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Vatican Conference Rejects “Just War” Theory

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The National Catholic Reporter in “Landmark Vatican conference rejects just war theory, asks for encyclical on nonviolence” reports today: “The participants of a first-of-its-kind Vatican conference have bluntly rejected the Catholic church’s long-held teachings on just war theory, saying they have too often been used to justify violent conflicts and the global church must reconsider Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence.

“Members of a three-day event co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the international Catholic peace organization Pax Christi have also strongly called on Pope Francis to consider writing an encyclical letter, or some other ‘major teaching document,’ reorienting the church’s teachings on violence.”

COLMAN McCARTHY, cmccarthy at starpower.net
A former Washington Post columnist, McCarthy is founder and director of the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C., and the author of several books including I’d Rather Teach Peace.

He said today: “It’s long overdue that the leaders of the Catholic Church renounced and denounced the ‘just war’ theory. Christianity began as a faith totally committed to nonviolence. But then Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas proposed that some wars can be justified, which is completely opposite from the teachings of Jesus Christ. So it’s progress of sort that the church leaders — including Pope Francis — are hopefully coming to their senses. But it will not be enough until Pope Francis forbids Catholics from being in the military — just the way the Quakers, Mennonites and Church of the Brethren do not allow their members to take up arms to kill people. If this current conference doesn’t have such results, it’s just another example of empty talk.”

Syria and Libya: Avaaz: Interventionist Tool in Progressive Guise?

avaazIn a recent interview, President Obama stated that “failing to plan for the day after” the 2011 U.S.-backed toppling of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was the “worst mistake” of his presidency.

An investigation of the global advocacy group Avaaz, which claims 43 million active members online, shows the leadership of that group has not examined the consequences of its record of pushing for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria.

JOHN HANRAHAN, johnhanrahan5 at gmail.com, @xposefacts
Hanrahan wrote a pair of just-published in-depth pieces for ExposeFacts.org about the global advocacy group Avaaz pushing for no-fly zones in Syria and Libya.

In the first part, “As in Libya, Avaaz Campaigns for Syria No-Fly Zone That Even Top Generals Oppose,” Hanrahan writes: “With the staggering claimed number of 43.1-million members in 194 countries as of mid-March 2016 (anyone who has ever signed an Avaaz petition is considered by the organization to be a member), the New York City-based Avaaz is easily the largest and most influential Internet-based, international advocacy organization on the planet. …

“In its call for no-fly zones in Libya and Syria, Avaaz has turned the concept of progressive advocacy on its head and appears to be untrue to the direction it has followed in the overwhelming majority of its campaigns. Advocacy organizations should be about stopping wars, not asking their members to buy into a dubious military tactic for Syria that even leading U.S. generals say ‘entails killing a lot of people…[and is] a violent combat action that results in lots of casualties’ for those very Syrian civilians that Avaaz argues it is trying to protect. …

“Despite the lies and propaganda emitting from all of the many sides in the Syrian conflict, despite the uncertainties of just who is bombing whom in some situations, Avaaz sticks to its narrative that the Syrian regime — now along with its Russian bombing partners — are virtually alone in endangering civilians and that a no-fly zone is somehow going to make all that right without posing much of a problem, really. …

“Several hundred reporters were reportedly receiving Avaaz’s email briefings [at the beginning of the Syria civil war], putting the organization in a unique position of being the major source of anti-regime news and propaganda coming out of Syria.”

In his second piece, “Avaaz Ignores Libya Lessons in Advocating for Syria No-Fly Zone,” Hanrahan writes: “Hillary Clinton (but not other presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump) is a staunch advocate for a no-fly zone and regime change in Syria.

