Meet the Goldman Sachs banker who got rich getting Greece into the euro (and in debt)…

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If you thought the Goldman Sachs banker who did the deal to get Greece into the euro might have been chased out of the City of London, think again.

Antigone Loudiadis, more widely known as “Addy”, has been richly rewarded by the bank for her dealmaking prowess and now sits atop one of Europe’s fastest growing insurance companies, Rothesay Life.

The 52-year-old, who lives with her family in a vast stucco house in west London, was one of the brightest stars in Goldman’s Fleet Street headquarters.

While she lists her nationality as Greek, her education was as English as can be. Schooled at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, she went on to Oxford University before joining JPMorgan, and then Goldman, gaining partner status in 2000.

Colleagues describe her as “fiercely clever”, although by some accounts, she was simply fierce. It is said some of her staff would pretend to be on the phone when she walked past them in the office to avoid her infamous rollockings.

Although her Continental twang remains hard to place, her fluency in Greek and strong connections in the country were instrumental in winning the lucrative mandate to create the financial deals that would flatter the country’s debts.

Christoforos Sardelis, former boss of Greece’s Debt Management Agency who worked on the trades with her, told Bloomberg she was “very professional – a little bit aggressive as is everyone at Goldman Sachs”.

But she was trusted by the government which, it should be remembered, was far more right wing than the Syriza party.

What it most liked about her seems to be the way she could magic away the country’s dismal financial position. The trade she came up with is reported to have made the bank hundreds of millions of dollars, although only Goldman knows the true figure.

Reports suggest she was paid up to $12m a year by the time she was named co-head of the investment banking group. Not that it wasn’t a stressful job. In an interview in 2005 she told the Wall Street Journal she was “your typical Type A workaholic smoker” with a “stressful schedule”.

Goldman moved her to head Rothesay Life which it set up in 2007 to buy big companies’ pension funds. She is likely to get a multimillion-pound payday when, as the City expects, Rothesay floats next year with a potential value of £3bn.

(Donald) Trump’s fixation on rape and color…

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It’s easy to laugh off Donald Trump’s fact-free comments about Mexican immigrants being rapists. And easy to poke fun, as Jon Stewart did, at Trump’s grudging admission that some Mexican immigrants might be “good people.”

But there is a serious issue here, and mainstream media interviewers have neglected to ask Trump about it – and that’s Trump’s history of pointing the finger of rape at innocent men of color. I’m talking about his high-profile effort years ago that fanned racial tensions after perhaps the most notorious rape in New York City’s history.

In 1989, a white, female investment banker was viciously raped and nearly murdered while jogging in Central Park. Police quickly pinned the crime on five Black and Latino youths, aged 14 to 16, after extracting rape confessions (soon to be retracted). Mainstream media piled on behind the police – abandoning usual hedge words of “accused” or “alleged” – by referring to the accused rapists as a “wolf pack” and “park marauders.”

A racially-charged lynch mob had formed, and real estate mogul Donald Trump used his money to try to lead the mob. A dozen days after the attack, as the 100-pound rape survivor emerged from a coma, Donald Trump bought a full-page ad in all four New York dailies with the banner headline: “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!”

Trump’s ad spoke of “roving bands of wild criminals” who “roam our neighborhoods”; it decried a “permissive atmosphere which allows criminals of every age to beat and rape a helpless woman and then laugh . . .”

The ad blamed civil liberties concerns for permissiveness and, ultimately, the Central Park rape: “Criminals must be told that their CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS” [capitalization in the original]. Trump called for killers to be “executed for their crimes.”

We know now – after the five convicted Harlem youths had collectively served more than 40 years in prison for the crime – that they had not raped anyone. Sarah and Ken Burns’ documentary, “The Central Park Five,” shows that the wrongful imprisonment resulted partly from police/prosecutorial misconduct and an abridging of the youths’ civil liberties.

Needless to say, if the youths whose alleged crime sparked Trump’s ad had been put to death, we would have had five more men of color innocently executed in our country. Thirteen years after the Central Park rape and Donald Trump’s full-page ad, it became clear – thanks to a jailhouse confession confirmed by DNA testing – that the culprit, acting alone, had been a convicted serial rapist.

A question journalists might pose to candidate Trump today, especially when he’s discussing the issue of rape: “Mr. Trump, are you a serial racist?”

