Category Archives: Financial Crisis

Shutoff: Detroit’s Water War

‘Earlier this year, Detroit’s Water and Sewerage Department began turning off water utilities for overdue or delinquent accounts. Since April, the department has cut off the water for nearly 3,000 households per week — meaning roughly 100,000 Motor City residents are without water. Entrenched at the bottom of Detroit’s current economic crisis, many of those without water are the city’s poorest resident. The city’s shut-off campaign has garnered international press attention, and has been called “an affront to human rights” by representatives of the United Nations. VICE News traveled to Detroit to see first-hand how residents are dealing with the water shut-offs, speak with local government representatives about the issue, and discuss possible resolutions with activist groups.’ (VICE News)

Despite Calls for Humanity, Detroit Resumes Water Shutoffs

Lauren McCauley reports for Common Dreams:

‘Despite widespread public outcry and international condemnation, the city of Detroit on Tuesday resumed shutting off the water supply to thousands of city residents. Ending the month long moratorium on shutoffs, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) public affairs specialist Gregory Eno confirmed to Common Dreams that the city turned off the water to roughly 400 households that are delinquent on their water bills and have not yet set up a payment plan. More shutoffs are expected.

According to the citizens group Detroit Water Brigade, the only thing that changed since shutoffs began in March is that the city has lowered the required down payment water bills from 30% to 10%. “The water is still too expensive for Detroit,” they said. Detroit is one of the poorest cities in the United States with over 38% of the population living below the poverty line, according to Census Bureau statistics.

Members of the Detroit Water Brigade are calling on the city to halt the shutoffs altogether and consider alternatives for helping people pay their bills, arguing that restricting access to water for the city’s poorest residents is “doing nothing more than hurting people,” DWB volunteer DeMeeko Williams told a local CBS affiliate.’

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The Decline of the Fifth Republic: A Legacy of Imperialism

Alexander Reid Ross writes for CounterPunch:

‘After just two years in power, French Socialist François Hollande has become one of the least popular leaders in Europe. He has taken much of the blame for chipping away at France’s social wage and for the rise of the radical right wing. Rather than listening to his economy minister Arnaud Montebourg’s recap of Paul Krugman’s critique of “absurd” fiscal cuts, Hollande has accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Emanuel Valls, dissolved his entire government, and ordered Valls to form a new cabinet. The question is not only whether Hollande can still call himself a socialist, but whether the French Fifth Republic can hold on.

The immediate response is that this is just a shakeup, typical of the rebellious style of French political life. But what if there is something much deeper at play? When the Fourth Republic fell in 1958, it was due to the coming dissolution of France’s colonial empire, beginning with Algeria. The French army swept through the backdoors of the French Republic, and in a rapid coup d’etat, overthrew the republican system, reinstating Charles de Gaulle as leader.

Although de Gaulle allowed the government to return to a quasi-democratic process, Gaullism has remained a hard kernel in French politics, emerging powerfully in the 1970s and again for 17 years through the Party for a Popular Movement’s big hitters, Jacques Chirac and Nicholas Sarkozy, after a window of Socialist governance by François Mitterand in the 1980s. The chief reason for the recent shakeup in the French government is not only Montebourg’s claims that financial matters have been mishandled, but his insistence on comparing Hollande unfavorable to Margaret Thatcher and to de Gaulle, himself!’

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Hollande Government: New team named after ministers rebel

Editor’s Note: France’s new economy minister, investment banker Emmanuel  Macron, attended this year’s Bilderberg conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Manuel Valls, the man who selected him, has also attended the elite meetings in 2008 as a Member of the French Parliament. It’s all about connections when it comes to highest levels of business and politics. Jean-Claude Trichet, former head of the ECB and a Bilderberg regular, seems quite happy that Macron is the right man for the job. That job being sticking to the austerity policies that the big bankers who regularly attend Bilderberg want imposed on Europe

BBC News reports:

‘French President Francois Hollande has named a new cabinet under PM Manual Valls, dropping ministers who rebelled against austerity cuts. The first government of Mr Valls, who was appointed less than five months ago, fell on Monday after a row with Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg.