“Like Clinton and other interventionists, Avaaz — in advocating for a no-fly zone in Syria — has not been chastened by what its advocacy wrought in Libya. Some of the same arguments for a no-fly zone that Avaaz made for Libya, it has made again over the last few years for Syria. …

“As with the other questions we submitted to Avaaz personnel, the organization did not answer whether the Libya experience made the organization’s leaders think twice about taking up the Syria no-fly zone issue. It was possibly obscurely referencing the Libya no-fly zone when [campaign director Nell] Greenberg stated to us: ‘Much of what you’re asking for are reflections on past campaigns given the geopolitical landscape today. But based on the way we work, I cannot tell you how any Avaaz member would feel today about a past campaign without going back and asking them.’

“Our follow-up question made it clear that we were not asking how any individual Avaaz member might feel about the Libya campaign today, but rather how Avaaz’s leaders felt about proposing a no-fly zone for Syria when the Libya military action had turned out so disastrously. To date, Avaaz has not responded to any of our follow-up questions.”

Hanrahan also examines Avaaz personnel, finances and connections: “Since around 2010, the organization is on record as not accepting corporate or foundation donations — although it did receive grants totaling $1.1 million from George Soros-connected foundations in the three years before that.”

Avaaz co-founder Thomas Pravda “is currently serving as the (unpaid) treasurer and a director for Avaaz, while at the same time holding down a post as a diplomat with the United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, commonly known as the Foreign Office. He is also co-founder and officer in Res Publica [which co-founded Avaaz with MoveOn.org Civic Action]. … Our research, though, found no example of anyone raising a specific issue about Pravda’s dual role as U.K. diplomat and Avaaz officer, but this relationship looks problematic on the face of it. …

“If I were going to name one chief suspect among Avaaz’s founders as the architect of its no-fly zone advocacy in Libya and Syria, it would be Tom Perriello. More than anyone else connected with Avaaz from its earliest days, Perriello, since leaving the organization — first for Congress and then for the think-tank world before going to the U.S. State Department — has shown himself to be a reliable advocate for war: For continuing the war in Afghanistan, for bombing Libya and ousting Gaddafi, and for taking military action to support Syrian rebels and remove Assad from power. …

“In addition to being a founder of Avaaz and currently serving as its chairman, the Brooklyn-based Eli Pariser … is also currently a member of the advisory board of George Soros’s Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs.”

John Hanrahan, currently on the editorial board of ExposeFacts, is a former executive director of The Fund for Investigative Journalism and reporter for The Washington PostThe Washington Star, UPI and other news organizations. He also has extensive experience as a legal investigator. Hanrahan is the author of Government by Contract and co-author of Lost Frontier: The Marketing of Alaska. He wrote extensively for NiemanWatchdog.org, a project of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

ExposeFacts.org is a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

New York and Fracking: Clinton vs Sanders

CROSSROADS-FINAL-1USA Today reports Bernie Sanders “may have his best chance of challenging [Hillary] Clinton upstate, where he’s pushing an offensive on fracking and trade deals that have hurt manufacturing jobs, an issue that helped him pull off a surprise victory over Clinton last month in Michigan. On Tuesday, the Vermont senator opened a Rochester rally blasting Clinton for promoting fracking in other countries while Secretary of State.” See from Huffington Post: “Bernie Sanders Calls For Total Ban On Fracking In New Ad.”

KATE BARTHOLOMEW, ecogreenwolf at gmail.com
A member of the Coalition to Protect New York, Bartholomew said today: “There’s only one candidate who has spoken clearly against shale gas extraction — and the other candidate favors and has promoted it. This is significant for anyone involved in fighting climate change or fighting for renewables.

“It’s also important when accessing environmental policy to note where the candidate stands on the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] since that deal threatens any environmental protections that are in place. Similarly, Sanders is the reliable candidate on that issue, others seem to shift with the political wind.”

Bartholomew noted that many environmentalists are participating in the “Democracy Spring” protests this week. See from Reuters: “Police arrest 400 at U.S. Capitol in protest of money in politics.” See continuing live coverage by TheRealNews.com.

