Tag Archive | Bangladesh

Bangladesh Delivers Energy Free Air Conditioning*

Bangladesh Delivers Energy Free Air Conditioning*

In a lot of places around the world people don’t have access to some of the luxuries we take for granted: electricity, internet, running water, or even regular supplies of food and clean water. Add to that the unbearable heat of summer temperatures in places like India and half the population is out of commission for most the afternoon. But their situation is not without hope!

More than 28,000 people live in a tiny area called Daulatdia in Bangladesh. They are cramped in small huts with no running water and temperatures outside and inside can rise above 113º F.

Something had to be done, so they’ve come up with the first electricity-free air conditioning.

It’s made of one piece of sturdy cardboard and a series of recycled plastic bottles. The bottoms and necks of the bottles are cut away and then stuck into a series of holes cut into the board.

Once all of the bottles are in place, the board is placed in front of a door or window. The cooling effects are immediate.

Hot air enters the bottles from the outside and then sends cooler air out of the thinner neck. The principle is similar to the effect when you exhale into your hand with an open mouth or with pursed lips. Feel the difference for yourself!

This simple solution can cool an indoor space by more than 10º F. What a relief for the people who experience extreme temperatures day in, day out.

Countless villages have already started using the simplest air conditioning in the world.

Here’s a video that shows exactly how the system works:

Not only does this system bring a breath of fresh air into overheated huts, it’s a great way to encourage collecting old plastic bottles from the streets and recycling them.


Related Topics:

Teens with No Engineering Experience Invent Solar Tent for Homeless, Win Grant from MIT*

Engineering Student Turns Plastic into Diesel*

Where Did All Your Creativity Go to?*

Fast Tech, Slow Citizens*

Man Harvests Water for 10,000 People in Driest Part of India*

African Princess Bringing Solar Power to Millions*

India Permits Free Energy Technology Despite Threats from U.K., U.S., Saudi Arabia*

Alternative Currencies Building Prosperity from London to Kenya*

We are Naturally Masters of Many Trades*

Saudi Forces Violated Regulations against Iraqi Hajj Pilgrims*

Saudi Forces Violated Regulations against Iraqi Hajj Pilgrims*

It has been several years since relations between Saudi and Iraq has become strained, leading to Iraqi nation’s sufferings to the point that they have become subject to the violations and oppressions which Saudi Arabia metes out.

Hajj pilgrims from Iraq are pressured and humiliated before the eyes of pilgrims from other countries upon their arrival in Saudi Arabia. The most extreme behaviour towards Iraqis from Al-Hasa and Al-Qatif, who were primarily Shiite, was in 2006, when Iraqi caravans arrived, they were kept for hours for being frisked and were affronted by Saudi security forces. In the same year, Bahrainis’ buses were stopped and pilgrims had to use Saudi buses.

This story is not limited to such issues. According to the spokesperson for the senior body of Iraqi Hajj, in 2007, four of the pilgrims from thousands of Iraqis who were kept at the borderline and were prevented from entering Saudi Arabia to establish their Hajj rituals, lost their lives because of the extreme cold, hunger, and thirst. And Saudi officials announced that Iraqi pilgrims did not have official documents while Saudis themselves were fully aware of the falsehood of this statement. At the time, Iraqi government voiced its complaint about this act but did not receive any straightforward response.

Also, some others faced harsh treatment by Saudi security forces; the head of the senior body of Hajj at the time, Sheikh Mohammad Taqi Al-Mawla, wrote a letter to the king, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and complained about the obnoxious behaviour of Saudi officers towards the pilgrims and other Islamic schools.

The same inappropriate policies and behaviours have continued to persist. This year, Pakistani pilgrims were also subject to these policies by Saudis, in a bid to take revenge on Pakistanis since they were not willing to fight against Yemen. The Hajj process for these pilgrims has been slowed down since their arrival in Medina and other sites, which can be a tell-tale sign of Saudi’s arbitrary and political decision about Hajj matter.

List of Pilgrimage Victims by their Numbers from 2002 to 2014

The Hajj and Umrah Network released a list from the Health Ministry of Saudi Arabia which shows the names of all victims died in last 12 years in pilgrimage.

According to the report Twitted on the page of Hajj and Umrah Network, the number of victims are 90276 who were died for Al-Saud’s mismanagement of Hajj. 56895 of these victims are men, 33344 are women, and 32 not specified.  According to this report, the number of victims and their country from the most to the least are as follows: Saudi Arabia, 31411; Pakistan, 7991; Indonesia 5837; Nigeria 4989, Myanmar 4191, Bangladesh 3617 and Yemen 3313.

Other countries such as Syria, Algeria, Sweden, Morocco, Iran, Turkey, Malaysia with their number of victims are also in the list.


