El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana

El Conquistqdor Francisco de Orellana
The Conquistador who put the Amazaon baisn "on the map"....Francisco Orellana

Friday, June 29, 2012

States rights still exist.......from Louisiana

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal refuses to implement Obamacare despite Supreme Court ruling

The Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama's health care law on Thursday, but Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a possible Republican vice presidential contender who has refused to establish a federally mandated health care exchange in his state, said Friday that he will continue to ignore it.

"We're not going to start implementing Obamacare," Jindal said during a conference call with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. "We're committed to working to elect Gov. Romney to repeal Obamacare."

Under the Affordable Care Act, states must set up a health insurance exchange program by Jan. 1, 2014, and will receive grants from the federal government to implement it. Several Republican governors, including both Jindal and McDonnell, have put off setting up the exchanges in the hope that the law would be repealed or struck down by the court. Now that the law has been upheld, Jindal said he won't change course and is looking to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to lead the repeal effort if he takes office in 2013.

"Here in Louisiana we have not applied for the grants, we have not accepted many of these dollars, we're not implementing the exchanges," Jindal said. "We don't think it makes any sense to implement Obamacare in Louisiana. We're going to do what we can to fight it."

Despite the court ruling, there is still a chance that Republicans in Congress can repeal much of the law next year even if they don't have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Because Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that the mandate to purchase health insurance—one of the key provisions of the law—was a tax, Republicans can use a procedure called "budget reconciliation" to pass a repeal bill that requires only a simple majority to pass. But this scenario relies on the Republicans' ability to win the White House, keep the majority in the House and gain enough seats in the Senate.

On the same conference call on Friday, McDonnell, also considered a contender to become Romney's running mate, said he would "evaluate" his options in Virginia now that the court has upheld the law.

"We don't even know exactly what that federal exchange would look like, so there's still some uncertainty at this point as to what the right course is, and in the next days and weeks we're going to be evaluating the case as well as the options for Virginia," McDonnell said. "I think each state is going to have to weigh that and look at the time frame to determine what to do. But I agree absolutely that the priority right now is to elect a new president and a new Senate so this law can be repealed."

McDonnell, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, added that he has not yet polled fellow state executives in the GOP about how they plan to proceed after the ruling, but said that most are looking to the election in November for guidance.

British police serve Assange with extradition notice

From correspondents in London AFP June 29, 2012 7:49AM

Scotland Yard serve a "surrender notice" on Assange
He faces extradition to Sweden over sex crime allegations
Failure to comply would make him further liable to arrest

BRITISH police served an extradition notice today on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has taken refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London and requested asylum.

Scotland Yard said they had served a "surrender notice" on the 40-year-old Australian requiring him to appear at a police station, adding that failure to do so would make him further liable to arrest.

Assange faces extradition to Sweden over sex crime allegations, having exhausted his options under British law when the Supreme Court overturned his appeal against extradition earlier this month.

Fearing Stockholm would pass him on to the US, he sought refuge at Ecuador's embassy in London on June 19, asking the South American country for political asylum.

Scotland Yard has "served a surrender notice upon a 40-year-old man that requires him to attend a police station at date and time of our choosing," a spokesman said.

"This is standard practice in extradition cases and is the first step in the removal process.

"He remains in breach of his bail conditions. Failing to surrender would be a further breach of conditions and he is liable to arrest."

The embassy declined to comment on the serving of the police notice.

Assange fears he will be extradited from Sweden to the United States to face possible espionage charges, after releasing more than 250,000 US diplomatic cables on the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website.

U.S. Taxes: Enforced Exactions, Not Voluntary Contributions

When in doubt, announce yet another new program to ensnare all those millions of offshore, “tax cheating” Americans.

I shouldn’t be surprised. This is an ongoing IRS strategy that hardly ever captures any bad guys – i.e. tax evaders – but instead targets innocent U.S. persons who live, work, bank and do business offshore.

Claiming that the IRS had collected $5 billion from undisclosed offshore accounts, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman this week announced new procedures he claims will help thousands of beleaguered U.S. taxpayers living abroad meet their requirements to file returns.

That includes people, many of them Canadians, who recently learned to their surprise and dismay that they are subject to the U.S. tax code because they were born south of the border or had a U.S. citizen as a parent.

Unfortunately, the IRS propaganda machine, with help from their complicit, too-lazy-to-check news media allies, have successfully sold the wrong-headed idea that anything “offshore” equates with illegal tax evasion.

Of course, that’s a lie … but as the late Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels said, the “Big Lie,” repeated enough, becomes accepted truth.
The Greedy, Grasping U.S. Tax System

The Sovereign Society, of course, supports the payment of all taxes due by Americans and the filing of all required reports, both domestic and offshore. We even tell you when to file and what IRS forms to use.

At the same time, we dislike the greedy, grasping U.S. tax system, almost unique among major nations, that taxes U.S. persons on all income worldwide, no matter where the income source is located or where that person may live. We support, and continually lobby for, a territorial tax system that taxes only income earned within national borders, which is the system used by most advanced countries.

That’s why at The Sovereign Society, a great deal of our time and effort is devoted to exploring and explaining legal ways by which you can avoid, minimize and defer taxes.
Here We Go Again

Shulman’s latest $5 billion claim is an update from January, when he extended the most recent IRS tax “amnesty.” At the time, he said that the IRS had collected more than $4.4 billion from the two previous tax amnesty programs in 2009 and 2011. With President Obama’s 2012 IRS budget at $13.3 billion (a $1.1 billion increase over 2010), we should be asking how much it cost to collect this alleged $5 billion government windfall.

Shulman says taxpayers with relatively simple returns who owed $1,500 or less for each of the past few years will be eligible for the new program, which starts September 1. Non-resident U.S. persons disclosing their information to the IRS will be required to file three years of past tax returns and submit records showing all of their offshore account holdings for six years – and who knows where that could lead?

My advice on this matter is simple: Beware!

The IRS and the U.S. Justice Department have been pursuing criminal cases against U.S. taxpayers with undeclared offshore assets. The U.S. uses data on promoters, advisers and bankers that it gets from such “voluntary” disclosures. Taxpayers have made about 35,000 disclosures since the voluntary programs began in 2009, Shulman said.

The IRS announcement recognizes justified anger among U.S. taxpayers around the world because of the government’s heavy-handed enforcement efforts, says Charles Bruce, tax counsel of American Citizens Abroad, a respected advocacy group. He said the changes don’t go far enough. “This program, the way it exists and the way it’s slightly amended, is too scary. They’ve scared away people from getting into compliance and this is going to continue to scare people.”
Be Very Careful of IRS Amnesties

As with past IRS amnesties, this latest program will require delinquent taxpayers to give full details of past arrangements, identify banks and promoters and pay all back taxes, plus interest. Any binding IRS guarantees that criminal charges won’t be filed is unlikely. Evaluations will be on a case-by-case basis, depending on whether the taxpayer fully cooperates with the investigation.

The publicity generated by the successful efforts of the IRS to pry information out of Swiss banking giant UBS, and pending investigations of other offshore banks, has led to many “quiet disclosures” by U.S. taxpayers outside the IRS amnesty programs. This occurs when a taxpayer simply files amended returns and forms, and pays all back taxes and interest, plus penalties. That route may still be available to some under the new program.

The question is: Should you participate?

The answer is: “maybe,” but only after you consult with a qualified tax attorney (not just an accountant). Do that, and your discussions are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Never contact the IRS on your own!

For Sovereign Society members, we have available three leading U.S. tax attorneys located in New York City, Florida and California. They also may be able to recommend tax attorneys in your local area, either domestic or foreign. You can learn more about membership by clicking here.

I leave you with the wisdom of the late, distinguished Judge Learned Hand of the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York.

In a memorable tax case dissent, Judge Hand wrote: “There is nothing sinister in arranging one’s affairs so as to keep taxes as low as possible…nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands. Taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions.” Commissioner v. Newman, 159 F2d 848, 851 (2nd Cir 1947).

Faithfully yours,

Bob Bauman
Bob Bauman JD, Offshore and Asset Protection Editor

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New Conference Draws Record Number of Baby Boomers to Ecuador in Search of a Cheaper Retirement

On August 2, 2012, 242 baby boomers will arrive in Quito, Ecuador to explore the benefits of retiring to the low-cost South American nation, InternationalLiving.com reports.

Baltimore, MD (PRWEB) June 27, 2012

More and more baby boomers are taking their retirements overseas, and low-cost Ecuador is today’s hottest destination, says Dan Prescher, an editor with InternationalLiving.com. A record number of attendees have registered for International Living's upcoming event in Ecuador.

“Ecuador truly is a retirement paradise. It has one of the world's best climates, lowest cost of living, a retirement program that will save you thousands of dollars a year and top-notch medical care at up to one-tenth the cost of the U.S.

“Really, Ecuador would be a fascinating place to live at any price,” says Prescher. “But here, a couple can live the lifestyle of the rich—hopping back and forth between a beach pad and a mountain hideaway as they choose—on less than $940 a month.”

And boomers are not just dreaming about retiring to Ecuador. They’re doing something about it. On June 1, International Living opened up registration for its Fast Track Ecuador: Lifestyle and Opportunity Conference to be held at the Swissotel in Quito, Ecuador.

242 people have already registered to attend the conference, scheduled for August 2-4. The event features two-and-a-half days of presentations by InternationalLiving.com editors, Ecuador experts, real estate sources, business contacts, expats and professional legal resources.

