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World Cup Soccer: World Cup 2014 play-off draw: Portugal face Sweden in battle for Brazil

Portgual will face Sweden in arguably the pick of the European World Cup play-offs, the draw for which took place at Fifa's headquarters in Zurich on Monday afternoon.

The first legs will take place on 15 November, when Sweden will travel to Portugal, France will be in Ukraine, Greece will host Romania and Iceland will entertain Croatia. The second-legs will be played on 19 November.

The four eventual winners will qualify for next summer's finals in Brazil, joining the nine nations that have already progressed as European qualifying-group winners: Belgium, Italy, Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, England and the 2010 World Cup winners, Spain.

Portgual finished second to Russia in Group F while Sweden were runners-up to Germany in Group C. The last time the sides met in qualifiers both games finished goalless, yet with Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic likely to feature for the respective sides, there should be plenty of attacking play on show.

Read more: World Cup 2014 play-off draw: Portugal face Sweden in battle for Brazil | Football | The Guardian

Tourism for singles: where do the best and worst lovers in the world come from?

A tourist magazine recently listed the best and worst places in the world for singles to visit. These are:

World's Worst Lovers: World's Best Lovers:
1. Germany (too smelly) 1. Spain
2. England (too lazy) 2. Brazil
3. Sweden (too quick) 3. Italy
4. Holland (too dominating) 4. France
5. America (too rough) 5. Ireland
6. Greece (too lovey-dovey) 6. South Africa
7. Wales (too selfish) 7. Australia
8. Scotland (too loud) 8. New Zealand
9. Turkey (too sweaty) 9. Denmark
10. Russia (too hairy) 10. Canada


Israeli warplanes strike Syria, U.S. says

Israeli warplanes attacked a shipment of Russian missiles inside a Syrian government stronghold, officials said Thursday, a development that threatened to add another explosive layer to regional tensions from the Syrian civil war.

An Obama administration official confirmed the Israeli airstrike overnight, but provided no details. Another security official said the attack occurred late Wednesday in the Syrian port city of Latakia and that the target was Russian-made SA-125 missiles.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the attack. There was no immediate confirmation from Syria.

Read more: Israeli warplanes strike Syria, U.S. says - World - CBC News

Spying: National Security Agency broke into Yahoo, Google, Facebook, MS Hotmail - Charlie Savage, Claire Cain Miller and Nicole Perlroth

The National Security Agency and its British counterpart have apparently tapped the fiber-optic cables connecting Google's and Yahoo's overseas servers and are copying vast amounts of email and other information, according to accounts of documents leaked by former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden.

In partnership with the British agency known as Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, the NSA has apparently taken advantage of the vast amounts of data stored in and traveling among global data centers, which run all modern online computing, according to a report Wednesday by The Washington Post. NSA collection activities abroad face fewer legal restrictions and less oversight than its actions in the United States.

Google and Yahoo said Wednesday that they were unaware of government accessing of their data links. Sarah Meron, a Yahoo spokeswoman, said that the company had not cooperated with any government agency for such interception, and David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer, expressed outrage.

"We have long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping, which is why we have continued to extend encryption across more and more Google services and links," Drummond said in a statement. "We do not provide any government, including the U.S. government, with access to our systems. We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform."

Note EU-Digest: the other question which obviously arises and needs to be addressed by the EU Parliament and Commission is how Britain, a member of the EU, has (is) participating willingly with the NSA in these matters without the EU Commission or the EU member states having any knowledge of it.

Read more: National Security Agency broke into Yahoo, Google, Facebook, MS Hotmail - The Economic Times


Quality of life: The Best Countries For Expats In 2013, According To HSBC's Expat Explorer (PHOTOS)

If you're sick of your home country and are yearning for a change, you might want to consider settling in Asia for the next chapter of your life.

A new study by HSBC ranks several Asian nations among the best countries for expatriates in 2013. The annual Expat Explorer Survey analyzes the findings from 7,000 expats to rank their new homes according to criteria including economics, experience, and raising children.

When considering all three categories, China comes out on top with high scores in economics and experience. Despite faring poorly in the field of raising children, expats in China report high salaries and better quality of life than in their home countries.

Switzerland tops all nations in terms of economics, though it remains unranked overall due to insufficient data in the raising children category. Hailed as a "beacon of growth," Switzerland instills financial optimism in its new inhabitants, with expats citing strong fiscal policy and healthy markets.

When it comes to experience, however, Thailand outpaces the field, thanks to top scores for healthy diet, working environment, social life, local shops and markets, and local culture. Expats living in Thailand enjoy a high quality of life with little trouble integrating; 76% noted how easy it was to make friends in their new land.

And of course, food plays an important role in satisfying these expats. Like Switzerland, however, Thailand also could not be ranked overall because of its lack of data on raising children.

In that category, Germany reigns supreme, with high scores in child education, quality of childcare, and child health and wellbeing. Expat parents laud German education options as cost-effective while still reporting an improvement in the quality of schooling over those available in their home countries. Deutschland also received high scores in economics, helping the nation to place second overall among all three criteria.

Read more: The Best Countries For Expats In 2013, According To HSBC's Expat Explorer (PHOTOS)

Spain edges out of two-year recession with 0.1% growth

The first green shoots of recovery in the Spanish economy have been officially confirmed. 

According to the National Office of Statistics, Spain has recorded 0.1 percent growth – the economy’s first expansion in nine quarters.

Strong exports have helped Spain edge into positive ground, though with demand at home still depressed, sustainable growth that creates jobs may remain elusive for years.

Compared to labour-heavy sectors such as construction or services, exports create fewer domestic opportunities and with more than one in four out of work, the recovery will ring hollow for many.

Unemployment is still stubbornly high and Madrid hopes the jobless rate has already peaked at 26.3 percent.
It comes after the Eurozone, aided by exports and government spending, came out of recession in the second quarter of this year.

Read: Spain edges out of two-year recession with 0.1% growth | euronews, world news

Sinterklaas: Tensions mount in the Netherlands as UN questions ‘Black Pete’ Christmas tradition - Elisa Criado

It emerged last week that a UN working group is investigating the Dutch custom of white people dressing up as ‘Zwarte Piet’ (Black Pete) as part of their traditional Christmas festivities.

The leader of the UN group, the Jamaican academic Verene Shepherd, has spoken out against the practice on Dutch national television, condemning it as ‘a throw-back to slavery’.

The figure of ‘Zwarte Piet’ is an integral part of the Dutch Christmas tradition. In the Netherlands, children receive gifts on the fifth of December from ‘Sinterklaas’, a version of Saint Nicholas, along with his black slave helpers. These were originally portrayed as scary figures that would beat naughty children with a bunch of twigs and take them away in a sack to Saint Nicholas’ fictional home in Spain.

Today they are mainly characterised as the clown, acrobat, joker and entertainer. Although the custom is clearly linked to slavery and colonial times, most children are currently told that Black Pete gets his colour from the soot in the chimneys when he delivers their presents.

A few weeks before the culmination of festivities on the fifth, Sinterklaas and his ‘helpers’ arrive by boat and are greeted by the local children in large-scale events that are staged across the country. The largest event takes place in Amsterdam and is broadcast on national television. Both professional ‘Pieten’ and many volunteers paint their faces black, their lips red and don curly black wigs and gold earrings.

It is also customary for the children watching the event to do the same. They greet the procession of Sinterklaas and the Pieten by singing traditional songs, lyrics of which include: ‘Even though I’m black as soot, I mean well’.

