Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

14-15 December 2013

by afew Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 04:00:06 PM EST

Your take on today's news media


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by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:50:07 PM EST
Ukraine's richest oligarch Rinat Akhmetov weighs in to crisis - FT.com

Ukraine's richest oligarch on Friday weighed in to the country's political crisis, calling for a compromise between thousands of pro-EU protesters and the president to be reached at a "table of peace".

Breaking his silence for the first time since demonstrations erupted in late November, Rinat Akhmetov, a long-time ally of President Viktor Yanukovich, in a carefully worded statement appeared to be voicing solidarity with the anti-government protesters on Kiev's streets.

Hours after Mr Akhmetov's statement, opposition politicians leading the protests announced that they would take part in a first round of talks with Mr Yanukovich later on Friday. The breakthrough came after more than a dozen demonstrators were released from custody, one of their preconditions for negotiations.

Mr Akhmetov, the owner of a diversified business empire valued by Forbes at $15.4bn and with assets spanning Ukraine, Europe and the US, questioned why the government backed out of a historic agreement with the EU in favour of pursuing closer economic ties with Russia.

"Ukraine and the president have been going along the European road for three and a half years and much has been achieved over this time," Mr Akhmetov said. "The agreement was not signed" as scheduled at an EU summit held late last month "in Vilnius. And everybody asked, what happened? Did Ukraine take a pause? Did Ukraine stop? Or did Ukraine take another road? Everyone wants clarity."

Coming two days after Ukraine's second richest man, Victor Pinchuk, backed the protests, Mr Akhmetov's statement added to speculation that the country's influential oligarchs are on the brink of turning against Mr Yanukovich, whom they have backed in the past.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:50:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Foreign Affairs / EU and Ukraine drift further apart despite new talks

BRUSSELS - The EU has said it will give Ukraine more money if it signs a trade pact, but its list of political conditions is getting longer.

EU commissioner Stefan Fuele promised the extra funds at a press briefing in Brussels on Thursday (12 December) with Ukraine's deputy PM Serhiy Arbuzov.

He said the EU is ready to "step up" financial aid for implementing EU laws, to "top up" International Monetary Fund loans, and to "help bring on board other international partners," such as the World Bank, if Ukraine says Yes.

He noted that "the ... backdrop for our efforts is the looming financial crisis in Ukraine."

He did not give figures, but he added that EU aid "will only get bigger and bigger" after the treaty is signed.

For his part, Arbuzov said pro-EU protesters in Kiev should not expect good news any time soon.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:59:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Ukraine court frees protesters held after Kiev clashes

A Ukrainian court has freed nine people arrested during clashes between pro-EU protesters and riot police, a key demand of the protest movement.

The nine were arrested during a violent crackdown on 30 November to drive protesters away from the presidential administration in the capital Kiev.

The first round of talks between protesters and President Viktor Yanukovych have made little progress.

Demonstrators are arriving in Kiev ahead of a mass rally on Sunday.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:03:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ukraine to offer amnesty to protesters - Europe - Al Jazeera English

Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukrainian president, has said that he would propose an amnesty for those detained during recent mass protests against a government decision to reject a free trade agreement with the European Union.

Yanukovich made few concessions in crisis talks he held with the opposition on Friday, his first direct attempt to defuse weeks of unrest over a policy swerve to Russia away from Europe.

He promised an amnesty for those arrested during the protests and said he would consider sacking officials responsible for working on the Association Agreement proposed by the EU - but he made no indication of sacking Mykola Azarov, the Ukrainian prime minister, as demanded by the opposition.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:09:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Provocations, EU's financial interests behind Ukraine protests - Lavrov

Russia 'has no doubt' that 'provocateurs with a long-prepared script' lurk behind the mass protests in Ukraine. This position was voiced by Russian RM Sergey Lavrov in a TV interview, in which he criticized the EU's greed and interventionism.

The scale of the ongoing protest is "incomprehensible" the Russian minister said on Saturday on the Rossiya 24 TV channel. Such a reaction would be understandable, for example, if Ukraine's government had declared war on a peaceful foreign nation against the wishes of the people. But merely delaying signing the EU trade deal does not give good cause for it, Lavrov believes.

"There is no doubt that provocateurs are behind it," he said.

Lavrov defended the Ukrainian government's right to take decisions on its national policy and criticized Western officials who have sided with the protesters demanding the government's resignation.



'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 05:39:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Kiev Tug-of-War: Merkel Still Open to Ukraine Cooperation

(Spiegel Online) - Lithuanian President Dalia Grysbauskaite accused the Kremlin of blackmail. "The actions of Russia towards countries like Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia show that this country still employs uncivilized methods," Grysbaukaite told the German newspaper Die Zeit. It is inconceivable "that a country in the 21st century would still blackmail other countries in this way."

