August 10, 2012 archive

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The Olympic Jinx

Olympic losers – the misery of past hosts

Lee Wellings, Al Jazeera

August 6, 2012

The most senior Australian member of the International Olympic Committee, former Olympian Kevin Gosper has said the failure to win gold medals results from cuts to government funding of Olympic sports in 2009.

‘You’ve got to put money in there. That pays for coaches, it pays for international competition. It’s the difference between gold and silver.’

But Australia are not the only nation suffering funding cuts in these austere times.

Spain’s Olympics so far has been grim – 39th in the medal table at the time of writing. I’ve seen and spoken to Spanish supporters in the Olympic Park and spirits remain high amongst people whose football team dominate the world.

At these Olympics their football team was eliminated without scoring a goal – summing up their first 10 days at the Games where no golds and just three medals came their way.



Which brings us to Greece. Hosts eight years ago they have just two bronzes to show for their efforts so far and are out of the top 50 in the medals table. They brought a team weakened to just over 100 members by the crippling economic problems and their modest performances are completely unsurprising.

So bad were their finances after the Athens games that the IOC have had to acknowledge the part of the Olympics in their demise. They told me the problems in Greece are less than two per cent because of them hosting. Less than two per cent of Greece’s debt amounts to a big problem.



Greece, Spain, Australia. Three of the last five Olympic hosts with one gold between them.

It’s a warning to governments in any host nation from Britain to Brazil.

On This Day In History August 10

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

August 10 is the 222nd day of the year (223rd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 143 days remaining until the end of the year.

The term ‘the 10th of August’ is widely used by historians as a shorthand for the Storming of the Tuileries Palace on the 10th of August, 1792, the effective end of the French monarchy until it is restored in 1814.

On this day in  1846, Smithsonian Institution was created. After a decade of debate about how best to spend a bequest left to America from an obscure English scientist, President James K. Polk signs the Smithsonian Institution Act into law.

In 1829, James Smithson died in Italy, leaving behind a will with a peculiar footnote. In the event that his only nephew died without any heirs, Smithson decreed that the whole of his estate would go to “the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Smithson’s curious bequest to a country that he had never visited aroused significant attention on both sides of the Atlantic.

After the nephew died without heirs in 1835, President Andrew Jackson informed Congress of the bequest, which amounted to 104,960 gold sovereigns, or US$500,000 ($10,100,997 in 2008 U.S. dollars after inflation). The money, however, was invested in shaky state bonds that quickly defaulted. After heated debate in Congress, former President John Quincy Adams successfully argued to restore the lost funds with interest.  Congress also debated whether the federal government had the authority to accept the gift. Congress ultimately accepted the legacy bequeathed to the nation and pledged the faith of the United States to the charitable trust July 1, 1836.

Eight years later, Congress passed an act establishing the Smithsonian Institution, a hybrid public/private partnership, and the act was signed into law on August 10, 1846 by James Polk. (See 20 U.S.C. § 41 (Ch. 178, Sec. 1, 9 Stat. 102).) The bill was drafted by Indiana Democratic Congressman Robert Dale Owen, a Socialist and son of Robert Owen, the father of the cooperative movement.

Cartnoon

Henhouse Henery

Originally posted April 20, 2011, I’ve updated the description from IMDB to Wikipedia.

Muse in the Morning

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Muse in the Morning


Second Coming

Fines Not Commensurate with the Crime

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The fines that are being levied against banks and companies for investment fraud, fraudulent advertising, money laundering and the like are large but come nowhere near the cost to tax payers and investors. Since these fines are but a fraction of the profits that these criminals reap, the fines won’t deter them from repeating the offense. Nor does it help that as part of the settlement the company and its employees are let off the hook for criminal wrongdoing.

Glaxo Agrees to Pay $3 Billion in Fraud Settlement

In the largest settlement involving a pharmaceutical company, the British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges and pay $3 billion in fines for promoting its best-selling antidepressants for unapproved uses and failing to report safety data about a top diabetes drug, federal prosecutors announced Monday. The agreement also includes civil penalties for improper marketing of a half-dozen other drugs. [..]

Part of the civil settlement also includes claims that the company overcharged the government for drugs. Glaxo did not admit any wrongdoing in the civil settlement.

Despite the large amount, $3 billion represents only a portion of what Glaxo made on the drugs. Avandia, for example, racked up $10.4 billion in sales, Paxil brought in $11.6 billion, and Wellbutrin sales were $5.9 billion during the years covered by the settlement, according to IMS Health, a data group that consults for drugmakers.

In the New York Times article, Patrick Burns, spokesman for the whistle-blower advocacy group Taxpayers Against Fraud, stated, “So a $3 billion settlement for half a dozen drugs over 10 years can be rationalized as the cost of doing business.” Also, Eliot Spitzer, former New York State Attorney General who sued GlaxoSmithKline in 2004 over allegations about the drug Paxil, was quoted as saying that “What we’re learning is that money doesn’t deter corporate malfeasance, The only thing that will work in my view is C.E.O.’s and officials being forced to resign and individual culpability being enforced.”

In another case, Morgan Stanley, an international investment firm, has agreed to pay a fine of $4.8 million with no admission of wrongdoing for electricity price-fixing said to cost consumers $300 million. Justice department officials said that it sends a message to the banking industry. What message would that be?

The government said the arrangement allowed KeySpan to withhold substantial electricity generating capacity from the market, driving prices higher for consumers, and generated $21.6 million of net revenue for Morgan Stanley.

U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan said he shared the concerns of state officials and the AARP, a nonprofit serving people 50 and older, that any settlement should have reflected the harm to consumers and forced Morgan Stanley to give up the $21.6 million.

“Given the government’s stark allegations of manipulative conduct against Morgan Stanley, disgorgement of $4.8 million is a relatively mild sanction,” Pauley wrote. “There is a risk that a large financial services firm like Morgan Stanley could view such a modest penalty as merely a cost of doing business.

“But despite this court’s misgivings, the government’s decision to settle for less than full damages is entitled to judicial deference, particularly in view of the novelty of the government’s theory.”

The judge also rejected the AARP argument that the $4.8 million be returned to consumers, in part because sending it instead to the U.S. Treasury served the public interest.

So the consumers are left holding the bag, particularly the financially stressed elderly and poor, while the Morgan Stanley and Keyspan continue business as usual concocting new ways to break the law.

If whistleblowers can reveal it, why can’t the government prosecute it? The claim by the Obama administration that it’s too hard to find the evidence to pin on an individual just rings too hollow. It may be hard but it is possible with subpoenas and little more effort. It is well past time we held the criminals responsible for breaking the laws and stop prosecuting those who expose it.

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