 Note EU-Digest: What an utter waste of time and money  for the UN  to meddle in this traditional Dutch children and family celebration which in no way is meant to degrade or mock black people.Doesn't the UN have better things to do?

Read more Tensions mount in the Netherlands as UN questions ‘Black Pete’ Christmas tradition - World - News - The Independent

USA Healthcare Program - Kathleen Sebelius apologises for Obamacare website 'debacle'

US President Barack Obama's embattled health secretary has apologized to the American people over the botched rollout of his healthcare law's insurance marketplace websites.

Kathleen Sebelius was questioned by a House panel about the 1 October launch.

"You deserve better," Ms Sebelius said to the public, pledging the site would be repaired by the end of November.

The federal and state-run websites had been projected to enrol seven million uninsured Americans in the first year.

"I'm accountable to you for fixing these problems and I'm committed to earning your confidence back," Ms Sebelius said in sworn testimony in the House energy and commerce committee.

Read more: BBC News - Kathleen Sebelius apologises for Obamacare 'debacle'

Cruise Industry: Norwegian posts improved third-quarter profits -by Hannah Sampson

Buoyed by the performance of its newest ship, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings reported higher revenues and profits for the third quarter Monday afternoon.

The positive earnings report provided more good news for the cruise industry, which has faced rough waters since early last year. Last week, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. posted results for the quarter that were better than expected.

Norwegian, with a fleet of 12 ships, reported revenue of nearly $798 million, an 18 percent increase over the third quarter of 2012. Net income increased more than 33 percent to nearly $171 million.

Net yields, or the net revenue per capacity day, increased 4.1 percent thanks to higher cruise fares and increased passenger spending on board.

Capacity days increased by nearly 15 percent compared to the previous year with the addition of the 4,028-passenger Norwegian Breakaway, which launched in May. Sister ship Norwegian Getaway starts sailing year-round from Miami in February.

Read more: Norwegian posts improved third-quarter profits - Tourism & Cruises -


US Spy chief: Reports U.S. collected data from allies 'completely false' - Chelsea J. Carter and Jason Hanna

The head of the National Security Agency denied Tuesday that the United States collected telephone and e-mail records directly from European citizens, calling reports based on leaks by Edward Snowden "completely false."

"To be perfectly clear, this is not information that we collected on European citizens. It represents information that we, and our NATO allies, have collected in defense of our countries and in support of military operations," Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, told a House committee reviewing the agency's surveillance activities.

The statement by Alexander before the House Intelligence Committee came as a number of lawmakers called for changes to the way intelligence is collected.

The hearing, billed as a discussion of potential changes to the 35-year-old Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, commonly known as FISA, follows a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel that the NSA monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cell phone. Some reports also suggest the United States carried out surveillance on French and Spanish citizens.

Read more: Spy chief: Reports U.S. collected data from allies 'completely false' -

Turkey fulfils sultan's dream with opening of Bosphorus tunnel

Turkey on Tuesday formally opened the world's first sea tunnel connecting two continents, fulfilling a sultan's dream 150 years ago in a three-billion-euro mega project driven by the Islamic-rooted government.

The 13.6-kilometre (8.5 mile) long tunnel linking Istanbul's European and Asian sides includes an immersed tube tunnel which officials say is the world's deepest at 60 metres (nearly 200 feet) below the seabed.
The inauguration of the ambitious scheme -- dubbed "the project of the century" by the government -- coincides with the 90th anniversary of the founding of modern Turkey.

"Turkey will celebrate two feasts together," Transport Minister Binali Yildirim said earlier this month.
"We will mark the 90th anniversary of the republic on October 29 and also realize a one-and-a-half century dream of a major rail tunnel project in Istanbul."

The tunnel in the country's main gateway city is part of a larger "Marmaray" project that also includes an upgrade of existing suburban train lines to create a 76-kilometre (47-mile) line that links the two continents.

The idea was first floated by Ottoman sultan Abdoul Medjid in 1860 but technical equipment at the time was not good enough to take the project further.

However the desire to build an undersea tunnel grew stronger in the 1980s and studies also showed that such a tunnel would be feasible and cost-effective.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former mayor of Istanbul, revived the plan in 2004 as one of his mega projects for the bustling city of 16 million people -- which also include a third airport, a third bridge across the Bosphorus and a canal parallel to the international waterway to ease traffic.

His ambitions were one cause for the massive anti-government protests that swept the country in June, with local residents complaining the premier's urban development plans were forcing people from their homes and destroying green space.

Erdogan's critics accuse him of bringing forward the inauguration of the Bosphorus tunnel in time for municipal elections in March 2014.

The project will not be fully operational immediately and construction is expected to continue for several more years.

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was also present at the official opening ceremony as the Japan Bank for International Cooperation was the main financer contributing 735 million euros ($1 billion) to the project.
Construction of the tunnel started in 2004 and had been scheduled to take four years but was delayed after a series of major archaeological discoveries.

Some 40,000 objects were excavated from the site, notably a cemetery of some 30 Byzantine ships, which is the largest known medieval fleet.

But these unexpected finds eventually frustrated Erdogan, who complained two years ago that artefacts were trumping his plans to transform Istanbul's cityscape.

 Read more: Turkey fulfils sultan's dream with opening of Bosphorus tunnel | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR

Banking Union: EU leaders to set tight timetable on completing banking union

European leaders will confirmed  Friday the 24th an ambitious timetable for the completion of a banking union, Europe's biggest project since the euro, and set a December deadline for fleshing out the idea of rewards for structural reforms in the euro zone.

Policy-makers believe a banking union in the 18 countries that will share the euro from next year will help increase the flow of credit, boost growth and help prevent financial crises in the future.

Under the union, the European Central Bank will directly supervise the euro zone's 130 biggest banks from November 2014 and have the power to take over supervision of any of the smaller banks if needed.

Such a Single Supervision Mechanism is to be accompanied by a Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM) - a yet-to-be-created euro zone authority with its own fund that would decide how to wind down or restructure banks that are no longer viable.

Read more: EU leaders to set tight timetable on completing banking union | Reuters

US considering end to spying on world leaders - " sure tell us another one"

The Obama administration is considering ending spying on allied heads of state, a senior administration official said, as the White House grappled with the fallout from revelations that the U.S. has eavesdropped on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The official said late Monday that a final decision had not been made and an internal review was still underway.

The revelations about National Security Agency monitoring of Merkel were the latest in a months-long spying scandal that has strained longstanding alliances with some of America's closest partners. Earlier Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for a "total review of all intelligence programs."

Note EU-Digest: A Spanish member of the EU Parliament on hearing the above news report said: "sure tell us another one"

US considering end to spying on world leaders

The Netherlands: Rabobank to Pay More Than $1 Billion in Libor Settlement; Chief Resigns - by Chad Bray

The Dutch lender Rabobank admitted on Tuesday to criminal wrongdoing by its employees and agreed to pay more than $1 billion in criminal and civil penalties to settle investigations by United States, British and other authorities into its role in setting global benchmark interest rates.

The bank is the latest lender to settle charges over the manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, or Libor. The settlement with Rabobank is the second-largest agreement after the $1.5 billion penalty imposed on UBS related to the interest-rate scandal.

As part of the settlement, Rabobank entered into a so-called deferred prosecution agreement, in which it will avoid criminal charges as long as it continues to cooperate with investigators and stays out of further trouble.

Read more: Rabobank to Pay More Than $1 Billion in Libor Settlement; Chief Resigns -


Middle East: Saudi Women Protest Against Driving Ban - by Zein Ja'Far

Women in Saudi Arabia have reportedly taken to the wheel to demand the right to drive - despite threats of immediate arrest.

