Google reportedly scored tax breaks using secret shell companies

first_imgGoogle headquarters in Mountain View, California.  Stephen Shankland/CNET Google used shell companies and subsidiaries to hide its involvement in expansion plans that yielded millions of dollars in tax breaks, according to a report by The Washington Post on Friday, casting light on how tech companies cut deals with local governments. When the search giant planned to build a data center in Midlothian, Texas, Google used a subsidiary called Sharka LLC, The Post reported. Other subsidiaries Google set up for development projects include Jet Stream LLC and Questa LLC. Google also extensively uses non-disclosure agreements with officials, The Post said. In the case of the Texas data center, Google was seeking a decade of tax breaks, but Midlothian’s head of economic development was barred from disclosing Google’s involvement in the project, the report said. The size of deals between local governments and tech companies was thrust into the spotlight Thursday after Amazon dropped a bombshell announcement: It was no longer going forward with plans to build a massive second headquarters in New York City. The withdrawal followed intense opposition from local politicians and union groups, fueled in part by the tax breaks the city gave the e-commerce giant.Deal-making is crucial for Google as it revs up expansion. Earlier this week, CEO Sundar Pichai said the search giant is investing $13 billion in data centers and offices around the country, mostly in the Midwest, East Coast and South. That includes new and expanded data centers in Ohio, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. New and expanded office locations include sites in Virginia, Georgia and Chicago.In California, Google is building a giant campus in San Jose, about 15 miles from the company’s headquarters in Mountain View. The new San Jose outpost will be Google’s second-largest campus. Partnership for Working Families, which obtained the Google records and shared them with The Post, has sued the city of San Jose over its negotiations with Google. The advocacy group didn’t respond to a request for comment. A Google spokeswoman called its tactics “standard industry practices.” At the early stages of deals, companies often strive to keep negotiations quiet because they don’t want to tip off competitors or announce their plans prematurely. But some critics have pointed to the secrecy as detrimental to local communities, which sometimes can’t protest until it’s too late.”We believe public dialogue is vital to the process of building new sites and offices, so we actively engage with community members and elected officials in the places we call home,” the Google spokeswoman said in a statement. “Of course, when we enter new communities we use common industry practices and work with municipalities to follow their required procedures.”Still, tamping down concerns from local communities will be an ongoing battle for tech giants, as Silicon Valley faces more scrutiny than ever over its scale and influence. On Friday, Google tried to highlight some of the benefits of its expansion. The company said Google’s data centers create $1.3 billion in economic activity, $750 million in labor income, and 11,000 jobs throughout the US in a single year. Google Alphabet Inc. 4 Comments Tags Tech Industry Share your voicelast_img read more

US Taliban talks very positive

first_imgTaliban walk as they celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan on 16 June.A meeting between a senior US diplomat and Taliban representatives in Doha last week to discuss a possible ceasefire ended with “very positive signals” and a decision to hold more meetings, people with knowledge of the talks said on Sunday.The meeting between a delegation led by Alice Wells, deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and Taliban representatives was first reported in The Wall Street Journal but has not been officially confirmed.According to one Taliban official, who said he was part of a four-member delegation, there were “very positive signals” from the meeting, which he said was conducted in a “friendly atmosphere” in a Doha hotel.“You can’t call it peace talks,” he said. “These are a series of meetings for initiating formal and purposeful talks. We agreed to meet again soon and resolve the Afghan conflict through dialogue.”He said the talks had been held without the presence of Afghan government officials at the insistence of the Taliban.The move comes as the Afghan government and the United States have stepped up efforts to end the 17 year-war in Afghanistan following the unprecedented three-day truce during last month’s Eid al-Fitr holiday.The truce, which saw unarmed Taliban fighters mingling with soldiers on the streets of Kabul and other cities, offered the first concrete vision of a peace settlement since an earlier attempt at peace talks broke down in 2015.Although the Taliban refused an offer by President Ashraf Ghani to extend the Eid ceasefire, behind-the-scenes contacts have continued and the government has said it is considering another ceasefire during next month’s Eid-al Qurban holiday.As hopes of possible formal negotiations have risen, the United States has agreed to participate directly in the talks, although it insists the process will remain under Afghan leadership.The Taliban official said the talks took place with the approval of the leadership council. The two sides had discussed proposals to allow the Taliban free movement in two provinces where they would not be attacked, an idea that President Ashraf Ghani has already rejected. They also discussed Taliban participation in the Afghan government.“The only demand they made was to allow their military bases in Afghanistan,” said the Taliban official.The meeting in Doha, where the Taliban maintains a political office, followed two earlier meetings between U.S. officials and Taliban representatives in recent months, the sources said.“We have held three meetings with the U.S. and we reached a conclusion to continue talks for meaningful negotiations,” said a second Taliban official.He said they would first exchange prisoners and then discuss other issues that could restore peace to Afghanistan.“However, our delegation made it clear to them that peace can only be restored to Afghanistan when all foreign forces are withdrawn,” he said.Another person with knowledge of the talks said the United States had pressed the Taliban side to accept the ceasefire offer for Eid-ul Adha, often known in Afghanistan as Eid-al Qurban, which this year starts on Aug. 22.“So a long-term ceasefire is expected on Eid-ul Adha,” the person said. “Both sides agreed upon the continuation of the meetings and talks and another meeting is expected before Eid, but the exact time and place is not clear yet.”The State Department confirmed that Wells had visited Doha but has said only that she met United Arab Emirates government officials, including the deputy prime minister, to talk about their contributions to the situation in Afghanistan.Asked about talks with the Taliban, a State Department spokesman referred to a July 9 comment from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, that the United States would “support, facilitate, and participate in these peace discussions, but peace must be decided by the Afghans and settled among them.”Ghani’s main spokesman Haroon Chakansuri said last week that peace talks would be Afghan-led and would build on international consensus in support of peace.last_img read more

