The European Parliament called on the European Union on Thursday to consider cutting Russia off the SWIFT inter-bank financial message system. ● The European Union will not cut Russia off the SWIFT inter-bank financial system, Andrei Kostin, the chief executive officer VTB Group, Russia's second largest bank, said on Friday. "I think this is not going to happen. I would have called it an act of direct aggression against Russia's financial system with all subsequent consequences. This is a very tough measure," Kostin said at an international investment forum in Sochi.
Bill Van Auken ■ ["Never letting a good crisis go to waste:"] The Obama administration and the Pentagon have announced the “surge” of 3,000 US troops into West Africa, ostensibly in response to the escalating spread of the Ebola virus in the region. The militarized response to the deadly epidemic has underscored Washington’s increasingly heavy reliance on its residual military superiority in what has become a second “scramble for Africa,” pitting the US against China in a struggle for control of the continent’s markets and resources.
Andre Damon ■ Forty-five million people are living in poverty in the United States, according to figures released Tuesday by the Census Bureau. The 2013 Income and Poverty in the United States report found that the number of people in poverty remained at a record high last year, while the income of a typical household remained stagnant. According to the Census figures, the median household income in the US has fallen 8 percent since 2007. The continuing prevalence of mass poverty and the stagnation of the incomes of working people are an expression of the fact that the so-called economic “recovery” touted by the Obama administration is a recovery only for the financial elite: corporate profits hit a record in the year covered by the report, while stock values increased by a third that year, fueled by the Federal Reserve’s money printing operations. The White House praised the report, saying that it showed that “key indicators of poverty and family income improved.” In reality, the report is yet another confirmation of the fact that there has been no real improvement in the living conditions of working people.
Ukraine is set to approve an association agreement with the European Union, while Kiev plans to offer limited self-rule to parts of the country’s volatile eastern regions. ● Lawmakers in the Ukrainian and European parliaments are due to sign the 1,200-page political and economic association agreement during a live video conference later on Tuesday. President Petro Poroshenko has said the pact would enter into force as of November 1; however, the two sides will delay the application of the trade rules until 2016.
The Australian: EU, Ukraine, Russia reach deal on EU-Ukraine association agreement [September 13, 2014]
EU Propaganda: Association Agreement and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area
Chris Marsden ■ Ukraine’s EU Association Agreement a prelude to further bloodshed [28 June 2014]
Pål Steigan ■ Går det mot deling av Ukraina?
When the blame game turns into sanctions wars. With no the political crisis in Ukraine far from over, the West and Russia trade sanctions against the other. Which side is more vulnerable? Which side can endure the most pain? CrossTalking with Liam Halligan, Art Franczek and Mitch Feierstein.
Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten ■ Die Sanktionen gegen Russland werden nicht die treffen, die sie beschließen oder verhindern hätten können: Politiker, Verbände, die IHK, die öffentlich-rechtlichen Sender – sie alle leben von Steuergeldern oder Zwangsgebühren und brauchen keine Konsequenzen zu fürchten. Daher heulen sie, ohne nachzudenken, mit den Wölfen. Bezahlen müssen Unternehmen, Arbeitnehmer und Steuerzahler. Was die Bundesregierung und die EU betreiben, ist Machtmissbrauch im großen Stil. Das ist Verrat am eigenen Volk. Diese gänzlich verantwortungslose „Politik“ zerstört nicht nur, wie Christoph Leitl gesagt hat, das Verhältnis zu Russland. Sie zersetzt die Demokratie in Europa. Sie zerstört Werte, die von den Europäern mit ihren eigenen Händen geschaffen wurden. Sie kastriert die Wirtschaft in einem ohnehin schon knallharten, globalen Wettbewerb. Wenn die Regierungen der EU und die ihnen angeschlossenen, willfährigen Institutionen auf diesem Weg weitermachen, wird das Jahr 2014 auch ohne „heißen“ Krieg als ein ganz finsteres in die Geschichte Deutschlands und Europas eingehen. [H/T: Steigan Blogger]
Letting the cat out of the bag: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (Condoleezza Rice) in an interview with German channel N24 on sanctions against Russia in connection with the situation in Ukraine. 16 May 2014.