Saudi authorities have warned they face arrest, possible legal action and could be stopped by force if they are caught behind the wheel.

But the threats have failed to put off many, including Bareah Albuzeedy, who says she will fight for her rights regardless of what authorities say.

Protesters were expected to drive their cars in cities across the country.

Ms Albuzeedy said: "What we're asking for is a very simple right. It's only to let women drive and that's it."
Saudi professor and campaigner Aziza Youssef said the group had received 13 videos and another 50 phone messages from women showing or claiming they had driven, adding that it had no way to verify the messages.

Read more: Saudi Women Protest Against Driving Ban

Severe Weather: Eight die as storm whips across northern Europe

Storm damage and death in the Netherlands
A storm battering north-western Europe has killed eight people - four of them in southern England.
Two people died when their car was crushed by a falling tree in Gelsenkirchen, in western Germany. Two children in the car were injured.

In Brittany, western France, a woman was swept out to sea. And in the Dutch city of Amsterdam a tree felled by the wind crushed a woman by a canal.

Many trains were cancelled in and around London and in north Germany.

In many cases in the UK fallen trees had to be cleared from railway lines.

At least 50 flights have been cancelled at Schiphol airport in the Netherlands, and the German broadcaster ARD says there are severe delays at Hamburg airport.

In the UK as many as 600,000 homes suffered power cuts, though many were later reconnected.
Power cuts also hit 42,000 homes in northern France, and at Belle-Ile in Brittany a woman was swept into the sea from a cliff.

Read more: BBC News - Eight die as storm whips across northern Europe

Non Profits: Why I Think Nonprofits Should Act More Like Businesses - by Dan Pallotta

How would you react if you knew someone was getting wealthy in charity? How would you feel if you saw your favorite charity run a $3 million ad on the Superbowl using charitable donations to fund it? What would you think if a charity lost a million dollars on a brand new fundraising idea that flopped? Lastly, what if you learned that a charity had just paid an investor a 100 percent return on a loan?

These are the kinds of scenarios that make our blood boil with rage and the kinds of practices that give charities a bad name, right?

But what if we're wrong about all of it? What if the things that send us into a rage are actually the things it would take to end humanity's most vexing and extreme forms of suffering? And what if you are only being given half of the story?

These are the issues that have consumed me for the last 15 years and that were the subject of my closing talk at the 2013 TED conference.

Ask yourself how you would feel if you were given the whole story.

Suppose that the person getting wealthy in charity was worth it. Imagine, for example, that the Boys & Girls Clubs hires a leader that triples revenues in 8 years from half a billion annually to $1.5 billion annually. This allows the clubs to double the number of kids served. She gets a total compensation package of about $1 million annually. This is not a fairy tale. It really happened. And the Boys & Girls Clubs were criticized for it.

Is $1 million not a cheap price to pay for $1 billion in new revenues and double the kids served? Would we rather they hire a leader for a more modest $150,000 who is incapable of increasing revenues and serving more kids? Save $850,000 in salary expense and lose a billion dollars a year in revenue?

Read more: WATCH: Why I Think Nonprofits Should Act More Like Businesses | Dan Pallotta

NSA 'tapped 60m Spanish phone calls' as country joins France and Germany in latest Snowden revelations - by Adam Whithnall

Spain has become the latest major European country to learn that its citizens have had their phone calls intercepted by the US’s National Security Agency (NSA), according to new revelations from Edward Snowden published this morning.

According to reports in the newspaper El Mundo, the NSA secretly monitored 60 million Spanish calls in the space of a single month.

Though the contents of conversations were not recorded, US spies took details of the so-called metadata - the information on who, when and where each call was made.

Similar to news from France and Germany last week, these allegations also come from documents provided to journalists by fugitive NSA contractor Snowden.

Today’s El Mundo front page carried the name of Glenn Greenwald, the former Guardian journalist who worked on that paper’s series of stories about the NSA’s mass surveillance schemes.

He teased the news yesterday, tweeting: “A new large country tomorrow morning will learn how many millions of its citizens have their communications data intercepted by the NSA.”

Read more: NSA 'tapped 60m Spanish phone calls' as country joins France and Germany in latest Snowden revelations - Europe - World - The Independent

Norway-USA: Maine loses offshore wind chance - by Pete Danko

Good idea for Maine torpedoed by short-sighted  governor
Maine’s offshore wind industry ambitions suffered a big blow this week when Statoil said it would abandon its plans to build an offshore, floating turbine project there. The problem: A governor who kept putting up obstacles.

Statoil wanted to build a four-turbine, 12-megawatt project far off the Maine coast. The idea was to demonstrate the viability of deep-sea wind power technology and spur construction of large offshore wind parks off the Northeast U.S. coast, in the process making Maine a center for design, engineering and manufacturing in the sector.

Hywind Maine, as it was known, was among seven offshore wind projects that won $4 million in seed funding from the U.S. Department of Energy late last year.

But the Republican governor of Maine, Paul LePage, thought it was too pricey. In a statement, LePage didn’t sound at all disappointed to hear Statoil was giving up:
"The Administration has been perfectly clear through the regulatory process that the term-sheet offered by Statoil was ironclad in its cost – placing a $200 million burden on Mainers by way of increasing electric costs. Additionally, the corporation was ambiguous in its commitment to growing Maine’s economy. Through bipartisan legislation the Governor and the Legislature worked to ensure that additional competition could be considered prior to embarking on a 20 year plan for Maine’s offshore wind industry and to finalize the best contract for Maine by the end of the year. With electric rates the 12th highest in the country we must continue to attract lower cost electricity that will grow Maine jobs."
Statoil’s plan came in answer to a 2010 Maine PUC request for proposals, set in motion by the state’s 2010 Ocean Energy Act, to build “deep-water offshore wind energy” projects “no less than 10 nautical miles” off the state’s famous coast.

Note EU-Digest: Statoil is an international energy company with operations in 34 countries headquartered in Stavanger, Norway and has approx. 23,000 employees worldwide. They are listed on the New York and Oslo stock exchanges. Statoil bases its reputation on 40 years of experience from oil and gas production on the Norwegian continental shelf . Statoil has a proven corporate policy which is committed to accommodating the world's energy needs in a responsible manner, applying technology and creating innovative business solutions. 

Energy insiders are saying Governor Paul LePage showed once again the typical Republican aversion against alternative sources of energy and the environmental benefits this provides in favor of environmentally dirty fossil type fuels.

As one of the governors opponents said. " he let the goose that could have laid the golden eggs for Maine in the form of new secure  jobs slip away by his short-sighted politicized vision". 

Read more: Maine loses offshore wind chance -


Germany - Turkish Immigrant Doner kebab 'inventor' Kadir Nurman dies in Berlin

Meat carved from a skewer had long been a popular choice in Turkey - Kadir Nurman's innovation was to serve it in a flat bread.

The Turkish immigrant credited with inventing the doner kebab has died in Berlin aged 80. 

Kadir Nurman set up a stall in West Berlin in 1972, selling grilled meat and salad inside a flat bread.

He had noticed the fast pace of city life and thought busy Berliners might like a meal they could carry with them.

While there are other possible "doner inventors," Mr Nurman's contribution was recognized by the Association of Turkish Doner Manufacturers in 2011.

The combination of juicy meat, sliced from a rotating skewer, with all the trimmings and optional chilli sauce, has since become a firm fast-food favourite in Germany, and elsewhere.

