Profits Before Health: The Next Chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Global Research
By Binoy Kampmark

worldeconomy

“Imagine a group of corporate lawyers on a hilltop in Switzerland with the power to decide that a law passed in Illinois to regulate fracking is detrimental to the maximisation of corporate profits and therefore null and void.”
Letter to The Herald News, Oct 11, 2014

If you want to do your very best to bash the commonweal and undermine the premise of a social compact, a trade deal, masked by the lingo of beneficial free trade, is a good start.  The Transpacific-Partnership (TPP) continues its ride through the negotiating rooms in top secrecy, punctured occasionally by a WikiLeaks release and the utterings of concerned bystanders.  The latest variant of the TPP’s intellectual property chapter (the “second release”) suggests a predictably corporate driven agenda on the issue of health care.[1]

Significant in the chapter is the coverage of pharmaceuticals, patents, and copyright over digital rights canvassed in the Vietnam meetings in May.  The Office of the US Trade Representative, caught with its proverbial pants down, has warned against drawing “premature conclusions of any kind based on supposed leaked text from unsubstantiated, unnamed sources.”  Rather blandly, the statement goes on to say that “pharmaceutical intellectual property issues” should be best dealt with in accordance with “flexibility” and “needs”.[2]

As health is very much a government concern, falling within the social contract, so to speak, responses to upholding it have varied.  This is where the pongy scent of political interference can become problematic, notably if done through the forum of an international “trade” agreement.  Local laws can be such irritating things, and bypassing them has become something of the holy grail for trade negotiators.

Some, like many members on the Hill, would rather see people perish in accordance with good old Social Darwinian principles.  Sick people of the world, exit!  Others back the Scandinavian social model, where health is generally free; or the British health scheme and variants of the same principle: care should, at least at some level, be affordable, and most imperatively so for the indigent.

The Washington approach to this, however, is vastly different.  It sneers at the prospects of a healthy commonweal, preferring, instead, a sicker one.  (Preferably one cashed up and ready to part with it.)  In fact, a sicker citizenry satisfies the profit motive rather nicely, and has become something of a biblical incentive for corporations, the holy grail of share earnings and dividends.

The privileging of the corporate model in the TPP is made clear by the description of corporations as “investor states”, a term loaded and highly suggestive.  Relevant provisions governing such peculiar “states” would “allow corporations to sue governments over local laws that might hinder their profits.”[3]

The positioning of the parties on the latest variant of the IP chapter suggest that countries such as the United States and Japan are less than enthusiastic over the issue of affordable cancer treatment, or for that matter life-saving treatment in general.

Much of this can be presumed by the opposition of the two countries to the objectives section tabled by nine countries ranging from New Zealand to Mexico.  Strikingly, one of the provisions is to “Support each Party’s right to protect public health, including by facilitating timely access to affordable medicines”.  Other objectives seem logical but take the sting out of the Washington-Tokyo drive, including the sense that, in protecting IP rights, they “do not themselves become barriers to legitimate trade.”

There are a few structural ways that the patent regime will be affected should the IP chapter be passed with its Japan-US impress.  One is allowing an extension of patents.  The US-tabled Article QQ.E.20 would force signatories to adopt an “automatic monopoly period (marketing exclusivity) for life-saving drugs, with a choice for the groups to decide for definitive inclusion within the treaty of 0, 5, 8 or 12 years.”[4]

The logical consequence of this is permitting drug companies to maintain high prices on products that would otherwise become manufactured as generics once the patent date has expired.  Given the US and Japanese domination in areas of IP, this bodes ill for those needing such drugs, and developing countries within the TPP. This is the law of corporate contracts, not social contracts.

An additional and sinister feature to this negotiating agenda are the instituting of criminal procedures and penalties for disclosing trade secrets. This broad blanket expansion of what would constitute corporate and economic espionage would implicate whistleblowers and journalists in the business of discussing topics of trade and economic sensitivity.

The US and Japan are also barnstorming on the subject of criminalising non-commercial copyright infringements, though the released IP chapter suggests that many countries are losing their enthusiasm for it.  The tactic of Washington’s trade officials in response to this dilution is to “work through proxies, proposing and opposing far fewer times than anyone else in the Chapter”.[5]

The secrecy mania surrounding the TPP demonstrates the open contempt those engaged in negotiations hold their constituents. Transparency is deemed detrimental, an unnecessary form of enlightenment for the public.  Keep the discussion down; keep the lights off.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) outlines it rather well, having personally “heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representatives’ policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant.  In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it.”[6]

Ignorance is not so much golden here but deadening. “If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement,” argues Senator Warren, “then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.”  Or any other country for that matter.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge and lectures at RMIT University. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Notes

[1] https://wikileaks.org/tpp-ip2/

[2] http://www.politico.com/morningtrade/1014/morningtrade15725.html

[3] http://www.allvoices.com/article/100001618

[4] https://wikileaks.org/tpp-ip2/#article_e20

[5] https://wikileaks.org/tpp-ip2/attack-on-affordable-cancer-treatments.html

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAgJaIwdXLI#t=85

Global Research

How To Start A War, And Lose An Empire

ClubOrlov
by Dmitry Orlov


A year and a half I wrote an essay on how the US chooses to view Russia, titled The Image of the Enemy. I was living in Russia at the time, and, after observing the American anti-Russian rhetoric and the Russian reaction to it, I made some observations that seemed important at the time. It turns out that I managed to spot an important trend, but given the quick pace of developments since then, these observations are now woefully out of date, and so here is an update.

