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You live on a farm now, working from home or out in the field. It may look like a city, but the space you occupy and do not own is neatly arranged in a global grid of labour-intensive units whose dominant features are subsistence farming and tributary ritualistic activities - all quite medieval. Your attention and your ideas are monetized and sold off in auctions you are unable to influence or petition. The land, with its atoms and its pixels, belongs to many lords. Your loyalty is required by a few of them and increasingly negotiated among the rest, in a convoluted web of competing jurisdictions. In some parts of the world, you and yours fall prey to the effects of this rivalry and must bear the brunt of asymmetrical warfare, corrupt governance, hopeless debates. In this dire state of affairs, the long arm of the law seems at times to bend inwards, crooked and self-serving. Other times it strikes with unspeakable force, random and incomprehensible. And so your path on this earth is divided between the two worlds: the lawless and the arbitrary, the archaic and the unseen, the peasantry and the citizenship.

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Deadly Terror Networks And Drug Cartels Use Huge Banks To Finance Their Crimes. These Secret Documents Show How The Banks Profit.

on Sep 21, 2020 09:39 am

Thousands of secret “suspicious activity reports” offer a never-before-seen picture of corruption and complicity — and how the government lets it flourish. And the US government, despite its vast powers, fails to stop it.

A huge trove of secret government documents reveals for the first time how the giants of Western banking move trillions of dollars in suspicious transactions, enriching themselves and their shareholders while facilitating the work of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins.

Today, the FinCEN Files — thousands of “suspicious activity reports” and other US government documents — offer an unprecedented view of global financial corruption, the banks enabling it, and the government agencies that watch as it flourishes. BuzzFeed News has shared these reports with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 news organizations in 88 countries.

These documents, compiled by banks, shared with the government, but kept from public view, expose the hollowness of banking safeguards, and the ease with which criminals have exploited them. Profits from deadly drug wars, fortunes embezzled from developing countries, and hard-earned savings stolen in a Ponzi scheme were all allowed to flow into and out of these financial institutions, despite warnings from the banks’ own employees.

COVID‐19 Pandemic Imperils Weather Forecast

on Sep 20, 2020 10:39 pm

Weather forecasts play essential parts in economic activity. Assimilation of meteorological observations from aircraft improves forecasts greatly. However, global lockdown during the COVID‐19 pandemic (March to May 2020) has eliminated 50‐75% aircraft observations and imperiled weather forecasting. Here, we verify global forecasts against reanalysis to quantify the impact of the pandemic.

We find a large deterioration in forecasts of surface meteorology over regions with busy air flights, such as North America, southeast China, and Australia. Forecasts over remote regions are also substantially worse during March to May 2020 than 2017–2019, and the deterioration increases for longer‐term forecasts. This could handicap early warning of extreme weather and cause additional economic damage on the top of that from the pandemic.

The impact over Western Europe is buffered by the high density of conventional observations, suggesting that introduction of new observations in data‐sparse regions would be needed to minimize the impact of global emergencies on weather forecasts.

A New Ship’s Mission: Let the Deep Sea Be Seen

on Sep 20, 2020 10:39 pm

Mr. Dalio is one of a growing number of billionaire philanthropists seeking to reinvent themselves as patrons of social progress through science research. According to Forbes, he has an estimated net worth of $16.9 billion, making him one of the world’s richest individuals. His firm, Bridgewater Associates, is regularly described as the world’s largest hedge fund.

“There’s nothing like OceanXplorer,” said Rob Munier, head of marine facilities and operations at Woods Hole. “It’s geared toward taking the concept of great science and great media to the next level.”

A riddle of the modern world, Mr. Dalio added, is why understanding and protecting the ocean gets relatively little money, time and effort compared with outer space. “If you think about the excitement and the importance, there’s no comparison.”

‘It’s So Essential’: WeChat Ban Makes U.S.-China Standoff Personal

on Sep 20, 2020 10:39 pm

When downloads of the Chinese-owned messaging service are barred in the U.S. starting at midnight on Sunday, the feud between the countries will hit home for millions of people.

The escalating tensions between the United States and China have long been a largely esoteric issue for many people, something that seemed to be made up of officials bickering with each other over measures like tariffs and items like semiconductors. But the U.S. government’s action to cut off the Chinese-owned WeChat and another app, TikTok, from American app stores at midnight on Sunday has now made the battle intensely personal for millions of people.

The Trump administration’s action further decouples the digital systems of China and the United States, creating an increasingly fragmented internet. The United States is imposing the type of exclusionary restrictions that China has long placed on foreign tech companies that tried to operate there. Facebook and Google dominate in most of the world, but they do not offer their services in China. Twitter is also blocked in China.

WeChat, a do-everything social network that is owned by China’s Tencent, was one of the last major bridges connecting the two digital worlds.