The goal of the conference is to help future retirees learn more about living, buying property, starting a business, or investing in Ecuador. Ecuador has been International Living’s top retirement haven in the world for four years running.

Registration is still open for International Living’s Fast Track Ecuador: Lifestyle and Opportunity Conference, and the number of attendees continues to rise. The event capacity is 350 attendees. For more details: "Fast Track Ecuador: Lifestyle and Opportunity Conference".

Editor’s Note: Further information on the conference and photos of Ecuador are available on request. Members of the media have full permission to reproduce the article linked above either in part or in its entirety, once credit is given to InternationalLiving.com.

Media Contact: For information about InternationalLiving.com content republishing, available source material or to book an interview with one of our experts, contact Associate Editor Carol Barron, 772-678-0287 (US), CBarron(at)InternationalLiving(dot)com or visit the International Living Media Center. For automatic updates on the most current stories, follow International Living Media on Twitter.

For more than 30 years, InternationalLiving.com has been the leading authority for anyone looking for global retirement or relocation opportunities. Through its monthly magazine and related e-letters, extensive website, podcasts, online bookstore, and events held around the world, InternationalLiving.com provides information and services to help its readers live better, travel farther, have more fun, save more money, and find better business opportunities when they expand their world beyond their own shores. InternationalLiving.com has more than 200 correspondents traveling the globe, investigating the best opportunities for travel, retirement, real estate, and investment.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Germany Rebuffs Obama's Advice on Euro Crisis: Deal With Your Own Debt

By Staff, Associated Press
June 25, 2012

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's finance minister is rejecting U.S. President Barack Obama's calls on Europe to move faster in fighting its debt crisis, telling him to get the American deficit under control instead.

Wolfgang Schaeuble told public broadcaster ZDF in an interview late Sunday that "people are always very quick at giving others advice."

He says: "Mr. Obama should first of all take care of reducing the American deficit, which is higher than in the eurozone."

Obama and other leaders fear an escalating crisis in Europe could drag down the world economy.

The 17-nation eurozone is struggling to overhaul its institutions and streamline its decision making to restore investors' confidence. The bloc's debt relative to its economic output stands at about 80 percent, while it is about 100 percent in the U.S.

Photo Essay: 3 Mountain Retreats in Ecuador

By Suzan Haskins
Friends in Ecuador couldn’t decide between the mountains and the beach. So they chose both. Because Ecuador may be the most affordable expat haven ever, you can do that here. For $114,000 total, our friends bought two condos—one beachfront and one with a mountain view. And their monthly expenses are less than $900.

But if you're sure you want a mountain view all the time, here's what you need to know.
Most expats in Ecuador choose Cuenca...and most of those tend to settle within walking distance of Cuenca’s colonial center. The heart of this is the tree-shaded Parque Calderon, where musicians play in the bandstand, street vendors sell tasty treats, and you’re surrounded by some of the city’s historic monuments, like the Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción, also called the "New Cathedral." Its blue-tiled domes are Cuenca’s most-photographed landmark.
Cuenca is a city of almost half a million people, so you’ll find everything you’d expect in a city that size: modern supermarkets and shopping malls, good hospitals and clinics with well-trained medical staff, and plenty of intriguing restaurants and cultural activities…sporting events, art galleries, musical and theatrical performances, and more. The growing expat community is well organized and quick to offer advice and fellowship, with several English-speaking get-togethers every week.
If a large city isn’t your cup of tea, you might want to check out Imbabura province—and especially the small artisan village of Cotacachi, two hours north of Quito. Tucked between two volcanoes, Cotacachi’s majestic mountain views are gob-smacking.

With a population of only about 8,000 people, this little village also attracts its share of expats—about 400 live here now. There’s little traffic so the air is eucalyptus-scented fresh and you can get plenty of exercise on the clean, walkable streets. While you won’t find city-type cultural events, there are plenty of colorful local fiestas to keep you busy.

Vilcabamba, in southern Ecuador, is even more rural and with even more staggering views, if such a thing is possible.
At a lower elevation than Cuenca or Cotacachi (which enjoy average daytime temperatures in the mid-70s) the climate is a bit warmer in Vilcabamba, which is also known as the "Valley of Longevity." Long, healthy lives are common and many of the locals live well into their 100s. Whether that’s thanks to the clean, mineral-rich water, the pure air or the fact that just about any kind of healthy food grows plentifully here, there’s no doubt that Vilcabamba offers a perfect lifestyle for the nature lover or anyone looking to lower their stress levels.

These cities and towns are only the tip of the mountain, of course. (No icebergs or snow here.) And these are only the most popular mountain towns…along with Quito, one of my all-time favorites. If you’re a beach lover, you’ll want to explore Salinas, Manta, Bahia de Caraquez...and little fishing and surfer villages beyond and between.

Assange's Ecuador bid sparks wacky escape ideas

Bangkok Post Logo

  • Published: 25/06/2012 at 07:48 PM
  • Online news: Computer

  • It sounds like a brainteaser: how could WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange get from Ecuador's embassy in London onto a plane to its capital Quito, without setting foot on British territory?

    When he walked into the embassy on Tuesday seeking political asylum, the Australian ex-hacker pinned his hopes on Ecuador as his ticket out of extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over sex crime allegations.

    But legal experts say the dramatic escape bid has lured 40-year-old Assange, who had exhausted his British legal options -- into an apparent dead end.

    Britain's Foreign Office says that as long as the anti-secrecy campaigner stays in the embassy, which occupies a flat in London's plush Knightsbridge district, he is beyond the reach of the police.

    But if he steps outside, he faces immediate arrest by the police for having breached bail conditions, which include staying at his bail address between 10:00 pm and 8:00 am. And Scotland Yard officers are guarding the exits.

    Barrister Carl Gardner summed up the situation as "a headache".

    "Merely the fact of giving someone asylum doesn't mean they can travel across another country's territory without being arrested," he said.

    "It's not at all obvious how he could get to Ecuador."

    Paul Whiteway, London Director of the Independent Diplomat consultancy, said Assange could be arrested even before leaving the embassy's Victorian mansion block, which faces the famous Harrods department store.

    "The premises are covered by diplomatic immunity under the Vienna Convention," he told AFP. "But in this case, the Ecuadorian embassy only occupies part of the building."

    He added: "The inviolability of the embassy ought to extend to forms of transport, but even if he were able to get into a car, what would happen at the other end? How would he get into an aeroplane without being arrested?"

    The puzzle has already spawned a number of ambitious escape scenarios.

    There has been speculation over whether Ecuadorian officials could bundle Assange out of Britain in a large "diplomatic bag" with immunity from search or seizure.

    In a notorious case in 1984, the Nigerian government tried to kidnap former minister Umaru Dikko by smuggling him from Britain to Nigeria as diplomatic baggage. The plot was foiled by customs officials.

    Gardner dismissed the idea that Assange would be put in a diplomatic bag as the stuff of "spy fiction", but had his own inventive suggestion.

    "Possibly the best way Ecuador could help him -- and this sounds mad -- is if they appoint him one of their representatives to the UN," the former government lawyer said.

    Legal experts say British authorities could reject any attempts to have Assange accredited as an ordinary diplomat.

    But Gardner believes that if Assange was made a representative to the UN, international law could guarantee him safe passage to the UN's New York headquarters and then to his post in Ecuador.
    "From his point of view, it would be flying into the jaws of the lion," he admitted, stressing that the plan involved "extreme legal creativity".

    Assange has said he fears that if he was extradited to Sweden, Stockholm would eventually hand him over to the United States.

    The WikiLeaks website enraged Washington by publishing a flood of secret US information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables.

    Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, who has often been at odds with Washington, has said he is considering Assange's asylum request and studying the WikiLeaks founder's claim that he could be sentenced to death in the United States.

    Correa insists Ecuador will make a decision "without bowing to absolutely any pressure".

    But he also said: "We don't want to offend anyone, least of all a country for whom we have deep respect, like the United Kingdom."

    Whiteway believes British authorities are determined not to let Assange leave because his success could spark a wave of copycat asylum bids.

    "It could open the floodgates to other cases of individuals involved in legal cases who might seek to avoid UK jurisdiction by claiming asylum in a foreign embassy," he said. "That would surely be deeply unwelcome."

    Ecuador has pledged to take its time assessing Assange's request.

    In extreme cases, asylum-seekers have stayed holed up in embassies for years. In 1956, the United States granted Hungarian cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty refuge in its Budapest embassy. He stayed until 1971.

    Friday, June 22, 2012

    The Government’s Plan to Steal Your Money

    There are consequences to being flat broke. There are consequences to investing any level of confidence in a financial system underpinned by debt and the creation of paper currency. There are consequences for ignoring reality and pretending that everything is normal.

    This is one of them: European officials have flat-out admitted that they were discussing rolling out a series of harsh capital controls across the continent, including bank withdrawal limits and closing down Europe’s borderless Schengen area.

    Some of these measures have already been implemented sporadically; customers of Italian bank BNI, for example, were all frozen out of their accounts starting May 31st, upon the recommendation and approval of Italy’s bank regulator. No ATM withdrawals, no bill payments, nothing. Just locked out overnight.

    In Greece, the government has taken to simply pulling funds directly out of its citizens’ bank accounts; anyone suspected of being a tax cheat (with a very loose interpretation in the sole discretion of the government) is being relieved of their funds without so much as administrative notification. It’s no wonder why, according to the Greek daily paper Kathimerini, over $125 million per day is fleeing the Greek banking system. European political leaders aim to put a tourniquet on this wound in the worst possible way.

