Wednesday, August 1, 2012



Obama Leads Romney In Three Battleground States, New Poll Shows

Iceland Hires Ex-Cop…To Hunt Down Criminal Bankers

Afghan War Crimes Report Suppressed

Amish Baby Boom Affecting Lifestyle
Families Do More With Less Land

Capitalism Failed
Economic Systems That Exploit And Plunder Can't Endure.

6 Things You Should Know About the $21 Trillion the World's Richest People Are Hiding In Tax Shelters

When likely voters in the three battleground states were asked whom they would vote for if the election were held today, here's the way it broke down:

  • Florida: Obama, 51 percent; Romney, 45 percent.
  • Ohio: Obama, 50 percent; Romney 44 percent
  • Pennsylvania: Obama, 53 percent; Romney 42 percent

No one has won the White House since 1960 without winning at least two of the states. Obama won all three in 2008.

Support for Obama's proposal to increase taxes on households making more than $250,000 per year is 58 to 37 percent in Florida, 60 to 37 percent in Ohio and 62 to 34 percent in Pennsylvania, the survey finds.

Obama is expected to focus on his tax proposal Wednesday during campaign stops in Ohio.

Posted on 26 July 2012. Tags: bounty hunter, Business Insider, catching criminals, Charlotte Chabas, criminal bankers, Ethan I. Solomon, finance minister, Glitnir Bank, Iceland, Iceland Special Prosecutor, Icelandic bankers, Larus Welding, LeMonde, Olafur Por Hauksson, police lieutenant, PressEurop's, recession, trading charges, United States

In Iceland, the government has hired ex-police Lieutenant Olafur Thor Hauksson to hunt down bankers responsible for crashing the economy within the country.

LeMonde ran an interview that was translated by PressEurop. In it, Hauksson explains his job in his own words:

“On one hand, we have to investigate all suspicion of fraud and offences committed before 2009, on the other hand, we bring the lawsuits against the suspects to court ourselves. This is a ‘totally new’ method which allows the investigators to “follow the case” and the judicial system to “know the cases like the back of their hand”. This is indispensable in order to compete with the well-prepared defense attorneys”.

Mr. Hauksson has already formally charged Lárus Welding, the former CEO of the now-bankrupt Glitnir Bank and another banker, Guðmundur Hjaltason, among others.

Mr. Hauksson’s division, The office of Iceland’s Special Prosecutor, is scheduled to receive the equivalent of an extra $38 million dollars from the Icelandic government in order to strengthen the office and hopefully put more bankers behind bars.

On a personal note, it’s good to finally see a cop being put to good use, albeit an ex-cop. Not only does this need to be done in the United States as well, but it seems that this is one of the few good uses a cop can be put to, catching actual criminals rather than destroying peoples lives and treating their fellow citizens like the enemy.

The attempted suppression of an Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) report on atrocities and war crimes committed by Afghan governments and warlords from 1978 to 2001 is devastating exposure of the US puppet regime in Kabul.

The AIHRC, an organisation set up by the Kabul regime itself, has documented the criminal record of the warlords who run the regime and the powers that backed them, above all the United States.

The 800-page report, entitled “Conflict Mapping in Afghanistan Since 1978,” was prepared over a six-year period from 2005 by a team of 40 researchers working with international legal and forensic experts. It found evidence of 180 mass graves, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, rape, and the destruction of towns and villages. Commissioner Ahmad Nader Nadery reported that the report tallied a million killed—not all through war crimes—and another 1.3 million disabled.

The report catalogues the crimes committed by all sides in the wars that raged in Afghanistan, including the 1978–1992 Soviet-backed regime and the CIA-backed traditionalist mujahedin militias that fought it, overthrew it, and then divided Afghanistan between themselves.

It details the brutal civil war that followed the fall of the Soviet-backed regime, as Islamist warlords whom Washington had hailed as “freedom fighters” battled for power and control of resources, including the lucrative Afghan opium trade. Atrocities and human rights abuses continued under the Taliban—who were formed with Pakistani backing and tacit US support—as well as their rival northern warlords.

Unsurprisingly, current Afghan officials named as responsible for atrocities objected to the release of the report, only portions of which were leaked to the media.

Afghan officials named in the report include First Vice President Muhammad Qasim Fahim, a Tajik warlord; Second Vice President Karim Khalili, a Hazara warlord; General Atta Mohammed Noor, another Tajik militia leader who is currently a provincial governor; and General Abdul Rashid Dostum, a notorious Uzbek warlord, who is chief of staff to the supreme commander of the Afghan Armed Forces.