She added: “In New York State, thanks to an unprecedented negative response to the DEC’s [Department of Environmental Conservation] process of preparing the Final Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement on fracking, as well as a separate health impact study by the Department of Health, the Governor deferred to the conclusions of those two departments and all high-volume horizontal fracking activity in New York is banned, essentially, for the foreseeable future.

“Pennsylvania, on the other hand, is feeling the negative effects of fracking — both environmental and economic, since natural gas prices are plummeting and the promised windfall — both for individuals and localities — rarely materialized.

“Now, we’re focusing on addressing fossil fuel infrastructure — pipelines, importation of waste, withdrawal and export of water. We’ll be hosting many rallies and actions, such as the one on May 14 sponsored by 350.org in Albany. The focus will be on Bakken crude oil trains going through an Environmental Justice community in Albany. Such a train exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec in 2013, killing 47.'”

MAURA STEPHENS,  mstephens at ithaca.edu
Stephens is an independent journalist and founding member of the Coalition to Protect New York and FrackBustersNY.org, among other groups. She said today: “Hillary Clinton has been strongly pushing for fracking throughout the world. Bernie Sanders on the other hand has strongly opposed fracking and other fossil fuel exploitation. For me — and for many other climate activists — this is the number one issue.”

“And when I say ‘fracking,’ I mean more than just the unconventional high-volume horizontal slamming of millions of gallons of toxic liquid into shale and other formations to extract fossil fuels. We mean the fracturing of our air, water, and food supply, of our health, our communities and our lives. Because these things are all interconnected. The rampant buildout of infrastructure for a short-term supply of ancient fuels is a big shell game, or as we call it here in the Marcellus, a shale game. Only one of the candidates seems to understand this.”

See Mariah Blake’s piece, “How Hillary Clinton’s State Department Sold Fracking to the World.”

Clinton Claims on Honduran Coup “Full of Falsehoods”

hillary-clinton-lobo

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with then-candidate Porfirio Lobo, who became Honduras’ president in a disputed election following a coup.

In her recent interview with the New York Daily News, Hillary Clinton was asked about policies she was “directly involved in, the coup in Honduras. As you know in 2009, the military overthrew President Zelaya. There was a period there where the OAS [Organization of American States] was trying to isolate that regime, but apparently some of the emails that have come out as a result of the State Department releases show that some of your top aides were urging you to declare it a military coup, cut off U.S. aid. You didn’t do that. You ended up negotiating with Oscar Arias a deal for new elections.

“But the situation in Honduras has continued to deteriorate. There’s been 300 people killed by government forces, and all these children fleeing and mothers from Honduras over the border into United States. And just a few weeks ago, one of the leading environmental activist, Berta Cáceres, was assassinated in her home. Do you have any concerns about the role that you played in that particular situation, even not necessarily being in agreement with your top aides in the State Department?” See full transcript.

MARK WEISBROT, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and has written extensively about Latin America. He said today “Hillary Clinton’s response to the question on Honduras was full of falsehoods and distortions. Her assertion that the generals and members of Congress who carried out the coup ‘had a very strong argument that they had followed the constitution’ is completely contradicted by the U.S. ambassador to Honduras at the time, who cabled to Washington: ‘The Embassy perspective is that there is no doubt that the military, Supreme Court and National Congress conspired on June 28 in what constituted an illegal and unconstitutional coup against the Executive Branch …’

“Second, Clinton says that the State Department chose not to call what had happened a coup in order to avoid having to cut off all aid to Honduras — including humanitarian aid. But this is not what the law would have required; some humanitarian aid ‎is still permitted.

“Clinton also admits in her bookHard Choices, that she worked successfully against almost all of the Latin American governments to prevent the democratically elected president, Mel Zelaya, from returning to his presidency.