    So what are capital controls?

    Simply, capital controls are policies that restrict the free flow of capital into, out of, through, and within a nation’s borders. They can take a variety of forms, including:

    — Setting a fixed amount for bank withdrawals, or suspending them altogether — Forcing citizens or banks to hold government debt — Curtailing or suspending international bank transfers — Curtailing or suspending foreign exchange transactions — Criminalizing the purchase and ownership of precious metals — Fixing an official exchange rate and criminalizing market-based transactions

    Establishing capital controls is one of the worst forms of theft that a government can impose. It traps people’s hard-earned savings and their future income within a nation’s borders.

    This trapped pool of capital allows the government to transfer wealth from the people to their own coffers through excessive taxation or rampant inflation... both of which soon follow.

    The thing about capital controls is that they’re like airline baggage fees; ultimately, all governments want to do it, they’re just waiting on the first guy to impose them so that they can shrug their shoulders, stick it to the people, and blame ‘industry standards’.

    Moreover, capital controls were a normal part of the global economic landscape for most of the 20th century, right up to the 1970s. It’s been a long time coming for governments to return to that model.

    Since the inception of The Sovereign Man, it has been a constant theme for us to talk about the increasing threat of capital controls. Your money, your savings, your livelihood are all under attack by insolvent governments, and it’s critical to take steps to reduce your exposure.

    When European financial leaders all openly admit that they’re making plans to establish continent-wide capital controls, it really begs the question — what additional warning sign does one need?

    The dominos have already started falling. Iceland. Ireland. Greece. Spain. Portugal. Italy. Cyprus. Soon even France and the rest of Europe. And it will come to the United States as well. There are over 15 trillion reasons why.

    So what are the most critical steps to take now? 1) Buy precious metals and store in a secure jurisdiction.
    Holding gold and silver overseas is a great way to (a) ensure your savings is protected against inflation, and (b) ensure that your precious metals cannot be confiscated in the event that gold ownership is criminalized in your home country. I strongly recommend Singapore, Hong Kong, and Abu Dhabi as three potential safe jurisdictions for your gold and silver.

    2) Open a foreign bank account.
    For funds that need to be maintained within the financial system (as opposed to precious metals), make sure you have a safe home for your money abroad in a safe, well-capitalized bank.

    3) Have a place to go overseas.
    Economic turmoil brought on by governments stealing people’s savings generally does not bode well for social stability. If things get hairy, you’ll want to have a place to wait it out. And you don’t want to be deciding on the location while you’re packing your bags.

    As an example, I’ve picked up an 1,100-acre farm in central Chile that won’t skip a beat when the financial system implodes. The sovereign debt bubble does not affect whether or not my trees will bear fruit or my vegetables will grow.


    Simon Black
    for The Daily Reckoning

    Assange wants to move to Ecuador....like 1,000s of other non Ecuadorians

    Reuters – 17 hrs ago

    CANBERRA (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Friday that he was ready for a life in Ecuador and said the country had been "quite supportive" of his bid for asylum.

    Assange is holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London, where he has sought asylum in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning on sexual assault charges, and he faces arrest by British police if he leaves the embassy.

    In an telephone interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio from the embassy, Assange said he was concerned about being sent to the United States to face possible charges related to the WikiLeaks website, which published thousands of leaked U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010.

    "The Ecuadorean people have been quite supportive. I heard (the) Ecuadorean Ambassador in Australia has been making supportive comments. They are sympathetic over a long period of time," he said.

    "We hope the asylum application will be viewed favorably. Now it's is a matter of gathering extensive evidence of what is happening in the U.S. and submitting that with a formal request."

    He said he had no indication of when Ecuador would decide on his asylum claim, and said his move was aimed at raising awareness of U.S. moves to prosecute him over the 2010 leaks.

    Leftist Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa reiterated on Thursday that his government plans to do a very thorough analysis of Assange's application before making a decision.

    "We could not allow that a person who has asked for asylum may have to face the death penalty, especially for political crimes," Correa told reporters.

    "We could not accept that there may not have been due process, we could not accept that there may be political prosecution against the ideas expressed by Assange," said Correa, as he listed the reasons why Ecuador may decide to grant asylum to Assange.

    Assange fears that if sent to Sweden, he would then be extradited to the United States where he believes he could face criminal charges punishable by death.

    He said he was not running away from questioning over sexual assault allegations in Sweden, but said the Swedish prosecutors had refused to visit him in Britain or contact him by phone.

    "This issue is about a very serious matter in the United States," he said, adding Swedish authorities said he would be detained on arrival in Sweden.

    Assange said his case was currently before a U.S. grand jury, which would decide whether charges could be laid. He said U.S. authorities have been careful not to confirm or deny any grand jury investigation.

    "There are subpoenas everywhere. We have received subpoenas, there are subpoenas in my name," he said, adding people have been detained at U.S. airports and been questioned by the FBI and asked to become informers.

    Assange also hit out Australia for not taking stronger action to protect him, saying he had no consular contacts since December 2010 apart from telephone text messages.

    Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has said Assange has received more consular support than anyone in a similar position, while Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said Australia has regularly made representations about Assange to authorities in the U.S., Sweden and Britain.

    "It is an effective declaration of abandonment," Assange said.

    (Reporting by James Grubel; Additional reporting by Jose Llangari and Eduardo Garcia in Quito; Editing by Daniel Magnowski and Philip Barbara)

    Ecuador President Weighing Assange Asylum Bid

    une 21, 2012 7:38 PM EDT

    Ecuador is reviewing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's asylum plea, President Rafael Correa said Thursday.

    The president told the BBC Ecuador would make a "sovereign decision" after examining claimed threats to Assange's life.

    The whistleblower activist is spending his third night holed up in Ecuador's London embassy, where he is seeking diplomatic asylum to prevent him being sent to Sweden to answer accusations of rape and assault, which he denies. He says he fears Sweden will turn him over to the U.S.

    On Thursday, Assange said there was no guarantee his bid would succeed. In an interview with his homeland's Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio, he said he did not know when the decision would be made.

    He said he had mounted his bid because his native Australia had made an "effective declaration of abandonment" by refusing to intervene in his planned extradition.

    He had "heard that the Ecuadorians were sympathetic in relation to my struggles and the struggles of the organization with the United States," Assange said.

    In a later phone interview with the Australian broadcaster Friday, Assange said he was ready for a life in Ecuador and said the country had been "quite supportive" of his bid for asylum, Reuters reported.

    "The Ecuadorean people have been quite supportive. I heard [the] Ecuadorean ambassador in Australia has been making supportive comments," he said. "They are sympathetic over a long period of time.

    "We hope the asylum application will be viewed favorably. Now it is a matter of gathering extensive evidence of what is happening in the U.S. and submitting that with a formal request."

    He said he was not running away from questioning over the sex assault allegations in Sweden but said the Swedish prosecutors had refused to visit him in Britain or contact him by phone.

    "This issue is about a very serious matter in the United States," he said, adding Swedish authorities said he would be detained on arrival.

    Assange said his case was currently before a U.S. grand jury, which would decide whether charges could be laid. He said U.S. authorities have been careful not to confirm or deny any grand jury investigation.

    "There are subpoenas everywhere. We have received subpoenas; there are subpoenas in my name," he said, asserting that people have been detained at U.S. airports and been questioned by the FBI and asked to become informers.

    To report problems or to leave feedback about this article, e-mail: e.linton@ibtimes.com
    To contact the editor, e-mail: editor@ibtimes.com

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

    Señora Assange.....Ecuador is NOT Third World.....

    The drama continues.........

    Julian Assange’s Artful Dodge

    Exclusive: Faced with extradition from London to Sweden to face sex-abuse allegations, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange fled to the Ecuadorian embassy and asked for asylum, what ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern considers an artful dodge to avoid possible U.S. persecution.

    By Ray McGovern

    Barring a CIA drone strike on the Ecuadorian embassy in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s sudden appeal for asylum there may spare him a prison stay in Sweden or possibly the United States. Assange’s freedom now depends largely on Ecuadorian President Rafael Vicente Correa Delgado, a new breed of independent-minded leader like Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

    Correa has been a harsh critic of U.S. behavior toward Ecuador and its Latin American neighbors as well as an outspoken fan of WikiLeaks. Atypically for the region, Ecuador is not a major recipient of U.S. economic or military aid, so Washington’s leverage is limited. This suggests that the Ecuadorian government may decide to defy Washington, accept Assange’s request for asylum, and have him flown to Ecuador pronto.

    In which case, most British “justice” officials will probably say good riddance and breathe a sigh of relief — literally. They have been holding their noses for weeks against the odor of their obeisance to U.S. diktat, after the British High Court rejected Assange’s argument that he should not be extradited to Sweden.

    Although Swedish “justice” officials have not charged Assange with any crime, they insist that he be extradited to face questions resulting from allegations by two women of sexual assault. This is widely — and in my view correctly — perceived as a subterfuge to deliver Assange into Swedish hands to facilitate his eventual extradition to the U.S. to face even more serious charges for publishing classified information highly embarrassing to Washington.

    There have been persistent reports that Assange has been the target of a secret grand jury investigating disclosures of classified U.S. documents allegedly slipped to WikiLeaks by Army Pvt. Bradley Manning. A leaked 2011 e-mail from Fred Burton, a vice president of the private intelligence firm Stratfor, informed colleagues that “we have a sealed indictment on Assange,” but that claim has not been confirmed. Manning, however, is facing a court martial for allegedly leaking U.S. documents to WikiLeaks.

