Category Archives: UK

Manchester’s Cold War

Tom Fordyce reports for BBC Sport:

Marcus Rashford scored the only goal in United's win at City on 20 March 2016It is a wet winter Saturday on a muddy playing field in an unprepossessing part of south Manchester. The river Mersey slides past behind a row of trees planted to provide shelter from the wind, chill gusts cutting through the gaps where saplings were torn out by local kids to sell on elsewhere.

On the pitches, children of every size are playing football: four- and five-year-olds being taught the game, three teams of under-nines, the same again of under-10s. Dogs are being walked, and dogs are being allowed to do what dogs naturally do. By the changing rooms, a woman collects subs of £2 a child, less if they have brothers or sisters playing and the extra cost would mean one of them missing out.

Old Trafford lies four miles and several worlds away, across the flat suburban streets of Stretford to the north-west. The Etihad Stadium is six miles to the north-east, beyond Rusholme and Ardwick, new oil-money-bright in an old coal town. And yet these council fields are the new front line in the battle for supremacy between United and City, and these kids – shivering, laughing, falling over and pushing past – are the trophies both clubs are fighting for.

The reasons are not hard to find. Inside the squat changing room, away from the damp patch on the ceiling where the flat roof leaks, a trophy cabinet spills its silverware on to shelves and filing cabinets either side. On the opposite wall are photos of the young-boys-made-good who won them.

Marcus Rashford, striker for United and England. Danny Welbeck, United, Arsenal and England. Wes Brown, Jesse Lingard. Ravel Morrison – made good, made bad, as innocent here aged eight as he would ever be.

READ MORE…

Don’t Blame Corbyn for the Sins of Blair, Brown and New Labour

Ken Loach writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Corbyn New Labour[…] Now let’s ask the real questions. What are the big problems people face? What is the Labour leadership’s analysis and programme? Why is Labour apparently unpopular? Who is responsible for the party’s divisions?

The problems are well rehearsed but rarely related to the leadership question. A vulnerable working class that knows job insecurity, low wages, bogus “self-employment”, poverty for many including those in work, whole regions left to rot: these are the consequences of both Tory and New Labour’s free market economics. Employers’ “flexibility” is workers’ exploitation. Public services are being dismembered, outsourced, closed down, the source of profit for a few and an impoverished society for the many. The central fact is blindingly obvious: the Blair, Brown and Peter Mandelson years were central to this degeneration. That is why Labour members voted for Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn and the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, make a different analysis, and are proposing different policies. The market will never provide a secure, dignified life for the vast majority. If there is a need but no profit, the need goes unanswered. Collectively we can plan a secure future, use new technology to benefit everyone, ensure that all regions are regenerated with real industries, and rebuild our public services and the quality of our civic life. It is a vision of a world transformed and a rejection of the bitter, divided and impoverished society we see around us.

READ MORE…

UK Refuses to Back UN Statement on Bahrain Rights Abuses

Jamie Merrill reports for Middle East Eye:

The British government has refused to back a joint United Nations statement criticising Bahrain over its deteriorating human rights record, Middle East Eye can reveal.

The Gulf kingdom has been on the receiving end of fierce international criticism after it resumed executions earlier this year, amid warnings the country was on the brink of a “human rights crisis”.

Human rights groups have described prisoners being burned with cigarettes, given electric shock and burned with irons, among other forms of torture, but to the dismay of campaigners, officials from the UK Mission to the UN in Geneva have refused to back a planned statement condemning the country’s actions.

Britain signed the last joint-resolution on Bahrain in 2015, but a foreign office source told MEE that it would refuse to back a new joint motion on the country being proposed by the Swiss government this week.

READ MORE…

With the US Distracted by Trump and the UK by Brexit, They’re About to See a Decline in Their Global Power

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent:

donald-trump.jpgBoris Yeltsin was making a presidential visit to Washington in 1995 when he was found one night outside the White House dressed only in his underpants. He explained in a slurred voice to US secret service agents that he was trying to hail a cab so he could go and buy a pizza. The following night he was discovered by a guard, who thought he was an intruder, wandering drunkenly around the basement of his official residence.

