Tuesday, August 7, 2012

HSBC lax in preventing money laundering by cartels, terrorists

By James O'Toole / Posted in Act for America

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Global banking giant HSBC failed to prevent billions of dollars worth of money transfers that Senate investigators believe were linked to drug cartels and terrorist groups, according to a report released Monday.

The Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said London-based HSBC (HBC) failed to review thousands of suspicious transactions and properly vet clients over the past decade.

Among other issues, the report notes that in 2007 and 2008, HSBC's Mexico unit shipped $7 billion in cash to the bank's U.S. affiliate, a volume of shipments that law enforcement officials said could reach that size "only if they included illegal drug proceeds."

HSBC Mexico had a number of high-profile clients linked to drug trafficking, the report says, as well as "a huge backlog of accounts marked for closure due to suspicious activity, but whose closures were delayed."

The report also found that HSBC worked extensively with Saudi Arabia's Al Rajhi Bank, some owners of which have been linked to terrorism financing, according to a CIA report quoted by the subcommittee. Some evidence suggests Al Rajhi's "key founder" was "an early financial benefactor of al Qaeda," the report says.

HSBC's U.S. affiliate supplied Al Rajhi with nearly $1 billion worth of U.S. banknotes up to 2010, and also worked with two banks in Bangladesh that some evidence links to terrorism financing as well.

"From an oversight perspective, the failure of accountability here is dramatic," said Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the subcommittee.

The Department of Justice is also investigating HSBC over the issue. A DOJ spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the ongoing probe.

The report also said HSBC's U.S. affiliate handled nearly 25,000 transactions involving Iran between 2001 and 2007, despite U.S. sanctions against the country. Other HSBC affiliates making transfers to the U.S. frequently stripped information from the transactions that linked them to Iran in order to evade scrutiny.

Some HSBC executives in the U.S. were aware of this practice as far back as 2001, the report says. An outside review commissioned by HSBC found nearly $20 billion worth of transactions between 2001 and 2007 that may have been subject to U.S. sanctions.

The report came ahead of a hearing by the Senate subcommittee Tuesday that featured testimony from HSBC executives and government officials from the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Regulators also came in for criticism in the report -- in particular, the OCC, HSBC's primary overseer. The subcommittee said the OCC allowed HSBC's anti-money laundering deficiencies "to fester for years" before finally taking action in 2010, requiring the bank to improve its internal controls.

"Its record of enforcement at HSBC resembles a lapdog rather than the watchdog that we sorely need," Sen. Tom Coburn, the subcommittee's ranking member, said Tuesday.

HSBC said in a statement ahead of the hearing that it "takes compliance with the law, wherever it operates, very seriously."

"We will acknowledge that, in the past, we have sometimes failed to meet the standards that regulators and customers expect," HSBC said. "We believe that this case history will provide important lessons for the whole industry in seeking to prevent illicit actors entering the global financial system."

The bank added that it has beefed up its compliance efforts over the past year, increasing its due diligence requirements for affiliates and devoting more resources to the issue. Speaking at the hearing, HSBC compliance head David Bagley said he planned to step down as part of the reform process, although he will remain at the firm in a different capacity.

The Senate subcommittee noted that HSBC was "fully cooperative" with the investigation, providing documents from around the world beyond what was legally required.

Obamacare: The Road to Repeal Starts in the States  

By: Michael F. Cannon  / Townhall Daily

States that have refused to implement the Obama health law have already blocked $80 billion of its new deficit spending. If more states follow suit, they can block the other $1.6 trillion and force Congress to repeal the law.

The law relies on states to implement two of its most essential pieces: health-insurance "exchanges" and a vast expansion of Medicaid. Exchanges are government agencies through which the law channels $800 billion to private health-insurance companies.

