By Doug Porter
Does it say that in the Bible? Is it in the UN Charter? Did the founders include it in the Constitution on orders from Jesus?
Cut me a break, already.
Bloomberg news has a story up detailing how tough things are becoming for gazillionaires who want to hide their money in overseas accounts. It seems as though many of the world’s safe havens are becoming more transparent in the face of international pressure from countries tired of seeing cashed stashed in places where they can’t tax it. So now, somehow, evading taxes is becoming a human right.
And a wave of lawsuits isn’t helping matters, either. From Bloomberg:
The suits provide a window into the offshore structures and secrecy jurisdictions the world’s richest people use to manage, preserve and conceal their assets. According to Tax Justice Network, a U.K.-based organization that campaigns for transparency in the financial system, wealthy individuals were hiding as much as $32 trillion offshore at the end of 2010. Fewer than 100,000 people own $9.8 trillion of offshore assets, according to research compiled by former McKinsey & Co. economist James Henry.
“For a lot of people, it’s not just the objective of not paying taxes,” Philip Marcovici, an independent Hong Kong-based tax lawyer and board member of Vaduz, Liechtenstein-based wealth adviser Kaiser Partner Group, said in a telephone interview. “It’s the objective of obtaining the human right to privacy and seeking confidentiality about their financial affairs.
More than 30 percent of the world’s 200 richest people, who have a $2.8 trillion collective net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, control part of their personal fortune through an offshore holding company or other domestic entity where the assets are held indirectly. These structures often hide assets from tax authorities or provide legal protection from government seizure and lawsuits.
Workplace Injuries and Occupational Diseases Take 13 Lives a Day in the US
Imagine the outrage if 13 people died daily in the US from terrorism?
I can see Wolf Blitzer on CNN getting all righteous and Fox News anchors passing out free ammunition…
Yesterday was one of those “Days” that are supposed to commemorate something. Since it didn’t involve buying gifts or cards, Workers Memorial Day doesn’t get much press outside a few union publications.
Since getting started by public employees in Canada back in 1984, the concept of a day of remembrance or mourning for workers killed in incidents at work, or by diseases caused by work has spread worldwide.
In light of the horrible explosions at the West, Texas fertilizer plant and the collapse of a building housing many clothing factories in Bangladesh, I think a few moments of reflection and some education are in order.
According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), across the world:
· Each year, more than two million women and men die as a result of work-related accidents and diseases
· Workers suffer approximately 270 million accidents each year, and fall victim to some 160 million incidents of -related illnesses
· Hazardous substances kill 440,000 workers annually – asbestos claims 100,000 lives
· One worker dies every 15 seconds worldwide. 6,000 workers die every day. More people die whilst at work than those fighting wars.
First, we’ll explore the role of the press in two recent tragedies, the Boston Marathon bombings vs. the West, Texas explosion. From In These Times:
The twin tragedies of last week—the Boston Marathon bombing and the West Texas Chemical and Fertilizer plant explosion—received vastly unequal media attention. While reporters pored over every detail of the Boston story (including some “facts” that turned out to be false), a study by Media Matters for America found that only two of 63 cable news segments this week about the Texas explosion have mentioned a key finding that became public on Saturday: The plant contained 270 tons of ammonium nitrate, well over the legal limit.
But it’s not just the media that focus on terrorism over workplace safety; it’s also the government.
Although Americans were 270 times more likely to die a workplace accident than a terrorist attack in 2011, the Department of Homeland Security’s budget that year was $47 billion, while OSHA’s budget was only $558 million. And while the Senate has grilled top intelligence officials about possible information-sharing failures in the lead-up to the Boston bombing, lawmakers have not looked at similar evidence that information-sharing problems may have played a role in the Texas explosion. A press release from Rep. Bennie Thompson, (D-MS), ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said only that the plant “was willfully off the grid.”
“Workplace incidents cause far more deaths every year in the U.S.—some 13 a day—than terrorist acts, yet our government agencies spend untold millions on terrorism prevention, while largely ignoring the risks of industrial catastrophes,” says National Council for Occupational Safety and Health Executive Director Tom O’Connor. “I would hope that the West Fertilizer plant explosion will cause us to reconsider those priorities.”
Bangladesh: Have You Looked in the Mirror?
Even as the arrest of the owner of the Bangladesh building that collapsed last week, killing at least 377 people, was reported on the front page of today’s UT-San Diego, the larger issue of the retail clothing outlets that buy from those factories was a background issue at most.
Nobody knows how high the death toll will rise. Although 2500 of the 8,122 people employed at the facility, making $38 monthly, have been accounted for, only a couple of companies have been identified or admitted to buying from the plant. The 4000 garment factories, accounting for $20 billion in annual sales in Bangladesh are notorious for hazardous workplaces and subsistence-level wages.
