower laws were first modernized with the 1986 amendments to the False Claims Act. More than US$2 billion in monetary sanctions have been imposed, and more than US$500 million in whistleblower awards  paid under the Dodd-Frank Act alone. Prosecutors and regulators of all political affiliations strongly support these laws because they know that without whistleblowers, a large percentage of law enforcement actions would be unsuccessful.

The key to the success of modern whistleblower laws in the U.S. has been protections and incentives. Presumably, many executives at fossil fuel companies or auditing firms are witnessing frauds, and some are experiencing moral outrage. But corporate executives have voiced legitimate fears that one can blow the whistle without experiencing retaliation, sacrificing one’s job and losing any ability to find a job within the industry.

Under these laws, anyone with original information about a potential crime can confidentially disclose such information to law enforcement authorities. If the whistleblower’s identity becomes known, retaliation is strictly prohibited. If the information provided to law enforcement contributes to the recovery of monetary sanctions, they are guaranteed a share of these monetary awards based on the extent to which their information contributed to the successful prosecution. These laws facilitate prosecutions and civil actions against virtually any company doing business in the U.S., regardless of whether the company is U.S.-based. Confidentiality and monetary awards may be provided to whistleblowers regardless of location, citizenship or employment status.

Although improvements to climate risk disclosure rules and whistleblower laws are needed in the U.S. and around the world, the existing U.S. whistleblower legal regime offers great promise for producing near-term results in the battle against climate fraud by fossil fuel companies.

At the conclusion of this report, we recommend enforcement actions that can be taken today by potential whistleblowers, law enforcement officials and others to address climate risk fraud. We also recommend actions that policy makers and others can take to assist whistleblowers and otherwise improve the disclosure of climate risks by fossil fuel companies.

Key Findings
Deception about the financial risks climate change is pervasive across the fossil fuel industry. Two categories of material information are routinely omitted from companies’ statements to shareholders:
The immediate risks that climate change poses to companies’ financial condition.
The risk that the company’s asset deflation will contribute to an economy-wide financial implosion
The growing role of whistleblowers in the fight against fraud means the handful of pending securities fraud cases challenging these deceptions represent just the “tip of the iceberg.”
There are just five pending cases – all against Exxon – seeking judicial or administrative rulings on whether a company’s statements on the financial risks of climate change constitute securities fraud under state or federal law.
The number of cases and defendants will likely increase dramatically once potential whistleblowers learn about the protections and rewards offered by modern whistleblower law and provide detailed information about climate risk fraud to regulators and prosecutors.
Whistleblowers in the fossil fuel industry, like their predecessors in the tobacco, banking and healthcare industries, can play a central role in industry reform and help prevent a worldwide financial implosion.


Potential whistleblowers:
Educate yourself about whistleblowing and how to secure legal counsel; NWC’s website offers helpful resources
Speak with a whistleblower attorney before using internal corporate compliance programs
Learn how to protect yourself against retaliation through confidential disclosures of wrongdoing and how to secure awards
Law enforcement officials and regulators in the U.S. (federal and state) and abroad:
Launch investigations under securities laws and other corporate governance laws into fossil fuel companies’ handling of climate risk
Work closely with whistleblowers as confidential informants in detecting potential frauds and carrying out investigations
When fraud is found, secure meaningful monetary sanctions (and where appropriate, prison sentences) to deter future frauds of the same type
Fossil fuel industry directors and officers:
Fully disclose climate change risks in accordance with legal requirements governing communication of material risks to shareholders
Update corporate compliance programs to provide anonymous and confidential channels for whistleblower reporting in accordance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act
If you are aware of fraudulent behavior, consider becoming a whistleblower
Executive branch policy makers in the United States (federal and state) and abroad:
Craft climate risk disclosure rules, requiring consistent, comparable and specific information on how companies are addressing both transition risk and physical risk
Include whistleblower protections in all climate risk disclosure rules
Create and strengthen programs at regulatory bodies that educate potential whistleblowers about protections and incentives
Legislatures in the United States (federal and state) and abroad:
Direct regulatory bodies to promulgate climate risk disclosure rules and include whistleblower protections
Provide funding for whistleblower-assisted investigations
Address systemic risks of climate change to the financial system
Everyone who supports positive action on climate change:
Join NWC’s action network, through which our supporters engage in effective advocacy before key decision makers
Persuade policy makers in the U.S. (federal and state) and abroad to:
Strengthen whistleblower protections
Prioritize funding for whistleblower-assisted climate fraud investigations
Strengthen climate risk disclosure rules
NECROCAPITALISM at ‘Rolling thunder. Shock. A noble one in fear and dread sets things in order and is watchful.’ I-Ching (Hex.51)

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Big Pharma and Medical Device Manufacturers
« Reply #16864 on: August 11, 2020, 09:49:33 AM »
Big Pharma is the nickname given to the world’s pharmaceutical industry. It also includes the trade group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). Big Pharma and medical device companies make billions of dollars every year. They’ve also spent billions on fines, settlements and jury verdicts.