“Honduran security forces shot protesters and opponents of the coup in the streets, while a wave of repression began against women, the LGBT community and other vulnerable minorities that continues to this day. Her statement about avoiding ‘bloodshed’ is a slap in the face to the family of Isis Obed Murillo, who was gunned down just days after the coup, and others who were killed for standing up for democracy. Her assertion that Honduras could have been on the brink of civil war is ridiculous hyperbole.

“Rather than work to avoid more bloodshed, Hillary Clinton proposes a Plan Colombia for Central America, even though under Plan Colombia paramilitaries and state security forces killed thousands of civilians (including some killed and dressed up as guerrillas in the ‘false positives’ scandal) and millions have become refugees — either internally displaced or fleeing to other countries.”

Is Kerry’s Hiroshima Visit Cover for Nuclear Buildup?

HIROSHIMA-JAPAN-_3395067bUSA Today reports that Secretary of State John Kerry “became the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat to visit the Hiroshima Peace Park, located at ground zero for the first of two atomic bombs dropped by the United States on Japanese cities near the end of World War II. An estimated 140,000 Japanese died in the Aug. 6, 1945, bombing.”

JOHN STEINBACH, johnsteinbach1 at verizon.net
Steinbach is one of the founding members of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Peace Committee of the National Capital Area. For decades, Steinbach has organized trips of Hibakusha — Japanese atomic bomb survivors — to the U.S. to commemorate the U.S. using nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He also engages in other efforts to educate people in the U.S. and around the world about the attacks and nuclear policy, such as sending U.S. students to Japan.The Committee released a statement today: “While many are applauding Secretary Kerry’s visit, we have profound concerns that this visit may be used as cover. These stem from a knowledge of the U.S. government having embarked on a massive nuclear weapons build up.

“It is reported that Secretary Kerry called his visit ‘gut-wrenching’ and wrote: ‘It is a stark, harsh, compelling reminder not only of our obligation to end the threat of nuclear weapons, but to re-dedicate all our effort to avoid war itself’ in a guest book at the memorial.

“We certainly agree with the sentiments — and we wish current U.S. policy reflected those priorities. The actual context is that the U.S. is engaged in an unprecedented nuclear build up. It is spending $1 trillion dollars over the next 30 years to ‘modernize’ its nuclear weapons arsenal. This includes creating smaller, ‘more usable’ weapons. Such visits cannot be allowed to act as a fig leaf for such threatening policies. The Obama administration has clearly turned its back on its stated goal of abolishing nuclear weapons.

“While there have been reductions in the U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons arsenals, there are still approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons, the vast majority held by the U.S. and Russia.

“Moreover, NATO is expanding, posing the threat of a direct confrontation with Russia. The U.S. has continued its wars in the Mideast. Climate change is resulting in instability and resource wars may well lead to more conflicts. The ‘Doomsday Clock’ of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is still set to 3 minutes.

“A high U.S. official visiting Hiroshima is long overdue, but hardly enough. We think of the 250,000 who died instantly in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the thousands more who perished in the agonizing aftermath and the many Hibakusha who have passed away in the 71 years since the U.S. used nuclear weapons there. We cannot allow choreographed, purely symbolic gestures to obscure continuing U.S. government policies which pose a grave threat to humanity.”

See: “The Trillion Dollar Question the Media Have Neglected to Ask Presidential Candidates,” which states: “Isn’t it rather odd that America’s largest single public expenditure scheduled for the coming decades has received no attention in the 2015-2016 presidential debates?

“The expenditure is for a thirty-year program to ‘modernize’ the U.S. nuclear arsenal and production facilities. Although President Obama began his administration with a dramatic public commitment to build a nuclear weapons-free world, that commitment has long ago dwindled and died.”

Note to producers: You may want to use the song “Enola Gay,” by OMD as a musical lead-in; this version by Elisa Salasin includes audio clips of President Harry Truman claiming that Hiroshima was “a military base,” and J. Robert Oppenheimer saying: “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” See on YouTube.

