Daily Archives: January 28, 2013

Yahoo joins Dell swelling Netherlands’ $13 trillion tax haven for multinational companies

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Marissa Mayer, chief executive officer of Yahoo! Inc., smiles during TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2012 in San Francisco, on Sept. 12. Yahoo has taken advantage of the law to quietly funnel hundreds of millions of dollars in global profits to island subsidiaries, cutting its worldwide tax bill. / DAVID PAUL MORRIS/BLOOMBERG

Now, as a deficit-strapped Europe raises retirement ages and taxes on the working class, the Netherlands’ role as a $13 trillion relay station on the global tax-avoiding network is prompting a backlash.

delawareonline.com | Jan 26, 2013

Inside Reindert Dooves’ home, a 17th century, three-story converted warehouse along the Zaan canal in suburban Amsterdam, a 21st-century Internet giant is avoiding taxes.

The bookkeeper’s home office doubles as the headquarters for a Yahoo! Inc. offshore unit. Through this sun-filled, white walled room, Yahoo has taken advantage of the law to quietly funnel hundreds of millions of dollars in global profits to island subsidiaries, cutting its worldwide tax bill.

The Yahoo arrangement illustrates that the Netherlands, in the heart of a continent better known for social welfare than corporate welfare, has emerged as one of the most important tax havens for multinational companies. Now, as a deficit-strapped Europe raises retirement ages and taxes on the working class, the Netherlands’ role as a $13 trillion relay station on the global tax-avoiding network is prompting a backlash.

The Dutch Parliament is scheduled to debate the fairness of its tax system today. Lawmakers from several parties, including members of the country’s governing coalition, say they want to remove a stain on the nation’s reputation.

“We should not be a tax haven,” said Ed Groot, a parliament member from the Labour Party, which along with the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy took power in November. Both ruling parties are “fed up with these so called PO Box companies,” he said. “If they go somewhere else we are not sorry at all because they spoil the name of Holland. Otherwise you can wait for retaliation measures and this we don’t want.”
War Declaration

Last month, the European Commission, the European Union’s executive body, declared a war on tax avoidance and evasion, which it said costs the EU 1 trillion euros a year. The commission advised member states — including the Netherlands — to create tax-haven blacklists and adopt anti-abuse rules. It also recommended reforms that could undermine the lure of the Netherlands, and hurt a spinoff industry that has mushroomed in and around Amsterdam to abet tax avoidance.

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Goebbels’ Revenge: Nazi Step-Grandchildren Are Hidden Billionaires

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Harald Quandt, Magda Goebbels’ son by her first marriage, center back stands in uniform with his step-father Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, bottom from right, his mother Magda, third from left, and the couple’s children, Helga, Hildegard, Helmut, Hedwig, Holdine and Heidrun in 1942. Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

bloomberg.com | Jan 27, 2013

By David de Jong

In the spring of 1945, Harald Quandt, a 23-year-old officer in the German Luftwaffe, was being held as a prisoner of war by Allied forces in the Libyan port city of Benghazi when he received a farewell letter from his mother, Magda Goebbels — the wife of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.

The hand-written note confirmed the devastating news he had heard weeks earlier: his mother had committed suicide with her husband on May 1, after slipping their six children cyanide capsules in Adolf Hitler’s underground bunker in Berlin.

“My dear son! By now we’ve been in the Fuehrerbunker for six days already, Daddy, your six little siblings and I, to give our national socialistic lives the only possible, honorable ending,” she wrote. “Harald, dear son, I want to give you what I learned in life: Be loyal! Loyal to yourself, loyal to the people and loyal to your country!”

Quandt was released from captivity in 1947. Seven years later, he and his half-brother Herbert — Harald was the only remaining child from Magda Goebbels’ first marriage — would inherit the industrial empire built by their father, Guenther Quandt. The brothers took the business, which had produced Mauser firearms and anti-aircraft missiles for the Third Reich’s war machine. Their most valuable assets became stakes in car manufacturers Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) and Daimler AG. (DAI)

Lower Profile

While the half-brothers passed away decades ago, their legacy has endured. Herbert’s widow, Johanna Quandt, 86, and their children Susanne Klatten and Stefan Quandt, have remained in the public eye as BMW’s dominant shareholders. The billionaire daughters of Harald Quandt — Katarina Geller-Herr, 61, Gabriele Quandt, 60, Anette-Angelika May-Thies, 58, and fifty-year-old Colleen-Bettina Rosenblat-Mo — have kept a lower profile.

