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Established 1973 — Last updated: Friday, March 24, 2017, 9:41 AM
Aggregated news for a better world – we raise awareness of what corporate media suppresses
Today's posts in bigger type—>
Prior 2/3 days in little type.
Clarity requires effort
Obama's ACA didn't fix this:
The U.S. wastes $1.6 Trillion/yr on bloated health care spending compared with the 2013 OECD per capita average of advanced countries, which becomes extra cost overhead on U.S. exports—resulting in offshoring manufacturing and jobs. Let's end price gouging and adopt efficient practices instead of cutting Medicare and Medicaid coverage as part of some "Grand Bargain"
In 2015 US total per capita health care spending was $9451, $5044 more per person than in France without better results.

Lastly, importantly, health worker pay is NOT the problem.

Electricity company Dayton Power & Light said on Monday it would shut down two coal-fired power plants in southern Ohio next year for economic reasons, a setback for the ailing coal industry but a victory for environmental activists.

Emily Flitter | REUTERS
A roundup of stories we're reading at HQ...
Sources... | Moyers and Company

Dozens of California communities have experienced recent rates of childhood lead poisoning that surpass those of Flint, Michigan, with one Fresno locale showing rates nearly three times higher, blood testing data obtained by Reuters shows.

The data shows how lead poisoning affects even a state known for its environmental advocacy, with high rates of childhood exposure found in a swath of the Bay Area and downtown Los Angeles. And the figures show that, despite national strides in eliminating lead-based products, hazards remain in areas far from the Rust Belt or East Coast regions filled with old housing and legacy industry.

In one central Fresno zip code, 13.6 percent of blood tests on children under six years old came back high for lead. That compares to 5 percent across the city of Flint during its recent water contamination crisis. In all, Reuters found at least 29 Golden State neighborhoods where children had elevated lead tests at rates at least as high as in Flint.

Joshua Schneyer and M.B. Pell | REUTERS

Nearly 380,000 Michigan residents get their water from systems that would fail to meet a tough new lead-safety standard proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder, including those in Monroe, Bay City, Benton Harbor and Holland Township.

More than three dozen public water systems currently have tested lead levels exceeding the safety threshold Snyder plans to implement by 2020, which would be the nation’s most stringent standard. The Snyder administration has not yet specified what corrective action the communities would need to take.

Jonathan Oosting and Michael Gerstein | The Detroit News
World Water Day: one in four children will live with water scarcity by 2040 [watch and learn: "conservatives around the world will fight public water projects to support privatization and for-profit (mafia-like?) "solutions"]
Unicef report says climate change and conflict are intensifying risks to children of living without enough water, and that the poorest will suffer most

Drought conditions and conflict are driving deadly water scarcity in parts of Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. Unicef anticipates that more than 9 million people will be without safe drinking water this year in Ethiopia alone. Nearly 1.4 million children face imminent risk of death from acute malnutrition in South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

The report, Thirsting for a Future: Water and Children in a Changing Climate, looked at the threats to children’s lives and wellbeing caused by depleted sources of safe water and the ways in which climate change will intensify these risks.

As industrialisation and demographic shifts increase consumption, areas of south Asia and the Middle East will be particularly affected, according to one of the report’s authors, Nicholas Rees. “Where demand is extremely high then water stress will increase. It will go up in areas of rapid urbanisation, and we are already seeing that throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Asia,” he said.

Ben Quinn and Saeed Kamali Dehghan | The Guardian
$1bn of oil is stolen in Mexico each year, while EU loses massive revenues, says the Atlantic Council thinktank

The dramatic decline in new coal-fired units was overwhelmingly due to policy shifts in China and India and subsequent declining investment prospects, according to a report by Greenpeace, the US-based Sierra Club and research network CoalSwarm.

The report said the amount of new capacity starting construction was down 62% in 2016 on the year before, and work was frozen at more than a hundred sites in China and India. In January, China’s energy regulator halted work on a further 100 new coal-fired projects, suggesting the trend was not going away.

Adam Vaughan | The Guardian
Carbon fibre: the wonder material with a dirty secret [making solid-state carbon products removes carbon from the atmoshere, diminishing CO2 as a warming factor]
Researchers are scrambling for ways to get the strong, light material out of landfill and make it ready for recycling and reuse

Carbon fibre is increasingly celebrated as a wonder material for the clean economy. Its unique combination of high strength and low weight has helped drive the wind power revolution and make planes more fuel efficient.

Carbon fibre turbine blades can be longer and more rigid than traditional fibreglass models, making them more resilient at sea and more efficient in less breezy conditions.

Auto makers are also waking up to the material’s potential to make lighter and more efficient vehicles. McLaren recently announced plans to open a factory in Sheffield to manufacture carbon fibre sports cars, and BMW’s i3 is fitted with a carbon fibre passenger unit – the first such mass-produced car.

But carbon fibre has a dirty secret: the hi-tech material is wasteful to produce and difficult to recycle.

....If we can divert carbon fibre from landfill, they could open the gates for use of recycled carbon fibre in cars, bikes and for dozens of other applications. They could also save a lot of energy since the production of virgin material is the most energy-intensive part of the process.
Mark Harris | The Guardian
Republicans have no realistic alternative to the ACA. It's time for single-payer.

....Paying for Medicare for All would require an increase in taxes — perhaps an earmarked progressive income tax for the purpose — but that increase would be offset by the elimination of premiums and out-of-pocket costs, and the slowing of inflation that stems from our market-based system. As it now stands, 65% of health costs are already paid for by the federal government in one way or another. Health policy experts estimate this would increase to 80% with Medicare for All. Since employers would no longer have the expense of providing health insurance, they would be more competitive in global markets and would likely hire more workers.

We are now between a rock and a hard place. Obamacare is faltering, and the incoming Trump administration has no realistic alternative. Paradoxically, this might be exactly the right time to push for a national health program.

Yes, repeal Obamacare, but not without replacing it, and the best replacement is Medicare for All. Some polls suggest most Americans favor such a system. We should pick up our metaphorical pitchforks and torches and make that preference known.

Marcia Angell | USAToday
Sea level rise is making floods more common and as the New Jersey resort braces for the next Sandy, the well-heeled Florida city is throwing money at the problem

....The rising ocean, fed by melting glaciers and the expansion of warming water, is piling up water along America’s entire eastern seaboard. To compound the problem much of the mid-Atlantic coast is sinking, a hangover from the last ice age, meaning life and property is being swamped like never before.

And yet with no overarching national sea level rise plan, and patchy commitment from states, many coastal communities are left to deal with the encroaching seas themselves. Wealthier areas are raising streets and houses, erecting walls and pumps. Those without the funds or political will have several state or federal grants they can access but often make muddled choices in the face of this sisyphean task.

....Miami Beach is now often referred to as ground zero for the sea level rise phenomenon. But it’s perhaps more like a living laboratory experiment into what happens when you give a cashed-up place the task of avoiding drowning.

Miami Beach is spending $400m on a network of pumps, sea walls and raised streets in order to beat the tides. One vulnerable neighborhood, Sunset Harbor, has had its streets raised by 2ft at a cost of over $30m. All over the island, predominantly in the wealthier neighborhoods where properties go for $10m or more, streets are being torn up.

Oliver Milman | The Guardian
With the Republican Climate Resolution, Climate Solutions Caucus, and Climate Leadership Council, Republicans are trying to end their party’s climate denial

The Republican Climate Resolution also follows a proposal by eight Republican elder statesmen in the Climate Leadership Council – including Secretaries of State and Treasury to former Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush – for the Republican Party to support a bipartisan revenue-neutral carbon tax. The group met with the White House to urge support for this policy. Were President Trump to throw his support behind this bipartisan, free market, small government, economically beneficial solution to climate change, along with the support of these 19 House Republicans, the policy might conceivably gain momentum in Congress.

Republican voters would also support this shift. 62% of Trump voters favor a tax or regulations on carbon pollution, or both. While these voters don’t view climate change as an urgent threat or high priority, and thus aren’t too bothered by their party’s general climate denial and policy obstruction, they would nevertheless prefer that Republican policymakers take steps to address the threats posed by climate change.

