It has been a while since both Ukraine, and the ongoing Russian response to western sanctions (which set off the great Eurasian axis in motion, pushing China and Russia close together, and accelerating the "Holy Grail" gas deal between the two countries) have made headlines. It is still not clear just why the western media dropped Ukraine coverage like a hot potato, especially since the civil war in Ukraine's Donbas continues to rage and claim dozens of casualties on both sides. Perhaps the audience has simply gotten tired of hearing about mixed chess/checkers game between Putin vs Obama, and instead has reverted to reading the propaganda surrounding just as deadly events in the third war of Iraq in as many decades. However, "out of sight" may be just what Russia's political elite wants.
Another conspiracy "theory" becomes conspiracy "fact" as The FT reports "a cluster of central banking investors has become major players on world equity markets." The report, to be published this week by the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF), confirms $29.1tn in market investments, held by 400 public sector institutions in 162 countries, which "could potentially contribute to overheated asset prices." China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange has become “the world’s largest public sector holder of equities”, according to officials, and we suspect the Fed is close behind (courtesy of more levered positions at Citadel), as the world's banks try to diversify themselves and "counters the monopoly power of the dollar." Which leaves us wondering where are the central bank 13Fs? While most have assumed that this is likely, the recent exuberance in stocks has largely been laid at the foot of another irrational un-economic actor - the corporate buyback machine. However, as The FT reports, what we have speculated as fact for many years now (given the death cross of irrationality, plunging volumes, lack of engagement, and of course dwindling credibility of central planners)... is now fact...
Under the guise of seeking higher inflation to “stimulate” the economy (and erode the value of people’s savings even more quickly), the European Central Bank (ECB) announced negative interest rates on deposits held at the bank — the first time a major monetary authority has ever set the rate below zero. If that proves to be not enough in its supposed battle against “deflation” or “not enough” inflation, the central planners at the eurozone central bank are threatening to do still more. Already, they are talking about potentially even starting up their own Federal Reserve-style “quantitative easing” gimmicks to gobble up real assets with fiat currency conjured out of thin air. Critics, though, are warning of disaster.
The United States Of Debt: Total Debt In America Hits A New Record High Of Nearly 60 Trillion Dollars
What would you say if I told you that Americans are nearly 60 TRILLION dollars in debt? Well, it is true. When you total up all forms of debt including government debt, business debt, mortgage debt and consumer debt, we are 59.4 trillion dollars in debt. That is an amount of money so large that it is difficult to describe it with words. For example, if you were alive when Jesus Christ was born and you had spent 80 million dollars every single day since then, you still would not have spent 59.4 trillion dollars by now. And most of this debt has been accumulated in recent decades. If you go back 40 years ago, total debt in America was sitting at about 2.2 trillion dollars. Somehow over the past four decades we have allowed the total amount of debt in the United States to get approximately 27 times larger. This is utter insanity, and anyone that thinks this is sustainable is completely deluded. We are living in the greatest debt bubble of all time, and there is no way that this is going to end well.
The Chinese, on the other hand, would have a much harder time if Iraq’s 3.7% of global production suddenly went offline. China, which is increasingly dependent on energy imports, is now that country’s largest foreign customer, taking an average 1.5 million barrels a day, almost half of Iraq’s production. China National Petroleum Corp., a state enterprise, swooped up Iraqi oil after last decade’s war—Beijing, by the way, sold arms that ended up in the hands of insurgents fighting Americans—by accepting Baghdad’s razor-thin margins and onerous conditions. Then, many said it was China that won the Iraq War because it signed the major oil deals afterwards. As a result, Beijing now has a lot riding on the outcome in Iraq as ISIS takes on the Shiite-dominated ruling group in Baghdad. No wonder the Chinese Foreign Ministry in recent days has been coming out with announcements supporting the Maliki government.
Global financial private wealth grew by 14.6 percent in 2013, according to a new report by The Boston Consulting Group. The surge, concentrated in the hands of the billionaires and millionaires of the world, has been driven by the policy of the Obama administration and other governments to pump cheap cash into the hands of the major banks and stock markets. Private financial wealth, as defined by the Boston Consulting Group, “includes cash and deposits, money market funds, and listed securities…life and pension assets, and other onshore and offshore assets.” However, it does not include “investors’ own businesses, any real estate, and luxury goods.”
