When the gods dance...

Friday, August 31, 2012



Hadrian's Wall will be lit up tonight http://LDN.in/AqybiP


Tell AG Holder: What’s the Holdup?!? 

It’s time to throw Wall Street crooks in jail!

What’s the Holdup?

Every week seems a new major banking scandal with the biggest Wall Street firms like JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America or Wells Fargo getting caught defrauding customers, homeowners and investors. But the Justice Department has been asleep at the wheel: they just don’t act serious about putting Wall Street criminals in jail.

Attorney General Holder and the Justice Department have put more time and resources into going after retired athletes and cheating husbands than the bank executives who drove the economy over a cliff. Despite plenty of evidence implicating them in massive fraud, these crooks have escaped by paying minuscule fines that were just a fraction of what they stole, and none have faced criminal prosecution.

Either the DOJ is obstructing justice or they are just plain incompetent.

It’s time to tell Attorney General Holder that we can’t have two systems of justice in this country: one for the rich and powerful, where Wall Street criminals are actually rewarded with bailouts and huge bonuses, and another for the rest of us, where petty criminals end up in prison with disproportionally harsh sentences. Even though a new financial crimes task force was announced to great fanfare back in January, it has not received anything close to the necessary level of resources to conduct a serious investigation.

And time is running out. Statutes of limitations on bank crimes are on the verge of expiring – so unless the Justice Department takes forceful action, and quickly, those responsible for the worst economic crash since the Great Depression will walk away with fatter wallets while the rest of us struggle for jobs and opportunity. The investigations need more resources, and they need them now!
Sign Now!!


Demand that Attorney General Eric Holder put real staffing and resources into investigating banker crimes.  

Banker Crime Spree is a project of Campaign for a Fair Settlement. The 'Holder Hold-Up' petition is a joint effort between Campaign for a Fair Settlement and its state allies as well as Campaign for America's Future.


Who's arming the developing world?

Weapons of mass distribution

Aug 31st 2012, 15:02 by The Economist online

Who's arming the developing world?

ARMS deliveries to developing countries last year were the highest since 2004, totaling $28 billion, or around 60% of global sales. America and Russia, the world’s leading arms suppliers, accounted for around two-thirds of deliveries to the developing world. America’s exports in particular are helped by a long-standing client base, which orders upgrades, spare parts and support services every year. Arms deals were buoyed last year by unusually high demand from Saudi Arabia. The Middle Eastern country is the developing world’s biggest arms buyer; deliveries were $2.8 billion in 2011. India, which is Russia’s biggest high-value arms client, was close behind, with $2.7 billion-worth of deliveries last year.

POLITICS: Talking crap in Holland v America


Talking crap in Holland v America

Aug 31st 2012, 14:45 by M.S.

The Economist

THE entire front page of the Volkskrant, one of the three top Dutch newspapers, is taken up today by an article about the misleading statements and inaccuracies in Paul Ryan's convention speech on Wednesday. This is interesting largely because the Netherlands is in the middle of its own election campaign, a pretty vicious one in which the leading parties are the laissez-faire Liberals and the far-left Socialists, and the vote is scheduled for September 12th. So you'd think the newspapers would be more occupied with their own country's political business than with controversies about who is or isn't lying in the American presidential campaign. One reason for the attention is that America really is a pretty important country. The other reason is that the story is piggybacking on an analogous controversy that's kicked up this week in the Dutch elections over truth, neutrality and budget assessments, and the comparison is instructive.

The Dutch have a system intended to avoid the sort of fact-free insult-hurling that has plagued America's presidential race this year. The discussion in America over the rival candidates' budget plans has taken place in a vague and undefined discursive space, largely because the Romney-Ryan campaign does not actually have a budget plan. Mr Romney says he will keep the Bush tax cuts, slash income tax rates across the board by 20%, eliminate capital-gains tax for income under $100,000 per year, maintain defence spending, restore the $716 billion over ten years which the Obama (and Ryan) budget would have cut from Medicare outlays, and shrink the budget deficit by closing tax preferences, none of which he specifies. This doesn't add up, as the Center for Tax Policy found last month, but it's hard to say just how it will fail to add up, because Mr Romney has no item-by-item budget plan; we really have no idea how much he proposes to spend if he's elected.

In the Dutch electoral system, this can't happen. Two months before the elections, every political party is expected to submit a detailed budget plan to a non-partisan agency called the Central Plan Bureau (CPB), which plays a role similar to the Congressional Budget Office in America. The CPB produces an analysis of the economic consequences of those budget plans. The effects are assessed in detail for 2013-2017, and there's also a prognosis for 2040 to discourage parties from larding up their budgets with short-term candy that leads to negative long-term consequences. The CPB's report came out Monday, and most parties had their strong and weak points. Of the two parties most likely to win the elections, the Liberals did well on deficit-cutting and long-term job creation but hiked income inequality and hurt household purchasing power; the Socialists did well on purchasing power and jobs in the short run but had low employment growth in the long run.

The Socialists, however, were angry about a separate point: the CPB found their plans to reduce free-market competition in the health sector would lead to waiting lists. The Socialists say this isn't true, that it depends how much you're willing to spend on the sector, and they say that question doesn't fall within the CPB's remit; they're not health-care experts, they're economic experts, and they're expected to simply report what the economic effects would be. That disagreement came on top of Socialist anger over another health-care clash during a candidate debate last Sunday. In the debate, the Socialist candidate, Emile Roemer, started to lay into the Liberal candidate and current premiere, Mark Rutte, for proposing to increase out-of-pocket expenses in health-insurance plans. Mr Rutte immediately denied that he had proposed to do so. Mr Roemer, like most political observers who believed the Liberals' plans to raise the out-of-pocket limit were public knowledge, was flummoxed. It turned out after the debate that Mr Rutte had worked out a complicated theory that his party's plans constituted a transfer of some types of expenses from one category to another, rather than a hike in out-of-pocket expenses as such; but fact-checkers ruled this claim was false, and that the Liberal proposal was basically a hike in the out-of-pocket limit. In the meantime, however, Mr Rutte had effectively shut down Mr Roemer's attack in front of prime-time viewers. Mr Roemer was widely agreed to have lost the debate, and the Socialists have declined in the polls this week.