'We Underestimated the Drama'

European Parliament President Martin Schulz admitted EU officials made mistakes in their negotiations with Ukraine. "I think we underestimated the drama of the domestic political situation in Ukraine," he told German public radio station Deutschlandfunk. Ukraine, he said, "has been in a deep economic and financial crisis" since the introduction of democracy. "They desperately need money and they desperately need a reliable gas supply," he added.

Schulz said he understood why Ukraine moved towards Russia. "It is not especially popular in Europe to help states which are in a crisis ... and if you look at Moscow's proposals, they would offer Ukraine short-term assistance that we, as Europeans, cannot and do not want to afford."



'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 09:24:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Netherlands vetoes Albania's EU candidate status | EurActiv
-A +APublished 13 December 20139 commentsTags Albania, candidate countries Share on facebook Share on gmail 19

EXCLUSIVE / The Dutch parliament has voted against a government proposal to grant Albania the status of EU candidate, preventing EU leaders from rubberstamping the proposal during a summit in Brussels on 19-20 December.

The Dutch parliament adopted yesterday (12 December) a decision which obliges the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte to reject the European Commission proposal to give Albania EU candidate status.

The development is likely to inflict a heavy blow to the accession hopes of the Western Balkan nation, which according to the Commission has delivered on EU requirements and so should be granted the status of candidate country.

A spokesperson from the Dutch parliament told EurActiv that Rutte's liberal VVD party (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy) had voted against opening the door to Albania, while its coalition partner PvdA (Labour Party), affiliated to the Party of European Socialists, reportedly voted in favour.

Albania has a socialist prime minister, Edi Rama, who took office last June.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:53:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Headline News / Playing at a British EU exit

BRUSSELS - Since the British Conservatives announced they want to hold an in/out EU referendum in 2017, it seems everyone else is giving more thought to what a Brexit could look like than the potential absconders themselves.

So it came to be that OpenEurope this week hosted a mock-up of the event, calling it EUwargames. Various thinking people got round the table to imagine what German/French/Nordic/EU views would be on renegotiation of the treaty or British-EU relations post membership.

The whole exercise appeared far more polite, reasonable and reasoned than the actual event is likely to be.

But it did show, in its simulated way, that extricating the UK from the EU could be as hard as keeping it in on terms more agreeable to (insatiable) British eurosceptics.

And as far as the exercise went, it looked like a case of: 'Can't live with them. But don't particularly want to live without them either.' And that goes for both sides. And is, arguably, as good a negotiating basis as any other.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:00:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
afew:
'Can't live with them. But don't particularly want to live without them either.' And that goes for both sides. And is, arguably, as good a negotiating basis as any other.

talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations!

seriously, this is the best on offer?

sounds like a peevish old couple chained to each other's misery...

new attitude sorely needed methinks.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 10:16:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Justice & Home Affairs / EU data retention law said to breach privacy rights

BRUSSELS - The EU data retention directive breaches the charter of fundamental rights, an EU advocate general has said.

"The directive constitutes a serious interference with the fundamental right of citizens to privacy," said Pedro Cruz Villalon, an advocate general at the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice, in an opinion out on Thursday (12 December).

The 2006 directive has generated considerable controversy over the years because it allows governments and intelligence agencies to track and store data on the movements, meetings, phone and Internet use of every EU citizen.

Operators are required to retain details of emails and telephone calls for up to two years in a database specifically designed for police access.

"The directive treats everyone as a suspect, it monitors everyone, it puts everyone under surveillance," said TJ McIntyre of Digital Rights Ireland, who took the case to the court almost seven years ago.

Villalon's opinion is not binding but is still seen as a major victory by pro-rights advocates because the court's judges often come to the same conclusion.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:01:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - Family of top Mafia 'godfather' arrested in Sicily

Family members of Italy's most-wanted Sicilian Mafia suspect, Matteo Messina Denaro, have been arrested in a police swoop in western Sicily.

A sister, a nephew and two cousins of the fugitive Cosa Nostra "Super Boss" were picked up in the Trapani area along with 26 other people.

They face charges that include Mafia association and extortion.

Prosecutors describe the arrests as a decisive step in the hunt for Mr Denaro, on the run for 20 years.

There are allegations that members of the group had a criminal stranglehold on the local construction industry, and assets worth nearly 5m euros (£4.2m; $6.9m) were seized.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:04:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Cameron narrows Labour lead, ahead on economy | Reuters

(Reuters) - British Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives have halved the opposition Labour Party's lead to 4 points and are more trusted by voters to handle the economy, a poll showed on Friday.

With an election 17 months away, the survey suggested that a majority of voters thought they would be worse off or no richer if Labour had held on to power in 2010.

