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ARREST AT UK’S SPOOK STATION AFTER NSA UN BUGGING CLAIM
An employee at the UK’s top secret listening post, GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) has been arrested following the Observer’s publication of what it claimed was a leaked “dirty tricks” email from the US National Security Administration last Sunday. This Sunday’s paper reports the arrest by Gloucestershire police of a 28 year old woman, and says that more arrests are expected.
The UK government has been subject to a string of leaks from the security services, these being intended to counter what they see as misuse of their data, the most recent concerned the claimed Iraq-Al Aqaeda connection. The UK government said it had intelligence data proving such a connection, and these claims were swiftly grabbed at by the US government, which cited this UK intelligence data. Appalled UK intelligence sources, apparently offended by this slur on their professionalism, promptly counter-briefed the press, claiming the data they had given the government showed precisely the opposite.
Some challenges to the authenticity of the email have been made. However, concrete proof that the email was a fake is lacking.More on this story here.
PANAMA THE SAFEST OFFSHORE HAVEN NATION NOW?
British controlled Caribbean havens, and other UK colonies, are being stripped of financial privacy on orders from London. Soon they will be ordered to end offshore tax breaks. Panama consistently has refused to commit to OECD demands for an end to “harmful tax competition” - meaning the imposition of taxes on foreigners where none now exist - as well as demands for automatic exchange of tax information about foreign nationals with accounts or investments there. Yet it has strong anti-money laundering laws and is fully cooperative in fighting drug and other international crimes. Last year, Panama’s minister of foreign relations denounced OECD “imperialistic agenda” and said flatly his nation will not bow to outside pressures (links here and here).
Panama legal entities discussed here.
Note: Wealth International, Ltd. can help you set up Panamanian IBCs and Foundations.
BLACKLISTS HURT CARIBBEAN FINANCIAL SECTOR
Nearly three years after the world’s economic powers issued damaging money laundering and tax haven blacklists, the Caribbean’s offshore financial industry is bowed but not broken, experts in the sector say. The Bahamas lost nearly a quarter of its registered banks after passing strict regulations to ward off the blacklists, according to official records. But industry insiders say the loss of banks in the services-dependent island chain may have been closer to 70%. Bruised and battered in the short term, the Caribbean islands' long-term fate is less clear.More on this story here.
BELEAGUERED CAYMANS AG FINALLY RESIGNS OVER UK FINANCIAL SPYING
The Attorney General of the Cayman Islands, David Ballantyne has tendered his resignation, effective March 15, it emerged this week. Following a no-confidence motion against the AG over his role in the collapse of the Eurobank money laundering trial, Mr Ballantyne had - albeit briefly - returned to Cayman after a period of leave to resume his duties, although without the approval of the Caymanian authorities.More on this story here.
E.U. MEETING FAILS TO O.K. SAVINGS TAX DIRECTIVE DEAL
BRUSSELS: Italian demands prevented European Union finance ministers from striking a long-awaited deal with Switzerland to stem tax evasion and also an energy tax accord. Defending what Italy sees as a national interest, Economy and Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti said Rome would back the tax accords only if it got to keep tax breaks on fuel for its truckers.
Under EU rules, unanimity is required to pass tax laws. The issue will come back on the table at an emergency meeting due on March 19 to get the tax deals sorted out before an EU leaders’ summit in mid-March.More on this story here and here.
EU and Swiss still negotiating over final form of tax deal. One key point remained in dispute: In return for agreeing to impose a withholding tax on savings held by EU citizens in Swiss banks, Switzerland wants a tax exemption for the transfer of dividends, interest payments and license fees between Swiss company headquarters and their units within the EU. This would place Swiss firms on an equal footing with their EU counterparts. France, Spain and Italy have all objected to Switzerland’s request, arguing that the budget costs will be too high.More on this story here.
MALTA VOTES TO JOIN EUROPEAN UNION
European leaders on Sunday breathed a collective sigh of relief after Malta became the first applicant country to vote in favour of joining the European Union. Malta’s Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami told a news conference 53% of the votes were yes and 45% no. Political analysts said a large turnout of 91% favored a “yes” vote, since the opposition Labor Party had urged its supporters to either cast a “no” vote, spoil the ballot, or abstain.