The political prominence of such thugs underlines the venal, corrupt character of the regime of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. From the outset, it rested on a network of reactionary local and provincial warlords, militia commanders and tribal leaders.

The suppression of the war crimes report would not be possible without US complicity. According to the New York Times, the US embassy in Kabul objected to its publication; US officials said that its release would “open up old wounds.”

The report exposes not only Afghan warlords, but the US and its allies, including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. They funded, armed and trained the various reactionary Islamist militias that fought the Soviet-backed regime in the 1980s, tore the country apart in the 1990s, and have ruled it in collaboration with Washington over the last decade.

Stopping as it does in 2001, the document says little about the crimes committed by US and NATO forces who began occupying Afghanistan that year. However, even the limited details of US operations in Afghanistan in the final months of 2001 point to war crimes. The CIA worked closely with its warlord allies, including in the mass murder of alleged Taliban detainees in the Qala-i Janga fortress near Mazar-i Sharif.

The voluminous report devotes only two pages to “violations by US forces.” However, these include US bombing of civilians, the use of indiscriminate weapons including cluster bombs, prolonged detention of prisoners without due process, torture and renditions.

Washington’s sensitivity over the Afghan report is not simply related to its past crimes. By reviewing the decades from 1978 and 2001, the document is a reminder that US imperialism not only helped to create brutes such as Dostum, Fahim and Khalili. It also funded and armed the Afghan and foreign Islamist militias that are currently fighting the US occupation—the Pashtun warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Al Qaeda international terrorist network.

Whether Islamists like Hekmatyar were lionised by the American media as “freedom fighters” or denounced as “terrorists” depended entirely on whether or not they served US interests. The Taliban’s reactionary edicts, including against women, were only condemned by Washington from the late 1990s, as the Taliban became an obstacle to US plans for oil and gas pipelines across Afghanistan from Central Asia.

This history exposes the bogus character of the US “war on terror,” that was used as a pretext for wars to boost US domination over the energy-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia and to set up the infrastructure of police-state rule at home.

Moreover, the US and its European allies are now exploiting the criminal methods developed in Afghanistan elsewhere in the Middle East. In the name of “liberating” the Libyan people, the US and NATO armed and backed opposition militias, including those with ties to Al Qaeda, that overthrew Gaddafi with the aid of a massive NATO bombing campaign. The current regime in Tripoli is composed of Islamists, adventurers, and other US assets just as reactionary as their counterparts in Kabul.

Now the Obama administration is also backing Islamists, Al Qaeda forces, and other militias to oust Syrian president Bashir al Assad and install a pro-US regime in Damascus.

Washington hopes to suppress the Afghan report so that these truths about its crimes in Afghanistan do not fuel opposition to the criminal policies it now pursues throughout the Middle East.

Peter Symonds

KENTON, Ohio — The bustling produce auction that drew hundreds of people to a spot in the middle of nowhere yesterday is a business born of necessity.

The Amish population, which a new study says is growing in this country at an unexpected rate, is diversifying. It has to, its leaders say, as the number of families in the religion grows and they search for new places to build homes and more ways to earn a living.

The Scioto Valley Produce Auction, which is held by the Amish in Hardin County every Tuesday and Friday through the summer, is a way for families to make do with less acreage and still produce a for-profit crop.

“The land was getting high-priced and, as we grow, more was harder to come by,” said Daniel Bontrager, a bishop in his community and an authority figure in the Hardin County settlement of 200 or so Amish families. “The young people needed something to do, and we’d rather all stay here together and stay close. The auction helps us do that.”

This is the auction’s second summer, and its hundreds of non-Amish customers come from several counties away each week.

A new Ohio State University study released Monday shows that the North American Amish numbers are doubling every 22 years, a staggering growth that even researchers didn’t expect. In January 1990, there were an estimated 179 Amish settlements in the United States; this year there are 456 settlements with about 251,000 people. The most recent count includes Ontario, Canada, because of its proximity to a New York region heavily populated by Amish.

The researchers predict that if this pace continues, the Amish population could reach 1 million by mid-century. And Holmes County, in northeastern Ohio, could in the next 20 years become the first county in the United States to have more Amish than English (the common term for their non-Amish neighbors).