Mr Montebourg resigned along with two other ministers from the left. He will be replaced by Emmanuel Macron, a former Rothschild banker and ex-presidential economic adviser.

President Hollande is seeking a coherent line on economic policy after recent criticism from the left wing of his Socialist Party. Many see it as his last chance to make a successful presidency, after his recent poll ratings sunk to 17%.’

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Charles Eisenstein: Stories That Once Offered My Life Meaning No Longer Satisfy

Charles Eisenstein, author of ‘The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible’, writes:

‘[...] And as my horizons broadened, I knew that millions were not supposed to be starving, that nuclear weapons were not supposed to be hanging over our heads, that the rainforests were not supposed to be shrinking, or the fish dying, or the condors and eagles disappearing. I could not accept the way the dominant narrative of my culture handled these things: as fragmentary problems to be solved, as unfortunate facts of life to be regretted, or as unmentionable taboo subjects to be simply ignored.

On some level, we all know better. This knowledge seldom finds clear articulation, so instead we express it indirectly through covert and overt rebellion. Addiction, self-sabotage, procrastination, laziness, rage, chronic fatigue, and depression are all ways that we withhold our full participation in the program of life we are offered. When the conscious mind cannot find a reason to say no, the unconscious says no in its own way. More and more of us cannot bear to stay in the “old normal” any longer.

This narrative of normal is crumbling on a systemic level too. We live today at a moment of transition between worlds. The institutions that have borne us through the centuries have lost their vitality; only with increasing self-delusion can we pretend they are sustainable. Our systems of money, politics, energy, medicine, education, and more are no longer delivering the benefits they once did (or seemed to). Their Utopian promise, so inspiring a century ago, recedes further every year. Millions of us know this; more and more, we hardly bother to pretend otherwise. Yet we seem helpless to change, helpless even to stop participating in industrial civilization’s rush over the cliff.’

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Wall Street’s hot new scam: Shady banking consultants absolve the banks that pay them!

David Dayden writes for Salon:

‘On Monday, New York’s top banking regulator, Benjamin Lawsky, announced an enforcement action against PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the venerable auditing firm you might know from its work tabulating votes at the Academy Awards. But when it’s not ensuring fairness in the best supporting actress race, PwC makes its money engaged in one of the most insidious practices in the financial industry – operating as a third-party “consultant” for major banks, with far more loyalty to the firms that hire them than the truth.

Over the past several years, one way banks have devised to get themselves out of trouble is to hire consultants to head up “independent” investigations into their operations. Because state and federal regulators often don’t have the resources for such an intense inquiry, the consultants often step in as a shadow regulator, performing the work of bank examiners. Regulators increasingly require independent consultant reviews as part of their enforcement actions. However, these consultants are typically handpicked and paid for by the bank they intend to examine.

The potential for abuse in that relationship is clear. If your promise of future work depends on a continued positive relationship with your employer, you’d be the last person willing to rat them out to the federal government for misconduct. And third-party consulting has become big business indeed, as well as a way station for ex-regulators wanting to make real money out of government.’

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Adam Curtis: The Hidden Systems That Have Frozen Time and Stop Us Changing the World

Editor’s Note: Adam Curtis is a documentary film maker who focusses on “power and how it works in society“. His films include ‘The Power of Nightmares‘ and ‘The Century of Self’ among many others. Watch them, watch them all.

Adam Curtis writes on his BBC blog:

frontaltIf you are an American politician today, as well as an entourage you also have a new, modern addition. You have what’s called a “digital tracker”. They follow you everywhere with a high-definition video camera, and they are employed by the people who want to destroy your political career.

It’s called “opposition research” and the aim is to constantly record everything you say and do. The files are sent back every night to large anonymous offices in Washington where dozens of researchers systematically compare everything you said today with what you said in the past.