Big Pharma is one of the most powerful industries in the world. The global revenue for pharmaceuticals was over $1 trillion in 2014. But nowhere else in the world do the drug and medical device industries have as much power and make as much money as in the U.S.

Six of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies for 2017 have their headquarters in the U.S. These include Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Merck, Gilead, Amgen and AbbVie.

But only 28 percent of Americans have a good opinion of Big Pharma. In fact, Big Pharma is the second most hated industry in America. It’s right behind the tobacco industry and the oil, gas and chemical industry.

Big Pharma is also the biggest defrauder of the Federal Government under the False Claims Act, according to consumer watchdog group Public Citizen.

The industry has a history of fraud, bribery, lawsuits and scandals. Despite criminal charges and fines, Big Pharma companies continue to do business.

What Is Big Pharma?
Big Pharma is a term for the world’s largest publicly traded pharmaceutical companies.

The biggest drug companies may also have subsidiaries that manufacture medical devices. Medical devices can be anything from syringes to hip and knee implants.

Prescription drugs and devices manufactured by these companies bring in billions in profits.

Pharmaceutical companies are usually larger than companies that focus on medical devices alone. Drug companies also tend to make more money.

Top Big Pharma Companies By Sales
Pfizer (U.S.)   $52,540   $52,540
Roche (Switzerland)   $44,368   $57,370
Sanofi (France)   $36,663   $42,910
Johnson & Johnson (U.S.)   $36,256   $76,450
Merck & Co. (U.S.)   $35,390   $40,100
Novartis (Switzerland)   $33,000   $49,110
AbbVie (U.S.)   $28,216   $28,216
Gilead Sciences (U.S.)   $25,662   $25,662
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) (U.K.)   $24,038   $42,050
Amgen (U.S.)   $22,849   $22,849
Top Medical Devices Companies
Medtronic   Dublin, Ireland   Bone grafting, hernia repair
Johnson & Johnson   New Brunswick, New Jersey   Hip and knee implants, surgical mesh, power morcellators
GE Healthcare   Little Chalfont, United Kingdom   Ultrasound machines, MRIs, CT scanners, ventilators
Philips (Healthcare)   Amsterdam, Netherlands   Ultrasound machines, CT scanners, mammogram machines, X-ray machines
Siemens (Healthineers)   Munich, Germany   Hearing aids, diabetes testing products, diagnostic machines
Stryker   Kalamazoo, Michigan   Hip and knee implants, hospital beds
Baxter International   Deerfield, Illinois   Surgery products, dialysis machines, hospital devices
Roche   Basel, Switzerland   Diabetes testing products, cancer screening devices, research equipment
Abbott Laboratories   Chicago, Illinois   Catheters, stents, surgical guidewires
Boston Scientific   Marlborough, Massachusetts   IVC filters, surgical mesh
Big Pharma Net Worth
By 2021, Big Pharma profits for prescription drugs are expected to reach $610 billion.

Medical devices are also lucrative. The U.S. makes about $148 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. That’s about half of the world’s share of the market.

American Prescription Drug Spending
Americans spent $457 billion on prescription drugs in 2015. Drug prices continue to rise.
Americans spent an all-time high of $457 billion on prescription drugs in 2015. And drug prices continue to rise.

Consulting firm Segal Consulting expects drug prices to rise 11.6 percent in 2017. This estimate is for Americans under the age of 65.

In contrast, wages are only expected to rise 2.5 percent. This means many Americans won’t be able to afford their medications.

Who Owns Big Pharma?
Well, the better question is: Who does Big Pharma own?

Big Pharma contributes heavily to the annual budget of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Big Pharma does this through application fees (user fees) for its new products.

Experts say the industry contributes about two thirds of the FDA’s budget.

Big Pharma also uses its profits and an army of 1,378 paid lobbyists to spread its influence on Capitol Hill.

For every $1 spent on “basic research,” Big Pharma spends $19 on promotions and advertising.
Source: BMJ
From 1998 to 2016, Big Pharma spent nearly $3.5 billion on lobbying expenses — more than any other industry.

In 2016 alone, it spent about $246 million. That’s more than the defense industries and corporate business lobbyists combined.

Medical device manufacturers also have a lobbying group. Medical Device Manufacturers Association contributed $1.2 million in lobbying funds in 2016.

Its efforts concentrate on medical-device-friendly bills in Congress. They mostly relate to how companies pay taxes.

Critics say Big Pharma relies on manipulative tactics to increase sales. They say it uses expensive advertising to sway lawmakers, FDA and the public.

Notable Big Pharma Scandals
The long road to a Vioxx recall is arguably one of the most notable Big Pharma scandals in U.S. history.

Merck announced a voluntary worldwide recall of its painkiller in 2004. It came four years after evidence linked the drug to significant health risks.

The company’s executives decided not to study Vioxx’s cardiovascular risks. The FDA later found the drug may cause an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

The US Department of Justice building
Merck paid the U.S. Department of Justice $950 million to resolve criminal charges related to the marketing and sales of Vioxx.
One agency scientist, Dr. David Graham, estimated that the use of Vioxx may have contributed to more than 27,000 heart attacks or deaths.

