Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Google Spends $3.94 Million On 3rd Quarter Lobbying; Comcast $4.23 Million; Facebook $2.45 Million

Google spent $3.94 million lobbying the federal government in the third quarter, off from its record $5.30 million in the previous quarter, but up 17 percent from $3.37 million in the comparable period in 2013, according to records just filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and analyzed today by Consumer Watchdog.

Of 15 tech and communications companies' lobbying spending monitored by Consumer Watchdog only Comcast, which is seeking approval for a $45 billion deal to acquire Time Warner Cable spent more than the Internet giant, reporting lobbying costs for the third quarter of $4.23 million.  Nine of the 15 companies monitored trimmed their expenditures from compared to the third quarter of 2013.
Facebook spent $2.45 million, topping $2.12 million spent in the second quarter, but not quite matching their record $2.78 million spent in the first quarter.  Third-quarter spending by the social network in 2014 increased 70 percent from $1.44 million in 2013.

Amazon set another company record for its spending, $1.18 million, spending more than $1 million in a quarter for the second time.  Amazon's lobbying outlay was a 51 percent increase from $780,000 in 2013. Amazon spent $1.06 million in the second quarter of 2014.

Google's archrival Microsoft, which until recently had outspent Google on lobbying efforts, trimmed its outlay to $1.66 million, decrease of 26 percent from $2.23 million in 2013.  It was also below second quarter spending of  $2.34 million.

"These lobbying disclosure statements don't include payments to trade associations or the sort of 'soft' lobbying that has become a Google trademark – funds to think tanks and academic research centers," noted Simpson. "When all that is factored in, the amounts are staggering. Policymaking is no longer about what's right; it's all about the money."

View the Clerk of the House's Lobbying Disclosure database here:

Here are the third quarter lobbying amounts for the six other tech firms:
  • Apple spent $1.01 million in 2014, a 4 percent increase from $970,000 in 2013.
  • Cisco Systems spent $730,00 in 2014, an 18 percent decrease from $890,000 in 2013.
  • IBM spent $850,000 in 2014, a 28 percent decrease from $1.18 million in 2013.
  • Intel spent $810,000 in 2014, a 23 percent decrease from $1.12 million in 2013.
  • Oracle spent $1.20 million in 2014, a 12 percent decrease from $1.36 million in 2013.
  • Yahoo spent $730,000 in 2014, a 16 percent increase from $630,000 in 2013.
Here are third quarter lobbying expenditures for three telecommunications companies:
  • AT&T spent $3.47 million, a 19 percent decrease from $4.30 million in 2013.
  • Sprint spent $706,343, a 2 percent decrease from $718,096 in 2013.
  • Verizon spent $2.91 million, a 4 percent decrease from $3.04 million in 2013.
Here are lobbying expenditures for two cable companies:
  • Comcast spent $4.23 million, a 6 percent increase from $3.98 million in 2013.
  • Time Warner Cable spent $1.80 million, an 8 percent decrease from $1.96 million in 2013.
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SOURCE Consumer Watchdog

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Sub-Saharan Africa Farm Yields 70-90 Percent Below Potential, Atlas Research Finds

Sub-Saharan Africa has the world's largest gap in farm yields – 70-90 percent below their potential – according to a new research tool unveiled today. The outcome of a 6-year international collaborative research effort led by the Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska and Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas is the first transparent, interactive and map-based web platform to estimate exploitable gaps in yield and water productivity for major food crops worldwide.

The Atlas can help farmers, policy makers, foundations and private sector organizations identify regions with the greatest potential to sustainably produce more food with strategic use of resources. The Atlas also provides a digital platform for analyzing location-specific crop production and land-use changes, as well as the potential impact of certain crops or new agriculture technologies on specific areas.

"Producing enough food to meet the demands of more than 9 billion people in 2050, while conserving natural resources and ecosystems, depends on improving crop yields on existing farm land around the world," said Roberto Lenton, founding executive director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska. "The foremost use for the Atlas is to leverage data to identify opportunities to strategically increase yield and water productivity of existing cropland, rather than tilling more land that may not be ideal for sustainable crop production." 

Composed of data gathered by a variety of international scientists beginning in 2008, the Atlas includes information from nearly 20 countries and projects are in place at an additional 30 countries. The data show that Sub-Saharan Africa – primarily smallholder farmers practicing subsistence agriculture in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda – can potentially increase yields of existing farms by more than twofold. Other studies show that Ethiopia's surface water and groundwater supplies could irrigate 10 times as much land than they are right now.

