Category: Business

Who will vote for the No Federal Contracts for Corporate Deserters Act?

Corporations that move their tax domiciles abroad would be denied federal contracts under legislation offered on Tuesday by Democrats in the U.S. Congress, targeting tax-driven deals known as inversions.

With November’s congressional elections approaching, Democrats are blasting away at inversions. Few U.S. companies have done such deals, but as they become more common, they are attracting more negative publicity…

“Those dodging their fair share of taxes should not be rewarded with taxpayer-funded government contracts,” said Democratic Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas in a statement on the bill made with three other senior Democrats…

An inversion is a deal in which a U.S. corporation buys or sets up a foreign company, then moves its tax domicile into that foreign company and its home country, while leaving core business operations in the United States. Doing such a deal ends U.S. taxation of the company’s foreign profits and makes it easier for the company to take other tax-cutting steps…

The Democrats’ legislation would bar federal government contracts from going to businesses that incorporate overseas, that are majority-owned by the shareholders of the original U.S. corporation and that lack substantial business opportunities in the foreign country in which they are reincorporating.

Over the past 32 years, 52 U.S. corporations have completed inversions, a nickname that refers to the idea of turning the company upside down so a small, offshore unit becomes the head and larger, U.S. operations become the body.

Of those 52 deals, 19 have come since 2009, while 10 more are being finalized and many others are said to be in the works. For instance, Illinois-based drugstore chain Walgreen is considering whether to invert to Switzerland.

Medical technology group Medtronic of Minnesota, and drug maker AbbVie, also of Illinois, are in the midst of deals to invert to Ireland.

Screw ‘em to the wall, I say. While every copout talking head on TV wanders off into rationales and blather about tax code reform, that ain’t about to happen until and unless Republicans are finally shoved into a little corner as a minority party representing only the most reactionary business interests and theocrats.

Meanwhile – act like an adult is in charge of Congress and penalize runaway tax cheats.

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Koch Brothers get to use Fox News employees as campaign pimps

At least 15 Fox News hosts and contributors have recently campaigned with two political organizations created and heavily funded by billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch. Many of those same Fox News personalities have also defended the Kochs from attacks and praised their political efforts on-air…

Politico’s Ken Vogel reported that Americans For Prosperity “intends to spend more than $125 million this year on an aggressive ground, air and data operation benefiting conservatives, according to a memo distributed to major donors and sources familiar with the group.” The Washington Post wrote that with a paid staff of 240, split between 32 states, AFP “may be America’s third-biggest political party.” In 2012, “More than $44 million of the $140 million the organization raised in that election cycle came from Koch-linked feeder funds.”

AFP and AFPFoundation are part of a massive $400 million network of political groups spearheaded by the Kochs. The Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal noted, “It is the electoral focus of the Koch nonprofits and their sophisticated efforts to shield donors’ identities — plus the vast sums of money they move — that has brought them the unwanted attention of both Democratic Senate leadership and reporters. There exists no outside network or organization supporting Democratic Party candidates in elections, while not disclosing its donors, that spends money in comparable amounts…”

Fox News personalities are the public face of many AFP/AFPF events. Promotional materials heavily tout the speakers’ affiliation with Fox News to increase attendance. According to a Media Matters review, the following Fox News personalities have participated in AFP and AFPF events since 2012: Guy Benson, Tucker Carlson, Monica Crowley, Jonah Goldberg, Greg Gutfeld, Mary Katharine Ham, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, Andrew Napolitano, Sarah Palin, Charles Payne, Dana Perino, John Stossel, Cal Thomas, and Juan Williams.

“Fair and balanced” means as little as “liberty and justice for all” in a nation where conservative judges rule that corporations are people, religion and the NSA trump the Constitution.

No one expects Fox News to do anything more than imitate constitutional standards for a Free Press. The saddest part is the fools who believe that papier-mâché imitation.

Thanks, Mike

Oh no! A global chocolate shortage

Surging consumption of chocolate in Asia is pushing cocoa-bean prices to the highest level in three years as buyers including Barry Callebaut AG expand their search for more supply.

While demand in the region ranked as the world’s lowest per capita in 2013, the market will grow at almost twice the global rate over the next four years, according to researcher Euromonitor International Ltd. Barry Callebaut, based in Zurich and the world’s largest producer of bulk chocolate, has doubled capacity in Asia since 2009 as Cargill Inc. and Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. added bean-processing plants.

Growth in Asian demand has contributed to a rally in cocoa, the key ingredient for chocolate, which climbed to the highest level since August 2011 in New York on July 3. Rising consumption in emerging markets including China and India may spur shortages that extend into the next decade, with the global bean deficit seen reaching 1 million metric tons by 2020, according to Hardman & Co., a London-based research firm.

“In the longer term, the scarcity of quality cocoa is a serious concern for our entire industry,” Barry Callebaut Chief Executive Officer Juergen Steinemann said by e-mail in reply to Bloomberg questions.

A serious concern for chocoholics, too!

I already checked. The climate here in high desert country is not amenable to growing cocoa trees. What will we do?

