using the email address of a burrito shop.

In the Paycheck Protection Program, private banks were supposed to help with the screening, since in theory they were dealing with customers they already knew. But that left out many small businesses, and the government allowed online lenders to enter the program. This year, University of Texas researchers found that some of those “fintech” lenders appeared less diligent about catching fraud.

turning fraud into a franchise — helping other people cook up fake businesses in order to get loans from the Economic Injury Disaster program.

Andrea Ayers advised one client to tell the government she ran a baking business from home, although she was not a baker, prosecutors said.

YouTube videos, where scammers offered to help for a cut of the proceeds. Some used the money on necessities, like mortgage bills or car payments. But many seemed to act out of opportunism and greed, splurging on a yacht, a mansion, a $38,000 Rolex or a $57,000 Pokémon trading card.

responsible for selling the card.

music video on YouTube, bragging in detail about how he had gotten rich by submitting false unemployment claims. His song was called “EDD,” after California’s Employment Development Department, which paid the benefits.

first reported by The Washington Post. In the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, a watchdog found that $58 billion had been paid to companies that shared the same addresses, phone numbers, bank accounts or other data as other applicants — a sign of potential fraud.

“It’s clear there’s tens of billions in fraud,” said Michael Horowitz, the chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which includes 21 agency inspectors general working on fraud cases. “Would it surprise me if it exceeded $100 billion? No.”

The effort to catch fraudsters began as soon as the money started flowing, and the first person was charged with benefit fraud in May 2020. But investigators were quickly deluged with tips at a scale they had never dealt with before. The Small Business Administration’s fraud hotline — which had previously received 800 calls a year — got 148,000 in the first year of the pandemic. The Small Business Administration sent its inspector general two million loan applications to check for potential identity theft. At the Labor Department, the inspector general’s office has 39,000 cases of suspected unemployment fraud, a 1,000 percent increase from prepandemic levels.

But prosecutors face a key disadvantage: While fraud takes minutes, investigations take months and prosecutions take even longer.

pleaded guilty to mail fraud last month. His lawyers declined to comment.

first weeks of the pandemic, when the government gave out 5.8 million advance grants worth $19.7 billion in just over 100 days. In that program, fraud was easy to pull off, according to a government watchdog, which cited numerous loans given to businesses that were ineligible for funding.

Mr. Ware said he recently limited his agents to working 10 cases at a time, telling them: “You’re killing yourself. I have to protect you from you.”

told The New York Times in November.

“It’s a honey trap,” he added. “Richard Ayvazyan fell into that trap.” Mr. Ayvazyan was sentenced to 17 years in prison for participating in a ring that sought $20 million in fraudulent loans.

In the case of Mr. Oudomsine, the Pokémon card buyer, his lawyers argued in March that a judge should be lenient in deciding his sentence because the fraud had taken hardly any time at all.

“It is an event without significant planning, of limited duration,” said Brian Jarrard, who was Mr. Oudomsine’s lawyer at the time.

That did not work.

Judge Dudley H. Bowen Jr. of U.S. District Court sentenced Mr. Oudomsine to three years in prison, more than prosecutors had asked for, to “demonstrate to the world that this is the consequence” of fraud, according to a transcript of the sentencing.

Now, Mr. Oudomsine is appealing, with a new lawyer and a new argument. Deterrence, the new lawyer argues, is moot here because the pandemic-relief programs are over.

“There’s no way to deter someone from doing it, when there’s no way they can do it any longer,” said the lawyer, Devin Rafus.

Biden administration officials say they are trying to prepare for the next disaster, seeking to build a system that would quickly check applications for signs of identity theft.

“Criminal syndicates are going to look for weak links at moments of crisis to attack us,” said Gene Sperling, the White House coordinator for pandemic aid. He said the White House now aims to build a continuing system that would detect identity theft quickly in applications for aid: “The right time to start building a stronger system to prevent identity theft is now, not in the middle of the next serious crisis.”

In the meantime, the arrests go on.

Last week, prosecutors charged a correctional officer at a federal prison in Atlanta with defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program, saying she had received two loans totaling $38,200 in 2020 and 2021. The officer, Harrescia Hopkins, has pleaded not guilty. Her lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.

