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Western greed largely responsible for impetus to create BRICS new development bank

BRICS photo
© AFP Photo / Evaristo Sa
Family photo of the BRICS-UNASUR Summit in Brasilia, on July 16, 2014.
One of my high school history teacher's favorite topics was the European revolutionary movement of 1848, or as he would put it, time and again, 'the turning point where Europe failed to turn'.

"What do you think the test will be on?" the students would ask each other sarcastically, after another lengthy rumination, "The turning point where Europe failed to turn?"

But I never forgot the phrase or the events it denoted, and I think that current economic crisis could well go down in history as the turning point where the entire Western world failed to turn. The recent creation of the New Development Bank by the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), which will compete with the IMF and World Bank, is yet another example of how international control is skittering away from those nations that are failing to adapt to a changing world.

In a certain sense, falling behind like this is actually quite an achievement, given that Western countries not only invented the IMF and World Bank - up until now, the preeminent international lenders of last resort - but also gave themselves a controlling stake within both institutions. They set the rules of the game. Therefore, all they had to do to stay on top of that game was throw the other players a crumb once in a while.

It's not exactly rocket science.

Comment: For more information on the creation of the BRICS New Development Bank, see:

Anti-dollar alliance: BRICS establish $100bn bank and currency reserves to counter Western dominance
How throwing BRICS at Israel will be good for the entire Middle East
Putin's six-day tour of Latin America ends with creation of BRICS and signing of energy agreements as opposition to Western powers gains strength

Stock Down

Upps! Sanctions against Russia leads to economic contraction in Germany

Putin and Merkel
© Unknown
It is no secret that the gist of western thinking has been that sanctions against Russia would pressure its economy enough to force Putin to finally crawl to the negotiating table, tail between his legs, and beg for western forgiveness. Call it the law of unintended consequences striking once again, because while Russia's economy continues to hum along (if only for now, something that can't be said about Ukraine's) and has forced the Kremlin to seek a variety of deals with China to avoid western isolationism, one other country may have been crippled far faster than Russia: Germany.

As Germany's Bundesbank reported overnight, in its latest current monthly report that was widely ignored due to the blanket media coverage of events in the Ukraine, if not so much in Gaza, "Germany's economy may have stagnated in 2Q."

Who is to blame? Why the ongoing Ukraine conflict of course, and more specifically, the western response to it. As Deutsche Welle reported,
"the institution said in a monthly report released Monday that second-quarter growth in Germany had likely slipped due to turbulence in Ukraine and Iraq and a number of public holidays which led to shorter work weeks."

Arrow Down

Another banker death: Goldman managing director found dead in apparent kite surfing accident

Police are still investigating the tragic death of
Nicholas Valtz
© Unknown
39-year-old Goldman Sachs Managing Director Nicholas Valtz
39-year-old Goldman Sachs Managing Director Nicholas Valtz this weekend. As Bloomberg reports, Valtz, a "novice kiteboarder," was found dead yesterday by family members who went searching for him after he didn't return from a kiteboarding outing. While there is no accusation of suicide in this case, it sadly brings the number of young financial services executives deaths to 16 this year.

As Bloomberg reports,
Nicholas Valtz, a managing director in cross-asset sales at Goldman Sachs in New York, was found in Napeague Harbor off the coast of Long Island, according to the East Hampton police. Valtz, 39, was a "novice kiteboarder" and was found floating in the water secured to his kite, police said in a statement released yesterday. Other kite gear was found in a grassy area of the harbor, police said.

Valtz, who joined Goldman Sachs in 2000, was promoted to managing director in 2010. His wife, Sashi Valtz, also works at Goldman Sachs as head of global third-party research sales, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Police are still investigating the death, according to the statement.
In March 2008, Valtz shaved his head to raise money for childhood cancer research, according to the website for St. Baldrick's Foundation. Valtz enjoyed technology products and fast cars, according to the website for his brother-in-law's 2012 wedding in which he was a groomsman.
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French people outraged over Gaza, triggering 'outbreak' of anti-Israel comments online

Paris demonstration
© AFP Photo / Pierre Andrieu
French riot police officers face rioters in Sarcelles, a suburb north of Paris, on July 20, 2014, after clashes following a demonstration denouncing Israel's military campaign in Gaza and showing support to the Palestinian people.
Moderators of French websites have been overwhelmed by a storm of hatred over the Israeli incursion into Gaza. The latest conflict has triggered outbreaks of violence in France between the country's Jewish and Muslim populations.

While Parisian protests over Israel's operation in Gaza descend into violence and clashes, the internet has seen an explosion of hate speech related to the conflict. French law bans racist, anti-Semitic or discriminatory messages, but moderators have been hard-pressed to keep up with the rise in hateful comments.

Representatives from companies that monitor online content told AFP that they normally block 25 to 40 percent of comments, but since the Israeli incursion this statistic has shot up to up to 95 percent. They say the nature of the online hate comments is very specific to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as both parties seek to monopolize websites with their hate messages.

"On the pro-Palestinian side, identical messages are posted on dozens of sites. On the pro-Israeli side, there are fewer messages but they are better organized," said Jeremie Mani, head of Madagascar-based company Netino that trawls through millions of comments every month. "This sickening content is peculiar to this conflict. The war in Syria does not trigger these kinds of comments."

Comment: The pro-Israeli comments are 'better organized' because they are in all likelihood posted by Hasbara trolls, who have a well-manufactured propaganda template from which to work.

Apparently the comments are not just restricted to subjects related to the conflict. Mani said offense dialogue on the issue even cropped up in an article about the Tour de France and in another about salmon fishing.

