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[personal profile] fridi
While the world was looking in dismay at Trump's umpteenth muscle-flexing statement that inflamed the tensions in various conflict areas like Korea, Afghanistan or Iran, the US were still busy, exporting shale gas to Europe. The purpose of the whole exercise is well-known of course: to break Russia's dominance at the European energy markets. And we're not talking of a political act here, but a merciless trade war. The US has been trying to push its rivals out of the global gas market, which is currently dominated by Qatar and Russia. We all know what's happening to Qatar right now, with the help of America's main allies in that region. As for Russia, it's also trying to counter by expanding its gas supplies. They've tried to diversify the delivery means too, including huge new tankers transporting liquid gas. They also have 15 of those.

It's no coincidence that Trump made a tour around East Europe earlier this year. Just like all his predecessors, he's been lobbying on behalf of the big US companies. The US is now looking for the weaker spots on the market, where it could make inroads, and begin the next stage of this scramble. Naturally, these spots are countries that are simultaneously hostile to Russia and are trying to pursue policies that are somewhat emancipated from Brussels and Berlin. Thus, Lithuania became the first post-Soviet republic to get a liquid gas delivery from the US. From their standpoint, that's not just a politically significant step, but also crucial for their economy, as the Baltics have been dangerously dependent on Russian energy sources for decades.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] fridi

Apparently Chipotle Mexican Grill, the popular fast-food chain, cannot stop their own downfall...

It all started when they decided to occupy the niche of fast, but healthy foods. So they started selling GMO-free products that were fresh, raw, without preservatives, hand-made, bio, organic, etc.

Read more... )
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[personal profile] dreamville_bg
I recently read an article elaborating on the fact that vaccines are so successful that we don't even realize how bad things would be without them any more.

It's a big question really, one I've often thought about: vaccines may've become a victim of their own success, you see. They're so successful in uprooting a number of deadly diseases that used to kill people by the thousands and millions, that we even don't realize how crucial they are. We've never seen the horror of an epidemic, and we don't realize how devastating it could be. On the other hand, in all fairness, there's the problem that the pharmaceutical industry tends to overhype the qualities of certain products to get more profit. And this naturally drives a lot of people away.

The article touches on these and a number of related issues, and concludes with the opinion that governments ought to be regulating pharmaceutical marketing as well, not just the vaccine market itself.

So my question is: should the state be regulating the pharmaceutical marketing, i.e. the way these sorts of medicines are being advertised? Should their side effects be clearly shown on the label, the way that's valid for cigarettes?

What about the marketing of various finance services, like loans for example? Should their riskier particularities be deliberately pointed out, for example the fact that if you take a loan of 1 units you'd eventually have to pay back, say, 2, 3 or more units depending on the loan period? This could make some potential customers reconsider using said service, which means a possible loss for the seller - but is it really acceptable to freely advertise all these trust-consuming sinkholes whose pushers somehow only present their good sides while keeping hush-hush about the potential pitfalls? Profit comes with a certain amount of responsibilities, after all.
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[personal profile] dreamville_bg

EU's hypocrisy has come to the fore once more, what with the recent outcry from a number of Central and East European countries against the double standards in many products, and not just food products, that are being sold at one quality in West Europe, while its lesser quality versions are being dumped onto "second-hand", "New" Europe for the same price or even more:

"Bulgaria and Romania have joined an outcry against multinational food companies, accused of selling lower quality products in Eastern Europe compared to those offered in the Western supermarkets."
Source: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/bulgaria-romania-join-outcry-against-varying-food-quality-in-the-eu-03-07-2017

In a nutshell, the same product, produced by the same company, advertised in the same way and supposedly being produced in the same manner with the same ingredients, has turned out to be quite different in, say, Germany, Austria and France on one side, and Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania on the other.

Read more... )
[identity profile] luzribeiro.livejournal.com
It's nice when you're swimming amidst tons of cash, right?

Belt and Road Initiative: China Plans $1 Trillion New ‘Silk Road’

It's got all in this plan: ports, power plants, power grids, telecommunications networks, roads, railways, bridges, transport hubs, transport manufacturing (train/ship builders) etc.

Here's a nice colorful map of it all:



Well, all I see is a colourful streak on a map running through many Muslim countries pretending to be functional nation states. This must end well.

Would love to see how China would be taking its turn in dealing with the (in)famous Middle East quagmire. It should help accelerate global distrust of China.

Anyway...

Read more... )
[identity profile] dreamville-bg.livejournal.com
It's not just the Two Speeds Europe plan. My focus here is actually on product quality, or rather, the double standard that exists there in the EU:

http://www.reuters.com/article/centraleurope-food-idUSL5N1GD4N4

And it's not just about food. Shampoos, laundry detergents, dishwashing detergents, toothpastes, you name it. They all have inferior quality in Eastern Europe in a comparison with the same brands which are sold in Western Europe. And there is no reasonable justification for this.

