Hungarian internet tax proposal angers net users and providers

There is anger in Hungary over plans for a new internet tax.

The government wants internet providers to pay a tax of 150 forints (49 euro cents) per gigabyte of data traffic, though they would be able to offset that against corporate tax.

Over 100,000 people quickly joined a Facebook group protesting against the tax, which they fear providers will pass on to them.

Internet service market leader, Deutsche Telekom subsidiary Magyar Telekom called the tax “drastic” warning it threatens to undermine planned investments in broadband network infrastructure.

Magyar Telekom, which called for the proposal to be withdrawn, said industry players were not consulted about the idea.

Hungary’s Association of IT, Telecommunications and Electronics Companies said in a statement that the tax would force them to hike prices, which would reflect in consumer prices in general and hinder economic growth.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government has in the last few years imposed special taxes on the banking, retail and energy sectors as well as on telecommunications providers to keep the budget deficit in check, jeopardising profits in some sectors of the economy and unnerving international investors.

Russia Deploys Troops, Robots Along Entire “2nd Middle East” Arctic Belt

On the heels of Sweden’s military deployment (following the discovery of a damaged Russian sub), it appears Russia is taking no chances with its access to Arctic resources.

As Reuters reports, the Russian defense minister announced today that Russian military units will be deployed along the entire Arctic border from Murmansk to Chukotka in 2014.

 

Interfax adds that combat robots are also being deployed to protect Russian oil and gas infrastructure in the harsh environment of the Arctic.

This should be no surprise as The Guardian notes, the Arctic’s hydrocarbon resources nevertheless exert a powerful pull. It has been compared to “a second Middle East”, with oil and gas reserves thought to represent 17% and 30%, respectively, of the global total.

 

Bulgaria, Romania Agree to Build 2 More Bridges over Danube River

Bulgaria: Bulgaria, Romania Agree to Build 2 More Bridges over Danube River

Bulgaria and Romania have agreed to build two new bridges over the Danube River.

Romania’s government has approved the signing of a memorandum with Bulgaria on the construction of the two bridges, according to news agencies Adjepress and Mediafax, as cited by the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency.

The press office of the Bulgarian government announced on Wednesday that the Cabinet had adopted the same decision earlier the same day.

The new bridges are to connect the towns of Silistra and Calarasi, and Nikopol and Turnu Magurele.

The memorandum envisages the launch of feasibility studies for new bridges over the Danube River.

A bilateral working group is to be created on issues of transport infrastructure and its activity is to be coordinated by the respective ministers of the two countries.

Bulgaria’s Transport Minister will be authorized to hold talks and sign the document on behalf of the Bulgarian government.

The financing is to be provided under the Romania-Bulgaria Cross Border Cooperation Program 2014 – 2020, according to reports of dnevnik.bg.

There are two bridges connecting Bulgaria and Romania at present. Danube Bridge Ruse – Giurgiu was launched in 1954, while Danube Bridge Vidin – Calafat was inaugurated in 2013.

Prague rescuers train rapid reaction to poison attack in metro

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Prague – Hundreds of rescuers, firefighters, soldiers and police officers trained a joint reaction to a fictitious terrorist poison attack that “killed” ten people and “wounded” dozens, in the Prague metro at night to Wednesday.

Over 800 people participated in the exercise to test coordination between the rescue system bodies that was the most extensive in the past several years.

The simulated attack, reminding of the attack in the Tokyo metro in the early 1990s, started shortly after 01:00 when “terrorists” broke a glass bottle with sarin, a poisonous substance, on the platform of the Andel metro station in the centre of Prague.

After the bottle was broken, an alarm system for detecting chemical substances like sarin was activated.

For security reasons, rescuers and the Prague Public Transport Company´s staff would not give details about the system´s functioning.

The first firefighter units and ambulances arrived at the spot in several minutes. Shortly afterwards, a number of their vehicles filled the nearby bus station´s area.

Firefighters put on anti chemical clothes and rushed down to the metro station. In the meantime, their colleagues put up a decontamination facility including mobile chemical labs.

After a few dozens of minutes, firefighters started taking first passengers from the underground.

After undergoing the dry decontamination procedure on the spot, buses and ambulances took the passengers to hospitals.

Rescuers´ emergency staff then called in more doctors and secured enough beds for potential patients.

Firefighters also checked the neighbouring metro stations for which several metro trains had departed from the afflicted Andel station, possibly also hit by sarin.

Detectives from the police organised crime squad arrived at the spot as did experts from the military chemical warfare unit seated in Liberec, north Bohemia.

The latter put up a special decontamination tent in the Central Military Hospital complex elsewhere in Prague.

Prague Rescue Service director Zdenek Schwarz expressed satisfaction with the exercise´s course and results.

“I can compare it with [similar exercises] abroad, and I think Prague has nothing to be ashamed of in this respect,” Schwarz said.

The exercise was also welcomed by military Chief-of-Staff Petr Pavel.

“I´m glad that the exercise was held. A similar situation can happed anytime and anywhere,” he said.

Hungary confronts Obama administration over travel bans

Hungary has demanded an explanation from the US over its banning of six top officials from entering the country on alleged corruption charges.

The discussion was part of a tense four hour meeting in Washington between Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó and America’s assistant secretary of state.

