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THANKSGIVING DAY PROCLAMATIONS, OLD AND NEW
President Bush’s here.President Lincoln’s 1st official Thanksgiving Day proclamatin here.
CONSERVATIVES WIN IN AUSTRIA
VIENNA: Austria chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel’s centre/right People’s party rolled to victory in Sunday’s general election, securing the largest share in votes in more than 30 years. Result ensures the continuation of a government focused on tax cuts, privatization and European Union integration.More on this story here and here.
GERMAN SOCIALISTS PLAN TO END ALL FINANCIAL AND BANKING SECRECY
Empty state coffers, rather than domestic security, seems to be the decisive factor.More on this story here.
SWISS INSIST ON BANKING SECRECY
ZURICH: The Swiss franc fell to a two-month low against the Euro after Swiss President Kaspar Villiger reiterated bank secrecy laws will not be relaxed to help the European Union fight tax evasion, raising concern Switzerland will face sanctions from the European Union.More on this story here.
Swiss narrowly reject harsh asylum laws in national vote. The proposal would have entailed any refugee arriving via a persecution-free country - in practice, all of Switzerland’s neighbours - being automatically denied refugee status and sent back across the border. It was defeated by just 2,754 votes out of more than 2 million.More on this story here.
BRITISH LABOUR CHOOSE NOT TO REPEAL FOREIGN TAX BREAK
LONDON: Foreign resident but “non-domiciled” high net worth individuals living in the UK will continue to enjoy the “loophole” that allows nearly tax-free existence, probably due to the fear that removing the “loophole” would spark an exodus of Britain’s super-wealthy foreign residents to other, more tax-friendly locations.More on this story here.
BAHRAIN BANK ASSETS NEAR US$90 BILLION
MANAMA, Bahrain: Assets of 48 offshore banking units operating here total $89 billion.More on this story here.
VANUATU FINALLY CLEANS UP
Off the FATF blacklist, stricter banking laws arrive on the island.More on this story here.
U.S. CORPORATIONS MOVE INTANGIBLE ASSETS OFFSHORE
NY Times discovers the strategy that business tax lawyers have advised for many years: Move intellectual property offshore to avoid high US taxes. Instead of moving their headquarters, companies are simply placing patents on drugs, ownership of corporate logos, techniques for manufacturing processes and other intangible assets in tax havens. “International tax planning 101”, says international tax lawyer.More on this story here.
LIVING OFFSHORE IS NOT ALWAYS EASY
As human beings move offshore in the wake of international investment, little thought is given to the immense adjustments that families have to make in choosing to live away from their home country. Start with power outages, dangerous driving conditions, and difficult weather, then add not being able to sip a drop of water until it has been thoroughly sterilized and shopping for food with dictionary in hand.More on this story here.
Before getting married and moving to a new country with your new spouse, research the divorce and child custody laws carefully, legal and family-crisis experts say. The best time to prepare for a divorce abroad, they say, is before you get married. For many the potential disaster down the road is hard to envision.More on this story here.
THE IMPERIAL UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
No other label than “empire” quite seems to capture the scope of American power or the scale of its ambition. No longer just a leftist term of derision, the notion of an American empire has suddenly become a live debate inside the US across the political spectrum. Analogies to the Roman Empire may be stronger than is apparent at first blush. For example, with military bases, or base rights, in some 40 countries across the world, the U.S. has the same global muscle it would enjoy if it ruled those countries directly.More analysis here.
Post September 11, the flow of immigrants, legal and illegal, into the United States appears to have fallen only barely. The US still draws many from Mideast. At current rates the nation’s population will grow to some 450 million by 2050, up from 281 million in the 2000 census.More on this story here.
FOREIGNERS FACE USA PATRIOT ACT RESTRICTIONS
Perspective from New Zealand on the Patriot Act. Few realise that all US-based financial institutions are obliged to ensure that their overseas customers and partners adopt similar practices. “Know your customer” rules propogating throughout the world.More on this story here.
WHY GOLD BUGS ARE SWARMING AGAIN
January 1 to November 15, 2002 the S&P Gold subindex rose 9.1%, vs. a 20.1% decline for the S&P Super 1,500 (the combined S&P 500, S&P MidCap 400, and S&P SmallCap 600). [A word to the wise: Although we are sympathetic to the bullish case for precious metals, it is a bad idea to base your investment actions on recent articles in big business publications.]Analysis here.
FORBES 2003 INVESTMENT GUIDE
Annual year-end guide to bettering your personal finances. Includes articles on self-employment, stocks and bonds, and real estate.Guide contents here.
IN MONACO, THE WORLD’S WEALTHIEST WIDOW
The world’s wealthiest widow (£700m and counting) and London’s flashiest socialite, just who is “Gilded Lily” Safra? Under her influence, London is becoming more like New York, where social position is defined not by what you have, but by how much you can afford to give away to worthy causes. Now her position and infuence is threatened by the sensational trial being held in Monaco of the American male nurse who is accused of killing her husband in 1999 (previous story links here), as high society across Europe salivates at the prospect of revelations about the Safras’ rarefied world of private banking billions.More on this story here.