    Giving the Brits the Slip

    Interesting, is it not, that Assange — just days before he was to be extradited to Sweden — was able to (I guess) slip out of his ankle monitor, sneak through the cordon of Bobbies on watch at the estate where he was under house arrest, dodge other Bobbies and security chaps, and hit pay dirt inside the Ecuadorian embassy.

    There is no denying that Assange is a clever chap. But unless you think him some kind of Houdini, there has to be some more likely explanation as to how he slipped through the various police checkpoints and walked into the embassy, which is located behind the popular Harrods department store in London.

    Were the British security forces all out for tea? Or were they just as happy to have the Assange case – and all the pressure from Washington – focused elsewhere?

    Certainly, the British had enough clues that, in extremis, Assange might attempt to make it to the Ecuadorian embassy. In late November 2010, Ecuadorian Deputy Foreign Minister Kintoo Lucas publicly offered Julian Assange residency in Ecuador, saying that Ecuador was “very concerned” by information revealed by WikiLeaks linking U.S. diplomats with spying on friendly governments.

    “We are open to giving him residency in Ecuador, without any problem and without any conditions,” Mr. Lucas said.

    President Correa promptly backtracked, saying that Kintto Lucas’s remarks were unauthorized and that no formal invitation had been extended to Assange, and noting that residency for him would require legal review in the event he requested it. (This came just one week before Assange was arrested, imprisoned, and then put under house arrest.)

    Now I’m Requesting It

    Ecuador’s embassy in London, announcing Assange’s arrival Tuesday afternoon, said he was seeking asylum, and added:

    “As a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights, with an obligation to review all applications for asylum, we have immediately passed his application on to the relevant department in Quito,” Ecuador’s capital. “While the department assesses Mr. Assange’s application, Mr. Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian government.”

    The embassy added that the bid for asylum “should in no way be interpreted as the government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden.”

    Temporizing diplomatic phrasing of this kind seems de rigueur, as President Correa and his associates take time to choose how to react to the fait accompli of Julian Assange in Ecuador’s custody. In Quito, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters that his country “is studying and analyzing the request [for asylum].”

    Like Mother, Like Son

    Assange’s mother not only applauded her son’s decision to seek asylum, but summed up the situation concisely, telling the press:

    “I hope Ecuador will grant him asylum, and if not, another third-world country. I hope the third world can stand up for what’s morally right when the first world can’t and won’t because they’ve got their snouts in the trough, rolling over for U.S. greed and big business.

    “Julian is a political prisoner, a journalist, a publisher of the truth about corruption, war crimes, kidnapping, blackmail, and manipulation. … He remains uncharged and unquestioned on a crime which, if you explore it, has absolutely no basis. Of course he would seek asylum.”

    She added that her son was a victim of decisions by the United States, Britain, Sweden and Australia to abandon proper legal process.

    How 20th Century!

    Abandoning proper legal process? Such thinking seems so — to borrow words from the eminent legal scholar Alberto Gonzales — so “quaint,” so “obsolete,” so pre-9/11! Abandoning proper legal process post-9/11 has become the “new paradigm” adopted not only by the Bush, but also by the Obama administration.

    Not only is Julian Assange within his rights to seek asylum, he is also in his right mind. Consider this: he was about to be sent to faux-neutral Sweden, which has a recent history of bowing to U.S. demands in dealing with those that Washington says are some kind of threat to U.S. security. Glenn Greenwald on Tuesday provided an example:

    “In December 2001, Sweden handed over two asylum seekers to the CIA, which then rendered them to be tortured in Egypt. A ruling from the U.N. Human Rights Committee found Sweden in violation of the global ban on torture for its role in that rendition (the two individuals later received a substantial settlement from the Swedish government).”

    For those of you thinking, Oh, but that was under the Bush administration and that kind of thing is over, think again. In 2010 and 2011, the hysteria surrounding WikiLeaks’ disclosures of U.S. misconduct and crimes around the world brought cries from prominent American political figures seeking Assange’s designation as a terrorist, his prosecution as a spy and even his assassination.

    Rep. Peter King, R-New York, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has called for WikiLeaks to be declared a terrorist organization and Assange to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917, a position shared by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed:

    “The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.”

    Others have gone even further, demanding that Assange be put to death, either by judicial or extrajudicial means. For instance, a former Canadian official Tom Flanagan has urged Assange’s assassination.

    Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin denounced Assange as an “anti-American operative with blood on his hands” and said he should be treated no differently than an al-Qaeda terrorist.

    In a Facebook posting, Palin said Assange was no more a journalist than “the ‘editor’ of al-Qaida’s new English-language magazine Inspire is a ‘journalist.’” She added: “His past posting of classified documents revealed the identity of more than 100 Afghan sources to the Taliban. Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al-Qaida and Taliban leaders?”

    So, put yourself in Julian Assange’s place. If the New York Times accurately described President Barack Obama as saying it was an “easy” decision to authorize the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen alleged to have participated in terrorist operations against U.S. targets, how confident would you be that the onetime constitutional scholar would resist the political pressure to get rid of you?

    A drone strike over London can be ruled out. But Assange understandably could fear a covert operation by Britain’s FBI and CIA counterparts — MI-5 and MI-6 — to eliminate him “with extreme prejudice,” in old CIA parlance.

    As melodramatic as that might sound, it should be remembered that nine years have gone by since British Ministry of Defense biologist and U.N. weapons inspector Dr. David Kelly’s “suicide.” Yet there remains considerable circumstantial evidence that his “suicide” was not self-inflicted.

    Kelly was found “guilty” of disclosing accurate information regarding the bogus nature of the “evidence” of Iraqi WMD and, conveniently, was removed from the scene, supposedly by his own hand. Ecuadorian embassy dwellers may wish to hire beefeaters to taste the foie gras, truffles, or cakes ordered from nearby Harrods.

    Correa on TV With Assange

    Four weeks before Assange sought asylum, he interviewed Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa for Episode 6 of The World Tomorrow (Assange’s program Tuesdays on RT). Assange asked Correa why he has advocated that WikiLeaks release all its cables. Correa responded:

    “First, you don’t owe anything, have nothing to fear. We have nothing to hide. Your WikiLeaks have made us stronger” with the damaging revelations showing the attitude of the U.S. embassy toward the sovereignty of the Ecuadorian government.

    Correa continued: “On the other hand, WikiLeaks wrote a lot about the goals that the national media pursue, about the power groups who seek help and report to foreign embassies. … Let them publish everything they have about the Ecuadorian government. You will see how many things about those who oppose the civil revolution in Ecuador will come to light. Things to do with opportunism, betrayal, and being self serving.”

    Correa made the point that when WikiLeaks cables became available to the national media in Ecuador, they chose not to publish them — partly because the documents aired so much “dirty linen” about the media themselves. He added that when he took office in January 2007, five out of seven privately owned TV channels in Ecuador were run by bankers. The bankers were using the guise of journalism to interfere in politics and to destabilize governments, for fear of losing power.

    Ecuador and the United States

    Correa, 49, educated in Belgium at the Université Catholique de Louvain and at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign (for four years, where he earned both a masters and a PhD), said he “admires the American people a great deal.” But the U.S. government can be a different matter.

    Assange and Correa discussed Correa’s decision to send the U.S. ambassador, Heather Hodges, packing as a result of the disclosures in the WikiLeaks cables, as well as her “arrogance,” and the Ecuadorian president’s unilateral closure of the U.S. military base at Manta.

    Still, Correa seems to have had high hopes that things would improve under the Obama administration. The Ecuadorian president once commented that Hugo Chávez’s description of George W. Bush as Satan was unfair to the Devil and that the previous administration had made Latin America “invisible.”

    Regarding Ecuador’s general relationship with the U.S., Correa underscored on Assange’s program that it must be “a framework of mutual respect and sovereignty.” That wished-for mutual respect and especially Washington’s regard for Ecuadorian sovereignty are likely to be put to the test in the coming weeks.

    Hillary Clinton may be having second thoughts about the energy she expended earlier this month on her first visit to Sweden as Secretary of State. If Assange succeeds in skirting Sweden and makes it to Ecuador, she may now have to put Quito back on her travel schedule.

    A Clinton visit to Ecuador two years ago was marred by protests, but she found President Correa a gracious host. But that was before WikiLeaks disclosed Ambassador Hodges’s pejorative comments on Correa et al. and Correa decided to expel her from the country for “arrogance.”

    Correa does seem to have developed an allergy to arrogance, so Clinton may wish to consider sending someone in her stead to try to persuade Ecuador to surrender Assange to the tender mercies of American “justice.”

    20 Reasons Why America’s Next Bank Holiday Will Be a Nightmare

    This article has been generously contributed for your reading pleasure by James Rawles of Survival Blog.

    The world is on now on the brink of a global credit crisis that could be far worse than the tumultuous events of 2008. The ongoing sovereign debt crisis in the southern reaches of the Eurozone indicate that bank runs in the region will continue, and that more bank closure “holidays” will be declared. Under a bank holiday, virtually all deposits could be frozen and irredeemable for days, weeks, or even months. The key question is: Will this crisis spread to the rest of Europe and then even to the United States? I urge SurvivalBlog readers–particularly those in Europe–to be proactive, to stay “ahead of the power curve.” While the Generally Dumb Public (GDP) wakes up some morning to hear news of a bank holiday, you will have long hence prepared yourself.

