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Hillary Clinton Sugarcoating Her Disastrous Record

By Ralph Nader | February 12, 2016

Bernie Sanders is far too easy on Hillary Clinton in their debates. Clinton flaunts her record and experience in ways that Sanders could use to expose her serious vulnerabilities and disqualifications for becoming president. Sanders responds to Clinton’s points, but without the precision that could demolish her arrogance.

For example, she repeatedly says that Sanders has not levelled with people about the cost of full Medicare for all, or single-payer. Really? In other countries, single-payer is far simpler and more efficient than our present profiteering, wasteful, corporatized healthcare industry. Canada covers all of its citizens, with free choice of doctors and hospitals, for about $4,500 per capita, compared to the over $9,000 per capita cost in the U.S. system that still leaves tens of millions of people uninsured or underinsured.

Detailed studies in the New England Journal of Medicine show big savings from a single-payer system in our country.

It is Hillary Clinton who is not levelling with the people about the costs of maintaining the spiraling U.S. costs of drugs, hospital stays and insurance premiums that are the highest in the world. The costs include: 1) the waste of well over $1 trillion a year; 2) daily denials of coverage by the Aetnas of the corporate world; 3) about forty thousand Americans dying each year, according to a peer-reviewed Harvard Medical School study, because they cannot afford health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time; and 4) daily  agonizing negotiations over insurance company denials, exclusions and bureaucratic paperwork that drive physicians up the wall.

Clinton hasn’t explained why she was once for single-payer until she defined her “being practical” as refusing to take on big pharma, commercial hospital chains and the giant insurance companies. She is very “practical” about taking political contributions and speaking fees from Wall Street and the health care industry.

As one 18 year-old student told the New York Times recently about Clinton, “sometimes you get this feeling that all of her sentences are owned by someone.”

This protector of the status quo and the gross imbalance of power between the few and the many expresses perfectly why Wall Street financiers like her so much and prove it with their large continuing monetary contributions.

Hillary Clinton is not “levelling with the American people,” when she keeps the transcripts (which she requested at the time) of her secret speeches (at $5,000 a minute!) before large Wall Street and trade association conventions. Her speaking contracts mandated secrecy. Clinton still hasn’t told voters what she was telling big bankers and many other industries from automotive to drugs to real estate developers behind closed doors.

She has the gall to accuse Bernie Sanders of not being transparent. Sanders is a presidential candidate who doesn’t take big-fee speeches or big donations from fat cat influence-peddlers, and his record is as clean as the Clintons’ political entanglements are sordid. (See Clinton Cash by Peter Schweizer.)

But it is in the area of foreign and military affairs that “Hillary the hawk” is most vulnerable. As Secretary of State her aggressiveness and poor judgement led her to the White House where, sweeping aside the strong objections of Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, she persuaded President Obama to bomb Libya and topple its dictatorial regime.

Gates had warned about the aftermath. He was right. Libya has descended into a ghastly state of chaotic violence that has spilled into neighboring African nations, such as Mali, and that opened the way for ISIS to establish an expanding base in central Libya. Her fellow hawks in Washington are now calling for U.S. special forces to go to Libya.

Whether as Senator on the Armed Services Committee or as Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton has never met a war or raid she didn’t like, or a redundant, wasteful weapons system she was willing to aggressively challenge. As president, Hillary Clinton would mean more wars, more raids, more blowbacks, more military spending and more profits for the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower so prophetically warned about in his farewell address.

So when Bernie Sanders properly chided her for having as an advisor, Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under Richard Nixon, she bridled and tried to escape by asking Sanders to name his foreign policy advisors.

In fact, Kissinger and Clinton do have much in common about projecting the American Empire to brutal levels. Kissinger was the “butcher of Cambodia,” launching an illegal assault that destabilized that peaceful country into the Pol Pot slaughter of millions of innocents. She was the illegal “butcher of Libya,” an ongoing, unfolding tragedy whose blowbacks of “unintended consequences” are building by the week.

In a devastating recounting of Hillary Clinton’s disastrous war-making, Professor of Sustainable Economies at Columbia University, Jeffrey D. Sachs concludes that Clinton “is the candidate of the War Machine.” In a widely noted article on Huffington Post Professor Sachs, an advisor the United Nations on millennium development goals, called her record a “disaster,” adding that “Perhaps more than any other person, Hillary can lay claim to having stoked the violence that stretches from West Africa to Central Asia and that threatens U.S. security.”

The transformation of Hillary Clinton from a progressive young lawyer to a committed corporatist and militarist brings shame on the recent endorsement of her candidacy by the Congressional Black Caucus PAC.

But then, considering all the years of Clintonite double talk and corporate contributions going to the Black Caucus PAC (according to FEC reports January through December, 2015), and the Black Caucus conventions, why should anybody be surprised that Black Lives Matter and a growing surge of young African Americans are looking for someone in the White House who is not known for the Clintons’ sweet-talking betrayals?

See Michelle Alexander’s recent article in The Nation, “Hillary Clinton Does Not Deserve Black People’s Votes” for more information on this subject.

February 13, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

$470 mil HSBC settlement, but no one is in jail

The federal government announced a $470 mil settlement with banking giant HSBC on Friday, despite causing financial crisis worth $22 tril

American Herald Tribune | February 11 ,2016

Banking giant HSBC has reached a settlement with the Federal government and most U.S. states for their part in the 2008 financial crisis—the largest such economic downturn since the Great Depression.

But as with Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan Chase, no individuals will face trial for engaging in predatory lending tactics, selling bad mortgages to homeowners and forcing illegal foreclosures on millions.

The Justice Department announced the $470 million settlement on Friday, saying that HSBC’s tactics hastened the country’s economic meltdown.

The settlement includes the Justice Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well as 49 state attorneys general and the District of Columbia’s attorney general.

In a Justice Department press release, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller states that such a settlement serves as precedent for how banks are allowed to behave.

“This agreement not only provides relief to borrowers affected by HSBC’s past practices, it puts in place protections for current and future homeowners through tough mortgage servicing standards,” Miller said. “For years we’ve worked together to hold mortgage servicers responsible for their past conduct.  We’re doing that here through this settlement and we’ll continue to address bad conduct in the future.”

According to the terms of the agreement, HSBC’s payments will include $100 million to be distributed between the federal government and a state-administered escrow fund, allowing the states to reimburse borrowers who lost their homes to foreclosure between 2008 and 2012.

Another $370 million in relief is slated directly for borrowers and homeowners in order to reduce mortgage principals for those at risk of default. The federal government says this relief is already underway, noting that the actual cost could be higher because HSBC cannot claim credit for every required consumer relief dollar.