It would certainly be a smart move for the Republican Party. The current party policy involves rejecting decades’ worth of scientific evidence and a 97% expert consensus, and rolling back all of the progress America has made to address the threats posed by climate change.

....denying a problem doesn’t make it go away.

Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian
Pumped hydro, big battery, solar thermal and solar PV and storage projects are already planned for South Australia’s power network
Max Opray | The Guardian
Cracking down on dissent has been a hallmark of Chinese public life. But a population once ignorant of the toxic cost of pollution is speaking out against a government intent on growing the economy. The war on pollution has increased tensions across China
Climate change denial and energy conspiracy are high on the president’s agenda, but US scientists are fighting back
Andrew Anthony | The Guardian
We need to learn from the Danish supermarkets, where organic produce is front and centre, not niche

Mainstreaming organic would mean lower costs so more people get to experience the benefits of organic food (as well as lifestock and wildlife). A 2014 study found quantities of antioxidants (that can help prevent cancer and heart disease) are between 19% and 69% higher in organic than non-organic.

It’s not just food. Farmers producing organic cotton have better lives: the organic system of crop rotation means that they also grow food crops to feed their own families.

This is a big theme in ethical consumerism: don’t just demand quality for yourself, demand quality of life for the producer, too.

Lucy Siegle | The Guardian
Despite Trump halting reduction of the US’s vast CO2 emissions, climate change is being taken seriously around the world from China to Sweden
Adam Levy | The Guardian
David K Wright | The Conversation

dryriver | SlashDot

....Researchers, Eicke Latz at the University of Bonn and colleagues, followed up on the parents’ hypothesis and found that in mice, cyclodextrin indeed blocked plaque formation, melted away plaques that had already formed in arteries, reduced atherosclerosis-associated inflammation, and revved up cholesterol metabolism—even in rodents fed cholesterol-rich diets.

Beth Mole | ars technica | Ref.
Though it won't 'cure' Alzheimer's, tests show compound, similar to that found in energy drinks, clears amyloid beta plaques, which build up in the brain in early stages of Alzheimer’s
Ian Sample | Guardian | Ref.
JOE ROMM | Climate Progress | Ref. | Ref.
Green buildings and better infrastructure would not only spur economic growth but also cut carbon emissions equal to India’s annual output
Suzanne Goldenberg | Guardian | Ref.

A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on the brain. The July/August Mother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirty air we breathe; studies have found that pollution may also age the brain prematurely. And according to new research from the University of Texas-El Paso, pollution's damage to the brain may start even sooner than was previously thought: Fourth and fifth graders exposed to exhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers who breathe cleaner air.

Gabrielle Canon | Mother Jones | Ref.
Janet Redman / Foreign Policy in Focus | Informed Comment | Ref.
Though Canada's system is the second most expensive in the world per capita, it would save America $1.3 Trillion/yr and cover everyone
OLGA KHAZAN | Atlantic | Ref.
Lesley Stahl discovers the shock and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis can be followed by a second jolt: the astronomical price of cancer drugs
[All the other OECD countries negotiate much lower drug & medical procedure costs]
CBS News | Ref.
Elisabeth Rosenthal in New York Times | Ref.

In recognition of the dangers inherent in the consolidation of mainstream corporate media The Baltimore Chronicle & Sentinel (formerly a newspaper) advances awareness of important ignored news and opinion.
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If the press can relinquish its self-regard and battle Trump with Watergate-era gusto, perhaps it might stand for something of value to Americans.

....In this sense, Bannon was right when he declared that journalists “do not understand why Donald Trump is president of the United States.” If Trump’s lies are what got him elected, and what will keep him popular, then the media’s allegiance to a noncommittal parsing of the blizzard of falsehoods now issuing from the Oval Office is woefully inadequate to our post-truth political environment—particularly since it’s now an article of faith among the Trump faithful that it’s the media, not the president, that’s doing the lying.

