Posted by greydogg, 99GetSmart
* EVERYTHING IS RIGGED: THE BIGGEST PRICE-FIXING SCANDAL EVER
By Matt Taibbi
The Illuminati were amateurs. The second huge financial scandal of the year reveals the real international conspiracy: There’s no price the big banks can’t fix
Conspiracy theorists of the world, believers in the hidden hands of the Rothschilds and the Masons and the Illuminati, we skeptics owe you an apology. You were right. The players may be a little different, but your basic premise is correct: The world is a rigged game. We found this out in recent months, when a series of related corruption stories spilled out of the financial sector, suggesting the world’s largest banks may be fixing the prices of, well, just about everything.
You may have heard of the Libor scandal, in which at least three – and perhaps as many as 16 – of the name-brand too-big-to-fail banks have been manipulating global interest rates, in the process messing around with the prices of upward of $500 trillion (that’s trillion, with a “t”) worth of financial instruments. When that sprawling con burst into public view last year, it was easily the biggest financial scandal in history – MIT professor Andrew Lo even said it “dwarfs by orders of magnitude any financial scam in the history of markets.”
That was bad enough, but now Libor may have a twin brother. Word has leaked out that the London-based firm ICAP, the world’s largest broker of interest-rate swaps, is being investigated by American authorities for behavior that sounds eerily reminiscent of the Libor mess. Regulators are looking into whether or not a small group of brokers at ICAP may have worked with up to 15 of the world’s largest banks to manipulate ISDAfix, a benchmark number used around the world to calculate the prices of interest-rate swaps.
Interest-rate swaps are a tool used by big cities, major corporations and sovereign governments to manage their debt, and the scale of their use is almost unimaginably massive. It’s about a $379 trillion market, meaning that any manipulation would affect a pile of assets about 100 times the size of the United States federal budget.
It should surprise no one that among the players implicated in this scheme to fix the prices of interest-rate swaps are the same megabanks – including Barclays, UBS, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and the Royal Bank of Scotland – that serve on the Libor panel that sets global interest rates. In fact, in recent years many of these banks have already paid multimillion-dollar settlements for anti-competitive manipulation of one form or another (in addition to Libor, some were caught up in an anti-competitive scheme, detailed in Rolling Stone last year, to rig municipal-debt service auctions). Though the jumble of financial acronyms sounds like gibberish to the layperson, the fact that there may now be price-fixing scandals involving both Libor and ISDAfix suggests a single, giant mushrooming conspiracy of collusion and price-fixing hovering under the ostensibly competitive veneer of Wall Street culture. […]
* POP QUIZ: HOW BIG IS THE BAILOUT OF CYPRUS
By Antonis Polemitis and Andreas Kitsios
Most publications talk about the 10B or 17B Cyprus bailout. Let’s take a pop quiz on the right answer:
(a) 17 B Euros (89% of GDP)
(b) 10B Euros (52% of GDP)
(c) 2.5B Euros (13% of GDP)
(d) -3.0B Euros (-15% of GDP)
(e) -7.5B Euros (-39% of GDP)
Now let’s work through the answers, in steps:
(a) The 17B figure was calculated assuming the bailout would provide 7B for the banks. The final number provided not a single Euro for the banks who were asked, against the approach taken in the last 147 banking crises worldwide tracked by the IMF, to find the whole 7B out of their depositor base. So, part (a) is wrong
(b) The remaining 10B is described as a bailout of the government. Of this 10B however, 7.5B is being used to refinance maturing debt.
This debt, I would guess, is mostly at this point beneficially held by ECB. This is just an assumption, but we know that 75% of it was held domestically, largely by the banks. This was probably the first collateral pledged by the banks via the ELA, so ultimately if the Central Bank and the government default it will ultimately fall on the ECB’s balance sheet. The 25% is probably traded internationally and, again outside of Cyprus hands.
