- - Sunday, September 4, 2011

DENMARK

Polls hint leader will lose elections

COPENHAGEN | Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen is Denmark’s most credible party leader, a poll published Sunday showed, but other surveys hinted that his center-right government is lagging the opposition ahead of the Sept. 15 elections.

A Ramboell poll published by the Jyllands-Posten daily showed that 19.4 percent of those questioned said Mr. Rasmussen is “the most credible” of all the party leaders.

He was trailed by centrist Social Liberal Party leader Margrethe Vestager, whose party is part of the left-leaning opposition trying to unseat the current government. She garnered 16.4 percent support in the poll.

She was followed by Helle Thorning-Schmidt, who heads the main opposition Social Democrats and could become Denmark’s first female prime minister. She received 14.2 percent support.

But while Mr. Rasmussen came in ahead of the pack, his government and parliamentary partners did not fare well in the Ramboell poll.

SWITZERLAND

Reports: U.S. ultimatum in tax-evasion dispute

GENEVA | U.S. officials have set an ultimatum for Switzerland to hand over details on the number of Americans suspected of using Swiss banks to cheat on their taxes, Swiss media reported Sunday.

Failure to do so could mean charges against one or more Swiss banks, including Credit Suisse Group, according to the SonntagsZeitung and NZZ am Sonntag newspapers.

SonntagsZeitung reported it had obtained a copy of a letter sent to senior Swiss diplomat Michael Ambuehl by U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole on Aug. 31, demanding to know how many Americans may have avoided paying taxes by hiding money in Swiss banks.

The newspaper cited unnamed Swiss officials familiar with the case as saying Washington wants details on the number of Americans who had accounts containing more than $50,000 with Credit Suisse, Julius Baer, Bank Wegelin, Zuercher Kantonalbank and Basler Kantonalbank between 2002 and 2010.

The U.S. Embassy in Bern referred queries to a Justice Department spokesman, who couldn’t immediately be reached Sunday.

Mario Tuor, a spokesman for the Swiss Federal Department of Finance, declined to comment on the letter.

Zurich weekly NZZ am Sonntag described the U.S. ultimatum as a “massive escalation” in the simmering dispute between Washington and Bern over tax evasion.

Two years ago, Swiss bank UBS AG was forced to hand over the names of thousands of American account holders and pay a $780 million fine in a landmark case that rattled Switzerland’s storied tradition of banking secrecy. The Swiss government has since signed agreements with several countries, including Germany and Britain, to provide greater assistance to foreign tax authorities seeking information on their citizens’ accounts in the Alpine nation.

Swiss lawmakers are due to approve a revised tax agreement with the U.S. this fall.

BRITAIN

McDonald’s begins showing calories on menus

LONDON | You know it’s fattening, but now the hard numbers - 490 calories - may force you to rethink buying that Big Mac in Britain.

About 1,200 McDonald’s restaurants in the U.K. this week will begin displaying the calorie count of each food and drink item on their wall-mounted menu boards, as part of a government-led program to fight obesity and promote healthier eating, the chain said Sunday.

McDonald’s already puts calorie information on its website and the back of its tray liners, but this is the first time the figures will be displayed prominently in its restaurants outside the U.S.

The chain has similar calorie menu boards in New York City, which became the first in the U.S. to put a calorie-posting law in place in 2008.

The British program is voluntary, and relies on partnering companies to fulfill their health pledges. Aside from calorie labeling, McDonald’s also has promised to remove artificial trans fats from its products, although it did not sign up to a salt-reduction pledge.

Other chains that have signed up to the British Department of Health calorie display program include KFC, Pizza Hut and Starbucks.

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