Drunk or sober, Yeltsin and his escapades became the living symbol for the world, not just of the collapse of the Soviet Union but of a dysfunctional administration in the Kremlin and the decline of Russia as a great power. It was impossible to take seriously a state whose leader was visibly inebriated much of the time and in which policy was determined by a coterie of corrupt family members and officials serving at Yeltsin’s whim.

Donald Trump is often compared to Vladimir Putin by the media which detects ominous parallels between the two men as populist nationalist leaders. The message is that Trump with his furious attacks on the media would like to emulate Putin’s authoritarianism. There is some truth in this, but when it comes to the effect on US status and power in the world, the similarities are greater between Trump and Yeltsin than between Trump and Putin.

READ MORE…

How US Billionaire Robert Mercer Helped to Back Brexit

Carole Cadwalladr reports for The Observer:

Image result for robert mercer[…] It has emerged that Robert Mercer, a hedge-fund billionaire, who helped to finance the Trump campaign and who was revealed this weekend as one of the owners of the rightwing Breitbart News Network, is a long-time friend of Nigel Farage. He directed his data analytics firm to provide expert advice to the Leave campaign on how to target swing voters via Facebook – a donation of services that was not declared to the electoral commission.

Cambridge Analytica, an offshoot of a British company, SCL Group, which has 25 years’ experience in military disinformation campaigns and “election management”, claims to use cutting-edge technology to build intimate psychometric profiles of voters to find and target their emotional triggers. Trump’s team paid the firm more than $6m (£4.8m) to target swing voters, and it has now emerged that Mercer also introduced the firm – in which he has a major stake – to Farage.

The communications director of Leave.eu, Andy Wigmore, told the Observer that the longstanding friendship between Nigel Farage and the Mercer family led Mercer to offer his help – free – to the Brexit campaign because of their shared goals. Wigmore said that he introduced Farage and Leave.eu to Cambridge Analytica: “They were happy to help. Because Nigel is a good friend of the Mercers. And Mercer introduced them to us. He said, ‘Here’s this company we think may be useful to you’. What they were trying to do in the US and what we were trying to do had massive parallels. We shared a lot of information.”

READ MORE…

How Blair and Clinton created the conditions for Brexit and Trump

Thomas G. Clark writes for Another Angry Voice:

[…] In my view the ruptures in British and American politics happened in the 1990s with the accession of Bill Clinton in 1993 and Tony Blair in 1997. These were men who inherited the Democratic Party of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Labour Party of Clement Attlee, but instead of pursuing the kind of prosperity yielding democratic socialism of their predecessors they adopted a “third way” strategy.

Clinton and Blair held onto power by slightly slowing down the radical and destructive right-wing neoliberalisation agenda rather than actively working to reverse the worst of the damage. Of course they seemed like an improvement after the chaotic crisis-ridden 1980s, but both men slowly continued the progress of the right-wing zealotry introduced by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

One of Clinton’s most overt moves towards hard-right economic dogma was a piece of legislation called the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 which exempted all manner of derivatives trading from financial regulation. a move that unleashed the frenzy of speculative derivative trading that resulted in the 2007-08 global financial sector insolvency crisis.

Aside from the extraordinarily dodgy PFI privatisation scams and the commodification of the higher education system through the introduction of student fees (aspiration taxes), one of Tory Blair’s most blatant rightward lurches saw the de facto privatisation of the Bank of England and the establishment of what turned out to be an astoundingly weak tripartite system of financial sector regulation.

READ MORE…

Who’s Paying for the UK Government’s ‘Free’ Smart Meters?

Afshin Rattansi speaks to Chris Choi, ITN’s Consumer Editor for ITV News, about why Theresa May wants the UK to spend £11 billion on so-called ‘free’ smart meters. (Going Underground)

News Corp execs visit Downing Street more than any other company in the UK

Dominic Ponsford reports for Press Gazette:

New analysis of UK government hospitality registers suggests executives from News Corp are more likely to visit Downing Street than any other company.

The Media Reform Coalition, a campaign group which objects to the the concentration of media powers in the hands of News Corp proprietor Rupert Murdoch, has compiled the data.

It has looked at the quarterly returns filed by government departments detailing meetings with outside organisations from April 2015 to September 2016. The time span covers two governments.

News Corp includes The Sun, Times and Sunday Times newspapersin the UK.