They are looking for contradictions. And if they find one – they feed it, and the video evidence, to the media.

On one hand it’s old politics – digging up the dirt on your opponent. But it is also part of something new – and much bigger than just politics. Throughout the western world new systems have risen up whose job is to constantly record and monitor the present – and then compare that to the recorded past. The aim is to discover patterns, coincidences and correlations, and from that find ways of stopping change. Keeping things the same.

We can’t properly see what is happening because these systems are operating in very different areas – from consumerism, to the management of your own body, to predicting future crimes, and even trying to stabilise the global financial system – as well as in politics.

But taken together the cumulative effect is that of a giant refrigerator that freezes us, and those who govern us, into a state of immobility, perpetually repeating the past and terrified of change and the future.’

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Iain Duncan Smith urged by senior Tories to shut all Jobcentres

Asa Bennett reports for The Huffington Post:

Job Centre PlusIain Duncan Smith is reportedly being urged by senior Tories to shut down all Jobcentres and let private companies and charities to step in to help Britain’s unemployed back to work. The proposal, backed by allies of chancellor George Osborne, is being considered for potential inclusion in the party’s election manifesto for 2015, in what would be a radical step for Britain’s system to help people into work.

One senior Tory told The Sun: “Introducing competition into the job search market is a natural Conservative thing to do. Tailoring help from experts for what people really need will work far better than the clumsy one-size-fits-all state solution.” However, Duncan Smith is believed to be sceptical about the idea, with a source describing the proposal as “expensive and complicated”.’

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Sanctions against those on sickness benefit up 350 per cent in Government crackdown

Emily Dugan reports for The Independent:

‘Soaring numbers of sick or disabled people are being punished by having their benefits taken away in a Government crackdown that experts say is pushing the most vulnerable in society to destitution.

The use of sanctions against those on sickness benefits has gone up by 350 per cent in a year as part of an aggressive drive to push more people into work. Those with serious health conditions can have their benefits removed for up to three years because of minor mistakes, such as missing an appointment at the Job Centre or forgetting to attend skills training.’

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Is Britain’s housing bubble about to burst?

HSBC chairman warns against banking reforms

Jill Treanor reports for The Guardian:

HSBC Group chairman Douglas Flint‘The chairman of HSBC warned yesterday that fear of hefty fines was forcing banks to become risk averse as they grapple with unprecedented regulatory reforms in the wake of the financial crisis.

As Britain’s biggest bank revealed it was putting aside $367m (£218m) to cover compensation for mistakes in loan statements to UK customers, Douglas Flint said there was an “observable and growing danger of disproportionate risk aversion”.

He warned of “growing fatigue” in some of the bank’s operations, where staff were having to work at weekends to implement systems changes. One concern was that “there are only 52 weekends in a year”.’

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Could Britain Leave the EU? Interview with Prof. John Weeks and Prof. Trevor Martin

‘Prof. John Weeks and Prof. Trevor Martin discuss British PM David Cameron’s call for a referendum vote to decide whether the UK remains a part of EU, as stagnation continues in the Eurozone and bleeds into economic powerhouses like Germany.’ (The Real News)

Euro crisis is sleeping, not dead

Hugo Dixon writes for Reuters:

‘Euro zone policymakers may feel they can afford to relax this summer. That would be a terrible error. The euro crisis is sleeping, not dead. The region is suffering from stagnation, low inflation, unemployment and debt. The crisis could easily rear its ugly head because the euro zone is not well placed to withstand a shock.

What’s more, it’s not hard to see from where such a blow could come. Relations with Russia have rapidly deteriorated following the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine. If Europe imposes sanctions that make Moscow think again, these will hurt it too.

The euro zone needs to take measures to insure itself against disaster: looser monetary policy by the European Central Bank to boost inflation; a new drive for structural reform, especially in France and Italy but also in Germany; and some loosening of budgetary straitjackets.’

