Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

As Syria Continues To Simmer, Lebanon Remains in Limbo

January 16, 2013

Pat_BeirPatrick Henningsen
21stCentury Wire
Jan 16, 2012

BEIRUT – On arrival to Lebanon’s capital city, all seems very functional and normal on the surface, as the city runs business as usual.

Below the surface however, there is a feeling of trepidation, an unspoken collective worry that a city and country who has gradually managed to pick up the pieces from the decades-long conflict which stretched through the 70’s and 80’s, an Israeli occupation of its south, followed by a brief, albeit destructive, ‘33 Day War’ with Israel in 2006 – might once again be dragged into another sub-regional conflict. It goes without saying that police and security services in Lebanon are on high alert.

Tourism Hit Hard

The neighboring conflict has also had a very negative impact on Lebanon’s tourism, keeping away the much-needed outside currency for which many jobs, independent hotels and other SMEs are dependent for their economic survival. But despite the recent problems, Beirut is still moving ahead, still attracting some foreign investment made visible by the hundreds of new building projects springing up all over the city. And as expected, the restaurants seem busy and the cafes are still buzzing.

Already there is a tangible presence of Syrian refugees in Lebanon and in the capital Beirut, who have fled from the fighting and breakdown of society currently unfolding next door. The impact of the Syrian conflict on its neighbor Lebanon in such a short space of time is substantial.

Latest reports put the number of Syrian refugees recently accumulated in Lebanon at 300,000. This figure is contrasted by the number of Palestinian refugees whose ancestors fled Israel’s ethnic cleanings in 1947-48, still housed in Lebanon today – which is currently estimated at 500,000.

The Issue of Sectarianism

Lebanon is, more than ever, a demonstration of sectarianism par excellence. In of country of 4 million, there is differentiation within the Christian community – Greek Orthodox, Maronite, Melkite, Greek Catholic and Roman Catholic, as well as within and the Muslim community – Sunnis, Shi’ites, and Druze.  In addition to this, there is a substantial Armenian community, a large community of foreign nationals from the US and Europe, Asian and African migrant workers, and a small Jewish community. One might also note that the internal rifts between Christian and Muslim factions are almost as great as the polarity separating Christians and Muslim as a whole.

That said, it is also the only society in the region where contrasting religions and cultures are completely intermingled and where tolerance has evolved into a virtue.

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Co-existance: A scene from a recent Christmas illustrates the country’s diversity (PHOTO: Mary Henningsen)

In its totality, Lebanon consists of some of 19 religions and dozens more ethnic , groups. Many a thesis and book have sought to chronicle (and will continue to argue no doubt) this strive towards cultural détente in the Levant. One such writer is Lebanese-American Professor Walid Phares, who sums up the country’s current alignment as follows:

“Although multi-ethic and multi-religious, Lebanon was viewed by the political establishment as a unitary republic which can only have a majority and a minority. Therefore, and without a mechanism of decentralization, Federation or simply pluralism, that establishment was vying over who really represents the “majority” of all Lebanese, and who reduced to a “minority.” The debate was then about numbers, census, demographic changes, communities who have allegedly increased in numbers because of poverty versus communities who have decreased in numbers because of emigration. But that was a false problem.”

Much of the country’s political energy has been expended over the course of the last half century in determining who is the majority and who is the minority, and although the intention was to present a fair solution to representation in its central government, it has also been the source of internal power-politics, which some believe laid down a fertile soil for the sharp upheaval Lebanon experienced from 1975 onward.

Nowhere is the nation’s simmering ‘political ratio’ reflected more than in its own constitution – a document which goes to extraordinary lengths to secure some form of socio-religious balance. The Lebanese constitution mandates that the office President should be held by a Maronite Christian, the Speaker of the House held by a Shi’ite Muslim, and the post of Prime Minister held by a Sunni Muslim.

