Sunday, 5 November 2017

ICIJ set to release 'Panama Papers 2' tonight

ICIJ set to release 'Panama Papers 2'tonight

PHOTO: Twitter
PHOTO: Twitter
The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ)the media group that coordinated the Panama Papers investigation into offshore companies, is set to unravel its “new leak” on Sunday night.

In April last year, the ICIJ had published 11.5 million documents – dubbed the Panama Papers – from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca that were leaked to a German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. They revealed how some of the world’s wealthiest and most powerful people legally hide their cash.
This time, the ICIJ is expected to expose the financial secrets of the super-rich clients of offshore law firm Appleby.
According to a report published in Business Insider, Appleby admitted that its data had been stolen in a cyber attack last year.
The law firm, which has offices in territories including Bermuda, admitted it was “not infallible” and said some client data had been stolen in the hack, but denied any wrongdoing.
The ICIJ approached the firm with allegations of wrongdoing, after it was handed data obtained in the hack, which Appleby strongly refuted.
Appleby said in a statement it did not tolerate “illegal behaviour,” and said the ICIJ’s allegations were “unfounded and based on a lack of understanding of the legitimate and lawful structures used in the offshore sector.” The firm said it had investigated the allegations “thoroughly and vigorously,” and was satisfied there was no evidence of wrongdoing “either on the part of ourselves or our clients.”
Appleby, which has branches in tax havens including the Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands, specialises in advising high-net worth individuals as well as public and private companies. Its clients are said to include FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies, and the individuals affected by the leak are reported to be among the richest in the UK.
The Panama Papers shook the world, especially Pakistan where they caused the ouster of Nawaz Sharif from the post of the prime minister.

15 things in the Republican tax bill's fine print that could affect you

Changes to widely used parts of the tax code such as the mortgage deduction and the child tax credit grabbed the headlines when the 429-page bill dubbed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was unveiled Thursday by House Republicans.
But a closer look shows there are scores of benefits in the tax code that would be eliminated or become harder to claim under as Congress tries to make taxes lower for more people and simpler to understand.
Here's a look at 15 tax credits, deductions or exclusions that would change, according to a summary of the bill and the full text. Most of the changes would be effective next year.
Adoption: A tax credit worth up to $13,750 per child would end.
Alimony: To eliminate what Ways and Means Committee documents referred to as a "divorce subsidy," alimony would no longer be deductible by the payor for decrees issued after 2017. Payments would be excluded from the recipient's income.
Classroom costs: Teachers could no longer write off the cost of supplies they buy. 
College boosters: Sports fans would no longer be able to deduct 80% of the cost of donations to colleges if they are made only to become eligible to buy seats for games or get preferences such as prime parking spots. 
Disaster losses: Currently, losses from theft or events such as flood, fire or tornado that exceed 10% of adjusted gross income are deductible. The bill would repeal that deduction, with one exception — disasters given special treatment by a prior act of Congress. A law enacted Sept. 29 increased the deduction for losses caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and it was sponsored by Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas. Brady, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, is also sponsoring the tax overhaul.
Employee achievement awards: Complicated rules that allowed some cash awards from employers to be tax-free to the worker would become taxable.
Employer-provided housing: Rules allowing for some workers to get housing and meals tax-free from their employers would face a new cap of $50,000, and benefits would be phased out for those earning more than $120,000.
Home sale gains: Right now, the gain on the sale of a home is not taxable if it is under $500,000 for joint filers as long as the home was the owner's primary residence for two of the previous five years. New rules would require a home to be the primary home for five of the past eight years to qualify, and the income exclusion would be phased out for taxpayers with incomes over $500,000. 
Major medical costs: The decision to eliminate the deduction for medical expenses exceeding 7.5% of adjusted gross income was one of the bill's "tough calls," Brady said Friday. "The call is this: Do we want a tax code that has special provisions that you may need once in your life, or do we want a tax code that lowers rates every year of your life?" he said.
Moving expenses: The cost of moving 50 miles or farther to take a new job had been deductible, but that would end.
Office day care center: Companies could no longer claim a credit of 25% of the expenses for employee child care.
Rare disease research: A credit for 50% of the cost of clinical testing of drugs for rare diseases and conditions would be repealed.
Stadium bonds: State and local governments could still issue bonds for your favorite professional sports teams, but the interest would not be tax-free for bonds issued after Thursday.
Tax preparation fees: The tax code would no longer let you deduct the cost of paying someone to figure out the tax code for you.
Work perks: Employers could no longer deduct the cost of workplace gyms, entertainment, amusement or recreation activities, facilities, or membership dues relating to social purposes. An exception is provided for benefits are treated as taxable compensation for the employee.

