“Of course the Justice Department objected — it was illegal. It isn’t only the optics; it isn’t only that they are just looking ridiculous in denying that it was quid pro quo.”
“Obviously it wasn’t a coincidence; the reason it was objected to by Justice — there is a statute that prohibits us from engaging in Iran dealing with dollars, so they had to print the money here, ship it over to Switzerland, turn it into Swiss francs and euros, and ship it over to Iran. If a private company had done this, it is called money laundering. The CEO would be in jail right now.”
Chinese stock exchanges closed early for the second time this week after the CSI 300 Index plunged more than 7 percent.
Trading of shares and index futures was halted by automatic circuit breakers from about 9:59 a.m. local time. Stocks fell after China’s central bank weakened the currency’s daily reference rate by the most since August.
“The yuan’s depreciation has exceeded investors’ expectations,” said Wang Zheng, Shanghai-based chief investment officer at Jingxi Investment Management Co. “Investors are getting spooked by the declines, which will spur capital outflows.”
Under the mechanism which became effective Monday, a move of 5 percent in the CSI 300 triggers…(read more)
Source: Bloomberg Business
Is this information even true? Not really. Here is an analysis of the flaws in this assertion.
…Honduras doesn’t “ban” citizens from owning guns.
The Small Arms Survey says the most popular gun in Honduras is the 9mm handgun, “which can be legally purchased and owned” — undermining the meme’s claim that Hondurans are banned from owning guns. Because this weapon is banned in nearby Mexico, the UN has said the difference in laws fosters the exchange of illegal weapons between the countries.
An analysis of gun laws in six Latin American countries by Insight Crime, a foundation that studies crime and policy in Central America, characterizes Honduras’ regulations as “light” compared to the “restrictive” laws of Brazil and Mexico and “moderate” laws of Venezuela and Chile. Uruguay also has “light” gun control laws but an incredibly smaller homicide rate than Honduras of about 5.9 percent per 100,000 people. (It also has less organized crime.)
The disparity in homicide rates and gun control laws showed “gun legislation, on its own, means little in terms of gun violence,” the Insight Crime analysis found….
…A 2012 Time story about Switzerland’s gun culture notes how citizens hold their right to own guns as a patriotic duty, and Swiss children often join sharpshooting groups to hone their skills.
But, again, Switzerland does not require “citizens to own guns.”
It’s unfortunate to see gun-rights advocates (who already have the winning statistics on their side, by a wide margin, on multiple levels) using misleading, exaggerated, or false information to make their case. The original source of this graphic is unclear, I found it on Tumblr, rarely known for reliable accuracy, but a good place to find entertaining memes of all kinds.
Fact distortion, what’s the point? It’s a common propaganda tactic that’s more often employed by the activist Left, which often doesn’t even pretend to be concerned with facts, instead creating and distributing completely false but effective, persuasive fictional narratives.
Like this one, from the president:
The robot’s purchases included a Hungarian passport, Ecstasy pills, fake Diesel jeans, a Sprite can with a hole cut out in order to stash cash, Nikes, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, cigarettes and the ‘Lord of the Rings‘ e-book collection
Arjun Kharpal reports: This is the curious story of how a robot armed with a weekly budget of $100 in bitcoin managed to buy Ecstasy, a Hungarian passport and a baseball cap with a built-in camera—before getting arrested.
The “automated online shopping bot” was set up in October last year by Swiss art group, !Mediengruppe Bitnik, as an art installation to explore the “dark web”—the hidden, un-indexed part of the Internet.
Each week, the robot was given $100 worth of Bitcoin— the major hard-to-trace cryptocurrency—and programmed to randomly purchase one item from Agora, an online marketplace on the dark web where shoppers can buy drugs and other illegal items. The items were automatically delivered to a Swiss art gallery called Kunst Halle St Gallen to form an exhibition.
“This is a great day for the ‘bot, for us and for freedom of art!”
