A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party has spearheaded moves to loosen campaign finance laws in India, generating criticism that businesses—and foreigners—could potentially wield unprecedented influence over the election starting next month.

The new rules let corporations, including those partly owned by foreign entities, fund elections anonymously. They also permit businesses to bankroll political parties through opaque instruments called electoral bonds and enable shell companies to be conduits for election funding.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

The changes, which Modi’s party has said were designed to at least partially account for undocumented cash long used during India’s elections, may actually make it easier—and legal—for anonymous donors to support political parties. Spending on the election ending May 23 is set to rise 40 percent to 500 billion rupees ($7 billion), according to the New Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies.

“It won’t be an exaggeration to say our elections will never be the same again,” said N. Bhaskara Rao, the group’s chairman, who has advised previous Indian governments. “What is this if not the auctioning of our democracy to the highest-paying corporation?”

Modi swept to power in 2014 promising a business-friendly administration that would transform India’s image on the world stage. He remains the favorite for many investors, despite more recently introducing populist policies to boost support in rural India and tightening rules against corporate defaulters.

The biggest innovation in India’s campaign finance laws is the anonymous electoral bond. Despite the name, they bear little resemblance to the promissory notes investors are familiar with: Buyers aren’t paid any interest.

Anyone can buy an electoral bond at the government-owned State Bank of India in denominations ranging from 1,000 rupees to 10 million rupees ($14 to $140,000). Afterward they are delivered to a political party, which can exchange them for cash. They don’t carry the name of the donor and are exempt from tax.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

“Electoral bonds have made political parties completely beholden to unaccounted money, which could even be foreign money or money from dubious sources,” said Jagdeep Chhokar, the former head of India’s top business school and the founder of the Association for Democratic Reforms, a group that researches elections. “Corporate agendas can run the show.”

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who first announced plans for the electoral bonds in 2017, argued last year that they actually help improve transparency because they are banking instruments and every political party has to disclose how much it received. If full transparency is required, donors would go back to cash, he wrote in a January 2018 Facebook post.

For those in India worried about anonymous money in politics, the process for changing the laws has offered little reassurance that the new measures are an improvement.

System Overhaul

India’s campaign finance overhaul began in 2017, when parliament approved an amendment that made it easier for companies to donate to campaigns, including removing a cap on corporate donations (the maximum used to be 7.5 percent of a company’s average net profits over three years). Now new firms can also donate to political parties, opening the door for shell companies to be set up expressly for the purpose.

Also eliminated were requirements for companies to disclose how much they donated and to which party.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

The changes were introduced in parliament via a money bill, a measure that only needs to be passed by the lower house controlled by Modi’s ruling coalition and not the opposition-led upper house.

A similar tactic was used to pass with little debate rules that changed the definition of a foreign company. Previously, all subsidiaries of international entities were treated as overseas donors and not allowed to make political contributions. Now if a foreign firm has a stake of less than 50 percent in a company operating in India, that unit can fund Indian elections.

While several lawmakers protested the moves, analysts said the amendments will benefit both Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party as well as the main opposition Congress party.

“Nobody from the opposition spoke up,” Rao said. “Maybe everybody realizes they stand to gain if they come to power?”

In 2014, the Delhi High Court found both major parties guilty of violating foreign-exchange laws when they accepted a donation from London-based commodities giant Vedanta Resources Plc.

(The suit, filed by a former top bureaucrat and the Association for Democratic Reforms, was against the political entities and Vedanta wasn’t a party. The company didn’t respond to request for comment. The BJP and Congress argued the donations weren’t foreign because the Vedanta units that channelled the money were registered under Indian law.)

The law passed last year changed the definition of a foreign company all the way back to 1976, effectively nullifying the court’s verdict because Vedanta’s overseas parent owned less than 50 percent of the Indian unit.

The government has defended the revisions, saying they were intended to align the definition of “foreign source” with the nation’s foreign direct investment policies, and other laws bar political funding from abroad. GVL Narasimha Rao and Nalin Kohli, representatives of Modi’s BJP, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The latest official data show that Modi’s ruling party won the bulk of financing in the year ended March 2018, both through corporate donations and electoral bonds.

A Murky Flood Of Money Pours Into The World’s Largest Election 

In 2018, electoral bonds worth about 10.6 billion rupees ($150 million) were purchased, according to data obtained under India’s Right to Information Act by Factly, a data journalism portal in India. About 90 percent were of the highest denomination available, which is out of reach for the average citizen.