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Beirut shoulders a diverse collection of ethnic groups, along with their corresponding political issues (PHOTO: Patrick Henningsen)

Many academics such as Phares, feel that the future would be brighter if Lebanon would embrace its multicultural reality and take a feather out of Belgium’s or Canada’s cap, and consider phasing out its historical obsession with ethnic and religious minorities and majorities. In other words, if Lebanon could embrace ‘multiculturalism’, it wouldn’t need the old system. This idea is easier said than done, as vested political interests and blood spilled over decades has, to a large degree, cemented traditional political and social paradigms into place.

Syria Simmering Next Door

What’s foremost on the minds of Lebanese in 2013 is what will happen with Syria, and will Lebanon we dragged to their war. Alongside this, many are left questioning whether or not Lebanon will ever achieve some form of long-term peace with its southern neighbor Israel. The former is the key to its short-term prosperity, while the latter is the key to healing wounds still festering from the wars, as well as the influx of Palestinians it has had to shoulder since 1948.

The situation in Syria is made even more complex by the fact that a number of foreign powers with vested interests in Damascus regime change are supplying fighters, arms, logistics, money and mass media support – which has always been a recipe for chaos throughout history. Among these foreign actors vying for position in Syria are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, US, UK and France (somehow, it’s all beginning to look more and more like pre-WWI power-politics).

Syria has long played an overshadowing role in the stability – and destiny of its smaller neighbor Lebanon. The scares still run deep from Syria’s obtuse and often disjointed alliances with different factions over the course of Lebanon’s Civil Wars in the 70’s and 1980’s. The result of Syria’s hand in those affairs has been a dysfunctional, and often times confusing relationship between Damascus and Beirut, as well as the cause for political dysfunction within Beirut itself.

In 2013, however, the alignments are markedly different from previous decades. For starters, Syria, itself, is now a major piece on the global chessboard, not least of all because of its three major allies, all of whom seem to run contrary tocentral planning in the West – namely, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iran and now Russia. All interested parties see Syria as the key domino, and this, rightly so, is the cause for much worry right now.

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Stunning countryside: Sunset over the historic Chouf mountain range in southern Lebanon (PHOTO: Patrick Henningsen)

Lebanon has a number of internal issues I’m sure it would prefer to sort out first before being dragged into another sub-regional conflagration – like it’s own central government, its economy, its potentially massive tourism trade, and of course, the Palestinian refugee issue.

Yesterday, I was able to travel south the ancient city of Tyre, some 16km from the the Israeli border. The ruins are stunning, but so are the Palestinian refugee camp which runs alongside it. It’s was a little tragic, if not amusing to discover there that some Palestinians in need of rock for building their homes had permanently borrowed some of the antiquity ruins next door. In a certain way, some five millennia of history puts the current protracted upheaval into some perspective.

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Ancient city of Tyre in Lebanon (PHOTO: Patrick Henningsen)

The recent past certainly has pulled Lebanon down in a spiral of social tension and extreme economic strife, but set against the larger backdrop of successive empires and cultures who have been overlaid on to this small, but historically pivotal region, it’s merely the latest chapter in a much larger epic novel. Many people outside of Lebanon – academics, archeologists, tourists – all long to see Lebanon achieve stability and one day showcase its incredible cultural and historical wealth to the world.

In essence, making the difficult transition from a fractured state, to one of stability and eventual prosperity. I talked about this to one long-term Beirut resident, named Jamal, who put it simply, “To do all this, first we need to have peace.”

It’s that simple. On paper anyway.

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Writer Patrick Henningsen is a roving correspondent for the UK Column, as well as host of 21st Century Wire TV programme airing Thursdays at 6pm on PSTV SKY channel 191 in the UK.

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10 Reason to Cancel Your TV License and more…

January 15, 2013

BanTheBBC says:

Up until the last few years I used to be a big fan of BBC programming and would invest at least a few hours every day watching programmes like Eastenders, Top of the Pops, Only Fools & Horses, Question Time, Newsnight, Panorama, etc.

But these days I cannot bring myself to watch any BBC programmes at all. Even watching just five minutes worth makes me feel dirty. It’s not the quality of the programming that’s at issue, it’s the fact that the BBC is such a repulsive propaganda machine that seems to pay no attention to the concerns of the very people who are funding them.

