company:koch industries

  • How the Disposable Straw Explains Modern Capitalism - The Atlantic

    Alexis C. Madrigal - Jun 21, 2018

    A straw is a simple thing. It’s a tube, a conveyance mechanism for liquid. The defining characteristic of the straw is the emptiness inside it. This is the stuff of tragedy, and America.

    Over the last several months, plastic straws have come under fire from environmental activists who rightly point out that disposable plastics have created a swirling, centuries-long ecological disaster that is brutally difficult to clean up. Bags were first against the wall, but municipalities from Oakland, California, (yup) to Surfside, Florida, (huh!) have started to restrict the use of plastic straws. Of course, now there is a movement afoot among conservatives to keep those plastics flowing for freedom. Meanwhile, disability advocates have pointed out that plastic straws, in particular, are important for people with physical limitations. “To me, it’s just lame liberal activism that in the end is nothing,” one activist told The Toronto Star. “We’re really kind of vilifying people who need straws.” Other environmentalists aren’t sure that banning straws is gonna do much, and point out that banning straws is not an entirely rigorous approach to global systems change, considering that a widely cited estimate for the magnitude of the problem was, umm, created by a smart 9-year-old.

    All this to say: The straw is officially part of the culture wars, and you might be thinking, “Gah, these contentious times we live in!” But the straw has always been dragged along by the currents of history, soaking up the era, shaping not its direction, but its texture.

    The invention of American industrialism, the creation of urban life, changing gender relations, public-health reform, suburbia and its hamburger-loving teens, better living through plastics, and the financialization of the economy: The straw was there for all these things—rolled out of extrusion machines, dispensed, pushed through lids, bent, dropped into the abyss.

    You can learn a lot about this country, and the dilemmas of contemporary capitalism, by taking a straw-eyed view.

    People have probably been drinking things through cylindrical tubes for as long as Homo sapiens has been around, and maybe before. Scientists observed orangutans demonstrating a preference for a straw-like tool over similar, less functional things. Ancient versions existed, too.

    But in 19th-century America, straws were straw, rye stalks, cut and dried. An alternative did not present itself widely until 1888. That year, Marvin Stone, a Washington, D.C., gentleman, was awarded a patent for an “artificial straw”—“a cheap, durable, and unobjectionable” substitute for natural straws, Stone wrote, “commonly used for the administration of medicines, beverages, etc.”

    Workmen created these early artificial straws by winding paper around a thin cylindrical form, then covering them in paraffin. Often, they were “colored in imitation of the natural straw.” Within a decade, these straws appeared often in newspaper items and advertisements across the country.
    A typical Stone straw ad from a newspaper in 1899 (Google Books)

    Advertising for the Stone straw describes its virtues and emphasizes the faults of the natural straw. Stone’s straws were free from TASTE and ODOR (natural straws were not). Stone’s straws were SWEET, CLEAN, and PERFECT (natural straws could be cracked or musty). You only had to use one Stone straw per drink (not always the case with natural straws).

    They worked. They were cheap. They were very popular and spawned many imitators because once an artificial straw had been conceived, it just wasn’t that hard to make them, tinkering with the process just enough to route around Stone’s patent. This could be read as a story of individual genius. America likes this kind of story.

    But in 1850, long before Stone, Abijah Fessenden patented a drinking tube with a filter attached to a vessel shaped like a spyglass. Disabled people were using drinking tubes in the mid-19th century, as attested to by a patent from 1870. These were artificial, high-value straws; rye was natural and disposable. But it wasn’t until the late 1880s that someone thought to create the disposable, artificial straw.


    Americans were primarily a rural people in the early 19th century. Cities had few restaurants until the 1830s and 1840s. Most that did exist were for very rich people. It took the emergence of a new urban life to spark the creation of the kind of eating and drinking establishment that would enshrine the straw in American culture: the soda fountain.

    Carbon dioxide had been isolated decades before, and soda water created with predictably palate-pleasing results, but the equipment to make it was expensive and unwieldy. It wasn’t until the the gas was readily available and cheap that the soda fountain became prevalent. In the 1870s, their technical refinement met a growing market of people who wanted a cold, sweet treat in the city.

