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. …

Monday, December 26, 2016

'Last Christmas': Tributes pour in as George Michael dies at 53

Yahoo - AFP, Dario Thuburn, December 26, 2016

British singer George Michael, who sold more than 100 million albums in
his career, has died aged 53 (AFP Photo/LEON NEAL)

London (AFP) - British pop star George Michael, who rose to fame with the band Wham! and sold more than 100 million albums in his career, has died aged 53, his publicist said.

"It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period," the publicist said in a statement.

Thames Valley Police said the ambulance service had attended a property in Goring in Oxfordshire, where the singer lived, at 1342 GMT on Sunday and a 53-year-old man was confirmed dead at the scene.

"At this stage the death is being treated as unexplained but not suspicious. A post-mortem will be undertaken in due course," the police said.

Billboard magazine quoted Michael's manager Michael Lippman as saying the singer had died of heart failure.

Singer Elton John published a picture of himself with Michael on his Instagram account.

"I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend - the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist," the British star wrote.

Madonna posted a video of herself presenting Michael with an award and wrote: "Farewell my Friend! Another Great Artist leaves us."

Michael was due to release a documentary in 2017 after a period of living as a virtual recluse in which he hit the headlines for a series of bizarre incidents linked to drugs.

Earlier this month it was also announced that producer and songwriter Naughty Boy, whose real name is Shahid Khan, was working with Michael on a new album for next year.

Michael was best known for his 1980s hits "Last Christmas", "Freedom", "Careless Whisper" and "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" but his career spanned more than three decades.

He won a string of awards including two Grammies and three Brits.

His last album "Symphonica" (2014) rose to number one in the charts.

George Michael (AFP Photo/Gal ROMA)

'Talented soul'

Many tributes to Michael referred to other music world deaths in 2016, starting with David Bowie in January and including Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt who died on Saturday.

"2016 - loss of another talented soul. All our love and sympathy to George Michael's family," the band Duran Duran, which were 1980s contemporaries of Wham!, said on their official Twitter account.

Referring to him by his nickname "Yog" (Yours Only George), Wham! co-star Andrew Ridgeley said he was "heartbroken" by Michael's death.

Canadian musician Bryan Adams tweeted: "I can't believe it. Such an incredible singer and a lovely human being, far too young to leave us."

Tributes poured in from outside the music world too.

Football presenter and former England captain Gary Lineker tweeted: "No, not George Michael as well. Another musical great leaves us this year. 2016 can just sod off."

"Star Trek" actor George Takei referred to some of Michael's greatest hits in a tweet, writing: "Rest with the glittering stars, George Michael. You've found your Freedom, your Faith. It was your Last Christmas, and we shall miss you."

George Michael was due to release a documentary in 2017 after a period of 
living as a virtual recluse in which he hit the headlines for a series of bizarre
incidents linked to drugs (AFP Photo/LEON NEAL)

Drug charges, health scares

Michael was born Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou to a Greek Cypriot father and English mother in north London in 1963.

He met Ridgeley at high school and the pair went on to form Wham! in 1981.

With their good looks, perma-tans, highlighted hair and hedonistic image, the duo captured the go-getting spirit of the age and fast became one of Britain's biggest pop acts.

In 1985, Wham! became the first Western pop band to perform in China as the country was slowly beginning to open up to the outside world under reformist leader Deng Xiaoping.

Following years of speculation over his sexuality, Michael came out as gay in 1998 after being arrested for committing a lewd act in the public toilet of a Los Angeles park.

It was the first of several incidents that were to overshadow his musical career in his later years.

He notched up police cautions for cannabis and crack cocaine possession and in 2010 was sentenced to eight weeks in jail after crashing his car into a London shop while under the influence of cannabis and prescription medication.

In 2011, he spent several weeks in hospital in Vienna after contracting pneumonia, later saying that he had been close to death.

There were fresh concerns in 2013 when he had to be airlifted to hospital after falling out of his chauffeur-driven Range Rover as it travelled at high speed on a motorway.




"The Akashic Circle" – Jul 17, 2011 (Kryon channelled by Lee Carroll) - (Subjects: Religion, The Humanization of GodBenevolent Design, DNA, Akashic Circle, (Old) Souls, Gaia, Indigenous People, Talents, Reincarnation, Genders, Gender Switches, In “between” Gender Change, Gender Confusion, Shift of Human Consciousness, Global Unity,..... etc.)  - (Text version)

“… Gender Switching

Old souls, let me tell you something. If you are old enough, and many of you are, you have been everything. Do you hear me? All of you. You have been both genders. All of you have been what I will call between genders, and that means that all of you have had gender switches. Do you know what happens when it's time for you to switch a gender? We have discussed it before. You'll have dozens of lifetimes as the same gender. You're used to it. It's comfortable. You cannot conceive of being anything else, yet now it's time to change. It takes approximately three lifetimes for you to get used to it, and in those three lifetimes, you will have what I call "gender confusion."