U.S. Air Wars Denounced by Recently Released Catholic Worker Grandmother

Mary-Anne-Grady-Flores300The New York Times reports today: “At Least 17 Civilians Killed in U.S. Airstrikes, Afghan Officials Say.”

CNN reports: “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived for an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Friday.” AirWars.org reports the current U.S.-led bombing campaign has launched 7,724 strikes in Iraq over the last 610 days — resulting in at least 1,057 civilian deaths (in both Iraq and Syria).

AP reports: “Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says he’s been invited to the Vatican for a meeting on social, environmental and economic issues.”

MARY ANNE GRADY FLORES, gradyflores08 at gmail.com
Mary Anne Grady Flores is a grandmother who was recently released from jail. She had been involved with civil resistance protests against killer drones outside Hancock Air Force Base in upstate New York. She is involved with UpstateDroneAction.org and with the Ithaca Catholic Worker community.

She said today: “The U.S. military killed an elder in Afghanistan on his way to mediate a land dispute. Then drone pilots carried out a triple tap — targeting first responders who came to help after the drones killed the first group of people, and then the next three who came to help. It’s obvious that the actions of our government are just creating more destruction and anger. We citizens must stop U.S. state sponsored terror through the use of killer drones. As the whistleblower drone operators stated in their open letter to President Obama, this practice only fuels recruitment to groups like ISIS.”

She was jailed for photographing eight Catholic drone protesters outside the Air Force base from the roadway. See her two letters from her 49 days in jail. In one of the letters, she noted: “On January 19, 2016 I was remanded after a county court decision upheld a lower court verdict that I was guilty of violating the terms of an order of protection…” Orders of protection were originally created for domestic violence victims or witnesses subject to intimidation. She said: “The Colonel of the base asked for an order of protection against me because I had previously peacefully protested in the street by the base. This curtails our First Amendment rights petitioning our government for redress of grievances.” See Huffington Post: “Anti-Drone Activist Sentenced To 6 Months In Jail For Peaceful Protest.”

She said today: “Killer drones are just one of the tools our government has used over the last 25 years in the Mideast. All wars have been planned in secret and what we’ve attempted in our protests at Hancock AFB is to unmask the secret killer drone program. We need to follow the money, to see who is profiting from this — and Lockheed Martin is at the top of the list. We need to remember our history of how all wars are spawned by lies — like the secrets and lies told about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Especially in this election frenzy, Hillary Clinton and others who supported the invasion of Iraq would like us to forget.”

Regarding Sanders’ planned visit to the Vatican, she said: “War is the missing issue. In the building of the movement to end the endless wars and the use of killer drones, there needs to be an understanding of the cross sectionalities — environment, racial, economic — all these issues are driven in large part by war. And if Sanders doesn’t prioritize it as the central issue, our nation and the world will continue to be in deep trouble.

“The National Catholic Reporter recently wrote, ‘Vatican to host first-ever conference to reevaluate just war theory, justifications for violence.’ This could not come at a more important moment. The just war theory justified colonial racist wars with blessing from the Church for 17 centuries, since the co-option of Christianity by the Roman Empire under Constantine. For the first time the nonviolent example of Jesus confronting empire may be looked at by the Vatican. It’s critical for the survival of our planet that our Church changes its course — denouncing war, understanding that violence only feeds violence. Jesus’ nonviolent example is clear, inviting us to follow.”

See the news conference after her release last month from jail and other material at: UpstateDroneAction.org.

Panama Papers: Pritzkers, American Oligarchs

130429135800-penny-pritzker-story-topMcClatchy is now reporting that Liesel Pritzker Simmons “appears in the Panama Papers. She’s a former child Hollywood star and heiress to the Hyatt hotels fortune. She’s also related to U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Forbes magazine estimated her net worth at $600 million in late 2013, and her wealth is combined with that of husband Ian Simmons, himself an heir to a construction and retailing fortune.”

