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Swiss bank to expose US accounts November 8, 2011

Credit Suisse sent out the letter on November 2nd

Swiss bank Credit Suisse has sent letters to some US clients, saying their account details may be given to the Internal Revenue Service.

It is unclear how many US clients have been notified, but it covers accounts open from 2002 to the end of last year.

Clients are told they can either agree to the handover of data to Swiss tax authorities who can send it to their US counterparts, or contest the process.

The letter concerns a demand from the Swiss Federal Tax Administration.

“In connection with the IRS Treaty Request, the SFTA has issued an order directing Credit Suisse AG to submit responsive account information to the SFTA,” Credit Suisse said in a statement to the BBC.

This concerns a request for administrative assistance from the IRS to the SFTA under the 1996 double tax treaty between the two nations.

In February the US indicted four Credit Suisse bankers for helping taxpayers hide money in secret bank accounts.

Switzerland is trying to reach a deal with the US that would cover its entire banking system.

Tax crackdown

In recent years US authorities have pressured several global banks to help them fight tax evasion.

The US Department of Justice’s initial target was Switzerland’s other major bank, UBS.

It threatened UBS with legal action if the Swiss bank failed to hand over the details of 4,450 US customers suspected of tax dodging.

Following years of intense pressure from the United States, in June last year the Swiss parliament passed legislation permitting the country’s banks to share customer details with the US authorities.

UBS ended up paying a $780m fine, but more importantly the new legislation put an end to Switzerland’s famed banking secrecy.

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Credit Suisse to give names to US

Credit Suisse sent out the letter on November 2nd

Credit Suisse has sent letters to US clients suspected of tax evasion, saying they intend to give their names to the US Internal Revenue Service.

A copy of the letter, dated 2 November, has been seen by news agency Reuters.

It is unclear how many US clients have been notified, but it covers accounts open from 2002 to the end of last year.

It gives clients the choice of either agreeing the handover of data to US tax authorites, or else hiring a Swiss lawyer to contest the process.

By fighting the disclosure clients would in effect be exposing their identities anyway.

In February the US indicted four Credit Suisse bankers for helping taxpayers hide money in secret bank accounts.

Switzerland is trying to reach a deal with the US that would cover its entire banking system. It is unclear whether this deal is at an end-game.

Tax crackdown

In recent years US authorities have pressured several global banks to help them fight tax evasion.

The US Department of Justice’s initial target was Switzerland’s other major bank, UBS.

It threatened UBS with legal action if the Swiss bank failed to hand over the details of 4,450 US customers suspected of tax dodging.

Following years of intense pressure from the United States, in June last year the Swiss parliament passed legislation permitting the country’s banks to share customer details with the US authorities.

UBS ended up paying a $780m fine, but more importantly the new legislation put an end to Switzerland’s famed banking secrecy.

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Obama sends 100 troops to combat LRA in Uganda October 15, 2011

President Barack Obama said Friday he is dispatching roughly 100 US troops to central Africa to help battle the Lord’s Resistance Army, which the administration accuses of a campaign of murder, rape and kidnapping children that spans two decades.

In a letter to Congress, Obama said the troops will act as advisers in efforts to hunt down rebel leader Joseph Kony but will not engage in combat except in self-defence. Pentagon officials said the bulk of the US contingent will be special operations troops, who will provide security and combat training to African units.

The White House said the first troops arrived in Uganda on Wednesday. Ultimately, they will also deploy in South Sudan, the Central African Republic and Congo.

Long considered one of Africa’s most brutal rebel groups, the Lord’s Resistance Army began its attacks in Uganda more than 20 years ago but has been pushing westward.

The administration and human rights groups say its atrocities have left thousands dead and have put as many as 300,000 Africans to flight. They have charged the group with seizing children to bolster its ranks of soldiers and sometimes forcing them to become sex slaves.

Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court under a 2005 warrant for crimes against humanity in his native Uganda.

Obama’s announcement came in low-key fashion — a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, in which he said the deployment “furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy and will be a significant contribution toward counter-LRA efforts in central Africa.”

The deployment drew support from Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican who has visited the region.

“I have witnessed firsthand the devastation caused by the LRA, and this will help end Kony’s heinous acts that have created a human rights crisis in Africa,” he said in a statement. “I have been fervently involved in trying to prevent further abductions and murders of Ugandan children, and today’s action offers hope that the end of the LRA is in sight.”

But Obama’s letter stressed the limited nature of the deployment.

“Our forces will provide information, advice and assistance to select partner nation forces,” it said. “Although the US forces are combat-equipped, they will … not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense.”

Most of the troops will deploy to regional capitals to work with government officials and military commanders on countering the rebels and protecting civilians, Pentagon officials said.

State Department officials portrayed the deployment as part of a larger strategy to combat the group that dates to the Bush administration but also includes legislation passed by Congress this year.

Victoria Nuland, a department spokeswoman, said the US troops will aid in “pursuing the LRA and seeking to bring top commanders to justice.” The broader effort includes encouraging rebel fighters to defect, disarm and return to their homes, she said.

The administration briefed human rights activists ahead of the announcement, and their officials were encouraged.