“You can’t have a system where crime pays,” said Mr. Horowitz, of the federal Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. “It undercuts the entire system of justice. It undercuts people’s faith in these programs, in their government. You can’t have that.”

Seamus Hughes contributed reporting.

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Kenya Elects New President, but Disputes Erupt

NAIROBI, Kenya — On a continent where military coups and rubber stamp elections have proliferated in recent years, Kenya stands out.

Despite its flaws and endemic corruption, the East African nation and economic powerhouse has steadily grown into a symbol of what is possible, its democracy underpinned by a strong Constitution and its hard-fought elections an example to other African nations seeking to carve a path away from autocracy.

been appointed by Mr. Odinga’s most prominent ally in the race, President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is barred by term limits from running again.

a barefoot childhood and an early career selling chickens on the side of a busy highway.

engaged in what the court said was “witness interference and political meddling.”

Mr. Ruto was running not just against Mr. Odinga but, in effect, against his own boss, Mr. Kenyatta, whom he accused of betrayal for backing Mr. Odinga.

planned to address the nation on Tuesday.

Declan Walsh and Matthew Mpoke Bigg reported from Nairobi, and Abdi Latif Dahir from Eldoret.

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Judge orders Twitter to give Elon Musk former executive’s documents

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WILMINGTON, Del, Aug 15 (Reuters) – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N)needs to give Elon Musk documents from a former Twitter executive who Musk said was a key figure in calculating the amount of fake accounts on the platform, according to a Monday court order.

Bot and spam accounts on Twitter have become a central issue in the legal fight over whether Musk, who is Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) chief executive, must complete his $44 billion acquisition of the social media company.

Twitter was ordered to collect, review and produce documents from former General Manager of Consumer Product Kayvon Beykpour, according to the order from Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick of the Delaware Court of Chancery.

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Twitter and lawyers for Musk, the world’s richest person, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Beykpour, who left Twitter after the social media company agreed in April to be acquired by Musk, was described in Musk’s court filings as one of the executives “most intimately involved with” determining the amount of spam accounts.

Beykpour did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent through LinkedIn.

McCormick said in her order on Monday that she was denying Musk’s request for access to 21 other people with control over relevant information.

Musk’s legal team had written to McCormick last week asking her to order Twitter to hand over employee names so they could be questioned. read more

Musk accused Twitter earlier this month of fraud for misrepresenting the number of real active users on its platform, which Twitter has denied. The company has accused him of breaching his agreement to acquire the company and wants McCormick to order him to complete the deal at $54.20 a share.

Twitter’s stock closed up 0.5% at $44.50 per share on Monday.

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Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Josie Kao

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Tom Hals

Thomson Reuters

Award-winning reporter covering U.S. courts and law from the COVID-19 pandemic to high-profile criminal trials and Wall Street’s biggest failures with more than two decades of experience in international financial news in Asia and Europe.

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Lawsuit Against Fox Is Shaping Up to Be a Major First Amendment Case

In the weeks after President Donald J. Trump lost the 2020 election, the Fox Business host Lou Dobbs claimed to have “tremendous evidence” that voter fraud was to blame. That evidence never emerged but a new culprit in a supposed scheme to rig the election did: Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election technology whose algorithms, Mr. Dobbs said, “were designed to be inaccurate.”

Maria Bartiromo, another host on the network, falsely stated that “Nancy Pelosi has an interest in this company.” Jeanine Pirro, a Fox News personality, speculated that “technical glitches” in Dominion’s software “could have affected thousands of absentee mail-in ballots.”

Those unfounded accusations are now among the dozens cited in Dominion’s defamation lawsuit against the Fox Corporation, which alleges that Fox repeatedly aired false, far-fetched and exaggerated allegations about Dominion and its purported role in a plot to steal votes from Mr. Trump.

civil and criminal investigations across the country into his business dealings and political activities. Here is a look at some notable cases:

The case has caused palpable unease at the Fox News Channel, said several people there, who would speak only anonymously. Anchors and executives have been preparing for depositions and have been forced to hand over months of private emails and text messages to Dominion, which is hoping to prove that network employees knew that wild accusations of ballot rigging in the 2020 election were false. The hosts Steve Doocy, Dana Perino and Shepard Smith are among the current and former Fox personalities who either have been deposed or will be this month.

