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GOOD NEWS FOR ST. KITTS & NEVIS SECOND PASSPORT HOLDERS
Visa-free travel to and from the European Union approved.
The two principle economic citizenship/second passport programs available today are those of the Caribbean island nations of Dominica and St. Kitts & Nevis. We recently posted a piece on Dominica's program here. A rap against both programs has been that in order to travel to major destinations such as Europe a visa was required; the passport alone was not enough. Now for visits of less than 3 months to the EU (but not to EU country dependencies), holders of a St. Kitts/Nevis passport will be permitted to make the trip without a visa.
This is undoubtedly a major benefit. Short notice trips are now possible, a hassle for trips planned in advance is eliminated, and -- perhaps most significantly -- an implicit granting of legitimacy to the second passport program has been bestowed. As this promotional piece accurately states: The agreement to waiver visa requirements for stays of 3 months or less for St. Kitts & Nevis passport holders is a positive step towards freedom of choice and movement.
Comparing the cost of the Dominica and St. Kitts/Nevis programs: (1) The cost of the Dominica program is US$75,000 for an individual and US$100,000 for a family (applicant, spouse and two children under 18). (2) The equivalent numbers for St. Kitts & Nevis are US$200,000 and US$250,000. In Dominica the amount is an outright fee whereas with St. Kitts/Nevis it is an investment in the "Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation." Presumably this "investment" amounts to a de facto fee.
In the event that you may have been thinking of acquiring a second passport from the twin-island Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, now is the time to halt all thinking and make a decision. There is good news in store and it is worth taking advantage of.
By the end of March 2009, the European Commission expects member states to approve the abolition of short-term visa travel to St. Kitts and Nevis. Under this agreement holders of EU and St. Kitts and Nevis passports will be allowed to travel without visas to and from the EU and the Caribbean island and vice versa for stays of 3 months and less.
This stands to benefit both citizens of the EU and St. Kitts and Nevis as it provides for hassle-free and easy travel. It is noted that tourism in St. Kitts and Nevis is expected to reap great benefits from such an arrangement, especially as its economy has been offering a wonderful tourism product, peace, tranquility and beauty to its visitors.
Not only do St. Kitts and Nevis woo its visitors with its tranquil and wholesome island life, but the steady economic growth the island's economy has been undergoing for the past several years. The island is investor friendly and earns its revenue through tourism and international financial services, which are well reputed for meeting international technological and regulatory standards.
The visa-free agreements will include all classes of travelers, with the exception of business travel. As stated in the terms of the agreement, people holding a valid St. Kitts and Nevis passports, (diplomatic, official or regular or second passports) will be capable of traveling to any Schengen country visa-free for stays up to three months. Also, Schengen countries passport holders will be able to travel to St. Kitts and Nevis without a visa for the same period of time. However, while this agreement covers countries such as the Netherlands and France, their dependencies are not included.
Some of these dependencies are countries such as Martinique, French St. Martin, Aruba and Dutch Sint Maarten. Hence, the terms of the agreement covers a long list of countries including Austria, Belgium, The Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherland, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
This arrangement has been underway as early as November 2008, when it was signed on behalf of the Federation by its London-based High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, His Excellency Dr. James E. Williams, who signed the visa waiver agreement at the headquarters of the Directorate General, Justice Freedom and Security, based in Brussels.
As he expressed the EU's commitment to the agreement, EU Commissioner Vice-President Jacques Barrot said that “Sometimes Europe is unfairly named ‘Fortress Europe’.” He stated his pleasure in announcing, "The launch of the procedure to ratify agreement which will facilitate travel between the EU Member States" and the other signatories, and said, "This is great news for nationals of these countries and EU citizens who will soon be able to travel to thee countries without requiring short stay visa." Besides St. Kitts and Nevis, the other countries benefitting from this agreement are the Caribbean countries of Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, including Mauritius and Seychelles, located in the Indian Ocean. The agreement is expected to become effective in April 2009.
An important beneficiary of this agreement is the St. Kitts & Nevis Second Passport/Economic Citizenship Program, which has been in operation for several years and made its identity as one of the most reputable second passport programmes in the world, in addition to the second passport, economic citizenship programme conducted in Dominica, its neighboring Eastern Caribbean Island.
Thus, the holder and potential applicant to the St. Kitts & Nevis Second Passport/Economic Citizenship Program, this news will surely put a smile to your face as yet another benefit has been added to your second passport.
St Kitts & Nevis Second Passport Fees and Procedures.
The St. Kitts and Nevis Second Passport/Economic Citizenship Programme allows for obtaining St. Kitts and Nevis second passport/citizenship by either making a monetary investment in the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) or purchasing real estate that values at least $350,000 from an approved development.
The sum of money that may be invested in the SIDF can range anywhere between $200,000 to $400,000. However, a security fee of $3,500 and a processing fee of $250 for each applicant are required to be paid and are non-refundable. A spouse and child will be treated as an individual applicant.
Under the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation, an applicant making a cash investment is required to complete the C-1, C-2, C-3 and C-4 application forms, please email us and we will forward you these forms. This second passport procedure is standard for any child, children or spouse falling below the age of 18.
However, children above 18 and below 23 years of age and still attend school on a full time basis may be regarded as spouse's dependents and one application may be submitted on behalf of the family. But, children above 18 and 23 years of age and though still attending school on a full time basis may be subject to an extra sum.
The supporting documents required to be sent in along with the second passport application forms include the following:
Any document submitted in a language other than the English language must be submitted along with an authentic certified translation performed by a translator accredited to a court, government agency or international organization.
- Six (6) photos of each applicant (the photo requirements must be met)
- Original copies of certificate of birth (birth certificate) and or adoption papers where applicable.
- HIV test results for both spouse and children. The test results must not be over 3 months.
- Certified copies of passports and national identity cards in cases where applicable.
- Original police record or police certificate for each adult.
- Marriage certificate where applicable.
- Certified copy of military records where applicable.
Persons applying under the SIDF are required to fill out all the original application forms that will be made available to them by us as your agent for St. Kitts & Nevis Second Passport/Economic Citizenship. Once correctly and completely filled out, all the necessary documents must be sent to back to us and must be accompanied with a deposit of 50% of the legal fees payable that are to be paid to the registered agent.
This amount may vary from $10,000 to $20,000 and must be wired to your registered agent for your second passport. Once this transaction is complete, the application forms are ready for processing and filing and proof of transfer and deposit of funds must be made available to your agent.
The fee schedule for a SIDF Second Passport application are as follows:
A St Kitts & Nevis second passport application would typically take about three months to process and the Government of St. Kitts & Nevis will issue a letter of receipt in acknowledgement of receipt of the second passport application. Unsuccessful applicants are reimbursed the cash they would have paid for the program, after the necessary fee deductions for processing, legal and security fees have been made.
- USD 200, 000 for a single applicant;
- USD 250, 000 for applicant, spouse, and two children less than 18 years of age;
- USD 300,000 for applicant, spouse and four children less than 18 years of age;
- USD 400,000 for applicant, spouse and five children;
Upon receipt of a letter confirming the approval of a second passport application by the government, the registered agent will be issued the citizenship certificate on behalf of the client. At this point, the client is required to transfer the remaining legal fees to the agent who in turn will hand over the certificate.
Upon receiving the remaining fees the attorney will safely courier the certificate of citizenship and passport application forms via FedEx. Once the certificate of citizenship is received and the passport forms filled in and couriered to the attorney, the necessary steps will be taken for the issuance of St. Kitts & Nevis second passport to the new citizen. In some cases, applicants may choose to travel to the island if they are able to.
The present global economic crisis makes it clearly evident that there is need to secure oneself from several vices, whether financial, social or political, and getting a second passport is one of the ways of safely achieving this. The St. Kitts and Nevis Second Passport/Economic Citizenship Program is a gateway to exercising freedom of movement and enterprise which could soon be restricted by governments as they look for ways of curtailing globalization and reducing the adverse impacts of market expansion on their economies.
Though up to a certain degree, this may be relevant for regulating and controlling international market trends and practice, it should in no way undermine democracy and freedom of choice.
The agreement to waiver visa requirements for stays not exceeding three months for passport holders of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is undoubtedly a positive step towards ensuring that freedom of choice and movement, and an opportunity to explore the investment, vacation and retirement possibilities that are exist on the serene island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis via its Second Passport/Economic Citizenship Program.
LOW COST BEACHFRONT PROPERTY IN ECUADOR
We have not really considered or covered Ecuador among the many worthy expat destination candidates. This is undoubtedly due in part to the lack of a large expat community there, a fact which may appeal to some while discouraging others. Ecuador governments have also tended to have a Chavez-lite reputation -- a reputation that the author of this nice introductory article to the country claims is overblown. Since Ecuador is a 4 hour or less flight from Miami, it would seem to warrant a look ... as long as other criteria check out.
Real estate in Ecuador apparently sat out the bubble which infected most of the rest of the world, in large part because it is hard to get a mortgage on real estate there. No credit, no credit bubble. Moreover, beachfront property is relatively cheap there because the natives just do not value it the way most of the rest of the world does. Cultural values are indeed arbitrary to a great extent.