It isn't confusion at all. It's absolutely normal, yet society often will see it as abnormal. I'm sitting here telling you you've all been through it. All of you. That's what old souls do. It's part of the system. …”


"THE THREE WINDS" – Feb 23-24, 2013 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Humanity, Home - other side of the veil, Wind of Birth - Birth, Wind of Existence - Life, Wind of Transition - Death) (Text version)

“… The Human Spiritual System

The puzzle during your life is about how much of this truth of being part of the creator you can accept. How far can you open the quantum door to see this truth when you are alive? This single attribute determines how enlightened you become during life. Listen: It's not how much knowledge and experience in is your Akash, but how much you allow yourself to believe it. There are many old souls on this planet who have an amazing amount of spiritual learning, yet they don't want to touch that "spiritual jar" within them at this point in their lives. This is the free choice of the Human Being we speak about.

There is immense planning that puts you at the Wind of Birth. What did you accomplish during the last lives, if anything? Who were you and what did you do? What energies did you start that were not complete that you wish to continue? What soul group were you in? Who were your parents? Are you in certain soul agreements to become their grandchildren? That is more common than you think! There are so many things that go into the planning of the "entry energy" of your life, and each life potential is different and unique. The planning is done by you when you have "the mind of God" on my side of the veil.

Humans don't like the fact that there is no generic spiritual instruction manual that states, "Here is what happens and here is what to do." Listen, dear ones, humanity is honored way above that! Are all your children the same? Do books on how to raise children always work for your child? The answer is no, because each soul is totally unique. But Humans still wish to have a list of things to do and not to do, as though each soul somehow came out of a spiritual machine that made them all the same. No. Instead, Spirit honors each soul with unique choice and a tremendous variety of energy selections.

The Great Artists

There are certain attributes that Humans receive on the planet, and we'll call them creative attributes. These are almost quantum attributes that may take several lifetimes to complete. What often happens to these creatives is that they go through a series of lifetimes as though it were one in order to have completion of their creative cycle. Famous artists will come back, and the first thing they want to do is pick up a brush and continue what they did before. Famous composers, famous poets and sculptors will come back and simply keep going! It's so obvious, yet you deny this in your scientific way.

So the creatives are different from the others, and their puzzle is to bring the planet the greatest treasures of art through a unified series of lives, yet personally they try to sort out the puzzle of "what they carry inside is valuable, but nobody knows it". If you've noticed, most of the great artists who have even lived and are here today carry a burden that is easily identified as "lack of self-worth". Do you see the set-up? It's ripe for personal discovery, isn't it? So can you see the Human standing in the Wind of Birth, ready to continue what they only began last time? With the "mind of God", there is a smile on their face as they hear the music that they will compose, for it's with them when they arrive.

As you stand at the Wind of Birth, you are completely and totally a unique creature with incomplete energies. It takes more than one short earthly life to create Human attributes that grow into maturity. Even non-creatives (most of you) have a lineage of starting something that never got fully completed. Sometimes it's within relationships. Sometimes it's learning or teachings. Old souls are good at this coming and going and often pick up where they leave off as they slowly change the planet by their very presence upon it. The old soul is, "Sewing the seeds of light on the carpet of linear time, not even knowing that he will also be harvesting those exact mature plants of wisdom as he returns in a subsequent life."

Therefore, dear one, you don't arrive with a blank slate, but you have to know that, don't you? The old soul feels it. The only ones who arrive with a completely blank slate are the newbies [first timers] and we'll talk about that in the next wind. But this is a room of old souls who are hearing and reading right now. Each of you is here with a spiritual jar that is filled with the experience of living on Earth, and sometimes even the attribute of "awakening to your own mastery".  ….”



10 Amazing Things Kids Have Said About Past Lives

"Common Questions from Non-Lightworkers" - Feb 2012 (Kryon Channelling by Lee Carroll) 

"... Question Three: Is there life on other planets?