Raymond Santana, who was 14 at the time of the Central Park rape and wrongfully served seven years in prison for it, is unlikely to get the apology he seeks from Trump for helping to fuel the frenzy: “It says a lot about [Trump’s] character,” said Santana. “If he can give the death penalty to 14-year-old, 15-year-old kids, then there’s nothing he would not do. Those are characteristics of a tyrant, not characteristics of a president.”

Supreme Court justices own stocks in tech vendors and other firms that pose conflict of interest…

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Two U.S. Supreme Court justices owned stock in tech vendors or other companies that filed briefs in cases under review by the high court in the past year, a watchdog group said last week.

The justices’ ownership of stock in three companies that filed amicus, or friend of the court, briefs in Supreme Court cases during the past year represent a “minefield of potential conflicts of interest and ethical problems” that could damage the court’s reputation, said Fix the Court, a group advocating for more transparency at the court.

Chief Justice John Roberts owned up to US $750,000 in shares of Time Warner and its subsidiaries at the time the media giant filed a brief in ABC v. Aereo, which broadcasters won 6-3 last June, with Roberts in the majority. Aereo was a start-up offering TV service to subscribers through specialized antenna farms.

Justice Stephen Breyer owned up to $100,000 in IT services firm EMC and Roberts held up to $50,000 in Hewlett-Packard last year when both businesses filed briefs in favor of Teva Pharmaceuticals, which won its patent case against generic drug maker Sandoz, 7-2, with Breyer and Roberts in the majority.

Justice Samuel Alito also held stock in publicly traded companies last year, Fix the Court said. The Supreme Court has nine justices.

The court’s media relations team didn’t immediately respond to a request for a comment on the Fix the Court report. Fix the Court planned to post the financial reports on its website late Thursday.

The Supreme Court released justices’ annual financial disclosure reports Friday. The financial reports are available as paper documents; the court does not post them online.

Fix the Court called on the justices to place their securities into blind trusts, as is done by presidents, presidential candidates and many members of Congress.

“It’s impossible to say whether justices’ stock ownership played a factor in their decisions, but we shouldn’t have to ask that question,” Gabe Roth, executive director of Fix the Court, said in a statement.

Fix the Court also called on justices to post their financial disclosure forms online, as is done in Congress and the executive branch of government.

To obtain the financial reports, Fix the Court downloaded and filled out a form from the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts (AO) website and faxed it in. The group received a notice the reports were ready seven weeks later and was charged $.20 a page for the reports.

Staff went in person to present a $17.20 check at the AO building in Washington, D.C., after which AO staff handed over the paper reports.

Greece’d: We voted ‘NO’ to slavery, but ‘YES’ to our chains

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We Greeks have voted ‘No’ to slavery — but ‘Yes’ to our chains.

Not surprisingly, by nearly two-to-one, Greeks have overwhelmingly rejected the cruel, economically bonkers “austerity” program required by the European Central Bank in return for an ECB loan to pay Greece’s creditors. In doing so, the Greek people overcame an unprecedented campaign of fear from the Greek and international media, the European Union (EU), and most of our political parties.

What’s simply whack-o is that, while voting “No” to austerity, many Greeks wish to remain shackled to the euro, the very cause of our miseries.

Resistance, not Crisis

Before we explain how the euro is the cause of this horror show, let’s clear up one thing right away. All week, worldwide media was filled with news of the Greek “crisis.” Yes, the economy stinks, with one in four Greeks unemployed. But two other euro nations, Spain and Cyprus, also are suffering this depression level of unemployment. Indeed, more than 11% of workers in seven euro nations, including Portugal and Italy, are out of work.

But unlike Greece, these other suffering nations have quietly acquiesced to their “austerity” punishments. Spaniards now accept that they are fated forevermore to be low-paid servants to beer-barfing British tourists. Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who has enacted a draconian protest ban at home to keep his own suffering masses at bay, has joined in the jackal-pack rejecting anything but the harshest of austerity terms for Greece.

The difference between these quiescent nations and Greece is that the Greeks won’t take it anymore.

What the media call the Greek “crisis” is, in fact, resistance.

Resistance to nowhere

But it’s a resistance whose leaders are leading them nowhere.

For decades, Greeks have suffered governments that are both corrupt and dishonest. The election of SYRIZA changed all that: the government is now merely dishonest.

Our new SYRIZA Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, correctly called the austerity plan “blackmail.” However, before Sunday’svote, Tsipras told the nation a big fat fib. He said we could vote down the European Bank’s plan but keep the European Bank’s coin, the euro. How? Tsipras won’t say; it’s part of a policy ploy his outgoing finance minister Yanis Varoufakis calls “creative ambiguity.” To translate: Creative ambiguity is Greek for “bullshit.”