“These advisers can make a positive difference on the ground by keeping civilians safe and improving military operations to apprehend the LRA’s top commanders,” said Paul Ronan, director of the group Advocacy at Resolve.

Col. Felix Kulayigye, Uganda’s military spokesman, said of the troops: “We are aware that they are coming. We are happy about it. We look forward to working with them and eliminating Kony and his fighters.”

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US journalists launch campaign for ‘op-ed transparency’ October 11, 2011

More than 50 journalists and journalism academics have signed a letter calling on the New York Times to be more transparent about conflicts of interests involving contributors to its op-ed pages.

The letter, sent to the the paper’s public editor Arthur Brisbane, is part of an online campaign – launched last Thursday (6 October) – to improve transparency by op-ed writers across the US press. It states:

“There is a disturbing trend of special interests surreptitiously funding ‘experts’ to push industry talking points in the nation’s major media outlets. When these expert commentaries appear… their special interest ties go unreported…

We are asking the New York Times to lead the industry and set the nation’s standard by disclosing financial conflicts of interest that their op-ed contributors may have at the time their piece is published.”

It cites the example of Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, which has evidently received millions of dollars in funding from organisations dealing in fossil fuels.

According to the latter, Bryce “masquerading as an unbiased expert” writes opinion pieces and provides commentaries “that promote fossil fuels and dismiss renewable energy.” His work has been featured in the New York Times, and on CNN and NPR.

Launched by the Checks and Balances Project, the campaigners have set up their own website, called True Ties.

But Craig Silverman, writing a commentary on the Columbia Journalism Review site, asks: “How much disclosure is necessary?… How much is enough, especially if you have to deal with space constraints in a print edition? What’s fair to both the contributor and to readers?”

However he also wrote: “We should move to standardise the way contributors are asked to disclose potential conflicts of interest and relevant related information.

“Once that information is provided, we should meet a higher standard of disclosing it to the public.”

Sources: Columbia Journalism Review/TrueTies

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Sarah Palin will not run for president in 2012 October 6, 2011

Sarah Palin has ended her year-long tease of American conservatives by finally announcing she will not be joining the presidential race.

In a letter to supporters, Palin said: “After much prayer and serious consideration, I have decided that I will not be seeking the 2012 GOP nomination for president of the United States.

“When we serve, we devote ourselves to God, family and country. My decision maintains this order.”

Her departure clarifies the Republican field, with no other candidates likely to join the race at this late stage. The Republican contest is shaping up basically as between former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Texas governor Rick Perry, in spite of a recent surge in support for businessman Herman Cain.

As well as saying she was putting her family first, she added she could be more effective for the conservative cause in helping getting Tea Party supporters and other rightwingers elected to Congress, governorships and the White House rather than standing herself. She did not need a title to help America recover, she said.

“My decision is based upon a review of what commonsense conservatives and independents have accomplished, especially over the last year. I believe that at this time I can be more effective in a decisive role to help elect other true public servants to office – from the nation’s governors to Congressional seats and the presidency.”

Still a strong voice in the Tea Party movement, she intends in the coming weeks to co-ordinate strategies to help Republicans retake the White House and Senate next year, and hold its control of the House.

Palin has long toyed with the idea of a presidential run but has come up against poor poll ratings. One of the most recent polls, in the Washington Post this week, showed two-thirds of Republicans did not want her to stand.

Palin rose to prominence in 2008 when she was the surprise choice of John McCain as his running mate against Barack Obama. She enjoyed high ratings among conservatives in the aftermath of the election and remains a popular figure on the right.

Last year, she seemed to be a likely contender for the presidency but with each month that passed this year, her chances became slimmer, and irritation crept in among her supporters over her indecision. She was too late, seeing the right-wing ground she would have sought to occupy already claimed by figures such as Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and now Texas governor Rick Perry.

She frequently left an impression that she would liked to have stood, turning up at key Republican events throughout the year that were attended by declared candidates.

She launched a tour this year accompanied by her family aboard a bus painted like a campaign one and arrived in New Hampshire at roughly the same time as Romney was there announcing his decision to stand.

In August, she dropped into Iowa as Republican candidates gathered for the Ames straw poll.

She developed a strong dislike of much of the media, with the exception of a few trusted friends at Fox, where she is a paid employee.

Some commentators predicted she would not stand because she feared the impact of renewed media scrutiny on her family, while others said she was enjoying the money from her new celebrity career too much to enter the fray.

She suffered a serious political setback with the attempted assassination of the Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, in January. The attempt came after Palin had put out a graphic saying that Giffords was in her crosshairs. Although there was no evidence linking that to the shooting, it opened up a debate about whether rhetoric in American politics had become too violent.

In her letter, Palin thanked her supporters who had defended her throughout the years and encouraged her to stand. She insisted that her decision not to stand meant she will fade out of politics and she set out her agenda for smaller government.

“I will continue driving the discussion for freedom and free markets, including in the race for president where our candidates must embrace immediate action toward energy independence through domestic resource developments of conventional energy sources, along with renewables.
We must reduce tax burdens and onerous regulations that kill American industry, and our candidates must always push to minimise government to strengthen the economy and allow the private sector to create jobs.”

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