The 94 year old company known to all as RadioShack, where many found the cables to hook up their Nintendo to the TV, has filed for bankruptcy. In his farewell to the company, HBO’s “This Week Tonight” host John Oliver wondered what RadioShack would say to its customers, so John and his crew created a farewell massage for them. The segment may not be safe for viewing in the work place or around young children due to strong language.
February 10, 2015 archive
Feb 10 2015
Feb 10 2015
I have a couple articles for your perusal this morning.
First, an interesting take on the reasons behind what Saudi Arabia is currently doing regarding their oil:
In 2000, Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former oil minister of Saudi Arabia, gave an interview in which he said:
“Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil – and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground. The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.”
Feb 10 2015
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.
February 10 is the 41st day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 324 days remaining until the end of the year (325 in leap years).
On this day in 1937, Roberta Flack is born in Black Mountain, North Carolina, and was raised in Arlington, Virginia.
During her early teens, Flack so excelled at classical piano that Howard University awarded her a full music scholarship. She entered Howard University at the age of 15, making her one of the youngest students ever to enroll there. She eventually changed her major from piano to voice, and became an assistant conductor of the university choir. Her direction of a production of Aida received a standing ovation from the Howard University faculty. Flack is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and was made an honorary member of Tau Beta Sigma by the Eta Delta Chapter at Howard University for her outstanding work in promoting music education.
Flack became the first African-American student teacher at an all-Caucasian school near Chevy Chase, Maryland. She graduated from Howard University at 19 and began graduate studies in music, but the sudden death of her father forced her to take a job teaching music and English for $2800 a year in Farmville, North Carolina.
Flack then taught school for some years in Washington, DC at Browne Junior High and Rabaut Junior High. She also taught private piano lessons out of her home on Euclid St. NW. During this period, her music career began to take shape on evenings and weekends in Washington, D.C. area night spots. At the Tivoli Club, she accompanied opera singers at the piano. During intermissions, she would sing blues, folk, and pop standards in a back room, accompanying herself on the piano. Later, she performed several nights a week at the 1520 Club, again providing her own piano accompaniment. Around this time, her voice teacher, Frederick “Wilkie” Wilkerson, told her that he saw a brighter future for her in pop music than in the classics. She modified her repertoire accordingly and her reputation spread. Subsequently, a Capitol Hill night club called Mr. Henry’s built a performance area especially for her.
When Flack did a benefit concert for the Inner City Ghetto Children’s Library Fund, Les McCann happened to be in the audience. He later said on the liner notes of what would be her first album “First Take” noted below, “Her voice touched, tapped, trapped, and kicked every emotion I’ve ever known. I laughed, cried, and screamed for more…she alone had the voice.” Very quickly, he arranged an audition for her with Atlantic Records, during which she played 42 songs in 3 hours for producer Joel Dorn. In November 1968, she recorded 39 song demos in less than 10 hours. Three months later, Atlantic reportedly recorded Roberta’s debut album, First Take, in a mere 10 hours. Flack later spoke of those studio sessions as a “very naive and beautiful approach…I was comfortable with the music because I had worked on all these songs for all the years I had worked at Mr. Henry’s.”
Flack’s version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” hit number seventy-six on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972.
Flack’s Atlantic recordings did not sell particularly well, until Clint Eastwood chose a song from First Take, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”, for the sound track of his directorial debut Play Misty for Me; it became the biggest hit of the year for 1972 – spending six consecutive weeks at #1 and earning Flack a million-selling gold disc. The First Take album also went to #1 and eventually sold 1.9 million copies in the United States. Eastwood, who paid $2,000 for the use of the song in the film, has remained an admirer and friend of Flack’s ever since. It was awarded the Grammy Award for Record Of The Year in 1973. In 1983, she recorded the end music to the Dirty Harry film Sudden Impact at Eastwood’s request.
Flack soon began recording regularly with Donny Hathaway, scoring hits such as the Grammy-winning “Where Is the Love” (1972) and later “The Closer I Get to You” (1978) – both million-selling gold singles. On her own, Flack scored her second #1 hit, “Killing Me Softly with His Song” written for Lori Lieberman in 1973. It was awarded both Record Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female at the 1974 Grammy Awards. Its parent album was Flack’s biggest-selling disc, eventually earning Double Platinum certification.
In 1999, a star with Flack’s name was placed on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. That same year, she gave a concert tour in South Africa, to which the final performance was attended by President Nelson Mandela.
In 2010, she appeared on the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, singing a duet of “Where Is The Love” with Maxwell.