Efforts to improve working conditions have largely failed, despite lofty promises. Retailers have rejected a nine page safety proposal from Bangladeshi and international unions and, instead, implemented a patchwork of mostly voluntary programs.
From the Associated Press:
The proposal was presented at a 2011 meeting in Dhaka attended by more than a dozen of the world’s largest clothing brands and retailers — including Walmart, Gap and Swedish clothing giant H&M — but was rejected by the companies because it would be legally binding and costly.
Walmart last year began requiring regular audits of factories, fire drills and mandated fire safety training for all levels of factory management. It also announced in January it would immediately cut ties with any factory that failed an inspection, instead of giving warnings first as before. And the Gap has hired its own chief fire inspector to oversee factories that produce its clothing in Bangladesh.
But many insist such measures are not enough. “No matter how much training you have, you can’t walk through flames or escape a collapsed building,” said Ineke Zeldenrust of the Amsterdam-based Clean Clothes Campaign, which lobbies for garment workers’ rights.
Unraveling just which retail giants were buying from the factories in Bangladesh will undoubtedly occur over the next few days. Thus far Walmart (‘it was a one time deal’), Benetton (‘not us’, despite clothing with their label being found in the rubble), Canada’s Joe Fresh and Ireland’s Primark have been associated with the property.
The day before the building collapse, cracks appearing on the outside of Rana Plaza, prompting retail businesses on the street level to close. Garment factory managers used bullhorns to shepherd anxious workers to their workstations located on the upper floors.
It’s important for us on this end of the money—and yes, our consumer dollars had something to do with enabling this tragedy—to make sure that we raise our voices for worker safety, living wages and humane working conditions.
It was only a matter of time. Professional male athletes will be coming out of the closet this year.
Sports Illustrated is online this morning with news that 34 year old NBA player Jason Collins has broken the ‘gay barrier’ surrounding men’s pro-sports:
I’m a 34-year-old NBA center. I’m black. And I’m gay.
I didn’t set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I’m happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn’t the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, “I’m different.” If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I’m raising my hand.
Brown Gets Down on Prison Issue
Katie Orr, who’s moved from KPBS to Capital Public Radio upstate, has a great story about Gov. Jerry Brown pushing back against a federal three judge panel, who are threatening to cite him for contempt unless the State coughs up a plan to further reduce prison overcrowding shortly. Do check out the whole story, which includes a terrific bit about Brown’s testiness in a speech before crime victims protesting early releases.
From Capital Public Radio:
…Brown is appealing the three-judge panel’s ruling that continues federal oversight of California‘s prisons. The governor’s response is raising the ire of Don Specter with the Prison Law Group, which originally filed the lawsuit seeking to improve inmate health care.
“It reminds me of Orville Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas,” Specter says, “who in 1957, stood on the steps of the Arkansas School District in defiance of a similar order from a court to desegregated the schools because he didn’t believe that the Constitution required integration.”
Brown’s Press Secretary says that hyperbole does not merit a response. But during his speech to the crime victims, the Governor vowed he’d fight to both keep realignment on track and not release thousands of inmates.
It Ain’t Over ‘till Its Over
Polling released in the last few days from PPP finds voters in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire and Ohio aren’t forgetting or forgiving when it comes to Senators who voted to scuttle a bipartisan measure designed to expand background checks for gun purchasers.
Senators in those states have seen their approval numbers decline, and voters say they’re less likely to support them the next time they’re up for reelection. But they shouldn’t worry, the National Rifle Association has got their back. Via Think Progress:
Earlier this month, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) voted against a bipartisan measure to expand background checks for gun purchases conducted at gun shows and online and saw her approval ratings plummet by 15 points. But now the National Rifle Association, who spent millions lobbying against the popular measure is coming to her defense.
The organization is running radio ads thanking Ayotte for focusing on “meaningful bipartisan solutions” and opposing “misguided gun control laws that would not have prevented Sandy Hook.” The ad does not specifically mention background checks, but notes that Ayotte supports improving the mental health system as “the only way to protect our children” because she is a mother:
Check Out the SDFree Press Calendar
Thanks to the efforts of Brent Beltrán, the San Diego Free Press now has an on-line calendar of events. You can see events in the arts, performances and political gatherings of every persuasion by clicking on the ‘Calendar’ Tab at the top of the page. To get your event listed, drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
On This Day: 1952 – IBM President Thomas J. Watson, Jr., informed his company’s stockholders that IBM was building “the most advanced, most flexible high-speed computer in the world.” The computer was unveiled April 7, 1953, as the IBM 701 Electronic Data Processing Machine. 1975 – The U.S. embassy in Vietnam was evacuated as North Vietnamese forces fought their way into Saigon. 1976 – Bruce Springsteen climbed the wall of Graceland to meet Elvis Presley. Elvis wasn’t home.
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