“For the past 10 years, I have told myself that they can’t keep growing at the pace they are,” said Joseph Donnermeyer, a rural sociology professor at OSU who led the Amish census project as part of a larger study on religions. “I’ve been wrong every single year.”

Church districts (each one overseen by a bishop, and usually with 20 or 25 families to a district) are the center of Amish communities. To estimate the population of the Old Order Amish — the most traditional, horse-and-buggy kind that forgoes modern technology — Donnermeyer and his fellow researchers studied directories published in the districts.

“In Holmes County, there’s a directory that looks like the yellow pages for New York City, it’s so large,” Donnermeyer said. They also relied on information in the country’s three major Amish newspapers and magazines, including The Budget in the Holmes County region.

Among the findings:

• The Greater Holmes County Amish settlement, which sprawls across Ashland, Coshocton, Holmes, Stark, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties, is the largest, with nearly 30,000 members.

• Ohio is home to the most Amish community members (60,233), topping Pennsylvania (59,078).

• The shift from farm jobs to construction and other trade work hasn’t shrunk family size, as it has historically in other groups. Only about 17 percent of the Amish men are farmers today, compared with 75 percent 40 years ago, yet the growth still occurred.

In Hardin County, though, that latter figure doesn’t hold true. The Amish men still largely work at home there, whether farming or running their own sawmills or shops, and they want to keep it that way, Bontrager said.

The bishop said he didn’t need a study to tell him his community is growing. Thirty years ago, there were four church districts in his community; today there are eight.

Donnermeyer said the explanation is fairly simple: The Amish still have big families. Contraception is against their religion, and children are considered blessings. Their children also tend not to leave. More than 85 percent of the children raised in Amish settlements stay as adults.

But they are on the move, because almost all are in search of land, said Ben Borntreger, who is one of a half-dozen or so Amish men in charge of the produce auction.

“Used to be, we needed a 100-acre farm, but you can’t find it or afford it today,” Borntreger said. “Switching to produce, now a family can do that on 10 acres.”

Those smaller farms are commonplace in Holmes County, where the growth in the Amish community has been going on for decades.

It used to be that you’d see one Amish farm here, then one there, much more scattered about, said Fannie Erb-Miller, national editor of The Budget, which is mailed to more than 18,000 subscribers in the United States and Canada each week. These days, there are far more clusters of farms. Newly married couples are building homes on their family land rather than moving on, she said.

“You want to keep a community together,” she said. “But you have to go where there’s enough land to hold you. That’s more of a challenge these days.”

By Stephen Lendman

Economic/financial systems dependent on wars and predation eventually self-destruct. Western capitalism is no exception.

Money power runs things. War profiteering is policy. Ordinary people have no say. Exploiting them for profit is prioritized. Divisions between rich and poor grow. By some measures they're unprecedented.

Money power in private hands and democracy can't co-exist. Banking giants transformed Western societies into vehicles for wealth extraction. Corrupt politicians facilitate their criminality. In return, they're rewarded handsomely.

Paul Craig Roberts wrote about "The Collapsing US Economy and the End of the World." Can societies survive Washington's hubris, he asked?

Federal policy destroys people politically, militarily and economically. Few benefit at the expense of most others. Washington grows more "isolated and despised." Europe "is on the ropes" and sinking.

Wars rage endlessly. Victories are elusive. Options perhaps are down to "the elimination of life on earth. Is this Washington's program," asked Roberts. 

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said what good are nuclear weapons if you don't use them. Roberts quoted neocon warmonger Bill Kristol saying the same thing.

Formerly he served as vice president Dan Quale's chief of staff. He's now a Fox News regular. He and others like him want to blow up the world to exploit it. 

These types run America and Western societies. They also conspire with bankers to steal us blind. John Kozy is a Progressive Radio News Hour regular. His latest article headlined "How the Economy Works; the Necessity of Crime."

Forget about love. Money and fraud make the world go round. Roberts explained in discussing libor and other grand schemes. Kozy said "(w)hether people benefit or are injured is never an economic concern." They're "irrelevant."

Commercial enterprises commit crimes. Growth depends on it. So does GDP. Economies are disconnected from people and their welfare. Money made by stealing it or destroying things works better than by operating honestly.

Western economies are "totally immoral." Kozy quoted a financial advisor saying:

"As investors, we absolutely must not let our political beliefs, the news media, or anything else stand in the way of our quest to grow our hard-earned money into (more of it for) lasting wealth."
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A new report from the Tax Justice Network found trillions of untaxed wealth that the world's richest people are hiding. Here's what you need to know.