The vote in the former British colony was non-binding, meaning the government could theoretically ignore it. But a rejection of EU membership would have been a major embarrassment for Fenech’s nationalists and a diplomatic snub to Brussels, where the EU is based. The referendum capped an acrimonious campaign fought along sharp political lines and dominated, diplomats told Reuters, by scare-mongering and disinformation about what EU membership would mean for Malta.More on this story here and here.
HOUSE REPUBLICANS TRY TO PREEMPT DEMS ON “INVERSION” ISSUE, THEN ABANDON ATTEMPT
Controversy derailed grandfather clause protection for US corporations that had previously reincorporated offshore to save taxes. While discussing the Armed Forces Tax Fairness Act, a bill designed to ensure dependents of those in the military received death benefits tax-free, Republicans in the House of Representatives added a clause declaring a temporary moratorium on inversions until December 2004 - without effecting past ones.
But Democrats charged that the moratorium was simply a way of kicking the issue into the long grass, while at the same time letting anyone who had inverted before March 2003 off the hook. Calling the amendment an “amnesty for tax dodgers”, Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett said the bill had been “perverted”.More on this story here and here.
Tyco corporation shareholders voted 74% to 26% to stay offshore. Major pension funds and other institutions holding Tyco shares wanted the company back onshore, because they said that would mean greater accountability on the part of its senior executives. The whole board was replaced last year after revelations about their largesse with the company’s money - and following former chief executive Dennis Kozlowski’s indictment for tax evasion on a number of paintings bought in New York.
The effort to get Tyco onshore again may have failed, but the 26% of the votes it garnered is a much higher level of support than most resolutions at company meetings.More on this story here.
SOUTH AFRICAN TAX AMNESTY BIG SUCCESS
JOHANNESBURG: As much as $8 billion could be on its way back home to South Africa if early responses to the tax amnesty on overseas holdings are anything to go by. The six-month amnesty does not even begin until May, yet tax officials received inquiries about more than 3 billion rand ($373 million; £233 million) in the first 48 hours. It is thought that this could be just the tip of the iceberg, and some have estimated money parked illegally in offshore accounts at anything up to R90 billion.
Under the amnesty, those making a full disclosure of any offshore assets and liabilities that breached previous rules on foreign exchange controls and income tax regulations prior to 28th February last year will be exempted from criminal or civil sanctions.
What little criticism there has been of the plan revolves around suggestions that it is unfair to people who have always paid their taxes. But Revenue Service Commissioner Pravin Gordhan said that honest taxpayers would be among the amnesty’s biggest beneficiaries. “Ultimately, those who have paid their taxes want to see others paying their taxes,” he said.More on this story here and here.
The government has to create more incentives to encourage expatriates abroad to return to South Africa, Home Affairs Minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi said while speaking at the launch of a “Come Home” campaign in Pretoria.More on this story here.
SHOULD U.S. BANKS REPORT ON FOREIGNERS?
Foreigners have invested more than $1 trillion in capital in the United States since 1984, when Congress and the Reagan administration established a policy of not taxing interest they earn on U.S. bank deposits. This influx of capital will be jeopardized if a proposed Internal Revenue Service rule is implemented. The regulation (133254-02) would require banks to report interest paid to nonresident aliens, although their deposits are not subject to U.S. taxes. This would harm America’s economy and undermine the competitiveness of U.S. financial institutions. The price is high, especially given that the IRS does not have the authority to issue this rule.Rest of scathing analysis here.
BARBADOS VIGILANT IN PATROLLING ITS FINANCIAL HIGHWAYS SAYS CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR
Central Bank of Barbados Governor Dr. Marion Williams says “We (Barbados) will do what is necessary to ensure that our international financial services sector maintains an enviable reputation, but must also ensure that we do not over-regulate the sector out of existence.”
Barbados, she said, was successfully differentiating itself by the quality of business it attracted and the level of due diligence which it conducted and the care taken in selection of companies doing business here. “We still, however, suffer from ‘the policemen mentality’ which pervades some international oversight entities that emphasize like the speeding cop, the number of people exceeding the speed limit, so the policemen who is on the beat where few people are speeding is accused of not doing his duty. Barbados is such a beat,” she said.More on this story here.
