Dizzy Parsley

Boston Marathon bombing – Wikipedia

Both of the improvised explosive devices were pressure cooker bombs manufactured by the bombers. Authorities confirmed that the brothers used bomb-making instructions found in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's Inspire magazine.

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The role of social media:

At 5:20 p.m. on April 18, the FBI released images of two suspects carrying backpacks, asking the public's help in identifying them. The FBI said that they were doing this in part to limit harm to people wrongly identified by news reports and on social-media. As seen on video, the suspects stayed to observe the chaos after the explosions, then walked away casually. The public sent authorities a deluge of photographs and videos, which were scrutinized by both authorities and online public social networks.

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This is that Shell on Mem Drive:

While the Tsarnaev brothers stopped at a Shell gas station, Meng escaped and ran across the street to the Mobil gas station, asking the clerk to call 911. His cell phone remained in the vehicle, allowing the police to focus their search on Watertown.

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That's interesting:

A later report by Harvard Kennedy School's Program on Crisis Leadership concluded that lack of coordination among police agencies had put the public at excessive risk during the shootout.

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Huh:

Authorities surrounded the boat and a police helicopter verified movement through a thermal imaging device. The figure inside the boat started poking at the tarp, and police shot at the boat.

According to Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis and Watertown Police Chief Deveau, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was shooting at police from inside the boat, “exchanging fire for an hour”. A subsequent report indicated that the firing lasted for a shorter time. The suspect was found to have no weapon when he was captured.[126] He was arrested at 8:42 p.m. and taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he was listed in critical condition with gunshot wounds to the head, neck, legs, and hand.

Initial reports that the neck wound represented a suicide attempt were contradicted by his being unarmed. The situation was chaotic according to a police source quoted by The Washington Post, and the firing of weapons occurred during “the fog of war”. A subsequent review by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts provided this more specific summary: “One officer fired his weapon without appropriate authority in response to perceived movement in the boat, and surrounding officers followed suit in a round of 'contagious fire', assuming they were being fired on by the suspect. Weapons continued to be fired for several seconds until on scene supervisors ordered a ceasefire and regained control of the scene. The unauthorized shots created another dangerous crossfire situation”.

These confusions were caused in part by a lack of clearly identified and coordinated law enforcement command of the thousands of officers from surrounding communities who self-deployed into the Watertown area during events.

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The interrogation:

United States Senators Kelly Ayotte, Saxby Chambliss, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain, and Representative Peter T. King suggested that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a U.S. citizen, should be tried as an unlawful enemy combatant rather than as a criminal, potentially preventing him from obtaining legal counsel. Others said that doing so would be illegal, including prominent American legal scholar and lawyer Alan Dershowitz, and would jeopardize the prosecution. The government decided to try Dzhokhar in the federal criminal court system and not as an enemy combatant.

Dzhokhar was questioned for 16 hours by investigators but stopped communicating with them on the night of April 22 after Judge Marianne Bowler read him a Miranda warning. Dzhokhar had not previously been given a Miranda warning, as federal law enforcement officials invoked the warning's public safety exception. This raised doubts whether his statements during this investigation would be admissible as evidence and led to a debate surrounding Miranda rights.

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If I ever knew this, I'd forgotten it:

On May 22, the FBI interrogated Ibragim Todashev in Orlando, Florida, who was a Chechen from Boston. During the interrogation, he was shot and killed by an FBI agent who claimed that Todashev attacked him. The New York Times quoted an unnamed law enforcement official as saying that Todashev had confessed to a triple homicide and had implicated Tsarnaev, as well. Todashev's father claimed his son is innocent and that federal investigators are biased against Chechens and made up their case against him.

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Republican U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss and Richard Burr reported that Russian authorities had separately asked both the FBI (at least twice: during March and November 2011) and the CIA (September 2011) to look carefully into Tamerlan Tsarnaev and provide more information about him back to Russia. Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) secretly recorded phone conversations between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his mother (they vaguely and indirectly discussed jihad) and sent these to the FBI as evidence of possible extremist links within the family. However, while Russia offered US intelligence services warnings that Tsarnaev planned to link up with extremist groups abroad, an FBI investigation yielded no evidence to support those claims at the time. In addition, subsequent U.S. requests for additional information about Tsarnaev went unanswered by the Russians.

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Has Boston's relatively strong COVID performance been aided by previous shelter-in-place experience?

During the manhunt for the perpetrators of the bombing, Governor Deval Patrick said “we are asking people to shelter in place.” The request was highly effective; most people stayed home, causing Boston, Watertown, and Cambridge to come to a virtual standstill. According to Time magazine, “media described residents complying with a 'lockdown order,' but in reality the governor's security measure was a request.” Scott Silliman, emeritus director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke Law School, said that the shelter-in-place request was voluntary.