The upshot is that, just as in America, the Dutch media are tossing around the question of whether neutral evaluations in the political campaign are worth anything. Some question the usefulness of the economic models the CPB uses, which (like all economic models) have never successfully predicted what the economy will do several years down the road. Others wonder whether the Dutch public pays any attention to fact-checkers, or whether a politician is better off scoring a telling point even if it turns out not to be true. Hence the headline of the Volkskrant article, which refers to the controversy over the Republican campaign in America but might as well be talking about the Dutch one: "The results count, not the truth".

What the comparison with the American example points out, though, is that, for all the current media scepticism, the mechanism of the CPB evaluation dramatically raises the caliber of the electoral debate in the Netherlands. Obviously such assessments are to a large extent artificial: the actual budget of the Dutch government will look nothing like any of the proposals submitted by the parties, because the government will be a coalition of several parties, and the budget will be the result of a negotiating process. The same thing happens in America, where the president's proposed budget bears only a vague relationship to what ultimately emerges from Congress. Nonetheless, by forcing each party to commit to hard numbers in its budget proposals, the CPB evaluation tethers the Dutch political debate to fiscal reality. Even the Socialists, the party most often accused of fiscal irresponsibility, have presented a plan full of cuts and tax hikes that eliminates the budget deficit by 2017. Arguably, this bias towards austerity is pro-cyclical and a bad thing in a liquidity trap; perhaps the Dutch system encourages too much probity, but that's a separate subject. The point is, it is simply impossible, in the Netherlands, for a political party to end up systematically ignoring math and accounting the way the Republicans have at least since George Bush's campaign in 2000.

Could we institute something like this in America? No. We can't. The reason is that in America, there are only two significant political parties. It's impossible for a neutral arbiter to preserve its public legitimacy when ruling on subjects of partisan dispute in an election if there are only two disputing parties. Neither side will accept the referee's judgments. The reason it works, for the moment, in the Netherlands is that there are currently ten parties represented in parliament, four to six of which are major contenders. That spreads the political polarities out in different directions and creates more space for neutrality.

Hopefully the Dutch will continue to recognise the value of these refereeing institutions despite the current bout of fashionable, world-weary "ah, but what is truth?" pique. As to why the American press is becoming disillusioned with the fact-checking project: a lot of it has to do with the country's debilitating division into just two bitterly opposed political parties. It's no surprise that this kind of Manichaean political landscape sucks away the space for any legitimate neutral arbiter. Imagine what would happen to the legitimacy of baseball umpires if there were only two teams in the Major Leagues, playing every single game against each other.

(Photo credit: AFP)


Covert War on Terror

Covert Drone War

Bureau of Investigative Journalism UK

Our analysis of US secret bombing campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan 2004 – 2012

Total US strikes: 343
Obama strikes: 291
Total reported killed: 2,558-3,319
Civilians reported killed: 474-881
Children reported killed: 176
Total reported injured: 1,226-1,359
For the latest Pakistan strike data click here.

US Covert Action in Yemen 2002 – 2012

Total confirmed US operations (all): 51-61
Total confirmed US drone strikes: 39-49
Possible additional US operations: 114-129
Possible additional US drone strikes: 58-68
Total reported killed (all): 347-990
Total civilians killed (all): 58-151
Children killed (all): 24-31
For the latest data from Yemen click here.

US Covert Action in Somalia 2007 – 2012

Total US strikes: 10-21
Total US drone strikes: 3-9
Total reported killed: 58-169
Civilians reported killed: 11-57
Children reported killed: 1-3
For the complete data on Somalia click here.

"Developer Josh Begley, a student at Clay Shirky's NYU Media Lab, created an application called Drones+ that allows users to track U.S. drone strikes on a map of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Far from innovative, the app in question merely relays and positions strikes as available from the U.K.'s Bureau of Investigative Journalism. First Apple rejected the application claiming it was 'not useful or entertaining enough,' then it was rejected for hiding a corporate logo. And the latest reason for objection is that Begley's content is 'objectionable and crude' and 'that many audiences would find [it] objectionable." Begley's at a loss for how to change information on a map. He's not showing images of the drone strikes nor even graphically describing the strikes. From the end of the article, 'The basic idea was to see if he could get App Store denizens a bit more interested in the U.S.' secretive, robotic wars, with information on those wars popping up on their phones the same way an Instagram comment or retweet might. Instead, Begley's thinking about whether he'd have a better shot making the same point in the Android Market.'"  Slashdot


New Facebook ad tech will let advertisers match your Facebook identity with their customer database

 30 Aug 2012 08:12 PM PDT

Facebook is working on new ad technology that will allow businesses you already buy from, but are not connected with on Facebook, match your email address and your Facebook identity. By connecting their customer records and your Facebook information, companies will be able to market to you better on Facebook … because they’ll know much more about you.

As reported by Inside Facebook, some Facebook Power Editor users (Power Editor is an advanced Facebook ad creation tool) saw the matching feature temporarily today:

 Inside Facebook

Facebook customer and identify matching tool

Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that this is a real product, explaining that businesses will be able to upload their customer lists (email addresses, phone numbers, and user IDs) to Facebook in an encrypted form, where they will be compared with Facebook’s user data, also in an encrypted form. The upshot of the process is that without the company getting access to all your Facebook data, and without Facebook getting access to the data that the company has about you, a link will be created between your identity with the company, and your identity on Facebook.

Which will allow the company to target you in Facebook ads tailored to what it knows about you … and tailored to what Facebook knows about you.

