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Microsoft’s planned Activision Blizzard merger temporarily blocked by US judge

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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Microsoft’s planned $69 billion purchase of video game company Activision Blizzard was blocked by a federal judge Tuesday, giving more time for an antitrust review of the deal.

U.S. District Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in San Francisco ruled in support of a temporary restraining order sought by the Federal Trade Commission that will stop Microsoft from closing the deal.

In a court filing Monday, the commission had sought both a restraining order and injunction to stop Microsoft’s acquisition of the California company behind hit games such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush Saga.

Microsoft, maker of the Xbox game system, has spent months trying to win worldwide approval for the merger. While a number of countries have approved the acquisition, regulators for two important economies — the U.S. and the U.K. — have taken action to stop it, arguing it could suppress competition in the video game market.

The judge said her order temporarily blocking the deal “is necessary to maintain the status quo” while the Federal Trade Commission’s legal cases against it are still pending. The bar for issuing an urgent restraining order is lower than it is to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the deal. A hearing on the commission’s request for an injunction is set for June 22.

The trade commission already took Microsoft to court last year to block the merger, but that case was brought to the U.S. agency’s in-house judge in a trial set to start Aug. 2.

The commission said it brought its case to a federal court this week because it was concerned that Microsoft was trying to imminently close the deal before the trial begins, which would make it “difficult, if not impossible” to reverse course if the acquisition was later found to be illegal.

Microsoft said in a written statement late Tuesday that “accelerating the legal process in the U.S will ultimately bring more choice and competition to the gaming market.”

“A temporary restraining order makes sense until we can receive a decision from the Court, which is moving swiftly,” the company said.

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The IRS Plans to Crack Down on 1,600 Millionaires to Collect Millions of Dollars in Back Taxes

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FILE - Daniel Werfel testifies before the Senate Finance Committee during his confirmation hearing to be the Internal Revenue Service Commissioner, Feb. 15, 2023, in Washington. The IRS announced Friday, Sept. 8, that it is launching a new effort to aggressively pursue 1,600 millionaires and 75 large business partnerships that owe hundreds of millions of dollars in past due taxes. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)
FILE - Daniel Werfel testifies before the Senate Finance Committee during his confirmation hearing to be the Internal Revenue Service Commissioner, Feb. 15, 2023, in Washington. The IRS announced Friday, Sept. 8, that it is launching a new effort to aggressively pursue 1,600 millionaires and 75 large business partnerships that owe hundreds of millions of dollars in past due taxes. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The IRS announced on Friday it is launching an effort to aggressively pursue 1,600 millionaires and 75 large business partnerships that owe hundreds of millions of dollars in past due taxes.

IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel said that with a boost in federal funding and the help of artificial intelligence tools, the agency has new means of targeting wealthy people who have “cut corners” on their taxes.

“If you pay your taxes on time it should be particularly frustrating when you see that wealthy filers are not,” Werfel told reporters in a call previewing the announcement. He said 1,600 millionaires who owe at least $250,000 each in back taxes and 75 large business partnerships that have assets of roughly $10 billion on average are targeted for the new “compliance efforts.”

Werfel said a massive hiring effort and AI research tools developed by IRS employees and contractors are playing a big role in identifying wealthy tax dodgers. The agency is making an effort to showcase positive results from its burst of new funding under President Joe Biden’s Democratic administration as Republicans in Congress look to claw back some of that money.

“New tools are helping us see patterns and trends that we could not see before, and as a result, we have higher confidence on where to look and find where large partnerships are shielding income,” he said.

In July, IRS leadership said it collected $38 million in delinquent taxes from more than 175 high-income taxpayers in the span of a few months. Now, the agency will scale up that effort, Werfel said.

“The IRS will have dozens of revenue officers focused on these high-end collection cases in fiscal year 2024,” he said.

A team of academic economists and IRS researchers in 2021 found that the top 1% of U.S. income earners fail to report more than 20% of their earnings to the IRS.