So, the 7.5B is being lent to Cyprus in order to be paid right back to Europe. That is not charity, that is ‘hiding their embarrassing losses until later when someone else is in office’. If moral hazard requires clueless Cypriot retail depositors to pay for their banks’ decision to lend to the insolvent Greek government, then presumably it also applies to the financial wizards at ECB that lent to the insolvent Laiki, despite having full access to their financial information.
That leaves 2.5B of fresh financing for the government which I will concede is new money, though until we see the Memorandum and the terms under which we receive this money, I am not too excited about it. Cyprus could raise this amount domestically so long as it did not have to do it overnight (which it does not – it is to fund deficits over the next few years). […]
* HUNDREDS OF LOCAL NAMES IN OFFSHORE LEAKS
By Alan Hope, FlandersToday
Antwerp diamond dealers “among most prominent” users of tax havens
The Belgian tax authorities will investigate the cases of any nationals named in the so-called Offshore Leaks – a major journalistic investigation of leaked files dealing with offshore companies and tax havens. Last week an international consortium of 86 magazines and newspapers, including Belgium’s Le Soir, revealed some of the names of approximately 130,000 wealthy individuals and companies accused of using offshore corporations to avoid up to €25 trillion in tax in their 170 respective countries.
No specific names were revealed by Le Soir journalist Alain Lallemand, but there were “hundreds” of Belgians involved, he said. He has been in touch with some of those whose names appear in the documents, and they have admitted involvement. “I think Antwerp diamond traders are among the most prominent names,” on the list, he said.
Belgium has a shield law protecting journalists’ sources, so the Offshore documents are only being handed over to authorities voluntarily. According to Kristof Spagnoli of the law office Eubelius, the fact that the data have been manipulated by the journalists handling the documents could make them useless if it came to a prosecution. […]
* GREEK GOVERNMENT TO LAUNCH LEGAL BATTLE FOR REPARATIONS FROM GERMANY
Greece has officially declared it will seek reparations from Germany dating back to the Nazi occupation during World War II, which could amount to over €100 billion, likely putting further strain on relations between the two Eurozone countries.
“We will exhaust every means available to arrive at a settlement,” Greek Foreign Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos told parliament in Athens on Wednesday. “One can’t compare the times, but also one cannot erase the memories.”
A Greek Finance Ministry report leaked to local media earlier this month showed that Greece believes that Berlin owes it €162 billion – €108 billion for infrastructure damage during the occupation between 1941 and the end of the war, and €54 billion as compensation for an interest-free loan Germany took from the country to support its war effort.
If paid in full, the sum would nearly empty the national currency and gold reserves of Germany (€185 billion as of last month), though this would still not be enough to cover Greece’s national debt (over €350 billion).
Demands for such a reparation scheme have been voiced intermittently by Greek politicians over the past 60 years, but have gained renewed energy amid the recent financial crisis, in which the country has been subjected to tough austerity measures in exchange for largely German-backed loans.
The latest campaign is driven by radical Socialist opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, and is supported by 4 out of 5 Greeks, according to polls.
It remains unlikely that Germany will part with the money voluntarily. […]
* GREECE IS TRYING TO KILL ITS BIGGEST ANTI-GOVERNMENT WEBSITE AND RADIO STATIONS
By Yiannis Baboulias, Motherboard
The Athens branch of Indymedia, an independent open network of journalists who report on political and social issues, was shut down last Thursday. Before its plug was pulled, the site was used for such principled purposes as reporting on cases of police brutality and exposing underground dealings between the Greek police force and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. If you’ve somehow managed not to come across it before, it’s a kind of localised WikiLeaks, only without that tricky stigma that comes with rape allegations and overstaying your welcome at South American embassies.
You might also remember the case of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, whose death in 2008 at the hands of a Greek police officer spurred the riots that plunged Athens into apocalyptic tumult for almost a month. Indymedia helped to uncover the details of that shooting and played a large part in helping demonstrators mobilise and communicate in the riots that followed.
So it would be fair to assume, based on those facts, that neither Greece’s head of police, nor his bosses in the government were particularly enamoured by the website or the results its stories prompted.
