Category Archives: Big Banks

The Bleak Science Bankrolled by the Pentagon

Nafeez Ahmed writes for VICE Motherboard:

Minerva Research InitiativeThe ​US military is increasingly concerned about the risk of social, political, and economic collapse due to resource stress and climate change. The Pentagon’s ​latest call for research throws light on where and how the military suspects that resource stress could fuel political grievances on a mass scale.

The call, whose deadline to receive proposals is today [Feb 19th], comes on behalf of the US Department of Defense (DoD) ‘Minerva Research Initiative,’ a multimillion dollar social science program. Minerva is designed so the Pentagon can draw on leading-edge academic expertise outside the military, on issues where it lacks sufficient internal knowledge on specific subjects or regions. By examining its areas of focus, we’re offered a rare glimpse into where and how the Pentagon fears conflict will grip the world in the future.’

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Global Challenges: 12 Risks That Threaten Human Civilisation

The Global Challenges Foundation just issued a report on ’12 risks that threaten human civilisation':

12riskThis report has, to the best of the authors’ knowledge, created the first list of global risks with impacts that for all practical purposes can be called infinite. It is also the first structured overview of key events related to such risks and has tried to provide initial rough quantifications for the probabilities of these impacts.

With such a focus it may surprise some readers to find that the report’s essential aim is to inspire action and dialogue as well as an increased use of the methodologies used for risk assessment.

The real focus is not on the almost unimaginable impacts of the risks the report outlines. Its fundamental purpose is to encourage global collaboration and to use this new category of risk as a driver for innovation.

The idea that we face a number of global risks threatening the very basis of our civilisation at the beginning of the 21st century is well accepted in the scientific community, and is studied at a number of leading universities. But there is still no coordinated approach to address this group of risks and turn them into opportunities.’

READ THE FULL REPORT…

Why I resigned from the Telegraph: Interview with Peter Oborne

IMF: Ukraine to get $40 billion bailout

DW reports:

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and embattled Ukraine have reached an initial deal on a new financial rescue package worth $17.5 billion, a potential “turning point” for Kyiv, IMF chief Christine Lagarde confirmed on Thursday.

The IMF’s contribution is part of a total of $40 billion Ukraine is set to receive from the international community.

Talks on the country’s fourth bailout in 10 years had been underway in the Ukrainian capital for days after the last aid program from April 2014 failed to stabilize Ukraine’s finances as it battles pro-Russian separatists in the east.’

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West Coast Port Dispute Threatens U.S. Economy

Somalia: The careless, astonishing cruelty of Barack Obama’s government

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Illustration by Sebastien ThibaultLet me introduce you to the world’s most powerful terrorist recruiting sergeant: a US federal agency called the office of the comptroller of the currency. Its decision to cause a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the poorest, most troubled places on Earth could resonate around the world for decades.

Last Friday, after the OCC had sent it a cease-and-desist order, the last bank in the United States still processing money transfers to Somalia closed its service. The agency, which reports to the US treasury, reasoned that some of this money might find its way into the hands of the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab. It’s true that some of it might, just as some resources in any nation will find their way into the hands of criminals (ask HSBC). So why don’t we shut down the phone networks to hamper terrorism? Why don’t we ban agriculture in case fertiliser is used to make explosives? Why don’t we stop all the clocks to prevent armed gangs from planning their next atrocity?’

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Greece: The True Face of Golden Dawn

Editor’s Note: This report by Channel 4 News was first published in March 2013. 

Banking Giant HSBC Sheltered Murky Cash Linked to Dictators and Arms Dealers

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reports:

Swiss Leaks‘Secret documents reveal that global banking giant HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws.

The leaked files, based on the inner workings of HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm, relate to accounts holding more than $100 billion. They provide a rare glimpse inside the super-secret Swiss banking system — one the public has never seen before.

The documents, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists via the French newspaper Le Monde, show the bank’s dealings with clients engaged in a spectrum of illegal behavior, especially in hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from tax authorities. They also show private records of famed soccer and tennis players, cyclists, rock stars, Hollywood actors, royalty, politicians, corporate executives and old-wealth families.

These disclosures shine a light on the intersection of international crime and legitimate business, and they dramatically expand what’s known about potentially illegal or unethical behavior in recent years at HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks.’

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HSBC files show bank helped clients dodge millions in tax

Global debt has grown by $57 trillion in seven years following the financial crisis

Ami Sedghi reports for The Guardian:

Global stockGlobal debt has grown by $57 trillion to reach $199 trillion in the seven years following the financial crisis – a 40.1% rise, according to a new report. All major economies are now recording higher levels of borrowing relative to gross domestic product (GDP) than they did in 2007.

