Russia may introduce online voting as early as in 2021 – official

A member of Russia’s Central Elections Commission has told reporters that the country might introduce online voting, similar to systems used in Switzerland and Estonia, for the 2021 parliamentary elections.

Considering the scale of the Russian Federation’s territory we have to start using internet voting. I think that we will possibly do something already in the next federal elections campaign – the 2021 State Duma elections,” Vasily Likhachev told reporters on Friday.

The official added that the main problem that obstructed the possible switch to voting via internet was security concerns adding that the system would be considered viable only when it guarantees that not a single vote will be lost. He also said that positive examples from nations such as Switzerland and Estonia testify to the fact that it can be done.

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The Central Election Commission of the Russian Federation © Kirill Kallinikov

In the same interview, Likhachev said that it was necessary to expand the system of absentee voting called “Mobile Voter.”  He said it should be used not only inside the Russian Federation, but also by Russian citizens who live abroad but wish to have a say in domestic politics.

Currently there are 4 million people registered as potential voters in Russian consular offices in foreign nations. We consider it important to give these voters proper legal condition for voting,” he said.

Over the past years Russia started the program to change from the traditional voting, with paper ballots counted by hand, to the so-called “Voting Ballot Processing Complex” – a network of ballot boxes equipped with digital scanners that read the ballots as they are cast and automatically tallies the results.

The system underwent the first major real-life tests in the presidential elections in March 2018. According to the Central Elections Commission about 40 percent of Russians who took part in the voting used the “Voting Ballot Processing Complex” and subsequent manual recount of sample batches of ballots proved that the system worked well.

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Supreme Court Rules States Can Demand Outside Online Retailers Collect Sales Taxes

Wayfair websiteToday the Supreme Court overturned past decisions and ruled, 5–4, that states may potentially demand that businesses that don’t have actual physical presence within their borders still pay sales taxes on what they sell to residents who live there.

The ruling in South Dakota V. Wayfair overturns two previous Supreme Court precedents (Quill Corp. V. North Dakota and National Bellas Hess V. Illinois) that limited states’ ability to charge sales taxes on goods that were shipped to customers in the state if the businesses did not have any physical presence in that state. Consumers themselves could be ordered to pay sales taxes, but of course, compliance was extremely low.

South Dakota believed it was losing millions of dollars per year in tax revenue and passed a law requiring out-of-state vendors to charge and submit sales taxes to the state if they reached a threshold of selling $ 100,000 worth of goods or 200 or more separate deliveries into the state. South Dakota petitioned the Supreme Court to vacate its previous precedents so it could demand online vendors like Wayfair and Overstock.com (defendants in the case) to pay the sales taxes.

The majority agreed, in an odd combination of judges that defies ideological analysis. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority decision, joined by Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch. The dissenting opinion was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, joined by Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

The majority justified the decision partly because, as online commerce has grown, these precedents now unfairly punish companies who are based within a state when compared to those who are situated elsewhere. The majority accepted the argument that their previous precedents actually created an uneven tax environment:

In effect, Quill has come to serve as a judicially created tax shelter for businesses that decide to limit their physical presence and still sell their goods and services to a State’s consumers—something that has become easier and more prevalent as technology has advanced.

Worse still, the rule produces an incentive to avoid physical presence in multiple States. Distortions caused by the desire of businesses to avoid tax collection mean that the market may currently lack storefronts, distribution points, and employment centers that otherwise would be efficient or desirable. The Commerce Clause must not prefer interstate commerce only to the point where a merchant physically crosses state borders. Rejecting the physical presence rule is necessary to ensure that artificial competitive advantages are not created by this Court’s precedents. This Court should not prevent States from collecting lawful taxes through a physical presence rule that can be satisfied only if there is an employee or a building in the State.

This ruling pretty much ignores the idea that states can make themselves more desireable for businesses to locate there by, say, lowering their taxes. There may be some severe and unbalanced consequences for smaller businesses attempting to try to navigate extremely varied sales tax laws when selling goods. Big vendors can (and most already have) done the tech work to make compliance possible. But as Veronique de Rugy warned in April, this ruling today could jack up compliance costs for small online retailers, requiring them to calculate the demands of 12,000 tax-collecting jurisdictions.

