World Economy

Financial doomsayer Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports that “Oil market spiral threatens to prick global debt bubble, warns BIS” in the Telegraph

The global oil industry is caught in a self-feeding downward spiral as falling prices cause producers to boost output even further in a scramble to service $3 trillion of dollar debt, the world’s top watchdog has warned. The Bank for International Settlements fears that a perverse dynamic is at work where energy companies in Brazil, Russia, China and parts of the US shale belt are increasing production in defiance of normal market logic, leading to a bad “feedback-loop” that is sucking the whole sector into a destructive vortex.

“Lower prices have not removed excess capacity from the market, but instead may have exacerbated it. Production has been ramped up, rather than curtailed,” said Jaime Caruana, the general manager of the Swiss-based club for central bankers.

The findings raise serious questions about the strategy of Saudi Arabia and the core Opec states as they flood the global crude market to knock out rivals in a cut-throat battle for export share. The process of attrition may take far longer and do more damage than originally supposed. Oil exporters are embracing austerity and slashing government spending, leading to a form of fiscal tightening that is slowing the global economy.


The Independent worryingly reports that “Former RBS chiefs now control half the ‘challenger banks’ earmarked to reform Britain’s finance industry

Five of the “challenger banks” ministers hope will rehabilitate Britain’s finance industry after the 2008 crash are run by former executives of RBS who were serving under Fred Goodwin in the run-up to its collapse. Senior figures in the market have told The Independent that the former RBS coterie – who together run half of all the “challengers” – carry disproportionate weight in the sector’s dealings with the Government.

The five are Virgin Money’s Jayne-Anne Gadhia, Tesco Bank’s Benny Higgins, Steven Pateman at Shawbrook, Craig Donaldson of Metro Bank, and Paul Lynam of Secure Trust. Of the other challenger banks, former staff of the Big Four are represented no more than once each among their bosses.

The dominance of Mr Goodwin’s former lieutenants risks undermining Treasury moves to boost competition and reduce the heavy influence of the traditional big hitters – RBS, Lloyds, Barclays and HSBC – and raises questions over how much the leadership of Britain’s banking market has changed.


The Guardian has a ra-ra article for the state sector with “‘Massively’ improved state schools threaten private sector

State schools have improved “massively”, according to the founder of the Good Schools Guide, who says their growing popularity with parents is threatening to drive weaker private schools out of business. Ralph Lucas, editor-in-chief of the guide regarded as the bible for middle-class school choice, said that as results and behaviour improved even those families who could afford private school fees were increasingly choosing the state sector.

“We are getting parents approaching us saying: ‘We want to know more, we’re really taking state schools seriously, don’t just tell us about independent schools,’” Lord Lucas said, adding that the number of private schools was likely to shrink as a result. You are seeing a pattern in the country as a whole – outside London – of independent schools becoming free schools or academies, or closing, and I think that will continue.”

Lucas’s view received unusual support from representatives of the elite of the independent school sector, who said that the image of state schools had been rejuvenated among parents. William Richardson, the general secretary of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents leading independent schools, said he was surprised by Lucas’s comments because pupil numbers were currently at record levels in private schools.


The Mail reports that “Google pay staff an average salary of £160,000: Internet giant spends more than a half a billion on wages for its 2,000 employees

Google spent more than half a billion pounds on wages for its 2,000 plus UK staff, its latest accounts reveal. In its most recent filing, the internet giant revealed its bill for staff salaries reached £562million, and it hired 494 more workers in the 18 months to June 2015.

Over the period it took £1.2billion in revenues, with three quarters of this sum – £890million – being funnelled to ‘marketing and services’ fees towards its European headquarters in Ireland. Corporation tax there is 12.5 per cent, compared to the UK’s rate of 20 per cent. Two weeks ago, Google was shamed for agreeing a so-called ‘sweetheart deal’ with the Treasury over back taxes.

Labour MP and tax campaigner Margaret Hodge said: ‘I don’t know what we’ve got to do to make Google understand that when they’re making so much money they should be making a fair contribution to the Exchequer to fund public services. This is a shameful example of greed overtaking corporate responsibility.’

USA Presidency

The Independent reports on “US Election 2016: How Bernie Sanders captured the hearts of America’s idealists

When Bernie Sanders was not battering Hillary Clinton at their latest debate for being a captive of Wall Street and falling short as a progressive, he was listing those things he would like to do as president, from free tuition for college students to free, guaranteed healthcare for all.

Then he had an admission. “For all these things to happen,” he said, “people have to rise up.”