Bottom line: If you do not mind the lack of an active expat community, and the lack of golf courses (a plus rather than a minus to our minds), then Ecuador is should be brought onto the list.
Beachfront property in Ecuador can still be bought for less than $40,000. But at the risk of this sounding like a sales pitch, it is in limited supply.
Ecuador is an amazing, peaceful place with beautiful beaches, warm weather and really inexpensive beachfront bargains. With each passing year as global warming sets in, the hurricanes seem to be getting stronger. They are turning into destructive forces beyond human containment. This is why you should consider buying property out of hurricane paths.
Unlike the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Costa Rica, Ecuador is completely out of hurricane paths. Ecuador faces the Pacific Ocean sheltered from the hurricanes that hit Central America and the Caribbean. ...
So, if Ecuador is such a great place why are the prices so low? Ecuadorians do not value beach houses the same way that Americans and Europeans do. They like to go to the beach twice a year during school breaks, stay in nice hotels, party and then go home to their big cities.
It is a fact the locals do not have the money to push prices upward fast. On top of this, the lack of credit available for housing purchases in Ecuador is another reason why the real estate prices have not jumped in recent years. Financing your home with an Ecuadorian mortgage is possible, even for foreigners, but very expensive. With prices so low, most expats prefer to buy in cash.
The real price-pushers (we Americans) have focused on beachfront areas closer to home. But Ecuador is elusively close, only a few hours by air from Miami. Other places on the coast still lack basic infrastructure, especially for retired expats. For example, golf courses are almost non-existent.
Currently, the coast is dotted with Europeans who have bought in, with relatively few Americans. Some feel the lack of Americans has actually deterred other Americans from buying in. Generally speaking, Americans like to go where there is already a solid expat community whereas Europeans are actually drawn to places where there are few other Europeans.
Real estate prices in Ecuador have risen slowly since 2000. It is hard to tell exactly because there is no Multiple Listing Service, but some local real estate experts predict rises of 15% a year while others say prices have stayed about the same! It depends who you ask, expatriate or local. From my experience mainly working with local experts, prices have stayed about the same in recent years except for a few select areas.
No major leaps have been seen, as was seen in the U.S. in 2003-05. This almost dormant market may be attributed to the relative instability of the local economy. In 2000, the Ecuadorian currency plummeted in value, banks closed, people lost their savings, and the government switched to the American dollar as their currency. But the opportunity for rapid growth is there due to the limited supply. The Ecuadorian coast is not that big and large sections of it are uninhabitable due to national parks or swamps. ...
But why Ecuador?
The falling dollar is another big concern for Americans abroad. Luckily, in Ecuador they use the American dollar as their official currency, so we do not have to deal with exchange rates and currency risk. As the dollar falls, in Ecuador you will not feel the pinch. In addition, Ecuador has amazing growth potential, especially on the coast. As the prices of Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua soar, people will start to look elsewhere for their dream beach house.
Where is the natural next place to look? South America.
But let us take a quick look at the other beachfront options available in South America.
As soon as I crossed the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border, I could sense the misery in the air. The Peruvian coast from top to bottom is one big, undeveloped desert with trash blowing in the wind. Simple things like running water can be hard to come by. There are also major title issues that make it risky to buy in Peru.
Chile is beautiful, but not tropical. The prices are high, around U.S. levels as well. Argentina is not tropical either and is really far from home, as is Uruguay. Brazil is gorgeous, but is expensive now with the falling dollar. Colombia is a wonderful place to visit, but with rebels still in the countryside, why would you buy there? Especially, when you can rent so cheaply.
Your other South American beach front option is Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez is currently giving unoccupied property to homeless people, all the while promoting an anti-American rhetoric amongst his people.
Thus, leaving Ecuador as the first place you should consider in South America when looking for beachfront property. Ecuador is what Costa Rica was in the early ‘90s ... a little rough around the edges, but off the beaten track and beautiful.
Unlike Thailand and other Asian countries, in Ecuador you can easily own property in your own name and have all the rights that a local has. Foreign investment is not only welcome, it is encouraged.
The people of Ecuador love foreigners, and everyone who comes feels welcome. Of course there are some bad apples like everywhere, but it is common to be invited to someone's dinner table soon after meeting them.
Ecuadorian Spanish is some of the clearest, slowest spoken arguably in all of South America, making Ecuador a great place to learn Spanish as a second language. And English is becoming more widely spoken with each passing year. The weather is about the same all year around. On the beach, there is always a nice breeze off the ocean and the weather is pleasant, in the 80s, similar to Hawaii. On some parts of the coast the Ocean is as still as a lake, while in other parts the waves are big enough for some radical surfing. Whale watching is another popular activity during September and October.
On top of everything, Ecuador is still only a 3 1/2 to 4 hour flight from Miami. By air it is only about one hour from Panama.
Ecuador is a place of many faces. To a tourist, the place looks laid back and peaceful, but if you pick up the newspaper there is always something interesting going on. Just last year in 2007 Ecuador created a new "congress" because the people thought the existing one was too corrupt. In 2005 there was a coup that overthrew the president. Every few years the governments and constitution seem to change.
But all of this happens with relatively little affect on daily life, property rights or the real estate market. Especially as a tourist, you will not even realize anything is going on. The current president is a lively fellow, who supposedly sides with Chavez, but Ecuador is way too Americanized and capitalist to become anything close to another Venezuela. ...
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can foreigners legally buy and own property in Ecuador?
Yes, it is legal for foreigners to own property in their own name in Ecuador. You can enter Ecuador on a tourist visa, and even purchase a home with that same visa.
Do I need to apply for a visa before I get to Ecuador?
No, you do not need to solicit a tourist visa before you get to Ecuador. Upon arrival, you just show your passport and they stamp it, granting you from 60-90 days to stay in Ecuador as a tourist (the duration depends on the mood the official is in).
After purchase, how do I get a resident visa?
The process is very simple. Upon purchasing a home or land worth at least $25,000, you will be considered an investor in the country and after completing the necessary paperwork with a local attorney, you will be granted a "resident visa."
The exact requirements for a resident visa constantly vary, but not much more is needed than your passport, a medical exam and proof of purchase. Of course this process should be completed with a local attorney. In addition to your resident visa, other visas are available to you. A work visa can be had easily for around $150 and a local sponsor.
A student visa can be had with the enrollment paperwork provided to you by a University or language school. A "working transient" visa can be had with a local sponsor and acts like a work visa, but with fewer requirements. (I have used this visa. It is very easy to get.)
Lastly, something you will not read about in your guidebook, but which often happens, is overstaying your tourist visa. Ecuador is not very strict on it, and many foreigners do it. All you have to do is pay a fine upon exit of the country around $200. All other options should be considered before this one, however. It is always best and safest to stay legal. You can find local lawyers easily upon arrival or online on the PaginasAmarillas.com website.
How are the conditions of the roads?
On the southern coast from Salinas up to Olon there is a new, freshly paved road very pleasant for travel. The roads on the southern coast (south of Manta) are great. The roads on the northern coast from Manta northward are a work in progress. They are useable but not comfortable. Some areas are better than others, but new roads are currently being paved around the particularly problematic areas around Bahia de Caraguez.
How are Americans received?
In short, Americans are received very well. Many Ecuadorians have close family members in the U.S. working, and thus feel a close tie to the U.S. People have mixed feelings about the American government and president, but towards the people nothing but respect and acceptance.
Are there any prevalent tropical diseases?
No. There are no diseases that cannot be found in the US as well. No special shots or vaccinations are needed before coming to Ecuador. However, in the far eastern part of Ecuador the Amazon jungle begins. Before entering any jungle (including the one in Eastern Ecuador) you want to be sure you have your yellow fever vaccination and pills to protect you from Malaria. However, on the coast you will not need to take any special precautions.
What leisure activities are available on the coast and inland?
Within a tiny area about the size of Nevada, you have access to many different environments. On the coast, there are beaches great for surfing, while others are calmer making them great for swimming, sailing and ocean kayaking. Snorkeling and scuba diving are popular activities in a few select spots as well. Hand gliding is popular off the cliffs of Crucita. In Salinas and Manta you can observe whales up close from June through September.
Many hiking trails abound in the regions national parks. Further inland you will encounter the enormous Andes Mountains. Within these mountains are a wealth of rafting, climbing, biking and camping opportunities.
Further east you have the Amazon rainforest, where you can visit with indigenous communities, bird watch or flower gaze. The only sports that are not available in Ecuador as of yet are winter or snow related sports due to the climate. Another sport not widely available in Ecuador as of yet is golf.
How good is product availability?
There is plenty of "inventory" available as of June/July 2008. This could change at any time. Both houses and land are available, and at very inexpensive prices. If you are going to buy an existing house, be sure to thoroughly inspect it. Many Ecuadorians build their houses with less attention to detail than we command in the U.S.
As well, many Ecuadorians pack their houses full of people which could cause wear and tear, even on a newer house.sCheck specifically for uneven tile and cracks in the walls before purchasing
How is the basic standard of infrastructure, especially in terms of utilities like electricity, water, phone and gas?
