Sunday, 29 November 2009

Abu Dhabi Will Not Race to Dubai's Rescue

THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH: Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai is under mounting pressure to explain the emirate’s debt problems, after Abu Dhabi indicated that it will not write a blank cheque to bail out its neighbour.

According to officials, Abu Dhabi, the richest state in the United Arab Emirates, will be cautious about how and whether to assist Dubai World, the state holding company that this week suspended repayments on a $3.5bn (£2.1bn) Islamic bond due in mid-December.

Any sign that Abu Dhabi’s support may not yet be secured could push global markets further into turmoil tomorrow, analysts said, especially if Dubai’s ruler maintains his silence on the crisis beyond this weekend’s Eid religious holiday. Sources said he may be forced to disrupt the 10-day Islamic break to make a statement as early as tomorrow.

“We will look at Dubai’s commitments and approach them on a case-by-case basis. It does not mean that Abu Dhabi will underwrite all of their debts,” a senior Abu Dhabi official said.

“Until things become clearer, it is very difficult to make any further investment decision on the bonds. Many things have to be clarified by Dubai.”

Dubai World’s $59bn of liabilities make up the majority of the emirate’s total $80bn debts. >>> Rowena Mason and Louise Armitstead | Sunday, November 29, 2009
Across U.S., Food Stamp Use Soars and Stigma Fades

A GROWING NEED FOR A PROGRAM ONCE SCORNED Greg Dawson and his wife, Sheila, of Martinsville, Ohio, help feed their family of seven with a $300 monthly food stamp benefit. Center and right, the food pantry in Lebanon, Ohio, where residents can also enroll in what is formally called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Photograph: The New York Times

THE NEW YORK TIMES: MARTINSVILLE, Ohio — With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children.

It has grown so rapidly in places so diverse that it is becoming nearly as ordinary as the groceries it buys. More than 36 million people use inconspicuous plastic cards for staples like milk, bread and cheese, swiping them at counters in blighted cities and in suburbs pocked with foreclosure signs.

Virtually all have incomes near or below the federal poverty line, but their eclectic ranks testify to the range of people struggling with basic needs. They include single mothers and married couples, the newly jobless and the chronically poor, longtime recipients of welfare checks and workers whose reduced hours or slender wages leave pantries bare. >>> Jason DeParle and Robert Gebeloff | Saturday, November 28, 2009

THE NEW YORK TIMES PHOTOGALLERY: Once Scorned, a Federal Program Grows to Feed the Struggling >>>

Friday, 27 November 2009

Dubai Tries to Stem Panic as Financial Crisis Shakes Investors Around World

THE GUARDIAN: FTSE 100 opens down 70 points before regaining ground / Japan's Nikkei closes down 3.2%; Hang Seng falls 5.3%

The Dubai financial crisis continued to send shares and commodities falling around the world this morning, despite efforts by the emirate's ruling family to calm the panic.

In London, the FTSE 100 tumbled by 70 points, or nearly 1.4%, to 5123 when trading began – but by 9.15am had erased nearly all of its losses. HSBC and Barclays were among the biggest fallers, along with mining companies.

There was also a bout of heavy selling in Asia. The Nikkei 225 closed 3.2% lower, with Japan's biggest banks leading the fallers. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell by 5.3%.

Major building firms in Asia also fell sharply, as traders anticipated that the Dubai building boom was over.

Predictions that Dubai could drag the world economy downwards again knocked $5.50 off the price of a barrel of oil, to $72.49.

Yesterday the FTSE 100 suffered its worst day's trading since March, falling by 170 points. This followed the news that Dubai World – the government-owned conglomerate that has led the dramatic growth in the Emirate – has asked to defer repaying some debts for six months.

It is still unclear whether Dubai World will default on its $80bn debts, which would be a major blow to the banking sector, or be bailed out by the United Arab Emirates.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al Maktoum, the uncle of Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, attempted to calm the situation last night. >>> Graeme Wearden | Friday, November 27, 2009

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Happy and Blessed Thanksgiving to One and All

Britain's Bankers Win Double Victory on Bonuses and Charges

TIMES ONLINE: Britain’s bankers received a double boost yesterday as they celebrated a landmark court victory over unauthorised overdraft fees and saw off the threat of a crackdown on pay.

Consumer groups reacted with dismay as the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the banks in the long-running legal battle over £10 billion in overdraft charges. Millions of customers had hoped to be reimbursed. Instead, the banks can keep the cash.

