Council of Europe (CoE) - European Human Rights Court - founding fathers (1949)

Council of Europe (CoE) - European Human Rights Court - founding fathers (1949)
French National Assembly head Edouard Herriot and British Foreign minister Ernest Bevin surrounded by Italian, Luxembourg and other delegates at the first meeting of Council of Europe's Consultative Assembly in Strasbourg, August 1949 (AFP Photo)

EU founding fathers signed 'blank' Treaty of Rome (1957)

EU founding fathers signed 'blank' Treaty of Rome (1957)
The Treaty of Rome was signed in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, one of the Renaissance palaces that line the Michelangelo-designed Capitoline Square in the Italian capital

Shuttered: EU ditches summit 'family photo'

Shuttered: EU ditches summit 'family photo'
EU leaders pose for a family photo during the European Summit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on June 28, 2016 (AFP Photo/JOHN THYS)

Merkel says fall of Wall proves 'dreams can come true'


“ … Here is another one. A change in what Human nature will allow for government. "Careful, Kryon, don't talk about politics. You'll get in trouble." I won't get in trouble. I'm going to tell you to watch for leadership that cares about you. "You mean politics is going to change?" It already has. It's beginning. Watch for it. You're going to see a total phase-out of old energy dictatorships eventually. The potential is that you're going to see that before 2013. They're going to fall over, you know, because the energy of the population will not sustain an old energy leader ..."
"Update on Current Events" – Jul 23, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: The Humanization of God, Gaia, Shift of Human Consciousness, 2012, Benevolent Design, Financial Institutes (Recession, System to Change ...), Water Cycle (Heat up, Mini Ice Ace, Oceans, Fish, Earthquakes ..), Nuclear Power Revealed, Geothermal Power, Hydro Power, Drinking Water from Seawater, No need for Oil as Much, Middle East in Peace, Persia/Iran Uprising, Muhammad, Israel, DNA, Two Dictators to fall soon, Africa, China, (Old) Souls, Species to go, Whales to Humans, Global Unity,..... etc.)
(Subjects: Who/What is Kryon ?, Egypt Uprising, Iran/Persia Uprising, Peace in Middle East without Israel actively involved, Muhammad, "Conceptual" Youth Revolution, "Conceptual" Managed Business, Internet, Social Media, News Media, Google, Bankers, Global Unity,..... etc.)


"The Recalibration of Awareness – Apr 20/21, 2012 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Old Energy, Recalibration Lectures, God / Creator, Religions/Spiritual systems (Catholic Church, Priests/Nun’s, Worship, John Paul Pope, Women in the Church otherwise church will go, Current Pope won’t do it), Middle East, Jews, Governments will change (Internet, Media, Democracies, Dictators, North Korea, Nations voted at once), Integrity (Businesses, Tobacco Companies, Bankers/ Financial Institutes, Pharmaceutical company to collapse), Illuminati (Started in Greece, with Shipping, Financial markets, Stock markets, Pharmaceutical money (fund to build Africa, to develop)), Shift of Human Consciousness, (Old) Souls, Women, Masters to/already come back, Global Unity.... etc.) - (Text version)

… The Shift in Human Nature

You're starting to see integrity change. Awareness recalibrates integrity, and the Human Being who would sit there and take advantage of another Human Being in an old energy would never do it in a new energy. The reason? It will become intuitive, so this is a shift in Human Nature as well, for in the past you have assumed that people take advantage of people first and integrity comes later. That's just ordinary Human nature.

In the past, Human nature expressed within governments worked like this: If you were stronger than the other one, you simply conquered them. If you were strong, it was an invitation to conquer. If you were weak, it was an invitation to be conquered. No one even thought about it. It was the way of things. The bigger you could have your armies, the better they would do when you sent them out to conquer. That's not how you think today. Did you notice?

Any country that thinks this way today will not survive, for humanity has discovered that the world goes far better by putting things together instead of tearing them apart. The new energy puts the weak and strong together in ways that make sense and that have integrity. Take a look at what happened to some of the businesses in this great land (USA). Up to 30 years ago, when you started realizing some of them didn't have integrity, you eliminated them. What happened to the tobacco companies when you realized they were knowingly addicting your children? Today, they still sell their products to less-aware countries, but that will also change.