At that time the stakes weren’t very high yet. There was much noise around a fellow named Magnitsky, a corporate lawyer-crook who got caught and died in pretrial custody. He had been holding items for some bigger Western crooks, who were, of course, never apprehended. The Americans chose to treat this as a human rights violation and responded with the so-called “Magnitsky Act” which sanctioned certain Russian individuals who were labeled as human rights violators. Russian legislators responded with the “Dima Yakovlev Bill,” named after a Russian orphan adopted by Americans who killed him by leaving him in a locked car for nine hours. This bill banned American orphan-killing fiends from adopting any more Russian orphans. It all amounted to a silly bit of melodrama.

But what a difference a year and a half has made! Ukraine, which was at that time collapsing at about the same steady pace as it had been ever since its independence two decades ago, is now truly a defunct state, with its economy in free-fall, one region gone and two more in open rebellion, much of the country terrorized by oligarch-funded death squads, and some American-anointed puppets nominally in charge but quaking in their boots about what’s coming next. Syria and Iraq, which were then at a low simmer, have since erupted into full-blown war, with large parts of both now under the control of the Islamic Caliphate, which was formed with help from the US, was armed with US-made weapons via the Iraqis. Post-Qaddafi Libya seems to be working on establishing an Islamic Caliphate of its own. Against this backdrop of profound foreign US foreign policy failure, the US recently saw it fit to accuse Russia of having troops “on NATO’s doorstep,” as if this had nothing to do with the fact that NATO has expanded east, all the way to Russia’s borders. Unsurprisingly, US–Russia relations have now reached a point where the Russians saw it fit to issue a stern warning: further Western attempts at blackmailing them may result in a nuclear confrontation.

The American behavior throughout this succession of defeats has been remarkably consistent, with the constant element being their flat refusal to deal with reality in any way, shape or form. Just as before, in Syria the Americans are ever looking for moderate, pro-Western Islamists, who want to do what the Americans want (topple the government of Bashar al Assad) but will stop short of going on to destroy all the infidel invaders they can get their hands on. The fact that such moderate, pro-Western Islamists do not seem to exist does not affect American strategy in the region in any way.

Similarly, in Ukraine, the fact that the heavy American investment in “freedom and democracy,” or “open society,” or what have you, has produced a government dominated by fascists and a civil war is, according to the Americans, just some Russian propaganda. Parading under the banner of Hitler’s Ukrainian SS division and anointing Nazi collaborators as national heroes is just not convincing enough for them. What do these Nazis have to do to prove that they are Nazis, build some ovens and roast some Jews? Just massacring people by setting fire to a building, as they did in Odessa, or shooting unarmed civilians in the back and tossing them into mass graves, as they did in Donetsk, doesn’t seem to work. The fact that many people have refused to be ruled by Nazi thugs and have successfully resisted them has caused the Americans to label them as “pro-Russian separatists.” This, in turn, was used to blame the troubles in Ukraine on Russia, and to impose sanctions on Russia. The sanctions would be reviewed if Russia were to withdraw its troops from Ukraine. Trouble is, there are no Russian troops in Ukraine.

Note that this sort of behavior is nothing new. The Americans invaded Afghanistan because the Taleban would not relinquish Osama Bin Laden (who was a CIA operative) unless Americans produced evidence implicating him in 9/11—which did not exist. Americans invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein would not relinquish his weapons of mass destruction—which did not exist. They invaded Libya because Muammar Qaddafi would not relinquish official positions—which he did not hold. They were ready to invade Syria because Bashar al Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people—which he did not do. And now they imposed sanctions on Russia because Russia had destabilized and invaded Ukraine—which it did not do either. (The US did that.)

The sanctions against Russia have an additional sort of unreality to them, because they “boomerang” and hurt the West while giving the Russian government the impetus to do what it wanted to do all along. The sanctions infringed on the rights of a number of Russian businessmen and officials, who promptly yanked their money out of Western banks, pulled their children out of Western schools and universities, and did everything else they could to demonstrate that they are good patriotic Russians, not American lackeys. The sanctions affected a number of Russian energy companies, cutting them off from Western sources of technology and financing, but this will primarily hurt the earnings of Western energy companies while helping their Chinese competitors. There were even some threats to cut Russia off from the SWIFT system, which would have made it quite difficult to transfer funds between Russia and the West, but what these threats did instead was to give Russia the impetus to introduce its own RUSSWIFT system, which will include even Iran, neutralizing future American efforts at imposing financial restrictions.

The sanctions were meant to cause economic damage, but Western efforts at inflicting short-term economic damage on Russia are failing. Coupled with a significant drop in the price of oil, all of this was supposed to hurt Russia fiscally, but since the sanctions caused the Ruble to drop in tandem, the net result on Russia’s state finances is a wash. Oil prices are lower, but then, thanks in part to the sanctions, so is the Ruble, and since oil revenues are still largely in dollars, this means that Russia’s tax receipts are at roughly the same level at before. And since Russian oil companies earn dollars abroad but spend rubles domestically, their production budgets remain unaffected.

The Russians also responded by imposing some counter-sanctions, and to take some quick steps to neutralize the effect of the sanctions on them. Russia banned the import of produce from the European Union—to the horror of farmers there. Especially hurt were those EU members who are especially anti-Russian: the Baltic states, which swiftly lost a large fraction of their GDP, along with Poland. An exception is being made for Serbia, which refused to join in the sanctions. Here, the message is simple: friendships that have lasted many centuries matter; what the Americans want is not what the Americans get; and the EU is a mere piece of paper. Thus, the counter-sanctions are driving wedges between the US and the EU, and, within the EU, between Eastern Europe (which the sanctions are hurting the most) and Western Europe, and, most importantly, they drive home the simple message that the US is not Europe’s friend.