A 2013 study by the Government Accountability Office, funded by a cost-analysis stipulation of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law of 2010, found that the economic crisis cost the American economy $22 trillion.

HSBC will be responsible for implementing standards for mortgage loan servicing, foreclosure procedure and ensuring accuracy of information provided to federal bankruptcy court, according to the federal government.

The deal unfortunately gives HSBC leeway in how it imposes the new standards.

In the past, the bank employed a plethora of intentionally ambiguous practices like robo-signing, false documentation and lost paperwork, in order to continue foreclosures.

The new standards also make it imperative that foreclosure is a last resort by requiring HSBC to provide loss-mitigation options first.

It is unclear how stringent the government will be in accepting applications for the state’s reimbursement plans, but the settlement will almost certainly not be a fix-all for homeowners still reeling from the economic crisis.

Tanuka Loha, then-director of Amnesty International’s Demand Dignity program wrote in 2011 about the severe consequences of the crisis.

“Since 2007, banks have foreclosed around eight million homes. It is estimated that another eight to ten million homes will be foreclosed before the financial crisis is over.  This approach to resolving one part of the financial crisis means many, many families are living without adequate and secure housing.,” Loha said. “In addition, approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless, many of them veterans. It is worth noting that, at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.”

February 12, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , | Leave a comment

Britain’s War Crimes Will Not Go Unpunished

By Martin Berger – New Eastern Outlook – 11.02.2016

One could hardly find a person both within the UK or outside it that would look positively at the steps that have been taken by David Cameron and his government if, of course, we’re not talking about members of the Conservative Party and certain military circles. The reasons are plenty, but the most obvious ones are the crimes against humanity committed by this government, along with a total disregard for the social needs of UK citizens and the revanchist policies it pursued in the Middle East and Africa.

It will suffice to note that Cameron’s government is going to cut its social spending to the lowest possible level to be able to carry on foreign military campaigns. The Guardian notes:

Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the all-party Commons select committee on health, is calling for the government to act, saying that social care providers are reeling from rising costs and declining fees from cash-strapped local authorities.

As a direct result of the steps that are being taken by British government, those citizens that are facing retirement today will lose all means to pay their expenses in the next 10 years.

The benefits cuts on sheltered housing that have been recently announced by the UK government will literally make tens of thousands of those in dire need homeless. Those that are forced to experience the consequences of the shortsighted policies of London are to be the most vulnerable, namely older residents, domestic violence victims and people with mental illness. Those caps were first announced last autumn by the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

However, the Guardian refuses to mention that the army is still enjoying substantial budgets just as it always has, to the benefit of countless military contractors and those politicians who represent them in the parliament. It is therefore not surprising that these lobbyists are among the most ardent supporters of David Cameron’s plan of the possible British military engagement in Syria, despite attempts of some sane politicians to put an end to airstrikes that the UK is carrying out in this Arab country, calling them “infanticide

The above mentioned activities predictably result in an ever growing body count that British troops are producing with their “fire and sword” across the world in the name of vague “democratic principles”, while actually protecting the interests of the City of London.

Therefore, the British political elite are putting every effort into a bid to prevent the investigation of their criminal policies in the Middle East, Africa and other regions around the world. For instance every possible step has been taken to derail an inquiry of the commission headed by Sir John Chilcot that was entrusted back in 2009 to give an answer on how justified Tony Blair’s decision was to go to war against Iraq, which resulted in 179 British soldiers killed and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis left suffering in lawlessness and bitter misery to this date. Moreover, a few days ago it was announced that the British Ministry of Defense was going to close the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (IHAT) that was created in 2010 to study at least 58 allegations against British servicemen allegedly involved in murder cases in Iraq. And although the IHAT was investigating the deaths of 1,500 possible victims, out of which 280 were allegedly unlawfully killed, there’s every reason to believe that it won’t be funded up to 2019 as originally intended.

David Cameron is anticipating complete impunity for his actions, therefore refusing to launch an investigation of war crimes that were carried out with the use of British weapons, especially those supplied by the British to Saudi Arabia. Cameron excused himself for this decision by announcing that arms exports are being “closely monitored”.

Lately Amnesty International has been vocal in condemning the UK role in the Yemeni conflict, while directly pointing to the shameful support of routine brutality that the Saudi regime has been exhibiting. At the same time The Independent published an article that stated a member of the British government, while staying in Riyadh, praised Saudi authorities for the “remarkable progress” in the field of human rights, a month after the public execution of 47 people!

As for the British responsibility in the massive civilian killings in Yemen, it is necessary to recall that during the first nine months of 2015 the United Kingdom supplied Saudi Arabia with 2.95 billion pounds worth of arms, which were used to launch airstrikes against heavily populated urban areas. The total worth of weapons sold to Saudi Arabia throughout all of Cameron’s premiership amounts to 7 billion pounds, including a contract to supply the regime with 72 Eurofighter Typhoons. Numerous media sources have been calling repeatedly to bring to justice those responsible in the bloody conflict in Yemen. So there’s little wonder that the UN Security Council decided to form a special committee to investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law by all the parties of the Yemeni conflict to identify those responsible. And the UK is not particularly happy about that fact.

As it was reported by The Independent :

An influential joint committee of MPs is set to investigate claims that British-made weapons may have been used for strikes against civilian targets. The Committee on Arms Export Controls (CAEC), made up of members of the Foreign Affairs, International Development, Defence and Business select committees, has not sat so far this Parliament, but will be re-established.

Crispin Blunt, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Stephen Twigg, chair of the International Development committee, have both indicated that they want the CAEC to investigate whether UK arms have been used for military strikes against civilians, and also to scrutinise the role of UK personnel working in Saudi command and control centres orchestrating airstrikes.

Taking into account the steps that David Cameron has made to hide numerous crimes committed by him and his government both in the UK and abroad, it’s about time for the international community to take such investigations into its own hands, to ensure that no felon, whether a politician or not, escapes justice.

Martin Berger is a Czech-based freelance journalist and analyst.

February 11, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

White House pushes ahead with plan to slash pensions for up to one million retirees

By Andre Damon  | WSWS | February 9, 2016

The Obama administration is pushing ahead with its plans to slash pension benefits for up to one million participants in “underfunded” multi-employer pension funds as part of its drive to make defined-benefit pensions a thing of the past for all US workers.

The White House campaign, carried out in a conspiracy with the major trade unions and multinational corporations, takes place in the wake of the 2013–2014 bankruptcy of Detroit, which set a precedent for slashing the legally protected pension benefits of retirees.

Kenneth Feinberg, the Obama administration’s appointee to oversee the pension cuts, held a hearing on behalf of the Treasury Department in Detroit Monday to hear objections to the plan to slash the pension benefits of some 270,000 retired truck drivers, package handlers and other members of the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund.