NEW PHILIPPINES ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING LAW FINALLY SIGNED
President Arroyo Friday signed into law the amended Antimoney Laundering Act (AMLA), which she described as a necessary measure dictated by Philippine - and not foreign - interests. “What Congress has been able to achieve is a delicate balance between our legal, psychological, cultural and political biases on the one hand and the need to adopt and comply with the rules of the international world,” she said.More on this story here.
CHINESE BANKS MOVED SIGNIFICANT FUNDS THROUGH OFFSHORE BANKING CENTERS IN Q3 2002
But instead of funneling money into an offshore banking center, as the state-owned Bank of China did earlier in the year, the latest transfers involved bringing funds back into China, according to the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements. A spokeswoman for Bank of China, which has the country’s most extensive international network, including branches in offshore centers such as the Caymans and Panama, declined comment Monday.
Domestically, China’s banks are considered weak because of their high levels of bad loans. But the industry’s huge and rising deposit base - a total of $1.05 trillion last year, up 18% - has allowed China’s banks to emerge as sizable net creditors in the international financial system.More on this story here.
PRESIDENT OF NAURU DIES IN WASHINGTON, DC - TURMOIL AT HOME
Nauru’s President, Bernard Dowiyogo, died in hospital in Washington of heart failure, after doctors at the George Washington University Hospital performed emergency surgery over the weekend but were unable to save him. President Dowiyogo collapsed whilst in Washington for talks with the Bush administration about closing down Nauru’s offshore banking operation
The late president leaves behind a parliament that has not been operating properly since a constitutional crisis last January. Because there is no appointed speaker, the parliament will not even be able to pass a motion of condolence following his death.More on this story here and here.
OFFSHORE US CITIZENS TOLD NOT TO ACT LIKE AMERICANS
A US State Department travel advisory “cautions US citizens to avoid behaviour that could cause them to be singled out as obviously American. These include: the wearing of white socks and tennis shoes; complaining if asked to share a bathroom; threatening to sue over bad service, television reception, or weather.” [Yikes!]More on this story here.
US SEEKS TO UPDATE MEXICO, UK, AUSTRALIA TAX TREATIES
The Bush administration is asking for Senate approval of renegotiated bilateral tax treaties that would strengthen the US’ economic relationship with those countries. Such treaties generally aim to mesh the tax systems of the two countries to avoid disputes regarding the taxes owed to each.More on this story here.
WARREN BUFFET WORRIES ABOUT DERIVATIVES, SEES FEW VALUES IN STOCKS
In his [justly] famous annual report to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, he warns against derivatives, saying “We view them as time bombs, both for the parties that deal in them and the economic system”. He also notes that “Despite three years of falling prices, which have significantly improved the attractiveness of common stocks, we still find very few that even mildly interest us.” And that includes not adding to the positions of companies he already owns.More on this story here.
Alan Greenspan, on the other hand, says derivatives have accelerated globalization, raised living standards, and helped keep the United States from sinking into a deep recession. The use of derivatives - obligations derived from debt and equity securities, commodities and currencies - has “significantly improved the flexibility of economies” he said. That has helped keep the nation’s economy afloat as it struggles against the “extraordinary shocks”, of a “dramatic” decline in stock prices, a drop in capital investment, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, corporate governance scandals and now “geopolitical risks and a fairly sharp rise in energy prices”, he added.More on this story here.
IRS IS MONITORING YOU
Although you do not have much chance of being directly audited by the IRS this year, the agency is using more automated probes of your income-tax numbers. A March 3 report by the U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO), the Congressional watchdog agency, found that the IRS is becoming more aggressive in matching tax documents, math errors and non-filers instead of directly auditing taxpayers. The IRS is about eight times more likely to send you a letter questioning numbers than calling you in for a full audit.More on this story here.
Deadline for “Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative” is April 15 of this year. Although the project so far has focused on credit card users and abusive foreign trusts, such as those described by the IRS on its Web site, the voluntary compliance initiative applies to taxpayers with any type of offshore personal or business financial arrangement, whether in one of the designated tax haven countries or elsewhere.More on this story here.
U.S. GOVERNMENT FORFEITURE CONFISCATIONS FOR SALE ON THE WEB
Proceeds from the confiscated assets sales are improved compared with “an auction in Cincinnati, Ohio”.More on this story here.