There is something else going on that is going to become more significant in the long run: Russia has taken the hint and is turning away from the West and toward the East. It is parlaying its open defiance of American attempts at world domination into trade relationships throughout the world, much of which is sick and tired of paying tribute to Washington. Russia is playing a key role in putting together an international banking system that circumvents the US dollar and the US Federal Reserve. In these efforts, over half the world’s territory and population is squarely on Russia’s side and cheering loudly. Thus, the effort to isolate Russia has produced the opposite of the intended result: it is isolating the West from the rest of the world instead.

In other ways, the sanctions are actually being helpful. The import ban on foodstuffs from EU is a positive boon to domestic agriculture while driving home a politically important point: don’t take food from the hands of those who bite you. Russia is already one of the world’s largest grain exporters, and there is no reason why it can’t become entirely self-sufficient in food. The impetus to rearm in the face of NATO encroachment on Russian borders (there are now US troops stationed in Estonia, just a short drive from Russia’s second-largest city, St. Petersburg) is providing some needed stimulus for industrial redevelopment. This round of military spending is being planned a bit more intelligently than in the Soviet days, with eventual civilian conversion being part of the plan from the very outset. Thus, along with the world’s best jet fighters, Russia is likely to start building civilian aircraft for export and competing with Airbus and Boeing.

But this is only the beginning. The Russians seem to have finally realized to what extent the playing field has been slanted against them. They have been forced to play by Washington’s rules in two key ways: by bending to Washington’s will in order to keep their credit ratings high with the three key Western credit rating agencies, in order to secure access to Western credit; and by playing by the Western rule-book when issuing credit of their own, thus keeping domestic interest rates artificially high. The result was that US companies were able to finance their operations more cheaply, artificially making them more competitive. But now, as Russia works quickly to get out from under the US dollar, shifting trade to bilateral currency arrangements (backed by some amount of gold should trade imbalances develop) it is also looking for ways to turn the printing press to its advantage. To date, the dictat handed down from Washington has been: “We can print money all we like, but you can’t, or we will destroy you.” But this threat is ringing increasingly hollow, and Russia will no longer be using its dollar revenues to buy up US debt. One proposal currently on the table is to make it impossible to pay for Russian oil exports with anything other than rubles, by establishing two oil brokerages, one in St. Petersburg, the other, seven time zones away, in Vladivostok. Foreign oil buyers would then have to earn their petro-rubles the honest way—through bilateral trade—or, if they can’t make enough stuff that the Russians want to import, they could pay for oil with gold (while supplies last). Or the Russians could simply print rubles, and, to make sure such printing does not cause domestic inflation, they could export some inflation by playing with the oil spigot and the oil export tariffs. And if the likes of George Soros decides to attack the ruble in an effort to devalue it, Russia could defend its currency simply by printing fewer rubles for a while—no need to stockpile dollar reserves.

So far, this all seems like typical economic warfare: the Americans want to get everything they want by printing money while bombing into submission or sanctioning anyone who disobeys them, while the rest of the world attempts to resist them. But early in 2014 the situation changed. There was a US-instigated coup in Kiev, and instead of rolling over and playing dead like they were supposed to, the Russians mounted a fast and brilliantly successful campaign to regain Crimea, then successfully checkmated the junta in Kiev, preventing it from consolidating control over the remaining former Ukrainian territory by letting volunteers, weapons, equipment and humanitarian aid enter—and hundreds of thousands of refugees exit—through the strictly notional Russian-Ukrainian border, all the while avoiding direct military confrontation with NATO. Seeing all of this happening on the nightly news has awakened the Russian population from its political slumber, making it sit up and pay attention, and sending Putin’s approval rating through the roof.

The “optics” of all this, as they like to say at the White House, are rather ominous. We are coming up on the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II—a momentous occasion for Russians, who pride themselves on defeating Hitler almost single-handedly. At the same time, the US (Russia’s self-appointed arch-enemy) has taken this opportunity to reawaken and feed the monster of Nazism right on Russia’s border (inside Russia’s borders, some Russians/Ukrainians would say). This, in turn, makes the Russians remember Russia’s unique historical mission is among the nations of the world: it is to thwart all other nations’ attempts at world domination, be it Napoleonic France or Hitleresque Germany or Obamaniac America. Every century or so some nation forgets its history lessons and attacks Russia. The result is always the same: lots of corpse-studded snowdrifts, and then Russian cavalry galloping into Paris, or Russian tanks rolling into Berlin. Who knows how it will end this time around? Perhaps it will involve polite, well-armed men in green uniforms without insignia patrolling the streets of Brussels and Washington, DC. Only time will tell.

You’d think that Obama has already overplayed his hand, and should behave accordingly. His popularity at home is roughly the inverse of Putin’s, which is to say, Obama is still more popular than Ebola, but not by much. He can’t get anything at all done, no matter how pointless or futile, and his efforts to date, at home and abroad, have been pretty much a disaster. So what does this social worker turned national mascot decide to do? Well, the way the Russians see it, he has decided to declare war on Russia! In case you missed it, look up his speech before the UN General Assembly. It’s up on the White House web site. He placed Russia directly between Ebola and ISIS among the three topmost threats facing the world. Through Russian eyes his speech reads as a declaration of war.

It’s a new, mixed-mode sort of war. It’s not a total war to the death, although the US is being rather incautious by the old Cold War standards in avoiding a nuclear confrontation. It’s an information war—based on lies and unjust vilification; it’s a financial and economic war—using sanctions; it’s a political war—featuring violent overthrow of elected governments and support for hostile regimes on Russia’s borders; and it’s a military war—using ineffectual but nevertheless insulting moves such as stationing a handful of US troops in Estonia. And the goals of this war are clear: it is to undermine Russia economically, destroy it politically, dismember it geographically, and turn it into a pliant vassal state that furnishes natural resources to the West practically free of charge (with a few hand-outs to a handful of Russian oligarchs and criminal thugs who play ball). But it doesn’t look like any of that is going to happen because, you see, a lot of Russians actually get all that, and will choose leaders who will not win any popularity contests in the West but who will lead them to victory.