Sorry, Alexis, if you want to use the Reich’s coin you have to accept the Reichsdiktat.

Not a coin, a virus

Tsipras’ claim that Greece can keep the euro while rejecting austerity is crazy-talk. The fact is that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Cruella De Vil of the Eurozone, will ignore the cries of the bleeding Greeks and demand we swallow austerity–or lose the euro.

But, so what if we lose the euro? The best thing that can happen to Greece, and should have happened long, long ago, is that Greece flee the Eurozone.

That’s because it is the euro itself that is the virus responsible for Greece’s economic ills.

Indeed, the sadistic commitment to “austerity” was minted into the coin’s very metal. We’re not guessing. One of us (Palast, an economist by training) has had long talks with the acknowledged “father” of the euro, Professor Robert Mundell. It’s important to mention the other little bastard spawned by the late Prof. Mundell: “supply-side” economics, otherwise known as “Reaganomics,” “Thatcherism” — or, simply “voodoo” economics.

The imposition of the euro had one true goal: To end the European welfare state.

For Mundell and the politicians who seized on his currency concept, the euro itself would be the vector infecting the European body politic with supply-side Reaganomics. Mundell saw a euro’d Europe as free of trade unions and government regulations; a Europe in which the votes of parliaments were meaningless. Each Eurozone nation, unable to control neither the value of its own currency, nor its own budget, nor its own fiscal policy, could only compete for business by slashing regulations and taxes. Mundell said, “[The euro] puts monetary policy out of the reach of politicians” Without fiscal policy, the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business.”

Here’s how it works. To join the Eurozone, nations must agree to keep their deficits to no more than 3% of GDP and total debt to no more than 60% of GDP. In a recession, that’s plain insane. By contrast, President Obama pulled the USA out of recession by increasing deficit spending to a staggering 9.8% of GDP, and he raised the nation’s debt to 101% from a pre-recession 62%. Republicans screamed, but it worked. The US has lower unemployment than any Eurozone nation.

As Obama scolded the European tormentors of Greece: “You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression.” Cutting spending power only leads to less spending which leads to further cuts in spending power — a death spiral we see today in the Eurozone from Greece to Italy to Spain–but not in Germany.

“Not in Germany.” There’s the rub. Normally, a nation such as Greece can quickly recover from debt-induced recession by devaluing its currency. Greece would become a dirt cheap tourist destination once more and its lower-cost exports would zoom, instantly increasing competitiveness. And that’s what Germany can’t allow. Germany lured other European nations into the euro in order to keep them from undercutting Germany’s prices in export markets.

Restricted by the 3% deficit rule, the only recourse left for Eurozone debtors: pay the piper with “austerity” measures.

Tsipras in Wonderland

So therein lies the lie. Tsipras tells his fellow Greeks that we can live in a Looking Glass world, where we can have our euro and eat it too; that we can stay handcuffed to the euro but run free without austerity.

The nonsense continues: Following the announcement of the official results of the referendum on Sunday night, Tsipras tweeted that the Greek electorate voted for a “Europe of solidarity and democracy,” while the now-resigned finance minister Varoufakis tweeted that “Greece’s place in the Eurozone is non-negotiable,” claiming that he would not allow the “only alternative,” the old drachma trading alongside the euro.

SYRIZA’s euro-fetish was already evident in its pre-referendum proposals to the IMF and European Bank, a 47-page document which included 8 billion euros in new austerity measures plus a new round of sell-offs of state industries, the maintenance of a primary surplus of 1% this year which would increase in the coming years, the increase of the retirement age to 67, and making permanent the previously “temporary” taxes upon an already overtaxed populace. In Tsipras’ own proposal, there was no word of a debt write-down or stoppage of payments, despite the fact that the government’s own Debt Audit Commission announced on June 17 that the bulk of Greece’s debt is illegal, “odious,” and should not be paid.

Instead, Tsipras has come out in support of the IMF’s proposal for a mere 30% “debt haircut” and a 20-year grace period, effectively sweeping the problem under the rug. Greece is currently running a deficit, meaning that in order for the 1% surplus to be achieved, SYRIZA must cut, cut, cut. Exactly as Mundell and the supply-siders intended.

