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NATO has scrambled fighter jets more than 400 times this year to intercept Russian military flights close to alliance members’ airspace in Europe, the alliance’s secretary general said this week.

That’s a 50 percent increase in Russian air activity over last year and the kind of activity that harkens back to the days of the Cold War, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to NATO member Estonia on Thursday.

“This pattern is risky and unjustified. So NATO remains vigilant. We are here. And we are ready to defend all allies against any threat,” he said at Amari Airbase in Estonia, where U.S., German and Estonian troops were gathered.

Stoltenberg said few of the Russian flights had actually violated the airspace of NATO nations, but he said the way the Russian planes operate threatens civilian aviation in the region.

“They are not filing their air flight plans. They are not turning on the transponders. And they are not communicating with the civilian air traffic control,” he said.

“We are calling on Russia to conduct their military air activities in a responsible way and respecting international norms for this kind of air activity,” Stoltenberg said.

In a report earlier this month, the European Leadership Network listed more than 40 “close military encounters between Russia and the West” that took place in the eight months from March to October of this year.

Three of those, including a near collision between a Russian military plane and a Swedish passenger aircraft carrying 132 people, were classified as “high-risk” incidents that could have led to direct military confrontation between Russia and the West, according to the report, titled “Dangerous Brinksmanship.”

Russia also has said it will expand its military flights, with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu saying this month that Russian military aircraft would be flying along U.S. coasts and even into the Gulf of Mexico.

“We have to maintain (Russia’s) military presence in the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico,” including sending bombers “as part of the drills,” Shoigu said.

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NATO jets are scrambling more for Russians



NATO warns of “very serious” buildup of Russian troops
Stoltenberg is in Brussels to meet European defense ministers as they discuss the crisis in Ukraine and the bloc's defense budget. Meanwhile, in Kiev, German…

By: PressTV News Videos

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NATO warns of "very serious" buildup of Russian troops – Video

NATO dispatched fighter jets to intercept a Russian IL-20 military surveillance plane over the Baltic Sea today, the third such incident this week.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organizations CF-18 Hornet fighters, Canadian jets based in Lithuania, confronted the Russian aircraft over international waters near Latvias border, the Latvian army said on Twitter. A Russian navy tanker ship was also observed 11.6 nautical miles from Latvian waters yesterday, the army said in a separate Twitter post, the vessels second sighting near the maritime border in the past three days.

Related: Russia Denies Ukraine Blame After Germans Push for Talks

The encounters have added to growing strains between Russia and the military alliance over the conflict in Ukraine. Russian warplanes and ships have increased their activity across the Baltic Sea from St. Petersburg to the Kaliningrad exclave that borders NATO members Poland and Lithuania.

The alliance pledged in September to bolster the defenses of frontline states in eastern Europe in response to what it said was Russian involvement in Ukraine. NATO interceptions of Russian military planes over the Baltic more than doubled in 2014 from last year, rising to 112 before yesterday, the news service BNS reported, citing Lithuanias Defense Ministry. That compares with 47 such incidents in 2013 and 44 in 2012.

NATO jets also intercepted a Russian IL-20 yesterday and a Su-27 fighter plane on Nov. 17 after four similar incidents last week.

President Vladimir Putin said in a TV interview with German broadcaster ARD on Nov. 16 that Russian planes and ships dont violate European borders and that military exercises take place exclusively in international waters and over international airspace.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ott Ummelas in Tallinn at oummelas@bloomberg.net; Milda Seputyte in Vilnius at mseputyte@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net Paul Abelsky, James Kraus

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NATO Intercept Russian Planes Over Baltic for Third Day

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Photo: Reuters

Washington: In May, reacting to revelations of the National Security Agency’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records, members of the House of Representatives voted by a wide margin to end the program.

On Tuesday night, their counterparts across the US Capitol could not win enough votes to proceed even with debate on a bill that sought to accomplish much the same thing.

Part of what accounts for the different outcome is a shift in the climate over the past six months, as a steady stream of disclosures about government surveillance has abated. At the same time, Republican opponents of an overhaul of the NSA’s programs have been bolstered by a renewed fear of terrorist attacks by the Islamic State militant group and a sense that now is not the time to alter the intelligence community’s authorities.

National Security Administration (NSA) campus in Fort Meade.

Indeed, GOP advocates for the NSA and others appealed to those fears in moving to block the Senate debate.

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On the eve of the vote, two former top national security officials campaigned against the bill in a Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined “NSA Reform that Only ISIS Could Love.” ISIS is another designation for Islamic State, the Sunni militants battling for control for parts of Iraq and Syria.