For example, Amazon could market books to you by authors you’ve already read. Or Target, knowing you’re already on its email subscriber list, might invite you to become a Facebook fan. Using Facebook ad technology, they could also tailor their message to married women ages 25-45 with children, knowing them to be heavy purchasers of home supplies.

Your privacy is maintained, in some sense: neither party that you gave information to is sharing it with the other party.

But users might well ask how much good that will do, when the process by which privacy is maintained enables companies to do basically anything they would be able to do if they had your full data.

According to Facebook, the feature is in private testing now, but will be available next week.

I for one am expecting some user resistance to the new targeting technology … and, more likely than not, a fairly strong response from governmental privacy watchdogs in Europe and America.

photo credit: Christi Nielsen via photo pin cc



A representation of the foreclosure process.

The Federal Bailout That Saved Mitt Romney

The Federal Bailout That Saved Mitt Romney

Government documents prove the candidate's mythology is just that

Mitt Romney
August 29, 2012 7:00 AM ET


itt Romney likes to say he won't "apologize" for his success in business. But what he never says is "thank you" – to the American people – for the federal bailout of Bain & Company that made so much of his outsize wealth possible.

According to the candidate's mythology, Romney took leave of his duties at the private equity firm Bain Capital in 1990 and rode in on a white horse to lead a swift restructuring of Bain & Company, preventing the collapse of the consulting firm where his career began. When The Boston Globe reported on the rescue at the time of his Senate run against Ted Kennedy, campaign aides spun Romney as the wizard behind a "long-shot miracle," bragging that he had "saved bank depositors all over the country $30 million when he saved Bain & Company."

In fact, government documents on the bailout obtained by Rolling Stone show that the legend crafted by Romney is basically a lie. The federal records, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that Romney's initial rescue attempt at Bain & Company was actually a disaster – leaving the firm so financially strapped that it had "no value as a going concern." Even worse, the federal bailout ultimately engineered by Romney screwed the FDIC – the bank insurance system backed by taxpayers – out of at least $10 million. And in an added insult, Romney rewarded top executives at Bain with hefty bonuses at the very moment that he was demanding his handout from the feds.

With his selection of Paul Ryan as his running mate, Romney has made fiscal stewardship the centerpiece of his campaign. A banner at MittRomney.com declared, "We have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in." Romney also opposed the federal bailout for Detroit automakers, famously arguing that the industry should be forced into bankruptcy. Government bailouts, he insists, are "the wrong way to go."

But the FDIC documents on the Bain deal – which were heavily redacted by the firm prior to release – show that as a wealthy businessman, Romney was willing to go to extremes to secure a federal bailout to serve his own interests. He had a lot at stake, both financially and politically. Had Bain & Company collapsed, insiders say, it would have dealt a grave setback to Bain Capital, where Romney went on to build a personal fortune valued at as much as $250 million. It would also have short-circuited his political career before it began, tagging Romney as a failed businessman unable to rescue his own firm.

"None of us wanted to see Bain be the laughingstock of the business world," recalls a longtime Romney lieutenant who asked not to be identified. "But Mitt's reputation was on the line."

Mitt Romney's Federal Bailout: The Documents

The trouble began in 1984, when Bain & Company spun off Bain Capital to engage in leveraged buyouts and put Romney in charge of the new operation. To free up money to invest in the new business, founder Bill Bain and his partners cashed out much of their stock in the consulting firm – leaving it saddled with about $200 million in debt. (Romney, though not a founder, reportedly profited from the deal.) "People will tell you that Bill raped the place clean, was greedy, didn't know when to stop," a former Bain consultant later conceded. "Did they take too much out of the firm? You bet."

The FDIC documents make clear what happened next: "Soon after the founders sold their equity," analysts reported, "business began to drop off." First came scandal: In the late 1980s, a Bain consultant became a key figure in an illegal stock manipulation scheme in London. The firm's reputation took a hit, and it fired 10 percent of its consulting force. By the time the 1989 recession began, Bain & Company found itself going broke fast. Cash flows weren't enough to service the debt imposed by the founders, and the firm could barely make payroll. In a panic, Bill Bain tapped Romney, his longtime protégé, to take the reins.

In Romney's own retelling, he casts himself as a selfless and loyal company man. "There was no upside," he told his cheerleading biographer Hugh Hewitt in 2007. "There was no particular reason to do it other than a sense of obligation and duty to an organization that had done great things for me."

In fact, Romney had a direct stake in the survival of Bain & Company: He had been working to build the Bain brand his entire career, and felt he had to save the firm at all costs. After all, Bain sold top-dollar strategic advice to big businesses about how to protect themselves from going bust. If Bain & Company went bankrupt, recalls the Romney deputy, "anyone associated with them would have looked clownish." Indeed, when a banker from Goldman Sachs urged Bain to consider bankruptcy as the obvious solution to the firm's woes, Romney's desperation began to show. He flatly refused to discuss it – and in the ensuing argument, one witness says, Romney almost ended up in a brawl when the Goldman banker advised him to "go fuck yourself." For the sake of Romney's career and fortune, bankruptcy was simply not an option – no matter who got screwed in the process.

According to the government records obtained by Rolling Stone, Bain & Company "defaulted on its debt obligations" at nearly the same time that "W. Mitt Romney . . . stepped in as managing director (and later chief executive) in 1990 and led the financial restructuring intended to get the firm back on track."

Romney moved decisively, and his early efforts appeared promising. He persuaded the founders to return $25 million of the cash they had raided from Bain & Company and forgive $75 million in debt, in return for protection from most future liabilities. Romney then consolidated Bain's massive debts into a single, binding loan agreement with four banks, which received liens on Bain's assets and agreed to delay repayments on the firm's debts for two years. The federal government also signed off on the deal, since the FDIC had recently taken control of a bank that was owed $30.6 million by Bain. Romney assured creditors that the restructuring would enable Bain to "operate normally, compensate its professionals competitively" and, ultimately, pay off its debts.

