Secret cables obtained by WikiLeaks have confirmed a secret deal between the British Government and Saudi Arabia to ensure that both countries were elected to the United Nations’ influential Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2013.
The Australian reports a secret handshake that involved vote-swapping may have been the cause for the appointment of Saudi Arabia to the UN human rights council, at a time when it is receiving worldwide criticism for the death sentence handed to a teenager accused of pro-democracy protests.
For instance, the capital punishment in Saudi Arabia can be imposed for “crimes” such as sorcery and witchcraft.
The British government is revealed to be substantially involved in the appointment of Saudi Arabia into the council, a country deemed as “one of the most prolific executioners in the world”, according to a recent 2015 report by Amnesty International.
The entire cache of Saudi cables hosted on Wikipedia can be found here.
Over 60,000 secret cables from the Saudi Foreign Ministry were gathered by WikiLeaks and released in June. The cables, dated January and February 2013 were mostly in Arabic and translated by The Australian and the UN Watch.
— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) September 30, 2015
One of the secret cables read:
The ministry might find it an opportunity to exchange support with the United Kingdom, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would support the candidacy of the United Kingdom to the membership of the Council for the period 2014-2015 in exchange for the support of the United Kingdom to the candidacy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Another cable showed proof of money being transferred to the UK, to the tune of $100,000. The money was for “expenditures resulting from the campaign to nominate the Kingdom for membership of the human rights council for the period 2014-2016.”
As it turned out, both countries were elected to the UNHRC, counting themselves among 47 member states.
Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, an independent human rights organization that helped translate the cables, said while speaking to the Australian:
Based on the evidence, we remain deeply concerned that the UK may have contracted to elect the world’s most misogynistic regime as a world judge of human rights.
A spokesman speaking for the British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, when asked if Britain had a ‘secret pact’ with Saudi Arabia, said:
“As is standard practice with all members we never reveal our voting intentions or vote. The British government’s position on human rights is a matter of public record. We regularly make our views well known, including through the UN Universal Periodic Review process and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s annual Human Rights and Democracy Report, and raise human rights concerns with the Saudi Arabian authorities.”
Neuer disagreed with the statement, pointing to countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh who openly revealed their voting pact.
The claim of the Foreign Office that concealing a country’s UN vote is a ‘standard practice’ with ‘all members’ is manifestly false.
“UN Watch finds it troubling that the UK refuses to deny the London-Riyadh vote-trade as contemplated in the Saudi cable, nor even to reassure the public that their voting complies with the core reform of the UNHRC’s founding resolution, which provides that candidates be chosen based on their human rights record, and that members be those who uphold the highest standards of human rights.”
There have been several cases of ‘vote-trading’ being looked into in the past. Kofi Annan, the former secretary-general of the UN put an end to the UN Commission on Human Rights, the predecessor to the UNHRC, due to member states engaging in vote trading.
Saudi Arabia was also revealed to be trading votes with Russia to gain a place in the UNHRC, from evidence acquired in June this year.
Being an influential UNHRC member has already helped Saudi Arabia, according to Neuer.
“No one ever has even tried to hold Saudi Arabia to account with a resolution, special session, commission of inquiry or suspension of their membership,” he said. “The US, EU and other democracies give the Saudis a free pass.”
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House Pushes Forward With Trump Tax Plan Amid Dissent
The U.S. House of Representatives is pushing hard to move President Trump’s tax proposal through the legislative process, even as growing dissent rattles confidence in the landmark bill.
An analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation concluded Tuesday that tax cuts for lower- and middle-income Americans would fade over the next decade at a faster rate than those for high earners. The analysis found that four out of every five tax filers earning between $50,000 and $75,000 would receive tax relief from the bill in 2019. However, by 2027, that figure would drop to 60%.
Meanwhile, those earning more than $1 million would also see their tax savings fade, albeit at a slower rate than the smaller income brackets. In 2019, about three-quarters of those earning $1 million-plus will get tax relief, a figure that drops to two-thirds in 2027.
The conclusion could spark another round of debate as the Trump administration seeks to push forward on tax reform this year. The tax plan has faced attack from both sides of the political divide, with high-tax state Republicans criticizing individual deductions for state and local taxes.
The reform bill, which promises to reduce the number of tax brackets, cut the corporate tax rate and implement a one-time repatriation fee, has been described as the most ambitious since the Reagan administration. Through Reagan’s tax reform, the U.S. economy managed to grow by an average of 3.4% annually until the beginning of the Obama administration. And that includes three recessions between the two presidents.
