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How Turkey Put A Prompt End To Its Dramatic Corruption Investigation | Zero Hedge

How Turkey Put A Prompt End To Its Dramatic Corruption Investigation | Zero Hedge.

The main reason Turkey’s government has been roiled with resignations, the Turkish Lira and domestic assets are plunging, the central bank is paralyzed, and pundits are ever more concerned about what the potential contagion effect is should the worst happen to the country, has been an ongoing scandal involving corruption at the very highest echelons of power as we reported late last year. So, what is a perturbed government, on the verge of losing legitimacy and credibility, to do? Well, following Stalin’s advice always works: “no man, no problem“… if perhaps not quite as “terminally” then just as decisively. According to Reuters the corruption investigation has been brought to a screeching halt, after Turkey’s government ‘purged’ both the judiciary and police systems, firing and transferring dozens of judges and officers and making it impossible for any ongoing investigative efforts to continue.

However, this may just be the beginning of Turkey PM Erdogan’s problem: “Turkey’s purge of the judiciary and police has brought a corruption investigation shaking the government to a grinding halt and could undermine confidence in state institutions, senior legal figures and the opposition said on Wednesday.”

Reuters has the details on Turkey’s decisive (if not yet final) “solution” to its problems:

Ninety-six judges and prosecutors were reassigned overnight, the biggest purge of the judiciary since a graft scandal erupted on December 17 with the arrest of businessmen close to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and three ministers’ sons.

 

Erdogan has portrayed the corruption inquiry as an attempted “judicial coup” orchestrated by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose network of sympathizers, known locally as “Cemaat” (religious community), hold considerable sway in many parts of the state including the police and legal system.

 

The government’s response, transferring thousands of police officers and seeking to tighten its grip on the courts, has brought sharp criticism from the European Union, which Turkey has been seeking to join for decades, and rattled investors, helping send the lira to record lows.

 

“Turkey is ablaze with the justice agenda,” said Metin Feyzioglu, chairman of the Turkish bar association.

 

“Everyone in the country has started to ask when there is an investigation or trial what side the judge, prosecutor or police officer is on,” he said. “The foundation of the state and the country’s legal order has been shaken.”

 

The roughly 120 judges and prosecutors reassigned since the graft scandal broke make up a fraction of the 13,000 working in Turkey as a whole, but the move has put sensitive cases on hold and shaken confidence within the profession.

The government’s party line so far has been simple: as explained before, “Erdogan has portrayed the corruption inquiry as an attempted “judicial coup” orchestrated by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose network of sympathizers, known locally as “Cemaat” (religious community), hold considerable sway in many parts of the state including the police and legal system.”

As a result, Erdogan decided to simply reassign the entire judicial branch!

Judges and prosecutors across the country – from Istanbul in the west to the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, and from the southern border region with Syria to the northern Black Sea coast – were reassigned in the move announced late on Tuesday.

 

The High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), already headed by the justice minister and set to fall further under government control under a ruling party bill before parliament, said the 96 were being transferred to new locations. The government denied involvement.

 

“These appointments have absolutely nothing to do with our ministry. This is completely at the discretion of the relevant (HSYK) chamber,” a senior justice ministry official said.

The police fared similarly:

Nearly 500 police, mostly in Ankara, were also removed from their posts and reassigned on Wednesday, media reports said, bringing the total since December 17 to several thousand. Erdogan’s supporters say the police and judiciary are dominated by Cemaat sympathizers and that the government’s actions strengthen not weaken their independence. Erdogan himself refers to a “parallel state” within the judiciary.

 

But Aykut Erdogdu, the chief corruption investigator for the main opposition CHP, said the purge had become so broad that many of those removed were not even linked to Cemaat.

 

“We’ve reached the point where members of these institutions are unable to do their job,” Erdogdu told Reuters. “More important is the damage done to these institutions. It can take decades to build up competent staff to run the institutions of state. Moreover, it will take years to undo the memory of this among prospective candidates in the future.”

It seems that the people, at least some of then, aren’t buying it:

“While the government claims that it is fighting against a parallel structure, it is actually closing off the corruption investigations … It is taking away those who know their cases best. It causes a great deal of harm,” said Murat Arslan, chairman of the YARSAV association of judges and prosecutors.

 

“It is quite clear there is political intervention here … they are quite clearly intimidating the whole of the judiciary. It is sending the message that ‘you cannot conduct an investigation which touches me’,” he told Reuters.

Welcome to Banana republic status gents… incidentally Turkey is way behind of the US, where no investigation that touches the people in charge is allowed, while any prosecution of corporate CEO that are deemed Too Big To Prosecute is promptly killed by none other than the Justice Department. The corrupt Justice Department.

But importantly, unlike the US where the myth that one party is different than another is just that, in Turkey the people do have the power to replace those in charge:

Erdogan has essentially banished the army from politics in 11 years in power. His popularity seems as yet largely unaffected by the current turmoil and there is no sign of the summer demonstrations that shook his government reigniting on a similar scale. He will, in short, be trusting voters will flee towards the elected power.

And if voters support him, well, they too deserve the government they “pick.”

Activist Post: 5 Reasons The Latest Report On Syria War Crimes Might Not Be True

Activist Post: 5 Reasons The Latest Report On Syria War Crimes Might Not Be True.

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post

In a recently released and conveniently timed report, complete with references to Nazi Germany and concentration camps, efforts to ramp up support for a “tough line” against Syria at the upcoming Geneva II conference and even possible military intervention, are once again moving into high gear. The report, compiled by three British war crime prosecutors and three “forensic experts” claims that it has demonstrable proof that the Assad government is guilty of torturing and killing over ten thousand people.