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Is this still a thing?

On the second anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings, Mayor Marty Walsh established April 15, the day of the bombings, as an official and permanent holiday called “One Boston Day”, dedicated to conducting random acts of kindness and helping others out. Over the past four years, some examples of acts of kindness being done have been donating blood to the American Red Cross, donating food to the Greater Boston Food Bank, opening free admission in places like the Museum of Science and Museum of Fine Arts, donating shoes to homeless shelters, and donating to military and veteran charities.

Ed Davis (police commissioner) – Wikipedia

Davis is well known for his leadership during the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt.

On September 22, 2013, Davis announced his resignation from the Boston Police Department. He will be a visiting fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and also assisting with a local non-profit helping offenders return to society.

Protocol, 7/15/2020: Facebook's plan for privacy laws? 'Co-creating' them with Congress

Now, the social networking giant has a modest proposal for lawmakers drafting privacy rules around the world: Let us help you write them.

In a new white paper published Wednesday, Facebook pushes for a light-touch approach to privacy regulation that involves maximum input from and flexibility for businesses. These, of course, are already the sorts of policies most tech giants are lobbying for behind closed doors. But the paper pushes for this collaboration to happen out in the open.

It argues, for instance, that the best way to design privacy regulations is through “policy co-creation,” in which governments and companies work together to prototype policies and test their viability before they're implemented. It makes a case for regulations that “avoid or remove strict, one-size-fits-all design requirements,” opting instead for laws that “regulate the process for making privacy design decisions, not the outcome of those processes.”

Who defines “viability?” It's possible (indeed, probable) that the right privacy and data protection policies would be extremely damaging to the business model of Facebook and other data exploiters. If we internalize the needs of Facebook and its ilk into our conception of what is “viable,” then we'll end up with the wrong policies.

NYT, 7/15/2020: TikTok Enlists Army of Lobbyists as Suspicions Over China Ties Grow

ByteDance has also tapped its prominent investors for help. General Atlantic, whose chief executive, William E. Ford, sits on ByteDance’s board, has been advising TikTok on lobbying strategy, and SoftBank, which invested in ByteDance in 2018, has suggested new Washington hires in the past, said two people familiar with the matter.

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In meetings with lawmakers, lobbyists insist that the app is mainly for entertainment and is not the type of content that is normally targeted for government surveillance, according to two people with knowledge of TikTok’s lobbying activities. They point out that the most popular clips are by young influencers like 16-year-old dancer Charli D’Amelio of Connecticut, who has 70 million followers.

The company has also highlighted its American investors, like the Chinese arm of the venture capital firm Sequoia and the private equity firms KKR and General Atlantic, said one person familiar with the matter.

WSJ, July 5, 2020: Tech Giants to Face EU Legal Push on Content, Competition, Taxes

Big tech companies including Google parent Alphabet Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc. face a swath of proposed European regulations aimed at curbing their alleged anticompetitive behavior, making them pay more taxes and compelling them to shoulder more responsibility for illegal content on their platforms, said a top European Union official.

Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s digital-policy and antitrust czar, detailed for the first time a comprehensive plan of how she aims to rein in U.S. tech giants, using a package of initiatives that the EU has begun to outline individually in recent weeks. The aim is to clearly delineate new legal boundaries for tech companies, rather than just apply existing laws covering fields such as antitrust regulation.

“It’s a full complex of things. It’s not done with just one piece of legislation,” Ms. Vestager said in an interview with a small group of reporters. Ms. Vestager—who in her prior term as European competition commissioner levied record fines on Google and ordered Apple Inc. to pay Ireland $14.5 billion in allegedly unpaid taxes—last year was promoted to vice president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, in charge of competition and new legislation for the digital sector.

“After the first mandate and the first specific competition cases, what I have seen very clearly is that we need rigorous competition-law enforcement, but we also need regulation,” she said.

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The potential UK policy of requiring large tech companies to share data with smaller tech companies seems like a good start:

Ms. Vestager’s regulatory plans would keep the EU at the vanguard of a movement to more tightly regulate tech companies—though other parts of the world are increasingly joining the debate. The EU in 2018 put into force a data-protection regime known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which was imitated in several other jurisdictions and inspired California’s data-protection measures that took effect in January. More European regulation in the digital sector is likely to have an impact beyond the Continent, with other jurisdictions following suit. The U.S. Justice Department last month proposed rolling back rules that limit companies’ responsibility for what people post on their platforms, and the U.K.’s antitrust authority has proposed creating a special antitrust unit focused on digital markets, which could have powers potentially including ordering large companies to share data with smaller ones.