Given the realization that the US and Russia are, like it or not, in a state of war, no matter how opaque or muddled, people in Russia are trying to understand why this is and what it means. Obviously, the US has seen Russia as the enemy since about the time of the Revolution of 1917, if not earlier. For example, it is known that after the end of World War II America’s military planners were thinking of launching a nuclear strike against the USSR, and the only thing that held them back was the fact that they didn’t have enough bombs, meaning that Russia would have taken over all of Europe before the effects of the nuclear strikes could have deterred them from doing so (Russia had no nuclear weapons at the time, but lots of conventional forces right in the heart of Europe).

But why has war been declared now, and why was it declared by this social worker turned national misleader? Some keen observers mentioned his slogan “the audacity of hope,” and ventured to guess that this sort of “audaciousness” (which in Russian sounds a lot like “folly”) might be a key part of his character which makes him want to be the leader of the universe, like Napoleon or Hitler. Others looked up the campaign gibberish from his first presidential election (which got silly young Americans so fired up) and discovered that he had nice things to say about various cold warriors. Do you think Obama might perhaps be a scholar of history and a shrewd geopolitician in his own right? (That question usually gets a laugh, because most people know that he is just a chucklehead and repeats whatever his advisers tell him to say.) Hugo Chavez once called him “a hostage in the White House,” and he wasn’t too far off. So, why are his advisers so eager to go to war with Russia, right now, this year?

Is it because the US is collapsing more rapidly than most people can imagine? This line of reasoning goes like this: the American scheme of world domination through military aggression and unlimited money-printing is failing before our eyes. The public has no interest in any more “boots on the ground,” bombing campaigns do nothing to reign in militants that Americans themselves helped organize and equip, dollar hegemony is slipping away with each passing day, and the Federal Reserve is fresh out of magic bullets and faces a choice between crashing the stock market and crashing the bond market. In order to stop, or at least forestall this downward slide into financial/economic/political oblivion, the US must move quickly to undermine every competing economy in the world through whatever means it has left at its disposal, be it a bombing campaign, a revolution or a pandemic (although this last one can be a bit hard to keep under control). Russia is an obvious target, because it is the only country in the world that has had the gumption to actually show international leadership in confronting the US and wrestling it down; therefore, Russia must be punished first, to keep the others in line.

I don’t disagree with this line of reasoning, but I do want to add something to it.

First, the American offensive against Russia, along with most of the rest of the world, is about things Americans like to call “facts on the ground,” and these take time to create. The world wasn’t made in a day, and it can’t be destroyed in a day (unless you use nuclear weapons, but then there is no winning strategy for anyone, the US included). But the entire financial house of cards can be destroyed rather quickly, and here Russia can achieve a lot while risking little. Financially, Russia’s position is so solid that even the three Western credit ratings agencies don’t have the gall to downgrade Russia’s rating, sanctions notwithstanding. This is a country that is aggressively paying down its foreign debt, is running a record-high budget surplus, has a positive balance of payments, is piling up physical gold reserves, and not a month goes by that it doesn’t sign a major international trade deal (that circumvents the US dollar). In comparison, the US is a dead man walking: unless it can continue rolling over trillions of dollars in short-term debt every month at record-low interest rates, it won’t be able to pay the interest on its debt or its bills. Good-bye, welfare state, hello riots. Good-bye military contractors and federal law enforcement, hello mayhem and open borders. Now, changing “facts on the ground” requires physical actions, whereas causing a financial stampede to the exits just requires somebody to yell “Boo!” loudly and frighteningly enough.

Second, it must be understood that at this point the American ruling elite is almost entirely senile. The older ones seem actually senile in the medical sense. Take Leon Panetta, the former Defense Secretary: he’s been out flogging his new book, and he is still blaming Syria’s Bashar al Assad for gassing his own people! By now everybody else knows that that was a false flag attack, carried out by some clueless Syrian rebels with Saudi help, to be used as an excuse for the US to bomb Syria—you know, the old “weapons of mass destruction” nonsense again. (By the way, this kind of mindless, repetitive insistence on a fake rationale seems like a sure sign of senility.) That plan didn’t work because Putin and Lavrov intervened and quickly convinced Assad to give up his useless chemical weapons stockpile. The Americans were livid. So, everybody knows this story—except Panetta. You see, once an American official starts lying, he just doesn’t know how to stop. The story always starts with a lie, and, as facts emerge that contradict the initial story, they are simply ignored.

So much for the senile old guard, but what about their replacements? Well, the poster boy for the young ones is Hunter Biden, the VP’s son, who went on a hookers-and-blow tour of Ukraine last summer and inadvertently landed a seat on the board of directors of Ukraine’s largest natural gas company (which doesn’t have much gas left). He just got outed for being a coke fiend. In addition to the many pre-anointed ones, like the VP’s son, there are also many barns full of eagerly bleating Ivy League graduates who have been groomed for jobs in high places. These are Prof. Deresiewicz’s “Excellent Sheep.”

There just isn’t much that such people, young or old, can be made to respond to. International embarrassment, military defeat, humanitarian catastrophe—all these things just bounce off them and stick to you for bringing them up and being overly negative about their rose-colored view of themselves. The only hit they can actually feel is a hit to the pocketbook.

Which brings us all the way back to my first point: “Boo!”