Kenneth Feinberg

Kenneth Feinberg

The hearing, which took place at Wayne State University, drew an overflow crowd at a 500-seat lecture hall, with up to 1,000 people participating in total. With the exception of the World Socialist Web Site, the media ignored the event, with no US video crews present.

Although retirees had initially been told that the cuts to their benefits would average less than 30 percent, nearly all of those who spoke at the hearing said they had been notified over the Christmas holiday that they would lose between 50 and 80 percent of their pension benefits.

During the two-hour hearing, not a single one of some two dozen pre-selected speakers spoke in favor of the plan to slash pensions. Instead, retirees voiced scathing denunciations of the managers of the Central States Pension Fund, who have received six-figure annual payouts even as they have moved to impose massive benefit cuts. Many made pointed criticisms of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union that jointly administers the fund.

“I suffered the loss of my first marriage, twisted ankles, and a damaged back, 21 dog bites, and all for that pension,” said one retired UPS delivery driver.

This overwhelming opposition by pensioners does not matter, according to Feinberg. When asked by the World Socialist Web Site after the hearing what would happen if workers voted down the proposed pension cuts, Feinberg said he had the prerogative to impose pension cuts regardless.

“The law says that I must impose it over their objections” Feinberg said. “So if I accept the plan and it’s rejected by a vote, the law requires me in that situation to overrule the vote.”

The law Feinberg was referring to is the Multi-employer Pension Reform Act of 2014, passed by Congress in December 2014 with virtually no public discussion as part of an omnibus appropriations bill. Acting on this law, in October 2015 the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund unveiled its plans to cut the benefits of workers it covers.

That law is itself the outcome of a February 2013 proposal, entitled “Solutions not Bailouts,” from the National Coordinating Committee for Multiemployer Plans, composed of major corporations and unions. The document lists among its signatories the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), both of which have since sought to publicly distance themselves from the pension-cutting bill.

Workers denounced the Teamsters’ lobbying on behalf of the bill, as well as the decision by the union to allow shipping company United Parcel Service (UPS) to exit the fund in 2007. This removed the largest base of active employees in the fund in exchange for allowing the Teamsters to extract union dues from the company’s freight division workers. As a result, UPS retirees said at the meeting that they are facing pension cuts of more than 50 percent, despite the fact that UPS earned record profits in the fourth quarter of 2015.

“Why on Earth would you let UPS leave the fund?” asked Debra Bakus, the daughter of Dennis Siecienski, a member of Teamsters Local 51 who worked for Entenmann’s for 41 years. She added, “I find it appalling that the trustees of this fund would pay millions to lobbyists out of your fund to get [the Multi-employer Pension Reform Act] passed.”

“I have to move in with my daughter if they cut my pension,” said Mr. Siecienski, who faces a reduction of 51 percent. “His employer is still contributing to the fund,” added Ms. Bakus.

Nationwide, there are some 10 million beneficiaries of multi-employer pension funds, of whom about 1 million receive benefits from “underfunded” plans.

As the Obama administration’s “special master” of executive compensation during the 2008 bank bailout, Feinberg rubber-stamped multi-million-dollar bonuses for executives at companies whose activities helped cause the financial crash.

Now, as the official responsible for imposing sweeping benefit cuts on hundreds of thousands of workers, Feinberg is working diligently to ensure that the transfer of social resources from working people to Wall Street continues unimpeded.

In 2009, the Obama administration justified giving multi-million-dollar bonuses to executives at American International Group, which had received a $185 billion bailout from the federal government, on the grounds that contractual obligations were sacrosanct and could not be abridged by the government.

Asked by the World Socialist Web Site whether he would use a similar approach with regard to workers’ pensions, Feinberg declared that he never approved multi-million-dollar bonuses to Wall Street executives.

Retiree Richard Fairley asked Feinberg, “can you fix my ignition switch?” in reference to his kid glove treatment of General Motors in the deaths of over a hundred people due to defective ignition switches.

But a 2012 report by Neil Barofsky, the inspector general for the TARP bank bailout, exposes Feinberg’s statement as a lie. Barofsky found that Feinberg “approved total compensation packages in the millions” and did not “effectively rein in excessive compensation.”

Barofsky’s report added, “In 2009, OSM [Office of the Special Master, i.e., Feinberg] approved total compensation of cash and stock of more than $1 million each for five AIG employees including a $10.5 million pay package for AIG’s new CEO that included a $3 million cash salary.” Barofsky added that Feinberg “approved compensation ranging from $4.3 million to $7.1 million each for four AIG employees who that year were also scheduled to receive cash retention awards of up to $2.4 million.”

At the hearing, speaker after speaker described how the proposed pension cuts would financially devastate them and their families. They appealed for Feinberg to see reason and deny the proposal by the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund.

But far from being an independent arbiter, Feinberg is a bag-man for Wall Street and its representatives in the Obama administration. His role is not to arbitrate an equitable solution to the chronic de-funding of employee pensions in the United States, but rather to facilitate the outcome most favorable to the banks and major corporations.

Monday’s meeting took place in the context of a growing resistance and opposition by the working class. Over the past month, Detroit teachers and students have defied the Detroit Federation of Teachers to stage sick-outs at over eighty schools. Teachers in Chicago, Illinois have launched protests against efforts to further starve public schools and slash wages and benefits.

Meanwhile, protests in Flint, Michigan have made the lead poisoning of residents by officials at the state, local, and federal level a national and international issue. These actions follow the eruption of opposition among US autoworkers last year against efforts by the United Auto Workers to ram through contracts that further undermine jobs and benefits.

In each case, workers are being drawn into conflict with both big business parties, along with the trade unions, which defend the capitalist system and are collaborating with the corporations in driving down the conditions of the working class.

The task now is to unify these struggles in a common working class movement, armed with a socialist perspective of breaking the power of the financial oligarchy and reorganizing society in the interest of social need, not private profit.

February 10, 2016 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Corruption, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 2 Comments

BBC whips up anti-Russia hysteria to apocalyptic levels

By Robert Bridge | RT | February 7, 2016

Once again, Russia is being featured as Dr. Evil Incarnate, the villain that regularly plays opposite peace-loving NATO nations, in a BBC program that has Moscow initiating an invasion on Latvia followed up with a nuclear strike on Britain.

And just in time for the military-industrial shopping season.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia has failed Western analysts and political pundits in spectacular fashion. Despite a full-court effort to portray Russia as a barbaric, land-grabbing nation obsessed with the idea of restoring imperial real estate, Russia has stubbornly refused to play along.

Why, even dangling the fat bait of Ukraine before Russia’s nose could not get Moscow to react the way NATO had hoped it would.