In a statement in response to the ruling Erik Jaffe, appellate attorney for the Competitive Enterprise Institute (which submitted a brief supporting the online vendors), lamented, “In allowing states to extend their taxing authority beyond their borders, [the court] passed up an opportunity to reassert the horizontal federalism principles of the Constitution. Rather, adopting mistaken notions that state sovereignty extends beyond state borders and that the purchasing power of state citizens are assets belonging to the state, the court fundamentally subverts federalism.”

CEI is calling for Congress to fix the problem with legislation that would stop states from demanding taxes from businesses in other states. Normally, you’d think a Republican Congress would jump on this, but have you heard about President Donald Trump’s crusade against Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos?

Taxes

The Supreme Court Eyes Online Sales Taxes

If you think internet companies aren’t paying any taxes for online sales and that’s killing bricks-and-mortar retailers and states’ budgets, you, my friend, have been duped. Nothing could be further from the truth. The internet isn’t a tax-free zone, nor is the lack of revenue the issue with state budgets. There is, however, a battle about whether state and local governments should be allowed to collect taxes from out-of-state companies.

A 1992 Supreme Court decision, Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, reaffirmed a previous decision that a business must have a significant presence in a state before that state can require it to collect sales taxes. That means a mother selling handcrafted goods on Etsy doesn’t have to collect sales taxes from her consumers unless they are physically located in her state. However, Amazon collects sales taxes from customers in all 45 states that have a statewide sales tax because of its vast distribution network.

Most state lawmakers want to see Quill overturned, allowing them to force out-of-state companies to collect sales taxes on their behalf. This argument was just heard by the Supreme Court in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc. If the states were to win, they would be able to reach into the pockets of that mom selling her paintings on Etsy, even though she may live on the other side of the country, didn’t elect other states’ officials, and never agreed to those states’ tax laws.

More tragically for consumers, tax competition among states would also be lost if Quill were overturned. Under the new regime, online consumers—no matter where they shop or what they buy—would lose the ability to shop around for a better tax system. Without the competitive pressure and the fear of losing consumers to lower-tax states, lawmakers would not feel the need to try to rein in their sales tax burden. It’s that pressure, which limits their tax grabbing abilities, that these lawmakers resent and want the Supreme Court to put an end to.

Some of them probably hope that more revenue would alleviate the need to put their financial house in order. They would be wrong. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 33 states faced shortfalls in fiscal 2017 and/or fiscal 2018, even though revenue collection has been growing in most states. That’s because the more states collect in revenue the more they spend.

Besides, states are overestimating the revenue they’d get from the taxes. Internet sales are still a small share of overall sales, and taxing them wouldn’t make much difference. According to a 2017 report by the Government Accountability Office, online sales represent less than 10 percent of retail sales. Also, the 100 biggest online retailers already tax roughly 90 percent of their sales. Desperate lawmakers shouldn’t expect to collect any more than 2 to 4 percent of total state and local government tax revenues this way, according to the GAO, were Quill to be reversed.

A reversal would, however, jack up compliance costs for small online retailers, which, unlike Amazon, tend to have razor-thin profit margins. Imagine suddenly having to enforce taxes for the nation’s 12,000 tax-collecting jurisdictions.

Talking to NPR on the morning of the South Dakota v. Wayfair hearing, a Republican state senator from South Dakota, Deb Peters, laughed at the notion that anyone would get hurt. According to her, free software provided to online retailers by the majority of desperate states would make that cost zero. This is questionable. As an eBay representative noted on NPR in response that morning, “in Minnesota, blankets are taxable, but baby receiving blankets are not taxable. In Texas, deodorant is taxable, but deodorant that has an antiperspirant is not.” Tax software isn’t that precise, and compliance would still have to be handled on a case-by-case basis. Repeat this for thousands of items and compliance is definitely not “free.”

There is a lot to be lost in the Wayfair case. If Quill were to be overturned, compliance costs could skyrocket for many retailers, and good principles of taxation would be thrown out the window. Healthy tax competition is at stake. Let’s hope the highest court in the land makes the right decision.