FBI ARRESTS OVER 100 IN $500 MILLION PRIME BANK NOTE FRAUDS
FBI agents around the country executed arrest and search warrants targeting 100 individuals in a crackdown on high-yield investment frauds. The banking schemes allegedly defrauded Americans out of about $500 million. The operation involved investigations in FBI offices in Boston, Columbia (S.C.), Dallas, Denver, Houston, Jacksonville (Fla.), Kansas City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, New York, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Portland (Oregon), Salt Lake City, and Sacramento.
“Prime bank”, PBIF, or “High Yield”, schemes involve sale of fraudulent, often non-existent, investments, and “typically involve false claims of a secret market, being risk-free, having extremely high or guaranteed return rates, and containing formats purportedly approved and/or sanctioned by the Federal Reserve, the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, or other known international organizations,” the FBI said.More on this story here and here.
10 YEARS PRISON FOR CREATING THOUSANDS OF BOGUS OFFSHORE TRUSTS
A Mission Viejo, California, man faces up to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to creating thousands of abusive trusts that authorities said helped hundreds of people hide their income and assets from the IRS. Edward J. Lashlee admitted creating trusts that enabled his clients to evade reporting taxable income, as well as providing them with offshore bank accounts.More on this story here.
BANK FRAUD RISK FROM ID THEFT, UK STYLE
Scammers have long used discarded credit card information - receipts, junk mail card offers and so on - to steal from cardholders or to help in other kinds of identity theft-related crime. But according to the International Chamber of Commerce’s Commercial Crime Bureau, similar techniques have made millions for con artists who know how to manipulate the way banks work.
In one case, a forged letter to a customer from their bank - on a forged letterhead - asked for personal details which it claimed the bank was required by law to reconfirm for tax purposes. The next move was an attempt to use the information to transfer £86,700, a scam stopped only because the bank phoned the customer to confirm the transaction.More on this story here.
NIGERIAN SCAM BAITING
In 2002, some 150 Britons were taken in by these fraudsters to the tune of £8.4 million. The US Secret Service estimates that Americans lose $100 million dollars a year to these scams. That is an awful lot of money and not very much sense. Now some are fighting back outside the law by tying the fraudsters up in pointless correspondence. This is known as “Nigerian Scam Baiting”. It has been dubbed the new Internet bloodsport.
Wannabe e-vigilantes set up email accounts under assumed names (it is very important not to use a traceable account) and use these to play the fraudsters along. They answer the invitation enthusiastically, send off false details and see how long they can keep the pretence up. They even forge receipts for money transfers and airline tickets to show the criminals that they are serious.
These email exchanges are like a game of tennis. The fraudster wants to conclude matters quickly. The art of the baiter is to stretch things out for as long as possible without arousing suspicion.More on this story here.
INSTITUTE OF GLOBAL PROSPERITY GUILTY PLEAS
The IRS and Justice Department scored a couple of court victories last week against the people behind the “Institute of Global Prosperity”, which hosted offshore seminars for promoters of abusive trusts and anti-tax schemes, the government said. Two of its former administrators pleaded guilty in federal court in Charleston, S.C., to using a foreign bank account to commit tax evasion.
Then a woman who the government said was a member of IGP pleaded guilty to tax evasion. She had purchased a foreign trust from an IGP trust promoter and opened two bank accounts using a false tax identification number, which she used to conceal the profit she earned from the sale of IGP products, the government charged. The defendant also failed to file a tax return for 1997, although she earned substantial taxable income for that year, the government said. The plea agreement requires the woman to cooperate fully with the government regarding her involvement and that of other people.More on this story here (scroll down the page to find item).
DEBATE ON SWISS ROLE IN WORLD WAR II BEING REOPENED
In May 1997, Stuart Eizenstat released a study on Nazi Germany’s use of looted gold. His foreword was taken by the Swiss to be an attack on them for having allegedly prolonged the Second World War. However, Eizenstat insists that this was a misinterpretation. While praising Switzerland for the lessons it has learned from its wartime role, Eizenstat also believes the country still has difficulty in coming to terms with its past.More on this story here.
