Daily Archives: September 24, 2014

The perfect trifecta

al goreCarbon credits, tax fraud and terrorists.

A British national is wanted by Italian police in connection with a fraud of more than a billion pounds, allegedly used to finance terrorist groups.

Imran Yakub Ahmed, from Preston, is accused of defrauding the Italian state out of €1.15 billion – (£1.17 billion) in VAT, which he allegedly laundered through slush funds and investments in Dubai.

Prosecutors in Milan believe the funds were reinvested in the Middle East as a mask for the financing of Islamic terrorist organisations.

Ahmed administered the SF Energy Trading company in Milan, working with another Italy-based company to buy and sell carbon credits. The credits are traded between firms and states to meet their international environmental commitments, under the Kyoto Protocol.

The two companies allegedly used stolen identities and links to fake corporations in China to run the scam, in which carbon certificates were bought in France, Germany, Holland and the UK, then sold on to unsuspecting customers with an added cost of 20 per cent VAT.

The tax was never paid to Italian authorities, but was allegedly transferred to bank accounts in Cyprus and Hong Kong, before ending up in Dubai.

So you’ve got billions of Euros worth of imaginary units: carbon “credits”, governments taking 20% on top in taxes, and terrorists using the whole bundle to finance their war on the west. It’s got something in it that every one of our enemies can love.

 

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

But did they file an environmental impact statement?

Refiner's Fire

Refiner’s Fire

U.S. bombs Syrian oil refineries.

“An impact statement? Of course we didn’t,” Chief White House environmental spokesman John Kerry told FWIW, “that would be as silly as worrying about what’s happening to Mongolia, where we mine rare earths for our Prius batteries. Out of sight, out of mind, and you sure can’t see Syria from the White House front porch.”

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Are the new iPhones bending from being stuffed in people’s pockets?

That’s the report from the early adopter crowd but so far, Apple’s not commenting officially. Despite that cone of silence, FWIW was able to reach former Apple spokesman Steve Jobs, who was more forthcoming, and defiant. “Everything we build is perfect”, Jobs said, “so if it does bend, it’s not a bug, it’s a feature.”

Apple

8 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Was Dollar Bill among them?

One half of the country's active peace movement at the White House gate

One half – 11 – of the country’s active peace movement at the White House gate

Dana Milbank visits yesterday’s peace demonstration at the White House and finds exactly 22 protestors.

Ubiquitous activist Medea Benjamin of Code Pink tried to give her small antiwar band a pep talk. “The American people were on our side just a couple of months ago,” she said. “The support is going to start evaporating.. . . We need to accelerate that.”

So where’s the outrage, why the silence? “He’s  a knee-grow”, Benjamin explains.

I’d say “because he’s not Bush”, but either one works for me.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

So much for Smart Diplomacy™

Aw, you shouldn't have Obama peeks at his Nobel Peace Prize

Aw, you shouldn’t have
Obama peeks at his Nobel Peace Prize

 “The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force,”

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Old Greenwich sale

5 Brown House Road

5 Brown House Road

5 Brown House Road, two-family, 1908, sold for $1.195 million. It expired unsold after a year in 2009 after being listed for $1.150 million, so the market’s improved, apparently. This description from its listing seems to sum up its current condition;when a builder and “start anew” are mentioned, order up the dumpster:

THIS HOME IS CURRENTLY USED AS A 2 FAMILY AND WOULD BE A WONDERFUL END USE HOME FOR A FAMILY WITH AN IN-LAW SUITE OR SEPARATE QUARTERS FOR A NANNY. WELL TAKEN CARE OF BY LOVING OWNERS. OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND SHOULD THE END USER CONVERT TO A SINGLE FAMILY HOME OR BEGIN ANEW WITH A BUILDER.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

I dunno, even for Cos Cob, this looks weird

Moorish? The Cos Cob School?

Moorish? The Cos Cob School?

There’s a condo project going up at 95 Valley Road and today it’s raised it prices in anticipation of completion. $3.295 million for a unit, even a “penthouse”, seems steep for the section of town, but I’m struck by the dark, gloomy Bat Cave atmosphere of the photographs. If I were selling riverfront views, I’d pull up the shades.

