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What the Top US Companies Pay In Taxes 658

theodp writes "If you've ever wondered how it's possible that you pay more to the IRS than General Electric, Forbes has an explanation. You, my friend, do not have the tax benefit of overseas operations. Microsoft, for example, has its overseas subsidiaries license software to its US parent company in return for handsome royalties that get taxed at lower overseas rates. Exxon limits its tax pain with the help of 20 wholly owned subsidiaries domiciled in the Bahamas, Bermuda, and the Cayman Islands that shelter cash flow from operations in the likes of Angola, Azerbaijan, and Abu Dhabi. As a result, of the $15B it paid in income taxes last year, Exxon paid none of it to Uncle Sam, and has tens of billions in earnings permanently reinvested overseas. Likewise, GE has $84B in overseas income parked indefinitely outside the US. Now quit your carping and get back to filling out that 1040!"

The Short Arm of the Law 336

mindbrane writes "CNN takes a look at when companies are too big for the legal system to handle. Quoting: 'Prosecutors said that excluding Pfizer would most likely lead to Pfizer's collapse, with collateral consequences: disrupting the flow of Pfizer products to Medicare and Medicaid recipients, causing the loss of jobs including those of Pfizer employees who were not involved in the fraud, and causing significant losses for Pfizer shareholders. ... So Pfizer and the feds cut a deal. Instead of charging Pfizer with a crime, prosecutors would charge a Pfizer subsidiary, Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc. ... As a result, Pharmacia & Upjohn Co. Inc., the subsidiary, was excluded from Medicare without ever having sold so much as a single pill. And Pfizer was free to sell its products to federally funded health programs.' IBM may have cast the mold for this sort of thing in its 1970s antitrust case, but the recurrence of similar cases speaks to ongoing concerns for legal systems."
The Almighty Buck

Paper Companies' Windfall of Unintended Consequences 284

Jamie found a post on ScienceBlogs that serves as a stark example of the law of unintended consequences, as well as the ability of private industry to game a system of laws to their advantage. It seems that large paper companies stand to reap as much as $8 billion this year by doing the opposite of what an alternative-fuel bill intended. Here is the article from The Nation with more details and a mild reaction from a Congressional staffer. "[T]he United States government stands to pay out as much as $8 billion this year to the ten largest paper companies.... even though the money comes from a transportation bill whose manifest intent was to reduce dependence on fossil fuel, paper mills are adding diesel fuel to a process that requires none in order to qualify for the tax credit. In other words, we are paying the industry — handsomely — to use more fossil fuel. 'Which is,' as a Goldman Sachs report archly noted, the 'opposite of what lawmakers likely had in mind when the tax credit was established.'"
The Courts

Has Microsoft's Patent War Against Linux Begun? 644

Glyn Moody writes "Microsoft has filed a suit against TomTom, 'alleging that the in-car navigation company's devices violate eight of its patents — including three that relate to TomTom's implementation of the Linux kernel.' What's interesting is that the intellectual property lawyer behind the move, Horacio Gutierrez, has just been promoted to the rank of corporate vice president at Microsoft. Is this his way of announcing that he intends going on the attack against Linux?"

How a Router's Missed Range Check Nearly Crashed the Internet 196

Barlaam writes "A bug by router vendor A (omitting a range check from a critical field in the configuration interface) tickled a bug from router vendor B (dropping BGP sessions when processing some ASPATH attributes with length very close to 256), causing a ripple effect that caused widespread global routing instability last week. The flaw lay dormant until one of vendor A's systems was deployed in an autonomous system whose ASN, modulo 256, was greater than 250. At that point, the Internet was one typo away from disaster. Other router vendors, who were not affected by the bug, happily propagated the trigger message to every vulnerable system on the planet in about 30 seconds. Few people appreciate how fragile and unsecured the Internet's trust-based critical infrastructure really is — this is just the latest example." Vendor A, in this case, is a Latvian router vendor called MikroTik.

Saline Agriculture As the Future of Food 153

Damien1972 writes "To confront rising salinization, authors writing in the journal Science recommend increased spending on saline agriculture, which proposes growing salt-water crops to feed the world. Jelte Rozema and Timothy Flowers believe that salt-loving plants known as halophytes could become important crops, especially in areas where the salt content of the water is about half that of ocean water."

Bush Demands Amnesty for Spying Telecoms 420

The Bush administration and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are poised to square off in front of a San Francisco federal judge Tuesday to litigate the constitutionality of legislation immunizing the nation's telecoms from lawsuits accusing them of helping the government spy on Americans without warrants. "'The legislation is an attempt to give the president the authority to terminate claims that the president has violated the people's Fourth Amendment rights,' the EFF's [Cindy] Cohn says. 'You can't do that.'"

Microsoft Discontinues Windows 3.x 384

rugatero writes "The BBC reports that, as of last Saturday, Microsoft is no longer issuing licenses for the 18-year-old Windows 3.x. Many here may well be surprised to learn that anyone still has use for the antiquated software, but it seems to have found a home in a number of embedded systems — including cash registers and the in-flight entertainment systems on some long-haul passenger jets (Virgin and Qantas are cited). Considering Linux's credentials as an embedded OS, this news could very well indicate the possibility of more migrations in the pipeline."

I have a theory that it's impossible to prove anything, but I can't prove it.