RED ALERT FOR BILL OF RIGHTS! BUT PRESS LARGELY IGNORING PATRIOT ACT II
We may never know the name of the patriot who leaked John Ashcroft’s draft of a sequel to the USA Patriot Act to Charles Lewis, head of the Center for Public Integrity. Lewis put the 86 pages on his web site on February 7, and that night Bill Moyers interviewed Lewis on his PBS television program, Now. This broke the story of the most radical government plan in our history to remove from Americans their liberties under the Bill of Rights. Called the Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003, the legislation was most likely intended to be sprung on Congress and the rest of us once the war on Iraq began.
In addition to the judiciary and Congress, the other check the Framers relied on to stop uncontrolled government power was what used to be called the “Fourth Estate”. That is why the First Amendment specifies that “Congress shall make no law ... abridging the ... freedom ... of the press.” But most of the media treated this unprecedented revision of the Constitution as a one- or two-day story, and there was scant mention of it on television. An ACLU analysis notes that this bill, if signed into law by the eager president, would, among other consequences, “threaten public health by severely restricting access to crucial information about environmental health risks posed by facilities that use dangerous chemicals.” Have you seen that anywhere in the media?
For those who remember the stunningly illegal orders given to government officials by Richard Nixon, USA Patriot Act II will “shelter federal agents engaged in illegal surveillance - without a court order - from criminal prosecution if they are following orders of High Executive Branch officials.” Trust the White House!More on this story here.
Index of the Village Voice’s coverage of the attack on civil liberties in post-September 11 America here.
WHO ME?? ASHCROFT INSISTS CIVIL LIBERTIES UPHELD
Attorney General John Ashcroft told a House committee the Justice Department, in its pursuit of terrorists since the September 11 attacks, had not violated civil liberties and remained intent on “protecting and nourishing an environment of freedom.” “The only thing worth securing, if we are seeking security, is securing freedom. And we must not abandon freedom in the pursuit of security,” he said.More on this story here.
WALL ST. SPENDING HUNDREDS OF $MILLIONS ON SPY SOFTWARE
In a report to be released this week, Robert Iati, research director at TowerGroup, a technology research firm, estimates that brokerages will spend nearly $700 million through 2005 to comply with the Patriot Act. About 60% of the technology expenditure for the Patriot Act will go for systems integration, in order to run anti-money-laundering applications smoothly, and new infrastructure, such as extra storage, according to the report.More on this story here.
PAYPAL SHUTS OFF WHATREALLYHAPPENED.COM
From the dangers of challenging the powers-that-be department: WhatReallyHappened.com, which relies upon reader donations, has had some of its air supply cut off by eBay subsidiary PayPal. The news was delivered via a missive that reads in part: “We write to inform you that, after a review of your site, and in accordance with the User Agreement, your account has been closed.” WhatReallyHappened.com has recently taken a position against going to war with Iraq, and has pointedly questioned the official version(s) of “what really happened” on 9-11.
Part of WhatReallyHappened.com’s reply read: “Now, as an experiment, type the words ‘PayPal’ and ‘Porno’ into any search engine. I used Google and got a list of hundreds of pornography web sites that PayPal does not seem to have any qualms about doing business with!”More on this story here.
US TREASURY ANNOUNCES NEW OFFICE FOR TERRORIST FINANCING AND FINANCIAL CRIMES
The United States Treasury Department today announced the formation of a new Executive Office for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes (EOTF/FC) reporting directly to the Deputy Secretary. The Office will work closely with other offices within the Treasury and throughout the U.S. government to identify, block, and dismantle sources of financial support for terror and other criminal activities, including money laundering. In addition, the team will work with international partners to expand the fight against terrorist financing and financial crimes in other nations. The Office will focus on reducing the risk that the domestic and international financial systems are being misused by criminals and terrorists.
“President Bush has reaffirmed that stopping the flow of money to terrorist groups is a top Treasury Department priority, and towards that end I am announcing today the formation of a new office dedicated to that charge,” stated Treasury Secretary John Snow.More on this story here.
Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) home page here.
US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page here.
CAYMAN ISLANDERS CALL FOR TRIAL OF MI6 AGENT
A former Scotland Yard detective-turned-MI6 agent, who is accused of wrecking a £15 million money-laundering trial in the Cayman Islands, thus sparking an ongoing political crisis in the British overseas territory, could face prosecution. The Caribbean island’s leader, McKeeva Bush, has demanded that Brian Gibbs, who vanished from his luxury Cayman home soon after the collapse of the trial and is said to be in hiding somewhere in London, be extradited back to the islands and stand trial for his actions.
Mr Gibbs, the lead investigator in the high-profile case against four managers of Euro Bank, resigned as the Cayman’s financial regulator two weeks ago after admitting he had shredded key evidence on instructions from a “controlling agent” of the British government. It emerged that while working as lead investigator on the case, he was also working for MI6.More on this story here.
David Ballantyne, the British-appointed Attorney-General of the Cayman Islands, has resigned amid lurid tales of wiretaps, MI6 agents and money-laundering worthy of a Graham Greene novel. It was alleged in documents obtained by The Times that Mr Ballantyne was aware of Mr Gibbs’s work and knew that “agents of the UK Government” were working covertly in Cayman.
Mr Ballantyne, who has denied wrongdoing in the case, is to leave the island for good on March 15 without the ceremony befitting the departure of a former British dignitary.More on this story here.
TOWARDS A GLOBAL TAX CARTEL
The true agenda of many advocates of greater financial information exchange has more to do with tax competition than criminal law enforcement or national security. The needs of law enforcement officials to combat serious crimes, prevent terrorism and protect national security are of the highest concern, but many OECD governments appear to be exploiting the political climate post-September 11 to promote information exchange policies that have more to do with limiting tax competition than enhancing international efforts to apprehend terrorists and criminals.
Well before the September 11 attacks, the OECD and the UN had launched major initiatives designed to abolish financial privacy and limit tax competition by blacklisting low-tax jurisdictions or so-called tax havens (the OECD Harmful Tax Competition project) and enabling the UN to share financial information among UN members through the proposed United Nations International Tax Organisation (UNITO). The OECD is worried that low tax countries attract too much capital from high tax countries, primarily the welfare states of the European Union.More on this story here.
The Heritage Foundation’s Dan Mitchell testifies on taxes and economic growth, inveighing against tax harmonization. Global information sharing - which really only flows one way: from the low-tax to high-tax nation - would create a tax cartel. This would be tragic since the last 20 years have demonstrated that tax competition is a liberalizing force in the world economy.Complete testimony here (PDF file).
Cato Institute Congressional Handbook on International Tax Competition here (PDF file).
UK INLAND REVENUE’S OFFSHORE DEAL SPARKS MASSIVE COMPENSATION CLAIM
The furor over the Inland Revenue’s property deal with Bermuda-based Mapeley Steps is unlikely to die down any time soon, according to an Independent report: “Mapeley believes that the information the Inland Revenue provided when the deal was struck was inaccurate and incomplete. The claim is to cover the extra work it is now expected to carry out. The property deal ... saw Mapeley buy the properties and lease them back to the Inland Revenue. On top of this, Mapeley agreed to manage the estate on a 20 year contract.”More on this story here and here.
CHANNEL ISLAND OF SARK TO BECOME ONLINE GAMBLING JURISDICTION
The island has already drawn up a gambling law, which received Royal assent (one of the preliminary stages for a new law) last month. But the island needs the specific consent of the UK government if it wants to introduce any kind of taxation. Committee member Jonathan Brannam said an amendment was needed to make sure the island would be able to benefit from e-gaming business.More on this story here.
SWISS MAY VOTE ON LIMITING IMMIGRATION
ZURICH: The rightist Swiss Democrats said they wanted to reduce the number of immigrants from countries outside the European Union by linking it to the number of people leaving Switzerland. The party said immigration from the Balkans, Africa, Asia and central and South America had increased four-fold in the past 20 years. A previous proposal to limit immigration was rejected at the ballot box more than two years ago.More on this story here.
Interested in making your residence in Switzerland? The overall cost of living and doing business in Switzerland compares very favourably with Germany, France, the Netherlands or the USA. What counts is what you get: State-of-the-art transport, communications, energy supplies and waste disposal systems cost no more in Switzerland than the price paid elsewhere for traffic congestion and environmental degradation.Promotional piece here.
