Sharmini Peries speaks to Deborah James, Director of International Programs at CEPR, who discusses TiSA. (The Real News)
Today, Swedish prosecutors were meant to question Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy, something for which the Assange legal team has been pressing for years. They believe that once this step has been taken, prosecutors will no longer be able to keep from the scrutiny of Swedish courts the fact that there is no viable evidence whatsoever to back up the ludicrous allegations which have been made.
Frustratingly, Swedish prosecutors cancelled the interview last week, with no explanation given. Anyone would think they do not wish the investigation to progress… Then this same day Assange’s internet access is cut, WikiLeaks say by a state actor. To add to this string of coincidence, at the same time Russia Today has its bank accounts frozen by the Royal Bank of Scotland, again without explanation
This series of events are all aimed at those who seek to counter the neo-con narrative pumped out by the state and corporate media. It could be coincidence, but it looks like co-ordinated clampdown to me.
The UK has frozen all bank accounts owned by Russia’s state-run broadcaster, Russia Today (RT), its editor-in-chief has claimed.
Margarita Simonyan tweeted: “They’ve closed our accounts in Britain. All our accounts. ‘The decision is not subject to review.’ Praise be to freedom of speech!”
RT has previously been sanctioned by Ofcom for biased reporting on the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
A group of almost 500 businesses suing the Royal Bank of Scotland for allegedly destroying their firms and seizing their assets is threatening legal action against the Financial Conduct Authority if it does not immediately publish its long-awaited report into the scandal.
The central allegation of the so-called “Dash for Cash” scandal was that firms – in some cases healthy ones – were preyed on by RBS which effectively bankrupted the companies, bought the assets and made a profit from their suffering. RBS denies the allegations. David Stewart, spokesman for the RBS GRG Business Action Group, said:“Unless the FCA gives an immediate commitment to publishing the Section 166 report, we will initiate judicial review proceedings against them.”
The FCA, the financial regulator, launched a probe into the Dash for Cash scandal in January 2014. The report, produced by consultants Promontory and Mazars, was handed to the FCA in late summer but the regulator only confirmed receipt on October 5.
Much was made in this week’s Commons debate on Syria of the need for a no-fly zone over Aleppo. Given that the Syrian government and the Russians have a monopoly of air power over the city, the idea of denting or deterring it might seem attractive. Hillary Clinton also advocated such a zone in Sunday’s presidential TV debate.
In 1991 the US and Britain imposed a successful no-fly zone over northern Iraq to protect the Kurds. But they were already at war with Saddam Hussein, having just defeated him in Kuwait. Saddam was on his own internationally, despised and isolated. He had no support from Russia or any Arab allies. The last thing he wanted was to confront the US any further. Enforcing a no-fly zone (even though it had no clear UN security council authorisation) involved no risk to the US or UK. Saddam made little effort to resist and not one of their manned aircraft was shot down.
Today’s situation in Syria is different. The Syrian air force is fully engaged and will not back down in its campaign to defeat its enemies in Aleppo. After three years of military stalemate, Bashar al-Assad feels he has regained the upper hand and is determined to retake his country’s largest city.
More importantly, the Russians are also active in the air. Imposing a no-fly zone unilaterally (it would never gain a security council mandate) would be a declaration of war on Russia as well as on Assad.
What greater indictment of a system could there be than an epidemic of mental illness? Yet plagues of anxiety, stress, depression, social phobia, eating disorders, self-harm and loneliness now strike people down all over the world. The latest, catastrophic figures for children’s mental health in England reflect a global crisis.
There are plenty of secondary reasons for this distress, but it seems to me that the underlying cause is everywhere the same: human beings, the ultrasocial mammals, whose brains are wired to respond to other people, are being peeled apart. Economic and technological change play a major role, but so does ideology. Though our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the lives of others, everywhere we are told that we will prosper through competitive self-interest and extreme individualism.
In Britain, men who have spent their entire lives in quadrangles – at school, at college, at the bar, in parliament – instruct us to stand on our own two feet. The education system becomes more brutally competitive by the year. Employment is a fight to the near-death with a multitude of other desperate people chasing ever fewer jobs. The modern overseers of the poor ascribe individual blame to economic circumstance. Endless competitions on television feed impossible aspirations as real opportunities contract.