Total debt as a share of GDP stood at 286% in the second quarter of 2014 compared with 269% in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The McKinsey and Global Institute study which analyses the evolution of debt in 47 countries, found that government debt is “unsustainably high” in some of those, with government debt growing by $25 trillion since 2007. The study found that in 10 of the countries studied, it exceeds 100% of GDP.’

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Former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn To Face Trial On Pimping Charges

Spanish Anti-Austerity Party Rally Draws Tens Of Thousands

Greece shows what can happen when the young revolt against corrupt elites

Paul Mason writes for The Guardian:

‘[…] The fact that a party with a “central committee” even got close to power has nothing to do with a sudden swing to Marxism in the Greek psyche. It is, instead, testimony to three things: the strategic crisis of the eurozone, the determination of the Greek elite to cling to systemic corruption, and a new way of thinking among the young.

Of these, the eurozone’s crisis is easiest to understand – because its consequences can be read so easily in the macroeconomic figures. The IMF predicted Greece would grow as the result of its aid package in 2010. Instead, the economy has shrunk by 25%. Wages are down by the same amount. Youth unemployment stands at 60% – and that is among those who are still in the country.’

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Greece’s New Finance Minister: “We Are Going To Destroy The Greek Oligarchy System”

Zero Hedge reports:

Over two years ago, we first highlighted Yanis Varoufakis’ perspectives on the destruction of Greece and Europe’s bogus growth pacts. Since then he has grown in both reason and popularity as his no-nonsense discussons of the mis-design of the euro (and potential solutions) have made him the front-runner to be Syriza’s new finance minister. Never one to  mince words or play politics, Varoufakis tells Channel 4’s Paul Mason in this brief (but chilling for Brussels) interview, what his party would do if it gets into government in Greece, and admits the prospect of power in Europe is “scary”. As he sums up, “we are going to destroy the Greek oligarchy system,” and with it, we suspect, much of the narrative that holds the fragile European Union together…’

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The SYRIZA Challenge in Greece: Interview with Leo Panitch

Editor’s Note: Professor Leo Panitch is a distinguished research professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto, Canada and editor of the Socialist Register. He is also co-author of ‘The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire‘. The interview was recorded earlier last week, before the elections in Greece.

As inequality soars, the nervous super rich are already planning their escapes

Alec Hogg reports for The Guardian:

Private jet landing in the AlpsWith growing inequality and the civil unrest from Ferguson and the Occupy protests fresh in people’s mind, the world’s super rich are already preparing for the consequences. At a packed session in Davos, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. “I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,” he said.

Johnson, who heads the Institute of New Economic Thinking and was previously managing director at Soros, said societies can tolerate income inequality if the income floor is high enough. But with an existing system encouraging chief executives to take decisions solely on their profitability, even in the richest countries inequality is increasing.”‘

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Our ‘impartial’ broadcasters have become mouthpieces of the elite

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

‘When people say they have no politics, it means that their politics aligns with the status quo. None of us are unbiased, none removed from the question of power. We are social creatures who absorb the outlook and opinions of those with whom we associate, and unconciously echo them. Objectivity is impossible.

The illusion of neutrality is one of the reasons for the rotten state of journalism, as those who might have been expected to hold power to account drift thoughtlessly into its arms. But until I came across the scandal currently erupting in Canada, I hadn’t understood just how quickly standards are falling.’

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Who are the Davos Class? (Infographic)

Bilderberg and the Cult of Austerity

Andrew Gavin Marshall writes in the sixth part in his series on Bilderberg:

AusterityLeedsTxistockphotoE3x4-1‘It could almost be a slogan: Bilderberg brings people together. Specifically, every year, the Bilderberg Group holds secret, “private” meetings at four star hotels around the world, bringing together nearly 150 of the world’s most influential bankers, corporate executives, dynasties, heads-of-state, foreign policy strategists, central bankers and finance ministers. It also invites the heads of international organizations, think tanks, foundations, universities, military and intelligence officials, media barons, journalists and academics.

Participants at Bilderberg appreciate having a closed-door forum where they can speak openly and directly to one other – and of course, not to us. But perhaps we, the people, would also like to hear what they have to say. For the past four years, Bilderbergers have been running around the world preaching the gospel of “austerity” and “structural reform” – very important terms. If you don’t know what they mean, Bilderbergers are working their day jobs to make sure you will learn.’

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Trojan Hearse: Greek Elections and the Euro Leper Colony

Greg Palast writes:

‘Europe is stunned, and bankers aghast, that polls show the new party of the Left, Syriza, will win Greece’s parliamentary elections to be held this coming Sunday, January 25.

Syriza promises that, if elected, it will cure Greece of leprosy.

Oddly, Syriza also promises that it will remain in the leper colony.  That is, Syriza wants to rid Greece of the cruelty of austerity imposed by the European Central Bank but insists on staying in the euro zone.