In addition, the Government’s Walker review stopped short of draconian plans to name hundreds of the highest-paid bankers and dropped or watered down other proposals.

The two judgments will come as relief to Britain’s bankers who feel under siege — resented for taking £1.3 trillion in public money, loans and guarantees and blamed for triggering the longest recession of modern times. >>> Patrick Hosking, Financial Editor | Thursday, November 26, 2009

Monday, 23 November 2009

Hajj Guiding: An Ancient Family Business

THE TELEGRAPH: The Saudi government might manage the hajj, but the people who make it run for two million or more pilgrims are a handful of old Mecca families who monopolise the muttawif, or hajj guide, business.

Muslim pilgrims pray on Noor Mountain in Mecca. Photograph: The Telegraph

Organised into six companies, each taking care of pilgrims from a specific part of the world, they make sure the people who have waited a lifetime to perform the hajj get through it.

"We take control of the pilgrim from when he first puts his foot on the soil of Mecca," said Imad Abdullah, waiting for a bus load of Indonesians arriving in the Muslim holy city for the annual pilgrimage.

"We organise the shelter, food, transport, the rituals, and try to resolve any problems that come up," said Abdullah, who specialises in pilgrims from south-east Asia.

In what is a lucrative trade, the families deploy their members for the few weeks a year to manage pilgrim groups for all the time they are in Mecca: holding onto their travel documents, organising visits to important sites, and at the end, shopping trips so they can return home laden with gifts and souvenirs.

It is a gruelling job, having to be on call day and night for a few weeks, but thousands of young Meccans, men and women, seek the job and its good salary.

For several days' work they earn from $800 (£481) to more than $5,000 dollars each, depending on their experience.

Knowing foreign languages is a particular asset for a muttawif guide, and some excel in the tongues of the region they handle.

It is an ancient business, helping foreigners unable to speak Arabic navigate their way through the lengthy hajj ritual.

Families have long controlled it, but before the 1930s it was not very disciplined.

Then King Abdul Aziz bin Saud, the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, organised the families into six companies, each with rights to handle pilgrims from a specific region.

Abdullah's family - in the business for 150 years, is part of one of the companies, and he has been a muttawif for 30 years.

"Our sons will inherit the job," he said. >>> | Monday, November 23, 2009
Brown: Britain Must Be at Heart of Europe

THE INDEPENDENT: Britain must put itself at the heart of Europe to protect jobs and support economic growth, Gordon Brown insisted today.

In thinly-veiled criticism of the Tories, the Prime Minister claimed that retreating to the European sidelines would deal a "devastating blow" to UK business.

Speaking to business leaders at the CBI conference in London, Mr Brown said he was spearheading demands for a Europe-wide economic growth strategy.

Seeking to exploit the Conservatives' hostility towards the European Union, the premier said that UK growth was entwined with that of the Continent.

"It is by putting Britain not on the fringes of Europe, but at its heart, that Britain can protect its interests within Europe, and shape the future of Europe from a position of strength that can deliver growth and jobs for the British people," he said.

"To walk away from this would be to deal a devastating blow to the future of British business - and it's my belief that we must never allow this to happen."

Appealing for UK business to be "outward-looking" in order to harness the opportunities of global change, Mr Brown said higher European growth would create thousands of new British jobs.

"We must never forget that Europe accounts for 60% of our trade; more than three million British jobs depend on Europe," he warned.

"The European Union is the biggest exporter in the world and the second biggest importer. And it accounts for almost a third of the world's GDP." >>> Daniel Bentley, Press Association | Monday, November 23, 2009

THE TELEGRAPH: Direct rail links to be opened between London and Amsterdam, Gordon Brown announces: Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, has announced plans for direct rail links to be opened between London and other European cities including Amsterdam. >>> Rosa Prince, Political Correspondent | Monday, November 23, 2009

Russia 'Is Now a Criminal State', Says Bill Browder

BBC: Russia has now turned into a "criminal state", according to the man who was once its leading foreign investor.

Bill Browder of Hermitage Capital was reacting to the news that his lawyer had died in prison in Russia after being held for a year without charge.

He told the BBC that his lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, had in effect been "held hostage and they killed their hostage."

Through Hermitage Capital, Bill Browder campaigned against corruption at some of Russia's largest companies.

Russian officials say they are investigating Mr Magnitsky's death.

In 2005, Mr Browder was banned from Russia as a threat to national security after allegations that his firms had evaded tax, but Mr Browder says his company was targeted by criminals trying to seize millions of pounds worth of his assets.