"The Atlas enables farmers and policy makers to identify regions with the greatest potential to improve water productivity and grow more food sustainably. It provides data that helps determine where we can get the most bang for the buck from prudent use of inputs such as fertilizer, better seed and water," said Lenton. "For example, in Nebraska, the yield gap is about 10 percent, but in a place like Tanzania, the yield gap is closer to 40 percent – there is a significant opportunity to improve that yield."

The Atlas is innovative in that its research follows a bottom-up approach, using agronomists from each target country to identify key agricultural areas and collect data about local conditions and farming methods. Researchers scale this data to national, regional and global levels through an agro-climatic zone scheme, which considers geographic regions with similar climate conditions. The international research team is also developing methodology to accurately convert short-term weather data into long-term patterns and to scale-up local yield estimates. 

The Atlas was presented at the sixth annual Water for Food Global Conference held Oct. 19-22 in Seattle, Wash., hosted by the Water for Food Institute in association with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Water for Food ConferenceThis year's conference, "Harnessing the Data Revolution: Ensuring Water and Food Security from Field to Global Scales," provided a forum for more than 250 global experts and policy leaders to discuss ways to overcome the urgent challenge of growing more food with less pressure on scarce water resources. Attendees specifically focused on how data can improve the productivity and sustainability of both small and large farmers around the world. 

The conference included presentations and panel discussions by internationally renowned speakers, such as Jerry Bird, director general, International Water Management Institute, Robb Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Monsanto, and Jeff Raikes, co-founder of Raikes Foundation and former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They covered a range of topics, including the data needs of smallholder farmers, using climate data to improve decision-making, water in agriculture, public health, and the policy and economic implications of water metering. Another key highlight of the conference was the announcement of a Memorandum of Understanding between the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the Water for Food Institute. 

For additional information on the Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas, visit: For additional information on the 2014 Water for Food Conference, visit:

About Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute

Founded in 2010, the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska is a research, education and policy analysis institute created to address the global challenge of achieving food security with less pressure on water resources through improved management of water in agricultural and food systems. The institute is committed to ensuring a water and food secure world without compromising the use of water for other human and environmental needs.

SOURCE Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska

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Saturday, 18 October 2014

IFAW partner Interpol on the hunt for suspected Kenyan ivory smuggler

Interpol, the world's largest international police organization is cracking down on wildlife criminals. Just this week, they issued a red notice alert – similar to an international arrest warrant - for suspected Kenyan ivory trafficker Feizal Ali Mohamed. He is accused of being the mastermind behind the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants in Kenya.

In June Kenya Police issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with a seizure in Mombasa including 228 tusks and 74 ivory pieces with a total weight of more than two tonnes. Feizal Ali Mohomed escaped arrest and has been a fugitive ever since. If convicted, he could face life imprisonment or fines of at least 20 million shillings or US$224,000.

"This red notice is a good move to protect elephants. We need to get to the kingpins to end the ivory trade," said IFAW CEO Azzedine Downes. "INTERPOL can undertake enforcement operations in source, transit and end-user countries, which complements IFAW's strategy to combat wildlife crime."

In May 2013 International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was the first non-governmental organization to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Interpol's Environmental Crime Program. The two have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol's largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012. The organizations joined forces to combat global wildlife crime, especially crime related to the illegal killing of and trafficking in elephant, rhinoceros and tiger parts.

As one of the world's most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fifth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting.
Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as "white gold". Availability of legal ivory in China purchased form the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephant to meet market needs.

As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean

The IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, documents the threat the illegal trade poses to animals like elephants and rhinos, and also people. The learn more about the illegal ivory trade, download IFAW's digital magazine Unveiling the Ivory Trade

SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare

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Thursday, 16 October 2014

Chicago judge intentionally fines GoTopless activist to allow case appeal

According to a statement released today by the women's rights organization GoTopless, on October 10, Chicago Cook County Court Judge Marcia K. Johnson "purposefully found GoTopless activist Sonoko Tagami, 41, guilty of indecent exposure so Tagami can appeal the case and challenge the constitutionality of the local law."

"Judge Johnson explained that constitutionality cannot be legally challenged at the municipal court level," said GoTopless Spokesperson Nadine Gary.

GoTopless, founded in 2007, claims equal gender topless rights for men and women, reflecting the words of GoTopless founder and international spiritual leader Rael:"As long as men are allowed to go topless in public, women should either have that same constitutional right or men should be forced to wear something to hide their chests."