Read more: BBC News - Doner kebab 'inventor' Kadir Nurman dies in Berlin

NSA Spying on Europe: Republican House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers defends spying by US on allies as completely normal

Europeans should be grateful for US spying operations because they keep them safe. a US lawmaker said on Sunday, urging allies to improve their own intelligence and oversight efforts.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers called "disingenuous" foreign governments' outrage over the National Security Agency's large dragnet over communications of several dozen world leaders and ordinary citizens.Mr. Rogers, Republican of Michigan, said that the National Security Agency’s surveillance program in question — particularly in regards France, but also Germany — had been badly misrepresented in news reports. If the French understood that it was designed to protect them and others from the threat of terror, he said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” “they would be applauding and popping Champagne corks.

”The congressman also said that reports of the monitoring of phone calls of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany were incomplete, fragmentary and, therefore, misleading. The most recent report, published in the German news magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday, cited a document — apparently from a National Security Agency database — that indicated Ms. Merkel’s cellphone was first listed as a target of surveillance in 2002.

The disclosures, Mr. Rogers said, did not “necessarily fit with what has actually happened, right? So it’s not an exact, correct interpretation of what they’re seeing. They’re seeing three or four pieces of a 1,000-piece puzzle and trying to come to a conclusion.”

In neither the French nor the German case did Rogers offer any elaboration of what, in his view, the National Security Agency was actually doing in France or Germany.


Internet: How To Tell If Your Employer Is Spying On You

You may know that your employer can legally spy on you at work (and outside of work) in several ways. But how do you actually know if your employer is snooping? Here are some signs that your employer may be spying on you:

Your employee handbook may well have some policies where your employer tells you they're spying. For instance, there may be a policy saying that your work on your computer belongs to the company, that they monitor emails sent and received on company devices, that they record calls for customer service purposes, or even that they monitor your social media. If it says so in your handbook, that's a good indication that big employer is watching.

Read more: How To Tell If Your Employer Is Spying On You - Careers Articles


EU Weather: Worst weather since the Great Storm of 1987? UK braces for hurricane-strength winds - by Rob Williams

 A powerful weather system developing over the Atlantic could see Britain battered with some of the worst weather conditions since the Great Storm of 1987, forecasters are predicting.

The storm is expected to develop south west of Britain throughout today and reach the south coast of England on Sunday night and into Monday, bringing exceptionally strong winds.

The storm could develop winds hitting 12 on the Beaufort Scale. This is the strength of a hurricane.
With gusts of  up to 90mph and up to 30mm of rain forecast the RAC has warned motorists against all but essential travel in torrential rain and floods.

The public has also been warned to expect the possibility of power cuts, trees blocking roads and transport disruption.

Met Office spokesman Dan Williams said on Friday that forecasters had extended their amber warning for strong winds further north. London, East Anglia, Bristol and as far north as the Midlands are all now expected to be hit by heavy winds and rain.

Forecasters say it is now looking more likely than before that the storm - with wind speeds of 80mph or more - will cross the southern half of Britain, rather than passing south of the country - and a larger area than previously thought could be affected.

Read more: Worst weather since the Great Storm of 1987? UK braces for hurricane-strength winds - Home News - UK - The Independent

EU-USA: Trust or Divorce: Spy issue saps U.S. effort to rebuild ties Bush broke

In Europe, America’s friends are furious, in the Middle East they are mystified and in the Pacific they are merely puzzled.

Mounting questions over the direction of U.S. foreign policy and sweeping espionage operations are threatening to undercut the Obama White House’s claim to have repaired relations with key allies that frayed under former President George W. Bush.

The world is also looking on in alarm at political dysfunction in Washington and wondering whether it will curtail America’s global role. Secretary of State John Kerry warned in a speech last week that U.S. partners are now asking, “Can we be counted on?”

President Barack Obama, already beleaguered over the chaotic rollout of his health care law, now has another foreign policy headache. Europe is in an uproar over explosive new leaks from secrets scooped up by fugitive analyst Edward Snowden.

The European public, which once swooned over Obama, are fuming at claims the secretive U.S. National Security Agency logged details of millions of their phone calls, and even apparently tapped the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Heather Conley, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia in the Bush administration, said the White House response so far has done little to placate its allies.

“Their approach has led the (European) leaders to up the volume because we are not understanding how significant this issue is for public opinion,” said Conley, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In Washington, some officials privately disdain Europe’s fury as overly theatrical — because some of the outraged governments are partners in counterterrorism spying themselves and because U.S. intelligence has thwarted attacks in Europe.

The attitude that spying is rampant everywhere, and Europe should just get over it, is also widespread.
“Everyone spies on everybody,” Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told CNN. “These leaders are responding to domestic pressures. None of them are truly shocked about any of this.”

Read more: Spy issue saps U.S. effort to rebuild ties Bush broke | The Japan Times

Turkey: Made in China? US warns Turkey its missile deal with Beijing may be incompatible with NATO

Washington is talking to Ankara over a $3.4 billion Turkish-Chinese deal, in which the two countries agreed to co-produce a long-range air and missile defense system. The US claims the outcome may not be compatible with the existing NATO defense network.

In a surprise move for its NATO allies, Turkey announced in September it was going to award a new missile defense contract to China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corp (CPMIEC).

The Chinese defense firm, which has been sanctioned by the US for alleged violations of the Iran, North Korea and Syria Non-proliferation Act, has been chosen to co-produce the FD-2000 system with Turkish specialists. CPMIEC claims the system not only beats in price, but also comes up to the quality of its rivals – the Russian S-300, the French-Italian Eurosam SAMP/T, and the American Patriots.

Now the US has started “expert discussions” with Turkey regarding the defense tender, according to US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone quoted by Reuters.

“We are very concerned about the prospective deal with the sanctioned Chinese firm. Yes this is a commercial decision, it is Turkey’s sovereign right, but we are concerned about what it means for allied air defense,” Ricciardone told reporters on Thursday.

Read more: Made in China? US warns Turkey its missile deal with Beijing may be incompatible with NATO — RT News

European Cultural Awards:Two women and one man are the new voices of 2013

European Cultural Awards: The 27 year old Australian soprano Nicole Car, the 25 year old American soprano Nadine Sierra, and the 24 year old South Korean tenor Myong-Hyun Lee have won first prize in the 15th Bertelsmann Stiftung's NEUE STIMMEN vocal competition.

Each artist won 15,000 euros, as well as excellent opportunities for their future careers. A total of nine singers participated in the final round of the competition, which was held on Saturday in Gütersloh, Germany. All told, 69,000 euros in prize money were awarded for the first-prize winners and for two special prizes (each 2,000 euros). The results were as follows:

Women: First prize: 15,000 euros, for Australian soprano Nicole Car (b.1985). First prize: 15,000 euros for the American soprano Nadine Sierra (b.1983). A 5,000 euro prize for Russian soprano Kristina Mkhitaryan (b.1987).

Men: First prize: 15,000 euros for South Korean tenor Myong-Hyun Lee (b.1982). A 10,000 euro prize for the Moldavian bass Oleg Tibulco (b.1984). A 5,000 euro prize for the Ukranian baritone Oleksandr Kyreiev (b.1988)

The audience prize, a 500 euro gift certificate from Bärenreiter-Verlag publishing house, went to the American soprano Nadine Serra.

