Kentucky Gov. declares state of emergency after lethal twister

People search a tornado-damaged building in Mayfield, Kentucky on December 11, 2021.

Brett Carlsen | Getty Images

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky – Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency early Saturday morning and asked President Joe Biden for federal aid after a deadly overnight storm struck bluegrass state.

“It’s devastating,” said Beshear during one press conference, added that he had activated the National Guard in Kentucky. More than 180 guardsmen are stationed in areas in western Kentucky, the hardest-hit part of the state.

Beshear said early estimates put the Kentucky death toll at 50, but said it could likely rise “well north of it”. He advised residents who are safe to avoid areas and streets where crews are helping with emergency operations.

A Outbreak of at least 30 tornadoes left a great trail of destruction. A twister swept through four states and carved at least a 220-mile trail, counting it among the longest tornadoes in US history if it stayed on the ground.

Beshear said the tornado that struck through western Kentucky hit the town of Mayfield before moving northeast through Benton, Princeton, Beaver Dam and expiring into towns in Breckinridge County. The governor said more than 100 people worked at a candle factory in Mayfield during the storm. The facility was razed to the ground and is said to be the site of “mass victims”.

Bowling Green, home of Western Kentucky University, was also badly damaged as well canceled opening ceremonies planned for Saturday.

“Significant tornado damage in the area affects the networks and telephone lines of the WKU. The WKU is in contact with all employees of the dormitory and there are no reported injuries on campus,” said a statement from the university.

President Biden was briefed on the storms and said in a statement Saturday morning that he was “in contact with state and local officials as the survivor search and damage assessments continue”.

Biden will be leaving Wilmington, Delaware, to comment on the storms at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Republican Senate Chairman Mitch McConnell issued a statement following the devastating tornadoes in his home state.

“I pray for the lives hit by the tornado devastation across the Commonwealth and for the communities affected. Many thanks to the first responders and the National Guard for their courageous work in the midst of this tragedy. ” McConnell wrote on Saturday.

“As I continue to receive reports from my staff, local and state officials, we will work with the entire Kentucky federal delegation to support Governor Andy Beshear’s request for federal aid to help these hard-hit communities with the funds and resources to that they need.” rebuild, “he added.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul issued a separate statement Saturday saying his team is working with local and state officials.

“Our hearts are broken for all of those who suffer from last night’s terrible storms. I and my team will do everything in our power to assist local and state officials in responding immediately and will aggressively assist families, businesses and officials with access to recovery resources, ”Paul wrote.

The EU declares struggle on cash laundering | Europe| Information and present affairs from across the continent | DW

“The rules we have to prevent Money laundering are among the toughest in the world, “said European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis,” but they must now also be applied systematically. “

There haven’t been enough of these in recent years. In practice, many EU Member States do not implement the rules or are simply too lax in monitoring and auditing suspicious financial transactions. That is why the European Commission has now officially made a proposal that Brussels has been working on for months: It wants to create a new EU supervisory authority that will keep a close eye on financial developments in the member states and monitor and audit large transnational financial institutions, which are a potential risk .

However, this powerful agency is not expected to start operating for another three years, and it will be another five years before it is fully effective. The EU member states have basically agreed on the establishment of this central supervisory authority, similar to the one that already exists for banks, but are arguing about the physical seat.

Dombrovskis: Every money laundering scandal is one too many

Substantial “dirty” sales

EU Finance Commissioner Mairead McGuinness admitted when presenting the new legislative proposals: “Money laundering is a clear and present threat to citizens, democratic institutions and the financial system.” Transactions with “dirty” money account for around 1.5% of the gross domestic product in the EU – that is 133 billion euros. “The scale of the problem cannot be underestimated and the loopholes that criminals can exploit must be closed,” said McGuinness.

In order to achieve this, the Commission wants to standardize the rules for combating money laundering – that is, the transfer of “dirty” money from criminal activities into the normal, “clean” money cycle – across Europe. All member states would have to make it transparent to whom which companies, financial service providers and real estate actually belong. These could no longer be managed in the EU in the name of anonymous companies, trustees and representatives. The registers of bank accounts and their account holders would be merged across the EU.

Directive number six

The Commission notes that the repeated breakdown of assets into smaller units, the nesting of businesses, and electronic transactions across a number of overseas accounts all make it very difficult to keep track of funds generated through drug trafficking, illegal prostitution, and illegal gambling Human trafficking and other crimes of this nature.

A new anti-money laundering directive – version number six – aims to make it harder for organized crime and terrorist financiers to do business. The rules have been tightened further compared to the currently applicable fifth directive. Cryptocurrencies – privately created electronic currencies like Bitcoin, which the EU believes are particularly good for anonymous transactions – are also being targeted. In the future, cryptocurrency providers will have to disclose the identity of the account holder.

Cash Transaction Limits

Another proposal presented by Dombrovskis today is controversial among the Member States. He wants to limit cash payments to a maximum of 10,000 euros. He points out that cash is an easy way of getting into money laundering. For example, drug proceeds can be circulated by inflating the sales of a pizzeria owned by the criminals. Properties are bought and paid for with suitcases full of cash.

Some EU member states have already set an upper limit for cash payments. In Greece, for example, it is just 500 euros. In other countries, such as Germany or Austria, there is no limit at all. Around 70% of all payments to end users in the EU are made in cash.

Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Blümel supports the fight against money laundering, but says it is an illusion to believe that criminals only use cash. “We are seeing that white-collar criminals are increasingly switching to digital, and we have to intensify here in the future,” said Blümel in Vienna last week. “I think that is more effective than arbitrary caps that are fueling the current trend towards the elimination of cash.” He explained that cash must be kept as a means of payment that does not require technical assistance.

The money laundering scandal at Danske Bank – the FinCEN files – was exposed after many years

Dombrovskis is particularly concerned about the reputation and stability of the EU as a financial center. “Every money laundering scandal is one too many,” he said.

Last September thanks to the so-called FinCEN files, It became clear that even well-known major European banks have circumvented EU money laundering regulations. In 2018 it was found that a Danish bank had laundered money through a small branch in Estonia for years – up to 200 billion euros. The Danske Bank scandal sparked the Commission’s new anti-money laundering initiatives. These still have to be approved by the European Parliament and the 27 EU member states.

This article has been translated from German.