Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Death and Taxes in the Loneliest of Places

Often those that criticise others reveal what he himself lacks.”
Shannon L. Alder

Slavic saying: Praise, like gold and diamonds, owes its value only to its scarcity

Communist failed to understand this: "The more you try to bully people into NOT reading something the more they will do so. Freedom matters."

Taxpayers treated unfairly by HMRC, peers find Key findings

 Lords call for greater oversight of HMRC powers

Panama Papers investigation results in first four men charged for 'intercontinental money-laundering scheme'

Supreme Court Case on Double Jeopardy that Might Affect States' Ability to Prosecute Tax Crimes After Federal Jeopardy

I picked up this in yesterday's Washington Post:  Robert Barnes, Supreme Court to consider case that could affect potential Manafort prosecutions (WAPO 12/2/18), here.  The  opening is )bold face supplied by JAT):
The Supreme Court next week takes up the case of a small-time Alabama felon, Terance Gamble, who complains that his convictions by state and federal prosecutors for the same gun possession crime violate constitutional protections against double jeopardy.
But likely to be watching the proceedings closely will be those concerned about a big-time felon, Republican consultant and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was prosecuted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III for tax fraud. 
With President Trump keeping alive prospects that he might pardon Manafort, Gamble v. United States might be redubbed Manafort v. Mueller, joked Thomas C. Goldstein, an attorney who regularly argues before the Supreme Court.

The Club and the Mob London Review of Books. Review of Alan Rusbridger’s Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism and Why It Matters Now.

Dirty contracts

Contract and procurement fraud, collusion and corruption can rob profits from victims. Bid riggers conspire to eliminate fair and open competition and allow some to monopolize industries. Here’s some help in detecting common contract and procurement fraud schemes, and improving the integrity of the contract-award process.

“I Hereby Confess Judgment” Bloomberg. Part 1 of a three-part series on predatory lending. Part 2, The $1.7 Million Man; Part 3, Rubber-Stamp Justice

2.4-Million-Year-Old Stone Tools Turn Up in an Unexpected PlaceAtlantic (Kevin W). Important if you are into this sort of thing…

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was the keynote speaker at the opening press conference of the Frankfurt Book Fair held earlier this week, and at Publishers Weekly they now print her speech in its entirety -- well worth a read (and you can also watch it).  

“The virtual fence technology involves small devices, approximately the size of a mobile phone, mounted on a pole on the side of the road which are triggered by car headlights when they hit a sensor in the device,” Samantha Fox, the researcher who led the project, told Digital Trends. “This sets off blue and yellow flashing lights and a high pitched siren. These together warn local wildlife that a car is coming, and give the animal time to move away from the road.” Over the course of a three-year trial, the technology has reduced roadkill on one particular road by a massive 50 percent. On this stretch of road alone, this has meant saving the lives of around 200 animals, ranging from wombats to possums. 
AMERICA’S LONGEST WAR (NATO’S, TOO): Apparent Insider Attack Kills Czech Member of U.S.-Led Coalition in Afghanistan.

The soldier was the fourth Czech service member killed as part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization mission to Afghanistan since the Central European country’s parliament approved a plan in June to nearly double its forces in Afghanistan to 390. 

BUT THE NARRATIVE! From Czechia with Love.

Russian intelligence, supported by its propaganda machine, is going to great lengths to claim that Trump is tied to Moscow. Russian propaganda outlets such as Sputnik released stories about Page’s visit to Moscow and views on American foreign policy. Moreover, while Russian maneuvers with Page are being exposed, Putin is unrelenting in his efforts to paint Trump as a Kremlin asset.

Charlotte Crane (Northwestern), Learning From Our Mistakes (JOTWELL) (reviewing Lawrence Zelenak (Duke), Figuring Out the Tax: Congress, Treasury, and the Design of the Early Modern Income Tax (Cambridge University Press 2018)):

The income tax is a formidable institution in American political life. Understanding the many facets of its current form is a challenge, given the myriad forces that have interacted in its evolution. Larry Zelenak, in his book Figuring Out the Tax, published in January 2018 as part of the Cambridge Tax Law Series, offers the reader substantial insights into these forces through a close examination of the early history of the income tax in the United States.