What did you do a few years ago when you realized that your bankers were actually selling you homes that they knew you couldn't pay for later? They were walking away, smiling greedily, not thinking about the heartbreak that was to follow when a life's dream would be lost. Dear American, you are in a recession. However, this is like when you prune a tree and cut back the branches. When the tree grows back, you've got control and the branches will grow bigger and stronger than they were before, without the greed factor. Then, if you don't like the way it grows back, you'll prune it again! I tell you this because awareness is now in control of big money. It's right before your eyes, what you're doing. But fear often rules. …

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Italy's new government is a mix of old and new

Deutsche Welle, 28 April 2013


The cabinet formed by Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta is a combination of left- and right-leaning party stalwarts, independents and newcomers. But, the mix could also be a recipe for power struggles.

Their term in office began with a major shock. While Enrico Letta and his ministers were taking their oaths, shots were fired outside Chigi Palace, the official residence of Italy's prime minister.

The shooter, who according to initial reports was a deranged man in a suit and tie, injured two police officers and one pedestrian. He attempted to flee immediately after the attack, but was caught and suffered injuries. Nothing is yet known about his motives. The swearing-in ceremony was carried out according to plan, despite the disruption, but the cabinet ministers appeared upset by the incident.

A wide spectrum

Italy's new head of government managed to combine old and new when forming his government. New faces can be seen in the 21-person team, which includes seven women. One of them is newcomer Cecile Kyenge, a Congolese-born doctor and human rights activist and Italy's first black minister. She was given the post of integration minister.

Another newcomer is German-born Josefa Idem, a former canoeist and winner of multiple Olympic medals. She is now sports and equal opportunities minister.

Cecile Kyenge is Italy's first
African-born minister
But sharing the bench with the new arrivals are members of the old government, who hold some of the most important posts. Infrastructure and Transport Minister Maurizio Lupi hails from former Prime Minister Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PDL) party, as does the new interior minister, Angelino Alfano, who is also assuming the position of deputy prime minister. The particularly high standing of the latter should help relieve Berlusconi's disappointment over not being able to fill the justice minister post with one of his people. The new justice minister is Anna Maria Cancellieri, an independent left over from the interim government of Prime Minister Mario Monti.

The burning question now is whether the justice reform deemed urgent by Berlusconi will be among the new government's top priorities. For Enrico Letta, the most important issues to tackle are unemployment and the financial crisis.

"Small and mid-sized businesses are the heart of our economy," Letta told the press. "The young university graduates who move abroad because they can't find work here is an emergency that we need to deal with."

Skepticism and cautious optimism

The key positions of labor minister and economics minister have been assigned to independents. Anselmo Soffri, who lives in one of the most productive areas of the northern Italian Lombardy region, sees this as a stroke of luck.

"They will finally do something for the economy," Soffri told Deutsche Welle. "There are all these factories facing closure and nobody is helping them! Some business owners have committed suicide because they didn't want to fire their employees but weren't able to pay them anymore either." He has little faith in the politicians' ability to solve the country's grave economic problems.

Homemaker Rodolfa Pannetti, who was randomly asked about her views of the new government, put her finger squarely on the crux of the matter: "Letta said that his government would prioritize the needs of the people of the country. It should always be like this anyway - that's what a government is for. Let's hope that this one holds out for a while - the internal rivalries are very noticeable."

Some are skeptical about the new government's ability to effect
positive change

Rivals under one roof

Indeed, the new cabinet brings together people of very different political convictions. A left-wing economic development minister needs to work together with a right-leaning infrastructure minister to achieve the right conditions for increased productivity and competitive capacity. This is no easy undertaking, but Italy badly needs some kind of economic impetus.

Meanwhile, Berlusconi is pleased with the current political constellation. Although only a quarter of the population voted for his party alliance, he still gets a say in the new government. Apart from having five PDL ministers in the cabinet, the party presented Letta with an eight-point plan and, according to PDL spokesman Renato Brunetta, he accepted all the proposals. "In this regard, we've achieved a significant victory," added Brunetta.

At the same time, Letta's ruling Democratic Party is presenting the new government as "the only possibility" - and putting up with derisive comments coming from the media owned by Berlusconi.

Related Article:


European royalty's next generation

Deutsche Welle, 28 April 2013


Dutch Queen Beatrix will pass on the crown to her son April 30. In the other European monarchies, the next generation is ready as well. But it's unlikely that Beatrix's abdication will start a European game of thrones.