Mr Browder says he was punished for being a threat to corrupt politicians and bureaucrats.

Since then, a number of Mr Browder's associates in Russia - as well as lawyers acting for his company - have been detained, beaten or robbed.

Before the accusations of tax evasion were raised, Mr Browder had for many years been one of the most outspoken defenders of the Russian government and its then-president Vladimir Putin. With video >>> | Monday, November 23, 2009
IMF Warns Second Bailout Would 'Threaten Democracy'

TIMES ONLINE: The public will not bail out the financial services sector for a second time if another global crisis blows up in four or five years time, the managing-director of the International Monetary Fund warned this morning.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn told the CBI annual conference of business leaders that another huge call on public finances by the financial services sector would not be tolerated by the “man in the street” and could even threaten democracy.

"Most advanced economies will not accept any more [bailouts]...The political reaction will be very strong, putting some democracies at risk," he told delegates.

"I do believe that the financial sector needs to contribute both to the costs of the financial crisis and to reduce recourse to public funds in the future," he said.

Mr Strauss-Kahn said that imposing high capital ratio requirements on banks was one price the financial services sector must pay to prevent the threat of further multi-billion dollar bailouts.

He pointed to the debate in the US over the Troubled Asset Relief Programme and said that in many countries, including France and Germany, he doubted that politicians would secure the mandate needed to secure any further bail-outs if banks got in to trouble again, in several years' time.

Europe is in dispute over the spiralling cost of the global economic bailout, with Germany and France calling for a reduction in state support as their economies have shown signs of an upturn. >>> Angela Jameson and Elizabeth Judge | Monday, November 23, 2009
Europeans Sour on American-Style Capitalism

TIME: French President Nicolas Sarkozy has spent the past year hammering away at the excesses of American-style capitalism. In September, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso declared that workers' rights and "social cohesion" were top priorities on the Old Continent. And Italy's veteran Economy Minister, Giulio Tremonti, went out of his way last month to praise the posto fisso (guaranteed job for life) as a supreme public value.

In certain European political and intellectual circles, such talk would hardly turn heads. But those three men wagging their fingers at the free market were thought to have their capitalist bona fides as part of a generation of European business and government leaders who had pushed for reforming the welfare system and opening up the job market. Often in open ideological war against the entrenched interests of labor unions and leftist politicians, the likes of Sarkozy and Tremonti had long insisted that free-market reforms were the only way to create a more dynamic Europe in an increasingly competitive globalized economy.

So how do we explain the fact that longtime Ronald Reagan admirers are suddenly starting to sound like a union activist's picket sign? Has the Great Recession of 2008-09 effectively sapped all the energy from Europe's post-1989 wave of economic neoliberalism? "Quite clearly, the state is back," notes Iain Begg, a professor of European political economy at the London School of Economics. "In front of the failures of the Anglo-American model, we are seeing a revival of Keynesian approaches to react to the crisis."

Of course, the ideas of John Maynard Keynes are also behind the auto-industry bailouts, new financial regulations and public investments pushed by the Obama Administration. The difference is both in the details and the big picture: not only do specific national economic policies in Europe tend to still trail those of the U.S. on the free-market curve, but there is also a lingering ingrained suspicion about capitalism itself. >>> Jeff Israely | Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Herman Van Rompuy: Europe's First President to Push for 'Euro Tax'

THE TELEGRAPH: Herman Van Rompuy, Europe's first president, is to join forces with the European Commission to push for sweeping new tax raising powers for Brussels.

Van Rompuy: Mr Van Rompuy, 62, who was appointed to the newly-created £320,000-a-year post at last week's special EU summit, set out his stall on direct Euro-taxes during a private speech. Photo: The Telegraph

Within days of taking office in January, the former Belgian prime minister will put his weight behind controversial proposals already floated by the commission's head, José Manuel Barroso, for a new "Euro tax".

He will add credence to Mr Barroso's plans, to be formally tabled in the New Year, by arguing for a Euro-version of a "Tobin Tax" – a levy on financial transactions already floated by Gordon Brown as a solution to the international banking crisis. It would result in a stream of income direct to Brussels coffers, funding budgets that critics say are already rife with waste and overspending.

Mr Van Rompuy, 62, who was appointed to the newly-created £320,000-a-year post at last week's special EU summit, set out his stall on direct Euro-taxes during a private speech at a recent meeting of the Bilderberg group of top politicians, bankers and businessmen. The group officially meets in secret, but when selected details of his remarks leaked out, his office was forced to issue a public statement on his behalf.