Europe's blatant double standards )
[identity profile] nairiporter.livejournal.com
So, the Donald has done what in his first days as president? Embarked on a tweet-storm presenting it as "policy", going after the media, intimidating the press, placing a fake-news guru on the security council, dropping joint chiefs of staff...

Also: stripping abortion-supporting organisations from funding, essentially depriving them of their capabilities. Which, by the way, is going to bring all sorts of unintended consequences (including the fact that this exec order is actually going to bring MORE abortions, not fewer):

"Reducing access to family planning services leads to more unplanned pregnancies, more unsafe abortions and more maternal death." (source)

Also: issuing gag orders on federal employees. Which, again, is going to bring unintended consequences, starting with potential challenges in the constitutional court:

"A memo issued at the Department of Health and Human Services on Trump’s first day in office even prohibited federal employees from communicating with Congress. That’s in violation with a host of federal laws, including the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, the letter says." (source)

Also: the (in)famous border wall of course, particularly the notion that Mexico would somehow be made to pay for it through increased tariffs on Mexican imports. Again, unintended consequences:

"American consumers and companies may end up actually paying the tax. ... The tax might not improve the US trade deficit as other countries respond." (source)

Any predictions about the next moves of the otherwise unpredictable rogue president?
[identity profile] luvdovz.livejournal.com
Funny how everyone hated the TPP, but now it's straight from Jesus since Trump killed it and they are suddenly finding how good it was. The destruction of protective laws, the environment, and worker's rights by corporations and other talking points are now totally forgotten, eh?

Which is not to say that Trump isn't being typically stupid and short-sighted about it all. Shall I predict exactly how much effort he had put into studying the TPP before scuttling it? Better not.

The thing is, he's in such a hurry to get adulation from his fans, that he ignores the long-term consequences. Dropping TPP essentially gives China a wide open field for its own East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. That's the big problem with Trump (among many others): he is one-dimensional in his thinking. He can only see the possible short-term loss of jobs and not the long-term consequences of turning Asia completely over to China.

Someone please alert Sen. Bernie Sanders about the great news, because he and most of his supporters didn't like the TPP at all. Turns out Bernie is ultimately on the same page like Trump on TPP. Feel the Bern, yo!
[identity profile] dreamville-bg.livejournal.com
While everyone is bickering about TTIP and its imperialist purpose regarding Europe, there's another agreement that's gradually gaining support among the traitorous EU leaders: the Canada-EU free-trade agreement, called CETA.

Just like the US deal, CETA contains a new legal system, open only to foreign corporations and investors - in fact, the general suspicion is that this agreement is the backdoor for US corporations to enter Europe the "other way", posing as Canadian-registered capitals.

A closer look at CETA reveals some alarming facts. Under the CETA stipulations, should the German government for example make a decision, say, to outlaw dangerous chemicals, improve food safety or put cigarettes in plain packaging, a Canadian (read: US) company can sue the German government for "unfairness". Corporate courts have conveniently been stipulated in the agreement, of course, their power overruling that of national legislations. And what does "fairness" mean? Simply they can't make as much profit as they expected. The "trial" would be held at those special tribunals, unelected by the people, unappointed by the people's lawful representatives, overseen and responsible only to corporate lawyers and their corporate overlords.

Beautiful, isn't it?

FYI, almost all EU governments are now actively pushing for CETA (why am I not surprised?). Mine traded its last shreds of national sovereignty by taking the bait that Canada would remove the visas for our citizens in exchange. The only resistance came from Wallonia, the French-speaking portion of Belgium, which, according to Belgian law, can veto decisions of national importance for Belgium - hence, Belgium is the last obstacle to this power-grab. And the EU is pressuring Belgium very fiercely to quit being such a pain in the ass. My prediction is not good: Belgium will cave in, eventually. And Europe will sell its ass to North America sometime within the next couple of months. Congrats!
[identity profile] mahnmut.livejournal.com
185 CEOs of the largest US companies have petitioned the major EU leaders to oppose a Brussels decision that Apple should pay well over 14 billion euro of taxes to Ireland, after having used tax-evading techniques. The corporations believe this EC decision is a "self-inflicted wound" and "total political crap" that would hurt the European economies (sounds very TTIP throat-shoving style to me... secret commerce courts, anyone?)

The CEOs of Caterpillar, Xerox, Honeywell, Lockheed Martin, Dow Chemical, Walmart, ExxonMobil, AT&T, GE, JPMoran et all, are citing the supremacy of law, and are saying they oppose unilateral decisions of this sort (the EC decided Apple should pay Ireland the money because it essentially constituted illegal state subsidy for the 2003-2014 period. Merkel has already expressed concern that the decision will affect investments in the EU, but many other EU leaders support the penalty (the French finance minister for instance has said it's "completely legitimate").