    At the same time, the Civil War had intensified American industrialization. More and more people lived in cities and worked outside the home. Cities had saloons, but they were gendered spaces. As urban women fought for greater independence, they, too, wanted places to go. Soda fountains provided a key alternative. Given the female leadership of the late-19th-century temperance movement, soda fountains were drafted onto the side. Sodas were safe and clean. They were soft drinks.

    By 1911, an industry book proclaimed the soda fountain the very height of democratic propriety. “Today everybody, men, women and children, natives and foreigners, patronize the fountain” said The Practical Soda Fountain Guide.

    Temperance and public health grew up together in the disease-ridden cities of America, where despite the modern conveniences and excitements, mortality rates were higher than in the countryside. Straws became a key part of maintaining good hygiene and public health. They became, specifically, part of the answer to the scourge of unclean drinking glasses. Cities begin requiring the use of straws in the late 1890s. A Wisconsin paper noted in 1896 that already in many cities “ordinances have been issued making the use of wrapped drinking straws essential in public eating places.”

    But the laws that regulated health went further. A Kansas doctor campaigned against the widespread use of the “common cup,” which was ... a cup, that many people drank from. Bans began in Kansas and spread.
    The Cup Campaigner

    In many cases, this cup was eventually replaced by the water fountain (or paper cups). Some factories kept the common cup, but purchased straw dispensers that allowed all to partake individually. “The spectacle of groups of able-bodied men standing around drinking water through straws and out of a common, ordinary drinking cup, prompted no end of facetious comment,” read an item in the Shelbina Democrat of October 11, 1911.

    Cup and straw both had to be clean to assure no germs would assail the children (or the able-bodied men). So even the method by which straws were dispensed became an important hygienic indicator. “In some stores, customers are permitted to choose their own straws, and this system would work very well if customers would not finger the straws,” The Practical Soda Fountain Guide lamented.

    That led to the development of the straw dispenser, which has a deep lineage. Already, in 1911, the thing existed where you individually pop a straw into reach. That’s it, right below, with the rationale written in: “Protects straws from flies, dust, and microbes.”
    The Practical Soda Fountain Guide

    To people living through the early 20th century, the straw was a creation of the new public-health regime. “Due to the ‘Yankee mania for sanitation,’ the [American] output of artificial straws has increased from 165 million in 1901 to 4 billion a year at present,” the Battle Creek Enquirer wrote in May 1924. “A manufacturer pointed out yesterday that, laid end to end, these straws would build an ant’s subway 16 times around the world at the equator.”

    Four billion straws! There were only 114 million Americans at the time, so that’s 35 straws per capita (though some were exported).

    Of course, straw making was improving through all these decades—mechanizing, scaling up—but the straw itself basically stayed the same. According to Sidney Graham—who founded the National Soda Straw Company in 1931, and who competed against Stone and other early straw manufacturers—in a 1988 history of the straw:

    Straws were uniform up until the 1930s ... They were tan in color, thin, and exactly 8.5 inches long. Then someone in the soda-bottling business started marketing eight-ounce bottles, and straws grew to 10.5 inches. Various soda fountains began mixing malted milks, and the old straws were too thin. So we started making them thicker. Still, they were all tan in color, like the original straws.

    In the interwar years, however, major changes came to straws. In 1937, for example, Joseph Friedman invented the bendy straw at his brother’s soda shop in San Francisco, leading to the design that’s prevalent today.

    But what happened to the straw industry is far more interesting than its (limited) technical advances. Three of the biggest names in the industry—Friedman’s Flexi-Straw Company; the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation, which made popular white straws; and Maryland Cup Corporation—have bumped around the last 80 years like corporate Forrest Gumps.

    As it turns out, all three companies’ histories intersect with each other, as well as with structural changes to the American economy. But first, we have to talk about McDonald’s.

    Let’s start with Ray Kroc, who built the McDonald’s empire. For about 16 years, beginning in 1922, he sold cups for the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation, rising to lead sales across the Midwest. “I don’t know what appealed to me so much about paper cups. Perhaps it was mostly because they were so innovative and upbeat,” Kroc recalled in his memoir, Grinding It Out. “But I sensed from the outset that paper cups were part of the way America was headed.”

