Driving a Stake in the Heart of Bloodthirsty IRS Agents, Americans Living Abroad Renounce U.S. Citizenship in Record NumbersPosted: February 9, 2016
Uncle Sam’s Global Tax Police Crawl Over International Borders to Extract Tribute from U.S. Citizens.
The number of citizens and long-term residents cutting their official ties to Uncle Sam jumped more than 20% last year to 4,279, according to a CNNMoney analysis of the latest government data.
“Unlike most other countries, the U.S. taxes its citizens on all income, no matter where it’s earned or where they live.”
It’s a trend that’s been increasing in recent years. Many of those severing links are Americans living overseas who are tired of dealing with complicated tax paperwork, a headache that has worsened since new regulations came into effect.
“For Americans living abroad, that results in a mountain of paperwork so complex that they are often forced to seek professional help, forking out high fees for accountants and lawyers.”
Eighteen times as many Americans renounced their citizenship or long-term residency in 2015 compared with 2008. Last year was the third record-breaking year in a row.
“The burden has gotten heavier in recent years with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which became law in 2010.”
Unlike most other countries, the U.S. taxes its citizens on all income, no matter where it’s earned or where they live. For Americans living abroad, that results in a mountain of paperwork so complex that they are often forced to seek professional help, forking out high fees for accountants and lawyers.
The burden has gotten heavier in recent years with the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which became law in 2010.
It requires individuals to report certain foreign assets and banks to disclose all foreign accounts held by Americans. That comes on top of another rule that requires Americans to disclose foreign bank holdings above $10,000. Read the rest of this entry »
The Japanese archipelago sits atop the Pacific ‘Ring of fire’ and has more than 100 volcanoes. The 2014 eruption of Mount Ontake in central Japan killed 57 people.
Mount Sakurajima, a volcano that overlooks the city of Kagoshima, erupted Friday with a fiery blast that sent lava rolling down its slope.
“I jumped out of my house after I heard the news but I didn’t see anything or hear anything.”
— Yoko Noguchi, 75, who lives in the northwestern part of the Sakurajima island
Local television showed an orange burst out of the side of the volcano, near the summit, accompanied by lightning-like flashes. Dark gray smoke billowed into the sky.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
The Meteorological Agency banned entry to the area, expanding an existing no-go zone around the crater to a 2-kilometer radius.
Given the eruption, the weather agency upgraded the volcanic alert from level 2 to level 3, which prohibits people from entering the mountain. The agency warned areas near residential districts on the mountain’s foot could be gravely affected.
“I’m not scared because I’m used to it.”
— Toru Sakamoto, 56, who heard the blast at his home
Kazuhiro Ishihara, professor emeritus at Kyoto University and an volcano expert, was quoted by NHK as saying that the eruption was unlikely to have an immediate serious impact on nearby residential areas because the live video images appeared to show rocks flying only 2 km from the mountain’s top. Read the rest of this entry »
Stanley Lubman writes: A trio of recent repressive actions by the Chinese party-state represents a disturbing three-pronged attack that treats legality as an unnecessary burden on governance over society, and illustrates how far China is willing to go to snuff out dissent.
The actions include the arrest of seven lawyers accused of “subversion” and four others charged with lesser offenses; the televised “confession” of a China-based Swedish citizen who worked for a rights NGO and has been charged with “endangering state security;” and the disappearance of five Hong Kong booksellers and publishers One reemerged on CCTV to confess to a prior crime years earlier, and a second has written to his wife from Shenzhen to say that he has been “assisting in an investigation.”
Arrests for “subversion of state power”
The lawyers who have been arrested have all been in the forefront of defending controversial activists. Seven are accused of “subversion of state power,” an offense that has been on the books since 1997 but infrequently used. More commonly, activists such as Pu Zhiqiang have been convicted for the lesser charges of “inciting ethnic hatred” and “picking quarrels.” (Pu received a three-year sentence that was simultaneously suspended for the same length of time; however, because of his conviction, Pu is barred from practicing law.) Conviction for subversion can lead to a sentence of anywhere from three years to life in prison.