Dominion is trying to build a case that aims straight at the top of the Fox media empire and the Murdochs. In court filings and depositions, Dominion lawyers have laid out how they plan to show that senior Fox executives hatched a plan after the election to lure back viewers who had switched to rival hard-right networks, which were initially more sympathetic than Fox was to Mr. Trump’s voter-fraud claims.

Libel law doesn’t protect lies. But it does leave room for the media to cover newsworthy figures who tell them. And Fox is arguing, in part, that’s what shields it from liability. Asked about Dominion’s strategy to place the Murdochs front and center in the case, a Fox Corporation spokesman said it would be a “fruitless fishing expedition.” A spokeswoman for Fox News said it was “ridiculous” to claim, as Dominion does in the suit, that the network was chasing viewers from the far-right fringe.

Fox is expected to dispute Dominion’s estimated self-valuation of $1 billion and argue that $1.6 billion is an excessively high amount for damages, as it has in a similar defamation case filed by another voting machine company, Smartmatic.

A spokesman for Dominion declined to comment. In its initial complaint, the company’s lawyers wrote that “The truth matters,” adding, “Lies have consequences.”

denied a motion from Fox that would have excluded the parent Fox Corporation from the case — a much larger target than Fox News itself. That business encompasses the most profitable parts of the Murdoch American media portfolio and is run directly by Rupert Murdoch, 91, who serves as chairman, and his elder son, Lachlan, the chief executive.

Soon after, Fox replaced its outside legal team on the case and hired one of the country’s most prominent trial lawyers — a sign that executives believe that the chances the case is headed to trial have increased.

Dominion’s lawyers have focused some of their questioning in depositions on the decision-making hierarchy at Fox News, according to one person with direct knowledge of the case, showing a particular interest in what happened on election night inside the network in the hours after it projected Mr. Trump would lose Arizona. That call short-circuited the president’s plan to prematurely declare victory, enraging him and his loyalists and precipitating a temporary ratings crash for Fox.

These questions have had a singular focus, this person said: to place Lachlan Murdoch in the room when the decisions about election coverage were being made. This person added that while testimony so far suggests the younger Murdoch did not try to pressure anyone at Fox News to reverse the call — as Mr. Trump and his campaign aides demanded the network do — he did ask detailed questions about the process that Fox’s election analysts had used after the call became so contentious.

The case was settled in 2017.

But Fox has also been searching for evidence that could, in effect, prove the Dominion conspiracy theories weren’t really conspiracy theories. Behind the scenes, Fox’s lawyers have pursued documents that would support numerous unfounded claims about Dominion, including its supposed connections to Hugo Chávez, the Venezuelan dictator who died in 2013, and software features that were ostensibly designed to make vote manipulation easier.

According to court filings, the words and phrases that Fox has asked Dominion to search for in internal communications going back more than a decade include “Chavez” and “Hugo,” along with “tampered,” “backdoor,” “stolen” and “Trump.”

Eric Munchel of Tennessee, in which he is brandishing a shotgun, with Mr. Trump on a television in the background. The television is tuned to Fox Business.

But the hurdle Dominion must clear is whether it can persuade a jury to believe that people at Fox knew they were spreading lies.

“Disseminating ‘The Big Lie’ isn’t enough,” said RonNell Andersen Jones, a law professor and First Amendment scholar at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law. “It has to be a knowing lie.”

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Blackstone Funds Complete $13 Billion Acquisition of American Campus Communities

AUSTIN, Texas & NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Blackstone (NYSE: BX) today announced that Blackstone Core+ perpetual capital vehicles, primarily comprising Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, Inc. (“BREIT”) and Blackstone Property Partners (“BPP”), have completed the previously announced acquisition of all of the outstanding shares of common stock of American Campus Communities, Inc. (“ACC”), the largest developer, owner and manager of high-quality student housing communities in the United States, for approximately $12.8 billion, including the assumption of debt.

