Facebook could face extra $5bn tax bill after US investigation – Jemima Kiss wFriday 29 July 2016 21.24 EDT


Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

Facebook could be liable to pay between $3 to $5bn in extra US tax after an extensive investigation by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) into the way the tech company transferred assets to Ireland.

The tax agency has been exploring whether Facebook deliberately deployed complex financial processes designed to minimize the amount of US tax it paid.

The IRS issued the firm with a “statutory notice of deficiency” on 27 July, the company said in its quarterly financial filing, noting that it could have a “material adverse impact” on its finances. Facebook broke out the possible loss in its earnings report, as a minimum of $3bn and maximum of $5bn. It would also be liable for interest lost, though any additional penalties are not known.

On Friday, a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement: “Facebook complies with all applicable rules and regulations in the countries where we operate.”

The IRS began investigating Facebook in 2013 over assets it had transferred in 2010 to its base in Dublin. Ireland is known for its corporation-friendly tax structures; it has a corporate tax rate of 12.5%, compared to the US rate of 35% and 21% in the UK.

The case became public on 6 July when the IRS filed a lawsuit in San Francisco, suing Facebook over access to records related to the transfer. Its 2013 investigation described the valuation of the assets as “problematic”, implying it had undervalued the assets to pay less US tax.

The IRS has stated that Facebook has failed to attend seven appointments at the IRS office in San Jose, 19 miles from Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park.

On Wednesday, Facebook announced record quarterly earnings with $6.24bn in advertising sales powered by the popularity of mobile and video.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jul/29/facebook-us-tax-investigation-irs-ireland

Senator lambasts American Red Cross’s use of Haiti aid money – Alan Yuhas Sunday 19 June 2016 06.30 EDT


  • Senator Chuck Grassley says $125m spent on fundraising and administration

  • Red Cross strongly disagrees: ‘We have accounted for every penny spent’

Samilia Joseph waits in a line of hundreds to receive supplies distributed by the American Red Cross in Croix Desprez, Port-au-Prince, on 20 January 2010.

A scathing report released by a senator this week found that the American Red Cross spent about $125m in donor money for Haiti aid on fundraising, management and other expenses, and that officials refused to cooperate with investigators.

The Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley found “substantial and fundamental concerns” in the Red Cross, he concluded at the end of a 309-page report. His Senate commission investigation was prompted by a 2015 ProPublica and NPR report in which said the Red Cross had built only six homes in Haiti despite having received $488m from donors.

Grassley’s investigation found that an estimated $125m given to the Red Cross in the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010 went to management and fundraising expenses and “program costs”, a category that includes salaries, contract services, travel expenses and related costs. Most of the remaining $363m was “farmed out”, the report said, to partner organizations which worked on the island.

Partner organizations had their own expenses and overheads, and in one case documents showed the Red Cross gave $4.3m to a partner organization with an additional $2m budgeted for “activities related” to management of the money.

“Despite this explanation, [the Red Cross] is unable to provide any financial evidence that oversight activities in fact occurred,” the report concluded.

In general, Grassley’s investigators found that the Red Cross was unable to calculate the cost of each project and program in Haiti, and “instead it uses a complex, yet inaccurate, process to track its spending”.

In a statement released in response, the Red Cross said it “strongly disagrees” with the report’s conclusions, adding: “We have accounted for every penny spent in Haiti.”

The group provided its own 24-page breakdown of spending, which mirrored documents provided in the Grassley report.

The group noted that the report had not discovered “a single finding of fraud or abuse” and defended its expenses: “These are not overhead costs; they are legitimate expenses to implement humanitarian aid projects – and ensure they are properly implemented by our partners.”

The Red Cross insisted: “Our statement that 91 cents of every dollar donated went to our programs and services in Haiti is absolutely true.”

Grassley called for greater accountability, saying: “People who give generously to any charitable cause expect transparency and the careful use of every dollar.”

Article continues:

E. Coli Outbreak Linked to Costco Chicken Salad by Michal Addady NOVEMBER 25, 2015, 1:08 PM EST


Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at Nov 25, 2015 10.46

Infections have been reported in seven states.

The Center for Disease Control, in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is currently investigating another E. coli outbreak, this time in connection with Costco’s rotisserie chicken salad.

The CDC reports that, as of Tuesday, 19 people have been infected in seven states. Five have been hospitalized, and two have developed a form of kidney failure known as hemolytic uremic syndrome. No deaths have been reported.

