Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Under the radar: Stories that are not getting much play this week

With all the valid outrage over the verdict in Florida and the need for a national dialogue on issues that have plagued this nation since its inception,  (and some churned outrage by those who love to manipulate it), there are a few very important stories that may be getting missed or under-played.  The stories aren't quite sensationally sexy enough,  aren't sleazy bedroom "who-is-doing-whom" scandalous, or, more likely, are too embarrassing for some in power to want out in  the open. this making them easy to quietly bury.

A few of the "well worth mentioning":

Fabrice Tourre was a banker  for one of the most powerful banks in the industry, Goldman Sachs.  The Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has accused him of defrauding investors by hawking a "subprime mortgage product".

In other words, three years ago, he took  subprime mortgage loans that had been chopped and churned then bundled into a product called "Abacus 2007-AC1"...

That "product" made  John Paulson, Hedge Fund manager, a cool $1 billion (more on the "who" of John Paulson here ); Fabulous Fab  -  Before "Abacus", Vice-president on the structured-product-correlation trading desk in New York; post "Abacus," Executive director of Goldman Sachs International in London -made $2 million; and Goldman Sachs says they lost $90 million but charged $15 million in fees
The SEC came snooping, including the emails...
Fabrice, not so fabulously, got cocky and sent all the dirt in emails to impress his girlfriend.
For more on the background of the story, "The Fabulous Life of Fabrice Tourre"

The trial probably won't have too many ramifications for the industry and Goldman Sachs but it does bring the story of how "too big to fail" got so big and how investors (to include many nations from Europe to Asia to Canada and to South America) lost big as Goldman Sachs made billions betting against their own product's performance.
Yesterday was the first day of the trial in Manhattan.  From the appearance, we have the ,makings of a very long trial and short attention span of the selected jury .  Even the judge has asked that the attorneys  be "gentle" since the "jury of his peers" may not comprehend the ins and outs and hard to track manipulations that were used to push the banking scam .  A "jury of his peers" chosen out of the general populace with little comprehension of the complex cons pulled on the people.

Ramadan is upon us as the hunger strike at Guantanamo continues.  The strike, starting  February, 2013, has been flying under the radar of mainstream media for nearly 5 months except when it is forced onto them by a court action or political speech.

Over 100 detainees,  out of the 155 remaining at Guantanamo, chose this extreme form of protest and suicide in response to their continued imprisonment without charge, the lack of discussion about their plight and the escalation of abuse by the camp's guards under orders of the camp commander who was put in place June 2012.

Over the course of the past 5 months, attention finally came when the camp commander imposed strict isolation (a policy that had been stopped years before) on nearly all of the prisoners and did so violently. The commander also ordered confiscation of anything and everything from personal family photos, legal documents, and the prisoner's personal Qurans .  The prisoners reacted to the attacks by returning some of the same, grabbing what they could to fight back.

Spun by the MSM as a "riot "by detainees with little mention of the events that led to the blow up, the story finally brought attention to the strike and a  response by the president.

The media from the UK to Qatar has been covering Guantanamo for years on a regular basis, as has Russia Today, India Times, and other major outlets around the world.  The US media generally only mentions Guantanamo when Congress or the President makes a statement, renews the Patriot Act or if an action so deplorable is committed - the latest is the worldwide outrage to the Force-Feeding of the hunger strikers.

152 physicians joined with the Lancet to call for the end of the force-feeding policy.  The AMA has also called for the end of the policy.  In letters to The Secretary of State, op-eds, articles and petitions, the medical community, that decided years ago that the practice was unethical and dangerous, has called for medical personnel of Guantanamo, the President and the Secretary of State to cease the policy.

This past week, a US Federal Court judge refused to stop the force-feeding of detainees during Ramadan.  She did, however, state  that only President Barack Obama had the power to intervene.  A call that is being made by Islamic leaders around the world.

Ramadan is a month of  fasting, charitable works  and prayer.  The force-feeding of detainees, besides being unethicalbesides being torturous,  is a violation of the detainees' religious observance .  One more right removed and about the only one they had left.

Also, last week, attorneys for the prisoners received a ruling by Judge Royce Lamberth orderimg a ban to the practice of groin searches of prisoners done by the guards if the prisoner was to meet with his attorney or even accept a phone call from his attorney .  These searches could take place as many  as 4 times for one visit with the attorney.  The practice was reinstated last May after the so-called riot referenced earlier. It is a practice that is both "“religiously and culturally abhorrent” which is the main reason it is used; a practice that had been instituted by the Bush Administration but stopped years ago.

The reason for the order to halt the searches, according to the judge, was that the use of this practice proved to be little more than an attempt to restrict the prisoners from having access to their attorneys. Another right gone.  The prisoners found the practice so abhorrent and insulting, they refused to meet with their counsel in order to avoid the degradation.

Today, in an emergency motion by the Obama Administration, the US Court of Appeals put a temporary halt on the ban.  The government argued that the ban would "weaken security" allowing for contraband (to include "weapons") to be passed.  Keeping  in mind these searches are being conducted when the prisoner accepts a phone call from his attorney or meets with his attorney and that there has never been an instance of contraband  or weapons being traced to an attorney (how is contraband getting passed through a telephone?) or traced to a meeting in which attorney had been present, the judge stated
“that no attacks with these weapons have occurred at Guantánamo or that the source of these weapons has yet to be traced to attorney meetings does not alter this conclusion. Prison officials are entitled to take preemptive measures to ensure the security of their facilities.”

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