Consumerism fills the social void. But far from curing the disease of isolation, it intensifies social comparison to the point at which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. Social media brings us together and drives us apart, allowing us precisely to quantify our social standing, and to see that other people have more friends and followers than we do.
Thousands of confidential documents obtained by Newsnight and BuzzFeed News reveal how the bank systematically squeezed struggling businesses with fees and higher interest rates. RBS said it had let some small business customers down in the past but denied it deliberately caused them to fail. Andy Verity reports. (BBC Newsnight)
The Royal Bank of Scotland killed or crippled thousands of businesses during the recession as a result of a deliberate plan to add billions of pounds to its balance sheet, according to a leaked cache of thousands of secret documents.
The RBS Files – revealed today by BuzzFeed News and BBC Newsnight – lay bare the secret policies under which firms were pushed into the bank’s feared troubled-business unit, Global Restructuring Group (GRG), which chased profits by hitting them with massive fees and fines and by snapping up their assets at rock-bottom prices.
The internal documents starkly contradict the bank’s public insistence that GRG acted as an “intensive care unit” for ailing firms, tasked with restructuring their loan agreements to “help them back to health”.
RBS has repeatedly denied allegations that it destroyed healthy businesses for profit – first raised in a damning report on its treatment of small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by the government adviser Lawrence Tomlinson three years ago. The bank paid the magic circle law firm Clifford Chance to conduct an “independent investigation” that found “no evidence” of the claims, and an official inquiry by the banking regulator has been long delayed.
The RBS Files now reveal for the first time that, under pressure from the government, the taxpayer-owned bank ran down businesses in its restructuring unit as part of a deliberate, premeditated strategy to cut lending and bolster profits. And they show that GRG, ignoring repeated warnings about conflict of interest, collaborated closely with the bank’s own property division, West Register, to buy up heavily discounted assets it had forced its customers to sell.
In the early hours of a Sunday morning this June, Omar Mateen walked into Latin Night at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub and opened fire. This was a space that often served as a refuge for the area’s LGBTQ community, but by the time daylight broke, 50 people were dead and another 53 wounded. Speaking from the White House hours later that day, President Obama told reporters that the attack appeared to be “an example of the kind of homegrown extremism that all of us have been concerned about.”
The attack rightfully outraged the American public. But the bloodshed that day was just the latest example of how the war on terror has changed since 9/11, when the greatest threat was generally understood to come from outside America’s borders. Like that in Orlando, the attack on the Boston Marathon, and more recently in Brussels and in Paris have highlighted the fact that acts of terrorism are often committed by people born or raised in our communities. Governments from the United Kingdom to the United States and beyond have sought to address this emerging phenomenon by establishing multiagency programs to help them identify who might be vulnerable extremism.
But is it ethical—or even possible—to determine who’s a terrorist in the making?
[…] Normally, dramatic drops like this are triggered by major news events, such a declaration of war or a monumental political development. But experts say this incident was likely the result of trading algorithms that were reacting to recent comments made by French President Francois Hollande, who called for tougher Brexit negotiations.
“Apparently it was a rogue algorithm that triggered the sell-off after it picked up comments made by the French President, Francois Hollande, who said if Theresa May and [company] want hard Brexit, they will get hard Brexit,” noted Kathleen Brooks, research director at City Index.
She says that some modern algorithms trade on the back of news sites, and even on what’s trending on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. “[A] deluge of negative Brexit headlines could have led to an algo taking that as a major sell signal for GBP,” said Brooks. “Once the pound started moving lower than more technical algos could have followed suit.”
High frequency stock trading is a form of rapid-fire trading that involves algorithms, or bots, that can make decisions on the order of milliseconds. They’re guided by factors such as time, price, some fancy math—and even headline news. Compared to these lightning-fast traders, humans are slower by an order of magnitude, which means we’re increasingly being left out of the loop. Stock trading represents the first major domain in which we’re getting AI to do most of the work, and an entirely new digital ecology is emerging.