The BBC has had it too good for too long. One of the major problems posed by the BBC is their lack of accountability to the very people who pay their wages — us. The BBC is never far away from controversy but nothing ever seems to change and no one in their corporation ever seems to be worse off as a result of their wrongdoing. Imagine for a moment that it was a completely different media company we were talking about, and not the BBC. For argument’s sake, let’s say it was ITV or Sky. What would happen is that the viewers would refuse to watch that TV station any longer and/or they would cancel their subscriptions. And if enough people did this, the company would go bankrupt very quickly. That’s because these company’s are directly accountable to their viewers who pay their wages via subscriptions or from watching the adverts. However, the BBC does not afford us this luxury to the people who fund them. It doesn’t matter how many people stop watching BBC programmes because the BBC will continue to receive £3.4 billion a year from our pockets. Therefore the BBC has no financial impetus to even want to change what they do. Even if a million people suddenly stopped watching the BBC, it wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference to the BBC’s annual turnover, which means that they can continue to anger people as much as they want without any fear of redundancies, pay cuts or the company going bust through lack of consumer confidence in their products.

Therefore we only have one real option available to us and that’s to cancel our TV Licence…

More on ‘The Great TV License Scam’…

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Is Al – Jazeera Fair And Balanced ?

January 6, 2013

Washington Post
Micheal Peel

ABU DHABI — Qatar’s al-Jazeera television station provided a great ringside seat for the “day of rage” in Cairo almost two years ago that offered the first clear sign of the threat to the rule of then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

While many western media organizations were scrambling to ramp up coverage of Egypt’s nascent revolution, al-Jazeera had gripping reports of an extraordinary protest that ended with the ruling party headquarters ablaze and the army on the streets.

Yet, mirroring the progress of the Arab uprising itself, the 16-year-old Doha-based broadcaster’s Cairo triumph has since given way to a more complicated life, as it seeks to extend its international influence by buying into the U.S. television market.

Long recognized in the Middle East for its daring and sometimes groundbreaking reporting in a politically repressive region, al-Jazeera described its purchase this week of former vice president Al Gore’s Current TV network as a “historic development” in a market where it has long coveted expansion. The station, which has a respected English language arm and is already seen in more than 260 million homes in 130 countries, plans to start a U.S.-based news channel available to 40 million American households.

While al-Jazeera is celebrating its U.S. plans, it faces tough questions about its coverage and whether it is as independent of Qatar’s autocratic ruling monarchy as it claims to be. The broadcaster is partly funded by the government of Qatar, and the country’s increasingly prominent political role in the region’s turmoils has intensified scrutiny of al-Jazeera’s coverage.

“With the Arab Spring, al-Jazeera’s reach and credibility have grown in the West,” said Jane Kinninmont, a senior research fellow in the Middle East division of Chatham House, the London-based think tank. “But certainly, it has become more criticized in the Arab world – or, at least, become seen as more politicized.”

Although the popular revolts that swept the Arab world and brought down regimes from Tunisia to Yemen have presented al-Jazeera with an extraordinary opportunity to expand its audience, they have thrown up growing problems of perception.

And while the English channel is seen as enjoying a high degree of leeway, some analysts say Doha’s foreign policy positions — including support for armed rebels in Libya and Syria — are reflected in the tone of coverage, particularly on the flagship Arabic channel. Critics say Islamist movements with which Qatar has tried to achieve good relations have received over-sympathetic attention, with airtime given to wild allegations that opponents of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, are agents of foreign powers.

Some observers say al-Jazeera is cautious about reporting sensitive stories in Qatar, such as the fire at a Doha nursery last year that killed 13 children and six adults, although the channel denies it was slow to cover the tragedy.

“Al-Jazeera is generally a free network, but it works within the political constraints as understood in Qatar,” said Michael Stephens, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute Qatar think tank.

