PNN - 2/7/16
1. HSBC fights to stop money-laundering report going public
HSBC is trying to prevent publication of a report on how it complies with money-laundering rules imposed on it by the US authorities in 2012, when it was fined a record $1.9bn (£1.32bn).
The bank is arguing in US courts that it could be left vulnerable to money laundering if the report is published.
Under the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement with US authorities, made when it was fined for aiding money laundering by Mexican drug cartels, HSBC must be subjected to regular audits about its internal capacity to seek out potentially suspect activity by customers.
A private individual, Hubert Dean Moore, who used to have a mortgage with HSBC, is suing to have the monitor’s first annual report unsealed by the court. He is being resisted not only by the bank but also by the US Department of Justice.
In letters to Judge John Gleeson filed in the eastern district court of New York, both HSBC and the DoJ have argued that the monitor’s report should not be made public.
HSBC told the judge that Moore had not identified a public interest case for publishing the report that would outweigh the negative consequences.
The bank referred to arguments made in June when the DoJ set out reasons not to make the 1,000-page report public.
Citing that submission, which was backed by regulators in four different countries, HSBC said publishing the monitor’s report would “undermine the very purpose of the monitoring by compromising the ability of the monitor and the government to assess HSBC’s progress in improving its anti-money laundering and sanctions compliance programme”.
Publication would “negatively affect the ability of HSBC’s financial regulators to fully discharge their supervisory responsibilities over HSBC”, and would “provide criminals seeking to engage in activities such as money laundering or terrorist financing a road map for exploiting current weakness in the anti-money laundering and sanctions programme at HSBC and potentially other financial institutions”.
HSBC, too big to jail, is the new poster child for US two-tiered justice system
- Glenn Greenwald
According to documents filed with the court, Moore had a mortgage with HSBC Mortgage Services, which has since been sold to another firm.
The monitor covers more than 60 global affiliates. In its court filing, HSBC said that the deferred prosecution agreement it originally signed had stipulated that the monitor’s report would remain private.
2.UN Set to Announce Decision on Assange's Release on Friday - WikiLeaks
Assange submitted a complaint against Sweden and the United Kingdom to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in September 2014.
The WikiLeaks founder has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for over three years, after being granted asylum by the South American country.
He remains holed up in the embassy to avoid possible extradition to Sweden, where he faces an allegation of rape.
Assange was previously accused of sexual assault and unlawful coercion in Sweden. However, in August 2015, Swedish prosecutors dropped the two allegations, as the five-year statute of limitations had expired. The more serious rape allegation expires only after 10 years, meaning it would be dropped in 2020.
From Sweden, the WikiLeaks founder fears he would be extradited to the US for publishing classified US military and diplomat documents in 2010 – a move which amounted to the largest information leak in United States history.
Following the leak, the US launched a criminal case with the intention of prosecuting Assange.
Founded in 2006, WikiLeaks has been at the forefront of publishing information which shed light on various government abuses and overreach, including documents about the US military conduct in Iraq and Afghanistan, portions of the secret Trans-Pacific Partnership pact, and documents the CIA director kept on his personal email account.
3, Scientists Successfully Decode Thoughts, Reading Individuals’ Minds in Real-Time
Using electrodes implanted in epilepsy patients, scientists have decoded brain signals at nearly the speed of perception with better than 95 percent accuracy.
GETTING INSIDE YOUR HEAD
Mind-reading is often dismissed as nothing more than a charlatan trick, but scientists and researchers are trying to change this ‘decoding of the brain’ from quack-science to hard science.
Indeed, significant advancements have been made in this area already. And now, University of Washington scientists have developed technology that allows a device to effectively read your mind.
With a combination of brain implants and sophisticated software, the team was able to interpret their subjects’ thoughts and extrapolate what their subjects were seeing. Thanks to this study,
scientists were able to gain insight into how people are able to translate sensory information from an image into something our minds can comprehend.
In their work, which was published in PLOS Computational Biology, the researchers implanted electrodes for a week in seven epilepsy patients. The electrodes were initially implanted to determine where the seizures were originating, but the scientists saw an opportunity to use them to gather data for research (with patients’ permission, of course).
“We were trying to understand, first, how the human brain perceives objects in the temporal lobe, and second, how one could use a computer to extract and predict what someone is seeing in real time?” explained Rajesh Rao, one of the lead authors, in their press release.
