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herding cats

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Member since: Mon Nov 18, 2013, 03:56 PM
Number of posts: 15,870

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HSBC files show how Swiss bank helped clients dodge taxes and hide millions

HSBC’s Swiss banking arm helped wealthy customers dodge taxes and conceal millions of dollars of assets, doling out bundles of untraceable cash and advising clients on how to circumvent domestic tax authorities, according to a huge cache of leaked secret bank account files.


Although tax authorities around the world have had confidential access to the leaked files since 2010, the true nature of the Swiss bank’s misconduct has never been made public until now. Hollywood stars, shopkeepers, royalty and clothing merchants feature in the files along with the heirs to some of Europe’s biggest fortunes.

In one memo, an HSBC manager is recorded discussing how a London-based financier whom the bank codenamed “Painter”, and his partner, could cheat on Italian tax. “The risk for the couple is, of course, that when they return to Italy the UK tax authorities will pass on information on them to the Italian tax authorities. My own view on this was that … there clearly was a risk.”

According to the files, HSBC’s Swiss bankers were also prepared to help Emmanuel Shallop, who was subsequently convicted of dealing in “blood diamonds”, the illegal trade that fuelled war in Africa.

One memo records: “We have opened a company account for him based in Dubai … The client is currently being very careful because he is under pressure from the Belgian tax authorities who are investigating his activities in the field of diamond tax evasion.”


ICIJ Report: Banking Giant HSBC Sheltered Murky Cash Linked to Dictators and Arms Dealers

Team of journalists from 45 countries unearths secret bank accounts maintained for criminals, traffickers, tax dodgers, politicians and celebrities

Secret documents reveal that global banking giant HSBC profited from doing business with arms dealers who channeled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws.

The leaked files, based on the inner workings of HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm, relate to accounts holding more than $100 billion. They provide a rare glimpse inside the super-secret Swiss banking system — one the public has never seen before.

The documents, obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists via the French newspaper Le Monde, show the bank’s dealings with clients engaged in a spectrum of illegal behavior, especially in hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from tax authorities. They also show private records of famed soccer and tennis players, cyclists, rock stars, Hollywood actors, royalty, politicians, corporate executives and old-wealth families.

These disclosures shine a light on the intersection of international crime and legitimate business, and they dramatically expand what’s known about potentially illegal or unethical behavior in recent years at HSBC, one of the world’s largest banks.

Although we already know the basics, I think some will find these revelations interesting still.
Posted by herding cats | Sun Feb 8, 2015, 06:45 PM (1 replies)

Black and Latina women scientists sometimes mistaken for janitors

In a series of famous studies designed to gauge at what age stereotypes sink into young minds, elementary school students were asked to draw a scientist. Kindergarteners’ drawings in these Draw-a-Scientist tests were all over the map. But by second grade, one standard image had firmly taken root: A scientist wore a white lab coat and glasses. And he was always a white man.

So it should perhaps come as no surprise that a new report on women of color in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, found that 100 percent of the 60 scientists interviewed reported experiencing bias and discrimination.

So much so that African American and Latina scientists said they were routinely mistaken for janitors. “I always amuse my friends with my janitor stories,” one black woman scientist said. “But it has happened, not only at weird hours.”

More than three-fourths of the African American women scientists surveyed – 500 in an online survey in addition to the 60 in-depth interviews – reported having to provide evidence of their competence over and over again. They tend to feel they can’t afford to make a single mistake. And more than women of any other race or ethnicity, black women were more likely to report a sense of “bleak isolation.”

Posted by herding cats | Sat Feb 7, 2015, 10:24 PM (4 replies)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: I would overturn supreme court's Citizens United ruling

If Ruth Bader Ginsburg could overturn any of the decisions made by America’s highest court in the past 10 years, it would be the sweeping 2010 decision that expanded corporate personhood.

While answering questions at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, the supreme court justice said that if she had to pick one case to undo, it would be the Citizens United decision. “I think our system is being polluted by money,” Ginsburg said.