Al-Jazeera dismisses suggestions its coverage shows any bias, including toward fellow Persian Gulf states allied to Qatar. The broadcaster says that, far from following official agendas, it often sets them. “We were covering Syria, for example, long before outside governments took great interest,” it said.

It says that — while it takes a “good portion” of its funding from the Qatari state — it is a private not-for-profit company with other sources of income, such as advertising. And though Sheikh Ahmed bin Jassim al Thani, al-Jazeera’s director-general, is a member of Qatar’s ruling clan, the broadcaster says he has “no definable relationship” to the country’s ruler and is part of a “professional management who have steered Al Jazeera to success regardless of their nationalities or surnames”.

Perhaps the most unpredictable tension now facing al-Jazeera springs from Qatar’s political scene, which appears increasingly at odds with the broadcaster’s preferred image as a fearless network “dedicated to telling the real stories from the Arab street.” The Qatari authorities sentenced a poet to life imprisonment in November for insulting the emir in a widely-circulated work about the Arab Spring that criticized the “repressive elite”.

But al-Jazeera gives short shrift to the notion that its reputation might be threatened by the Qatar government’s intolerance of opposition at home. “Our journalists have never been told to cover or not cover a story due to pressure from outside this organization,” the broadcaster said.

Abeer Allam of the Financial Times in Cairo contributed to this story.

Robbing Recessioners ?

January 6, 2013

As standards of living across the eurozone continue to fall, a number of age-old problems are on the rise. In France, the faltering economy has led to a startling surge in armed robbery – with gold and high-value jewellery the main target.

China Opens World’s Longest High-Speed Rail Route This Week

December 27, 2012

Independent
Dec 27, 2012

China today opened the world’s longest high-speed rail line that more than halves the time required to travel from the country’s capital in the north to Guangzhou, an economic hub in southern China.

The opening of the 1,428 mile-line was marked by the 9am departure of a train from Beijing for Guangzhou. Another train left Guangzhou for Beijing an hour later.

China has massive resources and considerable prestige invested in its showcase high-speed railways programme.

But it has in recent months faced high-profile problems: part of a line collapsed in central China after heavy rains in March, while a bullet train crash in the summer of 2011 killed 40 people. The former railway minister, who spearheaded the bullet train’s construction, and the ministry’s chief engineer, were detained in an unrelated corruption investigation months before the crash.

Trains on the latest high-speed line will initially run at 186 mph with a total travel time of about eight hours. Before, the fastest time between the two cities by train was more than 20 hours…

Read more

Deutsche Bank Convicted in Italy Amid a Widening International Banking Scandal

December 22, 2012

By Valentina Pop
Dec 22, 2012

BERLIN – An Italian judge has convicted Deutsche Bank of fraud, as the bank struggles to save its reputation amid widening probes over tax evasion and rate-fixing after the departure of its former CEO Josef Ackermann.

Dr Josef Ackermann: Bilderberg head, and now subject of massive banking fraud through Deutsche Bank

Deutsche Bank was convicted together with US giant JP Morgan Chase, Switzerland’s UBS and a German-Irish bank, Depfa, for their role in overseeing fraud by their bankers in the sale of interest rate bets to the city of Milan. About €90 million are to be seized from the four banks, who will also have to pay €1 million each in fines.

The case is only the first in a series of similar complaints: around 600 Italian municipalities had bought such derivatives and lost about €4 billion during the financial crisis, according to the Italian central bank.

In parallel, Deutsche Bank is part of a worldwide investigation for altering the British benchmark interest rate (Libor) and its euro-counterpart (Euribor). Once the European Central Bank takes over the supervision of eurozone’s largest banks, Deutsche Bank will fall under the new scrutiny.

The Milan sentence, which can still be appealed, also comes after Deutsche Bank had its Frankfurt headquarters raided last week in a probe for alleged tax evasion on profits cashed in from trading with carbon permits.

Germany’s largest commercial bank, once renowned for its solid and risk-averse business, has been transformed over the last decade into an aggressive investor and speculator with risky bets known as derivatives, largely due to the leadership of Swiss top banker Josef Ackermann, who stepped down earlier this year.