Three of the other lawyers were charged with the lesser offense of “inciting subversion against state power” which, according to a recent posting by Chinese Human Rights Defenders, is used against individuals who “express criticism of the government” and is punishable by a sentence of up to five years. One other person, a paralegal, has been charged with “assisting in destruction of evidence; other lawyers have been detained incommunicado or forcibly disappeared for at least six months.
The arrests raise the severity of the charges by aiming at speech related to “subversion” — rather than acts. Foreign experts are dismayed; Eva Pils (Kings College London) comments that the situation “is basically about as serious as it gets for human rights advocacy.”
The arrest of the human rights lawyers is a continuation of the crackdown that exploded in July, but the rise of the accusation of “subversion” raises the odds of harsher punishment.
Arrest and televised “confession” of Swedish citizen affiliated with a human rights NGO
A Swedish man in his 30s, Peter Dahlin, a co-founder of the Chinese Urgent Action Working Group (China Action) that organizes training programs for human rights defenders, was detained in early January, on a charge of “endangering state security.” On Wednesday, he was paraded on China Central Television and shown admitting to have broken Chinese laws, in a televised “confession” that has been denounced by rights advocates as coerced.
According to a statement from China Action, the NGO focuses on land law and administrative law and trains non-lawyers to provide pro-bono legal aid to victims of rights violations. Dahlin is in need of daily medication due to affliction by a rare disease; Chinese state media reports say he is receiving it, but no other information has been available. China’s Foreign Ministry says it is granting Swedish consular officials access to him, although no information has been available on his whereabouts. Read the rest of this entry »
Noting a marked shift in China’s behaviour around the islands since last December, a Japanese foreign ministry official said: “The situation in the East China Sea is getting worse.”
Tension over the group of five uninhabited islands and three barren rocks mounted in September 2012, when the Japanese government — which has administered the islands since 1895 — bought them from a private owner.
Japanese officials fear Beijing is using the shift in international attention towards the South China Sea — where China has been constructing artificial islands — to mount a new push in the waters further north.
Tokyo has formally protested the Chinese actions, which it calls a “forceful, coercive attempt to change the status quo”, but has so far avoided any escalation with countermeasures of its own.
In late December, China sailed an armed vessel into territorial waters around the disputed islands for the first time.
Sailing with three other Chinese vessels, a former naval frigate converted for coastguard use but carrying four quick-firing 37mm cannon, entered the 24 nautical mile “contiguous zone” around the islands for the first time on December 22, and the 12 nautical mile territorial waters on December 26. Read the rest of this entry »
Mitchell Blatt continues:
The Guojiang Subtitle Group, which is made up of about six dozen volunteers across China, subtitles American debates and uploads them to Chinese video sharing sites like Sina. But if the hope is that Chinese viewers would be more supportive of democracy after watching them, we are in for a disappointment. In fact, some Chinese viewers come away thinking democracy is a joke. “There isn’t that much discussion of policy issues. Many remarks are just sensational,” the New York Times quoted a former business consultant as saying. Other viewers compared it to watching a reality show or a sitcom.
To be fair, the Chinese aren’t alone in laughing at The Donald and other ridiculous characters in politics. A debate moderator accused Trump of running “a comic book version of presidential campaign, and FOX News host Bill O’Reilly opened a segment of his show by imagining what the GOP primary contenders would be like if they were stars of a reality television show. Joking about politics is an international pass time.
Even in China, with its limited scope of political discourse, social media users mock local government officials and joke about corruption. One popular joke holds that in America, rich people get involved in politics, while in China people involved in politics get rich.
Still, from the many conversations and experiences I’ve had during the four years I’ve been living in China, it seems as if the Chinese public views the flaws in democracy as the rule rather than the exception. Americans have our complaints—and rightfully so—about politicians, but at the end of the day, most of us believe in Winston Churchill’s famous remark, “Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
Politicians might say stupid things to appeal to the public, but isn’t that better than the public having no say at all? By contrast, Chinese people often look at countries with unstable or failing democratic systems and use those systems as examples of why democracy itself is flawed. Thailand (with its many coups), Libya, and Iraq are frequently cited examples in China in the past few years.
But the Chinese save their worst criticism and their favorite cautionary tales about the foibles of democracy for Taiwan…(read more)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her assessment of the poor state of the broadcast news industry in America. Saying,
“Viewership of Al Jazeera is going up in the United States because its real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners.”