The report (accessed here) claims to show evidence of physical torture, murder, and starvation.
Of course, the Syrian government denies the veracity of the claims of the report and Western media outlets repeat the claims as incontrovertible proof.

As Reuters reports,

A Syrian military police photographer has supplied “clear evidence” showing the systematic torture and killing of about 11,000 detainees in circumstances that evoked Nazi death camps, former war crimes prosecutors said.

Syrian officials could face war crimes charges as a result of the evidence provided by the photographer, who has defected, the three prosecutors said.

One of the prosecutors said the evidence documented “industrial scale killing” that was reminiscent of the World War II concentration camps of Belsen and Auschwitz.

The trove of harrowing photographs ratchets up the pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who the United States and its Western allies say has committed war crimes against his own people during the civil war.

[…]

55,000 images provided by the photographer, who fled Syria after passing the pictures to Assad’s opponents, show emaciated and mutilated corpses.

Bearing signs of torture, some of the corpses had no eyes. Others showed signs of strangulation or electrocution.

“There is clear evidence, capable of being believed by a tribunal of fact in a court of law, of systematic torture and killing of detained persons by the agents of the Syrian government,” the three prosecutors said in the 31-page report.

“Such evidence would support findings of crimes against humanity against the current Syrian regime. Such evidence could also support findings of war crimes against the current Syrian regime,” they said.

However, while the final determination of whether or not these claims are accurate is yet to be made, there exist ample reasons to question the assertions made in the report.

1. The Gulf State Feudal Monarchy Qatar is the sponsor of the report. Qatar is, of course, one of the major sponsors of the Syrian invasion (aka the Syrian “rebels”) and has played a massively important role in financing, training, arming, and directing the death squads currently being mopped up by the Assad government.

2. The source of the report. One would be justified in questioning the nature of the report since the sole source of the material comes by virtue of an allegedly “defected Syrian military police officer” who was apparently fine with photographing thousands of dead victims for over a year until now. Regardless of the possibility for such a “moral” conversion, taking information from a “defected” member of government forces once again returns us to the realm of the “activists say” school of journalism – a notorious method used by Western media outlets to promote the side of the death squads and only the side of the death squads as fact in popular reports.

3. Past claims of Assad’s “Crimes Against Humanity.” It is important to remember past experiences with Western claims against Assad for alleged “crimes against humanity,” all of which turned out to have been committed by the death squads, not the Syrian government. From theHoula massacre to the Ghouta chemical weapons attacks, the Syrian government has been exonerated by all credible evidence. The death squads, however, have been proven guilty by virtue of their own video tapes and Youtube accounts, guilty of some of the most horrific acts imaginable. While many innocent people have no doubt been killed in the crossfire between the military and the death squads, the Western media has done everything in its power to place the blood of each and every death inside Syria in the hands of the government.

Let us also not forget the other famous Codename, “Curveball,” that played a major role in the initiation of a previous and still ongoing conflict that was later admitted to be a fabrication. Being fooled by the same type of propaganda twice in ten years is indeed a humiliation too great for a country to bear.

4.) Possibility that the death squads could have killed the victims shown in the report. The victims shown in the report have clearly been abused and starved. However, before jumping to conclusions about just how these unfortunate individuals met their fate, perhaps it would be a good idea to look back at the context of the victims. As mentioned earlier, the death squads operating in Syria are no strangers to crimes against humanity, murder, and torture. In fact, they have been both the initiators of such depravity and overwhelmingly the largest proprietors of it.

Furthermore, the fact that the victims were starved does not necessarily mean that they were starved by the government. Indeed, it is important to remember that, due to the siege of a number of cities by both the military and the death squads as well as due to death squad cruelty and attempted cordoning off of specific areas, food shortage has been a serious concern in some areas for some time. There is also plentiful evidence of death squad groups killing innocent people and shipping their bodies to the places where cameras are set up, waiting for the recording of the propaganda piece. The Ghouta chemical attack is just one instance in which innocent civilians were captured and killed by the death squads and used as stage props for propaganda purposes.

Indeed, it is also important to remember that the death squads themselves are quite adept at keeping prisoners in atrocious conditions. Only a few months back, it was reported that the Syrian military was able to free a number of captive Syrian women from the hands of the death squads who had kept them in captivity in underground tunnels for months on end for the purposes of using them as sex slaves.

5.) The report was conveniently released just two days before the Geneva II Peace Conference meeting on Syria. After the retraction of an invitation to Iran to attend the peace conference, the Qatari-funded report was released just two days before the peace conference was scheduled to take place. With such evidence being studied and analyzed and a report being compiled, to believe that it was only a coincidence that the information was released two days before the conference is absurd. If this evidence was real and of such grave importance why are world leaders only learning of it now? If world leaders knew, why are we only learning of it now?

Considering all of the information provided in this article, taken in conjunction with the “convenient” timing of the release of the reports (convenient, at least, for the enemies of Syria), such reports should be taken with a large grain of salt.

The Western media has not only been wrong, but has lied on so many occasions in the past, that it cannot be expected to tell the truth now.

Recently from Brandon Turbeville:

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor’s Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of six books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom7 Real ConspiraciesFive Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1and volume 2, and The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Turbeville has published over 275 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com. 

Ukraine police dismantle protest camps – Europe – Al Jazeera English

Ukraine police dismantle protest camps – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

At least three protesters have been killed in clashes as Ukraine’s prime minister takes a hard line against demonstrators flouting anti-protest laws.

Mykola Azarov said on Wednesday that anti-government protests had brought “terrorists” onto the streets of Kiev and pledged to punish all “criminal action”, even as protesters confronted police near government headquarters.

“I am officially stating that these are criminals who must answer for their action,” Azarov said.

Wednesday’s violence came after Ukrainian security forces started dismantling barricades at the protest camp in downtown Kiev, where demonstrators and police have been facing off for the past two nights.

