Tax haven banks agree to share account details with the IRS

Cayman Romney

The United States has signed agreements with the Cayman Islands and Costa Rica to help those countries’ banks comply with an anti-tax evasion law starting next year…

The deals are part of the US effort to enforce the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act…which was enacted in 2010 and is set to take effect in July 2014. FATCA requires foreign financial institutions to tell the US Internal Revenue Service about Americans’ offshore accounts worth more than $50,000. It was enacted after a Swiss banking scandal showed that 17,000 US taxpayers had hidden substantial fortunes overseas…

With these two deals, both signed this week, the Treasury has now finished 12 FATCA “intergovernmental agreements”…which help countries’ financial institutions comply with the law…

The trading of financial information, though not part of the Cayman Islands deal but included in many of the other 11 FATCA agreements, has rankled US banks. In April, the Texas Bankers Association and the Florida Bankers Association, both industry groups, filed a lawsuit attempting to block a Treasury Department rule that would allow the IRS to send certain bank account information to foreign governments.

Looks like Romney, his Republican peers in the billionaire boys club will have to put their sleazy tax accountants to work again – searching out places to hide their funds from any responsibility to pay taxes in the United States.

It’s always preferential to hide your money rather than run the risk of leaving it inside countries that may have favorable taxation plans for foreigners; but, still let the IRS know how much you have inside their borders. Or so I’ve been told. Never had enough money to worry about.

Chicago coppers investigating burglary, uh, lose their squad car!


A police squad car was reported missing this morning during a burglary call and turned up shortly afterward blocks away, police said.

About 4:15 a.m., police officers reported the squad car missing after a premises check in the 3500 block of South California Avenue in the Brighton Park neighborhood on the Southwest Side, Chicago Police Department News Affairs Officer Janel Sedevic said. The officers had been investigating after the activation of a burglar alarm in a building on the block.

Officers found the squad car abandoned shortly after, blocks from where the officers had left it, Sedevic said.

No suspects were in custody as of early this morning.

Yup. Every police department in the country lectures us about never leaving our keys in the car.

Not certain what sort of administrative hassles these coppers will be up for. Probably won’t match the embarrassment they feel.

Bishop disguised as homeless rejected by some in his own church

Religious transformation

A Mormon bishop in Utah said he received mixed reactions from churchgoers when he arrived for services disguised as a homeless man.

David Musselman, the bishop of the Taylorsville Fourth Ward, said friend and professional makeup artist Tara Starling helped him disguise himself as a homeless man so he could go unrecognized at his church Nov. 24…

Musselman said some churchgoers were compassionate toward the apparent homeless stranger, while others were less welcoming.

One congregant told him to leave church property, he said…”Many actually went out of their way to purposefully ignore me, and they wouldn’t even make eye contact,” he told the Deseret News.

I was impressed by the children. I could see in their eyes they wanted to do more,” Musselman said.

Musselman, who revealed his disguise to the congregation, said the stunt was aimed at promoting kindness and acceptance of others.

Judging a book by its cover seems to be a practice still in vogue.

Republicans whine about closing of embassy that doesn’t exist

Can you say “DUH” in unison?

A senior State Department official, responding to critics of plans to relocate the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican, said criticism is based on “a series or myths.”…The embassy will be moved to a larger U.S. compound in Rome that houses the embassy to Italy and the U.S. Mission to the U.N. offices, Politico reported.

The move is to be completed by 2015, and is expected to save more than $1.4 million and increase security, the official…said during a conference call with reporters.

News of the move touched off a flurry of criticism in right-wing media, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush joined in, saying in a Twitter post: “Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee created a petition this week asserting, “President Obama plans to close the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican…”

“I think there are a series of myths that are running around out there,” the State Department official said.

He said no country has an embassy in Vatican City, as critics of the move assert, and he said there is no truth to claims that the move will include “changing the residence of the Ambassador to the Holy See. I have seen that as well. The Ambassador’s residence is not part of this at all.”

“The third [myth] is that this represents a downsizing of our presence when this happens,” he said. “That is not true as well. Our diplomatic presence will remain one of the largest missions accredited to the Holy See, and that there is no reduction in our diplomatic staff in this process.”

He said all diplomatic embassies are located in Rome, not Vatican City.

American religious nutballs probably qualify for world leadership in paranoia and lies about being oppressed. Given the amount of energy they dedicate to shutting down civil liberties, civil rights and freedom for every minority they can think of – no doubt they hold the record for hypocrisy as well.

Is this the newest addition to the species known as Walmartian?

An Oklahoma woman shopping at a Walmart in Tulsa, Okla., last week saw something a lot more shocking than the store’s rolled back prices.

During a trip to the women’s restroom, Beth Davis says she discovered a naked man standing in the mirror masturbating with his pants at his ankles.

“There’s a naked man in the bathroom masturbating,” she shouted, leaving the restroom. She continued yelling for help, but the man emerged before anyone heard.

After he came out of the bathroom, Davis began filming him with her cell phone. He told her that he didn’t know it was the women’s bathroom, but that answer didn’t fly with Davis.

She followed the man, identified as 37-year-old Brian Hounslow, yelling, “Someone stop him!” and “Do not let him go out that door. Stop this man!”

Hounslow ran out of the store and escaped in his car, but not before someone was able to take down his license plate number. He was arrested at his home two hours later.