The British government and the UK arms industry have a “politically intimate and hugely compromising relationship” that sees government officials working “hand in glove” with companies promoting weapons exports, according to campaigners who have tracked thousands of meetings between officials and arms trade representatives.
Officials from the government’s dedicated arms export department, the Defence and Security Organisation (DSO), attended more than 1,000 meetings since the 2010 election – more than a third of all meetings recorded by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which has published data on contact between the government and the arms industry.
The data reveals how crucial the export of British-made weapons and security equipment – totalling £8bn last year – has become to both government and the industry, ensuring that Britain is among the world’s largest arms exporters.
“The government may talk about the importance of human rights, but its role is absolutely central to the UK arms trade,” said a CAAT spokesman, Andrew Smith.
Afshin Rattansi speaks to former Shadow Schools Minister Nic Dakin, and upcoming member of Labour’s NEC Claudia Webbe, about Britain’s Labour Party leadership contest and who will be leader of the party when the votes are counted this weekend. (Going Underground)
For three decades, a bizarre offender has racked up dozens of court appearances and several spells in prison over a strange fetish that drives him to touch young men’s muscles.
Across the North West, Akinwale Arobieke has become a modern-day bogeyman and an internet sensation, and now a court order that curtailed his activities has been lifted.
Crispin Blunt, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, on Whether War Should Have Waged on Libya
Afshin Rattansi speaks to British MP Crispin Blunt, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, about the new report on the 2011 military intervention in Libya. (Going Underground)
David Cameron’s intervention in Libya was carried out with no proper intelligence analysis, drifted into an unannounced goal of regime change and shirked its moral responsibility to help reconstruct the country following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, according to a scathing report by the foreign affairs select committee.
The failures led to the country becoming a failed a state on the verge of all-out civil war, the report adds.
The report, the product of a parliamentary equivalent of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, closely echoes the criticisms widely made of Tony Blair’s intervention in Iraq, and may yet come to be as damaging to Cameron’s foreign policy legacy.
It concurs with Barack Obama’s assessment that the intervention was “a shitshow”, and repeats the US president’s claim that France and Britain lost interest in Libya after Gaddafi was overthrown. The findings are also likely to be seized on by Donald Trump, who has tried to undermine Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy credentials by repeatedly condemning her handling of the Libyan intervention in 2011, when she was US secretary of state.
- Cameron ‘ultimately responsible’ for Libya collapse and the rise of Isis, Commons report concludes
- UK must do more to stop migrants from Libya drowning due to its role in country’s collapse, say MPs
- Libya mission failed because West didn’t intervene enough, says former UK army chief
- Libya is another tragic example of Cameron’s folly. History will not judge him kindly
- I watched from the ground as a British PM with no plan led a country into anarchy
- How Libya is slowly becoming ‘Somalia on the Med’
[…] The post-9/11 conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq were fought in the full glare of the media and came to haunt the politicians who had initiated them. Despite this, Britain continued to invest in war – politically, technically and financially – as a means of projecting power and securing influence among key allies, and also, it seemed at times, in an attempt to impose order and a degree of familiarity upon a chaotic and unpredictable world.
But could this be done in secret? Surely, in the age of global media, 24-hour rolling news, social media, and the troops’ own ability to record and instantly share images of conflict, it would be impossible for a British government to go to war and conceal its actions, in the way that Britain’s war in Dhofar was hidden from the public for six-and-a-half years? Tony Jeapes, who commanded the first SAS squadron that was covertly deployed to Oman, considered this question, and concluded that while such secrecy was “an ideal state of affairs”, it would probably be impossible to repeat.
In the years since the Dhofar war, the UK’s special forces have been gradually expanded, and since 1996, all its members have been obliged to sign a confidentiality agreement. This has reinforced the discretion with which members of elite units within the military traditionally perform their duties, and it has rarely been broken.
Meanwhile, the evolution of successive generations of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, has presented military planners with greater opportunities to mount operations that could remain unknown, other than to those who are ordering, planning and executing them, and to those on the receiving end.