Death by “Reform”

Like Obama, Tsipras knows that cutting pensions, privatizing and closing industries, slashing wages — in other words, “austerity” — or, to use the latest jargon, “reform” — is not just cruel, it’s plain stupid: it can only push a nation in recession into depression.

That’s not just theory. The Troika (the European Central Bank, IMF and European Commission) first imposed their vicious austerity measures on Greece in 2010. Greeks watched their annual salaries plummet to half of a German’s paycheck. Greece’s supposedly generous pensions have been cut eight times during the crisis, while two-thirds of pensioners live below the poverty line. Everything from Greece’s airports to harbors, the national lottery to prime publicly-owned real estatewas sold off, while schools and hospitals were shuttered.

And, for the first time since World War II, widespread starvation had returned. 500,000 children in Greece are said to be malnourished. Students fainting from hunger in frigid schools which cannot afford heating oil is now a common phenomenon.

This cruel “belt tightening,” the Troika promised, would restore Greece’s economy by 2012 (and then 2013, 2014, and 2015). In reality, unemployment went from a terrible 12.5% in 2010 to a horrendous 25.6% today.

Now, the Troika demands more of the same, a continuation of this disastrous policy.

Crashing into Africa?

Meanwhile, following the referendum result which made him a hero, finance minister Varoufakis resigned. Ironically, while Varoufakis rubbed German officials the wrong way with his unorthodox style, he, too, maintained the pro-euro myth. Previous austerity measures continued under his watch. To please the mad austerity masters, he said he would “squeeze blood from a stone” to repay the IMF–which he did in May, when all remaining funds in the Greek Treasury were rounded up by presidential decree to make that month’s IMF loan payment. Varoufakis was so wedded to the euro that he claimed that Greece would be unable to print its old currency, the drachma, because we destroyed our currency printing presses when we joined the euro. In fact, the government’s banknote printing facility in Athens still operates, printing the 10-euro note.

Meanwhile, our future flees. A quarter million university graduates have abandoned our nation. They have no choice: unemployment for those under 25 has hit 48.6%.

I know that many Greeks, Cypriots, Italians and Portuguese all express a visceral fear of leaving the euro. Depending on which polls one chooses to believe, anywhere from a near-majority to an overwhelming majority of Greeks wish to remain in the euro at all costs. From the hysterical statements I heard from some Greeks that, “We cannot leave Europe!”, you’d think that dropping the euro will cause Greece to break off at the Albanian border and crash into Africa.

It would be refreshing to hear political leaders say the honest economic truth: “Workers of Europe unite! You have nothing to lose but the euro–and your chains.”

Robot kills man at Volkswagen plant…

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A robot has killed a contractor at one of Volkswagen’s production plants in Germany, the automaker said Wednesday.

The man died Monday at the plant in Baunatal, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Frankfurt, VW spokesman Heiko Hillwig said.

The 22-year-old was part of a team that was setting up the stationary robot when it grabbed and crushed him against a metal plate, Hillwig said.

He said initial conclusions indicate that human error was to blame, rather than a problem with the robot, which can be programmed to perform various tasks in the assembly process. He said it normally operates within a confined area at the plant, grabbing auto parts and manipulating them.

Another contractor was present when the incident occurred, but wasn’t harmed, Hillwig said. He declined to give any more details about the case, citing an ongoing investigation.

German news agency dpa reported that prosecutors were considering whether to bring charges, and if so, against whom.

“The Ecuadorean government received new declassified CIA documents on Tuesday as part of an ongoing investigation to determine if the 1981 plane crash that killed President Jaime Roldos was part of the U.S.-backed Operation Condor plan”

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The office of the attorney general in Ecuador is investigating if the death of former President Jaime Roldos was an assassination of Operation Condor.

The Ecuadorean government received new declassified CIA documents on Tuesday as part of an ongoing investigation to determine if the 1981 plane crash that killed President Jaime Roldos was part of the U.S.-backed Operation Condor plan.

“We are investigating so that the Ecuadorean people know exactly what happened with the death of President Roldos,” Attorney General Galo Chiriboga told Andes news agency.

The Ecuadorean Attorney General’s office obtained four CDs as well as over 400 pages of detailed information regarding the death of former president Jaime Roldos.

“I think that we have an obligation to act and we consider this case to be imprescriptible,” Chiriboga stated.

An estimated 60,000 people were killed as a result of Operation Condor by its end in the mid-1980s.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the future of communication is telepathy…

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Internet satellites, virtual reality, even real working AI: It all pales in comparison to the future that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has in mind.

