Society's ChildS


US: Ex-Taylor Bean Treasurer Desiree Brown Pleads Guilty to Fraud Conspiracy

© Marion County Sheriff's Office via BloombergUnder an agreement with prosecutors, Brown must, if asked, cooperate in the case against Lee Farkas, former chairman of Taylor Bean, seen here.
The former treasurer of Taylor, Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corp., once the 12th largest mortgage lender in the U.S., admitted helping run a $1.9 billion fraud scheme that targeted the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program and contributed to the failure of Colonial Bank.

Desiree Brown, 45, pleaded guilty in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, to conspiring to commit wire fraud, securities fraud and bank fraud, and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors bringing Lee Farkas, former chairman of Taylor, Bean, to trial on April 4. Brown also settled civil charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the SEC said.

Until today, Farkas, 58, was the only person charged in what the government said was a massive scheme to deceive financial firms and TARP by covering up shortfalls at Taylor, Bean, once the largest non-depository mortgage lender in the U.S., according to the SEC's statement on the case. Farkas was indicted on 16 counts in June and faces the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison, according to a Justice Department statement.

"Were there other people besides Mr. Farkas who were involved in this scheme," U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema asked Brown at the plea hearing?

"Yes ma'am," Brown answered.

Brown, of Hernando, Florida, faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and an order to pay restitution to more than 250 victims. Brown, who is to be sentenced on June 10, was released on a $50,000 unsecured bond.


Disney World Employee 'Tried to Rape Single Mother After Luring Her There With Discount Offers'

Disney World is billed as the theme park that 'captures the enchantment of fairy tales'.

© Orange County Sheriff's DepartmentCharged: Walt Disney World reservations clerk Wilbert Brookins, 31, is alleged to have attempted to rape a single mother uring her to the Florida park

But that seems far from a single mother's experience, after an employee allegedly tried to rape her after she was lured with offers of free passes and hotel discounts.

Reservations clerk Wilbert Brookins, 31, was at her hotel room in Orlando, Florida, and she awoke to find him removing her pants and trying to penetrate her, she told police.

Brookins has been charged with sexual battery and is being held on $10,000 bail.

Wall Street

Banks just too big to fail? Iceland shows otherwise

© APDemonstrators took to Reykjavik's streets in late 2008, demanding the resignations of those blamed for the financial collapse.

Decision to let banks go under looks smarter by the day, in contrast to Ireland's costly bailout.

On his second day as head of Iceland's third-largest bank, Arni Tomasson faced a crisis: the firm that regulators had asked him to run was out of cash.

It was October 8, 2008, at the height of the global financial meltdown and Iceland's bank assets in Britain had been frozen. Customers flocked to branches of Tomasson's Glitnir Banki to withdraw money, even though the Government had guaranteed their deposits. By the end of the day, the vaults were empty, says Tomasson, recalling the drama.

The only way Glitnir and other lenders could avoid a panic the next morning was to get more cash, which they were having trouble doing. A container of crisp kronur sat on the tarmac at Reykjavik's airport awaiting payment.

Eye 1

America's revolution grows, but where is Obama?

As thousands of outraged protesters are taking over Congress is Wisconsin in a fight to keep workers' rights -- why is the American President not stepping up and getting involved? RT's Anastasia Churkina brings the latest from inside the stormed Capitol Building.

Bad Guys

Paul Krugman: Shock Doctine, U.S.A.

Here's a thought: maybe Madison, Wis., isn't Cairo after all. Maybe it's Baghdad - specifically, Baghdad in 2003, when the Bush administration put Iraq under the rule of officials chosen for loyalty and political reliability rather than experience and competence.

As many readers may recall, the results were spectacular - in a bad way. Instead of focusing on the urgent problems of a shattered economy and society, which would soon descend into a murderous civil war, those Bush appointees were obsessed with imposing a conservative ideological vision. Indeed, with looters still prowling the streets of Baghdad, L. Paul Bremer, the American viceroy, told a Washington Post reporter that one of his top priorities was to "corporatize and privatize state-owned enterprises" - Mr. Bremer's words, not the reporter's - and to "wean people from the idea the state supports everything."


Now in Brooklyn, Homegrown Tobacco: Local, Rebellious and Tax Free

© Chang W. Lee/The New York TimesAudrey Silk, with Bingo, estimates she will save thousands of dollars by processing her own cigarettes.
The cigarettes Audrey Silk used to smoke - Parliament Lights - are made at a factory in Richmond, Va. The cigarettes she smokes these days are made and grown in Brooklyn, at her house.

Ms. Silk's backyard is home to raspberry and rose bushes, geraniums, impatiens and 100 tobacco plants in gardening buckets near her wooden deck. Inside her house, around the corner from Flatbush Avenue, in Marine Park, she has to be careful stepping into her basement - one wrong move could ruin her cigarettes. Dozens of tobacco leaves hang there, drying on wires she has strung across the room, where they turn a crisp light brown as they age above a stack of her old Springsteen records.

She talks about cartons and packs in relation to crops and seeds. Planted in 2009, her first crop - 25 plants of Golden Seal Special Burley tobacco - produced nine cartons of cigarettes. Ms. Silk would have spent more than $1,000 had she bought nine cartons in parts of New York City. Instead, she spent $240, mostly for the trays, the buckets and plant food.

Better Earth

In Search of an African Revolution

africa globe
Demonstrations are continuing across the Middle East, interrupted only by the call for prayer when protesters fall to their knees on cheap carpets and straw mats and the riot police take a tea break. Meanwhile, in 'darkest Africa', far away from the cameras of international mainstream media, reports have surfaced of political unrest in a host of sub- Saharan nations.

As international audiences watched 18 days of nonviolent protests topple longstanding president Hosni Mubarak this month, Egypt suddenly became a sexy topic. But, despite the fact that the rich banks of the Nile are sourced from Central Africa, the world looked upon the Egyptian uprising solely as a Middle Eastern issue.

Few seemed to care that Egypt was also part of Africa, a continent with a billion people, most of whom are living under despotic regimes and suffering economic strife and political suppression just like their Egyptian neighbours.

"Egypt is in Africa. We should not fool about with the attempts of the North to segregate the countries of North Africa from the rest of the continent," says Firoze Manji, the editor of Pambazuka Online, an advocacy website for social justice in Africa.


UPDATED: Fox Reverses Poll Results To Falsely Claim Most Americans Favor Ending Collective Bargaining

On Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed, along with an on-screen graphic, that a recent USA Today/Gallup poll found that "61 percent" of Americans are in favor of taking away collective bargaining rights from public unions. In fact, Fox aired the results of the poll completely backward: the Gallup poll found that 61 percent of Americans are opposed to taking away collective bargaining rights.


UK - Record number of young people not in education, work or training

© John Sturrock/AlamyAlmost one million young people in Britain are unemployed, according to the latest figures.
Figures show 15.6% of 16-24 year-olds were 'neets' at end of last year, as thinktank warns young people's unemployment likely to rise to 1.2m in next five years

The number of 16- to 24-year-olds not in education, work or training in England hit a record year-on-year high at the end of last year, official statistics show.

Some 938,000 young people in this age group were "neets" - not in education, employment or training - quarterly statistics from October to December reveal.

This is 43,000 more than the same point the year before and a year-on-year high since records began in 2005. It means 15.6% of all 16- to 24-year-olds in England were neets. This compares to just 13.1% in the last three months of 2007.

The latest statistics show the number of neets had fallen between the summer of last year and the end of the year. Between July and September, 1.03m 16- to 24-year-olds were neets - 17.1% of the age group.


Russia's chief whistleblower wants to jail the corrupt

© Agence France-PresseAlexey Navalny Russian blogger Alexey Navalny as he speaks in his office in Moscow.
Website has tracked down £2.6m in alleged government fraud, and volunteers examine state tenders for evidence

Alexey Navalny leaps out of his chair and draws five black circles on a whiteboard. The circles represent players in Russia's multibillion-dollar oil industry. With boundless energy and lightning speed, he draws lines and connects the dots, telling the story of what he calls classic Russian corruption.

In Russia, this is not done - at least not publicly. Navalny is speaking in a country that has seen its greatest government critics jailed, exiled and killed. But the 34-year-old lawyer, smart, self-confident and apparently fearless, has made a career of going after Russia's untouchables. As Russia's chief whistleblower - a one-man WikiLeaks - he has focused in the past three years on using the law to obtain information from the infamously secretive state-run corporations that fuel the country's economy and line the pockets of its highest officials.

"Everyone says corruption is everywhere, but for me it seems strange to say that and then not try to put the people guilty of that corruption away," Navalny said during an interview at his central Moscow office, adorned with little but stacks of papers and a gleaming silver MacBook.

For now, that is not his goal. Instead, he has focused on exposing the insidious corruption that even Russia's leaders acknowledge is the country's biggest problem.