The reliance of modern societies on the internet and the increasing frequency with which states probe and attack each other’s cyber defences have led some analysts to talk of a hybrid warfare, much of which is shrouded in deniability. The result is that the line between war and peace is increasingly blurred.
The radical shift in the NSA’s surveillance strategy to “collect it all” began in the UK, according to new revelations in the latest cache of documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
During a June 2008 visit to the Menwith Hill monitoring station in North Yorkshire, then-director of the NSA Keith Alexander asked: “Why can’t we collect all the signals, all the time?” He went on: “Sounds like a good summer homework project for Menwith!”
Menwith Hill Station—which formerly monitored Soviet signals and is now the NSA’s largest overseas spying base—expanded greatly in the wake of Alexander’s challenge, as The Intercept reports in its coverage of the new Snowden documents.
[…] Top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept offer an unprecedented glimpse behind Menwith Hill’s razor wire fence. The files reveal for the first time how the NSA has used the British base to aid “a significant number of capture-kill operations” across the Middle East and North Africa, fueled by powerful eavesdropping technology that can harvest data from more than 300 million emails and phone calls a day.
Over the past decade, the documents show, the NSA has pioneered groundbreaking new spying programs at Menwith Hill to pinpoint the locations of suspected terrorists accessing the internet in remote parts of the world. The programs — with names such as GHOSTHUNTER and GHOSTWOLF — have provided support for conventional British and American military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they have also aided covert missions in countries where the U.S. has not declared war. NSA employees at Menwith Hill have collaborated on a project to help “eliminate” terrorism targets in Yemen, for example, where the U.S. has waged a controversial drone bombing campaign that has resulted in dozens of civilian deaths.
The disclosures about Menwith Hill raise new questions about the extent of British complicity in U.S. drone strikes and other so-called targeted killing missions, which may in some cases have violated international laws or constituted war crimes. Successive U.K. governments have publicly stated that all activities at the base are carried out with the “full knowledge and consent” of British officials.
The number of prosecutions relating to violence against women and girls in England and Wales reached a record level last year, the director of public prosecutions said, as she warned of the increasing use of social media to threaten and control.
Alison Saunders said the ease with which such crimes could be committed online was contributing to the increase in prosecutions. The number of offences against women, including domestic abuse, rape and sexual assaults, rose by almost 10% to 117,568 in 2015-6.
Speaking to the Guardian as the Crown Prosecution Service published its annual report on violence against women and girls, Saunders said: “The use of the internet, social media and other forms of technology to humiliate, control and threaten individuals is rising and it is something that we will possibly see increase further. It is undoubtedly easier to commit a lot of these crimes online, people do it without thinking, it is more immediate and it is about the reach and ability to communicate to so many more people.”
[…] Middle East Eye travelled to Yemen as part of our own assessment of breaches of humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition.
We discovered indisputable evidence that the coalition, backed by the UK as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, is targeting Yemeni civilians in blatant breach of the rules of war.
We saw evidence of the pitiless destruction of Yemeni homes by Saudi air strikes. We spoke to many of the survivors of these air assaults from the Saudi-led coalition, hearing harrowing stories of how they fled from their homes.
We also saw first-hand how the Saudis are carrying out sinister “double tap” air strikes.
This euphemism describes the practice of launching a preliminary strike, then launching a fresh attack when the emergency services come to pull the wounded from the rubble. This cruel strategy makes civilians victims twice over and kills them at the precise moment when they hope for rescue.
We were also told by doctors that the blockade of Yemen, legitimised by the United Nations Security Council, and backed by Britain and the United States to prevent arms supplies reaching the warring sides, has also prevented vital drugs and medical equipment from reaching the country.
Britain is now the second biggest arms dealer in the world, official government figures show – with most of the weapons fuelling deadly conflicts in the Middle East.
Since 2010 Britain has also sold arms to 39 of the 51 countries ranked “not free” on the Freedom House “Freedom in the world” report, and 22 of the 30 countries on the UK Government’s own human rights watch list.