The Medicaid expansion adds another $900 billion to the federal debt, with private insurers again taking a slice. States are under no obligation either to implement either. Responsible state officials will say no to both.
It is a myth that creating an exchange gives states more control over their insurance markets. Yes, the law directs the federal government to create one in states that do not. But every exchange must be approved by federal bureaucrats, empowering them to impose whatever oppressive rules on "state-run" exchanges they would impose through a federal exchange.
A critical mass of states could literally force Congress to repeal the Obama health law.
In contrast, by refusing to create an exchange states can block the law's debt-financed subsidies to private insurance companies and avoid new taxes on their employers and consumers.

The law imposes a $2,000 per-worker tax on employers, but only in states that create an exchange. (If Virginia creates one, there will be a giant sucking sound as employers flee to Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina and Florida, which have said they will not.) States creating exchanges will have to increase taxes another $10 million to $100 million per year to cover their operating costs.

* * * * *
The Supreme Court further empowered states when it overturned the law's Medicaid mandate. That mandate required states to expand their Medicaid rolls dramatically on pain of losing all federal Medicaid funds, which comprise 12 percent of state revenues. Twenty-six states challenged that mandate as unconstitutionally coercive.

They won. The court held the federal government cannot withhold existing Medicaid grants from states that fail to expand their programs. States may now refuse to expand their programs without fear.

And they should. My Cato Institute colleague Jagadeesh Gokhale estimates this expansion would cost Florida, Kansas, Illinois and Texas roughly $20 billion each in its first 10 years. New Jersey and New York would pay $35 billion and $53 billion, respectively. So you know we're not cooking the books, Gokhale projects California would save money.

But not for long. President Obama is already trying to shift even more Medicaid costs to the states. It's called "predatory federalism": Washington uses a low introductory rate as bait, then once states are hooked it changes the terms. In the end, even California will take it on the chin.

This is money states don't have. Nor can Washington, with its trillion-dollar deficits, afford the $900 billion the Congressional Budget Office estimates this Medicaid expansion would cost the federal government.

In total, state officials can block $1.6 trillion of deficit spending simply by sitting on their hands. According to CBO estimates, the handful of states that have already refused to expand Medicaid are saving taxpayers $80 billion.
* * * * *
Blocking these provisions will expose the full costs of the law, instead of allowing the federal government to shift those costs to taxpayers. The resulting backlash will push members of Congress to switch their votes and support repeal, just as two House Democrats did during the latest repeal vote. A critical mass of states could literally force Congress to repeal the Obama health law.

Opposition to these individual provisions, like opposition to the Obama health law, is bipartisan.

Among the governors refusing to create an exchange is New Hampshire's Democratic Gov. John Lynch, who signed a law forbidding one. Montana's Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer is among the dozen or more governors who are balking at the Medicaid expansion. Not that it takes a governor — a solid bloc of state legislators, or even just one committee chairman, is enough.

The Obama health law is weaker, and the path to repeal is clearer, than it has ever been.

U.N. meeting potential minefield for Obama

Putin, Karzai among conspicuous no-shows

NEW YORK – The 2012 U.N. General Assembly will convene in New York next month and for Barack Obama it could prove to be a minefield.

Just over a month before the U.S. elections, the U.N. gathering will draw friends and foes of the White House.

A list of expected notables was recently obtained by WND.

New French President Francois Hollande will make his first U.N. appearance when he speaks on September 25.

Long-time ally, British Prime Minister David Cameron will return to New York to speak on September 26.

Japan’s new prime minister Yoshihiko Noda, will travel to the G.A. podium for the first time also on September 26.

South Africa’s Jacob Zuma will speak on September 26 and Mexico’s new President Enrique Pena Nieto will follow the next day.

There will be some important absences.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao, will be conspicuous no-shows.

Pakistani President Ali Zadari and Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, perhaps reflecting strained elations with the White House will also sit out the U.N.

But, some potential “thorns” for Obama and Co. will come to New York city and promise to rain on the U.S. president.

First on the list, is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In what has become a ritual annual pilgrimage, the Iranian leader will arrive in the Big Apple on September 24 and remain till Friday Sept 28.

The visit will come at a time when the U.N. is being pressured by the White House to increase the political/economic sanctions on Iran and its nuclear “research” program which Washington insists is a cover for a nuclear bomb project.