Related Topics:

Saudis and Israeli’s Stage Hajj Stampede*

New Leaked Document Shows 7,000 Hajjis Killed in Mina*

How Saudi Arabia is Sponsoring Religious Eugenics*

Saudi Arabia Uses Israeli Firm G4S to Make E-Bracelets for Hajj*

Muslim World Reacts to assigning Hajj Security to Israelis*

Saudi Grand Mufti Forced into Retirement*

Wahhabism on Trial? How Islam is challenging Al Saud’s Custodianship of Mecca*

ISISrael’s Terror and Subversion in Bangladesh*

ISISrael’s Terror and Subversion in Bangladesh*

The Masonic Jewish banksters are instigating terror attacks in Asia to prove that the world is under attack by radical Islam and not by Cabalist Judaism.

Al Qaeda/”Daesh”/ISIS are nothing more than a gang of hit men tied into local organized crime guided by the intelligence services of Israel, India, and the Western world.

By Salman An-Noor Hossain

Since late 2015, Israeli “counter terror” expert, Rita Katz and her handlers have been saying that “Daesh”/ISIS has taken over Bangladesh although the evidence suggests otherwise that a network of criminal gangs tied to foreign intelligence (MOSSAD/Mi-6 and RAW) are operating in the country. With the help of MI-6 and Indian Intelligence, the Israeli MOSSAD want to create the illusion that Bangladesh is another hotbed of ISIS- Islamic terrorism.
Everyone in the Bangladeshi government tried to downplay Katz’s insane ramblings until  July 1st 2016 (Ramadhan 26) when nine gunmen firing blank rounds stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka shouting “God is Great” and turned off the lights and CCTV cameras. They proceeded to divide the expatriates from the locals and tortured the expats to death using sharp weapons (machetes).
The attackers were armed with grenades, guns, and explosives imported from overseas. They killed two police men and the local SWAT team were too scared to enter the restaurant. Less than 12 hours later, the National Army was airlifted from the Sylhet Region – 150 miles away from the capital and raided the restaurant killing 6 out of the original 9. Only one had been captured live. Two of the original 9 gunmen had escaped a few hours earlier suggesting the original masterminds and perpetrators had not been found (most certainly RAW assets).[RAW – Research And Analysis Wing of India – who work hand in hand with the Israelis.]

The weapons were likely cleared and trafficked via the International Airport, which was taken over by a British Security firm – Redline Aviation Security. The Jewish CEO is Paul Mason of Redline Aviation Security who signed a contract with the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) on March 21st 2016 to take control of security at Dhaka’s Shahjalal International Airport.
Redline Aviation Security is under direct orders from the British Security Establishment. Mi-6 directed by MOSSAD moles sent over close to 40 men to “supervise” airport security “include manning screening points at passenger terminals and the cargo complex”.  The government was to fork over 9.34 million USD to the British-Based company to carry out “security management” in Dhaka airport.
The “terrorists” were brainwashed and coerced into carrying out the killings by the intelligence agencies (most probably RAW since most “terrorist” outfits and cutout organizations in Bangladesh have been directed by that entity.)

The photo op that was taken by the men in black tops posing with grins took place during the daylight hours a few days (if not weeks) before the attacks. The pictures were shot under bright sunlight. When they entered the restaurant, they were not dressed in the regalia of “Muslim militants” but rather casual civilian gear as images that have been released to the public show below.

ISIS facilitator Rita Katz

Rita Katz and her “counter-terrorism experts” at SITE posted the photo op immediately after the foreign expatriates were hacked to death.

The she-devil has been trying to implicate Bangladesh as a Daesh/ISIS stronghold since the attacks on anonymous foreign expatriates started happening in September 2015.

After killing aid workers and investors, attacks against religious minorities (Buddhists, Hindus, Shi’ites) began. The murderers who were caught turned out to be drug addicts/runners and/or contract killers. Al Qaeda/”Daesh”/ISIS are nothing more than a gang of hit-men tied into local organized crime guided by the intelligence services of Israel, India, and the Western world.

Mossad-Mi6 Collaboration with Bangladesh Opposition

On the other hand, those who killed the blasphemous bloggers and homosexual activists are connected the Ansarullah (Helpers of Allah) Bangla Team. Many segments of Bangladeshi society are sympathetic towards killing the Enemies of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad and those attempting to promote and legalize the homosexual lifestyle (i.e. organizing gay parades/prides and male homosexual marriages) with funding from USAID and other international donors but innocent civilians are clearly against our range of targets.
The most probable scenario is that criminal elements organized by the opposition to the ruling Awami League Party carried out the attacks in direct assistance with the Mi-6 taking the lead in organizing operations (perhaps with some assistance from RAW in directly controlling and organizing the gang) at the behest of the Israeli MOSSAD.
A politician in the Opposition BNP party, Aslam Chowdhury, met with Israeli businessman Mendi Safadi a month before the attacks to plan the overthrow of the government. He had been charged and apprehended by the Bangladeshi government. The reason for this covert collaboration between the Israeli MOSSAD via the Mi-6 with local opposition was to show Bangladesh as being unsafe and secure for foreigners – especially investors and those involved in the development of critical infrastructure. It was done in order to portray the current government in power as being weak and ineffective in taking control of its own internal security.
However, the current government of Bangladesh isn’t sinless either in this fiasco either. During the past seven years, the ruling Awami League party has undermined social and political cohesion by clamping down on the political and social rights of over 60% of its population.
It has not allowed for transparent elections to take place and during the last two years has held onto power by absolute brute force and physically eliminated thousands of dissidents and rivals (including extra-judicial killings and military coups organized with the help of India’s RAW).

