Category Archives: Black Ops & Dirty Tricks

MIT and Wilson Center receive NSF grant to develop “synthetic biology” agenda

phys.org | Jun 10, 2013

The MIT Center for International Studies and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars are collaborating on a $233,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to help realize potential benefits and to address potential ecological effects of synthetic biology.

The grant is supported jointly by three units within NSF, the Division of Cellular and Molecular Biology, the Division of Environmental Biology, and the Engineering Directorate. The grant will fund development of an interdisciplinary research agenda to improve understanding of potential ecological effects of commercial uses of synthetic biology.

Worse Than GMO?: Urgent Action Needed!

The “New Bioeconomy”: Synthetic Biology’s Implications for the Environment, Health and Justice

The research agenda will be developed through consultations among synthetic biologists, evolutionary biologists, ecologists, and environmental scientists. It will be based on workshops that focus on near- and medium-term applications of synthetic biology, with scenarios based on the intentional and unintentional release of engineered organisms.

This project will be conducted jointly by the Program on Emerging Technologies of the MIT Center for International Studies and the Synthetic Biology Project at the Wilson Center. It will build on four previous workshops that brought together a wide range of scientists, regulators, NGOs, companies, and other stakeholders to discuss possible ecological risks associated with synthetic biology products and to identify sources of uncertainty over risks. These workshops were funded jointly by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the NSF Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center. The project is expected to be completed in one year. A small board of advisors has been created to guide the design and execution of the workshops.

Provided by Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/Science and Technology Innovation Program

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World leaders in ‘secret society Bilderberg meeting’

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A person uses a copy of the Daily Mail newspaper to shield their identity from the demonstrators and the media as they arrive at The Grove hotel, which is hosting the annual Bilderberg conference.

AP | Jun 7, 2013

IT’S a busy weekend at the luxury Grove Hotel, favoured haunt of British soccer players and their glitz-loving spouses.

More than 100 of the world’s most powerful people are at the former manor house near London for a secretive annual gathering that has attained legendary status in the eyes of anti-capitalist protesters and conspiracy theorists.

The guest list for the Bilderberg meeting includes Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. British Prime Minister David Cameron is due to drop by Friday.

The Bilderberg Group was set up in 1954 to support military and economic co-operation between Europe and North America during the Cold War.

Named for the site of its first meeting – the Bilderberg Hotel in Oosterbeek, Holland – the forum for prominent politicians, thinkers and business leaders has been held annually at a series of secluded venues in Europe and North America.

What happens at Bilderberg, stays at Bilderberg. There is no media access and the public is kept away by a large security operation. The group says that “there is no detailed agenda, no resolutions are proposed, no votes are taken, and no policy statements are issued.”

But in a move toward slightly more openness, the group now has a website, which lists attendees and key topics for discussion, including the economy, US foreign policy, “cyber warfare and the proliferation of asymmetric threats” and “major trends in medical research.”

Invitees include British Treasury chief George Osborne, Goldman Sachs chairman Peter Sutherland and Thomas Enders, CEO of aerospace company EADS.

Publication of these details has done little to ease the concerns of protesters, who sense a shadowy global elite at work in the secretive meeting.

“When 130 of the leaders from all across the West get together, and many of these are billionaires, they are people who are immensely wealthy and immensely powerful,” said Michael Meacher, a lawmaker from Britain’s Labour Party.

“And when they all get together, it’s not just to have a chat about the latest problem, it is to concert plans for the future of capitalism in the West. That is on a very different scale.”

Others go even further, putting Bilderberg at the heart of a global web of conspiracy. The protesters in Watford include US talk-radio host and September 11 “truther” Alex Jones, and former professional soccer player David Icke, who believes the world is run by a race of reptiles in human form.

Demonstrators plan to hold a “Bilderberg fringe” festival outside the hotel until the conference ends on Sunday.

A Bilderberg spokesman – reached by email since no phone number is listed – said there is nothing sinister about the gathering.

“We disclose the date, the location, the participants and the key topics of the conference,” Xander Heijnen said. “Many groups of people meet without announcing it publicly at all, without disclosing who is taking part and without giving any key topics.

“The meetings broaden the participants’ range of viewpoints, help them to gain insights and exchange views,” he said. “It seems illogical to argue that a meeting of individuals designed to give and obtain fresh insights, somehow ‘undermines democracy.'”

