Politics and Legislation
Tax Bill Is Beginning of Formal Debt Criminalization
by Anthony Wile
The United States Congress is steadily headed to a place where those who owe money to the US government shall be treated criminally.
This phenomenon is advancing domestically and now, increasingly, internationally. The first shot in this latest campaign took place in 2010 when US President Barack Obama signed into law The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. It demanded, basically, that foreign banks withhold up to 30 percent of the income that an American abroad might earn.
This bill isn’t working so well because overseas banks are not cooperating (a state of affairs that was certainly expected). Thus, there is a need for something else: Senate Bill 1813, recently introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA). This bill, in part, states that taxpayers with unpaid taxes over US$50,000 may find their passports confiscated.
This isn’t criminal per se, but the IRS has recently made noises about “sharing” information with police authorities. The last time it was an institutionalized crime to owe money within the context of the Anglosphere was during the British industrial revolution when there were such things as debtors prisons. Those were eventually disbanded as it was seen as counterproductive (and even inhuman) to put a man in prison for a debt he could not pay.
But both in the US and in Europe, the concept of imprisoning an individual over debt is making a comeback. In the US it is especially clear. There are plenty of people, mostly men, who are behind bars for falling behind on their child support payments….
Obama administration diverts $500M to IRS to implement healthcare reform law
By Sam Baker
The Obama administration is quietly diverting roughly $500 million to the IRS to help implement the president’s healthcare law.
The money is only part of the IRS’s total implementation spending, and it is being provided outside the normal appropriations process. The tax agency is responsible for several key provisions of the new law, including the unpopular individual mandate.
Republican lawmakers have tried to cut off funding to implement the healthcare law, at least until after the Supreme Court decides whether to strike it down. That ruling is expected by June, and oral arguments last week indicated the justices might well overturn at least the individual mandate, if not the whole law.
Egypt’s former spy chief to run for president
By Agence France-Presse
Former spy chief Omar Suleiman, a pillar of the ousted regime, decided on Friday to run in next month’s presidential vote, in a surprise twist to a contest to elect Hosni Mubarak’s successor.
His change of mind came after hundreds of demonstrators gathered in a Cairo district to urge Suleiman, who served as Mubarak’s vice president before the strongman’s overthrow last year, to contest the poll.
“I was very moved by your strong stand,” Suleiman said in a statement carried by the state news agency MENA.
“The call you issued today was an order, and I am a soldier who has never in my life disobeyed an order … I cannot but reply to the call and join the race despite the obstacles and difficulties,” he said.
The former military man who took over as intelligence chief in 1991 vowed to “make every effort … to achieve the expected changes and complete the aims of the revolution, and live up to the hopes of the Egyptian people.”….
David Cameron defends secret courts and surveillance plans
Prime minister responds to criticisms from Nick Clegg and MPs, saying ‘keeping our country safe’ is paramount
Lizzy Davies and Nicholas Watt
David Cameron has defended plans to create a new generation of secret courts and to extend powers to monitor the public’s emails, phone calls and social media communications, saying the government needed to take every step to keep the country safe.
The prime minister had been asked about criticisms of the proposals leveled by his deputy, Nick Clegg, and the joint committee on human rights.
“On the issue of how we have a court system that can both protect people’s liberties and protect our national security, and on the issue of how we handle data both to protect people’s security but again to make sure we can pursue terrorists and stop terrorist acts taking place, these are difficult issues,” he said. “They are sensitive issues. They require government to have deep, long conversations and work through some very tough issues.”
Cable shows U.S. permission required for key Ugandan combat ops
Update (below): Publisher confirms cyber attack following Raw Story report
A U.S. State Department cable composed in Dec. 2009 sheds yet more light on the murky relationship between the Obama administration and the Ugandan government, pointing to an information sharing agreement that prohibits the Ugandan regime from engaging in certain combat operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) without U.S. permission.
Specifically, the cable states that Ugandan forces may not utilize U.S. intelligence to engage enemies without first consulting U.S. officials. That goes double if their engagement might happen outside “the law of armed conflict” — which is to say, Uganda must seek U.S. permission before committing to operations that could result in war crimes, or face the possibility of being cut off from U.S. support.