RT.com: Lavrov Says Russia Not Losing Battle With US for Influence in Europe || Although the Unites States are trying to do their best to disrupt the economic relations between the EU and Russia, Russia is not losing the battle for influence in Europe, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday. "
There is a big battle going on," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with Russian TVC channel. "
The United States want to use the current situation in order to separate Europe from Russia economy-wise and bargain the most favorable conditions for themselves in the context of the ongoing negotiations on the creation of a transatlantic trade and investment partnership." The Russian foreign minister said that such talks have been going for several years. "
Europe has been persistent enough in defending its interests. According to the Europeans, the United States wanted to gain unfair profit. Now, however, these [US] efforts have intensified, including through the attempt to force Europe to purchase the American liquefied natural gas at prices that cannot be competitive with the price of the Russian gas. This was definitely motivated by economic interest. Still, geopolitical calculations play a huge role, a key one," the minister said. Answering the question on whether Russia is losing Europe to the United States, the Russian Foreign Minister said, "
I think not."
The European Union announced in its Official Journal Friday it was imposing a new round of sanctions on Russia, including those targeting the country’s major defense and energy companies. ● The EU barred three major Russian oil companies (Rosneft, Transneft, GazpromNeft) and three major defense companies (Oboronprom, United Aircraft Corporation and Uralvagonzavod) from seeking finance on European capital markets. The union also banned sales of dual-technology equipment to nine Russian defense companies, including the Kalashnikov Concern, Russia’s largest producer of automatic and sniper combat arms. A total of 24 people, including senior Russian lawmakers and the leadership of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, were added to the list of individuals facing EU travel bans and asset freezes.
RT.com: US extends Russia sanctions, targets biggest lender Sberbank & gas giant Gazprom
Itar-Tass: Rosneft, Transneft, Gazprom Neft on new EU sanctions list
RT.com: Moscow on sanctions: ‘EU unwilling to see Russia’s efforts on Ukraine’
Darrell West's U.S. Billionaires Political Power Index is a ranking of the top U.S. billionaires in terms of overall political power. There are a number of existing rankings that rate the net worth of billionaires, but no one has assessed their overall political influence. In his forthcoming Brookings Institution Press book, Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust, Darrell West examines the political use of great wealth, including campaign expenditures, activism through nonprofit organizations and foundations, holding public office, media ownership, policy thought leadership, and behind the scenes influence.
Ukraine Takes Another $1.39 Billion From International Monetary Fund — $3 Billion In Imf Cash Already Sent Offshore
John Helmer ■ Insiders Suspected In Heist, Getaway Drivers Claim Alibi ● || Bank robbers of the manual, stick-up type have a reputation for a sense of a humour. That may be a comfort to them, because they usually get caught. Bank robbers of the International Monetary Fund type lack even a sense of irony, because they expect not to be caught, and never are. In the bank- robbing profession also, the driver of the get-away car is usually the least talented, the witless one who doesn’t see the gag, especially not when he or she is the butt of jokes from the rest of the gang. This week, when Alexander Shlapak, the Ukrainian Minister of Finance, helped himself to $1.39 billion, the second tranche of the IMF’s Ukraine Stand-By Agreement of $17.1 billion, he illustrated the ministry’s Facebook announcement in Kiev with a picture showing an anonymous figure carrying a cheap briefcase away from the IMF headquarters as the Fund’s front-door sign is partially covered up by the Ukrainian flag. Counting the first tranche of $3.1 billion Shlapak took away on May 5, the cover-up is currently blowing at $4.5 billion. Another $1.39 billion had been scheduled for the taking in October. But that has been delayed and doubled to $2.8 billion for payout by December 15.
PEU Report: USAID to Help Young Biden: The Burisma File
Michael Hudson ■ Losing Credibility: The IMF’s New Cold War Loan to Ukraine
Tyler Durden ■ Biden’s Son a Director in Shale Gas Firm Set to Drill in East Ukraine
Around 1969 as a young boy, I looked-up the definition of the word, evil. I found something like, “Preference and actions for one’s own material wealth over the well-being of others.” I’ve always remembered that definition as the one that made the most sense. I’ve never found it again in more modern dictionaries. Today, considering our human condition, we observe:
• A nexus of evil among “leading” families in government, money, and corporate media who provably lie for unlawful wars (here, here, here, here), rapacious economics (here, here, here, here), and who use corporate media to “cover” these crimes while speaking to us never above a pre-teen level.