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden, who also headed the CIA, and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey warned that IS “uses sophisticated Internet communications to swell its ranks with recruits bearing US, Canadian or European passports who can easily slip back into their native countries and wreak havoc.”

That op-ed set the tone for Tuesday’s GOP-led assault on the USA Freedom Act, which also specified other surveillance reforms.

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NSA reform bill voted down in US Senate amid terror fears



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Ukash money: http://www.ukash-paid.com Instant exchange of the European vouchers Ukash EUR, Ukash GBP for electronic money of the international payment systems PayPal, Perfect Money, Skrill,…

By: Angela Smith

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Ukash EUR to Bitcoin, Ukash GBP to Bitcoin exchange. Ukash to Bitcoin converting. – Video

A California court has upheld Google’s apparent free speech right to display search results in whatever order it chooses, which is bad news for anyone who uses Google. In other words, most internet users.

In fact, the only people this is good for are the ones who work at Google.

As reported by GigaOM, the case originated when a website called CoastNews alleged Google was pushing it far down in search results. CoastNews apparently appears high up in Bing and Yahoo results, but according to the site Google interfered in its own results to keep it lower on the list of what people see when they search for San Francisco neighborhood-related queries.

Why Google would care about any of this is a mystery to you and me, but to CoastNews it’s a conspiracy. It’s possible that Google’s unique search algorithms simply produced those results naturally, but that’s beside the point.

Yes, whether or not Google really was mucking with where CoastNew appeared in search results is now irrelevant, since the court granted Google’s anti-SLAPP motion – a lightning legal tactic to uphold the company’s free speech – and ruled that Google can legally present results in any order it wants.

That’s good news for Google, but it might not be so great for average users who just want to see the most relevant results – and not necessarily only the results Google wants them to see.

Even if Google wasn’t tampering with results related to CoastNews (the case never went to trial, so Google was never officially found to), with nothing legally stopping Google from doing so in the future, the temptation will no doubt prove overwhelming to the search giant.

Why show searchers Yelp first, when Google Maps offers restaurant reviews, too? Why let anyone find out more about Apple Pay when the search company would rather you use Google Wallet anyway? This is the reality we now find ourselves in, though hopefully Google will keep its motto – “don’t be evil” – in mind.

In the US “free speech” trumps all, and it seems internet search queries may suffer as a result. But even accepting that search results produced by a mathematical algorithm can possibly constitute an expression that warrants free speech protections, something that is debatable, shouldn’t we maybe consider making an exception and not give the single most ubiquitous search service on the planet the option to filter out what it feels like?

Google has been batting back and forth with European Union regulators about this issue for years, and it’s losing the game overseas. Regulators there are forcing Google to take steps like displaying competitors’ ads in prominent positions, for example. Good for them.

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Opinion: Why Google's right to re-order search results is bad for everyone



NATO Secretary General at the European Union Foreign Affairs Council, 18 NOV 2014
Doorstep statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg upon arrival at European Union Foreign Affairs Council, 18 November 2014. http://goo.gl/7CuqcJ.

By: NATO

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NATO Secretary General at the European Union Foreign Affairs Council, 18 NOV 2014 – Video



Georgian PM Confirms NATO Bid: Georgian PM reiterates EU and NATO membership ambitions
Georgia's prime minister has told the European Union and NATO that his country remained firmly committed to integration with both organisations after his dismissal of a pro-Western minister…

By: UKRAINE TODAY

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Georgian PM Confirms NATO Bid: Georgian PM reiterates EU and NATO membership ambitions – Video

Russia denies providing arms or troops to support a separatist pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine, which began after the removal of a Kremlin-oriented Ukrainian president by mass protests in February. A ceasefire was agreed in early September, but fighting flared again recently.

Stoltenberg told reporters as he arrived for a meeting with European Union defence ministers he had information on a buildup inside Ukraine.

“But we also see a military buildup on the Russian side of the border…This is a serious military buildup and we call on Russia to pull back its troops,” he said.

Read MoreIs there anything the West can do to stop Putin?

Russia denied similar accusations last week by NATO’s top military commander, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, who said NATO had spotted military equipment arriving from Russia in regions of east Ukraine held by pro-Russian separatist rebels.

General-Major Igor Konashenkov, a Russian Defence Ministry official, dismissed Breedlove’s comments last week as anti-Russian “hot air”.

