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These men just touched land for the first time in nearly four years
Wed Feb 17

If getting laid off wasn’t stressful enough, imagine getting stranded at sea as a result. That’s what happened to five men who have been stuck in the waters of the United Arab Emirates for over three years.

The story starts with Alco Shipping, who owned the oil tanker the men were crewing. The company’s former owner was imprisoned for financial crimes and left the company too broke to pay salaries, ultimately leaving their crew deserted. In fact, Alco Shipping has abandoned so many crews over time that India blacklisted them all together.

So, the five workers were left to fend for themselves. Due to the UAE’s maritime rules, abandoning the ship could put the workers at risk of being detained or held responsible. The UAE is actually scored as the worst country for seafarer abandonment, and in the absence of any processes in place for such situations, the crew was forced to stay with the ship — even when rough seas broke two anchors — and then had to rely on charities to drop food and supplies.

After nearly four years, the men finally reached shore last week and met with representatives from Alco Shipping who handed them $165,000 (£119,000) in unpaid wages — roughly 70% of what they were actually owed. The crew also agreed to stay on to do essential work on the ship as it is towed to Dubai and wait with it until the vessel is sold (about 15 days). From there, UAE authorities are working to get all five men home with renewed passports as quickly as possible. Future crews are also now required to have insurance to cover such cases.

To learn more about this story, turn to the Guardian, Newser, or Reuters.


Ride-share tragedy drives senate bill
Sun Feb 21

A bill for rider safety is making its way to Senate for the second time. Approved unanimously by the House last year, the bill outlines new protections for passengers of ride sharing apps like Uber.

The bill was inspired by the tragic loss of college senior Samantha Josephson, who was kidnapped and murdered after entering a car she thought was her Uber in 2019. Called “Sami’s Law,” the bill seeks to:
  • Establish an advisory council, composed of federal agency and public stakeholders, dedicated to advancing ridesharing safety standards and reporting findings.
  • Ban the sale of ride-sharing signage to make it more difficult for people to pose as drivers.
  • Require the Government Accountability Office (a federal agency) to study incidents of assault and the conducted background checks by ride services.
Uber also released its first crime report following Sami’s death, revealing nine fatalities in 2018. The report also showed 3,045 sexual assaults and 235 “non-consensual sexual penetrations.” While we wait on Senate to vote, Smarter Travel recommends a number of safety tips, such as sharing your trip with others so that someone else is tracking your ride.

Some additional resources...

For more on Sami’s Law, head to NBC Philadelphia or  

Head here to review Uber’s Safety Report from 2017-2018. 
→ See Smarter Travel’s complete list of rider safety tips here


Maryland wants a share of Big Tech’s Ad Revenue
Thu Feb 18

Maryland has approved a tax for digital ads. This online ad tax intends to help recover state budget losses from the pandemic by requiring companies selling ad space (aka Facebook or Google) to pay a tax on their digital ad revenue — between 2.5 and 10%. While Maryland lawmakers are expected to approve a second bill in the coming days, Big Tech companies are trying to kill it with a lawsuit.

Analysts estimate the tax could generate up to $250 million for Maryland schools in the first year alone. While a state comptroller would be held responsible for collecting the taxes, a few concerns have emerged:
  • First, tracking the world of online ads. Maryland is exploring location-tracking technology (such as geofencing or IP address lookup), but it’s unclear how these techniques trace back to the ads themselves.
  • Second, the law's language is vague, leading to concerns of double taxation. For example, what happens if the same ad has been served to the same viewer multiple times?
  • Third, increasing ad prices. While the bill targets Big Tech’s pocket, critics worry the tax will hurt small businesses and media companies by driving up the price for ads overall.
  • And, as the lawsuit against Maryland claims, it might be illegal. Taxing for digital ads, but not traditional ads, is tricky territory. In fact, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act is a federal law that prohibits discriminatory taxes on “electronic commerce.”
Has this been done before?
In 2018, European countries, such as France and Austria, imposed a 3-5% Digital Services Tax (DST) on digital revenue. In retaliation, the Trump administration imposed a 25% tariff on French goods. Since then, other countries have adopted similar taxes so the Biden administration is suspending the tariffs as they investigate these new DSTs.

🗣️ Calling all startups. In other tax news, your startup might be able to earn free cash through tax credits. And today’s sponsor, Mainstreet, can help. They’ve found free cash for over 500 founders by qualifying your business for government tax breaks. Their team will handle all the paperwork, too!

To learn more about this story...

For even more detail on the Maryland tax, refer to the New York Times.

To better understand the tax implications and laws, visit the Tax Foundation

We also sourced information from the Wall Street Journal and Reuters


           --""-------   0/      ^^
 .___...../ /__| |__\ \_/H__,    ^^
  \                         /

Day 993… this is quite the oar deal.
ASCII Art Credit: Riitta Rasimus


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