BRICS nations found bank to rival Western-dominated World Bank and IMF

The so-called BRICS countries agreed to form an international development bank with aspirations to challenge the dominance of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa said Tuesday that the New Development Bank will start with $50 billion in capital and $100 billion as a currency reserve fund for liquidity crises…

Still, the BRICS bank, which could add more member nations, represents a bid to expand the influence of the BRICS emerging markets and act as a counterbalance to institutions run by the U.S. and other developed nations…

As developing countries began playing a larger role in the world economy, their leaders repeatedly complained that they have not been given correspondingly larger voices in international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, both based in Washington. The U.S. typically appoints the World Bank president, and European countries appoint the IMF chief.

“International governance structures designed within a different power configuration show increasingly evident signs of losing legitimacy and effectiveness,” said the official statement signed by the BRICS leaders, who met in Fortaleza, Brazil, on Tuesday. “We believe the BRICS are an important force for incremental change and reform of current institutions toward more representative and equitable governance.”

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chinese President Xi Jinping and South African President Jacob Zuma hammered out some of the final details before signing the agreement Tuesday.

Among the terms are that the bank will be in Shanghai, its first president will be from India, and the first chair of the board of directors will be from Brazil…

Analysts expect that other countries – like Indonesia, Mexico or Turkey – will join the bank over time. Certainly, they and their neighbors have no shortage of conflicts with restrictions important to the fiscal bears directing the IMF or the World Bank.

I doubt anyone expects either of the banks under the thumb of the US [and to a lesser extent, the EU] to modernize, to actively support the developing nations in any goal beyond being a source of cheap labor, raw materials, for Western corporations.

US court overturns Obama’s decision that wind farm is a security risk

wind-farms-US

A US Federal Court has overturned a ruling backing President Barack Obama’s decision to block a Chinese-owned company’s from building four 10MW projects in Oregon.

The US Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia reversed the decision made in October by the Federal District Court, which said Obama followed correct procedure in refusing Ralls Co. permission to build the Oregon projects and forcing the company to sell them.

Ralls Co., which is owned by Chinese firm Sany Electric, sued the US government in 2012 after Obama’s decision. It was the first time since 1990 a US president blocked a foreign business deal.

The president ruled, in 2012, the location of the four projects near the Naval Weapons Systems Training Facility in the US northwest posed a threat to national security

Now, the Federal Court of Appeals has backed Ralls Corp and ordered the company be provided with the evidence the President used to block the application.

The lizard brains in Washington were afraid that airspace used for training naval aviators might somehow be compromised by wind generators producing carbon-free electricity.

Will our nation ever weary of hypocrites and paranoids in charge of our destiny? Populists on the Left and Right wail and whine about foreign investment in the United States as an appropriate alternative to American corporations offshoring jobs whenever and wherever they can save a couple of pennies on the dollar. But, when foreign investors happen to be the wrong political color, when folks roll ashore carrying dollars from the profits they made from your friendly neighborhood capitalist – the Cold War is somehow more appealing to the blivets sitting in air-conditioned DC offices. And, yes, there are other wind farms in the same area also operated by foreigners: one Danish company and another German.

There aren’t a whole boatload of elected officials dedicated to helping us out. Cripes, we can’t even get the leadpants brigade in Congress to ante up the geedus to repair our roads and bridges. But, we’re supposed to trust their history of dedication to job security when they disapprove of clean air from a project owned by the “wrong kind” of furriner.

Airbus patents new airline seat designed for pain and profit

1405380510-0

Last month, Airbus filed a patent for a new kind of airline seat, called a “seating device comprising a forward-foldable backrest.” This is a revolutionary idea that will enable them to pack more people onto a flight by eliminating that silly cushioned seat that can double as a flotation device and replace it with a foldable bicycle seat. The backrest will be a tiny lumbar support. No more tray, which you don’t need because they don’t serve meals on planes anyway. No more armrests, since you and your seat mate fight over them anyway.

Airbus openly acknowledges that packing more passengers on board is going to result in reduced comfort, and that the goal is basically to figure out how far they can go without inciting an airborne revolt.

Reduced comfort remains tolerable for the passengers in as much as the flight lasts only one or a few hours,” Airbus sagely calculates…

With the advent of TSA and the Department of Homeland Insecurity I don’t fly, anymore. So, unless car and truck manufacturers become equally demented, I shouldn’t have to confront this insanity.

For the rest of you? Good luck. And here’s an historic alternative:

airbus seating

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Mortuary moves – leaves eight bodies behind in the vacant building

Police shut down an East Fort Worth funeral home Tuesday where they discovered eight bodies in “varying stages of decay,” but the owners of Johnson Family Mortuary said the episode is simply a “miscommunication” between them and their landlord.

“We’ve done nothing wrong,” said Dondre Johnson, who runs the business with his wife, Rachel. “This is a funeral home. This is where dead bodies belong.”

The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office removed the bodies of six adults, one child and an infant from the mortuary on South Handley Drive. The owner of the building asked the Johnsons to vacate two weeks ago. Officers received a call around 8 a.m. Tuesday after the owner went to check on the property and found bodies inside, authorities said.

