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The Billionaires’ Brokered GOP Convention

Greg Palast 

Truthout | Op-Ed

The Plan is working.

Mitt Romney’s biggest backer didn’t want him to win.

We know that Paul “The Vulture” Singer, Romney’s Daddy Warbucks, organized the “grassroots” campaign to replace Romney with Gov. Chris Christie back in September.

That flopped, so Singer and the billionaire boys’ club that courted Christie moved over to Romney. Not that they had a choice. They knew Moonrocks Gingrich, who thinks he’s running for Master Jedi, and Saint Santorum who thinks he’s running for pope, would end up road kill in November.

But despite their million-dollar checks for Romney’s campaign, the billionaires are handling the ex-governor with very long and slippery tweezers. The fact that Singer and the Koch brothers went on bended knee to Christie means they are just nauseated over Romney, a man losing a war with the English language and his own tax returns, carrying their standard against President Obama. …more

Occupy Wall Street comes home to roost with Congo’s ‘debt vultures’

Greg Palast 

Nowhere are the ill-gotten gains of the 1% more grossly apparent than in the activities of ‘debt vulture’ hedge funds

As published by The Guardian America


This article is the subject of a legal complaint from Peter Grossman.


Photo by Zach Roberts © 2011

This past Sunday, a deputation from Occupy Wall Street crossed the bridge from Manhattan and brought its protest to the Brooklyn residence of one of New York’s “vultures” This type of vulture doesn’t roost in a tree, but in a swish brownstone.

A “vulture” is a financial speculator who, as we recently reported, gets his hands on debts owed by desperately poor nations. The Brooklyn “vulture” targeted by OWS and Friends of the Congo is Peter Grossman. Two weeks ago, the Guardian exposed him as a financier who is demanding the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the world’s poorest nation, pay $100m to the hedge fund he manages, FG Hemisphere.

Grossman, tipped off about the demonstration, …more

GOLDMAN SUX?
Giant Squid Strikes Again
at Occupy Wall Street’s Credit Union

Greg Palast 

By Greg Palast

Palast is the author of Vultures’ Picnic: in Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores.

What have I done?  There’s one angry squid out there.

Memo from Tim Geithner to Larry Summers
(click to enlarge)

Last week, Democracy Now! and The Guardian ran our story about Goldman Sachs yanking financial support from a community credit union for honoring one of its largest customers.  The customer:  Occupy Wall Street.

Our report so enraged Goldman that, within days, it doubled down on its attack on the little community bank.

Goldman had already demanded the return of its $5,000 payment to the Lower East Side Peoples Federal Credit Union.  Now, sources say, the trillion-dollar Wall Street mega-bank sent the following message to the not-for-profit community bank:  “You will never get a dime from any bank ever again.”

About those “dimes” Goldman is taking away:  …more

The 1% who get the gold mine
(we get the shaft)

Greg Palast 

[Wall Street, New York] No one here in Zuccotti Park is protesting “Wall Street.” Wall Street is just an address, just a street sign on a post.

The 99% Movement is about Them: the 1%. The 1% who own Wall Street and all our
streets and have posted a foreclosure notice on the entire planet.

The 1% who get the gold mine while we get the shaft.

For five years, I’ve been quietly working on a four-continent investigation about Them, the 1%.

I’ve put it all in a new book. I could have called it Lives of the Rich and Shameless, but I’ve chosen this: Vultures’ Picnic””in Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores.

Vultures’ Picnic hits book stores on November 14. Click on the images to see the films, the slideshow, the excerpts””and order it right now. …more

Ãœber-Vultures: The Billionaires Who Would Pick Our President

Greg Palast 

The untold story of the sources of the loot controlled by Paul “The Vulture” Singer, Ken Langone and the Kochs””and why they need to buy the White House

For TruthOut/Buzzflash

Greg Palast’s investigative reports are broadcast by BBC Television’s Newsnight. His new book, Vultures’ Picnic: a Tale of Oil, Sex, Radiation and Investigative Reporting will be released by Penguin USA on November 14.

[October 5, 2011] Paul Singer likes to breakfast on decayed carcasses. What he chews down is sickening, but just as nausea-inducing are his new table mates: Ken Langone and the Koch Brothers, Charles and David.

