Some people launder money. Other people launder cattle.

“year after year, satellites that monitor changes in forest cover find the same thing: The Amazon is shrinking. Between August 1, 2018, and July 31, 2021, more than 34,000 square km (8.4 million acres) disappeared from the Brazilian Amazon. That’s an area larger than the entire nation of Belgium, and a 52 percent increase compared to the previous three years.”

“In a cattle laundering scheme, ranchers move cattle from “dirty” ranches, which contribute to deforestation, to ranches that are “clean,” with no recent forest loss. By the time those cattle arrive at slaughterhouses, the path they’ve taken is obscured, as is the damage they’ve caused.”

“Most major meatpackers and slaughterhouses — which influence the entire beef supply chain — screen the cattle they buy for deforestation. Ranchers that sell to them, known as direct suppliers, provide the location of their farms. And the meatpacking companies hire consultants to check those locations for any recent forest loss, using data collected by satellites.
But this screening process misses a lot — perhaps even the majority of deforestation in the beef supply chain — undermining the integrity of their zero-deforestation pledges.”

“according to decade-old agreements, major meatpackers in Brazil can only buy clean cattle: cows that come from land without any recent deforestation. The problem is, there are several ways to make cattle look clean, even when they’re not.

The most common way is pretty simple and takes advantage of the complex beef supply chain. A single cow could travel through as many as 10 farms before it’s ultimately killed; it might be born on one, reared on another, and fattened on a third, all before reaching a slaughterhouse.”

“slaughterhouses only tend to assess their direct suppliers, the last stop on the cow’s journey.”

“If small teams of outside researchers can pinpoint the source of forest loss along supply chains, it seems as though giant corporations should be able to as well. Remember, it has been more than 10 years since they committed to source clean cattle.

While some experts fault meatpackers for not doing more, rooting out forest loss among indirect suppliers is actually quite challenging. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, who first figured out how to do this, spent years developing computer programs to download records stored in clunky government systems. They then have to clean them up, link key bits of data together, and run the analysis.

These records are not designed to make cattle supply chains traceable, they just happen to serve that function if you know what you’re doing. “It requires a lot of computational expertise,” Brandão said. It’s not like meatpacking companies are just ignoring deforestation right in front of their eyes.”

“there isn’t a huge incentive for meatpacking companies to solve this problem in the first place, some experts say. If they choose not to buy from any ranches linked to deforestation, they’ll have a much smaller supply”

“Ultimately, to put an end to cattle laundering, meat companies would need to monitor the movement of individual cows, Gibbs said. “If we wanted to end laundering, we would need animal-level traceability,” Gibbs said. “Until we keep track of the individual animals, some level of laundering will keep happening.””

Amy Klobuchar and Tom Cotton’s Big Tech Anti-Monopoly Bill Exempts Their Preferred Firms

“Note, however, the bill stipulates that it only covers firms that are over the $600 billion line “as of the date of enactment.” In other words, if a company has a market cap under $600 billion on the day the bill becomes law, then that company is permanently exempt—even if it later crosses the threshold.

Two companies that are currently under the $600 billion line and thus exempt from the bill are mega-retailers Target and Walmart. These companies are both worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and their e-commerce platforms are growing at a faster rate than Amazon’s. But under the Klobuchar/Cotton law, it wouldn’t matter if Target and Walmart overtake Amazon—they would be immune from this new antitrust action, as long as they are small enough on the day the bill is signed.

Readers may be interested to note that Target is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Walmart is headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas. Isn’t that interesting? It’s probably just a coincidence that the $600-billion-at-date-of-enactment provision would shield the two most important companies in Klobuchar and Cotton’s home states.”

AOC Says Amazon Abuses Market Power, Ignores Fact That Customers Shop at Amazon Because They Want To

“Ocasio-Cortez is wrong that Amazon—and by extension, Bezos—has profited primarily by abusing its market power or engaging in anti-competitive practices. Bezos is so wealthy because, over the better part of three decades, he built a company that could successfully deliver a wide array of consumer goods to customers in just a few days flat, serving 300 million people annually (with 150 million of those customers deciding Amazon’s services are so valuable that they choose to pay for an annual Prime membership). Bezos and other Amazon executives built a company that could survive the dot-com bubble, the subprime mortgage crisis, and a pandemic.”

“Amazon has about 40.4 percent e-commerce retail market share. That’s a healthy chunk, but consumers have other choices: Walmart’s sales comprise 7.1 percent of total U.S. e-commerce retail; Target, Wish, and other big-box retailers also ship directly to consumers. More people choose Amazon over competitors because it has more stuff and its click-to-ship speeds are half that of its competitors.”

“customers always have the option of seeking out brick-and-mortar retail equivalents—it’s just that many of them choose not to, prioritizing convenience (and, in a pandemic, safety) over the fluorescent glory of in-person big-box shopping.”

“”The idea that consumers choose to use products not because they’re useful but because Big Tech companies have somehow tricked or pressured them into it is deeply embedded…in the new antitrust crusade more generally,” she writes. “It’s a form of consumer false consciousness in which end users don’t know what they want (but members of Congress, of course, do).””