Consequently, this led rogue elements in the opposition to collaborate with the enemies of Islam and Muslims (International Jewry and Hindu Extremists/Supremacists) in order to overthrow the government of Bangladesh and facilitate in bringing about a dysfunctional nation state.

In a rising period of organized and intense Islamophobia throughout the world, the Enemies of Islam (the usual suspects being International Jewry and their various assets) have decided to take advantage of the internal conflict(s)/division within Muslim societies in order to manufacture terrorism and propagate outright lies against the religion while undermining the economic growth/prosperity, safety and security of Muslim majority societies.

Most people in Bangladesh are now well aware that hidden hands are behind these attacks. The forces behind these operations are failing in this attempt and will soon be made to pay a heavy price for all of their evil conspiracies.


Related Topics:

US-Saudi Plague ISIS Reaches Indonesia? *

ISIS and Nusra Warring in East Lebanon*

Saudi Arabia Arrest 9 CIA Agents Working for ISIS*

Hack of Netanyahu Chief of Staff Shows Israeli Control of ISIS*

FBI Running ‘Hundreds’ of ISIS Sting Operations*

ISIS Targets Sheikh Hamza Yusuf*

The West Negotiates with former ‘Al Qaeda’ Leader to Empower Libya’s Unity Government*

ISIS Suffers Major Setback in Libya*

Mystery of New York Fed Robbery Has Central Banks Asking Who’s Next*

Mystery of New York Fed Robbery Has Central Banks Asking Who’s Next*

Bangladesh has learned a valuable lesson over the past two months: Do. Not. Trust. The. New. York. Fed.

On a quiet Friday morning in early February, a series of instructions using authenticated SWIFT codes was sent to 33 Liberty allegedly from the Bangladesh central bank requesting the transfer of nearly $1 billion from the country’s FX reserves.

Now, the first thing that should jump out at you there is that Friday is a weekend in Bangladesh, a fact which probably should have set off alarm bells. But alas, it didn’t and by the time the hackers who sent the transfer instructions screwed the pooch by spelling “foundation” wrong in one of the requests, more than $80 million was sent to the Philippines where it landed in four accounts and eventually ended up transferred to at least two casinos and one unidentified man “of Chinese origin” who has since been named as a Weikang Xu. For those who might have missed the story, here are our three previous accounts of what is truly a Hollywood-esque plot line:

You’re reminded that the stolen funds ended up in the Jupiter Street, Makati City, branch of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp where the branch manager is one Maia Santos Deguito. Here she is:

According to testimony from a Rizal executive heard at a Senate hearing in the Philippines late last week, some $427,000 in cash was withdrawn from one of four accounts that received the illicit funds. That money was promptly deposited – into the back of Deguito’s car.

“On February 5 – the day when RCBC said $22 million was put into [the accounts]– Deguito’s assistant, Angela Torres, requested P20 million from the bank’s cash centre, which was delivered by armoured car,” PhilStar reports.

“The teller then put the money in a box, which was brought to Deguito’s office. The branch messenger, a certain Jovy Morales, then looked for a paper bag to put the money in and then brought it to the branch manager’s car.”


Deguito then ignored a direct order from the Bangladesh central bank and the Rizal head office to freeze the accounts.

“Instead, she moved the money to a foreign-currency account opened Feb. 5 under the name of Centurytex Trading, a local brokerage firm owned by businessman William Go,” WSJ writes.

“$15 million of the stolen money on Feb. 5 was remitted from the account to a local money-transfer company called Philrem [and]then, about another $66 million was transferred to Philrem on Feb. 9.”

From there, it found its way to the casinos and to Weikang. Here’s a diagram from FT:

Mr. Go is apparently innocent according to a private investigation conducted by Truth Verifier Systems Inc who says the accounts were forged. However, Torres (Deguito’s assisstant) insists that Go picked up cash in a “Lexus SUV” and that he signed the withdrawal slip personally.

Go is now suing both Torres and Deguito.

Apparently, the hackers used malware to infiltrate the central bank’s computers and monitor daily activity.

They were counting on the likelihood that there wouldn’t be any direct communication between the banks over the weekend,” an official who spoke to WSJ said.

And they were correct. As we documented earlier this week, Bangladesh was unable to contact the New York Fed on Saturday and Sunday.

Bangladesh hired FireEye to investigate the incident. According to what Bloomberg describes as an “interim report,” the hackers “sought to cover their tracks by deleting computer logs as they went [and]before making transfers they sneaked through the network, inserting software that would allow re-entry.”

The report allegedly describes the operation as something that would normally be the purview of nation-state hackers.