• Public inability to clearly recognize this evil, take action to stop it, and remember these acts define our “leaders.”
• A growing number of Americans recognizing our Emperor’s New Clothes status, willingness to speak and act, and retention that our “leaders” really do seem to act for evil.
Julie Lévesque ■ While Gazans suffer from daily power shutdowns, Israel is signing an important deal to sell gas to Jordan, gas which, researchers say, was stolen from Palestinians. || In addition to confiscating Palestine’s energy resources, Israel has destroyed Gaza’s only power station in its latest military offensive. The Middle East Monitor reported September 4, 2014 that a Memorandum of Understanding ”is due to be signed between Israel and Jordan in the reservoir of Leviathan to export Israeli natural gas to Jordan during the next 15 years with a total value of $15 billion”. (Jordan to buy $15bn of Israeli gas, Middle East Monitor, September 4, 2014.) Israel’s first natural gas export deal will also be signed by “the Leviathan field partner Noble Energy Inc. on behalf of itself and its partners Delek Group Ltd. units Avner Oil and Gas LP and Delek Drilling Limited Partnership and Ratio Oil Exploration (1992) LP.” (Leviathan partners signing $15b Jordanian gas deal, Globes, Israel business news, on September 3, 2014) We may recall that in the wake of the Israeli bombing and invasion under Operation Cast Lead, “Palestinian gas fields were de facto confiscated by Israel in derogation of international law”.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said Russia could close its airspace to Western carriers if new European sanctions target Russia's oil and gas companies or impose additional financing restrictions. ● "
I hoped that our partners would be smarter," Medvedev told business daily Vedomosti in an interview published Monday. "
If there are sanctions related to the energy sector, or further restrictions on Russia's financial sector, we will have to respond asymmetrically." An expansion to European Union sanctions, expected to be implemented Tuesday, would ban three of Russia's main oil companies — Gazprom Neft, Transneft and Rosneft — from raising money on European capital markets for longer than 30 days, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing documents detailing the measures. The expansion to EU sanctions introduced in July would also limit the time of fund-raising to 30 days, down from the previous 90 days, for five state-run banks, including Sberbank and VTB, the report said.
The British Sterling has dropped to its lowest rate in nearly 10 months following an opinion poll showing supporters of Scottish independence in the lead. ● The pound fell by nearly 1 percent to 1.6 dollars on Monday, when trading opened in Asian markets, hitting the lowest level since last November. In addition, the pound fell sharply against the Japanese yen to 169.68, the lowest level in over three months and against the euro to 80.1 pence per euro. Meanwhile, experts believe that the sterling could fall up to 10 percent if Scotland votes to break away from the UK due to uncertainty about what will happen to the currency. The sell-off came in reaction to the Sunday results of a YouGov poll, which revealed that that 51 percent of Scots supported independence compared to the 49 percent who opposed it.
Critics and anti-poverty advocates are questioning the so-called economic recovery as a USDA study published Wednesday revealed that while the nation's wealthiest enjoyed record gains, nearly 50 million Americans continue to struggled with food insecurity in 2013. ● According to the government figures, while a majority of people who were not always able to afford food last year were adults, 16 million children also went hungry at times, with 360,000 households reporting that their kids skipped meals or did not eat for an entire day because there was not enough money. [...] Overall, food insecurity is 35 percent higher than in 2007, before the recession began. In 2013, the average food-secure household spent 30 percent more on food than the average food-insecure household of the same size.
Icahn, Soros, Druckenmiller, And Now Zell: The Billionaires Are All Quietly Preparing For The Plunge
"The stock market is at an all-time, but economic activity is not at an all-time," explains billionaire investor Sam Zell to CNBC this morning, adding that, "every company that's missed has missed on the revenue side, which is a reflection that there's a demand issue; and when you got a demand issue it's hard to imagine the stock market at an all-time high." Zell said he is being very cautious adding to stocks and cutting some positions because "I don't remember any time in my career where there have been as many wildcards floating out there that have the potential to be very significant and alter people's thinking." Zell also discussed his view on Obama's Fed encouraging disparity and on tax inversions, but concludes, rather ominously, "this is the first time I ever remember where having cash isn't such a terrible thing." Zell's calls should not be shocking following George Soros. Stan Druckenmiller, and Carl Icahn's warnings that there is trouble ahead.