The US Senate named the German bank alongside Goldman Sachs as the two institutions that played a “key role” in the financial crisis.

But unlike Denmark’s Danske Bank whose management apologised for its role in the financial crisis, Ackermann still got praise for it…

Read more at EU Observer

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SKYNET IS COMING: Computers will taste, smell and hear within five years, IBM predicts

December 18, 2012

21st Century Wire say… This is one step away from SKYNET ala Terminator – as these advances in artificial intelligence will be extended to the current multi-billion dollar per year drone industry, where unmanned drones will not just be chasing phantom terrorists in the hills of Afghanistan, but more likely chasing citizens within North America, Europe and elsewhere. 

Washington Post
Hayley Tsukayama

As 2012 winds down, lots of people are looking back at the year in tech. But at IBM, researchers have released a list of trends to expect not only in 2013, but in the next five years.

On Monday, the company released its annual “5 in 5” report, which offers up predictions about what technology innovations will catch on in the next half-decade. This year, the report focuses on how computers will process information in the future, and IBM’s researchers say that nature’s gift of five senses won’t be reserved for just the living: Machines may actually be able to process things as humans do — through touch, taste, sight, sound and smell.

That, said IBM vice president of innovation Bernie Meyerson, would be a major shift in the very architecture of computing.

“If you program a computer, it’s a gruesome undertaking,” said Meyerson, noting that — at its most basic level — the way humans load information, bit by bit, into computers, hasn’t changed since the abacus.

But advances in computer technology, Meyerson said, are already allowing computers to look at an object holistically, taking in information in a moment that would have taken years to input through code.

“Say you’re standing in a museum of modern art, surrounded by paintings and sculptures,” Meyerson said. “You would spend the rest of your adult life trying to put that into words and type it in [to a computer]. Now, imagine if you could teach it by just showing it something.”

The idea, Meyerson said, is to give humans and computers a common language. And it’s not as difficult — or as futuristic — as you may think.

Smell and taste, Meyerson said, are two senses that have a clear chemical base. If computers can sense the types of molecules — ammonia, explosive residue or gasses that indicate decay — they could alert users to different markers that would flag security risks or food-borne illnesses. The same is true of taste, he said, if computers could be programmed to recognize the correct proportions of certain chemicals. Or, the machines could be used in health planning, to find healthy combinations of foods that would appeal to the palate of the dieter.

When it comes to sight, Meyerson said, researchers have improved recognition software that can identify objects based on a database of images already loaded into the system. And in the future, computers could “hear,” by using detailed sound analyses that, for example, can tie a certain pattern of notes in a baby’s cry to anguish or joy.

Finally, computers could learn to tell the difference between cashmere or concrete by reading the appropriate signals of vibration and temperature, Meyerson said. Video game makers have already used a very basic version of this: controllers vibrate when there’s impact between objects on-screen. In the next five years, researchers could take that sort of program to a microscopic level, allowing machines to have some sense of touch, Meyerson said.

While each idea has applications of its own across many industries, Meyerson said that they would have the greatest impact when combined.

“It’s not that you want to make computers smarter than humans,” he said. “But they have bandwidth to get it in… If you want to scale its memory, you can buy a box of disk drives.”

Nick Clegg says ‘Cut benefits for wealthy pensioners’

December 17, 2012

The Deputy Prime Minister mounted a vigorous defence of the coalition’s welfare reforms

ANDREW WOODCOCK 
The Independent
Dec 17, 2012

Nick Clegg today opened a divide within the coalition Government by calling for the means-testing of a range of benefits for pensioners.

The Government is committed to preserving the universal benefits – such as winter fuel allowance and free bus travel, prescriptions and TV licences – until 2015, and Prime Minister David Cameron has so far resisted pressure from Tory backbenchers to signal he will cut them after the general election.

But the Deputy Prime Minister today broke ranks to make clear that Liberal Democrats will “look again” at universal pensioner benefits, arguing that welfare cash “should not be paid to those who do not need it”.