“The Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF) uses this intelligence in planning and conducting offensive operations, including both capture and lethal operations, against the LRA in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Southern Sudan, and the Central African Republic (CAR),” the cable explains. “Furthermore, Uganda understands the need to consult with the U.S. in advance if the UPDF intends to use U.S.-supplied intelligence to engage in operations not governed by the law of armed conflict. Uganda understands and acknowledges that misuse of this intelligence could cause the U.S. to end this intelligence sharing relationship.” [Emphasis added.]
The document sheds light on a relationship that played a key role in the arrest of Patrick Komakech, a former child soldier who joined with U.S. activists to raise awareness of LRA leader Joseph Kony’s evil deeds. Komakech and 10 others were taken into custody by Ugandan authorities in 2009 and accused of treason for allegedly attempting to raise an army that would fight and ultimately replace Kony as the central opposition movement against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
Komakech was on the run from Ugandan authorities until 2009, when the U.S. non-profit group Invisible Children tipped off authorities to his whereabouts, according to a U.S. State Dept. cable. He was promptly arrested and remains in custody with his alleged co-conspirators, many of whom have professed innocence.
Just a month prior to those arrests, U.S. forces at AFRICOM provided more than $1 million in material support to a Ugandan government strike aimed at crippling the LRA, in a fantastically bungled operation that scattered Kony’s forces and sparked a wave of massacres that left over 900 civilians dead….
Why High Inflation Is Inevitable
How this economic disaster ends is something about which many of us speculate. Two extreme endings are likely — a sudden deflationary collapse or a period of very high inflation/hyperinflation which ultimately cripples commerce and resolves itself in a deflationary collapse. In either case, the deflationary collapse is another Great Depression.
It is important to know which route will occur because of what will happen to asset values along the way. A move directly into a Great Depression will depress severely most asset values, especially common stocks, housing and other hard assets. Bonds, cash and fixed incomes may be beneficiaries in the sense that their purchasing power increases.
If the Great Depression is preceded by hyperinflation, just the opposite will happen, at least through the transition stage. Cash, fixed incomes and bonds will be devalued, perhaps even wiped out, if the hyperinflation is severe. Stocks, housing and other assets are likely to benefit until the Great Depression takes hold. Once the Great Depression period begins, the effects on assets will be as described in the paragraph above. However, those who believed they had adequate savings and retirement incomes may enter the Great Depression destitute…..
Inflation Is Coming The World’s Financial System Is Crumbling. Here’s The Worst-Case.
Last week, House Republicans passed their budget for Fiscal Year 2013 without a single Democrat vote.
This week, President Obama ripped the GOP budget as one that gives more breaks to the rich, burdens the poor and threatens everything from higher education to Medicare to accurate weather forecasts. Obama called the plan a Trojan horse and claims it would lead to “social Darwinism.”
Stock and bond markets rocked by fears of Italian and Spanish debt spirals
Global stock and bond markets suffered a rout as traders fled the renewed spectre of a eurozone default and fresh evidence of a global recession.
Italy’s leading MIB index plunged 5pc and Spain’s Ibex fell 3pc amid fears that the eurozone’s third and fourth biggest economies were in the grip of a deadly and uncontrollable spiral of debt and recession.
The borrowing costs of both “sinner states” soared. The yield on Italy’s benchmark 10-year bonds jumped to 5.7pc, heading into the danger zone that is considered unsustainably high. The equivalent Spanish debt climbed to 6pc. Meanwhile, the yield on safe-haven German bunds was pushed to an almost record low of 1.6pc. UK gilts benefited, too, dropping to 2pc.
The yields reflected a level of fear on the bond markets not seen since the fraught period before Christmas when traders bet that the eurozone could collapse.
France’s CAC index fell 3.1pc, Germay’s DAX dropped 2.5pc and in London more than £33bn was wiped off the value of Britain’s biggest companies as the FTSE 100 fell 2.2pc. In the US, the Dow fell 1.7pc – its worst day so far this year.
Traders returning from the long Easter weekend were initially reacting to poor Chinese trade data and gloomy comments about the recovery by Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve.