DENNIS BERNSTEIN, dennisjbernstein at gmail.com
Bernstein, an award-winning investigative reporter, is the host and executive producer of “Flashpoints,” a daily news magazine syndicated on Pacifica Radio out of KPFA. He has written extensively on the Pritzker family. He said today: “We like to think we don’t have oligarchical families in the U.S., but the Pritzker family shows a grim reality. Starting decades ago, the grandfather of the family [Abram Nicholas Pritzker] virtually pioneered offshore trusts as a way of avoiding paying taxes.

“Penny Pritzker played fast and loose with the American Dream of others. Her then-novel sub-prime operations, out of Superior Bank in Chicago, specifically targeted poor and working class people of color across the country. She ended up crashing Superior in 2001 for a billion dollar cost to tax payers, and creating a personal tragedy for the 1,400 people who lost their savings when the bank failed. Pritzker, whose family controls Hyatt Regency Hotels, is in the top one percent of the one percent. Her extreme wealth and privilege has not only made her virtually untouchable by law enforcement, but paved the way for her to become Commerce Secretary.” See Bernstein’s piece, “Obama’s Sub-Prime Conflict.”

Public Campaign notes in “Penny Pritzker, Not Just an Obama Donor” that “she ran fundraising operations for his campaign in 2008 and bundled over $500,000 in 2012.”

Bernstein points to a series of pieces in Forbes magazine on the Pritzkers. The magazine estimates Penny Pritzker’s current net worth at $2.3 billion and wrote in 2013: “The Pritzkers are like America’s Rothschilds,” noting “they managed to build and pass along … Brobdingnagian wealth from one generation to the next and the next.” The magazine suggested a series of questions for members of congress to ask at Pritzker’s nominations hearings, for example: “What led to your being paid $53.6 million in ‘consultant’ income by your family’s offshore trusts in 2012?”

In 2003, Forbes ran an in-depth piece titled “Pritzker vs. Pritzker” after Liesel Pritzker Simmons “launched a $6 billion lawsuit against her father, Robert, and 11 older cousins, accusing them of looting her trust funds and those of her brother, Matthew, 21. … The aftermath of the suits has parted the curtain on the shadowy financial underpinnings of this empire — a vast network of domestic and foreign trusts designed to minimize, if not eliminate, taxes. …

“Do the Pritzkers hate paying taxes more than they seem to despise one another? Can they bust up the family fortune without the IRS finally breaking down their doors? …

“A great deal about the workings of these interwoven financial entities still remains wrapped in mystery. … They are complex — constructed to discourage outside inquiry — and brilliantly exploitive of loopholes in the tax code.

“Don’t even contemplate trying to copy the Pritzker family in using offshore entities to gain tax advantages; the loopholes have been closed. But they remain available to families that had the foresight to set up offshore trusts four decades ago, as the Pritzkers did. At their inception the trusts were seeded with small assets, but since then they have benefited from large amounts of leverage, in part in the form of loans from a Pritzker-controlled partnership and from years of business deals that threw profits from the expanding Pritzker empire into the trusts. Now the offshore entities hold more than $3 billion of the family’s net worth, according to sources familiar with the trusts.”

See video form Forbes: “Liesel Pritzker Simmons: ‘Where You Put Your Money Is A Moral Decision’.”

Panama Papers: Some U.S. Connections Emerging

imageSome analysts have charged that the “Panama Papers” have primarily targeted official U.S. government adversaries like Russian leader Vladimir Putin — see for example, Robert Parry’s piece, “‘Corruption’ as a Propaganda Weapon.”

However, journalists working with McClatchy — the only U.S. newspaper company with access to the leaked database — are now revealing at least some notable U.S. connections.
These include Liesel Pritzker Simmons — tied to the Hyatt hotel fortune and relative of billionaire U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker — and movie and record mogul David Geffen. McClatchy also reports on how havens inside the U.S. offer “the same secrecy” as places like Panama in states like Wyoming — which has reportedly started an investigation of Mossack Fonseca, the firm tied to the Panama Papers.

