Global Tax Deal Reached Among G7 Nations

LONDON — The top economic officials from the world’s advanced economies reached a breakthrough on Saturday in their yearslong efforts to overhaul international tax laws, unveiling a broad agreement that aims to stop large multinational companies from seeking out tax havens and force them to pay more of their income to governments.

Finance leaders from the Group of 7 countries agreed to back a new global minimum tax rate of at least 15 percent that companies would have to pay regardless of where they locate their headquarters.

The agreement would also impose an additional tax on some of the largest multinational companies, potentially forcing technology giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google as well as other big global businesses to pay taxes to countries based on where their goods or services are sold, regardless of whether they have a physical presence in that nation.

Officials described the pact as a historic agreement that could reshape global commerce and solidify public finances that have been eroded after more than a year of combating the coronavirus pandemic. The deal comes after several years of fraught negotiations and, if enacted, would reverse a race to the bottom on international tax rates. It would also put to rest a fight between the United States and Europe over how to tax big technology companies.

has been particularly eager to reach an agreement because a global minimum tax is closely tied to its plans to raise the corporate tax rate in the United States to 28 percent from 21 percent to help pay for the president’s infrastructure proposal.

EU Tax Observatory estimated that a 15 percent minimum tax would yield an additional 48 billion euros, or $58 billion, a year. The Biden administration projected in its budget last month that the new global minimum tax system could help bring in $500 billion in tax revenue over a decade to the United States.

The plan could face resistance from large corporations and the world’s biggest companies were absorbing the development on Saturday.

“We strongly support the work being done to update international tax rules,” said José Castañeda, a Google spokesman. “We hope countries continue to work together to ensure a balanced and durable agreement will be finalized soon.”

said this month that it was prepared to move forward with tariffs on about $2.1 billion worth of goods from Austria, Britain, India, Italy, Spain and Turkey in retaliation for their digital taxes. However, it is keeping them on hold while the tax negotiations unfold.

Finishing such a large agreement by the end of the year could be overly optimistic given the number of moving parts and countries involved.

“A detailed agreement on something of this complexity in a few months would just be lighting speed,” said Nathan Sheets, a former Treasury Department under secretary for international affairs in the Obama administration.

The biggest obstacle to getting a deal finished could come from the United States. The Biden administration must win approval from a narrowly divided Congress to make changes to the tax code and Republicans have shown resistance to Mr. Biden’s plans. American businesses will bear the brunt of the new taxes and Republican lawmakers have argued that the White House is ceding tax authority to foreign countries.

Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, said on Friday that he did not believe that a 15 percent global minimum tax would curb offshoring.

“If the American corporate tax rate is 28 percent, and the global tax rate is merely half of that, you can guarantee we’ll see a second wave of U.S. investment research manufacturing hit overseas, that’s not what we want,” Mr. Brady said.

At the news conference, Ms. Yellen noted that top Democrats in the House and Senate had expressed support for the tax changes that the Biden administration was trying to make.

“We will work with Congress,” she said.

Liz Alderman contributed reporting from Paris.

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Why Apple and Google’s Virus Alert Apps Had Limited Success

Sarah Cavey, a real estate agent in Denver, was thrilled last fall when Colorado introduced an app to warn people of possible coronavirus exposures.

Based on software from Apple and Google, the state’s smartphone app uses Bluetooth signals to detect users who come into close contact. If a user later tests positive, the person can anonymously notify other app users whom the person may have crossed paths with in restaurants, on trains or elsewhere.

Ms. Cavey immediately downloaded the app. But after testing positive for the virus in February, she was unable to get the special verification code she needed from the state to warn others, she said, even after calling Colorado’s health department three times.

“They advertise this app to make people feel good,” Ms. Cavey said, adding that she had since deleted the app, called CO Exposure Notifications, in frustration. “But it’s not really doing anything.”

announced last year that they were working together to create a smartphone-based system to help stem the virus, their collaboration seemed like a game changer. Human contact tracers were struggling to keep up with spiking virus caseloads, and the trillion-dollar rival companies — whose systems run 99 percent of the world’s smartphones — had the potential to quickly and automatically alert far more people.

