compassion, collaboration & cooperation iN transistion
AN evening of "entertainment"
watching a re-run of
"Pure, White and Deadly"
from the BBC - under the
guise of their latest epic
Around the world, obesity levels
are rising. More people are now
overweight than undernourished.
Jacques Peretti traces those
responsible for revolutionising
our eating habits to find out how
decisions made in America 40
years ago influence the way we
eat now -
back to back with ...
"The Untouchables" from PBS
This fall will mark the five-year anniversary of Lehman Brothers filing for
bankruptcy, sparking the biggest financial crisis since the Great
Depression. When the anniversary hits, many legal experts agree, any
chance federal prosecutors will have had to hold Wall Street accountable
will have come and gone with the passing of the statute of limitations.
So is Wall Street breathing a sigh of relief ?
In The Untouchables, the FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith
examines why not one major Wall Street executive has been prosecuted
for fraud tied to the sale of bad mortgages. Many of the same issues
examined in the film will take center stage today during a hearing of a
House Financial Services Subcommittee. Among the questions expected
to come up is which outside experts the Justice Department consults with
when considering whether to prosecute large financial institutions.
That question first drew the attention of lawmakers shortly after the
The Untouchables premiered. A week after the film, Senators Sherrod
Brown (D-Ohio) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to Attorney
General Eric Holder asking whether the “too big to fail” status of some
banks undermines the government’s ability to prosecute wrongdoing.
The letter cited remarks made in the above excerpt from the film by
Lanny Breuer, the former head of the Justice Department’s criminal
division. Breuer told FRONTLINE:
In any given case, I think I and prosecutors around the country, being responsible, should speak to regulators, should speak to experts, because if I bring a case against institution A, and as a result of bringing that case, there’s some huge economic effect — if it creates a ripple effect so that suddenly, counterparties and other financial institutions or other companies that had nothing to do with this are affected badly — it’s a factor we need to know and understand.
Breuer has since left the government to return to private practice with
Covington & Burlington — a firm that counts major Wall Street firms such
as JPMorgan Chase among its clients. Nonetheless, the criminal division’s
track record during his tenure has spurred a war of words between
lawmakers and the Department of Justice.
In February, the department wrote back to Brown and Grassley to say
that, “No corporate entity, no matter how large, is immune from
prosecution.” The senators responded by calling the letter “aggressively
evasive.” Regulators came under renewed criticism in March, when the
attorney general told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the size of some
“I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult to prosecute them,” Holder said. “When we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps world economy, that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large. It has an inhibiting impact on our ability to bring resolutions that I think would be more appropriate. That is something that you all need to consider.”
Last week, Holder sought to walk back his comments, telling lawmakers his
words had been “misconstrued.” “Let me be very, very, very clear,”
Holder said. “Banks are not too big to jail. If we find a bank or a
financial institution that has done something wrong, if we can
prove it beyond a reasonable doubt, those cases will be brought.”
The Justice Department, said Holder, has brought thousands of financially
based cases over the last four-and-a-half years. One of the most recent
cases to be filed is a civil fraud suit brought against Standard & Poor’s
in February alleging that the credit-rating giant knowingly understated
the risk behind many of the financial products that caused the
subprime mortgage meltdown.
With S&P now facing as much as $5 billion in potential liabilities, the case
is one of the largest to come out of the crisis. It may also be one of the
last. In February, the Supreme Court ruled that the SEC cannot extend the
time limit for seeking penalties in civil fraud cases, a ruling that largely
ensures few if any new charges will emerge from the crisis.
MEANWHILE back at the BBC - Peretti travels to America to investigate the
story of high-fructose corn syrup. The sweetener was championed in the
US in the 1970s by Richard Nixon's agriculture secretary Earl Butz to make
use of the excess corn grown by farmers. Cheaper and sweeter than sugar,
it soon found its way into almost all processed foods and soft drinks.
HFCS is not only sweeter than sugar, it also interferes with leptin, the
hormone that controls appetite, so once you start eating or drinking it, you
don't know when to stop.
John Yudkin became internationally famous with his book Pure, White and
Deadly, first published in 1972, and was one of the first scientists to claim
that sugar was a major cause of obesity and heart disease.
Endocrinologist Robert Lustig was one of the first to recognise the dangers
of HFCS but his findings were discredited at the time. Lustig has spent the
past sixteen years treating childhood obesity and studying the effects of sugar
on the central nervous system and metabolism. He is the Director of the UCSF
Weight Assessment for Teen and Child Health Program and also a member of
the Obesity Task Force of the Endocrine Society. Lustig recently assisted with
the completely revised and updated edition of Pure, White and Deadly.
Lustig's youtube video - Sugar: The Bitter Truth has registered 3.75
million hits and his book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar,
Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease was published in Autumn 2012.
A US Congress report, however, blamed fat, not sugar, for the disturbing
rise in cardio- vascular disease and the food industry responded with
ranges of 'low fat', 'heart healthy' products in which the fat was removed -
BUT the substitute was yet more sugar.
Meanwhile, in 1970s Britain, food manufacturers used advertising
campaigns to promote the idea of snacking between meals. Outside
the home, fast food chains offered clean, bright premises with tempting
burgers cooked and served with a very un-British zeal and efficiency.
Twenty years after the arrival of McDonalds, the number of fast food
outlets in Britain had quadrupled.
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