More:
NATO leader: 'Serious military buildup' in Ukraine

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg criticized Russia Tuesday amid evidence of a very serious military buildup in eastern Ukraine and on the Russian side of the border. Stoltenberg pressed Russian leaders to withdraw their troops and weapons from the region and re-dedicate themselves to the peace process.

Russia has a choice. Russian can either be part of a peaceful negotiated solution or Russia can continue on a path of isolation, Stoltenberg said, according to Agence France-Presse. The international community calls on Russia to be part of the solution.

NATO claims to have seen an increase in Russian troops, artillery, anti-aircraft weaponry and tanks in eastern Ukraine, Reuters reports. The apparent escalation would violate the terms of a shaky cease-fire agreement in the region. Russia has denied that it sent troops into Ukraine or that it provides armed support to pro-Russian separatists in the war-torn nation.

“But we also see a military buildup on the Russian side of the border…This is a serious militarybuildup and we call onRussiato pull back its troops,” Stoltenberg said.

Stoltenbergs comments came one week after top NATO commander Gen. Philip Breedlove accused Russia of military aggression in and around Ukraine. Russian tanks, Russian artillery, Russian air defense systems and Russian combat troops of unknown intent were seen in the eastern European nation, he said.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu denied the charges on Nov. 12, stating that there was and is no evidence to support NATOs claims. Shortly thereafter, Shoigu announced that Russian long-range bomber patrols would extend as far as the Arctic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

The United States and the European Union each levied sanctions against Russian in response to its alleged military involvement in Ukraine. Putin decried the sanctions as illegal ahead of last weekends G-20 summit in Australia.

This contradicts international law, because sanctions can only be imposed within the framework of the United Nations and its Security Council, Putin said in an interview with Itar-Tass, a Russian state news agency. This is harmful, and of course is doing us some damage, but its harmful for them as well because, in essence, its undermining the entire system of economic relations.

Go here to read the rest:
NATO Criticizes 'Very Serious' Russian Military Buildup In Ukraine, Presses Russia To Aid Peace Process

Europe and the US continue to drift further apart on Google. Even as European parliamentarians and regulators seek ways to restrain Googles discretion over search results, US courts continue to affirm Googles right to do whatever it wants with search results paid and organic.

A California state court in San Francisco recently granted Googles case-ending motion in lawsuit against the company (per GigaOm). The action, filed in June of this year in San Francisco Superior Court, was called S. Louis Martin vs. Google Inc.

Drafted and filed by the non-attorney publisher of San Francisco Bay Area Tourism website CoastNews.com, the complaint alleged unfair and deceptive business practices against Google.

The basic factual allegations included the claim that CoastNews ranked at the top of search results on Bing and Yahoo for San Francisco neighborhood keywords but didnt rank in a comparable position on Google. Plaintiff Martin asserted that Googles unfair and monopolistic business practices cause him lost revenue and future growth and harmed consumers as well.

Martin asked for a jury trial and sought roughly $5 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Google prevailed by framing plaintiffs claim as a SLAPP lawsuit. SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation. SLAPP suits are usually filed by corporations or other powerful interests often to intimidate or silence less-powerful critics.

The irony here is that the corporation (Google) was claiming that this individual plaintiff (Martin) was trying to silence its First Amendment-protected speech. The Superior Court agreed.

In its motion, essentially to dismiss the case, Google cited various prior cases and precedents that establish Google has total discretion over the content of its search results as a protected expression of its First Amendment free speech rights.

The 2003 decision Search King, cited above, was the first case (to my knowledge) to hold that Googles editorial control of search results was protected by the free speech clause of the First Amendment. That was reaffirmed earlier this year in a US District Court case called Zhang et al.v.Baidu.com (also cited above).

Continue reading here:
Another Court Affirms Googles First Amendment Control Of Search Results

However, Google responded by filing an anti-SLAPP motion a legal tactic used to quickly challenge lawsuits that seek to stifle free speech, under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The ruling underlines the stark difference in how US and European authorities approach the issue of search engine regulation.

In Europe, regulators are in the process of imposing a series of measures such as forcing Google to display rivals’ ads in prominent places to address the companys allegedly anti-competitive practices.

Rivals have complained that Google is abusing its three quarters share of the web search market to artificially promote its own specialist services, such as shopping comparison and restaurant reviews.

If the case had gone to court and Google had lost it would be liable for fines of up to a tenth of its $50bn (30.7bn) global turnover. However, Google cut a deal with the European Commission in February.