    At first, selling cups was a tough job. Straws were cheap—you could get 100 for nine cents in the 1930s—but cups were many times more expensive. And besides, people could just wash glasses. Why would they need a paper cup? But America was tilting toward speed and disposability. And throwaway products were the future (“innovative and upbeat”). Soda fountains and their fast-food descendants were continuing to grow, spurring more sales of cups and straws. In the end, Kroc called the years between 1927 and 1937 “a decade of destiny for the paper-cup industry.”

    Selling all those cups brought Kroc into contact with soda fountains, and eventually he went into business selling milkshake mixers. This led him to Southern California, where he saw the first McDonald’s in operation. He bought his way into the small company and deposed the original owners. With Kroc growing the brand, McDonald’s added 90 franchises between 1955 and 1959. By 1961, Kroc was fully in control of the company, and by 1968, there were 1,000 McDonald’s restaurants.
    The first McDonald’s that Ray Kroc opened in Des Plaines, Illinois, is now a museum dedicated to the burger chain. (Reuters/Frank Polich)

    The restaurant chain became a key customer for Maryland Cup, which began as an ice-cream-cone bakery in Boston. Its first nonfood product launched under a brand that became nationally famous, Sweetheart. That product? The straw. The name derived from the original packaging, which showed “two children sharing a milkshake, each drinking from a straw and their heads forming the two curved arcs of a heart.”

    After the war, the company went into cups, and later other kinds of packaging for the growing fast-food industry. It developed new products for McDonald’s, like those old foam clamshell packages that hamburgers used to come in. It also snatched up the Flexi-Straw Company—along with all its patents and rights—in 1969. Things were going great. The founder’s son-in-law was president of the company in Baltimore; one nephew of the founder ran the McDonald’s relationship; the other ran the plastics division.

    Because the future, at that point, had become plastics! In 1950, the world produced 1.5 million tons of plastic. By the late 1960s, that production had grown more than tenfold. Every product was being tried as a plastic thing, and so naturally, the straw became a plastic thing, too. It didn’t happen overnight. It took years for paper straws to lose their cultural salience.

    While functionally, paper and plastic straws might have seemed the same, to the keen observer who is the narrator of Nicholson Baker’s dazzling 1988 novel, The Mezzanine, the plastic and paper straw were not interchangeable. Paper did not float. Plastic did: “How could the straw engineers have made so elementary a mistake, designing a straw that weighed less than the sugar-water in which it was intended to stand? Madness!”

    Baker’s narrator wonders why the big fast-food chains like McDonald’s didn’t pressure the straw engineers into fixing this weighting mistake. “[The chains] must have had whole departments dedicated to exacting concessions from Sweetheart and Marcal,” Baker writes.

    But there was a problem: lids, which had come into vogue. Plastic straws could push through the little + slits in the cap. Paper ones could not. The restaurant chains committed fully to plastic straws.

    Baker goes on to imagine the ramifications, painting a miniature portrait of the process of path-dependent technological choice, which has helped shape everything from the width of railroad tracks to the layout of your keyboard. The power players went plastic, so everyone had to go plastic. “Suddenly the paper-goods distributor was offering the small restaurants floating plastic straws and only floating plastic straws, and was saying that this was the way all the big chains were going,” Baker writes. Sometimes it all works. Other times, a small pleasure is lost, or a tiny headache is created: “In this way the quality of life, through nobody’s fault, went down an eighth of a notch.”

    I can’t prove that this was the precise series of events that took hold among straw engineers, cup distributors, and McDonald’s. Most corporate decision-making of this kind simply doesn’t stick in the nets of history. Yet these differences influence the texture of life every single day, and ever more so, as the owners of corporations become ever further removed from the products they sell. Let’s just say that the logic Baker describes, the way he imagines the development and consequences of these forgettable technologies, squares with the histories that we do know. The very straw engineers that Baker describes might well have been working in the plastics division of the Maryland Cup Corporation, owners of the Sweetheart brand.