    Digits Lost in the Ether–Redeemable Mañana?

    Most people don’t realize that printed U.S. currency and minted coins amount to less than $800 billion, worldwide. That is just a small portion of the aggregate Money Zero Maturity (MZM) money supply that now exceeds $7 Trillion. So what is in your bank account is just electronic money, and there is absolutely no way that even a fraction of depositors could get physical cash to redeem the digits in their accounts. If there is a bank holiday declared, there will undoubtedly be severe restrictions on cash withdrawals when banks re-open. Given the precedent of the limits on withdrawals of a few institutions during the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s, I predict that withdrawal restrictions could go on for many months.

    Here are 20 Reasons why America’s next bank holiday will be a nightmare:
    A bank holiday will create a virtual blackout of information on not just checking and saving accounts, but also automated mortgage payments, CDs, and more. Our presently quite transparent banking system will suddenly become opaque. Your bank balance will become invisible. Your handy-dandy online banking web page will be replaced by a “Service Temporarily Unavailable” notice. The willingness to accept checks will evaporate in less than a day. The FUD factor (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) will be overwhelming.
    Most businesses will no longer honor personal checks, corporate checks, or bank money orders. Showing a merchant your most recent bank statement isn’t likely to sway him. Again, the FUD factor will rule.
    All checks in the U.S. are cleared through the automated clearinghouse (ACH)network. Most of this network is inside of banking system firewalls. Many Federal, State, and local tax payments are also handled through ACH. (A similar network exists for European banks–the Pan-European Automated Clearing House (PE-ACH), under the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) system).
    Credit cards might not be accepted. The FUD factor will dictate that anything even peripherally related to the banking system will be suspect. (Even though the credit card companies have their own credit clearing mechanisms that are only attached to the banking milieu.)
    Except for a few grandfathered recipients, Social Security payments are now made exclusively via bank direct deposit.
    Military monthly pay, housing allowances, and ration payments are now made exclusively via bank direct deposit, in CONUS. That is true virtually across the board (Active component, Reserve, and National Guard.) Ditto for monthly military retirement payments.
    Many State and Federal employees no longer get physical paychecks. They too, are trapped in the “direct deposit only” world.
    Many Americans are now very dependent on bank debit cards (also known as a bank cards or check cards.) In fact, many people don’t even carry more than a few dollars in their wallets. If our world suddenly goes “cash only” most people will suddenly be out of cash.
    ATMs, debit card transactions, and online banking can be shut down in minutes. This huge vulnerability of banking customers has already been evidenced by a few minor glitches.
    Online payment systems like PayPal will be sharply degraded, because they rely on their ability to move funds to and from banks. More importantly, online payments are inextricably tied to credit card processing. If credit card processing is suspended, then online payments will be “dead in the water.”
    Many regular monthly payments such as mortgages, insurance premiums, and some utilities are automatically debited from checking accounts. These will all come to a screeching halt.
    SWIFT wire transfers will probably be suspended, freezing a good portion of global commerce. Similarly, International ACH transactions (IATs) will also be shut down, since they access the U.S. ACH network.
    The ability to process credit card payments will be dubious, at best. Many merchants will wisely “just say no” to credit cards, even if their countertop POP terminals are still functioning and show available credit. And the fact that many credit cards are now just debit cards in disguise will only add to the reluctance of merchants to take any credit cards.
    Point of purchase (POP) processing of credit and debit cards at gas stations has become ubiquitous. Nearly everyone now uses the “pay at the pump” option. Gas and diesel could become “cash only” transactions.
    Most American families keep less than $300 in cash at home at any given time, including their kids’ piggy banks. For most families, that wouldn’t cover even one month’s rent.
    Formerly distributed as “Food Stamps”, the USDA‘s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), provides benefits to low income families through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card payments. These cards look much like credit cards. And like checks, EBT payments are all routed through the ACH network. Again, this is a network that is inside banking system firewalls. If the banking system goes into holiday mode, then it may take days or even weeks to get EBT processing back on line. If the EBT payments stop, we can expect riots in metropolitan areas in less than a week.
    Gift cards will be “iffy.” There are now two types of gift cards: “open loop” (or “network”) cards and traditional “closed loop” cards. Open loop cards are issued by banks or credit card companies and can be redeemed many places. It is likely that only closed loop cards will be honored by the issuing stores, because merchants will fear that open loop cards might have been zeroed out elsewhere. (If they can’t confirm the available balance, the card will be refused.)
    Most Internet vendors are almost entirely dependent on credit card processing. If that processing system is disrupted, then mailorder firms will either have to cease operations, or have them slow to a snail’s pace, and be restricted to only non-bank money orders.
    Reversion to U.S. Postal Service money orders (commonly called “PMOs“) will only be partially viable solution. This is because many small town and rural post offices don’t keep enough cash in their tills to be able to hand you $1,000 when you go to cash a PMO. You may be thinking, “Oh well, I’ll just ask them to write me a blank PMO, in exchange. Nope. A recent change to postal regulations designed to curtail money laundering banned money order-for-money order issuance. Bummer. And if you are considering using “Forever” postage stamps, hold your horses. Under a hygiene regulation published in the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM), postal clerks are not allowed to cash out (“buy back”) stamp booklets unless they are still in their sealed clear plastic master packages. So it might take decades to use up your Forever stamps, or you will be forced to liquidate them on the gray market at a slight loss.
    Bank safe deposit boxes will probably be inaccessible. Plan accordingly.

    Some Observations and Mitigation Steps:

    Because so many pay and retirement benefit systems are now handled via bank direct deposit only, we could easily live through a frustrating “Roach Motel” period of several months when “Dollars check in, but they don’t check out.” Be prepared to ride through that period.

    If the European credit spreads to the United States, then immediately visit your company’s payroll office, and ask to be removed from their direct deposit system. This change might take a couple weeks. With a paper paycheck, you can probably cash it elsewhere, even if you own bank closes its doors–perhaps even at your local grocery store.

    Keep plenty of well-hidden cash at home. Since it won’t be earning interest, some of this cash might as well be in $2 rolls of nickels. That method will also give you a hedge on inflation, and also serve as insurance against a currency reform. (Where a zero could be lopped off the Dollar, overnight.)

    Be prepared for times for when anything other than greenback cash or perhaps silver coins will be eyed with suspicion, or rejected outright. Even USPS PMOs and drug store money orders may be refused. In the era of bank holidays, cash will talk. Keep plenty of it on hand. Oh, and needless to say, don’t store your cash in a bank safe deposit box. You probably won’t have access to it during a bank holiday.

    Be wise and circumspect in storing cash at home. Don’t tell anyone other than your spouse about that cash. See the SurvivalBlog archives for suggestions on building secret hiding places, like this one.

    A good portion of your “stash of cash” should be in the form of $1 and $5 bills. This is because during a banking crisis, many people will not be able make change for small transactions. And if your local power, water, and phone companies refuse checks, then you will need to be able to pay them the exact amount of your monthly bill. (They probably won’t have much “change”, either.)

    Apply for at least one gasoline station chain charge card. In turbulent times when they won’t take your check or your VISA card, they might still take their own chain card.

    If you have to pay your utility bills in in cash or by PMO, do you know where their business offices are located? And consider the sort neighborhood where those offices are located. (Unless you live in a free state for open carry or Constitutional Carry, do you have your CCW permit, and plenty of pistol practice?) For safety, it might be wise to form a neighborhood posse to go pay those bills in a group of of six people once a month.

    Your local supermarket may declare “cash only.” This is yet another reason why it it is vitally important for every family to have a comprehensive food storage program. By the same token, fuel storage also makes sense, if your local fire code allows it.

    At the tail end of a banking crisis–when the bank doors do re-open–the Federal Reserve will certainly have to crank up the printing presses. Even people that never had “mattress money” will want some. All this new cash will increase the velocity of money, locally. This will be inflationary, even at the same time that a the macro level, we will witness a huge dollar deflation. (This is because the multiplier effectof every dollar on deposit will work in reverse, as withdrawals are made.) These will be strange times, indeed. If you start to see any evidence of mass inflation kicking in, then be ready to spend your dollars as quickly as possible to parlay them into practical, barterable tangibles. Don’t be the last one standing in the game of Dollar Musical Chairs.

    The threats of credit crunches, bank runs, and bank holidays are not new. No society is immune from them. We’ve been fortunate here in the United States to have not suffered any limits on bank withdrawals since the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980s and 1990s. But don’t expect this stability to be permanent. We live in a dynamic world with rapidly changing threats to our lives and livelihoods. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

    Uruguay government plans to sell marijuana to registered users

    Uruguay could surpass Ecuador and the worlds Number 1 retirement haven........

    MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay - Uruguay's government plans to take a step beyond legalizing marijuana. It wants to sell it.

    Local news media and lawmakers report that the government plans to send a bill to Congress on Wednesday that would legalize marijuana sales as a crime-fighting measure. Only the government would be allowed to sell the cigarettes, and only to adults registered as users.

    Those who exceed a limited number of cigarettes allowed would have to undergo drug rehabilitation.

    The idea is to remove profits from drug dealers and divert users from harder drugs. There are no laws against marijuana use itself in Uruguay.

    Ruling party Sen. Monica Xavier tells local TV that if the measure passes, it should be accompanied by efforts to get people off drugs.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    WikiLeaks founder Assange seeks Ecuador asylum: Embassy

    LONDON (AFP) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange requested political asylum from Ecuador on Tuesday and was holed up at its embassy in London while Quito examined the request, officials said.