See the article here:
US court rules Google's search results qualify as free speech

Investing.com –

Investing.com – Bitcoin prices rallied to trade above the $400-level on Monday, as speculators returned to the market amid bullish chart signals.

Bitcoin (BTC/USD) touched a session high of $415.00 on Slovenia-based BitStamp earlier in the day, before trimming gains to last trade at $406.60 during U.S. morning hours, up $18.37, or 4.73%.

The price of a bitcoin on Bulgaria-based BTC-e climbed $18.57, or 4.87%, to trade at $400.07, while prices on Singapore-based itBit tacked on $15.11, or 3.89%, to trade at $404.00.

According to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index, which averages prices from the major exchanges, prices of the crypto-currency rallied 4.18%, or $16.22, to trade at $404.78.

Bitcoin prices have been well-supported in recent days as investors returned to the market amid bullish chart signals.

Prices of the virtual currency are up nearly 22% since hitting a recent low of $317.80 on November 1.

The price increase has been accompanied by a rise in trading volume and coincides with the recent crackdown of U.S. and European authorities against illegal websites operating on the so-called Tor network, such as online drug marketplace Silk Road 2.0.

Meanwhile, euro-denominated Bitcoin prices (BTC/EUR) inched up 11.00, or 3.53%, to trade at 322.52 on U.S.-based Kraken Exchange.

Elsewhere, yuan-denominated Bitcoin prices on Shanghai-based BTC China advanced 101.29 yuan, or 4.28%, to trade at 2,467.01 yuan, while prices on Beijing-based OKCoin increased 101.57 yuan, or 4.29%, to trade at 2,469.00 yuan.

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Bitcoin climbs 5% to trade back above the $400-level

Nov 142014

Tempests in tax havens

By Nikos Konstandaras

The claim that Luxembourg has been offering negligible tax rates to multinational companies might just convince Europeans of the need to harmonize their tax systems. It is clear we cannot continue in a situation whereby some countries and parts of countries can go on providing services which, in the end, deprive others of revenues. When Greece has been sucked dry by austerity, high taxes and a lack of investment, when almost all EU countries are struggling to meet their obligations to their citizens and partners, it is inconceivable that tiny Luxembourg should have attracted at least 340 major companies and investment funds with almost 3 trillion euros. With this, Luxembourgs citizens enjoy the second-highest per capita income in the world, after Qatar.

A recent report by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists claimed that some companies were offered tax rates as low as 0.25 percent. Officially, corporate income tax in Luxembourg is 22.5 percent. Among EU countries, tax rates in Ireland (12.5 percent) and Germany (15.8 percent) are at the low end, whereas in France (34.4 percent) and Belgium (33.9 percent) they are at the top. In Greece the rate is 26 percent. With various breaks and benefits, in many countries the final rate is much lower than the nominal one, but the very low rates that companies were asked to pay in Luxembourg (as well as in Ireland and the Netherlands, with a nominal tax rate of 25 percent) indicate that the system is skewed.

The chasm between 12.5 percent in Ireland and 34.4 percent in France is already too great and needs fixing. According to EU treaties, each country has the right to set its own tax rates. Even when Ireland was forced to ask its EU partners for a bailout, French President Nicolas Sarkozy failed in his effort to force Dublin to raise taxes. In this way, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is correct when he says that Luxembourgs tax regulations are not illegal. What many observe, though, is that they are unethical, offering companies and individuals the opportunity to avoid paying taxes in the countries where they earned their profits. There is also the question of whether any companies received special treatment.

Defending himself in the European Parliament, Juncker, who dominated politics in Luxembourg for over two decades, declared that the Commission will investigate the issue and will propose ways to harmonize tax systems and exchange information between countries. The G20 summit in Brisbane this weekend is expected to deal with tax evasion, among other issues. Everywhere there is a pressing need for more funds and greater justice, so the time has come for many countries (and parts of countries, such as the Channel Islands) to lose the privileges which allowed them to get rich at the expense of others. Greece will gain from this only if it combines tax harmonization with greater stability in its tax system and with a fundamental improvement in the dispensation of justice in issues pertaining to investment and taxation. This is our challenge.

Continued here:
Tempests in tax havens

Published November 12, 2014

BRISBANE, Australia The politically-fraught issue of forcing big, multinational companies to pay more tax will be high on the agenda at this weekend’s G-20 summit in Brisbane.

There has been an ongoing effort by governments to crack down on tax avoidance, with companies such as Google and Amazon facing criticism for moving profits earned in one country to other countries with lower tax rates. The G-20 also tackled the issue at last year’s summit, vowing to set up a system that would compel companies to pay tax in the countries where they make money.