Hours after the site went offline, a tweet from Adonis Georgiadis, an MP for the ruling New Democracy party, confirmed the suspicions many activists had already voiced online: that the government – specifically, MP Nikos Dendias – had decided it was time to silence the website that had been causing them all of this trouble. […]
* CHILD HUNGER IS EXPLODING IN GREECE – AND 14 SIGNS THAT IT IS STARTING TO HAPPEN IN AMERICA TOO
By Michael, TheEconomicCollapse
The world is heading into a horrific economic nightmare, and an inordinate amount of the suffering is going to fall on innocent children. If you want to get an idea of what America is going to look like in the not too distant future, just check out what is happening in Greece. At this point, Greece is experiencing a full-blown economic depression. As I have written about previously, the unemployment rate in Greece has now risen to 27 percent, which is much higher than the peak unemployment rate that the U.S. economy experienced during the Great Depression of the 1930s. And as you will read about below, child hunger is absolutely exploding in Greece right now. Some families are literally trying to survive on pasta and ketchup. But don’t think for a moment that it can’t happen here. Sadly, the truth is that child hunger is already rising very rapidly in our poverty-stricken cities. Never before have we had so many Americans unable to take care of themselves. Food stamp enrollment and child homelessness have soared to brand new all-time records, and there are actually thousands of Americans that are so poor that they live in tunnels underneath our cities. But for millions of other Americans, the suffering is not quite so dramatic. Instead, they just watch their hopes and their dreams slowly slip away as they struggle to find a way to make it from month to month. There are millions of parents that lead lives that are filled with constant stress and anxiety as they try to figure out how to provide the basics for their children. How do you tell a child that you can’t give them any dinner even though you have been trying as hard as you can? What many families go through on a regular basis is absolutely heartbreaking. Unfortunately, more poor families slip through the cracks with each passing day, and these are supposedly times in which we are experiencing an “economic recovery”. So what are things going to look like when the next major economic downturn strikes?
A recent New York Times article detailed the horrifying child hunger that we are witnessing in Greece right now. At some schools there are reports of children actually begging for food from their classmates…
As an elementary school principal, Leonidas Nikas is used to seeing children play, laugh and dream about the future. But recently he has seen something altogether different, something he thought was impossible in Greece: children picking through school trash cans for food; needy youngsters asking playmates for leftovers; and an 11-year-old boy, Pantelis Petrakis, bent over with hunger pains.
“He had eaten almost nothing at home,” Mr. Nikas said, sitting in his cramped school office near the port of Piraeus, a working-class suburb of Athens, as the sound of a jump rope skittered across the playground. He confronted Pantelis’s parents, who were ashamed and embarrassed but admitted that they had not been able to find work for months. Their savings were gone, and they were living on rations of pasta and ketchup.
Could you imagine that happening to your children or your grandchildren?
Don’t think that it can’t happen. Just a few years ago the Greek middle class was vibrant and thriving.
#1 Today, approximately 17 million children in the United States are facing food insecurity. In other words, that means that “one in four children in the country is living without consistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life.”
#2 We are told that we live in the “wealthiest nation” on the planet, and yet more than one out of every four children in the United States is enrolled in the food stamp program.
#3 The average food stamp benefit breaks down to approximately $4 per person per day.
#4 It is being projected that approximately 50 percent of all U.S. children will be on food stamps before they reach the age of 18.
#5 It may be hard to believe, but approximately 57 percent of all children in the United States are currently living in homes that are either considered to be either “low income” or impoverished.
#6 The number of children living on $2.00 a day or less in the United States has grown to 2.8 million. That number has increased by 130 percent since 1996.
#7 According to Feeding America, “households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 20.6 percent compared to 12.2 percent”.
#8 According to a Feeding America hunger study, more than 37 million Americans are now being served by food pantries and soup kitchens.
#10 Approximately 20 million U.S. children rely on school meal programs to keep from going hungry.
#11 One university study estimates that child poverty costs the U.S. economy 500 billion dollars each year.
#12 In Miami, 45 percent of all children are living in poverty.