That message has not swayed protesters like Judd Charlton, a ventriloquist from London who showed up on Thursday to jeer at cars with blacked-out windows entering the hotel compound.

“We are basically here to bring down the parasites who are drug dealers and bank collapsers who seem to want to destroy this world,” he said.

Bilderberg 2013: Secret Summit for World Domination…Live

Bilderberg 2013
(Clockwise from left) Christine Lagarde, a protester from the 2012 meeting in Virginia, Henry Kissinger, George Osborne and David Petraeus Photo: AP/Reuters

telegraph.co.uk | Jun 6. 2013

By Josie Ensor, and Matthew Holehouse

Bilderberg: The Secret Summit for World Domination

Four-day conference at Watford’s The Grove hotel begins
Millions spent on security as protesters demonstrate outside
Lord Healey: ‘the most useful of all the meetings I attend’

Latest

16.53 Well, as to be expected from the world’s most secretive conference, we have learnt nothing from today. The closest we managed to get was half-a-mile from the Watford hotel where the rich and powerful are gathered. We’ll therefore be wrapping it up here, but we leave you with this thought from Lord Healey:

“Lots of the stuff written about Bilderberg is a load of crap. Some people described it as a secret Communist organisation. Others said it was a secret American organisation. But it was balls.”

16.44 A great video from Alex Jones’s Youtube page of him being “provoked” by a BBC presenter.

15.45 Martin Taylor, a former secretary general of the Bilderbergs and businessman, who has been going on and off for the last 20 years, and is attending this year, spoke to the Telegraph’s Tom Rowley about the history of the conference.

“Bilderberg grew up in the early Fifties out of a feeling that if European leaders in all fields had been closer to their American counterparts before the Second World War, some trouble might have been avoided.

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Sean Hannity: I’ve Never Heard of the Bilderberg Group

“That was at a time when people didn’t cross the Atlantic very often. It was a kind of Cold War council. People got together once a year, sometimes twice, but it was usually once. The numbers originally were about 60 or 70, it is now about 120. You got people from Europe and the US. It has now been rather enlarged.”

15.37 Security is tight, people are being checked in a field, hundreds of yards away from the hotel:

15.32 Speaking to the Telegraph earlier this week, Lord Healey of Riddleden, who attended the first Bilderberg meeting in 1954 and sat on the steering committee for 40 years, said:

“Lots of the stuff written about it is a load of crap. Those who weren’t invited were very jealous. Some people described it as a secret Communist organisation. Others said it was a secret American organisation. But it was balls.”

Lord Healey, who served as chancellor to Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, added: “I found it the most useful of all the meetings I attended regularly. The Bilderberg was the best because the level of the people attending regularly was so much higher.”

15.15 American news channel CNBC is reporting that police have anti-terrorism traffic regulations and a no-fly zone in place, so worried are they that Henry Kissinger and his pals with be the subject of attacks.

14.43 More on Alex Jones, who has been the centre of many controversies. He has previously accused the US government of being involved in the Oklahoma City bombing, the September 11 attacks, and the filming of fake Moon landings to hide NASA’s secret technology.

The outspoken Texan locked horns with Piers Morgan earlier this year after arguing on his show that taking away people’s guns would lead to government tyranny.

He has told an ever-growing group of conspirists gathered today that the Bilderberg Group wants to exterminate 80 per cent of the world population and replace them with robots who will be their slaves.

14.11 That’s nice, a Bilderberg welcoming committee:

14.01 Our reporter, Matthew Holehouse, who is as close to the hotel as press are allowed to get, has said a well-known pastor-like US conspiracy theoriest has arrived on the scene. Alex Jones told the crowd of Americans gathered that he is there to “expose the puppet-masters for what they are to the world”.

He said he wanted the attendees to be put on trial for crimes against humanity. We’re not entirely convinced The Hague would find in his favour.

“It is very, very sinister,” warns Jones.

“Not everybody who goes to Bilderberg, from my research, is a scoundrel or a villain. But there are definitely villains who are there who are basically trying to organise government and business.”


Alex Jones and the scrum

14.00 Bilderberg, which formed in 1954, is making an attempt to change its reputation as one of the most clandestine and controversial meetings in the world; it is the first time the guest list and its limited agenda have been publicly released and journalists are allowed near the grounds.

13.00 David Icke, the world’s most famous conspiracy theorist, is set to come on Saturday – the third day of the conference and we hear he’s expected to bring a big crowd. He has written on his blog about the “proof” that the annual meetings dictate government policy.