Depends on where you are on the coast.
In the more developed areas of the coast, especially south of Manta, all services are available and all that needs to be done is call up the local service companies and have them connected to your property. Some people in remote areas of the northern coast around Esmeraldas have their own generators, just to be safe.
Many people on the coast have their own wells dug to help preserve the environment and save on water bills. To get these services installed in your house you will need to make a request for installation at the corresponding municipal office. If you are located somewhere along the existing network, installation is immediate, if not, a delay could be seen.
Is there an active expat community?
In short, not really. Ecuador is still an off-the-beaten-track destination that has attracted, at least to date, the kinds of people that want to get away from their home cultures and experience new ones. In many places of Ecuador, you could go days or weeks without seeing another foreigner. To give you an idea, many of the expats that are already down here are the kind that speak Spanish. However, expats in Ecuador are welcoming of other expats.
A few scams to avoid
You will notice that land and houses just one or two blocks up from the ocean can be had very cheaply, even less than the headline price stated in this article of $40,000. Do not just buy land and sit on it. In Ecuador, like most of Latin America, if the land is not in use, someone else could come "squat" on it, build, and claim it as their own. It does not matter if it is legal or not, it happens. If you buy land, start building on it immediately.
Try to be present when constructing your house if possible. If you are not around, you may have delays and cost overruns. The fact remains in Ecuador many construction workers will steal materials and slack off if you are not around to apply a little pressure and enforce the deadlines.
Where to buy and current prices
There are dozens of options, but here are a few to get you started. Your adventure in Ecuador will probably start in Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador on the southern tip of the southern coast. It is a loud, smoggy, typical port town with attitude in the mold of Naples, Italy. There is no beach nearby.
Salinas is a resort town on the southern coast that fills up during local vacations, but is empty the rest of the year.
A great place to start your search is around the small town of Ballenita. This is the area that local experts expect to see boom the soonest. The water is calm and clear, and the sun always seems to shine. It is not too hot either, due to the soothing winds blowing off the ocean. The beaches here will remind you of the beaches around southern California, golden sand with houses on small cliffs overlooking the sea. ...
One last word, the best deals are not on the internet! Come and see for yourself, the worst thing that can happen is that you will have a wonderful vacation but you might find the beachfront home of your dreams.
For more details of properties in Ecuador see Ecuador Real Estate website. [Site published by the article author.]
MEMORIES OF MONTSERRAT
The area not destroyed by the volcano is spectacular.
British Overseas Territory Montserrat, aka as "The Emerald Isle of the Caribbean," is tiny, with a population numbering under 5,000. This is obviously not a viable expat destination. It is known for its great beauty and is an attractive tourist destination. Montserrat is probably best known for two great natural disasters which befell the island.
In 1989 Hurricane Hugo damaging over 90% of Montserrat's structures, nearly wiping out the tourist trade. Within a few years the island had recovered considerably, and then an even greater disaster struck. In July 1995, the Soufriere Hills volcano, dormant throughout recorded history, began an eruption which eventually buried the island's capital, Plymouth, and rendered the southern half of the island uninhabitable. Pre-eruption population of about 13,000 fell by over half as many evacuees never returned. Recent activity has been largely confined to infrequent ventings of ash into the already-ravaged south, although it does occasionally extend into the populated northern and western parts of the island. The southern part of the island is currently off-limits to the population.
The author of this piece had planned to make a second home in Montserrat. For reasons unexplained this did not happen, but he longingly remembers the beauty he encountered during his visit.
It was by no special plan that we came to Montserrat. My wife and I had visited most of the major islands of the Caribbean, and had almost invariably found them satisfying. But Montserrat remained to be explored and so, encountering an appealing advertisement for a villa there, we arranged by phone for its rental, and flew to Antigua and (in those days, long ago) in a small private plane to Montserrat.
We arrived late in the day. It was dark by the time we had been deposited at our villa, and it was not until the following morning that we woke to see the utter splendor of the island we had so happily bumped into.
Then as now, Montserrat was an island that catered to North Americans seeking to establish winter homes. There was one small hotel, nicely situated in a district called Olde Towne, but most visitors came to stay in their own villas, or in a rented villa owned by some northerner not in residence at the time.
So it was with us. Many of these villas (we stayed in several of them over the years) are quite lovely: almost all have pools, and are very well equipped and cared for, and most, because of the topography of the island, offer splendid prospects of the mountains and the sea.
I am a hiker, and Montserrat was, and is still, an island perfect for beautiful walks, and for some demanding hikes. It is an island small enough that one can come to know it pretty well, as I did, traipsing down to and around all the beaches on the western, Caribbean side of the island, and most of the cliffs and beaches on the Atlantic east. But my favorite walks were always into the mountains, up to the waterfall on the White River, through the bamboo forest, along Fairy Walk, and up and down the many lush valleys.
Montserrat is high enough to get substantial rainfall in the interior, and the water flows to the coasts through the valleys, in streams called "ghauts" -- the word is of East Indian origin. ...
Well, one can -- and I did in days not long distant -- make one's way through the benign vegetation downward into one of the ghauts, and then follow the ghaut down to the sea. The way -- it is not really a path, but it is not difficult to follow -- will sometimes be entirely dry; even when flowing the water is never very deep. There are two ghauts on Montserrat of which I became particularly fond. One is called Bottomless Ghaut, the other, Runaway Ghaut.
Bottomless Ghaut runs down from the central hills to the northeast coast of the island; my introduction to it happened like this. A friend and I had set out from Davy Hill, in the north, walking southward along the central ridge. We came at last to an old, beautifully overgrown crater. We climbed down into it, and then up its eastern side. There we encountered a stream running eastward.
This stream had to flow to the ocean, of course, and we knew that we needed only to follow it to reach the sea -- from which point we could make our way back to our car parked up on Davy Hill. But there was some risk, because we did not know what we would encounter as we followed the stream eastward and down.
In fact, this became a most memorable walk. One that can be taken still, I believe, this terrain being beyond the northern edge of the volcano's impact. (The volcano, centered at the southern end of the island, has devastated forests in the south; but in the north, and many central portions of the island also, the beauty of the hills and shores is as grand as it ever was).
In fact, as we walked eastward along that stream, we were obliged to take some small leaps down rocky falls, which would have made return on that same path exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. But all came out very well. The stream entered and became part of a much larger flow of water, which (we later learned, and will never forget) is formally known as "Bottomless Ghaut."
Runaway Ghaut is on the west side, large and deep, running westward from the central hills of the island. In its higher reaches it flows through the jungle; lower down, as it nears the sea, it runs through the district knows as Olveston, a sweet and gently subdued region of the island in which there are now many superb villas. There is a natural fountain (where the ghaut crosses under the north-south road) at which one is encouraged to stop for a drink of the pure, cool mountain water.
It is said that one who drinks even only once from Runaway Ghaut is certain to return to Montserrat. My own return cannot prove the truth of that legend, of course -- but it does give it a tiny bit of inductive support.
Hiking down Runaway Ghaut is very safe but also exciting, because the vegetation (very well watered) is that of the rain forest, with many tropical trees of huge girth, their root systems a mass of buttresses and convolutions. And then, at the bottom, one comes to a tiny sand beach on the Caribbean, never having to share it with anyone else, of course.
On the cliff above Runaway Ghaut on its southern side, very near the sea, there was a piece of land whose purchase I once seriously considered. Before I could decide it was bought by a friendly English family, the Truman's, who built a superb villa there, with a spectacular view northward along the Caribbean coast. The patriarch of that family is now either very old, or deceased, and I do not know who now owns (or rents) that charming villa on Runaway Point Circle.
The next ghaut to the south (whose name, if it has one, I never learned) serves as the southern boundary of what is called Runaway Point (the land between the two ghauts), and it is on that point that I bought property of my own, quite close to the Truman villa.
This too was an adventure of a lifetime, of the following sort. When I first came to the island I had purchased two adjoining lots high on that hill overlooking the sea. I subscribe to the view, expressed with tongue in cheek by a colleague of mine here at the University of Michigan, that one should seek to acquire not too much in the way of land -- only the land adjacent to his own!
So I felt driven to acquire, as eventually I did but with even greater difficulty, the remaining two lots adjoining mine, on that hillside over the sea. The nameless ghaut next south from Runaway is the southern boundary of my property (now regrettably for sale), and it is down this stream that I walk, with never another soul in sight, to the very sweet little cove where it enters the Caribbean Sea.
Coves are one of the special beauties of Montserrat, as of many Caribbean islands. Beaches fall, in general, into one of two large classes: coves, which are in some fashion contained by the surrounding terrain, and open beaches, which may extend for miles. Both can be lovely, and individual preferences vary, of course. But for most of us, the water's edge, in one form or another offers an unending and almost mystical attraction.