Washington's Blog: Sorry, You’re Not Allowed: Capital Segregation and Rising Inequality
James Petras: Brazil: Workers Struggle Trumps Sports Spectacle
Is there a law which requires you to pay the Federal Income Tax? Is the Federal Reserve a part of the United States Government, or is it a private bank owned and operated by multinational corporate interests? Do they have our nation's best interests at heart? Unless something changes, what does the future of the United States look like? The answer to all these questions and more in this incredible documentary by legendary filmmaker Aaron Russo (February 14, 1943 - August 24, 2007).
Michael Snyder ■ The Russians are actually making a move against the petrodollar. It appears that they are quite serious about their de-dollarization strategy. The largest natural gas producer on the planet, Gazprom, has signed agreements with some of their biggest customers to switch payments for natural gas from U.S. dollars to euros. And Gazprom would have never done this without the full approval of the Russian government, because the Russian government holds a majority stake in Gazprom. There hasn't been a word about this from the big mainstream news networks in the United States, but this is huge. When you are talking about Gazprom, you are talking about a company that is absolutely massive. It is one of the largest companies in the entire world and it makes up 8 percent of Russian GDP all by itself. It holds 18 percent of the natural gas reserves of the entire planet, and it is also a very large oil producer. So for Gazprom to make a move like this is extremely significant. When Barack Obama decided to slap some meaningless economic sanctions on Russia a while back, he probably figured that the world would forget about them after a few news cycles. But the Russians do not forget, and they certainly do not forgive.
Billions of dollars are unaccounted for in the books of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. || Parliamentarians of 28 NATO countries have no idea how much taxpayers money flows through the military alliance and whether it is spent legitimately, says the Dutch National Court of Auditors. This is due to an administrative backlog of decades and abundantly marking expenditures as 'undisclosed'. Following is an English translation of a story in de Volkskrant. 'NATO might be wasting a lot of money, or maybe they are short of cash. Frankly, we have no idea', says Saskia Stuiveling, president of the Dutch National Court of Auditors. The findings of the official controlling body of the Dutch government are a result of extensive research on NATO expenditures over the past forty years. It will launch a website in English on Tuesday June 10, 2014, to reveal the messy accounts of NATO.
Michael Snyder ■ Everywhere you look, Americans appear to be extremely obsessed with wealth and money. These days, networks such as CNN endlessly run "news stories" with titles such as "Best cars for the super rich". We have television shows where people proudly show off how wealthy they are, and it seems like Hollywood is putting out an endless parade of movies that glorify the lifestyles of the elite. We have hordes of motivational speakers and "life coaches" that will teach you how to be "more successful" in life, and every small movement in the stock market is carefully monitored by the mainstream news media. Even in the world of faith, we have an entire class of ministers known as "prosperity preachers", and many of those ministers wear that label quite proudly. Yes, those that grew up in the 1980s may have been the "greed is good" generation, but the truth is that they didn't have anything on us. As a society we love money, and we are not ashamed to admit it. In fact, there are times we absolutely revel in it. For example, Time Magazine published an article this year entitled "Science Proves It: Greed Is Good" and hardly anyone even raised an eyebrow. But where will America's sick obsession with wealth and money end? Could it end up destroying us?
The Venus Project is please to introduce some of the interviewees from our forthcoming series "The Choice is Ours".
The truth about the elites agenda is about to ‘slap us in the face’. No longer do they hide behind closed doors—no—they are wide open about their cause and they are laughing at the masses while secretly planning our economic downfall. The collapse of the dollar will be the single largest event in human history. It will be the first event that touches every single person living in the world. All human activity is controlled by money. Our work, our wealth, our government, our food, even our relationships are affected by money. No money in history has had as much of an impact as the dollar. It is the de facto world currency. All other currency collapses will pale in comparison to this one. This collapse will be worldwide and it will take down not only the dollar but all other fiat currencies, as they are essentially no different. This collapse will lead to the collapse of all paper assets and the consequences to this will have inconceivable results universally. The president and CEO of Forbes Magazine, Steve Forbes, made this staggering statement about the economy and where are headed…..(Source)
The European Central Bank (ECB) slashed one of its interest rates to negative territory and unveiled a €400bn loan package for Europe’s banks in response to the ongoing economic slump and the threat of deflation. At its meeting in Frankfurt Thursday, the central bank cut its main lending rate to 0.15 percent from its current historic low of 0.25 percent, and its overnight deposit rate from zero to minus 0.10 percent, becoming the largest central bank to lower rates to below zero.
