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Tuesday, 19 February 2013
real estate company Reyal Urbis filed for insolvency after failing to renegotiate debt with its creditors.
Spain's property market crash claimed another victim on Tuesday, as real estate company Reyal Urbis filed for insolvency after failing to renegotiate debt with its creditors.
The move takes the property developer, which had 3.6 billion euros ($4.8 billion) of debt at the end of September, closer to becoming Spain's second-largest bankruptcy after Martinsa Fadesa, which defaulted on 7 billion euros of debt in 2008.
Dozens of property companies have collapsed in Spain, where house prices have fallen around 40 percent since their 2007 peak. With the country locked in a deep recession, analysts expect prices to fall further still.
Spain's banks were crippled by the property market bust, eventually requiring the state to agree a European bailout for its lenders of almost 40 billion euros last year. Indebted property firms have asked banks for debt relief but patience is wearing thin among lenders saddled with soured property assets.
Reyal Urbis is 70 percent owned by construction magnate Rafael Santamaria and its creditors include Santander, BBVA, Bankia and Banco Popular.
The company, which valued its property portfolio at 4.2 billion euros in June 2012, said it would continue to operate as permitted by Spanish insolvency laws.
Its insolvency petition now goes to court and its fate will be in the hands of a judge.
Reyal Urbis said Santamaria would remain at the helm of the company and he still hoped Reyal Urbis could reach a deal with its creditors, given "the good will of all negotiating parties".
The company had until Feb. 23 to reach a debt restructuring deal with the banks or file for insolvency. Sources close to the matter told Reuters on Friday that creditors had rejected the company's 3.6-billion-euro proposal.
Trading in the company's shares was suspended on Tuesday, Spain's stock market regulator said. The stock had plunged 99 percent since June 2007 to close at 0.124 euros on Monday.
At the end of 2011, Reyal Urbis owned some 888 finished homes in a country where over a million homes lie empty. The company also had 8 million square metres of land for development and 237,000 square metres of commercial property, including offices, shopping centres, industrial property and hotels.
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
A British grandmother has been sentenced to death by firing squad for smuggling almost 5kg of cocaine into Bali.
Lindsay Sandiford was arrested in May last year after she tried to enter the Indonesian holiday island with illegal drugs worth £1.6 million hidden in her suitcase.
Local prosecutors had called for the 56-year-old housewife to be jailed for 15 years. But today there were gasps in the Bali courtroom when a panel of judges announced Ms Sandiford would be executed for drug trafficking.
As the shock verdict was announced, Ms Sandiford, from Gloucestershire, slumped back in her chair in tears before hiding her face with a brown sarong as she was led out of the courtroom.
Sunday, 16 December 2012
Monday, 10 December 2012
Emotional eating is when people use food as a way to deal with feelings instead of to satisfy hunger. We've all been there, finishing a whole bag of chips out of boredom or downing cookie after cookie while cramming for a big test. But when done a lot — especially without realizing it — emotional eating can affect weight, health, and overall well-being.
Not many of us make the connection between eating and our feelings. But understanding what drives emotional eating can help people take steps to change it.
One of the biggest myths about emotional eating is that it's prompted by negative feelings. Yes, people often turn to food when they're stressed out, lonely, sad, anxious, or bored. But emotional eating can be linked to positive feelings too, like the romance of sharing dessert on Valentine's Day or the celebration of a holiday feast.
Sometimes emotional eating is tied to major life events, like a death or a divorce. More often, though, it's the countless little daily stresses that cause someone to seek comfort or distraction in food.
Emotional eating patterns can be learned: A child who is given candy after a big achievement may grow up using candy as a reward for a job well done. A kid who is given cookies as a way to stop crying may learn to link cookies with comfort.
It's not easy to "unlearn" patterns of emotional eating. But it is possible. And it starts with an awareness of what's going on.
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
You may be lost in the addiction to busyness if…
- Your usual response to “how are you?” is “so busy”, “crazy busy” or “busy but good”
- You spend time worrying about how busy you are going to be tomorrow
- You get angry when your spouse or friends aren’t as busy as you
- Your busy life keeps you up at night thinking about everything you didn’t get done
- You make a point of letting people know that you stay at the office after hours
- You check email several times a day
- You zone out during conversations thinking about everything you have to do
- You volunteer for things you don’t care about
- You spend time complaining about how busy you are
- You make list after list to make sure you don’t forget anything during your busy day
- You allocate time each day to clean your desk or organize your stuff
- You regularly eat in your car
- You use a phone in the car because “it’s the only time you have to talk”
Tuesday, 7 August 2012
A former Lloyds Bank worker in charge of online security has admitted carrying out a fraud worth more than £2.4m. Jessica Harper, 50, had been accused of submitting false invoices to claim payments between 2007 and 2011. At the time she was working as head of fraud and security for digital banking and made false claims totalling £2,463,750. Harper, of South Croydon, south London, will be sentenced on 21 September. At Southwark Crown Court, Harper admitted a single charge of fraud by abuse of position by submitting false invoices to claim payments. 'A very simple fraud' She also admitted a single charge of transferring criminal property, the money, which she had defrauded from her employers. Harper was arrested on 21 December before being charged in May. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote Jessica Harper has today been convicted of the type of crime the bank employed her to combat” Sue Patten Crown Prosecution Service Antony Swift, prosecuting, did not open the facts of the case but said it was a "a very simple fraud". He added Harper had already repaid £300,000 and was in the process of selling her house for about £700,000. "That will be some £1m out of £2.5m that's gone missing," he told the judge. Carol Hawley, defending, said: "She appreciates the seriousness and has made full admissions in interview. "She understands perfectly well on the next occasion she will be facing imprisonment of some length." Breach of trust Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith granted Harper bail on the condition she stays at her current address, obeys a 21:00 to 07:00 curfew and hands in her passport. Sue Patten, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Central Fraud Division, said: "Jessica Harper has today been convicted of the type of crime the bank employed her to combat. "The evidence in the case was clear and left Harper with little choice but to plead guilty. "In doing so, she has admitted to a huge breach of trust against her former employer." Lloyds is now 39.7% state-owned after being bailed out by the government during the financial crisis.
Shares in Standard Chartered PLC dropped sharply today as investors reacted to US charges that the bank was involved in laundering money for Iran. The charges against Standard Chartered were a shock for a bank which proudly described itself recently as “boring.” Shares were down nearly 20 percent at 1,187 pence at one point in early trading Tuesday on the London Stock Exchange. In Hong Kong, they were down 16.6 percent near the end of the session. New York State Department of Financial Services alleged on Monday that Standard Chartered schemed with the Iranian government to launder $250 billion from 2001 to 2007, leaving the United States' financial system “vulnerable to terrorists.” Standard Chartered said it “strongly rejects” the allegations. In a statement, the bank said “well over 99.9 percent” of the questioned transactions with Iran complied with all regulations, and the exceptions amounted to $14 million. The New York regulator ordered Standard Chartered representatives to appear in New York City on Aug. 15 “to explain these apparent violations of law” and to demonstrate why its license to operate in the State of New York “should not be revoked.” Gary Greenwood, analyst at Shore Capital in London, said the possible revocation of the New York license was of far greater concern than any potential fine, which could run into hundreds of millions of dollars. Standard Chartered's US operation facilitates trade for customers that have operations in both the United States and emerging markets. “Indeed, this is an area of the business that has been highlighted by management for growth,” Greenwood said. “A loss of its US banking license would not only jeopardize part of this profit stream, but the associated reputational damage could also have a severely damaging impact to its operations within emerging markets.” The New York agency alleged that Standard Chartered conspired with Iranian clients to route nearly 60,000 different US dollar payments through Standard Chartered's New York branch “after first stripping information from wire transfer messages used to identify sanctioned countries, individuals and entities.” The New York regulators called the bank a rogue institution and quoted one of its executives as saying: “You (expletive) Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we're not going to deal with Iranians.” The order also identifies an October 2006 “panicked message” from a London group executive director who worried the transactions could lead to “very serious or even catastrophic reputational damage to the group.” If proven, the scheme would violate state money-laundering laws. The order also accuses the bank of falsifying business records, obstructing governmental administration, failing to report misconduct to the state quickly, evading federal sanctions and other illegal acts. Between 2004 and 2007, about half the period covered by the order, the department claims Standard Chartered hid from and lied about its Iranian transactions to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Before 2008, banks were allowed to transact some business with Iran, but only with full reporting and disclosure, the order states. In 2008, the US Treasury Department stopped those transactions because it suspected they helped pay for Iran to develop nuclear weapons and finance terrorist groups including Hamas and Hezbollah. The order states the bank has to provide information and answer questions to determine if any of the funding aided the groups or Iran's nuclear program. Last week, Standard Chartered' chief executive, Peter Sands, boasted that the bank has racked up a 10-year string of record first-half profits “amidst all the turbulence in the global economy and the apparently never-ending turmoil in the world of banking.” “It may seem boring in contrast to what is going on elsewhere, but we see some virtue in being boring,” Sands added.