READ MORE…

How Corporate Dark Money Is Taking Power on Both Sides of the Atlantic

George Monbiot writes for The Guardian:

Image result for Corporate Dark MoneyIt took corporate America a while to warm to Donald Trump. Some of his positions, especially on trade, horrified business leaders. Many of them favoured Ted Cruz or Scott Walker. But once Trump had secured the nomination, the big money began to recognise an unprecedented opportunity.

Trump was prepared not only to promote the cause of corporations in government, but to turn government into a kind of corporation, staffed and run by executives and lobbyists. His incoherence was not a liability, but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network already developed by some American corporations was perfectly positioned to shape it. Dark money is the term used in the US for the funding of organisations involved in political advocacy that are not obliged to disclose where the money comes from. Few people would see a tobacco company as a credible source on public health, or a coal company as a neutral commentator on climate change. In order to advance their political interests, such companies must pay others to speak on their behalf.

Soon after the second world war, some of America’s richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who fund them.

We have no hope of understanding what is coming until we understand how the dark money network operates.

READ MORE…

City Lobby Group Comes Out Fighting for Global Brexit in Dramatic U-Turn

Tim Wallace reports for The Telegraph:

City of LondonThe City’s top lobby group has performed a dramatic u-turn on Brexit, scrapping its previous campaign to remain in the EU and instead hailing the vote to leave as “unprecedented opportunity” for the UK to develop a powerful new set of trade and investment policies.

The group, which represents banks, finance firms and the professional services industry, now believes that Britain’s departure from the EU represents “a once-in-a-generation opportunity” for a strategic re-think of commercial relationships with the rest of the globe.

Before the EU referendum the organisation had planned for a way to cope with Brexit just in case voters chose to leave the group of 28 nations.

But the new proposals are more than just an effort to make the best out of Brexit – in an apparently major conversion, the group actively points out the ways in which EU membership has proved to be a “straitjacket” in terms of global trade, holding Britain back from building relationships with non-EU nations.

READ MORE…

Cash, Cruises and Sex Parties: Inside Ex-HBOS Manager’s £245m Scam

Simon Goodley reports for The Guardian:

Image result for HBOS Manager's £245m Scam[…] Now it can be reported for the first time that Scourfield, 54, is corrupt,and pleaded guilty last year to six counts relating to his role in a scheme that cost the bank £245m.

On Monday his business associate David Mills, 60, who ran a small business turnaround consultancy Quayside Corporate Services (QCS), Mills’s wife. Alison, 51, plus their associates Michael Bancroft, 73, and Tony Cartwright, 72, were all convicted for their roles in helping to run Scourfield’s scam.

A sixth man, Mark Dobson, 56, who worked for Scourfield at HBOS, was also convicted, while one other defendant, Jonathan Cohen, 57, was acquitted.

Despite his absence from the courtroom having changed his plea last year, Scourfield’s presence loomed over proceedings each day of the four-month trial.s

READ MORE…

Brexit: Past the Point of No-Return

British flag and EU flag in Parliament Square in London, June 19, 2016After decades of debate, years of acrimony over the issue in the Conservative Party, months of brutal brinksmanship in Westminster, and hours of debate this week, MPs have just approved the very first step in the process of Britain leaving the European Union.

There are many hurdles ahead, probably thousands of hours of debate here, years of negotiations for Theresa May with our friends and rivals around the EU, as she seeks a deal – and possibly as long as a decade of administrative adjustments, as the country extricates itself from the EU.

On a wet Wednesday, the debate didn’t feel epoch-making, but think for a moment about what has just happened.

MPs, most of whom wanted to stay in the EU, have just agreed that we are off.

READ MORE…

UK Court Ruling on Brexit Emboldens Right-Wing of the Tory Party

Sharmini Peries speaks to economist John Weeks who discusses the recent Surpeme Court ruling that said the British Parliament must be consulted before Theresa May’s government can trigger an exit from the European Union (Article 50), and how Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has come under a lot of pressure to oppose attempts to negotiate quickly. (The Real News)

Theresa May Tells Trump U.S. and Britain Can Lead World Together Once Again

Kim Hjelmgaard reports for USA Today:

Image result for trump mayBritish Prime Minister Theresa May came Thursday to the city where the American colonies declared independence from Great Britain to reaffirm the “special relationship” the United Kingdom and United States have shared for more than two centuries.

