Cicero Yearly Archives

United States

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G20 To Tackle Tax Avoidance


G20 Finance Meeting in Moscow 2013The finance ministers meeting today at the G20 held in Moscow have today pledged to ensure that multinational companies will no longer be able shifting profits from a home country to pay less tax elsewhere – the aim is to prevent tax avoidance by large companies.

France, Britain and Germany have been the main proponents seeking radical changes to existing european legal loopholes and members of these countries also promised to refrain devaluing their currencies to gain economic advantage; which could cause a “currency war”.

The fears had been sparked by Japan’s recent policies, which have driven down the value of the yen, aiding its exporters.

Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that multinational firms could exploit gaps between tax rules in the different countries in which they operate.

The finance ministers of the UK, France and Germany – George Osborne, Pierre Moscovici and Wolfgang Schaeuble have called for international action to crack down on companies transferring profits from their originating country to another in order to lower the tax paid.

Mr Osborne decried a global taxation system he said had been guided by principles set out by the League of Nations in the 1920s, with few changes since.

How does Price Fixing work?

An imaginary company CiceroUK Ltd is a subsidiary of the imaginary US company CiceroCorp. It provides books from the paper that’s manufactured at Paper Corp factories in China, and then sells them in the UK.

CiceroUK Ltd’s profit statement

Total sales revenues £100m
– Cost of Paper from China £50m
– Labour costs and UK overheads £25m
Royalty fee paid to Paper Corp * £15m
– Interest on loan from CiceroCorp £5m
Total costs £95m
Taxable profit (revenues minus costs) £5m

“Transfer pricing” rules apply to the cost of parts, the fee payment and the interest on the loan. If Paper Corp overcharged for any of these, it would reduce CiceroUK corporation tax bill in the UK, while increasing CiceroCorp axable profits in another country.

*For usage of intellectual property rights and brands owned by the US company

For more information in how companies are avoiding paying Corporate Tax see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20580545

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Angola 3 Documentary


Amnesty International UK will host a free screening of the acclaimed documentary about the notorious case of the “Angola 3” on Tuesday 10 July.

The 2010 film – In the Land of the Free, with narration by Samuel L Jackson – tells the story of how three men – Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King – were placed in solitary confinement at Louisiana State Penitentiary (known as Angola prison) in the USA in 1972.

Wallace and Woodfox – who were convicted of the murder of prison guard Brent Miller, a crime they have vigorously denied – have now spent the last 40 years in solitary. King, who was convicted of a different crime, spent 29 years in solitary confinement at Angola until his release in 2001. He will appear on a panel with the film’s director to discuss the case after the film screening.

Amnesty is currently calling on the Louisiana authorities to remove Wallace and Woodfox from solitary confinement, and is challenging the authorities’ contention that the pair remain a threat to prison employees and others (see http://amn.st/MQcp2U). Meanwhile, Woodfox’s lawyers are pursuing a claim of racial discrimination in jury selection at his 1998 retrial. This could see his conviction overturned (for the third time) and lead to his release.

Source: Amnesty  See also Angola 3 Film

Syrian Update (from the BBC)


The current news from the BBC Internet News service concerning Syria

Heavy artillery fire has been rocking Homs, as Syrian troops step up an assault on the restive city.

A BBC correspondent there describes almost constant blasts, in the fiercest attack in the 11-month uprising.

US President Barack Obama said it was important to resolve the conflict without outside military intervention.

Meanwhile, Russia and China defended their veto of a UN draft resolution criticising Syria – a move that angered opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.

Later the US State Department said it had closed its embassy in Damascus and pulled out all remaining staff because of security concerns.

EU Imposes Oil Sanctions


In an attempt to deflect Tehran‘s nuclear development program the European Union has today joined the United States in a new round of measures and imposed sanctions on Iran‘s oil imports to Europe. It however has not imposed a complete ban on oil imports.

In response to this a Iranian politician responded by renewing a threat to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, which is a oil export route vital to the global economy, and another said Tehran will cut off it’s crude shipments to the EU immediately which would greatly affect ailing European economies such as Greece, Italy, which depend heavily on Iranian oil.

All this follows after a U.S. aircraft carrier, accompanied by French and British warships, made a symbolically loaded voyage into the Gulf, defying Iranian hostility,

The expected EU sanctions are likely to prove angering to Iran in an already tense region.

It is believed by some political analysts and observers, that Iran, which denies accusations that it is seeking nuclear weapons could be in a position to make them next year.  Israel has also warned it could use force to prevent that Iran from any such development program

This row over Tehran’s plans is an increasingly pressing for world leaders, not least U.S. President Barack Obama as he is campaigning for a re-election in November. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has voiced skepticism about the chances of Iran being persuaded by non-military tactics, called the EU sanctions a “step in the right direction” but said Iran was still developing atomic weapons.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said of the new sanctions: “I want the pressure of these sanctions to result in negotiations … I want to see Iran come back to the table and either pick up all the ideas that we left on the table … last year … or to come forward with its own ideas.”