We are proud and excited to have our best-in-class company join Blackstone, whose expertise, resources and consistent access to capital will allow us to grow and continue to lead the student housing industry,” said Bill Bayless, American Campus Communities Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. “This transaction created significant value for our shareholders and represents the culmination of our team’s passionate and dedicated service to our student residents and university partners.”

Jacob Werner, Co-Head of Americas Acquisitions for Blackstone Real Estate, said, “We are pleased to complete this transaction and welcome the American Campus Communities team to Blackstone. Student housing is a compelling sector with strong historical performance and future growth potential driven by increasing enrollment at the top universities in the U.S. as well as a shortage of quality housing supply. Our perpetual capital will enable ACC to invest in its existing assets and create much-needed new housing in university markets.”

BofA Securities served as ACC’s lead financial advisor. KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc. also acted as a financial advisor. Dentons US LLP served as ACC’s legal counsel.

Wells Fargo Securities LLC, J.P. Morgan Securities LLC, Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, SMBC, a member of SMBC Group, and TSB Capital Advisors served as Blackstone’s financial advisors, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP acted as Blackstone’s legal counsel.

The transaction was announced on April 19, 2022.

About American Campus Communities

American Campus Communities, Inc. is the largest owner, manager and developer of high-quality student housing communities in the United States. The company is a fully integrated, self-managed and self-administered equity real estate investment trust (REIT) with expertise in the design, finance, development, construction management and operational management of student housing properties. As of June 30, 2022, American Campus Communities owned 166 student housing properties containing approximately 111,900 beds. Including its owned and third-party managed properties, ACC’s total managed portfolio consisted of 204 properties with approximately 143,100 beds. Visit www.americancampus.com.

Blackstone Real Estate

Blackstone is a global leader in real estate investing. Blackstone’s real estate business was founded in 1991 and has US $320 billion of investor capital under management. Blackstone is the largest owner of commercial real estate globally, owning and operating assets across every major geography and sector, including logistics, residential, office, hospitality and retail. Our opportunistic funds seek to acquire undermanaged, well-located assets across the world. Blackstone’s Core+ business invests in substantially stabilized real estate assets globally, through both institutional strategies and strategies tailored for income-focused individual investors including Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, Inc. (BREIT), a U.S. non-listed REIT, and Blackstone’s European yield-oriented strategy. Blackstone Real Estate also operates one of the leading global real estate debt businesses, providing comprehensive financing solutions across the capital structure and risk spectrum, including management of Blackstone Mortgage Trust (NYSE: BXMT).

Forward-Looking Statements

In addition to historical information, this press release contains forward-looking statements under the applicable federal securities law. These statements are based on the Company’s (as defined below) and BREIT’s, as applicable, current expectations and assumptions regarding markets in which American Campus Communities, Inc. (the “Company”) and BREIT respectively operates, their respective operational strategies, anticipated events and trends, the economy, and other future conditions. Forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties, which are difficult to predict. These risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements include those discussed in the Company’s and BREIT’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021 under the heading “Risk Factors” and under the heading “Business – Forward-looking Statements” and subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, as well as BREIT’s Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021 in the section entitled “Risk Factors”, BREIT’s prospectus and in the other periodic reports BREIT files with the SEC. Neither ACC nor BREIT undertakes any obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements.

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Live Updates: U.S. Seeks African Support in Ukraine War

Credit…Pool photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko

WASHINGTON — Immediately after a Moscow judge handed down Brittney Griner’s nine-year prison sentence on Thursday, calls grew louder for President Biden to find a way to bring her home, even as critics fumed that offering to swap prisoners with Moscow rewarded Russian hostage-taking.

The result is a painful quandary for the Biden administration as it tries to maintain a hard line against President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia over the war in Ukraine.

“There’s nothing good here,” said Andrea Schneider, an expert on international conflict resolution at Cardozo School of Law. “No matter what Biden does, he’s going to be criticized — either that we’re giving too much or we’re not working hard enough.”

Kremlin officials had said talks on an exchange could not proceed before her trial was complete, but even with an official verdict and sentence, a deal may not happen anytime soon.