“The leadership provided by our two countries through the ‘special relationship’ has done more than win wars and overcome adversity. It made the modern world,” May told an annual congressional retreat in Philadelphia.

“It is through our actions over many years, working together to defeat evil or to open up the world, that we have been able to fulfill the promise of those who first spoke of the special nature of the relationship between us,” she said. “The promise of freedom, liberty and the rights of man.”

May’s comments come ahead of her visit Friday to the White House, when she will bask in the political glow of being the first foreign leader to hold face-to-face talks with President Trump. The two leaders will discuss terrorism, ending Syria’s civil war, relations with Russia, NATO cooperation and a bilateral trade deal once the U.K. leaves the European Union, probably by 2019. Trade between the two countries is worth about $187 billion, and the U.S. is the largest single investor in the U.K.

READ MORE…

Seven UK National Newspapers Losing Print Sales at More Than 10% Year on Year

Dominic Ponsford reports for Press Gazette:

Seven UK national newspapers are currently losing sales at a rate of more than ten per cent year on year, according to the latest ABC figures for December.

The UK’s top selling daily, The Sun, fell 10.5 per cent year on year to an average of 1,611,464 copies per day. It has added an extra 34,000 free bulk copies year on year, meaning the paid-for sale declined by 12.6 per cent when these are taken out of the equation.

The other big fallers were: the Sunday Mirror (down 16.3 per cent), the Daily Mirror (down 11.68 per cent), Sunday People (down 15.1 per cent), Daily Star Sunday (down 13.2 per cent), Sunday Mail (down 12.7 per cent) and the Sunday Post (down 13.5 per cent).

The only titles to grow print sales year on year were The Sunday Times and The Times, helped by increased free bulk copies (often distributed at hotels and airports).

READ MORE…

Survey: When Asked Which Type of News in Newspapers They Trust, One in Three Said ‘None of It’

Freddy Mayhew reports for Press Gazette:

Almost one third of British adults believe that no type of news – from politics to crime – is reported accurately, honestly and without bias, in newspapers according to a new YouGov survey.

A total of 32 per cent of the 2,068 people surveyed online deemed no news to be “trustworthy”, with sports receiving the highest vote of confidence at 17 per cent.

The poll was carried out between 9 and 10 January on behalf of communications firm Matter PR.

Those surveyed were asked: “In general, which one, if any of the following types of news do you think tends to be most trustworthy in newspapers in the UK (i.e. print or online)?”

READ MORE…

George Osborne’s New, Ethically Dubious Job With BlackRock Investments

Grace Dent writes for The Independent:

george-osborne.jpgLike several leading panto baddies in our current brooding dystopian landscape, George Osborne doesn’t help himself – well, not in the popularity stakes at least.

Osborne, we have learned this week, will join the investment research arm of the BlackRock Investment Institute as a senior adviser this February for a six-figure sum. Osborne’s windfall comes shortly after his £600,000 autumn speaking tour in which BlackRock generously gave him £34,109 for one talk. There are no current indications that Osborne will give up his role as MP for Tatton, representing his 65,200 constituents.

My cynical self feels dubious that Osborne can remain entirely focused on the hoi polloi of South-west Manchester’s piffling agonies: their closing A&E, their HS2 worries, their superfast broadband and super-slow traffic and so on, while at the same time feathering his nest via BlackRock, but then the company’s name doesn’t help. BlackRock sounds like a twisted confederacy of steampunk nihilist megalomaniacs situated just Beyond Thunderdome. It sounds like a cannibal-strewn landmass, cursed yet useful in a military sense, to which a 17th-century sociopath played by Tom Hardy owns the deeds.

READ MORE…

CIA Fears About 1980s Labour ‘Threat’ Revealed

CIA papers naming Jeremy Corbyn as attending a meeting in San SalvadorThe Labour Party is “in the hands of urban leftists given to ideological extremes with only fringe appeal”.

That isn’t an assertion about today’s politics. It was the verdict of the US Central Intelligence Agency on Labour back in 1985, in a memo for the agency’s director on the early phase of Neil Kinnock’s leadership.

This memo is one of millions of the CIA’s historical records which have just been made available online. Previously researchers had to actually visit the US National Archives in Maryland in order to access this database of declassified documents.