12.36 Our reporter Matthew Holehouse is half a mile away from the hotel in a pen with other 50 other reporters. He says it is they are surrounded by a high steel fence that looks like the edge of a prison.

About 40 cars have gone in so far. Every time someone drives in with their luxury car, the crowds shout and heckle.

There are lots of elderly Americans, people wandering around with cameras and a man dressed up as a CCTV camera.

12.23 The cloak of secrecy surrounding the meetings, which ban journalists from attending, has fuelled conspiracy theories that so-called Bilderbergers are planning global domination and world unification.

People have been banned for booking into the hotel this week and reporters are being kept in a pen a long distance away from the entrance to the hotel.

12.14 Michael Meacher, Labour’s former Environment Minister, told our reporter Matthew Holehouse that the institution is shadowy and the public needs to know what is going on.

Michael Meacher addresses reporter in a field in Watford

When asked if it was a shadow government, Meacher replied, “You’re putting it into rather colourful language. I wouldn’t go that far but a gathering like this has that aura about it. It is a shadow organisation that the rest of us do not have access to.

“Most of them are multi-millionaires and billionaires. The idea they have a charity is a distortion.

“The people here are the leaders of the biggest banks, multi-nationals, EU commissioners, and a smattering of politicians from Europe and America. If you wanted to find a group which represented the western governance structure you would come up with a list like this.They are meeting here in secrecy with no transparency or accountability.

12.07 Delegates for the private conference of top politicians and businesspeople from around the world have started to arrive at the hotel in cars with blacked-out windows. Doesn’t look much like they’re up for a stop and chat.

We have a handy agenda and guest list. Some of the country’s politicians have managed to clear four days out of their busy schedules for the event, including:

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Kenneth Clarke, Cabinet Minister
John Kerr, Independent Member, House of Lords

Ed Balls is a confirmed guest of the Bilderberg Group

12:04 Good afternoon and welcome to our liveblog. We will be covering the mysterious goings-on of the annual Bilderberg Group meeting which starts today and is being held in the UK for the first time … in a hotel in Watford.

NSA secretly collecting phone records, locations of millions of Verizon customers daily

nsa-tia
Under the terms of the order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data and the time and duration of all calls.

NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily

Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama

Guardian | Jun 5, 2013

by Glenn Greenwald

Read the Verizon court order in full here
Obama administration justifies surveillance

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

Related

NSA collection of Verizon phone records sparks angry reaction

Top-secret court order reveals NSA’s daily data collection on millions of Americans

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Also Revealed by Verizon Leak: How the NSA and FBI Lie With Numbers

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government’s domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.

The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.

“We decline comment,” said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls”.

The order directs Verizon to “continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order”. It specifies that the records to be produced include “session identifying information”, such as “originating and terminating number”, the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and “comprehensive communication routing information”.

The information is classed as “metadata”, or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such “metadata” is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.

While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.

It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.

The court order appears to explain the numerous cryptic public warnings by two US senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, about the scope of the Obama administration’s surveillance activities.

For roughly two years, the two Democrats have been stridently advising the public that the US government is relying on “secret legal interpretations” to claim surveillance powers so broad that the American public would be “stunned” to learn of the kind of domestic spying being conducted.

Because those activities are classified, the senators, both members of the Senate intelligence committee, have been prevented from specifying which domestic surveillance programs they find so alarming. But the information they have been able to disclose in their public warnings perfectly tracks both the specific law cited by the April 25 court order as well as the vast scope of record-gathering it authorized.

Julian Sanchez, a surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, explained: “We’ve certainly seen the government increasingly strain the bounds of ‘relevance’ to collect large numbers of records at once — everyone at one or two degrees of separation from a target — but vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately would be an extraordinary repudiation of any pretence of constraint or particularized suspicion.” The April order requested by the FBI and NSA does precisely that.

The law on which the order explicitly relies is the so-called “business records” provision of the Patriot Act, 50 USC section 1861. That is the provision which Wyden and Udall have repeatedly cited when warning the public of what they believe is the Obama administration’s extreme interpretation of the law to engage in excessive domestic surveillance.

In a letter to attorney general Eric Holder last year, they argued that “there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.”

“We believe,” they wrote, “that most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted” the “business records” provision of the Patriot Act.