“I told the Assistant Secretary that we are always open to consult about specific issues, about specific decisions. But there is one thing we never accept. We do not accept, if someone challenges or questions the general democratic approach and the general democratic values of our country,” said Szijjártó after the meeting with Victoria Nuland.

The US has implied the entry bans were a warning to Budapest to reverse policies that threatened to undermine democratic values in the country.

Our correspondent Stefan Grobe said:

“The Obama administration has been unhappy with Hungary’s governance for a long time. And now patience seems to be running out. The message is: Get your act together or face the consequences.”

The increasingly strained relations between the two countries appear to have peaked over a report issued by whistleblower András Horváth who worked at Hungary’s tax authority. He claims the government is turning a blind eye to corruption.

“The government has received many signs about corrupt tax authority leaders in the last few years, not only from me, but from many other colleagues. I also made a denunciation, but nothing has happened,” said Horváth

The report comes after several diplomatic clashes with the US. Analysts in Washington allege Hungary’s right-wing government is taking the country down an authoritarian path, producing a sense of corruption coupled with a biased judiciary – something Hungary rejects.

Hungary to impose world’s first internet tax

Internet users in Budapest

Hungary is preparing to impose the world’s first tax on internet usage in the latest example of the unorthodox economic policies being pursued by President Viktor Orbán and his increasingly dominant Fidesz party.

Mihály Varga, economy minister, on Wednesday unveiled the plans, which include a charge of Ft150 (62 US cents) for each gigabyte of internet data consumed. Mr Varga said the tax – to be paid by internet service providers – was a logical extension of levies on phone calls and text messages the government announced in 2011.

Neelie Kroes, the EU’s outgoing digital chief, told the Financial Times the measures would damage Hungary’s digital economy.

“Unilateral Internet taxes are not a clever idea. It will increase internet access prices for consumers,” she said, noting that Hungary scored below the EU average for internet usage, broadband access and digital regulation.
“This isn’t going to help,” she added.

Opponents called for protests against the measure, which Péter Banai, state secretary, estimated would raise Ft20bn next year. A Facebook group set up to oppose the tax garnered more than 6,000 members within hours of its creation.

The internet tax is the latest among a series of controversial taxes and financial penalties introduced by Mr Orbán’s government in recent years as it seeks to restore the public finances and – critics say – punish opponents.

Earlier this year the government forced banks to compensate borrowers for “unfair” conditions on foreign currency loans issued before the Hungarian forint’s fall during the 2008 financial crisis. The move came after a windfall tax on banks in 2010 and a financial transaction tax introduced this year.

The government also imposed a new levy on advertising revenue in August that provoked accusations of media censorship. Independent TV station RTL Klub last week filed a complaint to the European Commission, alleging that the tax was designed to discriminate against the broadcaster.

Brussels has repeatedly clashed with the Fidesz government. Ms Kroes denounced the media advertising tax as an attempt “to silence dynamic debate” and “an attack on Hungarian democracy”.

Yet the party has continued to rise, despite controversial remarks from Mr Orbán in September about his desire to create an “illiberal state”, alluding to examples such as China, Russia and Turkey. His spokesman later said the remarks were misunderstood.

In municipal elections earlier this month, Fidesz won the mayoralties of all but one of the country’s 10 largest cities. During his victory speech, Mr Orbán promised to further squeeze the banking sector, which he said “must be held to account”.

Magyar Telekom, the country’s largest telecoms operator, said the draft bill implied a potential cost of up to Ft100bn for the sector and warned that broadband development would be “paralysed” by a charge of this magnitude. Shares in Magyar Telekom fell nearly 4 per cent to Ft334 hours after the announcement.

A spokesman for the Hungarian government said opponents of the tax were generating “hysteria” and said that parliament will agree a cap on charges for individual telecoms companies. He also rejected warnings that charging for internet usage would harm Hungary’s digital economy:

“This was the charge we heard about the telcom taxes; ultimately nothing was proved, just the opposite.”

 

$95-Million Penthouse Offers Breathtaking Views of New York City 1,396 Feet Above the Ground

A new landmark will soon be joining the iconic New York City skyline: 432 Park Avenue, the address of a 1,396-foot condo tower that is now the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere.

 

Located on Park Avenue between 56th and 57th streets in midtown Manhattan, the 96-story skyscraper offers 104 units at

30,000 square feet each, with prices ranging from $16.95 million to a whopping $95 million for the best penthouse suite.

One of the biggest selling points of the condos is undoubtedly the breathtaking view that each unit offers.

Entering the living room, waking up in bed, soaking in a hot bath, or enjoying a meal, the resident is immediately faced with gorgeous 10′ x 10′ windows that look down on a sweeping cityscape,

that includes everything from the Hudson to the East River, from the Bronx to Brooklyn, and from Central Park to the Atlantic Ocean.

 

Other perks and amenities include ceilings with luxurious heights of 12.5 feet, a building lounge, restaurant with an outdoor terrace, state-of-the-art gym, billiards room,

75-foot pool with a spa and massage therapy room, screening room and performance venue, children’s playroom, and a boardroom.

Designed by architect Rafael Viñoly, the sleek building will welcome its first residents in 2015 after three years of construction.

Millionaires who want a place to call home in the City That Never Sleeps, look no further—as Viñoly himself says, “[it's] a 100% New York experience.”

 

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