Labour is pinning its 2015 election campaign on the argument that Cameron has allowed living costs to spiral, squeezing voters who are faced with rising bills and flat wages.

But Friday's YouGov poll for the Sun newspaper suggested Labour has yet to convince voters that their policies would have lifted living standards.

It gave Labour a four point lead over the Conservatives compared with an eight point Labour lead in the same poll on December 2, three days before the government issued its twice-yearly budget update.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:24:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is going to be difficult to present an appealing alternative if Labour is unwilling to take on and discredit TINA and the whole deficit myth and challenge the legitimacy of the Conservative Party to act in the interests of any but those who own them. And that is hard if you are substantially owned by a slightly different collection of similar wealthy interests.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 10:00:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is the problem, Labour as a whole are just as captured by neolieralism as the Tories.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 01:30:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ekathimerini.com | One in five Greek households cannot cover needs

Nearly one in five Greek households faced deprivation last year, ranking the country sixth in terms of the worst living conditions in the European Union, the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) said on Friday.

The agency said that, in 2012, as the country's economic crisis gathered pace, 19.5 percent of the population had trouble obtaining a variety of basic goods and services.

"During the last five years [2008-2012] there has been an increase in material deprivation in at least four out of nine categories of basic goods and services," ELSTAT said.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 04:18:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Their present, the UK's future

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 01:34:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
'Spiral of Rebellion' Sweeps Italy | Common Dreams

Marking the sixth day of relentless blockades, occupations and mass demonstrations that many warn may set off "a spiral of rebellion" across Europe, protesters--marching under the banner of the 'Pitchfork' movement--gathered Saturday in Rome, Turin and Venice, Italy.

"Activists wearing Italian flag masks and white nooses around their necks rallied outside the European Commission's office in Rome and took down a European flag outside before being chased off by police," AFP reports.

According to the report, police violence against protesters persisted across Italy. In Venice, police fired tear gas at protesters outside the city's train station and in the northern Italy city of Turin--the epicenter of the latest wave of anti-austerity revolt--students paint bombs were met with force.

"There are millions of us and we are growing by the hour," said Danilo Calvani, a farmer who has emerged as one of the protest leaders. "This government has to go."



'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 11:04:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Where is that bitch Ashton now to support protesters and to criticize use of force ?  

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sun Dec 15th, 2013 at 06:28:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Brutally phrased, but it's a fair point

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sun Dec 15th, 2013 at 10:08:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah...

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Sun Dec 15th, 2013 at 09:23:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:55:55 PM EST
EU banking watchdog warns of risks from Bitcoin | EurActiv

Consumers using Bitcoins are on their own when it comes to losses, the European Union's banking watchdog said on Friday (13 December) in a formal warning to consumers on the risks of using unregulated online currencies.

The European Banking Authority said there was no protection or compensation for people whose "digital wallets" are hacked, a transfer of virtual money goes wrong or a platform is shut.

The warning follows similar announcements from the Bank of France and the Chinese central bank.

The EBA stopped short of telling consumers not to use online currency markets but said if they end up out of pocket there won't be a safety net like the compensation given to deposit holders when a mainstream EU bank goes bust.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:58:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EUobserver.com / Headline News / Europe's banks need €110 billion to keep credit ratings

BRUSSELS - Europe's 50 biggest banks need capital injections of up to €110 billion to remain strong enough to sustain their credit ratings, Standard and Poor's has said.

In a report published Thursday (12 December), the rating agency warned that bank balance sheets, particularly in the EU's crisis countries, were still vulnerable.

The report comes just weeks before the European Central Bank will begin its 'stress tests' of Europe's banks in early 2014 to assess how robust their capital positions are.

Credit ratings dictate how easily a bank can borrow on the financial markets.

"Banks' capital generation and positions relative to regulatory requirements diverge widely, and our analysis also reveals significant differences in the quality of capital among the top 50 European banks," said the agency.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:02:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:56:12 PM EST
Several killed in Iraq-Iran pipeline attack - Middle East - Al Jazeera English

Unidentified gunmen have killed 18 people and injured six others working on a gas pipeline in Iraq, police sources have told Al Jazeera.

Gunmen in three vehicles used machine guns in the attack on Friday evening in the town of Imam Wais, 65km east of Baghdad.

Fifteen Iranian and three Iraqi workers were killed, while five Iranians and one Iraqi were wounded.

The workers were laying the foundation for a gas pipeline which is set to connect Iraq with neighbouring Iran.

Also on Friday, a series of car bombs and attacks in Iraq killed 18 people, and wounded 37 others, according to Al Jazeera police sources.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:06:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC News - US man held over Kansas 'suicide bomb plot'

A man has been arrested in the US state of Kansas and accused of planning to detonate a suicide car bomb at an airport, authorities have said.

