The Canadian Press
WARSAW, Poland – Amid a spike in new COVID-19 cases, Poland’s health care and Catholic Church authorities have appealed to all parish priests to strictly observe the limit of attendance and distancing at church services, and especially during next month’s Easter holiday. Health Minister Adam Niedzielski and Secretary General of Poland’s Episcopate, Bishop Artur Mizinski said in the appeal Wednesday they were driven by concern for the “life and health of all Poles.” “We must not remain indifferent in the face of the rising number of new infections,” they said and stressed the need to “strictly observe the rules and sanitary requirements.” They said that was the necessary condition to avoid new restrictions that would be tougher than the current lockdown of hotels, shopping malls, theatres and sports centres. On Wednesday, the 38-million nation recorded its highest daily number of new COVID-19 cases in the pandemic, reaching almost 30,000. There were 575 deaths. Like in shops, only one person per 15 sq. meters (161 sq. feet) can be allowed inside, at a 1.5 metre (5 feet) distance from others, and wearing a mask. There have been reports that not all churches observe the rule. Photos have been circulated of ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski and other officials failing to observe the required distance at a memorial Mass for Kaczynski’s late mother in a church in Starachowice, central Poland. Easter, this year on April 4-5, and the week leading to it, are a time when people daily throng to churches for prayers and Mass. ___ THE VIRUS OUTBREAK: VACCINES: More than 85.4 million people, or 25.7% of the U.S. population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some 46.3 million people, or 14% of the population, have completed their vaccination. CASES: The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks from 56,045 on March 9 to 53,308 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. DEATHS: The seven-day rolling average for daily new deaths in the U.S. decreased over the past two weeks decreased from 1,557 on March 9 to 940 on Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. — Dr. Fauci: Positive signs with vaccinations, but U.S. not turning corner yet on coronavirus — Bono, Penélope Cruz, David Oyelowo star in animated series on vaccine importance — Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak ___ HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING: BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana will end its limits Monday on which adults can receive the coronavirus vaccine, giving access to anyone 16 and older who wants to schedule an appointment. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards made the announcement as vaccine supplies grow and immunization appointments go unused. Louisiana is joining a growing list of states that are throwing open vaccine access to any adult interested in a shot. Edwards says Louisiana also will significantly ramp up its large community vaccination events to try to reach more people and make it easier for them to obtain the immunizations. ___ BOISE, Idaho — The governor of Idaho has said COVID-19 vaccine eligibility will be open to all Idaho residents 16 and up starting April 5. Republican Gov. Brad Little made the move three weeks ahead of schedule. He also said people with at least one medical condition will be able to get the vaccine starting Monday, about two weeks ahead of schedule. Currently eligible for the vaccine are those 55 and older, healthcare workers, long-term care facility staff and residents, first responders, K-12 teachers and school staff, and frontline essential workers. ___ WAILUKU, Hawaii — A hospital on Maui had to throw out nearly 1,400 vaccine doses after a refrigerator thawing the vials did not properly seal. A low-temperature refrigerator holding doses of the Pfizer vaccine at Maui Memorial Medical Center was not closed properly, and the vaccines were compromised over the weekend. Officials at the hospital said enough supply remains to keep all current vaccination appointments. Vaccines are locked in a freezer before being transferred to the low-temperature refrigerator to be thawed. The doses were put in the refrigerator on Friday in preparation for this week’s vaccinations. Staff members discovered the door was not sealed on Monday. Hawaii has distributed 832,800 coronavirus vaccines, or about 58,819 for every 100,000 residents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 16% of the state’s population has completed their vaccination. ___ BERLIN — Austrian authorities plan to close nonessential shops and businesses such as hairdressers in three eastern regions from April 1 to April 6 over Easter as they attempt to flatten a rise in coronavirus infections. Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said that the aim is a “cooling-down phase” in the capital, Vienna; the surrounding province of Lower Austria; and neighbouring Burgenland province, on the Hungarian border. The three eastern provinces are a cause of particular concern because of the rapid spread of a more contagious virus variant first detected in Britain. Austria has an overall infection rate of 247 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past week. The rate is closer to 300 in the eastern provinces. The national rate is more than twice that in neighbouring Germany, where authorities initially decided on a five-day nationwide shutdown over Easter but then abandoned the idea because of logistical and legal concerns. ___ NEW YORK — More than three months into the U.S. vaccination drive, 70% of Americans 65 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Also, COVID-19 deaths have