Gary said Johnson quickly perceived the import of Tagami's case:

"When presented with Exhibit A, two pictures of Sonoko's chest, she immediately recognized the civil rights issue involved. One picture showed Sonoko's chest with her nipples covered by opaque paint. It was taken the day police issued the citation at North Lake Shore Beach on GoTopless Day, August 24. After looking at it, the judge said she found the municipal law's reference to 'opacity' to be vague, and that if the paint Sokono used were to cover a book or newspaper page, you wouldn't be able to see the print.

Yet Johnson found Tagami guilty as charged.

"She explained that by finding her liable, Sonoko could take this matter up to a higher court and argue the constitutionality of the ordinance and municipal code," Gary explained. "She said she would indeed find her liable because she thought Sonoko should take it further. In fact, she said the municipal law's vague reference to opacity [regarding the covering of women's nipples in public] is a very interesting question. She said she's curious to see what will happen with this case, especially if it gets to a Superior Court after being in her courtroom."

Sonoko was given 30 days to appeal.

"We're looking for a civil rights lawyer to represent her in this gender equality case," Gary said. "We recently received our charitable 501c3 status from the IRS and we're organizing fundraising events for Sonoko's legal expenses."

SOURCE GoTopless

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

National Campaign For A Future Where No Child Is Killed By A Parent's Gun

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence today launched a multi-platform public awareness campaign for a future where no child is killed by a parent's gun. More than 2,700 children die from guns annually. Studies show that most youth gun deaths involve a gun from or in a home, including school shootings, unintentional shootings, or suicides.

The new campaign includes a report, "The Truth About Kids & Guns," a public service announcement airing on television stations nationwide; and a provocative national digital advertising campaign featuring David Wheeler, whose son Ben was killed in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Ann Marie Crowell, whose son Brian died in an unintentional shooting at a friend's house. In both tragedies, the guns were brought into the home by a parent. 

The campaign is timed to America's Safe Schools Week (Oct. 19-25) and is especially relevant given the recent shootings and gun incidents at schools in Kentucky and North Carolina.  School violence and gun-related injuries ranked within the top 10 parental concerns nationally, according to a recent poll. Studies have shown that 68% of school shootings involve a gun from a home.

"Parents need to know that most youth gun deaths and injuries are preventable, including the tragic school shootings that horrify our nation," said Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  "Most parents bring a gun into the home with no intent of harm or wrongdoing. Yet it is these guns that cause the majority of gun deaths and injuries at home or in schools.  As parents we need to be fully aware of the risks of kids and guns in the home and what we can do to keep our families safe."

The campaign's digital advertisements and a public service announcement have been designed to help parents understand the risks of having a gun in the home and offer a simple step every parent can take to keep their children safe from guns: ask if there's an unlocked gun where your child plays. The advertisements can be viewed at

In one thought-provoking digital advertisement, David Wheeler says: "My son will be six years old. Forever. Unsecured guns kill hundreds of kids each year. Help us achieve a future where no child is killed by a parent's gun."

In another powerful digital advertisement, Ann Marie Crowell says: "My son's last words to his friend were: 'I can't believe you shot me.'"

Additionally, "The Truth About Kids & Guns" report aggregates the most recent data available from the leading credible sources on children and guns, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as studies by academics and other government and law enforcement agencies to show where, how and why these deaths and injuries occur. Key findings include:
  • 2,703 children and teenagers died from firearms in 2011.
  • Children are more likely to be killed by a gun in the home than anywhere else. An alarming 60% of firearm-related deaths among children and teens (0-19) occurred in and around a home, whether it's in their own home or the home of friends, neighbors and family members.
  • 4 out of 10 firearm youth homicides take place in a home.
  • 8 out of 10 firearm youth suicides occur in a home.
  • 9 out of 10 unintentional youth shooting fatalities take place in a home.
  • Two-thirds (68%) of attackers in school shootings had acquired the gun(s) from their own home or that of a relative.
  • Over one million students reported being injured or threatened with a weapon on school property in the last year.
  • Access to a gun was highest among adolescents who are white, who live with two parents and have a mother with at least a high school degree.
The cumulative message of the campaign, Gross said, is that parents can have a direct and immediate impact on children's access to guns and can play a real role in preventing tragedies and saving lives.
To help parents ask about guns in a home, Jennie Lintz, director of Public Health and Safety at the Brady Center, suggests parents say, "In the wake of all the terrible violence in the news, I'm worried about guns—I'm sure you are, too. Please don't take it personally, but can I ask you to reassure me that you don't have unlocked guns in the house that might unintentionally hurt our kids?"

For more information about the campaign, visit, to watch the PSA, visit The report can be downloaded at

The mission of the Brady organization is to create a safer America that will lead to a dramatic reduction in gun deaths and injuries. For more insight on gun violence prevention, follow us on 

SOURCE Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence

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