Take hard line on Canada’s digital tax, online laws, tech associations urge Biden
Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez prepares to appear before the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications on Bill C-11 in the Senate of Canada Building in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022. The bill, also known as the Online Streaming Act, is one of several problematic Canadian initiatives tech leaders in the U.S. want President Joe Biden to raise with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
By James McCarten in Washington
A high-tech industry coalition in the United States is urging President Joe Biden to take a hard line against Canada’s approach to digital services.
The group says the proposed digital services tax unfairly targets U.S. companies and is offside with international efforts to establish a global standard.
In a letter to Biden, they also complain about two controversial federal bills: the Online Streaming Act, known as Bill C-11, and the Online News Act, or Bill C-18.
They warn C-11, which is meant to protect Canadian content providers, could backfire and ultimately increase costs to consumers.
And they fear the Online News Act, which would compensate Canadian news organizations and broadcasters, could violate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
Biden is meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later this week as part of his first visit to Canada since taking over the White House in 2021.
“We are concerned that Canada is pursuing a number of problematic proposals and actions that could significantly limit the ability of U.S. companies to export their goods and services and fairly compete in the Canadian market,” the letter reads.
“It is critical for the United States to hold Canada accountable to its USMCA commitments to ensure the continued success of this important agreement.”
The letter is signed by 10 different associations in the digital services space, including the Computer and Communications Industry Association, the Information Technology Industry Council and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
First and foremost in their sights is Canada’s “discriminatory and retroactive” digital services tax, which the group estimates would collect US$4 billion over five years, primarily from U.S. companies.
The tax, designed to ensure tech giants pay their fair share of taxes in countries where they earn revenue without a physical presence, would only take effect next year if a new multilateral tax framework doesn’t take shape by then.
Canada has endorsed that so-called “inclusive framework,” established under the auspices of the G20 and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
“Canada’s pursuit of a DST would set a harmful precedent for other inclusive framework participants to adopt similarly targeted taxes on U.S. digital services.”
Precedent elsewhere is also a concern with the Online Streaming Act, which the associations say smacks of an effort to impose on the internet a regulatory scheme designed for the “traditionally restricted world of broadcasting.”
If passed, the bill “could have disastrous consequences for content production and distribution and could inspire other countries to implement similar content-preference schemes.”
And they say the Online News Act, which is already fuelling mounting tensions between the federal government and tech giants like Google and Meta, appears to exclude digital companies from outside the U.S., a violation of the terms of North America’s trilateral trade agreement.
“It is critical for the United States government to hold Canada to its trade commitments and to underscore the negative global precedent that would be set if Canada implements these measures in their current form.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2023.
Cynthia Weil, Grammy winning lyricist who teamed husband Barry Mann, dead at 82
NEW YORK (AP) — Cynthia Weil, a Grammy-winning lyricist of notable range and endurance who enjoyed a decades-long partnership with husband Barry Mann and helped write “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “On Broadway,” “Walking in the Rain” and dozens of other hits, has died at age 82.
Her death was confirmed Friday by Interdependence Public Relations, which represents Mann’s daughter, Dr. Jenn Mann. A spokesperson did not immediately have further details.
Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, married in 1961, were one of popular music’s most successful teams, part of a remarkable ensemble recruited by impresarios Don Kirshner and Al Nevins and based in Manhattan’s Brill Building neighborhood, a few blocks from Times Square. With such hit-making combinations as Carole King and Gerry Goffin and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, the Brill Building song factory turned out many of the biggest singles of the ’60s and beyond.
Weil and Mann were key collaborators with producer Phil Spector on songs for the Ronettes (“Walking in the Rain”), the Crystals (“He’s Sure the Boy I Love”) and other performers, and also provided hits for everyone from Dolly Parton to Hanson. “Don’t Know Much,” a Linda Ronstadt-Aaron Neville duet they helped write, was a top 5 hit that won a best pop performance Grammy in 1990.
Their most famous song, a work of history overall, was “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” an anthem of “blue-eyed soul” produced by Spector as if scoring a tragedy and sung with desperate fury by the Righteous Brothers. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” topped the charts in 1965 and was covered by numerous other artists. According to Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), no other song was played more on radio and television in the 20th century.
But when Weil and Mann first played “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for the Righteous Brothers, the response from singers Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield was “dead silence.”
“Bill said, ‘Sounds good for The Everly Brothers not the Righteous Brothers,'” she told Parade magazine in 2015. “We thought ‘Oh, God.’ Then Bobby said, ‘What am I supposed to do while the big guy’s singing?’ and Phil (Spector) said “You can go to the bank.'”
While many of Weil’s peers struggled once the Beatles caught on, she continued to make hits, sometimes with Mann, or with such partners as Michael Masser, David Foster and John Williams, with whom she wrote “For Always” for the soundtrack to Steven Spielberg’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.” Mann helped write Parton’s pop breakthrough “Here You Come Again”; the Peabo Bryson ballad “If Ever You’re In My Arms Again”; James Ingram’s “Just Once”; the Pointer Sisters’ “He’s So Shy”; and Lionel Richie’s “Running With the Night.” In 1997, she was in the top 10 again with Hanson’s “I Will Come to You.”
“When they are successful, songs are like little novels. They have a beginning, a middle and an end. You feel what the person is feeling who’s singing it and it paints a picture of the human condition,” Weil, who eventually published the novel “I’m Glad I Did,” told Parade.