Extended beaches are the signature blessing of some islands: Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman, the unlimited expanse of beach on Man o' War Cay, in the Bahamas (and Bimini and other Bahamian islands as well). In temperate lands -- for example, the beaches of southern Nova Scotia, and the long empty beach of the Otago Peninsula on the South Island of New Zealand -- extended beaches are common, and offer two well recognized advantages: they rarely get crowded (except in places like Miami Beach and Fire Island), and they invite the long, long beach walk, like that on the beach at Inch, on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland.
I am not a runner, but who cannot love a long beach walk? Some walks of that kind are really special. My favorite, if I must choose, is the long, long beach on Cayo Costa Island, just north of the Captivas on the Florida gulf coast. Cayo Costa is almost entirely a Florida State park, and the miles-long beach there, on the protected waters of the gulf, has also developed, about a hundred yards off shore, a miles-long barrier sand bar, showing above water at low tide.
There and southward from there through the Captiva Islands to Sanibel, the shelling is also quite wonderful. The shallow waters of the Gulf encourage the growth of mollusks of every description, and they accumulate especially on those long beaches where human passage and inspection is only occasional.
But for me, the ideal seashore is a cove, nestled within the arms of surrounding hills. That is the kind of beach found quite perfectly on Montserrat. As one moves northward up the Caribbean Coast from Lime Kiln Bay, a small cove just north of the volcano's "exclusion zone," one encounters one cove after another, some very small, some with water pouring into them from the mouth of a ghaut, some of moderate size -- and almost all largely empty most of the time. Three of these coves deserve special mention.
Most nearly perfect, and surely not to be missed is Woodlands Beach. Woodlands is a district in which there are many beautiful private villas, much like Olveston lying just to the south of it. The road to Woodlands Beach winds down from hills and finally reaches a black sand cove, not terribly small, whose symmetry and splendor is really quite remarkable. Local residents enjoy it also; evening gatherings on that beach are not rare. But the water is so perfectly clear there, the sand so fine and clean, the tropical vegetation that seems to hang above one as one swims -- all combine to make this nearly the ultimate in beaches of the cove variety. It is not the very most perfect -- I will get to that one shortly.
North of Woodlands a short way one comes to very sweet cove called Bunkum Bay, just under the village of St. Peters, then to a broad cove called Carr's Bay, and then to Little Bay, which was long the center of the local fish trade. One could buy the fish filets, or steaks, freshly cut right behind the beach, when the local boats came in. There was, however (and there probably is still) a danger in this.
The fish are caught in the waters just to the west, between Montserrat and the small, perfectly round, uninhabited island of Redonda, beautiful to see from the deck of a villa high up in Olveston or Woodlands. But (for reasons never fully explained to me) some the fish caught near Redonda are poisonous; it seems that they feed on some stuff that is truly dangerous to mammals. If there is serious doubt in the minds of those preparing the fish for market, bits of the fish will sometimes be given to other animals to determine, in the light of the outcome, whether that fish is fully safe.
But Little Bay has been much changed since the eruptions of the volcano, far to the south, in the late 1990s. Pyroclastic flows from the volcano eventually forced the evacuation of the southern portion of the island; the capital, Plymouth, had to be abandoned. Many southern residents left the island; others have moved north, to the fertile areas around Little Bay, where tenacious Montserratians are building, valiantly and very intelligently, a new infrastructure for the island, whose interim capital is the village of Brades.
And furthest north on the Caribbean side is a delightful cove called Rendezvous Bay, to which access was very difficult in the days before the eruption. I made my way, some years ago, to the top of the northern hills that surround Rendezvous Bay, and then climbed down what was at that time a very steep track, to a beach unusual in Montserrat because of its color: it is the only white sand beach on the island. Black sand is typical in these volcanic islands, and can be just as fine and every bit as lovely as the white.
White sand can be blinding in the bright sun, but it does not become as hot to one's bare feet. A plan to build a small boat marina at Rendezvous Bay has long been discussed. That will be very fitting because, with the loss of the port at Plymouth, protected anchorage for small boats has not been easy to come by in Montserrat.
On the Atlantic side the surf can be fearsome. But the waters on the Caribbean side of Montserrat, in those lovely, protected coves, are simply marvelous for swimming, for boating, for recreation of every sort. And the coves themselves are nothing less than idyllic.
Another cove beach deserves mention here, as I promised: the most perfect of them all. It is not on Montserrat, however, but on the island of Dominica, far to the south, between Guadalupe and Martinique.
I report it 10 I know that even on Dominica, very much larger than Montserrat, with a population about ten times that of Montserrat today, only a few are even aware of the existence of the small cove, on the southeastern (Atlantic) side of the island, called Bord la Mer.
One takes the road south from Rosalie, to the village of Riviere Cirque. (French names are common on Dominica because of the French occupation long ago; but the island is English (and Carib Indian) speaking. Some residents do retain familiarity with what is called the "patois," but that is not much admired). In Riviere Cirque one finds a winding track that can be driven about a mile downhill.
Then, after parking in a small field, one must walk (for about half an hour) on a narrow trail, with many switchbacks, down to the sea. And there, at Bord la Mer, is the cove that is perfection itself. Small but not tiny, it is wrapped by coconut palms on low hills; it enjoys some surf (depending on the winds of that day), and is blessed by sand sweetly fine and black as jet. A few giant boulders provide a shelter if wanted.
Through the beach there runs, near its southern limit, a mountain stream, fresh and cool as it meets the sea. Almost certainly you will be alone when you visit Bord la Mer. But you will be so entranced that you will wish that all your friends and family were at hand at that moment to share it with you.
The mysteries of Dominica are greater even than those of Montserrat. But there is no end to the mysteries of Montserrat, either; I will never have the opportunity to explore them all. Montserrat was and, in spite of the pains of the volcano still is, the queen (or, being small, the princess) of the Caribbean islands.
She is more beautiful than words can say, with residents so kind and so gracious that I would move there in a heartbeat -- if only I could move my university with me. The verdant land on which I had planned my second home remains spectacularly as it was; but I can only visit now, and bite my lip with longing and regret.
BARGAINS ALERT IN MEXICO
Current U.S. dollar strength leads to deals in Mexico.
The current strength in the USD is resulting in good deals in Mexico. According to this author the peso has fallen by a third vs. the USD since last summer but local prices have not adjusted, leaving things cheap in USD terms. "The savings were at every turn we took ... now is the time to enjoy Mexico at a 50% discount."
Recently someone asked me a question about if someone is buying a property in Mexico -- should they get a loan from a lender the states, in dollars, or should they get a pesos loan from a bank in Mexico. Good Question! If it was me I definitely would go to a bank in Mexico and get a pesos loan. Why? Well, right now the U.S. dollar buys 50% more pesos. The interest rate maybe a little higher, maybe 8-10%, versus 7-9% for dollar loan from U.S. lenders or brokers, but it is worth it in my studied opinion.
The other advantage is if people buying always use a broker to purchase the property and he is going to work very hard to get the loan and get the property closed -- that is how he makes his commission. Plus the broker is a local and will assist in getting it expedited -- again so they get paid sooner rather than later. This will save the buyer lots of e-mail and calls, but the biggest savings is that the bank will charge little or no points on the loan.
Below is a recent experience my wife and I just had in Mexico.
You can now buy anything in Mexico at 50% off. Sound too good to be true? I just did it. Here is how. In August of 2008 the peso was trading at 10 pesos to the dollar. Last weekend my wife Mary took me to Merida for my birthday. I walked across the street from our hotel and changed $500 US Dollars and got back 7,750 pesos. Last August I would have received just 5,000 pesos ... or 50% more in a six month period. What a deal!
Now you are probably all hearing or reading about the U.S. State Department travel advisory which says it is not safe to go to Mexico. This is really wrong news from what me and others can reports. The advisory should say do not go to the border towns along the U.S.-Mexico border. Yep -- fly right over Nogales, Cuidad Juarez and Tijuana. Head on down to central and south Mexico.
Two months ago Mary and I spent a week in Cozumel, Cancun and Playa Del Carmen. Clean, safe, inexpensive and beautiful are the words to describe that trip. I even caught some fish, a rarity for me.
On the recent trip to Merida we found the people very friendly and the city is gorgeous. Old colonials in downtown give way to contemporary homes in the suburbs and every place and thing is really clean. I now know why Susan Haskins and her husband Dan Presher, who have traveled the world, choose Merida to be their home. We found lots of very nice people along with a Costco, Sam's Club and just about anything else you could want. We rented a car and headed to the beach town of Progreso.
It was a really easy trip heading north out of town and on an 8-lane highway and about 30 minutes later you are looking at the gulf! Great roads, fabulous ride, no problemas.
While in Progreso we decided to look at some property (since the water was cold and the wind was blowing which ended any chance of me getting in some fishing). We met a broker who sells and rents property along what they call the Flamingo Coast.
We looked at several houses right on the beach with 3 to 4 bedrooms and 3 or 4 bathrooms, a pool, a/c, and really nice furniture. These rented for $500 to $900 a week or $2000 to $3000 for the month. In the months of July and August the same homes rent for $4,000 to $7,000 a week to the "elite" looking to escape the heat and hang at the beach.