DESTRUCTION OF PRIVACY TO FIGHT “TERROR”
Paging Mr. Orwell: US government proposals erode privacy needlessly in the name of fighting terror. Fighting terrorism is a daunting challenge. But it must not become a pretext for the excessive secrecy and high-tech spying on citizens that are the hallmarks of a police state. Full editorial here.
“What is under development here is a coordinated effort to pull together all the available data on every American who works, banks, buys on credit, purchases a firearm or sends an email on the Internet,” says computer security expert Allen Eagleton. “In most cases, the information is out there, available in widely-scattered databases. This is a massive effort to bring all this data together to build personal profiles on as many Americans as possible. The potential for such a system is enormous, it will allow someone to build a complete dossier on virtually any person in seconds.” Complete story here.
In the name of security, government curbs our privacy and rights. A paradox in the post-September 11 era is that people seem willing to accept government intrusions but not commercial ones, even though the government’s power is enormous and often wielded in secret, while consumers retain substantial control over their commercial information. Full article here.
Influential Republican Senator Charles Grassley, of Iowa, requested a full review of the Defense Department’s Total Information Awareness program. “I am at a loss to understand why DOD resources are being spent on research for domestic law enforcement,” Grassley wrote. “In addition, to develop such a program in a vacuum from federal law enforcement seems to be asking for taxpayer dollars to be sent down the drain.” More on this story here.
BIG BROTHER WILL BE WATCHING AMERICANS
“[The Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness program] takes what had been in the realm of paranoid conspiracy theorists and puts it in the realm of a potential reality -- right here and now,” said Jody Patilla, a consultant for the highly-regarded digital security company @Stake. More on this story here.
Was 1984 a how-to book for the US government? Polls show Americans regaining their skepticism of government and demanding that respect for civil liberties figure in anti-terrorist policies. But government officials do not appear to be paying attention. Instead, they seem to be pawing through a copy of 1984 with the idea of using George Orwell’s cautionary tale as a blueprint for an America of the future. Complete article here.
Secret Burial for Bill of Rights: 4th Amendment R.I.P. The amendment, adopted by the convention of states on 17 September 1787, was 215 years old when it died on November 18. The 4th tirelessly fought to guarantee that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” It is survived by 26 sibling amendments. The besieged 1st, 6th, and 14th amendments are also fighting for their lives. And the 2nd continues to be held hostage by special interests. Full obituary here.
Ruling for the first time in its history, the ultra-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review today gave the green light to a Justice Department bid to broadly expand its powers to spy on U.S. citizens. “As of today the Attorney General can suspend the ordinary requirements of the Fourth Amendment in order to listen in on phone calls, read e-mails, and conduct secret searches of Americans’ homes and offices”, says ACLU spokesperson. More on this story here.
HOMELAND SECURITY LAW HURTS NET PRIVACY
Dramatic impact on computer and network security from Homeland Security Department creation. Bill gives the government a major role in securing operating systems, hardware and the Internet, including allowing for more police surveillance of the Net; punishing malicious computer hackers with up to life in prison; establishing a national clearinghouse for computer and network security work; and spending at least half a billion dollars a year for homeland security research. Technology companies praised the plan, which promises to be a cash cow for businesses that develop security products. Complete story here.
Pentagon considered but rejected another surveillance idea: tagging Internet data with unique personal markers to make anonymous use of some parts of the Internet impossible. Complete story here.
The Justice Department’s Operation TIPS program, which would have enlisted tens of thousands of truckers, bus drivers and other workers as citizen spies, is explicitly prohibited in Homeland Security bill. Rest of story here.
US Rep. Ron Paul’s (typically clear-eyed) view on the Homeland Security Department: The lesson learned from the rush to create a Homeland Security department is that the size and scope of government grows regardless of which party is in power. The federal government now devours 40% of the nation’s GDP, and a massive new department can only make things worse. The Homeland Security bill provides a vivid example of the uncontrolled spending culture in Washington, a culture that views the true source of political power - your tax dollars - as unlimited. Rest of column here.
U.S. FOREIGN POLICY - IT MIGHT BE A GOOD IDEA
Despite $trillions spent on defense, our government is unable to defend America from a rag-tag group of Islamic militants. George Washington’s advice was free trade with all nations and political alliances with none. Sounds prescient.
Ron Holland on the Washington Empire’s threat to your liberty, wealth and investment portfolio. In America today, both our politicians and the legal system have become the major plunderers of our wealth. Quoting Frederic Bastiat, “When plunder has become a way of life for a group of people living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it, and a moral code that glorifies it.” America is an empire, not evil but heavyhanded, and while we may be well intentioned like an earlier British Empire, the effects on your liberty and wealth will in the long run be identical to all earlier empires. Full speech here.