Maybe they're trying to appeal to Cliff Asness?

Maybe they’re trying to appeal to Cliff Asness?

Light a candle

Light a candle

38 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Color me dubious

229 Bedford Rd

229 Bedford Rd

229 Bedford Road is back on the market after a brief hiatus, and still priced at $6.795 million. It’s had 400 days to find a buyer (it started at $7.495, then dropped quickly to its current price) but so far, no luck. Nothing wrong with the house, but a mere five acres doth not a “horse farm” make, and houses this far north don’t usually command this kind of money.

I used to think that Bedford residents would skip across the border to escape Westchester County taxes but so far as I’ve noticed, that doesn’t often happen. Perhaps Bedford’s populated by liberals, and they want to pay more than their fair share.

God bless them

 

12 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

This has got to be a bargain now

25 SeldenLane

25 SeldenLane

25 Selden Lane (over off Riversville), 7.73 acres, including a 2-acre extra building lot, has slowly dropped its price from $7.500 in 2009 to $3.275 million today. Not my favorite of all houses, but beautiful grounds and a reasonable house easily changed to suit your taste. For this price? Great deal.

UPDATE: A reader from the northwest edge of the woods has pointed out that this property was in fact previously listed at its current price back in 2013 and didn’t sell, so they raised the price, only to drop it again now. So I stand corrected – it’s no bargain if no one wants it.

But that still surprises me, because it’s really not a bad house. It does, however, make you wonder what they were smoking back in 2009, post-crash, when they listed it for $7.5.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Again with a contract

190 Lake Avenue

190 Lake Avenue

190 Lake Avenue, $1.895 million, had a deal in June that fell apart, but has another one now. This is a great old house, 1900, that needs work, although I think the price reflects that. I really liked it, and I’m happy for the owners that they’ve found someone who shares that sentiment.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

After a year and a price cut, a contract

One Midwood Road

One Midwood Road

One Midwood Road, asking $4.395, reports a contract. Lovely 1920s home, excellent yard, but right on Lake Avenue and some renovations that my clients, at least, thought ill-advised.

But it’s in Deer Park, which is a huge plus.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Mid-country: still not back to peak prices

81 Sawmill Lane

81 Sawmill Lane

81 Sawmill Lane, which sold in 2005 for $2.995 million, reports a contract today – last asking price, $2.395. I remember viewing this house a few years ago when it first came on in 2012 (it’s taken a long time to find a buyer) for $3.095 and not thinking enough of it to recommend to a buyer who was looking in its price range, but there’s nothing like a $700,000 price cut to improve a home’s appeal.

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Mr. “Class Act” sells out

Frigin' obnoxious

Frigin’ obnoxious

He’s selling everything, in fact. Derek Jeter, once considered the model of American athletes, is cashing in on his farewell tour by selling bases (they’re switched after every inning, autographed by the man himself and sold off), jerseys, retirement patchescleats, socks (one sock, used, $410) and anything else he can claim he touched. The next six days, his final playing days before he hits the baseball memorabilia and washed-up celebrity appearance circuits, will doubtless see the sale of hair locks, desiccated finger bones and pieces of the original ark. Before he goes, I’m sure we’ll see signed copies of his Frigo brand underwear* hawked next to Derek Jeter hot dogs at the stadium.

* NYPost: “The slugger is a secret owner of Frigo RevolutionWear — a customized men’s underwear brand that sells skivvies more colloquially known as “Tempur-Pedic banana hammocks.” The high-tech undies sell for $100 a pair and include a “soft lock adjustment system” plus a “patented pouch” dubbed the “Frigo Zone.” (We’ll leave the zone’s location to your imagination.)

 

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Another sweat shop closed, Marin and Alameda Counties’ oenophiles freed from slavery

Workers of the world, unite! And bring Lucy with you.

Workers of the world, unite! 

California authorities have shuttered a winery for using volunteer labor.

CASTRO VALLEY — A small-time vintner’s use of volunteer workers has put him out of business after the state squeezed him like a late-summer grape for $115,000 in fines — and sent a chill through the wine industry.

