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Just how corrupt is Europe?

Posted on June 8th, 2012 at 22:32 by Paul Jay in category: News


Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International (TI) says the close relationships between governments and big businesses are enabling corruption and fuelling the eurozone’s debt crisis.

At the end of the day corruption is a moral problem. For example, lobbyists will always meet politicians but the problem comes in when a lobbyist offers a favour and the politician returns that favour…there is a huge difference between promoting a cause and bribing someone.

– Carl Haglund, a member of the European parliament

The warning comes in a new report that says poor governance contributed to financial and political scandals in almost every European country during 2011.

Greece, Italy and Spain are listed as among the most corrupt countries on the continent.

Political parties, businesses and the public sector are said to be the worst institutions for corruption, while electoral commissions and state auditors performed the best.

The report named Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain – the eurozone’s most financially-troubled nations – as having deeply-rooted problems in their public administrations where officials are not accountable for their actions.

Political lobbying is also seen as a major cause for concern. Out of 25 European countries 19 have no regulations on political lobbying.

Party funding, with the influence of lobbyists on decision-makers remaining veiled in secrecy, is seen as ripe for abuse by big businesses. The report says Europe’s political parties must do more to make funding transparent.

Corruption is not the only cause [for Europe’s financial crisis but] it is an important contributing factor…In all these areas [mentioned in the report] there is room for making progress but governments need to act quickly before things get worse.

– Chandu Krishnan, the executive director of Transparency International UK

And lastly the report found high levels of corruption in public procurement, where politicians and business leaders use their influence to win contracts and sway policies.

The recommendations TI made to European legislators to counter rising corruption include implementing mandatory regulations on political party funding and a cap on donations; a mandatory register of lobbyists; passing comprehensive laws granting access to information.

In this show Inside Story asks: How corrupt is Europe?

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The American dream is a myth

Posted on June 8th, 2012 at 20:58 by John Sinteur in category: News


While we all know stories of people who’ve moved up the social stratosphere, Stiglitz says the statistics tell a very different story. In the last 30 years the share of national income held by the top 1% of Americans has doubled; for to the top 0.1%, their share has tripled, he reports. Meanwhile, median incomes for American workers have stagnated.

Even more than income inequality, “America has the least equality of opportunity of any of the advanced industrial economies,” Stiglitz says. In short, the status you’re born into — whether rich or poor — is more likely to be the status of your adult life in America vs. any other advanced economy, including ‘Old Europe’.

For example, just 8% of students at America’s elite universities come from households in the bottom 50% of income, Stiglitz says, even as those universities are “needs blind” — meaning admission isn’t predicated on your ability to pay.

“There’s not much mobility up and down,” he says. “The chances of someone from the top who doesn’t do very well in school are better than someone from the bottom who does well in school.”


If the root causes of income inequality go unaddressed, America will truly become a two-class society and look much more like a third world economy, Stiglitz warns. “People will live in gated communities with armed guards. It’s a ugly picture. There will be political, social and economic turmoil.” (Hence the book’s subtitle: ‘How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future’

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  1. “It’s Called the American Dream Because You Have To Be Asleep to Believe It”
    George Carlin


  2. “The American Dream has run out of gas. The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now” (same source as Paul Jay’s citation))

Short-selling litigation: An enlightening mistake

Posted on June 8th, 2012 at 19:03 by John Sinteur in category: Robber Barons


A RARE slip-up by lawyers has helped shed some light on a high-profile legal battle, the details of which some of the largest Wall Street firms have been fighting to keep under wraps. The case concerns allegations of illegal “naked” short selling, where the rules have been tightened several times over the past seven years.

In 2007 Overstock sued 11 brokers, alleging that they had caused its share price to fall by helping their clients to naked-short the Utah-based retailer. In a normal short sale, shares are borrowed (or at least “located”) with a broker’s help before being sold. In the naked version, there is no attempt to borrow or locate the stock. This can create “fails to deliver”, where the trade is not settled when it should be, and messes with the laws of supply and demand, allowing shorting to take place beyond the natural limits set by the number of borrowable shares.

As the pre-trial discovery period proceeded, Overstock narrowed its focus to two firms, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch, now part of Bank of America. Before the case was set to go to trial in California, however, the judge dismissed it on jurisdictional grounds, ruling that not enough of the alleged wrongdoing had taken place in the state. Overstock appealed and pushed for all of the evidence to be unsealed. The defendants objected. Four media groups, including The Economist, opposed a motion to seal on public-interest grounds. The judge decided that some of the documents should be released but stayed his ruling, pending appeal.

That was how things stood until May 11th, when the defendants’ lawyers served the other parties in the case with their opposition to a plaintiff’s motion. Inadvertently included in this was an unredacted version of an earlier filing by Overstock containing excerpts of e-mails from Goldman and Merrill employees.

In these they discuss deliberately failing to settle client trades. One Merrill executive suggests the firm “might want to consider allowing…customers to fail,” to which a colleague replies: “We are going to look into that.” Another asks: “How and when can we prevent the delivery [of shares]?” To a question from a large client about efforts at “cleaning up” fails, a Goldman man says that “we will let you fail.” Compliance officers questioned this behaviour, according to the filing. One at Merrill is quoted calling it “totally unacceptable—we are failing when we have over a million shares of stock available.”


The president of one of Merrill’s stock-clearing businesses responds to internal concerns about failed trades thus: “Fuck the compliance area—procedures, schmecedures.” He later assured the court that this statement was a joke, according to the filing.

