Times Are Good – For Investment Bankers, Anyway

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Roger Altman (cc photo: Ralph Alswang/CAP)‘Time magazine (7/17/14–subscription required) has some good news for you, courtesy of investment banker and former Clinton Treasury official Roger Altman: “Surprise: The Economy Isn’t as Bad as You Think.”

After noting that “in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 63 percent of respondents said the US is on the wrong track,” Altman insists that “despite the pessimistic mood, America is experiencing a profound comeback.”‘

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Citigroup Just Bought a $7 Billion Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card

Robert Scheer reports for Truthdig:

Citibank‘Barack Obama’s Justice Department on Monday announced that Citigroup would pay $7 billion in fines, a move that will avoid a humiliating trial dealing with the seamy financial products the bank had marketed to an unsuspecting public, causing vast damage to the economy.

Citigroup is the too-big-to-fail bank that was allowed to form only when Bill Clinton signed legislation reversing the sensible restraints on Wall Street instituted by President Franklin Roosevelt to avoid another Great Depression.

Those filled with Clinton nostalgia these days might want to reflect back on how truly destructive was his legacy for hardworking people throughout the world who lost so much due to the financial shenanigans that he made legal.’

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Serious Fraud Office launches criminal probe into forex manipulation

Ben Chu reports for The Independent:

‘The Serious Fraud Office has launched a criminal investigation into allegations London bankers rigged key foreign exchange benchmarks for profit, the agency announced today [July 21st]. Traders found guilty of illegally manipulating the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency market could face jail and the banking institutions for which they work could also face prosecution.

America’s Department of Justice announced its own probe into alleged manipulation of the $5.3trillion a day foreign exchange market last October. At the same time the Financial Conduct Authority, Britain’s principal financial regulator, launched an investigation. Market watchdogs in Europe and Asia are also involved. The SFO is understood to have been gathering information for several months before formally launching its investigation. Sources at the SFO said they are working closely with other agencies, both in the UK and abroad, although they stressed the decision on whether to bring criminal charges would not depend on the outcome of parallel investigations.’

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Len McClusky: The NHS is being taken over by Wall Street, and Cameron won’t stop it

Len McClusky, leader of Unite, writes for the Guardian:

Brighton TTIP demo‘Will David Cameron go down in history as the man who gave away this country’s greatest achievement to Wall Street, the man who enabled big American healthcare access to our hospital wards? The answer will be yes – unless the prime minister makes it clear once and for all that he will protect the NHS from the world’s largest bilateral trade negotiations, happening right now in Brussels.

Make no mistake, we are in the fight of our lives to save the NHS from being sold off lock, stock and barrel. But to make matters even worse a trade deal called TTIP (the transatlantic trade and investment partnership) will mean that reversing the damage done by this government could be impossible unless Cameron acts.’

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#TrackoftheDay ~ Misguided Missile by Manic Street Preachers (2014)

Listen to the full album…

Are Students Who Protest Against the Cuts ‘Extremists’?

Josh Allen writes for Vice:

‘Letters to parents requesting a meeting to discuss “concerns that have been raised” usually only happen at school to the parents of kids with the foresight to realise that smoking while your lungs are still developing is totally badass. When you’re an adult, you don’t have to worry about your parents finding out what you get up to, unless you’re stupid enough to get duped into taking a free holiday by BBC3.

So you can imagine the surprise University of Birmingham Politics student Pat Grady’s parents felt when a letter from counter terrorism police, landed on their doormat inviting them “into the local police station” to “discuss concerns” that their son “[might] be involved with domestic extremism”.’

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UK terrorism laws so broad it has begun to ‘catch those it never intended to’

From The Independent:

‘UK anti-terrorism laws are so broadly drawn they are in danger of catching journalists, bloggers, and those it was “never intended to cover” the counter-terrorism watchdog has said. David Anderson QC has called on the Government to revisit its definition of terrorism in his annual report published today as the UK’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation.