Almost as soon as the FDIC agreed to the loan restructuring, however, Romney's rescue plan began to fall apart. "The company realized early on that it would be unable to hit its revenue targets or manage the debt structure," the documents reveal. By the spring of 1992, Bain's decline was perilous: "If Bain goes into default," one analyst warned the FDIC, "the bank group will need to decide whether to force Bain into bankruptcy."

With his rescue plan a bust, Romney was forced to slink back to the banks to negotiate a new round of debt relief. There was only one catch: Even though Bain & Company was deep in debt and sinking fast, the firm was actually flush with cash – most of it from the looted money that Bill Bain and other partners had given back. "Liquidity is strong based on the significant cash balance which Bain is carrying," one federal document reads.

Under normal circumstances, such ample reserves would have made liquidating Bain an attractive option: Creditors could simply divvy up the stockpiled cash and be done with the troubled firm. But Bain had inserted a poison pill in its loan agreement with the banks: Instead of being required to use its cash to pay back the firm's creditors, the money could be pocketed by Bain executives in the form of fat bonuses – starting with VPs making $200,000 and up. "The company can deplete its cash balances by making officer-bonus payments," the FDIC lamented, "and still be in compliance with the loan documents."

What's more, the bonus loophole gave Romney a perverse form of leverage: If the banks and the FDIC didn't give in to his demands and forgive much of Bain's debts, Romney would raid the firm's coffers, pushing it into the very bankruptcy that the loan agreement had been intended to avert. The losers in this game would not only be Bain's creditors – including the federal government – but the firm's nearly 1,000 employees worldwide.

In March 1992, according to the FDIC documents, Romney approached the banks and played the bonus card. Allow Bain to pay off its debt at a deep discount, he demanded – just 35 cents on the dollar. Otherwise, the "majority" of the firm's "excess cash" would "be available for the bonus pool to its officers at a vice president level and above."

The next month, when the banks balked at the deal, Romney decided to prove he wasn't bluffing. "As the bank group did not accept the proposal from Bain," the records show, "Bain's senior management has decided to go forth with the distribution of bonuses." (Bain's lawyers redacted the amount of the executive payouts, and the Romney campaign refused to comment on whether Romney himself received a bonus.)

Romney's decision to place executive compensation over fiscal responsibility immediately put Bain on the ropes. By that July, FDIC analysts reported, Bain had so little money left that "the company will actually run out of cash and default on the existing debt structure" as early as 1995. If that happened, Bain employees and American consumers would take the hit – an alternative that analysts considered "catastrophic."

But Romney didn't dole out all of Bain's cash as bonuses right away. According to a record from May 1992, he set aside some of the money to put one last squeeze on the firm's creditors. Romney now demanded that the banks and the government agree to a deal that was even less favorable than the last – to retire Bain's debts "at a price up to but not exceeding 30 cents on the dollar."

The FDIC considered finding a buyer to take over its loans to Bain, but analysts concluded that "Bain has no value as a going concern." And the government wasn't likely to get much out of Bain if it allowed the firm to go bankrupt: The loan agreement engineered by Romney had left the FDIC "virtually unsecured" on the $30.6 million it was owed by Bain. "Once bonuses are paid," the analysts warned, "all members of the bank group believe this company will dissolve during 1993."

About the only assets left would be Bain's office equipment. The records show FDIC analysts pathetically attempting to assess the value of such items, including an HP LaserJet printer, before concluding that most of the gear was so old that the government's "portion of any liquidation proceeds would be negligible."

How had Romney scored such a favorable deal at the FDIC's expense? It didn't hurt that he had close ties to the agency – the kind of "crony capitalism" he now decries. A month before he closed the 1991 loan agreement, Romney promoted a former FDIC bank examiner to become a senior executive at Bain. He also had pull at the top: FDIC chairman Bill Seidman, who had served as finance chair for Romney's father when he ran for president in 1968.

The federal documents also reveal that, contrary to Romney's claim that he returned full time to Bain Capital in 1992, he remained involved in bailout negotiations to the very end. In a letter dated March 23rd, 1993, Romney reassured creditors that his latest scheme would return Bain & Company to "long-term financial stability." That same month, Romney once again threatened to "pay out maximum bonus distributions" to top executives unless much of Bain's debt was erased.

In the end, the government surrendered. At the time, The Boston Globe cited bankers dismissing the bailout as "relatively routine" – but the federal documents reveal it was anything but. The FDIC agreed to accept nearly $5 million in cash to retire $15 million in Bain's debt – an immediate government bailout of $10 million. All told, the FDIC estimated it would recoup just $14 million of the $30 million that Romney's firm owed the government.

It was a raw deal – but Romney's threat to loot his own firm had left the government with no other choice. If the FDIC had pushed Bain into bankruptcy, the records reveal, the agency would have recouped just $3.56 million from the firm.

The Romney campaign refused to respond to questions for this article; a spokeswoman said only that "Mitt Romney turned around Bain & Company by getting all parties to come to the table and make difficult decisions." But while taxpayers did not finance the bailout, the debt forgiven by the government was booked as a loss to the FDIC – and then recouped through higher insurance premiums from banks. And banks, of course, are notorious for finding ways to pass their costs along to customers, usually in the form of higher fees. Thanks to the nature of the market, in other words, the bailout negotiated by Romney ultimately wound up being paid by the American people.

Even as consumers took a loss, however, a small group of investors wound up getting a good deal in the bailout. Bain Capital – the very firm that had triggered the crisis in the first place – walked away with $4 million. That was the fee it charged Bain & Company for loaning the consulting firm the services of its chief executive – one Willard Mitt Romney.

This story is from the September 13, 2012 issue of Rolling Stone.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Harvard Says 125 Students May Have Cheated on a Final Exam

Harvard Says 125 Students May Have Cheated on a Final Exam

Elise Amendola/Associated Press

An entrance to Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard University revealed Thursday what could be its largest cheating scandal in memory, saying that about 125 students might have worked in groups on a take-home final exam despite being explicitly required to work alone.

