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1/31/14

European Stocks Decline, Posting Worst January Since 2010 - Namitha Jagadeesh

 European stocks fell, posting their worst start to the year since 2010, as companies from Electrolux AB to Vedanta Resources Plc dropped after reporting results.

Electrolux slid the most since August 2011 after earnings missed analysts’ estimates. Vedanta Resources Plc lost 3.6 percent after saying copper output in Zambia, Australia and India declined. LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA jumped 7.9 percent after reporting growth in fashion and leather-goods sales rebounded in the fourth quarter.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index slipped 0.3 percent to 322.52 at the close of trading, paring earlier losses of as much as 1.7 percent. The equities measure declined 1.8 percent this month as emerging-market currencies tumbled, a Chinese manufacturing gauge contracted and the Federal Reserve slowed its pace of bond buying. The index fell 0.7 percent this week.

 Read more: European Stocks Decline, Posting Worst January Since 2010 - Bloomberg

1/30/14

Apps Security: 92% of Top 500 Android Apps Carry Security or Privacy Risk

Apps carry security risks
About 460 of the top 500 Android applications create a security or privacy risk when downloaded to Android devices, according to new research. And that’s largely because of a lack of user education, and the fact that mobile users don’t mind sharing personal information for free apps in return.

MetaIntell, a vendor that specializes in cloud-based mobile risk management (MRM), set about testing the top apps in a range of stores, including Amazon, CNET, GETJAR and the official Google Play store. It found that more than 92% of the applications it tested used non-secure communication protocols, while 60% communicate with domains that are blacklisted by a reputation service.

Additional risks included developer reputation, content vulnerabilities and 20% of the apps tested had the ability to load external applications either locally or remotely – all without the express consent or knowledge of the user.

Digging deeper into the data, MetaIntell rated the risks so high on many applications that 42% of them should not be allowed onto any consumer or enterprise-owned device.

These results are from an analysis of the apps that people download the most – suggesting that much more user education is necessary when it comes to mobile use.

Read more: Infosecurity - 92% of Top 500 Android Apps Carry Security or Privacy Risk

Argentina: The ‘Walking Dead’: Dealing with the economic collapse - by Veronique de Miguel

If today you were to arrive in Argentina with a 10 dollar bill in your hand, you would experience scenes similar to a “Walking Dead” episode. Immediately, tens of people – including the government – would perceive the green breath of life in your pocket and pursue you with one single intention: obtaining your dollar bill. 

Jokes aside, the economic collapse in Argentina, and in particular its eternal romance with the American dollar, is at its maximum boiling point and ready to explode. Like millions of Argentines, I have to deal with this chaotic period, uncertainties, unknowns and a super-inflation that makes a visit to the grocery store an adventure full of unpleasant surprises with the unexpected rise in price of absolutely everything. And don’t get me started on lines of credit or plans for future payments.

The average Argentine is so used to distrusting his own currency that it was a tradition to save one’s money in dollars, until the government banned this practice. The people continued doing it, of course, except they started to buy much more expensive black market dollars in exchange caves. The summary of the current situation is that the government intends to remedy the fall of reserves with currency printing, which is not supported in the same way by the dollar. The calculation is simple, many more pesos and fewer dollars in reserve to support them, means more pesos needed for each dollar. This is called devaluation, and it’s making a lot of people very upset.

The average citizen suffers in this financial mess. Still, President Cristina Fernández denies any economic crisis is present even when, among other measures, the government has announced a freeze on prices of commodities.

Despite big ads on storefronts, those products are often missing from the shelves of supermarkets. It is common to see posters in empty shelves announcing that you are allowed to buy only item per person.

Prices of all products constantly increase day by day. Consequently, the consumption of some basic items like bread, milk and other similar items is falling at an alarming rate. People don’t buy bread – as it is a very expensive good now – and have to get along with crackers. The price of vegetables has almost become a state matter.


Read more: The ‘Walking Dead’: Dealing with the economic collapse in Argentina | Voxxi

Global Economy: An Emerging 'Perfect Storm?' 4 Key Trends To Watch - by Jack Rasmus

"With the stock market continuing to seesaw, much like a "perfect storm" at sea,  the consequence of converging bad weather fronts, significant global trends have begun to intensify, and converge, on the global economy during these past weeks."

That convergence has already begun to "come ashore" and impact US equity markets, and could likely do so even more intensely in the weeks to come. Effects on the US real economy and policy in the short to medium term are also inevitable. The convergence is still in its early phase, but its initial US "landfall" is already evident.

The IMF, the European business press and other sources - private and official - are now all warning of the growing risks of deflation on the horizon. When deflation occurs, a host of nasty things economic follow: consumers slow their spending (already a problem in Europe), businesses reduce investment causing unemployment to stagnate or even further rise (another nagging Euro condition), and debt actually rises in real terms (and we know all about Euro debt).

Deflation is probably a better indicator of a weakening "real" economy longer term than is GDP, given the limits of that latter term in measuring real trends.

Read more: An Emerging Global 'Perfect Storm?' 4 Key Trends To Watch - Seeking Alpha

Switzerland: "A reality Check" - Davos Disconnects - by Paul Stoller

Since its inception the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland has attracted an ever-increasing amount of media attention. This year was no exception.

Four thousand high-powered business executives, global leaders (presidents and ministers) not to forget celebrities like Matt Damon and Goldie Hawn converged on the exclusive Swiss resort to attend sessions, to wine, to dine, to schmooze, to make deals and to be entertained.

Amid the hoopla these "stakeholders" discussed the dangers of technologically induced employment reduction, the possibility of doing business with Iran and the increasing stability of the Eurozone.

This year Davos attendees also discussed the social responsibility of global elites to confront and remedy the persistent presence of income inequality.

Focusing on the Davos debate about the distribution of wealth, Katrin Bennhold of The New York Times quoted Pope Francis, who challenged the attendees to change the dynamic of income inequality.

The message of the Pope said: "The growth of inequality demands something more than economic growth, even though it presupposes it," Pope Francis said in a message read by one of his cardinals at the conference. "It also calls for decisions, mechanisms and processes directed to a better distribution of wealth, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality.

In addition the Pope added his plea to the conference attendees, "I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it."

Given the tone and texture of his papacy, it is clear that Pope Francis has direct experience of poverty. Can we say the same for the movers and shakers of the global elite who attended the WEF? How can these economic leaders, the vast majority of whom have little direct experience with economic hardship, have any idea what to do about it? A one-hour radically chic sensitivity session is not likely change a corporate ethos in which the world is ruled rather than served by wealth.

Which leads me to a Davos disconnect -- about assumptions. Global elites tend to look upon the world through economic lenses. This practice makes perfect economic sense, but fails to consider sufficiently, as does Pope Francis and most social scientists, the social dimensions of economic relations. From the beginnings of complex society thousands of years ago, economic and social inequality have been inextricably intertwined. Indeed most of our social systems have been constructed to reinforce social inequality rather than to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots.