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Italy Falls Back Into Recession, Raising Concern for Eurozone Economy

Jack Ewing and Gaia Pianigiani report for The New York Times:

‘The Italian economy shrank in the second quarter, according to an official estimate on Wednesday, taking economists by surprise and provoking concern that violence in Ukraine and tension with Russia could be pushing the broader eurozone back into recession.

Italy’s gross domestic product contracted 0.2 percent from April through June, compared with the first quarter of 2014, Istat, the Italian statistics office, said in a preliminary estimate. It was the second quarterly decline in a row for Italy, meeting the most common definition of a recession. In the first quarter, output shrank 0.1 percent compared with the previous quarter.

The decline dashed hopes that Italy, the third-largest eurozone economy after Germany and France, was finally emerging from a decade of stagnation. And it may be one of the first concrete signs of how tension with Russia is hurting the European economy, analysts said.’

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Greece’s Older Men May Never Work Again, Unemployment Rate Is About Twice the Euro-Zone Average

Matina Stevis reports for The Wall Street Journal:

‘Greece’s economy has taken such a brutal beating that it is in a category apart from other European countries suffering through the recession. Where Greece lost some 25% of its economic output, Spain lost about 6%. Experts say that, even as the Greek economy begins to recover, the shock has been so severe that older workers are unlikely to ever hold full-time jobs again.

Unlike in other parts of Europe, Greek reforms have largely removed provisions that protected older workers. In Spain and Italy labor-market regulations favoring baby-boomers over their children are still largely in place, entrenching the so-called two-tier labor market. But in Greece, everyone seeking work largely faces similarly poor odds, said Raymond Torres, head of research at the International Labor Organization, the United Nations labor agency.

While Greece’s youth unemployment is still a record for the EU—almost 60% of people aged 15 to 24 were out of work in 2013—the unemployment rate among older Greek males is about twice the euro-zone average and almost four times that of Germany. Some 18% of 40-to-59-year-old Greek men were out of work last year, according to Eurostat, the European Union statistics agency.’

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Report: 18 companies hold over a third of US wealth

Vicki Needham reports for The Hill:

‘Income inequality is a hot political topic and a report showing that a small number of U.S. companies hold most of the wealth could stir up more talk about ways to change tax policy. The majority of corporate cash is amassed in the coffers of 18 U.S. firms — they held 36 percent of all wealth last year, a jump from 27 percent in 2009 with the gap expected to widen further, according to a report from Standard & Poor’s, a New York-based credit rater.

That means that out of a record $1.53 trillion in cash and short-term investments held by U.S. corporations the wealthiest 18 held about $535 billion. “In our view, current U.S. corporate tax policy and accommodating credit market conditions have been primarily responsible for this growing wealth gap,” the report said. Furthermore, the wealthiest top 20 percent held 89 percent of total cash, leaving only 11 percent for the bottom 80 percent of firms. The top 1 percent are mostly investment-grade businesses — Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Apple, Oracle, Ford, Coca-Cola and Boeing — and are concentrated in technology and healthcare industries.’

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Out-of-control Central Banks are Buying Up the Planet

Ellen Brown writes for Web of Debt:

‘When the US Federal Reserve bought an 80% stake in American International Group (AIG) in September 2008, the unprecedented $85 billion outlay was justified as necessary to bail out the world’s largest insurance company. Today, however, central banks are on a global corporate buying spree not to bail out bankrupt corporations but simply as an investment, to compensate for the loss of bond income due to record-low interest rates. Indeed, central banks have become some of the world’s largest stock investors.

Central banks have the power to create national currencies with accounting entries, and they are traditionally very secretive. We are not allowed to peer into their books. It took a major lawsuit by Reuters and a congressional investigation to get the Fed to reveal the $16-plus trillion in loans it made to bail out giant banks and corporations after 2008. What is to stop a foreign bank from simply printing its own currency and trading it on the currency market for dollars, to be invested in the US stock market or US real estate market?  What is to stop central banks from printing up money competitively, in a mad rush to own the world’s largest companies?