Last month, 51 countries signed an agreement under which they will automatically exchange data collected by financial institutions as early as 2017. The move is designed to increase transparency and discourage tax cheats.

The problem, known as “base erosion and profit shifting,” has stoked public fury at a time when the global economy is still struggling to recover from the 2008 financial crisis. Critics see it as an outrageous example of the powerful being given an unfair advantage, while the poor suffer the consequences. The companies argue they’re not breaking any laws.

Just last week, leaked documents suggested that hundreds of big companies such as Pepsi and IKEA had organized tax-lowering deals with the tiny nation of Luxembourg. The news prompted swift condemnation from Luxembourg’s European neighbors, many of whom have imposed harsh and hated austerity measures to keep government budgets afloat following the global recession.

Public anger is likely the reason the issue has taken such prominence on the G-20′s agenda. But will the group, which represents the 20 biggest industrialized and developing economies, take any concrete action?

“They can’t, because the problem is, multinationals operate across many jurisdictions all those jurisdictions want to claim taxing rights,” says Rick Krever, head of the Department of Business Law and Taxation at Australia’s Monash University.

“Under the current system, multinationals can decide where in the world their profits are located. The shareholders are absolutely indifferent. And if you can locate them in the place that reduces your taxes, the shareholders are happy.”

In other words, there’s little motivation to change the system.

See more here:
Make 'em pay: G-20 to take on big companies that use tax havens. But will anything change?

Nov 122014

NATO says it has tracked and intercepted four groups of Russian warplanes ‘conducting significant military manoeuvres’ in European airspace over the past two days.

‘These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace,’ NATO said on Wednesday.

The planes, which included strategic bombers, fighters and tanker aircraft, were detected over the Baltic Sea, North Sea/Atlantic Ocean and the Black Sea on Tuesday and Wednesday, it said.

NATO allies sent up aircraft to intercept and identify the Russian planes which were continually tracked on the ground as well, it said in a report from its SHAPE military headquarters in Mons, western Belgium.

The report made no mention of the Ukraine crisis nor linked the increased activity to it.

However, Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, which NATO has said constitutes the most serious threat to US-Europe security since the Cold War, has sent tensions soaring.

NATO’s eastern members, many of them such as Poland and the Baltic states once ruled from Moscow, have been particularly nervous and the US-led alliance has put in place additional aircraft and personnel on a rotating basis to reassure them.

Russia’s intervention and the speed with which it was able to bring military pressure to bear on Kiev in support of pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine’s east surprised many and badly rattled countries on NATO’s eastern flank.

In a breakdown of the incidents, NATO said that in the early hours Wednesday, eight Russian aircraft — four TU-95 strategic bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and four tankers — were detected over the North Sea, flying in international airspace.

Four Norwegian F-16 fighters were sent up to intercept them.

See more here:
NATO intercepts 19 Russian planes

Investing.com –

Investing.com – Bitcoin prices rallied to hit the highest level in more than two weeks on Wednesday, as increased appetite for the virtual currency boosted prices.

Bitcoin (BTC/USD) touched a session high of $397.36 on Slovenia-based BitStamp earlier in the day, the most since October 16.

Prices last traded at $397.02 during U.S. morning hours, up $28.27, or 7.67%.

The price of a bitcoin on Bulgaria-based BTC-e added $29.81, or 8.21%, to trade at $392.81, while prices on Singapore-based itBit advanced $20.94, or 5.58%, to trade at $395.94.

According to the CoinDesk Bitcoin Price Index, which averages prices from the major exchanges, prices of the crypto-currency rallied 7.75% to trade at $395.44.

Bitcoin prices have been well-supported in recent sessions as investors returned to the market amid bullish chart signals.

Prices of the virtual currency are up nearly 20% since hitting a recent low of $317.80 on November 1.

The price increase has been accompanied by a rise in trading volume and coincides with the recent crackdown of U.S. and European authorities against illegal websites operating on the so-called Tor network, such as online drug marketplace Silk Road 2.0.

Meanwhile, euro-denominated Bitcoin prices (BTC/EUR) tacked on 18.00, or 6.12%, to trade at 312.00 on U.S.-based Kraken Exchange.

More here:
Bitcoin re-approaches the $400-level as market sentiment improves

CDC investments make good use of tax havens in Mauritius. Photograph: Peter Brown/Alamy

More than two-thirds of the investments made by the private sector arm of the UKs aid programme last year were channelled through notoriously secretive tax havens, according to a report that calls on European development agencies to be more transparent and accountable in their business dealings.