The failure to contain Iran has been a glaring problem for Obama, and Ahmadinejad’s New York visit is intended to grpahicaaly high-light it just weeks before election day.

Another problem for Obama is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who intends to pursue his quest for statehood when he speaks on September 29.

Washington and Jerusalem are strongly against the Palestinian strategy insisting that only direct bi-lateral negotiations between Israel and P.A. is the way to eventual statehood.

While not U.N. a member, Abbas is nonetheless being treated as an “unofficial” head of a defacto state and has been given a speaking position along side established, recognized nations.

Sensing political controversy, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu will avoid the U.N. this September, sending Defense Minister Ehud Barak to fill in.

New Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, will make his first visit to the U.N.

His appearance could prove to be a wild card for Washington.

He is expected to meet Ahmadinejad and Obama while in N.Y.C..

A photo op of the two presidents is something not to sit well with the White House.

The meeting itself will be closely watched.

Two other long-time U.S. antagonists have also stated their intentions to travel to New York.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe will both come to the 2012 General Assembly.

Despite intense efforts by the U.S. to remove both from power, they have remained in office, for more than two decades.

Ortega and Mugabe have long-running battles with Washington dating back to the days of Ronald Reagan.

The Romney campaign has not indicated whether the Republican nominee will meet any of the visiting dignitaries during the U.N. assembly next month.

Muslims seek instructor's ouster
By: Ray Reyes / The Tampa Tribune


Local Muslims are asking for the removal of a state-contracted counter-terrorism instructor whom they say spreads false information about their religion and encourages law enforcement officers in Florida to racially profile people of the Islamic faith.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations in Tampa sent a letter Tuesday to state officials, asking them to sever ties with instructor Sam Kharoba. The trainer's presentations are "full of inaccuracies, sweeping generalizations and stereotypes," the letter said.

"He encourages law enforcement officers to view Muslims with distrust," said Hassan Shibly, executive director of CAIR in Tampa. "His training materials encourage law enforcement officers to profile and target Muslims."

Kharoba's training manual says Islam favors war, not peace, and says countries with a 99-percent Muslim population are "ultimate Jihad-manufacturing societies," according to the council's letter.

The council's claims, Kharoba said, are baseless.

"CAIR's statements are manufactured distractions designed to shift blame onto the law enforcement agencies that are protecting the American people," Kharoba said.

Kharoba owns a for-profit company called the Counter Terrorism Operations Center. His company was hired by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to offer the training sessions.

The FDLE is reviewing CAIR's concerns, spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said.

The department has "received positive feedback" from people taking Kharoba's courses, Plessinger said.

The FDLE, which organizes several training sessions a year for state police officers, had to cancel a few classes in the spring because of a lack of participants, Plessinger said.

One of the canceled sessions was to be taught by Kharoba.

Shibly said Kharoba's manual and related presentations may have influenced local officers. People in Tampa's Muslim community have reached out to CAIR, saying they were harassed by Hillsborough County deputies, Shibly said.

Deputies are not taught or encouraged to harass anyone, sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon said.

"Racial profiling is not condoned here," he said.

No one in the Muslim-American community has contacted the sheriff's office to say they were targeted by deputies, McKinnon said.

"But if they did, we'll take their complaints seriously and investigate," he said.

The council's letter said Kharoba's training manual instructs police that the Islamic prophet Muhammad's teachings started as "peaceful and tolerant but later became radical and militant." [Editor’s Note: This is historically accurate. CAIR is attempting to rewrite established historical facts—a common disinformation tactic used by Muslim Brotherhood-connected organizations like CAIR.]

Kharoba also wrote that "every one of Osama bin Laden's speeches is theologically correct according to Islamic theology" and that bin Laden was "simply following the path and the mission that Prophet Muhammad started 1,429 years ago," the letter said.

Shibly and other Muslim-Americans have denounced bin Laden. Ramzy Kilic, the council's former director, said bin Laden "hijacked the Islamic faith and was responsible for the anti-Muslim backlash since 9/11."