The finalists were part of a group of 39 young singers who had previously participated in competitions in 22 cities around the world for a chance to enter the week-long final round in Gütersloh. There were 19 semi-finalists and nine finalists. A total of 1,428 singers from 69 nations participated in the competition.
Read more: Bertelsmann Stiftung | Press Releases


EU: All eyes on NSA at EU summit

As German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived at the EU summit in Brussels, her official vehicle sported a license plate with the numbers 007 - more famously known as the code name of fictional British Secret Service agent James Bond.

Whether or not the license plate was a simple coincidence, there was no denying that the newest round of spying allegations against the NSA has overshadowed the summit, which was actually meant to deal with economic issues. Merkel, whose mobile phone, according to reports, was spied on by the US National Security Agency (NSA), was not in a joking mood on Thursday (24.10.2013). "Spying among friends - that's just not done," said the Chancellor in Brussels.

"Trust must be restored," Merkel told the US government, which had assured the Chancellor that her mobile phone was not being "tapped".

Late on Thursday evening, however, the British daily The Guardian reported that it had obtained a confidential memo suggesting that the NSA had also monitored the communications of 35 other world leaders. Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, called on EU leaders to suspend the SWIFT agreement and the exchange of banking data with the US, a recommendation already made by the Parliament on Wednesday.

On the sidelines of the EU summit, Chancellor Merkel and French President Francois Hollande briefly met to speak about the US's spying activities. After the meeting, a relatively relaxed Merkel said that "being spied on together has brought us closer." On Monday (21.10.2013), Hollande spoke out against the espionage of millions of French citizens by the NSA.

However, in an interview with DW, Alexander Stubb, Finland's Minister for European Affairs, warned against overreacting to this latest news. Stubb said that all top politicians must realize that they could be spied upon. "I am very careful, and always aware that whatever I communicate could be made public," he said.

Questioning the idea of data exchange with the US was not the best way to react, Stubb added, saying that in the worldwide digital community it was impossible to avoid exchanging information with American companies.

Note EU-Digest: Finland's Minister for European Affairs should also acknowledge that "it takes two to tango" and the US certainly was "out of step" on this tango.

Read more: All eyes on NSA at EU summit | Europe | DW.DE | 25.10.2013

Egypt: EU-Digest Poll Shows Not Much Hope Military Will Go Back To The Barracks

The latest EU-Digest poll on the military takeover in Egypt and return to democracy showed  that most people polled find there is very little chance this will happen (see insert for results of poll). 

In the meantime US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday. “It’s been very clear, the Egyptian interim government, we believe, is moving in the right direction,”  he said, with the “road map toward inclusive, free democracy, rights for all people, assuring that all individuals, all citizens of Egypt have the same rights.”

The Egyption Military Junta also hired a US PR company  Glover Park Group to do the heavy lifting for them when it comes to lobbying in the US.

EU-USA: The Trust Factor - this month the EU-Digest poll will focus on the effect of EU protests, if any, as to the US NSA spying revelations on European citizens, European political leaders, the European diplomatic missions, and European Business Corporations.


Business Should Talk To Europe To Cut Red Tape?

It’s the time of the year  when business leaders proclaim yet another ‘Cut Euro Red Tape’ campaign.

Different spokesmen for business queue up to say they want to see less regulation from Europe that they claim is holding back British business.

These are serious men who make serious money. Their view should not be dismissed. As North America and Asia grow strongly Europe does need to ask if every aspect of the way it regulates its economy adds or lessens growth. Europe does have a great number of regulations as do national administrations, professional bodies, regional employer federations and regulatory agencies. But as the more important business leaders troop into Downing Street to tell cabinet ministers what needs to be done they may be making the category error mistake of missionaries throughout the ages – that of preaching to the converted.

Like churches and third world NGOs arguing over the years that the Common Agricultural Policy did damage to third world farmers the UK’s preferred missionary position on EU reform almost always fails to provide satisfaction. The real targets for the CBI, EEF, Marc Bolland of Marks and Spencer, or Simon Walker of the Institute of Directors and other business bosses should be their fellow business leaders in Europe. Telling Iain Duncan Smith or Chris Grayling or Teresa May or the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail there is something wrong with Europe is preaching to the converted.

Oxfam, Cafod, Save the Children and other excellent campaigners against poverty in developing countries also wasted years of lobbying time telling each other how iniquitous EU trade policies were. They should have caught a flight to Dublin or the Eurostar to Paris to convert the churches and pro-poor lobbies in Ireland or France to call for an end to the CAP. That would have been real missionary work. Similarly, British business needs to find support in German or Dutch or Belgian employers circles for their views. Picking up a megaphone in London and hoping you will be heard in Brussels is a low-return option.

Business leaders also need to ask themselves some tough questions. The most obvious one is to ask why, if EU rules, are so destructive of business do so many competitor firms on the continent thrive on them? If it is EU regulations holding back Britain from competing in the world why are German, or Dutch or Swedish firms operating under the same rules able to export so much more than the UK does?

Read more: Business Should Talk To Europe To Cut Red Tape


USA: And so America's skewed democracy lurches on toward its next crisis: by Gary Younge

ust as the House of Representatives was finally voting to reopen the government and save the nation from reneging on debt and inviting a downgrade, a House stenographer appears to have suffered a breakdown. Grabbing the microphone, she started defending God's honour before the nation.
He will not be mocked. The greatest deception here is this is not one nation under God. It never was. The constitution would not have been written by freemasons. They go against God. You cannot serve two masters.
After being removed and questioned, she was taken away for psychiatric evaluation.
Her mental health is no laughing matter. But the description of her interjection by much of the media as a "bizarre" interruption to the House vote deserves interrogation.

Because everything about this was bizarre. From the moment Ted Cruz got up and started quoting Ashton Kutcher and talking about Star Wars into the wee hours, this entire process has been nothing but bizarre. America, once again, took the familiar road from the height of dysfunction to the brink of default – until reality grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and slapped it straight, before it did itself and others grave harm.

Because America is powerful, the world has to take notice of these self-inflicted crises. But because it has become so predictably dysfunctional and routinely reckless, they are difficult to take seriously or, at times, even fathom. To the rest of the world and much of America, this is yet another dangerous folly. The fact that the nation did not default should come as cold comfort. The fact that we are even talking about it defaulting is a problem.

This particular flirtation with fate was driven by a visceral opposition to the moderate provision of something most western nations take for granted: healthcare. The reforms they opposed had been been passed by the very body of which they are a member and had been been approved by the US supreme court, the guardian of the very constitution they claimed to be defending. For this, they started a fight they never had the numbers to win and carried on waging it long after it was clear they had lost.

"We're not going to be disrespected," insisted Republican Indiana Congressman Marlin Stutzman, recently. "We have to get something out of this. And I don't know what that even is."

Read more: And so America's skewed democracy lurches on toward its next crisis | Gary Younge | Comment is free |

Germany: State bans teacher-pupil contact on Facebook

A German state has banned its teachers and pupils from being friends on Facebook, stating it was not possible for them to keep a professional relationship if they could see each others photos and postings on the social network site.

The education ministry in Rhineland-Palatinate, in western Germany, informed its schools about its new rules in a booklet, a spokesman said on Monday.

The state’s data protection commissioner, Edgar Wagner, said the educational role of schools did not fit with the business model of Facebook – to collect personal data for commercial reasons.

He added that there were plenty of other ways pupils and teachers could get in touch.

In other German states there are strict rules about teacher-pupil contact. In Baden-Württemberg the use of social networks is restricted in schools. Saxony said in the summer that it was also working on similar rules.

In Schleswig-Holstein teachers were told to stop using Facebook to plan school trips or to give out grades at the end of 2012.