The records reveal the deep level of concern inside the CIA about the strength of the Left within Labour in the early 1980s, a political force which the agency regarded as anti-American.

READ MORE…

Theresa May Reassures British and Foreign Capital Over Brexit

Sharmini Peries speaks to political scientist Leo Panitch who says leaving the European Union won’t have a major impact on capitalist globalization, but it reflects the political rise of a xenophobic right that could soon undermine the remaining environmental, labor, and social protections in Britain. (The Real News)

Jeremy Corbyn Accused of Being Russian “Collaborator” for Questioning NATO Troop Build-Up on Border

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

The leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, called for a “de-escalation” of tensions between NATO and Russia, adding in a BBC interview on Thursday: “I want to see a de-militarisation of the border between them.” Along with the U.S., the UK has been rapidly building up its military presence in the Baltic region, including states which border Russia, and is now about to send another 800 troops to Estonia, 500 of which will be permanently based.

In response, Russia has moved its own troops within its country near those borders, causing serious military tensions to rise among multiple nuclear-armed powers. Throughout 2016, the Russian and U.S. militaries have engaged in increasingly provocative and aggressive maneuvers against one another. This week, the U.S. began deploying 4,000 troops to Poland, “the biggest deployment of US troops in Europe since the end of the cold war.”

It was in this context that Corbyn said it is “unfortunate that troops have gone up to the border on both sides,” adding that “he wanted to see better relations between Russia, NATO and the EU.” The Labour leader explained that while Russia has engaged in serious human rights abuses both domestically and in Syria, there must be a “better relationships between both sides . . .  there cannot be a return to a Cold War mentality.”

The response to Corbyn’s call for better relations and de-escalation of tensions with Moscow was swift and predictable.

READ MORE…

The Spy Who Wrote the Trump-Russia Memos

David Corn writes for Mother Jones:

Last fall, a week before the election, I broke the story that a former Western counterintelligence official had sent memos to the FBI with troubling allegations related to Donald Trump. The memos noted that this spy’s sources had provided him with information indicating that Russian intelligence had mounted a yearslong operation to co-opt or cultivate Trump and had gathered secret compromising material on Trump. They also alleged that Trump and his inner circle had accepted a regular flow of intelligence from the Kremlin. These memos caused a media and political firestorm this week when CNN reported that President Barack Obama and Trump had been told about their existence, as part of briefings on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia hacked political targets during the 2016 campaign to help Trump become president. For my story in October, I spoke with the former spy who wrote these memos, under the condition that I not name him or reveal his nationality or the spy service where he had worked for nearly two decades, mostly on Russian matters.

The former spy told me that he had been retained in early June by a private research firm in the United States to look into Trump’s activity in Europe and Russia. “It started off as a fairly general inquiry,” he recalled. One question for him, he said, was, “Are there business ties in Russia?” The American firm was conducting a Trump opposition research project that was first financed by a Republican source until the funding switched to a Democratic one. The former spy said he was never told the identity of the client.

The former intelligence official went to work and contacted his network of sources in Russia and elsewhere. He soon received what he called “hair-raising” information. His sources told him, he said, that Trump had been “sexually compromised” by Russian intelligence in 2013 (when Trump was in Moscow for the Miss Universe contest) or earlier and that there was an “established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit.” He noted he was “shocked” by these allegations. By the end of June, he was sending reports of what he was finding to the American firm.

READ MORE…

The Spy Who Compiled The Golden Showers Dossier Helped Bring Down Sepp Blatter

Patrick Redford reports for Dead Spin:

A day after Donald Trump held a press conference to decry Buzzfeed’s reporting, spout nonsensically about how he doesn’t do treason, and claim that he wouldn’t take part in a golden shower party because he’s a germaphobe, the Wall Street Journal has reported the identity of the British spy who helped compile the explosive dossier.

Christopher Steele is the 52-year-old owner of a London-based private security company, but he previously served in MI6, posing as a diplomat in Russia and Paris. The English FA hired Steele’s private security firm to investigate FIFA corruption while it was still in the running to host the 2018 or 2022 World Cups. England was unsuccessful in its attempts to delegitimize Russia or Qatar’s bids, but in the summer of 2010, Steele reportedly supplied the FBI with information about the widespread corruption within FIFA.