    Assange, who last week exhausted all his legal options in Britain against extradition to Sweden over alleged sex crimes, came to the embassy on Tuesday afternoon seeking political asylum, the London mission said.

    The embassy said it had passed the request on to Quito, stressing that it had an 'obligation to review all applications for asylum.' 'While the department assesses Mr Assange's application, Mr Assange will remain at the embassy, under the protection of the Ecuadorian Government,' it said in a statement.

    'The decision to consider Mr Assange's application for protective asylum should in no way be interpreted as the Government of Ecuador interfering in the judicial processes of either the United Kingdom or Sweden,' it added.

    America is Greece... On Steroids

    Take a moment to consider this number: $15,796,792,651,861

    At the last count, this is the level of the U.S. national debt. And if that number scares you… it should.

    The fiscal and debt situation of the United States today is nothing less than Greece on steroids – with an added dose of political hallucinogens inducing insane denial.

    It’s the same insanity that sent international markets up this week on the news that a paltry 30% of Greek voters supported a political party that advocates the country paying its bills and living within its means.

    But let’s put this news in its horrific perspective:

    In spite of the fact the Greek election results have allayed fears of the country’s imminent exit from the euro zone, swathes of political analysts still believe the move is a mere momentary respite, and that the European Union dream could yet turn to nightmare.

    With Spain, Italy and probably France, on the brink of disaster, Greece must now be kept on life support because of the very real threat of economic contagion and perhaps even the demise of the euro and the European Union itself.

    Yet, in 2009, Greece's economy was just 0.40% of world total GDP, and in 2015 the Greek GDP is forecast to be 0.41% of the world total. If that is the potential impact of an economic crash in a country whose economic output is less than 1% of the rest of the world, what do you suppose will follow the economic disintegration of the U.S. government, whose economy dwarfs Greece?

    The U.S. economy is the world's largest, with a 2011 GDP of $15.1 trillion – that’s 22% of global GDP. While Greece is likely to survive through bailouts from other nations, the money involved is trifling compared to what the U.S. would require.

    Stop for a moment and think about the true dimensions of the deep economic and financial hole into which politicians of both parties have dragged the United States.

    As of today, the U.S. government's national debt is approaching $16 trillion devalued dollars (a number that is 104% of U.S. GDP and yet excludes trillions in unfunded future entitlements).

    The true U.S. national debt as a percentage of GDP is, in fact, nearly 130%. The government adds $4 billion per day to that debt while GDP is stagnating with growth at little better than 2%. Economists Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, after analyzing over 200 years of data from around the world, have concluded that once debt reaches 90% of GDP, a tipping point is reached. Crisis and collapse will ensue.

    And we don't "owe it to ourselves," as discredited Keynesian economists used to claim. Over $5.1 trillion of the debt (and the interest on it) is owed to foreigners – a major share held by the unfriendly government of Communist China.

    At the center of this financial chaos, the White House incumbent hawks another plan for more failed multi-billion bailouts, and hiring more government employees to add to the existing 20 million state and federal employees. All while he dictates more unconstitutional executive orders aimed at buying selected minorities and special interest groups.

    Yet, the putative candidate for president from the other U.S. political party seems to have adopted the dynamics of the late President Calvin Coolidge: "The business of America is business.”

    Talk about the need for hope? The need for change? Brother, can you spare a trillion? Leader where art thou?

    The final reckoning day will come soon enough when China, Singapore and other investors stop propping up the U.S. Then the game will be over – with a resounding crash.

    Who then will bail out profligate America?

    The "experts" keep telling us that, someday, all this will have to be paid by taxpayers. But about 50% of U.S. households don't pay any income taxes at all. Most income taxes are paid by the top 20% of households – those "rich" people whose taxes Mr. “Fair Share” Obama wants to increase so they can be more "patriotic" (in vice-president Biden’s quaint words).

    In the meantime, the waning Obama government is printing money as fast as it can. Government “assets" are stacks of paper with words and colored ink on them. Not gold, not silver, just paper. And when all else fails, the U.S. Federal Reserve steps in and buys more paper – trillions in U.S. government debt; yet another insane example of the “we owe it to ourselves” freak-o-nomic theory.

    Carved into the wall of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. are the words of the late George Santayana – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    Yes, you've read similar warnings from me and from my colleagues at the Sovereign Society for a good part of the last 15 years. We are not mystic soothsayers endowed with great powers of divination, but we know history – and we can count. And we continue to give the advice you need. To avoid disaster when Greece comes to America, you need to take action now.

    Here are five emergency actions you can take starting today:

    1) For asset protection and investments, establish bank and financial accounts in stable offshore financial centers. To protect against a failing dollar, denominate your holdings in stronger currencies.

    2) For your family’s future, create an offshore asset protection trust or private foundation.

    3) For personal safety, take steps towards foreign residence and eventual second citizenship.

    4) For peace of mind, invest selectively in precious metals with safe, offshore storage.

    5) For personal survival, take steps to protect your personal and financial privacy.

    While the politicians may pretend that America can never be the next Greece, the truth is clear – we’re well on our way already.

    The sands in the hourglass of time are running out – Act now.

    Faithfully yours,

    Bob Bauman

    Saturday, June 16, 2012

    Obama to Legalize Illegal Immigration by Decree; Will Add 800,000 Voters In November

    As immigrants pour into the US....more Americans are coming to Ecuador....

    Mac Slavo
    June 15th, 2012
    Website: www.SHTFplan.com

    In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression in which millions of Americans have lost jobs we can expect even more competition in the employment marketplace.

    According to AP sources, President Obama will speak today about a new administration policy that will grant immunity from deportation for some 800,000 immigrants who have entered the country illegally.

    The Obama administration will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives. The election-year initiative addresses a top priority of an influential Latino electorate that has been vocal in its opposition to administration deportation policies.

    The policy change, described to The Associated Press by two senior administration officials, will affect as many as 800,000 immigrants who have lived in fear of deportation.

    Under the administration plan, illegal immigrants will be immune from deportation if they were brought to the United States before they turned 16 and are younger than 30, have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served in the military. They also can apply for a work permit that will be good for two years with no limits on how many times it can be renewed.

    Source: AP

    Opponents of the new policy argue that the move will not only add pressure to an already struggling economy, education and healthcare system, but will likely strengthen Obama’s position in the upcoming Presidential election by adding hundreds of thousands of new voters sentimental to democrat candidates.

    While it is illegal to vote in a Presidential election unless you are a U.S. citizen, the only thing a would-be voter needs to cast a ballot is proof of residency (in most States, not even that is required), which is easily obtainable once immunity or legal status is granted.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012



    Go away, American millionaires.

    That's what some of the world's largest wealth-management firms are saying ahead of Washington's implementation of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, known as Fatca, which seeks to prevent tax evasion by Americans with offshore accounts.  HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA), Deutsche Bank AG, Bank of Singapore Ltd. and DBS Group Holdings Ltd. (DBS) all say they have turned away business.

    "I don't open U.S. accounts, period," said Su Shan Tan, head of private banking at Singapore-based DBS, Southeast Asia's largest lender, who described regulatory attitudes toward U.S. clients as "Draconian."

    The 2010 law, to be phased in starting Jan. 1, 2013, requires financial institutions based outside the U.S. to obtain and report information about income and interest payments accrued to the accounts of American clients. It means additional compliance costs for banks and fewer investment options and advisers for all U.S. citizens living abroad, which could affect their ability to generate returns.

    "In the long run, if Americans have less and less opportunities to invest overseas, it would be a disadvantage," Marc Faber, the fund manager and publisher of the Gloom, Boom and Doom report, said last month in Singapore.

    Bank Transparency

    The government needs to be tougher on offshore tax crimes than it has been, said U.S. Representative Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat and one of the original sponsors of the legislation.  Fatca, introduced after Zurich-based UBS AG (UBS) said in 2009 that it aided tax evasion by Americans and agreed to pay $780 million to avoid prosecution, is already helping to improve banking transparency, he said.

    "People should know, and the IRS should know, what money is being held offshore and for what purpose," Neal said. "I don't think there's anything unreasonable about that."

    'Too Complex'

    Investments in products offered by third parties that non- U.S. citizens can purchase through UBS or other banks also may be restricted.

    "Most of the hedge funds I know in Asia won't take American clients," said Faber.

    Bank of Singapore, the private-banking arm of Oversea- Chinese Banking Corp. (OCBC), ranked strongest in the world for the last two years by Bloomberg Markets magazine, has turned away millions of dollars from Americans because it doesn't want to deal with the regulatory hassle, according to Chief Executive Officer Renato de Guzman. The bank had $32 billion under management as of the beginning of the year.

    Rejecting Americans

    At industry meetings he attends in Singapore, not accepting U.S. clients is "quite a prevailing sentiment," de Guzman said.  There are 18 private banks operating in Singapore, including units run by UBS, Credit Suisse Group AG, Deutsche Bank (DBK) and HSBC, he said.

    "We have enough business in Asia, so we don't want to make our lives too difficult," de Guzman said.

    HSBC, Deutsche Bank
    HSBC decided last July that it would no longer offer wealth-management services to Americans from locations outside their home country after tax authorities stepped up a probe of the London-based bank's U.S. clients.

    Deutsche Bank said it terminated securities accounts held abroad by people with U.S. residency as of mid-2011.  The action didn't include checking or savings accounts and didn't affect citizens living outside the U.S.  The Frankfurt-based bank said "only a small number of customers" were affected.