Singer has called together the billionaire boys club for the purpose of picking our next president for us. The old fashioned way of choosing presidents””democracy and counting ballots and all that””has never been a favorite of this pack. I can tell you that from my investigations of each of these gentlemen for The Guardian. When the Statue of Liberty has nightmares, she dreams that these guys will combine to seize America via a cash-and-carry coup d’état. …more

Not Another Ransom Note
from Congressman Boehner

Greg Palast 

 

It was quite upsetting to find our President blindfolded and tied to a chair at the GOP Tea Party headquarters, but I’m sure the $2.2 trillion ransom we paid to the hostage-takers is worth it.

Well, now that the Obama presidency is over, we can move on to more serious matters.

Look out your window.  What you’ll see is that, while the debt-ceiling hostage crisis played out on cable TV, the planet has been burning down.

You haven’t heard a lot from me this year””because the normally-noisy Palast investigations team has chosen to spend these months quietly digging into unreported cases of economic and environmental arson.  It will all hit the presses and TV when we launch a new book and films later this year.

But the investigations continue at full tilt:

#1. Too Far Beyond Petroleum. …more

Debt Vultures Shot for Chanukah
Liberia is saved but predators are still at large

Greg Palast 

For In These Times

We got’m. I can hardly believe it.

Yesterday, the financial vultures, the carcass-chewers who were preying on the dirt-poor African nation of Liberia, gave up.

Two shadowy vulture funds, which had won a $43 million court judgment against Liberia, agreed to accept only $1.4 million to settle their claim following an investigation by our BBC Newsnight team. We had sought to determine if the vulture funds were covers for an elaborate fraud scheme. They folded rather than face further scrutiny and attacks from activists, Parliaments and Congress.

Refresher: In February, for BBC Television Newsnight and In These Times, our team hunted down a predator with a Ph.D., Dr. Eric Hermann, who, for a couple pennies

on the dollar, secretly bought the right to collect a $6 million debt owed by Liberia.

Hermann and his flock of vulture partners demanded Liberia pay $43 million””a devastating sum for that nation””or he would, in effect, block aid funding for Liberia’s recovery from civil war. The nation was now Hermann’s economic hostage.

I was investigating the strange links between Hermann and a company named Hamsah Investments; it smelled of fraud. Tipped off that I was about to arrive with a camera crew to question …more

Jeremy Scahill, Greg Palast & Big Noise:
From Blackwater to White Power

Our Latest Film Available Now!

Greg Palast 

White Power, Blackwater and the smell of vulture money … get it on this feature length DVD filmed by gonzo videographer Rick Rowley and the Big Noise team.

Donate at least $35 today to support our work and I’ll send you this stunning 4-part documentary””signed, on dvd””featuring Jeremy Scahill, Greg Palast and Big Noise Films.

Dispatches #6 follows Jeremy Scahill’s latest investigation into Blackwater’s role in the Nisur Square massacre, Greg Palast’s hunt of American debt speculators in Liberia, and Big Noise Films’ inside account of the resurgent white power movement in America.   It also includes a special report: a warning from the heart of East St. Louis.

Here’s what you get on Dispatches #6 for your tax-deductible donation:

BLACKWATER’S YOUNGEST VICTIM
Scahill’s exclusive report on the last man standing between Blackwater and impunity for the mercenary company’s role in the massacre of Iraqi civilians in Nisur Square, Iraq.

VULTURES
Palast travels to Liberia to uncover a scam by American debt speculators to take millions from one of the poorest countries on the planet.  But when we showed up to ask them about it at their office in New York, it seemed to have. . . disappeared.

WHITE POWER USA
From skinheads to border militias to the right wing of the “Tea Party Movement”, Big Noise takes a disturbing inside look at the resurgence of white nationalism in America.

EAST SAINT LOUIS
The city that was given up for dead.  Big Noise meets the people fighting against economic corrosion in the Rust Belt.  Can residents of East Saint Louis save their town? Or has it become obsolete””a warning to all American cities facing de-industrialization?

“Rick [Rowley] is a genius.”  – Amy Goodman

“[Jeremy] Scahill is a one-man truth squad.” – Bill Moyers

“Greg Palast is the most important investigative reporter of our time.” – The Guardian

Dispatches is a new dvd magazine by Big Noise Films and is dedicated to radical investigations, analysis and on the ground video from across the globe.  Big Noise ‘Dispatches’ takes you around the world to look war and crisis in the face, but also to witness a shared struggle for survival and dignity in this time of violence.