It is reported that two of the victims died from gunshot wounds and were found less than three hours apart in a national library close to the clashes.

The third died in a fall from the top of Dynamo football stadium.

Azarov said opposition leaders should be held responsible for the deaths and said that police at the site of the clashes did not have live ammunition.

The wounds resembled those caused by live ammunition, Oleh Musiy, coordinator of the protesters’ medical corps, told the AP news agency.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday urged “an immediate end” to the escalating violence, while the Polish Foreign Ministry has summoned the Ukrainian ambassador.

Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, reporting from Kiev, said some protesters had become more determined as a consequence of Wednesday’s events.

“It’s not clear how news of the deaths will change the nature of these protests, but for now people are continuing to arrive here at the scene of the clashes,” our correspondent said.

New laws

The violence began when protesters braved heavy snow to remain in Kiev’s central square on Wednesday morning, despite warnings from Azarov that security personnel could use force to disperse demonstrations.

Azarov told Russian television that if “provocateurs” did not stop, the authorities could act under controversial new laws that essentially ban large protests in Ukraine.

Azarov added that he hoped there would be no need for the use of force to disperse the protests.

“We are hoping for common sense,” he said. “People need to understand that they are being offered chaos and destruction.”

On Tuesday, President Viktor Yanukovych refused to meet with an opposition leader, dimming hopes of a peaceful solution to the political crisis.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned that the situation in Ukraine was spiralling out of control after two months of protests over Yanukovych’s failure to sign a deal with the European Union.

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has called the situation in Ukraine “very worrying” and said the government should suspend the controversial anti-protest laws.

Is It Hot in Here or Is It Just Me Telling You It’s Hot in Here? – Bloomberg

Is It Hot in Here or Is It Just Me Telling You It’s Hot in Here? – Bloomberg.

As the mercury drops in the eastern U.S. this week, expect snow, icy driving conditions and ludicrous statements about global warming from Donald Trump andRush Limbaugh.

These statements are caricatures of debate, and obscure the real and persistent way that weather actually does make climate change confusing.

Many people apparently have weather on the brain when the topic turns to climate change. The ease with which we confuse the two offers a window into how the human mind works: Asked about a complex issue, people often will provide an answer about a related, easier topic. It’s an example of “attribute substitution,” a mental process defined by behavioral economists Daniel Kahneman and Shane Frederick in 2002, the same year Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in economics.

This particular phenomenon, in which people instinctively allow weather to influence their judgments about climate change, has been called the local warming effect.

A new study in a leading peer-reviewed journal, Nature Climate Change, asks why the local warming effect should be so influential. The researchers conducted several experiments to try to overcome participants’ reliance on cues from weather. The work was led by Lisa Zaval of Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions.

Source: Land and Ocean Percentiles, Jan.-Dec. 2013. NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center

NOAA reported yesterday that “most regions across the globe were warmer than average.”…Read More

They tested to see whether survey questions containing the phrase “global warming” caused people to believe or be concerned about science any more than questions with “climate change” did. They didn’t, and the researchers concluded that the local weather effect isn’t driven by buzzwords.

In another test, they gave participants information explaining that local weather and global climate change are different things, adapting NASA material to say, for example, “climate is what you expect, like a hot summer, and weather is what you get, like a hot day with thunderstorms.” Explaining this difference to research subjects didn’t kill the local weather effect.

A third approach investigated the effect of “priming,” or providing subtle topic cues. Researchers gave subjects hotness or coldness cues before answering questions about climate change. Study participants were asked to make four-word sentences from five-word groups, such as:

potatoes she the roasted it

Or:

the shivers man old of

People who were given “hot” priming sentences tended to believe and be concerned about climate change science more than those given “cold” or neutral sentences.

A further test, which involved asking people about yesterday’s temperature, led the researchers to conclude that the previous day’s temperature didn’t have as large an effect as it today’s. Recent sensation — “the immediacy of experience with temperature” — influences thoughts about climate change most. Humans evolved big, reasoning brains that still have trouble competing with the five senses.

That weather can guide people’s thinking so strongly, and that this bias is so difficult to overcome, is indicative of a larger problem not limited to climate change. “The local warming effect is an important real-world demonstration of how opinion on important issues can be constructed in response to a direct enquiry, rather than retrieved from memory,” the authors write.

In other words, when asked to say what they think about climate change, many people don’t retrieve and open their mental file on climate; they make up a new one, drawing on a seemingly related and easier topic, the temperature outside. After all, as Bob Dylan put it, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

“Priming” studies are common in behavioral research. Scientists still don’t know as much about it as one might like. If streets and news media were filled with images of people sweating and thirsty in a desert, it wouldn’t lead to a rational federal climate policy. But just why it wouldn’t isn’t well understood.

As Zaval explained over email: “Unfortunately, we just don’t know how long the effects of temperature cues might last — concern for climate change sometimes seems to be as transient as the weather.”

Are we trading away our rights and environment? | Science Matters | David Suzuki Foundation

Are we trading away our rights and environment? | Science Matters | David Suzuki Foundation.

Photo: Are we trading away our rights and environment?

(Credit: Gord McKenna via Flickr)

By David Suzuki with contributions from with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.

Global trade has advantages. For starters, it allows those of us who live through winter to eat fresh produce year-round. And it provides economic benefits to farmers who grow that food. That could change as oil, the world’s main transport fuel, becomes increasingly scarce, hard to obtain and costly, but we’ll be trading with other nations for the foreseeable future.

Because countries often have differing political and economic systems, agreements are needed to protect those invested in trade. Canada has signed numerous deals, from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to several Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (FIPA), and is subject to the rules of global trade bodies, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Treaties, agreements and organizations to help settle disputes may be necessary, but they often favour the interests of business over citizens. With Canada set to sign a 31-year trade deal with China, a repressive and undemocratic country with state-owned corporations, we need to be cautious.

Should we sign agreements if they subject our workers to unfair competition from lower-paid employees from investor nations, hinder our ability to protect the environment or give foreign companies and governments excessive control over local policies and valuable resources? Under some agreements, basics like protecting the air, water and land we all need for survival can become difficult and expensive.

One recent case could put Canada on the hook for $250 million. Quebec has put a hold on fracking pending a study into the environmental impacts of blasting massive amounts of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to fracture rock and release gas deposits. A U.S. resource company plans to sue Canada under Chapter 11 of NAFTA, claiming compensation for the moratorium’s damage to its drilling interests. Similar disputes have already cost Canada millions of dollars.

Ontario also wants assurances that fracking is safe before it allows the practice. That province is facing costs and hurdles because of another conflict between trade and environment. Japan and the European Union filed a complaint with theWTO, claiming a requirement under the Ontario Green Energy Act that wind and solar projects must use a set percentage of local materials is unfair.

Many of the problems arise because of an investor-state arbitration mechanism, which is included in NAFTA, as well as the proposed Canada-China FIPA, Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership. It allows foreign investors to bring claims before outside arbitrators if they believe their economic interests are being harmed by a nation’s actions or policies. So economics trump national interests.

This has caused many countries, including Australia, South Africa, India and several in Latin America, to avoid signing deals that include the investor-state arbitration mechanism. In Australia’s case, the country recognized the pitfalls when tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, attempted to claim damages under a bilateral investment treaty after the federal government introduced a science-based law requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain, unappealing packages.

According to Australian National University law professor Thomas Faunce, Philip Morris then lobbied the U.S. government to include a similar mechanism in a new trade agreement it was negotiating with Australia. In an article for Troy Media, Faunce wrote that, with such a mechanism, the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes “would, in effect, become the final arbitrators on major Australian public policy questions concerning mineral royalties, fossil fuel and renewable energy, water, telecommunications, banking, agriculture and power.”

The 31-year trade agreement between Canada and China is worrisome, with its 15-year opt-out clause (compared to just six months for NAFTA), but the inclusion of the mechanism in other agreements is also cause for concern. At the very least, we could be on the hook for millions or billions of dollars if our environmental, health, labour or other policies were deemed to harm the interests of those investing in or trading with Canada.

The government’s desire to expand global trade may be understandable, but we mustn’t give away too much. We must tell our elected representatives to at least delay the Canada-China FIPA until it has been examined more thoroughly, and to reconsider the inclusion of investor-state arbitration mechanisms in all trade deals.

Davos: peeling back the veneer

Davos: peeling back the veneer.

(c) World Economic ForumScrolling through the website of the World Economic Forum – convening this week in Davos, Switzerland – one might confuse the premier platform for global capital with a savvy and hip think tank, or perhaps a philanthropic aid and development charity. The content is carefully curated to sedate and comfort. The right buzzwords are there: “impact investing”, “embracing democracy”, “our oceans”, and “sustainability.” In the Issues section, one finds Environmental Sustainability, Health for All, and Social Development. An article by Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz (a critic of globalization) is featured front and center, as if to proclaim, ‘challenging the stodgy status quo through edgy, unorthodox economic thinking – that’s what we do here.’

There’s nothing to indicate that this is, in fact, a platform for multinational corporations, among them human rights abusers, political racketeers, property thieves and international environmental criminals. But then, that wouldn’t exactly make for a very inviting homepage.

Here, for example, is the WEF mission statement:

The World Economic Forum encourages businesses, governments and civil society to commit together to improving the state of the world. Our Strategic and Industry Partners are instrumental in helping stakeholders meet key challenges such as building sustained economic growth, mitigating global risks, promoting health for all, improving social welfare and fostering environmental sustainability.

Rather than getting bogged down in a detailed evaluation of WEF’s high-minded claims and eco-populist rhetoric, it may be more efficient to consider the behavior of those corporations and banks that comprise the Forum’s list of Industry Partners – described as “select Member companies of the World Economic Forum that are actively involved in the Forum’s mission.”

Among them are Shell, Nike, Syngenta, Nestlé, and SNC Lavalin – companies you’ll also find on Global Exchange’s list of the Top 10 Corporate Criminals of 2013, based on offenses like unlivable working conditions, corporate seizures of indigenous lands, contaminating the environment, and similar transgressions. At least seven other companies “actively involved in the Forum’s mission” are recentalumni of the Corporate Criminal list.

Or consider Corporate Accountability International’s Corporate Hall of Shame, comprised of “corporations that corrupt the political process and abuse human rights, the environment and our public health.” Seven of the ten ­– Walmart, ExxonMobil, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, DuPont, Monsanto, and Nestlé (which has the dubious distinction of making both lists) are WEF Industry Partners.

How about climate change? This is now an issue that regularly features ominously in the WEF’s “Global Risks” annual report. Curious, then, that in addition to Shell and ExxonMobil, the Forum’s Industry Partners include most of the largest oil and gas companies in the world, from BP and Chevron to Gazprom and Saudi Aramco.“Carbon Majors” a peer-reviewed study in the scientific journal Climatic Change, lists the 90 entities most responsible for extracting the fossil fuels burned over the past 150 years. The top six are WEF Industry Partners.

Despite the carefully crafted words of concern for the poor and hungry, the WEF’s many food corporations – from Unilever and Pepsico to Cargill and General Mills – have actually parleyed the misery of the food crisis into further control over the food system, as well as spectacular profits. During the 2008 food crisis, the organization GRAIN released a report revealing that “nearly every corporate player in the global food chain is making a killing from the food crisis …. Such record profits … are a reflection of the extreme power that these middlemen have accrued through the globalisation of the food system. Intimately involved with the shaping of the trade rules that govern today’s food system and tightly in control of markets and the ever more complex financial systems through which global trade operates, these companies are in perfect position to turn food scarcity into immense profits.” (1)

Global banks also played a pivotal role in precipitating – and making a killing off – this food crisis. According to an investigative report by Frederick Kaufman, Goldman Sachs instigated a “global speculative frenzy” on food which “sparked riots in more than thirty countries and drove the number of the world’s “food insecure” to more than a billion …. The ranks of the hungry had increased by 250 million in a single year, the most abysmal increase in all of human history.” (2) Needless to say, scroll down to “G” in the Industry Partners list, and Goldman Sachs is there.

The fact is, digging into any of the crises we face will reveal the complicity of the very corporations that the World Economic Forum represents. A study conducted for the UN, for example, estimated the combined environmental externalities of the world’s 3,000 biggest companies to be $2.2 trillion in 2008, “a figure bigger than the national economies of all but seven countries in the world that year.” (3)

Impression of the World Economic ForumThese are just a few of innumerable possible examples. The corporations represented by the World Economic Forum are the agents principally responsible for destroying the planet, ravaging livelihoods, and literally starving people, all while aggrandizing unprecedented profits into the hands of an ever-tinier super elite. Seen in this light, all the burnished social and environmental concern-speak of the WEF is so much vacuous corporate swagger, the crudest sort of greenwash. Even though these companies actually spend huge amounts of capital and energy fighting environmental regulation and the citizen’s groups who are suffering their abuses, they simultaneously pursue a strategic embrace of environmental discourse and narratives; they accept the existence of the problems while promoting privatized, technocratic strategies for addressing them. These strategies pivot between those that assign responsibility for causing and fixing the problems to individual consumers, and those that position the corporations themselves as crucial players in the common cause of “improving”/”cleaning” the environment – the same one, incidentally, that they destroyed.

The absurdity of this schizophrenia reaches extreme limits: the WEF is solemnly concerned about global warming because – get ready for it – it represents one of the biggest threats ever to global trade and corporate capitalism! The primary perpetrator of global warming is now portraying itself as a victim. In WEF-land, global warming is like a mysterious, autonomous, alien force invading from afar, without cause or explanation. It “affects us all”, so we must all roll up our sleeves and unite – fossil fuel corporations included – in the battle against a common external foe.

There is, however, one part of the WEF’s mission that is being genuinely fulfilled: “building sustained economic growth”, code for increasing the power and wealth of its corporate partners. That this is the first of the “challenges” described in the WEF mission statement is no accident. Economic growth might seem an odd mismatch to the other issues, like social welfare and environmental sustainability, but the WEF has clearly embraced the notion that endless growth is not only compatible with environmental sustainability, it is actually necessary for it. That this myth has been thoroughly debunked seems to have conveniently escaped the WEF’s notice. (4)

This farce would be laughable but for the immense power and enormous control commanded by the corporations and banks the World Economic Forum represents. When the WEF promises to address agriculture, food security, environmental sustainability, and the like, we should be very worried for exactly those things. Peel away the eco-charity veneer and the WEF’s actual mission stands naked: advance the power, growth, and wealth of the corporate rulers of the world.

In no way should The World Economic Forum be allowed to insert itself as a legitimate voice on the resolution of the very issues that its agenda – the perpetual growth of its partners – precipitates. On the contrary, it should be fiercely resisted – precisely what the alternative World Social Forum, Occupy WEF, and other anti-globalization groups were created to do. (5)

___________________________________________________________________________

Alex Jensen is Project Coordinator at the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC). Alex has worked in the US and India, where he coordinated ISEC’s Ladakh Project from 2004 to 2009. He has collaborated on the content of ISEC’s Roots of Change curriculum and the Economics of Happiness discussion guide. He holds an MA in Globalization and International Development from University of East Anglia. He has worked with cultural affirmation and agro-biodiversity projects in campesino communities in a number of countries and is active in environmental health/anti-toxics work.

___________________________________________________________________________

(1) GRAIN (2008) ‘Making a Killing from Hunger’, 28 April,http://www.grain.org/article/entries/178-making-a-killing-from-hunger, and

http://www.grain.org/article/entries/716-corporations-are-still-making-a-killing-from-hunger

(2) Kaufman, F. (2010) ‘The Food Bubble: How Wall Street Starved Millions and Got Away With It’, Harper’s Magazine, July,http://frederickkaufman.typepad.com/files/the-food-bubble-pdf.pdf

(3) Jowit, J. (2010) “World”s top firms cause $2.2tn of environmental damage, report estimates”, The Guardian, 18 February, 2010.

(4) see, e.g.: Jorgenson, A. and Clark, B. (2012) ‘Are the Economy and the Environment Decoupling?: A Comparative International Study, 1960–2005,’ American Journal of Sociology 118(1),1–44; Jorgenson, A. and Clark, B. (2011) ‘Societies Consuming Nature: A Panel Study of the Ecological Footprints of Nations, 1960-2003’, Social Science Research 40:226-244; Stern, D. (2004) ‘The Rise and Fall of the Environmental Kuznets Curve’, World Development, 32(8):1419–1439; Hornborg, A. (2003) ‘Cornucopia or Zero-Sum Game? The Epistemology of Sustainability’, Journal of World-Systems Research IX(2): 205-216.

(5) see http://www.fsm2013.org/en andhttp://www.reuters.com/article/2012/01/23/us-davos-idUSTRE80M13X20120123

Venezuela About To Run Out Of Food Despite Fresh All Time High In Its Stock Market | Zero Hedge

Venezuela About To Run Out Of Food Despite Fresh All Time High In Its Stock Market | Zero Hedge.

