Sunday, April 3, 2011

Reuters Exclusive: WANTED: U.S. workers for crippled Japan nuke plant

(Reuters) - As foreign assignments go this must be just about the most dangerous going.

A U.S. recruiter is hiring nuclear power workers in the United States to help Japan gain control of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has been spewing radiation.

The qualifications: Skills gained in the nuclear industry, a passport, a family willing to let you go, willingness to work in a radioactive zone.

The rewards: Higher than normal pay and the challenge of solving a major crisis.

"About two weeks ago we told our managers to put together a wish list of anyone interested in going to Japan," said Joe Melanson, a recruiter at specialist nuclear industry staffing firm Bartlett Nuclear in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on Thursday.

So far, the firm has already signed up some workers who will be flying to Japan on Sunday.

Melanson said there will be less than 10 workers in the initial group. Others are expected to follow later, he added.

Charles Bukowski - The Genius Of The Crowd

Black bloc: 'Only actions count now'

By Stephen Moss, Guardian

"Meet us outside the British Library. That seems appropriate." I'm due to interview two men in their late 20s who were part of the "black bloc" direct action wing of last Saturday's anti-cuts protest. We'd originally agreed to meet at a bar in King's Cross, but they tell me later it was "too media" for their security concerns.

I conduct an interview of sorts, but they are reluctant to tell me much about themselves other than that one is a "low-paid public sector worker". In any case, they have come armed with handwritten answers to questions they have posed to themselves. Anarchists like to be in control. I agree to edit those answers for length, then show them the edited version. Their "self-interview" appears below. I never do learn their names.

The media, police and other sections of the left have called the black bloc "criminals", "hooligans" and "cowards". How do you respond?

In the legal sense, those who damage property or fight the police have committed crimes, so yes they are criminals. But in everyday language, a criminal is someone who lives by criminal means. We saw plenty of nurses, education workers, tech workers, unemployed workers, students, campaigners and charity workers on the bloc on Saturday, but we didn't see any criminals.

As for being hooligans or cowards, the black bloc formation is used for tactical purposes. We aren't trying to be "hard" or to give ourselves a thrill. We are trying to give uncompromising opposition to capitalism an appropriate image on the streets – and not end up in jail. True cowardice would be not fighting an economic system that wants to destroy us.

The black bloc is not a group or organisation; it's something that happens on marches or actions. It's not pre-planned; it relies on people turning up with the same ideas and clothes. That is why there is a "uniform": people who want to take direct action and resist containment arrive on the day in black and identify people with the same ideas this way.

Computerized Front Running: Another Goldman-Dominated Fraud

By Ellen Hodgson Brown, Atlantic Free Press

While the SEC is busy investigating Goldman Sachs, it might want to look into another Goldman-dominated fraud: computerized front running using high-frequency trading programs.

Market commentators are fond of talking about “free market capitalism,” but according to Wall Street commentator Max Keiser, it is no more. It has morphed into what his TV co-host Stacy Herbert calls “rigged market capitalism”: all markets today are subject to manipulation for private gain.

Keiser isn’t just speculating about this. He claims to have invented one of the most widely used programs for doing the rigging. Not that that’s what he meant to invent. His patented program was designed to take the manipulation out of markets. It would do this by matching buyers with sellers automatically, eliminating “front running” – brokers buying or selling ahead of large orders coming in from their clients. The computer program was intended to remove the conflict of interest that exists when brokers who match buyers with sellers are also selling from their own accounts. But the program fell into the wrong hands and became the prototype for automated trading programs that actually facilitate front running.

Also called High Frequency Trading (HFT) or “black box trading,” automated program trading uses high-speed computers governed by complex algorithms (instructions to the computer) to analyze data and transact orders in massive quantities at very high speeds. Like the poker player peeking in a mirror to see his opponent’s cards, HFT allows the program trader to peek at major incoming orders and jump in front of them to skim profits off the top. And these large institutional orders are our money -- our pension funds, mutual funds, and 401Ks.

When “market making” (matching buyers with sellers) was done strictly by human brokers on the floor of the stock exchange, manipulations and front running were possible but were against the rules, which were strictly enforced. Front running by computer, using complex trading programs, is an entirely different species of fraud. A minor potential for cheating has morphed into a monster. Keiser maintains that computerized front running with HFT has become the principal business of Wall Street and the primary force driving most of the volume on exchanges, contributing not only to a large portion of trading profits but to the manipulation of markets for economic and political ends.

The “Virtual Specialist”: the Prototype for High Frequency Trading

Until recently, most market making was done by brokers called “specialists,” those people you see on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange haggling over the price of stocks. The job of the specialist originated over a century ago, when the need was recognized for a system for continuous trading. That meant trading even when there was no “real” buyer or seller waiting to take the other side of the trade.

The specialist is a broker who deals in a specific stock and remains at one location on the floor holding an inventory of it. He posts the “bid” and “ask” prices, manages “limit” orders, executes trades, and is responsible for managing the uninterrupted flow of orders. If there is a large shift in demand on the “buy” side or the “sell” side, the specialist steps in and sells or buys out of his own inventory to meet the demand, until the gap has narrowed.

This gives him an opportunity to trade for himself, using his inside knowledge to book a profit. That practice is frowned on by the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), but it has never been seriously regulated, because it has been considered necessary to keep markets “liquid.”

Keiser’s “Virtual Specialist Technology” (VST) was developed for the Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX), a web-based, multiplayer simulation in which players use virtual money to buy and sell “shares” of actors, directors, upcoming films, and film-related options. The program determines the true market price automatically, by comparing “bids” with “asks” and weighting the proportion of each. Keiser and HSX co-founder Michael Burns applied for a patent for a “computer-implemented securities trading system with a virtual specialist function” in 1996, and U.S. patent no. 5960176 was awarded in 1999.

But things went awry after the dot.com crash, when Keiser’s company HSX Holdings sold the VST patent to investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald, over his objection. Cantor Fitzgerald then put the part of the program that would have eliminated front-running on ice, just as drug companies buy up competing patents in order to take them off the market. Instead of preventing front-running, the program was altered so that it actually enhanced that fraudulent practice. Keiser (who is now based in Europe) notes that this sort of patent abuse is illegal under European Intellectual Property law.

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