The four sisters inherited about 1.5 billion deutsche marks ($760 million) after the death of their mother, Inge, in 1978, according to the family’s sanctioned biography, “Die Quandts.” They manage their wealth through the Harald Quandt Holding GmbH, a Bad Homburg, Germany-based family investment company and trust named after their father. Dr. Fritz Becker, the chief executive officer of the family entities, said the siblings realized average annual returns above 7 percent from its founding in 1981 through 1996. Since then, the returns have averaged 7.6 percent.

“The family wants to stay private and that is an acceptable situation for me,” said Becker in an interview at his Bad Homburg office. “We invest our money globally and if it’s $1 billion, $500 million or $3 billion, who cares?”

Wartime Profits

Together, the four sisters — and the two children of a deceased sibling — share a fortune worth at least $6 billion, giving each of them a net worth of $1.2 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. They have never appeared individually as billionaires on an international wealth ranking.

Becker declined to provide the exact figure the holding manages for the four sisters. The siblings declined to comment for this account, said Ralf-Dieter Brunowsky, a spokesman for the family investment company, in an e-mail. He said the net worth calculation was “too high,” declining to be more specific.

The rise of the Quandt family fortune shares the same trajectory as Germany’s quest for global domination in the 20th century. It began in 1883, when Emil Quandt acquired a textile company owned by his late father-in-law. At the turn of the century, Emil passed the business to his eldest son, Guenther.

The younger Quandt saw an opportunity with the onset of war in 1914. His factories, already one of the biggest clothing manufacturers for the German state, quadrupled their weekly uniform production for the army, according to “Die Quandts.”

Weapons Production

After Germany’s surrender four years later, Quandt put the company’s wartime profits to use. In 1922, he bought a majority stake in Accumulatoren-Fabrik AG (AFA), a Hagen-based battery manufacturer. Six years later, he took over Berlin-Karlsruher Industriewerken AG (BKIW), a Berlin-based manufacturer that made sewing machines and silverware. The factory, once one of Germany’s largest weapon producers, had been forced to retool as part of the country’s disarmament agreement.

“The Quandt’s business grew in the Kaiserreich, it grew during the Weimar Republic, it grew during the Second World War and it grew strongly after the war,” Rudiger Jungbluth, author of “Die Quandts,” said in an interview at a Bavarian restaurant in Hamburg last November.

Nazi Connections

In 1918, Guenther Quandt’s first wife died of the Spanish flu, leaving him a widower with two young sons, Hellmut and Herbert. He remarried Magda Ritschel in 1921, and the couple’s only son, Harald, was born later that year. Hellmut died in 1927, from complications related to appendicitis.

Quandt and Magda divorced in 1929. Two years later, she married Joseph Goebbels, a member of the German parliament who also held a doctorate degree in drama and served as head of propaganda for Germany’s growing Nazi party. After the Nazis took power in 1933, their leader, Adolf Hitler, appointed Goebbels as the Third Reich’s propaganda minister.

Guenther Quandt joined the party that same year. His factories became key suppliers to the German war effort, even though his relationship with Goebbels had become increasingly strained.

“There was constant rivalry,” said Bonn-based history professor Joachim Scholtyseck, author of a family-commissioned study about their involvement with the Third Reich, in a telephone interview. “It didn’t matter that Goebbels didn’t like him. It didn’t have any influence on Quandt’s ability to make money.”

Forced Labor

In 1937, he earned the title of Wehrwirtschaftsfuehrer, the name given to members of an elite group of businessmen who were deemed beneficial to the production of war materials for the Third Reich. During the war, Quandt’s AFA manufactured batteries for U-Boat submarines and V-2 rocket launchers. His BKIW –which had been renamed Deutsche Waffen-und Munitionsfabriken AG in 1936 — produced Mauser firearms, ammunition and anti-aircraft missiles.

“He was one of the leading industrialists in the Third Reich and the Second World War,” Scholtyseck said. “He always kept a very low profile.”

From 1940 to 1945, the Quandt family factories were staffed with more than 50,000 forced civilian laborers, prisoners of war and concentration camp workers, according to Scholtyseck’s 1,183-page study. The report was commissioned by the family in 2007 after German television aired the documentary “The Silence of the Quandts,” a critical look at their wartime activities.

Released in September 2011, the study also found that Quandt appropriated assets from Jewish company owners and that his son Herbert had planned building an AFA factory in which slave laborers would be deployed.