dipped below 1,000 a day on average for the first time since November. Dozens of states have thrown open vaccinations to all adults or are planning to do so in a matter of weeks. More than 43% of Americans 65 and older — the most vulnerable age group, accounting for an outsize share of the nation’s more than 540,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths — have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. The number of older adults showing up in emergency rooms with COVID-19 is down significantly. Vaccinations overall have ramped up to 2.5 million to 3 million shots per day. The outlook in the U.S. stands in stark contrast to the deteriorating situation in places like Brazil and Europe. At the same time, public health experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci in the U.S. are warning it’s too early to declare victory and relaxing social distancing and other measures could easily lead to another surge. ___ MADRID — Spain’s top health official has warned the country is at risk of another spike in coronavirus infections that has already struck many parts of Europe. “We are facing a decisive moment,” Health Minister Carolina Darias said after meeting with Spain’s regional health chiefs on Wednesday. “We must invert this tendency. We have to intensify our efforts.” Darias says the spread of the more contagious variants is pushing up infections across Spain. A nightly curfew and other restrictions on movement had put a cap on infections until two weeks ago, when the figures started to increase. Darias made her appeal alongside Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, who said police will be extra vigilant to enforce bans on travel between regions and unauthorized social gatherings for next week’s Easter holidays. “Our goal is to save lives,” says Grande-Marlaska. Also Wednesday, thousands of Spaniards lined up to get AstraZeneca shots again, the latest country to restart the vaccine after its credibility suffered a series of recent setbacks. Spain reported more than 7,000 infections in the past 24 hours and 320 deaths, increasing the confirmed death toll to more than 74,000. ___ ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has received approximately 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine and will begin administering shots next week. Turkey’s health minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Twitter that Turkey received delivery of some 750,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday and 700,000 more arrived on Wednesday. Turkey is set to receive a total of 4.5 million doses of the vaccine. Turkey rolled out its vaccination program in January after authorities approved the emergency use of the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac company. More than 14 million shots have been administered so far. Some 6 million people have received their two doses. The country of 83 million aims to provide vaccines to 50 million people by the fall. ___ WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci isn’t ready to say the nation has turned the corner on the coronavirus pandemic, despite about 2.5 million Americans getting vaccinated each day. The government’s top infectious disease expert says he often gets asked that question. His response: “We are at the corner. Whether we or not we are going to be turning the corner remains to be seen.” At the White House coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, Fauci says the main challenge remains a stubbornly high level of new daily cases in the country. It’s hovering around an average of 55,000 and up slightly in recent days. While that is clearly much better than the 250,000 daily cases at the peak of the winter wave, it’s uncomfortably close to levels seen during the COVID wave of last summer. “When you are at that level, I don’t think you can declare victory and say you have turned the corner,” Fauci adds. On the plus side, along with the growing level of vaccinations, Fauci is underscoring recent studies that show negligible rates of coronavirus infection among fully vaccinated people. There’s also been a significant drop in the number of people 65 and older going to the emergency room with COVID-19. That’s the age group most vulnerable to the disease. ___ BRUSSELS — Belgium is reintroducing strict lockdown measures in response to a surge of new coronavirus infections. The government announced schools would be closed on Monday and residents would have limited access to non-essential businesses starting Wednesday night. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo says the virus variant first identified in Britain is likely taking a heavy toll on the health of the country’s people. Confirmed cases increased 40% in the last week and hospital admissions rose 28% following a long stable period. Under the new rules, non-essential shops can remain open but customers will need to book appointments. Hairdressers and beauty parlours must close until April 25. ___ PARIS — France’s culture minister has been hospitalized for COVID-19, the latest senior official to be infected as the nation faces a third surge of infections. Roselyne Bachelot announced last weekend that she had tested positive and her hospitalization was made public Wednesday. The latest surge has been likely propelled by the highly contagious virus variant first seen in Britain. ICUs in the Paris region as well as in northern and southeastern France are filling up. French President Emmanuel Macron, who was infected months ago but never hospitalized, on Tuesday announced an acceleration of the country’s vaccination campaign. Now all people over 70 are eligible to get a vaccine shot. ___ KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine has recorded 342 deaths, its highest daily death toll from COVID-19. The country’s Health Ministry says that’s up from the previous high of 333 on Tuesday. Ukraine began vaccinations in late February after receiving 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Reluctance to take the shots is strong even as new infections severely tax the country’s underfunded medical system. There have been 30,773 confirmed deaths in Ukraine during the pandemic. ___ BRUSSELS — The European Union is moving toward stricter export controls to ensure there are more COVID-19 vaccine supplies for the bloc. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on the eve of a summit of the 27 leaders that it has a plan ready to guarantee more vaccines produced in the bloc are available for its own citizens before they can be shipped for exports. EU nations have been specifically stung by the United Kingdom, which has received some 10 million doses from EU plants while they say nothing came back from Britain. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken in the past few days to European leaders, including von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron. “Vaccines are an international operation,” Johnson says, adding that the U.K. would “continue to work with European partners to deliver the vaccine rollout.” The EU has been insisting that two AstraZeneca plants in Britain should also be part of the EU deliveries. ___ BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel has dropped plans for a five-day shutdown in Germany over Easter, which had prompted confusion and criticism. She called the idea a mistake and apologized to Germans. Merkel announced the decision after calling a hastily arranged videoconference with Germany’s 16 state governors, who are responsible for imposing and lifting restrictions. The same group had come up with the unexpected plan for deeper restrictions over Easter, which was announced early Tuesday. The plan was to make Thursday, the day before Good Friday, a “rest day,” with all shops closed, and only allow supermarkets to open on Easter Saturday. ___ ROME — Italian Premier Mario Draghi decried various interest groups getting their members COVID-19 vaccines before adults older than 80. Draghi told the Senate not all the nation’s regions are following the Health Ministry’s directives that give priority to older age groups. Said Draghi: “Some (regions) are neglecting their elderly in favour of groups that proclaim priority” based on their lobbying ability. Draghi expressed satisfaction of vaccination in nursing homes, telling lawmakers that 86% of care home residents have received at least one vaccine dose. He also says Italy will aim to reopen all primary and nursery schools nationwide, possibly after Easter, even in regions with the strictest COVID-19 restrictions ___ The Associated Press
British Columbia tackles innovation investment gap – The Globe and Mail
The B.C. government will create its own investment fund to help promising B.C. companies scale up and keep jobs here at home, as part of its post-pandemic recovery plan.
The InBC strategic investment fund, announced in Monday’s Throne Speech, will be administered by a new Crown corporation. The initiative is designed to respond to concerns that the province’s world-leading innovations in sectors such as life sciences are consistently flowing to other jurisdictions with better investment climates.
The Throne Speech, read by Lieutenant-Governor Janet Austin, offers a self-congratulatory account of the government’s response to the health and economic challenges brought by COVID-19 over the past year, and acknowledges that the province is still in the grips of the pandemic. But it also focuses on plans to rebuild the economy.
“We open this sitting of the legislature at a turning point in our fight to end the pandemic,” she read. “The threat of new variants means we cannot relax, even as your government accelerates the largest mass-immunization program in B.C.’s history.”
Ms. Austin cited the province’s contributions to the global effort to fight COVID-19, noting that its life-sciences companies have helped develop a vaccine and a treatment for the virus, as well as the development of an ICU ventilator for use in Canadian hospitals.
“Their work will not only help bring us out of the pandemic, it will position our province for success in the years ahead,” she said.
The speech predicts the province will find continued growth in trade. “Global markets are changing in ways that offer significant opportunities for B.C.’s goods and services. Prices are expected to continue to reflect environmental, social and governance aspects of production,” it states. “British Columbia firms will be able to take advantage of a premium paid for inclusive and sustainable products.”
But leaders in health sciences and the high-tech sectors have noted that B.C., while it excels in research and development, fails to foster a business environment where those innovations can stay and grow.
Quebec and Ontario have helped secure life sciences investments by partnering with Ottawa to offer incentives. Most recently, the global pharmaceutical giant Sanofi unveiled its plans to build an influenza vaccine manufacturing facility in Toronto, after the federal government and the province of Ontario committed to invest close to half a billion dollars in the project.
The B.C. government provided no detail on the new investment fund on Monday, and it is unclear how the new agency will assist. “This new strategic fund will help promising B.C. companies scale up, anchor talent – keeping jobs and investment at home in British Columbia,” it reads.