Venezuela can be proud: while the US stock market has gone exactly nowhere in 2014, the Caracas stock exchange of the socialist paradise has continued kicking ass and taking names, just today printing a fresh all time high.

.. And the performance over the past year has been nothing short of breathtaking.

However, as everyone knows, there are trade offs to soaring stock markets in all socialist countries, be they paradises or not. By now everyone knows that Venezuela has had a rather systemic issue when it comes to procuring toilet paper, and from what we understand, the local population is still forced at times to wipe with stock certificates.

Alas, things are about to get worse. As a result of Maduro’s recent policies which have Lenin, Stalin and Engels positive beaming from the grave, the country may soon add another shortage to its growing list of daily product in short, or no, supply. Food.

Bloomberg reports that Empresas Polar SA, Venezuela’s largest privately-held company, said in an e-mailed statement that foreign suppliers of food, packaging, and equipment have closed credit lines because of the government’s delays in giving the company dollars at official rate. Empresas added that dollar delays are now the longest since the introduction of currency controls in Feb. 2003.

In other words, with the country doing everything in its power to allocate dollars “fairly” (while making sure nobody has profit margins higher than 30%), very soon the biggest distributors of staples are about to run empty.

Oh well, at least they have their stock market and the “wealth effect”…

And now, in praise of socialist paradises everywhere, let’s all sing along:

A Potential Massive Short Squeeze in Physical Gold is Becoming a Possibility | Capitalist Exploits – Frontier Markets Investing, Private Equity and IPO’s

A Potential Massive Short Squeeze in Physical Gold is Becoming a Possibility | Capitalist Exploits – Frontier Markets Investing, Private Equity and IPO’s.

By: Chris Tell

I recall a long time ago when I was easily excited by the unqualified love of young inebriated women, hedonistic experiences, fast cars, guns and seemingly unusual setups in financial markets, which promised fortunes if traded correctly. 

I now find that I just enjoy a day with my kids and later a decent glass of red. Ah, simpler times! I’ve also realised that “unusual” setups in financial markets typically turn into nothing more than a loss of my capital. Betting on outcomes which seem “so damned obvious” isn’t as easy as one would think. Probabilities, as I discussed last week, are a key factor, as is risk/reward.

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This is of course as it should be. The markets are there to extract money from inexperienced, gullible “traders”. OK, some are experienced and just careless, but many are newly minted dreamers, set out into the world by some seminar “guru” who convinced them they could day trade their life savings into a small fortune. You know what they say about small fortunes, right? Financial Darwinism!

Given this backdrop, I had a recent phone conversation with our friend Tres Knippa. For those that don’t know him, Tres is a broker and trader on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). Clearly not a Johnny-come-lately. Tres shared with me some numbers.

By the way, paying attention to “numbers” and trading them intelligently is far superior to chasing unqualified love from long-legged women. Traded intelligently has been known to pay for supercars and penthouses, which will inevitably attract said long-legged women, so fear not!

The numbers Tres shared with me were:

  • -89,756.78 – This number represents the overnight movement of registered gold OUT of inventory at Brink’s, and INTO Eligible Inventory at J.P. Morgan.
  • 370,137 – This is the number of ounces of Registered Gold for delivery.
  • 300,000 – This is the number of ounces, represented in gold contracts, that any one entity can own (3,000 contracts).
  • 81% – The percentage of supply at the Comex which would be exhausted should just ONE entity put on a “Limit Long” position, AND demand delivery.

These should be very scary numbers for the folks running the Comex, but even scarier numbers for anyone not holding physical gold and trading paper!

Tres also shared the chart below with me. This is a graphical representation of the amount of paper gold versus the Registered Gold available for delivery:

Comex Gold Leverage Ratio
Zerohedge recently posted an excerpt from a video Tres did here. Now, for those who are paying attention, the similarities between this little setup and an extended game of Jenga cannot be dismissed out of hand!

Zerohedge also posted a neat little story about the German’s only having recovered a paltry 5 Tons of gold from the US, after a year! You can read all about it here. In short they have repatriated just 37 tons of the 674 tons they have promised to repatriate. At least the Comex may get forewarning of any demand for delivery from the NSA, who is likely still monitoring Sausage Lady’s iPhone. Regardless, it’s unclear to me what they would do about it should that demand for delivery actually come down the wire.

Over 2 years ago when we put together our Japan report I mentioned to Tres that I preferred to go long Gold, short Yen. At that time his preferred trade was centered around the JGB options market, and to be long the USD short the Yen. Looking back he was right and I was wrong. The USD has indeed performed better, and likely will continue to outperform in 2014. Although up to this point it’s been more a factor of a breather in the gold bull market than USD strength.

I’m a gold bull, not a gold bug. I do believe that the long term trend for gold is bullish. This current setup clearly has the potential for some fireworks. Maybe nothing happens (doubtful), but the risk/reward setup is rather favourable from where I sit. Heads I win, tails I win.

Whatever you choose to do with the above information, I encourage readers to never ever confuse “trading for profit” with investing. I’m happy to trade futures contracts, buy gold in the FX spot markets – essentially trade paper in one form or another, but I would NEVER let that obfuscate the fact that I need to hold PHYSICAL GOLD as protection. Timing a profitable trade is like passing gas, it is largely a matter of knowing when it is inappropriate, and acting accordingly!

Grant Williams, the prolific editor of Things That Make You Go Hmmm… said it perfectly in his latest missive:

“Gold is a manipulated market. Period.
“2013 was the year that manipulation finally began to unravel.
“2014? Well now, THIS could be the year that true price discovery begins in the gold market. If that turns out to be the case, it will be driven by a scramble to perfect ownership of physical gold; and to do that you will be forced to pay a lot more than $1247/oz.
Count on it.”

