Showing posts from January, 2009

Reading the Satyam Scam

“Earlier industrialists and then defence contracts financed political parties. Nowreal estate does, especially in the states because chief ministers have easier access to it. The kickbacks are huge” – CharlesCorrea (Interview, Times of India,10 September 2008). From "Maytas, Hyderabad Metro and the Politics of Real Estate" in the EPW which notes "In the 10 days since the revelation of the massive fraud at Satyam, there has been much speculation that the holes in the software company’s books were caused by the promoters’ links with Maytas, the infrastructure company that in recent years has become the favourite of the government of Andhra Pradesh. This article puts under the magnifying lens the award in 2008 of the massive Rs 12,000 crore contract to Maytas to build and operate the Hyderabad Metro." Reading the Satyam Scam Will the truth ever come out? What is this sham of corporate governance? In a confession that led to his arrest and turmoil in corporate Ind

Largest investor fraud ever in US: EU reviews fund rules

Bernard Lawrence Madoff, an American businessman, and former chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange who founded the Wall Street firm Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in 1960 and was its chairman until December 11, 2008, when he was charged with perpetrating what may be the largest investor fraud ever committed by a single person. He is under house arrest until his indictment with a deadline of February 11, 2009. On December 10, 2008 Madoff allegedly told his sons, Andrew and Mark, that the asset management arm of his firm was a giant Ponzi scheme--as he put it, "one big lie." They then passed this information to authorities. The following day, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested Madoff and charged him with one count of securities fraud. Five days after his arrest, Madoff's assets and those of the firm were frozen and a receiver was appointed to handle the case. According to federal charges, Madoff himself admitted that his firm has "liabilitie

Posthumous Editorial by Lasantha Wickramatunge

And Then They Came For Me No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last. I have been in the business of journalism a good long time. Indeed, 2009 will be The Sunday Leader's 15th year. Many things have changed in Sri Lanka during that time, and it does not need me to tell you that the greater part of that change has been for the worse. We find ourselves in the midst of a civil war ruthlessly prosecuted by protagonists whose bloodlust knows no bounds. Terror, whether perpetrated by terrorists or the state, has become the order of the day. Indeed, murder has become th

Lasantha Wickramatunga, top Sri Lankan Editor Killed

Lasantha Wickramatunga, editor of the major Sri Lankan newspaper the Sunday Leader and a vocal critic of the Sri Lankan government, was killed by unidentified gunmen on the morning of January 8 as his car was stopped in traffic in Colombo, the nation's capital. Wickramatunga was rushed to the hospital and died after three hours of surgery. The gunmen escaped on motorcycles. Wickramatunga, 52, had received death threats before. His in-depth coverage of government corruption put him under pressure throughout his career with the anti-establishment newspaper. The killing of Wickramatunga has brought new attention to the threats and violence that Sri Lankan journalists endure. The country is one of the world's most dangerous for reporters. Now, with prominent coverage of the story of his death, the Sri Lankan government faces new pressure to ensure the safety of its media. From The Guardian: The Sunday Leader is locked in a legal battle with the president's brother, Sri La

Obama inaugural speech

Barack Obama has been sworn in as the 44th US president. Here is his inauguration speech in full. My fellow citizens: I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition. Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we, the people, have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents. So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans. Serious challenges That we are in the midst of crisis is now well und

Israel turns Gaza into weapon testing lab?

Israel has turned Gaza into a research laboratory to test out its new "extremely nasty" weapons on Palestinians, say on the scene medics. After working for 10 days at the Shifa Hospital in the war-torn Palestinian territory, Dr. Mads Gilbert, a member of a Norwegian triage medical team in Gaza, blasted Israel for conducting experimental military work in the impoverished strip. "There's a very strong suspicion I think that Gaza is now being used as a test laboratory for new weapons," Gilbert told reporters at Oslo's Gardermoen airport upon his return home on Monday. Dr. Gilbert said the kinds of injuries he and his colleague Erik Fosse had seen during their ten-day aid work in Gaza had proven that Dense Inert Metal Explosives (DIME) was being used in the embattled territory. DIME, which is an experimental kind of explosive, is believed to have strong biological effects in those who are hit by the "low lethality" weapons. Survivors close to the