Price of Offshore Revisited 120722                                                                                                             
 $21 trillion. That's how much the world's richest people are hiding in offshore tax havens worldwide. Or it may be more, as much as $32 trillion—the real amount is, of course, almost impossible to track. While governments slash spending and lay off workers, citing a need for “austerity” because of the slow economy, the ultra-rich—fewer than 10 million people—have stashed an amount equal to the US and Japanese economies combined away from the tax man.      
This is according to a new report by the Tax Justice Network, and their findings are shocking. The lost tax revenue from offshore tax shelters, they note, “is large enough to make a significant difference to all of our conventional measures of inequality. Since most of the missing financial wealth belongs to a tiny elite, the impact is staggering.” James S. Henry, who was former Chief Economist for McKinsey & Co. and is the author of the book The Blood Bankers as well as articles for publications including The Nation and The New York Times, dug into information from the Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations, central banks, and private sector analysts and found the outlines of the giant pool of cash floating in that nebulous location known as “offshore”. (And this is just money—the report leaves out things like real estate, yachts, art, and other forms of wealth the super-rich are hiding, untaxed, in offshore tax havens.)  Henry refers to it as a “black hole” in the world economy and notes that, “despite taking pains to err on the conservative side, the results are astonishing.” There's a lot of information to wade through in this report, so we've broken out 6 things you should know about the money the world's richest are keeping from the rest of us.       
1.      Meet The Top .001%   
“By our estimates, at least a third of all private financial wealth, and nearly half of all offshore wealth, is now owned by world’s richest 91,000 people– just 0.001% of the world’s population,” the report says. Those top 91,000 have about $9.8 trillion of the total estimated in this report—and fewer than ten million people account for the whole pile of cash. Who are those people? We know they're the richest, but what else do we know about them?  The report mentions “30-year-old Chinese real estate speculators and Silicon Valley software tycoons,” and those whose wealth comes from oil and the drug trade. It doesn't mention, but could, US presidential candidates—Mitt Romney's famously taken flak for having money stashed in a Swiss bank account and in investments located in the Cayman Islands. (Politifact rated these statements in a recent Obama ad “true.”) Drug lords, of course, need to hide their ill-gotten gains, but plenty of the other ultra-rich are simply avoiding paying taxes, constructing complicated trusts and other investments just to shave a few more points off the bill they pay to their home country. And it's all adding up.       
2.   Where's the Cash? It's Complicated   
“Offshore,” according to Henry, isn't a physical location anymore—though plenty of places like Singapore and Switzerland, he notes, still specialize in providing “secure, low-tax physical residences” to the world's rich. But these days, “offshore” wealth is virtual—Henry describes “nominal, hyper-portable, multi-jurisdictional, often quite temporary locations of networks of legal and quasi-legal entities and arrangements.” A company may be located in one jurisdiction, but it is owned by a trust located elsewhere, and administered by trustees in a third location.  “Ultimately, then, the term 'offshore' refers to a set of capabilities,” rather than to a place or multiple places. It's also important, the report notes, to distinguish between the “intermediary havens”--the places most people think of when they think of tax havens, like Romney's Cayman Islands, Bermuda, or Switzerland—and the “destination havens,” which include the US, the UK, and even Germany. Those destinations are desirable because they provide “relatively efficient, regulated securities markets, banks backstopped by large populations of taxpayers, and insurance companies; well-developed legal codes, competent attorneys, independent judiciaries, and the rule of law.” So the same folks avoiding paying taxes by shuffling their money around, in other words, are taking advantage of taxpayer-funded services to do so. And here in the US, certain states have begun, since the 1990s, to offer inexpensive legal entities “whose levels of secrecy, protection against creditors, and tax advantages rival those of the world's traditional secretive offshore havens.” Combine that with the declining share of US taxes paid by the rich and corporations, and we're starting to look awfully appealing to those looking to squirrel away money.       
3.   Big Bailed-Out Banks Run This Business   