Soon Austria, Switzerland and other nations introduced virus apps based on the Apple-Google software, as did some two dozen American states, including Alabama and Virginia. To date, the apps have been downloaded more than 90 million times, according to an analysis by Sensor Tower, an app research firm.

But some researchers say the companies’ product and policy choices limited the system’s usefulness, raising questions about the power of Big Tech to set global standards for public health tools.

Stephen Farrell and Doug Leith, computer science researchers at Trinity College in Dublin, wrote in a report in April on Ireland’s virus alert app.

CA Notify in December, about 65,000 people have used the system to alert other app users, the state said.

“Exposure notification technology has shown success,” said Dr. Christopher Longhurst, the chief information officer of UC San Diego Health, which manages California’s app. “Whether it’s hundreds of lives saved or dozens or a handful, if we save lives, that’s a big deal.”

In a joint statement, Apple and Google said: “We’re proud to collaborate with public health authorities and provide a resource — which many millions of people around the world have enabled — that has helped protect public health.”

Based in part on ideas developed by Singapore and by academics, Apple and Google’s system incorporated privacy protections that gave health agencies an alternative to more invasive apps. Unlike virus-tracing apps that continuously track users’ whereabouts, the Apple and Google software relies on Bluetooth signals, which can estimate the distance between smartphones without needing to know people’s locations. And it uses rotating ID codes — not real names — to log app users who come into close contact for 15 minutes or more.

said last year in a video promoting the country’s alert system, called Corona-Warn-App.

But the apps never received the large-scale efficacy testing typically done before governments introduce public health interventions like vaccines. And the software’s privacy features — which prevent government agencies from identifying app users — have made it difficult for researchers to determine whether the notifications helped hinder virus transmission, said Michael T. Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

“The apps played virtually no role at all in our being able to investigate outbreaks that occurred here,” Dr. Osterholm said.

Some limitations emerged even before the apps were released. For one thing, some researchers note, exposure notification software inherently excludes certain vulnerable populations, such as elderly people who cannot afford smartphones. For another thing, they say, the apps may send out false alarms because the system is not set up to incorporate mitigation factors like whether users are vaccinated, wearing masks or sitting outside.

Proximity detection in virus alert apps can also be inconsistent. Last year, a study on Google’s system for Android phones conducted on a light-rail tram in Dublin reported that the metal walls, flooring and ceilings distorted Bluetooth signal strength to such a degree that the chance of accurate proximity detection would be “similar to that of triggering notifications by randomly selecting” passengers.

Kimbley Craig, the mayor of Salinas, Calif. Last December, when virus rates there were spiking, she said, she downloaded the state’s exposure notification app on her Android phone and soon after tested positive for Covid-19. But after she entered the verification code, she said, the system failed to send an alert to her partner, whom she lives with and who had also downloaded the app.

“If it doesn’t pick up a person in the same household, I don’t know what to tell you,” Mayor Craig said.

In a statement, Steph Hannon, Google’s senior director of product management for exposure notifications, said that there were “known challenges with using Bluetooth technology to approximate the precise distance between devices” and that the company was continuously working to improve accuracy.

The companies’ policies have also influenced usage trends. In certain U.S. states, for instance, iPhone users can activate the exposure notifications with one click — by simply turning on a feature on their settings — but Android users must download a separate app. As a result, about 9.6 million iPhone users in California had turned on the notifications as of May 10, the state said, far outstripping the 900,000 app downloads on Android phones.

Google said it had built its system for states to work on the widest range of devices and be deployed as quickly as possible.

Some public health experts acknowledged that the exposure alert system was an experiment in which they, and the tech giants, were learning and incorporating improvements as they went along.

One issue they discovered early on: To hinder false alarms, states verify positive test results before a person can send out exposure notifications. But local labs can sometimes take days to send test results to health agencies, limiting the ability of app users to quickly alert others.

In Alabama, for instance, the state’s GuideSafe virus alert app has been downloaded about 250,000 times, according to Sensor Tower. But state health officials said they had been able to confirm the positive test results of only 1,300 app users. That is a much lower number than health officials would have expected, they said, given that more than 10 percent of Alabamians have tested positive for the coronavirus.

“The app would be a lot more efficient if those processes were less manual and more automated,” said Dr. Scott Harris, who oversees the Alabama Department of Public Health.

