Thursday, November 15, 2018

Live: Theresa May pledges to fight on as Conservative MPs call on her to quit

Jacob Rees-Mogg has submitted his letter of no confidence in Theresa May.

In it, he claims it is of "considerable importance that politicians stick to their commitments or do not make such commitments in the first place."

Here's the full letter:

A few weeks ago, in a conversation with the Chief Whip I expressed my concern that the Prime Minister, Mrs Theresa May, was losing the confidence of Conservative Members of Parliament and that it would be in the interest of the Party and the country if she were to stand aside. I have wanted to avoid the disagreeable nature of a formal Vote of No Confidence with all the ill will that this risks engendering.

Regrettably, the draft Withdrawal Agreement presented to Parliament today has turned out to be worse than anticipated and fails to meet the promises given to the nation by the Prime Minister, either on her own account or on behalf of us all in the Conservative Party Manifesto.

That the Conservative and Unionist Party is proposing a Protocol which would create a different regulatory environment for an integral part of our country stands in contradistinction to our long-held principles. It is in opposition to the Prime Minister's clear statements that this was something that no Prime Minister would ever do and raises questions in relation to Scotland that are open to exploitation by the Scottish National Party.

The 2017 Election Manifesto said that the United Kingdom would leave the Customs Union. It did not qualify this statement by saying that we could stay in it via a backstop while Annex 2, Article 3 explicitly says that we would have no authority to set our own tariffs. It is also harder to leave this backstop than it is to leave the EU, there is no provision equivalent to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

The Prime Minister also promised an implementation period which was the reason for paying £39 billion. As was made clear by a House of Lords report in March 2017 there is no legal obligation to pay anything. This has now become an extended period of negotiation which is a different matter.

The situation as regards the European Court of Justice appears to have wandered from the clear statement that we are taking back control of our laws. Article 174 makes this clear as does Article 89 in conjunction with Article 4.

It is of considerable importance that politicians stick to their commitments or do not make such commitments in the first place. Regrettably, this is not the situation, therefore, in accordance with the relevant rules and procedures of the Conservative Party and the 1922 Committee this is a formal letter of No Confidence in the Leader of the Party, the Rt. Hon. Theresa May.

I am copying this letter to the Prime Minister and the Chief Whip and although I understand that it is possible for the correspondence to remain confidential I shall be making it public.

Pound falls sharply as Brexit secretary resigns - business live

Facebook confirmed Mark Zuckerberg's beef with Apple CEO Tim Cook in an official company statement

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg might run two giant tech companies just a short drive down Route 101 from each other in Silicon Valley, but there's no love lost between the two moguls.

Now it's on the record — in an official company statement from Facebook.

In response to a blockbuster New York Times report on how Facebook responded to a series of privacy scandals, Facebook published a lengthy blog post on Thursday morning.

One item was about Cook:

5. Android: Tim Cook has consistently criticized our business model and Mark has been equally clear he disagrees. So there's been no need to employ anyone else to do this for us. And we've long encouraged our employees and executives to use Android because it is the most popular operating system in the world.

This was in response to The Times' implication that Zuckerberg had ordered his executives to stop using iPhones and use Android instead because he was personally upset with Cook.

Do you work at Apple or Facebook? Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at, or Twitter DM at @kifleswing. Secure messaging available upon request. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

Here's the Times passage:

"We're not going to traffic in your personal life," Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, said in an MSNBC interview. "Privacy to us is a human right. It's a civil liberty." (Mr. Cook's criticisms infuriated Mr. Zuckerberg, who later ordered his management team to use only Android phones — arguing that the operating system had far more users than Apple's.)

The enmity between the two technology executives goes back years but heated up earlier this year when Recode's Kara Swisher asked Cook a question about the Cambridge Analytica incident, in which private Facebook user data was stolen from 50 million users.

She asked if the Apple CEO was in Zuckerberg's place, "What would you do?"

He answered: "What would I do? I wouldn't be in this situation."

Zuckerberg later hit back, calling Cook's criticism "extremely glib."