How Israeli leaders kill for their people's votes

In order to grasp the latest devastating and murderous Israeli expedition in Gaza, one must deeply comprehend the Israeli identity and its inherent hatred towards anyone who is not Jewish and towards Arabs in particular. This hatred is imbued in the Israeli curriculum, it is preached by political leaders and implied by their acts, and it is conveyed by cultural figures, even within the so-called "Israeli left". I grew up in Israel in the 1970s. People of my generation are nowadays leaders in the Israeli army, politics, economy, academia and the arts. We were trained to believe that "a good Arab is a dead Arab". A few weeks before I joined the Israeli armed forces in the early 1980s, General Rafael Eitan, the chief of staff at the time, announced that the "Arabs were stoned cockroaches in a bottle". He got away with it; he also got away with the murder of many thousands of Lebanese civilians in the first Lebanon war. In a word, Israelis manage to get away

China Dairy Boss Pleads Guilty in Melamine Case

Tian Wenhua, the board chairwoman and general manager of China dairy giant Sanlu Group, has been removed from her posts in the wake of the tainted baby formula milk powder scandal. Tian was also removed from her post as the secretary of the corporation committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), China's tainted milk led to the deaths of at least six babies and illnesses of nearly 300,000 others. Tian has pleaded guilty to charges that could lead to the death penalty. Tian Wenhua, former board chairwoman and general manager of Sanlu Group Co., admitted in court testimony Wednesday that she knew of problems with her company's products for months before informing authorities. Her trial was the most high-profile yet in a food safety crisis widely seen as a national disgrace, highlighting corporate and official malfeasance. At least six babies died and nearly 300,000 were sickened by infant formula sold by Sanlu and several other companies that was tainted with the industr

The lacerations are deep

The fraud committed by the founding promoter and former chairman of Satyam Computer Services Limited, Byrraju Ramalinga Raju, and his cohorts, has revealed the underbelly of Indian capitalism in ways that few could have imagined. It would be tempting to perceive the unseemly episode as a manifestation of individual greed and malfeasance. But the corruption in Satyam goes far deeper than that: it is corporate cronyism at its crudest, including the negligence — at best — or complicity — at worst — of an internationally-renowned firm of auditors (PriceWaterhouse) and a clutch of so-called independent directors (among them an erstwhile cabinet secretary, the senior-most position that a bureaucrat can aspire for in the Government of India). At one level, the Satyam scam is yet another instance of the infamous nexus between business and politics. It also highlights the lax mechanisms that are in place for official oversight and enforcement of prudential norms that, in turn, are supposed to

The economic disaster that is military keynesianism

Why the US has really gone broke Global confidence in the US economy has reached zero, as was proved by last month’s stock market meltdown. But there is an enormous anomaly in the US economy above and beyond the subprime mortgage crisis, the housing bubble and the prospect of recession: 60 years of misallocation of resources, and borrowings, to the establishment and maintenance of a military-industrial complex as the basis of the nation’s economic life By Chalmers Johnson The military adventurers in the Bush administration have much in common with the corporate leaders of the defunct energy company Enron. Both groups thought that they were the “smartest guys in the room” — the title of Alex Gibney’s prize-winning film on what went wrong at Enron. The neoconservatives in the White House and the Pentagon outsmarted themselves. They failed even to address the problem of how to finance their schemes of imperialist wars and global domination. As a result, going into 2008, the United St

NATO's 60th Anniversary

NATO's 60th calls for change President-elect Barack Obama should make history. Not just on Jan. 20, but on April 4, as well. The latter date marks the 60th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO. When Harry Truman signed the North Atlantic Treaty six decades ago, he observed, "Events of this century have taught us that we cannot achieve peace independently. The world has grown too small." The words still ring true, but the world has changed. NATO must change, too, if it is to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The alliance's 60th anniversary celebration is the perfect occasion for Mr. Obama to announce a new vision for NATO. The United States must take the lead in revitalizing the geriatric organization. It's the only country in the alliance that can still walk and chew gum at the same time. Less than a handful of the other member states invest in defense at a rate anywhere close to the agreed-upon target: a paltry 2 percent of