Colorado, which automatically issues the verification codes to people who test positive, has reported higher usage rates. And in California, UC San Diego Health has set up a dedicated help line that app users can call if they did not receive their verification codes.

Dr. Longhurst, the medical center’s chief information officer, said the California app had proved useful as part of a larger statewide public health push that also involved mask-wearing and virus testing.

“It’s not a panacea,” he said. But “it can be an effective part of a pandemic response.”

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New Political Pressures Push US, Europe to Stop Israel-Gaza Conflict

BRUSSELS — A diplomatic flurry from the White House and Europe added pressure on Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday to halt their 10-day-old conflict before it turned into a war entangling more of the Middle East.

President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel — their second phone call in three days — telling the Israeli leader he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” administration officials said. Although they portrayed the call as consistent with what Mr. Biden had been saying, his decision to set a deadline was an escalation.

And in Europe, France and Germany, both strong allies of Israel that had initially held back from pressuring Mr. Netanyahu in the early days of the conflict, intensified their push for a cease-fire.

French diplomats sought to advance their proposed United Nations Security Council resolution that would call on the antagonists to stop fighting and to allow unfettered humanitarian access to Gaza. It remained unclear on Wednesday if the United States, which has blocked all Security Council attempts to even issue a statement condemning the violence, would go along with the French resolution.

Twitter post afterward, he said, “I especially appreciate the support of our friend @POTUS Joe Biden, for the State of Israel’s right to self-defense.”

confronted Mr. Biden during his trip to a Ford plant, and pleaded with him to address the growing violence in the region and protect Palestinian lives.

Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan, who witnessed that interaction, said in an interview on Wednesday that Mr. Netanyahu’s reluctance to negotiate a cease-fire had made it harder for Democrats across the political spectrum to defend Israel’s actions.

Some saw the second phone call between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu as messaging to placate domestic constituents.

Democrats have been pushing Mr. Biden “to take a tougher line and this was his opportunity to demonstrate that he is doing so,” said Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington group that supports Mr. Netanyahu’s policies. He also said Mr. Netanyahu “does not want to give the impression that he’s been told to end this conflict before it’s the right time to do so.”

For European nations, the intensified push for a cease-fire also is based partly on political calculations.

pro-Palestinian demonstrations have sometimes turned into anti-Israeli protests and anti-Semitic attacks, including assaults on synagogues. Governments fear such protests and internal violence will worsen the longer the conflict lasts.

France is on alert for acts of Islamist terrorism, often from French-born Muslims outraged by events in the Middle East. Germany, which welcomed a million mostly Muslim migrants in 2015, is struggling to contain their anger about Israel.

At the same time, the election of Mr. Trump in 2016 also encouraged a right-wing European populism that is anti-immigration and often anti-Islamic, with a clear political identification with “Judeo-Christian values” and strong support for Israel. That is clear in France, with the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, as well as in Germany, with the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Up until now at least, there also had been a gradual de-emphasis of the Palestinian issue by governments, said Kristina Kausch, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

She attributed that de-emphasis partly to Israel’s shelved plans to annex the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want as part of their own ambitions for an independent state, and to the 2020 Abraham Accords, Israel’s normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, all big defenders of Palestinian rights. Ms. Kausch said there had been a sense that “the Palestinian cause can be put on the back burner, that Arab countries and people don’t care anymore.”

But this new outbreak, Ms. Kausch said, had shown “that the Palestinian cause is alive and kicking.” And no longer ignorable, at least for a while.

Julien Barnes-Dacey, director of the Middle East and North Africa program for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

At the beginning of this conflict, he said, the United States and Europe had been “largely sympathetic to the Israeli narrative, willing to give them some space to accomplish their military ambitions.”

similar two-page resolution passed by the Security Council during another fierce Gaza war in January 2009, and on which the United States abstained.

The draft resolution seeks a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access to Gaza, the condemnation of the rocket barrages and any incitement to violence, the official said.

In Germany, traditional support for Israel and patience with its military campaign appears to be waning.

