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Secret summit of top bankers World's top bankers fly in to meet at secret location trouble on the horizon - Organised by the Bank for International Settlements last year, the two-day talks are shrouded in secrecy with high-level security believed to have been invoked by law enforcement agencies. (News.au.com)
MSP airport security: Whole-body scanners are likely, but not everyone's on board Congressional hearings continued Wednesday into a dramatic overhaul of the nation's airport security system, which could see the metal detectors at airports across the country replaced by far more costly whole-body imaging scanners designed to see below clothing and which many say would have stopped the attempted Christmas Day underwear bomber before he stepped onto a plane (Minn Post)
Driver’s Licenses for the Internet? -- Today’s idea: Let’s have “driver’s licenses” for the Internet to counter online fraud, hackers and espionage, a Microsoft executive suggests. Maybe on your busy junket to the World Economic Forum in Davos last week you missed the panel where Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s chief research and technology officer, offered up the Internet licensing proposal above. Barbara Kiviat of the Curious Capitalist blog was there, and summarizes the idea thusly:
What Mundie is proposing is to impose authentication. He draws an analogy to automobile use. If you want to drive a car, you have to have a license (not to mention an inspection, insurance, etc.). If you do something bad with that car, like break a law, there is the chance that you will lose your license and be prevented from driving in the future. In other words, there is a legal and social process for imposing discipline. Mundie imagines three tiers of Internet I.D.: one for people, one for machines and one for programs (which often act as proxies for the other two). (New York Times)
A "Balanced Approach" to Drug Control? Despite trumpeting a "balanced and comprehensive drug strategy," President Obama's White House Drug Czar's office announced this week that it is continuing the nearly two-to-one budget disparity that heavily favors spending on law enforcement and punishment over public health strategies like treatment and prevention. (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition)
Intel chief: Al-Qaida likely to attempt attack National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair said with changes made since the Dec. 25 attack, U.S. intelligence would he able to identify and stop someone like the Detroit bomber before he got on the plane. But he warned a more careful and skilled would-be terrorist might not be detected. (Comcast)
Obama grows the drug war, with enforcement a clear priority The budget places America's drug war spending at $15.5 billion for fiscal year 2011; an increase of 3.5 percent over FY 2010. That figure reflects a 5.2 percent increase in overall enforcement funding, growing from $9.7 billion in FY 2010 to $9.9 billion in FY 2011. Addiction treatment and preventative measures, however, are budgeted at $5.6 billion for FY 2011, an increase from $5.2 billion in FY 2010. (The Raw Story)
US cyber security 'under threat' Malicious cyber activity is occurring on an unprecedented scale with extraordinary sophistication." That is what America's top intelligence official, Dennis Blair has told the US congress. (UK Channel 4)
Geithner: 'I had no role' in an AIG cover up Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner told lawmakers Wednesday that he had no involvement in an apparent attempt by government regulators to withhold crucial information about AIG's bailout from the public.
"I had no role in making decisions regarding what to disclose," Geithner testified at a hearing held by the House Oversight Committee Wednesday.
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AIG payouts: Who got what
Counterparties that got more than $1 billion from the government and AIG.
AIG counterparty Total payment
Societe Generale $16.5 billion
Goldman Sachs $14 billion
Deutsche Bank $8.5 billion
Merrill Lynch $6.2 billion
Calyon $4.3 billion
UBS $3.8 billion
Deutsche Zentral Genossenschaftsbank $1.8 billion
Barclays $1.5 billion
Bank of Montreal $1.4 billion
Royal Bank of Scotland $1.1 billion
Wachovia $1 billion
Source:Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
New York Fed officials instructed AIG (AIG, Fortune 500) not to disclose more than a dozen controversial transactions to the Securities and Exchange Commission in November 2008. At the time, Geithner was the president of the New York Fed, but he said he had recused himself from the day-to-day operations at that time because of his nomination to be Treasury secretary.
At least two lawmakers weren't buying Geithner's denial. - "Why shouldn't we ask for your resignation?" Mica asked Geithner. "We're not getting the whole story, we're getting the blame story. You're either incompetent on the job or you knew what was taking place and you tried to conceal it, and I think that's grounds for your review."
Geithner angrily responded to Mica, "You don't know me very well."
He then more calmly said, "That is your right to have that opinion. I have served my country as carefully and ably as I can."