“I think the fact that Putin has not said yes right away means that he’s looked at the U.S. offer and said, ‘Well, that’s their first offer. I can get more than that,’” said Jared Genser, a human rights lawyer who represents Americans held by foreign governments.

The Biden administration proposed to trade Ms. Griner and Paul N. Whelan, a former Marine convicted in Moscow of espionage in 2020, for the notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is midway through a 25-year federal prison sentence for offering to sell arms to a Colombian rebel group that the United States then considered a terrorist organization.

Mr. Biden finds himself squeezed from two sides.

On one side are Ms. Griner’s supporters. Her wife, Cherelle Griner, has made public pleas for Mr. Biden to cut a deal with Mr. Putin as soon as possible. Those pleas have been echoed by the Rev. Al Sharpton, Democratic activist groups, television pundits, pro athletes and celebrities on social media.

But there has also been criticism from Mr. Biden’s other flank — and charges that Mr. Biden has been bending to extortion by Mr. Putin, a man he has called a war criminal.

“This is why dictatorships — like Venezuela, Iran, China, Russia — take Americans hostage, because they know they’ll get something for it,” Rep. Mike Waltz, Republican of Florida, told Newsmax last week. “They know eventually some administration will pay. And this just puts a target on the back of every American out there.”

Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state, echoed the criticism in a Fox News interview last week, saying that to free Mr. Bout would “likely lead to more” Americans being arrested abroad.

And former President Donald J. Trump, who is likely to run again in 2024, slammed the proposed deal in crude terms. He said Mr. Bout was “absolutely one of the worst in the world, and he’s going to be given his freedom because a potentially spoiled person goes into Russia loaded up with drugs.” (Russian officials who detained Ms. Griner at a Moscow-area airport in mid-February found less than one gram of cannabis vape oil in her bags.)

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From subway stations to shopping malls, Taiwan prepares its air-raid shelters

TAIPEI, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Taiwan is preparing its air-raid shelters as rising tension with China and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raise new fears about the possibility of a Chinese attack on the democratic island.

China considers Taiwan its territory and has increased military activity in the air and seas around it. Taiwan vows to defend itself and has made strengthening its defences a priority, with regular military and civil defence drills. read more

The preparations include designating shelters where people can take cover if Chinese missiles start flying in, not in purpose-built bunkers but in underground spaces like basement car parks, the subway system and subterranean shopping centres.

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The capital of Taipei has more than 4,600 such shelters that can accommodate some 12 million people, more than four times its population.

Harmony Wu, 18, was surprised to learn that an underground shopping concourse where she and other youngsters were recently rehearsing some dance moves would be turned into an air-raid shelter in the event of war.

But she said she could understand why.

“Having shelter is very necessary. We don’t know when a war might come and they are to keep us safe,” Wu said at the venue near a Taipei subway station.

“War is brutal. We’ve never experienced it so we aren’t prepared,” she said.

Taipei officials have been updating their database of designated shelters, putting their whereabouts on a smartphone app and launching a social media and poster campaign to make sure people know how to find their closest one.

Shelter entrances are marked with a yellow label, about the size of an A4 piece of paper, with the maximum number of people it can take.

A senior official in the city office in charge of the shelters said events in Europe had brought a renewed sense of urgency.

“Look at the war in Ukraine,” Abercrombie Yang, a director of the Building Administration Office, told Reuters.

“There’s no guarantee that the innocent public won’t get hit,” he said, adding that that was why the public had to be informed.

“All citizens should have crisis awareness … We need the shelters in the event of an attack by the Chinese communists.”

‘NOT STRESSED’

Last month, Taiwan held a comprehensive air-raid exercise across the island for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic disrupted regular drills.

Among the instructions citizens got in case of incoming missiles was to get down in their basement parking lots with their hands covering their eyes and ears while keeping their mouths open – to minimise the impact of blast waves.

Some civil defence advocates say more needs to be done.

Authorities are required by law to keep the shelters clean and open but they don’t have to be stocked with supplies like food and water.

Researchers in parliament called in June for shelters to be provided with emergency supplies.

Wu Enoch of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party says the public must prepare survival kits to take with them when they seek shelter.

“What’s important is what you bring with you, for people to stay there for a long period of time,” Wu said, citing medical supplies and even tools to build a makeshift toilet.