ClubOrlov

Chicago Hospitals Monitoring 2 Sick Passengers From Liberia, CDC Not Testing For Ebola

Zero Hedge

Just when you thought it was safe to BTF-Ebola-Is-Fixed-Dip… ABC7 Chicago reports, two unrelated passengers (one child – vomiting, no fever; one adult – nausea, diarrhea, no fever) originating from Liberia became ill en route to O’Hare International Airport. The two patients are being monitored in isolation at The University of Chicago Medical Center and Rush University Medical Center but based on the latest reports and risk exposures (from the Chicago Ebola Resource Network), the CDC has determined not to test them for Ebola… (perhaps they are waiting for Ron Klain to start work tomorrow to give them the go-ahead).

“City and hospital officials are working closely with the CDC to continue monitoring,” officials noted.

 

Ambulances wait at Rush University Medical Center

 

Full Statement:

 

h/t @SamJCharles

Zero Hedge

Obama Chip to PIN Exec Order Brought to You By Visa & MasterCard

Occupy Corporatism
by Susanne Posel

Orig.src.Susanne.Posel.Daily.News- chip.pin.visa.mastercard.obama.executive.order_occupycorporatism

President Obama has taken the reins in signing an executive order to implement the BuySecure Initiative (BSI) to “provide consumers with more tools to secure their financial future by assisting victims of identity theft, improving the Government’s payment security as a customer and a provider, and accelerating the transition to stronger security technologies and the development of next-generation payment security tools.”

To make the private sector more secure, Obama’s BSI will:

  • Make Federal payments more secure to help drive the market forward: The President’s Executive Order (EO) lays out a new policy to secure payments to and from the Federal government by applying chip and PIN technology to newly issued and existing government credit cards, as well as debit cards like Direct Express, and upgrading retail payment card terminals at Federal agency facilities to accept chip and PIN-enabled cards.
  • Companies join national effort to improve transaction security: Home Depot, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart will be rolling out secure chip and PIN-compatible card terminals in all their stores — most by January 2015. Also in January, American Express will start a new program to support small businesses upgrading their point of sale terminals to more secure standards. Finally, Visa will launch a new program to educate consumers and merchants on chip and other secure technologies, sending experts to 20 cities in a national public service campaign.

The new standard for the federal government is the chip to PIN cards (CPIN) that are facilitated by government programs such as SmartPay® and Direct Express®; including the beginning of a “a replacement program on January 1, 2015, and will, within the calendar year, issue over one million new, more secure government payment cards.”

This includes “updating the CPIN card terminals” for federal agencies processing consumer sales with the help of a plan devised by the US Department of Treasury “which establishes requirements that federal agencies must follow when receiving credit and debit card payments when using Treasury’s collection system.”

This includes the Obama administration informing the public to build “public-private awareness” to the necessity of a CPIN card switch in the US.

Back in January, the National Retail Federation (NRF) wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner to implore Congress to adopt the CPIN cards with legislative backing in order to ensure the public is protected by the federal government against hackers.

Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the NRF wrote : “Our partners in the financial sector have a critical role to play in making sure their cards are secure,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in the letter. “For years, banks have continued to issue fraud-prone magnetic stripe cards to U.S. customers, putting sensitive financial information at risk while simultaneously touting the security benefits of next generation ‘Pin and chip’ card technology for customers in Europe and dozens of other markets.”

The NRF correlates the small percentage of CPIN cards being used in the US as problematic in shielding the public from hacker attacks.

Two months later, Visa and MasterCard combined forces to revamp payment processes and up security measures in the wake of retail data breaches.

This new super-group of credit issuers will include:

• Banking institutions
• Credit unions
• Retail corporations
• Industry trade groups

The purpose of the conglomerate is to push for the adaptation of the EMV chipped card so that activity can be monitored for customer safety.

Both MasterCard and Visa laid out an ultimatum to the public that by October 2015 all retailers must adopt this new payment system or suffer the consequences.

Ryan McInerney, president of Visa asserted: “The recent high-profile breaches have served as a catalyst for much needed collaboration between the retail and financial services industry on the issue of payment security.”

The Smart Card Alliance (SCA) believes that “chip-based payment cards and terminals” are the only way to protect customer funds.

The SCA explains that “EMV chip cards contain embedded microprocessors that provide strong transaction security features and other application capabilities not possible with traditional magnetic stripe cards.”

In 2011, MasterCard positioned itself against cash payments in a “war on cash” which focused on markets such as India to bring the “cashless society” to reality.

Ajay Banga, chief executive officer of MasterCard Worldwide spoke at the Fletcher School about the advantages of a cashless world and outlining the “challenges of moving away from cash.”

Banga said that there probably will not be a completely pure cashless society; however under the guise of improving the current payment system, cash is not sustainable.

MasterCard is dedicating itself to a strategy that will set a standard and become influential to the future of payments. By coercing urbanized centers to the trendiness of going cashless, their influence on the behavior of consumers and their perception of being cashless can ensure that this move is made.

The focus on developing nations such as India and Nigeria are because their governments are willing to take “foreign aid” in exchange for enslaving their citizens.

Banga explained: “I absolutely think that electronic payments can be helpful. The problem is that the money has to reside somewhere… If immigrant communities find it difficult to put their money with a bank, I don’t know if they’ll do it with a cell phone provider either. The challenge is finding a way to anchor mobile payments for the future.”

Occupy Corporatism

In Uncharted Waters

Washington’s Blog
by Charles Hugh Smith

What I see as extremes that must necessarily end badly, others see as mere extensions of recently successful policies and trends.

A long-time reader recently chastised me for using too many maybe’s in my forecasts. The criticism is valid, as “on the other hand” slips all too easily from qualifying a position to rinsing it of meaning.

That said, given that we’re in uncharted waters, maybe’s become prudent and certainty becomes extremely dangerous. I have long held that the financial policy extremes that are now considered normal are unprecedented in the modern era: extremes in debt, leverage, risk, complexity and willful obfuscation of these extremes.