The newly announced tax collection effort will begin as soon as October. “We have more hiring to do,” Werfel said. “It’s going to be a very busy fall for us.”

Grover Norquist, who heads the conservative Americans for Tax Reform, said the IRS’ plan to pursue high wealth individuals does not preclude the IRS from eventually pursuing middle-income Americans for audits down the road.

“This power and these resources allow them to go after anyone they want,” he said. “The next step is to go after anyone they wish to target for political purposes.”

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the IRS’ new plan is a “big deal” that “represents a fresh approach to taking on sophisticated tax cheats.”

“This action goes to the heart of Democrats’ effort to ensure the wealthiest are paying their fair share,” he said in a statement.

David Williams, at the right-leaning, nonprofit Taxpayers Protection Alliance, said “every business and every person should pay their taxes — full stop.” However, “I just hope this isn’t used as a justification to hire thousands of new agents,” that would audit Americans en masse, he said.

The federal tax collector gained the enhanced ability to identify tax delinquents with resources provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed into law in August of 2022. The agency was in line for an $80 billion infusion under the law, but that money is vulnerable to potential cutbacks by Congress.

House Republicans built a $1.4 billion reduction to the IRS into the debt ceiling and budget cuts package passed by Congress this summer. The White House said the debt deal also has a separate agreement to take $20 billion from the IRS over the next two years and divert that money to other non-defense programs.

With the threat of a government shutdown looming in a dispute over spending levels, there is the potential for additional cuts to the agency.

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Orlando Economic Partnership celebrate the 2023 AWE Impact Forum

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Cari Coats, Dr. Maria Vazquez, Suzanne Worthington, Tiffany Moore Russell, and Haley Carter were part of the panel at the 2023 AWE Impact Forum in Orlando, Wednesday, August 23, 2023. Credit Orlando Economic Partnership

On Wednesday, the Orlando Economic Partnership’s celebrated the All Women Empowered (AWE) 2023 AWE Impact Forum, presented by Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies.

Focusing on women’s economic empowerment, AWE brought together the business community and elected officials for a morning of connectivity and inspiration that was kicked off by City of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer.

Local organizations showcased resources available to take women to the next level in their professional journey. The collaborative event also included an insightful panel discussion with female leaders from the private and public sectors.

Tim Giuliani, President and CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership.

“Today we’re here to recognize the pivotal roles played by mentors, sponsors, and allies in shaping the success stories of women in our community. We also want to highlight many of the regional professional and community resources available specifically for women in the Orlando region,” said Tim Giuliani, President and CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership.

All Women Empowered, or AWE for short, was created four years ago to empower women and grow their influence in our community. Convening both women and men from private, public and nonprofit partners, we work together to unify our region’s resources into a strategically coordinated campaign that equips women with the tools they need to build the future they envision for themselves.

“It is programs like this one that make us a more inclusive, welcoming region. Thanks to the commitment we have to our community and our amazing partners we can now celebrate that the Orlando Economic Partnership was recognized with the pinnacle award in our industry, the title of National Chamber of the Year,” Giuliani added.

Through programs like AWE, together, we are working to help build a more equitable and prosperous future for our all the women in our region.

By outlining strategies for equitable economic recovery and growth and amplifying resources that can help women grow their careers, women-owned businesses scale, and encourage women’s advancement and ownership, we advance Broad-based Prosperity and create a more resilient region.

Orlando City Mayor, Buddy Dyer kicked off the event stating that “it is an honor for me every day to serve as the Orlando Mayor… but I am especially proud when I get to attend events like this that help to make Orlando a more vibrant and welcoming place for everyone. I often say that what our community does best is collaboration. All Women Empowered provides a platform for each one of you to create, develop and grow partnerships that will play a role in strengthening our community. With your support and your leadership, I know that our community will continue to work together to foster an environment that advances opportunities for women to thrive in their careers and all endeavors. I truly believe that when women succeed, our entire community succeeds.”