The study, by the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), found that billions of euros intended for projects in developing countries are being routed through some of the worlds most secretive financial centres, allowing businesses to avoid taxes and the attendant regulations.

Eurodad notes that the UKs CDC formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which is wholly owned by the Department for International Development (DfID) makes frequent use of such jurisdictions.

In 2013, CDC invested in nine funds, six of which used tax havens in Mauritius, Singapore, Guernsey and Luxembourg. Between them, the six funds received $553m (441m).

CDCs portfolio as of 31 December 2013 shows that both its direct and its indirect investment model rely heavily on secrecy jurisdictions, says the report. A massive 118 out of a total of 157 fund investments go through secrecy jurisdictions. Between 2000 and 2013, these funds received a total of $3.8bn in CDC commitments.

Sixty-nine of the funds are registered in Mauritius ($1.8bn), while 26 are registered in the Cayman Islands ($909m). CDC is designed to be a pioneering investor in developing countries. Its net investments count as official aid, and towards meeting the UK commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income as aid. Almost all of CDCs money goes through investment funds, which then invest in businesses in developing countries.

The Eurodad report Going Offshore discerned a similar pattern of tax haven usage in other European national development finance institutions (DFIs).

As of June this year, the Belgian Investment Company for Developing Countries (BIO) was involved in a total of 42 investment funds, including 30 domiciled in jurisdictions that feature in the top 20 of the Tax Justice Networks financial secrecy index (FSI). The investments amounted to $207m.

At the end of last year, 46 of the Norwegian Norfunds 165 active investments were channelled through jurisdictions that appear in the FSIs top 20. The investments totalled $339m.

Read more from the original source:
UK aid investments target tax havens | Global development …



NATO Slams 'Provocative' Russian Air Incursions: Kremlin jets and bombers invade NATO airspace
NATO's top military commander says recent incursions into European air space by Russian fighters and long-range bombers included larger, more complex formati…

By: UKRAINE TODAY

More here:
NATO Slams ‘Provocative’ Russian Air Incursions: Kremlin jets and bombers invade NATO airspace – Video

Grand Cayman. The tax havens who facilitate these [avoidance] structures also think they gain, but the logic is yet again warped. Photograph: Ag/Amar Grover

The revelations by the Guardian on corporate tax arrangements reveal an appetite for tax avoidance that still pervades within major corporations, the biggest firms of accountants and, as importantly, in some European Union states. Each of these matters not just because of lost tax in the UK and other major countries but because they reveal a rottenness at the core of modern capitalism and the political systems that support it.

The excuses companies offer for pursuing aggressive tax-avoidance activity always include claims that they are acting in the interests of their shareholders. It is interesting that Shire plc, in its response to the Guardian, has extended that justification to the companys stakeholders.

But the law makes clear that the duty of the directors is to the company itself. And since there is nothing in law that says a companys duty is to minimise its tax or maximise profit, the claims justifying companies tax abuse are simply not true. They spread a myth that is without foundation.

Its a dangerous myth, too, that positively harms the company and all its stakeholders. It is very doubtful that any company will ever benefit from the type of exposure Shire and others are getting. Thats a failure by the directors.

But more specifically, this abuse can also specifically harm the shareholders, most of whom will be almost wholly unaware of the risks the companies in which they invest are taking: for example, the company earnings may be misstated, which will mean that the share price is overstated.

There are, though, three clear groups who do benefit. The first are company executives: tax avoidance inflates net profits after tax, and hence share prices that then boost their bonus payments.

Second, the professional firms creating and selling these arrangements clearly think they benefit from the considerable fees involved. But the credibility of these firms who are the effective and sole policing agency of capitalism worldwide risks being corrupted in the process. This would mean there would be no agent we can rely on to provide an objective assessment of what happens in major corporations.

Thirdly, the tax havens who facilitate these structures also think they gain, but here the logic is yet again warped. Luxembourg gains little tax from these practices and so the gain goes largely to the financial professionals within the duchy who effectively dominate its government. The result is that we have states effectively captured by finance that threaten the very essence of democracy as they serve plutocratic goals.

What can be done about all this? First, we need vastly better country-by-country reporting of where and how companies operate in their accounts. I originally designed this form of accounting now being adopted by the OECD, but so far it has been used only for tax returns and not for public disclosure.

More:
We know how to eradicate tax abuse. So why arent businesses doing it?



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