India’s rules governing political contributions are looser than other major democracies. In the U.K., companies aren’t directly allowed to make donations to political parties. The U.S. allows unlimited funding through political action committees called super PACs on federal election campaigns, but requires them to disclose the names of donors. Milan Vaishnav, Washington-based senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who’s edited a book on Indian political funding, said he hasn’t seen an instrument like electoral bonds in any other country.

“In most advanced democracies, transparency is a core principle,” Vaishnav said. “Few advanced democracies legitimize opacity in the way India has done.”

[“source=bloombergquint”]

The Money School Created By A Financial Guru & Bestselling Author Who Triumphed To Build Wealth

New York Times bestselling author and financial guru Nicole LapinIMAGE COURTESY OF NICOLE LAPIN

Long-term goals, budgeting, saving, and enjoying small indulgences are a some of the key things you will often hear explored by financial guru and New York Times bestselling author Nicole Lapin. Lapin founded The Money School after a role as an anchor on major television networks where she noticed a large gap in populations that gained access to financial literacy knowledge. The population Lapin desired to support was the former version of her self. The one, the founder describes as: “that girl who was smiling, nodding, and not joining basic money conversations because she was too freaked out and too scared to do it.”

As a first-generation American, Lapin was raised in a household where financial literacy was not primarily taught or spoken of. Growing up, at age eleven, she encountered the loss of her father due to a drug overdose and a lack of guidance from her mother. During this time, Lapin describes seeing her parents primarily make money moves that were not the most ideal. This sparked her desire to write a new trajectory for her future.

By starting from the ground up, Lapin expresses taking any job she could from working at a low salary to accumulating credit card debt, and more. Finally, with determination and grit, she landed a job as a business reporter and it just happened that the role was in the field of finance. While feeling clueless and freaked out about the language of money, Lapin explains that she had to learn the language of money the hard way because her job demanded that she spoke it to the world.

Learning The Language of Money

At the “school of hard knocks” the financial expert, who then was the process of acquiring greater knowledge, details that she encountered a plethora of funny affirmable moments along the way. Through her work, Lapin shares these experiences to challenge others to embrace being comfortable with learning and growing through unfamiliar spaces.

For example, while Lapin was on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange she gathered her belongings to head to an interview with a few founders. On her way out she recalled her manager asking: “Do you have the P&L?” And she responded: “No” staring with a puzzled grimace. “No, I don’t have to pee,” she thought to herself. In another instance, Lapin describes thinking that a former boyfriend was a garden “hedge manager” given his role at a hedge fund.

To Lapin, money has served as a language to be learned and one that we often don’t realize can serve as the biggest hurdle for bridging avenues to opportunities in our financial lives.

Pervasive Disparities in Financial Education 

Learning the language of money has become instrumentally important due to an ongoing widespread dialogue surrounding the financial literacy education gap in America. Currently, two-thirds of American adults are said not to be able to pass a basic financial literacy test, 54% of Millennials express worry that they will not be able to pay back student loans, and only 16% between the ages 18-26 feel very optimistic about their financial futures.

To counter these disparities at a national scale, Lapin advocates for lobbying for more financial education in our governmental system to bridge what she notes as “a personal budget deficit.” However, in addition to lobbying at the national level, she advocates helping others explore a fundamental piece of the puzzle that they truly can control, which begins with themselves. She articulates this by sharing:

People say all the time I’m freaked out by the stock market; I’m freaked out by all of these things. And all we really have control over is ourselves. This is a deeper component of the conversation because how we each interact within these markets permeates all aspects of our lives.

By founding The Money School, Lapin has created opportunities to support each individual learner where they are in their financial growth journey. Given that so often financial learning exists within traditionally broad topics explored in school such as macroeconomics, by meeting the individual learner where they are in the process Lapin shares practical hands-on tips and tricksfrom writing checks to completing taxes or making a budget.

IMAGE COURTESY OF NICOLE LAPIN

One Solution: The Money School

The Money School is an online community Lapin created where she shares a 12-step plan for helping others get their financial lives together. This plan has been tested in both of her books and the third book due to hit shelves soon. Traditionally, readers and students have found the guides to be easy to follow and iterate upon.

The financial guru and New York Times Bestselling author shares that the first step at The Money School is:

…Admitting you have a problem—and we all have problems—so that you can do something about it. From there, I wanted to create interactive video lessons, worksheets, and quizzes for the school community. Then bring in some cool experts and friends that I know from the business world to help along the way.

