Galleon Fund Head Convicted of Fraud, Conspiracy
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HARI SREENIVASAN: A federal jury in New York has convicted a former Wall Street leader in the largest insider trading case ever involving hedge funds.
Raj Rajaratnam, founder of the Galleon Group, was found guilty on 14 counts of securities fraud and conspiracy. Prosecutors said his gains from illegal tips totaled more than $60 million. Rajaratnam could get more than 19 years in prison.
The stock market tumbled today after news that demand for gasoline fell by the most in seven weeks. It could signal a broader decline in consumer and business spending. The Dow Jones industrial average responded with a loss of 130 points to close at 12,630. The Nasdaq fell more than 26 points to close at 2,845.
A labor stoppage and protest marches in Greece turned into street battles and bloodshed today. At least 25 people were hurt in the latest chapter of the country’s economic troubles.
Much of Athens came to a halt today, as a general strike shut down public transport, grounded flights and left ferries idled at port. It came in response to a new round of government-ordered pay cuts and tax increases, a year into the nation’s debt crisis. 10,000 protesters marched on Syntagma Square in central Athens, outside the Greek Parliament, to voice opposition.
But elsewhere in the city, black-hooded youths fought with riot police just outside the offices where European Union officials met with the Greek finance minister. Officials were discussing whether Greece will get the fifth installment from a bailout package worth $160 billion. Greece still has a debt load of nearly a half-trillion dollars.
And Prime Minister George Papandreou said Tuesday, the new austerity measures are essential.
GEORGE PAPANDREOU, Greek prime minister (through translator): Greece is at a critical juncture. We are making our decisions, so that we can guarantee not only our exit from this crisis, but also create a viable economy, viable development, a Greece with a just society.
HARI SREENIVASAN: Elsewhere in the Eurozone, debt-stricken Portugal has secured its own bailout package from the E.U. That one totals more than $110 billion.
In Yemen, security forces opened fired again on thousands of anti-government protesters in Sanaa, killing six. Activists reported snipers on rooftops and soldiers dressed in plainclothes who started shooting at the crowd. In addition to the dead, at least 40 people were wounded.
Spain suffered its worst earthquake disaster in 50 years today. At least 10 people were killed and dozens more were hurt. Two quakes struck within two hours of each other near the town of Lorca, some 200 miles southeast of Madrid. There was heavy damage to a number of buildings. A bell and part of a wall smashed to the ground from a church, and cars were crushed by falling stone and brick.
It’s now been two months since the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Today, there were new problems at a stricken nuclear plant, even as evacuees were allowed back briefly.
We have a report narrated by Tom Clarke of Independent Television News.
TOM CLARKE: First, they’re told what to wear, then how to put it on.
And the residents of Kawauchi village prepare to go home.
The protective clothing is mandatory, just like their evacuation. Now they’re being bussed back to their village just 10 miles from the stricken nuclear plant. Official radiation limits mean they have just two hours to revisit the lives they left behind.
This farmer came back to check on his cattle. He turned them lose when the evacuation order came.
FARMER (through translator): I think they are well. They are free, so I’m not worried, even if they are not here. Other people are freeing their cows as well, so they will become friends.
TOM CLARKE: They’re allowed to collect a few necessary items, bagged up until they are taken back and decontaminated. There are strict radiation checks before heading off.
This is a rural bus service that won’t be running for a long time. It’s likely to be many months before anyone is allowed to return here permanently. How long depends on the time it takes to clean up this mess. On Friday, engineers got inside reactor number one at Fukushima for the first time to install this new cooling system.
But it’s not all progress. Filmed by a robot, this is the pond containing nuclear fuel next to reactor number three, its highly radioactive contents mangled and buried. And, today, water from the same unit was been found leaking into the sea.
As the crisis at the plant drags on, anger is mounting in Japan at the government’s handling of the crisis and its dependence on nuclear power.
There’s no ill feeling towards Japan’s emperor. Today, he and his wife paid a second visit to evacuees from Fukushima Prefecture. Imperial walkabouts like this were almost unheard of before the tsunami. Evacuees from around the plant won’t be allowed home until it is made safe. Operators TEPCO say that will be achieved in six to nine months, but other experts say it could take much longer.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The Japanese government announced a plan today to ensure that victims of the nuclear crisis are compensated. The losses could run into the billions of dollars.
The U.S. Peace Corps came under heavy criticism today over sexual abuse of female volunteers. A U.S. House hearing focused on hundreds of reports of rape or other crimes between 2000 and 2009.
Jessica Smochek told of being gang-raped by local men in Bangladesh in 2004. She said she got little support from Peace Corps officials.
JESSICA SMOCHEK, former Peace Corps volunteer: The Peace Corps also required me to meet with a counselor, who made me write down everything I had done wrong for this to occur. As examples, she suggested that I had been out after 5:00 p.m., I hadn’t screamed, and that I didn’t fight back. Rather than feeling safe and supported, I felt belittled and blamed.
HARI SREENIVASAN: At least one former volunteer said she was raped by her own supervisor in Nepal. Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams apologized and promised reforms.
AARON WILLIAMS, Peace Corps: We’re going to make sure that it’s a victim-centered approach. We’re going to be compassionate. All of our medical personnel have been trained in how to work with victims of sexual assault.
We are all going to make sure all of our staff, our senior management is focused on this. We are committed to making this — changing the culture that these courageous people have encountered in the past. We’re going to change that.
HARI SREENIVASAN: The Peace Corps is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It has more than 8,600 volunteers working in 77 countries.
The U.S. Navy has changed course on letting chaplains perform same-sex marriages in military chapels. The initial policy was announced last month, but more than 60 U.S. House members complained it would violate the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Last night, the Navy suspended the policy and said it will do further review.
Those are some of the day’s major stories.