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‘March, 2009’

Tax Havens in Spotlight at G20 Meet

Tax Havens in Spotlight at G20 Meet

Inter Press Service (IPS), March 29, 2009 –

This could be the moment when a fatal blow is delivered to the world’s tax havens. Or it could be another largely cosmetic change that allows offshore financial centres such as Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and Liechtenstein to deflect attacks on the system by sacrificing the few tax miscreants that governments catch in their nets.

Decisions at the G20 government leaders meeting in London Apr. 2 will set the direction.

Offshore centres, worried what may happen in London, are falling all over themselves promising to cooperate with the major powers on the trail of tax cheats. But the holes in the tax havens’ promises are as big as those in Switzerland’s famous cheese.

Many believe that automatic exchange of information is the only really effective way to end pandemic tax evasion. Some very good proposals are made in a leaked French paper which is linked to the full story.

The Real AIG Scandal: How the Game is Rigged at Wall Street’s Casino

The Real AIG Scandal: How the Game is Rigged at Wall Street’s Casino

AlterNet, March 26, 2009 –

Congress has deftly avoided the real story of AIG’s collapse, which will make a few million in bonuses seem like peanuts.

Most legislators at a House Finance subcommittee hearing last week deftly avoided the real story of AIG’s collapse. Instead, they homed in on the public relations disaster of hundreds of top AIG officials and staff getting $165 million (later revealed as over $218 million) in bonuses.

The key issue ignored by the congressmen and women was the potential catastrophe represented by as much as $2.7 trillion in AIG derivative contracts and how AIG and the U.S. government are dealing with them. To put that number in context, we’ve so far provided the company only about $170 billion.

Incident at Vichy” is Miller’s chilling morality play about the Holocaust

Incident at Vichy” is Miller’s chilling morality play about the Holocaust

A central theme of Arthur Miller’s plays is morality, often personal morality in difficult times. “All My Sons,” produced in 1947, excoriated a man who sold faulty aviation equipment to the military during the war. “The Crucible,” staged in 1953, was his Salem witch trials commentary on McCarthyism. And a decade later, Miller was back to the theme with “Incident at Vichy,” a 1964 chilling and depressing look into peoples’ psyches and morality in the time of the Holocaust. In each succeeding play, the times got tougher, moral choices more difficult.

The mysterious Bank Madoff

The mysterious Bank Madoff

March 17, 2009 –

There’s a mysterious “Bank Madoff, New York” that U.S. authorities don’t appear to know about. International securities clearing houses move trillions of dollars a year for banks and brokerages and are a natural way for crooks to launder Bank Madoff listing on Clearstream roster
and hide ill-gotten gains. So it would be natural for investigators to check the paper trails of Madoff accounts in CSDs (central securities depositories) around the world.

They already know about the one listed in the name of “Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC New York, US broker/dealer.”

But they don’t seem to know about “Bank Madoff, New York.” It appears on a list published by Clearstream, the international clearing and settlement house in Luxembourg. That “bank” has not been publicly mentioned by investigators.

(See the listing on its full page.)

“Heroes” – three French WWI veterans imagine their lives

“Heroes” – three French WWI veterans imagine their lives

Three men at a French home for World War I veterans are a wistful, sad lot living in a boring present and (some of them) fearing or hoping for a fanciful future. A little imagination goes a long way. Gérald Sibieyras’ play, translated from the French by Tom Stoppard, has a slight plot but meaty characterizations by the excellent cast of this Keen Company production. Director Carl Foreman succeeds in warding off excessive sentimentality.

“Guys and Dolls” revival is a good bet when they’re singing

“Guys and Dolls” revival is a good bet when they’re singing

The score carries this sprightly if not perfect production of the classic 1950 musical comedy about a Salvation Army missionary who reforms a couple of hard-boiled but appealing gamblers. The book by Jo Swerling & Abe Burrows was based on “The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown” and “Blood Pressure,” two short stories by Damon Runyon, who gets stage credit via the opening scene of a writer typing “Broadway Stories” on an old Remington.

Sarah Brown, the engaging Kate Jennings Grant, is out to save some souls. Nathan Detroit (Oliver Platt) is committed to finding a place to run his floating crap game for the night. “This is a show where a lot of joy washes over the audience in spite of the fact that the songs are over-miked and the talk scenes between the numbers don’t sparkle as much.

Cafeteria Kickbacks

Cafeteria Kickbacks
How food-service providers like Sodexo bilk millions from taxpayers and customers

In These Times, March 2009 –

The Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute provided generous support for this article.

At the end of the 2006 school year, children’s nutrition advocate Dorothy Brayley had a disturbing conversation with a local dairy representative. He had come to her office to discuss participation in the summer trade show of food providers she runs as director of Kids First Rhode Island.

At the time, the state’s schools were buying 100,000 containers of milk each week. The salesman for Garelick Farms, New England’s largest dairy, told Brayley that Sodexo—a food and facility management corporation that managed most of the state’s school lunch programs—was paying Garelick more than competitors in order to get a bigger rebate.

That’s just a taste of the hundreds of millions of dollars of “rebates”—or kickbacks from suppliers—that Sodexo, a $20 billion-a-year global leader in the food and facility management industry, has taken while operating cafeterias and other facilities for schools, hospitals, universities, government agencies, the military and private companies across the country, according to evidence provided by whistleblowers and internal company documents.