More Americans Renounce Citizenship, With 2014 on Pace for a Record

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Significant numbers of people are continuing to renounce their U.S. citizenship or end their long-term U.S. residency.

There are 776 names on the Treasury Department list published Friday for the third quarter of 2014.

That’s the third highest quarterly figure ever, according to Andrew Mitchel, an international tax lawyer in Centerbrook, Conn., who tracks the data. The total number of published renouncers so far in 2014 is 2,353, putting this year on pace to exceed last year’s record total of 2,999, adds Mr. Mitchel.

The Treasury Department is required by law to publish a list of the names of people who renounce quarterly. The list doesn’t indicate when people did so or why. It also doesn’t distinguish between people giving up passports and those turning in green cards, or indicate what other nationality the individuals hold.

Experts say that the growing number of renunciations by U.S. citizens and permanent residents is linked to a five-year enforcement campaign against U.S. taxpayers who have undeclared offshore accounts. The campaign began after Swiss banking giantUBS UBSN.VX -0.18% admitted in 2009 that it had systematically encouraged U.S. taxpayers to hide assets in secret Swiss accounts.

About 100 other Swiss financial institutions are currently in a U.S. Justice Department program designed to uncover other secret accounts. Recently, attorneys representing 73 of them protested that the terms of the program were too harsh.

Unlike other developed nations, the U.S. taxes citizens on income they earn anywhere in the world. The rule dates to the Civil War. U.S. tax liabilities can also cover children born to Americans abroad, extending the reach of the Internal Revenue Service across generations as well as oceans.  There are only partial offsets for double taxation for people who owe taxes both to the U.S. and a foreign country, and the reporting rules are onerous, experts say.

For decades these laws were rarely enforced. Now, scrutiny of Americans abroad is intensifying because of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or Fatca, which Congress passed in 2010. The law’s main provisions, which took effect in July, will require foreign financial institutions to report income of their U.S. customers to the IRS.

China “Ghost Town Index” – Here Are China’s 10 “Ghastliest” Cities

Who can forget China’s ghost city of Ordos: back in late 2009, when the hollow shell behind China’s torrid growth was first revealed to the world, the city near China’s Mongolia border was cooler talk for weeks. Fast forward five years later, and Ordos is all but forgotten, having been eclipsed by a veritable army of much bigger “ghosts” that make up the “ghost town network” – a list of cities created by the China Investment Network, a business newspaper in Beijing, to determine which cities were the most ghostly.

As Caixin reports, the newspaper devised its index using a government standard that says cities should have 10,000 people per square kilometer. The editors at China Investment Network determined that if a city’s ratio of people to area was 0.5 – that is, it was half full – then it is a ghost town. To take the example a step further, if a city had a ratio of .10, then it had one-tenth the population the government thought it deserved. Based on this approach, at least 50 Chinese cities fit the description of “ghost town.” The large city of Weihai, in the eastern province of Shandong, and the tourist destination of Sanya, in the south’s Hainan Province, were among China’s emptiest.

 

And here is how a Goldman analyst recount his “on the ground” visit around some of the more prominent Chinese ghost cities. From Goldman’s Kenneth Ho:

In August, the GS Asia Credit Strategy team spent four days in China, visiting a number of property development projects as well as a couple of well-publicized “ghost towns.” While this brief trip to a limited number of developments is unlikely to provide a full picture of the real estate market in China, it does offer a first-hand look at some of the most widely cited concerns about China’s housing build-up. Kenneth Ho offers his takeaways (and pictures) below.

Less ghostly than expected, but still spooky

The couple of “ghost towns” we visited, while less desolate than some press reports would suggest, were indeed very quiet. We did not prearrange the visits, and we went to the sales offices as well as seeing the properties. Both towns we saw have been in development for about a decade. Tianducheng, or Sky City, on the outskirts of Hangzhou has been reported by the press as deserted (e.g., by Reuters). Although the development was relatively quiet, there were a fair number of occupants in the residential buildings, and we got the sense that tenants were slowly moving in. The staff at the sales office told us that the occupancy rate is around 60% for the completed and sold units. There is further development in Tianducheng, and we did see more construction work taking place – but it was not the desolate town portrayed by the press.

A second well-publicized “ghost town” (e.g., by the South China Morning Post) we visited was Jingjin New Town, on the outskirts of Tianjin. This development is mostly comprised of villas and separated into ten phases. According to the staff at the sales office, phases 1 to 4 have been mostly sold, and phase 5 may be released later this year, though there were no plans at that moment to release phases 6 to 10. We believe that half of the development (phases 1 to 5) have already been built, with the other half (phases 6 to 10) yet to be constructed. Despite most of the completed villas having been sold, from what we saw, the occupancy level is very low, and some unsold villas are not in the best shape. The sales office told us that the project targeted retirees or second/holiday homebuyers working in Beijing and Tianjin (hence the low occupancy), and that it is busier during public holidays and weekends. We cannot verify this statement, and it is difficult to assess which factors are driving the low occupancy rate. Projects of this type have not been attracting much demand, and the town was very quiet overall. That said, we did not see a significant amount of uncompleted constructions. As in Sky City, however, it appeared that more development was coming through.