Privacy advocates have long warned that allowing the government to collect and store unlimited “metadata” is a highly invasive form of surveillance of citizens’ communications activities. Those records enable the government to know the identity of every person with whom an individual communicates electronically, how long they spoke, and their location at the time of the communication.

Such metadata is what the US government has long attempted to obtain in order to discover an individual’s network of associations and communication patterns. The request for the bulk collection of all Verizon domestic telephone records indicates that the agency is continuing some version of the data-mining program begun by the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack.

The NSA, as part of a program secretly authorized by President Bush on 4 October 2001, implemented a bulk collection program of domestic telephone, internet and email records. A furore erupted in 2006 when USA Today reported that the NSA had “been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth” and was “using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity.” Until now, there has been no indication that the Obama administration implemented a similar program.

These recent events reflect how profoundly the NSA’s mission has transformed from an agency exclusively devoted to foreign intelligence gathering, into one that focuses increasingly on domestic communications. A 30-year employee of the NSA, William Binney, resigned from the agency shortly after 9/11 in protest at the agency’s focus on domestic activities.

In the mid-1970s, Congress, for the first time, investigated the surveillance activities of the US government. Back then, the mandate of the NSA was that it would never direct its surveillance apparatus domestically.

At the conclusion of that investigation, Frank Church, the Democratic senator from Idaho who chaired the investigative committee, warned: “The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.”

Additional reporting by Ewen MacAskill and Spencer Ackerman

Popes and demons: Mysterious Vatican bank poses problem for new pontiff

The massive round tower, left, is the headquarters of the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican’s secretive bank.

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images FilesThe massive round tower, left, is the headquarters of the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican’s secretive bank.
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National Post | Mar 8, 2013by Adrian Humphreys
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CLICK TO ENLARGE

CLICK TO ENLARGE

As the world waits for the Vatican’s conclave to select a new pope to lead 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, and the church’s sex abuse scandals dominate discourse on the incoming pontiff’s priorities, another decidedly worldly issue is also poised to take an immediate toll on the new Holy Father: money.

The public and private woes of the Vatican bank, long shrouded in secrets and whispers, might well prove to be just as challenging, if not as draining, as the lurid, faith-shaking damage of the clergy abuse scandal.

With a two-year probe by Italian authorities into money laundering, poor transparency, inadequate adherence to standards for guarding against criminal and terrorist financing, and questions over sudden changes in its leadership, the bank represents another crisis of morals, legalities and perception.

The importance of the Vatican bank in Pope Benedict XVI’s grand vision can be assumed from the urgency it held with the outgoing pontiff: among the last official acts before his shock retirement was overhauling financial leadership and church oversight.

On Feb. 15, Benedict XVI approved the appointment of Ernst von Freyberg as the new president of the supervisory board of the Institute for Works of Religion, the church agency widely known as the Vatican bank.

The appointment of the German lawyer and businessman came after assessing “a number of candidates of professional and moral excellence,” the Vatican said in a statement.

“The Holy Father has closely followed the entire selection process … and he has expressed his full consent to the choice made by the Commission of Cardinals.”

While the appointment drew immediate criticism over the involvement of Mr. von Freyberg’s Blohm+Voss, an industrial group, in manufacturing German warships, including during the Nazi era, it also raised eyebrows for its timing. Putting money under the baton of a German is not out of step with European policy these days, but for an institution already rife with conspiracy theories the sudden shuffle could not go unnoticed.

“[Benedict’s] decision to retire was so unprecedented, you would think that he would have other things on his mind than replacing the head of the Vatican bank,” said Carlo Calvi, son of Roberto Calvi, who was known as “God’s Banker” because of his close ties to the Vatican before his outlandish death more than 30 years ago.

Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg Files

Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg FilesThe city of Rome, in Italy, is seen beyond St. Peter’s Square from the roof of the Basilica in Vatican City.
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Ernst von Freyberg. The Canadian Press Files.

Ernst von Freyberg. The Canadian Press Files.

“However, I am more surprised by the sackings — the people who were let go — rather than the appointments,” he said.

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was chairman of the Vatican bank until he was pushed out in May with a withering assessment of not being up for the job. He had been trying to get the Vatican onto the international banking “white list” of virtuous countries.

Then, on Feb. 22, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, a key church official pushing for better regulation and controls on the Vatican bank, was suddenly transferred from Rome to Colombia.

That transfer followed the moving of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was credited with turning a deficit for the Vatican into a large surplus through greater accountability and controls, from the Vatican to the United States.