Kharoba said Muslim police officers who enrolled in his course never complained.

"Approximately 100 Muslim law enforcement officers attended our training classes over the past 10?years and none of these Muslim officers complained or provided any negative review of the material presented," Kharoba said.

The Muslim officers, Kharoba said, agreed with the presentations, which "clearly demonstrates the factual accuracy of our material and the baseless position that the critics are taking in order to hinder law enforcement efforts to protect our citizens from extremists."

The training manual, a copy of which was obtained by the council through a public records request, is titled "Understanding Islamic Theology: The Driving Force Behind Islamist Terrorism." A label on the cover reads, "Law Enforcement Sensitive, Do Not Distribute."

McKinnon said deputies attended four classes taught by Kharoba from 2007 to 2009. Relevant, useful information in any seminar is absorbed into the sheriff's office's policy and procedures, he said.

"But we'll censor anything that isn't appropriate," McKinnon said.

American exceptionalism in space is back!
By: Diane Sori

On Monday, August 6th, at 1:24 a.m. EST, American exceptionalism in space was returned to her when NASA's Mars Science Laboratory carrying the Curiosity rover, the  most advanced  mobile laboratory ever sent to another planet, entered the Martian atmosphere, successfully touching down at 1:32 a.m. EST.  Within moments, Curiosity beamed back its first three images from the Martian surface, one of them showing a wheel of the vehicle and the other showing Curiosity's shadow cast on the rocky terrain.  These pictures were in black and white, shot by low-resolution navigation cameras mounted on Curiosity’s chassis. 

And what a feat it was as I applauded and cried with joy right along with the scientists at Mission Control’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, because for me, as some know, our return to space exploration is personal.  This single feat culminating in these amazing photos from the Martian surface, shows that no matter how hard Obama and his administration try to kill our country’s spirit of exploration, American ingenuity, dedication, and determination, the very essence of exceptionalism, will triumph over all obstacles thrown in her way.

"This feat that you saw tonight is something that only the United States of America can do. And the rover is made in the USA,” said John Grunsfeld, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

How right he is.

And this mission’s success, against all odds, proves just that.  This textbook perfect landing was a major achievement for NASA, especially with all the current Obama initiated budget cuts to their funding, the recent end of our space shuttle program, and Obama’s cancelation of Constellation, the program that would have taken us back to the moon and included the Ares rocket, the replacement for the space shuttle.  And here’s the worst part, Obama plans another $300 million in cuts to our planetary sciences program in 2013.

How I hate that man, as the monies cut from NASA’a budget are funneled into his freebies and handout programs so he can make good on his monetary promises given in payment for votes...but I digress.

Curiosity is NASA's first astrobiology mission since the Viking probes started their search for life back in the 1970’s.  In fact, Curiosity really is an uber high tech chemistry set on wheels, complete with cameras and gadgets galore.  After touching down near the base of Aerolis Mons (known as Mount Sharp) in Gale Crater (chosen because there appears to be sediments rising from the crater's floor which appear uncannily similar to those seen in Death Valley and Glacier National Park), Curiosity will start on its two year mission to look for evidence that Mars may have once had the basic building blocks necessary for microbial life, those being water, a source of energy, and carbonaceous (resembling or containing carbon) compounds, sometimes referred to as the primordial soup.  Also, these findings will help determine if man can ever live on Mars.

But Curiosity’s two year mission can go on much longer as Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004, is still going strong even though her sister rover, Spirit, stopped working in 2010.  Both were only supposed to work for 90 days.  Talk about American know-how and ingenuity!

And that’s the bottom line... American ingenuity knows no bounds except for those put on not only imagination but on the quest for knowledge through exploration.  If man stops exploring, especially in reaching for the stars, man will stagnate and grow complacent, and that will be our downfall for complacency breeds contempt and contempt destroys exceptionalism.  Barack Hussein Obama’s contempt of all things that make America great, whether it be in space or here on Earth, is a perfect example of contempt run amok.

For NASA’s future and our own, as always, November 6th can’t come fast enough.