#13 In Cleveland, more than 50 percent of all children are living in poverty.
#14 According to a recently released report, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty. […]
* AMERICA THE FALLEN: 24 SIGNS THAT OUR ONCE PROUD CITIES ARE TURNING INTO POVERTY-STRICKEN HELLHOLES
By Tyler Durden, zerohedge
What is happening to you America? Once upon a time, the United States was a place where free enterprise thrived and the greatest cities that the world had ever seen sprouted up from coast to coast. Good jobs were plentiful and a manufacturing boom helped fuel the rise of the largest and most vibrant middle class in the history of the planet. Cities such as Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Baltimore were all teeming with economic activity and the rest of the globe looked on our economic miracle with a mixture of wonder and envy. But now look at us. Our once proud cities are being transformed into poverty-stricken hellholes.
Did you know that the city of Detroit once actually had the highest per-capita income in the United States? Looking at Detroit today, it is hard to imagine that it was once one of the most prosperous cities in the world. In fact, as you will read about later in this article, tourists now travel to Detroit from all over the globe just to see the ruins of Detroit. Sadly, the exact same thing that is happening to Detroit is happening to cities all over America. Detroit is just ahead of the curve.
We are in the midst of a long-term economic collapse that is eating away at us like cancer, and things are going to get a lot worse than this. So if you still live in a prosperous area of the country, don’t laugh at what is happening to others. What is happening to them will be coming to your area soon enough.
The following are 24 signs that our once proud cities are turning into poverty-stricken hellholes…
* LISA GRAVES UPDATES US ON ALEC
By Theresa Riley, Moyers & Company
Last fall, Moyers & Company aired the United States of ALEC, a report on the most influential corporate-funded political force most of America has never heard of — ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. In statehouses around the country, hundreds of pieces of boilerplate ALEC legislation are proposed or enacted that would, among other things, dilute collective bargaining rights, make it harder for some Americans to vote, and limit corporate liability for harm caused to consumers — each accomplished without the public ever knowing who’s behind it.
The response from viewers has been amazing. We’ve received updates to our interactive map naming local legislators who are affiliated with ALEC, as well as hundreds of comments and emails about the revelations contained in the report. Lisa Graves, the executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), one of the watchdog organizations keeping tabs on ALEC, recently visited our offices and updated us on what ALEC’s been up to lately.
Riley: On the PR Watch website last week, I saw that ALEC may be about to undergo a makeover, starting with its name. What happened?
Lisa Graves: ALEC is urging its members to no longer use the acronym. In a note to ALEC legislators and private sector members, ALEC’s spokesman said: “You may have noticed we are limiting the use of the acronym ‘ALEC.’ Over the past year, the word ‘ALEC’ has been used to conjure up images of a distant, mysterious, Washington alphabet organization of unknown intentions,” which he says could not be further from the truth, adding that “the organization has refocused on the words ‘Exchange’ and ‘Council’ to emphasize our goal of a broad exchange of ideas to make government work better and more efficiently.” This re-branding is a classic PR technique. Big Tobacco used it to try to distance some of its brands with negative consumer users.
This latest PR manuever underscores the success of ALECexposed.org, the investigation that we at CMD launched two years ago, to make more Americans aware of ALEC’s extreme agenda. This rebranding news comes from open records requests that CMD has been pursuing with Common Cause, to try to uncloak ALEC communications with public officials. […]
* CISPA – CORPORATIONS BUY POLITICIANS AND YOUR PRIVACY
Source: The Young Turks
“Activists and Internet users protesting the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act — a cybersecurity bill that passed the House of Representatives Thursday — have spun the battle as big business interests versus the privacy of individual citizens. If lobbying dollars are anything to go by, they’re right: Pro-CISPA businesses and interests have spent 140 times more money on lobbying than anti-CISPA interests, according to the Sunlight Foundation.”