Consider the extent to which sky-high asset valuations and present-day “prosperity” depend on extremes of leverage: autos purchased with no money down, homes purchased with 3.5% down payments and FHA loans, stocks bought on margin, stock buybacks funded by loans, student loans issued with zero collateral, and so on–an inverted pyramid of “prosperity” resting precariously on a tiny base of actual collateral.

Since we have no guide to the future other than the past, we extrapolate past trends. Human nature hasn’t changed over the short time-frames of civilizations (i.e. the past few thousand years), so in terms of human drives, emotions and responses, the past is an excellent guide to the range of human responses to crisis, euphoria, greed, fear, etc.

But extending trends is a shifting foundation for forecasts, as trends end and reverse, generally without telegraphing the end of an era. Few in 1639 China foresaw the collapse of the status quo Ming Dynasty a mere five years hence.

With the hindsight of history, we can discern the cracks in the Ming Dynasty before its collapse, but once we shift to our own era, things become less certain.

In my view, we’re drifting in uncharted seas.

I have covered the dangers of certainty before: Certainty, Complex Systems, and Unintended Consequences (February 14, 2014)

What I see as extremes that must necessarily end badly, others see as mere extensions of recently successful policies and trends. Let’s review a few of the many extremes that we now accept as ordinary and harmless.

Consider how much new debt is now required to lift GDP (“growth”) off the flat line:

The slightest pause in the expansion of credit nearly collapsed the entire global economy:

Extraordinary central state and bank policies have boosted the wealth of those closest to the Federal Reserve’s money spigot and left everyone else poorer:

It’s not just real income that’s declined–so has household wealth.

Incentives to borrow money to obtain a college degree are declining while student loan debt hits astounding extremes:

Feel free to extend this line of Federally funded student debt: where does it end?

The Federal Reserve has pushed astonishingly extreme policies for six years. Now that the Fed owns significant chunks of the Treasury bond and mortgage bond markets, it’s being forced to limit these easing programs:

All the Fed money-printing and bond buying has sent money velocity in the real economy into a tailspin: this is good, right? No, actually it’s a calamity. Money has slipped into a coma.

Extend the trendlines in these charts, and then ask yourself: where do they end? What will they trigger as they push ever deeper into uncharted waters?

Washington’s Blog

10 Things About The U.S. News Media That They Do Not Want You To Know

The Economic Collapse
by Michael Snyder

10 Things About The US News MediaDo you trust the news media?  Do you believe that the information that they are giving you is true and accurate?  If you answered yes to either of those questions, that places you in a steadily shrinking minority.  Yes, on average Americans watch approximately 153 hours of television a month, but for their news they are increasingly turning to alternative sources of information such as this website.  Big news channels such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox News are losing hordes of viewers, and they are desperately searching for answers.  Things have gotten so bad at CNN that they have been forced to lay off hundreds of workers.  The mainstream media is slowly dying, but they will never admit it.  They are still convinced that they can find some way to turn this around and regain the trust of the American people.  But it simply is not going to happen.  The following are 10 things about the U.S. news media that they do not want you to know…

#1 The level of trust in the U.S. news media is at an all-time low.

According to a Gallup survey that was conducted last month, only 40 percent of all Americans have a “great deal/fair amount” of confidence in the mass media.  That ties the lowest level that Gallup has ever recorded.

#2 The news media is far more liberal than the American people.

We hear much about the supposed “conservative bias” of Fox News, but the truth is that overall the U.S. public considers the news media to be extremely liberal.  Gallup found that 44 percent of all Americans consider the news media to be “too liberal”, and only 19 percent of all Americans consider the news media to be “too conservative”.

And it is a fact that “journalists” are far more likely to give money to Democrats than to Republicans.  The following comes from an MSNBC report

MSNBC.com identified 143 journalists who made political contributions from 2004 through the start of the 2008 campaign, according to the public records of the Federal Election Commission. Most of the newsroom checkbooks leaned to the left: 125 journalists gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Only 16 gave to Republicans. Two gave to both parties.

#3 Fox News is not nearly as “conservative” as you think that it is.

Fox News may be constantly promoting a “Republican agenda”, but that does not mean that it is conservative.  This is especially true when it comes to social issues.  Some of their anchors are extremely socially liberal, one of the top executives at Fox News is a big Hillary Clinton supporter, and 21st Century Fox/News Corp. has given the Clintons more than 3 million dollars since 1992.

#4 MSNBC is in a death spiral.

After years of lying to the American people, the credibility of MSNBC is absolutely shot.  Pretty much all MSNBC does is endlessly spew establishment propaganda.  One study found that MSNBC only engages in 15 percent “factual reporting” and the other 85 percent is “commentary/opinion”.

So it should be no surprise that only 6 percent of Americans consider MSNBC to be their most trusted source for news…

NBC News and sister cable network MSNBC rank at the bottom of media outlets Americans trust most for news, with Fox News leading the way, according to a new poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.

In its fifth trust poll, 35 percent said they trusted Fox news more than any other outlet, followed by PBS at 14 percent, ABC at 11 percent, CNN at 10 percent, CBS at 9 percent, 6 percent for MSNBC and Comedy Central, and just 3 percent for NBC.

#5 Americans are increasingly turning to Facebook and other Internet sources for their news.

At least that is what one recent survey discovered.  It found that an astounding 48 percent of Americans got news about government and politics from Facebook within the past week.  The numbers for CNN and Fox News were just 44 percent and 39 percent respectively.

#6 Over the past year or so the big three cable news networks have lost an unprecedented number of viewers. 