“Malware was specifically designed for a targeted attack on Bangladesh Bank to operate on SWIFT Alliance Access servers,” Bloomberg quotes the report as saying. “The security breach of the SWIFT environment is part of a much larger breach that is currently under investigation.”

Suspect log-ins at Bangladesh central bank began on January 24 and ran through at least February 6, two days after the illicit transfers. “The report,” Bloomberg says, indicates that the “hackers have already hit other FireEye clients, though it’s unclear if those include other central banks.”

Meanwhile, Bangladesh’s finance minister AMA Muhith told the Bengali-language daily Prothom Alo that this was 100% an inside job involving officials at the central bank. He later claimed the daily published off the record comments without his permission.

“It has come to light through this interview that I cannot always remain alert because of my age,” he said. Muhith has called the central bank “very incompetent” for their handling of the incident.

“Bangladesh, including its government institutions and its banking system, is notoriously corrupt and prone to bank frauds, and neither the Bangladeshis nor the Fed have ruled out the possibility the hackers were assisted by someone on the inside,” FT wrote this week.

“But there is so far no evidence of an insider, nor do cyber security experts think such a person would have been essential for a crime that could have been committed from outside by sophisticated criminal hackers from eastern Europe or elsewhere.”

Bangladesh at least in part blames the Fed.

 “Since they have asked for your opinion, they should have waited for that,” one official told FT, referencing the fact that the Fed asked for clarification on some of the transactions but ok’d them before getting a response. “They could have been patient,” the same official said.

“[The Fed] cannot avoid their responsibility in any way,” Muhith says.

We imagine the well meaning FinMin may be surprised what the NY Fed can and can’t do.

As indicated by the diagram shown above, there’s no telling where the money went after the casinos. “It was Chinese new year,” Bloomberry’s Silverio Benny Tan said. “So the expectation was for more play, so it was not unusual.” As we mentioned on Wednesday, casinos are not subject to the Philippines anti-money laundering laws (because who would think of laundering money through a casino).

But don’t worry, the culprits will soon be ferreted out. How do we know? Because Bangladesh has enlisted the help of the FBI.

“We sought the FBI’s assistance when a group of FBI met with me for investigating the central bank heist last month,” Interior Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told Reuters.

What seems likely here is that this is part of something far larger and it could very well be that none of the people along the paper trail (Deguito, Go, whoever was or wasn’t involved at the Bangladesh Bank, etc.) actually knows who is ultimately pulling the strings. The fact that the total request was for nearly $1 billion suggests that whoever is at the end of the rabbit hole here either, i) has their sights set far higher than $80 million, or ii) swung for the fences to ensure they at least got to first base. If it’s the former, then we may see more inadvertent experiments with helicopter money in the very near future – and on a much larger scale.

Now if only physical cash were banned, then the “culprits” wouldn’t be able to launder their illicit proceeds. Hey, wait a minute…


Related Topics:

Russian Interior Ministry Foiled Mass Robbery of All National Banks*

Rothschild Bank Now Under Criminal Investigation*

Hackers Use Dridex Malware To Steal Millions From U.K. Bank Accounts*

Fed Official Confesses Federal Reserve Rigged the Stock Market Crash*

U.S. Senate Blocks Bill to Audit the Federal Reserve*

Criminal Syndicate with Links to Terrorism Infiltrated Bank of England*

Spanish Judge Makes Bank President and Former IMF Chief Pay for Financial Crimes*

Alternative Currencies Building Prosperity from London to Kenya*

Alternative Currencies Building Prosperity from London to Kenya*

The Brixton Pound, Koru Kenya, and Mazacoin are all attempting to achieve a common goal: empowering people in a monetarily unequal world, from the bottom up.

By Raúl Carrillo

Residents of Mombasa, Kenya, use local Bangla-Pesa currency. Photo courtesy of Bangla-Pesa

Death. Darkness. Deceit.

If you’ve been following recent headlines about alternative currencies, you probably find them … villainous. Last month, a Manhattan jury found Ross Ulbricht, otherwise known by the pseudonym “Dread Pirate Roberts,” guilty on seven counts, including narcotics distribution, identity fraud, and money laundering. Ulbricht also faces charges in Maryland regarding murder for hire.

Ulbricht committed his crimes while operating Silk Road, a massive online drugs marketplace. The website, hidden by the anonymity software Tor, allowed anyone to purchase not only drugs, but weapons and counterfeiting services via the crypto-currency and payments system known as Bitcoin.

Federal prosecutors didn’t have anything positive to say about Bitcoin or crypto-currencies more generally. Understandable. Crypto-currencies—so named because they use encryption to secure transactions and circulate units—have served a central role in digital black markets.

But the world of alternative currencies – those not issued by nation-states – is much deeper and broader than crypto-currencies or Bitcoin, and it is not limited to unsavoury activity. Indeed, people around the world have long used alternative currencies to empower their communities in the face of austerity and financial crisis. They are now being established in gritty South London, Kenyan slums, and Native American reservations. How do they help?