AIG's bailout has incited furor among lawmakers and the public, as the troubled insurer has come to symbolize the corporate greed, risky behavior and lack of regulation that many believe caused the Great Recession.
The issue at hand on Wednesday was one of the bailout's most contentious: a decision by the New York Fed to pay counterparties 100 cents on the dollar for the underlying assets that AIG has insured through so-called credit default swap agreements.
As a result, $62.1 billion of taxpayer and AIG funds were essentially funneled to 16 banks that were counterparties to AIG insurance contracts. - Due to many New York Fed employees' ties to Wall Street investment banks -- including Geithner -- many lawmakers and members of the public have implied that the regulator's decisions may have been made for personal gain.
"I think your commitment to Goldman Sachs trumped your commitment to the American people," said Rep. Steven Lynch, D-Mass. (CNN)
Driver's licenses for the Internet I just went to a panel discussion about Internet security and let me tell you, it was scar-y. Between individual fraud, organized crime, corporate espionage and government spying, it's an incredibly dangerous world out there, which, according to one panelist, is growing exponentially worse.
These are incredibly complex problems that even the smartest of the smart admit they don't have a great handle on, although Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and technology officer, offered up a surprisingly simple solution that might start us down a path to dealing with them: driver's licenses for the Internet.
The thing about the Internet is that it was never intended to be a worldwide system of mass communication. A handful of guys, all of whom knew each other, set up the Web. The anonymity that has come to be a core and cherished characteristic of the Internet didn't exist in the beginning: it was obvious who was who. (Time)
Internet attack defense: License and registration please... This past Tuesday (Jan. 26) I posted the story about China’s view of the attack and break-in that occurred at Google. The attack was widespread, similar to Ghostnet. I had indicated this was the beginning of a new Arms race, which has been underway for several years. The events which occurred in China affected Google, Adobe and others, has created the final catalyst needed to build the next defensive hardware and applications required and be used on computers and smart devices connected to the internet.
The tools used to attack any target, whether it be an individual or organization, an activist or military institution are sophisticated, difficult to detect and clearly with several goals in mind. Some attacks will be focused, others will attempt to collect as much data as possible for real-time or long term digestion to prepare its agenda subscribers. With this in mind, the programmers and designers will have very unique sets of challenges to overcome and be an intense creative process in which several intelligence techniques need to be understood or its ability to be used as a defense is weakened. This is in a league where the goal is beyond just a science fiction writer’s novel or blogger’s commentary, it’s going to affect every internet user with real consequences. Adobe’s reputation is vulnerable and will recover - this time. What the future holds for the company will demand new thinking and approaches to how it designs its products. (ZDNet)
Sorry, Andrew Jackson Probably Never Said That "Den Of Thieves" Quote Because Andrew Jackson was a determined opponent of entrenched banking interests, he has become a heroic figure to many who opposed the bailout of our financial system.
Unfortunately, he probably never spoke some of the most famous words attributed to him.
Here's the alleged quote:
Congress in 1836, Jackson closed the second Federal Bank (est. 1816) with these comments:
The bold effort the present (central) bank had made to control the government. . . are but premonitions of the fate that await the American people should they be deluded into a perpetuation of this institution or the establishment of another like it.
I am one of those who do not believe that a national debt is a national blessing, but rather a curse to a republic; inasmuch as it is calculated to raise around the administration a moneyed aristocracy dangerous to the liberties of the country. (Business Insider)
Terror suspect kept visa to avoid tipping off larger investigation Patrick F. Kennedy, an undersecretary for management at the State Department, said Abdulmutallab's visa wasn't taken away because intelligence officials asked his agency not to deny a visa to the suspected terrorist over concerns that a denial would've foiled a larger investigation into al-Qaida threats against the United States. "Revocation action would've disclosed what they were doing," (The Detroit News)
Airline passengers have 'no right' to refuse naked body scanners Ministers ignore human rights advice and rule out option of pat-down search when scanner goes on trial at Heathrow next week - The option of having a full-body pat-down search instead, offered to passengers at US airports, will not be available despite warnings from the government's Equality and Human Rights Commission that the scanners, which reveal naked bodies, breach privacy rules under the Human Rights Act. (London Guardian)
The dam is cracking So the 40% of the world's population that relies on the seven major river systems supplied by these glaciers can sleep a little more soundly in the knowledge that their water won't run out in 25 years after all. (BBC)
Darrell Issa's Special Report On AIG Could Be The End Of Geithner GEITHNER’S ROLE IN THE AIG COVER UP REMAINS UNCLEAR
When asked directly if he was involved in the efforts by the FRBNY to prevent disclosure of the AIG counterparty payments, Secretary Geithner responded, “I wasn’t involved in that decision.” On January 8, 2010, FRBNY General Counsel Thomas Baxter wrote Ranking Member Issa to clarify the role of then-President Geithner:
[M]atters relating to AIG securities law disclosures were not brought to the attention of Mr. Geithner …. In my judgment as the New York Fed’s chief legal officer, disclosure matters of this nature did not warrant the attention of the president.