Overall, a key goal for the Money School is to rethink the way education around this topic looks. To do so Lapin has broken down finance into a language we often would use daily, like in a meeting with a circle of friends. Similar to friendships, she compares starting a new financial guide to embarking on a long-term endeavor. During the journey, Lapin says it’s “beneficial to set benchmarks and opportunities for small outings and/or indulgences so that you stay on track.”

How to Start Achieving Your Money Goals Today

To start achieving your money goals today, Lapin shares: “We really need to focus on our endgames and goals.” To cover these two areas, she recommends breaking down: 1) a spending plan into three E’s—essentials, endgame, and extras, and 2) goals into three F’s—family, finance, and fun. The Money School founder uses these alliterations to explore how we can look at our goals holistically due to our work lives and personal lives overlapping in numerous ways. In order to achieve true happiness, “we must achieve happiness in all areas,” she shares.

Additionally, when it comes to creating plans for money matters Lapin encourages those who wish to become financially fit to pursue money from a place of aspiration versus deprivation—mentality plays a crucial role in the process. For example, a person aspiring to build wealth settling to clip coupons and digging in the couch for coins may have greater adverse effects than one focusing on creating a savings plan.

As Lapin highlights:

…Figure out where you aspire to go and then reverse engineer your actions. The more I’ve been able to be real, the closer I’ve gotten to reaching my goals and you can too! For me, I had to get to a place where I was super vulnerable, authentic, basically naked, sharing all the stories I wanted to whiteout in the past when I tried to pretend I was perfect. Doing the internal work, only I could do for myself, made all the difference.

[“source=forbes”]

World’s No 1 bridge player suspended after failing a drugs test

Bridge is not known for doping violations and Kari-Anne Opsal, president of the Norwegian Bridge Federation, insists the drugs Geir Helgemo took were ‘not performance enhancing’

Bridge is not known for doping violations and Kari-Anne Opsal, president of the Norwegian Bridge Federation, insists the drugs Geir Helgemo took were ‘not performance enhancing’. Photograph: REX/Shutterstock

The world No 1 bridge player has been suspended after failing a drugs test.

Geir Helgemo, who is Norwegian but represents Monaco in bridge events, tested positive for synthetic testosterone and the female fertility drug clomifene at a World Bridge Series event in Orlando in September.

After accepting he had breached anti-doping rules, Helgemo was suspended by the World Bridge Federation (WBF) until 20 November. He also had all titles, medals and points from the 2018 World Bridge Series revoked.

Kari-Anne Opsal, president of the Norwegian Bridge Federation, said the drugs were “not performance enhancing”. In a statement on the federation’s website, she said: “Geir Helgemo … has previously played for the Norwegian national team and is our biggest star. Many within the bridge community know Geir and respect him.

“It is his responsibility not to take substances that are on the doping list, even though in this instance they are not performance enhancing in bridge. I feel for Geir in this situation and hope he will come back stronger after his ban ends.”

The World Bridge Federation (WBF) is recognised by the International Olympic Committee and as such abides by World Anti-Doping Agency rules.

[“source=theguardian”]

‘I lucked out a bit’ – UK skier James Woods wins first world title

James Woods

James Woods on his way to gold at the FIS World Championships. Photograph: Jeff Swinger/EPA

Great Britain’s James Woods has been crowned world champion for the first time after winning the men’s ski slopestyle competition in Utah.

The 27-year-old defied difficult weather conditions to edge out Norwegian teenager Birk Ruud and US double Olympic medallist Nick Goepper.

Woods said: “It feels good. Obviously I couldn’t be more proud. I’ve put a lot of effort in over the years as everybody has.”

“It was a bit of a wild day to be honest with you,” Woods added. “We’re hanging off the side of a mountain here – judging the weather conditions, assessing the wind, knowing what the snow is doing. Today was a pretty close call whether it was going to be fair. I only care whether conditions are fair and everybody’s safe. I lucked out a little bit, but you’ve got to take it haven’t you?”

Woods had previously won a world silver medal in Voss in 2013 and bronze at Sierra Nevada in 2017. And victory was especially sweet for the Sheffield star who missed out on a Winter Olympic medal in Pyeongchang last year by just 1.2 points.

james woods
FacebookTwitterPinterest
 James Woods on the podium following the men’s slopestyle worldc hampionship race. Photograph: Rick Bowmer/AP

Woods had looked set to snatch a podium place in South Korea until Goepper edged him out with the final run of the competition.

Woods’s medal is Britain’s third of the championships after Charlotte Bankes and Izzy Atkin took silver and bronze in snowboard-cross and Ski Big Air, respectively.

[“source=theguardian”]