Money, credit, and currency

To understand the how and why of alternative currencies, it is helpful to know the history of money and the history of credit more generally. Today, most purchasing power—the ability to buy goods and services—is created by governments issuing money and licensed banks making loans. Yet long before the time of modern money, credit existed in the form of people exchanging IOUs without governments and banks acting as middlemen.

To better illustrate this distinction, Wartburg College economics professor Scott Fullwiler asks us to think of the use of sovereign currencies (like the U.S. dollar) as a “vertical approach” to funding economies. Governments and banks put cash into our hands and loans into our bank accounts. Simultaneously, the government requires us all to pay taxes, thus driving demand for its currency, which we need to avoid legal trouble.

At the end of the day, for better or worse, most money circulation in the present is backed by guns, courts, and jails. By contrast, Fullwiler sees alternative currencies as representing a “horizontal approach,” in which groups within the public generate, expand, and contract purchasing power. The cooperation required to make a horizontal system work can be facilitated by cryptography, as in the case of Bitcoin, or it can be generated by custom, law, or simply a high level of mutual trust.

With this distinction in mind, it’s easy to see how alternative currencies, especially crypto-currencies, are attractive to people seeking to avoid or subvert governments. Ross Ulbricht, like many other Bitcoin enthusiasts, is a self-described libertarian and fan of the right-wing Austrian School of Economics, as detailed on page 26 of the criminal complaint against him. Silk Road was, if nothing else, a paragon of deregulation. A crypto-currency like Bitcoin is an intuitive part of the network.

Yet dread pirates are not the only people who benefit from financial privacy or access to new sources of funding. Many low-income people struggle to access credit, and in an increasingly surveilled digital world, they are often treated unjustly when doing so. Interacting with most financial services providers means interacting with Big Data in one way or another, which can have harmful consequences. Just last month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued a data broker for allegedly selling payday loan applications to marketers, ad agencies, and far more nefarious clients. These loan applications, which included bank account information, Social Security numbers, credit card history, and other forms of personal financial data, belonged mostly to low-income people. The worst part is, the lawsuit offers only a glimpse into the dark side of financial surveillance.

The world of alternative currencies has been portrayed by the media as a sinister realm, defined by privileged access to complex technology for concentrating wealth. But such a picture is incomplete.

It is true that Bitcoin has done little to promote economic justice in any authentically democratic sense. But other currencies have been established for those who either don’t have enough traditional money, can’t access enough, or don’t want to ask for a loan because of privacy or security reasons.

Most importantly, alternative currencies can and are helping communities that have the physical resources for economic activity, yet lack money to facilitate the exchange of goods and services. At the very least, growth in the use of alternative currencies, as competitive or relatively unmonitored economic activity, might pressure governments and banks to be better financial stewards and provide for the basic needs of the public.

Local loyalty: The Brixton Pound

“When people think of Brixton, too many think of gangs, drugs, and riots. We’re trying to turn that notion on its head.”

That’s what Tom Shakhli, the general manager of the Brixton Pound, told me when I visited the team office at Lambeth Town Hall. A storied district in the middle of South London, Brixton is indeed an atypical home for a thriving local currency. As Tom notes, other local currencies in the U.K. are succeeding in suburban neighbourhoods full of “hippies.” By contrast, the 5-year-old Brixton Pound is humming in one of the U.K.’s most diverse and dynamic neighbourhoods, the heart of Black Britain, heavily hit by the recession.

Unlike Bitcoin, the Brixton Pound is a “complementary currency”: It’s not meant to subvert the national currency nor dethrone pounds sterling. Indeed, the Brixton Pound is officially both pegged and backed by pounds sterling at a 1:1 ratio. There is no issuer, per se. Rather, residents can exchange £ for B£ at various shops and public places across the neighbourhood. Because the Brixton Pound organization isn’t making loans, the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority treats the currency as a “voucher scheme,” and thus the team avoids entanglement in the legal morass that plagues small lenders and other financial services providers.

40% of local businesses now accept the Brixton pound. Photo courtesy of Brixton pound

At this stage, the goal of the Brixton Pound isn’t credit or value creation. So why use it? When the Brixton Pound launched, one economist accused the project of “not achieving anything meaningful” and interfering with already-existing existing incentives to buy cheap goods from outside Brixton. Admittedly, the main reason to use the Brixton Pound is precisely because it empowers local businesses and traders in the neighbourhood, 40% of which now accept the currency, Shakhli told me. Since you can only spend Brixton Pounds in Brixton, the currency stays around, at least until it is exchanged, maintaining the vibrancy of the neighbourhood’s world-famous markets and entrepreneurs.

Some government employees receive portions of their salaries in electronic Brixton Pounds.

“We don’t want to be part of Clonetown Britain,” Shakhli and his team of employees and volunteers are fond of saying.