Both Merck and the FDA came under Congressional scrutiny.

In 2011, Merck pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the marketing and sales of Vioxx. The company agreed to pay the U.S. Department of Justice $950 million to resolve its misconduct.

Merck settled with tens of thousands of injured patients in 2007. Merck agreed to pay $4.85 billion to plaintiffs and their families.

Top Big Pharma Lawsuit Verdicts and Settlements
In a 24-year period, Big Pharma companies paid 373 settlements for marketing fraud. The settlements totaled $35.7 billion.

Public Citizen published this data in 2013. It called its report Pharmaceutical Industry Settlements: 1991 through 2015.

In 2012, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) agreed to a $3 billion settlement. It was the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history.

The charges stemmed from certain prescription drugs, including Paxil, Wellbutrin and Avandia. GSK still ranks in the top ten for its pharmaceutical drug profits.

Johnson & Johnson is the world’s largest health care company. It paid $2.2 billion in 2013 for improperly marketing its drug Risperdal.

Selling Side Effects: Big Pharma’s Marketing Machine

Selling Side Effects: Big Pharma’s Marketing Machine
Michelle Llamas
July 17, 2016

Big Pharma companies were also hit with million- and billion-dollar verdicts. These verdicts rarely impact the companies’ profits.

A jury ordered Takeda Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly to pay $9 billion in 2014. The award went to an Actos user who developed bladder cancer.

Takeda still reported an underlying revenue growth of 6.7 percent in 2017. Eli Lilly saw sales of $22.87 billion the same year.
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Amazon’s Constellation of 3,236 Satellites Has Astronomers Very Freaked Out
« Reply #16865 on: August 11, 2020, 10:10:39 AM »
"To me, honestly, it feels like putting a bunch of planes up and then not having air traffic control."

Amazon was approved by the Federal Communications Commission to launch 3,326 satellites as part of its planned Kuiper constellation. That’s roughly 600 more satellites than the total number currently in orbit, as The New York Times reports. But who’s counting?

Astronomers are. And they’re worried. The news comes just a week after SpaceX launched its latest batch of 57 Starlink satellites, bringing the total number up to just shy of 600 already in orbit.

The reflective micro satellites have been photobombing astronomical observations of the night sky ever since they started being launched by SpaceX, appearing as bright streaks of light.

“We don’t yet have any kind of industrywide guidelines,” Michele Bannister, planetary astronomer at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, told the Times.

“We don’t have an industry body that’s producing good corporate citizenship on the part of all of these enthusiastic companies that want to launch, and we don’t have any regulatory setup in place that’s providing clear guidelines back to the industry,” Bannister added. “To me, honestly, it feels like putting a bunch of planes up and then not having air traffic control.”

Problems are likely to persist as companies like SpaceX and Amazon continue to litter the night sky with thousands, if not tens of thousands, of their satellites.

While SpaceX has tried non-reflective coating and a sunshade to stop reflecting light, a fully effective solution has yet to be demonstrated. An Amazon spokesperson also told the Times that “reflectivity is a key consideration in our design and development process.”

Astronomers, however, are calling for national regulators to step up to the plate and make sure ground-based astronomy can survive this new trend. Whether or not they will — much like a potential clear night sky in the future — remains to be seen.
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Putin hails new Sputnik moment as Russia is first to approve a COVID-19 vaccine
« Reply #16866 on: August 11, 2020, 10:18:54 AM »
MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, a move Moscow likened to its success in the Cold War-era space race.

The vaccine, which will be called “Sputnik V” in homage to the world’s first satellite launched by the Soviet Union, has however not yet completed its final trials.

Moscow’s decision to grant approval before then has raised concerns among some experts. Only about 10% of clinical trials are successful and some scientists fear Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety.

Putin and other officials have said it is completely safe. The president said one of his daughters had taken it as a volunteer and felt good afterwards.

“I know that it works quite effectively, forms strong immunity, and I repeat, it has passed all the necessary checks,” Putin told a government meeting.

The Russian business conglomerate Sistema has said it expects to put the vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, into mass production by the end of the year.

Government officials have said it will be administered to medical personnel, and then to teachers, on a voluntary basis at the end of this month or in early September. Mass roll-out in Russia is expected to start in October.

The vaccine is administered in two doses and consists of two serotypes of a human adenovirus, each carrying an S-antigen of the new coronavirus, which enter human cells and produce an immune response.

The platform used for the vaccine was developed by Russian scientists over two decades and had formed the basis for several vaccines in the past, including those against Ebola.

Authorities hope it will allow the Russian economy, which has been battered by fallout from the virus, to return to full capacity.

Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, said Russia had already received foreign requests for 1 billion doses. He said the vaccine also expected to be produced in Brazil.

Dmitriev said clinical trials were expected to start soon in the United Arab Emirates and the Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said he is willing to participate personally.