... I will tell you, as long as you stay in 3D, you'll still be getting in little metal cans and air suits and going to planets. As soon as you begin the quantum age, however, you will simply wish yourself there, because you will be entangled with everything and can go with intent. If you don't believe this now, you will later, for what I give you is true. It may be lifetimes and lifetimes from now, but the group that is before me is the group that is going to come back over and over. The difference is that you're done coming back in an old energy. This is a new energy..

When you come back, dear one, everything you know will be in your DNA and be on top [available]. You're not going to have to go through what you did before. As soon as you decide to look around and open the door [metaphor for free choice to awaken], everything you've learned this time around will be right there.

This is the attribute of what you would call "a child of new consciousness," which you have labeled with a color - indigo. The child remembers who they are. They are conceptual, and you believe they have to be taught from scratch! Hardly! They remember! Do you understand what is taking place? We told you this last time, but we want to review something with you: The animal on the prairie drops its calf and within hours, the calf is up, running with the herd. Did you know that the calf instantly knows who its enemies are, what water to drink that doesn't smell right, and what berries to eat that are not poison? Where did that come from? How did that infant animal know these things? The answer is that this information was biologically inherited. You call it instinct. But when you have a Human baby - nothing! It doesn't know anything but that it's hungry. It requires 20 years of teaching! Aren't you tired of that? Did you ever think about why the animals have so much knowledge to begin with and you have so little? Does that seem correct for the top of the evolutionary ladder? It's time for that to change.

You're starting to see it, even with the indigos. They come in knowing. That's why they're so impatient. You're trying to teach them things they already know instinctively. Just like the calf on the prairie, they come in knowing. Some of them try to teach you. That doesn't always go well. That was question three...."


"The Quantum Factor" – Apr 10, 2011 (Kryon channeled by Lee Carroll) (Subjects: Galaxies, Universe, Intelligent design, Benevolent design, Aliens, Nikola Tesla (Quantum energy), Inter-Planetary Travel, DNA, Genes, Stem Cells, Cells, Rejuvenation, Shift of Human Consciousness, Spontaneous Remission, Religion, Dictators, Africa, China, Nuclear Power, Sustainable Development, Animals, Global Unity.. etc.) - (Text Version)

"..... DNA - A Quantum Force 

Now we get to the core truth, don't we? So I will tell you. The ninety percent of DNA which is quantum, is filled with information, both esoteric and timeless. It is a quantum blueprint for everything you are and have been since you arrived on the planet the first time. DNA contains instruction sets for your life; everything from your full Akashic Record - every single lifetime you have had - to the benevolent creator's fingerprint within the seeds of creation itself. Every single talent you ever had is there, even if you don't have any of those today... the record is there. Every predisposition of weakness and strength are there. Biologically, every single instruction to every single stem cell is there. . ..."

"..... DNA is a Dynamic Molecule, not a static one.

Humanity is stuck in the 3D portion of their biological thinking. In your 3-D life, you simply accept the chemistry you're given. You act as though the three percent gene producing part is all there is. You believe it is a chemical protocol that is unchangeable and simply "you." You don't see it for the way it's designed. It's dynamic and always has been. It's not set, but will continue to simply repeat what it does unless there is another quantum influence on it.

Therefore you live with the 3 percent as though it were all there is, and since it just "came with your body" and seems to control everything, you never talk to it. Many of you come in with pre-dispositions based upon the karma which is put upon you from your past lives. You don't come in clean [without karmic energy]. Instead, you arrive with pre-dispositions, fears and phobias. Some are positive. Perhaps you come in as a prodigy continuing your last life... the 8-year-old who can paint like a master and do brushstrokes that take 30 years to develop. What does that tell you about what must be in the DNA?

Perhaps you come in as the composer, the pianist, the prodigy, the violinist, just waiting until your hands can go on the fingerboard or can reach up and fret the notes. Perhaps you come in knowing how to play the piano, just waiting for your hands to get big enough to do what you used to do... without any lessons. How do you explain that, dear ones? The answer is that all this is contained in the dynamic quantum instruction sets of your DNA... the part you never talk to it. .."

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Britain's 90-year-old Queen reduces royal duties

Yahoo – AFP, December 20, 2016

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II turned 90 in 2016 (AFP Photo/Nick Ansell)

London (AFP) - Queen Elizabeth II will stand down as patron of 25 bodies including the Wimbledon tennis championships and the Rugby Football Union, handing them to other royals after turning 90, her office said Tuesday.

"At the end of The Queen's 90th birthday year, Her Majesty will step down as patron from a number of national organisations," Buckingham Palace said in a statement.