The move is an expression of the fact that, nearly six years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the world economy remains mired in deep crisis, for which the world’s central banks have no solution outside of pumping trillions into banks and financial firms. While trillions are handed out to the banks, workers throughout the continent are told that there is “no money” to pay for pensions, social programs, and healthcare benefits.
Christian Rickens: Das Ende des Kapitalismus, wie wir ihn kennen
One of the consequences of Obamacare is that health insurance company profitability is soaring, causing corporate CEOs of health insurance companies to pocket millions of dollars in annual salaries and bonuses. This is what happens when a government colludes with private industry to force the entire population to purchase a for-profit product that many don't want (or need). Sales skyrocket and profits head for the stratosphere. That's why CEOs of the nation's largest health insurance companies are raking in record salaries right now, earning as much as $90,000 per day.
Michael Snyder ■ Will Israel be the first cashless society on the entire planet? A committee chaired by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff has come up with a three phase plan to “all but do away with cash transactions in Israel”. Individuals and businesses would still be permitted to conduct cash transactions in small amounts (at least initially), but the eventual goal is to force Israeli citizens to conduct as much business as possible using electronic forms of payment. In fact, it has been reported that Israeli officials believe that “cash is bad” because it fuels the underground economy and allows people to avoid paying taxes. It is hoped that requiring most transactions to be conducted in cash will reduce crime and help balance the national budget. And once 98 or 99 percent of all transactions are cashless, it will not be difficult for the Israeli government (or any other government) to go the rest of the way and ban cash transactions altogether. But is a cashless society actually desirable? This is a question that people all over the world will have to start asking as governments increasingly restrict the use of cash.
Michael Snyder ■ Russia and China have just signed what is being called "the gas deal of the century", and the two countries are discussing moving away from the U.S. dollar and using their own currencies to trade with one another. This has huge implications for the future of the U.S. economy, but the mainstream media in the United States is being strangely quiet about all of this. For example, I searched CNN's website to see if I could find something about this gas deal between Russia and China and I did not find anything. But I did find links to "top stories" entitled "Celebs who went faux red" and "Adorable kid tugs on Obama's ear". Is it any wonder why the mainstream media is dying? If a particular story does not fit their agenda, they will simply ignore it. But the truth is that this new agreement between Russia and China is huge. It could end up fundamentally changing the global financial system, and not in a way that would be beneficial for the United States. ■ Russia and China had been negotiating this natural gas deal for ten years, and now it is finally done. Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas on the entire planet, and China is poised to become the world's largest economy in just a few years. This new $400 billion agreement means that these two superpowers could potentially enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship for the next 30 years...
John LaForge ■ The Weapons Oligarchy With the Pentagon having secured its annual 47 percent of the April 15 federal tax haul ($1,335 billion out of a total of $2,890 billion) it’s a good time to consider the mountains of money being wasted on useless weapons or just plain stolen. Without a public uproar, U.S. could spend more than $600 billion on nuclear weapons over the next 10 years, according to Alicia Godsberg of Peace Action and others. President Obama has famously mouthed support for “a world without nuclear weapons,” and “a world where these weapons will never again threaten our children,” but his nuclear weapons budget says bombs, bombs and more bombs. For 2014, the President plans a nuclear weapons spending increase over the current level of $7.227 billion. Where’s the money to come from? Taking a page from the Reagan/Thatcher play book, Obama plans to get it from the nuclear non-proliferation budget. According to a report by Jeffery Smith and Douglas Birch in Foreign Policy April 9, the president has proposed a $460 million cut from the nuclear non-proliferation program — so it can boost nuclear weapons building programs by exactly $500 million. Since 2011, Obama has been pushing a plan to spend $85 billion over 10 years to rebuild thousands of H-bombs — bombs that should be retired and abolished. The president has also proposed pouring $125 billion over 10 years into a new fleet of nuclear-armed submarines, new nuclear bombers and new land-based ICBMs.
PCR Interviewed by King World News — Message from the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum
Sanctions against certain sectors of the Russian economy reportedly being discussed by EU countries would harm European companies operating in Russia and would violate WTO regulations, says Russian presidential aide, Andrei Belousov. ● "You know, it's hard for me to decide for the EU but I do hope that these two factors will be taken into consideration in making a final decision," Belousov told journalists in commenting on the possibility of such sanctions on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) on Saturday.