A full two-thirds of UK weapons over this period were sold to Middle Eastern countries, where instability has fed into increased risk of terror threats to Britain and across the West.
Meanwhile statistics collated by UK Trade and Investment, a government body that promotes British exports abroad, show the UK has sold more arms than Russia, China, or France on average over the last 10 years. Only the United States is a bigger exporter.
A BBC investigation has uncovered a catalogue of safety concerns at the UK’s most hazardous nuclear site.
Panorama found parts of Sellafield regularly have too few staff to operate safely and that radioactive materials have been stored in degrading plastic bottles.
The programme was told that parts of the facility are dangerously rundown.
Sellafield says the site in Cumbria is safe and has been improved with significant investment in recent years.
The Panorama investigation was prompted by a whistle-blower – a former senior manager who was worried by conditions.
Populism is rampant. Donald Trump is a contender for the US presidency. Marine Le Pen fancies her chances in France. Across Europe and beyond there is a powerful sense of mainstream politics reaching a state of abject failure. These are volatile, dangerous times: what with all that shouting about greedy, cosseted elites, people close to the summit of power and influence surely ought to be very wary of playing to type.
But just look. This week the petition protesting at José Manuel Barroso, a former president of the European commission, taking a new job as a nonexecutive chairman and adviser to Goldman Sachs International surpassed 75,000 signatures. It is the work of employees of the EU, whose horror at Barroso’s move is captured in its preamble, and reference to the “European project’s deteriorating image among our families, friends and neighbours as well as the many citizens we encounter all over Europe”. They are aiming at 150,000 signatories, and want the appointment to be referred to the European court of justice, which could theoretically take away Barroso’s €100,000-a-year pension.
How much he’ll be paid is unclear. But in a role partly built around advice about the consequences of Brexit, Barroso will be working for the bank that played a key role in the US subprime crisis, and helped Greece mask its fatal debt problems. The whole spectacle suggests a man gleefully posing for his own caricature, and it is hardly unique: indeed, highlighting a revolving door that never stops turning, his predecessor at Goldman Sachs International was Ireland’s former EU commissioner Peter Sutherland.
[…] During the fascist regime of General Franco in Spain, to display the Catalan flag was to risk death or imprisonment. The only place where the Catalans could safely fly these fags was Barcelona’s Nou Camp stadium. Barcelona FC now embodies Catalan identity and pride. Wherever there is oppression in the world, football, by its very nature, can provide a vehicle for expressing pride in a national cause. It was never only ever about football.
Celtic supporters know this too. Their club was founded in 1887 and played its first game in 1888 to raise funds for the relief of the poor Irish who had gathered in the East End of Glasgow. When they arrived in the city they initially faced resentment, discrimination and squalor. Every time Celtic won a game their suffering was eased a little.
In Scotland, those days are long departed. In Palestine, though, another oppressed people is suffering. Perhaps now because of a simple act of solidarity and generosity, they will know that they don’t suffer alone.
- Palestinian refugees record thank you video for Celtic
- St Etienne follows Celtic in staging Palestine flag display
- How deep is the connection between Celtic fans and Palestine?
- Celtic fans raise more than £130,000 for Palestinian charities after flag protest
- Celtic fans share their views on Uefa fine and fundraising for Palestinian charities
- Celtic fans warned not to fly Palestinian flags at match in Israel
What a thrill to see new life breathed into the buddy demagogue movie in Jackson, Mississippi, on Wednesday night. You only had to look at Nigel Farage’s little face to see how thrilled he was at the chance to play the Danny Glover to Donald Trump’s Mel Gibson. As for Trump, he was all over Nigel’s cheap suit like a cheap suit.
I still find it impossible to imagine Trump touching anyone except his daughter without pulling the full Mariah Carey and screaming for the hand sanitiser the second he’s offstage. But Mr Soon-They-Will-Be-Calling-Me-Mr-Brexit made an excellent fist of embracing Mr Brexit for his crowds of occasionally bemused supporters. A fanfare for the little people ensued.
I’m sure Farage’s life wants him back and everything, but duty calls.