According to a Pew Research study, the number of prime time viewers for all three networks combined declined by 11 percent in 2013…

In 2013, the cable news audience, by nearly all measures, declined. The combined median prime-time viewership of the three major news channels—CNN, Fox News and MSNBC—dropped 11% to about 3 million, the smallest it has been since 2007. The Nielsen Media Research data show that the biggest decline came at MSNBC, which lost nearly a quarter (24%) of its prime-time audience. CNN, under new management, ended its fourth year in third place, with a 13% decline in prime time. Fox, while down 6%, still drew more viewers (1.75 million) than its two competitors combined (619,500 at MSNBC and 543,000 at CNN).

The decline was even more dramatic for the critical 25 to 54-year-old demographic.  From November 2012 to November 2013, CNN’s ratings for that demographic plunged by a whopping 59 percent, and MSNBC’s ratings for that demographic plummeted by 52 percent.

#7 The big news networks have a love affair with the Obama administration.

Yes, there are reporters that get annoyed by the petty press rules that Obama makes them follow and by their lack of access to the president, but overall there is a tremendously incestuous relationship between the Obama administration and the mainstream news media.

For example, did you know that the president of CBS and the president of ABC both have brothers that have served as top officials in the Obama administration?

And needless to say, Barack Obama does not care for the alternative media much at all.  The following is an excerpt from a WND article

NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd says President Obama was making it “clear” at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner over the weekend how he feels about the rise of Internet news sites like Politico, Buzzfeed and … well, WND.

“He hates it.”

Appearing on “Meet the Press” Sunday morning following Saturday night’s media, politics and celebrity soiree, Todd explained the president’s disdain for independent online news sources was showing during his speech.

“It did seem … I thought his pot shots, joke-wise, and then the serious stuff about the Internet, the rise of the Internet media and social media and all that stuff – he hates it, OK? He hates this part of the media,” Todd said. “He really thinks that the, sort of, the buzzification – this isn’t just about Buzzfeed or Politico and all this stuff – he thinks that sort of coverage of political media has hurt political discourse. He hates it. And I think he was just trying to make that clear last night.”

#8 Newspaper ad revenues are about a third of what they were back in the year 2000. 

Yes, you read that correctly.  As Americans have discarded the print versions of their newspapers, newspaper ad revenues have experienced a decline that is absolutely unprecedented

It took a half century for annual newspaper print ad revenue to gradually increase from $20 billion in 1950 (adjusted for inflation in 2013 dollars) to $65.8 billion in 2000, and then it took only 12 years to go from $65.8 billion in ad revenues back to less than $20 billion in 2012, before falling further to $17.3 billion last year.

#9 News magazines are also experiencing a dramatic multi-year decline in ad revenues. 

Once upon a time, news magazines such as Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report were must reads.

But those days are long gone.

Ad revenues are way down across the entire industry, and any magazine that can keep their yearly losses to the single digits is applauded for it

For a third year in a row, news magazines faced a difficult print advertising environment. Combined ad pages (considered a better measure than ad revenue) for the five magazines studied in this report were down 13% in 2013, following a decline of 12.5% in 2012, and about three times the rate of decline in 2011, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Again, hardest hit was The Week, which suffered a 20% drop in ad pages. The Atlantic fell 17%, The Economist 16%, and Time about 11%, while The New Yorker managed to keep its ad pages losses in single digits (7%).

#10 Even though the mainstream media is dying, they still have an overwhelmingly dominant position.

What would you say if I told you that there are just six enormous media conglomerates that combine to produce about 90 percent of all the media that Americans consume?

If you do not believe this, please see my previous article entitled “Who Owns The Media? The 6 Monolithic Corporations That Control Almost Everything We Watch, Hear And Read“?

This is why “the news” seems to be so similar no matter what channel you watch.

But we aren’t just talking about control of the news media.  These giant media corporations also own movie studios, newspapers, magazines, publishing houses, video game makers, music labels and even many of our favorite websites.

So we should be thankful that their media monopoly is finally crumbling.

Nobody should have that much power over what the American people see, hear and think about.

What is your perspective on all of this?  Please feel free to share your thoughts on the U.S. news media by posting a comment below…

The Economic Collapse

Obama’s “Ebola Czar” Thinks Overpopulation Is Top Challenge

The New American
by Alex Newman

world population graph

In addition to having essentially no medical qualifications for the newly invented  “Ebola czarpost aside from serving as a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical firm, attorney and political operative Ron Klain (shown) is under fire after a video surfaced of him declaring that “growing population” — particularly in Africa — was the “top leadership challenge” for the world today. Critics expressed outrage over the comments, especially considering warnings by demographic experts of an upcoming plunge in population caused by a dramatic decline in birthrates across most of the world. But news reports citing insiders suggest that Obama has even bigger plans for Klain within the administration than exploiting the Ebola scare to advance tyranny.

Of course, Klain is hardly alone in holding sordid views on population. In his new job, the controversial figure joins a coterie of other discredited overpopulation zealots and neo-Malthusian crackpots in the administration obsessed with slashing the number of humans — and especially Africans, who have long been the target of government population-control schemes. The latest revelations also came shortly after the anti-population growth fanatics at the United Nations, already under fire for perpetrating forced abortions in Communist China using U.S. taxpayer dollars, unveiled a sweeping and widely criticized plan to reduce the population of Africa.

In a 2008 video-taped interview first highlighted by Gotnews.com and promptly picked up by other alternative outlets such as Infowars, Klain, who served as chief of staff to discredited “global-warming” guru and population controller Al Gore, responds to a question from a Georgetown interviewer about the top challenge facing world leaders. Sitting next to his wife Monica Medina, the attorney and former operative for Vice President Joe Biden declared that overpopulation — not starvation, lack of medical care, war, disease, tyranny, genocide, or poverty — was actually the planet’s biggest problem.

“I think the top leadership challenge issue in our world today is how to deal with the continuing, growing population in the world, and all the resource demands it places on the world and burgeoning populations in Africa and Asia that lack the resources to have a healthy, happy life,” Klain explained, echoing a common theme among establishment types who have long publicly expressed their desire to slash the human population under various pretexts. The comments fit nicely with discredited UN “sustainable development” theories about alleged pressure on resources that have little basis in reality.