The approval by the health ministry comes before the start of a larger trial involving thousands of participants, commonly known as a Phase III trial.

Such trials, which require a certain proportion of participants to catch the virus to observe the vaccine’s effect, are normally considered essential precursors for a vaccine to receive regulatory approval.

The Moscow-based Association of Clinical Trials Organizations (ACTO), a trade body representing the world’s top drugmakers in Russia, this week urged the ministry to postpone approval until that final trial had been successfully completed.

In a letter to the ministry, it said there were high risks associated with registering a drug before that happened.

“It is during this phase that the main evidence of a vaccine’s efficacy is collected, as well as information on adverse reactions that could appear in certain groups of patients: people with weakened immunity, people with concomitant diseases and so forth,” it said.

Some international experts have also questioned the speed at which Russia approved its vaccine.

“Normally you need a large number of people to be tested before you approve a vaccine,” said Peter Kremsner from the University Hospital in Tuebingen, Germany, currently testing CureVac’s COVID-19 vaccine in clinical trials.

“In that respect, I think it’s reckless to do that (approve it) if lots of people haven’t already been tested.”

U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar, asked about Russia’s announcement, said safety was paramount and late-stage trials were key. He said the United States was on track for an effective vaccine by the end of the year, with six candidates under development.

“The point is not to be first with a vaccine. The point is to have a vaccine that is safe and effective,” Azar said on ABC News’ “Good Morning America” programme.

“We hope it’s true, but as is so often the case with Russia: trust but verify,” White House Council of Economic Advisers Acting Chairman Tyler Goodspeed said on Fox Business Network, referencing a Russian proverb cited by former U.S. president Ronald Reagan in negotiations with the Kremlin.

More than 100 possible COVID-19 vaccines are being developed around the world. At least four are in final Phase III human trials, according to WHO data.
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« Reply #16867 on: August 11, 2020, 10:26:07 AM »
This sustainable technique can create nearly 40 gallons of clean drinking water per cycle.

CLEAN DRINKING WATER is one of life's essentials. However, safe drinking water isn't a reality for over 2 billion people across the world. These individuals are at risk of contracting potentially fatal waterborne illnesses like typhoid and polio.

This at-risk population is expected to grow over the next five-years as the climate crisis creates more and more water-stressed areas, according to the World Health Organization (WHO.)

Scientists have been working to solve this problem for decades, and while some solutions have found success in effectively cleaning water, those energy-heavy solutions can be hard to implement in communities without a stable electric grid.

Now, a team of scientists from Australia and China has proposed a sustainable solution that relies on sunlight to jump-start the filtration process instead of heat or electricity.

Using a super porous material to suck up salt from brackish, salty water, researchers were able to sustainably create nearly 40 gallons of clean drinking water per single kilogram of a metal material. Better yet, this drinking water was even cleaner than WHO's official guidelines.

This finding was published Monday in the journal Nature Sustainability.

The study's lead author Huanting Wang, a professor of chemical engineering at Monash University in Australia, says that his team's approach makes use of the planet's most abundant resource: sunlight. Their solar-powered method desalinates brackish, or stagnate, water more sustainable than previous methods.

"[T]hermal desalination processes by evaporation are energy-intensive, and other technologies, such as reverse osmosis, has a number of drawbacks, including high energy consumption and chemical usage in membrane cleaning and dechlorination," Wang says. "Sunlight is the most abundant and renewable source of energy on Earth."

Wang and his colleagues explain in the study that a sustainable energy source, like sunlight, would be especially useful for communities that may not have access to a reliable electric grid necessary for other methods of desalination.

Using darkness as well as visible light, researchers can coax this special material into absorbing salt from water at incredibly fast speeds.

HOW DOES IT WORK — While sunlight is an important part of this process, another key player is the material the researchers chose to use. This material is a type of metal compound that is composed of metal ions configured into a crystalline pattern — not unlike the salt it aims to absorb.

Because of its unique crystalline structure, this compound is incredibly porous, with so many nooks and crevices within it that its overall surface area is actually the largest per unit measure of any known material.

So large in fact, that scientists estimate the entire area of a football field could fit within a single teaspoon of this material. A characteristic that makes it really effective at sucking up salt from water.

The researchers further enhanced the absorption of this material by adding another material to its pores, called PSP-MIL-53. This material is characterized by having "breathing effects," and is able to promote efficient absorption.

After testing this material on both natural saltwater and synthetic saltwater, they found that the compound was able to absorb enough water in 30 minutes to create nearly 40 gallons of fresh drinking water per single kilogram of the material.

When analyzing the resultant water, the researchers measured its total dissolved solids (TDS) to be less than 500 parts per million — a standard even above that recommended by WHO, which categorizes clean drinking water as having TDS no greater than 600 parts per million.

The initial absorption is done in the dark but a four-minute exposure to sunlight causes the material to release its collected salt and begin the absorption process again for many more cycles.