Might it not be better for Davos delegates to spend more time among those whose worlds are in desperate states? If that were the case the aforementioned Davos disconnects would be less glaring. If that were the case, WEF dialogues might compel a degree of real economic and social change.

Now that would be a breath of fresh mountain air.

Read the complete report: Davos Disconnects | Paul Stoller

EU Environmental Policies: Brussels Restricts Policy To Emission Reduction And Trading - by Sonja van Renssen

The European Commission’s 2030 climate and energy package unveiled on 22 January confines itself to two main proposals: a 40% binding greenhouse gas emission reduction target and legislative reform of the EU Emission Trading Scheme.

Significantly, it does not include post-2020 national renewable energy targets or new energy efficiency targets. It also drops the fuel quality directive which underpins the use of biofuels in the transport sector. The upshot of the proposals, if adopted by the EU Member States and the European Parliament, is that the EU’s climate policy will in future be carried out almost exclusively through the Emission Trading Scheme coupled with national  emission reduction targets.

The days of micromanagement from Brussels are over.

“A game-changer for investors in renewable energy” is how one analyst summed up the European Commission’s new climate and energy package, which aims to extend the EU’s climate policies beyond 2020 to 2030.

Read more: Brussels Restricts Policy To Emission Reduction And Trading | CleanTechnica

Switzerland: Dutch economy is poised to improve -says Dutch Central Bank President Klaas Knot in Davos

The Netherlands recently kept its triple-A credit rating from Fitch, which said that the decision reflected the country’s strong underlying economic, institutional and credit fundamentals.

The rating agency kept the outlook at negative, however, because of the Netherlands’ weak economic growth prospects.

Another rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, stripped the Netherlands of its top-grade AAA rating in late November, also citing its low growth prospects.

So far that has left Germany, Luxembourg and Finland as the only members of the 17-nation euro zone with the coveted top rating from all three leading credit agencies.

Moody’s, which still rates the Netherlands triple-A with a negative outlook, will publish its next update on March 7th.

Note EU-Digest:  The Dutch economy is poised to improve after house prices stopped declining and consumer confidence rose, Dutch Central Bank President Klaas Knot said. 

“There is no need to think that the Dutch economy will structurally lag the euro zone any longer,” Knot, 46, who is also a member of the European Central Bank’s Governing Council, said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “We will have to wait for mid-February to see whether the fourth-quarter gross domestic product numbers confirm the gradual recovery.” .

The Dutch economy, the fifth-largest in the euro area, emerged from a year of recession in the third quarter as exports benefited from a nascent recovery in the currency region. The country has gone through three recessions since the origins of the global financial crisis in 2007.

Read more: Fitch affirms Netherlands credit rating - Economic News | Ireland & World Economy Headlines |The Irish Times - Fri, Jan 17, 2014

and at: The Dutch economy is poised toimprove - Bloomberg

Ukraine on the brink of Civil war As Russia Defers Aid - by Andrew K.Kramer

A former Ukrainian president warned on Wednesday that the country is now on “the brink of civil war,” and Russia added to the gloom by announcing the suspension of its financial aid package, which was all that had been keeping Ukraine solvent.

Leonid M. Kravchuk, Ukraine’s president from 1991 to 1994, issued his warning while offering his services to Parliament in mediating negotiations between the government and opposition leaders on overhauling the Constitution to weaken the power of President Viktor F. Yanukovych.

But Parliament halted work for the evening without voting on the constitutional change or another measure to assuage tension.



President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had told European Union leaders at a summit meeting Tuesday in Brussels that his government intended to fulfill its financial aid commitments to Ukraine in spite of negotiations here that could put a pro-Western government in power. Mr. Putin said the $15 billion aid package was for the Ukrainian “people.”.

But that stance was reversed at a cabinet meeting in Moscow on Wednesday, where Mr. Putin brought up the subject of the aid, saying, “I ask the government to carry out these agreements in full.”

But his prime minister, Dmitri A. Medvedev, suggested that it would be reasonable to fulfill the agreements “only when we know what economic policies the new government will implement, who will be working there, and what rules they will follow.”

Mr. Putin quickly agreed, saying, “That’s reasonable.” A report by the Itar-Tass news agency said this indicated a decision to halt the aid, meaning Ukraine would not receive a $2 billion payment expected by Friday.

Political commentators said there were other signs that Russia was raising the economic pressure on Ukraine, seemingly to discourage Mr. Yanukovych from compromising with the opposition.

Read more: Russia Defers Aid to Ukraine, and Unrest Persists - NYTimes.com

1/29/14

Cruise Ship Illness: Why Are Ships So Prone to Norovirus Outbreaks?

Gastrointestinal outbreaks relatively common on cruise ships
For nearly 600 people sickened during a Royal Caribbean International cruise to the Caribbean, their vacation has been no day at the beach.

About a fifth of the 3,050 people aboard Explorer of the Seas, which left Cape Liberty, New Jersey, on January 21 for a ten-day cruise, have come down with a gastrointestinal illness. Due to the outbreak, the ship cut the cruise two days short and returned to New Jersey, according to news reports.

Gastrointestinal outbreaks are relatively common on cruise ships. According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 14 gastrointestinal outbreaks on cruise ships in 2010 and 2011, 16 in 2012, and 9 in 2013.

Though the number of news reports on cruise ship illnesses could make it seem like such outbreaks are on the rise, they're not any more prevalent than in the 1990s and 2000s.

Instead, "People are more aware of it because of the media and better diagnostic techniques," says Michael Zimring, director of the Center for Wilderness and Travel Medicine at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the U.S., with between 19 to 21 million cases a year and more than 56,00 hospitalizations.

Once an infected person gets onboard a ship, the virus can be spread quickly, mainly through hand contact with ship railings, bathroom doors, and especially buffet food, said Zimring.

Norovirus is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in the U.S., with between 19 to 21 million cases a year and more than 56,00 hospitalizations.

Once an infected person gets onboard a ship, the virus can be spread quickly, mainly through hand contact with ship railings, bathroom doors, and especially buffet food, said Zimring.

Read more: Cruise Ship Illness: Why Are Ships So Prone to Norovirus Outbreaks?

"Beam Me Up Scotty": Turkish prime minister proves that a 10-foot hologram is the best way to deliver a speech.

Turkish PM Erdogan Delivers  Speech As A Hologram
With the State of the Union aired last night, people have been talking about things Obama could do to make the annual address less boring.

Well ... here's an idea. The Turkish PM apparently views speech-by-hologram as a legitimate communication option, because he delivered a pre-recorded speech to his party as a 10-foot hologram on Sunday. So maybe Obama should, too!

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gave his speech in front of a green screen because he couldn't make it to his party's meeting in Izmir, a city in western Turkey. At the event, his visage, and entire body, appeared out of swirling blue light at the front of the meeting as the room went dark. And naturally, the crowd went wild.