Out of 16 infected patients, 14 had either purchased or consumed Costco’s rotisserie chicken salad the week before the outbreak. Illnesses have been reported in California, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

Costco was informed of the outbreak on Nov. 20 and immediately halted sale and production of the product. Craig Wilson, the retailer’s vice president of food safety, expressed deep regret that customers have fallen ill and said that the company is working closely with the CDC, FDA, and USDA in ongoing investigations. Wilson added that, to the company’s knowledge, the five hospitalized patients have since recovered and are doing well.

No specific ingredient in the chicken salad has yet been identified as the culprit.

http://fortune.com/2015/11/25/e-coli-costco/

Ohio’s Huge Voter Fraud Investigation Turns Up Nearly Nothing by Kira Lerner Posted on March 13, 2015 at 12:52 pm Updated: March 13, 2015 at 2:00 pm


Forty-four non-citizens may have voted illegally in Ohio at some point since 2000.

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted has been on a mission to weed outpurported voter fraud in the state since he took office in 2011. After launching an investigation into what he called an “expanding loophole” allowing non-citizens to vote in Ohio and potentially decide elections, he announcedThursday that 145 non-citizens were registered to vote illegally in 2014, amounting to just .0002 percent of the 7.7 million registered voters in the state.

Husted’s office would not provide any information about the 27 people it referred to the Attorney General’s office for further review. But in 2013, his office sent 17 potential cases — .0003 percent of total ballots cast in the state — to the AG who eventually referred them to county prosecutors. Most reports of voting irregularities were dropped by the county prosecutors because the “voter fraud” problems were determined to have been caused by simple mistakes and confused senior citizens, according to a Cleveland Plain Dealer investigation.

Voter fraud in Ohio is a fifth-degree felony and could carry up to a year in prison. But of the cases referred to prosecutors’ offices in 2013, most irregularities were caused by voter confusion or mistakes made by elections officials and not deliberate attempts to commit fraud, the investigation found. For example, Cuyahoga County looked into 15 cases referred from Husted’s office and chose not to pursue criminal charges against any of the individuals, concluding that the voters were confused about the “Golden Week” during which people can both register to vote and also cast their absentee ballot.

In total, only four people were convicted of voting fraud as a result of the 2013 investigation, Eve Mueller, the deputy director of communications for the Office of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, told ThinkProgress. Mueller said the office could not comment on the ongoing investigations into the newly announced cases.

“In all of the instances where potential voter fraud has been brought up, even outside of undocumented people who may be voting… the prosecutors have said, ‘this is not a person who was really trying to defraud the system. They made an innocent mistake and this is not what voter fraud really is,’” Ohio ACLU Senior Policy Director Mike Brickner told ThinkProgress. “I suspect that once a lot of these other cases that Secretary Husted has pointed out really come under scrutiny, most of them will not end up in convictions or prosecutions and again the number will be really small.”

Article continues:

http://thinkprogress.org/election/2015/03/13/3633472/husted-noncitizen-voters/

Lethal mix: Lawyers’ mistakes, unforgiving law – Written by Ken Armstrong, The Marshall Project Published on November 15, 2014


Investigation finds that 1996 law created procedural hurdles, causing many inmates to lose access to final appeal

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at Nov 16, 2014 5.23

In 1992, Kenneth Rouse, an African American man with an IQ between 70 and 80 — “borderline intellectual functioning,” in the clinical parlance — prepared to stand trial in North Carolina on charges that he had robbed, murdered and attempted to rape a white, 63-year-old store clerk.

Rouse’s lawyers questioned the prospective jurors to try to expose any racial or other bias they might have against the defendant. But several years after the all-white jury convicted Rouse and recommended a death sentence, his defense team made a stunning discovery.

DEATH BY DEADLINE: This investigation was reported and written by Ken Armstrong for The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that has just launched. Sign up for their newsletter, or follow The Marshall Project on Facebook or Twitter.

Above: The execution chamber in Huntsville, Tex. (Kadir van Lohuizen/NOOR)

One of the jurors, Joseph S. Baynard, admitted that his mother had been robbed, murdered and possibly raped years before. Baynard had not disclosed this history, he said, so that he could sit in judgment of Rouse, whom he called “one step above a moron.” Baynard, who used a racial slur when referring to African Americans, added that he thought black men raped white women for bragging rights.

As claims of juror bias go, the evidence could hardly have been stronger. But Rouse’s final appeal was never heard. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Rouse’s lawyers had just one year after his initial state appeal to petition for a last-resort hearing in federal court.