The accusations, related to a single undergraduate class in the spring semester, deal with “academic dishonesty, ranging from inappropriate collaboration to outright plagiarism,” the administration said in a note sent to students.

Officials said that nearly half of the more than 250 students in the class were under investigation by the Harvard College Administrative Board and that if they were found to have cheated, they could be suspended for a year. The students have been notified that they are suspected and will be called to give their accounts in investigative hearings.

“This is unprecedented in its scope and magnitude,” said Jay Harris, the dean of undergraduate education.

Administrators would not reveal the name of the class or even the department, saying that they wanted to protect the identities of the accused students. The Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper, reported that it was a government class, Introduction to Congress, which had 279 students, and that it was taught by Matthew B. Platt, an assistant professor.

Professor Platt did not respond to messages seeking comment.

When final exams were graded in May, similarities were noticed in the answers given by some students, officials said, and a professor brought the matter to the administration immediately. Over the summer, Harvard’s administrative board conducted an initial review, going over the exams of all of the students in the class for evidence of cheating. It concluded that almost half of them showed signs of possible collaboration.

“The enabling role of technology is a big part of this picture,” Mr. Harris said. “It’s the ease of sharing. With that has come, I believe, a certain cavalier attitude.”

The university said it planned to increase efforts to teach students about academic integrity.

“The scope of the allegations suggests that there is work to be done to ensure that every student at Harvard understands and embraces the values that are fundamental to its community of scholars,” Harvard’s president, Drew Gilpin Faust, told The Harvard Gazette, the university’s official newspaper.

Harvard’s student handbook says that students must “comply with the policy on collaboration established for each course,” and notes that such policies vary from department to department, from class to class, and even from assignment to assignment within a class.

The news comes as Harvard students are returning to campus for the fall term, which begins on Tuesday.    

COMMENT:   This is the result of our corporate-driven "end justifies the means" values system. Dishonest trash without honor. Honor. Ha. That concept is alien to the amoral generation. We are in trouble citizens.  Expelled?  Why worry.  They can always get a job in Silicon Valley.


Digital Music Market Will Grow 15% Annually To $22.5 Billion In 2017


A new report from analyst firm Ovum says the global digital music market is expected to grow 15% annually over the next five years, reaching nearly $22.5 billion by 2017. Subscription music services are projected to be largely responsible for the growing revenues, and are expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 46%. Ovum also anticipates strong digital music growth in most regions across the globe, with exceptions being North America and Europe, where mobile music revenues are expected to actually decline by 5-7%. In fact, the decrease in the growth rate of mobile music will come from "the underperformance of ring tones, the dominance of free ad-supported music, and data costs that are making over-the-air (OTA) mobile music less appealing to consumers," according to Ovum's consumer telecoms analyst Mark Little. Meanwhile, in the Asia-Pacific region, "growth created by consumers migrating to subscription services will result in a regional CAGR of 44%," Little says. "With Spotify landing in the U.S., joining Rhapsody, Sony Music Unlimited, Rdio and MOG, such brands are helping reinvigorate on-demand subscriptions, and we estimate a 40% CAGR over the forecast period." Overall, the main driver of digital music in the forecast period will be subscriptions, which can be bundled easily by service providers, as well as offered directly, resulting in increased penetration of subscriptions around the world, the Ovum report concludes. [Full story: Hypebot]

Pandora Beats Forecasts, Reports Break-Even Q2 Results


Pandora today (August 30) reported break-even second quarter results, surpassing most analysts' forecasts, which had the online streaming music company losing three cents per share. Company chairman/CEO Joe Kennedy reported that mobile advertising surged 86% in the period that finished July 31, and total sales jumped 51% to $101.3 million. Analysts surveyed by Bloomberg had anticipated total revenues of $101.1 million. Wedge Partners analyst Martin Pyykkonen wrote in a research note Monday that he has a "glass half-full" take on Pandora because it's still adding listeners and the time spent listening per user is rising, but "the company needs to more rapidly monetize the advertising business." Meanwhile, William Blair analyst Ralph Schackart recently said he sees more advertisers moving to online radio from terrestrial radio, which "feels 'threatened' by Pandora's current 'national play,' and eventual movement into local will be a game-changing event for incumbents." Pandora shares surged as high as $11.20 on the news, up from a Wednesday ending price of $10.08 in New York. [Full story: Investors Business Daily]


Muve Founder: "One Day Music Will Be Like Voice Mail"


"Our vision is that one day, music will be like voice mail." That's the perspective of Muve Music founder and SVP Jeff Toig, who recently told GigaOm that music subscription service - which was launched as a business division of Cricket Wireless - has attracted more than 600,000 subscribers since its launch in early 2011, and expects Muve to have "millions" of customers within the next 12 months. To help it get to that point the company this week introduced three new Android smartphone plans that include a complimentary subscription to Muve Music, as well as plans to launch up to nine more Android phones by year's end. "Android represents a large and fast-growing segment of Cricket's customer base," Toig said, noting that 60% of Cricket's new customers sign up for an Android phone. The new plans come with a bit of a caveat for consumers: Like most mobile providers, Cricket is moving away from offering unlimited data, and instead will provide different data plans at varying price points. However, Muve Music downloads don't count against a customer's data plan, since the service is focused on downloads instead of streaming, a marked difference between it and Spotify. "Muve is very efficient for the carrier's network," Toig explkained, adding that with Muve there is no web interface, no desktop client, and - as an Android-specific platform - no iOS app. [Full story: GigaOm]