Comment: If the comments are increasingly 'hateful', that is because Israel's conduct is increasingly egregious and inspires powerful emotions in people who value justice and humanity. The world is turning against Israel. Meanwhile, world leaders are just following the Israeli party line, which only frustrates the people even more.


2 separate plane crashes on the same day kill 6 in Arizona

© MyFoxPhoenix.com
July 20, 2014: Smoke from a fire sparked by the crash of a single-engine plane rises over Fay Canyon, near Sedona, Arizona.
Authorities say six people were killed Sunday in two separate small plane crashes in Arizona, with one sparking a wildfire.

The Federal Aviation Administration says that hikers reported the first crash in the Bear Mountain area near the town of Sedona at approximately 3 p.m. local time. Approximately 3 hours later, the United States Forest Service said that the wreckage of a single-engine plane had been found.

No further details about the plane or the victims were immediately available. Officials told the Associated Press access to the crash site was difficult because of the uneven terrain and the nearby fire.

The Arizona Republic reported that the crash had sparked a fire in Fay Canyon. As of 7 p.m. Sunday, the fire had burned 25 acres and was 0 percent contained. Two helicopters, two engines, one fuels crew and the Sedona Fire District were responding to the fire Sunday evening, and one hotshot crew and three helicopters were due to arrive in the area Monday.


Is it worth it? Sanctions against Russia affect quarter of German exporters

EU US flag collage
© Jamdesign
United States and European Union sanctions against Russia, introduced in several stages over the past few months, affected a quarter of German companies working abroad, deputy head of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) Volker Treier said, in an interview to Rheinische Post.

"These [sanctions] affected about a quarter of German companies conducting activities abroad," Treier stated, as quoted by Rheinische Post.

The most affected are the companies that have business interactions with both Russia and the United States, since their activities now have to undergo numerous checks because of the sanctions, he added.

"Business contacts of German companies conducting activities in Russia and the United States. They have to go through checks to determine whether they comply with various sanctions of the United States and European Union," Treier said.

The United States and the European Union have already imposed packages of targeted sanctions against dozens of Russian officials and companies in response to the country's reunification with Crimea and Moscow's position toward the situation in Ukraine.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly stated that the language of sanctions is counterproductive to all parties and could have a boomerang effect on European economies.


Finally! International experts arrive in Donetsk to investigate MH17 crash

© Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev
Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and members of a forensic team inspect a refrigerator wagon, containing the remains of victims from the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, at a railway station in the eastern Ukrainian town of Torez July 21, 2014.
The first international investigators have arrived in eastern Ukraine to assess the aftermath of the Malaysian plane crash. The Dutch forensic experts have seen the train carrying the remains of the victims and will view the crash site later on Monday.

Three members of the Dutch Disaster Victims Identification team visited the city of Torez where some of the bodies of those that died in the Malaysian plane crash have been loaded on to a refrigerated train. The destination of the train, which is being guarded by rebel fighters from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, remains unknown.

So far 272 out of 298 bodies have been recovered at the site of the Malaysian Boeing crash, 251 are currently in refrigerated train cars at Torez Station.

The head of the Dutch team, Peter van Vliet, inspected the bodies that were being stored in rail cars.

"The storage of the bodies is of good quality," van Vliet told Reuters, as his team went through the train carriages in masks and rubber gloves checking the bodies. He added that they had been told the bodies would be taken to a place where they would be identified and repatriated.

The team will visit the crash site later on Monday in an attempt to discern the possible causes behind the tragedy.


Death of adopted Russian boy in Italy sparks outrage

© Wikicommons
Children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov.
The alleged killing of a five-year-old Russian boy by his adoptive Italian father has been met in Russia with mourning and calls for adoption reform, feeding an ongoing movement to keep orphans out of foreign hands.

Maxim Maravalle, last name Kichigin by birth, died on the night of July 17 in Pescara, Italy, according to a statement on the Russian Foreign Ministry's website. Several Russian media sources have reported that he was strangled.

"The crime was committed by the boy's adopted father - Massimo Maravalle, who was arrested by the police. Pescara's Prosecutor General has opened a criminal case against [him]," the statement said, citing information from the Italian government.


Edward Snowden: Calling all hackers

Edward Snowden poses for a photo during an interview at an undisclosed location in December 2013 in Moscow, Russia.
Edward Snowden made an impassioned call on Saturday for hackers and technologists to help would-be whistleblowers spill more government secrets.

Speaking via remote Google Hangouts video feed from Russia, Snowden addressed his comments to an audience at this weekend's Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) conference at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York.


Bolivia lowers legal working age for children to 10

© Reuters / David Mercado
A boy working as a shoe shiner in La Paz
A law, legally allowing children to work from as early as the age of ten, has been signed in Bolivia this week, making the Latin American country the first nation to legalize child labor. International organizations say it contravenes UN conventions.

The legislation was approved by the Congress earlier this month, with Bolivia's Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera signing it into law on Thursday. The signature - which didn't come from President Evo Morales due to his absence from the country - officially lowers the age that children can legally work from 14 to 10.

Under the new legislation, children above the age of 10 will be allowed to become self-employed workers as long as they attend school and have permission from their parents. Those over 12 years old will be permitted to take on contract work, also on terms of parental consent and compulsory school attendance.

Comment: Child labor is actually pervasive in developing countries, thanks to economic imperialism aka globalization practiced by the US. Rather than condemning the legislation, perhaps we should look at facts on the ground and ask what makes it necessary in the first place because such a situation is fast becoming a reality in Western countries.