Flack is also a spokesperson for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; her appearance in commercials for the ASPCA featured The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.
Feb 10 2015
Hurray. Well, in a meta sense, we know 3 of the 4 panel members today Michael McKean, Wes Moore, and Kimberly Dozier. I predict that the question will not be whether the U.S. should be a global bully, but where with all of those tempting targets like Ukraine, Syria, Iran, Nigeria, and Korea just waiting for a little “suck on this.”
We needed to go over there, basically, and take out a very big stick right in the heart of that world and burst that bubble…. What they needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad and basically saying “Which part of this sentence don’t you understand? You don’t think we care about our open society? You think this bubble fantasy, we’re just going to let it grow? Well, suck on this!” That, Charlie, is what this war was about. We could have hit Saudi Arabia! It was part of that bubble. We could have hit Pakistan. We hit Iraq because we could.
Who says our elite media is full of genocidal maniacs?
Keeping it 100 Larry? Suck on this-
What? Hebrew International House Of Latkas. This is a Billion dollar franchise opportunity I’m telling you.
This week’s guests-
The Daily Show
- Monday 2/9: Patricia Arquette
- Tuesday 2/10: David Axelrod
- Wednesday 2/11: Colin Firth
- Thursday 2/12: TBA
I dunno. Is Thursday something besides Abraham Lincoln’s birthday? Still no guest.
Patricia Arquette will be on promoting… Boyhood? That’s getting a little old though Oscar season is right around the corner. CSI: Cyber is slated to debut March 4th so there is that I suppose (oh, and if you want a hack toolkit let me recommend DEFT, Digital Evidence & Forensics Toolkit, currently in version 8.2. Your target computer will have to support a DVD though).
Other than that the question is how will Jon handle the Brian Williams scandal.
Jon Stewart’s Brian Williams dilemma: How will “Daily Show” handle a friend becoming a punchline?
by Sophia A. McClennen, Salon
Monday, Feb 9, 2015 08:30 AM EST
Of all TV news icons to fall, though, Williams is in a unique spot. Williams, perhaps more than any other TV news anchor working today, has been particularly visible in popular culture. Williams has consistently attempted to court a younger audience and cultivate a “hip” vibe by making regular appearances on late night comedy. He has been on David Letterman’s show numerous times, he appeared on “Weekend Update” on “Saturday Night Live,” and he has made appearances on Conan O’Brien’s show as well as on “30 Rock.” In each of these cases he has traded his gravitas as a news anchor for laughs and for a chance to reach a wider audience.
But now as we reflect on what the revelations of his exaggerated experiences in Iraq (and possibly elsewhere) mean for his career, it is worth wondering what we can learn about Williams’s special connection to comedy. Certainly in hindsight these stunts reveal a degree of parody and performance that are much less funny in light of his diminished integrity.
One of the best examples of this heightened parody is his repeated appearances on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” A few months after Fallon stepped in as host in 2014, his staff created a mash-up of Williams where he appeared to rap to hip-hop. The show made a few of these mash up videos and they repeatedly went viral. But even funnier- and even weirder in light of recent events – are the “slow jams” Williams did with Fallon, where he read news to music and Fallon sang and made puns. The slow jam with Fallon was funny because it was a parody of Williams as a serious reporter. Now that we know the truth – that Williams was less serious and more egotistical – the slow jams seem more like examples of shameless self-promotion.
It is important to point out, though, that this story is about more than the inflated ego of one nightly news anchor. Instead, the decline of Williams needs to be read as part of the ongoing blurring of entertainment and news. TV news has long been in decline as a trusted source of information to the public. Numerous studies show that network news is decreasing as a source of information for the U.S. public, especially among younger viewers. Williams, who won a Peabody for his reporting on Katrina (reporting that is now also being called into question) may have been one of the most visible TV news journalists, but his presence as a public figure was nothing in comparison to TV anchor predecessors like Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather.
The real news below.
Feb 10 2015
It seems that since 2010, the US Department of Justice has known that one of the largest banks in Europe has been sheltering money for dictators and arms dealers, among others:
Banking Giant HSBC Sheltered Murky Cash Linked to Dictators and Arms Dealers
By Gerard Ryle, Will Fitzgibbon, Mar Cabra, Rigoberto Carvajal, Marina Walker Guevara, Martha M. Hamilton and Tom Stites, February 8, 2015, The International Consortium of Investigative Jouranlists
Team of journalists from 45 countries unearths secret bank accounts maintained for criminals, traffickers, tax dodgers, politicians and celebrities
Secret documents reveal that global banking giant HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws.