    Collateral Damage

    "Bank accounts, investment accounts, mortgages and insurance policies are being refused to American clients, and those with accounts are seeing them closed or have been threatened with closure," Marylouise Serrato, executive director of American Citizens Abroad, a Geneva-based organization, wrote in an e-mail.

    U.S. citizens who live in countries that aren't served by U.S. banks may find themselves unable to bank at all, and implementation of the law in its current form could cause collateral damage to American businesses abroad, she said.

    "Americans either will not be allowed to enter into international partnerships or live and work overseas, and will be replaced by foreign nationals who do not have these limitations," Serrato wrote.  "The extensive reporting requirements of Fatca will be destructive to those who wish to do business internationally as well as to those Americans who are legitimately living and working overseas."

    'Turned Away'
    That view is shared by Richard L. Weisman, Hong Kong-based head of law firm Baker & McKenzie LLP's global tax practice.

    "U.S. expatriates already face severe U.S. tax rules related to their non-U.S. income and investments," Weisman said. "Fatca will increase the extent to which they are turned away by non-U.S. financial institutions."

    Before Fatca, U.S. citizens in Bangkok or Manila could find investment opportunities through non-U.S. banks such as HSBC. Now their only option is to fly to cities where U.S. firms operate.

    Limited Choices

    If Americans choose to bank with a non-U.S. firm such as HSBC, their investment choices are limited.  At the HSBC branch in the bank's Asia regional headquarters in Hong Kong, Americans can hold only savings deposits.  They're prohibited from opening accounts to trade local stocks or buy products available to non- U.S. customers, including 45 equity funds investing in China or other geographies and industries.  There's only one comparable emerging-markets equity option available on HSBC's U.S.-based investors' website.

    Financial institutions that choose not to accept American customers still must determine whether new or existing clients are so-called U.S. persons in order to comply with Fatca, according to Michael Brevetta, director of U.S. tax consulting at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Singapore.

    The definition includes citizens, green-card holders and non-Americans deemed U.S. residents by being present in the country for at least 183 days over a three-year period, which makes them subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income, according to the IRS.

    Compliance Costs

    The compliance costs for banks, asset managers and insurance companies "could stretch into the billions of dollars," Brevetta said. Private-banking firms in Hong Kong and Singapore already have operating costs between 88 percent and 90 percent of their revenue, compared with 70 percent at Swiss banks, PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated in a September report.

    Penalties for not complying will be stiff. Non-U.S. firms that don't make required disclosures will be subject to 30 percent withholding of certain dividends, interest or proceeds from the sale of assets they or their customers receive from U.S. sources, according to Baker & McKenzie's Weisman, who has conducted workshops and seminars on the proposed rules for current and potential clients in Hong Kong and Singapore.

    "Overwhelmingly, financial institutions outside the U.S. don't like it, for obvious reasons," Weisman said, calling the withholding tax a "stick" the U.S. is wielding.  "The U.S. is outsourcing a tax-compliance function, which is enormously expensive."

    Renouncing Citizenship
    Americans who don't comply with Fatca are deemed "recalcitrant," and income they receive from U.S. sources also is subject to a 30 percent withholding tax, said Jason Choi, a Singapore-based tax lawyer with Latham & Watkins LLP.

    Renouncing citizenship is an option chosen by increasing numbers of Americans. A record 1,780 gave up their U.S. passports last year compared with 235 in 2008, the IRS reported.

    'Pain for Americans'

    Still, the limitations create complications that act as an investment deterrent, said Philip Marcovici, a retired U.S. tax lawyer who advises wealthy families and governments.

    "It's a pain for Americans to invest in markets outside of the U.S.," he said.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    Learning from the Best: Inflation Lessons from Argentina

    Spain was down again before we noticed it was up. Yesterday morning, stocks all over the world were rising on hopes of a solution to the euro problem. By afternoon, the rally was over. The Dow ended the day down 142 points.

    But that’s the way the euro rescues go. The effects are more and more short-lived. Pretty soon, investors will realize they don’t work at all...and then there won’t be any up-surge, A new rescue plan will be announced. Investors will realize it is just another scammy fix. And stocks will go down.

    When that happens the game will be over.

    We might not be far from that point now.

    Meanwhile, the US is worried too. About Europe, which is on the verge of total breakdown? Maybe. About China, which is growing at its slowest pace in 13 years? Maybe.

    About the US itself...where the ‘recovery’ went missing? Almost certainly.

    Here at our Daily Reckoning headquarters, we remain sans soucis. Which is another way of saying, we’re enjoying the show. What will the fixers do next, we wonder? Every fix makes things worse. But they keep at it.

    For the benefit of Dear Readers with skin in the game, we leave our “Crash Alert” flag up for a few more days. This market could go to hell in a hurry. If you’ve got skin in the game, get it out.

    And, for the benefit of everyone, we cast our weary eyes down to the pampas. Is there any policy so foolish the Argentines have not had a go at it? Is there any financial disaster so catastrophic the gauchos haven’t repeated it at least two or three times? Is there any trick so dishonest or so transparently fraudulent that the politicians south of the Rio de la Plata don’t make a regular habit of it?

    Our Bonner Family Office chief investment strategist, Rob Marstrand, who makes his home in Buenos Aires, is visiting us in the US this week. He tells us that it is said to be a crime in Argentina to mention the “parallel” market in dollars. On the official market, the peso still trades at about 4.4 to the dollar. On the unofficial exchanges, that is, on the parallel market, the “blue” peso trades at less than 5.1 to the greenback.

    But it’s apparently illegal to mention it.

    So is it supposedly illegal to publish the real inflation rate. The Argentine feds have their rate; it’s a crime to contradict them.

    The government is also trying to get Argentines to stop using the dollar as a protection against peso inflation. The president says she is converting her own dollar deposits to pesos, to set an example.

    “I guarantee you she is not converting her accounts in Switzerland,” says Rob.

    But the typical Argentine wasn’t born yesterday. He’s been around the block a few times. He knows that when the government gets in financial trouble, it can’t be trusted. He knows that it will seize whatever money it can get its hands on — especially if it is foreign currency. So, if he’s saved dollars, he’s hiding them...or getting them out of the country. Here’s the Reuters report:BUENOS AIRES, June 8 (Reuters) — Argentine banks have seen a third of their US dollar deposits withdrawn since November as savers chase greenbacks in response to stiffening foreign exchange restrictions, local banking sources said on Friday.

    Depositors withdrew a total of about $100 million per day over the last month in a safe-haven bid fueled by uncertainty over policies that might be adopted as pressure grows to keep US currency in the country.

    The chase for dollars is motivated by fear that the government may further toughen its clamp down on access to the US currency as high inflation and lack of faith in government policy erode the local peso.

    From May 11 until Friday, data compiled by Reuters from private banks showed $1.9 billion in US currency had been withdrawn, or about 15 percent of all greenbacks deposited in the country.

    Feisty populist leader Fernandez was re-elected in October vowing to “deepen the model” of the interventionist policies associated with her predecessor, Nestor Kirchner, who is also her late husband.

    She wants Argentines to end their love affair with the greenback and start saving in pesos despite inflation clocked by private economists at about 25 percent per year.

    Fernandez set an example on Wednesday by vowing to swap her only dollar-denominated savings account for a fixed-term deposit in pesos.

    But savers in crisis-prone Argentina are notoriously jittery.

    Why would they be jittery? Because their dollar deposits were seized and forcibly converted to pesos 10 years ago? Because the peso was devalued by 66% in the last crisis?

    Or because the Argentine peso of 50 years ago has been devalued by approximately 42 trillion percent. We don’t know how such a thing is mathematically possible...but that’s the report we’ve read.

    Defaults, devaluations, hyperinflations — the Argentines have seen it all.

    Americans have a lot to learn.

    And another thought...

    The British writer AA Gill once noted that...“Europe is an allegory for the ages of man. You are born Italian, relentlessly infantile and mother-obsessed. In childhood, you are English: chronically shy, tongue-tied clicky and only happy kicking balls or pulling the legs off things. Teenagers are French: pretentiously philosophical, embarrassingly vain, ridiculously romantic yet simultaneously insecure. During Middle-Age, we become either Irish and fun loving, or Swiss and serious. Old age is German: ponderous, pompous and pedantic. And finally, we regress into being Belgian, with no idea of who we are at all.”


    Bill Bonner
    for The Daily Reckoning

    Monday, June 11, 2012

    The Chinese are coming.....but they have money!

    Citizenship for sale: Foreign investors flock to U.S.

    Good riddance, Eduardo.

    Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin drew public ire last month following the revelation that he had renounced his U.S. citizenship, a move widely seen as a tax dodge. But thousands of wealthy foreigners are lining up to replace him, making investments here and putting themselves on a path to citizenship in the process.

    The State Department expects to issue over 6,000 "investor visas" in the current fiscal year, which would be an all-time record. Other countries, meanwhile, are following the U.S.'s lead, keen to spur growth in lean economic times.

    "Our goal is certainly job creation, and that's what this program is all about," said Bill Wright, a spokesman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. "At the same time, it's allowing somebody from a foreign country to come and invest in our nation."

    [Related: Destinations Where The Dollar Goes Farther]

    Under the government's EB-5 Immigrant Investor program, foreign investors can get conditional visas that allow them and their families to live, work and attend school in the U.S. To qualify for the visa, they must invest at least $1 million in a new or recently created business, or $500,000 for businesses in rural or high-unemployment areas.