“I just don’t think it’s justifiable, when so many people are tightening their belts, to say multi-millionaire pensioners still receive universal benefits across the board,” said the Lib Dem leader.

Asked if Mr Cameron backed Mr Clegg on the issue, the PM’s spokesman responded: “The Prime Minister made a commitment to protect those benefits and he believes in keeping his promises.”

But there was dissent on the Tory backbenches, as Broxbourne MP Charles Walker said Mr Cameron should be ready to make the universal benefits taxable as income before the election, to show that the older generation are bearing their share of the burden of reducing the deficit.

Mr Walker told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme that working people were “pretty sore” at seeing their child benefit and other support withdrawn or reduced, while pensioners’ payments are protected.

“Certainly there is going to be inter-generational tension and that tension is going to grow in the months ahead,” he said. “I think this is bound to create ill-feeling and it is something I believe the Government needs to look at and address.”

In a keynote speech marking his fifth anniversary as Lib Dem leader, Mr Clegg mounted a vigorous defence of the coalition’s welfare reforms, insisting the Government had an “absolute duty” to ensure the system was fair to all.

While acknowledging the changes had at times been “painful and controversial”, he argued that the Liberal Democrats had ensured they were firmly anchored in the political centre ground. When the Conservatives proposed benefit cuts of £10 billion in the Autumn Statement, the Lib Dems had acted as a moderating force, ensuring they were held to £3.8 billion, he said.

“When two-thirds of people think the benefits system is too generous and discourages work then it has to be changed, or we risk a total collapse in public support for welfare existing at all,” Mr Clegg told the CentreForum thinktank.

“We need welfare protection for people who fall on hard times. Of course. But you cannot ask low-income working people to pay through their taxes for people who aren’t in work to live more comfortably than they do.”

In a swipe at Chancellor George Osborne – who said the Government should be there for the “strivers” and not “shirkers” – Mr Clegg said not everyone who cannot find a job is simply being lazy.

“Of course, there are some on the right who believe that no-one could possibly be out of work unless they’re a scrounger,” said the Lib Dem leader.

“The siren voices of the Tory right who peddle this myth could have pulled a majority Conservative government in the direction of draconian welfare cuts.”

The speech came after a bad weekend for the Liberal Democrats, who slumped into fourth place behind the UK Independence Party on 8%-9% in a series of polls.

Mr Clegg’s former director of strategy, Richard Reeves, said the “curtain will probably fall” on the coalition before 2015 if the party fails to boost its support.

“Next year is the year the Lib Dem strategy – deliver then differentiate – will be tested. A more assertive stance in act two of coalition should mean greater support and more votes. If not the curtain will probably fall on the coalition before 2015,” wrote Mr Reeves in The Guardian.

Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman said: “Nick Clegg will try every trick in the book to distance himself from the record of his Government.

“But, as ever with the Lib Dems, they say one thing whilst doing another – resulting in a record of economic failure, trebled tuition fees, nurses cut, police axed and millions paying more while millionaires get a tax cut.

“Bearing this in mind, what we really should be hearing from Nick Clegg today is a proper apology and a declaration that from now on he will actually stick by the promises he makes.”

The threat to universal benefits was denounced by some of those campaigning for the elderly.

Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga, said that means-testing “may be a populist headline, but it is absolutely the wrong policy”.

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Bilderberg Group Captures Bank of England – Why Britain Keep Drinking the Globalist Kool-Aid

November 30, 2012

By Eamonn Fingleton
Forbes

https://i0.wp.com/www.whatdoesitmean.com/bod2.jpgThose whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad. Although the aphorism is overused, it accurately describes the dog’s dinner that British leaders have made of their society in the last half century.

A good example of what I mean is the news overnight that the British government has appointed Mark Carney the next governor of the Bank of England.

For anyone concerned for the British national interest, Carney has three strikes against him:

1. Canada.

2. Goldman Sachs.

3. The Bilderberg Group.

Let’s first consider his nationality: he carries a Canadian passport. Not a hanging offense, you might think, and the Canadian people, of course, fully deserve their reputation as more than averagely decent world citizens.