Army Volunteer

“Guenther Quandt didn’t have a Nazi-kind of thinking,” said Jungbluth, the family biographer. “He was looking for any opportunity to expand his personal empire.”

Quandt’s youngest son, Harald, lived with his mother, Goebbels and six half-siblings. In 1939, he joined the German army after the country’s invasion of Poland, volunteering for the army’s paratrooper unit one year later.

During the war, Harald was deployed in Greece, France and Russia, before being shot and captured in Italy in 1944, and taken to the British Army-run POW camp in Benghazi where he received his mother’s farewell letter.

His stepfather also sent him a goodbye note.

“It’s likely that you’ll be the only one to remain who can continue the tradition of our family,” wrote Goebbels, who served as Chancellor of Germany for one day following Hitler’s suicide on April 30, 1945.

Denazification Hearings

After the war, Guenther Quandt served in an internment camp in Moosburg an der Isar for more than a year, before being judged a “Mitlaeufer” — a Nazi follower who wasn’t formally involved in the regime’s crimes — in denazification hearings in 1948. No repercussions followed.

“He was lucky that he wasn’t as prominent as someone like Flick or Krupp,” said Scholtyseck, referring to the German industrialists Friedrich Flick and Alfried Krupp, who were sentenced to prison terms at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Guenther died in 1954 while vacationing in Cairo, leaving his business empire equally in the hands of his two surviving sons, Harald and Herbert. Most notably, the assets included ownership of AFA and Deutsche Waffen-und Munitionsfabriken — renamed Industrie-Werke Karlsruhe AG after the war — and stakes in Daimler-Benz and potash miner Wintershall AG.

Sovereign Wealth

Herbert managed the stakes in the battery, car and potash firm, while Harald oversaw the interests in the industrial companies, according to Jungbluth’s biography.

Over the next decade, the brothers increased their stake in Daimler; Herbert saved BMW from collapse in the 1960s after becoming its largest shareholder and backing the development of new models.

Harald died in 1967, at age 45, in an airplane crash outside Turin, Italy. The relationship between his widow, Inge, and Herbert deteriorated after his death. Negotiations to settle the estate by separating assets commenced in 1970.

The most valuable asset that the Harald Quandt heirs received was four-fifths of a 14 percent stake in Daimler, according to the biography. In 1974, the entire stake was sold to the Kuwait Investment Authority, the country’s sovereign wealth fund, for about 1 billion deutsche marks, according to a Daimler-Benz publication from 1986 celebrating its centennial.

Inge Quandt, who suffered from depression, died of a heart attack on Christmas Eve 1978. Her new husband, Dr. Hans-Hilman von Halem, shot himself in the head on Boxing Day. The five orphaned daughters, two of them teenagers, were left to split the family fortune.

Family Meetings

The estate’s trustees had started overseeing the daughters’ money in 1974. An active investment approach commenced with the founding of the family investment company in 1981.

“It’s different if you work for a family than a corporation,” said Becker. “You can really invest instead of fulfilling regulation requirements.”

According to “Die Quandts,” the siblings try to get together a few times a year to discuss their investments. Gabriele Quandt lives in Munich. After earning a master’s degree in business administration at Insead in Fontainebleau, France, she married German publishing heir Florian Langenscheidt, with whom she had two sons. The couple divorced in 2008.

Katarina Geller-Herr owns Gestuet Waeldershausen, an equestrian center in Homberg (Ohm), Germany. She sponsored Lars Nieberg, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in show jumping.

Jewish Conversion

Colleen-Bettina Rosenblat-Mo is a jewelry designer who runs a studio and showroom in Hamburg. She converted to Judaism in New York at age 24. Her first marriage was to Michael Rosenblat, a German-Jewish businessman, whose father survived a concentration camp. The couple divorced in 1997. She remarried Frode Mo, a Norwegian journalist.

Anette-Angelika May-Thies lives in Hamburg, according to the Harald Quandt Holding shareholders list filed with the German federal trade registry. Her first marriage was to Axel May, a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) international adviser for private banking, who managed the family’s investments for about 25 years.

The siblings are also majority owners and investors in five financial services companies, all of which pay dividends, according to Becker. The firms were founded to manage the sisters’ wealth and subsequently opened up to third parties.

Private Equity

The six companies combined manage $18 billion in assets, according to the family investment company’s website. Becker said the majority of the money controlled by these firms is invested for third parties. One-fifth of the family fortune is managed by trustees for the two children of the youngest Quandt sibling, Patricia Halterman, who died in July 2005, four days before turning 38. Her Upper East Side townhouse sold for $37.5 million in 2008.

