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ELECTION

Iconic Paris bar aims to pick between Obama and Romney

President Barack Obama is leading against challenger Mitt Romney in a straw poll at Harry's Bar, an iconic Paris watering hole which has held a vote ahead of US elections since 1924 and only got the results wrong twice.

Iconic Paris bar aims to pick between Obama and Romney
Photo: Dr. Haggis

The birthplace of the Bloody Mary and the haunt of the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Harry's New York Bar – a small corner of Manhattan in the heart of Paris – is the best election soothsayer, its owner said.

"We are the most dependable opinion poll," said Isabelle MacElhone with a wink, speaking of the more that 100-year-old institution.

The only two failed results were the 1976 election won by Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush's 2004 victory.

The venerable establishment started the daily straw votes for this election in October, with only Americans allowed to take part.

A weekly count is conducted and on election day next Tuesday, before the votes in America are tallied, Harry's releases its own results.

The latest count based on 165 votes cast so far has Obama leading against Romney by 32 votes.

MacElhone has strict rules.

"We ask Americans to show us their passports," she said. "Then they are given voting papers."

Their names and details are listed in a notebook and checked to see there is no multiple vote, just like in a real election.

The ballots are cast in a locked box and then counted on the aged mahogany bar, where white-aproned barmen expertly mix the driest of Martinis or pour out tumblers of single-malt Scotch.

The MacElhones have been at the heart of Harry's Bar since its opening on Thanksgiving Day 1911.

Harry MacElhone, a Scot from Dundee, was hired as bartender by original owner Tod Sloane, an American jockey living in Paris who opened "The New York Bar" after complaining he could not find a proper cocktail in the French capital.

Keen to recreate the atmosphere of a pre-Prohibition stand-up saloon in Paris, Sloane had the interior of a Manhattan bar completely dismantled and shipped across the Atlantic to Paris.

MacElhone, speaking in French, stressed that the management was "strictly impartial.

"We are the place where both Democrats and Republicans come for a drink. Everybody speaks to one another."

Patrick Runte had no confusion about the outcome on D-Day.

"Obama is going to make it," said the 43-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin.

"I don't even think it is going to be close.

"Let's give him four more years, because that is what it takes."    

A barkeeper added jocularly: "If you don't vote for Obama, you won't get another drink!"

The barmen have even concocted special drinks for the candidates.

The "Romney" is absinthe-based. "It's a bit ironic for a Mormon," MacElhone said.

The "Obama" is built around cherry and peach liqueur and beer – the latter a wink at his beer recipes. The "Biden" "has vanilla and aged whiskey as the vanilla is a tribute to his softer side and the whiskey his age," according to the irrepressible owner.

The "Ryan" is rum-based.

Brien Richard McCarthy, who has been living in Paris for a decade, said voting at Harry's Bar was "always a slightly sentimental affair."

The bar, which has also drawn film stars from Humphrey Bogart to Clint Eastwood, is also famed for its cocktail creations.

The Bloody Mary, a mixture of tomato juice, vodka and spices, was first served at Harry's in 1921, and the French 75, White Lady and Sidecar were dreamt up at the bar as well.

Based on the bar's address at 5 Rue Daunou, Harry's trademark advertising slogan – "Just tell the taxi driver: Sank Roo Doe Noo" – has become a calling card for English-speaking visitors to Paris.

The bar has also featured in works of fiction — Ian Fleming's James Bond called it the best place to get a "solid drink" in Paris — and it was said to be the place where George Gershwin composed the music for "An American in Paris."

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TAX

Trump orders investigation into France’s planned tax on tech giants

US President Donald Trump has ordered an investigation into France's planned tax on internet services that will hit American tech giants especially hard, officials said Wednesday.

Trump orders investigation into France's planned tax on tech giants
Photo: AFP
The investigation into unfair trade practices could pave the way for Washington to impose punitive tariffs, something Trump has done repeatedly since taking office.
   
“The United States is very concerned that the digital services tax which is expected to pass the French Senate tomorrow unfairly targets American companies,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement.
   
The proposed three percent tax on total annual revenues of companies providing services to French consumers only applies to the largest tech companies, “where US firms are global leaders,” the trade representative's office said.
 
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France to introduce tax on big US tech firms in JanuaryPhoto: AFP

The so-called Section 301 investigation is the primary tool the Trump administration has used in the trade war with China to justify tariffs against what the United States says are unfair trade practices.   

USTR will hold hearings to allow for public comment on the issue over several weeks before issuing a final report with a recommendation on what actions to take.
   
Despite the objections to the French tax proposal however, the statement said the United States will continue to work with other advanced economies to address the conundrum of how to tax tech companies.
   
The Group of 20 has tasked the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development with finding a fix in the international tax system that has allowed some internet heavyweights to take advantage of low-tax jurisdictions in places like Ireland and pay next to nothing in other countries where they make huge profits.
   
The Computer & Communications Industry Association on Wednesday applauded the US Trade Representative's move, saying the tax would retroactively require US internet giants operating in France to turn over a percentage of their revenues from the beginning of this year and violates international trade commitments.
   
“This is a critical step toward preventing protectionist taxes on global trade,” CCIA official Matt Schruers said in a statement.
   
“CCIA encourages France to lead the effort toward more ambitious global tax reform, instead of the discriminatory national tax measures that harm global trade.”
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