After 30 years on the throne, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands declared in a televised address in January, shortly before her 75th birthday, she would abdicate on Koniginnedag (Queen's Day) on April 30, 2013. "I am abdicating not because my duties are becoming too burdensome, but because I am convinced that it is time for the responsibility for our country to pass to a new generation," Beatrix declared matter-of-factly. "On 30 April this year, with the utmost confidence, I shall hand over the duties of the monarchy to my son, the Prince of Orange."

For many Dutch and monarchy fans in all of Europe, the step didn't really come as a surprise, as Beatrix's mother and her grandmother had also relinquished the crown to make way for the next generation.

Senior citizens on the throne

Beatrix will soon relinquish the
Dutch crown and scepter
In the other reigning monarchies in Europe, the kings and queens are well past retirement age as well. There will be a lot of passing-on-the-scepter in a few years for biological reasons alone. Spry British Queen Elizabeth II recently turned 87. Her son Charles has been waiting for a long time and, at 64 years of age, is about to become a grandfather. Denmark's Queen, chain-smoker Margrethe II is 73 years old, and her son Frederick is 44. At 76, introverted King Harald of Norway is one year ahead of Beatrix; his son and successor Haakon is 40 years old. In Sweden, King Carl XVI Gustaf, 68, manages to hang on to the crown, despite his various sexual affairs having been made public. His daughter Victoria, 35, is much more popular with the subjects and would be accepted as queen immediately.

In Belgium, almost 80-year-old Albert II holds the reigns. His son Phillipp is 53 and has already taken over numerous tasks from his father. In Spain, the monarch is under a lot of pressure from the "real world," because he is suspected by some of being involved in a bribery scandal. King Juan Carlos, 75, is in poor health and, after a slew of extramarital affairs, far from the popular monarch he once was. Crown prince Felipe would like to supersede his father, but "the king will never abdicate." At least that's what Juan Carlos' wife Queen Sofia says about him.

 European royalty from Luxembourg, Sweden, Spain, Denmark, the
Netherlands, Belgium and Norway

"Royal heirs aren't unemployed"

Historian and royalty expert Monika Wienfort from the University of Braunschweig in northern Germany does not believe that the people want to get rid of elderly monarchs.

"I don't think that the people in these countries prefer to see the young princes and princesses more often," said Wienfort. "I rather believe that by taking on responsibilities on the regional level, the heirs to the throne simply perform a certain function already."

The more or less young royal children grow into their responsibilities and are by no means unemployed or bored, added Wienfort: "The way it's handled now also solves the problem of the structural lack of purpose for the heir apparent and their spouse."

Abdication unlikely 

Kunze: "Beatrix no model for British
Queen"
More royal abdications like the one in the Netherlands aren't impossible. Every king or queen has the right to step down from the throne. If the pope can do it, so can the crowned heads of Europe, historian and monarchy researcher Rolf-Ulrich Kunze says. But just because they can does not mean they are likely to do so, as Kunze pointed out to DW: "It's hard to tell whether one of them would, because it's always connected to very personal constellations, to the family situation in the royal dynasties. And this has less to do with structural things like constitutional questions."

The Netherlands are not a model for the British monarchy, according to Kunze. While the Dutch look at their monarch as a functional head of state with political tasks, the British Queen, who has been on the throne for nearly 61 years, epitomizes the national identity. "They're very different cases. The two dynasties have taken different paths because of the functions they fulfill in their respective countries," Kunze said. 

Queen Elizabeth II has been on
the throne for 60 years
"The subjects are enjoying it"

The parliamentary monarchies in seven European countries aren't going anywhere in the near future, according to royalty historian Wienfort. "I believe most citizens in monarchies are actually enjoying their royals. In the Netherlands for example people are looking forward to the Koniginnedag, when Beatrix will abdicate, as a big celebration."

There are no serious intentions to get rid of this form of government in any of the countries, only small protests by republican-minded groups, Wienford explained. "Every now and then, these groups are looking for a way into the spotlight. But they don't actually stand a chance in achieving a turn away from the monarchy."

Monarchism has survived in Europe in places where there were no revolutions or uprisings like the ones in France, Italy or Germany. In the worst-case scenario, fallen kings and queens could always move in with their relatives abroad, because all of Europe's royal families are somehow related to one another and to German aristocracy.

Close relations between Netherlands and Germany

The Dutch royal dynasty Orange-Nassau is basically a German family.