One of the leaked documents in the “Vatileaks” scandal was a letter from Archbishop Vigano to Pope Benedict begging he remain in Rome to continue his financial crusade. The Pope was unmoved.

The transfers suggest change is not always welcome.

“Change under the new pope will be easier said than done because they make money on this, it is a source of income that has been used for a lot of purposes,” said Mr. Calvi. To address the problems, “They need, essentially, to do a very drastic reform that would almost certainly mean foregoing a considerable source of revenue.”

The Vatican bank has not always shown such virtuous strength, as Mr. Calvi knows better than most. Few outside the Vatican’s inner circle eye church finance as closely as Mr. Calvi, who now lives in Montreal.

Watching the Vatican bank has consumed Mr. Calvi’s adult life and the Calvi name almost consumed the Vatican bank.

His father was chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, an Italian Catholic bank closely linked to the Vatican.

Graham Hughes for National Post

Few outside the Vatican’s inner circle eye church finance as closely as Carlo Calvi, who now lives in Montreal. Graham Hughes for National Post
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The shadowy operations of Vatican finance forced its way into the public’s consciousness when Roberto Calvi was found dead, just as the scandalous operation of church finance was being revealed amid the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, Italy’s largest private bank, with $1-billion missing.

Since then, his unsolved death, first declared a suicide, then reclassified as a murder, and the cast of powerful figures and secretive organizations linked to it — from the Mafia and the Masonic lodge P2 to the powerful conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei and the Vatican itself — make it one of modern history’s enduring mysteries, Europe’s equal to the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance.

The case was also said to be linked to landmark Cold War politics, with claims Banco Ambrosiano was used by those close to John Paul II, the Polish pope, to fund the anti-Communist Solidarity movement in Poland and by those close to U.S. president Ronald Reagan to fund the Contra rebels of Central America.

The raw puzzle and quirks of Mr. Calvi’s death compel conspiracy theories and befuddlement, with small details that seem to mean much, but with no answer to exactly what.

The banker’s body was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge, his feet dangling in the River Thames in the heart of London, on June 18, 1982; he wore two pairs of underwear, had five bricks in his pockets, about $14,00-worth of three different currencies and the business card of a Mafia figure.

It was a death shouting in the symbolic language of Italy’s underworld.

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg Files

Blackfriars Bridge in London, U.K. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg Files
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“I am more of the idea that there are theatrical elements and not necessarily symbolic aspects to it,” said his son. “Hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars were involved — if that is not a motive for murder, I don’t know what is.”

After all, any Catholic cleric would know: Radix malorum est cupiditas, the Latin Biblical quotation meaning greed is the root of evil.

The very notion of a church bank speaks to the awkward interface between the spiritual and temporal, represented by the pope being both leader of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City state.

Unlike many Vatican institutions, the Vatican bank is not of antique origin, having been formed in 1942 by Pius XII, although it had older antecedents. Its purpose is to protect and administer the property and funds intended for the church’s works.

Unlike true national central banks, it does not set monetary policy or involve itself in currency maintenance, as the Vatican uses the euro. Also unlike most banks, its surplus or profit is supposed to go toward religion or charity.

As it is not a true central bank, and with the Vatican not a full member of the European Union, its relationship with strict regulation has been more nebulous and its ends of religion or charity have, likewise, not always been clear.

“One would be surprised at the acceptance of risky relationships and risky behaviour for an organization like the Vatican. But, objectively, I’ve seen it. It is hard to understand, but it is true,” said Mr. Calvi.

Courtesy Carlo Calvi

“God’s Banker” Roberto Calvi, whose body was found hanging from a London bridge in 1982, meets Paul VI in an undated photo. Courtesy Carlo Calvi
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“In many cases, they seem to have little judgment in terms of the arrangements they get themselves into.”

In the fallout of the Banco Ambrosiano scandal, though it claimed no wrongdoing, the Vatican bank paid $250-million to Ambrosiano’s creditors.

Since then, its regulatory framework has still not caught up to modern standards, especially in the post-9/11 world.

Tiziana Fabi/AFP/GettyImages Files

The former head of the Vatican bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was forced to resign from his post on May 24, 2012 “for failing to carry out duties of primary importance,” the Holy See said in a statement. Tiziana Fabi/AFP/GettyImages Files
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In 2010, Rome magistrates froze ¤23-million ($31-million) the Vatican bank held in an Italian bank. The Vatican said its bank was merely transferring its own funds between its own accounts in Italy and Germany. The money was released in June 2011, but an investigation continues.