    The investment must be demonstrated to have created or preserved at least 10 full-time jobs for U.S. workers within two years. Assuming this condition is met, investors and their families graduate to permanent resident status, and can apply for full citizenship three years later.

    While the EB-5 program has been around since 1990, demand has been surging as of late, fueled in large part by China's growing elite, who accounted for 70% of the roughly 3,500 investor visas issued last year. State Department officials expect the program's quota of 10,000 visas per year, which includes visas given to the spouses and children of investors, to be filled for the first time ever within the next year or two.

    Some critics of the U.S. program question the fairness of letting wealthy immigrants pay for special treatment, while others say investments and job creation claims need stricter vetting. Immigrants who arrive via the program have no guarantee of recovering their investments, and may face deportation if they don't produce the required number of jobs.

    Investing overseas: Find the right balance

    Of the roughly 12,000 immigrants who've arrived on the EB-5 investor visa, just 39% have earned permanent residency, according to USCIS data.

    There's also the lengthy application and approval process -- a 2005 study by the Government Accountability Office said the program's reputation for red tape had dampened interest among foreigners in the preceding years.

    USCIS press secretary Christopher Bentley said in an email that the agency "continues to take steps to enhance [the EB-5 program's] efficiency and integrity." USCIS recently expanded the team of analysts responsible for evaluating EB-5 projects and proposals, he said.

    Whatever the program's problems, interest has been growing in recent years, and meanwhile, the U.S. has faced increasing competition from other countries trying to woo well-heeled foreigners with the promise of residency or citizenship.

    In January, Ireland announced a new residency program for immigrant investors, and Australia unveiled a similar program last month.

    "Governments are reinvigorating their policy and their resources around this," said Eric Major, the CEO of Henley & Partners Ltd, an international consulting firm based on the European island of Jersey that specializes in immigration assistance for the wealthy.

    Around 20 countries currently offer residency or citizenship by investment, Major said, a figure that may soon grow with economies struggling in much of the developed world. Major said he had met with five governments in the past eight months to discuss such programs.

    [Related: Last Minute Travel Deals]

    Demand shows no sign of slowing down, either. International travel, banking and communication have become increasingly easy, while Asia, in particular, is minting new millionaires at a rapid pace.

    "At no time in human history have we ever been so mobile and has there been so great a wealth effect from China and India," Major said.

    In the U.S., the immigrant investor program has been responsible for at least 46,810 jobs and more than $2.3 billion in investments since its inception in 1990, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

    That's a small fraction of overall foreign investment in the U.S., but it comes at no cost to the government. Were the EB-5 program to meet its 10,000-visa quota, it would contribute more than $4.4 billion to GDP and create or preserve nearly 75,000 jobs annually, according to a 2010 report prepared for the government by consulting firm ICF International.

    The EB-5 program is up for renewal in the fall, and while USCIS says it has "no indication" that the initiative will be allowed to expire, some supporters are more wary.

    "We can't let our guard down," said David Andersson, an immigration attorney and president of the Association to Invest In the USA. "The deadline approaches and Congress just demonstrates a reluctance to get things done."

    For foreign investors, Andersson said, the main appeal of immigration to the U.S. is access to good schools for their children or other family-related concerns.

    5 projects financed by EB-5 investors

    That was the case for Jordan Gagner, a Canadian investment manager who came with with his wife and three children to Arizona in 2009. His wife had come down with a serious case of rheumatoid arthritis, a condition exacerbated by Vancouver's cold, wet weather.

    "We just thought, we've got to get down to a climate that's more conducive to this disease," Gagner said.

    Gagner invested in an assisted-living complex being constructed in Washington. He and his family now have green cards giving them permanent resident status, and plan on applying for citizenship as soon as they're able.

    "We're fiercely proud about Canada, but there's things we love about the U.S. that Canada just doesn't provide," Gagner said.

    View this article on CNNMoney

    Monday, June 4, 2012

    How Much to Live in a Place With These Awesome Views?

    How Much to Live in a Place With These Awesome Views?
    By Suzan Haskins
    A week ago, I shared a photo of Vilcabamba, as well as some reasons why it’s known as Ecuador's Valley of Longevity—where so many of the inhabitants live to be 100 and beyond—
    Here’s today photo, which may give you some more insight into why people here live so long—
    This is a place that’s pristine and natural. It just makes you want to slow down and enjoy life as long as you can.
    Some scientists believe the clean, mineral-rich water that flows from mountain streams and springs is akin to the fountain of youth. Or maybe the pure air itself keeps hearts beating and lungs breathing longer. Certainly, the climate has something to do with it. Just shy of the equator in southern Ecuador and at an elevation of 5,000 feet, temperatures average between 65 and 81 degrees, day in and day out. No weather-related stress here.
    Truth is, it’s probably because of all these ingredients and more—and because it wasn’t that long ago (in the 1960s) that “civilization” came here in the form of a reliably drivable road that connected Vilcabamba with the outside world. It was even only more recently that the telephone, television, and the Internet forced their versions of stress into this valley.
    It was also in the 1960s that one of the first foreign residents—Johnny Lovewisdom— found his way to the Vilcabama Valley. An eccentric spiritual seeker, he was looking for his own version of Nirvana, a place with a near-perfect climate where food could be grown unsullied by chemicals or the threat of nuclear fallout that was then top-of-mind in the post-World-War-II world. He brought an eclectic mix of alternative lifestyle pursuits, including some out-of-the-ordinary (at least for back then) dietary and religious beliefs.
    This tendency to attract the more interesting and offbeat among us continues to this day.
    But while it’s no doubt that some foreigners who come to Vilcabamba are somewhat eccentric—or that they’re searching for spiritual enlightenment or to live an intrusion-free alternative lifestyle of one kind or another—most are merely yearning for a simpler way of life—a place where they can own enough land to grow their own food, have horses, some chickens, maybe a few goats—
    In Vilcabamba, this is an affordable possibility. Just outside town, a two-story traditional Ecuadorian house of 1,600 square feet is for sale. On a fourth-of-an-acre of land, it’s bordered by a creek and has lots of mature trees and plants, including avocado, fig, bananas, coffee, and more. The house needs work, but it’s offered for just $39,000.
    Go farther afield to nearby valleys to find even more bargains. In Malacatos, for instance, you can buy 74 acres of land—with beautiful views, a natural spring, a small stream—even a waterfall—for $198,000.
    At the top of a crest with a jaw-dropping 360-degree view of the valleys and village of Malacatos below, a two-acre parcel—with all utilities—is selling for $49,000.

    One baby, two moms equals controversy in Ecuador

    QUITO (AFP) - Ecuador's constitution extols "families of diverse types," but this conservative, Catholic society is struggling to figure out how children raised by parents of the same sex fit that lofty ideal.

    A British lesbian couple have sparked controversy at a time when attitudes about same-sex couples are changing in other countries, including nearby Argentina, the first Latin American country to legalize gay marriage.

    Ecuadorians have been closely following the case of Nicola Rothon and Helen Bicknell, each of whom is claiming the right to call herself the mother of their newborn.

    After their daughter Satya Amani was born in December of last year, the longtime couple tried to register their joint maternity with local authorities, but were denied.

    The women, both 34, then filed a claim alleging discrimination and demanding that state prosecutors protect their constitutional rights, but were turned down.

    "The constitution protects us, but there is a loophole and that needs to be fixed. It will not be easy," Rothon told reporters recently.

    "It's always the case that when you're the first ones, you've got to fight to change the laws," added Bicknell who, with her partner, makes a living teaching English and raising organic produce on the outskirts of Quito.

    Rothon said she worries that if she were to die, the government might keep her daughter, since her partner has no biological tie to the infant.

    "If something happens to me, does she go to an orphanage?" she said.

    The women were considering taking the case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an arm of the Organization of American States (OAS).

    They met met 16 years ago in Kenya, where they worked as volunteers. They entered into a civil union in Britain in 2010 and tied the knot at a ceremony in Ecuador the following year.

    Their baby was conceived with semen donated by a mutual friend, but although parenthood was entered into as a joint endeavor only Rothon, who carried the child to term, is seen as the child's parent.

    The case has sparked controversy in Ecuador, an avowedly secular country with an 80 percent Catholic population.

    The Catholic Church here has kept a low profile in the dispute, but is emphatic in embracing only heterosexual marriage.

    "There is only one mother," said Antonio Arregui, president of the conference of bishops.

    The view of most Ecuadorians, he said, is that "a normal family is father, mother and children."

    Isabel Salazar, 42, a member of a group that rejects gay marriage and abortion, disputes Bicknell and Rothon's claims to parenthood.

    "We respect gays and lesbians, but they are a marginal group," she told AFP.

    She added that child raising is a task that required the "complementarity of a male and female parent."

    But the couple also has supporters, including Sarahi Maldonado, 20, who is an activist with a group defending the rights of Ecuador's "sexual minorities," including gays and lesbians.

    Maldonado said the state promotes homophobia and archaic ideas about family.

    "It is outrageous to believe that you can't have a family in which no man is present," she said.

    "In daily life we see so many cases of men who do not acknowledge paternity, and nobody talks about the impact of abortions or broken families," she said, decrying what she said was a "clear double standard."

    Bicknell said she agreed with the conventional view here that two parents are better than one, but rejected the idea that the couple has to be of two sexes.
    "For any child, it's best if two people love him and want to give him the best," she said.