Kentucky Governor Wants Resignations over Harassment Scandal

Kentucky Governor Wants Resignations over Harassment Scandal

Image: Kentucky Governor Wants Resignations over Harassment Scandal
Saturday, 04 Nov 2017 07:41 PM
Kentucky's Republican governor says a sexual harassment scandal in the statehouse involves "multiple events and multiple people" and has called on everyone involved to resign immediately without naming them publicly.
Gov. Matt Bevin held a news conference at the state Capitol on Saturday, days after the Courier-Journal reported Republican House Speaker Jeff Hoover settled a sexual harassment claim outside of court with one of his staffers.
"I am calling ... for the immediate resignation of every individual who has settled a sexual harassment case who is party to trying to hide this type of behavior," Bevin said. He stressed that the allegations have not been denied and that they "were not isolated to a single person or a single event but involve multiple events and multiple people."
"This is not about naming specific names. It is about specific behaviors," Bevin said. Bevin did not answer questions from reporters. As he was leaving, a reporter asked if Bevin wanted Hoover to resign.
"You heard me," he said.
Hoover has refused to confirm or deny the settlement. But in a private meeting with House Republicans, Hoover said he was "legally" prohibited from talking about it and said he had asked for forgiveness from his family, according to Republican state Rep. Wesley Morgan, who attended the meeting.
Saturday, House GOP leaders issued a news release saying they planned to hire a private law firm to investigate the allegations. The leaders said they had not consulted Hoover about the decision, but had told him about it. The release said the investigators would have the power to subpoena witnesses.
"Speaker Hoover, as of now, has the support of the Republican caucus to remain in his leadership position," according to a statement attributed to Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, Majority Leader Jonathan Shell, Majority Whip Kevin Bratcher and Majority Caucus chairman David Meade. "And we reserve the right, based on the results of the investigation, to revisit the status of anyone involved, including Speaker Hoover."
But Hoover does not have the support of all Republican lawmakers. Morgan, the Republican state representative from Richmond, posted on his Twitter account that Hoover should resign immediately. He accused Hoover and other Republican leaders of conspiring to hide allegations of sexual harassment, including threatening whistleblowers "with loss of employment and physical intimidation."

Hawaii Protesters Turn Out Against Trump Visit: 'No Aloha'

Hawaii Protesters Turn Out Against Trump Visit: 'No Aloha'

Image: Hawaii Protesters Turn Out Against Trump Visit: 'No Aloha'
Edward Idquino, center, who holds a Trump Make America Great Again sign confronts a anti-Trump crowd protesting at the capitol in Honolulu. (Craig T. Kojima/The Star-Advertiser via AP)
By    |   Saturday, 04 Nov 2017 08:19 
Residents in Hawaii protested President Donald Trump's visit Friday with signs blasting "Welcome to Kenya" — even sporting a full-sized cardboard figure of former President Barack Obama — to attack the Republican's "birtherism" campaign against his predecessor.
"I have no 'aloha' for him and I don’t think the state of Hawaii does either," Laura Margulies, a protester who held a sign that read "No Aloha 4 Trump," told The Washington Post.
She was among several hundred demonstrators who gathered at the Hawaii State Capitol as Trump arrived in the Aloha State before embarking on his tour of Asia, the Post reports.
He left Saturday for Tokyo after touring Pearl Harbor.
Protesters also bashed President Trump's anti-immigration efforts — and they called their rally "Hawaii 3-Trump 0," referring to the number of times courts in the state blocked Trump's travel ban orders.
"Hawaii is the most diverse state in the nation — and just a few days ago Trump literally said, 'Diversity sounds like a good thing, but it is not a good thing,'" State Democratic Rep. Kaniela Ing told Hawaii News Now.
"That statement alone undermines the values that make Hawaii, Hawaii," he said.
Another state Democrat Davey Strand, brought the Obama cut-out, which sported a University of Hawaii baseball cap, the Post reports.
Strand said his wife was born in the same hospital as Obama — and he slammed Trump's birtherism claims as "insulting."
"I'm really upset that Trump is on our island," demonstrator Kanani Ai told Hawaii News Now. "We don't like his brand of racism here and we want him to leave as soon as possible.
"I've stayed out of politics my whole life and it's not about Republican or Democrat," she said. "It's about human rights."