In the statement, in which a Facebook representative writes "there's been no need to employ anyone else to do this for us," the "anyone else" is referring to Definers Public Affairs, a firm of Republican political operatives that Facebook hired, which the Times report revealed had spread documents with political-style opposition research to reporters.

However, the conflict between Cook and Zuckerberg first arose at least four years ago.

Read more: Sheryl Sandberg and other Facebook execs reportedly investigated if they could ban Trump after Zuck was 'appalled' by his call for a Muslim ban

Cook said in an interview with Charlie Rose in 2014 that "when an online service is free, you're not the customer. You're the product."

This apparently got under Zuckerberg's skin even back then, with a journalist from Time noticing the tension in a profile of the Facebook founder:

"But before that happens Zuckerberg also notes — and it was the only time I saw him display irritation — that Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote something similar in September in a statement spelling out Apple's privacy policy: 'When an online service is free, you're not the customer. You're the product.' The shot was probably meant for Google, but Facebook was definitely in the blast radius. 'A frustration I have is that a lot of people increasingly seem to equate an advertising business model with somehow being out of alignment with your customers,' Zuckerberg says. 'I think it's the most ridiculous concept. What, you think because you're paying Apple that you're somehow in alignment with them? If you were in alignment with them, then they'd make their products a lot cheaper!'"

It's remarkable that this spat between publicly traded giants has spilled out of quips and interviews into a public Facebook crisis PR statement.

Rocket Lab raises $140 million in 'dry powder' to fast-track business of small rockets

Rocket Lab expanded its lead on the budding industry of small rocket companies, announcing a $140 million investment round led by Australia's sovereign wealth fund.

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck told CNBC this was "a really important" moment for his 12-year-old company.

"We're kind of graduating out of Silicon Valley and into the much larger pools of capital," Beck said. "These pools of capital aren't looking for startup companies with lots of risk. They're looking for stable and for assured growth and returns."

Australia's nearly $150 billion Future Fund invested along with Rocket Lab's earlier backers including Bessemer Venture Partners, Promus Ventures, Khosla Ventures, K1W1, Data Collective and Greenspring Associates. New Zealand's Accident Compensation Corporation also invested for the first time.

The company has now raised more than $288 million in total funding. It wouldn't disclose its new valuation, but said it is "soaring past its previous" appraisal of $1.2 billion.

Adam Spice, Rocket Lab's chief financial officer, said the investment would give it "dry powder" to expand its role in the space industry. "The investors ... believe the opportunity is finally real."

Rocket Lab builds small rockets, priced at about $5.7 million a launch. The company's Electron rocket is designed to launch spacecraft up to the size of a refrigerator, especially for the premium small satellite part of the rocket market. Launching affordably and frequently were the two priorities Rocket Lab had when designing Electron. "Almost everything in" Electron is "made in-house," Spice said.

Small rockets like Electron can save customers months of time getting to orbit but come at a higher cost compared to flying as a "rideshare" on a larger rocket like the SpaceX Falcon 9. But Rocket Lab is not trying to compete with those big rockets. Beck's company is targeting customers who wants to test new technologies very quickly, with an end goal of being able to launch on demand.

The company is fresh off its first commercial launchon Saturday, which put seven spacecraft in orbit. With operations in New Zealand and California, Rocket Lab is increasing production as it tries to launch one rocket a month by next year and then one every two weeks, Beck said.

Its factories "have been specifically designed to produce one rocket a week," Beck said

Electron reached orbit for the first time in January. Despite an issue with one of the rocket's systems delaying its second orbital launch for several months, Rocket Lab has a sizable lead on the rest of the industry. Competitors Virgin Orbit, Vector and Astra Space are deep into testing programs but have yet to reach orbit. Beck estimates there are over 100 companies in total trying to catch up.

Beck said this latest investment round shows that "Rocket Lab is maturing" and attracting Wall Street interest. While investment money is the "most accessible" among venture firms and sovereign wealth, Spice said he's "getting more calls" from the likes of J.P. Morgan.

"We've got the biggest of the big names on the financial side kind of kicking the tires on participating," Spice said.

Beck said it's too early to know when a Rocket Lab IPO would happen, as the company has "a few things we want to execute first."