"The relation couldn't be closer," said Kunze. "We can hear this each time the Dutch national anthem, the 'Wilhelmus,' is sung, where it says 'William of Nassau am I, of German blood.'" 

The next two generations of Dutch rulers:
Willem-Alexander and his family
The dynasty's founding father, William of Orange-Nassau, is from Dillenburg in today's state of Hesse. He inherited the tiny French principality of Orange and so rose through the ranks of high nobility. "The relationship with Germany has been close since the early modern age, and it has remained close through marriages," Kunze said.

The husbands of the last three Dutch queens were all Germans. But the new king, Willem-Alexander, has broken with this spousal tradition. His wife Maxima is a "commoner" from Argentina.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Archbishop of Canterbury attacks City's 'culture of entitlement'

The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a stinging attack on the City, describing it as infected by “a culture of entitlement” that has left it disconnected from the rest of the country.

The TelegraphPatrick Sawer, 27 Apr 2013

The Archbishop, a former oil industry executive and now a member of the
 cross-party Banking Standards Commission, said “serious consideration”
 should be given to forming a professional banking body, along the lines of
the General Medical Council, the enforce standards.  Photo: AFP/GETTY

The Most Rev Justin Welby said it was time for bankers to be required to pass exams in order to raise their professional standards and help restore public trust in their work.

The Archbishop said it would take something “very major” to restore economic confidence and suggested the Government may need to recapitalise at least one major bank, and urged the creation of regional banks.

His comments are bound to cause controversy and will be firmly rejected by many in the City who believe they have done much to reform the behaviour of banks.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Archbishop Welby acknowledged that standards in the Square Mile are higher than in the past, but he said:

“In banking, in particular, and in the City of London, a culture of entitlement has affected a number of areas – not universally by any means – in which it seemed to disconnect from what people saw as reasonable in the rest of the world.”

Related Articles

Arguing that the taxpayer may have to intervene to clean up the banking system, he added: “Part of an ethical approach is transparency and reality about recognising where you are. The lesson from Japan is if you’re going to bit the bullet, it’s better to bit it sooner rather than later.”

The Archbishop, a former oil industry executive and now a member of the cross-party Banking Standards Commission, said “serious consideration” should be given to forming a professional banking body, along the lines of the General Medical Council, the enforce standards.

His views are thought to enjoy support on the commission, which is engaged in a wide-ranging debate on the best way of cleaning up behaviour in the City.

He said: “Banks are incredibly complicated things. The idea that people can hold hugely responsible positions in them without any kind of formal training seems to a number of us quite surprising.”

George Osborne, the Chancellor, has promised to incorporate proposals from the commission into draft legislation.

But Archbishop Welby risked creating tensions between Lambeth Palace and Downing Street when he repeated his comments from earlier last week that Britain is in an economic depression and from which it could take a generation to recover.

Asked by George Parker, the FT's political editor, on Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster, whether he minded ruffling a few feathers, he said: “I don’t know if it annoyed people in Number 10.

"They haven’t said anything here. I mean they probably would have preferred it not said.

“Historically depressions have been recognised as lengthy periods in which the economy did not get back to its previous level of activity before a recession set in. So 1929 to 1932 is the great example. There was a big one towards the end of the 19th century.

“We are still significantly below where we were in 2007 in terms of economic activity, of GDP, and that’s quite a long time of being below.

“Now, I’m not pointing any fingers at anyone in particular and saying it’s so and so’s fault or so and so’s fault, it’s simply a measurable fact coming from the national statistics.

“It’s very much less noticeable in London, I have to say, than in the north east where I was living previously. Do I mind ruffling feathers? I think I do mind ruffling feathers, I don’t like ruffling feathers – but sometimes feathers get ruffled. I mean that’s life.”

In his interview the Archbishop was asked whether he saw it as part of his mission to try to inject more morality into British financial life.

He said: “My key mission is to lead the church in worshipping Jesus Christ and encouraging people to believe in him and follow him. That’s my mission.

“The Christian gospel has always had strong social implications and one of them is around the common good and it’s one of the key areas in which the Church of England focuses, and so issues of how the City of London, which is so important and so full of very gifted people, how that behaves in relation to the common good is very key, not to the whole thing that I'm about or the church is about, but to how we express the implications of that in day to day life.”

