Nations agree to 15% minimum corporate tax rate

Some 136 countries agreed to enforce a corporate tax rate of at least 15%, as well a fairer system of taxing profits where they are earned. It follows concern that multinational companies are re-routing their profits through low tax jurisdictions to cut their bills. Yet critics say a 15% rate is too low, and firms will get around the rules. UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the deal would “upgrade the global tax system for the modern age”. “We now have a clear path to a fairer tax system, where large global players pay their fair share wherever they do business,” he said. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organisation, has led talks on a minimum rate for a decade. It said the deal could bring in an extra $150bn (£108bn) of tax a year, bolstering economies as they recover from Covid. Yet it also said it did not seek to “eliminate” tax competition between countries, only to limit it.

The floor under corporate tax will come in from 2023. Countries will also have more scope to tax multinational companies operating within their borders, even if they don’t have a physical presence there. The move – which is expected to hit digital giants like Amazon and Facebook – will affect firms with global sales above 20 billion euros (£17bn) and profit margins above 10%. A quarter of any profits they make above the 10% threshold will be reallocated to the countries where they were earned and taxed there.

Many can stop anti-depressants without relapse

Many people who have taken anti-depressants for at least two years may be able to stop them without relapsing, but most will still need long-term treatment, a UK study suggests. Prescriptions for the drugs have more than doubled in the past 15 years because people are staying on them for much longer. But it’s not clear how well they work over many years. The researchers say they want to find out who is benefitting and who isn’t. Their findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, show 44% of people who slowly stopped taking their anti-depressants did not have another bout of depression in the following year. Of people who continued to take their medication as normal, 61% did not relapse.

Study author Dr Gemma Lewis, from University College London, said: “Our findings add to evidence that for many patients, long-term treatment is appropriate, but we also found that many people were able to effectively stop taking their medication when it was tapered over two months.” The researchers said it was important to consult a doctor before doing this. They also said psychological therapies could help prevent a relapse, although there was often a waiting list..

The 478 adults involved in the study were recruited from 150 GP surgeries across England, and all had been taking anti-depressants for at least two years and felt ready to come off them. They were separated into two groups – in one, people continued to take their medication while in another, their drugs were tapered off over three months – and followed up for a year. Of those who stopped taking anti-depressants, 56% said they relapsed or felt depressed again for more than two weeks at some point. They were also more likely to experience symptoms of withdrawal, which could be confused with a relapse and may mean some people need to come off the drugs more slowly, the
researchers said. Despite this, only half chose to start taking anti-depressants again, and by the end of the study, 59% of the group who had stopped the drugs were no longer taking any depression medication. Even in the group which continued taking their medication, more than a third said they felt depressed at some stage. The research team does not know why some people seem able to come off their anti-depressants and some cannot, but predicting who can stop them safely is the next challenge. With prescriptions for anti-depressants increasing, there are concerns that more and more people could end up taking them for life – and the risks of long-term
use are still unclear.

Three Polish regions scrap anti-LGBT resolutions

Three Polish regions voted on Monday to scrap resolutions that declared them free of “LGBT ideology”. It comes after the European Commission threatened to pull funding. The resolutions were first passed in 2019, with local authorities viewing campaigns for gay rights as an attack on “traditional”, Catholic values. Almost 100 other regions passed similar anti-LGBT resolutions that year, drawing ire from the EU, which said it violated discrimination laws. The European Commission later urged five large regions to scrap them. If they were kept in place, the commission threatened to block up to €126m ($147m) in funding for their local governments.

In response, Podkarpackie, Lubelskie and Malopolskie cancelled their declarations on Monday, following the lead of another region, Swietokrzyskie, which did so last week.

Switzerland same-sex marriage: Two-thirds of voters back yes

Almost two-thirds of Swiss voters have backed same-sex marriage in a referendum. Some 64% supported the measure, making it one of the last countries in western Europe to legalise same-sex marriage.

Campaigners have hailed the vote as a historic moment for LGBT rights in the country. In the build up to the vote, church groups and conservative political parties opposed the idea, saying it would undermine the traditional family.

Switzerland has allowed same-sex couples to register partnerships since 2007, but some rights are restricted. The measure will make it possible for same-sex couples to adopt unrelated children and for married lesbian couples to have children through sperm donation. It makes Switzerland the 30th country in the world to adopt same-sex marriage.

“It is a historic day for Switzerland, a historic day when it comes to equality for same-sex couples, and it is also an important day for the whole LGBT community,” Jan Muller, of the “yes” campaign committee, told AFP news agency.

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said the first same-sex marriages would take place in July next year. “Whoever loves each other and wants to get married will be able to do so, regardless of whether it is two men, two women, or a man and a woman,” she said.

Northamptonshire woman, 110, shares her secret to a long life

A 110-year-old woman said the secret to a long life was “healthy living, outdoor activities and fresh food”. Joyce Wooding celebrated her birthday on 6 September at Collingtree Park Care Home in Northampton. She said she sometimes felt she was “too old”. “It’s really too long to live because you’ve outlived your parents, your family – they’ve all gone – and my friends, most of them are gone now,” she said. Mrs Wooding was born in 1911, the same year as the coronation of King George V. She is the 10th oldest person in the UK, according to the site Oldest in Britain, with Mollie Walker from Oxfordshire being the oldest at 112.