But Rheinland-Palatinate is the first German state to ban friendship between staff and children all together.
Teachers have also been told to stop using the platform to give out grades, set homework and plan trips.

EU-Digest: Good Idea.

Read more: State bans teacher-pupil contact on Facebook - The Local

The euro zone: Europe’s other debt crisis - too many zombie firms and overindebted households

Fifteen months ago, in July 2012, Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank (ECB), promised to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the single currency. Although the bond-buying scheme set up to fulfil that pledge has never been tested, yields on sovereign bonds have fallen. The euro mess has morphed from an acute crisis into a chronic one.

This week Mr Draghi launched what could become the second big turning-point in the euro saga: an inspection of the balance-sheets of the region’s 128 biggest banks which the ECB will supervise from late 2014. As part of its “asset-quality review”, ECB officials, along with outside experts, will start peering into the banks’ balance-sheets and impose common standards for loan quality (see article). This process is supposed to find out which banks are viable now, which will need more capital and which should just be closed down.

Mr Draghi should be tough. The euro zone’s politicians, even in supposedly prudent Germany, have been reluctant to look too deeply into banks’ balance-sheets, let alone to force them to clean themselves up. There are certainly questions to be asked about all the government bonds that the banks have bought in recent years. But the main dodgy assets that have been swept under the European carpet are private: bad loans made to households and companies.

Read more: The euro zone: Europe’s other debt crisis | The Economist

EU - Focus on growth on eve of EU summit in Bruxelles and US NSA spying on Europeans

The summer is past and European summits return. Europe's leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday with the markets becalmed and some economic statistics to celebrate. 

Even the threat - a few weeks back - of the Italian government falling scarcely ruffled the markets. The promise by the president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, a year ago, to do whatever it takes to defend the euro continues to act as a shield against the bond market vigilantes. No one, it seems, is prepared to bet against the ECB.

It is true that almost on a daily basis there are reassuring signs of progress.

The Spanish economy has just edged out of recession after two years. Since 2008 its exports have grown by an impressive 14.6%. Unemployment at above 26% may have peaked. Italy is running a trade surplus and Greece this year will register a primary budget surplus excluding debt repayments. Ireland is set to exit its bailout programme in mid-December.

And yet despite all the austerity and spending cuts the level of debt, amongst the countries that use the eurozone, is still rising.

French unemployment, which was down in August, is set to rise again. Italy is struggling to bring down its labour costs without which it cannot be competitive. The Greeks are locked in argument with their lenders over a budget gap. It may need further funding. It was revealed this week that Greeks are, on average, 40% poorer than in 2008.

Even the most Panglossian of Europe's leaders recognises that the recovery is fragile and solid growth is needed so in Brussels the leaders will concentrate on supporting and expanding the digital economy and building a single digital market.

But new allegations of US eavesdropping on Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel may also be discussed.

France's President Francois Hollande is pressing for the issue to be put on the summit agenda, following reports that millions of French calls have been monitored.

The veteran French EU Commissioner Michel Barnier told the BBC that "enough is enough", and confidence in the US had been shaken.

Mr Barnier, the commissioner for internal market and services, said Europe must not be naive but develop its own strategic digital tools, such as a "European data cloud" independent of American oversight.

The digital economy is on the official summit agenda for Thursday evening ( tonight) . 

Read more: BBC News - Focus on growth on eve of EU summit

Germany summons US ambassador over claim NSA bugged Merkel's phone - by Philip Oltermann

Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, has called the US ambassador to a personal meeting to discuss allegations that US secret services bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone.

The decision to call in John B Emerson, who has only been the US representative in Berlin since mid-August, is an unusally drastic measure. During previous upheavals in relations, such as over the Syrian crisis, conversations have taken place between diplomats.

Allegations that the US government's spying had reached the highest level were met with outrage and disappointment in Germany on Thursday. The country's defence minister, Thomas de Maiziere, told ARD television that it would be "really bad" if the reports turned out to be true. Washington and Berlin could not return to "business as usual", he said.

Suddeütsche Zeitung conveyed a strong sense of the depth of disillusionment with the US president in Germany when it wrote that "Barack Obama is not a Nobel peace prize winner, he is a troublemaker".

Read more: Germany summons US ambassador over claim NSA bugged Merkel's phone | World news |


European Parliament votes to suspend its SWIFT data exchange agreement with the US

The European Parliament has voted to suspend its SWIFT data exchange agreement with the US.

They’ve called for US access to the SWIFT database to be halted following concerns that the US is spying on the EU, and not simply trying to combat terrorism.

EU lawmakers suspect that the US has abused an agreement giving it limited access to SWIFT.
As such, they voted to freeze Washington’s capacity to track international payments through the site.

The worry comes after leaked American documents indicating the US was covertly tapping into SWIFT were aired on Brazilian television. The US denies any wrongdoing.

Although the vote is not conclusive, it does reflect public anger at recent reports that US security agency the NSA is spying on European citizens.

The European Commission said it was “still waiting for additional written assurances” that the US is respecting its agreement with the EU.

Note EU-Digest: the EU Commission probably will have to wait for truthful answers on this issue until hell freezes over.

Read more: European Parliament votes to suspend its SWIFT data exchange agreement with the US | euronews, world news

Germany - Privacy Rights Violations: Angela Merkel calls US president Barack Obama over phone tapping claims

Mrs Merkel called president Barack Obama to personally complain about the possible intrusion.

Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said she made it clear in her call that ‘she views such practices, if if proven true, as completely unacceptable and condemns them unequivocally.’

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the president had assured the chancellor that the US ‘is not monitoring and will not monitor’ her communications.

An official declined to comment when asked whether spying may have occurred in the past, saying: ‘I’m not in a position to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity.’

In a statement Berlin called for ‘an immediate and comprehensive explanation’ of what ‘would be a serious breach of trust’.

News magazine Der Spiegel, which has published material from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, said its research triggered the response.

Similar spying concerns have been raised by France and other US allies.

Read more: Angela Merkel calls US president Barack Obama over phone tapping claims | Metro News

Saudi Arabia: Riyadh-U.S. split over Iran, Syria deepens - but in long-run could proof to be beneficial for US

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief has said the kingdom will make a “major shift” in relations with the United States in protest at its perceived inaction over the Syria war and its overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said Tuesday.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that Washington had failed to act effectively on the Syrian crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.

It was not immediately clear if Prince Bandar’s reported statements had the full backing of King Abdullah.
“The shift away from the U.S. is a major one,” the source close to Saudi policy said. “Saudi doesn’t want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.”

The United States and Saudi Arabia have been allies since the kingdom was declared in 1932, giving Riyadh a powerful military protector and Washington secure oil supplies.

Note EU-Digest: Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are among the most undemocratic States in the Middle East and this move by the US might eventually provide them with more credibility around the world in the long-run.

Read more: Riyadh-U.S. split over Iran, Syria deepens | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR


Russia takes a page out of the US playbook - by Anna Andrianova

Russia doesn't have the most positive reputation abroad. Many people, especially in the West, see it as an authoritarian state where riot police batter protesters and powerful forces repress homosexuals and other minorities. But now Russia is following the U.S.'s lead in a charm offensive.

Since Vladimir Putin first became a president in 2000, Russia has launched various projects to improve its image—a multilanguage TV channel, Russia Today, is one of the most visible endeavors—but they have not improved the nation's image as much as hoped, said Alexey Dolinskiy, a partner at consulting firm Capstone Connections.