So here’s a crazy thought: What if, rather than reflexively assuming its defensive posture of “objectivity,” the press embraced this opportunity to go full-offense? In declaring the media the “opposition party,” Bannon may have actually done it a great favor, tacitly casting it as a worthy adversary to Trump’s newfound power. If the press can find a way to conceptualize itself as a true opposition party, then perhaps American journalism might stand for something that would be of value to readers and viewers. But to get a clearer fix on what that might look like, we need to revisit a time when the mainstream media engaged in effective, adversarial journalism that served the civic good.

LEAH FINNEGAN | New Republic
Google braces for questions as more big-name firms pull adverts [practice confers unmerited legitimacy to extremist videos]
Vodafone and trio of high street banks take action as industry and UK government ask how their ads became attached to extremist material
Rob Davies | The Guardian
Unprofessional journalists are 'roasted'.
BOB SOMERBY in The Daily Howler | EVERY DAY
Democratic representative Adam Schiff calls for independent investigation after Devin Nunes shared information with Trump administration before committee
Spencer Ackerman | The Guardian
'The Democratic leadership in the House and Senate,' says filmmaker Michael Moore, 'needs to bring a halt to all business being done in the name of this potential felony suspect, Donald J. Trump.'
The Democratic Party needs to declare a National Emergency. For the first time in our history, the President of the United States and his staff are under investigation for espionage. This announcement, by the head of the Trump-friendly FBI, is a shock to our democracy. The Democratic leadership in the House and Senate needs to bring a halt to all business being done in the name of this potential felony suspect, Donald J. Trump. No bill he supports, no Supreme Court nominee he has named, can be decided while he is under a criminal investigation. His presidency has no legitimacy until the FBI - and an independent investigative committee—discovers the truth. Fellow citizens, demand the Democrats cease all business.

"The American people have a right to know if their President is a crook." —Richard Nixon

Jon Queally, staff writer | Common Dreams

....The fundamental question now isn’t about Trump’s lies, or intelligence leaks, or inadvertent collection of Trump communications. Rather, the crucial question is as monumental as it is simple: Was there treason?

We don’t know yet what unfolded, and raw intelligence is often wrong. But the issue cries out for a careful, public and bipartisan investigation by an independent commission.

“There’s a smell of treason in the air,” Douglas Brinkley, the historian, told The Washington Post. He’s right, and we must dispel that stench.

Nicholas Kristof OP-ED | The New York Times

Congress has tried since the 1940s to curb predatory for-profit schools that survive almost solely on federal money while they saddle students with crushing loans for useless degrees. As the industry’s scandals grew and its role in the student debt crisis became more excessive, the Obama administration established rules that could get the worst of these programs off the federal dole. But the Education Department under its new secretary, Betsy DeVos, seems ready to undermine those regulations and let predatory schools flourish once again.

The department has hired two high-level officials from the for-profit sector — one of whom has since resigned. The other is from a school, under state and federal investigation, that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined last year for duping students into taking out costly private loans.

President 'has shown himself to be everything that on the campaign trail he expressed to hate about Washington—a self-dealer more interested in helping his friends and big donors than creating a democracy'
Nadia Prupis, staff writer | Common Dreams
Why do Republicans seem intent on hurting the most vulnerable among us?

The one question you never hear journalists ask Republicans is why?

Why do so many Republicans want to throw 24 million struggling Americans off the health insurance rolls? Why does the allegedly populist Trump administration submit a budget that slashes job training programs for the very same jobless white folks he claimed to represent?

NEAL GABLER | Moyers and Company

....According to Trump’s “skinny budget,” African-American families and communities stand to lose billions in programs and services that touch every aspect of our lives. This budget makes it harder for black people to raise healthy children, get an education, live in a safe neighborhood, secure adequate housing, and maintain a good quality job.