Think about this as a parting thought. Would the Comex, if under pressure for delivery, ever void your positions in order to “stabilise” the market? Or, would that just not be palatable in the Land of the Free? As Grant said above, “Count on it.”

For the traders out there, Tres shared with me another anomaly in the gold markets which he’s been trading successfully for the last couple of months. I’m in the process of translating this from “trader speak” into English, and it will be sent out to members of our currently complimentary Trade Alert service shortly. You can get access to this and more by dropping your email here.

– Chris

“I firmly believe that in the years to come, when we look back at the great game being played in gold, we will pinpoint January 16, 2013, as the day when it all began to unravel.
“That day, the day the Bundesbank blinked and demanded its bullion, will be shown to be the beginning of the end of the gold price suppression scheme by the world’s central banks; and then gold will go on to trade much, much higher.” – Grant Williams

Group Calls for Formal Ethics Inquiry into Spy Watchdog Turned Enbridge Lobbyist Chuck Strahl | DeSmog Canada

Group Calls for Formal Ethics Inquiry into Spy Watchdog Turned Enbridge Lobbyist Chuck Strahl | DeSmog Canada.

Public interest group Democracy Watch released a letter (link to pdf) to ethics commissioner Mary Dawson Friday, requesting she launch an inquiry into former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl in the wake of revelations that he’s working as an Enbridge lobbyist while also serving as Canada’s top spy watchdog.

The letter points to rules in the Conflict of Interest Act that require public office holders to manage their private life to avoid conflicts of interest. Strahl’s work as a lobbyist, Democracy Watch suggests, invites conflicts of interest, rather than prevents them.

Recently the Vancouver Observer revealed Strahl had registered in B.C. as an Enbridge lobbyist. As the chair of theSecurity Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), some questioned Strahl’s suitability to judiciously oversee the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the spy agency involved in the monitoring of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline hearings.

Democracy Watch also notes that Strahl violated the waiting period meant to prevent former public office holders from using their government contacts to advance private corporate interests.

Enbridge met with Strahl in his role as a cabinet minister on April 29, 2010. Strahl left his position on May 17, 2011. Five months later, in October 2011, Strahl signed an open letter in support of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline. In December of 2013, Strahl registered as a B.C. lobbyist listing Northern Gateway Pipelines L.P. as his client.

According to Duff Conacher, board member of Democracy Watch and adjunct professor with the University of Toronto faculty of law, Strahl is allowing his work with government departments and Enbridge to overlap in illegal ways.

“There’s a rule that you cannot work for any entity, or any organization, or anyone, that you had significant dealings with during your last year in office… And therefore Strahl should not have been dealing with Enbridge until May 18, 2013, which would have been two years after he left office,” he told DeSmog Canada.

“The open letter Strahl signed on to was illegal,” Conacher said. “You’re not allowed to make representations to anyone for any entity that you had significant official dealings with during your last year in office.”

Yet signing an open letter in favour of Enbridge projects is just the beginning of Strahl’s misdeeds, according to Conacher. Far more serious is Strahl’s position with the oversight committee tasked with protecting citizen rights from CSIS.

“Beyond that though there is a general rule about preventing conflicts of interest…so I don’t think he can work for Enbridge as chair of SIRC because that causes conflicts; it does not prevent them.”

In addition, Conacher worries Strahl’s cabinet position may have exposed him to government information that could be used to benefit Enbridge’s push for the Northern Gateway pipeline.

“There is another rule, that never ever in your entire life after you leave cabinet can you give advice using secret information that you’ve learned on the job,” he said.

“It’s not only that your not allowed to share the secret information; you’re not allowed to do that. But you’re not allowed to even give advice using the secret information. He can’t un-know what he knows and so his advice is based on what he knows. What he knows is secret information, therefore he’s prohibited from giving that advice.”

Canada’s ethics commissioner Mary Dawson has been politely side-stepping the issue, Conacher says. Her track record shows she tends to avoid controversy as well, with over 80 former ethics rulings made in secret. Conacher’s concern is that Dawson, a Conservative-appointed commissioner, is avoiding the hard questions — questions Democracy Watch details in its eight-page letter to her.

“It’s beyond conflict of interest. It’s also these other rules that apply and it’s not resolved by Strahl just recusing himself if a complaint comes forward about CSIS and Enbridge,” he said. “And that’s what Mary Dawson has been dodging.”

Dawson is not required to investigate ethics complaints filed by members of the public. She would be required to investigate, however, if a member of parliament made the same complaint.

Strahl’s behaviour, Conacher says, is “very dangerously undemocratic” and “unethical” because it places “the interests of a few private companies way above the public interest.”

“That’s why it’s illegal,” he says. “Thankfully, it’s illegal.”

The Conflict of Interests Act has been reviewed over the past year by the House of Commons ethics committee. A full report outlining the position of each federal party on ethics issues is due out this week or when parliament resumes.

“You don’t have democracy if these rules are not strict, strong and enforced. As everyone knows: if you allow private interests to trump public interests then you don’t have democracy,” Conacher said.

Top 1% Has 65 Times More Wealth Than The Bottom Half And The Global Elite Like It That Way

Top 1% Has 65 Times More Wealth Than The Bottom Half And The Global Elite Like It That Way.

85 Richest People - Photo by Oxfam

Did you know that the 85 richest people in the world have about as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the entire global population does?  In other words, 85 extremely wealthy individuals have about as much wealth as the poorest 3,500,000,000 do.  This shocking statistic comes from a new report on global poverty by Oxfam.  And actually Oxfam’s report probably significantly underestimates the true scope of the problem, because Oxfam relies on publicly reported numbers.  At the very top of the food chain, the global elite are masters at hiding their wealth.  In fact, as I have written about previously, the global elite have approximately 32 trillion dollars(that we know about) stashed in offshore banks around the world.  That would be about enough to pay off the entire U.S. national debt and buy every good and service produced in the United States for an entire year.  These elitists live on an entirely different planet than the rest of us do.  In fact, according to Oxfam, the richest one percent of the global population has 65 times more wealth than the bottom half of the global population combined.