Other bodies on the list include the children's charity Barnardo's, the British Cycling Federation and the Royal Geographical Society.

At the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club Wimbledon, where the queen has been patron since 1952 despite only attending a few matches, she will be replaced by Prince William's wife Kate.

Prince Harry will take the queen's place at the Rugby Football Union, where she has also been the official patron since inheriting the throne in 1952.

Britain Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Wimbledon,
 England - 10/7/16 Britain's Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge in 
the royal box on centre court Reuters/Andrew Couldridge

A Buckingham Palace spokesman said the charities concerned represented less than five percent of the 600 organisations of which the queen is a patron.

"The queen will no longer have a formal connection to these organisations. If there is a royal engagement, then the invitation will go to other members of the royal family," he said.

The queen has already slightly reduced her engagements in the past year, according to estimates in British media, from 393 in 2014 to 341 in 2015.

The queen became the world's longest-reigning monarch in October this year following the death of Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej.

In September last year she had surpassed the reign of her great great grandmother Victoria, who was on the throne from 1837 until 1901.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

EU, Dutch seal deal to save Ukraine pact, rebuff Russia

Yahoo - AFPDecember 15, 2016

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said EU leaders agreed to give the Netherlands
 guarantees that will enable it to ratify the group's pact with Ukraine (AFP Photo/
JERRY LAMPEN)

Brussels (AFP) - The EU struck a compromise with the Netherlands on Thursday to save the bloc's historic association pact with Ukraine that was sealed over bitter Russian opposition but then rejected by Dutch voters.

European Union leaders gave Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte special pledges limiting defence commitments to Ukraine, and saying that the accord does not entail future membership for Kiev.

"It wasn't easy, it wasn't pleasant, but it is necessary, because it ensures that the EU can continue to form a united front against destabilising Russian foreign policy," Rutte said.

"This decision is important because it sets out once and for all what the Association Agreement means and -- above all -- what it does not mean. After today there can be no misunderstanding on that score."

Officials had warned that failure to reach a deal, which should allow the Netherlands to become the final EU nation to ratify it, would have been a victory for Russia and its involvement in the Ukraine conflict.

The 28 EU leaders agreed a special statement saying that the accord "does not confer on Ukraine the status of a candidate country for accession to the Union, nor does it constitute a commitment to confer such status to Ukraine in the future".

It also says the pact "does not contain an obligation for the Union or its member states to provide collective security guarantees or other military aid or assistance to Ukraine".

Rutte had warned earlier that it would be the "biggest ever present" for Russian President Vladimir Putin if the EU-Ukraine cooperation deal was torpedoed by growing eurosceptic opposition in the Netherlands.

EU leaders separately agreed at the summit to extend economic sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine for another six months until mid-2017, officials said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte arrives on the second day of the EU Summit
in Brussels, Belgium June 29, 2016. REUTERS/Phil Noble

'Not good but necessary'

The EU agreed the cooperation pact and an associated free trade agreement with Ukraine in 2014 after pro-EU protestors ousted Russia-leaning president Viktor Yanukovych who fled to Moscow.

But Dutch voters rejected the deal in April on the grounds it opened the door to Ukraine's membership of the bloc and amounted to a defence guarantee for a country already embroiled in bloody conflict with Russia.

Ratified by the other 27 EU member states, the agreement needs Dutch endorsement to come into full effect or it will have to be withdrawn.

President Petro Poroshenko has committed Ukraine, long-ruled from Moscow as a Soviet-era satellite, to a future with the EU and the accord was widely seen as paving the way to future membership.

He also wants the country to join NATO, a move Putin has made clear would be completely unacceptable and force Russia to take retaliatory measures.

The possible failure of the accord has stoked growing fears and anger in Ukraine, with many complaining that the EU is breaking its promises of closer ties.

Rutte, who faces elections early next year with populist and anti-EU sentiment on the rise, previously warned he would have no option but to drop the Ukraine pact if he could not get satisfaction in Brussels.

Officials had said EU leaders would do their best to help him but there had been concerns the pledges could amount to changing some of the bloc's treaty obligations, a no-go area.

"These (pledges) are of course not good but seen as what is necessary," an EU official told reporters on condition of anonymity. 

