20 jun. 2009

They Don't Know What The Hell Is Going On

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Irandecision 2009 - CNN's Unverified Material

Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorJason Jones in Iran

CNN has taken a lot of heat in the past few days for its initial lack of coverage of the Iranian election and the ensuing melee. Now Jon Stewart is going after the coverage they are devoting to the historic struggle.

Iran expelled many foreign reporters and put others under house arrest, making first hand reporting more difficult. As a result, CNN has thrown out their playbook, "just reporting what they find on the Internet," without a vetting process. Stewart sees no difference between this "new" policy and what CNN normally does.

Stewart has been devoting the bulk of his show to the Iranian elections. Monday night he called Ahmadinejad "batshit insane," and then had John Oliver use a CNN-esque magic screen to prove that he had in fact won fair and square.

But Rachel Maddow reported more ballots than voters and after that more votes than voters. How can that be fair and square? Watch:

And there is more fun ahead when we try to understand what we know about President Obama, so, watch this too:


Ponzi Scheme Indictments

Today in Washington, D.C., the FBI, Department of Justice, and our partner agencies announced at a press conference the unsealing of an indictment in the Southern District of Texas related to a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme that victimized thousands of people in the U.S. and abroad.

The indictment charges Robert Allen Stanford, the sole shareholder of the Houston-based Stanford Financial Group and other affiliated companies, with defrauding investors who purchased approximately $7 billion in certificates of deposit administered by Stanford International Bank, an offshore bank located on the island of Antigua.

Charges against Stanford, along with four other individuals, include conspiracy to commit mail fraud, mail fraud and securities fraud, wire fraud, obstructing an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Said Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, “As today’s charges make clear, the Department will vigorously root out and expose financial crimes that wreak havoc on innocent investors.”

Also charged were:

  • Laura Pendergest-Holt, chief investment officer of Stanford Financial Group and a member of Stanford International Bank’s investment committee, who had also been previously charged with obstruction of justice in a separate SEC proceeding;
  • Gilberto Lopez, Stanford Financial Group’s chief accounting officer;
  • Mark Kuhrt, global controller for Stanford Financial Group;
  • Leroy King, administrator and chief executive officer of the Financial Services Regulatory Commission, the regulator for Antigua and Barbuda’s financial services industry. King allegedly accepted bribes to ensure that Stanford International Bank was not subject to close scrutiny by Antiguan or U.S. regulators.

Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer, Director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Division of Enforcement Robert Khuzami, Assistant Director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division Kevin Perkins and Deputy Chief of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Greg Campbell

Officials announcing the indictments included, from left, Lanny A. Breuer, assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division; Robert Khuzami, director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Division of Enforcement; Kevin Perkins, assistant director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division; and Greg Campbell, deputy chief of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Not shown are Eileen Mayer, chief of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigative Division; and Tim Johnson, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas.
Additionally, a criminal information was unsealed today charging James M. Davis, Stanford Financial Group’s chief financial officer, for his role in the scheme, along with an indictment charging another former Stanford Financial Group employee with destroying company records.

The scam. According to the indictment, Stanford International Bank offered—through its network of financial advisors—CDs with higher (and ultimately bogus) rates of return than those available through CDs offered by U.S. banks. Stanford and his co-conspirators also misrepresented to clients the actual financial condition of Stanford International Bank, its investment strategy, and the extent of its regulatory oversight by Antiguan authorities.

Ponzi cash
Definition: What is a Ponzi scheme?
While collecting billions from his investors, who placed their trust and in some cases their life savings with him, Stanford and his co-defendants were allegedly misusing and misappropriating most of these assets, including diverting at least $1.6 billion into undisclosed personal loans to Stanford himself.

According to FBI Assistant Director Kevin Perkins, the FBI has seen an increase in Ponzi schemes. In the past 18 months, we’ve opened 100 new cases into these scams, many involving losses of more than $20 million. “Ponzi schemes and other securities fraud investigations are one of the top priorities of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division,” said Perkins. “We recognize the enormous impact these crimes have on the economy as a whole and on the trust of investors.”

Echoed U.S. Attorney Tim Johnson, Southern District of Texas, “The investing public needs to be assured that it is protected from those who would corruptly deprive them of their financial security.”

The case was worked jointly by the Department of Justice, FBI, Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Moral War Of God's Own Pacesetters