After speaking with Mr. Netanyahu on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel “sharply condemned the continued rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and assured the prime minister of the German government’s solidarity,” said her spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

But given the many civilian lives lost “on both sides,” Mr. Seibert said, “the chancellor expressed her hope that the fighting will end as soon as possible.”

Mr. Maas, the German foreign minister, said on Tuesday that “ending the violence in the Middle East is the first priority,” followed by political negotiations. But he also blamed Hamas for the escalation.

He appeared to be responding to domestic criticism that the government has been too lenient in the face of pro-Palestinian and sometimes anti-Semitic protests.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that Germany should “concentrate on internal affairs and reflect that the ‘welcome culture’ extended to refugees was astoundingly naïve when it came to anti-Semitism.”

The question for Germany now, the paper said, “is how do we teach those for whom a hatred of Israel is in their DNA that Israel’s security is part of their adopted homeland’s raison d’être?”

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, and Jim Tankersley and Katie Rogers from Washington. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.

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New Political Pressures Push U.S. and Europe to Stop Israel-Gaza Conflict

BRUSSELS — A diplomatic flurry from the White House and Europe added pressure on Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday to halt their 10-day-old conflict before it turned into a war entangling more of the Middle East.

President Biden spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel — their second phone call in three days — telling the Israeli leader he “expected a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire,” administration officials said. Although they portrayed the call as consistent with what Mr. Biden had been saying, his decision to set a deadline was an escalation. .

And in Europe, France and Germany, both strong allies of Israel that had initially held back from pressuring Mr. Netanyahu in the early days of the conflict, intensified their push for a cease-fire.

French diplomats sought to advance their proposed United Nations Security Council resolution that would call on the antagonists to stop fighting and to allow unfettered humanitarian access to Gaza. It remained unclear on Wednesday if the United States, which has blocked all Security Council attempts to even issue a statement condemning the violence, would go along with the French resolution.

Twitter post afterward, he said “I especially appreciate the support of our friend @POTUS Joe Biden, for the State of Israel’s right to self-defense.”

confronted Mr. Biden during his trip to a Ford plant, and pleaded with him to address the growing violence in the region and protect Palestinian lives.

Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan, who witnessed that interaction, said in an interview on Wednesday that Mr. Netanyahu’s reluctance to negotiate a cease-fire had made it harder for Democrats across the political spectrum to defend Israel’s actions.

Some saw the second phone call between Mr. Biden and Mr. Netanyahu as messaging to placate domestic constituents.

Democrats have been pushing Mr. Biden “to take a tougher line and this was his opportunity to demonstrate that he is doing so,” said Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington group that supports Mr. Netanyahu’s policies. He also said Mr. Netanyahu “does not want to give the impression that he’s been told to end this conflict before it’s the right time to do so.”

For European nations, the intensified push for a cease-fire also is based partly on political calculations.

pro-Palestinian demonstrations have sometimes turned into anti-Israeli protests, including attacks on synagogues. Governments fear such protests and internal violence will worsen the longer the conflict lasts.

France is on alert for acts of Islamist terrorism, often from French-born Muslims outraged by events in the Middle East. Germany, which welcomed a million mostly Muslim migrants in 2005, is struggling to contain their anger about Israel.

At the same time, the election of Mr. Trump in 2016 also encouraged a right-wing European populism that is anti-immigration and often anti-Islamic, with a clear political identification with “Judeo-Christian values’’ and strong support for Israel. That is clear in France, with the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, as well as in Germany, with the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Up until now at least, there also had been a gradual de-emphasis of the Palestinian issue by governments, said Kristina Kausch, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund.

She attributed that de-emphasis partly to Israel’s shelved plans to annex the occupied West Bank, which Palestinians want as part of their own ambitions for an independent state, and to the 2020 Abraham Accords, Israel’s normalization of ties with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan, all big defenders of Palestinian rights. Ms. Kausch said there had been a sense that “the Palestinian cause can be put on the back burner, that Arab countries and people don’t care anymore.”

But this new outbreak, Ms. Kausch said, had shown “that the Palestinian cause is alive and kicking.’’ And no longer ignorable, at least for a while.

Julien Barnes-Dacey, director of the Middle East and North Africa program for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

At the beginning of this conflict, he said, the United States and Europe had been “largely sympathetic to the Israeli narrative, willing to give them some space to accomplish their military ambitions.’’

similar two-page resolution passed by the Security Council during another fierce Gaza war in January 2009, and on which the United States abstained.

