Top 10 Stories of Christmas 2019!

Happy new year! The news over the festive period included; Veganism ruled philosophical belief, Google ends “double Irish” tax avoidance scheme, USA bans e-cigarettes, Tesla delivers first “made in China” vehicles.

Below are our top 10 stories that you need to know about. Be sure to check our twitter page and Facebook page for regular posts of important headlines. Get all the important stories and insights straight into your inbox by subscribing to our mailing list here.

Opinion articles of the week: 

  • CNBC – Netflix was the best-performing stock of the decade, delivering a more than 4,000% return
  • Goal.com – What are image rights in football & how did they affect Paulo Dybala’s failed transfer to Tottenham?
  • The Hill – Five tech stories to watch in 2020.
  • Legal Cheek – Law firms recruiting exclusively from vac schemes — worrying trend or sensible step?
  • Bloomberg – What the streaming wars mean for the future of TV

1. IRANIAN GENERAL KILLED IN US DRONE STRIKE

Iran’s top military commander has been killed in a US drone strike pushing US-Iranian relations to boiling point. General Qasem Soleimani was the mastermind of Iran’s military operations including proxy wars in Syria and the fight against IS. Donald Trump claims Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of millions of people and was plotting further attacks against US personnel in the region. Trump has received widespread Republican support for the strike given the threat to US persons. The course of action was initially triggered by an attack on the US embassy in Iraq, allegedly orchestrated by Iran. Iran denies any involvement in the embassy attack but the US firmly holds them responsible.

Soleimani was a popular figure acting essentially as Iran’s vice president. Iran’s Supreme Leader has promised severe revenge against the US and announced three days of national mourning. His death is considered an act of war by Iran. This has led to fears of escalating conflict but the means by which Iran could retaliate are yet to be seen. On Sunday, Iran pulled out of some nuclear deal commitments designed to limit its nuclear capabilities.

Global oil prices spiked by over 4% in response to news of Soleimani’s death over fears escalating conflict could affect global oil production.

2. VEGANISM RULED PHILOSOPHICAL BELIEF

An employment tribunal has ruled that ethical veganism is a “philosophical belief” and protected under discrimination law. The case stems from a claim brought by a former employee of the animal welfare charity League Against Cruel Sports (LACS). When the employee raised concerns to colleagues about the firm’s pension fund investing in companies that use animal testing. He was allegedly subjected to unfair treatment and was ultimately dismissed. The employee claimed he was discriminated against due to his ethical vegan beliefs which raised the question as to whether ethical veganism is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. This tribunal judge held that it does constitute a philosophical belief and is therefore protected. The case will now proceed to ascertain whether the employee was discriminated against and entitled to redress. Ethical vegans as well as avoiding consuming food derived from animals, they also avoid goods and services that involve any form of animal exploitation.

The implications of this rule is significant as it signifies a potential widening of the scope of what constitutes a philosophical belief. In turn, this could see a flurry of claims from those who believe they were unfairly treated due to beliefs not previously protected by law.

3. GOOGLE ENDS DOUBLE IRISH TAX AVOIDANCE SCHEME

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has announced that it will no longer use the controversial “Double Irish, Dutch Sandwich” tax loophole. The scheme currently allows Google to greatly reduce its tax burden by shifting profits to low tax jurisdictions. Google generates revenue globally but has subsidiaries in Ireland and the Netherlands which receive profits from sales through tax-free internal transfers. Therefore, the profit made in one country is not booked there but instead is logged as profit generated in tax havens. Over the years, Google and many other large tech firms have saved hundreds of billions of dollars in tax. The scheme is completely legally but deemed an “aggressive” tax avoidance scheme and highly unethical.

The announcement to end the use of this scheme will simplify Google’s tax arrangements and put them in a better light with governments. European governments have been keen to clamp down on tech giants who fail to pay their fair share of tax through complicated tax structures. France recently introduced a digital services tax. e tax will see a 3% tax on companies with revenue over €750m, where over €25m of this is generated within France. In practice, around 30 companies will be subject to this tax, predominantly US tech firms.

Investopedia explains in detail the Double Irish Dutch Sandwich

4. US BANS E-CIGARETTES

The US has announced a nationwide ban flavoured e-cigarettes. The move comes as increasing evidence on the risks of vaping, particularly for young people, comes to the fore. E-cigarette makers such as Juul, have been criticized for marketing their products towards young people. A number have states have already implemented bans and restrictions but this is the first major national measure. In the US, 50 people have died from vaping related issues. Scientists are still working to identify the specific aspect of vapes which is harmful. It i thought vitamin E acetate may be the cause.