    Baker was writing in the 1980s, when straws of all kinds had begun to proliferate, and the American economic system entered a period of intense consolidation and financialization. A key component of this new form of capitalism was the “leveraged buyout,” in which private-equity firms descended on old companies, sliced them up, took out huge amounts of debt, and sold off the various components, “unlocking value” for their investors. You might remember this was how Mitt Romney made his fortune. Matt Taibbi described the model in acerbic but not inaccurate terms: “A man makes a $250 million fortune loading up companies with debt and then extracting million-dollar fees from those same companies, in exchange for the generous service of telling them who needs to be fired in order to finance the debt payments he saddled them with in the first place.”

    Global competition and offshoring enabled by containerized trade was responsible for some of the trouble American manufacturing encountered in the 1970s and 1980s. But the wholesale restructuring of the economy by private-equity firms to narrow the beneficiaries of business operations contributed mightily to the resentments still resounding through the country today. The straw, like everything else, was swept along for the ride.

    In the early 1980s, Maryland Cup’s family-linked executives were on the glide path to retirement. Eighty family members held about half the company’s stock. In 1983, the company had $656 million in revenue, $32 million in profits, and 10,000 employees. It was the biggest disposable-food-product manufacturer in the nation, an empire built on cups, straws, and plastic silverware. The family was ready to cash out.

    The big paper and food companies circled Maryland Cup, but it was eventually sold for $534 million to Fort Howard, a paper company that had gone public in the early ’70s, and began to aggressively expand beyond its Wisconsin base.

    The sale was a boon for Maryland Cup’s shareholders, but the company did not fare well under the new management. Following the transaction, the Baltimore Sun relates, Maryland Cup executives flew to dinner with Fort Howard’s hard-charging CEO, Paul Schierl. He brought out a flip chart, on which he’d written the company’s “old” values—“service, quality, responding to customers.” He turned the page to show the company’s “new” values—“profits, profits, profits.” It’s like a scene out of Tommy Boy, or a socialist’s fever dream.

    Fort Howard forced deep cuts on the company. Some longtime managers quit. The trappings of the family company went out the window. No more executives dressing up as Santa Claus or local charitable contributions. And while Fort Howard was cutting people, it invested in expanding the company’s factories. This was just business. Schierl literally appeared at a sales meeting in a devil’s mask.

    Maryland Cup’s struggles intensified after the wave of departures that followed the acquisition. It needed customer volume to keep its new, bigger plants running, so Fort Howard snatched up the Lily-Tulip Cup Corporation in 1986 for another $332 million. Surely there would be synergies. More layoffs came.

    Two years later, the private-equity guys struck. Morgan Stanley, which had helped broker Fort Howard’s deals, swept in and snatched the company for $3.9 billion in one of those famed leveraged buyouts. The whole enterprise was swept off the public markets and into their hands.

    One of their moves was to spin out the cup business as Sweetheart Holdings—along with a boatload of debt jettisoned out of Fort Howard. Just eight years inside Fort Howard and a turn through the private-equity wringer had turned a profitable company into one that still made money on operations in 1991, but was $95 million in the red because it was so loaded up with debt.

    The company made layoffs across the country. Retirement health-care benefits were cut, leaving older employees so livid they filed a class-action lawsuit. A huge Wilmington factory closed after McDonald’s got rid of its plastic clamshell packaging for hamburgers, citing environmental concerns over plastic.

    In 1993, the company was sold again to a different investment group, American Industrial Partners. Eventually, it was sold yet again to the Solo Cup Company, makers of one-third of the materials necessary for beer pong. And finally, in 2012, Solo was itself sold to Dart Container, a family-owned packaging company that sells a vast array of straws under the Solo brand.

    Fort Howard continued on, going back public in 1995, then merging with another paper company, James River, in 1997, to become Fort James. Just three years later, an even bigger paper company, Georgia Pacific, snatched up the combined entity. In 2005, Koch Industries bought the shares of all the companies, taking the company back private. They still make straws.