Apparently not much. Central banks are for the most part unregulated, even by their own governments. As the Federal Reserve observes on its website:

[The Fed] is considered an independent central bank because its monetary policy decisions do not have to be approved by the President or anyone else in the executive or legislative branches of government, it does not receive funding appropriated by the Congress, and the terms of the members of the Board of Governors span multiple presidential and congressional terms.

As former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan quipped, “Quite frankly it does not matter who is president as far as the Fed is concerned. There are no other agencies that can overrule the action we take.”’

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Geopolitical Risk Rises for Global Investors

Brian Bremner and Simon Kennedy writes for Bloomberg:

‘Since the start of the year, conflicts in Syria, Gaza and Iraq have escalated, China has become more assertive in pursuing territorial claims against Japan, Thailand reverted to military rule, Russia annexed Crimea and separatists in Ukraine downed a civilian airliner.

These crises have had little lasting impact on major financial markets in the U.S., Europe and in Asia. Now Raj Hindocha, a managing director with Deutsche Bank Research in London, is warning that investors and money managers could be in for a rude awakening later this year.

Geopolitical risk is being underestimated and volatility suppressed, thanks in large part to the open monetary spigots at the U.S. Federal Reserve, European Central Bank and Bank of Japan, according to a recent report Hindocha co-authored.’

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Why Bitcoin Puts Governments on Edge: Interview with David Seaman

Abby Martin speaks with author and journalist, David Seaman, discussing the growing popularity of Bitcoin, as well as other in-the-news issues such as Gaza, and President Obama’s comments on America’s use of torture on terror suspects.’ (Breaking the Set)

Ghana to seek help from IMF after currency falls 40%

From BBC News:

‘Ghana has said it will seek financial aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help strengthen the West African nation’s currency. The cedi has fallen 40% against the US dollar this year, making it one of the world’s worst-performing currencies. Ghana, once seen as a shining example of economic strength in the region, is also struggling with high inflation.

The country last went to the IMF for help in 2009, when it secured a $600m (£360m), three-year aid package. Despite being a major exporter of gold, oil and cocoa, Ghana is struggling with large current account and budget deficits. Last week, the country’s finance minister told the BBC the country would fix its currency problems itself and only go to the IMF as a last resort. Many experts see the decision to go to the IMF as the first admission by the government that the economy is in bad shape.’

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America Is Ripe For Authoritarianism

CJ Werleman writes for AlterNet:

‘America is on the precipice of a fascist uprising. While liberals have consistently leveled the f-word against opponents on the right, much the same way conservatives have appropriated socialist or Marxist against those on the political left, there is now data showing that proto-fascist movements are on the rise. The kindling for the fire of fascism has already been lit. While the Republican Party holds at least one branch of the federal government, America will never be able to deal intelligently and earnestly with the economic policies that have destroyed the working class and all but decimated the middle class. A GOP congress guarantees that Democratic efforts to raise the minimum wage, reform the tax code and repair our crumbling infrastructure will be thwarted, all in the name of protecting the rich from paying their fair share.

Long-term unemployment promises to be the norm, as well stagnant and poverty-level wages, foreclosures, crippling personal debt and bankruptcies, the evaporation of savings and retirement funds, the outsourcing of jobs, the continued dilapidation of our schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, and airports, and the regulations that safeguard our food, water, and clean air. All this comes courtesy of obscene profits, bonuses, taxpayer subsidies, tax breaks and compensation being doled out to our corporate overlords. “It [USA] is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” says Noam Chomsky. “The parallels are striking, and the United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen.”’