Terry Lee Loewen, 58, has been charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.

Mr Loewen, an aviation technician, does not appear to have been affiliated with any religious group, police said.

Authorities said Mr Loewen was snared by undercover FBI investigators and the public was never in danger.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:08:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Violence intensifies in CAR conflict - Africa - Al Jazeera English

More than 600 people have been killed and 159,000 displaced in sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims that has ravaged the Central African Republic in the past week, according to the UN's refugee agency.

450 people had been killed in the capital Bangui and 160 others were killed elsewhere in the country over the past week, the UNHCR said on Friday.

"We are seeing a further deterioration in the situation in Central African Republic," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

Reporting from Bangui, Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri said that attacks were still happening around the country.

The latest attack took place by the anti-Balaka militia on the village of Bohang, in the west of the country. At least 27 people were killed in that attack, which targeted Muslims, she reported.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:13:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Insight: In Yemen, al Qaeda gains sympathy amid U.S. drone strikes | Reuters

(Reuters) - On January 23, science teacher Ali Nasser al-Qawli had finished supervising school exams in the Yemeni village of Khawlan and was enjoying an afternoon with friends when he encountered the strangers.

They wanted a lift in a taxi Qawli and his nephew were in. A while later, locals say, an American aircraft fired missiles at the vehicle.

"All of us in the village heard a large explosion," said Qawli's brother, Mohamed, who rushed to the scene. "We picked up the burned body parts. They were all over. We picked them up and put them in plastic bags, and took them to the hospital so we could bury them the next day," he said. "My brother was completely charred. We identified him by his teeth. It's as if they killed animals."

A copy of the Khalid bin al-Walid school attendance register shows Qawli's signature for the first four days of that week. Under Thursday it says: "Martyred on January 23, 2013."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:19:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wonder if the US will ever come to realise how mistaken this drone campaign has been. What else might stop it ?

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 01:48:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Iran nuclear talks suffer setback - Middle East - Al Jazeera English
Iran has halted nuclear talks with six major world powers after the United States expanded its blacklist on sanctions, accusing Washington of going against the spirit of last month's landmark agreement on its nuclear programme.

The US on Thursday added new companies and individuals to a list of those under sanctions aimed at preventing Tehran from obtaining the capability to make nuclear weapons.

"We are evaluating the situation and Iran will react accordingly to the new sanctions imposed on 19 companies and individuals. It is against the spirit of the Geneva deal," Abbas Araghchi, Iran's deputy foreign minister, told the Iranian Fars news agency on Friday.

Araghchi, who is also a member of Tehran's nuclear negotiating team, was referring to a November 24 interim agreement with the P5+1 countries (the United Kingdom, China, France, Germany, Russia and the US) under which Tehran would curb its nuclear programme in exchange for limited relief from economic and trade sanctions over the next six months. The interim deal is seen as a step to a potential permanent agreement.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:20:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is merely tactical, it's almost a ritual they must observe. However, I'm quite sure that both China and Russia will be able to reassure Iran that such idiocies by the republicans are ultimately meaningless

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 01:50:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spirit of deal 'violated': Iran quits nuclear talks after US sanctions move

(RT) - Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on that the recent nuclear deal struck between his nation and world powers would evaporate should the United States Congress impose new economic sanctions on Iran.

Russia fully backed Iran's indignant sentiment: "The US administration's decision goes against the spirit of this document," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, said, referring to the deal reached on November 24. Russia was among the six world powers brokering the talks.

"Widening American 'blacklists' could seriously complicate the fulfillment of the Geneva agreement, which proposes easing the sanctions regime," Zakharova added. US administration officials insisted that the timing was coincidental.

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, stated that he still has every expectation that talks will continue over the next few days. He added that: "Folks feel a need to consult and take a moment." A spokesperson for the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, also said that she expects the talks to resume soon and that both sides had headed home to conduct consultations.



'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 02:41:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
China loses N.K. link but may welcome Kim purge: analyst

China has lost its key North Korean interlocutor with the purging of Kim Jong-Un's uncle, but analysts say the young leader's tightening grip on power may be welcomed by Beijing, which prizes stability in its wayward nuclear-armed ally.

Jang Song-Thaek was the second-most powerful member of North Korea's regime and an important link between Pyongyang and Beijing before his dramatic ouster last week, accused of being a corrupt, drug-using womaniser.

In the two years since the death of Kim Jong-Il, at least four of the seven leaders who joined the younger Kim in marching alongside his father's hearse at the funeral -- a core leadership group dubbed the "Gang of Seven" by South Korean media -- have now reportedly been sidelined, with further military and political purges likely.

"In a sense, the Chinese interlocutors in the core North Korean leadership just evaporated," said Jingdong Yuan, a University of Sydney professor specialising in Chinese defence and foreign policy.

"Now, who will be the intermediary between Beijing and Pyongyang?" Yuan asked.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:30:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Japan to boost military amid row with China

Pacifist Japan will adopt new defence guidelines next week paving the way for its military to respond more quickly and forcefully to perceived threats from China and North Korea, officials said Thursday.

The government of conservative Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will approve rules intended to help air, land and sea forces work together more effectively in the face of danger, an official from Abe's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) told AFP.

The move comes amid the continuing row between China and Japan over the sovereignty of a small island chain in the East China Sea, a dispute that has escalated over the last year to include military hardware from both sides.

Lawmakers from the ruling bloc on Wednesday endorsed the plan, which would create what it called a "Dynamic Joint Defence Force", the official said.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:30:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
NSA review to leave spying programs largely unchanged, reports say | World news | theguardian.com

A participant in a White House-sponsored review of surveillance activities described as "shameful" an apparent decision to leave most of the National Security Agency's controversial bulk spying intact.

Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Institute, said Friday that the review panel he advised is at risk of missing an opportunity to restore confidence in US surveillance practices.

(...) Should the review group's report resemble descriptions that leaked late Thursday, the report "does nothing to alter the lack of trust the global populace has for what the US is doing, and nothing to restore our reputation as an ethical internet steward," said Meinrath, who met with the advisory panel and White House officials twice to discuss the bulk surveillance programs that have sparked international outrage.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:47:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:56:40 PM EST
EU court annuls GM potato approval, dealing blow to Commission | EurActiv

Europe's second-highest court on Friday (13 December) overturned a decision by the European Commission to allow the cultivation and sale of a genetically modified potato developed by German chemicals group BASF.

The General Court of the European Union said the Commission had failed to follow the bloc's rules when approving the Amflora potato, which is genetically modified to produce extra starch for use in the paper industry.

While Amflora is no longer grown in Europe - BASF withdrew the product in 2012, citing opposition to the technology - the ruling raises new concerns about the EU's complex and much-criticised approval system for GMO crops.

"Because the Commission significantly failed to fulfil its procedural obligations, the General Court has annulled the contested decisions," the court said in a statement.

The Commission and BASF were not immediately available for comment.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:57:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ice melt means greener Arctic is the new normal

Below-average snow cover, melting sea ice and declines in the population of reindeers and caribou are the new normal in the modern-day Arctic, said a scientific report out Thursday.

While this year was not as extreme as 2012, the trend toward a warming planet means these changes are likely here to stay, said the Arctic Report Card 2013, issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The peer-reviewed report, which has come out annually since 2006, was compiled by 147 authors from 14 countries.

"The Arctic is warming rapidly, becoming greener and experiencing a variety of changes, affecting people, the physical environment, and marine and land ecosystems," said David Kennedy, NOAA's deputy under secretary for operations.

"The Arctic caught a bit of a break in 2013 from the recent string of record-breaking warmth and ice melt of the last decade," he told reporters at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting in San Francisco.

"But the relatively cool year in some parts of the Arctic does little to offset the long-term trend of the last 30 years."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:29:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What the past tells us about modern sea-level rise

Researchers from the University of Southampton and the Australian National University report that sea-level rise since the industrial revolution has been fast by natural standards and - at current rates - may reach 80cm above the modern level by 2100 and 2.5 metres by 2200.

The team used geological evidence of the past few million years to derive a background pattern of natural sea-level rise. This was compared with historical tide-gauge and satellite observations of sea-level change for the 'global warming' period, since the industrial revolution. The study, which was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (iGlass consortium) and Australian Research Council (Laureate Fellowship), is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Lead author Professor Eelco Rohling, from the Australian National University and formerly of the University of Southampton, says: "Our natural background pattern from geological evidence should not be confused with a model-based prediction. It instead uses data to illustrate how fast sea level might change if only normal, natural processes were at work. There is no speculation about any new mechanisms that might develop due to man-made global warming. Put simply, we consider purely what nature has done before, and therefore could do again."

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:29:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability News: Renewable energy is young generation's top investment choice

A nationwide survey has found that renewable energy is the British public's top investment choice after property but is the number one alternative for 18 to 24-year-olds.

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The findings show the country's investment preferences reflect fast growing public support for clean power.

The 'Great British Money Survey' was carried out by One Poll to gather insight into the spending and investment habits of 2,000 people across the United Kingdom. It was commissioned by Abundance Generation, the FCA regulated crowd funding platform.