Her talents reached well beyond love ballads. She and Mann wrote one of rock’s first anti-drug songs, “Kicks,” a hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1966. She also had a knack for lyrics about ambition and aspiration, such as “On Broadway” and its unforgettable opening line, “They say the neon lights are bright/on Broadway.” The Animals had a hit with her tale of working class frustration, “We’ve Got to Get Out of This Place.” The Crystals’ “Uptown” was a 1961 hit that touched upon race and class in ways not often heard in rock’s early years.
Downtown he’s just one of a million guys
He don’t get no breaks
And he takes all they got to give
‘Cause he’s got to live
But then he comes uptown
Where he can hold his head up high
Uptown he knows that I am standing by
Weil and Mann were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, with King introducing them at the Rock Hall ceremony. Mann and Weil were supporting characters in the hit Broadway musical about King, “Beautiful,” which opened in 2013 and documented the intense friendship and rivalry between the two married couples. Mann and Weil’s musical “They Wrote That?” had a brief run in 2004.
Weil, the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, was born in New York City and studied piano and ballet as a child. She majored in theater at Sarah Lawrence University, but was encouraged by an agent to try songwriting. By age 20, she was working for the publishing company of “Guys and Dolls” composer Frank Loesser, and would soon meet her future husband.
“I was writing with a young Italian boy singer, the Frankie Avalon of his day, named Teddy Randazzo, when Barry came in to play him a song,” she told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. “I asked the receptionist, ‘Who is this guy? Does he have a girlfriend?’ She said, ‘He’s signed to a friend of mine, Don Kirshner, and if I call Donny, maybe you can go up there to show him your lyrics and meet Barry again.’ So that’s what she did. And that’s what I did. He didn’t have a chance.”
Hillel Italie, The Associated Press
Why are people in Britain talking about Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages?
LONDON — Critics accuse the British administration of running “government by WhatsApp” because of the popularity of the messaging app with politicians and officials.
So it feels inevitable that a tussle over WhatsApp messages is at the heart of Britain’s official inquiry into how the country handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thousands of messages exchanged during the pandemic between then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and government ministers, aides and officials form key evidence for the investigation chaired by retired judge Heather Hallett. The Conservative government, now led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, wants to be able to edit the messages before handing them over, saying some are personal and irrelevant to the inquiry. It has filed a legal challenge against Hallett’s order to surrender the unredacted messages.
WHAT IS THE INQUIRY INVESTIGATING?
More than 200,000 people have died in Britain after testing positive for COVID-19, one of the highest tolls in Europe, and the decisions of Johnson’s government have been endlessly debated. Johnson agreed in late 2021 to hold an investigation after pressure from bereaved families.
Hallett’s inquiry is due to scrutinize the U.K.’s preparedness for a pandemic, how the government responded and whether the “level of loss was inevitable or whether things could have been done better.”
Public hearings are scheduled to begin June 13 and last until 2026, with the former prime minister and a host of senior officials due to give evidence.
WHAT’S UP WITH WHATSAPP?
The Meta-owned messaging service has become a favorite communications tool among U.K. government officials and the journalists who cover them. It’s easy to use for both individual and group chats, and its end-to-end encryption offers users a sense of security that messages will be private.
That confidence has sometimes proved misguided. Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who helped lead Britain’s response to the virus, gave tens of thousands of his messages to a journalist who was helping him write a memoir. The journalist passed them to a newspaper, which splashed embarrassing details in a series of front-page stories.
Hallett has asked to see messages exchanged between Johnson and more than three dozen scientists and officials over two years from early 2020. She also wants to see Johnson’s notebooks and diaries from the same period.
WHAT’S THE GOVERNMENT’S POSITION?
The government of Sunak, who took office after Johnson resigned amid scandals in mid-2022, argues that some of the messages are “unambiguously irrelevant” to the COVID-19 inquiry. It says publishing them would be “an unwarranted intrusion into other aspects of the work of government,” and into individuals’ “legitimate expectations of privacy and protection of their personal information.”
On Thursday, the government’s Cabinet Office filed court papers seeking to challenge Hallett’s order for the documents. The next step will be a hearing at the High Court in the coming weeks.
Many lawyers think the government will lose the challenge. Under the terms of the inquiry, agreed upon with the government at the outset, Hallett has the power to summon evidence and question witnesses under oath.
“The government has an uphill task,” Jonathan Jones, a former head of the government legal service, wrote in a blog post for the Institute for Government. “The likelihood is that the court will say the inquiry chair should be the one to decide how she goes about it, and what material she needs to see for that purpose.”
WHAT DOES BORIS JOHNSON SAY?
Johnson has a history of friction with successor Sunak, whose resignation from the government in July 2022 helped topple Johnson from power.
Johnson has distanced himself from the government’s stance by saying he is happy to hand over his messages. On Friday, he said he has sent the WhatsApp messages directly to Hallett’s inquiry.
But — in another twist — they cover only part of the requested period. Johnson hasn’t passed on any messages from before April 2021. That period includes the early days of the pandemic — when the government made fateful and still-contested decisions — as well as three periods of national lockdown and the dates of rule-breaking parties in government buildings that led to scores of people, including Johnson, being fined by police.
Johnson says the messages are on a phone he was ordered to stop using after journalists noticed that his number had been publicly available online for 15 years.
Johnson says the security services told him to quit using the phone and never to turn it on again. He told Hallett on Friday that he had “asked the Cabinet Office for assistance in turning it on securely so that I can search it for all relevant material. I propose to pass all such material directly to you.”
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