7 Sh*tiest Things Rich People Did This Week
We’re not saying money is the root of all evil, but it’s a bit easier to get away with acting like a monster if you’re bankrolled. Here’s how the mega-wealthy, both corporations and individuals, have wreaked havoc on society this week.
1. Gulf Tycoons Insist on Hunting Rare Elephants. A private company connected with the royal family of Dubai is reportedly buying up a 1500-kilometer swath of land in Tanzania so princes can gun down endangered lions, elephants and leopards. The Tanzanian government just announced that tens of thousands of Maasai people living in the region will be ousted from their ancestral lands and the area will be transformed into a site for luxury safaris and big game hunting. The Guardian reports that the Tanzanian government tried to ward off a backlash by offering the Maasai people a 369,350-pound consolation prize for their inconvenience, which the Maasai have refused. Nearly two million people worldwide have signed an online petition protesting the move.
2. Kmart Ruins Thanksgiving to Sell You an $8 Curling Iron. How does the Sears Holding Corporation plan to plug the leaks in its retail tugboat on the heels of more than 70 nationwide Kmart and Sears closures? Simple. Just treat the first half of A Christmas Carol like it’s a business textbook, and forbid your Kmart employees to take any days off until January. One location’s team was threatened with termination if they refused to work on Thanksgiving, Think Progress reports. Several store employees uploaded photos of breakroom signs with messages like ON THANKSGIVING, BLACK FRIDAY AND SATURDAY ALL TEAM MEMBERS WILL BE SCHEDULED FOR THE SAKE OF THE BUSINESS.” The chain is one of 12 so far that has announced plans to stay open on the holiday, thus depriving its retail associates of their own family dinners.
3. Blue Cross Didn’t Mean All That Stuff It Promised When You Bought Its Crappy Prank Insurance. When Canadian citizen Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel’s water broke six months into her pregnancy during a Hawaiian vacation, she and her husband were probably relieved they purchased temporary travel insurance for their stay. But a week into Huculak-Kimmel’s and her premature baby's hospitalization, they got an unexpected gift from Blue Cross: the family’s claim was denied because of a preexisting condition—an unrelated bladder infection. Canadian outlet CBC reported this week that the Huculak-Kimmels are now on the hook for nearly $1 million for the hospital stay. Blue Cross’ denial was even disputed by Huculak-Kimmel’s family doctor, who assured the insurance company that the pregnancy was not high-risk. Ten months after Baby Reece’s traumatic birth, the family remains deeply in debt to Blue Cross, which waits for them to cough it up while tapping its claws on the table.
4. High-Ranking Exec Thinks It’s OK to Exact Revenge on Reporters Who Don’t Worship at the Altar of Uber. At a swanky dinner party for powerful New Yorkers hosted by Uber last week, senior exec Emil Michael shared an innovative business idea with Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed. When journalists say mean stuff about the price-gouging hired car company, it hurts Uber’s feelings and Uber gets mad, Michael reportedly whined. So maybe a good idea would be to curtail press freedom by personally intimidating journalists who criticize it. For example, Uber could silence Sarah Lacy of PandoDaily by exposing a private detail about her personal life, Michael proposed. It says a little something about the misogyny of Silicon Valley’s darling when an exec openly pitches a plan so cartoonishly sinister it’s a twirled-up mustache away from tying lady journalists to train tracks. BONUS: After the Uber story broke and drew near-universal rage, actor Ashton Kutcher took to Twitter to see if he missed something: “What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist? Why’s everyone so mad, guys???
5. Cosby’s Lawyer Wants You to Know His Client Is Not a Rapist and These Ladies Are Conspiratorial Liars. Bill Cosby's lawyer Martin Singer issued a statement, saying the six public accusers of the beloved sitcome star have orchestrated a “media-driven feeding frenzy.” “People are coming out of the woodwork with fabricated or unsubstantiated stories about my client,” Singer said of the accounts, several of which were settled out of court by Cosby in the 1990s. To buffer his soup-for-brains point, Singer added a dash of victim-blaming. He released old criminal records of self-identified victim Linda Joy Traitz, including possession charges for cocaine and marijuana. Come on, Singer urged, are you really gonna believe the remarkably consistent accounts of 15 women who have no contact with one another and nothing whatsoever to gain?
6. Walmart Saved a Billion on Taxes This Year, But Do You Have an Extra Can of Spaghetti-os? According to a report released this week by Americans for Tax Fairness, Walmart has a rich history of believing the American public owe it heaps of cash in gratitude for decimating the middle class. The report states that Walmart wriggles out of “$1 billion a year in taxes by exploiting existing federal tax loopholes. It is trying to cut its tax bill by at least another $720 million a year—more than $7 billion over 10 years—by getting Congress to lower the corporate income tax rate by 10 percentage points, from 35 percent to 25 percent.” That way, the nation’s top retail employer can free up a few budget lines for stuff like lobbying against labor unions and background checks for gun sales. Lest you think it's completely callous, the company even tosses a cardboard box into store breakrooms for canned food donations, to encourage its impoverished full-time associates to feed each other so Walmart doesn’t have to.
7. Elected Public Servants Come Together to Keep Pesky Knowledge Out of Government Agencies. The Science Advisory Board Reform Act, a bill scientists and environmentalists argued undermines the independence of the body that shapes Environmental Protection Agency policy, passed in the House this week. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) spoke in favor of the bill, lamenting that the Board “excludes industry experts, but not officials for environmental advocacy groups.” And why should experts who’ve dedicated their lives studying these issues have an easier time getting on the board than some guy with an MBA? A letter signed by organizations including the National Resource Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund warned that the Reform Act will in effect stack SAB with pro-business members with cash entanglements placing them solidly on Team Fracking, Carbon Emissions and Resource Depletion. The ascientific fiddle-faddle was sponsored by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), author of hyper-religious Armageddon novels, who has the darndest habit of telling journalists he just doesn’t think this climate change baloney is real, doggone it.