The draft resolution seeks a cessation of hostilities, humanitarian access to Gaza, the condemnation of the rocket barrages and any incitement to violence, the official said.

In Germany, traditional support for Israel and patience with its military campaign appears to be waning.

After speaking with Mr. Netanyahu on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel “sharply condemned the continued rocket attacks from Gaza on Israel and assured the prime minister of the German government’s solidarity,” said her spokesman, Steffen Seibert.

But given the many civilian lives lost “on both sides,” Mr. Seibert said, “the chancellor expressed her hope that the fighting will end as soon as possible.”

Mr. Maas, the German foreign minister, said on Tuesday that “ending the violence in the Middle East is the first priority,’’ followed by political negotiations. But he also blamed Hamas for the escalation.

He appeared to be responding to domestic criticism that the government has been too lenient in the face of pro-Palestinian and sometimes anti-Semitic protests.

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commented that Germany should “concentrate on internal affairs and reflect that the ‘welcome culture’ extended to refugees was astoundingly naïve when it came to anti-Semitism.’’

The question for Germany now, the paper said, “is how do we teach those for whom a hatred of Israel is in their DNA that Israel’s security is part of their adopted homeland’s raison d’être?”

Steven Erlanger reported from Brussels, and Jim Tankersley and Katie Rogers from Washington. Michael Crowley contributed reporting from Washington.

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Europe Calls for Immediate Cease-Fire in Israel-Palestinian Fighting

BRUSSELS — European Union foreign ministers overwhelmingly called for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians in an emergency meeting on Tuesday, according to the bloc’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles.

All of the member states except Hungary backed a statement that condemned rocket attacks by Hamas and supported Israel’s right to self-defense but also cautioned that it had “to be done in a proportional manner and respecting international humanitarian law,’’ Mr. Borrell said at a news conference.

He said that the number of civilian casualties in Gaza, “including a high number of women and children,’’ was “unacceptable.’’ And he said that the European Union, as part of the quartet with the United States, Russia and the United Nations that seeks peace in the Middle East, would push to restart a serious diplomatic process.

“The priority is the immediate cessation of all violence and the implementation of a cease-fire,” Mr. Borrell said. Foreign policy in the European Union works by unanimity, so Mr. Borrell’s comments, despite Hungary’s opposition, were an effort, he said, “to reflect the overall agreement.”

evictions of Palestinians from East Jerusalem.

“The representatives of the European public, the ministers of foreign affairs in this case, are trying very hard to deal with the situation and find the best possible contribution by the E.U. to de-escalate and stop the violence,” he said. “And I think that’s it. I can only repeat that of course the casualties are unacceptable.”

Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

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Everything Was Canceled in 2020. What About 2021?

Early last year, as international lockdowns upended daily life, they took with them, one by one, many of the major cultural and sporting events that dot the calendar each year. The N.B.A. suspended its season, the French Open was postponed for several months and the Tokyo Olympics were delayed a year. The future of the Glastonbury Festival and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival were in doubt. It was a bleak time.

Recently, as conditions in many places around the world have slowly begun to improve, and as countries have begun mass vaccination campaigns, some events and cultural staples have made plans to return, albeit with modifications. While few events, if any, have plans to go ahead free of restrictions this year, some are taking a hybrid approach. Others remain postponed or canceled.

Here’s the status of some of the major events around the world.

scheduled to begin on July 23 with an opening ceremony. The bulk of the athletic events will begin the next day. The first round of Wimbledon begins on June 28 and will run through mid-July. Officials said they were working toward a spectator capacity of at least 25 percent.

scheduled for Oct. 11, and the 50th New York City Marathon is set for Nov. 7.

The 105th Indianapolis 500 will go on as planned on May 30. Officials will allow about 135,000 spectators in — 40 percent of the venue’s capacity. The event was organized with state and local health officials and was approved by the Marion County Public Health Department, race officials said.

The French Open, one of the premier tennis competitions, has been postponed one week to a new start date of May 24. The decision was made in agreement with the authorities in France and the governing bodies of international tennis, said officials, who want the tournament played in front of the largest possible number of fans.

is canceled again this year.

it would not take place this summer.