Erdoğan talked about municipal elections and a high-profile corruption scandal that has been plaguing the Turkish government. It was a more serious use of a hologram than resurrecting Tupac, but the talking points certainly didn't detract from the novelty. And as the Verge points out, holograms have been used in politics before, like when an Indian politician broadcast 26 holograms of himself around Gujarat in 2012 to make a statement about India's tech prowess. And, of course, CNN dipped a toe in the hologram waters during its 2008 election night coverage, much to viewers' confusion.

But on the whole, successful hologram implementation has been elusive. The setup has to be accurate, and nothing can disturb the beams of light forming the image. The concept is captivating, though, and offers a viewing experience that can't be achieved in the same way through other current technologies. All it would take to get the whole world buzzing about improving this technology would be if a hol-Obama had delivered the State of the Union last Tuesday night.


Data Privacy: EU justice chief accuses bloc of hypocrisy in data privacy debates

The EU needs to start protecting its own citizens from the American global spying initiatives and quit being “hypocritical” when it comes to reforming its own data protection system, said the EU’s Justice Commissioner.

Viviane Reding, a vocal critic of American cyber surveillance, lashed out against EU member states’ reaction in wake of Edward Snowden revelations, urging the bloc to protect citizens’ private information and seek more legal assurances from Washington.

“There's been a lot of hypocrisy in the debate,” Reding said at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels on Tuesday. “If the EU wants to be credible in its efforts to rebuild trust, if it wants to act as an example for other continents, it also has to get its own house in order.”

The EU itself should also look carefully at some of its [data protection] laws. Neither the Commission, the Council, nor the European Parliament can be proud of the Data Retention Directive.”

The Directive requires telecom companies to store all telephony metadata, including geo-location data. Criticizing some aspects of the Directive, Reding said that the data “is kept for too long, it is too easily accessed and the risk of abuse is too great.”

Read more: EU justice chief accuses bloc of hypocrisy in data privacy debates — RT News

EU unveils plan to ban banks' proprietary trading

The European Union has unveiled a much-delayed plan to rein in banks' proprietary trading and give supervisors the power to split off risky trading activities from safer lending operations in an effort to tackle the risks posed by banks that are deemed "too big to fail."

But following pressure from the banking industry, the proposal stops far short of a forced separation of retail banks from investment banks that was advocated 15 months ago by an EU-appointed group of experts. Officials said the plan was unlikely to be adopted any time soon given that the European Parliament--which must ratify any agreement--is set to dissolve ahead of elections in May. 

"It is certainly not satisfactory to bring something out when the last date for accepting legislation was last July," said Sharon Bowles, chairwoman of the European Parliament's influential economic affairs committee. "Nothing will happen on [this] in this Parliament." 

Michel Barnier, the EU commissioner responsible for the proposal, admitted Tuesday that the text wouldn't be voted on until the end of this year or early next year. 

The blueprint by the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, is the final piece in Europe's lengthy overhaul of its banking system in the wake of the financial crisis, a process that has encompassed fatter capital cushions, bonus caps for bankers and plans for a euro-zone banking union. 

Wednesday's proposal is aimed narrowly at a problem that hadn't yet been addressed by the cascade of new EU regulations--so-called "too-big-to-fail" banks, which benefit from lower funding costs because investors assume governments will bail them out rather than let them collapse. It seeks to harmonize laws that have already been adopted in several EU countries to deal with too-big-to-fail institutions, including Germany, France and the U.K. 

The commission plans to impose an outright ban on proprietary trading by about 30 of the region's biggest banks, following the example set by the Volcker rule in the U.S., although the latter will apply to all banks. Europe's 30 biggest lenders include HSBC in the U.K., Deutsche Bank and France's BNP Paribas.

Read more: EU unveils plan to ban banks' proprietary trading - MarketWatch

Immigrants Benefit Host Nations' Economies, so Why Is Public Perception Negative? - by Anna Leijonhufvud

Almira is one of many millions of immigrants who every year cross borders in search of a better life. A year ago, she left her home village in Croatia to find work in Helsingborg, Sweden, and today she's gone to Arbetsförmedlingen, a Swedish public employment agency, to find a job. "I worked as a cleaner for a hotel, but the work is tiresome," she said. "I would want to work as a receptionist, but I don't think my Swedish is good enough yet."

Immigrants like Almira are often seen as having a negative impact on the host country, such as when they allegedly take jobs from the native-born. But as anti-immigration views have gained traction--even in government  policy in some cases, as in the U.K.--an increasingly large body of work suggests that assumptions that immigrants are harmful to a country's economy are unfounded.

"There is overwhelming evidence that migrants have a positive impact on the economy," said Peter Sutherland, the U.N. secretary-general's special representative for migration and development. Sutherland was on the panel for the World Economic Forum's Open Forum session titled "Immigration: Welcome or Not?"

Also on the panel was former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who agreed with Sutherland that immigrants often bring lots of advantages with them. To make his point, Annan referred to a poster showing Albert Einstein trying to cross the border into a country with a sack of clothes on his back. The caption read: "The sack of clothes is not the only thing that the immigrant brings."

While many of the leaders speaking at the WEF appear convinced, the evidence that immigrants have a positive effect on their host countries' economies has not yet had much impact on public perception.

Editors Note: The question is why European Governments are  not making sure they change this Public perception about the benefits of immigration ? Instead they are letting populist, nationalistic politicians like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Marie Le Pen in France and others in Europe control the debate.

Read more: Immigrants Benefit Host Nations' Economies, so Why Is Public Perception Negative? | Student Reporter

Turkey Rate Increase Stems Lira Decline as Basci Defies Erdogan - Onur Ant, Taylan Bilgic and Selcuk Gokoluk

The lira swung between gains and losses as traders assessed whether a doubling of interest rates would be enough to stem capital outflows in the face of further reductions in U.S. monetary stimulus. Stocks fell.

The Turkish currency strengthened more than 4 percent following the central bank’s midnight rates decision before depreciating as much as 2.4 percent. It climbed 0.5 percent to 2.2407 per dollar at 7:23 p.m. in Istanbul. Yields on two-year benchmark notes decreased 18 basis points to 10.88 percent and the Borsa Istanbul 100 Index (XU100) of shares slumped 2.3 percent.

Governor Erdem Basci is fighting to restore credibility eroded by a currency run that gained speed amid domestic upheaval and a global rout of emerging markets. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said yesterday he’s always opposed higher rates, is embroiled in a graft scandal that has ensnared several ministers and the chief executive officer of a state-owned bank. It spooked investors just as the reduction of U.S. monetary stimulus began sucking money out of riskier assets.

“The immediate knee-jerk reaction last night was that the Central Bank of Turkey had in some sense passed an important test,” David Simmonds, the head of currency and emerging-markets strategy at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London, said in an e-mail. “The broader perspective that having to raise rates to defend your currency is ultimately a very tough place fundamentally to be, so broader macro pressures persist.”

Read more: Turkey Rate Increase Stems Lira Decline as Basci Defies Erdogan - Bloomberg

European Aircraft Industry: Airbus A350 heads to northern Canada for tests in cold, snow - by Stephen Shankland

A350 in Canada for winter endurance tests
Anyone suffering from cold winter weather in the United States should think of the plight of 48 Airbus employees who have taken a test version of the company's new A350 XWB passenger jet to Iqaluit, Canada.