After decade of sabre-rattling across the Taiwan Strait separating the democratic island from China, many Taiwan people appear resigned to living with the threat of a Chinese invasion.

“I’m not stressed. I carry on with my life as usual. When it happens, it happens,” said Teresa Chang, 17, who was also going through her paces at the underground dance practice.

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Reporting by Yimou Lee, Fabian Hamacher and Ann Wang; Editing by Robert Birsel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Al Qaeda leader Zawahiri killed in U.S. drone strike in downtown Kabul

  • Zawahiri tracked to safe house in Kabul
  • Hit by Hellfire missile while standing on balcony
  • ‘This terrorist leader is no more’ – Biden
  • Taliban ‘grossly violated’ Doha Agreement – Blinken

KABUL/WASHINGTON, Aug 2 (Reuters) – The United States killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri with a drone missile while he stood on a balcony at his home in Kabul, U.S. officials said, the biggest blow to the militants since Osama bin Laden was shot dead more than a decade ago.

Afghanistan’s Taliban government has not confirmed the death of Zawahiri, an Egyptian surgeon who had a $25 million bounty on his head and helped to coordinate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States that killed nearly 3,000 people.

U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Zawahiri was killed when he came out on the balcony of his safe house in the Afghan capital at 6:18 a.m. (0148 GMT) on Sunday and was hit by Hellfire missiles from a U.S. drone.

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“Now justice has been delivered, and this terrorist leader is no more,” U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday.

Biden said he authorised the strike after months of planning and that no civilians or family members were killed.

“The world will be a safer place,” said Britain’s foreign minister Liz Truss.

Three spokespeople in the Taliban administration declined comment on Tuesday. The United States accused the Taliban of violating an agreement between them by sheltering Zawahiri.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid previously confirmed that a strike took place in Kabul on Sunday and called it a violation of “international principles”.

A spokesperson for the interior ministry said a house was hit by a rocket in Sherpoor, a leafy residential neighbourhood in the centre of Kabul. “There were no casualties as the house was empty,” Abdul Nafi Takor said.

Taliban authorities threw a security dragnet around the house and journalists were not allowed nearby.

A woman who lives in the neighbourhood and spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said she and her family of nine moved to the safe room of their house when she heard an explosion at the weekend.

When she later went to the rooftop, she saw no commotion or chaos and assumed it was a rocket or bomb attack – which is not uncommon in Kabul. read more

A senior Taliban official told Reuters that Zawahiri was previously in Helmand province and had moved to Kabul after the Taliban took over the country in August last year.

White House spokesman John Kirby told CNN the United States did not have DNA confirmation of Zawahiri’s death, citing “visual confirmation” along with other sources.

He warned al Qaeda and those harbouring the group.

“We are still going to stay vigilant, we’re still going to stay capable,” he told MSNBC.

The State Department warned U.S. citizens overseas that “there is a higher potential for anti-American violence” following the killing and that al Qaeda supporters “may seek to attack U.S. facilities, personnel or citizens.” read more

PROVIDING SANCTUARY

After U.S. Navy SEALS shot bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, Zawahiri succeeded him as leader.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said it “stands by countering terrorism in accordance with international law and relevant UN resolutions.”

Kirby said no notifications were given in advance of the strike, when asked at a briefing on Tuesday if Pakistan had been told ahead of time.

Zawahiri had spent years as al Qaeda’s main organiser and strategist. But a lack of charisma and competition from rival militants Islamic State hobbled his ability to inspire devastating attacks on the West. read more

Reuters Graphics

There were rumours of Zawahiri’s death several times in recent years, and he was long reported to have been in poor health.

The drone attack is the first known U.S. strike inside Afghanistan since the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. and allied troops and diplomats in 2021.

The killing may bolster the credibility of Washington’s assurances that it can still address threats from Afghanistan without a military presence in the country.

“I was critical of President Biden’s decision to leave Afghanistan, but this strike shows we still have the capability and will to act there to protect our country,” said U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski, a Democrat. read more

Zawahiri’s death also raises questions about whether he received sanctuary from the Taliban.