“Amazon warehouse working conditions are sometimes quite bad, with employees getting so little time for breaks that they cannot use the restroom or take time off-task. Amazon workers have been denied pregnancy accommodations and adequate sick leave, and warehouses have been hit hard by the pandemic. However, her claims that Amazon engages in union-busting are unfounded (warehouse workers in Alabama actually voted against unionization), and the criticisms she leveled at Bezos yesterday have been par for the course for someone who calls Amazon’s lower-skilled jobs “scams” while rabblerousing for the cause of wealth redistribution. What’s more, Bezos has acknowledged reports about warehouse working conditions and has pledged to make changes.
Over the course of the pandemic, Bezos’ net worth has increased by about $70 billion. But despite Ocasio-Cortez’s objections, his vast increase in wealth has been the result of making millions of people better off.”

What American Workers Really Want Instead of a Union at Amazon

“After an intensive, months-long election, only one-eighth of the workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama warehouse voted in favor of a union. More than twice as many voted against. Roughly half didn’t vote at all.

The election’s losers are incredulous that they could have fallen short on the merits. Challenges are already underway, accusing Amazon of unfair labor practices such as positioning a mailbox improperly. And to be sure, Amazon appears to have behaved obnoxiously, and perhaps even unlawfully in some instances.

But when nearly 6,000 workers have two months to cast ballots, and the union secures fewer than 750 “yes” votes, the idea that it has what workers want looks a bit ridiculous.”

“Workers have shown that they dislike the hyper-adversarialism and political activism that American unions bring into their workplaces but are eager for more representation, voice, and support than they can achieve individually. What they want, and need, is a middle ground that neither side is offering.

Research has borne this out. In a landmark 1994 survey, Harvard professor Richard Freeman and University of Wisconsin professor Joel Rogers asked more than 2,400 nonmanagement workers whether they would prefer representation by an organization that “management cooperated with in discussing issues, but had no power to make decisions” or by one “that had more power, but management opposed.” Workers preferred cooperation to an adversarial stance by 63 percent to 22 percent, a result that held even among active union members.

In 2017, MIT professor Thomas Kochan conducted a similar survey and found that interest in joining a union had grown and workers wanted a wide range of services that a union could provide to them, including: collective bargaining; health, unemployment, and training benefits; legal assistance; input into work processes; and representation in management decision-making. On the long menu of options, the two that stood out as making workers less likely to join are exact the ones that seem to get union activists most excited: politics and strikes.”

How America’s one-click obsession is warping the future of work

“As recently as 1980, there were only a few parts of the country — mostly in Appalachia and the Deep South — that had median incomes more than 20 percent below the average, and then you had a small number of places that were 20 percent above the average, like DC and the New York suburbs, for example. But now whole swaths of the country are 20 percent below the average and it includes basically the entire Midwest, while huge strips of the coast are now above the 20 percent above the average.”

“a two-step process: Amazon upends all of these brick-and-mortar retail businesses and then swoops into the areas where the laid-off employees live and hires them as underpaid bodies in their warehouses.”

“We talk about coal miners getting laid off, but countless more retail workers have been laid off. The professional retail clerk took more losses than any other in recent years.

To put it simply, what you have now are the sort of jobs that once allowed a 55-year-old woman in Elmira, New York, to manage a jewelry counter at a department store being replaced by a warehouse job that pays less, involves much more strenuous working conditions, is far more socially isolating, and that same 55-year-old woman will have a much harder time hacking it.”

“We’re talking about intensely rote and inhuman work. We’re talking about a company that uses algorithms to track productivity and bathroom breaks.”

“These are really grueling jobs. There’s a reason why the turnover is so high. And if anything, the jobs have only gotten more rote and more repetitive and more isolated as the robots at the warehouses have gotten more automated.”

“The company’s demands of local governments are extraordinarily aggressive. It seeks large reductions on its future tax bills, on the property taxes owed for the warehouse or data center, and sometimes also on the payroll taxes owed on the workers.”

“if you’ve had your manufacturing base wiped out in Baltimore or southwest Ohio or wherever it might be, and then along comes this company that’s going to hire 2,000 people at a warehouse, it’s hard to say no.”

The Big Tech antitrust report has one big conclusion: Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are anti-competitive

“The 400-plus page report, written by the majority staff of the Democratic members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, is the result of a 16-month investigation into whether these corporate giants abuse their power, and whether the country’s antitrust laws need to be reworked to rein them in. The report released Tuesday cites numerous examples of each tech titan engaging in acts that the lawmakers believe have hurt innovation and impede competition. While the anti-competitive behaviors cited vary from company to company, they are all linked by the allegation that the four giants abuse their gatekeeper status in various internet industries to secure and grow their market power in those sectors and others.”

Amazon wants Trump, Esper to testify in lawsuit against Pentagon

“For months, Amazon has accused the president of meddling in the process after he publicly weighed in on the contest last year.

As far back as 2016, when he was running for president, Trump pledged that Amazon was “going to have such problems” if he was elected. Last year, Trump contended he would personally look into the contract, claiming other bidders for the deal at the time — including Microsoft, IBM and Oracle — were complaining the process was unfair and favored Amazon.

“The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends,” the Amazon spokesperson said.”