— !Mediengruppe Bitnik, in a blog post
The robot was christened “Random Darknet Shopper” and its purchases included a Hungarian passport, Ecstasy pills, fake Diesel jeans, a Sprite can with a hole cut out in order to stash cash, Nike trainers, a baseball cap with a hidden camera, cigarettes and the “Lord of the Rings” e-book collection.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the robot and his artistic creators had a run in with the law. In January 2015, the Swiss police confiscated the robot and its illegal purchases.
However, three months later, the Random Darknet Shopper was returned to the artists, along with all its purchases except the Ecstasy (also known as MDMA) tablets, which were destroyed by the Swiss authorities.
The artists behind the robot escaped without any charges. Read the rest of this entry »
Pro-Hassan Rouhani Iranian editor defects while covering nuclear talks in Lausanne
Ahmed Vahdat and Richard Spencer report: A close media aide to Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, has sought political asylum in Switzerland after travelling to Lausanne to cover the nuclear talks between Tehran and the West.
“There are a number of people attending on the Iranian side at the negotiations who are said to be journalists reporting on the negotiations. But they are not journalists and their main job is to make sure that all the news fed back to Iran goes through their channels.”
“The US negotiating team are mainly there to speak on Iran’s behalf with other members of the 5+1 countries and convince them of a deal.”
“My conscience would not allow me to carry out my profession in this manner any more.”
A.B. Sanderson reports: He may have managed to find a few of his favourite Ferrero-Rocher chocolates, but from his twitter account it seems that former Morrisons security guard turned jihadi is not being spoiled.
Omar Hussein, who left home where he lived with his mother, his having real difficulty living the life of a jihadi fighter – struggling even to take care of his personal admin let alone join front line fighters in trying to bring about a repressive, violent Islamic caliphate, the Daily Mail reports.
“Chocolate can do wonders when ur feeling lonely, lol.”
— Omar Hussein
His social media timeline demonstrates that while others are engaged in a fight to the death in the terrorist occupied lands, Hussain is struggling to even wash his own clothes and admits in one tweet it took him almost an hour to peel potatoes for his dinner.
The hapless Hussein moaned that he was too tired after his monumental task of peeling tatties to even chop them:
The updates show a bored, lonely man who doesn’t go anywhere near the front line, but just scrounges off the others.
He has shown off his attempts at cooking, saying he was ‘what the Oxford dictionary defines as, a Chef! Tuk! (sic) before posting a photo of some brown slop and telling his followers is took him 27 minutes to make two servings.
Most recently he has struggled washing his clothes, saying he gets flustered when it begins to rain and his washing is still out on the line.
But it’s not all domestic drudgery: he has also posted a picture of a local gym he once visited as well as photos of himself sunbathing by a pool in Syria.
And the chocaholic was delighted when he managed to find himself a Ferrero-rocher, saying ‘chocolate can do wonders when ur feeling lonely, lol. And he was delighted when he managed to secure himself a packet of jaffa cakes, saying he hadn’t had one in a year. Read the rest of this entry »
Chinese Tycoon Wang Jianlin Blames ‘Western Schooling’ for Son’s Comments About Wanting a Girlfriend With Big BoobsPosted: February 25, 2015
Wang Jianlin blames Western education for his son’s controversial remark that potential girlfriends needed to be “buxom”
Wang, one of the richest men in China, used an interview on state television on Tuesday evening to publicly defend his son, whose remark caused a furore on social media and led to condemnation by a state news agency. He also said he preferred to stay away from politics and said businessmen should “refrain from bribes”.
Wang said his son, Wang Sicong , had spent years studying overseas and had got into the habit of speaking whatever was on his mind.
The younger Wang was lambasted after making the remark on Valentine’s Day, with the state-run news agency Xinhua publishing a 1,287-word commentary condemning his remarks.
His father, who runs a property and cinema empire, said he was always ready to “take a hint” from others and not “speak carelessly”, but his son was more direct and had not learnt Chinese subtlety.
“He is smart. He went overseas to study at grade one and he has a Western-style of thinking,” said Wang.