"The financing of the welfare state, irrespective of the social reform we implement, will require new resources," he said. "The possibility of financial levies at European level needs to be seriously reviewed."
Mr Barroso, whose commission acts as the European Union's executive arm and civil service, has set out alternative plans for a Euro tax that would involve Brussels taking directly a fixed percentage of VAT and fuel duties. While these taxes already help to fund EU spending – set at £121 billion next year – they are currently gathered by the treasuries of individual nation states, from which varying sums are paid into EU coffers.

A new Euro tax could appear on all shopping and petrol station receipts, showing the amount of VAT or fuel duty creamed off directly to Brussels. Supporters say it would take a fixed proportion of the existing tax revenue rather than increase it overall, and make the cost to taxpayers of running the EU more transparent. Critics argue this could backfire by increasing anti-Brussels sentiment. >>> Bruno Waterfield and Justin Stares in Brussels and Colin Freeman | Sunday, November 22, 2009

Herman Van Rompuy’s sister, a communist/extreme socialist, doesn’t agree with her brother’s politics:

Christine Van Rompuy bekeert zich tot klein links

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Salaires : Les top managers gagnent toujours plus

LE TEMPS: Les écarts de salaires ont augmenté l’an dernier dans les emplois les plus qualifiés. La rémunération des top managers a connu une forte hausse notamment dans le secteur financier. La valeur moyenne des bonus ne cesse de progresser. La part des emplois à bas salaire recule

Le salaire médian brut s’est élevé à 5823 francs en 2008, selon l’enquête présentée mardi par l’Office fédéral de la statistique (OFS). Cette notion théorique signifie que la moitié des employés ont reçu davantage que 5823 francs, l’autre moitié moins.

La hausse, qui a atteint 2,6% depuis le dernier relevé en 2006, est moins forte que le renchérissement de 3,2% intervenu depuis. Pour beaucoup d’employés, le salaire réel a donc reculé. Mais tous ne sont pas logés à la même enseigne et les écarts se sont même creusés. Banquiers en tête >>> ATS | Mardi 17 Novembre 2009
Bernanke's Rare Intervention Fails to Calm Fears Over Weak Dollar

With the dollar going into steep decline, with the price of gold rising to record levels, with the US’s huge deficit having to be financed through printing money (or ‘quantitative easing’ as they prefer to call it by way of euphemism these days), with Ben Bernanke talking about the dollar “remaining strong” and a “source of global financial stability”, one really has to question the competence, judgment and ability of the head of the Fed – Ben Bernanke! This is, after all, the age of the resurgence of soup kitchens in America, a country in which fifty million Americans are finding it difficult to get adequate nourishment. It is also an age in which bankers continue to pay themselves ginormous bonuses. Surely, this must be the age of ultimate financial mismanagement. Shame on Ben Bernanke! Shame on them all! – © Mark

THE TELEGRAPH: Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke's attempt to shore up support for the US currency failed yesterday as the dollar fell to fresh 15-month lows.

In a rare moment of intervention into the currency markets from America's leading central banker, Mr Bernanke admitted the Fed is watching the dollar "closely" as part of its focus on employment growth and price stability.

Mr Bernanke stressed the dollar will remain "strong" and continue as a "source of global financial stability". >>> James Quinn, US Business Editor | Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Wirtschaftskrise: 50 Millionen Amerikaner fehlt das Geld für Nahrung

ZEIT ONLINE: Die globale Krise trifft viele Menschen in der stärksten Wirtschaftsnation der Welt hart: Rund 50 Millionen Amerikaner konnten sich 2007 nicht ausreichend Essen leisten.

Suppenküche in Charlotte, North Carolina: 2008 hatten Millionen Amerikaner nicht genügend Geld, um sich ausreichend zu ernähren. Bild: Zeit Online

Im Jahr 2007 waren noch elf Prozent der Haushalte nicht angemessen mit Lebensmitteln versorgt. Ein Jahr später, im Krisenjahr 2008, sind es 14, 6 Prozent gewesen. Das geht aus einer Studie des US-Landwirtschaftsministeriums hervor. Demnach hatten rund 50 Millionen Amerikaner zeitweise nicht genügend Geld, um sich ausreichend Essen zu kaufen. >>> Zeit Online, dpa | Dienstag, 17. November 2009
Rekordhoch am Goldmarkt: Misstrauensvotum gegen den Dollar