"We want to get the launch cadence right up there," Beck said. "There's a little bit more I need to achieve."

Rocket Lab's year began with reaching orbit, and the company has not slowed down since. The company doubled its global workforce to 330 employees, with Spice joining as CFO earlier this year after nearly 20 years in the semiconductor industry. He has done about 60 acquisitions in his career, which Spice said is one of the key reasons Beck hired him.

The company opened an 80,700 square foot mass production facility in Auckland, New Zealand, in October.

Rocket Lab also announced in October it will build its first U.S. launchpad at NASA's Wallops Facility in Virginia. Unlike its launchpad on New Zealand's Mahia Peninsula, which is a private facility, the Virginia launchpad is on NASA property.

"The U.S. launch site is really to serve government customers who require launch off U.S. soil," Beck said.

Spice said Rocket Lab plans to use about one-sixth of this $140 million investment round to add second and third launchpads at the company's New Zealand facility "relatively soon." Mahia has a "strategic value" that Spice does not think many people understand.

"It's the only privately-owned launch facility and that is a huge differentiator," Spice said.

Rocket Lab is going to need multiple facilities if it is going to reach its goal of launching on a weekly basis. The company has a backlog of launches for the next year and a half, with 16 planned for next year. Beck said the company is "tracking around a $3 billion pipeline" in future launches.

Another one-third of the $140 million will go to research and development. Beck said the company is beginning to work on three major R&D projects. And Rocket Lab is already preparing for its next orbital launch, set for December.

Beck estimated Rocket Lab will soon be profitable, saying when the company completes "these couple of launches by the end of this year we'll be cash flow neutral." But the company is well aware of how difficult spaceflight can be. That mentality remained front of mind for Spice when thinking about how this new funding should be utilized.

"We basically funded ourselves to survive a pretty lengthy shutdown on the pad if we have an anomaly, any unforeseen pricing pressure from well heeled competitors, and absolutely keep our foot on the gas from an investment perspective," Spice said.

Taxpayers' cost for Trump Jr.'s business trip to India nearly $100K, documents show

Donald Trump Jr.’s lavish trip to India to sell his family’s luxury condominium projects cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $100,000, documents obtained by The Washington Post show.

The Department of Homeland Security, responding to a Freedom of Information request, released 47 pages of purchase orders, requisition forms and planning work sheets showing Trump Jr.’s February trip cost more than $97,805 for hotel rooms, airfare, car rental and overtime for Secret Service agents. The costs were incurred on a February tour of four Indian cities — New Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Kolkata — where the Trump family has licensed its name to luxury high-rise projects.

Trump Jr., 40, is the executive vice president of the family real estate company that the president still owns, although the elder Trump says he has stepped back from day-to-day control.

During his tour, Trump Jr. walked the red carpet, attended a ribbon cutting at a high-rise overlooking the Arabian Sea in Mumbai, hosted champagne dinners for buyers and had a private tete-a-tete with India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Full-page glossy newspaper ads offered those who put down a $38,000 deposit of a new luxury project outside Delhi a chance to dine with the president’s son, prompting charges of conflict of interest. His team boasted to reporters they had sold $100 million worth of the pricey flats, including $15 million in a single day.

The Secret Service is authorized by law to protect the president and his immediate family, although Trump Jr. briefly waived his protective guard last fall while on a moose-hunting trip to the Yukon. The idea that the U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill for Secret Service travel while the Trump children are on trips to promote the family’s brand overseas has prompted criticism from both Capitol Hill and watchdog groups.

Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said that because the president has not placed his assets in a blind trust, as others have done, he still effectively controls his real estate empire and benefits from his children’s travels. Both Trump Jr. and the president’s other son, Eric, have traveled widely to promote the Trump brand, including trips to Dubai and Vancouver.

“The issue is that essentially the president still owns his businesses, and these trips are being done to make the president money. Essentially the government is spending money for the president’s private businesses,” Libowitz said.

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to emails or return calls for comment. In a statement, Jeffrey Adams, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said for security reasons the agency could not discuss “the means, methods, resources, costs, or numbers utilized to carry out our protective responsibilities.”