‘The only way to stop violence’: why protesters are unmasking Belarus police

on Sep 20, 2020 10:39 pm


Since the beginning of the protests, which followed rigged elections on 9 August, the majority of police, security officers from the feared KGB, and other officers targeting protesters have hidden behind masks or balaclavas. Footage from rallies in recent days showed that when large groups of protesters swarmed around police officers and grabbed at their masks or balaclavas, their response was to hide their faces in their hands or run.

“The only way to stop violence is to pull off the masks, in both the literal and metaphorical sense. An officer who is no longer anonymous will think twice before he grabs, beats or kidnaps someone,” said the founder of Black Book of Belarus, a channel on the app Telegram devoted to “de-anonymising” police officers, with more than 100,000 subscribers. The group’s founder spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity via a Telegram chat.

The group would receive photos or videos of particular officers and begin a search using face-match technology, its founder said. If this didn’t work, they put out a call asking the public for identification. Often, people recognised their acquaintances in photographs, and there was even one case when someone helping run the Telegram channel spotted an old acquaintance. Once the team had a name, they could search for information in open-source databases.

The European Union may soon get its own Magnitsky Act to target human rights abusers

on Sep 20, 2020 12:39 pm

Amid a global assault on human rights stretching from Belarus to Hong Kong to Yemen, the European Union signaled yesterday that it may act to deter corrupt kleptocrats and state abusers by hitting them where it hurts: their assets.

Europe’s chief executive Ursula von der Leyen revealed in her first-ever State of the Union speech that she will bring forth a European Magnitsky Act, a sanctions framework modeled after a U.S. law that restricts malign actors’ access to travel and the global financial system.

For all the ridicule it’s earned as a bureaucracy-addled bloc with a penchant for “strongly worded” statements, the EU is still the world’s largest single market area and a leading promoter of democratic values.

Tom Burgis: ‘The rise of kleptocrats fueled by destablising the truth on social media

on Sep 20, 2020 11:39 am


How can African nations stop the looting of their natural wealth by rogue politicians and an international band of financial predators? How do you join the dots between illegal gold-mining in the Democratic Republic of Congo, smuggling trips to Dubai and a financial laundromat based in the City of London? Most of all what does it take to track down these shadowy operations and bring the culprits to justice?

To help our quest, we have an in-depth conversation with Tom Burgis, author of the non-fiction thriller Kleptopia: How dirty money is conquering the world. It traces the evolution of an international but virtual republic based on stolen money.

USA’s DFC approves transactions to Mozambique totalling $1.7 billion

on Sep 20, 2020 11:39 am


The US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), Donald Trump’s secret weapon to counter Chinese influence in Africa, has devoted almost half of its new investment funding to natural gas projects in Mozambique.

Launched in January by the American government, the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has demonstrated its expanded reach, especially in East Africa, with its latest investment. According to a press release dated 9 September, over the third quarter of 2020 the agency approved investments totalling more than $3.6bn worldwide, with nearly half of this amount allocated to transactions in Mozambique.

READ MORE Mozambique’s Islamic insurgency poses risks to Total’s LNG project

“We are also hard at work building out a regional team in Africa that will work to source deals in key sectors like critical infrastructure and technology,” said Adam S. Boehler, CEO of DFC, who specialises in healthcare investment.

Since its creation at the end of 2019, the US agency, with an investment cap of $60bn, injected $25m into a fund managed by SPE Capital, a private equity firm with offices in Tunis and Casablanca, and $30m into AfricInvest’s new pan-African fund.

In Mozambique, the agency, which consolidates the work previously carried out by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), has approved a $1.5bn political risk insurance deal to support the Rovuma LNG natural gas project, which is under development in northern Mozambique by US oil and gas major ExxonMobil and Italian oil company ENI.

READ MORE Mozambique: Sophistication of Islamic insurgency threatens LNG plans

This megaproject, alongside the nearby Mozambique LNG project launched by US-based Anadarko and acquired by French supermajor Total in September 2019, is expected to transform the former Portuguese colony into a global liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter.

Can ICC chief prosecutor Bensouda hit back at President Trump?

on Sep 20, 2020 11:39 am


A climate of fear reigns in The Hague following Washington’s move to blacklist the ICC prosecutor in response to the institution’s opening of an inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Afghanistan. What action can the Court take against US sanctions?

During a press conference, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that two members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) would be put on a “specially designated nationals” list alongside terrorists and narcotics traffickers: Gambian-born chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, and Phakiso Mochochoko, a Lesotho national serving as the ICC’s director of jurisdiction, complementary and cooperation division.

While some observers have deemed the Trump administration’s offensive targeting the two Africans as “racist”, the announcement set off an uproar at the prosecutor’s office. In a statement released the following day, the ICC denounced the “unprecedented and serious attacks directed at an international judicial institution” and reaffirmed its independence and impartiality.


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