Vulture Financier Attacks
Banned in Britain

Greg Palast 

April 8 – London – Update for In These Times

We’ve stuffed the bird and nailed it to the wall: Today, the British Parliament effectively banned financial vulture funds from the British Isles. The law, merely awaits the expected touch of the Queen’s scepter.

“Vulture funds” are international re-po men who buy up old debt of the world’s poorest nations for pennies on the dollar, then sue for ten to a hundred times what they paid for these old loans. The new UK law, passed unanimously, would would bar financiers from using UK courts to collect more than the sums authorized by the International Monetary Fund. In effect, this stops American predators – such as financiers Eric Hermann, Michael Straus, and Michael Francis “Goldfinger” Sheehan, from siphoning tens of millions of dollars of aid money the US and UK treasuries had earmarked for Liberia, Zambia, Congo and other desperately poor countries.

The first vote in the House of Commons to ban vultures took place on February 26, the day after BBC broadcast our investigation of Vulture Eric Hermann (see it here), but maneuvers by a Conservative MP appeared to have de-railed the law.

In the US Congress, Congresswoman Maxine Waters is sponsoring the Stop VULTURE Funds Act H.R. 2932), whose passage may have to wait upon the election of a Democrat to the White House.

For the original story, see Stop Feeding the Vultures in In These Times.

Stop Feeding the Vultures

Greg Palast 

 For In These Times

I get the idea that Eric Hermann doesn’t want to talk to me. When I came to his office suite, his hedge fund’s name plaque had been unbolted from the building’s wall, the suite number removed and all the employees locked in.

I’m not surprised. Hermann is a vulture, not the carrion-eating type, but the kind that prey on the financially wounded. “Vulture” is a hedge fund industry term for the financiers who buy up the right to collect old loans of the world’s poorest nations, and then use every trick in the book ”” from lawsuits to bribery to hiring Henry Kissinger’s lobby firm ”” to muscle destitute countries into turning over their meager foreign aid funds.

Vultures, whether of the feathered or speculator species, don’t like to talk to reporters.

On February 25, the day after BBC Television’s Newsnight ran my report from in front of Hermann’s locked office door, Britain’s Parliament voted to bar vulture funds from using Britain’s courts to grab the assets of poor nations. …more

BBC America: Palast Hunts the Vultures

Greg Palast 

Special Report for BBC World News America
Broadcast March, 2, 2010

Some vultures have feathers, but some have fancy offices and huge homes. Tonight, BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast follows the trail of one “vulture fund” chief, from a locked office door in New York to mud-brick houses in Africa.

liberia
Reporter Greg Palast outside the office of New York vulture fund. The name plaque has been removed and the staff locked inside.

How strange. When I arrive at the offices of Eric Hermann at hedge fund FH International, just outside New York City, the company’s corporate sign is unbolted from the wall and the suite number removed from the door.

But wait … I hear noises inside the office. Huh? I knock on the locked door and out steps the office building’s security manager.

“Guys, they don’t want to be interviewed. They don’t want to be seen. So we are going to have to ask you to leave the building.”

“And do you know why they took the sign off?”

His reply to our cameras, “I have no clue.”

But we do.

Mr. Hermann is the principle owner of a so-called “vulture fund” which attempted to seize more than $20 million from the war-wounded nation of Liberia.

Mr. Hermann is known in the finance business as a debt “vulture.” He and his associates buy up the debt of the poorest nations on the planet, usually for pennies on the dollar, then sue or use other means to squeeze the nations to pay ten times, even a hundred times, what the vulture fund paid for the debt.

The effect of Hermann’s financial maneuvers earns little applause in Liberia. In that African democracy, diplomat Winston Tubman tells us what he would say to vulture fund operators, “‘Do you know you are causing babies to die all over Liberia?'”

…more

We Kicked Butt
New Boots Needed

Greg Palast 

A week ago Friday, the day after BBC Television broadcast of our investigative report on Liberia vultures, Britain’s Parliament voted to put an end to the creepy business of financial “vultures” who siphon off aid money through manipulating Third World nations’ debt.

And our prior report on financial tricksters, on Democracy Now!, motivated two congressmen to confront the President personally, in the Oval Office with our findings. And now legislation has jets on in the USA.

We’ve kicked vulture butt, but now we need new boots.

This isn’t the easiest time to be an investigative reporter and I am damn sure it’s not the easiest time for you to be supporting folks like our tiny but tough Palast team. So, I wanted to be sure to let you know what YOUR support has accomplished.