A senior U.S. administration official said senior Taliban officials were aware of his presence in Kabul and said the United States expected the Taliban to abide by an agreement not to allow al Qaeda fighters to re-establish themselves there.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Taliban had “grossly violated” the Doha Agreement between the two sides by hosting and sheltering Zawahiri.

Until the U.S. announcement, Zawahiri had been rumoured to be elsewhere inside Afghanistan or in Pakistan’s tribal area.

A video released in April in which he praised an Indian Muslim woman for defying a ban on wearing an Islamic head scarf dispelled rumours that he had died.

WIFE, FAMILY IN SAME HOUSE

The senior U.S. official said the United States found out this year that Zawahiri’s wife, daughter and her children had relocated to a safe house in Kabul, then identified that Zawahiri was there as well.

He was identified multiple times on the balcony, where he was ultimately struck. He continued to produce videos from the house and some may be released after his death, the official said.

In the last few weeks, Biden convened officials to scrutinise the intelligence. He was updated throughout May and June and was briefed on July 1 on a proposed operation by intelligence leaders.

On July 25, Biden received an updated report and authorised the strike once an opportunity was available, the official said.

With other senior al Qaeda members, Zawahiri is believed to have plotted the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole naval vessel in Yemen which killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured more than 30 others, the Rewards for Justice website said.

He was indicted in the United States for his role in the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people and wounded more than 5,000 others.

Both bin Laden and Zawahiri eluded capture when U.S.-led forces toppled Afghanistan’s Taliban government in late 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks.

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Reporting by Idrees Ali and Jeff Mason; Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper, Eric Beech, Jonathan Landay, Arshad Mohammed, Patricia Zengerle, Matt Spetalnick in Washington, Jibran Ahmad in Peshawar, Susan Heavey in Washington and Reuters staff in Kabul; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Krishna N. Das and Costas Pitas; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, Nick Macfie, Grant McCool and Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Idrees Ali

Thomson Reuters

National security correspondent focusing on the Pentagon in Washington D.C. Reports on U.S. military activity and operations throughout the world and the impact that they have. Has reported from over two dozen countries to include Iraq, Afghanistan, and much of the Middle East, Asia and Europe. From Karachi, Pakistan.

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How a New Corporate Minimum Tax Could Reshape Business Investments

WASHINGTON — At the center of the new climate and tax package that Democrats appear to be on the verge of passing is one of the most significant changes to America’s tax code in decades: a new corporate minimum tax that could reshape how the federal government collects revenue and alter how the nation’s most profitable companies invest in their businesses.

The proposal is one of the last remaining tax increases in the package that Democrats are aiming to pass along party lines in coming days. After months of intraparty disagreement over whether to raise taxes on the wealthy or roll back some of the 2017 Republican tax cuts to fund their agenda, they have settled on a longstanding political ambition to ensure that large and profitable companies pay more than $0 in federal taxes.

To accomplish this, Democrats have recreated a policy that was last employed in the 1980s: trying to capture tax revenue from companies that report a profit to shareholders on their financial statements while bulking up on deductions to whittle down their tax bills.

reduce their effective tax rates well below the statutory 21 percent. It was originally projected to raise $313 billion in tax revenue over a decade, though the final tally is likely to be $258 billion once the revised bill is finalized.

would eliminate this cap and extend the tax credit until 2032; used cars would also qualify for a credit of up to $4,000.

Because of that complexity, the corporate minimum tax has faced substantial skepticism. It is less efficient than simply eliminating deductions or raising the corporate tax rate and could open the door for companies to find new ways to make their income appear lower to reduce their tax bills.

Similar versions of the idea have been floated by Mr. Biden during his presidential campaign and by Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts. They have been promoted as a way to restore fairness to a tax system that has allowed major corporations to dramatically lower their tax bills through deductions and other accounting measures.

According to an early estimate from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax would most likely apply to about 150 companies annually, and the bulk of them would be manufacturers. That spurred an outcry from manufacturing companies and Republicans, who have been opposed to any policies that scale back the tax cuts that they enacted five years ago.