"Numerous efforts to bolster its reputation abroad with foreign audiences have thus far not had the intended effect, especially in comparison to the amount of resources and attention invested by the Russian government," Dolinskiy said in a government-funded report, "Russia Direct." 

Dolinskiy told CNBC that, for example, Russia Today has managed to build a viewership but has not done much to materially change the country's image. Global attitudes toward Russia are more negative than positive, according to the 2013 GlobeScan poll. Among countries included in the survey, only a handful—Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and Iran—did worse.

Read more: Russia takes a page out of the US playbook

The Netherlands-Renewable Energy: Firms Trying to Cut Cost of Building Offshore Wind Farms

Offshore Wind-Park
A Dutch research institute, Deltares, announced it has begun initial scale model tests to study the impact of steep, breaking waves on offshore wind turbines. Believing wind turbines at sea could be much cheaper, reducing material costs by 10 percent, Deltares and the other members of the Joint Industry Project "Wave Impact on Fixed Turbine" (JIP WiFi) are joining forces to conduct research that tests this hypothesis.

The design rules currently used to determine the impact of breaking waves on the turbines are very conservative, according to Deltares. The objective of the JIP WiFi is to improve the way effects of steep, breaking waves and more moderate seas are taken into account in the design methodology of fixed offshore wind turbines.

Considerable research already has been done in this area, "but further insight is required to take this effect better into account in future wind farms," the company's announcement stated, adding that results will be available to participants in 2014.

The other project partners are Ramboll, a Danish engineering, design, and consultancy company; MARIN and ECN, Dutch research institutes; Statkraft, based in Norway and Europe's leading renewable energy provider; and classification companies GL and DNV.

Read more: Firms Trying to Cut Cost of Building Offshore Wind Farms -- Occupational Health & Safety

NSA spy scandal may scuttle EU-U.S. anti-terrorist agreement–EU commissioner

The European Union is threatening to suspend a data-sharing deal with the United States used for tracking terrorist bank funding over suspicions the National Security Agency was stealing financial data from law-abiding Europeans.

Cecilia Malmstrom, the EU commissioner responsible for investigating the implications of the NSA and GCHQ spy scandal, said the Terror Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) of 2010, which supplies bank and credit card transaction information to the U.S. treasury in an effort to trace funding to terrorist groups, may be in jeopardy if it is determined the Americans were abusing the agreement.

Ms. Malmstrom said she was unhappy with the information supplied by the U.S. government, saying the Americans need to provide more data.

“I am not satisfied with what we have received so far,” the commissioner told a European parliament committee debating the NSA disclosures. “Whilst from the U.S. reactions … we now have some understanding of the situation, we need more detailed information in order to credibly assess reality and to be in a position to judge whether the obligations of the U.S. side under the agreement have been breached.”

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is a British intelligence agency that has also come under suspicion of EU commissioners when it was revealed the organization was collecting all online and telephone data in the UK via the Tempora program, also revealed in the NSA disclosures.

“A decision to maintain the agreement or to consider proposing its suspension is a serious matter,” Ms. Malmstrom admitted.

Ever since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, a number of controversial security measures were passed under then President George W. Bush. Much of the legislation, however, was put into effect without any public debate.

The Terror Financing Tracking Program (TFTP) was one such piece of legislation that is now, following the NSA revelations, raising eyebrows among some of America’s leading allies.

TFTP is a collaborative effort between the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Treasury that has provided U.S. officials “with a unique and powerful window into the operations of terrorist networks and is, without doubt, a legal and proper use of our authorities,” Stuart Levey, an undersecretary at the Treasury, said in an interview with The New York Times in June 2006.

The agreement required EU authorities to transfer data to the U.S. treasury from the Brussels-based system Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).

This provided U.S. officials with a large amount of data since the majority of international interbank messages use the SWIFT network. According to the SWIFT website, “more than 10,000 financial institutions and corporations in 212 countries exchange millions of standardized financial messages” daily. 

Although Mr. Levey ensured that “multiple safeguards” were put in place to protect against any unwarranted searches of records, EU MEPs are demanding that TFTP be scrapped following recent reports that the NSA was “also tapping into the SWIFT databases to gain access to the private data of Europeans on their financial dealings,” The Guardian reported.

Sophie Veld, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament, said the U.S. spying activities aimed at the European Union meant that bilateral agreements—including another one divulging European air passenger details to U.S. authorities—should be canceled.

“For me the TFTP agreement is effectively dead ... null and void,” she said, as quoted by The Guardian.
The EU parliament, however, does not have the authority to cancel agreements with the United States. Such a move would require proof that the NSA had abused its powers, and then propose a cancellation of the EU-U.S, agreement to which all 28 EU member states would need to endorse unanimously.

Britain, for example, which played a large part in the NSA surveillance work, would be able to veto any legislation that moved to punish the United States over the scandal.

Read more: NSA spy scandal may scuttle EU-U.S. anti-terrorist agreement–EU commissioner

The Netherlands-Privacy Rights Violations:US taps 1.8 million Dutch phone numbers-very few taps related to terrorism

DutchNews NL reports that the American National Security Agency tapped 1.8 million Dutch telephones in one month alone as part of its Boundless Informant surveillance program..

The raw information was first published by Der Spiegel in June but has now been interpreted by Dutch technology website Tweakers following publication in Le Monde.

Between the beginning of December and beginning of January, 1.8 million Dutch phone numbers were tapped into by the NSA, recording information about number and possibly location, Tweakers said.

The numbers were compared against a database of suspect numbers and, Tweakers says, if a number was on the list, calls to and from the number were listened in to.

In Germany, 500 million numbers were picked up by the NSA and in France 70 million. Paris has now summoned the US ambassador to explain events. According to Le Monde, documents show the NSA was allegedly targeting not only terrorist suspects but politicians, business people and others.

The raw information comes from whistleblower Edward Snowden. VVD parliamentarian Klaas Dijkhoff said the news that the US is obtaining telephone information in the Netherlands on such a broad scale is ‘disappointing’.

'If it was the Chinese or the Russians, then no-one would be surprised,’ he is quoted as saying by Tweakers ‘But this is an ally and that makes it extra disappointing.’

The Netherlands is already the most heavily phone-tapped country in the world. The number of phone taps rose 3% to nearly 25,500 last year, according to justice ministry figures. And the number of requests for information about phone calls - such as the location calls were made from - reached almost 57,000, up 10% on 2011.

The above  figures do not include taps by the Dutch security services.

The question the EU Commission and Parliament should pose, and so far have not ; "why would the EU want to negotiate a comprehensive and  far reaching trade agreement with the US when they can't be trusted and as a matter of fact even have been caught bugging offices of the EU in Bruxelles and  the US ?"

The Finance Tracking Program (TFTP) of 2010 agreed on by the EU and US, which supplies bank and credit card transaction information to the U.S. treasury in an apparent effort to trace funding to terrorist groups, should probably also be scrapped now it has became evident the Americans have been abusing the agreement. 



Privacy Laws - The EU could seize 25% of Google’s profits if it violates your privacy - by Leo Mirani

 Last year, Google made $50 billion in global revenue, of which $10.7 billion was profit. If the European Union’s draft bill on data protection becomes law, the company will have to pay a fine of up to 5% of worldwide annual turnover—$2.5 billion in 2012, representing nearly 25% of its profits—if it doesn’t comply. This evening, a European Parliament committee pushed the legislation one crucial step closer to becoming law.