CISPA passed overwhelmingly in the house, despite its promise to allow corporations and the government access to your private data, completely unchecked. It’s no wonder after seeing how much money was poured into lobbying for the invasive bill, and who stands to profit. Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian break it down with Kim Horcher
* 2012 ANNUAL REPORT OF THE RACIST VIOLENCE RECORDING NETWORK
Source: Greek Left Reviews
The present report consists of two parts: First, the quantitative and qualitative findings of recording incidents of racist violence, through interviewing victims, by organizations participating in the Racist Violence Recording Network during 2012; and, second the Network’s positions on state responses and initiatives to combat racist crimes, including the adoption or amendment of relevant legislation or initiatives to do so.
During the period January-December 2012, the Racist Violence Recording Network documented, through interviews with victims, 154 incidents of racist violence, of which 151 were committed against refugees and migrants and 3 against European citizens (1 Romanian, 1 Bulgarian and 1 Greek).
Location of incidents: 107 incidents occurred within the geographical area of the Municipality of Athens, and particularly in areas of the city centre, such as Aghios Panteleimonas, Attica Square, America Square and other areas around Omonia Square, while 23 incidents were recorded in the broader area of Attica prefecture. Moreover, 13 incidents occurred in Patras, 3 in Corinth, while 3 incidents recorded in Igoumenitsa and Evros have occurred in detention centers. Finally, incidents have also taken place in Rhodes, Chios, Konitsa and Nea Manolada Ilias.
The majority of incidents occurred in public places, while 6 were more particularly recorded on public transport. There are also 7 incidents which occurred in detention facilities (police stations and detention centers) and 16 were perpetrated in private places such as migrants’ houses, shops and places used as lodges.
Characteristics of the attacks: The majority of incidents concern physical attacks against foreigners, while the types of crimes are mainly severe body injuries (in 66 cases) and assaults (in 76 cases). Threats against foreigners have also been reported as well as cases of verbal abuse and property damage. It is worth noting that at least 22 incidents combine property damage and assault against a person (or persons), as shows the case involving the arson of a barber’s shop owned by a Pakistani national near the area of Metamorfosi. Most incidents occurred at night or in the early morning hours.
The Racist Violence Recording Network registered a homicide case in 2012, following communication with the victim’s family; the victim was a 31 year-old Egyptian citizen who died after 17 days in coma after being savagely beaten. This incident, like the atrocious murder of a 19 year-old Iraqi boy at the center of Athens in August 2012 and that of a 26 year-old Pakistani male who was fatally attacked by two people on a motorcycle near the area of Petralona at the beginning of 2013, constitute a dramatic reminder that violent attacks with racist motives are not merely a continuous phenomenon, but one the degree of violence of which is frighteningly increasing within the Greek society.
The victims: The victims who approached the members of the Network and reported the incidents, consisted of 149 men (average age 27 years old) and 5 women (average age 24,6 years old), mainly from Afghanistan (47), Pakistan (13), Algeria (12), Bangladesh (12), Egypt (10) Morocco (7), Somalia (6), Soudan (6), Guinea (6), Tunisia (5) and Iraq (4). Nationalities of victims also include Iran, Mauritania, Syria, Eritrea, Congo, Senegal, Palestine, Comoros, the Ivory Coast, Albania, Georgia, Gambia and Ghana. In addition, the Network recorded 3 European citizens: 1 Romanian, 1 Bulgarian and 1 Greek who was victim of homophobic attack.
As regards the legal status of the victims, except those who have the nationality of an EU Member State, 44 were asylum seekers, 4 were recognized refugees, 15 were holders of residence permits and 79 held no legal documents or were under deportation order (in 8 cases the victim’s status was unknown).
In the vast majority of cases, the victims consider the fact that their characteristic as foreigners is the reason for the attack; they believe that they were targeted because either of their skin color or of any other characteristic revealing the fact they were not natives (the majority of migrant victims were Muslims). It is worth noting that 2 out of 5 female victims believe they were attacked because they were wearing the hijab.
Also, in most cases, the victims themselves were able to identify the motive of the attack, since the attacks followed a question or a comment about the origin of the victims and were accompanied by verbal insults and threats against the foreigners. In many other instances (in particular cases where the victims were present in the country only for a short period of time and were unaware of racist violence incidents), the racist motive of the attack was clearly expressed to them by the perpetrators when victims requested on the reason of the attack.
