The Canadian Press
Voting mostly along party lines, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed former Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine to be the nation’s assistant secretary of health. She is the first openly transgender federal official to win Senate confirmation. The final vote was 52-48. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joined all Democrats in supporting Levine. Levine had been serving as Pennsylvania’s top health official since 2017, and emerged as the public face of the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. She is expected to oversee Health and Human Services offices and programs across the U.S. President Joe Biden cited Levine’s experience when he nominated her in January. Levine “will bring the steady leadership and essential expertise we need to get people through this pandemic — no matter their zip code, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability,” Biden said. Transgender-rights activists have hailed Levine’s appointment as a historic breakthrough. Few trans people have ever held high-level offices at the federal or state level. Transgender-rights activists have hailed Levine’s appointment as a historic breakthrough. Few trans people have ever held high-level offices at the federal or state level. However, the confirmation vote came at a challenging moment for the transgender-rights movement as legislatures across the U.S. — primarily those under Republican control — are considering an unprecedented wave of bills targeting trans young people. One type of bill, introduced in at least 25 states, seeks to ban trans girls and young women from participating in female scholastic sports. One such measure already has been signed into law by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, and similar measures have been sent to the governors in Tennessee, Arkansas and South Dakota. Another variety of bill, introduced in at least 17 states, seeks to outlaw or restrict certain types of medical care for transgender youths. None of these measures has yet won final approval. Issues related to transgender rights also are a major factor in Republican opposition to the proposed Equality Act, which would extend federal civil rights protections to LGBTQ people across the U.S. The measure has passed the Democratic-led House but likely needs some GOP votes to prevail in the Senate. Former Houston Mayor Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Institute, alluded to those developments as she welcomed the Senate’s vote on Levine. “At a time when hateful politicians are weaponizing trans lives for their own perceived political gain, Dr. Levine’s confirmation lends focus to the contributions trans people make to our nation,” said Parker, whose organization recruits and supports LGBTQ political candidates. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who voted no, had confronted Levine about medical treatments for transgender young people — include hormone treatment and puberty blockers — during her confirmation hearing Feb. 25. “Do you believe that minors are capable of making such a life-changing decision as changing one’s sex?” Paul asked. Levine replied that transgender medicine “is a very complex and nuanced field with robust research and standards of care” and said she would welcome discussing the issues with him. In the past, Levine has asserted that hormone therapy and puberty-blocking drugs can be valuable medical tools in sparing some transgender youth from mental distress and possible suicide risk. The confirmation vote was assailed by the conservative Family Research Council, which contended that Levine, in addition to her stance on transgender medical care, had supported “a variety of pro-abortion and anti-religious freedom proposals” while serving as Pennsylvania’s health secretary. “Levine may be the most extreme radical ever confirmed by the Senate,” said Travis Weber, the council’s vice-president for policy and government affairs. A pediatrician and former Pennsylvania physician general, Levine was appointed as Pennsylvania’s health secretary by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017. She won confirmation by the Republican-majority Pennsylvania Senate. However, Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, voted against Levine’s confirmation Wednesday. “In Pennsylvania, the pandemic struck seniors in nursing homes disproportionately hard compared to other states,” Toomey said. “This was due in part to poor decisions and oversight by Dr. Levine and the Wolf administration.” He also said an extended lockdown advocated by Levine “was excessive, arbitrary in nature, and has led to a slower recovery.” A graduate of Harvard and of Tulane Medical School, Levine is president of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. She’s written in the past on the opioid crisis, medical marijuana, adolescent medicine, eating disorders and LGBTQ medicine. Praise for her accomplishments and her handling of the pandemic have coincided with a steady stream of vitriol directed at at her on social media. As reported Tuesday by the Associated Press, Levine was among the targets of a private Facebook group called the Pittsburgh Area Police Breakroom whose participants included many current and retired police officers. Dozens of group members fueled days of transphobic posts about Levine for her role in statewide social-distancing mandates to stop the spread of COVID-19. “Someone needs to shoot this thing!!” one retired officer wrote. In January, a Pennsylvania legislator shared on Facebook an image mocking Levine’s appearance, then offered a general apology. State Rep. Jeff Pyle, a Republican, said on Facebook that he “had no idea” the post mocking Levine “would be … received as poorly as it was” but that “tens of thousands of heated emails assured me it was.” David Crary, 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
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