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Another piece of legislation would list prohibited practices. It is aimed at stopping platforms from leveraging their dominance to quash smaller rivals and is inspired by the three EU antitrust cases against Google that brought fines totaling more than $9 billion.

Separately, Ms. Vestager said in the interview that she is seeking enhanced investigative powers that would allow her to order all companies in a certain sector to change their behavior so they don’t monopolize a particular market. This would “prevent new gatekeepers from arising, so we can still have the benefit of competition in the market,” she said.

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In taxation, the EU is considering establishing its own digital tax now that the Trump administration and European countries including France have reached an impasse in international talks on the topic. The European Commission, like several European countries, has said over the past year that if international talks fail by the end of this year, the bloc will put forward its own digital tax proposals.

The EU has proposed establishing a dedicated technology-and-trade dialogue channel with the U.S. to iron out such issues. “We will do what we can in order to make that happen,” she said.

Ms. Vestager said a digital tax is justified by fairness. “So many businesses have to work very hard to make a profit, and from that profit to then pay taxes,” she said. “They should not be met with competitors for capital, skilled employees and customers who do not contribute to society. That has nothing to do with where you come from, it has to do with doing business in an equal manner.”

WSJ, June 18, 2020: After U.S. Declares Impasse on Digital Taxes, Europe Continues Push

European officials are pushing forward with plans to tax tech giants after the U.S. declared international talks on the issue to be at an impasse, raising the specter of trans-Atlantic trade conflict.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Thursday that France will resume collecting a 3% tax on revenue from digital services if countries from around the world can’t agree on a system for reallocating tax revenues from tech giants by the end of 2020.

Separately, Paolo Gentiloni, the European Union’s economy commissioner, said that the bloc will also pursue its own digital-tax proposal next year if the multinational talks fail.

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“Whatever happens, we will apply a tax to digital giants in 2020,” Mr. Le Maire said on French radio. He added that the U.S. was the only country to oppose a process that he described as “within a few centimeters of an accord.” The comments come after U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin sent his counterparts in France, the U.K., Italy and Spain a letter explaining the U.S. opposition to elements of the talks. In the letter, Mr. Mnuchin says the U.S. “is unable to agree, even on an interim basis” to any tax changes that would fall hardest on U.S.-based companies, according to a copy of the letter seen by The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Le Maire described the letter as a “provocation for everyone who was negotiating in good faith,” and said that the four countries had sent a joint response urging an international agreement on “fair taxation of digital giants” as soon as possible.

The trans-Atlantic tit-for-tat throws the latest wrench in the fragile talks over digital taxes. More than 100 countries have been trying for years to hash out new rules about how to apportion the profits of multinational companies, working through the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of 37 advanced economies.

Current rules generally allocate corporate profit for tax purposes based on where value is created. But modern multinationals—particularly ones with digital offerings—can sell their products across borders in ways that leave little taxable profit in a country where those products are consumed.

Many big European countries say that tech companies should pay more taxes in the countries where their products are consumed, something that could boost their tax revenues by billions of dollars. But the U.S. has opposed any solution that is too targeted at tech companies, where it has more to lose.

As international talks have dragged out, several countries, starting with France, but followed by the U.K., Italy and Spain, have been pursuing their own targeted taxes on digital companies, such as Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc. The U.S. has in turn threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs on any country that implements such a tax. Mr. Gentiloni said the EU would stick together in the face of any such move, raising the prospect of a new trade conflict between the world’s largest economies.

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Earlier this year, France agreed with the U.S. to suspend collection of its digital tax, after the U.S. moved to make good on such a threat. But France never withdrew the tax and officials have repeatedly said the country would begin collection again if there were no OECD deal by the end of 2020.

Tech companies, for their part, have opposed national digital-services taxes like France’s, but have supported the OECD process, arguing that they would like to avoid a patchwork of overlapping national initiatives.

There is one element of the OECD talks where the Europeans and Americans are “much closer to an agreement,” according to Mr. Mnuchin’s letter: the creation of global minimum levels for corporate taxation. Those talks are proceeding along a parallel track at the OECD.

The U.S. adopted a form of minimum tax in 2017 when it overhauled its tax system. In general, companies that pay less than 10.5% in taxes on their foreign operations owe money to the U.S., though the details can vary greatly by company. One big question is whether that U.S. tax will be considered to meet the OECD standard for what counts as a minimum tax.