Cari Coats, the co-founder and managing partner of Accendo Leadership Advisory Group.

The main panel at AWE Impact Forum was led by Cari Coats, the co-founder and managing partner of Accendo Leadership Advisory Group.

Coats has a long track record and decades as a corporate leader, most notably with the Orlando Magic and CNL Financial Group. Her community and civic leadership are long-standing and far-reaching, including numerous board positions. Today, leverages her extensive experience and thought leadership to help senior leaders and teams as a business and executive coach.

A particular focus and passion for Coats is accelerating the path for women leaders, which is why we have partnered with her to offer our LEADForward Roundtables, a transformative, year-long professional development program for high-potential women.

Coats led the panel discussing the challenges in a world where gender equality remains an uphill climb, and stated that “it is crucial that we come together to acknowledge the transformative power of mentorship, sponsorship, and allyship, three critical accelerators in empowering women to level up and reach new heights. These three pillars provide invaluable support, guidance, and opportunities, enabling women to successfully overcome challenges and fulfill their true potential.”

Coats described mentors as those who are wise and experienced guides who selflessly share their own lived experiences to help women navigate the written and unwritten rules of the workplace. They serve as a sounding board and provide a supportive environment where women can explore their strengths and develop crucial skills.

Sponsors, on the other hand, are advocates with power who recognize and believe in your potential and actively work to create opportunities for you. Sponsor’s use their political and social capital to move your career forward. They leverage their own reputation and credibility opening doors for you because they are banking on you.

“Think of it this way. Mentors help you skill up. Sponsors help you move up. Mentors talk with you. Sponsors talk about you. You can choose your mentors, but a sponsor chooses you,” Coats said.

Lastly, allies. “Allies speak up and step up. They are the individuals, regardless of gender, who stand shoulder to shoulder with women, amplifying their voices and advocating for equal rights and opportunities.

Allies challenge the status quo, combat gender bias, and work tirelessly to create inclusive environments where women can thrive. They understand that true progress is achieved when we all unite in the pursuit of gender equality.”

Coats was joined by a distinguished panel of speakers who embody these pillars. Their stories served as testaments to the transformative power of these roles in empowering women to overcome adversity and achieve greatness. Together, we will gain valuable insights, learn from their experiences, and discover practical ways to foster an environment where women can flourish.

The panelists shared personal anecdotes and success stories that highlight the impact of sponsors, mentors, or allies on women’s career progression and how those relationships contribute to their growth and success.

They discussed the ways in which sponsors, mentors and allies help address issues such as gender bias, unequal bias, unequal opportunities, and workplace discrimination, how can they advocate for women’s empowerment and create a more inclusive work culture, and pointed out strategies or approaches can women employ to identify and engage potential sponsors, mentors, or allies.

Haley Carter, General manager and vice president of soccer operations for Orlando Pride

General manager and vice president of soccer operations for Orlando Pride, Haley Carter talked about her career in a male dominated profession and how she has uplifted herself as a retired professional soccer player, business executive, coach, licensed attorney, and former U.S. Marine officer, making two combat deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Tiffany Moore Russell, Orange County Clerk of Courts

Orange County Clerk of Courts, Tiffany Moore Russell was opened discussing how she started her career and the importance of having mentors and allies like she did when she was “convinced to run for office the first time.”

A native of Orlando, Florida. she’s served two terms on the County Commission (2006-2014). Clerk Russell again made history in 2014 as the first African American female Clerk elected in Florida and the first African American Clerk in Orange County.

As Commissioner, and now as a Constitutional Officer, Clerk Russell has a strong commitment to her community.

Dr. Maria Vazquez, Orange County Public Schools Superintendent

Orange County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Maria Vazquez (vas kwez) talked about her commitment for more than three decades, dedicated to serving students needs.

She has served at every level of the education system and has extensive expertise in curriculum and instruction. After beginning her career as an elementary school classroom teacher and resource teacher in reading and language arts, Dr. Vazquez served as an assistant principal and principal in Orange County Public Schools (OCPS).

