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Suspension of ‘golden visa’ – A Failed Attempt by the Home Office

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Golden Visa

Just a week back, the Home Office had announced to suspend the UK’s Tier 1 Investor programme, starting midnight December 7. On Tuesday – five days after the announcement came – the UK’s anti-corruption policy was questioned and criticised for failing to suspend the “golden visa” scheme.

The 500-word press release that talked about the suspension of the scheme, read, “The Home Office has suspended the Tier 1 (Investor) route as it prepares for sweeping reforms in 2019, as part of its ongoing efforts to tackle serious organised crime and money laundering.”

Caroline Nokes, the immigration minister, had said, “I have been clear that we will not tolerate people who do not play by the rules and seek to abuse the system.”

However, on Tuesday, a spokesperson from the Home Office issued a statement: “The Tier 1 (Investor) visa is not currently suspended, however we remain committed to reforming the route. A further announcement will be made in due course.”

In 2015, Transparency International UK brought into notice that around 3,000 golden visas were issued without proper checks on funds used to obtain them.

Golden visa scheme has faced severe criticism over the years as they promote corruption. Following the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, the Home Office announced to review 700 golden visas that had been issued to rich Russians.

Rachel Davies Teka, head of advocacy at Transparency International UK, said, “We call on the government to urgently clarify its policy towards the Tier 1 visa scheme, as well as set a timetable for when and how the promised review of previous recipients will be carried out.

“Any individuals found by this review to have brought suspicious money into the UK should be subject to police investigation into the provenance of all their UK assets.”

The government’s failure to suspend golden visa has been lambasted by anti-corruption campaigners, who were happy to embrace the announcement.

Naomi Hirst, a senior campaigner at Global Witness, an international NGO that works against corruption and resource exploitation, said: “This ludicrous U-turn is keeping Britain’s doors open to the super-rich, who can continue to buy residency for £2m, which they get back with interest.”

“The corruption risks inherent in these schemes was serious enough for Caroline Nokes to suspend them last week, so what’s changed? For a government so keen on taking back control of its borders, this is not just an embarrassment, it’s shameful,” she added.

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Views by ads on music videos won’t be counted under YouTube’s new policy

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YouTube Music

YouTube has announced to modify the algorithm of calculating the YouTube Music Charts and 24-hour viewership records. This change will mean that the video-streaming portal would not count paid advertising views in its tallies.

On its official blog, YouTube compared its user-influencing power to that of the old TRL. The blog read that motive behind the modification is to uphold the platform’s credibility, and to promote transparency across the global music industry.

An abstract from the post reads: “YouTube Music Charts have become an indispensable source for the industry and the most accurate place for measuring the popularity of music listening behavior happening on the world’s largest music platform.”

The post also mentioned that in order to render more transparency to the music industry and adapt to the policies of official charting companies, including Billboard and Nielsen, we have decided to stop counting paid advertising views on our portal in the YouTube Music Charts calculation.

It seems that YouTube’s latest move have come after Sony Music India asserted that artist Badshah’s single track “Paagal” had set a new 24-hour debut viewership record. Just a few days later, before any confirmation from YouTube, he confessed buying the views through ads on his video.

From now, artists will attain ranks on the YouTube Music Charts along with their 24-hour record debuts, which will completely depend on organic views, such as direct links to the video, search engine results, video embedded on third-party sites and YouTube features, including the homepage, watch next and Trending. Moreover, the new policy won’t affect YouTube’s current 24-hour record debut holders.

“Our goal is to ensure YouTube remains a place where all artists are accurately recognized and celebrated for achieving success and milestones.” Music has remained YouTube’s most lucrative category, with music and its related videos estimating 20% of total views on the portal.

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Google will pay almost €1bn to conclude French tax probe

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Google will pay almost €1bn to conclude French tax probe

Google has agreed to pay over 1 billion euros ($1.10 billion) to the French authorities in order to conclude a fiscal fraud investigation that was launched four years ago.

French investigators are probing to find out whether Google’s European headquarters in Dublin, avoided paying its dues to the state by eluding to affirm a portion of its operations in the country.

According to Google, both the sides have reached to a settlement wherein a fine of 500 million euros will be paid by Google, along with additional taxes of 465 million euros.

Google gives out a small amount of tax in most European countries, reason being it documents majority of sales in Ireland. Such a framework exists due to a loophole in international tax law but it depends on Dublin staff who concludes all sales agreements.

During a hearing in the Paris court, Google’s lawyer Antonin Levy said, “(The agreement allows) to settle once for all these past disputes.”

The total amount of tax payment is not more than 1.6 billion euros sought by the finance ministry after Google’s offices in Paris were raided in 2016. Back then, the ministry strongly refused to come in terms with the company.

Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin said the settlement with Google will put a legal precedent in place. Darmanin further added that discussions were already going on with a number of other companies, both big and small. However, he did not name any of those companies.

So far, the European countries have found it difficult to tax the profits of global tech companies derived in their judiciary.

France has always laid emphasis on a digital tax to entail European Union member states, but has faced opposition from Ireland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.

“We remain convinced that a coordinated reform of the international tax system is the best way to provide a clear framework for companies operating worldwide,” Google said.

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Freight accident in Congo kills at least 50 stowaways

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Freight accident in Congo kills at least 50

Over 50 people lost their lives after a cargo train derailed in southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on September 12.