There is certainly nothing wrong with making money.  In fact, the founders of the United States intended for this nation to be a place where free markets thrived and where everyone could pursue their dreams.  Unfortunately, this country (along with the rest of the world) has moved very much in the opposite direction.  Today, we have a debt-based global financial system which is dominated by gigantic predator corporations and big banks.  Working together with national governments, these corporations and banks have constructed a system that I like to call “Corporatism” in which the percentage of all global wealth that is being funneled to the very top of the pyramid steadily grows over time.

The Founding Fathers were very correct to be very suspicious of large concentrations of power.  In the early days of the United States, the federal government was very small and the size and scope of corporations was greatly limited.  Our nation thrived and a huge middle class blossomed.

Sadly, over the past several decades the pendulum has completely swung in the other direction.  Today, our society is completely and totally dominated by big banksbig corporations and big government.

And of course this is also happening in virtually every other nation on the face of the planet.  The global elite have rigged the game to send just about all of the rewards their way, and it is working.  The following are facts taken directly from Oxfam’s latest report

•Almost half of the world’s wealth is now owned by just one percent of the population.

•The wealth of the one percent richest people in the world amounts to $110 trillion. That’s 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population.

•The bottom half of the world’s population owns the same as the richest 85 people in the world.

•Seven out of ten people live in countries where economic inequality has increased in the last 30 years.

•The richest one percent increased their share of income in 24 out of 26 countries for which we have data between 1980 and 2012.

•In the US, the wealthiest one percent captured 95 percent of post-financial crisis growth since 2009, while the bottom 90 percent became poorer.

Starting on Wednesday, several thousand members of the global elite will gather for the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland.  The following is how USA Today described this conference.

For several days at the end of January, presidents, prime ministers, monarchs and corporate titans jostle with actors, rock stars and major influencers for top billing at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. The confab takes place in the Alpine village of Davos, about 90 miles southeast of Zurich, and for a brief spell each year the pristine ski resort half-sheds its Graubünden roots and becomes a ground zero for the political and business elite.

Unless you are independently wealthy, you can forget about going to this conference.  A ticket to Davos is going to cost you about $30,000, and that is on top of the $55,000 that it costs to join the organization.

Needless to say, it is an organization of the elite, by the elite and for the elite.

This year, the theme of the meeting is “The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business“.  And the founder of the World Economic Forum says that the time has come to press the “reset” button for the global economy…

It’s time to press the “reset” button on the world, the founder of the World Economic Forum said Wednesday, addressing media ahead of the WEF’s much ballyhooed annual meeting in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, that gets underway in a week’s time.

“The world is complex, it’s fast-moving, it’s interconnected, and we in Davos want to provide a mirror to the world as it is. It is not a meeting devoted to one set of issues. It’s a meeting that address the complexity of our world,” said Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s founder and executive chairman.

At first glance, that sounds pretty good.

Personally, I would love to hit a “reset” button for the global economy.

But what the elite mean by “reset” is much different from what most of the rest of us would mean.

The following is an excerpt from the executive summary for the agenda for the 2014 World Economic Forum…

“At an international level, the formal architecture forglobal governance was not designed for the interdisciplinary challenges and collective action problems of today. As a result, international cooperation has yet to fully enter the information age and capture its associated productivity gains.”

For the global elite, the answers to our problems always involve more centralization and more “global governance”.  In other words, the answers to our problems always involve giving them more control and more power.

The elite never actually want the pendulum to swing back in the direction of the “little guy”.  The elite are generally pleased with how the game is being played because they are winning.

Most people don’t even realize that they are participants in a debt-based neo-feudalist system in which money is being used as a form of social control.

As I have written about previously, there is about 190 trillion dollarsof debt in the world, but global GDP is only about 70 trillion dollars.

There is no way that all of this debt could ever be paid off at one time.  It is mathematically impossible.  Over time, all of this debt transfers the wealth of the planet away from us and to the global elite.  If this game was allowed to go on long enough, eventually they would have nearly all of it.

And some would argue that we are already getting close to that point.  A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research discovered that the bottom half of the global population only ownsapproximately 1 percent of all wealth, and at this point about a billion people throughout the world go to bed hungry every night.

This is one of the reasons why I am so adamant about the fact that the Federal Reserve needs to be shut down.  It is at the very heart of the debt-based system that we have in the United States, and over the past 100 years it has brought us to the brink of economic Armageddon.

Sadly, most Americans do not understand any of these things.  They just assume that the debt-fueled prosperity that we have been enjoying will be able to go on indefinitely.

So is there any hope for the “little guy”?

Well, you could try to win the one billion dollar NCAA tournament bracket contest that Warren Buffett is backing.

Or you could go out and try to win the lottery or try to date a famous professional athlete.

But the odds of any of those things actually happening are so low that they aren’t even worth mentioning.

Personally, I would rather spend my time trying to wake people up and help them understand how our global system really works.

I believe that a “great awakening” is coming.

I believe that millions of people are going to start breaking out of the “matrix of control” that has such a tight grip on their lives and are going to start thinking for themselves.

I believe that as the darkness gets even darker that the light is going to get even brighter.  I believe that we are going to see “renewal” on a whole bunch of different levels.

Yes, a great economic collapse is coming.

Yes, there is going to be a tremendous amount of pain.

But it won’t all be bad news.

The times ahead are going to be full of adventure and excitement for those who are willing to embrace it.

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