According to Reuters, the FBI came to him in 2010 and the information he supplied helped spur on the FBI’s investigation.

READ MORE…

The Story of the Trump Dossier: Secret Sources, an Airport Rendezvous, and John McCain

Julian Borger reports for The Guardian:

Image result for The Story of the Trump DossierThe extraordinary but unverified documents published on Tuesday on Donald Trump’s ties with Moscow began life as a piece of opposition research, which has become as much a part of US politics as yard signs and coloured balloons.

There is a small industry of research and investigative firms in Washington, typically staffed by a mix of former journalists and security officials, adept at finding information about politicians that the politicians would rather stay hidden. The firms often do not know who exactly is hiring them; the request could come from a law firm acting on behalf of a client from one of the parties.

In this case, the request for opposition research on Donald Trump came from one of his Republican opponents in the primary campaign. The research firm then hired one of its sub-contractors who it used regularly on all things Russian: a retired western European former counter-intelligence official, with a long history of dealing with the shadow world of Moscow’s spooks and siloviki (securocrats).

READ MORE…

Christopher Steele: Super-Spy or Dodgy Dossier Writer?

Adam Lusher writes for The Independent:

christopher-steele-1.jpgAccording to his publicly-available LinkedIn profile, Christopher Steele never existed before he co-founded Orbis Business Intelligence, a “corporate intelligence consultancy” providing “strategic insight, intelligence and investigative services”.

There is no mention of the 52-year-old’s life before 2009, when he and Orbis took up offices in Belgravia, one of the wealthiest districts in London, and indeed the world.

The man behind the explosive dossier on US President-elect Donald Trump is proving equally elusive in the flesh, as well as online. “Terrified for his safety”, he is reported to have driven from his home in the south of England having asked a neighbour to look after his cat because he would be “gone for a few days”.

Now, though, some sources have started to fill in the gaps in the secretive Mr Steele’s CV.

READ MORE…

If Another Country Had a Press Law Like Section 40, Britain Would Condemn it for Persecuting Journalists

Rachael Jolley, editor of Index on Censorship magazine, writes for The Telegraph:

gagged manFor years Index of Censorship has monitored state interference in news reporting, from the authoritarian Chile in 1970s to North Korea today. With a history of scrutinising government pressure on media, we were never going to join Impress, the new state-approved UK press regulator.

There should always be a clear distance between any government and journalists that report on it. Again and again Index has reported how governments have set up bodies that stop the media covering stories they don’t like.

[…] The UK Government is considering triggering Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which will ratchet up pressure to self-censor. This repressive legislation would pressurise newspapers to avoid the controversial and not publish things others would rather were not heard.

If such laws were introduced in another country, British politicians would be speaking out against such shocking media censorship. There’s no doubt that authoritarian powers will use this example to bolster their own cases in imposing media regulation.

READ MORE…

Over 5,000 Hacked Off Supporters Urge UK Government to Enact Section 40 as Consultation Deadline Looms

Dominic Ponsford reports for Press Gazette:

More than 5,000 individuals have responded to the Government consultation calling for it enact Section 40 in full thus forcing UK publishers into a state-backed system of press regulation.

This is the number who have responded through the form on the website of campaign group Hacked Off.

Set against this there has been a mountain of opposition against enacting Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act voiced by UK news publishers.

Section 40 states that news publishers who are not signed up to a press regulator which complies with Parliament’s Royal Charter on press regulation must pay both sides’ costs in libel and privacy actions that they win.

The law has been kept on ice by the Government since it was passed by Parliament in 2013. A Government consultation which asks whether it should finally enact Section 40, reform it or scrap it closes on Tuesday 10 January.

READ MORE…

Nomi Prins: My Political-Financial Road Map for 2017

Nomi Prins, former managing director at Goldman Sachs and author of All The Presidents’ Bankers, writes:

Happy New Year! May yours be peaceful, safe and impactful!

As tumultuous as last year was from a global political perspective on the back of a rocky start market-wise, 2017 will be much more so. The central bank subsidization of the financial system (especially in the US and Europe) that began with the Fed invoking zero interest rate policy in 2008, gave way to international distrust of the enabling status quo that unfolded in different ways across the planet. My prognosis is for more destabilization, financially and politically.  In other words, the world’s a mess.