Where There's A Will, There's No Legal Way To Transfer Digital Music


When it comes to digital music, not only can't you take it with you, but technically you can't leave it to anyone else, either. The fact is, when a person buys a song or album from such online services as iTunes or Amazon, he/she actually is buying a license to download and use that file, but does not actually own it - or anything in it. Apple and Amazon.com grant "nontransferable rights" to use licensed digital content, so someone who "buys" tracks on iTunes can't leave the Bruce Springsteen library to their son and the Adele collection to their daughter (or vice versa). According to both Amazon's and iTunes' terms of use, the buyer does not acquire any ownership rights in the software or music content, and thus legally cannot bequeath those files to another person. "The law is light years away from catching up with the types of assets we have in the 21st Century," Deirdre R. Wheatley-Liss, an estate-planning attorney, recently told MarketWatch. Indeed, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Indiana, Oklahoma, and Idaho only recently passed laws to allow executors and relatives access to email and social networking accounts of those who've died, but the regulations don't cover digital files purchased. Still, some enterprising lawyers have begun setting up software that create trusts to oversee accounts and digital collections once the "owner" dies. And, as MacWorld's Christopher Breen notes, apart from "soliciting Apple's supportive hug to bypass estate laws," any concerned estate planner can provide their next-of-kin with their current Apple ID, password, and payment details so they can access an account after "more important matters" are handled - even if doing so might not fall within the letter of the law. [Full story: MarketWatch  MacWorld]

Townsquare Acquires MOG Music Ad Network

Townsquare Media Group this week acquired the MOG Music Network for an amount that, while officially undisclosed, has been estimated to be somewhere between $10 million and $14 million. According to a company statement, the MOG Music Network serves an aggregation of music and music-related publishers, reaching more than 62 million monthly unique U.S. visitors and 170 million monthly uniques globally. It now becomes part of Townsquare Media Group's platform, which includes 244 radio stations and such internet sites as PopCrush, ScreenCrush, Taste of Country, Diffuser.fm, TheFW, Loudwire, GuySpeed, and Ultimate Classic Rock. "Our publishing partners are the tastemakers of the digital music ecosystem as it relates to their ability to connect deeply and emotionally with their audiences and shape music related trends and opinions," Townsquare Media Group chairman and CEO Steven Price commented. "This acquisition complements our high touch portfolio of radio, digital, mobile, and live event assets and helps us to balance our media footprint from local-to-national." [Full story: Digital Music Wire]

Al Bell Presents American Soul Music ... And American Soul TV

If you're into classic and contemporary Soul, R&B, Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Hip-Hop Soul, Rap Soul, and Neo-Soul, we invite you to listen to Al Bell Presents American Soul Music. Former Stax Records owner and Motown Records Group President Al Bell personally has programmed this awesome radio station online, presenting your favorites from the 1960s and '70s [and some '80s], a lot of the best new music that's being released today, and some real gems you haven't heard in a long, long time. Come to www.AlBellPresents.Com
 and hear it for yourself!

NSA spying violated 4th Amendment

Court ruling that NSA spying violated 4th Amendment remains secret


EFF sues US to uncover details of court decision on phone and e-mail spying.

Last month, a letter to Congress noted that “on at least one occasion” a secretive US court ruled that National Security Agency surveillance carried out under a 2008 act of Congress violated the Fourth Amendment’s restriction against unreasonable searches and seizures. But the actual ruling remains secret. Decisions handed down by the US’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) are classified “because of the sensitive intelligence matters they concern,” the letter from the Office of the National Intelligence Director to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) states.

The explanation wasn’t good enough for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for details on the FISC ruling or rulings. Today, the EFF followed that up with a lawsuit against the Department of Justice in US District Court in Washington, D.C., saying its July 26 FOIA request has not been processed within the 20-day deadline.

Details on a government ruling that the NSA violated the Constitution could help the EFF in its broader fight against warrantless wiretapping authority granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008. While the FISA amendments in 2008 were designed to aid anti-terrorist operations, the EFF says it "gave the NSA expansive power to spy on Americans' international e-mail and telephone calls." The EFF lawsuit filed today says the FISC ruling or rulings should be made public because it concerns “possible questions about the government’s integrity which affect public confidence.” The lawsuit asks for a decision ordering the DOJ to make the records available immediately.

In an accompanying statement, the EFF said the requested records could also help Congress decide whether to allow the surveillance program to continue. "The surveillance provisions in the FAA [FISA Amendments Act] will sunset at the end of this year unless Congress reauthorizes the law,” the EFF said. “The pending congressional debate on reauthorization makes it all the more critical that the government release this information on the NSA's actions.”


Father Benedict Groeschel, American Friar, 

Claims Teens Seduce Priests In Some Sex Abuse Cases
The Huffington Post  |  By

Posted: 08/29/2012 6:00 pm Updated: 08/29/2012 8:08 pm

Father Benedict Groeschel Sex Abuse
In a recent interview with the National Catholic Register, Father Benedict Groeschel, of the conservative Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, said that teens act as seducers in some sexual abuse cases involving priests. 

It's been close to decade since an investigation into clergy sex abuse cases by The Boston Globe unearthed a shocking scandal and cover-up that rocked the foundations of the Catholic Church in the U.S. and around the world.

Ten years may have passed, but the wounds have yet to fully heal in America, especially in light of the recent Penn State allegations, as well as the trial of Monsignor William Lynn, former secretary for the clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
In light of this, the recent comments by Groeschel seem both puzzling and jarringly out of step with current sentiments.

In an interview with the National Catholic Register posted this week, Groeschel was asked about his work with the very conservative Friars of the Renewal, a breakaway order he founded 25 years ago. The conversation took an interesting turn, however, when the editor asked about the 78-year-old's work with sexual abuse perpetrators.
"People have this picture in their minds of a person planning to — a psychopath," Groeschel said. "But that’s not the case. Suppose you have a man having a nervous breakdown, and a youngster comes after him. A lot of the cases, the youngster — 14, 16, 18 — is the seducer."

Pressed for clarification, the New York State-based religious leader explained that kids looking for father figures might be drawn to priests to fill a hole.
Furthermore, Groeschel expressed a belief that most of these "relationships" are heterosexual in nature, and that historically sexual relationships between men and boys have not been thought of as crimes.

