Thursday, 12 September 2013

Tony’s Newsround

Taxing Matters

I suppose I should lead with the story that David Cameron has declared that Jersey and other Crown Dependencies should not longer be considered tax havens because of their strenuous efforts towards greater transparency. He said ""It is very important that our focus should now shift to those territories and countries that really are tax havens," continued Mr Cameron. But he didn't list any of them, which was rather annoying, so here are a few:

Luxembourg seems like one of the biggest tax havens when it comes to multinationals. Somehow, the EU including France, don't really bash Luxembourg much. Luxembourg hosts the Secretariat of the European Parliament. Could that be why?

Monaco has still not signed TIEAs with the UK or Italy! But it has signed with France, which explains why it is not on the French blacklist.

And let's not forget, Jersey is to drop the withholding tax option under the EU Savings Tax Directive. It will be mandatory for financial institutions to automatically exchange information on their clients' bank accounts.

But meanwhile several EU countries and tax havens are using the "level playing field defence". In May, Austria and Luxemburg announced that they would abandon bank secrecy if Switzerland, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Andorra and Monaco did the same. 

And that's only in Europe – don't forget Delaware, that well known tax haven in the heart of the USA,

The Dinosaurs Return

"Universal Pictures have announced the next Jurassic Park film will be called Jurassic World." (BBC News).

This is the fourth outing for the dinosaurs an a lucrative franchise; which has grossed grossed $1.9 billion (£1.2bn) at the box office from the previous three films.

But the plots seem to be getting thinner. You know some nasty dinosaur like a raptor is going to be chasing the hero and heroine, with their plucky children. There will be the man in it for the money who will receive a suitably gruesome end, and several other extras who provide dino-fodder, and must be able to scream convincingly. And there will be something large like a Tyrannosaurus Rex on the rampage.

The original idea goes back to Arthur Conan Doyle's book Lost World, and there is a sense of wonder at the explorer charting strange territory, and the excitement in that book which appeared in part in the first "Jurassic Park" film, but has largely disappeared from the franchise. Instead it is just a thrill seeking runaround in which dinosaurs cause chaos and eat people.

I was watching the Ray Harryhausen film "The Valley of Gwangi"the other day, and it had a charm and sense of fun as well as the thrills. He took the Western genre with Mexico at the turn of the 20th century, and cowboys and, of course, a beautiful Mexican girl for the hero to rescue, a gyrpsy who knows an entrance to a forbidden valley, a professor (who can tell you what the names of the dinosaurs are), and a circus show come to town with the cowboys earning a living as an act (shades of P.J. Barnum's Greatest Show on Earth). It is well plotted, and while the stop-motion animation seems a little jerky by today's standards, it has a proper story as well as a brilliant set piece finale -a tyrannosaur in a Catherdal – a wonderful iconic clash of symbols.

Ray Harryhausen died in May2013, and his stop-motion animation never got in the way of his love of storytelling. Many of his films explored myths and legends – The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, the Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Titans – and they remain watchable as a result. Long after the special effects films, where effects carry the film, are forgotten, I imagine children will still be charmed  by his creative storytelling.

Space Oddity

"The singer and campaigner Bob Geldof is to travel into space as a passenger on a commercial space flight. Space Expedition Corporation (SXC) is hoping to launch 100 people into space in 2014 at the cost of $100,000 (£64,000) per ticket…. Mr Geldof said: "Being the first Irishman in space is not only a fantastic honour but pretty mind-blowing. (BBC News)

It seems extraordinarly cheap, not by my standards – I could not afford it – but for people with millions, it is small change. But it seems an extraordinary waste of money to take someone out to orbit the planet for no other reason than to gape at it. One thing is for sure – someone who can just throw away £64,000 is not likely to be in a good position to ask people for donations.

Will we get a song out of it, I wonder?

The silicon chip inside his head
Gets switched to overload
And everybody's going to space today
He's launching off, not staying home
And the fan doesn't understand it
It is like Star Trek when you go so bold
And he can see no reasons
'Cos there are no reasons
What reason do you need to be show-ow-ow-ow-own?



Derek said...

Get your facts right, Tony, Geldof's space-trip is a birthday-present: he's not paying for it. And even if he were, I don't see how that affects his asking for donations to 'good causes' he's not asking for the money for himself :)

TonyTheProf said...

Well I wish the BBC article

had said so!

Please write to them too!