The data protection regulation, as it is known, is perhaps the most significant piece of legislation to come out of the European Commission this term. It is fraught with political and economic meaning. The law (pdf) sets out wide-ranging new rules for how personal data is treated within Europe. Among other things, it tightens rules on how companies can collect and process data. It also makes it easier for users of an online service to move between networks or to request wholesale deletion of their data (otherwise known as the “right to be forgotten”). And it lays out punitive fines (pdf) for companies that break the rules, for example by collecting an individual’s data without consent or refusing to delete it.  

The law’s effects will be felt far outside the European Union. Europe’s position is that any company that does business within its boundaries will be subject to its rules, never mind the ease with which data flows across borders or the difficulties national governments face in pinning down where exactly a company conducts its business. The Europe-wide law will replace the data protection directive of 1995, which set guidelines that the EU’s member states applied to their own jurisdictions. That meant a patchwork of disparate laws across the continent, with countries with looser laws—notably, Ireland—becoming hubs for non-EU companies.
Whether as a block or individually, Europe has for years been suspicious of the power wielded by American companies. France doesn’t like the economic clout they enjoy. Germany has a strong dislike for the easy data rules enacted by some EU members. And nobody really believes that the “safe harbor” agreement between the US and the EU to safeguard Europeans’ data is working. Moreover, Viviane Reding, the bureaucrat responsible for the legislation, is said to harbor ambitions to become the next president of the European Commission. Pushing through this law before her terms expires next year would represent a significant victory.

The US and its tech companies are not particularly happy about the new legislation and have been lobbying against it. European countries with softer laws have also been less keen to support the bill. And some claim the law could pose a risk to free-trade talks between the two blocs. 

Note EU-Digest: One can only hope for EU politicians not to chicken out and that they will adopt strong and effective legislation against what seems to be total disregard by the US of EU privacy laws, and that legislators will not get bamboozled by sweet talking lobbyists. 

Read more: The EU could seize 25% of Google’s profits if it violates your privacy - Quartz

Netherlands: Vodafone calls for spying debate to focus on secret services

Rob Shuter, CEO of Vodafone Netherlands, has called for a more in-depth debate about the spying revelations of the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The discussion to date has lacked factual information, Shuter said in an article on the operator's blog. He said the debate should centre on how the Netherlands balances effective law enforcement and intelligence services with privacy protection. The question is whether intelligence services have the correct judicial authority and whether there is effective oversight at an international level.

Vodafone is concerned that in recent weeks its has attracted the image, as a company of British origin, of one that passes information about customers to intelligence services. Vodafone strongly denied this, with the CEO noting that such suggestions are "completely untrue" and ignore the judicial framework applicable to all operators in the Netherlands. The company name Vodafone Cable has also emerged as part of leaked secret documents. However, Vodafone said that no such company exists.

Vodafone noted further that it meets the requirements of Dutch law, but that it's not possible to test the legality of a request to tap communications. The Dutch parliament will hold a debate with the foreign affairs minister on 16 October over the government's reaction to the spying revelations. The opposition party D66 has called on the government to agree a treaty with the US to prevent such spying, reports. 

Read more: Vodafone calls for spying debate to focus on secret services - Telecompaper

Espionage: NSA Spying on Europe - Snowden leaks: France summons US envoy over spying claims

France's foreign ministry has summoned the US ambassador over allegations the US National Security Agency spied on millions of phone calls in France.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was "deeply shocked" by the claims made in the Le Monde newspaper.

The data, based on leaks from ex-intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, suggest the NSA monitored officials and businesses as well as terror suspects.

The White House said "all nations" conducted spying operations.

"As a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations," said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

Le Monde says the NSA spied on 70.3 million phone calls in France in just 30 days between 10 December last year and 8 January 2013.

Read more: BBC News - Snowden leaks: France summons US envoy over spying claims

Iran: The case of Iran teaches the EU a lesson in Global Leadership - by Dr. Cornelius Adebahr

After a decade of nuclear talks, a deal between Iran and the International Community may finally be in sight. However, what if the compromise found at the negotiation table falls through domestically on either the Iranian or the American side? In the end, the EU will have to pick up the tab and finally punch its weight.

It may be just a coincidence: Quite exactly ten years before the current round of talks in Geneva, the then foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom (the EU-3) had a first breakthrough in their talks with the Iranian government.

With the ‚Tehran Declaration’ of 21 October 2003, Iran agreed to sign and implement the Additional Protocol of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to voluntary suspend all uranium enrichment activities. In return, the three European powers recognised the country’s right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy in accordance with the NPT and promised cooperation on nuclear energy once ‚satisfactory assurances’ about Iran's nuclear programme had alleviated international concerns.

At least two individuals will certainly take note of the ‚anniversary‘: Hassan Rouhani, then the leader of the Iranian team and now the country’s freshly elected president, and Mohammed Zarif, the country’s foreign minister who then was its ambassador to the UN.

The EU-3 has morphed into the P5+1 with China, Russia, and the United States now also at the table, notably represented by the EU’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton. Their discussions with the new Iranian leaderhip in Geneva on 15 and 16 October were „substantive and forward-looking“ according to a joint declaration – the latter being in itself a first.

During the meeting, the contours of a possible agreement emerged: Iran would accept strict limits on its enrichment activites and implement the Additional Protocol. In return, the P5+1 would gradually lift sanctions – both UN agreed and their own – as well as recognise in principle Iran’s right to enrichment.

If this sounds somewhat familiar, small wonder: The essence of the deal – intrusive inspections in exchange for international recognition – have been out there for ten years. However, it has taken a decade of nuclear advances checked by increased sanctions so that all parties concerned understood the seriousness of the other and seem to have become ready for a compromise.

Read more: The case of Iran teaches the EU a lesson in Global Leadership | Global Policy Journal - Practitioner, Academic, Global Governance, International Law, Economics, Security, Institutions, Comment & Opinion, Media, Events, Journal

A Trojan Horse For Social Europe - by Ronald Janssen

Conservatives and business are usually rather good in turning progressive concepts around into their policy priorities of deregulation and privatization. However, with the recently published Commission communication on the social dimension of monetary union, they have outperformed themselves. Here’s why.

aAcloser reading of the communication reveals that the Commission’s text is ambiguous. Every paragraph containing ‘social’ language is systematically accompanied by ideas and wording taken directly from economic governance’s conceptual framework.

It starts when the catastrophic figures on unemployment and social exclusion are being quoted. We have over 26 million unemployed in Europe and poverty is on the rise but still the communication manages to argue that “progress has been made”. The following sentence makes it clear exactly what the Commission means when it talks about ‘progress’: ‘Progress’ is “the reinforcement of the EU’s economic governance”.

In other words, while austerity and deregulation have unleashed a social disaster upon major parts of Europe, the Commission in its social dimension communication rejoices in the fact that the system of economic governance – a system which has even stricter austerity and tougher deregulation at its heart and is therefore likely to cause even more social disaster –  has been strengthened!  This is a major contradiction and a point of view that is out of place in a communication from the Commission’s social directorate.

Things get even worse when the Commission – in the communication’s conclusions – bluntly states that “a well functioning monetary union requires flexible markets”. This statement defies all imagination. In several member states, trade unions and workers are now being confronted with a European system of economic governance questioning key workers’ rights such as the right to collective bargaining, the right to a decent wage, and the right to a stable job. Interventions even go as far as cutting minimum wages and allowing bogus trade unions to undermine collective bargaining by representative social partners.

And what is the Commission’s social communication reply? That markets, and this includes the labour market as well, have to be flexible! One cannot avoid the impression that now the entire Commission has simply given up on workers’ rights and that, in answering the question whether to save the single currency or workers’ rights, has chosen the former.

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