Airbus specialists began testing the new twin-aisle jet in Iqaluit, a small town on Baffin Island, north of Newfoundland and west of Greenland, the company said Tuesday. Airbus debuted the energy-efficient A350 XWB at the Paris air show in June 2013, pitting it chiefly against Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

The cold-weather testing is geared to confirm that the jet can operate successfully, to include starting the engines and aborting a takeoff, in temperatures as low as minus 18 degrees F, or minus 28 degrees C. The testing also checks if reverse thrust works in snowy conditions, Airbus said. 

The cold-weather testing is geared to confirm that the jet can operate successfully, to include starting the engines and aborting a takeoff, in temperatures as low as minus 18 degrees F, or minus 28 degrees C. The testing also checks if reverse thrust works in snowy conditions, Airbus said.

A different model of the A350 XWB just completed high-elevation testing in Bolivia, Airbus said. 

Read more: Airbus A350 heads to northern Canada for tests in cold, snow | Cutting Edge - CNET News

AT&T Is Europe Obsessed, Ignoring The Real Growth Markets - by Jasper Hamill

To some observers, the mobile communications market in Europe is hidebound, rule-bound and stuck in its ways. Yet despite the obvious opportunities on offer in developing nations, the American communications giant AT&T appears to have a perplexing fascination with the old world. Even though it has now dismissed the idea of taking over the British firm Vodaphone, many industry gossips still feel that AT&T is still mulling some kind of European invasion in the future.

There is some sense in such a strategy. If the American telecoms giant were to press forward with a Vodafone takeover at some later juncture, it would create a huge company worth about £150billion ($249billion) with a reach stretching across the continent. Seeing as Europe has been notoriously slow to take up 4G mobile broadband, there could be a huge potential windfall for any firm which can persuade the Continent to upgrade from hoary old 3G. 

There is some sense in such a strategy. If the American telecoms giant were to press forward with a Vodafone takeover at some later juncture, it would create a huge company worth about £150billion ($249billion) with a reach stretching across the continent. Seeing as Europe has been notoriously slow to take up 4G mobile broadband, there could be a huge potential windfall for any firm which can persuade the Continent to upgrade from hoary old 3G.

Read more: AT&T Is Europe Obsessed, Ignoring The Real Growth Markets - Forbes

Germany: Farting Cows Make Barn Explode

A herd of dairy cows nearly lifted the roof off their barn in central Germany when methane released by the animals caused an explosion.

Police in Hesse state said in a statement that a static electric charge apparently triggered the detonation, and a spurt of flame, on Monday at a farm in Rasdorf. The roof was slightly damaged and one cow suffered light burns. No people were hurt.

Police say 90 cows are kept in the shed and it wasn't clear why quantities of methane had built up. Bovine belching and flatulence releases large quantities of the gas.

Read more: Farting Cows Make Barn Explode In Germany

USA - State of the Union : Full Text of Obama’s Positive State of the Union Address

Obama2014 State of the Union address
For the complete text of President Obama's State of the Union address  click here

First reactions to President Obama's 2014 address were positive and reactions included the adjectives: Optimistic, Forceful, Feisty, Bipartisan and Patriotic.

His proposal to increase the minimum wage to $10.10  received a tumultuous applause.

Among one of the less favorable comments was the fact that the President barely mentioned the hot 2013 issue of "Gun Control", regardless of all the tragedy caused by guns also in 2013 resulting in numerous casualties, either accidentally or criminally, for lack of effective gun control laws in America.

Europeans hoping to hear more about what was going to be done about the NSA spy issue in relation to privacy rights of European Citizens also did not come away totally satisfied by the speech.

In general, however, it was one of President  Obama's better speeches, which like the winter weather Washington was experiencing on the evening of the speech, basically left the Republican opposition in the cold, with very few new ground breaking proposals they could bring to the table in their rebuttal.

EU-Digest

1/28/14

Labor Market: The future of jobs: The onrushing wave

In 1930, when the world was “suffering…from a bad attack of economic pessimism”, John Maynard Keynes wrote a broadly optimistic essay, “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren”. It imagined a middle way between revolution and stagnation that would leave the said grandchildren a great deal richer than their grandparents. But the path was not without dangers.

One of the worries Keynes admitted was a “new disease”: “technological unemployment…due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour.” His readers might not have heard of the problem, he suggested—but they were certain to hear a lot more about it in the years to come.

For the most part, they did not. Nowadays, the majority of economists confidently wave such worries away. By raising productivity, they argue, any automation which economises on the use of labour will increase incomes. That will generate demand for new products and services, which will in turn create new jobs for displaced workers. To think otherwise has meant being tarred a Luddite—the name taken by 19th-century textile workers who smashed the machines taking their jobs.

A new wave of technological progress may dramatically accelerate this automation of brain-work. Evidence is mounting that rapid technological progress, which accounted for the long era of rapid productivity growth from the 19th century to the 1970s, is back. The sort of advances that allow people to put in their pocket a computer that is not only more powerful than any in the world 20 years ago, but also has far better software and far greater access to useful data, as well as to other people and machines, have implications for all sorts of work.

Read more: The future of jobs: The onrushing wave | The Economist

Banking Industry: Best credit and debit cards to use abroad - Joanna Faith

You don't have to let excessive fees and charges dampen your holiday. Find out which card providers offer the best deal. Taking large amounts of cash on holiday is rarely a good idea which is why most people nowadays use their credit or debit cards abroad.

Cards are quick and efficient to use and can easily be replaced if they get lost or stolen.
But it is important to remember there is nearly always a charge for using your credit and debit cards internationally, so before you step foot out of the country it is worth finding out what you will be charged for and where you will incur charges.

If you are prepared to shop around, there are a number of cards on the market which are free to use abroad.
Holders of the Post Office platinum credit card can use their card for free on purchases made overseas in a foreign currency, even if they are shopping from home, online or over the phone.

Halifax Clarity and Lloyds Bank Choice Rewards and Avios Rewards credit cards are also fee-free for use worldwide. The Lloyds Avios card also allows you to upgrade up to Business Class when you spend £7,000 a year.

Nationwide's Select card offers unlimited commission-free purchases abroad but you will need to be a Nationwide current account customer to apply.

And for the over-50s, Saga's Over 50s Platinum Visa charges 0% on foreign currency fees for transactions worldwide.

If you decide to use your debit card for purchases in shops or restaurants, be warned that fees for foreign use range from 2-3%. For example, Nationwide charges 2% with its FlexAccount. This is a good account for travelling as it includes a Defaqto 5 Star Rated travel insurance policy if you meet the monthly terms of the account.

However, one exception is the Norwich and Peterborough Building Society's Gold Light Current Account which allows holders to use their card for debit card transactions overseas with no charges.
Metro Bank customers can use their cards for free in Europe but from 18 March 2014, there will be a charge for transactions made in the rest of the world.