The problem is, austerity run wild is merely a symptom of an illness.  The underlying disease is the euro itself.’

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Detroit Renaissance? Mike Papantonio Interviews Abby Martin

‘Abby Martin, Breaking the Set, joins Mike Papantonio to discuss her visit to Detroit, the city’s “tent city,” the water shut offs, bankruptcy and how the city is still feeling the effects of the foreclosure crisis.’ (The Big Picture)

Greece: The Rubber Glove Rebellion

Maria Margaronis reports for BBC Magazine:

Cleaner, protestingYou wouldn’t know to look at it that the messy makeshift camp is the epicentre of a protest that’s touched a nerve in Greece – and given the government more than a mild headache.

There’s a pop-up tent with an inflatable mattress, some plastic chairs, a table, a fridge and a microwave. Posters of red rubber gloves making fists or victory signs adorn the concrete pillars. A banner made from a sheet is splashed with big red letters: “Sit-in protest by the cleaners of the finance ministry.”

Nearly 600 women who cleaned the ministry’s offices around the country were laid off 16 months ago in public-sector cuts demanded by Greece’s creditors. They are middle-aged mothers and grandmothers with no previous experience of activism, but their dogged persistence has caught the imagination of many thousands here whose lives have been derailed by the economic crisis.’

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USA Watchdog Interview with Nomi Prins on Volatility, Gold, the Dollar, QE

Editor’s Note: Nomi Prins is a former managing director at Goldman Sachs and a former senior managing director at Bear Stearns. I would HIGHLY recommend reading her latest book “All The Presidents’ Bankers“. It is quite possibly the best work on the history of America’s financial elite that has ever been written. She is also author of “It Takes A Pillage” and a novel “Black Tuesday“. You can check out more of her work/interviews at her website.

What Is Causing Market Volatility? Interview with Leo Panitch

Editor’s Note: Professor Leo Panitch is a distinguished research professor of Political Science at York University in Toronto, Canada and editor of the Socialist Register. He is also co-author of ‘The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire‘.

New Oxfam report says half of global wealth held by the top 1%

Larry Elliott and Ed Pilkington report for The Guardian:

‘Billionaires and politicians gathering in Switzerland this week will come under pressure to tackle rising inequality after a study found that – on current trends – by next year, 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%.

Ahead of this week’s annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in the ski resort of Davos, the anti-poverty charity Oxfam said it would use its high-profile role at the gathering to demand urgent action to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

The charity’s research, published today, shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5%.

Oxfam added that on current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016.’

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40% of British families ‘too poor to play a part in society’

Patrick Wintour reports for The Guardian:

Five- and ten-pound notesNearly four out of 10 households with children, or 8.1 million people, live below an income level regarded by the public as the minimum needed to participate in society, according to new research commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The number of those on less than the so-called minimum income threshold in 2012/13 was up by more than a third from 5.9 million in 2008/09, the charity says.

The research finds families headed by lone parents are under the greatest pressure, with 71% (2.3 million individuals) living below the required level, up from 65% (2.2 million).’

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What Happens If We Ignore Whistleblowers? Interview with Chris Paulos

Majority of U.S. public school students are in poverty

Lyndsey Layton reports for The Washington Post:

‘For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, a statistic that has profound implications for the nation.

The Southern Education Foundation reports that 51 percent of students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in the 2012-2013 school year were eligible for the federal program that provides free and reduced-price lunches. The lunch program is a rough proxy for poverty, but the explosion in the number of needy children in the nation’s public classrooms is a recent phenomenon that has been gaining attention among educators, public officials and researchers.’

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Suicides highlight the grim toll of benefits sanctions in austerity Britain

Ashley Cowburn reports for The Guardian:

[…] This week the work and pensions select committee will hold its first oral evidence session for its inquiry into benefits sanctions policy following last year’s limited Oakley review.

Many of those visiting Salford Central food bank, run by the Trussell Trust, have experienced benefits sanctions. The refuge provides half a tonne of food each week to Salford’s residents and was expected to have fed more than 3,500 individuals by the end of 2014. More than 60% of those who come there have had their benefits sanctioned, according to an internal report by Salford city council. The report concluded that sanctioning could lead to extreme hardship, reliance on loan sharks, shoplifting and depression.’

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Nonlinear Warfare – A New System of Political Control

‘A short film by Adam Curtis screened during Charlie Brooker’s review of 2014 on the BBC; shows the how deliberate undermining of peoples perception of the world, by manipulating the media and civil society, creates confusion and contradiction, undermining any opposition to existing power structures. This strategy has allowed quantitative easing to go almost unnoticed and unchallenged, even though it is the biggest transfer of wealth to the rich in recent documented history.’ (Films for Action)