The corporations are concerned, concerned I tell ya! )
[identity profile] airiefairie.livejournal.com
You are not buying it for quality, you are buying it for the brand. We have heard that argument before. When global celebrities endorse a product whose quality is otherwise sub-par or at least mediocre, whose price is way overrated, and still the product is being bought off like crazy, we are probably rather talking of buying a lifestyle through the product, a way of self-identification:

A Pair of Beats Headphones Costs Only $17 In Parts

How many of you have bought a pair of these earphones? Admit it, those of you who have occasionally bought products like these, do not really care about the quality or the practical use, do you?

The actual cost of making this product is kind of shocking... )
[identity profile] mahnmut.livejournal.com
Imagine you're participating in a TV show and you're asked to guess which US presidential candidate has said that many Americans are angry because of the state of the economy, which is rigged in favor of the elites. This statement could've easily been Trump's or Hillary's, or Bernie's. And not because of the cynicism of the former two, both representatives of the economic and political elites, respectively. Kind of doesn't make sense to hear a top-1-percenter whining against the privileged, right? It's just that both presumptive nominees (what a weird term) are now eager to ride the wave of protectionism that's been sweeping across hearts and minds in America, and is shaping up to become the new slogan at the upcoming general election. Oh, by the way, the words are Hillary's. She said them back in February at the Uni of Wisconsin. Funny, right?

In short, the main reason for a freshly renewed protectionism schtick is that more and more US workers are worried they could lose their jobs if the trade agreements with other parts of the world kick in, and cheap stuff from China starts undermining the US economy. The presidential candidates, in turn, are tempted to play by that tune and use it in their favor to garner support and earn votes. Doubtless, Trump is more extreme in his statements than Hillary. He has turned the debate on free trade into one of the pillars of his campaign, hurling numerous tough utterances against China, Mexico and Japan, and proposing a 45% tariff on all Chinese goods. But Hillary is not too far behind, either. She has said she doesn't support TPP, although just a few years ago while she was Secretary of State, she called it the "gold standard" of trade agreements. This "evolvement" of hers shows that the popularity of open economy and market is dwindling. And that's a rather risky tendency in the current situation, where the global economic growth remains way below the pre-2008 levels (this year's WB forecast is for 2.4%), and the G-7 leaders still can't come up with a way to bolster it.

Things aren`t as hunky-dory as the official stats suggest )
[identity profile] luvdovz.livejournal.com
Obama's visit in Germany last month caused a lot of comments, including questions why it was happening just before the Super-Tuesday in the US primaries. During the meeting, Merkel and Obama vowed to speed up the TTIP negotiations. "We must hurry", Merkel said, arguing that TTIP would be very useful as it would grant higher growth for the German economy, and by extension, to the European economy. People are not convinced, obviously (and that's quite an understatement).

In turn, Obama said he was hoping the agreement would enter parliaments for discussion before the end of his term. Then the two went on to discuss Syria, Ukraine and Libya. Obama again expressed his support for Merkel's immigration policy, saying she was "at the right side of history". All the while, 35+ thousand people protested in Hannover against both the TTIP, Merkel's immigration policies, and Frau Kanzler herself. 'Protesting' being another understatement, by the way.

There is a Grand Game being played here again )
[identity profile] airiefairie.livejournal.com
TTIP leaks: US undermining EU standards, says Greenpeace

The US had threatened to block easier exports of European cars to the US market if the US refuse to allow more under-regulated US agricultural products, and also to block a European initiative for putting transparent government courts in place of the planned private tribunals for settling corporate disputes, the recent leaks published by Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the ARD public television revealed the other day. This, after they obtained classified documents from the TTIP negotiations. The Dutch branch of Greenpeace first published the leaks, and sources from both German media confirm that they are authentic and have been compiled in the last couple of weeks.

Greenpeace has joined a chorus of NGOs calling for the halting and/or restarting of the TTIP negotiations. SDZ and ARD are citing evidence that the US has exerted pressure that is much greater than previously thought. Particular concern comes from the push for the removal of GMO food regulations on the EU market. The US is opposed to the European principle that a product should be only allowed on the market after proving that it is not harmful to the human health and the environment.

Read more... )
[identity profile] ddstory.livejournal.com
https://www.tagesschau.de/wirtschaft/ttip-obama-merkel-101.html

Merkel and Obama are trying hard to push TTIP through, the article basically says.

Rough translation of some parts mine:

"Chancelor Merkel has defended the secrecy of the TTIP negotiations. She claims it couldn't be done in public because the other party (the US) are bound to get some "advantages". Merkel said nothing would be concealed, and no current standards would be violated. All European standards will be preserved. Environment and consumer protection will stay at the same level."

Even despite her latest shenanigans, I'm still kinda surprised that Merkel would outright lie about the facts. She's usually supposed to know better.