Police said in a statement Tuesday that officers entered the building “to conduct a protective sweep” and determine if anything had happened to the Johnsons, who were not there at the time.

Though some of the bodies had identification tags, officials were working Tuesday night to identify the rest and notify family members, said Linda Anderson, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office.

No criminal charges had been filed Tuesday in connection with the incident.

Police said the bodies were not stored in refrigerated rooms. A foul odor came from the building while officers worked.

Dondre Johnson, who eventually showed up at the scene along with his wife, said the bodies inside the mortuary had been properly stored, and one was embalmed and in a coffin bound for Nairobi, Kenya. He said the rest were kept in black trash bags…

Records show Johnson Family Mortuary has had an active funeral director’s license with the state since July 2011. The license is current through the end of this month but cannot be renewed because there are five open complaints against the business filed with the Texas Funeral Service Commission.

Officials said they can’t talk about the details of the complaints until they are closed. Two of three previous complaints were closed without findings of wrongdoing. The third, filed over a late death certificate, resulted in a six-month probationary penalty…

According to the company website, Dondre Johnson and his twin brother, Derrick Johnson, began working in the funeral business when they were 11. They were later mentored by noted Fort Worth pastor and funeral director Gregory Spencer, who was found strangled at an Arlington motel in June 2003.

No doubt there are an abundance of regulations in the mortuary business. There are additional concerns given the clients you’re working with – in the depths of despair and sadness. From what’s made it to the press, so far – I’d be worried that this particular enterprise ain’t exactly up to par on either.

World Council of Churches calls for fossil fuel divestment


The altar where the Koch Bros worship

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, a fellowship of over 300 churches which represent some 590 million people in 150 countries, endorsed fossil fuel divestment this week, agreeing to phase out its own holdings and encourage its members to do the same. The WCC Central Committee is made up of dozens of influential religious leaders from around the world, meaning the decision could resonate far and wide.

“The World Council of Churches reminds us that morality demands thinking as much about the future as about ourselves–and that there’s no threat to the future greater than the unchecked burning of fossil fuels,” said Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, a global climate campaign that is supporting the divestment effort. “This is a remarkable moment for the 590 million Christians in its member denominations: a huge percentage of humanity says today ‘this far and no further…’”

The endorsement is a major victory for the fossil fuel divestment movement, which has seen a surge of momentum amongst religious institutions over the last few months. In recent weeks, the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in the United States committed to divest, the University of Dayton in Ohio became the first Catholic institution to join the campaign, and the Church of Sweden have come out in favour of divestment.

Overdue.

Thanks, Mike

E.R. ready to open at site that used to offer a full-service hospital


Christopher Gregory/New York Times

Residents of the West Village will soon see something unusual arriving at the shiplike building on Seventh Avenue that used to house part of St. Vincent’s Hospital: ambulances.

Four years after St. Vincent’s closed, the hulking white building, between West 12th and West 13th Streets, is reopening in the coming days, not as a hospital, but as a free-standing emergency room.

“We’ve given back the community the No. 1 thing we think the community needed the most when St. Vincent’s Hospital closed,” said Dr. Warren B. Licht, the medical affairs director for the new emergency room, which will be run by the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.

The new E.R., however, is part of a trend that has as much to do with a hospital’s bottom line as it does with providing acute care.

Free-standing emergency rooms — which are distinct from urgent care centers, which treat non-life-threatening illnesses and injuries at low cost — have sprouted up around the country in recent years, driven by competition to capture lucrative markets, like the neighborhoods around Greenwich Village.

They can bring in significant revenue, since they are allowed to charge the same high fees that hospitals charge while having lower overhead. And, since half of admissions come from the emergency room, free-standing E.R.s can funnel patient business to their parent hospitals…

Arthur Z. Schwartz, a local Democratic district leader who brought an unsuccessful suit to force the state to build a full-service hospital in the neighborhood, said that the HealthPlex “looks like a magnificent facility” but that he worried about its inability to treat the most acute cases.

“All it’s going to be capable of doing is attempting to stabilize someone while they stick them back in an ambulance and ship them off to a hospital,” he said…

Nationally, the first free-standing emergency rooms opened in the 1970s, mostly to serve rural areas that lacked access to emergency care. But the number of such emergency rooms has exploded in recent years, to more than 400.

“It used to be that just for-profit hospitals were starting this trend, but now academic medical centers are realizing that it is quite profitable, too,” said Dr. Renee Hsia, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

Profits before people remains the watchword of American medicine, publicly-accessible healthcare.

My experience here in Santa Fe with the one urgent care facility I ever visited puts the lie to the concept of treatment at low-cost. Over $800 billing exceeded my Medicare + Medigap insurance at the time including a set of absolutely irrelevant X-rays for what turned out to be a sinus infection.

Forgive my skepticism; but, knowing a number of dedicated physicians who take their Hippocratic seriously says as little about the healthcare available in the United states as knowing a few ethical lawyers says about the American practice of law.