“Maybe after spending five or eight years in China, he will truly become Chinese.”
Wang Sicong, a board member of his father’s Wanda Group and the chairman of the private investment firm Prometheus Capital, is well-known for his outspoken comments on social media.
He made his latest eyebrow-raising remark after helping to raise more than 500,000 yuan (HK$630,000) for charity by auctioning the chance for a member of the public to watch a film with him.
The senior Wang said he wanted his son to succeed in his own right in business, but would give him only two opportunities. “The third time he fails, he comes to work at Wanda,” he said.
The tycoon’s comments appeared to question Western customs and values, echoing remarks by government officials in recent months.
Hong Kong in many ways continues to act as a fine example for other countries who aspire to be economically free, its foothold on the No. 1 spot is slipping…
Ed Feulner writes: It’s good to be No. 1. But as any former champ will tell you, you have to avoid becoming complacent if you want to stay ahead of the pack. First-place finishes aren’t guaranteed, just ask Hong Kong.
Every year since 1995, the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal have measured the state of economic freedom in the world. We go country by country, poring over the details of who’s up, who’s down, and who’s treading water. Through all the changes we’ve charted, one thing hasn’t changed: Hong Kong takes the top slot.
“To see what Hong Kong does right, consider business licenses. Obtaining one there requires filling out a single form, and the process can be completed in a few hours. In many other countries, it’s more complicated and can take much longer. Bureaucracy, inefficiency and even corruption abound.”
“As the economic and financial gateway to China, and with an efficient regulatory framework, low and simple taxation, and sophisticated capital markets, the territory continues to offer the most convenient platform for international companies doing business on the mainland,” write the editors of the 2015 Index of Economic Freedom.
To see what Hong Kong does right, consider business licenses. Obtaining one there requires filling out a single form, and the process can be completed in a few hours. In many other countries, it’s more complicated and can take much longer. Bureaucracy, inefficiency and even corruption abound.
“As the economic and financial gateway to China, and with an efficient regulatory framework, low and simple taxation, and sophisticated capital markets, the territory continues to offer the most convenient platform for international companies doing business on the mainland.”
But while Hong Kong in many ways continues to act as a fine example for other countries who aspire to be economically free, its foothold on the No. 1 spot is slipping. Singapore, the perennial No. 2 finisher, has seen the gap between it and Hong Kong steadily narrow in recent years. Only two-tenths of a point (on a scale of 1-100) separate its Index score from Hong Kong’s.
In short, they’re virtually tied. And it’s worth noting that Singapore’s Index score is unchanged this year, which means Hong Kong has only itself to blame for coming within a hair’s breadth of losing the top slot. The question is, why? Read the rest of this entry »
The Kunstmuseum Bern is expected to decide as early as Saturday to accept the estate of the late Cornelius Gurlitt.
BERN, Switzerland— MARY M. LANE reports: A small art museum in the Swiss capital is preparing to take possession of more than 1,000 artworks bequeathed to it by the son of one of Hitler’s main art dealers, unshackling Germany from an embarrassing burden that has weighed on it for a year.
Barring any last-minute legal objections, the Kunstmuseum Bern is expected to decide as early as Saturday to accept the estate of the late Cornelius Gurlitt, according to three people familiar with the museum board’s discussions.
‘When something like this falls into your lap of course you’re going to vote to take it.’
—A person at the Kunstmuseum Bern’s board meetings
That could expedite restitution for heirs of Holocaust victims, many of whom have seen their claims that the art was stolen from their families languish since the existence of the trove was publicly revealed a year ago. For some works, restitution could happen within days if the museum accepts the bequest.
Stuart Eizenstat, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry ’s special adviser on Holocaust issues, called the prospect “tremendously welcome and wonderful.”
“It was obvious from the start, and a huge source of angst, that accepting the works would fundamentally change the identity of our museum forever.”
The collection includes masterpieces by Claude Monet, Henri Matisse and Pierre Auguste-Renoir and was amassed during and shortly after World War II by Mr. Gurlitt’s father, a museum director turned art dealer for Hitler. Historians and lawyers have already concluded the trove contains several pieces stolen from European Jews by the Nazis.