Iran has said lately that it is willing to hold talks with Western powers, though there have been mixed signals on whether conditions imposed by either side make new negotiations likely.

SOPA AND PIPA GONE, NOW THE OPEN ACT?


In the wake of widespread online protest, the House and the Senate have stopped both the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) in their tracks. Just this Friday morning, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that he has canceled next week’s Senate vote on PIPA, which is now indeed opposed by many of its co-sponsors. Shortly afterwards, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said that SOPA will not be taken up as planned and that legislators must “wait until there is wider agreement on a solution.”

Reid indeed acknowledged that ”recent events” — the blackout on Wikipedia and other sites including Reddit and the other protests involving an estimated 115,000 websites this past Wednesday — had played a role in his decision to postpone the vote.

PIPA sponsor Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, agreed to the change of course only “reluctantly,” painting a dire picture of how Chinese and Russian internet thieves “are smugly watching how the United States Senate decided it was not even worth debating how to stop the overseas criminals from draining our economy.” Senators have caved into pressure, Leahy charged, and will one day rue their making a “knee-jerk reaction to a monumental problem.”

The Tech Community and Hollywood

There is no question online piracy is a problem. Tech companies including Google and Facebook had strongly objected to SOPA and PIPA, which granted the US Department of Justice the power to go after foreign websites offering illegal copies of movies, music and other content for free. Under these proposed laws, search engines would have had to eliminate links to such sites, while ad networks and companies that process payments would have been forbidden from doing business with them.  Tech companies have been arguing that, as currently written, both bills could curtail free speech and innovation on the internet by placing an “unreasonable burden on websites to police user-generated content,” with the result that perfectly legitimate websites could — as Wikipedia did on Wednesday — go dark. Last Saturday, the Obama administration expressed its concerns about how SOPA and PIPA could “[disrupt] the underlying architecture of the Internet.”

Hollywood, the music recording industry, book publishers and the United States Chamber of Commerce have all backed SOPA and PIPA, as a means to stop the “rampant piracy of American cultural wares” by websites overseas.

Former Sen. Chris Dodd, head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), described the postponement of SOPA and PIPA as a sign that the US government is “failing to act” in the fight against online piracy while still allowing the Internet “to be a safe haven for foreign thieves.” Meanwhile, Dodd said, American jobs are being lost and consumers are in danger of being “exposed to fraudulent and dangerous products peddled by foreign criminals.” But in an interview with the New York Times on Thursday, Dodd seemed to “raise the white flag,” acknowledging that the MPAA was “taken aback by the mass online protests against the bills” and calling for Hollywood and the tech community to “meet and hammer out their differences in a White House summit.”

Next Up: The OPEN ACT

As Don Reisinger says on CNET, both Reid and Smith remain “committed to pushing some kind of anti-piracy legislation through Congress.” Reid said in a statement:

“There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices.”

Indeed, on the horizon is a related bill, the OPEN ACT, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who have been “stalwart” critics of SOPA and PIPA. The OPEN ACT makes the International Trade Commission rather than the DOJ the enforcer for online piracy and also offers a narrower version of pirate websites. As Talking Points Memo points out, some are not sure that focusing on online piracy in particular is the right approach:

“Where we need to start is actually getting a ‘User’s Bill of Rights’ together for communication and sharing of culture,” [Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight For the Future, an online advocacy non-profit] said. “We need to defend way people communicate online. Once we get that in place, then we can go forth from there.”

Cheng said her group is working on drafting a Internet User’s Bill of Rights at the moment.

Internet activists have claimed victory in the fight against SOPA and PIPA. But we need to focus equal scrutiny on the OPEN Act and, as Cheng says, ask if policing online piracy as these bills describe is in the best interests of all; in the best interests of keeping the internet the site of innovation, creativity and freedom of expression that we have come to know it to be.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/sopa-and-pipa-stopped-next-the-open-act.html#ixzz1kCIIrmOA

Project MKULTRA


Project MKUltra was one of many experiments that the american secret service (CIA) and Department of Defence carried out between the 1950s and 1970s and was eventually declassified and exposed to the world by the Church Commission in 1975

Film’s such as “Jacob’s Ladder” starring Tim Robbins probably did a lot to bring the subject of the secret experiments that  ‘volunteers’ from within US academic campuses and US defence staff – however many of the subjects had no idea as to the fact they being administered with hallucinogenic drugs and amphetamines in these experiments and some of these drugs such as BZ or 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate whose compound is shown here:

Is probably one of the most hallucinogenic and probably one of the most potent drugs ever produced.

September 11 – 10th Anniversary Terrorist Threat


Recent intelligence obtained on Wednesday, and it is believed to have originated from the tribal areas of Pakistan, advised the United States of a plan to set off car or truck bombs in Washington or New York around the time of the 9/11 anniversary. Information about the attacks came from NBC this week.