Auda International LP serves as the sisters’ New York-based private-equity unit. It manages almost $5 billion and was founded as their U.S. office in 1989, said Becker. Real Estate Capital Partners LP started the same year and has invested about $9 billion in real estate, according to its website. Both companies are owned through HQFS LP, an offshore entity based in the Cayman Islands.

In Bad Homburg, HQ Trust GmbH serves as a investment management company for about 30 families with fortunes ranging from 50 million euros to 500 million euros. Equita Management GmbH invests in small and mid-cap companies in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. HQ Advisor GmbH provides accounting and controlling services.

Only one sister, Gabriele, carries the family name, and none are active in the day-to-day business of the family office, said Becker.

‘Sad Truth’

Their uncle, Herbert Quandt, died in 1982. His fortune was divided between six children from three different marriages. BMW, his most valuable asset, was inherited by his third wife Johanna Quandt and their children, Stefan Quandt, 46, and Susanne Klatten, 50. The three billionaires hold 46.7 percent of the Munich-based car producer, according to the company’s 2011 annual report.

After Scholtyseck’s study was published in 2011, cousins Gabriele and Stefan Quandt acknowledged their family’s ties and involvement with the Third Reich in an interview with Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper.

“Magda killed her six children in the Fuehrerbunker. Our father loved his half-siblings very much. And when, like me, you have something like this in your family history, you think: It can’t be any worse,” Gabriele Quandt said in the interview. “It’s a sad truth that forced laborers died in Quandt companies,” said Stefan.

The acknowledgment didn’t prompt a public distancing from the men that made their family Germany’s richest. The families’ offices in Bad Homburg are named after Guenther and Harald Quandt, and the Herbert Quandt media prize of 50,000 euros is awarded annually to German journalists.

“They have to live with the name. It’s part of the history,” said Scholtyseck. “It will be a constant reminder of dictatorship and the challenges that families have to face.”

The Cardinal and the Truth: Mahony concealed decades of rape and intimidation of children

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Cardinal Mahony with the pope. (Photo: CNS/L’Osservatore Romano) April 20, 2012

nytimes.com | Jan 27, 2013

No member of the Roman Catholic hierarchy fought longer and more energetically than Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles to conceal the decades-long scandal involving the rape and intimidation of children by rogue priests. For years, the cardinal withheld seamy church records from parents, victims and the public, brandishing endless litigation and fatuous claims of confidentiality.

The breadth of Cardinal Mahony’s cover-up became shockingly clear last week with the release in court of archdiocese records detailing how he and a top aide concocted cynical strategies to keep police authorities in the dark and habitual offenders beyond the reach of criminal prosecution.

Cardinal Mahoney Hid Child Sex Abuse Cases

“Sounds good — please proceed!” the cardinal, now retired, instructed in 1987 after the aide, Msgr. Thomas Curry, cautioned against therapy for one confessed predator — lest the therapist feel obliged to tell authorities and scandalize the archdiocese. The two discussed another priest, Msgr. Peter Garcia, who admitted specializing in the rape of Latino immigrant children and threatened at least one boy with deportation if he complained. Cardinal Mahony ordered that he stay out of California after his release from a New Mexico treatment center out of fear that “we might very well have some type of legal action filed in both the criminal and civil sectors.” Monsignor Curry worried that there might be 20 young people able to identify the priest in “first-degree felony” cases.

It was the cardinal’s obligation under the primacy of secular law to instantly notify authorities of any priest’s criminal behavior. Instead, he invoked a nonexistent church privilege to hide miscreant clergy and shield the church and his own reputation. Cardinal Mahony has repeatedly apologized in recent years and insisted that the archdiocese was mending its ways. A lawyer for the archdiocese insisted that the scandal and the cardinal’s cover-up were “part of the past.” Not really. While statutes of limitations on possible criminal charges may have run out, Cardinal Mahony and his former aide could be deposed in civil suits. Monsignor Curry also managed to advance up the hierarchical ladder and would seem to merit instant removal from his current post as auxiliary bishop for Santa Barbara.

Assault Weapons Ban Lacks Democratic Votes to Pass Senate

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Senator Dianne Feinstein speaks next to a display of assault weapons during a news conference on Jan. 24, 2013 on Capitol Hill. Alex Wong/Getty Images

bloomberg.com | Jan 25, 2013

By Heidi Przybyla & Julie Hirschfeld Davis

A proposed ban on sales of assault weapons would be defeated in the U.S. Senate unless some lawmakers changed their current views, based on a Bloomberg review of recent lawmaker statements and interviews.

