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Sins Of The City: Bankers Caught Red-Handed - Again

Essay: As the Barclays "Libor-gate" financial scandal unravels, France's leading business daily says it's time London lawmakers and City bankers should stop lecturing continental Europe and take a good hard look in the

Really? (EG Focus)
Really? (EG Focus)
François Vidal

PARIS - It's the story of a habitual offender. Once again, finance was caught red-handed, just like the small-time delinquents who promise the judge never to do it again but are unable to control their own impulses. Only a few weeks after JP Morgan's billion dollar trading loss, Barclays is accused of organized fraud on one of the credit market pillars, the Libor.

Barclays, one of the main banks in the City (several other London institutions are also suspected) knowingly helped falsify the interest rate that is the baseline to most commercial transactions and financial products. This is market fraud, and the technical nature of the problem shouldn't hide its importance.

This "Liborgate," which has undoubtedly barely started, is one of the most serious financial scandals since the beginning of this scandal-rich crisis. Even if the financial stake is much lower, it is very similar to the subprime scandal because of what it reveals about the attitude of international finance. A world in which well-established companies can organize institutionalized fraud in order to preserve their interests, in contempt of those of their clients and of society as a whole. It is a universe where the end always justifies the means.

This is also proof that the City, so eager to lecture continental Europe on its banking, should take a look in the mirror. After this scandal, how can you explain to taxpayers who poured billions of pounds, dollars and euros into the financial system that it has learned from its mistakes? That its culture has changed?

Barclays C.E.O Bob Diamond will surely fall, like others did before him. But that won't be enough to fix the broken trust. The financial world has to be brought to heel because it is has no self-discipline. First through much stricter regulation that will incorporate market finance instead of placing it into an incontrollable no-man's land that cuts banks in half. Just as important is strengthened supervision. It is obviously impossible to put a regulator behind each banker. But it is urgent to instill a much deeper fear of regulators in the sector by punishing abuses much more harshly.

Read more from Les Echos in French.

Photo - EG Focus

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Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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