It's quite evident that everything about these TTIP negotiations has been completely intransparent from day one. There's a reason that Wikileaks has offered 100 thousand euros to anyone who could get them the full text of the TTIP agreement. But apparently, no one among those directly involved in these negotiations considers themselves poor or honest enough to want that sort of money for such a thing.

Read more... )
[identity profile] htpcl.livejournal.com
Want to build a corporate image? To send the right message to society? To be recognized through a single symbol? If you do, you usually do what - hire a designer to create a memorable logo, right?

Well, these organizations obviously wanted the same. But, my God, please do not shoot the designer! Apparently they're doing their best!

Examples...

The Institute of Oriental Sciences at the Santa Catherina University



It was supposed to be a pagoda and a rising sun, dammit!

See more... )
[identity profile] htpcl.livejournal.com
Kali mera, ma' fellow indifferent armchair-dwelling popcorn-munchers smart folks who care about having nice things in the world! Here's a piece of news, the way it could've happened (or in a way, might've already happened).

GREECE. Hordes of refugees flocking at Greece's land borders have joined the nationwide farmers' protest, and blocked the border crossings too. Just like the Greek farmers, they also demand money and free souvlaki.

As has become known in recent years, February is that time of the year when Greece usually comes within a thread's distance from bankruptcy, and is compelled to either cut living meat off its own body, or rather pretend they're negotiating with the creditors who've been pressing for fresh austerity measures, sanctions, and lashes on bare flesh.

The refugees have joined the good fight, announcing that they don't feel like venturing any further into Europe, unless Europe renders their due unto them, the way it has done with Greece on an annual basis. In turn, the Greeks have said they do not want Europe to just give them stuff, but also to stop taking from them.

The situation has become even more complicated, now that Erdogan has invaded the Kurds in Iraq and then in Syria, and refused to stop violating the Greek air space and mock the Greeks in their face from under his baklava-greased mustache. All in all, that's the situation on the Balkans in its full glory, and you can trust me as a source, what with yours-truly being a Dark Balkan Subject, and all.

But seriously. )
[identity profile] abomvubuso.livejournal.com
"Oil prices have dropped to $90 a barrel - Crimea is ours! Now it's down to 80 - we'll build a super-bridge to the peninsula! It's down to 70 now - fine, let's make it just an ordinary bridge. $60 - it'll rather be a ferry. 50 - cabin lift, then? What, $40 a barrel? We could always use the shallows... Oh my, $30... Fine, then, Crimea is yours. What the... $20!? Take it! Take it! We'll give you our Krasnodar region as well if you would just take Crimea!"

This anecdote is from earlier this year, and it illustrates how Putin's plans, and those of a number of world leaders, whose countries are highly dependent on the exports of energy resources, have suddenly found themselves in the middle of a flood of excessive oil that no one on the market really needs.

Examples abound )
[identity profile] airiefairie.livejournal.com
Here is a somewhat different story about shopping, and the relationship between consumerism and the economy.

Black Friday was a few days ago, the day when the shops in the US used to sell so much stuff that the standard red ink would soon run out and they would have to do their book-keeping with a pencil. This was the case in the late 19th century, at least according to the official version of the story.

The myth of Black Friday is a major cornerstone of the consumerist society, where people live in order to buy things. On this day in many countries around the world, the season of Christmas shopping discounts begins. It is the day of the big sales in business.

Read more... )
[identity profile] ddstory.livejournal.com
So, for some reason the WTO hastens to declare the excessive consumption of meat a factor for cancer, thus causing a shitstorm of outrage among meat producers (and hysterical panic among the general populace) - and almost at the same time, the EU opens its doors to a Monsanto domination. Curious!

Parliament rejects national GMO bans proposal

This is big. Very big. And I'm not sure it's getting the attention that it truly deserves. Everyone is fixated on the refugee crisis, and all the while, this is happening almost silently.

I don't get it. First the environment ministers say they want to give countries the right to make their own decisions on GM crop cultivation on their territory - and then, they flip the bird to sovereign governments and actually deny them that right. This practically ties their hands by not allowing them to use evidence of environmental harm to ban GM cultivation. This ultimately leaves those countries that want to say "No" to GM crops exposed to legal attacks by the biotech industry. It's fucked up beyond words.

How's that not selling off to big corporations, and how does it defend the interests of the EU citizens!? Who made that decision, and who authorized them to do so? On whose behalf did they make it? Did anyone consult with their constituents? Is anyone actually listening to what the people have to say?

Mark my words, the same will happen with the TTIP. It'll be shoved down our throats without anyone being asked whether they agree with it. We'll be reduced to a second-tier market where cheap, shitty American goods will be dumped at the expense of local producers, and in violation of any principles of democracy.

A bunch of whores, that's what our so called leaders are. And in time, they'll reap what they're sowing right now.

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