That is, they don’t want people to get off the Underground and run into the same fast-food joints and convenience stores that pop up in most other London neighbourhoods. This is clearly a sentiment shared by many local businesses. In fact, many of them now offer discounts simply for using B£ instead of £. In return, they receive free advertising from the Brixton Pound organization, in addition to other benefits.

One of those perks is that it’s incredibly convenient. In 2011, the Brixton Pound followed the model of several services in sub-Saharan Africa by adopting pay-by-text—Shakhli estimates that 95% of transactions now occur with e-currency via SMS. The businesses pay lower transaction fees for this service than they normally do to debit card and credit card providers. The fees are then collected and pooled in a micro-grant scheme—money that will soon be reinvested in the community.

Without a doubt, the paper version of the Brixton Pound looks amazing: With pictures of locals like black feminist activist Olive Morris, the Miami Heat’s Luol Deng, and David Bowie, it’s the coolest currency I’ve ever seen. But texting is as easy as using a credit card. With lower fees, so many people go for the digital option.

As for security and privacy, the Brixton Pound stacks up fairly well. The paper currency contains similar security features to pounds sterling, which help prevent counterfeiting. Furthermore, when you exchange sterling for Brixton Pounds, the sterling goes into a local credit union, which is not only far more likely to lend to small businesses than a conventional bank, but succeeds at the expense of predatory and invasive payday lenders, which are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in low-income London. On a macro level, as the link between the Brixton Pound and the local credit union is strengthened, it is less likely that the pounds of Brixton residents will be subject to the hazards and punishment that come from dealing with unseemly lenders.

At this stage, the Brixton Pound is working for local economic empowerment. Shakhli says the currency succeeds because it is easily understood. The local government also supports it—indeed, some government employees receive portions of their salaries in electronic Brixton Pounds, and some business pay local taxes with them.

The future of the Brixton Pound may become more complicated: they plan to get their first ATM soon, thus stepping further into the realm of more traditional financial services providers. But, for now at least, Shakhli can confidently say that the Brixton Pound is both helping the neighbourhood and encouraging people to reflect on crucial modern questions:

“What is money, anyway? Where does it come from?”

Creating credit: Koru Kenya

Shakhli’s questions have long revolved in the mind of Will Ruddick, an American physicist who began his career studying high-energy particles but now works for Koru Kenya, a community-development organization headquartered in Mombasa.

Like the Brixton Pound team, Koru Kenya builds currencies that complement sovereign ones (although the organization now runs several “community currencies” in different locations across the country). Yet the scenarios could not be more different. Brixton is an admittedly hard neighbourhood in a massive metro, but in the slums and villages where Ruddick and his Kenyan colleagues work, needs are more basic. As Ruddick put it when I spoke to him, people in Mombasa are not “struggling” in the same sense that they are in U.K. or the U.S.:

“People here are starving.”

Accordingly, Koru Kenya’s currencies do something the Brixton Pound does not: They create credit where there is not enough – interest free.

When Ruddick arrived in Kenya from the United States five years ago, his co-founders introduced him to a world of both waste and opportunity. There were people who could work but weren’t participating in the local economy. There were plenty of goods, but they couldn’t be bought or sold. All for lack of particular pieces of paper and metal.

“If I have forks and you have spoons but we can’t engage in trade just because we don’t have money, I consider this is a human rights violation,” Ruddick asserts.

Shop owners in the Bangladesh neighbourhood accept Bangla-Pesas. Photo courtesy of Bangla-Pesa

That may sound intense to some readers, but this is what happens when a nation’s currency doesn’t reach all of it’s’ people: The public is separated from its own potential for physical abundance by mere lack of legal tender. Ruddick’s training as a physicist leads him to compartmentalize systems, and accordingly he sees lack of credit as a glaring yet solvable inefficiency in the economic machine:

“When you turn one knob, the monetary system, everything changes.”

Ruddick and his colleagues began turning knobs by issuing a new community currency, the Eco-Pesa, into three villages in the Kongowea Location on Mombasa’s north coast. Businesses agreed to trade with the paper currency, and community members could earn extra by taking part in monthly service projects. Every month, people could exchange the vouchers for Kenyan shillings with the Green World Campaign, an anti-poverty environmentalist group.

In 2012, the Koru Kenya team took the concept one step further and issued the Bangla-Pesa in Bangladesh, one of Mombasa’s worst slums. Residents adopted the currency quickly, with many local business groups agreeing to become issuers, handing out the paper from community centres, health clinics, and schools. The network expanded based on trust: All you need to receive Bangla-Pesa free of charge is four guarantors within the network will who vouch for you. Part of your grant is placed in an actual network trust, which is used for administration, marketing, and community programs such as health care for elderly. Then you’re on your way.

In May 2013, the Bangla-Pesa went official. About 200 participating businesses, 75% of them owned by women, received currency grants. The organization’s definition of a “business” is expansive: An individual teacher, sex worker, nurse, or farmer can qualify. This inclusivity has repeatedly borne results. Since the launch, Ruddick estimates that total sales in the neighbourhood of 8,000 have risen by 20%. Considering the financial paralysis of Bangladesh beforehand, this growth is tremendous. Still, some academics and analysts are cautious. The Brookings Institution, for example, wonders if the Bangla-Pesa might weaken linkages to the national economy or drive out “good money.”