In an unwelcome surprise to the government of President Pervez Musharraf and to the United States, backers of Taliban, Al Qaeda, take power in key Pakistani province of Peshawar. Vow to introduce strict Islamic law and to end the American military presence in the province. The province has been a focus in the search for Al Qaeda and Taliban members who were thought to have escaped to the area from Afghanistan. Full story here.
Attacks on Americans in Kuwait and elsewhere in the region have sparked fears that even so-called friendly nations are no longer enclaves of safety. “The thing that is scary, that’s different this time, is that it seems more organized,” said an American engineer who has spent 11 years working in Kuwait. Full story here.
CHANNEL ISLANDS SLASH TAXES
JERSEY and GUERNSEY plan to reduce corporate taxes to zero. Announcements follow the Isle of Man’s commitment earlier this year to introduce a zero rate by 1 January 2006. In all three cases, financial service companies will be obliged to pay a higher rate. Competition with other jurisdictions behind moves.More on this story here.
CREDIT SUISSE RATING DOWNGRADE
S&P lowers debt rating as CS struggles to rebuild lost equity.More on this story here.
CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH FROM THE FATF FOR GIBRALTARAnnouncement and further links here.
UPCOMING CONFERENCE ON MONEY LAUNDERING
2nd Annual Congress on International Tax Planning and Money Laundering, December 4-6, 2002 in Miami Beach, Florida.Conference details here.
US-SAUDI RELATIONSHIP RE-EXAMINED
A Saudi national who received “humanitarian aid” from the wife of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States has been widely regarded as a Saudi government agent and was identified after September 11 as an “advance man” for al Qaeda.More on this story here.
CHINA TIGHTENS UP FOREIGN INVESTMENT
Tax and customs privileges offered to foreign manufacturing investors being reduced and withdrawn, in part due to pending World Trade Organization entry, which requires a “level playing field” for manufacturing investment, and in part to buttress the domestic manufacturing sector which is now judged much more capable of competing internationally than it used to be.More on this story here.
US FLOATS PROPOSAL TO ELIMINATE TARIFFS
Bush administration will propose a plan for countries in WTO to eliminate all tariffs on industrial and consumer goods by 2015. [Note: That sure leaves a lot of time for backpedalling and granting exemptions.] Would eliminate about $18 billion in tariffs that American consumers pay each year. Would also require most other countries, especially developing ones, to cut their tariffs more drastically and more rapidly than the United States.More on this story here and here.
BILLIONS OF WITHHOLDING TAXES GO UNCLAIMED EACH YEAR
Over $6 billion worth of investors funds are being lost annually in unreclaimed withholding tax on cross-border securities holdings. Investors and their fund managers now demanding more effective tax reclamation services from their custodian banks.More on this story here.
EURO AT A 3-WEEK LOW VS. DOLLAR
Economic stagnation, soaring taxes, labor strife dim outlook. [Note: Typically news stories claiming to explain market changes follow price action, and are not a reliable indicator of future price action.]More on this story here.
German cabinet agreed on to implement a capital gains tax of 15%, which will be levied on sales of shares from February of 2003.More on this story here.
Truckers seeking more pay set up dozens of roadblocks with trucks and cars across France, but then lifted them later. The truckers claim that their profits have plummeted because of tough competition and cheap labor from central Europe. Other unions consider strikes as well.More on this story here.
STILL THINK IT CAN'T HAPPEN TO YOU? CIVIL FORFEITURE HORROR IN US
A UK citizen living in Florida jailed, held incommunicado, and subsequently made homeless by civil forfeiture action.More on this story here.
Forfeiture Endangers American Rights, the leading group advocating civil forfeiture reform home page here.
LARGEST IDENTITY THEFT RING EVER BROKEN UP
30,000 credit reports stolen with losses now pegged at $2.7 million, expected to go much higher and effect consumers of every state. Prosecutors were still trying to learn how many people had their bank accounts drained, addresses changed, lines of credit opened and new credit cards opened without their approval. The scheme began about three years ago when a help-desk worker sold an unidentified person passwords and codes for downloading consumer credit reports. [Note: Which is consistent with the fact that the weakest security link is usually human in nature, not technical.]More on this story here and here.
FTC identity theft site here.
Identity Theft Resource Center here.
GERMANY AND AUSTRIA, ALONE AMONG EUROPEAN COUNTRIES, SCEPTICAL ABOUT EU SPY RULE
Proposal would compel Internet Access Providers to retain data for up to two years, in case the information became or might prove useful in police or security service investigations into serious crime or terrorism. “Far from bringing more security to citizens, this move is already diverting energy and resources from more effective intelligence activity,” said civil liberties advocate.More on this story here.
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