    While bulk capitalism pushes hundreds of millions of plain plastic straws through the American food system, there are also thousands of variations on the straw now, from the “krazy” whirling neon kind to a new natural straw made from rye stalks advertised on Kickstarter (the entrepreneur calls them “Straw Straws”). There are old-school paper straws and newfangled compostable plastic straws. Stone Straw, founded by the inventor of the artificial straw, even survives in some form as the straw-distributing subsidiary of a Canadian manufacturing concern. Basically, there’s never been a better time to be a straw consumer.

    Meanwhile, the country has shed manufacturing jobs for decades, straws contribute their share to a dire global environmental disaster, the economy continues to concentrate wealth among the very richest, and the sodas that pass through the nation’s straws are contributing to an obesity epidemic that threatens to erase many of the public health gains that were won in the 20th century. Local governments may legislate the use of the plastic straw, but they can’t do a thing about the vast system that’s attached to the straw, which created first disposable products, then companies, and finally people.

    The straw is the opposite of special. History has flowed around and through it, like thousands of other bits of material culture. What’s happened to the straw might not even be worth comment, and certainly not essay. But if it’s not clear by now, straws, in this story, are us, inevitable vessels of the times in which we live.

    #USA #histoire #capitalisme #alimentation #plastique

  • Meredith Corp. to acquire Time Inc. for $2.8 billion - LA Times

    The transaction received financial backing from the billionaire Koch brothers. Meredith said it secured $650 million from Koch Equity Development, the investment arm of Koch Industries, but the publisher said Koch Equity Development would not have a seat on the Meredith board and “will have no influence on Meredith’s editorial or managerial operations.”

    After speculation of the deal began to bubble, media experts questioned whether the Koch brothers would use Time’s storied publications to promote their brand of conservative politics.

    Quand il n’y aura plus que des milliardaires pour financer les pertes des médias, nous en aurons enfin fini avec la notion de quatrième pouvoir... Et nous aurons droit à l’information des milliardaires, avec toujours suffisamment de « journalistes dissidents » pour laisser penser que la concurrence existe entre les médias et que les « affaires » peuvent remonter (tant qu’elles ne touchent pas le propriétaire, évidemment). Le Président des USA a été créé par la téléréalité ; ses idées par les milliardaires d’extrême-droite.

    Sans réelle indépendance (économique, politique, culturelle) des médias, on est malbarre, ça c’est sûr.

    #Médias #Koch_Brothers #Time

  • Les loups de Wall Street rodent autour de Donald Trump

    Des anciens de Goldman Sachs ou de fonds spéculatifs sont pressentis pour occuper des postes clés dans l’administration.

    Pendant des mois, Donald Trump s’est présenté comme le représentant de l’Amérique des travailleurs, loin des compromissions de « l’establishment » de Washington avec la finance et les lobbies. « Les gars des fonds spéculatifs s’en sont bien tirés », n’a cessé de marteler le magnat de l’immobilier devant ses supporteurs en parlant de la crise financière de 2008.

    Mais, depuis son élection, il semble que « ces gars-là » aient à nouveau le vent en poupe. En témoigne l’aréopage de conseillers qui constituent l’équipe de transition du président-élu, et dont certains vont former l’ossature du futur gouvernement. Selon des médias américains, certains noms pour des postes-clés de l’administration Trump doivent être annoncés en tout début de semaine.

    Steven Mnuchin est sans doute l’un des plus visibles actuellement. Celui que l’on présente comme le probable secrétaire au Trésor – c’est lui qui a supervisé les finances de la campagne du candidat républicain –, a fait l’essentiel de sa carrière à Wall Street. Après dix-sept ans chez Goldman Sachs, où son père était associé, ce diplômé de Yale a ensuite rejoint le secteur des fonds spéculatifs, avant de monter sa propre boutique, Dune Capital.
    L’un de ses principaux faits d’armes a consisté à aider une poignée d’investisseurs comme George Soros ou John Paulson à racheter, en 2009, IndyMac, une caisse d’épargne spécialisée dans les prêts hypothécaires à risques qui venait de faire faillite après la crise des subprimes.