From the cradle to the grave, these billions of dollars in cuts will leave black Americans worse off—especially since African Americans are over-represented as beneficiaries for many of the programs. Cuts of approximately $150 million to the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program—where blacks represent 20 percent of enrollment—guarantees fewer black families receive nutrition education and supplements necessary for small children. The elimination of $1.2 billion in grants to after-school and summer programs, which serve 1 in 4 black students, will leave millions of kids without opportunities that give them a chance to get ahead. At the college level, nearly two thirds of black undergrads at public four-year institutions depend on tuition assistance received through Pell Grants. Reducing the funding for this program by $3.9 billion ensures fewer black students go to college, even as the labor market demands more credentials for good quality jobs. And for blacks in the labor market, the cuts to the Labor Department—which provides training for people who decide against a four-year degree, and combats the discrimination that still plagues black workers—makes it harder to get and keep a decent job.

Janelle Jones | Common Dreams

In their updated health bill, House Republicans are doubling down on their plan to cut taxes for high-income households while cutting health insurance for mostly low- and moderate-income households — speeding up tax cuts for the very richest people so they take effect in 2017, rather than 2018.


Brandon DeBot | Common Dreams

Seven years after the Affordable Care Act was enacted, Republicans are trying to follow through on their promises to repeal and replace Obamacare. On March 6, Republican House leaders introduced the American Health Care Act, which will go through several iterations before it ever reaches President Donald Trump's desk. As crafted, the bill would repeal several taxes and insurance mandates established by the ACA, fundamentally alter premium subsidies and make significant changes to Medicaid funding. We'll be tracking major policy changes and their impacts as the bill moves through Congress:

Hannah Recht, Zachary Tracer and Mira Rojanasakul | Bloomberg
  • It eliminates subsidies to help Americans pay out-of-pocket costs incurred when they have purchased health insurance through the ACA marketplace “exchanges.” By 2026, the elimination of these cost-sharing subsidies will increase out-of-pocket costs by roughly $16 billion per year.
  • It dismantles key regulations that govern the breadth of protections offered by insurance policies sold through the ACA exchanges. This will degrade the quality of insurance for all enrollees in nongroup (i.e., individual) markets, regardless of whether they receive subsidies for coverage. By 2026 this decrease in insurance plan quality will boost out-of-pocket costs by roughly $9 billion per year.
  • It takes Medicaid coverage away from 14 million Americans in 2026. Because Medicaid recipients face extremely low out-of-pocket costs, this shift alone will boost out-of-pocket costs faced by patients in 2026 by roughly $7 billion.
  • It moves 7 million Americans off of employer-sponsored insurance and into uninsured status. The primary damage done by this move will be to force these 7 million people to simply consume much less health care. But even with this reduction they will face roughly $460 million in higher out-of-pocket costs by 2026.
Press Releases | Economic Policy Institute
Only the full release of his tax records can help shed light on whether Trump is a crook – or compromised
David Cay Johnston | The Guardian

America is in a crisis of governance. There is no adult in charge.

....As a result of all this, the most powerful nation in the world with the largest economy in the world is rudderless and leaderless.

Robert Reich | Common Dreams
Maybe it's human nature to gloat while Trump's voters lose their health care — but it's not the path to victory
Critics says America’s soft power could be dramatically diluted if it does not find a way to stop alienating allies around the world
Julian Borger | The Guardian
The financial giant is the first of a group of 17 banks to divest from the loan that financed the pipeline as the embattled project is set to begin transporting oil
Julia Carrie Wong | The Guardian
The debate over migration is plagued by a variety of inaccuracies and misunderstandings -- on both the right and the left. Here is what the research really shows.

Migration was the issue of the year in 2016 and it will likely remain important in 2017. The topic is, however, just as hotly debated as it is poorly understood. The so-called "refugee crisis" in Europe and the omnipresent images of overfilled boats arriving on Mediterranean shores give the impression that migration is threatening to spin out of control and that radical action is needed to curtail the uncontrollable influx of migrants. The fear of mass migration has fueled the rise of extreme nationalist parties throughout Europe and helped Donald Trump win the presidential election in the U.S.

This call for tougher migration policies is juxtaposed by another, albeit somewhat weaker, opinion voiced by the business sector, human rights and religious organizations and left-liberal parties. They argue that migration tends to be beneficial for both origin and destination societies, and that we should not see refugees as a burden but as a potential resource.

