80 killed in France terror attack, state of emergency extended
At least 80 people were killed on Thursday night when a large truck mowed through a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. French President Francois Hollande said the truck attack was of a "terrorist character".
In a press conference on Friday morning, Hollande said "the state of emergency was extended in the country for three months beyond July 26".
The driver shot into the crowd and then drove for two km along the pavement of the Boulevard des Anglais, the main street in Nice, mowing down people who had gathered to watch fireworks, regional President Christian Estrosi told CNN affiliate BFMTV.
Police shot and killed the driver, said Pierre-Henry Brandet, a spokesman for the French Interior Ministry.
Firearms, explosives and grenades were found in the truck, Estrosi said.
The driver is suspected to be 31-year-old man of Tunisian origin. The identity papers of a French-Tunisian were found in the truck, reports said quoting police source.
According to the reports, gunmen exchanged shots with police before plowing into the crowd of revellers. Footage captured by terrified bystanders fleescene has captured the sound of several gunshots being fired.
The eye witnesses said they watched the scene in disbelief.
"All we see is this truck along the boardwalk, just ploughing through people, just bodies getting hit and people running in all directions," Tony Molina, who witnessed the attack from his apartment, told CNN.
He said that following the crash, there was a "barrage of gunfire".
"There were families just laying down, crying next to these bodies. Then they had to clear the area out. The bodies stay there covered up," Molina said.
Paul Delane, an American who witnessed attack, was with his partner at the Nice celebration. They had just finished watching the fireworks show and decided to walk towards the other festivities where a DJ was playing music.
"All of a sudden, thousands of people started running in one direction. My partner took my hand immediately and we started running.
"I had no idea what was going on.The music was so loud, we couldn't hear anything. I didn't see a truck, I just heard people running, screaming and crying and people carrying their children.
"I didn't know if I should hide or continue running.
"I wasn't sure what to do, in that situation. No one knew what was going on. We just knew we had to run for our lives."
Over 150 people were also injured in the mayhem.
Hollande and Prime Minister Manuel Valls were in the inter-ministerial crisis cell after the attack, a spokesperson for the Elysee said.
"France was struck on its national day ... the symbol of freedom," said Hollande.
"We must do everything so that we can fight against the scourge of terrorism," he said. "This is France, which is under the threat of Islamist terrorism."
Hollande earlier cancelled his trip to Avignon in the south of the country to return hastily to Paris.
From 9.00 a.m. (local time), Hollande will preside over a security and defence council meeting with ministers and the main authorities in these matters, said the spokesperson.
The president had indicated hours before the Nice attack that the state of emergency declared immediately after the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015 would be lifted on July 26.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has arrived in Nice after the attack, said Pierre-Henry Brandet, the spokesperson of Interior Ministry, adding there was no hostage in the incident.
Meanwhile, US president Barack Obama said in a statement that "we have offered any assistance that they may need to investigate this attack and bring those responsible to justice".
"We stand in solidarity and partnership with France, our oldest ally, as they respond to and recover from this attack," Obama added.
The US president also showed his admiration for "the extraordinary resilience and democratic values that have made France an inspiration to the entire world" and he is convinced that this character will "endure long after this devastating and tragic loss of life."
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.



Denmark Seeks EU Fix To ‘Div-Arb’ Deals

A Danish politician is asking the European Commission to examine stock loan deals that drain the country and many of its neighbors of tens of millions of dollars in forgone tax revenues.


The request, made by Jeppe Kofod, a Danish member of the European Parliament, could open a new front in lawmakers' efforts to stamp out the deals, which help large shareholders avoid paying their share of taxes on dividends paid out by corporations in Denmark and elsewhere.


"I have asked the Commission to examine the extent of the problem - both in relation to Denmark and in general." Kofod said in an interview. "They also need to look at whether it is legal. If so, we must confront it with regulation."


The Commission initiates and implements European Union policy across the bloc's 28 member countries, of which at least 13 - including Denmark - are losing revenue to the tax avoidance deals, according to confidential trading records obtained by ProPublica. That count excludes Germany, which passed a law in June to end the deals there.


Kofod made the request to the Commission hours after ProPublica and Børsen, Denmark's biggest daily finance newspaper, disclosed that the transactions are costing the small Scandinavian country about 400 million Danish crowns, or $60 million, in tax revenue per year, though that's a conservative estimate.


For Denmark, whose population totals 5.7 million, the loss amounts to about $10 per resident annually - enough for politicians to care about shutting down the transactions.


If the Commission acts on Kofod's request, it could potentially lead to legislation that ends the costly practice in many markets. It's thriving in Sweden, France, Poland, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, Austria and Belgium, among others.


"It is not just a Danish problem, but also an international problem," Kofod said.


In the transactions, known as dividend arbitrage or "div-arb," banks temporarily transfer large holdings of stock from tax-liable shareholders to investors with lower or no tax obligations. The transfers, which occur for just a few days around dividend time, help the shareholders capture a larger share of dividend payments by avoiding taxes. They split the savings with the banks and tax-free investors who enable the deals.


Investors have said they don't actively seek out div-arb transactions. Vanguard, one large U.S. mutual fund manager whose trades ProPublica has profiled, said it passively lends shares to earn extra income for its investors in the form of lending fees from holdings it owns on their behalf.


Banks, for their part, have said the activity is legal and that when they lend investors' shares they do so in full compliance with local regulations - putting the onus on lawmakers and regulators to act.


Some experts have questioned the legality of div-arb deals, however. And even if they are legal, officials like Kofod say investors should shy away from them: "I call it pure and simple tax evasion," he wrote in an op-ed published after our report.


In the op-ed, Kofod said he has drafted policy recommendations to tighten tax-evasion laws more broadly. The recommendations were approved by the European Parliament but the Commission must still decide whether to forge them into actual legislation. "If bankers knowingly help customers with tax evasion their authorization to work in the banking world should be torn apart," Kofod wrote.


Lawmakers also turned up pressure on Denmark's tax minister, Karsten Lauritzen, to prevent further losses from div-arb deals.


"We must investigate the problem and ways to get rid of it. I will ask the minister to do that," said Louise Schack Elholm, a member of the Danish Parliament and tax spokeswoman for the ruling Liberal Party.


Jeppe Bruus, a Danish MP who sits on the Parliament's Tax Committee, demanded that the Danish Ministry of Taxation halt further reclaims of dividend taxes for investors who lend out their shares.


"The (financial) sector's pressure on the system emphasizes the need for very strict regulation. To put it bluntly: It flows with rottenness," Bruus said.


Lauritzen, who is currently on vacation, could not be reached for comment.


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Beijing refuses South China Sea arbitration award
Beijing on Tuesday said it neither accepts nor recognises the award of an arbitral tribunal in the South China Sea arbitration established at the request of the Philippines.
"The award is null and void and has no binding force," Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry as saying in a statement.
China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea "shall under no circumstances be affected by those awards", the ministry said.
China opposes and will never accept any claim or action based on those awards, it added in the statement.
"China has territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the South China Sea," said a separate statement, adding that China has historic rights in the South China Sea.
China is always firmly opposed to the invasion and illegal occupation by certain states of some islands and reefs of China's Nansha Qundao (the Nansha Islands), and activities infringing upon China's rights and interests in relevant maritime areas under China's jurisdiction, according to the statement.
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.



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