The French government has come under heavy criticism after the country’s labor minister said job seekers need to be punished if they are found to be committing frauds on the state aid. ● On Tuesday, France’s Labour Minister François Rebsamen called on the public employment offices called Pole Emploi to crack down on benefit claimants “abusing the system". “
I’m asking Pole Emploi to strengthen its controls to make sure that people are indeed looking for work. At some point, there needs to be a penalty.” He has been criticized by many who believe the problem is not the unemployed but the unemployment. “Rebsamen’s comments are scandalous and indecent,” said Jean-Francois Kieffer, a senior CGT labour union official on Tuesday. “This is not the solution,” Frances' Minister for State Reform Thierry Mandon said. “Punishing jobseekers is not the way to solve the fundamental problem of unemployment. The focus should be on creating jobs,” Mandon added.
Le Monde: Les « sans-dents» immédiatement récupérés par les militants de tout bord || Tous des «sans-dents». L'expression que François Hollande emploierait pour désigner les pauvres, selon son ex-compagne Valérie Trierweiler, semble appelée à connaître le même succès que le «casse-toi pauv'con» de son prédécesseur [Nicolas Sarkozy]. Sur les réseaux sociaux, plusieurs groupes militants, de gauche comme de droite, ont immédiatement saisi le potentiel de la phrase et s'en sont emparés avec une rapidité qui force l'admiration. Quelques heures à peine après les premiers extraits de l'ouvrage de Mme Trierweiler, on comptait déjà au moins deux mouvements distincts.
Stephen Lendman ■ Labor Day once had meaning. Workers had reason to celebrate hard won rights. No longer. More on this below. The day is commemorated on the first Monday of September. It's been so since 1882. In June 1894, it became a federal holiday. It was when workers had few rights. Management controlled things. Labor was systematically exploited. It took many years of organizing, taking to the streets, going on strike, boycotting management, battling police and National Guard forces, and paying with blood and lives to win rights. They included an eight-hour day, a living wage, employer-paid benefits, and passage of the 1935 landmark Wagner Act. It established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It guaranteed labor the right to bargain collectively on equal terms with management. It did so for the first time. Erosion followed. War on working Americans decimated organized labor. Hard won rights were lost. [Image © David Dees]
Paul Craig Roberts ■ The labor unions provided the Democratic Party with a financial base in labor that served as a countervailing power to the Republican base in manufacturing and finance. Whether it was a plot or unintended consequence, jobs offshoring wrecked the industrial and manufacturing unions and destroyed the Democrats’ independent financial base. The two-party system that had maintained a reasonable balance was transformed into a one-party system in which both parties were dependent on the same monied interests and thus answered to the same masters. The consequence was the demise of the middle class and rise of the One Percent. Today the US has the most unequally distributed income and wealth of all developed economies and one of the worst in the entire world. Few Americans other than the One Percent have a stake in the American economic and political system. The imbalance in the distribution of income and wealth cannot be corrected through the tax system. Globalism is a scheme for impoverishing First World labor and taking power and influence from the hands of the many and putting them in the hands of the few. The champions of globalism are the champions of America’s destruction.
The Nail In The Petrodollar Coffin: Gazprom Begins Accepting Payment For Oil In Ruble, Yuan ● Several months ago, when Russia announced the much anticipated "Holy Grail" energy deal with China, some were disappointed that despite this symbolic agreement meant to break the petrodollar's stranglehold on the rest of the world, neither Russia nor China announced payment terms to be in anything but dollars. In doing so they admitted that while both nations are eager to move away from a US Dollar reserve currency, neither is yet able to provide an alternative. This changed in late June when first Gazprom's CFO announced the gas giant was ready to settle China contracts in Yuan or Rubles, and at the same time the People's Bank of China announced that its Assistant Governor Jin Qi and Russian central bank Deputy Chairman Dmitry Skobelkin held a meeting in which they discussed cooperating on project and trade financing using local currencies. The meeting discussed cooperation in bank card, insurance and financial supervision sectors. And yet, while both sides declared their operational readiness and eagerness to bypass the dollar entirely, such plans remained purely in the arena of monetary foreplay and the long awaited first shot across the Petrodollar bow was absent. Until now.