Here are four essentials tips for travellers from Matt Sanders, banking and credit card spokesperson at Gocompare.com:
• Use credit cards rather than debit cards if you must use plastic abroad as there are more available without foreign transaction fees. If you do use a credit card though, stick to purchases and not cash withdrawals as you may often find a higher APR on cash withdrawals on credit cards.
• If you insist on using your debit card, elect to convert the transaction at the point of sale or withdrawal. This will avoid the non-sterling transaction fees which range from 2 - 3% on many high street accounts.
• Inform your bank that you're travelling and will be using your card abroad to avoid having it blocked and having to waste time, and possibly money, on the phone to get it rectified.

Read more: Best credit and debit cards to use abroad - YourMoney

NSA Surveillance Divides the US Republican Party - by Conor Friedersdorf

A Republican Party resolution that renounces NSA spying is an extraordinary document. For over a decade, the GOP dismissed civil-libertarian complaints about the War on Terror. The RNC stood behind Team Bush through the war crime of torture and a secret, illegal program of warrantless surveillance on U.S. citizens.

Circa 2009, the Tea Party began vying for control of the Republican Party. But even then, mass surveillance on innocents wasn't among its complaints.

President Obama's first term would play out with the GOP opposing him on virtually every issue except his embrace of his predecessor's War on Terror approach.
But Obama's second term has been different.
Rand Paul's filibuster against lethal drone strikes drew support from Senate colleagues Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee. Representative Justin Amash has distinguished himself as a leading civil libertarian in the House. 
And is if to signify that the GOP establishment is changing along with its elected officials, the RNC voted in a winter meeting to literally renounce NSA domestic surveillance. "It was passed by a voice vote as part of a package of RNC proposals," Benjy Sarlin reports. "Not a single member rose to object or call for further debate, as occurred for other resolutions." That's incredible, because it's almost impossible to exaggerate how unequivocally the resolution condemns the NSA.

Read more: NSA Surveillance Divides the US  Republican Party - Conor Friedersdorf - The Atlantic

1/27/14

France - Turkey: President Hollande cautiously backs Turkey's EU bid

French President Francois Hollande has cautiously backed Turkey's aim to join the European Union despite its recent crackdown on police and judiciary and earlier French reservations about the idea.

But the trip, the first by a French head of state to Turkey in 22 years, was dramatic enough on its own with Hollande reviving a plan to submit Turkey's EU ambitions to a French referendum.

That pledge will likely draw the ire of Turkey, as it did back when former French president Jacques Chirac first floated it in 2005, before shelving it three years later.

Hollande steered clear of any mention of his private life while in Ankar, presenting himself as a statesman with a decisive policy on the EU ambitions held by mostly Muslim Turkey, with its population of 76 million.

"No need to stoke fears.  The French people will any case be consulted," he said during a news conference with Gul.

Noting that Turkey had resumed EU membership negotiations late last year following a three-year hiatus, Hollande added: "Negotiations do not entail membership. The issue of membership will be decided upon at a referendum."

Under EU rules, accession of a new member requires unanimous approval by the bloc's current 28 members.
European leaders criticised the AK Party leader in Brussels last week, saying democratic principles needed to be upheld.

Read more: Hollande cautiously backs Turkey's EU bid - Europe - Al Jazeera English

European Women's Power: Reshaping trust in Europe with women's vision

Women make up half the world's population. Do they not have a right to half the representation, half the space and half the share of voices on all political issues? The deficit of women represented in European politics is obvious and, most of all, counterproductive, writes Véronique Morali.

Véronique Morali is the president of the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society. She is the president of Fimalac Development, vice-chairman of Fitch Group and the chairman of Web media AlloCiné.

Tomorrow, the Women's Forum for the Economy and Society will convene a special meeting at the European Parliament to discuss how to re-create trust in Europe. Europe today is in crisis; we all know this. That crisis goes far beyond the very significant financial difficulties that our banking systems have been facing since 2007.

It involves the need to recreate a sense of community and empowerment for collective action on a range of important social issues. This is a crisis of trust — a failure of public confidence in Europe's own institutions and leadership.

But if citizens feel increasingly distant from their political leadership is that so very surprising, when the institutions and leadership of Europe so visibly fail to reflect the communities they are intended to serve?

It's very obvious that there is a deficit of representation of women in European politics. At every level, from the European Commission to the European Parliament — including the European Council, the Court of Justice, the Central Bank and the Court of Auditors, women are not represented in proportion to their numbers, their skills, their talents or their rights.

One third of the members of the European Parliament are women. Look harder, and in four countries – Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic and Luxembourg — women make up less than one-quarter of MEPs. In national parliaments, exactly half the 28 country parliaments of the Union are made up of fewer than one-quarter women. The European Commission, meanwhile, has never been led by a woman. Currently just 9 out of the 28 European Commissioners are women — again, barely one-third.

Does this matter? Well, for one thing, it's counterproductive. Any society or group that deprives itself of half the talents and skills available is hurting its own chances of success. It's also not fair. And a society that is unfair — which creates obstacles to the advancement of individuals because of characteristics that are not relevant, such as ethnic origin or gender — is a society that generates either bitterness or disengagement or mistrust.

Read more: Reshaping trust in Europe with women's vision | EurActiv

Netherlands - Banking Industry: Rabobank to Eliminate More Jobs in the Netherlands - by Martin van Tartwijk

Dutch lender Rabobank Group will eliminate more jobs in the Netherlands as it seeks to downsize its domestic operations and further reduce costs.

The bank said late Friday it will cut between 1,000 and 2,000 jobs in thenext several years, largely at its headquarters in Utrecht. The overhaul will also affect the Dutch activities of Rabobank's international arm, which will be integrated into the headquarters.

The move will help to reduce annual costs EUR220 million by 2016, the bank said. It follows a previously unveiled restructuring in the Netherlands that will result in 8,000 job losses and the closure of hundreds of branches.

The Dutch bank employs about 60,000 world-wide. Like other lenders, Rabobank is seeking to slash costs as it faces a stricter regulatory environment and as customers are increasingly shifting to online banking.

Read more: Rabobank to Eliminate More Jobs in the Netherlands - WSJ.com

Syria-Turkey: Kurds carve out autonomy as war rages - Erika Solomon

In the northeast corner of Syria, a pocket of stability is emerging amid the country’s raging civil war. Here the talk is of building, not bombing.

Local Kurdish leaders have launched projects to revive normal life and encourage people to stay. They are creating a regional administration, producing cheap fuel, subsidizing seeds for crops and trying to restore electricity to an area that had lost power for nearly 24 hours a day. And so far they are fighting off the forces of both President Bashar Assad and the rebels who want to oust him.

“We have no power or water. Food is short,” said Hardin, a 30-year-old teacher, shivering as cold rain began to fall at the funeral of a Kurdish fighter.

“But before, our minds and spirits were repressed. Now our dreams are becoming reality. This is the Kurdish moment. Going back to the way we were is not an option. It would be a betrayal of those who sacrificed their lives.”