Although many Democrats acknowledge that the corporate minimum tax was not their first choice of tax hikes, they have embraced it as a political winner. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, shared Joint Committee on Taxation data on Thursday indicating that in 2019, about 100 to 125 corporations reported financial statement income greater than $1 billion, yet their effective tax rates were lower than 5 percent. The average income reported on financial statements to shareholders was nearly $9 billion, but they paid an average effective tax rate of just 1.1 percent.

“Companies are paying rock-bottom rates while reporting record profits to their shareholders,” Mr. Wyden said.

told the Senate Finance Committee last year. “This behavioral response poses serious risks for financial accounting and the capital markets.”

Other opponents of the new tax have expressed concerns that it would give more control over the U.S. tax base to the Financial Accounting Standards Board, an independent organization that sets accounting rules.

“The potential politicization of the F.A.S.B. will likely lead to lower-quality financial accounting standards and lower-quality financial accounting earnings,” Ms. Hanlon and Jeffrey L. Hoopes, a University of North Carolina professor, wrote in a letter to members of Congress last year that was signed by more than 260 accounting academics.

the chief economist of the manufacturing association. “Arizona’s manufacturing voters are clearly saying that this tax will hurt our economy.”

Ms. Sinema has expressed opposition to increasing tax rates and had reservations about a proposal to scale back the special tax treatment that hedge fund managers and private equity executives receive for “carried interest.” Democrats scrapped the proposal at her urging.

When an earlier version of a corporate minimum tax was proposed last October, Ms. Sinema issued an approving statement.

“This proposal represents a common sense step toward ensuring that highly profitable corporations — which sometimes can avoid the current corporate tax rate — pay a reasonable minimum corporate tax on their profits, just as everyday Arizonans and Arizona small businesses do,” she said. In announcing that she would back an amended version of the climate and tax bill on Thursday, Ms. Sinema noted that it would “protect advanced manufacturing.”

That won plaudits from business groups on Friday.

“Taxing capital expenditures — investments in new buildings, factories, equipment, etc. — is one of the most economically destructive ways you can raise taxes,” Neil Bradley, chief policy officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. He added, “While we look forward to reviewing the new proposed bill, Senator Sinema deserves credit for recognizing this and fighting for changes.”

Emily Cochrane contributed reporting.

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California appeals court rules no arbitration in Cisco caste bias case

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The logo of networking gear maker Cisco Systems Inc is seen during GSMA’s 2022 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, Spain February 28, 2022. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

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OAKLAND, Calif., Aug 5 (Reuters) – Cisco Systems Inc (CSCO.O) on Friday lost a court appeal to move to private arbitration a case over alleged caste discrimination in its Silicon Valley offices, where managers of Indian descent are accused of bias against a fellow employee from India.

The networking gear and business software company has denied the allegations. It had argued to a California appeals court that the state’s Civil Rights Department, which had brought the case on behalf of a worker identified under the pseudonym John Doe, should be subjected to an employment arbitration agreement signed by Doe.

“As an independent party, the Department cannot be compelled to arbitrate under an agreement it has not entered,” the appellate panel wrote.

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In a separate order Friday, it told a lower-court judge to reconsider a ruling that would have required the state to identify Doe. The lower court had said the law prevented it from considering whether Doe’s family members in India could be harmed by naming him.

The higher court wrote that “harm to family members anywhere is a legitimate consideration in determining whether a party should be granted anonymity.”

Cisco and the state agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The ancient socioreligious concept of caste has led to centuries of oppression against some families born into the lowest groupings in India. California has alleged that those biases had traveled to the U.S. tech industry, where Indians are the largest pool of immigrant workers.

The state sued Cisco in 2020 after Doe complained to it about company human resources staff not finding merit in his concerns that two higher-caste managers had allegedly denied him work and disparaged him.

The lawsuit has ignited advocacy at U.S. companies, universities and other institutions calling for more guidelines and training related to the potential for caste prejudice.

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Reporting by Paresh Dave; Editing by David Gregorio & Shri Navaratnam

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Paresh Dave

Thomson Reuters

San Francisco Bay Area-based tech reporter covering Google and the rest of Alphabet Inc. Joined Reuters in 2017 after four years at the Los Angeles Times focused on the local tech industry.

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