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How Corporations Make A Killing Out Of Catastrophe

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

“It is profitable to let the world go to hell,” wrote Jørgen Randers, professor of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School, in 2015. “I believe that the tyranny of the short term will prevail over the decades to come. As a result, a number of long-term problems will not be solved, even if they could have been, and even as they cause gradually increasing difficulties.”

Journalist Antony Loewenstein opens his book Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe with these portentous words. Having crossed the globe, he has seen firsthand just how profitable disaster can be.

Loewenstein’s work is nothing short of virtuosic, having traveled to dozens of countries on multiple continents in recent years for his multifaceted reporting. Like his accomplished compatriot John Pilger, Loewenstein has tackled a dizzying array of topics, with the expertise of a scholar and the vigor of an explorer.

Disaster Capitalism, a 300-page tome that is more like seven books in one, is based on more than a decade of research and reporting. Loewenstein traveled to wartorn Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan to study how the defense industry and for-profit private military companies are turning one of the longest wars in U.S. history into a lucrative business opportunity. He also visited crowded refugee camps in Greece and fully privatized detention centers at Christmas Island, off the coast of his native Australia, to meet asylum-seekers fleeing the wars multinational corporations are profiting from.

Loewenstein continued his reporting in post-earthquake Haiti, where he got to witness disaster capitalism in real time. He also saw how international mining corporations are profiting from the extraction boom in Papua New Guinea. In addition to these expeditions, Loewenstein has spent time in Sudan, Mongolia, Kenya, and Israel.

At a public discussion of Disaster Capitalism at McNally Jackson Books in New York City recently, Loewenstein discussed the privatization of wars and detention facilities for refugees and migrants. He also examined the refugee crisis, and how Western wars and intervention have fueled this crisis, highlighting the links tying together war, detention, mass incarceration, the military-industrial complex, and the prison-industrial complex, and how private prison and security companies are profiting from it all.

The journalist also addressed the rise of far-right and neo-fascist movements around the world, from Donald Trump to France’s Marine Le Pen to Greece’s Golden Dawn, and how these forces will be incapable of solving the structural global problems exacerbated and reinforced by a profit-driven system.

“I believe that bearing witness to what I see, and giving unequal players the right of reply, gives balance to the privatization debate, rather than the false construct of ‘balance’ that permeates the corporate press, which merely pits one powerful interest against another,” Loewenstein explains in the book.

The concept behind Disaster Capitalism is loosely rooted in Naomi Klein’s 2007 opus, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Loewenstein picks up where Klein left off, analyzing not only how natural disasters and war can be vehicles for capitalist policies, but how corporations push their neoliberal agenda and rake in enormous sums of cash from immigration, refugee detention, prisons, and discoveries of natural resource reserves.

“This book is a product of the post-9/11 environment,” he notes. The explosion of the so-called war on terror, the rapid expansion of the surveillance state, the slew of never-ending wars, the privation of public institutions and services, and the militarization of police, the border, and all of society—this is the brave new world Loewenstein devotes himself to dissecting.

And there is even a movie! A Disaster Capitalism documentary has been several years in the making. Loewenstein says they are wrapping up the production process, and are in discussions for distribution of the film.

Loewenstein’s previous book, Profits of Doom, explores similar subjects, while 2008’s The Blogging Revolution presages the 2011 protests that swept the globe. And his book My Israel Question became a bestseller in 2007 and helped foment critical public debate about Israel-Palestine.

In the past several months, Loewenstein, who presently lives in Israel-Palestine, has come under attack for his critical reporting on the government’s violations of international law and oppression of the Palestinians. Since asking prominent Israeli politician Yair Lapid a frank question at a press conference, the government has moved to kick Loewenstein out of the country, citing his support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Loewenstein is the definition of a cosmopolitan. In a Guardian article  about his Australian-German-Jewish identity, he wrote, “My identity is a conflicted and messy mix that incorporates Judaism, atheism, anti-Zionism, Germanic traditions and Anglo-Saxon-Australian beliefs. And yet I both routinely reject and embrace them all.”

He’s also a darn good writer.

While he boasts an impressive collection of bylines in prestigious publications, Loewenstein has largely been relegated to the sidelines of mainstream journalism, much like the muckrakers before him.

“Far too few reporters demand transparency or challenge capitalism, preferring instead to operate comfortably within it,” he observes in his book. “This work is an antidote to such thinking… This book considers the view from below, the experiences of people who are all too often invisible in the daily news cycle.”

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

IMAGE: Vehicles of the Iraqi security forces move toward Falluja on the outskirts of the city in Iraq, June 10, 2016. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Rachel Maddow Explores Trump’s Shady Dealings With Azerbaijan’s Corrupt Officials

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

On last night’s Rachel Maddow show, the host explored an explosive story about the relationship between President Trump and Azerbaijan’s corrupt officials.

Central to what appears to be one of the worst deals ever is a company called Bechtel. “Before WikiLeaks got all inextricably bound up in our new national nightmare about Russia hacking our presidential election … back when WikiLeaks was instead just wholesale dumping U.S. State Department cables into the public domain, one of the things we learned was actually about a funny thing that happened to this giant company, Bechtel,” Maddow explained.

Azerbaijan was “doing a lot of building” due to oil wealth, but refused to work with Bechtel, citing their high rates. But then the country inexplicably chose a company charging far more.

“Instead of costing 5 or 6 millions dollars per kilometer [for roads], they had the work done for 18 million dollars per kilometer,” Maddow hammered. “Huh? Bechtel must have been like, ‘Say what now? We’re too expensive so you send us away so you can have the work done instead at more than triple our price? What?’”

Maddow then cited Adam Davidson’s New Yorker piece, published Monday, to explain the odd turn of events.

“[Donald] Trump played a passive role in the development of the property,” Davidson concluded. “He was ‘merely a licensor’ who allowed his famous name to be used by a company headed by Ziya Mammadov’s son, Anar, a young entrepreneur. It’s not clear how much money Trump made from the licensing agreement, although in his limited public filings he has reported receiving $2.8 million.”

According to Maddow, Davidson’s New Yorker piece provides one of the “best explanations we have had yet about why the White House is so dramatically freaked out about the prospect that there might be an independent investigation into the president and his contacts.”

Azerbaijan’s road contract “is [with] a company that is believed to be controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard… one of world’s major supporters financially, and otherwise, of international terrorist movements,” she explained.

The Trump family actually “abandoned this project” a month after Trump’s election, but “not before [Trump] received millions of dollars in that deal” with billionaire transport minister Ziya Mammadov.

“You are expected to do your due diligence,” she added. “Trump and his family were in business with the cartoon caricature of corruption,” Maddow said of Azerbaijan’s Mammadov.

Watch:

Alexandra Rosenmann is an AlterNet associate editor. Follow her @alexpreditor.

IMAGE: Screenshot / MSNBC

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IMAGE: Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven comments at a press conference at Rosenbad in Stockholm, Sweden May 9, 2016 TT News Agency/Jessica Gow/via REUTERS

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IMAGE: Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines. Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/via REUTERS