The German government has been quietly urging the museum to accept the art, according to the people familiar with the discussions. Since the existence of the trove was revealed a year ago, Berlin has been under pressure from Holocaust victims’ families as well as the U.S. and Israeli governments to return all stolen pieces to their original owners.
“One of the prime pieces is an Henri Matisse portrait of a creamy-skinned brunette that a German-government appointed group of experts has already determined is looted.”
Mr. Gurlitt unexpectedly bequeathed his estate to the museum shortly before he died May 6 at 81. According to the will Mr. Gurlitt signed on his deathbed, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, the Kunstmuseum Bern would be required to conduct this research and restitution. Museum director Matthias Frehner has pledged that it would do so if it accepts the bequest.
If the museum were to decline the collection, it would go to Mr. Gurlitt’s distant relatives, who are dispersed in and outside Germany. While his will stipulates that they also return Nazi-looted art, lawyers say there is no way to make sure the multiple heirs conduct such research properly or efficiently outside of going to court, meaning individual cases could drag on for years.
One of the prime pieces is an Henri Matisse portrait of a creamy-skinned brunette that a German-government appointed group of experts has already determined is looted. Read the rest of this entry »
Geneva (AFP) – Swiss voters on Sunday rejected a proposal to introduce the world’s highest minimum wage, which would have guaranteed every worker in one of the world’s priciest nations at least $25 an hour.
…the initiative flopped as voters heeded warnings from government and other opponents that it would deal a death blow to many businesses and would weaken Switzerland’s healthy economy…
A proposal to introduce a minimum wage so high it could pass for mid-management pay elsewhere, was rejected by 76,3 percent of Swiss voters.
…Swiss voters also overwhelmingly voted in favour of harsh laws against convicted paedophiles, with 63.5 percent supporting a lifelong ban on them working with children, regardless of the gravity or nature of their crime.
A series of referendums in Switzerland also saw voters nix a multi-billion-dollar deal to buy fighter jets from Sweden and massively support a lifelong ban on convicted paedophiles working with children.
The massive rejection of the “Decent Salary” initiative was widely seen as a slap in the face to its union backers, who insist at least 22 Swiss francs ($25, 18 euros) an hour, or 4,000 francs ($4,515, 3,280 euros) a month, is needed to get by in Switzerland. Read the rest of this entry »
Geneva (AFP) – Former Russian oil tycoon and Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who spent a decade in prison in Russia, has applied to become a resident of Switzerland, his spokesman told AFP on Monday.
“His application for residency was filed a while ago,” said spokesman Boris Durande, without specifying which part of Switzerland Khodorkovsky intends to settle in.
The 50-year-old foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin has been living at a Zurich hotel since shortly after he was pardoned and released from jail on December 20.
He was once Russia’s richest man and an influential politician with presidential ambitions who openly opposed Putin when the former KGB spy first entered the Kremlin in 2000.
Khodorkovsky’s arrest in 2003 and subsequent convictions on fraud and embezzlement charges have been widely condemned by Kremlin critics as an effort by Putin to silence his most potent rival.
Benedict Cary writes: He heard about the drug trial from a friend in Switzerland and decided it was worth volunteering, even if it meant long, painful train journeys from his native Austria and the real possibility of a mental meltdown. He didn’t have much time, after all, and traditional medicine had done nothing to relieve his degenerative spine condition.
“The effort is both political and scientific…We want to break these substances out of the mold of the counterculture and bring them back to the lab as part of a psychedelic renaissance.”
“I’d never taken the drug before, so I was feeling — well, I think the proper word for it, in English, is dread,” said Peter, 50, an Austrian social worker, in a telephone interview; he asked that his last name be omitted to protect his identity. “There was this fear that it could all go wrong, that it could turn into a bad trip.”