Taxes

Online retailers go offline in China

THE season for the best xiaolongxia (“little dragon shrimp”) is just beginning, and so on a recent evening four young friends tucked into a pile of steaming-hot crayfish. But rather than sitting in a restaurant they were at a table surrounded by supermarket aisles stocked with nappies, baby formula and cooking oil. Above them, groceries and made-to-order meals, gathered by store attendants from shelves and nearby cooking stations, were wafted on aerial conveyor belts into a storeroom. There they were packaged and whisked to Shanghai homes within a 3km radius, at any hour and in under 30 minutes.

“Eat-as-you-shop” is one innovation of Hema Xiansheng, a chain of fancy supermarkets. And these shops are themselves the showiest elements of a bid by Alibaba, a Chinese e-commerce emporium that handles more transactions than Amazon and eBay combined, to master “online-to-offline”, or O2O, retailing, in which customers use digital channels to buy from physical businesses….Continue reading

Business and finance

Man tries to sell 4-year-old daughter for sex in 'Daddy's little girl' online ad, gets 60 years prison term

Washington: A 30-year-old man, trying to prostitute his four-year-old daughter to several clients for sex, has been sentenced to 60 years in prison on Friday.

In 2015, the Wisconsin-based Andrew James Turley,  28-year-old at the time, posted an advertisement on Craigslist titled “Play with Daddie’s Little Girl”. In the ad description, Turley mentioned his daughter is “younger than 10”. 

During interaction with a client on email, he said that the child would be given sleep-inducing medication ahead of the encounter and that he’d charge $ 1,000 for two hours. 

According to the Harris County district attorney’s office, Turley reportedly implied that his daughter “might be too young for intercourse but everything else was OK.”

The client, an undercover police officer, visited Turley’s apartment in November 2015, where the child lived with her mother. He was reportedly led to a bedroom, where the girl was lying unresponsive and naked under a blanket.

The child’s mother was reportedly unaware of the entire incident. 

Finding him guilty of trafficking a child and compelling prostitution of a minor, Turley was sentenced to 60 years in prison (30 years on each of the two charges) by a jury in Harris County, Texas. Turley will not be eligible for parole until he’s 75.

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‘He interests Czechs’ — May mates cautious media attack on Corbyn undercover agent promises (Online video media)

UK Prime Minister Theresa May unleashed a zinger at Prime Minister’s Questions, making the mildly witty observation that Corbyn normally asks for the Government to spend money… adding “I know he likes Czechs.”

The Labour Leader responded with a mock yawn.

May’s attempt at humor was referencing recent accusations that Corbyn had provided intel to a Czechoslovakian spy in the 80s, on the day-to-day activities of Margaret Thatcher among other things.

The PM’s comments come as the news broke that Corbyn’s lawyers are demanding a donation to charity and an apology from Tory party vice-chairman Ben Bradley, relating to claims he tweeted that the Labour leader “sold British secrets to communist spies.”

The tweet has since been deleted after pressure from Corbyn’s legal team.

Czech out the rest of the PMQs below:

The Sun published claims by a former Czech agent — Jan Sarkocy — that Corbyn was an asset named ‘Agent Cobb’ during the Cold War. Sarkocy told the paper that he met Corbyn on several occasions, including in the House of Commons.

Sarkocy’s allegations came under increased scrutiny after he alleged Corbyn would keep him posted on Margaret Thatcher while he was a backbencher in the ‘80s.

Svetlana Ptacnikova, director of the Czech security service archive, denied that Corbyn was or had been a paid agent. Ptacnikova told the BBC that their files indicated that Corbyn was seen as a potential contact, but he was not catalogued as an informant.

Theresa May previously addressed the allegations, stating: “It’s for individual members of parliament to be accountable for their actions in the past,” she said.

“Where there are allegations of this sort, members of parliament should be prepared to be open and transparent.”

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Luxurious present teacher human body slams apprentice captured on digicam (Online video)

A teacher has been fired from a North Carolina school for body slamming a 12-year-old student in an assault captured on video and posted to Facebook.

The unnamed substitute teacher had his contract by the Western Guilford Middle School on Sunday, though initially the victim, Jose Escudero, was suspended for seven days over the incident. Outraged by the attack Escudero’s mother, Mayo Corrales, posted the video to Facebook in the hope of securing “justice” for her son.

Escudero told local media outlet WGHP that the St Valentine’s Day assault took place over a box of chocolates which the teacher had confiscated and threw in the sink. Escudero said he waited until after class to retrieve his candy and that’s when the teacher launched his attack –  allegedly pinning him against the wall and then throwing him over his shoulder and slamming him to the ground.