How China Walled Off the Internet - The New York Times – “Today, China has the world’s only internet companies that can match America’s in ambition and reach. It is years ahead of the United States in replacing paper money with smartphone payments, turning tech giants into vital gatekeepers of the consumer economy. And it is host to a supernova of creative expression — in short videos, podcasts, blogs and streaming TV — that ought to dispel any notions of Chinese culture as drearily conformist. All this, on a patch of cyberspace that is walled off from Facebook and Google, policed by tens of thousands of censors and subject to strict controls on how data is collected, stored and shared. China’s leaders like the internet they have created. And now, they want to direct the nation’s talent and tech acumen toward an even loftier end: building an innovation-driven economy, one that produces world-leading companies.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – 2018 The State of Food and Nutrition in the World: “For the third year in a row, there has been a rise in world hunger. The absolute number of undernourished people, i.e. those facing chronic food deprivation, has increased to nearly 821 million in 2017, from around 804 million in 2016. These are levels from almost a decade ago. The share of undernourished people in the world population – the prevalence of undernourishment, or PoU – may have reached 10.9 percent in 2017. Persistent instability in conflict-ridden regions, adverse climate events in many regions of the world and economic slowdowns that have affected more peaceful regions and worsened the food security, all help to explain this deteriorating situation. The situation is worsening in South America and most regions of Africa . Africa remains the continent with the highest PoU, affecting almost 21 percent of the population (more than 256 million people). The situation is also deteriorating in South America, where the PoU has increased from 4.7 percent in 2014 to a projected 5.0 percent in 2017. Asia’s decreasing trend in undernourishment seems to be slowing down significantly. The projected PoU for Asia in 2017 is 11.4 percent, which represents more than 515 million people. Without increased efforts, the world will fall far short of achieving the SDG target of eradicating hunger by 2030…”

Owner of failed nuclear plant might use golden parachute fund in settlement ars technica

Gulf between Renault and Nissan widens after Ghosn arrestFinancial Times. One tidbit, and I confess I can’t recall if I saw it in the pink paper or Bloomberg, which makes the Japanese position more credible, is that Ghosn had put his older sister on a $100,000 a year contact for which she allegedly had never done any work. Even though this is chump change, it bolsters the idea that Ghosn didn’t draw the right lines between company money and his money.

The U.S. Housing Boom Is Coming to an End, Starting in Dallas Wall Street Journal. Having visited Dallas yearly for ~5 years running, even with my very limited contact, it was evident a land rush was underway, due to it being cheap on a national basis + low state taxes, which led some companies to put or expand operations there. And the article centers on Plano, where the boom was particularly evident.

 The purpose of this paper is to highlight the intelligence and investigatory challenges experienced by law enforcement agencies in discovering the identity of illicit Bitcoin users and the transactions that they perform.
Illicit Bitcoin transactions: challenges in getting to the who, what, when and where

Disinformation and propaganda disseminated online have poisoned the public sphere. The unbridled collection of personal data has broken down traditional notions of privacy. And a cohort of countries is moving toward digital authoritarianism by embracing the Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance systems. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2018. TheRise of Digital Authoritarianism: Freedom on the Net 2018

WSJ [paywall] – “The Atlanta-based North Highland consultancy’s Sparks Grove unit has created an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven voice-scanning tool that can identify dubious statements seconds after their utterance, in an effort to more accurately fact-check news. Sparks Grove’s prototype “Voyc” software transcribes live audio and runs each statement against a database of facts compiled from verified government sources and accredited fact-checking organizations. Voyc rapidly notes whether a statement conflicts with verified information and sends a pop-up text alert to someone positioned to make further inquiries, highlighting both the sentence at issue and the relevant facts on an Instant Messenger-like interface. Sparks Grove’s Jack Stenson envisions news producers employing Voyc to encourage TV presenters to probe subjects with follow-up questions in interviews, panel discussions, and debates. The software’s developers are refining Voyc’s accuracy when transcribing quirky speech patterns like dialects, pauses, “ums,” and “ahs.”

Global Trends to 2035 - Economy and Society
EU, 20 November 2018. This study maps and analyses current and future global trends in the fields of economics and society, covering the period to 2035. Drawing on and complementing existing literature, it summarises and analyses the findings of relevant foresight studies in relation to such global trends. It traces recent changes in the perceived trajectory of already-identified trends and identifies significant new or emerging trends.

What does neuroscience say about being a better leader?
CAPABILITY: Cambridge neuroscientist Dr Hannah Critchlow recommends a few key tips for managers to improve the wellbeing of their staff ‒ and their own wellbeing too.

Why getting the human side of digital processes right is so critical
TECHNOLOGY: Marcin Wilinski is keen to shift the thinking in government from creating processes that solve one group’s solution, to creating an improved experience for everyone involved. (Partner article)

How student protests breathed new life into a bureaucracy
MERIT QUOTAS: The Bangladeshi youth’s disruption of a dysfunctional decades-old system is a milestone for good governance in the country.
ATO to speak at Information and Knowledge Management forum
PARTNER EVENT: Explore how to improve upon an existing culture of knowledge-sharing, strategically manage information and knowledge as assets and use technology to leverage corporate knowledge.