ZEIT ONLINE: Der Goldpreis bricht Rekord um Rekord. Schwellenländer stocken aus Angst vor einem Dollarverfall ihre Goldreserven auf – und treiben so die Nachfrage. Von Stefan Frank

Ein Juwelier in New York wirbt um Kunden, die Gold und Diamanten verkaufen. Der Goldpreis erreichte am Montag ein neues Rekordhoch. Bild: Zeit Online

Am Montag brach der Goldpreis einen neuen Rekord: Auf mehr als 1.130 US-Dollar kletterte der Preis für eine Feinunze. Das sind hundert Dollar mehr als noch vor zwei Wochen. Innerhalb eines Jahres hat sich das Edelmetall sogar um rund 400 Dollar – oder 50 Prozent – verteuert. Begonnen hat der jüngste Anstieg im September, als der Preis zum ersten Mal seit Anfang 2008 die psychologisch wichtige 1000-Dollar-Marke überspringen konnte.

Vor zwei Wochen beschleunigte sich die Entwicklung. Da wurde bekannt, dass sich der Internationale Währungsfonds (IWF) von der Hälfte seiner Goldreserven trennt – das sind 200 Tonnen. Diese Nachricht hätte den Goldmarkt eigentlich belasten müssen. Doch der IWF wirft das Gold nicht auf den Markt, sondern verkauft es an die indische Notenbank, die damit in die Gruppe der zehn Zentralbanken mit den größten Goldreserven aufsteigt. Offenbar sind die Schwellenländer selbst bei den derzeit hohen Preisen bereit, ihren Dollarreserven einen größeren Anteil Gold beizumischen.

Das ist ein Misstrauensvotum gegen Amerikas Währung. Der Wert des Dollars wird immer fragwürdiger, weil die USA immer mehr Geld drucken müssen, um ihr Budgetdefizit in Höhe von geschätzten zwei Billionen Dollar zu finanzieren. Gold hingegen kann von Regierungen oder Notenbanken nicht aus dem Nichts geschaffen werden. Seine Menge wächst nur sehr langsam. Obwohl sich der Goldpreis seit Beginn des Jahrzehnts vervierfacht hat, sind die Minenbetreiber nicht in der Lage, die Fördermenge zu erhöhen. >>> Von Stefan Frank |, Zeit Online | Dienstag, 17. November 2009

Friday, 13 November 2009

UN Meets Homeless Victims of American Property Dream

NAME: UN special rapporteur says wealthy US ignoring deepening homeless crisis while pumping billions into bank rescues / UN say US is neglecting deepening homeless crisis

A United Nations special investigator who was blocked from visiting the US by the Bush administration has accused the American government of pouring billions of dollars into rescuing banks and big business while treating as "invisible" a deepening homeless crisis.

Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur for the right to adequate housing, who has just completed a seven-city tour of America, said it was shameful that a country as wealthy as the US was not spending more money on lifting its citizens out of homelessness and substandard, overcrowded housing.

"The housing crisis is invisible for many in the US," she said. "I learned through this visit that real affordable housing and poverty is something that hasn't been dealt with as an issue. Even if we talk about the financial crisis and government stepping in in order to promote economic recovery, there is no such help for the homeless." >>> Chris McGreal in Los Angeles | Thursday, November 12, 2009
Eurozone Emerges from Recession

BBC: The eurozone economy has emerged from recession after growing between July and September, figures have shown.

The 16 nations that use the euro collectively grew 0.4%, after shrinking by 0.2% between April and June.

The French and German economies both grew for a second consecutive quarter, confirming the eurozone's two largest economies are out of recession. >>> | Friday, November 13, 2009

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Remembrance Sunday 2009

In deep gratitude: Remembering the fallen – the men who died for our liberty.

Poppy: Google Images

UK Soldiers Remember the Fallen

BBC: A Remembrance Sunday service has been held at Camp Bastion in the Afghan province of Helmand on the day another British soldier has been killed.

Later the Queen is to lead the Remembrance Sunday commemorations at the Cenotaph in London's Whitehall.

Representatives from the Commonwealth will join Prime Minister Gordon Brown, military leaders and religious heads for a service and military march-past.

The latest soldier to die was killed in a blast in Helmand, the MoD said.

He was the 94th British fatality in Afghanistan this year.