WSJ, July 15, 2020: Apple Wins Major Tax Battle Against EU

A central issue in the Apple case was whether two Irish tax rulings granted to Apple in 1991 and 2007 gave a form of special treatment to the company, or whether they just reiterated an interpretation of Irish tax law as it was applied more generally.

Those rulings allowed two Irish-registered Apple units to attribute only a small sliver of some $130 billion in profit to Ireland in an 11-year period. The commission said all that revenue should be attributed to Ireland, but the Irish government and Apple say they split the profit reasonably, given that almost all of Apple’s intellectual property is developed in the U.S., not Ireland.

In Wednesday’s ruling, the General Court said that, despite the gaps in the contested tax rulings, the commission hadn’t proven the Irish government granted a special advantage to Apple that was unavailable to other companies in Ireland.

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The case stems from a 2016 decision by the European Commission, the bloc’s top antitrust enforcer, which said that Ireland must recoup €13 billion in allegedly unpaid taxes between 2003 and 2014, money the commission said constituted an illegal subsidy under the bloc’s strict state-aid rules.

The General Court swept aside that reasoning, saying it annulled the decision because the commission had failed to meet the legal standards in showing that Apple was illegally given special treatment.

The 2016 decision against Apple was one of Ms. Vestager’s first big broadsides against tech companies in her role running the EU’s competition enforcement, earning her the nickname “tax lady” from President Trump. She later issued Google three fines totaling $9.4 billion, and launched formal antitrust probes into Amazon and Apple. She is now also responsible for tech regulation and is considering imposing a digital tax on tech giants.

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One could (should) make this same case in the US about tax breaks and subsidies at the state and local level.

And at the international level, there should be an effort to redesign international tax agreements to prevent race-to-the-bottom tax policies.

After Wednesday’s decision, Ms. Vestager said she would “carefully study the judgment and reflect on possible next steps” and vowed to continue investigations into national tax deals with corporations to establish whether they constitute illegal subsidies.

“The Commission stands fully behind the objective that all companies should pay their fair share of tax,” she said, adding that if one EU government gives corporations tax benefits that aren’t available to their rivals, “this harms fair competition in the EU.”

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In a September hearing at the General Court, Apple’s lawyers said the commission’s decision to call for the payment “defied reality and common sense” and Apple’s CEO Tim Cook at the time slammed the decision as “total political crap.”

WSJ, September 1, 2016: Tim Cook Says Apple Could Send Cash Back to U.S. Next Year

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said the company may repatriate at least some of the billions of dollars of cash it holds offshore as early as next year, in comments made in the wake of a €13 billion ($14.5 billion) tax clawback decision by European authorities.

Mr. Cook, who has aggressively challenged that ruling, took his case to Ireland on Thursday, blasting the decision as “political crap” and saying anti-competition authorities in Brussels miscalculated how much tax the company paid in Ireland.

“They just picked a number from I don’t know where,” Mr. Cook told Ireland’s Independent newspaper. EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager responded Thursday by denying the decision was a political move, and she defended Brussels’ math. She said officials used figures Apple provided to them, as well as from a U.S. Senate hearing into the matter several years ago.

The European Union’s antitrust regulator demanded Tuesday that Ireland recoup the taxes from Apple, alleging that arrangements the government offered the company in 1991 and 2007 allowed it to pay around 1% to almost zero tax on its European profits between 2003 and 2014. Apple said it would appeal the decision. Ireland’s finance minister has also criticized the decision, but the government hasn’t officially blessed an appeal.

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Apple holds about $215 billion in cash and other liquid investments offshore. It has long provisioned for an eventual repatriation of some of the funds. But Apple has also long suggested it wasn’t considering moving any of that money back soon—until there was corporate tax code changes in the U.S. that would make such a move less costly. Mr. Cook told the Washington Post in August that the company wouldn’t bring the money back “until there’s a fair rate” but said he was optimistic of corporate tax changes next year.

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Obviously we shouldn't design our tax codes based on what CEOs consider to be a “reasonable” level of taxation.

We should be especially wary of the view of a CEO whose company returns billions of dollars to shareholders every year generated through monopolistic business practices.

If Tim Cook thinks a “reasonable” corporate tax rate is 26% of profits, why does Apple use its monopoly to levy a 30% tax on the revenue of other companies?

Apple provisions each year U.S. income taxes on about half of its foreign earnings to cover such a repatriation. Currently those provisions total about $30 billion, Apple said.

The company reported in 2014 an effective tax rate of 26.1% on its world-wide profit, including the foreign tax provisions that are unpaid, a level Mr. Cook described as “reasonable.”