Mr. Baxter reiterated this claim in an interview with Committee staff. Questions of securities disclosure, Baxter said, were “legal stuff,” and Baxter did not bring legal stuff to the attention of then-President Geithner. However, Baxter said that “on significant policy issues, of course I would go” to Geithner.
However, documents received by the Committee suggest that Secretary Geithner was, at a minimum, engaged personally in reviewing what information about the AIG bailout would be revealed to Congress and the public. On November 6, 2008, SarahDahlgren, the FRBNY’s lead staff member in AIG’s operations, e-mailed Geithner with a proposed statement regarding AIG’s upcoming equity capital raise for Geithner’s approval:
[I]n terms of saying something publicly about our intentions, we … think that saying something that conveys the following … makes sense:
It is our (Federal Reserve/Treasury) continued intention to put the company in a sound capital position and exit the facility/preferred securities/common stock ownership as soon as practicable…
[I]f you are good with this, …we would also make sure that the company sticks to this line (echo)…. [emphasis added]
On November 13, 2008, Geithner received a report on AIG’s restructuring that would be sent to Congress, which Geithner had asked to personally review. Sophia Allison, a staff member of the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors, e-mailed the draft congressional report to several Federal Reserve staff:
Attached is a draft Congressional report for the restructuring package for AIG announced on Monday, November 10. …I tried to take everything in the report from publicly available documents, such as press releases, the prior AIG Congressional Report, and AIG’s most recent 10-Q. If there is anything in the report that you believe should not be publicly disclosed, please specifically point that out. [emphasis added]
Michael Nelson, a staff member of the FRBNY, forwarded Allison’s email to Geithner with the following message:
Tim – this is the draft EESA-required filing on AIG that the Board owes the Hill, as you requested. [emphasis added]
In addition, Secretary Geithner’s meeting logs from his tenure as President of the FRBNY show that he was regularly engaged with top AIG officials and the FRBNY officials directly responsible for AIG’s disclosures to the SEC. Geithner’s schedule shows that he had at least six formal meetings with top FRBNY staff members about AIG-related issues between November 4, 2008, and November 21, 2008. It is unclear whether AIG’s disclosure obligations were discussed in these meetings.
At a minimum, the cover-up of the details about AIG’s counterparty payments began on Secretary Geithner’s watch, and the culture of the FRBNY in which this behavior occurred reflected his leadership. Secretary Geithner needs to explain his role in the cover-up, and if he thinks the behavior of his staff at the FRBNY was appropriate. - GEITHNER’S CLAIMS RAISE QUESTIONS ABOUT PURPOSE OF AIG BAILOUT
Secretary Geithner’s claim to SIGTARP that the backdoor bailout of AIG’s counterparties had nothing to do with the health of AIG’s counterparties also raises questions about why AIG was bailed out in the first place. As the Wall Street Journal notes:
[I]f Mr. Geithner now says the AIG bailout wasn’t driven by a need to rescue CDS counterparties, then what was the point? Why pay Goldman [Sachs] and even foreign banks like Societe Generale billions of tax dollars to make them whole?
Secretary Geithner now claims that the point of AIG’s bailout was to protect AIG’s insurance policy holders:
AIG was providing a range of insurance products to households across the country. And if AIG had defaulted, you would have seen a downgrade leading to the liquidation and failure of a set of insurance contracts that touched Americans across this country and, of course, savers around the world.
However, as the Wall Street Journal further explains:
Yet, if there is one thing that all observers seemed to agree on last year, it was that AIG’s money to pay policyholders was segregated and safe inside the regulated insurance subsidiaries. If the real systemic danger was the condition of these highly regulated subsidiaries – where there was no CDS trading – then the Beltway narrative implodes.