"If you go back 10 or 15 years ago with different sexual difficulties — except for rape or violence — it was very rarely brought as a civil crime. Nobody thought of it that way... And I’m inclined to think, on [a priest's] first offense, they should not go to jail because their intention was not committing a crime."

The fact that the interview was published, without comment, in the National Catholic Register was significant due to the publication's affiliation with disgraced Legion of Christ religious order

In 1995 the legion was part of a group of investors who saved the National Catholic Register from closing. The powerful clerical order was also part of one of the most damaging scandals, involving its one-time leader, the Rev. Marcial Maciel, the highest-profile Catholic clergyman ever to be accused of sexual abuse, according to Time magazine. 

In 2005, the Vatican scrambled to try to minimize the damage done by revelations that the extremely influential Mexican priest had been abusing seminarians for year.
Groeschel is an influential voice in the American Dioceses and continues to maintain a high-profile in the church, writing several books and appearing weekly on a religious television network.

The priest received a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University in 1971 and now lives in Larchment, N.Y., where he assists with Trinity Retreat, a center for prayer and study for the clergy he founded. 

Trinity House stirred controversy in 2006 when the press learned that New York priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children, but not legally convicted, had the option of a life-long close supervision program that began with a stay at the retreat. In the wake of community objections, the Archdiocese later removed Trinity House from the list of program's offered facilities, according to the Larchmont Gazette.
Groeschel is also a professor of pastoral psychology at St. Joseph’s Seminary of the Archdiocese of New York.

COMMENT:  The Catholic Church is such a mess. Xianity in general no longer effectively exists in the West. The right, the conservatives, nominal Xians at best, are guided by compassionless objectivism, while the left sees belief in a compassionate god as primitive, embraces Science as a god, and flounders in moral relativism.

 I grew up as a Catholic.  Trained by Jesuits:)  My values come from the New Testament and can be summed up in one word:  compassion.  The religious discussion in this country at least is not at all focused on the NT message;  rather, it's all about sex.  Values seem to arise from dark bits and pieces of the Old Testament, especially Leviticus.  In the "enlightened" coastal progressive communities I rarely hear animated talk about, say, the Sermon on the Mount.  Rather folks go on about how happy they are to masturbate and fuck freely now that they've renounced religion and god.  On the right they go on about Xian values, meaning, as far as I can see, right to life and "defense" of marriage.  Nothing, again, about treating others as you would like to be treated yourself.  For them Xianity is somehow wrapped up with a notion of personal freedom without responsibility.

My personal problem with belief in the Church is basically this:  after 2000 years of Xianity nothing has changed, fundamentally, in the way humans treat each other and the world around them.  People bash each other for personal gain and happily soil the world around them.  I see no New Testament values in action.

As for god or gods, I just don't know.  When I remove myself from the "connectivity" and "me" focus of modern America I do sense that I belong to something vast and incomprehensible;  an unquantifiable spirit than is shared by all living things. I used to have this knowledge of what truly is on the dancefloor.  I have labeled this ecstatic understanding of the universal one...for my own purposes.  Institutions don't seem to be able to communicate these concepts.  The old Catholic church with it's ancient rituals and sense of mystery did this the best, I think, but that was lost in the rush for relevance.  So we have our full moon and other rituals in our home.  I still search for connection with the universal though the constant battle for survival these days makes success here almost impossible.  I do know this:  the new religion Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of god or another spiritual realm.  Like religion, Science promises eternal life some day as well as Truth.  Science doesn't seem to produce, however, much happiness.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Hyperspectral Photography

Peeling Back the Hidden Pages of History With Hyperspectral Photography

Taking photographs beyond the spectrum of visible light is leading to unprecedented discoveries about Archimedes, Sophocles and Lincoln—and researchers are just getting started

For historians, paper is a cruel mistress. Though dried tree pulp has done more to advance record keeping (and consequently our understanding of history) than perhaps any other invention, its fragility and mutability are endlessly frustrating. Things written on it fade. People erase old manuscripts and write over them. Worst of all, it makes excellent kindling. The 20th century saw the discovery of priceless troves of exciting documents across the globe, but these fragile, faded ancient texts have proved notoriously difficult to work with. 

Today, though, a renaissance of historical research is under way, thanks to cameras that see far more than our poor benighted eyes reveal to us. A technique known as hyperspectral imaging promises to reveal information that has remained unseen for centuries—text scraped off palimpsests that were reused by monks 1,500 years ago, words concealed under blackened pages, fingerprints that confirm a great man held a particular document when he spoke. Current work in Jerusalem, Egypt and Washington, D.C., will provide new insights into humanity’s cultural origins and settle centuries-old scholarly debates.

"Hyperspectral images will be able to see past the damage to words that haven’t been seen by human eyes for more than 2,000 years."

The centerpiece of much of this work is a camera system conceived by MegaVision, a digital-imaging developer in Santa Barbara, California. Their specialized systems have long been used for scientific and opthalmologic work, and their Monochrome E6—a 39-megapixel, filterless, computer-controlled camera system—can take photographs at a wide array of discrete bands in the ultraviolet, infrared and visible spectra (optional filters can also be put in front of the lens). Unlike conventional digital cameras, which rely on Bayer color filters to create full-color images, the MegaVision system uses specially calibrated LED lights to take a series of pictures at more than a dozen different wavelengths. This allows the camera’s sensor to detect reflections otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Turns out there’s a lot hiding in the invisible parts of the rainbow. 

Jefferson’s revision of “subjects” to “citizens” in the Declaration of Independence is revealed through multiple photos at varying wavelengths.