At least six of the 55 senators in the Democratic caucus have expressed skepticism or outright opposition to a ban, the review found. That means Democrats wouldn’t have a 51-vote majority to pass the measure, let alone the 60 needed to break a Republican filibuster to bring it to a floor vote.

A ban on the military-style weapons is among the legislative goals President Barack Obama outlined in his recommendations to Congress on curbing gun violence after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut. Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday it will take “persuasion and information” to gain the necessary support to enact the White House package.

Related:

“We have an obligation to act — not wait,” Biden told reporters after a more than two-hour roundtable at Virginia Commonwealth University to discuss the administration’s push for new gun-safety measures.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California unveiled on Jan. 24 legislation to outlaw sales of assault-style weapons during a news briefing where shooting survivors, some of them with bullets still lodged in their bodies, urged its passage.

At that event, Feinstein said it’s unclear whether the fight is winnable. “We don’t know, it’s so uphill,” she said. “It depends on the courage of Americans.”

New York Representative Carolyn McCarthy, who lost her husband in a 1993 shooting on a Long Island Rail Road train, said recent events have spurred a fresh start on the issue.

“We’re only at the beginning of our nation’s conversation about gun violence,” McCarthy said by e-mail. “There’s no way to know where the American people’s anger and frustration with” the Connecticut shooting “will ultimately take lawmakers.”

The five Democratic senators from traditionally pro-gun states who have expressed skepticism about the bill are Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Independent Senator Angus King of Maine, who caucuses with Democrats, also said he opposes a ban.

Maine Senator Susan Collins, a Republican who supported similar legislation in 2004, has indicated she is unlikely to back the proposed ban in its current form.

In his comments yesterday, Biden made no mention of an assault weapons ban, and on Jan. 24 he downplayed its importance.

“I’m much less concerned, quite frankly, about what you call an assault weapon ban than I am about magazines and the number of rounds that can be held in a magazine,” Biden said.

The 1994 assault weapons ban, signed by President Bill Clinton, expired in 2004 and, until the shooting in Newtown, there’s been little effort in Congress to restore it.

The new legislation prohibits the sale or transfer of 158 of the most commonly owned military-style assault weapons. It would exempt all such guns legally possessed before passage of the law and exclude more than 2,200 hunting and sporting rifles.

Baucus, in a Jan. 16 statement, said that “before passing new laws, we need a thoughtful debate that respects responsible, law-abiding gun owners in Montana instead of a one-size-fits-all directive from Washington.”

“The answer isn’t simply in limiting guns,” said Andrea Helling, a spokeswoman for Tester. The senator also told a newspaper in Missoula, Montana, that an assault weapons ban wouldn’t have stopped the shootings in Newtown.

Begich said he was “not interested” in a ban, during a Jan. 10 conference call with reporters. “I don’t believe that we need to pile on new laws and suddenly that solves all the problems,” he said.

Manchin told CNN on Jan. 13 that “an assault weapons stand-alone ban on just guns alone will not, in the political reality that we have today, will not go anywhere.”

Heitkamp, referring to the Connecticut shooting, told North Dakota’s KXMB-TV and KXMC-TV on Jan. 15 that “there isn’t any amount of gun regulation or gun executive orders that will solve the problem of identifying people who could potentially do this and making sure they get the help and their families get the help so they don’t do this.”

Scott Ogden, a spokesman for King, said the senator “remains skeptical” about an assault weapons ban, though he was waiting for more details.

Collins is concerned that the proposed legislation is “far broader in the kinds of rifles that would be banned than was the case in the law in effect between 1994 and 2004,” said her spokesman, Kevin Kelley.

Further dimming prospects for the assault weapon ban, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, both Democrats, voted against extending the previous ban in 2004. Neither has made any public statements since Newtown indicating a change in their positions.

Feinstein will be relying on survivor testimonials, along with images of the slain Sandy Hook students, most of them 6- year-olds, to push these Democrats to reconsider their opposition.

“The message to Democrats is, ‘See what your silence does?’” Feinstein told reporters. “There will be more of these. These won’t end.”

“If just reading the list of beautiful names and looking into the eyes of some of the pictures of the children slain doesn’t do something to the conscience of America, nothing I can say or do will,” she said.

The vote shortage for a ban may prompt Democrats to focus on another major goal that is also part of the Feinstein bill: banning high-capacity magazines that have been used in many of the U.S. shootings over the past decade to fire off numerous bullets in a matter of seconds from autoloading guns.

Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, introduced separate legislation on Jan. 22 to ban the manufacture and sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

In the Tucson, Arizona, shooting two years ago that severely injured former Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, Jared Lee Loughner fired 31 bullets in 15 seconds from a Glock 19 semiautomatic pistol. He was tackled while reloading. An assault rifle with a 100-round magazine was among the weapons alleged gunman James Holmes used to kill 12 and wound 58 in July 2012 at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater.

Mark Kelly, Giffords’s husband and a gun-control advocate, will testify at a Jan. 30 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on gun violence, Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, the panel’s chairman, announced yesterday. Kelly will be joined by witnesses including Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive officer of the National Rifle Association, which opposes new restrictions.

Some of the lawmakers skeptical of the assault-weapons ban did express support for a prohibition on high-capacity magazines that can hold more than 10 bullets, as well increased background checks for firearm purchases.

“Congress must act to implement magazine capacity restrictions,” King spokesman Ogden said in a statement.

King is also “generally supportive of expanded background checks,” Ogden said.

Collins “supports a reasonable limitation on the number of rounds of ammunition in a magazine,” spokesman Kelley said.

Biden, who Obama tapped to develop recommendations for action after the Connecticut shooting, said there would be more trips outside of Washington to discuss the issue. Yesterday, he called the Newtown massacre “a national tragedy and a window into a vulnerability people feel about their safety and the safety of their children.”

The White House’s campaign-style effort is designed to build political pressure on Congress to take action.

“I have no illusions about what needs to be done and how difficult it will be,” Biden said in an e-mail sent yesterday to Obama supporters. “Each one of us needs to speak up and demand action,” he wrote, concluding: “Let’s get this done.”

The private roundtable Biden conducted in Virginia included cabinet officials, Democratic lawmakers, and members of the state-appointed review board that investigated the 2007 shooting that killed 33 people at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, known as Virginia Tech, in the deadliest gun massacre in U.S. history.

That incident prompted passage of a 2008 law improving state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, aimed at barring criminals or mentally ill individuals from obtaining guns.

Biden said the group discussed the need for strengthening that system and implementing universal background checks with better and timelier information from states. He said they also talked about the “woefully inadequate” number of trained mental-health professionals available around the country.

Manchin told a West Virginia radio interviewer Jan. 24 that he is working with senators of both parties to require most gun purchasers, including those at weapons shows, to undergo checks.

“If you’re going to be a gun owner, you should have a background check and be able to pass a background check,” he said. Exceptions should be made in cases where a gun is transferred from one family member to another, and when a weapon is being obtained for use at a sporting event.

Manchin said private sellers at gun shows have an “unfair advantage” because they don’t have to perform background checks while a licensed dealer does.

Bill Gates Says Global Vaccination Program is “God’s Work”

bill gates malaria vaccines
Dees Illustration

Activist Post | Jan 25, 2013

by Brandon Turbeville

In a recent interview with the London Telegraph, Bill Gates has now claimed that his Foundation’s massive push for vaccination is not just an exercise in philanthropy but that it is, in fact, “God’s work.”

Gates, who, according to the Telegraph, is worth an estimated $65 billion, is now dedicating his life to the “eradication of poliomyelitis,” or, at least he is dedicating himself to the vaccination program allegedly aimed at achieving these ends.

As reported by the Telegraph,

“My wife and I had a long dialogue about how we were going to take the wealth that we’re lucky enough to have and give it back in a way that’s most impactful to the world,” he says. “Both of us worked at Microsoft and saw that if you take innovation and smart people, the ability to measure what’s working, that you can pull together some pretty dramatic things.

“We’re focused on the help of the poorest in the world, which really drives you into vaccination. You can actually take a disease and get rid of it altogether, like we are doing with polio.”

Yet, eradicating polio through a massive vaccination program may be easier said than done writes Neil Tweedie of the Telegraph. “There is another, sinister obstacle: the propagation by Islamist groups of the belief that polio vaccination is a front for covert sterilisation and other western evils. Health workers in Pakistan have paid with their lives for involvement in the programme.”

To this question, Gates responded with seemingly atypical religious zeal, noted by Tweedie in the published article. “It’s not going to stop us succeeding,” says Gates. “It does force us to sit down with the Pakistan government to renew their commitments, see what they’re going to do in security and make changes to protect the women who are doing God’s work and getting out to these children and delivering the vaccine.”

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