They missed the deadline by a single day.

A federal appeals judge wrote that it was “unconscionable” for her court to reject Rouse’s case because of such a mistake by his court-appointed lawyers. But dozens of lawyers have made the same mistake, and most of their clients, like Rouse, have not been forgiven by the courts for missing the deadline.

An investigation by The Marshall Project shows that since President Bill Clinton signed the one-year statute of limitations into law — enacting a tough-on-crime provision that emerged in the Republicans’ Contract with America — the deadline has been missed at least 80 times in capital cases. Sixteen of those inmates have since been executed — the most recent was on Thursday, when Chadwick Banks was put to death in Florida.​

Article continues:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2014/11/15/last-chance-pleas-from-death-row-often-tossed-over-late-filings/?hpid=z1

Pelosi names five Democratic members to Benghazi panel – By David Sherfinski-The Washington Times


Screen Shot 2014-05-22 at May 22, 2014 2.48

Despite not getting the Republican concessions she was seeking, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appointed a full slate of Democrats to the House’s new Benghazi investigative committee, giving the effort a bipartisan boost.

Mrs. Pelosi said she was appointing members in order to honor the families of the Americans who died in the 2012 terrorist attack, and that Democrats will try to make sure the committee steers clear of partisan attacks. But she acknowledged her decision has added legitimacy to the investigation.

“I could have argued this either way: ‘Why give any validity to this effort?’ But I do think it is important for the American people to have the pursuit of these questions done in as fair and open and balanced way as possible,” said Mrs. Pelosi, California Democrat. “That simply would not be possible leaving it to the Republicans.”

She tapped Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, the ranking member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to serve as the investigation’s top Democrat.

With the White House in the cross hairs, President Obama’s press secretary said it had deferred to Mrs. Pelosi on whether to join the investigation. But spokesman Jay Carney still took a shot at the panel Wednesday.

“It is certainly legitimate to suspect at least that this new pursuit, this new investigation, by House Republicans into this matter might not be divorced from politics,” he said.

Mrs. Pelosi tried to wring concessions from House Speaker John A. Boehner, including equal membership and a say in what subpoenas are issued, but he refused her requests.

Article continues:

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/may/21/pelosi-leaning-toward-working-banghazi-panel/

As Court Fees Rise, The Poor Are Paying The Price by JOSEPH SHAPIRO May 19, 2014 4:02 PM ET


The proliferation of court fees has prompted some states, like New Jersey, to use amnesty programs to encourage the thousands of people who owe fines to surrender in exchange for fee reductions. At the Fugitive Safe Surrender program, makeshift courtrooms allow judges to individually handle each case.

The proliferation of court fees has prompted some states, like New Jersey, to use amnesty programs to encourage the thousands of people who owe fines to surrender in exchange for fee reductions. At the Fugitive Safe Surrender program, makeshift courtrooms allow judges to individually handle each case.

Nicole Beemsterboer/NPR

In Augusta, Ga., a judge sentenced Tom Barrett to 12 months after he stole a can of beer worth less than $2.

In Ionia, Mich., 19-year-old Kyle Dewitt caught a fish out of season; then a judge sentenced him to three days in jail.

In Grand Rapids, Mich., Stephen Papa, a homeless Iraq War veteran, spent 22 days in jail, not for what he calls his “embarrassing behavior” after he got drunk with friends and climbed into an abandoned building, but because he had only $25 the day he went to court.

The common thread in these cases, and scores more like them, is the jail time wasn’t punishment for the crime, but for the failure to pay the increasing fines and fees associated with the criminal justice system.

A yearlong NPR investigation found that the costs of the criminal justice system in the United States are paid increasingly by the defendants and offenders. It’s a practice that causes the poor to face harsher treatment than others who commit identical crimes and can afford to pay. Some judges and politicians fear the trend has gone too far.

state-by-state survey conducted by NPR found that defendants are charged for many government services that were once free, including those that are constitutionally required. For example:

  • In at least 43 states and the District of Columbia, defendants can be billed for a public defender.
  • In at least 41 states, inmates can be charged room and board for jail and prison stays.
  • In at least 44 states, offenders can get billed for their own probation and parole supervision.
  • And in all states except Hawaii, and the District of Columbia, there’s a fee for the electronic monitoring devices defendants and offenders are ordered to wear.

