Curse of the IMF chiefs

Leonid Bershidsky *

The continued scandals surrounding IMF’s past leaders aren’t helping the institution’s image

Has the International Monetary Fund (IMF) been hexed?

First, the former IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn was embroiled in sex scandals and charged with aggravated pimping. Then his successor, Christine Lagarde, was placed under investigation, while still in office, for alleged negligence at her previous job as economy minister in France. And now Rodrigo Rato, who ran IMF before Strauss-Kahn, has been briefly detained in Madrid, in connection with one of four fraud and money-laundering accusations against him.

Continue reading

Crowding In and the Paradox of Thrift

Paul Krugman – The New York Times
As Francesco Saraceno notes, the IMF’s research department, which was always excellent, has become an extraordinary source of information and ideas in this Age of Blanchard. In particular, these days you can pretty much count on the semiannual World Economic Outlook to offer some dramatic new insight into how the world works. And the latest edition is no exception.

Continue reading

Iranian Balochistan is a “Hunting Ground” – Nasser Boladai

By Karlos Zurutuza

GENEVA, Apr 17 2015 (IPS) – Nasser Boladai is the spokesperson of the Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran (CNFI), an umbrella movement aimed at expanding support for a secular, democratic and federal Iran. IPS spoke with him in Geneva, where he was invited to speak at a recent conference on Human Rights and Global Perspectives in his native Balochistan region.

Continue reading

No More Cheating: Restoring the Rule of Law in Financial Markets

By Simon Johnson – baseline scenario

The political debate about finance in the US is often cast as markets versus regulation, as if “more regulation” means the efficiency of private sector decisions will necessarily be impeded or distorted. But this is the wrong way to think about the real policy choices that – like it or not – are now being made. The question is actually what kind of markets do you want: fair and well-functioning, with widely shared benefits; or deceptive, dangerous, and favoring just a relatively few powerful people?

Continue reading

Why We Must Return to the US-Russian Parity Principle

Stephen F. Cohen*

The choice is either a New Détente or a more perilous Cold War.

(The text below is a somewhat expanded version of remarks I delivered at the annual US-Russia Forum in Washington, DC, held in the Hart Senate Office Building, on March 26.)

When I spoke at this forum nine months ago, in June 2014, I warned that the Ukrainian crisis was the worst US-Russian confrontation in many decades. It had already plunged us into a new (or renewed) Cold War potentially even more perilous than its forty-year US-Soviet predecessor because the epicenter of this one was on Russia’s borders; because it lacked the stabilizing rules developed during the preceding Cold War; and because, unlike before, there was no significant opposition to it in the American political-media establishment. I also warned that we might soon be closer to actual war with Russia than we had been since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

Continue reading

The Pope Who Tried

by David I. Kertzer

The New York Review of Books

Alexander Stille
April 23, 2015 Issue

The Pope and Mussolini: The Secret History of Pius XI and the Rise of Fascism in Europe

During the past fifty years, most of the debate on the Catholic Church’s relationship with fascism has focused on the wartime period and the Vatican’s response to the Holocaust. Did the virtual silence of Pius XII, who became pope in early 1939, about the mistreatment and extermination of Europe’s Jews facilitate Hitler’s Final Solution, as his critics insist, or was it, as Pius’s defenders maintain, a heroic act of self-discipline that prevented Nazi reprisals against the many thousands of Catholic institutions that were secretly hiding and helping Jews?

Continue reading

Meet The Secretive Group That Runs The World

Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge

Over the centuries there have been many stories, some based on loose facts, others based on hearsay, conjecture, speculation and outright lies, about groups of people who “control the world.” Some of these are partially accurate, others are wildly hyperbolic, but when it comes to the historic record, nothing comes closer to the stereotypical, secretive group determining the fate of over 7 billion people, than the Bank of International Settlements, which hides in such plain sight, that few have ever paid much attention.

This is their story.

Continue reading

Scapegoat Economics 2015

By Richard D. Wolff* – Truthout | News Analysis

As economic crises, declines and dislocations increasingly hurt or threaten people around the globe, they provoke questions. How are we to understand the forces that produced the 2008 crisis, the crisis itself, with its quick bailouts and stimulus programs, and now the debts, austerity policies and deepening economic inequalities that do not go away? Economies this troubled force people to think and react. Some resign themselves to “hard times” as if they were natural events. Some pursue individual strategies trying to escape the troubles. Some mobilize to fight whoever they blame for it all.

Continue reading

Trade: South faces uphill fight on food security, commitments on Bali decisions

By Chakravarthi Raghavan*

Geneva, 8 Apr (SUNS) – Having given away ‘for free’ the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA), the only leverage they had over the US and the EU, to ensure good faith negotiations by the two and reaching agreements on the Doha Development Round, developing countries are facing an uphill battle at the WTO to ensure a permanent solution to food security issues and translate into binding commitments the ‘best endeavour’ decisions of the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference.

