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* Global Justice Now releases a briefing about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), calling it a “threat to local democracy, affecting the freedom local authorities have in decision making when these affect the interests of large US corporations.” It further states that the deal “could threaten public services, set up shady arbitration panels capable of overruling the UK court system and undermine regulations such as health and safety standards.”
* NBC 11 reports on the American Legislative Exchange Council’s “corporate bill mill,” which gives corporations heavy influence over legislation. The ALEC Exposed website offers substantial evidence about how “global corporations and state politicians vote behind closed doors to try to rewrite state laws that govern your rights.”
* WikiLeaks releases more than half a million US diplomatic cables from 1978. As reported by DemocracyNow!: “The documents include diplomatic cables and other diplomatic communications from and to US embassies and missions in nearly every country. ‘1978 actually set in progress many of the geopolitical elements that are playing out today,’ [WikiLeaks founder Julian] Assange said. ‘1978 was the beginning of the Iranian revolution . . . the Sandinista movement started in its popular form . . . the war period in Afghanistan began in 1978 and hasn’t stopped since.’”
* FIFA scandal: In May 2015, American officials announce “a sweeping indictment against 14 soccer officials and marketing executives who they said had corrupted the sport through two decades of shadowy dealing and $150 million in bribes. Authorities described international soccer in terms normally reserved for Mafia families or drug cartels, and brought charges under racketeering laws usually applied to such criminal organizations. . . . Whether through convoluted financial deals or old-fashioned briefcases full of cash, people were expected to pay for access to FIFA’s river of money and publicity. The federal indictment lists 47 counts, including bribery, fraud and money laundering.”
* The International Accountability Project releases a report titled Back to Development: A Call for What Development Could Be, which examines forced evictions and other human rights abuses connected with World Bank–funded projects in Cambodia, Egypt, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere. Among other findings, the report calculates that “in four World Bank funded projects 71 percent of those displaced received no compensation for the losses they suffered.”
* ProPublica publishes a scathing investigative report on the Red Cross’s “development” projects in Haiti — or rather, lack thereof — in a piece titled “How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti and Built Six Homes.” In sum: “The group has publicly celebrated its work. But in fact, the Red Cross has repeatedly failed on the ground in Haiti. Confidential memos, e-mails from worried top officers, and accounts of a dozen frustrated and disappointed insiders show the charity has broken promises, squandered donations, and made dubious claims of success. . . . The Red Cross won’t disclose details of how it has spent the hundreds of millions of dollars donated for Haiti. But our reporting shows that less money reached those in need than the Red Cross has said.”
* Profiting from Poverty, Again: DFID’s Support for Privatising Education and Health, a report released by Global Justice Now, shows how the UK aid budget “is being used to increasingly set up private health-care and private education across Africa and Asia.” As described in the report: “Some of these private services are being run by UK-based businesses that have an inappropriately close relationship to those making decisions in the Department for International Development (DFID). Others are being run in conjunction with mega multinationals like Coca-Cola, which clearly perceives not only an opportunity to greenwash its brand, but a direct commercial advantage.” In sum, “aid is being used as a tool to convince, cajole, and compel the majority of the world to undertake policies which help big business, but which undermine public services emerging or thriving.”
* A report by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and published in the Huffington Post finds “sharp growth” in World Bank and International Finance Corporation investments in projects “categorized by the bankers as expected to have ‘irreversible or unprecedented’ social or environmental impacts.” From the article: “From 2009 to 2013, the two lenders pumped $50 billion in 239 of these high-risk ‘Category A’ projects, including dams, copper mines and oil pipelines — more than twice as much as the previous five-year span, records show. Much of the development is in countries like Peru, where federal governments are weak and regulations are lax.”
* Oxfam releases a briefing titled The Suffering of Others: The Human Cost of the International Finance Corporation’s Lending through Financial Intermediaries. The report states that the IFC made $36 billion worth of investments into so-called “financial intermediaries” (including commercial banks, private equity funds, and hedge funds) between 2009 and 2013, yet “does not know where much of its money under this new model is ending up or even whether it’s helping or harming,” according to the head of Oxfam International’s Washington, DC, office. The report further reveals that “of the 49 investments the IFC made to financial intermediaries since 2012 that it did classify as ‘high risk,’ it has only publicly disclosed sub-projects in three of these deals. ‘That means there is no public information about where 94 percent of the IFC’s “high risk” intermediary investments have actually ended up,’ said [report coauthor Natalie] Bugalski.”
* As of July 2015 (with data current as of November 2014), half of USAID’s top ten vendors are multinational corporations: Chemonics (number 3); John Snow, Incorporated (number 7); DAI Washington (number 8); Management Sciences for Health, Inc. (number 9); and Jhpiego Corporation (number 10). And the number one vendor for USAID, with more than $2 billion in “amounts obligated”? The World Bank.