GUILTY AND CHARGED: KEY FINDINGS

NPR’s yearlong investigation included more than 150 interviews with lawyers, judges, offenders in and out of jail, government officials, advocates and other experts. It also included a nationwide survey — with help from NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice and the National Center for State Courts — of which states are charging defendants and offenders fees. Findings of this investigation include:

  • Defendants are charged for a long list of government services that were once free — including ones that are constitutionally required.
  • Impoverished people sometimes go to jail when they fall behind paying these fees.
  • Since 2010, 48 states have increased criminal and civil court fees.
  • Many courts are struggling to interpret a 1983 Supreme Court ruling protecting defendants from going to jail because they are too poor to pay their fines.
  • Technology, such as electronic monitors, aimed at helping defendants avoid jail time is available only to those who can afford to pay for it.

Listen to Morning Edition and All Things Consideredall this week for additional stories from this investigation.

Article continues:

http://www.npr.org/2014/05/19/312158516/increasing-court-fees-punish-the-poor

 

House Democrats push to end congressional probe of Benghazi attacks By Lalita Clozel March 27, 2014, 4:20 p.m.


 

WASHINGTON — Democrats in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are demanding that Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) end his “partisan” investigation of the September 2012 Benghazi attacks, which cost the lives of four Americans, including that of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
Led by the committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the 17 lawmakers say Issa has made inflammatory accusations and cost the Defense Department time and money with his investigation.

In a letter published Wednesday, Democrats attacked what they called Issa’s “reckless pattern of launching wholly unfounded accusations on national television.”
On Thursday they released a two-minute video on YouTube of Issa’s more controversial statements, including ones in which he accused former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton of reducing security in Libya and suggested she ordered former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to “stand down” during the attack.

 

 

 

The contentious relationship between the committee’s Republicans and Democrats was heightened this month in tense hearings for the panel’s other major investigation: the inquiry into allegations that the IRS targeted conservative groups for scrutiny. Those tensions culminated in a highly publicized confrontation between Cummings and Issa, in which Issa cut off microphones as Cummings was trying to speak.
Democrats are also pointing to the cost of the Benghazi investigation, which “is estimated to be in the millions of dollars,” according to a March 13 letter from Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.), criticizing the redundant investigations led by his and the Oversight Committee.
But House Oversight Committee spokesman Frederick Hill defended the investigation, saying that it could have gone faster had they received the “cooperation that we would have liked to have from the administration.”
http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/politicsnow/la-pn-house-democrats-issa-benghazi-20140327,0,5991086.post#ixzz2xRpMt4Em

 

Benghazi US mission attack: ‘No direct al-Qaeda role’ 29 December 2013 Last updated at 06:24 ET


Remains of cars destroyed during the 11 September 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi

Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans died in the attack

Al-Qaeda had no direct involvement in the September 2012 attack on the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, according to a New York Times investigation.

The US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was killed when gunmen stormed the compound and set it on fire.

Some US Republicans accuse the Obama administration of failing to admit the involvement of terrorist groups.

But the New York Times (NYT) says a local Islamist militia leader was key.

The paper bases its report on months of interviews with local residents who have extensive knowledge of the events of 11 September 2012 and American officials linked to a criminal investigation.

Initially, Washington said the attack grew out of violent protests against an anti-Islam video produced in the US.

Later findings suggested that it was an organised attack planned by local militias.

Some Republicans accused al-Qaeda of launching the assault to mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the US.

‘Murkier’

The NYT reports that the reality was “murkier”. The assault was neither “meticulously planned”, nor “spontaneous”, though “fuelled in large part” by anger at the video.

The paper’s investigation “turned up no evidence that al-Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault”.

In the aftermath of the attack, Republicans repeatedly criticised the Obama administration for blaming the video protest instead of a deliberate terrorist attack.

An investigation commissioned by the US state department found in December 2012 that security at the consulate had been inadequate but that there had been “no immediate, specific” intelligence pointing to threats.

The NYT says the attack was led by fighters who had benefited from Western support during the uprising against long-time Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi.

It says a central figure was “an eccentric, malcontent militia leader, Ahmed Abu Khattala”.

Mr Khattala denies involvement, but witnesses describe him “strolling calmly through the chaos” at the compound, according to the NYT.

He is also alleged to have directed local fighters in the attack. Mr Khattala, whose exact whereabouts are unknown, was charged by US investigators in August.

Charges have also been filed against an unknown number of other alleged attackers.

Ambassador Chris Stevens was one of four Americans to die. The others killed were another state department worker and two former Navy Seals.

Article continues:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25540732