“Earlier today, we lost contact with two small U.S. naval craft en route from Kuwait to Bahrain. We subsequently have been in communication with Iranian authorities, who have informed us of the safety and well-being of our personnel. We have received assurances the sailors will promptly be allowed to continue their journey.”
— Senior administration official
Two Navy boats are reportedly in Iranian custody, according to the Associated Press.
Iran has reportedly told the US that the crew will be returned “promptly.”
“Earlier today, we lost contact with two small U.S. naval craft en route from Kuwait to Bahrain,” a senior administration official said in a statement.
“We are working to resolve the situation such that any US personnel are returned to their normal deployment. We are hopeful it will be resolved.”
— White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes
“We subsequently have been in communication with Iranian authorities, who have informed us of the safety and well-being of our personnel. We have received assurances the sailors will promptly be allowed to continue their journey.” Read the rest of this entry »
GNARLY! Mexican Official Says Interview with Actor Sean Penn Led Forces to Drug Lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s LocationPosted: January 9, 2016
Guzman was arrested early Friday after a shootout in his home state of Culiacan that killed five and injured one marine.
Mexico Attorney General Arely Gomez said Friday that Guzman’s contact with actors and producers for a biopic helped gave law enforcement a new lead on tracking and capturing the world’s most notorious drug kingpin.
The official, who spoke Saturday on condition of anonymity, said it was the Penn interview that led authorities to Guzman in a rural part of Durango state in October. They aborted their raid at the time because he was with two women and child.
– Katherine Corcoran.
Source: Associated Press
‘We Caved’: How Barack Obama’s Idealistic Rhetoric Collided With the Cold Realities of War and Dictatorship in the Middle EastPosted: January 9, 2016
The persistent problem of how to deal with American-allied strongmen has long tripped up an inflexible president who boasts of his preference for ‘pragmatic solutions’ over moral purity but has been unable to find much of either in the Middle East.
Eight new American fighter jets, freshly delivered from Washington, swooped low over the city, F-16s flying in formation. As they banked hard over the city’s center, they trailed plumes of red, white and black smoke—the colors of the Egyptian flag.
“The rhetoric got way ahead of the policymaking. It … raised expectations that everything was going to change.”
— Michael Posner, who served as Obama’s top State Department official for human rights and democracy in his first term
For Egypt’s brutally repressive president, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the spectacle was a triumph, symbolizing not only his militaristic power at home, but also his victory over an American president who had tried to punish him before surrendering to the cold realities of geopolitics.
“He’s never quite melded his rhetoric with his policies.”
— Dennis Ross, who served as Obama’s top Middle East aide in his first term
Just two years earlier, Sisi had seized power in a military coup, toppling Mohamed Morsi, the democratically elected successor to Hosni Mubarak, himself a strongman of 30 years pushed out in early 2011 by mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. In the summer of 2013, Sisi followed his coup with a brutal crackdown that would have done Saddam Hussein proud. His security forces arrested thousands of people, including much of his political opposition, and in one bloody day that summer, they gunned down some 1,000 pro-Morsi protesters (or more) who were staging peaceful sit-ins. The massacre was shocking even by the standards of Egypt’s long-dismal human rights record.
“It seems like we are swinging back to the idea that we must make a choice between supporting dictators or being safe.”
— Robert Ford, who was Obama’s ambassador to Syria before resigning in frustration over the president’s policy there
Obama was appalled. “We can’t return to business as usual,” he declared after the slaughter. “We have to be very careful about being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think run contrary to our values and ideals.”
Several weeks later, Obama halted the planned delivery of U.S. military hardware to Cairo, including attack helicopters, Harpoon missiles and several F-16 fighter jets, as well as $260 million in cash transfers. He also cast doubt on the future of America’s $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt—a subsidy on which Cairo depends heavily, and much more than the United States sends to any country in the world aside from Israel.