Jordan Shilton ■ The emergence of the modern-day financial aristocracy at the top of society has been directly connected to the impoverishment of ever broader layers of working people. Over the past 10 years, the wealth of the richest 1,000 people in Britain has doubled. During the same period, state finances were raided to provide a multi-billion bailout to these very same layers, whose ill-gotten gains were achieved through acts of financial speculation and outright criminality. For the working class, the bank bailout ushered in an era of unprecedented attacks on its living standards and social services on which millions depend. While the rich wallow in wealth, the use of food banks has reached unheard of levels, wages have been slashed and public services eliminated or privatised.
Stefan Molyneux ■ During Putin's two day visit in Shanghai, Russia and China took another small step to undermine U.S. monetary hegemony when Russia’s second biggest financial institution, VTB, signed a deal with the Bank of China to bypass the dollar and pay each other in domestic currencies. Many experts are referring to the move as symbolic. The banking deal is very small in the scheme of things, however it is a signal of intent. Both China and Russia are looking to a future where the U.S. dollar is no longer the world reserve currency, and they aren't content to wait for that future to arrive. They are working to help it along. While this particular banking deal may not be incredibly significant in and of itself, there is another deal that is in the works that could have a much wider impact. According to Reuters, the BRICS block (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) aim to finish preparations for a new international development bank by this July. The bank, which has been in the works for several years now, aims to provide an alternative to the IMF (The United States is currently the dominant shareholder of the IMF).
MoA: Russia's "Isolation" (links)
Michael Burke ■ Who will benefit from the IMF's $17bn bailout of Ukraine? Not its people || In return for the latest $17bn bailout of Ukraine the IMF insists on dramatic measures in five main areas of the economy: a sharp currency devaluation, which will increase the cost of all imported goods, a government-funded bailout for domestic banks, government spending cuts, measures to regulate money laundering and a sharp increase in energy prices. The latter are particularly ironic, since the widespread story in the west is that it is the Russian oil giant Gazprom that is threatening price hikes. The IMF calls for energy prices to be increased by between 240% and 425% over the next four years. No wonder Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk says he will be "the most unpopular prime minister in the history of my country". [...] The effect of the IMF intervention, then, acting as it does in the interest of western creditors rather than the Ukrainian people, will be only to further impoverish the population of Ukraine.
Huffington Post has posted an article crashing the notion of the "American Dream." Journalists have interviewed hundreds of people who have earned master's degree, went to college, who work various jobs and still are below the poverty line. How did that happen that the US has turned from the country where everyone came to achieve a dream into a country where despite all the efforts, people can still barely feed their families and cannot live normally struggling financially, not being able to afford simple things?
The US National Security Agency has never said what it was seeking when it illegally invaded the computers of Petrobras, Brazil’s huge national oil company, but Brazilians assumed: the company’s troves of data on Brazil’s offshore oil reserves, or perhaps its plans for allocating licenses for exploration to foreign companies, the New York Times reports. It has become known that the agency also got its hands on the computer systems of China Telecom, one of the largest providers of mobile phone and Internet services in Chinese cities. But documents released by Edward Snowden leave little doubt that the main goal was to learn about Chinese military units, whose members cannot resist texting on commercial networks. The agency’s interest in Huawei, the giant Chinese maker of Internet switching equipment, and Pacnet, the Hong Kong-based operator of undersea fiber optic cables, is more obvious: once inside those companies’ proprietary technology, the NSA would have access to millions of daily conversations and emails that never touch American shores.
New York Times: Fine Line Seen in U.S. Spying on Companies
RT.com: Chinese media vents spleen over US cybercrime charges
Eric London: NSA records and stores content of all phone calls in "two" countries
Patrick Martin: US pushes cyber-war confrontation with China
Jordan Shilton ■ The annual rich list published by the Sunday Times has revealed a staggering rise in wealth for Britain’s super-rich. || The headline story, made public a week prior to the release of the list on May 18, was that the number of billionaires in Britain had surpassed 100 for the first time. With a total of 104 billionaires, Britain has witnessed the emergence of more than 20 new billionaires over the past year and has the highest concentration of billionaires of any country. In its entirety, the list reveals that the richest 1,000 people in Britain possess combined wealth of £519 billion, equivalent to a staggering one third of the country’s GDP. This is a rise of 15.4 percent from the 2013 list, when the super-rich held total wealth of £449 billion. Since 2008, the year of the global financial crisis and the implementation of a multi-billion-pound bailout of the banks, the wealth of the super-rich in the UK has doubled. As well as being the product of speculation and outright criminality, the rapid rise of such obscene levels of wealth over the past five years confirms the true purpose of the austerity policies of successive governments since the financial crisis.