With electrodes in their brains, patients were shown a random sequence of images varying from human faces, houses, and empty gray screens in brief 400 millisecond intervals. The patients were instructed to look out for an image of an upside-down house.
Data was gathered during this time period from the electrodes. This data reflected what is called “event related potentials,” the massive inflow of neurons lighting up after seeing the image, and “broadband spectral changes,” lingering signals after the image was seen.
A computer sampled and digitized the incoming data at a rate of 1,000 times per second, which enabled it to figure out the correlation between the images seen by the patients and the electrode location. Using this data, it was able to distinguish which location is more sensitive to an image of a face and that of a house. This data was used to train the software.
Another set of images, both containing houses and faces, that weren’t shown in the earlier sequences was then shown to the patients. The computer was able to interpret the incoming brain signals in the data and determine what image the subject was then viewing with a 96 percent accuracy—despite a lack of prior exposure to these new picture.
It accomplished all that within 20 milliseconds from the arrival of the data, or almost at the speed of perception itself. What is more interesting is that the software was only able to accomplish this when it analyzed the signals using both event-related potentials and broadband spectral changes, suggesting that impulses across the region (and not only from the neurons in question) is important to how a person perceives an object.
This research is significant, as scientists are currently trying to map our brains. In the end, brain mapping could identify how various neurons, and their locations, relate to how we process our information and ultimately improve our understanding of how neurological diseases affect us.
4. Deniability they don’t need any stinking deniability
Republicans have forced Hillary Clinton release all the emails from her time as Secretary of State in the hopes that somewhere in amongst them might be something they could turn into a scandal and derail her campaign for President. That never materialized, as her emails have been mundane. But it turns out she inherited emails from her predecessor Colin Powell. And that email trail reveals that George W. Bush committed treason.
The secret emails in question date back to 2002. Colin Powell and George W. Bush are shown to have been conspiring to work with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to mislead the American public into believing that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, as a pretense for tricking the nation into supporting an invasion of Iraq. It’s been long established that there never were any such weapons in Iraq, but to some extent the Bush administration had the deniability of claiming that it had made an error. However this email trail suggests that Bush, Powell and Blair spent an entire year laying the groundwork for deceiving the public. Lying to congress in order to get it to approve a war is considered treason.
Whether or not the email trail is solid enough evidence to get anyone convicted of a crime, it’s certainly enough to lead Americans to conclude that the Iraq war was even more of a sham than previously believed. This email exchange might never have surfaced if not for the fact that the republican party forced Hillary Clinton to turn over everything she had. So while the republicans have failed to do any serious damage to Clinton’s chances, they may have just made it that much harder for any 2016 republican candidate to explain away their party’s culpability in Iraq.
5. Lloyd Blankfein, Chief Executive Cephalopod of Goldman Sachs, issued a warning about the Bernie Sanders campaign this week.
"This has the potential to be a dangerous moment," he said on CNBC's Squawk Box.
The Lloyd was peeved that Sanders, whom he's never met, singled him out in a debate last week. "Another kid from Brooklyn, how about that," he lamented.
He ranted about how frightening it is that a candidate like Sanders, who seems to have no interest in "compromising" with Wall Street, could become so popular.
"Could you imagine," he asked, "if the Jeffersons and Hamiltons came in with a total pledge and commitment to never compromise with the other side?"
The slobbering Squawk Box hosts went on to propose firing all the academics in the country, because clearly it is their fault that so many young people are willing to support a socialist.
"I'm ready," said co-host Joe Kernen, "to send my daughter to Brigham Young or Liberty or something."
Then Kernen, Becky Quick and Blankfein all made jokes about how socialism doesn't work and how all those Berniebots should take a trip to Cuba.
"The best real-time experiment is, I went to Cuba," said Lloyd.
"I haven't been," Kernen said proudly.
"You should go," said Lloyd. "You go there, stop in Miami and you just see the Cuban community and how much wealth they've generated.
Of course the politics of Sanders is closer to what you'd find in Sweden or Denmark than Cuba, but they were rolling by then. Lloyd added that the current popular discontent with Wall Street was just something that happens randomly, like the weather. "There's a pendulum that happens in markets and it happens in political economy as well," he said. He added that he didn't want to pick a candidate because "I don't want to help or hurt anybody by giving an endorsement."