It also promises additional funding to address the challenges that COVID-19 has exposed for the homeless, for health care and for seniors in long-term care. “In the year ahead, your government will continue to improve care for seniors by hiring thousands of new workers for long-term care and fixing the cracks COVID-19 has exposed.”
The Throne Speech also promises initiatives to assist British Columbians who struggle with the cost of living. The budget, which will be introduced on April 20, will include funds to help get thousands of rental homes built throughout the province, and will expand access to the province’s $10-a-day daycare spaces.
The government is also promising changes to its vehicle insurance rates through the Insurance Corporation of B.C. ICBC will deliver a 20-per-cent cut to car insurance rates, in addition to the COVID-19 rebate that was issued earlier this year.
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eBay Is Helping Gen-Y and Gen-Z Get Their Investment Kicks
At a time when Sotheby’s is auctioning off rare sneakers, you know the nature of investing has changed. Those changes are coming as Generations Y and Z are looking to invest in what they love, while changing the nature of what investment-grade goods look like.
eBay, for one has been leading the charge and looks to remain the go-to agent for its monetization. And, to combat counterfeiting while supporting the segment’s growth, the online marketplace is innovating. eBay has begun a series of pop-up authentication events, intended to give their collectors and sellers a new source to both authenticate and value their rare kicks, as well as high-end watches, and collector cards.
Sneakers and watches are two of eBays most popular luxury categories. There are more than a half-million sneaker listings on eBay, and over 165,00 luxury watches listed on any given day. And over the past year the marketplace saw a 10 percent increase for high-end time pieces like Rolex, whose sales have jumped 60 percent since 2019.
The on-site authentication events are an extension of the recently expanded “Authentication Guarantee” services that eBay offers, utilizing an independent team of industry experts. It’s the same group that authenticated a $1 million pair of 1985 Air Jordon 1’s, signed by non-other than the “Air-apparent” himself.
The program first launched in LA’s Koreatown, back in November 2020 in a vintage, fifties-looking converted gas station. Participants handed the goods off to an attendant, who brought the items in to the inspection teams. The process was in full view via large outside screens, and successful assessments earned an eBay Authentication Guarantee. Participants were able to receive “on the spot” offers or elected to list the items themselves.
The East-Hollywood, LA experiment was successful enough to replicate. And pop-up authentication events took place this past Friday and Saturday in Atlanta. They are expected to again be replicated in Las Vegas, Seattle, Nashville, and Austin in coming weeks. Admissions to the events are free, without an appointment.
Playing A New Card
In a parallel effort, by late April eBay will add an imaging listing tool to its mobile app, designed to facilitate more efficient listings of trading cards. This is another category that has evolved from mere collecting to high-buck investing.
Beginning in late April 2021, eBay plans to launch an image listing tool in its mobile app to initially support Magic the Gathering cards and ultimately Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh! as well. Users will point their camera at the card and hold to scan. A list of possible matches will pop-up, along with details on game name, title, card set, number and rarity. After tapping the closest match, the user can add their details and pricing to post. eBay plans to add other collectable and trading cards to the offering later in 2021.
Source: – Forbes
Joe Biden tax plan affect US investment in Ireland?
Wander around Dublin’s Grand Canal Quay and you get a sense of how successful the Republic of Ireland has been in attracting US technology companies.
Google has its international headquarters across a campus of offices and will soon have more space nearby at the Boland’s Mill development.
Just across the canal, Facebook has its international HQ with Tripadvisor and AirBnB close by.
Stripe, the United States-based payments firm, could soon be in the area.
Last month its Irish founders said they’re planning about 1,000 new jobs in Ireland.
The head of the country’s inward investment agency, Martin Shanahan, described the Stripe investment as a “phenomenal signal from Ireland and about Ireland”.
But there’s now a risk that the pipeline of investment from the US could dry up if President Joe Biden can lead a major change to global tax rules.
Irish tax advantage under threat
In among those tech company HQs in Dublin’s docklands, you will also find the offices of the lawyers and accountants who help US firms use Ireland’s tax system to reduce their global tax bills.
For the last 20 years Ireland has had a simple message: invest here and you will pay just 12.5% tax on your Irish profits.