partial transcript:
MADDOW: Late in the day on Tuesday, when Nevada Senator John Ensign called a press conference in Las Vegas, the news that he was announcing he‘d had an affair registered about a 4.0, say, on the political Richter scale. Significant damage unlikely, though you may sense some moderate shaking. That‘s how it felt initially. Not that big a deal.
But it turns out this wasn‘t a short sharp shock. It turns out this is one of those prolong earthquake experiences in which the aftershocks do way more damage than the initial ka-chunk. The initial announcement from Ensign, backed up by a statement by his office, was that the senator had conducted an affair from December 2007 through August of last year with a campaign staffer who was married to a man who worked in his Senate office.
So, both the woman he was sleeping with and the man she was married to were on Ensign‘s payroll. A personal failure to be sure, which the senator himself proclaimed, and an ethical fiasco given that both of these people work for him. Also, a hypocrisy problem, given Senator Ensign‘s demand that President Clinton resign because of his affair with Monica Lewinsky and Senator Ensign‘s demands for the resignation of Larry Craig, after Senator Craig got nabbed in the famous wide stance in the men‘s room public sex sting.
But the personal failure, the ethical issue and hypocrisy problem were all evident right away on Tuesday. Those were the initial shock.
The aftershocks? The subsequent reporting about this scandal?
They‘ve been even worse.
NBC News has reported that on the day he announced that he‘d had the affair, Senator Ensign explained to other senators that the reason he was coming forward about the affair now was because his ex-mistress was trying to extort money from him. The same claim always anonymous, but remarkably similar in language and tone was made to “The Associated Press,” FOX News, Politico.com, “The Las Vegas Review Journal” and “The New York Times.” This claim that his ex-mistress‘ husband was also a former employee of Senator Ensign had demanded a substantial such money from the senator and that‘s what prompted his public revelation.
Here‘s the problem with that claim: extortion is a felony. Extortion of the United States senator is the kind of felony that‘s likely to get a lot of law enforcement attention. But local authorities in Las Vegas and the FBI claim that no reports of an extortion attempt were ever made to them, nor are they investigating any claims of extortion against Senator Ensign specifically.
Today, as picked up on by Zachary Roth at TPM Muckraker, the extortion claim was replaced by another still anonymous claim sourced this time to Senator Ensign‘s staffers that the reason the senator had to go public now was because his ex-mistress and her husband were not trying to extort money -- that‘s old story—the new story is that they had approached a television news network about publicizing the affair. And that‘s why he had to go public now.
The shifting of anonymous explanations for the senator‘s timing and coming forward were emerging today alongside new details about the employment history of the senator‘s ex-mistress and the employment history of her family. In 2007, when her affair with Senator Ensign began, Cynthia Hampton was employed at Ensign‘s Battle Born Political Action Committee. She was earning about $1,400 a month. Once the affair with the senator got under way, her salary was doubled to nearly $2,800 a month.
At the same time, Ms. Hampton was also employed by Ensign‘s campaign committee. Again, around the time the affair began, her salary at the campaign committee doubled, from $500 a month to $1,000 a month.
Even more remarkably, during the time that Senator Ensign and Cynthia Hampton were having an affair, John Ensign was the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. That‘s the part of the Republican Party responsible for electing and re-electing Republican senators.
For the record, depending on how the Coleman-Franken thing turns out, while Ensign was at the helm of the NRSC, the Republican Party lost eight, maybe nine seats in the Senate.
But anyway, while he was head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and while he was caring on an affair with Cynthia Hampton, the National Republican Senatorial Committee found it in its heart to also put Mrs. Hampton‘s 19-year-old son on the Republican Party‘s payroll. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, then chaired by John Ensign, paid his mistress‘ 19-year-old son $5,400 over a period that started four months into the affair, between Senator Ensign and this young man‘s mother, and ending the month that the affair ended.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee today confirmed to us that Cynthia Hampton‘s 19-year-old son was listed on the organization‘s expenditures. They then referred all further questions to Senator Ensign‘s office.
For the record, the 19-year-old was supposedly paid for research policy consulting.
Despite the involvement in this scandal now of the actual Republican Party and its fundraising and campaign arms, Republican senators are not exactly falling all over themselves to weigh in on the matter. Senator Kyl said, “I‘m not going to say anything.” Senator Grassley said, “It would be intellectually dishonest for me to comment.”
Senator Gregg said, “It‘s a personal matter.” Senator Crapo said, “I‘m going to reserve comment.” Senator Collin said, “I don‘t have a comment right now.”
Senator Vitter, he said, “I‘m late.” He actually said, “I‘m late.”
Senator Vitter.
The John Ensign scandal, it seems, is just getting started. It Republican senators try to ignore this the way they‘ve tried to ignore David Vitter after his prostitution problem, does that mean that the Democrats can pass any old gay rights legislation they want without fear of Family Values moralizing from the “wide stance” side of the aisle?

Brzezinsky: There are two Irans

Same-sex behavior nearly universal in animals

Examples of same-sex behavior can be found in almost all species in the animal kingdom — from worms to frogs to birds — making the practice nearly universal among animals, according to a new review of research on the topic.

"It's clear that same-sex sexual behavior extends far beyond the well-known examples that dominate both the scientific and popular literature: for example, bonobos, dolphins, penguins and fruit flies," said Nathan Bailey, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Riverside.

Same-sex behaviors in different species are not all equivalent, the review finds. For instance, male fruit flies sometimes court other male flies, but this behavior is due to a missing gene that gives the flies the ability to distinguish between sexes, said Bailey, a co-author of the review. "That is very different from male bottlenose dolphins, who engage in same-sex interactions to facilitate group bonding, or female Laysan Albatross that can remain pair-bonded for life," he added.

The review also found a gap in the literature: While many studies have tried to understand why same-sex coupling exists and why it might make sense in terms of evolution, few have looked at what the evolutionary consequences of this behavior might be.

"Like any other behavior that doesn't lead directly to reproduction — such as aggression or altruism — same-sex behavior can have evolutionary consequences that are just now beginning to be considered," Bailey said. "For example, male-male copulations in locusts can be costly for the mounted male" and this cost may put evolutionary pressure on the locusts, he said. As a result, a larger number of males may secrete a particular chemical that discourages the mounting behavior, he added.

In their future research, Bailey and Marlene Zuk, a biology professor at UCR, plan to try and address questions about the evolutionary outcomes of same-sex couplings, focusing on the Laysan Albatrosses.

The review article was published in the June 16 issue of the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution, and the study was funded by the UCR Academia Senate.

Homosexuality has been documented in almost 500 species of animals, signaling that sexual preference is predetermined. Considered the closest living relative to humans, bonobos are not shy about seeking sexual pleasure. Nearly all of these peace-loving apes are bisexual and often resolve conflict by the "make love, not war" principle. They copulate frequently, scream out in delight while doing so, and often engage in homosexual activities. About two thirds of the homosexual activities are amongst females.