The leaked files, based on the inner workings of HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm, relate to accounts holding more than $100 billion. They provide a rare glimpse inside the super-secret Swiss banking system – one the public has never seen before. [..]
These disclosures shine a light on the intersection of international crime and legitimate business, and they dramatically expand what’s known about potentially illegal or unethical behavior in recent years at HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks.
The leaked account records show some clients making trips to Geneva to withdraw large wads of cash, sometimes in used notes. The files also document huge sums of money controlled by dealers in diamonds who are known to have operated in war zones and sold gemstones to finance insurgencies that caused untold deaths.
These are some of the key findings the journalists found:
HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) continued to offer services to clients who had been unfavorably named by the United Nations, in court documents and in the media as connected to arms trafficking, blood diamonds and bribery.
HSBC served those close to discredited regimes such as that of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, former Tunisian president Ben Ali and current Syrian ruler Bashar al-Assad.
Clients who held HSBC bank accounts in Switzerland include former and current politicians from Britain, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Kenya, Romania, India, Liechtenstein, Mexico, Lebanon, Tunisia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Paraguay, Djibouti, Senegal, Philippines and Algeria.
The bank repeatedly reassured clients that it would not disclose details of accounts to national authorities, even if evidence suggested that the accounts were undeclared to tax authorities in the client’s home country. Bank employees also discussed with clients a range of measures that would ultimately allow clients to avoid paying taxes in their home countries. This included holding accounts in the name of offshore companies to avoid the European Savings Directive, a 2005 Europe-wide rule aimed at tackling tax evasion through the exchange of bank information.
If this seems all too familiar, that’s because it is. HSBC was fined $1.6 billion in June of 2013 after it reached an agreement with the US Department of Justice which resolved charges it enabled Latin American drug cartels to launder billions of dollars
HSBC was accused of failing to monitor more than $670 billion in wire transfers and more than $9.4 billion in purchases of U.S. currency from HSBC Mexico, allowing for money laundering, prosecutors said. The bank also violated U.S. economic sanctions against Iran, Libya, Sudan, Burma and Cuba, according to a criminal information filed in the case. [..]
Under a deferred prosecution agreement, the U.S. allows a target to avoid charges by meeting certain conditions — including the payment of fines or penalties — and by committing to specific reforms.
So just what was the Department of Justice and the IRS doing with this information about the bank and its clients? Apparently not much.
Confronted by the Guardian’s evidence, HSBC admitted wrongdoing by its Geneva-based subsidiary. “We acknowledge and are accountable for past compliance and control failures,” the bank said in a statement. The Swiss arm, the statement said, had not been fully integrated into HSBC after its purchase in 1999, allowing “significantly lower” standards of compliance and due diligence to persist. [..]
The 2012 settlement was overseen by Loretta Lynch, who was then US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. Lynch is currently Barack Obama’s current nominee for attorney general.
At the time, the HSBC settlement was heavily criticised by both Republicans and Democrats for allowing the bank to escape criminal indictments and keep the charter which enables it to operate in the US. Lynch and other senior DoJ officials defended the deal, pointing out it committed HSBC to a five-year plan to stamp out money laundering and other illicit practices, an ongoing process that is being overseen by an independent, court-appointed monitor. [..]
The DoJ was under pressure to go beyond financial penalties – to bring criminal charges against HSBC or its bankers – in July 2012, after the Senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations published its crushing 330-page report documenting how the bank’s lax anti-money laundering controls had been exploited by drug traffickers. [..]
The settlement proved controversial because it stopped short of criminally indicting the bank or its executives; lawmakers from both parties complained it revealed some Wall Street institutions were considered “too big to jail”. [..]
HSBC is now just over two years into its reform plan, and has been deemed to be complying with the terms of the settlement. However the court-appointed monitor, Michael Cherkasky, who oversees a team of banking investigators who review HSBC’s changes, has expressed some concern over the pace of reform. Cherkasky’s most recent assessment of HSBC’s ongoing efforts to clean up its act has once again concluded it could do better, according a recent report in the Wall Street Journal which cited people familiar with its findings.
CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired The Swiss Leaks a report by Bill Whitaker that examined “HSBC’s business dealings with a collection of international outlaws.”
Transcript can be read here
The sickening part of this is the US Justice Department was well aware of this when they settled the HSBC’s drug laundering case in 2013. Also. HSBC is one of the institutions that is refusing to handle the money of legitimate marijuana businesses.
Nice going, Eric.