Wars and Rumors of War
North Korea threatens ‘merciless punishment’ as it readies rocket launch
North Korea has threatened retaliation and “merciless punishment” against any country that shoots down the long-range rocket it is preparing to launch this coming week.
By Danielle Demetriou in Tokyo
Japan and South Korea have put their armed forces on standby in response to North Korea’s plans, prepared to shoot down the missile if it passes over their territory.
North Korea was this weekend believed to be at the first stage of launching the rocket, expected between April 12 and 16, claiming that it is part of the centenary celebrations for the birth of the state’s founder Kim Il Sung……
Japan deploys missile defenses in Tokyo
By Agence France-Presse
Japan has deployed missile batteries in Tokyo and dispatched destroyers carrying interceptor missiles as it boosts its defenses against a planned North Korean rocket launch this month.
Pyongyang says it will launch a satellite for peaceful scientific research between April 12 and 16 to mark the 100th anniversary on April 15 of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-Sung.
But the United States and its allies say it is a disguised missile test and that the launch would contravene UN sanctions aimed at curbing North Korea’s missile program…..
Unmanned nanomaterial Piranha threatens to redefine naval warfare
You’ve heard of UAVs, unmanned remote controlled military aircraft; but what about USVs? Standing for Unmanned Surface Vehicle, a USV is quite simply an unmanned boat, like Zyvex Marine’s Piranha concept. We’ve looked at USVs before, and the Piranha specifically in early 2010; but what was then a prototype under development is now a fully-fledged production craft, having shipped its first unit last November. “Our production facility is closer to rocket science than traditional boat building,” says Zyvex Marine VP Byron Nutley of his boat – the only one in the world, it’s claimed, that is made out of nanomaterials. But does the Piranha have the technological bite to match the hyperbole, and what does this mean for naval warfare?
The finished Piranha hasn’t departed greatly from the prototype. It’s still made of Arovex, Zyvex’s proprietary “nano-enhanced” carbon fiber, a lightweight material that promised significant efficiency gains over boats made from fiberglass or aluminum. But with the production model built Zyvex has coughed up some numbers to support the claims. Most significant of these is that its 54-foot craft has demonstrated a fuel consumption of 12 U.S. gallons (45.4 liters) per hour at a cruising speed of 24 knots (44 km/h). This, Zyvex claims, constitutes a 75-percent fuel saving compared to a “traditional” boat consuming 50 U.S. gallons (189 liters) per hour, allowing ten times the range. That’s a claim almost as bold as it is hazy (what’s a traditional boat?), and in lieu of any precise figure on range, it’s worth repeating the claims made about the prototype: an 8,000-pound boat capable of carrying a 15,000-pound payload a distance of 2,500 miles (4,000 km)…..
CIA wins fight to keep MPs in dark on rendition
Court keeps UK role secret – as No 10 calls for police to question Labour ministers
American intelligence agencies including the CIA and the FBI have won a court ruling allowing them to withhold evidence from British MPs about suspected UK involvement in “extraordinary rendition” – the secret arrests and alleged torture of terror suspects.
A judge in Washington DC granted permission for key US intelligence bodies, including the highly sensitive National Security Agency, to exploit a loophole in US freedom of information legislation which bars the release of documentation to any body representing a foreign government.
Downing Street underlined the gravity of the torture claims yesterday when it urged police to interview former Labour ministers as part of an investigation into the alleged rendition and torture of a Libyan critic of Muammar Gaddafi. Jack Straw, who was Foreign Secretary at the time and is expected to be interviewed by detectives, denies any complicity in rendition – as have his successors at the Foreign Office. Whitehall officials have made clear that the intelligence services believe their operations “were in line with ministerially authorised government policy”.
The CIA’s court victory over British MPs came after the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition – which comprises about 50 backbench MPs and peers – submitted a slew of information requests to US intelligence agencies as part of its investigations into the extent of British complicity in rendition and torture. The US agencies were trying to avoid official embarrassment on both sides of the Atlantic by using a narrow legal exemption to prevent the disclosure of critical papers, said Tony Lloyd, a Labour MP and the vice-chairman of the group. He called the judgment “disappointing”…..