In July, a European anti-money laundering committee said the Vatican bank failed to meet all its standards on fighting money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes.

The report by Moneyval, a monitoring committee of the 47-nation Council of Europe, found the Vatican passed nine of 16 “key and core” aspects of its financial dealings. The head of the Vatican delegation to the Moneyval committee was Msgr. Balestrero.

Msgr. Balestrero said the report was a call for the Vatican to push forward with “efforts to marry moral commitments to technical excellence” to prove “the Holy See’s and Vatican City state’s desire to be a reliable partner in the international community.”

Seven months later, he was reassigned to South America.

“The Moneyval report was one of the rare bits of good news for the Vatican last year. Balestrero was the one who dealt with Moneyval and they send him to Colombia. That doesn’t sound like the way to reward someone,” said Mr. Calvi.

This week, the widely read Italian Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana, which is distributed free in Italian parishes on Sundays, carried an article calling for the bank to be closed on the grounds the pontificate should not have direct links to the world of finance.

It argued there are plenty of ethically minded commercial banks in Italy and elsewhere that could be trusted to manage the Holy See’s assets.

In January, René Bruelhart, the new director of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, said the church was on the right track.

“Considering the particular nature of the Vatican City state, adequate measures have been adopted for vigilance, prevention, and fighting money laundering and financing terrorism,” he told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

How much further the Vatican bank will go and how quickly it can get there, under both the new chairman and a new pope, is being anxiously watched by the world’s financial community. And by Mr. Calvi.

Pier Paolo Cito / The Associated Press Files

Then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, left, now former Pope Benedict XVI, looks on as late Pope John Paul II celebrates Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in 2002. Pier Paolo Cito / The Associated Press Files
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National Post, with files from news services

Russia puts murdered whistleblower on trial

2013-03-10T165253Z_1_CBRE9291AW900_RTROPTP_2_RUSSIA-PROTEST
A woman holds a placard with a portrait of Sergei Magnitsky during an unauthorised rally in central Moscow December 15, 2012.. REUTERS/Tatyana MakeyevaView Photo

His employer says the charges against him were a reprisal and he was murdered, and the Kremlin’s own human rights council aired suspicions he was beaten to death.

Reuters | Mar 10, 2013

By Alissa de Carbonnel

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A whistleblowing Russian lawyer whose death in custody became a symbol of rights abuses and strained relations with the United States will go on posthumous trial on Monday in what relatives say is revenge by the Kremlin.

Sergei Magnitsky, who died while in pre-trial custody in 2009, is being prosecuted for defrauding the state in what will be the first time Russia has ever tried a dead person, a development Amnesty International says sets a “dangerous precedent”.

Magnitsky had been jailed after accusing police and tax officials of multimillion dollar tax fraud. His employer says the charges against him were a reprisal and he was murdered, and the Kremlin’s own human rights council aired suspicions he was beaten to death.

The circumstances of his demise led the United States last year to bar entry to Russians accused of involvement in his case or in other rights abuses.

Critics say the trial – more than three years after he died and despite pleas by relatives to drop the case – is an attempt by President Vladimir Putin’s government to hit back at Washington and show the public Magnitsky was a crook not a hero.

“It’s inhuman to try a dead man. If I take part in this circus, I become an accomplice to this,” Magnitsky’s mother Natalya told Reuters. “I won’t take part in the hearings.”

Russia took the highly unusual step of reopening the investigation against Magnitsky in 2011, as international criticism of Russia over his death mounted.

“First they killed him, now they are dancing on his grave,” said a lawyer for Magnitsky’s family, Nikolai Gorokhov.

After Magnitsky’s lawyers boycotted pre-trial hearings, the court appointed a lawyer to defend him.

Contacted by Reuters, the court-appointed lawyer, Nikolai Guerasimov, declined to comment on the case. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov also declined to comment.

Magnitsky died at the age of 37 after he said he was denied medical care over 358 days in jail.

DEAD MAN IN THE DOCK

Putin said Magnitsky died of heart failure, but his former employer, London-based investment fund Hermitage Capital, says he was killed for testifying against officials he accused of a $230 million theft through fraudulent tax refunds.

Hermitage owner William Browder is being tried in absentia alongside his former employee. He also faces new fraud charges filed last week over dealings a decade ago in shares in state gas firm Gazprom.