For people who so very pleased with themselves for ostensibly being so much smarter than everyone else, people like Blankfein are oddly uncreative when it comes to deflecting criticism.
The people who don't like them are always overemotional communists. All those young people who are flocking to the Sanders campaign? Dupes, misled by dumb professors who've never been to Cuba.
And their anger toward Wall Street? Causeless and random, just a bunch of folks riding an emotional pendulum that brainlessly swings back and forth. Don't take it personally, people are just moody that way.
Bill Clinton apparently agrees. A story about the former president's thoughts on the subject appeared in Stress Test, the vile battle memoir of the financial crisis penned by infamous Wall Street toady and former treasury secretary Tim Geithner.
In the book, Timmy goes on at length about how sad it made him that the public was so upset about the bailouts and other policies he engineered to make the Blankfeins of the world whole again. Looking for a way to not feel so hated, he went to Clinton to "discuss the politics of populism with the master practitioner."
It's an important detail. Geithner's instinct for figuring out how to deal with ordinary people was not to go talk to any, but instead to talk to someone who'd had success marketing himself to them.
This squares with accounts I heard after 2008, about the Treasury Department in the Geithner years. In one story I remember, it took a presentation from a major retail company about expected lower holiday spending levels to enlighten Geithner's staff as to the level of economic pain in the population. Until they saw the graphs from executives, they had no clue.
Anyway, according to his book, Geithner got good advice from Clinton. The former president advised him to press for tax hikes on the rich, but to "make sure I didn't look like I was happy about it." Then Clinton added that Timmy shouldn't take the public-anger thing too hard: "You could take Lloyd Blankfein in an alley and slit his throat, and it would satisfy them for about two days," Clinton said. "Then the blood lust would rise again."
Ordinary people aren't just overemotional and dumb, they're also zombies! They don't have grievances, just blood lusts.
The attitude shared by Lloyd and Geithner and Bill Clinton is that the mindless quality of public discontent means that there's no point in worrying about it, or negotiating with it. This is funny because Blankfein is the one complaining that people like Sanders and his followers don't want to compromise with him.
Lloyd apparently thinks politicians should naturally reside in a state of more or less constant accommodation with Wall Street. Thomas Jefferson would have compromised with us, he says!
One can assume that his model of a "compromising" politician is Hillary Clinton, who took $675,000 to give three speeches to his company. "Look, I make speeches to lots of groups," Hillary explained. "I told them what I thought."
Asked by Anderson Cooper if she needed to take $675,000 to tell Goldman what she "thought," Hillary shrugged. "I don't know," she said. "That's what they were offering."
Even more significant than the $675,000 Hillary took from Goldman, or the $30 million in speaking income she and her husband received combined in the last 16 months, is the account of what Hillary apparently told Goldman she "thought" during those speeches.
According to Politico, who spoke to several attendees, Hillary used the opportunity to tell the bankers in attendance that the "banker-bashing so popular within both parties was unproductive and indeed foolish."
She added that the proper attitude should be, "We all got into this mess together, and we're all going to have to work together to get out of it."
This squares with Geithner's account of what Bill Clinton said. The former president told Geithner that slitting Lloyd's throat would only satisfy "them" for about two days. Them was all those pissed-off regular people, and the we or us were politicians like himself and Geithner.
In her speech, Hillary's we included the executives in her audience. Her message was basically that It Takes a Village to create a financial crisis. This was the Robin Williams breakthrough scene in Good Will Hunting, with Hillary putting a hand on the Goldmanites' shoulders, telling them, "It's not your fault. It's not your fault."
But it was their fault. The crash was caused by a tiny handful of people who spent years hogging fortunes through a bluntly criminal scheme in the home lending markets. The FBI warned back in 2004 of an "epidemic" of mortgage fraud that could have an "impact as big as the S&L crisis," but those warnings were ignored.
What the FBI was talking about back then mainly had to do with smaller local lending operations that were systematically creating risky home loans, falsifying credit applications to get unworthy borrowers into mortgages they couldn't afford.