“Who gets up at 8:30 in the morning and decides they’re going to go to Walmart, take off all their clothes and masturbate in the women’s bathroom?” Davis said. “It’s pretty sick … How could you think you weren’t going to get caught?

There is a whole sub-group of crook, looney and inbred demento who wander their disturbed path through life confident in their invisibility, inviolable, untouchable.

Sometimes – if they stick to the fringes of society – no one ever notices. Sometimes – they wander out into traffic right in the middle of the freeway of life.

Something to think about while shopping for the holidaze.

Business Insider financial TV survey

The findings are in.

Over 2,600 people responded to Business Insider’s survey on financial TV, and question after question Bloomberg TV beat out CNBC and Fox Business News as the preferred channel among those polled.

It’s a fierce debate in financial circles. CNBC has consistently claimed the top spot, but Bloomberg TV isn’t tracked by Nielsen, the ratings pollster, so the true favorite among financial professionals and business news consumers has been unclear.

So Business Insider decided to ask its own readers.

Respondents answered questions about everything from their favorite anchors, to Maria Bartiromo’s recent move to Fox Business News. They gave their opinion on which network has the best tech coverage and their favorite morning show…

But there was one crucial question that sums up the entire network battle. Bloomberg TV and CNBC are in a dead heat over who has the best guests.

If Bloomberg TV edged ahead in that department, who knows what would happen.

Even when the same guests appear on both Bloomberg TV and CNBC there’s no question where I would be watching. The politics, sociology, economics understanding and just plain old-fashioned humanity that manages to thread through the market blather puts Bloomberg lightyears ahead of the let’s-pretend-to-tolerate-working-people ethos of the competition.

I got stuck into watching Bloomberg TV behind the dearth of real news reporting from the news-as-entertainment crowd that dominates American television. There’s a bit more than that involved; but, only a sidebar to the point of this Business Insider article. You have to understand that economics grounds everything.

CNBC is dominated by ethically shriveled reactionaries like Kudlow – who provided the acronym RINO to denigrate traditional Republicans with the rise of neocon schmucks like Cheney, Bush and Wolfowitz. Fox isn’t worth recognizing as anything more than a precursor to fascism. I removed both from my DirecTV Guide.

I’ve now added AlJazeera America and the new CCTVN. We have real global news sources back again. But, the article and discussion is about financial news channels – and the fact that Bloomberg does a decent job at the broader task is simply an added benefit.

Thanks to my favorite Recovering Republican for pointing out this article.

2009 pandemic of H1N1 flu killed 10 times more than estimated

The 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” epidemic killed up to 203,000 people across the globe — a death toll 10 times greater than initially estimated by the World Health Organization…

In a study published Tuesday in the journal Plos Medicine, epidemiologists used data on respiratory deaths in 20 nations to calculate a global mortality rate for the pandemic…

“This study confirms that the H1N1 virus killed many more people globally than originally believed,” read a statement from Lone Simonsen, a research professor in the Department of Global Health at George Washington University.

“We also found that the mortality burden of this pandemic fell most heavily on younger people and those living in certain parts of the Americas,” Simonsen said…

The relatively modest number of deaths estimated by the WHO prompted some to question whether the overall response to the 2009 outbreak was excessive. However, Simonsen and her colleagues argued that lab-confirmed influenza deaths would underestimate the broad reach of the illness.

“Many influenza-related deaths result from secondary bacterial infections or from exacerbation of preexisting chronic conditions, and are not recorded as related to influenza infection,” authors wrote…

The sampled nations represented 35% of the world’s population, and researchers then used statistical methods to calculate mortality rates for all nations.

The authors noted that their conclusions were limited by a lack of data from poor nations, and other factors.

“The true total mortality burden is likely to be even higher because deaths that occurred late in the winter of 2009-2010 and in later pandemic waves were missed in this analysis, and only pandemic influenza deaths that were recorded as respiratory deaths were included,” authors wrote.

Researchers said that if deaths due to cardiovascular disease and other causes were included, the death toll might be as high as 400,000.

There’s a shamefully large number of bureaucrats who would like to keep infection and death statistics from pandemics as low as possible. Their reasoning stretches from keeping public health budgets as low as possible to fears of discouraging tourism.

At the other end of the spectrum is the collective folly of libertarians who resent any suggestion of “public” health concerns and their cousins in the God-will-save-my-butt crowd. Same result.

Pic of the Day

Click to enlargeThe Palm Beach Post/Rachel Mummey

Though lots of folks make a big deal pro and con over Gray Thursday getting out in front of Black Friday for Shopmas goodies – I think the greatest motivation for retailers to bump their marketing ahead is that the whole shopping season is about a week shy of most years. They’re trying to make up for the short time producing a shortfall in projected sales.

Let’s hear it for a consumer-based economy, eh?

Pope Francis politely says trickle-down economics is a lie

Pope Francis condemned trickle-down economics and the world of inequality and exclusion it fosters in the first apostolic exhortation of his papacy:

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed.”

Many of the pontiff’s criticisms of trickle-down economics are true of the American experience. The policies that began with Ronald Reagan have not benefited middle and working class Americans, while deregulation spawned a reckless financial system that nearly destroyed the financial industry in a historic recession — a recession in which the most affluent have rebounded from far more easily than other Americans. Three decades of high-income tax cuts have proven equally ineffective. The Bush tax cuts aided the wealthy but did not reach the middle and lower classes as promised, resulting instead in “the worst wage and salary growth and total compensation growth of any postwar economic expansion.” In short, the wealth never trickled down…

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