    Placée dans un premier temps sous le contrôle du Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, l’agence fédérale qui garantit les dépôts bancaires aux Etats-Unis, la société a été reprise par M. Mnuchin et ses associés pour 1,5 milliard de dollars et rebaptisée OneWest Bank.
    Wilbur Ross, le « roi de la faillite »
    Devenue « leader des saisies sur le segment des personnes âgées », elle a été revendue cinq ans plus tard pour 3,4 milliards de dollars, après qu’elle eut expulsé des dizaines de milliers d’Américains de leur maison. La banque est également accusée de discrimination raciale, selon Bloomberg.

    Autre vétéran de la crise des subprimes en plein reclassement, John Paulson. Ce patron de fonds spéculatif, qui a gagné des milliards de dollars quand le château de cartes du marché immobilier s’est effondré, a été propulsé conseiller économique de M. Trump.
    L’homme qui est pressenti pour devenir secrétaire au commerce, Wilbur Ross, est également une figure de Wall Street. A 78 ans, il est le fondateur d’un fonds d’investissement dans les entreprises non cotées (private equity), WL Ross and Co, dont la spécialité consiste à reprendre des entreprises en faillite pour les redresser.

    M. Ross a gagné son surnom de « roi de la faillite » en rachetant pour une bouchée de pain des fabricants d’acier, des entreprises textiles et des mines de charbon. Il les a ensuite revendues à bon prix après les avoir sévèrement restructurés en procédant, entre autres, à des milliers de licenciements.

    Des méthodes qui allèrent jusqu’à faire fi de la sécurité, comme dans la mine de Sago (Virginie-Occidentale), où les salariés n’avaient pas le droit de se syndiquer. En 2005, ce site a fait l’objet de 205 infractions à la réglementation en termes de sécurité, et, en janvier 2006, une explosion a tué une douzaine de mineurs. C’est lui qui pourrait être chargé de mettre en œuvre les barrières douanières censées faire revenir les emplois industriels aux Etats-Unis.

    Paul Atkins, le « Monsieur finance »

    Autre candidat potentiel à ce poste : Lewis Eisenberg, ex-associé chez Goldman Sachs, qui, après vingt ans, a été poussé à la démission à la suite d’une affaire de harcèlement sexuel. De son côté, Robert Mercer, patron du fonds spéculatif Renaissance Technologies, gros donateur pour la cause des conservateurs et actuellement en délicatesse avec le fisc à propos d’un redressement portant sur plusieurs milliards, a eu le plaisir de voir sa fille Rebekah intégrer l’équipe de transition.
    Elle y retrouve Paul Atkins, 58 ans, le « Monsieur finance » de cette équipe. Ce républicain, ex-membre de la Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) de 2002 à 2008, a toujours été un farouche adversaire de la régulation financière. Il était à l’époque très critique à propos des amendes infligées aux entreprises, estimant que ces sanctions n’aboutissaient qu’à punir les actionnaires. C’est lui qui est chargé de conseiller M. Trump sur les nominations à la Réserve fédérale (Fed, banque centrale) ou à la SEC. Il sera également à la manœuvre pour démanteler la loi Dodd-Frank sur la régulation financière, comme s’y est engagé le président-élu quelques jours après son élection.
    M. Atkins est actuellement à la tête d’un cabinet, Patomak Global Partners, qui conseille les institutions financières sur la façon de s’adapter aux nouvelles normes imposées par les régulateurs du secteur.

    En octobre, il a été nommé par un juge fédéral pour contrôler la Deutsche Bank sur la gestion de ses produits dérivés dans le cadre d’une sanction infligée par la CFTC, l’agence fédérale chargée de la régulation des Bourses. La banque allemande est par ailleurs le principal prêteur de la Trump Organization, l’entreprise du milliardaire.
    Les questions économiques sont chapeautées par David Malpass. Cet ancien conseiller de Ronald Reagan a été pendant quinze ans économiste en chef de la banque d’affaires Bear Stearns, qui a fait faillite en mars 2008.