In fact, while NATO has been hot on the warpath against a number of shell-shocked nations across the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa, Russia has gone to war on just one (1) occasion, and that was against Georgia, and only after the egomaniacal leader of that tiny Caucasian country tempted fate by stupidly poking the Russian bear first.

Thus, the BBC has apparently found it necessary to contrive an altered state of reality, a veritable twilight zone, to convince its audience of Russia’s ‘real’ intentions: The result is a military contractor’s wet dream, an apocalyptic bunker buster, unsubtly entitled ‘World War Three: Inside the War Room,’ that depicts a sweat-inducing showdown between Russia and NATO and the beginning of WWIII.

It’s probably safe to say I would not be playing plot spoiler by revealing here that Russia has been typecast as the aggressor.

To briefly summarize: After the Russian military rolls over little Latvia for no good strategic reason whatsoever, British military commanders and graying bureaucrats with furrowed brows huddle themselves in a bunker, deciding whether to launch Trident missiles at Russia in response.

The Daily Mail breathlessly described the tax-payer paid performance as “an utterly realistic ‘war game’” which presents “deeply troubling questions, not least with the current political row over Government plans to spend £100 billion replacing our fleet of Trident submarines.”

Eureka! At the very same time UK military contractors are salivating over the prospect of winning billion-dollar contracts to replace the Queen’s collection of Trident nuclear-armed submarines, along comes a state-funded scaremongering film, starring arch-villain Russia to lend some credence to the initiative.

Russian lawmaker Frants Klintsevich told the Russian News Service radio station the film will give NATO an opportunity to remind member states that they should crack open their tattered purses and boost their military spending.

“They [West] have always demonized Russia trying to show that it is uncontrolled and non-European. As for what happens recently… we qualified this a long time ago as an information war, a very serious and a profound one,” said Klintsevich, the first deputy chairman of Federation Council’s committee on defense and security.

“Today the US has a very serious problem of rearmament, the military and industrial sector needs to get financing. A mechanism of the corrupt American elite has been launched. This was in Iraq, is in Syria and around Europe,” the senator said.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin has provided a tongue-in-cheek critique of the BBC film.

“Unfortunately, our colleagues from the BBC have lately resorted to making public products, of quite low-quality. Therefore, we haven’t always been in a hurry to familiarize ourselves with them,” Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked whether the Kremlin has stayed up late to catch the film.

“It’s simply not worth the time it takes to watch,” Peskov said.

On the same day the BBC thriller was released, a report by the totally unbiased Rand Corporation – invoking sexed-up memories of Saddam Hussein’s alleged ability to strike the UK in 45 minutes – said that it would take just 60 hours for Russia to occupy Estonia and Latvia, and that’s not taking into account Riga’s rush-hour traffic.

“Across multiple games using a wide range of expert participants in and out of uniform playing both sides, the longest it has taken Russian forces to reach the outskirts of the Estonian and/or Latvian capitals of Tallinn and Riga, respectively, is 60 hours,” Rand said in its report.

“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad.”

It might be worth noting in closing that former RAND chief strategist, Herman Kahn, once forwarded the insane idea of a “winnable” nuclear exchange in his 1960 book ‘On Thermonuclear War.’

This led to Kahn being the inspiration for the title character of Stanley Kubrick’s black comedy satire Dr. Strangelove.

As far as the BBC’s latest anti-Russia production goes, well, it’s just plain strange.

Robert Bridge is the author of the book on corporate power, “Midnight in the American Empire”, which was released in 2013. @Robert_Bridge

February 8, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Privatization of Terrorism Blacklists Will Damage Innocent Lives

By Hugh Handeyside | ACLU | February 5, 2016

A private service that banks, employers, and government agencies use to screen customers and clients is blacklisting thousands of people as terrorists, sometimes based on nothing more than inaccurate and bigoted materials online, according to a VICE News article.

Thomson-Reuters’ “World-Check” database slaps a “terrorism” designation — and a picture of a red balaclava — on the profiles of individuals, charities, and religious institutions. Many of them are Muslims who have never been charged or even accused of terrorism-related offenses. The results are far-reaching and can include closure of the blacklisted individuals’ bank accounts, inability to get a job, or denial of government benefits. (And World-Check isn’t the only company chasing billions of dollars in the risk mitigation industry.)

Blacklisting by private companies isn’t new. Banks and insurance companies have long “redlined” neighborhoods in order to deny services to racial or ethnic minorities.  The entertainment industry used the infamous Hollywood blacklist to deny employment to actors, writers, and directors with suspected communist sympathies.

World-Check, however, appears particularly zealous in its effort to cash in on widespread fear of terrorism and a regulatory system that raises the stakes for banks and other companies desperate not to be accused of financing terrorism. Its confidential database includes more than 2.7 million individuals and entities, over 93,000 of whom it has designated as terrorists. According to a World-Check fact sheet, the company contracts with “49 of the world’s 50 top banks,” over 300 government agencies, and “9 of the top ten global law firms.” The Department of Homeland Security uses World-Check, as does HireRight, an employment screening company that conducts background checks for more than 40,000 organizations in 240 countries.

This kind of blacklisting for profit raises serious concerns about discrimination and the lack of meaningful appeal process that parallel our longstanding criticisms of government blacklisting. Just as the U.S. government uses a low, exception-ridden standard for its master watchlist — indeed, a single Facebook post or Tweet can provide all the “reasonable suspicion” necessary to watchlist someone — World-Check apparently labels people “terrorists” based solely on allegations from anti-Muslim zealots like Steve Emerson, who, according to the Center for American Progress, has “a history of fabricating evidence that perpetuates conspiracies of radical Islam infiltrating America through Muslim civil rights and advocacy organizations.”

Like the government, which blacklists people even after acquittal or closure of a terrorism-related investigation, World-Check uses its “terrorism” designation for people who have not been charged with a crime but may be accused, questioned, or investigated for terrorism offenses — a vast body of innocent people. And World-Check apparently shares the government’s lack of concern about stale information. Just as the government has used decades-old, unproven allegations to place some of our clients on the No Fly List, VICE reports that World-Check has failed to update some of its terror-designated profiles for as long as eight years.

Both World-Check and government watchlists also impose severe consequences on the people they label as terrorists. Inclusion on a government watchlist can cause detention at the border, harassment, and inability to travel by air or sea — to say nothing of the shame and fear that comes with being a terrorism suspect. World-Check’s terrorism designation can prompt banks to close people’s accounts, convince prospective employers not to hire a candidate, and cause funding sources for organizations or contractors to dry up.