"This study has successfully demonstrated that the photoresponsive [metal compounds] are a promising, energy-efficient, and sustainable adsorbent for desalination," said Wang. "Our work provides an exciting new route for the design of functional materials for using solar energy to reduce the energy demand and improve the sustainability of water desalination."

WHAT'S NEXT — In addition to helping provide a sustainable solution to creating clean drinking water for communities with poor energy infrastructure, the researchers also say that this approach could be repurposed in the future for the absorption of other compounds and minerals, creating a sustainable solution for mineral mining as well. What has to happen next is determining how to get this tech out of the lab, and into the field.
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New York attorney general sues to dissolve the NRA
« Reply #16868 on: August 12, 2020, 09:17:22 AM »
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) on Thursday announced a lawsuit that seeks to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA), alleging the powerful pro-gun interest group violated corporate laws resulting in a loss of more than $64 million over three years.

The 169-page civil suit follows an 18-month fraud investigation by James's office. The lawsuit alleges that the NRA and four of its top officials diverted millions of dollars away from its charitable mission and instituted "a culture of self-dealing, mismanagement and negligent oversight."

"As today's complaints lays out, we found that the NRA ... fostered a culture of noncompliance and disregard for internal controls that led to the waste and loss of millions of assets and contributed to the NRA's current deteriorated financial state," James said during a press conference.

The defendants named in the 18-count lawsuit treated the 149-year-old nonprofit organization as their “personal piggy bank,” James said, using it to finance everything from Caribbean vacations, expensive meals and the use of private jets.

Among the defendants are the NRA's Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, as well as the group’s former treasurer, chief of staff and general counsel.

The suit alleges that LaPierre hired the defendants for senior executive positions, despite their lack of qualifications, in order to “facilitate his misuse of charitable assets.”

“Like LaPierre, each of them regularly ignored, overrode or otherwise violated the bylaws and internal policies and procedures that they were charged with enforcing,” the suit alleges. “As a result of these repeated violations, charitable assets were diverted to benefit NRA insiders and favored vendors.”

LaPierre called the lawsuit "an affront to democracy and freedom."

“This is an unconstitutional, premeditated attack aiming to dismantle and destroy the NRA – the fiercest defender of America’s freedom at the ballot box for decades," he said in a statement. "The NRA is well governed, financially solvent, and committed to good governance. We’re ready for the fight. Bring it on.”

Legal experts said the lawsuit was a major setback for the NRA and could even lead to the shuttering of the nation's leading gun rights group, though the litigation could take years to play out.

"The NY Attorney General has already brought down the Trump Foundation, and now it is targeting the NRA,” said Adam Winkler, a law professor and Second Amendment expert at UCLA. “If the allegations are true, Wayne LaPierre has been using the NRA as his personal piggy bank.”

State law in New York that governs corporations allows the attorney general to seek to dissolve organizations for serious misconduct, though courts may also impose less extreme penalties.


Gun control advocacy groups hailed the lawsuit’s potential to dismantle the pro-Second Amendment juggernaut.

“Today could be the beginning of the end of the NRA as we know it,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, told reporters. “And America would be a better place for it.”

Shortly after the New York lawsuit was announced, the attorney general of Washington, D.C., filed a similar complaint against the NRA Foundation, the group’s D.C.-based charitable offshoot, for allegedly misusing charitable funds.

“Charitable organizations function as public trusts — and District law requires them to use their funds to benefit the public, not to support political campaigns, lobbying, or private interests,” D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D) said in a statement. “With this lawsuit, we aim to recover donated funds that the NRA Foundation wasted."
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The Lincoln Project - Kamala
« Reply #16869 on: August 12, 2020, 09:19:06 AM »
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Pandemic guilt: What it is and how to address it in the workplace
« Reply #16870 on: August 12, 2020, 09:20:52 AM »
COVID-19 has forced numerous changes, unfamiliar emotions, and new experiences into our lives in a very short period of time.

From quarantining to homeschooling and everything in between, we’ve all been affected in our own personal ways, and we’ve seen the effects on those around us, too, especially our coworkers who we interact with regularly.

It’s hard to find a colleague who hasn’t been negatively affected by the pandemic, and it’s easy to understand at surface level why these people are moody, tired, or just “off”.

He has 3 kids at home all day; he’s trying to work and still give them attention.

Her husband lost his job.

Her mother just got diagnosed with the virus.

The list of life-altering effects can go on and on, and the things that smart business leaders have done to support these employees has been nothing short of heart-warming. 

But what about those coworkers who don't seem themselves but don’t have an obvious reason why?

What about the ones who haven’t experienced a whole lot of negatives, or even crazier, have actually benefited from the pandemic in certain ways?

He doesn’t have any kids, why is he exhausted?

Her husband got a raise during all of this, what does she have to be stressed about?

She hasn’t had any loved ones get sick, wouldn’t that be nice?

Even if these things aren’t actually being said, whispered, or even thought in the workplace, they could be what those “unscathed” employees believe their coworkers are thinking. 

After seeing all the awful things that people are going through, being the fortunate or “lucky” ones can really weigh on people.