Browder has said the charges are an “absurdity” meant as revenge for his campaigning for the U.S. rights legislations named after Magnitsky.

Pro-Kremlin television channel NTV showed a documentary alleging Browder exploited his late employee’s death for his own ends. Critics say NTV often airs such programs to influence public opinion before charges are filed against government foes.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International has called Russia’s first posthumous trial a “dangerous precedent.”

Authorities say recent legal changes make it possible. But Magnitsky’s family lawyers say the law allows such cases only at the request of the deceased’s relatives for the purpose of clearing their reputations.

No one has been held accountable for Magnitsky’s death. One prison official was tried last year but prosecutors asked the court to clear him.

“Something happened in that prison that no one wants to talk about,” Zoya Svetova, an investigator for the independent prison watchdog, the Public Oversight Commission, that probed his death.

“Magnitsky became a symbol of the fight against corruption, and the goal of this trial is to show he is no symbol but just a criminal who didn’t pay his taxes,” she said.

“It is pure state propaganda because there is no point in trying a dead man.”

The case has weighed heavily on U.S.-Russian relations.

Moscow retaliated against the U.S. Magnitsky Act with its own visa ban against Americans suspected of violating the rights of Russians abroad. It also banned U.S. families from adopting Russian children.

Silvio Berlusconi says bribes are a ‘necessary part of business’ and tells critics to ‘stop moralising’

berlusconi
No crime: Silvio Berlusconi, pictured during a political rally in Rome last week, defended the use of bribes in international negotiations saying they are ‘necessary’ when dealing with third world countries and regimes

Berlusconi defending bribes saying they are not criminal but ‘necessary’

The 76-year-old politician called critics ‘absurd’ and ‘masochist’
    
He said without bribes ‘you cannot be an entrepreneur on a global scale’

dailymail.co.uk | Feb 15, 2013

By Sara Malm

Silvio Berlusconi has defended the use of bribes in business saying they are necessary when securing international deals for Italian companies.

The former Italian Prime minister said illegal payments are vital when negotiating with ‘third world countries and regimes’.

Mr Berlusconi made the comments as a response to recent corruption scandals within several state-controlled conglomerates in Italy.

Mr Berlusconi, spoke against the arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, CEO of Finmeccanica defence group, who was taken into custody yesterday accused of paying Indian government officials to secure a helicopter contract.

The 76-year-old politician, who is running for his fourth term as Prime Minister in the country’s elections this month, said bribes are essential in international business, the Financial Times report.

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‘Bribes are a phenomenon that exists and it is useless to deny the existence of these necessary situations when you are negotiating with third world countries and regimes,’ Mr Berlusconi said in an interview with Italian State broadcaster, RAI 3.

‘These are not crimes. We are talking about paying a commission to someone in that country. Why? Because those are the rules in that country.’

The centre-right leader also defended state-controlled energy group Eni, which is alleged to have used bribes to win contracts in Algeria.

Mr Berlusconi even went as far as to suggest that putting a stop to bribery has left Italian companies out of business.

‘No one will negotiate with Eni or Enel or Finmeccanica anymore,’ he said.

‘It’s pure masochism.’

Mr Berlusconi called those who condemn financial incentives in deals outside Western democracies ‘absurd’.

‘If you want to make moralisms like that, you can’t be an entrepreneur on a global scale.’

His comments comes one year after his own bribery case was thrown out of court.

Mr Berlusconi stood accused of handing British lawyer David Mills £380,000 to lie during two 1990s trials to shield Berlusconi and his Fininvest holding company from charges related to the billionaire media mogul’s business dealings.

The Italian general elections will take place 24-25th February where Mr Berlusconi is yet again heading the People of Liberty party and hoping for a centre-right coalition.

His comments were unsurprisingly slammed by opposition politicians, who pointed out that Mr Berlusconi himself is appealing against his October tax fraud conviction while running for Prime Minister.

Just last month an Italian court granted his defense team’s request to postpone a trial for alleged wire tapping until after the elections.

Prosecutors have asked for a one-year jail sentence for Mr Berlusconi for his alleged role in the publication of wiretap transcripts in a newspaper owned by his media empire and three years for his brother Paolo, the publisher of Milan newspaper Il Giornale.

Mr Berlusconi denies all charges.

See also: The Berlusconi Toxic Corruption Data Storage Dump