There’s even the alarming possibility of a growing feedback loop between government and private blacklists. The Department of Homeland Security’s Analytic Framework for Intelligence, a massive data-mining project, uses “commercial data aggregators” like World-Check to analyze “individuals of interest” and identify “non-obvious relationships” with others. That not only broadens the government’s lens of suspicion, but it could also intensify the focus on affected individuals, potentially leading to more and more blacklisting — both public and private.

World-Check is similar to the government in another way that compounds all the other problems: lack of a meaningful process to challenge inclusion. The government has steadfastly refused to inform people why they’ve been watchlisted and stigmatized as terrorists, denying them a viable way to challenge wrongful watchlisting and clear their names. People erroneously blacklisted by the government can now turn up in private blacklists like World-Check’s.  And World-Check, too, offers no means of redress. In fact, VICE reports that senior World-Check employees have never seen someone successfully challenge inclusion in its database.

The government is already aware of the unfairness and discrimination that databases like World-Check can cause. In a May 2014 report on big data, the Executive Office of the President wrote, “Because of this lack of transparency and accountability, individuals have little recourse to understand or contest the information that has been gathered about them or what that data, after analysis, suggests.”

It shouldn’t be a controversial proposition that any information private companies sell to others that could damage people’s lives and reputations must be accurate, timely, and fairly contestable. And the government must apply those same principles to itself.

February 8, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Your Perception Is Worth Big Bucks To The Military-Industrial Complex

By Chris Rossini | RonPaulLibertyReport | February 5, 2016

We all know how Hollywood and the crony media likes to portray the US military. It’s almost always presented as this well-oiled machine, good looking people, white teeth, well-spoken, the whole nine yards.

Hardly will you see how trillions of taxpayers dollars go up in smoke and how the Pentagon mysteriously “loses” track of where the money goes. No, the actual truth about how government bureaucracy works is not what you’ll see in the latest blockbuster film.

Perceptions are critically important when running an operation that forcefully takes money from American citizens. Perception is worth big bucks! As a matter of fact, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter had his hands out this week seeking yet another $600 billion.

Carter says:

Even as we fight today’s fights, we must also be prepared for the fights that might come 10, 20, or 30 years down the road.

Oh really?

This is where perception comes in. The belief that the US military (a) should be fighting for decades to come, and (b) that it’s able to sit down and plan 10, 20, and 30 years down the road.

If this were even remotely true, was it in the US plans for ISIS to exist right now? How about the fact that the Taliban controls more of Afghanistan than at any time since 2001? Was that in the plans?

Obama’s “plan” for Iraq was “an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant.” Yet, Iraq today doesn’t resemble that at all. Obama was supposed to end the Iraq war, yet mission creep has the US with well above 4,000 troops in that country, and the numbers keep climbing. Was all of this in the plans as well?

The “plan” for Libya was to conduct a “humanitarian intervention,” yet anyone who looks at Libya now and sees humanitarianism needs to get their eyes checked. Was turning Libya into a cauldron of misery, and yet another magnet for ISIS, in the “plans”?

What if there’s a financial crisis in the next 10, 20, or 30 years? Is that factored into the plans? And are we to assume that the American public will still be OK with military interventionism that far into the future? What if non-interventionist ideas reach a critical mass?

The truth is this: our world is incredibly complex. It’s so complex that it’s beyond the human mind to “run it” with a military empire. If that were possible, the dustbin of history wouldn’t be overflowing with failed military empires.

Who knows what the world will look like 10, 20, or 30 years from now? That’s an eternity when you’re dealing with human beings that have the ability to choose and contemplate their actions.

One thing is certain though. What happens 30 years from now is insignificant to the military-industrial-complex. They want as much of our money as possible RIGHT NOW!

February 6, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Adelson removes publisher of LVRJ, sends signal to employees

By Eoin Higgins | American Herald Tribune | February 4, 2016

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has seen its publisher leave in the latest shakeup for the paper since Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson purchased it in December of 2015. For the past two months, staffers at the Nevada paper have been waiting for the next domino to fall as the paper works on transitioning its editorial and news reporting over to Adelson’s control.

The Review-Journal was sold to an Adelson family shell company, News + Media Capital Group LLC, by GateHouse Media, a subsidiary of New Media Investment Group. GateHouse had purchased the paper only nine months before, in March 2015.

A source inside the paper reached by phone told The American Herald Tribune that Adelson overpaid for the paper, substantially.

“We all know he offered way above what GateHouse paid for it,” the source said, “Which is why they sold. The sale agreement said that GateHouse would maintain operational control and keep the publisher.”

Within two weeks of Adelson’s purchase of the Review-Journal, the paper’s editor, Michael Hengel, had his contract bought out and left. Hengel had spearheaded the paper’s internal investigation into the identity of the buyer before resigning.

The investigation, undertaken by the paper’s staff, into who was behind News + Media Capital Group had uncovered Adelson’s identity by connecting the dots to a paper in Connecticut. That paper, The New Britain Herald, ran a story in September attacking one of Adelson’s adversaries, Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez.

Gonzalez memorably shut down Adelson in court in 2015, telling the casino mogul “Sir, you don’t get to argue with me” in open court.

It struck Review-Journal staff as odd that a paper from the other end of the country would report on a judge involved in adjudicating a dispute in Las Vegas, so they investigated further. What they found was a direct connection between their new ownership and the ownership of The New Britain Herald. News + Media Capital Group own both papers.

From there it was easy to connect the dots, although getting the story out was difficult. On December 16, the editorial board persevered and Adelson was outed as the buyer of the Review-Journal in the paper’s pages.

On December 19,  the paper published an editorial entitled “Review-Journal will fight to keep your trust every day.” The content was provocative, and indicated the editorial board was spoiling for a fight. They got one. Hengel resigned three days later.

In the wake of Hengel’s departure, The American Herald Tribune’s source said, things largely calmed down at the paper. Most changes at the paper, according to our source, have been “subtle.” They have mainly revolved around bureaucratic issues relating to pay, insurance, and benefits.

As the company control transitions over to News + Media, the source said, “it’s been an HR nightmare. There have been signatures needed for documentation of new benefit packages, transitions. It’s been difficult.”

This bureaucratic transition provided News + Media the pretext to replace publisher Jason Taylor. Taylor, a GateHouse employee, was retained by News + Media in the sale agreement to manage the newsroom. His retention also served to give the impression that Adelson would not interfere with the Review-Journal’s work.

His departure was sudden, and a shock.

“The only reason [Taylor] would have left was because of Adelson,” the source told The American Herald Tribune, “The day before we were in an emergency meeting with [Taylor] and he told the staff ‘If I’m leaving, you should worry.’ He was here that Wednesday, and gone on Thursday. Overnight.”