A two-minute silence will be held at 1100 GMT across the country to remember the UK's war dead. >>> | Sunday, November 08, 2009

In Flanders Fields

By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) Canadian Army

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

[Source: Arlington Cemetery]

The Man We Love to Hate: Mr Goldman Sachs

THE SUNDAY TIMES: Number 85 Broad Street, a dull, rust-coloured office block in lower Manhattan, doesn’t look like a place to stop and stare, and that’s just the way the people who work there like it. The men and women who arrive in the watery dawn sunshine, dressed in Wall Street black, clutching black briefcases and BlackBerrys, are very, very private. They walk quickly from their black Lincoln town cars to the lobby, past, well, nothing, really. There’s no name plate on the building, no sign on the front desk and the armed policeman stationed outside isn’t saying who works there. There’s a good reason for the secrecy. Number 85 Broad Street, New York, NY 10004, is where the money is. All of it.

It’s the site of the best cash-making machine that global capitalism has ever produced, and, some say, a political force more powerful than governments. The people who work behind the brass-trim glass doors make more money than some countries do. They are the rainmakers’ rainmakers, the biggest swinging dicks in the financial jungle. Their assets total $1 trillion, their annual revenues run into the tens of billions, and their profits are in the billions, which they distribute liberally among themselves. Average pay this recessionary year for the 30,000 staff is expected to be a record $700,000. Top earners will get tens of millions, several hundred thousand times more than a cleaner at the firm. When they have finished getting "filthy rich by 40", as the company saying goes, these alpha dogs don’t put their feet up. They parachute into some of the most senior political posts in the US and beyond, prompting accusations that they "rule the world". Number 85 Broad Street is the home of Goldman Sachs.

The world’s most successful investment bank likes to hide behind the tidal wave of money that it generates and sends crashing over Manhattan, the City of London and most of the world’s other financial capitals. But now the dark knights of banking are being forced, blinking, into the cold light of day. The public, politicians and the press blame bankers’ reckless trading for the credit crunch and, as the most successful bank still standing, Goldman is their prime target. Here, politicians and commentators compete to denounce Goldman in ever more robust terms — "robber barons", "economic vandals", "vulture capitalists". Vince Cable, the Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, contrasts the bank’s recent record results — profits of $3.2 billion in the last quarter alone — and its planned bumper bonus payments with what has happened to ordinary people’s jobs and incomes in 2009.

It’s even worse in the US. There, Rolling Stone magazine ran a story that described Goldman as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money". In his latest documentary, Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore drives up to 85 Broad Street in an armoured Brinks money van, leaps out carrying a sack with a giant dollar sign on it, looks up at the building and yells: "We’re here to get the money back for the American people!"

Goldman’s reputation is suddenly as toxic as the credit default swaps and other inexplicably exotic financial instruments it used to buy with glee. That’s bad for the one thing it values more than anything else: business. Being the prime target for popular and political outrage could put Goldman first in line for draconian new regulation. So it has, reluctantly, decided that the time has come to speak out, to fight its corner. That’s how, on one of those bright autumnal New York mornings when anything seems possible — even an invitation to break bread with the masters of the universe — I find myself walking past the security guard who held up Michael Moore and into the building with no name. I'm doing 'God's work'. Meet Mr Goldman Sachs >>> John Arlidge | Sunday, November 08, 2009

Michael Moore – Capitalism: A Love Story – Trailer

Thursday, 5 November 2009

France: 'Autistic Tories Have Castrated UK in Europe'

It is indeed “very sad” to observe the Conservatives “castrate” the British in Europe. M. Lellouche has got that right! We need a good Conservative Party to turn to after the dreadful years of NuLabour. But what do we get? A weak and pathetic party singing the same old, old songs about how terrible Europeans are for taking away our sovereignty and the terrible people who drain the country by claiming welfare benefits.

First on the latter point… Yes, the welfare bill needs to be cut drastically. The Labour Party has made so, so many people dependent on welfare payments in order to get more votes at the polls. But when Cameron talks about having a crackdown on people on sickness benefit, for example, he is replaying the Thatcher tune, a tune which was right for its time, but which sounds rather hackneyed and old for today. Why? Because the fact is that bankers have been crippling government finances to a far greater extent in receiving taxpayers’ handouts as bailouts for ailing banks and then proceeding to pay wild, excessive bonuses to themselves with this taxpayers' money. Any money that someone on sickness benefit recieves looks incredibly small and paltry by comparison. It’s pin money!