To his credit, President Jimmy Carer before him implemented the biggest regulatory overhaul in postwar history.
Republicans have good reason to raise questions about Trump’s tax reform, especially those in high-tax states such as California. Already faced with a difficult re-election next year, California’s GOP Representative Darrell Issa said he wouldn’t endorse changes that “may make it the tremendous burden felt by California taxpayers even worse.”
Republican Ed Gillespie of Virginia was defeated in state elections on Tuesday, a clear sign that the GOP-controlled Congress is under attack. South Carolina is seen as an important barometer of the Democrats’ chances of winning in crucial swing states ahead of next year’s midterms.
Democrat Ralph Northam will be the next governor of Virgina, various news outlets reported late Tuesday.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Libertarian Speaks: Ron Paul Says U.S. Government Should Not Intervene in Cryptocurrency
The U.S. government has no place intervening in cryptocurrency, according to former U.S. presidential candidate Ron Paul.
In an interview with Kitco on Oct. 27, Paul said the government should “stay out” of bitcoin if people want to use it. The former Congressman acknowledged that he didn’t know much about cryptocurrency, but that he was “amazed” by the market’s growth.
“I take some very strong political positions on competing currencies,” Paul said, when asked if he was a believer of cryptocurrency. “And if you can come up with a competing currency, and there is no fraud, I think it should be.”
Although a lot has been said about bitcoin’s black market roots, Paul says government involvement shouldn’t be a given. That message has been lost on several nations, which have grown uneasy about the growth and widespread adoption of cryptocurrency. Major economies like China, South Korea and Russia have already stepped in to halt the expansion of crypto-assets. However, most policymakers appear to be open to regulating cryptocurrency insofar as its criminal elements can be controlled.
Libertarians like Ron Paul are very weary of government involvement in all aspects of life. It should therefore come as no surprise that bitcoin and its altcoin competitors have received strong buy-in from the libertarian, free market community. While the United States has a strong libertarian presence across key segments of its society, this has largely failed to translate into meaningful political reform.
Bitcoin’s market capitalization climbed back above $100 billion over the weekend, with the sum of all coins valued at around $179 billion. Cryptocurrency is by far the fastest growing asset class of 2017, dwarfing stocks, crude oil and other traditional financial assets.
“I am amazed,” Paul said, ” at all the capitalization on these cryptocurrencies. It’s a huge amount of money.”
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Draft of U.S. Tax Bill Coming Within Days, According to GOP Lawmaker
It won’t be long now before congressional Republicans table their first draft bill to reform the U.S. tax code, according to House conservative Mark Meadows. GOP lawmakers are under the gun to meet President Trump’s ambitious goal of delivering a major tax overhaul by the end of 2017.
Draft Bill Coming in Less Than Ten Days
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows says the House Ways and Means Committee has promised to release a preliminary tax bill about seven days after this Thursday’s vote on a budget resolution. Based on that timeline, the tax bill should be published on or before Nov. 3, according to Bloomberg.
Last week, Republicans stuck together to pass a 2018 budget plan that many say is the preamble to tax reform. The budget resolution was approved by a 51-49 vote. Rand Paul of Kentucky was the lone GOP member to vote against the measure.
Before giving the final approval, lawmakers must go through another voting process that will begin Thursday and run into Friday morning.
The new plan, which was first unveiled by the White House this past spring, is pursuing drastic changes to the tax regime. This includes reducing the number of tax brackets, slashing the corporate tax rate and instilling a one-time repatriation tax to encourage multinationals to bring offshore profits back home.
President Trump and fellow Republicans face numerous challenges implementing the most ambitious tax reform of a generation. This includes balancing promises of major overhaul against a self-imposed $1.5 trillion limit on the size of those cuts over the decade.
Analysts say that President Trump has considerable leeway to influence the proposal, but that the ultimate penning of the bill is a legislative process. This means it will be Congress, not the president, that will put the final details together.
Tax overhaul was a cornerstone of Trump’s election campaign. Combined with deregulation of key industries and massive infrastructure spending, tax breaks are expected to boost economic growth and make the U.S. more resilient to cyclical downturns.
That’s exactly what happened under the Reagan tax cut more than three decades ago. Although often maligned today, the Reagan tax plan laid the foundation for 25 years of strong, noninflationary growth. The U.S. economy grew an average of 3.4% annually between Reagan and Obama despite three recessions. To be sure, President Carter also helped lay the foundation by leading the biggest deregulatory effort in the postwar era.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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