Dept to include fire safety norms in school syllabus

first_imgKolkata: The state Fire and Emergency Services department is planning to include fire safety and security measures in the school curriculum. “It is important for everyone to have knowledge about safety and security from the fire. So we are working on introducing it in the school syllabus,” state Fire and Emergency Services minister Sovan Chatterjee said at a programme on Fire Services Week at Academy of Fine Arts on Saturday. According to Chatterjee, the state government has given a major boost in developing the infrastructure of the Fire department and has set up as many as 70 fire stations across the state since 2011 after the Trinamool Congress came to power. Also Read – Heavy rain hits traffic, flights”We have identified some fire-prone areas and some regions where the fire tenders face difficulty to enter because of narrow lanes and bylanes. We have procured modern equipment and are still continuing to do so to fight the fire at places where it is difficult to reach,” Chatterjee said.He added that under the instructions of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the department is procuring ladders for better fire-fighting in the high-rises. “We have already floated the tender for procuring ladders,” he said.Officials from the fire department demonstrated how preliminary fire-fighting measures may be implemented to prevent it from spreading. A number of school students and commoners were present during the demonstration. Director General of Fire Services department Jagmohan also attend the event along with other senior officials of the department.last_img read more

2000yearold Ashoka Stupa restored in remote China

first_imgA symbol of the advent of Buddhism from India to China, the renovated Stupa and Ashoka pillar along with a huge golden statue of Buddha was consecrated by Gyalwang Drukpa, the spiritual head of Drukpa lineage of Buddhism based in Ladakh, on Tuesday in China’s Qinghai province, located adjacent to Tibet Autonomous Region.Legend has it that over 2,500 years ago, Buddha’s disciples retrieved one skull bone, two scapulas, four teeth and 84,000 pearl-like sariras (relics) after Lord Buddha’s body was cremated. Also Read – Nine hurt in accident at fireworks show in French resortAccording to Buddhist records, Ashoka collected all of Sakyamuni’s (Buddha) sarira, stored them in pagoda-shaped shrines before sending them to different parts of the world.China is believed to have received 19 of them, including the one in Nangchen, but most of them have collapsed due to natural wear and tear as well as negligence. Three more such Stupas were discovered in Chinese cities of Xian, Nanjing and near Ayuwang in Zhejiang Province. Also Read – Pakistan Army ‘fully prepared’ to face any challenge: Army spokesmanThe Nangchen Stupa is the first to be discovered in the Tibetan region. The fate of the other 15 sent by Ashoka to China is unknown so far.While the advent of Buddhism to China were well chronicled since 68 AD when first Buddhist temple White Horse was built in Luoyang by Chinese monk Xuanzan after a 17-year- long voyage to India, the Stupa signifies efforts by Ashoka to spread the religion around the world.In the new temple here, the pillar with a stone containing an original inscription was prominently placed between a renovated structure and the Stupa, remnants of which according to monks were preserved by the locals from the ravages of invasions of Mongols and the decade-long Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong during which historical relics, artifacts and cultural and religious sites were destroyed.last_img read more

Win an MSC cruise through TravelBrands BDM Facebook page

first_img TORONTO — TravelBrands is partnering with MSC to give away a free cruise on the TravelBrands BDM Facebook page.From March 13 – 31 agents have the opportunity to win a seven-night cruise in a balcony cabin onboard the new MSC Seaside.Here’s how the promotion works:1. Facebook members will automatically receive one ballot2. Facebook members will receive one ballot for every MSC booking made during the contest window3. Answer fun MSC Trivia questions throughout the contest and receive one ballot, plus one agent will receive $50 bonus Loyalty Points.During the last week of the promotion period TravelBrands says it will open the promotion up to the rest of its travel agent partners to earn a great free cruise. Facebook members will receive two ballots for every MSC booking during the last week.“We encourage all our agents to join our Facebook page as it provides you with exclusive incentives, invites and up to date constant assistance and information,” says the company. “We are making waves with the benefits of joining ‘Your TravelBrands BDM’ Facebook page and it just keeps getting better.”More news:  Sunwing to further boost Mazatlán service with new flights from OttawaTravelBrands says it wants to show the industry “just how much there is to offer with the cruise line and we have a lot in store over the next few weeks to keep our agents informed, engaged and motivated to sell MSC product.”For more details and information, click on travelbrandsagent.com.TravelBrands also has a client incentive: an exclusive onboard credit deal to help close the sale. The OBC is worth up to $300 and applicable on select departures and staterooms. Win an MSC cruise through TravelBrands’ BDM Facebook page Tuesday, March 14, 2017 Travelweek Group Posted bycenter_img << Previous PostNext Post >> Tags: TravelBrands Sharelast_img read more