Western Guilford Middle School confirmed via Facebook that the substitute had been let go and that parents had been informed of the incident. Both Escudero and his mom say they now plan to take legal action against both the school and teacher. RT.com has reached out to Ms Escudero for comment.

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Tonya Harding's Most Brutal Beat Online video Uncovered

Tonya HardingMost Brutal Knockout Video … Unearthed

2/11/2018 1:00 AM PST

EXCLUSIVE

Wanna see Tonya Harding knock a chick out cold with a devastating right cross? 

You’re in luck … because TMZ Sports found extremely rare footage from Tonya’s last professional boxing match — and she straight DESTROYED her opponent. 

It all went down in 2005 — when a 35-year-old Harding (3-3) stepped into the ring to face Brittney Drake in Brittney’s first pro boxing match, a fight promoted by Celebrity Boxing creator Damon Feldman

Makes ya wonder how good Tonya coulda been if she trained to be a fighter instead of a skater … 

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Tips to read an online community rush

FOR much of the past two years, market watchers have had little to write about, apart from the passing of one stock-index milestone after another. The events of the past week, however, have shaken the financial world awake. A recent, upward zag in bond yields seemed to signal the arrival of a new theme in market movements. Stock prices confirmed it, and then some. Over the past week, American stocks have dropped about 7%, punctuated by a breathtaking, record-setting plunge on Monday. The Dow Jones stock index recorded its largest ever one-day drop, of more than 1,000 points. In percentage terms the decline, of more than 4%, was the biggest since 2011.

The swoon set tongues to wagging, about its cause and likely effect. There can be no knowing about the former. Markets may have worried that rising wages would crimp profits or trigger a faster pace of growth-squelching interest-rate increases, but a butterfly flapping its wings in Indonesia might just as well be to blame. There is little more certainty regarding the latter. Commentators have…Continue reading

Business and finance

State Duma urges swift blocking of online calls for school violence

Online calls for violence in Russian schools should be swiftly blocked, a top Russian MP said, commenting on recent stabbing attacks in Perm and Ulan-Ude. The existing laws provide sufficient tools to fulfill this task, he added.

“All the means to block [social media] groups, which contain calls for violence in schools are in the possession of [Russian internet watchdog] Roscomnadzor,” Leonid Levin, the head of the State Duma’s Information Policy Committee said. “It is necessary to monitor such content and swiftly block it,” he said, adding that no new legislation would be introduced by parliament in this regard. “Despite all their atrociousness, the tragedies in the Perm region and the Republic of Buryatia shouldn’t deprive us of common sense,” the parliamentarian said.

According to Levin, the internet is not to blame as it exists only to speed up the distribution of information, which is still uploaded by people. ”Therefore, any bans on information channels would only limit the spread [of the data], but won’t eradicate the core of the problem,” he explained. 

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© The Investigative Committee of Russia

“If we won’t bring up our children properly – if we don’t know what they’re thinking about, what they’re striving for – we’ll never be able to protect them from the challenges of modern times, hoping that we’ve placed them under an impenetrable information dome,” the MP said.

Russia has been shocked by two stabbing incidents, which happened in the country’s schools in the space of just a week. Earlier on Friday, seven kids were injured in Ulan-Ude, the capital of the Republic of Buryatia, when an older student attacked students with an ax and set the school on fire with a Molotov cocktail. On Monday, two ninth graders in the Siberian city of Perm assaulted primary school pupils with knifes, delivering multiple wounds to nine children and their teacher.

The attacks have been linked to the infamous social media ‘suicide game,’ dubbed ‘Blue Whale,’ which targets vulnerable teens online. Its participants are manipulated into completing a number of stunts involving various forms of anti-social behavior and self-harm, allegedly culminating in the game’s supervisor demanding the players take their own lives.

READ MORE: Columbine-inspired attack? 15 injured in knife rampage at Russian school

When asked about the attacks, Vladimir Putin’s press-secretary Dmitry Peskov pointed out that the President has stated that “the internet is an absolutely free space and its freedom should be maintained.” According to Peskov, the web “brings a lot of good, but one shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the fact that the Internet also brings evil, which sometimes manifests in our lives in an ugly and tragic way.”

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