As smoking rates decline in the developed world, tobacco companies are searching for new markets, and they are finding them in developing south Asian countries, Indonesia, the Philippines and Cambodia. People in rural areas of Bangladesh see advertisements that are unimaginable in other parts of the world. Ads tell smokers that they are smarter, more energetic and better lovers than non-smokers.
The total U.S. budget for fiscal 2011 will be around $3 trillion, not counting funds collected for Social Security. The military's share is around $1.6 trillion, meaning about 53 percent of Americans' tax dollars are being spent on the military.
Glen Greenwald of Salon.com reports that Americans are being fed false and misleading "news" about the U.S. war in Afghanistan because major American media outlets, like the New York Times and CNN, publish propagandized Pentagon accounts of the violence and killing occurring there, without questioning the information they are fed.
An egregious example of this occurred on February 12, 2010, when NATO's joint international force issued a press release that bore the headline Joint Force Operating In Gardez Makes Gruesome Discovery. The release said that after "intelligence confirmed militant activity" in a compound near a village in Paktiya province, an international security force entered the compound and engaged "several insurgents" in a fire fight. Two "insurgents" were killed, the report said, and after the joint forces entered the compound, they "found the bodies of three women who had been tied up, gagged and killed."
But an Afghan news report about the same incident differed wildly.
In the 1950s, more than half the U.S. population smoked. Now that number is down to just 21 percent of adults. As the domestic cigarette market shrinks, tobacco companies are taking their business to the developing world, where they don't have to deal with pesky things like advocacy groups that oppose industry activity, smoking bans, or a populace that is aware of the health hazards of smoking.
Now Philip Morris (PM) is playing hardball in lesser-developed countries to try and preserve their ability to market cigarettes however they want. On February 19, PM filed a lawsuit against Uruguay to try and force that country to withdraw a new law requiring 80 percent of each side of cigarette packs show graphic images depicting the health effects of smoking.
The private military contractor Blackwater -- which rebranded itself as "Xe" in February, 2009 to distance itself from negative incidents like the September, 2007 shooting in Baghdad's Nisoor Square that killed at least a dozen people -- has created a shell company called "Paravant" to try and keep winning lucrative government military contracts.
COP15 was amazing: so many intelligent and soulful characters from all over the world, cooperating shoulder to shoulder, all on the same quest--and on a level of importance never seen before in human history. I felt lucky to be there, and the buzz of history-in-the-making was palpable.
Citizens in the Ukraine are starting to see American-style campaign sloganeering and other tactics in the race between their Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, and her main rival, Viktor Yanukovich, for the office of President.
Many relief organizations are soliciting donations to help victims of the earthquake in Haiti by using hotlines and Web sites that prompt people to use their credit cards. While most of the money people give will make it to the designated organizations, credit card companies are charging a two to three percent "transaction fee" or "charity processing fee" that gets subtracted from the donations.