But in this polarized debate, the rather more sobering facts unfortunately get lost. Both the left-wing and right-wing narratives on migration are rooted in a series of myths that reveal a striking lack of knowledge about the nature, causes and consequences of migration processes. This text examines eight of the myths that I have often encountered in my research.

Hein de Haas | Der Spiegel
The recent election in the Netherlands has sparked hope that the march of the right-wing populists has been halted. But it's important that populism be answered with democratic confidence rather than misguided imitation.

....The dual shock of Brexit and Donald Trump's election may have magnified the tendency to exaggerate the ugly. In both cases, the inability to see what was coming increased the media's self-doubt, shook the political classes and unsettled entire societies. But it would be a cardinal error to conclude from Brexit and Trump that the theories and tirades of right-wing troublemakers automatically represent the "voice of the people" and are thus the expression of justifiable concerns.

No matter what one might think of public opinion polls, they regularly agree that the greatest concern voters have is not the Islamization of the West or a "population swap" being secretly planned by shadowy powers. No, the greatest concerns are completely normal, mundane issues like work, prosperity and health. People are worried about good schools, adequate penions and social equity. There is, of course, also unease as to whether Germany can handle so many refugees and there is, increasingly, significant anger when the impression arises that politicians are in cahoots with business in opposition to the public good or are more dedicated to balancing the budget than fixing the plaster crumbling from school walls.

It's Time To Take on the Troublemakers

Fighting the populists and preventing them from enjoying election day success first requires a rejection of their misplaced agenda setting. We have to both understand and point out that populists aren't just seeking to take advantage of problems that exist, they are also seeking to create new problems. It is urgently necessary for the democratically minded, for citizens interested in national consensus, to confront the nationalist troublemakers and racist rabble-rousers with self-confidence. Even if not everything is perfect and some of their procedures can be annoying, there simply is no reasonable alternative to our free democratic principles or to the European Union.

DER SPIEGEL Editorial by Ullrich Fichtner | Der Spiegel

KIEV, Ukraine — After his name surfaced last August in a secret ledger listing millions of dollars in payments from a pro-Russian party in Ukraine, Paul Manafort not only lost his job running Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign but also assumed center stage in a bizarre internecine struggle among Ukrainian political forces.

On Monday, the intrigue took another turn, when a member of Parliament in Ukraine released documents that he said showed that Mr. Manafort took steps to hide the payments, which were tied to Mr. Manafort’s work for former President Viktor F. Yanukovych. The documents included an invoice that appeared to show $750,000 funneled through an offshore account and disguised as payment for computers.

Mr. Manafort, who denied the latest allegations, has asserted that the ledger is a forgery and that the member of Parliament, Serhiy A. Leshchenko, was involved in a scheme to blackmail him. Mr. Leshchenko insists that a letter appearing to show him threatening Mr. Manafort with the release of damaging information was itself a fake, and he denies any involvement in blackmail.

ANDREW E. KRAMER | The New York Times
US secretary of state could skip first meeting with Nato foreign ministers, amid growing questions over Trump administration’s closeness to Moscow
Reuters | The Guardian
UN asks UK to suspend work on Hinkley Point [why allow the potential of a Fukushima catastrophe?]
Move likely to embarrass British government as UN agency says lack of talks with Europe means it should refrain from further work
Adam Vaughan | The Guardian
Nordic countries are most content of 155 ranked by UN, while countries in sub-Saharan Africa are least happy
Reuters | The Guardian

....We do know that Trump projects have loads of Russian customers. They’re particularly enamored of a Trump-licensed condo complex in south Florida, units of which they seem to flip with alacrity.

Purchasing US real estate is a favorite way for Russians, Chinese and other newly rich to move money of dubious origin or just beat the capital controls in their own countries. Being at the receiving end of money whose movement at least violated capital controls in its country of origin isn’t money laundering. Under the statute, the launderer is the financial intermediary that enabled the transfers. Actual knowledge of concealment or unlawful activity is required (18 USC section 1956).

But Trump and a lot of other real estate dealers ultimately benefit. In public records, purchasers are usually Delaware LLCs. That is why FinCEN issued geographic targeting orders to require title insurance companies to report the individual purchasers in large cash real estate transactions in six US cities favored for such investments, and why condo prices in those cities have taken a hit.