The 30 million Kurds spread across Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey have been the world’s largest ethnic group without an independent homeland. Only the Kurds in Iraq, who displaced Iraqi forces in the 1990s when a U.S. and British no-fly zone was in place against Saddam Hussein, have carved out an area of real autonomy.

Now some of Syria’s 2.2 million Kurds sense an opportunity to take another step toward the long-term dream of creating an independent state of “Kurdistan.”

Recently, on the eve of peace talks in Switzerland, Kurds in Syria declared a provincial government in the area, after international powers rejected their request to send a separate delegation.

Local leaders insist they have no plans for secession but say they are preparing a local constitution and aim to hold polls early this year. This is not independence but “local democratic administration,” they say.

Read more: Kurds carve out autonomy as war rages | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR

World Inc.- Doomsday Scenario: "the alignment of NAFTA - Transpacific Partnership And EU-US Transatlantic Trade Agreement"

World Inc.,
A new era could be dawning for the world as capitalism undergoes a major re-alignment

The result will be a joyous celebration, not only on Wall Street, but also among the multi-national empires around the worldt.

Profit may finally be crowned King as all Nation states around the Globe unite into one World, Inc

"Yes, a coronation worthy of Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) “the Sun King,” who successfully increased the influence of the crown by establishing authority over the church and the aristocracy, thereby consolidating absolute monarchy in France", says the UK Progressive.

"The upcoming coronation (maybe) of King Profit, therefore, shall be the pinnacle of capitalism for there is no higher level for it to achieve beyond “absolutism.”

The date for the coronation has not yet been set, but it could be real soon, especially if the US Congress grants President Obama “fast-track” authority to approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement amongst 12 major Pacific nations for free trade, which is seen as very positive for multi-national businesses."

If you don't know what TPP is see it as similar to NAFTA, but on steroids,.

NAFTA might be seen as a success in terms of corporate profit but once NAFTA officially crossed the border into Mexico in 1994, all hell broke loose for the middle class folks. Mexico’s annual per capita growth became a flat-line, the lowest in the hemisphere, real wages are down, unemployment is up.

Heavily subsidized U.S. crops made Mexican crop prices drop, driving small Mexican farmers off the farm and resulting in mass unemployment.

Today some 20 million Mexicans live with food poverty, while hundreds of thousands of Mexicans have headed for the U.S. border to find “a better life”  resulting in major US immigration problems  

On the other hand, even though NAFTA has not benefitted average taxpayers in any way or form, NAFTA  has proven to be very beneficial for multi-national corporations.

They can now set up shop at will just across the US border, without any nagging and complex US environmental  and health regulations to adhere to while benefiting from dirt-cheap local wages. As Ross Perot once said when he ran for the US presidency in 1994, "you can hear the sucking sound of US jobs going to Mexico".

Consequently, also labor-wise NAFTA has been a bad deal for all the partners of the agreement, except, yes you guessed it right, the trans national corporations. 

The TTP will be granting even  greater privileges to transnational corporations than with NAFTA, fulfilling corporations wildest dreams. A Wikileaks’ secret document shows how transnationals will henceforth be able to sue governments if a country’s laws or policies get in the way of corporate profits. Yes, transnationals will have carte blanche to do whatever they want, like King Louis redux.

When a nation gets in the way of profits, no problem; transnationals can sue the government for damages to profitability as part of the so-called  investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) agreements

What would make the "Coronation" even more complete and threatening would be an agreement  between the EU-US on a TransatlanticTtrade Pact (TTIP).

It would mean opening the door for big corporations to enforce their interests against EU legislation," said EU parliamentarian Bernd Lange. "This would deprive states of crucial policy space in important fields such as health and environment." 

The EU-Commission, however,  is dangling unsubstantiated benefits of this trade agreement  including the dubious possibility that it could bring an annual windfall of 119 billion euros ($161 billion) to the 28-member bloc.

One can only hope that the EU-Parliament requests complete transparency on all the details of these ongoing negotiations and asks all theprobing and  necessary questions. They should certainly not overlook one of the most important and negative factors in these negotiations, which is that they are dealing with a partner across the table who has spied on them (NSA) and will  probably continuing to do so.

EU-Digest

1/26/14

France: Hormones In Overdrive - President Hollande confirms separation from partner

Ms Gayet (41) and President Francoise Hollande (59)
"I wish to make it known that I have ended my partnership with Valérie Trierweiler," Hollande said, adding that he was speaking as a private individual and not as the president of the French Republic

Trierweiler, 48, will travel to India on Sunday for a charity trip.

The high-profile pair have been together since 2006. Two weeks ago, celebrity magazine Closer published a report that Hollande was having an affair with French actress Gayet. It ran pictures of a nocturnal visitor arriving via scooter at Gayet's apartment. It identified the nighttime caller, whose face was obscured by his motorcycle helmet, as the French president.

Trierweiler was hospitalised for "exhaustion" after the news broke. When she was discharged on January 18 she moved into La Lanterne, an official presidential residence next to the Versailles Palace.

Hollande has four children from a previous relationship with Ségolène Royal, a senior member of his Socialist Party and a 2007 presidential candidate.

Trierweiler, an arts columnist for weekly magazine Paris Match, is not married to Hollande but assumed the role of first lady at official functions following his election in May 2012.

Hollande has known Gayet since at least 2012, when she featured in a campaign clip in which she described him as a "humble" and "fantastic" man.

Read more: Hollande confirms separation from partner Trierweiler - France - France 24

USA: Corporate Greed: 13 Mindblowing Facts About America’s Tax-Dodging Corporations

A judicious writer avoids adjectives like “mindblowing,” especially when covering political or economic issues.
But no other word seems to describe the stunning reality of corporate taxation in modern America, which cries out for the italics-heavy, exclamation-point-driven format made famous by Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Stylistic overkill? Read these thirteen facts and you may change your mind.
1. We’re told we can’t “afford” full Social Security benefits, even though closing corporate tax-haven loopholes would pay for Obama’s “chained CPI” benefit cut more than ten times over!

Abusive offshore tax havens cost the US $150 billion in lost tax revenue every year (via FACT Coalition). That’s $1.5 trillion over the next ten years.

The “chained CPI” cut, proposed by President Obama and supported by Republicans, is projected to “save” a total of $122 billion to $130 billion over the same time period by denying benefits to seniors and disabled people.

It’s true. “Serious” politicians and pundits are demanding that ordinary people sacrifice earned benefits, while at the same time allowing corporations to avoid more than ten times as much in taxes.
2. Corporate tax rates are near their 60-year low, even though profits are at a 60-year high!
Need we say more?  (Source: Americans for Tax Fairness.)
3. Wells Fargo got $8 billion in tax breaks, even as executives at its subsidiary Wachovia avoided indictment for laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels!

 That’s right. Wells Fargo paid a negative tax rate of -1.4 percent between 2008 and 2010 while Wachovia, a Wells Fargo subsidiary, admitted to laundering more than $378 billion for Mexican drug gangs.