With regard to Europe… Again, the Conservative Party is playing the same old, same old tune. Poor old Britain and its loss of sovereignty! Fact is, British politicians should have thought about that before taking us into the European Union in the first place, if indeed loss of sovereignty was such an issue for them. Now, we’re in Europe; and we are never going to get the best out of it by standing idly by, on the sidelines, complaining about each and every law Europe passes which guarantees further loss of sovereignty.

In many ways, the Conservative Party is rueing Britain’s loss of Empire and loss of world power and status. I’ve got news for them: those days are never coming back. This is an altogether different world. Europe is our future. We need to dive in, and with two feet. Not dangle one foot in and keep one foot out. We’ll get nowhere that way.

Moreover, what we need now is to accept the euro with open arms. The euro is the currency of the future. It’s a strong currency. It’s a good currency. The Bank of England and successive British governments have shown beyond a shadow of doubt that they have been unable to maintain a strong pound sterling. The value of the pound has declined and declined with each and every decade in the twentieth century. Its decline contunues apace. We therefore need to enter the eurozone. That way the people of Britain can be assured of continuing prosperity – prosperity they deserve.

For God’s sake lets stop contemplating our navels. Get with the story! We are in Europe. Get over it! Get on with it!
– © Mark


THE GUARDIAN: French Europe minister says David Cameron's pledge to reclaim EU powers is 'pathetic' and will leave Britain isolated

Pierre Lellouche: 'It's very sad to see Britain just cutting itself out from the rest. It is the result of a long period in opposition.' Photo: The Guardian

The Conservatives are accused by the French government of "castrating" Britain's position within the EU by adopting an "autistic" approach that will take Britain off the radar.

Speaking to the Guardian, the French Europe minister, Pierre Lellouche, describes as "pathetic" the Tories' EU plans announced today, warning that they will not succeed "for a minute".

Giving vent to frustration across the EU, which has so far only been expressed in private, Lellouche – who says he is reflecting Nicolas Sarkozy's "sadness and regret" – accuses the shadow foreign secretary, William Hague, of a "bizarre autism" in their discussions. He says: "They have one line and they just repeat one line. It is a very bizarre sense of autism."

Lellouche, one of the most Anglophile members of Nicolas Sarkozy's government, made his remarkable intervention after David Cameron outlined a new Tory approach to the EU in the wake of the full ratification of the Lisbon treaty. A future Conservative government would seek to strengthen British sovereignty and repatriate a series of powers over social and employment legislation, he said.

Cameron insisted that he was not seeking an immediate "bust-up" with the EU. But within hours of his speech, France's centre-right government condemned the Tory leader's plans, saying that they would marginalise Britain within the EU. >>> Nicholas Watt, Patrick Wintour and Allegra Stratton | Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Sorry, Ma’am! It’s Time for Us to Accept the Euro >>> Mark Alexander | Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Jeffrey D. Sachs: «Les Occidentaux ont été irresponsables à l’égard de la Russie»

File d’attente devant une boulangerie russe, à Moscou, en 1992: à l’époque, selon Jeffrey D. Sachs, l’Occident n’a pas voulu – ou pas pu – apporter l’aide massive qui aurait été nécessaire. Crédits photo : Le Temps

LE TEMPS: Le célèbre économiste Jeffrey D. Sachs justifie sa «thérapie de choc» pour créer un marché qui a, selon lui, fait ses preuves en Pologne. A l’inverse, la dérive russe est la démonstration, non d’une faillite des préceptes économiques mais de l’incurie politique

Son nom est indissociable des réformes économiques de l’ère post-soviétique. En 1990, Jeffrey D. Sachs, alors professeur à Harvard, conseille les autorités polonaises, puis Moscou de 1991 à 1993, ainsi que d’autres Etats de l’Europe de l’Est. Avec une fortune diverse et un héritage qui fait toujours débat. Connues sous le nom de «thérapie de choc» ou «big bang», ses recettes prônaient une rupture radicale – par opposition à une transition graduelle – avec l’économie planifiée pour embrasser l’économie de marché et ainsi arrimer l’Europe de l’Est à l’Europe occidentale. Privatisation, retrait de l’Etat, maîtrise de l’inflation, négociation de la dette, le célèbre économiste assume aujourd’hui son approche tout en se distanciant d’un courant ultralibéral auquel il avait été associé par ses détracteurs.

Après avoir piloté le projet Objectifs du millénaire des Nations unies lorsqu’il était le conseiller spécial du secrétaire général de l’ONU, Kofi Annan, Jeffrey D. Sachs est aujourd’hui directeur de l’Institut de la terre (Earth Institute) à l’Université Columbia de New York. Interview exclusive.