One of the first major successes in hyperspectral imaging involved analysis of the so-called Archimedes Palimpsest. In 1999, after a 13th-century prayer book was purchased by an anonymous collector, it was deposited at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore to allow scholars to conserve and study the tome’s palimpsests—pages that had been erased and reused. Hyperspectral analysis in 2000 confirmed that while the visible text was from the 13th century, the pages were actually hundreds of years older. It took a team of imaging researchers including William A. Christens-Barry, chief scientist at Equipoise Imaging, several years to illuminate the original contents of what had been erased, but the payoff was significant: two lost treatises by the ancient Greek mathematician and astronomer Archimedes (The Method and Stomachion), as well as a speech by the 4th-century BCE Athenian orator Hyperides and a 3rd-century CE commentary on Aristotle’s Categories

When the hyperspectral eye was turned on an early draft of the Declaration of Independence written in Thomas Jefferson’s hand, researchers could see that Jefferson had originally written the word “subjects” on one line, which he then scratched out and replaced with the more politically correct “citizens,” exemplifying the egalitarian sensibility of one of the Enlightenment’s greatest minds.

“We can clearly show what text was put down first,” says Fenella France, of the Library of Congress’s Preservation Research and Testing Division. France also notes that extreme-angle raking lights can be used to reveal what is essentially the topography of a document and how it was made. Researchers hope this technique will confirm that the paper this draft of the Declaration of Independence was written on bears—with poetic irony—the official watermark of King George III.

Importantly for conservationists, such results have been obtained without exposing the rare documents to excessive light, which can age and damage historic texts even further. “We believe in adhering to the Hippocratic oath of imaging: Do no harm,” says Ken Boydston, president of MegaVision. Because it shoots multiple images in such narrow bands, the hyperspectral system uses up to 1,000 times less light than a conventional high-resolution imaging system. 

This combination of ultra-high-resolution photography with low-light exposure recently prompted the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) to begin using a MegaVision-designed system at the Israel Museum campus in Jerusalem, where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls reside.

Discovered in a series of caves in the Judean Desert from 1947 to 1956, the scrolls comprise roughly 900 different texts spread across tens of thousands of fragments, ranging in size from that of a dime to half a standard sheet of paper. More than two millennia old, the scrolls are some of the most valuable religious documents ever discovered and include texts that appear in Hebrew and Christian scripture, offering unique insights into the genesis of modern Judaism and Christianity.

Scholars have struggled to piece together and translate the more than 300 different works, but there have always been gaps, including many blackened areas, an artifact of their being recorded on animal skins. Over the centuries, the collagen in the parchment becomes gelatinized, causing certain sections to darken. Eventually they’re rendered illegible. 

The Monochrome E6, a filterless, 39-megapixel computer-controlled camera system that can capture light in the infrared, ultraviolet and visible spectra.

With the IAA project, hyperspectral images will be able to see past this damage to words that haven’t been seen by human eyes for more than 2,000 years and yield the ultra-high-resolution images researchers crave. According to Pnina Shor, curator and head of the Dead Sea Scrolls projects at the IAA, as many as 57 different images will be created of each fragment. With more than 100,000 fragments in the collection, it will be years before the work is finished. Happily, through a partnership with Google, the fragment images will be made available by the IAA online as they are completed. (Last year, a different set of high-resolution images of some scrolls housed at the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book were placed online, also in conjunction with Google.)

Meanwhile, MegaVision’s Boydston has been traveling back and forth to a remote monastery in the Sinai desert. St. Catherine’s Monastery is home to what may be one of the world’s oldest surviving libraries, a cache of ancient manuscripts and documents that has yielded remarkable discoveries. It was there in 1892 that twin sisters from Scotland, Agnes Smith Lewis and Margaret Dunlop Gibson, traveled by camel and braved sand storms and rocky terrain to discover what turned out to be one of the earliest known copies of the Christian Gospels, believed to have been translated around the 2nd century A.D. It was also at St. Catherine’s that the German scholar Constantin von Tischendorf found—and removed—in 1859 what would become known as Codex Sinaiticus. Inscribed around the 4th century, it is recognized as one of the oldest and most complete manuscripts of the Bible ever found.

Armed with one of the MegaVision-based hyperspectral systems, a new team of researchers and scholars from the Early Manuscripts Electronic Library group, a charitable organization working to digitize and preserve rare manuscripts around the world, are now beginning work on a survey of some 120 palimpsests in the St. Catherine’s library. Boydston has been helping the team set up the camera system, which he expects will help the researchers to discover important texts that have eluded previous scholars.

In the meantime, researchers have found additional—and more contemporary—applications for the hyperspectral imaging technology. France notes that conservationists are using the data accumulated from the imaging to assess how well preservation techniques are working, for example. Scientists can now see changes beyond the visible wavelengths that can show early signs of aging or damage and make environmental adjustments before more serious deterioration occurs. Other researchers are interested in the possible use of such systems in the area of forensic analysis.

During one lengthy imaging session at the Library of Congress—it can sometimes take many hours to finish photographing a single document—a raised swirl appeared on the screen. Researchers were examining a copy of the Gettysburg Address, thought by some to be the version Abraham Lincoln used to deliver his 1863 speech. It turned out they were staring at what could possibly be a 149-year-old fingerprint of the 16th president. That discovery led to further research to compare the image with fingerprints on other documents to see if scholars could confirm that it was indeed President Lincoln’s fingerprint (the results of these recent investigations have yet to be published). Researchers also hope to use some of the same techniques to cold-case criminal investigations, but the painstaking work and costly equipment (at $50,000 to $100,000) make the systems prohibitive to apply.

The historic discoveries are just getting started. No one yet knows how much researchers and scholars will find with this new generation of hyperspectral technology. More than a hundred years ago, in the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus, archeologists found piles of illegible papyrus. Recently, University of Oxford researchers found that they contained fragments of a lost tragedy by the ancient author Sophocles, of whose plays only seven were known to have survived. New imaging methods have also found portions of a poem by Archilochus that reveal new details about the genesis of the Trojan War. The research at St. Catherine’s could settle long-standing debates over the origins and foundation of some of the world’s major religions.

France notes, however, that uncovering corrections or amendments in historical documents doesn’t necessarily end the discussion: “We tend to open up more questions than we answer,” she says. We say amen to that. AP