This is the “political revolution” that is the rallying cry of Mr Sanders’ campaign for president and what he has been agitating for his entire political career, from before his election in 1981 as mayor of Vermont’s biggest city, Burlington, and his 25 years in Congress as an independent – he prefers democratic socialist – while aligning himself for voting purposes with the Democrats.

It is partly because of his reputation as an eccentric – a leftist dreamer – that Mr Sanders’ decision to run for president in 2016 was barely taken seriously at first. The Washington Post dismissed him as “an ex-hippie, septuagenarian socialist from the liberal reaches of Vermont who rails, in his thick Brooklyn accent, rumpled suit and frizzy pile of white hair, against the ‘billionaire class’.”

Sexual Terrorism

The Telegraph can’t avoid this news item from Germany, the way it normally does: “Cologne sex attacks: Female journalist groped live on TV at carnival

A female journalist was groped while presenting a live report at the Cologne carnival. Esmerelda Labye, a reporter for the Belgian station RTBF, was doing a piece to camera when a man reached over and grabbed her breast in the middle of a live broadcast. She has written an article where she condemns the “wretched and cowardly men” who assaulted her and warns it is increasingly difficult for female journalists to report the news without being harassed.

In the article posted on RTBF online, she wrote: “As I started the broadcast, two or three man gathered behind me and tried to make themselves the centre of attention,” she wrote. “I didn’t see them as I was focusing on the broadcast. Then I felt a kiss on my neck…almost immediately after I heard someone saying ‘do you want to sleep with me’ and some hands on my shoulders. I noticed the person behind me was making an obscene gesture.”

Ms Labye tried to continue the broadcast, but things escalated.

EU, Martin Schulz and David Cameron

The Independent reports that “EU leaders say ‘If the Brits want to leave, let them leave’, European president Martin Schulz warns

The President of the European Parliament has warned of growing impatience among the continent’s leaders over Britain’s continued demands –  saying colleagues tell him: “If the Brits want to leave, let them leave.”

Martin Schulz maintained he was “a strong supporter” of the UK staying in the European Union, despite frustration amid the on-going renegotiation of the UK’s role within the block. He made the comments during his visit to the UK, which comes just days after British prime minister David Cameron returned from Brussels with draft measures he hopes to make “legally binding and irreversible” later this month at the EU Council Summit.

In an interview with Sky News, Mr Schulz cast doubts on this assumption, saying: “Nothing in our lives is irreversible. Therefore legally binding decisions are also reversible – nothing is irreversible. But in politics, when 28 heads of states and governments and the European institutions together on the 19 February agree about a deal, the deal is done.”

Meanwhile in the Mail it is claimed that “Mr Cameron’s beloved EU is imploding. The reason? The elected elite running it simply don’t understand the power of patriotism

Well, I hate to say I told you so, but I did. This week, David Cameron returned from his continental tour proudly waving a piece of paper purporting to represent a new deal for Britain in Europe. And just as I predicted in these pages several weeks ago, his much-vaunted renegotiation exercise has turned out to be an utter waste of time.Like Harold Wilson’s similarly cynical effort in 1975, it proved to be nothing more than an expensive public relations exercise, designed to mollify the Eurosceptics in his own party and to persuade voters to back Britain’s membership of the EU.

Mr Cameron and his allies did their best to present his appearance in the Commons as a profound national event. In fact, it was more like a magician’s appearance at a children’s tea party: a slick feat, certainly, but a long way short of statesmanlike. As Mr Cameron waxed lyrical about his non-existent victories — from a belated and therefore pointless brake on migrant benefits, to a vague and completely meaningless promise to respect British sovereignty — you could almost hear the nation laughing with disbelief.

Labour and Islam

The Express reports on some double standards with “Labour party’s men BLASTED for ‘blocking Muslim women from running for office’

Women’s rights organisation Muslim Women’s Network UK (MWNUK) has called for an inquiry into allegations that Muslim women were discriminated against. MWNUK wrote to Jeremy Corbyn to urge the Labour leader to investigate “systematic misogyny displayed by significant numbers of Muslim male local councillors”. The organisation claimed that the problem had been an “open secret” within the Labour party, accusing Labour being “complicit at the highest levels”.

The letter suggested that Muslim men within the party had been allowed to operate under the “patriarchal ‘biradari’ system”. MWNUK’s chairwoman Shaista Gohir accepted the issue was not confined to Labour and she has also written to David Cameron urging him to launch an independent inquiry into the barriers to political participation faced by black and ethnic minority women. But she said “from our experience, Muslim women are most affected by Labour Muslim male councillors due to the latter’s number in certain towns and cities”.