Friday, 6 July 2012
Bankers face the prospect of jail as Serious Fraud Office launches criminal probe into interest-rate fixing at Barclays
Hearing: Former chief executive Bob Diamond left Barclays over the matter, before appearing before MPs this week
A criminal investigation has been launched into alleged rigging of the Libor rate within the banking industry, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) confirmed today.
SFO director David Green QC formally accepted the Libor issue for investigation after Barclays was fined by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) last week for manipulating the key interbank lending rate which affects mortgages and loans.
The claims ultimately led to the resignation of Barclays boss Bob Diamond and have become the focal point of a fierce political debate over ethics in the banking sector.
The investigation could ultimately lead to criminal prosecutions and bankers facing charges in court.
The SFO's update came after it revealed earlier this week that it had been working closely with the FSA during its investigation and would consider the potential for criminal prosecutions.
The Government department, which is responsible for investigating and prosecuting serious and complex fraud, said on Monday the issues surrounding Libor were "complex" and that assessing the evidence would take time.
Under fire: Barclays former chairman Marcus Agius (right) with former CEO Bob Diamond (centre), and former chief executive John Varley (left)
As the SFO prepares its investigation, Labour leader Ed Miliband continued to push for an independent inquiry into the banking scandal despite MPs rejecting the demands.
The Labour leader said that while the party would cooperate with a parliamentary investigation, its remit was too "narrow" and a judge-led probe was still needed.
Mr Miliband also defended the conduct of Ed Balls after the shadow chancellor engaged in a bitter war of words with his opposite number George Osborne in the Commons.
Tuesday, 3 July 2012
Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond has resigned with immediate effect. The move comes less than a week after the bank was fined a record amount for trying to manipulate inter-bank lending rates. Mr Diamond said he was stepping down because the external pressure on the bank risked "damaging the franchise". Chairman Marcus Agius, who said on Monday he was stepping down, will take over the running of Barclays until a replacement is found. "I am deeply disappointed that the impression created by the events announced last week about what Barclays and its people stand for could not be further from the truth," Mr Diamond said in a statement. He will still appear before MPs on the Treasury Committee to answer questions about the Libor affair on Wednesday. "I look forward to fulfilling my obligation to contribute to the Treasury Committee's enquiries related to the settlements that Barclays announced last week without my leadership in question," Mr Diamond said. Last week, regulators in the US and UK fined Barclays £290m ($450m) for attempting to rig Libor and Euribor, the interest rates at which banks lend to each other, which underpin trillions of pounds worth of financial transactions. Staff did this over a number of years, trying to raise them for profit and then, during the financial crisis, lowering them to hide the level to which Barclays was under financial stress. Prime Minister David Cameron has described the rigging of Libor rates as "a scandal". The Serious Fraud Office is also considering whether to bring criminal charges.
Monday, 2 July 2012
Next time if you get a missed call starting with +92; #90 or #09, don't show the courtesy of calling back because chances are it would lead to your SIM card being cloned. The telecom service providers are now issuing alerts to subscribers —particularly about the series mentioned above as the moment one press the call button after dialing the above number, someone at the other end will get your phone and SIM card cloned. According to reports, more than one lakh subscribers have fallen prey to this new telecom terror attack as the frequency of such calls continues to grow. Intelligence agencies have reportedly confirmed to the service providers particularly in UP West telecom division that such a racket is not only under way but the menace is growing fast. "We are sure there must be some more similar combinations that the miscreants are using to clone the handsets and all the information stored in them," an intelligence officer told TOI. General Manager (GM) BSNL, RV Verma, said the department had already issued alerts to all the broadband subscribers and now alert SMSes were being issued to other subscribers as well. As per Rakshit Tandon, an IT expert who also teaches at the police academy (UP), the crooks can use other combination of numbers as well while making a call. "It is better not to respond to calls received from unusual calling numbers," says Tandon. "At the same time one should avoid storing specifics of their bank account, ATM/ Credit/Debit card numbers and passwords in their phone memory because if one falls a prey to such crooks then the moment your cell phone or sim are cloned, the data will be available to the crooks who can withdraw amount from your bank accounts as well," warns Punit Misra; an IT expert who also owns a consultancy in Lucknow. The menace that threatens to steal the subscriber's information stored in the phone or external memory (sim, memory & data cards) has a very scary side as well. Once cloned, the culprits can well use the cloned copy to make calls to any number they wish to. This exposes the subscribers to the threat of their connection being used for terror calls. Though it will be established during the course of investigations that the cellphone has been cloned and misused elsewhere, it is sure to land the subscriber under quite some pressure till the time the fact about his or her phone being cloned and misused is established, intelligence sources said. "It usually starts with a miss call from a number starting with + 92. The moment the subscriber calls back on the miss call, his or her cell phone is cloned. In case the subscribers takes the call before it is dropped as a miss call then the caller on the other end poses as a call center executive checking the connectivity and call flow of the particular service provider. The caller then asks the subscriber to press # 09 or # 90 call back on his number to establish that the connectivity to the subscriber was seamless," says a victim who reported the matter to the BSNL office at Moradabad last week. "The moment I redialed the caller number, my account balance lost a sum of money. Thereafter, in the three days that followed every time I got my cell phone recharged, the balance would be reduced to single digits within the next few minutes," she told the BSNL officials.
New motoring laws have come into force in France making it compulsory for drivers to carry breathalyser kits in their vehicles. As of July 1, motorists and motorcyclists will face an on-the-spot fine unless they travel with two single-use devices as part of a government drive to reduce the number of drink-drive related deaths. The new regulations, which excludes mopeds, will be fully enforced and include foreigner drivers from November 1 following a four-month grace period. Anyone failing to produce a breathalyser after that date will receive an 11 euro fine. French police have warned they will be carrying out random checks on drivers crossing into France via ferries and through the Channel Tunnel to enforce the new rules. Retailers in the UK have reported a massive rise in breathalyser sales as British drivers travelling across the Channel ensure they do not fall foul of the new legislation. Car accessory retailer Halfords said it is selling one kit every minute of the day and has rushed extra stock into stores to cope with the unprecedented demand. Six out of 10 Britons travelling to France are not aware they have to carry two NF approved breathalysers at all times, according to the company. The French government hopes to save around 500 lives a year by introducing the new laws, which will encourage drivers who suspect they may be over the limit to test themselves with the kits. The French drink-driving limit is 50mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood - substantially less than the UK limit of 80mg.
Sunday, 1 July 2012
The Foreign Office (FO) handled 6,015 arrest cases involving British nationals abroad between April 2011 and March 2012. This was 6% more than in the previous 12 months and included a 2% rise in drug arrests. The figures, which include holidaymakers and Britons resident overseas, showed the highest number of arrests and detentions was in Spain (1,909) followed by the USA (1,305). Spanish arrests rose 9% in 2011/12, while the United States was up 3%. The most arrests of Britons for drugs was in the US (147), followed by Spain (141). The highest percentage of arrests for drugs in 2011/12 was in Peru where there were only 17 arrests in total, although 15 were for drugs. The FO said anecdotal evidence from embassies and consulates overseas suggested many incidents were alcohol-fuelled, particularly in popular holiday destinations such as the Canary Islands, mainland Spain, the Balearics (which include Majorca and Ibiza), Malta and Cyprus. Consular Affairs Minister Jeremy Browne said: "It is important that people understand that taking risks abroad can land them on the wrong side of the law. "The punishments can be very severe, with tougher prison conditions than in the UK. While we will work hard to try and ensure the safety of British nationals abroad, we cannot interfere in another country's legal system. "We find that many people are shocked to discover that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office cannot get them out of jail. We always provide consular support to British nationals in difficulty overseas. However, having a British passport does not make you immune to foreign laws and will not get you special treatment in prison."
Wednesday, 20 June 2012
The former chief financial officer for Pearl Jam has been charged with stealing at least $380,000 from the seminal grunge rock band. Rickey Goodrich is accused of spending the money on vacations, spa treatments, life insurance and alcohol, The Seattle Times reported. The 54-year-old, who lives in Novato, Calif., must appear in Seattle -- the band's home town -- on June 28 for his arraignment on 25 counts of first-degree theft and eight counts of second-degree theft between Oct. 2007 and June 2010. It is alleged that financial discrepancies were discovered after a 2010 tour, at which point Goodrich admitted paying himself a $54,000 "loan," but a subsequent audit found more money was missing. Almost $21,000 went towards vacations for his family and $6,500 was spent on wine, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. "The alleged thefts date back a number of years, and there were a lot of bank records and financial documents that needed to be reviewed," a prosecutor's spokesman said. If convicted, Goodrich faces up to five years in prison.
