Archive for September 11th, 2011

Coral reefs ‘will be gone by end of the century’

| 11/09/2011 | 0 Comments

(The Independent): Coral reefs are on course to become the first ecosystem that human activity will eliminate entirely from the Earth, a leading United Nations scientist claims. He says this event will occur before the end of the present century, which means that there are children already born who will live to see a world without coral. The claim is made in a book published tomorrow, which says coral reef ecosystems are very likely to disappear this century in what would be "a new first for mankind – the 'extinction' of an entire ecosystem". Its author, Professor Peter Sale, studied the Great Barrier Reef for 20 years at the University of Sydney. He currently leads a team at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment and Health. 

The predicted decline is mainly down to climate change and ocean acidification, though local activities such as overfishing, pollution and coastal development have also harmed the reefs. The book, Our Dying Planet, published by University of California Press, contains further alarming predictions, such as the prospect that "we risk having no reefs that resemble those of today in as little as 30 or 40 more years".

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European court of human rights powers threatened

| 11/09/2011 | 0 Comments

(The Guardian): The European court of human rights' could have its powers downgraded by handing ministers across the continent the right to strike down rulings under plans being examined by the British government. A commission set up by the government to examine reforms to the Strasbourg-based ECHR has floated the idea of handing ministers and parliamentarians on the Council of Europe the right to override rulings of the court. The suggestion by the commission on a Bill of Rights, in a letter to Nick Clegg and Kenneth Clarke, was published as ministers made clear that the court needed to undergo wide-ranging reforms. Clarke told MPs on Wednesday there were "important decisions" to be made about the workings of the court.

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In case you wondered, a real human wrote this column

| 11/09/2011 | 0 Comments

(New York Times): “Wisconsin appears to be in the driver’s seat en route to a win, as it leads 51-10 after the third quarter. Wisconsin added to its lead when Russell Wilson found Jacob Pedersen for an eight-yard touchdown to make the score 44-3 … . ” Those words began a news brief written within 60 seconds of the end of the third quarter of the Wisconsin-U.N.L.V. football game earlier this month. They may not seem like much — but they were written by a computer. The clever code is the handiwork of Narrative Science, a start-up in Evanston, Ill., that offers proof of the progress of artificial intelligence — the ability of computers to mimic human reasoning. 

The company’s software takes data, like that from sports statistics, company financial reports and housing starts and sales, and turns it into articles.

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US may end taxes on some overseas profits

| 11/09/2011 | 1 Comment

(Reuters): The Treasury is weighing a proposal to eliminate some, but not all, of the taxes on overseas profits of US based companies, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing two people familiar with the deliberations. Eliminating the taxes on some of the profits is a central element of the Obama administration's broader plans to overhaul the corporate tax code, the newspaper said. Business have long complained that the U.S. system of taxing companies' overseas profits hits companies that have often already paid been taxed in the countries where the profits were earned.

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Missing tech CEO tracked to Grand Cayman

| 11/09/2011 | 49 Comments

(Daily Mail): One of the world’s most-wanted tax exiles, who allegedly totalled unpaid tax bills of more than $100million over 20 years, William H. Millard, 79, has been tracked by US investigators to the Cayman Islands. The founder of retail chain ComputerLand was last seen by tax authorities on the remote Pacific island of Saipan in 1990. But despite vanishing soon after selling his firm, he has now been tracked down to Grand Cayman, court papers said. Millard is linked to a vast network of more than 50 shell companies, trusts and bank accounts, reported the Wall Street Journal.

"This is one of the most sophisticated and complicated cases of offshore asset structuring that we have ever seen," Michael Kim, prosecuting, said.

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