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Portugal’s Top Oligarch Ricardo Salgado Goes Down in Flames

Tom Gill writes for CounterPunch:

‘Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva Salgado is known in Portugal as “Dono disto tudo,” or “Owner of everything.’ The oligarch’s family has been calling the shots in Portugal for over a century. It’s the largest shareholder of the country’s biggest stock market listed bank, and controls a string of other financial companies, agricultural, energy, health care and property companies in Portugal and across the globe. But now it looks like the final chapters in the long history of the most renowned members of the country’s elite are about to be written. And perhaps with it a new chapter in Portugal’s and Europe’s financial and economic crisis.

Last week Ricardo Salgado, now aged 70, was arrested. He was detained – later released on bail for €3m – in connection with a long-running investigation into money laundering and tax evasion. Ricardo Salgado’s arrest didn’t come about of nowhere. The Espírito Santo family has been under “intense scrutiny” since earlier this year when an audit ordered by the central bank discovered accounting irregularities at the Luxembourg-registered holding company ESI. With ESI and its 100%-owned Rioforte now preparing for bankruptcy, the country’s President Anibal Cavaco Silva has admitted that the failure could be systemic: “We cannot ignore that there will be some impact on the real economy,” he said, providing a rather darker forecast that most of the experts quoted in the press with soothing words such as “contained” and “priced-in.”’

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Stiglitz on Argentina’s default: “This is America throwing a bomb into the global economic system”

Peter Eavis and Alexandra Stevenson write for The New York Times:

‘[...] The campaign against Argentina shows how driven and deep-pocketed hedge funds can sometimes wield influence outside of the markets they bet in. George Soros’s successful wager against the pound in 1992 affected Britain’s relationship with Europe for years.

While Mr. Singer’s firm has yet to collect any money from Argentina, some debt market experts say that the battle may already have shifted the balance of power toward creditors in the enormous debt markets that countries regularly tap to fund their deficits. Countries in crisis may now find it harder to gain relief from creditors after defaulting on their debt, they assert.

“We’ve had a lot of bombs being thrown around the world, and this is America throwing a bomb into the global economic system,” said Joseph E. Stiglitz, the economist and professor at Columbia University. “We don’t know how big the explosion will be — and it’s not just about Argentina.”’

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Banks accused of rigging silver price

From BBC News:

silver bars‘Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Bank of Nova Scotia have been accused of attempting to rig the price of silver, in a lawsuit filed in the US. The plaintiff alleges the banks, which set the price of silver each day, abused their position in the market. Deutsche Bank and HSBC have not commented on the filing, while Bank of Nova Scotia told Bloomberg news agency it would “vigorously defend” itself.

The lawsuit follows similar filings in the gold price-fixing market. Earlier this year, Barclays Bank was fined £26m ($44m) by UK regulators after one of its traders was discovered attempting to fix the price of gold. Investor Scott Nicholson from Washington said in the filing against the three banks for price-fixing: “The extreme level of secrecy creates an environment that is ripe for manipulation.”‘

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Banks To Overhaul Gold-Fix Amid Rigging Fears

Mark Kleinman reports for Sky News:

Stacked gold bars‘The banks which set the global price of gold are to open the process to independent scrutiny amid evidence that it has been subject to the same manipulation as other crucial financial benchmarks.

The 95-year-old gold fixing mechanism is poised to seek an independent chairman and third-party administrator for the first time, under plans to be unveiled by its current operators. A new code of conduct for participants in the fixing process is also being finalised and is expected to be published shortly.

The reforms will represent a crucial step towards protecting a globally-recognised mechanism set in London and used across the world’s gold industry to set a reference price for bullion.’