Investment Watch: Petro Dollar is dying quickly! The dollar collapse is close at hand!
Finally, a little-known aspect of the crisis in Ukraine is receiving some international attention. On July 28, the California-based Oakland Institute released a report revealing that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), under terms of their $17 billion loan to Ukraine, would open that country to genetically-modified (GM) crops and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture. The report is entitled “Walking on the West Side: the World Bank and the IMF in the Ukraine Conflict.” [...] Ukrainian law bars farmers from growing GM crops. Long considered “the bread basket of Europe,” Ukraine’s rich black soil is ideal for growing grains, and in 2012 Ukrainian farmers harvested more than 20 million tonnes of corn.
Pål Steigan ■ World oil giants ready to plunder Ukraine oil and shale gas reserves. || Ukraine has reserves estimated at 1,200 billion cubic meters of gas, the third largest in Europe. American Chevron and European Shell have contracts to exploit these light tight oil and shale deposits. In other European countries there have been public protests against shale gas extraction because of the great environmental damage it causes - such as earthquakes and pollution of drinking water. The Kiev junta is not taking such petty concerns into consideration. But the problem for both the junta and the oil giants is that the largest deposits are located in the Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine. So there is an obvious connection here between western lust for Ukraine's oil & gas reserves and Kiev's ruthless warfare, not only against armed separatists, but also against the civilian population. Over half a million people have fled the fighting, and it would seem that this partly is the purpose behind Porosjenko's warfare against his own people. The eastern areas now are being prepared for extraction of oil and gas. And to be on the safe side, Hunter Biden, the son of America's Vice President, has been handed a top job in Burisma Holdings, a company that is poised to develop the gas fields of Ukraine. Biden now sits on the same board of directors as Poland's former president Aleksander Kwasniewski, who also often was a guest at the Maidan Square. (Also see: Naked Goals of Ukrainian Genocide)
Major Israeli food exporters are facing an unprecedented wave of cancelations in orders from Europe as a result of Israel’s most recent massacre of Palestinians in Gaza. SuperValu, the biggest food distributor in Ireland, told the Irish media last week that it has withdrawn Israeli products from its shops. And Israeli media reports suggest that other major European retailers have taken similar decisions without announcing them publicly. Israeli fruit and vegetable exporters have faced cancelations from Scandinavia, the UK, France, Belgium and Ireland.
Cole Stangler ■ Most progressives are, by now, familiar with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the proposed trade deal that would link the United States with Pacific Rim powerhouses like Australia and Japan. Wonkier corners of the left are equally conversant in the intrigue of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a pact that would couple the United States and the European Union. Like-minded critics would do well by memorizing yet another trade acronym: TISA, or the Trade in Services Agreement. Judging by the stakes and the ultra-secrecy of the negotiations, it could easily be the worst of the bunch. ■ Here's what we know: Fifty countries, including the United States, the EU nations, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Switzerland, Taiwan, and Turkey, have been in TISA talks since 2012. The resulting agreement will set the terms for almost 70 percent of global trade in “services”: everything from banking and construction to telecom and tourism.
Ukraine’s parliament has passed a law that will allow foreign companies from the US and EU to co-manage Ukraine’s national gas transportation system (GTS) which has a value of around $25-35 billion, one of the largest in the world. ● The motion, proposed by PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk, was only supported by 228 parliament members, just two more than the required 226 to adopt the bill. The first reading of the bill was approved on July 4. Ukraine will control 51 percent and foreign partners will be offered 49 percent in the venture, which seeks to “strengthen” Ukraine’s position as a transit state, according to the bill’s advocates. Together with Western investors Ukraine is planning to create a new company that will control the country’s gas transit system. However, it could be hard to find investors willing to participate in the project, some analysts believe, as Russia is currently developing a transit system bypassing Ukraine’s territory, which has proved unreliable as a transit partner.