The information indicated that three people would travel to the U.S. from Pakistan to carry out an attack, they said. However, the information included very little else in the way of specifics — in terms of timing or target.

Law enforcement officials were being alerted to be on the lookout for three men “of Middle Eastern descent” and potentially traveling in a van, they said. While the information had some specificity and the source has been credible in the past, it’s uncorroborated, officials warned.

New Yorks mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that the commemorations will go ahead as planned but under heightened police presence due to the warnings of a threat.

West Hollywood Fur Free


american mink After months of campaigning, animal activists have WON the campaign yo make EST HOLLYWOOD the first ever district as “FUR-FREE” in the United States.

The Ordinance will go into effect on September 19th! What this means is that NO business is allowed to sell fur garments of any kind.

UK and Swiss agreement on tax evasion


HM Treasury & Swiss Government Agreement on Tax evasionThe Government is today initiating a historic agreement with Switzerland to tackle offshore tax evasion in an effort to resolve the long-standing abuse of Swiss banking secrecy by those who seek to conceal the proceeds of tax evasion,  this measure is expected to secure billions of pounds of unpaid tax for the UK exchequer starting from 2013.

Under the terms of the agreement, existing funds held by UK taxpayers in Switzerland will be subject to a significant one-off deduction of between 19% and 34% to settle past tax liabilities, leaving those who have already paid their taxes unaffected. As a gesture of good faith Swiss banks will make an up-front payment from Switzerland to Britain of CHF 500m.

From 2013, a new withholding tax of 48% on investment income and 27% on gains will ensure the effective future taxation of UK residents with funds in Swiss bank accounts. This will be accompanied by a new information sharing provision which will make it easier for HM Revenue and Customs to find out about Swiss accounts held by UK taxpayers. The new charges will not apply if the taxpayer authorises a full disclosure of their affairs to HMRC.
Source : http://nds.coi.gov.uk

Privacy Versus Freedom of Speech – Twitter, Wikileaks and the Law?


English: Julian Assange, photo ("sunny co...

Image via Wikipedia

In the Universal declaration of human rights there are two interesting articles and it seems to me that they are both equally as important as each other however they can also be in opposition to one another – creating a subtle dichotomy in terms of the law and its interpretation the first article is Article
Article 12 states : “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” –
Article 19 states, however;
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Ths the dilemma the case of super-injunctions versus electronic expression of speech, from the micro-blogging site Twitter.

One a footballer taking out a super-injunction against the media’s printing of his affair with an ex-big brother model. And only recently ago worldwide Governments,  the US included calling for legal action against  Julian Assange , of Wikileaks decision to publish it’s US intelligence telegrams among the intelligence files it’s already published. So a footballer paying for ‘privacy’ law and Governments demanding ‘privacy on sensitive ininformation against Wikileaks published articles.

In spite of this the users and site owners on the internet are making history by disregarding either law or honour and choose to ‘publish and be damned’
Today however, Twitter’s new European boss has made clear that Twitter will co-operate with any local legislation and where users have been found to have broken local laws in their country that they will contact not only the user to inform them that they may face prosecution but also assist the authorities by providing user information should it be required. Users of Twitter have now been warned not to break their countries laws.

He has suggested that users who break privacy injunctions by posting on the site could face the UK courts. Of those users who flouted any privacy laws he said that those that did “bad things” needed to defend themselves – however he also warned that the site would hand over user information to the authorities where they were “legally required”.
Currently lawyers and the courts are looking to establish the identity of those people responsible for naming the footballer who had taken out the super injunction. These people will probably when found be not as fortunate as MP John Hemming who repeated the Twitter gossip to make Parliament aware on Monday of Ryan Giggs as named on Twitter as the person who had used a super-injunction to hide his alleged affair under the guise of discrediting the law surrounding the use of super-injunction. Mr Hemmings MP using his right of Parliamentary privilege to legally do so. He previously named disgraced banker chief Fred Goodwin as having taken out a super-injunction to cover a similar extra-marital affair.
Twitter‘s Mr. Wang told BBC reporters at the e-G8 Forum today though that social networking platforms have a responsibility to not to defend the user “but to protect that user’s right to defend him or herself”.
Legal jurisdiction and the internet is the hot topic at the moment at the e-G8 forum with Eric Schmidt of Google and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook also speaking on the issue at the event. Many see that the US constitution allows for a clear cut answer – the freedom of speech over antiquated UK law , Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia likened the use of ‘privacy laws’ to secrecy and the Chinese government’s response to free speech “I do view it to being similar to the Chinese situation where they also cover up misdeeds of high ranking people,”
It is apparent that governments and popular celebrities preferring privacy and secrecy and the internet demanding open free speech will have to resolve this opposition to each other soon and unfortunately as the internet is global local jurisdiction and laws may now require a complete rethink.

Cicero.

Sky News

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