When asked about their preferred investment areas, 43% chose property; 33% renewable energy; 23% traditional energy (oil, coal, gas); 19% manufacturing; 15% consumer goods; 14% hospitality; 12% transport and 3% 'other'.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:39:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gastbeitrag: Wie Windräder die Umwelt zerstören - Feuilleton - FAZ

Doch nicht einmal die Kohlendioxidbilanz der Windenergie ist zurzeit ein Argument. Es mehren sich Stimmen, die darauf hinweisen, dass der Ökostromausbau heute zu einem erhöhten Kohlendioxidausstoß führt. Ursache dafür ist, dass Gaskraftwerke sich nicht mehr rechnen, weshalb wieder vermehrt Kohlekraftwerke eingesetzt werden, auch um Windenergie zu speichern. Das Fördersystem für erneuerbare Energien sorgt so dafür, dass mit jedem neuen Windrad mehr Kohle verfeuert und daher zusätzliches Kohlendioxid ausgestoßen wird.

Was unter dem Vorwand des Umweltschutzes angerichtet wird, hat der Schriftsteller Botho Strauß treffend beschrieben: ,,Eine brutalere Zerstörung der Landschaft, als sie mit Windkrafträdern zu spicken und zu verriegeln, hat zuvor keine Phase der Industrialisierung verursacht. Es ist die Auslöschung aller Dichter-Blicke der deutschen Literatur von Hölderlin bis Bobrowski. Eine schonungslosere Ausbeute der Natur lässt sich kaum denken, sie vernichtet nicht nur Lebens-, sondern auch tiefreichende Erinnerungsräume. Dem geht allerdings voraus, dass für die kulturelle Landschaft allgemein kaum noch ein Empfinden lebendig ist. So verbindet sich das sinnliche Barbarentum der Energieökologen dem des Massentourismus."


by Katrin on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 04:46:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Windmills also cause prostate cancer, well-known fact.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 01:49:55 AM EST
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Did you look at the author's name?

I voted for that lot. They seemed the lesser evil. My expectations weren't very high, but I am still disappointed.

by Katrin on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 07:19:25 AM EST
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Nobody's perfect...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 08:18:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I did, hence the comment on prostate cancer.

Along with his "close friend" Sahra Wagenknecht, he's making me wonder wtf Die Linke is all about.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 09:38:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They are completely on opposing sides of the political spectrum, but this article from conservative magazine Le Point offers an interesting look at how former ministers can become, erm, encouraged to take up position in favour of big energy corporates.

Rachida Dati (previously Justice Minister under Sarkozy, now MEP) "forgot" to mention in her MEP financial transparency statement most of the fees she gets as a lawyer, which amounted to €512K in 2012. Perhaps she doesn't want to have to explain who hires her to do what for that money.

Rachida Dati nous répond. Nous maintenons nos informations ! - Le Point Rachida Dati replies. We maintain our story! - The Point
Qui sont les généreux clients de maître Dati ? C'est ce que veut savoir une ONG bruxelloise spécialiste des questions d'environnement. Dans un courrier daté du 6 novembre rendu public par itélé, ...[html cock-up] Les Échos pour demander que l'on arrête de subventionner les énergies renouvelables qui faussent la concurrence avec les énergies fossiles. Et d'appeler dans la foulée à ouvrir au plus vite le débat sur les gaz de schiste.</télé,>Who are Dati's generous clients? A Brussels environmental ONG wants to know. In a letter dated 6 November and made public by iTélé, Friends of the Earth Europe calls on Rachida Dati to explain. The association would like to clear up doubts about possible influence peddling. The MEP, who sits as a deputy on the Industry, Research and Energy Committee, has taken up the cudgels in remarkable fashion in favour of the gas industry.Last 13 October, she signed a virulent op-ed in Les Echos calling for an end to subsidies to renewable energy, that skew competition with fossil fuel energy. And to call for a rapid opening for a public debate on shale gas.
Certains parlementaires s'interrogent ouvertement sur ce soudain intérêt de Rachida Dati pour les questions d'énergie, un thème qui lui a inspiré de nombreux amendements. Lui sont-ils soufflés par ses clients ? Interrogée par Le Point, Rachida Dati refuse d'apporter la moindre précision sur ses activités d'avocat. D'après notre enquête, l'élue du 7e arrondissement aurait travaillé comme consultante pour GDF Suez, ce que le groupe de Gérard Mestrallet ne confirme ni n'infirme. En 2011, la maire du 7e avait organisé une conférence intitulée "L'Azerbaïdjan : un partenaire stratégique pour la sécurité énergétique en Europe", suivie d'un dîner de 400 couverts au musée Rodin à Paris. Des festivités financées par la Fondation Heydar Aliev, une organisation caritative privée d'Azerbaïdjan, pile au moment où GDF et Total lançaient l'exploitation d'un gros forage gazier dans ce pays. Il y a une semaine, la vice-présidente de l'UMP était à nouveau à l'honneur lors du Forum Énergie de l'université Paris-Dauphine, ouvertement sponsorisé par GDF Suez. Une fois de plus, l'euro-députée a défendu bec et ongles la recherche sur les gaz de schiste et relayé la position des gaziers européens pour une fiscalité énergétique harmonisée.Some MEPs openly question the sudden interest of Rachida Dati for energy issues, a theme on which she has tabled many amendments. Did her clients whisper them in her ear? Asked by Le Point Rachida Dati refuses to provide any details about her activities as a lawyer. According to our inquiry, she worked as a consultant for GDF Suez, which Gérard Mestrallet's group neither confirms nor denies. In 2011, Dati as mayor of the 7th arrondissement of Paris organized a conference entitled "Azerbaijan: a strategic partner for energy security in Europe", followed by a dinner for 400 guests at the Rodin Museum in Paris, financed by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, a private charitable organization in Azerbaijan, just when GDF and Total were launching operation of major gas drilling in the country. A week ago, the vice-president of the UMP (Dati) was again honoured at the Energy Forum at the University Paris-Dauphine, openly sponsored by GDF Suez. Once again, the Euro-MP defended tooth and nail research on shale gas and relayed the position of the European gas industry for harmonized energy taxation.
Ce n'est pas la première fois que Rachida Dati est accusée de mélange des genres. Trois mois après son arrivée à Strasbourg, l'euro-députée avait déclenché la polémique en omettant de faire figurer dans sa déclaration de transparence financière la société de consulting qu'elle venait de créer. Prise la main dans le sac, l'ancienne ministre avait très vite migré du statut d'entrepreneur - obligé de déclarer ses comptes - à celui d'avocat, nettement plus discret...This is not the first time that Rachida Dati is accused of mixing genres. Three months after her arrival in Strasbourg, the MEP sparked controversy by failing to include in her statement of financial transparency the consulting company she had just created. Caught red-handed, the former minister quickly changed her status as entrepreneur - obliged to declare her accounts - to that of lawyer, much more discreet ...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 12:16:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:57:05 PM EST
Twitter backtracks on block feature after users revolt | Reuters

(Reuters) - Twitter Inc was forced to nix a change to its "block" feature on Thursday after attracting a wave of protest from users who said the new policy empowered perpetrators of online abuse.

The humbling reversal on one of the most sensitive policy issues facing the social network came as Twitter encountered user revolt for the first time as a public company.

Under the short-lived change on Thursday, a blocked Twitter user could view or tweet at the person who blocked him or her, but that activity would have been rendered invisible to the victim as if the offending account did not exist.

Under the re-instated policy, users could prevent their harassers from following them or interacting with their tweets. Users are also explicitly notified if they are blocked.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:19:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What Makes a Competitive Faculty Application Package? | Science Careers

After 3 years of meticulous attempts, I finally have an answer to the question, "What makes a competitive faculty application package?"

Let me take you back to 2004, the year I completed my Ph.D. A competitive faculty application package, I was told, should include publications in prestigious journals such as Cell, Nature, or Science; evidence of fundraising such as travel grants and in-kind research support; and teaching experience as a teaching assistant or guest lecturer. The only thing my CV was missing was the prestigious publications.

During my postdoctoral training (from 2005 to 2008), I took care of that. My project produced a co-first author publication in Nature, along with five other first-author publications in peer-reviewed journals and seven other publications.

With my publication record reinforced, I cast myself onto the faculty job market. The result? No interviews. My postdoctoral adviser was encouraging: He told me that faculty positions come in waves and that the job market will be better in the next couple of years. So I accepted a time-limited position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), where I could develop an independent research program and create an even stronger research record than I had before. By 2010, I figured, I would be a really strong candidate for a faculty position.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:41:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Let me take you back to 2004, the year I completed my Ph.D.

I felt I would not be competitive for Post Docs, so I quit.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 04:18:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given Fatima Kaplan's experience it would seem you made a wise, if possibly painful, decision.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 10:19:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The pain is the realization you're not competitive, not the decision.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 07:04:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To me the lesson is clear. To be competitive, I need a federally funded research grant to list alongside those publications in prestigious journals. At the very least--to be considered--I need to figure out how to make a stronger argument that I can get funded. Everything else is icing on the cake.
If you can ge funded, what do you need a faculty position for? After all these people want to research, not teach. So the teaching position was just an excuse to get funding for research.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 04:26:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Affiliation. Papers that might be published if you are Associate Professor J. Doe from Podunk University will often get summarily filed in the round archive if you submit them as Mr. J. Doe from Podunk, AL.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 15th, 2013 at 08:32:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But if you don't want an academic job why do you need to publish?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 15th, 2013 at 10:15:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To get funded.