The Essence Festival of Culture, which usually draws more than a half million people to New Orleans over the Fourth of July weekend every year, will host a hybrid experience this year over two weekends: June 25-27 and July 2-4.

Headliners like Billie Eilish, Post Malone and ASAP Rocky will take the stage at the Governors Ball Music Festival, which is scheduled for Sept. 24-26 at Citi Field in Queens. Organizers say the event will return to its typical June dates in 2022.

Burning Man, the annual countercultural arts event that typically draws tens of thousands of people to Black Rock Desert in Nevada, has been canceled again this year because of the pandemic. It will return in 2022, organizers said.

After being canceled last year, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the event in the capital of Texas, is scheduled to return to Zilker Park on Oct. 1-3 and Oct. 8-10.

on Sept. 13. A second event is scheduled for May 2022.

NYC Pride 2021 will move forward in June with virtual and in-person events. The Pride March, which was canceled last year, will be virtual this time. (San Francisco Pride, also in June, is planning similar adjustments, while Atlanta Pride is planning to hold an in-person event in October.)

from Aug. 10. In order to keep concertgoers safe, organizers said events will not have intermissions and its venue will have a limited number of available seats. Similarly, the Salzburg Festival in Austria kicks off in mid July with modifications.

The Edinburgh International Festival, a showcase for world theater, dance and music in the Scottish city since 1947, will run Aug. 7-29. Performances will take place in temporary outdoor pavilions with covered stages and socially distanced seating.

E3, one of the video game industry’s most popular conventions where developers showcase the latest news and games, will be virtual this year from June 12-15.

The New York International Auto Show, which showcases the newest and latest automobiles from dozens of brands, will run Aug. 20-29. The event last year was postponed and eventually canceled because of the pandemic.

The Cannes Film Festival in the South of France, one of the movie industry’s most revered and celebrated events, has been postponed to July 6-17 from mid-May. The 2021 edition of the event, which was canceled last year, is currently scheduled to be in person.

After more than a year of no theater performances, Broadway shows will start selling tickets for full-capacity shows with some performances starting on Sept. 14. (Some West End shows will resume as early as May 17.)

After being virtual last year, New York Comic-Con will return with a physical event Oct. 7-10 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. The convention will run at reduced capacity to ensure social distancing, organizers said. This year’s Comic-Con International event, which is normally held in July in San Diego, has been postponed until summer 2022. There are plans for a smaller event called Comic-Con Special Edition however, that will be held in person in November.

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Liechtenstein Royal Is Accused in Bear Killing in Romania

BUCHAREST, Romania — The apparent killing of a large brown bear in Romania by a member of the Liechtenstein royal family has set off a wave of anger across the southeastern European country, which officially banned trophy hunting in 2016 but allows the killing of bears deemed to be problematic. Permits to kill these bears can cost many thousands of dollars.

The killing, which took place in March, came to light this week after two environmental groups accused Prince Emanuel von und zu Liechtenstein of killing the bear, nicknamed Arthur, in a protected area of the Carpathian Mountains. Romanian police have opened a criminal investigation into Arthur’s death, with poaching one of the potential charges.

While the prince, who lives in Austria, had been granted a permit by the Romanian environment ministry to shoot a cub-rearing female bear that had been causing damage to farms, he has been accused of killing Arthur instead.

Attempts to contact the prince’s office went unanswered. Earlier in the week the office told the Agence France-Presse news agency that it didn’t know anything about what it called a “private and personal matter.”

with tensions regularly flaring up between bear populations and rural communities. Romania’s official bear population is 6,000, but on Thursday evening Mr. Barna said there were over 7,000 bears in the country.

Romania banned trophy hunting in 2016, but grants permits for the killing of bears that have endangered human lives and property, and only then as a last resort after options like relocation have failed. Official documents show that Prince Emanuel was granted a four-day permit in March, which allegedly cost him about $8,500.

While hunting associations help to keep dangerous bears in check, there are concerns that the system in place is ineffective and ripe for abuse.

Octavian Berceanu, the head of Romania’s National Environmental Guard protection agency, said that there were significant issues with the documentation justifying the recent killing.