Construction still dominates the landscape

We visited other projects in Tianjin, Hangzhou, and Hohhot, as they are tier 2 and 3 cities with meaningful excess supply. In Tianjin and Hangzhou, we saw developments on the outskirts as well as some closer to the city center. Although it appeared that YTD sales had been satisfactory, we saw significant amount of construction activity; most projects were targeting improved sales in 2H14, with new launches to come. In Hohhot, a provincial capital reported as having some of the most significant overbuild, centrally located developments targeting the mass market appeared to be seeing demand, though less so for the higher-end projects. But we did see signs of overbuilding, which raises questions about whether newer properties, particularly on the outskirts, will find sufficient demand.

Of gods and oxen

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Gideon Levy published in these pages a touching eulogy of his father, Dr. Heinz Loewy (“Israel must remember the Holocaust’s refugees, forever changed,” April 20 ). Loewy, he wrote, “was not your classic Holocaust survivor. He did not go through any of the camps, and so did not have a number tattooed on his arm. He was a refugee … It’s true that he had a good life here. But looking back, it seems to me that he never really found his place here … He stored his suits and ties in the closet, his Bermuda shorts replacing them in the hot summer. He also left behind the Latin he had learned, save for one proverb that he would repeat to us.”

This was not only a personal story, touching as it was. It was also a story of a whole generation of people who had come to Israel from Europe, many of them before World War II. “The Holocaust led to the establishment of the State of Israel and the ingathering of a great many survivors to it, but not all of them felt at home,” Gideon writes. “They were doomed to a life of exile in their new homeland.”

Somehow, besides understanding deeply what my colleague was writing about – as it is in many ways my mother’s story as well – I couldn’t help wondering what the one Latin proverb was that Gideon said his father wanted to teach his children who, unlike him presumably, felt very much at home in Israel. One such proverb came up in my mind. I asked Gideon, and he remembered it had something to do with an ass or an ox, and Jupiter.

Surprisingly enough it was the proverb I had thought about: “Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi” – usually translated in English as “What is legitimate for Jove (Jupiter ), is not legitimate for oxen (mortals ).” According to most phrase finders an early version of the proverb is to be found in the play “Adelphoe” (“The Brothers” ) by the Roman playwright Terence (circa 185-159 B.C.E. ). In the play two brothers are raised separately, one by their father, and the other by their uncle. The one raised by the father is a troublemaker, and when the father wants to punish him severely, the uncle intercedes, and says: “hoc licet inpune facere huic, illi non licet,” which means in rough translation “one may be allowed to do a thing with impunity, but another may not.” That is indeed the point of the proverb, but it still does not explain what Jupiter and the ox have to do with it.

The coupling of the two – Jupiter and the ox – in the proverb is thought to have been inspired by the Greek mythological tale of Europa, a Phoenician woman of high lineage, who was abducted and brought to Crete. Actually, two myths “compete” over the definitive life story of Europa (the name means “of wide face,” in Greek, and in time became the name of a certain continent ): according to one she was kidnapped by the Minoans, and was brought to Crete, where the bull was thought to be a sacred animal; according to the other, it was Zeus, in the guise of a white bull, who charmed her, enticed her to ride on him, and then swam with her on his back through the sea to Crete, later revealing himself to be the deity he was, and in some versions raping her.

In the context of the second version of this story, the above-mentioned proverb can work in the following way: Jupiter has to turn himself into an ox, as an ox is allowed to approach Europe, and she welcomes him. However, to accomplish what he has in his mind (or loins ), he has to reappear as a god, so as to be able to relate to her in a way that would not be permitted to an ox or a mortal male.

Jupiter – or Zeus, in his Greek phase – liked using an animal disguise when wooing women (he turned himself into a swan when pursuing Leda, and with her fathered Helena and Clytemnestra ), and indeed liked chasing after the fair sex in general, although he did marry Hera, or Juno by her Roman name. One of the qualities attributed to Juno was boopis, meaning in Greek having “cow-like eyes.” That does not sound like a real compliment, although it is supposed to indicate that those were big, brown, beautiful eyes. This adjective, boopis, is thought to have contributed to the wording of the proverb, meaning that even among gods there are those (Jupiter ) that are more equal then others (Juno ). The fact that Jupiter and Juno were allowed to marry, even though they were siblings, was explained by Ovid who claimed that gods are a law unto themselves, and are thus allowed to do what mere mortals (and cows ) are not.

However, all these semantic-cultural ruminations do not explain why I saw a connection between this particular Latin proverb and the story of Dr. Loewy and his life in Israel.

It occurs to me that the same proverb has two different meanings, depending on who utters it, Jupiter or the ox. From Jupiter’s point of view, the situation is straightforward and self-evident: He who has the might has the right, and the privileged are allowed to do whatever they wish. As seen through the cow’s (or ox’s ) eyes, however, things are not as simple. The other, bovine side of the coin is while the ox and Jupiter may possess the same qualities and abilities, due to circumstances over which the ox has no control – but Jupiter does – things are the way they are: The ox philosophically resigns itself to what it is permitted to have, and tries to make the most out of it.

Know your salts

Salt is arguably the most important     ingredient in cooking. Without it, most meals would taste bland and unexciting. However… not all salt is created equal and there are many “types” to choose from. Not only do they differ in taste and texture, but there are also some differences in mineral and sodium content.

There are some salt u may not heard about

Himalayan pink salt

Kosher Salt

Celtic Salt

Epsom salt 

Malden salt

 

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