Mark Rutte, second left, arrives in Brussels on Thursday. Photo: AP Photo/
Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Related Article:


Sunday, December 11, 2016

World's longest tunnel opens regular service in Switzerland

Yahoo – AFP, December 11, 2016

The 57-kilometre (35.4-mile) new Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT)in Switzerland,
which runs under the Alps, was first conceived in sketch-form in 1947 but
construction began 17 years ago (AFP Photo/Fabrice Coffrini)

Geneva (AFP) - Regular rail services through the world's longest tunnel began on Sunday, carrying passengers deep under the Swiss Alps from Zurich to Lugano.

The famed Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) had a ceremonial opening in June, attracting European leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande for its maiden ride.

The Swiss national rail service (SBB) had announced that Sunday would mark the start of normal commercial traffic through the 57-kilometre (35-mile) GBT, which took 17 years to build, at a cost of over 12 billion Swiss francs ($11.8 billion, 11.2 billion euros).

The Swiss news agency ATS reported that the first regular passenger train to use the GBT pulled out of Zurich at 6:09 am (0509 GMT) and arrived in Lugano at 8:17 am, with the tunnel passage shaving a full 30 minutes off the previous travel time for the same route.

"It's Christmas," SBB chief Andreas Meyer was quoted as saying by ATS after the journey was over.

The Gotthard rail tunnel (AFP Photo/Simon MALFATTO, Philippe 
MOUCHE, Frédéric GARET)

The ambitious GBT project has won praise across Europe for its pioneering efforts to improve connectivity from Rotterdam to the Adriatic.

The Swiss funded tunnel was largely made possible by technical advances in tunnel-boring machines, which replaced the costly and dangerous blast-and-drill method.

The GBT has surpassed Japan's 53.9-kilometre Seikan tunnel as the world's longest train tunnel.

The 50.5-kilometre Channel Tunnel connecting Britain and France has been bumped into third place.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

France's honest tax system crusader convicted for hiding millions of euros

Jérôme Cahuzac, appointed by Hollande to lead clampdown on wealthy avoiders, hid cash in a secret Swiss account for 20 years

The Guardian, Angelique Chrisafis in Paris, 8 December 2016

Jérôme Cahuzac leaves court in Paris during his trial. Photograph: Francois Mori/AP

Jérôme Cahuzac, the minister who led François Hollande’s drive for a more honest tax system, has been sentenced to three years in prison for tax fraud and secretly stashing his wealth in tax havens around the world.

The deeply damaging saga, in which Cahuzac spearheaded the left’s crusade against tax avoidance while secretly hiding millions of euros of his own money from French tax authorities, was the biggest scandal to hit Hollande’s presidency.

Cahuzac was appointed Hollande’s tax tsar in 2012 to lead the Socialist president’s crusade against wealthy tax-avoiders and make the rich pay their share of dragging France out of its economic woes.

But in 2013 he was forced to admit he had hidden his own money in an account in Switzerland for 20 years and lied about it to parliament. The saga wrecked Hollande’s carefully crafted reputation as a straightforward “Mr Normal” who would oversee an honest government. It increased the public mistrust in France’s political class.

Cahuzac and his ex-wife, Patricia Ménard, who was also jailed, jointly ran a hair-transplant business treating some of France’s biggest celebrities. They were found guilty of tax fraud, tax evasion and laundering the proceeds. They hid millions of euros from the tax authorities for two decades, moving their money across the world from Switzerland to Singapore and the Isle of Man.

The prosecutor Jean-Marc Toublanc said during the trial this autumn that Cahuzac’s family life “was rooted in fraud for 20 years”. Cahuzac wept in the dock while giving evidence and hinted he had considered taking his own life rather than admit to lying. By the end of the trial he had repeatedly admitted his “inexcusable wrongdoing” and described it as a kind of “mechanical action” that was “very hard to stop”.

Cahuzac, 64, was a cardiologist who became a plastic surgeon and made a fortune as Paris’s leading hair transplant expert in the 1990s. At his surgery near the Champs-Élysées, he restored the balding crowns of big names in showbusiness and politics while pursuing his own distinguished political career.

When Hollande named him as budget minister to lead France’s clampdown on tax evasion, it was one of the most important appointments in government. Cracking down on financial corruption and taxing the mega-rich had been Hollande’s election rallying cry.

But in December 2012, months after Hollande’s election, the respected investigative website Mediapart revealed that Cahuzac had been hiding his money. From 1992 he had held an undisclosed account at the Swiss bank UBS that contained €600,000. He had travelled to Geneva to close it and transfer the money to Singapore just before he was made head of the parliamentary finance commission in February 2010, Mediapart said.