Secretary Geithner’s inconsistent statements and apparent contradictions raise important questions about the decision to not only funnel billions of taxpayer dollars to AIG’s counterparties, but also the decision to bail out AIG itself. - The FRBNY and its attorneys at Davis Polk interfered with AIG’s securities disclosures in several ways. They edited AIG’s SEC filings in ways that made it more difficult for investors and the public to understand the ML3 transactions. They contacted the SEC directly and pressured it to treat AIG’s filings differently from other companies’ filings. In addition, they appear to have forced AIG to cancel a compensation-related filing that it was required to make. The FRBNY’s edits of AIG’s filings and the FRBNY’s pressure on the SEC were intended to serve the Fed’s interests by obscuring embarrassing details about the FRBNY’s backdoor bailout of AIG’s counterparties. Investors cannot be protected by a disclosure system that only requires full transparency when the Federal Reserve’s embarrassment is not at stake. The special SEC procedures established via FRBNY pressure also demonstrate that bailouts lead to enforced favoritism. - Finally, the secrecy, concealment, and lack of transparency in the conduct of the Federal Reserve have serious implications for the continued health of democracy and free markets. The Federal Reserve’s payment of par to AIG’s counterparties and the subsequent cover-up of information about these payments raise concerns about the accountability of the unelected bureaucrats within the Federal Reserve System. The fact that a quasi-government agency, unaccountable to the American people, likely wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and went to great lengths to prevent Congress and the American people from learning about these actions demonstrates the threat that the Federal Reserve poses to basic principles of American democracy. (quotes selected by Zero Hedge) (US Congress)
Alert: Female Suicide Bombers May Be Heading Here From Yemen U.S. Agents Told Women Believed Connected to Al Qaeda May Have Western Appearance and Passports - Federal agents also tell ABCNews.com they are attempting to identify a man who passengers said helped Abdulmutallab change planes for Detroit when he landed in Amsterdam from Lagos, Nigeria. Authorities had initially discounted the passenger accounts, but the agents say there is a growing belief the man have played a role to make sure Abdulmutallab "did not get cold feet." !!! (ABC)
Authorities were watching different Nigerian on Christmas Day flight Emmanuel Chukwu shared the same travel itinerary with Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, the suspect in the unsuccessful attempt to blow up the Amsterdam, Netherlands-to-Detroit flight. Both men were originally from Nigeria and had studied as engineers. - Federal agents pulled Chukwu aside for several hours of intense screening when Northwest 253 landed in Detroit, shortly after authorities say AbdulMutallab tried to set off an explosive device concealed in his underwear. (CNN)
Warmest decade on record* NASA Research Finds Last Decade was Warmest on Record, 2009 One of Warmest Years - “That’s the important number to keep in mind,” said GISS climatologist Gavin Schmidt. “The difference between the second and sixth warmest years is trivial because the known uncertainty in the temperature measurement is larger than some of the differences between the warmest years.” (Watts Up With That)
FARC’s Cocaine Sales to Mexico Cartels Prove Too Rich to Subdue Mexican drug cartels are getting cocaine from Colombia’s biggest guerrilla group in a deal that increases the security threat to both nations, according to a document captured by Colombian military intelligence and to a government official in that country.
The agreement was discussed in a meeting between a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Raul Reyes, and an agent of a Mexican cartel at Reyes’s jungle hideout in mid- 2007, according to a letter Reyes wrote to other guerrilla commanders that was obtained by Bloomberg News.
The pact to bypass middlemen has given Reyes’s group, known as the FARC, an opportunity to double its profit by selling directly to the Mexican cartel, said the government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The FARC earned at least $1 billion and maybe several times that amount in the past year, according to officials familiar with the group. The arrangement has strengthened the cartels at a time when they are under pressure from an offensive ordered by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, the Colombian official said. (Bloomberg)
Airport scanner companies queue for business after 'underpants bomber' Detroit bomb attempt opens $600m opportunities for Rapiscan and other full-body scanner manufacturers - Investors have been quick to spot a rapid profit. One Californian firm specialising in imaging machines, Rapiscan, has seen its shares in its parent company, OSI Systems, leap by 27% since Christmas. American Science and Engineering, is up by 16% and has deployed its chief executive to have his own body scanned on live television. (London Guardian)
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