The Trump family will face tighter scrutiny going forward now that the Democrats have regained control of the House of Representatives, experts say. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), who has been a frequent critic of the strains Trump’s large family have placed on the Secret Service’s budget, is expected to assume control of the powerful House oversight committee next year.

Democrats began investigating the costs of Trump’s family travel last year, but the effort did not get far. They are now awaiting the results of two reports from the Government Accountability Office — one on the costs of presidential travel and a second on the security at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, Fla., the committee said.

Chuck Young, the managing director of public affairs for the GAO, says the family travel study is expected out in mid-December and will include travel in 2017; this means Trump Jr.’s India trip is not in the study’s scope.

During the nearly week-long trip protecting Trump Jr., Secret Service agents following Trump crisscrossed the country, staying in a variety of luxury hotels, including the Oberoi in New Delhi and the Four Seasons in Mumbai, where rooms range from $150 to nearly $500 a night. The promotional events were for properties where the Trumps have licensing deals, not properties the Trump Organization owns.

The documents released by DHS are incomplete — the Mumbai figures show an estimate of the total trip cost as $25,174, including $18,785 for rooms at the Four Seasons and $6,389 for car rentals, cellphone use and payment of local staff. Purchase orders of the final hotel bills with the General Services Administration show the government actually paid $15,166 for rooms during what it called “Don Jr Visit to Mumbai” and another bill for $3,501, a bit less than the estimate.

The documents for the Delhi days of the trip show only the hotel receipts — about $27,000 — which adjusted down to $15,360 because a member of the group whose name was redacted “will settle his hotel invoice on his own,” according to the documents.

The government spent a similar amount — about $97,830 — for hotel stays for Secret Service and embassy staffers for Eric’s trip last year to Uruguay, a Post review of purchasing orders found last year. Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington released a report in July that shows the Secret Service spent $200,000 on airfare, hotel rooms and other expenses when Trump Jr. and Eric went to the United Arab Emirates to open a golf resort last year.

David Fahrenthold contributed to this report.

Valparaiso business owner spends three days behind bars only to learn it was all a mistake

Sparta business owner pleads guilty to tax evasion

Posted: Nov. 15, 2018 12:01 am

A Lafayette resident and Sparta tax preparation business owner admitted Tuesday before a U.S. District Court judge that for at least four consecutive years, he did not pay payroll taxes and failed to file his personal income tax return, according to U.S. District Attorney Craig Carpenito.

Thomas Kurczewski, 71, pleaded guilty in front of Judge Esther Salas to one count each of failing to pay payroll taxes and failing to make personal income tax returns. If convicted on both charges, he faces up to six years in prison and fines of up to $350,000.

According to court documents filed in the case, Kurczewski opened up his business "Tom K -- The Tax Consultant" in 1992 and was the sole owner and manager of the tax return preparation business. The business also, at some point, went by the name of "Tom K and Associates -- The Tax Consultants," records state.

The office is located in White Deer Plaza in Sparta, according to the Yellow Pages and the Better Business Bureau.

Between 2011 and 2014, Kurczewski employed two individuals at the office but Carpenito said he failed to pay payroll taxes for them.

The Internal Revenue Service requires an employer to report "employment taxes" on an Employer's Quarterly Federal Tax Return four times a year.

"Employment taxes" include withholding taxes, or the amount of taxes an employer withholds from their employees for partial payment of income tax, and Federal Insurance Contribution Act, or FICA, taxes. According to the IRS, FICA taxes are withheld from employers' taxes to protect the financial and physical well-being of the nation's senior citizens by helping to fund two federal programs: Social Security and medicare.

Court records indicated Kurczewski failed to file quarterly tax returns a total of seven times between 2011 and 2014, an approximate employment tax liability of $24,000.

Kurczewski also failed to file his own individual tax returns and did not pay federal income taxes for calendar years 2011 through 2015, Carpenito stated.

Carpenito indicated that in failing to pay payroll taxes and personal income taxes, Kurczewski failed to pay the government $338,204

Special agents in the IRS' Criminal Investigation Unit, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur in Newark, assisted in the investigation.

Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 20.