For the most part, the national government and the banks haven’t stood in the way of Koru Kenya’s success … except for one small hiccup. On May 29 of 2013, Ruddick and some of his associates were locked in federal prison. Terrorism had struck, and Ruddick was lumped in with a secessionist movement in the resulting national security sweep. He and his associates had to make the case that the Bangla-Pesa was not meant to subvert the state nor destroy the Kenyan shilling. Indeed, the community currency is what Post-Keynesian and Institutionalist economists often refer to as an “automatic stabilizer”: When people can’t get enough shillings, they use Bangla-Pesa, but when the national economy is roaring, they inevitably switch back to using shillings.

Ruddick is adamant that, for now at least, Koru Kenya’s currencies will continue to be pegged to the shilling at a 1:1 ratio. Supporting the strength of this case, hundreds of academics from the community currency movement, friends, and eventually the Kenyan attorney general rallied behind Ruddick and his associates. They were released within a few days and charges were finally dropped in August.

Now, Koru Kenya enjoys more support than ever, and faces few of the regulatory hurdles that often stifle local currency projects in the North Atlantic. Ruddick will soon become a Kenyan citizen like his wife and daughter, and the organization is sharing its experience in implementing community currency programs across the continent, with a specific focus on gender equality and women’s empowerment. The group will soon rebrand as Grassroots Economics, signifying their growth into a full-fledged international foundation. Eventually they’ll go digital, with the localized nature of each currency serving as a buffer against fraud and speculation.

Perhaps more importantly, Ruddick has already talked with other African governments about supporting local currencies. Some officials hope that these currencies will provide a platform to finally tax the “informal sector” (Ruddick estimates anywhere from 50% to 80 % of people living in Africa don’t pay taxes at all). If the local currencies indeed become accepted for national tax purposes, currencies like the Bangla-Pesa will begin to blur the aforementioned line between simple “credit” and state-sponsored “money.”

Ruddick welcomes that prospect. He envisions a network of interlocking local currencies contributing to a more distributed banking system and a more democratic monetary system.

Money is what we make it. We should be asking, ‘What is real value?’” he says.

The implications of the vision are enormous:

“People won’t have to go into debt to the IMF or microfinance if they can just create their own community currencies.”

Demanding dignity: Mazacoin

On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation on the South Dakota-Nebraska border, a small team of developers has been attempting to achieve not only economic growth, but economic self-determination—via the Internet. It’s a plan created out of a desperate situation. According to Oglala Sioux Lakota Housing Director Jim Berg, about 40,000 members of the tribe live on the reservation; 80% are unemployed and 49% live below the poverty line. Furthermore, the tribe has felt the wrath of austerity, facing million-dollar budget cuts from the U.S. federal government, which will worsen housing, education, and health services. It seems that if anyone could benefit from financial innovation in the painful absence of the U.S. dollar, it would be the people of Pine Ridge.

Fortunately, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 with the U.S. federal government says nothing about the tribe relinquishing its right to maintain a currency. The Oglala Sioux can thus attempt to go beyond a complementary currency—like the ones in Brixton and Mombasa—and create a limited sovereign currency, to eventually substitute for the dollar.

It’s easier said than done.

When Payu Harris, himself of Cheyenne-Lakota heritage, started Mazacoin a year ago, it was marketed as a cure-all. At the peak of popularity, Harris told Forbes magazine that the crypto-currency could become the “new buffalo,” the foundation of a new economy. Within weeks, Mazacoin was all over the financial press. Although perhaps well-intentioned, the media attention backfired. Investors on online coin exchanges flocked at first, and then left when it became apparent that the currency didn’t have quite the backing from the tribal government that some thought it did. As a result, some crypto-currency investors considered—and still consider—Mazacoin to be a scam. From the perspective of the team that’s building the currency, however, things have cooled down, and they are preparing for a slower, less precarious hike.

Some of the volatility is to be expected. Operationally, Mazacoin works very differently from the Brixton Pound or the Bangla-Pesa. It is neither backed by the U.S. dollar nor pegged to it. There is no central issuer. Instead, Mazacoin is based on the software behind Bitcoin. Even though it is ostensibly used for different purposes, the currencies bear many technical similarities. As the website states, “at its core, Mazacoin is a software program that anyone can run on their PC or Android device, and some rules for computers to communicate.”

People send Mazacoins to each other’s (often encrypted) electronic “wallets.” To do so, all you need to know is the recipient’s address, unlimited numbers of which are generated freely with the click of a button. The addresses aren’t available unless they are shared by the recipient, and users are encouraged to use a new address each time they want to receive Mazacoins. This process purportedly maintains privacy and security without the need for a bank, a feature that is important to the Mazacoin team, just like it is paramount to other crypto-currency organizations.