Ginsburg said she is optimistic that “sensible restrictions” on campaign financing will one day be in place, quoting her late husband Martin Ginsburg to explain why: “The true symbol of the United States is not the eagle, it’s the pendulum – when it swings too far in one direction, it will swing back.”

Georgetown Law dean William Treanor moderated the conversation, organized for the school’s graduating class.

Posted by herding cats | Wed Feb 4, 2015, 07:50 PM (2 replies)

Democrats block effort to derail immigration order

Source: USA Today

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats blocked passage Tuesday of a Homeland Security spending bill that would have derailed President Obama's order to protect about 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Senators voted 51-48 on a procedural motion to advance the bill. Republicans fell short of the 60 votes needed.

Unless a compromise on a new bill can be reached by the end of the month, funding for the Department of Homeland Security will expire and the agency will face a partial shutdown.

Read more: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2015/02/03/homeland-security-funding-immigration-executive-order/22796301/
Posted by herding cats | Tue Feb 3, 2015, 04:03 PM (2 replies)

Israeli Opposition Takes Aim at Netanyahu Over Planned Speech to Congress

Source: NYT

JERUSALEM — Michael B. Oren, who spent four years as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ambassador to Washington, has called on Mr. Netanyahu to cancel his speech to Congress about Iran. Amos Yadlin, a former military intelligence chief who frequently briefed the Israeli prime minister on security matters, denounced the event as “irresponsible.”

Both men criticized their former boss for politicizing a vital Israeli interest. Both also have their own political motives: Mr. Oren is running for Parliament with a new center-right party, and Mr. Yadlin is the defense-minister designee of the center-left party Zionist Camp.
Continue reading the main story
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If Mr. Netanyahu imagined that the speech, scheduled for two weeks before the March 17 elections in Israel, would bolster his status as statesman, the undiplomatic way it was arranged has instead given his challengers an opening to undermine his main campaign platform. The backlash, not only from the White House but also from Congressional Democrats, has reverberated in Israel, where maintaining bipartisan support in Congress is considered as crucial as preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.


As in America, conservatives like Mr. Netanyahu tend to have the advantage when election campaigns are about security, and so far his opponents have emphasized pocketbook issues and corruption. But political analysts say that international isolation is a prime public concern of Israelis, and that attacking Mr. Netanyahu for deteriorating relations with Washington, Israel’s main defender on the world stage, could be a winning message in a tightening race.

Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/28/world/middleeast/israeli-opposition-takes-aim-at-netanyahu-over-planned-speech-to-congress.html

House Border-Security Plan Postponed Amid Republican Discord

Source: Bloomberg

A U.S. House vote on border-security legislation is being postponed indefinitely as Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders try to quell opposition from some hard-line party members.

“We’re going to have to walk through all of this with our members,” Boehner of Ohio said during a news conference Tuesday. Though aides had blamed a decision to delay Wednesday’s scheduled vote on this week’s winter storm, Boehner confirmed the internal party discord over the bill.

Boehner also told party members during a closed-door meeting that House Republican leaders are preparing to sue President Barack Obama over his executive action on immigration, said a person in the room who sought anonymity to describe the private session. Obama in November eased deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants.

The delay on the border bill, H.R. 399, marks the second time this month that House Republican leaders have had to cancel a planned vote. Last week, they pulled back legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy because of objections that an exception for rape victims was too narrow.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2015-01-26/house-vote-on-u-s-border-security-plan-postponed-amid-storm.html

Newly elected Republican House admits 'stumbles' after second stalled vote

The Republican leadership has postponed a second vote on a high-profile piece of legislation, as it works to establish a clear message on key issues such as abortion and immigration leading up to the 2016 presidential election.