Lee Sheppard | Forbes
Deutsche Bank among western institutions that processed billions of dollars in cash of ‘criminal origin’ through Latvia

The German bank that loaned $300m (#260m) to Donald Trump played a prominent role in a money laundering scandal run by Russian criminals with ties to the Kremlin, the Guardian can reveal.

Deutsche Bank is one of dozens of western financial institutions that processed at least $20bn – and possibly more – in money of “criminal origin” from Russia.

The scheme, dubbed “the Global Laundromat”, ran from 2010 to 2014.

Law enforcement agencies are investigating how a group of politically well-connected Russians were able to use UK-registered companies to launder billions of dollars in cash. The companies made fictitious loans to each other, underwritten by Russian businesses.

The companies would default on these “debts”. Judges in Moldova then made court rulings enforcing judgments against the firms. This allowed Russian bank accounts to transfer huge sums to Moldova legally. From there, the money went to accounts in Latvia with Trasta Komercbanka.

Deutsche, Germany’s biggest lender, acted as a “correspondent bank” for Trasta until 2015. This meant Deutsche provided dollar-denominated services to Trasta’s non-resident Russian clients. This service was used to move money from Latvia to banks across the world.

During this period many Wall Street banks got out of Latvia, citing concerns that the small Baltic country had become a centre for international money laundering, especially from neighbouring Russia.

Luke Harding and Nick Hopkins | The Guardian
$1bn of oil is stolen in Mexico each year, while EU loses massive revenues, says the Atlantic Council thinktank
Adam Vaughan | The Guardian
Exclusive: Billions of dollars were moved out of Russia in ‘Global Laundromat’ operation, with anonymously owned UK companies playing major role
Luke Harding, Nick Hopkins and Caelainn Barr | The Guardian
Rupert Neate | The Guardian
Why transaction laundering is turning into a huge financial blindspot [what happens when bad actors–usually Republicans–weaken or stop effective regulations to avoid taxes]
“What we have discovered is that there are an additional 6,000-10,000 merchants that are out there online accepting cards and sending transaction data through one or more of the acquirer’s portfolios. The acquirer is processing 10,000 more merchants and they don’t know who they are. They can be anyone. The acquirer is completely unaware of the significance of these transactions.”

That’s from Ron Teicher, CEO of Evercompliant, an Israeli company that focused on transaction laundering detection and prevention.

It is a startling statistic. Notably it suggests anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) regulations brought in post-crisis may have been entirely ineffective. And, of course, that criminals have an endless capacity to adapt.

The scam is simple. Rather than setting up bricks and mortar front businesses to launder profits from illicit activities, those who peddle illegal goods — from drugs to weapons and gambling services — set up fake web stores that appear to sell legitimate goods instead. (The more virtual those fake goods are, the better and easier for them.) These fake stores are then onboarded onto merchant processor systems and used as fronts to process entirely illegal transactions through. Technically, customers provide credit card authorisation details to the illegal stores, but these are transferred over to the fake sites for processing.

Worryingly, Teicher says regulators are entirely behind the curve on this. Most don’t even know about it. Even worse, banks and processors don’t seem to care about the problem either.

Izabella Kaminska | Financial Times' Alphaville

How to Hide $400 Million [("Ideal," thinks Trump.) Tax-shelters have evolved into a distributed, international system of deregulation loopholes that enable vast worldwide corruption]
When a wealthy businessman set out to divorce his wife, their fortune vanished. The quest to find it would reveal the depths of an offshore financial system bigger than the U.S. economy.
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE | The New York Times Magazine | Ref.

The Financial Times headline is uncharacteristically dramatic: America’s Middle Class Meltdown: core shrinks to half of US homes.

YVES SMITH | Naked Capitalism | Ref.
We're tracking where taxpayer money has gone in the ongoing bailout of the financial system. Our database accounts for both the broader $700 billion bill and the separate bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
ProPublica | Ref.
SARAH ANDERSON in CounterPunch | Ref.
ANDREW HACKER in The New York Review of Books | Ref.
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