April 06, 2016

April 6, 2016

NEED TO KNOW

Panama Papers: One Down…


And so it begins.

It was only a matter of time before a leader fell due to the revelations contained in the 11.5 million documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm earlier this week.

On Tuesday, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists which released the so-called Panama Papers claimed their first scalp: Icelandic Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson.

The premier resigned on Tuesday. Well, actually, he “merely stepped aside for an unspecified amount of time” according to a statement he released early in the morning in Iceland. But given how throngs of protesters were calling for him to quit, parliament was readying a no-confidence vote and his deputy was taking his job, Gunnlaugsson appears to suffering from what therapists call denial.

Gunnlaugsson neglected to disclose his $4 million in connection with Iceland’s banks when he became prime minister, according to the leaked data. Technically, he might not have done anything illegal. He sold his 50-percent stake in a shell company he established in the British Virgin Islands to his wife for $1 in 2009 before he took office.

Problem is, he later helped craft the government's generous bailouts of those same banks, which some might remember were among the first to go bust during the worldwide financial crisis that started in 2008. So he was kind of generously helping himself with taxpayer krona, too.

Of course, Gunnlaugsson wasn’t alone. The Panama Papers contain scores of examples of other world leaders using complicated international laws to skirt ethics. Word has it that more stories involving Americans are coming to light soon.

In the meantime, international finance is taking a beating.

The U.S. Treasury unveiled new rules this week to make it harder for American companies to merge with foreign competitors and then claim they’ve moved abroad, thus avoiding American corporate taxes. The rules were widely viewed as targeting a proposed $160 billion deal that would let pharmaceutical giant Pfizer merge with the Irish maker of Botox, Allergan, and move its headquarters to the low-tax Emerald Isle.

President Barack Obama held a press conference describing his support for the new Treasury rules. While he was at it, he mentioned the Panama Papers, saying they illustrated how tax avoidance via offshore tax havens is big problem — legal maybe, but bad because it robs governments of the revenues they need to operate and provide services, like the rule of law that corporations love so much.

A few hours after Obama spoke, Pfizer and Allergan said they planned to cancel their deal.

 

WANT TO KNOW

Zuma: Out of the Fire


South African President Jacob Zuma has avoided impeachment – for now.

Still, a black cloud is hanging over Zuma that is even darker and larger than the one that was already following him around since he took office in 2009.

Last week, South Africa's top court said Zuma broke the law when he used $15 million in public money to build a new pool, amphitheater, cattle culvert – a tunnel that allows cows to walk under a road or railroad track – and other improvements at his private residence.

Now he’s promising to pay the money back.

Zuma was already under fire for letting the members of the wealthy but controversial Gupta family land at a South African air force base for a wedding. Before he was elected president, he was implicated in corrupt arms deals, rape accusations and other scandals.

Zuma’s African National Congress controls parliament, so it’s no surprise he avoided impeachment. But even ANC member and revered anti-Apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada is calling for the president to quit.

Kathrada was imprisoned alongside Nelson Mandela. His disapproval is more damning than any impeachment vote.

Myanmar's Reset


Myanmar's international darling Aung San Suu Kyi may be constitutionally banned from becoming president, but that didn't stop lawmakers from her National League for Democracy from effectively making Suu Kyi Myanmar's prime minister.

On Tuesday, MPs from Myanmar's first civilian government voted to create the position of state counsellor for Suu Kyi, surmounting opposition from the 25 percent of seats held by military representatives who boycotted the vote.

President Htin Kyaw, a close ally of Suu Kyi's, must sign the bill before it becomes effective.

It was the new government's first legislative act, reports the Washington Post, and makes Suu

Kyi Myanmar's de facto leader. Under the current constitution, Suu Kyi may not become president because her children hold foreign citizenship.

Suu Kyi already holds the post of foreign minister. Earlier this week, she met with the foreign minister of China, Myanmar's most important trading partner and largest neighbor.

This is some reset.

Kenya: Off the Hook


The International Criminal Court dropped its case against the deputy president of Kenya, William Ruto, and a prominent radio host, Joshua arap Sang, Tuesday, ending a long and troubled prosecution that impacted Kenya's domestic politics and its foreign relations with the West.

The court vacated the charges of crimes against humanity against the two men in connection with the violence following elections in 2007 that killed more than 1,200 people, and displaced about 600,000. The chief judge declared a mistrial citing incidents of witness interference and political meddling by Kenya. Because of one dissent, the case could be retried.

The decision follows one 16 months ago to drop a similar case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta due to witness tampering and the Kenyan government's attempts to block the investigation.

The cases highlighted a major issue plaguing the court: Because it must depend on the cooperation of governments – whose officials it is prosecuting – it is hamstrung in its ability to gather evidence to build cases or protect witnesses in order to effectively prosecute them.
 

DISCOVERIES

Ancient Insect Kept Young Close


And you thought your mother kept you on a tight leash.

Scientists have discovered a new type of arthropod – an invertebrate with a segmented body and exoskeleton – that developed a unique method of keeping track of its brood: It tethered egg pouches to its back with threads and trailed its juveniles like tiny kites, according to CBS News.

The 430-million-year-old bug likely spent its day on the sea floor, with its young in tow, say researchers.

This creature already has a literary pedigree: Scientists have named the arthropod Aquilonifer spinosus, which means “spiny kite bearer,” a reference to both its appearance and Khalid Hosseini's 2003 novel The Kite Runner.

 

The DailyChatter staff wishes you a wonderful day. Write to us with tips, feedback and suggestions at [email protected].

Compiled and written by Jabeen Bhatti

jbhatti
Wed, 04/06/2016 – 06:10