Australian Immigration Policy

The Guardian fairly predictably picks up on a report from Australia that claims “Asylum policies ‘brutal and shameful’, authors tell Turnbull and Dutton

More than 60 Australian writers – including Nobel laureate JM Coetzee and Booker prize winners Thomas Keneally and Peter Carey – have written to the prime minister and immigration minister condemning the government’s offshore detention policies as “brutal” and “shameful”.

The Turnbull government has faced intense backlash over its offshore detention policies this week in the wake of a high court ruling paving the way for 267 asylum seekers – including 37 babies born in Australia – to be returned to the remote island of Nauru.

Following Tuesday’s high court ruling that it was constitutional for the government to send asylum seekers to the islands of Nauru and Manus in Papua New Guinea for processing, church leaders have openly defied the government, risking jail time by offering sanctuary to asylum seekers, while paediatricians have also risked prosecution by revealing conditions in detention and condemning them as “toxic” for children.

(Ed: Seems they have the same noisy leftie problem we do)

Upcoming Budget

The Mirror claims that “George Osborne is under pressure to slash wine and spirit duty in budget

Labour today backed calls from the drinks industry to announce further cuts in excise duty to protect jobs and improve competitiveness. George Osborne is facing mounting pressure to announce further cuts to wine and spirit duty in next month’s budget – and give a timely boost to UK based production and a better deal for consumers.

Labour’s Iain Wright today backed calls by the drinks industry for the Chancellor to announce further cuts in excise duty to protect jobs and improve competitiveness for British made wine and spirits.

The industry currently supports around 600,000 jobs in the UK and contributes around £45 billion in economic activity. Hartlepool MP Mr Wright said: “The British wine and spirits industry is a true success, creating jobs and exporting great British goods around the world. The Chancellor should consider a reduction in duty to generate even more jobs and exports – we would all raise a glass to that.”

EU Referendum, David Cameron and Arron Banks

The Telegraph also reports that “David Cameron’s ‘contempt’ for the Tory grassroots risks pushing them into the arms of UKIP

David Cameron’s ‘contempt’ for eurosceptic grassroots over the EU referendum risks breaking their connection with the party and pushing them into the arms of Ukip, a former association chairman has warned. The Prime Minister has prompted anger from grassroots campaigners after he told backbenchers not to back the campaign to leave the EU “because of what your constituency association might say”.

John Strafford, a former association chair who now runs the Campaign for Conservative Democracy, said: “For a long time Tory party members have supported leaving the European Union and unless Cameron pulls a rabbit out of the hat they are going to vote against him.These members who have been Conservatives for most of their lives will have to vote against their party for the first time.But once you start voting against your party you lose your attachment to it and when you lose your attachment you start looking around. The obvious home for disgruntled Conservatives will be UKIP.”

Meanwhile, The Guardian no doubt gleefully reports that “EU campaign feuds may lead to no official Brexit group

An acrimonious feud among the leading groups pushing for Britain to exit the EU could result in none of them being designated as the official campaign, it was claimed on Friday. Arron Banks, co-founder of Leave.EU, said that the prospect of non-designation had become “a huge worry” and that potentially this could leave the campaign at a disadvantage.

The Electoral Commission is expected to nominate a lead organisation on each side of the run-up to the EU referendum, which David Cameron has indicated could take place on Thursday 23 June. Both lead organisations will get a grant worth up to £600,000, campaign broadcasts and free mailing. They will also be allowed to spend up to £7m, instead of £700,000, the limit that applies to other registered campaign groups.

Banks said: “If it is bitterly contested, and if designating is going to be controversial, the commission has a right to choose not to designate.”

A commission spokesman confirmed this was correct. He said that if the commission chose to designate a lead campaign group on one side but not the other, that lead body would not get the £600,000 grant, the broadcasts or the free mailing. But it would still be entitled to spend up to £7m, potentially giving it a huge advantage provided it could attract sufficient donations.

Facebook and Angela Merkel

Breitbart has a report from The Gatestone Institute on “Facebook’s War on Freedom of Speech

It was only a few weeks ago that Facebook was forced to back down when caught permitting anti-Israel postings, but censoring equivalent anti-Palestinian postings.

Now one of the most sinister stories of the past year was hardly even reported. In September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook at a UN development summit in New York. As they sat down, Chancellor Merkel’s microphone, still on, recorded Merkel asking Zuckerberg what could be done to stop anti-immigration postings being written on Facebook. She asked if it was something he was working on, and he assured her it was.

At the time, perhaps the most revealing aspect of this exchange was that the German Chancellor – at the very moment that her country was going through one of the most significant events in its post-war history – should have been spending any time worrying about how to stop public dislike of her policies being vented on social media. But now it appears that the discussion yielded consequential results.

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