Finally, the Racist Violence Recording Network recorded for the first time an attack where the motive was related to the sexual orientation of the victim. This record should not lead to the conclusion that there were no such attacks in recent years, but it is linked to the mobilization and participation of LGBT organisations in the Network only recently, and their active follow-up of relevant attacks.
The perpetrators: The perpetrators in the recorded attacks were men, with the exception of 8 incidents where the perpetrators acted as a group in which the participation of women has also been recorded. At least in those cases where victims could assess the age of the perpetrators, the average age was 27 years old and they were in the vast majority Greek citizens. Incidents where the perpetrators belonged to different ethnic groups have also been recorded (i.e. attack at the centre of Athens in which ethnic Albanian immigrants participated). In only 6 out of 154 incidents the perpetrator acted alone.
According to the victims’ testimonies, in 91 cases, the perpetrators are believed to belong to extremist group. This fact also emerges from the qualitative elements recorded concerning the attacks: in these instances, the perpetrators are believed to act in an organized manner and in groups, moving either by motorcycle or on foot, often being accompanied by aggressive dogs. They are dressed in black and at times with military trousers, wearing helmets or having their faces covered. In similar attacks the participation of minors is also recorded. Most incidents occurred after sunset or in the early morning hours. Motorcycle or foot “patrols” by people dressed in black are described as the most common practice; they act as self-proclaimed vigilante groups who attack refugees and migrants in the streets, squares or public transportation stops.
The victims speak of areas in Athens which have become inaccessible to them due to the fear of being attacked. In at least 8 cases, the victims or witnesses to the attacks reported that they recognized persons associated to Golden Dawn among the perpetrators, because either they wore the insignia of the organization, or they were seen participating in public events of the organization in the area, or they were known as associated with the local branch of the organization. […]
* THE HIJACKING OF HUMAN RIGHTS
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig
The appointment of Suzanne Nossel, a former State Department official and longtime government apparatchik, as executive director of PEN American Center is part of a campaign to turn U.S. human rights organizations into propagandists for pre-emptive war and apologists for empire. Nossel’s appointment led me to resign from PEN as well as withdraw from speaking at the PEN World Voices Festival in May. But Nossel is only symptomatic of the widespread hijacking of human rights organizations to demonize those—especially Muslims—branded by the state as the enemy, in order to cloak pre-emptive war and empire with a fictional virtue and to effectively divert attention from our own mounting human rights abuses, including torture, warrantless wiretapping and monitoring, the denial of due process and extrajudicial assassinations.
Nossel, who was deputy assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs under Hillary Clinton in a State Department that was little more than a subsidiary of the Pentagon, is part of the new wave of “humanitarian interventionists,” such as Samantha Power, Michael Ignatieff and Susan Rice, who naively see in the U.S. military a vehicle to create a better world. They know little of the reality of war or the actual inner workings of empire. They harbor a childish belief in the innate goodness and ultimate beneficence of American power. The deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents, the horrendous suffering and violent terror inflicted in the name of their utopian goals in Iraq and Afghanistan, barely register on their moral calculus. This makes them at once oblivious and dangerous. “Innocence is a kind of insanity,” Graham Greene wrote in his novel “The Quiet American,” and those who destroy to build are “impregnably armored by … good intentions and … ignorance.”
There are no good wars. There are no just wars. As Erasmus wrote, “there is nothing more wicked, more disastrous, more widely destructive, more deeply tenacious, more loathsome” than war. “Whoever heard of a hundred thousand animals rushing together to butcher each other, as men do everywhere?” Erasmus asked. But war, he knew, was very useful to the power elite. War permitted the powerful, in the name of national security and by fostering a culture of fear, to effortlessly strip the citizen of his or her rights. A declaration of war ensures that “all the affairs of the State are at the mercy of the appetites of a few,” Erasmus wrote. […]