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Austria to loosen bank secrecy laws within weeks

Deutsche Welle, 27 April 2013


Chancellor Werner Faymann has said he's aiming for Austria to agree to loosen its banking secrecy laws before an EU summit next month. The May 22 meeting will take on the fight against tax evasion in the bloc.

Faymann told broadcaster ORF on Saturday that on the issue of banking secrecy he wants Austria "to achieve a result for an exchange of data in the interest of fighting fraud in Europe."

The EU has said it wants to curb tax dodging, which is estimated to cost the bloc around 1 trillion euros ($1.30 trillion) each year in lost income. Austria became the EU's last holdout on banking secrecy after Luxembourg changed its position on the issue last month.

But on Friday Faymann, of the center-left Social Democrats, and his Vice Chancellor Michael Spindelegger, of center-right coalition partners the People's Party, announced that they were open to negotiations over the automatic exchange of foreigners' banking data in the EU.

"The biggest economic damage would be if we got the reputation of protecting frauds," said Faymann. "Austrians don't find this necessary and I have spoken with bank managers who also don't find it necessary."

Even Finance Minister Maria Fekter, who has been Austrian banking secrecy's most ardent defender, said she supported the joint action, which entails three points of "decisive relevance."

Those points require an exchange of bank account data at least in line with Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development standards, revealing owners of trusts and mailbox companies and taking into account bilateral tax deals already in place with Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Faymann assured Austrians that despite the shift in stance, banking secrecy for citizens would be preserved.

"Our own banking secrecy is not affected," he said. "We ourselves want the exchange of data to make it easier to fight fraud."

Friday, April 26, 2013

Blow for Cameron as China welcomes Hollande

Beijing punishes PM for his meeting with Dalai Lama while French president gets full state visit treatment

The Guardian, Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent, Friday 26 April 2013

The French president, François Hollande, meets his Chinese counterpart,
 Xi Jinping, in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. Photograph:
Pool/Getty Images

David Cameron's mission to change the focus of British foreign policy by boosting trade links suffered a setback after Downing Street was forced to abandon a trip to China as Beijing punished the prime minister for meeting the Dalai Lama.

In a blow to Cameron, who had hoped to hold an annual summit with the Chinese leadership, the French president François Hollande was on Friday feted in Shanghai on a full state visit a few weeks after the prime minister was due to visit China.

Cameron is understood to have abandoned the planned trip after Beijing indicated that he was unlikely to be granted meetings with senior figures. He is now expected to visit in the autumn, two years after his first and only visit as prime minister.

Britain accepts that Beijing is exacting punishment after Cameron met the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, at St Paul's Cathedral last May. The meeting, which was similar to Gordon Brown's discussions with the Dalai Lama at Lambeth Palace in 2008, was designed to minimise offence in China by showing that Britain regards him as a spiritual leader. Downing Street has made clear to Beijing that it accepts Tibet is part of the People's Republic of China.

Government sources said that tentative plans for the prime minister to visit China this month were put on hold before his visit to India in February for the simple reason that the new Chinese leadership only took over in March. Cameron spoke to Li Keqiang, his new Chinese counterpart, after his appointment.

But the Guardian understands from diplomatic sources that a visit was firmly placed in the prime minister's diary for earlier this month. This was abandoned when it became clear that the prime minister would be denied the access usually granted to a G8 leader.

Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary who has just returned from China, told the Guardian: "David Cameron came to office claiming he would prioritise the UK's diplomatic and trade relationship with China, and yet the real difficulties in relations have now been laid bare. I was in China this week and it is clear that the new Chinese leadership are focused on the French president's visit, along with a large number of French companies looking for business.

"In the past, UK prime ministers have met with the Dalai Lama without the deterioration in relations with China that we are now seeing. For all of their initial boasts and bluster, the UK government has lacked a strategic or a joined-up approach to China since it came to office, and that's now showing."

A No 10 source said: "Of course, as any good diary planner would, we pencil in early on dates when the prime minister could potentially travel overseas without going firm on destinations. We decided several weeks ago that we wanted to visit some European capitals in the time we had earlier this month. When the prime minister and Premier Li Keqiang spoke in March they looked forward to meeting in due course."

Officials said trade with China is still rising and the two countries are on course to achieve £1bn in bilateral trade by 2015. Exports to China grew 13.4% last year.

But the decision to abandon the visit is a personal setback for Cameron, who said after coming to office that he would place trade at the heart of foreign policy, with a particular emphasis on the so-called Bric countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. A visit to India in February fell flat after private complaints that the prime minister appeared to regard the country as a trading opportunity rather than an emerging world power.

Hollande was greeted by Xi Jinping, the new Chinese president, when he arrived in Beijing with his partner Valerie Trierweiler on Thursday. They agreed to hold an annual summit – Cameron's original aspiration when he first visited China in November 2010 – after Hollande said he hoped to build a "multipolar" world. This is the classic French ambition to ensure the US cannot dominate the world in a "unipolar" world.

Cui Hongjian, director of European Studies at the China Institute of International Studies, a foreign ministry thinktank, told the South China Morning Post that this message was well received in Beijing. "France sometimes has different ideas from the US. China may co-operate with France."


Accountancy firms 'use knowledge of Treasury to help rich avoid tax' – MPs

Experts offering advice on legislation they helped to create is 'ridiculous conflict of interest', says select committee chair

The Guardian, Rajeev Syal, Simon Bowers and Patrick Wintour,  Friday 26 April 2013


Margaret Hodge MP has called on the Teasury to stop accepting staff from
the 'big four' accountancy firms when drawing up new laws. Photograph:
Dominic Lipinski/PA

The so-called "big four" accountancy firms are using knowledge gained from staff seconded to the Treasury to help wealthy clients avoid paying UK taxes, a report by the influential Commons public accounts committee says.

Deloitte, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers have provided the government with expert accountants to draw up tax laws. But the firms went on to advise multinationals and individuals on how to exploit loopholes around legislation they had helped to write, the public accounts committee (PAC) found.

Margaret Hodge, the PAC's chair, said the actions of the accountancy firms were tantamount to a scam and represented a "ridiculous conflict of interest" which must be stopped. "The large accountancy firms are in a powerful position in the tax world and have an unhealthily cosy relationship with government," she said, calling for the Treasury to stop accepting their staff to draw up new tax laws.

The report comes after David Cameron on Thursday set out plans to use Britain's chairmanship of the G8 to tackle what he described as staggering worldwide levels of tax evasion and avoidance.

The PAC claims HM Revenue and Customs had to seek outside help because it was engaged in a "battle it cannot win" in seeking to stem the losses to the exchequer from tax avoidance.

The accountancy giants employed almost 9,000 staff and earned £2bn a year from their tax work in the UK, and £25bn globally, the report claims. MPs found that Revenue and Customs had far fewer resources, particularly in the area of transfer pricing: complex transactions deployed by multinational companies in order to shift taxable profits to low tax jurisdictions. "In the area of transfer pricing alone, there are four times as many staff working for the four firms than for HMRC," the report says.

The committee highlights the way the firms seconded staff to the Treasury to advise on issues in the drafting of legislation. "Through their work in advising government on changes to legislation they have a detailed knowledge of UK tax law, and the insight to identify loopholes in new legislation quickly," it said.

One example in the report is that of KPMG, whose staff advised on the development of "controlled foreign company" and "patent box" rules, and then issued marketing brochures highlighting the role they had played. The brochure "Patent box: what's in it for you" had, it said, suggested the legislation represented a business opportunity to reduce tax and that KPMG could help clients in the "preparation of defendable expense allocation".

The committee is "very concerned by the way that the four firms appear to use their insider knowledge of legislation to sell clients advice on how to use those rules to pay less tax", the report adds.

The report was welcomed by Prem Sikka, professor of accounting at University of Essex. "They [the big four] are the epicentre of a global tax avoidance industry and the loss of tax revenues is directly responsible for the current economic crisis. The Treasury should follow the US authorities and prosecute and fine the firms. The habitual offenders should be shut down," he said.

Officials from HMRC rejected criticisms that tax officers were not making progress in tackling avoidance. "The facts show that we are not only aggressively fighting battles against tax avoidance, but we are winning them," a spokesman said.

KPMG said in a statement: "When requested to by government departments we do provide individuals on secondment. Their role is to provide tax technical input and commercial experience so that the authorities can make informed choices on tax policy. Our secondees do not write legislation or make policy decisions."

Bill Dodwell, head of tax policy at Deloitte, said: "We do not believe that there has ever been any conflict of interest but would want to help ensure that there is no perception of conflict." Kevin Nicholson, head of tax at PwC, said: "We provide technical insight to government but only when asked and are never involved in deciding tax policy which is a matter for the government."