Adelson’s increasing involvement in Review-Journal operations was not unexpected at the paper. Most employees were prepared for impending influence of the billionaire. But Taylor’s ejection was sudden, brash, and blatant.

“All the changes we’ve seen have been subtle,” our source told us, “Taylor protected us from what was going on.”

Taylor, it should be noted, was the most significant roadblock to the article disclosing the new ownership that preceded Hengel’s resignation. Still, his departure opened the publisher’s position for an Adelson partisan.

The new publisher, Craig Moon, is a veteran of USA Today, which he ran from 2003-2009. Moon’s appointment was announced the same day Taylor was fired, unmistakably signaling that the publisher’s replacement had been planned for some time.

Moon told the press after the announcement that he didn’t expect much interference from the Adelson family, but it remains to be seen if that will hold true.

Adelson’s propensity for buying newspapers is not new- he publishes the free daily Israel Hayom in Israel, a paper known for promoting a hard-right slant to coverage of Israeli politics. The paper is known locally as “Bibiton,” or Bibi’s (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s) newspaper.

Adelson’s record in promoting his political point of view through the press overseas, then, has led to a lot of concern over his plans for the future of the Review-Journal.

“We’ve been looking at the stories coming out of the news department,” said our source. “We’ve been the stories that come out now because ultimately the publisher has the final say in what gets printed.”

The paper recently published an editorial strongly endorsing an Adelson project, a proposed $1 billion stadium at the University of Las Vegas.

The stadium is an Adelson vanity project, one that he has been pushing for quite some time. By purchasing the Review-Journal, Adelson has acquired a productive shaper of opinion in Las Vegas. It’s one that will allow him to move forward with his plans for the stadium.

Our source believes that in the short term, Adelson’s purchase of the Review-Journal was based on his desire for the stadium.

“The Adelson family said they wanted to own the paper as a family legacy, but they’re trying to build a $1 billion stadium,” our source explained. The source added that they were sure that more changes were coming in the near future.

“It’ll be a slow process. Adelson’s smart, he’s not going to risk getting called out. It could be a while.” There was a pause on the phone. “Then again, he did just kick out the publisher.”

MORE

February 4, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

US & Israeli arms companies bag £500m UK military contract

RT | February 2, 2016

Israeli arms company Elbit Systems and US military contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) have won a £500-million contract to provide aircraft training for the UK military.

The Affinity venture, in which the two are partners, will provide fixed wing training for sections of the UK Armed Forces concerned with aviation.

Affinity’s component is part of a larger deal led by Ascent Flight training and worth £1.1 billion. Ascent is itself a fifty-fifty venture between international arms firms Babcock and Lockheed Martin.

The aim is to deliver flight training up to the year 2033 in line with the UK Military Flying Training System (UKMFTS).

In a statement, Ascent’s director Paul Livingston said: “The award of these contracts marks a key milestone for the fixed wing element of UKMFTS. Modern training aircraft selected specifically to meet the bespoke needs of the UK’s Armed Forces will deliver optimized training alongside high tech simulators and classroom trainers.”

Ministry of Defence (MoD) Procurement Minister Phillip Dunne said the deal was “fantastic news for the future of our military aircrew” and would provide them with “a modern training system which will equip them to deliver on the front line.”

Elbit Systems are well known for their range of drones and the firm is of particular concern among human rights groups.

According to a report by the charity War on Want, the MoD awarded a £1-billion contract to Elbit and its UK partner Thales to develop the Watchkeeper drone. The model is now in service with the military.

The charity argues that Watchkeepers are field tested in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“Israeli companies such as Elbit will often boast of their competitive advantage in the global arms market due to their extensive ‘testing’ of their weaponry in ‘real life’ situations,” the report says.

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Feds: We can’t disclose FBI records because then public would know how FBI works

PrivacySOS | February 1, 2016

Granting the ACLU and the public access to staffing, budgetary, and statistical information about the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and FBI would mean “the public would know where the FBI was putting its resources,” warned an Assistant US Attorney in oral argument in a Boston federal court last week. The government apparently doesn’t want the public to know anything about how the FBI and JTTF spend public money, staff its offices, or conduct investigations.

Heaven forbid the public “know where the FBI [puts] its resources.”

In December 2013 the ACLU of Massachusetts sent a FOIA request to the FBI, which sought basic information about the structure and operations of the Boston JTTF and the Boston FBI field office. Amid the information the FBI redacted from its responsive disclosures were all budget figures, the number of FBI and state and local officials tasked to work on the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), and the number of assessments, preliminary investigations, and full investigations the Boston FBI conducted over two years ago. (It’s odd that the government is putting up a fight, resisting disclosure of these records, given that in 2011, it gave Charlie Savage of the New York Times similar information.)

According to the government, this information is exempt from public disclosure under FOIA law pursuant to Exemption 7e, the part of the federal statute that says agencies do not have to disclose records that would reveal law enforcement “techniques” or “procedures.” But as ACLU of Massachusetts staff attorney Jessie Rossman argues, staffing, budgetary, and statistical information about caseloads do not reveal techniques or procedures.

The stakes for the public are high. If the court agrees with the government’s reasoning and denies the public access to this information, it would put the federal judiciary’s stamp of approval on what attorney Rossman rightfully argues the FBI is seeking in this case: “a categorical [FOIA] exemption for all law enforcement information.”

As Rossman said last week during oral argument, that’s not what congress intended when it wrote the Freedom of Information Act. If lawmakers intended to bar the public from accessing all law enforcement records, they would have written that into the FOIA statute—which they didn’t.

At issue in the ongoing litigation over FBI redactions is whether the public can hold law enforcement agencies accountable for how they spend our money and act in our names. If we don’t know anything about how law enforcement agencies operate, we can’t hold them accountable. Unaccountable law enforcement is not only bad for freedom; it also harms public safety. As history demonstrates, when the FBI is allowed to conduct its business in the dark, precious government resources are inevitably dedicated to spying on people who threaten the status quo, but who do not threaten their fellow Americans.

While antidemocratic in the extreme, it’s easy to understand why the FBI wants to keep budget, staffing, and investigations statistics secret from the public.

When the public learned about the FBI’s illegal and antidemocratic COINTELPRO operations in the 1970s, the attorney general imposed rules forbidding the FBI from spying on people unless agents could show the targets were likely violating the law. After 9/11, those rules were scrapped. The new guidelines allow FBI agents to open investigations (called “assessments”) against people absent any suspicion of wrongdoing. Since the 9/11 attacks the Bureau has been free to spy on people it doesn’t suspect of criminal activity, supposedly because suspicionless investigations are required during the permanent “war on terror.”