    Donald Trump ne voit pas où est le problème

    En août 2007, dans une tribune parue dans le Wall Street Journal et intitulée « Ne paniquez pas à propos du marché du crédit », il écrivait : « Les marchés immobilier et de la dette ne sont pas une si grosse part de l’économie américaine et de la création d’emplois. L’économie est robuste et va croître solidement dans les prochains mois et peut-être les prochaines années. » On connaît la suite.
    Les lobbyistes ont aussi la part belle dans l’équipe de M. Trump. Comme Jeff Eisenach, qui a travaillé comme consultant chez le plus gros opérateur américain de télécommunications, Verizon, et qui est censé réfléchir à l’orientation de la Federal Communications Commission, l’autorité de régulation du secteur.

    Michael Catanzaro, qui a fait du lobbying pour les entreprises parapétrolières Halliburton ou Koch Industries et gros bailleur de fonds du Parti républicain, est le principal conseiller pour les questions énergétiques. Martin Whitmer, lui, a travaillé pour la National Asphalt Pavement Association, qui regroupe les fabricants d’asphalte. Il est désormais chargé des transports et des infrastructures auprès de M. Trump.

    Quant à Michael Torrey, il a longtemps conseillé l’American Beverage Association, le lobby des fabricants de boissons, et la Crop Insurance Bureau, un assureur agricole. Sa mission sera désormais de superviser les questions… agricoles.

    Au total, une vingtaine de lobbyistes sont à la manœuvre au sein de l’équipe de transition. Une situation que la sénatrice démocrate du Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, a dénoncée dans une lettre datée du 15 novembre et adressée à M. Trump. « Vous aviez promis que vous ne seriez pas aux mains “des donateurs, des intérêts particuliers et des lobbyistes qui ont corrompu nos politiques depuis déjà trop longtemps” et que vous alliez “assécher le marais” à Washington », rappelle-t-elle, constatant qu’il était « déjà en train d’échouer » en nommant « une kyrielle de banquiers de Wall Street, d’initiés de l’industrie et des lobbyistes au sein de [son] équipe de transition ».
    Mme Warren, qui souligne que « 72 % des Américains, démocrates comme républicains, pensent que “l’économie américaine est truquée au bénéfice des riches et des puissants” », appelle le président-élu à exclure ces personnes de son équipe.

    Donald Trump, lui, ne voit pas où est le problème. Lors d’une interview accordée le 13 novembre à la chaîne de télévision CBS, le milliardaire a expliqué qu’il était difficile de trouver des gens pour travailler avec le gouvernement sans qu’ils aient des liens avec les lobbys, estimant que Washington était, « dans sa totalité », un « énorme lobby ». Reste à savoir si ses électeurs seront convaincus par cette réponse.

  • What Happens When the Most Important Pipeline in the U.S. Explodes - Bloomberg

    On Monday, a construction crew in Alabama triggered a massive explosion when a track-hoe struck the biggest fuel pipeline in the U.S. The blast killed one person, injured several, and sparked a wildfire that burned for nearly a day across 31 acres.

    It also stopped the flow of millions of gallons of gasoline that move up the East Coast each day, from refineries in Houston to tanks in Linden, N.J., outside New York Harbor. The 5,500-mile Colonial Pipeline delivers about half of the refined products used on the East Coast. It consists of two lines—one that carries gasoline, the other that carries distillate fuels such as diesel and jet fuel. Think of it as the country’s fuel aorta.

    The consortium that owns Colonial includes private equity behemoth KKR, industrial conglomerate Koch Industries, and oil-and-gas supermajor Royal Dutch Shell. The fact that it’s so little known, yet such a vital piece of infrastructure, is a testament to how well Colonial has been run over the years.

  • Koch Brothers Flout Law Getting Richer With Secret Iran Sales - Bloomberg

    tiens une histoire de #corruption et de vente secrète d’#armes des #Etats-Unis à l’#Iran, qui se passe en #France, ça n’intéresse personne ?

    In May 2008, a unit of Koch Industries Inc., one of the world’s largest privately held companies, sent Ludmila Egorova-Farines, its newly hired compliance officer and ethics manager, to investigate the management of a subsidiary in Arles in southern France. In less than a week, she discovered that the company had paid bribes to win contracts.