Cahuzac furiously denied the allegations. In a four-month campaign to protest his innocence, he lied to parliament, saying he had never hidden money in Switzerland. He went on all major television stations to continue this lie and was said to have reassured Hollande he was telling the truth. The government stood by him for months, including when he resigned claiming he was innocent and needed to devote himself to fight the allegations.

Then Cahuzac made a sudden public confession in April 2013, saying he did have the account; had defrauded the taxman and had been “caught in a spiral of lies”. There could not have been a more damaging scandal for the left.

In court, Cahuzac said he had stashed funds offshore to maintain his family’s standard of living, which included buying apartments for the children in London and Paris and taking holidays in Mauritius.

In one episode, Cahuzac, using the codename Birdie, allegedly received two cash payments of €10,000 in envelopes handed over by a bank contact on the streets of Paris. The couple used a Royal Bank of Scotland account in the Isle of Man to channel cheques from English hair transplant clients. As their marriage began to falter, Ménard also opened an account in Switzerland.

Ménard’s lawyer, Sebastien Schapira, told the court the money was “that of fraud, but initially it was that of her work, earned day after day, hour after hour, hair by hair”. He described Ménard as “naive”, an unwitting accomplice who was “swept up” in the fraud before confessing to it in December 2013.

She testified that the couple had become locked in a spiral of wrongdoing. “I’m extremely ashamed of having done all that,” Ménard said.

After the Cahuzac scandal broke, Hollande reinforced measures on financial corruption, ethics and transparency in political life.

McDonald's moves non-US tax HQ to Britain from Luxembourg

Yahoo – AFP, Dario Thuburn, December 8, 2016

McDonald's is establishing a new Britain-based holding company to cover royalties
 from most licensing agreements outside the United States (AFP Photo/Karen Bleier)

London (AFP) - McDonald's will move fiscal headquarters for the majority of its non-US operations to Britain, it said Thursday, following an EU crackdown on tax deals struck by multinationals including the fast-food giant.

McDonald's is establishing a new Britain-based holding company to cover royalties from most licensing agreements outside the United States, shifting its tax base from Luxembourg.

The profits will be subject to British tax, McDonald's said in a statement that was immediately welcomed by the British government, which is under pressure to preserve economic stability as the country prepares to leave the European Union.

Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to cut corporation tax to 17 percent by 2020 from the current 20 percent, prompting warnings by commentators in continental Europe that Britain is planning to become a "tax haven" post-Brexit.

"We welcome continued investment from companies around the world into the UK, particularly where that's securing growth and increasing jobs," May's spokeswoman told reporters at a daily briefing.

Several tech giants including Facebook and Google have announced investment in Britain since the EU referendum in June but some companies, particularly in the finance sector, are considering relocation to continental Europe as a result of the Brexit vote.

McDonald's made its announcement shortly after a senior official at France's markets regulator told BBC television that Paris had received inquiries by large international banks with operations in London.

"McDonald's selected the UK for the location of its new international holding structure because of a significant number of staff based in London working on our international business, language, and connections to other markets," the company said.

McDonald's under investigation

The EU launched a formal investigation in December 2015 into tax deals between the US giant and Luxembourg, saying its preliminary assessment was that they breached state aid rules.

The case against McDonald's stemmed from a complaint by trade unions and the charity War on Want that accused McDonald's of avoiding around one billion euros ($1.1 billion) in taxes between 2009 and 2013, by shifting profits from one corporate division to another, and paying no local tax in Luxembourg.

A McDonald's spokesperson said the restaurant chain "pays a signficant amount of corporate taxes".

From 2011 to 2015, McDonald's paid more than $2.5 billion in corporate taxes to the EU at an average rate of almost 27 percent, the spokesperson added.

The move announced on Thursday means McDonald's will close operations in Geneva.

McDonald's Luxembourg office will remain open, but functions related to business outside the country will shift to Britain.

McDonald's said the move was consistent with a global reorganisation undertaken by recently appointed chief executive Steve Easterbrook, who has shaken up the structure as part of a turnaround to boost profitability.

Easterbrook was tapped in January 2015 to turn around McDonald's fortunes after a lengthy slump saw the home of the Big Mac lose ground to other fast-food chains like Wendy's and high-end brands such as Five Guys and Shake Shack.

With more customers in Europe and elsewhere choosing to eat fast food, McDonald's reported unexpectedly strong third quarter results in October, despite sluggish growth its US restaurants.

The company pointed to especially strong sales in Britain and Japan, as well as positive results in Australia, Canada and Germany.

Net income for the third quarter dipped 4.4 percent to $1.3 billion. That translated into $1.50 a share, a penny above analyst expectations.