What they didn't understand back then is that the impetus for that criminal activity was the willingness of massive banking institutions on Wall Street to buy up those bad loans in bulk. They created a market for those fraudulent loans, bought billions' worth of them from local lenders, and then chopped up and resold those bad loans to pension funds, unions and other suckers.
The "village" didn't do this. Lloyd Blankfein and his buddies did this. (Goldman just a few weeks ago reached a deal to pay a $5.1 billion settlement to cover its history of selling bad loans to unsuspecting investors, joining Bank of America, Citi, JP Morgan Chase and others).
People aren't pissed just to be pissed. They're mad because a tiny group of crooks on Wall Street built themselves beach houses in the Hamptons through a crude fraud scheme that decimated their retirement funds, caused property values in their neighborhoods to collapse and caused over four million people to be put in foreclosure.
And they're particularly mad that they got asked to pay for this criminal irresponsibility with bailouts funded with their tax dollars.
What the Clintons have done by turning their political careers into a vast moneymaking enterprise, it's not a value-neutral activity. The money isn't just about buying influence. The money also physically moves people, from one side of an imaginary line to another.
You will never catch Bernie Sanders standing in a room as a paid guest of a bank under investigation for ripping billions off pensioners and investors, addressing the audience in the first-person plural. He doesn't spend enough time with that kind of crowd to be so colloquial.
The Clintons meanwhile have by now taken so much money that when they stand in a room full of millionaires and billionaires, they can use the word "we" and not have it sound odd. The money has irrevocably moved them to that side of the ropeline. On that side of the line, public anger isn't legitimate, but something to be managed and waited out, just as Lloyd suggests.
When people like Blankfein tell us they don't take criticism personally, what they're saying is that it's too brainless and irrational to be taken any other way. He means to be insulting. And we should all take it that way.
6. Sueing the Victim
A white Chicago police officer who fatally shot a black 19-year-old college student and accidentally killed a neighbor has filed a lawsuit against the teenager's estate, arguing the shooting left him traumatized.
The highly unusual suit was filed Friday in the middle of the city's effort to grapple with serious questions about the future of its police force. Those questions include the adequacy of its system for investigating police shootings and how to win back public trust after several cases of alleged misconduct. The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a wide-ranging civil rights investigation, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has promised a major overhaul of the Police Department and steps to heal its fraught relationship with black residents.
The timing and unusual nature of the suit by officer Robert Rialmo, who is seeking $10 million in damages, could complicate the department's efforts to demonstrate more sensitivity toward the community in how police shootings are handled. His attorney, Joel Brodsky, said it was important in the charged atmosphere to send a message that police are "not targets for assaults" and "suffer damage like anybody else."
The teen's father, Antonio LeGrier, filed a wrongful death lawsuit days after the Dec. 26 shooting, saying his son, Quintonio, was not armed with a weapon and was not a threat. His attorney, Basileios Foutris, was incredulous at what he called the officer's "temerity" in suing the grieving family of the person he shot.
"That's a new low even for the Chicago Police Department," he said. "First you shoot them, then you sue them."
The lawsuit provides the officer's first public account of how he says the shooting happened, offering details that differ with the family's version. It says Rialmo, who was responding to a domestic disturbance call with another officer, opened fire after Quintonio LeGrier swung a bat at the officer's head at close range. A downstairs neighbor, 55-year-old Bettie Jones, was standing nearby and was shot and killed by accident. She was not part of the domestic dispute.
"The fact that LeGrier's actions had forced Officer Rialmo to end LeGrier's life and to accidentally take the innocent life of Bettie Jones has caused, and will continue to cause, Officer Rialmo to suffer extreme emotional trauma," the filing says.
When arriving at the scene around 4:30 a.m. on Dec. 26, Rialmo rang the doorbell of the two-story apartment building. Jones answered and directed them to the upstairs apartment. As Rialmo stepped through the doorway, he heard someone "charging down the stairway," the suit says.
It describes the teen coming down the stairs with a baseball bat in hand and says LeGrier "cocked" the bat "and took a full swing at Officer Rialmo's head, missing it by inches" when the two were around 4 feet apart.
The officer then backed away with his weapon still holstered, according to the suit, while repeatedly shouting at LeGrier to drop the bat.
But the suit says LeGrier kept advancing and swung the bat again. Only when LeGrier cocked the bat again from 3 or 4 feet away, did the officer pull out his 9 mm handgun and open fire, the filing says.