CBD trial to treat hallucinations in Parkinson’s disease

Researchers across the UK are trialling a range of cannabis extracts to treat conditions from pain and asthma to brain cancer.

Charles Ogilvie-Forbes is taking part in a study at King’s College Hospital, London, using CBD to treat the hallucinations he experiences due to his Parkinson’s disease.

Nancy Pelosi gifts US flag to Chorley for hosting G7 summit

An American flag which flew during US President Joe Biden’s inauguration has been gifted to the people of Chorley. The Lancashire town has welcomed politicians from around the world for the G7 Speakers’ Summit this weekend.

US politician Nancy Pelosi presented the flag to House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle as a “symbol of friendship, fellowship and peace”. It will be housed in St Laurence’s Church in the town, which was previously gifted a US flag in 1942.

Sir Lindsay said he was proud to welcome Ms Pelosi to his hometown “just as we welcomed US service personnel to Chorley almost 80 years ago”. “Although we are oceans apart, our bond is as strong as ever and it is a friendship that I have no doubt will outlast us all,” he said.

Between 1942 and 1945, more than 50,000 US personnel from the 127th Reinforcement Battalion of the United States Army Air Force passed through Chorley. Many were sent to replace air crew units returning from active service, while others were based in their headquarters at Washington Hall, Euxton, to await transport home via Liverpool.

The military men were so grateful when St Laurence’s Church held a Thanksgiving Service in 1942 that they presented the town with a US flag as a token
of their gratitude – which still flies there today.

Ms Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, said the flag would “carry on the proud tradition in St Laurence’s Church and serve as a symbol of the everlasting bonds between our countries and peoples”.

Father Neil Kelley, Rector of St. Laurence’s, said the flag was “a priceless gift to the community of Chorley and was a tangible reminder of the enduring ties between the US and the church”.

Festival of Rescue sees firefighters showcase skills

More than 300 firefighters from around the UK are putting their skills to the test during a mass exercise on the banks of the River Tyne.

The Festival of Rescue has attracted hundreds of spectators to the Newcastle and Gateshead quaysides. Teams are taking part in challenges designed to showcase the expertise they bring to bear on everyday situations. These include rope and water rescues, trauma care, and cutting people out of damaged vehicles. Covid vaccinations are also on offer as part of the event, with no need to book ahead.

Ruling limiting under-16s puberty blockers overturned

Under-16s can take puberty blockers without parental consent, the Court of Appeal has ruled. The appeal was brought by the Tavistock Trust, which runs the UK’s only youth gender identity clinic. The decision reverses a 2020 ruling that under-16s lacked capacity to give informed consent to the treatment, which delays the onset of puberty. The original case was brought by Keira Bell, who says the clinic should have challenged her more over transitioning.

Court of Appeal judges said they recognised “the difficulties and complexities” of the issue, but that “it is for the clinicians to exercise their judgement knowing how important it is that consent is properly obtained according to the particular individual circumstances”.

Puberty blockers are drugs used to “pause” puberty by suppressing the release of hormones. They are prescribed to some children who are experiencing gender dysphoria, which the NHS describes as “a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity”.”

The judgement upholds established legal principles which respect the ability of our clinicians to engage actively and thoughtfully with our patients in decisions about their care and futures,” a spokesperson said.

“It affirms that it is for doctors, not judges, to decide on the capacity of under-16s to consent to medical treatment.”

The Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service (Gids) said that hormone treatment “allows a young person time to consider their options and to continue to explore their developing gender identity before making decisions about irreversible forms of treatment”.

Great North Run 2021: Thousands set off as event returns

Thousands of people are taking to the streets of Tyneside in the 40th staging of the Great North Run.

Last year’s event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and organisers have changed the half-marathon’s route this year to aid social distancing. Participants are starting and finishing in Newcastle rather than making their way to South Shields. Runners have staggered timeslots which replace the traditional mass start for the world’s biggest half-marathon. About 57,000 people are taking part and raising millions of pounds for charity, The Great North Run Company said. The new route sees runners cross the Tyne Bridge twice and make their way through Newcastle city centre before finishing on the Great North Road.

The elite women’s race was won by Kenyan Helen Obiri in a time of 1:07:42, ahead of Great Britain’s Eilish McColgan, who was six seconds behind. Scotland’s McColgan was aiming to repeat her mum Liz’s three victories at the event in the 1990s. Great Britain’s Charlotte Purdue finished in third. Marc Scott, also of Great Britain, was victorious in the men’s elite race, clocking a time of 1:01:22 to finish nine seconds ahead of Kenya’s Ed Cheserek. Galen Rupp of the United States was a further 20 seconds behind in third place. Sean Frame won the men’s wheelchair race in 49:52 with fellow Briton Shelly Woods first across the finishing line in the women’s event in 57:01. Four NHS workers were invited to start the race in recognition of the health service’s efforts during the pandemic. Speaking afterwards, occupational health worker Deborah Southworth said it had been “absolutely amazing” and a “privilege”.