OBITUARIES FOR NAURU PRESIDENT
President Bernard Dowiyogo, 57, died of heart failure in a Washington, DC hospital on March 9. Nauru is home to nearly 10,000 Micronesian people living on a single 21-sqare km island that has been scarred by a century of phosphate strip-mining. In 1995, when France resumed nuclear testing in the South Pacific, Dowiyogo gained headlines when he broke diplomatic ties with the European country. He sometimes spoke of his dream of restoring Nauru, now a bleak moonscape of sun-baked white coral.More on this story here and here.
IRS WARNS TAXPAYERS OF “DIRTY DOZEN” LIST OF COMMON SCAMS
This year’s “scam” list is topped by using “offshore banking” to avoid paying taxes, and identity theft. Last year, some taxpayers had their identity stolen and their tax refunds were wired to someone else’s bank account. Other un-tax and phony deduction or refund schemes are listed.More on this story here.
A US TAX PRIMER
The quick on what “Alternative minimum tax (AMT)”, “Class warefare”, “Consumption tax”, “Corporate welfare”, “Foreign sales corporation (FSC)”, “Gucci Gulch”, and other terms mean.More on this story here.
SCHOLARLY TOME “THE FUTURE OF AMERICAN TAXATION”
Essays commemorating the 30th anniversary of Tax Analysts’ Tax Notes.Full report here (PDF file).
EU PLAN TO COUNTER POTENTIAL BANKING CRISIS
FRANKFURT: The European Central Bank said on Monday that more than 20 EU central banks and financial regulators had agreed a set of rules for dealing with a potential banking crisis. The move, aimed at ensuring closer co-operation between national supervisory authorities, comes amid mounting investor concern over the health of Germany’s beleaguered banking sector.
Deutsche Bank analysts warned that, while talk of a serious systemic crisis was exaggerated, the pressures on German banks would mount as the economy was “likely to grow at a snail’s pace” for the third year running.More on this story here.
MEASURING LOST FREEDOM vs. SECURITY COSTS
In an unusual twist on cost-benefit analysis, an economic tool that conservatives have often used to attack environmental regulation, top advisers to President Bush want to weigh the benefits of tighter domestic security against the “costs” of lost privacy and freedom. In a notice published last month, the White House Office of Management and Budget asked experts from around the country for ideas on how to measure “indirect costs” like lost time, lost privacy and even lost liberty that might stem from tougher security regulations.
Jarring as it may seem to assign a price on privacy or liberty, the idea has attracted an unusual array of supporters, including Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate and former presidential candidate, who said the approach might expose wrong-headed security regulations. “As long as they”re going to deal with monetary evaluations, I told them they should start asking about the cost of destroying democracy,” said Mr. Nader. “If the value assigned to civil rights and privacy is zero, the natural thing to do is just wipe them out.”
Supporters and critics alike say the effort could open up a new battlefront on domestic security. The budget office has the power to challenge and sometimes to block regulations if they appear to fail the cost-benefit test.More on this story here.
CATO ON “PRESERVING OUR LIBERTIES WHILE FIGHTING TERRORISM”
Government officials typically respond to terrorist attacks by proposing and enacting “antiterrorism” legislation. To assuage the wide-spread anxiety of the populace, policymakers make the dubious claim that they can prevent terrorism by curtailing the privacy and civil liberties of the people. The plain truth, however, is that it is only a matter of time before the next attack.
This cycle of terrorist attack followed by government curtailment of civil liberties must be broken - or our society will eventually lose the key attribute that has made it great: freedom. The American people can accept the reality that the president and Congress are simply not capable of preventing terrorist attacks from occurring. Policymakers should stop pretending otherwise and focus their attention on combating terrorism within the framework of a free society.More on this story here.
Full text of policy analysis here (PDF file).
WALL STREET JOURNAL ON US REP. RON PAUL
The libertarian congressman, whose writings are frequently linked to on these pages, gets deserved coverage.More on this story here (Subscribers only).
CANADIAN SURVEILLANCE PLAN KNOCKED
A proposed national security law allowing officials to eavesdrop on personal e-mail and cell phone conversations is an affront to civil liberties, a group of privacy advocates said. “George Orwell got it right, only we’re Big Brother. It’s very dangerous.”More on this story here.
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