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Global community rejects Catalan's independence declaration

People holding placards reading "Help Catalonia. Save Europe" gather outside the Catalan parliament in Barcelona. — AFP
People holding placards reading "Help Catalonia. Save Europe" gather outside the Catalan parliament in Barcelona.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had his “full support” in enforcing the law in Catalonia as Madrid readies to take direct control of the rebellious province.
Catalan lawmakers voted on Friday to declare independence from Spain but Madrid moved swiftly to quash the breakaway bid in a sharp escalation of a crisis causing jitters in secession-wary Europe.
As thousands of pro-independence activists cheered outside, the regional parliament in Barcelona passed a resolution declaring Catalonia “a republic in the form of an independent and sovereign state”.
“I have one partner in Spain, that's Prime Minister Rajoy... the rule of law prevails in Spain, with constitutional rules. He wants to ensure they are respected and he has my full support,” Macron told reporters on the sidelines of a visit to the overseas territory of French Guiana.
His Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made it clear that France “does not recognise the declaration of independence”.
Spain's constitution “must be respected,” he added. “France wants a strong and unified Spain.”
Earlier this week French backers of Catalonian independence offered “hospitality” to Catalan President Carles Puidgemont to lead a government-in-exile in Perpignan, a southern French city with deep Catalan roots.
France's Pyrenees-Orientales area was for centuries a part of Catalonia, only becoming French in the latter half of the 17th century.

'United Spain'

Canada too rejected the Catalan regional government's unilateral declaration of independence and urged dialogue between Madrid and the breakaway region of Spain.
“In accordance with international legal principles, these decisions must be made within the constitutional framework,” Andrew Leslie, the parliamentary secretary to Canada's foreign affairs minister, told the Commons.
“Given this, Canada recognises a united Spain,” he said. “A dialogue between Spain and Catalonia within the constitutional framework remains the best way forward.”
Catalan lawmakers sharply escalated the political crisis in Spain by voting to declare independence, with Madrid immediately vowing to “restore legality” and quash the region's secessionist bid.
Canada's reaction mirrored those of European allies who voiced support for Rajoy.
Many of the Spanish Republicans that fled to the region during the long dictatorship of General Francisco Franco were Catalan.

Call for restraint

European Union President Donald Tusk insisted Madrid “remains our only interlocutor” in Spain after the independence vote that could test the stability of a key member of the bloc.
Wary of nationalist and secessionist sentiment, particularly after Britain's dramatic decision last year to leave the EU, the bloc has stood firmly behind Madrid in the escalating standoff.
Tusk nevertheless urged Madrid to exercise restraint.
“I hope the Spanish government favours force of argument, not an argument of force,” he tweeted.
Puigdemont also urged calm.
“We will have to maintain the momentum of this country (Catalonia) in the coming hours,” he told lawmakers and onlookers in Barcelona while urging them to do so in the spirit of “peace, civic responsibility and dignity”.
The United States, one of Spain's NATO allies, declared its backing for Madrid using “constitutional measures to keep Spain strong and united”.
Germany and Britain too rejected the notion of Catalan independence.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Two American Women Rescued After Five Months at Sea

Two American Women Rescued After Five Months at Sea

Two American women lost at sea for five long months have been rescued after a broken mast and a disabled engine took them thousands of miles off course.

Jennifer Appel, 48, and friend Tasha Fuiava were found by a Taiwanese fishing vessel around 900 miles southeast of Japan, the U.S. Navy said Thursday. A Navy ship based out of Sasebo, Japan, rescued them on Wednesday morning Japan time.

"When I saw the gray boat on the edge of the horizon, my heart leapt because I knew that we were about to be saved," Appel told TODAY. "I honestly believed that we were about to die within the next 24 hours."

Two women and their dogs rescued by Navy after 5 months at sea 2:48
On May 23, the women set off from Oahu bound for Tahiti, about 2,600 miles away, but problems soon arose. First, a piece of the mast called a spreader failed, Appel said, limiting the sailboat's maneuverability, and on May 30 a storm flooded the engine. Communications were also impacted.