This area reminded me of the New Jersey Shore. In Cabo, and several other places in Mexico, these same houses would run 5 to 10 times more money. I saw a really nice house on the beach in San Bruno which is just East of Pregeso. It was for sale at US$365,000 or 3,800,000 Pesos which actually equates to US$245,000 -- so this represents a savings of 30% or $120,000 if you pay in Pesos.
The savings were at every turn we took. At a restaurant we paid 450 pesos for two Margaritas and two really big ice teas, plus a platter for two featuring loads of grilled lobster, shrimp, squid, fish, salad and an assortment of local favorites that we had a hard time finishing. So the total was US$30.00 -- that same meal last August would have cost me $45.00, so again another 50% savings.
The Mexican Government is having to buy dollars to strengthen their currency. But I think that with the dollar being so strong against a lot of other currencies that now is the time to enjoy Mexico at a 50% discount.
And if you decide to buy check out some of the lenders like Bancocomer and Banconorte as well as some lenders in the U.S that will give you a loan in pesos there is no time like the present to check out these great deals.
Buy in pesos and get a peso loan and you will be way ahead, saving 30-50% do it this way. Make sure you get title insurance -- I recommend Stewart Title as they have offices all over Mexico. Now, mind you, this is my opinion and as with any major investment the purchaser should consult other financial and legal sources and professionals before making a decision. Always check out advise from any source and do not let just one author, or broker, be your sole source of information.
However, I just could not wait to pass on our great experience of the past few months in Mexico ... it is a great country full of great deals.
GREENLAND AGREEMENTS BY CARIBBEAN OFFSHORE CENTERS MOCK G20
Centers comply in form, but not substance, with requirements to get off of OECD’s “grey list.”
Offshore centers such as Bermuda are signing tax information exchange agreements with economic powerhouses like Greenland and the Faroe Islands in order to fulfill the OECD requirement that 12 such agreements be signed to get off the OECD's "grey list" of tax haven reprobates. This ploy is obviously not viable in the long-term. The OECD looters will revise their criteria in the next round. But it certainly is a source of amusement in the short-term.
Offshore centers are rushing to sign data exchange tax deals with small Nordic countries such as Greenland to be taken off a "grey" list of tax havens, making a mockery of a G20 bid to clamp down on evasion, campaigners said.
Earlier this month, the G20 summit named and shamed 40 or so countries, including major offshore centers Switzerland and Luxembourg, for not sharing bank data with foreign tax authorities. They need to sign 12 tax treaties if they want to be upgraded to the "white" section of the list, compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Since seven Nordic states have decided to negotiate tax treaties together, this is attracting scores of smallish offshore centers that wish to get off the hook. "The number of treaties of course plays a role. If you can seal seven in one go that is attractive," Per-Olav Gjesti, Deputy Director General at the Finance Ministry of Norway told Reuters.
Bermuda, for instance, said on Friday (April 17) it had signed tax information deals with the seven Nordic economies, including Greenland and the Faroe Islands. This brings Bermuda's total to 11 treaties and so one step from removal from the grey list.
"There is no meaningful financial or trade movement with jurisdictions such as Greenland and the Faroe Islands," said David Spencer, an attorney in New York who is a senior adviser to the Tax Justice Network.
The Cayman Islands, another well-known offshore center, signed treaties with the Nordic countries on April 1. The British Virgin Islands, popular among hedge funds, is lined up to clinch the Nordic tax deals in May and the Dutch Antilles and Aruba will follow suit in June, Gjesti said.
The British crown dependencies of Jersey and Guernsey and the Isle of Man all managed to sign a deal with the Nordic countries well before the G20 meeting and could therefore claim a place among the most tax-cooperative countries.
But Nordic countries have small populations and are known for strict tax policing, so these deals may not be significant in the global fight against tax evasion because they are unlikely to provide many customers for offshore centres, critics say.
Also, critics say the threshold of 12 treaties does not follow any logic and want pressure to continue on offshore centres even after they have obtained these agreements.
"By signing agreements with governments representing 0.43% of the world's population, Bermuda gets 66 percent of the way to international acceptability on tax," Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and a campaigner against tax evasion, said on his Tax Research blog. "Which shows just how badly wrong the OECD got its tax haven listing."
The seven Nordic countries are home to less than 30 million people against a world's population of nearly 7 billion. Scandinavian states apply a system of automatic reporting of any information that holds tax value, so 80% of their citizens do not even have to file a tax return, Gjesti said.
U.S. CHASE OF SOMALI PIRATE ASSETS FACES ROUGH SEAS
Fuzzy interface between Somalia and international economies a barrier.
The U.S. is finding it difficult to chase down and confisgate the assets of the Somali pirates. Why? Because once the ransom money hits the shores of Somalia the international financial police have little ability to track the funds, and no allies within Somalia who could grab the funds even it they were tracked.
The U.S. pledge to hunt down the fortunes Somali pirates amassed from capturing ships on the high seas may score political points but is unlikely to yield much bounty, experts say.
The millions of dollars that the pirates receive in ransom payments to release ships and their crews largely end up in Somalia, where lawlessness dominates and a fledgling government is trying to take hold.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week announced that the United States would go after the pirates' illicit gains, saying, "there are ways to crack down on companies that would do business with pirates." But experts say going after assets of Somali pirates is not the same as going after terrorists and drug traffickers.
"The model we have used to go after other transnational threats like terrorist financing does not necessarily apply easily in the context of piracy where you have a localized economy and industry in a safe haven," Juan Zarate, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said. "It is very unclear where that localized economy actually touches the international financial system either formally or informally," said Zarate, a former counterterrorism official at the White House National Security Council and Treasury.
The ability of the United States to affect illicit financing derives from its ability to have influence, but it does not have much reach into Somalia, he said. "It is very hard to imagine how we are going to find and freeze assets of local pirates."
Fairly simple questions are difficult to answer without help from local authorities -- how to determine whether a boat is bought for fishing or for piracy? Who on land in Somalia would enforce any seizures of assets?
Somalia has been without an effective central government since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991. The United States wants to help the new government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed stabilize the African country.
Combating Somali piracy took on a higher priority for the United States after the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama container ship was attacked and its American captain held hostage this month. The U.S. Navy rescued the captain and killed three of the pirates.
Urging clan leaders and the Somali business community to help restrain piracy may lead to greater success against the pirates, said Princeton Lyman, an Africa policy analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations.
"Somalia does a lot of business in spite of its anarchy and lack of government, and there are very prominent Somali businessmen, and I am sure they are directly or indirectly in touch with this whole business," he said. For example, Somalia is a large exporter of livestock to the Middle East.
Somali clans or business leaders might have an incentive to cooperate if they feared U.S. military action, he said. "There is some worry about what the West will do. They would be concerned about growing threats of military action, although I think military action on land in Somalia would be a disaster," said Lyman, a former U.S. ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria.
Piracy is big business in Somalia and becoming more organized, with bigger ships supporting smaller ships, experts said. But the foot soldiers still use relatively low-capital tools for the attacks: a skiff, AK-47 rifles, and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
Experts say one way to curb piracy would be to stop paying ransoms, but that becomes a difficult equation for ship owners weighing the threat to their crew and cargo.
"The real lever that we have to affect the funding of piracy is to drive an international campaign to stop the payment of ransoms," Zarate said. "You have to do this on the front end because once the money hits the shores of Somalia, I don't think at this point we have the ability or the levers to affect the pirates or their networks."
Peter Leeson, author of The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates, said going after the assets was in fact shifting the focus away from the criminals to the businesses.
"Notice we are shifting the blame from wealth destroyers, who are pirates, to wealth producers, which are legitimate firms that happen to sell stuff," said Leeson, an economics professor at George Mason University. "It's like the lazy man's solution," he said.
U.K. PROBE TO FOCUS ON TAX TRANSPARENCY OF CROWN DEPENDENCIES AND OVERSEAS TERRITORIES
A more “measured” examination of the offshore centers’ plight.
The U.K. government is examining its offshore center overseas dependencies and territories with regard to their degree of "international cooperation," i.e., how readily they turn over customer information, and other issues of financial stability and interdependence with the motherland. The offshore centers have already received favorable reviews from the IMF on "tax transparency."
Michael Foot [a former Bank of England director] says tax transparency, liability and financial supervision will be the central themes of his review of British offshore financial centers. In a progress report, Foot says his independent review will also examine crisis management at Britain's Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, particularly the tools they have in place to deal with the "consequences of the failure of a major firm."
Foot's brief is to explore the long-term opportunities and challenges facing Britain's offshore centres in the wake of the collapse of the Icelandic banks and other controversies.
Overseas Territories including the Cayman Islands and Gibraltar have come under fire recently from members of the G20, who are seeking to impose measures to crack down on cases of tax avoidance and evasion. However, as some commentators have pointed out, Foot's review appears a more "measured" examination of the offshore centers' plight.
The interim report summarizes initial discussions with the centres on topics including:
"Defining and understanding the implications of these mutual dependencies and any related contingent liabilities will be a key theme of my review," says Foot.