Le Temps: Vous avez été, après la chute du communisme, un des économistes les plus influents pour prôner une transition radicale vers une économie de marché. Avec le recul, referiez-vous la même chose?

Jeffrey D. Sachs: Je pense que c’était tout à fait justifié. La question était de savoir à quelle vitesse ouvrir le commerce, rendre les monnaies convertibles, en d’autres termes à quelle vitesse rejoindre l’économie de l’Europe de l’Ouest. La décision d’aller vite et de façon décisive s’est avérée correcte. Bien sûr, la transition a connu un chemin tortueux car c’était l’une des plus importantes révolutions du XXe siècle. Après cinquante années d’un système misérable, il y avait beaucoup de dislocations, beaucoup de difficultés d’ajustement, beaucoup d’échecs, une industrie décrépite héritée de l’ère soviétique. Ces changements étaient inévitables et difficiles. Particulièrement pour les gens âgés de 40-50 ans, dont la vie a basculé entre deux époques très différentes. Il fallait avancer prudemment, cela a souvent été hasardeux. Dans certains pays ce fut efficace, dans d’autres il y a eu beaucoup de négligences. Les réformes menées en Pologne ont été considérées comme un relatif succès. Comment l’expliquer? >>> Frédéric Koller | Mercredi 04 Novembre 2009

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

No Whiff of PC in Japanese Investment Banks!

MAIL ONLINE: Two women City high-flyers who claim they were hounded out of their jobs by sexist Japanese bosses are both suing a leading investment bank for £1.5 million.

Maureen Murphy, 30, alleges that a woman trader at Nomura bank had to endure her breasts being referred to as 'honkers' during a meeting.

She says that a male colleague claimed that women 'belong at home cleaning the floors'.

And another allegedly said that the key to cheating on wives was 'not getting caught'.

Miss Murphy, a senior analyst earning £55,000 a year, and Anna Francis, 37, a director on £250,000 including bonus, had worked in Asian equities sales at Lehman Brothers in Canary Wharf before the bank collapsed in September last year.

The two women moved to Nomura as part of a buyout by the Japanese bank and expected equally prominent roles.

But they claim sexist Japanese bosses withheld work and fired them because they were female and non-Japanese.

Their barrister Michael Duggan told Central London Employment Tribunal: 'This organisation is institutionally racist and sexist.' Two women City high-flyers 'hounded from bank for not being male or Japanese' sue for £3million >>> | Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Sunday, 1 November 2009

’Every Little Helps’

MAIL ON SUNDAY: Tony Blair has been in talks with Tesco about helping them open supermarkets in the Middle East - allegedly in return for up to £1million.

It is believed the discussions between the former Prime Minister, now a peace envoy to the region, and the supermarket chain, whose slogan is 'Every little helps', ended after the two sides failed to agree terms.

The disclosure could further damage Mr Blair's hopes of becoming the first President of Europe, as critics will seize on it as evidence that he is as interested in making money as he is in reviving his career as a statesman.

According to one source, Mr Blair's proposed role for Tesco would simply have been to act as a figurehead for their drive to break into the Middle East market.

The company, who have exported their hugely successful formula around the world, wanted Mr Blair to use his international political and diplomatic clout to 'open doors' for them. The Mail on Sunday understands Tesco were 'deeply disappointed' when they were unable to reach agreement with Mr Blair. Tony Blair in talks with Tesco over £1m deal as supermarket eyes Middle East >>> Simon Walters, Nathan Kay and Christopher Leake | Sunday, November 01, 2009

Tony Blair Inc: A Nice Little Earner

THE SUNDAY TIMES: TONY BLAIR is cashing in on his experience as Britain’s longest-serving Labour prime minister by setting up a “commercial partnership” that offers clients political and economic advice.

The business venture, Tony Blair Associates, has been disclosed by the official watchdog that scrutinises paid employment undertaken by former ministers.

The advisory committee on business appointments said in a statement on its website this weekend: “Tony Blair has established Tony Blair Associates which will allow him to provide, in partnership with others, strategic advice on a commercial and pro-bono [free] basis, on political and economic trends and governmental reform.”

The committee said it saw “no reason why he should not set up the firm forthwith”, and disclosed that this had been done this month. It is believed to be the first time a former prime minister has set up a commercial venture with the apparent intention of cashing in on time spent in office. >>> David Leppard and Solomon Hughes | Sunday, February 22, 2009