House leaders indefinitely postponed a vote on a border security bill, Secure Our Borders First Act (HR 399), which seeks to penalize the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) if it fails to stop all illegal border crossings in five years. The postponement came less than a week after leadership angered conservatives by delaying a vote on a controversial abortion bill at the last minute.
Republicans drop abortion vote after revolt by female House members
Read more

Asked about such splits at a news conference on Tuesday, the House speaker, John Boehner, said: “There have been a couple stumbles.”


Could The GOP Turn Social Security Into A Perennial 'Crisis' Like The Debt Limit?

My first thought was even Republicans can't be this stupid, then I realized they can. It helps with their narrative of SS being in a state of immediate crisis and fits their agenda of cuts and privatization for the program.

With a fight over Social Security brewing in the new Republican Congress, advocates are worried that a possible GOP angle is to turn Social Security into a perennial crisis in much the same way raising the debt limit has become. By setting up a series of forcing events, the argument goes, Republicans would be able to create an ongoing crisis atmosphere around Social Security that would create a pretext for dramatic changes to the 80-year-old program.

As TPM has documented, the House passed a rule on the first day of the new Congress that prohibited the routine transfer of tax revenue between Social Security's retirement and disability funds, the latter of which will stop being able to make full benefit payments starting in late 2016. The transfer, known as reallocation, has been done under Democratic and Republican administrations multiple times in the past, most recently in 1994, but the new House rule forbids it unless it is accompanied by measures that improve the overall solvency of Social Security.

House Republicans have been transparent about their intentions of using the new rule to force a debate on changes to the program, while advocates and Democrats warned that the rule could lead to benefit cuts. But there is another possibility: Republicans could pass a short-term reallocation that would set up another shortfall a few years down the road -- and one that could arrive under a new Republican president.

It would in theory turn Social Security reallocation into something akin to the debt ceiling of the last few years: A formerly routine accounting move that the GOP is now trying to use as a leverage point to advance conservative proposals. Advocates told TPM that it was a scenario they were taking seriously.

"Just as with the debt limit, Congress could require regular short-term action, keeping a climate of crisis and requiring new legislation frequently," Nancy Altman, co-director of Social Security Works, told TPM. Advocates are pushing for a clean reallocation, which is projected to keep both funds solvent until 2033.


Democrats rally around Obama amid furore over Netanyahu Congress visit

Source: The Guardian

The White House is growing more confident it can withstand efforts to frustrate its policy of nuclear talks with Iran, as a furore over the intervention of the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, appears to be encouraging wavering Democrats to rally around their president.

In the first White House press conference since the Republican House speaker, John Boehner, sparked controversy by inviting Netanyahu to speak before a joint session of Congress amid calls for a tougher approach to Iran, administration officials claimed there was support for their argument that planned legislation authorising new sanctions, if talks fail, would be counter-productive.


Earnest refused to speculate on a likely vote count, but sympathetic lobbyists in touch with Democratic congressmen claim the polarising impact of Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu is making it harder for Republicans to reach a veto-proof majority for the sanctions bill.

“This move by Netanyahu has definitely backfired in terms of Democrats,” said Dylan Williams, director of government affairs at J-Street, a Washington lobby group which describes itself as pro-Israel but supports a two-state peace process for a Palestinian state.

J-Street sent out a letter to its US supporters on Friday, urging them to warn their congressmen not to support the visit, which will fall just two weeks before elections in Israel.

“This invitation looks like a thinly veiled attempt to scuttle the critical negotiations taking place right now aimed at ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon,” said the letter. “Bibi and Obama disagree on how to deal with Iran, and that’s fair. But a foreign leader lobbying Congress is inappropriate.”

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jan/23/democrats-obama-boehner-netanyahu-congress-visit

Something smells about that 92 million Americans not working thing Cruz said tonight.

I just heard it and thought it sounded familiar, so I looked to see why. What I found was back in October of 2013 the claim was that 90 million Americans weren't working.

90 Million Americans Not Working
Another unfortunate milestone for the labor market. \\Maybe the Bureau of Labor Statistics should have skipped a month because the belated September jobs report it issued Tuesday after the government shutdown wasn't worth the wait.

Payrolls rose a humdrum 148,000 in September, the unemployment rate fell a tick to 7.2%, and wages were up slightly. But once again the number that stands out is the 136,000 Americans in September (following the 516,000 in August) who joined those "not in the labor force." The labor force participation rate stayed at its lowest level since the 1970s at 63.2%.

The U.S. now has 90.6 million "non-institutionalized" men and women over the age of 16 not working—an all-time high. That's 10 million above the 80.5 million when President Obama took office. With total employment at 144.3 million, for every three Americans over the age of 16 earning a paycheck there are two who aren't even looking for a job. That's an ugly portent for American prosperity.

Demographics is about half the explanation as about six million baby boomers have turned 65 since 2008. Another is that young people are staying in school longer. Both trends are reinforced by the bearish job market. Even among those in their prime working years between 25 and 64, the number not working has increased by about 1.8 million since 2008. That is on top of the 11.3 million who are officially unemployed.

Then I looked a couple of seconds more and found this:

Are 90 million Americans not working or not looking for work?

A reader recently asked us to check a claim that’s been widely repeated on conservative websites -- that 90 million Americans either aren’t working or aren’t looking for work. Over the past few months, the statistic has been cited by various conservative bloggers, pundits and news outlets.

We thought we’d take a closer look.

Here’s how the calculation is made, using Census Bureau population estimates and employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

The total U.S. population age 16 and over is at least 243 million. Subtracting the nearly 156 million Americans in the labor force in June 2013 -- that is, those who were either working or looking for work -- leaves 87 million Americans, which is close to 90 million.

However, the 90 million number is padded, since this number includes a lot of Americans who wouldn’t be expected to be working. Specifically:

• People age 16 to 17, who likely are in high school: 9 million

• People who are enrolled in either two- or four-year colleges: 21 million

• People age 65 and older, who have reached retirement age: 40 million people

That means 20 million people are of normal working age, not in college and not working. That’s less than one-quarter the amount repeatedly cited in the blogosphere.


So the number of people employed and the number joining the labor force have both increased since the end of the last recession -- but, importantly, these gains haven’t kept pace with the rise in population.

This decline actually started around 2000, but it intensified starting with the most recent recession.

"The trick is to determine how much of the drop represents the impact of a lagging economy, which is worrisome, and how much is due to non-worrisome factors, such as the aging of the adult population," Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution, told PolitiFact earlier this year.

As more adults begin moving into retirement age, the percentage of Americans who work is bound to decline. And that’s been happening in a big way as the baby boomers age. Burtless has determined that the two employment ratios would have fallen in recent years just on the basis of aging, even if there had been no recession. But the age-related decline has been worsened by high unemployment rates during the recession.


It appears this a regurgitated RW talking point which was debunked as "mostly false" more than a year ago. Just offering this up for those of you with conservative co-workers to deal with tomorrow. Better to have our facts in a row than be caught off guard.

Rumors Swirl: Obama To Kneecap The Koch Brothers With Citizens United Executive Order

It is being reported that one of President Obama’s surprises at the State Of The Union will be an announcement of an executive order that will take on the Koch Brothers and Citizens United.

Eleanor Clift of The Daily Beast reported:

Wednesday is the fifth anniversary of Citizens United, and reformers have been told that the president may announce executive action in his SOTU speech that would require businesses contracting with the government to disclose political contributions after contracts have been awarded. This would ensure that the contracting process is blind, but also give the public (and the media) the information needed to connect the dots to look for backroom deals or conflicts of interest.

Guess who happens to have multi-million dollar contracts with the Department of Defense? The federal government hating Koch Brothers have tens of millions of dollars in defense contracts with the federal government. Rush Limbaugh also has a federal government contract that allows his showto be broadcast on the American Forces Network.


I know it's just a rumor still at this point, but if it's true it would be amazing.
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