- Financial supervision and transparency
- Taxation in relation to financial stability, sustainability and future competitiveness
- Financial crisis management and resolution arrangements
- International cooperation
He praises the offshore centers' "willingness to match developing international standards," with regards to tax transparency and says the regulatory regimes have received favorable reviews from the IMF.
Foot says the next stage of the review will involve a wider consultation and is inviting contributions from interested parties.
He says the review will consider:
- The degree of interdependence between the financial centers and the UK
- The impact on the financial centers and on the UK if the prospects of some or all of them are adversely affected
- Whether the way in which the UK and the regulatory authorities in each financial center currently interrelate might be changed to the benefit of both parties
- He adds further details of when the review will be concluded and its framework will be available in due course.
GUNS, GOLD, SECESSION
The U.S.A. was born when it seceded from Great Britain. Yet the whole idea of any state seceding from the union has been tainted for almost a century and a half by the U.S. War Between the States ("Civil War") and its emotional association with slavery and destruction. People who suggested secession as a remedy against federal government overreach were (and still are) branded as racists as well as ranters who are unable to accept the fact that the South had lost -- as if brute force had truly resolved a principled dispute over the right to secede. Move along folks ... the federal government rules ... get over it ... nothing to see here.
But the rapid moves by the Obama adminstration, effectively piggybacking on the foundation laid by Bush II, to consolidate federal power and Sovietize the economy are finally stirring up some oppositional instincts. A remarkable 28 states have proposed or passed sovereignty legislation of some sort. One might ask where all these rebels have been the past 8 years, and whether this coalition against a fed takeover would evaporate if a Republican reacquired the presidency. Better late than never, we guess.
The Obama administration's obvious contempt for the individual right to bear arms appears to be the lightning rod issue that has most galvanized the states. As Karen De Coster expresses it below: "A society in which individuals cannot bear arms is a society doomed to eternal serfdom and oppression from self-serving overlords."
The other big issue -- again, awfully late in the day -- is that the corruption of the Federal Reserve is sufficiently wanton, and the Fed is seemingly so recklessly determined to destroy the U.S. dollar, that people are finally thinking about getting out while the getting is good. A couple of states have shown incipient inclinations to "secede" from the Federal Reserve dictatorship and instituting, e.g., a gold-based system.
Karen says that only a breakup of the out-of-control, despotic tyrant -- the U.S. government -- can restore freedom and keep us all from descending further into its grip. And secession is the means to that end.
There is a secession movement afoot and its proponents are determined to put a halt to the federal government's ambitions to destroy and reconstruct an entire economy and dissolve the last remnants of individual liberty. 28 states are invoking the law of the land, the U.S. Constitution, by rolling out legislation to assert their sovereignty as free states in order to keep from being undermined by the never-ending swarm of unrestrained federal decrees.
The speed with which the federal government intends to take over private institutions and usurp states' rights and individual autonomy is unprecedented. When the Bush-Obama regime maneuvers are compared to the Hoover-FDR New Deal era, it looks like today's hare vs. yesterday's turtle. The state's various propaganda arms, from big media to institutionalized special interest forces, are being empowered to publicize and sell the agenda of the totalitarian state by painting it in glossy colors that warm the hearts of unresisting Americans. There are, however, growing pockets of dissenters who conclude that life, liberty, property, and the futures of their children are more important than the trivial things that occupy the minds of the submissive class. For that reason, the state's militarized police force, which has been given unparalleled powers by the contrived crises following 9-11, has snowballed in size and is being fortified in expectation of confronting rebellion from those citizens who intend to resist the tyranny of an over-reaching Leviathan.
Since the Bush II regime took control and 9/11 became its launch pad for sweeping hegemony, the police state has moved more swiftly than ever to demonize resistance and criminalize dissent. The most recent example is the Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) report that profiled individuals according to their political convictions, especially those ideas that agitate against the institutionalization of unconstitutional acts that are intended to grow state power at the expense of individual liberties. Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr (!), guns & ammo, taxes, the Federal Reserve, secession, and resistance to universal government service or anti-privacy actions -- all of those topics have become keywords in the crusade to criminalize individuals who refuse to be rounded up like cattle and marched toward serfdom.
Two years ago, a similar thing happened in Alabama when its Homeland Security Department released a report pigeonholing freedom activists as "anti-government types" who "claim that the U.S. government is infringing on their individual rights, and/or that the government's policies are criminal and immoral." Such groups, the report said, "May hold that the current government is violating the basic principles laid out by the U.S. Constitution ..." Don't bother to look up that report, however, because LewRockwell.com blogger Chris Brunner's post on the Alabama report spread like wildfire around the Internet, resulting in that report being pulled from the website.
In addition, the MIAC report was quickly stifled by hordes of liberty activists, leading Chuck Baldwin to say, "the most effective way to fight an ever-encroaching federal leviathan is to focus on our individual states."
The struggle for sovereignty, though begun on the part of spontaneous individuals with leanings toward the radical principles of our nation's founding, has reached state legislatures across America in the form of sovereignty bills. According to the Christian Science Monitor, 28 states are now commencing resolutions as a reaction to the sudden and massive expansion of federal powers. Even the Republic of Lakotah is declaring its withdrawal from all treaties and agreements imposed on it by the U.S. government. The notion of state secession, once written off as a subject matter for political crackpots and eccentrics, has become a legitimate and practical solution for undoing the years of accumulated assaults on individual liberty that has come from the centralized state.
With revolutionary die-hards behind him, [South Carolina state rep] Mr. Pitts has fired a warning shot across the bow of the Washington establishment. As the writer of one of 28 state "sovereignty bills" -- one even calls for outright dissolution of the Union if Washington does not rein itself in -- Pitts is at the forefront of a states' rights revival, reasserting their say on everything from stem cell research to the Second Amendment.
... And although Pitts hails from Abbeville, the place where the South's first secession votes were cast, he insists that today's efforts to check federal power are not limited to regional pockets or even political affiliation. "The mainstream media would portray some of us as rednecks, whether we are from Pennsylvania, Oregon, or South Carolina," says Pitts. "But this is a wake-up call. And if Washington does not heed that wake-up call, revolution is on the horizon."
That is from a recent issue of the Christian Science Monitor. Walter Williams, a respected academic and popular, syndicated columnist, declared this in his most recent column:
Our Colonial ancestors petitioned and pleaded with King George III to get his boot off their necks. He ignored their pleas, and in 1776, they rightfully declared unilateral independence and went to war. Today it is the same story except Congress is the one usurping the rights of the people and the states, making King George's actions look mild in comparison. Our constitutional ignorance -- perhaps contempt, coupled with the fact that we have become a nation of wimps, sissies and supplicants -- has made us easy prey for Washington's tyrannical forces. But that might be changing a bit. There are rumblings of a long overdue re-emergence of Americans' characteristic spirit of rebellion.
Emory Professor and constitutional scholar Don Livingston notes, in his Secessionist Paper No. 19: What is Secession?, "talk about secession makes Americans nervous. For many it evokes images of the Civil War, and is emotionally (if not logically) tied to slavery, war, and anarchy. That the word "secession" is laden with these negative connotations should be surprising since America was born in an act of secession." He goes on to describe secession as an act that "does not seek to overthrow or alter the government of a modern state, but seeks merely to limit its jurisdiction over the seceding territory."
But still, the negative connotations of secession live on, even within some libertarian circles. Perhaps the most puzzling thing I keep hearing from some libertarians is that those of us who adhere to secessionist ideas are wacky outliers who offer no value "to the movement," and instead, we only throw up red flags that warn others to avoid us, and libertarianism as a whole. Thus we are led to believe that our founding fathers, the architects of rebellion and the champions of Jeffersonian principles, were reactionary wackos.
The anti-radical libertarians ask for practical solutions, with "practical" being the code word for something that is acceptable to the majority of the Oprahized masses. This kind of thought is known as "libertarian lite," or as I call it, "car wash libertarianism." The car wash libertarians persuade others -- especially those new to libertarianism -- to stay away from the radical, "crazy" stuff and hold true to the agenda of getting "our people" elected through legitimate political means. The car wash libertarians still have a voice in the modern LP, which is also known as GOP 2.0. These libertarians are in the game not for reasons of deep-rooted principles and love of liberty, but for the social, bonding aspects, with some mild libertarianism sprinkled on the side. They love attending their local meetings and dinners each month and discussing who is going to run for what local post, and when, and applying strategy. How fun it all is. City council or board of county commissioners? Now those are appointments that will have a significant impact upon an America that is quickly descending into a Communistic hellhole.
Truth is, the car wash libertarians will be the ones cowering in a corner the day they come for our guns (under a massive, federal gun control act) and our children (under federal, child "protective services" laws or a national service act). But they may have a post or two at some tiny township, with such important duties as arranging for an annual dinner at the VFW or setting up the car wash fundraiser to pay for new lamp posts along Main Street. The car wash libertarians tend to have scant knowledge of history, monetary policy, constitutional disputes, and the political philosophers who have, over the years, defended states' rights and the natural rights of the individual against the totalitarian, centralized state. In fact, they tend to shy away from the intellectual life because it is not as fun, or as social, as the monthly meetings and supper club invites.
In spite of the radicalism of many of the early LP'ers, in 30+ years the LP has made no advances whatsoever, except that a few of them hold feeble local offices where it is their brand of politics in charge as versus the other guy's rules. One guy's coercion in place of another guy's coercion offers us no progress whatsoever in terms of quelling the federal expansion that is speedily choking off life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The rapid-fire socialization of America, I hope, will have the effect of turning many of these libertarians toward more radical plans of action.
The Feds are engaged in a sweeping series of measures to take complete control of the financial system (which is forever destroyed) and selected business entities, ratchet up plans for perpetual war, socialize health care, further implant federalized education and criminalize homeschooling, grab guns and ammo, remove children from the homes of dissenters, commence race wars and class wars, force young adults into mandatory state service camps, send protesters to FEMA camps, and on and on and on.
At this point, none of this can be undone through time-consuming, political means. Rahm Emanuel, Eric Holder, and the other agents of Obama's unfreedom brigade were brought to Washington, D.C. for one very specific purpose: To centralize every last bit of property and life and put it all under federal rule, from money to education to personal behavior. Note the condescending and arrogant behavior of King Obama on the 60 Minutes television show as he laughed at the inability of majority opinion to do a damn thing to stop his freight train of power grabs and federal takeovers.
Perhaps the most significant move on the part of the Feds, outside of crushing the free market through rapid nationalization, is the move on the part of the centralizers to extinguish the single most important characteristic of a free society -- the right to bear arms. A society in which individuals cannot bear arms is a society doomed to eternal serfdom and oppression from self-serving overlords. Attorney General Eric Holder has long been an advocate of snuffing out gun rights, yet he got through the confirmation process with nothing more than a few feeble whimpers from helpless Republicans playing partisan games. Even worse is a recent occurrence that is perhaps unprecedented on the part of modern presidential administrations. Rahm Emanuel, in his capacity as Chief of Staff, is being utilized outside of his official role and is acting in the role of propagandist by lobbying for absolute and unconditional gun control. Emanuel, an Israeli citizen, is attempting to target gun owners by categorizing them in terms that will brand them as terrorists (the government's favorite buzz word) in the eyes of their fellow Americans. Yet there has been no challenge to Emanuel for stepping outside his role and becoming an official flag-bearer for the disarming of America.
Gun rights is one of the most visible issues causing states to retreat and claim the federal government has gone way beyond its limits. In Montana, elected officials have signed a resolution declaring that any ruling by the Federal government on the Second Amendment violates its statehood contract. In fact, Montanans are moving to add more lenient concealed weapons laws to what is already on the books. In Tennessee, state Senator Doug Jackson, a Democrat, has filed legislation that would ban the sale of micro-stamped firearms and ammunition. Such laws will mean a federal registry of gun owners, and Jackson calls this insanity "a preamble to gun confiscation."
The other prime mover spurring claims of sovereignty on the part of states is rejection of the Federal Reserve and its illiberal policies that enslave the citizens of states by locking them into its inflationary fiat money machinations and debases their currency. Legislators in some states, such as Georgia and Montana, have agitated in favor of throwing off the Federal Reserve in favor of instituting a sound money policy advocating the use of gold and silver as opposed to the Fed's legal tender notes. In Montana, Representative Bob Wagner introduced a sound money bill (HB 639), though it later died in committee along partisan lines. As times go on and the economic landscape becomes even gloomier, we are more likely to see many more of these kinds of initiatives on the part of state legislatures.
Gold, as such, is a tool for protection against the collapse of the dollar, which is why opponents of the Federal Reserve desire to buy it and hold it. Guns are the tools with which you defend yourself, not only from the local criminal who wants what you have, but even more so, they provide free men with the capability for physical resistance from a federal government whose expansion of powers and oppressive tactics are out of control. Think Rahm Emanuel and Eric Holder, and ask why it is that they champion an agenda that puts guns only into the hands of the government and its approved agents.
The only way to get this oppressive tyrant -- known as the federal government -- off our back is to break away from it and start anew. That 28 states are starting to fan the flames of rebellion by moving towards a sovereign itinerary is fairly remarkable. States and people must declare their sovereignty and remove the tentacles of the federal government's oppressive laws from their necks. Only a breakup of this monstrous and out-of-control, despotic giant can restore freedom and keep us all from descending further into the federal government's grip.
A NATION OF HELPLESS IDIOTS
Don’t Suspect a Friend, Report Him!
Most people have probably heard that constitutionalists, Ron Paul supporters, and the like have been tabbed as potential terrorists by some idiot Homeland Security apparatchik(s). (See, e.g., this posting.) Karen De Coster does some more dot-connecting and sees this as another instance in the relentless campaign to dumb down, install fear and ultimately tyrannize the masses. Sounds spot on to us.
As most of us know, Kansas City, Missouri is a haven for international and domestic terrorists. Pakistan and Afghanistan are small potatoes compared to this insurgency stomping ground. The kooks who tend to flourish in Missouri are young, law-abiding liberty-seekers who advocate Ron Paul's limited-government ideas, third-party proponents who supported Bob Barr's presidential bid, and constitutionalists who stand behind Chuck Baldwin's push to inform the masses of the menace posed by our unconstitutional government.
Recently, a Freeman in Missouri pointed out a website to me that he saw advertised on the local tube: PrepareMetro KC. The purpose of the website -- courtesy of the Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee -- is to convince the comfortably numb among the masses that they can "help detect and prevent terrorism." The website reports:
Terrorist operations begin with extensive planning. You can help prevent and detect terrorism -- and other types of crime -- by watching out for suspicious activities and reporting them to the proper authorities. Watch for the Seven Signs of Terrorism:
* Seeking Information
* Testing Security
* Acquiring Supplies
* Suspicious Behavior
* Trial Runs
* Getting into Position
The Metropolitan Emergency Managers Committee is kind enough to include a video version of "Identifying Terrorists for Dummies." In the video, actors play out the seven signs so you can learn what a terrorist looks like. Accordingly, "anything out of the ordinary" is deemed a "possible terrorist plot or threat," and it is stressed that such abnormal behavior must be seriously assessed and investigated. At 3:55 of the propaganda production, a jogger runs by a man on a park bench writing in his notepad. I looked for signs of grenades, big ole bombs 'neath the bench, or an assemblage of scary-looking darkies toting box cutters in the background, but no such thing is apparent. However, since spending time alone to write in a notepad outdoors is a highly suspicious, deviant, and subversive activity, the jogger, disturbed by the sinister notebook, stops to pull out her cell phone and call the police. She is being a good girl, executing the kind of response the chief fearmongers desire from a model citizen. This stuff is like chicken soup for the loyalist soul. We are all Soviet snitches now.
Whenever my father would see this sort of thing cropping up, on TV, in ads, or in the general attitude of the populace, he would remark, in a tone of repugnance, "We are a nation of helpless idiots." Thus I developed the ability to discern the sensible from the absurd while growing up.
The propagandists who dream up these lame security alerts circulate the idea that none of us are ever safe because there are terrorists everywhere, and thus we, the loyal citizenry, must be aptly trained so that we may detect the telltale signs of the guerrillas among us. And the perception that these propaganda campaigns attempt to implant is that our greatest threat is domestic terrorism. They may be our friends, neighbors, the plumber -- a lone guy on a park bench -- or the church member who insists on homeschooling his kids. Either way, we need to learn how to ferret out those seditious types and report them to the Proper Authorities.
Among my favorite disinformation campaigns are the interminable announcements that blare from the foghorns in government airport terminals. “REPORT ANY SUSPICIOUS PERSONS OR ACTIVITY ... REPORT ANY UNATTENDED BAGS ... REPORT ANY STARBUCKS CUP OR SLICE OF PIZZA CRUST LEFT UNATTENDED ...” Report, report, report. Tell, tell, tell.
So why airports? Since airplanes have become flying Greyhound buses, and airports have become ground zero for the dumbed-down lumpen proletariat, the listenership at airports is ripe for inane propaganda. In a place where people are herded like cattle and searched like criminals, it is not hard to break down their already unenlightened state and further melt their mindset toward a helpless condition. Similar to the military recipe for breaking down individuality, Homeland Security's TSA aims to break down any resistance they may face from any individual. Because you have to be somewhere and have little or no alternative to flying on a quasi-governmental Greyhound bus, and because you must pass Go before you collect your $200, you have no choice but to enter through the TSA's turnstiles of terror. At this point, people are intimidated and uncertain, which leads them to look for something that provides comfort. So the TSA goons ensure you they are working to help you, protect you, and keep you safe. They scare you, make small talk with you, and then pretend to secure you. So suddenly, people feel better and the feelings move from being intimidated to granting approval and thanks. The psychology of the process is quite simple and rather perverted, but it works on the majority of the herd.
The government's anti-terrorist propaganda seeks not to dumb down the populace, but to convince people that they are already dumb, helpless, and uninformed, and so its purpose to "pull them up" through its awareness campaigns that enlighten one from the level of boob to educated informant. Moving to such heights does wonders for the self-esteem of idiots.
As much as the state perpetuates this nonsense and the scaremongering in order to keep the masses in favor of its "protection" (thus paving the way for the funding and expansion of government), remember that whenever the government -- either federal, state, or local -- plants the ideas of "everywhere and always there are terrorists," there are willing citizens who voluntarily latch on to these ideas and take great pleasure in promoting and spreading that mentality. Behind the federalized Homeland Security operation there lies an abundance of state, county, and local autocrats who are more than happy to adopt and spread the message of fear and the necessity of state security. Their rewards are power, position, and monetary gain. On top of that, the majority of the masses who are being sold the security message are willingly -- and often enthusiastically -- buying the government's prescription.
The tyranny of the masses is, and has been, a significant apparatus for serving the government in its crusade toward a totalitarian agenda. As long as the majority of the people are so passive as to welcome the government's false sense of security, it will have an audience to which it can market its duplicitous spin. And when those same people accept the propaganda as meaningful and necessary, they grant it legitimacy and engender its growth.
This essay is dedicated to my father (1926-2008), whose powers of discernment and evaluation were second to none. My Dad, an inventor who refused to ever use the patent system, chose not to trademark his very original expression.
Panama Will Sell Local Stanford Affiliate, Regulator Says
Panama's government will sell off a local affiliate of Stanford Financial Group, the country's banking regulator said. Bids are due April 20 and the superintendent of banks will consider them over 60 days. Buyers will receive all of the bank's assets, the regulator said in an e-mailed statement ...
Stanford Bank (Panama) SA was taken over by the government on February 18 after fraud accusations by U.S. authorities prompted customers to withdraw funds. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission sued R. Allen Stanfordo associates and three affiliated companies on February 17, accusing them of "massive ongoing fraud" involving high-yield certificates of deposit.
Stanford, 59, has said he is innocent.
German Cabinet Backs Bill to Fight Tax Dodging
Guilty until proven innocent, if then.
An impending German law will give the government greater powers of oversight over any person or business who conducts transactions with tax havens. The burden on such parties would be to prove that "their businesses in tax haven countries are not a front for avoiding paying taxes in Germany." This sounds a lot like the IRS's "economic substance" litmus test on offshore (an onshore) setups, although who knows how the differences would play out in practice.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet has approved a draft law that would give the government additional powers to oversee companies and individuals that do business in tax havens.
The draft, which must still be approved by parliament, is part of a crackdown on tax dodging that was launched last year by Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck after German investigators uncovered evidence that wealthy Germans were secretly parking cash abroad.
The domestic measures are meant to complement an international drive to pressure countries like Switzerland and Liechtenstein to relax their rules on bank secrecy.
The draft law agreed ... after weeks of negotiations within Merkel's "grand coalition" of conservatives and Social Democrats (SPD) would force individuals making €500,000 or more to keep more detailed records on their income taxes for a longer period of time. It would also give the government the power to audit their tax records randomly, even when there was no suspicion of wrongdoing.
Sanctions could be imposed against individuals and companies who are unable to prove that their businesses in tax haven countries are not a front for avoiding paying taxes in Germany.
Members of Merkel's conservatives have voiced opposition to some of the measures in the draft law, including the €500,000 income threshold, and vowed to alter it when it goes before parliament in the coming months.
Caribbean Fish Have Declined Significantly Since 1995
30 years of steady coral loss in the region is taking its toll.
In the Caribbean, 80% of coral has died over the past three decades. Now the effects are showing up in the fish population, as the overall density of fish in the Caribbean thinned an average of 5% annually between 1996 and 2007. That is about a 40% cumulative decline in density. Certainly sobering numbers.
Fish in the Caribbean have declined significantly since 1995, suggesting that 30 years of steady coral loss in the region is taking its toll, new research shows.
The overall density of fish in the Caribbean thinned an average of 5% annually between 1996 and 2007, according to a study published in ... Current Biology. The findings are based on an analysis of 48 previous studies over half a century and included 273 fish species.
In addition the world's coral is dying at record rates because of pollution, disease and global warming. In the Caribbean, 80% of coral has died over the past three decades, at a rate of about 8% a year, says study co-author Michelle Paddack, a post-doc in biological sciences at Simon Fraser University in Canada. But the effect on fish there has only become apparent in the last dozen years.
"There might be a lag in the impact," Paddack tells ScientificAmerican.com. "It may be that when the corals first die, their structures are still intact and the fish can [still] use it as refuge and can eat on it." But, she says, if those corals are not replaced and are eroded by waves, sea urchins and sponges, their structure becomes less complex, reducing the number of places young fish can hide and find food.
Some fish are especially affected: herbivores such as parrot fish and surgeons, invertivores such as butterfly fish, and carnivores like grunt. Overfishing is responsible for some of the loss of species in the Caribbean, but "as their habitat is degrading, it is affecting all fish, whether they are fished or not," Paddack says.
Impact of Climate Change on Caribbean Fisheries Sector
Another study on the state of Caribbean fisheries, this one focused more on the economic impacts of the fish population declines and other developments which have come with the changing climate.
Climate change is starting to have serious negative effects on the fragile marine ecosystems that support Caribbean fishing industries, yet many fisheries management plans do not provide for these effects nor are fisher folk receiving the necessary information to help them adapt.
These are two of the concerns raised in a report recently released by the Marine Resource Governance in the Eastern Caribbean Project of the Center for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) at the University of the West Indies' Cave Hill campus.
The report stems from the Fishers Forum on "Climate change and small-scale fisheries in the Caribbean" that occurred at the 61st Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) Conference in Guadeloupe last November.
The report compiles perspectives on the impact of climate change on the livelihoods of fisher folk from presentations made at the Forum by CERMES senior lecturers Dr Patrick McConney and Dr Leonard Nurse; CERMES MSc student and Antiguan deputy chief fisheries officer, Philmore James; regional fisher folk leader Mitchell Lay; and veteran Barbadian fisher Anderson Kinch as well as other fisheries scientists, fishermen, and marine science experts gathered for the meeting.
The report points out that, while much attention has been paid to the devastating impact that climate change can have on coral reefs in the region, including the widespread "bleaching" death on reefs across the Caribbean in 2005 due to rising water temperatures, little research has been carried out into the potential impact of the phenomenon on the fishing, fish processing, trade and fisheries technical support services related to small-scale fisheries. Changes to migratory patterns of fish and bird species throughout the Caribbean region; the invasion of marine species previously unknown in regional waters; the increase in ciguatera poisoning of fish in the north-eastern Caribbean; and the impacts of sea level rise and warmer waters on fishing activity were all scenarios that participants raised during the forum.
This, stated the report, pointed to a need to place on the regional climate change agenda more demand-driven research regarding the phenomenon's effects on small-scale fisheries, especially given the uncertainty about the impacts on their livelihood from climate change and the possible responses fishers could take to mitigate its negative effects.
The document noted that these effects could include the destruction of fishers' homes and fishing grounds along coastal areas due to sea level rising, storm surges and the increased violence and frequency of hurricanes. It also said that small-scale fishers are also particularly vulnerable to these natural disasters due to a general lack of insurance and institutional support to help them recover in the aftermath of these extreme events. CERMES and partner organizations are planning more research and public outreach initiatives to address climate change impacts on fisheries.
Nuclear Technology Tracks Caribbean Pollution
Caused mainly by oil refineries.
The UN is studying coastal pollution in the Caribbean. Currently they are in the information gathering stage.
A UN agency is using nuclear material and technologies to study coastal pollution in a dozen Caribbean countries caused mainly by oil refineries, its officials said. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is focusing on marine pollution in this project because the sea is vital to the region, accounting for up to 60% of the GDP of some countries.
"We are using nuclear techniques to study and improve the environment," said Joan Albert Sanchez-Cabeza, who is responsible for radiometry at the IAEA's marine laboratories in Monaco. Sanchez-Cabeza said the IAEA is gauging the presence in Caribbean waters of heavy metals like lead, zinc and nickel, as well as pesticides and plaguicides, and studying how it has evolved over time.
Radioactive isotopes like lead 210, cesium 137, or carbon 14 are used to trace those changes in a given place "to see what measures have been taken and what has or has not worked," the Spanish scientist said.
He said they examine sediments because "they are like a book. ... Everything that humans do leaves an impression somewhere -- in lake beds, in the rings of trees, the ice sheets, among others." ... He said the project has already established levels of pollution in some areas for the first time, but it will be some months before there are overall results.
"These techniques are helpful to governments because they enable them to see where there have been improvements in terms of environmental pollution and where more needs to be done," said Misael Diaz, a Cuban researcher with the Center of Environmental Studies in Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Diaz is working on the IAEA's most advanced environmental study, in the Bay of Havana. "To draw conclusions, we need to compare current data with the historic use of this ecosystem," he said. Jane Gerardo-Abaya, who directs the IAEA program, said people sometimes worry when they hear radioactive materials are being used in the study, but she attributed that to a lack of public information.
"These techniques are valid, very useful and harmless because our mandate is to ensure the peaceful use of atomic energy," she said.
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