She served the district across multiple roles including area superintendent and chief academic officer before being promoted to deputy superintendent in 2018 and now Superintendent of the 8th largest school district in the country.

An active community member, Dr. Vazquez currently serves on several boards including the Orlando Economic Partnership, City Year of Orlando, CareerSource Central Florida and United Arts of Central Florida. She is also a member of the prestigious Chiefs for Change.

Suzanne Worthington, President of Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies

President of Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies Suzanne Worthington talked about the importance of following your dreams and working hard. She remembered how she started at the hospital with an entry level position and is now the President of Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies Worthington. She joined Orlando Health in 1995 and during her tenure, she has supported a variety of teams, including the OB/GYN and pediatric specialty practices within the Orlando Health Medical Group, patient financial services, allied health clinicians, support services and acute care operations. Through each of these opportunities, she has focused on helping teams work toward and maintain operational and service excellence.

Suzanne has served on the boards of the Orlando Science Center and the Orlando City Foundation and is proud to be an alum of Leadership Orlando Class 98.

 

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USHCC Kicks Off 44th Annual National Conference in Orlando September 24-26

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WASHINGTON, D.C., – The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) begins its descent on Orlando, Florida for its 44th Annual National Conference. Hosted at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort in Orlando, Florida, from September 24-26, 2023, in collaboration with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando (HCCMO), the Chamber’s National Conference is the largest meeting of Hispanic business leaders in the country. This year, more than 5,000 attendees will gather to serve as a catalyst for Hispanic businesses looking to grow and network around Florida and the nation.

Attendees will have the opportunity to engage in policy-driven discussions with America’s business leaders, members of Congress, and local Hispanic Chamber leaders, that will empower the country’s 5 million Hispanic-owned businesses, which contribute an impressive $2.8 trillion in annual economic input.

Orlando serves as an ideal host, as it’s a major hub for Hispanic commerce in the U.S. and Latin America. As a state, Florida has one of the richest Latino-dominated business environments, with about 600,000 Hispanic-owned companies found throughout the state, contributing more than $90 billion to the economy and employing more than 575,000 workers.

This year’s agenda includes workshops, educational panels, business matching sessions, and networking opportunities highlighting key content tracks related to innovation & technology, business & procurement, and leadership & capacity growing, along with access to exclusive speakers such as:

The Honorable Buddy Dyer, Mayor of Metro Orlando

Jamila Gilbert, Head of Communications at Virgin Galactic

Gaby Ortigoni, President & CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando

USHCC President & CEO, Ramiro Cavazossays, “Hosting our National Conference in Florida this year makes sense. With the third largest Hispanic population in the country, it was a natural idea to bring our national network to the Sunshine State.

Together with the significant Hispanic entrepreneurial community in Orlando, we are championing the economic growth and interests of Hispanic-owned businesses.” He continues, “I’m proud of the network we have built, and together with Gaby Ortigoni, look forward to celebrating leaders from our community in the beautiful city of Orlando. We’re showing our commitment to Florida, and embracing Florida’s commitment to us.”

During the Conference, the Chamber will present esteemed awards from the following categories:

Ohtli Award

Hispanic Business Person of the Year

Chamber of the Year (Large, Medium and Small)

Employee Resource Group (ERG) of the Year

Corporation of the Year

Entrepreneurial Spirit Award

2023 Startup of the Year Award

2023 LGBTQ+ Advocate of the Year Award

Gaby Ortigoni, President & CEO of the HCCMO, shares, “Florida’s Hispanic businesses foster nearly a million jobs statewide, underscoring the vital role Hispanic businesses play in propelling our state’s economy. This year’s National Conference will serve as a powerful gathering, uniting thousands of leaders committed to bolstering the Hispanic business community and advancing our mission of driving economic growth in Central Florida. We’re honored to host this year’s Conference in Orlando and look forward to welcoming thousands to our world-class city.”

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