We’re talking about crazed killers like “El Loco” and gangs like “Los Zetas” – gangs who cut people’ heads off and toss them out onto disco dance floors or display them in the town square.
Wachovia bankers ignored repeated warnings from law enforcement officials, and continued to launder money for cartels that have murdered tens of thousands.

And yet no criminal indictments were handed down because, as a Senate investigator told Bloomberg News, “”There’s no capacity to regulate or punish them because they’re too big to be threatened with failure.”
4. Some other huge corporations paid less than nothing, too.
Pepco Holdings (-57.6% tax rate)
General Electric (-45.3%)
DuPont (-3.4%)
Verizon (-2.9%)
Boeing (-1.8%)
Honeywell (-0.7%)
5. The amount of money US corporations are holding offshore is an estimated one trillion dollars!
Rather than tax these profits the way other countries do, corporate politicians are promoting a tax “repatriation” break that would let corporations “bring this money home” while paying even less than their currently low rates.
They tried that in 2004 and it didn’t create any jobs. In fact, corporations took the tax break and then fired thousands of people. What “repatriation” did do is line a lot of wealthy investors’ pockets. So, naturally, they want to do it again.
6. One building in the Cayman Islands is the official location of 18,857 corporations!

According to the Government Accountability Office, a five-story building called “Ugland House” is home to nearly twenty thousand corporations. That’s impressive, especially for such a small edifice. (Perhaps it has supernatural half-floors and space-time defying “mind tunnels” like the office in Being John Malkovich.)

While impressive, Ugland House’s distinction pales next to that of 1209 North Orange Street in Wilmington, Delaware. According to one investigation, that address is home to 217,000 corporations.

That’s because Delaware has very generous tax rules – and, as a result, is home to more than half of all the corporate subsidiaries in the United States.That’s startling, since only 1/342th of the nation’s population lives in that state (917,092 residents, out of a national total of 313,914,040, according to the latest( census results).
7. Conservatives complain about the “official” corporate tax rate in this country, but corporations actually pay roughly one-third of the official rate in actual taxes.
The official, or “statutory,” corporate tax rate is 35 percent. But the actual rate paid by American corporations is only 12 percent, less than that paid by many middle-class Americans.  (Source: The FACT Coalition.) 

In fact, US Corporations pay less tax as a percentage of the GDP than corporations in Canada. Or Japan …
… or South Korea. Or Norway. Or Luxembourg, New Zealand, Israel, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Finland, and Italy.  (Source: OECD StatsExtract interactive database.) 
8. Corporations used to pay 30 percent of Federal taxes, and now they pay less than 7 percent!
That’s because the corporate tax rate has plunged since Dwight D. Eisenhower was President and is now the lowest it’s been in modern history.
(Source: FACT Coalition.)
9. Big corporations paid $216 million to Congress and got $223 billion in tax breaks!
As Citizens for Tax Justice and USPIRG reported, 280 large and profitable corporations contributed $216 million to Congressional campaigns over four election cycles and got nearly a quarter of a trillion dollars in tax breaks.
That’s a terrific investment for them – a return of more than a thousand to one – but it’s a bad deal for the American people.
10. We don’t even know who owns some corporations, even though that makes it easier to evade taxes, dodge creditors, avoid paying alimony or child support, and even fund terrorism!

Here are some examples of investments that might represent a terror threat. Corporate interests are blocking disclosure rules that would help protect our national security.
11. Bank of America committed foreclosure fraud, was bailed out by the government, and then paid no taxes on $4.4 billion in profit!

That’s right. In 2010, while BofA was negotiating a sweet settlement deal for its foreclosure fraud, it paid nothing in taxes. (Source: FACT Coalition.) Zero, on $17.2 billion in offshore earnings. (Source: Americans for Tax Fairness.)

Its $4.1 billion tax break came on the heels of the bank’s taxpayer-funded bailout, immunity from prosecution for its criminal employees, and a cushy government settlement for its foreclosure fraud.

Now David Dayen reports that the bank has apparently continued to defraud customers in violation of its government settlement. Whistleblowers have stated in affidavits that they were “told to lie” to customers, continued to deceive homeowners before foreclosing on them, and flipped customers to new servicing companies to invalidate previous homeowner agreements.
12. What they call “tax reform” would actually prevent our elected representatives from giving businesses financial incentives to improve our lives!

The word “reform” is an honorable one that’s been put to some dishonorable uses lately. “Entitlement reform,” for example, is merely a euphemism for gutting Social Security and Medicare.

Similarly, corporate-backed politicians are pushing a formula for permanent corporate tax breaks and calling it “tax reform.” They insist their “reform” be “revenue neutral” and say it will “broaden the base while lowering the rate.”

Here’s an English translation: The current, unsustainably low rates for corporations would be made permanent, while eliminating many tax deductions in the name of “simplification.”
Here’s what that really means: The domestic tax credit for creating jobs? Gone. Tax breaks for protecting the environment with clean energy, rather than harming other people’s health and leaving a mess for the rest of us to clean up? Gone.

All in all we’d lose dozens of important policies that make our lives better, while permanently fixing corporate taxes at today’s cushy giveaway rates.
“Reform”? Ripoff is more like it.
13. Despite their greed, mismanagement, and freeloading, tax-dodging corporations are using shell organizations like “Fix the Debt” and “the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget” to tell ordinary Americans they have to sacrifice even more to preserve corporate wealth!

These organizations are using the heads of failed banks – people like Chase’s Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs – to dispense “advice on the economy.” That’s like getting navigation tips from the captain of the Exxon Valdez.
(Tax breaks for Exxon Mobil: $4.1 billion between 2008 and 2010. The company paid no taxes at all in 2009.)

These executives and their paid spokespeople tell the rest of us we need to “sacrifice” and “tighten our belts” so that their party can go on forever. And too often they’re treated as credible sources, rather than as corrupting influences on our public life.

It’s all true – and there are many more astonishing facts to be found in the world of corporate taxation. To fix the economy more people will need to learn about them – and demand that they be changed.

Read more: 13 Mindblowing Facts About America’s Tax-Dodging Corporations

European cybercop - by Jonathan Ames

The EU believes strict regulation is the path to online security, and accountants are already lining up to seize the advice work

As action heroes go, the sombre-suited members of the European Commission and their hordes of faceless Eurocrats aren’t a patch on a pumped, bloodied Bruce Willis in his sweat-soaked vest.

But the commission’s president, plucky Portuguese José Barroso, and his band of 28 fellow commissioners have cast themselves in the roles of cyber policemen to rival the follicly challenged American and his bid to save humanity in Die Hard 4.0.

Film buffs will know that Willis has to do battle with a mastermind cyber criminal who first wants to hack into the US national security systems before doing all sorts of nasty things and then, of course, taking over the world. Winning the day involves two hours of shouting, gunfire, explosions and cheeky dialogue.

Typically, the European Commission’s version is somewhat more prosaic. It involves a directive – the draft Network and Information Security Directive, to be precise.