On Tuesday, The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease is posting online results from the first controlled trial of LSD in more than 40 years. The study, conducted in the office of a Swiss psychiatrist near Bern, tested the effects of the drug as a complement to talk therapy for 12 people nearing the end of life, including Peter. Read the rest of this entry »
Is there anything the Smithsonian doesn’t cover?
Natasha Geiling writes: Just in time for the biggest dip day of the year, Kraft Foods announced that Americans might notice a distinct lack of Velveeta on their grocery store shelves. Following an announcement by the company, which noted that consumers in some states might have a hard time finding their liquid gold cheese in the coming weeks, the Internet wasted no time in completely freaking out, dubbing the shortage “Cheesepocalypse” on Twitter and creating imitation Velveeta-dip recipes on Lifehacker. There’s even a website, Cheesepocalypse.org, which shows a map of the conversation about the Velveeta shortage by pulling geographic information via Twitter (currently, users are talking most about the shortage in places like Massachusetts and Maryland).* In reality, people looking to munch on a chip with dip might have to resort to traditional cheese for their melty concoctions–which, while reassuringly natural, will also mean less-than-velvety texture for a lot of Super Bowl dips.
It’s an unfortunate reality that cheese, when melted, becomes imperfect–it pools oil (more, the fattier it is) and coagulates quickly, turning a once molten bowl of queso dip into a sad stringy mess. Seekers of gooey cheese can work around this by using a young cheese or a less-fatty cheese, but sometimes, standard hacks just won’t cut it: enter Velveeta, a cheese named for the fact that it melts so smooth.
(AP) Possible evidence of Arafat poisoning is reported
By MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH
RAMALLAH, West Bank
Swiss scientists have found evidence suggesting that Yasser Arafat may have been poisoned, adding new fuel to long-standing allegations about the Palestinian leader’s death, a TV station reported Wednesday.
hed what it said was a long-awaited 108-page report by a team of Swiss experts who tested Arafat’s remains. The scientists wrote that “the results moderately support the proposition that the death was the consequence of poisoning with polonium-210,” according to the pan-Arab satellite channel.
These Watches Are Perfect for Halloween…or Any Other Day
These watches are a bit funky, a little scary, a lot out of the ordinary. In short, they’re perfect for this macabre season. But don’t worry—these are meticulously crafted watches that can be worn all year round (unlike those plastic vampire teeth).
Speake-Marin Mirror Skull
US $18,900, limited edition of 20 pieces, www.speake-marin.com
Watchmaker Peter Speake-Marin, a Brit living in Switzerland, is known for his attention to detail, fine finishing and high-end watchmaking. The skulls on the dial are etched using chemical engraving.
Artya Werewolf with Blood Dial
7,900 CHF, unique piece, www.artya.luxuryartpieces.com
Swiss war game envisages invasion by bankrupt French
Hordes of bankrupt French invade Switzerland to get their hands on their “stolen” money — such is the imaginary scenario cooked up by the Swiss military in simulations revealed over the weekend.
Henry Samuel reports: Carried out in August, the apparently outlandish army exercise was based on the premise of an attack by a financially stricken France split into warring regions, according to Matin Dimanche, the Lausanne-based daily.
One of these, “Saônia,” corresponding to the existing Jura region, was preparing attacks on Switzerland to retrieve money it had apparently swiped from France.
Operation “Duplex-Barbara” went as far as imagining a three-pronged invasion from points near Neufchâtel, Lausanne and Geneva, according to a map published in the Swiss newspaper.
Behind the dastardly raid was a paramilitary organisation dubbed BLD, the Dijon Free Brigade bent on grabbing back “money that Switzerland had stolen from Saônia”.
GDYNIA, Poland — Director Roman Polanski has risked arrest and extradition to the U.S. by attending a film festival in Poland. Polanski, who fled the U.S. in 1977 after pleading guilty to sex with a 13-year-old girl, is at the Gdynia Film Festival to deliver a masterclass for film school students and present a screening of his film “Venus in Fur.” He arrived late Thursday. Both events are on Friday. Read the rest of this entry »