The ACLU is litigating for this information because we want to know what results from the FBI’s suspicionless investigations, known as assessments. If it’s true, as we suspect, that there are thousands of FBI assessments but comparatively few preliminary or full investigations—let alone arrests or successful prosecutions—it confirms what we and other civil libertarians have been saying for over a decade. Namely, allowing the FBI to spy on people absent criminal predicates isn’t just bad for civil liberties; it’s bad law enforcement. If agents are routinely chasing down leads that go nowhere, those agents are wasting their time spying on ordinary people on the public’s dime.

The FBI refuses to give us this information, which is part of the reason we sued. In essence, the government argues the information must remain secret because if disclosed, it will tip off terrorists to… the fact that the government wants to investigate crimes.

But hiding from the public records revealing how many assessments, preliminary investigations, and full investigations the Boston FBI office has conducted doesn’t protect public safety. Instead, it obstructs precisely the kind of public accountability that would make the FBI better at protecting the public from people who mean us harm. […]

Only when law enforcement agencies are subject to rigorous transparency can the public hold them accountable for their actions, thereby making them more effective at protecting public safety.

The FBI has a long and dirty history of spying on dissidents and activists, instead of investigating and building cases against people who do real harm to Americans, like the bankers who collapsed the US and world economy in 2008. So it’s easy to see why the government doesn’t want the public to learn any meaningful information about the inner workings of the Bureau. But government agencies can’t keep information secret from the public because it would reveal something embarrassing or unconstitutional. And the records at issue don’t reveal “techniques” or “procedures.”

Here’s to hoping the federal court agrees, and compels the FBI to release this basic information about how it spends our money and acts in our names. Only then will we have any meaningful access to judge how the Bureau is conducting itself, and so the opportunity to exert some democratic accountability over its operations.

Full article

February 2, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

Feeding the Military-Industrial Complex

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | February 1, 2016

America’s military procurement machine may be the single most successful system of wealth transfer ever devised — moving tens of billions of dollars every year from ordinary taxpayers into the pockets of big defense contractors and their allies in Congress. But as a provider of working equipment to defend the United States against realistic threats, it is becoming more and more dysfunctional with every passing year.

Current administration plans call for spending a trillion dollars over the next 30 years to “modernize” America’s nuclear arsenal to fight a pointless war that would decimate major centers of civilization across the globe. [See Consortiumnews.com’sLearning to Love — and Use — the Bomb”]

At the same time, the Pentagon is also asking for even greater sums to modernize conventional weapons systems that are better suited to East-West conflict scenarios of the 1950s than to today’s skirmishes with insurgents in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Spending on major military acquisition programs is projected to soar 23 percent, after adjusting for inflation, from fiscal year 2015 to 2022. Worse yet, Congress and the administration are spending much of that money on weapons that don’t even work as advertised.

One of the biggest drivers of new procurement spending today is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet. The plane is too expensive and sophisticated for simple bombing runs in Syria or Afghanistan, but too crippled to use in dogfights against Russia’s or China’s most advanced fighters. It’s ideal for one purpose only: With a total projected program cost of more than $1 trillion, this program will keep Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors in 46 states afloat for at least the next two decades.

The F-35 program was awarded more than $12 billion in the omnibus spending bill that passed Congress in December for fiscal year 2016. That money is slated to buy 68 planes, up from 44 purchased in fiscal 2015. Over the entire life of the program, the Pentagon expects to acquire more than 2,400 jets.

The F-35 program has suffered countless ills since 2001. In the words of the New York Times, “The project is seven years behind schedule, costs have soared, and eyebrows arched higher after a prototype was outmaneuvered by an older F-16 in a mock dogfight early last year.”

Critics note that the plane has been grounded because of safety, software or other technical issues — including jets catching fire on the runway — 13 times since 2007. The latest glitch is an over-weight helmet — costing $400,000 a pop — which can cause fatal whiplash for some pilots. Until it is redesigned, pilots weighing less than 136 pounds are grounded.

As of last year, the same helmet was still unable to let pilots distinguish friendly aircraft from foes — a rather critical capability when they are shooting at blips on a radar screen beyond visual range. The stability of the planes’ engines was rated “extremely poor” and other key systems were unreliable as well.

“At best . . . we will be launching an unstable plane that cannot perform many of its core missions for years,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, last summer. “At worst, it’ll hurt people or we’ll ground it in the hangar and spend billions on a retrofit.”

A test pilot who flew the F-35 in mock air battles in January 2015, against an older (and much cheaper) F-16D, reported that the newfangled jet was incapable of outmaneuvering the F-16 in a dogfight. That was true even though the test was rigged by making the F-16 carry heavy extra fuel tanks to slow it down.

That result confirmed a computer simulation run in 2008 by analysts at RAND, an Air Force contractor. They reported that in a hypothetical conflict with Chinese air and naval forces, the F-35 was quickly wiped out. America’s latest jet suffered “inferior acceleration, inferior climb [rate], inferior sustained turn capability,” they wrote. “Also has lower top speed. Can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run.”

The F-35’s builders have proven their superiority at political firepower, however. The Center for Responsive Politics reported that in 2014 the plane’s main contractor, Lockheed Martin, forked over $4.1 million in campaign contributions, supplemented by $7.6 million in contributions from three subcontractors: Northrop Grumman, United Technologies, and BAE. Their money poured into members of the House Armed Services Committee, House Appropriations Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee, as well as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The F-35 isn’t the only dysfunctional weapons procurement program draining money today. Its predecessor, the F-22, proved to be an expensive dog, suffering a critical failure after every 1.7 hours of flight, on average. Although first flown in 1997, it was not allowed into combat until 2014, on a mission over Syria.

Or take the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship. Designed for missions close to shore, it has an experimental aluminum hull that may be vulnerable to rough seas and melt at high temperatures (such as caused by a missile or bomb strike). No one will know for sure until at least 2018, but in the meantime, 24 ships have been built or are under construction. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has asked for cutbacks in the program, but the Navy is in open revolt.

But don’t applaud the Pentagon’s civilian leadership too quickly for challenging the Navy. Carter reportedly wants to use some of the savings from the ship program to buy more F-35 fighter jets.

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | | 1 Comment

Latest corruption index does not reveal Britain’s real place in global crime wave

By Graham Vanbergen | TruePublica | February 1, 2016

Transparency International (TI) releases its latest report entitled the Corruption Perceptions Index and continues to find that corruption is rife globally and remains a blight around the world. Overall, two-thirds of the 168 countries on the 2015 index did not fair well.

Denmark took the top spot for the 2nd year running for least corrupt, with North Korea and Somalia the worst performers.