 The volunteers, some of them learning to make wine while helping out, were illegally unpaid laborers, and Westover Winery should have been paying them and paying worker taxes, the state Department of Industrial Relations said.

“I didn’t know it was illegal to use volunteers at a winery; it’s a common practice,” said winery owner Bill Smyth.

Smyth has paid some of the fines and is appealing the rest.

Meanwhile, he and his wife, Jill, are holding a going-out-of-business sale and plan to shut down before the end of the year. The fines represent more than a decade’s worth of profits for the winery, which nets about $11,000 a year, Smyth said.

“There’s just no money left; they’ve taken everything,” he said.

“We’re a small winery, open only 10 hours a week. We didn’t really need any helpers; we were just educating people about wine,” he said.

About half the people the state considered Westover employees were taking a free class at the Palomares Canyon Road winery. Students learned about growing vines, harvesting and blending grapes and marketing the finished product.

“This was an incredible opportunity for me,” said Peter Goodwin, a home winemaker from Walnut Creek who said he dreams of opening a winery with some friends. “I got to learn from someone who knows the business.”

The winery sometimes asked Goodwin if he wanted to assist in different tasks.

“That’s what I wanted, to be as involved as much as possible — it was all about learning,” he said. “I don’t understand the state’s action. It was my time, and I volunteered.”

Ken Tatum took the classes because he thought it would be fun to learn more about making wine and running a winery. The state fines were ridiculous and unfair, he said.

“I should be able to volunteer my time,” said the retired Castro Valley resident.

Why, Tatum asked, didn’t the state first warn Smyth that using volunteers was not OK?

The law does not allow for warnings, Melton said. If Department of Industrial Relations representatives see violations, he said, they are required to issue citations.

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

I don’t envy him having to explain to his fellow inmates why, exactly, he’s joined them in the pen.

Threesome?

Threesome?

Puppy rapist gets five years.

I’ve no problem with his sentence, but I’m troubled that he’s facing an additional five years for bestiality. Doesn’t one of the “penumbras of the constitution” protect him here from the state’s interference? Privacy, perhaps, or, as recognized by the majority in Lawrence vs. Texas, the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees the right to intimate consensual sexual conduct? Justice Scalia says it does; I think an appeal is in order.

(Warning: Graphic Content)

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

And when patience runs out ….

You ain't going no where.

You ain’t going no where.

Neighbor erects fence around nasty homeowner, locks her in

When Paul and Wendy Collins were woken by the sound of workmen digging holes outside their home, it was little more than an everyday suburban irritation.

This soon turned to alarm, however, when concrete posts were put into the holes and a six-foot timber fence erected across the front and side of the house they have lived in for 26 years.

‘It feels like we are behind some kind of Berlin Wall, like being a prisoner in our own home,’ said Mrs Collins.

The fence was the culmination of a dispute the family have been having with the property company that owns the apartments next door, which says they had encroached on its land.

It means the Collinses can no longer use the front gate of their four-bedroom house, which can only be reached  from the rear, while the fence is all they can see out of their living-room window.

Mrs Collins said the two sides fell out after a car crashed through her garden’s brick wall, partially demolishing it. She used the access it created to park her Fiat Stilo on the front lawn, where it is now stuck.

Sadlers Mill asked the family to tidy up the front of their home and even offered to pay for replacing the wall if the couple agreed to sign over ownership of it. Mrs Collins said the company warned it would build a new boundary fence if she did not rectify the damage, but heard no more about it until last Friday.

 And now she has.
Deferred maintenance plan

Deferred maintenance plan

A little reading between the lines here suggests that Mrs. Collins smashed the wall herself to park her car on the neighbor’s property, refused to let it be repaired lest she lose her new parking space and, while she was at it, let her house itself tumble into disrepair. “This is a Victorian house,” Ms. Collins explains in her defense, “it was built in 1865, it’s never going to be a show home”.Judging from its pictures, she’s got that right, at least so long as she owns the property.

For all you budding lawyers (or recent Harvard Law grads) out there who ask, “but Chris, what about an easement by necessity?“, that property right is only recognized, if at all, when a parcel is entirely landlocked; here, Collins can still use her rear door, so she’s, to use another legal term, S.O.L..
.

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized