George W Bush taking over in the White House has made some people nostalgic for Bill Clinton.
One of his last acts shows how rotten he was. Clinton rushed through a pardon for Marc Rich on his very last day in office. Rich was indicted in 1983 for 50 counts of fraud, racketeering, breaking a trade embargo with Iran and evading more than $48 million in income tax.
He has not returned to the US since, but lives in luxury in Switzerland. Rich is also a billionaire who sits at the head of one of the world’s biggest global commodities empires. Known as ‘aluminium finger’, at one time Rich controlled around 40 percent of the world’s aluminium market.
He helped keep apartheid alive in South Africa by ignoring sanctions. In the early 1990s Rich dealt with former Russian Communist Party officials who decided to make a personal killing out of the introduction of the free market. ‘He’d strike a deal with the local party boss, or the director of a state-owned company,’ says Paul Klebnikov, an editor for Forbes magazine, who wrote a book about the process last year.
‘He’d say, ‘OK, you will sell me the commodity at 5 to 10 percent of the world market price. And in return I will deposit some of the profit I make by reselling it ten times higher on the world market, and put the kickback in a Swiss bank account.’
For at least two years, as Russian society collapsed, Rich was the country’s largest trader in aluminium and oil. Today tens of millions of Russians are enduring the worst winter there for 50 years. The government is so broke there is no money to buy coal to run power stations.
People are freezing to death in the dark because of people like Marc Rich-and his pardoner, Bill Clinton.
A story about the supposed ‘violent behaviour’ of the one of the two boys imprisoned for the killing of James Bulger was completely made up. Another was exaggerated out of all proportion. We are now looking forward to a big apology from the Sunday People, which published the stories on its front page.
It claimed that one of the boys, Robert Thompson, attacked a fellow inmate at the secure unit where he is held. The paper claimed that there was a fight between the two because both were bragging about who had committed the most evil crime.
The incident never took place. The ‘official report’ which was published as evidence in both the Sunday People and the Sun was a total forgery. The second story, about how Thompson was supposed to have attempted to strangle a fellow inmate with a flex, was also baloney. The Sunday People not only exaggerated the incident, it claimed Thompson was the aggressor. In reality he was the victim of the attack and was subjected to ‘prolonged provocation’.
The annual pay packet of American company chief executives for 2000 was $10.9 million-16 percent up on the year before, and more than double what it was in 1995.
Who is in control of the world’s nuclear submarines? That is a very serious question given last week’s revelations about the US submarine that surfaced under a Japanese boat, killing nine innocent people. At the helm, and in key lookout positions at the time of the accident, were civilians.
They are thought to be prominent business figures who were being given a ‘promotional’ tour of the submarine. The man who organised the ‘civilian’ trip on the submarine was a retired admiral, Richard Macke. He was at the centre of the controversy about three servicemen who abducted and raped a 12 year old girl in Okinawa. He was forced to ‘retire’ early after suggesting that they should have gone to a Japanese prostitute instead.
A Judge made a disgusting ruling last week in the interests of big firms. It will save insurance companies millions of pounds and hit those suffering from asbestosis. Two employers, who admit that they were negligent in exposing a worker to asbestos, were cleared of paying compensation because the widow of the asbestosis sufferer could not prove which one he was working for when he contracted the illness.
Arthur Fairchild died of the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in 1996. He was exposed to the deadly dust while working both for Leeds City Council in the 1960s and at Waddingtons in Leeds. Medical experts at the trial agreed there was no way of telling which was the source of the asbestos which killed him. Instead of punishing both, the judge let them both off.
Worried about who may be watching what you are doing on the internet or intercepting your emails? The Wall Street Journal reports that canny business minds at SafeWeb Inc have launched a website for those who want secrecy on the net.
If you sign up, it lets you roam the internet without a trace because you do everything via SafeWeb, which guards your identity. The only problem is that one of the biggest customers is none other than the CIA. ‘We want to operate anywhere on the internet in a way that no one knows the CIA is looking at them,’ a senior CIA official says.
The agency even set up its own venture capital firm two years ago in order to search out just the sort of innovations on offer from SafeWeb.
‘The discussion focused on commercial opportunities for UK business.’
BRIAN WILSON, Foreign Office minister, admitting foreign secretary Robin Cook also met one of the Hinduja brothers
‘It is difficult for the average motorist to understand why huge oil company profits are not passed on at the pump…the profit margins for petrol sales are very, very tight.’
PETER HAIN, now energy minister, explaining why New Labour will not tax oil companies’ profits
‘I once said to myself, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make $10 billion one day, before I was 60.’ We don’t apologise for making this amount of money. We are very proud of it.’
SIR JOHN BROWNE, chief executive of BP, profits: £10 billion last year
‘One of the things that gets me out of bed in the morning is that I am helping to secure the retirements of millions of men and women on modest means across the country. There is a nobility of purpose in producing good profits. I would rather be envied than pitied.’
MATT BARRETT, chief executive of Barclays Bank, profits: £3.5 billion last year
‘There is still a huge problem which is not picked up by the official figures. Real unemployment is somewhat below three million.’
PROFESSOR STEPHEN FOTHERGILL of Sheffield Hallam University on the government’s claim that unemployment has fallen to the one million mark
‘Britain, the last ally willing to fly with the Americans over Iraq, quietly passed the word to Washington that a more effective strategy was needed to justify continued military action.’
The US defence department announced last week that a satellite positioning device had been found in an Afghan cave. They said the equipment was lost in Somalia in 1993. The discovery, they proclaimed, was concrete evidence at last that Bin Laden's Al Qaida network was behind the deaths of 18 US soldiers in the disastrous raid on Mogadishu.