Often, this comes in the form of feeling bad talking about the good things in their lives or venting about the personal issues that appear trivial compared to what those around them are experiencing.

Guilt can build when people feel more fortunate than others, and a new term has been developed to suit our current state: pandemic guilt.   

What is pandemic guilt?
Pandemic guilt is similar to survivor’s guilt, or more broadly, existential guilt.

It’s the feeling that often arises in those who believe they made it out of trauma or other perceived injustice better than those around them.

For instance, amidst the current pandemic, many companies were forced to reduce their staff. Pandemic guilt could affect those who remained employed while others did not.

If we all reflect on our experiences throughout the pandemic thus far, chances are we’ve all felt some level of pandemic guilt, or may experience it as things move forward.

While it might not seem to be something to worry about, it can actually affect our mental and physical health in various ways.

According to Hackensack Meridian Health,  pandemic guilt "may result in nightmares, insomnia, inability to function, social isolation, feelings of fear, emotional detachment, avoidance of usual activities, and could be a form of PTSD if it lasts more than four weeks.”

Clearly this isn’t something to take lightly. Being aware of it while interacting with coworkers or others can help provide some context for why they’re acting strangely or even underperforming.

Having this understanding and awareness could help alleviate what they’re going through so they can work towards getting back to their normal selves.

How can I tell if a coworker is suffering from pandemic guilt?
Whether you’re evaluating your own feelings or those of others, there are a few signs that can help you determine if pandemic guilt is to blame.

Symptoms of pandemic guilt can include:
Sleep changes or insomnia
Lack of focus, concentration, or drive
Appetite changes
Tiredness and lack of energy
Feeling disconnected from others
Noticing any number of these signs could be cause for concern, and the person suffering them may need some help to get through it.

How can I help a coworker who is suffering from pandemic guilt?
If you know or suspect that an employee is suffering from pandemic guilt there are a few things you can do to help:

Tell them what they’re feeling is normal. Assure them that, in the words of Robert Taibbi, L.C.S.W. on Psychology Today. “this is rational guilt drawn from a healthy sensitivity to others, stimulated from an imposed violation of your own core values, a guilt-driven by an awareness of the unfairness of life that we can’t explain and can’t control.”
Have them define and take a break from triggers. Perhaps listening to the news or reading social media posts is only making things worse. Help them identify what those triggers are so they can limit their exposure.
Promote exercise. Being active can raise mood levels and improve overall health. Ask them to go for a walk during lunch or other breaks to de-stress and reset. 
Encourage them to pay it forward. While things are going well, encourage them to reach out to people who aren’t as fortunate at that time to see if they can lend a helping hand. Being able to help those less fortunate can boost their mood and give them some purpose amidst everything going on around them.
We’re all in this together
We all have our own unique stories of how the pandemic has upended our lives.

Now more than ever it’s important to be cognizant that those around us may be dealing with things we can’t see or even relate to.

Make an effort to be supportive and helpful whenever possible.

Keep in mind, seeking the help of a professional might be a good option if and when things start to feel overwhelming.

We all have our ups and downs from time to time, so don’t feel bad about asking for or receiving help, it’ll all come back around eventually if we all do our part to pay it forward when we can.
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States assess widespread damage to crops and property after ‘devastating’ storm brings gusts of more than 100mph

A woman stands in her front yard in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, after the storm, which blew over trees, flipped vehicles, and left thousands without power.

Hundreds of thousands across the midwest remained without electricity on Tuesday after a powerful storm packing 100mph winds battered the region a day earlier, causing widespread damage to millions of acres of crops and killing at least two people.

The storm, known as a derecho, tore from eastern Nebraska across Iowa and parts of Wisconsin and Illinois, blowing over trees, flipping vehicles and causing widespread damage to property and crops. The storm left downed trees and power lines that blocked roadways in Chicago and its suburbs. After leaving Chicago, the most potent part of the storm system moved over north central Indiana.

The storm also did major damage to agriculture. In Iowa, the governor, Kim Reynolds, said early estimates indicated 10m acres had been damaged in the nation’s top corn producing state, nearly a third of the roughly 31macres used for crops in the state. The most significant damage is to the corn crop.

“This morning I had a farmer reach out to me to say this was the worst wind damage to crops and farm buildings that he has ever seen across the state in such a wide area,” Reynolds said.

“It’s incredibly devastating to see what’s happening to crops, and to structures all across the storm path,” said Mike Naig, Iowa’s agriculture secretary.

Naig said tens of millions of bushels worth of commercial grain storage and millions of bushels of on-farm grain storage had been damaged or destroyed.

Roger Zylstra, who has farmed in central Iowa near Kellogg since 1980, said four of his hog barns had lost their roofs, two of his machine sheds had suffered significant damage and many of his corn acres had been destroyed. Zylstra, 69, said crop insurance would help but that the financial hit would be devastating for many farmers.

“The question remains for all of us is: what happens in the next five or six weeks? How much can we salvage out of these fields?” Zylstra said. “I know that some people won’t survive this.”