The train got off the track at 3am in Tanganyika (province) near Mayibaridi. The authorities confirmed a provisional toll of 50 dead and several others wounded,” minister for humanitarian action, Steve Mbikayi, said in a tweet.

However, according to the scene witnesses and local media, more than a hundred people are feared killed in the Congo train accident.

Victor Umba, the union head of the national rail company SNCC, said the cargo train was slated to cover its route from the town of Nyunzu to the town of Niemba when two coaches fell off the tracks.

“Those who died in this derailment were stowaways. It is impossible for the SNCC to provide any kind of toll,” Umba said.

He further added that the SNCC’s chief had reached the provincial capital of Kalemie for figuring out a way to lift the coaches. “It seems that many stowaways are trapped under the derailed carriages”.

DRC railways has been struggling through a bad record for safety, accidents often due to derelict tracks and decrepit locomotives, which are majorly outdated and operating since 1960s.

In March, over 24 people were killed and 31 were wounded after a cargo train loaded with illegal passengers met an accident in the central province of Kasai.

In November 2018, at least 10 stowaways were killed along with 24 wounded close to the eastern town of Samba. The accident was a result of failed brakes.

In November 2017, over 35 people lost their lives when a cargo train with 13 oil tankers dropped into a valley in southern Lualaba region.

Similar to several state companies in DR Congo, the SNCC is falling into bankruptcy and its erstwhile chief Sylvestre Ilunga is the country’s current prime minister.

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Ashura panic-rush kills 31 in Iraq, death toll expected to rise

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Ashura

At least 31 people were killed during Ashura in a tragic stampede in Iraq’s holy city of Karbala after a footbridge suddenly plummeted. Over 100 people were wounded, and according to the Iraqi Health Ministry, the death toll was expected to increase as a couple of wounded were in critical condition.

The incident took place while the Ashura festival procession was nearing end, as the pilgrims marked Shi’ite Muslim holy rituals at the shrine of Imam Hussein. Shrine officials said the Iraq stampede started at the main entry of the ornate building.

The annual pilgrimage marking the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson in battle in 680 draws hundreds of thousands of Shi’ite Muslims to Karbala from around the world.

On this day Shi’ite Muslims commemorate the killing of Hussein in A.D. 680. He was a grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, and was killed by a rival Muslim faction, which is believed to cause rift between Shiite and Sunni Islam. For Shiites, Hussein and his line of descent are the heirs of the prophet by right.

The Shiites pilgrims observe the day with mourning and hitting themselves and some wounding their heads with sharp blades.

In the past, radical Sunni militants have targeted Ashura processions, however, this year was quite peaceful up to the breaking of the walkway. The officials told that the bridge collapsed in the mid of the so-called Tweireej run, when thousands of pilgrims were running toward the Imam Hussein shrine.

That run signifies the time when maternal cousins of Hussein’s half brother came running across a mile fromTweireej village to save him, but found that he was killed.

As the people saw other pilgrims rushing in panic, stampede got instigated near the gold-domed Imam Hussein shrine, which crushed many people to death.

According to the Associated Press, yesterday’s stampede was the most hazardous in a long time during Ashura commemorations in Karbala, which is located over 50 miles south of Baghdad.

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Iranian Oil Tanker Adrian Darya 1 in Criticism from British Officials

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Adrian Darya 1

Recently, the 1997 built Iranian oil tanker Adrian Darya 1 is in criticism from the British officials. On Tuesday, Britain’s foreign minister Dominic Raab accused the Iranian tanker to have sold its crude oil to Assad regime led by the Syrian politician Bashar Hafez al-Assad, who became the president of Syria in 2000.  

“Iran has shown complete disregard for its own assurances over Adrian Darya 1”, said Dominic Raab.

As known from the previous data, the Iranian officials assured that they would not sell crude to any other country, but the Iranian’s act of disregarding their own assurances aggravated the British officials amid continued provoking indifferences with the oil-rich country.  

The conflicts between both the UK and Iran seems to be growing from a long time. Not only that, the Iranian officials are also having a hard time dealing with the US as the latter unilaterally pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal. Furthermore, the US also imposed various sanctions on Iran, that hindered Iran’s exports to the other Middle-Eastern countries.

In regards to Britain’s accuses, the US State Department on Tuesday said that the Iranian officials have deceived the international community by going back from their words, stressing on the fact that they did sell illicit oil to Assad’s regime.

Previously, Iran seized a British-flagged tanker in the strait of Hormuz in July. The move came two weeks later when the British officials detained an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar. The Iranian oil tanker Grace 1, which is now named as Adrian Darya 1, was seized for illegally transporting oil to Syria in July, with the claims that the shipping breached the EU sanctions.

The British Royal Marines, however released the Iranian vessel on August 15, with assurances from Tehran that the ship would not discharge its 2.1 million barrels of oil in Syria. But the recent accusations are a clear contradiction to Iran’s previous statements. The British officials made it clear that Iran breached the made promises, transferring oil to Syria through Adrian Darya 1.

Dissatisfied with Iranian’s move, Dominic Raab said, “This sale of oil to (Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s) brutal regime is part of a pattern of behavior by the Government of Iran designed to disrupt regional security.”

As the situation appears, the government might raise the entire issue of illicit transport of oil through Adrian Darya 1 in the UN meeting ahead this month.

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