HSBC chief warns against banking reforms; Iraq and the march of the militants; Doodling and you

1 HSBC chief warns against banking reforms (Jill Treanor in The Guardian) The chairman of HSBC has warned that fear of hefty fines was forcing banks to become risk averse as they grapple with unprecedented regulatory reforms in the wake of the financial crisis. As Britain’s biggest bank revealed it was putting aside $367m to cover compensation for mistakes in loan statements to UK customers, Douglas Flint said there was an “observable and growing danger of disproportionate risk aversion”.

He warned of “growing fatigue” in some of the bank’s operations, where staff were having to work at weekends to implement systems changes. One concern was that “there are only 52 weekends in a year”. He made his remarks as the bank, which makes two-thirds of its profits in Asia, reported a 12% fall in first-half profits to $12.3bn.

It also published 10 pages of warnings about the litigation and regulatory fines it could face on an array of matters ranging from the collapse of the Madoff empire to the fixing of prices in currencies and gold and silver. Some of these fines could be “significant”, the bank added.

The bank employs 256,000 people around the world, down from the 300,000 employed three years ago when Stuart Gulliver, – whose motto is “courageous integrity ” – took over as chief executive. Two years ago the bank was fined £1.2bn by the US for breaching US sanctions and allowing Mexican drug lords to launder money through the financial system, making it subject to tougher scrutiny from US authorities.

Flint said the increased focus on conduct and financial crisis was the right response to problems in the past. “There is, however, an observable and growing danger of disproportionate risk aversion creeping into decision-making in our businesses as individuals, facing uncertainty as to what may be criticised with hindsight and perceiving a zero-tolerance of error, seek to protect themselves and the firm from future censure.”

2 Iraq and the march of the militants (Khaleej Times) The militants of the so-called ‘Islamic State’, who have established a self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq, are registering new tales of horror and bloodbath. The United Nations now says more than 200,000 people are on the move as the insurgents comb down with vengeance.

The militants’ offensive since June has led to the killing of thousands of people, as the United States-trained Iraqi army melted away. The Kurdish regions are also under the ‘Islamic State’ onslaught, which has opened a Pandora’s box of its own. The Iraqi Kurds are now busy canvassing for a separate homeland, whereas the central government in Baghdad finds itself handicapped to deal with the mushrooming internal threat factor.

The Gaza offensive, inadvertently, had pushed the crisis in Iraq on the backburner, and now is the time to address the fissures in the Middle East in a holistic manner. Iraq needs international attention on two counts: One, to buoy the government in Baghdad to fight the intruding militants and help it secure its geopolitical sovereignty.

Second, the war-weary country should be insulated from external interferences by rebuilding its national army on a war-footing basis. Last but not the least is the unfinished agenda of reforming the apparatus of governance in Iraq by doing away with its sectarian clout.

3 Doodling and you (Sue Shellenbarger in The Wall Street Journal) Long dismissed as a waste of time, doodling is getting new respect. Recent research in neuroscience, psychology and design shows that doodling can help people stay focused, grasp new concepts and retain information. A blank page also can serve as an extended playing field for the brain, allowing people to revise and improve on creative thoughts and ideas.

Doodles are spontaneous marks that can take many forms, from abstract patterns or designs to images of objects, landscapes, people or faces. Some people doodle by retracing words or letters, but doodling doesn’t include note-taking.

Doodling in meetings and lectures helps ease tension for Samantha Wilson, a high-school teacher from Southborough, Mass. Drawing squiggly patterns that are “very vegetal, scrolling and organic,” with shaded blocks and spirals in red and blue pen on paper, also allays boredom, she says. Scientists in the past thought doodles provided a window into the doodler’s psyche, but the idea isn’t supported by research, says a 2011 study in The Lancet, a medical journal.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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