The Canadian approach to financial regulation moreover has, as I have pointed out in a previous note, been a huge success. But here’s the thing: a clear majority of Britons want out of the European Union, and fundamental, quite tough and courageous decisions will have to be made in the next few years.

https://i0.wp.com/static1.businessinsider.com/image/50b397e26bb3f7616b00001b-400-300/mark-carney.jpgMore than ever, it is important that the loyalties of the governor of the central bank should not only be aligned with those of the British people but be absolutely unambiguously seen to be so. In the circumstances, a British passport would appear to be a minimal job requirement (and it always was in the bank’s previous history of more than three centuries).

Then there is Carney’s Goldman Sachs connection: he served the firm for 13 years in New York, London, Tokyo, and Toronto. Yes, things could be worse: he might have been a don in the Sicilian Mafia or a bagman for the Colombian drug cartel. But for anyone who knows how the world really works, a career of rising “success” in an outfit like the latter-day Goldman Sachs does not smell good. For nearly three decades now, Goldman Sachs has brazenly thumbed its nose at its previous reputation for probity: in plain language its ethos lately has been that anything goes, provided only you stay out of jail. Readers of the American and British press are aware of some of the problems. In the John Paulson affair, for instance, Goldman is on record as having defrauded its customers. Goldman Sachs’s flexible approach to ethics has also been central to the disasters that have befallen the citizens of Greece. To be fair, Carney has not been implicated in either the Paulson or Greek scandals. But, if Wikipedia is to be believed, he was on the scene in an earlier flap when in the late 1990s Goldman played a two-faced role in advising investors in Russian bonds. That said, what concerns me more than anything is Carney’s spell in Goldman Sachs’s Japanese branch. After 27 years of studying the Japanese financial system from a vantage point in Tokyo, I claim some expertise. Japan’s kyoiku mamas ­ education mothers ­ have long counseled their sons that gentleman do not take jobs in the Tokyo securities industry. Thus firms like Nomura, Daiwa, and Sumitomo’s Nikko subsidiary have long had to scrape the bottom of the educational barrel in hiring. What is less well known is that foreign securities firms in Tokyo rank even further below the salt than their Japanese counterparts. They do the work that even the Japanese securities firms consider beneath them. Ethical Western investment bankers posted to Tokyo are immediately appalled by what they are expected to do. Perhaps Carney was too ­ but there is no record of this.

Then there is Carney’s Bilderberg connection. Founded in the Netherlands in the 1950s, the Bilderberg Group is ostensibly merely a top careerist’s mutual aid society –nothing more than the Freemasons on steroids. Carney is officially acknowledged to have attended the most recent Bilderberg meeting, which is interesting as the British finance minister George Osborne, who appointed him to the Bank of England job, is an avid Bilderberger.

For the British national interest, there is more here than mere mutual back-scratching. The Bilderberg group was founded by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, a German-born erstwhile Nazi noted throughout his life for his “everything is relative” approach to ethics. The group’s main aim in its early years seems to have been to rehabilitate Germany and to this day the group is viewed in Europe as a tool by which a crypto-mercantilist “Germany Inc” promotes the careers of those it smiles on. Basically you are received into the Bilderberg group if the powers that be in Berlin, Munich, and Stuttgart consider your views helpful to the German national interest. The trouble is that Germany’s advantage very often proves to be someone else’s disadvantage.

George Osborne seems to be no more a Peter-principled naif. The question the British nation should consider is this: is Carney, with his Harvard education and his spell at the sharp end of the Japanese financial services industry, a similar babe in the woods?

Native American land used as toxic dump

November 29, 2012

The Wind River Reservation in Wyoming is the home to over 8,000 Native Americans and now the tribe is sharing the land with nearly a dozen oil and gas fields. For the Native Americans, the waste water from the natural resource companies has become a vital component in providing drinking water for livestock and the EPA has allowed the practice until now, but should this be allowed to continue?