TI states on their website that the goals to aim at for a corruption free country has certain characteristics such as; “high levels of press freedom; access to budget information so the public knows where money comes from and how it is spent; high levels of integrity among people in power; and judiciaries that don’t differentiate between rich and poor, and that are truly independent from other parts of government. Conflict and war, poor governance, weak public institutions like police and the judiciary, and a lack of independence in the media characterise the lowest ranked countries.

Notably the five countries with the biggest declines in these characteristics in the past 4 years include Libya, Australia, Brazil, Spain and Turkey. The big improvers in its report include Greece, Senegal and surprisingly, the UK.

As it turns out sixty-eight per cent of countries worldwide have a serious corruption problem. Half of the G20 are among them. The G20 consists of the top 20 economies in the world but ranks the EU as one economy even though it is made up of 28 countries alone.

The research shows that half of all the 34 OECD countries are violating their international obligations to crack down on bribery by their companies abroad.

Britain has entered the top ten for the first time behind Denmark (1st), Finland, Sweden, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore, Canada, Germany and Luxembourg. The US ranks 16th. In the EU, other countries not doing so well are; France which ranks 23rd, Spain 36th, Italy 61st and Bulgaria, the last of EU nations at 69th place.

The truth is that Britain has not done better, don’t forget this is an index of perception, not actual corruption.

In comments from TI, Britain was found to have conducted an “extraordinarily inept” review of freedom of information laws. The government’s review of the Freedom of Information Act threatens to further undermine trust in politicians and damage democracy. If ever there was a demonstration of the governments intention of transparency, look no further than Former home secretary Jack Straw, who previously stated he wants the act to be scrapped and rewritten, and Lord Carlisle who accused the Guardian of a “criminal act” in publishing the Snowden leaks, both are on the commission. TI fails to mention this.

Even TI’s own UK executive director Robert Barrington said there were “good reasons why people are sceptical about whether Britain really merits a top 10 ranking,” proving not even he believes this ranking.

He went further by highlighting; “overseas bribery by UK companies, the laundering of corrupt assets through the City, the lax regulation and lack of transparency in British-controlled tax havens, to say nothing of corruption scandals here in the UK,” and mentions the “dropping of significant proposals putting personal responsibility on bankers for money-laundering failings.” He continues with “The sequence of petty political scandals around lobbying, the revolving door and party funding discredits the UK in the eyes of the world and gives fuel to the critics who want to portray Mr Cameron’s agenda as nothing more than hypocritical and sanctimonious.”

Barrington is rightly angry.

The Independent reported in July that The City of London is the money-laundering centre of the world’s drug trade, according to an internationally acclaimed crime expert. In addition, every financial expert now agrees that due to lax financial laws by government, that the London property market is built largely on laundered money of crime from all over the world involving hidden tax havens, most of which are British.

In March last year, the Financial Conduct Authority (itself replacing the toothless Financial Services Authority that was funded by the very banks it was supposed to oversee) said that it would conduct a review on whether banking culture was changing after a slew of financial scandals that dogged the industry. Martin Wheatley, the CEO was looking into the rigging of bank lending rates amongst the many crimes perpetrated in The City of London. Chancellor George Osborne then sacked Wheatley as it was clear he was going to do his job and then just a few weeks ago had the review dropped after replacing Wheatley with a person ‘more agreeable’ to the banks. This was a cynical move by Osborne to protect the banking industry.

When it comes to press freedom Britain has no bragging rights. Just two years ago the British government’s draconian response to the Guardian’s reporting of Edward Snowden saw the UK drop five places in TI’s report. Shockingly, Britain languishes globally in 36th position behind countries such as Belize for press freedom, a country that is rife with lawlessness, corruption, suffers a lack of public, business and press freedom, is mired in accusations of labour abuse, crime and unemployment.

It doesn’t help that the Serious Fraud Squad who was investigating high-profile cross-border investigations into business practices at some of the UK’s biggest companies had their budget cut so deeply that the FT reported “The scale and pace of budget cuts inflicted on the SFO will make prosecuting its caseload impossible.” It must be clear by now that the government has an agenda to protect these serial corporate offenders.

David Cameron won praise in 2013 after announcing at the Open Government Partnership summit in London that the UK intended to require companies registered in the UK to reveal the identity of their real owners in public filings at Companies House. This was then heavily watered down after the Queen was warned that her British territories were now the world biggest tax havens, harbouring tens of trillions of illegally stashed cash and assets that was described as a “web of secrecy jurisdictions”.  The Tax Justice Network (TJN) said Britain now rules the world of tax havens.

Her Majesty’s British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies make up around 25 percent of the world’s tax havens which are now blacklisted by the European Commission and now ranked as the most important player in the financial secrecy world, hardly a shining example of integrity and morality.

And the extent of these crimes is almost boundless as TJN said “The victims of this secrecy include, among others, 2 billion Commonwealth citizens. A recent study of 33 African countries found that they lost over $1tr in capital flight since the 1970s, of which $640bn came from 16 Commonwealth countries. These losses dwarf the external debts of ‘just’ $190bn for the 33 countries.”

In the meantime, Suspicious Activity Reports dealt with by a British specialist police unit focusing on the proceeds of crime and corruption blocked just seven transactions in an entire year. Transparency International reported that the police unit during the previous year (2014) for seizing corrupt assets was “not fit for purpose”. Given the sheer scale of financial crimes and corruption taking place, this performance can only be seen as suspicious itself. In 2015, this police unit required emergency funding.

So widespread is corruption in Britain that Keith Bristow, director-general of the UK’s National Crime Agency, said in January that the scale of crime and it’s subsequent money laundering operations was “a strategic threat” to the country’s economy and reputation. “Many hundreds of billions of pounds of criminal money is almost certainly laundered through UK banks and their subsidiaries each year.” And yet the government facilitates it by actively doing nothing.

When it comes to conflict and war, Britain’s international performance is dire. Britain, as we now all know, was heavily involved in the fall and subsequent deaths of over a million innocent Iraqis. Its campaign in Libya has turned the wealthiest and healthiest African nation into a lawless cesspool ruled by terrorism and death. Syria is ongoing. This has manifested itself into a refugee crisis the likes of which has not been seen since the last world war and an escalation of terrorism continues.

The granting of licences by government for the sale of spying equipment and armaments to some of the most oppressive regimes in the world is another scandal that further destabilises world peace.

The Corruption Perception Index does not tackle the issues at hand. It confuses by focusing on pubic sector corruption, but private corporations are the worst offenders backed by significant government cooperation. Britain’s banking industry is not effectively cited even though it is mired in scandal, facilitates a huge international crime wave backed by money laundering services on an industrial scale along with the tax havens that supports it.

February 1, 2016 Posted by | Corruption | | Leave a comment

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