As he began firing, Rialmo did not see or hear Jones behind LeGrier, the suit says. It says one of the bullets went through LeGrier's body and struck Jones, killing her.
An autopsy determined that LeGrier suffered six bullet wounds.
Lawyers for Antonio LeGrier and for Jones have provided accounts that differ from Rialmo's. They say the evidence indicates the officer was 20 or 30 feet away when he fired, calling into question Rialmo's contention that he feared for his life.
Foutris also questions why the teen would attack the officer since he was the one who called 911. The father of the Northern Illinois University student also made a 911 call.
"If you're calling multiple times for help are you going to charge a police officer and try to hit him with a bat? That's ridiculous," Foutris said.
County prosecutors have asked the FBI to investigate the shooting.
A Police Department spokesman refused to comment on the officer's lawsuit.
Such a lawsuit by an officer is extraordinarily unusual, said Phil Turner, a former federal prosecutor and current defense attorney who is not connected to the case.
He questioned whether a judge would give it any merit and said it appeared intended to intimidate LeGrier's family. He said he had never heard of an officer blaming his shooting victim for causing trauma.
"That is a known part of the job," Turner said of policing's emotional toll.
7. Indian Point Nuclear Plant
CNN, Feb 6, 2016 (emphasis added): A leak at the Indian Point nuclear facility in New York has sent contaminant into the area groundwater, causing radioactivity levels 65,000% higher than normal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday… The groundwater beneath the nuclear plant… flows into the Hudson River at a point about 25 miles north of New York City… [T]heNRC plans to send an expert in health physics and radiation protection to the site…
NY Daily News, Feb 6, 2016: Gov. Cuomo said the plant’s operator, Entergy, reported “alarming levels” of radioactivity at three monitoring wells, with one well’s radioactivityincreasing nearly 65,000%… Other state officials also blasted the controversial nuclear facility’s most recent mishap. Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee (D-Suffern) said she wasconcerned not only for the surrounding community but also for the “impact this radioactive water may have on public health and our environment,” Jaffee added.
News 12 transcript, Feb 6, 2016: “Tonight on News 12 — a radioactive leak at Indian Pointsparking a full investigation by the State over concerns of contamination… Officials discover alarming levels of radioactivity at several monitoring wells… with one’s radioactivity increasing by nearly 65,000%… Officials say… there is no immediate threat to the public.”
AP, Feb 6, 2016: It was unclear how much water spilled, but samples showed the water had a radioactivity level of more than 8 million picocuries per liter… The levels are the highest regulators have seen at Indian Point… Contaminated groundwater would likely slowly make its way to the Hudson River, [an NRC spokesman] said… Tritium [is] a radioactive form of hydrogen that poses the greatest risk of causing cancer when it ends up in drinking water.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Feb 6, 2016: “Yesterday I learned that radioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked… The company reported alarming levels of radioactivity at three monitoring wells, with one well’s radioactivity increasing nearly 65,000 percent.”
8. Fukushima - Unstoppable
Associated Press, Dec 15, 2015 (emphasis added): Fukushima decommission chief [Naohiro Masuda] warns with surprising candor: Nothing can be promised… not even robots have been able to enter the main fuel-debris areas so far… “This is something that has never been experienced. A textbook doesn’t exist for something like this,” Masuda told The Associated Press… “Before, it was a war zone,” Masuda said quietly… [E]ven the most optimistic projections estimate the work will take about half a century. Masuda said without hesitation thatmore delays could be in order. No one knows exactly where the melted nuclear debris is sitting in the reactors, let alone how exactly the debris might be taken out… New science will have to be invented for the plant to be cleaned up… The March 2011 catastrophe is unprecedented… [T]he containment, where the morass of fuel lies, has been breached… And as devastating as the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was in what is now Ukraine, that involved one reactor, not three. When asked about what he wanted to tell the people worried about contaminated fish, such as on the West Coast of North and South America, Masuda said the radiation leak into the Pacific Ocean has been reduced to a level one-millionth of what it was in 2011… “They don’t need to worry, and, if there is anything to worry about, we will be out with that information,” he said… Masuda also acknowledged that Japan has not done as good a job as it should have on relaying the harsh realities at the plant.