“We’ve got to find a way to make the world work for everyone,” Klain continued. “Climate change is an issue that impacts that greatly by making it harder for people to live where they live, by causing disruptions, and lack of resources.” Of course, like the gloom-and-doom pseudo-prophecies of the overpopulation fanatics, virtually every prediction surrounding alleged man-made “climate change” — both the global warming and global cooling varieties — has proven to be beyond ridiculous in retrospect.

The new Ebola czar’s former boss, Biden, has also stoked controversy on related issues in the past. For instance, in 2011, the vice president said he “fully understand[s]” the Communist Chinese regime’s brutal “one-child policy.” Despite being barbarically enforced with coerced abortions and other grotesque means, Biden also informed the world that he was “not second-guessing” the regime’s murderous machinations. Instead, as revealed during congressional testimony, the administration is showering taxpayer funds on Planned Parenthood (founded by an anti-black racist and eugenicist) and the UN Population Fund, both of which have been implicated in the commission of forced abortions in China.

More recently, another one of Klain’s former bosses, Al Gore, declared “fertility management” that is “ubiquitously available” to be crucial in stopping alleged global warming. Klain’s views also fit nicely with those of perhaps the most notorious population-control zealot in the administration, Obama’s “Science” Czar John Holdren. In a widely ridiculed 1977 book dubbed Ecoscience, Holdren called for the imposition of what he called a “planetary regime” and “global police force” that would perpetrate forced abortions and mass-sterilization programs via the water supply under the guise of preventing a “crisis” of supposed “overpopulation.”

“Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society,” Holdren wrote, hiding behind a passive voice while making delusional claims about the U.S. Constitution purportedly authorizing forced abortions and sterilization by his “planetary regime” to control world resources. It was not clear who, other than Holdren and perhaps extreme eugenicists of decades past, had “concluded” that mandatory abortions and sterilizations would be authorized under the U.S. Constitution.

More recently, Holdren, like Gore, has been the subject of intense ridicule for his failed global-cooling predictions of previous decades — with the current “Science czar” having previously warned of a global “ice age” that would kill a billion people. Last winter, Holdren further cemented his position as a laughing stock after contradicting every previous warmist prediction and outlandishly trying to blame record cold temperatures across America on “global warming,” which has been on “pause” for almost two decades. Regardless of warming, cooling, or neither, however, Holdren has never repudiated the draconian views on population control expressed in his book.

But unwarranted hysteria over the number of people on the planet is hardly a new phenomenon in the upper echelons of the U.S. government and foreign-policy establishment either. Former Secretary of State Henry “New World Order” Kissinger, for example, became infamous for his 1974 “National Security Memorandum 200” calling for U.S. taxpayers to fund a planetary depopulation operation under the guise of protecting America’s supposed “national interests.” In the memo, Kissinger, a key globalist front-man who has played a major role in some of the greatest human tragedies of the last five decades, said mass abortion would be required to reduce the population of the Third Word.

At the UN, meanwhile, the population-control zealots are also working hard to slash the number of people on the planet — with much of their scheming funded by U.S. taxpayers and mega-billionaires such as Bill Gates. Earlier this year, The New American reported on a new plot by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Obama administration’s U.S. Agency for International Development to deal with what they referred to as the “challenge” of population numbers in Kenya. Among other schemes, the plan to reduce the population to “desirable” levels involves brainwashing African women to have fewer children, showering the nation with contraception, promoting abortion, and more.

Despite existing largely on the fringe and in the shadows, there has been a powerful establishment-backed movement flourishing for decades that views humans as a disease on the planet. At least one population doomsayer, University of Texas “scientist” Eric R. Pianka, has even publicly advocated using a weaponized Ebola virus to exterminate 90 percent of the human population — receiving a standing ovation from his colleagues. Countless establishment bigwigs — from CNN founder and UN Foundation boss Ted Turner to billionaire financier and globalist architect David Rockefeller — have openly hyped the bogus “overpopulation” myth amid calls for more population-control plots. The demands are generally concealed behind half-baked claims of humanitarian concern but are ghoulish nevertheless.

Like the Obama administration more broadly, Klain’s 2008 interview citing overpopulation as the top leadership issue for the world suggests that the new “Ebola czar” considers U.S. government intervention abroad to be essential. “I think that the days when Americans could just be focused on America and not really be engaged in the world are past us,” he said. “Our economy is too dependent on events overseas, our political system is dependent on events overseas.” In other words, despite being 17 trillion in debt, Washington, D.C., must continue borrowing to meddle in the affairs of other nations — with all of the disastrous fruits such machinations have produced.

Multiple analysts have highlighted other troubling elements of Klain’s background as well. “The new Ebola czar has ties to a secret liberal dark money group and once worked as a lobbyist for a prescription drug company that denied experimental drugs to dying cancer patients,” reported Elizabeth Harrington in the online Washington Free Beacon. Klain was also listed as a trustee for the radical Big Government group “Third Way,” which promotes amnesty, gun control, and other deeply controversial “progressive” plots.

The new Ebola czar serves on the board of the Big Business-funded Big Government outfit known as the Center for American Progress (CAP), too. According to a report in Politico citing “administration insiders,” Klain may be next in line to succeed current Obama “counselor” John Podesta, another extremist who founded and led the CAP and recently worked with the UN on a plan to “profoundly and dramatically” alter the “worldview” of every person on the planet.

Instead of allowing Obama to invent new “czar” positions and pack them with unqualified extremists, Congress ought to be holding hearings, cutting funding for executive-branch abuses, and restraining the administration.

The New American

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