In a Q&A session with site users on Tuesday, the 31-year-old said he envisions a world where people — presumably Facebook users — don’t need these types of communication intermediaries. Instead, they’ll communicate brain-to-brain, using telepathy.

“One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology,” Zuckerberg wrote in response to a question about what’s next for Facebook. “You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too.”

But hold up: Is that even possible? And is that something anyone actually wants?

TL;DR: Theoretically, yes; and, er — maybe not.

How to read a mind

To understand how Zuckerberg’s vision would theoretically work, you have to understand how the brain works, too.

In a nutshell, your nervous system is composed of cells called neurons, which communicate with each other using chemical signals called neurotransmitters. When a neuron receives one of these signals, it generates a tiny electrical spike. And because millions of these signals are required for everything your brain does — clicking your mouse, reading this text, remembering breakfast, you name it — your brain is basically sending off pinpricks of electrical energy all the time.

The cool thing about this, of course, is that scientists can measure and map this electrical activity using existing technologies like EEG and fMRI machines. And once they have enough maps, they can begin to read them — a point that neuroscientists and researchers are just now approaching.

At the University of California at Berkeley, a team of cognitive scientists have managed to reconstruct clips of movies their subjects were watching, based solely on measurements of their brainwaves. “You could not see the close-up details,” wrote the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku after watching one of the “movies,” “[but] you could clearly identify the kind of object you were seeing.”

How to send a thought

This is all well and good and interesting, of course, but the technology Zuckerberg envisions is a two-way street: How could we not only “read” a mind but also get that pattern of electrical signals into someone else’s head?

There are invasive options; i.e., implanting some kind of device in your brain. In 2013, scientists at Duke University implanted two lab rats with microelectrode arrays and taught one of the rats to press one of two levers. Afterwards, the second rat, who had not been trained, also seemed to know which level to push: It had received neural signals from the first rat, via the implant.

Recently, researchers have also had some luck with a noninvasive technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. When you put on a TMS headset it generates a magnetic field over your scalp, which can be used to activate neural pathways. Last fall, test subjects in India were able to use TMS to “think” the words “hola” and “ciao” to test subjects in France; the process was painfully slow, however, and the words weren’t sent in their entirety — they had to be encoded as binary digits, uploaded to the Internet, sent, downloaded and then decoded as flashes of light. (WHEW.)

This is, while promising, a really clunky system. It’s unsophisticated (no one has yet “sent” an actual emotion or idea), it’s inexact (the rat still chose the wrong lever sometimes), and it’s slower than virtually every other form of modern communication, save perhaps snail mail. These experiments also required access to some very expensive, sophisticated equipment. Even if you wanted to, you could not try this at home.

“‘Telepathy’ technology remains so crude that it’s unlikely to have any practical impact,” wrote Mark Harris at the MIT Technology Review.

That said, these are only the very earliest days of telepathy research, and new developments are in the works. Among other things, researchers are looking into handheld, cellphone-sized MRI machines that would make it easier and cheaper to capture your own brain activity. And the Army is developing a telepathy helmet, almost like a VR headset, that would condense and simplify all this electrical signal-sending — although that, experts say, is still decades away.

Where Facebook fits in

Is Facebook currently developing any technology in this vein? A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment, though Facebook’s Research division — the arm of the company that studies machine learning, AI and virtual reality — has not published any work on brain-to-brain communication and does not appear to employ any researchers in the field.

But even if Facebook isn’t leading the charge toward telepathy — a worrying concept, in itself, given the site’s past indiscretions re: research consent and user privacy — the field poses tons of ethical challenges, if only in theory. How would you control who “spoke” to you? What’s to stop someone from sending you disturbing or abusive thoughts, or otherwise “hacking” your brain? And if these signals are moderated by some third-party technology, like a headset or helmet, will they be recorded somehow and saved, and by whom and for what purpose? Could they be hijacked by advertisers like the ones in “Minority Report,” who tailor interactive billboards to private thoughts?

“John Anderton!” one calls out, “you could use a Guinness right about now!”

There are, as of yet, no answers to these questions: An academic paper on the ethics of brain-to-brain technology, published in 2014, warned that there is neither legislation nor formal academic protocol for this type of research. (The writers predicted that could eventually provoke “public uproar.”)

For now, however, such concern is many breakthroughs and advances away. Zuckerberg himself may be getting up in years by the time we’re communicating telepathically.

"Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music"

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