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Gold standard vs Fiat vs Bitcoin

‘Over the past 100 years the global money supply has increased dramatically, leading to rising prices, ordinary people forced into heavy borrowing and government debt spiraling out of control – US national debt, for example, currently stands at more than US$17.5 trillion (as of 30/04/14). In response to this, some people have been calling for a return to the gold standard, a monetary system where the value of national currencies is directly linked to gold. This is different to the fiat money system currently in use the world over, where the value of national currencies is determined by governments. Other people, however, are suggesting that the cyrptocurrency Bitcoin could be the answer, with many asking if it’s the “new gold standard”.’ (Truthloader)

Bitcoin entices gold diggers in bid to replace conventional currencies

Isaac Arnsdorf reports for Bloomberg:

Bitcoin entices gold diggers in bid to replace conventional currencies‘Call it bitgold. It’s what you get when you combine bitcoin, one of the world’s newest would-be currencies, and gold, one of the oldest. Add mistrust of centralized authority, a dash of rebelliousness and a dollop of profit motive and you might have the Independence Coin, the first gold-backed crypto-money, unveiled this month at FreedomFest, a libertarian convention in — where else? — Las Vegas.

…Despite the skepticism, bitcoin and gold make a natural match, like kittens and milk. Gold, a store of value since ancient times, has long been popular with investors seeking a haven and doomsayers rejecting fiat currencies churned out on central bank printing presses. Bitcoin, cooked up by programmers six years ago, has been embraced by hipster anarchists and others eager to trade online while avoiding the constraints of conventional money. There are signs that the two sides are finally meeting.’

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We must be wary of ‘caring capitalism’

Alex Andreou writes for The Guardian:

‘If ever a story deserved to be filed under the heading “irony” it is the one about a “caring capitalism” summit ending in a bitter legal dispute among the organisers over money. Thursday’s Evening Standard reports that Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild – the former financier, director of Estee Lauder and the Economist and member of one of the world’s wealthiest families – is suing the charity that helped stage the Conference on Inclusive Capitalism in May, the Henry Jackson Society, on a catalogue of issues, including intellectual property and residual funds and unpaid invoices totalling £187,000.

The world was abuzz in the 90s with conversations of whether capitalism could indeed be “caring”. Companies such as Ben & Jerry’s were leading the way with new corporate concepts and ethical structures. Some academic articles glumly concluded that such new concepts “will be prone to eventual failure and subsumption by fast capitalism”. Twenty years later, while inequality continues to grow and the world is becoming increasingly volatile, we are still having the same conversation. Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry’s has been bought by Unilever.

Capitalism, in its unadulterated form, is not caring. It is not inclusive, responsible or ethical. It is fast, callous, amoral, decisive, aggressive, self-interested and only cares about one thing: the bottom line. This is not a criticism. It is just how it is built.’

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You Can’t Taper a Ponzi Scheme: Time to Reboot

Ellen Brown writes for Web of Debt:

‘[...] The rules of money and banking have changed every 20 or 30 years for the past three centuries, in an ongoing trial-and-error experiment in evolving a financial system, and an ongoing battle over whose interests it will serve. To present that timeline in full will take another article, but in a nutshell we have gone from precious metal coins, to government-issued paper scrip, to privately-issued banknotes, to checkbook money, to gold-backed Federal Reserve Notes, to unbacked Federal Reserve Notes, to the “near money” created by the shadow banking system. Money has evolved from being “stored” in the form of a physical commodity, to paper representations of value, to computer bits storing information about credits and debits.

The rules have been changed before and can be changed again. Depressions, credit crises and financial collapse are not acts of God but are induced by mechanical flaws or corruption in the financial system. Credit may stop flowing, but the workers, materials and markets are still there. The system just needs a reboot.’

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Is the Fed fueling a giant stock market bubble?

John Maxfield writes for The Motley Fool:

07172014-bubble_large‘Take a good look at the chart and you’d be excused for concluding that we’re in the midst of the greatest stock market bubble of all time. Not only has the S&P 500 fully recovered from the financial crisis, it’s a staggering 30% higher than the peaks of the Internet and housing bull markets.

But is this really the case? With unemployment still above 6%, how could we find ourselves in the throes of yet another brewing catastrophe? Didn’t investors and analysts learn anything from the past decade and a half?

While it requires some explanation, the answer is that we’re most likely not experiencing another irrational inflation of stock prices. The market’s record level is instead a predictable response to the Federal Reserve’s policy of keeping interest rates at historically low levels.’

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