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Rotten to the core

Posted on June 8th, 2012 at 10:24 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News

In 1992, according to the Wiki, there were 208 active diocesan priests in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester.

Guess how many of those 208 were raping kids?

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  1. 23 removed because the church itself found the accusations credible. Hmm, I’d say that means about 230 were raping kids.

  2. Let not forget the bishop-prick and the lay brethren.

Christian Right Lobbies To Overturn Second Law Of Thermodynamics

Posted on June 8th, 2012 at 10:05 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News


The second law of thermodynamics, a fundamental scientific principle stating that entropy increases over time as organized forms decay into greater states of randomness, has come under fire from conservative Christian groups, who are demanding that the law be repealed.

“What do these scientists want us teaching our children? That the universe will continue to expand until it reaches eventual heat death?” asked Christian Coalition president Ralph Reed, speaking at a rally protesting a recent Kansas Board Of Education decision upholding the law. “That’s hardly an optimistic view of a world the Lord created for mankind. The American people are sending a strong message here: We don’t like the implications of this law, and we will not rest until it has been reversed in the courts.”

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  1. The Onion story is almost accurate. Just substitute evolution for entropy. Are Americans really getting more ignorant as they are getting obese? Fairly self evident. Maybe a good statistic study for a stats grad.

If he does, why are you parked in that spot?

Posted on June 8th, 2012 at 10:02 by John Sinteur in category: Pastafarian News

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  1. Because God told me to. He also told me to buy this Mustang convertible with $40K I sheared from my flock.

Garden of Your Mind

Posted on June 8th, 2012 at 10:02 by John Sinteur in category: News

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Ready, Fire, Aim

Posted on June 8th, 2012 at 9:50 by John Sinteur in category: Indecision 2012

I guess brief hiatus on imagery and rhetoric involving shooting your political opposition that followed the Giffords assassination attempt has ended and now the candidates have decided to urge their more violence prone members to try killing an oponent again.

I suppose the only real question is whether or not the inevitable violence following this sort of stuff will happen before, or after, the elections.

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  1. Yeah, and look at all the cannibalism that has been happening lately. Clearly Tipper Gore’s failure to censor that Rock and Roll music is responsible.


Posted on June 8th, 2012 at 9:45 by John Sinteur in category: Cartoon

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Dear Eric Schmidt, It’s Been 6 Months — Where Are Those iOS-Slaying Android Exclusive Apps?

Posted on June 8th, 2012 at 8:54 by John Sinteur in category: Google


He predicted that by this date, developers would be making their apps for Android first. And that’s simply not happening. Sure, there are a few here and there that do it. But for the most part, the situation remains the same. In the hearts and minds of top app developers, it’s iOS first and Android second — or not at all.

The same is true for the vast majority of new startups — I talk with dozens each week. The refrain: iOS first. Android second. Down the road. At some point. Maybe.

So why was Schmidt so wrong? In my mind, there are a number of reasons — the same ones I went into in my initial post. The ability to make money is the most important. But the most interesting reason again ties into something Schmidt said back in December:

“With the ICS release our core objective as a company is to get all of the hardware vendors onto that platform.”

I mean, he really said that. And it’s unbelievable because it’s perhaps the most epic fail in the history of epic fails. Google’s “core objective as a company” was to get hardware vendors onto Ice Cream Sandwich (aka Android 4.0), and as of June 1 — seven months after the launch of the OS — 7.1 percent of Android phones are actually on it. Seven. Point. One. Percent.

That number isn’t from some bullshit survey of a few hundred devices or some propaganda from Apple — it’s the number published by Google itself. And it’s pathetic.

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  1. Dunno. So far what I see is 60-70% of the apps I use are available on both for my Android and my iPhone (either the same one or an alternative).
    The rest are a toss up: some are not available on the Android and some are not available on the iPhone.
    But definitely, Android apps didn’t kill the iPhone apps.
    And as for ICS – well, providers do NOT want to upgrade existing phones. Handset makers do NOT want to upgrade. They want you to buy new.

T-Mobile confirms it will offer WWDC attendees iPhone-compatible ’4G’ at Moscone West

Posted on June 8th, 2012 at 8:22 by John Sinteur in category: Apple


While upgrading coverage inside the West side of the Moscone Center, T-Mobile has also deployed 4G HSPA+ service in the 1900 MHz band to test the live network on a small scale. As part of the company’s previously announced $4 billion network modernization effort, T-Mobile plans to launch 4G HSPA+ service in the 1900 MHz band in a large number of markets by the end of the year, which will make our 4G network compatible with a broader range of devices, including the iPhone.

NOTE: The time and location of this test is just coincidental.

Wow. What a coincidence! I am amazed how this can happen without any intent on t-mobile’s part!

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Far-Right Politician in Greece Slaps Rival on TV

Posted on June 8th, 2012 at 7:51 by John Sinteur in category: News


Politics has been a rough-and-tumble affair here this year, but mostly in a metaphorical sense until Thursday, when a male legislator from an ultraright political party attacked two rival legislators on a live television talk show, both of them women, throwing water in the face of one and slapping the other in the face repeatedly.

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  1. It’s worth noting that the male legislator (Mr. Kasidiaris) has a court case pending for assault. I hope that at every public speaking engagement, people continue to point out that their right-wing elected official is inclined to use violence against anyone who disagrees with him.