Just who is facilitating this process? Some familiar names surface quickly when you dig into the data: Goldman Sachs, UBS, and Credit Suisse are the top three, with Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan Chase all in the top ten. “We can now add this to their list of distinctions: they are key players in many havens around the globe, and key enablers of the global tax injustice system,” the report notes. By the end of 2010, the top 50 private banks alone were managing some $12.1 trillion in “cross-border invested” assets for their clients. That's more than twice what it was in 2005, representing an average annual growth rate of over 16 percent. “From banks to accountancy firms and corporate lawyers, some of the biggest businesses in the world are part of the fabric of global tax avoidance,” writes financial researcher (and former Goldman Sachs trader) Lydia Prieg in The Guardian. “These companies are not moral entities that we can shame into paying their fair share; they exist to maximize their profits and those of their clients.” “Until the late 2000s,”  Henry notes, “the conventional wisdom among flight capitalists was 'What cold be safer than 'too big to fail' US, Swiss and UK banks?'” Without the bailouts that came along with the 2008 financial crisis, he adds, many of the banks that are stashing cash for the ultra-rich wouldn't exist anymore. The assumption of government backing is the very reason why those uber-rich are banking with the big guys to begin with.       
4.   Inequality Is Worse Than We Thought   
With all this wealth hidden around the world, impossible to count as well as to tax, the Tax Justice Network points out, it's certain that we're underestimating the amount of income and wealth inequality we have. Stewart Lansley, author of The Cost of Inequality, told Heather Stewart at the Guardian: "There is absolutely no doubt at all that the statistics on income and wealth at the top understate the problem." When calculating the Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality in a society, he said, "You don't pick up the multimillionaires and billionaires, and even if you do, you can't pick it up properly." This is such an important issue that the Tax Justice Network included a second report alongside Henry's, titled “Inequality: You Don't Know the Half Of It.” The report details all the problems with the way we calculate inequality now, which often seem to boil down to the fact that we have no accurate measure of the true wealth of the super-rich. Income tax data is available, but if there are really trillions stashed around the world in tax havens, how do we calculate the true incomes of the world's wealthiest? Inequality has already been skyrocketing around the world, by the measures we currently use.  If the top 1 percent in the US don't own just 35.6 percent of the wealth, for instance, but a much larger chunk that's hidden away somewhere, what does it mean for us? Don't forget, as the report notes, that “inequality is a political choice”--that we determine what to do as a society based on the amount of inequality we think is tolerable or just. If that number is far greater than we think, how is that skewing our priorities? Many Americans are already misinformed about our level of inequality—but this report confirms that even supposed experts were wildly underestimating the problem.       
5.    “Indebted” Countries Aren't in Debt After All    
Henry's report breaks out a subgroup of 139 countries, mostly lower or middle-income ones, for further study, noting that by most calculations, those 139 countries had a combined debt of over $4 trillion at the end of 2010. But if you took into account all that money being held offshore, those countries actually had negative $10 trillion in debt—or as Henry writes, “[O]nce we take these hidden offshore assets and the earnings they produce into account, many erstwhile 'debtor' countries are in fact revealed to be wealthy.  But the problem is, their wealth is now offshore, in the hands of their own elites and their private bankers.” Henry further notes that the developing world as a whole turns out to be a creditor of the developed world, rather than a borrower, and has been so for more than a decade. “That means this is really a tax justice problem, not simply a 'debt' problem.” But those debts, as we've noted, fall on the shoulders of the everyday working people of those countries, those who can't take advantage of sophisticated tax shelters. And this, of course, isn't only a developing world problem.  These days, Henry notes, the developed world has its own debt crisis (witness the ongoing troubles of the Eurozone). The French economist Thomas Piketty notes, “the wealth held in tax havens is probably sufficiently substantial to turn Europe into a very large net creditor with respect to the rest of the world."       
6.   How Much are We Losing?   
That's the bottom line, isn't it? It's impossible to say for sure, of course, because these numbers are all just estimates, but Henry guesses that if this unreported $21 trillion earned a rate of return of 3 percent, and that income was taxed at 30 percent, that alone would generate income tax revenues of around $190 billion. If the total amount of money in tax havens is closer to his higher estimate, $32 trillion, it'd bring in closer to $280 billion—which is about twice the amount OECD countries spend on development assistance. In other words, a lot of money.  And 3 percent returns are about as conservative as you can get. That's just income taxes. Capital gains taxes, inheritance taxes, and other taxes would bring in even more. That's why, at the end of the day, Henry says that we could look at this as good news. “The world has just located a huge pile of financial wealth that might be called upon to contribute to the solution of our most pressing global problems,” he writes. “We have an opportunity to think not only about how to prevent some of the abuses that have led to it, but also to think about how best to make use of the untaxed earnings that it generates.”

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