These accomplishments are real, but so are the bills for airfare, for the car for the stake-out, for the special microphones, for the … you name it.

BBC TV is a wonderful and prestigious outlet for our work. But “Beeb” budgets simply can’t cover all our costs.
We can’t fly to Africa by flapping our arms.

Democracy Now! shows our stuff; we love them ”” but it’s you, our supporters, who pay our subway fares to Amy’s studio.

That’s why””for the first time this decade””I’m asking you to help keep our work alive with your financial support.

Here are a few ideas on how to do it:
If you can contribute $150 or more, I’ll send you signed copies of 5 great DVDs … perfect for Mother’s day, graduations, easter baskets, May Day celebrations, Bingo prizes, or better yet, to spread the word.

Click here, make the tax-deductible donation, and I’ll sign’em all.

When our investigative team pulled the pants down on Karl Rove’s vote “caging” scam, Congressman John Conyers, who made our disclosures central to Congressional hearings on Bush’s firing of prosecutors told our crew, “America owes you an huge debt of thanks.”

I appreciate that; but we still owe the credit card company for the dozen flights to get on the scene to film the Rove-bots.

New! We are now offering you, the option to donate by getting The Palast Gift Card. Redeemable at our store by the lucky recipient.

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Better yet for us and maybe a little less burdensome to you, sign up for a modest monthly pledge of as little as $10. You will receive all new Palast releases ”” books or videos, as they become available. I will also mention you as a supporter in my next book (you may, of course, choose not to).

Right away, as a thank you, I will send all new signees a signed copy of a DVD of your choice plus the Joker’s Wild card deck.

If you’ve beaten the odds and had a great year, consider becoming a co-Producer by making a donation of $1,000 or more. If you do, I will list your name in our next film’s credits. Wait until your friends see that on your Google profile!

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We will spend your donation wisely.

I truly can’t thank you enough,
Greg

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Greg Palast is an investigative reporter for BBC Newsnight and the author of Armed Madhouse and The Best Democracy Money Can Buy.
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Liberian Leader Urges MPs to Back Action Against Vulture Funds

Greg Palast 

An investigation for BBC’s Newsnight has uncovered allegations that speculators subverted the international debt relief process.

And Heather Stewart for The Guardian

president

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, is urging MPs to back a bill banning vulture funds from using British courts to prey on poor countries when it comes to a vote on Friday. Liberia lost a $20m (£13m) case in London last year against two so-called vultures. Such funds buy up the loans of poor governments, wait for them to win from the international community, and then use courts to pursue the countries for assets.

Sirleaf said: “We’ve been waiting for a parliament or an assembly to take this kind of hard decision. I hope the US Congress and maybe some others in Europe will pick up this gauntlet and will follow the example of Britain.”

An investigation for BBC’s Newsnight, to be broadcast tonight, has uncovered allegations that speculators subverted the international debt relief process for Liberia, in an attempt to gain more money from its government and international donors than 97% of its other creditors accepted.

…more

MPs move to outlaw Vulture Funds

Greg Palast 

By Meirion Jones
BBC Newsnight

Former UK ministers and MPs from all UK parties are set to back a bill later on Wednesday outlawing the activities of vulture funds, hedge funds which divert debt relief from the poorest countries into their own pockets.

goldfingersheehanThe bill singles out Donegal International and its boss Michael “Goldfinger” Sheehan who was exposed by Newsnight reporter Greg Palast for making a fortune out of Zambia’s debt.

Vulture funds have been condemned by governments around the world as perverse and immoral for preying on the world’s poor.

Developed countries including Britain and the US have spent billions of pounds trying to relieve the debts of the world’s poorest nations so that they can spend that money on health and education.

The vulture fund speculators effectively divert that debt relief to themselves by buying debt for pennies in the pound just as it is about to be written off, and then suing in British or US courts for the full value plus interest.

US outrage

In 2007, Newsnight exposed the activities of Donegal International which bought a tranche of Zambia’s debt for $3m and then sued for $55m – the size of Zambia’s health budget.

Reporter Greg Palast doorstepped Donegal’s boss Michael “Goldfinger” Sheehan who styles himself after the James Bond villain.

…more

Eliot’s Mess

Greg Palast 

The $200 billion bail-out for predator banks and Spitzer charges are intimately linked

 

While New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was paying an ”˜escort’ $4,300 in a hotel room in Washington, just down the road, George Bush’s new Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was secretly handing over $200 billion in a tryst with mortgage bank industry speculators.