Friday, 25 May 2012
A former head of security at Lloyds Bank has been charged in connection with an alleged £2.5m fraud. Jessica Harper, 50, of Croydon, south London, is accused of submitting false invoices to claim payments, between September 2008 and December 2011. At the time she was working as head of fraud and security for digital banking and allegedly made false claims totalling £2,463,750. Ms Harper will appear at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 31 May. She has been charged with one count of fraud by abuse of position. The bank, which is now 39.7% state-owned after being bailed out by the government during the financial crisis, refused to comment on the charging of Ms Harper. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said she was arrested on 21 December 2011 by officers from its fraud squad. Andrew Penhale, from the Crown Prosecution Service's Central Fraud Group, said: "The charge relates to an allegation that between 1 September 2008 and 21 December 2011, Jessica Harper dishonestly and with the intention of making a gain for herself, abused her position as an employee of Lloyds Banking Group, in which she was expected to safeguard the financial interests of Lloyds Banking Group, by submitting false invoices to claim payments totalling £2,463,750.88, to which she was not entitled. "This decision to prosecute was taken in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors. "We have determined that there is a realistic prospect of conviction and a prosecution is in the public interest."
Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Scotland Yard is investigating allegations that detectives working for its anti-corruption unit have been paid thousands of pounds by a firm of private investigators. A parliamentary inquiry was told today that invoices, also seen by the Guardian, purport to show how a firm of private investigators made payments in return for information about the Metropolitan police investigation into James Ibori, a notorious Nigerian fraudster. On Tuesday, the Commons home affairs select committee was told by a lawyer involved in the case that invoices showed about £20,000 of potential payments to police officers in what amounted to an undetected case of "apparent corruption right at the heart of Scotland Yard". In recent weeks, as the Guardian investigated the allegations, the Met has sought to discourage the paper from publishing details about the case. But , after MPs heard the evidence, the Met dropped its previous insistence that there was "evidence that casts doubt on the credibility" of the allegations. A police source with knowledge of the investigation, which has been ongoing since October, said developments over the last 24 hours had now led police to take the allegations more seriously. The case revolves around a private investigation firm called RISC Management. Five years ago the firm was hired to work for Ibori, a former Nigerian state governor, after he discovered he was being investigated by the Met for serious fraud. Ibori recently pleaded guilty to money laundering and was jailed in the UK, after the conclusion of a major investigation into his financial affairs. The allegation now being investigated by police is that some detectives on the Met's Proceeds of Corruption Unit, which investigated Ibori, were receiving payments in exchange for information about the ongoing investigation. Invoices and other documents appearing to support the allegations have been anonymously posted to the Met and Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The documents have also been seen by the Guardian and separately sent to the home affairs committee, which is conducting an inquiry in whether private investigators should be subject to statutory regulation. Keith Vaz, the chair of the committee, has said there is growing concern in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal that some private investigators are operating in "the shadows" of the law. The Commons inquiry has been scrutinising the nexus between private investigators - many of whom are retired police officers - and their former colleagues who are still serving. On Tuesday morning, Mike Schwarz, a lawyer who represents one of Ibori's co-accused, told the inquiry about what he understood to be the significance of the material. He said it indicated possible corruption at the heart of the police investigation into the Nigerian politician's money laundering activities. The invoices are alleged to be from RISC Management to Speechly Bircham, a top firm of lawyers hired by Ibori to prepare his defence. Schwarz told MPs the invoices "perhaps" documented "payments made by RISC Management to sources, presumably police officers or those close to the investigation". He added: "The records, which I think the committee have, show about half-a-dozen payments totalling about £20,000 over a period of eight or nine months [...] it appears to be inappropriate if not corrupt." Schwarz told the committee that he believed RISC Management had been hired to "extract" information from the police investigation into Ibori. He said he had also seen emails - which he believed had also been forwarded to the committee - which confirmed "contact" between detectives investigating Ibori and the private investigators. Schwarz, from Bindmans solicitors, represents Bhadresh Gohil, a London-based solicitor jailed along with Ibori for orchestrating his money laundering scam. Gohil is now considering an appeal. Gohil is understood to have been sent the invoices, anonymously, while in Wandsworth Prison last summer. In a statement, the Met said: "The [force] is investigating an allegation that illegal payments were made to police officers for information by a private investigation agency. The Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission in October 2011 which agreed to supervise a DPS investigation into the allegations." Following Schwarz's evidence to parliament, the Met said it had dropped its previous claim to have recently "uncovered evidence" casting doubt on the allegations. Previously, the force had suggested an active line of inquiry was the theory that Gohil or his associates had fabricated the allegations to undermine the prosecution. In a previous statement, provided on Friday, the force said: "As a result of inquiries police have uncovered evidence that casts doubt on the credibility of these allegations. Warrants have been executed at two addresses in London and a quantity of paperwork and computer equipment recovered." Two weeks ago, following raids on properties, one of which was the Gohil's family home in Kent, the force said: "Officers believe that they have identified the originator of the information and a line of enquiry suggests that there may have been an attempt to pervert the course of justice." However, sources at the Yard said previous statements no longer fully represented their position. A source with knowledge of the Met inquiry said the change of stance was unrelated to Schwarz's parliamentary evidence. The source said that, instead, there had been developments in the investigation over the last 24 hours. Schwarz named three serving Met police officers in his testimony to parliament as being potential "culprits": detective inspector Gary Walters, detective constables named as John MacDonald and "Clark". All three officers declined an opportunity to respond to the allegations when contacted by the Guardian last week. However, RISC Management indicated Walters would deny "any and all allegations". RISC Management denied all the allegations about the company, saying it was not aware of the Scotland Yard investigation and had no knowledge of the alleged financial records. The firm confirmed it had been hired by Ibori's lawyers but denied making corrupt payments, saying it "has never paid a serving police officer for information and would never approve such payments". Keith Hunter, chief executive of the company, said: "RISC management does not need to pay serving police officers for confidential information as we pride ourselves on our ability to provide positive solutions and accurate information legitimately. RISC Management has a highly respected reputation for conducting professional investigations". He added that his company was "proud to have a network of highly professional consultants, contacts and resources. These individuals are hired precisely because of their unique skill set and expertise". He accused Schwarz of "grandstanding" in front of the Commons committee, instead of taking the "correct course of reporting the matter to the police". He said Schwarz had not produced any evidence to support his claims and acted for a convicted solicitor, Gohil, who was jailed for seven years for money laundering. Speechly Bircham denied any knowledge of wrongdoing and said it would be willing to assist with any police inquiries. The law firm stressed Schwarz did not suggest in his evidence to parliament that Speechly Bircham was "party to illegal or corrupt payments" and said any such allegation would be false and defamatory. Ian Timlin, the former Speechly Bircham lawyer who was at the time representing Ibori, said neither he nor the firm had "any knowledge of any payments to police officers for information." He added: "At no time, did RISC ever inform me who or what was the source/s they were paying."
Thursday, 17 May 2012
The 63-year-old singer, who had hits including Hot Stuff, Love to Love You, Baby and I Feel Love, died in Florida on Thursday morning. She had largely kept her battle with lung cancer out of the public eye. But the website TMZ reported that the singer had told friends she believed her illness was the result of inhaling toxic dust from the collapsed Twin Towers. On Thursday night tributes were paid to the singer, considered by many to be the voice of the 1970s. A statement released on behalf of her family — husband Bruce Sudano, their daughters Brooklyn and Amanda, her daughter, Mimi from a previous marriage and four grandchildren — read: “Early this morning, surrounded by family, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith. "While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.
Investigators are questioning Mexico's former deputy defence minister and a top army general for suspected links to organised crime
Investigators are questioning Mexico's former deputy defence minister and a top army general for suspected links to organised crime, in the highest level scandal to hit the military in the five-year-old drug war.
Mexican soldiers on Tuesday detained retired general Tomás Angeles Dauahare and general Roberto Dawe González and turned them over to the country's organised crime unit, military and government officials said.
Angeles Dauahare was number 2 in the armed forces under President Felipe Calderón and helped lead the government's crackdown on drug cartels after soldiers were deployed to the streets in late 2006. He retired in 2008.
Dawe González, still an active duty general, led an elite army unit in the western state of Colima and local media said he previously held posts in the violent states of Sinaloa and Chihuahua.
An official at the attorney general's office said they would be held for several days to give testimony and then could be called in front of a judge.
"The generals are answering questions because they are allegedly tied to organised crime," the official said.
Angeles Dauahare said through a lawyer that his detention was unjustified, daily Reforma newspaper reported.
If the generals were convicted of drug trafficking, it would mark the most serious case of military corruption during Calderón's administration.
"Traditionally the armed forces had a side role in the anti-drug fight, eradicating drug crops or stopping drug shipments," said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst who formerly worked in the government intelligence agency.
"After 2006, they were more directly involved in public security, putting them at a higher risk of contact [with drug gangs]," he said.
About 55,000 people have been killed in drug violence over the past five years as rival cartels fight each other and government forces.
Worsening drug-related attacks in major cities are eroding support for Calderón's conservative National Action Party, or PAN, ahead of a 1 July presidential vote.