Net sales declined 3 percent to $6.42 billion, better than the $6.28 billion projected by analysts.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

ABN Amro sells Asian private banking unit

DutchNews, December 6, 2016    

ABN Amro has agreed to sell its private banking activities in Asia and the Middle East to LTG Bank, a leading international private banking and asset management group based in Liechtenstein, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Tuesday. Terms were not disclosed. 

The sale fits in with ABN Amro’s latest strategy, revealed in mid-November, to concentrate on further development of its private banking operations in northwest Europe. 

Jeroen Rijpkema, CEO of ABN Amro Private Banking International, said: ‘We are happy to have found a strong and solid partner in LTG which will ensure the continuity of our service to clients and the future of our staff.’ 

ABN Amro’s Asian unit has about €18.5bn in assets under management for clients in Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai and is the 18th largest private bank in Asia.  The Asian operation also accounts for roughly 10% of all assets under management by ABN Amro worldwide. 

The transaction, expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2017, is subject to approval of relevant banking authorities. 

ABN Amro expects a ‘considerable book profit’ on the deal. US press bureau Bloomberg earlier put this at about $300m.

Related Article:

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Corruption-hit IAAF adopts Coe's reforms

Yahoo – AFP, Luke Phillips, Dec 3, 2016

International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) chief Sebastian Coe
 speaks to the media during a IAAF council meeting in Monaco, on December 1,
2016 (AFP Photo/Valery Hache)

Monaco (AFP) - The IAAF on Saturday unanimously adopted a reform package drawn up by president Sebastian Coe in a bid to end "grotesque" corruption that has rocked track and field's governing body.

In a Special Congress in Monaco, 182 member federations voted for the reforms, with 10 against and five invalid votes. Some 197 of the IAAF's 213 member federations were present for the vote, the result of which was a major boost for Coe.

"Let me thank you for the confidence that you have shown the Council today in the reform proposals that you have agreed to. This is a very important moment in the history of our sport," said Coe.

Coe's reforms, with a nod to disgraced predecessor Lamine Diack's abuse of the presidency, include stripping himself of some powers, with the president and IAAF Council not allowed to serve more than 12 years and with more checks put in place.

"Too much power rested in the hands of too few people," Coe said.

The reforms also push for gender balance, handing athletes a greater voice and crucially establishing an independent integrity unit that would manage all anti-doping matters and be responsible for greater intelligence gathering.

"We're putting in place a framework that should have been there years ago," Coe said, telling members that they should all feel "violated" given the amount of money that had been siphoned off instead of having been "used for the development of athletics."

"It's bad enough that any of this happened, but it cannot happen for a second time, not on our watch, not anyone else's watch.

"Let's not beat around the bush, our sport, our family, is under threat. Sitting out the fight is not an option."

Since Coe took office in August 2015, the IAAF has been mired in the fall-out from the presidency of Diack, at the centre of a corruption scandal in which several former senior IAAF officials were found to have bribed Russian athletes in return for keeping quiet over positive doping tests.

Coe admitted that the reforms had not been to everyone's taste, all the while praising the "civilised discourse" and the "clarity and honesty of dialogue".

"The fundamental principles, I believe, have broad support," said the Briton, a two-time Olympic 1500m gold medallist.

"On gender balance, a number of areas told me they needed more time - you've got it.

"I want checks and balances in place... I don't want to be in an office choosing carpets and signing off expenses.

"I would not ask for change if I didn't think we needed it."

Bold stance

Coe's bold stance on gender equality envisages the 26-member Council transitioning to half-men, half-women by 2023. At the 2019 Council election, he wants a minimum of nine of each gender elected including two vice-presidents of each gender.

Indicative of the ground shift that will entail was that just three of the representatives of the 42 member federations who addressed the Congress before the vote were women, notably women's world marathon record holder Paula Radcliffe representing Britain and also including representatives from the Cook Islands and the Turks and Caicos.

"We have to put these changes in," said Radcliffe. "There is only one choice, there isn't time to delay and talk about this, we need to act now to save our sport."

Notably voting against the reforms was Saudi Arabia while Qatar, the host of the 2019 World Athletics Championships and 2022 Football World Cup, voted for.

Abstainers included Lamine Diack's Senegal, vice-president Sergey Bubka's Ukraine and track powerhouses Jamaica, despite Usain Bolt picking up a record sixth IAAF Athlete of the Year award on Friday and throwing his weight behind Coe.