In evidence to the committee, John Dixon, Ernst and Young's head of tax, said: "I think there are benefits in the work we do with government ... benefits to the country at large. If you look at the quality of the legislation that we now have ... it is a lot better than it was 10 years ago.

"Why is that? Because we are actively working with government, at our cost, to make sure that the legislative footprint we are working with is as clear and concise as it can possibly be."

An HMRC spokesman said: "HMRC gives careful consideration to the potential risks, as well as how to mitigate any potential conflicts of interest, before any such secondments are agreed. On balance, the carefully targeted use of secondees is beneficial for the development of tax policy and improving the effectiveness of the tax system."

Cameron, who hopes to use an EU summit in May as a stepping stone to a wider agreement at the G8, wrote to all EU leaders proposing:

• Rapid movement to a global system of information exchange to help tackle tax evasion including through the use of offshore trusts.

• Action plans by G8 countries to produce full transparency, breaking through walls of corporate secrecy and establishing central public company registries.

• Voluntary deals for multinational firms to make clear the tax they pay in every country they operate in.

Chinese official's son jailed for trying to bribe UK professors

Want China Times, Staff Reporter 2013-04-26

Recruiters from Leeds Metropolitan University at an education exhibition in
Shanghai. (File photo/CFP)

The son of a Chinese official has been sentenced to a year in prison by a British court for trying to bribe his university teachers and carrying a concealed weapon when he met with them.

26-year-old Yang Li, studying for an MSc in Innovation and Technology Management at Bath University, learned he had not been given a passing mark for his dissertation, jeopardizing his plans to enroll at the school for a further year or to exchange his student visa for one for highly skilled professionals.

Yang made an appointment with Professor Andrew Graves and Dr Stephen Shepherd to discuss what his options were, according to Britain's Daily Mail. Yang told his teachers "I am a businessman" and placed 5,000 (US$7,730) in cash on the table. "There is a fourth option: you can keep the money if you give me a pass mark and I won't bother you again," Yang is reported to have said.

The two teachers refused and told him to leave. But when Yang picked up his jacket, an air pistol fell out of his pocket.

Yang's lawyer said his client's father is a government official and business man in China and that his client is accustomed to carrying a large amount of cash on him. He offered the money as a rash gesture on the spur of the moment, he said. The lawyer also said that Yang used the imitation firearm for target practice in his garden and this was not a premeditated act of intimidation.

The judge accepted that the gun was not acquired for the purpose of the meeting but ruled that the bribery attempt was premeditated. He sentenced Yang to 12 months for attempted bribery and another six months on a firearms charge, which will run concurrently.

Related Article:


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tina Turner becomes a Swiss citizen

The Daily Star – AFP, April 24, 2013

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey is shown with guests (L-R) Stevie Wonder,
 John Travolta, Gayle King and Tina Turner from the Oprah's 50th Birthday Party
 episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" that originally aired on January 29, 2004,
 in this publicity photograph released to Reuters on May 24, 2011.
REUTERS/George Burns/(C) Harpo, Inc./Handout
                              
GENEVA: Tina Turner, the US-born singer famed for hits such as "Private Dancer" and "What's Love Got to Do With It", has become a Swiss citizen, the Swiss newspaper Blick reported.

The 73-year-old retired entertainer, who has lived in Switzerland for nearly two decades, received her red Swiss passport with its distinctive white cross on it on Monday, the publication said.

Swiss media reported in January that Turner was to hand in her US passport when she got her Swiss one. She was quoted as saying that "I cannot imagine a better place to live" than in the European Alpine state, where privacy laws are strictly enforced.

Turner, who was born Anna Mae Bullock, lives in the picturesque town of Kuesnacht, on the shores of Lake Zurich in northern Switzerland. She had to learn German, pass a local civics test and interview to get her new citizenship.

She moved to Switzerland in 1995 when her longtime partner, German record executive Erwin Bach, was transferred here. The couple is expected to marry in a few months' time, Blick reported.


Two charged over stolen pics of Prince William's wife Kate

Google - AFP, 24 April 2013

Britain's Prince William (L) and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge,
visit Glasgow, Scotland on April 4, 2013 (Pool/AFP/File, Danny Lawson)

PARIS — Two people were charged this month over the publication in September of stolen photos of Prince William's wife Catherine that caused a huge furore, sources said Wednesday.