Over 2016, I circled the earth to gain insight and share my thoughts on this path from financial crisis to central bank market manipulation to geo-political fall out, while researching my new book, Artisans of Money. (I’m pressing to hand in my manuscript by February 28th – the book should emerge in the Fall.)

I traveled through countries Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, England and Germany, nations epitomizing various elements of the artisanal money effect. I spoke with farmers, teachers and truck-drivers as well as politicians, private and central bankers. I explored that chasm between news and reality to investigate the ways in which elite power endlessly permeates the existence of regular people.

In last year’s roadmap, I wrote we were in a “transitional phase of geo-political-monetary power struggles, capital flow decisions, and fundamental economic choices. This remains a period of artisanal (central bank fabricated) money, high volatility, low growth, excessive wealth inequality, extreme speculation, and policies that preserve the appearance of big bank liquidity and concentration at the expense of long-term stability.”

That happened. Going forward, as always, there’s endless amount of information to process. The state of economies, citizens and governments remains more precarious than ever. Major areas on the upcoming docket include – central bank desperation, corporate defaults and related job losses, economic impact of political isolationism, conservatism and deregulation, South America’s woes, Europe’s EU voter rejections, and the ongoing power shift from the West to the East.

For now, I’d like to share with you some specific items – which are by no means exhaustive, that I’ll be analyzing in 2017.

READ MORE…

Get Ready For Another Year of Global Tumult

Stephen Collinson reports for CNN:

Image result for Get ready for another year of global tumultThe political tumult that rocked the world in 2016 might be an appetizer for 2017.

Crucial elections loom this year in France and Germany, where the same anti-establishment backlash that produced Donald Trump and Brexit could offer an opening to nationalist leaders who oppose Muslim immigration and further erode the European unity that has been a signature of the post-World War II era.

The Middle East is spiraling deeper into the mire of fraying borders and sectarian disorder while violence in places such Syria is unleashing a tide of desperate refugees that is destabilizing Europe. Meanwhile, rising powers such as China, Russia and Iran are closely watching the developments to determine whether the convulsions in the West give them an opening to advance their own interests.

Of course, the 15 years since the September 11 attacks have been dominated by war, strife and economic disruption. But what makes 2017 so unique is that America — long a force for stability — is poised to inaugurate one of the most impulsive presidents ever to walk into the Oval Office.

READ MORE…

It’s the ‘Most Volatile’ Year for Political Risk Since WWII, Eurasia Group Says

Rainer Buergin reports for Bloomberg:

Image result for It’s the ‘Most Volatile’ Year for Political Risk Since WWII, Eurasia Group SaysU.S. unilateralism under Donald Trump, China’s growing assertiveness and a weakened German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make 2017 the “most volatile” year for political risk since World War II, according to Eurasia Group.

“In 2017 we enter a period of geopolitical recession,” the New York-based company said in its annual outlook. International war or “the breakdown of major central government institutions” isn’t inevitable, though “such an outcome is now thinkable.”

With Trump’s ascent to the presidency on an America First platform, the global economy can’t count on the U.S. to provide “guardrails” anymore, according to Eurasia, which advises investors on political risk. Trump’s signals of a thaw with Russia, skepticism toward the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and his “alignment” with European anti-establishment parties such as France’s National Front could weaken the main postwar alliance protecting the global order, according to the report released Tuesday.

READ MORE…

UK Companies ‘Linked to Azerbaijan Pipeline Bribery Scandal’

Jamie Doward reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Azerbaijan pipeline bribery scandalFour British companies are alleged to have played a key part in a multimillion pound bribery scandal involving a leading Italian politician.

Luca Volontè, a former member of the Union of the Centre party in Italy, has been accused of helping quash a human rights report criticising Azerbaijan, one of the world’s most authoritarian countries. The Observer has also established that one of the UK companies was allegedly linked to a scandal involving Russian organised crime.

Volontè, who is also president of the European People’s party in the Council of Europe, is being investigated by the Milan public prosecutor’s office for allegedly accepting €2.39m in bribes.

It is claimed that Volontè received the money in exchange for persuading the People’s party to vote against a 2013 report by the council, Europe’s leading human rights organisation, that highlighted the plight of political prisoners in Azerbaijan. He denies any wrongdoing.

READ MORE…