As opposed to the more centralized monetary policy of the Bangla-Pesa, which essentially bases supply on real labour, Mazacoin uses the “mining” protocol of Bitcoin. Some users equip their computers to solve codes that are necessary for the upkeep of Mazacoin’s digital ledger and payment system. When the computers solve the codes, the users—or “miners”—are rewarded with Mazacoins for their service. They can then spend Mazacoins into the economy.

Unlike Bitcoin, however, Payu and his team have “pre-mined” 20 million coins to be held in a trust by the future Mazacoin Development Foundation, on behalf of the Oglala Sioux tribe. The trust is essentially a digital sovereign wealth fund, the value of which will be determined by the future performance of Mazacoin on the reservation, with neighbouring retailers, and in investment on the crypto-currency markets. Additionally, the coins in the trust can be used for price stabilization and distribution. The legal details of the trust are a bit murky; it is unclear how the coins would be allocated and how much of a share the Mazacoin development team might get.

Although Mazacoin isn’t worth much now, the founder’s hopes spring eternal. Perhaps most importantly, if Mazacoin ever does take off, the funds in the trust might be exempt from U.S. taxation. If retailers that now accept Bitcoin, like Overstock.com and Dell, ever accept Mazacoin, buyers could pay a lower tax rate to the Oglala Sioux than they would to the U.S. government. Although U.S. regulators would likely wade in with respect to nontribal transactions, there is potentially enormous upside.

This is all quite complicated. On a fundamental level, a digital crypto-currency isn’t as easy to comprehend as a paper voucher. For better or worse, many people on the reservation, including tribal officials, are understandably hesitant to embrace the idea. A Mashable documentary from last fall depicts some of the tension between Harris and residents on the reservation. Although the permission to create the currency doesn’t seem to be an issue, trust is, and in addition to the confidence of the public, Harris and his team need legal recognition from the tribal government if Mazacoin is indeed to take on aspects of a sovereign currency. Recently, however, Harris has indicated that he is working closely and productively with tribal officials.

Regardless of whether Mazacoin succeeds in its ostensible goal to become the crux of a new economy for Pine Ridge, or merely becomes a source of speculation and individual profit-seeking, it’s difficult not to see economic self-determination as a worthy goal. The reservation is in a perpetual depression. That it should have the ability to create financial wealth for its own people, especially when the United States isn’t exactly flooding the badlands with greenbacks, seems a tenet of fundamental justice.

Innovation vs. inequality

In their own different ways, The Brixton Pound, Koru Kenya, and Mazacoin are all attempting to achieve a common goal: empowering people in a monetarily unequal world, from the bottom up. In an age when governments and banks aren’t always the best stewards of communities’ financial growth, security, or privacy, people deserve the ability to provide for themselves. Collaborative innovations around the world, especially within impoverished communities of color, show reasons for cautious optimism. Most alternative currency projects are not indexed to murder and mayhem.

Alternative currencies have limited scope. Because they’re not issued by powerful governments, their abilities are inherently narrowed. Perhaps, in an ideal world, through either regulation or direct provisioning, sovereign governments and their agents would guarantee their people enough money to live apart from financial predators, support their own neighborhoods, participate in commerce, and maintain basic dignity.

But meanwhile, some brave people are pointing new ways forward and creating pressure from below. There will always be mistakes and mishaps. There will always be greedy pirates. But there are also people trying to create new treasure and put it in the hands of those who don’t have enough.


Related Topics:

Insulted By Big Bank Control, the Lakota Nation Create its own Currency*

By Design!? Bitcoin has Crashed*

Cashless Society: Use Credit Cards at Your Peril*

Replace the Gospel of Money*

BRICS Announce $100 Billion Reserve Bypassing Privately Controlled Central Banks*

Defying the US with the China-Led Development Bank*

Vermont Towns Vote to Start a Public Bank that Works for Them*

132 Nations Want Out of the Cabal’s Global Banking System*

One Public Bank’s Success Story Outperforms Goldman Sachs*

People Doing Time, Banks Doing Fine*

Canadians Sued the Bank Of Canada & Won*

The Federal Reserve Foreclosure

And One Ring to Bind Them All*

The Living Bridge of Bangladesh

The Living Bridge of Bangladesh

From Alexandra Bruce

In the northeast of India, the roots of fig trees have been trained for centuries to stop erosion from the flash floods of the Monsoon season. At the base of India’s Meghalaya Plateau, the Khasi tribe have created bridges across the area’s rivers using living tree roots and branches. They have trained the roots and branches of banyan trees to create living bridges spanning the rivers that separate their villages.

The living bridges, which keep growing stronger by the day, take ten to fifteen years to become fully functional. After they have been fully formed, their life span is estimated at five to six hundred years – much longer than a conventional bridge.

Related Topics:

The Earth Recycles Too!

300 Year Old Vietnamese Forest Food System

A River Runs Through Us

Kenya: Rights Of Mother Earth – Maasai Response

Honduras: Paradise in Peril

Philippines: Indigenous Forestry Recognized