Appel and Fuiava described a sense of despair after making daily distress calls for 98 days straight, but the calls were out of range. They spotted other ships that did not or could not respond, and fired at least 10 flares. Twice the ship was attacked by Tiger sharks, they said.

"I could see light and I could see vessels, and once you get closer, we thought it would be close enough to do a [distress] call," Fuiava told TODAY. "When they would turn and keep going, yeah, it was kind of sad."

The women were rescued along with their two dogs, Zeus and Valentine, who had been aboard with them. While the dogs provided an immense source of comfort during the ordeal, at times Appel and Fuiava feared they would tip off sharks circling around their boat.

"I went downstairs with the boys and we basically laid huddled on the floor and I told them not to bark because the sharks could hear us breathing. They could smell us," Appel said.

On the 99th day of distress calls, a Taiwanese fishing vessel found them, they said. It began towing the sailboat, but by that time Appel said the ship was in such poor condition she estimates it wouldn’t have lasted another a day.

The Taiwanese ship's crew contacted the Coast Guard in Guam, and the USS Ashland, an amphibious dock landing ship, sped toward the area and reached the sailboat at around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday Japan local time (9:30 p.m. Tuesday ET), the Navy said.

Video released by the Navy showed Appel blowing kisses to an approaching U.S. vessel as the two dogs barked and scampered about.

 Dramatic Rescue: Navy Saves Two Americans Lost at Sea for Months 1:22
The journey from Hawaii to Tahiti is a fairly common route that normally takes about a month to complete.

Before departing, the mariners had loaded their boat full of supplies. They had water purifiers and a year's worth of food aboard — mostly dry goods like oatmeal, pasta and rice — and used those to survive, the Navy said.

Sailing experts in Honolulu had advised that for the trip to Tahiti they should pack the boat with as much food as possible in case of emergency, Appel said.

Spain's PM calls December election in Catalonia

Mr Rajoy took the decision as part of emergency measures in response to Catalonia's parliament voting to declare independence.
Spanish Prime Minister responds to Catalan MPs' vote to approve independence
Video:Spain PM: 'Catalonia needs to reconcile with itself' 
The Spanish Prime Minister has dissolved Catalonia's parliament and called a regional election for 21 December under sweeping powers.
Mariano Rajoy took the decision as part of emergency measures in response to Catalan MPs voting to declare independence from Spain.
He said he would seek to declare the vote illegal.
Mr Rajoy also said Catalonia's police chief will be sacked and central government departments will assume the powers of the Catalan administration.
The Spanish government is shutting down Catalonia's foreign affairs department and dismissing its delegates in Brussels and Madrid.
Applause breaks out across Catalan parliament after it votes in favour of declaring independence
Image:Applause breaks out across Catalan parliament after it votes in favour of declaring independence
He said it is important to call fresh elections to ensure "nobody can act outside the law", but added "we never wanted to come to this point".
He said the aim was to return Catalonia to "normality and legality" as soon as possible.
The move will increase tensions with separatists who celebrated in their thousands outside the Catalan government palace after the declaration was made.
They watched events inside from two giant screens as they clapped and shouted "independence" in Catalan.
A flag with the text in Catalan 'The people lead' is held up as people gather to celebrate the proclamation of a Catalan republic at the Sant Jaume square in Barcelona on October 27, 2017. Catalonia's parliament voted to declare independence from Spain and proclaim a republic, just as Madrid is poised to impose direct rule on the region to stop it in its tracks. A motion declaring independence was approved with 70 votes in favour, 10 against and two abstentions, with Catalan opposition MPs walki
Image:A flag with 'The people lead' is held up in Sant Jaume Square
The motion, which was boycotted by opposition parties, said Catalonia was an independent, sovereign and social democratic state, and called on other countries and institutions to recognise it.
However, after the announcement from the Catalan parliament, Mr Rajoy hinted that their celebrations would be short-lived by saying they had done "something that is not possible - declare independence".
The supporters who had gathered in Sant Jaume Square in Barcelona to hear the Catalan declaration were told of Mr Rajoy's decision to sack the region's parliament.
A band took to the stage and the crowd defiantly began singing and dancing to music, shouting: "We are not moving."