The UK has some of the most extensive anti-terrorism laws in the western world, Mr Anderson said, giving ministers the powers they need to combat violence perpetrated by al-Qa’ida inspired terrorists, right-wing extremists and dissident groups in Northern Ireland. They also enable prosecutions to be brought for activities in other countries including Syria and Iraq. But if these exceptional powers are to command public consent, it is important they should be confined to their proper purpose, he said.

“The problem is that our definition has begun to catch people that it was never really intended to catch,” Mr Anderson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.’

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The Corporate Takeover of ‘All Natural’ Food

Clarissa A. León writes for Alternet:

‘Walk through your local grocery store these days and you’ll see the words “all natural” emblazoned on a variety of food packages.  The label is lucrative, for sure, but in discussing the natural label few have remarked on what’s really at stake — the natural ingredients and the companies themselves.

If you take a look at some of the favorite organic and natural food brands, you’ll see they’re owned by some of the largest conventional companies in the world. Coca-Cola owns Odwalla and Honest Tea. PepsiCo. owns Naked Juice. General Mills owns Lara Bar. Natural and organic food acquisitions aside, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and General Mills all opposed California’s GMO Proposition 37 that would require GMO food labeling. Today, some of those companies touting an all-natural list of grains and sugars can be seen changing the ingredients in their natural food products as the natural foods’ distribution channels are pushed to larger and larger markets.’

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Facing mass protests, Detroit temporarily halts water shutoffs

‘Detroit is temporarily suspending its policy of cutting off water for low-income residents who are delinquent on their bills. In March, the city sent out 45,000 shutoff notices and began turning off water for thousands of citizens. After a public backlash, rallies against the policy and even calls to the UN for humanitarian assistance, the bankrupt city decided it may need to reevaluate how it is handling the situation.’ (Meghan Lopez)

NYC Approves Apartment Building With Separate Entrance for Poor People

Andy Cush reports for Gawker:

NYC Approves Apartment Building With Separate Entrance for Poor People‘It would be difficult to come with a more on-the-nose metaphor for New York City’s income inequality problem than the new high-rise apartment building coming to 40 Riverside Boulevard, which will feature separate doors for regular, wealthy humans and whatever you call the scum that rents affordable housing.

Extell Development Company, the firm behind the new building, announced its intentions to segregate the rich and poor to much outrage last year. Fifty-five of the luxury complex’s 219 units would be marked for low-income renters—netting some valuable tax breaks for Extell—with the caveat that the less fortunate tenants would stick to their own entrance.’

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US Intelligence: No direct Russian involvement, rebels likely downed MH17 by mistake

Editor’s Note: When you understand the context of what has been happening in eastern Ukraine, how Willy Wonka’s military forces from Kiev have been shelling the shit out of the area for months killing innocent people, the idea that the jet shoot down was a mistake makes much more sense than the cartoonist super villain propaganda that Putin blew it out of the sky just for kicks. I put forward the theory that it was an accident a couple of days ago on several threads in the midst of all the hysteria so many people were certain it was a deliberate act and that Russia had be be directly involved. The same idea was put forward in an article in Time that quoted Austin Long, professor of political and international affairs at Columbia.

The Associated Press reports:

‘Senior U.S. intelligence officials say they have no evidence of direct Russian government involvement in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. They say the passenger jet was likely felled by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and that Russia “created the conditions” for the downing by arming the separatists.

The officials briefed reporters Tuesday under ground rules that their names not be used in discussing intelligence related to last week’s air disaster, which killed 298 people. They said they didn’t know if any Russians were present at the missile launch, and they wouldn’t say that the missile crew was trained in Russia. A senior official said the most likely explanation was the plane was shot down by mistake.’

Israel and the Psychological Dynamics of Totalitarianism

Normal Pollack writes for CounterPunch:

‘Silence, in the face of extreme moral provocation, is not golden; it is cowardice, in this case, for a Jewish person deeply respectful of Judaism for its ethical principles and writings, its “home” to much of modern radicalism and social protest across religious, racial, ethnic lines in struggles on behalf of all humankind, the seat of devotion for his parents, to be silent NOW, is to be complicit in the degradation of one’s faith as Israel taking the name of the Jewish State and claiming to represent world Jewry commits wanton war crimes and atrocities—and has for some time—on a helpless, desperate, defenseless people who have been under the Iron Heel of occupation for decades. Palestinians face subjugation on a daily basis; I, and my fellow Jews, face the long-term desecration of our faith and, ultimately, separation from God. For what purpose? To what end?’

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Cabinet ministers: IDF may have to reconquer all or part of Gaza to ensure security

Lahav Harkov reports for the Jerusalem Post:

Security Cabinet members said Thursday that the IDF may need to re-conquer all or part of Gaza to ensure Hamas does not continue to attack Israel. Communications Minister Gilad Erdan said during a visit to Ashkelon Monday that the IDF must continue fighting until it ensures long-term calm.

“We cannot stop the operation while it is still unclear whether the Gaza Strip will be demilitarized or not. If that means the IDF needs to stay in the northern Gaza Strip to ensure quiet, then we will have to reconquer the area near its northern border,” Erdan said.

The cabinet member added that he hopes there will not be a ceasefire in the coming days, until the threat of terror tunnels, with which Israel cannot live, is removed. Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, visited Ashkelon, as well. “The fighting will continue for a long time and could include more expansions,” Steinitz said. “If we need to, we will take over the whole [Gaza] Strip.”‘

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Alexei Sayle: “Israel is the Jimmy Savile of nation states”

From the Belfast Telegraph:

‘Alexei Sayle has fiercely condemned Israel’s air strikes in the Gaza Strip, by comparing the nation’s behaviour to that of prolific sex offender Jimmy Savile. The comedian’s comments were released after Israel resumed airstrikes in the Gaza Strip – killing one Palestinian civilian – after Hamas rejected a ceasefire plan and continued rocket attacks. 166 people in Gaza have died in the week-long offensive, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

“Israel is the Jimmy Savile of nation states,” Sayle said on Tuesday [July 15th] during an interview with Caabu (Council for Arab-British Understanding). “It clearly doesn’t care about damaging the lives of children,” he added, referring to the late entertainer.

Sayle also described Israel as a “teenager that’s never been given any boundaries. [Israel] is endlessly indulged by its doting parents, the West, and has become a psychopath as a result. It thinks that everybody else is in the wrong and it is in the right,” he said.’

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Are People Who Shoot Down Passenger Planes ‘War Criminals’–or ‘Hard to Fault’?

Jim Naureckas writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

‘The New York Times (7/22/14) didn’t mince words in its editorial on the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17: “Whoever unleashed a lethal missile not knowing how to distinguish between a military and a civilian plane is not only irresponsible and stupid, but a war criminal.”

That seems pretty unequivocal. But if you look at the New York Times‘ archives, you’ll see that some people who unleash lethal missiles without knowing how to distinguish between military and civilian planes aren’t irresponsible, stupid or criminal–they’re just doing what they had to do. Of course, if you’re going to shoot down a civilian jetliner–from the Times‘ point of view–it helps to be working for the US Navy when you do it.’

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Hysteria over MH17 plane transitions to post-crash accusations

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar: ‘The hysterical allegations surrounding the apparent shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines MH17 in eastern Ukraine continue to grow. The latest round of unproven allegations seems to be focusing on the situation at the crash site itself. Earlier this morning, NBC News presented the story “fury grows as pro-Russian rebels block access to MH17 site,” which pictures of scary-looking rebels with masks and guns. But that doesn’t seem to be true, as BBC News was reporting at virtually the same time  that “Dutch experts examine bodies,” a story focusing on how the rebels were actually letting the Dutch access the bodies. Another group of international investigators is making their way to the site as well.’ READ MORE…

Ethical Journalism Network Director Speaks to Russia Today About Ethics in Journalism

The downing of Flight MH17: A plea for objectivity

Nile Bowie writes for Kuala Lumpor, Malaysia for RT:

A piece of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is pictured in a field near the village of Grabove, in the region of Donetsk on July 20, 2014. (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)‘[...] For any international investigation to succeed, all possibilities should be scrutinized and considered, including the theory that rebels brought down the aircraft. Western media outlets have worked tirelessly to create the perception that Russia governs the conduct of rebel groups in eastern Ukraine. Any objective analysis of the conflict up until now suggests that Moscow only has influence among these groups; it does not control them. Militia groups fighting in eastern Ukraine would be damaging their own cause if they fail to cooperate with the investigators.

While the party responsible for the crime has not yet been established, the incident has proven most opportune for those figures that have been calling for stinging sanctions on Russia, and this tragedy is already being exploited to put maximum political pressure on Moscow.

Malaysia and the Netherlands, the countries that bore the brunt of this terrible incident, have chosen not to antagonize and assign blame. When asked by a report if he agreed with President Obama’s assessment that Moscow should be held responsible, Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, said, “We need verification on that.” Malaysian officials have also stated that Russia has done its level best to ensure access to the crash site.

More evidence is expected to surface in the coming days that will provide a clearer picture into the vicious killing of the 298 people onboard MH17. This incident should be an impetus for all sides to implement a negotiated ceasefire that would put an end to this horrible fratricidal conflict, but in all likelihood, this incident will only protract Ukraine’s war.’

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Nomi Prins: Dodd-Frank Turns Four and Nothing Fundamental has Changed

Editor’s Note: Nomi Prins is a former managing director at Goldman Sachs and a former senior managing director at Bear Stearns. You can read an abridged version of her remarks at her website. I would HIGHLY recommend reading her new book “All The Presidents’ Bankers“, one of the best works on the history of America’s financial elite that has ever been written. She is also author of “It Takes A Pillage” and the novel “Black Tuesday“.

Tony Blair sees his millions as modest – only in the world of the super rich

Simon Jenkins writes for the Guardian:

Tony Blair Marks The 20th Anniversary Of His Election As Labour Party Leader‘How rich is Tony Blair? What are the needs of an ex-prime minister with grown-up children, a working wife, £25m in property and bodyguards costing the state £1m a year? Blair protested yesterday that he is not worth £100m, “not half of that, a third of that, a quarter of that, a fifth of that, and I could go on.” That gets us down to below £20m. In addition, he pleaded that, “I spend two-thirds of my time on unpaid work,” such as bringing peace to the Middle East. How dare anyone suggest he was motivated by money?’

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McDonald’s and KFC hit by China food safety scandal

Lucy Hornby reports for the Financial Times:

Two Chinese men walk past a billboard advertising US fast-food giant McDonald's, in Yichang, central China's Hubei province on July 8, 2010. McDonald's said it was working with Chinese authorities to test its Chicken McNuggets amid reports they contained risky chemical additives, but stressed the food was safe. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)‘A supplier to McDonald’s and KFC in China has been accused of supplying rotting meat to the fast-food chains and falsifying product expiration dates, in the latest food safety scandal to hit the country. It is also the latest blow to foreign fast food companies operating in the country, where promises of rapid growth – there are more than 4,400 KFC restaurants alone – are being undermined by food safety issues.

The Shanghai food safety watchdog said on Monday it had closed a meat and poultry processor on the outskirts of the city after an undercover investigation by a local television station found the company to be putting new labels on expired meat, among other food safety violations. KFC and McDonald’s, both of which used the US-owned meat processor to supply their Shanghai outlets, apologised to their Chinese customers.’

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Porn Sniffing Police Dogs

#TrackoftheDay ~ The Windmills of Your Mind by Noel Harrison/Michel Legrand (1967)

Billionaire Carlos Slim calls for three-day working week to improve quality of life

Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian:

Carlos Slim‘Mexican billionaire tycoon, Carlos Slim, has called for the introduction of a three-day working week, offset by longer hours and a later retirement, as a way to improve people’s quality of life and create a more productive labour force.