But from where they sit in Brussels, that 48 pages of prospective legislation is no less important or indeed less impressive than detective John McClane seeing off the hacker’s henchmen by launching a police cruiser at a looming helicopter. It’s just a matter of perspective and, Europe being Europe, taste.

Also, Europe being Europe, the directive is not exactly straightforward. Confusion reigns over what it will look like in final draft, which business sectors will be affected, whether it is necessary or is just another example of Brussels legislating simply because it can and, indeed, whether it will ever come to pass in light of the forthcoming European Parliament elections.

What is relatively certain is that cyber security is an area that ultimately will be legislated for in Europe. And some suggest the global accountancy practices are already aiming to steal a march on law firms to advise multinational corporations on how to cope.

Should the legal profession battle the accountants for market share in advising on the directive?
As one lawyer comments: “We don’t go through a single day without there being a headline about cyber security, so clearly something needs to happen.”

That suggests the directive, whether in present or subsequent form, represents an opportunity. But first, lawyers must get a grip on what the draft legislation will cover. And doing so requires patience.

Read more: European cybercop | Analysis | The Lawyer

Environmental Goods And Equipment: Global bloc aims for free trade on environmental goods

The world's biggest trading powers including Canada committed on Friday to achieving global free trade in environmental goods, everything from solar panels to wind turbines and water recycling technology.

No timeline was given for the deal, which is contingent on a critical mass of members from the World Trade Organization agreeing to participate.

A joint statement by the United States, EU, China, Japan, Canada and other countries out of Davos, where the World Economic Forum is meeting outlined the intention to achieve free trade in environmental goods.

"We announce our commitment to achieve global free trade in environmental goods and pledge to work together, and with other WTO members similarly committed to liberalization, to begin preparing for negotiations in order to advance this shared goal," the statement said.

The group wants to “eliminate tariffs for goods we all need to protect our environment and address climate change.” It intends to build on an APEC agreement to reduce tariffs by 2015 on an agreed list of environmental goods.

The WTO estimates that the global market in environmental goods, technologies and services at about euro 1.02 trillion  ($1.4 trillion).

Read more: Global bloc aims for free trade on environmental goods - Business - CBC News

US Political Scene: Most Latinos want government action on climate change, poll finds - by Tony Barboza

Latinos overwhelmingly favor government action to fight climate change, voicing a level of support exceeded only in their views on immigration reform, according to a new poll commissioned by an environmental group.

Nine in 10 Latino voters surveyed said it was important for the U.S. government to address global warming and climate change; 80% favored presidential action to fight carbon pollution that causes it, according to the nationwide survey funded by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Other polling has shown that Latinos by wide margins back action to curb pollution, climate change and other environmental problems. The latest poll found even more intense support for policies to counter global warming.

“Almost any way you sliced it, Latinos were saying yes, we think there’s a role for government to regulate and limit carbon pollution,” said Matt Barreto, a professor of political science at the University of Washington and co-founder of Latino Decisions, the political opinion research firm that conducted the poll.

Those views cut across age, income and party affiliation, according to the survey. The poll, however, found somewhat lower support for government action on climate change among Latino Republicans and higher support for environmental protections among Democrats and young Latinos.

The results echo other surveys conducted in recent years for groups like the Sierra Club and National Council of La Raza that have found that a higher percentage of Latinos believe climate change is happening than do Americans as a whole.

The latest poll, conducted in November and December 2013 by Latino Decisions, interviewed 805 registered Latino voters across the country in English or Spanish. The Natural Resources Defense Council said it worked with the polling firm to design the questions.

Read more: Most Latinos want government action on climate change, poll finds - latimes.com

EU Environmental Goals: 2030 climate and energy goals for a competitive, secure and low-carbon EU economy

A reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% below the 1990 level, an EU-wide binding target for renewable energy of at least 27%, renewed ambitions for energy efficiency policies, a new governance system and a set of new indicators to ensure a competitive and secure energy system. These are the pillars of the new EU framework on climate and energy for 2030 presented today by the European Commission. 

Supported by a detailed analysis on energy prices and costs, the 2030 framework will ensure regulatory certainty for investors and a coordinated approach among Member States, leading to the development of new technologies. The framework aims to drive continued progress towards a low-carbon economy and a competitive and secure energy system that ensures affordable energy for all consumers, increases the security of the EU’s energy supplies, reduces our dependence on energy imports and creates new opportunities for growth and jobs, by taking into account potential price impacts on the longer term.

The Communication setting out the 2030 framework will be debated at the highest level, in particular in the European Council and European Parliament. It is accompanied by a legislative proposal for a market stability reserve for the EU emissions trading system (EU ETS) starting in 2021, to improve its robustness. A report on energy prices and costs in Europe, published alongside the Communication, suggests that the rising energy prices can be partly mitigated by ensuring cost effective energy and climate policies, competitive energy markets and improved energy efficiency.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said: "Climate action is central for the future of our planet, while a truly European energy policy is key for our competitiveness. Today's package proves that tackling the two issues simultaneously is not contradictory, but mutually reinforcing. It is in the EU's interest to build a job-rich economy that is less dependent on imported energy through increased efficiency and greater reliance on domestically produced clean energy. An ambitious 40% greenhouse reduction target for 2030 is the most cost-effective milestone in our path towards a low-carbon economy. And the renewables target of at least 27% is an important signal: to give stability to investors, boost green jobs and support our security of supply".

Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: "The 2030 framework is the EU's drive for progress towards a competitive low-carbon economy, investment stability and security of energy supply. My aim is to make sure that energy remains affordable for households and companies. The 2030 framework sets a high level of ambition for action against climate change, but it also recognises that this needs to be achieved at least cost. The internal energy market provides the basis to achieve this goal and I will continue to work on its completion in order to use its full potential. This includes the 'Europeanisation' of renewable energy policies".

Connie Hedegaard, Commissioner for Climate Action, said: In spite of all those arguing that nothing ambitious would come out of the Commission today, we did it. A 40% emissions reduction is the most cost-effective target for the EU and it takes account of our global responsibility. And of course Europe must continue its strong focus on renewables. That is why it matters that the Commission is proposing today a binding EU-level target. The details of the framework will now have to be agreed, but the direction for Europe has been set. If all other regions were equally ambitious about tackling climate change, the world would be in significantly better shape.

Ukraine crisis: Opposition rejects offer of PM post

Ukrainian opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk says protests will continue after he rejected President Viktor Yanukovych's offer to appoint him as prime minister of the country.

Mr Yatsenyuk said the opposition was generally ready to accept leadership, but several key demands must be met, including new elections.

Sunday has seen further demonstrations.

There were reports of protests in east Ukraine, and in Kiev thousands mourned a protester who was killed last week.

Crowds chanted "Hero!" as the open coffin of Mikhail Zhiznevsky, 25, was carried through the streets of the capital.

The president's proposal to the opposition came amid new efforts to end the deadly unrest.

Read more: BBC News - Ukraine crisis: Opposition rejects offer of PM post