* The New Republic reveals the incentives that financial institutions offer their employees to take influential government positions — and the institutions’ attempts to hide the exact nature of those incentives — in an article titled “Wall Street Pays Bankers to Work in Government and It Doesn’t Want Anyone to Know.” According to the article: “Citigroup is one of three Wall Street banks attempting to keep hidden their practice of paying executives multimillion-dollar awards for entering government service. . . . Critics argue these ‘golden parachutes’ ensure more financial insiders in policy positions and favorable treatment toward Wall Street.” A related report by Bloomberg shows the increase in the percentage of workers who moved from regulatory jobs to banks, and vice versa, from 1988 to 2013, thus illustrating the so-called revolving door between regulatory bodies and the companies they are charged to oversee. These findings are fortified by evidence revealed in a 2013 investigation by the Project on Government Oversight, which demonstrates how “major corporations . . . make it financially advantageous for executives to take government jobs. . . . Through their compensation policies, companies may be fueling the revolving door and making it easier for their alumni to gain influence over public policy.” One prime example may be Billy Tauzin, a former House Republican who helped draft and pass the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, which was favorable to pharmaceutical companies; later that year, “the same month that President Bush signed the bill, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which goes by the nickname PhRMA and represents the largest American drug and biotech companies, was pursuing Tauzin to be its president.” Ten months later, Tauzin took the job, at a reported annual salary of $2 million.
* An investigation by the Guardian reveals that subsidies totaling $1.62 billion to Shell, ExxonMobil, and Marathon Petroleum “were all granted by politicians who received significant campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.” The report also finds that in 2013, “the coal, oil and gas industries benefited from subsidies of $550 billion, four times those given to renewable energy.”
* Reports continue to surface about the expanded role of US government–supported jackals. An investigation by the New York Times reveals the “secret history of quiet killings and blurred lines” of the Navy’s SEAL Team 6, “one of the nation’s most mythologized, most secretive and least scrutinized military organizations.” In other words, the team operates as modern-day jackals but do not limit themselves to the assassination of inconvenient foreign leaders, expanding their reach to all “suspected militants.” In fact, jackals have established their own industry of private security companies. The United States is the “world’s largest consumer of private military and security services,” according to the University of Denver’s Sié Chéou-Kang Center’s Private Security Monitor project. Many of these private security companies have become embroiled in allegations of severe misconduct and the killing of civilians. The most well-known scandal, “Black-watergate,” involved a massacre of Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square (among other atrocities), allegedly by Blackwater USA, a leading US mercenary company, and the alleged systematic evasion of prosecution by those perpetrating the violence.
* The New Left Review dissects the spread of EHM attitudes and activity throughout the Eurozone in an article titled “Germany’s Faltering Motor?.” From the article: “A small bloc of northern countries led by Germany enjoys current account surpluses and dictates the terms of economic reorganization to indebted countries of the south, under the imprimatur of the Troika.” The Troika comprises the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, which collectively monitor countries “in severe economic trouble that are receiving financial loans provided for by the EU and the IMF.” As Troika Watch explains, “Essentially, the Troika ensures that the small woman and small man in the street pays for systemic problems in the economy and mistakes made by financial institutions, which are the real causes of the crisis. At the same time, in the past few years, European lawmakers have continuously been reducing the rules and controls on those financial institutions and big businesses.” The effects of these northern-countries-as-EHMs have been disastrous for other countries in the EU that are subject to dramatic austerity measures. According to the New Left Review, “In Greece, the effects of the world economic crisis of 2008 have been compounded by this grinding austerity, resulting in unparalleled destruction of its national economy. The country has now suffered a depression worse than that of the 1930s, with no recovery in sight within the euro framework. Spain, Portugal and Italy, the latter a founding member of the European integration process, remain trapped in a disastrous downturn. Since 2012, each has experienced an official unemployment rate in double digits — 25 percent in the case of Spain — with youth unemployment still higher.”
* Jubilee USA describes how Cameroon probably feels hounded “by multiple vulture funds, including Grace Church Capital (Cayman Islands), Antwerp (UK Virgin Islands), Sconset Limited (UK Virgin Islands) and Winslow Bank (Bahamas). . . . Grace Church Capital bought Cameroonian debt for $9.5 million and then sued for nearly $40 million, while Sconset bought its share for $15 million and sued for $67 million. Antwerp also bought its debt for about $15 million, but is claiming an astounding $196 million from a country that ranks 150th on the United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI) and has a GDP of just $22 billion. Winslow Bank, meanwhile, sued for nearly $50 million for just $9 million worth of debt, and attempted to seize Cameroonian assets abroad as a means of enforcing its victory in court.”
* The Wall Street Journal reports that corporations avoid paying an estimated $200 billion in taxes every year by using offshore banking systems, according to the United States Conference on Trade and Development.
* Truthout dissects the World Bank and its connections to the tiny group of elites who control the global economic system in an article titled “The World Bank, Poverty Creation and the Banality of Evil.”
* In an article titled “The Death of International Development,” London School of Economics fellow Jason Hickel reminds us of the ever-increasing wealth ratio between the richest and the poorest countries: “In 1973 the gap was around 44:1. Today it’s nearly 80:1. Inequality has reached such extremes that now the richest 67 people in the world — a number of people who could fit comfortably on a London bus — have more wealth than the poorest 3.5 billion.”
* Eric Holder retires from his position as US attorney general to return to his former law firm Covington & Burling — whose client list includes “many of the big banks Holder failed to criminally prosecute as attorney general for their role in the financial crisis, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citigroup.” In an interview with Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman, Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi says, “I think this is probably the single biggest example of the revolving door that we’ve ever had.”
* Two major debt crises — in Greece and in Puerto Rico — come to a head on the international stage. Because these crises are rapidly evolving as of the completion of this chapter in July 2015, please refer to news outlets for current information. The New York Times also offers a good starting point for understanding the Greek debt crisis.