The US raised the age of purchasing tobacco products including e-cigarettes to 21. This latest measure is designed to prevent teens getting addicted while keeping an alternative to traditional cigarettes for adults. Hence, menthol and tobacco flavoured vape products will still be permitted.

Numerous countries have already banned e-cigarettes entirely including, Brazil India and South Korea.

5. TESLA DELIVERS FIRST CHINESE CARS

Tesla has delivered it’s first vehicles made in it’s new gigafactory in China. This is a huge step for Tesla as it can now directly enter the largest car market in the world. Starting at $50,000, Tesla will now be able to compete with local electric car makers as well as international giants.

Many US firms have shifted production out of China to other Asian countries as the US tariffs make imports of Chinese goods exorbitantly expensive. Tesla on the other hand, has opened the gigafactory to sell exclusively to Chinese customers rather than export. This means Tesla isn’t paying a premium to access the Chinese market due to import tariffs on American goods. Tesla’s factory near Shanghai also marks the very first fully foreign owned factory in China. Fifteen vehicles were delivered from the plant but all of these were to Tesla employees.

See our company watch page for more info

6. BOEING CHIEF STEPS DOWN

Boeing ‘s CEO Dennis Muilenberg stepped down as boss just days after production of its 737 Max aircraft was halted. The Boeing 737 Max has been grounded globally since March 2019 after two fatal crashes over 5 months, killing 346 people. For Boeing, the costs of these crashes have been enormous. The bill recently hit $9 billion and its growing. Boeing is working with regulators to get the 737 Max airborne but there is no sign from the FAA that this will happen anytime soon. Muilenberg was ousted as board director and CEO and will be replaced by current Chairman David Calhoun who will take the helm from 13 January. Muilenberg has been CEO since 2015 and may be entitled to a $39 million severance package in his departure.

7. HONOURS LIST DATA BREACH

Over 1000 celebrities and UK politicians named on the new years honours list had their addresses erroneously leaked on a government website. The breach was significant as it also included addresses of senior MoD and counterterrorism employees. The addresses became available in a downloadable list. High profile politicians and celebs including Ian Duncan Smith, cricketer Ben Stokes and musician Elton John. The data was up for around 4 hours late on December 27th before being taken down. The cause of this accidental data breach is still being identified. The data watchdog, the Information Commissioners Office, was informed and is also investigating. The affected persons are likely to receive compensation for the breach.

8. NORTHERN RAIL STRIPPED OF FRANCHISE

Northern Rail is to be stripped of its rail franchise due to consistently poor service. Last year, 55.6% of Northern trains arrived at stations within one minute of the scheduled time, significantly fewer than the UK average of 65.3%. The franchise runs out in 2025 but transport secretary Grant Shapps suggest action will be taken and commuters “will not have to wait long” for this.

This news comes as commuters face yet another. 2.7% increase in rail fares. Although increases are capped at RPI, many consumers question whether the late overcrowded services that they are frequently blighted with warrant another fare increase. Less than 50% of all rail passengers are happy with the service they receive.

9. FORMER NISSAN BOSS JUMPS BAIL

The former CEO of Nissan, Carlos Ghosn, has jumped bail in Japan and fled to Lebanon. Ghosn was awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct. He had been in custody for 108 days but was currently released on $9 million bail that prohibited him from travelling abroad.

Ghosn’s lawyers were “dumbfounded” by his actions and have been unable to contact him. Ghosn had his passports confiscated by his legal team but was still somehow able to travel by private jet to Lebanon via Turkey. Some suggest he may have had duplicate passports as some businesspeople are permitted to hold. Ghosn claims he is fleeing political persecution as he will not receive a fair trial. A Turkish private jet company revealed that a rogue employee helped Carlos Ghosn escape. See more about his escape here.

10. DENMARK SETS WIND ENERGY RECORD

Demark sourced 47% of its electricity from wind energy in 2019, a new world record. This increase is largely due to improvements in technology. Denmark aims to reduce its greenhouse emissions by 70%.  The Nordic country surpassed the 2017 record of 43%. Across the EU, 14% of electricity is generated from wind power, increasing year on year. Denmark’s nearest competitor is Ireland who boasts just 28% of its electricity production from wind power.

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