"I know that Seb Coe is trying to make track and field more transparent to everyone so they can see what shape it is in and to make sure there is not one person fully in control," said Bolt.

"That's a bold move from him as IAAF president.

"That's also helped the sport to make people more confident and to trust the sport more."

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Pope creates 17 cardinals, 'Princes of the Church'

Yahoo – AFP, Ella Ide, November 19, 2016

Pope Francis leads a consistory for the creation of 17 new cardinals from
 across the globe on November 19, 2016 at St Peter's basilica in Vatican (AFP
Photo/Tiziana Fabi)

Vatican City (AFP) - Pope Francis created 17 new cardinals from across the globe on Saturday, elevating them in a time-honoured ceremony to an elite body that advises and elects popes.

Three of them are from the US, while others come from corners of the world where the Catholic Church needs a boost.

Dressed in red robes, the "princes of the Church" knelt before the pontiff to pledge their allegiance in a solemn ceremony.

Thirteen of them are under 80 and therefore eligible to take part in the next secret conclave to elect or become the head of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. They are known as cardinal electors.

History's first Latin American pope is famed for wanting to reach out to far-flung dioceses often overlooked by Rome and he has largely shunned European candidates, favouring low-key, pastoral figures or men he knows.

The cardinal electors come from Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Central African Republic, Italy, Mauritius, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Spain, the United States and Venezuela.

Francis warned them against falling victim to a "growing animosity" between people, including within the Church, in a possible reference to divisions within the hierarchy over the pope's bid for a more open, forgiving Church.

He also urged them to fight growing xenophobia in the world and protect those such as refugees, who are often classed as enemies.

Pope Francis (centre) is famed for wanting to reach out to far-flung dioceses 
often overlooked by Rome and he has shunned European candidates almost
entirely (AFP Photo/Tiziana Fabi)

'Our greatest wealth'

"How many situations of uncertainty and suffering are sown by this growing animosity between peoples, between us! Yes, between us, within our communities, our priests, our meetings," he said.

"We come from distant lands; we have different traditions, skin colour, languages and social backgrounds; we think differently and we celebrate our faith in a variety of rites. None of this makes us enemies; instead, it is one of our greatest riches," he said.

The pope gave each man a three-cornered red hat, telling them that the colour symbolises "your readiness to act with courage, even to the shedding of your blood" for the Catholic Church.

They were also handed a gold ring of their high office.

Newly created Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago said he and the others were ready to act on the pope's words.

"It's getting out of hand in society today, where people almost have this contagious inflammation of animosity towards each other because they're different, they speak different languages, they look different. Are we going to be swept up in this violence?

"We're going to reach out to those we disagree with, we're going to love our enemies," he told AFPTV.

Cardinal Sergio da Rocha from Brazil echoed his words, saying: "We cardinals have to contribute... to make sure there is respect and dialogue everywhere, both in the Church and in the world."

After the ceremony, the new cardinals visited retired pope Benedict XVI at his home inside the Vatican.

Archbishop of Chicago Blase Joseph Cupich, kneels before Pope Francis to 
pledge allegiance and become cardinal, on November 19, 2016 during a 
consistory at Peter's basilica (AFP Photo/Tiziana Fabi)

Honorary 'red hats'

The unexpected pick of three Americans reverses a trend that saw Francis pass over US candidates in his first two consistories.

The youngest of the new cardinals is 49-year old Dieudonne Nzapalainga, the archbishop of Bangui, who organised the pope's 2015 visit to Central African Republic, where Francis opened the first "Holy Door" outside of Rome.

Some come from areas where Catholics are a distinct minority: Patrick D'Rozario is from Bangladesh where Christians represent just 0.03 percent of the total population, and only fifty percent of those are Catholics.

The sole Italian cardinal-elect is Mario Zenari, who is currently the papal envoy to Syria.

Among the four "red hats" over 80, who are given the title for service to the Church, is Albanian priest Ernest Simoni, who reduced Francis to tears in 2014 when he recounted the two decades he spent imprisoned for his faith during Albania's brutal communist rule.

Another of the over 80s, Sebastian Khoarai from Lesotho, was not present because of ill health.

Francis has now named 44 cardinal electors, just over a third of the total of 120 allowed by Church law.

Newly elevated cardinal, Archbishop of Bangui, Dieudonne Nzapalainga, speaks
 with relatives during a courtesy visit following a consistory on November 19, 2016 
at the Paul VI audience hall in Vatican (AFP Photo/Vincenzo Pinto)

Related Article: