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7/31/14

Wireless Phone Industry: : French company Iliad wants to buy T-Mobile and ruin Sprint's grand plan - by Chris Welch

Wireless Phone Industry
We may soon see a bidding war for T-Mobile. French telecom company Iliad has put in a $15 billion, all-cash bid for the company that would give it a controlling stake of 56.6 percent.

The news throws a huge wrench into the months-long narrative that Sprint is preparing to buy its smaller competitor. T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom and Sprint have already reached a tentative agreement that would ultimately combine the third and fourth place US carriers, according to previous reports.

But Iliad gives T-Mobile another path in taking the fight to its rivals. The Wall Street Journal first reported Iliad's interest in T-Mobile on Thursday afternoon.

T-Mobile CEO John Legere has never publicly confirmed any deal with Sprint, a point he underlined during today's financial earnings call. Such an acquisition would face intense scrutiny from federal regulators; AT&T's attempt to buy T-Mobile was rebuffed over concerns that it would irreparably harm competition in the US wireless industry, and Sprint will have to contend with the very same argument if it moves forward. Iliad seems to think its odds are better since it currently has no presence whatsoever in the United States.

Read more: French company Iliad wants to buy T-Mobile and ruin Sprint's grand plan | The Verge

EU Personal Privacy Violations: US judge orders Microsoft to produce emails held abroad - by Charles Cooper

A USA federal judge said Thursday that Microsoft can't prevent the US Department of Justice from obtaining emails stored in a data center overseas in a case that has raised concern among Internet privacy groups and technology companies.

Chief US District Judge Loretta Preska today ordered Microsoft to comply with a December warrant allowing the DOJ to obtain a customer's email-account data stored in Dublin, Ireland. The US government is seeking the emails in connection with a criminal investigation.

At the same time, the judge said she would stay her order temporarily, a decision that will let Microsoft appeal her decision to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals.

The outcome of this debate may reinforce concerns around the world that the data of their citizens is not safe with Microsoft and other US tech companies if US intelligence or law enforcement seek to gain access to the information.

All this began last December when a New York judge issued a search warrant seeking records and emails from a Microsoft account in a case connected with a criminal investigation. After concluding that the emails investigators sought were located on one of its servers in Dublin, Ireland, Microsoft refused.

The company maintained that a US judge has no authority to hand out warrants for search and seizure of property or data abroad. The judge later rejected Microsoft's request to quash the warrant.
Read more: US judge orders Microsoft to produce emails held abroad - CNET

Tourism: European Cruise Industry: Carnival Chief: ECAs Threaten European Cruise Industry

European Cruise Industry
New emission rules could be a blow to the cruise industry in northern Europe, Carnival UK Chief Executive David Dingle told Travel Weekly.

"Northern Europe is not sacrosanct even at a time when cruise lines are starting to grow capacity," he said.

Already, he said, the company's P&O Cruises and Cunard Line brands have planned a 28 percent cut in cruises in the Baltic and Norway between 2013 and 2015 since the region is not drawing new cruise passengers.

Dingle said the industry needs more flexibility in the implementation of new sulfur limits in Europe's Emissions Control Areas (ECAs) to allow it to fit ships with scrubbers so that they can continue to burn standard bunkers, a process that could take up to two years.

UK shipping industry players have been lobbying Prime Minister David Cameron to push European Union (EU) officials for more time to adjust to the new rules, and Dingle said he sees a "50-50" chance of succeeding in winning extra time to install scrubbers.

Carnival's U.S. operations are in the process of installing scrubbers on 70 ships.

Read more: Carnival Chief: ECAs Threaten European Cruise Industry » Ship & Bunker

Turkish Presidential elections: Expat Turks begin voting in presidential elections

Turks living abroad began casting votes on Thursday to choose Turkey's first directly elected president. It is also the first time expatriate Turks are voting in their countries of residence for Turkish elections.

Close to 2.8 million expatriate Turks in 54 countries — about half of them in Germany — are eligible to cast ballots in diplomatic missions and other designated areas. Only about 250,000 of them however, have registered to vote, according to Turkey's High Election Board. Polls opened in Germany and several other countries on Thursday.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is the strongest contender in the elections to be held in Turkey on Aug. 10. The former head of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, and Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas are also running.

Previously, parliament elected the president.

Read more: Expat Turks begin voting in presidential elections

The EU Energy Dilemma : EU must become energy self sufficient: before trade deal talks with US continue

Shawn Donnan writes in the Financial Times: "Ask anyone in European business what the most daunting longer-term issues confronting them are and it is unlikely to take much time before they site energy costs.
Even before Vladimir Putin’s Russia turned into the EU’s most belligerent neighbor, the reality was that Europe is facing a long-term energy crisis."

"The shale oil and gas have radically lowered the cost of energy in the US and given American manufacturing a competitive boost. That has caused more than a measure of angst among European businesses as they fret over their long-term international competitiveness. One solution to many in Europe seems obvious. "

"With a vast new trade pact – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being negotiated with the US, there is a strong case for making sure the deal helps guarantee access to that same cheap energy. "

"Moreover, as officials on both sides of the Atlantic have argued publicly, the ultimate goal of the exercise is knitting two ageing economies together as part of a strategic response to the rise of China and other emerging giants. "

"Removing the barriers to trade for a key economic ingredient surely makes sense. Mr Putin has, of course, been doing his best to help that argument in recent months via his hardening stand on Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea."

"A massive natural gas deal with China sent a signal that Russia intended to reduce its reliance on European customers. This month’s downing of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, seemingly by pro-Moscow rebels, will also undoubtedly rekindle the argument."

"The truth, however, is that a year after negotiations began, EU officials are becoming increasingly frustrated with the US over the energy component of TTIP. With good reason – discussions around one of the biggest potential prizes of the transatlantic deal are proceeding slowly."

"At the sixth round of negotiations in Brussels this month, EU officials were again pressing their case for the TTIP to include a separate “energy and raw materials” chapter. The US side, meanwhile, was again politely deferring the question.  "

The above shows once again that the present US proposals on the trade deal with the EU are self serving  and that the EU must put these talks on the back burner while they solve their energy crises by seriously developing their own alternative energy sources and finding new partners to supply oil and gas requirements.

EU-Digest

Malaysian PM in Netherlands to discuss Ukraine plane disaster

Malaysia’s prime minister has arrived in the Netherlands ahead of a meeting with his Dutch counterpart to discuss plans for repatriating remains of Malaysian victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, and continuing problems accessing the crash site in eastern Ukraine.

Najib Razak is meeting with Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte Wednesday in The Hague before travelling to a military base in Hilversum, outside Amsterdam, where remains of more than 200 victims are being painstakingly identified.

The plane was shot down on July 17, killing all 298 passengers and crew, including 43 Malaysians and 195 Dutch. Some bodies have yet to be recovered at the crash site, which has been inaccessible to investigators for days due to fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russia separatists.

Read more: Malaysian PM in Netherlands to discuss Ukraine plane disaster - National | Globalnews.ca

7/30/14

Middle East: Gaza Conflict Israeli Massacre in Gaza and the Fallacy of Human Rights

The universal declaration of human rights repeatedly stresses that all people around the world have the right to live regardless of their race, language, and religion. But what is happening in Gaza tells another story. 

It tells the story of powerful countries repeatedly playing on the notion of human rights to serve their political and economic greed; ironically, these are the very countries who violate what this notion stands for. Media coverage attests to this since viewers watch as the death toll of children, women, elderly people, and even the handicapped rises daily; civilians killed in an unfair and unequal war with no action on behalf of those who can stop it.

War on Gaza has become an international matter. The world has witnessed countless demonstrations supporting the Palestinians’ right for defense, denouncing Israeli terrorism, and urging their government to take real and strong actions. This puts the Israeli government in an embarrassing situation given the fact that even non-Muslims are denouncing its disregard and contempt for human rights.

Arabs also have shown sympathy for and solidarity with Palestinians and have expressed their anger by protesting Israeli crimes and calling for an immediate ceasefire. They have strongly criticized the siege of Gaza and demanded that it be lifted to allow entrance of supplies to the injured.

Thousands of protesters worldwide took to the streets of their cities to urge the United Nations, whose mission is to maintain international peace and security, to pressure the Israeli government to stop this genocide and injustice.

The Israeli government’s response to the world’s worries was that “war on terrorism will not stop until terrorism has been uprooted.” This trick has been exploited by Israel to deceive its citizens, as well as the so-called international community.

Read more: Israeli Massacre in Gaza and the Fallacy of Human Rights | Morocco World News

Ukraine US follows EU in setting new sanctions targeting Russian economy - by Spencer Ackerman, Julian Borger and Rowena Mason

Barack Obama has joined the European Union in sharply escalating economic pressure on Moscow for its ongoing support of Ukranian separatists in the wake of the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The latest American measures targeted major sectors of the Russian economy, including weapons, energy and finance. Three large banks – VTB Bank OAO, Bank of Moscow and the Russian Agricultural Bank – were cut off from the US economy.

“Today, Russia is once again isolating itself from the international community, setting back decades of genuine progress,” the president said.

But Obama denied that the US had turned the clock back to the Soviet era in its relations with Russia. “It’s not a new cold war. What it is is a very specific issue related to Russia’s unwillingness to recognize that

Ukraine can chart its own path,” Obama said on Tuesday, hours after the European Union enacted new sanctions on the Russians.

Read more: US follows EU in setting new sanctions targeting Russian economy | World news | theguardian.com

European Automobile Industry: Audi SQ7 SUV Confirmed To Get Electric Turbocharger In 2016

Efficiency-minded carmakers are turning to turbocharging in droves, but Audi may be about to do them one better.

The German automaker will put an electric turbocharger into production, and now it has revealed more about its plans for that technology.

According to a new report from Autocar, electric turbocharging will debut on the SQ7, a performance version of the next-generation 2015 Q7 SUV.

A previous report hinted that the technology--dubbed "e-boost" by Audi--would be ready in time for the debut of the standard Q7. The second generation of Audi's biggest current utility vehicle is expected to appear at the 2014 Paris Motor Show this October and go on sale next year.

However, it appears the German carmaker will save the electric turbocharger for a somewhat later debut.
Speaking to Autocar, Audi board member for technical development Ulrich Hackenberg confirmed that the electric turbo would launch on the sportier SQ7, which will likely arrive during calendar year 2016.

Read more: Audi SQ7 SUV Confirmed To Get Electric Turbocharger In 2016: UPDATE

Ukraine: West's Sanctions Against Russia Remain Relatively Porous - by Marcus Walker and Laurence Norman

The U.S. and Europe are stepping up their sanctions against Russia, but the restrictions remain partial and porous compared with other economic embargoes recently imposed by the West.

Bans on buying new bonds of Russian state-owned banks, or on selling some engineering technology to Russia's oil industry, are expected to hurt parts of Russia's economy. But the measures don't touch Russia's main business with the West: the sale of natural gas and oil to Europe. 

That makes the sanctions regime fundamentally different from the sweeping Western embargo that has blocked Iran from selling any oil or gas to its traditional customers in the European Union

"The EU's core business with Russia has been left untouched," said Stefan Lehne, a scholar at Carnegie Europe, a nonpartisan Brussels think tank. 

Mr. Lehne said the EU is likely to adopt further sanctions against Russia, including tighter financial-sector restrictions, but that energy supplies won't be touched. "If you really restrict Russian energy exports, then you hurt the EU as much as Russia." 

EU leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel have said the sanctions can be scaled back if Moscow becomes more cooperative in the Ukraine conflict—or scaled up if it continues to support pro-Russia rebels there. 

But few in Europe can imagine a boycott of Russian gas, which flowed West continuously even at the height of Cold War enmity. Many countries across the Continent have no way of replacing Russian gas quickly or affordably.

A sanctions regime that targets secondary economic ties such as banking, specialized engineering and weapons highlights the limits of the EU's room for maneuver. 

Despite doubts about the ability of the new measures to change the Kremlin's mind, experience shows international sanctions tend to escalate as the affected country finds ways to evade them. That leads to efforts to plug loopholes and tighten them. And in this particular conflict, political and military events are intensifying rather than defusing the underlying conflict. 

"The Ukrainian military is showing greater capability, so Russia has to step back or double down" in supporting the rebels, said Robert Kahn, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. "So far, the signs are it's likely to double down." 

Sanctions can be effective when accompanied by a workable political strategy to resolve a conflict through negotiations, but sometimes the EU adopts sanctions "out of a sense that something must be done," said Mr. Lehne at Carnegie Europe. 

"It's possible that this will be one of the effective cases, but it's not guaranteed," he said.

Read more: West's Sanctions Against Russia Remain Relatively Porous - WSJ

Breweries: Maine becoming the Germany of Local Brews in North America

Maine a unique place for a lot of reasons but one of the best is it’s beer. It has almost 30 breweries and brew pubs scattered all over the state. If you live here you have more choices for amazing craft beer than most other states. So consider yourself lucky!
Here is an alphabetical list of all the great places to find a Maine micro-brew.
- See more at: http://local-brew.tv/maine-breweries/#sthash.QrrtkDMe.dpuf
More than 30 local Breweries in Maine
The State of Maine in the US which is already a unique place for a lot of reasons, but probably one of the best is it’s beer.

Maine has almost 30 breweries and brew pubs are scattered all over the state. If you live in Maine you have more choices for amazing craft beer than in  most other US states. So consider yourself lucky!

If you live outside Maine and want to experience why Maine is called the "Germany of Beers on the American continent " consider visiting the state and you won't be disappointed.

Click on the link below for an alphabetical list of all the great places to find a Maine micro-brew.

Read more: Local Brew |  Maine Breweries

7/29/14

The Netherlands: Pantos Logistics a global Logistis provider expands warehouse capacity at Rotterdam Port

Pantos Logistics, a comprehensive logistics service provider operating more than 180 logistics networks around the world, plans to strengthen its warehouse logistics business in Europe. The company has acquired a warehouse of 20,000m2 on a 34,300m2 site in the port of Rotterdam (Maasvlakte), which is Europe's largest trade port and gateway.

The company plans to expand its warehouse logistics business through its operation of the warehouse, along with the distribution business, targeting the European market in the future. Pantos is the largest logistics company in Korea and the 26th largest in the world, and it is one of the world's top ten sea freight forwarder by volume.

Pantos Logistics provides differentiated competitive warehouse operation and distribution services with the know-how and experience it has acquired in through operating various distribution centers, including electronic components distribution centers and auto parts distribution centers, in Europe.

The company currently operates a total of ninety logistics centers around the world, including eleven in Europe, and owns the local networks in major European countries, including the Netherlands, Germany, France, the UK, Spain, and Poland, as well as Turkey.

EU-Digest

EU-US Trade Negotiations: EU worries over U.S. investor rights is also stalling Harper's EU trade deal - by S. Chase and B. McKenna

T
Does EU need a lopsided trade deal with US ?
he Globe and mail reports that Stephen Harper’s efforts to clinch a massive trade pact with the European Union have got caught up in growing public anxiety among Germans over what rights U.S. investors would get in a similar deal – the latest bump in the road for the Prime Minister’s long-sought agreement.

Berlin’s concerns most recently came to light on Saturday when a Munich newspaper quoted unnamed German officials saying they could not sign the Canada-EU deal in its current form. At issue, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported, are rights granted to foreign investors to challenge Berlin policy makers’ decisions, with the final say going to an independent arbitration panel rather than German courts.

Nine months have elapsed since Mr. Harper and European Union officials held a mission-accomplished press event to herald a tentative deal, but what were supposed to be merely followup technical discussions have dragged on longer than expected.

Germany’s ambassador to Canada said he does not believe investor rights will be a deal-breaker.
“This is a very important but small part of a very comprehensive agreement which will benefit both sides. So this will certainly not bring the process to a halt,” Werner Wnendt said in an interview.

But, the envoy added, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung article reflects concerns in Germany that need to be taken seriously. “It reflects a debate that is ongoing,” he said.

The real worry for Germans and most of the EU is mainly the separate trade agreement the EU is presently negotiating with the United States.

The majority of EU politicians in Europe say that the potential EU-US deal which has a lot of similarities to the Canadian trade deal  provides far too many liberties to US investors and corporations, thereby becoming "untouchable" in terms of EU legal standards and also even able  to sue EU governments whenever it suits them.

EU-Digest

EU Sanctions on Russia: Sweeping economic sanctions imposed on Russia by EU - by Julian Borger and Paul Lewis

European Union governments have agreed to impose sweeping sanctions on Russia, targeting state-owned banks, imposing an arms embargo, and restricting sales of sensitive technology and export of equipment for the country's oil industry, in response to Moscow's continued backing for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The punitive measures, the most extensive EU sanctions imposed on Russia since the cold war, were agreed by ambassadors from the 28 member states after a seven-hour debate. They decided that Moscow had not fulfilled the conditions laid down by foreign ministers last week, to stop the supply of arms to the rebels and provide full cooperation in the investigation into the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

According to an EU official, the most important measure agreed was to deny Russian state-owned banks access to European capital markets. Under the agreed sanctions, Europeans will not be permitted to buy debt, equity or other financial instruments with a maturity higher than 90 days in Russian state-owned financial institutions. Brokering or other services linked to any such transactions will also banned.

Any trade in arms and "related material" with Russia, both import and export, will be banned but the embargo will only apply to future contracts, and therefore would not affect the €1.2bn sale of two French Mistral helicopter carrier ships already agreed. Russia imports relatively few arms from the EU, but sells Europe weapons worth more than €3bn.

Certain technology related to the energy industry will require specific prior authorisation, and export permits will not be given for exploration or production equipment for deep-water or arctic drilling, or for shale exploration.

The measures do not affect the actual trade of oil, gas or other commodities.

"It is to do with how Russia might seek to exploit its natural resources further in the future, which are obviously an important money earner for the Russian state, and the fact they would probably look to use technology from other countries to do that," a British government source said.

Under the new measures, equipment and technology on the EU list of dual-use items, with both civilian and military purposes, can not be sold to Russian companies involved in any way in the arms industry – an export trade estimated to be worth around €20bn.

The economic sanctions are due to take effect later this week and be reviewed after three months.

Furthermore, another eight names of individuals and three entities will be added on Wednesday to the EU blacklist of Russians subject to asset freezes and travel bans. Of those, four of the new individuals on the sanctions lists were described by an EU officials as "cronies" of President Vladimir Putin, but the names have not yet been released.

The capital market measures are likely to prove the most painful for Russia. Last year, nearly half the bonds issued by Russian state-run financial institutions were issued in the EU's financial markets. Although Russian banks could go elsewhere to raise funds, the added uncertainty will add to the country's borrowing costs.

Read more: Sweeping economic sanctions imposed on Russia by EU | World news | theguardian.com

European Solidarity: Why We Need A European Solidarity Union - by Michael Roth:

"Europe is heaven on earth, the promised land, as soon as you look at it from the outside. [...] Europe appears in a different light, but always as paradise, as a dream of mankind, as a stronghold of peace, prosperity and civilisation."

Here, Wim Wenders impressively describes Europe’s promise of hope. He is right, and we are made especially aware of it once more when we look around our neighbourhood. Refugees from beyond the Mediterranean Sea are putting their lives at risk because they hope to be safe from persecution and enjoy a life in dignity in Europe.

Yet, from the inside things are not looking so good at present: solidarity in the EU seems damaged, the sense of justice is shaken and social cohesion is too weak. Many citizens are asking themselves: is Europe going to lose its sense of solidarity and social justice in the face of the crisis?

The most pressing problem is the dramatic rise in youth unemployment. It is through this that the economic and financial crisis has given rise to a severe crisis of confidence. If the young generation comes to think of Europe as part of the problem and not part of the solution, we will not only be depriving people of their prospects, but also driving them into the arms of those who ultimately want to dismantle the EU.

We have to achieve better coordination, also in those spheres within the EU which go beyond financial policies in the narrower sense. It is not enough to merely look at budget figures or public debt. At the same time, let us do away with the myth that we need or want Europe-wide harmonisation of national social welfare systems. 

So, how can we make existing strategies with ambitious Europe-wide goals and guidelines and existing coordination mechanisms more binding? How can we finally implement the commitment under Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union with a view to achieving a “social market economy, aiming at full employment and social progress”?

When it comes to solidarity and internal cohesion, Europe will have to deliver even more in future. Europe must finally be seen once more by people as a social corrective, as an answer to people for their everyday life. If we succeed in achieving that, then perhaps more Europeans will soon look to Europe with the same measure of hope as Wim Wenders. A genuine “solidarity union” can lend Europe a new appeal – both within the Community and to the outside world.

Read more: Michael Roth: Why We Need A European Solidarity Union

Multi-National Corporations: The Increasing Irrelevance Of Corporate Nationality - Robert Reich:

“You shouldn’t get to call yourself an American company only when you want a handout from the American taxpayers,” President Obama said Thursday. He was referring to American corporations now busily acquiring foreign companies in order to become non-American, thereby reducing their U.S. tax bill.

But the President might as well have been talking about all large American multinationals. Only about a fifth of IBM’s worldwide employees are American, for example, and only 40 percent of GE’s. Most of Caterpillar’s recent hires and investments have been made outside the US. In fact, since 2000, almost every big American multinational corporation has created more jobs outside the United States than inside. If you add in their foreign sub-contractors, the foreign total is even higher.

At the same time, though, many foreign-based companies have been creating jobs in the United States. They now employ around 6 million Americans, and account for almost 20 percent of U.S. exports. Even a household brand like Anheuser-Busch, the nation’s best-selling beer maker, employing thousands of Americans, is foreign (part of Belgian-based beer giant InBev).

Meanwhile, foreign investors are buying an increasing number of shares in American corporations, and American investors are buying up foreign stocks. Who’s us? Who’s them? Increasingly, corporate nationality is whatever a corporation decides it is. So instead of worrying about who’s American and who’s not, here’s a better idea: Create incentives for any global company to do what we’d like it to do in the United States.

For example, “American” corporations get generous tax credits and subsidies for research and development, courtesy of American taxpayers. But in reducing these corporations’ costs of R&D in the United States, those tax credits and subsidies can end up providing extra money for them to do more R&D abroad. 3M is building research centers overseas at a faster clip than it’s expanding them in America. Its CEO explained this was “in preparation for a world where the West is no longer the dominant manufacturing power.”

3M is hardly alone. Since the early 2000s, most of the growth in the number of R&D workers employed by U.S.-based multinational companies have been in their foreign operations, according to the National Science Board, the policy-making arm of the National Science Foundation. It would make more sense to limit R&D tax credits and subsidies to additional R&D done in the U.S. over and above current levels – and give them to any global corporation increasing its R&D in America, regardless of the company’s nationality.

Read: Robert Reich: The Increasing Irrelevance Of Corporate Nationality

U.S.: Satellite Images Show Russian Rockets Hitting Ukraine - by Scott Neuman

The U.S. State Department has released satellite images it says back up the assertion by Washington and Kiev that Russian forces are firing artillery into eastern Ukraine in support of separatists.

titled Evidence of Russian Shelling into Ukraine, released Sunday, blast marks from rocket launches in Russia and craters in Ukraine can be seen, the State Department says.

The document also shows "self-propelled artillery only found in Russian military units, on the Russian side of the border, oriented in the direction of a Ukrainian military unit within Ukraine."

It also states that: "Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine."

The images are attributed to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence and were taken between July 21 and July 26, officials say — days after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

According to The Associated Press, they "claim to show multiple rocket launchers fired at Ukrainian forces from within Ukraine and from Russian soil. One image shows dozens of craters around a Ukrainian military unit and rockets that can travel more than 7 miles."

The release of the satellite images comes after , a charge that Kiev has made repeatedly and loudly in recent days.

It also comes as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly agreed in a telephone conversation Sunday on the importance of a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine, according to Reuters.

In a Russian Foreign Ministry statement carried by the news agency, Moscow describes the crisis in Ukraine as an "internal conflict."

Read more: U.S.: Satellite Images Show Russian Rockets Hitting Ukraine : The Two-Way : NPR

7/28/14

Internet: The truth about our Wi-Fi society: What the quest for constant connection really means - by Andrew Leonard

Beware the dark powers of Netflix. There I was, last Sunday morning, reading the news of actor James Garner’s death on my laptop and nostalgically recalling how much my father, a longtime TV critic, had loved Garner’s benchmark 1970s-era private-eye drama, “The Rockford Files.”

 But my memories of the show were vague — I was 12 when it premiered. I wondered idly if Netflix might carry it. Because isn’t that what our contemporary digital lifestyle is all about? Access to whatever we want, whenever we want. Time has no meaning in 2014  – get me the 1970s, now!

Before I could check myself, I was sucked down a time-warp rabbit hole, a fact I could not easily explain to my 16-year-old son, who was curious, and perhaps slightly alarmed, as to why I was spending a Sunday afternoon binge-watching car chases. I had expected to be charmed by James Garner. I didn’t expect to become obsessed with the question of how Jim Rockford’s adventures in L.A. would be different if he had owned an iPhone.

The wide-lapel shirts. The endless car chases. The shocking lack of racial diversity in Los Angeles as presented on 1970s television. There are plenty of obvious differences between the America of 40 years ago and the America of right now.

But I couldn’t stop fixating on just how often everything stopped in its tracks so that Jim Rockford could put a dime in a payphone: multiple times an episode. Without those payphones, the plot wasn’t going anywhere. But in between those payphones, Rockford lived in a kind of L.A. limbo-land, his whereabouts gloriously unknowable. No one is as isolated today as Rockford was in his Plymouth Firebird on an L.A. freeway.
Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes uses a smartphone just as you would expect a genius detective to, with the entire Internet at his disposal to assist in the deductive process. It’s clever, but it always seemed like cheating. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock didn’t need no stinkin’ smartphone! A few puffs on his pipe was all that was necessary!

It was hard for me to avoid the sinking feeling that Jim Rockford with an iPhone would no longer be Jim Rockford. Always-on Wi-Fi would accelerate his genial slouch. The languid ocean outside his trailer would end up a trivialized mote in his Instagram-feed. The string of dames in distress wouldn’t appear unannounced at his door; they’d find him on Tinder first.

Reasd more: The truth about our Wi-Fi society: What the quest for constant connection really means - Salon.com

Ukraine: MH17 Verdict: Real Evidence Points to US-Kiev Cover-up of Failed False Flag

Until this past Monday, the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17th, 2014, was a potential game changer for global geopolitics and the New Cold War. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the Kremlin…

In this report, we will lay out the facts based on a wide breadth of available information and data surrounding MH17. We will also present and give critique to Washington and Kiev’s “mountain of evidence” that has saturated US and European-based media coverage since the incident took place.

21WIRE has compiled this report with the help of many contributors and references from English-speaking media, as well as material translated from Russian and Ukrainian media sources, along with other historical references to provide context.

Our objective is to get as close to the truth as possible. Although many revelations will appear to be self-evident, we still encourage the public to draw their own conclusions regarding this pivotal event.

Read more: MH17 Verdict: Real Evidence Points to US-Kiev Cover-up of Failed False Flag

US Tax System = Paul Krugman Lays Bare Latest Corporate Scheme to Rob American Taxpayers

If corporations are people, as the Supreme Court says, then why don't they have to pay taxes? Paul Krugman expresses outrage about the latest corporate scheme to dodge taxes in today's New York Times column.

Admittedly, corporations do still pay some taxes. "The federal government still gets a tenth of its revenue from corporate profits taxation," the Nobel-prize winning economist writes. "But it used to get a lot more — a third of revenue came from profits taxes in the early 1950s, a quarter or more well into the 1960s. Part of the  decline since then reflects a fall in the tax rate, but mainly it reflects ever-more-aggressive corporate tax avoidance — avoidance that politicians have done little to prevent." 

The latest of these aggressive tax-avoidance ploys is called “ inversion.” And as Krugman explains, it's a purely legal maneuver that allows companies to claim that its "U.S. operations are owned by its foreign subsidiary, not the other way around, and uses this role reversal to shift reported profits out of American jurisdiction to someplace with a lower tax rate." 

The company does not need to move overseas to do this. What a quaint and old-fashioned notion. It's all done on paper. Sometimes, it might involve opening an office somewhere abroad. The most egregious current example is Walgreen, which will continue to operate its thriving pharmacy business in the U.S. (have no fear, your local Walgreen's will remain) but for purely tax reasons, is reportedly about to declare itself Swiss, which "will deprive the U.S. government of several billion dollars in revenue that you, the taxpayer, will have to make up one way or another," Krugman writes.

 Read more: Paul Krugman Lays Bare Latest Corporate Scheme to Rob American Taxpayers | Alternet

7/27/14

Health Alert: Ebola now taking toll on doctors

An Ebola outbreak that has killed more than 670 people in Africa is now taking a toll on doctors and health care workers battling the deadly disease.

A government official in Liberia said Sunday that one of that country's highest-profile doctors has died in what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls the largest recorded outbreak of the disease.

An American doctor who has been working in Liberia since October 2013 for the North Carolina-based aid organization Samaritan's Purse is receiving intensive medical treatment after he was infected with Ebola, according to a spokeswoman for the organization.

Melissa Strickland said Kent Brantly, 33, was in stable condition, talking with his doctors and working on his computer while being treated. She cautioned that he is "not out of the woods yet." Strickland said patients have a better chance of survival if they receive treatment immediately after being infected, as Brantly did.
Brantly, who is married with two children and is medical director for the Samaritan's Purse Ebola Consolidated Case Management Center in Monrovia, is being treated at a Samaritan's Purse isolation center, according to Strickland.

Samaritan's Purse said later Sunday that a second U.S. citizen, Nancy Writebol, also has tested positive for Ebola. Writebol is employed by mission group SIM in Liberia and was helping a joint SIM/Samaritan's Purse team treating Ebola patients in Monrovia. Writebol is married with two children, the organization said.

Read more: Ebola now taking toll on doctors

EU ambassadors reach preliminary Russia sanctions deal

The preliminary deal covered sanctions targeting Russia's access to European capital markets and its imports in the sectors of defense and dual-use goods - those that can be applied to both civilian and military purposes - and other sensitive technologies.

The ambassadors are scheduled to reconvene next Tuesday to review the proposals after they have been formulated as regulations by officials, EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said.

She said EU member states had to decide whether the measures would need approval at a summit meeting of the bloc to go into effect.

In a news release, the European Union announced that the ambassadors had also slapped EU-wide asset freezes and travel bans on 15 more Russians and Ukrainians accused of working against the country's status as a sovereign territory.

The measures were to take effect immediately and would bring the number of people under EU sanction over Russia's actions in Ukraine to 87.

Read more: EU ambassadors reach preliminary Russia sanctions deal | News | DW.DE | 25.07.2014

France: Tour de France 2014: Vincenzo Nibali confirmed as champion as he puts Italy back on the map with triumph - by Alasdair Fotheringham

After three successive years of Tour de France winners whose nationalities and backgrounds show how cycling has developed into a global sport, the coronation of Vincenzo Nibali as the 2014 Tour champion saw one of cycling’s most traditional power bases – Italy – recoup some of its lost status.

Read more: Tour de France 2014: Vincenzo Nibali confirmed as champion as he puts Italy back on the map with triumph - Cycling - Sport - The Independent

7/26/14

Egypt summons Turkish envoy over Erdogan slur

Egypt has warned Turkey of "further action" as it protested for the second time in a week at the Turkish premier criticising its president and Cairo's handling of the Gaza conflict.

In a statement on Saturday, the ministry said it summoned the Turkish charge d' affaires, the highest-ranking Turkish official in the country, over comments by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling Sisi a "tyrant" and criticising Egypt's stance on Gaza.

The ministry said Erdogan was driven by "narrow ideological interests," referencing Turkey's support to the Muslim Brotherhood group, listed as a terrorist organisation in Egypt, and defended the legitimacy of Sisi's election.

"The continuation of the insults against Egypt and its elected leadership will undoubtedly lead to more measures from Egypt, leading to limited progress of bilateral relations," the statement said.

The statement also said that Egypt's charge d' affaires in Turkey had conveyed "a message of strong protest" to Turkish authorities.

Read more: Egypt summons Turkish envoy over Erdogan slur - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

US Banking Insustry: Too big to fail banks (too big to jail) want to make amends with poor people - Lynn Stuart Parramore

How do we hate thee, Bank of America? Let us count the ways.

We hate thee for thy mortgage misdeeds, foreclosure frauds and grotesque fees. For unnecessarily kicking people out of their homes, extorting money from military families through predatory loan rates, and treating thy customers like garbage.

For basically being too-big-to-fail/too-big-to-jail blight on the economy and society thou hast proven to be, time and again.

Bank of America has earned itself the worst reputation of any big lender in the U.S., and that is no small feat. The megabank has incurred so many legal costs for its various frauds and abuses, to the tune of billions, its profits have seen a dip. Whatever is a big bank to do?

Under increasing pressure from regulators and widely despised by the public, Bank of America now wants us to believe hat it will make nice with poor people. In a recentreportin the New York Times, we learn that BofA and other giant banks are trying to launder their public images by talking about offering low-fee services to people who have been left out of the banking system. BofA has launched a banking account it claims is intended to prevent troubled customers from running up fees for overdrawing their balances.

That’s very interesting, because so far, its accounts have been designed to do the opposite, which is why a lot of poor people don’t have bank accounts in the first place.

BofA’s public campaign showing us its touchy-feely side involves asking low-income people to create collages representing their emotions about money. One image shows a woman who appears to be naked wearing nothing but words like “power,” “want” and “desire” scrawled across her skin.

Other banks like JPMorgan, are following suit with lower-cost prepaid debit cards, checking accounts and whatnot. As the Times points out, it’s a bit difficult to start cheering:

Read more: Too big to fail banks want to make amends with poor people - Salon.com

Ukraine: Russia lashes out at EU over new sanctions

Russia has reacted angrily to additional sanctions imposed by the European Union over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, saying they would hamper cooperation on security issues and undermine the fight against terrorism and organised crime.

Russia's Foreign Ministry also said the United States bore shared responsibility for the conflict for pushing Kiev into repressing Ukraine's Russian population.

The EU reached an outline agreement on Friday to impose the first economic sanctions on Russia over but scaled back their scope to exclude technology for the crucial gas sector.

After discussions on broadening the sanctions from the current mix of asset freezes and travel bans, the legal instruments required to give effect to the new punitive measures will be taken up on Tuesday, they said.

The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, "will swiftly table the necessary legislative proposals in all areas identified" by member states earlier this week, a statement said.

Read more: Russia lashes out at EU over new sanctions - Europe - Al Jazeera English

7/25/14

Gaza - Israel: Jews March in New York Rally Against Israel War in Gaza – by Hody Nemes

Holding signs emblazoned with slogans like “Boycott Israeli Apartheid” and “New York Jews Say: Not in Our Name,” hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan on Thursday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in Gaza.

The event was one of many held in the U.S. and around the world as part of a “national day of action” against Israel’s Gaza campaign. Two Jewish groups, Jewish Voices for Peace and Jews Say No!, were among the march’s organizers, and numerous Jews came to protest Israel’s military campaign.

“I’m here because of the massacre that has recently happened, but also because of the ongoing occupation,” said Anna Jacobs, who was pushing her toddler in a stroller.

Standing nearby, Jews Say No! activist Dorothy Zellner lamented that outsiders assume the Jewish community uniformly supports Israel. “This is heartbreaking. Everyone thinks Israel represents us and speaks for us,” she said.

“I think there’s a myth that the Jewish community supports the Israeli attack on Gaza,” she added, and asserted that there are “hundreds of thousands” of Jews in the U.S. that oppose the Israeli occupation.

Most of the Jewish protesters interviewed opposed Israeli policies long before the current campaign. But they view the current hostilities as deplorable, or even criminal.

Read more: Jews March in New York Rally Against Israel War in Gaza – Forward.com

Gaza - Israel: The Hague mayor urged to get tough after anti-Jewish chanting at rally

The Hague's mayor Jozias van Aartsen is being urged to get tough on anti-Jewish demonstrators after people were heard chanting 'death to Jews' at a protest rally in the city on Thursday evening.
During the rally, in which some of the 100 protesters carried pro-Isis flags, Muslim youngsters were heard to shout 'death to all Jews', news magazine Elsevier reports.
Esther Voet of the Israel information centre CIDI said on Twitter: 'people who made themselves unrecognisable, Isis flags, death to Jews and journalists take to safety. The Netherlands 2014.'
- See more at: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/07/the_hague_mayor_again_after_fi.php#sthash.yo6qq9dQ.dpuf
The Hague's mayor Jozias van Aartsen is being urged to get tough on anti-Jewish demonstrators after people were heard chanting 'death to Jews' at a protest rally in the city on Thursday evening.

During the rally, in which some of the 100 protesters carried pro-Isis flags, Muslim youngsters were heard to shout 'death to all Jews', news magazine Elsevier reports.

Esther Voet of the Israel information centre CIDI said on Twitter: 'people who made themselves unrecognisable, Isis flags, death to Jews and journalists take to safety.

Despite the anti-Jewish sentiment in some of the speeches, the police only got involved when a female journalist was verbally attacked by some of the demonstrators, the Telegraph says.

Many of the demonstrators had covered their faces - which is now illegal in Dutch law.

A spokesman for Van Aartsen told local broadcaster Omroep West no boundaries had been overstepped. 'I have received no signals that was the case,' the spokesman said.

However, the public prosecution department said in a statement on Friday afternoon it would be examining footage of the rally with an interpreter to assess if the law had been broken.

Earlier this month, Jewish groups met Van Aartsen after participants at another anti-Israel demonstration carried banners equating Israel with the Nazis.

Jewish organisations said they wanted to know why he did not take tough action against the ‘spreading of hatred and calls to violence’.

Read more

Despite the anti-Jewish sentiment in some of the speeches, the police only got involved when a female journalist was verbally attacked by some of the demonstrators, the Telegraph says.
Many of the demonstrators had covered their faces - which is now illegal in Dutch law.
A spokesman for Van Aartsen told local broadcaster Omroep West no boundaries had been overstepped. 'I have received no signals that was the case,' the spokesman said.
However, the public prosecution department said in a statement on Friday afternoon it would be examining footage of the rally with an interpreter to assess if the law had been broken.
Earlier this month, Jewish groups met Van Aartsen after participants at another anti-Israel demonstration carried banners equating Israel with the Nazis.

Jewish organisations said they wanted to know why he did not take tough action against the ‘spreading of hatred and calls to violence’.
- See more at: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/07/the_hague_mayor_again_after_fi.php#sthash.yo6qq9dQ.dpuf
The Hague's mayor Jozias van Aartsen is being urged to get tough on anti-Jewish demonstrators after people were heard chanting 'death to Jews' at a protest rally in the city on Thursday evening.
During the rally, in which some of the 100 protesters carried pro-Isis flags, Muslim youngsters were heard to shout 'death to all Jews', news magazine Elsevier reports.
Esther Voet of the Israel information centre CIDI said on Twitter: 'people who made themselves unrecognisable, Isis flags, death to Jews and journalists take to safety. The Netherlands 2014.'
- See more at: http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2014/07/the_hague_mayor_again_after_fi.php#sthash.yo6qq9dQ.dpufRead more: DutchNews.nl - The Hague mayor urged to get tough after anti-Jewish chanting at rally

Russia planning major missile shipment to Ukraine rebels - Insanity - Fiction or Intimidation?

Russia has been lobbing artillery shells into Ukraine and is planning to give the rebels missiles that are even deadlier than the one that downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, the US State Department said Thursday.

“We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful, multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions,” said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

The stunning allegations were “just some pieces of info I’ve been able to get from our intelligence friends,” said Harf, who declined to provide details. “I can’t get into the sources and methods behind it.”

Harf’s remarks came after a NATO military official told reporters that the continuing flow of weapons from Russia into Ukraine “is a cause for concern.”

The shipments have also increased “in the last several weeks,” the official added.

Read more: Russia planning major missile shipment to Ukraine rebels | New York Post

Russia: EU targets state-owned Russia banks in sanctions plan

The European Union would target state-owned Russian banks vital to financing Moscow's faltering economy in the most serious sanctions so far over the Ukraine crisis under proposals considered by EU governments on Thursday.

Ambassadors of the 28-nation bloc discussed options to curb Russian access to capital markets, arms and energy technology in response to the downing of a Malaysian airliner in an area of eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists on July 17.

Talks on the options for stepped-up action drafted by the European Commission will continue on Friday morning, an EU official said, and diplomats said decisions on wider sanctions were likely at the earliest next week.

However, the ambassadors did agree to add more people and entities to the EU's asset freeze list, using expanded criteria including Russian companies that help to undermine Ukraine's sovereignty.

The names will not be published until late Friday but diplomats said it concerned 15 individuals and 18 entities, half of which were companies.

Ambassadors also agreed to further expand the scope of sanctions to include companies and people who support Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region or for destabilising eastern Ukraine.

Under one key proposal, European investors would be banned from buying new debt or shares of banks owned 50 percent or more by the state. These banks raised almost half their 15.8 billion euro ($21.29 billion) capital needs on EU markets last year.

"If implemented such sanctions would be a serious blow to the Russian economy, exacerbating an already very likely recession this year and sustaining an economic depression for longer," said analyst Michal Dybula of BNP Paribas.

The proposals included an arms embargo, although diplomats said it would apply to future deals and would not bar delivery of a French warship built for Russia under a 2011 contract.

The EU was also weighing restricting exports of technology for deep-sea drilling, shale and Arctic energy exploration and so-called civilian-military "dual use" items, diplomats said.

After months of hesitation, powerful EU states including Germany, Moscow's biggest trade partner, are pushing for quick action as they believe Russia has consistently failed to meet international demands to end violence in Ukraine.

Read more: EU targets state-owned Russia banks in sanctions plan | Economy | Worldbulletin News

7/24/14

Ukraine: Dutch sending unarmed police to Ukraine crash site - by Mike Corder

The Netherlands is sending 40 unarmed military police to eastern Ukraine as part of a ramped-up effort to find the last victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 still at the wreckage site, Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced late Thursday.

He also is sending forensic investigators to the site to try to piece together exactly what happened when the plane was shot down a week ago, killing all 298 people on board.
U.S. officials say the Boeing 777 was probably shot down by a missile from territory held by pro-Russian rebels, likely by accident.

Rutte said the military police will help the investigators.

"They are really looking like the forensic experts," he said. "They will be extra hands and eyes to look for remaining remains and personal belongings."

His comments Thursday came hours after two military planes carrying 74 coffins landed at a military base in the Netherlands. A day earlier, the two military transport planes — one Dutch and one Australian — brought back the first 40 coffins and more flights were planned for Friday.

Thousands of people have turned out to watch the convoys of hearses drive from the Eindhoven Air Base to a military barracks in the central city of Hilversum, where the remains will be identified by an international team of experts.

The Netherlands has been given the lead in the investigation into what exactly happened to Flight 17 and is taking charge of efforts to identify the dead. This nation of 17 million was the hardest hit, with 194 of its citizens on board the plane.

Read more: Dutch sending unarmed police to Ukraine crash site - US News

EU must cut umbilical cord with the US - deal with Moscow without US handholding - by Mary Dejevsky

After a harrowing delay, the first bodies from MH17 arrived back at their point of departure on Wednesday.

The sendoff from Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, had been dignified, in contrast to most of their treatment over the previous six days. There were decent coffins, a short military ceremony and soberly dressed officials with heads bowed. A measure of order had been restored.

These arrangements, it appears, were the result of highly complicated negotiations between many parties.

There were representatives of Malaysia (because the plane was theirs); of the Netherlands (because this is where the plane had set off from, and the majority of the passengers were Dutch nationals); of the Ukrainian government (because the plane came down within its borders); of the anti-Kiev rebels (because they control the actual territory where the plane crashed); and of Russia (because it had some lines open to the rebels, if not as much real leverage as many still believe).

Add in international organisations, such as the OSCE, and the various official groups charged with investigating air disasters, plus officials from countries such as Britain that also lost nationals and which can offer particular expertise, and the picture becomes still more complex. When you consider this extensive list, however, what is striking is not just who is there, but who is not. Where, most conspicuously, is the US?

In the early days, some overheated rhetoric wafted across the Atlantic about blame for MH17, especially from Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, who loses no opportunity to rehearse her trademark denunciations of Russia. But President Obama was always more cautious, and now US intelligence officials have expressly excluded “direct” Russian involvement in what happened, while blaming Russia for “helping to create the conditions”.

For the most part, though, the US has remained on the sidelines. Where it has acted, for instance in sending aviation safety officials, it has done so without fanfare. Rather than rush to Kiev or Moscow or the Netherlands, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, has remained in the Middle East, applying his efforts to the ever more destructive conflict over Gaza.

Whether US intervention would have been welcome or not after MH17 is neither here nor there. The downing of the Malaysian plane soon turned into as much of a major international diplomatic crisis (with Russia in the dock) as it was a human tragedy many times over. Somehow, as seen from Europe, you would have expected the US to have been there.

Maybe, though, we Europeans are going to have to get used to the idea that in diplomatic and military – if not economic – terms, Europe has ceased to be special in Washington. There were already hints, during Obama’s first election campaign, that “Yes, we can!” might one day be completed with “do without Europe”.

Read more: Europe must learn to deal with Moscow without US backing | Mary Dejevsky | Comment is free | The Guardian

Corporeate Power in America: The SEC should shine a light on dark political donations from corporations - by Liz Kennedy and Sean McElwee

Nate ate Silver has already dubbed the 2014 election as "the least important in years." But this year's midterms are still breaking records for at least one thing: secret political spending.

A historically unprecedented amount of dark money has already been spent to influence the outcome of the elections. As of July 15, more than $34 million in dark money had been spent on the 2014 election cycle.

That is more than 15 times the $2+ million in dark money spent at this point in the 2010 midterms, and three times the $11 million in dark money spent at this point in the 2012 elections.

Dark money means political spending where the identity of the underlying source of the funds is not public.

The Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010 allowed new political spending from corporations, and subsequent decisions removed limits on so-called "independent" spending. Now, sophisticated political players who want to exercise power without accountability are channeling their political spending through 501(c)(4) "social welfare" groups that aren't required to disclose their funders.

The price we pay for this failure of transparency is a loss of information for voters, and a lack of accountability for both the spenders and beneficiaries of dark money.

Since most outside spending comes in a flurry in the last month of the election, we can expect these numbers to keep on rising. In 2012, 60 percent of dark money was spent on or after October 1. If these trends hold, dark money totals this year will certainly break the 2010 midterm record and may even surpass the over $300 million in secret spending in the 2012 elections.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee held a hearing to promote transparency in election spending. They're considering legislation that would require all outside political spending groups to disclose their significant donors (the DISCLOSE Act), and a bill that would require candidates, parties, and PACs that are already covered by federal disclosure laws to disclose their major donors more rapidly and electronically (the Real Time Transparency Act).

As Senator Angus King (I-Maine) explained in the hearing, just knowing that "Americans for Greener Grass" paid for an ad isn't really disclosure, because it doesn't tell you anything about the agenda of whoever is providing the financial support for the group.

 
 
The Supreme Court was wrong when it assumed that the new corporate political spending the justices allowed in Citizens United would be disclosed to the public and to a corporate donor's shareholders, since there are no legal requirements that corporations disclose all of their political spending.

Congress attempted to respond to the Citizens United decision and create a comprehensive disclosure system in 2010, when the DISCLOSE Act was approved by majorities in both chambers of Congress, but then failed by one vote to overcome a party-line filibuster in the Senate. Some critics argued at the time that the bill unfairly regulated corporations while requiring less disclosure from unions. As we explain in our new Demos paper, this is far from the truth. Corporations and unions face very different rules and requirements for their political spending. Labor unions must publicly disclose all of their political spending to the Department of Labor. But in the wake of Citizens United, there are many avenues through which corporations can spend money in politics while hiding their financial support for particular candidates or causes.

Both unions and corporations must disclose to the FEC any direct political spending made to finance independent expenditures and electioneering communications, but the similarities end there. Unions are required to report the money they spend not just in federal elections, but also for state and local office. Corporations are not subject to these same requirements, except in a few states that have strengthened their disclosure laws.

Unions are required to report get-out-the-vote campaigns, voter education campaigns, fundraising, and any politically related litigation expenses. Corporations are not. Unions are required to disclose all donations to 501(c)(4) groups on their Schedule 17 form. Corporations are not.

Why does this matter? Corporate donors spend big: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent $69,506,784 on elections in 2010 and 2012, without identifying the source of those funds, and was the biggest outside spender in the 2010 elections. And according to the research of Martin Gilens, the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate donors lobby against the expressed preferences of most Americans.

Read more: The SEC should shine a light on dark political donations from corporations - The Week

US Power Shift Benefits Corporate America: the Hobby Lobby Ruling impact on US and EU US trade negotiations

Last month, as you’ve probably heard, a closely divided Supreme Court ruled that corporations with religious owners cannot be required to pay for insurance coverage of contraception. The so-called Hobby Lobby decision, named for the chain of craft stores that brought the case, has been both praised and condemned for expanding religious rights and constraining Obamacare. 

But beneath the political implications, the ruling has significant economic undertones. It expands the right of corporations to be treated like people, part of a trend that may be contributing to the rise of economic inequality.

The notion that corporations are people is ridiculous on its face, but often true. Although Mitt Romney was mocked for saying it on the campaign trail a few summers ago, the U.S. Code, our national rule book, defines corporations as people in its very first sentence. 

And since the 19th century, the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations are entitled to a wide range of constitutional protections. This was a business decision, and it was a good one. Incorporation encourages risk-taking: Investors are far more likely to put money into a business that can outlast its creators; managers, for their part, are more likely to take risks themselves because they owe nothing to the investors if they fail.

The rise of corporations, which developed more fully in the United States than in other industrializing nations, helped to make it the richest nation on earth. And economic historians have found that states where businesses could incorporate more easily tended to grow more quickly, aiding New York’s rise as a banking center and helping Pennsylvania’s coal industry to outstrip Virginia’s. 

The notion of corporate personhood still sounds weird, but we rely upon it constantly in our everyday lives. The corporation that published this column, for instance, is exercising its constitutional right to speak freely and to make contracts, taking money from some of you and giving a little to me.

Note EU-Digest: the above should be a clear warning to the EU not to sign any major trade agreement with the US wich has laws in place which gives profit based and not democratically run corporations the same legal rights and status as human beings.

Read more: What the Hobby Lobby Ruling Means for America - NYTimes.com

City of London to bear the brunt of EU sanctions on Russia - by Bruno Waterfield

New EU sanctions to block Russia's "access to capital markets", dominated by Britain's banking sector, will target business worth up £6billion a year in bonds issued by Russian state-owned banks and financial institutions in European markets

 "Restricting access to capital markets for Russian state-owned financial institutions would increase their cost of raising funds and constrain their ability to finance the Russian economy, unless the Russian public authorities provide them with substitute financing," said a proposal seen by the Telegraph. "It would also foster a climate of market uncertainty that is likely to affect the business environment in Russia and accelerate capital outflows."

The EU has threatened Russia with new sanctions unless it ensures a full international investigation of the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines flight last week and stops an "increasing flow of weapons, equipment and militants across the border" into Eastern Ukraine, arms that include SA-11 missiles that downed MH17 with the loss of 298 lives.

The EU proposals also include an arms sales or export embargo despite a similar measure being blocked by France on Tuesday because of a euro 1.4 billion French contract, signed in 2011, to supply two warships to Russia.

Read more: City of London to bear the brunt of EU sanctions on Russia - Telegraph

7/23/14

Netherlands mourns as bodies of MH17 plane crash victims are flown home - by Philip Oltermann

Ij the Netherlands a day of national mourning
As the first coffin was lowered from the planes on the runway, silence fell over Eindhoven military airport. The only sound came from a row of flags whipping in the wind at half mast.

Almost a week after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot from the skies above Ukraine, 40 bodies arrived on Wednesday in the Netherlands, the country that bore the heaviest toll in the crash.

King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, joined about 1,000 relatives and friends of the victims, who gathered at the airport for a ceremony receiving the two military transport planes.