Both acts were wanton, wicked and lewd. But there’s a BIG difference. The Governor was using his own checkbook. Bush’s man Bernanke was using ours.

This week, Bernanke’s Fed, for the first time in its history, loaned a selected coterie of banks one-fifth of a trillion dollars to guarantee these banks’ mortgage-backed junk bonds. The deluge of public loot was an eye-popping windfall to the very banking predators who have brought two million families to the brink of foreclosure.

Up until Wednesday, there was one single, lonely politician who stood in the way of this creepy little assignation at the bankers’ bordello: Eliot Spitzer.

Who are they kidding? Spitzer’s lynching and the bankers’ enriching are intimately tied.

How? Follow the money.

The press has swallowed Wall Street’s line that millions of US families are about to lose their homes because they bought homes they couldn’t afford or took loans too big for their wallets. Ba-LON-ey. That’s blaming the victim.

Here’s what happened. Since the Bush regime came to power, a new species of loan became the norm, the ”˜sub-prime’ mortgage and its variants including loans with teeny “introductory” interest rates. From out of nowhere, a company called ”˜Countrywide’ became America’s top mortgage lender, accounting for one in five home loans, a large chunk of these ”˜sub-prime.’

Here’s how it worked: The Grinning Family, with US average household income, gets a $200,000 mortgage at 4% for two years. Their $955 monthly payment is 25% of their income. No problem. Their banker promises them a new mortgage, again at the cheap rate, in two years. But in two years, the promise ain’t worth a can of spam and the Grinnings are told to scram – because their house is now worth less than the mortgage. Now, the mortgage hits 9% or $1,609 plus fees to recover the “discount” they had for two years. Suddenly, payments equal 42% to 50% of pre-tax income. The Grinnings move into their Toyota.

Now, what kind of American is ”˜sub-prime.’ Guess. No peeking. Here’s a hint: 73% of HIGH INCOME Black and Hispanic borrowers were given sub-prime loans versus 17% of similar-income Whites. Dark-skinned borrowers aren’t stupid ”“ they had no choice. They were ”˜steered’ as it’s …more

Busted & Crimes of The Times

Greg Palast 

Palast and Conyers Looking over the E-mails

Cutely buried in the 18th paragraph in a story about Alberto Gonzales on Sunday was a slyly-worded updated confession by the New York Times that, in 2004, the Bush Administration leaned on its editors to spike a story about illegal invasions of citizens’ private records (“data mining”). The Times editors smothered the story. They finally ran it – a year later – after Bush was safely re-elected.

As a journalist, this makes me want to throw up.

For two reasons: First, while The Times was covering up Bush’s KGB-style data-mining operation, the Palast team was revealing its secrets. We published confidential FBI memos detailing horrific schemes for illegal spying using Bush’s favored contractor, a company called ChoicePoint Inc.

The second reason The Times ‘confession’ makes me ill: While the publishers at the Paper of Record were counting their millions, the Palast Investigative Fund was slowly going broke.

Well, we’ve made it: Last Friday, the main-stream US media, through the venerable PBS program ‘NOW’, finally broadcast our reportage on the “caging” of voters, a story we first broke 3 years ago. BEFORE the 2004 election.

We’ve made it in another way: Friday was also the day I was informed that the Palast Investigative Fund was dead broke, technically bankrupt, with way less than zero in the account.

Bluntly: if we don’t get some help, and fast, we’re sunk. We are throwing staff overboard and halting some operations while we seek funds to keep afloat.

I’m pleading with you to do three things:

1. Watch PBS ‘NOW’ on voter ‘caging’. Then, if you think our work is important…
2. Donate at least $100 (tax deductible) to the Palast Investigative Fund. With heartfelt gratitude, I’ll send you a personalized, signed copy of Armed Madhouse (hardbound or paperback, your choice), or the DVD “Big Easy to Big Empty,” the untold story of the drowning of New Orleans.

(For $250, I’ll sign and send a whole BOX of Raw Journalism: 2 books: Armed Madhouse and Impeach the President, 2 DVDs: Big Easy to Big Empty and American Blackout, the Audio Book Armed Madhouse and the Spoken Word CD Live from the Armed Madhouse). Or simply make an open no-gift donation for a sum of your choice. (All options and many other signed items can be found at the Palast Investigative Fund Homepage.) …more