“They said for 20 days in a row they observed a bear causing a lot of damage,” he said of the hunting association that had applied for the permit used by the prince’s group, adding the application was “missing any evidence, missing a picture or pictures. Those papers are made without objective proof, just a report that for 20 days a bear came here and made damages.”

Others also see larger, systemic issues with giving out permits.

“Starting from the second half of 2017, the vast majority were actually used in reality for trophy hunting and they were justified” by citing damage caused by the animals, said Csaba Domokos, a bear expert with the Milvus Group, a conservation organization, referring to the special permits.

“In most cases the bears that eventually ended up being shot had nothing to do” with the damage for which the permits had been granted, he said.

Mr. Domokos said that a lot of property damage is caused by females with cubs. But hunters do not like killing female bears, especially those with cubs, so they often report that solitary males are responsible and hunt them.

“These big bears are the least likely to cause these kinds of problems because otherwise they would not have gotten to that size,” he said.

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Germany Is Seeing Virus Cases Go Down and Vaccinations Go Up

BERLIN — Dr. Peter Weitkamp placed an ad in eBay’s classifieds last week, offering appointments for an AstraZeneca vaccine — “free/to give away” — to anyone over 60. Many of his own patients didn’t want it, since the German government had spent months questioning the vaccine.

But within a day, his practice in Kirchlengern, in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, was inundated with calls from people seeking the remaining 80 to 90 doses, including some offering to drive in from out of state. Another family doctor got a similar response after setting up a drive-through vaccination center in a grocery store parking lot to administer AstraZeneca shots her that her own patients had rejected.

To the doctors, the response was proof that plenty of Germans were willing, even eager, for doses of AstraZeneca. Days later, the German government apparently agreed and relaxed previous restrictions that limited the AstraZeneca vaccine to certain age groups over concerns about rare but dangerous blood clots.

vaccine passport to make travel within the European Union easier and Germany’s upper house of Parliament moving to exempt the fully vaccinated from many restrictions — social distancing and wearing a mask will still be required of everyone — many Germans who qualified for an AstraZeneca shot were reluctant to get one. That was partly because the rival two-dose vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer could be completed in only six weeks, whereas the recommended wait between shots for the AstraZeneca one was 12 weeks.

“We will make a lot more flexibility possible,” Mr. Spahn told the public television station WDR on Wednesday. “Many people want to have their second shot earlier, with an eye on summer, and that is possible with Astra.”

The Lancet in February said the vaccine provided protection of more than 80 percent if the second shot was administered after 12 weeks, while after less than six weeks, it provided only 55 percent protection.

“The considerable damage to the image of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is still unjustified, is also because of the uncertainty caused by the disastrous communication of its possible side effects by politicians and authorities among the population,” said Ulrich Weigeldt, chairman of the German Association of Family Physicians.

German health authorities initially limited its application to younger adults because there wasn’t enough information on how older adults responded. Then they suspended it for several weeks because of reports of cases of blood clots accompanied by low platelet counts, before reintroducing it but only for individuals older than 60.

began reopening retail shops and outdoor dining, at a time when Germans were still wrangling over the terms of a new lockdown. That included nightly curfews to slow a surging third wave of the virus and a cumbersome vaccine sign-up system riddled with bureaucratic hurdles, and overtaxed hotlines.

“The British of course are all laughing, ‘Oh, the Germans again,’” said Henrike Thalenhorst, who is completing her residency in the office of Dr. Weitkamp, who offered the AstraZeneca appointments on eBay. “They are thinking, ‘While they are filling out six pieces of paper and waiting for an appointment we are all vaccinated with Astra and hitting the pubs.’”

But while AstraZeneca’s links to Britain made it a source of local pride, for Germans, similar sentiments surround the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, which was developed by a start-up based in the western city of Mainz and known to some as “the Mercedes-Benz of vaccines.”

In a letter to the Neue Westfälische newspaper, one man described his decision to hold out against an offer of AstraZeneca as a matter of national pride. “As a not-yet-vaccinated 67-year-old German patriot,” wrote Lutz Schaal, from Bielefeld, “I am waiting for my BioNTech inoculation.”

Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin and Megan Specia from London.

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