Slick new corporate security operations around the world have replaced the mythical soldiers of fortune like "Mad Mike" Hoare, "Black Jacques" Schramme, and Bob Denard, mercenaries who drank hard, womanized, and wreaked havoc throughout Africa in the wars that followed independence from colonial rule. Today's mercenary is more likely to wear a business suit or stand guard over an oil pipeline. Companies like Defence Systems Limited guard British Petroleum's pipelines in Colombia, Dyncorp polices the Mexican border while Military Professionals Resources Incorporated trains US soldiers in Kuwait and Iraq in live-weapons fire.
From toxic waste to the unpronounceables on your food labels, chemicals are all around and within us. Here you will find CorpWatch coverage of the range of issues involving chemicals, including pesiticides, the widespread use of petrochemicals, health and environmental impacts, and the role of chemicals in bioengineered agriculture.
Building (or rebuilding) things is a lucrative business to be in, especially in an era when lots of things are being blown up. Construction is a mega-industry with players raking in money for huge projects, from Bechtel's Big Dig to Kellogg Brown & Root's military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are the small, mob-connected firms building at ground zero in New York, and even the bin Laden family, who largely built modern Saudia Arabia and Dubai. The companies who build dams, roads, schools, hospitals and military installations are a major economic and political force.
Those who own, extract, process, and sell the fossil fuels on which modern culture is (often regrettably) based make up perhaps the single most powerful industry in the world. While energy policy in the United States is made behind closed doors with oil barons, wars are fought in the Middle East over oil & gas, and geopolitics in South America is revolutionized on the power of vast oil reserves.
|Food and Agriculture|
The industrial food chain is complex - and highly profitable for those who control it. In India, ancient traditional grains have been patented by multinationals, while drought- and pest-resistant strains of food crops are engineered in laboratories and planted in massive monocultures worldwide. Harsh pesticides and herbicides have become the rule instead of the exception. GMO soybeans are crowding out the Amazon rainforests; meanwhile, massively subsidized, nutritionally-challenged corn finds its way into almost every aspect of the American diet, especially fast food. The corporations (Monsanto, Cargill, ADM, McDonald's, etc) behind what we eat exert power in their best interest, rather than in ours. What's good for their bottom line is not necessarily good for our waistlines, our coastlines, our treelines ...
|Financial Services, Insurance and Banking |
Banks, investment firms, insurance companies are integral to the operation of every industry we cover. They are the nervous and circulatory systems of the corporate world. In a world where everything - even a human life - can be assigned a monetary value; where limitless money and great risk intersect, lies opportunity for greed, corruption, and fraud.
Perhaps the most outsourced industry in the world, manufacturing covers everything from textiles to automobiles to construction to electronics and everything in between. Since international trade is largely centered on the exchange of manufactured goods, issues of globalization swirl around these corporations. Here you'll find coverage of labor and sweatshops, the environment, trade agreements, and the overarching impacts of "offshoring" the manufacture of the goods the developed world consumes.
|Media & Entertainment|
A very few corporations control most of the messages we receive each day, from billboards to newspapers, to radio, film and television. CorpWatch covers not only the effect of media consolidation, but also the wizards behind the curtains in advertising, public relations, and the mainstream news media.
It is a mark of modern civilization that we now buy and sell what nature provides for free. Trees, water, minerals, open land - these are profit opportunities for those who can turn them into timber, dams, bottled water, diamond rings, or condominium complexes. For issues directly relating to oil, gas, and coal, see also Energy.
The cost of prescription drugs has never been higher, and pharmaceutical companies have never spent more persuading consumers that they need drugs they've never heard of for illnesses they didn't know they had. Drug companies are also spending millions defending patents and persuading the FDA to approve new drugs ever faster. Meanwhile, developing countries go without desperately needed drugs because pharmaceutical companies fear that lowering prices for the neediest is a slippery slope. Big Pharma says high prices fund research and innovation.
|Retail & Mega-Stores|
Big-box stores like Wal-Mart, Asda and Home Depot have squeezed out small businesses all around the world, driving down wages and quality of life where they do business, all in the name of low prices. They are the largest, slowest-moving easy targets, smaller (and yet still massive) retail chains like Starbucks, Forever 21, Abercrombie & Fitch, the Gap and others have also drawn fire for sweatshop abuses, labor violations, and other questionable corporate behavior.
|Technology & Telecommunications|
Technology has seeped into nearly every aspect of modern life, from the food we eat to the ways we communicate. Consequently, telecommunications and technology coprorations have gained huge power over the past two decades. Cable companies bicker with telephone monopolies over the internet; customer support for ubiquitous laptop computers is offshored from Silicon Valley to Bangalore; obsolete electronics pile up in developing world landfills, exposing children to toxic metals; and multinationals tinker with the technology of nature to make a tomato that doesn't spoil on a grocery shelf. Ubiquity, especially when it melds into the background of daily life, is perhaps the most powerful tool of corporate power.
The executives of Big Tobacco have stopped insisting that tobacco is not addictive, but have not stopped making a killing from the deadly addictive quality of their product. The steady demand, particularly in the developing world where regulation doesn't reach, breeds a booming business in smuggling, as well as aggressive marketing schemes targeting the poor, minorities, and children. International treaties and successful lawsuits have helped to slow the malignant spread of tobacco in the United States and other developed nations, but the industry remains one of the largest and most influential in national and international politics.
|Tourism & Real Estate|
Tourism fuels some of the biggest development worldwide. Cruise ship operators are under fire for dumping waste in the oceans and exhaust into the skies; ski resorts an golf courses scar the land and pollute waterways. Tourism is a multibillion-dollar industry that frequently puts luxury ahead of the environment, respect for indigenous cultures, and sensitivity to land use issues.
Real estate, some of it fueled by tourism, but also by the expansion of business, runs up against many of the other issues we cover - water use, land use, and the use of political influence to muscle into desirable locations, often with tax-breaks as a bonus. With real-estate the latest boom (or perhaps more appropriately "bubble") industry, issues associated with development - such as suburban sprawl - have become more immediate.
Planes, trains, and automobiles ... almost every industry we cover requires a means of getting its goods from point A to point B. It could be your wintertime Granny Smith apple, shipped from Chile; or your iPod, made of parts flown in from China and assembled in California until it is trucked to your city, or flown back to your country. The gasoline in your car (which perhaps came from Detroit, Japan, Korea, or Germany) may be from Venezuela or Iraq. Almost everything you buy is better traveled than you could ever hope to be. And that translates into major profit for the corporations that own the means of transport.
|War & Disaster Profiteering|
CorpWatch looks at the intertwined relationship between private industry, the US Armed Forces and federal policy makers. We look at the domestic and foreign impacts of this dangerous complex.