The author's point is precisely that there's a catch-22 here: You need the job to get funding, and you need the funding to qualify for a job.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 15th, 2013 at 04:13:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Rapid evolution of novel forms: Environmental change triggers inborn capacity for adaptation
Dec. 12, 2013 -- In the classical view of evolution, species experience spontaneous genetic mutations that produce various novel traits -- some helpful, some detrimental. Nature then selects for those most beneficial, passing them along to subsequent generations.

It's an elegant model. It's also an extremely time-consuming process likely to fail organisms needing to cope with sudden, potentially life-threatening changes in their environments. Surely some other mechanism could enable more rapid adaptive response. In this week's edition of the journal Science, a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and Whitehead Institute report that, at least in the case of one variety of cavefish, that other agent of change is the heat shock protein known as HSP90.

"It's a very cool story in terms of the speed of evolution," says Nicolas Rohner, lead author of the Science paper and a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Harvard Medical School Genetics Professor Clifford Tabin.

Rohner notes that at some point many thousands of years ago, a population of Astyanax mexicanus (a fish indigenous to northeastern Mexico) was swept from its hospitable river home into the unfriendly confines of underwater caves. Facing a dramatically different environment, the fish were forced to adapt. Living in near total darkness, the fish did away with their pigmentation, developed heightened sensory systems to detect changes in water pressure and the presence of prey and, perhaps most strikingly, they lost their eyes.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:44:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Team hopes superconducting cable design saves fusion experiment

The superconducting cables designed for the ITER fusion reactor (cost: 16 billion euros) are unable to withstand the planned forty to sixty thousand charge cycles. Barring a solution, the troubled mega-experiment will suffer still more delays and cost overruns. About one third of total expenditures for the reactor are devoted to the superconducting magnet system. UT researcher Arend Nijhuis thinks he has the solution. He has calculated that a different configuration will make the cables more robust.

Today I read in Dutch newspapers, the experiment with a new design of superconductor cables was a succes.

Arend Nijhuis is groupleader Superconductors at University Twente



'Sapere aude'
by Oui (Oui) on Sat Dec 14th, 2013 at 02:13:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 02:57:26 PM EST
Calling for abolition of monarchy is still illegal, UK justice ministry admits | UK news | The Guardian

A 165-year-old law that threatens anyone calling for the abolition of the monarchy with life imprisonment is technically still in force - after the Ministry of Justice admitted wrongly announcing that it had been repealed.

The Treason Felony Act 1848 has been the subject of repeated legal confusion this century. It was the subject of a high court challenge by the Guardian in 2003. This week, in a footnote to a list of new offences, the MoJ said the powers in section 3 of the Act had finally been swept away in a belated, legislative pruning of unwanted laws.

The act - which makes it a criminal offence, punishable by life imprisonment, to advocate abolition of the monarchy in print, even by peaceful means - has not been deployed in a prosecution since 1879.

The Ministry of Justice said: "Section 3 of the Treason Felony Act 1848 has not been repealed. The Ministry of Justice has removed this publication and is reviewing its contents."

That means in theory that to "imagine" overthrowing the Crown or waging war against the Queen, as the wording of the act describes, could still result in a life sentence.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 03:54:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Great American Class War, Plutocracy Versus Democracy   Bill Moyers  via naked capitalism

I should make it clear that I don't harbor any idealized notion of politics and democracy.  Remember, I worked for Lyndon Johnson.  Nor do I romanticize "the people." You should read my mail and posts on right-wing websites.  I understand the politician in Texas who said of the state legislature, "If you think these guys are bad, you should see their constituents."

But there is nothing idealized or romantic about the difference between a society whose arrangements roughly serve all its citizens (something otherwise known as social justice) and one whose institutions have been converted into a stupendous fraud.  That can be the difference between democracy and plutocracy.

Toward the end of Justice Brennan's tenure on the Supreme Court, he made a speech that went to the heart of the matter.  He said:

"We do not yet have justice, equal and practical, for the poor, for the members of minority groups, for the criminally accused, for the displaced persons of the technological revolution, for alienated youth, for the urban masses... Ugly inequities continue to mar the face of the nation. We are surely nearer the beginning than the end of the struggle."

And so we are. One hundred and fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln stood on the blood-soaked battlefield of Gettysburg and called Americans to "the great task remaining."  That "unfinished work," as he named it, remained the same then as it was when America's founding generation began it. And it remains the same today: to breathe new life into the promise of the Declaration of Independence and to assure that the Union so many have sacrificed to save is a union worth saving.

Long life, Bill Moyers. There are too few like you in the pipeline.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Dec 13th, 2013 at 10:29:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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