companies, including some receiving substantial portions of federal bailout dollars, have operations in tax havens that allow them to avoid paying their fair share to the Internal Revenue Service. The report also spotlighted the activities of Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS), which has helped wealthy Americans to use tax schemes to cheat the IRS out of billions.
In December 2008, banking giant Goldman Sachs reported its first quarterly loss, and promptly followed up with a statement that its tax rate would drop from 34.1 percent to 1 percent, citing "changes in geographic earnings mix" as the reason. The difference: instead of paying $6 billion in total worldwide taxes as it did in 2007, Goldman Sachs would pay a total of $14 million in 2008. In the same year, it received $10 billion and debt guarantees from the U.S. government.
"The problem is larger than Goldman Sachs," U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who serves on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, told Bloomberg News. "With the right hand out begging for bailout money, the left is hiding it offshore."
Sources: "Goldman Sachs's Tax Rate Drops to 1 percent or $14 Million," Christine Harper, Bloomberg News, Dec. 16, 2008; "Gimme Shelter: Tax Evasion and the Obama Administration," Thomas B. Edsall, The Huffington Post, Feb. 23, 2009
9. U.S. CONNECTED TO WHITE PHOSPHOROUS STRIKES IN GAZA
In mid-January, as part of a military campaign, the Israeli Defense Forces fired several shells that hit the headquarters of a United Nations relief agency in Gaza City, destroying provisions for basic aid like food and medicine.
The shells contained white phosphorous (referred to as "Willy Pete" in military slang), a smoke-producing, spontaneously flammable agent designed to obscure battle territory that also can ignite buildings or cause grotesque burns if it touches the skin.
The attack on the relief-agency headquarters is just one example of a civilian structure that researchers discovered had been hit during the January air strikes. In the aftermath of the attacks, Human Rights Watch volunteers found spent white phosphorous shells on city streets, apartment roofs, residential courtyards, and at a U.N. school in Gaza.
Human Rights Watch says the IDF's use of white phosphorous violated international law, which prohibits deliberate, indiscriminate, or disproportionate attacks that result in civilian casualties. After gathering evidence such as spent shells, the organization issued a report condemning the repeated firing of white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza as a war crime. Amnesty International, another human rights organization, followed suit by calling upon the United States to suspend military aid to Israel but to no avail.
The U.S. was a primary source of funding and weaponry for Israel's military campaign. Washington provided F-16 fighter planes, Apache helicopters, tactical missiles, and a wide array of munitions, including white phosphorus.
Sources: "White Phosphorus Use Evidence of War Crimes Report: Rain of Fire: Israel's Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza," Fred Abrahams, Human Rights Watch, March 25, 2009; "Suspend Military Aid to Israel, Amnesty Urges Obama after Detailing U.S. Weapons Used in Gaza," Rory McCarthy, Guardian/U.K., Feb. 23, 2009; "U.S. Weaponry Facilitates Killings in Gaza," Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service, Jan. 8, 2009; "U.S. military resupplying Israel with ammunition through Greece," Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News, Jan. 8, 2009.
10. ECUADOR SAYS IT WON'T PAY ILLEGITIMATE DEBT
When President Rafael Correa announced that Ecuador would default on its foreign debt last December, he didn't say it was because the Latin American country was unable to pay.