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EU regulator says Amazon’s deal with Luxembourg could amount to unfair subsidy, violate EU law (James Kanter/New York Times)

Continue reading the main story Share This Page Continue reading the main story BRUSSELS — The top regulator in the European Union indicated on Friday that the tax arrangement that Amazon struck with Luxembourg in 2003 could amount to state aid, or to an unfair subsidy. The inquiry — part of a wider investigation into whether a string of multinational companies drastically cut their tax bills and broke the competition rules of the European Union — is in its early stages. But it could result in a European decision ordering the Luxembourg government to recoup a large amount in back taxes from Amazon. The European Commission , the bloc’s executive arm, in a 23-page letter released on Friday described a “complex” arrangement involving subsidiaries operated by Amazon in Luxembourg, the reasons it would pursue the case and the scope of the investigation. Continue reading the main story Related Coverage Amazon’s Tax Deal in Luxembourg Is Latest Target of E.U. Inquiries OCT. 7, 2014 E.U. Inquiry Into Tax Deals for Multinationals Like Apple Pushes Ahead SEPT. 29, 2014 Europeans Accuse Ireland of Giving Apple Illegal Tax Break SEPT. 30, 2014 The antitrust authority said in the letter that it was “of the opinion that through the contested tax ruling the Luxembourgish authorities confer an advantage on Amazon.” It added that the “advantage is obtained every year and ongoing,” and that it “is also granted in a selective manner.” In response, Amazon said in a statement that it had “received no special tax treatment from Luxembourg” and that it was "subject to the same tax laws as other companies operating here.” The publication of the letter reflects heightened scrutiny of how low-tax nations in the European Union have helped large multinationals reduce their tax bills by billions of dollars, at a time when the budgets of larger countries, like France and Italy, are squeezed. The European Commission is already investigating the tax arrangements of Starbucks in the Netherlands, of Apple in Ireland and of a unit of Fiat in Luxembourg

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Hacker’s List matches professional hackers with those needing their service for $100 – $5,000 (Matthew Goldstein/New York Times)

Photo The home page of Hacker’s List, a website that matches hackers with people looking for someone to delete embarrassing photos or retrieve a password. Credit A man in Sweden says he will pay up to $2,000 to anyone who can break into his landlord’s website. A woman in California says she will pay $500 for someone to hack into her boyfriend’s Facebook and Gmail accounts to see if he is cheating on her. The business of hacking is no longer just the domain of intelligence agencies, international criminal gangs, shadowy political operatives and disgruntled “hacktivists” taking aim at big targets. Rather, it is an increasingly personal enterprise. At a time when huge stealth attacks on companies like Sony Pictures, JPMorgan Chase and Home Depot attract attention, less noticed is a growing cottage industry of ordinary people hiring hackers for much smaller acts of espionage. A new website, called Hacker’s List, seeks to match hackers with people looking to gain access to email accounts, take down unflattering photos from a website or gain access to a company’s database. In less than three months of operation, over 500 hacking jobs have been put out to bid on the site, with hackers vying for the right to do the dirty work. It is done anonymously, with the website’s operator collecting a fee on each completed assignment. The site offers to hold a customer’s payment in escrow until the task is completed.

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United for Patent Reform launches, a "super-coalition" against patent trolls brings together some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley…

By Brian Fung January 15 at 12:01 AM What do department stores and restaurants have in common with search engines and social networks? For many, it's that they're all getting sued by patent trolls, companies that accuse other businesses of patent infringement in hopes of winning settlement money. Patent trolls are largely perceived as a problem for the tech industry — but the damage done by patent trolls is increasingly spilling over into other sectors, too. And now those industries are joining tech firms in a massive renewed push for patent reform legislation. On Thursday, advocates for congressional action will debut a massive lobbying coalition drawing together some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, such as Google, Facebook and Adobe — but also relative newcomers to the patent debate, including Macy's, JCPenney and the National Association of Realtors. Others in the coalition, known as United for Patent Reform, will include the restaurant lobby, the hotel industry and telecom companies such as Verizon. Altogether, the group will begin with 20 founding members. "This is really a super-coalition," said Beth Provenzano, vice president of government relations for the National Retail Federation and a co-chair of the new group. "It's really big. It's an attempt to get the pro-reform side really working closely together." The announcement comes as Congress is expected to take up patent legislation anew after it unexpectedly stalled last year. The new coalition, which Provenzano said could wind up involving "hundreds" of members, kicks off a wider lobbying effort that will include an advertising blitz, events in lawmakers' home districts and meetings with them on Capitol Hill. It's easy to think of patent trolls as a tech-sector problem. Online shopping carts, podcasting, the scanning of documents to e-mail — all have been subject to frivolous lawsuits at one time or another because patent trolls saw an opportunity to make money

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