A lone trumpeter played the Last Post as troops in dress uniform saluted then carried the wooden caskets to a row of hearses. They drove from the airport under military police escort to an army barracks in the central city of Hilversum where forensic experts were waiting to begin the painstaking task of identifying the remains.
Crowds gathered on bridges along the 65-mile route to throw flowers on to the convoy of 40 hearses.

The Dutch government had declared a day of national mourning – the first since the death of Queen Wilhelmina in 1962 – and at 4.07pm a minute's silence was requested across the country.

Two-hundred and ninety-eight passengers and crew were killed when the Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpar was shot down last Thursday a week today. The Dutch victims numbered 193. In a nation of just 16 million, few have been unaffected by the disaster.

Read more: Netherlands mourns as bodies of MH17 plane crash victims are flown home | World news | The Guardian

Ukraine: No quick decision seen on tougher EU sanctions on Russia

European Union ambassadors will debate proposals on Thursday on restricting Russian access to Europe's capital markets and defense and energy technology but are not expected to make a quick decision.

Ambassadors from the 28 EU nations are expected to agree on Thursday to add the names of some Russian companies that are helping to undermine Ukraine's sovereignty to the bloc's sanctions list, using new expanded criteria.

But they will probably need more time to agree to go beyond the asset freezes so far imposed by the EU and restrict Russia's access to Europe's financial markets and technology.

Despite threatening tough action since Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in March, the EU has been divided over imposing economic sanctions on its main gas supplier.

But the downing last week of a Malaysia Airlines plane over eastern Ukraine, killing 298 people, jolted the EU into action.

Foreign ministers for the first time this week singled out sectors of the Russian economy that the EU might target with sanctions in protest at Moscow's actions in eastern Ukraine.

The ministers said on Tuesday they could restrict Russia's access to capital markets, defense and sensitive technologies "including in the energy sector" unless Russia halts the flow of weapons across the Ukraine border.

Read more: No quick decision seen on tougher EU sanctions on Russia - Yahoo News

Britain: Corporate Bribery Probe: Glaxo link to probe

Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline publishes second quarter results on Wednesday as a tangled web of allegations linked to a bribery probe by Chinese authorities continues to hang over the UK-based company.

It comes shortly after a British investigator and his American wife who were hired by the company learned they were to face trial in the country charged with illegally obtaining and selling private information.

The arrest of Peter Humphrey and Yingzeng Yu last year coincided with a Chinese probe into allegations that Glaxo staff had funnelled hundreds of millions of pounds through travel agencies to bribe doctors and health officials.

The couple's firm ChinaWhys had been asked to look into the origin of a sex tape involving Glaxo's China manager Mark Reilly, who has himself been accused by Chinese authorities in relation to the bribery case.

Glaxo has said it asked the investigators to look into a "serious breach of privacy and security" relating to Mr Reilly but that the firm was not hired "to investigate the substance of allegations of misconduct" made by a whistleblower.

In May, the pharmaceuticals firm disclosed that its commercial practices had come under "formal criminal investigation" by Britain's Serious Fraud Office.

Sheridan Adams, investment research manager at The Share Centre, said: "Although Chinese revenues only account for less than 5% of the global total, negative press coverage will not be welcomed and investors may want to hear from management on the matter."

Glaxo's second quarter update is the first since the takeover frenzy over US rival Pfizer's ultimately unsuccessful bid to swallow up Britain's AstraZeneca for £69 million amid a public outcry.

The merger spotlight in the sector has since fallen on Hampshire-based Shire and its American suitor AbbVie.
Glaxo has kept out of any speculation around such deals, after unveiling a complex three-part transaction with Novartis in May.

It will see the two firms create a £6.5 billion consumer healthcare powerhouse from its Aquafresh and Beechams together with antiseptic range Savlon and cough and cold brand Tixylix from Novartis.

The deal also saw Glaxo sell its oncology portfolio from Novartis and buy the Swiss firm's vaccines business.

Read more: Glaxo link to probe | Herald Scotland

GMO Dangers: Major Study: Monsanto GMO Corn Can Cause Damage to Liver and Kidneys, and Severe Hormonal Disruption

A highly controversial paper by Prof Gilles-Eric Séralini and colleagues has been republished after a stringent peer review process.

The chronic toxicity study examines the health impacts on rats of eating  a commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize, Monsanto's NK603 glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup.

The original study, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) in September 2012, found severe liver and kidney damage and hormonal disturbances in rats fed the GM maize and low levels of Roundup that are below those permitted in drinking water in the EU.

However it was retracted by the editor-in-chief of the Journal in November 2013 after a sustained campaign of criticism and defamation by pro-GMO scientists.

Toxic effects were found from the GM maize tested alone, as well as from Roundup tested alone and together with the maize. Additional unexpected findings were higher rates of large tumours and mortality in most treatment groups.

Now the study has been republished by Environmental Sciences Europe. The republished version contains extra material addressing criticisms of the original publication.

The raw data underlying the study's findings are also published - unlike the raw data for the industry studies that underlie regulatory approvals of Roundup, which are kept secret. However, the new paper presents the same results as before and the conclusions are unchanged.

The republication restores the study to the peer-reviewed literature so that it can be consulted and built upon by other scientists.

The republished study is accompanied by a separate commentary by Prof Séralini's team (also published on The Ecologist) describing the lobbying efforts of GMO crop supporters to force the editor of FCT to retract the original publication.

The authors explain that the retraction was "a historic example of conflicts of interest in the scientific assessments of products commercialized worldwide."

"We also show that the decision to retract cannot be rationalized on any discernible scientific or ethical grounds. Censorship of research into health risks undermines the value and the credibility of science; thus, we republish our paper."

Read more: Major Study: Monsanto GMO Corn Can Cause Damage to Liver and Kidneys, and Severe Hormonal Disruption | Alternet

Industrial Espionage: German businesses face rising threat of industrial espionage

Every year, industrial espionage costs German businesses around 11.8 billion euros ($16 billion), according to a survey released Monday by the German security firm Corporate Trust.

Every second company in Germany has faced attacks - whether successful or not - with more than three-quarters of those surveyed registering financial losses as a result.

Corporate Trust said the survey reflected answers from 6,767 companies, some 40 percent of which estimated the damage from espionage had cost them anywhere from 10,000 euros to 100,000 euros.

Twelve percent said they lost more than 100,000 euros, and 4.5 percent said they lost more than 1 million euros.

Read more: German businesses face rising threat of industrial espionage | Business | DW.DE | 21.07.2014

7/22/14

Changing how people think about Politics and Economics: THE MAN BEHIND AVAAZ

Ricken Patel
Avaaz is an online campaigning organization that’s halfway between an NGO and a megaphone. After only six years, it has 20m followers—more than the population of the Netherlands.

 Avaaz, which means "voice" or "song" in Persian, was set up with the overarching goal of closing the gap between "the world we have and the world most people everywhere want". From the outset it has been unashamedly idealistic and aspirational. Its executive director is Ricken Patel, and his ambition goes back half a lifetime.

When Patel was 18, he was on holiday in Mexico with his family, who live in Canada. One night he sat everyone down, very gravely, and told them he had an idea for making the world a better place. His insight was that most people in the world want pretty much the same thing and what they want is actually quite modest. He was going to mobilise global citizens to act together to achieve this. His family were taken aback, and Patel remembers his aunt making the first remark. "So, you want to be a do-gooder?"

The method he would eventually settle on was only just getting going then: e-mail. Millions of people know "Ricken" as the name at the bottom of the chatty e-mails they receive asking them to take some sort of action.

If they don’t take a simple action (clicking "send"), something bad is going to happen. Or if they click "send", something bad that is going on right now can be stopped. Either way, please do it quick.

Read more: THE MAN BEHIND AVAAZ | More Intelligent Life