But a fierce internal debate soon broke out over whether and how to sanction Egypt further, a fight that many officials told me was one of the most agonizing of the Obama administration’s seven years, as the president’s most powerful advisers spent months engaged in what one called “trench warfare” against each other. It was an excruciating test of how to balance American values with its cold-blooded security interests in an age of terrorism. Some of Obama’s top White House aides, including his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, and the celebrated human rights champion Samantha Power, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, urged the president to link further military aid to clear progress by Sisi on human rights and democracy. But Secretary of State John Kerry, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Hagel’s successor, Ash Carter, argued for restoring the aid. Trying to punish Sisi would have little effect on his behavior, they said, while alienating a bulwark against Islamic radicalism in an imploding Middle East. “Egypt was one of the most significant policy divides between the White House and the State Department and the Department of Defense,” says Matthew Spence, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy. Read the rest of this entry »
The billionaire founder of Metersbonwe, one of China’s best-known fashion brands, has gone missing, the latest in a series of Chinese business people and financiers apparently embroiled in the country’s anti-corruption campaign.
“The company said in a second statement on Thursday night that it was unable to reach Mr Zhou or the secretary of the board, Tu Ke. The statement gave no further details.”
Metersbonwe suspended trading in its shares on the Shenzhen stock exchange on Thursday while the company said it was investigating reports in the Chinese media that Zhou Chengjian, its chairman, had been picked up by police.
“Mr Zhou is the latest high-profile private sector businessman believed to have been caught up in probes, and his disappearance follows the detention last month of Guo Guangchang of the conglomerate Fosun, which owns Club Med.”
The company is a household name on the Chinese high street and Mr Zhou was China’s 65th-richest man last year, according to the Hurun Rich list, with a fortune of Rmb26.5bn ($4.01bn).
The company said in a second statement on Thursday night that it was unable to reach Mr Zhou or the secretary of the board, Tu Ke. The statement gave no further details.
Mr Zhou is the latest high-profile private sector businessman believed to have been caught up in probes, and his disappearance follows the detention last month of Guo Guangchang of the conglomerate Fosun, which owns Club Med. Read the rest of this entry »
Chinese stock exchanges closed early for the second time this week after the CSI 300 Index plunged more than 7 percent.
Trading of shares and index futures was halted by automatic circuit breakers from about 9:59 a.m. local time. Stocks fell after China’s central bank weakened the currency’s daily reference rate by the most since August.
“The yuan’s depreciation has exceeded investors’ expectations,” said Wang Zheng, Shanghai-based chief investment officer at Jingxi Investment Management Co. “Investors are getting spooked by the declines, which will spur capital outflows.”
Under the mechanism which became effective Monday, a move of 5 percent in the CSI 300 triggers…(read more)
Source: Bloomberg Business
Rick Moran writes: The new year has gotten off to quite a start. Shia Iran and the Sunni Arab states have broken relations and are beginning to sound a lot like belligerents ready to go to war. The Chinese stock market tanked by nearly 7% while the Dow bled 300 points to open the year. And with the Iowa caucuses 30 days away, we will soon be faced with the probable choice of electing a screeching liberal harridan or a screaming celebrity tycoon.
But beyond that, there are at least 10 reasons why the global outlook for 2016 is so bad, we will end up envying the ostrich. The Eurasia Group has issued its annual list of the political and geopolitical trends that threaten stability, and if only a couple of these trends end up materializing, we’re going to wish we never woke up on New Year’s Day.
1. The Hollow Alliance
The trans-Atlantic partnership has been the world’s most important alliance for nearly 70 years, but it’s now weaker, and less relevant, than at any point in decades. It no longer plays a decisive role in addressing any of Europe’s top priorities.
2. Closed Europe
In 2016, divisions in Europe will reach a critical point as a core conflict emerges between Open Europe and Closed Europe — and a combination of inequality, refugees, terrorism, and grassroots political pressures pose an unprecedented challenge to the principles on which the new Europe was founded.
3. The China Footprint
The recognition in 2016 that China is both the most important and most uncertain driver of a series of global outcomes will increasingly unnerve other international players who aren’t ready for it, don’t understand or agree with Chinese priorities, and won’t know how to respond to it.
4. ISIS and “Friends”
For 2016, this problem will prove unfixable, and Isil (and other terrorist organisations) will take advantage of that. The most vulnerable states will remain those with explicit reasons for Isil to target them (France, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the United States)…(read more)
Source: PJ Media