In Fort Wayne, Indiana, Isabel E Atencio died at a hospital after firefighters pulled her from debris inside her mobile home after high winds rolled it on to its side on Monday night, officials said. Firefighters found the 73-year-old woman under debris inside her toppled trailer and discovered that she was clutching a five-year-old boy believed to be her grandson, authorities said. The boy had minor injuries.

A derecho is not quite a hurricane. It has no eye, and its winds come across in a line. But its damage is more like an inland hurricane than a quick more powerful tornado, according to Patrick Marsh, the science support chief at the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

The storm began as separate thunderstorms in South Dakota before strengthening over Iowa; by the time the system reached Des Moines, wind gusts were clocked at more than 100mph, according to climatologists.

Iowa officials reported roofs torn off homes and buildings, vehicles blown off roads and hit by trees, and people hurt by flying debris. One death and dozens of injuries were reported in the state.

Thomas Rowland a 63-year-old bicyclist, died after he was struck by one of several large trees that fell Monday on a bike trail outside Cedar Rapids.

Utility officials in Iowa said it would probably take several days to restore power to everyone. Nearly 340,000 Iowa customers of MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy remained without power on Tuesday afternoon. Another 33,000 in the Illinois Quad Cities region also lacked power.

Power and internet outages were widespread in Iowa’s three largest metropolitan areas: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Davenport. The power outages were so extensive that at one point Monday, 97% of households in Linn county, which includes Cedar Rapids, were in the dark, Reynolds said.
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Hungary to buy air defense missiles from US for $1 billion
« Reply #16872 on: August 12, 2020, 09:38:57 AM »
Hungary has signed a declaration of intent to purchase air defense missiles from the United States for around $1 billion

Hungary signed a declaration of intent Wednesday to purchase air defense missiles from the United States for around $1 billion.

The agreement was signed by Hungarian Defense Minister Tibor Benko and David Cornstein, the U.S. ambassador to Hungary.

The U.S. Embassy described the deal as Hungary’s “largest-ever defense procurement from the United States.

According to the Hungarian Defense Ministry, it includes both air-to-air and land-to-air missiles.

Hungary has been a NATO member since 1999.

In revealing his government’s plans to secure U.S.-made weapons, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said last year that “the construction of the modern Hungarian army is happening now.”

The Orban government has increased annual defense spending since around 2015 following deep cuts in the years following the 2008 financial crisis. NATO members agreed in 2014 to gradually raise national defense spending to 2% of GDP by 2024.

According to Hungary's 2021 budget plan, defense spending is projected to reach 778 billion forints ($2.25 billion) next year, or around 1.66% of GDP.
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China Has Doubled Its Fighter Jets On India’s Border
« Reply #16873 on: August 12, 2020, 09:44:01 AM »
China has doubled its fighter jets on India’s disputed northern border, according to American analysts.

As of July 28, China has 36 aircraft and helicopters at the Hotan air base in China’s Xinjiang region, near the disputed northeastern Indian territory of Ladakh, according to an estimate by the U.S. Air Force’s China Aerospace Studies Institute (CASI). This includes 24 Russian-designed J-11 or J-16 Flanker fighters. In addition, there are now six older J-8 fighters, two Y-8G transports, two KJ-500 airborne early warning aircraft, two Mi-17 helicopters, plus a number of CH-4 strike/reconnaissance drones.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) had just 12 Flankers and no support aircraft at Hotan before the June border clashes between Chinese and Indian troops that left scores of soldiers dead on both sides. CASI’s estimate is based on open-source imagery from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-2 Earth observation satellite.

The imagery “suggests that there is at least some flight activity, so these aircraft are not just parked for show,” CASI research director Rod Lee tells me.

However, Chinese airpower in Ladakh seems to be defensively focused on gaining air superiority to protect Chinese ground troops from Indian aircraft, as well as performing reconnaissance missions and blocking Indian recon flights. While Chinese fighters could strike Indian airfields to suppress Indian airpower, the composition of the PLAAF contingent doesn’t appear oriented toward conducting air strikes on Indian troops, supply lines and infrastructure.

“The focus does appear to be oriented towards counter-air missions, although this could be a function of the relatively small scale of the clashes,” Lee says. “Presently, the PLAAF’s role is likely to provide ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] support and help deter India from escalating by its presence alone. If things were to escalate into the shooting war, the present force is well suited to create the conditions necessary for the PLA Army’s mountain offensive campaign by specifically establishing information and air superiority.”

China’s fighters would face a reinforced Indian force in Ladakh, which now includes five newly arrived French-made Rafale fighters as well as less advanced MiG-29K fighters. India experts assert that the Rafale is superior to all Chinese fighters, while Chinese media claims that the Rafale is no match for China’s J-20 stealth fighter.

Indeed, for now China has a strong disincentive to base too many aircraft in Ladakh, which would inevitably spur additional Indian reinforcements and risk a war that neither nation wants. Tensions escalated in June when Chinese and Indian troops engaged in several mass fistfights in the disputed Galwan River valley, resulting in 20 Indian deaths and reportedly more than 40 Chinese casualties.