KEVIN G. HALL, khall at mcclatchydc.com, @KevinGHall
MARISA TAYLOR, mtaylor at mcclatchydc.com, @marisaataylor
TIM JOHNSON, tjohnson at mcclatchydc.com, @TimJohnson4
Hall is chief economics correspondent, Taylor is investigative reporter and Johnson is a reporter for McClatchy.

McClatchy is now reporting that Liesel Pritzker Simmons “appears in the Panama Papers. She’s a former child Hollywood star and heiress to the Hyatt hotels fortune. She’s also related to U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker. Forbes magazine estimated her net worth at $600 million in late 2013, and her wealth is combined with that of husband Ian Simmons, himself an heir to a construction and retailing fortune.

“In the Panama Papers, the two appear as shareholders of a Panamanian shell company called Blue Valley Agroinvestment. The documents suggest investment in Colombia’s palm oil sector. One of the other shareholders is John Thompson Dorrance IV, a descendant of the family that created the Campbell Soup company. …

“Hollywood music and film mogul David Geffen also appears in the documents. He’s director of a Delaware company called Barham Maritime LLC, which in 2011 sold shares of his Cayman Islands company created to hold title to his yacht called Pelorus. Shipfinder.com shows the yacht Pelorus is anchored in Miami.”

They also report in “Wyoming investigates Panama Papers law firm” that: “The Wyoming arm of the law firm at the heart of the Panama Papers global scandal is under investigation by Wyoming state officials for failing to maintain required statutory information about companies registering there, Secretary of State Ed Murray said Wednesday. …

“As McClatchy reported Tuesday in a lengthy story set in Wyoming, the Cowboy State has roughly one registered company per every 4.5 residents. In response to criticism in 2006, the state began requiring that registered agents who incorporate companies keep contact information for companies. Several agents with whom McClatchy spoke said it is not their job to know who the true owners of companies are.”

See McClatchy’s initial article from Wyoming earlier this week: “U.S. scolds others about offshores, but looks other way at home.” “The U.S. government has publicly and privately pressured countries that act as offshore havens for hiding money, while this barren, sparsely populated state offers the same secrecy.”

Panama Papers: * Whistleblowers * How Trade Deals Facilitate Dirty Money

CfXZrYcWwAAeia3STEPHANIE GIBAUD, stephanie.gibaud at me.com
Gibaud is former head of communications for UBS France — and a bank whistleblower. She wrote the book The Woman Who Knew Far Too Much. See her interview: “UBS whistleblower criticises banking’s ‘code of silence.’

She said today: “This leak confirms that whistleblowers are the ones who take risks, they can prove the origin and thus the quality of the information leaked. Without whistleblowers, tax evasion and money laundering would still be subjects laying in darkness and nobody would be aware of the happy few enjoying very special banking facilities. Protecting whistleblowers is a must.”

On Tuesday, President Obama claimed that activity like that exposed by the Panama Papers was the result of “poorly designed” laws. But some analysts state that relevant regulations were not exactly “poorly designed,” but skillfully designed to facilitate certain interests.

LORI WALLACH, via Nick Florko, nflorko at citizen.org, @PCGTW
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch. She said today: “It’s worth noting that in 2011 the White House said that the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement and various tax haven/secrecy ‘reforms’ extracted from Panama would end Panama’s financial crime secrecy protections and tax haven and money laundering activities. The Panama Papers just show once again how entirely cynical and meaningless are American presidents’ and corporate boosters’ lavish promises of economic benefits and policy reforms from trade agreements. In fact the FTA’s investor protections and official U.S. stamp of approval made it safer to send dirty money to Panama. … Now the same cast of characters is making equally outlandish promises of the benefits of the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership].”

See from 2009 Public Citizen report: “Panama FTA Would Undermine U.S. Efforts to Stop Offshore Tax-Haven Abuse and Regulate Risky Financial Conduct.” [PDF]

Watch video of a Public Citizen intern setting up a tax haven in Panama here.