Articles of Interest
UK ‘exporting surveillance technology to repressive nations’
By Jamie Doward, The Observer
Fears that software similar to that which government wants to use in Britain is being sold to monitor dissidents abroad
Britain is exporting surveillance technology to countries run by repressive regimes, sparking fears it is being used to track political dissidents and activists.
The UK’s enthusiastic role in the burgeoning but unregulated surveillance market is becoming an urgent concern for human rights groups, who want the government to ensure that exports are regulated in a similar way to arms.
Much of the technology, which allows regimes to monitor internet traffic, mobile phone calls and text messages, is similar to that which the government has controversially signaled it wants to use in the UK…..
UK firms in secret talks on joining Burma gold rush
By Jerome Taylor Author Biography , Olivia Lee
British businesses are looking to invest once more in Burma, as Western multinationals prepare for a gold rush inside one of South-east Asia’s least developed – and potentially lucrative – economies.
JCB, Shell, HSBC and Standard Chartered are among the British firms said to be interested in Burma’s potential.
The Independent understands the Foreign Office has held meetings with some British companies that have expressed an interest in investing in Burma. Officially, UK Trade and Investment does not encourage British firms to do business in the country. But a number of key British businesses privately indicate they are considering investing in Burma if reforms are brought in and EU sanctions against the state are lifted.
TODAY: Alien invasion
What would we do if earth was invaded by aliens?
‘Operation Chimichanga’ Tests Pentagon’s Stealth Strike Force
The first sign of the coming U.S. air raid was when the enemy radar and air-defense missile sites began exploding. The strikers were Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighters, flying unseen and faster than the speed of sound, 50,000 feet over the battlefield. Having emptied their weapons bays of super-accurate, 250-pound Small Diameter Bombs, the Raptors turned to engage enemy jet fighters rising in defense of their battered allies on the ground.
That’s when all hell broke loose. As the Raptors smashed the enemy jets with Amraam and Sidewinder missiles, nimble Air Force F-16s swooped in to reinforce the F-22s, launching their own air-to-air missiles and firing guns to add to the aerial carnage.
With enemy defenses collapsing, B-1 bombers struck. Several of the 150-ton, swing-wing warplanes, having flown 10 hours from their base in South Dakota, launched radar-evading Jassm cruise missiles that slammed into ground targets, pulverizing them with their 2,000-pound warheads. Its weapons expended, the strike force streaked away. Behind it, the enemy’s planes and ground forces lay in smoking ruin.
The devastating air strike on April 4 involved real warplanes launching a mix of real and computer-simulated weapons at mock targets scattered across the U.S. military’s vast Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex near Fort Yukon, a tiny former fur trading post, population 583. “Operation Chimichanga,” as the exercise was reportedly designated, was the first-ever test of a new Air Force long-range strike team combining upgraded Lockheed Martin F-22s and Boeing B-1s carrying the latest air-launched munitions, along with old-school fighters, tankers and radar planes for support.
Officially, Operation Chimichanga was meant “to validate the long-range strike capability of the B-1s as well as the F-22s’ and F-16s’ ability to escort them into an anti-access target area,” according to Lt. Col. Joseph Kunkel, commander of the Alaska-based Raptor squadron with the latest “Increment 3.1″ upgrade.
Unofficially, the exercise was a proof-of-concept for the Air Force’s evolving tactics for battling China over the vast western Pacific. Of course, the Air Force would never say that. In fact, the flying branch has said very little about Operation Chimichanga, aside from an official news story containing few details. We know when and where the exercise took place, which planes were involved and, to a lesser extent, which munitions. The scenario described above is largely a recreation based on these known facts plus years of aerospace reporting and a general understanding of the Air Force’s methods and aims.
While the Alaska test apparently proved that the stealthy strike team can defeat determined enemy forces at long range, it also underscored America’s vulnerability against the fast-growing Chinese military. It takes the latest stealth fighters and upgraded bombers flying as a team to beat China, and thanks to developmental problems America has only so many of those airplanes to work with…..
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