That compares favourably to headline corporation tax rates of 19% in the UK, 30% in Germany and 26.5% in Canada.
It is an article of faith in Irish politics that the 12.5% rate has been vital to attracting US investment.
But that tax advantage could be seriously undermined if President Biden gets his way.
The most striking of his proposals – and the one of most consequence for Ireland – is for a global minimum corporate tax rate.
The US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has suggested a 21% minimum rate.
“We are working with G20 nations to agree to a global minimum corporate tax rate that can stop the race to the bottom,” she said in a speech last week.
“Together we can use a global minimum tax to make sure the global economy thrives based on a more level playing field in the taxation of multinational corporations.”
What would it mean for Ireland’s economy?
Essentially that would mean if a company paid tax at the lower Irish rate, then the US (or other countries) could top up that company’s tax in their jurisdiction to get it to the global minimum.
So if a US company had a presence in Ireland primarily for the tax advantage, that advantage would disappear.
This is a matter of urgency for the Biden administration because it is planning to raise corporate taxes at home and would prefer not to see more tax revenues leaking to other countries.
Peter Vale, tax partner with accounting firm Grant Thornton in Dublin, thinks a global minimum rate is now an inevitability.
“If you’d asked me six months ago I’d have been quite sceptical, there was a lot of opposition,” he said.
“But it’s now moving by the day and, with the US behind it with its plans, I think we’re going to arrive at some sort of global consensus.”
He said the key issue for Ireland becomes the level at which the rate is set.
“I don’t think 21% is where it will land, I suspect it will be somewhere in the teens.”
Other details will be important too: “Exactly how will you work out what the rate is a company is paying in Ireland and what does that mean in terms of any top up? The detail becomes pretty critical.”
The Biden proposals have reinvigorated work which is being led by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), an intergovernmental economic organisation.
It began a project known as Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) in 2013, which aims to mitigate tax loopholes which currently allow companies to shift profits from higher tax countries to lower tax countries like Ireland.
‘Intention to target Ireland’
Perhaps ironically Ireland appears to have been a major beneficiary of some of the early outcomes of the BEPS project.
The country’s corporation tax receipts have soared from about €4bn (£3.5bn) in 2013 to around €12bn (£10.5bn) in 2020.
Seamus Coffey, an expert in Irish corporation tax, told the At the Margin podcast that this was because of the focus on what is known as “substance”.
That is the principle that companies should declare their profits in the location where they have real operations or activities.
“Countries like Ireland have been a huge winner from BEPS mark one,” he said.
“The objective was to align profit with substance and we actually are one of the countries where these companies have substance, whether it be pharmaceuticals, computer chips, medical devices and the ICT companies.
“I think when countries in the G7 looked at this they thought ‘that’s not quite what we wanted’ – maybe the intention was to target countries like Ireland, not benefit them.”
When could we see an impact?
In the next round of BEPS, with the US on board, those other rich countries are more likely to get what they want at Ireland’s expense.
But even if President Biden can agree the reforms at home and abroad, how quickly would that have an impact in Ireland?
Mr Coffey thinks any negative effects would not be instant because tax is not everything.
“Are the ICT companies likely to head off around the world, scattering their headquarters to various different cities?” he said.
“There are benefits to being co-located. At least in the medium term we are not likely to see a huge shock.”
That is echoed by the IDA (Industrial Development Authority), the inward investment agency, which points to Ireland’s workforce and significant clusters of specialisation in areas like medical technology and pharmaceuticals.
The IDA also sees the Brexit angle, pointing out that Ireland, unlike its UK neighbour, is part of the EU’s single market.
In a statement, it said: “Ireland is at the heart of Europe. Ireland’s continued commitment to the EU is a core part of Ireland’s value proposition to foreign investors, offering a base to access the European Single Market and to grow their business.
“Ireland also benefits from free movement of people within the EU, giving businesses located in Ireland access to a European labour market.”
The Irish government has been engaged in the BEPS process, though in a speech last year the Finance Minister, Pascal Donohoe, said he remained to be convinced of the need for minimum taxation, beyond the specific challenges relating to the digital economy.
This week a government spokesman said: “Ireland is aware of the US proposals.
“We are constructively engaging in these discussions, and will consider any proposals carefully noting that political level discussions on these issues have not yet taken place with the 139 countries involved in this process.”
Source: – BBC News