Background: President Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both sold the FTA as fixing the Panama tax haven/secrecy issue in 2011.

President Obama: “Thanks to the leadership of President Martinelli, there have been a range of significant reforms in banking and taxation in Panama. And we are confident now that a free trade agreement would be good for our country….”

Reuters reported: “Washington also hopes to enact two long-delayed free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama this year, she [Clinton] said.

“‘We are making great progress on both agreements,’ she said noting steps to guarantee labor rights in Colombia and ensure tax transparency in Panama that will help win U.S. lawmakers’ approval of the trade deals.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders said at the time: “Panama is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy Americans and large corporations to evade U.S. taxes by stashing their cash in offshore tax havens. The Panama Free Trade Agreement will make this bad situation much worse. Each and every year, the wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations evade about $100 billion in taxes through abusive and illegal offshore tax havens in Panama and in other countries.” [video]

Panama Papers Fallout: Overview, Iceland, Putin, Trade Deals

CfPMG9rW4AIeOaWInformation from the “Panama Papers” continues to be made public, fostering global reaction. The Reykjavík Grapevine reports that the prime minister of Iceland just resigned following protests.

CHUCK COLLINS, chuckcollins7 at me.com
Collins is a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies with their Inequality.org project. His books include 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality Is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do about It. He just wrote the piece: “Panama Papers Expose the Hidden Wealth of the World’s Super-Rich.” See from McClatchy — the only U.S. newspaper company with access to the leaked database: “U.S. scolds others about offshores, but looks other way at home.”

USA Today reports: “Thousands call for Iceland PM to resign after Panama Papers leak.”

PAUL FONTAINE, paul at grapevine.is, @rvkgrapevine
Fontaine is news editor of the Reykjavík Grapevine — recent pieces include “Reykjavik City Council Members Also Implicated In Panama Papers.”

Fontaine said today: “While the Prime Minister’s particular role in the Panama Papers leak is huge, and I don’t want to downplay it, I also don’t want to downplay the involvement other Icelanders — and the countless others around the world — also had in this. This extends beyond the prime minister; it reaches parliament, it reaches Reykjavík City Hall, and it reportedly reaches hundreds of as yet unnamed Icelandic businesspeople. …

“The greater crime, which the Panama Papers illustrate comprehensively, is that we have a secret economy connected to and even supporting some of the worst aspects of the global capitalist system.

“Iceland’s PM is not an isolated incident. We need to not only look at individual players, but the system itself. If we mean to make any changes that would prevent something like this from happening again, a whole new economic structure needs to be created.”

Additional background: Robert Parry at ConsortiumNews.com writes in ‘”Corruption’ as a Propaganda Weapon,” that “Mainstream U.S. journalism and propaganda are getting hard to tell apart, as with the flurry of ‘corruption’ stories aimed at Russia’s Putin and other demonized foreign leaders.”

Sarah Lazare of AlterNet quotes Lori Wallach of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch: “The top promise about the benefits of  the U.S.-Panama FTA was that it would end Panama’s financial crime secrecy protections and tax haven and money laundering activities, but this leak shows that, if anything, Panama’s outrageous financial crime facilitation has intensified while the FTA’s investor protections and official U.S. stamp of approval has increased inflows of dirty money to Panama.”

U.S. Uncut argues that this might significantly impact the U.S. elections, since in 2011, “Sen. Sanders took the Senate floor to denounce the Panama trade pact, shooting down the conventional arguments in favor of the deal.” Said Sanders: “No one can legitimately claim that approving this free trade agreement will significantly increase American jobs. … Panama is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy Americans and large corporations to evade U.S. taxes by stashing their cash in offshore tax havens. The Panama free trade agreement will make this bad situation much worse.” The following day, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement: “These initiatives are the leading edge of a job-creating trade agenda…”

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