Over the weekend, police found 49 headless bodies on a highway in northern Mexico, the latest in a recent series of brutal massacres where mutilated corpses have been hung from bridges or shoved in iceboxes.
Opinion polls show Calderón's party is trailing by double digits behind opposition candidate Enrique Peña Nieto from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which says the government's drug strategy is failing.
Traditionally, the military has been seen as less susceptible to cartel bribes and intimidation than badly paid local and state police forces, who are often easily swayed by drug gang pay offs.
But there have been cases of military corruption in the past. Angeles Dauahare himself oversaw the landmark trial of two generals convicted of working with drug gangs in 2002.
Those two generals were convicted of links to the Juárez cartel once headed by the late Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who was known as the Lord of the Skies for flying plane load of cocaine into the United States.
Since then, the Sinaloa cartel - headed by Mexico's most wanted man Joaquín "Shorty" Guzmán - has expanded its power and is locked in a bloody battle over smuggling routes with the Zetas gang, founded by deserters from the Mexican army.
The trading losses suffered by JPMorgan Chase have surged in recent days, surpassing the bank’s initial $2 billion estimate by at least $1 billion, according to people with knowledge of the losses. When Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, announced the losses last Thursday, he indicated they could double within the next few quarters. But that process has been compressed into four trading days as hedge funds and other investors take advantage of JPMorgan’s distress, fueling faster deterioration in the underlying credit market positions held by the bank. A spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment, although Mr. Dimon has said the total paper trading losses will be volatile depending on day-to-day market fluctuations. The Federal Reserve is examining the scope of the growing losses and the original bet, along with whether JPMorgan’s chief investment office took risks that were inappropriate for a federally insured depository institution, according to several people with knowledge of the examination. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way. The overall health of the bank remains strong, even with the additional losses, and JPMorgan has been able to increase its stock dividend faster than its rivals because of stronger earnings and a more solid capital buffer. Still, the huge trading losses rocked Wall Street and reignited the debate over how tightly giant financial institutions should be regulated. Bank analysts say that while the bank’s stability is not threatened, if the losses continue to mount, the outlook for the bank’s dividend will grow uncertain. The bank’s leadership has discussed the impact of the losses on future earnings, although a dividend cut remains highly unlikely for now. In March, the company raised the quarterly dividend by 5 cents, to 30 cents, which will cost the bank about $190 million more this quarter. A spokeswoman for the bank said a dividend cut has not been discussed internally. At the bank’s annual meeting in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Mr. Dimon did not definitively rule out cutting the dividend, although he said that he “hoped” it would not be cut. John Lackey, a shareholder from Richmond, Va., who attended the meeting precisely to ask about the dividend, was not reassured. “That wasn’t a very clear answer,” he said of Mr. Dimon’s response. “I expect that shareholders are going to suffer because of this.” Analysts expect the bank to earn $4 billion in the second quarter, factoring in the original estimated loss of $2 billion. Even if the additional trading losses were to double, the bank could still earn a profit of $2 billion. And many analysts and investors remain optimistic about the bank’s long-term prospects. Glenn Schorr, a widely followed analyst with Nomura, reiterated on Wednesday his buy rating on JPMorgan shares, which are down more than 10 percent since the trading loss became public last week. What’s more, the chief investment office earned more than $5 billion in the last three years, which leaves it ahead over all, even given the added red ink. But the underlying problem is that while these sharp swings are expected at a big hedge fund, they should not be occurring at a bank whose deposits are government-backed and which has access to ultralow cost capital from the Federal Reserve, experts said. “JPMorgan Chase has a big hedge fund inside a commercial bank,” said Mark Williams, a professor of finance at Boston University, who also served as a Federal Reserve bank examiner. “They should be taking in deposits and making loans, not taking large speculative bets.” Not long after Mr. Dimon’s announcement of a dividend increase in March, the notorious bet by JPMorgan’s chief investment office began to fall apart. Traders at the unit’s London desk and elsewhere are now frantically trying to defuse the huge bet that was built up over years, but started generating erratic returns in late March. After a brief pause, the losses began to mount again in late April, prompting Mr. Dimon’s announcement on May 10. Beginning on Friday, the same trends that had been causing the losses for six weeks accelerated, since traders on the opposite side of the bet knew the bank was under pressure to unwind the losing trade and could not double down in any way. Another issue is that the trader who executed the complex wager, Bruno Iksil, is no longer on the trading desk. Nicknamed the London Whale, Mr. Iksil had a firm grasp on the trade — knowledge that is hard to replace, even though his anticipated departure is seen as sign of the bank’s taking responsibility for the debacle. “They were caught short,” said one experienced credit trader who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the situation is still fluid. The market player, who does not stand to gain from JPMorgan’s losses and is not involved in the trade, added, “this is a very hard trade to get out of because it’s so big.” He estimated that the initial loss of just over $2 billion was caused by a move of a quarter percentage point, or 25 basis points, on a portfolio with a notional value of $150 billion to $200 billion — in other words, the total value of the contracts traded, not JPMorgan’s exposure. In the four trading days since Mr. Dimon’s disclosure, the market has moved at least 15 to 20 basis points more against JPMorgan, he said. The overall losses are not directly proportional to the move in basis points because of the complexity of the trade. Many of the positions are highly illiquid, making them difficult to value for regulators and the bank itself. In its simplest form, traders said, the complex position assembled by the bank included a bullish bet on an index of investment-grade corporate debt, later paired with a bearish bet on high-yield securities, achieved by selling insurance contracts known as credit-default swaps. A big move in the interest rate spread between the investment grade securities and risk-free government bonds in recent months hurt the first part of the bet, and was not offset by equally large moves in the price of the insurance on the high yield bonds. As the credit yield curve steepened, the losses piled up on the corporate grade index, overwhelming gains elsewhere on the trades. Making matters worse, there was a mismatch between the expiration of different instruments within the trade, increasing losses. The additional losses represent a worsening of what is already the most embarrassing misstep for JPMorgan since Mr. Dimon became chief executive in 2005. No one has blamed Mr. Dimon for the trade, which was under the oversight of the head of the chief investment office, Ina Drew, but he has repeatedly apologized, calling it “stupid” and “sloppy.” Ms. Drew resigned Monday and more departures are anticipated.
Monday, 30 April 2012
Timothy Barnett used the recent housing crisis to steal the retirement savings of elderly people in California and now he has been sentenced to 25 years to life in prison under the states three-strikes law. The case appears to be the first time that a white-collar offender has received such a lengthy sentence under a statue that is typically used to put the most hardened criminals behind bars for the remainder of their lives. This particular case is rare because Barnett’s entire history involves fraud. In March Barnett was sentenced to 17 felony counts for tricking five people into granting him title to their homes, the same charge he received back in the 1990s. In berating Mr. Barnett Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Stephen A. Marcus said on Friday: “The worst thing you can do is take somebody’s home. Instead of helping people, he stripped the equity from their homes and left five people homeless. Even Bernie Madoff didn’t take people’s homes from them.” Defense attorney Amy Konstantelos was angry that the three-strikes rule was used in a “non-violent” case and she plans to file an appeal. During his last scam in poor areas of Los Angeles from 2005 through 2007 Barnett managed to strip homeowners of nearly $900,000 in equity and then he moved to seize their property. As part of the sentencing all of Barnett’s assets are to be seized to pay back victims of his crime, although prosecutors admit that he likely doesn’t have the means to make good on his stolen payments. While the defense argues that his crimes did not violently hurt anyone, among his victims was widow Dorthy King, an 85-year-old blind widow who was kicked out of her home after being scammed by Timothy Barnett. Perhaps kicking an 85-year-old blind woman out of her home should be considered a violent crime when fraud is involved.
Friday, 27 April 2012
One of the country's busiest shopping streets has been closed as a man wearing gas canisters stormed into an office and threatened to blow himself up, it was reported. Tottenham Court Road in central London was closed after police received emergency calls at midday. Scotland Yard sent a hostage negotiator to the scene amid reports the man had held people hostage inside the building several floors up. Pictures emerged of computer and office equipment being thrown through one of the office windows. A police spokesman said it was "too early to say if the suspect was armed or indeed had taken any hostages" but businesses and nearby buildings were evacuated. Joaqam Ramus, who works at nearby Cafe Fresco, said before being evacuated: "There was talk of a bomb and somebody having a hostage in a building. "All Tottenham Court Road is closed and so are we - the police told us to shut. "We don't know what it is but it seems someone has a hostage."
Thursday, 26 April 2012
Three men have been arrested and 36 criminal websites selling credit card information and other personal data shut down as part of a two-year international anti-fraud operation, police have confirmed. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), working with the FBI and US Department of Justice, as well as authorities in Germany; the Netherlands; Ukraine; Australia and Romania, swooped after identifying the sites as specialising in selling card and bank details in bulk. The move comes as a blow to what is a growing black market for stolen financial data. Detectives estimated that the card information seized could have been used to extract more than £500m in total by fraudsters. SOCA claimed it has recovered more than two and a half million items of compromised personal and financial information over the past two years. “The authorities have shut down 36 websites but it is difficult to know how many other people had access to that data. They could spring back up somewhere else if a gang is not eradicated completely,” said Graham Cluley of internet security firm Sophos. He added: “This is big business and, just as in any legitimate company there are people who specialise in different things, so there are those who actually get their hands on the personal data and those who sell it on; they are not often the same person.” An investigation by The Independent last summer found that scammers were making a “comfortable living” getting their hands on sensitive information and selling it online. Card details were being offered for sale for between 4p and £60 per card – depending on the quality – according to one source in the business. Some cards would be sold with incomplete or unreliable information; others ready to use. Some of the card details for sale on the websites shut down by SOCA were being sold for as little as £2 each. Investigators said that the alleged fraudsters were using Automated Vending Carts, which allowed them to sell large quantities of stolen data. They are said to be a driver of the growth in banking fraud over the last 18 months because of the speed with which stolen data can be sold. Lee Miles, Head of Cyber Operations for SOCA said: “This operation is an excellent example of the level of international cooperation being focused on tackling online fraud. Our activities have saved business, online retailers and financial institutions potential fraud losses estimated at more than half a billion pounds, and at the same time protected thousands of individuals from the distress caused by being a victim of fraud or identity crime.” An alleged operator in Macedonia was one of those arrested, while two British men accused of buying the information were also detained. Britain’s Dedicated Cheque & Plastic Crime Unit also seized computers suspected of being used to commit fraud.
Friday, 20 April 2012
Once known as the ‘baddest man on the planet’, his life has taken more than a few dark twists and turns.
But now Mike Tyson has for the first time revealed his lowest point ever in a searingly candid interview.
The former heavyweight champion said that back in 2009 he was in a hotel room with seven prostitutes, a morphine drip in his arm, a pile of cocaine and a bottle of cognac when he began to feel paranoid.
Candid: The former world champion gave his most honest interview yet - revealing the drug-fuelled night that made him turn his life around and get clean and sober
Convinced the women were trying to steal from him he started beating them up and threw them out - to stop them from 'taking his soul'.
‘It was the lowest point of a very low life, but it was my own knockout punch to clean up life, get whole, get well - and I haven’t done anything in three years now.
‘I’m clean. I’m sober.’
Tyson’s recently swapped the boxing ring for the cabaret stage in a six night comedy show at the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas, where some of his biggest fights took place.
World Champion: Mike Tyson lands the knockout punch to the jaw of challenger Larry Holmes during fourth round of the World Heavyweight Championship in Atlantic City 1988
In an interview with Las Vegas Weekly to promote the show, he was asked to talk about the moment he realised he had to turn his life around.
Tyson, 45 said: ‘Laying in bed in a hotel room - I try never to be alone, even if it’s a prostitute, a dog.
‘This is really dark. I am in my hotel suite, I’ve got seven women there, and I have a morphine drip, and I had my cocaine, and I had my (Viagra like pill) Cialis, I had my marijuana, I had the Hennessy, and I am at my lowest point because I got paranoid and I thought these women were trying to rob me and set me up.
‘I started beating them. I was in a dark place. There was a purpose, though, because I didn’t want to give them any more of my soul.
‘So this is my devil, this is where I am, I am locked up alone. There is nobody there telling me that I’m doing too much.
Troubled: Tyson's first marriage to actress Robin Givens fell apart amid allegations of him being violent - he is now married for the third time
Mug shot: In 1992 Tyson was jailed for raping Desiree Washington - a beauty pageant contestant - he was released from prison after three years
‘That is the devil, he won. I kicked them all out. So that was my lowest point. Oh, man. I am just very grateful to be here - my heart should have blown apart. I was sweating wide awake. No more cocaine. No more. Three years clean.’
In his turbulent life Tyson has been married three times, fathered eight children and became the youngest heavyweight champion the world has ever seen at just 20.
But fame ruined him and his troubled upbringing - his mother was a prostitute and he never knew his pimp father - came back to haunt him.
In the interview he claimed to have earned $300million in winnings but admitted that he was so bad with money he was ‘forced to live paycheck to paycheck’.
In 1992, three years after his first marriage to actress Robin Givens fell apart, he was jailed for six years for raping Desiree Washington, a contestant in the Miss Black America pageant.
Released having served three years, he fought Evander Holyfield in the fight that became one of the most notorious bouts in boxing history when he bit part of his opponent’s ear off.
Reflecting on his life Tyson told Las Vegas Weekly that he was now the happiest he has ever been, and is just trying to be a good husband to his third wife, and a good father to his children.
Tyson said: ‘In order to wear the crown, you have to have a miserable life, and that is the one that inherits the crown.
‘I don’t know, you have to go from the worst to reach the best. I’m just that extreme type of person. That is who I am, the guy that has no limits.’
The European Parliament has passed a resolution condemning a nationalisation that has strained relations between Spain and Argentina. Argentina has nationalised YPF, wiping out the Spanish firm Repsol's controlling-stake in the oil firm. The resolution asks the European Commission to consider a "partial suspension" of tariffs that benefit Argentine exports into the EU. Shares in Repsol has another decline, falling 2.3% on Friday. Over the week, Repsol stock has lost almost a fifth of its value. MEPs in the European Parliament said the institution "deplores" the decision taken by Argentina and describes it as an "attack on the exercise of free enterprise". Decisions such as that taken by the Argentine authorities "can put a strain on the climate of understanding and friendship needed to reach" a trade agreement between a South American bloc and the EU, it said. The resolution, which is non-binding, received 458 votes in favour, 71 against and 16 abstentions. 'Not valid' It also emerged that Repsol may be obliged to buy a minority shareholder's YPF stake if it ever lost majority control, which Repsol denied. Twenty-five percent of YPF is owned by Argentina's Eskenazi family through its firm, Peterson. Continue reading the main story Nationalising YPF Spain's Repsol has hitherto owned 57.4% of shares with 25.5% belonging to Argentina's Petersen, 0.02% to the Argentine government and 17% traded on stock exchanges The Argentine government proposes to seize 51% of the shares, all of which will be taken from Repsol's stake, leaving the Spanish firm with 6.4% The expropriated shares will in turn be divided between the Argentine government and provincial governors Following the expropriation, Petersen will retain its 25.5% stake and 17% of the shares will continue to be traded Argentina's risky energy seizure According to regulator filings of a 2008 agreement, Repsol must "maintain directly or indirectly through controlled companies an ownership interest greater than or equal to 50.1%". If it does not, Repsol is obliged to buy back the loans used to secure the Eskenazis' shares. But Repsol told the BBC that the expropriation of its stake in YPF had invalidated the agreement. "The agreement is not valid under Spanish law in these conditions," said Kristian Rix, a Repsol spokesman. "The law is unequivocal, there is no debate." Trade war brewing? Spain has threatened retaliation against Argentina over the forced nationalisation of oil firm YPF, raising the prospects of a trade war between the nations. Spanish Trade Secretary Jaime Garcia Legaz said the European Union would intervene over Argentina's seizure of YPF. Argentina is taking over 51% of YPF, wiping out Repsol's 57.4% majority stake. The move has wide support in Argentina but has provoked outrage in Spain. Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had also offered support. Repsol has said it wants around $10bn (£6.2bn) for its stake in YPF, but Argentina has said it does not accept that valuation. YPF, Argentina's biggest oil company, was privatised in 1993. Last year it announced huge new finds of shale oil and gas.
Rupert Murdoch's grip on his media empire was dramatically challenged yesterday after his company was labelled a "toxic shadow state" which launched a dirty tricks campaign against MPs and now faces a salvo of phone-hacking claims in the United States. On a tumultuous day for the media mogul, the lawyer who brought the first damages claims against the News of the World in Britain said he had uncovered new allegations of the use of "dark arts" by News Corp in America and was ready to file at least three phone-hacking lawsuits in the company's backyard. The sense of a legal net tightening around Mr Murdoch and News Corp was heightened by the announcement that he and his son James will testify separately next week before the Leveson Inquiry into press standards during three days of what is likely to be uncomfortable scrutiny of alleged widespread criminality in their British tabloid newspapers. In a separate development, the royal editor of The Sun became the latest journalist on the paper to be arrested on suspicion of making corrupt payments to public officials. The arrest coincided with the publication of an incendiary book on the scandal which levelled new accusations that the NOTW set out on an extraordinary campaign of intimidation of MPs to try to blunt their investigations into its alleged law breaking. Last night senior MPs called for News International (NI) to be investigated by the Commons for potential contempt of Parliament over the claims that members of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee were targeted by attempts to dig dirt on their private lives. Dial M for Murdoch, written by the Labour MP Tom Watson and The Independent's Martin Hickman, also alleges that: l Rebekah Brooks, the former chief executive of NI, was bugged in her own office shortly before she resigned last summer over the phone hacking of Milly Dowler, the murdered schoolgirl. l On his release from prison, Glenn Mulcaire, the convicted NOTW hacker, allegedly was contracted to give security advice to a private security company, Quest, whose chairman is Lord Stevens, a former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. l NI intermediaries approached Mr Watson with a "deal" to "give him" former NOTW editor and Downing Street press chief Andy Coulson but that Ms Brooks was "sacred". NI, which runs Mr Murdoch's British newspapers, said it had no comment to make on the book. At a packed Westminster press conference, Mr Watson, who is a member of the Culture, Media and Sport committee, said the claim that the NOTW set out in 2009 to undermine the MPs investigating it came from Neville Thurlbeck, the NOTW's former chief reporter. In the book, Mr Thurlbeck, who has been arrested in connection with phone hacking, says: "An edict came down... and it was find out every single thing you can about every single member: who was gay, who had affairs, anything we can use." Mr Thurlbeck told The Independent last night that the order to target the MPs, which involved assigning two politicians each to a group of six reporters, had not originated from inside the paper but instead came from "elsewhere inside News International". He insisted that NOTW staff had been reluctant and there was a "degree of procrastination" before the plan was "suddenly and unexpectedly halted about 10 days later". Mr Watson, who has received an apology from NI after he was placed under surveillance, said he believed the campaign was nonetheless successful and had contributed to a decision by the media committee not to demand that Ms Brooks give evidence to it in 2010. He added: "Parliament was, in effect, intimidated. News International thought they could do this, that they could get away with it, that no one could touch them; and they actually did it, and it worked." Labelling News Corp a "toxic institution", he added: "We conclude that the web of influence which News Corporation spun in Britain, which effectively bent politicians, police and many others in public life to its will, amounted to a shadow state." Former Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price, who is gay and was a member of the DCMS committee, is described in the book as having been warned by a Conservative colleague that their private lives would be raked over if they called Ms Brooks to give evidence – "effectively they would delve into our personal lives in order to punish us". Hours after publication of the book, Mark Lewis, the lawyer who has doggedly pursued hacking claims, told a press conference in New York that he was investigating allegations of impropriety at Mr Murdoch's US media companies, including Fox News. He said a high-profile trip to America to prepare claims on behalf of victims whose phones were allegedly hacked on US soil had generated a slew of new allegations about wider use of "dark arts" to obtain private information. He said: "The investigation in the UK began with one claim by one client and look where it is now. While it starts in America with three cases, it seems likely it might end up with more." The allegations will provide an awkward backdrop for the Murdochs to their appearances before the Leveson Inquiry. Rupert Murdoch, who is the first witness before the inquiry to be scheduled for two days of testimony, will be questioned about practices in his British newspapers and whether he had knowledge of those activities. Chris Bryant last night confirmed that he would be asking Parliament to investigate the claims that NI carried out targeted intimidation. Royal editor of The Sun arrested The royal editor of The Sun was arrested yesterday after News Corp handed over information to detectives investigating alleged illegal payments to public officials. Duncan Larcombe, 36, who had previously worked as the newspaper's defence editor, was arrested during an early morning raid at his home in Kent on suspicion of conspiracy to corrupt and conspiracy to cause misconduct in a public office. Officers from Scotland Yard's Operation Elveden also arrested a 42-year-old former member of the armed forces and a woman, 38, at their home in Lancashire. All three were later released on bail. Mr Larcombe was the paper's royal correspondent from 2005 to 2009 before being appointed defence editor for 14 months. He returned to the royal beat last year and led the newspaper's coverage of the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William. He was the second Sun defence editor to be arrested during the police inquiry.
Thursday, 12 April 2012
in China financial crimes are treated with a gravity far beyond a cushy minimum security cell, and home visits on the weekends. Financial criminals in China are often executed. From Wiki: China has executed bankers for fraudulent activity: Wang Liming, former accounting officer, China Construction Bank, Henan, with others stole 20 million yuan ($2.4 million in U.S. Currency) from the bank using fraudulent papers, executed. Miao Ping, an accomplice in the same case, executed. Wang Xiang, same bank in an unrelated case, also executed for taking 20 million yuan from the bank. Liang Shihan, Bank of China, Zhuhai, executed for helping cheat his bank out of $10.3 million US. In a recent case, Wu Ying, a 28-year-old woman, will soon be put to death for taking out multi-million dollar loans from investors she was unable to pay back. We in the West appear to have a problem; financial crimes ruin lives, but financial criminals either get away with a comparatively small fine (like Goldman did after they misled clients), a cushy prison cell, or sometimes even a taxpayer funded bailout. Simply, they keep the upside of their behaviour, and pass the downside off to someone else (either a sucker investor, or a junior partner, or the taxpayer). Hammurabi, the Babylonian King, had a simple principle for dealing with such bullshit: If a builder builds a house and the house collapses and causes the death of the owner – the builder shall be put to death. If it causes the death of the son of the owner, a son of that builder shall be put to death. Exact equivalence; you destroy someone’s livelihood, and your livelihood shall be destroyed. Such justice would leave a lot of people, and not just bankers — Dick Cheney, John Yoo, Larry Summers, Tim Geithner — with a lot to fear. But would it work? Well, China executes bankers — as well as corrupt party leaders, (watch out, Bo Xilai) — and bankers in China keep screwing investors and the nation. I think the biggest problem with capital punishment is that it is administered by the state (or the mob) and that means that very often it is administered to the wrong people, for corrupt or flawed reasons. Putting the power of life and death in the hands of the state is quite dangerous. More likely than not, the person executed will end up being the innocent junior intern (“take one for the team, buddy!”) while the corrupt CEO enjoys a retirement of golf courses, hookers, viagra, and oxycontin. A much better goal to aspire to is the end of bailouts, and the end of firing off wads of QE-dollars to preserve badly-run (but well-connected) companies and systems (zombification). Still, in matters of financial fraud I think it is important to seek out equivalent justice; you destroy a livelihood, we take your trust fund, and your Swiss bank account to compensate the victim. The status quo — where regulators shoot off tiny fines for huge financial crimes — is a joke. But the best way to punish Goldman Sachs (etc) for their misdeeds is to not bail them out the next time their hyper-fragile leverage-driven business model fails them and they end up over a barrel. It is quick, dirty and emotionally satisfying to talk of executions, but giving the state the power over life and death has far bigger, and far more dangerous consequences, not to mention huge potential for abuse.
Wednesday, 4 April 2012
U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new safety information about these cholesterol-lowering drugs that are prescribed to millions of Americans to lower the risk of heart disease. If you're among them, you should understand what the FDA's new guidance means for your health. "Before anyone gets too concerned, you should know that statins are so widely used because they have a long track record of safety and effectiveness," says Dr. Mark Taber, a cardiologist with SSM Heart Institute at St. Joseph Health Center. "All in all, statins have a very high benefit to risk ratio.Â The widespread use of the drugs, when indicated, probably accounts to a significant degree for the improvement in life expectancy in this country." The FDA called attention to the threat of liver damage as a rare side effect of statins and advised that regular liver enzyme testing is no longer considered useful in predicting or preventing liver injury. "Actually, in general they liberalized the follow up needed for liver function tests on patients taking statins, due to the very low incidence of true liver issues," Taber says. The main warnings related to a slightly higher incidence of developing diabetes while on statins, and a poorly substantiated claim that statins could result in cognitive impairment. Taber points out that cognitive problems, such as confusion or memory problems, were not documented in clinical studies, only by patient reports to the FDA website. "By stating these concerns, the FDA is raising awareness about the potential side effects of statins, but cardiologists already know that there are inherent risks, and we monitor patients appropriately to help ensure that side effects do not occur or are dealt with quickly," Taber notes. "If there is any evidence of a side effect that could be problematic, we can change the medication. But the fact remains that it's important to decrease risk of heart disease, and for many people statins are needed when diet and exercise alone don't result in acceptable cholesterol levels." Whenever a new prescription medication is started, you should look over the package insert to learn about potential side effects. Signs of liver damage, for instance, include fatigue, loss of appetite, right upper abdominal pain, dark urine and jaundice. Any of these symptoms should be reported to your doctor for evaluation. It is important to remember that you should not stop taking a medication without consulting your doctor first. Discontinuing use of a prescribed drug can be far more dangerous than the side effect you're worried about. "All the side effects listed by the FDA are rare, and the risk of heart attack is far more concerning," Taber says. "Some patients may need extra monitoring or may need to try more than one statin before we find the optimal choice, but in general statins are very well tolerated and don't cause problems for the people who take them." The advice above is universal when it comes to your health. Concerns should be discussed with your doctor, and decisions should always be made as part of a team approach to creating a healthy life.
John Holliday had been on a higher 40mg dose of cholesterol pills for only a few weeks when he started to lose his concentration. ‘I’d be watching TV and suddenly find myself unable to follow the plot of a drama,’ says John, 52, a telecoms project manager who lives in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, with his wife Jill, 51, and their two children Adam, 20, and Emma, 16. ‘I’d have to read the same page of a book over and over because I couldn’t take any information in. ‘I’d always been known for my amazing memory — I was great on trivia and had total recall of events that happened 20 years ago, but suddenly I couldn’t remember things and my brain felt fuzzy.’ Just like up to seven million other people in Britain, John had been prescribed a statin to lower his blood cholesterol levels. The drugs are credited by the British Heart Foundation as contributing towards the dramatic 50 per cent fall in deaths from heart attacks in the past ten years. But while there is consensus that statins are lifesavers for people who have previously had a heart attack, concern is growing over their debilitating side-effects. They include muscle weakness, depression, sleep disturbance, sexual dysfunction, muscle pain and damage, gastro-intestinal problems, headaches, joint pains and nausea. Now, official bodies here and in the U.S. have ordered that the drugs must carry warnings for cognitive problems, too. Worryingly, it’s claimed GPs are failing to warn patients of the effect statins can have on the mind — meaning they may mistake them for signs of ageing or Alzheimer’s. ‘When I went back to my doctor after six weeks for a blood test, I told him how dreadful I was feeling,’ says John. ‘But he just said all drugs had side-effects and didn’t mention reducing the dose.’ It's claimed GPs are failing to warn patients of the effect statins can have on the mind - meaning they may mistake them for signs of ageing or Alzheimer's Things came to a head when a friend showed John an electrical circuit he’d built for his car. ‘I’d worked with circuits since I was 16 but it made no sense,’ he says. So John insisted on seeing his doctor again and repeated his concerns about his rapidly declining memory. This time the GP told him he could start on another type of statin when he felt well enough, and so John stopped taking the drugs immediately. ‘It took a few months, but gradually my memory returned and I’ve got my concentration back. I can’t say for sure statins caused these problems, but it seems like too much of a coincidence.’ Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. ordered statins must carry warnings that some users have reported cognitive problems including memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion. This followed a decision by the UK’s Medicines Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to add memory problems to the list of possible statin side-effects in late 2009. The FDA said reports about the symptoms were from across all statin products and age groups. Those affected reported feeling fuzzy or unfocused in their thought process — though these were found to be rare and reversible. The FDA also warned, following U.S. research, that patients on statins had a small excess risk of developing Type 2 diabetes — but stressed that the benefits of taking a statin still outweigh this. The MHRA had 2,675 reports for adverse drug reactions connected with statins between 2007 and 2011. Officially, side-effects are rare —affecting only 1 per cent of people on the pills — but some doctors say they are under-reported. Dr Malcolm Kendrick, a GP and author of The Great Cholesterol Con, says he frequently sees patients suffering from mental confusion in his job in hospital intermediary care for the elderly. ‘Many of the patients I see will have been admitted to hospital after a fall or similar crisis,’ he says. ‘If they appear confused I’ll often advise taking them off statins to see if it has any effect — in my experience, about 10 to 15 per cent of people who appeared to have memory problems experienced an improvement in their memory symptoms after being taken off the drug. ‘I had one dramatic case where a lady was admitted to hospital on 40mg a day of simvastatin with such poor memory function her family asked me about power of attorney. 'I suggested taking her off statins and within a week her memory had returned to normal. She went home a fit and independent 83-year-old.’ Dr Kendrick says cholesterol is the main constituent of synapses (structures that allow signals to pass between brain cells and to create new memories) and is essential for brain function. ‘It is still not proven that statins have a significant effect on mortality — it has been calculated that a man who has had a heart attack who took a statin for five years would extend his life by only 14 days. 'Too many statins are being given to people at low risk. ‘Even in the highest risk group you need to treat 200 people a year with statins to delay just one death. 'One day the harm these drugs are doing is going to be obvious — the benefits are being over-hyped and the risks swept under the carpet.’ While Dr Kendrick’s controversial view is in the minority, one large review of 14 studies by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, published by the highly respected Cochrane Library last year, concluded there was ‘little evidence’ cholesterol-lowering drugs protect people who are not at risk of heart disease. This review has been criticised by other doctors who say side-effects are rare and that there are still benefits even for people at lower risk who do not have established heart disease. These defenders of statins include Professor Colin Baigent of the Clinical Trial Service at Oxford University, who published research in 2010 showing statins reduced deaths from all causes by 10 per cent over five years. ‘There is relatively little evidence of cognitive impairment — what evidence there is all comes from observational studies. ‘People read about side-effects and then put two and two together and blame the statins for their muscle pain or other health problems — it’s just not reliable evidence. ‘If you look at the best-quality randomised controlled trial where patients don’t know if they are taking a statin or placebo, there is no evidence of memory problems. 'Even the FDA says the risks of cognitive problems are very small and go away when statins are discontinued. ‘We’re in danger of forgetting just how effective these drugs are.’ Dr Dermot Neely of the charity Heart UK, and lead consultant at the Lipid and Metabolic Clinic at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, agrees side-effects with statins are rare. ‘I’ve been dealing with patients on statins since 1987 and I can count on the fingers of one hand the number whose memory symptoms turned out to be caused by statins.’ However, he said he often saw patients who had not been told about side-effects. ‘It’s important GPs are clear about the drugs statins can interact with, such as certain antibiotics, as this can get overlooked. ‘If a patient notices an adverse effect after starting statins, they should discuss this with their GP —but not stop their drugs suddenly because this can be dangerous.’ Sonya Porter, 73, decided to stop taking statins after her memory problems became so bad that she walked away from a cashpoint leaving her money behind. ‘I was permanently fuzzy-headed and just couldn’t seem to concentrate,’ says Sonya, a retired PA from Woking, Surrey. Then I started to get scared I might have Alzheimer’s. After reading about memory problems associated with statins, I thought it was at least a possibility. I decided to come off the pills to see if it made any difference. ‘I didn’t ask my GP, I just did it — I’d rather die of a heart attack than Alzheimer’s disease. Within a month I felt normal again and didn’t have any problems with memory. ‘I’m terrified that I could have been misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s.’ John Holliday is also reluctant to go back on statins. ‘I wouldn’t rule it out completely — my latest test showed my cholesterol levels have gone up,’ he says. ‘But on balance, I’d rather take my chances with heart disease than feel as confused as that again. It’s all very well living slightly longer — but it’s about quality of life, too.’
Tuesday, 3 April 2012
James Murdoch is to step down as chairman of UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB, but will remain on the board. He is the son of News Corporation founder Rupert, whose company had to drop its bid for BSkyB after the phone-hacking scandal. In February, James Murdoch stepped down as chairman of News International, which publishes the Sun and the Times in the UK. He said then he had moved to New York to work on News Corp's pay-TV business. News Corp owns almost 40% of BSkyB and had wanted to buy the whole of the firm. But it withdrew its bid as political pressure mounted due to allegations of improper conduct at News International's News of the World Sunday title, which was shut down last July. Sources told Robert Peston, the BBC's business editor, that it was James Murdoch's decision to leave and he did so in an attempt to pre-empt further criticism as investigations continue into phone hacking. James Murdoch has repeatedly denied knowing about phone hacking at the News of the World. Nicholas Ferguson will take over as chairman.
Monday, 26 March 2012
A powerful Filipino clan leader who is a suspect in the 2009 massacre of 57 people pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of rigging elections to favor former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's allies. Andal Ampatuan Sr., who is currently on trial for murder in the massacre, was separately arraigned on the charge of electoral sabotage. Arroyo, his former political patron, has pleaded not guilty to the same electoral charge. She has not been linked to the massacre. The court also entered a not guilty plea for former Philippine elections chief Benjamin Abalos, who questioned the court's jurisdiction and refused to enter a plea himself. One of the most feared politicians in the country, Ampatuan, his three sons and more than 150 gunmen are accused of killing at least 57 people, including 32 journalists, who were traveling in a convoy to register the candidacy of a political rival of the Ampatuans. The ambush in southern Maguindanao province, the Ampatuans' bailiwick where clan members held several positions, including governor and mayor of several towns named after them, was the worst political massacre in recent Philippine history and the worst single killing of journalists in the world. Ampatuan and the other accused have pleaded not guilty to murder charges. Ampatuan, the 70-year-old clan patriarch, was brought to court from his detention cell in a wheelchair Monday by heavily armed police. His arraignment had been postponed twice because he was treated for pneumonia in a military hospital early this month. The main witness in the electoral sabotage case is Norie Unas, a former provincial administrator, who says he overheard Arroyo instruct Ampatuan to ensure a victory in the 2007 congressional election for all 12 senatorial candidates allied with her. Not a single opposition candidate won that year in Maguindanao, and years later the election tribunal found evidence of vote tempering. Meanwhile, a grandson of Ampatuan — one of nearly 100 massacre suspects at large — was turned in by his mother and taken into custody. Anwar Ampatuan Jr.'s mother, who is a town mayor, feared for her son's life after he was hurt in a bomb blast Sunday, said military Col. Mayoralgo dela Cruz. It was not clear who was behind the blast. The massacre victims' relatives have criticized the slow pace of the trial, which opened in Manila in 2010.
Two Kent councils say a company has recovered £300,000 from those fraudulently claiming council tax discounts. The company employed by Tonbridge and Malling and Gravesham councils carried out credit checks on those claiming the 25% single person discount. In Gravesham, 706 people were found to be ineligible for the discount, with 237 people in Tonbridge and Malling. A civil liberties group said innocent people could be targeted by the checks. The Audit Commission said illegal claims for the single person's discount are costing councils £90m a year. Northgate Public Services is employed by both councils and is given a file listing all the names of people claiming the discount in the two boroughs. Sue Holloway, from Northgate, said the company then checks the list against data from third parties, including credit reference agencies. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote We have a duty to protect the public purse” James Flannery Benefits Investigation Manager Nick Pickles, from civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said that when children leave home it is not uncommon for them to use their parent's address for their correspondence and bank account details. Sensitive data He said the parent could apply for the discount, but the records would show more adults sharing the address. "How many innocent people have to go through the process of appealing against a wrong decision based on wrong information? "The worry is that the council is handing over an awful lot of sensitive data on people who have done nothing wrong and that's going to third party companies with very little control." The councils said they paid about £30,000 for the work to be carried out. James Flannery, the benefits investigation manager for both councils, said: "Over the two authorities, the last time we did a data match, we received just over £300,000. "We write to the customer first, saying we have this discrepancy and we ask for more information. "The figures talk for themselves. We have a duty to protect the public purse."
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced on March 23 that it has filed a subpoena against Wells Fargo for failing to produce documentation relating to a fraud investigation concerning Wells Fargo's sale of $60 billion in residential mortgage-backed securities. Related articles Federal judge's ruling could change prosecution of Wall Street US judge rejects 'inadequate' settlement between SEC and Citi Citigroup settles CDO charges for $285 million Wells Fargo agrees $11 million SEC settlement over CDO sales The subpoena, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, follows previous requests for evidence dating back to September 2011. Wells Fargo had agreed to produce materials relating to due diligence and the bank's underwriting guidelines but has so far failed to do so. The SEC's fraud investigation is examining whether Wells Fargo made material misrepresentations to investors in the sale of a series of securities between 2006 and 2008. A due diligence review of a sample of the loans in each offering was performed; those that failed to comply with the bank's underwriting standards were dropped. However, according to the regulator, the bank did not make any efforts to remove similar deficiencies from the remainder of the loans in the pool before selling them to investors. This is not the first time Wells Fargo has fallen foul of the SEC's regulations. In April 2011, the bank paid settlement charges of more than $11 million in disgorgement and penalties for violating securities laws in the sales of two collateralised debt obligations (CDOs) between 2006 and 2007. In both cases, the CDOs were sold to investors for prices much higher than the values Wells Fargo had recorded shortly before for accounting purposes.
The star witnesses in the next leg of the federal trial focused on the largest flipping fraud conspiracy in Florida history will likely be the three defendants themselves. Karen Unger -- the unorthodox and flamboyant out-of-state attorney who represents defendants George Cavallo and Paula Hornberger -- plans to put her clients on the stand in an effort to win jurors over. Her contention is that the couple were simply dupes in the decade-long conspiracy, used by their relative Rich Bobka and by the scheme's mastermind Craig Adams. Anne Borghetti, who represents defendant Joel Streinz, has similar plans. The defense will be taking the driver's seat today in the case after eight weeks of testimony from government witnesses. Prosecutors ended their case on Friday. Unger also will call other investors who might have unwittingly participated in real estate deals with Adams and Bobka, Adams' chief lieutenant and Cavallo's brother. She also is expected to present Gary Lacefield, the president and senior consultant of the Texas-based Risk Mitigation Group. Lacefield, an expert witness who will give an overview of the real estate market during the boom, is expected to describe the transgressions of mortgage lenders and other real estate professionals operating in that frenetic time. Having the defendants testify can have a strong impact on juries, but it also comes with its own risks, said Frank Rubino, a prominent Miami criminal defense attorney who represented former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega in the 1980s.
Microsoft says it has shut down two of the biggest cybercrime groups using botnets for online fraud and identity theft. Working with financial officials and security partners, Microsoft said it had taken legal and technical measures in a global operation targeting the Zeus family of malware, which has been used to attack banks. Microsoft said the action was possible because it received court backing to seize control and command servers by a New York judge. The officials found that the servers were being used to control networks of computers infected with key-logging software, which was stealing bank passwords and transferring stolen funds. We’ve disrupted a critical source of money-making for digital fraudsters and cyber thieves, while gaining important information to help identify those responsible “With this action, we’ve disrupted a critical source of money making for digital fraudsters and cyber-thieves, while gaining important information to help identify those responsible and better protect victims,” said Richard Boscovich, senior attorney for the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit. “The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit has long been working to combat cybercrime operations, and today is a particularly important strike against cybercrime that we expect will be felt across the criminal underground.” Microsoft said it was only the second time it had seized equipment in raids, and the company and its partners were joined by US marshalls when they removed servers in two hosting locations in the US. The company also took down two IP addresses behind the Zeus command and control structure, and Microsoft said it was also monitoring 800 domains secured in the operation, which are helping to identify thousands of computers infected by Zeus. According to Microsoft, it has identified 13 million computers infected with the Zeus malware since 2007.
A major fraud case against the former boss of the Moscow Metro's has been dropped. Moscow authorities suspect Dmitry Gaev of abuse of power during his 15-year reign over the underground. They said he had exploited his position for personal gain at a cost of nearly $4 million to the city. Gaev allegedly patented the system involving the use of electronic ticketing machines and then sold the rights for the invention to the Metro, thus receiving a considerable sum as a reward. A thorough investigation, however, showed that Gaev had every legal right to register all the patents. Gaev resigned from his post in February 2011, following claims that many costly violations had occurred on his watch. The Audit Chamber claimed that new metro stations could have been constructed much faster and more cheaply if Gaev had analyzed the situation more carefully. He was also blamed for the over-pricing of metro rates. Gaev was head of the Moscow Metro since 1995. He had previously been employed as the first deputy to the then-head of the metro, an official who was close to Yury Luzhkov, who was mayor of Moscow at that time. Gaev is currently abroad undergoing medical treatment. Moscow Metro is said to be on the right track in terms of helping to sort out the overloaded city transportation system. Almost half of the city's car owners spend up to three hours sitting in traffic every day, while those using public transport spend less than half of that.
A Channel 4 investigation has found that personal banking details can be swiped from a card via a mobile device Millions of users of Barclays Bank's contactless payment cards are at risk of fraud as their personal details can be stolen via a mobile phone, an investigation has found. The investigation, carried out by Channel 4, revealed that mobile phones containing a standard card-reading app can be modified to steal details from contactless payment cards. This can be done simply by swiping the mobile phone over the card, even if it is in a wallet. Contactless payment cards are fitted with a chip that contains all the important data needed to buy something, with the exception of the CVV code, and they work when held up to special readers in shops. Channel 4 alleges that these details can easily be transmitted to a mobile phone. Thomas Cannon of ViaForensics, who helped with the investigation, said: "All I did was I tap my phone over your wallet and using the wireless reader on the phone I was able to lift out the details from your card, that includes the long card number, the expiry date and your name. None of it was encrypted, it was simply a case of the details coming out through the air." Using details acquired this way, Channel 4 claims it was able to order and receive a number of goods purchased through online retailer Amazon. The show said that Amazon does not required the use of the CVV code - the three-digit number on the back on a user's card - to complete purchases, which is where users will be exposed to potential fraud. Normally a 'card not present' transaction requires the CVV, but evidently not in Amazon's case. The retail giant is not alone in this matter, meaning several other online shopping sites are potentially exposed to this kind of fraud. During the investigation Channel 4 found that just Visa cards issues by Barclays were at risk; other banking and card combinations did not transmit the data. A statement issued by Barclays denied that their contactless payment system is inherently flawed. Instead the issue lies with the retailers, they said. "We are compliant with scheme rules for contactless cards and our fraud guarantee refunds any fraudulent losses to customers in full. The only information which can be obtained from a chip is the same as that which is printed on the front of the card - this does not include secure information such as PIN or signature (CVV) code," a Barclays statement read. "The details obtained should not be sufficient to undertake any fraudulent activity but we do depend on retailers upholding the same high standards of security when verifying payment details," the statement added. "As a matter of urgency we are now engaging with retailers to ensure they are undertaking adequate and robust checks. We remain committed to contactless and firmly believe that it continues to be a safe and viable payment system." It is thought there are around 13 million users of Barclays' contactless payment cards. Contactless payment is a booming business at the moment, with near-field communications (NFC) chips being included as standard on many smartphones. A recent report by Informa said that mobile phone-based payments are expected to top $37bn a year by 2016.