According to sources close to the case, the head of the Mondadori Group -- the publisher of glossy magazine Closer where some of the shots were printed -- and a photographer at regional daily La Provence, were both charged.

Judges in the Paris suburb of Nanterre charged the photographer with "invasion of privacy" for taking photos of the former Kate Middleton in a swimsuit while she was on holiday in the south of France with her husband.

Those shots were published in La Provence. But the most intimate shots showing the Duchess of Cambridge topless and having suncream rubbed into her behind by William were published in Closer.

Judges are still investigating who took those photos.

Ernesto Mauri, the chief executive of Mondadori, was meanwhile also charged with "invasion of privacy" for having let the topless shots be published.

The publication of the shots in September caused a huge furore, and French authorities promptly banned Closer from any further publication or resale of the topless pictures, while launching a criminal probe into how they were obtained.


Related Article:


Number of people turning to food banks triples in a year

Charity says up to 650 more food banks are needed across UK to cope with surging demand

The Guardian, Patrick Butler, social policy editor, Wednesday 24 April 2013

Supplies are sorted at a food bank in Coventry. Photograph: Christopher
Thomond for the Guardian

More than 350,000 people turned to food banks for help last year, almost triple the number who received food aid in the previous year and 100,000 more than anticipated, according to the UK's biggest food crisis charity.

The Trussell Trust said the dramatic increase in the use of its food banks was set to continue in the coming months as poorer families struggle financially as a result of the government's welfare reforms.

The Trussell Trust executive chairman, Chris Mould, said: "The sheer volume of people who are turning to food banks because they can't afford food is a wake-up call to the nation that we cannot ignore the hunger on our doorstep."

He added: "Politicians across the political spectrum urgently need to recognise the real extent of UK food poverty and create fresh policies that better address its underlying causes. This is more important than ever as the impact of the biggest reforms to the welfare state since it began start to take effect.

"Since 1 April we have already seen increasing numbers of people in crisis being sent to food banks with nowhere else to go."

Although it has established 345 food banks, the trust says there is insufficient capacity nationally and that between 400 and 650 more food banks are needed to cope with expected demand. It is opening new projects at the rate of three a week, but says geographical gaps in coverage mean "thousands of people are facing hunger today in towns with no food banks".

The rise in the numbers of people using Trussell-Trust-backed food banks in part reflects a 76% increase in the number of food banks set up over the past year. But the trust said it had seen a 170% increase in the number of people given food boxes over the same period.

Nearly a third of food parcel recipients had been referred to the trust because their social security benefits had been delayed. A further 15% came as a result of their benefits being cut or stopped (up from 11% in 2011-12). The trust said the majority of people turning to food banks were working-age families.

Mould said: "We're seeing people from all kinds of backgrounds turning to food banks: working people coming in on their lunch-breaks, mums who are going hungry to feed their children, people whose benefits have been delayed and people who are struggling to find enough work."

Trussell food boxes contain three days' supply of non-perishable foods such as tinned fruit, vegetables, meat and fish as well as pasta, cereal, UHT milk, sauces, tea, and long-life juice. Recipients must be referred by care professionals such as social workers or police officers, and are limited to three vouchers a year.

Mary Creagh, the shadow environment secretary, said: "The UK is the seventh richest country in the world yet we face a growing epidemic of hidden hunger with people increasingly unable to meet their family's basic needs. This incompetent government needs to wake up the human cost of their failed economic policies and change course now."

Although the Trussell figures are one of the most robust indicators of the prevalence of food poverty, they represent just a fraction of the growth in emergency food aid in the UK, much of it small-scale and ad hoc, and run through local churches, community groups and housing associations.

The Salvation Army, which also provides emergency food parcels, said many of its local branches ran informal food banks, but it did not collect statistics on a national basis. Anecdotally, it said several of its local branches – known as "corps" – had witnessed an increase in the number of requests for food parcels.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said the rise in numbers of people using food banks was partly explained by the decision of jobcentres to refer some clients to food banks, and partly a reflection of the success of Trussell's own "marketing activity".

He said: "The government already provides a safety net for essentials like food and housing through the benefits system and claimants can also request a benefit advance or help from their local authority where needed."

However, local authorities have complained that jobcentres are refusing to issue short-term benefit loans to penniless claimants. Many councils have also entered into agreements to refer recipients of local crisis support to food banks following the abolition of the social fund.