Slim made the comments when speaking to a business conference in Paraguay, suggesting that the workforce could be spread over a full week, with employees working up to 10 or 11 hours a day. “With three work days a week, we would have more time to relax; for quality of life,” the Financial Times reports Slim saying.’

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FIFA Investigator Report on World Cup Bidding Corruption Won’t Be Made Public

From World Football Insider:

FIFA confirms to INSIDER that the report by its chief investigator Michael Garcia into possible ethics violations in the corruption-tainted World Cup bidding process will not be made public.

Former US attorney Michael Garcia has spent more than 18 months investigating claims of ethics breaches and vote trading in the process of awarding the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

He began compiling his report in the second week of June. It was due to be submitted to the adjudicatory chamber of FIFA’s ethics committee by the end of July.’

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How the Pentagon has been breaking the law for 24 years

Matt Purple writes for Rare:

‘In 1990, Congress passed the Chief Financial Officers Act. Its text noted the obvious: that “billions of dollars are lost each year through fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement,” and that “more effective general and financial management practices” were needed within the federal government. The law required a slew of government agencies to undergo a yearly audit. One of those agencies was the Pentagon.

Since then, the Pentagon hasn’t been audited a single time. Thanks to dodges by the Defense Department and a lack of enforcement by Congress, the 1990 requirement has been completely disregarded for 24 years. Now a group of fiscally conservative Republicans and anti-war Democrats are demanding compliance. Last week Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Texas) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2014. The legislation is backed by a curious left-right coalition rarely seen in Washington.’

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Pentagon’s $5 billion intelligence system pulled from key test in latest setback

Ken Dilanian reports for the Associated Press:

‘Army officials have withdrawn their intelligence network from a major testing exercise this fall because of software glitches, in the latest setback for the troubled system. The decision, laid out in a July 15 memorandum obtained by The Associated Press, stands in contrast to the Army’s upbeat public statements about the Distributed Common Ground System.

DCGS-A (pronounced Dee-Sigs-Ay) is a network of software, sensors and databases that is intended to allow troops to process and integrate intelligence from a variety of sources, from electronic intercepts to overhead imagery to spy reports, but has been prone to crashes.

A series of independent government reports in recent years have pointed to flaws in the system, which so far has cost taxpayers about $5 billion, records show. The Army says it is working to fix the problems in a new version to be completed next year. An Army spokesman did not have an immediate comment on the memo.’

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Greatest Protest Sign Of All Time

Jean-Claude Juncker’s real scandal is his tax-haven homeland of Luxembourg

Nick Cohen writes for the Guardian:

Jean-Claude Juncker‘[...] Juncker has dedicated his career to ensuring that society becomes less fair; that wealthy institutions and individuals can avoid the taxes little people and small businesses must pay. “Everywhere do I perceive a certain conspiracy of rich men seeking their own advantage,” wrote Sir Thomas More in 1516. He might have been describing Mr Juncker.

The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg’s Ruritanian title carries a whiff of archaic glamour. But it is nothing more than a piratical state. The only difference between pirates old and new is that instead of using muskets and cannons to seize other people’s money, Luxembourg uses accountants.’

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Pentagon still claiming Russian troops massing near Ukrainian border

Philip Ewing reports for Politico:

3453453‘[...] There are about 10,000 to 12,000 regular Russian combat troops inside their border with Ukraine, Kirby told reporters at a Pentagon briefing, an increase from a few weeks ago but a smaller force than the roughly 40,000 that were there earlier in the standoff.

Press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby also confirmed that defense officials have long observed movements of weapons and advisers from Russia to pro-Russian separatists inside Ukraine, although he said the Pentagon has not specifically seen a heavy, tracked surface-to-air missile launcher like the one believed to have shot down the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777.’

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