The region already witnessed war in 1962, when China defeated badly unprepared Indian forces in a brief conflict that gave China control over the Aksai Chin area. The war resulted in a demarcation line that China is now trying to push back, after India built a new road to supply the desolate region.

Both Chinese and Indian aircraft can reach Ladakh from airfields outside the region, but India has the edge there. The closest Chinese bases to the disputed border are Kashgar, 350 miles northwest of Ladakh, and Ngari Kunsha 190 miles to the southeast. “Both of these locations have even less apron space than Hotan and could only support a small number of aircraft,” Lee notes. There are larger airbases in Xinjiang and Tibet, but they are 600 miles away, which means dispatching fighters would strain China’s limited aerial refueling capacity.

China Warns India’s Rafale Fighters ‘Have No Chance’ Against Chinese Stealth Jets

Should China Fear India’s New Rafale Fighters?
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Offline knarf

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« Reply #16874 on: August 12, 2020, 09:48:43 AM »

Nine tonnes of elephant ivory were destroyed this week in Singapore.

It was the largest ivory crushing event in recent years and the nation was willing to forgo S$18 million (€11 million) worth of the rare material in the process. By pulverising the ivory in an industrial rock crusher, Singapore demonstrated its strong stance against the illegal wildlife trade.

The event takes place over several days in the run up to World Elephant Day and is a way of honouring the much-loved species. On 11th August, it was streamed live online by NParks Singapore, a National Parks board of the government which is responsible for managing urban ecosystems. According to NParks, the destruction of the ivory on such a large scale will disrupt the global supply chain, thus preventing it from re-entering the illegal trade market in future.

At the same time, the board launched Singapore’s first Centre for Wildlife Forensics (CWF). The centre plans to analyse specimens involved in illegal trade and galvanise the nation’s role in the international fight against it. The CWF will focus on the wildlife most severely impacted, such as elephants, rhinoceros, pangolins, sharks and rays, and songbirds.

So far, Singapore has seized record amounts of pangolin scales and elephant ivory that were en route to the other countries in the region.

“The launch of a Centre for Wildlife Forensics in Singapore represents a major step towards strengthening the country’s knowledge and capabilities,” states UN CITES Secretary General, Ivonne Higuero.

“The Centre will establish a dedicated capacity building entity for enforcement officers, providing training for the complex task of detecting illegal wildlife and wildlife products. This is exactly the kind of response that is needed to tackle illegal wildlife crime. Forensic applications must fully be used to combat illegal trade in wildlife.”

Around 100 African elephants are killed every day by poachers seeking ivory, meat and body parts, with only 400,000 remaining, according to WWF. Much of the demand for ivory comes from Asian countries such as China and Vietnam, where it is turned into jewels and ornaments.

However, China enforced a ban on elephant ivory trade in 2017, and environmentalists are fighting for the surrounding countries to follow suit. Although selling ivory is forbidden in Vietnam, the black market allegedly continues to thrive as a result of a law stating that ivory can be used in decorative objects and jewellery.

These sophisticated smuggling rings are allegedly sourcing ivory and rhino horn in Mozambique, before bringing it into Vietnam where it is being sold onto mostly Chinese customers, reports ITV.

But Europe isn’t innocent either. Charity Rainforest Rescue is demanding an outright ban on ivory trade across the continent.

“The EU sees itself as a conservation leader, yet it has a blind spot for the ivory business. The trade in “antique” ivory remains legal in the EU – a convenient loophole to launder tons of freshly poached tusks and export them to Asia,” states the charity on its petition page.

Alongside numerous animal welfare and conservation organisations, an open letter to the environment ministers of the EU Member States was sent in 2019. “As actions are increasingly being taken around the world to close domestic ivory markets and destroy stockpiles of seized and confiscated ivory, the world now looks to the EU to take responsibility to end its own role in the ivory trade,” it said.

Environmental crime is a serious issue all over the world. Arthur Paré works with a team of environmental lawyers at Géosmine in Paris to expose crimes like illegal wildlife trade, resource extraction and pollution.

Paré describes it as “the most lucrative but least repressed illicit industry in the world.”

Commenting on the news this week that Singapore crushed nine tonnes of elephant ivory, Paré argues that while it's an important step in the right direction, it might not be enough.

"The 8.8 tonnes of tusks they are destroying are from the shipment seized in July 2019, which came from the DR Congo. The illegal goods were attempting to enter Vietnam via Singapore, which is the main transit hub of wildlife trade in the world," he explains. "But this same shipment also contained 12 tonnes of pangolin scales (worth USD 35 millions) and timber. No one is talking about where they went - so we still have no idea of what happened to them."

"Between 2009 and 2019, Vietnam was involved in over 76 tonnes of elephants tusks seizures - that's 11,500 elephants," he concludes. "There is still a long way to go before ivory trafficking is tackled at the source."
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