Continue reading

781 Million People Can’t Read this Story

By Kanya D’Almeida

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 10 2015 (IPS) – If you are reading this article, consider yourself one of the lucky ones; lucky enough to have received an education, or to be secure in the knowledge that your child will receive one. Lucky enough to be literate in a world where – more often than not – the ability to read and write can mean the difference between a decent life and abject poverty.

Continue reading

BB and the Permahawks

Paul Krugman – The New York Times

Ben Bernanke comes down firmly against the idea that concerns about financial instability should lead central banks to raise interest rates even in a depressed economy. Good — and I was especially pleased to see him citing the Swedish example and the Ignoring of Lars Svensson as a case study.

Continue reading

Mystery of Ukraine’s Richest Man and a Series of Unlikely Suicides

By Maxim Tucker – Newsweek

Rain lashes the ninth-floor balcony from which Ukrainian prosecutor Sergei Melnychuk was thrown to his death. On the concrete below, his portrait and a few candles in glass jars form a meagre memorial. Wind off the Black Sea has dashed one jar to the ground, the shattered glass a grim reminder of his body after the fall.

Continue reading

Blissful Ignorance Makes the West Slide into Mishaps

By Roberto Savio

ROME, Apr – I carried out a survey among friends to find out what they know about the present state of international affairs. It was disheartening to find out that only one of them knew that Iceland, a country qualified to join the European Union, had opted to withdraw its request for admission. This is not a minor affair, it shows that the European dream has now lost its appeal.

Continue reading

The Sharing Economy Needs a Public Option

Dean Baker*

So-called “sharing economy” companies such as Uber, Airbnb and Task Rabbit are posing policy headaches for governments around the world. Their argument that they should be exempt from existing regulations because their services are ordered over the web does not make much sense, but it provides an adequate fig leaf for politicians seeking campaign contributions from these highly capitalized newcomers.

Continue reading

How Drones Turned American Wars Into Manhunts and Humans Into Prey

Grégoire Chamayou – TomDispatch.com.

The remote-controlled hunting of human beings has become standard practice in American warfare.

Initially, the English word “drone” meant both an insect and a sound. It was not until the outbreak of World War II that it began to take on another meaning. At that time, American artillery apprentices used the expression “target drones” to designate the small remotely controlled planes at which they aimed in training. The metaphor did not refer solely to the size of those machines or the brm-brm of their motors. Drones are male bees, without stingers, and eventually the other bees kill them. Classical tradition regarded them as emblems of all that is nongenuine and dispensable. That was precisely what a target drone was: just a dummy, made to be shot down.

Continue reading

The Fiscal Future I and II

Paul Krugman – The New York Times

The Fiscal Future I: The Hyperbolic Case for Bigger Government

April 6 – Brad DeLong has posted a draft statement on fiscal policy for the IMF conference on “rethinking macroeconomics” — and I’m shocked, in a good way. As regular readers may have noticed, Brad and I share many views, so I expected something along lines I have also been thinking. Instead, however, Brad has come up with what I believe are seriously new ideas — enough so that I want to do two posts, following different lines of thought he suggests.

Continue reading

It Should be Clear What to Expect from the WSF

by Roberto Savio*

Rome, April 2015 – The last International Council (IC) of the World Social Forum (Mar. 29 and 30) in Tunis was characterised by the usual sequence of three-minute statements, without any conclusions. This time, the presence of several people who intervened vehemently, without being members of the IC or representing anyone, added more confusion.

Continue reading

The ruse of sectarianism and geopolitics

Ali Khan Mahmudabad – The Friday Times, Pakistan

In a region that is already beset with conflict, how can the world remain silent about Yemen?

Late last night I received two Facebook messages from an old friend in Yemen. Initially I thought they were voice recordings but they were actually two videos shot at night in Sana’a. In the pitch black of night my friend said the date out loud while the dark screen of my phone was occasionally flecked by pinpricks of light accompanied by the crackling of gunfire. In the second video the same flecks of light briefly appeared on screen and then the darkness gave way to an orange glow and the dull thud of a bomb dropping somewhere in the distance. He then wrote ‘pray for us.’

Continue reading

A young prince may cost Syria and Yemen dear

Patrick Cockburn – The Independent

World View: As the US and Iran reach accord, Saudi Arabia endangers the status quo in the Middle East

A succession of crucially important military and diplomatic events are convulsing the political landscape of the Middle East. The most significant development is the understanding between the US and five other world powers with Iran on limiting Iran’s nuclear programme in return for an easing of sanctions. But the muting of hostility between the US and Iran, a destabilising feature of Middle East politics since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979, may not do much to stem the momentum towards ever greater violence in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

Continue reading