This week found the outgoing Ukip leader shaving off his gap year moustache and going all the way to that America. He was joined by his backer, Arron Banks – still growing into the role of kingmaker, it must be said – though the pair left their immigrant wives at home, so we were denied the spectacle of a bilateral with Melania. (Incidentally, why do so many of our most frothingly anti-immigrant elite populists seem to have immigrant wives? I find all my non-scientific answers to be entirely unprintable. Perhaps an academic study could put it mildly.)
Since early 2015, over a dozen UK companies have been granted licenses to export powerful telecommunications interception technology to countries around the world, Motherboard has learned. Many of these exports include IMSI-catchers, devices which can monitor large numbers of mobile phones over broad areas.
Some of the UK companies were given permission to export their products to authoritarian states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Egypt; countries with poor human rights records that have been well-documented to abuse surveillance technology.
“At a time when the use of these surveillance tools is still highly controversial in the UK, it is completely unacceptable that companies are allowed to export the same equipment to countries with atrocious human rights records or which lack rule of law altogether. There is absolutely a clear risk that these products can be used for repression and abuses,” Edin Omanovic, research officer at Privacy International, told Motherboard in an email.
Europe is heading towards a “cataclysmic event” that could lead to the collapse of the euro and the end of the European project as we know it, according to Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
In an interview with Business Insider following the launch of his latest book “The Euro: How A Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe” — which argues that the European single currency will inevitably cease to be at some point in the future unless drastic changes are made — Stiglitz said that a “disastrous” political event similar to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union could trigger such a collapse.
“I think the most likely thing is something along the lines of a political cataclysmic event like Brexit. In other words, the eurozone’s member countries are democracies and one sees increasing hostility to the euro, which is unfortunately spilling over to a broader hostility to the broader European project and liberal values,” Stiglitz told BI from his office in New York.
Stiglitz continued: “That’s going to be the end. What’s going to happen is that there will be a definite consensus that Europe is not working. The diagnosis will be to shed the currency and keep the rest, or that Europe is not working and a broader rejection — like in the UK.
“So my worry that this is precisely that kind of political event [something like Brexit] is that is what will be the catalyst for change.”
- Renzi: ‘This is my priority, my dream, and my nightmare’
- Italy is imploding in slow-motion — and it could signal the end of the euro
- Forget Brexit — Italy is poised to tear Europe apart
- CEO of the world’s oldest bank is reportedly under investigation for market manipulation
- The European bank stress test just revealed how awful things look for the world’s oldest bank
- The oldest bank on earth just agreed a rescue deal backed by JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank
- Italy is putting €5 billion behind its weakest banks to spur new lending
A powerful coalition of Manchester’s political and civic leaders have used the anniversary of the bloody Peterloo Massacre on 16 August to confront Manchester City Football Club’s Emirati owners over human rights abuses in the oil-rich kingdom.
In an open letter published on Tuesday, Manchester-based politicians, legal experts and campaign groups wrote to the club’s owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, demanding the UAE release political prisoners, investigate allegations of torture and commit to respecting human rights.
The UAE has had close financial ties to Manchester since Mansour purchased the football club in 2008. He has since invested more than £1bn ($1.3bn) in the team, as UAE-backed firms signed a string of deals in the city, including a $1.3bn regeneration partnership with Manchester City Council.
However, rights groups and senior figures in Manchester, including local MPs and two high-profile barristers who represented some of the families in the inquiry into the Hillsborough football disaster, are increasingly concerned about the financial ties to one of the city’s Premier League clubs, given the deteriorating human rights situation in the UAE.
Jeremy Corbyn has won local party nominations by a landslide in the Labour leadership contest, with 84% of constituency nominations at the final count.
The Labour leader won the support of 285 constituency Labour parties (CLPs), with his rival, Owen Smith, taking just 53 nominations.
Corbyn has more than doubled his support among local parties since the 2015 contest, though there were four candidates then rather than two. In 2015, he won support from 39% of CLPs.
Since then, he has taken support from CLPs who nominated all three other candidates in 2015 – Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall – across the political spectrum in the party.